Mike Fleming

The Los Angeles Anti-Piracy Task Force today announced that it made 10 arrests and seized over $4 million in pirated product. At the same time, the website TorrentFreak claims that the record setting film Avatar was the most illegally downloaded film with over 16 million lifts, while blockbusters like Inception (9.72 million), Iron Man 2 (8.8 million) and Clash of the Titans (8 million), Sherlock Holmes (7 million) ranked high on the list of films hurt by piracy. Since those films still made global fortunes, would those numbers have been even higher without piracy, or are those pirates still going to the theater to see movies which are shown to best advantage on a big screen?

Here is the release by the L.A. Anti-Piracy Task Force:

(Los Angeles) – As part of its enforcement efforts to crack down on pirated and counterfeit goods, the Los Angeles Anti-Piracy Task Force, chaired by City Controller Wendy Greuel, announced the results of “Operation Chimney Sweep”, the largest raid on counterfeit goods in Los Angeles history.

“People who make counterfeit goods are stealing, plain and simple, it’s the same as picking someone’s pocket or shoplifting,” said Councilwoman Greuel. “We lose more than 100,000 jobs and billions of dollars to our economy each year because of these crimes. During these difficult economic times, every dollar lost to piracy represents wages lost for hardworking Angelenos. This should serve as a wake up call, not only to the criminals that produce and sell these illegal goods, but to all of the holiday shoppers out there. Piracy is serious business, but we are determined to sweep it out of Los Angeles.”

During the 2010 holiday season, under the leadership of the Anti-Piracy Task Force, dozens of officers – along with investigators from private industries – launched massive raids throughout Los Angeles making arrests and seizing millions of dollars of pirated movies, music and apparel.

Operation Chimney Sweep arrested 10 criminals and seized $4.06 million worth of counterfeit goods. Since it’s inception in 2004, the LAPD’s Anti-Piracy team has served 181 search warrants, made 498 arrests and seized $93.8 million worth of illegal goods. When you combine the LAPD and the LA Sheriff’s Departments numbers over the past five years, there have been over 700 arrests made and more than $305 million worth of counterfeit goods seized.

“Counterfeiters are often involved in other, more dangerous illicit activities. Few realize that the money a consumer pays for a counterfeit product may very well be financing even more serious criminal activities- like gang crime,” said City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. “As the top law enforcement official in the City of Los Angeles, I will work with my partners to thoroughly investigate and vigorously prosecute those involved in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of counterfeit merchandise.”

The Los Angeles Anti-Piracy Task Force was formed in February 2007 to combat the crippling impact to the Los Angeles economy of the counterfeit goods trade. Worldwide piracy disproportionately harms the entertainment and creative industries based in Los Angeles. Counterfeit goods cost Los Angeles County businesses $5.2 billion in lost revenue annually, plus $2 billion in losses for the retail sector, according to a report released by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC). According to the LAEDC, piracy costs the Los Angeles economy jobs across nine sectors for a total of $4.4 billion in lost wages each year

“In today’s difficult economic times, it is tempting to purchase goods at a lower price. Frequently, these are pirated goods from unscrupulous sources. It is important to remember, while you may feel you are getting a bargain, there are victims involved, and the funds gained are used for criminal enterprise,” said LAPD Deputy Chief David Doan. “This operation was a long term effort that exemplifies cops working in partnership with other law enforcement agencies. It is the culmination of a long term partnership with these law enforcement agencies which significantly reduced the operations of a number of thieves, thugs and hoodlums, living and operating in the shadows here in Los Angeles and abroad.”

The Anti-Piracy Task Force has worked to generate policy recommendations and identify resources to deal with the problem of piracy. The task force is taking a three-pronged approach to fighting the production and sale of illegally duplicated movies, music and apparel. This strategy includes improving education, creating new policies and increasing enforcement.

“The film industry is one of America’s greatest exports that drives economic growth, provides good jobs, and generates vital revenue for governments and communities at all levels, especially in Los Angeles,” said Larry Hahn, Director U.S. Content Protection, Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. “We are grateful to the City of Los Angeles

and the LAPD for their leadership and sustained commitment to curbing piracy in Los Angeles, the film and television capitol of the world.”

“On behalf of the major U.S. music labels, we thank the L.A. Anti-Piracy Task Force, and particularly the Los Angeles Police Department and L.A. Sheriff’s Office, for their continued efforts to root out counterfeiting and piracy,” said Marcus Cohen, Director of Investigations, Western Region Office, RIAA. “Their hard work has resulted in heightened consumer awareness, more criminals off the street, the implementation of meaningful new policies, and – during this holiday season and in this difficult economic time – the preservation of many jobs of those in the creative community whose livelihoods are directly threatened by this theft. This historic holiday enforcement action sends a strong message to criminals that this kind of illegal activity won’t be tolerated while raising a red flag for last-minute holiday shoppers.”

The task force includes a diverse cross section of the leaders representing law enforcement, business, government and the entertainment industry. Members include: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, United States Attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, as well as other city, county, state agencies and members of the recording and film industries.

Get Deadline news and alerts sent to your inbox.