Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs, Part 2

Pirate Companies and Distribution

  • There are seemingly endless numbers of pirate labels, all hiding in plain sight
  • Pointing the finger at the ones hardest to spot: those based in the Western world
  • The worst offenders are even getting their stolen goods on TV and into cinemas and film festivals
  • While illegal online uploads are rife, even legitimate streaming platforms are infested with their wares

This article is part of a series; if you’ve landed directly on this page I strongly recommend you start from Part 1.

Beware of Pirates sign 2

 


Contents


US and European pirate labels

This list can never be exhaustive: many of the distributor, label and sub-label names listed on sleeves are meaningless. They’re seemingly conjured out of thin air and are swapped around at random. On the rare occasions that pirates are successfully sued they simply declare themselves bankrupt, dissolve the company and start up again under a different name. Though those below are among the worst offenders and crop up regularly, the best way to avoid counterfeits altogether is to follow this checklist. In common with most public domain companies, occasionally pirates muddy the waters by also selling what, to all intents and purposes, appears to be offically licensed product. Make no mistake though: the vast majority of labels on this list are 100% thieves. Even with the very few ‘better’ ones, I guarantee a significant percentage of their inventory is still ripped off. Again, this seems more common with older titles, as it’s easier for them to be palmed off as being PD.

France

  • Aventi
  • Bach Films
  • Collection Ciné-Club – affiliated with FSF
  • Ermitage Cinema – see Italy listing
  • Films sans Frontières (FSF) – see below
  • Harmonia Mundi – affiliated with FSF
  • RDM Video (RDMV) aka RDM Edition and Inconnu
  • Votre marque

Germany

  • Great Movies – release under a host of names, including Best Entertainment, Crest Movies, daredo, Delta Music & Entert., div, Edel Germany, Indigo, Soulfood, White Pearl Movies, WME Home-Entertainment and many others. They also pirate Alfred Hitchcock’s films extensively.

Italy

  • A&R Productions
  • Artist First Digital – affiliated with Quadrifoglio
  • CG Entertainment/CG Home Video – distributors affiliated with Ermitage, Sinister Film and others
  • Cinema International Media – affiliated with Llamentol
  • Cineteca
  • Cult Media
  • CVC
  • Dania Film
  • DNA
  • Eagle Pictures Spa
  • Enjoy Movies – affiliated with Punto Zero Film
  • Ermitage Cinema – based in both Milan and Paris; also trade as Dcult and Dynit
  • Golem Video
  • Griffe
  • Mosaico Media
  • Mya Communication – closed down and currently trading as One 7 Movies, with all releases in both Italy and US; run by Salvatore Alongi and Marcello Rossi who left their former otherwise legitimate company, NoShame/No Shame Films, in 2007 after emptying its coffers and getting it in legal trouble for using unlicensed transfers[1]
  • Passworld
  • Penny Video – DVDs often omit original audio
  • Pulp Video
  • Punto Zero Film
  • Quadrifoglio – also trade as Digital Studio, Cine Storm and Stormovie
  • Sinister Film – run by Nicola Compagnini; no relation to Sinister Cinema (US), a so-called ‘public domain’ label who also sell bootlegs
  • Studio 4K
  • Terminal Video Italia – distributors affiliated with many pirate labels

 Spain

  • Absolute Distribution – aka L’Atelier 13, Bang Bang Movies, Carousel Films, Side Street, War & West Movies, etc. Affiliated with Paycom
  • Art House Media/Paycom Multimedia – Llamentol
  • Centipede Films
  • CincoDías
  • Cinecom
  • Creative Films
  • Feel Films – affiliated with Resen
  • Filmax
  • IDA Films
  • LaCasaDelCineParaTodos.com
  • Layons Multimedia
  • Llamentol – affiliated with Mapetac: both have almost-neighbouring registered addresses, in Vilassar de Mar and de Dalt, Barcelona
  • Manga Films
  • Mapetac – affiliated with Resen; sub-labels: Bestseller Entertainment, BƐTa, BioMovies, CineClub Channel, Cinema International Media, CineStudio, ClassicMedia, dhx, 5 TeleCinco, premium cine/vídeo, RHI Entertainment and Track Media
  • Memory Screen
  • Mon Inter Comerz – affiliated with Llamentol
  • Nacadih Video
  • New Line Films – not to be confused with New Line Home Video/Entertainment
  • No Limits Films
  • Paycom Multimedia – affiliated with Llamentol
  • Producciones JRB – affiliated with Layons Multimedia
  • Regasa Clau Promocions S.L./SL
  • Regasa Films
  • Regia Films – given to making empty threats against those who question their legality
  • Resen (Research Entertainment)
  • SatanMedia – Llamentol
  • Seleccion Classicos de Oro
  • Sotelysa – aka Sogemedia
  • Suevia Films – affiliated with Resen; unrelated to the 1940–1983 Spanish film studio of the same name
  • Tribanda Pictures – affiliated with JRB
  • Vértice Cine
  • Yowu Entertainment

UK

  • Giallo Goblin
  • ZDDvisualmedia aka ZDDVM

US

  • AFA Entertainment – run by Adeeb Barsoum, who specialises in releasing DVDs of cropped and stretched 4:3 aspect ratio films to fill 16:9 AR widescreen TVs
  • Alfred’s Place – run by Al Chafin, who has sold DVD-Rs of everything by Hitchcock and other copyrighted works for years
  • Bruce’s Bijou
  • Catcom Home Video
  • Cheezy Flicks – subjected to numerous lawsuits for copyright theft, eg they made a fortune for bootlegging just one title, then claimed to be bankrupt – but are still thieving!
  • Cinema de Bizarre
  • Cult Action
  • Desert Island Films – DVD-R and digital
  • dvdcoming.com
  • Echelon Studios – US-based DVD-R and digital pirates especially active on UK Amazon Video
  • Harpodeon
  • Hollywood’s Attic – run by Woody Wise, a self-confessed, convicted veteran pirate; acquired by Nostalgia Family Video in 2004
  • Loving the Classics
  • Miracle Pictures
  • Mya Communication, One 7 Movies – see Italy listing
  • Nostalgia Family Video – run by convicted pirate Jeremy Brunner
  • OnesMedia
  • Passport Video – David Shepard: “The owner of Passport is a sociopath named Dante J. Pugliese
  • Reel Vault
  • RetroFilm Vault
  • Silent Hall of Fame – aka Alex Staykov, a liar and scam artist who sells very expensive DVD-R rips of legit releases. Banned from many online silent film communities where he peddles his wares, like here and here. Also sells on Amazon as “Classic Silent Film Gems” and eBay as “yorkmba99”.
  • Televista – formerly known as Substance, New Star, Morningstar and Jef Films; all run by Jeffrey H. Aikman, whose speciality is transferring copyrighted VHS tapes to DVD. Not to be confused with Televisa
  • Trash Palace
  • VHS Preservation Society – same M.O. as Televista
  • Video Dimensions
  • Vina Distributor/Distribution
  • Vintage Film Buff
  • Wham! USA
  • Zeus DVDs – formerly known as Jubilee DVDs, Queensbury DVDs and Xerxes DVDs

In Spain, Research Entertainment are foremost among the most prolific bootleggers – to the extent that “Resen” is Spanish slang for a pirate or bootleg.

Note Australia is also plagued by more than its share of piracy and back in their bad old beginning years, the UK’s esteemed Eureka label was partial to partnering with antipodean thieves in regularly ripping off other small labels. Even mainstream British newspapers have got in on the act.

Incidentally, it’s generally much safer to buy UK-originated releases with near-impunity: While there are numerous ‘smaller’ volume DVD-R-only sellers everywhere, especially all over eBay, I’m unaware of any large scale pirating or bootlegging operations based in this country. To a lesser degree, the situation is quite similar in Germany; that makes two of the five biggest film markets in the EU. Most strange when you consider that the other three, France, Italy and Spain, are absolutely rife with them. Most EU nations are assiduous about enforcing copyright laws and at some point I’d like to investigate the exact reason for the disparity. If anyone can shed any light on this, please get in touch.

[1] When initially researching this article I was informed NoShame had bootlegs on their books. NoShame founder/owner Michele De Angelis has since clarified matters and the entry has been amended accordingly.


Pirate TV and cinema distribution

The really organised companies and individuals affect legitimate businesses more profoundly than you could ever imagine. As well as the de facto discs in many countries, they illegally distribute TV and theatrical releases, and litter unwitting but otherwise legal VOD (video on demand) sites. And all from stolen prints and copies. Feel Films, La Casa Del Cine, Llamentol and Films sans Frontières in particular are old hands at this. The owner of the latter company, Galeshka Moravioff, even set up his own chain of cinemas to help facilitate his industrial scale piracy; more about him later. These too were run using his usual underhanded tactics of threats and intimidation but eventually closed down anyway, as you can read here, here and here. He and his ilk often even have the nerve to use legal means to suppress legitimate distribution. For instance, they’ll get their lawyers to fire off a quick warning to TV stations intending to broadcast certain films, claiming that they, the thieves, actually own the rights and not the official distributors. It usually has the intended effect of causing the TV stations to back away from broadcasting any disputed material completely, until the ‘competing’ distributors settle their differences.

Of course, these frivolous legal claims never actually go anywhere, but kosher companies are again financially wounded, both by being unable to earn money on their own properties and by wasting huge sums on legal fees. Of course, they’re competing on a very uneven playing field: those who have spent a lifetime lying and stealing to get what they want are far more practised in the art of deception than decent, hard-working folk trying to earn an honest living.

Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926)

Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926)


Digital piracy

Though the focus here is on piracy of physical media, as those formats continue to cede popularity to online platforms, digital pirates are increasingly becoming the norm. Amazon Video and other ostensibly legit streaming and download sites are also infested with illegal uploads from many of the companies listed above. The latest individual to come to light (March 2017) is Guido Baechler, founder and director of the obscure Lucerne International/Independent Film Festival (he can’t seem to make his mind up). For years, in a manner closely mirroring Maravioff’s, this unscrupulous individual has been openly selling digital copies of films that have screened at his festival. In a perverse move, he’s misappropriated copyright laws to steal from the very rights holders they were designed to protect. To really add insult to injury, he’s even been crediting himself as a producer on many of said films. Read this exposé:

In the interest of fairness, you can read his lengthy rebuttal of the IndieWire article’s claims, but his arguments are as leaky as a sieve. The world is full of liars and thieves and ’twas ever thus, but the likes of Maravioff and Baechler have elevated their odious activities to a brazen art form.

February 2018 update: Baechler’s scam festival now seems to have died a complete death – bloody good riddance.

Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs, Part 3


If you’ve any questions or suggestions, post in the comments below.

I started Brenton Film because I love film – quelle surprise! The silent era, 1930s and 1940s especially get my literary juices flowing though. So you’ll see a lot about those. For more, see this site’s About page.

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