The RIAA has, for the first time, placed 12 U.S. cities on a priority watch list for physical-goods piracy. The record labels' trade group says it will step up law enforcement training and commit addi

The RIAA has, for the first time, placed 12 U.S. cities on a priority watch list for physical-goods piracy. The record labels' trade group says it will step up law enforcement training and commit additional investigative resources in all of these cities in the coming year.

The cities are hot spots where there are significant piracy problems from the manufacturer level to the point of retail sale. The 12 cities are: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Providence, R.I.

According to new data and analysis by the record labels' trade group, the copying and trafficking of pirated music is an increasingly sophisticated trade employed by savvy multi-state criminal operations that distribute illegal product designed to resemble authentic CDs and replace legitimate sales, the RIAA says in a commercial piracy report released today (May 3).

Enterprising pirates are increasingly producing unauthorized compilations of popular hits as well as counterfeits that add bonus tracks, going well beyond merely duplicating an existing album, the RIAA reports. Some compilations include counterfeit trademarks on the packaging or discs to create the appearance of legitimacy.

“As the pirate music trade continues to evolve, criminals are enhancing their products and attempting to dupe consumers with illegal CDs that look authentic,” says Brad Buckles, executive VP, anti-piracy for the RIAA.

The RIAA is making an effort to educate consumers by offering the following tips to help avoid illegal music:

· Remember the Adage “You Get What You Pay For”: Even if you are hoping to get your favorite albums at a discount, new or used, extremely low prices might indicate pirated product.
· Watch for compilations that are “Too Good to Be True": Many pirates make illegal "dream compilation" CDs, comprised of songs by numerous artists on different record labels.
· Read the Label: If the true name and address of the manufacturer are not shown, it is most likely not legitimate product. These products often do not contain a bar code. Furthermore, if the record label listed is a company you’ve never heard of, that should be another warning sign.
· Look for Suspicious Packaging: Carefully look over the packaging and beware of products that do not look genuine. Packages with misspelled words, blurry graphics, weak or bad color should all raise red flags. Inferior quality print work on the disc surface or slip sleeve cover, as well as the lack of original artwork and/or missing label, publisher, and distributor logos on discs and packaging, are usually clear indicators that the product is pirated. CDs with loose or no shrink wrap, or cheaply made insert cards, often without liner notes or multiple folds, are probably not legitimate product.
· Watch for Product Being Sold in Unusual Places: CDs sold in non-traditional venues, like flea markets or street corners, are probably not legitimate.
· Trust your ear: The sound quality of pirate CDs is often poor or inconsistent.

In 2005, more than 800 law enforcement departments across the country engaged in more than 4,000 anti-piracy actions, making 3,300 arrests and seizing more than five million pieces of pirate music product in the United States – an 11% increase over 2004. The RIAA estimates that the music industry loses well over $300 million a year to domestic physical goods (non-Internet) piracy alone.

Urban and Latin music genres are typically the hardest hit by physical goods piracy and accounted for nearly 95% of music seized last year, the RIAA reports. Urban music – representing 54% of all pirate product seized – is almost exclusively found in a lower-quality format burned to blank CD discs with packaging far less likely to be confused with legitimate products. A large portion of the urban piracy market consists of compilations of music from various artists and multiple albums.