9 mln fake CDs a year

One out of every two CDs of recorded music available on the Greek market is an illegal copy. An estimated 9 million pirate CDs go into circulation every year, the same number of CDs sold legally in all the record shops in Greece. Most of the CDs on the black market are copies of highly popular recordings from which record companies expect to make huge profits. «A company makes money from commercial titles and uses it to subsidize young and unknown artists. But if it doesn’t even make money from the work of popular artists, where will it get the money for smaller-scale production, which is often of higher quality?» Yiannis Stamboulis, general manager of the Greek branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), said to Kathimerini. Experts say the music industry is a high-risk market where companies make losses on nine out of 10 recordings, leaving marginal profits that test the staying power of small producers. In Greece, African migrants, chiefly Nigerians, have established what amounts to a monopoly on pirated CDs. They set up workshops in Athenian apartments equipped with machines that can copy vast quantities of disks in very little time. «One workshop alone produces 1.5 times the annual, legal sales in Greece, and they can copy an estimated 4,000 CDs an hour,» he explained. In a recent raid on Geraniou Street, in Omonia (which has become by far the biggest outlet for pirate CDs), police confiscated 100,000 CDs and 500,000 printed CD covers. Since 1999, the IFPI has collaborated with the police on 23 operations to confiscate pirate CDs from Geraniou and the surrounding area. During these operations, 600,000 CDs were confiscated and 100 people arrested. The music industry loses an estimated 150 million euros a year, while the State loses 30 million euros a year in uncollected taxes. «Since 1997, when the copying machines appeared, few people have realized the true extent of the problem. Most of them think sellers live on the poverty line. This is not the case.» A notebook found in the bag of a pirate CD seller contained detailed data, indicating that his monthly income came to 3,000 euros,» said Stamboulis. One might say that CD piracy hits large record companies, which hold the rights to the best-selling records of popular artists. Why should a company whose artists’ work is not affected worry about the spread of CD piracy? «Success does not discriminate,» says Stamboulis. «For example, not long ago, a small record company happened to put out a record by a Greek artist who until then had been completely unknown. Although his songs were a huge success, the company received little revenue and eventually applied to terminate its membership in our union because it couldn’t fulfill its regular commitments…»