MPA sets up Operation Tripod in Asia

Campain aims to curb camcorder piracy

BEIJING -- Just in time for the world premiere of "Spider-Man 3," which opened Tuesday in 18 territories, the MPA has launched a two-month campaign against illegal camcording in movie theaters across Asia.

"Worldwide, camcorded copies comprise around 90% of early release pirate discs," MPA Asian regional director Mike Ellis said in a statement announcing Operation Tripod. It is the latest in a series of semi-annual MPA anti-piracy sweeps conducted in cooperation with local law enforcement in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

During the past 12 months, 20 instances of camcording have been forensically matched to cinemas in the Asia-Pacific region, the MPA said.

Last week, pirated copies of "Spider-Man 2" were found for sale on the street in Beijing in DVD cases advertising "Spider-Man 3." Each copy sold for less than $1.

The MPA says that pirate camcording is particularly damaging to the movie industry because it typically occurs at the start of the distribution cycle, affecting the economic opportunities for the film throughout its existence.

On Monday, in an annual report on the state of intellectual property worldwide, the top U.S. trade negotiator said that China and Russia continue to lead the world in copyright theft.

Tripod follows on the heels of a U.S. complaint filed April 9 against China over piracy and trade barriers with the World Trade Organization. The EU announced Tuesday that it is joining the action as a third party.

Films typically are camcorded in the first few days of their release, then distributed in digital form worldwide on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and through other online outlets, the MPA said. Optical disc replication labs use the stolen films to create pirated optical discs, which are then distributed to bootleg dealers around the world, the group said.

Over the past 2 1/2 years, five anti-piracy sweeps conducted by the MPA resulted in more than 3,500 arrests and the seizure of more than 26 million pirated optical discs, the group said.