Fresh planks put pressure on pirates

Gov't passing tougher laws; public cooperation needed

KUALA LUMPUR — Sept. 15 is looming as D-Day for the pirates who dominate the homevideo industry in Malaysia.

On that date, a raft of laws come into effect to apprehend and punish offenders, targeting not only street merchants but also distributors and duplication plants.

However, despite the government’s heightened resolve to stamp out the trafficking of illegal VCDs and CDs, some tradesters concede significant progress isn’t possible until the public is educated to respect intellectual copyright.

Another stumbling block, according to some critics, is aggressive censorship.

“Many consumers feel there is no monetary value in buying the real stuff. Not only are the prices of original VCDs too high, but a good story may be heavily distorted due to censorship,” says Hamdan Adnan, president of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Assn.

Adnan contends corruption and lax enforcement have allowed the pirates to flourish. That might change in light of the government’s new multi-pronged campaign.

Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says he’s determined to wage war against the pirates despite recent death threats made against him and his family.

One measure that takes effect Sept. 15 mandates producers to print a code number on each VCD and CD, which Yassin says will make it easier to distinguish between legal and pirated copies.

Another new law bans the sale of discs in alleys and sidewalks, which have been hotbeds of illegal trading. Authorities say it will be easier to control and monitor disc sales if they can be restricted to malls and shops.

“About 70% of total VCD and CD sales are pirated,” Yassin says, adding his ministry aims to reduce that to 20% next year.

Yassin says piracy is being masterminded by criminal syndicates who often employ heavies to attack officials to try to stop them carrying out raids.

Hence he’s pursuing strategies to tackle each step in the supply chain. “We are not only getting rid of the street-level retailers, but are moving into factories, stockpilers and distributors,” he says.

Steven Kon, operation manager with Golden Screen Cinemas, says the easy availability of fake VCDs has caused drastic declines in the territory’s B.O. He welcomes the new antipiracy campaign, but believes the impact won’t be felt until the middle of next year.

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