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US Congress earmarks $30m for anti-piracy fight

DHS boasts busts in 'Operation Holiday Hoax'

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The Motion Picture Assocation of America on Monday graciously stroked US Congress for promising $30 million towards fighting IP crime in 2010.

Hollywood's top lobbyist, MPAA chief executive Dan Glickman, also praised the success of a six-day Yuletide sting against counterfeit DVDs and CDs called "Operation Holiday Hoax."

The earmarked millions is intended to be spent on US anti-piracy efforts that are authorized by last year's Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property (PRO-IP) (clever, no?) Act.

Funds include $20m for new state and local crime prevention grants targeting piracy on the internet or using "high technology." The FBI will receive $8m to hire more agents for IP crime busting. Additionally, $2m goes toward the Department of Justice's anti-freetard operations.

"Congress took a major step forward by providing $30 million in funding for new FBI agents, federal prosecutors, and local and state law enforcement grants to protect American jobs and creativity by cracking down on the theft of movies and other intellectual property," said Glickman in a statement (PDF).

"The MPAA, on behalf of the motion picture industry, commends Congress and the Obama Administration for this commitment to these vital American industries," he added.

Glickman was also keen to heap praises upon a joint sting operation between US federal and local law enforcement and the government of Mexico targeting small businesses, stores, swap meets, and flea markets involved in selling counterfeit products.

According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the six-day sweep resulted in cops seizing more than 708,258 products in 41 locations around the US, worth an estimated $26m going by a combined manufacturers' suggested retail price (although the products are allegedly counterfeit goods, so that's a fairly useless figure).

Mexico seized 225 tons of counterfeit products during parallel operations according to ICE. Apparently, that's how counterfeit goods are measured south of the US border.

"Operation 'Holiday Hoax' struck the counterfeiters and counterfeit vendors just when their inventories were at their peak," said John Morton, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE in a statement. "This is the season these criminals lure in unwitting holiday shoppers and sell them substandard and sometimes dangerous goods."

MPAA concurs on the dangers of counterfeit goods:

"Sure, the purchase of one counterfeit DVD might not seem like much, but multiply that by thousands, and tens of thousands and more worldwide," it said in a release Monday. "That becomes a major economic burden that swells when you add in all the other creative industries that have been victimized by such theft."

The lobby group claims, however, that major busts are not the final answer. It claims 90 per cent of pirated films on DVD are from illicit camcording at theaters. Glickman said therefore legislation must be struck that will criminalize the recording of films in theaters. ®

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