Authorities delivered a major setback to video pirates in Germany last year, per the Assn. Against Copyright Theft (GVU).

Coordinated efforts of police, district attorneys and agents of the copyright watchdog organization resulted in the arrests of more than 400 suspected video pirates and confiscation of almost 50,000 illegal vidcassettes. GVU agents checked out 532 videostores and raided 218 homes in western Germany where clandestine taping was suspected.

The GVU brought charges against 256 suspects last year; legal procedures are pending against 357 others. Seven pirates were jailed and 54 were fined. Altogether, the courts meted out over 220,000 marks ($137,500) in fines.

Tighter laws, better detection methods and more severe penalties have reduced piracy at the retail level, but GVU head Gerhard Schulze says piracy still causes losses of more than 250 million marks ($156 million) annually.

The GVU is building up an investigation network in the five new east German states, where more than 4,000 vid operators have set up shop in recent months. The organization also has started an info campaign to warn dealers of the penalties for selling illegally copied films.

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