Mike Masnick of Techdirt this week points us to a presentation made by Paramount COO Frederick Huntsberry, who was invited by the FCC to take part in a hearing entitled “The Role of Content in the Broadband Ecosystem.” Huntsberry used his presentation to offer a quick primer on piracy, showing the commission just how easy it is to pirate movies online. In fact, it’s so easy that Paramount apparently asked the FCC to keep the presentation off its web site so as to dissuade copycats. Because, you know, the first place movie pirates go when they’re looking for a copy of the latest Hollywood blockbuster is FCC.gov.
But that wasn’t the only strange part about Huntsberry’s presentation. The Paramount COO seemed like he was out to pick a fight, alleging that a third of the world’s most popular web sites facilitate piracy. Huntsberry’s main point was that it’s getting easier every day to pirate Hollywood’s content, thanks to a new generation of sites and services. He showed off a web site with embedded Flash videos of major motion pictures as proof, but he also singled out three popular services that are all pretty bad picks to support his argument.
Huntsberry started off his presentation by pointing to Alexa’s list of the 500 most popular web sites of the world — and claiming that roughly one-third of them offer the ability to “locate or directly download pirated content.” Of course, every search engine helps you to locate pretty much anything, which is why Huntsberry graciously included Google and Yahoo as well as a number of other, lesser-known search engines and directories in his list of worst offenders.
He then proceeded to showcase how easy it is to get pirated content by going to two sites not on the Alexa list: Mininova and Drop.io. Mininova is “clearly an illegal web site,” according to Huntsberry, who proceeded to search for this year’s release of Star Trek. He picked one of the results and started to download the torrent. Seems like a clear-cut case of a site out to ruin Hollywood, right? Well, if would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that Mininova has started to test the proactive removal of infringing content through a filtering system supplied and controlled by the Motion Picture Association of America, according to court records (PDF) and a Torrentfreak article. Paramount, of course, is a member of the MPAA.
Huntsberry’s next target was the New York-based one-click hoster Drop.io. He claimed that “sites like this are used to house pirated content” and even implied that Drop.io is trying to give itself a “legitimate look to the consumer” by quoting from a New York Times review on its front page. Representatives from Drop.io declined to comment when I asked them about Huntsberry’s presentation, pointing me instead to their terms of service, which make clear that the company responds to DMCA requests to take down infringing content. One also has to wonder why Huntsberry didn’t mention the New York Film Academy, a Drop.io partner that is also prominently mentioned on the company’s front page.
And then there’s Boxee. Huntsberry used the application to make a point about piracy reaching the living room. Sure, he said, Boxee is legitimate, but it’s also an open platform, and someone could develop a plug-in that could make it possible to access pirated content. What he didn’t mention was Boxee’s pretty ingenious way to turn pirates into tastemakers and piracy into profit.
There you have it: The net, as described by Paramount COO Frederick Huntsberry, is made up of infringers that cooperate with Hollywood, help film students to distribute their works and try to monetize file-sharing. It’s about time that somebody did something about that.