Anti-piracy operations in both Germany and the UK say they are making increasing inroads against DVD and video pirates.
In its annual report for 2003, the German Federation Against Copyright Theft (GVU) revealed that the fines German courts imposed in copyright cases increased to more than Euros 500,000.
Even though proceedings were dropped in most cases after imposing a fine and seizing the illegal copies and copying devices, the total number of criminal procedures ending with a jail sentence more than doubled between 2002 and 2003 from 23 to 51.
GVU board chairman Bodo Schwartz said that German courts are becoming less prone "to treat the theft of intellectual property as a 'peccadillo', but take them more and more seriously."
Meanwhile, the UK's Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), said that it has seized 250,000 pirated films since January 2004 alone - including counterfeit versions of Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ which will be released in the UK on March 26. It said the latest seizure represented a loss of over £1.25 million to the black economy.
Director of operations Jim Angell said: "The fact that we have seized 50% more titles this year compared to the same period last year indicates that piracy is a booming trade. However, our figures only represent a small proportion of the counterfeit products entering the country."
The most popular titles seized by FACT in 2003 were Finding Nemo, Master And Commander, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Kill Bill, Brother Bear, Calendar Girls and Love Actually.