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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 09:12 GMT 10:12 UK
Tracking down the pirate DVDs
Pirate Spider-Man 2 DVDs
Many pirate DVDs are sold on streets and at markets for 5 each
Spider-Man 2 is released in UK cinemas on Friday - and as the UK film industry launches its largest anti-piracy campaign yet, BBC News Online set out to see how easy it was to buy a pirate copy of the film on DVD.

Spider-Man was one of the most successful films of recent years and its sequel has already started smashing box office records.

But with its official DVD release still months away, how many film fans could resist owning this blockbuster now - for just a fraction of its eventual shop price?

On Saturday - 10 days after its cinema release in the US and five days before it opens in Britain - BBC News Online visited high streets, markets and car boot sales across London, as well as the internet, to find pirate Spider-Man 2 DVDs.

At lunchtime on one busy north London high street, eight different people were selling pirate DVDs for 5 each along a short stretch of road, with two more nearby.

All of them displayed a wide range of new releases on blankets on the pavement, and at least some were obviously working together and were not short of interest from curious shoppers.

Spider-Man 2 DVD ad on eBay
Bootleg Spider-Man 2 DVDs were also advertised on eBay
Most had Spider-Man 2, along with other movies not yet out at UK cinemas including Tom Hanks' The Terminal, Keira Knightley's King Arthur and Garfield - The Movie.

One copy of Spider-Man 2 was purchased to check its quality - and another was immediately produced by one of the traders to take its place on the blanket.

It was obviously filmed by a camcorder in a cinema audience - with the camera at an angle for much of the film, out of focus for a two-minute spell, someone's head in the corner of the shot and the crowd's laughter on top of the soundtrack.

Two hours later at a market in the borough of Islington, two men had a stall with a smaller range. They included Spider-Man 2 together with the original Spider-Man on one DVD as a two-for-one "special offer".

Billed as a "DVD Court presentation", it was titled "DC Collection Vol 164", suggesting this was far from a one-off for the people who made the copy.

The men promised it was "top quality" and could be returned if not up to scratch - and this time it was not a camcorder job, with sound and visuals that were not perfect, but definitely watchable.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2 has taken more than $250m (135m) at US cinemas
Next was a modern shopping centre in east London on Saturday afternoon where, at first, there was no sign of illegal trading.

But after a short time, two men appeared with a blanket and began laying out a range of DVDs - including two copies of Spider-Man 2 on display.

Blankets obviously provide a handy method of bundling the goods up in a hurry if necessary - as well as keeping DVDs clean and making them stand out.

Aside from those locations, a car boot sale in north-west London was visited where a young woman was carrying a pile of pirate DVDs, including Spider-Man 2.

But no stalls had them on display, so it later became clear the woman must have been selling them herself - although she disappeared.

And a shop in central London was selling Chinese versions of new releases such as Around the World in 80 Days - but not Spider-Man 2.

There was no sign of pirate DVDs in other areas visited - Acton, Shepherd's Bush, Hammersmith, Ladbroke Grove and more locations in Islington and central London.

Sounds spot on and the pics good - if you get caught with it, it will probably be taken away
EBay seller
Throughout the week, BBC News Online also monitored pirate Spider-Man 2 DVD sales on the internet.

Dozens of copies were put up for sale on auction website eBay - with most removed by the site before transactions were completed.

In response to an e-mail from BBC News Online posing as a customer, one seller said theirs was "a decent copy obviously not a orignal! [sic]"

"Sounds spot on and the pics good! If you get caught with it, it will probably be taken away and your be asked questions, thing is don't leave it where any unwanted eyes can see it."

Another sent screen shots from his copy, saying it was a "telesync" - where a recording is made in the projection booth with a direct sound input from the projector.

'Free DVD'

Some versions did sell for up to 20, with sellers attempting to get around the auction process by telling buyers not to bid - but e-mail them directly instead - while others promised to end the auction as soon as a bid had been placed.

Others said they were selling a Spider-Man 2 DVD sleeve with a free DVD.

Seeing the bids, nine other sellers e-mailed BBC News Online directly to offer Spider-Man 2 DVDs without having to advertise them on eBay.

From the high streets to the internet, it is certainly not difficult for anybody to buy a pirate DVD if they know where to look.

The BBC's Razia Iqbal
"It is not hard to get hold of a film on DVD even before its cinema release"


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