Piracy sea change

RIAA seizures down as pirates go to 'Net

The Recording Industry Assn. of America posted declines in seizures of pirated and counterfeit music product during the first half of 1999, as its emphasis changed from swap meets to Web sites.

The trade org attributed the decline in its midyear anti-piracy statistics to a shift by pirates from traditional CDs — an area on which the RIAA has focused much of its resources — to CD-recordables, which often boast songs downloaded off the Internet.

More than 155,496 pirate CDRs were seized, compared with 23,858 during the same period in 1998.

The drop in seizures of cassettes and CDs also emphasized the ongoing change in how music is distributed: With the vast array of music available on the Internet, individuals can be their own pirates.

Org says programs working

Execs at the RIAA credited its educational campaigns, street vendor task force initiatives and specialized programs for helping to combat this latest trend in music piracy.

According to Frank Creighton, RIAA senior veep and anti-piracy chief, “The RIAA is in a good position right now — we’ve been fighting music piracy for a long time, and we know what works.”

Creighton also said that “CD plants are doing their part to clean up the replication industry, and fewer illegal music sites are turning up on university servers.”

Counterfeit cassettes seized by the RIAA fell to 61,420 in 1999 from nearly 250,000 during the first six months of 1998. The number of pirated CDs fell to 70,734 from 133,215 snagged last year.

Nearly 50% of all cassettes and CDs seized in the first six months were Latin music.

In the first six months of 1999, the RIAA’s Internet enforcement team sent thousands of cease-and-desist and educational letters to sites offering unauthorized songs for download.

University campaign

In addition, the RIAA’s Soundbyting Campaign, which is in effect at more than 300 universities around the country, has resulted in a 10% drop in the number of music sites on university servers offering illegal downloads.

The trade org said it stepped up its CD Plant Education Program last year by introducing the RIAA’s Anti-Piracy Good Business Practices.

These guidelines, which suggest practical business solutions for CD plants to follow, such as knowing the customer and the product, resulted in the 47% decline in confiscated CDs.

The RIAA said it received numerous tips from CD replicators regarding suspect orders, which, in turn prevented close to 100,000 CDs from being manufactured or distributed in the United States.

In addition, the RIAA obtained monetary settlements totaling more than $7 million from three CD plants for copyright infringement. All three plants have agreed to adopt the Anti-Piracy Good Business Practices.

According to Creighton, as more and more CD plants refuse to fill suspect orders, music pirates are forced underground to burn their own CDs using CD-recordables.

The RIAA’s anti-piracy team is using both proven and new tactics to curtail this latest form of piracy, working closely with independent distributors and retailers and offering incentive programs.

“There will always be piracy, but fortunately these CDR factories don’t manufacture the volume of CDs that traditional CD replicators are capable of producing,” Creighton said.

The RIAA established a CDReward program aimed at stopping CDR pirates and closing down their manufacturing locations.

Under this new initiative, the association will provide monetary awards of up to $10,000 to an individual who provides the RIAA with information regarding illegal CDR manufacturing locations.

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