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‘Potter’ Producer Fears Web Piracy

November 13, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Days before the premiere of ``Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,″ the film’s producer said it fears pirated copies are showing up on the Internet.

Warner Bros. said in a statement Tuesday that an illegal copy of the film has appeared on the Internet, which often contains bootleg copies of films, even before they hit theaters.

The studio later retracted the statement in a phone call to The Associated Press, saying reports of bootleg copies hadn’t been substantiated, but an AP search discovered what appeared to be the movie available on a site hosted in Europe.

According to the site, the film had been downloaded more than 500 times already. Because it takes hours to download such files it was not immediately possible to verify that they contained the movie.

``The illegal copying and distribution of movies is theft,″ the studio said. ``Warner Bros. takes the threat of Internet piracy very seriously and employs all legal means to contain the unauthorized copying and distribution of our films on the Internet.″

News of the availability of the film online first appeared on Slashdot.org, a Web site for technology experts.

Pirated copies of films, often grainy, jumpy versions filmed using a handheld camera at a pre-premier screening, regularly show up on the Internet before a movie hits theaters.

The Motion Picture Association of America, the movie studio’s trade group, aggressively fights piracy in the courts and uses software to scan the Internet searching for people offering illegal copies of films.

Five major studios, including Warner Bros., formed a joint venture last year to offer downloads of films on the Web, in large part to offer a legal alternative to piracy. That company, Movielink, opened for business this week.

The movie, the second film made from the popular series of children’s books, opens Friday. It had premieres in London and New York.

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