Piracy crackdown nets 5.9 million discs in Asia

In a wide-ranging sweep of the Asia-Pacific region, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) seized 5.9 million pirated optical discs and local police arrested 277 suspected motion picture pirates, the association said yesterday.

The crackdown, called Operation Eradicate, was conducted in 12 countries and began last month. It involved 876 raids that were mounted in 'piracy hotspots' in an attempt to protect sales of cinema movie tickets and legitimate DVDs, VCDs and VHS tapes by reducing the availability of such products during the busy year-end and New Year holiday periods, the MPA said.

In China, more than 300 retail outlets, 21 warehouses, a packing factory, and two illegal VCD factories were raided in 76 operations. The sweep covered locations in several Chinese cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Chengdu, Shijiazhuang, Shenyang and Guangzhou. The operations netted more than 4.3 million illegal VCDs and CDs, and involved the arrest of 34 people, according to the association.

"It's important to raid the warehouses and factories, where we can seize large numbers of discs," an MPA spokesperson in Hong Kong said.

"With the street vendors, if you arrest them one day, they'll be back the next day," she said. "We'll never stop that route."

Pirates with CD pressing equipment can produce thousands of VCDs or DVDs daily.

China, Malaysia and Taiwan were major centres for optical disc piracy and China's piracy rate is about 95 per cent, the association said on its website.

The MPA estimates that its member companies lose more than $US718 million in potential revenue each year in the Asia-Pacific region, compared to about $US3 billion lost annually in potential worldwide revenue through piracy. These figures do not include Internet piracy, which involves file sharing.

In Hong Kong, more than 200 shop raids conducted on December 24 and December 25 resulted in the seizure of more than 89,000 DVDs and VCDs, 40 CD-R burners, and the arrest of 26 people. In Thailand, 54 operations against street vendors in Bangkok netted more than 500,000 VCDs and DVDs and resulted in the arrest of 38 people.

In the Philippines, the MPA worked with more than 300 members of the country's Special Weapons and Tactics teams and Special Action Force Units in a raid of a Manila-based shopping mall.

DVDs and VCDs with an estimated street value of 476 million pesos ($US8.5 million) were seized, the association said.

Meanwhile, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) will strike Taiwan from its Special 301 Priority Watch List and move the country to its Watch List, citing improvements in copyright law reform and enforcement following a recent review of that country and Poland, the agency said.

Poland, despite strengthened anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting measures, would remain on the agency's Watch List, USTR said.

Super 301 refers to a provision of the Trade Act of 1974 that gives USTR the authority to identify foreign countries considered to have trade barriers and/or unfair trade practices into four categories.

The most serious is the Priority Foreign Country category, followed by the Section 306 monitoring category, the Priority Watch List and the least serious, which is called the Watch List.

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Paul Kallender

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