MPA’s crackdown unearths 7.5 million pirated movie discs in A-Pac

MUMBAI: Motion Picture Association’s (MPA) Asia-Pacific wide anti-piracy enforcement operation – Operation Takedown, which was launched in May 2008, concluded at the end of July 2008. The operation resulted in the arrest of 461 suspected pirates, 56 camcorders caught in the act, as well as seizures of more than 7.5 million pirated optical discs and 1,000 optical disc burners, capable of producing hundreds of thousands of pirated movies a year and potentially millions in illicit revenue.

Nearly 600 raids were undertaken by enforcement authorities in 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific during Operation Takedown including Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

As with previous similar operations, a focus on camcording as a root of piracy and the operation showed results – 56 of them were nabbed. The raids were also aimed at targeting the producers, distributors and sellers of pirated movies within the region, and particularly on the Internet.

In tandem, governments across the region began to tighten their laws on camcording, recognizing the damage that camcording cause to local film industries. Thailand is the latest to join the fray with a multi-pronged approach that includes a public outreach campaign, use of night vision goggles for cinema staff and a reward scheme, measures that were introduced in Hong Kong in July. In Hong Kong, plain clothes police officers will also patrol cinemas.

In the Philippines, a City Ordinance that criminalizes camcording in Manila has been passed and makes it punishable with jail time and fines. A 24-hour hotline has also been set up to report instances of camcording.

MPA in the meantime conducted training for cinema staff to identify camcorders and prepped enforcement officers with basic knowledge of copyright law and to identify pirated products all around Asia.

Another highlight of Operation Takedown was the first ever cross-border enforcement action between Singapore and Malaysia against a DVD-smuggling syndicate operating online in both countries, in which four men were arrested.

In Taiwan, authorities seized a total of 548 burners during Operation Takedown. 329 burners capable of producing more than 15 million pirated discs a year were seized in one single raid, the biggest burner lab bust since 2004. Nearby in Hong Kong, officers raided 17 locations bringing down a substantial criminal syndicate smuggling in pirated discs from the Mainland China.

Chinese authorities have also been on piracy alert in the run up to the Olympics, clamping down on DVD piracy and running public campaigns against online piracy.

Among the highlights of Operation Takedown were:

China: 21,757 infringing files taken down; 4,114,051 pirated optical discs seized

Korea: 530,472 infringing files taken down

Malaysia: 182 burners seized; 230,183 pirated optical discs seized

Philippines: 39 camcord interdictions; 2,432,631 pirated optical discs seized

Taiwan: 154 raids conducted; 548 burners seized; 121 people arrested

Thailand: 141 raids conducted; 110 people arrested

"Our anti-piracy actions have brought down a significant number of pirates all around the region, whether they be burning DVDs in a lab somewhere or selling via the Internet. While we are pleased that 56 camcorders were caught red handed, there is still a long way to go to deter camcorders from thinking about breaking the law. With support from law enforcement agencies and strengthened laws against camcording, intellectual property rights protection will continue to remain top priority in this region," said Motion Picture Association president and managing director, Asia-Pacific Mike Ellis.

In the past four years, MPA has conducted eight bi-annual operations resulting in over 5,400 arrests and 39.5 million pirated optical discs seized.

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