Hollywood studios busted as torrent-loving dens of piracy

Tomorrow, the Stop Online Piracy Act goes for markup. The bill argues that the Internet is full of "rogue companies" and that the only way to save the entertainment industry is to let the studios have the say-so over who can display advertising, process payments, or have DNS.

Using YouHaveDownloaded, a Russian site that indexes downloads of popular .torrent files, TorrentFreak checked to see just how suited the studios are to serving as judge, jury and executioner over the Internet. They discovered (predictably enough) that the studios are full of pirates, greedily hoovering up illicit copies of popular movies, CDs, TV shows, and more.

First up is Sony Pictures Entertainment. As shown below, on this single IP-address alone a wide variety of music and movies have been downloaded. And this is probably just the tip of the iceberg, as YouHaveDownloaded only tracks about 20% of all public BitTorrent downloads.

Another Hollywood studio where it’s not uncommon to download music, TV-shows and movies is NBC Universal. The employee(s) behind one of the IP-addresses at the Fort Lauderdale office in Florida downloaded the first season of ‘Game of Thrones,’ some trance music, a DVD of ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, and much more.

And then there are the fine upstanding people at Fox Entertainment checking out the work of a competing studio. Perhaps downloading ‘Super 8′ can be branded as “market research,” but in this instance actually paying for the DVD might be more appropriate.

After all, when Fox notices that one of their own movies has leaked online they quickly contact the FBI to get the offender jailed. Ouch.

Busted: BitTorrent Pirates at Sony, Universal and Fox


  1. Dear peeps,

    YouHaveDownloaded is a trap intended to get your Facebook information. 

    You are welcome. 

    1. I’ve decided that I use one browser for facebook and blogs, another for google / most everything else, and a third one for actually private stuff. Since I am on a mac and their filesystem is pretty solid, I assume this keeps the relevant personal information sufficiently walled off from sniffing scripts? I dunno, maybe i’m a dreamer. 

      1. re: “and a third one for actually private stuff.”

        Aw man – you’re a genius! It’s hard to look at your history for pron, when it’s on a separate, secret browser!

      2. Or one could pull the unix trick of running the same browser under different users. This would put the various data under that user rather then your normal one.

  2. I think the big companies and the world/internet in general need to reassess what is actually theft. Copying is not a theft in the traditional sense. Give us other options that people can afford. You want us to like your stuff then don’t make it insane just to watch any of it.

      1. Do they really think that far ahead? Seem more like they run around like headless chickens from quarter to quarter.

  3. I worked at Universal for four years (on the main studio lot in LA) and personally I would be completely nuts to try anything like that on the company’s internet. Maybe others felt more lax than me. Maybe it’s because it was in Florida which is more theme-park related and less industry. I worked at Sony too and same thing. That’s just stupid, employees. Isn’t that just common courtesy, to save the heavy lifting for the home?

    1. Totally! I mean, that would be like a police officer assaulting someone while in a crowd of other officers. Absurd on its face! They’d be SURE to get nailed for it! Who would DO that? A load of Bologna.

  4. Would this make the studios lible, since it was their employees and thier hardware that “stole” from their competitors? How fun would that lawsuit be?

  5. I’m so pleased this came up today – Hollywood has a hunger to eat itself from outside in.

    This, and also Lovefilm, the disc and online UK company, have switched to Microsoft Silverlight for online viewing – which works like a cow dancing Kirov on my Macbook Pro.

    Why?  Studio demands!  Silly them.

  6. The solution to this is obvious: the internet will not be free of piracy until the internet no longer exists.  Therefore, to clean this impurity, we know what we have to do…

    of course, even if we go back to a pure analog system, there will be thieving bastard home tapers, who will not rest until they have completely killed music and the dramatic arts.

    1. They don’t want to kill the internet.  They just want to pare it down, remove all of the free stuff, and turn it into their own paid distribution channel.

  7. So, wait –

    NBCUniversal, a merger of a major Hollywood studio and a New-York-based national broadcast network and all their ancillary properties – cable networks, theme parks, TV production – all of Universal City – the studio, the tour, the theme park, City Walk -and 30 Rockefeller Center and NBC Color City in Burbank, employing thousands of people…

    And what the Russian site found was one (one?) IP address in an office in Ft. Lauderdale (Ft. Lauderdale?  Who even works in Ft. Lauderdale?  That’s like, what?… 150-200 miles from the Resort/Theme Parks in Orlando?).

    One IP address that downloaded a movie, some TV shows, and some music.  (And “much more” – I’ll take their word for it.)


    So, let’s see – a modern studio/network runs on computers: web sites, Hulu, promos, social media, extranets for exhibitors and press, HR intranets, on and on. There are many hundreds – probably thousands – of young 20-to-30-something computer techs and code monkeys and Flash designers and JSON nerds and junior sysadmins 

    And they’re like pretty much any other tech nerds (except maybe with cooler swag to decorate their cubicles). 

    And they found one – ONE!!!! – NBCUni employee torrenting some shows.



    Goodness.  Why doesn’t NBCUni Have ALL its many, many network systems so tightly locked down that no one anywhere in any office whatsoever – not even FORT LAUDERDALE – can ever illegally download anything.  

    At all.  Evar.

    Because otherwise, the Whole! STUDIO! would be exposed as BLATANT COPYRIGHT HYPOCRITES!


      1. From TFA, faulty dolt-identifier:

        Another Hollywood studio where it’s not uncommon to download music, TV-shows and movies is NBC Universal. The employee(s) behind one of the IP-addresses at the Fort Lauderdale office in Florida downloaded the first season of ‘Game of Thrones,’ some trance music, a DVD of ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, and much more.

         In case it needs repeating:

        one of the IP-addresses

         And one more time:


        This would be considerably more newsworthy if the article claimed to have found more than three torrenters at three separate multinational corporations.  I have no doubt that they exist.  But there is, of course, no way to tell if the pirates in question are executives, clients, subcontractors, janitors, or chairpersons of their respective boards.

        I work for one of these companies, and in my job it’s a frequent occurrence that I need to quickly access movies, TV shows, and music, often from competing companies, if it’s referenced in a script for playback use within an episode.  If any of this material is used by the show I work on, it’s going to get licensed and fully paid for.  And yet I do not have instant access to torrents or other online sources of questionable legitimacy from my office; I have to get on the phone and track down actual optical media, or hit the iTunes store, and pay actual money in order to get media for a perfectly legitimate purpose which will likely result in a substantial licensing payment for the material if it’s selected by the producers for use.The computer network here on the studio lot blocks access to certain websites; you’ll know if you’ve tried to access something naughty if your browser suddenly displays an image of a shocked and scandalized Sylvester Cat saying “Sufferin’ Succotash!”  That happened to me when I tried to take a peek at Oglaf last week.  I’m pretty sure that most popular torrenting sites are thereby blocked as well, and it doesn’t surprise me.  I’m one of three or four people on this particular show who might have a legitimate reason to quickly acquire copyrighted media through a torrent so it could be inserted into a rough cut or utilized for on-set playback on very short notice, and then licensed after the fact.  Everyone else that works here is pretty much just like most people on the street, who consume media for their own entertainment.  And a lot of these people are going to be Just Like You in that they’d prefer to get their media quickly and painlessly and for free, even if it’s kinda illegal and also even if it’s kinda against corporate policy.  ‘Cause after all, who’s it gonna hurt?

        So unless the companies have tight MIS controls at all their offices, there are gonna be a few pirates here and there just like at any company.  Finding and ratting out three spread out over three ginormous companies is like saying you’ve found a CHP officer, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, and a traffic cop in Des Moines Iowa who were all caught driving in excess of eighty miles an hour while off-duty, and so their respective departments are corrupt hypocrites for selectively enforcing a bad law.

        1. Because you can not bypass what it most likely the cheapest filtering solution available, does not mean everyone else is unable to.

          And this is entertaining simply because these same studios are screaming for the rights to send people to jail for something that they are unable to enforce on their own networks.  The principle we are looking for here is unclean hands, torrenting and downloading is destroying our business so horribly that our own staff are doing it.  Now wave a magic wand and give us superpowers to achieve what we want.  Please ignore the record profits and salaries to our executives who claim every file downloaded impregnates a 10 yr old and then forces her to have an abortion.

          If the studios would like to publish all of their outward facing IP addresses so we can run all of them through the crawler and see what we get, they might have a chance of being taken seriously.  But given the ability of the corporations to ignore the law when they want to, why are we handing them one they can use as a bludgeon to set the world back to one they understand?

          “Piracy” is not the problem, the problem is being able to offer content cheaper and faster via the internet and not being able to apply the old style business model to it.  A majority of “piracy” is caused by the corporations inability to deliver the content to people who would gladly pay them the fair market value of the content, not the imaginary value the corporations think it is still worth.  VHS tapes are dead, Digital is the new format, there might be a slight difference in cost in providing those 2 things.

          We have the largest global access to content ever imagined, and the corporations still treat each regions differently and delay releases for forced windows.  We can send a message to the upside down world of Oz in seconds but it still takes a year for a television episode to get there.  Do you think hearing all of the reviews from the rest of the planet will make them want to wait for your forced year window?  But here have a law so you can make sure that anyone posting details about the show can have those deleted and accounts suspended so people will just wait until the old steam powered presses come to life to spit out the magic discs holding the shows.

          1. Because you can not bypass what it most likely the cheapest filtering solution available, does not mean everyone else is unable to.

            I don’t bypass it because I don’t try.  It’s not worth the hassle to me, though there are occasions when it would be professionally advantageous for me to be able to access some media instantly and for free.  And I probably could, except for the fact that piracy has become such a perceived problem for the industry that even someone like me, with utterly legal and legitimate motivations for downloading media, cannot do so without being perceived as a pirate.

            It’s certainly no secret that the studios and networks (and the artists as well, don’t forget) want to be well-paid for their property.  Remember how irritating it was to buy your whole record collection all over again, this time on CD, and still paying well over $10 per album even though CDs cost a teensy fraction to produce and distribute what the corresponding LPs and cassettes cost?  But back then, before the availability of consumer-grade CD duplicators and way before file-sharing, bootlegging was a relatively time-consuming and labor-intensive process.  So we sucked it up and paid.

            Now people feel they don’t have to do that.  And the studios and record companies and networks have to deal with that somehow in a way that neither completely de-monetizes their IP nor completely alienates the consumers.  

            A majority of “piracy” is caused by the corporations inability to deliver the content to people who would gladly pay them the fair market value of the content, not the imaginary value the corporations think it is still worth.

            I’m sure you’d like to think so, but I still hold the opinion that the majority of piracy is caused by people’s desire to get stuff for free.  There is no “fair market value” for media when it can be easily disseminated instantly worldwide for no remuneration whatsoever.  The companies are doing a lot of stupid things to try to protect their interests, but their hamhandedness is reactive.  Maybe they’ve been making too much money for the last century, and they should get used to the idea that the Easy Money days are over.  But don’t pretend that this is entirely the result of corporate greed, and has absolutely nothing to do with consumer greed.  SOPA is indefensibly wrongheaded, and in a just world would go down in flames.  At the same time, Metallica had a very good point when they took on Napster.

            We have the largest global access to content ever imagined, and the corporations still treat each regions differently and delay releases for forced windows.  We can send a message to the upside down world of Oz in seconds but it still takes a year for a television episode to get there.

            Yeah, that really makes no sense, except insofar as our One World culture does not equate to a single legal system when it comes to rights and responsibilities.  For what it’s worth, the TV show I work on, while set and shot and written and produced in the USA by an American company, airs a day earlier in Canada than it does domestically.  I may never know why.

          2. It will not let me reply to your response, how “disqus” of it.

            The fact remains that there are some people who even while working for the poor war weary industry who do still download.  If you can’t get your employees to not do it, why do you need the right to censor the whole web? 
            Why is it these poor bleeding corps can not release a study and its methodology without it being something based on guesswork and conjecture?  Why did they refuse to assist the GAO in vetting their data? 
            Because the losses they claim DO NOT EXIST.  Being able to cast an outsider as the bad guy really helps keep the workers focused on the bad people taking their paychecks, rather than noticing the CEO just doubled what he made last year while everyone else took cuts due to “piracy”.

            Actually delivering content at the “right” price, and both sides can debate that till the cows come home, is a huge stumbling block.  Unless you’d like to call iTunes a fluke that isn’t actually making any money for anyone involved.  It can be done, it is just terrifying for people who have done things 1 way for a very long time and can spend money to try and force the law to roll the world back 40 years to when they were king.

            The cause of much of the music “piracy” that happens now is rather than spend the money lobbying to get stupid laws, they should be using it to create a unified structured system so they can release content everywhere at once.  People want to buy the new album, but if you release it only in another market and change it for the market here to be released 6 months later – your angry at the fan who wants your product but you put in make believe barriers to them being able to get it legitimately.

            We can debate 150+ yr plus life copyright lengths and such but they have put no time into working towards breaking up their “Risk” (the board game) view of the world markets because they have always done it that way and they fear change.

            And never forget I think it was the chairman of Sony music admitted publicly he caught his kids downloading and gave them a talking to, while supporting the RIAA dragging teens to court and demanding millions.  The hypocrisy of the leaders of this industry is an amazing thing to look at in horror.

  8. I could imagine a legitimate argument being made in defense of movie studios downloading movies for free. They make movies, they own the movies they make. They can have things that they own. Even a low-level employee is allowed to enjoy a certain (actually, usually unspoken and gray area) amount of the company’s goods with lax enforcement. Not really hypocritical any more than a restaurant that charges five bucks for a sandwich but the waitress eats for free.  

    As far as cross-studio downloading, I think they have the right to deal with each other without a judge and jury. I have a hunch they won’t consider it a big deal as it will cut both ways. 

    I don’t work for a studio, but it is my humble opinion that people should not bootleg goods that are legitimately for sale by the maker. I would agree with the poster who said it could be a lesser charge than “theft”, but let’s be honest, it’s real close to theft. This is a double standard, but there is a time and place for double standards, aren’t there? 

  9. There is a modal window that pops up if you click the “Don’t take it seriously” link on the bottom left that says the following:

    Don’t take it seriouslyThe privacy policy, the contact us page — it’s all a joke. We came up with the idea of building a crawler like this and keeping the maintenance price under $300 a month. There was only one way to prove our theory worked — to implement it in practice. So we did. Now, we find ourselves with a big crawler. We knew what it did but we didn’t know how to use it. So we decided to make a joke out of it. That’s the beauty of jokes — you can make them out of anything.However, if you have a better idea — don’t hesitate to contact us.

  10. I have ABSOLUTE PROOF that the origin of a lot of pirated media comes FROM INSIDE THE DISTRIBUTION CENTERS of the Studios themselves. We can NEVER stop piracy when a company like SONY produces the content from within and then lets it in the wild. I’m INSULTED at any piracy talk toward the consumer when this crap is going on and starting from the people crying about pirates. Like I said, my OWN project that released nation wide in 1000+ theaters I found in torrents, but the funny thing was it was an original DVD rip out of Sony Home Entertainment weeks BEFORE it was every commercially available.  Talk to your own people before you bother the consumer.

    1. And they like torrents when they want to leak new seasons of TV shows to get the buzz flowing…

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