The Motion PictureAssociation of America (MPAA) said it organised and conducted anti-piracyoperations in the Asia-Pacific region last year that resulted in nearly 13,000raids by law enforcement agencies, as well as the seizure of nearly 45millionpirated optical discs, a new record.

Videotape seizures in 2003dropped 55% compared to 2002, while seizures of recordable DVDs shot up 3,265%,demonstrating an emphatic technology shift by pirates towards the DVD and DVD-Rplatforms.

Seizures of machine-stampedDVDs climbed 101% in 2003, from 6.1million to 12.4million discs, while seizuresof VCDs - still the dominant piracy medium in the region -increased 11% from 24.6million to 27.3million discs.

'The statisticsclearly show several trends,' Mike Ellis, the MPAA's vice presidentand regional director of Asia-Pacific Anti-Piracy Operations, said in astatement.

'Firstly, the dramaticincrease in the production of DVD-Rs shows that pirates are moving toward adiversified manufacturing base. Nowadays, many small producers are contributingthousands of discs to an organisation.

'In the past, a singlefactory produced millions of discs on machinery costing over a million dollarsand if seized by authorities would result in the complete shutting down ofproduction.

'Secondly, the shiftaway from videotapes to DVDs parallels the same shift in the marketplace forlegitimate video product, demonstrating that video piracy is as market-drivenas any other business.'

Ellis continued: 'Thismeans that the fight against piracy can and should be conducted simultaneouslyagainst manufacturer/distributors and also at the street level, as well as byeducating consumers and government bodies about the negative social andeconomic impact of intellectual property theft.'

According to the MPAA, videopiracy in the Asia-Pacific region resulted in losses to copyright holders of$718m in 2003, an increase of $76m over the previous year.

China accounted for thegreatest loss, estimated at $178m from a 95% piracy rate. Japan accounted forthe region's second-biggest loss, an estimated $147m from a 9% piracyrate.

The organisation said thatsignificant progress had been made in the Hong Kong and Malaysia markets, withpiracy rates in Malaysia down one third over the past year, from 75% to 50%.The piracy rate in Hong Kong dropped from 25% to 20%.