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For-Profit, Illegal Movie Download Sites Threaten MPAA 387

vossman77 writes that BitTorrent is no longer the MPAA's enemy number one. They are now more concerned about illicit, for-profit movie download sites. This reader adds, "Just a thought, but maybe if the studios offered a low-cost, for-profit, legitimate download site without DRM, they could receive the profits at the expense of the cyberlockers." "Movie fans downloading free pirated films are no longer Hollywood's worst nightmare, but that's only because of a newer menace: cheap, and equally illegal, subscription services. Foreign, often mob-run, businesses aggregate illegally obtained movies into 'cyberlockers.' Cyberlocker-based businesses operate from Russia, Ukraine, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, and elsewhere. ... Hollywood movies are made available via illegal for-profit sites within days of theatrical release, while the advent of global releasing now allows the proliferation of individual titles into an array of language dubs within the first month of a theatrical debut. ... When movies are released on DVD and Blu-ray disc, the sites upgrade the quality of video offered from camcorded images to pristine digital copies. 'Sometimes these sites look better than the legitimate sites,' Huntsberry said. 'That's the irony.'"
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For-Profit, Illegal Movie Download Sites Threaten MPAA

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  • Crime Pays (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:11PM (#32656820)

    Torrents higher quality and are better than legal downloads and are more useful since they don't have DRM.

    Weed is better than alcohol because it doesn't leave you hung over.

    Amphetamine is better than caffine because it takes much less to keep you awake and focus. And it's better to take speed as needed than every single day as it is usually prescribed.

    The bottom line: the best things in life are illegal.

  • Equally illegal? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:11PM (#32656824)

    While both illegal, I think most people would agree that selling copyrighted stuff you don't have the rights to is worse. In that case it actually is a little closer to stealing because they are taking money from people who pay for the movie that might otherwise have payed for a legitimate copy.

  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:12PM (#32656836) Journal

    It used to be the **AA vs Jammie, now it looks like the **AA vs the Mafia. Fighting somebody their own size, playing by their same rules, is probably something they won't enjoy.

  • by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:14PM (#32656862)
    This is what Hollywood should really be worried about. People downloading movies and music likely would never have bought those media if they hadn't had access to free versions of them. But these mob-run pay-sites are funneling money from customers to their illegal operations. Unfortunately the RIAA and MPAA seem to be more interested in punishing normal people than actual criminals.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:14PM (#32656866) Homepage Journal
    From the summary: "Foreign, often mob-run, businesses aggregate illegally obtained movies into 'cyberlockers.'" In a way, that reminds me of the mainstream movie industry.
    • Foreign: Sony Pictures is a foreign (Japanese) business, as are the foreign companies that produce films to be distributed by MPAA affiliated distributors.
    • Mob-run: The mainstream Music And Film Industry Associations have been compared to the mob [].
    • Cyberlockers: Netflix is a cyberlocker secured with a cyberlock backed by the DMCA.
    • Illegal: You'll see once Hollywood accounting methods [] become better documented.
  • by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:17PM (#32656898) Journal

    No, the point is to get a product you want for a price you'll pay.

    If the official marketplace doesn't deliver, a black market forms.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:19PM (#32656930)
    Most people pirate movies and music to get it conveniently and inexpensively. According to the article some of these sites allow unlimited downloads for $5 a month. The Entertainment industry has these problems because they keep trying to charge the same amount they did when copying and distributing their products was expensive (relatively) and difficult.
  • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:21PM (#32656956)
    Right, because record breaking box office numbers and DVD sales aren't contributing at all to those who wrote, directed, produced and starred in said movie.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:27PM (#32657040) Homepage
    So, go ahead and buy from the MPAA. Do you really think that any of your money makes it to the people who wrote, directed and produced the content? []
  • Its funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:28PM (#32657054) Homepage
    when the criminals can give you better customer service then the legit manufacturer/vendor. If the MPAA/RIAA always bitch about how every download is a lost sale image how much they would be racking in if a new movie was available for $2-5 for digital download. You would be stupid to download it illegally when you can get a brand new release for the price of a coffee. Oh lost the file in a crash oh well its only $2 to download it again. At that point I wouldn't even bother hitting the the pawn shops few days after new releases to get them for $3 when I can save time by buying it at home and let it download. Now give the user tons of payment options even pre paid cards for people who can't set up paypal or credit cards and you're brought your business int the 21st century. Its amazing what you can achieve when you work for the customer.
  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:28PM (#32657056) Journal
    Back when I used to play games online, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was "If someone plays a dirty trick on you, don't get mad, remember it and use it on someone else the next time!". Like TFA says: If they offered an inexpensive, legal, DRM-free service, they'd put the pirates out of business.
  • Re:Propaganda (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:29PM (#32657062)

    Effective propaganda is plausible, not necessarily true and always emotional. Is there a reason why "mob-run" is mentioned in the context of movie downloads? If movie downloads are OK, should we still do something about them if the mob profits from them? If movie downloads are not OK, will we refrain from doing something if the mob is not involved? No and no. The allegation is purely there to create emotional aversion. It's propaganda.

  • by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb@com c a s t . n et> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:31PM (#32657086)

    My uncle has a VERY large collection of movies he gets from one of those places. For whatever fee it is he pays per month he can get up to 10 a month and then a fee for everyone after that. They are fairly decent quality (cost more for the HD versions). He thinks it is legal since he is paying for it, the website is professional looking, and the cost/access rules are what he expects for a legit company.

    Indeed, he was lamenting to me a few weeks ago about not being able to find a blue-ray player that also plays his DIVX's. He commented that as easy as it is to get them off the internet and as fast as they come out he didn't understand why all the players just didn't mostly move to that format. I, once again, explained that it was illegal and few companies are going to be going about making your illegal downloads work easier. He looked blankly at me and said "Oh" - it was about the 50'th time I've tried to explain it. It is amusing that he refuses any of the ones I download for free but will happily pay someone else for the same thing so "He knows he is legal". If something were to happen and he end up ripped off (I suspect that if they are getting ready to be shut down many would be all over some credit fraud) or something happen and him go to court he would be one of the ones perputally confused that such a nice company dd it too him. I suspect that letters would be written to movie studios and no amount of being told "It is *illegal*" will ever sink in to most.

    Really, with as many people that *do* use them the MPAA ought to just bite the bullet and enter that market - were it legal I woud most likely pay the fee (I'm not about to give someplace pirating anything credit card or bank account numbers even if I were willing to pay for something I could get for free). My uncle (and those others I know that use these services) still go to the movies just as often, the MPAA is just missing out on the profit he is sending to an operation in another country that may or may not be legal there.

    For myself *this* is the type of piracy they ought to go after. I have no sympathy whatsoever for selling copyrighted information that you do not have permission to do.

  • Re:Crime Pays (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu ( 126918 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:34PM (#32657122)

    You forgot: Hookers are better than wives because you only have to pay when you get laid.

  • Just a thought (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KharmaWidow ( 1504025 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:34PM (#32657126)

    You guys have to stop expecting free media! Sheesh. Have you ever watched a movie's entire credits? Its like a small city put that together. Cheap and DRM free is not going to happen if that small city is going to eat and dress their children. Media pirates are not Robin Hoods. Robin Hood only stole which was *wrongly* taken. All these people who make want is a liveable wage. Not eevry one involved is a mega star or executive.

    The economy needs money to be exchanged, to flow. As long as you refuse to pay for the media you consume, the economy will suffer.

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:36PM (#32657150) Journal

    'Sometimes these sites look better than the legitimate sites,' Huntsberry said. 'That's the irony.'

    He’s so close to an epiphany that it’s almost painful.

    Everything about them is better. Except, perhaps, the quality of the picture, but personally I won’t tolerate a really terrible picture anyway. I’ll just wait.

    The lack of DRM is better. The lack of involuntary filler content (previews and menus and such) is better. The convenience of being able to fairly quickly get any full-length feature film and watch it in the privacy of your home is better. The price, of course, can’t be beat. And apparently in some cases the websites even look better than their legal counterparts. Admittedly, being illegal is worse, but only if you get caught.

    To beat piracy, they’re going to have to make the legal offering better. That’s all there is to it. Apple was very successful with iTunes (well, once they got beyond the notion that 1 song from an 8-song album should cost 1/8 as much as the album). It appears that a lot of people think iTunes is better than illegally downloading.

  • Re:Yeah, sure.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by masterzora ( 871343 ) <masterzora@gmail ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:39PM (#32657190) Homepage
    I'm not sure if you've noticed, but copies of high quality DRM-free movies are already available on every file sharing site. It's not as if the MPAA offering the same would change anything with regards to that. But it would offer them a way to get a slice of the potential profits here, from the people who pirate just because they think $20 is too much for a film, or the ones who want to watch a film now and don't want to wait or whatever.
  • Re:hunter hunted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:39PM (#32657192) Homepage Journal

    But the public needs to know that with such pirated convenience comes the risk of... problems with spyware contamination are even more common.

    Spyware contamination like XCP? [] Sony Pictures is part of the MPAA, is it not? It looks to me like ANY RIAA/MPAA offering is just as dangerous whether you get it from the Russian Mafia or legally through the studios. In fact, the safest route is BitTorrent.

  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:43PM (#32657254)
    Who would give their credit card number to a site of questionable legality? I suppose you could give a one time use CC number, but wouldn't you be in constant worry that the site might forget to pay off its local officials, get raided, and have said local officials sell all the records to the MPAA/RIAA?
  • This is exactly the sort of thing copyright law was intended to prevent. It's a system that has worked reasonably well for quite some time.

    This attitude here is how we got where we are today. Copyright law was intended to promote culture by creating a temporary artificial monopoly as an incentive to create new things, which would, after a short and reasonable time, become the property of the public. Notice how that term is no longer short and reasonable and how the only works newer than the 1920s to enter into public domain have been only done so by specific requests of the authors (and rarely, at that) and you'll notice exactly how the system is broken. Now, I'm not here to root for the pirates (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't root for them at least somewhat in general), but it's clear that the copyright owners refusing to adapt are a far larger problem than the pirates.

  • by L3370 ( 1421413 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:52PM (#32657348)
    This is evidence that most of those who engage in piracy aren't looking for a freebie, but merely looking for a product at a fair price delivered in a format they want, to be played at a venue of their choosing. Its capitalism biting the MPAA right in its behind.

    People now understand that pressing copy of a DVD could sell for $10 rather than $20-30 and still make a profit for the producer. People also know that extra digital copies can be made at virtually zero cost to the producer...yet the industry still insists on charging you $30 for that product.

    People also understand that their is no longer a scarcity of these works of art. Why pay such a high price to watch a blockbuster movie when its plot line has been recycled in other films 13 times last summer?
  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:55PM (#32657396)
    Excellent point. How many people verify that has the rights to sell the movie downloads they do?
  • by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:04PM (#32657500) Journal

    Besides, people STILL fall for 409 scams. You don't think they would fall for this when they fall for something that has been beaten to death in the media?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:08PM (#32657558)

    The RIAA and the MPAA shouldn't be punishing anyone. That's the courts job.

  • Re:Just a thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpecBear ( 769433 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:15PM (#32657656)

    Cheap and DRM free is not going to happen if that small city is going to eat and dress their children.

    DRM isn't going to keep those children from going hungry and naked. DRM did nothing to keep these cyberlockers from being set up. DRM isn't keeping movies off of any of the P2P networks. Nobody who pirates a film is affected by DRM because pirates distribute DRM-free versions of the media.

    DRM isn't about preventing pirates from getting media for free. It's already proven to be an abysmal failure at that. It's about controlling what honest people can do with the media after they've purchased it.

  • nope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:34PM (#32657874) Homepage

    Just a thought, but maybe if the studios offered a low-cost, for-profit, legitimate download site without DRM, they could receive the profits at the expense of the cyberlockers

    Nope. The illegitimate sites can always undercut the studios, as they don't have the expense of actually making the movies.

  • Re:Just a thought (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DeadPixels ( 1391907 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:34PM (#32657876)

    Just a thought, but maybe if the studios offered a low-cost, for-profit, legitimate download site without DRM, they could receive the profits at the expense of the cyberlockers.

    The problem with this: Why would the MPAA ever want to do that when they can still get away with charging ten times as much for DRM'd movies and just sue anyone who dissents into bankruptcy? They need incentive to change, and if it takes cyberlockers and other people getting paid to do it, then maybe they'll finally get their act together.

  • Re:Crime Pays (Score:3, Insightful)

    by icebraining ( 1313345 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @04:42PM (#32657964) Homepage

    I'd second guess that. If I had the choice of hitting a BB a block away, I'd have a movie in my hand in 15 minutes. With a torrent, it would take probably 3-4 hours (if lucky) to get the movie. If the movie is available to stream, I'd be watching that even sooner.

    BB (at least here) has a terrible selection of movies. Try asking for "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring []" or any movie that doesn't come from Hollywood's crap factories*.

    *Not to diss on all US movies, just the crappy ones

  • by barberousse ( 1432239 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @05:43PM (#32658782)

    No. It just shows it is hard to run a business when credit card companies cave in to pressure and refuse to do business with you. No money coming in == No business

  • Re:Just a thought (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <> on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @06:01PM (#32659012) Journal

    That's the problem, though. If we stop fighting the DRM, they'll assume they've found one that works and we'll be stuck with it. That means you have to buy a copy on blu-ray for home, then another copy for your iPod, and another copy for the kids to watch in your huge SUV on trips, and yet another copy to play on your portable DVD player, etc...

    If they just did away with the DRM and offered it in an open format (I don't mean Theora, I mean any format read/writable by the masses -- MPEG-2 works for this; ignoring patents, h.264 is better), you could buy your blu-ray copy and convert it yourself for your other players.

    "But... but, but, wait! That won't work! There's no software out there, usable by the average user that can do that!"

    DERP! Guess why that is! BECAUSE IT'S ILLEGAL! Guess why THAT is! BECAUSE OF DRM!

    So, if I can get my hands on a blu-ray disc, movie not released on DVD, no version on iTunes to fit my iPod, I'm breaking the fucking law anyway to get a DVD for the portable player and the SUV, breaking the law to get a copy onto my iPod... Why not just break the law and pirate it to begin with?

    The point is, if I'm going to be a criminal whether I spend my money or not, I'm not spending my money. If I can pay a small **IMPORTANT** fee and legally transfer the media to other devices WHICH I OWN, without breaking any laws, THAT is the avenue I'd prefer to take.

    That option isn't available to me.

    That said, I don't own any of the following: Blu-ray player, portable DVD player, SUV, iAnything.

  • fix this stuff (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sixsixtysix ( 1110135 ) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @06:57PM (#32659562)
    want to fight the pirates? fix it like this:
    1. no artificial scarcity. if you want to pervert the system and place physical roles on intangible goods (unauthorized copying is theft), then price your wares to your nearly unlimited supply, which, unfortunately is nowhere near as much as you think it is.
    2. relating to #1. nothing goes out of print...ever. sell me the fucking .iso or i will get it elsewhere. and none of this, back in the vault, lucas-disney lameness. and speaking of lucas, for someone who is all about the hi-tech movie magic, why is star wars always the last shit to come out on new formats?
    3. if you want to play in the global, digital world, everything should be licensed globally. no more bullshit, regional markets. stop the arbitrary bullshit. internet == one big market. that would truly level the playing field.
    4. revert back to the original 14+14 copyrights. or hell, because this IS a global thing, make a global copyright. so we don't have dumb shit, like Popeye becoming public domain nearly everywhere except a few places.
    probably more, but this is a good start.
  • by ekhben ( 628371 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @01:18AM (#32661794)

    They need to stop selling a product and start selling a service.

    The product, a digital file, has no value. It costs nothing to make. Therefore, if you attempt to compete by selling your zero-cost item for less money than the other guy, you're in a race towards free. If the other guy has no production costs of offset, you lose. And there's no extra value you can add to a digital file that can't also be copied for nothing.

    The service, distributing digital files, has value. The act of aggregating, recommending, categorising, and indexing digital files offers a convenience. You can charge for that service. iTunes charges per track. Some of these shadier places charge per month. Either way, the charge is really for the service, not the product.

    The service itself can now compete based on its technical merits (imagine an iTunes store that wasn't locked to a tab-less embedded browser!) or on its content. Production costs are now an investment in providing the service with exclusive content. Costs sunk currently on buying chart positions become a marketing cost for the service, instead of the content.

    The best thing about this is that iTunes has already proven that this service model works. It's been over two years since the iTunes music store passed Walmart to become the #1 retailer in the US. It's been over two years and the music distribution industry hasn't had the lightbulb turn on over their heads yet.

    You can self-publish books to the iBookstore. When you can self-publish music to the iTunes store, the RIAA will die.

  • by imakemusic ( 1164993 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @07:13AM (#32663274)

    Why is there always some shill who has to "correct" the record, as if it matters?

    Because it is an important distinction.

    Is copyright infringement somehow not as bad as theft?

    Yep. If you steal something you deprive the owner of the original. With copyright infringement the owner loses nothing. You wouldn't steal a car (I assume) but if you could make an exact duplicate for next to nothing and the owner gets to keep their car then most people would agree it's not as bad.

    Is it because theft is something that those gang-bangers do in the bad part of town (therefore "I'm not a thief like them") and copyright infringement an acceptable highbrow, victimless, "non-crime" ("I may have downloaded the .mp3, but the content creator still has the .mp3, so I didn't steal anything.")?

    Kind of. Not that people don't want to be associated with gang-bangers but that it IS less of a crime. If someone broke into your house and stole your TV you'd be pretty pissed off. If someone broke into your house and made an exact replica of your TV (a TV that they wouldn't have otherwise bought) and then left you'd probably just be wondering where the footprints on your carpet came from.

    Piracy is also made to look much worse by the figures. There are people who "pirate" content they legitimately own. Some people buy a DVD and pirate a copy as well so that they can watch it, for example, on a Linux machine that they can't get DVDs to play on. Some people buy a computer game which won't run and have to pirate it to make it work. Also some people will pirate a movie that they wouldn't have otherwise watched (in which case the content provider didn't lose anything but did have one extra person watch their movie - a person who might tell their friends that it was good or might even go out and buy it). These numbers all get lumped together with the numbers of people that actually "steal" it.

    What's with the whole nonsensical hair splitting about theft or infringement?

    As I said above, it's an important distinction.

    Regardless how you try to rationalize it away, you have illegally appropriated content to which you are not entitled, and have deprived the creator of payment and/or proper recognition, and you are a rat. Apparently folks here are OK being an infringing rat but get pretty defensive when they are called out as a thieving rat.

    That's because they haven't stolen anything. Again, it's a subtle but important distinction. They may well have broken the law and they may be morally deficient but they haven't stolen anything. Also, true, it is against the law. What much of this discussion is about is not whether someone has broken the law but whether the law itself should be changed.

    I have been here long enough to know about the Slashdot hive mind and the cognitive dissonance around this discussion. Lots of folks chanting freedom-this and fair-use-that, but they really just want their music, movies, and digital content free (as in beer).

    Should just be a few minutes before this modded down to hell...

    Yeah, free movies and music would be great but if it was all free no-one would get paid and eventually no-one would be able to afford to make new content (on a large scale, at least). What would be nice is if the big content providers used this technology rather than worked against it. They seem to think that because digital content can be copied easily, they shouldn't make it easy to get - they should lock it up in DRM instead. If they sold DRM-free .avi files it would obviously take the pirates no effort at all to post the video online. They (the providers) seem to think that the way around this is to lock the content down - they seem to think this will stop the pirates getting to it and sharing it. It doesn't. The DRM WILL be cracked. It WILL be

  • Re:Crime Pays (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @08:25AM (#32663582)

    You overestimate what health care does. Alcohol and smoking aren't banned in any EU country, in fact alcohol is often less restricted than in the US (legal drinking age of 21?). If health care turns your govt into a fascist regime the problem is your govt, not health care.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday June 23, 2010 @11:21AM (#32665434)

    Interesting story, and I do have to support your uncle in it.

    We know better - we know the RIAA and MPAA and their peers do not offer download services. And thus that any download services must be illegal. But only for that roundabout reason we know that.

    When you walk down to the video store in your local mall, and you buy a DVD there. What do you expect, legal or not? I would expect it's a legal copy, the real thing. Will you ever question it? I don't think so. The same for buying food stuffs: you buy luncheon meat, see the words SPAM on it, and assume you're buying the real thing. You don't question the legality.

    Same for music downloads. Nowadays you may buy DRM free MP3 from numerous sites, not just iTunes any more. Do you ever question whether they are legal? I doubt it. Big names like Amazon are likely legal and paying their copyright dues - but there are many more sites offering music for download I'm sure. As just a consumer I am not in the position to judge whether they are legal or not - I just assume they are. If the price is reasonable (i.e. not ridiculously cheap), then I assume it's the real deal.

    Software is also sold over the Internet nowadays. I don't know whether you can buy Windows on-line and then download it (for some reason I think you can only use the 'net to mail-order that kind of overpriced proprietary software, quite silly when you come to think of it), but when I run into a site that purports to sell software at reasonable prices then I will assume it's legit.

    It is not a stretch for your average non-geeky non-copyright-interested casual movie watcher like your uncle to know a lot about the Internet, see how many services are sold that way, be familiar with the concept of downloading movies and playing them that way, to have no second thoughts about sites offering said movies at a low price. He knows there is no distribution, no brick and mortar store, no mailing charges - just a digital copy to be downloaded at very little overhead, like his friends do with their music collections as well. So why not movies, it only makes sense. Also him not questioning whether the site is legit is imho totally sensible. The site looks professional, has good download speeds, charges sensible fees, is not overcharging his credit card but providing the services for months on end without serious outages or other problems. Your uncle logically assumes that this site is legit.

    If said site is not legit, then it is the task of the MAFIAA to take it down, plain and simple.

    And for the legal status of your uncle? I don't know really. Ianal. If you go to the local DVD store, buy a DVD at normal price, and it's an illegal copy: are you copyright infringer? Technically yes but you will have a very strong defense of ignorance of that offense, and of acting in good faith. Your uncle may well be able to get away with such a defense - at least he went out of his way to not download movies for free (which he knows is illegal) but instead to seek out a legit company (which he has good reason to believe is legit) to properly pay for his movies instead.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay