Content Piracy and IP

Posted on 12/2/2015 @ 12:19 PM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 2077 views

This post is a bit link heavy, but there is a lot of research that has gone into this. As someone who produces content, this is a topic I have researched for a very long time.

Recently there has been a lot of news around people downloading content from pluralsight, and uploading them to udemy. Here is an author’s opinion whose content got pirated.  Other authors and sites have chimed in also.

This absolutely sucks! Let me put this in perspective, my latest course I put on udemy on JavaScript and TypeScript is about 5 hours in length. But it took me a good 2 weeks to put it together, that is AFTER I had all the material ready. Recording, editing, ensuring clean sound and good video takes time. Lots of time! And I’ll be the first one to say, my recording style is “casual”, I talk and record.
There are many other instructors that put in way more effort than me. They literally write the script, break it down to 2 minute intervals, record, edit very painstakingly, given the amount of time they invest, I don’t know why they do it except for altruism perhaps. They cannot be making enough money to justify the effort. Creating original content is hard work, a lot of hard work!

The right way: One guy who borrows content from the internet quite a bit is Scott Hanselman. Look at this keynote he did for instance, but Scott never steals without permission, and always credits the original source. That is good, that is fantastic! I wish everyone did that, but they don’t.

The current situation: As an example, I tweeted this at a conference. Funny joke right? 9gag immediately put it on their site. No attribution, none! When I left a comment saying “Hey guys this was just a joke, and I’m glad you are spreading the laughs, but please credit who tweeted it” – they removed my comment. I am not kidding.

There are people sitting on the payroll of sites like 9gag, funnyordie, huffingtonpost, whose daily jobs are to scour the internet and steal content. That’s all they do! Seriously imagine being the guy whose daily job is to steal. They have them on their payroll.


Lets take the example of youtube. It is very easy to create an account, upload stolen videos, and monetize. A hollywood producer can spend millions making a movie, and someone just uploads it and makes a better rate of return than the original content producer. In fact, there are scripts people have written to automate this. Simply incredible!

But YouTube is actually good at enforcing piracy. Here is how youtube enforces piracy,

If you feel you are the rightful owner of a video, you simply request a copyright strike. The video is taken down immediately.
If 3 such strikes are received in a period of 3 months on one account, the account is terminated.

The onus is on the receiver of the strike to prove that the strike is invalid. So they can provide proof of original content, or ask the complainer to retract their strike. Taking the video down does not remove the strike.

The uploader cannot simply create a new youtube account. New accounts are limited to 10 min max video length and no monetization (takes all incentive away to pirate) for a fairly long time.
Monetization requires account verification, and therefore the same person is limited greatly to how many times they can try this trick on youtube at least.

Youtube != Internet:

So yes, youtube actually enforces piracy. But alas youtube != internet.
So what do pirates do? NSFW Link – this movie is 1:50:26, the title is, “Watch Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation #Full'Movie”(#Online'English)”, the thumbnail looks like its from the movie. But instead it’s some junk content. But here is the kicker, you first watch an ad, and then you watch the junk content ~ so the pirate is now making money without pirating the movie. Bad for youtube, bad for the viewer, good for the pirate, don’t care for the content producer.
How difficult is it to create junk videos mimicking real content? How difficult is it to write a script to do so? I suspect it is far more lucrative than mining bitcoin. And its not against any rule or law. It’s legit money.

But in the meanwhile, you have Facebook, whose business model is # of views. And advertisement. Advertisement driven by # of views, especially videos. Did you know facebook brags about the # of video views in their quarterly calls? And if you watch a video for 3 seconds, it’s counted as viewed. Except when you scroll, the video autoplays, so every video is watched. These skewed statistics allow facebook to demand greater advertising $, so Zuckerberg can build a bigger house.

On top of that, Facebook videos is a safe haven for pirates (see this really enlightening video
And there are other sites far worse than facebook. Try searching youku, or yandex or for any hollywood movie. I am serious, why do you even pay for netflix?

Back to 9gag, read this enlightening thread on the “business model of 9gag, built around piracy”, and I am not pointing fingers at just 9gag, hell everyone is doing it.

Stop blaming udemy:

So as much as a lot of people have stood on a pedestal and said nasty things about udemy, udemy is nearly not the worst offender. Hell, they are a consequence of the game and the laws that are not being enforced.

Current situation and prognosis:

The question then is, why is the piracy situation so bad? Why is there no respect for Intellectual property?

The answer is, our general incompetence of western governments. And unfortunately its not going to change or improve anytime soon.

Protecting IP is nearly impossible. Lets look at software patents, if Apple with it’s billions of $’s couldn’t prevent Samsung from copying iPhone, what chance do you have in protecting a funny picture you tweeted or a pluralsight course you so painstakingly put together? ZERO!

People sitting in china are creating sites like 9gag, who have people on their payroll whose only job is to steal content. These sites are making 2-4million$ a month on purely stolen content. And given our current fiscal situation, our govt. is toothless in enforcing these rules on the Chinese govt.
Enforcement isn’t that hard! Sites that are repeat offenders in abetting piracy should be blocked in the US. But will we do that? Hell no! Our politicians have already sold their soul to corporations, which in turn are mostly owned by Saudis and Chinese anyway.
Meanwhile the Chinese govt. encourages such behavior precisely because it undermines western capitalism/hegemony. This is a long term macrotrend that will affect everything in our lives, not just piracy.

My bottom line message is this - piracy is going to happen, it sucks, but in fighting it, you are trying to stop a tsunami with a spoon.
And sadly in the west, where laws are enforced, you are on the receiving end of it. You can’t steal content, but your competitors will steal your content, and their living cost base is 1/10th of yours. So they can afford a very good lifestyle off of your work.

Also, if you feel that you will spend lots of effort and time and create great original content, you are an awesome person, great respect for you, but you are setting yourself up to be screwed.
Playing this game, you want to play by the rules, but the game you are playing has a corrupt referee and the rules are being selectively enforced. You didn’t make this game, nor the referee, but you are in the game.

So your business model needs to accommodate for piracy. Remember, they can steal your content, but they cannot steal your knowledge.

And I highly suspect, the most of us are making more money selling our knowledge, than the content we produce. If you are trying to establish an empire selling content, this is an uphill battle you cannot win. Videos are the new books. Books have gone the way of the dodo, so will videos. But knowledge will always remain valuable.

Is it fair? no.
Is it reality? yes.

Sound off but keep it civil:

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