Japan raid nabs 87,000 pirated discs


TOKYO -- The Motion Picture Assn. has applauded the second-largest seizure of illegal DVD-R burners in Japan, but warned that the arrest of three men and the closing down of the operation is merely a "setback" to the pirates.

Three Brazilian men were arrested in a Jan. 16 raid on a video rental store in a suburb of Nagoya, in central Japan, with police seizing 60 DVD-R burners and nearly 87,000 pirated discs. Thousands of the discs, including such titles as "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "Zathura," were produced by MPA member companies.

"For Japan, this is a massive amount of burners and we understand that the operation had been under way for about 18 months," said Roberto De Vido, of the MPA's Japan office. "To the pirates, however, this is only a setback. Five years ago it would have cost them $1 million to replace the copying machines. Now they can turn out 2 million (copies) a year and the cost of a new burner is very low. It's a more lucrative business than drug dealing and the price they pay in judicial penalties is also much lower."

The arrested men have not been named, but reportedly specialized in copying films and selling them to the large Brazilian community in central Japan.

Police estimate that the 2 million discs they produced each year were earning them ¥600 million ($4.9 million).

"The seizure of 60 optical disc burners makes clear that local production of pirated optical discs in low-cost, scalable burner labs has become a leading source of piracy," said Mike Ellis, senior vp of the Motion Picture Assn. "This raid in Aichi underscores the determination of Japanese police agencies to crack down on illegal movie piracy and represents a significant achievement in the battle against copyright theft."

De Vido warned that Japan has witnessed a shift in its piracy situation in the last year, with an increasing amount of high-quality copies imported from China.