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HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

Smart pirates are fooling YouTube’s copyright bots by hiding movies in 360-degree videos

YouTube/Thuy Pham
It’s a movie, inside a movie.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

This article is more than 2 years old.

YouTube has gotten very good at figuring out when people upload copyrighted material to the video-streaming site, and taking things down. Its program, Content ID, matches videos from the site against a database of video uploaded by content owners. If there’s a match, YouTube will move to take that video down. But what if you upload a video in a video?

An ingenious pirate, going by the name Thuy Pham on YouTube, managed to embed the entirety of the 1995 classic Clueless inside a 360-degree video. At first, it seems like you’re just watching the Alicia Silverstone vehicle as you would any other video on YouTube—albeit slightly sped-up—but if you move the video around, you’ll see that it’s actually injected into what appears to be some sort of dance studio, replete with three women facing away from the movie.

YouTube has since taken down the Clueless video, but Pham has also, for reasons unknown, uploaded the critically panned 2010 Miley Cyrus film The Last Song to the same 360-degree image of a studio:

It’s unclear how long these videos will manage to avoid detection by YouTube’s video police, but at least for now, if you wanted to watch a pair of rom-coms of varying quality, you can.

It’s quite a world away from the virtual-reality cinema that Netflix unveiled last year, but it’s a brilliant way of getting around copyright spotters at least for now.

Update (July 1): YouTube has removed Pham’s hidden Clueless video.

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