Angry and Terrorised

Kim’s angry. Meanwhile the cartels have started up their next scam. Here’s the Sunday Mail:

Terror by DVD

AUSTRALIA is being flooded with pirate DVDs and the profits from them help fund global terrorism.

Here’s the Australian:

Illegal DVDs funding global terror
By Martin Wallace
September 16, 2004

AUSTRALIA is being flooded with pirate DVDs – and the money is helping fund global terrorism.

The Advertiser and the Courier Mail have the same story, News Ltd papers that they are. Google News found what looks to be the press release they’re “based on” via No clear indication who it’s from though. Presumably it’s AFACT.

Press Release: Australia is being flooded with pirate DVDs – and the money is helping fund global terrorism.

The number of pirate discs recovered by police and customs during the first quarter of this year has already matched the total for last year.

Yay for the in-depth scrutiny of the fourth estate. Here’s what Google says…

Well, actually, to be fair to the local rag, here’s one article Google points out from the Courier Mail in July which wasn’t based on unquestioning regurgitation of press releases. The concluding quote was interesting:

Australian FACT executive director Adrianne Pecotic said the group recently launched a multimillion-dollar global campaign to make consumers aware the practice was illegal.

“One of the biggest problems is the extent to which Australians are willing to illegally download movies,” she said. “People don’t seem to realise that this practice is illegal and is the same as stealing property.”

Anyway, let’s clarify who “we” mean by “terrorists”, shall we? From the SMH’s Radar back in May:

Radar questioned the boss of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft lobby group, Adrianne Pecotic.
Radar: Video pirates funding terrorism? That’s a big call.
Pecotic: Links between IP [intellectual property] crime and terrorism have been documented by Interpol.
Radar: But how do you know pirates actually fund terrorists?
Pecotic: You have to look at the Interpol report. Piracy attracts people involved in terrorism and organised crime.
Radar: Which terrorists does it fund?
Pecotic: We know of links with Hezbollah and the IRA and other similar terrorist groups.

So it’s “IP crime” that “attracts people” and there are “links” with Hezbollah and the IRA. But hey, Hezbollah and the IRA aren’t really very South-East Asian, are they? Let’s look further. Here’s the BBC on 12th July:

Is [piracy] a victimless crime?

Not according to UK authorities, who say DVD piracy is a lucrative part of a wider network that involves criminal gangs, drug dealers, people smugglers, paedophile rings and even terrorists. They say it is an easy way for gangs to raise funds for their other criminal activities. Gangs can earn 10 euros for each euro invested in piracy, and a kilogram of pirate DVDs is worth more than a kilogram of cannabis resin, according to authorities.

Do pirate DVDs fund al-Qaeda?

The authorities are a bit vague on this one – they say terrorist groups do sell DVDs in the UK and take the profits out of the country to fund their activities, but are wary of giving specific information. In the UK, police do say paramilitary groups sell 80% of counterfeit goods in Northern Ireland. And in 2003, Interpol warned that counterfeiting was becoming “the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups” and there were enough examples “for us to worry about the threat to public safety”.

UK “authorities”. Pirates are pedophiles as well as terrorists now too. Though the terrorism links aren’t any less vague. Here’s another article:

The view of terrorist involvement is not universally supported, not even by copyright supporters, such as The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). FACT director general Raymond Leinster admitted terrorist involvement was not rife in mainland Britain. He is quoted by BBC News as saying, “I do accept it’s maybe more regionalised and it’s not a problem widespread throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.

However, he is quick to add that many other unsavoury characters and organised crime gangs are involved.

Of course he is. Anyway, FACT-uk actually has content on its website, which includes a press release proclaiming proof of the terrorist and organised crime links. Fortunately as well as the proclamation, it includes a date (May-July 2003) and a pointer to the Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy, who, finally, have some details:

A new report, Proving the Connection, published today on World Anti-Counterfeiting Day, outlines over a dozen cases which, taken together, demonstrate the link between intellectual property theft and organised crime. Among the cases documented are:

  • A Russian mafia operation, using music piracy to fund credit card fraud, and using the same network to sell both weapons and pornography;
  • An Asian criminal gang, using Afghan refugees to sell record numbers of pirate CDs in the run up to Christmas last year;
  • Evidence from the Northern Ireland Police of an attempted car bombing of an anti-counterfeiting police patrol;
  • A 2.6 million pound counterfeiting fraud, combining fake perfumes (such as Chanel, Christian Dior and Calvin Klein), spirits, clothing and CDs; and
  • A 1 million pound Internet scam involving thousands of fake DVDs, games and business software manufactured in SE Asia for sale across the global via a complex network of websites, drop mail addresses and covert online payment systems.

So, our IRA link is a bombing of a police patrol; because hey, it’s not like that’d ever happen if it hadn’t been an anti-counterfeiting patrol, and they had to include “fake perfumes” just to pad the cases out to “over a dozen”. Obviously the report itself isn’t available.

But hey, it’s not the AACP that’s being quoted these days, it’s Interpol. Let’s see if we can see what it says when it can speak for itself. And Google turns up trumps again with Ronald Noble’s testimony before the International Relations Congressional committee in July 2003:

Establishing the relationship between IPC and Terrorist Financing:

The link between organized crime groups and counterfeit goods it [sic] well established. But Interpol is sounding the alarm that Intellectual Property Crime is becoming the preferred method of funding for a number of terrorist groups.

There are enough examples now of the funding of terrorist groups in this way for us to worry about the threat to public safety. We must take preventative measures now.

Yes, clearly. On the upside he does actually give some examples.

Specific Examples
The Interpol General Secretariat is in possession of the following examples of IPC and terrorist financing.

Am I reading too much into that in noting that there’s no “along with many more similar examples!” phrasing?

Anyway. The examples are:

  • Northern Ireland, which has paramilitary groups trafficking counterfeit cigarettes. It’s “unknown how much of the money .. goes to terrorist groups and how much is retained as criminal profit.”
  • Kosovo, where lots of consumer goods (clothes, shoes, cigarettes, CDs, DVDs, software) are counterfeit. It occurs openly. “It is suspected that funds generated from [this] benefit both criminal organizations and extremist groups.”
  • Chechen Separatists, ran a CD counterfeiting plant that was estimated by the Russian Federal Security Service to earn around US$600k per month, and was a source of financing for Chechen separatists.
  • North African Radical Fundamentalists Terrorists [sic] in Europe, apparently “sympathisers and militants of these groups may engage in a range of criminal activity”. Apparently a radical fundamentalist has actually been convicted for “counterfeiting activities”. No word on whether it was shoes or cigarettes.
  • Al-Qaeda, for which, apparently “one counterfeiting case has been reported in the media where there are alleged connections to al-Qaeda”, apparently “al-Qaeda may have indirectly obtained financing through counterfeit goods”, namely “shampoos, creams, cologne and perfume”.
  • Hizbullah, has two cases: February 2000, someone sold pirated CDs and console games along with Hizbullah propaganda, and is (or was at the time) a fugitive; and another individual in 2002 was arrested in 2002 for Hizbullah ties, and was wanted for “tax evasion and the collection and remittance of funds to extermist organizations”, but “Interpol files do not mention involvement in IPC”. Well, that’s unfair: “The alleged IPC connection is stated in open sources”, apparently.

So we’ve got two examples: Chechen separatists, presuming the Russian authorities weren’t making up the Chechen connection for their own purposes, and one, maybe two Hizbullah guys.

Let’s review the assumptions and the conclusion, btw. Here’s that introduction again: There are enough examples now of the funding of terrorist groups in this way for us to worry about the threat to public safety. We must take preventative measures now.. And the conclusion? Drawing generally valid conclusions about IPC and terrorist financing is difficult based on the information available to IPSG.

I think that pretty much exhausts the “buying a cheap DVD is paying for the next terrorist bomb” justifications I can find. I don’t think it’s supported, and dedicating a full page pictoral spread to what seems to be an industry group press release seems thoroughly unjustified.

UPDATE 2004/09/27:

Advantage: Weatherall. Well, kinda: she commented on the Interpol claims in July last year at any rate.

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