Camcorder Piracy Epidemic Forces Studios To Delay Screenings

While the rest of the world enjoys the latest theatrical releases, for the foreseeable future the Hungarian public will be subjected to a Hollywood-enforced time delay and a ban on midnight screenings. The action is in response to the discovery that a string of cammed blockbusters turning up on the Internet originated from cinemas in Hungary.

While all kinds of piracy are a thorn in the side of Hollywood, when illicit movies appear on the Internet at the same time as theatrical releases, this particularly draws the ire of studios.

Over the past decade an awful lot of money has been spent trying to mitigate the problem. Intense lobbying in the United States has transformed camming into a serious felony and pressure on other countries, Canada in particular, has significantly reduced the number of copies from these traditional sources.

But of course, there are always others ready to take up the slack and it appears that in recent times that role has been filled by Hungarian pirates. This year, probably using secret watermarks, the major studios including Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. have been tracing copies of first-run movies back to local cinemas.

While the problem has existed for some time, a source familiar with the situation believes it came to a head recently when Hangover Part II turned up online just after its premiere. Videoed in a Hungarian cinema, this copy initially had fairly limited appeal due to its dubbed local language audio. But as usual, pirates have innovative tricks up their collective sleeves.

Due to tough legislation (not to mention tools such as night-vision goggles) camming usually proves very difficult, say, in the United States. However, recording just the sound from a movie onto a small portable device is not. So, armed with the video to Hangover Part II obtained by a Hungarian release group and a soundtrack easily culled from an English-language region, pirates connected to the P2P release group ‘EP1C’ spliced the pair together producing an end product with massive appeal.

This illicit release, added to the many others coming out of Hungary this year, appears to have caused Warner Bros to run out of patience. The studio has now announced that in order to stop piracy, for the foreseeable future their movies will not be released locally, on or even close to US release dates. In addition, Warner are said to have banned midnight screenings in Hungary altogether, presumably since these quieter times are more popular with cammers.

In recent months many of the key illicit copies, including Hangover Part II, have been made available by a Hungarian release group known as CiNEDUB. Keep an eye on this group for the rest of the year for an indication of whether or not Warner’s strategy is working.

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