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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Taking the fight to music's pirates
By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

News of record companies being hit by piracy brings to mind concerned executives sitting in boardrooms. But they also employ teams who go around the world hunting down those who make and sell illegal copies of CDs.

Iain Grant
Iain Grant says corruption and bribery is a big problem
Iain Grant, the head of enforcement at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), tells BBC News Online about his work.

The battle against the music pirates - the organised crime lords and racketeers copying chart CDs in their millions - is often a dangerous one.

Iain Grant, who used to head Hong Kong police's narcotics department until 1997, is a man you would not expect to be easily ruffled.

He and his team of 50 enforcement officers working around the world for the IFPI's anti-piracy wing gather intelligence for local enforcement to crack down on the pirates.

Millions of dollars are potentially at stake, and the pirates are not happy to have their cash flow cut off.

Recently, the IFPI helped set up a raid on a notorious market near Mexico City called Tepito - using 1500 armed officers. There was a four-hour long battle with racketeers before arrests were made.

"I wasn't at Tepito at the time of the raid," Mr Grant says. "But I have been there. It's not a very comfortable place to be.


"I was back in Mexico a few weeks ago, at a market in Guadalajara. What I saw there was wall-to-wall pirating. CDs software, games, local music.

"What was clear to me is it's almost like a syndicate - and they seem to operate with a price cartel.

"You can have 50 or 60 stalls, and there seem to be no difference in price, and pretty much the same stock."

One of our deterrents is these guys know at least there's a prospect they might get caught
Iain Grant, head of enforcement, IFPI

It is not the kind of place he relishes sticking around.

"If I go down to these markets, I make sure I take my watch off beforehand," he says.

In Malaysia, a raid on pirates turned ugly when a local Triad gang turned up.

"We've had situations that have not been resolved, and our guys have had to retire gracefully," he says.

Music piracy - which the IFPI estimates has a market worth $4.5bn (2.44bn) a year - is such a profitable business that corruption is often a huge obstacle.

The pirates - some of whom raise funds for criminal syndicates or terrorist groups - are often able to bribe their way out of trouble.

"Some of my guys in Indonesia were on a raid with the police and when they turned up they found a military unit were acting as private security for the pirates.

"There was a fairly tense time while the police had to negotiate with these military guys," he adds.

"In Russia only about 37% of the raids result in prosecution, and only about 8% result in a conviction. The criminal justice system there does not engage in the way it is supposed to."

The IFPI's agents have to go undercover to gather intelligence on the pirates

The sheer scale of piracy - Mr Grant and his IFPI colleague regularly talk of hundreds of millions of illegal CDs being made each year in pirate factories - makes the problem seem almost insurmountable.

But Mr Grant says there have been enough successes to give them cause for confidence. Music piracy may be still rising - up to 35% of CDs in sold are thought to be counterfeit - but the rate of that rise is dipping.

'Financial penalty'

"Of course, you're looking at something like containment, but one of our deterrents is these guys know at least there's a prospect they might get caught."

Mr Grant says one of the IFPI's most high-profile victories was against a Hong Kong organised crime syndicate called Golden Science.

When it was raided in 1998, it had 41 machines to press CDs - enough to make millions of discs a year.

The two suspects jumped bail and the IFPI was involved in a seven-year case that finally ended in the pair receiving six-and-a-half year jail terms, as well as having some of their assets seized.

Mr Grant laughs as he recalls the case.

"There has been a definite financial penalty. Their 41 machines have been locked up in a Hong Kong warehouse for the last seven years, and I don't think it's air-conditioned.

"They'll have to find a pretty good engineer to get them working again."

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