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Massachusetts Gov. Signs Toughest-In-The-Nation Film Piracy Law

Makes film piracy a felony

Gov. Mitt Romney recently signed legislation that features toughest-in-the-nation penalties to combat film piracy, the unauthorized recording of a motion picture in a movie theater.

"The improper use of electronic devices with video recording capabilities enables the theft of copyrighted material on a grand scale," said Romney. "By criminalizing this behavior, the legislature has taken an important step in cracking down on film piracy."

While several states have enacted laws against the theft of copyrighted film, Massachusetts is the first to make film piracy a felony. Those found guilty of recording any part of a movie on any type of recording device could now be sentenced to up to two years in prison and face fines up to $100,000.

"This new statute is an important component in our efforts to combat first run motion picture counterfeiting on DVDs and illegal Internet distribution," said Dan Glickman, president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). "The Motion Picture Association is gratified that Governor Romney signed this measure into law and appreciates that Massachusetts has taken such a strong stand on this important issue."

The MPAA estimates that the U.S. entertainment industry loses $3.5 billion every year to film piracy.

The law also boosts privacy protections by making it a felony to secretly photograph or videotape anyone who is nude or partially nude in locations where a reasonable level of privacy is assumed. Suspects may be charged for taking or distributing such pictures.

The proliferation of small cameras in electronic devices such as cell phones and personal digital assistants has led to cases where unscrupulous individuals have taken inappropriate pictures and distributed them without the subject's knowledge or permission.

The law exempts merchants who use electronic surveillance in customer changing rooms. Changing rooms must clearly display signs to inform customers if surveillance is in use. Law enforcement officers, acting within the scope of their duties, are also exempt from this provision.