Leaked Piracy Report Details Fascinating Camcording Investigations

A top-secret presentation made by the Federation Against Copyright Theft to Sony Pictures shines light on the complex investigations carried out by the anti-piracy group. The document reveals suspects being filmed in cinemas, tracked using Facebook friends, and their connections to release groups mapped in intriguing diagrams.

spyThis week the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) released its latest report detailing the rewards presented to cinema workers who disrupt so-called movie “cammers”. FACT is the main group to release this kind of report and no equivalent is regularly made available from any other English speaking countries.

While the insight is useful to build a picture of “anti-camming” activity in the UK, FACT is obviously selective about the information it releases. While big successes receive maximum publicity, relative failures tend to be brushed under the carpet. Something else the group would like to keep a secret are presentations made to Sony Pictures in 2010, but thanks to a trove of leaked emails that is no longer possible.

The presentation begins with FACT stating that it’s the “best known and most respected industry enforcement body of its kind in the UK” and one that has forged “excellent relationships with “public enforcement agencies and within the criminal justice system”.

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FACT goes on to give Sony several examples of situations in which it has been involved in information exercises sharing with the authorities. The exact details aren’t provided, but somewhat surprisingly FACT says they include murder, kidnap and large-scale missing persons investigations.

But perhaps of most interest are the details of how the group pursues those who illegally ‘cam’ and then distribute movies online. The presentation focuses on the “proven” leak of five movies in 2010, the total from UK cinemas for that year.

Vue Cinemas, North London

First up are ‘cams’ of Alice in Wonderland and Green Zone that originated from a Vue Cinema in North London. Noting that both movies had been recorded on their first day using an iPhone (one during a quiet showing, the other much more busy), the presentation offers infra-red photographic evidence of the suspect recording the movies.

Alice in Wonderland camming

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Green Zone camming

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Cineworld – Glasgow

The documentation behind this Scotland-based investigation is nothing short of fascinating. FACT determined that their suspect was the holder of a Cineworld Unlimited pass which at the time he had used 14 times.

On three occasions the suspect had viewed the movie Kick-Ass, including on the opening day. The ‘cammed’ copy that leaked online came from that viewing. The suspect also viewed Clash of the Titans, with a camcorded version later appearing online from that session. The man also attended three Iron Man 2 viewings at times which coincided with watermarks present on the online ‘cammed’ copies.

Working in collaboration with the cinema, FACT then obtained CCTV footage of the man approaching a cash desk.

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Putting it all together

The most interesting document in the entire presentation is without doubt FACT’s investigative chart. It places the holder of the Cineworld Unlimited pass together with a woman found as a friend on his Facebook page. Described as IC1 (police code for white/caucasian), FACT note that the pair attended the Cineworld Cinema together on at least one occasion.

The unnamed female is listed at a property in Glasgow and from there things begin to unravel. An IP address connected with that residence uploaded a copy of Kick-Ass which was later made available by an online release group. The leader of that group was found to have communicated with the unknown cammer of the movie but who FACT strongly suspected to be the man in the images taken at the cinema. He was later arrested and confessed to his crimes.

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The full document provides a fascinating insight into FACT’s operations, not only in camming mitigation but also in bringing down websites. Another notable chart shows the operations of an unnamed “video streaming” site.

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While no names are mentioned, a later edition of the same presentation blanks out key details, suggesting a level of sensitivity. However, after examining the chart it appears likely that it refers to Surf the Channel, the site previously run by Anton Vickerman.

Considering the depth and presentation of the above investigations it will come as no surprise to most that many FACT investigators are former police officers. For the curious, the full document can be found here on Wikileaks.

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