Digital piracy – the new crime in the digital age

By Azra Farzana Shuib

In an era where technology undergoes an explosive growth, we expect contents to come faster, cheaper and more convenient. Be it music, movies, software or others – in this digital age – we want them there and then.

That situation itself is not a problem. It gives challenges to creative content creation and media companies to come out or converge with apps that are tailored to our needs. It promotes more opportunities for the younger generations to just let creative ideas spark and flourish.

The problem comes when we do not appreciate the effort made in producing these creative contents and we tend to rely on digital piracy instead. No matter how much we sugarcoat digital piracy – that often comes free or cheap – it does not erase the fact that piracy is theft.

Digital piracy – an overview

Digital piracy does not just happen in illegal streaming and downloading. It is reported that the selling of unlicensed satellite television services is rampant in Malaysia. Based on a report by The Star in April this year, police has busted a syndicate that allegedly offered unauthorised cable television Astro channels, seizing parabolic modem or router, over 500 decoders, Android set-top boxes, mobile phones and other equipment reckoned to have been used for ‘live streaming’. Investigations revealed that the group had made profits of over RM 900,000 per month since 2015, with over 30,000 buyers nationwide.

In addition, here are some online piracy sites that you might know of, as provided by Communications and Multimedia Consumer Forum of Malaysia (CFM):

Streaming site

Illegal streaming allows you to watch unlawfully copyrighted content on demand without downloading the illegal file. The websites may stream directly or provide links to content hosted on other websites. Both hosting unauthorised content and providing links to unauthorised content is illegal. These sites are often user-friendly, with content divided into categories such as genre, year or language.

Cyberlockers

Cyberlockers are file-storage and file-sharing services for various media file types, such as photos, videos and sound files. They offer fast, convenient and anonymous distribution of content, which can be downloaded or streamed and quite often these sites are generating significant income through subscription services. Cyberlockers are very hard to monitor, as they employ one-to-one connectivity which is essentially invisible to surveillance tools. Because of this, cyberlockers are an ideal tool for trading pirated movie and music files.

P2P

P2P or peer-to-peer sharing sites allow the sharing of digital files among “peers”. When using a peer-to-peer network you are allowing files stored on your computer to be available for copying by other users. You can then transfer exact copies of these files from one computer to another. Although it is legal to share large amounts of data or files, more often than not it is used to exchange copyrighted material illegally.

While people may believe their files are only available to a few friends, these files can be accessed by millions of people all over the world who are part of the same P2P network. The default setting for most P2P networks ensures that individuals downloading files are simultaneously uploading files, which means if you download movies you are also distributing illegal content to others. Without knowing, it would expose you to identity theft as P2P file sharing does not offer security in data privacy.

Linking sites

Linking websites collate thousands of links to pirated content often stored on external cyberlockers. These sites are widely spanning and invisible that provide unlawful access to copyrighted content.

Torrent sites

Film release groups upload and share content on private torrent sites that rely on donations from members. The material eventually makes its way onto public torrent sites, where it can be downloaded by anyone.

 

With so many legal and not to mention, safe service providers available in various forms of subscriptions, or even services maintained by ads, like Spotify, some people would still resort to piracy. Most of these consumers were probably moved by convenience, and unaware of the danger and risks that lurk from piracy.

It is not that hard to detect if contents are pirated. According to the Director of CFM, Izham Khairuddin, consumers need to be mindful before subscribing to any services, especially when presented with lucrative offers.

“Most of the legal services are widely known and well promoted through advertisements and the likes. Illegal ones are usually only spoken to you without any brochure or supporting information and these usually comes with no documented/legal warranties. The contact numbers or emails would also look dodgy or using free email without specific company name domains,” he said.

Combating digital piracy

Left uncontrolled, it has a potential to destroy the industry. Nefarious hacker (or hackers) called TheDarkOverlord has previously hold Netflix for ransom by stealing most of the new season for its series, Orange Is The New Black.

However, the attempt was unsuccessful. Netflix did not pay the ransom and most consumers would not want to go through the hassle of online dangers just to watch a season earlier.

Content providers in Malaysia are also facing the same challenge, and not to mention, vendors are also selling their unlicensed services and products boldly in online sites. Consumers should also be aware that it is against the law to subscribe to the illegal packages and could face action under the Copyright Act 1987 and Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

As an advice to consumers, Izham Khairuddin encouraged consumers to verify the legality of any subscribed service before signing up.

“This can be done by calling the customer contact centre of the service provider and browsing online forums for reviews of the said service,” he said.***

photo credit to Cialfor.com

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