Date: 18th August 2003

Task force to combat £400m film piracy racket

Movie bosses have formed a task force to tackle a 400 million film piracy racket in the UK.

Piracy increased by more than 80% in the past year, according to figures from the Federation Against Copyright Theft - with copies mostly of poor quality and often funding organised crime.

Fake DVDs of the second Tomb Raider movie Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life: Tomb Raider 2 (2003) are already on sale on British streets - even though the film doesn't receive its UK premiere until Tuesday.

The task force will be chaired by Nigel Green of the UK Film Council and includes representatives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, UK film producers, distributors, cinema chiefs and Equity. Its aim is to map out the extent of the problem and spot long-term solutions, such as toughening up the law.

Officials from the UK Film Council, which has co-ordinated the Anti-Piracy Taskforce, found the Tomb Raider II DVDs for sale for 5 each in London's Oxford Street.

A spokesman said: "They were shocking quality and there was no sound for at least the first five minutes." Seizures in 2002 were double those of the previous year with 659,000 illegal copies at a potential value of 10 million recovered.

One seizure in Hornsey, north London, netted 100,000 DVDs, worth an estimated 1,425,000, as well as computer equipment, artwork, and DVD labels, according to FACT. The products were traced to the Far East.

Piracy is believed to have cost the UK film industry 400 million in the past year, FACT says. Illegal copies are often sold at car boot fairs and street markets. They are well packaged to look like the real thing but often suffer from poor sound, colour and clarity.

UK successes such as Bend it like Beckham, Gosford Park and 28 Days Later have all been targeted by pirates while Hollywood hits The Hulk, Terminator 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean have been on the streets before a cinema release.

Around one in three videos purchased in the UK are believed to be copies, and the number of DVDs is rocketing. Fakes, which can usually be spotted because they have no BBFC classification, often fund crime syndicates.

Source: Press Release