According to copyright holders, online piracy is fueled by people’s desire to make money. The statement carries some truth but has traditionally applied to a relatively small number of people at the top of the food chain.
The advent of file-hosting platforms, however, has enabled the smaller guy to turn a small profit.
While many ‘cyberlockers’ pay out a commission to uploaders when a file is downloaded every 1000 times, there are some other ways to make a bit of cash too.
At their core, link shortening services such as Google’s goo.gl convert unmanageably long URLs into compact ones for easy sharing. They also offer analytics so people can understand who is clicking on their content.
However, there are also other services that pay out a small commission for each click. As a result, they have become popular with anyone looking to monetize all kinds of content, including pirates hoping to make a few extra bucks.
One such pirate contacted TF this week following the leaking of Resident Evil 7 online. With its Denuvo protection neutralized, owner Capcom reverted to sending DMCA notices, including to Google which was asked to remove well over 1,700 URLs from its search results.
Those notices contained requests to remove “link shortener” URLs – such as those provided by Adf.ly, Shorte.st, and Linkbucks.com – all of which pay commission to users when others click their links.
However, in addition to taking down Resident Evil 7 links from Google search, file-hosting and torrent sites, it appears that Capcom also sent complaints directly to Adf.ly. Of course, that meant the referrer links died, which in turn killed the revenue stream.
While there’s no doubt that Adf.ly links are widely used by pirates, the company informs TorrentFreak that it has a strict repeat infringer policy in place.
“We operate a 3 strike repeat offender policy. If the Company has received three valid DMCA notices, the Company will notify [the] user they have 72 hours to issue any Counter-Notices or their account will be suspended,” the policy reads.
That not only cost our source his links, but also his account and all of the commission money held in it.
“Upon suspension, no funds will be paid to the account owner and no links will be accessible belonging to the user’s account,” Adf.ly confirmed.
But perhaps of most interest is the effect this type of action has on uploader morale. If those who post Adf.ly and similar commission-based links to infringing content keep losing their accounts, ALL of the links in their account become useless for generating revenue, even if just one copyright holder such as Capcom continually files complaints.
There are also knock-on effects if content uploaders want to recover their position, our tipster notes.
“[This could] possibly screw [shortener] pirates for good since all these links are hardcoded into blog posts and not dynamically generated. Meaning once you get banned you have to manually ‘fix’ each and every link on all the previous uploads,” he explains.
“Capcom is very aggressive. If you reupload the thing they report it again after a few days. I got banned from Adfly thanks to Capcom. Adfly has a 3 strikes (in a 6 month period) policy. For me it worked, I stopped uploading Capcom games altogether.”
TF asked how easy it is to open another account with Adf.ly, in order to wipe the slate clean and start again. Apparently, it’s not straightforward since the company uses a number of techniques to spot those signing back up.
For example, according to our experience when simply accessing their site, Adf.ly blocks some popular VPN ranges. However, since the company keeps all of the money in closed accounts, other options are preferred.
“Adfly keeps all the money. No questions asked. You lose all rights immediately,” our source explains. “People usually give up and move to the next link shortener.”
And so, the cycle continues.