Piracy fight continues on many fronts

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Hollywood studios "can never spend enough to fight piracy," MPA chief Dan Glickman said Thursday.

Although the lobby has doubled to about $10 million its annual budget to fight movie piracy in Britain during the past five years, Glickman said that with each problem the MPA tackles in its second-largest market after the U.S., new ones arise farther away.

"China is a special case," said Glickman, noting that while the world's most populous nation is not yet a significant market for MPA films, Hollywood has arrived at a turning point with the region.

"The coming Olympics offer an interesting leverage point," Glickman said, referring to next year's summer games in Beijing.

This week, top Chinese trade negotiator Wu Yi is in Washington talking with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. On Tuesday, she said that efforts to "politicize" relations over issues like the great number of pirated DVDs easily available in China were "absolutely unacceptable."

In April, the U.S. filed complaints about rampant piracy in China to the World Trade Organization, which China joined in December 2001.

"As irritated as the Chinese were with the U.S. action in the WTO, at least there's recognition now that they are less likely to act rashly and defensively outside it," Glickman said.

He added that tactics used in Europe likely would not work in Asia, or vice versa. For example, a retail piracy investigation begun by the MPA in Russia last year probably would not work in China.

The MPA's overall annual budget to fight piracy is about half its total budget, Glickman said, estimating the total budget at $75 million-$100 million a year. If accurate, this would mean that the money the MPA spends each year to fight piracy worldwide — used for everything from lobbying to education to tipping off law enforcement — ranges from $37.5 million-$50 million.

That range pales in comparison with money the MPA says was lost to piracy last year in China. Those estimated losses, of $2.7 billion, almost match Britain's $2.5 billion annual DVD business.

Japan, Germany and France are the MPA member studios' next-biggest markets after Britain. Glickman said the MPA spends about $5 million a year fighting piracy in Germany.

Illegal disc manufacturing in Asia is widespread, and the MPA is fighting it every which way. In Malaysia, MPA-trained dogs sniff out bootlegs.

Asked whether the MPA had contacted the few, mostly European manufacturers of the machines sometimes used for illegal purposes but often also used to make legitimate discs in Asia, Glickman sighed and said it "was not all black and white."
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