NAB Show: The fight against theatrical piracy

Illegal camcorder recording in movie theatres is the largest source of piracy in the world today. Detecting it is one thing – stopping it is another. Just ask Steve Weinstein, who leads the Motion Picture Association of America’s research venture MovieLabs.

“We’ve had the government come to us with the way they blind snipers – that’s the same problem. They said ‘oh, you can just detune our laser’,” he said, drawing laughter from an audience attending a presentation on theatrical piracy at the 2012 NAB Show. “But we are working on some jamming ideas.”

Weinstein said the association had made good progress detecting illegal recordings in cinemas – automatic scans produce images, which are then processed and send a signal to the appropriate person. Such scans can now detect cameras as small as an iPhone. Technology aimed at the distribution market can also now detect hidden watermarks or short pieces of audio and video content which may infringe copyright, such as YouTube’s detection facility.

However, he also challenged the engineers and scientists in the audience to produce better solutions. “We have incremental ideas and we’re solving them one step at a time but we’re not making as much progress as we’d hope.”

Protecting the initial theatrical window from piracy by just seven days – the prime revenue generating period – remains an achievable goal.

“There are lots of things – we’re not solving the problem, we’re putting a dent in the problem, and it really is worth putting the dent in it.”