Initiative rewards theater employees.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) and the National Assn. of Theatre Owners today (June 21) launched the Anti-Camcording Awards Program.

The program encourages theater employees to look out for individuals who are camcording films directly from movie screens. Employees who catch someone camcording, report the incident to police and stop the recording can receive a cash reward of up to $500.

The announcement comes just a week after the MPAA stepped up its anti-piracy education initiative.

According to the MPAA, camcording is one of the leading sources of motion-picture piracy. The trade group reports that films are typically camcorded in the first week of release in the United States, and are then distributed digitally to peer-to-peer filesharing networks worldwide and eventually replicated into illegal DVDs.

The MPAA says optical-disc piracy cost the movie industry $3.5 billion last year. The organization seized 52 million illegal discs in 2003.