Call to combat pirated goods

Greece’s fight against a growing piracy industry must be waged on many fronts and involve the judicial system and customs offices if the government is to stamp out a business robbing the economy of millions of euros, state and industry officials said yesterday. In a conference examining piracy in Greece and the European Union, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis called for the setting up of a single government body that can coordinate efforts to combat piracy. «If the laws that have been voted are not implemented, then it is certain that workers will be led to unemployment, the state will suffer… and the market will be distorted,» Stylianidis said. Greece is one of the worst offenders in the EU regarding pirated products, with a relatively large circulation of illegally copied computer software programs and CDs. Street vendors also freely peddle copied sunglasses and bags in most neighborhoods across the country’s cities and towns. In the software market, it is estimated that 62 percent of products are unauthorized copies while the EU average is a lower 35 percent. Industry experts said yesterday that if the state managed to reduce the illegal software market by 10 percent, then this would translate into a 565-million-dollar (473-million-euro) boost to annual economic output, 1,900 new jobs and 141 million dollars (118 million euros) in additional tax revenues. Some 100 million units of illegally copied products are confiscated by customs officials annually. Athanassios Skordas, the Development Ministry’s secretary for consumer affairs, pointed to loopholes in local laws and also called for help from the companies suffering because of these operations. «Our staff do not have the knowledge to verify whether a sports shoe is counterfeit or not,» he said. «We need help from the companies.» Some consumers defend buying pirated goods because they are cheaper but industry representatives are now warning the public that these purchases can carry health risks and could even be financing extremist groups.