Piracy in the Clouds

Reading a blog here by Rupert Goodwins inspired an interesting issue. What's to prevent anyone from putting copyrighted material up in the cloud somewhere?

Reading a blog here by Rupert Goodwins inspired an interesting issue. What's to prevent anyone from putting copyrighted material up in the cloud somewhere? Nothing. In some respects that's what fueled YouTube's expansion.

Now if an IP pirate "owns" or pays for memory space somewhere or in a lot of somewhere(s), what's to keep him/her from hiding illegally duplicated copies of some crappy movie on those cloud servers and storage? The only way for the industry to know its there is to have the collusion of the cloud vendor and/or the ISP to reveal the content of what's there. From there he can make copies on demand if desired or point mass DVD duplicators through an IP connection to the cloud source of the pirated master copy.

If he/she (the pirate) was clever, using a cloud service, chop up the movie or audio recording data files into pieces and re-digitize the material. (Maybe 10 minutes long.) Then encrypt or obfuscate the data. The watermark would likely be disrupted. Duplicate the pieces. Mix in junk pieces. Spread the pieces all over the web or cloud using an anonymous connection so they couldn't necessarily track the broadcaster during the "broadcast". Write a program that relocates all the pieces and puts it back together and run it at the DVD duplicator location. Now he has a way to keep most of the incriminating evidence of copyright piracy someplace else other than his own facility. This guy is the one to go after with criminal charges.

Is all of that worth it to watch a movie that costs typically $5US to rent? No. Especially a lot of the crap that comes out of Hollywood.

So lets look at a supposed stupid or inexperienced iPirate(copyright 2008--me!), the ones that the movie industry seems to really enjoy beating up on in the courts. All of the above goes bye-bye. Suzy (age 14) copies a DVD she has up to the cloud vendor's storage space. She goes over to her friend's house and they decide to watch the movie from the cloud on her friend's computer (without a DVD player) because Daddy's downstairs watching football on the big screen.

The cloud vendor now has had 2 opportunities to be a cop. One on the way up, one on the way down. What if Suzy had bought the movie? Ignore the legal fine print here. Everybody that “buys” the DVD thinks they own the disk. Surely watching the teenage romance or horror film ought not to break the law. Its not like they're selling copies of it at the flea market. No she's a thief and a pirate. Time to call in the cops.

The big difference in the two scenarios is that we'll assume Suzy is not the pirate and she has the typical skill set of a digitally aware teenager. But she copies the file from the DVD straight to the cloud no encryption or hashing at all. So the watermark and whatever other encoded identification the movie distributor has embedded in the film is still readable. The Pirate has done enough to hide the watermarks etc to escape detection, he's not going to get caught.

So unless the cloud vendor or the ISP colludes with the movie industry, nobody is going to know a damn thing about Suzy being a 14 year-old pirate. Are they going to catch Suzy, yeah maybe. Are they going after the pirate making hundreds of copies? No because they can't find him. They'll go after the low-hanging fruit like they always have. Sharing a scary or mushy movie with a friend shouldn't have become a federal crime.

Lesson- Don't copy ANYTHING you don't own up to the cloud. That would include backup copies of software along with movies and sound files. Its only a matter of time before the a------- in Hollywood start going after Suzy by attaching themselves like remoras to the ISPs and the cloud venders.


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