For years, Brooke's husband Fred has been pestering her to find out if anyone has received the "5 years in prison and or a $250,000 fine" for violating the FBI's anti-piracy warning you see at the start of DVDs. Brooke talks to the FBI's Financial Crimes Section Chief Angela Byers to see if she can get Fred his answer.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay, so I’m going to use the last couple of minutes to work out an issue that has plagued my marriage for years. Those FBI warnings at the beginning of DVDs and Blu-rays, threatening a quarter-million-dollar fine and five years in jail if you copy the film? Those warnings have been a constant irritant in my house. I'm calling my husband Fred. I'm recording him, and I’m not telling him either.
BROOKE: Hi, honey.
BROOKE: I just wanted to ask you, can you tell me what it is you say every single time we put in a DVD?
BROOKE: If you can.
FRED: Oh, let me see, it’s, it’s usually something like, “You ought to do a piece about whether anybody has ever been prosecuted under this law. I think a lot of people would be really interested in that.”
BROOKE: And what do I say?
FRED: Oh, [LAUGHS] you usually just ignore me.
BROOKE: [LAUGHS] And how long has this been goin’ on?
FRED: Uh, probably ten years.
BROOKE: Yeah. Fred, I have your answer.
FRED: Yeah? Has there?
BROOKE: I’m gonna play you the answer.
ANGELA BYERS: The FBI’s Anti-Piracy Warning Seal was specifically created to deter the illegal piracy of film and music and to increase the public’s awareness regarding the penalties associated with the criminal copyright infringement.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Every time we put in a DVD or a Blu-ray, my husband says, and I mean, literally, every time, “You ought to do a story on that.”
“Has anyone ever actually been prosecuted for this? Has anyone? Come on, you got to find this out.” And I just put him off for years and years, and this is his moment. So –
- Angela, speak to Fred.
ANGELA BYERS: As you probably know, sentences are determined based on various factors. They include whether or not, you know, a defendant cooperated, what the size of the criminal activity was. Here’s a typical case, where a guy got four years in jail for criminal copyright infringement. He was indicted by a grand jury for replicating and selling thousands of counterfeit copies of Norton Antivirus, music DVDs and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVDs.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So, you will only go after the big fish.
ANGELA BYERS: Yeah, we’re not going after somebody that’s usually just making one or two copies. I am not aware of FBI resources ever being used in that respect.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It’s kind of like the mattress tag that says “Do not remove under penalty of law.” You’ll never go after me, if I decide to make a copy of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and give it to my kid.
ANGELA BYERS: Right.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So this warning is directed at precisely not the people that you are pursuing.
ANGELA BYERS: It could deter people from actually getting into that business, because you never know the audience that you're really hitting.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Angela, thank you very much.
ANGELA BYERS: Well, hopefully, Fred’s happy with those answers.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Angela Byers is the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section Chief.
BROOKE, TO FRED: Well?
FRED: [LAUGHS] I think, I think you probably answered questions of several dozen people out there. [LAUGHS]
BROOKE: [LAUGHS] And it’s answered yours?
FRED: Yes, it has. I suspected the deterrence thing was what was really goin’ on here.
BROOKE: Are you relieved?
FRED: Well, what – what is there to be relieved about?
I guess I don’t have to ask – I, I, I don’t have to say anything at the beginning of the movie anymore. [LAUGHS]
FRED: Are you taping this?
BROOKE: Yeah, the whole thing’s recorded.
[MUSIC UP & UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: Fred!
That's it for this week’s show. On the Media was produced by Jamie York, PJ Vogt, Alex Goldman, Sarah Abdurrahman and Chris Neary. We had more help from Olivia Weitz and Molly Buckley. And our show was edited - by Brooke. Our technical director is Jennifer Munson. Our engineer this week was Andrew Dunne.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Katya Rogers is our Senior Producer. Jim Schachter is WNYC’s Vice President for News. Bassist composer Ben Allison wrote our theme. On the Media is produced by WNYC and distributed by NPR. I’m Brooke Gladstone.
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