Warner Bros. recruiting students to spy on file sharers

Summary:Students are being enticed with a $26k a year internship at Warner Bros. to spy and gather intelligence on their peers who share or download copyrighted material,

Warner Bros. Entertainment UK are providing internships to students with a computer/IT related degree to be actively part in reducing piracy on the web. The internship at £17,500 (around $26,000) a year, will not only give these students an insider knowledge into corporations fighting copyrighted file sharing, but an opportunity to potentially spy on their fellow students.

The company, with many wide ranging subsidiary brands and companies, will give the "lucky" student tools, knowledge and training to search the Internet for links, posts, torrents and information which will assist efforts in bringing cease and desist notices, DMCA orders and other legal means to remove content. The intelligence acquired could also be used later in a court of law if sites do not comply.

The job description, aimed particularly at University of Manchester students, and presumably others also, states:

  • to monitor local Internet forums and IRC [channels] for pirated Warner Bros. and NBCU content in order to gather information on pirate sites, groups and activities;
  • create new and maintain existing accounts on private sites:
  • scanning for links to hosted pirated Warner Bros. and NBCU content to issue take-down notices;
  • maintaining and developing bots for Internet link scanning system (see here)
  • performing trap purchases of pirated products and logging result;
  • inputting data and other intelligence into "the" (their own) forensics database
  • periodically producing research documents on piracy related technological developments.

Softpedia suggest a similarity between Warner Bros. and the Chinese government, saying that both organisations look for those who are willing to spy on their peers. Of course, this internship does not necessarily state to spy or collect intelligence on one's direct peers, but as we are all of the same generation of a border-less Internet, we are all a collective here.

Though as Gizmodo point out, there could be wider social implications to consider before applying for this role. As the Generation Y have been brought up on accessing digital media and illegal content, if your torrent-addicted friends and colleagues find out the job you do, being ostracised from a friendship group could be the least of your worries. As the tech world will be quite aware of, the online community can be particularly ruthless on the social network to the wider "anonymous" web.

Some background information that I have written about before might be of use to students in regards to legalities, illegalities and suchlike. More can be found here.

Torrents are the main issue to worry about. In this context, downloading files through peer-to-peer or HTTP/FTP transfer is "a little illegal", whereas the corporations have a major issue with users who actively share the files. Torrents generally only work on a basis where the files you download are also shared with others to maintain the seed/leech ratio, to enable others to download as you have. These can, and do get tracked.

HTTP/FTP transfers of copyrighted material are illegal, though not deemed as bad as actively sharing content like with torrents. These cannot be actively traced, as such. The only viable way to trace a download from a server like through MediaFire or RapidShare is to seek a court order for the server and/or transfer logs to be sought. A court order can also be issued to your ISP which record every site and file you access, though these are secure and unreadable by the vast majority of ISP employees. This of course is far more difficult to do as some evidence is required before a court order is issued.

The offer closes on 31st March 2010, tomorrow, according to TorrentFreak.

Are you a student? Would you apply for this job knowing the wider implications? In this economy, is a job a job regardless of what it is? Have your say.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Browser, IT Employment, Piracy, Security, Telcos

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.