UK-based piracy tracking company has MUSO made an embarrassing mistake by crowning The Walk as the most pirated movie of last week. The error appears to have been caused by a rookie mistake in the setup of its filters, which failed to remove millions of uploads of a popular TV-show with a similar name.
The anti-piracy business is booming, with thousands of companies making a decent living by helping rightsholders to protect their work.
London-based MUSO is one of these outfits. The company has been around for a long time and has evolved into one of the most active senders of DMCA notices to Google.
Just two years ago MUSO received a £250,000 “Smart Award” grant from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, to improve and expand its piracy tracking technologies.
Despite this cash injection MUSO’s data gathering technique is far from optimal. A few weeks ago, for example, we pointed out that many of the takedown notices it sends are bogus.
In addition to sending takedown requests the company also collects file-sharing statistics, which they offer to copyright holders as business intelligence. Unfortunately, these systems are not without mistakes either.
A few days ago the following tweet from MUSO’s official Twitter account caught our eye, announcing “The Walk” as the most uploaded film that week.
To us this was quite a surprising result, because there are only a few low quality copies of The Walk on torrent sites. With just a few hundred people sharing, those are not popular at all compared to other pirated films.
So what happened here?
Well, after giving it some thought we realized that MUSO’s data gathering tool has omitted a crucial element. Instead of looking at entire filenames it appears to have checked the total uploads of all files with the words “The Walk” in there, while forgetting to filter out “-ing Dead.”
This means that in addition to the few thousand “The Walk” uploads last week, it also counted the millions of uploads of “The Walk/ing Dead.” This makes sense, since The Walking Dead was the most shared TV episode by far that week.
Of course mistakes can happen everywhere, especially with companies that have to rely on filters to sift through massive amounts of data. What’s most troubling though, is the fact that the result was proudly shared with the rest of the world, without a proper check.
Apparently nobody at MUSO noticed the error, and neither did any of their followers, as the tweet is still online after more than a week.
Whether anyone will walk the plank as a result of this embarrassing error is doubtful. However, we would argue that the Government’s “Smart Award” might not have been the best investment of UK tax payers’ money.