ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > technology
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


SEPTEMBER 22 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 37 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK


Illustration by Emilio Rivera III.

Net Pirates' Next Target
Freeloading downloaders take on Hollywood
By YASMIN GHAHREMANI

ALSO:
Not Everyone is Amused:
A gossipy Hong Kong website irks the bigwigs
The Game's the Thing?:
WAP backers are still looking for a killer app

Walk into any one of dozens of Hong Kong shops today and for about $2.50, you can buy a picture-perfect digital video disk featuring Kevin Spacey losing his dignity and more in American Beauty. It is an illegal copy, of course, but if you can bear the moral price, buying the movie is as cheap as renting it. Much to the chagrin of the film industry, pirated flicks proliferate in Asia. But if film-makers think they have a problem now, they haven't seen anything yet. Movie piracy is set to explode, thanks to the Internet. Using file-sharing programs that allow users to swap data, just about anyone can nab blockbusters like The Matrix and Gladiator for free - anyone, that is, with enough patience and bandwidth to download the 600-megabyte files.

Movie trading today is the growing underground trend that music trading was a year ago or so. Napster, the controversial application that allows users to swap music files, went into business in May 1999 and became an overnight sensation with college kids and other hipsters. Today, it has more than 20 million users — enough to scare the recording industry into trying to get the courts to shut down Napster (a decision is expected in October). The phenomenon looks set to repeat itself in the video realm, enabled by new technologies. In the past few months hackers have come up with programs that make copying movies easier. And Napster cousins like Gnutella, Hotline and Scour, which allow any kind of file to be shared - not just music - have opened the doors for widespread video distribution. Asia, with its entrenched piracy tradition, will have a field day. "It's going to be huge in Asia, once broadband penetration increases and it gets to the point where downloading a movie file is as easy as downloading a music file," says Matthew McGarvey, an analyst with International Data Corp.

Mind you, it's certainly not that easy yet. You can queue for days for a top movie on a file-sharing network. Saving the flick to your PC will take several hours more — assuming your connection isn't broken.

The fact that movie files can be traded at all is due in part to a program called DeCSS, which was developed by a Norwegian teenager so he could play DVD movies on a computer running the Linux operating system. The program also just happens to unscramble a disk's embedded encryption code so that the file can be copied to a computer hard-drive. The other breakthrough for pirates was DivX, Microsoft's compression software that was hacked by a French programmer who posted it on the Internet. DivX can squeeze 5 GB movie files down to 600 MB - small enough to fit on a CD. There are some 300 copies of the program on the Net.

Hollywood, understandably, is sweating. The Motion Picture Association of America has won a suit forcing www.2600.com, a hacker site that had posted the DeCSS program, to remove it. The MPAA, along with the recording industry, is also suing Scour. Investors have run scared and Scour has had to lay off two-thirds of its staff. But those victories are small. DeCSS is still available all over the Internet. And plenty of other file-sharing networks remain. They will be nearly impossible to police because they use no centralized servers and in some cases, never even identify the users.

"The record and movie companies will have to work really hard on coming up with encryption codes that can't be cracked," says McGarvey. Current codes only last about a year before hackers crack them. In the long run, however, the industry will have to come up with a way to make money while embracing the technological changes that have taken place.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

Asiaweek Technology Home | Asiaweek.com Home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


  TECHNOLOGY
THIS WEEK
Net Games: Fun with mobile phones

Gossip: A Hong Kong website riles the professional community

Scene-Stealers: Now Web bandits are going after DVD movies

Viewpoint: What's wrong with WAP

ASIAWEEK.COM

ASIAWEEK.com
Vol. 2 No. 5


COVER: Playing the Modern Game
Improve your golf game with better technology

Face Off: Audio recorders

Healthcare: Take care on websites for the unwell

Net Gains: Be wary of stock tips in chat rooms

E-vesting: The high cost of online trading

Asiaweek/CNN Tech Index: The Asiaweek/CNN basket of 40 companies

B2B: Learning the job online

Wired Exec: A Manila publisher at work and play


Asiaweek Technology Home

Asiaweek/CNN Internet Index: Track our Asian high-tech stocks

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.