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Thursday, 5 August, 1999, 08:14 GMT 09:14 UK
Lara Croft battles software pirates
Cyber-heroine Lara Croft
Lara Croft is set to fight software pirates
Computer game heroine Lara Croft is fronting a new anti-piracy advertising campaign to help confront widespread criminal involvement in Britain's computer software market.

The campaign aims to raise consumer awareness of the type of criminals behind the copying of computer games, and the damage it does to the software industry.

It has been launched by the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), which has put up billboards in cities all over the UK to highlight the problem.

The organisation said that 80 percent of raids carried out by its UK crime unit on computer game pirates uncovered evidence of other criminal activity, including drugs, prostitution, pornography, extortion and terrorism.

Software crime funds drugs and porn

Lara Croft brandishing a gun
Tomb Raider is Britain's most successful games series
ELSPA director general Roger Bennet said the campaign aimed to raise awareness that cheap copies of popular games were not being distributed by "Robin Hood" characters.

"It is clear to us that criminals are moving into computer games piracy as an easy means of funding other illegal activities and laundering cash," he said.

"What we are uncovering is quite horrifying," said Mr Bennett.

"At almost every seizure of pirated games we are finding quantities of drugs, firearms, stolen goods and even child pornography.

"It is clear to us, and many police officers share this concern, that criminals are moving into computer games piracy as an easy means of funding other illegal activities and laundering cash.

"Unfortunately the general public does not see what we see and, as a result, there remains a great deal of apathy and a general acceptance that pirated games are OK."

Lara Croft, star of Tomb Raider, Britain's most successful computer games series, will appear in a poster and press campaign with the slogan "Don't Play Games With Criminals... It Will All End In Tears."

She was chosen as ELSPA believes the success of the Tomb Raider series, developed by EIDOS Plc, provides a perfect example of the type of successful game that is being undermined by software pirates.

ELSPA estimated that the British computer games industry loses 3bn annually through piracy, and the black market for pirate games cost 525 million in lost taxes in 1998.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Roger Bennett: "What we are uncovering is quite horrifying"
Video
The BBC's Anne Scott: "The idea of buying fake is still a real turn on"
See also:

26 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Boy behind 10,000 software scam
15 Jun 99 | The Company File
Software pirate jailed for four years
30 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Film piracy clampdown plea
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