Hong Kong's Motion Picture Industry Association (MPIA) has stepped up the fight against piracy by launching an online database which carries updated information on a film's copyright.

The database, at www.mpia.org.hk , allows law enforcement officials - in both Hong Kong and overseas - to check a film title against detailed information about the copyright holder in each territory. "At present, officials have to call us for the information and it takes time," said MPIA chief executive Woody Tsung. "The database allows them to carry out investigations more quickly and around the clock." He added that the MPIA plans to track the buying and selling of Hong Kong and foreign film rights within Asia, so that the database is kept up to date.

Set up with a $154,000 (HK$1.2m) grant from the Hong Kong government's Film Development Fund, the English and Chinese-language database also has a section available to the public which is designed as a promotional tool. It contains credits and box office information for more than 3,000 Hong Kong films, dating from the 1950s to the present day.

Hong Kong customs officials have been testing the database for the last two months and the MPIA plans to introduce it to overseas officials in a series of workshops over the next few months. "Hong Kong films have been losing revenue due to piracy overseas, particularly in South East Asia, for many years," said Tsung. "Using technology to combat the problem seemed like the logical step."

VCD piracy decreased in Hong Kong in 2001, but DVD piracy is on the rise. Customs officials seized 2.5 million pirated VCDs from January to October, 2001, compared to 3.8 million for the whole of 2000. However nearly 300,000 pirated DVDs were seized during the same period, compared to only 130,000 the previous year.