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Raid targets pirates

Cops nab 16,000 discs in Hanover

BERLIN — In a coordinated effort between German police and Scotland Yard, authorities in Hanover broke up the biggest DVD piracy operation ever in Germany earlier this month.

Police confiscated 16,000 pirated DVDs and master discs, including titles like “X-Men 2,” “Matrix Reloaded,” “Dreamcatcher” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” as well as pics that have yet to be released in Germany, with a total estimated market value of 1 million euros ($1.17 million).

The German Federation Against Copyright Theft (GVU) and its U.K. counterpart FACT aided authorities on the case. The owner of a video store where the copies were found was taken into custody during a June 11 raid. The man, a native of Singapore, is suspected of being a middleman for Hong Kong-based DVD replication houses that illegally press and ship the copies overseas. He has since been released from custody.

Also discovered were an unspecified number of master discs that could have been used by other replication studios. Police confiscated a total of nine packages containing the DVDs, all addressed to recipients in the U.K.

The pirated DVDs were headed to the U.K. for turnaround in what is thought to be a European-wide piracy operation, according to Hanover senior prosecutor Manfred Knothe.

Speaking June 18 at a joint press conference with prosecutors in Hanover, GVU chief Joachim Tielke said he expected additional positive results from the concerted efforts of German police and Scotland Yard in the war against piracy. Police in Germany and the U.K. had had the video rental store operator in their sights since confiscating past shipments of pirated DVDs from Singapore in the U.K.

While 16,000 discs is a drop in the bucket compared to the 1.2 million pirated DVDs recovered by police in the U.K. in the first quarter of 2003 alone, GVU spokeswoman Diane Gross says the DVD boom in Germany is making the country an increasingly attractive market for pirates. German DVD households numbered 1.57 million in 2001; by 2002, that number climbed 212% to 4.9 million.

Copyright and trademark law violations in Germany are punishable by fine or a prison sentence of up to three years. Greater commercial violations can draw sentences of up to five years.

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