Film And Music Industry First As Market Owners Take Rap For Piracy
The UK's music and film industries welcomed a key verdict delivered by St Albans Crown Court which could prove hugely significant as the UK's creative industries step up their fight against copyright crime.
UK record labels' association, the BPI, and film anti-piracy body FACT say the verdict against Wendy Fair Markets Ltd is significant as all previous commercial piracy cases have been brought against sellers or distributors, rather than the market owners themselves.
Directors Nicholas Hobday and Sally Ward, together with the company itself, were yesterday found guilty of money laundering charges. Sentencing will take place in September 2007.
The case was brought by Hertfordshire Trading Standards after the BPI and FACT uncovered evidence that the defendants and company were benefiting financially from the illegal sale of counterfeit DVDs, CDs, and computer software at Hemel Hempstead's Bovingdon Market.
It marks the first time a market operator has been convicted of accepting - in the form of pitch rents - money it knew, or suspected, had been earned through criminal means.
Both the company, Wendy Fair Markets Ltd - who operate 17 other UK markets, including music and film piracy hotspot Wembley Market - and the directors, could lose their assets as they are now vulnerable to a claim under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Seven traders also face the possibility of custodial sentences; two of whom were found guilty of copyright offences yesterday after five others pleaded guilty earlier in the year.
The verdict, delivered yesterday, follows a seven-week trial at St Albans Crown Court, and the BPI and FACT have vowed to use this verdict to prevent rogue market owners from allowing the sale of fakes at their markets.
Kieron Sharp, FACT Director General, said: "This is a great result for a joint agency initiative and shows that the market organisers were clearly allowing criminal activity to take place on a weekly basis at Bovingdon Market.
"Evidence gathered by FACT, BPI and Hertfordshire Trading Standards left the court in no doubt about the level of criminality occurring. I would like to thank Hertfordshire Council for their determination in pursuing this case."
BPI anti-piracy manager David Wood said: "Most markets and car boot sales operate a strict no-fakes policy, but a significant number of owners still turn a blind eye to rampant counterfeiting and piracy, whilst raking in the profits.
"It is plainly wrong that rogue market and car boot sale owners are able generate huge profits from criminal trade that takes place blatantly and openly under their noses. This ruling, we hope, will send a clear message to these market owners that they need to clean up their act or face prosecution."
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