Warner Bros. recruiting students to spy on file sharers

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, CXO, Piracy, Security, Telcos, IT Employment

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  • Sounds like Warner Bros:

    is taking a play right out of the Hitler Handbook. Turn in your fellow citizens, even if they are your parents, as it is the patriotic thing to do.
    • Bugs Bunny with a swastika on an armband.

      Yeah, I'd run from that :)
    • Sure but,

      Does the U.K. have a witness relocation plan?
      They might need it if they start turning in a large number of people, as I am sure someone will wish to take out a little revenge.
  • Corporate communists in the full sense

    Just like communists got neighbors to spy on each other, here we are in our free society with exactly the same issue.

    What exactly was the Cold War for?
    • Corporate Capitalist, actually

      If they were communists, they would share
      everything freely. That is kind of the
      Obama made a huge mistake tackling healthcare
      first, when people like you show how bad the
      education system is.
      • How clever of you

        to insist on using an idyllic definition of communism that never existed when you knew full well I was referring to actual communism as it existed in Eastern Europe, where neighbor spied on neighbour to ensure no one stepped out of line.

        And since you bring "Capitalism" into this, you might want to consider that true capitalism is about competition, win or lose. After the corporate handouts in 2009, I wouldn't think someone could use the term with a straight face.
        • Croberts: you are confused

          I think that you are confused.

          Communism, Socialism, and Capitalism are economic systems.

          Representative Republics (what we think of as Democracy), Totalitarian states, Fascist states, et al., are systems of government.

          Your opionion seems directed at Totalitarian/Fascist states (like the former Soviet Union). Getting a person to spy on another person has nothing to do with Communism or Capitalism. In states with both Communist and Capitalist economic systems, stealing is almost universally illegal and punishable. And in both types of states, government has the ability to, and often does, spy on its own people.

          I think that Warner Bros may be onto something here. There is no way that Tools (like copy protection) will ever stem the tide of pirated media. However, driving people to help stem the tide using the same thing that drives others to create the tide (greed) seems like a plausible additional method of control.
          • negative

            socialism and communism are not both economic systems

            socialism is economic
            communism is political

            either way, i think we all knew what he meant, let's not start a terminology flame-war
        • Loss of revenues?

          As far as I know, Warner Bros and all the major movie companies have
          not reduce their greed, nor their Board of Directors, and neither the
          famous actors/actresses that are paid millions for a few weeks work.

          I would balance more on the piracy side than on the anti-piracy
          considering the extravaganza of Hollywood style of life, and this goes
          also for music companies. You thought slavery was a fact of the past?
          Wake up, it never disappeared. Look at the Holy American Banks
          laughing to your faces...
      • I think you misunderstand

        Communist states did not practice communisim but totalitarian control - the USSR and China are not examples of real communism - these totalitarian states are wrongly quoted as being "communist" and it is these police states that this is being compared to - I certainly agree that it is
        • Ya mean like the US?

          Under McCarthyism you were supposed to turn in
          'fellow travelers'.
          I see signs in NY 'If you see something, say something' (It has been a while; not sure if they
          are still there)
          So police states like we have here, where you are
          encouraged to spy on your neighbor? Is that what
          we are comparing to?
          • Ok, let's agree that's what we are comparing too

            Except in Communist, Totalitarian Eastern Europe, it was the government creating the police state.

            In the so-called west, we created an environment through law whereby corporations can take it upon themselves to create just as much of a police state.

            So again, what exactly was the cold war for? So we can be superficially free but effectively in just as much of a police state - just with different police?
  • Graphics

    Gotta admit; think I out-did myself on the graphic this time (the top one, not the bottom one). Who needs the CBSi art team when I've got PhotoShop? :D
    • I laughed out loud.

      I thought that newspaper one was great! :)

      The one on the bottom, from "V for Vendetta" was really a good movie. You should read the comic, One of Alan Moore's more thought provoking works, more relvant to the UK then the US, which the movie seemed taken out of original context for.
    • I laughed out loud too...

      At both of them, but the newspaper one was really funny.
  • RE: Warner Bros. recruiting students to spy on file sharers

    BTW, you guys really need to do something about the recent spam.

    It could very easily overwhelm the comments sections.
    • RE: Spam

      Yeah it's not an easy one that. I have absolutely no control over the comments whatsoever (makes it more fair really, because it means I can't censor anyone saying nasty things about me - which happens on a day to day basis simply for being here) so the content moderators spend most of their time pinging out bad comments and spam. Hopefully in the coming weeks there'll be a far better system in place to deal with this sort of thing, but something like IP banning would be difficuly as the editors et al don't want to block legitimate people visiting the site.
      • RE:RE: Spam

        I don't understand why that would be considered "fair", as most often the authors of these stories do not reply to anything outside of maybe 1 day of its writing. Especially when people ask for a reply and they have good points to make; I never see those get replies by the authors.
        Doesn't seem to me that you all actually go hunting through the comments to make many replies, so why would you go hunting through them to delete slander toward you?
        D2 Ultima
        • Ed Bott does

          [i]Most often the authors of these stories do not reply to anything outside of maybe 1 day of its writing. Especially when people ask for a reply and they have good points to make; I never see those get replies by the authors.[/i]

          At least the most consistently. George Ou used to on a pretty steady basis also, before he was let go when scale backs hit a few years back.

          Paul Murphy and Dana Blankenhorn are known to revisit posts, Jason Perlow likewise at times. Add in John Carroll when he's not globe trotting and skipping the light fantastic. There could be a few others to boot.
          • He doesn't look...

            ... at comments past maybe 1 day of the posting of that particular blog. The latest I've ever seen him comment was two (2) days after the blog was posted.

            Also, I've made numerous posts with the subject "please read this Ed" or "@Ed Bott" in quite a few of his blogs, sometimes on the same day it was posted. He's never replied to any of my posts in such fashion, and to a few others similar to me who make very good points in certain posts like that. I have seen him reply to other people that have less deep or impacting posts too, sometimes very near in the comment list to the "heavy" posts.

            It might seem that I'm looking for attention, and there's no way I could prove to others that it is false other than me saying I'm not, but the way it comes across to me (and probably to the others who make those great "@Ed" posts) is that he is either unable to formulate a good reply to our points, or he simply picks things at random that he will read and reply to. Either way, he doesn't come out looking so good. After a couple days and commenting has died down, I simply delete the bookmark and forget about it.

            I don't know about the other people you spoke about, I only see posts that come in my e-mails, I'll check good stories that pique my interest. I see Zack, Ed Bott and Aidan Hughes (if I spelt his name right). On and off I see posts from others, but it's very rare.
            D2 Ultima