The Problem

The motion picture industry is a vital sector of the U.S. economy. It employs millions of U.S. workers and generates revenue for local businesses and communities. The theft or piracy of copyrighted films costs the U.S. entertainment industry billions of dollars in revenue each year. That loss of revenue hits directly at bottom-line profits and negatively impacts those millions of workers who earn their living in this industry.

Movie thieves use recording devices to record and steal movies directly from theater screens. These devices include, but are not limited to, video camcorders, digital cameras, cell phones and audio capturing devices.

  • Sophisticated thieves often combine the stolen video sourced from one theater with the stolen audio sourced from an entirely different theater.
  • Copies of camcorded movies are acquired by so-called “release groups” for distribution over the Internet and by Organized pirate networks that illegally produce counterfeit discs in DVD replication plants and burner labs. These discs (commonly referred to as “bootlegs”) are distributed and sold throughout the world.
  • It is estimated that over 90% of the illegal film content available during the theatrical release of a film is due to camcording.
  • Movie theft causes economic harm to everyone in the industry, from film makers to theater employees. Furthermore, it jeopardizes the future of movie making.


Zero Tolerance Policy

  • The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie.
  • Many laws enacted to prevent the recording of a movie being shown on a theater screen also prohibit the taking of still pictures and the recording of audio. Theater owners, managers, and employees should learn what specific laws apply to their geographic location. A list of applicable federal and state laws by region can be found at:
  • The use of cellular phones as a video recording device and also to take still photographs has become increasingly prevalent in theaters. With recent technological advancements, many cellular phones are capable of recording a film in its entirety. In fact, cell phone camcords of entire movies have recently been discovered on the internet.
  • Many digital cameras, PDA’s, and personal electronic devices also have video and audio recording capabilities. Like cellular phones, in recent years the recording capacity of these devices has continued to improve.
  • Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they
    suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera
    is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording. Let the proper
    authorities determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should
    be taken.