Victorian Police along with Australian Federal Police and investigators from the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT) raided several houses in Melbourne's western suburbs this week, shutting down Australia's largest ever piracy operation.
A home in Melbourne's Sunshine North was initially raided, netting over 250,000 pirated DVDs and 100 DVD burners. Information gathered at the scene led to raids on a further two 'burner labs' and the seizure of another 150,000 pirated DVDs and 70 burners.
According to the Victorian Police, the 170 burners operated 10 hours per day, seven days per week, and were capable of producing over 4 million DVDs with an estimated street value of $12 million.
Movies seized included the blockbuster action movies I am Legend and American Gangster, both of which have only just been released in Australian cinemas.
"This case marks the start of AFACT's major crackdown on burner labs. The size of this illegal operation provides a clear example of the economic damage movie pirate syndicates wreak on legitimate Australian businesses producing and distributing movies and TV shows," said Neil Gane, director of operations at AFACT.
"Film piracy is not a victimless crime - there are over 50,000 people who work in the Australian film and TV industry - and it is hurting the livelihood of all these people from the local DVD rental shop to cinema staff who like many of us have to pay rent and support a family."
"The enforcement action of the Victorian and Federal Police sends a very clear message to those involved in movie piracy - that it is a crime, it will not be tolerated and it has consequences," he said.
A statement released by the Victorian Police quoted information relating to an independent report conducted by LEK Consulting, which estimated that movie piracy cost the Australian film industry $233 million in potential revenue in 2005.