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By Jonathan Harwood

AVARUA, Rarotonga, Cook Islands (December 28 2001 – Cook Islands News)---Copyright chairman Geoff Bergin has blasted stores that are still renting out pirate copies of Christmas blockbuster Harry Potter.

He said it was "shocking" that the film was available for rent just days after he was given assurances that the tapes would be pulled.

Several video stores are still hiring out the movie even though the company that distributed the film promised to withdraw it.

He said that he was urging the outlets renting out the films to "consider the ethics and principles" involved.

Bergin says he had no power to stop the film from being rented out despite the fact that there is a law in place in the Cook Islands.

Bergin said that an overseas government would have to get involved before positive action was taken against video piracy.

He added that he would like to see a foreign company or government take action against the bootleggers.

"I don’t have the power to pull the movie," said Bergin. "There is a law in place, but nobody wants to enforce it.

"The people who own the product have to come in and confiscate it as their property.

"Although it is illegal internationally, if the retailers decide they want to leave it on the shelves there is nothing we can do about it. We are powerless.

"If anything, we should be exposed overseas rather than just internally. No one cares here."

But he added that there would be an investigation into the continued renting of the film, based on the best-selling book by J.K. Rowling.

When copies of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hit stores in Rarotonga -- before the film’s New Zealand premiere -- the copyright chairman visited many outlets and asked them to pull the film.

Although most stores obliged by taking the movie off the shelves, several simply put the blockbuster back on display when Bergin left.

"The film was back on rental a day later," he said.

* Pirate videos of The Lord of the Rings are already reportedly available in Rarotonga.

The blockbuster movie was said to be unofficially "out" in the Cook Islands just two days after it was premiered in New Zealand.

Copyright chairman Geoff Bergin said that he was aware of the rumors surrounding the fantasy epic and said he would be investigating them.

However, the CINews contacted a number of video rental outlets last week to enquire if they had copies of the Lord of the Rings for rent -- but all said no.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands News Online.

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