One of the upsides of drive-in cinemas is that people are free to chat inside their cars and enjoy a movie privately.
Pirates have a big plus as well, as drive-ins make it much easier to record high quality audio. For this reason, camcorded films are often a combination of indoor video and drive-in audio.
Generally speaking it is very hard to spot someone recording an audio stream in his or her car, but a drive-in near Pittsburgh managed to track one down with help from Hollywood.
The man, Brian Ridley, allegedly recorded audio of the movies “Sex Tape,” “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” and “The Purge” during the summer of 2014.
The 38-year-old man was caught after a tip from the MPAA who asked the theater owner to look out for his license plate, and call the local police if he did.
Following a careful investigation Ridley has recently been indicted (pdf), with the Government describing him as part of a larger conspiracy to release pirated movies on the Internet.
According to the indictment “the audio and video files would be sent over the Internet to a conspirator who would sync the audio and video files together,” after which, “the completed audio/video copies would be placed on the Internet for others to download.”
The other members of the conspiracy are not known, but it is likely that they are part of an established release group.
While Ridley supposedly recorded audio for multiple movies, he is only charged with unauthorized copying of the Cameron Diaz movie “Sex Tape.”
“Sex Tape” was not yet released at the time the audio was allegedly recorded. However, a pirated copy eventually appeared online at the end of July, after Ridley was caught.
During the arrest the authorities seized three SanDisk “Sansa” MP3 Recorders. These devices are typically connected to the drive-in’s audio feed, and presumably contained portions of the pirated audio.
According to court records Ridley has been released on bail and will be arraigned later this month. If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of three years for copyright infringement and five years for the conspiracy charge.