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Anti-piracy campaign targets cinema-goers

February 4, 2009 |  9:25 am

Pirate_dvds

Take a trip to the cinema in Mexico anytime soon and you’ll probably see an ad campaign that scolds the Mexican public for buying pirated movies.

Purchasing any of the millions of pirated DVDs and CDs available at an estimated 50,000 “puestos” or open-air street stalls doesn’t, apparently, make one a great ethical shopper. In fact, it reflects badly on your character. That’s according to the campaign by Canacine (Camara Nacional de la Industria Cinematografica), an association that protects Mexico’s film production and distribution industry.

The ad currently running across cinema screens features three young middle-class girls hanging out in one of the girl's bedrooms. Two of the girls are playing on the Internet, and the third discovers a pirated movie while browsing her friend’s bookshelves.

“Does your dad buy you these movies?” she asks her friend, a disgusted look on her face.

“Yeah, so?” says the friend.

“Que chafa!” the other girl exclaims, which roughly means, “What a cheapskate!”

The two friends then go on to taunt the other girl and accuse her of having a Papa Pirata (Pirate Papa) before the screen cuts to a line of text that says: “Buying pirated movies says a lot about who you are.”

The advertising campaign launched in December, and is an attempt to tackle the enormous problem Mexico has with pirated products. The International Intellectual Property Alliance says that around 90% of motion pictures sold in Mexico are pirated. At most street stalls, 20 pesos (around $1.38) buys you a pirated movie, and 50 pesos ($3.45) buys you three. In shops, the price of authentic movies on DVDs starts at around 100 pesos (nearly $7).

Piracy in Mexico is “entrenched” and “the sheer dimension of the piracy problem in the Mexican market remains severe and unchanged,”  the IIPA says in its annual country report for Mexico (pdf file).

Growing Internet penetration is also increasing illegal music and movie downloads in the country.

Copies of “Che, the Argentine” were selling at black-market street stalls before the film’s official release in Mexico. You can already buy “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke, at a puesto near you, even though the film is yet to come out south of the border.

The seven or eight times I have seen the anti-piracy ad aired in the last month in Mexican theaters, it always elicited snorts of laughter from cinema-goers.

Maybe they're amused by the running of such a campaign in cinemas when clearly, the people who go out to the movies are not the worst piracy offenders.

Or perhaps it's just that piracy is such a normal part of Mexican life that the idea of getting rid of it seems ridiculous. Audaciously, many pirate-movie vendors flog their wares outside cinemas. There is always a woman selling pirated films outside the Cinepolis Diana on Avenida Reforma, and when leaving the parking lot of the Cineteca Nacional in the Coyoacan neighborhood (the city's most important venue for art and foreign cinema) you can rely on finding a young man and his pirated movie stall specializing in -- you guessed it -- art and foreign film.

As if that weren't enough, the indifference of Mexico City's street cops speaks volumes about the attitude of the government towards piracy. You can frequently spot the city's police perusing the pirated movie stalls, looking for something to take home and enjoy after a hard day on the job.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Image: Pirated goods are widely available on the streets of Mexico City. Taken from a video still by Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times.

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