Following the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's distributors plan to take legal action against local broadcasters for airing films such as The Matrix and American Beauty only weeks after their theatrical release.

Companies such as Belgrade-based Tuck, which handles Warner and Columbia TriStar product in Serbia, and Vans, which handles films from UIP, had previously threatened to take action against broadcasters but were discouraged by Milosevic's close ties to the Serbian media. Piracy of US films had even been considered patriotic under Milosevic's anti-American regime.

But the situation looks more promising now that the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) - which seized power following Milosevic's downfall - has vowed to fight copyright theft as part of its campaign to reintegrate Serbia into the international community.

The Yugoslav Association of Film Distributors and Exhibitors (YAFDE) has estimated that piracy has cost the Serbian film industry $1.3m (DM3m) since March 1999 when NATO bombings started. The theatrical exhibition sector lost $1.1m (DM2.4m) of this amount while the rest was lost by distributors of ancillary rights. Although the figures may be slightly overblown, they will serve as a useful basis for the distributors' planned legal suit.

One broadcaster in particular - TV Politika - has been singled out for distributors' ire. "If the court really implemented the law, Politika would have to hand at least four floors of its 12-storey building in the centre of Belgrade to us distributors to compensate us for our losses," said Tuck president Zvonimir Djordjevic.

Among the films that distributors claim TV Politika has recently broadcast are The Matrix, The World Is Not Enough, American Beauty, Titanic, Eyes Wide Shut, Zorro, The Sixth Sense and Shakespeare In Love.