Leaps, bounds: EC hails 139% piracy bust jump

China surges ahead as chief culprit

Seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software leapt 139% last year, according to European Commission figures released Thursday, with most of them coming from China.

The commission — the European Union's executive authority — said that customs authorities seized 23.2 million DVDs, CDs, cassettes and software items in 2006, up from 9.7 million in 2005. This represented 9.2% of all counterfeit items caught by customs. In terms of cases registered by EU customs officials, the figure was 2,809, or 7.7% of the total.

However, the sharp rise in entertainment seizures was actually far less than that for overall interceptions, which jumped 330% in 2006.

"Counterfeiting continues to constitute a dangerous threat," EU Taxation and Customs Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs said. "I encourage all stakeholders to continue to cooperate and take actions at all appropriate levels: business, national customs administrations, police and other enforcement authorities. The public also has a responsibility here by not being tempted by the cheap fake bargain."

A stunning 93% of the seized music, movies and software came from China, with 3% from Iran, 1% from Syria, 1% from Israel and 1% from Taiwan. In 2005, the figures showed seizures from China were just 51%, followed by Switzerland at 19%, Hong Kong at 12% and Singapore at 7%.

The EC said that recent years have seen changes in the routes used by criminals to trade in fake goods, the use of the Internet and the transport of small quantities by air or postal traffic. The breakdown by means of transport revealed that air and postal traffic accounted for almost 80% of all cases treated by customs.

The commission launched an action plan on customs in November 2005, and Kovacs said that a number of concrete actions already had been taken as a result of the plan.

Customs officials from across the EU have worked together on a number of targeted raids at ports and airports, leading to a large increase in the number of goods uncovered, he said, while an anti-counterfeit task force was created to improve targeted counterfeiting efforts.

A business-customs working group also has been set up to exchange information about trafficking trends, and efforts were under way across the EU and in other countries — notably the U.S. and China — to ensure stronger enforcement of intellectual property rights. EU customs experts have visited China, have worked with Chinese customs officials in several Chinese ports and airports and have exchanged experience on risk analysis techniques.
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