Wednesday 10th December/…A factory suspected of producing thousands of counterfeit video games, film and music – with an estimated street value of £1million – has been stopped following a raid in the West Midlands.

The raid, in which 30,000 illegally copied discs were seized, was carried out on Friday December 5th at commercial premises in Brierley Hill, West Midlands. Other raids were carried out on the same day in the Sandwell area, including a market stall and a residential property.

West Midlands Police officers and members of Sandwell Council’s Trading Standards Department carried out the raids.

Huge quantities of illegally copied discs were found at the Brierley Hill premises. DVD duplicators were also found in an alcove behind a notice board.

Recovered from the premises were 10,000 blank discs and 30,000+ fraudulent software titles, including recent films and music such as High School Musical 3, Hancock and Mummy 3. That haul included at least 9,000 unlawfully copied discs containing videogame titles.

The majority of copied discs were housed in CD cases and it is believed that the purpose of the ‘business’ was independent sales and supplying discs for sale around the region. Seven computers attached to 35 DVD re-writers, three printers, 19 hard drives, 15 Xbox 360 consoles, two Wii consoles and a number of circumvention devices for ‘chipping’ games consoles were also recovered. All hardware is being forensically examined.

The raids in Cradley Heath and Halesowen were carried out simultaneously and resulted in the seizure of between 4,000-5,000 games and other digital media.

A number of suspects were arrested and released on Police bail pending further investigations.

Heading up ELSPA’s crime unit, John Hillier, said: “Piracy, like that of any other entertainment industry, costs us dear. Making good and inventive games is an expensive and creative process, with some titles today costing £20m or more to develop. To make a quality title involves teams of highly skilled professionals – from programmers and graphic artists to voice actors and musicians. When a pirate sells illegally copied games they undermine the viability, value and creativity of our industry. The worst-case scenario is that pirate activity could cost the jobs of some of the UK’s outstanding creative talent and that would be a catastrophe.

“The public should be aware of many other pitfalls of counterfeit games – some will even damage hardware such as consoles including PlayStation, Xbox and Wii. Other fakes will not play correctly at all. Most importantly, of course, pirated software comes with no quality assurance whatsoever – so if a game turns out to be faulty then retailers and publishers just will not replace them.”

Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, said: “ELSPA would like to thank Sandwell Trading Standards and West Midlands Police for all their help in this case. At this time of year more than ever we all know the cost to the industry – and the potential disappointment to the public – that these fake copies can cause. In the last few shopping days before Christmas the public should only buy consoles and game software from reputable dealers to avoid disappointment. Just as important, heed the PEGI age ratings on the box which help ensure that the right games reach the right players.”

Councillor Mahboob Hussain, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods & housing, said: “Sandwell Trading Standards has developed an excellent reputation for targeting and stamping out illegal activity involved with the counterfeiting and piracy of films, games and music.

“Such illegal trade damages legitimate businesses and deceives the public who receive poor quality inferior goods.”

Sandwell Council’s Deputy Trading Standards Manager Bob Charnley said: “Anyone in Sandwell who is either trading in counterfeit goods, or even thinking of doing so, should beware – you could be next to receive an early morning call!

“We are determined to protect legitimate business and adequately protect the public from becoming the recipient of sub-standard products.”

Kieron Sharp, Director General of FACT, said: “The high value of the counterfeit products seized in this raid should leave no one in any doubt that organised criminals are using films and TV programmes to fund their criminal lifestyles. The scale of such illegal operations and the profits they are making require planning and resource and FACT is working with law enforcement across the UK to target those behind such activities.”