Movie Pirates: Nicaragua vs. US

Anyone who has been to Estelí, Granada, León, Managua or many other cities in Nicaragua knows that the sale of pirated movies and music is business as normal. For example, you can usually find someone on the west side of the central park in Estelí, directly in front of the Alcaldia, with a large display of pirated CDs and DVDs. Suggesting this is "illegal" to a local gets responses from "we can't afford to buy the original" to just a laugh.

While intellectual piracy is common in the US, open public sales are much less common. Well, a torrentfreak article shows us just how different this can be.

The RIAA has welcomed a mind-boggling jail sentence handed to a man who sold pirated movies and music. The 37-year-old man pleaded guilty to six felony counts of selling counterfeit media after he sold five movies and one music CD to an undercover investigator without the permission of copyright holders. As a result he will go to jail in Mississippi for 15 years to be followed by three years of supervised release.

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the contacts of the people

the contacts of the people shall continue making that quap one way or another. there is nothing stopping bootleggers. from this side or the next side of the fence. make that cheddar baby.

The US end

There are enough comments about the US side that I think it is a good time to introduce Ron Paul's farewell speech to Congress. I have already been discussing it with a few friends but I think it fits in here.

In the speech he does offer something like 20 questions about why did we ... items for Congress and even the President to mull over. Personally, I think they would have been great Presidential debate topics -- if the idea was to talk about real issues. But, the one overwriting thing he suggests is that it is the people that should be in charge. It is the people who should be making decisions and not a nanny state.

To me, what he is suggesting is a lot more like how Nicaragua works than how the US works, has been working and will be working -- no matter whether the in-crowd is Democrat or Republican. This, of course, gets back to why I posted the article in the first place.

I prefer Eisenhower's farewell address

Trying to divide the Republicans and the Democrats that way is simplistic (Ron Paul's fans were even scarier in on-line forums than the other Republican candidates).

I've never met anyone who was all out for individualism and the free market who wasn't a con man in some area where I knew what the cons were. Life is complex -- most of us don't have a family farm where we can go off and simply support ourselves (as if that ever really was an option for anything other than a fairly short and laborious life -- most farming communities were not terribly individualistic and tended to do quite a lot as a community).

One of my friends and I were joking about Nicaragua's economy in terms of what may happen to our crazy killer gringo. He said the best decision was the one in the private sector (not something he really believes). I said Nicaragua has a mixed economy -- it will give the guy a free cot and straight jacket, but he'll have to buy meds and food beyond rice and beans himself.

Mixed economies tend to be the sturdiest. Accusing the Democrats of being supported by welfare cases and such is really too childish for adult debate on anything.

Jane Jacob wrote two interesting books on American cities -- one was the better known one -- The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Cities work under certain conditions and don't under others, and they're not suburbs. Hinterlands of cities including the farming areas work better when the cities work -- from Jacob's less well known book, Cities and the Wealth of Nations. The parts of the US with good cities are more prosperous than the areas where cities don't exist or are neglected or maligned.

And most of Obama's support was urban. He carried most southern cities with populations over 100,000 earlier and I believe did the same now.

I was in Matagalpa yesterday, and it seems to be a thriving city and because it thrives, people in the country have a better market for their goods. Same for here -- grandparents on the land, parents in construction and mechanical jobs here, children in college.

Jacob also said that without older cheaper buildings for start-up, the industrial parts of the economy didn't grow.  And if that's not working, then the social programs that she felt were valuable couldn't be funded either.

And Google Plus friends were joking about all the secession petitions up on the White House website -- and decided that Atlanta needed to be the West Berlin for the Deep South, where people could run to escape the tyranny that would pretty certainly rise if those states did leave the US. Some of my northern friends said let those poor state leave this time as except for Texas, they take more in US taxpayer services than they contribute.

The thing about "the people should be in charge" is which people. It's very easy to think that only people like you are real people -- regardless of politics. I've had some of my Mott Street black neighbors declare that there were no poor Jews even if I knew some. I knew a Jewish woman who was sure that Jamaicans were different genetically than American blacks because they did better in the US on average (if they grew up in Jamaica before immigrating). Once you decide that these people aren't quite real people (and I jumped down a hippie friend's throat for posting a red neck joke implying that they were all inbred and stupid), then it's easy to decide that they don't get to contribute to the decision making process.

My brother was elected to office in Carbarrus County, NC, despite being a regular reader of The New York Review of Books, so there's hope for the South yet, and I don't want to see anyone give up on it, but Ron Paul was blowing some rather unpleasant dog whistles as far as this woman with roots in Louisville, Kentucky and rural Virginia is concerned. I think it's hard for people who didn't grow up in that region to understand just how bad it was not that long ago. Fighting that shaped me, and once I hear dog whistles (states rights is the big one), I will resist as my grandfather the Lincoln Republican resisted.

I prefer Jerry Brown's "you row a little on the right and row a little on the left, and the state goes ahead."

I think even Jefferson knew that Southern Liberty was often tied with the freedom to do what you wanted to people who you saw as your inferiors. Anyone south of the Mason-Dixon line says Liberty and I don't hear what you hear, I suspect. I hear the right to run roughshod over other people.

Rebecca Brown

I once read a summary

of a survey in which employees of a company were asked if they were "better than the average employee" in their skills, work, etc." 80% answered yes. Now if "better than the average employee" can be interpreted as the mid point between the lower 50% and the higher 50% percent, by my math 30% are wrong!

It goes the same with the "bidding war" in US elections: most Americans believe that the government gives them more money than it takes. I don't doubt that the Republicrats have to participate a little in the bidding war, but if they think they are going to win it they are truly delusional. Which, of course, goes back to my pre-election opinion that when American and the free world needs a Teddy Roosevelt, the Republicrats put fourth an Elmer Fudd.

American democracy has been based on extremes of "division of power". Neither the rich nor the poor, the feds or the states, the government or the people, etc. etc. gets all that it would like. That system is being destroyed by the federal government and the liberal news media.

Yesterday I went to a doctor's appointment in the States. The nurse closed the door to the examination room, which was a little claustrophobic. I am not a prisoner, I'm just some Smoe waiting to see a doctor. On the back of the door was a sign saying the door was closed to "protect me" per Federal law.

A little different here...

"five copied movies and one music CD ,Judge Lamar Pickard in Copiah County Circuit Court ordered King to serve a total of 15 years in jail to be followed by three years supervised release."

Wow, too bad Judge Pickard didn't hear the HSBC. Bank od America, or Wachovia money laundering cases

-Doug ©

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate


I don't know why Nintendo/Microsoft/Sony think it's a better idea to charge $60/70 to the 60-70 people in the country who'll pay it. If the nation ever does get the money to afford games, it'll just be part of the culture to pirate them. It's not like videogame costs are anything but Localization (and really, the cost spread out over the SPANISH-SPEAKING WORLD, so it's not much) + Marketing + Razor Thin Marginal Cost of DVD Production.

I think it's pretty interesting how the consoles and accessories seem to be inflated in cost because the demand is driven by the fact that software is cheap/free. Seriously, I spent more on a used off-brand Gamecube controller in Estelí than I would have on a new Nintendo one in the US.

Alternatively, look at how much more popular the Xbox 360 is than the PS3. PS3 games are virtually impossible to pirate (well, they were until very recently).

In Montana you'd get less

In Montana you'd get less time for murder!

Quality Of Pirated

movies much higher in US than Nicaragua! They must rip at the absolutely lowest sampling rate. Music CD's are similar in quality.

Of course, if you are watching the movie on an old laptop in low res, I guess it makes little difference.

Selling is probably going to get you grief eventually, however you are doing it. You're entitled to make a copy for backup purposes (as I understand the law, but who really does understand it?). If the backup copy winds up in a friend's hand and no compensation is involved, the resources available to chase a questionable outcome are probably limited.

I remember the guy outside of Fry's Electronics several years back selling copies of Microsoft XP out of his car in the parking lot the same day XP was officially released. When "confronted" he had some 200+ copies of XP and one corporate key.

On the one hand, he certainly had a sense for marketing; on the other hand, competing with Fry's in their own parking lot was a bit over the top.

Different market

I don't know what a pirated movie costs in the US but I do know (let's call it "from family experience") that the norm here seems to be 3-4 movies on ne DVD. As each DVD (in a plastic case with color printed jacket) usually costs C$30, that's C$10 or less per movie. Hard to compete in the land of everything is disposable if your product costs 3-4 times as much.

Yeah, a buck and change is what I've heard quoted

There are more computer operators trained than jobs for them -- the piracy and spamming operations are a fairly good use of those skills (I've found that trying to explain why spamming was wrong falls flat here, too).

Most of them are downloading and the quality of downloads isn't up to the quality of legal DVDs, but the cost for some legal DVDs is circa $50 to $60 for popular programs (Dr. Who season DVDs), so the muchachos aren't buying the legal DVD to copy. In the US, that's more likely to be the case.

I once did a survey by accident of my students in the US who would admit to downloading -- it was something over 90%. Most people with good connectivity don't buy pirated movies and music -- they use a file sharing program. US ISPs tend to throttle people when they're connected to those networks; Claro seems to give the best connections ever to downloaders (according to what I've heard), and probably understands that at least some of its clients pay for their connection by making copies of what they downloaded and selling them. Win-win for Carlos Slim and the muchachos.

Science Fiction Writers of America tried to stop ebook piracy -- and succeeded in busting one poor guy who was pirating Harlan Ellison, not for profit. Even Harlan ended up feeling sorry for the guy. I chaired a panel on piracy at ReaderCon (SF convention) where computer folks explained that stopping copying was impossible -- if you could read something or hear something, you could copy it. After I got home from Boston, some of the kids on alt.binaries.ebook commiserated with me for having such clueless colleagues -- they'd been in the audience at the con.

I think what happens in the richer nations is less commercial than for bragging rights. Commercial computer programs being pirated for sale seems to be what commercial piracy is about in the US. For music and movies, bandwidth is comparatively less a chunk out of people's incomes so downloading makes more sense than finding a pirate and buying a copy. Here that's not the case -- buying bandwidth is proportionately a big chunk out of most people's incomes. So most people buy less than 10 GB internet packages. People who buy more bandwidth might be looking for ways to capitalize on it. Five movies for $1.20 may be a better deal than getting a better internet connection and downloading them.

Someone needs to do an affordable Netflix or Hulu for this region -- the issue gets circular because everyone thinks people here pirate, so they don't want their good copies out there. And because people can't buy stuff affordably, they pirate. It's even worse with Australian because they are a viable market at Netflix prices, but they have a different copyright law and things are only protected for life of creator or fifty years. Gutenberg Project Australia has things that are still copyright protected in the rest of the world. So Australians pirate and because they pirate, they get region-restrictions, and because they get region-restrictions, they pirate.

What I've heard is not to bring anything that might have been pirated back into the US.

What the ebook pirates said was that if books that were classics and out of print were available at a reasonable cost (a quarter to fifty cents for stories, around $3 for novels), they'd be happy to buy them, but if not, whoever scanned and ORC'ed and posted the material was a hero. They were making a lot of the SF classic available without having to search through used book stores. I don't agree with a number of the more ideological premises (I hope to cushion my old age a bit with my backlist), but I suspect people in the arts will have to rethink their financing in the future. Crowd sourcing requires the artist to have a particular kind of personality, but it does work very well for Amanda Palmer.

One of the French directors said that movies wouldn't become a real art (with the creator's vision being the reason for the movie being made) until almost anyone could afford a movie camera the way anyone could afford a pencil and paper. I'm not sure I agree with him, but we're getting to that point, and cheaper and more distributed production is as bad for Industrial Entertainment as piracy. Putting files on a server is way cheaper than having to move physical copies around and having buildings where customers view things or buy physical copies of things.

Interesting times. See "Badgers, Badgers, Badgers" for an example of a short, inexpensively but professionally made video that had a huge audience world wide.

Rebecca Brown

Out of curiousity...

Why would that be?

"What I've heard is not to bring anything that might have been pirated back into the US."

The Feds can decide to check your hard drive

I don't know how often or not that happens, but you don't have a whole lot of rights going through customs. They do a big old huge warning about it on the State Department visiting whatever country web pages.

And if you're traveling with a lot of the cheap street DVDs, it's going to be more obvious.

Rebecca Brown

Looking For Child Porn

Hauling it around on hard drives was common for quite a while.

What many people don't understand is, is child porn is anything sexually explicit with an age cutoff of 18. It's not just the "kiddie porn" with really young children that we all associate the term child pornography with.

There was a well publicized story of an east coast dentist some years back when all of this was cranking up initially. He had gone to Czechoslovakia and had sex with a young man and on return got busted for sexual tourism. It turned out that the age of consent in Czechoslovakia didn't support the sexual tourism charge, but he had some explicit photos of the young man, the possession of which came under child pornography laws in the US . So they charged him with child pornography.

So, to put that into the context of our recent history, had our lawyer friend from SJdS taken the Nica twins to CR instead of Granada he would not be where he is right now. However, had he returned to the US with explicit pics of his adventures he might have been charged with child pornography.

Dude, don't give out wrong information AGAIN.

The 15 year old age of consent is for sex between minors in CR.

The old guy in SJdS was paying for sex. In either country, under 18 is not legal for prostitution.

Here is a translation of the Costa Rican laws and just how much time to expect if you do get caught: Here's the relevant section for the mentally young at heart who are just sure 15 year olds are for them:

Article 160, Penal Code. Sexual Acts with Minors for Remuneration. Defines the offense of paying or promising to pay a minor for carrying out sexual or erotic acts, which is punishable by imprisonment for four to ten years if the victim is under the age of twelve, three to eight years if the victim is over twelve but under fifteen, and two to six years if the victim is over fifteen but under eighteen years of age.

Reality is that if the girl is an illegal in CR, the punter probably won't get caught, but really, there is a law against the sexual exploitation of minors in CR.

If one's underaged hooker decided that she didn't like you or got pulled by Costa Rican immigration and offered a deal, the person who was misinformed about Costa Rican law could have some serious problems. Sort of like the folks at San Juan del Sur who had been living there undocumented for years obviously got away with that until they didn't.

I didn't make you click a link this time to get the correct information, so now you know you've been giving people bad information on this and can stop.

For those who do click on the link, there are some similar penalties for making underaged porn.

Rebecca Brown

Key West, don't you remember the posters at the airport arrival?

They were overpowering. By the time you got to the "check in with customs" desk you could recite the words...

Leave our children alone, the age of consent here in CR is 18... See, they work. I remember that part.

Maybe you were too busy studying your Del Ray brochure!! :)

......Since prostitution is legal for those 18 and older, minors can be easily hidden in Costa Rica’s line of sex work....

You Two Are

taking a few words of my post completely out of context, and imputing a meaning I didn't intend. The point of the post was "However, had he returned to the US .. .."

"So, to put that into the context of our recent history, had our lawyer friend from SJdS taken the Nica twins to CR instead of Granada he would not be where he is right now. However, had he returned to the US with explicit pics of his adventures he might have been charged with child pornography."

Perhaps I should have added IMO in front of "had our lawyer friend ....". The entire post was purposed to be informational about the seriousness of child pornography laws in the US, and to warn about the age considerations. In no way did I encourage anyone to seek underage prostitution in CR.

I'm pleased that Nicaragua enforces these laws, draws a clear line in the sand. With all the mitigation associated with this case (ID that showed that the girls were 18; previous "working" experience, mother who reputedly encouraged the girls in their pursuits) I DID and DO think that his sentence was a little heavy.

But, "if you can't carry the weight, don't steal the freight".

If the lawyer had been caught in CR with the twins

...he'd have gotten 2 to 6 years, and since this didn't happen that long ago, he'd be in prison in CR rather than here. Maybe CR has better prisons than Nicaragua?

Rebecca Brown

"completely out of context:...not at all.

You went out on the thin ice, not me.

Now you have explained your comments, ours may, to you, look out of context. However, based on your previous comments on CR and under age sex (and having to explain what you mean each time) it may be good advice to do what most people do...leave the subject well alone.

The article reveals more

.....Subsequent searches at King’s work and home addresses turned up computer equipment for copying and a total of 10,500 pirated discs.

.....At this point we should mention that 17 years ago King was sentenced to five years for assaulting a police officer and in 2003 he did serve a year under house arrest for CD piracy. Nevertheless, 15 years seems like a sentence one might associate with particularly serious violent crime, not the copying of digital media.

2x the financial gain or loss?

I am unsure what sentencing guidelines are used or how the case against him was presented. But, as an example, Federal penalties for piracy include sentences AND fines. The fines are worded such that they are up to $100k misdemeanor or $250k Felony "or twice the financial gain or loss". If -and I am just guessing here- a case against him was presented arguing that the 10,500 discs represent a loss of say $15-30 each, do the math, then double it - and that might be the value of the theft they are presenting in case/sentencing (could me much more if there is more than one movie on each dvd disc). Using the 5 DVDs and a CD as a story line catches attention. But it is likely not necessarily what the case is really about. The punishment still seems wildly disproportional (it is actually 18 years, though 3 are concurrent/suspended), even for a repeat offender. As of a few months ago there is another layer to possible U.S. prosecution: the new law regarding the FBI Anti-Piracy Logo. This logo on a pirated disc in another, separate crime.

US sentences

Generally speaking, in the US a first time offender gets off light. By the 2nd or 3rd conviction, they tend to get maximum sentences. In some crimes there is also a dollar amount threshold that bumps the crime up from a misdemeanor to a felony or bumps up the class of felony.

I can think of one case when Racist Backwards Arizona successfully prosecuted one local gang member for felony graffiti. Seems the cost of completely repainting a 2-story commercial building exceeded the $5,000 threshold to make it a felony. Hopefully, when he got out of jail with a felony record, he went to California where he belongs.

3-4 movies on one DVD!!!

No wonder the quality is so bad! That's like cramming coffee trees one on top of another. Here's an opportunity for someone.

With easy access to cheap, legal outlets for a quality product (like NetFlix) there has to be much less incentive to pirate movies in the US. Better postal service, better access to broadband for NetFlix streaming, cheap cost. NetFlix starts with a 1 DVD at a time for 7.95 /month. They pay postage both ways, you can have as many as you want (given the limitations of the back and forth shipping). If you want more, they have multiple DVD's at a time programs, still for less than the cost of one retail DVD of a new release.

Plus, we have all the premium channels: HBO, ShowTime, Starz, CineMax with any number of movies available + DVR access to capture them..

Most movies run 7 GB or better, that means splitting and re-combing files for download. I don't think people with big screens would put up with the quality of the Nica DVD. Ripped to a 4 GB DVD and stripped of extraneous material like the previews, you can get a good sample that is hard to tell from the original, but please, only one movie to a DVD! . DL's are only 50 cents; other than BluRay, the majority of movies will fit on a DL at full size, or with minimal down sampling.

The whole market is different for movies in the US. I suspect that music is still the commodity most pirated in the US.