Is Puppy Love the Answer to DVD Piracy?
By WILLIAM TRIPLETT / Daily Variety, Sept. 27, 2006
The Motion Picture Assn. of America unveiled its latest weapons: Lucky and Flo, the world's first DVD-sniffing dogs.
MPAA topper Dan Glickman -- who began his day discussing with Congress the ongoing problem of campus online piracy -- let the pups take center stage in the afternoon.
The Labrador retrievers wowed a screening room full of customs officials, intellectual property experts and reporters with their ability to smell DVDs hidden in baggage and other containers.
The exuberant, playful duo had spent eight months working with a trainer in Ireland who mainly trains canines to sniff explosives.
In June in the U.K., the two passed a test in which they detected even small quantities of DVDs in large containers, MPAA officials said.
"Obviously, you need a volume of dogs to be effective," Glickman said. "The idea right now is to demonstrate their abilities to show that it can be done and maybe build a corps."
Org plans to take Lucky and Flo on the "K-9 Pirate Smackdown World Tour" for similar intros in Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai.
The dogs cannot distinguish between a legit DVD and a pirated one. Rather, they are trained to recognize polycarbonate and other chemicals present in optical discs. Optimally, these canines would be deployed at shipping ports or airport cargo areas -- transit points for large-scale pirated product.
"Because legitimate shipments of optical discs are generally registered on a shipping manifest, the dogs will be able to find discs in unlikely or unregistered containers, which usually mean they are being smuggled for illegal use or sale," the MPAA said in a statement.
"Any tool we can get our hands on that helps is another way to play offense in this fight," said an enthusiastic Chris Israel, the Commerce Dept.'s intellectual property czar, who attended the demo at MPAA headquarters. U.S. Customs officials have been talking with MPAA about the dogs, he added.
Trainer Neil Powell said training involves game-playing and rewards, and the predatory sense is necessary in order to focus on hunting a quarry. Retrievers, Powell said, are especially well suited.
Too bad Lucky and Flo can't smell digital piracy. Earlier in the day, Glickman told a congressional hearing that while some headway had been made against campus online piracy, the rates still remain "unacceptably high." Illegal peer-to-peer systems available to students cause most of the problems.
Glickman praised efforts at some colleges, including the U. of Florida. But as several lawmakers themselves noted, for a congressionally mandated study of campus piracy initiated in 2005, the General Accountability Office has yet to hear back from more than half of the 100 institutions contacted.