Those bloodstained DVDs

You can fight terrorists too—by refusing to buy pirated discs.

“If you buy pirated DVDs,” says RAND Corporation’s Greg Treverton, “there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organized crime and those proceeds fund more-dangerous criminal activities, possibly terrorism” (linkthanks Yossarin). Quite obviously, The Acorn agrees. The RAND study sheds more light on the links between content piracy and terrorism across the world. This link is specially relevant in our part of the world which has a major film and music industry, weakly enforced anti-piracy laws, expanding terrorist networks and nonchalant public mores when it comes to respect for intellectual property rights.

See this archived post how Indians unwittingly give money to the terrorists who kill their fellows when they purchase pirated DVDs.

Many a time in recent years, and especially after the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, ordinary citizens asked what they could do—as individuals—to fight the terrorists. Well, here’s something that could be pretty effective: stop buying pirated DVDs. Now can someone turn this into a popular campaign?

25 thoughts on “Those bloodstained DVDs”

  1. The same is applicable when you buy legitimate CD’s of pakistani artists like
    – Adnan Sami
    – Atif Aslam
    – Strings

    When you do buy them, these artistes earn royalty on which they pay tax to the pakistan government.
    Tax to pakistan government = more kasab’s on our streets.

    Don’t support pakistani artists!!!

  2. I want to watch a movie, say today, but tickets are sold out. This is because of
    1) less number of cinemas owing to bureaucracy, red tape, taxes on entertainment, corruption etc
    2) and/ or cinema hall owners’ conspiracy to keep demand high by keeping the supply of seats low
    3) pathetic public transport and bad roads to take me to the theatre or cineplex.

    The root cause of all these issues – corruption & artificial management of demand and supply.

    How will I get to watch the movie today????

    Experts should not wax eloquent and advice aam admi not to watch pirated DVD’s or download content for free from internet sites. How will millions of aam admis spend their weekends or leisure time if not for pirated DVD’s and free downloads??? Imagine the social disorder that would set in if millions stop watching pirated DVD’s and instead resort to some “non-acceptable public behaviour” ???

    I am in no way supporting pirated DVD’s and I stopped watching them long back [not for this reason, but in general stopped watching movies!!] but why not attack the root-cause?

  3. Venkat: artificial management of demand and supply

    Thats a good one. I’d been searching for a few words that describe the situation but I have a pea-size brain. 😉

    To DVDs, we can as easily add hashish, ganja and other similar substances that many urbanites use to feel “cool”.

  4. The releases says this: “The RAND report, supported by a grant from the Motion Picture Association, was intended to examine to what extent criminal and terrorist groups are engaging in counterfeiting, using film piracy as an example.”

    Also, “RAND researchers found no evidence terrorists are widely involved with film piracy, but they outline three cases where film piracy supported terror groups and warn that such connections could grow in the future.”

    Yes, I am sure that the organisations busy going after movie and music pirates are extremely concerned with terrorism. MPAA and RIAA may have realised that showing a potential connection with video and movie piracy is likely to cause the US to come down hard – on piracy with their usual ham handed approach.

    Considering the barely legal tactics they’ve been using against casual downloaders, planting stories in the media and so on, it won’t be a surprise if MPAA or RIAA fund a study claiming Osama himself owns DVD replication plants based in the mountains of Afghanistan, most pirated DVDs come from there, and that he runs The Pirate Bay in his spare time 😉

  5. AG,

    No. That would be the wrong thing to do. India must remain open to the best talent from the region. Can’t see the problem if they make legitimate income from legitimate businesses in India. (They pay tax to the Pakistani government? Err..)


    Are you seriously saying that it is expensive for ordinary folk in India to find entertainment without stretching the budget?

    The argument that supply can be improved and licensing can be removed is fair. But surely, is buying bloodstained DVDs the only way out? This post was about what an individual could do, if the individual wanted to do something. It was not about individuals who think fighting terrorism is always someone else’s job.


    I think is rather unwise to deny the linkage between piracy and terrorism merely because the MPAA/RIAA funded the study.

  6. This is bullshit. Violating the copyright has absolutely no relation to organized crime. These days, nobody even bothers to buy pirated DVDs, they download from the internet and all for free.

    Pirated DVD sellers are most probably retailers who earn a scrapping for the sales that they do.

    The only people losing money are recording company executives and the mega media industry. They should all be dead anyway.

    If you worry about how illegal businesses help terrorism, you should start with drugs, prostitution, illegal arms trade, illegal trade in wild animals and as the net gets deeper and deeper.. financial services, offshoring and finally, the great money swindle of the 21st century. Nobody has any clue or accounting about where the money is going.

  7. @vakibs

    So how many people in India have computers to download stuff on? You are way out of reasonableness territory here, my friend.

    I don’t think the RAND dudes are saying that other things don’t matter. They are saying this matters too. Just like saying TB can kill you doesn’t mean malaria and typhoid and cancer and your neighbour won’t kill you.

  8. Udayan,

    Trade in precious commodities will earn a lot of money for the middlemen. Is media a precious commodity today ? Due to the internet and electronics revolution, the price of media has come down to where it should be : ZERO.

    How much money can any middleman make by controlling such a trade ? In fact, is it even possible to build a monopoly on such a trade ?

    Terrorists are smart suckers, they know which avenues give them more money.

  9. Bangkok and hong kong are 2 cities where one can find most no.s of pirated CD’s of movies, games, songs.

    Pakistani militants earn money by counterfeiting Indian rupee ( mostly) . India has also arrested Pakistani embassy officials on more than one occasion on the charges of possession of fake currency.

  10. Nitin

    All I am saying is – most problems have root cause as licensing and corruption. Rather than attacking each symptom with , our maximum focus should be on the root cause. Rather than wasting energy on smaller issues, we should target the larger root cause of all problems!!

    Not many have computers with net connection but when has it restricted Indian ingenuity from working?? In trains plying across even rural parts, I see many small boys selling DVD’s of news movies, which they claim they copy from “original print” but they surely download from the net and copy it in many DVD’s!! This happens even in suburban trains in Chennai. I assume the target population is many hundred times the number of net connections!!

  11. This would work better in America than in India, where its easier to find the pirated version than the official DVD.

  12. I don’t think money spent on pirated DVDs being siphoned to terrorism is a big concern these days. It might have been in 2006, but not now. Broadband connectivity has made great strides, and as someone pointed out – the price of content is effectively zero. Anyone in India with a cheap MTNL broadband connection can now download a movie, write a DVD out of it and then sell it or rent it out. Nobody really has to depend on pirated content to come from Pakistan.

    This is not to say that this is not a criminal activity, but that those fighting terrorism should perhaps put this closer to the bottom of their priority lists. (I know that Nitin wasn’t talking about them, but individuals.)

    At the individual level, if someone wants to feel good about not supporting terrorism by not buying pirated DVDs, I am all for it. Mostly because there is surely a fraction of the piracy market that is linked to terrorism.

    However, it concerns me a great deal that this sort of studies are being funded by MPAA or RIAA. Because their agenda is entirely different and this smells like the usual fear tactics employed by them. But that’s a whole different issue and not relevant here.

  13. @BOK,

    Dude. It’s a matter of scale and organisation. The guys who run the DVD racket in Palika Bazaar have an organization backing them. A middle class dude trying to sell downloaded-and-burnt DVDs will meet a unhappy fate.

    Until Indian Internet penetration levels hit 30% or so, comparable to phones, D company will make money off the Indian market.

    DMK won’t allow that to happen. Not before making their cut upfront.

  14. @Udayan,

    Yes, I know about Palika Bazar as much as anyone else. But, every crime syndicate is not a terror network.

    In non-Metro cities, one routinely encounters the very same middle-class dudes selling/renting pirated DVDs who you think will inevitably meet an unhappy fate unless backed by a terror network. I even know a chap in my native village who does this thing (10th pass, some computer course from the nearby city and he is a cyber pirate already).

    As I said in my previous comment, there is surely a fraction of the piracy market that is linked to terror financing. But giving it more importance than its due is harmful to anti-terrorism efforts. The same resources – and surely they are limited – could perhaps be more effective, for example, in tracing and shutting down actual streams of money going into terrorism. Shutting down duplicate and fake PAN cards, cracking down on fake currency networks etc. (to name a few) go a much longer way in battling terrorism.

    Anyway.. this post was about an individual’s efforts. And I agree with Nitin on that.

  15. A lot of pirated DVD’s come with Thai, Chinese, subtitles for English movies. To think that ISI or other fundamentalist organizations would do such beautiful job for pirated DVD’s is giving way too much credit to them.

  16. All I can say is that I’m always amused by the level of pushback I get whenever I post about individuals actually doing something on their own.

    BOK is right – it’s about what an individual can do. So readiness to buy pirated DVDs despite the knowledge that they might be funding terrrorism is perhaps a revealed preference on how much individuals actually value counter-terrorism.

  17. First thing, Moser Baer Zindabad.

    Second, I also suspect that the “pirates” or some of them are hand in glove with the “industry” and some money flows back in some shape or form. But yes, you are right, those DVDs are bloodstained. They will come back as a bullet to our brain…

  18. Also,

    Another thing aam aadmi can do against terror funding is to stop using counterfeit currency…. Seriously, its a big BIG funding source fo the terrorshits.

  19. Nitin,

    Buying original DVDs or watching movies in theaters is even worse !! We all know about the underworld involvement in “Bollywood”, dont we??

  20. Root cause as Venkat mentioned is Corruption. Most sellers of Pirated DVD / Pirated Books sell openly on the street. Do the concerned authorities have no idea? The point is that everyone gets a cut and hence the business survives and thrives.

    Corruption cannot be eliminated by targeting the lower level. It has to come from the Top – a sort of Top Down Approach. Unfortunately, that is a wish that may not come true.

  21. Good point, shadows (#20).

    Take the case of drug trade. When there is tacit support and even direct involvement of military and intelligence agencies in the trade, how is it going to help if one or two concerned citizens decide to not fund the criminal enterprise? There has been a lot of speculation about how much drug money is being laundered through legitimate financial channels. Are we to suppose they are not aware of this? The common man is being subverted by the same forces that are publicly sanctimonious.

    The media industry has not won anyone over, and if it seeks to aggressively prosecute 18-yr olds for downloading mp3s, it is going to find the going hard. Why doesn’t the industry take some radical measures? Why should the public be held hostage to the interests of cinema-hall owners? One of the reasons pirate DVD/VCDs are so sought after is you cannot get legit ones until cinema hall owners have milked their share. I buy LPs, which are quite expensive in general, and only a few ever come with a CD or mp3s bundled (some come with download coupons that only work in the US). After forking out anywhere between AUD $40-100 for a record, I should not have to buy a CD that costs almost nothing, just because an industry patsy says so.

  22. So readiness to buy pirated DVDs despite the knowledge that they might be funding terrrorism is perhaps a revealed preference on how much individuals actually value counter-terrorism.

    Nitin, IMO it is because the public is either not aware of, or is not convinced that piracy contributes to such causes and more importantly, perhaps does not really feel that anything it does has any effect.

  23. Nitin
    You are right, there is a resistance, but have you wondered why?

    1) We are not the target population. Those who sell/buy pirated DVD’s may not read your blogs. We have internet access and we download directly from the net 😉
    2) For some issues such as this, top-down has to be tried, when we know bottom-up won’t work. It’s very very tough to make a billion+ population try things at grass-roots, when the alternative is the top [a few with power] bring in some methods of sniffing at a smaller cost which would go a long way in cleaning up the mess.
    3) Why do 10th pass guys get into selling pirated DVDs. Have we tried answering this question? Would they even know such a thing is illegal, or would they recognise something as illegal in this quasi-libertarian-cum-socialist-slum called India?

  24. Hi!
    I think as per sourabh, not only pakistan even countries like bangladesh, nepal are forcing fake notes in the country.

    the recent news article in India 24 has shown that fakes are prominently supported by pakistan and a plastic commercial bag was also shown with an address of Lahore printed on it, the bag which was found with fakes worth 5lakhs in a punjab agro land.

    nevertheless the govt. is turning a blind eye on this entire issue and is not even ready to make statement on it. am sure only public awareness and proper information can save them from getting victimized of fakes.

    Fake Note Detection Instrument Demo
    Wanna Write on Fake Rupees

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