Japan's Strategic Council on Intellectual Property has announced measures to crack down on movie piracy.

The council, led by recently-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will hold a special investigative session on November 17th to discuss issues to be reflected in next summer's Intellectual Property Rights Initiative 2007.With input from the Ministry of Education and the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the committee aims to present the bills in the Diet in 2008.

The initiative targets auction sites such as a Yahoo! Auctions, Rakuten and Bidders (eBay has no Japanese portal), which are becoming a hotbed for auctioneers selling bootleg DVDs and CDs.

While auction sites have cooperated with requests from the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Trade, Economy and Industry (METI) to ban auctioneers of pirated goods, without new laws it remains a laborious effort and is hindering business growth.

At present, only completed transactions involving the sale of pirated DVDs and CDs constitute breaking the law, while the proposed changes will broaden the scope to include the initial auctioning or advertising of bootleg products.

Additionally, police could previously get involved only upon claims from original copyright holders, who have sometimes expressed fear of organised crime retaliation. Under the new laws, such official complaints won't be required for the laws to be enforced independently.

Police agencies got involved in 145 piracy cases in 2005, a 33% increase over the previous year.

A recent case in Osaka saw the arrest of a ring of 20 vendors selling pirated DVDs and CDs, including recent Hollywood hits The Da Vinci Code and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

However, the prosecuted cases are considered only the tip of the iceberg. At last month's Tokyo International Film Festival, Motion Picture Association (MPA) CEO Dan Glickman delivered a keynote address at an anti-piracy seminar pegging 2005 losses at $742m, with $178m of that attributed to internet piracy.

Earlier this year, the Japan and International Motion Picture Copyright Association (JIMCA), the Japanese branch of the MPA, launched an aggressive anti-piracy campaign currently playing before films at cinemas.

Actress Mitsuki Tanimura cries tears of silver nitrate as she states "films are being stolen" and appeals to the public to not watch or buy pirated films.

The stepped-up efforts to fight piracy come during one of the strongest years ever at the Japanese box office.