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Saturday April 21, 2012

Beware CCTV cameras in cinemas

PIRATES who secretly record movies in cinema halls could find themselves being recorded instead, as more cinema operators turn to closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras to nab offenders.

Shaw Theatres, which runs six cineplexes here, is the latest operator to install these devices.

It recently put in CCTV cameras in its new multiplexes in nex and JCube shopping malls, as well as older halls that have been renovated such as Lido.

Shaw’s vice-president of media Terence Heng said the CCTVs served multiple functions: as a piracy deterrent, for troubleshooting technical issues, and for reviewing disputes with customers.

He added that patrons are informed that the halls are monitored by CCTV cameras in a message flashed before the start of the movie.

But piracy remains a problem here, said other cinema operators and intellectual property lawyers.

Latest statistics from the police showed that between 2010 and last year, there were 18 reported cases of cinema patrons using digital devices to capture movie clips.

The most recent case this year may have taken place last week, in a Golden Village (GV) cinema.

GV’s spokesman said the offender was spotted when staff were making their rounds in cinema halls.

The case was reported to the police, in line with GV’s “anti-piracy standard operating procedure”, he said.

GV has been installing CCTV cameras within its 10 cinemas as part of its security procedures.

Another big cinema operator, Cathay Organisation, has between 40 and 100 CCTV cameras installed in its five multiplexes, although not inside the halls.

They are put up in walkways to cinema halls, exits and projection rooms.

GV declined to reveal details of its latest case but said this was not the first time someone has been caught in the recording act.

The spokesman added that most of the offenders were teenagers who claimed they were taking the footage for their friends.

Shaw Theatres, too, said it has caught patrons “on occasion”.

Heng said he did not consider these “real piracy cases”, but more to do with cinemagoers’ “lifestyle habits to capture moments of their lives”.

Shaw Theatres deals with these cases in a manner similar to GV – a police report is made and the movie’s distributor is informed. It is up to the distributor if it wants to pursue the case.

A police spokesman said offenders in all the 18 reported cases claimed that they had intended to use the recordings for their own viewing pleasure.

He added that they were advised that recordings could be done only with the consent of the rights owners. — The Straits Times/ Asia News Network

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