The first thing that comes to mind when you hear of YIFY is free movie downloads. But do we even understand what the initials mean? Is it legal? How does it work?
YIFY is a peer-to-peer community that distributes movies. Their websites allow users to share high quality, new and old, movie files through bit torrent. Other users download them and save them to avoid paying to watch at the theatres.
The group’s founder, Yiftach Swery, was a computer science student at The University of Waikato. Their offices were in New Zealand. It was founded in the year 2010. People thought the initials YIFY were from the founder’s name, Yiftach Swery (YIFY). However, according to abbreviations.com, they stand for Y-your I-input F-feels Y-yucky.
The original YIFY website was shut down by Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 2015.
According to Kickass torrent, the first movie the group uploaded was Toy Story 1 and 2 back in 2010. The question on legality has been there for a while now.
So is it legal?
The founder was taken to court by Hollywood stakeholders in new Zealand. However, all they all agreed to settle the matter outside court. The founder was allowed to maintain confidentiality.
When asked to comment, Yiftach Swery compared their operations to what Netflix is doing with their streaming service.
He argued that people subscribed to this service can view as many movies and series as they want. However, one could argue that Netflix has a subscription platform where people pay monthly, which is legal to do so. Despite this, YIFY argued that subscribers share their account information with friends and relatives who can view all available movies without subscribing.
Although this may seem like a strong argument, the fact of the matter is that two wrongs do not make a right. YIFY's other point of view was that it takes a lot of time to prepare for a movie for a torrent. They viewed their work as a charity because the people involved did not gain anything from it. This argument was meant to support the moral aspect of their work.
YIFY further tried to justify its operations by saying its services are for users all over the world with low bandwidth or hard drive limitations. Their torrents are meant for these people to enjoy available content.
However, there are three types of people with different opinions on the moral aspect as discussed below:
1. Those people who will download content illegally unaware of consequences or legality.
2. People who download content fully aware that it is not legal, moral, or ethical.
3. Law-abiding citizens who would not download content illegally.
The moral and ethical aspect does not raise the issue here. Legally speaking, downloading, viewing, or sale of protected content without express and written permission from the owners is considered piracy and is against the law.
Enough about the legality of torrents, and lets now look at the legality of downloading torrents. What does the law have to say about individuals who download these torrents?
Is it illegal to download torrents?
Pixelprivacy.com has laid out the consequences, if any, of downloading protected content illegally. Downloading torrents alone is not considered illegal. However, downloading and sharing protected content without express and written permission from the owners is illegal.
The fact is, there is always a chance of getting caught by the authorities. Downloading non-copyrighted material is okay and permitted. No legalities are applying to that effect.
In many nations, government and internet service providers (ISPs) work together to apprehend those who distribute protected content. ISPs do not necessarily work to stop piracy but may be subpoenaed by relevant authorities or a court order to avail personal information if one is suspected of downloading protected content.
ISPs only requires an individual's IP address to identify whoever is downloading content and their location.
There are companies called Copyright Trolls whose main business is identifying content pirates using their IP addresses. They sign contracts with copyright holders allowing them to apprehend and take legal action on their behalf against content pirates.
What technology does YIFY use to record videos with very high resolution and size?
It is not yet clear on the type of soft wares they employ. However, video encoders such as Handbrake and format factory are considered to be amongst them. A combination of soft wares, denoisers, and filters would provide an output file in the X264 encoding format used by YIFY.
The parameters they use are optimum. The bitrates are set low giving less rendering time while still guaranteeing lesser size. YIFY is a community of professional encoders, meaning a lot of collaboration goes into creating a perfect system.
Another major question is how content pirates, in this case, YIFY, get high-quality movies so early and so conveniently.
Though YIFY never came clear on this question, a respondent on Quora.com offered some insight into this. According to him, movies are released on different dates in different countries. When the production houses are done releasing motion pictures worldwide, they prepare for online premiers and DVD releases. Piracy starts at this stage. The web rip and DVD rip start circulating on the internet. Uppers like YIFY can now access, compress, and upload high-quality movies.
However, YIFYs full HD (1080p) releases have been criticized by viewers. They lack visual detail and sound clarity, with 5.1 audio supports absent. This scenario is a result of tradeoffs YIFY makes to lower its file size and at the same time retain video quality to good enough standards to suit the masses.
How does a torrent uploader earn money?
There are four categories of torrent uploaders, listed as follows:
The first is the usual file sharers. Someone listens to an album, likes it, and shares it online, or when someone reads a book and uploads it for someone else who might like it. They upload such things of interest to them and even forget about it. They do not make any money.
Another category is for committed uppers who do it for status. They are known for tagging things they upload with their names in a bid to get a reputation. They do it purely for clout. Money is not a priority. To them, it is who has done what, how better than their peers.
The third category is for a select group who own websites and upload adverts so that they can earn from. They are a very small group. Making torrents, upping them, and building a brand is a lot of work for one person. Most of these people, therefore, scrape torrents from other websites and upload them instead.
This last group is malware distributors. These people package trojans, adware, and spam ware into torrents. They hope someone will download and install it unknowingly. These people are mostly found in large websites with high download capacities and potential. This group of people includes those who upload fake movies and demand that you pay for the necessary codec before watching.
All in all, most torrents are upped by people who do not aim to make money. At the center of the community, there is a co-sharing ethos that guides them.
Risk of using torrents.
While running our research, we notably highlighted these 4 risks:
Content from some websites is infected by viruses that can destroy one's computer system. After making any download, one should scan it using verified antivirus programs to check for virus infections or malware content.
Downloading protected content is illegal in many countries as explained earlier. You therefore always run the risk of legal problems anytime you download this content.
When someone downloads, uploads, or shares a torrent file, online hackers become active and collect data of the user's activities. This information could be very sensitive, organizational, or individually, and could be used negatively or to their advantage.
This may include employee records, compensations, information about employee shareholders, organization’s policies, amongst others.
Pirate bay lists 72 YIFY movies in its top 100HD movie section. In five years, over 4500 infringing titles have been shared on such sites. With 3.4 million unique visitors of 43 million views on the YIFY website in august alone, YIFY is the biggest piracy bust in New Zealand’s history.
YIFY has been an arch enemy to the American Hollywood industry for the span of its existence. The free distribution of movies affected theatre sales of some world’s blockbusters for a while. However, countries are determined to fight piracy with very stringent measures.
The legality of this practice is debatable but the facts are clear. Copyright protected content is not meant to be downloaded illegally.
It’s everyone's responsibility to avoid conflict with the authorities over piracy claims. There are set laws and policies that could be used against individuals involved in these activities. Despite using VPNs to bypass set policies, ISPs and other government agencies can still manage to apprehend involved parties.