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Piracy, especially optical disc piracy, is big business in the Asia-Pacific. The Motion Picture Association (MPA) estimates that Asia-Pacific piracy costs the US motion picture industry over $718m a year in potential revenue. This does not include the impact piracy has on employment and the cost imposed on countries in terms of lost tax revenues and missed investment opportunities.

A number of factors are driving piracy in the region. The increased influence of organised criminal gangs with global manufacturing and distribution networks, the reduced cost of entry into piracy via easily available disc burners, the increasing penetration of broadband and peer-to-peer networks and a lack of adequate and effective copyright protection have all helped to turn piracy into a multi-million dollar industry.

As the DVD and VCD industries mature, the pirates' methods of operating have evolved. Illegal factories producing millions of counterfeit discs have been replaced by networks of small producers that each contribute thousands of discs to an organisation. This has made anti-piracy operations more difficult as authorities must now target many different locations rather than a few large-scale production sites.

In the first half of 2004, the MPA investigated over 10,660 cases of piracy - up 42 per cent compared with a year earlier - and assisted law enforcement officials in conducting nearly 4,000 raids in the Asia-Pacific region. These activities resulted in the seizure of around 11.8m illegal optical discs and the initiation of over 2,000 criminal legal actions. The top three Asia-Pacific markets for seizures of pirated VCD and DVD product were mainland China, Hong Kong and Malaysia whilst Australia and South Korea accounted for around 80 per cent of the recordable discs (DVD-Rs) seized in the region.

In the second half of 2004 an increasing number of successful raids were sparked off by information received from members of the public. This followed the launch by the MPA of an anti-piracy rewards programme in the Asia-Pacific region during March 2003. The association claims the rewards programme - which offers financial incentives to potential informers - resulted in 20 raids and 30 arrests, as well as the seizure of 410 burners and 125,050 pirated optical discs, between the end of June and the end of August 2004.

This is not the only way in which the MPA is involving members of the public in its latest Asia-Pacific anti-piracy strategies. A number of public education initiatives have recently been carried out to inform people of laws protecting copyright, raise awareness of piracy and ultimately encourage people to reject pirated product. One such initiative during the first half of 2004 was the release of an anti-piracy theatrical trailer in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia that delivered the message Movie Piracy: It's a Crime.

Copyright © 2004, Screen Digest

Screen Digest the Newsletter is the international media business's leading news & market research journal. It has been published for more than 30 years and is read in over 40 countries. Subscription details here. It is published by Screen Digest, a research company which produces a rapidly growing number of major business reports on media markets.

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