No Solace for Bond: Movie Pirates Evade Camcorder Spies

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Hitting US theaters this week, the latest Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace' has already been released in the UK. However, despite searching the bags of paying customers, monitoring movie audiences with Bond-style night vision goggles and proffering misinformation, the industry has failed to stop the movie leaking to the Internet.

pirateThere’s no doubt about it, Bond movies are very big business indeed and MGM will be hoping James’ latest outing in ‘Quantum of Solace‘ will prove no different. However, movies of this importance are usually released in the US first and, on the whole, they enjoy the first couple of days at the box office without pirate copies being widely available. Inevitably, and within a short period, copies do appear on the Internet – certainly by the time the movie migrates to other territories. However, Quantum of Solace was released in the UK first, so additional effort has been made to stop the movie appearing online in advance of the US theatrical release.

Last week, the extent of the measures became clear, when reporter Kathryn Carr spoke with Alan Coward, a team leader at Vue Cinemas in the UK. “We have staff going in for the first 20 minutes with the goggles, and the last 15 minutes. They also make regular checks in between,” said Alan, adding, “We have also been searching people’s bags on the way in.”

Spying on theater audiences is not an unusual event – US theater-goers have been subject to this treatment for a while now, but such actions are comparatively rare in the UK. Not that the UK is completely innocent when it comes to being a source for camcorded movies. It has been in the past, with movies such as X-Men: The Last Stand, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Pirates of the Carribbean 2 and V for Vendetta, all rumored to have first hit the ‘net from a UK cammer. But despite this handful of high-profile leaks, UK theaters are not a hotbed of camcorder piracy.

The fact that the UK is not a major source of camcorded movies is probably down to most movies being released elsewhere first. ‘Cammers’ like to get the movie quickly, and that usually means recording it from a US or Canadian source, so a UK release is usually unattractive since it comes too late.

However, there are other attractions for those looking to cam a movie in Britain. “If someone is found to be recording the film they would be banned from the cinema for life, and they would probably be arrested,” said Alan Coward. One can’t argue with the ban, but Mr Coward’s assessment of an arrest is fanciful. While criminal law in the UK makes it illegal to offer for sale (or rent) an infringing copy of a copyrighted movie, unlike the United States, Canada and Japan (and much to the disappointment of the MPAA), simply ‘camming’ a movie on its own is not a criminal offense in Britain.

In September 2007, Dan Glickman of the MPAA visited the UK to have meetings with senior people from the UK government and representatives of the UK Film Council. His mission was to persuade the government to introduce legislation to change ‘camming’ from a civil infringement, to a serious criminal offense. So far, that legislation has not appeared. Since theater staff cannot detain a suspected ‘cammer’ by force because the law simply does not allow it, they instead attempt to disrupt the recording by ‘peaceful means’ and notify FACT for further instruction.

However, all the lobbying, bag searches and James Bond-style night vision goggles in the world don’t seem to make any difference to the availability of pirate material. Quantum of Solace is already available on the Internet in Telesync format (video recorded via a good camcorder, with audio added from a ‘direct’ source, such as a T-Loop). It has been available for a few days in French and maybe even another couple of languages but it is now fully available in English, with what many will consider to be a half-decent picture quality.

I’d end this post with a Bond catchphrase, but for Quantum they banned them all. Shame.


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