By Josh Simpkins
Special to the Sun
Friends and neighbors, I have stumbled upon a form of film piracy that nobody seems to be talking about let alone noticing. Retailers seem to have taken notice and have implemented “new policies” to combat this new threat and the thieves who have adopted this heinous practice. What I am referring to is the theft of the digital versions of films that come bundled with new release Blu-Rays. You know that annoying little slip of paper with that funky code (Redeemable in 3 Easy Steps!) on one side and usually an ad on the other? Well, those slips of paper are being pilfered from cases using certain scandalous methods, including purchasing the film, taking out the paper, and returning it sans digital code. These codes are property of the store, then become property of the purchaser of the film who can redeem them online on a digital platform such as Movies Anywhere or UltraViolet.
Unfortunately, it would seem, in most cases of these returns the retailer just repackages it and puts it back on the shelf, unknowing that a crime has been perpetrated. This may seem like an insignificant, hurt no one, petty crime at best. Well, let me lay something out for you that just may enlighten to how truly serious this has become. I buy a ton of movies. The proper term is “cinephile,” but I think that sounds dirty, so I refer to myself as a cine-maniac. I used to just give those slips of paper to my son. He seemed to be able to make use of them, and it was no skin off my nose. That is until I figured out the rub; he was amassing a huge digital library of films that he could access anywhere in the world with his smartphone and a little of that free WiFi. A library of hundreds of films that he collected on my dime. I was furious, until I learned how to link these accounts with my Amazon Prime account, and now, I have access to my movie library when I’m away from the house—and it’s amazingly convenient.
If anything, my example show highlight just how quickly a digital pirate could amass quite the collection of films in an expedient time frame. There is no way for the platforms to tell or trace if a code was purchased or pilfered and the retailers have no real recourse but to repackage and try to get theirs ends. Sadly, I have fallen prey to this scandalous scheme three times in the last month from three different stores around Bakersfield. I purchased a Marvel Phase One film that I somehow had yet to add to my collection from a large and popular “superstore” on Gosford and Pacheco, when the clerk noticed the packaging was damaged. Gratefully, he went and fetched me another undamaged copy. When prompted the helpful clerk showed me that someone had sliced open the cellophane on the damaged one with a razor or small knife and removed the code. I thought this was an isolated incident; I was mistaken.
I made a second purchase in Bakersfield, this time from a popular Home & Entertainment store. I found a collector’s dream score and quickly scoop it into my hot, giant hands. I got my find home, just knowing my son would flip out the next time he went to watch a movie and found this latest addition to the collection. However, when I went to retrieve my code slip it was nowhere to be found. I contacted the retailer to complain and they graciously made an exchange. Needless to say, the code slip was missing from that one as well.
This got my motor running so I went and made a third purchase of four films of various price ranges from yet another store in the greater Bakersfield area. I made sure each film came with a code slip included with purchase. The clerk that helped me made it a point to tell me that I could NOT return any of these movies once they had been opened. When I inquired as to why, I was informed it was just “new store policy.” When I got my purchases home one code was expired, two were missing, and one code slip was there waiting like Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket. Beware out there in the wide world friends and neighbors, the depths thieving scoundrels will stoop to is unfathomable.