Since the arrest of the alleged owner and the closure of KickAss Torrents (KAT) along with their associated mirror sites, you could be forgiven for thinking that the tide was turning and piracy was in decline. Given that KAT was the world's largest torrent site, hosting the most movies, TV Shows and music, this was bound to be a game changer. However this could not be further from the truth.
Photo from CC Flickr, D. Stewart.
KickAss Torrents only became the largest piracy site after the semi-destruction of Pirate Bay, which, like the hydra in Greek mythology, is still proving difficult to decapitate. Much like the Pirate Bay case, there are heirs to the pirate throne waiting in the wings ready to lay their claim. Previously unknown pirate sites such as iTorrents, are already planning to replace KAT’s library of pirated content. So where have authorities gone wrong in combating this seemingly indestructible terminator style enemy?
New pirates and new methods
Authorities have almost certainly misplaced effort and resources; while the takedown of KAT will stifle a few users, alternatives have quickly been made available. More importantly is the question of whether torrents are even the main weapon of pirates anymore. A string of reports, from a range of companies such as the digital citizens alliance, have been released over the past year stating that torrent sites only account for a fraction of piracy, with streaming now the main villain.
The game has gradually changed and law enforcement appears to be fighting yesterday’s war, as streaming now accounts for the vast majority of illegal film and tv piracy. The nature of streaming makes it difficult to track and pin liability, and the practice is responsible for a lot of Google’s illegal links. Google have received a record number of DMCA takedown requests this year, many due to steaming and the problem is ballooning. Fox studios alone submitted more than 13.8 million removal requests last year: the total flow of requests may be too much for Google to handle.
Users' tech knowledge is also improving
In addition to this, it appears that users are becoming more and more tech-savvy in circumvention methods: using VPNs and proxies, mitigating malware risk with protection programs and moving to streaming to minimize tracking. The advent of streaming boxes is further evidence for the cultural move to streaming content. Although some police forces have focused on these devices (particularly in the live sport industry), it still doesn’t account for the thousand more streaming incidents that occur on laptops across the world.
That said, there may be a glimmer of hope: the rise in DMCA requests is in part due to the rise in content protection services, once a luxury but now a necessity for any movie, TV show or album. The conclusion is clear, if piracy is going to keep evolving then so must the technology put in place to counter it. Traditional methods focus on the people and physical hubs, however much like SKYNET in the terminator films, piracy is everywhere. If authorities are serious about defeating piracy and don’t have a time traveling Arnold Schwarzenegger, then they must trust in fighting tech with tech, Terminator vs Terminator.