Story of the movie industry’s crime-fighting canines

Mumbai: Lucky and Flo, the world’s first-ever DVD-sniffing dogs, made a special visit to Douglas MacArthur Elementary School in Northern Virginia to close out their three-city North American tour that included visits to Mexico City and Los Angeles in honor of World Intellectual Property Day.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) teamed up with renowned Internet safety expert Dr. Parry Aftab to talk with Douglas MacArthur’s fourth and fifth graders about the importance of copyright protection with the assistance of the MPAA’s very own Lucky and Flo.

"Lucky and Flo are the MPAA’s two most unique employees," said MPAA chairman and CEO Dan Glickman. "These two dogs have sniffed their way around the world assisting law enforcement officials in tracking down pirate operations. On top of that they have helped raise global awareness about the problem of motion picture piracy, particularly among young children. These special dogs help us educate children about the importance of respecting copyrights while presenting it in a fun and exciting way."

Earlier this year, the MPAA teamed up with Weekly Reader to develop a new curriculum featuring Lucky and Flo to educate children about copyright theft and various forms of piracy, how to identify counterfeit DVDs, the consequences of film piracy, and most importantly, why protecting copyrights is important to them.

The curriculum includes: a teacher’s guide, workbook for students, and posters for classrooms and libraries. It has been distributed to 20,000 schools and will be part of the curriculum in nearly 60,000 classrooms.

The school assembly was facilitated by WiredSafety founder Dr. Parry Aftab and her award winning Teenangels and Tweenangels who shared information with the students about responsible technology use.

Lucky and Flo demonstrated how they sniff out DVDs hidden in storage containers and luggage, highlighting how they assist law enforcement authorities at raids, border crossings, and customs environments around the world.

In 2004, the MPAA undertook a limited feasibility study to determine whether dogs could be trained to detect polycarbonate and other chemicals used in optical discs (DVDs, CDs, etc.). Neil Powell, a trainer in Northern Ireland known for training dogs to sniff bombs and other kinds of devices trained Lucky and Flo to find optical discs in large and small containers, the types usually found in shipments in ports and airports around the world.

After eight months of training, Lucky and Flo were put to work for their first major
live test working with HM Revenue and Customs and FedEx at Stansted Airport in the UK.

They were immediately successful in identifying packages containing DVDs and detecting even the smallest amount of product in very large containers. The live test was the first time dogs have been used anywhere in the world to search for counterfeit DVDs and proved that they could work in a busy airport Customs environment.

Lucky and Flo are able to detect but unable to distinguish between CDs and DVDs, burned and replicated discs, or legitimate and pirate discs. Because legitimate shipments of optical discs are generally registered on a shipping manifest, the dogs are able to find discs in unlikely or unregistered containers, which usually means they are being smuggled for illegal use or sale.

Last year Lucky and Flo went to work for the Malaysian and Philippine governments in an effort dubbed Operation Double-Trouble. During their six-month assignment, Lucky and Flo accompanied Malaysian and Filipino enforcement officers on thirty-five raids in which twenty-six people were arrested and an excess of 1.88 million pirated discs were seized with an estimated street value of over USD$3.5 million. The dogs were so successful that a Malaysian pirate syndicate put a bounty on the dogs’ heads of $30,000.

Due to Lucky and Flo’s enormous success, in March 2008, the Malaysian government launched their own canine unit to fight piracy.

The unit has been set up within the Enforcement Division at the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (MDTCA), and comprises two Labrador sniffer dogs courtesy of the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The pair of dogs, named Paddy and Manny, hail from Northern Ireland. They have undergone two months of training to identify optical discs by scent and assist in the detection of hidden counterfeit optical discs, like Lucky and Flo before them.

The worldwide motion picture industry, including foreign and domestic producers,
distributors, theaters, video stores and pay-per-view operators lost $18.2 billion in 2005 as a result of piracy – over $7 billion of which is attributed to Internet piracy and more than $11 billion attributed to hard goods piracy including bootlegging and illegal copying.