In their hands: 8LIMPPIKEPÂ˝PQGSPPIGXSVMR7SYXL%QIVMGE By Miriam Ross There has often been something illicit about XV]MRKXSKVEWTELSPHSJÂ˝PQMR7SYXL%QIVMGE When the radical changes sweeping across Latin America in the 1960s and 70s brought revolutionary heroes and a politically conscious underclass to the worldâ€™s attention, the Â˝PQQEOIVWMRXLI7SYXLIVR'SRI[IVIRSXJEV FILMRH-RXLI:MyEHIP1EVÂ˝PQJIWXMZEP in Chile brought together Latin American Â˝PQQEOIVWXLEX[IVINSMRIHF]XLIMVTSPMXMGEP PIJX[MRKEMQWERHJVIUYIRXP]MRÂžYIRGIHF]-XEPMER neo-realism and Soviet forms. All of them were certain that cinema was going to be a key tool in forcing social reform.Yet with radical change there is frequently reactionary repression and so it happened that on the same day in 1973 that Chileâ€™s socialist government was brought down by a rightwing coup, the state-sponsored Chile Films was raided by military troops that HIWXVS]IHEVGLMZIWERHZEPYEFPIÂ˝PQTVMRXW%R] material deemed to be Marxist, revolutionary or simply showing themes of progression on the left was considered contraband which led XSEWMXYEXMSRMR[LMGLÂ˝PQW[IVIWQYKKPIH out of the country or hidden away in private GSPPIGXMSRW'LMPIERÂ˝PQQEOIV1MKYIP0MXXMR dictated the events of this day to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in their book Las Aventuras de Miguel Littin: Clandestino en Chile (1985). Littin explained that possession of reels or a direct relationship XSÂ˝PQWYRHIVUYIWXMSRPIHMRQER]GEWIWXS execution. It was a time of censorship that stormed across most of the continent and in Bolivia it meant that the great director Jorge Sanjines and fellow sympathisers had to carry Â˝PQVIIPW[MXLXLIQEWXLI]QSZIHMRERHSYXSJ GSYRXVMIW[LIVIXLIÂ˝PQW[IVIRSXFERRIH8S this day Sanjines is notorious for closely guarding LMWGSPPIGXMSRSJÂ˝PQWQEOMRKMXHMJÂ˝GYPXXSSFXEMR copies. Across other countries it is known that GSTMIWSJÂ˝PQWJVSQXLEXIVEI\MWX]IXXLI][IVI forced underground and are now believed to be hoarded away in personal libraries. *VIUYIRXP]Â˝PQWXLEX[IVIGVMXMGEPSJXLI7SYXL America situation such as the Battle of Chile (1975-1979) could not be screened domestically and so they entered an external circuit of distribution that often included sympathetic Â˝PQJIWXMZEPWMR)YVSTI-XQIERWXLEXWGLSPEVW and journalists have written about great South %QIVMGER[SVOWXLEXXVEZIPPIHXLIÂ˝PQJIWXMZEP
GMVGYMXWMRXLIWERHW]IXXLIÂ˝PQVIIPW divorced as they were from studio ownership or national interest, disappeared and few original prints or negatives remain. Although censorship is now over and national archive centres in South America are actively seeking cinematic work from their countryâ€™s past, few copies have emerged. When Patricio GuzmĂĄn returned to Chile in 1997 to make The Obstinate Memory as a JSPPS[YTXSLMWÂ˝PQXLIBattle of Chile the latter Â˝PQLEHWXMPPRSXFIIRTYFPMGP]WGVIIRIHMRWMHI the country and he brought his own copies with him to show to people in private screenings. The TVSGIWWSJVITVIWWMSRXLEXQEHIMXWSHMJÂ˝GYPX XSGSPPIGXTVIWIVZIERHWGVIIRÂ˝PQWHYVMRKXLI political upheaval robbed the countries not only SJZMEFPIÂ˝PQMRHYWXVMIWFYXEPWSSJEGSPPIGXMZI cinematic memory. With the end of dictatorships and general WXEFMPMX]EGVSWWXLIVIKMSRMRXLIWÂ˝PQ industries began to recover. Ricardo Larrainâ€™s La Frontera [EWXLIÂ˝VWX'LMPIERÂ˝PQ that dealt with the effects of the Pinochet dictatorship, albeit in an understated fashion with its look at one man in internal exile on Chiloe Island. It also marked the point at which feature Â˝PQTVSHYGXMSRMRXLIGSYRXV]FIKERXSMRGVIEWI Across the border the New Argentine Cinema FIKERXSIQIVKI[MXLÂ˝PQWWYGLEWI,The Worst of All (1990) and A Place in the World (1992) paving the way towards a strengthened cinema industry. -R&SPMZMEJSYVJIEXYVIÂ˝PQW[IVITVSHYGIH MR[LMGLMREGSYRXV]SJWYGLPMXXPIÂ˝PQ production, was considered â€˜the boomâ€™ of Bolivian cinema. Concurrent with the increased strength of REXMSREPÂ˝PQMRHYWXVMIW[EWXLIHIZIPSTQIRXSJ reproduction technology that was making its way around the globe. While video technology brought about cheaper production techniques JSVKVEWWVSSXWÂ˝PQQEOIVWWYGLEW+VYTS'LEWOM in Peru, the increase of VHS players across the VIKMSRQIERXXLEXÂ˝PQGSPPIGXMSRW[IVIIRXIVMRK into the homes of everyday viewers. The majority SJÂ˝PQWEZEMPEFPIJSVLSQIZMI[MRK[IVIXLI same Hollywood hits that dominated and still dominate domestic cinema screens today and this continued as DVD increased its appeal at the beginning of the 21st-century. However, VHS, and the incredibly cheap reproduction
GSWXWMRZSPZIHMR(:(QIERXXLEX½PQWJVSQ South America were also available to buy on an IGSRSQMGEPWGEPIJSVXLI½VWXXMQI-R%VKIRXMRE there has been a move towards reformatting ERHWIPPMRKGPEWWMG%VKIRXMRI½PQWQEOMRKXLIWI works available for general ownership across the country. At the same time, new technology was not only in the hands of the industry, studios and distributors.VHS recorders led to the possibility of quick and cheap bootlegs and DVD accelerated this through the minimal time and inexpensive costs involved in pirating copies of digital media. As with Asia, the black market rules rowdy beyond the hands of either legal enforcement or industry control in South America. Throughout the region there EVITIVWSREP½PQGSPPIGXMSRWXLEXEVIRSXSRP] supplemented by pirate copies but in many cases consist solely of bootlegs that are a mixture of old VHS and new DVD.
the next area. Lack of time, money and resources amongst the police force in La Paz, Bolivia, means that there is little care given to the stalls that line the main city centre avenue. In the black market a few streets above there are booths that operate on a permanent basis but on the main avenue stalls are set up during the day and disappear when the last of the shoppers go home at night. They have small television sets connected to DVD players where the stall’s owners will scan through the disc to show its quality. Although it is a little less hi-tech than in Chile where the vendors carry around portable players to show you the DVD playing in your hands, it surpasses the kind of customer service normally available in legal outlets.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the most predominant piracy is centred around a friendly market in Parque Rivadavia where permanent stalls selling books and old editions of magazines stand side by side with stalls overladen with photocopies of DVD jackets. Thick books binding together laminated pages with lists of titles and TMGXYVIWSJXLI½PQWPMIEVSYRHJSVGYWXSQIVW to browse through at their leisure. For a few pesos the workers on the stalls, often immigrants from neighbouring countries, will hand over the photocopied jacket with a shiny disc dubbed with permanent marker on the inside. They are in the park on a permanent basis and many are happy to say, ‘If there’s a problem bring it back and I’ll replace it.’ You may not get a receipt and you cannot pay by credit card but it has the feel of normal commerce.
In Lima, Peru, the black market Polvos Azules looks as if it could be any other cheap shopping GIRXVI,SYWIHSRXLIFEWIQIRX¾SSVEVIE number of sections selling DVDs. If you buy a GST]SJE½PQGYVVIRXP]TPE]MRKMRXLIGMRIQEW the quality is likely to be low or a copy of screeners sent to industry personnel. If, on the SXLIVLERH]SYFY]EGST]SJE½PQEPVIEH] released on DVD it is almost certain that the pirate copy will be an exact replica of the original product with extra features and subtitle options intact. Outside of the shopping centre copies can also be bought from street sellers with a handful of DVDs laid out on small tables. When Spiderman 3 was released in May 2007, vendors could be found walking between cars at busy junctions selling copies already dubbed into Spanish within days of the world-wide cinema release. They also sold Spiderman masks and nylon suits, copies of the types of merchandise that have their own copyright similar to that YWIHSRXLI½PQ
The authorities are a little stricter in Santiago, Chile, and so there is no permanent structure housing the illegal sales. Instead vendors loiter around the city-centre streets with large blankets bunched up to hold bundles of discs in individual plastic covers. In opportunistic moments they VSPPXLIFPEROIXWSYX¾EXERHWGEXXIVXLI(:(W into a rough kind of order. Discs often contain ETVSKVEQSJ½ZIHMJJIVIRX½PQWKVSYTIHMRXS genre categories such as recent Hollywood WPEWLIV¾MGOWSVGSRXIQTSVEV]'LMPIERGMRIQE 8LIUYEPMX]GERZEV]JVSQSRI½PQXLEXMWLMKL digital resolution to another that has audience members crossing the screen to go to the bathroom all on one disc. When the authorities seem to be getting close one swift movement is all it takes to gather up the discs and move on to
This type of piracy is normally described to us in the adverts that appear on cinema screens and at the beginning of DVDs. A variety of scare tactics have been used in which piracy MWPMROIHXSHERKIVSYWHVYKHIEPMRKQE½EWERH anti-western democracy-demolishing terrorists. Mainly sponsored by US studios the same types of adverts, albeit in different languages, have appeared in South America as they have appeared on our screens in the UK. Without links to a direct product, they appear less as advertising and more akin to public safety broadcasts such as those promoted by road safety and anti-smoking campaigns. The general premise is that piracy is intrinsically linked to organised crime and buyers of pirate DVDs are thus agents in a chain of culpability. However,
the line of argument previously made in many of these adverts which said piracy was used to fund terrorism had to be changed. As Empire magazine pointed out in a 2006 feature, both the BVA (British Video Association) and MPA (Motion Picture Association) admitted that there was absolutely no link between terrorism and movie piracy. As public belief in the ability of piracy to fund terrorism or drugs through sales of counterfeited disks wanes, there is a move towards the personal story in which the collector is made the criminal. A recent advert in Peru showed a young child receiving a reprimand for stealing answers to a school test. When questioned, the child tells his father that he thought it was okay to take things without permission as that is what he had seen his father do when he bought pirate DVDs. The advert states clearly, just in case any audience member has missed the message, that piracy is theft. This advert is very similar to those promoted in the Piracy, It’s A Crime (PIAC) campaign in the UK where downloading pirate DVDs was depicted to be the same action as stealing a handbag or a car. The adverts are an effort on the community, to say that individual citizens must play their part by consuming and collecting only authorised versions. Yet as hard as they try to create the link between pirate DVD use and criminal action in the public imagination, it is a lost battle that is particularly obvious in the poorer regions SJ7SYXL%QIVMGE8LITVIWWSJ½GIV'EVSPE %RXI^EREJSVXLI&SPMZMER½PQGSYRGMP'SREGMRI explained that piracy was of course a problem for the industry yet she also noted that she could understand why it is hard to criticise people using piracy networks. She pointed out the problem in expecting a family of four to buy cinema tickets when the price was far beyond their means. It would also be almost impossible for the majority of Bolivians, the bulk of which live under the poverty line in under developed VYVEPEVIEWXS½RHXLIQSRI]JSVEWPMGO(:( import that would be 10 times the price of the pirate copy. In the more developed but nonmetropolitan areas such as Arica in the north of Chile where there is only one small cinema and very few rental stores, the idea of paying HSPPEVWSVQSVIXSWEQTPIE½PQMWEPWS somewhat absurd. Even in the UK where disposable incomes are higher, the attempt to equate piracy with other GVMQIWMWWSQI[LEX¾E[IH%XE0E[)HYGEXMSR and Technology conference in 2007, Michael Filby
from the University of Hertfordshire pointed out that legally piracy cannot be understood as the same type of crime as, for example, robbing a car. Stealing the information contained in a DVD (as it is the information rather than the physical DVD which is stolen) would never be seen as the appropriation of property with the intention of permanently depriving the owner of it, which is what causes criminal offence in the theft of a car or other object. Filby goes into far greater detail than there is space for here but the basic premise is that DVD piracy can never be understood as an offence under the Theft Act and should not be made to appear so in anti-piracy campaigns, particularly as level headed GSRWYQIVWEVIPMOIP]XSWIIXLVSYKLXLI¾E[WMR this assumption. The other argument that studios are now XV]MRKXSTYWLMRXLI½KLXEKEMRWXTMVEG]MWXLI concept of quality. Using mocked-up footage of pirated blockbuster hits with grainy texture, ½KYVIW[EPOMRKEGVSWWXLIWGVIIRERHTSSV sound quality, the anti-piracy adverts suggest that nothing can match the quality produced in XLISVMKMREP-XMWE[E]SJTPE]MRKXSXLIVIEP½PQ collector, the person that supposedly appreciates the superior value eminent in the original and [MPPRSXHIKVEHIXLIMVI\TIVMIRGISJ½PQ[MXL cheap substitutes.Yet as mentioned before, although this is often the case when buying GSTMIWSJ½PQWXLEXLEZIRSX]IXFIIRVIPIEWIH on DVD, as soon as commercial copies are made available the pirate networks have the abilities to make replicas that are identical in quality. The international industry led by Hollywood is in a constant battle to introduce new technology with embodied chips and other devices to prevent DVD copying yet as many working in the computer industry know, as soon as a new blocking technique is introduced it is seen by hackers as an open challenge and the race is on to de-code or break it. Pirate networks use this knowledge themselves to continue hacking into and copying the DVDs they wish to sell. The use of computer technology in piracy has also been playing a key role in expanding access XS½PQWJSVERYQFIVSJ]IEVWXLVSYKLXLI various download sites available. Operating in a legal grey area where the majority are housed in servers in distant countries and work on a policy where they keep material online until the copyright holders actively seek its removal, XLIWIWMXIWLEZIPMFVEVMIWSJ½PQFI]SRHER] video store’s physical capacity. It allows for a RI[X]TISJGSPPIGXMSRMR[LMGLXLI½PQPSZIVRS longer stores VHS and DVDs along bookshelves or stacked up beside the television but instead
backs up copies on to external hard drives and creates virtual collections. Many people hanker JSVXLIJIIPSJXLI½PQSFNIGXMRXLIMVLERHWEW they place it in the DVD player but just as many EVILETT][MXLE½PIREQIWMXXMRKMREJSPHIVSR the computer. Although studios are beginning to catch up with this trend by allowing providers such as LoveFilm ERHSXLIVWMXIWXLIEFMPMX]XSSJJIV½PQWSRE pay per view basis, the true online collector will almost certainly have an array of unauthorised download sites from torrent hosts to E-mule and others. The reason for this is the simple fact that studios and legal download sites have nowhere near the capability that the pirate sites have MRSJJIVMRKUYERXMX]SJ½PQW-R7SYXL%QIVMGE TEVXMGYPEVP]MR%VKIRXMREXLIVIEVISRPMRI½PQ lovers working to upload cult and art house, and TEVXMGYPEVP]%WMER½PQWXLEXEVIYRPMOIP]XSKEMR South American or legal download distribution status anytime soon. Using various sources they work to provide subtitles in Spanish for these ERHSXLIV½PQWJEVQSVIUYMGOP]XLERSXLIV distribution channels can manage. 6SFIVXS0ER^EJVSQ0E*EFVMGE½PQWGLSSPMR Bolivia made the point that his students use and need pirate copies, whether downloads or illegal DVDs, to gain access to the history of world cinema. If they are to become versed MRKVIEX½PQQEOMRKXVEHMXMSRWEWTEVXSJXLIMV historical education they cannot wait for the national Cinemateca or the small art house cinema in La Paz to put on retrospectives of these works. If they go to the black market in 0E4E^XLI]½RHWXSGOWSJ½PQXMXPIWXLEXJEV outnumber the capacity held in any legal store either in South America or in the West. As pirate DVD vendors often reduce packaging down to the bare minimum either through the use of simple plastic sleeves or through slimline DVD cases they have more DVDs stored in less space. They also have the capacity to keep their back catalogue on computers and burn off or make further copies according to demand in a way that is impossible for legal vendors. In La Paz, Lima and Buenos Aires in the spring of this year, one thing in common amongst each of the street vendors was their willingness to work together. If asked for a less well known title, particularly E7SYXL%QIVMGER½PQMRHMZMHYEPZIRHSVW[SYPH disappear off into other stalls or down the IRHWSJWXVIIXWXS½RHSXLIVZIRHSVWXLEX[IVI currently holding copies.
complying with the strict copyright they hold SZIVXLIMV½PQWXLIWIX]TIWSJTMVEG]RIX[SVOW are a welcome relief. However it is not simply a case of the small guys on the ground against the big corporations. The proliferation of piracy in La Paz combined with the low disposable income of its inhabitants means that there are no legal outlets for DVDs in the city. This in turn means that there are no means for Bolivian production companies to make back money in XLIHSQIWXMGQEVOIXFI]SRHFS\SJ½GIWEPIWMR the limited cinemas available. Sexual Dependency
VIGIMZIHEGGPEMQEXMRXIVREXMSREP½PQ festivals and was critically praised in Bolivia yet it was never released on DVD in the domestic market as there were no outlets where it could be sold. Instead, the rights were picked up by international distribution companies and legal DVDs are only available to buy abroad. When Who Killed the White Llama (2006) broke all TVIZMSYWFS\SJ½GIVIGSVHWJSVE&SPMZMER½PQ La Fabrica, who produced it, knew that pirate copies would be available to buy within days of its release and so they attempted to negotiate with the street vendors to see if they would sell legitimate copies instead. The negotiations fell through and, as is the situation with other &SPMZMER½PQWXLITVSHYGXMSRGSQTER]GSYPHRSX regain any further costs apart from selling rights to companies abroad. It leaves the production companies short on funds to invest in further ½PQW[MXLXLISRKSMRKIJJIGXXLEXXLIREXMSREP ½PQMRHYWXV]WXVYKKPIWXSKVS[ Although this situation is most acute in Bolivia due to the lack of legal DVD sales sites, the QENSVMX]SJ7SYXL%QIVMGERGSYRXVMIW½RH XLEXXLIMVHSQIWXMG½PQMRHYWXVMIWWYJJIVJVSQ piracy. This is a condition of production and consumption that complicates simple arguments against tight controls on intellectual property. It FIKWXLIUYIWXMSREWXS[LIXLIVSVRSXXLI½PQ collector has a responsibility to those involved in production when deciding how to access their work. It may be enough to say that US studios LEZIERI\GIWWSJTVS½XWERHWLSYPHEPPS[ KVIEXIVJVIIEGGIWWXSXLIMV½PQWFYXMXMWERSXLIV XLMRKXSGSRWMHIVLS[WQEPP½PQMRHYWXVMIWMR 7SYXL%QIVMGERGSYRXVMIWGER½RHXLIQIERWXS survival when spectators are unwilling to pay for the product in which the industry has invested.
For those of us that are unhappy with the way in which US studios not only dominate the industry but also bully distribution networks into
Miriam Ross discusses the complex role of bootlegs in South American film distribution. From Issue 26, Winter 2008.