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Hong Kong Cinemas Protest Piracy

March 15, 1999

HONG KONG (AP) _ Faced with a flood of pirated movies, all of Hong Kong’s cinemas will close for one day Wednesday to protest the illicit industry that is costing them money and jobs.

Managers of the roughly 75 theaters say the action will cost them at least $192,000 in lost business, but they say it’s a small price to pay for raising awareness of the rampant piracy they say is hurting Hong Kong’s economy.

``Our business is really terrible, so we’ll take this one day sacrifice for our future,″ said Vicky Wong, a spokeswoman for an industry group calling itself the Anti-Piracy Alliance. Wong declined today to provide specific estimates for how much money the industry is losing to the pirates, but she said it amounts to tens of millions of dollars a year.

Actors, directors and singers will join the protest by marching to government offices to demand action against intellectual property violations also blamed for eliminating thousands of jobs in Hong Kong.

The movie industry wants the government to assign more police to go after the pirates, in addition to the 200 customs officers now fighting piracy, Wong said.

The government is considering new ways to crackdown on the illegal trade _ from fining consumers to treating intellectual property infringement as an organized crime, a move that would give customs and police officials special powers of investigation and enforcement.

Despite frequent raids, pirated music CDs, videos and computer software are sold across Hong Kong at a fraction of the real price. A pirated copy of a Hollywood film can cost just $5 _ and they often come out before the movies make it to local cinemas, where tickets cost up to $7.50 each.

But the Hong Kong government said it is showing some success in its war on the pirates. Last month, the U.S. trade representative’s office removed Hong Kong from a watchlist of intellectual property rights violators.

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