This situation is painfully similar to what is going on in the Bittorent copyright trolling scene. Lipscomb, numerous local opportunistic lawyers, Guardaley, X-Art, Voltage — every link of the organized shakedown chain — is aimed at using heavy weaponry of the Law against alleged individual file-sharers, while initial seeders — those who make copyright content available in the first place — are totally ignored. Professional seeders are super careful — they thoroughly mask their identities, and hence it is difficult to go after them. Or is it so?
I monitored X-Art’s new releases for a month, and found out that their clips appear on the Pirate Bay almost exactly two hours after the release. The overwhelming majority of these releases are seeded by a highly active user named Drarbg, presumably a bot that aggregates pirated content from other sources. Whoever operates this bot must be linked to someone who has access to the client area of the xart.com: if not an insider, then at least a person that paid for a subscription. So, are there ways to figure out who is the source of daily leaks? If so, is such investigation affordable? The answer is yes to both questions.
[Defendant] was accused of sharing seven movie “clips” on a popular gay torrent site, and Flava had more than just an IP-address as evidence. The company was able to trace the illicit copies directly back to his paid account through a unique code embedded in the videos.
This simple: the programmers wrote a server-side script that inserted a unique code to every clip right before the download request, so every logged-in user would receive a unique (binary-wise) copy. Well, it is not that trivial, but with X-Art’s assets, I’m absolutely sure this is doable, if piracy indeed seriously harms the sales and thus there is enough incentive to curb illegal file-sharing.
But here lies the problem: the announced goal of stopping piracy is hogwash, so the incentive is diametrically opposite. The entire business is built around monetizing infringement, not stopping piracy. Therefore, flicks continue to conveniently appear on the torrent sites two hours after the release.
In many complaints and motions for ex-parte discovery Lipscomb laments:
In an effort to create a serious deterrent and at the same time be made whole for the losses it experiences daily, Plaintiff has no other choice but to file lawsuits against the numerous infringers who unlawfully infringe upon Plaintiff’s rights.
No other choice? I’m astonished that the textbook example of the false dilemma fallacy fools judges so easily. Assuming (for the sake of argument) that the goal is really to deter piracy, there is always a choice — from succumbing to the grim reality of driving a Ferrari instead of Bugatti and doing nothing/embracing file-sharing — to proactive pursuit and prosecution of initial seeders: a well-publicized criminal lawsuit might indeed have a somewhat deterring effect.
Otherwise, ruining random people’s lives has absolutely no effect on the file-sharing activity, and the German shakedown enterprise appreciates it: like ants nurture aphids, copyright trolls nurture illegal file-sharing, harming everyone and everything except their wallets.
Caliban Montrose wrote:
> I monitored X-Art’s new releases for a month, and found out that their clips appear on the Pirate Bay almost exactly two hours after the release.
SJD has pointed out, correctly, that X-Art movies end up on BitTorrent very soon after release, however she actually understates the severity. I have been studying and thinking over the topics SJD touches on above for several months now. A long screed on this follows.
A careful monitoring of the X-Art site will show that new movies are released at exactly 9:00pm California time on the day prior to the date listed. An examination of a pre-database” site, which aggregates information directly from the “warez scene”, will show that X-Art movies appear in some cases no later than 4 minutes after 9:00pm PT, and almost universally within 10 minutes.
Now, there are a few problems with this. First, it is uncertain if it is even possible to download a movie from the X-Art website and upload it to a topsite server that quickly, particularly considering the fact that Ms Field has testified under penalty of perjury that customers of hers have complained in the past of slow download speeds (a problem, I might add, which is often solved by using, you guessed it, BitTorrent, including by such dirty pirates as Amazon Web Services). In addition, pirates (in this case, referring to release groups) generally follow strict video format standards, usually necessitating a conversion from the original format. This takes time—much longer than 4 minutes.
This in fact leaves the Fields with several very good ways of attempting to identify who is distributing their videos. First of all, a cursory examination of a pre-db site will give them a name: KTR. Then, leveraging the paragraph above, they can either follow Flava’s lead (Flava is not, by the way, at all the first to do this) and insert unique identifiers into their videos. Since the videos are released far too quickly for the release group to have been able to re-encode, these identifiers should make it into the final file that makes it to BitTorrent. If they don’t, the Fields still have another excellent way of getting a shortlist of who could be pirating their work: just look in their server logs and see who downloaded the video in question between the time it was posted and the time it is listed as released on the scene. Given that it’s usually such a short interval this cannot be a large number of people. These methods have the great benefit of being entirely free to them, unlike the services of the Mysterious German Men, which certain statements made in past court filings suggest they pay quite dearly for.
It is possible that they already do all of this (though unlikely, given their clear lack of understanding of even the basics of BitTorrent). In that case, they should make this known, otherwise we are forced to conclude, as SJD has done above, that they are not actually serious about stopping piracy.
P.S. It is actually quite obvious why they do not go after “initial seeders” (i.e., those who are observed to be consistently among the first seeders of torrents of their videos). These seeders are universally using anonymously rented servers from sketchy Eastern European internet providers who don’t respond to complaints. Their IP address are thus entirely useless. Going after them is thus hard work (although not impossible, as stressed above), and so the Fields—who have also been blinded, possibly under the influence of the Mysterious German Men, by the ideology that BitTorrent Is Evil—take the easy way out and go after the soft target, the “little guy”: the occasional downloader who leaves torrents seeding indefinitely on his/her residential internet connection without a VPN. So instead of splashy stories of armed raids on pirate data centers we get stories of recent immigrants and geriatrics being hit with “settlements” of tens of thousands of dollars.