Asian authorities have seized 707,709 items of piratedJapanese entertainment software in the first four months of 2005, incooperation with the Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), anorganization representing the Japanese entertainment contents industry.

CODA chairman Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, who also heads theKadokawa media group,toldreportersthat the organisationinvestigated 994 stores suspected of selling pirated films, TV dramas, musicCDs, comics and games in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, resulting in 59 arrests.

Among the DVDs seized were those of Howl's MovingCastle, which has not yet been released on DVD in Japan. CODA estimated thelegitimate retail value of the items to total $9.7m (Y1.06bn). Takero Goto ofthe Japan Video Software Association, who headed the CODA task force, calledthis figure "only the tip of the iceberg."

Although a relatively minor problem in Japan, piracy hascut deeply into the earnings of Japanese entertainment contents makers in Asia.

The Cultural Affairs Agency has estimated that 84 percentof Japanese contents sold in China in 2003 were pirated copies, resulting inlosses of $5.05bn (Y550bn)

As the arrested dealers themselves noted, dealing drugsdraws the death sentence in China, whereas selling pirated DVDsand CDs ispunished far more lightly -- though the profits of piracy are greater.

CODA, which represent 23 software producers, will meetwith Chinese officials in Beijing later this month to discuss furtheranti-piracy measures, but a solution appears asdistant as the boomingChinese market for pirated contents is large.