Annual cost of film piracy put at £400m and rising as more copies are seized

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The Independent Online

Film piracy in Britain allegedly increased by 80 per cent last year, costing the movie industry £400m in lost sales.

The pirates' stranglehold was demonstrated when fake DVDs of the second Tomb Raider movie The Cradle Of Life were discovered on sale on British streets days before the film is premiered tomorrow.

Officials from the UK Film Council found DVDs of The Cradle Of Life for sale for £5 each in Oxford Street, London. A spokesman said: "They were shocking quality and there was no sound for at least the first five minutes."

Seizures in 2002 were double those of the previous year, with 659,000 illegal copies recovered worth a potential £10m.

Illegal copies are often sold by dealers at car boot fairs and street markets. They are packaged to look like the real thing but often suffer from poor sound, colour and clarity.

UK successes such as Bend it like Beckham, Gosford Park and 28 Days Later have all been copied by pirates while Hollywood hits The Hulk, Terminator 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean have been on the streets before a cinema release.

About one in three videos bought is believed to be an illegal copy. They can usually be spotted because they have no BBFC classification, and are said to often fund crime syndicates. The UK Film Council has set up a task force, which intends to map out the extent of the problem and find long-term solutions, such as toughening the law.

Mr Green said: "More than 50,000 people work in the UK's film and video sector and piracy is a direct attack on their jobs and our economy generally, inhibiting the growth of our own industry."

John Woodward, the chief executive of the UK Film Council, said: "People need to remember that when they buy a pirate DVD or video they are not only likely to end up wasting their money on a poor quality product, they are often putting money straight into the hands of organised criminals.

"Cheap copies from markets and car boot fairs may seem a bargain, but in the long-run we all lose out."