'Tis the Raiding Season
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The entertainment industry's relentless war on piracy took two new turns this week with the Secret Service cooperating with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in a New York City raid and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filing a lawsuit against eight EBay sellers allegedly offering pirated DVDs on the popular auction site.
On Monday, Secret Service agents, aided by a team of RIAA investigators, hit what the RIAA characterized as a "major music piracy operation" in Queens, seizing 35,000 finished CD-Rs, 10,000 DVDs, the equivalent of 421 CD-R burners and the arrest of three individuals.
The raid was the culmination of a two-month investigation into what the RIAA claims was the largest supplier of pirated music to individual vendors, retail locations, and distribution centers on Canal Street in Manhattan. Officials also seized eight Rimage Imprinters, one high-end color copier valued at $75,000 and other equipment and raw materials used in the manufacturing process. Approximately 25 percent of the product seized was Latin music.
The three individuals arrested face charges of trafficking in counterfeit labels, criminal copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting.
"This is a major blow to the music pirates who were robbing record companies, artists, legitimate retailers and countless others in the industry of millions of hard-earned dollars," said Frank Creighton, executive vice president and director of the RIAA's anti-piracy unit. "This operation should pay further dividends because we have successfully struck at one of the major choke points for music piracy in the New York City area."
The MPAA lawsuit targets nine eBay sellers in eight states and seeks compensatory damages. The movie industry trade group claims approximately 1,000 pirated DVDs were sold. The suits were filed in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kansas and Connecticut.
The RIAA's New York City raid represents another victory in a year of anti-piracy successes for the music industry. The trade group has triumphed in the courts with cases against peer-to-peer networks including Audiogalaxy, Aimster and Songspy and download sites like Listen4ever.com. It has also seized a record number of counterfeit product.
And the music industry seems to have no intention of backing down in the future, recently launching online anti-piracy initiatives that include:
- Stopping instances of new music appearing on the Internet before its commercial release. Before a CD is available in stores, it may often be found on so-called FTP, IRC or nested link sites. According to the RIAA, "thousands of files of copyrighted music tracks" have been removed in the recent weeks from many of these sites, and efforts continue to target additional sites where pre-released material is available.
- Outreach programs to Fortune 1000 corporations and colleges And universities. The RIAA has launched a new effort with other members of the content community to advise businesses and the higher education community of the risks and dangers of illegal uploading and downloading of copyrighted works on peer-to-peer networks and ways to help address the problem. A broader "notice and takedown" effort is underway at universities in conjunction with the RIAA's recent collaborative work with the higher education leaders from around the country.
Offline efforts include:
- Working with the New York Police Department's (NYPD) Civil Division Legal Bureau to utilize anti-nuisance laws to pursue repeated instances of music piracy activities at business establishments. The RIAA has helped New York City law enforcement bring 45 cases as part of the "Padlock Initiative," including efforts pending in Harlem/125th Street area, Elmhurst/Roosevelt area of Queens, several areas in Brooklyn, mid-town Manhattan between 23rd and 34th, and Canal Street.
- Targeting street and retail piracy during the holiday buying season. This includes saturating the streets with investigators, NYPD training programs to heighten awareness of the problem, and partnering with law enforcement to deploy anti-piracy rapid response teams.
- A retail store program that is aggressively targeting for civil action retail establishments that sell counterfeit music.
- A new anti-piracy effort at flea markets. Lawsuits have been filed at flea markets in Texas and California where repeated requests to clamp down on music piracy on the premises were ignored by the market's operators.