The canine crime-fighting duo Flo and Lucky were in the news again this week. The dogs, allegedly trained to sniff out counterfeit DVDs, have just completed an assignment in Malaysia where they are said to have helped uncover over $6 million in bootlegged discs. The pair was so successful that counterfeiters put a bounty on their heads, and the government awarded them medals for “Oustanding Service.”
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Flo and Lucky’s story is that media outlets have quickly regurgitated the MPAA’s claims without questioning the dogs’ abilities or the program they’re participating in. Take a closer look at the facts, and the two look more like publicity hounds than police dogs.
As I noted last year, when the dogs first appeared in the UK, the pair weren’t trained to smell intellectual property violations. Nevertheless, an official press release explained that the dogs “were amazingly successful at identifying packages containing DVDs, which were opened and checked by HM Customs’ representatives.” The press release stated, “While all were legitimate shipments on the day, our message to anyone thinking about shipping counterfeit DVDs through the FedEx network is simple: you’re going to get caught.”
The message to people shipping legitimate DVDs is also clear. You can expect your package to be opened and searched for no good reason.
The blanket approach of searching ALL packages containing optical media raises the question of whether or not Flo and Lucky are actually helping to fight the war on piracy. Some might suggest they make human inspectors less efficient by unnecessarily increasing their workload.
Worse yet, the most recent story indicates that Flo and Lucky have expanded their repertoire. In Malaysia, the two are credited with uncovering 97 compact disc burners! Imagine how many packages inspectors have opened now that the dogs are trained to sniff out computer peripherals in addition to optical discs.
A suspicious person might suggest that the dogs are being used as an excuse to randomly inspect packages on a flimsy legal pretext.
It’s rare to find a story that combines a publicity stunt, invasion of privacy, and dog abuse all rolled into one. You’ve got to hand it to the MPAA — they’re getting extremely innovative in fighting the war on piracy.