The Phantom Menace

The sheer chutzpah of the MPAA never ceases to amaze. On Monday, they issued a press release: “Southern Cal. High Tech Task Force Stamps Out Illegal DVD/CD Replicating Plant in Los Angeles” [pdf] in which they crow:

Los Angeles –The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in coordination with the Southern California High Tech Task Force have closed New Century Media in the City of Industry, California. The investigation and seizure of $30 million in illegal stampers and DVDs was a result of findings from another raid at a replicating plant nearby where illegal DVDs produced at New Century Media were recovered. The plant was closed for illegal business on June 15 but no arrests have been made.

Isn’t that interesting? They seized $30m in booty, shut down the plant, yet made no arrests?

Turns out the MPAA isn’t telling the whole story, at least as Jennifer Yu, co-founder/owner (along with her husband) of New Century Media tells it. According to Yu, her company is a legit business which:

  • has been operating since 1989, reproducing thousands of titles per year, and
  • was permitted to resume production immediately by the High Tech Task Force, and
  • only experienced the seizure of $10,540 in discs, duplicated for a public company, plus $15,000 in equipment — roughly 0.058% of their annual production.

So how do we reconcile a $30m seizure with $25,540? Is this Enron-style accounting? Well, yes, after a fashion: according to an LAT follow-up, “the MPAA in its new statement did not retract the $30-million figure but explained that it came up with the number by estimating the value of the DVDs seized during the raid as well as the value of DVDs that could be produced using the equipment.” [emphasis added]

Got that? They made it up. It’s not wholesale value, it’s not market value, it’s potential value: basically, pure crap. It’s the logical equivalent of police shutting down an ammunition factory and claiming they saved 200,000 lives.

Sadly, this sort of spin is par for the course.

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