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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 12:55 GMT 13:55 UK
Copycat CDs in an instant
Australian CD copying machine
A copyright warning is on all the machines
test hello test
By Phil Mercer
In Australia
line

Australia's booming trade in illegally copied CDs and computer software has moved into the high street with new machines in convenience stores that make counterfeiting as easy as buying a newspaper.

The coin-operated systems are designed to beat sophisticated anti-copying devices built into some compact discs.


Everyone on the roundabout misses out

Michael Speck, music piracy investigator

The Copy Cat CD Duplicators charge just A$5 (1.84), plus the cost of a blank disc (74p), to make digitally identical copies of CDs.

In less than 10 minutes a perfect replica is made for a quarter of the price charged in record shops.

The machines are already in operation in many stores in the south Australian capital, Adelaide.

Enriching

It is another headache for piracy investigators, who estimate bootlegging costs the Australian music industry A$70m (25.8m) in lost revenue every year.

The real figure, however, could be much greater. The hidden costs could be double this official assessment.

Adelaide singer Tanya Giobbi
Adelaide singer Tanya Giobbi is worried by the burners
The head of Australia's Music Industry Piracy Investigation Unit (MIPA), Michael Speck, said the illegal trade in CDs and software was becoming unstoppable.

"These guys are enriching themselves through other people's work. It's theft, pure and simple," Mr Speck said.

Penalties for CD-copying range from fines of up to A$6,000 (2,200) to three months in jail.

The duplicating machines operate under the same legislation as public photocopiers, which means the user, and not the owner of the equipment, bears the responsibility for copyright breaches.

'Warnings'

One store owner said the coin-operated machines were popular among teenagers.

"If they ask, we tell them it is illegal to break copyrights and there are warnings on the machines, but what they copy is up to them," he said.


There is no other product that is subjected to this kind of wholesale theft

Glenn A Baker, music expert

Australia has one of the biggest and busiest anti-piracy squads in the world. Last year it carried out 36 raids in conjunction with police raids.

Fifty cases are awaiting prosecution. Despite these efforts, the relentless expansion of the pirates' lucrative business goes on.

Mr Speck says the CD bandits continue to bleed money from the music industry.

"Everyone on the roundabout misses out, from independent record stores, artists and roadies to publicists and the taxman. They're the silent victims."

Irritant

Australian music expert Glenn Baker told the Adelaide Advertiser that the copying of music from indigenous bands in particular was "morally reprehensible" and he "couldn't imagine anything more potentially devastating for the music industry".

What is also worrying the music industry is the explosion in domestic counterfeiting. Sales of home CD copying machines in Australia, known as burners, have risen sharply.

"There is no other product that is subjected to this kind of wholesale theft," Mr Baker said. "We can't just take this."

The convenience store CD burners are treated as a minor irritant compared to fully mobile counterfeiting operations run by organised crime gangs, which rake in millions of dollars in Australia each year.

They are difficult to find and successful prosecutions are rare.

See also:

16 Apr 02 | Music
Head to head: Music copying
05 Apr 02 | New Media
Music giant sued for piracy
04 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Pop stars protest piracy in Taiwan
19 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Meet the music pirate
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