Telegram was the app set to become a household name when it launched in 2013, but since losing first place to WhatsApp it has found favour in some of the more niche online communities. The app prides itself on being the most private solution for instant messaging, which makes it a popular choice for sharing pirated content.
Telegram: an introduction
Telegram is the preferred messenger of choice for tech-savvy and security-conscious app users, with over 200 million users to date. For those of us who speak only a limited amount of tech: Telegram is a competitor of WhatsApp, a messaging app that allows users to utilize an internet connection to send files, text and images to each other or groups.
Telegram prides itself on its level of security and encoding, offering a $300,000 prize to a hacker that can crack their encryption in 2014, of which there was no winner. However what is more interesting to the tech community is that it has an open API and is an open source app.
Book piracy on Telegram
This means that programmers and developers can alter features of the app and can build add-ons, including automated bots. Without getting too technical, you can ask your Telegram bot to search for things you like and deliver them automatically to your conversation window. This could be used for news updates around a specific topic, cheap flights or to find places that sell a specific brand.
You can also program your bot to search the web for illegal links to download pirated copies of content and because Telegram is a messenger system, it means the results are easily shareable. Books, magazines and the much-pirated comic books are all being shared on the platform, and unfortunately, such innovative means of piracy often fly under the radar of content protection strategies.
Consumers simply join the correct group or channel and the documents are there ready to download. People have been writing code to find links to content and sharing them on websites for a long time, but the use of Telegram for this is making the practice hugely accessible and easy for the non-tech savvy consumer.
Could Telegram be the next generational habit for Pirated content?
Without the help of our tech guys, here at Red Points we decided to see how easy it would be to find pirated content.
- First we made a Telegram account, which is private and only requires your phone number or a twitter account. After a short Google search (see: Why does Google list illegal links?) we were able to find a link to a group which has digital copies of all the latest editions of the major political, financial, business and music magazines.
- Another 10 minute search and we found a group with 2900 members, that would allow us a direct download of anything from Young Adult fiction to the latest bestsellers in handy Kindle and eBook formats. These came with reviews, descriptions of the genre and even ratings from book review websites.
- We also found a whole host of channels that contained pirated academic papers and pirated university textbooks: tempting for cash-strapped students indeed but one that could easily turn into a generational habit.
The fact is that on Telegram, users don’t have to worry about ads nor about downloading a program to retrieve the content. You are able to upload a file that is over 1.5GB in size (which amounts to a two-hour movie), without a limit to any number of files.
Furthermore, with the possibility of Telegram’s own cryptocurrency to be decided at the end of October, this would prove to be another worrying feature for paid pirated content. The encrypted payment method named “Gram” could make it easier for users dealing in piracy to monetize their content.
Luckily, our technology are prepared for this. Recently, when one of our client’s publications appeared on a major Telegram piracy channel, our tech quickly and automatically detected the infringement and using an already-established relationship with Telegram, our legal team quickly moved to inform the administrator of the channel of our intention to take legal action against them. The channel was then closed and the administrator's access revoked. It brings up the problem of adapting copyright law for a digital age; and the necessity of legal expertise in negotiating such takedowns.
The people who use these outlets are fans of the content, but generally they are victims of convenience; it’s our job to remove that false friend. Digital advancements can encourage a new consumer relationship with piracy, and it's vital to stamp that out before it damages creators further. After all, protecting content isn’t about closing digital communities, but about protecting artists and creative industries. Months of hard work go into creating content from the writer to the editor to the marketing team, and we believe in protecting these jobs and people.
Interestingly, Telegram's competitor has also of late fallen victim to abuse, with groups of sellers using WhatsApp to sell counterfeits and avoid detection. It goes to show that as detection and efforts to curb online infringement ramp up, it becomes ever-more necessary to constantly evolve with new piracy tactics. As the digital environment grows, content becomes increasingly shareable, and our generation of 'digital natives' are already well equipped. Now it's time to step up our own game.
For more information on how to tackle online piracy, take a look at our anti-piracy tech solution.