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Bad Actors and Petty Vengeance: A Catalog of Characters

I’ve worked online for over a decade now, in a variety of capacities, and I’ve watched the Internet change, mature, devolve, quake and thrive. In all my various roles I’ve experienced moments of shock at the strange trolls and ogres lurking within this great web of knowledge, but nothing compares to the Anti-Piracy world and the odd occurrences I’ve encountered in recent years

Helping copyright holders mitigate theft is our goal and it frequently puts us at odds with certain denizens of the WWW. I anticipated that I would not be welcome in certain “cool” forums any longer and that a few of my friends (with more colorful online pasts) might de-friend me, but I didn’t dream of the cast of miscreants I’d be so frequently confronted by. I encounter a few characters so often that they have been given names and identities that help us categorize their activities.

The Bad Samaritan

This is the most frequent player we encounter. They usually email our sales address or fill out our Submit Piracy form. They are “just a concerned citizen” or “ an avid fan” that happened to find a bunch of links that they wanted to “make us aware of”. Oddly, these links always tend to be from just one site or uploader and seem to be blissfully unaware of other pirate activity. A short look at their email or name quickly tells us all we need to know, mainly that these are Pirates or site-owners that want to use us to disable their competition. Now, we do get real emails from concerned fans, which we are very grateful for, but the fakers are way too easy to spot.

The Fake Agent

This miscreant is much more rare, but gets second billing because of their boldness. The Fake Agent is, like the Bad Samaritan, a pirate or pirate site owner who wants to use DMCA to eliminate the competition. They can take it pretty far. I was recently notified that our old site design had been stolen by a new “competitor”, I visited the URL and laughed when I saw that they had not only stolen our logo, design and text, but were showing our staff biographies with barely changed names… including my own. A little bit of research revealed that this site was owned by the same person who runs a popular pornography website that rips off adult cam models and distributes their images for free… classy right? He set up a fake DMCA company and began submitting random and outlandish URLs for removal, about 90% of which were from his biggest competitor.

The Whiny Pirate

These characters are less annoying then the former two, but again, remarkable for their brashness. These are the uploaders and site-owners that really believe that everything should be free and are offended by our efforts to protect our client’s intellectual property. My favorite is when they are complaining that we are “hurting their business”. I received one of these, rather colorfully worded, emails the other day from a guy who blatantly sells pirated independent books without sharing any of his profits with the authors. His site also features advertising in addition to selling PDF downloads of other peoples’ work. Oddly I wasn’t moved to sympathy by his cries of “Freedom of Information”.

I could go on to catalog others, but I think I’ll save that for another entry. I haven’t yet gotten to The Outlaws, Threat Throwers or the Want to Be Hackers but I think you get the idea.

It’s an interesting web out there.

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