Marcus King, the owner of Titan Games in Battle Creek, Michigan, provided ICv2 with an eyewitness account of the coordinated raid by RIAA and MPAA agents with the aid of state and local police targeting dealers in pirate video products at the recently concluded Motor City Con held in Novi, Michigan:
At the Novi Comic con on Friday of this past weekend (May 19th), the police (Novi city police,
After talking with several retailers, convention staff, about 8 cops, and two RIAA officials, I found that the police had the RIAA agents in the hall at the opening bell on Friday accompanied by undercover police (just plain clothes cops). They bought videos from several vendors offering videos, took notes, and got their warrants and such. Then, they came back on Friday afternoon, and made their arrests.
Nearly every vendor who had videos out for sale was found to have pirated stuff on their tables.
They arrested every violator -- one guy lost 3200+ DVDs, one lost 6. They arrested guys who had as much as 100% of their inventory found to be pirated stuff, and they arrested a guy who had about $500K in comics on his table, and 12 used videos from his personal collection, of which 6 were pirated discs (which he had bought, viewed, and decided to resell). There were no exceptions -- if you had ONE pirated disc (DVD or Music CD) you got busted.
As I had over 500 DVDs on my tables, and I am pretty sure who the undercover cop was (he had been in my booth for over 30- minutes literally looking at nearly EVERY DVD) I also got interviewed by the police about my discs once the raid was underway. I was found to have no bootlegged discs.
As always, I found that complete cooperation with the police paid off. The police said they would have to open up every DVD I had on the table, to insure none were pirated discs -- I said go ahead. They said they would need to inspect my vehicle in the lot. I informed them we had two vehicles in the lot, one we drove up as the big carrier, and one for driving back and forth to the hotel and that they had my permission to inspect both. Satisfied, they didn't open one DVD, and didn't inspect either vehicle.
On the other extreme, was the 98-pound cute little lady who, upon having the cops tell her to sit quietly while they were there to inspect her booth, stood up and started yelling at the cops -- and found herself face down on the floor with cuffs on, and a boot in her back holding her down -- as did two guys in a nearby booth. The guys across the aisle from me, on the other hand, were big, burly, 6'4 300-pounders, and they were calm, respectful and were never cuffed -- even though about 70% of their booth was carted off. The police put them on a bus, and they were not even cuffed once in the trip. It pays to cooperate.
This makes me wonder if perhaps we will see more inspections by the RIAA at other conventions this summer -- this is the third RIAA inspection I have heard of in the past few months, but the first I have ever witnessed.
I can say that the RIAA has really opened my eyes to some things - for example, they do NOT inspect discs of TV Shows, evidently their interest, or the law, excludes those. They DO inspect CD music recordings.
Also, talking to several vendors, the 'smart' (their term) ones do not put out their pirated stuff until Saturday. The RIAA does not do inspections on Saturday (again, from what some of the vendors said) so the careful vendors put out only legit stuff on weekdays, then load up their pirated stuff on Saturday.
Several customers at the Novi Comic Con were disappointed on Saturday when they couldn't find any of the DVDs they wanted -- stuff like old TV Series from the 60's, recent stuff like copies of the Battle Star Galactica Season 2.5 discs, and HBO stuff -- I likely spoke to over 100 customers who wanted to buy bootlegged stuff and were disappointed that it was not there -- I guess they will all have to learn how to download it for free from the net.
Will the RIAA do more inspections this summer? Will vendors learn not to bring pirated DVDs to shows, and change their business practices to stay 'legal'?
On Saturday, most of the dealers I spoke to were very scared -- talking about never doing it again. By Sunday, the two I talked to again had found what they felt were loopholes (dealing only in porn and TV shows, which the RIAA does not regulate) and planned to concentrate on those areas and not do Movies.
By the way, I do a lot of cons, and have seen movies that opened on Friday at the conventions for sale on pirated DVDs on the same day. This weekend was no exception -- you could have bought a copy of
But not Friday evening -- which was likely the type of result the RIAA had in mind when they planned this inspection.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.