13/08/2001

Counterfeit computer games factory busted

A multi-agency approach involving Greater Manchester Police, Manchester, Trading Standards and the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), has successfully busted a 'mini-factory' producing copied counterfeit games software.

Investigations began in the early part of the year, following suspicions that counterfeit merchandise was being produced in the Manchester area.

Enquiries resulted in a search during which thousands of copies of software found at the house were seized. The search revealed hardware capable of producing counterfeit software from four complete computer systems containing 20 CD writers. In addition, over 4000 CD's believed to contain PlayStation games software with a retail value of over £123,000 were also found. All the items were seized and are currently being examined by ELSPA together with Manchester Trading Standards to establish their legality.

Computer games industry watchdog ELSPA represents the interests of games publishers and has a dedicated crime unit made up of investigators combating computer games piracy.

The most recent figures for 2000 indicate that police made 884 raids and seized 222,740 CD's. However, it is estimated that over £3 billion is lost every year by the UK industry to software pirates.

Maximum penalties under TradeMark legislation are £5000 fine and/or six months in prison from Magistrates Court, but prosecutions pursued through the Crown Court carry an unlimited fine and up to 10 years in prison. (SP)

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