Author: Ellen Seidler

New report on how (some) companies enable malware’s spread

U.S. firms enable scammers to bait consumers and steal personal info Spam and scams have become a way of life.  Every day my in-box is full of emails warning that my Apple, PayPal or Wells Fargo credentials have been compromised and instructing me to click a link to restore my good standing.  Of course, I’m well aware these are scams but clearly there are many who aren’t. The same thing holds true with websites.  It’s a well-known fact that for many–if not most– piracy peddlers, online malware supplies their lifeblood, their income.  The Digital Citizens Alliance* just release a new...

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Google updates its anti-piracy report

Google’s updated piracy report offers the some well-worn excuses

It’s that time of year.  The time of year where Google rolls out a shiny update on its “How Google Fights Piracy” report.  Google began the tradition in 2013.  At the time I noted that Google’s claim to be a “leader” in the fight against piracy was its first mistake. With today’s update, it appears the Silicon Valley giant hasn’t backed down from that dubious claim (or many others).

Katie Oyama, Senior Policy Counsel, Google asserts that, “We take protecting creativity online seriously, and we’re doing more to help battle copyright-infringing activity than ever before.”  Yet, in spite of Oyama’s rosy quote, in truth the reality (for creators) battling online piracy continues to be a bleak one.

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New study shows bias against women in film continues

Yet again, women in Hollywood find themselves on the short end of the stick

A new infographic by Slated (an organization that filmmakers with talent, financing & distribution) first published in The Hollywood Reporter exposes a “a systemic lack of trust on the part of the film industry when it comes to collaborating with women in the workplace.” 

The infographic’s authors used statistical analysis to look at 1,591 feature films released (theatrically) between 2010 and 2015 and published findings via an infographic.

Bias was documented not only by the woefully low numbers of female directors, but even in categories like supporting actors where only 41% of the roles were filled by women.  While such inequality has been highlighted in previous studies like the Celluloid Ceiling Report published by researchers at San Diego State, Slated’s data analysis looks took another approach by asking, “how data science can best be harnessed to offset what is evidently a pattern of institutionalized bias at play in the marketplace.”

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YouTube’s Content ID Easily Fooled

Doing the job, but not a very good job

When people talk about effective ways to mitigate the impact of online piracy, YouTube’s Content ID is often used as an example of what works. Unfortunately, despite its role as poster boy for anti-piracy tech, in reality it falls flat as a gatekeeper against online piracy.

Aside from a labyrinth-like user interface that seems likely to have been designed–not to help– but to discourage rights holders from using Content ID, the actual fingerprinting technology behind it can be easily fooled.

YouTube introduced the Content ID system in 2007.  At the time, the company was facing pressure from a Viacom lawsuit, among others.  According to YouTube, it’s pretty straightforward:

Videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted to us by content owners. Copyright owners get to decide what happens when content in a video on YouTube matches a work they own. When this happens, the video gets a Content ID claim.

Looking to make money off work they don’t own, clever YouTube users have discovered ways to fool the technology so their illegal uploads of copyrighted movies and music don’t get flagged, blocked or removed.

I began noticing this phenomenon more lately as I’ve begun to find full, infringing copies of films uploaded that matched content owned by a film distributor I work for.  This seems to be happening more often and I was curious as to how these pirated copies had avoided detected by Content ID.  When I looked closely I saw that subtle manipulations in brightness had taken place along with slight adjustments to frame size and sometimes the crop of the frame.

When I started poking around YouTube to find other examples of these uploads they were easy to find. It only took me a few minutes to find dozens of copies of a variety of full copyrighted movies, old and new. One title I came across was the 2015 release, Everest.  Below are screen captures from two different full uploads of the movie I found streaming on YouTube.

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Why is YouTube such a dump?

Time for YouTube to get serious about cleaning up all the junk, spam and malware files on its site

YouTube is great for finding videos about pretty much everything.  Need to learn how to fix a furnace or use the latest camera equipment? There’s bound to be a video shows you how.  Unfortunately, amid the useful stuff, YouTube is also chock full of garbage.  The question is, with its massive technical resources, why doesn’t the site do a better job keeping house?

I’ve written before about the epidemic of fake “full-movie” uploads that fill YouTube.  That was in 2012.  Now, four years later, the problem still exists.  Apparently, YouTube isn’t concerned that its pages are full of spam files, many of them fake pirate movie uploads that lead users to sites rife with malware and money-making scams.

These fake uploads, promising full copies of hundreds of films, both indie and mainstream, are easy to find.  Go to YouTube, search for a specific film title using the term “full movie,” and voilà, most results will lead to garbage.  These bogus uploads fall into two categories.  Some offer links to other dubious websites while others are merely dummy files uploaded to generate advertising income (for the user and YouTube).  Some do both.

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