CULTURE

Greece tops Europe’s CD piracy list

Less than seven months after local music authorities ordered that half a million pirated CDs be dumped into an Athens rubbish bin and then destroyed, another batch was recently disposed of at the same site. The grand total of 1 million pirate CDs that have been confiscated and buried over the past seven months serves as a strong reminder of the continuing plague of music piracy that is crippling the recording industry. Considering the local music industry’s annual production figure, amounting to 8 million units, the number is alarming. Confirming the gloomy news, the Association of Greek Producers of Phonograms (AGPP), which operates as the local representative of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), recently issued a report noting that a 9-percent year-on-year drop in local sales of authorized CDs last year was the biggest ever registered. Judging by the slow progress so far this year, plummeting sales figures seem unlikely to rebound, the report added. Last year, a total of 872 raids were conducted, which led to 862 separate legal cases for a total cost of just under 290 million drachmas (approximately 850,000 euros) to the federation and its members. According to IFPI figures, Greece’s CD piracy rate is currently running at approximately 50 percent, the highest in Europe and 10th highest in the world. China, according to IFPI, fronts the pack with a runaway piracy problem of 90 percent, way ahead of other top 10 nations such as Italy, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In an effort to help curb Greece’s piracy problem, AGPP held a seminar in Thessaloniki last December to highlight the magnitude of CD piracy for top-ranked Greek police officers operating in central and northern Greece. It was attended by an IFPI official who used data to illustrate the sector’s global woes to Greek police. «The objective is to make them [Greek police] less flexible when confronting the foreign sellers,» Ionas Stamboulis, AGPP’s chief official, told Kathimerini, referring to the country’s roving street vendors, most of whom are African immigrants. «As a matter of fact, some [police] seemed to know details about their monthly salaries, and that the immigrants were each sending approximately 800,000 drachmas (2,346 euros) back home to their families every month,» he added. Since the seminar, the number of interceptions have increased, encouraging AGPP to organize additional sessions in coming months. The first of these will be held in Athens next month, while other seminars will follow in the Peloponnese, western Greece, and Crete. The number of vendors selling cheap, pirate CDs – they are usually priced at six euros, or about a third of the cost of authorized CDs – has mushroomed over the past couple of years. This troubling trend, artists, producers and record companies all agree, is potentially disastrous for the industry. Some good news, however, has trickled in from the European Union’s headquarters. A recent copyright deal struck between the EU and the USA guarantees royalties to European artists for public broadcasting of their work in the USA, and vice versa. Prior to the agreement, existing copyright laws in both the EU and the USA had not included clauses covering the issue. As part of the deal, Europe’s music industry will receive $3.3 million in compensation for royalties lost over the past three years. «This is a very important deal, not only for European artists, but Americans as well, who were also subjected to equivalent laws in Europe,» Stamboulis said. The deal was welcomed by Euro MP Myrsini Zorba, a member of the country’s ruling PASOK party, who has worked in publishing for 20 years, and, in recent times, spelled out the dangers of CD piracy to the European Commission. Pushing for a solution, Zorba has advocated harsher EU measures, citing the enormous losses suffered by European cultural production as a result of CD piracy and its detrimental effect on artists and the music industry. According to the European Commission, in its response to questions raised by Zorba, CD piracy accounts for approximately 5-7 percent of global CD trade, at an annual cost of 200 to 300 billion euros and 200,000 job losses worldwide. In the EU, annual losses have been estimated at between 400 and 800 million euros, while the entire European continent’s sales losses are believed to amount to 2 billion euros each year. In Greece, the State misses out on raking in approximately 7 billion drachmas (20.5 million euros) annually from value-added tax collections, Stamboulis claimed. The overall damage for the State, artists and record companies, he added, amounts to 50 billion drachmas (146.6 million euros) each year. 30 gm pine kernels