By Rick Pfeiffer
— It’s a good news and sad news kind of day today.
The good news is the raid conducted by police, state tax authorities and representatives of the American recording industry on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (L.O.E.G.) store on Pine Avenue.
In addition to a haul of cartons of untaxed cigarettes, the law enforcement agents also found hundreds of pirated music CDs and DVDS of pop- ular movies and hit TV shows. From where I’m sitting, any blow to the sale of stolen music, movies and television programs represents a win for working people.
Let me explain why.
I think most folks are aware of my time as a journalist before I began working for the Gazette. If not, I spent more than 20 years as a radio and television anchor and investigative reporter working here and in Dallas.
During that time, I was a member of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), the union that represented folks who worked both in news and entertainment on radio and TV and in the recording industry. I was the longtime president of AFTRA’s Buffalo Local and served on the union’s National Board of Directors.
When AFTRA merged in 2012 with the Screen Actors Guild, the union that represents performers in movies, I remained a member and national director.
With the rapidly changing technology of the last decade, one of the union’s greatest concerns has been the ability of people to acquire the work of actors, singers and musicians without paying for it.
OK, I’m being polite here. What I’m talking about is stealing the creative works of my union’s members.
Technology has made my members particularly vulnerable to being ripped off. You can’t download a sweater or a car or a dishwasher on your home computer.
But it just takes a couple of clicks of your mouse to find a pirate website and download your favorite song or show without dropping so much as a dime to do it.
You can give me any lame argument you choose, but that activity is stealing just as much as it would be if you walked into a supermarket and took a shopping cart full of groceries and by-passed the check-out registers.
And if you want to tell me you’re only ripping off “the man,” otherwise known as the record and movie companies, you’re wrong. You’re ripping off the people who created that music or those movies.
You know, the actors and artists you say you love and care for as fans.
Let me tell you how those artists get paid. Yes, they get paid when they create a song or movie, but they don’t make music or movies every day.
Actors and recording artists don’t have jobs like you and me where they work five days a week and get a check 52 times a year. They get their initial pay for recording the song or making the movie and then, every time someone buys that song and buys that movie, they get paid again. It’s what is known as a residual.
Why is that important? Because for most actors and recording artists, residual can make up as much as half or more of their annual income.
And that matters because an actor or recording artist’s annual income determines whether they qualify for union provided health insurance or a pension credit. When you steal movies and music, you steal food off the table, healthcare and a future pension from my members.
So yeah, I cheered a little when the guys at LOEG got popped.
Now, I’m hoping District Attorney Mike Violante is just as tough. No deal here Mike.
It’s a felony count, so take it to county court and make them pay the price.
My SAG-AFTRA members are counting on you.
Now the sad news.
There really are no words to express the sorrow I felt for Falls Police Lt. Dan Jones and his family when I got the news about the death of his son, Ricky.
As a dad, I can imagine the pain and grief of losing a child and my heart and prayers go out to them.
I hope they can find some comfort in the fact that Ricky, a Marine Corps M.P. and volunteer firefighter, died while doing something he was uniquely able to do: go to the aid of someone in trouble.
I’m sure he recognized the danger of hopping out onto a freeway, but I’m guessing that Ricky Jones knew that the person in the accident in front of them may have needed immediate help. He did what came naturally, he went to help.
As a police officer and volunteer firefighter himself, Dan Jones has spent a lifetime helping people. I know he understands why Ricky put himself in harm’s way.
I know he’s proud of his son. And so are we.
Contact reporter Rick Pfeiffer at 282-2311, ext. 2252.