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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 08:34 GMT
Moscow targets media pirates

By Hugh Fraser
BBC World Service business reporter in Moscow

CD burning
Moscow's people are buying ever more legal CDs and DVDs

It is no longer easy to buy pirate CDs and DVDs on the streets of Moscow.

There has been a marked change since last summer when there were vendors on every street corner selling pirate copies of the latest music, movies and computer programmes

And it is not just the cold weather that has driven the salesmen underground.

Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, has ordered police to sweep the pirates off the streets.

Widespread problem

Moscow's efforts diverge sharply from the behaviours seen elsewhere in the country.

Russia's reputation when it comes to respecting artists' rights is truly terrible.

In the early 1990s, cinemas showed the latest movies, but not one rouble went to pay the Hollywood studios that made them.

Often pirate movies were broadcast on state television.

Even now, pirate disks are openly on sale in almost every corner of Russia.

Hidden piracy

The best known CD emporium in Moscow is the Gorbushka Market.

"There are a lot of checks here and [the pirates] get a lot of problems
Computer games salesman Andrei
Based in a former television factory, it is a labyrinth of aisles and stalls.

Until recently, Gorbushka was a mega-store of pirate produce.

Now the owners of the building estimate that a mere 40% of the goods on sale are illegitimate.

And even those goods are now sold under the counter, rather than openly as before.

"If you sell some infringement disks in this market, and if the police find you, you will never be allowed back. Your face will be banned for ever," said Alexei Millavsky, president of the Rubin Company which owns the Gorbushka building.

Mr Millavsky is keen to make sure that the market is 100% legitimate by the end of this year.

Rebellious past

The Gorbushka is a special place for Moscow's music fans.

Moscow CD stall
Pirates selling on Moscow's streets is no longer a common sight.
But its history has always been tied up with a grey area of the law.

In the 1960s and 70s, American and British Music was frowned upon by the Communist Party.

Soviet taste officially sanctioned French singers such as Jo Dassin, whose music was anything but rebellious.

The most ardent Soviet music fans met at the old Gorbushka market in a wood not far from the present site.

They swapped and sold Western records and tape recordings.

The source of the recordings was often a crackly transmission of the BBC Russian Service.

Go right

It was only two years ago that the Gorbushka finally came in from the cold, and moved into the former Rubin Television factory.

Now a sign hangs above the door telling shoppers "Don't go left. Go Right".

"On the left" is Russian slang for the black market.

But while it is no longer easy to find pirate copies of the latest hits from the West, Russian discs featuring the entire back catalogue of the Beatles and other stars from their era are still on display.

Russian law offers no protection to works made before 1973.

Such ease of access is not awarded computer users who will struggle to find both legal and illegal copies of, say, Microsoft Office.

"You might find one or two people selling the official Microsoft Office, but I doubt it," Andrei said.

"If you sell official wares, you have a better life, fewer problems," said Andrei, who sells Russian computer games.

"There are a lot of checks here and [the pirates] get a lot of problems."

But at the same time, most Russians simply cannot afford to pay several hundred dollars for a computer programme.

For that reason, it continues to be pirated, if not as openly as before.


SEE ALSO:
Piracy 'damages Russia's economy'
26 Nov 03  |  Entertainment
Russia vows to battle the pirates
06 May 03  |  Business
Russia battles against CD piracy
07 Jan 03  |  Business


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