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Hollywood foots bill for LAPD spy cams: How generous!

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Hollywood foots bill for LAPD spy cams
Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2005 07:44:07 -0700
From: Xeni Jardin <xeni@xeni.net>
To: 'Declan McCullagh' <declan@well.com>

I filed this story for Wired News today:

Every 10 feet or so in Santee Alley, there's someone standing behind a
cardboard box full of discs. Each mumbles the same mantra: "DVD, DVD, DVD,
DVD, Estar Guars" -- Spanglish for Star Wars.

They're DVD bootleggers, and they're the target of a new system of
surveillance cameras recently installed by the Los Angeles Police Department
with money from the Motion Picture Association of America.The MPAA, which
represents major movie studios, contributed $186,000 toward the cost of the
cameras and a software monitoring system that detects human movement. The
devices beam video to the LAPD's Central Area station, where the software
alerts officers to activity. If there's rampant selling of bootleg DVDs,
undercover police are dispatched to the site.

At a press conference announcing the project last Tuesday, LAPD chief
William Bratton reported that four cameras are already operating, and there
are plans to install six more in coming weeks throughout the area."These
cameras ... will help (the LAPD) to lift a rock and shine a light on rampant
counterfeiting of DVDs, which used to take place in the dark shadows," MPAA
worldwide anti-piracy chief John Malcolm told Variety last week.

At the press conference, Bratton said news of the system was spreading
quickly among bootleggers, and that a chilling effect on sales had already
begun. Santee Alley was reportedly selected because the area is frequented
by naive tourists who are easy targets for pirates, Bratton said. The MPAA
claims DVD piracy costs Hollywood billions of dollars each year in lost

But a visit to Santee Alley suggests that the trade in bootleg DVDs is no
more of a threat to the movie industry's theatrical sales or DVD revenue
than the $20 "PREADA" handbags or $9 "Ray-buns" sunglasses are to their
high-priced, authentic cousins on Rodeo Drive. With the new MPAA/LAPD
surveillance system, another small chunk of everyday privacy has been
jettisoned in the name of protecting movie industry profits.

The LAPD refuses to say where the cameras are installed. When asked, officer
Grace Brady said the department will not disclose their whereabouts. So I
visited the area on foot to try to find the cameras.

Link to Wired News story

More images, technical specs about the pirated DVDs I bought there, and topo
maps with spycam tags are here, on Boing Boing:

   Xeni Jardin  | www.xeni.net

* co-editor, BoingBoing.net
* correspondent:
   Wired Magazine, Wired News, etc.
* technology contributor: NPR's "Day to Day"

Mailing list for updates:

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Jun 07, 2005 in category privacy

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