In a new report reviewing U.S copyright piracy and market access problems, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) says that Western European countries were among the worst offenders in online game piracy.
The "Special 301 Report," filed by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) with the U.S. Trade Representative, details studies conducted in December 2008 tracking member-selected titles.
The studies found that users across 223 separate countries, territories and colonies downloaded illegal copies of games during the one-month period, with two of the most popular titles estimated to have been downloaded in 219 of those areas.
Users downloaded 6,429,279 illegal copies of just 13 tracked titles in December 2008, primarily through P2P networks BitTorrent and eDonkey; the two most popular games were downloaded 4,787,441 times.
Italy showed the heaviest illegal download activity, 17 percent, out of those countries, followed by Spain (15.1 percent), France (7.9 percent), Germany (6.9 percent), and Poland (6.1 percent). Israel, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Poland were ranked as the top heaviest downloading countries per capita.
The "Special 301 Report" also warns of high demand for illegal copies of home console and handheld games, and claims this indicates "widespread availability of circumvention devices and game copiers in many leading markets."
The IIPA says that governments should concentrate on improving and enforcing laws prohibiting circumvention devices to reduce the amount of video game software downloads for modified consoles and hardware designed to play pirated game copies.
The group, of which the ESA is a member, also recommended that 40 of the 48 foreign countries it tracks for copyright violations be named to an appropriate U.S. Trade Representative watch list.
"Piracy is the single greatest threat to the innovation, artistic commitment and technological advancements enjoyed by millions of consumers worldwide," says ESA CEO Michael D. Gallagher. "Piracy is a job killer that the world economy cannot afford in these difficult economic times."
"Countries that skirt obligations to combat piracy need to understand the unacceptable damage they are facilitating --and those countries that invest in protecting intellectual property rights and ensure that piracy is not tolerated at any level should be lauded."