Hotfile: If It Looks Like A Duck…

A brief post to get some facts and sense into the continued fallout from my quotes on the BBC about HotfileTech Dirt’s otherwise fair and balanced piece unfortunately misinterprets a key issue as do many of the comments there.

Here’s the original quote that caused all the controversy:

“If the service providers are serious about wanting to heed the industry’s concerns then instead of assuming that all of the content is legitimate until found otherwise, they should actually assume that most of the content is illegal and take action.”

I stand by that quote 100% but let’s be crystal clear what it means: the service providers (i.e. the Locker services such as Hotfile) should stop misusing Safe Harbour arguments and admit to what they already know, i.e. that most of the content up there is copyright infringing professional content.  It does not however mean that it should be assumed that the average user of the service is uploading infringing content.  Indeed there are plenty of legitimate uses, but the majority of the content is not legitimate.  And I invite anyone to provide evidence that shows otherwise.  Until then I’ll apply inductive reasoning:  If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.

A Simple Equation

So how I can simultaneously argue that the majority of content on Hotfile is illegal but the majority of users are not necessarily uploading illegal content?  The answer lies in a simple equation:

A minority of users (typically Hotfile’s pay per click affiliate partners) upload almost exclusively pirated material and account for the majority of files.

Thus the majority of content can be illegal even if the majority of users don’t populate it with illegal content.  Unfortunately those people who do upload legitimate files, such HD home movies, HD training and educational videos etc.  are essentially Hotfile’s human shield.  Hotfile is in the business of making money via illegal content.  They are not a Dropbox.  They are not in the business of making money off files which will have audiences numbered in the 10s, 100’s or low 1000’s.   And the majority of people who seek out Hotfile for content (though probably don’t upload themselves) do so to find illegal content.  If in doubt, take a look at any of the satellite sites which are used to navigate through Hotfile’s vast database.  For example the tag line on the most popular Hotfile search engine, aptly name Hotfile Search Engine is

“Search Everything on Free Movies, Games, Software, Music…”.

If Hotfile Wants to Go Legit It Must Sacrifice Much of Its Revenue

So let’s not dress up Hotfile for something it is not.  It is a site designed to make money from unlicensed content and the majority of files and traffic are for that same unlicensed content.  If Hotfile really want to go legit they need to ban the affiliate customers who repeatedly upload illegal content.  Of course if they did that they would lose their core revenue stream.  But if Hotfile are serious about being legit then that is exactly what they need to do.  Until then, all of the Safe Harbour bluster only goes to pollute and discredit this incredibly important basic tenet of the web.  And once Hotfile finally goes down the tube, which it will, it is the rest of us who will be paying the price of more draconian legislation because Hotfile just shot Safe Harbour between the eyes.


5 thoughts on “Hotfile: If It Looks Like A Duck…

  1. I like facts, I’d like to see some.

    Where is the proof that “most of the content up there is copyright infringing professional content“? You have mentioned before that a quick search for a film title brings back files with said film title in their name. I hope you realize that this is not proof that the file actually contains copyright infringing professional content. It could be a file made to look like a film, but which is just a file containing a virus. Proof is required, not assumptions. Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around, at least, not in a civilized society.

    Do you have any facts on how many “average user of the service” are on Hotfiles vs other users?

    I invite anyone to provide evidence that shows otherwise” – surely it is up to you to show evidence (facts) of guilt rather than others to have to provide you with evidence (facts) of their innocence. For instance, are you a pedophile? If you say you are not, prove to us you are not (you see the issue?).

    You state, “Until then I’ll apply inductive reasoning: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.“. As mentioned before, viruses and malicious code often tries to disguise itself as something else, in your example, a duck. Your inductive reasoning could lead to false positives. I suggest you Google “Trojan horse (computing)”.

    “A minority of users (typically Hotfile’s pay per click affiliate partners) upload almost exclusively pirated material and account for the majority of files.” – I would like to see the facts on this claim as I mentioned earlier.

    “So let’s not dress up Hotfile for something it is not. It is a site designed to make money from unlicensed content and the majority of files and traffic are for that same unlicensed content.” Indeed, lets not dress it up as something that it is not. Hotfile (and the like) is a site designed to make money by people downloading data, period.

    As an aside, I have much sympathy with your views on Hotfile and the like, but you do not made your case with facts, merely assumptions parading as facts. Your assumptions may be correct, but I believe in innocent until proven guilty, and you have not proved guilt.

  2. Thanks for the reply. I can appreciate that you do not have the time to run an analysis of every single file available on Hotfile and as such, I would expect you to replace your assertions with “probably” or “imv” and the like. It goes back to my point of your assumptions parading as facts.

    Regarding, “I have just done an analysis of the contents of the 10 most popular file lists on Hotfile. As you can see from the list they are all unlicensed copyrighted content.“, I’d be interested in your analysis method to try to know whether your statement is fact, or another assumption parading as fact.

    Did you download the files [1] in those lists and verify that each file were indeed “unlicensed copyrighted content“? You use the word “likely” (in “not likely to be the case“), this does not smell of fact, but assumption parading as fact.

    I understand your point re. “most trafficked lists”, but afaik, this does not prove the content is “unlicensed copyrighted content”. It could (notice I use “could”, not “would”) indicate that down-loaders hope these files are content (“unlicensed copyrighted content”) they want, but without downloading the files and looking at them, the down-loader could quite as easily be downloading a file full of x’s as “unlicensed copyrighted content”.

    I still feel Hotfile’s purpose is to make money from people downloading data. I don’t feel Hotfile cares much whether that data is legal or illegal content. The impression I get from your writings is that you think [but have no proof] ]their ‘real’ purpose is to make money from people downloading specifically “unlicensed copyrighted content”, and I think this is inaccurate.

    Thanks for the tip to review James Brandes’s work, I’ll give it a look-see.

    Regs, awbMaven

    [1] – which could open a whole can or worms if they are in fact “unlicensed copyrighted content” and you don’t have the right permissions. This means those amateurs [meaning those without the right permission] trying to assess the legality/illegality of content could themselves become a statistic, an illegal down-loader. I recognize that it is, in effect, a Catch 22 situation.

  3. I think we need to draw a line of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ in the sand here. Your original assertion was that you doubted that the majority of most popular files were indeed copyrighted. I have presented lists, each of which contain dozens upon dozens of files with the names of copyrighted content. When you have, for example, a list that shows 30+ individual episodes of the Sopranos in a heavily trafficked list it is beyond reasonable doubt that those files are indeed what they purport to be. You argue that this “does not prove the content is unlicensed copyrighted content”. However the basis of scientific investigative technique is the deductive- nomological model, whereby – to massively over simplify – conclusions are drawn from the apparent evidence beyond reasonable doubt. The evidence I have provided is, in my view, beyond reasonable doubt pirated material. You could of course download each of those hundreds of files to check the veracity of each, but I am not going to do so for the purposes of a blog post to confirm something which is, beyond reasonable doubt, patently the case.

    Effective analysis requires logical assumptions and conclusions else you never progress. For example a doctor has to assume a flu vaccine will work in the majority of his / her patients. The pharma company that developed the vaccine had to run extensive tests, in samples of patients. But both the pharma company and the doctor have to trust that beyond reasonable doubt the results of the trials will apply to the majority of patients. They cannot test every single patient in the world to whom the drug is administered in order to be sure of its efficacy.Scientific investigation and progress depends upon drawing conclusions from observations not testing every single incidence of everything in the universe.

    Finally as for the methodology for popularity of lists, I used a Google advanced search for Hotfile lists. Many variables drive Google’s algorithms, including of course relevance, but page rank is crucial. Page rank is Google’s methodology for measuring a page’s importance on the web, looking at in and out bound links. The links are not measured just in number (to help offset the impact of link farms) but in terms of the value of those in bound links, the popularity of those pages and of the links. As most sites have consistent levels of SEO on each individual page within their domain, a Google search within a domain for a specific variable (in this case lists) is a good measure of popularity of the resultant pages. The results are doubly effective for a site such as Hotfile which lack internal navigation tools and relies instead on external linking sites for users to find files. Thus, once again beyond reasonable doubt, we can assume that these lists are the most popular.

    It has been an interesting debate.



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