WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Sales of bootlegged music grew by nearly 50% worldwide last year, an industry group said on Tuesday, as pirates seized on a new recordable CD format to churn out 1.9 billion illegally duplicated units in 2001.
While the U.S. music industry worries most about lost sales from individuals downloading songs from the Internet, there is a bigger threat globally from unauthorized copying of CDs and cassettes, said the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI.
These illegal CDs and cassettes now account for two out of every five units sold worldwide, the group said, with piracy levels rising as high as 90% in countries like China.
Technology for recordable CDs, which are known as CD-Rs, have lowered the barriers to entry for pirates, the group said, making duplicating equipment cheaper and more portable. CD-Rs accounted for nearly one-quarter of pirated music sales last year, up from 9% the year earlier, the group said.
Most pirates operate sophisticated, international networks that take advantage of lax copyright-protection laws in countries such as Indonesia and Paraguay to manufacture and distribute their products, said Jay Berman, IFPI chairman and chief executive.
"Piracy on a global basis is for the most part a highly organized activity," Berman said at a press conference. "It takes a high level of sophistication to produce a disc at a plant in Malaysia and to find that disc in Brazil."
As former hotbeds such as Bulgaria and Ukraine crack down, pirates simply pack up and move to countries like Russia that have scant protections for copyright holders, he said.
Many governments need to beef up their copyright laws so police can seize pirated CDs and prosecute manufacturers, he said.
Certain countries should also regulate CD-manufacturing plants to limit abuses, said Neil Turkewitz, a VP with the RIAA.
Governments should require makers of blank CD-Rs to be licensed and print a unique tracking code on each disc they make, Turkewitz said, while duplicators should be required to verify that their customers hold the copyrights for music they want duplicated.
Berman said the recording industry was not trying to outlaw blank CDs.
"A blank CD-R by itself is a totally benign and legal product," he said.