Commentary: Movie, music piracy alive and well in Latin America

When I told a friend from Latin America recently that I had just seen a new movie called 'Slumdog Millionaire,' he looked at me as if I were living in the Stone Age – he had seen it a long time ago, on a pirated DVD.

It shouldn't have surprised me: A new ranking of respect for intellectual property rights around the world released this week by the Property Rights Alliance, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group, says that some Latin American countries are among the world champions of illegal reproduction of movies, music, books, medicines and other goods subject to royalties.

The study, conducted for the third consecutive year, says European nations – led by Germany (first), Finland, Denmark, Netherlands and the United States (all tied for second) – are the most respectful of intellectual property rights. Many Latin American and Caribbean countries – with the exception of Chile (33rd) and Trinidad and Tobago (41st) – are way down the list of 115 countries.

Consider where some of the biggest countries in the region are ranked: Colombia is 45th, Mexico is 55th, Brazil and Argentina are 60th, Peru is 88th, Nicaragua is 92nd, Bolivia is 94th, Venezuela is 99th and Paraguay is 102nd.

"The situation is so bad that it couldn't get much worse," Federico de la Garza, general manager of the Motion Pictures Association's Mexico office, told me in a telephone interview.

"Ninety percent of the videos sold in Mexico are pirated. How much worse can it get?"

Because Mexico has the world's fifth-largest market of movie-goers, this represents huge losses to movie makers. The industry is losing nearly $600 million a year in unpaid intellectual property rights, he said.

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