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A man has been arrested in Australia on suspicion of filming The Simpsons Movie in a cinema on his mobile phone and uploading it to the internet. The unnamed 21-year-old from Sydney has been charged with copyright theft and could face up to five years in jail.

An illegal copy of the hit movie was available on a streaming website and downloaded more than 3,000 times even before the official film was screened in the US, according to the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT). That copy, said to be the first in the world, was traced to an address in Sydney.

Cooperation among the Australian Federal Police, AFACT and distributor 20th Century Fox resulted in the removal of the unauthorised copy within 72 hours of its posting.

AFACT investigators found that the movie had also been re-edited with an unauthorised French language version, reformatted and shared using Bittorrent and other peer-to-peer services, resulting in more than 110,000 downloads.

Adrianne Pecotic, executive director of AFACT, said that more than 90 per cent of newly-released movies that appear on the internet and on the streets around the world originate from camcorder copies.

"The speed and spread of illegal copies across the global internet as a result of this copy being made from a mobile phone in a Sydney cinema is staggering," she said.

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