December 04, 2008 |
There was a very interesting situation yesterday with a new Firefox extension named Pirates of the Amazon that allows users to find any downloadable content you can buy on Amazon on various torrent sites and download these very movies or music from such sites – illegally but totally free right after the user finds a desired item on Amazon.
Basically the extension when installed to the Firefox browser is intended to show the user when the Amazon digital content you are interested in is available for free somewhere else – and let’s the user download this content immediately. In addition to downloadable content like movies and music, it also supports CDs, DVDs, and even books – whenever the same title can be found as a torrent file, it will be linked to right there. Search for free content ready to be stolen is performed by associating product pages on Amazon with torrent files from the famous Pirate Bay torrent site.
The irony is that someone decided that the extension was considered to be worthy submitting to Digg (my guess is that the developers wanted to get it out there very much) and the blog post about the new extension on Torrentfreak received over 2,600 diggs which must have brought tons of visitors to the blog – with the majority of these visitors quickly moving to the site of the extension itself. Chances are that it is the Digg affect that is responsible for the site’s eventual downtime (which still lasts while I believe the Digg effect should not be help responsible any more now that quite a few hours passed since hitting the front page).
But I guess the Digg effect must have been increased significantly by the mere attractiveness of what the website promised to do as no matter how illegal something is people online still seem to be tempted to use it instead of paying – even when they are shown that what they do is exactly stealing by grabbing products from a store without paying for them.
And of course everyone quickly returned to the usual discussion of how bad it is to steal music and videos that some people worked so hard to create and how fraudulent it is for anyone to develop a tool that makes stealing this much easier. But Josh Lowensohn of Webware rightly mentions that “anyone who knows how to pirate content probably did not need this to continue their habit” and I have to agree with his opinion: if you already know how to find and download pirate content illegally from torrent sites like the Pirate Bay and you think it is perfectly Ok for you to do so, you will hardly need the Amazon interface to find what you are interested in – and get the ‘download for free link’ back to a torrent site. So if you prefer to pay for what you enjoy, you will probably stick to your habit and the fact that such an extension for Firefox exists will not change your mind.
But it will be interesting to see how online merchants and related officials will react to an idea like this. Of course we can not be absolutely sure if the Pirates of the Amazon site is currently down because of a server issue or because of some legal counteraction but even if it returns back up later I am quite sure there will be a lot of parties involved in disabling the extension – and doing it really quick during this hot shopping season. Amazon will obviously be the first entity to demand disabling the extension and Firefox will probably need to cooperate in some manner not to allow users to install the extension. Obviously we should not expect RIAA to sit back and watch pirates doing all they want on Amazon either. But for now my guess is that the site is not only down because of huge demand and traffic but they must have already had a chance to talk to someone from Amazon and thought against getting the site back up.
But my main point is that it is quite strange when you develop software like this to expect that your product will be greeted by everyone and all the people you help stealing money from will not try to prevent you from doing so. So, honestly, I don’t see why the extension developers really needed all the publicity they got for the product and I am quite sure they would have been much better off keeping it quite and distributing the product only to the target audience via the torrent sites where these people already are – instead of drawing everyone’s attention to their dubious activity.