Music piracy leaving street for cyberspace

There have been repeated warnings in recent years about the perils of CD piracy by the Association of Greek Producers and Recordings (EEPI), an agency with which most of the country’s labels are affiliated. Record labels, artists, as well as the state are all being affected by rampant CD piracy, the association has frequently stated, while acknowledging that the situation is beyond its control. The latest news is both encouraging and unsettling. While the total number of pirated CD confiscations decreased last year by 21.65 percent, another form of music piracy – file sharing over the Internet – increased during the same period. The local industry figures as well as the lack of commitment by police authorities and the relatively low level of fines imposed on culprits all seem to indicate that Greece does not fully grasp the wider scope of intellectual copyright concerns. Even so, in 2005, illegal activity was reduced. A total number of 1,418 confiscations raked in 762,365 pirated CDs and audio cassettes. In the previous year, the number of confiscations were fewer – 1,248 in all – but the catch, 973,073 CDs, was relatively larger. Date shows that the average number per catch – from roving street vendors – fell by 31.05 percent in 2004. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) interpreted the trend as a reflection of relentless efforts made to curb illegitimate activity «on all levels of the piracy chain.» But another factor – the increase in the number of Internet users – is presumably at play here, and can be regarded as detrimental to industry sales, as was highlighted by EEPI chief Panos Theofanelis. «This transformation is worse, because it cannot be controlled,» Theofanelis noted. Efforts to curb the illegal music trade have been focused on locating and ending activity at production and storage facilities. In 2005, for example, a total of 110 arrests were made at factories, warehouses, and hotels. Also, 1,229 confiscations were conducted on roving street vendors for a total catch numbering 281,413 CDs. A further 33,075 pirated CDs were confiscated at street markets, while 6,990 were discovered at music stores. The latest industry information indicates that the manufacturing and distribution of illegitimate CDs in Greece is dominated by African immigrants. IFPI believes that softened penalties imposed on culprits is part of the problem in the unresolved effort of trying to eradicate CD piracy. Fines have more or less vanished while the number of legal cases carried out have been reduced, IFPI officials contend. IFPI charges that laws drafted for the protection of intellectual copyrights are not being properly enforced. Professor Constantinos Polyzogopoulos, the director of the Culture Ministry’s nascent intellectual copyright division, noted that the unit had grown over the past year. «We’re gradually developing an organization which last year employed two persons and now employs nine, is powered by a complete legal division, and is being funded sufficiently,» said Polyzogopoulos. «We’ve begun establishing contacts, which is a major step, as these include judges, police officers, and relevant ministries – for education, development, and interior affairs. Deep-rooted work is needed, beginning from schools and primary school students,» the professor added. Various problems encountered by Polyzogopoulos on the job indicate how ramshackle the handling of the CD piracy matter has been. «When I asked the statistics service for data concerning CD piracy, they didn’t quite understand what we wanted,» said Polyzogopoulos. «The image we have, as a [functioning] state is second-rate,» he added. The Greek State is deprived of approximately 150 million euros in tax revenues annually as a result of CD piracy.