An anti-piracy trailer that likens illegally downloadingmovies from the Internet with othercrimes such as stealing cars and television sets and snatching handbags, waslaunched today in Australia by Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

The content and style seemed to meet the approval ofdelegates at the 8th annual conference of the Cinema Owners Association ofAustralia (COAA), held in the national capital of Canberra for the first time.About 1,900 copies of the educational trailers have been distributed in timefor the long weekend ahead.

It was produced by the MPAA in the US and has been adaptedfor Australia - as it will be for territories throughout the world.

Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT)executive director Adrianne Pecotic said that while there has been a suddenlocal surge of people using camcorders in cinemas to record films, most piratedproduct comes from Asia.

From January to March 2004, 25,600 illegal copies wereseized by customs officers compared to 4,796 in the same period last year, shesaid, and only last week the first person was sent to jail for piracy offences.

COAA president Neil Pentecost said piracy, the shortening ofthe window between the theatrical and video/DVD releases, the sheer speed ofDVD penetration, and pay-TV platforms offering near-video-on-demand services,were the principal threats faced by exhibitors. Apathy surrounding these issuesis also a threat.

"I firmly believe intellectual property theft has thepotential to decimate the business if it gets out of hand," said Pentecost,"and it is regional cinemas that stand to be affected the most, especiallythose that do not release films day and date."