Laws on a Pirated Movie

Laws on a Pirated Movie thumbnail
Many in the public view pirated movie as a victimless crime.

Pirated movies cost major U.S. film studios more than $6 billion in 2005, according to the president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees,
Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States and Canada. The New York film market loses about 1.5 billion annually. Movies receive protection under various laws, including the U.S. Copyright Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Family Entertainment and Copyright Act and No Electronic Theft Act.

  1. U.S. Copyright Act

    • This law grants the owner of “motion pictures and other audiovisual works” protection against the duplication of movies and the distribution. Copyright laws provide legal protection to movies that considered as “original” works. The owner of the film receives automatic protection from the initial moment the movie goes into copy form. The owner does not have to register the work in any manner. The Copyright Act gives the owner of the movie the civil basis for filing litigation against a person found violating the Act; it makes related activities criminal offenses.

    Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    • The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal for a person to take any action intended to avoid the antipiracy provisions of copyright laws covering movies and other materials. The DMCA, which the U.S. enacted in 1998, incorporates the World
      Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty into the countries copyright protection rules. One feature of the DMCA provides a limit of the liability online service providers incur for copyright violations. Nations that sign the treaties also agree to take sufficient measures to make it a crime for its citizens to use technological methods to infringe upon copyrighted movies and other works.

    Family Entertainment and Copyright Act

    • This law deals with the act of bringing illegal recording equipment into a theater and pirating movies yet to be released for the commercial marketplace. This includes stealing a theatrical print from a theater messenger service or facility. Movie watchers who have legal access to movies cannot record works. In addition, this regulation makes it a crime to use methods, such as telecine, telesync and camcorders. Telecine refers to the use of a scanner, film projector or other equipment to record the film frame-by-frame, which produces a high-quality copy. Telesync entails setting up sophisticated recording equipment in an empty theater and recording the material. All the activities mention here constitute federal crimes.

    No Electronic Theft Act

    • In 1997, the U.S. Congress passed the No Electronic Theft (NET) Act. The purpose of NET is to help the prosecution of distributing movies and other copyright protected works over the web. The law, which makes the act a federal crime, applies to all individuals, even persons not involved in distributing the movies without any intent for commercial gain. Before the enactment of NET, an individual could not receive criminal prosecution for distributing movies across the Internet. The penalty for a conviction includes up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.


    • The laws give the court authority to issue an order for the violator to cease pirating actions. Law enforcement can also impound the material. Conviction can lead to the violator paying actual damages, any profits and two times the license fee the violator would have paid the owner of the materials. The court may also award statutory damages to the film's owner. Violators also face the possibility of criminal charges, which could lead to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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