WASHINGTON and Moscow may be talking peace, but it's war when it
comes to Soviet-American film relations.
Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of
America, angrily terms Soviet behavior "state-condoned piracy." The
major Hollywood studios have imposed a boycott on movie sales to the
Soviet Union. It won't be lifted, Mr. Valenti vows, until the
Soviets live up to the terms of the Bern Copyright Convention (which
they have not signed), and outlaw video piracy.
The practice of illegally copying feature movies onto video
cassettes, which are then sold or shown, is a worldwide phenomenon
that costs the movie companies billions in lost income.
But rarely is it carried on as blatantly as in the Soviet Union
where operators, including organizations run by the state, appear to
have no qualms about distributing and exhibiting pirated films.
"Gone With the Wind" and "Rain Man" are just two of the many
American movies that have been screened illegally on TV sets in the
lobbies of Soviet movie houses and at growing TV salons all over the
country. Even Soviet television has aired pirated United States
pictures. During the past few years, however, the Soviets have begun
to purchase some Hollywood products legally, and illegal video
cassettes are competing with these movies in the theaters.
"Gone With the Wind" appeared on regional television a few days
after its Soviet theater premiere. According to Variety, the trade
publication, MGM executives visiting Moscow were horrified to find
their classic playing for paying audiences in a video parlor near
the Kremlin a month before its Moscow opening. Even the fairly new
"Diehard 2" has been announced as a forthcoming Soviet TV
attraction, though the film has not been licensed for Soviet
release. Two bootlegged Arnold Schwarzenegger movies were also aired
The Soviet Union has five national TV channels and 123 regional
ones. It also has some 200 cable networks covering most of the
country, which aren't regulated by any laws whatever. Cable has
offered pirated versions of one of the Rambo movies and "Moonstruck"
A Moscow-datelined story in The Hollywood Reporter said that
American films were often recorded straight from telecasts
originating in Finland or Turkey. Once copies are made, they are
then dubbed into the local language. Showings in video parlors are
openly advertised and admission costs more than the theaters.
Soviet authorities say that only clips from movies are televised,
but the stations show the entire film apart from the opening and
closing credits. …