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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kodak to Launch Drive to Bust Pirate Video Market

Scratchy, foggy, badly dubbed pirate videos with typewritten labels and plain covers may soon be a thing of the past if a piracy-busting initiative by Kodak Cinemas succeeds in bringing the prices of licensed videos down to the level of bootleg tapes.

"The price difference between illegal and copyright videos is shrinking, but the difference in quality is still huge," said Paul Heth of Golden Ring entertainment, a movie distribution company working with Kodak to reclaim the video market from bootleggers. "If we can retail legitimate videos for as little as $4.50, we become very competitive with the rip-offs."

By Heth's estimate, the Russian home video market is worth an estimated $700 million annually, yet only 5 percent to 10 percent of it is legal. Pirate videos manufactured in Eastern Europe retail in Russia for between $3.50 and $4.50, compared to $25 to $35 for a new release in the United States. Legitimate videos now sell in Russia for between $6 and $8.

Kodak Cinemas, a division of Kodak, plans to retail the cheap videos through a shop in their new cinema complex near Pushkin Square, opening Oct. 17, as well as through Garden Ring supermarkets and Kodak franchises citywide. Within a year, Kodak hopes to be offering all of the top-selling films at the same time they are appearing in Europe.

The videos will be mass produced in Russia, according to Raymond Markovich, general director of Kodak Cinemas, under license from whichever film company holds the rights to an individual release.

Copyright and intellectual property issues in Russia have been raised in the Duma, and were touched upon in discussions between U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in July. Copyright infringements have also become a major bone of contention in U.S.-China relations.

Russian police recently staged their first bust under intellectual property laws, confiscating some computer software, but the current law lacks teeth.

Video and CD piracy in Russia could be further threatened by a new copyright infringement bill under consideration at the Duma, according to Kodak.

The bill, slated for a vote in February, could lead to a crackdown on the black market in videos and CDs, which is now almost exclusively handled through kiosks and large pirate CD and video markets such as Gorbunova, in western Moscow. With the illegal competition on the ropes, the sale of cheap legal videos could boom, Heth said -- adding that many pirate companies are now going legitimate thanks to a normalization in the legal and business environment.

"Of course we would prefer to have real videos rather than fake ones if the price was the same. We're not idiots," said Zviad Shikashvili, the owner of a popular video kiosk on Novy Arbat, which sells up to 150 pirate videos a day at between $3 and $6. "But customers care first about how interesting the films are, then about the price, then about the quality. They certainly don't give a damn about the copyright."