After almost a decade, a pair of Disney DVD pirates from Columbia, Missouri, is finally going to prison after running a smuggling scheme that sold hundreds of counterfeit copies of everybody’s favorite animated movies on eBay.
According to a release from the Department of Justice,
“Tabitha Nicole Rodgers, 43, and her husband, Clint Travis Rodgers, 49, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Roseann Ketchmark. Tabitha Rodgers was sentenced to four years in federal prison without parole. Clint Rodgers was sentenced to one year in federal prison without parole…
“…Tabitha Rodgers pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement for profit. Clint Rodgers pleaded guilty the same day to a misdemeanor count of criminal infringement of a copyright.”
The report states that this investigation goes back to 2014 when the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center informed Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) that Clint acquired over 443 DVD shipments from Hong Kong companies known for exporting and selling counterfeit goods. Those shipments specifically included 200 counterfeit copies of Beauty and the Beast and 260 counterfeit copies of Aladdin.
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In February 2015, a shipment containing 200 illegal Disney DVDs was seized by Customs and Border Protection agents, and undercover agents purchased several DVDs from Clint and his wife on eBay.
The DOJ release states,
“The Rodgers represented that the DVDs were genuine and authentic Disney products, when in reality, they were aware the products were counterfeit. During the investigation, agents contacted two persons who assisted the Rodgers in selling counterfeit DVDs on eBay. They told agents they were aware of numerous complaints from customers, including complaints that the DVDs didn’t work.”
HSI “executed a search warrant” of the couple’s home in August 2015, in which many different counterfeit goods were reportedly seized beyond the Disney DVDs. Clint’s wife, Tabitha, admitted to running the day-to-day operations, which included corresponding with the smugglers in Hong Kong, customers, and recruiting third-party sellers on eBay. Court documents show that almost all of the couple’s income came from this business, and they continued to operate despite receiving a cease and desist letter from Beachbody and Otter Products. eBay also canceled the Rogerses’ accounts, but they compensated by recruiting people to sell the products for them.
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Both Clint and Tabitha pleaded guilty to their crimes on October 12, 2021. It is unclear at this time how much money they made off of the fraudulent DVD sales and if the two third-party sellers will face any punishments of their own.
The Walt Disney Company has constantly dealt with copyright infringement, and it is unlikely to see any reprieve as it begins its next 100 years of movie magic.