Pirates Beware: DVD Anti-Piracy Warning Now Twice as Fierce

The government and Hollywood join forces to create a new anti-piracy warning

Hollywood and the federal government have partnered to create updated and even more annoying anti-piracy warnings that will be included in new home-release DVDs and Blu-ray discs beginning this week, the government said Tuesday.

The new warnings now have three scary logos intended to deter those who might violate copyright law by making a back-up copy, ripping a movie to a tablet-friendly file, uploading it to a peer-to-peer network or make illegal copies to send to military service members in Iraq.

The original logo has been included since 2004 on the Motion Picture Association of America members’ movies, with the now-famous FBI tough-talking “anti-piracy warning label” which cautions customers who legitimately purchased a movie about the criminal penalties for copyright infringement.

Added alongside the FBI’s logo in the new version, however, is a Homeland Security Investigations “special agent” badge. That reflects the agency’s new power, handed down in 2008, to seize web domains engaged in infringing activity under the same forfeiture laws used to seize property like houses, cars and boats allegedly tied to illegal activity such as drug running or gambling.

What’s more, as an added bonus that’s even better than a James Cameron director commentary, movie fans will be treated with a second annoying screen (above) touting the National Intellectual Property Center.

That screen, like the others, presumably will be made unskippable during viewing. The warning says, “Piracy is not a victimless crime. For more information on how digital theft harms the economy, please visit www.iprcenter.gov.” The center’s logo is tough, too, with a hawk clenching a banner that reads “Protection Is Our Trademark”.

Oddly, such warnings are rarely included in versions uploaded and downloaded via P2P networks.

That’s probably smart since the old FBI logo was copyrighted of sorts, with the movie, recording and software industries retaining exclusive rights.

The authorities moved that logo out of copyright last year. There was a maximum six-month sentence and other penalties for using the insignia without FBI approval.

ICE said the new versions, like the old one, may not be used without permission and are not in the public domain. The government said the major studios of the Motion Picture Association of America are authorized to use them.  They are Disney, Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers.

The National Intellectual Property Center (.pdf) was approved as part of the PRO-IP Act in 2008 and acts as the government’s anti-piracy bureau. The act also gave Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, the power to seize infringing websites under a program now known as Operation in Our Sites.

“Our nation’s film and TV business is critical to our economy,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement. “Its creativity and imagination have made American entertainment one of our greatest exports over the decades, but criminals are increasingly engaging in new forms of digital theft. Law enforcement must continue to expand how it combats criminal activity. Public awareness and education are a critical part of that effort.”

In the past two years, the authorities have seized more than 750 sites allegedly engaged in infringing activity.

Wired reported Monday about a hip-hop music site — the victim of a secret government process — that was seized for a year before it was given back to its New York operator without explanation or apology.