Selling ‘Handmade’ USB Drives with Pirated Movies is a Thing

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A quarter century ago, computer aficionados had to spend a lot of time and effort to get the latest warez. That's no longer the case today. Pirates can get nearly everything they want on demand. And for those who prefer something tangible, there are opportunistic online sellers of 'handmade' USB drives or hard drives, preloaded with pirated films and TV shows.

superhero drivePirated content exists in many shapes and forms. In the early 90s cassettes and floppies were popular, but they were later replaced by CDs and other forms of mass storage media.

While these shifts were taking place, Internet-based piracy was taking off. From Napster, through Kazaa, to torrents and streaming services; piracy entered nearly every household at some point.

Nowadays, most pirates have grown used to the convenience of on-demand streaming but other variants continue to exist. Earlier this week, Amazon sued the operators of several stores it accused of selling pirated DVDs out in the open, for example.

‘Handmade’ Pirate Sticks

The pirate DVD business has been around for more than two decades but usually takes place offline. However, it seems that sellers have gotten used to the opportunities and convenience of the Internet as well. And with outlets such as Etsy providing an easy storefront, selling has become easier than ever.

While Etsy isn’t the only store where pirated content is openly sold, the problem seems prevalent there. Simply typing in the search phrases “USB movies” or “USB TV shows” returns hundreds of results.

Most of these flash drives are tagged as “handmade”. It’s not clear what that entails but it seems likely that these sellers downloaded the pirated goods by hand at some point, created curated selections of movies and TV-shows, then added them to USB drives.

etsy usb

This ‘craftwork’ results in popular titles such as “80 action movies usb” and “South Park seasons 1-26 and movie on USB flash drive“. The prices vary and range from a few dollars for a single TV-series on a flash drive, to $1,200 for a collection of 10,000+ movies on a 12 terabyte hard drive.

Is Craft Piracy OK?

Earlier this week someone on Reddit questioned how so many Etsy sellers can sell these ‘handmade’ flash drives loaded with movies and TV shows. Have these people found a loophole in the law or is this copyright infringement?

As far as we know, there is no fair use exception for ‘handmade’ collections of pirated content, and most Redditors also answered that this is copyright infringement. The question of how these sellers get away with it was aptly answered as well.

“They’re getting away with it the same way any drug dealers in my city are getting away with selling drugs, they just haven’t gotten caught yet. Or some may have gotten caught but only received a slap on the wrist and decided it was worth the risk to continue.”

While selling drugs is obviously on a different level, both groups appear to be seizing an opportunity to make a profit. And given the vast amount of pirate flash drive sellers out there, it’s possible to get away with it, at least for a while.

ACE is Watching

Anti-piracy coalition ACE is aware of this problem, however. ACE boss Jan van Voorn informs TorrentFreak that they’re working with Etsy and other online platforms to address these types of problems.

“This is one example where sellers circumvent the parameters and violate the terms of service. This is something we are actively flagging with platforms like Etsy,” Van Voorn says.

We also reached out to Etsy, but the company didn’t immediately reply to our request for comment.

For now, however, the problem persists. Looking at the reviews, many customers are happy with the products these sellers offer. However, there are several complaints as well, probably because most who buy pre-loaded pirate drives aren’t the most tech-savvy types.


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