New pirates in play

Brits say local criminals behind counterfeits

LONDON — The U.K. antipiracy drive shifted gears in the first quarter, with seizures of home-grown product rising 41% to 680,000 units but seizures of imported DVDs down by half to 174,000 units compared to the same quarter in 2004.

According to the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, the value of the black market DVD trade was £600 million ($1,080 million) in 2004 and is predicted to be $1.8 billion within three years.

Findings from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) suggest the U.K. is fast becoming a key player in the production of pirate discs.

Fact director general Raymond Leinster interprets the dip in imported DVDs as evidence that “U.K.-based crime groups with multiple criminal interests have adopted the manufacture and distribution of DVDs as a mainstream activity, establishing extensive copying facilities.”

The findings have forced the Trust, which is backed by the U.K. arms of the major studios, rentals orgs and homevid retailers, to change its strategy.

Gone is the emphasis on global terror networks’ involvement in DVD piracy, which received heavy play at the July launch of the Trust’s antipiracy campaign; now the bad guy is portrayed as a career criminal.

In a report to be released today to coincide with World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, the Trust presents five case studies showing evidence of the involvement of violent and drug-dealing criminals in copyright theft.

Raising consumer awareness remains the cornerstone of the antipiracy campaign.

“Many people turn a blind eye to the trade in pirate DVDs as it is perceived as a soft crime, which doesn’t harm anyone. However, as these case studies clearly demonstrate, the sellers of pirate DVDs are involved in a much wider web of criminality that also embraces drug dealing and exploitation of minors,” said Trust director Lavinia Carey.

The Trust has set up a hotline to allow anonymous callers to tip off enforcement agents about illegal DVD traders.

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