Artists protest over piracy

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HONG KONG's cinemas were closed for business yesterday for the first time since the Second World War as part of a protest against software piracy. The industry in pirated films, music discs and computer programs is now believed to be bigger than the legal trade.

The piracy plague is rampant throughout Asia but elicits most concern in Hong Kong, home to the region's biggest film industry and a centre of popular music.

Local artists are losing millions in royalty revenue while cinema receipts slipped by 60 per cent last year as a result of the competition with pirated films. Within days of their release in Hollywood pirated versions of the latest films are in the pirate shops for just over one pound.

While cinemas closed, radio stations had music black outs and some of Hong Kong's most famous entertainers, including action film star Jacky Chan, took to the streets at the head of a 2,000-strong demonstration.

Breaking with his usual practice, Hong Kong's chief executive Tung Chee- hwa emerged from his office to receive a petition from the demonstrators and assure them the government is serious about cracking down on piracy.