It has taken some years for the Government to recognise that the greatest menace of copyright piracy is not its deleterious impact on relations with the USA, but the crippling effect it has on local industry. Since it was revealed that film companies have lost $1 billion in revenue because of intellectual counterfeiting, the Hong Kong authorities are determined to step up the fight against piracy. But without extremely tough measures, they have a daunting task ahead. While the economic downturn continues, the temptation to buy fake CDs, VCDs and computer software at a fraction of the cost, is probably too great for many cash-strapped customers to resist. Stricter laws introduced last year imposed new penalties of up to a maximum of eight years in jail and a $500,000 fine, but this has failed to stem a tide which has swollen from around 60 million discs then to an estimated 400 million discs today. The biggest battle lies in getting the public to accept that buying counterfeit goods is wrong. The general feeling appears to be that it is not depriving a legitimate manufacturer of profits, if his products are beyond the financial reach of the customer. People often buy fake goods because it is not a matter of choice. The only other option is to go without, but in the climate of the present age, that is not considered a viable alternative. Punishing buyers may drive the message home that this is an offence with a direct effect on Hong Kong's economy; but it will be difficult to draft workable legislation. The burden of proof would be extremely difficult to establish, and realistically it is only by leaving no hiding place for producers or vendors that the trade can be stopped. With vast profits involved, and the business so well established that even the PLA has been discovered operating mainland pirate factories, it is likely to be years rather than months before the problem is controlled. Holding the Asian Symposium of the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Hong Kong will focus attention on the Government's determination to clamp down on offenders. But the real challenge is to change attitudes, convincing buyers that buying fakes is an anti-social act. That will be almost as difficult as punishing them by law.