Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
BitTorrent seems to really go further than before with their intentions to become a legitimate business. “Game of Thrones”, which has been (erroneously) reported to be the most famous TV series on peer-to-peer networks this year, should be watched on HBO, the company believes.
In a recent blog post BitTorrent Inc. not only dismantles the idea that Game of Thrones is “the once and future king of BitTorrent”, but also stresses out the fact that “piracy happens outside the BitTorrent ecosystem.”
Matt Mason, vice president of marketing at BitTorrent Inc. wrote:
“We don’t host infringing content. We don’t point to it. It’s literally impossible to illegally download something on BitTorrent. To pirate stuff, you need more than a protocol. You need a search, a pirate content site, and a content manager. We offer none of those things. If you’re using BitTorrent for piracy, you’re doing it wrong.”
“These so-called ‘records’ are presumably based on numbers from pirate websites that have no affiliation with BitTorrent, Inc. If they’re corroborated using data from pirate websites, they’re Internet Piracy Records. They’re not BitTorrent Piracy Records,” his blog post continued.
At the time being, the news received no comments (on BT’s official website), but we’re pretty sure the subject will soon turn up the heat.
BitTorrent Inc. is clearly trying to make peace with Hollywood. To that end, it signed a deal with Cinedigm, but the contract’s progress is slow due to the company’s “fabricated” image. Public Enemy, one of the popular hip hop bands, had also signed with BT (read more here).
“We don’t endorse piracy. We don’t tally up illegal downloads, and crown pirate-kings. But these kinds of stories give us the opportunity to tell the truth about what’s going on inside BitTorrent.
In partnership with the Internet Archive, artists, labels and studios, we’ve made more than two million pieces of licensed, legal content available for download over the BitTorrent protocol. We’ve built a legit media ecosystem designed to close the gap between creators and fans. In 2012 alone, titles from this collection have been downloaded over 152 million times,” the blog post continues.
If you thought that “Games of Thrones” is the most downloaded TV series on peer-to-peer networks, think again. According to BitTorrent Inc., “Epic Meal Time” accounts for more than 8.6 million downloads.
“We discovered that the real king of BitTorrent isn’t Game of Thrones. With 8,626,987 downloads, hands-down-most-downloaded show of 2013 via BitTorrent is Epic Meal Time; a show published into BitTorrent willingly and legally by the creators themselves. That’s nearly double the claimed downloads of the Game of Thrones finale.”
Asked by Anthony of TechCrunch if the company is trying to draw a clear line between BitTorrent (peer-to-peer) and BitTorrent Inc., Christian Averill, BT Inc.’s spokesperson, said:
“The piracy itself is happening outside of the protocol. The technology is exploited as part of [the] technology stack used for piracy. As such, it is only the pipes that content moves through. You cannot rip a DVD with BitTorrent technology and there is no infringing content hosted on BitTorrent and pirated content is not promoted on BitTorrent.”
“Exploited” is apparently becoming the favorite word when it comes to such delicate issues (read online piracy), but Averill does make a valid point. However, BitTorrent’s rant seems a bit unreasonable. Why? Because BitTorrent, the company, would not be where it is without file-sharing, pirated content and all.
Stay tuned to find out more!
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
David Lowery, a well-established musician, Martin Mills, founder of the Beggars Group, the BPI and several other representatives, including Theo Bertrand, representing Google in the UK, have discussed the delicate subject of ad-funded piracy.
Two days ago, the aforementioned, plus Alexandra Scott, public policy manager at the UK-based Internet Advertising Bureau, James Barton, artist manager at The Blue Team and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab met at the University of Westminster (London) to address the thorny issue of ad-funded piracy.
David Lowery, the 53-years-old songwriter, producer, label founder, and programmer, started by underlining that “I’m not unsympathetic to the views of the technology industry, because I’m a part of it.”
However, he went on by explaining that, despite his deep understanding of how technology works, there are some problems hiding beneath the surface.
“Artists have always been exploited… it wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now,” Lowery continued.
He’s referring to the 1950’s, when artists were abusively “milked” by exactly those who were supposed to protect their rights – the labels.
Ad-supported piracy is pretty much the same, the musician believes.
“This new ad-supported piracy is kinda 1950s music business, except you don’t get the Cadillac! In fact, it’s actually worse than that. Cadillac, which is made by Chevrolet, actually exploits it.”
While the entertainment industries, at least on US soil, blame Google for not doing enough in this war against online piracy, Lowery acknowledges that the search engine is not the “worst offender” when it comes to ad-supported piracy.
“They’re just here to defend themselves!” he noted.
To back his claims, Lowery gave three examples of how unlicensed music becomes a source of revenues.
Type “Call me Maybe” (by Carly Rae Jepsen) in Google’s search bar, and a list of unlicensed websites will show. Six of these portals proved to currently have ad contracts with Google or DoubleClick, which also belongs to Google as a subsidiary company.
In the case of iTunes, Lowery said:
”You don’t get legitimate sites. You don’t even get Google Play until the second play.”
The artist went on to display examples of how ad-funded piracy can lead to a dangerous slope.
“If the future of music really is access to songs rather than owning as many as we do nowadays, those services are all advertising-supported, and they’re competing with these illegitimate sites for these ads,” he continued.
“Spotify and Pandora should have probably rightfully got that advertising money.”
In his opinion, tech companies and entertainment companies, along with artists and content creators, should build a strong connection.
“We should just think of this as a society.”
“Just from the point of view of what is good for your country if you think of your country as a business.”
Last but not least, Lowery brought up another interesting fact – tech companies’ revenues (Google, Apple, and Amazon specifically) between 2001 and 2012 went up, up, and away – 58.319% for Google, 3.396% for Apple and 2.0% for Amazon, while the US music industry felt a decisive drop in revenues – 64% between 2000 and 2012.
Alexandra Scott had something to say as well.
“This is a huge industry. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of players here. It’s not always obvious to those players where that advertising is going. There’s a huge amount of work that we’re undertaking to address that.”
Sam Shemtob, moderator of the debate, asked Alexandra why are there so many “middlemen” when it comes to online advertising. To that, Scott said:
“Often those middlemen are helping to make advertising more efficient, more targeted and more relevant.”
“I don’t think we want to do away with that, because that innovation is helping to drive the business… Obviously there are concerns about where that advertising is going to appear… It’s not something that’s easy to address: there’s no one-size fits all.”
Feeling that there’s much to say about this, Lowery drew yet another interesting question: why aren’t companies like Apple or Coca-Cola showing up on pirate or adult-oriented websites?
“If Apple does it, if Coca-Cola does it… There seems to be some way of controlling that. My take on this is that when things get more complex, it’s to insulate institutions and individuals from the liability of bad things that happen. In fact, usually what they say in the financial services system is complexity is fraud! Don’t you think that some of this complexity is to remove liability for the major corporations?” the musician asked.
“No. I don’t think this is a way of people hiding behind things. If we look at advertisers, it’s their prerogative to say ‘I don’t want to appear against certain types of content’… Where there’s been a difficulty, particularly here in the UK, is what is an infringing site?”
“Coca-Cola may say ‘we only want to work on a white-list basis, we only want to appear against certain publishers,” she continued, while admitting that there could be “huge reputational damage” for brands to pop-up on shady (read pirate) websites.
“They don’t want to be going on these sites. They’re just not always aware of the issue. They don’t necessarily know it’s happening until there’s a crisis… I don’t think that people actively seek out these sites to go and advertise on… Eyeballs isn’t the only thing for advertising: it’s all about context,” Scott said.
This is where Theo Bertrand (representing Google) felt compelled to add his opinion:
“It does seem to me to be an entirely sensible way to tackle piracy… most people doing piracy are not some guy in his bedroom altruistically sharing music with his friends. It’s people making money out of piracy, and it’s big business: some of these sites have 2m visitors regularly, and they’re not doing a bad business from advertising.”
How about YouTube and Blogger?
“If people have got content up there that is unlicensed and infringing, that would be a breach of our rules,” he said, citing YouTube’s ContentID system – “which cost us about $30m to develop” – which matches music within videos to a library of licensed songs, for rightsholders to claim, and then either leave alone, make money from ads around it, or get it taken down,” Bertrand continued.
“We’re seeing a huge rise in the number of takedown requests,” he said.
“The BPI are still number one or thereabouts in the amount they take down.”
As far as advertising is concerned, Google’s research (published last year in the UK) found that two thirds of the visited [by UK citizens, naturally] pirate sites are funded by advertising.
“You can tell then that there is some work being done by the far bigger share of the industry that is adhering to industry codes to stop putting ads on these sites than those who pay no heed to these things,” Google’s representatives continued, while agreeing with Lowery’s idea that brands could constitute a good start.
“Getting them to say ‘I’m going to be really clear with you: I don’t want you to put advertising on these sites, I do want you to put advertising on these sites’.”
He went on to clarify that once an ad has been served, Google’s (and companies alike) obligation is to “take it down” when the case requires it.
“We’re doing that at record levels, but we know we need to do more,” he said.
As for Google’s search advertising, which is most of the company’s business, Bertrand said:
“We capture people at a moment of intention. If I want to buy a set of new glasses, and I go on to Google and I put ‘wine glasses’ or ‘new tumblers’, the reason that’s of value to an advertiser is that Facebook might know lots about you – you’re somebody who drinks a lot of wine, likes glasses, but it can’t capture you at that moment where you’re looking to buy that thing.”
“If you’re an advertiser, that is when you want to capture someone. So the value of search to advertisers is we are there at the moment of intent. I don’t know if you type in music, there’s lots of adverts that come down at the side… I don’t think the search advertising part is really the problem here.”
“And the only way you get that scale is if you get the big brands.”
In other words, brands should take responsibility.
“If we manage to drain the swamp so it’s only the dodgy brands and the dodgy agencies that appear on the dodgy sites, I think we’ll have done enough to make sure it’s not a profitable business.” Lowery agreed.
At the time being, it was Geoff Taylor’s turn to say something:
“I think we’ve all been a bit slow to get to grips with this, perhaps because we were focused on other targets.”
“We shouldn’t kid ourselves – as some of the follow-the-money advocates do – that this is going to make the problem go away,” he continued.
“There’s lots of people running illegal pharmacies or illegal dating sites or gambling sites who’ll still provide a revenue stream for these sites.”
You should also know that the British Phonographic Industry plans to introduce a “structured scheme” to counter the problem, but it’s unsure whether Google is willing to spend more on technologies such as ContentID.
“It seems to me to be not beyond the technology capability,” Geoff said.
“They know very well what sites are illegal, because we send them notices, a million a week… yet coming on to search, very often those sites appear at the top of search results. It’s great that the advertising industry is starting to work with us, Google are part of that… but hey, that can’t be where it stops.”
“Is there a sort-of left-hand right-hand issue that Google can maybe work on, if you’re being served these takedowns?” the moderator asked Bertrand.
“I am an optimist, in that search will get better, and be able to serve people with the results exactly that they want, and to do so utterly lawfully as well,” the representative replied.
“I know the complexities can be seen as something to hide behind,” he continued.
“It is easier to tell whether something is pornography than whether something is licensed or not… The legal basis for declaring a whole site unlawful in the UK at least still only applies to a relatively small handful of websites.”
At this point, Taylor blew some steam and said – “Even those guys, you won’t remove!” – referring to the infamous Pirate Bay, amongst others.
In response, Bertrand answered that:
“If you do a Google search for these, and you got a link for Pirate Bay, if you click on it you’ll get an interstitial telling you this has been blocked, which I’d have thought is a pretty good thing for people to see that.”
“Blocking websites, I don’t think is as effective as going after them as a business,” he continued.
“The supply that was going to Megaupload had simply shifted to a whole new range of middle-ranking pirate sites… My worry is if we’re going after them one at a time with blocking, you start getting into the whack-a-mole thing.”
In Google’s opinion, as explained by its representative, the fight against online piracy shouldn’t rely solely on some company’s shoulders, but instead be a unified effort.
“It’s not Google’s job to go around the web to declare whether sites are legal or illegal, but if Coca-Cola comes to us and says here’s a list of 500 dynamic sites, and we don’t want you to place ads on those… that’s a slightly different thing. It’s almost a marketing thing for the brand,” Bertrand explained.
The discussion went on with arguments from all sides. Lowery, for example, said that:
“We sometimes conflate the search engine Google with the overall internet. Just because Google blocks certain websites, that’s not censorship. Google is a private company, it’s not censoring those websites.”
“Either Google is the web, and therefore it’s a public property that belongs to all of us, and we get to tell it what to do. Or it’s a private company. You can’t have it both ways,” he continued.
“The internet you see is censored all the time… sensibly. You could almost go after the hosts and not the individual websites, and then you’re talking about half a dozen is the majority of the traffic,” the musician concluded.
A couple of glasses of water later, James Barton chipped in by saying:
“How refreshing that finally in 2013 we’re able to have a conversation with members of big tech and big music industry where we can find common ground, and look for a pragmatic solution to the piracy problem.”
“Still slightly missing from this: the conversation surrounding music is between big tech and the big music industry, and the voice that is missing is the voice of the fan, and the voice of the artist… The big next process is educating fans as to why they need to pay, the same as the brands in the damage they are doing to creators when they support these infringing sites,” he continued.
The meeting was indeed interesting, and we can only hope that it will eventually lead to a common ground between content creators, the entertainment industries, and tech companies, for their and our (the consumers) benefit.
The event ended with a Q&A session. Feel free to read more here.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, Movies, MP3, Digital Audio & Games
For God only knows what reasons, China has decided to pull Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” out of the theatres. Movie enthusiasts were pretty upset about it and decided to take the alternative – watch the masterpiece from illegal sources.
As soon as moviegoers found out that the original version of the Oscar-winning Western film was banned from the theatres, replies such as these surfaced the internet:
“Chinese film buffs are the most dismayed and helpless of all,” said one blogger.
“Even when we are watching dated movies we had our screenings stopped. Luckily, we still have pirated discs!”
Another one, going by the name of Heilaoda, said that:
“I originally planned to see Django Unchained in a cinema today — but the shameless State Administration of Radio, Film and Television suddenly stopped the film. After waiting for so many days I wouldn’t want to wait anymore — so I downloaded the HD version of the film and watched it.”
Speaking of which, the movie’s opening day was totally ruined; just a minute after the screenings started, the staff there had to stop the movie by order of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.
“We regret that Django Unchained has been removed from theaters and are working with the Chinese authorities to determine whether the film can be rescheduled,” Sony Pictures spokesman Steve Elzer told The Hollywood Reporter.
Contacted by the press, Sony China declined to comment on the decision. Chinese authorities on the other hand said that “Django Unchained” was censored due to “technical reasons”. Without a clean explanation people’s imagination started wandering, some going as far as saying that the ban was due to the display of a penis in the movie.
While this may sound all amusing, the bigger picture highlights some very interesting political mishaps.
Hu Xijin – editor at Global Times and a fervent supporter of the conservative party, said that the pulling of the movie “has brought much more harm to the country and its politics than merely cutting out ‘harmful scenes.’ ”
“At present there is a lack of people within the establishment who could report to the powers that be about the real situation so as to avoid [the application of] wrong policies,” one of his posts reads.
“Maybe the establishment really doesn’t encourage people to do this. With the frequent strange decisions made by departments around the country, the price paid will be the government’s credibility.”
The need for a clear, age-based classification system has been repeatedly highlighted by both mainstream and independent filmmakers and producers, but so far the country’s government is still to act on such an imperative change, if ever.
At the moment, China’s rating system works on a two-lane freeway: either ban a movie or have it released for audiences of all ages.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
Twelve years ago BitTorrent was born – a file-transfer protocol that had its ups and downs, jumping through hoops and fire, but most of all, helping internet users transfer large files between each other. At the time being, it is speculated that BitTorrent claims more active users than any other social networks combined, including Facebook and YouTube, but is the peer-to-peer protocol used just for pirating?
According to several reports, BitTorrent is currently accounting for about 70% of all the internet traffic. Why? Because it’s efficient, fast, and can handle huge amounts of data. These qualities combined easily lured pirates into using BitTorrent for copyright infringement. Starting with 2010, an estimated number of 200.000 BitTorrent users were sued on grounds of copyright infringement. What followed is no secret – a super-massive anti-piracy campaign led by groups such as the RIAA and the MPAA. But is BitTorrent all about piracy or is there a legal side of it?
“No one here would dispute that file sharing networks are used by those who would violate copyright. But this is not solely the domain of P2P; copyrighted software has been traded on electronic bulletin board systems (BBSs) since their inception and has permeated every public communication protocol on the Internet. Filesharing is a social phenomenon, not a technological one – demonizing P2P based on one use of the technology is a mistake in my opinion. P2P already has positive mainstream benefits in certain communities and new uses are being found all the time,” a blogger wrote on this matter.
The mentioned benefits are not to be neglected. Let’s take a look:
Film, video, and music
- The company (BitTorrent) has managed to obtain a number of licenses from Hollywood’s studios in order to promote and distribute popular content.
- Sub Pop Records uses BitTorrent Inc. to release and distribute its content (both audio and video).
- Podcasting software is beginning to integrate BitTorrent to help users download content on demand. e.g. Juice and Miro.
- DGM Live purchases are provided through BitTorrent.
- Vodo, a distributor of films, uses the peer-to-peer protocol.
- In the year 2008, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had made available on BitTorrent’s networks a full show (Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister) for everyone to download. It was the first public broadcaster in North America to do so.
- The Amazon S3, also known as the “Simple Storage Service”, is (obviously) an online storage web service (offered by Amazon) that has built-in BitTorrent support.
- Companies such as Blizzard Entertainment use BitTorrent to deliver content and game patches for various games, including Diablo III, StarCraft II, WoW (Word of Warcraft). Furthermore, the games themselves are using peer-to-peer technology.
- Open source & free software projects support and encourage the use of peer-to-peer.
- Great Britain’s government once used BitTorrent to distribute details about how tax money was spent.
- Florida State University puts BitTorrent to good use by distributing large scientific data sets to its researchers.
- Many universities that have BOINC distributed computing projects have used the BitTorrent functionality of the client-server system to reduce the bandwidth costs of distributing the client side applications used to process the scientific data.
- Popular social networks, including Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent for updates.
- The Internet Archive has added Bittorrent to its file download options. By doing this, the non-profit organization greatly improved their download speeds.
Despite these obvious upsides (and the above list could be easily continued) BitTorrent remains a notorious name, one that’s mistakenly associated with (just) copyright infringement. When will this change?
Hopefully, very soon…
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Entertainment Industry, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services
Apparently, the entertainment industries are closer than ever to disappear entirely, solely because of piracy. This is what a report from USC’s Annenberg Innovation claims. Their fingers point to advertising companies such as Google and Yahoo, linking them to piracy.
According to the report, Google’s AdSense and similar advertising services that promote file-sharing websites are going to bankrupt the entertainment industry. With this brilliant conclusion the report hopes to make advertising companies feel ashamed and hopefully drop their business contracts, thus cutting the financial cord of file-sharing portals.
Google’s response was one that you’d expect from a logical point of view – just because some Google code appears on a website that promotes piracy, it doesn’t mean Google does it too.
USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab placed both Google and Yahoo on the top 10 advertising networks that offer support to major piracy sites across the world. The conclusion was drawn based on AI’s analysis of online ads that receive the most copyright infringement notices.
Jonathan Taplin – director of Annenberg Innovation – talked about this in LA Times. He told the story of his singer friend who had no financial problems, that until the early 2000s when medical bills for his throat cancer started to pile up. He was then forced to start touring again, because of piracy.
We are more than sympathetic to cancer patients, but what does this have to do with anything? Shouldn’t Mr. Jonathan maybe blame the health care system instead of piracy? After all, his friend had no financial problems for several years, and that without doing any work at all.
And how about the industry’s inability to accept services like Spotify into their business plan?
Also, Mr. Taplin should get his info straight. Websites like The Pirate Bay are hosting plenty of legal and original content, not to mention their involvement with promoting young artists through their Promo Bay website. If their financial flow is disrupted, then what? Wouldn’t that affect people who use these services for legitimate business just the same as his friend?