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L.A. County probation officers group mistakenly gives lawmakers pirated DVDs

A union lobbying Sacramento against cutting programs for delinquent youths sends them pirated DVDs of a Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson film.

May 13, 2011|By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento -- Some Los Angeles County probation officers unwittingly ran afoul of the law in lobbying Sacramento against cutting programs meant to help delinquent youths.

They gave lawmakers copies of a movie about a hero who turns young criminals around, but the DVDs were pirated. As the DVDs were arriving at legislators' offices, a bill to outlaw counterfeit movie mills was advancing in the Capitol.

The probation officers' union gave about 20 lawmakers the counterfeit copies of a 2006 tear-jerker, "Gridiron Gang," which stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as an officer who instills values in young criminals through football.

But the discs did not come in the colorful jackets that normally adorn legal DVDs; they were in blank cases with Post-it notes bearing the movie's title. The Times asked union officials Thursday whether the copies were legitimate, and after the officials checked they acknowledged that, unbeknownst to them, the DVDs were pirated. They said their contractor made a mistake.

"We had no idea that they were unauthorized copies," the Los Angeles County Deputy Probation Officers Union said in a statement. "The moment we discovered that they were, we immediately informed the Motion Picture Assn. of America (MPAA) and are in the process of replacing the illicit DVDs with authorized copies. The unauthorized DVDs are being turned over to the MPAA, and we will cooperate fully in any investigation by them."

Piracy of motion pictures costs the film industry billions of dollars each year, MPAA officials said.

"Gridiron Gang" depicts the real-life efforts of an officer to help troubled teens at a juvenile detention facility in Malibu. It was included in a package of material advocating the extension of a vehicle license fee increase as a way to keeping juvenile camps funded.

"It just goes to show what a widespread problem piracy is that a contractor would feel comfortable providing pirated DVDs to a law enforcement group," said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), whose district includes several film studios.

patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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