Preventing or at least reducing the flood of pirated copies of movies and TV shows online remains a priority for entertainment industry companies everywhere.
In the current environment, most public activity is aimed at distributors, such as torrent and streaming platforms. However, hitting those who supply content from higher up the chain is a long-standing but lesser-publicized strategy.
News coming in from Italy indicates that the authorities there have been looking closely at players who they consider to be particularly big fish.
The Guardia di Finanza of Pesaro, a department under Italy’s Minister of Economy, reports a long and complex investigation to target the individuals behind a release group they name as ‘FREE / iNCOMiNG’.
Operating between 2010 to 2016, the group is identified as “one of the main groups operating on the Italian and international scenes.” According to the GdF, ‘FREE / iNCOMiNG’ collaborated with foreign groups to which it supplied copies of movies recorded in Italian cinemas, reportedly accounting for 66% of copies of such movies made available online.
The investigation sought to link camcorded copies of movies with players in the group, an effort that was carried out by the Public Prosecutor of Pesaro in coordination with investigators at the Federation for the Protection of Audiovisual and Multimedia Content (FAPAV).
This led to the identification of four suspects with house searches subsequently executed in four regions of Italy (Marche, Piedmont, Lombardy and Puglia) and the seizure of equipment including PCs, smartphones, and media containing an estimated 800,000 files.
“The subsequent analysis of what was seized allowed us to discover that the group members, after the acquisition of the successful films and the major television series broadcast on pay-per-view channels, took care of the assembly and coding for upload on powerful servers,” the investigators reveal.
“The modified files were advertised on websites that, upon payment, facilitated illegal downloading. The group in question also established significant contacts and collaborations with other foreign release groups, thus succeeding in diversifying the sources of income connected to the illicit copies.”
Anti-piracy group FAPAV welcomed the results of the investigation, particularly in respect of the disruption to the supply of movies illegally recorded in theaters.
“According to our estimates, as far as the first cinematographic releases are concerned, in nine cases out of ten the audio and video source of the pirated files is represented by the unauthorized recordings that take place by ‘release groups’ in cinemas,” said Federico Bagnoli Rossi, General Secretary FAPAV.
“Camcording is, therefore, the primary source of piracy, a phenomenon that should not be underestimated considering the huge damage it causes the entire sector. Such recordings, in fact, are usually realized in the very first days following the release of films in theaters or when the works are in their initial phase of exploitation.”
The cases of the four men, whose identities have not been revealed, are said to have been handed to the authorities for action under relevant laws. At least as far as public piracy release databases reveal, iNCOMiNG ceased releases under that specific name around 16 months ago.