Photographer Tutorial Company Reacts To Pirates By Screwing With Them Hilariously

from the free-laughs dept

When it comes to content producers reacting to the pirating of their works, we've seen just about every reaction possible. From costly lawsuits and copyright trolling, to attempts to engage with this untapped market, up to and including creatively messing with those that would commit copyright infringement. The last of those options doesn't do a great deal to generate sales revenue, but it can often be seen by the public as both a funny way to jerk around pirates and as a method for educating them on the needs of creators.

But Fstoppers, a site that produces high-end tutorials for photographers and sells them for hundreds of dollars each, may have taken the creativity to the next level to mess with those downloading illegitimate copies of their latest work. They decided to release a version of Photographing the World 3 on several torrent sites a few days before it went to retail, but the version they released was much different than the actual product. It was close enough to the real thing that many people were left wondering just what the hell was going on, but ridiculous enough that it's downright funny.

Where Fstoppers normally go to beautiful and exotic international locations, for their fake they decided to go to an Olive Garden in Charleston, South Carolina. Yet despite the clear change of location, they wanted people to believe the tutorial was legitimate.

“We wanted to ride this constant line of ‘Is this for real? Could this possibly be real? Is Elia [Locardi] joking right now? I don’t think he’s joking, he’s being totally serious’,” says Lee Morris, one of the co-owners of Fstoppers.

People really have to watch the tutorial to see what a fantastic job Fstoppers did in achieving that goal. For anyone unfamiliar with their work, the tutorial is initially hard to spot as a fake and even for veterans the level of ambiguity is really impressive.

Beyond the location choices, there are some dead giveaways hidden in subtle ways within the "tutorial." As an example, here is a scene from the tutorial in which Locardi is demonstrating how to for a 'mask' over one of the photos from Olive Garden.

If that looks like he's drawn a dick and balls over the photo on his computer screen, that's because that is exactly what he's done. The whole thing is a Onion-esque love letter to pirates, screwing with them for downloading the tutorial before the retail version was even available. By uploading this 25GB file to torrent sites, and going so far as to generate positive but fake reviews of the torrent, Fstoppers managed not only to generate hundreds of downloads of the fake tutorial, but its fake actually outpaced torrents of the real product. The whole thing was like a strange, funny honeypot. The fake apparently even resulted in complaints from pirates to Fstoppers about the quality of the fake product.

Also of interest is the feedback Fstoppers got following their special release. Emails flooded in from pirates, some of whom were confused while others were upset at the ‘quality’ of the tutorial.

“The whole time we were thinking: ‘This isn’t even on the market yet! You guys are totally stealing this and emailing us and complaining about it,” says Fstoppers co-owner Patrick Hall.

You have to admit, the whole thing is both creative and funny. Still, the obvious question that arises is whether all the time and effort that went into putting this together couldn't have been better spent figuring out a business model and method in which more of these pirates were flipped into paying customers rather than simply screwing with them.


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  1. identicon
    TRX, 20 Mar 2018 @ 7:49pm

    "Still, the obvious question that arises is whether all the time and effort that went into putting this together couldn't have been better spent figuring out a business model and method in which more of these pirates were flipped into paying customers rather than simply screwing with them."
    ---
    I'm open to suggestions...

    Failing that, I'll take the lulz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2018 @ 8:54pm

    And the obvious answer is...

    "Still, the obvious question that arises is whether all the time and effort that went into putting this together couldn't have been better spent figuring out a business model and method in which more of these pirates were flipped into paying customers rather than simply screwing with them."

    ... Get a shitload of free viral publicity by making a fake that gets people looking at the company.

    You could be the second coming of Elvis and have million dollar albums, but it don't mean a thing if you don't get your product in front of people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2018 @ 9:10pm

    "“The whole time we were thinking: ‘This isn’t even on the market yet! You guys are totally stealing this and emailing us and complaining about it,” says Fstoppers co-owner Patrick Hall."

    Actually, even by copyright maximalist standards, they weren't stealing (pirating).

    It was a tutorial released by the author himself, so it wouldn't be infringing to download it.

    It's a legal torrent, lol.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Paul Brinker, 20 Mar 2018 @ 9:13pm

    Re:

    While I doubt a judge would agree with something like this. I have to actully ask, given the nature of the sites, how can someone know if its not stolen?

    If you post a link on your own site, 100% golden, but if you post it on a pirate site, with out any kind of way to tell that the actual owner put it there, is it both stolen and not stolen at the same time?

    I am very confused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2018 @ 9:33pm

    Re: Re:

    That's the magical answer copyright enforcers have never been able to admit to. Because doing so would prove they were full of shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Mar 2018 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Probably an attempt to get free publicity (which was obviously successful).

    And it's not like that sort of thing has never been done before.

    https://torrentfreak.com/band-leaks-track-to-bittorrent-blames-pirates-080731/

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 1:43am

    “The whole time we were thinking: ‘This isn’t even on the market yet!"

    OK, while the incident is amusing this is thing that gets me.

    "You guys are totally stealing this"

    No, not really. If there's no legal option then they have no way of paying you and therefore there's no lost sale. No lost sale, nothing has been "stolen".

    I get what they're saying, but there's no "stealing" if a person is not yet able to buy the product and there's no missing physical stock. Doubly so if the video was uploaded by the makers themselves in order for it to be downloaded - even if misnamed to fool potential pirates, that makes it an authorised, legal download!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:00am

    Re: Re:

    Easy. It's never "stolen", as stealing involves depriving the original owner of something. The most that can ever happen is that the owner might lose a potential sale, but even that doesn't happen 100% of the time that a download is made.

    Also, a link can never be infringing by itself, it's just a link. If that link is on a site where you didn't authorise it to be, then that site might be infringing by putting it there, but the link itself will never be illegal. If the content owner is unhappy about that then they can put very basic security measures in place to prevent downloading via other sites, but generally speaking if someone is putting their content out there via an unprotected link, they don't really care where the link is located - they'll just be happen someone is downloading the content they've put out there for free anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 2:26am

    Re:

    Thatsthejoke.jpg

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 3:44am

    Re:

    Intent can matter under the law. I don't know that there is actually such a thing as "attempted piracy" but there certainly could be. If there were, the legality of this work would not be an issue, only whether or not those people who downloaded it believed that they were acquiring it illegally.

    People who download things illegally should think about that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 4:40am

    Re: Re:

    "only whether or not those people who downloaded it believed that they were acquiring it illegally."

    Then, if I believe that I'm acquiring it legally, I can download unauthorized copies of a movie?

    Intent matters under the law when you're doing something that is illegal, not because you "believe" that you're doing something that is illegal.


    Piracy is illegal because it's actually "unauthorized reproduction of a work".

    If the author himself is the one uploading it, he has implicitly authorized others to download it and stops being "unauthorized".

    It stops being piracy as soon as the author hit the upload button and turns into "distribution via bittorrent".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 5:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Note that he said "the legality of this work would not be an issue" (emphasis added).

    This work was uploaded by the rightsholders, with the intent to distribute it; as such, that distribution of this work is authorized, and no actual infringement occurred. If the intent of the accused matters, however, the fact that distribution is authorized would be irrelevant; the fact that the accused did something which they had no reason to believe was not infringing would mean that attempted infringement did occur.

    If the distribution had not been authorized by the rightsholders, however, then actual infringement would have occurred, and "attempted infringement" - and, therefore, the intent of the accused - would not enter into the picture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 6:10am

    For Fstoppers I symphatize, because they want money for the works they themselves created. However, for maggots and other non-creators owning copyrights and giving back to creators almost nothing, I will never symphatize and confidently "pirate".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 6:10am

    Re:

    Well, logic bug in the last part.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 6:29am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Then, if I believe that I'm acquiring it legally, I can download unauthorized copies of a movie?

    Apparently if a rightsholder doesn't believe something is fair use, it magically isn't fair use even if it fulfills all the necessary conditions.

    And even if the judge finds the use to be actually fair, the rightsholder gets away with it anyway because he honestly believed the use to be not fair.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    PaulT (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 7:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're describing a situation where a perfectly legal activity can suddenly become illegal depending on the thought process of a person at the time. That's literally thought crime, and while it would be a handy things for the **AAs to use to sue everyone into oblivion I don't think we should be handing them those tools. Especially since the reverse situation you describe - an illegal activity becoming legal because of the person's thought process - would not be allowed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    nerd bert (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 7:20am

    Re:

    A striking example of the Streisand effect in action. I'd never heard of Fstoppers before, yet now I have. I'd say that they've done a fantastic job of advertising themselves and their wares to a group of techno-nerds who never would have heard of them otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    An Onymous Coward (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re:

    They didn't post this to a "pirate site", they posted up torrents. Very different things. Torrents are not piracy by definition. Piracy is committed when you post commercial content without a license to do so. Those who download that material are not automatically pirates as they can't know immediately whether that material was inappropriately posted (in most cases). Many torrents of commercial software, for example, still require paid activation keys.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    An Onymous Coward (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 8:32am

    Re:

    Doubly so if the video was uploaded by the makers themselves in order for it to be downloaded - even if misnamed to fool potential pirates, that makes it an authorised, legal download!

    This. The torrent they uploaded was not the one they charged money for. They offered this version freely at no charge. There was no theft, no piracy involved.

    Funny, but misguided.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 8:55am

    I've been trying to get the download since forever, they aren't seeding it properly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Valkor, 21 Mar 2018 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What in the nine unholy hells is "attempted infringement"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Valkor, 21 Mar 2018 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    Would you be more comfortable if the quote was "You guys are totally trying to steal this" ?

    The point is that this is not a trap, but more like the second gate to the Southern Oracle from the Neverending Story.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    A possibly-nonexistent crime which was posited (under the name of "attempted piracy") by Coyne Tibbets, about two comments upthread;; the idea appears to be "if you set out to copy something with the belief that doing so is unauthorized, that is an attempt to commit the crime of infringement, even if it turns out in this case doing so was authorized". Sort of the inverse of "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

    This subthread, as I understand matters, is about discussing the hypothetical of what would follow if such a crime is/were actually on the books.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Valkor, 21 Mar 2018 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks for the last bit of clarification. Sometimes I lose track of what is hypothetical and what is misguidedly earnest here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Dingledore the Previously Impervious, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:01am

    An Olive Garden sounds really nice

    if it were a real olive garden.
    It appears Olive Garden is a restaurant chain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Mar 2018 @ 11:55am

    A mind-fuck is a terrible thing to waste.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 21 Mar 2018 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ...fact that the accused did something which they had no reason to believe was not infringing would mean that attempted infringement did occur.

    Not exactly. This would be recklessness, if it was willfully risked, or else negligence. Intent requires specifically that the person have formulated a plan to commit the crime.

    Attempted infringement is an ugly concept, as someone noted, akin to thoughtcrime. At least if someone points a useless gun at someone else, not knowing it is useless, and pulls the trigger the intent is clear. Not so clear when someone downloads something recklessly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. icon
    PaulT (profile), 22 Mar 2018 @ 12:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Exactly, there's literally no way to know. In your example, the person intended to do something and attempted to do it, they just happened to select a tool that wouldn't have the desired effect. Clicking on a link to download something requires the same tool, the same action and the same result, it's only the thought that goes through the person's mind as they do it that's different. We really don't want to give people the power to prosecute based on what they say a person was thinking with no way to disprove that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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