How the MPAA knows where movies are Pirated

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I've posted a story about the MPAA's piracy stats, and that NY is the pirate capital of the world. In the post I said that it was hard to track down the source of CAM releases, but that was a mistake.

cap codeAlthough I’m familiar with the watermarks that are put in DVD’s, I never realized that theater releases are marked as well (see picture for the “dot pattern”).

However, sometimes release groups find a way to remove these watermarks. An example can be found in the NFO of the Mission Impossible III release by SaGa. In the NFO SaGa thanks ORC, for helping them out with “de-dotting” the release.

Here’s an interesting email I received from a reader who actually worked for an anti-piracy company. Some good info, and useful tips and tricks that “might” keep pirates under the radar ;).

Thought I’d let you know how the authorities are able to track down where CAM, TS, TC, SCR, DVD SCR, etc. copies are from. In all cases, the individual copies are watermarked and then kept in a database for later comparison. These watermarks are developed and instituted either by the companies responsible for the film (i.e. Kodak) or the prints (i.e. Deluxe, Technicolor). Each has a different method, some more effective than others.

Here is a Wikipedia article about them:

Generally the CAP codes are more for film elements (i.e. CAM, TS, TC releases). For the disc and tape copies (i.e. SCR, DVD SCR) there is usually some form of watermarking combined with a time stamp or individual code of some sort.

These types of protection sometimes work and sometimes don’t. A lot of groups have experience with obfuscating them and (usually successfully) hiding where they got their copy from.

Fortunately most of the companies focusing on anti-piracy are not actively trying to target the groups themselves, leaving that task to the DOJ or FBI to handle. Because of this, most of the media attention and an overwhelming amount of the resources are dedicated to people who are not close to the scene at all, so a lot of these anti-piracy methods don’t really work very effectively.

Most of the attention is actually on users and first propagators on BitTorrent and eDonkey, so I’d actually recommend using various forms of protection such as PeerGuardian and generally staying on private trackers or at least the less popular ones (NTI being a good example). Also safe is jumping on hugely popular torrents once they reach critical mass. There are simply not enough resources for anti-piracy companies to track what 5000 seeders and 8000 leechers are doing all at once and gather data that will be usable in a court of law.

Another reader pointed me at the new anti-piracy watermark system that Philips has started to rollout. Philips successfully equipped over 1300 cinemas with their new system called “Cinefence”. CineFence watermarks are believed to be harder to erase by pirates, and contain the time, place and date of the recorded Film. Forensic marking of digital Films is now a mandatory requirement, as specified in the Digital Cinema System Specification (pdf link).


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