Suddenly, the battle against Eastern European film piracy is not the comedy of errors it always appears. At least, not in Hungary.

A recent decision by the Hungarian parliament to make video piracy a criminal offense is being touted by industry analysts as a constructive bid to rid the nation of a problem that robs Magyar and U.S. studios of 2 billion forints ($ 23 million) a year.

“This is the first step on the road,” explained Tivadar Parvy, program director of the Hungarian Foundation for Copyright Protection of Audiovisual Works (ASVA). ASVA is considered the vanguard of the country’s anti-piracy campaign.

The law, which reportedly takes effect May 1, does seemingly represent a giant step forward for Budapest-based video distribs and the Motion Picture Export Assn. of America. Both have repeatedly lobbied Hungarian officials to take a tougher stand against black marketeers, who reportedly control between 80 % and 85% of the nation’s video distribution market.

Where Hungarian law previously regarded video copyright infringement as little more than a misdemeanor, punishable by minor fines, this new law makes film piracy a criminal act carrying a penalty of five-years imprisonment.

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