Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hollywood’s How-To Guide to Web Piracy

This one circulated around the Web earlier this month, but I didn’t see it until Pali Capital analyst Rich Greenfield included it in a note yesterday: A 10-minute presentation delivered by Paramount COO Frederick D. Huntsberry that gives a thorough, if rudimentary, tutorial on how to steal the movies his company makes.

As the intro to the video notes, Huntsberry was delivering his chat at a Federal Communications Commission hearing earlier this month. And as best I can tell, he was trying to alarm the FCC by pointing out just how easy it is to grab this stuff.

Along the way, he notes how many “legitimate” companies participate, in their own way, in the piracy value chain. Everyone from small storage start-up Drop.io, which allows users to host big data files for little or no charge, to Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO), which can point people toward pirate havens, gets tarred by Huntsberry’s brush.

Not surprisingly, the video inspired all manner of invective from my fellow bloggers, who railed about Huntsberry’s lack of sophistication, his temerity for asking the FCC for help in stopping piracy, and other offenses real and imagined.

I find it hard to get worked up about it, though, since I hear this stuff from media executives all the time. The big difference is that the ones who are most impassioned about it usually don’t want the FCC to stop piracy. They want the industry to offer compelling alternatives to piracy.

For instance, here’s a site someone who works for a very big media company points me to with some regularity. Said executive says it’s the latest and greatest in piracy. I wouldn’t know, because the download scares me off (and in case my employer is wondering, I don’t condone piracy, but I do write about it). So I’ll take said executive’s word for it.

In any case, the idea is not to tip me off about a great place to hoover up a camcorded version of “Pandorum,” but to point out how fast this stuff evolves and how difficult it is stop. I don’t see any harm in noting that, right?


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald