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Local Video, Cable, And Film Industries Lose Millions To Piracy

Say recent FBI raids will help create awareness


December 2, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Local video rental chains, cable television companies, and movie theaters lost $4.5 million in sales to piracy last year, according to Blockbuster Video estimates, said Vice President & General Manager Susana Santamaria. These companies are fighting back, calling on the government to help them eliminate the problem and letting consumers know that using counterfeit products is illegal.

Although piracy’s damage to the video, cable, and film industries varies, it has left none untouched. For example, piracy forced Blockbuster to shut down two stores in Puerto Rico: one in Mayaguez and another in San Sebastian, said Santamaria.

Cable-television company Adelphia, meanwhile, said its business is also being hurt by cable theft, which it considers piracy. In cable theft, consumers hook up to their neighbors’ service illegally. "There are thousands of consumers committing cable theft as we speak," said Eva Vazquez, public-relations manager.

"It’s a problem, not only in terms of lost pay-per-view sales, but also because it affects the service offered to paying customers...because the quality of the service is reduced," said Vazquez. "Also, our infrastructure is damaged...costing us a fortune in repairs."

The film industry has felt the pinch as well. Movie theater chain Cine Vista’s General Manager Eduardo Llauger said, "Damage to local movie theaters isn’t as bad as elsewhere, but it is still there." Case in point: Even churches obtained and showed pirated copies of the "The Passion of Christ" before its release in local movie theaters, taking a bite out of local movie-ticket revenue.

Fernando Bonilla, vice President & legal counsel for Pueblo Entertainment Inc., Blockbuster’s parent company, added that the Internet has helped piracy proliferate, but was not its cause. "Many mom & pop video rental stores rented our new releases, took them home, and made VHS copies to rent them out at their own video store two days later."

Although piracy is less frequent in Puerto Rico than elsewhere, Bonilla said there is no justification for it and that it must be stopped. "We have to teach everyone that this is the wrong thing to do, that it’s illegal. If even churches do this, they are sending the message that it is okay, and we must stop that," said Bonilla.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently raided local video stores that sell pirated videos, an action that Bonilla has applauded.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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