Mexican piracy fight wanes

Fox gov't yet to make arrest in 2001

MEXICO CITY — Despite Vicente Fox’s campaign pledges to support legitimate business and crack down on corruption, film and recording industry reps have seen a dramatic slackening of Mexico’s fight against piracy under his presidency.

The previous administration of Ernesto Zedillo moved to update intellectual-property laws, stepped up enforcement and advocated tougher jail terms for pirates.

The attorney general’s office introduced undercover raids and held widely publicized events in which it would destroy confiscated materials.

Yet even with those efforts, piracy continued, sometimes in a brazen fashion, such as a pre-release “Titanic” hawked on the corners of major intersections.

The estimated 6.4 million rogue videocassettes sold here annually cost Motion Picture Assn. members some $20 million.

The MPA claims Fox, who disbanded his office’s anti-piracy committee, has now pushed the issue to the bottom of his agenda. “Before, when I lodged a complaint against a specific pirate ring, someone would be arrested within a week,” complained Francisco Guerra, the MPA’s Mexico anti-piracy director. “Now I can wait 100 days and nothing happens.”

According to Guerra, two of the biggest of Mexico’s estimated 10 pirate rings are based in Tepito, the capital’s notorious center for the trade of contraband and illegal goods.

‘Pearl’ for sale

Vendors make no pretense that the 25 peso (about $2.75) videos that fill numerous stalls are authentic or legal. “Pearl Harbor” and “Snatch” were among the pics for sale recently, in advance of their Mexican theatrical bows.

Last year, the MPA was able to count on cooperation from law enforcement to launch nine raids on underground video labs there.

But since Fox took office on Dec. 1, police have accompanied MPA officials just twice to Tepito.

No arrests

During the first half of 2001, no arrests were made for video piracy, the MPA said, compared to 24 for all of 2000.

Personnel changes at the attorney general’s office may explain the lack of action.

“That is what they have been telling me,” said Marino Radillo, Latin American anti-piracy director of the Intl. Federation of the Phonographic Industry, who has also noticed a slowdown in the war against Mexico’s prolific music pirates.

Pirate fighters in place

“But now that they have the new people in position, they have to produce in the next few months or their excuses are out of the window.”

A presidential spokeswoman insisted to Daily Variety that President Fox takes piracy “very seriously,” but refused to comment further.

Jorge Rodriguez of the attorney general’s anti-piracy unit maintained there had been no letup since Fox became president. “Anti-piracy continues to be a priority for us. It is what we do,” he told Daily Variety.

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