ONTD Political

Hollywood studio IP addresses caught pirating rivals’ films

6:31 pm - 12/26/2012
Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with several major Hollywood studios were recently logged using bittorrent networks to share films created by rival studios, according to a report on peer-to-peer blog TorrentFreak.

Working with the bittorrent tracking service ScanEye, TorrentFreak identified IP addresses registered to Paramount, Disney, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures sharing films, television shows and games. A “WhoIs” search confirms one of the addresses TorrentFreak published does indeed belong to Paramount.

The same studios are the principle driving force behind the forthcoming “six strikes” anti-piracy scheme that will log IP addresses engaged in media piracy and deliver warnings to users.

While it’s impossible to say exactly why these IP addresses were participating in bittorrent networks — and there are a variety of uses for peer-to-peer exchanges that do not involve illegal activities — it’s most likely that individual employees were sharing media from their work computers.

Though surprising, this isn’t the first time movie studio addresses have been caught engaging in piracy. A now-shuttered Russian website called “You Have Downloaded,” which functioned similarly to ScanEye, said in 2011 that it had also identified IP addresses belonging to the same studios engaging in online piracy. The site also picked up piracy at the Department of Homeland Security, the French president’s office and even at the Recording Industry Association of America.

IP addresses are often used by law firms that file suit on behalf of movie and music studios against individuals accused of pirating copyrighted materials online. The “Six Strikes” program will also focus on IP addresses, using them as the basis for injecting warning messages about illegal online activity.

Despite the entertainment industry’s reliance on IP addresses for copyright enforcement, a judge in New York ruled last May that the numbers are no longer enough to specifically identify an individual user due to the prevalence of wireless Internet that allows multiple users and devices to share the same IP address.


seishin 27th-Dec-2012 02:29 am (UTC)
amber_protocol 27th-Dec-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
I was going to go with a Mr Burns "Excellent" gif, but this is so much more apt.
seishin 27th-Dec-2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Proof that there is an appropriate Simpsons quote/gif/soundbite for EVERY situation. :)
layweed 27th-Dec-2012 02:36 am (UTC)
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 02:46 am (UTC)
Yeah, usually this is some employee who installs bittorrent on their laptop at home and forgets to turn it off when they come into the office--rather than some sort of concerted, company-condoned activity.

The office I do IT for (a branch of one of those mentioned above) has a firm ZERO tolerance policy about torrents. We actively scan our network and at the first sign of torrent traffic, we shut their computer down and report it to H.R. People have been fired over it more than once. But we're just one small branch of a much larger company. IT may not be as vigilant in other business units, supported by different groups.

Especially in the entertainment industry, there's a HUGE push to not allow this. It still slips through, but there's a sort of pact between all the major studios to actively root out this sort of thing--hence the immediate firing if caught.

Honestly, I have no sympathy. Do that shit on your own time, on your own network. But the second you use company resources, jeopardizing the entire company--you're outta there.
lantean_breeze 27th-Dec-2012 03:00 am (UTC)
"Yeah, usually this is some employee who installs bittorrent on their laptop at home and forgets to turn it off when they come into the office--rather than some sort of concerted, company-condoned activity."

I don't think this is likely at all. Maybe for a small company this could be the case, but these large corporations have firewalls that protect against this very thing--accessing illegal, "unproductive," and unfavorable sites. Since these are the main players in the "don't pirate" campaign, torrent sites would be, imo, the first thing they would block. So, even if the employee used their personal laptop to access the company's wireless network (which would be odd, imo, because at work you usually use a company issued laptop (where you'd be under contract to NOT add anything to it unauthorized like torrent software) or a company desktop that would absolutely NOT allow access to torrent sites and software, but back to my point with this run-on sentence, even if somehow an employee could use the company's wireless network for their own personal computer, say, like during break time, they'd be blocked from accessing anything that the firewall blocked, i.e. torrent sites.

It's not some employees at these companies, especially the GOVERNMENT, that are using resources unauthorized for pirating. These companies are ALLOWING it. For what reason, I do not know, but they have lost all credibility when they say "don't pirate" in my mind.

Edit: Now that I just thought of it, it is possible they could be doing research of some sort on pirating which might require taking part in that activity. That's the only half way reasonable justification I could see them having for this.

Edited at 2012-12-27 03:23 am (UTC)
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
Trust me, it IS likely. I've encountered it quite often in one of the major entertainment companies named above, as an IT worker. I've had to warn users to uninstall torrent clients on their work laptops. I've seen users get busted when they've forgotten to turn it off. I've seen some that just want to take advantage of 1Gbps transfer speeds. It certainly happens, more often than you would think.

We also get a lot of users who, despite our rule forbidding it, bring in their personal computers (a major network security risk, but can get hard to enforce in a building with 1000+ people, but less than a dozen people on the IT entire staff.)

And while users are not SUPPOSED to install 3rd party software, this becomes insanely difficult to enforce when working with software devs and other power users who NEED to have full admin rights to their systems--desktops and laptops.

It gets a little more complicated than "just block it." There isn't a switch that turns off BitTorrent protocols like a lightbulb. You can block the protocol directly, but this won't stop all of it--hell, it won't even stop the majority of it. You can block the most common ports used, but then this runs the risk of blocking a LOT of legitimate traffic. Plus, this won't catch all of it anyway... torrent traffic can use ANY port. There's no single 'website' to block because there are thousands out there. You can't just block *.torrent files because magnet links don't bother with those extensions. It's tricky.

And often, blocking illicit traffic can also accidentally block legitimate traffic. This works out fine for branches of the company that don't have high technology needs, but when you're supporting a more technical branch--well, that starts to go out the window. Some of the more buttoned-down parts of this company have far more restrictive web access, but that doesn't work everywhere. Hence why we have to constantly monitor for torrent traffic and boot people when we catch them.

IT security is a very multi-faceted beast, with lots of technical and political aspects to delicately weave together. It's NOT as simple as you're making it out to be. The bigger the company, the harder it is to really single this stuff out--especially when you have multiple different IT groups all trying to coordinate to get the whole picture in focus.

Basically, it's a complex animal.

But the bottom line, single users who are going off message and downloading torrents via their computers on their own IS the most likely source. Happens all the freakin' time and the best we can do is just catch them as it happens.
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 03:26 am (UTC)
Holy rambling paragraph, Batman!

Sorry for the novel, I get a little nerdy about my work. ;)
othellia 27th-Dec-2012 05:24 am (UTC)
As someone who also works in IT, feel free to ramble away. <3
fluorescenta 28th-Dec-2012 12:06 am (UTC)
also, I enjoyed reading your IT novel... learned a lot, thank you :)
lantean_breeze 27th-Dec-2012 03:38 am (UTC)
I'm not saying it can't happen at all or that blocking any kind of unethical/illegal activity is 100% possible. It's not. Just like these companies have groups that monitor activity and boot people out when they are caught, they also likely have a need to understand the piracy they claim to be fighting.
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 03:55 am (UTC)
Well, we are the group that monitors activity and boots people. But even if they only get through for 10 minutes (in which we identify the issue, track down their location, hustle to boot them, and turn them over to H.R.), it will still show up in a ScanEye report as torrent traffic from the company.

Plus, IT is almost always understaffed. So, when you have the entire team running full-bore just to get the day-to-day done, it's hard to constantly monitor every little thing. Nevertheless, torrent traffic is one of the handful of immediate action items we have in our IT group. When we spot it, somebody on the team drops whatever they are doing and resolves it immediately. That's how important it is to curb torrent traffic is at a major entertainment company. They take it SUPER seriously, hence the zero tolerance policy. It's one of the few things that can get you immediately fired in a place where it's darn difficult to unseat people.

I know that our IT department knows very well how piracy works. Perhaps the CEO doesn't have as intimate a knowledge of it as we do, but we're the ones on the ground fighting.

Hell, sometimes stuff happens completely by accident and all you can do is clean up after it. Once, we had Google block our entire office because a user was running a search engine statistical analysis tool which was configured incorrectly... rather than pulling reports, it accidentally sent a swarm of traffic which registered as a DDOS attack to Google. Shuttered Google for our entire branch until we could find the system and shut it down, then convince Google to let us back on, lol! Whoops.
fluorescenta 28th-Dec-2012 12:04 am (UTC)
lollll @ the google fiasco
lantean_breeze 28th-Dec-2012 02:36 am (UTC)
I'm glad that you and your team are fighting to do your best (and it sounds like you truly care about the work you are doing), but if they take it "SUPER seriously," as you say, then why are they understaffing IT? Do you think it's a cost-benefit issue, lack of qualified applicants (even in this economy), or that they just don't know what you need to do your jobs as effectively as you'd like?
cinnamontoast 27th-Dec-2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately most people think that IT is magic. They assume that, like Harry Potter, you have a magic techie wand and can make a thousand computers march to the beat of whatever drum you want to beat at any given moment. A lot of people will think that if the company doesn't want you to do something you won't be able to do it, hence whatever goes through must be okay.
lantean_breeze 28th-Dec-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
Well, that has to be what I would call willful ignorance because nothing is 100% fool-proof, and it's also the reason why people sign agreements that clearly state what the parameters of their usage should be.

Still, I don't think that all of the traffic to some of these sites is unauthorized or what I would call willfully overlooked by people in charge. Reasons can vary, sometimes it's research, and sometimes they allow some of it because, as odd as this might sound, it can actually help productivity.

Now, on this last point of productivity, I'm not talking about torrent sites/illegal sites, but gaming sites or music sites like pandora can help people keep their minds alert when doing tedious and repetitive tasks. I've seen management say "so long as it doesn't get in the way of your work..." unofficially of course.
seishin 27th-Dec-2012 03:23 am (UTC)
Especially in the entertainment industry, there's a HUGE push to not allow this.

Yup. I work in the same industry, and we get notices all the time how we're not to DL content illegally on company computers.

Frankly, it shocks me that people treat company-owned tech as their own. It. is. not. yours. You are borrowing it from 9-5 (+ overtime)

Edited at 2012-12-27 03:25 am (UTC)
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 03:26 am (UTC)
Seriously! I get laptops back all the time, covered in stickers and full of all sorts of games and other crap software. Hell, I had one guy peel all the company asset tag stickers off his MacBook because "it looked ugly." WTF, dude?
otana 27th-Dec-2012 03:44 am (UTC)
Oh god, I used to work for a company that loaned laptops out and we'd get all SORTS of crap on them. My favorite is when they brought the laptops in still turned on and logged into their email or Facebook.
dixiedolphin 27th-Dec-2012 03:57 am (UTC)
Haha! C'mon guys, at least /log out/ before you turn it in. ;)
otana 27th-Dec-2012 04:16 am (UTC)
These were tutors too.

The worst was the one who brought in her laptop with 28 viruses on it. I had to reinstall the OS, and when I sat down to explain to her "this is for teaching purposes only, do NOT go on any sites other than the ones we whitelisted, if you want to go on a tutoring site that isn't listed call us first so we can check it out" she basically said her little brother had figured out the password and kept taking it to use.

I just kind of stared at her and pointed out that she is responsible for it and if her little brother bricks it, she'll be the one charged $200. FFS, make a new password and don't leave it around where he can get to it, it's not rocket science!
angry_chick 28th-Dec-2012 06:01 am (UTC)
I would totally burn their facebook statuses.
otana 28th-Dec-2012 06:24 am (UTC)
It was tempting.
otana 27th-Dec-2012 03:06 am (UTC)
I have to wonder. Paramount has guest wifi (I don't remember if Sony does) and when you sign in they give you the daily password on your pass so theoretically it could be someone working there for the day? That said I can't imagine there wouldn't be restrictions and firewalls and such and maybe it's a different IP.

Hilarious either way!
seishin 27th-Dec-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
I'd be *shocked* if those guest-passes didnt have firewalls on top of firewalls and other restrictions.
otana 27th-Dec-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
No kidding. I only used it to check my email on downtime on my phone, it wouldn't have occurred to me to try and pirate a movie on a movie studio lot haha.
lantean_breeze 27th-Dec-2012 03:25 am (UTC)
Exactly. Even places like Whole Foods have a firewall for their guest wireless services. They can't do better than a grocery store??? LOL!
otana 27th-Dec-2012 03:43 am (UTC)
One would hope!
tiddlywinks103 27th-Dec-2012 04:11 am (UTC)
baka_tenshi 27th-Dec-2012 05:33 am (UTC)
star_maple 27th-Dec-2012 09:44 am (UTC)
LOL. Everyone I know who really actively get tons of stuff through torrents works in the entertainment industry. Those anti-piracy ads always crack me up because the worst offenders are the guys putting out the commercials.

Whether it's research (downloading a scene as an example to show a cinematographer, or to look at the work of an actress before hiring her, or looking at how similar scenes have been handled in the past) or for entertainment (it's hard to catch your favorite show or go see a movie when you're working all hours) it's happening all the time. This article doesn't surprise me at all.
lantean_breeze 28th-Dec-2012 02:51 am (UTC)
I believe this.
bmh4d0k3n 27th-Dec-2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
Just here to comment on your flawless userpic.
moonshaz 28th-Dec-2012 03:34 am (UTC)
paksenarrion2 28th-Dec-2012 04:24 am (UTC)
This doesn't surprise me in the least. I've got a couple of friends that work in the industry (one in sound and one as a PA) and they both say it goes on all the time.

I can't imagine trying to do it at my job. We get crap for trying to watch streaming TV so I imagine trying to use a torrent site would really slow down the network enough to get someone fired. They are pretty lax about using sites like FB and email programs as long as the use isn't excessive.
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