Soviet Video Pirates Run Amok Current Attempts to Address the Problem Are Inadequate, Hollywood Says

By Fred Hift, | The Christian Science Monitor, August 8, 1991 | Go to article overview

Soviet Video Pirates Run Amok Current Attempts to Address the Problem Are Inadequate, Hollywood Says


Fred Hift,, The Christian Science Monitor


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 on TV.

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" among others.

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. …

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