Video Piracy: The Dark Side of…

Video Piracy: The Dark Side of Movie Releases

By Sharon Farber, Security Marketing Manager at Synamedia

Growing up, I used to think that books are better than movies – there’s nothing like letting your imagination run wild on a hero character (or anti-hero for that matter) letting it live there for as long as needed until the magic wears off. Nevertheless, there are certain movies, or better yet, certain actors that can bring a character to life as if the book were written precisely for them.

So, are you a book lover or a cinephile?

Unlike books, that are typically written by an individual, it takes a village to get a movie ready for release. Many studios announce the release of new movies ahead of time to create a sense of expectation, a hype that will make us impatient. It makes us want to run to watch the new masterpiece as soon as it’s ready, thus fulfilling the movie’s monetization potential for the studio.

But for some, that potential is fast becoming a pipe dream… of the streaming kind.

I am, of course, referring to the illicit world of online video piracy.

I’d like to share what I recently learned about the chain of events that happens on the other side of the glass as soon as the announcement of an impending movie is released. I’ll break it into two parts: the ‘before’, and ’release time’.


Video Piracy in Action: Before Launch

At the time of the press release announcing the premier screening of a movie, you can spot dozens, sometimes hundreds, of threads created in Reddit and other discussion websites rife with speculation about the availability of a pirated version as well as discussions complaining about the high price for premier access to the content which eventually “justifies” the need for video piracy.

In the following few weeks, you will find hundreds of newly registered domain names that are basically setup as traps for phishing attacks. Containing the name of the movie or the studio, these domain names are designed to lure people who are interested in purchasing a copy of the movie, into unwittingly revealing their credit card details and becoming victims of financial and potentially even identity theft.

Still before the formal release, anyone running a Google search on the movie title will find that illegitimate websites will dominate the first and second pages of the search results. This is because those with sinister intentions, abuse search engine optimization (SEO) techniques using specific keywords related to the movie name in order to redirect users to the aforementioned phishing websites.

Credentials are the next target. As the release date draws closer, forums that focus on credentials fraud and stuffing, with respect to gaining premier access to the newly released movie, become increasingly popular.


Video Piracy in Action: Release Time

On the day of the premier release, the movie is already uploaded to popular pirate websites such as The Pirate Bay. Rapidly, it spreads to other platforms such as VOD services of pirate networks, pirate movies apps, movie streaming websites and social media channels. From here the snowball just gets bigger, gathers momentum and cannot be stopped.

While I don’t think this narrative is shocking to anyone, what is extraordinary, and might not yet register in most minds, is the depth and the breadth of the pirate video ecosystem, the maturity of their business models and the fact that they currently pose the biggest competitive threat to all content owners, rights holders and TV operators out there.


Tackling Video Piracy with Technology

I already alluded to this in a recent announcement about a new approach that Synamedia is taking towards eradicating piracy.

For decades, we at Synamedia, have been at the forefront of creating technology designed to secure our customer’s content and revenue by addressing all threat vectors that pirates are posing. This is our mission and we will continue to invest in this space. I do, however, believe that we, together with other industry leaders should endeavor to create more awareness among business stakeholders and consumers alike around the wider negative impact that video piracy poses on our everyday lives.

To this end, we are announcing a new anti-piracy information campaign aimed at raising awareness about piracy, including recent technology innovations, educational webinars, research documents, blogs and more. If you are a content provider, a rights holder, or a TV operator – this campaign is something you do not want to miss.

To kick things off, here is our Guide to addressing streaming video credentials sharing and fraud the smart way.

Want to learn more in our upcoming series of blogs? Watch this space…


About the Author

Sharon Farber is the Security Marketing Manager at Synamedia, and as such believes that good technology needs to be accompanied by simple words. A veteran in Cyber Security, Sharon has worked for several big software vendors including Computer Associates as well as small nimble startups. She has held a variety of positions, some more technical than others. Sharon holds a B.S degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Operations Research. In her spare time, Sharon enjoys swimming in the Mediterranean.