For several decades, movie pirates have visited cinemas with cameras to record the latest movies.
In the early 80s, for example, pirate copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial made their way all over the planet, mainly for consumption via VHS and Betamax tapes. The quality was always dire but back then, beggars certainly couldn’t be choosers.
Since the early 2000s, things have changed dramatically. With the advent of high-quality cameras, sometimes operated by near-professional volunteers, the act of ‘camming’ turned into an artform.
Now-defunct groups including Centropy and maVen graced the web with outstandingly good copies of the latest titles, driven in part by a desire to create the best possible products and with them a lasting legacy. If these groups had a voice in 2019, they’d be horrified at the ‘camming’ state of play.
For reasons that appear to be entirely motivated by money, large numbers of cam copies hitting the web today are doing so in a defaced fashion. While studios have been watermarking their content for close to 20 years to defeat piracy, pirates are now disfiguring videos themselves in order to promote big business.
While they are not the only culprit (some streaming sites also carry out the practice), online betting site 1XBET has its brand stamped all over dozens of pirate releases.
Indeed, it seems that most of the big ‘cammed’ movies these days can’t avoid the clutches of 1XBET advertising. From Avengers: Endgame and John Wick 3, to Hellboy and Pokémon Detective Pikachu, 1XBET ‘sponsored’ releases are an incredibly invasive species.
In addition to the kind of watermarks shown above, downloaders of 1XBET-labeled releases are now being ‘treated’ to full-blown ads for the gambling platform in the middle of movies. And there’s no escaping them.
For example, the recent release of ‘Shazam’ doesn’t even get six minutes into the movie before a glaring 30-second advert for the platform kicks in, complete with promo codes in several different languages. If pirates thought that downloading movies from pirate sites was a convenient way to avoid intrusive advertising, 1XBET releases are not a good option.
Dmitry Tyunkin, Deputy Director of Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection at cyber-security firm Group-IB, says that cam watermarking is a cost-effective way to promote the gambling platform.
“1XBET is a gambling company originating from Russia that uses cam copies to advertise itself internationally. The strategy became popular and widespread because it is a relatively cheap way to promote their services – a raw cam copy would cost 300-400 USD, 600-700 USD after editing,” Tyunkin informs TF.
“According to our data, usually those who film cam copies sell them to camcording piracy groups, who offer to integrate the ads to gambling companies, such as 1XBET. [They then upload] the pirated copies to torrent websites, which spread [them] very fast across the Internet with watermarks and ads included in the pirated film.”
Many surprising things have happened in the piracy world over the past couple of decades but this recent phenomenon ranks up there with the most outlandish.
These are pirate releases, of some of Hollywood’s biggest titles, carrying advertising for a multi-million dollar gambling company. Group-IB says 1XBET has been involved in the practice since 2018, primarily targeting developing English-speaking countries, such as India.
But at least as far as we can see, little is being done about it.
Hollywood itself hasn’t made any public statement. The USTR, which ordinarily attempts to protect the interests of US companies, hasn’t complained about the advertising in its piracy reports calling out other nations.
That is puzzling, to say the least. But it’s nothing short of bewildering when one considers that 1XBET is the ‘International Presenting Partner’ of Italy’s ‘Serie A’, a soccer league that has been very vocal about the threats presented by online piracy.
“As part of the agreement, 1xBet will be featured in all match graphics, idents and virtual goal mat advertising across every live Serie A game, on all platforms that are broadcast in the regions covered in the terms of the deal,” a report on the partnership reads.
It’s important to note that there’s no overwhelming evidence available to the general public that 1XBET itself is driving camming ‘sponsorship’ directly. Some have suggested that overenthusiastic affiliates may have taken this upon themselves but it’s so unorthodox that few explanations would come as a surprise.
Either way, it doesn’t just look bad for 1XBET.
The horrible watermarks and intrusive advertising are making many of the big releases look bad when viewed by pirates too. Never in the history of camming have cammed copies of movies been made to look deliberately worse before being uploaded online.
Pirate sites are littered with negative comments in respect of 1XBET ‘releases’. Pirates love getting the movies early but absolutely hate the ads. For now, however, there doesn’t appear to be much of an opportunity to get away from them.
When everything is considered it’s one of the most puzzling developments to come out of the piracy world, not just recently, but ever. The big question is how long it will continue. Until it stops paying off, perhaps.