Pirate movie cameras plague UK cinemas after Covid shutdown * TorrentFreak | Daily News Byte


When movies are recorded directly from a cinema screen, the resulting pirated copy is referred to as a ‘cam’, regardless of the camcorder or other device used.

Camming, camcording, camera, and other variations are not exclusive to movie piracy circles; Payers use it a lot to monitor and crack down on pirates.

In a report to the USTR in early 2022, the International Intellectual Property Alliance used the same words more than 130 times when calling out China, Ecuador, India, Mexico, Russia, Brazil and other countries for not doing enough to prevent cinema recording. (PDF).

While camming is clearly an ongoing problem for some countries, enhanced security and tougher laws in the United Kingdom should deter even the most determined pirates. In theory, at least.

Arrested in the UK

In early October, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit announced the arrest of a man in Liverpool “in connection with an investigation into film piracy”. There remained little doubt that the involvement of the Film Content Protection Agency (FCPA), the Film Distributors Association anti-piracy group, was related to the camming.

In the weeks that followed, Torrentfreak was able to link the arrests to an industry report that claimed at least four films recorded in two UK cinemas appeared online during the summer.

Our report published in late November provides more detail, and last week’s FDA/FCPA newsletter dated December 20 (PDF) Confirmed incidents as reported.

FCPA - Liverpool Camming Arrest

Apart from being recorded in the UK, where intent to distribute copies online is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, the copies were notable for another reason – their exceptional quality.

This isn’t mentioned by the FCPA and we’re still unable to confirm which films are connected to the case, but the period cited – June to August 2022 – surprisingly high-quality cam copies suddenly appeared online in mid-June before being discontinued. Around mid August.

Screenshot from Cam copy of Minions: The Rise of Gruminions-the-rise-cam

Double-whammy incidents like this are not uncommon in the UK, especially given the perceived quality and the obvious threat to the market. However, records show that camming ‘incidents’ are extraordinarily common in UK cinemas, yet receive almost no press.

Other camming events in 2022

Camming incidents appear to be more widely covered in annual reports, meaning aggregate data for 2022 won’t be available for another few months. Meanwhile, the four movies shot in Liverpool could be added to other events slated elsewhere in 2022.

At Cineworld Dundee (Scotland) on an unspecified date, a staff member identified a customer who was watching a movie. Title not published but in line with FCPA policy, hardworking staff member receives award for her anti-piracy work.

Along with staff at hundreds of other cinemas in the UK, she is likely to have received training and detailed instructions on how to respond to camming events. (PDF).

Camming Response Flow Diagram Issued by the FCPAfcpa - cam response flow

In another incident earlier this year, a ‘cammed’ copy of Spider-Man: No Way Home Appeared online soon after theatrical release. Forensic investigators linked the copy to a cinema in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Following the suspect’s arrest, the following image was shown in cinemas in the UK. It later appeared in a redacted form in the FCPA newsletter. We withheld the identity of the suspect in the original but the text clearly shows that preventing any repeat behavior is a priority for the FCPA.


The image on the right appears to be a still from surveillance footage, one of the main weapons in the fight against camcorder piracy. Data on camming events in 2021 show that evidence can also be obtained from less obvious sources.

Camming events break records in 2021

The Film Distributors Association Yearbook 2022 notes that PIPCU, MPA, The Industry Trust and the Alliance for Intellectual Property all partner with the FCPA in the fight against piracy. The level of camming incidents reported in 2021 shows that the FCPA needs all the help it can get.

“During 2021 the FCPA was directly involved in professional investigations, intelligence gathering, and research into 125 copyright theft incidents at movie theaters,” the FDA release reads. (PDF).

Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, 125 incidents actually occurred in just seven months, the highest number ever reported by the FDA.

“Most of these incidents led to offenders being confronted and barred from screenings by cinema management. However, more serious incidents required rapid police assistance, and resulted in five people being arrested and a further seven being booked with police warnings for illegal activity at the cinema,” the report added.

Details on specific cases

Details of some individual cases can be found in a report published by the UK Cinema Association (UKCA). It notes that online global piracy publishing groups struggled to obtain content due to the COVID-19-enforced closure of cinemas around the world in early 2021. When cinemas began to open, the pirates picked up where they had left off – the UK. including.

Two high-impact cases in particular occurred immediately after UK cinemas reopened in May [2021]With two publicly available copies of the new film discovered by film forensics in two London cinemas just six miles apart,” the report states.

A small selection of ‘Cam’ copies currently availablecam-list

“Subsequent investigations revealed that the same perpetrator was responsible in both cases, plus a second case in December 2020. After being identified and traced, he was arrested in July.”

Pirates track and trace, literally

When the UK came out of lockdown, visitors to cinemas and other places like pubs and clubs were required to fill out so-called ‘track and trace’ documents. In the event of an infection, government ‘track and trace’ teams were then able to directly contact people living nearby and ask them to isolate to prevent the spread.

According to the UKCA, the suspect Kemmer, who was arrested in July, filled out and signed one of these forms with his details.

From July 2021, three other Cammed movies appeared online and were subsequently seen in London cinemas. All the culprits have been identified but efforts to trace them are reported as “ongoing”. Interestingly, the report claimed that the cases were somehow connected even though none of the individual perpetrators knew each other.

“In an unusual case, film theft has returned to an east London cinema that experienced high-impact piracy in 2019, albeit this time by a different offender, something that serves as a reminder that this activity can happen in any cinema, regardless of location. It can be done in any way. Seems an unlikely target site,” the report concluded (PDF).


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