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.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:
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 was commissioned by the Industry Trust for Intellectual Property Awareness, whose members include Amazon, BBC Worldwide, HMV, BSkyB, Sony and Walt Disney.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.)
It declined to name the sites involved.
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.