MPAA Reports Banner Year For Nabbing Pirates

It was a banner year for the antipiracy office of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, as its investigators seized a record 425,896 pirated videocassettes – a 40% increase over last year – representing $23 million in lost sales to retailers and the studios.

A record number of video duplication machines were also seized, with 2,352 of the recorders used to illegally copy top films and programming taken into custody, a big increase over 1993, when 809 VCRs were seized.

Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA, attributed the increases to stepped-up efforts by law enforcement and antipiracy investigators, the latter setting their sights on video labs and distribution centers.

Valenti estimates that if the seized VCRs had operated eight hours a day, 52 weeks a year, the studios would have lost more than $188 billion in revenues.

Criminal seizures were also on the rise, up to 554 compared to 1993’s tally of 432. Convictions were also up, as 244 pirates were found guilty, compared to 164 for the previous year.

The MPAA’s reward program – Bounty for Pirates – has also helped the org locate several labs since it was established last July.

The familiarity of law enforcement officials with street vendors who sell pirated vids has also contributed to the record number of seizures, in which primarily East Coast police agencies and MPAA investigators often team for sweeps of these vendors.

The MPAA estimates that 10% of the 30,000 video retail outlets in the U.S. trade in pirated vidcassettes, resulting in losses of potential revenues to the studios to the tune of $250 million annually.