Fighting mad

The Kiwi film sector adds some muscle to its anti-piracy campaign.

WELLINGTON -- New Zealand is putting some serious muscle behind its anti-piracy efforts. Local star Temuera Morrison is lending his voice to the latest Kiwi bid to stamp out movie piracy.

Morrison, who won two New Zealand Film Awards for playing iconic brawler Jake "the Muss" Heke in the hugely popular 1994 local production "Once Were Warriors" and its 1999 sequel, "What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?" is now the voice of a new homegrown anti-video piracy campaign being launched this month by the NZ Federation Against Copyright Theft.

As one of New Zealand's most popular actors, Morrison will lend an intimidating voice-over to a new NZFACT trailer that's hitting cinemas at the same time that the Motion Picture Assn.-backed group goes live with its new Web site (

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Fighting mad: Adding muscle to anti-piracy campaign

Additionally, a free phone number and an e-mail service for reporting piracy have been set up, guidelines on how to detect piracy are being distributed to cinema staff and home video retailers, and an interactive DVD for theater managers is in the works.

The beefed-up Kiwi assault on video piracy has sprung from an unfinished copy of 2006's biggest local hit, "Sione's Wedding," which began circulating on DVD before the movie opened in theaters.

The pirated copies have cost the South Pacific Pictures crowd-pleaser an estimated NZ$500,000 ($345,000) at the local boxoffice (it topped NZ$4 million ($2.8 million).

"We were caught off guard with 'Sione's Wedding,'" producer John Barnett says. "We didn't think piracy was an issue because we thought the material was secure."

Yet, "Wedding's" loss was the industry's gain, as the film's phenomenal popularity brought some much-needed attention to the fact that piracy isn't just a Hollywood headache -- and that the Kiwi film sector is certainly not immune to the problem.

As well as spurring more of a coordinated industry approach to combating piracy, the "Wedding" issue led to more resources being pumped into NZFACT under aggressive new leadership.

As a result, last year there were 17 civil actions and 15 arrests, including the first prison term handed down for video piracy. This year, NZFACT expects to be even busier.

But according to its executive director, Tony Eaton, there are still legal loopholes regarding DVD and Internet piracy that he hopes the government's pending digital copyright legislation will close.

Research commissioned by the MPA shows piracy cost the New Zealand film industry about 25% of its potential market in 2005, or NZ$70.8 million ($48.8 million) -- which was double the original estimate.

Of this total, NZ$27.1 million ($18.7 million) was estimated to have been at the expense of MPA member companies.

"Our top priority this year is to educate the industry and the public," Eaton says. "The New Zealand screen industry is worth NZ$2.6 billion ($1.8 billion), and we need to protect it."