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TorrentFreak: These Pirate Parties Plan to Enter The European Parliament

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Where you can vote pirate (click to open map)
Where you can vote pirate (click to open map)

In roughly two weeks time, people all over the European Union will be going to the polls to elect the next European Parliament. Five years ago, the Swedish Pirate Party had a substantial victory with over 7% of the vote, and while the German Pirates didn’t get a seat, they did claim over two hundred thousand votes.

Now, five years later, more Pirate parties are now in a position to contest the election.

Today we provide a quick run-down of the Pirate candidates in the various countries, sorted by incumbency and seat apportionment (Note: many links are to non-English language websites)

Sweden (20 seats)

The only country with incumbent MEPs, the order of Sweden’s two main candidates is unchanged from 2009, with Christian Engstrom first, followed by Amelia Andersdotter. Amelia, the youngest ever MEP when she was elected, is also one of the candidates for the EU commission presidency.

Christian told TorrentFreak: “The struggle to protect freedom on the Internet will continue, from defending net neutrality to fighting against mass surveillance. We must explain to the politicians from the older parties that the Internet is not a toy, and that we must defend our fundamental rights as vigorously in the online world as in the offline.”

The full list of candidates competing for the 20 seats is available here.

Germany (96)

Competing alongside Sweden in 2009, Germany also has the most seats of any country, with 96 up for grabs. While they didn’t quite hit 1% last time, they’ve been doing well in various regional elections for the last year or two, and they’re hardly a new ‘unelectable’ party either, with 250 seats at various state and local governments. The 5% election threshold was ruled unconstitutional in 2011 and a proposed value of 3% was also struck down a few months ago, meaning that just over 1% of the votes are needed to start winning seats, well within their grasp.

“Our vision for Europe,” lead candidate Julia Reda told TF, “is based on the Internet: on sharing, collaboration and a community of peers. We need Pirates in the European Parliament to reform copyright and enable the sharing of culture and knowledge across national borders.”

France (74, contesting 56)

France is one of a select few countries that use a regional constituency system, rather than a national list. The French Pirate Party is running 13 candidates in the North west, 20 in the south west region, 26 in the South East, 10 in Centre, 30 in Ile-de France (which includes Paris) and 9  for the overseas territories of France.

Interestingly, there are at least twice as many candidates on each regions list than there are seats available, meaning that at least half the pirates are never going to be elected no matter how well they do.

United Kingdom (73, contesting 8)

Like France, Poland and Italy, the UK is also split into several constituencies, with the UK Pirate Party only contesting one, their headquarters region of  North West England. They’re focusing on this area after having had some success in local elections in the recent past, beating, or equaling the coalition-government party candidates. In keeping with the open nature of the party, they’re also raising money for the election via crowdfunding platform Pozible.

Candidate Jack Alnutt is firm on why people should vote Pirate. “The European Union needs more transparent and open governance, more democratic involvement with increased powers for the Parliament and better protection of our fundamental rights. The only way to make this happen is to vote Pirate in May.”

Spain (54)

The situation in Spain is more complex than normal. There have been two competing pirate groups for a while, Partido Pirata – the national party formed in 2006 which covered the whole of Spain – and a group of regional parties that have now banded together under the banner Confederacion Pirata. It’s this latter group that is running candidates nationally.

Their list of 50 candidates is headed by Dario Castañé from Barcelona, a 29-year-old computer engineer who describes politics as “a passion of mine”.  With seats being awarded on just 2.5% of the vote last year, they have a strong chance of getting at least one Pirate into the European Parliament.

Poland (51, contesting 16)

Poland is another constitution-based system. Here only 6 pirates are running for election, but they’re also running in a coalition, with the Direct Democracy party, the Libertarian Party, and a number of independent candidates.

Four of these are going to compete for the 4 seats in Łódź [district 6] (spots 1, 3, 4, and 5), with the other two pirates on the ballot in the Silesian area [district 11] to the south (second on the list), and Lublin [district 8] to the east (fourth on the list).

Netherlands (26)

The ten Pirates contesting the Dutch seats are led by scientist Matthijs Pontier. They recently celebrated the first elected Pirate to the Board committee of Amsterdam West with 3.6%, and fell just short of other seats in the Amsterdam South committee (3.5%) and city council (1.8%)

With no threshold to win seats, getting a seat is not outside the realms of possibility for them, especially if they can keep the momentum going.

Czech Republic (21)

The 21 seats in the Czech Republic will be contended by a full spread of Pirates. Leading the list is 34-year old Dr Ivan Bartos, Ph.D, an expert in database systems and part-time musician.

Current polls have them running a little short of their target to get a seat, but as with the Swedish party five years ago, they’ve a strong youth following which may be underrepresented in the polling. This gave them a ‘win’ in a student mock EU election with 19.2% of the vote from the 25,000+ students aged 15 and older polled. Worst case, that’s another few thousand votes next time.

Greece (21)

In Greece, the Pirate-Green cooperation that has existed in the European Parliament has continued, with a coalition list comprising candidates of both the Greek Pirate Party, and the Ecologist Greens party, along with several independent candidates.

In 2009, the Ecologist Greens won one seat with 3.9% of the vote. What impact the Pirates will have on any Green candidates is unknown, but with a formal alliance, it’s certainly expected that there will be some.

Austria (18)

Another party in an alliance, this time though, the coalition of three parties, all without national-level representation, as well as a few independents. Instead of a coalition with the Greens, as in Greece, the Austrian Pirates have instead joined forces with the Communist Party and the Change party to form the group ‘Europe Anders”.

The list is headed by current MEP Martin Ehrenhauser (elected on a pirate-like anti-corruption and pro-transparency platform via the “Hans-Peter Martin’s list” in 2009) with the first Pirate in fourth. There is a 4% threshold.

Finland (13)

Finland uses a non-preferential list, meaning that (as we understand it) you vote for candidates, which also count for the party. The party is allocated seats based on the votes for all its candidates, and party fills those seats based on the vote count for the candidates.

Their most obvious candidate for a seat is Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, whose campaign launch we covered recently. He was also nominated as the Pirate Party Europe candidate for Commission President with Amelia Andersdotter as mentioned earlier.

Croatia (11)

It’s almost déjà vu for Croatian Pirates. They are one of only three Pirate parties to have previously contested a European parliament election, along with the Germans and Swedes. In their case, however, it was during an extraordinary election last year on their acceptance to the EU, where they scored 1.13% of the vote, putting them 12th of 28 parties.

This year it appears that most parties have joined into a few coalitions or partnerships, with several European group affiliations mixed, but there are still 25 groups listed on the ballot. It certainly makes for an interesting election for the 13 pirates on the Croatian Pirate Party list who are bucking the local coalition trend and standing alone.

Slovenia (8)

In Slovenia, they’re being a little more “realistic” (in their own words) and fielding only a single candidate. Rolando Benjamin Vaz Ferreira is a translator specializing in English and German as well as his native Slovenian.

The feeling is upbeat and positive though, telling TF: “We’ve received incredible support amongst those who know of us, may it be voters, journalists, civil servants and even other party officers. Our biggest limiting factor is how many people we can reach in time.” In 2009, 9.7% was needed to win a seat, a figure that might be possible if the anti-corruption sentiment that has swept the country leads to a strong pirate vote.

Luxembourg (6)

As one of the smallest and most overlooked countries with only 6 seats available, the barrier is high (some 15%) but  party president and list-leader Sven Clement is a mixture of optimist and realist. After getting 2.96% in last October’s national election he’s hopeful for an improvement, but a double-digit increase is unlikely.

Clement told TF that despite that, people should still vote Pirate to ensure they can receive the kind of public financing the larger parties enjoy, enabling them to compete on a more level field.

Estonia (6)

The Estonian Pirate Party is also not running any candidates of its own in this election. They are, however, endorsing an independent candidate instead. Silver Meikar supports the Pirate platform, and has reportedly agreed to include a Pirate adviser as a member of his staff, if elected.

As with Luxembourg, with only six seats available, there is a high threshold for election, but only 8.7% of the vote was needed in 2009 for a seat.

Italy (73)

There is some debate about Italy and if they are running a ‘pirate’ candidate, hence its entry at the end of the list. As far as we can tell, the Italian Pirate Party is acting as an advising party on digital rights for the coalition “The Other Europe”, a left-wing coalition that includes the Communist Refoundation Party, Left Ecology Freedom, and the Labour party.

Italy, like France and the UK, uses a regional constituency system. However, which candidates in the coalition’s regional lists are Pirates (if any) are not known to us at this time.

Belgium (21)

Belgium is one of the earlier casualties. Despite having produced a candidate list for both it’s Dutch and French-speaking regions, they were unable to collect enough public signatures in time to make it onto the ballot.

Election dates

The European Parliament elections will take place on the following days

  • May 22nd for the Netherlands and the United Kingdom,
  • May 23rd for Ireland and the Czech Republic.
  • May 24th you can vote in Latvia, Malta, Slovakia, and the French Overseas territories and a second days voting in the Czech Republic
  • May 25th is for all other EU countries.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: File-Sharing Copyright Trolls Invade Finland

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

finlandIt’s a system that first started in Europe with games and especially pornography, where people were less likely to fight back due to fear of public embarrassment.

The aim for copyright holders is to avoid litigation while generating revenue. Their evidence is often questionable and as a result those that fight back often have their cases dropped – trolls tend to prefer the escape option over the consequences of an adverse verdict.

After moving to the U.S., settlement programs gained prominence through the actions of entities including Prenda and X-Art. These schemes have come under increasing fire in U.S. courts, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that a new country is now on the agenda.

Citizens of Finland are now being subjecting to pay-up-or-else letters, but the decision to target this Nordic country isn’t the most obvious one, thanks to less favorable laws than those in the US.

Letters that have recently gone out to some Finnish Internet subscribers (translated example below, from a DNA customer)  accuse them of downloading porn using BitTorrent and include an offer to settle for ‘only 600 euros’ (about US$825). A vague reference to the police is also included,  ratcheting up the pressure to comply.

According to Ville Oksanen, vice chair of the EFFi and Post-doc researcher at Aalto University, under Finnish law the account holder is presumed to be the infringer by the courts, unless the or she can show that someone may have used the account.

In addition, the loser of a case pays the costs, unlike in the U.S. where each side pays its own costs with a few exceptions (such as a baseless case). More and more courts around the world are starting to look closely into these kinds of cases, and in some instances throwing them out. That’s not so good if you’re liable for the substantial cost of defense.

TorrentFreak has been able to confirm that the letters relate to content from the Hustler stable, who committed to “turning piracy into profit”, presumably through these troll tactics, as far back as 2009.

Why this scheme is starting in Finland now is unknown, although the crowdsourced copyright law may make it less profitable in the future. According to Oksanen, the law as written would remove some sections of copyright law, making account-holder identification much harder.

The lawfirm behind this letter, Hedman Partners, did not respond to requests at the time of publication.

With thanks to rehanna, vhautaka and mikachu

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Why YouTube’s Automated Copyright Takedown System Hurts Artists

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

youtubesadsmallDay in and day out automated bots detect and report millions of alleged copyright infringements, which are then processed by the receiving site without a human ever looking at them.

Needless to say, this process is far from flawless. In the past we’ve covered countless false, inaccurate, and just plain hilarious DMCA claims, but YouTube’s takedown process is particularly problematic.

As we have noted previously, YouTube copyright claims are in a class of their own, thanks to a one-sided notification system that has no evidentiary requirement. Nowhere was this more apparent than the Mega song takedown of late 2011, but it’s a constant problem.

The main issue is that automated bots don’t (or rather can’t) understand fair use, although to be fair, it’s an area of copyright law most labels seem to want to ignore when it suits them, and one that won’t be fixed until Lenz v Universal finishes its slow trip through the courts.

But in the meantime, many artists are still stuck dealing with systems that ignore significant sections of copyright law in order to keep things under lock and key, artists like Dan Bull for example.

Dan, as regular TorrentFreak readers will know, is an artist that relies heavily on fair use to create his music, and he recently gave fans an idea of just how much of a pain it can be.

For his 2010 [NSFW] song “I’m not pissed”, he reveals a screen-grab showing 18 separate claims that have been made against it. While some of them were released after being disputed, two of them, BMG Rights Management and PRS, rejected the dispute and stand by their initial claim.

“It is up to me to prove myself innocent by asking eighteen different publishing companies through an automated system to revoke the automated claims. Each publisher has a month to reply, with no obligation to even do so. If even one of the eighteen publishers says ‘nope’ then it’s back to square one,” Bull explains.

“Any financial loss or restrictions on my channel are entirely on me, and will not be compensated for once the claim is lifted. This has been going on since last year with no end in sight,” he adds.

notpissed

It’s a situation that discourages new artists and stifles creativity. Despite the claims of the major labels, and until some actual consequences are introduced for false, inaccurate, or over-reaching claims, it’s going to harm the greater creative world, just to enable the big guys to profit.

Meanwhile, Dan has expressed his ire at YouTube in the way he knows best, through [again NSFW] song.

And yes, he’s pissed now.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Thirty Years Since Betamax, and Movies Are Still Being Made

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

To those that don't remember, these are Betamax tapesIn 1984, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 that the Sony Betamax recorder was legal, due to its significant non-infringing uses. This led to the consumer entertainment revolution of the last 30 years.

Everything from DVRs to tablets to MP3 players were made possible. Even the camera in your cellphone owes its existence to that ruling, as otherwise the ability to produce a copy of a copyrighted work (even of degraded quality) would have been enough to scupper its production.

Of the Betamax debate, however, the bit most people recall came from Congressional testimony some two years earlier, with MPAA President Jack Valenti telling Congress how the machine was ‘the Boston Strangler’ of the industry.

What most don’t remember though is that it was only one of four arguments made at the time. He also argued that the movie business was a really risky one, and that VCRs would impact the already tough advertising business. Additionally, machines made overseas would kill the US economy because of imports. And of course, OMG PIRATES!!!!!!!

So, how true were those claims? Sure the US economy’s pretty bad, but overseas electronics are not really a factor in that. Indeed, domestic production of machines to compete would probably have started before Valenti’s speech if it weren’t for… Valenti and his ilk. It happened later with MP3 players too, with the threats over the Diamond Rio in 1998 delaying their introduction.

What about advertising? Since we’ve had fast-forward buttons for 30+ years, all adverts are gone, right? No, as most people know, Google makes a fortune from adverts, even skippable and blockable ones. Sure some are made unskippable, but that’s only in the last few years – they could be sped-through at will during most of the 90s. It’s yet another non-starter argument.

How about the Risky Business part? Well, there’s another name for ‘risky business’, it’s called ‘business’. All businesses are a risk and most don’t last a year. And here the movie studios have not done themselves any favors over the past thirty years. While blockbuster films like ET, Ghostbusters and Superman III hovered at $30-40 million dollar budgets in the early 80s, the likes of Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 now cost more than $200Million. The first rule of pleading poverty is don’t massively increase your risk and spending. Not that they’ve had it so bad, with record year after record year.

Finally, how’s that piracy angle? Well, let’s start with VCRs themselves. Back in 1987 we had video sales surpassing the box office for studio income, so it doesn’t seem to have hurt them there. In fact, once they were resigned to it, it took them only four years to turn things around.

So what about the wider economy? Everyone remember the much maligned MPAA LEK study, that claimed piracy cost the world economy $6.1Billion in 2006? Well, Blockbuster, a company that existed ONLY because of the Betamax decision, had revenues of $5.5Billion in 2006. In other words, a loss to the economy the MPAA almost certainly exaggerated was almost wiped out by JUST ONE company that the MPAA almost prevented from existing.

To call Blockbuster the only beneficiary of the Betamax decision is short-sighted. US sales for that same year in ‘home video’ were another $5.4 billion just across the top 100 titles. Now anti-piracy activism looks a little short-sighted.

When you look back on all this and what that decision by the SCOTUS meant 30 years ago, there’s certainly something to worry about when it comes to further restrictions. Just these two things alone made a TEN BILLION DOLLAR increase to the US economy in one year, which would have been lost if the judges had listened to the same people whining about a $6 billion worldwide loss.

With that in perspective, any future claims of loss and damages should certainly be considered with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile it’s a happy 30th to the Betamax decision.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Why Even Doctor Who Has Trouble Following Copyright

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

doctorwhoLast month, a post on Slashdot suggested that the early episodes of Dr Who will soon fall into the public domain.

But in copyright nothing is ever so simple. In fact, even a TimeLord’s brain, capable of dealing with the intricacies of time and space, would find it a complex subject.

At the heart of the assertion is that in the New Year the first episodes of Dr Who will fall into the public domain. However, the reality isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. While the broadcast copyright will expire, the other copyrights in the episode will still exist. This means that the broadcast may well fall into the public domain but the episode itself won’t.

Under the UK’s 1956 Copyright Act, broadcast copyright expires 50 years from the end of the year when a show was first broadcast. This means that the first six episodes (the four comprising An Unearthly Child – the first story – as well as the first two of the seven episodes in The Daleks) will expire 50 years from the end of 1963, on January 1 2014.

However, the episode as a whole won’t be in the public domain. That’s a whole lot more complex.

Copyrights for the episodes themselves expire at the end of the year that is 70 years after the death of the following persons, whichever comes last:

- The principal director
- The author of the screenplay
- The author of the dialog, or
- The composer of music specially created for and used in the film

Since the director of the first four episodes, Waris Hussein, is still alive, the 70 year clock hasn’t even started. Likewise, Christopher Barry, the director of the majority of the Dalek’s episodes, is also still alive. So we’re looking at 1 January 2085 as a realistic earliest date (assuming neither die in the next month, and they’re the last surviving).

Legal blogger William Tovey has done some investigation on the topic and found that the earliest definitive date an episode drops into the public domain will be The Aztecs (the sixth story of season 1) in 2083. However, if (still living) script-editor Donald Tosh didn’t contribute to the dialogue, then The Time Meddler (season 2, story 9) will beat it into the public domain in 2057, followed by The Smugglers (season 4 opener) in 2068.

And this is where even the Gallifreyan brain goes crazy.

Ninety-four years before the first Doctor Who episode drops into the public domain in the UK is just nuts, and that’s not the actual first episode. That will have been under copyright for at least 130 years before entering the public domain. And this all depends on the term not being extended again.

Worse, this is only for the UK. Copyrights in every other country will be calculated using their own systems and timescales, and one is left with the belief that the real reason time travel was invented concerned perpetual copyright.

So while people in the UK will be able to share the broadcasts come January 1, in order to do anything more they’ll need to wait at least 45 years, while people in other countries will have to run the gauntlet of their own local copyright laws.

The complexity and extended term length is enough to drive anyone interested in honesty and fairness crazy. It’s a no-brainer to suggest that a paragon of virtue like the Doctor, more interested in doing right than following the letter of the law, would have real trouble following copyright law as it’s currently written around the world.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Copyright Troll Must Repay Alleged BitTorrent Pirates, Court Rules

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

trolloridiotThe world’s most famous porn pirate hunters have been on quite a losing streak just recently.

Over the past year they’ve been hit for roughly $311,000 in damages and costs, while hitting a roadblock in developing new revenue.

Little over a month ago the ongoing saga received yet another twist when a significant blow was dealt to the embattled law firm by the mother-in-law of Prenda front-man John Steele.

After a month of deliberation the court has now handed down additional good news for five accused BitTorrent pirates. Yesterday’s ruling made it clear that there is no evidence that AF Holdings holds the copyrights to the titles they sued the individuals over.

“The copyright-assignment agreements [...] in each of these five cases are not what they purport to be. Alan Cooper denies signing either agreement and also denies giving anyone else the authority to sign them on his behalf. AF Holdings failed to produce any credible evidence that the assignments were authentic.”

As a result of this fraud, U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel ordered the company to repay the four defendants who already settled their cases, including their legal fees. In addition, the judge dismissed the suits against all five alleged file-sharers.

“The Court has been the victim of a fraud perpetrated by AF Holdings, LLC. The Court concludes that the appropriate remedy for this fraud is to require AF Holdings to return all of the settlement money it received from all of the Defendants in these cases, and to pay all costs and fees incurred by the Defendants.”

The order further suggests that there may need to be more investigation into the Prenda law firm and its principles. As a result, the court ordered the following (among other things):

The Clerk of Court shall send a copy of this order to the following individuals and entities for the purpose of further investigation:

- The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota

- The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office

- The Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board

- The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois

With the above, the ruling echoes that of Judge Wright, bringing the firm to the attention of lawyer disciplinary boards and criminal investigators.

Of course, the total amount of damages so far doesn’t even come close to the alleged $1.9 million that Prenda took in settlements during 2012, but with the IRS, FBI and even state law enforcement investigating, asset forfeiture is always a possibility.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Federal Judge Fires Phasers, Photons at Prenda for $80k Damages

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The long-awaited order following last month’s Prenda Law sanctions hearing is now out, and it’s a doozy. After a hearing that lasted 12 minutes and consisted of lawyers pleading the fifth, there was little doubt that Federal Judge Otis Wright was not best pleased, and it was evident in the order he released late yesterday.

When a federal judge’s contempt for a case is illustrated via a sanctions order littered with sci-fi references it doesn’t bode well for any attorney on the receiving end. Any judge that finds the time to do this is not doing it because he’s bored, but because he’s highly motivated to do so. The shenanigans of Prenda and its associates certainly rankled Judge Wright, and prompted him to make Steele and friends the subject of derision.

Prenda cast, by JohnHenryLawyerIn the order, Judge Wright demolishes the claims of Brett Gibbs, by doing simple things like “looking them up on Google.” To demonstrate his point, the Judge includes a handy screen capture from Google Maps, pointing out that one of Gibbs’ statements was “a blatant lie.”

Towards the end, he starts laying down the damages, starting with attorney’s fees. Judge Wright assigned fees and costs totaling $40,659.86 to be paid to defense attorneys Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo. While that’s more than many expected, he then doubled the amount as a punitive measure, meaning a grand total of $81,319.72 will have to be paid by some combination of the plaintiffs (Steele, Duffy, Hansmeier, Gibbs, the shell companies and lawfirms) on or before May 20th.

And that’s not all. Judge Wright will also be referring the matter to the US Attorney for Central California requesting a RICO (racketeering) investigation, notifying all judges where plaintiffs have cases, and, as we noted a month ago, the IRS. Finally, there will also be disciplinary requests made to state and federal bars.

While some would have liked the order to have gone even further, its restraint will make it less likely to be overturned on appeal.

The next question is whether the Prenda ‘mob’ will pay up, or have another excuse to join the legion put forward so far. For that we’ll have to wait two weeks, if not more.

Source: Federal Judge Fires Phasers, Photons at Prenda for $80k Damages

TorrentFreak: UK Government ‘Wastes’ £200k on New Anti-Piracy Tech

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

ipoLet’s face facts here. Piracy-wise, the horse has already bolted. A majority of the population knows how to get what they want, and how to circumvent measures.

The old guard, however, are pushing for ever more draconian measures in an attempt to turn back the tide. Now the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has reached out to some groups it hopes might provide the metaphorical Silver Bullet (or at least white one) to deal with it.

On Thursday, the IPO and the Department of Business Industry and Skills (BIS – better known for being the department that rammed the Digital Economy act through after some back-room deals) proudly announced two anti-piracy grants. Contracts totaling £196,000 were signed with two companies as a result of a competition by the Technology Strategy Board called “How to promote Legitimate Online Intellectual Property Markets”. The simple business-oriented answers of “adapt to new technologies” and “give consumers what they want” clearly were not submitted.

£83,000 went to the University of Surrey for what the BIS calls “a novel scheme for protecting digital media content”, or as we generally call it, DRM. Few details are actually available at present, but the IPO describes it thusly:

Digital content which has been obtained illegally is automatically blocked by the system. A key feature of the proposed technology is not to inconvenience legitimate users like existing Digital Rights Management systems do: Users don’t need to worry about how to configure and use the system; they just use their devices as usual without even knowing about its existence. The technology is patent-pending and further details will be available once it is published.

And if this sounds like the claims made of every other DRM product, you’d be right. Once removed for one person, it’s removed for anyone else, making DRM’d goods MORE popular for piracy.

drm-noMeanwhile those using the DRM’d product are restricted to what the DRM allows, which does inconvenience others. Just ask Apple about Fairplay and why they removed it, or users who’ve fallen foul of CSS, AACS, or indeed any other DRM scheme. In reality, ditching DRM reduces piracy

The lion’s share of the money – £113,000 – went to a company called ‘WhiteBullet’. If you’ve not heard of them, you’re not alone. Started less than 3 months ago, its big idea is that websites really need a colour-coding system so people can tell how ‘legitimate’ it is. Called the “IP Infringement Index”, or IPI, it’s a red/amber/green rating for sites based on how ‘infringing’ they think a site is.

Of course, like all automated systems there are going to be significant errors. When Viacom can’t tell if it uploaded stuff to YouTube itself in court filings, or music blogs get seized because record labels forgot they told them to distribute songs, any automated system assessing 3rd party infringement will be next to useless.

Also missing is exactly how this IPI rating will be used. A consumer-based system would require either a browser plugin, or the likes of Google to integrate it. A private ‘look at our score for your site’ model, by contrast, will have all the wide-ranging appeal and accuracy of a Special 301 report. Also, its claim to be “developed in conjunction with industry and law enforcement” and “in accordance with legal best practices and have been openly reviewed with key Internet stakeholders” might be more believable if they had some actual specifics.

Of course, that’s not so surprising when you find out the two people behind White Bullet are Peter Szyszko and Jane Sunderland. Peter was Senior Legal Counsel at NBC Universal from January 2006, until he left to form White Bullet.

Sunderland is no slouch in the establishment anti-piracy world either. Between 1997 and 2011 she was Vice President of Content Protection at Fox, with another three years before that as VP Intellectual Property. Some of her most memorable actions there include the statement back in 2007 that episodes of 24 uploaded to YouTube before their airdate could cause irreparable harm to Fox (and yet they’re still here)

So never fear our British readers. Public funds are being spent wisely on yet another DRM scheme and a ‘scoring’ system that has no obvious method of use, all to protect massively profitable media companies. Isn’t austerity great?

And if we find out more about how these new white elephant bullets, or DRM-that-isn’t are supposed to work,  we’ll let you know.

Source: UK Government ‘Wastes’ £200k on New Anti-Piracy Tech

TorrentFreak: Megaupload Search Warrants Ruled Illegal by High Court

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

A case that seemed, just 5 months ago, to be a veritable David and Goliath fight is certainly living up to its billing.

The battle between Megaupload (David) and the US Government and the MPAA (Goliath) started out with a flurry of blows against the New Zealand based site staff, but in recent weeks the blows have all been falling stateside.

Today, the New Zealand High Court ruled that the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s mansion were illegal, casting uncertainty over the entire ‘Mega Conspiracy’ case.

An earlier ruling by High Court Justice Judith Potter concluded that a previous search and seizure order was invalid because of improper paperwork. The documents were later corrected.

In the ruling, Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann declared the warrants illegal, noting that they were not adequately descriptive of the offenses Dotcom was accused of.

“Indeed they fell well short of that. They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid,” she said.

In addition, the data removed from New Zealand by the FBI (which they claim was ‘not stolen’, since it was ‘only data’) was also ruled to be illegally obtained, and should not have been taken out the country.

“…the release of cloned hard drives to the FBI for shipping to the United States was contrary to the February 16 direction under section 49 (2) of the MACMA [Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act] that the items seized were to remain in custody and control of the Commissioner of Police. This dealing with the cloned hard drives was therefore in breach of s49(3) of the MACMA.”

Winkelmann also voiced concerns over police conduct, questioning if their actions in January amounted to unreasonable search and seizure, with a preliminary view that they did. Along with these concerns came a note that the raid could be considered trespass by the police, not something the elite anti-terrorist team used for the raid will want on their record.

Perhaps the biggest setback for any prosecution relates to what evidence was collected. An independent, and appropriately experienced High Court lawyer will now conduct a review of the evidence to determine what is and is not relevant to the charges Dotcom faces.

Anything deemed not relevant will be returned to Dotcom, and not provided to the US. Anything deemed relevant will be copied to both Dotcom and US authorities for use in court.

While the ruling does not amount to the unequivocal quashing of the search warrants and the invalidation of any evidence collected through them, it is a significant win for Dotcom. Meanwhile a request for the cloned hard drives to be returned (presumably without being copied) has been made to US authorities. The amount of respect for the New Zealand legal system held by US authorities may be inferred by the time it takes to comply with the request.

As for the extradition hearing? That’s still going ahead.

Source: Megaupload Search Warrants Ruled Illegal by High Court

TorrentFreak: RIAA Demands Unlimited DMCA Power From Google

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Poor Google can’t do anything right in the RIAA’s eyes.

The Mountain View search engine is being lambasted by the Washington DC lobby group for not being proactive enough with the tools they have provided to deal with the alleged copyright infringements of completely unconnected third parties.

Worse, it’s claimed that Google are actively hindering the RIAA, because they’re not allowing the industry group free reign to have each and every suspect link terminated perpetually.

When Google published their report on DMCA takedowns last week, the RIAA was unimpressed. In fact, they were so unimpressed by the average of ONLY 3,400+ links taken down each and every day, that they did what any well-connected lobby group would do – it took to its blog and wrote a top-5 list of facts on why it’s ALL GOOGLE’S FAULT!

Fact 1

Google places artificial limits on the number of queries that can be made by a copyright owner to identify infringements.

Because nothing says “problem sorted” like allowing someone else’s bots unrestrained access to your data. Of course, the RIAA should be free to run as many search bots as they want, potentially hindering the search engine’s core business as they hunt down potentially infringing links. The RIAA is after all a big fan of DDOS’s, having been been the target of a few themselves. And it is better to give, than to receive, which is why the RIAA would like the ability to share one with the Google links database.

Fact 2

Google also limits the number of links we can ask them to remove per day.

As we’ve seen before, nothing says “accuracy” like a stream of bot-generated links. It’s impossible to churn out an unlimited number of links with human oversight, and we’ve see how well that’s worked in practice, time and again. Since such takedowns are meant to be submitted under ‘penalty of perjury’, it’s clear that Google is just looking out for the RIAA, preventing them from committing so many perjurious acts that penalties would have to be enforced. Thanks to Google, the RIAA is being saved from itself.

Fact 3

The constraints Google has placed on the tools they promote to deter infringement are well below what is necessary to identify and notice infringements on the Billboard top 10, much less the entire catalog of the American creative community.

If the number of takedowns were so limited, and so inadequate, then surely better care would be taken to ensure accuracy. Earlier this year, in a submission to the New Zealand Government, Google noted that 37% of DMCA notices it received were not valid claims, and 57% targeted a competitor. Perhaps if these notices were better used, there would be enough to do what the RIAA wants. And yes, apparently the RIAA speaks for the entire ‘American creative community’ now.

Fact 4

Google claims that the DMCA notices it has received for a site represent less than 0.1% of the links it had indexed for the domains at the top of this list.  But this number is misleading given the constraints imposed by Google on a copyright owner’s ability to find infringements and send notices to Google.

Since Google indexes so many links using their own resources, it’s just not right that the RIAA can’t have unlimited use of those same resources, for free of course.

As already discussed, it’s clear that were the RIAA able to have a freer hand to determine what Google can and can’t index, there would be a lot more than 0.1%. Where there’s 0.1%, they’re sure that it could be 10%, and if there’s 10%, then there might well be 100%. However, those restrictions prevent the RIAA from filing those notices, or even finding out. And the 37% of claims that are false? They are just collateral damage, for the Greater Good, nothing to worry about, much less do anything about. Besides, the RIAA knows best, and is just looking out for artists, honest!

Fact 5

If “take down” does not mean “keep down,” then Google’s limitations merely perpetuate the fraud wrought on copyright owners by those who game the system under the DMCA.

Finally, how DARE content be re-indexed if a notice has been filed? The RIAA’s position is CLEAR on this – a DMCA notice is a permanent ban on that content ever being indexed by Google again. It doesn’t matter who uploaded it, if it was a fan with a bootleg before and now it’s an official release, or even if it’s just entered the public domain or someone else has taken over the rights, it simply cannot reappear.

No matter what the copyright status is, once someone has filed a notice against it, that content should be completely banned from the internet. Because otherwise it’s a fraud on copyright owners, and not the kind where RIAA members claim the copyright for stuff they don’t own the rights to, or prevent the rights holder from using their own work, or lie to law enforcement to get goods seized. That kind of ‘copyright fraud’ is clearly acceptable, unlike the former examples.

Sending almost 2-in-5 DMCA notices that are bogus, safe in the knowledge that false claims won’t be punished is another fine example of how to game the spirit of the DMCA in an acceptable manner.

If the tone here has verged into the absurd, there’s probably a good reason. The RIAA’s demands are sheer lunacy. If the RIAA wants its demands to be heard, then first it needs to get its own house in order, before their abuses of the law are noticed and wipe them out. To blame Google for their own shortcomings is more of the same myopia that has left them playing catchup for the last 13 years, but who is surprised by that any more?

Source: RIAA Demands Unlimited DMCA Power From Google

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TorrentFreak: .Pirate Domains Now Available Through OpenNic

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Despite the best efforts of Dutch lobby groups, and American entertainment cartels, the internet is a place where barriers don’t stay barriers for long.

Throw a roadblock out and a new route is recalculated. So it is with DNS. Add blocks in the ICANN systems, and people work their way around them.

The most common way until now has been a browser plugin, like MAFIAAFire, but alternate DNS systems are starting to become more popular. One of those, OpenNIC, is looking to capitalise on that with its new .pirate TLD (top level domain).

Registration takes just minutes, and then your new .pirate domain will be accessible by anyone using one of OpenNIC’s many DNS servers. That’s the big drawback at present.

However, the OpenNIC project is not just limited to .pirate (or dotPirate, as they’ve called it). They also have .geek, .oss (as in open source software) and .parody, among others.

The man behind the dotPirate project is Travis McCrea, Deputy Leader of the Canadian Pirate Party.

“While the world gets smaller and more connected through advancements of the Internet and web technology, every day our ability to have a free flow of information becomes more and more threatened by countries who wish to censor and control the communication platform which brings us all together,” McCrea told TorrentFreak.

“This is something that we cannot let happen, and why the dotPirate Foundation, … is proud to announce the launch of the new Top Level Domain (TLD) .pirate on the OpenNIC root system.”

To prevent abuse, some of the more popular domains have already been reserved (including torrentfreak.pirate and thepiratebay.pirate). As an extra bonus, people using blockaid.me for their DNS will already be able to access .pirate domains – they added support for OpenNIC over the weekend.

For those using OpenDNS, the provider announced a new service for Windows users last week. DNSCrypt, previously only available for Mac OSX and Linux, is a technology that encrypts all DNS traffic between an Internet user and the OpenDNS service. It can be downloaded here.

.Pirate domains can be registered for free at dotpirate.me.

Source: .Pirate Domains Now Available Through OpenNic

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TorrentFreak: Mass BitTorrent Lawsuits Return to the UK

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Ben DoverSpeculative invoicing – the practice of claiming people pirated files on BitTorrent, listing hundreds or thousands of people in one case to get details, then harassing them outside the courts for payment – was thought to be dead in the UK, after ACS:law collapsed last year.

The solicitor at the center of that lawfirm, Andrew Crossley, was both fined and suspended from practicing law, which seemed to put a hold on similar cases.

However, it didn’t dissuade everyone. Yesterday, the UK’s High Court approved a case involving UK pornographer Ben Dover (real name Lyndsay Honey) and his company Golden Eye International. Now, ISP O2 will have to release the details of up to 9000+ subscribers listed in the document for Dover and Golden Eye. The precise number is unclear, as other companies that attempted to send letters through Golden Eye were denied the opportunity.

It’s success at last for the pornographer, as he’s had several similar cases thrown out in the past including a partnership with 170-year-old law firm Tilly Baily Irvine which ended in sanctions last year.

This claim process started 6 months ago, and with O2 stating they would not contest the case. Chief Master Weingarten, in response,  suggested that Consumer Focus (a government funded body looking after consumer rights) represent the IP addresses – the intended defendants – in court instead, a role Consumer Focus accepted.

Despite a strong defense, including pointing out all the issues with these kinds of actions, Weingarten approved the order, but with conditions. In perhaps a first for this sort of litigation, the court will be supervising the content of letters sent out to the alleged infringers, partly because of the ACS:law debacle.

In particular, the one-sided nature of the letters – only indicating the consequences should the alleged infringer lose – was not deemed appropriate, being indicative of bullying. Instead consequences should they successfully defend themselves should also be included.

Yet the most important part of the ruling is near the end, and might stop this practice once and for all; blanket fees to “make it all go away” are not acceptable.

137.   Fifthly, I think that Mr Becker’s response in his second witness statement to the point made by counsel for Consumer Focus referred to in sub-paragraph 60(v) above is telling:

“… it assumes that £700 will be successfully obtained from each of the 9000, when that is plainly wrong. In fact, it is likely that only a small proportion will result in a successfully obtained payment of any sum.”

This comes quite close to an admission that the figure of £700 has been selected so as to maximise the revenue obtained from the letters of claim, rather than as a realistic estimate of the damages recoverable by the relevant Claimant from each Intended Defendant. In any event, that is the inference I draw in the light of the matters discussed above and in the absence of any disclosure of the information referred to in paragraph 88 above.

138.   Accordingly, I do not consider that the Claimants are justified in sending letters of claim to every Intended Defendant demanding the payment of £700. What the Claimants ought to do is to proceed in the conventional manner, that is to say, to require the Intended Defendants who do not dispute liability to disclose such information as they are able to provide as to the extent to which they have engaged in P2P filesharing of the relevant Claimants’ copyright works. In my view it would be acceptable for the Claimants to indicate that they are prepared to accept a lump sum in settlement of their claims, including the request for disclosure, but not to specify a figure in the initial letter. The settlement sum should be individually negotiated with each Intended Defendant.

No more fee demands. Instead they can only state that they will accept a lump sum payment as settlement, to be negotiated if the accused accept liability. Otherwise, it will be down to the courts. It also seems that after many cases, Chief Master Weingarten has understood that these cases are about profits, not protecting rights. Very little money and a lot of grief was the prediction we highlighted earlier this month, and that seems to be the case.

Meanwhile, up to 9124 households are going to get a letter through their door talking about the porn they’ve allegedly downloaded. Let’s just hope that the tracking software, claimed to be ‘forensically accurate’ (huh?) does better than in times past, or there’s going to be a lot of needlessly embarrassed families, and unnecessary family strife when the postman calls.

Source: Mass BitTorrent Lawsuits Return to the UK

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TorrentFreak: Is Copyright Only For the Big Guys?

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

When it comes to copyright, we’re constantly hearing how the big companies are spending untold amounts of money to ‘create’ content, only for it to be ‘stolen’ by people downloading it. Less often we hear of the reverse; big companies infringing the copyright of regular people. But it’s more common than you might think.

Let’s take a look at two of these stories that surfaced recently, starting with the BBC.

When the BBC reported on the riots in London, it frequently used pictures that were shared by Twitter users witnessing the events. This wouldn’t be that bad as the BBC would at least credit the people who took the pictures. Yet, in its reporting, the BBC completely failed to attribute any of the images it used, instead attributing them to Twitter.

When a complaint was made, the first response back included the following outrageous statement:

I understand you were unhappy that pictures from Twitter are used on BBC programmes as you feel it may be a breach of copyright. Twitter is a social network platform which is available to most people who have a computer and therefore any content on it is not subject to the same copyright laws as it is already in the public domain.  The BBC is aware of copyright issues and is careful to abide by these laws. (emphasis added)

Everyone reading this knows that to be untrue and the BBC did too, as Chris Hamilton (BBC News Social Media Editor) later admitted.

It’s not the position of BBC News, he said, adding that that the BBC tries to clear photos before using them but if there are time constraints that may not be possible. Unfortunately, UK law doesn’t allow fair dealing exceptions for this at present. So time constraints or not, it’s still a copyright violation.

And the BBC is not the only major news outfit to bend the copyright rules this month, the Daily Mail has been at it as well. This time, though, they probably picked the worst target possible, the wife of OpenRightsGroup founder and noted blogger Cory Doctorow.

In reporting on a story about Gap and their anorexic lines of jeans, the Daily Mail contacted Doctorow’s wife, Alice Taylor, asking for permission to use her work. She then offered the photos in exchange for £250 to a charity of her choice but the Mail declined this offer as ‘too expensive’.

Instead of buying it The Mail simply lifted the picture from the Washington Post, to whom Taylor had licensed it for use on their own site.

Only after numerous emails and an outraged crowd of commenters the newspaper promised to send a £1000 donation to the OpenRightsGroup and another £1000 to a charity dealing with eating disorders. We’ll wait to see if that happens.

This isn’t an isolated incident though. The net is awash with cases of the Daily Mail infringing copyright, and one photo agency is even suing them for more than £1M in damages.

The Digital Economy Act could have made a big difference here. Under the Act, after a certain number of accusations a website could have been taken offline. Thankfully, that’s now been taken out of consideration, but how much of that was down to judicial proportionality and feasibility, and how much was down to pressure from groups like the BBC and the Daily Mail (who belatedly realised that a major aspect of their business could be quite easily curtailed by the legislation) remains unclear.

The BBC is certainly no innocent in this, as it repeatedly pushed for strong punishments for copyright violators, even noting in some consultations that even more needs to be done than is being proposed. And who can forget the piece on a prime time BBC show, where they ‘reported‘ on a study, that we had poked major holes in weeks earlier, and yet had only ‘Industry’ participants. A complaint to the BBC had the response that it was “balanced”.

The issue is that few individuals can afford to pay for lawyers to file a copyright lawsuit, especially against large media companies such as the BBC. In effect, current copyright law is a tool for the rich allowing major companies to infringe frequently for commercial gain, yet face little sanction.

It would seem that in the end, we’re left with one question. Is copyright just for the Big Guys?

Source: Is Copyright Only For the Big Guys?

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TorrentFreak: Copyright Infringement and Theft – The Difference

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

We get a lot of comments on articles from people saying things like “Yeah, it’s stealing. Just embrace it already” or “Good excuse to steal right?.”

There are editorials in mainstream newspapers that say “Such theft costs the copyright- or trademark-holders billions of dollars each year.

Even Vice President Biden said last year that “Piracy is theft, clean and simple, it’s smash and grab.” But you’d think a long-time lawyer and member of the Senate Judiciary would know to read the law.

The fact is that if copyright infringement was theft, then it would be treated as theft, dealt with as theft, and ‘copyright infringement’ wouldn’t exist at all. Nevertheless, the claims are often made. We’ve dealt with this topic before three years ago, focusing on UK law. So let’s take an example of a US case and see what would happen if it were tried as theft, instead of copyright infringement. The most obvious case is that of the RIAA against Jammie Thomas.

Civil trial

We all know the process. A John Doe suit is filed (over 200,000 of them in the US so far), usually amalgamated into a group for easy processing (although it is legality questionable). This then goes to discovery, where the identity is uncovered. At this point the suit is dropped and a direct appeal for ‘settlement‘ is made. If no settlement is reached then the civil lawsuit process can be started.

In the Thomas case the civil lawsuit was filed April 2006, and has now gone on for several years; the latest activity just this last week. Civil law (17 U.S.C. § 504) provides for both actual damages AND statutory damages from $200 to $30,000 for non-willful infringement and $750-$150,000 for wilful infringement – per infringement. In three trials, juries have set the per-track damages figure for Thomas-Rasset at $9,250, $80,000 and $62,500 while the courts have twice reduced it to $2,250 per track, which the RIAA is appealing, AGAIN.

The case has now been ongoing for over 5 years, not counting the original John Doe complaint, and it has occupied hundreds if not thousands of man-hours defending it. These hours cost money, and in a civil case that means finding a lawyer willing to take it on pro bono.

At first, Thomas-Rasset retained Brian Toder as her attorney, and later switched to Kiwi Camara. The much shorter Capitol v Foster case had attorney costs of over $68,000 awarded after the RIAA dropped the case, while Atlantic v Anderson (dropped by the RIAA after 3 years) ended up with over $100,000 in costs awarded by the court.

As with all such cases the verdict is based on ‘balance of the probabilities’ or ‘preponderance of the evidence’. Quite a contrast to a criminal case.

Criminal Trial

Were copyright infringement is ‘stealing’, this would be the process Thomas-Rasset would undergo.

An investigation would be made by the police (rather than a private company, hired by the complainant). As infringement is ‘theft’ she would be dealt with under Minnesota state law, specifically Minnesota Statute §609.52. She would be arrested, charged, and taken to court. If she could not afford a lawyer, one would be provided for her. Odds are, she would be dealt with in a matter of weeks, if not days.

The theft statute values goods at the cost to buy, so the 24 tracks would each be valued at $0.99 – the cost on iTunes – for a total of $23.76. If we take the worst case scenario though, and assume a whole CD per track at $20 per CD, that still brings the total value of the theft to $480. As the value is below $500, the maximum penalty available is stipulated as follows:

In all other cases where the value of the property or services stolen is $500 or less, to imprisonment for not more than 90 days or to payment of a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

The trial would be judged, not on ‘balance of the probabilities’ as with a civil trial, but ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Based on the evidence submitted in the trials so far, such a case would fail, as Ms Thomas-Rassett has never been proved to be personally responsible, only her connection and computer.

That means?

Of course, if it were just a choice of a civil suit or a criminal theft trial, then it’s clear why a civil trial is prefered, even if it is a money sink. Yet, there’s one last obstacle: The Supreme Court of the US.

In 1985, the Court ruled in Dowling v United States that copyright infringement is not theft, even when dealing with physical objects, such as vinyl records.

While industry bodies might still want to claim it’s still theft there is one simple fact that’s clear. In treating it as theft the benefit would be to the alleged infringer. A higher evidence standard, an independent investigation, legal counsel provided free for the alleged infringer, and vastly smaller penalties.

The infringement=theft argument has only one thing going for it, and that’s its emotional impact. In reality, it’s the very LAST thing they want, which is why new laws, like Protect IP and others have been pushed for many years. And again, we reiterate that we’ve dealt with the US here, laws for other countries are different, as we’ve seen twice in the past week  in Sweden, yet it’s still copyright infringement there, not theft.

If you’re confused about it still, maybe this song will help you tell the difference.

Source: Copyright Infringement and Theft – The Difference

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TorrentFreak: Digital Economy Act: A Foregone Conclusion?

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The UK Digital Economy Act, like it or loathe it, has been surrounded by an odour from the beginning, and the stench is getting ever more vile.

The Act was pushed through by Lord Mandelson, then Secretary of State (SoS) for Business, reportedly after visiting Dreamworks founder David Geffen at a villa in Corfu on 7 August 2009.

It turns out that Lord Mandelson’s protestations, that the meeting had nothing to do with his support for the initial Bill, were true.

Just released documents show that Mandelson had made his mind up before that, following meetings several weeks earlier with head of Universal Music, Lucian Grainge.

If that doesn’t sound so bad, keep in mind that at this point Mandelson’s department was conducting a public consultation on this very topic, with 2 months still to go.

Documents released from Lord Mandelson’s office this week under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that this was a waste of time, and that almost nothing any participant could have said would have made a difference.

Notes from the July 2nd 2009 meeting show Grainge stating that notices will not work, which users have been happy to verify, and that “industries are being decimated by illegal file sharing”, an odd position to take since the British Phonographic industry has noted singles sales growing by at least 30% annually for the 4 years prior to this, and album sales only slightly down on their pre-Napster figures.

They might be forgiven for this mistake, unless someone had actually pointed out the sales figures in a consultation response, which someone did, although not until the end of the consultation period, in late September, two months after the decisions had been made.

In fact, the timetable released shows that the day after meeting with Grainge, Mandelson looked to force regulator OFCOM to go straight to ‘technical measures’ (slowdowns and disconnections), followed a week later by advice that judging the effectiveness of notices wasn’t needed, based purely on the (false) claims of a music industry CEO.

16 June 2009
Final Digital Britain Report produced
02 July 2009
SoS meeting with Lucian Grainge of Universal. SoS asked for advice on options exploring whether Digital Britain proposals on peer to peer file sharing will go quickly enough and far enough.
03 July 2009
Advice to Lord Carter (copied to SoS and DCMS) on possibility of SoS having a power to direct Ofcom to go directly to introduction of technical measures.
07 July 2009
Advice (through Lord Carter) recommending that the “power to direct” process should be adopted as preferred route (rather than Ofcom decision)
09 July 2009
Letter received from Universal stating :
* Digital Britain’s two proposals: Ofcom’s letters to file-sharers and the ability for music companies to prosecute persistent offenders are not enough on their own.
* Government must start planning for step 3 now – a statutory obligation on ISPs to crack down on persistent file-sharers by cutting bandwidth and suspending and blacklisting their accounts. This is outlined in Digital Britain but not due to be implemented for years. It is essential that this power is included in the Digital Economy Bill”
10 July 2009
Advice (through Lord Carter) on removing reliance on “trigger” mechanism to judge the efficacy of initial obligations.
13 July 2009
E-mail sent to officials stating: The Secretary of State has seen the letter from Lucian Grainge and commented: “I think we should examine, including step 3 power in Bill. What is Stephen Carter’s view? Officials need to meet and discuss asap as Lucian suggests”.

Geoffrey Norris begins series of meetings with key stakeholders to canvass views.

Such flagrant disregard for public opinion is not all that uncommon, but to do so in the middle of a public consultation is a very questionable practice

One consultation respondent told TorrentFreak: “As someone who went to considerable effort to submit a rational and evidence-based response to the consultation on these issues, I am disappointed, although not surprised, to see that the outcome was predetermined.” The UK Pirate Party is a little more scathing.

“These documents show how outrageously complicit everyone from the entertainment industry, politicians and unions were in framing the Digital Economy Act,” PPUK Chair Loz Kaye told TorrentFreak.

“Its most controversial aspect – suspending people from the Internet – was already sorted out in July 2009. It appears that the consultation was just for show, and the lobbyists got all they asked for. There are now serious questions to be asked of successive governments’ relations to groups like Universal Music and the BPI.”

As for the Geffen issue, while it is unlikely that claims that the topic never came up are true, there can be no doubt that Mandelson was not ‘recruited’ then, but a month earlier. A fact he teased with in his denial, which emphasised that “… work on this was already well in hand before the SoS’s [Mandelson's] holiday.

Many thanks to Philippe Bradley and the Open Rights Group for persevering and getting these documents made public.

Source: Digital Economy Act: A Foregone Conclusion?

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TorrentFreak: Could Quantum Computing Kill Copyright?

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The relationship between technology and law is a difficult one. Law attempts to put rigid walls around society, to define can and cannot. Technology, on the other hand, attempts to turn cannot into can.

Making it even harder is the reality that laws tend to lag about a decade behind technology. It took 10 years for the legality of the video cassette to be decided, and even now new laws are being written to deal with P2P, a decade after BitTorrent was first debuted.

While these two technologies have caused problems for copyright owners, by disrupting the status-quo around distribution, the incredibly fast growth in both computing power and storage could soon lead to a fundamental shake-up in copyright.

As it stands in US law (and remember, US law rules throughout the world,  even if it’s legal, or you’ve not been there in decades) the creator of a picture is the copyright holder. Even if you drop the resolution, or reduce the number of colours to simpler shades, it is still considered by many to be under the original copyright.

So, what if you could create every possible picture? What if you took a fairly low resolution (say 500×500) and a reasonably low colour mix (say 256 colours) and tried to create every single image? What then would be the state of copyright? It’s the visual equivalent of the infinite monkey theorem.

If you could do it, then the project would own all the copyrights, to every image not already copyrighted. Furthermore, since it’s an independent creation with no outside reference to draw upon, works and images similar to those already copyrighted are not infringing.

There is that word though – ‘if‘. 500×500 with 256 colours might seem like a small, grainy picture now, but it’s a massive field of data. 250,000 pixels, each with 256 possible shades comes to 9.802 *10602059 and that’s a large number; 9 with six hundred thousand zeros after it!

“You would pretty much need a quantum computer and massive storage space for this to become even slightly feasible,” says Stephen Brooks, head of the Muon1 DPAD project based at the RAL near Oxford.

The problem is clear. At present the distributed.net RC5-72 brute force effort has been going on for 8½ years, and is only 1.7% done.

“Creating an image is faster than cracking an RC5 key but not that much, and there’s still space issues,” says Brooks. “You could easily fill 1Gb per hour, per user.”

However, while it’s not feasible now, 20 years down the line it may well be possible. Already some strong progress has been made towards quantum computing and with technological progress as rapid as ever in this field, it’s a question of sooner, rather than later.

In a very real sense, technology might kill copyright in our lifetime.

Source: Could Quantum Computing Kill Copyright?

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TorrentFreak: Judge: Pirate Party Name-Ban Decision Stands

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

That “Pirate Party” is not allowed as a political party name in Russia might seem odd at first.

The obvious intent was clear – to prevent groups which have the promotion of criminal acts at their core, such as the Pedophile Party, the Kill-all-Jews Collective, or Kidnappers Anonymous – but these are unambiguous terms.

When it comes to the term “Pirate” then there are increasingly two meanings. The first is that of the ‘classic buccaneer’ as famously portrayed by Johnny Depp, and often found acting off the east coast of Africa.

The second is a label more often thrown at someone accused (often wrongly) of sharing a data file.

However, the Russian Government clearly hasn’t heard of the second definition, which is odd when you consider that events surrounding sites like Allofmp3.com became an international issue for them a few years back.

As a result of this name misconception, the name Pirate Party was rejected. Furthermore, the party didn’t get all the formal notices from the Justice Ministry which would enable them to deal with the rest of the paperwork. So, in an attempt to move things on, they sued, and earlier this month, according to the Russian Pirate Party, the Judge ruled that the March rejection counts as the missing paperwork, and they should find another name.

The current frontrunner is Bez nazvaniya (“unnamed”) but other options include “Pirrate Party of Russia” and “Pira7e Party of Russia” according to a blog post by chairman Pavel Rassudov, which ends with the following plea:

I would like to conclude with stating that our principles, ideas and our website remain unchanged. I ask the public, journalists and all reasonable people to continue calling us “Pirate Party of Russia”

Fine by us, Pavel….

Source: Judge: Pirate Party Name-Ban Decision Stands

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TorrentFreak: Russia Refuses to Recognize Pirate Party, Because of Its Name

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The Pirate Party, an international group of political parties looking at copyright, patent and trademark reform among other things, is well known to TorrentFreak readers. The name comes from the label given to them by the content industry, of which they seek to reform the meaning. There is also an older use though, which deals with crimes at sea. Confusing the two isn’t easy, or so you’d think.

The Russian Justice Ministry has turned down the Russian Pirate Party for registration because it says “piracy is an attack on sea of river craft, which is a criminal offense,” according to the Moscow Times. The Ministry also says that the name implies that members are all criminals serving prison sentences thus violating Federal law

While that accusation has been leveled before (by a UK member of the Commons, during the Digital Economy Bill debate), then it was only at Rick Falkvinge, then party chairman and now occasional TorrentFreak columnist, also the founder of the Pirate Party movement back in 2006.

Understandably, the Pirate Party is upset, and has filed a protest at Zamoskvoretsky court in Moscow. ”Refusal to register a ‘Pirate Party of Russia’ offends 15,000 of the party members whom the Russian Ministry of Justice has called criminals. We are going to appeal the Justice Ministry’s decision in court,” says party chairman Paul Rassudov.

Lola Voronina, the Chief Administrative officer of PPI, and also a PP-Ru member told TorrentFreak: “The government doesn’t want any new parties to be registered – there isn’t much time left until the elections. So they are trying to find some reasons like this to decline registration.” When asked about the prospects of the challenge, Voronina told us: “We don’t know. But we definitely need to try!”

“The Russian Ministry of Justice made a curious mistake,” she continues. “The name, ‘Pirate Party of Russia’ reflects an ideology accepted worldwide. We are not a party of pirates attacking sea or river vessels for the appropriation of other people’s property. Could they regard two European deputies from Sweden’s Pirate Party and many other pirate parties across the globe as criminals?”

Of course, democracy in Russia is contentious. Back in October, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev warned of problems in Russia’s democracy, accusing Prime Minister Putin of attempts to stay in power. Meanwhile the Democracy Index has them at 107, almost in the “Authoritarian regime” grouping.

TorrentFreak

TorrentFreak: MegaUpload Accuses ISP of Restricting Access To Its Services

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Check out TorrentFreak’s new News Bits feed! .

Cyberlockers are becoming increasingly popular and may have overtaken torrents as the file-share medium of choice. Of course, this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the entertainment industry who have labeled such sites as rogue piracy havens.

While RapidShare has gone on the offensive, describing claims in anti-piracy-funded studies as ‘defamation’, MegaUpload has been more direct. A few days ago the company responded to accusations the RIAA and MPAA made about the facilitation of copyright infringement, calling them “grotesquely overblown allegations.”

While all of this was going on a separate conflict was brewing in France, between MegaUpload and France Telecom, specifically the Orange subsidiary.

MegaUpload has claimed that Orange has been substantially slowing down, or blocking access to its servers. Presumably these actions were taken in an attempt to discourage people from using the service, a claim Orange denies.

Accusations and claims have been flying back and forth for the past few days, including a banner run by Megaupload this week which suggested that Orange subscribers call up and cancel their subscriptions, in favour of ISPs with better peering.

The full text is (translated from French)

Slow Downloads? Video playback is hesitant?
It is likely that your Internet provider is intentionally restricting your access to significant portions of the Internet! Our claims statistics show that most users who have this problem are accessing the Internet via France Telecom, often under the Orange brand (also “Ya” in Spain).

If you are concerned, please call Orange customer service on 3900 and tell them that you can not connect to sites hosted on Cogent and TATA. Also tell them that you are considering moving to an Internet provider with an excellent global connectivity, such as Iliad or SFR (free.fr, Alice). If you’re impatient and you need a good service immediately, consider changing your supplier for one of them, and be sure to tell Orange the reason for your decision to terminate your line!

In a telephone press conference last Thursday, Orange hit back at MegaUpload. The ISP stated that it follows the Net Neutrality rules as laid down by the communications regulation body ARCEP. Instead, the ISP argued that MegaUpload’s users are the victims of ‘a low-cost business model,’ where the cyberlocker signs cheap peering contracts that lead to the slow downloads.

Orange further noted that it takes no responsibility for the situation, and that MegaUpload should improve their infrastructure as other French ISP’s have had the same kinds of problems with MegaVideo/MegaUpload at times. They also added that although difficult, MegaUpload needs to find a balance between quality and economic performance.

While some might suggest it’s a battle between peering companies, there may well be more to it, which will bring the focus on ARCEP’s 4 month old net neutrality guidelines for France. It’s clear however, that this battle of wills is just heating up. Especially when (or if) the likes of HADOPI get involved, the new anti-piracy law which ironically doesn’t affect users of cyberlockers.

TorrentFreak: Wikipedia Adds BitTorrent Powered Video Streaming

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Streaming capabilities have been added to BitTorrent via the Tribler client, and more recently uTorrent. Thus far the implementation of these technologies into major websites has been lacking. That position changed this week as the Wikimedia Foundation partnered with P2P Next to use BitTorrent-powered streaming for their video content.

At TorrentFreak we like to share the many ways the BitTorrent protocol can be used to distribute data, and that it is more than a way to infringe copyright. Universities and major websites/companies like Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent to share data between servers, and now a new big Internet player has adopted BitTorrent technology.

Wikipedia (and indeed the whole Wikimedia Foundation) just announced that it has started to use BitTorrent to stream its videos. The foundation is using Swarmplayer from P2P-Next to try and cut down on bandwidth costs.

The Wikimedia Foundation is concerned about bandwidth costs, as video becomes more prevalent on their various project sites (like News, and Quotes and the more famous Wikipedia project). In an announcement this week the foundation stated: “Eventually bandwidth costs could saturate the foundation budget or leave less resources for other projects and programs. For this reason it is important to start exploring and experimenting with future content distribution platforms and partnerships.”

The system set up by Wikipedia uses a combination of webseeds and BitTorrent peers to spread the load. High priority pieces (like the start of the video) are pulled via more traditional HTTP sources, while later in the video where the data is of a lower priority it comes via the BitTorrent protocol. The process is described by P2Pnext in the following diagram;

Source – P2P Next

“I think it’s important as a technology and something that needs exploring,” Michael Dale, Kaltura Open Media Developer and Wikimedia admin told TorrentFreak. The 6000-or-so videos on the Wikimedia servers are all set to use the technology, as will any new ones that are added.

Currently, Swarmplayer is only available as a plugin for Firefox (3.x, it doesn’t work well with the version 4 betas). An Internet Explorer plug-in will be available within the next day or two and a Chrome plugin is planned as well, we are assured. Not so good news for the Opera and Safari users though, as there is no plugin currently planned for them. However, people are free to create their own as the code is open source. “We’re just counting on one hardcore Opera user to port it to Opera,” Dr Pouwelse of P2P-Next told TorrentFreak.

“This is another step in strengthening Web TV,” Pouwelse continued. “The long-term goal is to offer more choice, provide higher quality and increased reliability compared to traditional TV technology.”

Article from: TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak: Copyright Trolls, Not Just for Patents Anymore

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

Patent trolls sit on patents and do little with them. These trolls only come out of their caves to enter a court room with the aim of cashing in when they consider someone has infringed on their ‘property’. This attitude has now spread to copyright, with artists being sued for infringements on songs that are 20, even 30 years old.

Copyright is often seen as protection for artists and other creative individuals, but more realistically it tends to protect those with the deepest pockets. Even big name artists are now getting hit with copyright violations, and the oft-quoted “what about the artist” mantra is becoming less relevant through the prism of modern day music copyrights. Artists are being sued for using small audio samples in popular works, sometimes even decades after the infringing work was published.

Earlier this year, the Australian rock band Men at Work were ordered to hand over 5% of royalties for their most famous song ‘Down Under’ after a judge ruled that the flute riff in the song was based on 1934 composition ‘Kookaburra’.

Of course, the infringement was so great that no-one noticed until a TV music quiz show brought the idea into peoples heads – 28 years after the song was published. If it really was a large infringement, then it should really have been noticed 28 years and hundreds of thousands of copies earlier – or at the very least when it was performed at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. But all that time, nobody noticed.

These belated lawsuits are happening more often nowadays, and not just down under. In the US, a company called ‘Drive in Music Company’ (DIM) has been adopting the same sorts of tactics over the last few months. The company sued a slew of people over a Super Bowl advert for Kia, with The Hollywood Reporter listing targets for that one advert alone as “Kia, CBS, the NFL, ad agency David & Goliath, Ninja Tune Records and various other parties”.

While that particular suit was filed in a timely fashion, the same outfit has now started on a case that has a strong resemblance to that built against Men at Work. DIM is now claiming infringement on a song that’s old enough to vote.

Cyprus Hill’s ‘How I Could Just Kill a Man’ was released in 1991 as part of a double single as well as their debut album. As with most of their albums, the band uses samples from a number of songs in their own tracks. One of these samples comes from the song ‘Come on In’ by Music Machine that was released in 1966, and that’s the subject of the lawsuit brought on by Drive in Music Company.

The Alleged Infringers

cypress

All existing copies of Cyprus Hill’s self-titled (double platinum) album will be impounded and sales halted if DIM gets its way, and in addition the company wants damages for the losses they suffered.

The reason for the complaint? According to ContactMusic, DIM bosses were alerted to the alleged sampling after seeing copies of the song for sale on Apple’s iTunes. The case against Cypress Hill is not the only suit they’ve filed; a week earlier they filed against Leaders of the New School and Busta Rhymes over samples on another 1991 album, Future Without a Past.

After almost 20 years the only reason for DIM to want to sue now is because it’s potentially profitable. The longer they waited, the better. The Kookaburra precedent (albeit in Australia) helps make their case.

However, leaving the infringement for so long without action may constitute de-facto acceptance and licensing. Especially as, unlike Kookaburra, Cyprus’ use was obvious (so obvious, it’s been referenced on the album’s wiki page for at least 4 years). That said, it is doubtful that this will matter much in a US court where copyrights are treated with a near holy reverence, and infringement of such is treated as a cardinal sin, racking up penalties equivalent to major crimes.

Unless Cyprus can provide a licensing agreement, DIM may get what they want. When the writers of the US Constitution see how the progress clause has been abused, the least they’re likely to say, is “D’oh!”

“Come on In” by Music Machine (1966)

Article from: TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak: How Any BitTorrent User Can Collect Lawsuit Evidence

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The RIAA may have given up on lawsuits targeting P2P users, but other companies have stepped into their shoes. There are many ways to detect P2P users and collect evidence of their behaviors for use in lawsuits. The simplest way needs nothing more than a BitTorrent client.

We’ve covered some of the more exotic ways people can be tracked or monitored in the past (including some that don’t work) but the lawsuits, abandoned by the record industry as bad for business, have been adopted by a group of lawyers who don’t let a little hypocrisy stand in their way.

There’s a lot of misinformation about which companies and agencies can do what, and how they do it. People claim industry groups or random companies can search and send out letters at random, whereas the reality is the investigator must be authorized or they could be deemed guilty of copyright infringement themselves.

There’s also a lot of confusion about exactly how evidence is collected, with people sometimes believing that it can only be collected from corporate networks, or that private trackers are safe because investigators can’t share and so would be banned for their ratio. Much of this is untrue and these beliefs can make it easier to collect evidence.

The easiest way of all is to simply collect information from trackers. It’s an easy and quick way to do it, although as was revealed 2 years ago, it’s often quite inaccurate.

The next simplest way, which provides lots of data, is just to join a swarm and monitor. Some people believe that clients doing this will stand out, as modified clients will behave differently. The reality is that clients don’t have to be monitored at all.

Researcher Andrew Norton produced this video explaining how a vanilla µTorrent client can be used to identify and log peers without any modification or abnormal behavior.

The raw data shown in the video – all that’s needed for a lawsuit or allegation under most 3-strikes laws – is nothing more than basic communication data. However, it’s critical to note that this data, while it is evidence of activity, is NOT evidence of infringement in many cases.

We can’t testify that this is the method used by any company – they’re notoriously tight-lipped about their methods – but it’s quite possible that it’s being used and sold on as a very high priced service to customers. Selling simple and not always accurate or effective methods for thousands of dollars a week was revealed to be a key method of MediaDefender. Anyone reading this and intending to hire such companies would be advised to ask for a demonstration of their detection system first-hand.

It should, however, come as yet another wakeup call to those using blocklist-based software. Without any way to identify a client using this method, there’s no way to add its IP to the list. In fact, the public availability of block-list contents means it’s extremely easy to avoid being on them.

On the other hand VPNs, proxies and seedboxes will provide some protection, but the only real solution is to press for the peer-review of anti-P2P companies and their methods, but that doesn’t look like it will come any time soon.

Article from: TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak: UK Pirate Party’s Guide to the Digital Economy Act

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

A lot has been written about the UK’s controversial Digital Economy Act, which passed in April in the last days of Gordon Brown’s government. What there has been a lack of, however, is facts and guides about the Act, an omission which the UK Pirate Party has attempted to solve.

    PPUK LogoWhen the Digital Economy Bill was going through stages, it was rushed through the House of Commons – the elected half of the UK’s Parliament – in a period known as washup, with the only debate session being poorly attended and full of completely inaccurate pro-Bill statements.

    It eventually passed with most MP’s not voting, despite a 3-line whip on the topic for the then-ruling Labour Party MPs.

    The Bill passed to become the Digital Economy Act with a narrower margin than many expected given the voting instructions from the party – some had stood up for their conscience and for the facts, risking sanctions from their party.

    The Act has been broken down by the Pirate Party into five sections:

    1. Introduction and the Initial Obligations Code
    2. Technical measures to limit Internet access
    3. Subscriber appeals
    4. Web-blocking
    5. Other Provisions and Summary

    This sort of technical guide would have been even better if made available before the vote. Passed around the Commons bar, it could have helped people who were clearly uncertain of technology or the Bill’s actual contents to make better sense of it.

    For the regular everyday citizens who are now subject to this law, it’s also beneficial. A major problem with recent legislation worldwide is that it’s often impenetrable to anyone without legal training. The ability to access laws and understand them is key to those working with, and striving to improve them.

    Meanwhile the Act is still not completed and final. Several UK Government departments, including OFCOM, have been delegated powers and abilities under the Act. There have been consultations (and there may be more) to address parts, and the outcomes of those will make a difference. Many people though, are probably expecting the worst.

    On this topic, governments around the world have been increasingly disinterested in listening to the concerns of the citizens affected by the Act, while making policy based on the wishes of a few dozen large companies, and their anecdotal ‘evidence‘.

    Of course, those that the Act was created to target will probably be the only ones not troubled by it, and that also says volumes about the quality of the law, and the futility of such laws worldwide. Not that such facts will stop things.

    Article from: TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak: Sweden to Finally Get a Second Pirate MEP?

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The EU election last June was a surprise for many, as the Piratpartiet got a seat with over 7% of the votes. Then when the Lisbon Treaty passed and they were awarded a second seat in the European Parliament. However, it wasn’t without drawbacks as the second seat has yet to be filled. That may happen soon.

ameliaThe rise of the Piratpartiet (Swedish Pirate Party) over recent years has been fairly meteoric. From zero January 1st 2006, to the third largest party by membership in mid 2009, it has seemingly tapped the political imagination of the youth in Sweden in recent years.

Nowhere else was that more apparent than in the June 2009 EU elections, when they carried a surprise 7.3% of the vote. This election result gave them one seat in the European Parliament.

The seat was taken by Christian Engstrom, (who also happens to have been the most popular MEP) with the potential for an additional seat if the Lisbon Treaty went through. The treaty passed in November 2009 and came into force as of December 1st 2009. The Piratpartiet were confirmed to have gained a second seat, which went to 22 year old Amelia Andersdotter, but several months later she still had not been able to take her seat.

Fast forward to August 2010 – almost 15 months after the election and 9 months after the ratification of the treaty – the EU is finally realizing that there are a number of Parliament Members that were elected, but never seated (Ghost MEPs). That may be about to change.

Ms. Andersdotter notes on her blog that she may soon be able to start representing her country, as she was elected to do. She just needs an ‘aye’ from the Council of Presidents (funnily enough, headed by the EU President, a position created by the same Treaty as Ms Andersdotter’s seat, but filled without either election or delay) to gain observer status, meaning they can do everything but vote. They get that ability when all nations approve the ‘transition protocols’. While the first vote could take place within 2 weeks time, the latter will probably take longer, especially as some countries (France) still haven’t assigned their extra MEPs.

A report in yesterday’s Times of Malta has put some doubt on the process though, as the EU is apparently strapped for cash and unable to afford the extra MEPs.

An EU parliamentary official told the Times, “Unfortunately, it seems the new MEPs, including the one from Malta, will not be able to join as observers this year because the EP has not allocated funds for this purpose in this year’s budget,” adding there may be some money to pay for the Ghost MEPs in the 2011 budget, but that it’s not been decided to invite them even then, so it’s not been allocated yet.

Then again, this is a body that was unable to pass a law banning 3-strikes laws, despite 88% support, so anything is possible.

Article from: TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak: E-books, Piracy Peril or Promotional Possibilities?

This post was syndicated from: TorrentFreak and was written by: Ben Jones. Original post: at TorrentFreak

The booming popularity of e-book readers has added a new focus to the piracy debate. As with MP3s in the late 90s, and video and movie files during the last decade, the technology to read digital books has become mainstream. What does this mean for the print industry and book publishers?

When MP3-players became popular in the late 90s the music industry started to panic about a supposed drop in revenues. Likewise, the film industry panicked when computers and dedicated equipment were able to play video files easily on computer screens and television sets.

Both claimed that such technologies, and the file-sharing networks that sprung up to support them, have decimated their industries. And yet both groups have never been healthier financially.

With the increasing popularity of e-book readers such as Apple’s iPad, the Barnes & Noble Nook and Amazon’s Kindle, many in the publishing industry are starting to make the same claims as their music and film brethren.

At the start of the year CNN ran an article about e-books, their increasing sales and the fears of piracy. But how realistic are these fears? After conducting some early research on download statistics after the iPad introduction, we also touched on the subject and concluded ‘”Don’t worry about things.” It’s a position that seems to be borne out by the evidence. Let’s look at an example.

At the end of June, David Weber’s novel “Mission of Honor” was published by Baen books. Baen is a big supporter of e-books and has run a free e-book library of some of their titles over the last 10 years, called The Baen Free Library strangely enough. One of the other ways they support e-books is to include a bound-in CD with certain hardcover editions, containing the e-book files of that title in several formats including several DRM-free ones.

Mission of Honor had one of those CDs. Mission’s CD didn’t just contain one e-book though, it had e-books for a good chunk of the author’s published works, including all the previous books in the series. Again all these files were in multiple (DRM-free) formats – there’s even an occasionally audiobook version (and yes, you guessed it, no DRM on it either).

Here’s the kicker though, Baen has no problems with people distributing the contents of the CD in non-commercial ways. Fellow author, David Drake put it best in the Orientation on one of the earlier CD’s.

The files on this CD are not encrypted. Jim [Baen] doesn’t understand the logic of making his books hard for people to read. Neither do I, though we seem to be in the minority among publishers and authors. Read them. Copy them. Give them to your friends.[..]

You’re not supposed to sell the files. “Who’d be stupid enough to buy something they could have for free?” you may well ask yourself. If you do sell them, you are a Bad Person and may later exhibit signs of wanting to run for political office; but between you and me, I’m not going to come hunt you down.

If e-book pirates are killing the industry as some people seem to believe, this free CD would have guaranteed that the book will sell badly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The hardcover went on sale June 20th and the e-book CD went up the same day. Yet the book was #13 on the New York Times (NYT) bestseller list for July 2nd. It had slipped a bit to #24 the next week, and then to #26 the week after. But if e-books are killing the industry, how could a niche book (book 12 in a sci-fi series) sell so well? Especially when sci-fi fans are the ones most likely to be technologically oriented, and thus more likely to read e-books?

Can e-books improve the publishing industry? Without a doubt. One of the more innovative methods Baen uses to promote books is a teaser section. It’s not ‘official’ but it’s strongly supported by Baen. Three times a week, sections of a chapter of upcoming books are uploaded to a website called “Collected Driblets of Baen: A Frankly Promotional Endeavor…” and the author decides how much or little of his as-yet unpublished work will be previewed. In the case of Matter of Honor the previews started in February 2010 and ran until July 2nd – scoring some 71,000 hits over the publication of the 18 chapters.

The preview concept is relatively new, but it could be a huge boon for the publishing industry. Never before has it been so easy to tease potential readers, and sell more books because of it. Aside from the previews, another advantage is that people can buy books on their e-book readers and start reading straight away. This as opposed to waiting a day or two for a book to arrive, or going to an actual book store.

The question then is how best publishers should act to encourage people to buy e-books and physical books. As with films and music publishers they should address the concerns of the buying public, and treat them with respect instead of pushing DRM and revocable licenses. Trying to hide away from e-books has not worked for Harry Potter or Twilight, so pre-empt readers and convert them.

In that way, music and TV/movies differ from books in that the physical object of a book is different from the digital version; holding a book in your hands is different from holding and reading an e-book. Rather than treating e-books like the great Satan (as many publishers and authors do), or a replacement (as Amazon currently does), Baen has done very well by treating them as promotion. Eric Flint, author, editor, and ‘Librarian’ of the Baen Free Library made the following observation back in 2000.

“Dave Weber’s On Basilisk Station has been available for free as a “loss leader” for Baen’s for-pay experiment “Webscriptions” for months now. And — hey, whaddaya know? — over that time it’s become Baen’s most popular backlist title in paper!

And so I volunteered my first novel, Mother of Demons, to prove the case. And the next day Mother of Demons went up online, offered to the public for free.

Sure enough, within a day, I received at least half a dozen messages (some posted in public forums, others by private email) from people who told me that, based on hearing about the episode and checking out Mother of Demons, they either had or intended to buy the book. In one or two cases, this was a “gesture of solidarity. “But in most instances, it was because people preferred to read something they liked in a print version and weren’t worried about the small cost — once they saw, through sampling it online, that it was a novel they enjoyed. (Mother of Demons is a $5.99 paperback, available in most bookstores. Yes, that a plug. )

E-books have the potential to increase sales of physical books as well as provide their own source of income. That is, if authors and publishers are willing to accept them and deal with their users fairly, instead of hiding behind curiously high prices or DRM. E-books are the future. Last month Amazon reported it was selling more e-books than hardcovers. E-books are not going to go away any time soon, nor are they a flash in the pan. The lessons should have been learned from the 10+ year music fight. Throwing money at enforcement and litigation doesn’t work. Instead embracing the medium can be beneficial.

Article from: TorrentFreak.