MPAA Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Pirate DVDs

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The Motion Picture Association of America is putting some bite behind its bark in its fight against illegally copied CDs and DVDs.

The movie industry group has funded the eight-month training of two black Labradors, called Lucky and Flo, who can now sniff out optical discs at customs points and other locations. The MPAA worked with its U.K. counterpart, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT).

While dogs have long been used to detect illicit drugs, the new mission aims to slash away at the profits from movie piracy, which FACT estimates were $519 million in the U.K. last year.

The dogs were trained to detect the smell of chemicals used in the manufacture of optical discs, said Eddy Leviten, head of communications for FACT.

Last week, Lucky and Flo sniffed packages at the FedEx facility at Stansted Airport, near London. The dogs' sense of smell is up to 10,000 times more sensitive than humans and can smell a disc through several layers of wrapping.

Use of the dogs slashes the time needed to isolate suspicious packages, Leviten said.

Pirated or Genuine?

But the dogs can't distinguish between pirated discs and genuine ones. Investigators examine packages to try to determine which should be opened for inspection.

The number of pirated discs imported into the U.K. has fallen dramatically in the past 18 months due to increased enforcement by HM Revenue and Customs, Leviten said. However, prices for equipment to create illegal discs have fallen, meaning more operations are within in the U.K., Leviten said.

The dogs could also be used for warehouse inspections undertaken by FACT, which employs piracy investigators throughout the U.K.

FACT and the MPAA are working with law enforcement and customs officials on how the dogs will be incorporated into future enforcement efforts, Leviten said.

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