Iran Cracks Down On Movie Pirates In The Most Inception-Esque Manner Possible

from the pirate-vs.-pirate dept

For those of us that pay attention to copyright matters throughout the world, a story out of Iran has had us riding a strange sort of roller coaster. Late in September, the Iranian government arrested six people it says run the movie-streaming site TinyMoviez. That site is like many others on the web, focusing on the streaming of Hollywood movies in a manner that is pretty clear-cut piracy. Iran does have copyright laws on the books, which include punishments for "anyone who publishes, distributes or broadcasts another person's work without permission," ranging from imprisonment for a few months to three years for violating that law. There are, however, no agreements on copyright between American and Iran, for obvious reasons, so the application of Iranian copyright law tends to be focused on Iranian content. Many were left scratching their heads wondering why the arrest had been made.

Well, it turns out that the government carried this out at the request of several other websites dedicated to pirating Hollywood content in Iran. Iranian pirate sites that are officially licensed, in fact.

However, according to a source cited by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), the site was targeted because rival pirate sites (which had been licensed to ‘pirate’ by the Iranian government) complained about its unlicensed status.

“In July and August [2017], there was a meeting between a number of Iranian start-up companies and [current Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari] Jahromi, who was asked by film and TV series distributors as well as video game developers to help shut down and monitor unlicensed rivals,” a film distributor in Tehran told CHRI.

“The start-ups made the request because they could not compete with a site like TinyMovies,” the source added.

We live in very strange times, friends. Essentially, the Iranian government licenses websites that stream or upload Hollywood content for pirating, and TinyMoviez wasn't of the licensed variety. The licensed pirate sites complained to the government that they could not compete with an unlicensed pirate site and asked the government to shut them down. If you feel like you're trapped in a showing of Inception at this point, I won't blame you, as the concerns from licensed pirate sites sound almost identical to Hollywood itself. Pirates getting pirate sites taken down is a notable occurrence.

For its part, the Iranian government has suggested it took down TinyMoviez for far more banal reasons in the Iranian tradition.

“Tehran’s prosecutor, after referral of the case to the Cyberspace corruption and prostitution department, said that the defendants in the case, of whom six were currently detained, produced vagabond and pornographic films and sold them in cyberspace,” Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said in an announcement.

“This gang illegally operated the largest source for downloading Hollywood movies and over the past three years, has distributed 18,000 foreign films and series after dubbing, many of which were indecent and immoral, and thus facilitated by illegitimate funds.”

Yet the site's offerings were essentially indistinguishable from that of the licensed pirate sites. This was all about the license, it seems. I'm not sure what it says about the state of copyright or ownership culture when we've reached the stage where pirates are getting pirate sites taken down by governments. Maybe this is the sort of thing that could only happen in a country like Iran. Or maybe the capture of the state through lobbying efforts has reached a new low. Either way, strange times.

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Filed Under: copyright, iran, licensing, piracy

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  1. icon
    John Snape (profile), 5 Oct 2017 @ 11:28am

    in Iraq

    My wife tells me that Saddam Hussein regularly had the TV stations in Iraq broadcast Hollywood movies. I don't know if he had paid for the rights to them or not, but I don't think it was a priority for him.

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