Local monitor Rapo lacking in leadership

MOSCOW — The fight against audiovisual piracy in Russia is proving slow and frustrating. As production facilities grow dramatically, authorities have been unwilling to set up enforcement of antipiracy laws.

Local monitor Rapo is doing all it can to step up surveillance and coordinate raids on facilities,but leadership at the top is needed.

John Malcolm, senior VP of the Motion Picture Assn., called the situation “very frustrating” at the end of a visit to Moscow this week.

For Malcolm, the main problem islocal corruption. He pointed to the fact that production plants might need to be raided several times before criminal investigations are started, and they remain open in the meantime. Prominent retail environments like Moscow’s Gorbushka market, as well as large commercial Web sites, sell pirate product while state bodies refuse to investigate them.

With 42 plants licensed in the territory, estimates of legal product in the marketplace are 5% at best. Meanwhile, exporting is on the rise, with pirate product originating in Russia found in 27 overseas markets.

Local players worry the issue of copyright enforcement, one of the few unresolved issues in Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization — which could be concluded by the end of this year — will fall by the wayside once that process is completed. Some speculate this year’s rise in raids is little more than a sop to the WTO.

Tactics of some prominent local film producers, who have negotiated with local pirates to protect theatrical runs on major pics and then release DVDs at dramatically lower prices, aren’t helping. “Making deals with thieves can’t be a long-term solution,” said MPA’s Malcolm.

Ongoing price-cutting by the majors is far from straightforward. Reducing legal DVD prices from around 250-300 rubles ($8.90-$10.70) to, say, $7.10 isn’t going to have much impact as long as pirates can sell DVDs with up to eight films on them for around $3.50 — and months ahead of official release.

“The tentacles of corruption and organized crime extend very far up,” Malcolm said. Only instructions from the very top — as high as the Kremlin — could even begin to change that.

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