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Pssst... Wanna Buy A Cheap "Backup"? 19 September 2002 Edition
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The unauthorised duplication and sale of copyrighted works is illegal -- we all know that.

But what if you get a friend to make a "backup" copy of a disk you already own?

Maybe you'd like your Lord of The Rings DVD backed-up onto VCD format so your kids could watch it on their cheap PC (without a DVD drive) -- or maybe you're just worried that your favourite game disk may one day get scratched.

Well one enterprising guy has decided to offer such a service to Kiwi computer users and is/was promoting it through his website at DVDStation.co.nz.

Note: -- the website concerned has now been removed and access is redirected to the hosting company -- read on to find out why. Fortunately I grabbed some screen-dumps before this happened.

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Yes, that's right -- the operator of this site (who is listed in the Domainz database as one Timothy Kramer but responded to my emails using the name "deathr0w"), will sell you a backup of your favourite DVD, (S)VCD, PC or PS2 software (screen dump) for just a fraction the cost of an original.

"But wait" I hear you say, "isn't that just piracy?"

Well I contacted deathr0w and he told me that it wasn't -- because "People are allowed to backup there [sic] products but we provide the service so it's hassle free for them".

When asked what proof is required to prove that the purchaser does actually own a legal copy in the first place I was told "they agree once they sign onto the site and it is fraud to falsely agree to our conditions"

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That all seems simple enough doesn't it?

"deathr0w" will simply provide you with a backup copy of movies or software you already own and if you tell lies then on your own head be it. What could go wrong with such a cunning scheme?

I mean, he even has this excellent disclaimer which used to look like this screendump but I suspect the National Bank wasn't best pleased by the unauthorised use of their logo.

Note the reference to US copyright law -- which is odd since that law simply doesn't apply here in NZ where, in the case of movies, *all* copying is deemed illegal. That's right, you're not allowed to make backup copies of your own legally purchased disks (as discussed in the July 24 edition of this column).

Another problem with deathr0w's claims is that many of the titles he's offering haven't actually been released on DVD yet -- so how can the buyer already own a "legal" copy in order to buy a backup from DVDStation?

An example of this are the "Chrochunter" (should that be "Croc Hunter"?), Austin Powers 3, Lilo and Stitch, amongst others. screendump.

It also appears as if my skepticism as to the legality of DVDStation's offerings are shared by the MPAA who, it would seem, have complained about the site.

Hearing this, I contacted Snap Internet, the Kiwi company that hosts DVDStation, and asked them a few questions.

Although they weren't able to say much due to the need to preserve their client's confidentiality, I was told that the site is definitely in breach of the company's terms and conditions and if those breaches weren't remedied then it would be taken down. That's one of the reasons I've provided screendumps of the relevant pages.

Something else to ring a few alarm bells is the method of payment being requested. On this page (screen dump) it states that payment can only be made by bank deposit or Western Union wire transfer.

Unfortunately, Western Union wire transfers are so damned expensive that it would actually be cheaper in most cases to simply buy another original of your favourite DVD than use this service. Depositing the money into a bank account means that you'd have none of the fraud protection that credit-card payment offers.

When I asked about the lack of credit-card payment facilities, deathr0w told me "Well CC is too much hassle places like paypal are scum just read www.paypalsucks.com and when selling to internationl [sic] customers $8.50us is not over priced and $17nz for nz customers"

Although the site has a .nz domain name, is hosted in NZ and targets Kiwi customers, it is operated from offshore, seemingly from somewhere in Thailand, Indonesia or the Philippines through an account at Pacific.net.th.

So, should you fork out $17 to buy a backup of your favourite disk?

Well I'm not sure but I think there are laws against importing illegally duplicated software and I suspect that CD-sized packages originating from South East Asia are likely to attract more than the usual amount of interest as they pass through Customs.

The choice is yours -- but remember -- the word "gullible" isn't in the dictionary :-)

Yes, I'm still sick as a dog right now so excuse any spellink miztakes and lapses into real bad grammar today

If you want to have your say on the contents of today's column then please do so. Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the reader's comments section.

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