The total value of the UK black economy is estimated to be as high as £100bn per year, including fake designer clothes, CDs and computer games. Experts claim that it is easy to run off hundreds of copies of a computer game each week using cheap and easily available equipment, and that this is costing the computer game industry up to £3bn per year.
According to Roger Bennett, director general of the European Leisure Software Publishing Association (Elspa), ten copies of a game are pirated for each one sold legitimately. He insists that the concept of copyright must be defended if it is to survive.
"We can only address this problem in one way and that is to enforce the copyright law in this country and catch and prosecute illegal traders and manufacturers," he told the BBC.
Video game developers are coming up with increasingly sophisticated methods to prevent their creations being copied. For example, Codemasters has come up with a special antipiracy code that causes an illegally copied version of a game to "degrade" over time.
The code will be integrated into a PlayStation game. If a duplicate of the game is made then the code will be triggered in the copied version, and over time the game will be come unplayable -- either through running slower and slower, or by causing a player to constantly lose.
Codemaster hopes that this will discourage piracy, because users won't be able to trust an illegal copy.
The BBC investigation, Black Market Britain, will be broadcast on BBC Radio Four at 7pm this evening.
For complete gaming news, see GameSpot UK.
Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet news forums.