Motor City Bust Eyewitness Report

Continuing followup on the Motor City Comic Con bust… ICV2 has an eyewitness report.

… the police had the RIAA agents in the hall at the opening bell on Friday accompanied by undercover police (just plainclothes cops). They bought videos from several vendors offering videos, took notes, and got their warrants and such. Then, they came back on Friday afternoon, and made their arrests…. They arrested every violator — one guy lost 3200+ DVDs, one lost 6. They arrested guys who had as much as 100% of their inventory found to be pirated stuff, and they arrested a guy who had about $500K in comics on his table, and 12 used videos from his personal collection, of which 6 were pirated discs (which he had bought, viewed, and decided to resell). There were no exceptions — if you had ONE pirated disc (DVD or Music CD) you got busted.

As I had over 500 DVDs on my tables, and I am pretty sure who the undercover cop was (he had been in my booth for over 30 minutes literally looking at nearly EVERY DVD) I also got interviewed by the police about my discs once the raid was underway. I was found to have no bootlegged discs.

That dealer also has tips on avoiding future problems:

As always, I found that complete cooperation with the police paid off. The police said they would have to open up every DVD I had on the table, to insure none were pirated discs — I said go ahead. They said they would need to inspect my vehicle in the lot. I informed them we had two vehicles in the lot, one we drove up as the big carrier, and one for driving back and forth to the hotel and that they had my permission to inspect both. Satisfied, they didn’t open one DVD, and didn’t inspect either vehicle….

I can say that the RIAA has really opened my eyes to some things – for example, they do NOT inspect discs of TV shows, evidently their interest, or the law, excludes those. They DO inspect CD music recordings. Also, talking to several vendors, the “smart” (their term) ones do not put out their pirated stuff until Saturday. The RIAA does not do inspections on Saturday (again, from what some of the vendors said) so the careful vendors put out only legit stuff on weekdays, then load up their pirated stuff on Saturday…. On Saturday, most of the dealers I spoke to were very scared — talking about never doing it again. By Sunday, the two I talked to again had found what they felt were loopholes (dealing only in porn and TV shows, which the RIAA does not regulate) and planned to concentrate on those areas and not do movies.

Similar Posts: More on Motor City § Motor City Crackdown § Viz Enters J-Pop Field § What Makes a Great Video? § Heroes Con 2008 Report


7 Responses to “Motor City Bust Eyewitness Report”

  1. Ed Sizemore Says:

    So according to the RIAA, bootlegging on happens on the weekdays? Or do they hope that intimidation will keep the rest of the dealers honest? Neither option seems wise. Especially, since the dealers know the system and how to get around it.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Or maybe they’re not willing to pay overtime for enforcers to work on the weekend? I dunno. Since that part is retailer gossip, maybe it’s just urban legend.

  3. James Schee Says:

    I wonder why TV shows would be excluded?

  4. James kosmicki Says:

    my understanding about TV shows is that since they are broadcast, the law is much more gray about whether you can tape and share them. where you run afoul of copyright with broadcast material is when you can be found to be infringing on the copyright owner’s right to profit. That’s why so many dealers focus on unreleased shows. once a show is legitimately released, you can be found to be encroaching on their ability to distribute and profit much more obviously. of course, there’s a good argument that non-authorized releases infringe on their ability to ultimately profit, since every buyer of the unauthorized is potentially one less buyer of the later, authorized release.

    I would also guess that since the RIAA is the recording industry (including video recordings, I believe), it may not be working for the television studios and producers, and thus not concerned with their products.

  5. Michael Denton Says:

    Wow, I’m glad ethics don’t stand in the way of these retailers learning the wrong lessons.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Presumably, if they thought what they were doing was wrong, they wouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

  7. Michael Denton Says:

    I come from a less positive assumption, which is they know full well they are doing the wrong thing and don’t care because it bring in good revenue.

    The fact that some retailers talk about being “smart” in how they distribute these bootlegs would seem to support my supposition for several of them.

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