3D Avatar fails to deter piracy

By Todd Balazovic (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-05 10:39
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3D Avatar fails to deter piracy
A woman poses in front of a billboard of Avatar in a Beijing cinema yesterday.

The recent blockbuster Avatar by James Cameron is one among a string of new movies to come out during a period now being called the "3D renaissance." But has the 3D format cut down on the amount of movie piracy as Hollywood hopes? It doesn't look like it.

"While Hollywood claims 3D movies will slow piracy, they are only partially right," said Chris Chinnock, president of Insight Media, a US-based marketing research and consulting firm.

He said if pirates try to use a regular video camcorder to record 3D films, it would result in the images coming back in double. While this makes the process of filming movies inside the theatre much more difficult, those with knowledge of video equipment can get around the 3D deterrent, he said.

"These methods are probably going to also reveal a watermark. There may be other piracy-prevention methods I don't know about, but in principle, it is not that hard," Chinnock said.

Chinnock's assessment seems to hold true. More than a week before Avatar was set for its China release, copies of the blockbuster were shelved in pirated DVD shops throughout Beijing.

He also speculated that the lack of impact on the pirate market might be because the film was also released in 2D.

The problem with releasing a film strictly in 3D is that many theaters, in both the US and China, are not equipped to handle the new technology. China has roughly 200 mainland theaters equipped to show 3D films.

3D Avatar fails to deter piracy

Less availability for movie-goers means more devious minds finding alternative ways to watch blockbusters.

But China has continued fighting side by side with Hollywood over the previous year, passing several policies to restrict access to pirated or copyrighted information.

"The laws in the books here in China are some of the strongest in the world," said Aaron Hurvitz, of the foreign counsel for intellectual property law firm Kangxin Partners PC.

"China is going through great lengths to get this done," he added.

Hurvitz pointed out that while filming in the cinema is one of the biggest and easiest ways to contribute to pirated films, there are hundreds of people with industry 'ins' willing to pass along exclusive copies of the film for big bucks.

Still the problem persists and, while stringent laws are in place, neither the Chinese government nor the US filming industry knows what to do, he said.

"They're snuck out of the studios, sent overseas, duplicated a million times and then sold on the streets," Hurvitz said.