Piracy threatens Czech music industry


The global music industry has experienced a slump in sales in recent years, and the situation for its Czech component is no different. One of the major threats to the music industry is piracy, and last year there was a record number of piracy cases discovered in the Czech Republic.

On Sunday, the British singer Robbie Williams said at a music trade fair in Cannes that he believes music piracy is "great" and that there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it. His remarks were criticised by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and the British Minister of Culture, Kim Howells.

The Czech music industry undoubtedly also scowled when it heard Robbie Williams' comments, as music piracy is a bigger problem in the Czech Republic more than ever before. Last year a record volume of pirated music was intercepted here by the Czech authorities and inspectors from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

They discovered 763 cases of music piracy which included 370,000 cassettes, CDs, DVDs and videos; all of this damaged the Czech music industry to a tune of more than 120 million crowns. Since the late 1990s music piracy has surged in the Czech Republic and official music sales have plummeted, with many Czechs preferring to purchase more affordable pirated versions.

But the problem is Europe-wide: in the European Union, there was a ten-fold increase in the volume of pirated goods intercepted by customs between 1998 and 2001, and the annual trade in pirated CDs there is estimated at 4 to 5 billion euros. The EU is especially concerned about the situation in the candidate countries because most pirated goods are smuggled into it from the east, and criminal gangs dealing in drugs and prostitution are very much involved in the trade. On Monday the European Commission came out with proposals for new, tougher laws aimed to combat the flow of pirated products into the EU.

The Czech police have undertaken some successful raids against pirates in the Czech Republic, but the European Commission has criticised the Czech government for not doing enough to combat music piracy. It wants the Czech Republic to strengthen its border controls and to improve the coordination of customs, the courts and police, so that the music trade in the country plays to the tune of the law.