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US Authorities Silence NinjaVideo Founder, Rush Her to Prison (torrentfreak.com)
158 points by nicki_easy 1928 days ago | hide | past | web | 154 comments | favorite

"According to the authorities, the Facebook updates written by the NinjaVideo founder pose a danger to the community."

That's so absurd. It's like the 1st Amendment doesn't even exist anymore, or the authorities simply don't care it exists.

This is why it's so important to stop the US Government from banning "Twitter propaganda speech" from Middle East, too. If they succeed with that, the next action is doing the same in US.

Convicts sentenced lose a fraction of their rights, including the right to free speech.

"Under Turner, prisoner communication may be monitored and regulated, and the content of the communication (i.e., the legal advice) makes no difference in the assessment of the legality of the regulation."


Is that germane? "[A] decision of the United States Supreme Court rejecting the First Amendment right of prisoners to provide legal assistance to other prisoners."

She was sentenced but not yet a prisoner, etc.

And still had her free speech rights. Now she doesn't.

There was nothing illegal about incarcerating her sooner rather than later (this is not commentary on the justness or lack thereof of her sentence).

If one says "fuck you" to the judge, instead of "thank you," one is more likely to hear "well, fuck you," back.

But she didn't say "fuck you" to the judge. She recognized that the judge had been lenient and was thankful:

"I know it is ridiculous that I'm going away at all... I know, and I know that there is a huge inclination to hate on the judge for giving me such a sentence, but know this, probably any other judge on that bench would have given me what the government asked for... because they are the motherfuckin' government, and could do whatever they want. He gave me less than half of what the government wanted and though it is harsh... we are file sharers ffs... I can do 22 months on my motherfuckin head. In fact for the first time in years, I can probably not dread the first of the month coming around. I'll drop a couple of pounds, pick up another degree or something, and make 17 cents an hour making license plates. //care. Fuck a landlord." http://www.ninjavideoforum.net/showthread.php?20347-My-quot-...

What, you want she should have no personality? That's how she got so loved (and hated) in the first place. That website got 6 million eyeballs a month.

I posted her actual letter to the judge here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3464862

This. Judges have almost unlimited power in the US, and it's just not very smart to spout off like that.

While the motion for reconsideration is probably motivated by her calls to engage the media about her conviction, her posting that she may "shank" her fellow inmates was a great way for her to ensure she get detained as soon as possible.


Yes, but does Neil H. MacBride or anyone working in his office have a lick of common sense? It seems like people so unable to see things in proper perspective should be prohibited from exercising the legal profession.

"The government cites nothing that warrants reconsideration. Reviewing NinjaVideo’s Facebook page, and a related internet forum, the government finds a woman who is letting off some steam in her online community. In fact, in Ms. Beshara’s post-sentencing musings, she writes (in admittedly colorful language that is fairly common on the internet) to reassure friends and supporters that she will be able to handle serving the twenty-two month sentence. Govt Motion, Exhibit 2. She jokes about maybe losing some weight, picking up a degree, earning pennies making license plates. Id. Reflecting on her actual sentence, she notes that it would be natural to resent the judge that had imposed jail time on her, but she recognizes that she received a relatively lenient sentence. Id. These are not the writings of a defendant who is "likely to flee." Ms. Beshara was writing about serving her sentence, she was retrospective about how it easily could have been worse, how she could have received more jail time. She is preparing to go to jail, not to run from it.

The government does not dispute that Ms. Beshara is not a flight risk. Instead, they present two unpersuasive arguments. First, the government argues that Ms. Beshara poses a danger to the community due to internet postings that the government claims "suggest she may engage in physical violence with her future fellow inmates." Govt Motion at 2. As an initial matter, this is simply not a basis for reconsideration as it is not evidence that Ms. Beshara poses a "danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released." See 18 U.S.C. §3145(a). The government’s position amounts to the bizarre argument that Ms. Beshara should be incarcerated sooner because she will present a danger to "future fellow inmates" once incarcerated. Govt Motion at 2.

Moreover, the postings the government refers to are simply the online bluster of someone who has never spent a moment incarcerated. For example, the government notes Ms. Beshara’s posting that she will "run" her "cell block." Id. at 3. Ms. Beshara won’t even be on a cell block. She is clearly joking, as she jokes about having to make license plates. In fact, subsequent to the posts the government complains about, Ms. Beshara writes, "Nah but seriously guys, this is a sad and tragic situation and I want us to smile and laugh and stay together." See Govt Mtn, Exhibit 3, top of page 3."


I agree with this analysis that she was joking, but being at a disadvantage having recently become a convict, she's the one who would most benefit from exercising common sense.

So do you think her common sense should have told her to keep her mouth shut? As an idealistic young American with no experience with the justice system and a firm belief that what was happening to her was wrong, I think her common sense told her she had the right to speak her mind and to crack a few jokes to mollify the terror she felt at having just received a federal prison sentence. I think that would be a fairly normal assumption for many or most people.

Cracking a few jokes--within what common sense would allow. Celebrating your crime--not common sense.


The sooner she starts her term the sooner she gets out, so this is good for her.

The obvious problem here is sending copyright violators to federal prison for long terms, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Killers and drug dealers often get shorter sentences, and bankers that steal billions don't go to prison at all.

To say this is justice is a stretch.

Running a video site that hosts unlicensed content uploaded by users is what youtube did for years. Where are the prison terms for their founders?

> Running a video site that hosts unlicensed content uploaded by users is what youtube did for years

Comparing NinjaVideo.net to YouTube is a bit of a stretch. NinjaVideo.net's sole purpose was to host high-quality unlicensed content, they would feature the unlicensed content, and it was clearly what was driving traffic to their website. If you never saw the site, just take a look in the internet archive:


Their frontpage was basically a list of links (the administrators curated and posted these links, complete with graphic banners like this: http://web.archive.org/web/20100104054215im_/http://i47.tiny..., and captions like "the DVDRip is here!!! Enjoy" and "here's a Screener for you") to stream whatever new content was on TV that night, or whatever movies had recently been released (sometimes even before they hit theaters). By simply taking a peak at their forum it was pretty clear that the administrators of the site had a relationship with the "uploaders" and commissioned them to upload the unlicensed content to megaupload where it would then be streamed in high-quality using the "NinjaVideo Helper" (basically a java applet that pushed megaupload content to the DivX web player). I'd venture to guess any DMCA takedown notices would be forwarded to /dev/null.

The clearest difference, imo, is that YouTube allows users to upload content (content can be uploaded without the owners of the site ever seeing it). NinjaVideo did not allow users to upload content, the owners added pages which allowed you to stream content hosted on megaupload (for any video to end up on NinjaVideo, the admins had to add it).

What punishment, if any, do you believe is fair for her?

Depends on what she actually did. Isn't copyright violation a civil and not criminal matter? How is what she did different from youtube? You know, even today there are hundreds of thousands of hours of unlicensed movie and show content on youtube. Why aren't they being investigated.

Really the only difference I see is she is black and doesn't have friends in high places. If she sold the site to Google she'd be on the cover of Forbes rather than in jail.

What she was doing was definitely not what YouTube does / did! YouTube is a video sharing website, where the intent is to share video in which you own the copyright to, obviously with such a large community you will have people that will break the rules.

NinjaVideo is a site that's #1 purpose is to upload copyrighted tv shows and movies, hours after their airing. Its defined purpose is piracy.

Clear difference from YouTube here.

As to your "Why aren't they being investigated." comment -- they are, YouTube is quite proactive in automatic removals, DMCA's, detection of copyrighted music, etc.

They sure look the same to me. When I type in a name of a movie to see if there is a DVD on amazon yet, often Google, YouTube's owner, offers to show me the version someone has uploaded to their servers. Then, Google/YouTube makes revenue from showing me ads if I or anyone chooses to go to that page.

It's absurd to claim YouTube is not about unlicensed content. The vast majority of their streamed content was unlicensed for the first few years they were up. To deny this is to deny history. It took them a long time to catch hold for video blogging, a lot of which had to wait on people having cameras included with their laptops before it took off. But even now, the unlicensed content is as strong as ever, they just have more licensed content on top of it.

What you are saying is incorrect.

YouTube has deals with major content producers (music labels, movie studios, etc.) which work in the following way: whenever we discover a video that infringes their copyright, they can choose to either block it, monetize it or track it. What blocking means is quite obvious; monetizing means that we put ads in front of the video and share the revenue; tracking means no ads are shown, but the owner can access analytics about the video (how often it is uploaded, how many people watch it, where from, and so on). You can read more about it here: [1].

As you may imagine, this system changes the incentives for copyright owners. When they decide to block some video, all they achieve is making some YouTube uploader unhappy. If they decide to monetize, on the other hand, they start making money from the upload, and the clip becomes, effectively, a marketing tool for their product. If you, say, watch clips from a TV series on YouTube, that may be a signal that you like the series and will eventually watch it on TV or iTunes. What is more, uploaders try to select clips they find interesting and think other people would like to watch – so this in some way turns YouTube into crowdsourced advertising.

(Disclaimer: I work as a programmer at Google and I work on YouTube.)

[1] http://www.youtube.com/t/contentid

Google purchased YouTube and THEN entered into those content deals. Before that, it was very touch and go for YouTube-- they couldn't afford their bandwidth, let alone licensing deals, and many commenters said that Google was stupid to take on YouTube's copyright liability.

Yes, thank you, exactly. There were tons of articles at the time about YouTube's blatant disregard for the law and their wanton illegal activity, and the obviously weren't troubled by it. They managed to get a huge amount of investment and then had their lawyers make deals and settlements with content owners. This is all a matter of public record and has been well covered in the media. The gentleman claiming to work for Google is certainly aware of the history so his misrepresenting it now certainly looks like a bad faith attempt to whitewash their past behavior. This is not an aberration for Google either, their Google Books scanning was in egregious violation of copyright and they certainly knew it and the so-called Google Books settlement was nothing more than a giant corporation making a play to steal billions of dollars worth of intellectual property they had no right to. Monetizing of IP they don't own is most of Google's business model. Google employees who make their living off Google's activities who are critical of this lady's web service are certainly being hypocritical and outrageous.

edit: Downvote all you want, it doesn't change history or facts, much as you may want it to.

Note the difference between YOUtube and this website. YouTube wasn't explicitly designed from the ground up to be based off of copyright infringing works. This site on the other hand was. That is the big difference.

This system was put in place years after YouTube launched. YouTube was propelled to popularity without any automatic detection systems in place. Your distinction is disingenuous or you are ignorant of the history of your own employer.

The difference between civil/criminal liability for copyright infringement depends on whether you knew you were infringing. In YouTube's case, I believe they used their huge volume and a notice/takedown process to protect themselves from intentional infringement liability.

> Isn't copyright violation a civil and not criminal matter?

Not always. This case was for criminal infringement (and conspiracy). The definition of criminal infringement was expanded by the NET Act a long time ago, but only recently have there been many cases of it making the news.

Here's an article on how the whole criminal infringement thing works if you want to know more:


Her parents are Egyptian

Disney should hire her as their head of digital distribution. Putting your most passionate distributor in jail is counter-productive.


Hugging that comment gets hated? I guess I could have expanded.

It's just a HackersNewsism, stuff that doesn't contribute to the discussion, one liners or troll comments all get downvoted.

Your comment didn't add anything to the discussion and could be replaced by the 'Upvote' button.

Fair enough. I'm new to posting here and being up-/downvoted; I usually just lurk.

Hey, that's fair enough! I remember getting downvoted a bit when I first joined, but don't be afraid to say something just because you'll get downvoted! It's just stuff like "<3" that will get immediate downvotes from everyone.

The interesting thing about Ninja Video is that it was exactly like the netfix-itunes-amazon of the future would do best to look like. The categorization, notes, and search were all fantastic and a huge community of people enthusiastic about the content organically grew around it. All it needed was a few dollars a month subscription fee and it would have dominated the market.

The lost opportunity has become a sardonic cliche.

Those same enthusiastic people are still there steady growing the community. NV was definitely a service that people wanted and were passionate about. If you could pick and choose what TV shows, Movies or any other media were available to you out of the whole catalog of what was out there right now, I'm sure that most people would have paid a subscription to a commercially available service if it was available.

It wouldn't have been allowed to dominate, it would have still been forced to close some sort of way. Before NV, there was Stage6 that provided the same high quality service and it closed up shop.

You don't happen to have screenshots, do you? Google image search found nothing.

There's a small screenshot here: http://www.pcworld.com/article/151547/4_sites_to_find_and_wa...

And some waybacks but they don't really show it as it was: http://wayback.archive.org/web/20090601000000*/http://www.ni...

Here's where PC World listed it among it's 2009 100: http://www.pcworld.com/article/174387/2009_pc_world_100_list...

http://icefilms.info is essentially the same thing, layout is basically the same too.

Yea, the icefilms main page is pretty much how it looked and just go to ninjavideoforum.net to get an idea of how the forum looked.

My comment doesn't directly relate to the issue in the article (how she's being put in jail early) but I'll go ahead anyway.

Does anyone honestly think piracy should go unpunished? People that upload movies, music, games etc should be punished, as they are doing something illegal and and the people downloading should also be punished as they are getting the content without paying the creators.

I'm curious if anyone has any logical argument about why they should go unpunished.

Edit: I hate to be the dude that posts the stupid downvote edit, but seriously, I'm posing a question, I'm not stating what should or shouldn't happen. Please post why or why not you disagree instead of just blindly hitting the downvote. The downvote button is for unsavory comments, trolls, etc

I'll bite: do you honestly think people should be sent to prison for copyright offences? Monetary damages, yes; bankruptcy, maybe (if the infringement was on mass-scale and resulted in direct profit for the guilty, say, above 1000$); but prison?

Prison is not about punishment, in a civil society; it's about isolating individuals with the potential to irreparably harm their community. Unless the copyright holders go bankrupt as a direct, proven result of infringers' actions, there is simply no irreparable harm done: the rightsholder still owns the IP and is free to sell it.

Oh god no, definitely not. Monetary damages, yes. Prison sentences for a non-violent crime, definitely not.

Just to play devil's advocate here, what you're saying is that folks like Bernie Madoff should not go to prison.

Lots of old folks lost their pensions because of Madoff. People lost their homes. People lost their health insurance. People have died because of what he, and most everyone else on wall street has been up to. So yes theirs was a violent crime. Not that they will ever be punished. We know now that they own the government, bought with the money the stole.

As far as this woman, she ran a video site that had user uploaded content that was streamed to other users. Same business model as youtube and google videos, and youtube has more unlicensed content than ninja video ever did yet isn't being investigated at all.

You know what, taking all of that man's money away and putting him on probation for the rest of his life is probably just as effective as a deterrent. Being forced to work at Walmart to make bills pay, that sort of thing.

Probation is actually pretty shitty, and in some cases totally effective at ruining your quality of life.

And to be fair, it would be better for him to spend his time working off his debt to his victims, rather than being a drain on society in prison. Structured appropriately, it could constitute adequate punishment--for example, being under "house arrest" rather than in prison.

I agree with you. Situations like this are perfect for indentured servitude (which is specifically permitted under the 14th Amendment as punishment for a crime). Madoff should spend the rest of his life scrubbing the toilets of the people he defrauded, starting at the smallest debt and working his way up, earning minimum wage doing whatever legal tasks they require of him until he has repaid each one in full. All his heirs and relatives need to be carefully audited as well to get back the money he has holed away throughout the globe.

If the monetary compensation actually proportional (i.e. not just a slap on the wrist), then I would be completely satisfied.

Madoff did irreparably harm the community, and with his connections he could probably do it again. Hence, prison.

There is a big difference between fraud and infringement. I don't see how they are similar at all.

As always, what if I don't pay?

In Madoff's case, at least some of the money is off short and some is hidden.

If you're willfully disobeying a court order the judge can hold you in contempt and you'll serve jail time that way.

Then you go to jail, simple.

So, you think that folks who commit fraud shouldn't go to jail, presumably because "Oh god no, definitely not. Monetary damages, yes. Prison sentences for a non-violent crime, definitely not." (from the parent), but disobeying a judge deserves jail.

What's violent about disobeying a judge?

It's not that it's violent, it's that you've been given an option that you've decided not to take, and then it escalates.

Yes, but selling drugs after you've been told not to is also an escalation. Are you willing to jail folks on all escalations, all judges orders, or what?

In any event, we've established that the line isn't (just) violent.

I guess, honestly, it all comes down to the type of crime and then the specifics of it. But what I'm saying is that I don't think first offense streaming websites deserve jail time.

Why didn't you say that at the beginning? (Yes, I'm interested in the answer.)

@oelewapperke : You are hellbanned so (almost) nobody can see your comments. Copyright infringement is also a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment and statutory damages. See http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap5.html#506

Just to be clear, commercial copyright infringement (i.e. for profit) is criminal, personal copyright infringement (i.e. you download it and watch it) is civil.

Or if you reproduce (does "reproduce" include downloading a copy, or only providing copies to others? Doesn't matter for bittorrent I suppose.) or distribute things worth more than $1000 retail value in 180 days (17.506.a.b) or you share pre-release works (17.506.a.c).

I'm pretty sure most "so-and-so discography" torrents would qualify for the first one.


Picture this for a moment:

It's your Birthday. Your friends invited you to the nicest restaurant in town. Very nice venue, food is great. End of meal... time for dessert. Your friends love you and, together, singe you the nicest rendition of 'Happy Birthday To You' you ever heard. Life is good.

This was an illegal performance. Secret police comes in, puts your friends in prison (they stole & performed the song) and also you and everyone in the restaurant at that time go to prison as well because you got the song without paying the creators.

Of course, according to the New extended SuperSOPA law, the restaurant is closed down, and it's owner is sent to prison as well, because he should not have allowed all this to happen in the first place.

Do you really want to live in that Orwellian world?

What's Orwellian is your comparison of singing "Happy Birthday" to what this woman did:

Mid-2010, nine sites connected to movie streaming were targeted by the U.S. government. They included NinjaVideo.net, at the time one of the Internet’s most prominent video streaming sites.

One of her co-founders admitted to making 58k$ off ninja-video.

That's really the crux of things. She didn't help people pirate, she made money off other people's content, and didn't pay a cent for it. To my mind, that's wrong.

It's taken me three hours to really think about your comment, and I can't really think of a satisfying response. Your hyperbole aside, I think this is apples and oranges. I don't think it's a comparable situation.

People playing Nirvana in a garage and singing Happy Birthday to You at birthday parties is not the same thing as downloading material that you have access to buy. It's accepted that we can partake in these luxuries. If we want to profit off them though, we do have to pay a licensing fee.

The distinction you're drawing seems arbitrary. You could buy a license to "Happy Birthday To You", but instead you choose to perform it without a license. How is appropriating without a proper license to perform a work substiantially different from doing the same thing to watch a work?

I'm glad you brought up the point about people profiting from copyrighted works for which they do not have the rights because in the US, that is the only thing that is criminally offensive wrt piracy. Downloading content without payment simply for personal consumption, however, is a civil matter between the copyright holder and the downloader.

The current legislation under consideration surrounding copyrights attempts to shift the burden of enforcement from the private, copyright-holding entities to the public, or another private company that is only tangentially related (i.e. advertising platforms).

Someone should make a short film about this scene, it would go pretty viral.

That would be cool, as long as the 10,000$ license fee for "Happy Birthday" is paid to Warner...

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

What?! I was reading these comments thinking -- oh that would be funny if everything was under copywrite. I feel violated. The video, if you make it, should end with the fact that it actually is owned by Warner.

The perhaps even stranger part is that there exists a public domain variant of the happy birthday song. The song was modified and it is this version that Warner owns the copyright to (and the one that we sing).

The modification? -- One Note.


Yes, given that the song was written in 1893 and has been published with the current melody and lyrics since 1912 it's amazing to think it is still really under copyright, especially given that there is not a single other thing in the world from 1893 or 1912 whose copyright hasn't long since expired.

the really amazing thing is that nobody has invented a new happy birthday song. did we reach perfection and that's it? no creativity for birthday melodies? orwellian or utopian? i can't tell anymore. "It's not utopian to want to build better stuff. It might be utopian to claim the stuff we've got is the best we're capable of."

Thanks, you bring up an excellent ancillary point in the discussion. The momentum of tradition is quite powerful. As a point of comparison, I use a Dvorak keyboard layout which allows me to touch type faster and has reduced my carpal tunnel syndrome effects considerably. I personally know several others that use Dvorak. However, I also realize that most of the world will not be switching from QWERTY because that is just how it is.

Except in this case it's more akin to stealing the meal no?

No, not at all. This is exactly like SOPA. A totally non-infringing activity (serving food in a restaurant) becomes criminal when someone starts playing an infringing song. Now, there is a bit of a hedge here - the rightsholder would technically have to ask you to stop, and you would have to refuse, before the feds came.

But before the Feds come, Warner could put the restaurant out of business by making its banks and credit card processors dump them, newspapers and magazines not advertise them, printers not print their menus, etc. And all of this without a judge ever being involved.

You are using the slippery-slope argument here. That is a fallacy.

I see no slippery slope in his argument. Singing Happy Birthday in public is actually a copyright violation, right now.

De dure, not de facto. Show me a report of someone getting arrested for it. Hence my accurate description of his ridiculous scenario appealing to a slippery-slope style train of thought. Case closed.

It's still not a slippery slope. It's an analogy that illustrates what would be possible, de jure. Honestly, there's no slope involved at all.

It is not an analogy. What is the analogue? The slope is descending from now (you cannot get arrested for singing happy birthday) to then (you can). Slippery.

As long as it is illegal, it is technically correct for them to be punished. Some laws, however, are too absurd to remain.

Piracy, for me is certainly not about not wanting to pay. It's about the feeling that the money I pay mostly doesn't go to creators, but to the companies in-between who doesn't deserve it. I don't want to support such an industry.

It also the fact that I want to push for legal alternatives which are as easy-to-use as piracy today. I want to press a link and have a 1080p DRM-free film download in minutes. The cost is not the issue.

I hope that, within 20 years, sharing will be legal. Just because it's written as illegal in the law today, it's not set in stone. Things can change, and for the sake of the creative people, I hope it does.

Isn't it up to the creators to fight for more compensation? We, as consumers, shouldn't be justifying our actions by picking up a fight we were never asked to join. We've provided the technology to circumvent the middlemen, proven its preference among users. However, as it stands now, less money goes to the creators when you pirate than when you play by their game. Don't claim to be fighting in their name.

I agree, though, that this industry is rotten... A pirated copy of any game, music, or video is not only cheaper and more convenient, but its of better quality (DRM-free). You can't win a fight where you attack both pirates and consumers.

Whats interesting is that they have the funds to still fight.

This, to me, sounds like an inefficient business model.

When you have the funds to fight both your customers and pirates, lobby the government, and constantly man a PR machine, while losing market share, I have to wonder - how much cash are they sitting on?

Well, personally I choose not to consume such content at all in most cases, but I sympathize with those who do pirate. If the artist get 5% of what I paid, and the rest of the money goes to those who promote SOPA, I'd rather torrent it. This is better in the long run, and I hope future creators will agree.

Those who lose are the current artists who remain with the big companies. Hopefully, they'll find a way out of that system.

Let's say I ran a startup and secured $20M in VC funding but had to give up 80% of the company to get that, then later had several additional large rounds of financing which diluted my ownership to 5%. Would you rip off my company's products/services because you feel I'm not getting most of the profit?

I'm curious to know how the two situations differ. In both cases, parties have entered into contractual agreements to give up a large portion of ownership in exchange for money and other benefits they wouldn't otherwise receive if they tried to bootstrap things on their own. Would you rather people get 5 cents on the dollar from your purchase so that they could save up enough profit to not have to give up so much ownership the next time? Or 0 cents on the dollar from your piracy and not be able to save anything such that they're forced into the same arrangement the next time?

I believe that record companies essentially scam their artists (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcwgdB0NltY for example). I wouldn't think the same way about your company, since you've made a larger part of the decision yourself.

The issue also remains, that by buying a product from one of the large companies would mean I'm indirectly sponsoring SOPA. This would not be the case, I hope, when I buy a product from your company.

piracy != lost sale.

If you get 0 cents with piracy, you will get the same 0 cents without it.

Just because it's not a lost sale, that makes it right? It's right that some people have to pay for it and some don't (just because one would buy it and one wouldn't)?

In case you missed this paragraph:

  "Piracy, for me is certainly not about not wanting to pay.
   It's about the feeling that the money I pay mostly doesn't
   go to creators, but to the companies in-between who doesn't
   deserve it. I don't want to support such an industry."

  "I want to pay, but the creators don't get most of the money.
   So rather than paying, I pirate instead."
This invalidates your argument.

It should be self-evident that not all people are like the author of the paragraph you cited.

It's also self-evident that I was replying to the person who wrote it, thus I made no claims about what "all people" do.

Besides which, your statement that "piracy != lost sale" is demonstrably false. You could have qualified your statement with "in some cases" or "for some people", but such a trivially true claim wouldn't add much to the discussion since the discussion is about what one person does.

I sort of agree with you, and I sort of don't. The reason for me is not because I don't feel the money goes to the creators (because I think the creators of movies and musical pieces are very well compensated), it's because here in Australia there is often not a very good way to acquire content quickly and easily (no Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, etc).

When I was in the U.K. I was a subscriber of Spotify and I didn't once pirate a song, as it was easily available in high quality.

Yet I still think piracy should be illegal, it has to be! Why should it be legal in 20 years? Shouldn't we just have a way to 'press a link and have a 1080p DRM free film downloaded in minutes' instead of having to resort to an illegal method?

I used to have a Spotify Premium account and just like you, I never pirated a song. This lasted until I started listening exclusively to music which artists choose to distribute for free.

Spotify is exactly what I mean by good legal alternative, except for that I still don't believe the artists are compensated very well. If there are enough reasonably priced legal alternatives available everywhere, piracy will shrink in importance. I say, if there's a last 2 or 3 percent of the population who don't feel like paying for themselves - let them. It's better than this hunt for file-sharers that's been launched by media-companies.

There are a couple issues here.

The first one is whether copyright infringement as I think she was part of really hurts content producers. If someone is unwilling to pay a couple dollars for a movie in iTunes, you are not likely to buy the DVD either, thus, it's not a lost sale. If, OTOH, the work gets more exposure thanks to alternative distribution networks and that generates more customer engagement, the content producer wins in the end.

The second is whether books, movies, music and games whose primary purpose is to make a profit can be considered art. I think they can't. The primary purpose - and usefulness - of art is to transform the people who experience it. I don't think laws should protect the business model of selling art and experiences, but their usefulness.

A third question is whether it's even possible to prevent the duplication of digital goods. Most probably it isn't. Businesses must adapt to new realities - should typewriter makers be afforded the right to ban computer sales because they hurt the already established business?

Another one is whether they were turning in a profit. If they were, part of it belongs, rightfully, to the content producers.

Finally, there is her attitude towards law enforcement. I understand her frustration with what she considers unfair laws and processes. I am not sure her attitude is constructive and that sending her to jail was the best way to deal with it. If I were the judge, I'd like to lecture her about what she's doing that can be misinterpreted as threats. Jails are very tense environments and they don't need more agitation than they already have.

"The first one is whether copyright infringement as I think she was part of really hurts content producers. If someone is unwilling to pay a couple dollars for a movie in iTunes, you are not likely to buy the DVD either, thus, it's not a lost sale. If, OTOH, the work gets more exposure thanks to alternative distribution networks and that generates more customer engagement, the content producer wins in the end."

Seriously? This is not an issue of whether it financially hurts the content producer, it's that you're getting it without paying for it, and others are paying for it. You're getting access to content that you haven't paid for.

What if you are not given the option to pay for it? Is it still wrong to download?

Remember many people outside America can't use Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, etc.

Yes it's still wrong. You're not entitled to media content. It's not a civil right or a natural resource or something you've earned.

It's an entertainment product you can choose to access.

I'm one of those people with none of those options. Yes, it's definitely still wrong. Just because we don't have the option, doesn't mean it's morally / ethically right and or legal.

But that doesn't mean it isn't morally and ethically right either. You need to first lay out a moral framework that enshrines copyright as inviolate (I'm very curious what, if any, exceptions you'll make for fair use), and then argue for it. It seems to me that in the most common rational models of morality, things default to being either moral or amoral unless shown to be otherwise.

I suppose I just disagree.

These are ephemeral goods we are talking about. Nobody loses anything if you download a movie. I don't see how it is morally wrong to download something if the creators refuse to take your money.

Again, like all my opinions above I'm going to get downvoted, but I still can't comprehend how you can justify that it's not wrong to download it just because they're "ephemeral" digital goods.

How does that make it any different?

How about this: famous dress maker designs and creates an extravagant dress and then you, with your fine sowing skills replicate the dress entirely and wear it. Is that not wrong in your eyes?

The above isn't the best example, but I still can't see the reasoning as to why it's not wrong.

First off, your example wouldn't even be illegal, as far as I know: at least in the US, fashion is not covered by copyright.

Secondly, I don't see why it would be immoral: the designer of the dress is not hurt at all by your copying it. Now, if you claim your dress has actually been made by said designer--e.g. you infringe on his trademark--that's basically fraud and a completely different case.

The real issue is that it seems you define "wrong" as an enumeration of things you shouldn't do, among which you seem to include copying without permission.

You haven't given any reason for it to be wrong. I think that something is not "wrong" or "immoral" by default; unless there's a good reason for something to be wrong, it shouldn't be. And, as copying like this does not obviously harm society, I see no reason for it to be wrong.

"Wrongness" seems fairly straightforward in this context: you're deriving utility from the work of others without the recompense that we as a society have deemed is their right to extract.

The major content producers and their organizations (the RIAA, etc.) are stupid, but I think it's rather hard to allege that they don't have the moral high ground.

So, your point is that someone is not paying for something someone else is. If you follow your logic, you'll never cook at home because people pay to eat at restaurants.

It gets even worse because many people don't live next to a restaurant.

Plus, all these analogies fail at one simple point: when a work is copied, a copy is created and nothing is destroyed except the scarcity someone wants to create for things that, by definition, cannot be scarse.

There's probably no good answer to your question, since it depends on your choice of axioms. Given certain axioms, you might be able to logically derive the answer that "piracy" should not be punished.

If I understand you correctly, you're arguing that piracy is illegal, and prevents authors to be payed.

But just because something is illegal, doesn't mean it's right. Provided a law is morally wrong, for instance, punishment for breaking said law would also be morally wrong, and should not be supported. You'll probably also cheer to the freedom fighter breaking laws to overcome a dictator.

Interestingly, most Americans would probably deny that anybody has a right to have income, or a minimum level of wealth and health in every other profession (for this would be "socialism"). So, why should authors and investors in creative works have that right?

After all, the authors of most works have been payed. Most of the time, even the investors in these works have been paid as well. What you argue is basically that authors and investors haven't been paid 'enough'. But how do we rationally determine what payment is 'enough' or not?

Of course, these "pirates" are fooling themselves if they think their moral arguments hold. Most of them don't do anything constructive (unlike, say, Open Source developers, or the Creative Commons community).

Regarding the "illegal downloading" point, simple question: how do you recognize when the music, movie, photograph, or text that you downloaded (or viewed in browser -- there's no technical difference) has been "properly" licensed?

What do you mean? I think most people know it's illegal when they go to download (or view) a movie on the 'net.

Obviously photographs and text is a lot harder, but movies are pretty clear due to the cost that goes into production.

I think most people know it's illegal when they go to download (or view) a movie on the 'net.

What about hulu.com? Should we have a list of "approved" websites somewhere? Also, how do you know that hulu has proper licenses for their videos?

There was a recent case when Amazon licensed (remember, that we're dealing with licensing in case of copyright laws, not selling) "1984" for Kindles for which they didn't have the proper license. Why haven't those people (who downloaded the book into their Kindles) been prosecuted? It would be easy to do, since Amazon had the list of customers. Or should we apply laws selectively?

Kind of straying from the mark. She was convicted because she ran the site, not because she uploaded one movie. In that example, its Amazon at 'fault'.

I was replying to the comment that "doesn't directly relate to the issue in the article" http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3464128

I think the onus lies on the distributor (Amazon, Hulu, NinjaViedo) more so than the consumer. I do believe the consumer holds a relative degree of responsibility (and I guess this is what should be determined by a court) - e.g. it's obvious with Ninja, but some sites might not be so obvious e.g. if, like Amazon, Netflix distributed a movie that they did not have rights to -- then it falls on them.

OK, if the court can determine whether a consumer has a degree of responsibility, surely a consumer can determine if she's participating in a "copyright infringement"? If you search the Web for "watch big buck bunny online free" and download/watch one of the found files, can you tell when you infringe copyright and when not?

Your assumptions are wrong. When people pirate content (download without paying), that doesn't necessarily mean that they are not paying the content creators. A Swiss government study found out that people's entertainment budgets are relatively constant - what we don't spend for digital content, we spend for concerts and such. So, there is no real economic harm from piracy (if there was, Hollywood wouldn't be having record profits...).

> A Swiss government study found out that people's entertainment budgets are relatively constant - what we don't spend for digital content, we spend for concerts and such. So, there is no real economic harm from piracy

Your second sentence does not follow at all from the first. When people have a fixed budget, piracy might not change how much they spend, but it will change the distribution of the spending.

For instance, if someone could not pirate, they might buy two albums a month and see one movie in a theater. If they pirate, they can pirate the music, and go out to the movies twice. Same total spent, but the musicians have been harmed, and the movie producers have benefited.

In my opinion, that's completely besides the point. It doesn't matter if people wouldn't have bought it anyway. Just because we wouldn't have bought it anyway doesn't give us a right to download it. That's ridiculous.

The issue with digital content versus physical content is that there is no cost of replication, whereas with physical goods the cost of replication goes beyond the initial R&D, it goes into the actual materials, machinery and labour to produce it. I believe this is where the "it's okay to pirate content" comes from -- because theres no 'money lost'.


You claim that downloaders must be punished because "they are getting the content without paying the creators". You actually don't have any idea whether this is the case. Please stop pretending that you do know.

For instance, I have often downloaded or streamed content that I've already paid for in two (cable subscription, DVD purchase) or even three different ways.

Who are you to assume that a given customer did not pay the creators?

Frankly, since this fallaciousness is the entirety of your argument, you have a lot of nerve asking others for a logical argument about why a given downloaded should "go unpunished". In this society, last I checked, the default stance on any and all conduct was that it should "go unpunished", as you put it. Only via clear, just laws and rigorous proof should this standard ever be overruled.

I obviously am referring to the people that have not paid ("without paying the content producers"). I'm not making assumptions, I'm not trying to take some moral high ground as you're making me out to be taking, I'm simply starting a discussion point and looking for logical reasoning.

Your point has provided none, it's just provided some moral high ground.

You completely ignored everything I said about the uploader too, the focus of my point.

Piracy is just copying information. The only "harm" it might do is make the person selling the information lose a sale that might never have taken place (I, for one, would not have bought the things I have pirated if I couldn't have pirated them). Basically, I don't think that I should be less free just because someone wants to make more money.

If I was in charge, laws would only restrict the freedom of the people for the safety of others (and even then it would only do so by making harmful acts illegal, not by spying on them or other crazy things). Intellectual property would only outlaw copying for commercial use, which would allow artists to make money from movie theaters, concerts, etc.

I'm sure many problems would arise from such a world, but I doubt that they'll be worse than the problems from the current system, and I'm sure that given time and actually implementing it, the kinks could be worked out.

People might not agree with every law in their country.


Read something about Socrates sometime.

Should we emulate someone who was forced to drink poison?

Does it really need spelling out? Justice is not necessarily what the law says.

You were correctly downvoted for you posted a stupid question -- just because it is illegal doesn't make it wrong.

And only wrong things should be punished.

I would love to hear your explanation on why piracy is not wrong! That was the exact purpose of the question, so others would share their views on the matter and I would have an enlightened view.

Flip the question on its head: why is piracy considered wrong? What is the specific, provable harm that it does? Is it true to say that there is no benefit to it? If there is a benefit, is the benefit to society greater than the harm to the creator? If there is no benefit to it, why does it happen? Does the cost of fighting it outweigh the harm done? What is the cost of fighting the fight if you disagree?

I've hijacked this thread enough, but I'd love to post this question separately.

Libraries are an institutionalised form of piracy.

Am I wrong here? Thoughts? I've just had a philosophical discussion with my Dad about piracy and this was one of the conclusions we seemed to make.

No, that is absurd.

1) "Piracy" is actually copyright infringement.

2) The license to read a book accompanies the physical copy.

3) Libraries are not engaging in copyright infringement.

4) Thus libraries are not engaging in "piracy".

There is nothing "philosophical" about it, it's just plain old common sense.

The license to listen to an mp3 accompanies the digital copy also. Just because it is 'digital' and only takes a couple of button clicks to replicate doesn't mean everyone should get a n mp3 copy of an album without paying for it, correct?

First they came for the torrent site admins...

Can anyone give clear info on what NinjaVideo was, I did some research and I can't seem to tell for sure if they were actually hosting these videos or just linking to them? It sounds like maybe they were linking to them on the NinjaVideo site but also posting copyrighted content elsewhere and then linking to it? I'm just trying to understand what they were doing to have it get to this level of punishment and attention from the government. If they really were just linking to copyrighted content and nothing else then it would seem we are already living under SOPA

They were uploading movies to megavideo and streaming them through divx using a plugin.

Difference between Ninjavideo and most other streaming sites is they didn't even try to hide behind safe harbor. Only people who could post links were staff and a handful of trusted uploaders. They plastered banners all over the front page advertising new movies (like "new dvd rip out today woot!"). Talked constantly about how they were pirates.

Even Piratebay comes of as timid and diplomatic. It was just a matter of time before something really bad was going to happen.

EDIT: They weren't just linking to videos, but admitting to uploading them.

Thanks for the info, I really was in the dark about what they were doing and it had me a little scared as I was initially under the impression that it was a site where users were just posting links to content and I couldn't fathom how that would lead to jail sentences for the founders.

Here is Hana's personal response to the judge:

"Your Honor,

Firstly, please let me apologize for my use of foul language in the documents that you will see before you. The idea of you reading my statements and seeing them as they are phrased makes me wince quite uncomfortably. I am an incredibly articulate person your honor, but the nature of the internet is one of bluster, and bravado, and scathing comebacks. So do forgive the boorish language as it is the nature of the beast, or at least, the nature of this beast at this very moment.

Sir, I am not belittling my sentence as the prosecution claims. I have no desire at all to go to prison and the sheer thought of it makes my stomach turn. To say that I can do the sentence on my head is to employ the defense mechanism I have always employed when facing something of such magnitude. Sarcasm, humor, and a face of strength. Of course I'm worried, of course I'm anxious, but I cannot show that judge. It is reflex for me to deflect the serious with a wry tone or a joke about "shanks". But it should be incredibly clear that I am non-violent and that those statements are exactly what they were intended to be, jokes. In fact, I say as much just a few posts down. I'm trying to be brave for myself and for those around me. Also, I'm trying to establish as much as I can before I go in so that there is hope of actually being able to free myself of this restitution upon release. I do not want to be destitute for life. I do not want my restitution to haunt me. I want to establish myself and find work. Good work. And that is not easy for a felon.

I do very much regret what this situation has done to my family and my friends and my life, but your honor, as you know... to deny my love for my accomplishment is to deny countless marriages off my website, children named after me, a community so incredibly strong and resilient that I am in hysterics right now thinking about it. And I have never, ever tried to feign sugar coated lies about anything else. Please do not take them away from me in these next few weeks your honor. Those strangers around the world, as well as my parents, lifted me up when I was fetal on my apt floor post raid. There is no threat of recidivism... I can never put myself or those I love through this again. In fact, I listened very closely to what you said at my sentencing about advocacy and the more proper ways of conducting civil disobedience, and that is what we're doing now. I understand I am not a typical defendant your honor, and my "lack of remorse" riles the prosecution, but I would hope that my continued stance about what it is I believe would be considered commendable, even if it is a bit naive and hurting me in this process.

I have no idea if my words here are hurting me or helping me sir. That has always been a problem with me. I am a bit too fast and loose with my mouth, but I am honest sir. I am. I worked a secretarial position up until 6 months before the raid sir. I paid off a student loan with my money. I had intended to pursue a Masters. I wanted to see the world. These were real desires judge, not lofty ambitions. It was what was happening. This was about building an independent media empire. And we actually came close your Honor. We really did.

My intentions for NinjaVideo were altruistic. And I stand by that. Though I worked on NinjaMain alongside the others, my passion has always been my Forum, and that should be evidenced by the fact that I have close to 17,000 posts on that board. I was lonely judge. I always am. And I found those I called kin over these keyboards and wires and cables. My "Lost Tribe" sir. I beg your honor to have mercy and not take them away from me now. I honestly do need this time to prepare myself for my incarceration as well as close off loose ends and suspend my life.

Thank you, your Honor, for reading my letter.


Hana Beshara"


It wasn't real clear to me what the URL was, so I'll post it: http://www.ninjavideo.net/

It's not even listed on the Wikipedia page [42], and can't easily be found in google anymore. The NinjaVideo.net page now has a huge image explaining that the domain has been seized. I'd post the text here, but it'd probably be a copyright violation (and it's embedded in the image).

[42] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NinjaVideo

RIP free speech.

RIP USA. You have a fraction of the economic growth and almost all of the bullshit that comes with a "developing nation".

Did you read the article, or are you just commenting based on the misleading headline?

Then why did you say "RIP free speech"? Convicts generally either lose most of their rights, or have them severely restricted.

She is a convict. The only reason she was not in jail (where she would have had no access to Facebook or Twitter or other social media) was because they had a shortage of space so were letting her stay out until space opened up.

There is no free speech issue here.

You're arguing that this is legal. They're arguing that this is wrong.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hume%27s_Law

I took "RIP free speech" to imply that he thinks that this case marks some sort of change in how free speech is handled, which it does not.

If he was instead trying to make a general argument that convicts should not have their rights restricted while they have not completed their term, or if he was arguing that prosecuting someone for massive willful copyright infringement is a violation of their rights, then I misunderstood.

She ;)

I think the whole thing is disgusting and wrong. And I think that she was railroaded off because of the views she expressed post-sentencing--they were trying to make an example of her and "send waves through this community"* and she was standing up and taking it while disagreeing instead of bending over and whimpering with remorse. It's cruel, disproportionate, unjust and, frankly, mentally ill. This is not what our justice system is for at all, either prosecuting her in the first place or silencing her by whisking her away prematurely.

*"One of the reasons we targeted Ninja Video was because it had such a strong social element," says Kevin Suh, senior vice president of Internet content protection at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). "We wanted to send waves through this community." http://prospect.org/article/ninja-our-sites

Have an up vote (Natsu too) because you are both getting grayed out, even though your responses to mine are perfectly civil and reasonable.

I wish people would reserve down votes for comments that are expressed offensively or are blatantly off topic.


I also want to thank you for registering disagreement even when HN leans the other way. A critical voice helps you see what parts of your arguments are weak or which need to be rethought entirely.

Thanks. I agree.

I don't think it was an argument so much as a way of registering her frustration.

After all, while convicts may, in general, have their rights restricted, it's not clear what state interest is being advanced by hurrying someone off to prison for making jokes on their Facebook page.

Does anyone have her address? (Is she really going to serve 22 months in a county jail? WTF. I thought jails were for <1y offenses and pretrial detention, with prisons for longer sentences.)

Apparently her interim address is

Hana Beshara c/o Alexandria Detention Center 2001 Mill Road Alexandria, Virginia 22314

And she'll be moved to a real prison later, but mail should be forwarded.

When copyright holders have this much power... you should question who's side is the government on. But I guess the law is really about money, who has the better lawyer, most connections and lobbyists wins, so much for freedom, human rights and crap like that.

You're all getting insane on these copyright c*ap. Soon you will be killing people for/against this anti-copyright cause.

As IP is not a human right, non-IP is also not a human right.

Free speech is a human right, and people were already killed in the conflicts about it.

BTW - if IP is not a human right, then it's reasonable that people are unnverved by imposing it on them.

Look at it that way - "Do not eat pigs" is also not a human right, and eating pigs is not a human right. It's neutral. Yet some religions demand that you respect this law. All is OK.

But when this law is made universal, and people of other faiths go to jail because of eating pigs it starts to be scary.

Brad Burnham said something recently that encapsulated it perfectly for me:

"I believe that downloaders are making a moral calculation and coming to the conclusion that the content industry immorally perpetuates an artificial scarcity to maximize their profits at the expense of users and artists. They understand that content is a non-rival good, that unlike an apple, they can consume it without diminishing anyone else’s ability to consume the same thing. They know that the content owner paid nothing to reproduce or distribute the content on the Internet. They also know that the artists who created the original content get a tiny fraction of the revenue. So they are making a moral judgement that the content owners are pricing their product to extract unjustifiable profits and they feel morally justified taking the content they find out there on the web." http://bradburnham.tumblr.com/post/12739727902/i-believe-in-...

File sharing has just been recognized as a religion in Sweden too and all.

In any case, something is very, very wrong here. This should never be a jailable offense, let alone one receiving such a disproportionate sentence (Naval Academy Student Sentenced To 6 Months For Rape http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2011/09/30/naval-academy-stude...). And then she's just whisked off to the detention center for speaking her mind about it on the Internets.

I've taken to calling the states the United Police States of Homeland Tragedy. I get really sad about how deeply disturbed things have become.

How is this different from any other warez site that has been on the Internet since the mid 90s? They [ninjavideo] were not even hosting the content, just linking to megaupload/wherever, what about filestube.com/library.nu/demonoid/usenet? Anonymous will LOVE to hear about this.

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