The Motion Picture Association (MPA), which represents major Hollywood studios, said Tuesday counterfeit movie DVDs have mushroomed in Asia and are now a major headache. Movies like "Spider-Man," "Lord of the Rings," "Monsters Inc.," "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" were available in pirated optical disc formats soon after their debut in cinemas in the United States, the association said.
"The problem that we have here in Asia at the moment is DVD piracy," Michael Ellis, vice president and regional director of the MPA's Asia/Pacific Anti-Piracy Operations, told a news conference in Hong Kong. The MPA Tuesday launched a US$150,000 reward program offering money to people supplying information on DVD piracy.
He said some 4.8 million pirated DVDs of movies made by MPA members, or 98 percent of a worldwide seizures, were seized in Asia in 2001, up from zero in 1998.
Of those, about half a million were seized in Hong Kong.
"We anticipate that seizures in this region (this year) will be matching pretty much close to the previous year," he said.
Ellis said there were more than 80 underground facilities replicating DVDs in Asia, including Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
"Taiwan is the major base of replication of legitimate products," Ellis said.
"The replication that takes place in China generally stays in China and are not exported around the world, whereas in Taiwan and other countries in Asia, there is an export problem."
The MPA said discs replicated in the Asia-Pacific found their way to Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America.
"Since DVDs are so compact in size, they are relatively easy to conceal and ship by boat, car or air," the MPA said.
Ellis said new target markets included Australia, Latin America and South Africa.
The association estimates that its members lost US$598 million from piracy in Asia last year, with worldwide losses estimated at more than US$3 billion.