Pursuing the Film Pirates | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.06.2002
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Pursuing the Film Pirates

Germany decides to get tough with internet film pirates and “file sharers” as the film industry complains of copyright violation and financial damages.


Will Spider-Man be the next target of film pirates in Germany?

Seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster in the comfort of your home on your very own personal screen is the easiest and quickest way to gratify your interest.

And that’s exactly what an increasing number of computer addicts are doing. With just a couple of mouse clicks, they download a flick and watch films such as "Star Wars Episode 2" or, in the near future, "Spiderman".

Sounds like fun to most people, but it’s become the bane of the film industry who see it as nothing short of a pirate – robbing the movies’ "owners" of their rightful revenues.

Internet film piracy child's play

Volker Zota, editor of the C’t Computer Magazine in Hanover, Germany, describes film piracy as a growing on-line pastime. He estimates the total number of downloads at one million a day.

"It’s typical nowadays for popular magazines to give their readers directions how to use swap platforms, if they don’t already know how to. That, of course, encourages the trend since users who wouldn’t otherwise think of downloading from the internet are introduced to the idea", he says.

Enough is enough, says film community

But the film community is now sitting up and angrily taking notice at their entire business being pirated away. The shutting down of Napster, the internet music file-sharing site has given many hope that there might be a way to curb the practice.

In Germany the film industry has started fighting back against internet piracy.

The German Federation Against Copyright Theft helps the police confiscate some 300 thousand pirated copies per year.

Jan Scharringhausen of the Federation points to a carton containing pirated films which were being sold at a flea market. He says they are all recent films that were burned onto CDs. A fake cover is printed and then it’s sold for 10 or 15 euros.

Swapping CDs online is still considered a harmless peccadillo, but it will soon become a criminal offence much to the dismay of computer buffs.

"In the near future, we’ll have to enforce the new EU regulations that update copyright laws to adapt to the digital age. It will take some time to implement the new regulations, and we hope that the law will make it clear what is and isn’t allowed. That will make our lives and consumers’ lives much simpler, if everyone knows what the rules are."

Internet film piracy hurting the film industry

It still isn’t exactly clear how much money the film industry loses through piracy.

The German Film industry makes annual profits of some two billion euro. Two-thirds of that sum comes from so-called "secondary sales", television rights, video cassettes and DVDs.

Johannes Klingsporn of the Film Distributors Association says, "there are products – DVDs for example – which you could say have suffered a sharp drop in sales. They’re not the top products. I’d say they’re mostly films where people say I don’t absolutely have to own that one. Middle-of-the-road products. They’ve experienced a significant decrease of some 20 percent in sales".