Toon Vid Pirates Busted In Italy

An investigation by Italian law enforcement agency Guardia di Finanza resulted in a haul this week in Rome of 13,000 illegally produced Disney titles on homevideo. Two of the capital’s video retail outlets have been shut down during raids, and charges have been filed against 11 people.

The monthlong investigation was sparked by a complaint from Disney’s national arm, Buena Vista Italia, when unauthorized copies of four of the studio’s animated classics went on sale at newsstands in December.

Pirated editions of “Bambi,” “Snow White,” “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio” and a collection of Donald Duck cartoons were being sold at the special-offer price of 29,900 lire ($19). An estimated 110,000 copies of the vids have already been sold throughout Italy. The investigation led to two distributors of periodicals and homevideos to new-stands being shut down. No charges are being brought against the newsstand proprietors.

Also sequestered during the raids were master copies of four feature films from which pirate tapes were being duplicated, including “The Lion King.” Prior to that pic’s Italian release Nov. 25, BVI increased security measures to keep piracy to a minimum.

Pirated copies of the official Italian-language version appeared almost a month after the film’s release, repping something of a coup in a territory where black-market tapes are often made available within days of a pic’s opening.

Penalties for video piracy in Italy have recently been increased. In October 1994 the national government approved a decree calling for imprisonment for a period ranging from three months to three years, in addition to fines from $350 to $3,750.

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