MPA takes anti-piracy pitch to Tokyo


TOKYO -- John G. Malcolm, executive vp and director of the Motion Picture Assn.'s global anti-piracy campaign, will congratulate police in Osaka on Friday for their recent crackdown on criminal groups dealing in pirated movie titles. He'll also urge the Japanese government to pass legislation outlawing the use of camcorders in theaters here.

In an interview Thursday in Tokyo, Malcolm said the recording of movies in cinemas is the most important issue in the fight against piracy as 90% of the films available illegally on the Internet or as pirated discs are recorded by professional camcorder criminals.

"On any given weekend, a movie is opening somewhere out there and these people are getting it," Malcolm said. "They're very good at what they do. They're very organized and every place a movie is shown is a potential point of vulnerability. We are doing all we can to stop that genie getting out of the bottle."

In Japan alone, at least two pirated movies originated from theater screens -- "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "The Da Vinci Code" -- as well as "numerous" Japanese titles, said Malcolm, who arrived in Japan for three days of talks with government officials, law-enforcement authorities and officials of member organizations.

Before arriving in Tokyo, he spent three days in South Korea.

"I want to personally thank the Osaka police for a series of high-profile raids recently against street traders, who are linked to the yakuza underworld groups," Malcolm said. "I applaud them for that.

"But the legislation needs to keep pace with the technology," he said, adding that online piracy is a huge problem for everyone involved in the entertainment industry.

"It is very easy to accomplish and relatively risk free and, compared to other forms of illegal activities, it does not get the attention it deserves," he said. "Japan is a wired society and while the Internet offers fantastic opportunities, there are also many people who abuse those technologies and engage in theft."

The MPA is working with its local partners, the Japanese industry and law enforcement officials to push forward legislation that would make it illegal to record a film in a theater. At present, anyone found with a camcorder in a cinema in Japan is merely asked to leave the premises.

"This is a huge problem for our members and the local industry here in Japan, as well as having a serious impact on the local economy, and these thieves can make thousands of dollars every weekend," he said.

The legislation is presently being discussed by the Japanese parliament.