Arab pirates’ paradise does an about-face

CAIRO — The United Arab Emirates, once the Peck’s Bad Boy of the Gulf in terms of video and other intellectual property piracy, is now in the running for teacher’s pet through its current efforts to crack down on the buccaneering.

Recent weeks have seen a massive destruction of pirated videocassettes, music tapes and computer programs that were confiscated from shops by the police.

As recently as 1995, the UAE ranked third among Mideast country bandits, accounting for losses to copyright owners of $108 million in pirated movies, music, computer programs and books, according to estimates by the Intl. Intellectual Property Alliance. This would indeed be a hefty amount for a country of less than 2 million people.

On the IIPA’s “naughty boy” list, the UAE formerly ranked behind only Saudi Arabia (dubbed the region’s worst offender at an estimated $210 million in 1995 losses) and Turkey ($190 million).

The UAE put on a highly publicized steamroller, crushing 40,000 vidcassettes, music tapes and other pirated properties, and officials said last week that shops selling such material have been warned that dealing in counterfeits “will no longer be tolerated.”

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