Peeping Tom – Why you may think twice about a visit to the cinema

Feel like someone is watching you and your family in a darkened cinema? They probably are.
Feel like someone is watching you and your family in a darkened cinema? They probably are.

Pirates Ye Be Warned! – Also parents who don’t want their children watched in the dark by strangers can take the warning too.

Over in the UK, we have had many issues with the use of covert observation, that though is a discussion for another day because today I am looking at an issue which whilst being reported over a month ago has gained little attention.

Piracy, not the Black Pearl or Captain Jack type which Hollywood made popular, but name for the acquisition of duplicated data which tragically for anti-piracy groups has become “fashionable” too – something which despite years of trying to prevent, has just increased in size.  Views on the rights and wrongs of downloading data, is yet another discussion for a different article.

I’m not going to comment how the most popular downloads are the ones which also make the most money, nor some content creators who have the view that the important thing is you experience their work, again that is a topic for another day.

Putting the UK Piracy Scene to one side for a minute, I am going to talk to you as a parent and the night vision goggles which have been issued to cinema staff in the UK.  Is this rolling out in other countries? I can only assume yes.

Apparently in order to stop “caming” films, here in the UK there’s staff watching the cinema audiences for evidence of recording devices.  Better yet? They are doing it in the dark whilst you are distracted with the film you paid for.  To my knowledge, there’s not even security checks or any sort of suitability test for the staff who are watching you and your family in the dark.

I can only find a single reference to this peeping Tom exercise and with delight akin to a dung beatle finding a freshly laid pile already rolled into convenient balls is the anti-piracy group FACT.  The Federation Against Copyright Theft want to tell you about it success too.  One would hope FACT have the technical prowess to see incoming links to their site (although given that the only time you hear about FACT is maybe once or twice a year when they apprehend a street seller or are part of an article on another’s show) one has to put doubt on the ability of FACT to even scratch the surface of any online piracy that may be occurring.  So when they finally get a chance to see this article, I challenge any one of them to come on the TechBytes Show and answer questions put to them, as I find this latest tactic deplorable (and question their validity in general as well as their apparent championing of it)

From the FACT site :

13 cinema employees received awards for their actions.
6 of the 12 incidents involved attempts to record SKYFALL
All incidents were reported to the Police
2 incidents led to arrests
2 incidents led to cautions in police custody
3 led to exclusion orders and 1 prohibited access order

So lets look at these “successes”.  It’s worth noting that staff have been given “awards” for catching people with recording devices, so you can expect that whilst being watched, low paid staff are giving you that extra bit of attention in order to try and win a “prize”.  Do you now feel comfortable taking your family to the cinema? I don’t.  I personally wouldn’t want some un-vetted stranger looking at my family in the dark.

6 out of 12 attempts to record Skyfall? – I’m not sure what success they think this is because it came top in the most downloaded films on TorrentFreak charts.  So they stopped any UK versions getting into a BT swarm? So what? that hardly had any impact on the downloads did it? – Personally like most Hollywood rubbish, Skyfall was a film I wouldn’t want to see even if you paid me and certainly not if you wanted to watch me and the wife whilst doing it.

Now you have 2 incidents that led to an arrest and 2 cautioned? I assume then that was the same incident.  So instead of trying to list more “successes” that’s really only 2 “successes”, not 4 incidents? Maybe I can try and help FACT here in the future: “2 incidents led to arrest and caution in Police custody”? but then they are trying to justify this dubious practice so it’s better to make the list look longer?

3 exclusion orders and one prohibited access? – No explanation, so one can only guess that’s 4 ejections from the cinema and a ban….although completely useless if that person goes to another cinema, however for all that in the dark watching I’m sure that will make a big difference to the piracy release scene.  Does Hollywood really pay FACT for this type of “work”? The mind boggles.

So thats the entire success to date of the dubious tactics of watching in the dark.  That’s worth the massive intrusion into your privacy when you are watching a film.  To make matters worse, thats the justification for a stranger watching your children and your partner…..but don’t worry, there’s cash prizes for staff so you can be sure you will all be watched very closely.

Disgusting practice apparently championed by FACT.  but then again, when you look at previous anti-piracy campaigns that have backfired, it should come as no surprise that the UK would have this.

The lyrics on this advert (which became a classic – just not in the way intended) say “Downloads knockoff films, what a grubby little man” – Now tell me, whats more “grubby”, downloading a movie or watching people in a cinema with night vision goggles? – I’ll leave you to answer that one.

And just remember, if you do go to the cinema and you feel like you are being watched when the film starts – you probably are.



4 thoughts on “Peeping Tom – Why you may think twice about a visit to the cinema

Add yours

  1. The use of night vision goggles and other security gadgets has led to a handful of arrests worldwide, but has ruined the pleasure of “a night at the movies” for untold others. The measures taken by the film industry to prevent illegal recordings from showing up online are similar to the use of DRM, they annoy honest customers while pirates circumvent them.

  2. Cinema staff would wear night vision goggles to check on the behaviour of customers every half hour.

  3. Hello Forrest. I’ve actually had contact now from FACT, so I’m hoping to have them justify to me why they think it’s a good idea for this snooping.

    The handful arrests have made no difference to the global picture and I’d go one step further than comparing DRM, since at least DRM doesn’t watch you and your family under the cover of darkness. I’d also like to know what security these “snoopers” are having before engaging in “snooping with prizes”.

    Maybe FACT can help me out here and help me understand why a stranger looking at my wife and children is a good idea for a movie industry thats making record profits.

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