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

Parodies and Bootlegging News

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

Part 1: Overview, the public domain and spotting fakes | Part 2: Pirate companies and distribution | Part 3: Pirates and their victims speak | Part 4: Parodies and bootlegging news

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. They’ve even had to dedicate a “Counterfeits & Bootlegs” section of their FAQ page to the issue.

“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: I had high hopes when I first saw these headlines, follow-ups to the one above, 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 2018: 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.

March 2019: After the Big Two, iOffer is probably the third largest online marketplace for counterfeit and pirate goods. Following a campaign by the IACC, iOffer shut down its site for a week and purged it of many thieving sellers. However, the focus was on well known brands of goods and fashion labels; soon after the site was reactivated, the film and TV pirates and bootleggers’ listings were back in force.

June 2019: Frustrated collector Paul Rudoff’s excellent article goes into even more detail about many of the points I outlined in Part 1:


Conclusion

Everything I’ve written applies equally to all copyrighted property, in any medium, particularly concerning Italy and Spain being the epicentres of disc-based theft in the Western world. When it comes to music, even just pirated and bootlegged CDs, even twenty series of articles like these would barely scratch the surface. But much more research has been carried out in that area over the past few decades, and I can recommend some very good books:

Heylin’s thoroughly engaging survey is the bible of bootlegging history in general and an absolutely essential read. Though as it was last updated at the turn of the millennium, it only covers the dawn of digital piracy. The more recent volumes essentially pick up where Heylin leaves off, but they’re merely the cream of an ever burgeoning crop. We can expect many more such studies, as the modern music (and film) landscape continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies at an ever increasing rate.

Though all copyrighted film and TV works are affected in some way by piracy, here 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 niche Spanish label Divisa. They’re fighting a very lonely battle in the European capital of piracy to get properly-licensed, high quality domestic releases of early and classic films onto the market. I urge you to support Divisa and their kin by purchasing 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. Like all articles on this site, I’ll keep these updated with any new info; feel free to contribute in the comments below or contact me directly.


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


14 Comments

  1. Mike
    December 09, 23:20 Reply
    I'd like to know about a site called scifistation.com. I know they do bootlegs, but should they be on your list? Please let me know. Thanks!
    • Brent Reid
      December 12, 13:12 Reply
      Yes they/he should, Mike, though I was loathe to add him for the reason I've stated. Nonetheless, a thief is a thief so on the list he goes. Thanks for the prompt.
  2. Mike
    December 29, 02:26 Reply
    Thanks for your help! My next question is: what's your take on Sinister Cinema? I'd like to have an opinion on them, please. Thanks again!
    • Brent Reid
      December 31, 21:40 Reply
      They're already on the list, under Sinister Film.
  3. Mike
    January 01, 18:31 Reply
    Thanks! I saw that part, but I thought I could get a little more detail, like maybe an entry of their own on the list.
    • Brent Reid
      January 01, 20:38 Reply
      Hi Mike, I've now listed them separately but can't add much. What sort of info are you looking for; anything specific? As I understand it, they're pretty much like any of the other so-called PD labels I've described elsewhere, like Alpha, Mill Creek, etc. If anything they release is actually PD it's purely by chance and in the minority, and they think nothing of ripping off others' transfers. There is no real distinction between "PD" companies and outright bootleggers but I've tried to limit the list to the worst and most consistent offenders.
  4. Mike
    January 02, 06:56 Reply
    Okay, that's what I thought. I was thinking specifically of the Fred Olen Ray sci-fi film The Brain Leeches (1978) which, according to them when they first released it, sat unreleased until 2003, 25 years later, when they released it apparently with Ray's blessing. Another such film is That Little Monster (1981), a short horror film which, according to Greg Luce, the owner, when I called and asked if it was going to be released on DVD-R, said no because they only had the VHS rights to it. If fact, the film was so short it didn't even fill up the whole tape (I know this because I once bought it, watched it and checked it out when it was done).
    • Brent Reid
      January 02, 11:47 Reply
      Although I can't comment on those particular titles, a few labels occasionally seem to make the effort to release licensed product alongside their pirated wares. God alone knows why they do this, although it does give their supporters 'evidence' to 'prove' they're not bootleggers at all.
  5. Mike
    January 03, 06:50 Reply
    Again, that's what I thought. Thanks for all your help!
  6. Mike
    January 09, 22:11 Reply
    I just saw the separate listing for Sinister Cinema. Thanks a lot for your help! I'm sure that'll help others out, too.
  7. Mike
    January 19, 21:39 Reply
    One question: what's your take on Sinister Cinema's paperback book branch, Armchair Fiction?
    • Brent Reid
      January 20, 09:27 Reply
      One answer: paperback bootlegs. Do you own any copies; is any copyright information included in the endpapers? It's not a rhetorical question! I don't see any on the (also bootlegged) covers.
  8. Mike
    February 03, 20:22 Reply
    No, I don't own any copies of these books at all and from what you've told me here, I'm not sure I even want to now.
    • Brent Reid
      February 04, 06:59 Reply
      You have to salute their spirit of enterprise; I'm disgusted yet impressed in almost equal measure. I wonder what they'll think to rip off next? I see now that SinCin (as they're affectionately known) founder-owner Gregory J. Luce credits himself with sole copyright on all 1,000-odd titles. Yeah, right. As ever, I'd welcome input from him or anyone else involved with Sinister Cinema.

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