New research has exposed the workplace as a "hotbed" of DVD piracy - with crimes being committed under the noses of lax executives.
While company directors claim to be concerned about staff involving themselves in film piracy in the office, very few are doing anything practical to stop it, despite the fact that it can expose businesses to risk and the threat of legal action.
Research carried out by IPSOS found that 26 per cent of people who buy pirate DVDs, buy them in the workplace.
Separate research from IT experts ICM Computer Group also reveals that managing directors are turning a blind eye to the potential risks of virus and spyware problems caused by staff downloading and file sharing copyright material at work.
In the light of these findings, The Industry Trust for IP Awareness, funded by DVD retailers and distributors, is this week launching a major awareness campaign, urging employers not to turn a blind eye to film piracy, while reminding both companies and consumers of the legal penalties that will be imposed on anyone found guilty of selling pirate DVDs.
Through its survey of more than 200 managing directors and senior executives, ICM Computer Group, found that 74 per cent of senior managers are "very concerned" by staff involving themselves in film piracy in the workplace, while 82 per cent are also very concerned about virus infections, hacking and other security breaches as a result of downloading or file sharing.
Despite these concerns, the research shows that 50 per cent of managing directors do not actively monitor or do not know if they monitor these activities, while 37 per cent of companies still do not have specific clauses in employment contracts regulating or prohibiting staff from downloading or file sharing.
Virus infections, security breaches or hacking, have been experienced by 23 per cent of companies as a result of file sharing and downloading activities taking place.
The campaign is the latest stage of a national blitz by the Industry Trust for IP Awareness to increase awareness that DVD piracy is not a victimless crime.
As part of the campaign, more than 100,000 information packs are being sent to businesses with 30 or more employees across the UK. The packs explain the risks to businesses of copyright theft, including the threat of virus infections or spyware from staff downloading unauthorised copyright material.
It also points out that the penalties for copyright theft range from a maximum fine of £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment in the magistrates court to an unlimited fine and/or up to ten years imprisonment at the Crown Court.
In extreme cases, company directors, who are found to actively assist or encourage copyright piracy on their premises, may be guilty of aiding and abetting the copyright offences.
In a case earlier this month, a Halesowen man was ordered to pay more than £2,000 by magistrates after admitting to selling pirate DVDs in the gym he owned.
Commenting on the campaign, Lavinia Carey, director general of the British Video Association and a Director of the Industry Trust for IP Awareness, said: "These startling findings highlight that a crime is taking place right under the noses of many companies.
"Workplace piracy impacts on staff productivity and in extreme circumstances could land company directors in very hot water.
"Our aim is not to threaten company directors but clearly, the trade in pirate DVDs and illegal downloading of movies is a massive problem for our industry and as the research shows, it is a major problem for businesses too."
Martin O'Donnell, ICM Computer Group's operations director for network services, also said: "As the research highlights, downloading and file sharing external material in the workplace is widespread among staff. It needs to be recognised as a serious issue by management as it can cause real problems for a company's network.
"Companies can improve their network security dramatically by taking a few simple and cost- effective precautions.
"These are aimed at shoring up loopholes in existing security structures and utilise a range of bolt-on solutions such as firewalls, corporate security software and traffic management applications. An up to date computer-user policy can also pay major dividends and is easy to implement.
"Having said that, there is no equal to a self-defending network solution which delivers the ultimate in corporate security through a mix of continuous monitoring and regulation."
* Anyone aware of DVD pirate activity can report it anonymously by calling the campaign hotline 0845 6034567 or via the campaign website piracyisacrime.com