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Set yourself a challenge when next you're in Paraguay: see if you can buy a non-pirated CD. According to latest figures on CD piracy released by the IFPI, the record companies' global organisation, 99 per cent of CDs there come from people saying "Arr-harr!".

Worldwide, 1.2bn pirated discs were sold in 2004, making 34 per cent of all discs, although (silver lining department) the rate of growth was only two per cent, its lowest in five years. However that number is still twice that of 2000.

A growing part of the problem is the use of Weapons of Mass Disk Action, otherwise known as banks of CD-R copiers, which can deploy 45 copies of anything you'd like in 45 minutes; no sexing-up required. Another source of woe is mobile CD plants, which can be put into the back of vans and moved around if the owners hear of imminent police visits.

Russia is one of the principal problem countries, playing the same role for illicit CDs as Columbia for cocaine, with exports to 31 countries including the US and UK. Spain is the worst country in Europe: apparently rampant street sales of CD-R copies has seen the legitimate market shrink by one-third in the past three years. Canada's government meanwhile was singled out for criticism by John Kennedy, the IFPI's chairman and chief executive, for being tardy on copyright reform.

The IFPI report is almost entirely gloomy - and always is, year after year. Pirate CDs make up one-third of the discs sold; governments aren't doing enough to help crack down on copyright; organised crime is using CD piracy for its own ends. (All are continual refrains that we've certainly heard before, though that doesn't make them untrue.)

Interestingly, Kennedy said that the extent of piracy in Africa means that "there's now no legal [music] business outside of South Africa, because there's no investment." This will come as news to all the African-based artists such as those in Abuja (where the venerable Today programme taped a segment in a nightclub for its Africa day on May 25th). What the IFPI means, of course, is that there's no record business for its members in those countries - just people making music and enjoying it, because their audience can't afford CDs. Or indeed CD players. ®

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