Ouch! Piracy Tracking Outfit Fails Embarrassingly (Update)

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UK-based piracy tracking company has MUSO made an embarrassing mistake by crowning The Walk as the most pirated movie of last week. The error appears to have been caused by a rookie mistake in the setup of its filters, which may have failed to remove millions of uploads of a popular TV-show with a similar name.

musoThe anti-piracy business is booming, with thousands of companies making a decent living by helping rightsholders to protect their work.

London-based MUSO is one of these outfits. The company has been around for a long time and has evolved into one of the most active senders of DMCA notices to Google.

Just two years ago MUSO received a £250,000 “Smart Award” grant from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, to improve and expand its piracy tracking technologies.

Despite this cash injection MUSO’s data gathering technique is far from optimal. A few weeks ago, for example, we pointed out that many of the takedown notices it sends are bogus.

In addition to sending takedown requests the company also collects file-sharing statistics, which they offer to copyright holders as business intelligence. Unfortunately, these systems are not without mistakes either.

A few days ago the following tweet from MUSO’s official Twitter account caught our eye, announcing “The Walk” as the most uploaded film that week.


To us this was quite a surprising result, because there are only a few low quality copies of The Walk on torrent sites. With just a few hundred people sharing, those are not popular at all compared to other pirated films.

So what happened here?

Well, after giving it some thought we realized that MUSO’s data gathering tool may have omitted a crucial element. Instead of looking at entire filenames it appears to have checked the total uploads of all files with the words “The Walk” in there, while forgetting to filter out “-ing Dead.”

This means that in addition to the few thousand “The Walk” uploads last week, it may have also counted the millions of uploads of “The Walk/ing Dead.” This makes sense, since The Walking Dead was the most shared TV episode by far that week.


Of course mistakes can happen everywhere, especially with companies that have to rely on filters to sift through massive amounts of data. What’s most troubling though, is the fact that the result was proudly shared with the rest of the world, without a proper check.

It appears that nobody at MUSO noticed the oddity, and neither did any of their followers, as the tweet is still online after more than a week.

Whether anyone will walk the plank as a result of this embarrassing error is doubtful. However, we would argue that the Government’s “Smart Award” might not have been the best investment of UK tax payers’ money.

Update: MUSO has responded to this article and informs us that our assumptions are wrong. The company admits that the tweet is “unintentionally misleading” and will phrase it differently in the future.

The “most uploaded film” refers to a selective sample of movies that premiered in the UK that week. MUSO counts the number of uploads to various torrent, streaming and download sites and found that “The Walk” topped the chart that week.

“In this instance, and in line with our other weekly UK film theatrical release measurement tweets, the post should have made more specific reference to UK theatrical week of release as the data collection and comparison period.”

“Over the past decade, our data collection technologies have been developed, optimised and continuously benchmarked to ensure both metadata and fingerprint capture are performing with near zero error.”

Since there are only a few new theatrical releases in the UK each week, with even fewer being leaked online, The Walk can indeed be the most uploaded new release. The misleading tweet can still be seen as an embarrassing mistake, but not nearly as bad as we assumed.


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