Today, Sevenload offers to visitors on their website a new video on demand service, limited to one single movie title: the legal version of Warner Bros. blockbuster “Hangover”.
The 35 million USD movie generated, as told by the box office a 459 million USD gross (close to a half billion USD), more then half of it generated non-domestic.
Based on TorrentFreaks report the movie did very well too in file-sharing networks, being the top #1 movie shared via the BitTorrent network, performing even better then blockbusters such as Terminator Salvation, the new Harry Potter and Transformers 2 (as of July 20, 2009).
Good reasons to sell the movie online to the rest of the folk, who didn’t watched it yet. Sevenloads press release announces this special gig stating “Released in the same period as the DVD” (Part 1, Part 2). Also a good reason to click on the banner-ad on Sevenloads web site to get to the landing page, where the visitor can find free videos (movie trailers and interviews) with a good quality – for free, to whet the appetite for the full paid version.
A couple of minutes later the email arrives. Happy to be now able to watch the movie the user can click on the activation link and he gets – no, not the full movie, nor the payment procedure, but a page with an error message. Truly not the perfect movie experience. As usual, 90% of all users will now do – nothing, just leave the page, although they’ve been probably willing to pay 4,99 €. One thing for sure, the potential customer is disappointed. We do also assume that the customer will avoid paid offers he might get in contact with in the future, due to this negative experience. We’ve been somehow a little bit more enthusiastic and we did send an email to the support team and we hope, that we will soon be able to enjoy the real and legal movie experience. We’ll give their support team a chance and wait until tomorrow evening, otherwise we’ll probably go to the good old DVD rental shop. We’ll keep you updated.
Can sevenload still compete with other “solutions”?
We’re quite sure that sevenload could, yes, if they would solve the aforementioned technical problems. We cannot say for sure if the payment process and the “watching procedure” will be as easy as the registration, cause we’ve not been able to test it due to the technical problems, but we’re really looking forward to find this out.
Sevenload might have alot of competitors, no legal competitors, but solutions which are described by the movie industry as such entities, e.g. Kino.to.
What does Kino.to do? Kino.to collects manually links to infringing content on third parties servers and sites. We’ve been able to find the movie “Hangover” within a couple of seconds at Kino.to. The following link on Kino.to opens a sub-site at the Archiv.to service. With a simple click on the Play button the movie begins to stream, we are able to fast-forward within the movie file and we can also fast-forward up to the end of the movie, if we want to.
What are we missing? 1) The content owner doesn’t get paid, 2) The movie is not secured from being illegally copied and shared with other non-paying users, 3) the payment process at all to allow the user to pay for the content. A real dilemma, if we take into account, that the legal alternative cannot compete at this point in time with the three-clicks-away from you illegal working version.
What does Archiv.to do?
Archiv.to provides a service, which is very similar to the RapidShares service. The user uploads a video and the site generates a private link which makes the uploaded content public. Without knowing this private link the user is not able to watch the uploaded video file. Mostly users are arguing that it’s just the private home video which is uploaded and should be shared with friends, but in our case it is the movie “Hangover”. Kino.to does make public the “private” link to the movie file on archiv.to, so everyone using this link on Kino.to is able to access the infringing video file on archiv.to.
A justified argument of archiv.to could be that they would not like to give owners of infringed copyrights access to the “private” video data, which might be an valid argument – since nobody wants to let “pirate hunters” watch your private home video – but regardless of this argument, the same solution which can work for RapidShare can also work out for archiv.to to solve the piracy issue. In the third part of our copyright discourse we’ve explained the “3. solution” for cyberlocker services, such as RapidShare. In the meantime, the german collection society GEMA was able to achieve a valueable judgement against RapidShare which enables copyright owners to force such services to implement solutions for filtering of infringing uploads.
Well done, GEMA. But why did the movie industry, in our particular case the responsible content owner (Warner bros.) of Hangover not use the options to solve the issue? It shouldn’t be lack of knowledge, at least not based on information provided to us. In discussions performed recently about the topic “pirates”, the pirate hunters did state that, “You won’t be able to get money out of pirates”, but “letting pirates do community work” (as a punishment) did work out. In the same document it is written that RapidShare is generating each month a turnover of approx. 5 Million Euros.
The New York Times reports that the creative business is loosing approx. 20 Milliard USD every single year due to piracy. This must be alot of “community work” as a punishment.
Who is supporting ShareHosters
There are “dark” web sites, like archiv.to, but there are also companies like RapidShare, who do not want to be obliged to find a solution for piracy on their platform by themself, but promisse that they are against every kind of piracy happening nowadays. Admittedly, as long as the cash flow continues and a turnover can be generated in a viable economical environment, it is probably very smart to have this position. It’s safe to say that the problem cannot be solved by punishing operators with ”community work“, because the companies providing such services, which infringe copyrights, are mostly very huge and generate alot of money.
But how does Archiv.to generate money? Below the streamed infringing video we do find a Link to download the file, rather then streaming it in our browser. This link goes to the main page of Usenet.nl. It’s to be assumed, that Archiv.to gets paid by Usenet.nl for this linking. At first glance Usenet.nl seems to be a Usenet provider located in Italy, interestingly not offering an italien version of the web-site. Having a closer look we’ll find out that the structure of the Usenext application is very similar to the application offered by Usenet.nl. We do also find out that advertising partner of Usenet.nl, Mininova, links to Usenet.nl, but describes the link as “UseNeXT” in its advertising campaigns. We’ve reported extensively about Usenext.
Pinging archiv.to reveals the IP address 184.108.40.206 for one of their web-servers. When doing an whois against the IP address we find out that this web-server is located in the datacenters connected to EWEKA network. Eweka is a hoster but also a Usenet provider. Eweka has been acquired by another bigger company, which acted as a usenet access vendor for UseNeXT, namely Highwinds. Highwinds is a usenet access vendor, but does provide its network also to third parties for huge events, e.g. the live-streaming of the Michael Jackson Memorial event. Highwinds had a couple of financing rounds, one of these rounds generated a funding of 55 Million USD. Highwinds has been also funded by the European Founders. European Founders has also funded studiVZ (“the” German Facebook clone) as well as MyVideo. Let’s summarize the most important conjunctions: archiv.to does advertisement for Usenet.nl, which is obviously very similar to UseNeXT and its software platform, archiv.to is hosted on servers connected to the Eweka network, Eweka is owned by Highwinds, Highwinds is a vendor of Usenext, respective Usenet.nl, Usenet.nl is advertised on the archiv.to website.
More important is the ultimate financing chain, which leads us from archiv.to to similar video hosting sites, competitors of Sevenload. It’s a small world, but one party is unfortunately not included in this financings, Warner Bros., the ultimate owner of the intellectual property. We’ll have all to look ahead and find out together with each entity named in this article, if the proposed punishment of the operators with “community work” will be the ultimate solution for the piracy problem, as suggested by the pirate hunters, or if technological solutions will lead to a successful story for all involved parties.