Saturday, 5 July 2008

Pirate justice

It's been a high seas roller coaster for the last couple of days. The other evening, I discovered that 3 websites were offering rip-off illegal downloads of our movie, and there were no shortage of takers. I was horrified and really hurt, I felt like someone had broken into our house and stolen something very valuable to us. We spent 2 years making our film, that's 2 years with no income and the idea was to sell this lovely film over our website and receive an income, support a family life, and also hopefully make more films like this.

Amazingly, it is astonishingly hard to stop the pirates, in fact one of the biggest, piratebay,  a Swedish outfit actively enjoys laughing in the face of any copyright holders who complain or issue them writs. The police don't want to get involved, as it is so hard to get hard proof when everything is digital and when the crime crosses borders. I also have sneaking suspicion that somehow they feel they have more serious work to do.

One of the things that most stings me, is that the rather large amount of people who have illegally downloaded our film presumably want to watch it because of the love and care of the craftsmen in our film. Yet they seem to have no respect or desire to pay us for our work and craft in making the film itself - yet they probably wonder why craftsmen find it hard to survive!

However this story does have twist: determined not to just accept the piracy (which, amazingly was the general advice) I did as much tracking as I could with my limited internet knowledge. The websites involved are registered anonymously in Arizona then use ISPs in Amsterdam and the Czech Republic but take payment in Portland, Oregon in the U.S.. I wanted to track down this organisation being paid for the downloads as they charge $5 for the 1st day then $30 a month to give their customers access to illegally uploaded film like ours. Despite the fact that this company takes credit cards it seems able to hide itself incredibly easily, astonishing.

Anyway, on to the best bit. I did some research on this payment company '' keen to find if their was a way to get to them. And low and behold but my searches instead came up with a consumer protection website with a huge list of furious punters very worried about compromising their credit card details. They had joined the pirate ship to plunder the copyright files of films like ours, paid their $5 'one-off' one day fee and now the pirates are happily ripping off their credit cards accounts too. One website was absolutely full of complaints and that was just from the last few days. The big banks seem very slow to react and there are now hundreds of irate pirate wannabees being charged $30 a month and cannot cancel their service! Funnily enough many are UK customers and are now complaining about how 'someone' should do something about this fraud.

I must say it brought a certain smile to my face, the first for a few days.