Russian Government Mulls Fines to Prevent Camming in Cinemas

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Russia's Ministry of Culture has presented draft legislation to the government designed to prevent 'camming' in cinemas. The bill, should it be passed, would prevent all acts of filming when a movie is being shown, even if that takes the form of a video 'selfie' among friends.

cammerDespite an increased desire to download and stream only the best quality copies of pirate movies, a significant number of pirates are still prepared to obtain so-called ‘cammed’ movies.

These copies are mostly obtained in cinemas by pointing a recording device, usually a camcorder or mobile phone, directly at the screen. The end result is often less than optimal but despite the regularly abysmal copies, people flock to download them, since this is often the only way to watch movies at home while they’re still in their theatrical windows.

The United States has cracked down on camming with strict legislation that can, in appropriate circumstances, lead to perpetrators being put behind bars. Other countries are still playing catch-up though, including Russia where current law isn’t much of a deterrent. However, the authorities there have been showing signs of a shift and this week revealed that tougher anti-camming legislation is on the horizon.

Filming a ‘Fragment’ of a Movie Would be Illegal

A draft proposal from the Ministry of Culture presented to the government earlier this month aims to outlaw not only obvious camming in cinemas but also any kind of filming during a presentation. Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova described the problem of camming as “serious” and one that requires a tough response, particularly to protect local producers.

“This is not just a ban on any kind of recording, we are used to these warnings before each film,” Lyubimova said, as cited by TASS.

“If at the time [when a movie is showing the viewer] is filming a fragment or filming himself in some kind of video, then this is also filming inside the cinema. I think that the appeal to the audience will bring change, we will talk about it with cinemas.”

Lyubimova warned that people playing with their phones during a presentation could face fines under the proposals but added in a Facebook post that previous discussion on the topic hadn’t been easy.

Long Road to Draft Bill

“Almost two years ago, our committee held a round table in the State Duma dedicated to improving legislative mechanisms for combating piracy,” she explained.

“Following the meeting, recommendations were made. One of which sounded like this: ‘The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, together with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, will prepare proposals for establishing responsibility for video recording of films on household devices (cameras, telephones) when they are shown in cinemas’.”

It appears that the Ministry of Internal Affairs initially had reservations about the proposal on the basis that recording a film only amounted to “preparing for a crime” and it seemed “excessive” to introduce criminal liability for the act in isolation. This is because subsequent use of the footage is already a crime under the Criminal Code and so can be dealt with that way.

Selfies Would Be Banned, Treated as Harshly as Camming

Under the current regime, punishment for recording in cinemas is moderated according to intent, meaning that someone who isn’t acting for financial gain can escape prosecution. The current proposals, which are now with the lawmakers, would certainly change that, even scooping up people taking videos of themselves during a performance.

That being said, Lyubimova says that it’s unlikely that the passage of the bill will be easy, adding that the precise financial penalties for those caught filming are yet to be decided. A ball-park figure of between 50,000 to 100,000 rubles is being discussed but even at the higher end of the scale, that’s just shy of US$700, a drop in the ocean compared to the punishments available in the United States.

Russia’s ‘Camming’ Problem According to the USTR

According to the United States Trade representative, 26 illegally camcorded movies were traced back to Russian cinemas in 2015. In 2016, this increased to 63 cammed copies and in 2017 the figure rose again to 78 movies, a 300% increase over the number reported in 2015.

By 2018, however, ‘camming’ was on the way down, with the USTR’s Special 301 Report noting that ‘just’ 48 titles were recorded and subsequently appeared online. For movie studios that’s still 48 too many.

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