The Australian Federal Police yesterday embarked on a major crackdown of counterfeit goods, including pirated software, computers and CDs and DVDs, in a move hailed by as a victory by software companies like Microsoft and representatives of the music and film and TV industries in their war against copyright infringement.
In a statement, the AFP said it had executed 21 warrants across Australia in relation to what it called "counterfeitgoods" -- including not only intellectual property, but also clothing and handbags, for example. The raids hit Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
AFP acting manager of Crime Operations, Stephan Obers, warned the nation to be aware that selling or distributing such goods was a criminal offence.
"Police across Australia can and do charge persons with criminal offences related to counterfeiting," he said. “This is a warning that if you are selling these goods you may be subject to a police investigation for committing intellectual property crimes. Australian legislation provides for a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment for copyright offences and two years for trademark offences.”
The AFP said the arrests were the result of investigations which had stemmed from information provided by industry stakeholders such as Music Industry Piracy Investigations, the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft, the Trade Mark Investigations Service and the Union of European Football Associations.
Several of those organisations and Microsoft -- which is itself stepping up its fight against piracy in Australia -- immediately welcomed the AFP's national raid (PDF).
"High-quality counterfeit software is an increasingly sophisticated form of software piracy that is difficult to detect, which affects the bottom line of thousands of legitimate businesses across Australia and endangers consumers' and business' computers through potential malware or virus infection," said Microsoft's local director of intellectual property Vanessa Hutley.
"Consumer awareness, collaboration across industries and law enforcement bodies like the AFP are the most effective ways to tackle this issue, and Microsoft applauds the AFP's most recent efforts."
MIPI's general manager Sabiene Heindl said music piracy undermined the ability of Australian artists and songwriters to get rewarded for their hard work, and said her group "wholeheartedly" supported the AFP's push. AFACT similarly welcomed the push.
The Business Software Alliance of Australia is an organisation representing companies like Microsoft which attempts to stop copyright infringement of software products. The group's co-chair Clayton Noble claimed piracy cost the Australian software industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.