The European Commission said in a report Friday (Nov. 10) that seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software plummeted by 50% last year. But the Commission -- the European Union's executive body

The European Commission said in a report Friday (Nov. 10) that seizures of counterfeit movies, music and software plummeted by 50% last year. But the Commission -- the European Union's executive body -- said the fall in the number of seizures reflected the rapid changes in modern technology, with a large share of business now shifting from physical piracy of CDs and DVDs to Internet downloads.

"The key is to be faster than the counterfeiters," warned EU Taxation and Customs Commissioner László Kovács. "We must quickly identify, and act to deal with, new routes of fraud and constantly changing counterfeit patterns." Kovács said that the public had a major role to play in combating counterfeiting. "If there is no demand, there is no supply," he said, explaining that anyone who bought a pirated DVD or a fake handbag was funding criminals who also made potentially lethal drugs.

The report reveals that the number of DVDs, CDs, cassettes and software seized in 2005 was 9.7 million, representing 13% of all items seized by EU authorities -- 52% of the 2004 figure. The main source of the seized music, movies and software -- in absolute terms -- was China at 51%, followed by Switzerland at 19%, Hong Kong at 12%, and Singapore at 7%.

IFPI warned that the fall in seizures was reason for complacency. "These figures point to the continuing threat of piracy to the creative industries in Europe," IFPI said.

With China representing over half of pirate seizures, it underlined the importance of the EU maintaining pressure on China to improve its enforcement of intellectual property rights, the IFPI said. "IFPI estimates the overall value of the global traffic of illegal CDs at €3.5 billion ($4.5 billion)," it said. "An estimated total of 1.2 billion fake CDs were sold in 2005, meaning that more than one in three CDs sold worldwide is a pirate copy."

It also warned that Internet piracy continued to be a threat to legitimate online services, with an estimated 20 billion songs illegally swapped or downloaded worldwide.