When peer-to-peer file-sharing was in its infancy, Internet forums were the places where the enthusiasts came to meet. Regular users hung out with file-sharing site owners, while developers offered the latest builds of their new clients.
For a number of years, these forums housed thriving communities but slowly but surely most fell out of use, hit by a double whammy of failing to stay current alongside the advent of social media. For many, sites like Facebook and Reddit became the go-to place for discussion and news.
Of course, these platforms can be used for outright piracy too, with users posting links to the latest content on groups dedicated to file-sharing. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the entertainment industries who often put sites like Facebook under pressure to take action.
According to anti-piracy outfit BREIN, that’s exactly what’s just happened. BREIN says that it complained to Facebook about nine groups which were being used to share several thousand music albums without permission from rightsholders.
“Links to infringing files hosted on cloud services were indexed on the pages. Knowingly posting links to infringing files is itself a violation,” BREIN says.
After being contacted by BREIN, Facebook responded by deleting all nine ‘pirate’ groups. However, this wasn’t the first time the social network has taken this kind of action. BREIN says that earlier this year Facebook removed a number of similar groups following complaints of infringement.
But while shutting down ‘pirate’ groups will have some short-term effect, the people that were participating in them are likely to regroup and set up elsewhere. Of course, BREIN can follow them to their new homes but it’s also aware of the value of targeting individuals.
“The posters of the infringing links are also often the illegal uploader of unauthorized files [on cyberlocker sites],” BREIN says, adding that in some circumstances it will seek to hold those people responsible for their actions.
“BREIN did this already with other intermediaries such as Google, Usenet providers and hosting providers of torrent sites, cyberlockers and streaming link sites.”
BREIN chief Tim Kuik says there are now plenty of affordable legal alternatives but choosing the unauthorized route could prove costly.
“Illegally offering free links and files causes damage to authors, rights holders and legal online services. They should realize that this can be expensive,” Kuik says.
That message hit home earlier this year when BREIN tracked down a prolific cyberlocker uploader who shared pirated music in a dedicated Facebook group. The man agreed to sign a €7,000 settlement and left the group, which was shut down soon after.