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Pirated Courses on Udemy (medium.com/robconery)
701 points by petercooper on Nov 27, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 236 comments



This happens fairly frequently to Jeffrey Way of Laracasts and there's a lot of money involved in stealing his material:

    Hey @udemy - For the third time this year, my content 
    is being stolen and sold on your site. Don't use Udemy, 
    folks.

    [1] So @udemy, 373 users signed up for that 
    stolen series at $19 - or a total of $7,087.
...

    Update on the Udemy selling my stolen content 
    issue: they finally responded, and will not 
    reimburse me, unless there is a court ruling.
Udemy do not care.

https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/649933605305774081

https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/649936961105432576

https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/649937073407979520

https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/651215238470090754

https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/651215565713870849


I couldnt tell from the tweets but did Udemy keep the money or did they refund the users once the content was taken down? If refunds are issued to users, it seems unreasonable for the author to claim that Udemy should be paying them 100% of any money transacted. Is Rob and Jeffrey suggesting that Udemy should pay $2 for every $1 involved in fraud?

EDIT: People are making a lot of claims that Udemy are profiting from this but no one has linked to anything to indicate that when content is removed if the people who paid for it who can no longer access the content are issued refunds or not.

Does anyone have any information to suggest that Udemy isnt refunding users?


Thats not the way copyright works. If you think it is, please, let RIAA know you've stolen some records and let's see how much they charge you.

Last time I checked, users are sued for thousands of dollars per infringing instance, held up in court.

Why shouldn't that hold for a COMPANY doing it? Seems a little unreasonable to me.

Edit: and for people down-voting, please explain why?


Well, it is how the DMCA works. If the videos are uploaded by someone else (not by Udemy), then all they have to do is remove the video promptly if sent a DMCA request. If they did that, they would not be liable for damages.


IANAL, but DMCA applies to penalties, not to the issue of whether or not they're infringing copyright.

Though, I will note that Udemy does have a designated agent in regards to DMCA Safe Harbor, so the OP may want to check that they submitted complains the correct place:

> Via E-mail: copyright@udemy.com[1]

[1]https://www.udemy.com/terms/copyright/


The guy I was replying to was saying they should have huge damages, which they won't as long as they remove it promptly.


It's the same guy...


Downvotes are probably because hardcore copyright-abusing tactics employed by the entertainment industry to save their outdated business models are not particularly popular 'round here. The fact that they exist does not mean one should use them.

I see the point you're making though (copyright violation by a for-profit company is just wrong, both morally and legally), and i upvoted to compensate.


I understand that "copyright abuse" is frowned upon. (and I'm not arguing against you, I just find what they're doing to be completely unreasonable).

But this is the exact opposite. This is a company flagrantly copying someones work without permissions.

And in ACADEMIA.

IIRC, you could be thrown out of school for plagiarism, we shouldn't disregard an academic institution doing this exact thing.


The company isn't stealing the videos, other users are. As long as they take it down promptly and then refund customers, what are they doing wrong? Where's the outrage at youtube then which allows for the same thing? Or paypal or stripe or any ecommerce product which allows for selling something?

It's a problem that's explained and handled by the DMCA, the issue is making sure the company actually follows through with handling requests promptly and accurately.


If they're charging $$ to watch the videos, they can pay someone to review content... in this case, Udemy could very well be liable for penalties beyond DMCA safe harbor.


It's not about the money (youtube/google has plenty of money and still doesnt catch everything) but about the logistics of it all. Why does facilitating transactions give them more liability? You can use paypal or stripe links to take money, are they now liable for penalties for things people sell using them?


Just as an FYI since you keep bringing it up, I'm fairly sure that payment processors are absolutely liable for illegal items purchased through their gateways.

If you'd like an example, Banks won't even OPEN an account in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, simply because it's still illegal federally, and they're avoiding liability.

I just thought I'd share, since I have firsthand experience in that particular industry (online payment processing).


Think of IP in the same class as a firearm in the United States and suddenly your context falls apart. If a person was to be a digital broker for the sale of firearms, then would they be liable for brokering a stolen firearm? Why should a person's quantifiable, provable IP be treated as some kind of exception? Taking money as a brokerage entails certain levels of fiduciary and ethical parameters in nearly all industries. Craigslist seems to me to have a different mentality - in that not acting as an actual 'compensated via transaction' middle man conveys some safe harbors - which Udemy can't reasonably employ as a defense.


It's not an exception - this is already handled by the DMCA. It's a well known and understood situation.

I'm not saying they are immune to everything, just that the accepted and realistic option for any service that accepts user provided content is to handle takedown requests. It does place the burden on the copyright owner but it's the process we have so if Udemy or anyone else does follow this accurately then what is the problem?


while I agree that the author of this piece needs to make sure they're submitting DMCA takedowns to the appropriate place, I still think that a company trying to bill themselves as an academic institution shouldn't be allowed ANY infringement.


They're only claiming academic insofar as they facilitate learning through the videos. Not sure this qualifies as real academia - they are not an accredited school or university nor do they have teachers on staff or any other normal infrastructure. It's just a site that hosts videos for sale.

But what difference does it make - it's the classic user provided content model and all the issues it comes with that's causing the problem here. No company, academic or otherwise, wants infringement and if there was a perfect solution then everyone would use it, however it's just not feasible to be perfectly defensive and catch everything.

They do have > 500 employees so it's a company big enough to have checks in place with other video providers to catch basic things like this but still, it's a much harder problem than people think.


There is three actors in this, yours only has two, this is like is like the RIAA asking a record store to pay them the $10,000 they made from selling a record which turned out to not belong to the supplier, the store issued a recall refunded the customers but the RIAA still wants the $10K


You can go after Udemy. They're not just a hosting service. They claim ownership of the content. "Each of our 35,000+ courses is taught by an expert instructor". Many courses are paid. If Udemy charges for access to the course, they lose the DMCA safe harbor. Then they're liable for full copyright damages.

This may even be criminal copyright infringment under 18 U.S. Code § 2319 (Criminal infringement of a copyright) if the total retail value exceeds $2500.

Get a lawyer. This looks winnable.


Make sure you file copyright for each video before making it available on your own website. Having a copyright in place before any theft allows you to go after (by threat or course) statutory damages for each theft of your work. I learned this a few years ago from our own IP lawyer when someone was reusing some of our material. We now file the $35(or whatever it is) fee before posting the material online.


File for copyright? how do you mean: Copyright is implicit, unlike patents, upon creation of a work.


>Registration is still required in the US for some benefits, such as awards of statutory damages. [1]

>You must register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office before you are legally permitted to bring a lawsuit to enforce it. [2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_registration#Require... [2] http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/copyright-registratio...


Can you just register your copyright after the infringement?


Yes but statutory damages will not be available and according to our lawyer. The statutory damages is what gets people to comply because it is the one that can multiply exponentially as it applies to EACH violation (download, sale, ect...). If you use the implicit copyright you can only go after actual damages which will be harder to prove. I'm not suggesting you file a copyright for everything, just stuff you want to absolutely protect. In the context of this discussion it is education videos.


You have one month after discovering the infringement to register if you want to get statutory damages.[1] Register a copyright online here: http://copyright.gov/eco/ Yes, they take video uploads. Costs $35 per item.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/412


> can multiply exponentially as it applies to EACH violation

You meant "linearly", right?


probably


You can file a registration for copyright, which gives you certain presumptions and advantages in court (e.g. it serves as a presumption of ownership, which would be important in these kinds of cases). It also might serve as "notice" for potential infringers so that you can get higher damages.


Register it, makes the court case that much more easily winnable.


all work you create is copyrighted. you own the content you produce

this is why, I believe, it's actually against copyright law to use an open source project that doesn't include a license.


> use an open source project that doesn't include a license.

It's not open source if it doesn't include a license stating that it is.


Open source just means you can read the source. That's why the acronym FLOSS had to be invented.


You are wrong. Read the Open Source Definition:

https://opensource.org/osd


That is _one_ definition and comes from an organization with an interest in loading the term.


The OSI surely has some say in what they meant when they created the term "open source". The term didn't exist before 1998 when the people involved† with the organization you're referring to coined it. Anything else is just perverting a well-defined term.

I'm not a huge OSI fan, so when I say this, it's not coming from a place of ideology. It's just historical fact.

† The organization didn't exist yet, but it was founded later that month.


(Almost) all work is copyrighted from the moment of creation, but registration still has advantages if you want to litigate.


I thought writing a little (c) was all that was required to protect content with a copyright.


You don't even need to put a (c) or mark it with "copyright 2015". You can do that to express that you are the copyright holder but you don't need to do it. Your work, assuming it falls within copyrights, is automatically given a copyright.

OP was saying that there is a provision in the law that allows you to claim 3x the allowable damages if you take the time to register with the copyright office and pay the filing fee.


Note too that this is for USA law. USA was one of the last countries to ratify the Berne Convention, nearly 100 years after it was formed. It is Berne that brought in automatic copyright without registration.I still occasionally come across people in the UK who think they must register for copyright because of registration still being a thing in USA.

Udemy being active in many jurisdictions I imagine parallel cases or forum shopping might be worthwhile. Particularly an international firm might be able to direct the case to somewhere that values personal rights above those of corporations which might enable you to hit Udemy hard enough that they'll care to do something to prevent it happening in the future.


> Get a lawyer. This looks winnable.

Remember: this should be your first step. If you want to resolve it amicably let your lawyer communicate that for you.


A decent lawyer is what, $100 an hour?

How much are you planning to win to justify that?


I wouldn't be scared to contact a lawyer. The professionals I've contacted (tax people, finance managers, lawyers) have always been upfront if it's not worth their time and about how much things might cost. They'll also usually give you free advice.

Also, lawyers have different payment structures (a percentage instead of hourly) and won't always charge for a consultation. Maybe writing a nasty letter on lawyer letterhead is enough--they might do it for free or bill you 1/4 hour. See if your workplace has free legal council as a benefit.

F*ck you. Pay me. is a really good video I see posted on here periodically: https://vimeo.com/22053820 Lawyers are there to make you money--not take your money.


More than that! However, in some areas of copyright law lawyers are willing to work on contingency fee or percentage based fees.

In any case, almost always a consultation is free. Just ask, and they'll make sure the litigation is worth your time/money.


I expect it's true that they lose safe harbor, but I couldn't find anything saying that. Are you just guessing?


17 U.S. Code § 512 - Limitations on liability relating to material online

(c) Information Residing on Systems or Networks At Direction of Users.—

"(1)In general.—A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the storage at the direction of a user of material that resides on a system or network controlled or operated by or for the service provider, if the service provider—"

...

"(B) does not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity"[1]

That's the killer. This service not only charges, they charge on a per-course basis. That's direct financial benefit from the infringing activity.

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512


> That's the killer. This service not only charges, they charge on a per-course basis.

That seems relatively easy to weasel your way out of. Just sell 'download tokens' which enable the user to download any course on the site they want. Whatever legal argument YouTube is using to protect themselves from this with their new premium subscription would also have to apply here.


YouTube is simply selling you access to the site without advertisement. They are not otherwise demanding payment for the content on their site.


Isn't YT "[receiving] a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity [video views]"? Just wondering how they actually get around that?


YT (or at least, YT's lawyers) would say no. A financial benefit _directly_ attributable to the infringing activity would be charging for (access to) the content itself, that is to say, unless you pay you don't get to view the content in the first place.

I would say that it is clear that _if_ YT is breaking even or making a profit via ad impressions providing the service that they provide then it is _indirectly_ benefiting. No, they are not directly monetizing the (alleged copyright infringing) content but they traffic is driven to their site and eyeballs continue to be view pages because of said (alleged copyright infringing) content which in turn is monetized via ad impressions.

Which is why I have no problem with people running an ad blocker.


I don't believe so because you are paying for an ad free experience. You are not paying for a particular video. They are not making money from the infringing activity (the copyrighted video).


They do not claim ownership of the courses.


Lol you people are really amazing. No sense of irony? Really?

Hey guess what, Silicon Valley has been doing this for nearly 20 years to other people. Funny how the HN crowd gets riled up when it happens to programmers.

Movies cost tens of millions to make and employ hundreds if not thousands. Tv shows are maybe an order of magnitude smaller, records maybe one more. Any of those media products blow these aggrieved programmers out of the water, impact wise.

But the founders of YouTube -- who played this little copyright game like a fiddle -- are heroes in the Valley. So are the founders of Napster, one of whom helped get Facebook going.

I guess "move fast and break things" is a great motto until it's your stuff getting broken.


While it doesn't change the point of your comment, I saw a different ironic thing: how can people even think they can sell videos on-line and capture most of the viewers?

It's like The First and Only Iron Law of the Internet: if you post it, it will be copied and it will be distributed free. I understand that movie studios or record labels may be doing stuff the way they were always doing stuff, but an individual, especially a tech-minded one, expecting to earn money on selling videos in XXI century? Seriously? I mean, you can have any business model you like, but the real world is not obliged to comply.

So that's practical point - you don't get to set up a permanent passive income for yourself just because you publish a series of videos. Some people like to believe that (I've been personally convincing one such person recently to stop thinking along these lines and instead treat educational videos as a loss leader, and use those to sell webinars and/or personal tutoring instead). But I have also a general point to make:

In general, for some reason people imagine that just because they make something and start to sell it, they get to have full control over its life cycle. They don't, they never did. If you make a new widget, it'll get cloned by your competition. If you try to prevent it with $RANDOM_LEGAL_QUIRK, the Chinese will clone it anyway and good luck chasing them down. It's how it was since the dawn of time. And it's good, that's how stuff is supposed to work - this way new things join the shared wealth of humanity.

You're not entitled to capture all value from what you make. You get to only capture some. Expecting more is just plain, textbook greed.

And as a society, we should be nice enough to ensure you're capturing enough value for yourself.


> how can people even think they can sell videos on-line and capture most of the viewers?

It doesn't have to be most, it just has to be enough.

You'd be surprised at how many people are willing to simply pay for what they consume.

So what if it will be copied, as long as the fraction that is willing to pay is large enough it might be a very profitable venture.


Yes, exactly. But those who understand it don't usually complain about getting their videos copied - they seek ways to monetize it in some way. After all, they have proof the market is there; maybe not as wealthy and as willing to pay as they expected.


I don't think they're upset so much about the copying as they are that the copiers are re-selling the copies.


This is a somewhat new plot development here; I agree I've never before seen someone blatantly selling content like that, charging per piece of content. It used to be that people sold copyrighted content per megabyte, or you paid for faster transfer - and mostly it was sold as data, not as a particular type of work (i.e. you pay to download "a file", not "a course").


I feel that you are talking about pirates capturing a different section of the market. Well, in this case, the pirates are going after the exact same market (people willing to pay for legitimate content), and they are selling the original product.

It's a bit like if I work in the Rolex factory and just decide to set up Rolex outlets everywhere with the watches I've stolen from there.


It's a little bit of difference between freely copying to a few thousand of your closest, most personal friends on the internet, and setting up a business selling that content that you copied to third parties.


> It’s a price of doing business.

> But I had never seen a business actually profiting from piracy.

The author acknowledges that piracy is "normal", but is drawing the line at directly profiting. YouTube and Napster didn't charge consumers for pirated content.

> I guess "move fast and break things" is a great motto until it's your stuff getting broken.

I hate "move fast break things" but this critique doesn't make any sense, hasn't this aphorism always been about breaking your own stuff and how that's okay as long as you're moving fast?

Perhaps a better one would be:

I guess disruption is great until it's your livelihood being disrupted.


YouTube absolutely makes money off of pirated content. They shows ads on top of it.


They also aren't making close to $20/view on a video, which is enough for even one viewer to pay for having that video reviewed by hand for infringement. Moreover, youtube has setup many systems in place to detect infringing materials. With the charges that Udemy has per copy, they should be paying people to review every video.. or have a $50 upload fee that covers that manual review process. That would kill a lot of the problem.


Youtube actually have quite a civilised policy on pirated content. They do make money on the ads but if you go to them and prove you are the copyright holder they divert the ad payout on pirated stuff to you rather than the poster. I've got a friend making quite a lot of money by having asserted legal copyright on some much pirated content. Udemy could perhaps offer to do something similar?


I agree, wrt youtube's current policies. I'm just stating that given the pricing model Udemy has in place, that a manual review process on every video would not be unreasonable, as compared to say youtube.


The normal excuse for piracy is "I would not have bought it anyway". I do buy a lot music but I also pirate, there is just no way for one to accumulate all those gigabytes of music collection without paying more money than what you make in a lifetime. I really wouldn't, and couldn't, have bought it anyway. Hence no loss for the creator.

Now on udemy people are still paying for it, that means they are ready to pay, and whatever they pay should in that case go to the correct rights holder. There is where the comparison with Napster doesn't hold.


Who is "you people"? People who pirate, or people in tech? What makes you think they're one and the same?


The parent is referring to the typical attitude that's normally on display here about piracy of music, books, movies, etc. It usually ranges from the dismissive to claims that it actually benefits artists to the occasional bit of "fuck the artists" truth. (That's more or less verbatim from one thread I saw.)

You'll also hear a lot of libertarian and/or fluffy pseudo-socialist arguments for abolishing IP law when this stuff comes up. Information wants to be free, man!

But when it pertains to a programmer, a developer, an academic, etc., I do often see a very different attitude on display. You can see it in this thread. One of the top replies right now is about how the OP probably has an actionable DMCA claim. I thought the DMCA was Satan...? I guess that's only if certain kinds of people use it.

I think it boils down to a kind of classism or cultural/vocational tribalism. Programmers and academics are members of our class/tribe, and their works are worthy of protection and compensation. But writers, actors, producers, musicians, etc. are not and they can go busk on street corners. I don't think most people realize they're doing this, but they are. They've just never stopped to reflect on it or to unpack this nonsense.

There are exceptions, but dig up any thread around here on Popcorn Time or The Pirate Bay and you will see what I mean. Variants of "IP law should not exist" or "fuck the artists" is 9:1 the dominant opinion, with people putting forward a different view often getting down voted to the lightest shades of grey.

I say this as someone who used to believe this stuff until I reflected on it and thought about the implications and learned a bit more about how the world actually works. Abolishing copyright will only benefit the big content aggregators and vertically integrated delivery/streaming services, who will now be able to monetize everything in any way they want without paying anyone for it. Artists will starve. Most will leave the profession. Music usually comes up in these threads but musicians won't be the most fucked -- at least musicians can tour. The most fucked profession will be writing. When was the last time you attended a paid recital of a novel by its author?


I think that trying to ding people for being intellectually inconsistent requires showing that the same people are the ones saying the inconsistent things. It's possible that different people are just drawn to commenting in different threads.


It also requires understanding the points people are making.

Everyone agrees that selling pirated content is wrong. Hell, most pirates would agree to that. You can say it's a shitty attitude to have, but it's a consistent one: "Piracy is OK as long as you don't resell what you pirate" is internally consistent, even if you think it's morally wrong.

Similarly, people seem to be consistently against plagiarism, which is apparently at issue here as well. Again, the stance "Piracy is OK but don't pass pirated works off as your own" is internally consistent, even if you think it's morally wrong.


There's a lot of room between a 14 year copyright with optional extension, and a requirement to register to what we have today (life + 70 years) with automatic copyright on creation. That only benefits distributers, not society at large.

I'm much more inclined to support something closer to original copyright. As to Trademark protections, some have gone too far (IOC for example). And patent protection on anything software driven is pretty stupid, as well as extension patents on medication, but I can see a place for patent law, in some places.


I can't speak for everyone who pirated music, but back in the day when I did, it was because a CD was $15 and I couldn't afford that shit for every single song I wanted. When iTunes first showed up I thought it was a good idea, but the music came with the DRM bullshit. Then later, Amazon MP3 came around: Reasonable prices for ala-carte tracks, no DRM. I haven't stolen a single song since.

Piracy by most people is a failure of the market to provide. Look at the most pirated content: movies, music, television. All of these have a common vein; traditionally these media are distributed in specific and timed ways, usually at different times around the world, at different prices and at different venues, and all of it for no real reason.

Why should a hardcore fan of Metallica have to wait another three weeks for their new CD just because he lives in a different country?

Why should someone who loves Peter Jackson's movies have to sit and watch his friends in the United States see the movie he can't for another four weeks because he doesn't live in the right spot?

It's all ancient, trivial nonsense and was treated as such. I heard this so many times from me and other people like me: I would totally pay for this, but I have no way of doing so. Such rigid controls on availability of easily pirated content breed piracy and make criminals out of people who otherwise would never have been.


You can't afford it? Don't buy it! The world doesn't owe you a fucking thing.


> The world doesn't owe you a fucking thing.

And neither it does to the ones who sell stuff.

I'm sorry that future comes in pieces and not exactly in order. That the means to make culture free came before the means to make creators not have to pay for the rent. That the draw people have to educate themselves, or to participate in the shared cultural experience is stronger than the arbitrary restrictions some people try to place.


I never said it did. I'm making the point that most piracy exists because it's an easy alternative to purchasing. I'd never smash a glass case and run with a CD, but when I could click Download on Kazaa? Sure, why not.

Now I do the same thing with Amazon, and my credit card gets billed a buck. The difference is negligible to me, the difference to the media company? Tons of bad PR and losing a shitload of potential sales because they still thought the album was the only way to distribute music.

Edit: Upon further thought, the "world" in question here gave me two options: Either buying the CD, or downloading the song, and at the time there was no middle ground there. I can still download songs but I don't do it, I buy them. If that is a sense of entitlement it's not a very good one.


Not exactly the smartest move if you're a business that cares about profit though.


Can't agree more or upvote this high enough. As a programmer working in an entertainment medium (video games), I can understand both of the (caricatured) sides you posit. Ultimately my sympathies rest with content creators whose experience of the "disruptive" forces of technology and contemporary startup culture is a net negative to their individual livelihoods and their profession more generally.

I'm all for technology moving fast, even breaking things. I just want those agents of disruption to spend as much time cleaning up the mess they create in the process.


Agree with everything here. I enjoy the startups sticking it to the entrenched, backwards industries but they have a nasty habit of leaving a lot of innocent people stuck in the crossfire.


Writing the kind of thorough examination of these issues your post deserves would be biting off way more than I could chew right now, so I'll just make some random remarks instead.

People pirating entertainment isn't exactly "the free market" in action, but it's close. The common denominator is people doing what they want to, when no one intervenes in their activities.

So if there's nothing to deter people from pirating movies, or to punish them for it, then they'll go ahead and pirate movies. The risk is really small, and the reward is (practically) instant gratification. Very few would pass that up.

On the one hand, I think IP laws shouldn't exist. They're not meant to benefit the creators anyway, but the entertainment industry BigCorps instead.

On the other hand, I think it's wrong, to a small extent, to pirate movies or music or anything else someone has created and put up for sale.

There's a deal available to you, and it's up to you whether you'll take it. You get something, the creator gets money, and both are more or less happy. But if you circumvent the deal by downloading the product instead, that's comparable to stealing without the creator actually losing the product.

Of course, the entertainment industry equates pirating with actual stealing, because it's more impactful that way. That's dishonest too.

But all in all, people will act according to incentives, and they will pursue their personal gain and the satisfaction of their wants and needs. Nothing's going to change that, so it's pointless to even try.

Ultimately IP laws do way more harm than good, and they're not meant to benefit us little guys anyway.

Think of all the patent lawsuits flying around in the US, or that piece of shit Martin Shkreli charging outrageous prices for drugs people need to survive, etc.

All of that follows from IP laws existing too. So it's not just about "creators" getting what they deserve, it's all the scummy other stuff too.

Besides, what anyone deserves for his creation, is whatever he can get people to voluntarily pay for it. Nothing more, nothing less. That's something to keep in mind too. If there's no market for someone's creation, that doesn't mean there should be legislation that makes people pay for it.

Alright, I guess that's enough rambling now.


Thanks for the thoughts. As with many others I'll offer to you that my entire post is not about piracy. I've lived with piracy of my stuff for the last 7 years. Part of doing business.

The point of my post was a business profiting from pirates. The people who make the choice to forego bittorrent and just post the pirated stuff for a profit. THAT... is my point.


> The people who make the choice to forego bittorrent and just post the pirated stuff for a profit. THAT... is my point.

Yeah, that's a scuzzy thing to do.


I did not notice Napster, Youtube or their users selling the content.


YouTube wasn't directly selling content, but they were selling ad impressions on top of the content. Is that substantially different?


That's fairly slippery ground. Let's imagine for a moment that youtube would not have any ads at all. That would not make the copyright infringement any less (they'd be running at an even more massive loss but that's besides the point).

But if they sold the content then it would be direct profiting from piracy and that's a pretty simple affair when it comes to the legal side of things as it allows a much more direct assessment of the damages. No longer can the defendant claim that 'those copies would not have been sold to the viewers' because those copies are sold to the viewers, so the other party has you over a barrel when it comes to proving 'lost income due to reduced sales'.

But whether or not they profited directly from the content or not is actually immaterial to whether or not copyright infringement occurred. It did and charging for access would not make a difference there, income from advertising is just as clearly profiting.

I suspect that if they had charged for the content that youtube would never have gotten as big as it did so clearly the fact that they infringed left, right and center on copyrights and did not charge for the access to that content (and still do...) was what made them successful.

So I'd say yes, it was substantially different, but not in a legal sense.

I don't think youtube would have been alive for both legal reasons (they'd have been hit much harder and earlier) and for reasons related to not being able to achieve the scale they did if they had charged for the content.


Google isn't selling the pirated content and cracked keys that are easily found with it, but they are selling ad impressions on top of them. That seems to me to be much less substantially different from YouTube's case than YouTube's is from Udemy's.

Also, this isn't just us, the law in fact does consider them substantially different, and specifically uses the word "directly": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10640023


>Funny how the HN crowd gets riled up when it happens to programmers.

The author of the article doesn't care about run-of-the-mill torrenting. So I believe the average HN commenter doesn't get "riled up".

Quote from the article: >When I ran Tekpub it would take (typically) a day or two (sometimes just a few hours) for the torrents to hit. It’s a price of doing business.

The problem in this case is that people are willing to pay for the courses but don't know that they are actually pirating them and Udemy is directly profiting from this.

>Movies cost tens of millions to make and employ hundreds if not thousands. Tv shows are maybe an order of magnitude smaller, records maybe one more. Any of those media products blow these aggrieved programmers out of the water, impact wise.

This is just my personal opinion but I'm not interested in either of those. They have no "impact" on me.

>But the founders of YouTube -- who played this little copyright game like a fiddle -- are heroes in the Valley.

They are actually taking action against copyright infringement. You can even claim the ad revenue from your works that the pirates would receive. Udemy does no such thing, even though they have enough employees to check the courses at a reasonable rate by hand and enough money since they take a cut for every sold course.

>I guess "move fast and break things" is a great motto until it's your stuff getting broken.

I don't mind getting my stuff "broken", whatever that is even supposed to mean. I want to receive their works for free in the same manner as I want them to receive my works for free. I don't see any inconsitency with that.


> Movies cost tens of millions to make and employ hundreds if not thousands.

Couldn't have put it better myself: movies are a pretty small part of the economy, despite the spectacle. Box office takings in the US in 2014 were only about $10B in total - that's really not that big an industry, and high tech in particular eats those numbers for breakfast (insubstantial things like Instagram get bought for $1B, for example). Even if you throw in licensing and merchandising, it doesn't move the needle all that much.

Some comparative examples from other industries - the NYC Port Authority budget for 2015 was about $8B in size; Lowe's hardware has about a $50B turnover annually; the University of Pittsburgh had $2B in revenue for 2014; John Deere had $40B in revenue in 2013. All of these are single-company examples from larger industries, but the numbers give some context to the actual economic oomph of Hollywood.

And not only that, but when you see a movie and see all those names scroll by at the end? Those folks aren't all in full-time jobs. It's not like a movie keeps all the employees in permanent full-time employment. Most of the money that movies make don't go to employing people, but to the profiteers at the top.

So, in short, movies don't make that much money in context, and aren't the wide-ranging employers you're painting them as. They do however make a lot of noise and have an unbelievable amount of political power, given their relative lack of economic might. We don't see Lowe's pressuring the government to enact treaties on their behalf...

> I guess "move fast and break things" is a great motto until it's your stuff getting broken.

Ah, you're right. SV should enhance its integrity by adopting the moral values of Hollywood...


I think the attitude is that it's an act of civil disobedience when it's perceived to be stealing from a big corporation or business entity. When it's a little guy, then HN jumps to their defense. Well, unless the little guy is a musician, in which case, fuck them and their art which should be free. They need to figure out how to make money some other way.


Usually it's not "fuck the musician", but "fuck the middlemen who take most of his money anyway".


Imagine if iTunes (or Spotify etc.) allowed people to upload songs without a musician's permission and SELL them via iTunes.


This has happened before, and the content creators face the same struggle. The most egregious example that I know of is Benn Jordan, aka The Flashbulb, who claims that ITunes, Google, etc. have made over 6 figures from selling music that someone uploaded without his permission:

https://torrentfreak.com/artist-cant-get-pirated-music-off-i...

It really sucked for Benn, who openly releases his own music on torrents and is active on What.cd, because he notes in his blog that he threw down 50 grand to hire an orchestra for the album that got stolen (Arboreal).

Unfortunately, as others have pointed out, musicians do not earn the same sympathy as programmers for the same issue, at least not here on Hacker News.


Not to mention Facebook is crawling with copyright violations that it makes money off of.


I think it is slightly different since Udemy is charging so much to view the infringing content. People weren't mad because it was free to view videos on youtube... youtube wasn't making money from the pirated content, in fact they were losing money in bandwidth costs... in contrast, Udemy is charging $19 for this guy's class... very different.


Udemy really is one of the worst platforms imaginable for instructors.

They will even brand your videos without your consent by adding Udemy logo watermarks to every video.

If you guys want to hear another horror story about Udemy, take a skim through:

http://blog.nickjanetakis.com/post/133482093993/less-than-24...

(note: the above post is a few days old)

Someone really needs to step up and create a more reasonable course hosting platform.


There is edx, coursera, etc.


But I think those are only for university-level courses.


Wow. That was harrowing. The dangers and degradations that this poor man has lived through at the hands of Udemy! I'm amazed he survived.


Filling out Udemy's "Report Abuse" form to report a "Copyright or Trademark Violation" probably doesn't create any legal obligation on their part to take any action. The author (copyright holder) should have filed an official DMCA takedown request, directed at Udemy's designated DMCA contact, whose e-mail and postal addresses can be found here:

https://www.udemy.com/terms/copyright/


Udemy must "not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity" in order for DCMA to be applicable. Since they're charging for the courses it's probably ordinary copyright infringement on their part. You should send them a Cease and Desist and then sue them.


How long before instructors file a class action?

What will it cost Udemy if instructors start to register copyright and Udemy become liable for statutory damages?


I'm confused. Why not just send a DMCA notice to their upstream provider?


That's what you'd do if Udemy had no registered DMCA agent. Basically, if you wish to issue a DMCA takedown notice you need to follow the DMCA process.


I feel like the OP highlights a problem common to the new breed of "marketplace" platforms like Uber, Airbnb, and Udemy. All of these substitute open, public, regulated markets (taxis, hotels, universities) with closed, private, unregulated markets. Once a near-monopoly is reached, the rules of the marketplace can be changed to benefit the marketplace owner (instead of the service provider).


^This. I cringe every time I hear someone say X is democratizing Y or that X is the "sharing economy". These are unregulated (near) monopoly markets.

Craigslist was democratizing. "Freebie" mailing lists and swap meets are the "sharing economy". Services like AirBnB are doing everything they possibly can to disconnect people (and keep them disconnected). You aren't even permitted to screen your own clients, they are so concerned you'll cut them out prior to billing. At least when posting a flyer in your community or listing on CL, there is no false pretext about screening or due diligence being performed.


So if platforms like udemy, app store, uber, etc. eventually gained monopolistic position (which makes business sense) and then adversely taking advantage from it in the long run, what is an alternative model? Transferring them to a blockain'esque infrastructure of public good? I'm seriously interested in a techno-organizational evolution of the platform model.


I don't know. I've put a lot of thought into it, but this is a Herculean task (like David versus Goliath). Hopefully there are better minds out there who can come up with something. Blockchains and distributed platforms like Etherium look really promising. So does OpenBazaar [1]. There was also an article on the topic recently posted to HN [2]. It has a great quote, "Uber’s big bet is global monopoly or bust.".

[1]: https://openbazaar.org/

[2]: https://medium.com/dark-mountain/how-platform-coops-can-beat...


The barriers to entry (absent new Uber or AirBnB -specific regulations) are too low for either to ever gain "near-monopoly".


I don't want to derail this with a personal story but this might be useful.

I wrote a JavaScript course that I was contracted by someone on Elance to do for very little ( relative to the amount of time I put into it ), he then sold it to another company, that company then put it on Udemy. For a small amount of time it was at the top of the list of beginner JavaScript courses and had over 10,000 students enrolled. I'm grateful my name wasn't on it as it was my first shot at a full on multi hour long course and there were some problems with it...

but.....

Lesson: If you create courses and sell them to people have stipulations regarding resale.

:/

My story wasn't theft so it's not the same, but I figure it might have some utility to someone on hacker news.


If it shot to the top its very possible they were spending money on marketing & promotion through the affiliate program -- not just uploading it and cashing in. If that was the case, who knows, may be you made more money than they did.


> Lesson: If you create courses and sell them to people have stipulations regarding resale.

What? No! That shouldn't be the lesson at all! The lesson should be to charge a reasonable amount for your work, and let the purchaser do whatever they want with it.

At least in the U.S., the First-sale doctrine[0] is very important, enabling things like libraries and re-selling things you purchase. That is, you can't make a stipulation like that.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine


First-sale isn't relevant to this scenario. First-sale applies only to a specific copy. This is either a transfer of ownership or licensing agreement issue.


Ok. Then I was wrong.


How much would you have made (posting it on Udemy) after all was said and done? Pretty impressive to see such numbers on your first attempt. You must have been doing something right (or perhaps the company did a hell of a job promoting it).


Udemy sells courses for about $10 year round and people who obtain the course for free also count as students. Udemy takes 50% as well.

You could speculate that 10,000 copies were sold for $10 for $100,000 and then taken down to $50,000 after Udemy's cut.

I'm sure a bunch were likely given away for free to build early momentum on the course which is a common strategy to inflate your student count and get reviews.

I wouldn't be surprised if they raked in at least 20k.


Sounds like you should create another and send it straight to Udemy or one of their competitors.


I don't think you can do paid work and stipulate whether the they can later sell it to anyone. If you can learn something from this, it should be that next time you might be able to cut out the middle man.


You can contract just about any terms you like, including retention of copyright and limitations on the license granted. Don't just accept whatever terms someone predatory offers to you. (software consultant, not a lawyer)


Accepting a contract on elance doesn't let you set these kind of terms. It's pure work for hire, or you wouldn't get the job.


You could try, but I was arguing you won't have much luck with that. Not many people will hire you if there are specific strings attached to what you produce.


You agreed to do it for the price you were paid. What are you upset about? Did not not charge enough money? There's only one person to blame for that...


I never said I was upset. Read the post.


I saw and reported some plagiarised content at Sitepoint. After what I assume was a fact-checking and research period, they got in touch and told me they were taking down the plagiarised material and banning that submitter. Not only that, but they put in place a peer review system for submitted content. That's how you handle this sort of thing, you take ownership of the problem.


HAHA! I got myself into a wrong course and Udemy haven't refunded me till now. They say you can try it before you buy, But they don't give the money back once they have it. Nobody even answers your queries seemed very shady. Not surprised to see this now.


Wow that is scummy. Can't you do a chargeback?


The sad thing is that in this day and age, independent content creators don't have their copyrights respected, while megacorporations patent troll and abuse our broken intellectual property system.

The only solution that comes to mind is for independent content creators to vigorously litigate and ensure that their DMCA claims are taken seriously.


Perhaps they need to start periodically saying things like "just a reminder, this video is from <University of XYZ> and is copyright by us" and periodically scribble that on a whiteboard too. It may make the class sound a bit silly at times but we live in a world where plenty of people are just fine with making blatant copies of things.

I am against DRM. I don't think it helps anyone to hide content behind buggy technologies, especially when they cause problems that have nothing to do with protection such as security holes. I think you just have to modify the content itself; make it "hard" to cleanse every last mention of the true copyright owner, and stop worrying if some loser actually wants to spend the time and effort it would take to strip all of those mentions out.



Using DCMA is a good first step when trying to deal with these issues, posting an angry blog and defaming a company as being made explicitly to sell stolen content on twitter shouldn't be your first action.

https://support.udemy.com/customer/en/portal/articles/150577...


Udemy is one of those sites that surprise me. No offense, but it looks and feels like a shitty wordpress themed site, with a crappy backend system tied to it. I've never bought anything from it just because of this intangible 'ick' factor. It seems my gut feeling was right on the money.


Udemy always seemed questionable with some of their course titles. Lots of 'How to make money easily doing X' and other extremely clickbait-y names.

Now it's actually proven they don't give a shit what's happening on their 'platform' and have a frankly absurd response to copyright claims. Given how quickly Youtube will block a video given a content claim, it seems any sort of legal action against Udemy will bring their house of cards down extremely quickly.


Besides piracy, udemy itself is just a terrible platform. Unless you agree to sell your course for $10, you'll pretty much never get promoted there organically. They want YOU to do all the work of promoting it to your list, etc. What's worse is that they close off their system as well, making it impossible for you to collect email addresses or send marketing messages.

It's a much better idea to use your own platform.


Maybe an approach could be to actually reach out to authors that are creating accounts and to verify identities more than just an email account rather than focus on contents of that said account. I would also imagine that certain geographic regions have higher reports of said activities. So extra checks should be added for them in the approval process. In the end if they don't shape up they are only hurting themsleves in the long run.


I just deleted my account at udemy:

"Dear Udemy Company,

I read about your questionable practice of not fighting against pirated content on your platform and not rightfully reimbursing the original creators. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10638795 I am not willing to support your stance on this topic and will delete my account within minutes.

Good bye!"


>and Udemy not only let them do this, they’re encouraging others to do the same.

Is there proof of this? Author went from providing examples and evidence, to pure speculation. Kind of lost me there.


Doesn't Udemy lose safe haven when they start taking a cut?


Yes. It sure bit Grooveshark in the ass [1] though in their case it was revealed that they were aware of the presence of infringing material in addition to receiving a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity. These people are crazy for not implementing any sort of review process.

[1]: http://artlawjournal.com/grooveshark-protected-dmca-safe-har...


When I was at Quora, people posting Udemy courses were a major source of spam content. The system clearly has very broken incentive systems.



Udemy is just a ecommerce/merchant service that just happens to be tailored for hosting video series. This is no different than users stealing content and then uploading to youtube or selling it through a paypal/gumroad/stripe link. In every case the companies would be making a profit either through ads or transactions.

The fault is with the user who uploaded the content and the most effective and realistic option for companies that host user provided content is the DMCA process. No matter how good the filtering process (and I do think Udemy needs to improve vastly here) it's never going to catch everything and this situation is all explained and handled by the DMCA.

The real issue is how they're handling the takedown requests. If they are prompt and accurate with the takedowns and refunding customers then there should be no issue. How they get their own money back from the fraud user is their problem as well. If Udemy is not handling takedowns or refunding customers, then there definitely is a problem and that should be met with actual legal action, not just social/twitter justice.

Edit - why the instant downvotes? haven't seen much other than emotional rants about how Udemy is profiteering but no evidence that the proper DMCA process was followed but denied.


This post would benefit from providing more context. Did the author make those videos on behalf of a company? Did he post them somewhere online? Was there ever any kind of license (creative commons for instance) attached to them?

My expectation is that at a minimum, Udemy would investigate the claim once it's reported to them. But you need to provide sufficient proof that you are the content owner. Just because your face is in the video is not enough, but it's a great start.


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What is a good Udemy alternative?


Anything realy. Udemy has a terrible signal to noise ratio, and they do scummy stuff like what's going on here. Read a respected book, try Udacity or Coursera, or ask the community what course is good.


I don't know why kids these days are so down on programming ebooks. I have a ton of them in a Dropbox folder, and they're my main source of learning new programming languages. Sure, they date fast, can't be updated fast, and aren't interactive. They're old school now that we're in the era of MOOCs.

But you can still learn a lot if you know what to look for, know how to skim, and know which books are good.

Alternatively: maybe I'm just old.


I agree about ebooks, but I'd argue that they have a whole virtue of their own: Nothing beats the speed at what you can skim them, to quickly narrow down on the parts you're interested in, thus being exponentially more efficient than watching hours of video just to find out that it wasn't what you needed (yea, well, except physical books of course, which even ebooks can't beat.)


I'm 21. I've been teaching myself programming for about three years (outside of school). With a few notable exceptions, good old books have been the best learning materials.


>ebooks

...or old-style internet tutorials formatted as static mostly-HTML webpages.

Or what about printed books. After reading that kind of internet tutorial I got K&R and some less memorable C++ book from the local library.


I find that physical books work way better for me.. I have a mostly photographic memory and the feel of book, and position of the content adds additional context I just don't have reading an e-format for too much at once. It all tends to just blur together pretty quickly.

Quick blog posts, and tutorials aren't too bad.. short specifications are fine too.. but longer content just doesn't work in an electronic interface for me.


> Alternatively: maybe I'm just old

Nah, when I was a kid there were no ebooks, we had to rent/buy physical books at the local library/bookstore.


24, and I learn mostly from blogs and ebooks. I find it quicker to learn and implement from blogs than wade through a video lesson!


I think the lesson here is making sure the content is produced by a legitimate, authentic and expert source rather than just anyone who can upload something - especially when paying money for it.

There are plenty of sites like lynda.com, pluralsight.com, udacity.com, coursera.com, edx.org and others that either produce directly or verify the source. Lots of colleges also put their class videos online now, itunes U is great for that.


I would guess that Udemy realizes that they cannot compete with these other sites on quality (and the other attributes you mentioned). Thus they are attempting the Pawn Shop or Dollar Store approach wherein they will (re)sell (potentially questionable) material at the lowest prices.


If you're looking for books try leanpub.com

For video try lynda.com or codeschool.com


The number of people who really want to live off of other people's work is much smaller than we often think. More often than not harm is done by people that are either incompetent or desperate.

Should that stop us from getting a lawyer? Certainly not. Can we still believe in humans usually trying to do good? Yes.


We create content in spanish www.oja.la here in udemy https://www.udemy.com/u/pixelpro/

it has been almost a year since I notified them


where is udemy? is there a small claims court there? File for 100% of the money.


[deleted]


> but udemy got videos off of pluralsight, uploaded them to their own servers, and are then selling them off as udemy's own courses.

You are confusing things here. A Udemy user took some content from Pluralsight and published the content on Udemy. Where Udemy is in the wrong is in not taking the content down and banning the teacher from their platform.


What would be intriguing is if Udemy is actually responsible, and just using ghost accounts...


I certainly don't know enough about the site to say definitively one way or another, but I wouldn't be surprised. This sort of scenario reminds me of Airbnb taking customers from Craigslist [1] or Uber employing "ghosts" to fuck with competitors (cancel rides and poach drivers) [2]. Of course there's no evidence of Udemy doing anything this shady, it just wouldn't be outside the realm of what some tech companies have been up to lately.

[1]: http://www.businessinsider.com/airbnb-harvested-craigslist-t... [2:]


Not the first time I am hearing this. Udemy has no standards whatsoever!


After reading the blog post and the comments here, I'm wondering what are the affected parties waiting for? they should organise a class action lawsuit and sue Udemy's ass...


To all who try to discuss the details of DCMA, copyright, etc. the bottom line is this part from the first comment "Udemy do not care.". THIS is the real issue.


I really hope the programs that I've purchased aren't pirated, But Then again I just used the code that made anything 5 dollars. So... eh?


He sounds so mad. Writing something while angry is not wise. Still, I knew Udemy was bad but not THAT bad.


If Udemy is such a bad service, what are the hurdles to create a better, more ethical competitor?

“It’s not like there’s a database of copyrighted content out there you know”

Ahh so a database of copyright might work. cf https://twitter.com/robconery/status/670389852974657536


I wonder how many people who wrote courses that are now being pirated on Udemy ever torrented music or movies illegally, used someone else's Netflix account, DRM stripped Kindle books etc. I don't agree with Udemy, but it's always crappier when it happens to you.


Let's play devil's advocate and say that you are right. All of these people have at some time downloaded a movie or used someone else's Netflix account. Your argument still wouldn't be valid. Udemy is making presumably 10s of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars off of stolen content. This is the difference between shoplifting a dvd and opening up blockbusters all across the world with movies you stole. The difference is night and day. Not just logically or morally, but legally.


First, these are equivalent cases. If someone torrented music or movies, and then sold them, it would be.

Second, let's be clear: you can strip DRM without violating copyright. You're violating the Kindle terms of use, but not copyright (that is only the case if you share your stripped books).


Not strictly analogous. How many of those people torrented music or movies -and then sold them, or resold access to someone else's Netflix, etc.

Neither is correct. But Udemy isn't just pirating, but profiting.


> But I had never seen a business actually profiting from piracy.

Youtube?

Facebook freebooting, too.


disgusting! either way I dont use Udemy because of the cost involved, now I am definitely not paying for someone else's stolen hard work


Scary that we'd get no response on this.


Growth hacking?


Hack growth.


This is rich. There is a set of HN readers who are outraged over this while at the same time waiting for their next movie torrents to seed. Seems like a tiny bit of hypocrisy happening. The simple truth is that if you own a piece of content, you should have control of that content. Stealing movies, books or music is wrong no matter how much you may pontificate against the "evil" copyright owner. Copyright infringement is a disincentive to content creation.


Could also it be two set of users orthogonally outraging.

Just sain.


Did he even try to contact Udemy support and get a response? It would seem like the thing to do before writing a hit piece. I interviewed at Udemy, but ended up taking a position somewhere else, yet they struck me as good people trying to make a good product. I don't like piracy and the author has been wronged, but this blog post is unfair.


Yes, I did. As did Troy. No reponse (now as then).

You entirely miss the point of the article - it's not about piracy, it's about a marketplace for pirated goods. That's what Udemy does. Sorry if I'm not nice about it.


So if a burglar steals a TV, sells it to someone else, and they list it on eBay, does that make eBay guilty of the burglary? If someone buys it using Paypal, do you consider Paypal to be the burglar? If the currency mode used was USD, do you consider the U.S. government to be the guilty burglar?

I suppose if it was explicitly listed as 'Stolen 40" TV!' in the 'Stolen Goods' category of eBay you could say that they should have known, and if Paypal had special 'funds to buy stolen things' accounts and one of those was used to buy it, then you could put some blame to them, etc.

But how far away do you project the blame from the actual criminal? If Udemy is responsible, then do you absolve the person who pirated and uploaded it of guilt? Or do you divide and dilute it? How long does the chain need to be before each participant's share of the guilt is so small as to be negligible and irrelevant?

Why not instead blame the person who uploaded it to make money while knowing that they hadn't created it and didn't own the rights?


It's a little different than the simple theft of a TV, although yes you raise a decent point. As I've been saying to people: just a reasonable effort is all I ask.

There is a watermark on the entire video, and you can quite easily tell the voice changes from the intro to the main body (where I also mention Pluralsight a few times). A very, very simple review process would catch this.

Every video I submit to Pluralsight goes through a 3-step review (Peer, A/V, tech) and they catch any possibility of copyright infringement (though yes, things do get through).

Udemy is not doing anything this way, and have admitted it publicly (see the post, I updated it at the bottom). They flatly say that they rely on their users to tell them if something has a copyright problem.


Yeah, it makes sense that users have to tell them theres a copyright problem, just like a copy-righted YouTube video.


No, it doesn't. Udemy would fall apart as a company without illegal content. Their entire business DEPENDS on pirated content. You really think they would be making any money with the very very few legitimate courses? The business knows the majority of courses are pirated, and they don't care. This is how they make their money.


That's just a stupid, slanderous comment. Do you have any reason to say such a thing? Can you please give us links to some of the many pirated courses?


> That's just a stupid, slanderous comment.

This comment breaks the HN guidelines. Please read and follow them when posting here:

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html


>>>>Their entire business DEPENDS on pirated content. You really think they would be making any money with the very very few legitimate courses? The business knows the majority of courses are pirated, and they don't care. This is how they make their money.<<<<<

I'm sorry I don't know how to edit my comment which broke the rules. I'm not sure why it's OK for this poster to claim that Udemy is a thief and it's not OK for me to claim that the poster has made a stupid comment, but if those are the rules, then those are the rules.

I'll restate. Because the poster made that comment, which I've quoted above, I would appreciate it if he would provide links to the many pirated courses that he says Udemy DEPENDS on.

Please don't mark me down for the caps. I'm just quoting him.

If Udemy depends on pirated courses it shouldn't be too much trouble for him to supply a link to a couple of the courses.

Here's the problem. Thousands of us have our courses on Udemy and we rely on our Udemy income to pay our bills. It's not OK for people to sling false accusations around and try to stir up people to boycott Udemy without having some reasonable argument to make. They should have some slim evidence that what they are saying is true. Making false accusations is bad behavior. It may not break the posting rules on this forum, but it is egregious behavior and it ought not be tolerated.


> I'm not sure why it's OK for this poster to claim

It may not be. We (I'm a moderator here) try to be consistent, but it's impossible for us to see everything, let alone consider it all carefully.

The trouble with your comment was that it went straight to name-calling ("stupid and slanderous"), when it should have provided information. Your final paragraph above, the one that begins "Here's the problem", is much better. It's an informative expression of what lies behind your defense of Udemy and makes a fine contribution to the thread.

HN can be a cryptic place sometimes and I apologize if it felt like we were picking on you personally. That was not my intention. It's entirely fair for you to stand up for Udemy based on your experience. But to be a good HN citizen, please do so informatively and neutrally, even when other commenters say unfair things.


Because udemy has money and are easier to go after, if rob was to go after the person who actually stole his content they might be insolvent or in a country is too expensive to go after them.


In the UK its an offence to handle goods which you believe to be stolen. What constitutes "belief" is left up to the court, but if ebay's primary function was to push stolen things then yes - they would be held accountable under this offence (handling stolen goods).

However, copyright theft is not actually theft for fairly obvious reasons (a pretty good PR win for the RIAA in getting everyone calling it theft)


Stolen property is always tainted. There was an example in the news last year illustrating this -- a 1960s classic car stolen was returned to its owner after 50 years and multiple resales.

If Udemy is turning a blind eye, they are no different from a pawn shop fencing stolen goods.


Between the use of burglary and the disregard of physical vs. intangible property, this is just a preposterous set of hypotheticals.

Why is it so bad to hold accountable both the company for hosting the content if they have reason to believe it was stolen and also the person who uploaded it? Criminal statutes punish pawn shops for selling stolen goods, criminal statutes punish people for knowingly purchasing stolen goods. Why can't a company be held responsible for knowingly acting as a marketplace for stolen goods?


Why do you think they knowingly acted as a marketplace for stolen goods? Where do you get that idea?


Are you a shill for Udemy?

It may not even matter if they knowingly acted as a marketplace for stolen goods. See OCILLA (the "safe harbor" provision of the DMCA). Similarly, see the fate of Grooveshark [1].

Providers seeking protection from OCILLA must:

1) not receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity,

2) not be aware of the presence of infringing material or know any facts or circumstances that would make infringing material apparent,

3) upon receiving notice from copyright owners or their agents, act expeditiously to remove the purported infringing material.

Udemy is playing a dangerous game. I guess they can feel comforted knowing small independent content producers don't have the legal resources that record labels do. Though together, they may have enough.

[1]: http://artlawjournal.com/grooveshark-protected-dmca-safe-har...


> Are you a shill for Udemy?

Insinuating shillage or astroturfing isn't allowed on HN without evidence, so please don't do it here. An opposing view does not count as evidence.

I've posted many comments to make it clear to the community what the HN norm is: https://hn.algolia.com/?sort=byDate&prefix&page=0&dateRange=....


No I'm not a shill for Udemy. What about you? Can you please tell me why you said that Udemy knowingly acted as a marketplace for stolen goods?


I've never said Udemy knowingly acted as a marketplace for stolen goods. Also I apologize for questioning your intentions, I realize you are likely just an instructor who has experience with their platform.


Sorry. I didn't know how to open the thread when I replied so I didn't realize that you weren't the person I was originally speaking to. So to you I say, "You don't need to talk to me since I wasn't talking to you. But no, I'm no shill. I am a small, independent content provider and I find it disturbing that people make wild accusations and others believe what they read on Twitter with no need for any kind of proof."


Apology accepted. Thanks.


Maybe there's no response because you tried to contact them over thanksgiving and not because of malice.


While I sympathize with the author its (edit)unreasonable to suggest that they should be validating each course. However it appears more should be done to ease the path to getting your content taken down.

You would think the person selling the course would have payment information that could be used to track that individual down, the correct course of action is to sue.

If the content isnt worth doing this then the content isnt actually that valuable to the author.


>If the content isnt worth doing this then the content isnt actually that valuable to the author.

Even if the author thought the content was worth nothing doesn't change that it's his content, for which he controls the copyright. I don't necessarily agree with the modern copyright ecosystem, but as long as it's around it should be applied in a manner consistent with its goals of enabling content creators to control the commercialization of their content, including not at all.


I agree, and the owner should assert his claim by submitting a DCMA takedown request, but the owner shouldnt complain that they had to do that in the first place, that is unreasonable.


Why is it unreasonable for a marketplace to take active steps to ensure they are selling legal products?


What steps?


It's unreasonable? How? This isn't YouTube, they're selling video courses. As a customer, you would damn better expect that they have curated the content on their site.


Udemy has over 30,000 courses, how many videos and other course assets does that represent?

What method are you suggesting they deploy to validate the person selling the course owns all the copyrights they need to sell it?


Looking to see if another company's watermark is on it would be a good start.


OK so now they ban all videos with water marks of companies what does that solve, people will just start cropping videos.


Not really a hard problem to solve.

Better content moderation is one step.

Another? Add a part of the EULA that states:

"You hereby claim that you are either the original content creator or have written permission from the original content creator to sell this course. You agree that if you are judged by us to violate another creator's copyright, you will be liable for double any revenues generated by the sale of the course, payable directly to the copyright holder. You will also be permanently banned."

Or something to this effect. Make it part of the EULA that copyright violation won't be tolerated.


Good luck collecting double revenues legal action required to enforce that clause would cost more than the revenue.


Scale is not relevant at all. Is it OK for Amazon to sell stolen goods?


Are you saying you dont think Amazon sells things that violate other peoples copyrights?


I asked if it was OK.


Sorry miss-read I guess it depends on if they continue to sell it after being notified in a manner that cant be abused, what else can we expect them to do?


> its dangerous to suggest that they should be validating each course.

Why's that?


Because how would you even do that with any sort of accuracy, do you check the global content registry database? Surely people dont expect to export the burden of protecting your IP to other companies?


If you're in the business of selling content you damn well ought to know who's content your selling. I'm not saying any system would be completely bulletproof, but you should at least look like you're TRYING.


So if I lease commercial land it's my responsibility to make sure my renter isn't laundering money?

Whatever argument you make should also explain why the web hosting provider isn't also responsible for hosting and distributing pirated content. Certainly they should also look like they're trying to prevent copyright infringement on their network.

> but you should at least look like you're TRYING.

This kind of logic is how an automatic 'review' process gets implemented which just spins for a few minutes and then then accepts the video. The problem of detecting copyrighted content is so complex that without source level access you would never be able to prove definitively that their review process is just theater.


Your metaphor isn't quite right, a better one would be "should a distributor of a given product be held responsible for determining if the goods they're given are stolen?" To that I would say:

1. A distributor would only use vetted manufacturers, or at least not buy from one again when the products purchased turn out to be stolen

2. When the products are digital, it's much easier to check if they are stolen than physical ones.

3. If it's been determined that a product is stolen, the distributor (generally) isn't held responsible but also isn't allowed to continue selling from the same stock.

Also, I would argue that while it's impossible to detect everything (which is what I said initially too) there should be some legal requirement that the given distributor should show a reasonable attempt to enforce copyright law. The Content ID system, discounting all the ways its abused by a few big companies, is an excellent system for detecting copyright material, and would definitely show that YouTube is at least trying to prevent the spread of material that isn't legal. At the same time, it's clear by this post at least that Udemy is not only NOT vetting their content whatsoever but, similar to Facebook, makes the process to report said content intentionally difficult which I'm sure is not at all related to the fact that as long as said content is live, they're making money.

In short, there's a difference between being a store owner who mistakenly bought stolen products one time, or being a distributor who makes regular business off of stolen product. One shouldn't be held to the fire, one really should.


Screenshot of one of the projects in Adobe Premiere/video editor used?


It's happening often enough that they could at least do a cursory search at the most common places. They're not a charity; they are profiting off of this, and it's reasonable to assume they could use some of that profit on due diligence.


I do not see any evidence to suggest they are profiting from it, wouldn't they be legally obligated to refund the users who bought the content once its taken down, since they would lose access?

So in theory wouldn't udemy be losing money?

+ Total Amount Recvd - Payment fees - Money paid to fraudster - Refunds


The info is scattered all over the place... Here is one of the posts https://twitter.com/jeffrey_way/status/651215238470090754. People were complaining Udemy didn't even refund users who purchased videos that were posted for free elsewhere.


That doesnt talk about how the users who actually bought the content werent refunded though?


Of course they are profiting these (pirate) courses. Content creators with infringed content have already charted these waters. One creator had $7k+ of his (stolen) content sold. There were no refunds and Udemy refused to reimburse the creator.


Can you link to this information, I am not saying your wrong but if true this is relevant to the discussion, because if they kept the money then that is the real thing we should be talking about, as this is highly questionable behavior.


Who said there were no refunds?


> If the content isnt worth doing this then the content isnt actually that valuable to the author.

I think you exaggerate a bit here. How easy is to sue someone from a different country ?


Largely depends on the country, at the very least you can report them to the authorities for fraud.


Define "dangerous". Listen mate, if you make money on something and that something is stolen - you are responsible. Udemy created this marketplace for stolen things; people steal things and sell them there.

> the correct course of action is to sue

Nope. That's what people do in a dispute to solve the dispute. The correct course of action is something else entirely as we're talking about copyright law, not pissing on your neighbors orchids.


> Define "dangerous"

Dangerous was a bad word choice, perhaps "unreasonable".

> Listen mate, if you make money on something and that something is stolen - you are responsible

I never claimed they arent responsible and as the DCMA outlines they mitigate their responsibility for hosting this content by allowing DCMA take downs. What are you suggesting Udemy do to validate that the content creator owns the content they are selling. Copyright law and ownership is a very complicated issue. There isnt a copyright database where they can validate that the content is owned by that person but also the content in the actual content is owned by the person who created the content.

What are you suggesting they do?

> The correct course of action is something else entirely

Like?

> https://twitter.com/robconery/status/664960173455224832

Do you have a licence for this content?


Doesn't the same thing happen with YouTube? Despite ContentID and all that, there is still a lot of piracy. Do you blame YouTube? They can only do so much.

I am not justifying Udemy by the way.


If you look around, the main complaint with YouTube now is people making false claims of ownership now, this is the problem with validating the idea of "ownership" there is no registry its almost impossible to validate that someone doesnt own the content that you dont know about.


Exactly. "Ownership" is not easily defined when it comes to content. For all we know, just because Rob appears in the video does not mean he owns the rights to the content. And just because the guy who uploaded the content is not in the video doesn't mean he might not have connections with people who own the content. Just saying.


And this is all because ownership beyond "I made it I own it" is hidden in contracts which arent required to be public. People who expect third parties to have knowledge of private contracts are making unreasonable claims.


Are you the owner of the copyright of the course that was stolen? If you are and if you've filed to have the course taken down and Udemy has refused, then you have a dispute and you need to sue them. You knew that breaking copyright law was something that would be settled in court yesterday when you said, "I sincerely hope Udemy is flooded with pirated content. Lawsuit fodder.

"Let the games begin."

You wanted to sue them yesterday. Ha ha. Fun game. Let's bury Udemy under stolen goods so we can sue Udemy, and screw its employees and the its content providers.

But now you seem to be admitting that you can't sue them. If they haven't broken copyright law, then you can't sue them.

So which is it? Have they stolen your content and shall you sue them? Or is someone else flooding them with pirated content for some nefarious reasons of his own?

Are they breaking copyright law so you can sue them? Or are they breaking no law so you have to settle for pissing in their orchids and stirring up trouble?




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