Movie downloads exceed 2.5 bil in '07

Camcording responsible for 9 out of 10 pirated films

BRUSSELS -- More than 2.5 billion movie files were downloaded worldwide in 2007, 2.5 times more than in 2006, according to figures from the MPA released in Brussels on Monday. The MPA report also revealed that more than 17 million people are simultaneously using the six largest peer-to-peer networks at any one time.

The report revealed that in nine out of 10 cases, camcording was the source of the illegal movies circulating on the Internet. It said camcords are recordings by "release groups," and the tapes are often sold to organized crime networks that use them to produce illegal DVDs on a large scale just a few days after their recording.

The figures were unveiled by the Belgian Anti-piracy Federation and European cinema chain Kinepolis as they launched a new campaign against a recent surge in piracy in theaters with video cameras or cell phones. The campaign involves a blend of deterrents and incentives to clamp down on the phenomenon: Trailers will warn that the full force of the law -- fines of as much as 550,000 euros ($867,000) and three-year jail sentences -- will be heaped on those caught pirating, while other cinema patrons will be tempted with DVD gift packs if they text authorities with tips about pirates operating in the theater.

Last year, the BAF began using digital techniques to successfully clamp down on piracy through security measures in distribution channels, including the transport firms, distribution centers, laboratories and theaters.