China'srampant piracy was a recurrent theme during the first day of the CineAsia trade show and conference which is being held forthe first time in Beijing(Dec 13-15).

Duringhis keynote speech at the opening night ceremony, Motion Picture Association ofAmerica CEO Dan Glickman spoke of the "common enemy"afflicting both the US and Chinese film industries.

Heacknowledged that Chinese authorities have recently agreed to step upenforcement but said there's "still a long way to go" in the country's fightagainst piracy. He also challenged Chinato reduce piracy levels and open its market to more USmovies before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"I'veseen what Chinacan achieve when it makes something a priority," said Glickman,later adding that it's almost impossible to find fakes of the 2008 Olympicmascots in Beijing.

TheMotion Picture Association (MPA) estimates that its members lost $896m topiracy in Asialast year of which Chinaaccounted for $260m. Delegates only had to step outside the main CineAsia venue, the China World Hotel, to the see thereality. Bootleg DVDs of the latest USreleases are sold on Beijingstreets and the subway for as little $1 (eight yuan).

Piracywas also the subject of CineAsia's opening dayseminar - "Cross-Border Crime, Cross-Border Enforcement" - at which officialsfrom Malaysia,Hong Kong and Chinaoutlined efforts to crack down on optical disc piracy in their territories.

WangYongshui, deputy director general of the ChineseCustoms' Department of Laws and Regulations, said that a lack of informationamong enforcement agencies is hindering China'sefforts to crack down on piracy. "We have a situation where we often don't haveenough information on issues such as which shipments to intercept," said Wang.

Healso suggested that legitimate DVD distributors should step up activities inmainland Chinaso that consumers would have more options than to buy pirated discs.

Malaysia'ssecretary general of domestic trade & consumer affairs, Dato'Seri Talaat Bin HajiHussein, said his country had reduced piracy levels from 85% in 1999 to 50% in2003 thanks to measures that included strengthening copyright laws and settingup courts to deal specifically with IP infringement. "But the hardcoreoperators are still out there for us to crack down on," he said.

FormerHong Kong customs officialVincent Poon highlighted the problem of pirated discsfrom Asiabeing smuggled to South Africa,Europe and the US."Asia is a major source ofpiracy in the rest of the world," Poon said. Like Malaysia,Hong Kong has also had somesuccess in reducing piracy levels within its own borders - but is faced with aconstant tide of pirated product from mainland China.