Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ Falls Prey to Piracy

House of Cards Netflix

Illegal copies of ‘House of Cards’ crop up on torrent sites

As Netflix loads up on original programming, vid-streamer will increasingly face a Big Media problem: combating illegally ripped copies of its content.

Within the past several weeks, users of file-swapping site The Pirate Bay have shared more than 20,000 copies of “House of Cards” episodes, with thousands more available on other rogue torrent-trackers.

Netflix is presumably less vulnerable to piracy than traditional forms of distribution. Conventional wisdom holds that making high-value content affordable on digital platforms is the antidote to copyright infringement. It would seem to be less hassle to sign up for the streaming service than steal from it.

But Netflix is not available in all countries, which explains in part the appearance of purloined episodes online. At least some unauthorized “House of Cards” copies on The Pirate Bay originated from overseas airings, including on News Corp.’s pay TV plaform Sky Deutschland.

Sony Pictures Television, on behalf of producer Media Rights Capital, is licensing “House of Cards” to pay TV providers in countries where Netflix doesn’t offer a streaming service. While those sales represent an important revenue stream, piracy makes clear the downside to offline exposure. Sony Pictures Television also just announced “House of Cards” will hit home video June 11 — perhaps not a moment too soon.

Some of the torrent-tracker files are likely duds — possibly seeded by Netflix itself to frustrate pirates — but the freeloaders threaten to hurt the company’s ability to monetize the $100 million it spent on the Kevin Spacey starrer.

Netflix’s piracy problem doesn’t come close to that of traditional studios and nets. For example, HBO’s premiere Sunday of “Game of Thrones” season 3 is estimated to have been poached more than 1 million times within 24 hours of airing.

Pursuant to agreements with studios, Netflix mandates strict encryption and authentication specs for device partners to make it difficult — if not impossible — to copy video streams.

“‘House of Cards’ is a popular show and we’re very happy that it is so popular. We have taken the antipiracy measures similar to those that other content providers take,” the company said in a statement. Netflix has not divulged details on how the show has performed but execs aver it has generated valuable buzz and engagement.

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  1. saffron says:

    20K, pfft, how minor is that! Netflix should consider this mere market research. Anyone who pirates HoC is wonderful, a potential future customer. Neftlix should be id’ing them and not just marketing to them, but also determine their demographics and market to anyone like them. If the pirates are from a certain region without Netflix now, that’s valuable data – target that region for expansion! Pirates have decided it’s okay to steal other people’s IP, so they shouldn’t complain if corporations steal their private data. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Let the market decide!

  2. frederick white says:

    “Pursuant to agreements with studios, Netflix mandates strict encryption and authentication specs for device partners to make it difficult — if not impossible — to copy video streams.”

    Ha………….. NO PROBLEM

  3. M.I. Summerset says:

    Anything played through a computer can be recorded one way or another. It’s not possible to perfectly prevent copying but it is possible to make it difficult. The focus shouldn’t be on the ripping, because someone might just as easily rip for personal use the same way someone might use a DVR. It’s the uploading that’s the problem.

  4. jon b says:

    Correction i would not watch this stuff if i had to pay for it.

  5. jon b says:

    I would watch this or any move or show if i have to pay for it. besides if the government wishes to continue programming the masses with predictive and placed programming then they better offer a free venue so they can give us our opinions and make us support their agendas.

  6. how is netflix LESS vulnerable??? play it on you tv through a DVD burner and you have your copy DUN DUN DUUUUUN. i mean come on people this is not rocket science… but lets face fact as long as there have been movies there have been pirates, with VHS we have VHS dubbers, with DVD we had Copiers, and with the internet we are now Pirates… atleast we got a decent name this time…

  7. JC says:

    20,000 episodes shared is nothing for a whole season. That would only make 1538 pirate viewers of the season. Pretty good for worldwide. Variety, I know piracy articles make a splash for you, but please print them in proper context. This is actually a success for this new business model and not definitely isn’t worth the yellow journalism photo you have pasted at the top of this article.

  8. With QuickTime 10, where one can record the screen capture instantly, I have seen my students pirate off of Netflix instantly. (Naughty students! For them $7.99 is a food for a day.) While the device encryption might be strict, it seems not on a new Macintosh. May House of Cards is an exception?

  9. I signed back up to netflix just to watch House of card. I pirate many things but at 7.99 it seems silly to go through the hassle of pirating.

    I did pirate the game of thrones. If HBO has an online option for me to subscribe and pay for it (within a reasonable price) then I would. Also HBO doesn’t offer that because it would piss off cable companies.

    Interesting to note that cable companies are now putting on their own streaming services. Rogers has an anywhere service. Better, but even though I’m subscribed to HBO, it won’t let me watch the new season.


    • M says:

      “I pirate many things but at 7.99 it seems silly to go through the hassle of pirating.”

      Agreed. I happily pay for Netflix. If your movie/show isn’t there, you’ve lost my money because I’m pirating it.

  10. netflis subscriber says:

    i watched this myself on netflix and it was a nice change to watch something from them that was not compressed to hell and showed worse than a old b-movie. yes i enjoyed house of cards it got me hooked from the beginning and thanks for that netflix, but come on the rest of the stuff you have that says its HD is no where near when it pixels up all the time or freezes and before you say anything i have a 60mb net connection and everything else i stream through my home network plays fine.

    fix your terrible compression and give proper HD not b-movie HD and you may find more people join your service.

  11. Tom says:

    The more shows that air 1st run on Netflix, the faster the pirates will get at handling the minor challenge of getting high quality pirated releases out the door. If the video can be viewed on a computer screen, it can be captured in exactly the same level of quality as it is displayed (if the user knows what they are doing). Don’t really matter what kind of superfly encryption happens in the middle.

    The reason Game of Thrones was so popular on the download circuit is because many are hooked on it after 2 seasons and a lot of them don’t get HBO. House of cards may become that popular, but it’s not there yet.

  12. When House of Cards first released, there was a window of a couple of days before pirate copies appeared online, and crucially these were quite poor quality screen captured copies. That is a huge advantage over regularly distributed shows, which are online, in full HD within a couple of hours.

    Online distribution allows Netflix to choose its DRM mechanism in a way that traditional broadcasting just cannot do. The real problem for Netflix is the expense involved in a world wide roll out. If there were a functioning Deutsche-Netflix then they could have retained control of the distribution and high res copies would have been harder for pirates to source. Even so, i would expect Netflix execs to be relatively happy with the way their tech stood up the the pirates scrutiny.

  13. Ray says:

    Netflix doesn’t sell the show, they sell their subscription. Thats simply not the same what viewers want. Also outside of the U.S. there are tons of people trying to watch shows, but can’t, at least not legally. Either it’s not available at all or not with reasonable conditions.

    Piracy will become absolutely pointless once Producers will start airing online with advertisements without subscriptions, geoblocking, release chains and all the other artificial restrictions they put on their media.

  14. Philippe Ory says:

    You can’t hype a show all over the internet and expect viewers outside the US to just sit and wait months, often years, before they get a chance to see the show. Fighting piracy is having a global vision. You need a world-wide income-generating distribution platform. It actually exists with YouTube (the only one with the power to handle that kind of viewership).

    Just negotiate the level of income per ad you want for the show and let Google sell the ads. They can pull in big accounts that are tailored for each country. The producer could cover the show’s budget and overhead in one evening (think twenty or fifty million viewers in a single day…). What about the language tracks? That makes things even better. Just show the original US version on YouTube and you can still sell the show to local broadcasters for dubbing. It’s all gravy after that…

    Who does it first wins.

    • Hermione333 says:

      Kudos to that. Shaming us (outside the US) for pirating instead of waiting for a show a year is pointless. Just make it available to everybody at the same time (maybe with a choice of watching with ads or paying) and virtually nobody is going to pirate it.
      Right now, services like Amazon Instant Video and Netflix don’t work from outside the US and maybe a couple of other selected countries.

  15. Alan says:

    Simple. Get rid of your pathetic region locking on shows and films and let everyone in the world enjoy the media at the same time. Most people will pay if its a reasonable price.

    When, Oh, when will studios and distribution companies listen to the people and learn.

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