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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Italy cracks down on CD piracy
CD store
CDs have a 20% sale tax in Italy

Italy is fighting back in the battle against music piracy by introducing tough laws for those illegally buying and selling pirated music on street stalls.

Street vendors could be fined 103 euros (70) for every pirate copy they sell and may also face between six months and three years in prison.

Buyers of illegal CDs, who up until now have gone unpunished, will be fined 154 euros (106) if caught buying illegal CDs and repeat offenders could be hit with a fine of 1,000 euros (700) when the new law is introduced on Tuesday.

Italy has one of Europe's largest counterfeit markets and the music industry estimates that one in four compact discs sold is pirated.

The illegal trade is worth an estimated 120m (83) euros annually and the Italian record industry has experienced losses of about 11% in the past three years.

Milan street scene
CDs are sold on streets, beaches and in cafes and restaurants

The success of the new laws will depend on the attitude of the Italian police, according to Luca Vespignani of the Italian federation against music piracy.

"Up to now it was policed in a very lax way, and a tougher law introduced in 2000 was never really applied," he said.

"Everything will depend on the will of the police. If they start applying the law, people will stop buying," he added.

Italy's customs force, which will be in charge of enforcing the new measures, said the public should be made to understand the background to CD piracy.

"People must be educated, there are big criminal organisations which finance other more dangerous trafficking with the proceeds of the CD business," said a spokeswoman for The Guarda di Finanzia.

The piracy problem in Italy is compounded by the cost of legitimate CDs in music shops, with VAT making up a fifth of the price of each disc.

Italian artists, including Andrea Bocelli and Paolo Conte, signed a petition last year asking the government to reduce the tax.

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