Utah “Strike Force” Honored for Copyright Raids

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The video above depicts a police raid on the home of someone suspected of pirating music. It’s one of a number of raids conducted by a special copyright enforcement “strike force” set up by Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

The music industry couldn’t be happier.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) presented the honorary gold record to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and each member of the SECURE Strike Force for their unprecedented numbers of arrests and seizing of pirated music.

“Usually you have to sell a lot of albums to get a Gold record, but this is a great recognition for recovering thousands of forged CDs,” says Shurtleff. “These pirated discs represent lost jobs for businesses and lost taxes for state coffers.” . . .

“Those are real results,” said RIAA Anti-Piracy Executive Vice-President Brad Buckles. “On behalf of the major U.S. music labels, we are pleased to present Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and members of the SECURE Strike Force with honorary Gold Records as a token of our appreciation for all the hard work they’ve done to meaningfully address piracy on the streets of Utah.”

In an effort to boost the state economy, the SECURE Strike Force was launched in June 2009 to stop major crimes of music piracy, and the illegal aliens involved. Suspects have been undocumented residents charged with forgery, racketeering and piracy, but agents have also seized drugs, fake government documentation, and several thousand pirated movies.

Previous posts on the use of paramilitary tactics to enforce copyright law here and here.

 

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45 Responses to “Utah “Strike Force” Honored for Copyright Raids”

  1. #1 |  Peter Ramins | 

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VF9rT1RHhAQ

    Remember years ago when this was outlandish hyperbole?

  2. #2 |  Big A | 

    “Lost jobs for businesses and lost taxes for state coffers.”

    Nothing about protecting individual property. No wonder they love law enforcement so much.

  3. #3 |  Mike T | 

    In general, I think copyrighted goods ought to be treated like a local property rights violation. That would help make things more equal between physical and intellectual property rights across the board and help with making the judgments more just.

  4. #4 |  Mike T | 

    And before anyone crucifies me for supporting more local law enforcement activity, consider the fact that the current statutory maximums for violating the NET Act and DMCA are equivalent to grand theft if not worse and are substantially higher per violation than treating each shared CD as a single stolen CD under state theft laws (in most areas).

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Like Mike T, I’m not completely sold on the libertarian general opposition to copyright laws. On the other hand, I oppose the use of violent SWAT style tactics where it is clearly unnecessary. In any case, copyright law has gone past the intent of the framers and into the realm of specifically catering to Hollywood at the expense of the general public.

  6. #6 |  Michael Chaney | 

    At least this seems to be a “professional” operation where people are actually making money from the activity rather than a college student running Kazaa. Of course, it still doesn’t justify the violence.

    Remember back in the day when they had to kick in the door because people would flush their drugs down the toilet? I can’t imagine flushing dvds.

  7. #7 |  Bill | 

    #6 Michael Chaney–”Remember back in the day when they had to kick in the door because people would flush their drugs down the toilet? I can’t imagine flushing dvds.”

    Ah, I can see somebody’s never owned “Gigli” on DVD.

  8. #8 |  Joshua | 

    The fundamental similarity between the war on drugs and the war on copyright violation is that both involve criminalizing a transaction between two consenting adults. When a robbery is committed, one of the people involved in the act (the victim) has an incentive to involve the police. This is not the case when drugs are sold, a pirated DVD is purchased, or an MP3 is downloaded from the Internet. As a result, the only effective ways to catch people involved in these acts is heavy surveillance, snitching, and other civil rights violations.

  9. #9 |  omar | 

    In any case, copyright law has gone past the intent of the framers and into the realm of specifically catering to Hollywood at the expense of the general public.

    The original copyright law in the US was 14 years with a 14 year possible extension. I’d say life of the author plus 70 years is a little bit more than “gone past the intent of the framers.”

    The next time a copyrighted work will come into the public domain will be 2048. I’ll be in my late 60′s when I see the first anything come out of copyright. And I’m lucky – my parents born in the 1950′s will likely never see any work come out of copyright in their lifetimes. My grandparents born in the 1930s have missed this boat entirely.

    It’s a damn shame that we can’t look forward to works coming into the public domain every year – let alone having two generations born, grown, and dead without ever seeing a work made free.

  10. #10 |  Juice | 

    And millions of dollars were spent to round up people who were streaming the Superbowl. But if your house gets robbed, the cops don’t really care that much.

  11. #11 |  Mario | 

    Did I miss something? I couldn’t tell from the video where the paramilitary tactics were. There were no assault rifles or helmets, and I only counted three officers. They were carrying pistols and wearing bulletproof vests. They knocked on the door for a period, and when there was no answer, they broke in.

    Look, I am not sympathetic to SWAT teams. I’ve listened to Radley’s podcast with the Cato Institute and bought his “Overkill” whitepaper. I follow what goes on here on this site all the time. I’m a fan. Somebody tell me, have I become so inured to paramilitary tactics by the police that I no longer recognize them when I see them?

    If the police know that there are illegal DVD’s being produced at some particular location, are they just supposed to camp out until someone comes home? Okay, maybe they should be conducting surveillance so that they can catch someone coming in or out of the house and then serve the warrant; is that it?

    What am I missing?

  12. #12 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    Omar,

    I’m on unfamiliar ground here, so I ask;

    Does the creeping forward of copyright restrictions have much to do with the prospect of early works featuring well know copyrighted characters possibly landing in public domain? Could we maybe regain some degree of sanity by making the copyright for, say, Mickey Mouse last for the life of the copyright holding entity. Then he’d only fall out of copyright if Disney Corp died (went bankrupt? maybe?).

    Just a thought, and one I haven’t followed all the way to the end. Anyone want to kick it around?

  13. #13 |  Mafoo | 

    I know it’s not exactly the same topic, but I read this post on Reddit almost immediately after reading yours and the similarities struck me:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/SOPA/comments/poqvn/this_is_why_i_pirate/

    It’s a heartbreaking story about a graduate film student who, after getting the rights from Isaac Asimov’s widow, was legally threatened and steamrolled by FOX into not making his low budget, student version of I, Robot.

  14. #14 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “Remember years ago when this was outlandish hyperbole?”

    Considering the onslaught of rules and regulations post-911, and the disregard for people’s rights, and the ongoing “terror war,” and the collusion of corporate and State interests, most anything that was outlandish hyberbole years ago is now considered the ‘status quo.’

  15. #15 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    1. Watch house
    2. When guy goes outside to check his mail, serve warrant
    3. Enter home with a few deputies.

    I do NOT understand why they have to make it any more complicated and dangerous than that.

  16. #16 |  Mike T | 

    #8,

    The fundamental difference between copyright law as a concept and the war on drugs is that (assuming the drug user has no dependent kids and can use the drugs safely) the drug buyer really isn’t harming anyone. He is making an economic decision to get high on MJ, not drunk on vodka. He is not choosing between supporting a band or not supporting a band. Copyright law, in theory, actually supports a basic legal right for the creator of a good to control how someone gains access to their good. The main perversion aside from length of the monopoly claim is that a whole culture of sharecropping has popped up where after the initial sale, there is an implied license that limits how a lawfully acquired copy can be used. For example, prohibiting a personal copy of a movie from being shown to a “public gathering” of 50 people who happen to be in a small conference room.

    As a result, the only effective ways to catch people involved in these acts is heavy surveillance, snitching, and other civil rights violations.

    Snitching is not a civil rights violation. You only undermine your argument by claiming that informing the police is any form of violation. Most of the online surveillance is also not a civil rights violation. It doesn’t happen with the ISPs receiving a court order, it happens with the MAFIAA joining your P2P network or torrent and monitoring you like any other party could without a warrant. Guess what? You could do that to them too.

  17. #17 |  Mike T | 

    #13,

    Instead of the letter recognizing our valiant efforts as students that I expected, I found myself on the tail end of a phone call that changed my life. I was contacted directly by the lead of Fox’s legal team, who explained my situation to me very clearly. He told me that I was technically in my legal right to use Isaac Asimov’s material. However, if I chose to proceed, they would file multiple lawsuits totaling over 2 million dollars against me. In the end, I might win, but it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees just to fight it, but it would cost Fox nothing. It would be 10 years before any type of verdict could be levied, and by then it wouldn’t even matter.

    And this is why we need to abolish the civil courts entirely, merge their statutes with the criminal courts and establish SLAPPs as a serious felony with certifiably napoleonic level standards of evidence against the filer.

  18. #18 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    If the police know that there are illegal DVD’s being produced at some particular location, are they just supposed to camp out until someone comes home? Okay, maybe they should be conducting surveillance so that they can catch someone coming in or out of the house and then serve the warrant; is that it?

    What am I missing?

    SWAT teams were initially formed (and sold to taxpayers) as response units for what? Certainly not for copying DVDs and serving warrants.

    Need more?

    SWAT teams are massively expensive and bring risk, destruction, and violence to every operation. So, to serve a warrant, confiscate some product, and possibly arrest an extremely non-violent SUSPECT they wrecked a bunch of stuff and put everyone at risk while spending a lot of money.

    Let’s say your child has an overdue book and it gets escalated to a summons. Instead of knocking on your door, SWAT comes and breaks down your front door (~$3K depending on your door), shoots your dogs and a cat, Fatty O’Toole’s fat fingers his rifle and shoots your kid in the head, and then they put everyone in the house into the hospital because they didn’t like your whining about your dead kid.

    OK, enough nightmares. SWAT-style assaults on citizens should be used like ultimatums…sparingly. That isn’t hard to understand.

    As usual, I offer my non-violent service to the state of Utah where I guarantee to issue warrants and confiscate stuff for 50% of what SWAT costs.

  19. #19 |  omar | 

    Does the creeping forward of copyright restrictions have much to do with the prospect of early works featuring well know copyrighted characters possibly landing in public domain?

    The latest copyright extension was almost certanly passed to keep Mickey Mouse out of public domain. It’s nicknamed the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Term_Extension_Act

    Could we maybe regain some degree of sanity by making the copyright for, say, Mickey Mouse last for the life of the copyright holding entity. Then he’d only fall out of copyright if Disney Corp died (went bankrupt? maybe?).

    I think this would prevent rights from being transferable and complicate things more. There’s already a distinction between single-author (life + 70 years) work and corporate work (120 years). I’m making a big assumption here, but I imagine that Disney is not actually the same company it was in 1923. I believe older corporations are often disolved and rechartered in more modern corporate vehicles. Corporations can be sold in whole or in parts, absorbed into holding companies, and even sell off their intelectual property to other related or unrelated groups.

    Imagine this scenario (not reality, i’m making this up): In 1910, Bisney Productions is formed by Malt Bisney. In 1924, Bisney Productions invents a cartoon rat that is world famous. In 1940, new corporate vehicles are available, so Bisney Productions sells all its assets to a new corporation called Bisney Holdings. Bisney Productions is disolved. In 1985, Bisney Holdings goes through bankruptcy and all the assets are divided by creditors. In this case, when does the work go into the public domain? 1940, 1985, never?

    This would also cause issues of older art. Take the Mona Lisa. It is clearly in the public domain – but I’d be willing to bet a piece of art like this has a pretty clear ownership record. Let’s assume Da Vinci sold it to Steve Medici who passed it down to his kids, who donated it to the city of Venice who sold it to the Lourve. If that’s the case, could the current owner exert some copyright force upon it because the copyright was passed from person to person?

    Could the Catholic church not exert a copyright on the latin bible?

    I know that’s not what you suggested (you specifically said “life of the copyright holding entity”), and I’m not trying to put words in your mouth. But I can’t figure out how to get around the problem of transferability with perpetual copyright. Either you can transfer the copyright forever, or you have to make all sorts of exceptions and definitions for what constitutes the “same entity.”

  20. #20 |  Joshua | 

    #16,

    I’m not speaking to the morality or impact on society of either one. What I’m saying is that both acts involve two people doing something in private. When you criminalize something like that — be it drug use, gay sex, filesharing or prostitution — you have created a crime that is very difficult to catch people in the act of. As a result, laws like this seem to lead to a lot of behavior that folks around here find objectionable.

  21. #21 |  Radley Balko | 

    Mario:

    It’s certainly not the most egregious or outrageous use of force we’ve seen. And, at least in the video, these look to be regular cops, not a SWAT team (although that can often be worse.). My criticism here would be the kicking down doors and forced entry for alleged violations of copyright law. It isn’t as if this guy was going to flush pirated CDs. It’s another example in which the use of force isn’t commensurate with the threat so much as with how angry the government is about violations of this particular law. Here, there was a child in the house. Was it really necessary to kick the door down and raid the place with guns? If the suspected crime wasn’t violent, if the suspect wasn’t violent, if there are known innocents in the home, I’d rather the government not use such violent methods to apprehend and arrest the suspect–or to serve a search warrant.

  22. #22 |  a_random_guy | 

    @Mario and in support of #21. This is exactly it. Why do they have to pound on the door and shout? Why not knock like civilized people, and wait patiently for someone to answer the door?

    Instead, they pound and shout, and after exactly 30 seconds they kick in the door. If someone were on the toilet, or in the shower, or otherwise occupied, it could easily take more than 30 seconds to get to the door. It wasn’t really excessive violence, but there was simply no need for even this much.

  23. #23 |  rapscallion | 

    Looks like the cameraman was intentionally trying to avoid getting a picture of the little girl. He knew it would look bad for the cops.

  24. #24 |  Mario | 

    Radley @ #21

    The level of force certainly is disproportionate, and you’re right (and thanks for pointing that out): the police can’t even make a “time is of the essence” argument, since no one is going to flush 1,000 CD’s down the toilet.

    I think I was all geared up to see a swarm of assaulting SWAT officers, like we quite often see. Even so, what went on here is not what should be going on.

  25. #25 |  CB | 

    “IP” only has value because it has the force of the Fascist state (empowered via unions and controls between corporations and state) creating that value. IP would not exist, if not for the imposition of state violence. People, including people associated with corporations, should make profits via a moral means and create products and services that don’t impose violence on others.

  26. #26 |  Bill | 

    Why isn’t this a civil matter? That’s what homeowners are told when banks hire a company to break into a home while a foreclosure suit is going on and even sometimes before the bank has even filed lawsuits. There have even been cases of clean outs being done to homes that weren’t the bank didn’t have a mortgage. Police say its a civil matter.

    The police like the politicians are bought off today by banks and other corporations. They either do their dirty work and stand aside and watch.

  27. #27 |  Hyperbole Meets Reality « Fez Dispenser | 

    [...] send armed men to your house if you’re suspected of pirating music, but they will also be honored by the RIAA for such endeavors: “Those are real results,” said RIAA Anti-Piracy Executive Vice-President Brad Buckles. “On [...]

  28. #28 |  Mark Adams | 

    It would help, if only a little bit, to lower the stakes by avoiding the word “piracy” when we are not talking about waylaying mariners far from any help, but only about copying without a license.

    Since time immemorial, pirates have been the common enemies of mankind, entitled to no more than summary justice. Swooping down on pirates with massive force is reasonable; sinking a pirate ship without warning may even be right.

    People who make copies without having paid for a license to do so are not “pirates.” Calling them pirates makes the idiocy shown in this video more likely than it needs to be.

  29. #29 |  Brandon | 

    C.S.P., Do you really want government granting selective protections to the most “deserving” entities? If that happened, “Lobbying” would suddenly be 20% of our GDP.

  30. #30 |  Thomas D | 

    “The fundamental similarity between the war on drugs and the war on copyright violation is that both involve criminalizing a transaction between two consenting adults. When a robbery is committed, one of the people involved in the act (the victim) has an incentive to involve the police. This is not the case when drugs are sold, a pirated DVD is purchased, or an MP3 is downloaded from the Internet.”

    With all due respect, you’re really confused.

    This “transaction between two consenting adults” notion is wildly off-base here. You’re overlooking the fact that there is an adult in the equation who is very much NOT “consenting” to the “transaction”: the copyright holder.

    If you wish to have a philosophical debate about copyright and the principles undergirding intellectual property, then have it. But until you have that debate — and prove that copyright holders have no moral claims — you don’t get to declare that the “consenting adults” in this equation are the only relevant parties involved. Otherwise you’re just begging the question.

  31. #31 |  JOR | 

    #30, Well, there are a bunch of adults who don’t consent in the case of drug trade and use too: the government. What about their claims of ownership over all commerce and biological functions that occur on their property (territory)?

    So he may be begging the question, but if so, he’s doing it for both sides of the analogy.

  32. #32 |  Mark Z. | 

    This “transaction between two consenting adults” notion is wildly off-base here. You’re overlooking the fact that there is an adult in the equation who is very much NOT “consenting” to the “transaction”: the copyright holder.

    The copyright holder is not involved in the transaction.

  33. #33 |  Mike T | 

    #32,

    Neither is Apple when a Chinese company makes a 98% accurate knock off of one of their products. So tell me us how much you enthusiastically support knock off of physical goods without resorting to some chickenshit argument about trademarks and “fraud” to weasel out.

  34. #34 |  omar | 

    So tell me us how much you enthusiastically support knock off of physical goods without resorting to some chickenshit argument about trademarks and “fraud” to weasel out.

    I think you just answered your own chickenshit question. It’s a different issue.

  35. #35 |  Human Beings Are Not A Virus…*or a Bacteria. *It’s been a rough morning, gang. « Just Another Pretty Farce | 

    [...] Donna Locke, addressing the use of SWAT teams and deadly force to take down non-violent criminals (like music pirates) said: Antibiotics are sometimes administered pre-emptively, before infection develops. Happy [...]

  36. #36 |  Mark Z. | 

    So tell me us how much you enthusiastically support knock off of physical goods without resorting to some chickenshit argument about trademarks and “fraud” to weasel out.

    IOW, you know exactly what the argument is against allowing knockoff physical goods, and it has nothing to do with copyright, but you don’t want me to make that argument. Got it.

  37. #37 |  Thomas D | 

    “Well, there are a bunch of adults who don’t consent in the case of drug trade and use too: the government. What about their claims of ownership over all commerce and biological functions that occur on their property (territory)?”

    The drug scenario would be analogous to the copyright scenario only if some third party were laying claim to the property (the drug) itself.

    I distribute to you an MP3. A third party says, “Whoa, hold up. Only *I* have the right to distribute that.”

    I distribute to you a joint. There’s no third party saying, “Whoa, only *I* have the right to distribute that.”

    They’re not analogous situations. There may be valid arguments against both copyright enforcement and drug enforcement. But they’re different arguments.

  38. #38 |  Joshua | 

    #36,

    No, no third party says that after an MP3 transaction, because they’re not involved. In order for them to find out about it, they’d have be performing surveillance before the fact. And that’s exactly why we need to be very very careful about this kind of law.

  39. #39 |  Whim | 

    Copyright infringement is called “Piracy” for the same reason that the Branch Davidian Church Commune at Waco, Texas was called a “Compound”.

    Because the media re-echoed what the government wanted to slant and frame the issue.

    Pirates are menaces to society.

    Compound sounds militaristic, sinister, and foreboding. A wall surrounds a compound, of course.

    There was no wall at Waco…..except a Wall of Fire on the final day. A dry, windy day in April….

  40. #40 |  Thomas D | 

    No, no third party says that after an MP3 transaction, because they’re not involved. In order for them to find out about it, they’d have be performing surveillance before the fact. And that’s exactly why we need to be very very careful about this kind of law.

    Agggh! You’re stealing bases in a philosophical debate that you started! You’re the one who raised the point about “consent” in the “transaction.” And so that has to be hashed out first before we start talking about surveillance and enforcement and whatnot. In other words, you’re conflating an ethical debate with a practical one.

    Until it is settled that the transaction involves only consenting parties, we can’t skip ahead to quibbling over how the transaction is policed, let alone condemning its policing altogether.

    You’ve not yet shown that. You have to prove that point first: You have to show that there’s no stakeholder who is non-consenting; or to put it another way, you have to show that the copyright claimant is not a stakeholder.

    And look: You may well be able to do it! There certainly are solid arguments against intellectual property. But you must successfully make one of them before you get to say, “There are no non-consenting stakeholders in this transaction, and so policing the transaction is bullshit.”

  41. #41 |  Mark Z. | 

    Until it is settled that the transaction involves only consenting parties, we can’t skip ahead to quibbling over how the transaction is policed, let alone condemning its policing altogether.

    Bullshit. The fact that the transaction can only be policed by building a massive surveillance apparatus is a very good reason not to regard the non-consenting parties as involved in the transaction. Because if they were being forced to participate in the transaction, they could then go to the police and say “I was robbed of my intellectual property at such-and-such a time and location.”

    They’re claiming to be a party to all of these transactions, but that claim is extremely dubious on its face and I don’t feel obligated to take it seriously before criticizing their enforcement methods.

  42. #42 |  Mike T | 

    IOW, you know exactly what the argument is against allowing knockoff physical goods, and it has nothing to do with copyright, but you don’t want me to make that argument. Got it.

    I wanted you to answer it because fraud is a chickenshit answer since a buyer who knows they’re buying a knock off isn’t being defrauded. I just wanted to see you say that you fully support allowing people to literally copy physical goods to such an extent that a casual viewer would never notice their copies (which is why many buyers of knock-off goods buy them). Either you admit you support that or you admit your position is tenuous.

  43. #43 |  omar | 

    Mike T, what you are talking about is called trademark infringement and it’s not copyright. Trademarks don’t expire like copyrights do. You need to research the topic and understand the difference to speak intelligently about it. Go to wikipedia and read. Quit it with the false dichotomies.

  44. #44 |  Mark Z. | 

    “I just wanted to see you say that you fully support allowing people to literally copy physical goods to such an extent that a casual viewer would never notice their copies (which is why many buyers of knock-off goods buy them).”

    It neither picks my pocket or breaks my leg for my neighbor to have a Rolex look-alike.

  45. #45 |  FreeWestRadio.com » Blog Archive » Utah “Strike Force” Honored for Copyright Raids | 

    [...] from The Agitator [...]

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