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DVD-sniffing dogs visit Canada
TORONTO (CP) – A pair of canine crimefighters who have sniffed out nearly two million illegal DVDs overseas showcased their noseworthy skills Wednesday, as an industry watchdog executive reiterated the need to remain vigilant in the fight against piracy.
Lucky and Flo, who are sponsored by the Motion Picture Association of America, are the world’s first dogs specially trained to identify discs by the scent of their chemicals.
One by one, the black Labradors were unleashed to sniff among a suitcase and seven brown boxes scattered in close proximity in search of the one holding the DVDs, before flipping off the lid to unveil its contents.
Piracy cost the worldwide film industry US$18.2 billion in 2005, including US$225 million to the Canadian industry, said John Malcolm, the MPAA’s executive vice-president and director of worldwide anti-piracy.
“That represents huge lost opportunities for creative artists here in Canada to get their films made and their stories told and represents a huge lost opportunity in terms of being able to showcase the talents of Canadian filmmakers,” he said.
The dogs’ Canadian visit comes one week after the canines sniffed out a large inventory of knock-off DVDs in the New York City borough of Queens. Three people were arrested and officials seized between 10,000 and 12,000 discs. The dogs were also recently honoured in Malaysia for helping unearth nearly two million bootleg DVDs.
In recent months, Ottawa has moved swiftly to get an anti-camcording law on the books. Bill C-59, which gained royal assent June 22, amends the Criminal Code to make recording a movie without permission a crime, punishable by two years in jail. Taping a film for future sale or rental carries a maximum five-year jail term.
The bill was introduced just two days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that Canada would crack down on piracy.
While Malcolm applauds the government’s efforts to stem bootlegging, Canadian camcording remains a problem, accounting for about 25 per cent of the illegal recordings available worldwide, he said.
“Let’s be clear: when we talk about piracy, there’s nothing swashbuckling about this. It is stealing, pure and simple, no different than any other kind of theft. This is a serious criminal activity.”
Neil Powell, a search and rescue dog handler based in northern Ireland, has worked with Flo and Lucky for 2 1/2 years. He was approached by a representative of the Motion Picture Association in the U.K. who asked if he was able to train dogs to find DVDs and CDs.
The training process took 12 weeks and was divided into three segments: determining whether there was a detectable odour on DVDs, teaching the dogs to find the discs and environmental training exposing the duo to different types of search areas.
Despite their ability to detect discs, they can’t distinguish between the legitimate and pirated ones.
“Any searching we have to do is done where we know there are no genuine discs so they cannot tell the difference between the two,” Powell said.
“So you would get them to search consignments of clothing or furniture, that sort of thing, and if the discs are then hidden away in that the dogs will most certainly find them.”
The dogs were honoured in Malaysia last month following a six-month assignment dubbed “Operation Double Trouble” where they participated in 35 raids in the country and the Philippines resulting in 26 arrests.
The operations were so successful that Malaysian movie pirates reportedly placed a bounty on the dogs.
“When we started off, this was cutting-edge because it had never been done before anywhere in the world, so when I did it at first I thought, ‘Well, how can this be used? Where can we actually use these dogs?’ But it would seem the amount of interest around the world now is growing steadily,” Powell said. “I am amazed by the impact they’ve made.”
After a four-week break in Ireland, Lucky and Flo will be back on the road, heading to eastern Europe.