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Film Piracy, Organized Crime and Terrorism 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the fair-and-balanced dept.
flip-flop writes "The RAND Corporation has just released a lengthy report titled "Film Piracy, Organized Crime, and Terrorism" which attempts to link all three. The authors suggest that organized crime might be financing itself in part through movie piracy (PDF) — and in three out of 14 of their international case studies, they claim that profits from piracy end up with suspected terrorist organizations. But now for the interesting part! Quote from the preface: 'The study was made possible by a grant from the Motion Picture Association (MPA).' Ah, what a surprise..." The RAND Corporation has made a video summary of the report as well. TorrentFreak has an article disputing some of the report's claims, focusing criticism on RAND's interchangeable use of the terms "piracy" and "counterfeiting" — the report deals with the physical distribution of DVDs, making only brief mention of digital downloads. The MPAA and others have barked up this tree before.
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Film Piracy, Organized Crime and Terrorism

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  • by senorpoco (1396603) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @10:54AM (#27112277)
    Download Torrents, stamp out terrorism.
    • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:09AM (#27112379)

      exactly. if you pirate movies are music make sure you get the online free version instead of the half price fake cd/dvd version.

      In fact Organized crime would most likely love to have online P2P stopped. their low prices can't beat free.

    • by mdwh2 (535323) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:17AM (#27112423) Journal

      Indeed - by this reasoning, the Government should be promoting, and certainly not opposing, free downloading, as part of its War On Terrorrr. Surely, the threat of terrorism is far more serious than any alleged loss of a few sales? "If it saves just one life" etc :)

    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:17AM (#27112435) Homepage

      Ah - these days we have the 'terrorist ghost', earlier we had the 'communist ghost'.

      I wonder what's next.

      The worst thing is that the gullible public falls for it. Especially those that aren't up to date with all details - like members of various courts.

      It is of course possible that there are terrorist factions that makes money from counterfeiting and duplication of music&movies, but considering that counterfeit products often are cheap and sometimes have bad quality it must be a minor source of income when all production costs are paid. And download from torrents must be a very thin source of income.

      It must be a lot easier to make money from cocaine and other drugs since they have a much higher price when they are offered to the consumer. Weapons are also more interesting to trade in for terrorists. Transfer of a load of AK47:s and other items to an African country can provide a decent profit. Think Somalia & pirates and where they did get their weapons.

      Extortion and various types of scams are also good income sources. Check out Hells Angels, Bandidos and other organized crime gangs. Just be aware that those gangs are the soldiers on the field, connect the traces and you can end up in surprising places.

      • What's Next? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @12:25PM (#27112871) Homepage Journal

        There may be no 'next'. Terrorism is timeless and can be milked forever.

        And the fear of not being 'with us' sill squelch a lot of people that disagree.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ToxicBanjo (905105)

        Ah - these days we have the 'terrorist ghost', earlier we had the 'communist ghost'.

        I wonder what's next.

        That would be the ghost of common sense. Pretty sure that poor bastard is dead these days.

      • The connection between terrorism and movies is plausible. I mean, I'm pretty sure that "Battlefield Earth", "Catwoman", and "The Love Guru" all have to be part of some kind of Al Qaeda plot.
      • by gorbachev (512743)

        "I wonder what's next."

        The Nationalization Ghost.

        Look for it to become a household word just in time for the healthcare reform debate.

    • Is the part about "helps funding organized crime". I always thought that the purpose of organized crime was to make moner, and that it was pretty much "self-sustained".

      But now I find that those poor criminals must sell bootlegs to get a income while breaking the law (I suppose they do not know how to make money with burglary, assault, drug trafficking, etc.).

      In the end, it must be true that "Crime does not pay".

  • Since when does commercial counterfeiting have anything to do with public policy surrounding P2P?

    And as the **AA is well aware, their high prices are the main driver of commercial counterfeiting.

    • Re:Ummm.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by perlchild (582235) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:01AM (#27112301)

      They're both based on "intellectual property". So they're gambling that laws protecting "IP" will be good for them.

      • by D4C5CE (578304) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:09AM (#27112377)

        They're both based on "intellectual property".

        Which you surely put in quotes for a reason (as in the words of Richard M. Stallman []):

        The term "intellectual property" [...] leads to simplistic thinking. It leads people to focus on the meager commonality in form that these disparate laws have - that they create artificial privileges for certain parties - and to disregard the details which form their substance: the specific restrictions each law places on the public, and the consequences that result. This simplistic focus on the form encourages an "economistic" approach to all these issues.
        Thus, any opinions about "the issue of intellectual property" and any generalizations about this supposed category are almost surely foolish. If you think all those laws are one issue, you will tend to choose your opinions from a selection of sweeping overgeneralizations, none of which is any good.

        • by perlchild (582235)

          I put it into quotes for many reasons, not the least of which I don't think they should be lumped together. On the other hand, their past actions seem to indicate an interest in having more and more interconnect between trademark and copyright, specifically, and harsher, less definite laws governing them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @10:59AM (#27112295)

    If something's available for less there's always someone who will buy it. The only solution therefore is to make this stuff available for free and starve the "terrorists" and "organised crime syndicates" of money. Anyone who opposes peer-to-peer networking supports terrorism.

    • by Znork (31774)

      This is a fairly general rule; any policy that artificially inflates prices beyond competitive market price creates a profit opportunity for anyone willing to violate the policy.

      This is true whether the subject is a desired product that is completely forbidden (drugs, for example), a highly taxed item (alcohol, tobacco or even gasoline in places) or an artificially imposed monopoly pricing right such as copyrights and patents.

      As the profitability is a function of enforcement, stricter enforcement merely lea

  • Yeah, sure, al-Quaeda and the mob have got be in it for all the ginormous heaps of money to be made e.g. from sharing ripped screeners for free on P2P networks, or selling camcorder copies on backyard markets at pennies above the price of the blanks.

    Occam's razor points elsewhere: []
    • Next thing you know they'll be saying Tony Soprano was responsible.

    • by sjames (1099)

      No, these pirates are the ones the *AA should have been fighting all the time, not the people downloading a few things.

      These pirates are the ones who attempt to make an exact copy down to the packaging. They use professional grade DVD hardware that will read/write the disk CSS, serial number, media ID and all. Unlike the people they like to sue, these pirates pass their copies off as originals (with varying degrees of successs). They offer them at a substantial discount so people won't look too close.


      • [...] these pirates are the ones the *AA should have been fighting all the time, not the people downloading a few things.

        These pirates are the ones who attempt to make an exact copy down to the packaging. They use professional grade DVD hardware that will read/write the disk CSS, serial number, media ID and all.

        It is still implausible why The Godfather or the average warlord would want to catch their share of cuts from a falling knife too, and should have found no avenues to criminal proceeds that are mor

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by sjames (1099)

          And yet, bootleg DVDs are everywhere. Probably because most of them originate from China where you're far more likely to be punished for littering than for bootlegging hollywood movies. In such an operation, the fact that you're shipping a ophysical product is a plus since it explains where all that cash is coming from. It looks legitimate so long as law enforcement doesn't actually inspect the product you ship too closely. Meanwhile, inspecting things carefully involves actual work and illegal drugs are mu

  • oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:01AM (#27112305)
    Anyone have a torrent of the video version?
  • by wvmarle (1070040) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:06AM (#27112343)

    If you are talking about the sales of illegal copies of CD's, then this is likely to be a source of income for organised crime. In Hong Kong the sales of pirated disks is as a matter of fact a source of income for the triads, highly organised crime. And besides that, the whole sale of infringing materials is illegal (possibly a crime: not everything illegal is a crime), so almost by definition the organisations doing this are organised crime.

    The link with terrorism is not too far fetched, as again terrorism is for sure illegal and presumably criminally so, and it tends to be organised, thus lots of terrorist organisations fall under organised crime as well simply for being criminal and organised.

    Luckily (in a way), most piracy a.k.a. copyright infringement these days is file sharing between individuals, and no money changes hands in the process. Well maybe some advertising income for the torrent tracking site or so, but that's all then, and if even The Pirate Bay can barely cover cost, most other tracker sites will be running at a loss. Not much money for funding crime there, then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schon (31600)

      If you are talking about the sales of illegal copies of CD's, then this is likely to be a source of income for organised crime.

      Perhaps, but they didn't say "a source of income", they said "funding their activities" - as in "subsidizing our extortion and illegal drug operations" by selling bootleg copies of Gigli.

      I tell you, it's a sad, sad day when the Mafia can't make ends meet with cocaine and heroin, and instead has to resort to movie piracy!

    • BUT NOT TERRORISM. In Shenzhen, the huge Chinese city right next to Hong Kong, they shut down almost all the street vendors selling unlicensed DVDs right before the Beijing Olympics. For a while you couldn't even find pirated Wii games in this city, it was crazy. After the Olympics they stopped caring too much, and a few of them re-opened, but most remain gone for good. (You used to be able to find a vendor every hundred yards or so on average, now perhaps one every 500 yards.) I asked the seller near
    • by fermion (181285)
      Almost any standard operating practice for business supports terrorism. For instance, UPS sends revenue for it's package insurance branch offshore. This procedure is commonly called money laundering, which is commonly used for all sorts of illicit activity. By allowing legitimate business to launder money, we make it harder to stop not so legitimate businesses from doing so, as the legitimate infrastructure already exists. Furthermore, UPS does not pay taxes on that laundered money, which means that fo
  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:14AM (#27112403) Homepage

    So, commercial movie piracy is funding terrorism. But if people can make their own bootleg copies, they won't buy the commercially pirated movies, and so the terrorists will go belly up.

    So fight terrorism, put that movie on p2p today!

    Meanwhile, the commercial pirates often pass their copies off as legitimate. Even retail outlets can be fooled sometimes. Don't risk supporting terrorists, download that movie!

    • by stiller (451878)

      So, commercial movie piracy is funding terrorism.

      And organized crime is funding legitimate projects. News at 11.

  • I pay nothing for any of their releases. Some of them have gone on the record stating that they do it just because they like to. Now I suppose if someone burned those rips and sold them they could fund terrorism. Or alcoholism, or about anything else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Dunbal (464142)

      they could fund terrorism. Or alcoholism, or about anything else.

            Even politicians? I know, I know - I'm going to far. Surely no one could be THAT terrible.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Narnie (1349029)
        I used the money I got from burning rips to DVD to fund a RAND research paper linking terrorism and pirating CDs/DVDs.
  • by gapagos (1264716) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:21AM (#27112453)

    Suppose we are a terrorist organization.
    Step 1: Stop producing and selling opium, even though we already make FOUR BILLION $USD PER YEAR doing it. []
    Step 2: Purchase a web server, and host a torrent indexing site for free.
    Step 3: Profit!!!


  • It seems that the definition for terrorism has been broadened (see USA Patriot Act) and that it doesn't take that much these days to be a "suspected" terrorist. Also consider that you're now prohibited by law from being aware of this official suspicion. The Obama DOJ, just this past week, did some legal maneuvering to avoid a ruling on whether the president can detain someone indefinitely without charges. That is, they filed charges, which is the Right Thing, but they did it in order to render the pendin

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:25AM (#27112477)

    Bringing down western civilization by downloading episodes of Battlestar Galactica instead of paying for cable.
    Thank you MPA for saving the day!

  • Then again (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:32AM (#27112525)

    Buy a legitimate copy and a good deal of the profits end up in the hands of terrorists via the huge amount of drugs abused in Hollywood anyway.

    If you love America(/your country), use p2p.

    • Modded Funny, but your probably not just right, but right by orders of magnitude. The MPAA and RIAA are all for Orwellian surveillance to detect copyright violations, but probably not so much for the kind of surveillance that would make for easy interdiction of drug trafficking.

      While I don't necessarily agree with our current drug laws, I am definitely not pro-drug and anyone deciding they can enjoy them as a strictly victim-less crime is sorely mistaken. Musicians whose music glorifies violence, drug
  • If you purchase a movie legitimately, a good chunk of the profits end up in the hands of terrorists via rampant drug abuse anyway.

    Conclusion: If you love America (/country of choice), use p2p

  • Seriously, they propose that movies about drugs, murder, sex, and other illegal things go to fund drugs, murder, sex, and other illegal things? I'll just wear these earplugs while the universe pops out of existence.

  • The RAND Corporation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:39AM (#27112589)

    RAND was set up in 1946 by the United States Army Air Forces as Project RAND, under contract to the Douglas Aircraft Company, and in May 1946 they released the Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship. In May 1948, Project RAND was separated from Douglas and became an independent non-profit organization. Initial capital for the split came from the Ford Foundation.
    According to the 2005 annual report, "about one-half of RAND's research involves national security issues."
    Many of the events in which RAND plays a part are based on assumptions which are hard to verify because of the lack of detail on RAND's highly classified work for defense and intelligence agencies.
    The RAND Corporation has been criticized as militarist. Due to the nature of its work, the RAND corporation also frequently plays a role in conspiracy theories.
    In April 1970, a Newhouse News Service story reported that Richard Nixon had commissioned RAND to study the feasibility of canceling the 1972 election.
    RAND has approximately 1,600 employees and five principal locations.
    Seems like a fine objective non-profit think tank to me, helping to improve policy and decision making through objective research and analysis.

  • Crikey RTFA.

    It's about physical counterfeiting. It's why guys like DuPont Authentication Services []

    offer various authentication technologies like 3D holograms for media protection.

  • Whoah there cowboy! If I'm downloading films for *FREE*, how can that be financing anything? I mean, to "finance" something means getting money, right?

  • But now for the interesting part! Quote from the preface: 'The study was made possible by a grant from the Motion Picture Association (MPA).' Ah, what a surprise..."

    And if a study saying the opposite was funded by a grant from the EFF, none of you would even mention it. RAND is not going to sell out just because one study was funded by the MPAA. If they had been, they sure as hell would have found more than 3 out of 14

    focusing criticism on RAND's interchangeable use of the terms "piracy" and "counte
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Locke2005 (849178)
      Please turn in you slashdot membership id. We're not about rational, objective analysis of the facts here; were about enforcing people's existing beliefs! In fact, slashdot's new motto is "Slashdot: Like CPAC, but for nerds!"

      The biggest takeaway I get from this report is that you can never be certain physical media isn't counterfeit, so the only way to make certain you aren't financing criminals is to get all your music and video via P2P. But then, I'm only about the 100th person on here to say that. The M

    • they release a study saying that the physical distribution of DVDs funds terrorism in some cases, and the response is well what about P2P?

      Because the existence of P2P (and DVD writers in most PCs these days) doesn't exactly lend plausibility to the assertion of counterfeit movies as an easy way to substantial funding?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)

      RAND is not going to sell out just because one study was funded by the MPAA

      I don't think it would be possible for RAND to sell out. That would imply that they had some objectivity or integrity to start with. I find RAND a good filter word. Just as when someone says 'beowulf' it's a sure sign that they don't know anything about cluster computing, when someone quotes a RAND report (or, worse, puts 'RAND Fellow' on their business card) it's fairly safe to assume that they don't have the faintest clue about economics.

  • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @12:20PM (#27112835)
    Note that, like buying lottery tickets from winners, selling pirated movies and music and software doesn't have to be profitable. It can be used for money laundering, which used to be a huge need for groups like the IRA and Al Queda, both of which relied on political contributions for their political causes. The IRA collected quite a lot of money from expatriates in the USA and throughout the UK: Al Queda gathers plenty of its funding from Saudi Arabian contributors, like Osama Bin Laden himself.
    • Umm, I was under the impression that by laundering money, you conceal your illicit activities by showing a perfectly legal business to authorities. If the cops turn up and want to know the source and destination of all your money, it probably isn't going to help by saying "oh yes, I made all this money selling dodgy DVDs at the local market."

      • There's a big difference between the two, at least in the US. Drug crime has a large set of automatic prison sentences, and property confiscation laws. DVD copying is a much, much smaller offense, and can even have a hope of being disguised as "legitmate business". The same applies to gun running or funding opposing political groups (whether they're terrorists, freedom fighters, liberators, or 'devoutly religious').
  • by Herkum01 (592704) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @12:24PM (#27112869)

    The RAND corporation will be employing Jack Bauer to help with their investigation torturing suspected grandmothers and little kids for the source of their illegal DVD copies of Sesame Street. Nevermind they don't have a DVD player, in which there are also unamerican so they deserve what is coming to them.


    Wait, the story is not a movie script? Nevermind...

  • Well, it's the sale of counterfeit movies which can provide revenue to the groups producing them...
    When you go to buy a movie, it's hard to tell wether it's counterfeit or not, so you *could* be giving money to these evil groups, wether they be terrorists or the MPAA.

    So the answer?
    Download for free, that way nobody evil makes any profit.

  • at least as long as they keep scaring us with terrorist acts unless we support their policies...

    hmm, or maybe they can be seen as organized crime, in the racketeering kind of way?

    yay, i just proved that government is criminal. this cant be good...

  • by nicodoggie (1228876) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @01:18PM (#27113223)

    This is so damn ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh. How the hell can organized crime or terrorists make money out of free downloads?

    But then again, as I considered it, they could make money out of bootlegs from the stuff they downloaded from torrents. There are mass disk burning operations where I come from, and since bandwidth isn't as cheap here (the highest bandwidth for residential accounts is, IIRC, 2Mbps) as it is in the US, people come to "bootleg bazaars" in droves to buy 16 movies-in-one DVD9s for PhP50 (~US$1).

    This could indeed fund organized crime. It is certainly a possibility, as there is a market for bootlegs even though movies and other such content is freely available online. I myself bought more than 150 disks since DVDs went mainstream here (about 8 years ago) and I was still on dial-up, and almost everyone I know did the same.

    Banning file-sharing won't actually do anything to stop this though, maybe if the damn movie/music industry would price their stuff more reasonably rather than spiking the price of every crappy new release, none of this would happen.

    Right now, I blame RIAA/MPAA. If anyone's funding organized crime and terrorists, it's them.

  • I'm sure if you try hard enough, you can find a way to link the sale of any services or goods to terrorism. People with legitimate jobs have been found to be funding terrorism... they should write a paper linking that next.
  • I love this great riposte to the argument that buying knock-off DVDs "supports" drug dealers, by the Glaswegian comedian Frankie Boyle:

    "This heroin just isn't selling at all. People can take it or leave it. Thank God for the Harry Potter DVDs!"

  • you could link prostate cancer to Japanese school girls.

    They are using fuzzy language and blurring the boundaries between terrorism and organized crime.

    In Russia, organized crime is responsible for computer fraud and makes several millions of dollars per year through extortion and phishing. I doubt they're selling DVDs.

    In India and Malaysia, the newfound technical skills of the cheap labor force is being put to use in phishing attacks earning several millions of dollars per year. I would believe they are funding terrorism. I doubt they're selling DVDs.

    In China, organized crime and/or the government (whose lines are already blurred) have institutionalized hacking. There is more spam sent from Chinese servers than anywhere else. I doubt there is terrorism being funded. They are definitely selling DVDs.

    In Africa, organized crime, governments, and possibly terrorists are using sophisticated scams to steal money and merchandise from westerners. They are definitely NOT selling DVDs. Nigeria, the hub of fraud in Africa, has a booming film industry. It has very little piracy or counterfeiting.

    When I download a movie from bit torrent, no money is changing hands. I'm not supporting either organized crime or terrorism. It's neither piracy nor counterfeiting. It is not stealing anything from anyone. I have not cost anyone anything. I did not break any laws. The guy who puts the movie on the Internet is definitely guilty of civil copyright infringement. Anyone would be quite hard pressed to prove that he funded terrorism. The links are smoke and mirrors. Organized crime thrives through fraud and computer crime. Terrorism thrives through benefactors and fraud.

    This report is one very narrow point of view from a very long distance.

  • []

    Notable names include:
    Donald Rumsfeld,
    Condoleezza Rice,
    Lewis "Scooter" Libby
    Henry Kissinger,
    James F. Digby,

    (ohhh,we know how much we can trust those three)

    On top of that several military experts, researchers in the field of nuclear warfare. Yeah there are also some interesting smart people in there but given the amount of theorists employed to develop and analyze war strategies this is a highly suspicious source of information to say the least. The MPAA lets
  • In fact ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @02:48PM (#27113711)

    ... the wide availability of (free or very inexpensive) digital downloads is killing off the demand for counterfeit DVDs.

    We're doing our part to deprive the terrorists of their sources of financing.

  • Groups which operate illegally and try to achieve their goals with non legal means might use non legal means to finance themselves! What an important information! What's next? The money gained by robbing a bank might land in the hands of criminals?

  • by Vspirit (200600) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @04:21PM (#27114251) Homepage

    While RAND must be applauded for disclosing the funding participants, they still loose severely on credibility.

    They are no longer an organization which I feel confident about as an organization providing policiticians or society in general with objective research.

    As such they ought to be more serious about their research objectives and their reputation, by not allowing them to become puppets in disguise.

    Their credibility is down the drain.
    RAND research is no longer to be trusted.

  • by Legion303 (97901) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:33PM (#27117475) Homepage

    1. Buy videocamera
    2. Purchase movie ticket and $200 worth of concessions (i.e., 1 small Pepsi and a box of Milk Duds)
    3. Put bad cam rip on P2P
    4. ???
    5. PROFIT

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