Last week the MPAA submitted a list of rogue sites to the U.S. Government. The movie industry group claimed that these sites facilitate massive copyright infringement, and would therefore like to see them shut down with help from upcoming legislation such as the E-Parasites bill.
Aside from naming many of the larger BitTorrent sites, the MPAA’s list also included several so-called cyberlockers. In recent years these file-hosting sites have overtaken BitTorrent in popularity, and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood.
The problem with outing these sites as piracy havens is that there’s no clear definition of when a site is “rogue” or not. Last year the file-hosting site RapidShare was branded rogue by the MPAA, but this year they were excluded without explanation. However, an internal MPAA fact sheet that landed on TorrentFreak’s desk may shed some light on their definition of rogue.
Titled “It’s All About the Money: The ‘Business’ Model of Rogue Cyberlockers” the two page document gives an overview of the several affiliate programs some cyberlockers have in place. According to the MPAA these programs motivate users to share copyrighted material, thereby promoting piracy.
“Rogue cyberlockers aren’t just distribution hubs for stolen movies and TV shows – both the users who upload content and the operators who run the sites can earn money from doing so. As Internet video traffic grows, the threat from rogue cyberlockers that profit from stolen content is rising rapidly,” the MPAA writes.
The “fact sheet” continues with various examples of what the MPAA believes to be the clear promotion of copyright infringement. They thereby cite several of the descriptions of the affiliate programs that can be found on cyberlockers such as Putlocker, Fileserve, Bitshare and Uploading.com.
“Rogue cyberlockers feature ‘affiliate’ or ‘partner’ programs that pay uploaders cash for every thousand downloads of uploaded files. Putlocker.com exhorted users to ‘get paid for uploading good content that people want to see.’ Uploading.com promoted the ease of earning money by uploading files: ‘Now every time someone downloads your file you earn up to 2 cents. Relax and watch the money flow!’”
The MPAA further notes that some cyberlockers explicitly encourage their affiliates to share files with as many people, “even strangers,” and that the highest payouts are reserved for large files that are downloaded by users from English-speaking and Central Europe countries.
According to the MPAA it’s even suspected that cyberlockers in general encourage people to sign up for a premium account, a business model that is quite common for online services.
“Rogue cyberlockers induce users to subscribe to the site by restricting download speeds for ‘free’ accounts, as well as limiting the number of files users are able to download per day,” the MPAA writes.
“Rogue cyberlockers profit from selling ‘premium’ subscriptions that typically allow users to avoid restrictions on download speed, intrusive advertising, and artificially-imposed waiting times between downloads.”
The MPAA fact sheet strengthens the above arguments by giving several examples taken from the various cyberlocker sites, but doesn’t always specify why these should be considered as “rogue.” In some cases it raises even more questions than it answers.
We assume that the fact sheet is supposed to act as a bulletin of talking points for MPAA associates tasked with convincing the press, public and lawmakers that “rogue” cyberlockers are up to no good. It will come as no surprise when we hear more “official” MPAA statements on this very topic in the near future.