Hotfile in hotwater, Megaupload in the mire and a Hollywood hit list...

...but is the list fact or fantasy? Even Mediafire, a respected & transparent service, is caught in the crosshairs.

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It’s certainly been a funny few months in filesharing that’s for sure! After years of relative calm, copyright agencies, film studios and major music labels, finally pounced on the new breed of filesharing technology, one-click filehosting sites, with the Megaupload indictment.

Sensing blood, copyright protection agencies, film studios and influential media professionals are now calling for more lawsuits to be brought against one-click filehosting services. It’s their contention that they’re a haven for pirated content. One of the most vocal is Hollywood honcho Alfred Perry. Last week he identified Depositfiles, Wupload, Fileserve, Mediafire and Putlocker as the key rogue sites on his target list. But was he right?

On some, Paramount Pictures Perry hits the bull’s-eye (Wupload) but on others he misses the target by a country mile (Mediafire). As Vice President of Content Protection at Paramount, he should surely know that Wupload & Mediafire are very different kinds of businesses?! So why has he lumped the two together in the same piracy pot?

If we look at Mediafire first, they’re a model of transparency and respectability. Search on Google for employee contact details and you’ll find them. Look on LinkedIn and you’ll find a company profile and personal pages for the key individuals including Tom Langridge.

Have they ever incentivised/paid people to upload content? Not at any point in their history (since 2006). They’re one of very few filehosting services that can boast this.

Then we come to their DMCA abuse process. And I can personally tell you it’s always been beyond reproach. Furthermore, they’ve fairly recently augmented their takedown tool and when Tom Langridge said last week “these enhancements have received rave reviews from organizations monitoring copyrighted content,” he wasn’t lying. I was one of them! Jodi Vest and the abuse team have always been an absolute joy to deal with.

So why have Mediafire been targeted? Well, there's the general mistaken view that all filehosting services are the same and this is simply not the case! It's highly likely that either Alfred Perry or someone else has seen Mediafire’s Alexa traffic stats and thought "hmmm, it's a file hosting service, it's got a lot of traffic so it must be bad and we therefore need to make an example of it!"

But isn’t this a worrying development? That not only a respectable business like Mediafire is caught in the crossfire but that key individuals in the piracy protection industry could appear to be so divorced from reality! Perry’s right about one thing however...

Wupload has to be one of the worst filehosting companies I’ve ever had to deal with as a Copyright Agent. They’re a highly secretive service ran by an anonymous parent company in the Far East. If you try searching for employee details, telephone numbers for key personnel or LinkedIn profiles, you’ll find nothing apart from suspicious pseudonyms (Willy at Wupload), ICQs and forename emails. So what have they got to hide and why are they so different to Mediafire?

It’s simple, for nearly a year, their business was largely based on unlicensed content distribution before they removed their affiliate schemes in November 2011 and very recently disabled all filesharing. Perhaps you think I’m jumping the gun? But consider this: When you provide monetary incentives for affiliates to upload content (in Wupload’s case - $40 for 1,000 downloads), it’s highly likely that it’ll be popular Copyrighted movies, music & pornography.

Some people have made a lot of money out of sharing unlicensed content. Just look at the following posts on WJunction! MaX Has earned nearly $30,000 from Filesonic (Wupload’s parent company), deejam007 earned $18,200 from Filesonic & Wupload, stevvva earned $21,000 from Filesonic in 6 months, fewcent earned $32,000 from Hotfile, djkelaj earned $50,000 plus from Filesonic in less than 6 months & another uploader earned over $8,000 from Oron in 3 months. What do they all have in common? They uploaded unlicensed content. And if this is what some uploaders are paid, how much are the people running these sites making?! You only have to look at Kim Dotcom as an example.

This is exacerbated by the fact that Willy (supposedly Wupload’s CEO) often congratulated uploaders on their earnings and seemed publically blasé about DMCA Notifications. But why? You have to understand that Wupload etc pay affiliates to upload popular/often pirated content in order to change free downloaders (capped download speeds, no parallel downloads) into premium paying members (no limitations on the service). That’s how they make their money.

Hence, while Wupload and other cash for upload hosters will pay lip service to Copyright/DMCA laws by deleting files, it’s not in their interests to remove profitable affiliates as they help drive a lot of traffic/money to the site. It’s always the same scenes/people that upload billions of files yet little was done to stop them. To do so would be commercial suicide.

The above therefore explains why my experiences of Wupload’s abuse department weren’t good at all. For most of August/early September 2011, Wupload frustrated all legitimate removal attempts and made close to 50 misrepresentations to me and my clients’ that they had deleted content when they hadn’t.

As a consequence of their recalcitrant attitude, we had to report Wupload to their upstream provider (on over 10 separate occasions!), WebaZilla, and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) before they begrudgingly provided administrative access. I can report that the IFPI and other agencies had similar problems with them too hence the reason they were on a piracy list back in September 2011. This has been a long time coming!

But what about the other services on the target list? Whilst Fileserve are nowhere near as bad, they still incentivised uploads of pirated content by paying uploaders and did little to delete repeat infringers. It’s also another company that’s highly anonymous, uses pseudonyms (Ricky is the CEO allegedly!) and has no proper contact details for employees. Ask yourself this question: If Fileserve can self delete billions of files, thousands of affiliates in the aftermath of Megaupload, why hadn’t they policed their servers sooner? The answer: they simply didn’t want to as it’d damage their business.

Depositfiles also pay cash to uploaders. They’ve been around since 2005 and are somewhat secretive but to a lesser degree than Wupload/Filesonic and Fileserve. In addition, whilst content is always deleted extremely quickly, they could do more to remove repeat offenders. Their inclusion on the hit list is thus debatable.

I must confess to not having much experience with Putlocker as my clients’ content rarely appears on there. However, I can report that they delete content promptly.

But what’s the situation now that Wupload/Filesonic & Fileserve have closed? Putlocker operations officer Adrian Petroff proclaims: “Who needs SOPA when a studio exec can make a wish/hit list and sites ‘voluntarily’ shut down?” But is that true? In all honesty, it’s somewhat misleading. In fact, Petroff should be doing his best to distance himself from some of the other services on the list.

Wupload, Filesonic & Fileserve all voluntarily shut down because they collectively have a lot to hide. They incentivised uploads, did little to delete repeat infringers, in some cases had a very lackadaisical attitude towards Copyright infringement and now that they have made their money, want to run off anonymously into the sunset. That’s the real reason for their disappearance. Will it catch up with them? Who knows but it’ll be interesting to watch!

 

James Brandes is a Copyright Agent who operates the Digital Copyright Consultancy. The Digital Copyright Consultancy provides anti-piracy protection for a wide variety of clients' in the music and adult entertainment industries. It has worked on 3,000 + assignments for over 60 clients'. Projects have ranged from providing piracy protection services for Digital EP releases to well known dance compilations/rock albums and adult DVD releases/website content. He tweets @DigCopyright

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By James Brandes on Apr 16, 2012

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