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Gulzhana (surname withheld) sells pirated DVDs from a sidewalk stand in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. “We sell videos for 70 som [US $1.85] for each one. Every day I sell about fifteen. We buy them for 50 som [US $1.32]. Gulzhana sells films in Russian, Kyrgyz and Uzbek. Each DVD typically contains eight to ten movies. "There are no legal DVDs sold in Kyrgyzstan," says my friend Buajar Bekova, "just good illegal copies and bad illegal copies."
As a photographer, I think a lot about copyright. By putting my photos up online, I am aware that anyone could take them and use them without credit. It is a risk I am willing to take.

However, the film industry clearly has reason to be worried: consider US $18.2 billion in losses from piracy in 2005. Anyone with a high-speed internet connection can download films for next to nothing. While I’m sympathetic to the MPAA, and they've done a lot of work on enforcement, their outreach efforts strike me as ridiculous.

Their educational campaigns (“You can click but you can’t hide”)

and recruitment efforts (theater employees can win $300 if they take an anti-camcorder quiz)
5. True or False: If you spot illegal movie recording in your theater, you should do whatever is necessary, including using force, to stop the suspect.

are not going to stem this tide of DVD vendors on every street corner.

What would work? Perhaps undermining the illegal market by making legal copies available at affordable prices? Perhaps creating a micro-enterprise distribution system that could get legal film copies to vendors like Gulzhana in Bishkek?

I spoke with Drew Sullivan, an expert on human trafficking based in Sarajevo. Admittedly, I will lose more sleep over sex slaves than cheap movies, but the principles are similar. Drew told me, “the traffickers are always three steps ahead of the governments. To disrupt the trade, we need to make it so the business is no longer financially lucrative.”

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