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Algarve targeted by music piracy authorities

BARS, RESTAURANTS and nightclubs in the Algarve have had a bout of surprise checks by the Inspecção-Geral das Actividades Culturais (IGAC), a regulatory body of the Ministry of Culture.

The teams of inspectors have been turning up unannounced at establishments throughout the region demanding to see their music collections.

For every illegal pirate CD they found, the owner was charged 50 euros. The random inspections have also been clamping down on any sound equipment that has illegal downloading or recording material on them.  

Inspections took place throughout the summer in Lagos, Portimão, Albufeira, Loulé and, most recently, in Faro. Inspectors and police seized thousands of euros worth of computers and CDs containing illegally downloaded music.

The IGAC team scoured a selection of bars and restaurants in Lagos earlier this month, charging some owners in excess of 500 euros for having 10 fake CDs in their possession.

In February, inspectors seized 3,500 CDs in the same area. In June they targeted Albufeira and took 2,241 CDs and DVDs. In August a further 340 were taken from Loulé, as well as some sound recording equipment.

The crackdown is part of a new set of legislations that was announced in July of this year, in order to stop the illegal downloading and duplicating of copyrighted music.

Sales of music CDs in Portugal have plunged by 40 per cent in five years and people have warned that without stringent anti-piracy measures the Portuguese music industry is in danger of disappearing.

“It is a surprise to me to see the scale of the problem in Portugal,” said John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the organisation that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide.

“The illegal downloading and copying of copyrighted music strikes at the fundamental economic model of the industry,” he added. “If artists cannot be paid for the music they produce then ultimately they will stop making it.”

CD piracy is at high levels in Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain. The use of illegal p2p networks, where people upload and swap music online through large-scale illegal file sharing means that more people are listening to music. But fewer people are actually buying it.

As a result, IGAC in collaboration with IFPI have launched what they hope will be a sustained and effective public information campaign, warning people about the consequences of obtaining illegal music.

The campaign is part of 2,000 new actions, announced by IFPI in 10 countries around the world, targeting large scale up loaders. Anyone found to be in violation will face large fines and damage claims from record companies. Furthermore, the new measurements will bring legal action against parents whose children are using the family computer to access illegal material.

The worldwide campaign against music piracy began in 2004, focusing on encouraging legal downloading due to the huge amount of people who now have broadband access to the internet. Despite positive results for the majority of Europe, in Portugal it has not resulted in a significant fall in the level of illegal file sharing.

If the broadband market becomes anything like the mobile phone market in Portugal then there could be broadband in virtually every house within years.

Owners who have been victim of the recent bout of checks in the Algarve describe how many people are unaware of the extent of the piracy situation and the grave consequences.

The owner of one bar in Lagos told The Resident: “If we knew the impact our actions would have on the music industry I believe very few of us would be illegally downloading.”

Sales of Portuguese music account for nearly a quarter of music sales in Portugal and piracy is putting the survival of Portuguese music at risk. Unless the new campaign is adhered to, the industry faces a very real threat of witnessing the eclipse of Portuguese music.