The record industry on Wednesday urged Taiwan to crack down on the blank CDs fueling the booming global trade in pirated music. "We need the co-operation of the (Taiwanese) government and the manufacturers and quite frankly we haven't got it," said Jay Berman, head of the industry's trade body, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Technology for recordable CDs, which are known as CD-Rs, has made business much easier for pirates, who can now use cheaper and more portable duplicating equipment.
The IFPI has calculated that CD-Rs accounted for nearly a quarter of pirated CD sales last year. Illegal cassettes and CDs now account for two out of every five units sold worldwide, the group said in its latest update report released last month.
It is calling on governments to tighten copyright laws and get the makers of CD-Rs to be licensed and print a unique tracking code on each disc they make. Berman wants Taiwan to take action now over the blank CDs that have become a tool for pirates around the world.
"We have had seizures in Latin America of CD-Rs produced in Taiwan. We have had major raids in Spain, the Netherlands, all over the world," he told Reuters in an interview.
"We are taking the IFPI board to Taiwan in the fall as we regard it as a very, very serious problem. It is fuelling piracy," he said on a visit to Brussels for the IFPI record industry awards.
He said: "We need the Taiwanese to address the fact that so much of this is finding its way into the pirate market. We are talking serious hundreds of millions here."
Counterfeiters are finding it easier to move around and work in much smaller groups.
"Increasingly we are finding CD-Rs are being produced in mini-factories. We find it a lot in places like Italy in a garage or in apartment buildings," he said.
"They could have up to 100 CD 'burners' (copying onto blank discs) running simultaneously and producing up to 100,000 a day," he added.
The IFPI argues very forcibly that pirate CDs are not just a victimless crime that benefits the consumer who is getting a record on the cheap.
Berman argues that the economic losses due to piracy are enormous, attracting organised crime and striking the whole way through the $37 billion music industry in loss of investment, growth and jobs.
The latest IFPI figures show that sales of bootlegged music grew by nearly 50 percent worldwide last year. Pirates produced almost two billion illegal copies on recordable CD format.
It is not the only headache the beleaguered industry has to deal with. There is also constant concern about lost sales from individuals downloading songs from the Internet.