Piracy War Continues In N.Y., U.K.

Anti-recording piracy efforts are on the rise. The Recording Industry Assn. of America has announced plans to expand its anti-piracy endeavors, and a British court ruling should help stem the tide of illicit recordings being imported into that country.

The RIAA will open a New York office in May, planning to target street vendors and distributors of counterfeit cassettes and CDs in Gotham, according to Steven D’Onofrio, RIAA v.p. and director of antipiracy operations.

The RIAA plans to hire three part-time investigators in several regions, per D’Onofrio, bringing the org’s antipiracy unit to 15 staffers. Katherine Timon, formerly with the Queens District Attorney’s Office, will head up the New York office as associate special counsel, antipiracy. D’Onofrio said he has also hired a former New York police officer to handle piracy matters on a retail level.

The moves come on the heels of the RIAA yearend piracy report, indicating a record number of counterfeit cassette and CD seizures.

Drop in the bucket

However, record industryites said the RIAA numbers amounted to a drop in the bucket when compared with the actual problem, and there has been some criticism that the major labels haven’t been doing their share in combating the situation.

D’Onofrio disagreed with that assessment. “I can’t say the number,” he remarked, “but [the majors] said, whatever we need to make the efforts, we’re going to get.”

Usually counterfeits are made using either a legitimate or extant counterfeit as the master. Only rarely, per D’Onofrio, are actual master tapes used.

Across the Atlantic, a London judge has ruled that recorded product that may be legal in some markets, but illegal in Britain, cannot be shipped into Britain and sold legally.

Continental European exporters have been relying on European Community free-trade legislation to ship recordings that are legal in their territories into the U.K. for some time. A British firm, CD Specialists, had declared that recordings they were bringing into the country – including Beatles outtake recordings usually found on bootlegs – were being sold in Germany without protest from EMI Electrola, which oversees EMI’s catalog there.

Bruce Haring in Hollywood contributed to this report.

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