Costa Rica film distributor launches anti-piracy campaign

March 2, 2017

San José-based film distributor Romaly has launched an initiative to fight online piracy in Costa Rica, which has one of the highest rates of piracy in Latin America.

According to statistics from Google, people here every month perform an average of half a million searches for sites to illegaly download movies, music, software, books and other copyrighted content.

The country also made the Watch List of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report 2016.  The list of 25 countries is part of the annual review of the state of intellectual property rights protection and enforcement in U.S. trading partners around the world.

Alonso Solís, Romaly’s marketing manager, told The Tico Times that the company last month launched an awareness campaign about the economic losses caused by the illegal downloading of protected content, particularly films.

The bait

The first stage of the campaign consisted of a new website called Legal Torrents. The site mimics the design of many pages that allow users to illegaly share and download protected content using the BitTorrent protocol. The peer-to-peer protocol is one of the most common for transferring large files such as music or movies.

The page’s description says it’s a website to download movie torrents in Costa Rica, and displays links for downloading torrent files of films currently on display or soon to be released at local theaters.

The downloaded file works with any torrent client, but instead of the movie, the file downloads a short video consisting of the movie trailer followed by a message about the consequences of movie piracy on the film industry.

“Every second of the video you just saw represents the work of a large production crew that worked hard so an audience can watch it at its best quality,” says part of the message users have been viewing over the past month.

It also displays an email address and asks the person to contact Romaly about the message they just saw. In return, the company will give every person who contacts them two tickets to watch the movie at a local theater.

The company launched the campaign on Feb. 8, the date of the international premiere of the movie Split.

“That first day alone, just over 400 people downloaded the file,” Solís said.

Romaly also set up a campaign on Google so that search results for illegal downloads of the film linked to its website. The link ranked within the top 10 results of those searches, he said.

The company has been adding more links to torrent files of other films, and thousands of people are still downloading them, he said.

Next stage

Solís noted that the Romaly initiative does not seek to hunt down would-be pirates, and that they are not collecting personal information or compiling a list of people trying to illegally download copyrighted content.

He said that their only interest is to raise awareness about the consequences of online piracy through positive reinforcement, such as the free movie tickets.

“We also want to remind people that watching a film at a theater is a much better experience than doing it on a computer or a phone screen,” he said.

Just a few days shy of the website’s one-month birthday, Solís said that Romaly will use statistics about visitation, downloads and email contacts to evaluate the campaign’s results.

The findings will help the company plan a new stage of the campaign where they will add more links and more anti-piracy messages.

“We also intend to use the website’s statistics to seek support from film production companies, so we can expand our message,” he said.

The campaign already attracted the attention of various groups who advocate for intellectual property in the country, and even from the Legislative Assembly. Solís said Romaly recently received an invitation to participate in a hearing of a Legislative Committee that will discuss a bill to strengthen current copyright laws.

He asked that members of the public help spread the word on their social media profiles using the hashtag #TorrentsLegales.

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