When movies quickly become available online following their theatrical release, it’s likely that a copy has been recorded in a cinema. A wide range of cloaking techniques are used but in basic terms, someone points a camera at the screen and hits record.
The copies subsequently made available vary in quality, from passable to absolutely terrible. Nevertheless, so-called ‘cam’ copies of movies maintain their popularity online, and their existence is often referenced as the most damaging form of movie piracy.
As a result, copyright holders work hard to crack down on so-called ‘cammers,’ with two of the riskiest places being the United States and the United Kingdom. Cases rarely end well for defendants, with custodial sentences often the outcome. However, it doesn’t always go that way.
Back in September 2015, copies of American Ultra and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials were recorded in Cineworld Cinema in Nottingham on their day of release and subsequently uploaded to the Internet.
Following a joint operation between EMSOU (the East Midlands Special Operations Unit), FACT (the Federation Against Copyright Theft) and the FCPA (Film Content Protection Agency), investigators found their way to then 33-year-old Shaun Patrick Forry.
Officers from the Government Agency Intelligence Network Disruption Team and EMSOU executed search warrants in the Hinkley area, with laptops and other equipment taken away for examination. FACT operatives were also in attendance.
Forry was arrested on suspicion of recording both movies and uploading them to the Internet. He was questioned and bailed pending further inquiries. The investigation later revealed that Forry had distributed more than 670 films online since August 2013, some of them while on police bail.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of articles for use in fraud and one count of distributing copyrighted films. Previously, an individual who uploaded Fast & Furious 6 to the Internet received a 33-month jail sentence, but in this case the defendant got off relatively lightly.
According to a report from local police, Forry was sentenced yesterday at Nottingham Crown Court. He received an 18-month community order and was told to complete 150 hours unpaid work. But despite the relative slap on the wrist, the Film Content Protection Agency insist this was a serious case.
“This is a highly significant case concerning the illegal recording of films belonging to two UK film distributors, followed by the release of those films online,” says Simon Brown, Director of the FCPA.
“Over 90% of pirated films originate from a copy recorded during a public performance in cinemas worldwide, so it’s vital that offenders like Mr. Forry are identified and arrested promptly to prevent further damage to our film industry.
“Piracy not only costs the film industry millions of pounds but can also affect thousands of jobs, so we welcome this conviction. We thank the East Midlands GAIN for their diligent assistance in this case.”
It’s likely that moving forward we’ll hear quite a bit more about the Film Content Protection Agency. While historical camming cases were usually handled by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, a new FCPA unit formed in October 2016 will now spearhead anti-camming activity in the UK.