How much is piracy costing the Czech Republic?

As in many parts of the world, The Simpsons Movie has been a huge hit here in the Czech Republic. On its first weekend, it shot straight to the top of the box-office chart, with more than 72 thousand viewers and grossing over 8 million CZK (40 thousand USD). But now, a pirate copy of the Czech language version of the film has made it onto the internet; and industry figures suggest that damages caused by the leak could make even these high takings pale in comparison.

This is an excerpt from the Simpsons' movie, but perhaps not as you know it. The film was released here a day before it was in the States, in both a Czech version, and an English version with subtitles. Shortly after its release, this Czech version found its way onto the internet, and now a 19-year-old resident of the Bohemian town Kaplice could face up to six months in prison, and a 5 million CZK (250 thousand USD) fine for infringing copyright. But as Marketa Prchalova of the Czech Anti-Piracy Union explains, this proposed fine only goes some way towards repairing the damage caused:

"We currently estimate the damages to be around 10 million CZK. The distributor, Bontonfilm, has suffered around 5 million CZK in damages. If this recording had been of a higher-quality and in English, then these damages would have been a whole lot higher. But, I suppose at least one 'advantage' of this recording was that it was of the Czech version of this film."

This is not the first time this year that a high-profile Czech release has fallen victim to the pirates. In the spring, Jan Sverak's Empties ended up on the internet just days after it was premiered. This case of piracy raised a lot of controversy, as it was clear that it had been leaked by someone inside the Czech Culture Ministry, which had exclusive access to the film. According to Marketa Prchalova again, there is a problem in attitude from the top down, that ensures that this is not the last we hear of piracy in the Czech Republic:

"Right now the Czech public, and that includes its lawmakers, undervalues the importance of intellectual property. And this means, unfortunately, that this illegal piracy - this theft - is very frequently tolerated here. The sentences handed out are testimony to this. Our organization is trying to show people that piracy is a bad thing, not only for the copyright owner who loses out, but for the whole of society, because it affects our entire culture and has massive financial repercussions."

So, at the moment, it's a case of pirates saying 'eat my shorts' to the copyrighters. But, we'll see, the outcome of this lawsuit could leave one young man from Kaplice saying something more along the lines of 'D'oh!'