Warner Bros. videos audience to catch audience videoing movies

The Consumerist ran a letter from a guy in Washington DC who said a man was videoing the audience at a screening of The Invasion.

The movie started on time with a moderately full theater and immediately I notice an older gentleman who looked to be about 60 standing in the corner of the theater. Sporting a black suit and a black briefcase, he began to film the audience during the movie. Every 5-10 minutes he would sweep the audience with his video camera, then turn it off and just watch us, then turn the camera back on and sweep again.

The manager behind the desk informed me that Time Warner/Warner Bros had contracted a security company to film movie theater audiences around the country during the opening weekend of its movies in an effort to prevent piracy.

I guess the older gentleman didn't do a very good job, because a search for "The Invasion" at The Pirate Bay turns up at least three camcorder versions of the movie.

Link (Thanks, Roberto)

Reader comment:

Brent says:

I thought I might let you know about a similar experience I had while watching a screening of Hot Rod on the University of Toronto campus. There was a security guard who would periodically walk down the side of the seating rows to the front and scan the audience with what looked like a night vision scope. The paranoia of these billion dollar distributors seems to be growing. They need to realize that the kind of people who are willing to watch a poor quality telesync of their film would have never paid to see it in the first place. Their focus really needs to change to catching leaked DVD screeners and silvers, as that's where profits end up being turned by the bootleggers.

Eric says:

I wonder if it becomes legal to videotape the studio videographers (as well as what appears on the screen behind them ;) on some type of press coverage / news event type of grounds? Unlikely, I know, but it would be immensely satisfying if the film's copyright protection was invalidated in some kind of bass-ackwards way like this!

Wil says:

Just posted this to my blog, based on Mark's post at BB.

This makes me angry with rage, and I wrote:

All furious indignation aside, can the theaters get away with this? I've
never seen a notice that by entering a theater I'm giving my consent to
be filmed (other than at special screenings, and certainly never at a
regularly-scheduled screening.)

If theaters are going to be complicit in this sort of thing, they should:

* be forced to disclose to their customers that they will be filmed
in the theater,

* post a privacy policy so audience members know what will happen
with the video tapes,

* offer refunds to customers who don't wish to be filmed, or

* give audiences a choice of sitting in a surveillance theater or a
non-surveillance theater.

It's annoying enough already to go out to the movies these days, and I
while I understand why a studio would want to use this sort of
intimidation tactic to stop people from making shitty camcorder videos
of movies, I also understand why some potential customers would choose a
shitty camcorder version of a film over sitting in a theater to watch it.