Despite 155 Piracy Incidents in Cinemas, Pirates Suffer Worst Year Since 2012

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With shorter theatrical windows, access to legal streaming services, and a preference for consuming movies in higher quality, copies of films recorded in theaters are less attractive to Western consumers than they once were. Still, camcorder piracy remains a threat; data just released by the Film Content Protection Agency reveals that exhibitors reported 155 piracy-related security incidents in 2023. The end result was the worst year for pirates in the UK since 2012.

fcpaAfter almost two decades reporting on the piracy landscape, speaking with hundreds of people involved in all aspects of piracy on the way, those who dodge cinema security to camcord the latest movies are still the most puzzling.

As a deterrent, the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence seems to mean almost nothing. The prospect of sitting quietly for two to three hours, knowing that they’re already being monitored along with the rest of the audience, is just part of the experience, not the nerve-shredding ordeal of those simply imagining it.

Yet, unless ‘cammers’ stop for personal reasons, those operating in the West eventually run up against the law. While they often regret it, some still find it difficult to explain what motivated them in the first place. With cinema workers in the UK being offered cash rewards of around £1,000 for a successful ‘camcorder’ intervention, the odds are stacked against cammers before they even begin. It doesn’t deter them.

FDA Yearbook 2024

The Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) represents the interests of film distributors in the UK and Ireland. The FDA’s website lists 38 members, including “the largest studios and numerous independent players” a sample of which can be seen below.


This week the FDA unveiled the FDA Yearbook 2024 at The Peninsula London, a £1,200 per night 5-star hotel within shouting distance of Buckingham Palace and Kensington Gardens.

With box office sales up again last year – 135,133,635 tickets in 2023 versus 127,794,382 in 2022 – generating over £1.06 billion, there was much to celebrate. Not least 9% of all sales attributable to Barbie, a film made in the UK and as a result, gifted just enough relief by the government to ensure no corporate taxes were payable in the UK.

Piracy – Film Content Protection Agency

After all the glitz and glamour, the FDA’s yearbook soon turns to piracy matters and a report from the Film Content Protection Agency (FCPA). The FDA-affiliated anti-piracy group shoulders the responsibility of preventing movies from being recorded on the UK’s big screens and then shared on the internet.

After an article we published last year, questioning the unlikely industry-wide claim that “90% of films pirated worldwide are sourced from cinemas,” FCPA begins its report with an adjusted claim that’s much more credible.

“Over 90% of pirated versions of newly released films are still sourced in cinemas globally by illegal activity involving the use of compact digital recording devices – mostly smartphones,” FCPA begins.

“Hence the FDA’s Film Content Protection Agency’s over-arching objective is to prevent infringing (pirated) versions of films from being sourced in UK and Irish cinemas, ensuring that the theatrical release lifecycle is protected as far as possible.”

Cammer Arrest in 2022 Results in 2023 Conviction

As previously reported, in the summer of 2022 at least four high-quality cams were traced back to two cinemas in the UK. A 24-year-old man was convicted in 2023 for fraud and copyright offenses yet remarkably only received an 18-month community sentence.

“[T]he sentence was lighter than hoped for, as the defendant had no prior convictions, but the ruling was deemed to have a greater impact on his life than a custodial sentence,” FCPA reports.

FCPA offers no additional detail, but we understand that the extremely high-quality CAM copies of the movies leaked online were directly linked to the defendant’s skills and the career he hoped to pursue somewhere in the film or TV industry. A mere conviction probably ended that dream, regardless of the scale of the punishment.

‘High levels of Anti-Piracy Awareness and Vigilance’

Throughout 2023, it appears that would-be cammers or those who gave that impression at least, kept cinema staff in the UK and Ireland on their toes. FCPA reports that “high levels of anti-piracy awareness and vigilance” resulted in exhibitors reporting 155 security incidents in 2023, a 7% increase on incidents reported in 2022.

“The UK and Ireland’s record for in-cinema vigilance is exemplary with the territory continuing to be recognized as a leading light in the global fight against film piracy,” FCPA says.

“In 2023, successful staff in-cinema efforts to disrupt illegal recordings of films helped to directly protect many FDA member companies’ most high-profile theatrical releases including Avatar: The Way of Water, Barbie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Elemental, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Little Mermaid, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, Oppenheimer and The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

As a result, FCPA handed awards to 25 cinema staff last October for their “good disruption work in preventing film piracy incidents.” How much they received is unclear but probably not enough for one night at The Peninsula London.

Given the implications of CAM copies on the multi-multi billion dollar box office revenues of the movies listed above, rewards five times bigger than they are now would still represent ridiculous value for money. As the results below show, the combined effort in 2023 produced the best anti-piracy performance for UK cinemas since 2012.

It doesn’t get any better than that.



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