Two legal movie downloadsites are being launched in Hong Kong - by government-ownedIT flagship Cyberport and private film company Mei Ah Entertainment - amidindustry discussion about their feasibility and audience demand.

Mei Ah's service, M@TV, has accessto a library of more than 1,000 movies including acquisitions and a few hundredtitles produced by Mei Ah itself.

Downloads cost $0.6-$1.5 (HK$5-HK$12)with the price structure dependent on how many days they're valid for. Imagequality is between VCD and DVD and files are locked to prevent them beingburned onto CD or DVD or forwarded to other computer users.

The service is currently ontrial ahead of a full roll-out in mid-December at Hong Kong movie portal trial service is offering 30 catalogue titles including John Woo's Hard Boiled and 1940s classic Springtime In A Small Town.

Mei Ah intends to offernewer titles when the service launches officially next month, with films comingonline at the same time as their VCD and DVD release. In Hong Kong, this is usually four weeks after films open in local theatres.

Steve Law, director, described the service as an experiment to test consumerreaction and acknowledged there are still legal and technical issues to beworked out.

"For the first batch oftitles, we have all rights for the internet," explained Law. "But for othertitles - where we've only licensed certain territories - we have to work outhow to block users in territories where we don't have rights."

So far, only one majordistributor, Intercontinental Group, is providing content for the Cyberportservice, iCinema at, whichlaunched on Nov 22. The company has made three UK titles - ElephantJuice, The One & Only and Song For A Raggy Boy - available for $2.6(HK$20) for two days. None of the three films had a theatrical release in Hong Kong.

"The focus will be more onindependent movies or films that may not necessarily get a theatrical releasein Hong Kong," Intercontinental's business development directorPerry Yung told local paper, the South China MorningPost.

The Hong Kong film industry formed an emergency task force last year in response to arange of problems including the alarming rise in illegal downloading in theterritory. Some feel that offering legal downloads may tackle this problem,while others argue that it's not viable to offer new titles because of issuessurrounding release schedules and licensing rights.