Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs, Part 4

Parodies and Bootlegging News

  • It isn’t all grim: the world of piracy and bootlegging provides much fodder for comedy
  • Amazon and eBay are the thieves’ global storefront, but things are slowly changing
  • What does the future hold for the business for copyright theft?

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 4


Contents


A bit of fun

Many who have watched an old UK VHS video or early DVD will have not-so-fond memories of FACT’s annoying, usually-unskippable anti-piracy ads. Of course, their misguided placement only targeted viewers who had already paid for a legit copy; any pirate worth their (sea) salt would simply remove such ads from their product. Particularly notable is this devilish effort, invoking shades of silent horror, Häxan (Witchcraft Through the Ages, 1922):

And who could forget this brain-drilling classic:

In a case of supreme irony, the latter ad’s music was unlicensed – pirated, if you will – and the artist successfully sued for unpaid royalties! You couldn’t make it up. What is made up is UK TV show The IT Crowd‘s clever spoof:


Bootlegging, Amazon and eBay in the news

March 2016: Shout! Factory are a leading – and rather brilliant – US label who specialise in issuing rare and cult films and TV programmes. A recent article on their site discusses the widespread pirating of their product and mirrors many of the points I’ve made above.

“The problem with eBay is that bootleggers can easily create a new account if they get shut down. We try to take down as many as we can, but if they are determined, they can continue as long as people keep buying them. Today, every box set we’ve released is available in bootleg form from at least half a dozen sellers on eBay.” – Shout! Factory article author Michael Kmet via email, 23.3.16

April 2016: MPI Home Video in the US were also forced to publish a guide to spotting fakes of their product: How to tell if your Dark Shadows disc is a counterfeit.

July 2016: Birkenstock CEO Accuses Amazon of “Modern Day Piracy”

October 2016How Amazon counterfeits put this man’s business on brink of collapse

November 2016: Amazon takes counterfeit sellers to court for first time
I had high hopes when I first saw this headline, a follow-up to the previous one, but it looks like a mere token effort, a public relations exercise to offset criticism like that laid out in this article. For the foreseeable future, the world’s biggest purveyor of illicit goods – and especially copies of classic films – will continue to reap the profits of crime.

January 2018The EU is Working on Its Own Piracy Watch-List
Though the focus is more on internet piracy than physical media, at least someone’s making the right noises. Let’s hope something comes of it.


Conclusion

Everything I’ve written applies equally to all copyrighted property, in whatever medium. Here though, I’m looking less at the ripping-off of the latest big budget blockbusters that seemingly scarcely makes a dent in mainstream studios’ vast profits. Instead, this is mostly about relatively small labels, owned and run by people for whom classic film restoration and distribution is first and foremost a labour of love. Their already slim profits get eaten into while you, the customer, pay for substandard products when far better quality originals are available. Protect yourself: buy wisely and help support future film restoration and preservation.

A very honourable mention must go to the likes of niche Spanish labels Divisa and Impulso Records. Spain is the European capital of piracy and they’re fighting a very lonely battle to get properly-licensed, high quality domestic releases of early and classic films onto the market. I urge you to support them by buying their products whenever possible. Victims of piracy can seek help from crusading organisations like these:

As ever, DVDCompare.net remains one of the best resources on the internet for checking the specs and legitimacy of all Blu-rays and DVDs. I’ll keep this post updated with any new info; feel free to contribute in the comments below or via Brenton Film email address


October 2016: Since it was first published, this article has provoked a lot of discussion on the subject. That was partly my intention, as no one appeared to have specifically covered it before. I’m still being contacted almost weekly by the pirates themselves, their victims, and even uninformed companies who were about to sign big contracts with certain pirates but as a result of being shown this article did more research into them and backed off. The latter is particularly satisfying.

Pirate ships with skull clouds


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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