Redbox-Like Kiosk Pumps Out Pirated Movies If You Dare Stick A USB Stick In

The way we rent, purchase, and watch movies at home is constantly changing. More recently, the shift has been from physical media to online streaming, and before that the market transitioned from video rental stores to kiosks like Redbox. Those still exist and are legal, unlike the crop of movie kiosks that have popped up in Ethiopia. These new kiosks transfer movies to USB flash drives for pennies on the dollar.

It is actually a nifty idea, at least the part about transferring movies to flash drives for watching at home. But it's also one that would never fly here in the United States because it would be difficult for media companies to maintain copyright control. And so it will never be, at least not here. But in Ethiopia, bright yellow kiosks have started to pop up and if someone is courageous enough to jam flash drive inside one, they can purchase a variety of flicks for just a few bucks.

SwiftMedia Kiosk
Image Source: TorrentFreak

We say "courageous" because this sort of thing leaves people susceptible to malware, especially if the kiosk's operator is unscrupulous enough to serve up pirated content. And even if the movies are clean copies, there is always the risk that a kiosk could be hacked and infected with malicious code. But whatever, that's not the real story here.

What is of interest are the pirated movies and how they're distributed. The kiosks are branded as SwiftMedia and filled with flicks someone that downloaded from the Internet through BitTorrent. Packages cost anywhere from 25 to 100 birr, or $1 to $3 in U.S. currency. Individual movies run less than a quarter each, some as little as 3 pennies.

"At first I assumed these movies had their rights lifted or something because well, you know, but then I later found out that the movies I had first seen were just there on release day," a TorrentFreak reader explains. "Apparently the maintenance guy torrents all day and stores the data on his drive, the drive shown by the SwiftMedia monitor. This would not have been a big deal as this is Ethiopia and the allegedly democratic government has bigger issues."

The kiosks have been popping up at All Mart locations, which is the Ethiopian equivalent of Walmart. It consists of a monitor and a USB port, and is shaped like an ATM. Once a USB drive is inserted, the screen pops on with a massive archive of movies that users can buy.

Crazy stuff.