Piracy Protestors Bring Down Legit TV Site

Dennis Faas's picture

A company that produces legitimate and original Internet-only television shows has fallen victim to a particularly aggressive group of anti-piracy protestors.

Revision3 Corporation produces shows such as Diggnation (a talk show discussing the top stories from Digg.com) and PixelPerfect (which gives advice for users of Adobe's imaging software). It distributes its shows through a variety of methods, including its own website as well as iTunes, torrents, and YouTube.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the Revision3 site went down, along with its email systems. It turns out it had suffered a 'Denial Of Service' attack. That's a remarkably simple way of attacking a website: it's an automated version of visiting a website and hitting refresh so often that the site can't cope.

The firm's CEO Jim Louderback used a neat analogy: "Imagine a room full of hyperactive toddlers, hot off of a three hour Juicy-Juice bender, incessantly shrieking 'hi' over and over again, and you begin to understand what our poor servers went through this past weekend." (Source: revision3.com)

It turned out the attackers had specifically targeted Revision3's torrent system. That's a way of distributing large files in small pieces that is often used for sharing pirated material, but also has perfectly legitimate uses (such as Revision3's method of distributing its shows). When Louderback traced the attack, he found it came from MediaDefender, a company which specialises in defending clients' copyrighted material online.

One of MediaDefender's main tactics is creating fake files which appear to be copyrighted material such as a movie, then putting them up on torrent systems. The idea is that people will get so tired of downloading fake files that they'll give up trying to get hold of a movie illegally. (Source: arstechnica.com)

According to Louderback, MediaDefender told him they had used Revision3's system in this way, but a technical mistake led to the 'attack'. However, they said their system only sent a message to the Revision3 servers once every three hours; Louderback says the attack actually involved 8,000 messages every second.

MediaDefender denies launching a deliberate attack, which would be a criminal action under US law. The FBI is now investigating a complaint by Revision3.

We'll have to wait for officials to decide whether MediaDefender was intentionally responsible for shutting the site down. Many of the tactics it has used have been controversial, but this alleged action -- against a perfectly legitimate distributor -- would certainly be crossing the line.

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