Earlier today news broke that Viacom and Google/YouTube have settled their billion dollar copyright infringement dispute, in which the former had accused the latter of hosting its video content without permission.
The precise terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the fact that YouTube has been trying hard to combat piracy in recent years can hardly have gone unnoticed. It invests large sums into Content ID, but this anti-piracy / monetization system can’t ever hope to solve the problem completely.
So, while the world is worrying about The Pirate Bay and other so-called ‘rogue sites’, through no fault of its own YouTube continues to be a pretty decent place to watch unauthorized content, not least hundreds if not thousands of Hollywood movies.
Finding that content is fairly easy too, via a title search (sometimes followed by “full movie”) and the activation of the “Duration Long” feature which only returns videos in excess of 20 minutes. However, spammers have been doing their best to pollute these results for some time, with fake video uploads of around two hours which claim to be the movie but are actually ploys to generate traffic to other sites.
If only there was a pre-moderated YouTube-movie-indexing site with a great Popcorn Time-style interface complete with reviewer ratings. Maybe looking something like this?
Actually there are already quite a few of these kinds of sites but MovieFork attracted our attention after it appeared in a complaint to Google penned by Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner and Disney – together the MPAA.
The complaint features three sites – MovieFork, FullMovies.cc and Otakhang.com, each dedicated to indexing Hollywood movies already available on YouTube. While many of the titles indexed by these sites are older classics, there’s no shortage of newer titles from the past year. Quality is half decent too, hardly the peer-through-a-letterbox experience of years gone by.
In its complaint the MPAA asks Google to take down specific URLs, including the MovieFork homepage. In another it asks for the FullMovies.cc domain to be delisted along with that of fellow YouTube movie indexing site Uflix.net.
But despite the nature of the sites, Google refused to comply with the MPAA’s requests. Google’s own Transparency Report shows it took “no action” in respect of the takedown notices and searching for the precise URLs with Google search reveals they are still indexed, with none of the sites’ homepages being delisted either.
Quite why Google is refusing to respond is unclear, but there are some interesting pointers. For example, similar requests to take down URLs that point to movies hosted on sites other than YouTube have been successful, such as the one for Man of Steel listed in this complaint.
It’s certainly possible that Google expects rightsholders to send their takedowns directly to YouTube, rather than shooting endless links and leaving the original content intact. Indeed, there are plenty of signs they are doing just that as some links are no longer available.
The scale of the free-full-movies problem is evident when one looks at Zero Dollar Movies, a site that claims to index 15,000 movies, all available for free from YouTube. It appears to use the YouTube Search API and even has its own ‘Instant’ feature for suggesting content that searchers may be interested in.
Other indexes, such as /FullMoviesonYoutube, a section of Reddit dedicated to just that, are pretty basic but show that not much infrastructure is needed in order to create a decent selection.
The movies-on-YouTube problem isn’t new in the same way that the torrents issue isn’t, but like Popcorn Time showed, it’s certainly got an awful lot prettier.