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Pirated ‘Tsotsi’ sells despite arrests

Copies of hit pic still available despite efforts

Pirated copies of the Oscar-winning South African film “Tsotsi” are selling like hotcakes in Botswana, the country’s northern neighbor, despite the March arrest of key members of a syndicate responsible for the illegal copying and distribution of South African films.

After a three-month investigation by SA Federation Against Copyright Theft and the SA Police Service, two former employees of Johannesburg post-production company Video Lab, which did the post work on “Tsotsi,” were arrested on charges of stealing and illegally copying master copies of that pic and Leon Schuster’s box office hit “Mama Jack.”

Pirated copies of both films had been available from roadside vendors since January, in “Tsotsi’s” case before it was even released theatrically in South Africa. Since the arrests and a police clampdown, however, these copies — which have a different ending from the final version in theaters — have not been openly available.

However, in Botswana, the pirated “Tsotsi” DVDs are openly displayed in shops, where eager customers are snapping them up for as little as 30 pula ($5).

A Botswana-based journalist described this week how he had seen a pile of “Tsotsi” DVDs for sale at one of several Chinese-owned stores in Gaborone.

“They disappeared in no time. Everybody wants a copy, and no action is being taken by local police,” he said.

“Tsotsi” is being shown theatrically in Gaborone, but local cinema owners say attendance has not been as expected.

SAFact said the investigation into the piracy syndicate is continuing and the cross-border spread of the DVDs would be explored.

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