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Tuesday, 13 March 2012 17:25

An Interview with Takedown Piracy's CEO

Nate Glass is the CEO and owner of Takedown Piracy, an anti-piracy service based in California providing their clients with a means of fighting back against content thieves. We first noticed Takedown Piracy in February 2012 when we discovered an article about them in the 1709 Blog. This blog specialises in copyright subjects; one of their readers wrote to the blog to ask them whether anti-piracy services were "starting to change the landscape of piracy?"

The 1709 Blog mentioned Takedown Piracy's business model of automating the process of dealing with copyright infringement, an idea that strongly appeals to us! So we posted via Twitter a link to the 1709 Blog, our link was subsequently picked up by Takedown Piracy who re-weeted it and shortly after that our Campaign Manager, Gordon Harrison, and Nate Glass were talking to each other!

Gordon was interested in exploring further how Takedown Piracy's service operated; anti-piracy is a field that Artists' Bill of Rights had little knowledge of and were keen to understand how it worked. Nate suggested conducting an interview with him and Gordon accepted the offer.

Gordon's interview with Nate is published below but first we'd like to thank Nate and Takedown Piracy for supporting our campaign and we are delighted to promote them via our supporters page. We'd also like to thank Christopher Ruth of Marketing at Takedown Piracy for his help throughout.

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An Interview with their CEO, Nate Glass

Can you tell me about Takedown Piracy – how and why did it start?

When I started Takedown Piracy in April of 2009, piracy was just starting to really explode onto the scene. I was working in sales for a movie producer and part of my job was to visit retailers who might be interested in carrying our movies. One of the most common reasons retailers gave for not buying as much product was that so many of their customers were just getting stuff for free online. So I figured this has to be affecting my pay check not to mention our company as a whole. When I asked colleagues about this problem, I was told that the problem was simply too big to solve and not worth fighting. This served to motivate me to prove them wrong by tackling the problem myself and showing people that you can make a difference, and not let naysayers get the best of you. I like to consider myself to be a problem solver and the challenge of combating piracy was one I really excited to take on. We started out small but constantly evolved our processes and methods. Those same people who told me I wouldn't make a difference now appreciate the tenacity and determination I've put towards this issue.

Which creative sectors are do you offer your service to?

The great thing about our service is that it can really work for just about anything that is being pirated. We've worked with motion picture studios, software companies, musicians, mobile phone app developers, authors and documentary filmmakers. It's really interesting to dive into these new mediums and see how piracy profiteers operate within them, but no matter what sector you are from, we feel confident we can get good results.

Can you explain how the service works for a typical client? What do they have to supply you with to begin with and on an ongoing basis? Does the client have to approve every takedown notice before you issue it on their behalf?

For the most part, when we start with a new client, we just need to know what content we should be on the lookout for. If you have a brand name associated with your properties, we need that information. We're going to look for your content the same ways that potential customers would and the more we learn about your content the more our system can seek it out. Our clients don't have to approve every takedown notice. We're pretty solid on knowing whether or not something is an infringement, and if we're not sure, we contact the client beforehand to verify.

Could photographers use your service or they well served by the various image search mechanisms on the market.

If photographers wanted to use our service they certainly could, especially if their work is associated with a brand name that they market their photos under. However, I will say I've been very impressed with the image search tools available for photographers. I think they serve photographers well, but as I'm not a photographer myself, I'd be interested to know if photographers are happy with what the tools can do.

How do you know where to search for pirate copies of a clients work?

There are a lot of 'usual suspects' websites that are solely intended for the purpose of copyright infringement. These are the sites we routinely monitor because they are the most highly trafficked sites and we know how they operate. Once we've cleaned our clients' content off those sites, we move into the more specialized sites that might be operating under the radar. We also like to approach our clients' content just like a potential customer would. For example, we will routinely run Google searches for our clients' brand names and remove any results from the first few pages that are offering infringing results. We can then add those infringing sites to our network for more monitoring.

What is the Aikido program? What does it do?

We realized that pirates have actually developed sites that serve as aggregators compiling 1000s of smaller piracy sites into one big site, making pirated copies easier to be found. And since many types of pirates are financially motivated, they need their offerings to be visible to as many downloaders as possible. With that in mind, we developed the Aikido program as a way to exploit these piracy aggregators for our clients' benefit. Pirates love when their offerings are indexed by these aggregators for the added exposure, however our program takes that exposure and uses it against infringers by collecting the data on their uploads and sending takedown notices to the sites hosting them. Aikido literally takes the strength of certain piracy sites and using that strength against them.

It says on Takedown Piracy that the Aikido program removes thousands of infringements at incredible speed. Presumably this does not mean that the infringing files are actually deleted from the pirate site, but that DMCA Takedown Notices are issued?

That is correct; we can identify the URLs of the infringing files and then prepare the corresponding DMCA notices. A typical response time for one of our DMCA notices is 24 hours. So we can process a large number of infringements incredibly fast. The first time we used Aikido for one of our larger clients the result was a little over 110,000 infringements removed within that first 24 hours.

How do pirate sites typically respond to DMCA takedowns? Ignore them? Act on them promptly, or challenge them?

In our experience, they typically comply pretty quickly. You do run into those operations like The Pirate Bay that refuse to take anything down, but those guys also find themselves the target for multiple lawsuits. Most sites would rather just comply than take the risks. Even if sites don't comply, we can escalate the matter to whoever is hosting the site as well as filing reports with payment processors like Visa and Paypal, and getting those URLs removed from Google.

Can the takedown Piracy service operate in countries out with the USA? If so do you issue the equivalent of these countries DMCA notices? If they ignore the notice or challenge them what happens next?

Even though the DMCA is a US law, most sites have adopted it as a policy to act upon DMCA notices regardless of what country they are in. We deal with non-US sites all the time and most comply. It really comes down to a case by case basis. Some countries have a slightly modified process, while other countries are notorious for being havens for copyright infringers. We take down the content we know can be removed and if the content is on a site hosted in a safe haven country, we let the client decide whether or not to pursue litigation against them.

If one of your clients decides to take legal action to sue a pirate site for copyright infringement is this something that Takedown Piracy gets involved in any way, even as a witness?

We haven't yet testified as a witness. We have had clients pursue litigation and use our notices as evidence; so far those cases have all been settled out of court. We can provide screenshots and proof that a valid DMCA notice was sent if our client is interested in taking the infringer to court, and of course we keep copies of all notices, in the event someone needs to reference them.

Is there any legislation you would like to see implemented that would help in the fight against piracy.

I honestly believe the DMCA works; even though it's a 14 year old law which is a lifetime in terms of technology. I just don't think copyright holders have really exhausted all the uses of the DMCA. But the problem is that it isn't a global law. I'd like to see some sort of basic internet 'rules of the road' implemented that countries like Canada, the Netherlands, Russian Federation and China would adhere to. That would be a great start. Also, one of the provisions of the DMCA law states that sites have to implement a repeat infringer policy of terminating those individuals that habitually use their service to infringe copyrights. Virtually no one complies with this provision. If that were more strongly enforced it would have a tremendous impact on piracy.

Do you have any views about Search Engines and what they could do to help combat piracy?

I'd like to see someone like Google penalize sites that are repeat infringers. There are sites that we've had 10s of 1000s of URLs removed from Google's index and there seems to be no penalty from Google. If Google were to implement a penalty system whereby a certain number of infringements could get you de-indexed, you'd see more piracy sites clean up their act. They could even allow the sites to not have infringements count against them once they had shown to have removed the content. So if The Pirate Bay wants to be listed in Google at all, they would have to respond to takedown notices or risk being de-indexed. It seems wrong to me that Google will process DMCAs for 10s of 1000s of Pirate Bay URLs and then still give that site tremendous placement in its index.

Do you worry that your website might become the target for a hackers group?

I honestly think hackers have more important things to worry about than me. I'd like to see those hackers put the same passion behind worthwhile causes like famine in Africa or cancer research instead of sending me hate mail where they wish for me to die from cancer. They like to portray themselves as free speech advocates yet their main tactic is to try and silence anyone that dare disagree with them. That isn't the free speech I believe in. If they hacked my site to silence me for disagreeing with them on the issue of copyright, I hope they would realize they are doing as much damage to free speech as anyone. I welcome all comments on my blog and I interact with those that vehemently disagree with me, in my opinion, that's the open discourse we need more of. So I'm not worried, if it happens, it happens. But my business doesn't depend on my website being up in order for me to do my job, so if they wanted to do something like that, I probably wouldn't even realize it at first.

Do you think that the education system could do more to educate young people at school about copyright, that it is a right granted to everyone, not just a privileged few? Would this help gradually change attitudes?

It would be nice to see our schools explaining that copyright is not only in the US Constitution but also in the United Nations Declaration of Basic Human Rights. More than that though, I've found that once you become a content creator with your own intellectual property, you all of a sudden support copyright and get ticked off when you see someone else exploiting your work. So maybe young people need to see firsthand what happens when someone else deprives you of the rights to that which you produced. Right now I think we are an entitlement society, we don't mind other people losing their rights just as long as we don't have something we value taken away from us. But unfortunately too many people only listen to those they agree with and we shout down anyone who dissents. I was hoping the SOPA debate would be a serious conversation about the balance between individual rights and public domain, instead we got a shouting match full of mistruths and exaggerations.

There is talk about piracy groups replacing Bit Torrent with Tribler. Is this, as is being stated in some of the media, impossible to combat?

From what I've read the user base is still pretty unhappy with the results of Tribler. At the end of the day, despite whatever populist rhetoric pirates employ, piracy is about making money for someone. That means there's always going to be a paper trail. If the true hardcore pirates want to recede into the shadows of sites 99% of the world doesn't know about, I think copyright holders would be fine with that. The reason piracy flourishes is because too many people are apathetic to combating it. So not only does it become very visible and easy to find but also acceptable. Frustration can be a great tool when combating piracy. When the legal avenues for purchasing something are superior to piracy, it will severely limit the money that commercial copyright infringers are bringing in. If advertisers weren't so apathetic towards piracy, if Paypal and Visa were more pro-active in not processing money for commercial copyright infringers and if select countries weren't operating as piracy safe havens – combined with copyright holders standing up for their rights, that would all go a long way into making the world a very hard place for pirates to operate.

Is there any issue that I've failed to address or that you'd like to add?

I would just add that while I encourage all copyright holders to take action in enforcing their rights, it's important to think through what approach would be best for you. My thinking with Takedown Piracy is that we should never cost our client more in anti-piracy than they were losing to actual piracy. Unfortunately that's not the approach shared by all anti-piracy companies. This is still a relatively young industry and right now it is full of Fly-By-Night outfits that simply see opportunity in other people's misfortune. In some cases you may be able to handle your piracy problem in-house, other times you may need a service like ours. Like anything, it's probably best to shop around, get referrals, ask questions. Disreputable anti-piracy operations take advantage of those that don't understand how piracy works and they know they can quote you made up statistics that you have no way of knowing if they are true or not. Just do your homework and if something doesn't sound right, don't be afraid to investigate further.

And fight for your right to copyright!