German Police Bust 'Europe's Largest' Underground Pressing Plant

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The raid of several properties in Western Germany uncovered machines for pressing pirated CDs, DVDs and vinyl records.

German police have raided what they are saying may be Europe's largest illegal pressing plant for producing pirated CDs, DVDs and vinyl records.

State prosecutors raided several properties in south Western Germany, near the city of Aschaffenburg in Bavaria and in the neighboring state of Hessen. They seized what they said were "significant" numbers of pirated discs, including CDs and vinyl records. The state prosecutor at the economic crimes division in the city of Wurzburg has begun an investigation into an unnamed individual suspected of carrying out large-scale copyright piracy of both audio and visual works.

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"With a market share of about 70 percent, there is still a high demand for CDs in Germany — this is evident not only in the legitimate business, but unfortunately also on the illegal market," said Florian Drucke, CEO of the German federal music industry association, BVMI, whose antipiracy work in cooperation with intellectual property group proMedia and international recording industry group IFPI helped trigger the police action.

"Thanks to the excellent preparatory work, and above all the precise work of the prosecutor and police, this raid has enabled us to pull the plug on the largest-ever undercover pressing plant for music records in Europe," Drucke said. "The equipment found here demonstrates once again that this is not the work of petty criminals, but of professional organizations whose criminal activities inflict massive damage on artists and the recording industry."

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Added Jeremy Banks, director of antipiracy at IFPI: "While digital piracy makes the headlines, this case clearly shows that the industry also continues to take action against those who illegally make money through the manufacture, distribution and sale of unlicensed physical media."

Germany's music industry has actually proved more resilient than most when it comes to resisting the disruption of the digital revolution. While digital music sales jumped 11.7 percent last year to $453 million, sales of physical CD fell just 1.3 percent to $1.4 billion and still make up the bulk of the industry's revenue. 2013 was actually the first time in 15 years that annual music sales in the territory have gone up instead of down.

Vinyl is actually the fastest-growing segment of the German music market, recording a 47.2 percent revenue jump in 2013 to $40 million. Explaining, perhaps, why illegal vinyl pressings are such an attractive market for pirates.

Twitter: @sroxborough