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.