UNESCO: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization

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Special Issue

Paraguay and the Pirate’s Song
© Drawing by Christian Roux
Sadly, for geographic and economic reasons, Paraguay has become the world capital of pirated music.
In Ciudad del Este, 330 kilometres from Asuncion, the joke going around is that when director Michael Mann arrives in town later this year to shoot a few scenes of his latest film, Miami Vice, he’ll be able to buy illegal copies of his own movie – the finished version.

Joking aside, the most recent report published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) calls Paraguay the world’s leading music pirating country. Of 100 records sold in Paraguay, 99 are illegal copies. Paraguay tops the list of 31 countries in which illegal sales outstrip legal sales. The report also shows that Paraguay is a major transit station for blank CDs, particularly those that end up in Brazil and Argentina. In a country with unemployment at 7.3% and under-employment at 24.1%, the IFPI figures are corroborated by the harsh reality of the street.

Cracking down

In Asuncion, it is easy to buy a film in DVD format or VCD (a format which can stock video or audio data and still photographs, although with poor resolution) before it opens in theatres. Pirated films and discs sell like hot cakes: at stoplights, at street corners, and even at cinema entrances where a ticket can cost up to 10,000 guaranis or US$1.50, the price of a pirated CD. Street vendors of illegally copied music, films or electronic games can often be found in the vicinity of high schools, and sometimes set up shop a few metres from the courthouse or the customs office.

The IFPI report was not appreciated by local authorities: the Director of Intellectual Property at the Trade and Industry Ministry, Astrid Weller, called it exaggerated. Nonetheless, the government has put in place a National Plan on Intellectual Property to create a Special Technical Unit comprised of various authorities, including the armed forces, charged with apprehending those responsible for the production and sale of pirated products, an offence punishable under Paraguayan law.

Carlos Gonzalez Rufinelli, director of the national intellectual property agency, announced measures to tighten border controls, including the creation of a list of importers of magnetic, optical and other support materials used to make counterfeit copies. In addition, the authorities will launch a campaign in schools to explaining the harm pirating inflicts on the country and its artists.

But on the street, not even the poor quality keeps the buyers at bay.

On a bad VCD, the picture and the sound are not always synchronized, or, since the fi lm was made in a theatre, the person sitting in front is visible. Oft en only half the fi lm has been recorded. And many of the CDs are defective and can’t be played. But the most compelling argument for buying pirated works isn’t quality, it’s the low price.

Yet Paraguay’s main source of revenue from the pirated products doesn’t come from local sales but from massive export. In the border regions, particularly Upper Parana, the police are constantly dismantling large production units equipped with the most sophisticated technology. Yet, these arrests are insuffi cient to put an end to this “industry”, which flourishes, often with the complicity of authorities and local criminals. According to the 2005 Commercial Piracy Report, 11 million blank CDs were already confi scated this year, twelve indictments were handed down in two major cases linked to pirating and 57 import licences were withdrawn from suspect firms.

Living from one’s art has never been easy, but pirating complicates the situation even more. David Arriola, manager of Kamikaze, a record label that has been launching young Paraguayan talent for the past five years, still can’t get over what happened to the nationally known rock group Paiko. “When we produced the first CD, “Al natural”, it took a year before it was pirated. For the second, illegal copies were on the streets the day after the official release.... We were stunned,” he says.

We have to put a stop to these practices, in the name of Shakespeare and Cervantes.

More information: http://www.ifpi.org

Facts and figures

  • The film industry in the United States loses 3 billion dollars a year because of pirating.

  • In 2004, 34% of computer software was pirated, one per cent less than in 2003. Financial loss, however, increased at the same time from 29 to 33 billion dollars.

  • A 10% reduction in software pirating would allow the creation of 1.5 million jobs and generate globally 64 billion dollars in taxes.

  • In Colombia, authorities confiscated 37,000 pirated books in 1998 and 180,000 in 2003. In 2005, the publisher Norma advanced the release date of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s latest book, “Memories of my Melancholy Whores”, because pirated versions were already in circulation.

    Sources: Motion Picture Association, Business Software Alliance, Norma Publishing

  • See also:
    Natalia Daporta
    Europe and North America Latin America and the Caribbean Africa Arab States Asia Pacific