Music for nothing, flicks for free

The Cayman Islands are full of
pirates, but not the kind that usually make newspaper headlines.

They scour BitTorrent websites and
programmes instead of the ocean, they are armed with computers instead of
machine guns, and, rather than taking passengers hostage, the prisoners they
take are songs, movies, and TV show episodes.

Millions of people around the
world, including hundreds in Cayman, wreak havoc on the music and film
industries by buying and downloading pirated versions of their favourite music,
films, and TV shows.

Though authorities in major
countries like the United States and China manage to slap hefty fines on a
handful of copyright infringers every year, the financial restraints of enforcing
copyright overseas, and a lack of local regulation may make the Cayman Islands
one of today’s true pirate havens.

Digital pirates sell or distribute
unauthorised copies of recently released movies months before legal DVDs hit
the shelves for free or at a fraction of the cost.

“Actors and studios put up millions
of dollars to make these movies and they deserve something back,” says Deborah
McTaggart, co-owner of Blockbuster. “These people are stealing from them.”

The Motion Picture Association of
America would agree with McTaggart. Every year the music and film industries
claim to lose billions of dollars to digital pirates, even though the exact
cost of piracy is unknown.

The Cayman Islands are subject to
copyright laws and international conventions which make the sale of
unauthorised DVDs illegal. However, legitimate business owners say that little
or nothing is done to curb the bootleg DVD industry.

“I know they have stores here who
burn them for five dollars or two dollars and… nobody does anything,” says
Mark Watler, manager of Funky Tangs. “I never see police go down there and
arrest anyone or charge anyone.”

To supply these bootleg DVD and CD
stores, pirates use a variety of different methods to make unauthorised copies:

“Sometimes they buy a copy from you
[to burn], sometimes they download it from the internet to sell,” says Mr.
Watler, explaining the ways pirates steal music and films.

In addition to buying or renting a
single DVD to burn hundreds of copies, pirates in other countries will even
sneak camcorders into movie theatres to film new releases in order to sell
illegal copies months before an official DVD release.

While it is common for security
guards to patrol through movie theatres in the United States, security within
the actual cinema in Cayman is rarely seen.

Managers at the local Hollywood
Theatre in Camana Bay did not even seem to have a clear policy on how someone
caught illegally recording films would be dealt with, and the Vice President of
Marketing with Hollywood Theatres refused to comment.

Local business owners are not the
only ones at risk from pirates; local musicians are also targeted by pirates
and are particularly vulnerable once their work hits the web.

“It’s the norm, there’s a whole
generation that just are not conscious of the concept of paying for music,”
says Stuart Wilson of the musical group Love Culture. “It’s fairly daunting to
people like myself who are spending tons of cash to make good music.”

In fact, the International
Federation of the Phonographic Industry blames digital piracy for a 30 percent
decline in music sales worldwide from 2004 to 2009.

Although internet music sales have
increased, sales of CDs have decreased by approximately 16 per cent worldwide.

Though piracy is a problem
affecting businesses, actors, and artists worldwide, digital piracy is particularly
difficult to police in Cayman.

According to Claudia Brady,
detective chief inspector with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service
Financial Crime Unit, the police have encountered difficulties pursuing the
vendors of unauthorised DVDs and CDs because of the lack of a clear

A complainant is the person or
party who files a formal charge against another in the court of law.

“We would have to show the loss to
someone as a result of the piracy and the gain by another,” she explains. “This
has been an issue in Cayman for some time but, with the absence of a
complainant, we have not actually pursued the matter.”