New York police, in cooperation with the RIAA, arrested five employees of Kim's Video — one of the East Village's most beloved independent video and music stores — during a Wednesday afternoon raid that netted 500 pirated CD-Rs.
Those arrested were charged with trademark counterfeiting, and police also seized 27 music DVDs, nine DVD burners and several store computers. All of the CD-Rs and DVDs were described by an RIAA spokesperson as "urban in nature" — mixtapes, featuring music by artists such as 50 Cent, Nelly, Alicia Keyes and Jay-Z.
One of the store's employees, who was not among those arrested, said police quietly entered through the store's main entrance and presented a warrant. They then combed through the store, looking for pirated material.
"The New York City Police Department's steadfast commitment to the fight against piracy has stamped out yet another significant illegal operation," said Brad Buckles, executive vice president of anti-piracy for the RIAA. "With actions such as these, New York City law enforcement continues to send a strong message to music pirates that this behavior simply will not be tolerated. Retailers who are making money on the backs of musicians and record companies by selling pirated CDs should know that this is absolutely no way to conduct a business."
The raid is just the latest offensive in the RIAA's battle against the growing trend of pirated music sales through small, established businesses. While traditional physical goods or "commercial" piracy previously required large and expensive facilities to produce massive numbers of illegal tapes and CDs, some retailers now possess the potential to yield lucrative returns with only a minimal investment of space and capital, Buckles said.
According to the RIAA's Web site, because several retailers — including the owners of convenience stores, liquor stores or corner markets — are attempting "to make a quick buck by reselling illegal CDs, or, in some cases, manufacturing counterfeit CDs themselves," the RIAA has adopted an "aggressive 'zero tolerance' approach to retailers engaged in this activity."
A similar raid late last month in the Albany, Schenectady and Troy areas of Upstate New York resulted in 11 arrests, the seizure of 3,400 illicit CD-Rs and more than $54,000.
For a full-length feature on the role of mixtapes in the music industry, check out "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."