Pirates Under Pressure Around the World

Last week, the US Secret Service reported that, assisted by the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) New York Anti-Piracy Unit, it had executed two search and seizure warrants in Queens and Manhattan, resulting in what the agency called "the break-up of a massive counterfeit music operation." The Secret Service reported that approximately 20,000 recorded CD-Rs and 1200 masters were seized from the Queens and Manhattan locations.

According to the agency, equipment seized from the Queens location included one hundred two 8X-speed CD-R burners, nine computer monitors, four computers, three thermal printers, two paper-cutting machines, two laptops, two industrial color copiers, and two industrial shrink-wrap machines. The music genres seized were primarily urban contemporary, latin, and pop, and included artists such as Tito Puente, Julio Iglesias, Santana, Jay-Z, Jennifer Lopez, and the Beatles.

After the raid, the RIAA's Frank Creighton stated, "On behalf of our member companies and the artists they represent, I'd like to thank the US Secret Service for the tremendous efforts they put forth to address this highly egregious operation. A seizure of this magnitude could not have been achieved without their timely and professional investigation and dedication of precious resources. For that, we are extremely grateful."

According to the RIAA, the operation in Queens had the potential to produce almost three million CD-Rs per year. The organization estimates that the yearly loss of revenue to the recording industry due to this operation would have been in excess of $47 million.

Last week also saw the US reiterating threats of potential trade sanctions against Ukraine unless the country steps up its efforts to control rampant CD piracy within its borders. The US Trade Representative's office says that it has put Ukraine on its "priority foreign country" list because of widespread copyright violations, and states that "failure by the government to address these concerns within three months could lead to the imposition of sanctions. Despite many promises, including high-level commitments made in June 2000, the Ukrainian government has been unwilling to curtail the activities of these pirates."

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry issued a statement indicating its support for the sanctions. The Federation's Jay Berman added, "We hope Ukraine will now seize the opportunity to take this problem in hand. At stake is not only Ukraine's international standing but also the country's struggling record producers, who are working hard to develop a legitimate business."

The US has been attempting to close down pirate CD production in Ukraine for two years and estimates that the music industry loses between $200-300 million annually as a result of 30 to 40 million pirated discs leaving the country to be sold in Europe, South Africa, and South America.