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By Giles Tremlett: It has been the setting for many a spaghetti western, but now Hollywood has warned that Spain could be facing high noon o…

By Giles Tremlett: It has been the setting for many a spaghetti western, but now Hollywood has warned that Spain could be facing high noon over its appalling record of movie piracy, with a future devoid of DVDs.

The unauthorised downloading of films from the internet is so rife, with film-makers complaining that a legal void makes people think movies are free, that Spain could become the first European country to be abandoned by Hollywood studios.

“People are downloading movies in such large quantities that Spain is on the brink of no longer being a viable home entertainment market for us,” Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures Entertainment, told the Los Angeles Times.

Sony’s threat, which affects DVDs but not cinemas, would put Spain on a par with South Korea, which most studios have abandoned because of a similar free-for-all internet culture.

While cinema audiences have declined slowly in Spain, sales and rentals of DVDs have plummeted as high-speed broadband make streaming and downloading easier. As a result, three out of four video shops in Spain closed in the five years to 2009. Spending on DVDs can be as low as 10% of the level in the UK or Germany.

“It is very sad and very shameful for Spain that we should reach the stage where companies are thinking of leaving,” said Octavio Dapena of the Spanish film rights association Egeda. “I hope it doesn’t happen and that Spain reacts in time.”

But Antonio Guisasola, of music rights group Promusicae, said he was nor surprised Hollywood was considering pulling out. “There has never been a clear message here that downloading is piracy.

“The statistics show that 30% of the Spanish population uses file-sharing sites, against an average of 15% in the rest of Europe.”

A recent report by the Paris-based TERA consultancy on internet piracy in Europe warned Spain had the highest piracy rate and that spending on DVDs had fallen six times faster than in the UK .

The report estimated that the film and television industry lost about

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This article originally appeared in © Guardian News & Media Ltd..

  1. Of course, what this article fails to point out is the lack of legal alternatives. Spain doesn’t have the high street culture that many other countries have, meaning that expensive department stores and street kiosks with just 20-30 titles are often the only way to obtain DVDs to buy. I’m English but live in Spain, and have introduced many Spanish friends to sites like Play and The Hut. There, they can obtain UK imports for half price or less than they’d pay in Spain – the sales going under the “UK” balance sheet used by the industry rather than the one marked “Spain”, of course. AFAIK, the closest legal Spanish source to me is over 10 miles away and I’m on the edge of the Costa! (though there’s plenty of Chinese guys selling pirated DVDs, of course)

    Rentals are often limited to unmanned Cinebank kiosks that tend to have limited selections. Due to the terrible postal service in many areas, Netflix-style internet DVD rentals have never taken off (I only know of one such company, which doesn’t offer any streaming). Meanwhile, Spanish users are blocked from every legal international source from Netflix to Hulu to BBC to Lovefilm because of the industry’s own regional “protections” – especially frustrating for the large numbers of British and other ex-pats here whose downloading of their favourite TV shows probably account for a large chunk of the traffic.

    As ever, the solution is clear. Offer Spanish customers what they want, and they won’t have to go to illegal services. There’s no point complaining about “piracy” when there’s no legal streaming services, very little choice and you can probably download a movie 50 times before your parcel is delivered. Not to mention the ridiculously high prices (with today’s exchange rate, some new releases are double UK prices, which are often double US prices), in a country with very high unemployment and thus little disposable income.

    Give people here a reasonable service, and then people will pay for it. Hardly rocket science. I’d jump at the chance to have access to a Netflix-style streaming service and would happily pay for it. If only I were allowed to do so…

  2. I completely agree! I’m an American expat living in Spain and would gladly pay for a legal means to watch streaming V.O. films/TV and/or rent DVDs, but right now, unfortunately, there seem to be very few practical options…

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