The UK Intellectual Property Office issued a press release on 6 April announcing new powers to help tackle counterfeiting and piracy, effective immediately.

£5 million of government funding will make enforcement of copyright infringement the responsibility of Trading Standards and give officers the power to make test purchases, enter premises and inspect and seize goods and documents.

Malcolm Wicks, MP, the Minister for Science and Innovation, said:

“The UK film, music and game industries are among the most creative and innovative in the world, but peddlers of counterfeits are costing those industries up to £9 billion a year. The taxpayer is also losing out to the tune of £300 million. It’s a serious offence, whether committed by small-scale hawkers or international crime organisations.

While the actual amount that the industries lose due to piracy and counterfeiting is debatable (do they compare to previous sales figures, or use an estimate of piracy activities? And in the latter case, piracy does not always mean a loss of sale: there is undoubtably a significant number of people who would be more discriminate about the goods they consumed if they did indeed have to pay (full price) for them), it could also be said that while piracy costs taxpayers 300 million pounds, they may also be saving the difference between the 9 billion and the amount that they paid for the goods. In sum, the “it is costing you money” argument is less likely to convince users of pirated and conterfeit goods of their “loss” than it is likely to persuade “honest consumers” to see the benefits of the new laws.

What is more striking about the announcement however, is the UK’s clear labelling of piracy and counterfeiting as a source of revenue and money laundering for international crime organisations.

Japan’s Intellectual Property Strategy Headquarters has made the same move in recent years, both to educate consumers about whom the money from their purchases of counterfeit goods is likely to flow to, and at the same time cracking down on IP-related crime including copyright and patent infringements.

The UK announcement also shows that, at least at face value, the new measures are aimed at bolstering the Britain’s creative industries.

The UK Policy shift appears to be acting on recommendations in the Gower Report (here in PDF), which urged the government to “take tough action against those who infringe IP rights at a cost to the UK’s most creative industries”.