Pirated 'Simpsons' traced back to Oz


SYDNEY -- D'oh! Sydney has the dubious distinction of being the first market in the world where "The Simpsons Movie" was pirated, with distributor 20th Century Fox tracking an illegal Internet copy of the film to a Down Under locale within 72 hours of its Australian release.

But in an indication that the industry's enforcement initiatives are working, the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft said Friday that a 21-year-old Sydney man was arrested the day before in relation to the unauthorized recording and uploading and charged with copyright theft. He faces up to five years jail.

The "Simpsons" copy was found before the film's U.S. release July 27 and tracked back to a computer in western Sydney. AFACT alleges that the man arrested used his cell phone to film the movie at a cinema in western Sydney before uploading it on the Internet.

Close international cooperation between the Australian Federal Police, AFACT and 20th Century Fox resulted in the removal of the unauthorized recording within 72 hours of its posting. But during that window the movie was uploaded to a U.S.-based global streaming site where it was viewed or downloaded more than 3,000 times.

AFACT additionally tracked it to other streaming sites and P2P systems where it had been illegally downloaded in excess of 110,000 times. Investigators even found a version of the film dubbed in French.

Copies of "The Simpsons Movie" already are widely available on the street in China, though it is unclear if the Chinese copies came from the Australian upload.

AFACT executive director Adrianne Pecotic described the spread of illegal copies across the Internet as a "wildfire."

"The speed and spread of illegal copies across the global Internet as a result of this camcord copy being made from a mobile phone in a Sydney cinema is staggering," she said.

The arrest comes just two days after AFACT launched its new anti-piracy education campaign here (HR 8/15).

The campaign features burning movie posters of local hits "Happy Feet," "Kenny" and "Wolf Creek" with the tagline "What are you really burning?"

Unauthorized recording of films in cinemas is on the rise in Australia, with police answering seven reported incidents of camcording in the past six weeks, more than half using mobile phones, AFACT said.