The Rugrats MovieAnd The Piracy Problem

You might have seen this acted out by Tommy and his fellow Rugrats in the film -- pirates of the open seas, sailing with fun and adventure in mind.

These days, pirates of today are no longer sailing the seven seas, and are no longer interested in gold, treasure or sailors. Pirates of today have better "treasure" in mind -- movies.

On the market in America's larger cities, and anywhere worldwide through the internet, bootleg (illegal) copies of many popular films, including The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats In Paris, are popping up. Yes, you get to watch the film at your convenience. Yes, you get extra scenes that may be cut out when legally released on video. However, the quality is always poor. Not to mention, the making, sale and ownership of bootlegs are illegal, as per federal law.

How Are Bootleg Videos Made?

Bootleg videos of theatrical movies were around as early as the late-1970s, when VCR's and duplicating equipment became widely available. Until the late-1980s, bootlegged movies were made by someone (with connections to an unscrupulous movie theater employee) stealing a print of a movie, often before release, making a video duplicate using a VCR and a telecine (traditionally used to broadcast 16mm & 35mm films on TV). This is often done at late night, with the thief returning the film before the employees come to open the theater. With the advent of smaller camcorders, this complex way of bootlegging became much easier; all that needs to be done now is to sneak a camcorder into a theater, the "thief" sitting in a seat with a view as unobstructed as possible, and the "thief" discretely pressing RECORD when the film starts, stopping when the film ends, or sometimes, when the audience leaves the theater at the end. When the "thief" gets home, copies are made, a tape case is designed, and the bootlegs are put on the market.

The Alphabet Of Bootlegs -- VHS, VCD & DVD

Bootleg videos are mostly available on videotape, in VHS. However, some bootlegs are starting to pop up in the new DVD (Digital Video Disc) format, which brings laser-quality movies and programming on a laser disk the size of a CD. Until recently, a dealer offered bootleg DVDs, tossing in The Rugrats Movie as a freebie. Some Rugrats and movie fans received the following e-mail from this dealer (special thanks to Don Del Grande):

>To: (censored)
>Subject: Your Free The Rugrats Movie CD
>Date: Mon, 21 Dec 1998 20:01:53 +0800

>Hi there fellow movie maniac,
>Thank you for taking time to read this message. What we have to offer is something that will end those lonely nights spending at home plus less the hassle in going to the movies. Ever thought of owning a movie other than viewing it at the cinemas? Well there have I got your attention yet if not chew on these titles that we've got in stock:
>A Bugs Life

Saving Private Ryan

>Enemy Of the State

Meet Joe Black

>The Siege

the Water Boy

>Babe: Pig in the City



Practical Magic


>And Many Hundreds More...

>And now for our lucky customers who have received this message we're giving out a FREE! Yes absolutely no charge: RUGRATS THE MOVIE CD.

By the way, don't bother replying to the above e-mail; the sender is long gone, probably in jail.

In addition, pirated movies are sold in China, Hong Kong and Malaysia in the form of Video Compact Discs, or VCDs. These are, in fact, CD-Roms with the movie on the disc, not to be confused with DVDs, which have a more superior picture quality than VCDs (even VCR tapes have better pix than VCDs). The VCD format is, more or less, used only for pirated movies, as the players for them are manufactured and sold only in the above countries; also, the inferior picture quality, more or less, precludes VCDs from markets such as the US, Canada, and Britain.

How Tommy Nabbed The Pirates

Indirectly, the Rugrats gang helped closed down a piracy ring in New York City on 3/25/1999. How were Tommy and the gang involved? Read this excerpt from an MPAA press release:
March 29, 1999


Legitimate Print Shop Involved in Piracy Web

(New York, New York)...On March 25, 1999, the Motion Picture Association of America assisted the New York Police Department in raids on 13 New York locations involved in a major video piracy ring. The investigation, dubbed "Operation Rewind," began three months ago and successfully culminated in the largest closure of illegal labs in the United States to date.

Included in this pirate network was an otherwise legitimate print shop that used high-quality artwork and materials, including the FBI warning label, to produce tens of thousands of illegal boxes and labels for distribution to the pirate laboratories. The shop was in the process of illegally printing boxes for the film The Rugrats Movie when the raids occurred, and police found materials for every major film from the past 3 months on the premises.

In all, police made 21 arrests and seized 23,334 illegal videocassettes, 632 VCRs, 1,420 blank videocassettes, and a variety of other machines and materials used for the illegal duplication and distribution of pirate videocassettes. Titles seized included The Mod Squad (which at the time of the raids had not yet opened in theaters), Saving Private Ryan, You've Got Mail and The Rugrats Movie - all of which are not yet available on videocassette format.

For those who don't know, most videos sold in the US have an FBI warning on the box, and/or on the video, before or after the program; it basically explains that unauthorised copies are illegal, and those convicted will face up to 5 years imprisonment and/or a US$250,000 fine.

It should also be noted that The Rugrats Movie was legitimately released on video 5 days after the bust -- on 3/30/99.

How Can I Help Stop Piracy?

The MPAA has recently started cracking down on piracy. In New York City and some other major markets, most movies are preceded with a public service announcenent, explaining that bootlegs are illegal. At the end, a toll-free number is given for anyone with information that would lead to the arrest of the pirate.

If you know of anyone making or selling bootlegs, call:


Remember, you're better off waiting a few months to get a legal video tape, instead of purchasing a bootleg right away. The benefits outweigh the consequences -- in the legal tape's favor.

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