Pirates on the Web

Recording industry battles Internet, digital tech theft

WASHINGTON — Forget about old-fashioned bootleggers who sell cassettes and CDs on the streets; the music business has now entered a new era and must concentrate its anti piracy efforts on fighting sophisticated copyright pirates taking advantage of the Internet and new digital technology, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America’s latest study of copyright piracy.

According to the RIAA’s year end report for 1997, 80% of its anti piracy efforts focused on the unauthorized sale of compact discs and the burgeoning businesses in Internet piracy. During the last five years, unauthorized distribution of cassettes has dropped 80%, while digital piracy is on the rise. In 1997, the RIAA notified hundreds of sites that they were infringing copyrights and faced potential litigation.

Staff to monitor Web theft

In its effort to track down online pirates, the RIAA has several staff assigned full time to surf the Web looking for Web sites which offer illegal downloads.

In most cases, the sites quickly took down the offending Web pages upon notification from the RIAA, according to the trade group’s Steve D’Onofrio, executive vice president and director of anti piracy.

Although the RIAA is not yet overwhelmed by online piracy, it is concerned about the Internet serving as a potential haven for piracy. There are currently 91 million computers hooked up to the Internet, according to the RIAA report.

Recordable CDs a danger

One of the most alarming developments for copyright holders is emergence of recordable CD technology, according to D’Onofrio. For approximately $400, someone can purchase a device that makes near-perfect copies of a CD. Those copies can be sold on the street for as much as $8, according to D’Onofrio. Because it is relatively cheap to make and distribute unauthorized CDs, newcomers are being lured into the piracy business, said D’Onofrio. “We’ve yet to come across the same (suspects),” said D’Onofrio.

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