DVD piracy gets out of control

2010-05-11 00:00

PIRATED DVDs and CDs are being sold right outside the front door of DVD and CD shops, with people ranging from ordinary citizens to government employees showing interest in buying them.

Owner of DVD World in Scottsville, Shalan Chetty, said his business is hit hard as cheaper counterfeit DVDs are sold in front of his shop.

He said he has called the police on numerous occasions, but the vendors always come back the next day.

DVD vendors are found at various strategic points in town selling their wares openly.

Some of them told The Witness that they also need food and if there are no jobs available, they create jobs for themselves.

People interviewed said original DVDs are not always of good quality.

They said that some original DVDs are so “off balance” that they cause the DVD player to vibrate and rattle.

This could eventually damage the device.

“Why purchase originals at a high price when you can get a good quality pirated one for a fraction of the original price? To me this is a bargain and if it’s against the law then rid our streets of [the vendors],” said a man who refused to identify himself.

Among other reasons people gave for buying pirated DVDs is that they are digital theatre sound (DTS) encoded, whereas most of the legitimate locally supplied ones are not.

They said many pirated copies are either stereo or Dolby Prologic 5,1.

Technically, this supports the home theatre experience to the fullest extent, claim those in the know.

The absence or presence of either of the above determines the quality of sound and picture content of the DVD.

Managing director of NuMetro home entertainment Fay Amaral said pirating has got out of hand.

She said the police are doing their part, but there is still a market for counterfeit products.

“We are losing 50% of revenue to piracy and this has a negative impact on the industry. The future of the entertainment business is also at risk due to the detrimental effects of the trade, and that goes for the job creation,” said Amaral.

An official from Compact Disc Technology, a local disc manufacturing company, rubbished the comparison between pirated and legitimately produced DVDs.

“We should not be entertaining that question, but I can tell you that we manufacture our products in line with international standard requirements.

“In terms of the content and sound, each DVD we produce comes from different masters [content owners] and each master decides what type of sound to put in each copy.

“If a master decides on a 5,1 surround sound or stereo sound we will go with that, so it’s not true that pirated DVDs are better than the originals,” said the official.

He raised concerns that every pirated disc means one less disc manufactured and if this goes on, content owners will take their business elsewhere.

The South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (Safact) has questioned the municipal trading by-laws.

Safact CEO James Lennox said municipalities should be enforcing their trading by-laws as part of dealing with the problem.

“These vendors are also in breach of these by-laws and the municipalities don’t seem to be doing much about it. As the industry, we can’t enforce laws for municipalities and the police can’t be on every street of the municipalities every day.

“The scary part is that people won’t be making movies in this country if this goes on,” said Lennox.

He said the Copyrights Act of 1978, which is supported by the Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997, stipulates a fine of R5 000 for every pirated CD/DVD or three years in prison or both.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant/Colonel Vincent Mdunge said the street vendors are small fry. He said their target are the king-pins of the trade who are believed to be renting smart offices and using young people to do the selling.

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