Public given Christmas warning over pirate DVDs

The Chief Executive of the Film Council has warned of the danger posed to the film industry by pirate DVD sales and of the risk of consumer disappointment.

Film Council CEO John Woodward advised those thinking of buying DVDs as Christmas presents to beware of well packaged but poor quality pirate copies that tend to have inferior sound, colour and visual clarity.

He said: “Pirate DVDs and videos are often well-packaged but extremely poor quality, and anyone getting one as a present is likely to be left disappointed on Christmas morning.

“Shoppers should especially beware of cheap copies of recent films sold on street corners, and in markets and car boot fairs. Pirate film copies may seem a bargain but they are usually shoddy goods, which threaten UK jobs and film production and help fund organised crime. The only people who really benefit from film fakes are the criminals doing the counterfeiting.”

Around one in four UK households now own a DVD player, and DVD along with video sales form a vital part of film revenues. In 2002 European consumers spent more on buying and renting DVD’s than they did going to the cinema, with 87% of that money going on sales rather than rental. UK consumers bought 169 million videos and DVDs in 2002, with DVD sales increasing by 111% since 2001. However, the growth in DVD sales has been accompanied by a boom in film piracy, which each year is estimated to cost the UK film industry around £400 million. The scale of the problem was highlighted recently when seizures included illegal copies of 'Matrix Revolutions' only two days after the film’s cinema release.

The Film Council advise that pirate DVDs can be identified in a number of ways. The most common indicators are the use of ‘All’ in the regional coding section or the lack of a British Board of Film Classification marker (such as ‘18’). Other signs of piracy include the presence of Asian languages, misspelled film credits, and poor quality labels.

The Film Council also maintain that individual street dealers are often the public front of organised criminals who use the proceeds to fund other forms of criminal activities - a claim backed up by the FBI.

Films Minister Estelle Morris added: "Piracy is the biggest threat to our creative industries. Film is at particular risk. The Government, Film Council and the film industry are working together to crack down on the problem but consumers have a crucial role to play too. That's why we're sending out a clear message: think before you buy - piracy is theft plain and simple. It doesn't just effect the profit margins of huge Hollywood studios, it impacts on the jobs of everyone working in film from soundmen to script writers."

A new anti-piracy taskforce, chaired by UK Film Council board director Nigel Green, and including representatives from across the film industry and government, is currently exploring ways of combating the trade in pirate film copies.


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