The US videogame industry lost $1.9 billion to global piracy last year, half of which originated in Korea and China, according to the Washington-based Intellectual Digital Software Association. The group is asking US trade officials to "take action" against 50 countries which "do not do enough to stop piracy". When we spoke to the European Leisure Software Publishers Association's Director General Roger Bennett this afternoon however, he said he thought the IDSA's figures were "extremely optimistic". The ELSPA Crime Unit conducts its own research with a number of personnel on the streets co-operating with law enforcement agencies to quash piracy, but its figures for 2001 still shows as much as £3 billion in losses in the UK alone, more than twice the figure quoted by the IDSA for America. ELSPA's data is based on the UK videogame industry turnover and crime unit data, topped with a sprinkling of common sense. It says that for every ten games manufactured, the companies make roughly a third of the money they should. Unlike the IDSA however, ELSPA has "less clout" with the UK government, although Bennett pointed out that if it wanted to, Tony Blair's administration could deal a crippling blow by tightening trade with problem countries like Korea and China. He also commented that the problem with many of these countries is that their economies simply cannot support a competitive videogame industry, and so the black market is all that's available, and easy export to the US and UK makes it a tidy business. As far as the PSone is concerned, Bennett pointed to the proliferation of CD writers and CDR imports from Europe, saying that the medium is used "almost exclusively for distributing copyrighted material". While the situation has improved with the PlayStation 2, which is distinctly more difficult to pirate games for, there is still a ludicrous amount of piracy. The GameCube's "minidisks" are a good start, but he expressed doubt over the security of Microsoft's Xbox. But are Sony and other console manufacturers (not to mention third party publishers) shooting themselves in the foot by not releasing their products in all English-speaking territories concurrently, whilst fighting importers from behind their shield of localisation? He wouldn't be drawn on that one, but suggested that the only way we're likely to see simultaneous worldwide releases is in "a perfect world". So until such time as Earth evolves into a utopian society, importers are likely to be penalised just the same as pirates, with the same restrictions affecting them. Does this, as the ACCC is arguing in Australia, restrict citizens from reaping the benefits of globalisation? Perhaps, but the piracy problem takes precedent, and unfortunately for gamers who feel downtrodden by Sony's quest to vanquish imports as an extension of its battle against mod chips, ELSPA will offer no contest. Related Feature - Sony Suffer Screen Indigestion?
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