reader comments 54
At this point, the most common ways to get illegal digital content are no secret. There’s peer-to-peer downloading, “cyberlocker”-type sites, and unauthorized streaming sites that demand to put sketchy software on your computer.
But what if you could download Hollywood flicks to a USB drive at a convenient kiosk for just a few cents each? And do so while shopping at your local mall? This sounds like a dream of convenient and cheap entertainment, but it’s just one more piracy nightmare for the entertainment industry.
Remarkably, there appears to be just such a machine in Ethiopia, according to a report out this weekend on the TorrentFreak website.
The bright yellow kiosk, at right, was spotted by a TorrentFreak reader at an Ethiopian “All Mart,” described as Ethiopia’s equivalent of a Walmart.
“Basically, you go to this very big store, and you approach the machine, and you plug in a USB drive,” the anonymous reader, who provided photos, told TorrentFreak. “The screen will turn on, and it will let you browse through a massive archive of movies.”
The ATM-style machine has a monitor where customers can pick out a movie and a USB port that the movie can be downloaded onto after payment. Feature movies cost between three and five Ethiopian birr, which is between 13 and 22 US cents. Prices depend on the movie’s release date, with older movies oddly costing more. Single songs are available for 13 cents, as are TV show episodes.
The project appears to be about a year old. Escape Computing, the company behind the kiosks, has a Facebook page that advertised an “urgent vacancy” for a Sales Associate position back in May 2016. The company is based in Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia. Addis Insight, an Ethiopia-based news website, reported on the company in July 2016.
“Apparently, the maintenance guy torrents all day and stores the data on his drive—the drive shown by the SwiftMedia monitor,” reports TorrentFreak’s Ethiopian source. “This would not have been a big deal as this is Ethiopia, and the allegedly democratic government has bigger issues.”
TorrentFreak contacted Escape Computing but didn’t hear back.
Since the company was hiring for several cities throughout the East African country, one can assume the SwiftMedia model is in several cities. The machine is an interesting glimpse into the innovative and incredibly brazen methods of piracy that can flourish in a country that’s not strongly connected to international systems of policing.