A Few Words About A few words about...™ Vendors, film piracy and national security

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 10, 2013.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Any casual visitor to Amazon.com, that huge, well-organized, consumer-friendly web-store, will most likely be unaware that they are a depository and vendor of pirated, boot-legged and by whatever name one calls it, illegal video product.

    Having read much of the background material and publicity related to home video piracy and our national security, as proffered by Homeland Security, I have a real problem believing that Amazon.com is a terrorist organization.

    I don't believe that for a moment.

    However, track back their illegal merchandise to its source, and I have no idea what illicit or potentially dangerous connections might be found. I truly hope that it leads to an 87 year-old women in Cincinnati, burning discs in her attic, and saving up toward her grand-children's college educations, with no concept of copyright.

    Amazon's actions, whether directly (or via a subsidiary), in not policing their own site, affects our domestic motion picture industry, as well consumers who enjoy what are referred to as catalog titles. As an example, search Amazon for the UK Hitchcock productions, and you'll find any number of illegal copies offered. Some being shipped direct by vendors, using Amazon as a nesting place, and others fulfilled and shipped by Amazon, which means that Amazon is harboring the illegal product. As I have discussed this with several customer service reps over the past year of so, these illegal activities must be presumed known to corporate. But as we know, especially with customer services reps safely off shore, information may not travel upwards.

    The fact that Amazon (and also Barnes & Noble, Best Buy et al) are offering these products, makes it very difficult for those who own legitimate rights or licenses to these copyrighted works to bring them out on Blu-ray or DVD via legitimate sources, such as Criterion.

    As another case-in-point, search Amazon for Abel Gance's Napoleon, and you'll find a number of vendors offering a "licensed" South Korean DVD, copied from Universal's original VHS release of 1982. And no one is hiding. The Universal logo and copyrights are intact. The DVD is an unfortunate example, placing four hours of content on a single layer DVD, which means that it's sometimes difficult to find image within the macro-blocking.

    Amazon is fully aware of the Napoleon situation also, but for whatever reason is reluctant to remove the offering from their gargantuan site.

    How many illegal DVDs and Blu-rays can readers find on Amazon? On Barnes & Noble? On Best Buy? On other sites? The situation seems to make a mockery of those FBI, Homeland Security and National Intellectual Property Rights logos one must sit through before viewing the main attraction.

    Might make an interesting list.

    I'd love to see Amazon and others clean up their acts and go legit, but either no one seems interested in bothering, or the money is too good to turn down.

    RAH
     
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  2. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Another thing to ponder is why these companies aren't being vigorously prosecuted. The RIAA and MPAA love to make "examples" of individual consumers who have downloaded pirated movies or music, taking them to court and slapping them with large fines, typically accompanied by well-choreographed media coverage and lots of press releases. Why then aren't these organizations going after the Amazons and Best Buys who are supposedly guilty of the same crimes?
     
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  3. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Amazon has been headed down the road of eBay and iOffer for quite awhile now, but it is still cloaked in a veneer of respectability. Treat your customers with decent service and you can go a long way to hide your sins. Apparently their infrastructure is not so sound, despite the quarterly earnings glow, but they are making a huge mistake in moving toward the very model of retail they helped diminish and may eventually destroy, namely brick and mortar. As such, they have been anxious for cash flow all in the name of added "convenience" for the patron, something that is second or lower on the list of most consumers after pricing. They think that fast shipping from local centers or pickup "stores" will offset increased shipping charges and tax, but they are wrong. If people wanted immediate convenience above all else they would still be buying at brick and mortars. This mistake continues to cost them business and that's at least one of the reasons why you are seeing less desirable product on their site.
     
  4. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    I noticed Amazon even streams bootlegs as past of their Amazon Prime service. Dario Argento's TENEBRAE and PHENOMENA are both streaming (heavily edited) under the titles UNSANE and CREEPERS, for example.Vincent
     
  5. Dave B Ferris

    Dave B Ferris Supporting Actor

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    Right around the time the "Wuthering Heights" DVD recently came back into print, I placed an order with CD Universe. I received a South Korean release. At least I was given a refund, and they did not ask me to return the unwanted DVD.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I purchased a copy of Lady in White from Amazon, and received a bootleg from them. It was a copy of the old Elite release with a computer printed cover and disc. Returned it and ended up with the MGM version.
     
  7. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    It's possible that no-one is going after such vendors because they are -- like the company offering the Korean disc of Napoleon -- located out of easy jurisdictional reach, but I suspect that it might in the end be too legally complicated, and too costly (and worth very small change to the corporate copyright holders in the long run perhaps), for the owners to want to bother pursuing the pirates. As well, you have to consider that even if they do go after Pirates X, Y, and Z, so to speak, and manage to win hefty judgements, it's unlikely that such victories will have much of a deterrent value for Pirates A to W; which is the principal reason for the warnings in the first place, that is, deterrence. Now, one might call this attitude lazy and defeatist (I agree that it's both), but that's how things are done in the corporate world, on the basis of costs and benefits; one only spends money, a minimum of money, in order to make money. From the bean-counter's perspective, it doesn't make much sense to spend money to prevent (relatively minor) losses of money. In the aggregate, Pirates A to Z are responsible for huge losses to the copyright holders; on a case-by-case basis, however, the losses are probably relatively small, and do not justify the costs of suits. If there were a legal way to target Amazon, the studios at least would have probably already done it. The only thing that springs to mind is some kind of claim that names Amazon as a co-conspirator? Perhaps other posters might have more information about the legal basis of a suit against the vendor?
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Afaik, only one vendor is offering the Korean bootleg, directly from Korea. All others are domestic providers of bootlegs, inclusive of one being warehoused and shipped by Amazon.

    Bootlegs shipped by Amazon have a single positive attribute. They should arrive safely and in good condition. Hate damaged bootlegs.

    RAH
     
  9. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    Amazon takes a cut of everything sold through them by third-party vendors, so they're profiting from the sale of illegal software. That seems pretty crystal-clear to me regarding culpability, but I'm certainly no lawyer.
     
  10. FanboyZ

    FanboyZ Second Unit

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    Lets not forget Echo Bridge who releases films they don't have the rights too...
     
  11. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    We'll see what I get this weekend.

    Ordered Lust, Caution, unedited. I fully expect it to not be the correct version...and even possible bootleg. If so, I'll simply complain....get a refund and promptly order another one. Had this happen many times with Ebay as well. People look for what they have to sell and assume their version is like all the others.

    While frustrating...it gets you free stuff once in awhile.

    One way(and Ebay used to back this up...) to fight the bootlegging is buy everything from a vendor...then cry and complain about it being bootlegged. When a vendor gets hit with a big enough refund, including the shipping charge, they tend to go away...cause they just lost money by having to ship free product.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Please explain.
     
  13. Professor Echo

    Professor Echo Screenwriter

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    Not if it's a USED DVD from a Marketplace vendor packed and shipped by Amazon, aka Fulfilled by Amazon. Then you have to contend with a giant sticker on the back of the case that Amazon pastes all over it and often cannot be removed without damaging the case. Particularly frustrating with a Criterion Blu case that is not easily replaceable. But I digress.
     
  14. ahollis

    ahollis Lead Actor

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    I airways thought to stop this was to go after Amazon etc. I talked with an MPAA attorney once concerning the bootleg DVDs that were being sold in the subways and streets of New York. While they could go after the sellers he said that it was to much trouble. I still think that if those people are rounded charged and they pay fines it might limit the number of people that want to take the chance. If Amazon was on the hook then they might require more certification the DVD is legIt. Just a thought.
     
  15. schan1269

    schan1269 HTF Expert
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    "If Amazon was on the hook then they might require more certification the DVD is legIt."

    Theoretically, Amazon is a 3rd party...just like Ebay.

    But yes, if Amazon itself is selling bootleg, sure...complain, get your money back. If enough of us wanted to force Amazons hand...we could all go buy a bunch of bootleg, let Amazon ship it to us(especially if under the $25 rule) and get refunded.

    If they got hit with $5000 in one day of "bootleg refunds"...and it happened over the course of a few days...they would probably stop selling them.

    Just as easy to go after the direct vendors. They have less cashflow to survive a $5000 "cash burn".
     
  16. FanboyZ

    FanboyZ Second Unit

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    Hellreaiser III. They released a stretched VHS dub on a DVD multipack.
    Paramount owns the DVD rights to that one domestically
     
  17. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    I'm pretty sure Hellraiser III reverted to Miramax with Miramax sublicensing it to Echo Bridge.
     
  18. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    With the British Hitchcocks, I really don't think it is that PD companies are knowingly infringing on existing copyrights. It's just that for some unknown reason these films are believed to still be in the public domain. Look at It's a Wonderful Life. In the 1980s that film was public domain and was played royalty-free on TV stations all over the country and was distributed on VHS by a myriad of companies. But then Republic managed to reclaim the copyright though the music that was used on the soundtrack, and they made that fact very clear to PD distributors.
     
  19. Moe Dickstein

    Moe Dickstein Filmmaker

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    There needs to be a distinction made here.I think people may be thinking of bootlegs in the terms of an illegal copy of a legitimate release, such as a bootleg of an out of print Criterion title. Those are the sort of bootlegs you can "spot"The kind I think RAH is talking about are the ones that look like legitimate releases, are pressed discs and therefore to the untrained or uninformed completely "legitimate" releases, they are bootleg in the sense that the person making these professional pressed releases has no rights to the title itself.
     
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  20. kingofthejungle

    kingofthejungle Stunt Coordinator

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    Amazon might have problems, but eBay is far worse. I've learned never to order DVDs of TV seasons from eBay. Ordered seasons 1-3 of Justified, and recieved outright counterfeits - they even went so far as to knock off the stickers and insert ads for their fake copies.
     

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