Feb 25
VIDEO STREAMING by Alex J. Socorro  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Wed, Feb 25, 2009

Multi-media piracy is the biggest factor in the downturn of the movie and music industry across the world. Perhaps that’s the small price we pay for the technology. But what happens when the producers get tired of producing because of that pestering piracy? Web analysts say that piracy will not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. There will always be customers of genuine CDs and DVDs. The movie goers will always be there if only for the sensory experience of the big screen.

But multi-media piracy is not limited to the so-called duplicators. And another name for piracy now is digital theft. With the way things are going, the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office) seems to be helpless. Monitoring is a big problem and prosecuting is a much bigger problem to think of.

The first ever digital theft in the internet was committed by www.napster.com before the new millennium. With the invention of the mp3, a compressed form of music file, song exchange became relatively easy. Napster allowed the uploading of music in mp3 format and also allowed the users to download the same. In effect, napster became an unauthorized free market of sorts for music aficionados. With its popularity in the internet, Napster caught the attention of music companies eventually causing a rainstorm of legal suits.

In 2001, Napster was shut down by a court order due to massive copyright violations of uploaded music files. But all was not lost because the website’s brand and logo was bought from Shawn Fanning, the owner who was attending college at Northeastern University in Boston. Now in pay service, Napster is still at it – uploading and downloading mp3 copies but with authority this time.

Other websites, in the footsteps of Napster, came about with the advancement of ISP (Internet Service Providers). The fast internet access the so-called peer to peer system of file sharing became the standard in file swapping. This method is harder to control since the music file is downloaded direct from the sharer’s computer and not from the website server anymore.

An innovation from the unauthorized downloading was the streaming method where a multi-media file is shared not by downloading a copy but by simply playing it. A music streaming website holds an array of mp3 where the users can simply play the music, anytime and all for free. Same as in youtube.com, which is the most popular in video streaming, the uploaded video can be watched by users only and downloading is not that easy like in the Napster days.

With the streaming method, the law is somewhat circumvented because, technically speaking, the music played is like that on the radio stations. Listening to free music is just enjoying it and getting a copy of it is another thing. With video, the same formula applies so copyright infringement is out of the question… for now at least.

But, there’s a big “but” when it comes to revenue. According to an article in New York Times recently, Hollywood is deprived of billions of income. To cite, Warner Bros, the producers of Dark Knight, came ready with anti-piracy measures when that Batman movie arrived in the theaters in July of 2008. Months of planning were spent to install the mechanism so that each physical copy of the film could be monitored. It was quite successful in the DVD area but the anti-piracy campaign miserably failed in the internet because of the video streaming method.

Aside from video streaming straight from the website server, the peer to peer download was still a favorite among the web surfers. Big Champagne, a media measurement firm, said an estimated 7 million copies of the Dark Knight was downloaded all over the world mostly to and from home computers. And in video streaming websites, anonymous users uploaded the copy for anyone to watch.

Not only songs and movies were illegally swapped in the internet. Even tv shows are already being captured and uploaded in the internet. TorrentFreak.com, a website that monitors video streaming says the NBC television series Heroes was downloaded 5 million times. Big revenue is lost considering that Heroes averaged only 10 million viewers in the US.

Video streaming sites are mushrooming in the internet. Mostly from countries with lax copyright laws like China and some third world Asian countries, these sites compete with the real thing. Using a search engine, one can locate a movie of his choice in less than 5 minutes, be it classic or still in theaters.

Some people think, especially the youngsters, that if it is that easy then it must be legal. Add to that the ease of uploading and downloading. Owe it to the faster communications of DSL and broadbands. Unlike before when the movie has to be downloaded before you can watch it, now it’s like watching the movie in real time.

Youtube, the most popular video website, has a file limit of 100 mb and a 10-minute maximum running time for video uploads. But the Toronto-based SuperNovaTube.com did away the limits so a user could readily upload a whole movie. Mohi Mhir, the youthful owner of SuperNovaTube says he thinks about getting sued everyday. But the copyright law is not very clear on the matter since the video streaming websites are just repository and nothing more.

For the part of the movie industry, they know that they have to find a better way of fighting back. Mere policing of digital theft is not enough. There’s a saying that if you can’t beat them, join them. Some movie studios are experimenting with video-on-demand. This is very similar to the video streaming method. There’s only one difference. Video-on-demand is legal.

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