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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 25:19
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 99 MB
  • Posted: 01/04/2011

Pam Allison discusses how thieves acquire content and draws the distinction between the consumers of pirated goods and the pirates themselves.

Where do content thieves operate and how do they use the Internet and advanced technologies to steal and distribute Hollywood's content? Ms. Allison reveals the evolution of the content in terms of versions and quality, and the regional and genre trends of stolen product consumption.

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About this Author

The Business of Entertainment LLC
The Business of Entertainment LLC
34 lessons

The Business of Entertainment LLC (BOE) is an educational courseware production company focused on the media and entertainment industry. With headquarters near Hollywood in Burbank, California, BOE produces lecture and networking events where media students and independent producers interact with studio executives, post production and production practitioners who conduct the business of show business.

The business of show business is learned on the job because there's no easy access to the execs who run the industry. We believe your career begins NOW, not 10 years from now, so we've designed our courseware to you insights from industry insiders TODAY and ON-DEMAND.

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I’m Pam Allison. Just to give you kind of a little bit about me. I used to work for an anti-piracy company doing business intelligence. So, that was looking at how companies can actually do things differently in order to combat piracy, not just some of the anti-piracy things that we’ll talk about today.

So, how many of you have pirated content? Oh, I don’t believe that. You’re not on camera. It’s okay. All right… well… [audience cross talk] I don’t believe it. I was telling Von a little bit ago that I actually fear that my grandmother is pirating, but not on purpose, of course, we hope.

So, we’re going to talk a little bit today, just about piracy, what the types of piracy are, where the content comes from and kind of some general trends.

So, first. So, what is piracy? So, obviously it’s the illegal distribution of content through either the internet or through hard goods and DVDs. So, this could be anything. It’s really anything that can be done digitally. So, movies, TV shows, music, games, electronic [inaudible 1:25]. Today we’re going to really concentrate on internet piracy of American produced content, in particular television and movies.

So, why do people pirate? I know none of you pirate, so you don’t even know. But, you know, the biggest reason is probably because the content isn’t available in their market. So, it could just be television shows that aren’t on the air yet. It could be movies that aren’t yet in the market where they are. In the country where they’re living. Maybe they just don’t want to wait for the content to be in the window where they can afford it. So, they can afford, for example, to go to the movies, or don’t have the time, so instead they go online and pirate it. Some just don’t believe in paying for content. Obviously those are the more sinister ones.

There are people, and you know, this is where we hope that they are good hearted, is that they are looking for legal content, but they just happened upon illegal content. Now, we hope of course that they know it’s illegal, but there are instances that it’s not. A friend of mine told me about his son who actually went online and found some content and of course, he felt terrible telling his 10 year old son that it was illegal. So, it does happen. We’ll hope that people are actually good.

So, who are the consumers of pirated content? Well, it really could be anyone. But, we do know that it skews male, and young. So, just kind of the general thing. I know that’s not a shocker, but something I thought I would point out.

There are two main methods on the internet where people, how people pirate content. So, the first is peer to peer. The second is through websites. Where they use cyber lockers and streaming sites. I’ll go into detail on those.

So, peer to peer piracy is, you know, have you all heard of bit torrent? So, bit torrent is the biggest protocol known for peer to peer. And, it’s a very efficient method to distribute large files. Especially if you have a slow internet connection. I’ll explain how bit torrent works in a moment. So, as I said, bit torrent is the most popular protocol. But, there’s others as well. eDonkey, Aries, Intella. Some of those are just more popular in other countries. For example, eDonkey, for some reason is more popular in Latin American countries.

The down side of peer to peer, because there should be some is that companies can track you. So, if you download content using peer to peer, companies like the one I used to work for can connect to you and they know who you are. They know your IP Address and they can go to your ISP and they can actually find out who you are and take methods to stop you.

There are ways around it. Not that this is a how-to guide by the way. Consumers can use what’s called an Internet Anonymizer service that kind of masks their IP address to prevent that. So, there are ways. I’m not saying to go do those.

So, how bit torrent works. Just kind of in general. What you do is you go out there and you get what’s called a bit torrent client which is just a piece of software. Kind of well known ones include U-Torrent, and you just download it to your computer, PC Mac, it doesn’t really matter. Then, you go and you download what’s called a torrent file. This is a really small file that just has some information in it. It doesn’t have the actual movie or TV show or piece of content, it’s just a pointer. What that file does is it points to trackers or servers. On those servers it tells you who has pieces of the content that you want. So, each of these peers may not have the entire file that you want, but it has pieces of it so you connect to them.

What’s really powerful about this technology is that if one of the peers goes away, you can still download that file because you’re connected to other peers. The more peers that exist, the faster you can download. You start connecting to them, and as you start downloading, people start connecting to you. So, typically what happens is – for very popular pieces of content, it’s actually much faster to download using bit torrent. So, it’s very efficient.

Now, we’re talking about it in an illegal sense, but it can also be used for legal means. So, you know, many of these technologies, obviously are used for good. But, they are also used for, you know, illegal goods as well.

So, the second type of methods that people use are called website piracy. There’s two parts to this. So, the first is how they find content and then the second is actually getting the content. So, first consumers can go to something called a linking site. This is typically a site that links to the content or the host site. So, this could be a website, and I’ve just kind of shown a couple here. For example, Side Wheel… if you went to Side Wheel, which I’m sure you would never do, you could search for a piece of content and it will tell you where you can go get it. And, that would either be a direct download, or it could be a stream, like a television show or a movie. There’s also very popular blogs or forums that also just list this content. Again, they’re not hosting the content, they’re just telling you where you can go get it.

The second piece is search engines. So, you can go to Google and you can search for content. I won’t give you the keywords, but it’s not hard. But, you can, you know, search for a piece of content and more than likely, it will easily come up with Google and Yahoo being with illegal content. And, this is why I was saying, you know, sometimes people search for content and find it illegally instead of legally. Maybe they were really looking for legal content. So, once again, we hope people are good.

So, hosting sites. So, these are sites where the link sites link to, or point to. There’s two points to it. So, one is a cyber locker, which allows the direct download of content. So, this is something like Rapid Share. How many of you have heard of Rapid Share? So, a handful of you. I believe it’s the #4 or #5 most visited site in the world. It’s kind of amazing that many people actually haven’t heard of it given that. But, it is used both for illegal content and legal content as well. So, content companies would have a hard time taking that site down because it is used for people like us. If we wanted to share, for example, this presentation, we could upload it to Rapid Share, send you the link and then you can download it. It would be secure. And, only you and I would know what that content is. Which is in part why it can be used so well for pirated content because Rapid Share doesn’t know what the content is; all they know is that a piece of content was uploaded.

The second is streaming sites. These are sites where the content is hosted on there and you can just play it on that site.

Consumers are starting to migrate from peer to peer to website piracy. In the past, and still peer to peer is very large so I don’t mean to say that peer to peer isn’t as important. But, consumers are starting to migrate to what I’m calling website piracy. The reasons are faster broadband speeds. As I said, peer to peer is a very efficient method for distributing content. But, it really is important when you don’t have a fast broadband connection. But, when you do you can just now download the content very quickly and you don’t have to worry about the efficiency.

Additionally, website piracy is much more private. As I said, with peer to peer, a company like the one I used to work for can connect to you and know your IP address, but with a website piracy, the only company that knows who you are is the company where you’re accessing that content, and more than likely, they won’t give that up. So, you know, if you are concerned about evading anti piracy companies, website piracy might be the way to go.

Where does the content come from? It can come from a variety of sources. So, you know, probably the most well known kind of piracy that you know about is a camcorder in a theater. Where somebody takes a camcorder in the theater. They typically maybe hide it in the arm of the seat. The connect to the audio, maybe in the handicap seat which is often where there’s better audio and they just record it. Of course the disadvantage of this is you have somebody getting up in front of you and going to the bathroom, might be shaky. So, they’re not typically really great copies, but it is a big source of piracy especially for a theatrical film, films that are still in the theaters.

Higher quality content comes from DVDs. So, this is, you know, directly ripped, and this is typically done when it’s in the home video window. Television, a lot of content is recorded directly off of television. Its usually recorded in high definition, so it’s good quality.

A kind of lesser known piracy or a less common piracy is the theatrical print. You know, the most well known piece of content that was ripped from a theatrical print was Wolverine; which was actually a pre-release copy which means it wasn’t even finished. But, it was still widely pirated.

And, the content comes from around the world. It’s not… you know, typically the television content does originate in the United States. But, typically the camcordered versions are… you know, in eastern Europe, in China just to give a generalization; but it really can vary based on the content.

Pirates are actually kind of nice. I know that sounds kind of odd, but they subtitle the movies in a variety of languages very quickly. So, you know, they’re quite kind. There’s a correlation which I’ll show you in a little bit that as a certain language is subtitled on to that movie, that’s when that country has an increase in piracy. So, Spanish and Italian versions are very, very popular. So, with American content… and, I’ll talk about that also in a couple of minutes.

Then, television content, like I said before, they record it in high definition which is really nice, and they take the commercials out. That’s better than you DVR, that’s better then if you went to Hulu. They’re nice people, with a lot of time on their hands.

So, what are people pirating? I know this isn’t a shocker, it’s action, it’s science fiction, it’s adventure and it’s some comedy. You know, the pirates, just like our studio executives know whose watching the content, they know whose pirating the content. It’s [inaudible 13:52]. So, if they’re consuming the pirated content, the pirates are going to focus on their demographic.

Comedy, I’ll just talk about briefly for a second. Comedy is interesting because the comedy tends to be very American. So, it’s usually less popular online but there are certain instances where comedy is big because we do know, especially in the US, comedy often focuses on, you know, 18-35 year old males, so it can be very popular in the US but when you start changing the language, it may not be so funny in another language.

So, you know, what are the top pirated movies in 2009? So, I can’t tell you the top movies based on the company that I used to work for but I can tell you what Torrent Freak says. Torrent Freak is a blog about piracy and they released this list last year. I will tell you they use a different methodology then many anti piracy companies. But, I would say that they’re fairly close though we have some differences. One thing this does tell you is that typically, the top pirated movies are also the top grossing movies. There is a fairly direct correlation.

Part of that is simply marketing dollars. Just like marketing dollars drives theatrical release, it’s also going to drive pirated copies. Because that’s what people know about. So, Star Trek being the top downloaded movie, and also one of the top grossing movies of last year, really not surprising. Rock N Rolla, you know, I was actually surprised to see this so high on their list. But, you know, relatively it did okay at the box office. But again, you can see just looking at this list, it is typically science fiction and some action movies which really goes with our, you know, young male demographic.

Television shows is a little different. Again, it’s still science fiction type content. So, Heroes, which is popular in the US but certainly not the most popular television show is quite popular online. And, it has been for a couple of years. Lost, Prison Break, all of these have been very popular in terms of pirated content. What’s interesting here is you start to see a show like Dexter which is only on Showtime. So, you know, for companies like, for shows like Dexter, which are only on a premium channel, they might look at this and see opportunity for other places in the world. But, again, there isn’t a correlation here between Nielson ratings and pirated content. Television is much more about the genre.

So, where are people consuming the pirated content? Well, they’re everywhere. They are all over the world. They’re not really focused on any one country, or any you know, any particular part of the world, to some extent, its everywhere but there is most popular places, or places that consume the most.

So, for movies, and it is different for movies then it is television. So, for movies, it’s Italy. And, you might ask yourself – why Italy? That seems very odd. They’re a small country. A couple reasons. So, one is laws around piracy and how much they’re enforced in terms of piracy. The second is just culture. You know, whether it’s okay or not okay to pirate in that culture. And, the third is pirated content is often subtitled in Italian very quickly, so that really drives the piracy there and you can see the direct correlation. The US obviously, or maybe not obviously… since we’re talking about American produced content, the US typically will pirate a lot and the Spain, France and the UK. So, it’s really European based and in English.

For television it’s a bit different because pirates aren’t typically subtitling television because it’s episodic and frankly its too much work. They’re nice but they’re not that nice. So, it’s the US, it’s the UK, its Canada. So, not surprising those are the ones most interested in American content, so those are the ones who are consuming it.

Evolution. So, when a piece of pirated content is put out there, typically there are multiple versions put out there and it evolves over time. So, first a really bad quality version might be put up and then a higher quality version will be posted. You’ll see that evolution, that people will start pirating the second, third, fourth, fifth versions of the content as it improves.

Also, as I spoke about before, subtitled content. If a piece of content is subtitled with a language in a particular country, you’ll see piracy start to increase. Better audio, so that makes a difference. The one thing you might ask is – how do people know? Well, people will post contents around each of the content and say – this one has better audio and you’ll start to see people migrate toward that version.

Each version of this content is called a hash. I wanted to make a definition of what a hash is. A hash is uniquely identified by what’s called a binary code which is this really long kind of… it’s kind of like DNA. You know, it’s like an address. Every version, whether it’s a higher quality, whether it’s subtitled, whether it’s different audio, all has a uniquely identified hash. So, anti piracy companies can actually go and tell you the difference and tell you which version of a particular movie is being pirated.

Though… I wanted to show you a couple… or a piece of content and how the hash is involved. So, this is a piece of content, it’s a movie where you can see, these are various kinds of hashes that were put out there. So, on day one, there was a piece of content out there, but it wasn’t that popular. Then, around day 10 or so, or maybe day 8, a new version was put out and it was probably higher quality version so people started to download it. Then, a few other versions came out there and those were either just higher quality or maybe a subtitled version.
But then, you can see on around day 37 or so, there was a huge spike. There was something very particular about that hash which is why that was so popular. You might be able to tell from here which is… you can see on the later part of this chart, the white one is China. So, you can see by looking at the prior chart that it was probably a Chinese version of the movie. So, that had a direct impact on how popular this piece of content is in China. There’s a fairly direct correlation between the subtitled versions and the versions that are… and how popular they are in certain countries.

Ultimately, what can we do about piracy? Well, there’s some things you can do. The first is you can monitor it. So, as I said with peer to peer, an anti piracy company can connect to you and actually tell you, tell what your IP address is. Well, obviously, if they know your IP Address, they know where you live, and they can actually get down to the city. So, they can tell you that X thousands of people downloaded a piece of content in Rome. Or, in Los Angeles. Or, wherever.

So, you can learn a lot about a piece of content and how popular it is. And, content companies might use that information to change their business models, change their distribution models because they know a certain type of content is really popular in a certain part of the world. So, it can be used to do a lot of good things and change business strategies and change business models. It might be offering something in an earlier window. Maybe it’s pushing something out on DVD much sooner then they though they were going to.

The second thing that they, that companies do today is send take down notices which are just kind of blatant, you have to take the notice down. There’s something called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which I’m sure many of you have heard of, which forces companies to take down the content within a certain period of time. Most of the companies that I talked about today, Rapid Share, etc, actually do it very quickly. So, that can be effective. But, it’s also like Whack A Mole, you know that game at the carnival. ‘Cause you take one down, some new content is going to pop up somewhere else. But, you still have to do it, right? Like, you can’t not do it.

The third thing is to work with ISP to shut down the pirates. That’s what you’ve seen with the Pirate Bay, which is the most well known pirated website. The ISPs can be helpful, but it’s really hard for the ISPs because at the end of the day, those are their customers, you know, those are the people paying their bills. So, it’s a struggle for them, but it’s something that many of the content companies are working on.

Then, it’s also, kind of on a larger level, working with governments in order to shut down illegal websites. So, again, that’s something like the Pirate Bay, or even smaller sites that you may not have heard of.

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