Crackdown On Torrent Sites Is Resulting In More Moles To Whack


0001As the war between copyright holders and those attempting to infringe on said copyright continues to rage on, it seems that even as companies and governments work  to shut down torrent sites, new ones simply crop up and take their place.

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Guest post by Timothy Geigner of Techdirt

If the ongoing battle between copyright infringers and copyright holders could be described in any simple term, that term would have to be whac-a-mole. Since the early days of piracy on the internet, the copyright industries have used their legal mallets to smack down any site or service whose head managed to rise out of obscurity. Napster was pushed into irrelevance, as were other similar apps. Then websites that hosted infringing files were slammed. At present, we are in the midst of a crackdown on torrent sites, with the copyright industries blaming them for widespread infringement.

However, those who are dedicated to sharing content illicitly are indeed dedicated. And so the game will continue into avenues of piracy that are fairly creative.

As crackdown on torrent sites continues around the world, people who are pirating TV shows and movies are having to get a little more creative. Cloud storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Kim Dotcom’s Mega are some of the popular ones that are being used to distribute copyrighted content, according to DMCA takedown requests reviewed by Gadgets 360.

Google Drive seems most popular among such users, with nearly five thousand DMCA takedown requests filed by Hollywood studios and other copyright holders just last month. Each DMCA requests had listed a few hundred Google Drive links that the content owners wanted pulled.

1But what’s notable about many of these DMCA takedown requests is that they target Google Drive links that don’t actually host any content themselves, but instead have embedded YouTube videos within them. YouTube has long been accused of hosting copyright infringing content, but few people consider it a serious vector for pirating movies or television shows. That’s because YouTube cracks down on piracy itself, and it is easily searchable, meaning that copyright holders can find their content and send takedown requests. Most infringing content is taken down quickly because of this, so what would be the point of these embedded videos?

It turns out that the pirates found a simple workaround – the videos are simply uploaded as unlisted, so they don’t turn up in search results. The links to these videos are then shared as Google Drive links through discussion forums and other channels so it’s difficult for the content owners to find the videos and get them taken down.

Popular video sites YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion are also being abused by distributing and hosting illicit content, DMCA takedown requests reveal, but the volume of such requests again implies that they are not being as widely used. Some pirates, getting creative, also turned to another streaming venue which is not used as widely – porn sites. For example, last year, news outlets reported an instance where all the songs of Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo album were uploaded as a video to the popular website PornHub. You can still find a number of movies on the site, and oddly enough, also things like game trailers and music videos that could safely be posted on other sites as well.

While nobody would want to cheer this sort of infringement on, there is a certain aspect of creativity to it. That creativity nicely demonstrates the axiom: the internet is designed to route around obstructions. So too, it seems, are the communities dedicated to sharing copyrighted content. It seems that this war on piracy is whac-a-mole by nature, but it’s actually worse than that.

What if the moles were hydras and every time you hit one on the head, two or more heads sprouted out as a result? Because it should be noted that the above strategy using Google Drive and YouTube to distribute infringing content isn’t the only creative strategy that’s sprouted out of the crackdown on torrent sites.

The most unusual service that is being abused for distributing content that we came across is My Maps. It’s a feature Google introduced in 2007 to enable users to create custom maps. Anyone can visit the My Maps website, and create a custom map by pointing to a location on the map, adding a title, and filling up a description box. Google doesn’t verify what kind of information users are sharing in description, so you can again easily share links to unlisted YouTube streams, or Google Drive files to download. What this means is that people can then share locations on maps, which lead to the pirated movies.

While Google’s services are only the most abused of many for this sort of thing, you can already hear the content industries warming up their voices to sing a tune of how Evil Google is the pirate’s tool of choice for copyright infringement. It’s worth noting that all of this, however, has emerged despite Google’s efforts at complying with copyright laws. It’s also emerged as a result of this ongoing arms race waged primarily by the content industries, who could have expended this effort in figuring out new business models on which to make money from their content. Instead, we can mark time in the modern era by what the “piracy threat vector” du jour is. It seems tomorrow it may become Google Drive. Or My Maps. More years on it will be something we haven’t even thought of yet.

Them moles keep coming, after all.