Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Mega Conspiracy

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  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    This is what intrigues me. Does anyone really believe YouTube management has no idea it’s hosting potentially infringing content until explicitly advised by the owners?

    No more than I believe many corporations are unaware that they cheerfully (and profitably) facilitate with one hand what they condemn with the other. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11786 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nzlemming,

    They will know, statistically, that there is content on their system that is infringing. They’re not required by the DMCA to do anything about it until advised.

    I understand that. But I would submit that they have a more than merely statistical knowledge of the content they host. They know they have entire TV programs -- even series -- on their servers. They're proactive in that they operate systems that detect the content of owners who register with them, and offer the option of a takedown or claim-and-monetise.

    Remember "always blow on the pie"? Screentime, the owner of Police Ten 7, was notified just as the meme took off, and the employee responsible just hit the "takedown" button as a matter of course. I called them and they were scrambling to get the clip back up. They now have their own one up, and I would think they're making a little revenue from that -- and from the various other instances and derivative works based on the original.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18520 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    imagine the youtube video at http://bit.ly/aFg4gr is alleged to be infringing.
    someone complains to youtube, which makes it so that http://bit.ly/aFg4gr doesn’t work, but still does.

    But is that the case?

    As far as I can recall (I can't test it now obviously) MegaUpload links had a single publicly facing URL. The fact that the same content might be available through multiple links means that it was uploaded and shared multiple times.

    In your example above - you couldn't complain to YouTube about a bit.ly link, they don't control that. You could complain to bit.ly perhaps, and they would then disable it so that shortened link no longer redirected to the YouTube link.

    However if you complained to YouTube about their file they would disable it, and any links that redirected there (bit.ly etc) would similarly be disabled by virtue of the fact the main source link would be disabled.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    I am wary of making any comment around this situation as I just always seem piss people off....but here goes!

    One thing that no one seems to be mentioning is http://megavideo.com/ which was basically the streaming/youtube version of megaupload.

    Humans (like myself) tend to be a but hypocrital (or maybe just me) and you may find yourself watching TV shows unavailable in NZ on the internet (thank goodness for Soho channel!) like umm Gossip Girl via megavideo. The huge difference between megavideo and youtube, is that megavideo stops streaming and encourages the user to pay money to watch more of the video. Now why would anyone pay to watch copyright free material on the internet? The service surely only exists to encourage infringement and financially benefit from it.

    I use yousendit to send large audio files all the time, the idea that the service could be deemed illegal and my content frozen (even though I have paid for the service) is irritating of course. But yousendit doesn't seem that dodgy. It really sucks that legit megaupload users are losing out here, and it sucks that the big TV and film studios aren't offering really solid alternatives to illegal downloading (like a TV version of spotify? I guess in the US they have hulu)...

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 293 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    However if you complained to YouTube about their file they would disable it, and any links that redirected there (bit.ly etc) would similarly be disabled by virtue of the fact the main source link would be disabled.

    My bit.ly example was just that, an example that I could quickly conjure up where two URLs point to the same data. To comply with the takedown stuff in the DMCA you actually have to remove the data, not just the URL. Perhaps another example:

    imagine someone complained to Russell about publicaddress.net; he stops publicaddress.net from showing up, but we all know the ip address, so go there instead, which still works fine.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to nzlemming,

    Nope. The content is still there and it’s the content that infringes. The DMCA requires you to remove the infringing content, not just access to it. Potentially, you’d make it worse for yourself if you didn’t, as you would then be, as owner of the server, personally infringing the copyright of the content owner and thus personally liable.

    Removing public access to the content is effectively the same as removing it, and as far as I can determine meets the requirements of the DMCA, in exactly the same way that YouTube does.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    If one bit is different in a copy of a file, it will generate a different hash from the original. Would you then say "that's near enough, we'll dump the copy and link to the other one"? No, you wouldn't because it might be a completely different file which coincidentally contains a similar number of bits. Every CD/DVD/TV rip will be slightly different, as different people will be managing the process with different software, different systems, different codecs, etc.

    To differentiate between copies of the same show/film/software you would have to review every file individually, and compare it with all other files. And you would have to do this using humans, which would have huge cost implications and probably make the operation barely profitable. This is implicitly recognised in the DMCA, IMHO, by only requiring an operator to take action when notified. But it is specific in the action that must be taken - you must take the content down. It is alleged that MU did not do this but continued to make it available through other links.

    Your presumption that MU deduped is founded in the understanding that that is how you would do it, as it makes sense here in NZ where online storage costs a damn fortune. It's not the case in the US. Storage is extremely cheap there.

    You have no evidence that MU deduped and the allegations make no mention of it. I can quite easily see 53 copies of Game_of_thrones_S1_Ep1.mp4 being accommodated by MU (not an accusation, merely a hypothetical) rather than 53 links pointing to the same file. Given the volume of daily traffic, I can't see how it would be otherwise.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    I feel like I should hand in my geek-badge since I had never even heard of MegaUpload until last week.

    Since it's a bit difficult to test (ahem) the functionality now, was it possible to search for content if you didn't have the URL? Say I'd like to download the new Tintin-movie and I make the assumption that it exists on MegaUpload, could I search for it? Or would I need to ask someone in a forum for a link to it?

    Lower Grey Lynn • Since Jul 2009 • 789 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    My bit.ly example was just that, an example that I could quickly conjure up where two URLs point to the same data. To comply with the takedown stuff in the DMCA you actually have to remove the data, not just the URL. Perhaps another example:

    imagine someone complained to Russell about publicaddress.net; he stops publicaddress.net from showing up, but we all know the ip address, so go there instead, which still works fine.

    Right but what I'm saying is that each file on MegaUpload had (I believe) only one publicly facing URL with which it could be accessed, and was also about the only way a content owner would be able to uniquely identify it. Disabling access to that URL which I believe MegaUpload did is sufficient to count as removal. The uploader could still get it from their account, and the data still existed but that is allowable.

    It's exactly the same as YouTube - the video you linked has only one official URL, if YouTube disables access to it via that URL they have effectively removed it from the "public" internet.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Samuel Scott,

    One thing that no one seems to be mentioning is http://megavideo.com/ which was basically the streaming/youtube version of megaupload.

    Megavideo is mentioned in the indictment 79 times, often in relation to the "Mega" people pillaging YouTube to start the site off.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts,

    Is there anything to the Racketeering and Money Laundering charges other than openly carrying on an international business that you know is illegal? I expect those words to imply secrecy and deception, but only found money being openly moved across borders like any business might do these days.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Removing public access to the content is effectively the same as removing it

    Good thing you're not a lawyer, then ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to nzlemming,

    Your presumption that MU deduped is founded in the understanding that that is how you would do it, as it makes sense here in NZ where online storage costs a damn fortune. It’s not the case in the US. Storage is extremely cheap there.

    That was simply one situation in which I could imagine that removing a link to a file might be considered not to have removed all links to it or something,.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Since it’s a bit difficult to test (ahem) the functionality now, was it possible to search for content if you didn’t have the URL?

    No, they specifically did not provide a search tool on the site to protect themselves under the DMCA. The indictment states that they did have an internal search tool for staff use.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to nzlemming,

    Good thing you’re not a lawyer, then ;-)

    If I am wrong on that case then YouTube has NEVER complied properly with a DMCA takedown notice, and the ability to dispute them is completely pointless as the data ceases to exist before anything can be done about it.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Since it’s a bit difficult to test (ahem) the functionality now, was it possible to search for content if you didn’t have the URL? Say I’d like to download the new Tintin-movie and I make the assumption that it exists on MegaUpload, could I search for it? Or would I need to ask someone in a forum for a link to it?

    MegaUpload didn't have a search engine itself, but various content in it was indexed by external sites. Usually one might search for something on one of the big meta-indexing sites, which would then show a list of links to file locker sites with matching content, one (or more) of which would be a MegaUpload URL.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 799 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Since it’s a bit difficult to test (ahem) the functionality now, was it possible to search for content if you didn’t have the URL? Say I’d like to download the new Tintin-movie and I make the assumption that it exists on MegaUpload, could I search for it? Or would I need to ask someone in a forum for a link to it?

    I have it it right, no -- you couldn't search on Megaupload for the file you were after. You had to have the URL shared with you by an individual or by one of the third-party sites that index such shares. And you could Google those.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18520 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    The relevant wording in the DMCA is:

    upon notification of claimed infringement as described in paragraph (3), responds expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity.

    Disabling the public URL that provides access to a file certainly meets this test.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    Megavideo is mentioned in the indictment 79 times, often in relation to the “Mega” people pillaging YouTube to start the site off.

    ah ok, I haven't seen it in any news stuff. Seems weird, the whole coverage is about it as a dl storage thing but it was also this pay to view streaming service.

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 293 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    Disabling the public URL that provides access to a file certainly meets this test.

    Even if there are two URLs and you only disable one?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 2988 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Roberts, in reply to nzlemming,

    You have no evidence that MU deduped and the allegations make no mention of it.

    The indictment clearly claims (para 22) that MU did de-dupe (using MD5 hashes). It goes on to say that they demonstrated the ability to remove underlying content w.r.t. terrorist and child-porn material. Yet they never did this for DMCA complaints. It is also claimed that they misled copyright holders over this in "negotiations" over their 'Abuse Tool'.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Martin Roberts,

    Is there anything to the Racketeering and Money Laundering charges other than openly carrying on an international business that you know is illegal? I expect those words to imply secrecy and deception, but only found money being openly moved across borders like any business might do these days.

    I believe it's based on the allegation that the money was obtained through criminal copyright infringement and would therefore be proceeds of a criminal act. Any attempt to transfer that to another jurisdiction would be counted as money laundering, I think (Graeme may like to comment).

    As far as the racketeering, from the indictment:

    persons employed by and associated with the Enterprise, which Enterprise engaged in, and the activities of which affected interstate and foreign commerce, did knowingly, willfully, and intentionally combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other, and with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to violate 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) (hereinafter the “Racketeering Violation”), that is, to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of that Enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, as that term is defined in Title 18, United States Code, Section 1961(1) and (5), involving multiple acts indictable under:
    a. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2319(b)(1) & 2319(d)(2); 17 U.S.C. §§ 506(a)(1)(A) &
    506(a)(1)(C) (criminal copyright infringement);

    b. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), 1956(a)(2)(A), 1956(h), 1956(f), and 1957
    (money laundering).

    So it's about conspiring together to build an operation that makes money illegally, in my reading.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Even if there are two URLs and you only disable one?

    Which is precisely what the indictment says they did.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 1769 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    The best copyright protection money can buy...
    an interesting list of the US politicians who supported the SOPA bill, and how much they got in campaign donations from big media and other companies with a stake in its passing.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Even if there are two URLs and you only disable one?

    Well that's what's unclear... Did MU files have multiple access URLs? It wasn't my experience in the few files I'd put on the service in the past.

    Or did the multiple links referred to actually mean multiple copies of the same content uploaded by different users?

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 198 posts Report Reply

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