Japan aims to choke off camcording


Japan's movie industry has welcomed reports that the ruling party is to introduce a bill to make it illegal for anyone to enter a cinema with a digital camera and record a movie.

At present, it is not illegal in Japan to record a film as it is screened as long as the recording is for personal use. Pirates have been taking advantage of the regulations and were able to have bootleg copies of "The Da Vinci Code" available within 24 hours of the movie's first screening in May in Japan.

Under pressure from the U.S. movie lobby, Japan's Liberal Democratic Party will submit a new bill that would make recording movies at screenings illegal, with punishments as harsh as 10 years in prison or a fine of as much as ¥10 million ($47,620).

"We support this new bill because we believe that it makes crystal clear to the public that it is not acceptable to bring into a movie theater a video camera," said Satoshi Watanabe, manager of the transmissions rights department of the Japanese Society of Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers.

"This is a good move on behalf of rightsholders, and we support any effort to discourage this activity."

At present, a message is screened before a movie is shown in a cinema politely asking viewers to refrain from recording the film, but the loophole that makes a recording permissible for private viewing has stopped cinema operators from cracking down on the practice.

"It is a significant and serious problem," Watanabe said. "Pirated films and soundtracks are being shared on peer-to-peer sites as well as being turned into DVDs, and we have been doing all we can to stop this situation.

"It is very important that this message is reinforced and that the public understands that it is not acceptable to record movies in this way."

The bill is likely to be submitted to the Japanese parliament this year and has the support of many in the political arena, meaning it is likely to become law.

Japan's movie industry missed out on an estimated ¥80 billion ($381 million) from piracy in fiscal 2005.