DVD piracy to hit record levels over New Year holidays
ILLEGAL film downloading is expected to peak at an all-time high over the coming days.
Irish film industry research suggests that 100,000 movies are illegally downloaded every week in this country.
With people spending more time at home over the holiday season, this figure will climb even higher between now and New Year's Day.
The Audiovisual Federation, an industry group made up of Irish producers, studios and film company owners, estimates that 50pc of all DVDs sold in Ireland are illegal, costing retailers €80m in lost sales each year.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg -- the organisation believes the film-downloading market is many times larger than the DVD market.
Video rental company Xtra-vision's business manager, Brian Gilligan, says illegal film-downloading is becoming a huge issue.
"Physical piracy, car boot sales and whatever, have been there for a long, long time, but that was always a slightly seedy thing and was restricted to certain areas.
"With digital piracy people don't really see anything wrong with it. It's really a thing that's happening in middle-class suburbia and it's much more broadly based in society."
He rejected the notion that peer-to-peer sharing of films was essentially a victimless crime.
"I understand why they (downloaders) might look at Tom Cruise and not feel too guilty about taking money away from him but we have 1,400 employees and there are other retailers that employ ordinary people," he said.
"It's their livelihoods that are at risk here. It's not a victimless crime because most of the people in the production chain are just ordinary people."
Research carried out by company Millward-Brown in September found that almost a quarter of all Irish adults with internet access have downloaded films. A massive 80pc of these did not pay for their movies.
Earlier this year Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce a system of 'graduated response' to illegal music downloading.
Eircom launched a 'three-strikes-and-you're-out' approach.
Warning letters are sent to Eircom customers found to be illegally sharing music online.
Customers can have their service cut off for a year if they receive three such letters.
The film industry wants to see the Government bringing in similar legislation to curb film downloading.