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US Customs - Laptop & USB Drive Searches... He  
User currently offlineAA7295 From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 622 posts, RR: 0
Posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 19440 times:

I am a US citizen, who will be moving from Australia to the USA soon. I have a question about laptop and USB drive searches. I am fully aware that CBP is allowed to search your harddrive and USB drive. My question is, I have alot (10,000 +) of MP3's that I have on my laptop and also have quite alot of Hollywood movies and TV series on my USB storage drive and laptop.

My question is what rights do I have when entering the USA. Australian law, where I live and am also a citizen of, states that I can make legal copies of DVD's and movies etc, where I have the tangible DVD at home. I make the copies so when I go to mates' houses or when am on the road I can watch movies and TV shows without using the DVD drive which would consume more battery power.

Should I get stopped by customs, and they confiscate the laptop, do they just delete the illegal files or do they delete everything or do they seize your laptop/USB and do not return it.

Note: I have never looked at any form of pornography on this laptop nor do I have any stored on this laptop.

50 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineWouwout From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 127 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 19450 times:



Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
Note: I have never looked at any form of pornography on this laptop nor do I have any stored on this laptop.

really  Wink

Porn is not illegal in the US


User currently offlineAA7295 From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 622 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 19413 times:



Quoting Wouwout (Reply 1):
really

Porn is not illegal in the US

Well what about, the MP3's, TV Shows and Movies?


User currently offlineWouwout From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 127 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 19366 times:

I think just about every laptop and MP3 player that enters the US will have illegal MP3s on it. I don't think US customs has a policy to search every laptop for MP3s (or shows and movies) and decide on the spot if it's illegal or not. You must have seen the lines at US customs. The ability to search drives is there in order to continue searching if somebody is a suspect.

You will be fine, as long as you're not a (would be) terrorist or smuggling drugs  Smile


User currently offlineN202PA From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 1562 posts, RR: 3
Reply 4, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 10 hours ago) and read 19102 times:



Quoting Wouwout (Reply 3):
You will be fine, as long as you're not a (would be) terrorist or smuggling drugs

Or carrying illegal pornography, which he's not obviously.


User currently offlineDUALRATED From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1001 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 18865 times:



Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
I have alot (10,000 +) of MP3's that I have on my laptop and also have quite alot of Hollywood movies and TV series on my USB storage drive and laptop.

Don't sweat it, just be honest. Trust me it's not what their looking for.



AIRLINERS.NET MODERATORS SUCK MOOSE DICK!!!!
User currently offline102IAHexpress From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1156 posts, RR: 3
Reply 6, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 18814 times:



Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
I am a US citizen, who will be moving from Australia to the USA soon.

Did you purchase your laptop in the US before you left to Australia?
If your laptop was made in Japan---for instance---you might have to pay duty on it each time you brought it back into the US, unless you could prove that you owned it before you left on your trip. Documents that fully describe the item---such as sales receipts, insurance policies, or jeweler's appraisals---are acceptable forms of proof.

Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
I am fully aware that CBP is allowed to search your harddrive and USB drive.

Indeed, DHS including CBP has full authority to search any electronic device without suspicion in the same way that it can inspect briefcases.

Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
Should I get stopped by customs, and they confiscate the laptop, do they just delete the illegal files or do they delete everything or do they seize your laptop/USB and do not return it.

CBP tends to focus on national security, child porn, and narcotics smuggling. But if they searched your laptop and saw that it was filled with material that was in violation of US copyright law; kiss that laptop goodbye.


User currently offlineFly2YYZ From Canada, joined Jan 2006, 1046 posts, RR: 2
Reply 7, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 9 hours ago) and read 18787 times:



Quoting 102IAHexpress (Reply 6):

CBP tends to focus on national security, child porn, and narcotics smuggling. But if they searched your laptop and saw that it was filled with material that was in violation of US copyright law; kiss that laptop goodbye.

This is surprising, because I've even have a CBP agent basically open my laptop and it had been closed without being shut down. So when my laptop opened, there low and behold was my winamp with my playlist du jour, he was like great music and waved me through. That was that.


User currently offlineBurnsie28 From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 7558 posts, RR: 8
Reply 8, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18780 times:



Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
Australian law, where I live and am also a citizen of, states that I can make legal copies of DVD's and movies etc, where I have the tangible DVD at home.

Same under US law technicallly.

Quoting 102IAHexpress (Reply 6):
US copyright law; kiss that laptop goodbye.

They have to be able to prove it, for all the US customs know, he could have ripped them from CD's that he had.


Don't worry about it, I have been out of the country a few times with my computer and stuff, they don't even ask or really look at it through customs. Just have to take it out of the case to go through standard airport security.



"Some People Just Know How To Fly"- Best slogan ever, RIP NW 1926-2009
User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4127 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18732 times:
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Quoting AA7295 (Thread starter):
Should I get stopped by customs, and they confiscate the laptop, do they just delete the illegal files or do they delete everything or do they seize your laptop/USB and do not return it.

Relax, the odds are still in your favor, as long as you don't seem to have a Middle Eastern look or origin (despite racial profiling being illegal in the US, it is a fact the large majority of people whose laptop were seized belong to either group). Just this year, I have gone through customs over a dozen times and I have yet had anyone even notice I had a laptop (went through agricultural inspection about three or four times though, on account of bringing food in, and still, a non-event every time).

This being said, laptop seizure is a concern in the business community. CBP will not return to you a laptop after deleting "illegal" files. If it is illegal to possess something in the US, it is generally illegal to try and bring it in the country as well. If CBP decides to inspect or hold your laptop and becomes convinced you are a mass copyright violator, your laptop will be seized as evidence and you will need a lawyer. If they do hold your laptop and find nothing to object to on it, you might get it back in two weeks, or you might not get it back in two years. Don't ask, it's CBP, they do what they want, for now...

If you are truly concerned about CBP looking at your laptop (and again, the odds of that happening are pretty small), there are a few ways you can go about to breathe easier:
-Use web-based storage. Copy everything "incriminating" on your laptop to one of many such services available for a fee. Many corporations, including my employer, have gone a similar route. Confidential files are stored on an online server to which I connect from anywhere in the world via an encrypted link.
-Copy everything to DVD or an external hard drive and ship them off with your household goods (assuming you have any).

Do not encrypt the files you don't want CBP to look at and leave them on your laptop. True, CBP cannot break PGP encryption, but they don't need to, they have you, and if you refuse to give them your key, you will (re)acquaint yourself with the intricacies of the US legal system very quickly.

Overall though, relax. You'll be fine. You're highly unlikely to be asked to show your laptop, and even if you are, copyright violation isn't their main priority, unless it's an illegal copy of a child porn movie.



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offline102IAHexpress From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1156 posts, RR: 3
Reply 10, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18672 times:

Again, the chances of CBP seizing your laptop are very low, but to just "relax" or "don't worry about it" is just foolish.

You're flying from Australia. Which means that your point of entry will probably be the US west coast (more specifically the US 9th Circuit), this is key.
Look at:
United States v. Arnold, 2008 WL 1776525 at *4 (9th Cir. 2008)
"reasonable suspicion is not needed for customs officials to search a laptop or other electronic device at the international border."

If CBP believes your electronic device is involved in some violation of US law, I can assure you they will hold on to it. If your electronic device is cleared of any wrong doing, then yes, you should get it back promptly, but good luck with that.


User currently offlineDUALRATED From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1001 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18621 times:



Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 9):
unless it's an illegal copy of a child porn movie.

I don't think you will find a legal copy! Not here in the US anyway  no 



AIRLINERS.NET MODERATORS SUCK MOOSE DICK!!!!
User currently offlineUnited1 From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 6103 posts, RR: 9
Reply 12, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18626 times:

I wouldn't sweat it, as others have said CBP is really not interested in finding music/movies/porn (except child porn.) I'm assuming that you use a US passport for entry into the US that also lowers the chances of you being searched.


Semper Fi - PowerPoint makes us stupid.
User currently offlineUALongHaul From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 227 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 18600 times:

I really think they have more important things on their minds than finding a cache of illegal MP3 downloads

User currently offlineItalianFlyer From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 1099 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 17927 times:



Quoting UALongHaul (Reply 13):
I really think they have more important things on their minds than finding a cache of illegal MP3 downloads

You would think so.... but they have been cracking down on our flying partners clothing and DVD 'knock offs' from PEK and PVG  Wow!


User currently offlineNQYGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 17649 times:

Exactly, I get the similar impression. I was watching a documentary on the National Geographic Channel about Miami(?) Airport, and some man got stopped by border control but was reluctant to say why he was in the country, so the officers got a little suspicious. It turned out that that the people he was visiting were illegal immigrants living in Miami or New York or something...so the officers let him on his way. I think I remember that the producer said to the Customs/Police/Border Control: "Aren't you going to look into that?" The officer then came back and said "It's not our business to investigate that, we're here and dedicate our workforce to activities here." (Or something similar.) Depends really I suppose.

User currently offlineJawed From United States of America, joined Sep 2006, 482 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 17176 times:

Why don't you just encrypt your hard drive? Check out truecrypt.org. That way it doesn't matter what you are carrying on your laptop, legal or illegal. They wouldn't know.

User currently offlineThePRGuy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 17150 times:

If you are that concerned - just UPS it the day before you fly.

User currently offlineHalophila From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 646 posts, RR: 4
Reply 18, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 17137 times:

Relax, if you are as your profile says between 16 and 20, then the likelihood of your computer being searched for illegal material is low. Even more so if you're arriving from Oz, and you don't fit one of the profiles they're looking for. Having said that, if you get stopped by the customs agents, be honest, answer the questions being asked honestly, and relax. The CBP are there mainly to prevent nasties entering the US, and as many have indicated here MP3/DVD/Porn are very low on their list compared to drugs and other nasty stuff coming in.

Quoting DUALRATED (Reply 5):
Don't sweat it, just be honest.

Bingo  Wink



Flown on 707, 717, 727, 732 733 734 735 73G 738 739 741 742 743 744 74SP 757 753 762 763 772 773 77W D10 DC9 M11 M80 M87
User currently offlineNorcal773 From United States of America, joined Feb 2007, 1449 posts, RR: 12
Reply 19, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 17108 times:

First of all, chances of them looking at your laptop are next to nil and if they do, they won't be looking for MP3's. I've gone through customs in the US about 30 times in the last 2 years or so and I went through customs once because I was randomly picked. They opened my laptop and looked at my pictures, that's it. The guy asked me why I had so many pictures of planes and my answer was 'Hey, I like planes'. He said 'Me too' and I was on my way. I gotta say though that was probably the one time I didn't have pirated DVD's and fake Rolexes in my luggage, Thank God.  wink 


If you're going through hell, keep going
User currently offlineDUALRATED From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1001 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 16999 times:



Quoting Jawed (Reply 16):
Why don't you just encrypt your hard drive? Check out truecrypt.org. That way it doesn't matter what you are carrying on your laptop, legal or illegal. They wouldn't know.

Bad advise, that will not work. no 

Quoting ThePRGuy (Reply 17):
If you are that concerned - just UPS it the day before you fly.

Now there is an idea, if you don't mind how many pieces in comes in. Oh and it would still be subject to a customs check.


Trust me dude, tell them about your mp3's or whatever you have. They won't care, although if you hide it, and they find it, you now look suspicious. And all bets are off at that point.



AIRLINERS.NET MODERATORS SUCK MOOSE DICK!!!!
User currently offlineLAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 26026 posts, RR: 50
Reply 21, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 16955 times:

Since last winter there seems to have been an upswing of CBP inspections at West Coast airports. I know of one airline which even put a memo out to crews reminding them they would be personally held responsible for any illegal merchandise such as DVDs and watches in their possession, and under no case should ever have anything with them that might be construed extra stuff meant for resale in the US.


As for the idea of encrypting your hard drive, that immediately would be a red flag, and would require CBP to confiscate the laptop for further test as a cursory inspection at the airport while the passenger waits would not be feasible.

[Edited 2008-07-19 13:09:57]


From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
User currently offlineTUNisia From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 1845 posts, RR: 5
Reply 22, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 16934 times:

Our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they knew what wimps we've turned into.


Someday the sun will shine down on me in some faraway place - Mahalia Jackson
User currently offlineBurnsie28 From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 7558 posts, RR: 8
Reply 23, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 16856 times:



Quoting Jawed (Reply 16):
Why don't you just encrypt your hard drive? Check out truecrypt.org. That way it doesn't matter what you are carrying on your laptop, legal or illegal. They wouldn't know.

Haha, yeah they would, as LAXintl says below. Plus, its the US government, they have programs and the knowledge to easily get past encryption software that any normal consumer can get.

Quoting LAXintl (Reply 21):
That immediately would be a red flag, and would require CBP to confiscate the laptop for further test as a cursory inspection at the airport while the passenger waits would not be feasible.




"Some People Just Know How To Fly"- Best slogan ever, RIP NW 1926-2009
User currently offlineFlighty From United States of America, joined Apr 2007, 8709 posts, RR: 3
Reply 24, posted (6 years 4 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 16612 times:

This is just silly. If they wanted to look at my laptop, I would say I don't think that is necessary. It is like asking to read what book you are reading. The legalities of this are still under review. Many US Senators etc believe searches and/or duplications of private HDs at the border are illegal. It really depends. Also if you have 256-bit encryption, there is no way in hell they would be able to break it. Mac OS X has 256-bit encryption built into FileVault. There is no way the Feds or anybody else would be able to break it (unless they have a secret key, which I doubt)

As for some BP badge wearing individual, they are so low status that I wouldn't worry about it. At least not if your data is really important to you. Go prepared, but don't be afraid of the US border patrol. Their powers are limited, particularly against US citizens. The notion that the US can inspect private data is not only logistically humorous, but legally humorous as well.


25 Analog : TrueCrypt can do hidden volumes: a big container file has two drives with different password. Put the "secret" stuff (work docs, Playboy-type picture
26 BlueFlyer : You are quite correct to point out that there is legislative action to rein in the powers of CBP to search and/or seize pretty much anything they lik
27 Legacyins : You are quite incorrect in stating such a staement. That is all I will say.
28 LAXintl : There indeed have been cases, and courts have ruled that border inspections provide great deal of latitude. In one of the more important cases which
29 Analog : Oddly enough the importation of bits over the telephone or Internet is subject to more protections. US citizens have to "voluntarily" present themsel
30 TWOne : Indeed they would. I am constantly amazed by people's acceptance of the growing infringements on their civil liberties in the name of "security".
31 RussianJet : Yes, having chosen, of their own free will, to cross borders and go to another country in the first place.
32 Post contains links Planenutz : I'f I'm not mistaken, CBP will only act on the contents of a laptop computer if specific files are flaggeg by a software system called ENCASE. http://
33 Analog : Does a US citizen have the right to leave the US? If so, why should you have to sacrifice other rights to exercise that right?
34 Post contains links Bond007 : LOL ... you really have little idea of how it works. It doesn't depend on what Senators might believe, it depends on the law. Please read what others
35 Analog : That's a bit of a cheap shot. If we're going to allocate status and respect to people for having dangerous jobs to serve us, we should start with the
36 AirNZ : I don't quite understand what point you are making here, or indeed your question regarding sacrificing other rights. What other rights? Yes, a US cit
37 Analog : Not necessarily. What bothers me is that the courts have created exemptions to our rights. Where in the US Constitution is the footnote for the 4th a
38 DUALRATED : You would then have a realy long and bad day. That may be, but YOU and everything you have in your possession is subject to search period. Ok if you
39 CXfirst : What exactly is the penalty for child pornography in the US??? -CXfirst
40 Analog : Pretty bad. We even lock up, and label for life as sex-offenders, kids that take dirty pictures of themselves.
41 AirNZ : As I said, I didn't quite understand what you were asking and, as I was interested in your viewpoint, I asked you for some clarification (I was neith
42 UA76Heavy : The bottom line is don't give them a reason to search your belongs to begin with. Don't be a smart-mouth, evade their questions, refuse to do somethin
43 Analog : Sure, the 4th amendment protection against unreasonable search & seizure. I'm not quite firm in my opinion, but I don't think it's reasonable for the
44 AA7295 : My laptop is a Dell XPS 1530 that I bought here in Australia. It was manufactured in Malaysia, with the majority of components coming from China. I w
45 United1 : I really wouldn't loose any sleep over it, you should be fine. They aren't looking for ripped/downloaded music/movies on a laptop. LAX is no worse th
46 Andahuailas : so, how is this thread connected to Aviation ? mebbe you should look for a travel forum leave us alone , personally i really don't care about your US
47 RussianJet : All US citizens have a right to have their country protected by border controls and applicable law too. You of course have the right to travel, but l
48 Analog : When I cross the border from CT to NY I am not subject to search without cause. Why not? If the US can search me without any cause when entering NY f
49 AA7295 : Completely Agree. This post should go back to Civil Aviation
50 RussianJet : Whatever, the fact is we're talking about international travel here. Where are you going with your argument? Fact is that nobody, US national or fore
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