Britain's video industry on Sept. 12 launched the second phase of its campaign to raise consumer awareness of the damaging effects of piracy not just on the entertainment industry but on society as a

LONDON (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Britain's video industry on Sept. 12 launched the second phase of its campaign to raise consumer awareness of the damaging effects of piracy not just on the entertainment industry but on society as a whole.

The Industry Trust For IP Awareness -- a pan-industry lobby group comprising film distributors and retailers -- organized an event at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' London headquarters to highlight the fact that the film industry loses around £570 million ($1 billion) a year to copyright theft.


Fronted by U.K. television chat show host and film reviewer Jonathan Ross, delegates from the press and enforcement agencies heard that, in addition to commercial loss, pirate DVD sellers were also peddling extreme pornography, drugs and were themselves often illegal immigrants.

"Saying yes to a pirate DVD is also saying yes to crime on your streets," Ross said. "There is a price to pay for pirate DVDs and it's much higher than most people think."

The Industry Trust also revealed that it is set to launch a £1 million ($1.8 million) consumer awareness campaign to try to win the "hearts and minds" of the public.

A study from research company IPSOS has revealed that consumer acceptance of pirated material was shifting to a younger, less male-biased purchaser and that one in four people in the United Kingdom have watched a pirated title in the past 12 months.

"The increase in younger age groups buying pirate DVDs is particularly worrying, especially considering that this group has been found to be the hardest group to persuade. The highly visible presence of street traders selling pirate DVDs, often right outside legitimate retailers, is really quite shocking," said Lavinia Cary, director general of the British Video Assn. and director of the Industry Trust. "Members of the public need to open their eyes to what is happening. If you buy pirate DVDs, you are funding criminal activity in your own community."

Retailers too have joined the chorus of complaint.

"Just two weeks ago ChoicesU.K. followed earlier statements from Blockbuster and Woolworths in stating in its annual results that piracy was a major problem for their business," said Steve Knott, managing director of HMV U.K. & Ireland. "It is a cry that can be heard from all legitimate DVD retailers across the U.K. and not just in the boardroom but in the shops where staff are often faced with the depressing reality of some illegal fly-by-night street trader setting up a pitch right outside their front door."

The initiative comes as anti-piracy watchdog FACT revealed that the number of pirate DVDs made in the U.K. rose 133% in the first half of 2005. Seizures of U.K.-manufactured pirate DVDs reached 386,569 units as imported fakes declined on the back of more successful enforcement action.

"This shows that criminals are attempting to stay ahead of the game by trying to evade detection at British ports," FACT director of operations Jim Angell said.