RIAA Details Anti-Piracy War

Over the past year, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has made significant headway in its multi-front war against commercial piracy, according to a detailed report issued by the trade group October 21.

Among the biggest successes were efforts to shut down illicit commercial disc replicators. In the first six months of 2003, authorities seized approximately 2.5 million counterfeit discs or pirated CD-Rs, up 18.1% from the 2.1 million seizures reported at mid-year 2002. According to the New York Police Department, it seized 125,000 counterfeit discs in the first six months of 2003—a result, the RIAA claims, of the trade groups's "successful training efforts." NYC police have been successful at shutting down "pick houses," typically city apartments that serve as distribution points where street vendors can pick up pirated CDs ready for sale. Also in New York, US Secret Service agents seized 115 CD-R burners and more than 42,000 counterfeit/pirate CD-Rs that were packaged and ready to be distributed. An illegal manufacturing facility was closed in Smyrna, GA, a suburb of Atlanta. There, investigators found 64 CD burners and more than 35,000 CD-Rs ready for distribution.

The RIAA made progress in stifling activity at retail locations, including convenience stores, small independent grocers, gas stations, and flea markets. As part of its "Ongoing Flea Market Initiative," the RIAA filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the owners of a Columbus, NJ flea market where vendors "flagrantly and repeatedly ignored numerous demands to curtail the sale of pirated CDs and cassettes." More than 7500 copyrighted titles were available there, according to the suit. Several lawsuits are in process against members of the "warez scene," a loosely organized group of pirates who often distribute commercial recordings prior to their release date, a practice the RIAA claims is especially damaging to its business.

More aggressive prosecution is yielding more convictions and longer jail sentences for violators, the RIAA claims. The organization has also stepped up its efforts to educate law enforcement officials nationwide about the growing piracy problem and how to deal with it. Such efforts have reduced the availability of pirated music on the streets, it claims. The RIAA intends to combat the problem with every resource at its disposal, according to president Cary Sherman.

"The growth in seizures of counterfeit product is a reflection of a worsening problem and our stepped-up enforcement efforts to deal with it," Sherman said. "As CD burners become more available, the prevalence of illegal product in the marketplace increases as well. We've dedicated additional resources to the problem and the results speak for themselves. Those who choose to engage in this criminal activity should be aware that federal, state, and local governments are also stepping up their enforcement efforts." Statistics on the RIAA's anti-piracy campaign can be found at the trade group's website.