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Music, films are seized in piracy crackdown

CAMBRIDGE -- The label on the case said "Master and Commander," but something wasn't kosher. The plastic was grocery store quality, like the stuff used to wrap barbecued chicken. The cover had the vibrancy of a homemade brochure. Words were blurry. The price was negotiable.

 

But now the Russell Crowe movie, which opened Nov. 14 and is still in theaters, is off the shelves here, the result of a Cambridge police bust on Monday at two Central Square stores peddling thousands of counterfeit CDs and DVDs.

Detectives said yesterday that they were tipped off by investigators from the Recording Industry Association of America, whose agents have fanned out across the country in an effort to quell the booming sales of bogus CDs.

Police seized nearly 7,000 CDs and DVDs from two Central Square merchants: Star Jewelry and Star Convenience, which rented space to salesmen displaying their merchandise in the back of the stores, police said. Yesterday, the shelves in both locations were bare.

One of the salesmen, Dong Hu, 24, of New York City was arrested at the convenience store and charged with unauthorized reproduction of a recording, which carries a five-year prison sentence.

Two other suspects were arranging to turn themselves in, police said. Detectives do not believe the suspects at the two stores were working together.

A spokesman for the RIAA praised the quick work of Cambridge police "that helped root out significant caches of pirated music at two retail outlets in the area."

"The victims of piracy operations like these are local legitimate music retailers trying to make a living, as well as record companies, artists, songwriters, and everyone else involved in bringing music to the public," the spokesman said. "The message is becoming increasingly clear: Law enforcement organizations across the country are taking music piracy more seriously than ever before."

Detectives said the bogus DVDs sometimes feature recordings made by someone sneaking into theaters with a video camera and recording from the back row. The images are then loaded into a computer and burned onto a DVD, police said.

As for the CDs, some of those confiscated were exact copies of CDs, and others were a collection of an artist's songs arranged and mixed from multiple albums at the whim of the person operating the burner.

A representative at the convenience store had nothing to say when asked whether she knew the items were bogus, but the manager of the jewelry store, who would only give his name as Bubba, appeared dumbfounded.

"I had no idea until the police came," he said.

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