Pirates get savvier with bootleg CDs

Music piracy is “an increasingly sophisticated trade plied by savvy multistate criminal operations,” according to an industry report, which identifies the top 12 U.S. cities where bootlegging is most rampant, including New York and Los Angeles.

More than just illegally burning and hawking copies of popular CDs, well-organized pirates are assembling compilations as well as adding “bonus tracks” on some discs, many of which even bear counterfeit trademark images to bolster appearance of legitimacy, according to a report released Wednesday by the Recording Industry Assn. of America.

“As the pirate music trade continues to evolve, criminals are enhancing their products and attempting to dupe consumers with illegal CDs that look authentic,” said Brad Buckles, RIAA’s exec VP for antipiracy, in a statement. “This is a disturbing trend. Today’s sophisticated pirate trade demands even greater awareness and action from us, our partners in the music community, law enforcement and music fans.”

The most enterprising pirates are essentially abandoning street sales in favor of trying to compete with legit retailers. According to the report, “Seizures of counterfeit CDs from commercial manufacturing facilities were up more than 424,000 units in 2005 — an increase of 46% — and the total number of cases at the manufacturer level was up 7%. In addition, seizures of piracy equipment grew by 57% in 2005.”

The report also designated, in addition to Los Angeles and New York, Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Providence, San Diego and San Francisco as “hot spots of music theft, with significant piracy problems from the manufacturer level all the way down to the point of retail sale.”

RIAA promised to beef up investigative resources as well as increase law enforcement training in those cities.

Org estimated that the industry loses approximately $300 million a year to domestic hard goods piracy, most of which involves urban and Latin-style music. The latter, for example, accounts for only 6% of the total music market, but more than 40% of seized product in 2005 was Latin bootlegs. (54% was urban).

“Rampant piracy continues to take a disproportionate toll on the small yet thriving culture of Latin music,” said Rafael Fernandez Jr., RIAA’s VP of Latin Music, in a statement. “Latin artists with high, homegrown popularity often battle tremendous piracy right in their local communities. Our ability to invest in the next generation of Latin artists is directly linked to enforcement and a continued focus on the piracy plaguing this genre.”

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