Potter magic can't beat pirates

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Harry Potter might possess the powers to vanquish evil wizards - but not Chinese pirates. Bootleg English-language copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling's latest and last novel in her super selling series, have been appearing on the streets of Beijing - testimony to local pirates' ability to churn out copies of any in-demand entertainment in the blink of an eye.

"It's been selling really well, especially with foreigners," said one hawker watching over several dozen copies near the Xiushui or 'Silk Street' market, a magnet for pirate goods.

"Do you want to buy this as well?," he asked, holding out what claimed to be DVD copies of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the newly released film.

"You'll get a discount for the two together."

The softback copy of Rowling's novel, cleanly printed on slightly rough paper, costs 40 yuan ($6) - 30 after bargaining - while a legitimate copy sells in local bookstores for 210 yuan ($31) for a British edition and 218 ($33) for the US version.

China has promised to wipe out pirate producers who have become a sore point in trade ties with the United States and Europe.

But the piles of freshly printed Potter are a reminder of how far Beijing is from realising that pledge.

US copyright industry companies claim bootleggers cost them $US2.6 billion ($2.9 billion) in sales in China in 2005.

On Chinese streets, pirate DVDs can cost as little as $US1, much less than legitimate copies sold in wealthy countries.

The hawker, who would not give his name, said most of the buyers were Westerners.

"Chinese people will wait for the Chinese version to come out. That won't be long," he said.

The Chinese translation of Rowling's latest book is due out in about October. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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