Antipiracy chief pitches DVD crackdown

GOLD COAST, Queensland — When Australia’s chief antipiracy enforcer, Adrianne Pecotic, visited a market on the outskirts of Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, pirated DVDs of Hollywood films were being sold from no fewer than 135 stalls for A$5 ($3.50) apiece.

When she first went to that market in January, just two stalls were offering discs, and they were charging $17.50-$28; market forces clearly have been at work in the interim.

Pecotic, exec director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, showed photos of that market Thursday at the Australian Intl. Movie Convention to demonstrate how much video piracy has infiltrated Oz suburbs.

Pecotic identified two major problems: lack of police enforcement and widespread ignorance among the public that buying a counterfeit DVD or downloading a movie is a crime.

“The Victorian police say (piracy) is covered by the federal police and they do not have enough resources to address it, but we’re working with the Victorian police and I hope action will be forthcoming,” she told Daily Variety.

She believes two major criminal syndicates are responsible for the high level of piracy in Melbourne.

Eighteen percent of broadband users in Australia have downloaded movies, Pecotic said, quoting a Motion Picture Assn. survey.

On the education front, an antipiracy trailer is playing on 2,000 screens Down Under, and Pecotic said Oz TV nets Seven, MTV, the Movie Network and the Disney Channel have agreed to run it, as has the airline Qantas.

Pecotic also announced at the confab Thursday that Hoyts Cinemas has agreed to promote antipiracy awareness among patrons and cinema staff, including offering rewards to customers and staff to report piracy activity.

“This is an exciting initiative and a great step forward,” she said. “Hoyts recognizes the need to be proactive in addressing movie piracy, and we look forward to working with them.

“By combining education with a reward program, this effort will support current enforcement efforts while shaping staff and consumer attitudes into the future.”

Pecotic told Daily Variety the federation soon will launch civil litigation for the first time against parallel importers (typically, vidstores that import DVDs, bypassing a licensed distrib).

She calculates piracy is costing Australia $140 million a year, including indirect losses such as less popcorn being sold in cinemas because many folks are getting movies by other means.

Malaysia remains a chief source of illicit videos. The MPA estimates 53% of that country’s pirated discs are shipped to the U.S., 22% to Oz and 10% to the U.K.

The convention runs through Sunday at the Royal Pines Resort.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more