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Last Updated: Friday, 13 October 2006, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Technology 'can beat film piracy'
By Ian Youngs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was pirated by camcorder in the UK
New technology is the key to beating movie piracy, the UK film minister has told industry executives.

Making films available on demand as soon as they are released at cinemas could help stop fans watching illegal copies, Shaun Woodward said.

"The real answer is in the technology," he told the BBC News website, citing the success of legal music downloads.

"People will take the legal way and I think ultimately that's the solution for film piracy as well," he said.

Film pirates in the UK make an estimated 300m profit a year, according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact).

Most illegal gain comes from pirate DVD sales, and much is believed to help fund organised crime.

Apple iPods
Apple's online iTunes store lets US users download movies to iPods
A number of major companies, including Sky, BT and AOL, already offer film downloads in the UK, while giants such as Apple and Amazon offer similar services in the US.

Movies are also available on demand on TV in the UK through services such as cable provider NTL Telewest and broadband broadcaster Homechoice.

But no-one offers films at the same time as they are released at the cinema - whereas pirate copies usually hit the streets or the internet within days, if not hours, of their first screenings.

'More ingenious'

Mr Woodward told film executives at an anti-piracy campaign launch on Thursday: "You're going to have to look at release dates in a slightly different way than you have done before.

"You're going to have to look at slightly more ingenious ways of making electronic copies available so that people may actually pay a different price for something that they can download at home, which is just being released in the cinema.

"If they want to watch it at home, then maybe you should make it available to them.

"But they should pay a premium rate for having it earlier on and it should be encrypted in such a way that it can't be copied."

Some gangs used film piracy to finance "some appalling organised crime around the world, which often reaches into terrorism", he added.

A man watching a film on a laptop
Downloading and watching films on a computer is increasingly easy
More than 90% of pirate DVDs came from people recording films with camcorders in cinemas, a Fact spokesman said.

Camcorded copies of hits including Pirates of the Caribbean 2, X-Men: The Last Stand and V for Vendetta have been traced back to the UK.

On Thursday, Fact and the Film Distributors' Association launched guidelines to help cinema staff and police catch people making surreptitious recordings.

They also published procedures designed to keep film prints secure at every stage of their release.

Fact chairman and Sony Pictures UK finance director Brian Robertson said Mr Woodward's idea about simultaneous download and cinema releases was an "interesting suggestion".

"At the moment it's probably not technically possible," he said.

"But in a few years, yes, I'm sure it will be possible and it's part of the whole economic model of film-making that will have to be looked at.

"It is a radical thought and the film-makers themselves may have an issue with it because they want people to experience something on the big screen, not on the small screen.

"It will certainly be an interesting debate."

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11 Jan 06 |  Entertainment


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