Police smash suspected Pan-European music piracy ring
IFPI welcomes action against multi-million euro Masterbox operation in four countries
London, 25th October 2010 - More than 100 police officers in four countries have taken action against those involved in the manufacture, supply and sale of unlicensed CD and DVD box sets that generated millions of euro in illegal sales revenues.
The Masterbox series contained unlicensed music, films and television programmes. Each box set included an MP3 disc featuring up to 60 albums, some of them pre-release titles. Music from artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, Green Day and Robbie Williams was found in the Masterbox series, which ran to more than 50 editions.
Copies of Masterbox had a street value of around €40 and were sold informally across the Netherlands. It is estimated that more than 450,000 copies of the various editions were sold, totalling more than €19 million in illegal sales.
Police searched eight business premises and five homes across Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Spain over the last few days. The action was supported by IFPI, which represents the recording industry worldwide, who assisted the police in identifying and forensically testing evidence.
A major cross-border anti-piracy action
Jeremy Banks, director, anti-piracy at IFPI, today welcomed the internationally coordinated police action: "This was a major cross-border anti-piracy action against an operation that we believe was causing very significant losses to the legitimate music industry. Police took action against a gang that had generated millions of euro in illegal revenues by infringing the rights of artists, songwriters and record producers."
Officers from the Dutch fiscal police (FIOD-ECD) arrested three individuals in the Netherlands who are suspected of selling copies of Masterbox. A further suspect was arrested and held for questioning in Belgium.
The most recent editions of Masterbox have been produced in Bulgaria and police from the country's Cyber Crime Unit raided manufacturing plants in Sofia and Plovdiv.
Police in Poland, the Czech Republic and Italy had previously raided plants that had been used manufacture the box sets, but this was the first time international coordinated action was taken against the whole Masterbox supply chain.
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Notes to Editors
IFPI is the organisation that promotes the interests of the international recording industry worldwide. Its membership comprises some 1,400 major and independent companies in more than 66 countries. It also has affiliated industry national groups in 45 countries. IFPI's mission is to promote the value of recorded music, safeguard the rights of record producers and expand the commercial uses of recorded music in all markets where its members operate.
History of the Masterbox case
Investigations began in July 2006 when anti-piracy operatives in the Netherlands found copies of Masterbox being sold in markets. Local anti-piracy organisation BREIN drew the existence of the illegal series to the attention of the Dutch authorities.
In February 2008, German customs officers seized copies of Masterbox that were being shipped from Poland to the Netherlands for sale. The discs' origin was forensically traced back to manufacturing plants in Warsaw and Rybnik. These plants were raided in February 2009, with Polish police arresting four people.
The Masterbox gang switched manufacturing to Italy. In May 2009, the Italian Fiscal Police (GdF) raided a factory in Bologna. More than 80,000 discs, more than half of which were hidden in waste disposal sacks, were seized in the raid along with a manufacturing line, printing equipment and stampers. The plant ceased to manufacture the infringing box set and the operator still faces the prospect of court action and payment of a substantial fine.
Manufacture of Masterbox then moved to a plant in the Czech Republic, which was visited by anti-piracy operatives and agreed to cease producing the discs. A further forensic enquiry found the Masterbox gang had then switched manufacture to Bulgaria.