MPA will join battle against pirates in Oz

Operation will launch civil prosecutions against offenders

SYDNEY — The Motion Picture Assn. is launching a permanent anti-piracy operation Down Under after homevideo piracy jumped 3%-8% last year, costing the Hollywood studios $34 million.

MPA reps said the popularity of discs and a lack of action by enforcement agencies allowed criminal syndicates to seize the initiative.

“With increasing piracy rates and losses in Australia, the time to act is now while we still have a chance to contain the problem of copyright theft in this key market,” said Mike Ellis, the MPA’s Hong Kong-based VP and regional director for anti-piracy in the Asia Pacific region.

Ellis said the operation, which has yet to appoint a head, would launch civil prosecutions against offenders, complementing the efforts of police and customs officials.

Until now, the MPA has funded the Australasian Film and Video Security Office, an independent agency headed by Steve Howes. He will step down at the end of the year after running it for 21 years but will stay on as an adviser.

The MPA is expected to put up most of the funds for its new Sydney-based operation in the first year, which will launch in the fall, but it’s also looking for financial support from Aussie film and video distribs, exhibs and vid retailers.