Movie Pirates of the Caribbean: Illegal streaming sites vulnerable to copyright enforcers

June 28, 2018

Fifty-eight per cent of a new kind of online video piracy is based in just two locations making them more vulnerable to copyright enforcers than previously thought, according to research by Queen Mary University of London.

This is the first academic study on streaming cyberlockers - illegal YouTube-like websites which have begun to dominate online video piracy and which allow users to directly stream pirated content.

It used to be typical for content to be downloaded via peer-to-peer networks, such as BitTorrent, which operate by users sharing files directly between each other.

However this study, presented at the AAAI International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), reveals a huge ecosystem of web servers operated by cyber criminals which is not susceptible to many of the detection mechanisms that copyright enforcers use against Torrents.

Streaming cyberlockers are underpinned by third-party indexing services. These function as directories which allow viewers to search for any desired video and select a preferred streaming site from a list of URLs.

These two types of website operate hand-in-hand with a symbiotic relationship, collectively underpinning a global network of online piracy.

Lead author Damilola Ibosiola, a PhD candidate from Queen Mary's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: "Torrents are now competing with a new breed of more centralised service - so called streaming cyberlockers. We found that small numbers of networks, websites and jurisdictions host a disproportionate amount of content making them vulnerable to attack. For example, shutting down just two hosting providers would result in 58 per cent of the videos, and 71 per cent of the servers observed in our data set becoming unavailable. This is, of course, something that could either be exploited by pirates or copyright enforcers looking to update their strategies."

As it would be impossible to inspect the entire copyright infringement ecosystem, the researchers analysed three prominent indexing sites, as well as 33 different cyberlockers. Between January and September 2017 they performed monthly crawls, collecting all published videos on these indexing sites.

When combining all genres they discovered a total of 139,335 video pages and 795,698 streaming links. About 73 per cent of links were for videos released since 2000.

They also found that some pirates operate multiple 'front-ends'. Although they have different domain names, they are actually owned by the same hidden organisation. For example, gorillavid, movpod, and daclips all appear to be owned by the same entity. These three cyberlockers alone host 15 per cent of observed content.

The study also found clear geographical trends, with countries like Romania and the Netherlands acting as hot spots for copyright infringing content.

Co-author Dr Gareth Tyson, also from Queen Mary's School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, said: "The study is important because it sheds light on a highly polarised debate. We try to avoid taking a moral stance in the paper, but there are two extreme stances. On the one hand, entire political movements like the Pirate Party have emerged around the idea that content should be freely available, whilst lobbyists consistently argue that dire consequences exist. Anything that can inform this debate is probably going to be helpful."

The researchers hope to expand their datasets to generalise findings across a broader swathe of the ecosystem.
-end-


Queen Mary University of London

Related Ecosystem Articles from Brightsurf:

Breast cancer 'ecosystem' reveals possible new targets for treatment
Garvan researchers have used cellular genomics to uncover promising therapy targets for triple negative breast cancer.

Unparalleled inventory of the human gut ecosystem
Scientists gathered and published over 200 000 genomes from the human gut microbiome.

Cycad plants provide an important 'ecosystem service'
A study published in the June 2020 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Horticulturae shows that cycads, which are in decline and among the world's most threatened group of plants, provide an important service to their neighboring organisms.

More ecosystem engineers create stability, preventing extinctions
Biological builders like beavers, elephants, and shipworms re-engineer their environments.

Ecosystem degradation could raise risk of pandemics
Environmental destruction may make pandemics more likely and less manageable, new research suggests.

Improving the operation and performance of Wi-Fi networks for the 5G/6G ecosystem
An article published in the advanced online edition of the journal Computer Communications shows that the use of machine learning can improve the operation and performance of the Wi-Fi networks of the future, those of the 5G/6G ecosystem.

A lost world and extinct ecosystem
The field study site of Pinnacle Point, South Africa, sits at the center of the earliest evidence for symbolic behavior, complex pyrotechnology, projectile weapons, and the first use of foods from the sea, both geographically and scientifically, having contributed much on the evolutionary road to being a modern human.

Ecosystem services are not constrained by borders
What do chocolate, migratory birds, flood control and pandas have in common?

Late cretaceous dinosaur-dominated ecosystem
A topic of considerable interest to paleontologists is how dinosaur-dominated ecosystems were structured, how dinosaurs and co-occurring animals were distributed across the landscape, how they interacted with one another, and how these systems compared to ecosystems today.

How transient invaders can transform an ecosystem
Study finds microbes can alter an environment dramatically before dying out.

Read More: Ecosystem News and Ecosystem Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.