Canine duo sniffs out movie pirates

MUMBAI: Malaysian movie pirates seem to have met their nemesis in Lucky and Flo, the Motion Picture Association’s DVD-sniffing black Labrador retrievers. Lucky and Flo, the world’s first dogs trained to find optical discs in packages and containers used by pirate syndicates for smuggling stolen movies around the world, are in Malaysia spearheading “Operation Double Trouble”, launched last week in Kuala Lumpur.

During the month-long operation, the dogs are working alongside enforcement officers in Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Penang, as well as at border crossings, sniffing out DVDs hidden at storage centres as well as in packages bound for export. The operation is in part aimed at permitting the officers to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of canine anti-piracy investigators as the MDTCA considers the feasibility of establishing a dog unit within its Enforcement Division.

Their efforts have already borne fruit, with the canine duo this week leading investigators to warehouses and manufacturing facilities containing an estimated one million pirated optical discs infringing movie and computer games titles. Thirty officers from Malaysia’s Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (MDTCA), led by Lucky and Flo, raided a building in Johor Bahru, arresting six people and seizing what MDTCA authorities estimate was around one million pirated optical discs with a street value of around $2.86 million, as well as 500,000 inlay cards and 90 optical disc burners. Following a tip from an informant, the operation was intended to focus on four floors of the Holiday Plaza Tower, adjacent to the notorious pirate retail center Holiday Plaza, but started early when Lucky and Flo smelled optical discs inside two vehicles parked in the basement of the building.

The dogs sat down next to the vehicles, prompting a search that revealed hundreds of pirated optical discs packaged and ready for delivery. Material seized during the raid indicated that many discs were destined for customers in neighboring Singapore, and that the operation sold pirated optical discs internationally via Internet. Once upstairs, Lucky and Flo successfully identified a number of premises containing pirated optical discs and manufacturing equipment, and led anti-piracy enforcement officers to hidden doors and false walls behind which were hidden thousands of pirated DVDs and CDs. The dogs had a 100 percent success rate in locating pirated optical discs.

It is believed that the raided premises all belonged to a single syndicate, which manufactured pirated optical discs for both domestic and international distribution, reports say. In 2004, the MPA undertook a feasibility study to determine whether dogs could be trained to detect polycarbonate and other chemicals used in optical discs. A trainer in Northern Ireland known for training dogs to locate and identify bombs trained Lucky and Flo to find optical discs in large and small packages and containers.

After eight months of training, Lucky and Flo undertook their first major live test, working with H.M. Revenue and Customs and FedEx at Stansted Airport in the United Kingdom and were successful in identifying packages containing DVDs and detecting even the smallest amount of product in very large containers. Lucky and Flo are able to detect but unable to distinguish between CDs and DVDs, burned and replicated discs, or legitimate and pirate discs.

However, because legitimate shipments of optical discs are generally registered on shipping manifests, the dogs will be valuable in locating discs being shipped in unlikely or unregistered containers, which may contain pirated CDs or DVDs, add reports.

BOC Editorial

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