Category: Google

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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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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BOGUS fair use claims hurt creators already victimized by piracy

YouTube users claim Fair Use as a defense for uploading full copies of pirated movies

There was a lot of talk about fair use and takedown abuse at last week’s the U.S. Copyright Office’s Section 512 roundtables in San Francisco.  Many of those who spoke, bemoaned how poor, innocent uploaders were victimized, time after time, by malicious DMCA takedowns.

It’s a tried and true talking point, convenient, but disingenuous all the same.  Some of us, myself included, tried to make the point that creators, whose work is routinely (and massively stolen),  are often (doubly) victimized by malicious fair use claims.  

I thought I’d share an example of this that occurred just this week on YouTube.  On Tuesday a full-copy of the Swedish indie film “Kyss Mig” (all 147 minutes of it) was uploaded to YouTube by a user aptly named “Free Movies.”  As an added flourish, the user-name included the notation, “free movies bitches.”

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More Google DMCA misdirection…refusing takedown requests for Blogger sites with custom domains

Hop aboard for another spin on Google’s DMCA Merry-Go-Round

It’s not news that Google-hosted Blogger websites are a favorite storefront for online pirates.  It’s also not news that Google does its best to obstruct DMCA takedowns by setting up various roadblocks along the way.  Today I discovered yet another example of just how difficult Google makes the DMCA process–this time with Blogger-hosted sites that use custom domain names.

When you create a blog using Blogger you’re given a domain that ends in blogspot.com. However users are free to use a custom domain name instead.  That’s all well and good, unless the website distributes pirated content.  In that case, if you’re a creator trying to get your pirated content removed (by Google), you’re likely to run into problems.

Usually, when one of these pirate entrepreneurs creates a site on blogspot.com a rightsholder can send a DMCA by using Google’s annoying web form (or annoy them by sending an email: [email protected]).  However, if you use the same DMCA form to report a blogger-hosted site with a custom domain, Google won’t remove it.  They’ll just send you back to the beginning.

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