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Cablegate: Bolivian Piracy: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em

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FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
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UNCLAS LA PAZ 000551

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KIPR EINV BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIAN PIRACY: IF YOU CAN'T BEAT 'EM, JOIN 'EM

1. (SBU) Summary: Piracy of audio-visual materials is
almost universal in Bolivia, damaging the domestic movie- and
music- industries and eliminating any chance of profits for
international imports. Certain members of the domestic
industry have recently taken two different routes in attempts
to wrench some profits from the Bolivian market: market
"Bolivian pride" or make deals with the pirates. The
situation is complicated by an almost complete lack of
enforcement and local government initiatives that wink at
intellectual property theft. Post is looking for financial
support for an upcoming World IPR-day event, see paragraph 7.
End summary.

- - - - - - -
Buy Bolivian
- - - - - - -

2. (SBU) A number of domestic movie producers have signed up
with La Paz newspaper "La Razon", which is selling copies of
prominent domestic movies through the newspaper's retail
chain. The paper is running print ads encouraging readers to
support the Bolivian industry and "look for the gold llama"
or the gold camera, as indicators of genuineness. La Razon
sells its movies for 25 bolivianos (about USD3.3, while most
pirated movies sell on the streets for 10 bolivianos or less.)

- - - - - - - - - -
Strange Bedfellows
- - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) Meanwhile, Emboffs met with Bolivian movie producer
Roberto Calasich, who has taken a more unusual step to try to
earn money on his back catalogue. Calasich informs us that
he has entered into a business arrangement with the National
Federation of Audio and Video Merchants, a loosely-organized
union of Bolivian media pirates. Reportedly, other Bolivian
intellectual property owners have also taken this step:
Enriqueta Ulloa, president of the Bolivian musical artists'
organization SOBODAYCOM complained to us that a
locally-famous Bolivian singer has recently signed an
agreement with a pirates' union to distribute her CDs.
According to Calasich, the pirates Federation has agreed not
to pirate his videos, but instead to allow Calasich to
produce copies of his videos, which he provides to the
Federation at a cost of 1 boliviano (13 cents) apiece. The
Federation then sells the videos, usually for around 10
bolivianos, through its network of vendors.

4. (SBU) Calasich says his agreement with the media pirates'
Federation has a number of benefits: he is able to take
advantage of the Federation's far-flung distribution network,
and the product sells for the usual street price, therefore
avoiding being undercut by "pirated" (or that is, other
pirated) videos. Calasich was dismissive of the La Razon
"protect the Bolivian movie industry" campaign, because he
said Bolivian consumers would not be willing to pay the high
price of over USD3 per movie. Calasich admitted, however,
that he had no way of knowing if the Federation was abiding
by its agreement, and he added that it would certainly be
easy to fake the Federation's statement of "genuineness"
(with its emblem of a circle-and-slash through a skull and
crossbones.)

- - - - - - - - - - -
Honor Among Thieves?
- - - - - - - - - - -
5. (SBU) According to Calasich, the group of media pirates
now calling themselves the National Federation of Audio and
Video Merchants banded together in the face of even cheaper
pirated goods from outside the country. He added, with no
apparent irony, that the Federation needed to protect the
Bolivian piracy sector. During our meeting, Calasich asked
for USG assistance in further cooperation with the Federation
to allow him to recover some profits on his movies. Calasich
has since written to request support in "deepening of the
process of legalization of piracy of DVDs." In this request,
he included a script that would humorously portray the
conflict between a group of pirates and a group of reformed
pirates. "Some day Jerry Bruckheimer or Columbia Pictures
will support us," says one of the script's ex-pirates,
dreaming of owning distribution rights to U.S. films.
Calasich plans to involve members of the pirates Federation
in his production, so that they will see the value of
Bolivian film-making. Although Calasich says his aim is that
Bolivian society recognize piracy as a crime, his ethical
stance is complicated by his continued business association
with the Federation, which makes the majority of its money by
pirating U.S. intellectual property. Even if Federation
members grow to appreciate the Bolivian movie industry, it is
not likely that they will cease stealing from U.S.
intellectual property owners.

6. (SBU) In a meeting with Emboffs, Eriqueta Ulloa and Noemi
de Valdivia (presidents of two Bolivian artists associations)
laid out the complete lack of any respect for intellectual
property in their industry. They mentioned that of the two
remaining legal outlets for audio-visual materials in La Paz,
one had recently closed and begun producing illegal disks,
unable to compete in a market with no legal protection and no
consumers interested in obeying unenforced laws. According
to Ulloa, the mayor of La Paz has recently "legalized" piracy
by granting licenses to outlets of pirated products, as long
as they do not sell pirated Bolivian products. According to
de Valdivia, not only did this pseudo-legitimize piracy and
make the government a beneficiary of intellectual property
theft, but the "no pirated Bolivian products" does not work:
"Of course they sell our (pirated) CDs, if there are
customers." Ulloa (a well-known Bolivian singer who has
toured in the United States) joked about seeing a 3-pack of
her most famous CDs repackaged as her "Mariachi" collection:
"They put my head on the body of some singer from Mexico in a
Mariachi costume."

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

7. (SBU) Embassy La Paz does not see a way to cooperate with
Calasich on his goal of normalizing piracy, as we informed
him during our meeting. His plight and his attempt at a
solution do highlight, however, the challenges faced by
intellectual property owners in Bolivia. As the Mission,
through USAID and the Embassy, seeks to increase outreach and
education on intellectual property rights issues, we will
attempt to include local stakeholders. Hopefully we will be
able to provide better options than "legalizing" piracy.
Emboffs are exploring the possibility of showcasing artists
from Ulloa and de Valdivia's associations at an upcoming
world IPR day program which will hopefully include
presentations from local and international IPR experts.
Although the artists' groups are interested in volunteering
their performances, the entire event (plus logistical support
for the artists) will need funding. Post would be interested
in any PD or IPR desk funding available. Please contact Beth
Mader at madere@state.gov. End Comment.
GOLDBERG

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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