From peer-to-peer to live streaming: the methods of illicit access to protected works via internet are diversifying

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The bête noire of the cultural industries, the rapid development of illegal downloading has led rights holders to take legal action and to try to dissuade Internet users from engaging in such practices. But in twenty years, it is clear that not only have these illegal behaviors not ceased, but that the methods used to unlawfully access these contents have diversified, as shown by a new study published by the hadopi.

The success of commercial Internet access offerings in the 1990s and the gradual increase in data rates led to the proliferation in the 2000s of peer-to-peer file exchange systems such as Kazaa, eMule and BitTorrent. In addition to downloading via peer-to-peer networks, new access methods have been added: direct download, streaming, live streaming or IPTV.

Nevertheless, the general mechanism of illicit access to content remains the same for the end consumer. In order to analyze in detail the interactions of the different actors participating in the ecosystem of the illegal access to dematerialized cultural goods, the Hadopi commissioned a study at Ernst & Young Advisory, realized between January and June 2018, in partnership with the General Directorate of Media and Cultural Industries (DGMIC).

At the heart of this increasingly complex ecosystem are three types of so-called central actors: contributors, web hosts and SEO sites. Each of these central players, as well as consumers, now use a variety of services through a host of legal and illegal techniques and intermediaries.

Central actors

A contributor sends a file to a host whose link is then accessible to the consumer through an SEO site. These contributors, also known as  uploaders , in order to distinguish them from Internet users who download content called  downloaders , the plural also posts links to SEO sites and takes part in additional services such as subtitle translation. There are those who make it a real economic activity and those who are motivated by  “a philosophy advocating the free dissemination of cultural goods, rather than by a search for profit” .

Web hosts offer several modes of access to content: direct download ( Direct DownLoad – DDL ); peer-to-peer download, which allows the consumer to receive or retrieve a file on their computer; the  streaming or playback of a video stream requires no download; the  live streaming  to watch live video content filmed live and finally the see  Rem  36, p.). Nevertheless, some advertising agencies such as PubDirect in Switzerland, AdCash in Estonia and Adbooth in Spain, have specialized almost exclusively in the illicit market. The main payment intermediaries, such as Paypal, also played the game of drying up the financial resources of SEO sites, quickly replaced by new players such as AlloPass, Instantcode.co or Skrill.

Web hosts use technical players to provide transport, security and storage of content, the majority using a see  Rem  16, p.42 ).

SEO sites use two techniques to prevent the content from being detected by the authorities and to replace the “inactive” links. These sites use “link obfuscators”. In order to avoid posting a direct link to hosted content on their site, the so-called obfuscation technique consists of forcing the consumer to perform a manual operation on an intermediate screen before displaying the link to the hosting platform. When rights holders make withdrawal requests to which the hosts are legally obliged to act, the use of link obfuscator by the referencing site considerably complicates the automatic collection of these links by the authorities.

Services used by consumers

A small proportion of consumers of illicit content use a variety of services to anonymize their connection or facilitate their use. Hadopi estimates that the rate of users among illegal consumers using a VPN ( Virtual Private Network  ) is 5%. A VPN allows its users to access remote servers as on a local network, masking their IP address to bypass blocking measures. These VPN services are close to proxies or “proxy servers”, which make a service almost identical, and are chosen by 1.8% of users among illegal consumers, according to the Hadopi; while 0.2% of users among illicit consumers use  seedboxesalso known as Virtual Private Servers ( Virtual private server  – VPS). A  seedbox , whose name comes from the word  seed , “source” in the jargon of the download, is a private computer server that generally uses the BitTorrent protocol to send and receive content, making invisible the IP address of the computer. the user.

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