Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Unrepentant Bootlegger; New York Times, 9/27/14

Jenna Wortham, New York Times; The Unrepentant Bootlegger:
"To the government, Ms. Beshara was a thief, plain and simple. The Motion Picture Association of America alerted the federal government to NinjaVideo and nine other movie-streaming sites, and they all went dark at the same time. The raids were carried out by several federal agencies working to combat counterfeiting and piracy, and the scale of the operation was meant to send a warning that the government wasn’t ignoring the freewheeling world of illegal online streaming and downloading.
Ms. Beshara, however, still can’t accept that what she was doing deserved the heavy hammer of the law. She served 16 months in prison for conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement, but she still talks about NinjaVideo as something grand. It was a portal that spirited her away from the doldrums of her regular life as a receptionist living with her parents to an online community that regarded her as its queen. Sure, she showed movies that were still playing in theaters, but it seemed like harmless, small-stakes fun.
“In hindsight — I know it’s na├»ve — but I never imagined it going criminal,” she said. “It didn’t seem like it was something to be bothered with. Even if it is wrong.”
She is not the only one who feels that way. It has proved very difficult to reverse a pervasive cultural nonchalance about what constitutes intellectual property theft on the web. Despite the government crackdown in 2010 and subsequent efforts to unplug websites that host or link to illegal content, new sites have emerged that filled the void that NinjaVideo left behind.
Online piracy is thriving. File-sharing, most of it illegal, still amounts to nearly a quarter of all consumer Internet traffic, according to Cisco Systems’ Visual Networking Index. And a recent report from Tru Optik, a media analytics firm, said that nearly 10 billion movies, television shows and other files, including games and pornography, were downloaded globally in the second quarter of 2014. Tru Optik estimates that about 6 percent of those downloads were legal. In July, a high-quality version of “The Expendables 3,” the Sylvester Stallone action comedy film, surfaced online and was downloaded millions of times, well before its release in theaters."

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