The Motion Picture Association, U.K. Film Council, UK Intellectual Property Office, Federation Against Copyright Theft, London Councils, Trading Standards and the Police are teaming up to eliminate DVD piracy in London before the 2012 Olympics.
Intellectual Property Minister David Lammy endorsed the launch of the ambitious ‘Fake Free London’ project, noting that the police will be required to enforce already-existing laws: “Legislation alone will not combat counterfeiting and piracy. Good law is great but enforced law is better.” He said the aim of the campaign was send a message that people are serious about tackling the problem, and that consumers and legitimate businesses would be better off as a result.
Apparently there have already been dozens of arrests, but it is unclear if these were connected to running an operation manufacturing the counterfeit DVDs, or selling them. In the UK right now, the difference in terms of how the courts deal with the people at the top compared to the bottom is marked.
Street sellers, often from other countries, are at the bottom of the food chain and are usually cautioned by the police, DVDs confiscated and sent on their way. Some receive small fines but more usually, those that continually flout the warnings could find themselves the subject of an Anti-Social Behavior Order. If they breach the terms of those, it’s possible they’ll go to prison, but few do. It’s hard to see that this process is much of a deterrent, it relies on an offender getting caught lots of times. Besides, the UK has very little prison space right now.
Towards the top end of the food chain, things are different. Last month, another UK man Steven Adams, a fairly large-scale counterfeiter who also fitted huge numbers of XBox and Playstation modchips, received a fairly hefty sentence from the courts. He pleaded guilty to 44 charges, including the manufacture and selling around £1 million of counterfeit products. Adams had toured computer and flea markets all over the UK and at the time of his arrest, police found 31,000 counterfeit discs in his possession. He had numerous expensive properties, vehicles and possessions but didn’t try to hide his wealth, something which he will now regret as the court takes action to seize them. For his sins, Adams also received 3 years in jail.
The punishment for commercial piracy in the UK starts with a simple caution and goes up 10 years in jail and an unlimited fine, so it seems the tools to deal with the problem are already there, but is there the will to start locking more people up? Time will tell, but it seems unlikely. So can the MPA win its very own Olympic event? A bronze medal, absolute maximum.