Anyone who regularly visits street markets or ‘car-boot’ sales in the UK will tell you that illegal goods are easily found. Counterfeit movies, audio CDs, clothing, sportswear and cosmetics are all on show every week, even though there has been an nationwide effort to reduce availability. It’s fairly easy to spot most of these ‘rogue traders’ with just a cursory examination of the goods. People can recognize the fakes and copies since not much effort is put into disguising them and the quality is generally fairly poor – and cheap. There are some ‘good’ copies but they’re in the minority.
However, market officials in Hull – a city in the north of England with 250,000 residents – prefer a less delicate approach. Rather than getting rid of these ‘rogue traders’, from today, it has introduced a blanket ban on CDs and DVDs. Not just the counterfeit ones but ALL media and audio-visual products too, including computer games.
A council spokesman told Yorkshire Post: “The problem was persistent and was at a scale where literally we needed to do something about it. There is clearly an organised illegal activity taking place and that is something the council could not accept.”
According to the report, there will be a large security presence at Hull’s Walton Street market to enforce the ban, including officials and police officers who will screen vendors and their goods.
Legitimate businessmen and women from the north-east selling original movies (new or used) on DVD will have to find somewhere else to sell their goods, as will vendors of music CDs and any other audio visual products. Tracey Harsley, head of the Hull Citysafe crime prevention partnership, said in a statement: “Anyone coming with the intention of selling any type of audio-visual equipment will be told they will not be allowed to sell it. If they set up their stall and start selling regardless they will politely be asked to leave. If they refuse, action will be taken.”
A trader at the market, Michael Young, who has now been banned said: “There should be some kind of system in place so traders can sell original copies of CDs and DVDs. I have been coming here for a couple of years and sell pre-owned and original copies. I went self-employed and have tried to build up my own business, but now it is getting taken away from me.”
After implementing what will be seen by many as a completely unfair and disproportionate action affecting law-abiding individuals trying to make a living, Hull council says it will try to find a way to let genuine traders back onto the market “within weeks”. They justified their actions by claiming a blanket-ban was the only solution due in part to their lack of ability to identify pirated goods in all cases.
“We have had to be fairly blunt in terms of saying we have to ban all audiovisual material,” said a council spokesman, “because it is very hard to distinguish in some cases between the counterfeit and the original merchandise.”
The blunt-instrument of anti-piracy enforcement strikes again. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the council has to take some action to protect people like Mr Young so he can make a living. Strange that Mr Young didn’t seem that happy that he’d been stopped from making a living instead.