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NC5 Investigates: Consumer Alert

Big Screen Blockbusters At Small Screen Prices

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The new Harry Potter movie has just opened in theatres.

What if you could get a copy now to watch at home?

NewsChannel 5 Investigates went undercover and found it's pretty easy these days to get a copy of any movie you want, even if it's still showing in theatres.

When you buy big screen blockbusters for small screen prices, as consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus shows us, you get what you pay for.

If you think going to the movies is the only place you'll find new releases, you might be surprised to see a DVD copy of the movie "Hangover" that NewsChannel 5 Investigates was able to obtain, a movie you supposedly can only see in theatres now.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates went undercover and got it from a woman in Clarksville who sold us five of the summer's hottest movies, including the latest X-Men release, "Wolverine."

The woman who sold the movies to our undercover producer introduced herself as "Cheri" and then said, "We had 'Wolverine' like a month before it even came out."

We found her through an ad on Craig's List. The ad said "Movies - $5." The seller claimed to have "almost all of them." After we asked what was available, we were sent a list with dozens of movie titles.

The new Harry Potter film wasn't on the list.

The woman who met us in a restaurant parking lot in Clarksville to sell us the movies assured our undercover producer that getting a copy of the latest Harry Potter film wouldn't be a problem.

"If we get it before, we'll get it like the week before. If not, it'll be like the week of or the week after," she told our undercover producer.

Then she added, "We actually sometimes get them (movies) before they even come out."

But Special Agent Scott Augenbaum, who heads up the FBI's local Cyber Crimes Squad, cautions that "you get what you pay for."

Augenbaum says he's seen plenty of bootleg movies like ours that have been seized by agents. And they usually, he told us, come in plain envelopes, like ours, with the movie's name scribbled on in Magic Marker.

"More times than not, you're going to get a poor quality video and, there are times, when you'll get one and there's nothing on there," Augenbaum told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

In fact, one of the DVDs we bought, supposedly with "Up" on it didn't work.

One look at the opening of the new "Star Trek" movie and it was obvious the film came from somewhere in Russia, but the title was written in Russian. As it turned out, whoever made the copy used a video camera and zoomed in pretty close to block the subtitles.

We showed the video to Agent Augenbaum.

"I can't really tell what's going on here, except there's lots of lights and flashes over here."

"Night at the Museum 2" was also a pretty bad copy. It was apparently shot in an empty theatre so the audio is very hollow sounding and frequently, the top of the actors' heads were cut off.

Upon seeing this, Augenbaum commented, "You're missing so much of the movie when you're getting a copy like this."

The woman who sold us the movies told our undercover producer that she doesn't make the copies at her house, she has a friend that does it. She did tell us that her family has been selling pirated movies for years.

The FBI's Augenbaum says, "This is theft. It's plain and simple."

Kraus approached the woman selling videos and said, "You know what you're doing is illegal. You are selling videos that are in the theatres."

But the woman denied it all.

"No, I don't have any videos that are in the theatres."

She even denied knowing anything about the movies she'd just sold us.

Kraus asked, "What about the new 'Star Trek?'"

The woman's response, "I don't have the new 'Star Trek.'"

Kraus then asked, "Hangover?"

The woman replied, "I don't have 'Hangover.'"

And when Kraus said, "'Wolverine?'"

The woman just shook her head.

The copy of "Wolverine" that she sold us we found was missing a lot of the film's big budget special effects, meaning this isn't the same film you'll see in theatres. That's not stopping people from selling these movies and taking your money.

Kraus said to the woman, "She just paid you $25 for five videos."

The woman said, "Well, I'm going to go ahead and leave." She headed to her car.

The Motion Picture Association said pirated movies cost the film industry billions of dollars every year. For anyone who buys one of these movies, you essentially get what you pay for.

Most of these copies that are sold are made by someone taking a camera into the theatre.

As we found, the quality can be pretty bad.

With the X-Men movie, "Wolverine," though, the movie was actually leaked onto the Internet before its release. The studio however hadn't finished working on the movie yet.

So while the quality of the copy is better, again, alot of the special effects aren't there.

Now it is a federal crime, a felony in fact, to sell pirated movies.

Just this week, Cookeville police arrested Charlotte Hayes. Police say they found more than a thousand movies in her home that she was copying and selling.

If you are caught, you can face up to three years in jail and $250,000 in fines.

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