Sniffer dogs on scent of digital pirates
Nov 10, 2007, 16:13 GMT
Berlin - The two black labradors hopped around the suitcases and travel bags piled in front the luggage compartment of a tourist bus parked in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz.
Suddenly, the sniffer dogs stopped in front of two of the cases and wagged their tails. Their Northern Irish trainer Neil Powell opened the cases and emptied the contents onto the pavement.
It was not not drugs or explosives that tumbled out, but dozens of CDs and DVDs. The dogs Lucky and Flo were searching for counterfeit films and music.
They are the first canines trained in the fight against digital piracy by sniffing out polycarbonate and other chemicals in optical discs used for movies and music.
Although the dogs cannot judge what is legal and what is not they have been relatively successful so far in leading investigators to stashes of bootleg material.
Earlier this month they took part in a series of raids along the German-Czech border that netted 18,000 bootleg CDs, and DVDs hidden in warehouses, car boots and other places.
Before that they sniffed out almost 2 million pirated film and music CDs and DVDs in Malaysia, leading to 26 arrests and a reported 30,000-dollar bounty placed on them by the counterfeiters.
Friday's demonstration in Berlin was organized by the Society for the Prosecution of Copyright Theft, which is at the forefront of fighting piracy for the German music and film industry.
Its chairman, Christian Sommer, said he hoped the state would provide funds to train dogs like Lucky and Flo for use in Germany. Training takes three to six months and costs 15,000 euros (21,000 dollars), more than his organization can afford, he says.
Dog trainer Powell works for an Irish company calls Narco Dogs, which originally started training the animals to sniff out drugs and explosives. The request for sniffer dogs to hunt down bootleg DVDs came from the US Motion Picture Association and the British film industry.
A dog's sense of smell is 40 times more powerful than the average human's and they can be trained to sniff out many substances. The training process begins with teaching the dogs how to find an object, initially using a tennis ball.
Once the dogs learn how to find the object the handlers incorporate a scent - in this case polycarbonate - with the command 'find it.'
Because of trust and familiarity between animal and handler, the dogs obey only their trainer's command to 'find it.'
Powell says the dogs are so good they can sniff out polycarbonate even if the discs are sealed. Their noses can also lead law enforcement officers to discs that may be in unregistered containers or containers labelled as other unsuspecting materials meant for sale and distribution.
After every successful search Lucky and Flo are rewarded - with a tennis ball.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur