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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Make First Video-Piracy Arrests

In a groundbreaking operation which is sure to please corporate moguls in Hollywood video companies, police have shut down a west Moscow video kiosk and seized two people, in line with a new presidential decree aimed at clamping down on Russia's burgeoning video-piracy industry.

According to Yelena Rabotnikova, a spokeswoman for the Moscow police, operatives of the city vice squad arrived at the Bagrationovsky Market at 12 p.m. Saturday and arrested two people for selling pirated movies. She said the police intended to file charges.

Video piracy only recently became an illegal practice in Russia. An executive order signed by President Boris Yeltsin on July 19 made the sale of unlicensed film and video property illegal. The law was also written in as Article 150-4 of the Russian Criminal Code.

Punishment for the crime is restricted to confiscation of pirated material. According to Rabotnikova, the two men arrested Saturday were not held in custody, although they had some material confiscated. She said she believed it was the first arrest made under the statute.

Russian video pirates alone account for 10 percent of all losses suffered by Hollywood video companies on account of pirated tapes. Video versions of first-run movies often appear in Russian kiosks at the same time or even before the movie is released in theaters in the country of origin. Many pirated tapes are stolen from studios or filmed surreptitiously in theaters.

A version of the much-anticipated Kevin Costner movie "Waterworld," which is being billed as the most expensive movie of all time, appeared on the street in Moscow days before it opened in the United States last weekend.

Sergei Barkhanov, an Education Ministry official who monitors the video trade and edits the magazine "Cinema Week," said he spoke with dealers Saturday at the Bagrationovsky Market, the city's largest video market. Most dealers, he said, applauded the move.

"Most of them think this arrest is a positive step for the video industry in Russia," Barkhanov said. "Most of our dealers abide by the law, and now they will have some protection from illegal and unfair competition."

Barkhanov added that the new law would help raise the quality of video products in the country. "If the law works out, it will remove from the market those home-edited tapes made from rough cuts and stolen versions of films, as well as many of those with poor sound quality and translations," he said.

There were no further arrests Sunday at the market, although some dealers openly sold pirated material. However, one dealer in illegal tapes said he was not sure how much longer he would be able to operate. "They're cracking down, obviously," said Sergei. "I'm not even sure I'll be back next week."