The War Against Intelligence

John Williamson's web stuff


August 2005

Plan B

Plan B Magazine in Glasgow

The excellent Plan B magazine hosts an all-day event at Mono in Glasgow on 28th August – workshops, photography exhibition, DJing by The Pastels and Mogwai types and live performance by Jens Lekman. More details, and tickets are here


The War on Piracy

The war on piracy

Story from the Daily Record about a showcase raid on Glasgow’s most blatant copyright infringers. Given that the premises in question are less than half a mile from a major police station and the activities (perhaps the clue was in the shop’s name, boys) have been ongoing in the most overt manner for the best part of five years, this is hardly a staggering piece of investigation by the BPI and their cohorts at Strathclyde’s finest. Nevertheless, a fine PR stunt as a journalist from the country’s biggest selling newspaper just happened to be there at the time of the raid. Exclusively. And happy to buy the usual lines about huge losses to the industry, organised crime, drugs, pornography and the rest of it. The cuttings are no doubt on their way by courier to James Purnell at DCMS as we speak, to be followed by a heap of requests to tighten still further the control record and film companies have over copyrights.


Aug 4 2005

Exclusive Police swoop on men who flood city with dodgy discs

By Cara Page

SCOTLAND’S biggest pirate DVD and CD racket was sunk in a series of co-ordinated raids yesterday.

Computer gear capable of churning out millions of pounds worth of counterfeit discs was seized.

Phoney discs worth several hundred thousand pounds were also impounded.

Industry watchdogs and police raided addresses across the west of Scotland.

Last night, they were quizzing the Mr Big at the centre of the piracy ring – grey-haired John Croy, 58, who walks with a stick and drives a disability car Police swooped on his former council house in Helensburgh after months of surveillance. They found a mass of hi-tech copying equipment.

Another team hit the Jolly Rodger shop in Argyle Street, Glasgow, where 52-year-old Stephen Reid has been flogging thousands of bogus computer games and CDs.

In a TV interview in February last year, Reid boasted that he would not be stopped and ‘could not care less’ if he was arrested.

He told a reporter from breakfast show GMTV: ‘I like what I’m doing. I know it’s illegal but I do not care. You can go and f *** yourself and stick your camera up your a *** .’

Yesterday’s raids were mounted after the Daily Record tipped off pirate music watchdogs.

Last night, investigators said Croy’s tiny ex-council flat was the biggest pirate disc factory ever found in a house in Scotland.

It was crammed with at least 12 computers and more than 50 hard drives.

A source said: ‘The hard drives are portable and could contain anything from porn to music or computer software.

‘You just switch one on depending on what it is you want to copy.’

Eight plain-clothes officers and an investigator from the British Phonographic Industry spent several hours collecting evidence in the house.

The source added: ‘There is no doubt this is the man who has been supplying the Glasgow shop.’ It is understood more than 6000 CDs were recovered from the Jolly Rodger.

Police also raided a disused shop in Old Dumbarton Road believed to be used as a store.

Croy, who used to be a radioelectrical mechanic in the Royal Navy, is the secretary of the Helensburgh lodge of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, a male-only organisation dedicated to ‘the pursuit of Brotherhood It meets in a community centre yards from the house in Nursery Street which separated dad-of-one Croy shares with his lady friend, Sarah Mann.

Bespectacled Croy, who has lived in the street for 11 years, drives a black Toyota complete with disabled badge.

Investigators believe he has played a key role in an illegal CD piracy ring for at least two years. As police raided his home yesterday, looking for copying software, other officers swooped on the Jolly Rodger – opposite Kelvingrove Art Gallery – with Trading Standards officials.

Cops pulled down the metal shutters and questioned staff and customers as a display of CDs from outside the premises was stacked in a huge plastic bag and taken to a waiting van.

One female customer with long white hair and wearing a tracksuit looked shocked as she was quizzed by cops. Meanwhile, other officers began loading their van with bags of goods taken from the premises.

In an hour and a half, they lifted out 13 plastic bags full of discs, TV sets and a computer.

Three policemen disappeared inside the shop with a member of staff and Tradings Standards officer who carried a clip-board.

Another member of staff paced the pavement talking on his mobile phone as bags of confiscated goods were carried out to the green van. Shortly after 3pm, a maroon Ford Focus pulled up and a man handed cops a set of keys then sped off.

The raids followed weeks of surveillance by police and the British Phonographic Industry.

They know bootleggers buy master CDs at Glasgow’s Barras market.

The CDs are then copied in homes turned into makeshift factories.

Investigators are trying to establish concrete links between Croy – who has a four-year-old granddaughter – and the Jolly Rodger shop An insider said: ‘Croy was under surveillance for sometime. We know he visits the Barras every Saturday from his home in Helensburgh.

‘There is a ‘well-known’ there who supplies master discs.

‘A counterfeiter could spend the week copying them in bulk and then supply them to a shop to sell.

‘We also had information that someone in the Helensburgh area was supplying a shop in Argyle Street Croy and Reid could be charged under the Copyright and Patents Act and face up to 10 years in jail.

Reid has been raided before and had thousands of CDs seized. Most of his dodgy discs were sold to students at nearby Glasgow University.

His brother Martin Reid, 44, has also worked in the Jolly Rodger.

Pat Ferguson, an investigator with the BPI, helped co-ordinate yesterday’s operation. He said: ‘People can claim all the benefits under the sun and make a lot of money on the side.

‘If you think a CD costs �11 in the shops and these bootleg master CDs hold 60 albums each, that’s a loss to the music industry of �660 a pop.

‘People at the Barras who sell this sort of stuff are clearing �20,000 a day.

‘Drug dealers are now moving into it because there’s more profit in counterfeit CDs than drugs.

‘There is less chance of getting caught and there is a bigger market.

‘When police search drug dealers’ homes, they invariably find factories where they are making these CDs

PIRACY in the UK was worth �76.9million last year – up 37 per cent on the previous year.

It is estimated that each year piracy in the UK costs the Government �1.5billion in tax revenue and �8billion is lost in copyright.

UK piracy, which includes music CDs, computer games, DVDs and business software, results in the loss of 4000 jobs a year.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service say 26 per cent of piracy has a link to organised crime

Finding the new ‘Aloud

Record industry practices: no. 2 in a series of lots

latest entry courtesy of Popbitch newsletter:

Polydor is the record label behind Girls Aloud. They are in the process of putting together a new teen girl band,and a senior A&R executive has been trawling schools around the country auditioning girls for the group.

At a recent audition, one of the schoolgirls asked him what kind of girls the label
was looking for. His reply? That they wanted “really fuckable” girls.

Payola is Back

record industry practices: no.1 in a series of lots

story from The Guardian about how Sony BMG have been buying some holidays on behalf of the Franz Ferdinand boys.

Sony BMG said yesterday that it had agreed to pay $10m (�5.7m) to settle allegations that it paid American radio stations to play the latest releases from its artists.

The investigation has lifted the lid on the aggressive and often underhand tactics used by the industry to ensure their artists make it into the charts. They include outright bribes and showering radio programmers with gifts such as expensive holidays or electronic goods. The inducements are known as “payola”.

When Sony BMG wanted to get Franz Ferdinand on to the radio in Buffalo, New York, it did not waste any time debating the British band’s musical credentials. Instead, the firm paid $4,000 to send executives of the station WKSE on a trip to Miami. Sony BMG’s other artists include Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.

The settlement follows a year-long investigation by the New York state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, who made his name battling corruption on Wall Street, in the drug industry and among insurers.

He said: “Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, airtime is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees. This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry.”

Mr Spitzer included 59 pages of revealing correspondence between Sony BMG and stations. In one email, a record company employee begged a Clear Channel programmer: “What do I have to do to get Audioslave on WKSS this week? Whatever you can dream up, I can make it happen.”

The inquiry into other record companies continues. Firms including EMI and Warner Music have handed over documents to Mr Spitzer’s office.

Sony BMG, the world’s second largest music company, admitted “improper conduct” and said it would now disclose any items given to stations.

The settlement will do little to improve the state of the radio industry in the US, where listenership has fallen sharply. Analysts have debated whether it is due to the sheer hourly amount of advertising, the number of alternative media or just poor programming.

Mr Spitzer said payola also took other forms, including paying stations’ expenses and the use of middlemen, or “independent promoters”, as conduits for the illegal payments.

Gifts would be awarded to fictitious contest winners to disguise the fact they were being given to radio employees.

Another email showed how aggressive the firm would become if it felt radio programmers had not stuck to their end of the bargain. A Sony executive, angry that a Celine Dion song was being played at night, wrote: “It’s serious; if a radio station got a flyaway to a Celine [Dion] show in Las Vegas for the ad, and they’re playing the song all in overnights, they are not getting the flyaway. Please fix the overnight rotations immediately.”

Sony BMG said: “[The firm] acknowledges that various employees pursued some radio promotion practices on behalf of the company that were wrong and improper, and apologises for such conduct”.

Payola was made a federal offence in 1960, following a scandal in the 1950s.

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