"...Eighteen months after Jackie Chan and a host of other Hong Kong entertainers took to the streets to protest the government's lack of action in combating piracy, a leading official has claimed that the problem is almost solved. Customs and excise commissioner John Tsang said the piracy situation is now under control, adding that retail sales of pirated videos, CDs and software have dropped by 98% since the government took stronger action after the protest.
A Customs and Excise Dept. survey 18 months ago showed that there were more than 1,000 outlets selling pirated intellectual property, each carrying an average of 5,000 items and operating up to 18 hours a day.
The piracy was staggeringly blatant, with dingy malls in major shopping areas full of stores openly hawking fake video CDs (VCD) and software. Now, Tsang said, there are under 100 outlets selling fewer than 1,000 items on average -- most of them illegal street hawkers with no fixed premises.
It is a dramatic reversal of a problem that only recently had execs from many industries wringing their hands in despair. Washington's placement of Hong Kong on its watch list of trade law violators in 1997 initially spurred the local government into action. By the time Chan and his peers protested, a blueprint for combating piracy was already in place.
New laws outlawing piracy, licensing intellectual property and CD-manufacturing equipment were introduced. A specially funded anti-piracy task force was set up. Judges in Hong Kong imposed heavy sentences for piracy convictions, and Customs and Excise officers conducted high-profile busts of CD-manufacturing operations. The U.S. took Hong Kong off its watch list in February.
The turnaround is a triumph for the Customs and Excise Dept., but it doesn't mean the battle against piracy is over. The pirates can simply relocate to less strict countries.
Solving the problem, Phoon said, ``is like pushing water uphill. We are talking about piracy in 10 or 12 different countries around the region, all with their own legal systems and interpretations of copyright laws. You can solve a problem in one market and it just moves to another." .."