Copyright infringement of audio-visual works, often referred to as piracy or warez, occurs when unauthorized copies are made of music, movies and similar works. Incidence of copyright infringement has grown dramatically since the late 1970s, as technology has facilitated the unauthorized duplication of copyrighted works. Unauthorized copies of original CDs, DVDs and other media are sold for very low prices around the world.
Copyright infringement surged in the entertainment industry after the advent of the VHS home video equipment. Initially, unauthorized recordings were made using hand-held video cameras to surreptitiously record movies shown at movie theaters.
In the 1990s, Unauthorized duplication of music CDs began to become an international phenomenon, especially in Asia and Latin America. It is estimated that over 100 million CDs have been illegally reproduced for selling. In the case of music CDs, it is much more difficult to catch copyright infringement. Illegal copies are unlikely to be found at retail stores; instead, copies are sold at on-street markets and other personal selling sites for as low as 1 USD.
Each country has different copyright laws that apply to music and film, which can cause legal difficulties when unauthorized works are sold digitally over the internet, as it is not yet clear which jurisdiction the crime falls. Most found guilty face a fine of varying degrees, although in some cases a jail sentence can be imposed. This is most likely to occur only for people manufacturing large quantities of unauthorized CDs/DVDs. In some countries, copyright infringement is rarely prosecuted, either due to privacy laws taking precedence over economic interests of copyright, overburdening of the judicial system or a simple grey area that has not yet been resolved legally.
Not everybody sees copyright infringement as a problem. Some see it as a natural evolution of society in conjunction with the rise of the internet, which fundamentally changes the way society operates. Where this article up to this point has largely described the views of the pre-Internet media industry, there are other views. Most of these views claim that, while copyright infringement is bad for the pre-internet media distribution corporations, it benefits the artists by increasing their audience past what would have normally been expected. There is an argument for this, and studies have occasionally shown that people who tend to download lots of music may also buy CDs of artists they discover this way, but reactions to these studies are mixed and the studies themselves may have been flawed in relying either on self-reporting or using too narrow a study group .
Film pirating groups in China tend to be large and highly-organized. In Houston, Texas, United States piracy groups consist of small groups of people with smaller operations; many pirated films are sold in flea markets.