Tag Archives: illegal downloads

Kim Dotcom Circles the Drain (But Still Has More Than He Deserves)

It’s goodbye grand mansion and hello to plain old penthouse living for Kim Dotcom, the piracy magnate of Megaupload infamy, who is currently holed up in New Zealand.

On the run from US authorities since his piracy site was shuttered in 2012, times are clearly getting tough for the self-styled “online entrepreneur,” as he fights extradition to face charges in the United States and racks up legal costs believed to be in the millions of dollars. That makes the $1 million a year mansion near Auckland an unjustifiable expense, evidently, although it would be fair to say that any luxury is unjustifiable for a man who made his fortune by exploiting original works without the permission of their creators.

For those misdeeds, Kim Dotcom’s day of reckoning seems to be much closer as we close the year than it did when 2015 began.

Back in September, Dotcom attended an extradition hearing in Auckland that  accused him and his site of “simple fraud,” making millions of dollars by ignoring copyright and Megaupload’s responsibility to compensate creators for the intellectual property shared via the company’s servers.

Worse still, Dotcom and his cohorts encouraged this behavior by rewarding those who shared the most content, putting the site high on the FBI’s piracy hit list.

At September’s hearing, the court heard from US authorities that Megaupload had paid out more than $3 million in such rewards, driving even higher levels of copyright infringement on a global scale.  One user alone made $50,000 over a five year period, demonstrating just how long Dotcom was able to profit from his illegal online venture before finally being shut down in 2012.

Now, his chickens are coming home to roost.

It has taken another three years to reach this point thanks to the self-imposed exile in New Zealand. Nonetheless, it shows that there really is no hiding place for those who engage in piracy, particularly when it’s on a commercial scale. It is not a legitimate business, those who run such sites are not entrepreneurs, and any ill-gotten gains will eventually be reclaimed in damages.

So spare a thought for poor old Kim as we approach the holiday season, but don’t make it a sympathetic one. Firstly, we hope that the creators will soon see justice done in 2016 and have Kim Dotcom answer for his exploitation of their work.

And, in the true spirit of giving, let’s hope that the authorities in Auckland see fit to offer the U.S. a gift and hand him over for the holidays. A late present is certainly better than never receiving one (unless your name is Kim, of course!)

Around the World, The Oscars Bring Out Piracy In All Its Forms

The Academy Awards is the crowning jewel in the movie industry’s celebration of creativity; the peak intersection of critical acclaim and mainstream recognition, if the winners haven’t already made waves with the masses.

Every year as the Oscars roll around, however, there’s also the shadow of piracy. As much as a win – or even a nomination – gives each film a boost on the international stage, it also prompts a spike in activity on sites notorious for their copyright infringement.

 

The phenomenon represents all that is wrong with the mentality of piracy, as well as showing copyright infringement in all of its forms around the world.

In the United States we’ve become used to the year’s piracy being communicated in terms of illegal downloads. Popular shows like Game of Thrones and Big Bang Theory inevitably top the list of TV shows, while the year’s biggest box office titles show up with the same reliable frequency. The same contemporary measure and methods apply to The Oscars, where American Sniper headed the list of most downloaded movie in the run up to the awards show. Best Picture winner Birdman can expect to soar up that list in the weeks to come.

Further afield, where connections are less reliable and online access may be limited, more tangible forms of piracy persist. 

A report in the Tico Times explains how Costa Rica sees illegal copies of all the Oscar nominees spread onto the streets and into stores as fever peaks for the awards ceremony. From Birdman to Boyhood, Selma to American Sniper, all of the titles that should be gaining revenue as well as recognition for their varied creative talents are brazenly sold as bootleg DVDs.

This occurs not just on the streets, but in stores alongside other legitimate merchandise, some even with discounts for buying in bulk, making piracy as habitual as running to the grocery store for milk and bread.

Back to the original point, and the study that revealed the Oscars spike in piracy rates confirms just how global is this concern. The research by Irdeto finds Academy Award nominees and winners prompting rises in illegal viewing in all corners of the globe, with the top ten offenders including Brazil,  India, Australia, South Korea and several European nations.

Rory O’Connor, VP of Services at Irdeto confirms: “Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies… leaving room for pirates to take advantage. ”

The challenge for creators and the movie industry is to beat the pirates at their own game, getting out in front of passionate movie fans around the world and reminding them that the best way to support even more creativity in future is to pay for the films they love and the music they enjoy.

Making titles available in good time and educating viewers about release schedules is an important part of this puzzle, as is the ability of viewers to make a moral decision that piracy is an act that only undermines the very thing that draws them to Oscar winners in the first place: a desire to create visual stories that excite the senses and compel repeat viewing.

 

 

Has Norway Provided a Blueprint to Beat Piracy?

English: Map showing two of the common definit...

English: Map showing two of the common definitions of “Scandinavia”;  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scandinavia has been the leading light of streaming music services for many years, and now some believe it will provide the blueprint to beat music piracy for good. (Or at least make it a marginal issue.)

In the space of just five years, the number of Norwegians under 30 – the demographic most likely to engage in piracy – who admit to illegal file-sharing has dropped from 80% of respondents in 2009 to just 4 percent last year. These are levels that industry analysts say amounts to piracy being “virtually eliminated” in Norway.

The significant shift is inextricably linked to the rapid uptake of streaming services, which are now used by some 1.7 million Norwegians. The ease and convenience of platforms like Deezer and Spotify is credited with making illegal downloads a much less attractive activity, with similar stories seen across the border in Sweden (where Spotify first started).

Piracy in Scandinavia, it seems, is rapidly going out of style.

Of course there are various caveats to highlight, even against the backdrop of this overtly positive report.

Firstly, not everyone is inclined to tell the truth when faced with a survey. True, a large number of people were unafraid to admit to the practice back in 2009, but it’s also a long time to allow for a change in user attitudes, as well as behavior. A certain amount of the reduction might simply be that it’s less acceptable to admit to piracy in public now than it was five years ago. In the intervening period there have been major criminal cases against file-sharing sites like Megaupload, which was shut down by U.S. authorities in 2012, and more recently The Pirate Bay.

Such high-profile shutdowns could easily influence illegal downloaders to steer away from their bad habit or, at the very least, not admit that they do so when questioned by a stranger.

 

Another factor lies in the small sample size.

Norway has a population of only a little more than 5 million people, of which those under-30 translate to another small sub set. Although the target group is the most important to consider when it comes to online music consumption, the assumption that this relatively small group’s behavior would naturally extend to their counterparts in developed markets around the world is open to question.

Finally, the early results in other major markets don’t appear to stick to Norway’s blueprint. Even with a number of streaming music services now operating in the U.S. market, torrent activity remains a prime concern for anti-piracy groups, while file-sharing sites continue to see plenty of illegal content activity. The fact that most legitimate services have only been operating since 2011, and that North America is a much larger market, means that we must allow some additional room for the adoption rate to grow, but again the question mark remains over whether a majority of consumers will choose streaming as their music solution.

Even so, advocates of both streaming services and intellectual property protection will be hoping that the underlying expectation of the Norwegian model holds true for the rest of the world. If convenience really can kill piracy, the wheels are already in motion for Spotify and its peers to move major markets further down that road.

Asia-Pacific Piracy Poses a Familiar Foe for Rights Holders

In the West the copyright focus may be shifting to illegal streaming services like Popcorn Time, but in some parts of the world it’s still file sharing and illegal downloads that occupy anti-piracy activists.

A new report from Sandvine suggests that activity on these types of torrent and file sharing platforms can be as high as one-third  of ALL traffic in peak periods, causing concern for rights holders around the world. 

torrent progress

A torrent in action | Image Credit: nrkbeta

The region in question is Asia-Pacific, encompassing major markets like China, Indonesia, and South Korea. The Global Internet Phenomena report. The company’s summary findings state:

Filesharing is dead? Not in Asia: As a percentage of traffic, Filesharing traffic continues to decline globally in almost all regions except Asia-Pacific, where it still accounts for more than 33% of total traffic.

While the equivalent U.S. figure of 5% is still too high for the comfort of the creative industries, it represents a more manageable challenge against the wider ecosystem of content theft. Combining more contemporary measures of copyright infringement with this more familiar foe, however, prompts real cause for concern.

The value of emerging markets in the East is often held up as the future of entertainment income, particularly for American movie makers as they court increasingly wealthy Chinese audiences. But those efforts face significant challenges because of both stringent bureaucracy, as we reported earlier this month, and the kind of unchecked piracy that the Sandvine report highlights.

Whether or not governments in the Asia-Pacific are willing to crack down on file sharing activity remains to be seen. Their actions will play a major part in just how far Western creators are able to not only expand into these potentially lucrative markets, but also how effectively they can protect their intellectual property as they go.