As piracy in the Latin recorded music market moves from physical to digital, trade associations and labels are updating their approaches to keep up. At a Recording Industry Association of America-sponsored panel at the Billboard Latin Music Conference in Miami on Tuesday (April 24), RIAA executive VP of anti-piracy Brad Buckles estimated that between 30 to 40 percent of Latin physical product sold in the US is pirated, even though the genre makes up only about 7 percent of total music sales.

The goal of crackdowns on college campuses and retail vendors in cities like Los Angeles and Miami is to "keep this world corralled enough so that the industry can survive and move into the digital age," said Buckles.

The crackdowns on pirated product have brought legal retail sales up in the
markets where local police have been active in targeting sellers of pirated CDs, said Buckles. But perhaps more difficult to stop is digital piracy. In Latin America, there were four billion illegal downloads last year, according to Raul
Vazquez, Latin America regional director for the International Federation of
the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

"Digital piracy is the biggest monster, much more so than physical piracy,"
said Vazquez.

The digital pirates represent a double whammy because downloaders are more
avid potential consumers whose lack of purchases hurt the industry more,
said Vazquez.

In response, IFPI's campaigns have also gone digital, with a focus on taking down what Vazquez called the "tentacles" of online piracy - people who have downloaded hundreds or thousands of tracks, and serve as sources of pirated music for smaller peer-to-peer users.

Key to the future of that strategy-which currently involves civil lawsuits against major uploaders in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina--will be winning cooperation, voluntary or not, from Internet service providers. "It's also plugging up their own networks....and that's costing them money," said Vazquez.

Universal Music Latino president John Echevarria lambasted the perception of piracy as a victimless crime perpetrated by "poor immigrants," when in fact physical piracy is often a large-scale sophisticated operation. Only serious consequences, such as lawsuits against students, have succeeded in changing attitudes about illegal downloads, said Echevarria.

"Young people complain that 99 cents for a download is a fortune, but $2.50
for a a good deal," he said, noting that people pay up when they
have no choice.

Warner Music Latina president Inigo Zabala said his company was shifting its relationships with artists to more of a "partnership" in revenue streams. CD prices can't get much lower if artists, producers, composers and marketing costs are to be paid, he added. Supporting talent in the long run, said Zabala, is "something a pirate could never do."