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Artists take on the pirates

A pile of pirated CDs and DVDs.

KAI RYSSDAL: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates counterfeiting and piracy cost legitimate manufacturers $750 billion a year worldwide. Everything from fake purses to pirated music and video discs. So there's a lot of interest in getting black-market goods off the market.

In Morocco, five video pirates have been sentenced to prison after police seized half a million counterfeit film and music CD's. That's what you might call fighting piracy the old-fashioned way. John Laurenson reports from Casablanca, some of Morocco's most ripped-off artists are finding new ways to beat the bad guys.


[SOUND: Arabic comic stand-up.]

JOHN LAURENSON: The comic Said Naciri on Moroccan. Naciri is Morocco's most successful actor, most successful filmmaker, and therefore, one of this country's most robbed citizens.

He's so fired up against DVD pirates he accompanies the police when they go on raids. "It makes them feel more guilty when they see my face," he says.

Another stand-up comedian, Hassan El Fad, has taken matters into his own hands.

HASSAN EL FAD (voice of translator): I have to pay a team of anti-piracy guards to make sure no one's filming when I do my one-man show. I can't do open air venues — that'd make it too easy for the pirates. And we can't release the film we've made of my latest show because as soon as it's out, it'll be copied, everyone will see it and no one will come to see the show. Once you've heard a joke once, you're not going to pay to hear it again.

Down at Derb Ghallef, a big, open-air market on the outskirts of Casablanca, a dollar will buy you the new comedy "Borat"— although it isn't even out in cinemas here yet. What you won't find — here or anywhere else in Casablanca — are legal DVDs, which would be 10, even 20 times more expensive.

WOMAN (translator): It's bad for those who've worked hard to make the film but it's good for people who don't have much money.

LAURENSON: And do you buy them yourself?

WOMAN: Yeah, of course.

LAURENSON: And do you feel guilty?

WOMAN: A little.

MAN (translator): To tell you the truth, I buy pirated DVDs. "The Last Samurai," for example, I bought while it was still playing at the Rialto. I paid five dirhams — 50 U.S. cents. That's not cheaper than going to the cinema, it's much, much cheaper.

[SOUND: Battle scene in Moroccan film.]

A cinema audience of five watches a new Moroccan blockbuster. According to the Moroccan Film Board, dozens of cinemas like this will close this year. And, says its Director General Noureddine Sail, piracy is partly to blame.

NOUREDDINE SAIL (voice of translator): The recent police operations reassure cinema owners as well as film producers that it's worth staying in business. We're going to see many more raids in the future. The pirates have to be afraid.

[MUSIC: Moroccan rap group H-Kayne.]

But if the pirates who print the CDs are afraid, it's not showing at the stalls at Derb Ghallef, where the tables are still stacked high.

H-Kayne, one of a bunch of Moroccan rap groups whose reputation was built on pirated songs and videos exchanged on the Internet. This year, they signed a record deal and brought out a CD. A real one.

But what's the difference? It just gives the pirates something better to copy. Unless these raids turn into a long-term clampdown, H-Kayne can sell like Puff Daddy, they still won't get a penny.

In Casablanca, I'm John Laurenson for Marketplace.

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