Profit Prevails in Piracy Politics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 31, 2005 | Go to article overview

Profit Prevails in Piracy Politics


Byline: Fred Reed, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

I travel a lot, to countries like Thailand, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador. Frequently, I see sprawling marts selling pirated music CDs. Others openly sell movies on compact disc or digital video disc.

Everybody buys from them. It drives Hollywood and New York mad. Why can't something be done? I asked a Mexican acquaintance. She said, "We're a poor country. Many Mexicans make maybe $380 a month. A legal DVD costs about $17. They can't pay the legal price. They don't have it."

I checked this out in Guadalajara, Mexico. A boxed set of "The Lord of the Rings" in Sandy's, a legitimate bookstore, was about $45. The three individual discs were less than $2 each on the street.

Many Americans have enough income to regard $15 for a good movie as reasonable. But many people in Ciudad Guzman, Mexico, or Chiang Mai, Thailand, simply can't pay such prices. You might ask, "If they can afford a TV and CD player, why can't they afford the discs?" Because, for poor people of little education, living often in small towns, television often is the only luxury they can have. Some spend more on it than makes economic sense.

Imagine that a DVD cost $150, but that you could get the pirate version for a tenth of that. At this point, politics kicks in.

It occurs to people that if a pirate can make a profit on a disc sold at $1.30, then, when a store sells the same disc for $18, somebody is making a killing. If you point out that studios spend millions to make movies, they respond that they get it back at the box office, and anyway everyone knows that Hollywood is rich.

Local politicians have to decide whether to side with their people and look the other way, or with Hollywood and arrest countless citizens. …

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