New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday was to sign into law a bill stiffening penalties for secretly videotaping films in theaters, days before the summer blockbuster movie season begins with the release of "Spider-Man 3."
The legislation upgrades film piracy from a violation with a $250 (euro184) fine to a misdemeanor that carries possible jail time and penalties of up to $5,000 (euro3,675).
The stricter penalties coincide with an ad campaign this month against film piracy that will appear on television, in movie theaters and on bus shelters.
The Motion Picture Association says more than 90 percent of bootlegged films are generated by people who record them in theaters and then sell videos for mass reproduction or post them on the Internet.
Pirated movies cost major U.S. film studios more than $6 billion (euro4.41 billion) in 2005, according to the MPAA. And a new study by the group shows that the New York City movie industry alone loses an estimated $1.5 billion (euro1.1 billion) a year due to piracy, and the local economy suffers further with lost earnings, tax revenue and jobs.
"Not only does piracy drive up the costs of videos and movie tickets and harm our economy, but every New York consumer is being cheated by poor quality goods," Bloomberg said in a statement before the announcement.
The broadcast ads, which are set to run on a number of channels, feature film clips from movies like the animated hit "Happy Feet" as they might look in illegally recorded copies, emphasizing the poor quality, and urging New Yorkers not to buy illegitimate DVDs being sold on the street.