If I Were The MPAA… How I Would Deal With My Car Break-In

from the a-study-in-contrasts dept

My family and I got back from our annual vacation in the Current Middle Ages last Friday morning around 2 a.m.  Exhausted from the trip, I forgot to take in my iPod and left it visibly displayed on the front seat. When I went out to the car the next morning, I found the passenger-side window broken and the iPod (along with some other items in the front seat) stolen. I called the police, and an officer came out to take my report. He was properly professional and sympathetic. He informed me that the chief tool available was a database that pawnshops must maintain of any electronic devices that are pawned. If the serial number on my iPod came up in the database, they would nab the felon. Otherwise, though, there wasn’t much hope. The officer also advised me that there had been some similar incidents in the general neighborhood and that the best way to avoid having my car broken into in the future was to make sure that no electronics or charging cords were visible. I thanked him for his professionalism and advice and that was that.


Then I got to thinking, what if I were the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) or the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)? How would I handle the theft of my iPod and the advice from the police on how to avoid future break ins? Rather differently, as I explain below . . . .

So if I were the MPAA, how would I handle this?

  1. Berate the cop who answered my call for not stopping the crime before it happened. I would also go around to everyone in my neighborhood and accuse them of “supporting theft” from their failure to set up a neighborhood watch to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car.
  2. When the cop told me that I could reduce the likelihood of future car break-ins by keeping electronics hidden, I would shout at the cop for “supporting theft.” After all, I have a perfect right to keep my iPod in my car, prominently displayed if I want. How dare this cop tell me to change my behavior to avoid getting robbed!
  3. Later, I would try to get the cop who advised me on how to avoid future car break-ins fired for “abetting car thieves.” I would conduct a public smear campaign in which I accused this cop of being in bed with thieves, fences, and other nefarious dealers in stolen goods because he “supports theft” by advising me how to avoid future car break-ins rather than setting a 24/7 guard on my driveway or preemptively arresting anyone who looks like he or she might steal my iPod. After all, if you really cared about stopping theft, you wouldn’t tell me to change my behavior or take steps to protect myself! I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in my front seat, and theft is wrong. So telling me to hide my iPod to avoid a break in means you don’t really want to enforce the law.
  4. While I’m at it, I will also accuse my neighbors of secretly wanting to steal my iPod. They have motive (who wouldn’t want a free iPod?) and opportunity, so they are all prime suspects. I will demand the police conduct a house-to-house search. If they are too busy, I insist the police give ME the right to do a house-to-house search. I will also start harassing my neighbors and treating them like criminals. If they tell me to bugger off, and demand to see a warrant before I search their homes for my iPod, I will point to their bad attitude as proof that they are either thieves or support thieves. Why else would they object?
  5. I would lobby the Montgomery County Council to place a 24/7 guard on my driveway so I can leave my iPod in the front seat. I would also insist on a video surveillance system and fingerprinting for anyone who comes with 500 feet of my car. Any neighbors who complain about what a waste of tax payer money this is, or that it invades their privacy, or that they don’t like giving fingerprints to police to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat “support theft” and deserve the smear treatment.
  6. I would give $1 million in campaign donations to any County Council rep who votes for my proposals. I would give the same amount to the opponents of any County Council member who even suggests that my proposals are a little extreme and maybe I ought to just put my iPod in the glove compartment. I would hold parties where County Council members can meet famous movie stars and recording artists, all of whom will urge the members of the County Council to vote for my eminently reasonable proposal to avert the veritable crime wave of iPod thefts in my driveway.
  7. I would produce statistics that show that Montgomery County loses thousands of dollars and numerous jobs annually from iPod theft from my driveway. Anyone who questions the accuracy of these statistics “supports iPod theft.”
  8. Then I will wonder why I am so unpopular with my neighbors. I will conclude they have been deluded by the pawnshop lobby. Or they support iPod theft. But it can’t be anything wrong with me, since I have a perfect right to leave my iPod in the front seat of my car and anyone who questions any measures to protect that right either supports theft or is being controlled by the pawnshop lobby.

You may ask, wouldn’t it actually be easier, cheaper and more effective for me to change my habits and be a bit more careful about leaving my iPod and other electronic devices on the front seat of my car? To which I can only say “if you can even ask that question, you clearly support iPod theft.”


Stay tuned . . .

Cross-posted from Tales of the Sausage Factory

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Comments on “If I Were The MPAA… How I Would Deal With My Car Break-In”

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Gothenem (profile) says:

This is hilarious!!

It is also sad, because this is true. I think that putting their situation into this context really helps regular people understand why we are up in arms against the current IP Industry lobbying efforts.

It isn’t because they are wrong (they DO have the right to leave their iPod in the front sead), but because they are going overboard in trying to criminalize or demonize behavior that is not illegal (living in the neighbourhood, suggesting that iPods should not be left on the front seat).

I would continue, but I would be re-iterating the above article.

Well Done Harold!!!

Machin Shin (profile) says:

I think you forgot that you also would have to put your iPod in a fancy case that makes it a royal pain in the ass to use. Make the screen protector so that it does not work unless your hands are just the right temperature and such other foolishness. This would be the only measure your willing to do on your own to prevent theft.

This case of course will be easily discarded by whoever takes the device. You know, in much the same way DRM is discarded by all the pirates.

Andrew F (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, you’d be protected by the First Sale Doctrine at least. Once a valid copy is sold, the copyright holder loses the ability to control what happens to that particular copy.

But suppose the First Sale Doctrine was weakened, e.g. because it’s a virtual copy, it’s only “licensed” rather than sold. That means each subsequent owner of the iPod who played the song would be liable for infringement, theft or not. See http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120608/18350819256/why-supreme-court-needs-to-make-sure-that-selling-used-ipad-isnt-copyright-violation.shtml

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

i thought first sale doctrine only applied to physical manufactured goods on US soil. Isn’t that why Omega put a (C) symbol on their watches, and Costco got in trouble? The watches were created abroad, which gave them much weaker First Sale doctrine rights.

And, isn’t it entirely probable that the whole DMCA/DRM/Pirate thing happens because absolutely everyone wants to pirate and not pay? So DRM locks digital to product, and DMCA prohibits Fair Use/transfer – which is how the First Sale doctrine is weakened on that front.

And, aren’t they putting that Web Connect DRM into most products, preventing a sale. Like PS3 video games and the like?

Overall – the First Sale Doctrine is already bypassed.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s what number 5 said.

“I would lobby the Montgomery County Council to place a 24/7 guard on my driveway so I can leave my iPod in the front seat. I would also insist on a video surveillance system and fingerprinting for anyone who comes with 500 feet of my car. Any neighbors who complain about what a waste of tax payer money this is, or that it invades their privacy, or that they don’t like giving fingerprints to police to protect my right to leave my iPod in the front seat “support theft” and deserve the smear treatment.”

Beech says:

pawn shops.

Good analogy, but I don’t think you gave enough grief to the pawn shops. Sure, they do their legal minimal obligation to register electronics, but why don’t they do more, dammit? They should hold every item they receive aside until they have contacted the police to make sure no other such items have EVER been stolen in the area. All the time and money it takes to (sort of kind of) verify the legality of every object traveling through the store should be at the cost of the pawn shop. If they disagree with these methods they are supporting theft and most-all of their money is made off of theft. If they agree with the methods you say that they are making a “good start” and tell them you are looking forward to seeing what other steps they are going to take to curb iPod theft.

Michael (profile) says:

From the RIAA

Dear pirate.

You just distributed some unknown number number of music files ILLEGALLY. You are clearly a huge pirate for distributing these files without the approval of the copyright holders.

You either need to recover said device immediately and ensure that any files that were on it have not been copied by the thief, or you will need to pay licensing fees for the distribution of the music.

Now, if the device was stolen by multiple thieves, you are also going to need to pay for a public performance license. They could be listening to this music together and we know your device was out in public because it was in your car.

We estimate the value of the music is somewhere between $10 million and $179 million, and will need you to provide an affidavit from someone at ICE who has recently used your device as proof if you want to argue for anything lower than the $179 million. If you cannot, we can help by asking the NSA – they track your music usage for us.

We are also going to assume a dirty pirate like you had a couple of movies on your iPod, so we will be copying the MPAA on this notice so they can also determine their fees.

Thank you for your cooperation

Jasmine Charter (user link) says:


I believe that they should be informed of this pirate, since he STOLE music from them. He did not buy it… but now he can listen to the music FREE… and… God Forbid… he play the music on your iPod on large speakers so that others could hear… cuz there’s a public performance fee too!


Beech says:

I like this game

Another one:

One of my neighbors has a rock garden. A rock was used to smash my car window. Sue neighbor for 500 times the cost of an iPod and car window. When neighbor has proof he was out of state at the time the theft occurred, agree to sue him for MERELY 100 times the cost to you for inducing/enabling the real criminal.

Gothenem (profile) says:

Re: Re:

OK, you seem to have completely missed it. He isn’t saying that he was wrong to leave his iPod on the front seat of his car. While he certainly has a right to do so, it doesn’t make very much sense to do so.

Because of how he acted (ie. leaving his iPod clearly visible on the front seat of his car), he invited theft.

What he is saying is that when the same thing happens to the **AA (ie. making their content so hard to access in formats they want), they are also inviting theft. And then goes to correlate their response to theft with his own situation.

Clearly leaving your iPod on the front seat of your car is a bad idea. It is not illegal, and you certainly have a right to do so, but it is still a bad idea.

Creating content, and then locking it down behind paywalls, DRM, physical copies (when none are needed) isn’t illegal, but in today’s digital world, it is a bad idea.

He simply took the responses the **AA use for the “theft” of their content, and hypothetically applied it to the theft of his iPod.

No one is saying he is right, but they are saying the overreacting isn’t the right idea either.

Pjerky (profile) says:


This brought tears to my eyes. As someone who has had his car broken into for audio equipment I can attest that all the victims like myself deserve to have our government protect us from our stupid choices like leaving an iPod out or a faceplate on our stereos.

How dare they suggest something as simple as putting the items in a glovebox? How dare they not do everything in their power not to protect what is rightfully mine? I pay good tax money and I deserve justice MY WAY!


jsl4980 (profile) says:

What if someone committed the MPAA's crimes against you

You should flip it around, what if someone committed the same crimes against you that are committed to against the MPAA.

A neighbor sees your iPod on the front seat of your car, so that neighbor buys the same car and same iPod and places his iPod in an identical spot on his front seat. Imagine the horror if everyone copied the same actions you did while leaving yours unharmed, still in your possession, and still in place; but they copied you!

DannyB (profile) says:

One you missed

If I saw anyone in my neighborhood with an iPod, I would immediately send them a settlement letter. After all, their iPod MUST be stolen.

In fact, if I merely thought I saw you with an iPod, I would sue you! Or if it looked like there was something in your pocket that could be an iPod. (Or are you just happy to see me?)

Or merely if you had pockets. After all pockets are facilitating and enabling theft. For that matter, so is the car that I left my iPod in — I should sue the car manufacturer.

Anything but go after the real criminal.

DH's Love Child (profile) says:

What about car companies?

After all they made the ipod easily visible on the front seat by not making those darned windows both impossible to see through AND easy to break with a rock. I mean, shouldn’t they know that this ipod is more important that the safety of the occupants of the car. It’s certainly worth more $$$ with all of that damn music on it. Sheesh!

radarmonkey (profile) says:

False premise for analogy

While I sympathize deeply for the physical break-in of your vehicle and physical loss of your iPod property (and the virtual property it contained), your analogy to the MPAA/RIAA reaction is built on a false premise.

To correct, you would have left your iPod on the seat of your convertible (top down, of course) and the iPod returned to said seat after the ‘thief’ had merely listened to your musical choices without paying you for the privileged.

No physical damage. No physical loss of property.

Then, the analogy to an MPAA/RIAA reaction would be accurate.

John F (profile) says:

:: sigh ::

First – not trying to troll. I agree with your position and your overall point, but…

Second – This article is an example of a bad analogy argument. “Minds, like rivers, can be broad. The broader the river, the shallower it is. Therefore, the broader the mind, the shallower it is.” Yes, it’s entertaining, but you’re ascribing a ridiculous scenario to the **AA, which a) isn’t provable, and b) devoid of any rational basis, and c) is petty and seems like it’s making more digs at the **AA than valid points.

Yes, I agree with the sentiment. But, the style in which this was argued is, IMHO, not up to the high quality of other criticisms and analysis of the **AA’s policies and procedures.

Zilberfrid (profile) says:

Re: :: sigh ::

“This article is an example of a bad analogy argument. “Minds, like rivers, can be broad. The broader the river, the shallower it is. Therefore, the broader the mind, the shallower it is.” “

Do you know that most broad rivers simply displace a large amount of water, and that they are, in general, deeper then narrow rivers? Two bad analogies don’t make one good analogy.

ImTheRhino (profile) says:


I think you missed the last point.

9. Without conclusive evidence, convince the local authorities that one of your neighbors is about to erase the songs on your iPod, therefore killing off all piracy related proof on a global scale. Have SWAT, police dogs, helicopters raid their house. Search for 15 minutes looking for your neighbor (who is sitting at the dining table reading the paper and was only found after their wife/husband pointed them out), seize all assets, rough them up and then demand they be incarcerated until they can turn a case of break and enter into a global piracy conspiracy.

Only afterwards is it proven that not only did they not steal the iPod, but they were interstate on holidays at the time.

RD says:

No no NO!

No no NO! You are all missing the point! He stole an actual, physical thing. He STOLE, he didn’t INFRINGE by making a copy. Therefore this entire scenario would in reality boil down to: he pays the cost of the device and a small court fee. If he had copied anything, he would be executed (of course) but since he committed ACTUAL theft, the punishment is much less severe.

Niall (profile) says:

Re: No no NO!

You are missing the point. It’s not about the actual crime and its comparison – he’s using a real life example as the base, even though it’s not a perfect comparison. It’s about the massive, disproportionate, excessive and endless reaction ‘on his part’ being compared to how the **AAsses react to digital copying. And how they react to having common sense recommendations made.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is exactly why I no longer buy movies or music. Let them keep their broken products and I’ll keep my money. The question of theft could have been solved long ago. Either keep it locked up where no one can get to it, or license all those file sharing sites and there will no longer be piracy.

Of course they have this little problem with over valuing and demanding the world you live on for the price of their product.

It’s not worth that to me. I’ll hang on to my money that is actually something I can use.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

The Boundary Between Piracy and Theft.

This episode illustrates the essential falsity of the piracy-as-theft meme. In the real world, when people are concerned about the risk of their cars being stolen, or broken into, they install auto-burglar alarms. Some of these alarms are so sensitive that they will begin playing warning messages when someone stands too close to the car. Quite often, people have garages built into their houses, and they drive in, using the door-opener’s remote control, to achieve a fully secure transition. The car is protected as an incident of protecting the owner on the way from the car to the house (*). Likewise, when appropriate, houses have burglar alarms, barred windows, etc. Commercial establishments are very often able to do business through bulletproof glass windows, when the situation calls for it. One can set up a device which resembles a vending machine, but is plugged into the cash register, and dispenses obviously valuable goods such as cigarettes.

The kind of theft which I can think of, which most closely resembles piracy is “Theft By Usufruct,” eg. staying in a motel room, and taking the towels with you when you check out. It has the same element of regarding the customer as a criminal, and not being able to lock down the property in question without destroying its usefulness to the customer. Theft By Usufruct used to have a life of its own, eg. people stealing the spoons when they ate, but of course, by now all the less ritzy establishments, up to and including food courts in shopping centers, use disposable plastic spoons. The same goes for things like salt-shakers. Eating and lodging establishments generally prefer to use disposables whenever possible, and when the customer will put up with it, to avoid being in the dishwashing and laundry business.

(*) A while back, one night in the middle of winter, when the snow was a foot or so deep, and the wind chill factor was considerable, I walked down to the store. Naturally, I was wearing suitable gear– heavy boots, parka, and carrying a poncho which could be used as an additional windbreaker at need, not unmindful that we aren’t very far from the site of George Washington’s Fort Necessity. At the store, I noticed that one of the customers was dressed in pajamas, bathrobe, and bedroom slippers. It was obvious that she had not gone outside to get into her car. That was simply not the get-up for scraping ice off the windshield at about 20 deg F. The store had an awning covering its gas pumps and some of its parking places, those only about ten or twenty feet from the door. Still, it was an odd performance.

Anon says:

“When the cop told me that I could reduce the likelihood of future car break-ins by keeping electronics hidden, I would shout at the cop for “supporting theft.” After all, I have a perfect right to keep my iPod in my car, prominently displayed if I want. How dare this cop tell me to change my behavior to avoid getting robbed!”

That’s not like slutwalk at all.

Neil says:

Another response

MPAA lobbies local council, state, federal legislature seeking laws that allow it to search any passer by as we know most car burglaries are committed by pedestrians.

Each pedestrian found to have an ipod fitting the description of the stolen ipod should have himself and his family up in court for punitive damages of say 300 times the actual loss of the original ipod. Their ipod, clothes & footwear (which were all clearly used in the commission of their crime) are now evidence and will be impounded for an arbitrary amount of time.

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