The Internet Police Are For Real – And They’re Teenagers

I don’t know about most people, but when I was in a kid in school, no one liked the tattletale.

Snitch, rat, narc — we had all kinds of words for them. Today, however, some large media companies are now looking to use teenagers not much older than I was when I was in school to become big-time corporate snitches. What’s more interesting is that they have little choice but to hire them for that task, because their digital security efforts will never get the job done for them.

I’m talking about Warner Bros., one of the largest film studios in the world. In their UK division, they are offering internships for students to join the company with the specific purpose of hunting down content piracy. To be specific, they want these kids to spend all day cruising the Web in order to find when someone posts a copy of a Warner Bros. movie (say The Dark Knight, for example) on YouTube or another similar site without authorization. They are going to train these kids how to flag the content to the hosting service and send out cease and desist emails to the people who posted the content.

As the world of digital content distribution exploded online, film studios had the play catch up to figure out first how to get unauthorized copies of their work off the free Web and then how to monetize digital copies of their content. After all, if I can download The Dark Knight for free from a pirate site, then why would I need to buy a Netflix subscription to watch it? Studios have deals with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon as well as other pay-for-play consumer movie sites, and the studio gets a cut of what these digital distributors make off their content.

That’s why it is in the studio’s best interests to keep free pirated copies off the Web. Anyway, here’s the classified ad that Warners distributed to students at the University of Manchester. Let the irony soak in gently as you read it:

“During the 12 month internship, duties will include: monitoring local Internet forums and IRC for pirated WB and NBCU content and in order to gather information on pirate sites, pirate groups and other pirate activities; finding new and maintaining existing accounts on private sites; scanning for links to hosted pirated WB and NBCU content and using tools to issue takedown requests; maintaining and developing bots for Internet link scanning system (training provided); preparing sending of infringement notices and logging feedback; performing trap purchases of pirated product and logging results; inputting pirate hard goods data and other intelligence into the forensics database; selecting local keywords and submitting local filenames for monitoring and countermeasure campaigns and periodically producing research documents on piracy related technological developments. Various training will be provided.”

Now, I can’t blame Warner Bros. for their approach, no more than I can blame the kids who want to take the job. After all, we’re not in high school anymore, and pirating movies is wrong. No, I’m not a corporate shill, but I am a movie fan. When I go to the movies, I like the fact that my money is going to a studio that is paying the actors and the crew for their work. It means working artists will be able to make a living doing what they love and the studio will have the money to make more movies that I’ll enjoy.

I just couldn’t resist the contradiction of using kids that are more likely to be downloading pirated copies of films to hunt down the people who pirate them. Revenge may be a dish that is best served cold, but apparently irony is a dish best served with Nachos and Mountain Dew.

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