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Video piracy now a felony under Romney law
By Michael Kunzelman / News Staff Writer
Thursday, November 18, 2004

BOSTON -- Gov. Mitt Romney has signed into law a bill crafted by several MetroWest lawmakers that cracks down on film bootleggers and video voyeurs.

The new law, which Romney signed Tuesday, makes it a crime to bring a video camera into a movie theater and shoot a bootleg copy of a film.

A last-minute amendment to the law also makes it illegal to secretly photograph or videotape someone who is nude or partially nude.

State Rep. James Vallee, D-Franklin, sponsored the anti-piracy piece of the law.

Vallee, who filed the measure at the request of the Motion Picture Association of America, said the sale of pirated movies costs the film industry an estimated $3 billion annually.

"It should be a crime to steal somebody's work and not pay for it," said Vallee, House chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee. "This law helps safeguard our taxable interest on a multibillion national export, and Massachusetts has a piece of that."

Several states already have outlawed the theft of copyrighted films, but Massachusetts is the first to make film piracy a felony, punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.

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

The Legislature approved Vallee's bill last month after the Senate tacked on an amendment sponsored by state Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln.

Under Fargo's amendment, videotaping someone who is nude or partially nude without their knowledge or consent, assuming that person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy," is a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The new law also makes it illegal to disseminate copies of those illegal videotapes.

State Rep. David Linsky, a Natick Democrat who sponsored similar legislation in the House, said there has been a proliferation of Web sites featuring lurid footage of unsuspecting people in locker rooms and changing rooms.

"This law is long overdue," Linsky said. "Countless men and women have had their privacy invaded. This will give law enforcement an important tool to protect the privacy rights of everyone."

Police and merchants who use electronic surveillance in changing rooms are exempt from the anti-voyeur law.
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