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Pirated movie downloads offered as Zango sweetener

Holy warez, Batman

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Zango affiliates are offering gateway access to pirated films, including the Hollywood blockbuster The Dark Knight, in a bid to induce users into accepting adware.

Freetards who accept the offer are likely to to be disappointed with the shaky videocam footage of the eagerly awaited next installment in the rebooted Batman franchise, and the dodgy sound.

Christopher Boyd, director of malware research at IM security firm FaceTime, has identified two sites (one registered by someone in China and another by a person in China) offering the ropy content in exchange for installing Zango adware. The Indonesian site further sweetens the pill by offering Hellboy 2: The Golden Army as well as The Dark Knight and other recent hit films.

Zango spokesman Steve Sratz said that the sites concerned are not hosting copyrighted content and are only acting as a search engine for this content. By only acting as gateways to the unsanctioned content they are operating within the terms of partnership agreements. If industry rules change Zango will review this position, he explained.

"We do not sponsor (partner, much like we do with hundreds of Web sites) any site hosting copyrighted streaming content. In this case, they are not actually hosting the content. We view services that don't actually host content as if they were a search engine. In these instances, the Web publisher is not violating our terms today. However, obviously, there's moves to be made here as an industry and as those change, so will our terms," Sratz said.

Normally the content offered through Zango is material such as movie trailers easily found on official sites for those who care to look, screen savers, erotic content and games of questionable value. Providing gateways to pirated content is a new departure.

Users attempting to cancel the installation of Zango software in case of the pirated movie gateway sites are confronted by a confusingly worded warning that states that they about to miss out on free access to "premium content", anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software reports. Users might easily inadvertently install the software my misunderstanding they have to select "cancel" followed by "OK" in a second further dialog box, it argues.

Once installed it has historically been difficult to get rid of Zango simply by attempting to uninstall the package in Windows Control Panel.

Zango has taken action against "rogue affiliates" who illicitly install its software on PCs, sometimes using botnet agents. In November 2006, Zango paid $3m to settle a lawsuit brought by US consumer watchdog the FTC over these actions without admitting to any wrongdoing itself. Since then, in between unsuccessfully suing anti-malware firms over its malware classifications, Zango has engaged in an extensive image makeover stressing claims that it operates ethically.

In offering a gateway to pirated copies of Hollywood movies its affiliates are sailing close to the wind so, all other considerations aside, it's just as well for them they are operating in countries outside the reach of Warner Bros. and MPAA lawyers. ®

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