Golden Joins Senate In Passing Bill To Combat Camcorder Pirates That Rip-off Film Industry, New York Families

Martin J. Golden

June 22, 2007

The New York State Senate last night passed legislation (S.1263-B), sponsored by Senator Dale Volker (R-C-I, Depew), to impose stiff new penalties on video pirates who use recording devices in movie theaters.

Video piracy has a massive $3.5 billion economic impact on the nation’s movie industry, as well as a direct economic impact on the thousands of New Yorkers employed by the filmmaking industry. It also has a tremendous negative impact on families throughout New York due to lost tax revenue for schools and other vital public needs, as well as increased costs for movie theater visits and legitimate home video rentals.

"People who videotape in movie theaters are stealing from New Yorkers and we’re not going to stand for it," said Senator Golden, Chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. "We’ve worked hard to help this vital industry grow and thrive here in New York, and this important measure represents another key step in our effort to make the Big Apple one of the great filmmaking capitals of the world."

With new technologies, the rapid proliferation of electronic devices, and the increasing availability of digital technology, the theft of first-run motion pictures is becoming more prevalent and has had a direct impact on the motion picture industry in New York State.

In addition, federal and state law enforcement agencies have indicated that there is a growing body of evidence linking counterfeiting and piracy with organized crime and terrorist funding. The crime currently has a low-risk of prosecution and enormous profit potential, which makes it an extremely lucrative enterprise for organized crime and terrorist organizations.

The legislation approved by the Senate would replace the existing penalty of a violation with a Class A misdemeanor charge in order to better reflect the serious nature of the offense in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. The legislation would also allow felony charges to be brought against repeat offenders.

The original statute was designed to prohibit the use of a video camera or audio video recorder in a movie theater to record a motion picture so as to combat the sale and trafficking of counterfeit movies obtained from illegal recordings. Today, in the digital age, the nature of the offense is much more serious as technology has improved both the quality of the stolen product, as well as the distribution system used by perpetrators. In practice, this new technology has allowed for the mass duplication of perfect digital copies of movies recorded in theaters, as well as for the instantaneous worldwide transmission of these copies. Compounding the economic impact on the industry, this distribution can and does take place while a movie is still in movie theaters.

"We applaud the Senate for passing this legislation, and hope that the Assembly will also support this important measure," said Katherine Oliver, Commissioner, NYC Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting. "Video piracy in New York movie and live performance theatres not only drives up the costs of show tickets and legitimate DVDs, but hurts thousands of New Yorkers who make their living in the entertainment business. This legislation signals that New York is serious about eradicating this crime."

"Today, the Senate put video pirates on notice that their behavior will not be tolerated by passing a bill that increases criminal penalties for illegally recording movies and live performances, said John Feinblatt, Mayor's Criminal Justice Coordinator. "We are hopeful the Assembly will take similar action so the City will be able to use this new tool to go after the criminals that hurt the entertainment industry and the City."

"We are gratified that the New York State Senate is moving forward with urgency to enact this critical anti-camcorder legislation," said Dan Glickman, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture of America, Inc. "If enacted, this new statute will be a vital tool to help combat the stealing of motion pictures from theatre screens, particularly in New York City. The loss in theatre ticket sales, DVD purchases, as well as the loss of sales tax revenue to the state is estimated in the millions of dollars annually."

"As the newest film and television production facility in New York City, Steiner Studios strongly supports Senator Bruno's efforts to reign-in content pirating," said David S. Steiner, principal, Steiner Studios. "On behalf of the thousands of New York workers who build the sets and make all this wonderful entertainment content, we strongly encourage legislation that keeps the industry vital and healthy."

"The Senate Majority has always been a terrific fan of the film industry," said the President of Kaufman Astoria Studios, Hal G. Rosenbluth. "Piracy does nothing but hurt our industry and it’s comforting that we have such representation in the State legislature to protect our business - we enthusiastically support this measure."

"The film and entertainment industry is one of New York State’s most important exports," said Stuart Match Suna, President of Silvercup Studios. "Piracy hits the very core of our industry and therefore, I’m proud to offer my support of the Senate Majority’s legislation."

The bill was sent to the Assembly.