Seizures of counterfeit music, movies and software in the Europe Union jumped 172% between 2002 and 2003, the European Commission says in a report issued Feb. 8.

BRUSSELS -- Seizures of counterfeit music, movies and software in the Europe Union jumped 172% between 2002 and 2003, the European Commission says in a report issued Feb. 8.

The report reveals that 32.6 million CDs, DVDs and cassettes were seized in 2003, representing 35.4% of all items seized by EU authorities. Although the report does not break out figures for CDs and DVDs, it notes that 23% of the product seized was trademarked by members of the IFPI and 59% by the Motion Picture Assn.

In total, customs officials confiscated almost 100 million counterfeit articles during the period, for a value estimated at €1 billion ($1.27 billion).

The Commission -- the European Union's executive body -- added that this was just a fraction of the total illegal trade in counterfeit goods. "This is only the tip of the iceberg," said EU taxation and customs commissioner László Kovács. The counterfeit goods market is estimated to be worth €400 billion ($510 billion) each year.

Provisional figures for the first three quarters of 2004 show a rise in seizures of entertainment products, but by a more modest 22% to 16.3 million units. Thailand was the biggest supplier of pirated DVDs, CDs, and cassettes to the EU countries, accounting for 18% of seizures. Malaysia followed, at 14%, then Pakistan, at 13%, and China, at 8%. Pakistan is a relative newcomer to the counterfeiting trade, but officials say it is catching up fast.

The key findings relate more to the changing nature of counterfeiting than to the number of items seized, the Commission said. "Counterfeiting is a relatively new but rapidly growing area of crime," Kovács said. "Criminals now have the technology, the skills and the money needed. And they use the same techniques as drug smugglers in avoiding customs." Kovács urged national governments to step up the crackdown against traders in fake goods.

Last April, the so-called Enforcement Directive on intellectual property was formally adopted, giving EU governments more power to stamp out pirates. These include measures to seize suspicious bank accounts, force offenders to pay damages to victims of piracy and withdraw fake goods from the market at the offender's expense. The law is set to be fully implemented by May 2006.