DVD piracy sting snares 22 in Toronto

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TORONTO -- Ontario police on Tuesday pressed charges against 22 alleged movie pirates after joining with the major studios to crack a major illegal DVD ring in Toronto.

After an eight-month sting operation dubbed "Project Hollywood," Peel Regional Police on Sunday made a series of arrests in and around Toronto, seizing about 40,000 pirated DVD movies with a street value of $800,000 along with printing and stamping equipment.

Tips from the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Assn., which represents the interests of the major studios in Canada, and local Crime Stopper programs initially led the police to a series of Toronto flea markets, where illegal copies of Hollywood movies still in local theaters were routinely sold for $4 each.

John Mans, acting detective sergeant with the Peel Regional Police, said in a news conference Tuesday in Toronto that 70 criminal charges have been laid against 22 individuals for violating Canadian copyright laws by selling illegal DVDs, including bootleg copies of "Spider-Man 3" and "The Simpsons Movie."

The police identified four competing piracy groups that oversaw the unauthorized burning of Hollywood movies onto DVDs, while others sold the pirated product at booths in weekend flea markets on their behalf.

Mans said undercover officers established initial relationships with the flea market merchants before moving up the food chain to place substantial orders for counterfeit DVDs ahead of the raids.

Gary Osmond, the Montreal-based director of investigations and anti-piracy operations at the CMPDA, said that while the amount of arrests and seizures was unprecedented, the effort to stamp out movie piracy here has barely begun.

"It's a big seizure, but unfortunately it's a drop in the bucket," he said before calling for stiff penalties and even jail sentences to deter movie piracy in Ontario.

The latest raid on Canadian movie pirates follows the federal government in June passing first-time legislation that criminalizes camcording of Hollywood movies in local theaters (HR 6/1).
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