Pirates top issue for Mexican meet

Agenda includes more stringent laws, lowering prices

MEXICO CITY — Members of Mexico’s largest film industry group are holding a special meeting this week to discuss a wide variety of challenges, chief among them, piracy.

Among those attending the meeting are reps of exhibs Cinemex and Cinepolis, distribs Videocine, Warner Bros. and Columbia TriStar Films as well as video giant Blockbuster. Organized by the National Chamber of the Cinematographic Industry (Canacine), event is being held in the southern city of Oaxaca.

Confab will tackle issues such as government film funding, taxation and regulation. But the main discussion point will be Mexico’s rampant piracy, which is so advanced that bootleg copies of films frequently hit the streets weeks before the pics are exhibited commercially.

According to the industry group, Mexico has 31 principal distribution centers for pirated pics and some 17,000 different street stalls and storefronts dedicated to selling bootlegs.

B.O. blues

Canacine reports that piracy has had a direct downward effect on commercial box office. In 2003, 134 million movie tickets were sold in Mexico, down 18 million from the 152 million sold the prior year.

Effect also ripples down to Mexico’s estimated 6,000 video rental businesses and 1,000 legitimate videostores, which have reported declines parallel to those experienced by exhibs.

In Oaxaca, Canacine members will discuss efforts to work with Mexico’s Justice Dept., as well as two federal bodies dedicated to protecting copyrights and trademarks, the Mexican Institute for Intellectual Property and the National Institute for Author’s Rights.

In a related effort, the industry group is seeking to unify lobbying to the Mexican Congress for more stringent criminal laws related to piracy. Lawmakers are considering a bill introduced by the Green Ecologist Party that would reform the nation’s intellectual property laws to include newer forms of piracy, including via the Internet.

Also to be discussed are price decreases for industry products, in particular videos, which are far undersold by pirated material; pirated DVDs generally sell for less than $5 and VHS copies for $2. Finally, members will develop an educational advertising campaign, possibly for exhibition in cinemas and to air on television.