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European Study Shows Widespread Tape Piracy

July 11, 1986|MILAN RUZICKA | Associated Press Writer

STRASBOURG, France — Cassette tapes of rock music sell briskly on the streets of Istanbul, Lisbon and Athens, but the recording industry is not rejoicing. Most of the tapes are counterfeit.

Studies commissioned by the record and tape producers show that in Turkey 90% of all sound recordings are pirated--duplicated without authorization and sold under a label that resembles the original.

The International Federation of Phonogram and Videogram Producers (IFPI) estimated in a report issued last year that piracy costs the recording industry worldwide more than $1.2 billion a year.

The study found that in 1984 piracy in Western Europe alone represented sales of 50 million cassettes and 5 million discs. Those figures do not include bootlegging, the covert recording of live performances, or home taping.

In Portugal, eight out of 10 cassettes are counterfeits, and in Greece pirate tapes account for almost 70% of the market, the producers say.

Even greater numbers of pirate tapes reportedly are sold in Spain and Italy, although counterfeits represent a lower share of the market, 50% in Spain and 25% in Italy.

Under pressure from the European recording industry, which employs some 120,000 people, the 21 member countries of the Council of Europe appointed a special task force in 1983 to study the problem and make recommendations.

Trevor Stevens, an official of the Strasbourg-based council who coordinates the work of the task force, said virtually all West European countries have enacted laws to protect copyright owners and punish infringements.

"We don't need new laws, we just have to enforce the ones we have," Stevens said in an interview.

The group, composed of senior government officials, has completed its study and is to make recommendations later this year.

Stevens said the group will be asking governments that are members of the Council of Europe to step up police enforcement of copyright legislation and to impose stiff penalties for piracy.

The federation of producers agrees that a police crackdown is the most efficient way to bring counterfeiting under control.

Its report said large-scale seizures of pirate tapes in Italy and Greece brought an encouraging reduction in piracy. However, the federation also said that the situation must be constantly policed to prevent counterfeiters from bouncing back.

The recording industry says home taping, which is legal in much of Europe, is even a bigger financial drain than piracy. To recoup its losses, the industry is seeking a surcharge on blank tapes, but is running into public opposition.

A British government proposal for a 10% levy on blank tapes triggered a campaign from church groups and institutions for the handicapped.

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