Funding boosts Oz piracy fight

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SYDNEY -- Australia's fight against piracy was given a boost Tuesday as the federal government committed AUS$12.4 million ($10.2 million) a year over the next two years to law enforcement involving intellectual property theft.

Changes to the government's copyright regime late last year introduced more indictable offenses for copyright crimes in Australia and armed police with more effective tools including 'on the spot' fines.

Now, the additional enforcement funding gives those amendments "teeth," according to Adrienne Pecotic, executive director of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft. The group represents filmmakers, video store and cinema owners as well as other film and television businesses across Australia.

"With the budget announcement of $12.4 million to law enforcement to fight piracy, the Federal Government has given teeth to last years' significant law reform of copyright crimes," Pecotic said. "AFACT looks forward to supporting the work of the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in the fight against film piracy."

Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said the new funding will provide ongoing support to intellectual property creators.

"Copyright reforms last year made the laws tougher for pirates and fairer for consumers. This funding will help enforce the new laws against pirates," Ruddock said.

"If we want Australians to create intellectual property and innovate, we need to help industry and creators by targeting IP crime," he added. "As a result of this budget initiative, law enforcement will be better resourced to pursue organized crime, major importers and wholesalers, profiting from piracy and counterfeiting,."

AUS$8.3 million ($6.8 million) over 2 years will go to the Australian Federal Police to pursue IP crime, particularly where organized or transnational criminal elements are involved. The AFP will work closely with industry and other agencies, Ruddock said.

The remaining AUS$4.1 million ($3.3 million) will go to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for new prosecutors and training to enable the prosecution of IP crime and finance the pursuit of proceeds of crime.

Research for AFACT estimates that piracy cost the film and TV businesses around AUS$230 million ($188.6 million) in lost revenue in 2005.

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