Film piracy cost the UK industry $1.6bn (£800m) in 2005 and, with new platforms for distributing films illegally arising every year, the need to tackle organised crime has never been more urgent.

This is where the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) steps in, led by its new director general Kieron Sharp, a former police chief superintendent.

Sharp joined Fact in late 2006 to take a hard-nosed approach to film piracy and sniff out the ring leaders.

"We are now focused much more on intelligence-based enforcement to identify those manufacturing, distributing and selling pirate audio-visual material rather than solely seizing discs," he says.

Set up in 1983 to protect the UK film industry against counterfeiting, copyright and trademark infringements, Fact has taken a tougher stance in recent years. Thanks to "several million pounds" in funding each year from its members (including studios such as Paramount and Sony) Fact now has an analytical and intelligence unit to track illegal activities on the internet and other media platforms.

In 2006, Fact successfully investigated and assisted in the prosecution of 227 cases of piracy, compared with 124 in 2005, and shut down more than 100 illegal websites with the assistance of the police, Trading Standards and HM Revenue & Customs. In a recent case, the leader of an internet forum - known as Pir8 - which sold illegal material to more than 13,000 users in the UK, was given a four-year jail term, the heaviest for a UK film piracy prosecution to date.

"It was a benchmark case and should put the frighteners up people," says Sharp.

UK chancellor Gordon Brown has also taken an anti-piracy stance, setting aside $9.8m (£5m) for Trading Standards officers to combat copyright infringement, and supporting maximum 10-year prison sentences for gangs that pirate material.

But tackling this problem can be time consuming and costly. "We receive thousands of complaints from the public and film industry which are followed up before being fed into our intelligence unit," Sharp explains. "Extra work is then done on that intelligence to either enhance or corroborate it before it is passed to the investigators. This can take years of work.

"We have to be careful with the cases we take on because they can expand into large amounts of money," he continues. "For instance, the Pir8 case cost us a few hundred thousand pounds and that's with a guilty plea - but we do get the costs back on successful cases - and we have had something like a 98% conviction rate."