After President Bush affixed his signature to the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act in an Oval Office ceremony April 26, it became a federal crime to camcord a movie.


WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- After President Bush affixed his signature to the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act in an Oval Office ceremony April 26, it became a federal crime to camcord a movie.

Bush's signature marked the last act in a legislative drama that spanned two Congresses and saw Hollywood's pet bill married to one that gives protection from lawsuits to companies that make video players that edit out purportedly offensive content in motion pictures.

While the studios would rather have bottled up the legislation that effectively ends the legal action surrounding Utah-based ClearPlay, they ultimately decided to abandon their action because it gave them the camcorder bill and legislation that makes it easier for federal prosecutors to go after counterfeiters who make works available before their public release.

"Members of the public might think that camcording is funny because they once saw it on an episode of ['Seinfeld'], but camcording is no laughing matter," Motion Picture Assn. of America president/CEO Dan Glickman said. "In fact, more than 90% of illicit, recently released movies on DVDs come from an unauthorized recording in a movie theater. There is increasing evidence that criminal gangs are using this method to steal movies, burn them into DVDs and then sell them on the black market in order to supplement their other illegal activities."

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the bill's primary author in the House, said the new law is necessary to protect families and a vital American industry.

"Parents have a right to protect their children from sex, violence and profanity in movies," Smith said. "The protection of intellectual property rights is vital to the movie industry. This bill is necessary to ensure that all those involved in the production of a film, from the director to the set carpenter, are not cheated out of their just compensation. It is vital to protect creative works."

Under the law, people who camcord a movie face three to six years in jail.

The FECA law also renews the Library of Congress' film preservation program. It additionally corrects a drafting error in the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act that will allow libraries to create copies of "orphan works," copyrighted materials that are in the last 20 years of their copyright term and are no longer commercially exploitable.