While we have dealt with illicit pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and luxury brands, no illicit producers are as boldfaced as the movie and music pirates. If you walk through our cities and boroughs, the illegal activity of piracy thrives under the “watchful” eyes and noses of law enforcement officers.

In its simplest form piracy is the illegal copying of CD’s and DVD’s and the unauthorized download of copyrighted material. So if you’re purchasing your music or movies from these sellers, you are supporting criminal activity. While there are some online sites that allow you to legally pay for and download music, simply downloading another person’s work from the internet can also be illegal.

The argument is frequently heard, “But what’s the fuss? This is no big crime.” While the Mighty Shadow in speaking on behalf of the music owners reminded us that the music pirates were “… killing we softly”, in many jurisdictions the profits made from the simple sale of pirated CD’s and DVD’s have been used as cash injections for more serious criminal activity. In an article written by Brandy Robinson that appeared in the Rutgers Law Record, she noted that there was a USD2.5M transfer from a DVD pirate, Assad Ahmad Barakat to Hezbollah to help support their terrorist activities. This is not surprising as more criminals are now using the area of intellectual property to fund their enterprises. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has noted that “…greater public tolerance and high earnings are some of the reasons why piracy is increasingly attracting organised crime“.

But here is another perspective. Will you purchase goods that you know have been stolen from someone else? While the answer is a unanimous “No” this is exactly what we do when we purchase these illegal CD’s and DVD’s. The music creators have expended their creativity, time and money in producing a final product only to have the pirate steal the item for cheap resale on the pavement. That’s piracy in its simplest form and by supporting the activity you are stealing money from your favourite artiste.

Under the Copyright Act of Trinidad and Tobago the penalties for copyright infringement seem very huge. In some instances there are fines in excess of $100,000 and imprisonment terms for up to ten years. However, these penalties appear not to be deterrents since piracy continues unfettered.

The copyright organizations in Trinidad and Tobago and the Intellectual Property Office are constantly doing their part to educate the public about the illegal activity of piracy and the need to desist from supporting the pirates. We join them in encouraging all our citizens to seek out the legal avenues to satisfy our appetite for high quality music and movies. There are certainly avenues available that will allow you to legally get the compilation that you desire. Netflix and iTunes immediately come to mind as two legal avenues available for movie and music content.

Let us be vigilant and not aid and abet criminal activity by knowingly purchasing stolen property.

Finally, remember that all instances of illicit trade can be reported anonymously and safely to Crime Stoppers at 800-TIPS or through our Submit Tip banner on our website at www.crimestopperstt.com