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Pounding on Private Piracy

Pounding on Private Piracy

Pounding on private piracy 2016 tech images

With torrent sites going down left and right, as was the case with KickAss Torrents and Torrentz.eu, digital pirates have another (but riskier) venue to turn to which is cloud storage, specifically services like OneDrive, Box and Dropbox. But online cloud storage isn’t exclusive to these three. There’s Mediafire, Uploadfiles and the defunct MegaUpload. The aforementioned are allegedly involved in online file sharing of illegal content, and once the government is through with P2P sites, the government could come knocking on their doors soon, if it hasn’t already. Can the government actually put a cloud storage service such as Microsoft’s OneDrive out of business if in some way it finds a copy of Batman V Superman or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child?

Piracy can be two things. Public or impersonal like what is done through P2P sites like The PirateBay or KickAss Torrents; and private like two college buddies or siblings sharing a copy of Suicide Squad downloaded through iTunes through a Dropbox account. Both are illegal. So the government can basically prosecute individuals found guilty of doing so but can they put down an entire cloud storage service? Theoretically, they can if there’s enough proof that the service is widely used for digital piracy. Unlike The Pirate Bay which as the name suggests doesn’t sugarcoat its intentions, other torrent sites and file sharing services suggest that their business models are entirely valid and that they have their respective Terms of Use policies that warn users against improperly using their service which include sharing copyrighted content. These services can either delete illegal content (like YouTube often does) and/or suspend violators. In many cases however, these terms of use are not upheld allowing for the proliferation and saturation of illegal content in these sites. Failure to enforce their Terms of Use policies gives government probable cause to accuse these sites of promoting piracy.

P2P or BitTorrent itself is a valid medium for efficiently sharing or distributing large files over low bandwidths. Unfortunately, the medium has been abused over the years and has become subject to blocking by all but the companies that use them. As bandwidths grow in their respective regions, the popularity of services like DropBox and OneDrive continue to grow since large files can easily be distributed among individuals in high-bandwidth areas. For example, universities and companies may block the use of P2P, but they don’t block the use of cloud storage. Family, friends and co-workers can easily share the latest Arianna Grande album or the latest Marvel Studios movie easily through cloud storage. Should DropBox or Microsoft fail to monitor such activities, and if somehow government gets the right to monitor private content, these companies could face prosecution. While it’s illegal to externally monitor individuals’ cloud storage accounts, these accounts can be linked from information that can be gathered on the web such as emails and forum entries that link to these accounts. Private shares are more difficult to police and monitor, but there are sometimes dead giveaways like shared folders titled ‘Movies’ and ‘Music’ or links which include the title of a movie or a music file.

In Europe, they’re actually discouraging private piracy by threatening individual users through their DropBox email. A Dutch company called BREIN target suspected pirates using BitTorrent or DropBox and send them emails warning them to cease and desist their illegal activity. While they can’t be directly prosecuted, BREIN thinks would-be-pirates who don’t know any better would be easily deterred or discouraged. Anyone probably would if they receive this message:

“BREIN has recently found that you are a user (or: Member) of the Dropbox account called ‘—‘, offered by ‘—‘. Your email address is visible to third parties and by BREIN for the purpose of sending you this email,” the email to the assumed pirates begins.

“Without permission of the copyright holders this account was used for sharing copies of eBooks, which is not lawful. The administrator was (as the owner and administrator) responsible for this, and the judge has ruled that this person has infringed on the rights of the copyright holders BREIN represents.”

BREIN is an anti-piracy outfit which monitors individuals suspected of engaging in online piracy. The aforementioned method was successful in the case of a man found to have been distributing copyrighted eBooks through his Dropbox account. They currently engage in private settlement deals with individuals guilty of illegal distributions. They also encourage the folks they threaten to find more legal means in downloading and sharing digital media.

“…BREIN received several positive responses to [these emails], and it also seems that the exchange of ebooks via the forums that BREIN found in its research has almost completely ceased,”

— BREIN

Many people including cloud storage providers might cry foul over this practice, but the government could find a way to enforce copyright laws with enough prodding from media companies. To would-be pirates or consumers, it would be best to get with the program and not wait for the government to go gestapo.

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