When a 24-year-old man from Liverpool used his smartphone to secretly record Hollywood films at local cinemas, he may not have expected that his actions would cost the film industry more than £2 million and put him at the center of a major legal case. issue.
However, this is exactly what happened Vasiliy Nikolaevichwhose actions not only led to his being sued, but also ignited a storm of controversy and concern across the film and technology industries.
Last week, Nikolavici was sentenced for recording Hollywood films in cinemas and distributing them to a friend in Ukraine, in a case brought to court by the North West Regional Organized Crime Unit (NWROCU) and the Film Content Protection Agency (FCPA). .
Nicolavici received an 18-month community order, was ordered to pay £254 in court costs and must complete 300 hours of unpaid work.
Mobile phone filming involves secretly recording a film while it is being shown on the big screen, often with the aim of distributing the pirated copy for personal gain or sharing it with others.
This practice is not new at all, it has been happening for years, even before the advent of smartphones (when people used to sit in movie theaters with video cameras).
The motivation behind such actions varies – some do it for financial gain, as seen in the case of Vasiliy Nikolavici, while others may do it to share the latest releases with friends who cannot get to cinemas.
There are also those who engage in this illegal activity as part of a larger organized crime network.
Regardless of the reasons, this type of piracy has long-lasting ramifications for the film industry, affecting everything from box office sales to job security within the sector.
The £200 job which cost the film industry £2 million
In the case of Vasiliy Nikolavici, the films in question – Return of the Railway Children, Where Crawdads SingAnd Accelerates – Recorded at Odeon and Showcase cinemas in Liverpool during June and July 2022.
Detective Constable Matt Goddard of the police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit NWROCU stressed the seriousness of the crime, noting that Nicolavici had been recruited by an organized crime group abroad to record films for financial gain.
“He pleaded guilty to fraud and offered a copyright infringement article for sale, narrowly escaping from prison,” Goddard said. He added: “We would urge anyone who is approached to do this to strongly consider the consequences of engaging in this type of crime.”
According to ITVNicolavici received around £200 for his efforts, and the films have been downloaded a total of 151,000 times.
Ed HandleyThe prosecutor in this case noted that reliable surveys showed that about 60% of individuals who engage in illegal downloading were actually paying to watch films in cinemas.
On the other side, Raj ChopraDefending Nikolavici, he said his client had only intended to help a friend called “Georgi” in Ukraine and quickly realized he had made a huge mistake.
Chopra explained that Nikolavici’s friend requested some films due to the difficult circumstances in Ukraine, including the ongoing war and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Being a 24-year-old, Nicolavici was unaware that his actions were illegal, according to Chopra. He also noted that Nikolavici had a clean criminal record, was gainfully employed, and was financially supporting his elderly grandparents in Ukraine.
Simon Brown, director of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, highlighted the broader implications of the case. According to Brown, more than 90% of pirated films come from copies recorded during public screenings in cinemas.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act estimated the minimum losses from the online release of these films at more than £2 million, although they say the actual figure is likely much higher.
Both NWROCU and the FCPA urged the public to consider the far-reaching consequences, which not only impact the film industry financially but also put thousands of jobs at risk.
Why are websites that offer pirated movies illegal
Websites that offer “free” streaming of popular movies and TV shows may seem harmless to some – but that’s not the case.
This may seem like a straightforward question, but it’s worth explaining why websites that offer illegal movies are actually illegal.
These websites violate copyright laws by distributing content without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. By doing so, they deprive creators, producers and other stakeholders in the film industry of their legitimate profits.
Furthermore, these websites often serve as hubs for other illegal activities, including distributing malware and collecting personal data without consent.
They can also expose users to a range of security risks, including identity theft and financial fraud.
Unlike Illegal IPTV servicesAs users are often asked to sign up and pay, many websites that stream illegally recorded movies do so without asking for direct payment – relying instead on ads, pop-ups and other schemes.
The legality of these sites is not a gray area. It is a direct violation of intellectual property rights and is punishable by law.
Authorities in the UK and around the world are cracking down on such sites, but the public also has a responsibility to refrain from using them.
How to identify illegal movie sites
Locating illegal movie sites can sometimes be difficult due to the methods used to hide their activities. However, there are some red flags to watch out for:
No licensing information: Legitimate streaming services usually provide licensing information, often at the bottom of their home page. Illegal sites usually lack this.
Too good to be true: If a website offers free access to newly released blockbuster movies, for free or at a very low cost, it is likely illegal.
Invasive ads and pop-ups: Excessive ads and suspicious pop-ups asking you to download additional software are often a sign of an illegal website.
Low quality content: Poor video and audio quality can be an indicator that the content is pirated.
While it’s true that the prices of pay TV subscriptions and streaming services continue to rise, breaking the law with piracy shouldn’t be the answer.
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