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DVD Cracks Encourage Piracy, Fund Terrorism and Organized Crime

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All over the internet people are illegally listing or linking to a copyrighted HD-DVD processing key. This seemingly innocuous string of numbers allows people to crack DVDs and create pirated copies. Many pages listing the key are being linked to from sites like Reddit, Digg and Slashdot. Some websites are even selling the code on coffee mugs, t-shirts and bumper stickers. Meanwhile, legal Cease and Desist orders are being sent out to many sites demanding they take the content down. Some sites are complying while others are refusing to do so. Digg.com was in the eye of this storm over the last few days, finally folding in the face of an all-out user revolt that came when the site tried to remove links to the copyrighted code.

So, amidst all of this gleeful subversion, where is the problem? Well, beyond the obvious legal issue of copyrights, the pirated DVD industry is linked to various other forms of organized crime, from prostitution and drug sales to terrorism. By putting this continuously into the public realm, people are unwittingly undermining the very freedoms they suppose they are exercising or even defending. Terrorism is not a word to be used lightly in a post-9/11 world – we are all familiar with how that term has been used to instill fear in people, rather than promote positive foreign policies. However, there are a great many studies (as well as other evidence) demonstrating that organized criminals and terrorists are increasingly involved in piracy for a number of reasons.

"Compared to other forms of crime, DVD piracy offers criminals high returns and relatively low risk in terms of penalties. It is an attractive option for organized crime groups, who use the trade in DVD piracy to launder cash and fund other forms of crime." PiracyIsACrime.com

For legal and ethical reasons, no links to (or direct quotes from) sites that are in an uproar about issues of censorship and internet freedom are linked to from this article – virtually all such articles link to the illicit code. For readers curious about these concerns, it is easy to find references on the web (Google news or the Digg blog). However, it is well worth asking: what would those same people say if the string of numbers being circulated was the key to unlocking some part of our military defense system? What if the code in question provided access to our nuclear arsenal? In essence: what if they knew that they were compromising the security of our country by passing around a string of numbers?

These analogies are much closer to the mark than they may sound at first. Most people, of course, are not going to shed a tear for the profits lost by major Hollywood corporations. Nonetheless but it is alarming how naively people assume that DVD piracy is a victimless crime. Further, the people listing this code and refusing to remove it upon request are committing a crime, whether or not they understand the other potentially harmful consequences of their actions. Admittedly, the code was likely to circulate regardless of whether ot not this became a serious and public issue. Still, people flexing their personal liberties by displaying it over and over again (and linking to it from major social bookmarking and networking sites) are working against the very freedoms they feel compelled to protect. Sites like Digg.com seem to be heroes to many, but in reality they have simply given themselves over to mob rule. Freedom of information does not mean freedom to break the law, though you may feel free to disagree.

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About Craig Kohler

  • Seriously?

  • This is a joke, right?

    Let me get your argument straight – you’re saying terrorist organisations are doing a bit of DVD piracy on the weekend to make ends meet. And your ‘evidence’ of this is a quote from an industry anti-piracy site (where one might expect this kind of alarmist rhetoric).

    And, even if this wasn’t utter tosh, isn’t there a logical flaw in your argument? If it is “terrorists” who are making money from DVD piracy, surely by spreading that code people are undermining this revenue stream by opening up the market, i.e. if you don’t spread the code you’re funding terrorism.

  • Detritus

    These days the only people I hear bringing up “Terrorists” are also usually waving the flag of freedom as wildly as they can, while in the other hand flipping-off the ACLU. The ultimate irony in that situation, and in your post here, is that you talk a good game about liberty while dispairaging the people who walk the walk.

    It doesn’t matter how you feel politically, religiously, or philosophically, the DMCA is a draconian law that needs to be stood up to. Digg’s founders have decided that they will take that stand because their community expects it of them. Now they stand as the first major American site to protect their users from this flagerant abuse of their rights.

  • A Reasonable Person

    For real? Honestly? How much did the *AAs pay for this tripe?

  • This was an unpaid article. If you have a counterargument you would like to present I would be more than happy to hear it. Meanwhile, if you can’t find your own evidence via simple Google searches (just try it, it’s easy) then I’m amazed you took the time to read this article and respond. I quoted that website because it was succinct and to-the-point – there are many other supporting articles I could have cited as well.

    Digg.com was going down in flames – at one point their site went down right after every one of their front pages was plastered with articles related to the code. If you think they changed positions out of anything but a sense of self-preservation I believe you are mistaken (much more about this on my blog).

    I am as left-wing as they come. I am not an alarmist. I am simply sickened by people rallying around this issue without looking at the flipside. Even if you ignore criminals and terrorists, why is everyone celebrating a code that allows people to copy copyrighted content? Many artists, actors and musicians get a small enough cut of the profits anyway.

    Where is the public’s outrage about Iraq? Supposed ‘freedom fighters’ sit back while we are in a terrible war we should never have gotten into, while atrocities take place in Darfur. Meanwhile, those same people get up in arms, indignant, and revolt to promote the distribution of an illegal code that allows them to watch movies? Sad.

  • bliffle

    The net effect of DVD piracy and mass availability of cheap or free DVDs will be the devaluation of entertainment product. And what could be better?

  • Ken Whitley

    Well, some are celebrating because they believe the entire concept of copyright is grossly out of hand and needs to be drastically reined in, and with Congress largely bought, this is a direct, effective way of moving society in that direction.

    And some of us regard your suggestion as nearly as silly as banning pants because terrorists might carry weapons in the pockets.

    Consider, for example, a copyright law in which all items revert to public domain AS SOON AS THE PUBLISHER ALLOWS THEM TO GO OUT OF PRINT. This is the publisher’s statement, in the crudest of bottom-line financial language, that the item is are no longer a money-maker. The creators have made the money they will make, and if the creation was successful, they will have been well paid. And if not – well, then, they failed, at least economically.

    If they want a retirement fund, they ought to invest their money like anyone else does. I helped build tens of thousands of computer backup power supplies. Does the fact that some of them are still in use entitle me to income from their owners?

    The notion that nearly one hundred years after some book has been written, or some movie made, that the corporation holding the copyright has a right to censor the public’s commentary on the ideas involved – well, it’s just stupid. They belong in the public domain, and we’ve the right to any opinion of them we like, and to use them in any way we like.

    The side effect of disemboweling the media INDUSTRY is an entirely good thing for democracy, culture, and the future of humanity.

    One more point – just because some silly law gets passed, doesn’t necessarily make it the right thing to do. People broke laws regarding slavery for hundreds of years before it was repealed. People break laws regarding antiwar protests, and long enough after nearly every war, it proves that they were right and the laws wrong after all.

  • research

    Great study done on organized crime and piracy.