Australian officials desperate to reduce film ‘camming’ have arrested and charged a man in Sydney with 18 counts of copyright infringement. Unusually, he wasn’t caught in the act, and the cinema was a drive-in. The man is allegedly a member of the well known scene group PreVail.
One of the up sides of drive-in cinemas is that people are free to talk inside their own cars, use their phones, and even smoke at will.
This privacy can also mean that spotting someone surreptitiously recording the movie can be hard. Tinted windows can make the use of night vision equipment futile, and cameras can be hidden or covertly installed in cars. The movie’s audio, piped in through the car’s audio system, can also prove a great direct recording source.
Perhaps for these reasons, the New South Wales police have arrested and charged a man from the south west Sydney area, in connection with movie ‘camming’. The police carried out a raid and searched his residence, with members of the anti-piracy lobby group AFACT assisting (!). Afterwards, they seized what is being described as ‘sophisticated video camcording equipment’ (a camcorder) and computer equipment (most likely a computer).
The raid comes after a digital watermark, identifying the cinema, was found in some of the CAM and TS releases from the group ‘PreVail‘. Allegations are that the 26 year old man was linked to that group. However, no information on what ties the unnamed man had with the group has been made public, as a watermark would only identify the cinema that it was recorded at. Interestingly enough, two of the movie titles listed in the press-release have never been released by PreVail. “He’s Just Not That Into You” and “Marley and Me” were indeed released as a Cam version, but not by PreVail.
Of course, the arrests seem to have been prompted by (again) gross exaggerations of the facts by the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) with the press releases talking about the great losses CAMs cause. It also comments how Scene ‘Top Sites’ sell their releases to ‘criminal groups’ who then mass produce DVDs for sale. Apart from scene groups often being very anti-sale, it’s unclear why criminal groups would pay for these releases anyway. A wait of less than an hour will enable them to get them for free online.
All things aside, if the man is a member of PreVail (a group that has ‘released’ more than 200 films in the last 3 ½ years) and is convicted, his sentence will not be a light one. With $60,500 AUS ($39,000US or €31,000) and 5 years imprisonment per offense, that can yield a maximum sentence of over a million Aussie dollars and 90 years in prison. In fact, he’s looking at a potential punishment greater than most murderers.
The 18 charges include possessing a device with intent to make an infringing copy, possessing an infringing copy for distribution, and distributing infringing copies. The case will be heard on March 12th at Blacktown Local Court.
On the plus side though, proving the bluster about financial gain will be hard. It appears to be how lobby groups prod police forces to act, even if the police are active pirates themselves.