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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hollywood Takes On Russian Pirates

One in 10 pirated DVDs and three in 10 pirated videos in Russia could be liquidated in the wake of a decision by the Motion Picture Association of America to end the circulation of so-called "screeners" -- copies of films sent out by studios to the Academy Award voters who bestow the Oscars.

"From these screeners last year, a lot of piracy popped up, and some of it landed in Asia and Russia," Jack Valenti, president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association, was quoted by The New York Times as saying Tuesday.

Valenti said pirated DVDs "were then sent flying all over the world."

"Up to 10 percent of the DVDs we confiscate have an on-screen warning to the effect that it is only for viewing by members of the Oscar academy," said Konstantin Zemchenkov, director of the Russian Anti-Piracy Organization, a group that works with law enforcement agencies to enforce intellectual property rights.

Zemchenkov said major American studios lose about $400 million each year in Russia.

"I think for VHS, it's as much as 30 percent," said Chris Abel-Smith, CEO of Premier Multimedia, which represents Paramount in Russia.

If production studios are keen to bid for an Oscar nomination, some put out screeners before their film's debut in the home country, he said, and the pirated copies appear shortly afterward.

As many as 100,000 screeners on DVD and video are distributed each year to voters who may not be able to attend screenings of the movies.

The New York Times reported that smaller independent companies were concerned that the decision had not been made to clamp down on bootleggers, but rather was aimed at annulling the challenge posed by their increasingly successful films.

Because their films are not as widely released as blockbusters, the smaller companies are more reliant on the screeners, the paper said.

"There's no doubt that screeners and Academy awards have a significant effect because it gives people the opportunity to see products they might not necessarily see. ... I hope this can be a short-term measure that will give us the push we need to control piracy," Abel-Smith said.

Bootleg films taped from the back of movie halls still account for the bulk of pirates' trade, while pirated DVDs dubbed into Russian continue to hit the market often days before the original version opens in theaters in the West.

There have been numerous incidents of pirated copies being made directly in the projection rooms of cinemas themselves.