E-pirates draft a statute on best practices - Macleans.ca

E-pirates draft a statute on best practices

You’d never guess it, but some hackers care about quality and consensus building


Isaac Brekken/AP Photo

Luke Simcoe is a guest blogger. He contributes the occasional post on web culture, the various kooks and cranks who inhabit the Internet, as well as copyright matters.

Try to picture an Internet pirate in your head.

Maybe it’s some guy in his parent’s basement, swathed in blue light and surrounded by cables linking his PC to his television. Maybe it’s Kim Dotcom, dividing his time between yachting in the Mediterranean and playing Modern Warfare 3. Heck, maybe it’s even Angelina Jolie from Hackers. Whatever your picture entails, chances are your personal pirate doesn’t spend his time engaged in a lot of consensus building and debates about best practices.

And yet, it would seem that’s exactly what many of them do.

Earlier this year, various piracy groups sat down in the digital equivalent of Tortuga to discuss the finer points of ripping and circulating standard definition TV shows. The result was a rather official document entitled “The SD x264 TV Releasing Standards 2012.” The signatories include some of the most well-known names in online piracy; just search for ‘LOL’ or ‘DiVERGE’ on any torrent site, and you’ll come across thousands of files credited to these groups.

The document itself is highly technical, covering everything from how to name files to acceptable methods for encoding audio and subtitles. It doesn’t make for a thrilling read, but its very existence demonstrates that the world of Internet piracy is far more organized–and more democratic–than one would expect. The authors even write that “the SD x264 TV section was formed to separate releases from the ruleless world of TV-XviD.” The Wild West this ain’t.

While the fact that these release groups are deliberating at all is remarkable, it’s what they’re deliberating that’s most important. The biggest change to emerge out of the gathering of e-pirates was the adoption of the x264 video codec over the now-venerable XvID:

“x264 has become the most advanced video codec over the past few years. Compared to XviD, it is able to provide higher quality and compression at greater SD resolutions. There are many standalone players/streamers such as TviX, Popcorn Hour, WDTV HD Media Player, Boxee, Xtreamer, PS3, XBOX 360, iPad, & HDTVs that can playback H264 and AAC encapsulated in MP4.”

For those unfamiliar with the jargon, video codecs are computer programs that encode digital data. Codecs can, for example, translate digital TV signals into something that can be read by a personal computer. What the above quote means is that the pirates are concerned about quality control. They make clear that the decision to adopt the x264 codec was brought about by a desire to provide high quality, easily accessible content that can be viewed on the widest possible array of devices.

And we wonder why piracy is so rampant…


E-pirates draft a statute on best practices

  1. Well, people had better start paying serious attention to ‘pirates’.

    ‘Cyber-Defence Slow Due To Generation Gap: U.S. Official’


    And the Pirate Party just gained seats in Germany.

  2. So called “internet piracy’ is really organized, large-scale sharing.  And sharing is caring. The faster everyone gets used to the new technological realities of the modern world, the better.

    • If internet piracy is not theft, it’s not sharing either.. because sharing means that you give up at least a portion of what you had.  That’s what makes it laudable.

      And the “new technological reality” leaves us a world where nobody bothers to produce anything above YouTube quality.

      Yeah.. can’t wait for that.

      • So ‘sharing knowledge’ is not a valid expression?

        • If piracy is not theft, then no.
          But I believe it is.

      • Also, there’s scant evidence that piracy/filesharing is net harmful to media industries. Most media industries are doing fairly well, especially the movie and games industries. TV’s problems have more to do with advertising revenue declines.

        • Care to try again?

      • New technology allows anyone to make an unlimited number of copies of anything digital. Sharing something like a TV show still takes personal resources; time to edit out the commercials, encode the file, host the download, etc.

        And youtube already has content vastly superior to all the ‘reality’ shows that are vomited out by mainstream tv networks.

        • If what you said was true, then there’d be no issue of people pirating TV, would there?

          Unless you’re saying people who pirate are simply stupid.. in which case I won’t argue.

  3. I read this document when it came out, I understood little of it, but it did impress me as to the methods of what is deemed acceptable quality in what for the most part appears to be an anarchic throng of lulzy egoists. And yet for years the quality of the pirate groups when it comes to video (previous to and including this new set of standards) really puts the mainstream to shame, if there is a weird visual blip or a commercial left in a video it gets nuked re-done and posted within a very short period of time, with the only incentive being reputation. No mainstream organization will even think its worth the time to fix things unless a certain amount of money is involved, people think that mainstream organizations care about their reputation but they do so only in as much as it affects their bottom line. Pirate groups have been doing this only for reputation as there is little to no financial compensation for putting out a copy of a sitcom or drama that finished airing 15 mins ago, at a consistent quality that matches anything the mainstream can put out.  And the mainstream only  put it up a few days to weeks or even months after the actual airing, if ever.

  4. But this pales to the biggest pirate of them all. And we all know who that is..