Optical Disc Piracy

What Are Optical Discs

Optical discs were initially developed by Philips Electronics for the storage and playback of digital music and were first released in 1982.  Known as
Compact Disc or simply CD, this format quickly revolutionized the music industry and has impacted the computer industry as well with the development
of the CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory).

Video Compact Disc or VCD is an extension of this same technology and was developed by Philips Electronics and JVC in 1993.  This format, which has
become popular mainly in Asia, allows for up to one hour of full motion video and 2 channels of digital audio to be contained on one 12 cm disc (two discs
are required for most Hollywood movies). The discs can be played on  VCD players, computers equipped with a CD-ROM drive and some models of DVD

Digital Versatile Disc or Digital Video Disc, known simply as DVD was launched initially in 1996.  At the time, several groups were independently
developing higher capacity disc formats.  

With the assistance of the movie entertainment industry, Sony, Philips, Toshiba and Time Warner came together and agreed on an international standard
that has become known as DVD.

The DVD is the same diameter as the CD (12 cm) but, by using a laser with a shorter wavelength of light, the storage capacity of one layer is greatly
increased. In order to accommodate two hours or more of full motion video on a single disc, a dual layer structure is used, read by two different laser

This increased storage capacity allows for additional features such as enhanced Multilanguage soundtracks and digital surround sound encoding.

Identifying Pirate Optical Discs

Optical discs can be identified as being pirated through three characteristics;

1. Date Of Release

Film distribution in its various forms follows a schedule of release mandated by each of the individual studios. In general terms,  if a DVD or VCD
is available while a motion picture is still in first theatrical release, it is likely to be a pirated product.  If in doubt as to whether the product has
been officially released, contact a CMPDA representative who will be able to give you the necessary information.

2. Physical Attributes

The inferior quality of printing on the disc surface, jewel case inserts (VCD) and slip-sleeve cover (DVD) as well as the lack of original artwork and
missing studio and distributor logos on discs and packaging are usually a clear give away that the product is pirated.

3. Content

Viewing a suspect VCD/DVD can also provide valuable information as to the legitimacy of the product.  First generation pirate VCD copies of a film
sometimes cam corded in a cinema.  These are easy to detect as the picture and sound quality is poor and audience noise can sometimes be

Even when higher quality sources are used, there may still be clues that indicate the copy is pirated, e.g. the start and/or ending is truncated or screen characters and/or artwork generated by equipment used to make the copy is visible on the television screen.

Identifying DVDs

In addition to the previous information relating to optical discs in general, pirate DVD’s may be identified by the lack of the appropriate Region Code.  One common error made by pirates is that they usee the ‘ALL’ or ‘0’ code for the Regional Zone. Legitimate DVDs Manufactured for sale in North America will usually have either a symbol indicated Zone 1 or will have this information specifically spelled out on the packaging.

The lower cost of DVD recorders or 'burners' and blank recordable DVD (DVD-R and DVD+R) media has led to an influx of 'burned discs' in the pirate marketplace. These extemely cheap 'knockoffs'  sell for as low as $3.00 or $4.00 each and quite often contain movies copied from theatre screens using a hand held camcorder.  Recordable media is a format that is not used by any legitimate motion picture distributor and consumers should be warned that discs using this format may not be compatable with their DVD players. 'Burned' discs are readily distinguishable from factory produced 'pressed' discs by the dintinctive dye layer that ranges in colour from dark blue/purple to dark red.

Legal Sanctions

It is a violation under Section 42(1) of the Copyright Act for any person to duplicate video products (videocassettes, DVDs, VCDs, etc.) of copyrighted works for sale or rental. It is also a fraud violation under Section 380 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Persons convicted of engaging in the unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of video products face paying a heavy price. For example, if a person is found making, distributing or importing for rental or sale or selling or renting out pirated video products, that individual may be subject to criminal convictions bearing fines to a maximum of $25,000 per count or charge upon summary conviction and up to $1,000,000 for an indictable offence, plus imprisonment. 

Convicted pirates are subject to seizure of all illegal copies, the equipment used to make them and the legitimate copies that were used as "masters". All items seized are usually forfeited or destroyed. 

Guilty parties can also be subject to civil actions for damages. 

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