Copyright Industry Publishes Data-Free Report Claiming Pirate Sites Will Damage Computers

from the and-its-'fix'-only-makes-things-worse dept

When incumbents whose legislative future depends on the portrayal of piracy as the destroyer of worlds commission a report on infringement, you can be sure it will be light on info and heavy on implication. Cold, hard facts generally aren’t as conducive to swaying political opinion as scare tactics are. So, instead of verifiable data, the public receives this sort of thing instead.

Nearly all the UK’s favourite movie and TV piracy sites “contain malware or credit card scams”, according to a study published by the media industry.

It analysed 30 of the most visited sites offering access to copyright infringing material, and indicated only one was free of such threats.

The report (a summary of which is embedded below) makes a lot of claims, none of them verifiable. Why? Because the irrational fear of piracy led to this stupid decision:

The report was commissioned by the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness, whose members include Amazon, BBC Worldwide, HMV, BSkyB, Sony and Walt Disney.

It declined to name the sites involved.

So, the Industry Trust expects everyone to just believe that the 30 “most visited” sites will hit users with anything from “download managers” to ransomware. But the industry’s fear of piracy is so great that it refused to name the sites, presumably to keep more people from heading to them. This makes the information presented highly questionable. There’s no way to verify whether these sites perform in this manner or if, indeed, they are the “30 most visited.” (The dearth of information included indicates Alexa was used to make this determination — an entity whose site-ranking methodology has been depicted as “questionable,” at best.)

The report fails to acknowledge that many legitimate sites and services do the same thing. Sure, they may not drop ransomware and malware on your computer, but they’ll serve up unwanted toolbars and other spyware in exchange for a download. Take Java, for example. The always-in-need-of-an-update software bundles an Ask.com toolbar with the download, pre-clicked for “convenience.” Free flash game sites throw popups all over the place, some of them designed to look like system dialog boxes. For quite some time, CNET’s shareware/freeware site has attempted to push spyware and other assorted crapware/malware on users who clicked the “wrong” download button. So, this behavior is by no means limited to “illegitimate” sites.

The industry also fails to recognize that naming the sites could have a detrimental effect on their traffic, especially those deploying malware, rootkits and ransomware. Instead, the industry believes that any publicity is good publicity for “piracy sites.” The report’s sole reason for existence appears to be to serve as an advertisement for the industry’s FindAnyFilm website, which guides visitors to legitimate sites to purchase/stream/etc. the content they’re seeking.

FindAnyFilm.com may not load you up with spyware, but it’s not much of a solution either. New movie releases seem to be handled competently, but anything out of that range results in a lot of dead ends. BBC political satire “The Thick of It” is nowhere to be found. A quick Google search will find you plenty of legitimate sources, however, including both digital and physical releases listed at Amazon.co.uk.

How about Game of Thrones, the most-pirated content in the history of content piracy? Nothing. FindAnyFilm claims there are no sources, not even a thumbnail.


But a quick search elsewhere shows that it’s available from Amazon (UK) on a per episode basis, via DVD and can be rented from LoveFilm.


If anything, FindAnyFilm seems to be worse at delivering legitimate options than that supposed “pirate’s best friend,” Google’s search engine.

FindAnyFilm’s browse function itself is mostly broken as well. Trying to bypass the somewhat useless search engine and browse my way to The Thick of It, I discovered that the site files every offering starting with the word “the” under T. Every letter gives you the option to see the Top 50 or All, but “All” is completely misnamed. The “All” option lists the first 50 titles alphabetically but gives you no way to navigate to the next page of listings.

This solution is no solution. It may send a few infringers toward legitimate sources, but it needs to be significantly better if it’s ever going to displace other search methods. Dumping a super-scary report into people’s laps without providing either a.) verifiable information or b.) a better option than the half-assed FindAnyFilm site isn’t going to stem the bleeding. FindAnyFilm actually contributes to the problem with its own ineptness, presenting movies and TV shows with legitimate sources as being completely unavailable.

You can’t scare people straight by presenting a one-sided report with no data to back up the claims. People surfing with ad blockers and not suckered by bordering ads, fake dialog boxes, etc. will continue to download infringing material without negatively affecting their computers. As the report itself points out, no site delivers anything bad without someone clicking something. The sites aren’t infected, even if the ads and bright, shiny, fake download buttons are.

That it uses this report to push its “solution” is even worse. It just makes the industry look immoral, like car dealers commissioning a study on the “deceptive sales practices” of Tesla in an attempt to portray the upstart as somehow worse than an industry with a long history of deceptive practices. No one believes the results and quite possibly will take their business elsewhere simply because they don’t like being treated like idiots by liars.

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Companies: industry trust, industry trust for intellectual property awareness

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Comments on “Copyright Industry Publishes Data-Free Report Claiming Pirate Sites Will Damage Computers”

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50 Comments
Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

I understand, it's much clearer now.

“The report was commissioned by the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness, whose members include Amazon, BBC Worldwide, HMV, BSkyB, Sony and Walt Disney.”

So…if I only go to sites operated/owned by those companies, then I won’t have to deal with malware, spyware, toolbars, data breaches, or anything else unpleasant? Fabulous. Sign me right up for that.

Except, ummm:

http://www.techspot.com/news/47060-amazon-owned-zappos-hacked-24-million-accounts-compromised.html
and
http://www.her.ie/entertainment/hmv-twitter-account-is-hacked-by-employees/
and
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/google-play-store-bskyb-apps-hacked-syrian-471601
and
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/29/bbc-server-hacked-at-christmas
and
http://www.bit-tech.net/news/2008/07/03/sony-site-offers-up-malware/1
and
http://voices.yahoo.com/disney-email-database-hacked-guest-information-compromised-8213409.html

I’m sure those were all completely isolated incidents, though, and there is no possibility whatsoever that they’ll be repeated in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Exhibit C: Starforce, that dreadful DRM that replaced the device driver for CD/DVD with its own.

Exhibit D: tages, that DRM scheme that used undocumented system functions and vulnerabilities, leading to incompatibilities up to preventing booting all together.

Exhibit E: obscure self made DRM that is so broken, that you NEED to crack them so that it works at all.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

You tend to find what you put there.

I don’t doubt that lots of pirate sites have viruses on them. I’d also lay odds that any viruses found on the sites are ether related to third party ads (completely unrelated to the site) or put there as a honeypot by the same people who commissioned this study.

I’ve seen it a few times on The Pirate Bay where a virus laden torrent has been tracked back to the producers. Granted, that’s not evidence, but I wouldn’t put it past these people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You tend to find what you put there.

And the only people who fall prey to those on TPB are the ones who don’t know to look for the skulls – or who don’t know to look at an uploaders history and apply some critical thinking skills. If someone is seeding multiple movies that haven’t even been released in the theater yet, there’s a good chance they’re not releasing real content.

DaveK says:

It's bloody iLivid, isn't it?

Pretty much everywhere that Primewire sends me has these big dumb banner ads with fake ‘Play’ and ‘Download’ buttons to try and trick you into installing iLivid. So that 90% figure could even be true, although it’s basically one particular PUP and maybe actual malware one time in a thousand.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: It's bloody iLivid, isn't it?

The problem with claims of this kind is that these same issues exist for perfectly legitimate downloads. Anymore, shareware type download sites are a rats nest of spamware links or the downloads themselves have extra ‘goodies’ added. You really have to be careful if you’re not getting your stuff from some sort of package manager.

If you are a n00b, you won’t likely realize that the top search results are pad advertisements for spamware pushers.

The whole web has become infested with this crap. It’s not just the “bad guys” you have to watch out for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hypocrisy

CNET is owned and operated by CBS which is part of the content industry and one of the biggest complainers on the planet about piracy and copyright infringement sites. So they are really trying to use scare tactics about malware to criticize “pirate sites” when one of their own is one of the biggest distributors of malware out there via the very same techniques? Uh…can you say, “pot, meet kettle”?

Anonymous Coward says:

Certainly the copyright industries have no room to brag about malware being gotten somewhere else. Back in the day, the RIAA hired a 3rd party named Loudeye to seed wma files without licenses to file sharing sites after Microsoft came out with the format. It was one of the first formats to support DRM.

Microsoft added another tab to the properties for the license. Only they didn’t add any security assuming that those who could access it were legitimate copyright holders. If the license wasn’t there, it would send you to the legitimate site to buy a license. Loudeye instead set up a fake site serving up trojans.

After almost no one would take a wma file, Microsoft finally got around to putting in security to end Loudeye’s practices.

Everyone knows of Sony and it’s rootkit problem.

Harder to prove but most likely very much the truth, is that most are protecting their income streams by putting out poisoned digital offering. Movies with bad codec, programs with malware, and other little dastardly deeds to try and get paid. There’s just too much of it, in too many ways, for it to be otherwise.

Then there is the recent City of London move to remove reputable advertisers from file sharing sites. So who is going to advertise in their place? Demonoid just shut down all their advertisement after Google claimed they were serving up malware through ads. You can point the finger right back at the copyright industry for that occurrence.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The site list

“But the industry’s fear of piracy is so great that it refused to name the sites, presumably to keep more people from heading to them.”

…or to keep people from realizing that the 30 sites they’ve fingered are not actually “pirate sites”. They have a really terrible track record at determining if a given site is a pirate site or not.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: The site list

What are you talking about, their methodology to determine whether or not a site is a ‘pirate’ site is extensive and thorough, and goes as follows:

1) Does the site make content available to visitors?

If ‘yes’, move on to 2.

2) Is site owned, operated or controlled by a major label and/or studio?

If ‘yes’, go to 3a. If ‘no’, go to 3b.

3a) Site is not a pirate site.
3b) Site is a pirate site.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

The Answer is obvious

The real answer to why they won’t release the names of the sites is because they want to avoid potential for lawsuits.
If I claim site X has malware or CC scams and said operator wanted to he could easily sue and claim defamation.
By not naming names the report doesn’t have any type of risk for scrutiny.

Not to mention if they named the one site that doesn’t have scams/malware you can bet people would flock to that site.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: The Answer is obvious

“Not to mention if they named the one site that doesn’t have scams/malware you can bet people would flock to that site.”

Yep. The real reason is that they’ve finally started to learn from at least one of their own mistakes. Every major lawsuit against a piracy site has led to a big increase in the people using that site. The legal action often works as free advertising.

They’re not scared of lawsuits, they just want to avoid giving free publicity to those 30 sites.

Anonymous Coward says:

every single section of the entertainments industry know full well that the worse sites are the ones that are supposed to be ‘legitimate’. the reason being, they want to get as much money as possible from people and are not satisfied with getting just sufficient to run the site. on top of that, they dont care what else they do to get money from people, including adding in the odd toolbar and pop ups you cant stop! yes, there are ads on most ‘piracy’ sites but no more than on every other site on the ‘net! and remember, those sites give customers what they want, unlike the ‘legitimate’ sites. the quality, speed of release, speed of download, no drm, and no ridiculous over the top fees! if the industries were genuinely interested in stopping ‘illegitimate’ sites, they need to compete against them and give at least as good as is available elsewhere. this continuous ploy of continuously complaining to politicians to do something, while they sit there, thumb up ass, brain out of gear, using the bait trick just to be able to sue people is what needs stopping! how can it be right that they can do nothing and be able to sue anyone? they dont do what customers want and complain because customers go and get what they want from elsewhere. if i were to leave my door unlocked and the house was burgled, and i told police when asked that i had left the door unlocked on purpose, just so as to get the police involved and looking for the thief, what would be said? the first time, i would be told i was stupid. the second time, i would be questioned harder than any thief, the third time i doubt if any police officer would do anything. that being the case, how come the industries can sit there doing nothing and get away with it? they need telling that if they dont do what customers want to expect their works to be copied. fulfill customers wants, no more problems

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Our tactics need some changing.

Since the copyright industries and their minions are completely of embarrassment, especially when making claims, a better options is to name and shame the newspaper, TV reports, etc, that repeat the baseless claims made by the copyright industry. Here’s a template you all could use:

“Dear editors,

Really, I don’t know why I still read newspapers. But I do (or used to). I’m beginning to feel as if I’m a modern-day Diogenes, in a Quixotic quest for some considered, cogent, and honest reporting.

But yesterday’s article about (fill in latest lies) was the last straw. Your reporter and editors feel that their jobs are to quote, verbatim, industry news releases. None of your fact-checkers verified, and no one provided any historical analysis of all the other times in the recent past that the (BCC, MPAA, RIAA, whichever) issued a fact-free ‘report’.

If your reporters and editors don’t think that it’s vitally important, in a modern, open, and vibrant democracy, that news organizations check their sources and check their information and report their findings, then I may as well just get my news for free from wild-eyed, paranoid bloggers living in their parents’ basement.

At least, in their case, I get what I pay for. In your case, I pay you and you spit in my face by repeating these copyright industry lies.

Sir, please cancel my subscription, forthwith.”

GEMont (profile) says:

Federally Poisoned Booze

This is simply an attempt to pre-cover-up the damage being planned by Anti-P2P program users, to insert bad code into the packets of material being downloaded from P2P sites. This process has been ongoing for years, and the success of their programs stealth has lead to escalation of the kinds of damage they intend to cause.

They dream of the day they can insert killer code that will cause your computer to malfunction, as punishment for your audacity to download from a P2P website.

These phony ‘P2P Downloads Cause Computer Damage‘ “news” stories are an attempt to make people think that the damage is coming from the P2P sites and shared wares, rather than coming from Anti-P2P code insertion.

This is exactly what the Fed did during Prohibition. They poisoned captured booze stocks with various toxins and then put the poisoned booze back on the market so the press could write stories about how bootleg booze caused blindness and death.

If you would like to see a massive example of this government approved criminal vigilante activity, simply install PeerBlock on your computer for a day, and then scan the PeerBlock logs.

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