West Midlands police last week smashed one of the UK's largest ever counterfeit software operations.
In association with Birmingham City Trading Standards and investigators from the Crime Unit at European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), the police raided a commercial computer shop in the Stetchford area of Birmingham. The raid to the discovery of over 2,000 suspect counterfeit PlayStation games, along with 5,000 blank discs and a large amount of cash.
The search uncovered 40 computer systems, with a number of these in the process of producing illegal software at the time of the operation.
According to the police the property seized had an estimated value of £340,000, which included the potential retail value of the counterfeit software. Two men were arrested and are being questioned over Trademark, Copyright and Theft Act offences.
Terry Anslow, Chief Investigator at ELSPA, warned consumers that by condoning software piracy they were aiding and abetting serious criminals, often involved in offences ranging from drugs to child pornography. "The majority of this money is going to organised criminals, about 80 percent of our raids uncover other serious criminal matters," he said, "There is even growing paramilitary involvement."
ELPSA has outlined the principal reasons for consumers to be concerned over software piracy as follows:
- Local and national jobs are lost as a result of pirate operations
- Pirated goods are often mixed with obscene materials including child pornography
- Consumers have no recourse under law for faulty pirated goods
- Sales of pirate software are often used by terrorist organisations
- Proven links exist between many organised pirate organisations and dealers in drugs and pornography