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HOME ELECTRONICS : Cracking Down on Illegally Copied Tapes

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

How many illegal copies of videotapes do you have in your home? Come on now, 'fess up. You're not alone. The average VCR-owning household is thought to have 3.7.

However, the average number of illegal copies in 1991 was considerably higher--5.6 per household--and the number seems to be continuing to decline.

One reason is a system created by the Macrovision Corp. that thwarts attempts to duplicate prerecorded videos. A special pulse, encoded on about half of all movies on the video market, confuses the copying VCR and produces unstable and unwatchable dupes.

Macrovision estimates that its process has saved video stores more than $100 million in sales and rentals.

Although the system appears to be having the desired effect among casual copiers, professional pirates have had little trouble outsmarting it.

However, in many cases, they, too, are finding obstacles in their path. Around the country, officials are actively enforcing laws regarding illegal copies.

In Southern California, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Kelleher is cracking down on video retailers who sell pirated tapes. He has ordered two L.A.-area video-store owners to sell their businesses to someone more reputable, or be closed down for good.

Meanwhile, New York City police are focusing their efforts on street vendors who sell unauthorized cassettes of hit movies just as they are being shown in theaters. Last year, the N.Y.P.D. Organized Crime Task Force raided a Brooklyn facility and found 74 VCRs strung together, along with master tapes for movies such as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Addams Family Values."

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