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Attacks on torrents bring digital locker file-sharing back into fashion

By | Published on Wednesday 6 September 2017

Google

Given the response on various forums yesterday to the news that YouTube-mp3.org is set to shut down as part of a settlement to a lawsuit filed by the Recording Industry Association Of America, it seems the music industry is right to say that stream-ripping is a very popular form of music piracy in 2017, as opposed to old fashioned P2P file-sharing. And so is the sharing of links to content stored in digital lockers, according to a report by Gadgets 360, which has reviewed the takedown requests being filed in the US against such services.

The use of digital lockers, or cloud storage services, to facilitate the unlicensed distribution of music and movies has been on the entertainment industry’s piracy gripe list for some time, of course. When digital lockers were first taking off, various lawsuits were filed against those cloud storage firms seen to be particularly slack when it came to stopping their platforms being used for piracy. And, of course, the multifarious and very long running legal action against the defunct MegaUpload was targeting just that kind of copyright infringement.

Although we’ve not seen so much high profile legal action by rights owners against digital lockers of late, the entertainment industry continues to monitor such platforms – and the forums and Facebook groups where links to content stored in the cloud are shared – and regularly issues takedown requests demanding said content is removed. The cloud storage firms are obliged to comply with such requests, of course, in order to claim safe harbour protection, which means the digital platforms themselves can’t be sued for hosting copyright infringing material.

Interestingly, like YouTube-mp3.org, this piracy option also often seems to in part rely on a Google platform, in at least two ways. Gadgets 360 notes that: “Google Drive seems most popular among such users, with nearly 5000 takedown requests filed by Hollywood studios and other copyright holders just last month. Each requests had listed a few hundred Google Drive links that the content owners wanted pulled”.

Not only is Google’s cloud storage platform a popular place for those seeking to share unlicensed content in this way, some of those looking to circumvent copyright restrictions are seemingly employing both Google Drive and YouTube. Gadgets 360 adds: “What’s interesting is that while at times pirates upload full movies to Google Drive or other cloud services, in other cases, these Google Drive links are empty and just have a YouTube video embedded”.

Which might seem odd, though it seems the videos are probably being embedded on Google Drive in a bid to circumvent rights management efforts over on YouTube, in that the embedded YouTube content is often private videos with minimal or misleading metadata. Which means they won’t be accessible via YouTube search, but can be navigated on Google Drive, where better metadata can be provided in file and folder names.

Although none of that should stop YouTube’s Content ID system from scanning the content for infringing material, such tactics could hinder rights owners monitoring the Google video site for content based on metadata. Content ID’s automated content recognition technology isn’t perfect, of course, so more proactive rights managers do employ some metadata monitoring, which is where this Google Drive ruse might come in.

So that’s fun. Although neither stream-ripping nor digital locker linking are new forms of online piracy, it may well be that both are increasing in popularity since the music and movie industries have had some success in clamping down on the torrent-indexing file-sharing hubs, with the takedown of KickassTorrents last year probably having the biggest impact in that domain.



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