My attempt to help the movie industry crack down on piracy

First, a little bit of history.
I was boycotting DVDs and DVD players altogether.
Then my VCR broke down. When my wife and I went to replace it, there was an ex-demo VCR/DVD combo unit that they desperately wanted to get rid of. So we bought that.
My wife has since rented a few DVDs for my daughter to watch, and with christmas coming up, she started looking on eBay for DVDs for my daughter.
(firtunately, my daughter is only five. Although she probably could read this, she's very unlikley to find it and spoil her christmas present).

She won an auction of a Barbie DVD. The seller is apparently a German company and they ship through the Phillipines. She did all her usual checking of feedback, read the listing thoroughly and so forth and was happy (she's a pretty experienced eBayer).

When the DVD arrived, we both agreed that it didn't look right. A lot of the cover art was very pixellated, like it had been printed or scanned at home. The box was sealed, but only with a sticker saying "Full refund guaranteed" or somthing like that. the DVD itself has full-colour artwork printed on it, and I have no idea whether that amount of pixxelation is normal or not. The disk itself is gold and there is the name of the movie etched into the disk near the centre. We agreed that the box seems unlikely to be original, but the DVD may or may not be.

So she emailed eBay to air her concerns and I went searching to try to find out how we could tell for sure whether we had bought an infringing copy.

The key company name on the box was "Artisan Entertainment", and I eventually managed to find a domain name for them (artisanent.com) which redirected me to lionsgatefilms.com. Then I tried very hard to find the answer to "how do I know if the DVD I just bought is genuine ?". Unfortunately, they seem to think that the "interactive" nature of the web means "let them buy stuff". And even then, I couldn't find a mention of this older DVD (although I did find out how to buy the newest Barbie DVD).

I eventually found a page at http://www.lionsgatefilms.com/terms.html which had an email address (general-inquiries@lgecorp.com) under the heading "Copyright Policy". The only other email address I could find was for investor relations.

So I sent this email on Wednesday Nov 3rd at 4:17pm :
I had great difficulty finding any email address on your website, so please forward this to the appropriate people to answer it. Thanks.

My wife bought a DVD of Barbie and Swan Lake on eBay recently.
When it arrived, the packaging isn't as good as we would have expected, so we are wondering whether it is an unauthorised copy.
Is there a way for us to distinguish a legitimate copy from an illegitimate one ?

As I write this, I have yet to receive a response.
I also checked with my wife, who has yet to receive a response from eBay.

More news as it breaks...

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Getting the CMPDA involved

So I did some more searching, starting in Google with "identify illegal DVD copy". It's really hard to find this stuff !

I eventually found my way to the MPAA's website, and they have a list of "related sites", which included a link to the CMPDA. They have an "Anti-Piracy Operations" section of their website, which has links to "brochures" including one for "Optical Disc Piracy" (http://www.cmpda.org/english/optdisc.htm) which is exactly what I was looking for with my initial search. The brochure includes a 1-800 number and two email addresses, one for the National office and one for the Ontario region.

Now the one problem with contacting them is that "Lion's Gate Entertainment" isn't listed as a current member of the CMPDA, but it's certainly possible that they're part of one of the companies that is listed, so I sent a copy of my original email to Gary Osmond (gosmond@fvso.org) [interestingly, the email address is listed as gosmond@cmpda.org but the mailto: link is for @fvso.org. According to Internic whois, fvso.org is the Film Video Security Office).

Meanwhile, eBay haven't been very helpful, essentially saying "contact the seller". Yes, that makes sense. "Excuse me, did you sell me a pirate copy of a DVD ?"...

fvso.org doesn't resolve

As soon as I sent that email, I got back :
:
Sorry, I couldn't find any host named fvso.org. (#5.1.2)

So I tried sending to gosmond@cmpda.org. That's the address that will appear in paper copies of the brochure, and I presume they printed paper copies...

I really expected that a search for "identify illegal DVD copy" would turn up an informational page about just that and a link saying "click here to email somebody with a specific question". There's far more information on "why you shouldn't fileshare" than there is on this, but these are the actual pirates who are selling illegal copies, which is far worse.

Keep us posted.

Keep sending in updates if you have any. I find it interesting that an organization that wants vendors to control our personal computers and DVD players (Legal protection for DRM, part of WIPO) is so unconcerned about the issue to not have a way to contact them with this type of question.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.