March17, 1999

...And That's My OpinionŠ

By Sandy Goldman

The Rogers Park Community Curmudgeon

The Revenge of the Video Store Owner

When I owned a Video Store in the late 80's and early 90's one of our biggest problems was piracy. It was and still is, illegal to duplicate videos, which are protected by copyright laws. There were three types of illegal operations.

The first was a well-organized criminal cartel, stretching across the USA and some foreign outlets. This activity came under the purview of the Motion Picture Industry and the Video Software Dealers Association, of which I was an officer. Many illegal syndicates were discovered and the equipment impounded and the culprits fined and in some cases jailed. It was a never-ending exercise, which was successful more times than not.

The second piracy scheme, although not considered as serious, was the duplication of favorite videos by the consuming public. Two VCRs, the proper cables a rental video and voila, a free copy. No rental fee and no retail cost, except that of a blank tape.

Ostensibly illegal, nothing much could be done and policing was difficult. Until, that is, the invention of copyguard. This was a system encoded into the video so as to render it impossible to duplicate without visual distraction. Needless to say, soon a device that was illegal to sell was invented to obviate the copy guard process. And so, the battle continued.

The third and the most difficult to figure was and is our "Friends at WTTW", that's right, WTTW---The Window to the World.

The early promotions of WTTW would advise viewers that in order to avoid long lines or out of stock conditions at the Video Stores, they should tune in Channel 11 and tape the movies for later viewing. Legalities aside, it was downright infuriating and frustrating. We complained but it never stopped. Our PBS station...our Public Broadcasting Station continued to unashamedly extol the benefits of this activity.

I have since left the video business, but I have never forgiven WTTW. I canceled my membership and never renewed. Although I must admit to watching some shows in spiteful retaliation.

Now, however, I have found my ultimate revenge. During their ever-present fund raising drives, WTTW offers "special-feature programming". Then they begin boorish, pseudo sales pitches and happy-talk presentations, which are offensive and an affront to the art of salesmanship. The goal is to sell these programs in various venues - videotapes, cassette tapes, and CDs along with different levels of membership. They continue to hammer away at us, that these products are available only through WTTW and only with a membership. They constantly insist that these products are not available at Video Stores or Discount Marts.

Now, here is my REVENGE. I tape the programs and forget the $100 membership I used to buy yearly.

You think an elephant never forgets? Talk to Video Storeowners, past and present!

And it doesn't end. On March 15, 1999 WTTW scrapped the bottom of the barrel. At the showing of the "Greek Americans", WTTW challenged Chicago's Greek community "to do better at pledging, than had the other ethnics -Jews -Italians - Irish !" This takes the concept of a challenge to a new low - it's not a challenge grant where a corporation matches dollars collected. It's an ethnic challenge and it is odious and repulsive.

Let's talk about eliminating ethnic and racial divisions; let's talk about diversity.

Do they know what they are talking about? Or do they just rattle? Have they no shame?

Perhaps WTTW staffers and its volunteers should be invited to the next Human Foundation of Chicago Interracial and Intercultural Dinner. The date is April 28, 1999. For information they can call (312) 456-7745.

...And that's my opinion.

And I'm Sandy Goldman

Send me your e-mail address or those of others who would be interested and I'll add them to my rapidly growing distribution list.


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