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Brit pic counterfeiting threatens industry

LONDON — The U.K. piracy market will be worth £1 billion ($1.92 billion) within three years, threatening the future of the local industry, according to a report from the U.K. Film Council released on Monday.

Report, compiled by a special task force, backs up figures from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact), according to which there were 1.4 million seizures of pirated DVDs in the first half of 2004. That’s up 207% from the first half of 2003 and a staggering 1,768% rise from the same period in 2002.

By European standards, the problem is acute — only Austria and Germany experienced a higher rate of piracy in 2003.

“Film pirates are not harmless. They are professional criminals with links to organized crime and drugs,” said John Woodward, chief exec of the U.K. Film Council. “The pirating of films on DVDs or the Internet is not a victimless crime — counterfeiting threatens future film production and in the end it is our culture, our economy and the jobs of thousands of people that will suffer.”

The report recommends tough measures.

These include a crackdown on counterfeiters operating at swap meets by enhancing the authority of Trading Standards Officers, making camcordering in a cinema a criminal rather than civil offense and introducing high fines for copyright infringement to increase the financial risk to pirates. It also recommends offering rewards for turning in a pirate.

The U.K. Film Council is doing its bit to stem the flow. The report hints that “best-practice security procedures for the handling of film prints and digital materials throughout production” soon may become a condition of support schemes it, and other public sector funders, administer.

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