Back from Shore Leave.
I decided against staying until the bitter end. Frankly, I was tired, and I thought I needed sleep more than I needed to stay through to Mystery Trekkie Theatre.
But we’ll cover that later, perhaps tomorrow.
For the time being, I want to talk about the Dealer’s Room. Specifically, bootleg DVD dealers.
I don’t mind the dealers selling things that fans can’t get any other way, television series that, for a number of very good reasons, would never see an official DVD release, from lack of fan interest to licensing issues. I’m a little more wary of the bootleg DVDs for fanfilms–these are generally available online for people to download for free if they’re so inclined.
No, the thing I saw in the Dealer’s Room that bugged me were things that someone can buy legally, and yet the bootleg dealers are selling cheap knockoffs in inkjet covers.
Last year was the year of The War of the Worlds, with no less than three new versions of the story released in various markets–a modern-day version starring Tom Cruise; another modern-day version starring, if memory serves, Jake Busey; and a period-piece starring no-name actors. The period-piece version from Pendragon Pictures I bought last year at Wal-Mart for less than ten dollars. It was, frankly, a total piece of crap. The acting was poor, the direction less than competent, and the film ran for three hours. I imagine that if the Sci-Fi Channel brought the broadcast rights the cuts they’d have to make to the film to fit a two-hour time slot, and those cuts would be substantial by any measure, would make the film a better one.
Imagine my surprise when I passed by one of the bootleg tables and, there in a pile, were DVDs proclaiming “War of the Worlds: The Film You Didn’t See,” and the film was one I’d bought and watched, the Pendragon Pictures film. The nice, professional cover of the official DVD release was, in this bootleg, a less-than-slick inkjet cover using generic, sans-serif fonts. Quite frankly, the packaging looked cheap, the kind of thing anyone could throw together in a photo-editing program in about ten minutes.
Television shows that have been abandoned by their studios, I can understand a dealer downloading the episodes and burning them to DVD for a sale. Fanfilms, again I can understand a dealer downloadkng them and burning them to DVD for a sale. These make sense to me, even if the legalities are questionable. But when the consumer can buy the DVD of a film legally, then the cheap, bootleg DVD for sale from a convention dealer is theft, pure and simple.
It’s not the first such pirated DVD I’ve seen at the convention. Free Enterprise, the romantic comedy starring William Shatner, which has seen two official releases turns up in a cheap, bootleg version, too.
I don’t know who’s worse–the person who sells what’s clearly a pirated DVD that the consumer can buy elsewhere legally, or the person who buys the pirated DVD without realizing that they’re encouraging film piracy by spending their money on the cheap knock-offs.
A battle for another time.