Findings kickstarting $1.8 mil awareness campaign

LONDON — Piracy begins at home in the U.K.

The number of seizures of imported pirated DVDs in the country fell by 123,719 to 661,581 in the first half of the year compared with the first half of 2004, while seizures of home-produced pirated discs shot up 133% to 386,569.

The findings were disclosed Tuesday by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness to kickstart a $1.8 million public awareness campaign to ram home the message to consumers that hardened criminals, not lovable rogues, control the lucrative trade in counterfeit DVDs.

Industryites including producer Tim Bevan and chatshow host Jonathan Ross were at the London press conference.

“The criminal gangs involved in DVD piracy are producing pirated discs within the U.K. rather than importing them,” said Federation Against Copyright Theft director of operations Jim Angell, outlining the rapidly changing face of U.K. piracy. “This shows that they are staying ahead of the game by trying to avoid detection at British ports.”

Noting that DVD piracy is costing the industry $828 million a year, Marek Antoniak, managing director of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, declared, “The future of our business is in the balance.”

The campaign comes a day after the British Phonographic Industry announced antipiracy investigators had closed down the biggest counterfeit CD and DVD factory in Europe so far.

The West London operation, raided Sept. 3, produced 50,000 pirated discs a day. Police seized copies of films, including “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” with a street value of $1.8 million.

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