Earlier this year we reported on a brand new anti-piracy initiative with an aim to shut down 200 professionally-operated music piracy sites.
Headed up by anti-piracy company AudioLock, music distributor Label Worx, and supported by hundreds of distributors, labels, and other industry players, The Music Mission has a focus on sites that give the impression of being legitimate competition for digital portals such as Beatport, Juno, and Traxsource.
After many weeks of investigations the project has now begun to release some of its initial findings. They are extremely surprising and tend to suggest that parts of the music industry may have allowed the foxes into the hen house. But first, an idea of the scale of just one of these pay-piracy sites.
Almost Eight Years’ Worth of Music on Just One Site
According to information just released by The Music Mission, an analysis of a single ‘pirate’ store has revealed a database of 780,000 unique tracks available for download in MP3 format. All told, the offer totals 10,050 GBs of music or, as the project puts it, more music than anyone could get through in the next decade.
“If all are 320kbps mp3 files, [it] would amount to a shocking 69,791 hours of music or put another way, 7.96 years of music! If you listened to all that whilst walking then you would have got to the moon before having to listen to anything twice,” the coalition says.
Seemingly Legitimate Companies Running Pirate Sites
One surprising revelation is that a company supplying what would normally be viewed as an anti-piracy service is reportedly running a pay-piracy site. Somewhat ironically claiming that its “legal team will make sure that the leaks of your files will be eliminated from illegal sharing websites”, the company appears to be playing for the other side too.
“One particular pirate store owner conveniently have their own anti-virus software company as well as a music watermarking company. Both good partners to an anti-piracy company,” The Music Mission reveals.
The project, which has some heavyweight label supporters plus music licensing group PRS for Music, is currently withholding the name of this company for legal reasons, according to documentation made available to TorrentFreak. However, the allegations against other supposedly industry-supporting entities don’t stop there.
Record Labels and Pro DJs Implicated in Running Pirate Sites
“Several site owners also run/own record labels – at a glimpse, it appears that music from these labels does not appear to be available through the pirate stores, which will be a big help for their chart positions because the other releases in those charts will be losing a large proportion of sales when copies are purchased through the many pirate stores,” The Music Mission continues.
Again, the names of these labels haven’t yet been revealed but given the hundreds of well-known labels supporting this project, it seems unlikely that this conclusion has been pulled out of thin air. The Music Mission says its investigations are continuing so more detail is expected in due course.
On top of this specific threat, there also appears to be another interesting angle.
According to the project, it has identified a number of site owners that are “moonlighting as pro DJs” who have established sizeable fan bases across social media with “gig lists that include international festivals and world-famous nightclubs of which they have graced the decks.”
Somewhat disappointingly, no DJ names have been released, with legal reasons cited once again for the omission.
Pirates Were Aware They Were Being Monitored
One of the aims of The Music Mission is to have a delisting program aimed at reducing the visibility of the sites targeting by its campaign. This appears to have suffered some delays, partly because the true scale of the pirate operations wasn’t immediately apparent and partly because the pirates may have realized they were being watched.
According to the people behind the project, the pirates went to some lengths to prevent the investigation taking place, for both the delisting program and the collection of broader forensic evidence. These “hurdles” have reportedly been overcome now but what exactly has been found remains a question.
So Who Are the Foxes in the Hen House?
Despite asking this question, TorrentFreak was unable to gain any additional information on the players involved in this alleged behavior. That being said, the list of music watermarking companies who also have an anti-virus product can’t be particularly long so if the allegations stand up to scrutiny, they will now be on notice that their adversaries are homing in.
Labels themselves will be harder to identify due to their sheer numbers but the fact that The Music Mission is prepared for this information to be heard in public may affect how these entities behave in the weeks and months ahead.
The only other surprising thing is why The Music Mission hasn’t turned this into a criminal referral, given the alleged scale and organization.