Firms Catching Pirates on peer-to-peer Networks

Gaming, Piracy No Comments »

Today I read of a couple who as part of the crack down on file-sharing, have been accused of illegally sharing computer gaming files after having claimed they have never played the game in question.

The case that was highlighted by consumer watchdog Which? described how a the two people contacted a local magazine after never playing Race07 by makers Atari.

Although the case was later dropped against the pair, Which? estimates that similar accusations have occurred against hundreds of other people in similar situations.
As discussed in depth previously on The Shelf, illegal sharing of music, movies and games has become a huge headache for copyright owners, and numerous solutions touted as the answer.

With estimates putting file shares at 6 million people, firms are increasingly getting tough on pirates.

At present game, music and film companies are actively monitoring peer-to-peer sharing networks, such as Gnutella, BitTorrent, and eDonkey, which allow copyrighted media produced within these industries to be shared.

The company in question, Atari, has gone so far as to appoint a law firm to prosecute people they identify as file sharers.

Once a user’s IP is logged participating on these networks, rights owners can apply for a court order which obliges internet service providers to hand over the account holder’s details.

I the case highlighted above, the stark warning letter sent to the pair demanded £500 compensation or a date in court.

“We do not have, and have never had, any computer game or sharing software. We did not even know what ‘peer to peer’ was until we received the letter”. – said one of the accused.

Online Gaming Piracy: How Bad Is It?

Gaming, Piracy 2 Comments »

On the back of yesterday’s article on Ubisoft’s law suit against OEM, The Shelf continued to dig to find out more about the world of online piracy in the gaming industry.

Online piracy has been a topic widely discussed in recent years, particularly in relation to the music industry. The case brought forward by gaming giant Ubisoft did however provide a rare chance to investigate further into the world of gaming piracy.

At a first glance gaming piracy doesn’t seem as wide spread a problem as that of music piracy. This could be due to the increased file size of game downloads that make downloading a little more difficult than that of music. It could also be due to sophisticated copyright prevention measures the industry already has in place. So is online gaming piracy a big problem after all?

If you ever wanted to know how many pirate downloads the top games are receiving then RPS (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2008/03/05/the-yarr-ts-piracy-snapshot-532008/) has compiled a chart of the most downloaded game titles.

Top of the list is Assassin’s Creed with 25734 downloads followed by Frontlines: Fuel of War (12688) and Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat (8792) making up the top three. The figures were compiled through file sharing site Miniova, and represent the amount of downloads made in a single day.

The full top twenty

1) Assassin’s Creed – 25734
2) Frontlines: Fuel of War – 12688
3) Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat – 8792
4) Dark Messiah of Might and Magic – 8402
5) Lost: Via Domus – 5883
6) Turning Point: Fall of Liberty – 5183
7) Sims 2 – 4026
8 ) The Club – 3672
9) Bioshock – 3489
10) The Witcher – 3121
11) Need for Speed ProStreet – 3061
12) Crysis – 2847
13) Conflict: Denied Ops – 2085
14) Neverwinter Nights 2 – 1893
15) Hellgate: London – 1750
16) World in Conflict – 1531
17) Stranglehold – 1459
18) The Orange Box – 1341
19) Age of Empires – 1099
20) Flat Out 2 – 1074

Top twenty UK games sales

THE SIMS 2: FREETIME
WORLD OF WARCRAFT: BATTLE CHEST
SINS OF A SOLAR EMPIRE
THE SIMS 2: BON VOYAGE
CIVILIZATION IV COMPLETE
CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE
ASSASSIN’S CREED
COMMAND & CONQUER 3: TIBERIUM WARS
RACE DRIVER: GRID
MASS EFFECT
WARHAMMER 40,000: DAWN OF WAR SOULSTORM
CRYSIS
MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR X
WARHAMMER 40,000: DAWN OF WAR COMPLETE
AGE OF EMPIRES III
MICROSOFT FLIGHT SIMULATOR X DELUXE
AGE OF CONAN: HYBORIAN ADVENTURES
SIM CITY SOCIETIES
CHAMPIONSHIP MANAGER 2008

*Note* Sins of A Solar Empire – is absent, despite sitting #3 in the UK retail charts

With the download figures taken from a single days download activity it is mind-blowing to see how many time the top titles are downloaded.


“Call of Duty 4 has been on sale for 113 days, assuming day zero piracy. A seven gig torrent, assuming a 100k download speed, takes just under a day to download. Assuming that the rate of downloads now is constant across those whole three and a bit months – which is incredibly conservative, of course, as it’d have been much higher upon release – that means 993496 copies will have been illegally downloaded via Mininova alone. Which is the sort of number that makes Infinity Ward sad.”

The problem with discussing piracy with game titles is that it is generally agreed that each download it not equal to a sale lost, generally because or people using multiple torrents, meaning it’s possible that trying multiples at once to see which one gives the game first. That said even if a tenth of downloads converted to a real sale it would benefit the industry massively.

On RPS the point is highlighted that even with these conservative figures, with a game like COD4 released for 113 days, assuming it was never more popular than the sample day taken, it has been downloaded 993,496 times. Again assuming it stood at zero at time of launch. Plus, that’s through one single torrent site!

There is a discussion forum about the topic at bit tech for those who want to get involved

Ubisoft Sue Over Pirate Downloads Assassin’s Creed

Gaming, Piracy, The Interwebs 2 Comments »

As big fans of Ubisoft recent PS3 offering Assassin’s Creed, news of the games manufacturer suing US duplication firm Optical Experts Manufacturing for $10 million after an early PC version leaked onto the internet, was news that certainly interested us.

Ubisoft has claimed that USD was directly responsible for the leak that happened in late February 2008, six weeks prior to the games official release.

According to a report on Gamespot, OEM ignored security protocols which would have prevented the leak. The contract that Ubisoft signed with OEM apparently stipulated that the code for the game would be held in top-level security and that no copies of the game would be allowed to leave the premises without permission. It is thought that an employee of the firm took the game home and uploaded it to internet.

The source of the leak was tracked down to the house of an employee of OEM. An OEM-manufactured copy of the game was later found at the employee’s residence, though the suit doesn’t specify when that copy was found.

Ubisoft has said that the security breach is directly responsible for 700,000 pirates downloads of game, including 25,000 downloads in one day from torrent site Yowzers.

Ubisoft described the breech as “an extraordinary breach of trust and gross negligence”

It also became clear in the report that the copy released was not the finished version of the game, and as a fail safe included a deliberate bug for security reasons causing the game to crash half way through.

As the game was released a short time after the breech it is believed that numerous reviews were written on the pirate version, causing “irreparable harm” to Ubi’s reputation.

As part of the legal action OEM now faces the full wrath of Ubisoft’s legal muscle, and is being sued for breach of contract, negligence and copyright infringement, with damages and legal fees also sought for the three claims to the tune of USD10 million.

ISP’s to Combat Music Piracy

Music, Piracy 1 Comment »

Today it was announced that Internet Service Providers have finally agreed plans with the music industry that will aim to tackle piracy online.

The Shelf first discussed the proposed plans back in February in an article titled ‘Government Turns Up Heat On ISP’s and Online Piracy’ which discussed how the government was steadily growing impatient with ISP and the music industries failure to come to such an agreement, threatening that if both parties failed to come to agreement legislation would be introduced to curb online Music Piracy

Negotiated by the government, the deal has seen BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse all sign up and will mean hundreds of thousands of letters could now be sent to users suspected of illegally sharing music online.

The music industry is pushing for measures that would see users who ignore written warning having their connections disabled; however ISP’s are unwilling to enforce such measures.

The plan is “a first step, and a very big step, in what we all acknowledge is going to be quite a long process” said Feargal Sharkey, chief executive of British Music Rights.

In contrast to the US which has seen thousands of lawsuits launched against alleged file sharers, over the last couple of years the BPI has been focused on educational efforts to prevent music piracy online, with limited legal action being taken against copyright infringers.

As part of the deal, drawn up by the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), ISP will be expected to ensure customers realise that file sharing online is illegal, and take measures to tackle repeated infringements.

The government is still considering plans to give ISPs a legal requirement to tackle copyright infringers.

Recently BT and Virgin have been reported to have been sending letters to customers on behalf of the BPI, a controversial move that many say puts the BPI in the role of net police, a role they don’t belong in.

It is currently he BPI who works out who it thinks is illegally file sharing by trawling file sharing websites and tracing back the IP addresses of users.

Google vs Viacom : Does YouTube Infringe on Copyright?

Piracy, The Interwebs 1 Comment »

It has been announced that internet search giant Google has been ordered by a US court to turn over data on users of its social video site YouTube. The ruling comes as part of Google’s legal battle with Viacom, over allegations that the search giant knowing permitted content to be uploaded across the site that infringed on copyright laws.

The data that will be handed across to Viacom will contain the log in ID’s of users, IP addresses and details of any video clips ever watched.

Digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation called the ruling a “set-back to privacy rights”, whilst others speculated that the ruling was potentially unlawful being that the data contained personally identifiable data.

The Case Details
The billion dollar legal case between Viacom and Google is the biggest case of its kind in history, but is only the latest instance of a company targeting user generated content sites, stating that they are responsible for the content hosted on the site, and subsequent infringement of copyright laws.

Google had consistently denied the allegations that YouTube infringes copyright, saying that it takes down protected videos from the site when asked by content owners, as required by United States law.

Recently EMI also filed a suit against VideoEgg stating similar copyright infringement practices, making the case of Google vs Viacom a landmark ruling, and one that could well have a bearing on how similar disputes are settled in the future.

As part of the legal action Viacom brought against Google, it requested much more than the awarded data on YouTube account holders. For that reason the provision of user data, estimated to total over 12 terabytes, is very much a glass half full/ half empty scenario, with Google scoring a key legal victory keeping all of its trade secrets in tact and Viacom being awarded access to user data.

From a business perspective Google has certainly come out ahead, with Viacom denied access to proprietary code that controls the search facility of both YouTube and Google.com. Viacom had requested access to the code stating it was the only way to truly see if and how Google encourages copyright infringement.

The court denied Viacom’s request for source code stating that the “program’s source code is the product of approximately 50,000 man hours of engineering time and millions of dollars of research and development costs, and maintaining its confidentiality is essential to prevent others from creating competing programs without any equivalent investment”

On the flip side users are the clear losers, with personally identifiable data being handed across to Viacom. This could however have been much worse with access being denied to private video content of YouTube users. This would have entitled Viacom access to videos that can only be viewed by authorised users, video uploaded for personal use, however it was deemed this would be a privacy violation under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The courts did however award Viacom user data whilst forcing them to respect it, threatening to hold them in contempt of court if it uses that data for anything other than specifically proving the prevalence of piracy on YouTube.

As part of the legal action Viacom were also denied their request for Google to turn over databases with information about each video available on YouTube, including titles, keywords, comments and whether videos had been flagged or not. With this data Viacom wanted to demonstrate that defendants have an ability to control infringements, however their request was denied.

Viacom was also denied Google’s advertising and video content schemas with Google arguing their confidentiality. Viacom had intended to demonstrate how revenues were directly related to infringing content.

On reflection, it therefore seems that Google did in fact score a victory over Viacom, keeping propriety code and advertising schemas in tact, in a move that would certainly have dented their competitive edge. Users too can rest in the knowledge that data on private videos, deleted videos and clip data of each video uploaded to YouTube will remain confidential, and the user data that is to be handed over is bound by legal conditions.

After the ruling Google made a statement saying Viacom was “threatening the way millions of people legitimately exchange information, news, entertainment and political and artistic expression.”

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