Intellectual Property

Dead Over a DVD

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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has attempted to stop movie piracy by suing illegal downloading sites and their users, convincing bit torrent insiders to sell out their fellow pirates, and hacking those same sites and installing malicious code, with little effect.

Under the new direction of former federal prosecutor John Malcolm, the MPAA is now using dogs to combat piracy. The cute and cuddly pooches are trained to sniff out the polycarbonates used to make illegal DVDs, and have assisted in 35 raids, the confiscation of 1.9 million illegal DVDs, and the discovery of almost 100 burning stations. 

But the recent death of one of the dogs establishes a tragicomic parallel with the drug wars:

A yellow Labrador retriever named Manny, an MPAA-trained disc-sniffer, died last month in Malaysia at the age of 1. The MPAA is awaiting an autopsy report, but suspects the dog might have been murdered.

"Word on the streets," Malcolm said, was that disc-counterfeiting groups had put out a hit on the disc-sniffing pooches.

"We heard from enough people, we took it as a threat," Malcolm said. "We are very interested in getting the autopsy report. We are very concerned. I'm not looking to cast aspersions. But Manny all of a sudden died."

The two remaining dogs, worth $17,000 each, have likely recouped their costs a hundred times over, and there's no reason for the MPAA to discontinue the program unless, A) pirates kill all the dogs; B) Pirates figure out how to make DVDs out of something other than polycarbonates; or, C) The MPAA catches all the pirates. 

Seeing as the latter two futures are unlikely, I wonder how many dogs the MPAA would have to lose before it considered a thoughtful response to piracy?

reason's copyright archive here.

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  1. The cute and cuddly pooches are trained to sniff out the polycarbonates used to make illegal DVDs,

    Do illegal DVDs smell different than legal ones?

  2. Word on the street is that their is a hit on a dog? WTF? I had to check every link just to make sure it wasn’t a joke.

  3. A horse’s head worked for Woltz, a dead hooker for the senator, this oughtta silence the MPAA!

  4. Is yellow labrador a delicacy in Malaysia?

    Autopsy or barbeque?

  5. Word on the street is that their is a hit on a dog? WTF? I had to check every link just to make sure it wasn’t a joke.

    This actually happens a great deal with drug dogs. And it is no joke.

  6. and there’s no reason for the MPAA to discontinue the program unless, A) pirates kill all the dogs; B) Pirates figure out how to make DVDs out of something other than polycarbonates; or, C) The MPAA catches all the pirates.

    Well, of those three, I can guarantee “C” ain’t happenin’.

    Word on the street is that their is a hit on a dog? WTF? I had to check every link just to make sure it wasn’t a joke.

    This actually happens a great deal with drug dogs. And it is no joke.

    That’s what dogs get for being codependent lackeys for The Man. You’d never catch a cat doing that.

  7. How is the bounty?

    Travis might start a new profession dog hitman.

  8. How much is the bounty?

  9. This actually happens a great deal with drug dogs. And it is no joke.

    You’ve got the “no joke” part right. In many (most?) jurisdictions, killing a police dog is just like or just short of killing a human police officer. And we already know that the government says police officers’ lives are worth more than the lives of everyone else.

    Of course, the police will kill your dog without a second thought and without apology.

  10. “The two remaining dogs, worth $17,000 each, have likely recouped their costs a hundred times over, ….”

    And how exactly have the dogs recouped their cost even once? Only in MPAA lawyers’ briefs does stopping movie piracy make money.

  11. I would say the MPAA’s behaviour is more defensable than than the war on drugs.

    Use of drugs by informed consenting adults is clearly a victimless crime.* However, it is at least debatable whether selling bootlegged DVDs is (the whole “intellectual property” argument).

    And I’ve never heard of a “Copyright Enforcement exception to the Bill of Rights” or any drug-war level horror stories about overzealous enforcement.

    * To the extent that there are legitimate concerns about anything related to drug use; addressing them no more requires bannings drugs than fighting drunk driving requires banning alcohol.

  12. Report them to PETA! 🙂

  13. That’s what dogs get for being codependent lackeys for The Man. You’d never catch a cat doing that.

    While I can’t get behind dog killin’, I have much more respect for cats because of this. They serve no one but themselves and occasionally a family member.

  14. The MPAA has announced that because of this, they will begin training beholders to find the illegal DVDs. The beholder, upon finding someone who has said DVDs, will then randomly choose one of its eyes for punishment of the person.

  15. I never thought I’d write a comment in favor of puppycide…

  16. After noticeing the thread above; I wonder if there will be cases of people suing because law enforcement accidently destoyed their legal DVDs, or destroyed discs made out of polycarbons that were being used for something other than bootlegged DVDs.

  17. I’m calling Bullshit!. Forgetting about the difference between legal and illegal plastics, it takes a year to train a scent dog to any level of compentence. The real training doesn’t begin until the dog is at least a year old. A 12 month old puppy is the mental equivalent of a 12 year old child.

    This is classic urban legend stuff…

    Coc

  18. In veterinary medicine the procedure is a “necropsy” not an “autopsy”.

    Just to be a nerd about it.

  19. Who would want to consume the crap that these companies put out anyway? They’re already making millions of money on selling mass-produced garbage for the public. We don’t want your shit–you can have it!

  20. The MPAA has announced that because of this, they will begin training beholders to find the illegal DVDs. The beholder, upon finding someone who has said DVDs, will then randomly choose one of its eyes for punishment of the person.

    Christ, talk about a geek-out. 🙂

  21. Only in MPAA lawyers’ briefs does stopping movie piracy make money.

    The MPAA is second only to the RIAA in my list of “Top 300 People Who Are Right But Should Be Chopped Up and Fed To Raccoons Anyway”.

    Yes, movie piracy has a cost. Because the pirates suck some amount of profit out of the movie business, fewer movies are made. Fewer that is, than the economically optimal amount. Instead that investment goes to whatever the next most marginally profitable enterprise. You can’t tell who suffers — it might be overpaid movie executives, it might be underpaid stage hand, or it might be someone else all together — but someone must.

  22. I don’t know which pisses me off more: the black marketeers who kill the dogs, or the MPAA drones who put them in the line of fire…

  23. Do illegal DVDs smell different than legal ones?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but the various recordable DVD formats use a different method for recording (laser burning) from professional duplication methods (stamping). This would require different materials and, I’m guessing, would have a different odor.

  24. Movies make money? I thought it was all Hollywood accounting.

  25. Prior to being head of the US Pirate Party, I was an engineer; one that worked a LOT with polycarb. The plastic stinks, there’s no doubt about that. however, there is only 16g of lexan in a DVD/CD. and no, recordables don’t smell any different from pressed discs, since the difference there is on the tiny metal (and dye for re-recordable) layer, not the 1.2mm of lexan.

    When they first tested the dogs 2 years ago, at London Stansted, they ‘found’ lots of DVDs, all legitimate. They would also have found my glasses (each lens has more than 16g of lexan), some rulers I keep with me when traveling (and even a pencil I made with some scrap lexan). My clothes would stink of lexan too (the shavings get in with the fibers, and sometimes washing will just spread the stink). Thats not to mention my watch face, or any ipods, or ibooks people would have with them.

    Lexan is a common plastic. Trying to ‘crack down’ on piracy using lexan-sniffing dogs, is like cracking down on drivers with no licenses by sniffing for gasolene.

    Andrew Norton
    Chairman
    Pirate Party of the US
    http://pirate-party.us

  26. Marcvs | July 13, 2008, 9:09am | #

    Do illegal DVDs smell different than legal ones?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but the various recordable DVD formats use a different method for recording (laser burning) from professional duplication methods (stamping). This would require different materials and, I’m guessing, would have a different odor.

    The plastic used for both production formats is still Polycarbonate. The real trick is, you know where commercial “stamping” operations occur so you can automatically rule those out. I don’t think that these dogs are trained to pick up on a small stack of well aired discs or polycarbonate eyeglass lenses where the smell has had time to dissipate. I think they are specifically “sniffing out” larger quantities of DVD media that are indicative of illicit burning operations.

    Still, it has interesting parallels to the War on Drugs, particularly WRT dogs sniffing around neighborhoods for “grow ops”. I expect the level of “false positives” to be somewhat higher though as Polycarb is a very ubiquitous plastic.

  27. Good info Andrew. Do you have any links to said tests?

  28. kwix – try http://www.fact-uk.org.uk/site/latest_news/news_archivemay06.htm

    It’s at the bottom of the page.

    Also, the thing about polycarb is, the smell doesn’t dissipate. I had a minivan I used to shift polycarb in, and not particularly new polycarb at that. The van would probably still smell positive for lexan, despite me selling it 2 years ago.

    I worked on the US TV show Battlebots years ago, assembling the stage (20 tons of lexan) which meant cutting, tapping, drilling lexan. Then there were the competitor bots, often made of lexan as well. The dust gets everywhere, and some chemicals/detergents can brings the smell out and set it in your clothes. Most of my battlebots t-shirts will smell like a big stack of DVDs to those dogs.

    It’s like the rubber you got on the old baby bottle nipples, the brown ones. You can always smell them, just as you can with lexan. Medical latex (as in gloves) is another smell you can easily identify (and makes me vomit).

    These dogs are a publicity stunt. Talking with a Wired writer earlier though, I did come up with a better analogy. These dogs and their plastic sniffing, is like trying to cut down on knives with a steel-sniffing dog.

    Oh, and lets hope they don’t run those dogs around the UK – British telecom phone boxes have lexan windows…

    Andrew Norton
    Pirate Party of the US
    http://pirate-party.us

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