Since When Is Driving With Infringing DVDs A Crime?

from the this-is-a-good-question dept

Last year, we pointed out that the RIAA was going around telling district attorneys and other law enforcement folks that they should start looking to see if they could use "piracy" charges as a front to get search warrants of suspected drug houses when there wasn't enough evidence to get a warrant having to do with drugs. It seems that some in law enforcement are following through on that. Michael Scott points us to a troubling lawsuit involving just such a situation. Apparently, narcotics officers were told to try to pull over a certain vehicle on any sort of traffic infraction, on the belief that there were drugs in the vehicle. While there was a tiny amount of marijuana, it wasn't enough to do anything. However... there was a big box of what turned out to be counterfeit DVDs. The guy was arrested and a warrant was issued to search his house -- and eventually he was charged with copyright infringement for the DVDs. The guy argued that the search of his car and house were a violation, but the link above includes an important point by Shourin Sen:
Mere possession of infringing DVDs isn't illegal. You can drive around with a truck full of them. You just can't reproduce or distribute ten or more infringing copies of a copyrighted work which have a total retail value of more than $2,500. If it wasn't the marijuana, what in fact was the Defendant arrested for? And was there probable cause to search the defendants house based only on the possession of material he was legally allowed to carry?
These are all good questions...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Pixelpusher220, May 29th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    possession is not a crime but...

    how about possession with intent to distribute?

    If I have 200 copies a movie I don't have rights to possess (meaning I didn't buy the movie and then make copies of it - that's another legal grey area sadly) it seems a pretty fair logical connection to say I was planning on distributing them.

    Given intent on distribution and a large number of copies, searching a residence for the 'means' isn't unreasonable.


    This case is, however, ample reason to reform copyright laws because it shows how inane they are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    chris (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 11:32am

    sounds like

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    @Pixelpusher220

    There is no law outlawing possession. There is no "possession with intent to distribute" crime here. Sure, the IAAs will now lobby to create one, but you cannot arrest someone for a crime that does not exist. That is the problem.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    mike42 (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Illinois

    Don't forget Illinois has a law against DVD's that do not display a title/copyright date. So, yeah, possessing bootleg DVD's IS a crime, at least in Illinois!

    I am sure, however, that this law was in no way a result of campaign contributions to either of our last two Governors, both of which are now serving time...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Brian O, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Of all the avenues available for the US to become a police state, I find it interesting that COPYRIGHT law seems to be such a viable one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 12:18pm

    Re: Illinois

    Illinois has a ridiculous amount of bootlegs available in the city. It's almost pitiful. When I check out some of these bootlegs for humor their quality is so bad it is pitiful. It's not even worth getting them, I'd rather download online.

    I mean I got one for a spider man movie to try and a: the volume was bad, b: the videocam shook and c: they called it spader man/spirder man on another copy. Pitiful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    JustPostin, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: possession is not a crime but...

    "it seems a pretty fair logical connection to say I was planning on distributing them."

    Or you have severe OCD and one copy just wasn't enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Don't forget things like "interstate transport" of pirated material - a federal crime.

    Sort of like having 200 car stereos in your car. While you may claim you own them and you are going to use them yourself, don't be shocked if the police ask you why you have them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Tgeigs (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Re: Illinois

    Yeah, well, if you'd stop buying your bootlegs at the Church's Chicken on E. 35th, you'd get better quality.

    You just wouldn't get great fried chicken...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    There are so many things wrong with this case, and I will attempt to provide some examples of how such logic fails.

    For example, someone could be pulled over and it's found that I am in possession of a bottle of water and a handkerchief. To a over zealous madman officer who desires to pad their resume, this could be an indication that I am going somewhere to interrogate terrorists. And harboring terrorists is a crime, ergo, I am in violation of the law and my house should be searched.

    A more sane example involves picking up a hooker. Generally, one can not be prosecuted for solicitation until a monetary transaction occurs.

    Possession is not a crime, just like owning a gun is not a crime. It's that simple.

    Additionally, Copyright Infringement is a federal crime, investigated and overseen by the FBI. This officer (and I use the term very loosely) clearly overstepped his authority and should be reprimanded, if not let go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    seems that the charges should have been thrown out as there was no legal reason to search him in the first place. He should sue for harassment, thought I don't think that the law has to follow the rules. What's that quote..."I AM THE LAW!"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    Why is it not one big box of on1 copy each of a big bunch of CD which were being used in a boom box?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    minijedimaster (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    The wonderfulness of living in the great policestate of Illinois. With our mega-corrupt politicians (which Obama comes out of by the way).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: possession is not a crime but...

    "how about possession with intent to distribute?"

    shhhhhh... Piggies are raised for bacon, not for learning.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    Possessing an AK-47 isn't a crime anymore (*I think*) but having a truck full of 1000 of them when the police are looking for a way to stop you...well me thinks you'd be wearing a nice set of bracelets for a while at least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Pixelpusher220, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    I'd be floored if there isn't an 'intent to distribute' crime on the books for drugs at a minimum and anything else that's technically illegal at worst.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    if police want to stop you, they don't need a reason. can't you held without charge for 24 hours?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    Tgeigs (profile), May 29th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    They can hold you for 48 hrs. w/o formally charging you, but they need a reason to detain in the first place...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 1:56pm

    Re:

    Those? Going to a swap meet to sell them. That's all you need to know. Thank you, have a great day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    So you want to use a suspected drug dealer as your poster boy? Good luck in that.

    Oh, and since it was a drug bust, there were probably federal agents along for the ride.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    AnonCow, May 29th, 2009 @ 3:52pm

    So, 99% of people walking down the street with an mp3 player could be detained by the police for having possession of material which violates U.S. copyright law?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    batch, May 29th, 2009 @ 4:01pm

    Re:

    interstate is when you get caught transporting over state lines. Its not relevant if you commit the crime within the same state.

    the police can question all they want, but unless they can prove a crime, I'm just doing something unconventional.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    They can hold you for 48 hrs. w/o formally charging you, but they need a reason to detain in the first place...

    Hah, that's funny. The government can hold you for as long as they like and they don't need any reason in the first place. Just ask some of those being held at Gitmo and other secret detention facilities. (Oops, you can't, can you?)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Re:

    I'd be floored if there isn't an 'intent to distribute' crime on the books for drugs at a minimum and anything else that's technically illegal at worst.

    Umm, we're talking about DVD's. I don't know what you're on about with "drugs".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    Re: Illinois

    Don't forget Illinois has a law against DVD's that do not display a title/copyright date. So, yeah, possessing bootleg DVD's IS a crime, at least in Illinois!

    What has our educational system come to that people don't even know that Georgia (where this story is taking place) is a state? It is not part of the state of Illinois.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 29th, 2009 @ 5:31pm

    Re:

    "Don't forget things like "interstate transport" of pirated material - a federal crime."

    Citation, please.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Jason, May 30th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    No, but you can arrest someone on suspicion of a crime when it is probable that one took place.

    I disagree with the law here. But it is what it is.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    never talk to the police

    you have a right to remain silent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    John, May 30th, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    The point is... Forget all the BS. They were LOOKING to arrest him to begin with. Ain't nothin gonna change that.
    Like you need a law degree and you're all set, "SAFE"-not
    wgaf about the dvd's

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re:

    There is for drugs but intent requires other things than just possession (for instance, possession of drugs and plastics bags, or drugs and a scale).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2009 @ 3:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    Thank you for posting this completely baseless accusation with which you slander the credibility of thousands of people in law enforcement acting on behalf of the United States of America.

    Please cite even one example of a U.S. Citizen held in Gitmo without 'reason'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 1st, 2009 @ 1:52am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    Thank you for posting this completely baseless accusation with which you slander the credibility of thousands of people in law enforcement acting on behalf of the United States of America.

    If you're trying to deny that people are being held in Gitmo without charge than I think it is you who is making completely baseless statements. I'm not even going to bother to provide you with references to something which is so well known. What are you, some law enforcement propagandist troll?

    Please cite even one example of a U.S. Citizen held in Gitmo without 'reason'.

    Who said US Citizen? Another straw man down, eh troll?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Tgeigs (profile), Jun 1st, 2009 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    "If you're trying to deny that people are being held in Gitmo without charge than I think it is you who is making completely baseless statements. I'm not even going to bother to provide you with references to something which is so well known. What are you, some law enforcement propagandist troll?"

    While I don't necessarily agree w/its functionality and operation, the entire reason for the existence of Gitmo is/was that it WASN'T on US territory, and there WEREN'T US citizens there. Once you bring a prisoner into the States, they acquire all kinds of rights that the govt. didn't want them to have. Comparing them to the folks in the article seems a bit over the top.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    rob, Jun 1st, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    There are two problems with that:

    1. Habeas Corpus is not an individual right, but a collective one. It's the right to challenge an individual's status under the law. If a citizen is wrongfully sent to Gitmo (lost papers, whatever), then they need a way to correct that error. In other words, if ANYONE loses habeas corpus, then EVERYONE does.

    2. The Declaration of Independence says "We hold these truths to be self evident ... [all men] ... are endowed by their creators with certain inalienable rights...". That's greatly shortened, but the meaning and context have not been changed. In other words, the rights guaranteed by the constitution are not citizens rights, they are human rights. Obviously, the US has no business enforcing its own idea of rights in other countries, but on any soil controlled by the US, it has an obligation to respect those rights.

    You could say that Gitmo is in Cuba. Geographically that's true, but if Cuba had sovereign control over Gitmo, then detainees would be appealing to the Cuban government, and SCOTUS would be respecting Cuba's authority. I think Castro would wet himself over that one. Gitmo is either under Cuban law or US law. It's not both, it's not neither, and it's not some mix.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2009 @ 10:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: possession is not a crime but...

    ...the entire reason for the existence of Gitmo is/was that it WASN'T on US territory, and there WEREN'T US citizens there.

    But they're still people and they're still being held by the US gov't, aren't they? And despite your assertion, some have been held for much more than "48 hours".

    Comparing them to the folks in the article seems a bit over the top.

    The "but they're not US citizens!" excuse reminds me of the excuse Japanese soldiers used when committing atrocities in WWII. They believed that that since the victims weren't Japanese citizens that it was OK. War crime tribunals later disagreed with them on that. It wasn't OK then and it isn't OK now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Jan 6th, 2010 @ 4:24pm

    Re: bootleg

    that comment is total bullshit i just found this out and i didnt even have any copied dvd's i had AVI files encoded ontoo a dvd Penal code PC350 (A) and penal code PC653w (A) google that buddy i just got arrested for it monday jan 4th 2010 their is a law saying you can not even own a recorded note that is copyrighted .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This