Germany's association of art house theaters, AG Kino, on June 30 called on exhibitors and distributors to stop treating moviegoers "like potential criminals" in the name of fighting film piracy.

COLOGNE, Germany (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Germany's association of art house theaters, AG Kino, on June 30 called on exhibitors and distributors to stop treating moviegoers "like potential criminals" in the name of fighting film piracy.

In a resolution passed that day, AG Kino singled out the treatment of guests at the June 14 European premiere of "War of the Worlds" in Berlin as an example of how anti-piracy methods can go too far.

Guests to the gala were required to pass through a metal detector to check for recording devices and were filmed during the screening to prevent piracy.

The measures sparked a wave of protest in the German media, with leading newsweekly Der Spiegel calling the measures "electronic eavesdropping" and broadsheet the FAZ judging the security measures to be "a violation of the contract between a theater and its audience."

"These sort of over-the-top anti-piracy measures create a negative image of moviegoing that will end up driving people away from the theaters," AG Kino managing director Eva Matlock said in an interview. "Instead, we need to get out the message that seeing a film in a movie theater is a one-of-a kind experience that can't be replicated with a DVD -- pirated or not."

Matlock argues that there is little evidence that audience members illegally recording movies in theaters is a significant source of film piracy.

"The high-quality pirated copies that unfortunately turn up on the Internet are not the result of someone taping a movie in a theater but come from somewhere else," Matlock explained. "Going after the audience is wrong-headed and could seriously backfire."

AG Kino is asking its 310 member theaters, which together represent around 12% of the German market, to not screen any "negative" anti-piracy trailers before films.

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