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...Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
Momentum is building for changes to the DMCA that will better protect creators
Content creators from all walks of life are coalescing around the need to update copyright law to protect their work against theft in digital age. A piece in yesterday’s NY Times, Music World Bands Together Against YouTube, Seeking Change to Law, is the latest to highlight growing calls by the creative community to update a woefully antiquated Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.