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Organised crime is involved in online IP theft, says Alliance chair

The British Video Association is calling for wider recognition of the level of organised crime involved in online IP theft and the damage this crime wreaks on consumers, the video entertainment and other industry sectors and the British economy.

Speaking at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum’s annual Keynote Seminar entitled ‘Next steps for intellectual property law - prospects for reform following the Hargreaves Review’, Lavinia Carey, Director General of the BVA and Chair of the Alliance Against IP Theft, said:

“It is now acknowledged by several government departments, law enforcement agencies such as the police and trading standards and others, that serious and organised crime is involved in IP theft. What is not understood or acknowledged in some quarters is that the online marketplace is just as lucrative for criminals, who exploit the low risk of detection and low levels of online enforcement, as are the unregulated markets and car boot sales that the public have learned to be wary of.

"So even though the end-user may be buying counterfeit or copycat goods online for themselves (not an offence) or downloading unauthorised content (a civil infringement), the people operating these sites are frequently the same kinds of criminals. Just as legitimate business has moved online, so have the criminals.”

The video industry releases approximately 8,000 titles every year in the UK on which consumers spend over £2 billion a year, which the BVA points out, is a significant contribution to the British economy in tax revenue, jobs and GDP.

Research conducted by Oxford Economics published this year found that video entertainment generates on average 47% of film revenues and a third of the revenues for TV drama series, and it is this revenue which is taken into account when companies are deciding whether to green-light new productions. Put simply – without this revenue stream, many films and programmes wouldn’t be made, says the BVA who commissioned the research.

The professional body reckons that the impact of copyright theft costs some £300 million in annual losses to the value of the video business, on which film and TV producers depend to finance new production.

Still, critics often accuse the industry of over-stating the case for action by using the term ‘crime’ instead of ‘civil infringement’. Addressing this criticism, Lavinia stated: “Just to be clear, when we in industry refer to ‘crime’ we use it as a term to express the harm done to legal businesses who collectively employ millions of people in this country, produce goods and services that millions of British people pay for and value and represent a significant proportion of British GDP, generating billions of pounds of direct and indirect tax revenues.”

Story filed 14.09.11

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