S. Africa piracy decried

JOHANNESBURG — Video piracy in South Africa is costing members of the Motion Picture Assn., Holly-wood’s powerful lobbying arm, some $12 million a year, according to a report being prepared by the U.S. trade of-fice.

News reports in South Africa said this week the association has lodged an official complaint with the trade office accusing the Pretoria government of not doing enough to apprehend the pirates.

The news reports said the complaint was among a number against South Africa filed with the trade office for in-clusion in its annual survey of foreign barriers to U.S. exports, which is due for release in March.

While laws in South Africa provided “reasonable copyright protection,” the association says, the government is not devoting enough resources to enforcement.

“The organized importation, duplication and distribution of pirate pre-release material from Malaysia and back-to-back copying in outlets continue to be significant concerns,” it said.

“Recently, Israeli immigrants have set up a network to import pre-release pirate masters from Israel,” it added.

Edward Askew, director general of the South African Film and Video Security Office, which is retained by the Motion Picture Assn., said his office was managing to restrict video piracy in South Africa to 20% to 25%, against up to 100% in countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Africa, excluding South Africa, where there are strict controls, has become the dumping ground for piracy material too hot for anywhere else,” he said.

His office, Askew said, had so far this year carried out 667 investigations and inspections at all levels of the indus-try and, in conjunction with police, had raided 35 piracy outlets.

Resulting from the raids, 6,908 articles — mainly videos — were seized and 25 criminal prosecutions launched, with another 54 pending.

“We’re getting maximum cooperation from police, bearing in mind the pressure they are under in other directions,” Askew said.

He singled out operators from Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan and China as being the “main flies in the ointment.”

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