understanding cd piracy

Thursday, December 16, 2004, at 08:35AM

By Eric Richardson

The Daily News today has a story talking about a big raid yesterday on cd counterfeiters (the LA Times has a short bit on the same topic). The numbers claimed in the story are pretty big:

In the largest counterfeit movie and music bust in U.S. history, pirated DVDs, CDs and video games representing potential losses of $200 million to companies were confiscated Wednesday in raids in Los Angeles and Orange counties, officials said. ... In Wednesday's raids, law enforcement officials seized approximately 120,000 music CDs and 79 unauthorized CD stampers valued at approximately $50 million, according to the RIAA's preliminary estimates.

Now, I'm never one to trust the numbers the RIAA, MPAA, or the software industry like to put out for losses. They never miss a chance to drum things up. That said, this is exactly the type of piracy that they need to be stopping.

One thing in the article caught my attention...

"Each stamper has the capability of producing more than 50,000 CDs and DVDs," Lopez said. "We're talking about every kind of music and video you can think of. The quality of this merchandise was very high." ... Spertus said the investigation, culminating a lengthy undercover operation, was particularly difficult because the probe focused on companies with stampers capable of producing a disc every three seconds.

I know vaguely the difference between stamping and burning, but the article makes it sound like the stamper is a piece of machinery. So I did a little googling. I found several good sites explaining the cd making process (this site is one, though a little technical). Basically these stampers are negative plates that are inserted into stamping machines in order to get the proper data onto the disk. You need a negative, obviously, since a ridge on the stamper will put a pit in the cd, etc.

So these "79 stampers" are really just 79 metal plates. Still illegal, but a lot less massive-sounding.