EC chief adds weight to piracy campaign


BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Monday put its weight behind a global consumer campaign against piracy and copying, with European Commission president Jose-Manuel Barroso warning that fake copies are undermining the EU's economy.

Speaking at a summit here organized by the Authentics Foundation, Barroso said that the counterfeiting of such items as DVDs and CDs, now taking place on an industrial scale that involves the Internet and organized crime, threatens Europe's economic recovery.

"Counterfeiting and the theft of intellectual property can do enormous damage to an economy like the European Union's, the sort of economy that relies on quality and innovation," he said. "When a kilo of fake CDs fetches 50% more on European markets than a kilo of cannabis leaf, no one should be surprised that organized crime is getting involved."

But Barroso warned that campaigns against piracy would have to do more to focus on demand, as consumers still assume that buying fakes is a victimless crime. "Previous campaigns that have tried to frighten consumers by simply focusing on the illegal nature of buying counterfeit goods are not sufficient," he said. "The only way we will change consumer behavior is by raising awareness of the hidden costs of fake goods."

He echoed the Authentics Foundation, which said that fake iPods, TVs and DVD players are safety hazards and there have been incidents of them literally exploding. "IP protection is no longer just a question of safeguarding an economy. It is no longer just a question of clamping down on crime. It has become a question of consumer health and safety," he said.

Seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software leapt 139% in 2006, according to the most recent commission figures. EU customs authorities seized 23.2 million DVDs, CDs, cassettes and software items in 2006, up from 9.7 million in 2005, with 93% coming from China.

In October, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the film, television and music industries markets are slowing, mainly because of the ready availability of pirated material.