Digital Playground Assists Overseas Pirating Bust

John Stuart
BERLIN — The owners of Digital Playground have aided German police in breaking up an alleged DVD pirating operation.

German police arrested Nikolaus Kralik, owner of the German-based Paradise Films, after discovering he had made illegal copies of as many as 300,000 DVDs produced by Digital Playground and other U.S. producers, according to Samantha Lewis, co-owner of Digital Playground.

“It was unbelievable,” Samantha Lewis told XBIZ. “When we went over there [to Berlin], we knew we would have to meet with the investigators. A couple of years ago, we stopped doing business with Paradise Films because we got word they were pirating our stuff. They’d been making illegal copies – good copies with good covers. We confronted Nikolaus and he admitted what he did and asked for another chance.”

Lewis said that she and Joone, Digital Playground’s other co-owner, refused to sell anymore of their product to Paradise Films, but Kralik continued to include them in his catalogs. Lewis said she assumed Kralik was getting their titles from other European distributors, but later learned about his pirating operation.

Last night, German police raided Paradise Films offices and confiscated more than 100,000 bootlegged pieces, Lewis said. Kralik was arrested and faces numerous charges that could lead to substantial jail time.

“The investigators are not messing around,” Lewis said. “When we were in Berlin, they interviewed me for three hours, and I had to identify all my product. “

The bootlegged copies are of such high quality, Lewis said, that it was impossible for her to tell the difference. The German police told her that they possess between 100,000 and 300,000 bootlegged pieces, which amounts to millions of dollars worth of pirated titles.

Kralik also went by the alias, Siegfried Mueller, which he used when he started a dummy company called New Times, Lewis said. He used this company to buy product from producers who refused to sell to his Paradise Films, she said.

“We often wondered why the numbers weren’t getting stronger throughout Europe, and this is why.” Lewis said.

John Stagliano of Evil Angel also met with German police and helped to identify pirated product, she said. At post time, Stagliano was unavailable for comment.