Cheap CD copiers rock music world

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH music industry is reeling from the emergence of technology that has caused a revolution in the counterfeiting of compact discs.

Cheap equipment that can make 32 copies of CDs an hour is having a devastating effect on record sales and is slashing music-company profits.

Figures obtained by The Independent show that the number of seized counterfeited CDs doubled last year to 720,000.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) said there had been a further "tremendous escalation" of counterfeiting in the first six months of this year. The seizure figures are believed to constitute only a fraction of the total number of counterfeit CDs.

Whereas the problem was previously largely confined to plants in East Europe and Asia, the new technology has allowed British counterfeiters to work from bedrooms and attics. The BPI is lobbying for legislation to make councils and landowners responsible for the sale of fake CDs and other illegal goods on their land at markets or car boot sales.

David Martin, BPI head of anti-piracy measures, said the rise in counterfeiting coincided with the emergence of CD "towers", designed for multiple copying. "There are genuine uses for this equipment ... But you have to question why the man in the street needs to copy 32 CDs an hour." CD towers, costing about pounds 1,800 and bought by mail order or on the Internet, are legal. Blank CDs can be bought in bulk for 50p each and, because of digital technology, the sound is, in the words of the BPI, "very, very good".

There is little to distinguish the illegal product from the genuine, which retails on average for pounds 13.99. But Mr Martin said a hitch with some copiers meant one CD in 15 remained blank. A raid on a house in Hartlepool, Cleveland, last week uncovered two CD towers, two computers for making inlay cards and 500 counterfeited CDs.

The most frequently counterfeited artists are Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls, as well as artists at the top of the album charts including Boyzone, Abba and Texas.