Still, according to Kori Bernards, VP of corporate communications for the MPAA, roughly 97% of movie pirating starts with theater cammers, who make about $400,000 a year from their efforts. So shutting down this international piracy ring in June had a perceptible effect on the supply of bootlegs. "We certainly haven't seen a lot of camcorder copies coming out of New York City," says Bernards. "In fact, I know for about the last 3 months, there haven't been any." Adds the FBI's Berglas, "We'd gotten a report shortly after the bust from the MPAA that the wholesalers were in a panic. Since we shut down all the printers, they couldn't get paper and weren't able to package any of their movies properly."
Just as the arrival of recordable DVDs transformed the black market, the movie industry will probably face new piracy challenges as technology evolves. For instance, recordable HD DVDs and Blu-ray Discs could create a demand for high-def bootlegs.
More dramatically, coming revolutionary developments in theatrical film distribution could change the whole piracy playing field. With the transition from projecting actual film reels (which is tremendously expensive, considering the cost of making thousands of 35mm film prints and shipping them all over the world) to playing digital files, movies could be delivered to theaters via satellite. This would represent a huge savings - unless pirates can figure out a way to hack into the super-high-rez 4K signal.
"It's becoming a wireless world," notes Berglas. "If you've got beams flying all over the place with high-quality movies, undoubtedly there's going to be somebody who's going to be able to hack into and intercept the signal. If I sat outside a movie theater and stole the signal with my laptop then sped off, now I've got a copy of the movie - and there'd be no difference between that copy and the one showing in the theater. It's very difficult for law enforcement to trace you for a one-time thing. Any time you use a computer that's hardwired to the Internet, that's traceable. But a wireless laptop is very hard to trace."
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