With the date for the General Election now announced, the CEA today renewed its call for an incoming Government to legislate as a matter of urgency to make attempting to record a film in a cinema theatre a specific criminal offence.

The case for such legislation is in the opinion of the CEA clear.

It is estimated that copyright theft in all of its forms cost the UK cinema as at least £183 million in 2008. That is the equivalent of around 20 per cent of annual box office.

Nine out of ten counterfeit films – whether appearing on the market as DVDs or online – can be sourced back to illegal ‘camcords’ taken from cinema theatres.

As technology advances, so the variety of means available to people to steal films – camcorders, digital cameras and mobile phones – increases. This means that this is now more of a problem than ever. Each week on average in 2009, there were five attempts to record a films in UK cinemas thwarted by the vigilance of cinema staff.

Despite all of this, the UK is now the only developed film territory which does not have specific legislation making attempting to record a film in a cinema theatre a criminal offence. While there have been minor prosecutions under the Fraud Act, these are often complex and difficult to pursue.

In cases of attempted theft, cinema staff usually therefore have no option other than simply to eject the perpetrator and return their camcorder or mobile phone. This makes a mockery of the importance the industry attaches to this issue, and the losses made by UK cinema.

In territories such as the US and Canada, where specific legislation does exist, it has been effective in dealing with serious offenders, and in acting as a major deterrent to those thinking of recording a film.

Any new offence would be aimed primarily at the professional and organised criminal gangs behind the trade in counterfeit film, typically with links to dangerous weapons, drug-dealing, people smuggling and illegal pornography.

Repeated reports to Government have called for a specific offence. Earlier this year, the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications stated that: ‘….we remain concerned that the law [on camcording] is unclear and provides insufficient deterrent to abuse. We recommend that the Government reconsider the case for specific legislation to make it a criminal offence to record a film in a cinema by camcorder.’

Commenting on the issue, CEA Chief Executive Phil Clapp said:

“The Conservatives have committed to legislate to criminalise attempts to record a film in a cinema theatre should they come to power. The CEA calls on them to reaffirm that commitment, and on other political parties to show similar strength in supporting one of the UK’s economic success stories.”