Piracy is increasing in Asia despite the efforts of the Motion Picture Association and strategies such as day-and-date releasing according to delegates at this year's CineAsia conference in Bangkok.
"Piracy has actually got worse in the past year," said MPA senior vice president, Asia Pacific, Mike Connors at a seminar on the first day of the trade show (Nov 18). "We've seen results in Thailand and Malaysia, but it's not so impressive in other countries and there's backsliding in some."
Industry leaders also pointed out that day-and-date releasing - long regarded as a key element in the fight against piracy - isn't stemming the tide of counterfeit discs. Pirated copies of The Matrix Revolutions were available in Taiwan and Malaysia just two days after the film's global release.
In addition, day-and-date releases are difficult to co-ordinate in Asia - a vast region with many different dubbing and censorship requirements. Although Warner Bros set a precedent with the global roll-out of the third Matrix film - which took in both India and China - it's not a cost-effective strategy for many other films.
"UIP aims to set dates as early as possible but it's not easy," said UIP vice president sales and marketing, Asia, Kurt Rieder. "In some countries we need up to 30 days to do dubbing and censorship and that's difficult to arrange."
Meanwhile other initiatives such as DVD zoning and coding prints to identify security breaches are also proving unsuccessful. Cinecolor managing director Leslie Patrick McKenzie told delegates how his lab is striving to upgrade its coding system as advances in camcorder technology have rendered the old system ineffective. And due to the proliferation of multi-territory players, the DVD zoning system was pronounced dead.
"Exhibitors have done their part in improving infrastructure and the labs are doing their part by marking prints, but it isn't stopping pirates," Rieder said. "We have to acknowledge this problem won't go away."
The MPA estimates that Asia accounts for 77% of worldwide DVD piracy and its members lost US$600m in the region last year. Asia also exports pirated discs to other parts of the world.
Connors added that Asia needs to introduce tougher penalties for pirates - many of which factor in government raids as part of their costs. But pressure has to come from within each territory. "Governments need to hear from their own business community that there's a problem and that it's hurting them," Connors said.
Thailand and Malaysia were identified as bright spots due to government-sponsored crackdowns which started earlier this year. But the overall picture is gloomy and with the onset of internet piracy - coupled with Asia's high broadband penetration - is set to get worse.
CineAsia, which celebrates its tenth anniversary next year, wraps on Thursday (Nov 20).