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As the film industry gathers in Berlin for the February 7 opening of the Berlinale Festival, the weekly Die Zeit reports on the story of the "stolen film" which sums up the industry's struggle against piracy.

In a long tale, Die Zeit explains how German producer Stefan Arndt tried in vain to earn money from box office revenues from his film Cloud Atlas, before pirates could put a copy on line. A three-hour epic which begins in 1849 and closes with the end of the world 500 years later, the film cost €100m to produce and an additional €100m for marketing and distribution.

As of the summer of 2012, says Die Zeit, Arndt noted that his film was targeted by pirates because eight weeks before the world premiere:

Thousands of people were already registered on on-line file sharing sites for an illegal copy of Cloud Atlas.

Released in Russia a week after the US premiere, at the request of a Russian co-producer, the film was pirated in Khimki, Russia and put on-line in November. Thanks to a digital tracking system of the sound and the image each copy can be attributed to a specific screening, explains the weekly. However, those responsible for the pirate copies – those who record, put on-line, own the pirate sites, own data stocking servers – are lost among front companies and false identities throughout the world.

A few days before the opening of the Berlinale, dozens of illegal copies of Cloud Atlas were already on line, in a multitude of dubbed or subtitled versions. To date, the film has earned €85m of the €200m invested.

Ironically, the weekly adds, Google, the world leader in the highly lucrative sector of matching pirate sites with advertisers, is supplying 100 per cent of the financing for Berlin's Institute for the Internet and Society at Humbolt University, one of whose members is an advisor to German MPs.