By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff
Security is being tightened around the Bridget Jones film sequel amid reports it is the target of pirates offering a multi-million dollar "bounty".
The film is expected to do big box office business
Producers fear the movie could end up in the hands of an international crime gang for counterfeit distribution.
A spokesman for studio Working Title said: "We are aware that significant sums of money are being offered for any early material on the movie."
The film, Edge of Reason, is expected to be one of 2004's big blockbusters.
The first Bridget Jones film - based on Helen Fielding's hugely-successful book Bridget Jones's Diary - was a big success for Working Title. It follows the comic adventures of a London woman in her 30s as she tries to find happiness in her life.
Some estimates suggest the follow-up, which picks up the story four weeks after the first story ended, could take more than $200m (£111m) at the box office.
Any move by an organised crime syndicate to copy the movie before its release could be hugely lucrative - and could also be disastrous for the studio.
Pirated copies of the film would be lucrative for crime gangs
Poorly copied pirate DVDs of recent blockbusters such as Spider-Man 2 have been selling on the UK black market for about £10 a time.
Film industry figures show that pirate DVD seizures in the first half of 2004 more than tripled compared with the same period in 2003.
Last year the estimated loss to the film industry was up to £500m - a figure expected to double within three years.
Working Title would not comment on reports that a "bounty" of $10m (£5.5m) was being offered by criminals for a perfect digital copy of the film.
It also refused to discuss reports that it was employing the services of world-renowned risk consultants Kroll in protecting the film.
Working Title said: "Security is something we take very, very seriously. We are looking at all sorts of measures to tackle global piracy."
Kroll, meanwhile, said it did not discuss details of its individual clients.
The Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact), which campaigns against piracy, said: "A blockbuster film of the calibre of Bridget Jones will be targeted extensively by organised crime gangs and we would anticipate considerable interest among film pirates."
Police have uncovered pirated Spider-Man 2 DVDs in the UK
Fact says there is growing evidence that piracy gangs are linked to drugs, racketeering and even terrorism.
It says efforts are being made to infiltrate film industry staff and cinema employees such as projectionists in order to obtain the highest quality copies of films.
Currently 90% of pirated DVDs of films yet to be officially released are filmed from the back of a cinema with a camcorder, often from preview screenings.
Edge of Reason, starring Renee Zellweger, is released in the UK on 12 November.