HOW TO AVOID BUYING PIRATE DVDs

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HOW TO AVOID BUYING COUNTERFEIT DVDs

We've probably all had the misfortune of seeing the efforts of some monkey pirate who downloads a movie and rips it to disk. Fuzzy visuals, distorted sound, people getting up and walking out of the cinema and you've just paid out for the insult!

So, how to avoid buying a copy when you're expecting an original? How to spot a bad one if you think you may have been duped? Here are a few tips;

REGIONAL CODING:

Make sure you understand which region is appropriate to which part of the world the seller is trading from. Why does he have only Region 1 releases when he lives in Asia? Look on reputable reseller's websites for that Region and examine the cover art. Check it against the image the Ebay seller is using. Does it match what you expect? Or does he use the disclaimer 'Cover may vary from the one shown'? Hmm. Why would it vary?

For the UK, all releases will feature a symbol of the British Board of Classification,, i.e. the red 18 circle. If it claims to be a genuine item and hasn't got this symbol, why not? If it's Region 2 and sourced from France, Holland, Germany etc, expect to see that country's language printed on the covers. Again, subtitles would be for appropriate European nations, not Asian languages.

Ask yourself the question, if it's Region 1 encoded and manufactured for the American and Canadian market why would it feature Asian subtitles? (In answer to a correspondent, it's my opinion all Region 1 imports from the Phillipines would be fake - if legit, they should be Region 3) Also consider why would an American movie for the American market feature permanent English subtitles? (Thanks to everyone who wrote to me to note that optional subtitles will be on most releases for the hard of hearing.)

For Hong Kong etc disks are Region 3 and will usually feature Cantonese or Mandarin text on the cover and on the disk itself. Here you would expect subtitles. Both covers and discs can feature a blue square 'DTS 9' label. I have never seen this on any legitimate Region 1 disc, but have seen it occasionally on Region 3 releases.

The FBI warning is only on Region 1 releases. Chinese printing on the disk and cover art, but the movie plays with the FBI warning? I don't think so.

Multi-region or Regional coding removed? A few releases are Region 0 which means that they'll play anywhere in the world, but if that title is advertised with a Regional code on a reputable reseller's website, then chances are the seller has just removed the nuisance of the Regional code when he copied the disk.

You can find out more detail by looking here: http://www.home-cinema-guide.co.uk/dvdfor41.htm and here: http://www.pctechguide.com/10dvd_Regional_coding.htm

THE SPIEL:

It's one thing a seller telling you that the item is genuine or original, quite another when he uses the word 'quality'. Quality is a term used to describe the transfer of the copy. There's no need to mention quality when it's an original release. They're all produced to the same high standards. Don't rely on feedback. Some people are happy with pirated discs.

THE COST:

The movie's barely out on DVD in any Region, but the seller is offering it at a third of the retail cost. Too good to be true is probably right. Before bidding, ask the seller about provenance i.e. where did he obtain it? Another correspondent to me advises that if she sees a neg in the ebayer's feedback, she'll check through all pages and if the negs say 'fake' then she'll avoid.

THE CASE:

So the seller isn't sending the original Amoray plastic case because he's saving you on postage costs, right? Wrong. He's just minimizing his overheads. He doesn't want to buy in a load of cases. That'll cut into his profit. It doesn't make much difference on the postage, so insist on the original case. If the artwork is folded in two and never looks like it's ever been inserted within a case (i.e. no slight twin folds where the spine would create such impression) and it's in a transparent sleeve, then be wary.

VISUAL EXAMINATION:

Is the artwork on the cover smudgy?
Does the artwork smell like it's fresh from a photojet or inkjet? Lick your finger and rub. Ink coming off? Does the paper used feel like the same kind used in genuine releases? Compare.
Does the art match that on reputable reseller's websites or are there discrepancies?
Hold the disk up to the light. Tilt it to one side. Can you see anything printed underneath? Like Maxell or other well known manufacturer names?
What colour is the dye on the playable side of the disk? Shiny silver? Gold? Blue? Check it against reputable releases. The vast majority are a platinum type.

COPYRIGHT WARNINGS:

Look at the circumference of the disk centre and see if the warning makes sense. You may see something like 'warning: all rights reserved, for home use only, unauthorized public performance, broadcasting of copying is a violation of applicaple laws." You will note that the conjunctive between broadcasting and copying is not 'or' but 'of'. I don't remember seeing such glaring errors on any legitimate discs, and the spelling of applicable is wrong. That's not to say that the legitimate releases from film companies are without error. Some of the cover art features appalling mistakes outlining a plot that barely resembles the movie just watched, listing incorrect character names and places and one disk I have even has a different BBFC certificate on it compared to that shown on the cover art. But you'll soon get a feel for what's genuine or not.

Now check on the inner rim about the hub. Could be that the title of the film is etched which is frequently the case for mass-duplicated pirate movies but unnecessary for authentic releases which are secretly bar-coded.

Holograms? Most studios now put holograms on all their cover art. Look and check.

PLAYING THE DISK:

Does the menu have dead links?
Does the menu look professional or like it's been fudged on someone's PC?
Special features? Where are they?
Easter eggs? Occasionally a genuine disk will feature special hidden items. Why are they no longer accessible?
Does the sound distort or are there inexplicable sound drops?
If it's DTS or Dolby Digital, why does the transfer sound only stereo at best?
Is the movie print dark, grainy and in sections very pixelated? A sure fire confirmation that it's a pirate.

WHAT TO DO?

Complain to the seller, outlining that it is against the laws of just about every country to pass off a copy of a copyrighted disk as an original. (For UK see here: http://www.aacp.org.uk/action/detail.html?id=8 )Ask for a full refund. Be fair. Some people won't be clued up and if the seller is offering only a few titles then they could have bought in good faith, same as you.

On the other hand, if it's a 'specialist' seller, show no mercy. Tell them that you will mark the disk as counterfeit with indelible pen and return it to them if they require once a refund is received, but otherwise hold on to it as evidence for the police. Report the rogue seller to ebay. Report them to the relevant movie studio's anti-piracy dept. Report them to trading standards. Report them to FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft). Report them to the police. Don't let the pirate get away with it. Set the hounds on them.

Please rate this guide, it would be most appreciated, thank you.

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