Cyberlockers Enable, Encourage, and Benefit from Theft

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By Holly Wilson

A report released last week by NetNames and the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) sheds light on a shady industry – Internet cyberlockers. 

Piracy has long been a problem that negatively impacts content creators, providers, and consumers alike.  Now, in a world where file transfers and streaming enable almost instantaneous sharing over the Internet, digital piracy is booming – and criminals are profiting.

Many of us are familiar with legitimate file sharing websites like OneDrive, Dropbox, and iCloud. These services provide individuals with the ability to upload personal content to share with friends, family, and co-workers around the globe. 

But rogue cyberlocker websites like Rapidgator and Movshare are using the same concept to enable, encourage, and profit from the copyright infringing distribution of content between strangers.  Many of these businesses even incentivize their users to upload popular infringing content by offering them a share of the profits.

These websites are not like other legitimate services dedicated to making your life easier. They are purely motivated by illicit profits that come directly from the distribution of content that does not belong to them and they did not create.  Research conducted during the course of the DCA’s study revealed that, on average, 78-83% of content stored on cyberlocker websites is pirated, not including materials considered to be explicit which account for an additional 9-13% of content.

The DCA’s report conservatively estimates that the top 30 cyberlocker websites in existence today see annual revenues totaling at least $96.2 million. This income results primarily from advertisements and the sale of so-called premium access accounts. Once operating costs are taken into account (including the incentive payments made to users illegally uploading copyrighted content), cyberlocker operators clear $69 million a year.

This must stop.

The Digital Citizens Alliance is calling on advertisers and payment processers to implement policies against doing business with companies engaged in this type of copyright infringement activity and we join them in this call.

It is in their interest to do so.  Advertisers will suffer serious reputational damage when their ads are displayed next to stolen content, including instructions for obtaining illegal drugs and stolen credit cards. 

PayPal has already stopped processing subscription payments for cyberlocker sites and Visa and MasterCard should do the same.

Intellectual property theft is not a victimless crime. In fact, it costs the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars every year, deprives people of good paying jobs, and finances other forms of illegal activity. Legitimate and well-respected businesses should stop enabling any company engaged in the theft of intellectual property.