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TorrentFreak: Joker Goes Offline After Pressure From Copyright Holders

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

While most people use standalone torrent clients to download files, there are also several services that allow people to stream videos in a web-browser via the popular file-sharing protocol.

One of the best implementations of BitTorrent ‘powered’ streaming is Joker.org. Although the actual streaming is not fully peer-to-peer, as the transfers first go through central servers, its ease of use is certainly appealing.

This week hundreds of news sites wrote about the service which became overloaded with new users as a result. A success story, but one with a downside, as copyright holders were immediately on high alert.

Just a few days after the service first gathered serious online momentum, it is already gone. The Joker.org website currently shows a placeholder mentioning that it’s looking for a new home.

TorrentFreak contacted the Joker team who explained to us that the service was shut down by hosting company Redstation following “pressure” from various copyright holder representatives.

jokerorg

One of the notices Redstation received was sent by Entura International on behalf of Sony Pictures Entertainment. This notice alleged that Joker facilitates copyright infringement at 3 levels.

1. The initial download of content via BitTorrent without permission. At no point has Rights Holder authorized transmission of its content via this medium.
2. The storage and/or caching of BitTorrent chunks of the content.
3. The conversion and re-transmission of stored/cached content in streaming video format to users via web browser.

Entura International asked the hosting provider to stop the alleged unlawful activities by suspending Joker’s account or null-routing the associated IP-address. Redstation chose the latter option and the Joker service has been unavailable since.

Joker is disappointed at being labeled a “pirate site”. The developers believe they offer a neutral and useful service that is piracy agnostic. Potential infringing data is stored only temporarily, without their knowledge.

“Which is the worst? Google, where you can find thousands of torrents with a single “X .torrent” search, torrent sites, where you can get access to millions of .torrent files, or joker.org?” the Joker team asks.

“Using torrents is not illegal, we are just a service that converts video torrent files to streamable mp4s. We don’t link or enable search for any content,” they add.

Despite the current problems Joker doesn’t intend to throw in the towel. They are currently looking for a new hosting solution for their service and will return.

“Hell yeah we will come back,” the Joker team concludes.

Before they return Joker intends to improve their services and address potential issues, to prevent the risk of another shutdown.

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

TorrentFreak: Disney Patents a Piracy Free Search Engine

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

disney-pirateDisney and other rightsholders are not happy with today’s search engines after repeatedly asking Google and Co. to promote legal content and remove pirate sites from search results.

While Google implemented several changes to satisfy these requests, Disney has also taken matters into its own hands.

A new patent awarded to Disney Enterprises this week describes a search engine through which pirated content is hard to find.

Titled “Online content ranking system based on authenticity metric values for web elements,” one of the patent’s main goals is to prevent pirated movies and other illicit content from ranking well in the search results.

According to Disney their patent makes it possible to “enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites.”

Disney believes that current search engines are using the wrong approach as they rely on a website’s “popularity.” This allows site owners to game the system in order to rank higher.

“For example, a manipulated page for unauthorized sales of drugs, movies, etc. might be able to obtain a high popularity rating, but what the typical user will want to see is a more authentic page,” they explain.

While this is a rather simplified description of the complex algorithms most search engines use, Disney believes it can do a better job.

In their patent they describe a system that re-ranks search results based on an “authenticity index”. This works twofold, by promoting sites that are more “authoritative” and filtering out undesirable content.

disneypirate

“In particular, embodiments enable more authoritative search results … to be ranked higher and be more visible to a user. Embodiments furthermore enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites, child pornography websites, and/or the like,” Disney writes.

While Disney’s idea of a search engine may sound appealing to some, deciding what counts as “authoritative” is still rather subjective. Google, for example, uses PageRank which is in part based on the number of quality links to websites.

Disney, however, suggests giving “official” sites priority when certain terms relate to a property of a company. These “authority” weights can include trademarks, copyrighted material, and domain name information.

This doesn’t only affect pirated content, Disney explains, it also means that a Wikipedia entry or IMDb listing for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will rank lower than the official Disney page of the film.

“The Disney.go.com web page may be associated with an authenticity weight that is greater than the authenticity weight associated with the encyclopedia web page because Disney.go.com is the official domain for The Walt Disney Company. As such, with respect to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs™ film, the Disney.go.com web page may be considered more authoritative (and thus more authentic) than the encyclopedia web page,” Disney writes.

In other words, official sites should be the top result for “brand” related searches, even if people are looking for background info or more balanced (re)views. For pirate sites there’s no place at all in the top results, even though Disney’s definition of a pirate site may also be rather subjective.

It’s unclear whether Disney has any plans to implement the patent in the wild. The company currently has a search engine but this only includes links to its own properties.

Disney search
disneysearchengine

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Site Operator Slapped With $10 Million in Damages

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

piracy-crimeIn August we reported how ABS-CBN was going after several website owners who link to pirated streams of its programming.

The Philippines-based company filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Oregon looking for millions of dollars in damages from two local residents, husband and wife.

The five sites they operated, including Pinoymoviefan.com and Watchfilipinotv.com, barely had any visitors. According to the main suspect, Jeff Ashby, he created them for his wife so she could enjoy entertainment from her home country.

‘I created these websites for my wife who is from the Philippines, so she and others who are far from the Philippines could enjoy materials from their culture that are otherwise unavailable to them, Jeff Ashby wrote to the court.

The sites in question didn’t store copies of the infringing media but merely provided links to other websites, and Ashby shut them down voluntarily as soon as he heard about the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, ABS-CBN branded Ashby a hardcore criminal. In one of their own news report they managed to get the L.A. police to agree with them.

“[Piracy is] supporting their ability to buy drugs and guns and engage in violence. And then, the support of global terrorism, which is a threat to everybody,” LA County Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers told an ABS-CBN news outlet.

Now, just a few weeks later the case is over. The Oregon District Court ‘ruled’ in favor of ABS-CBN and ordered Jeff Ashby to pay a mind-blowing $10 million in damages.

The company nevertheless praises the ‘unprecedented’ victory in its own news coverage and warns that they will continue to pursue action against pirate sites.

“Jeff Ashby is the first of many pirates that we are pursuing,” says Elisha Lawrence, ABS-CBN’s Associate Vice President of Global Anti-Piracy.

“We have begun a relentless campaign to enforce against all pirate websites due to the numerous reports that these sites contain dangerous malware which cause substantial harm including identify theft of financial information and phishing attacks.”

While the $10 million may do well for PR purposes, the media conglomerate fails to mention that this isn’t a regular verdict. Instead, it’s a consent judgment (pdf) between ABS-CBN and Ashby which the court signed off on.

In other words, the $10 million in damages reported in public is a figure both parties agreed on, without putting up a fight. Needless to say, it’s likely that a separate deal was made behind the scenes.

In fact, a month before the consent judgment the court had already been informed that both parties had settled the case.

Most telling, perhaps, is the response of Jeff Ashby after he was ‘hit’ by the $10 million judgment. Instead of characterizing the damages as unfair and overblown, he now warns others not to mess with ABS-CBN.

“I wish to warn anyone who may be copying and/or publishing content owned by ABS-CBN without their permission, to stop immediately. Continuing without authorization can and will lead to very serious consequences,” Ashby comments.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Glass Now Banned in US Movie Theaters Over Piracy Fears

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

Google Glass poses a significant threat to the movie industry, Hollywood believes. The advent of the wearable technology has sparked fears that it could be used for piracy.

This January the FBI dragged a man from a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, after theater staff presumed his wearing of Google Glass was a sign that he was engaged in camcorder piracy.

At the time the MPAA shrugged off the incident as an unfortunate mistake, claiming that it had seen “no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft.” This has now changed.

Starting today Google Glass is no longer welcome in movie theaters. The new ban applies to all US movie theaters and doesn’t include an exception for prescription glasses.

The MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) stress that they welcome technological innovations and recognize the importance of wearables for consumers. However, the piracy enabling capabilities of these devices can’t be ignored.

“As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown,” MPAA and NATO state.

“As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time. Individuals who fail or refuse to put the recording devices away may be asked to leave,” they add.

Cautioning potential pirates, the movie groups emphasize that theater employees will take immediate action when they spot someone with wearable recording devices. Even when in doubt, the local police will be swiftly notified.

“If theater managers have indications that illegal recording activity is taking place, they will alert law enforcement authorities when appropriate, who will determine what further action should be taken.”

The wearable ban is now part of the MPAA’s strict set of anti-piracy practices. These instruct movie theater owners to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who may have bad intentions.

Aside from the wearables threat, the best practices note that all possible hidden camera locations in the theater should be considered, including cup holders. In addition, employees should be alert for possible concealed recording equipment, as often seen in the movies.

“Movie thieves are very ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as placing a coat or hat over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device,” it warns.

To increase vigilance among movie theater employees, a $500 bounty is being placed on the heads of those who illegally camcord a movie.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA: The Pirate Bay Assaults Fundamental Human Rights

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

tpbfistFollowing in the footsteps of Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA has now submitted its overview of “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

These submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position toward foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement. The RIAA’s report (odt) includes more than 50 alleged pirate sites, but it is the introduction that draws most attention.

Neil Turkewitz, RIAA Executive Vice President, informs the Government that some of the rogue websites, and their supporters, falsely argue that they aid freedom of speech and counter censorship.

Specifically, the RIAA describes The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites as an assault on our humanity, suggesting that the right to protect one’s copyrights trumps freedom of expression.

“Some observers continue to suggest that the protection of expression is a form of censorship or restriction on fundamental freedoms, and some pirate sites cloak themselves in the language of freedom to justify themselves—sites like The Pirate Bay…” Turkewitz writes.

“We must end this assault on our humanity and the misappropriation of fundamental human rights. If the protection of expression is itself a restriction on freedom of expression, then we have entered a metaphysical Wonderland that stands logic on its head, and undermines core, shared global values about personhood,” he adds.

The RIAA says it’s hopeful that the piracy threat can be addressed if society and legitimate companies stop doing business with these sites. To do so, the public must stop conflating anti-piracy measures with censorship.

“We may not be able to eradicate piracy—there will always be an isolated number of individuals or enterprises who are prepared to steal whatever they can, but we can—and must—stop providing moral cover by conflating copyright enforcement with censorship, or by misapplying notions of Internet freedom or permissionless innovation so that they extend to an embrace of lawlessness.”

In recent months copyright holders have often hammered on payment processors and advertising networks to stop doing business with pirate sites. The RIAA reiterates this in their USTR submission, but also points a finger at the ISPs, at least indirectly.

According to the RIAA, BitTorrent indexing sites make deals with hosting providers to pay lower fees if they have more traffic. While this is standard business for most ISPs, the industry group frames it as an indirect source of revenue for the pirate sites.

“Indexing services can, and usually do, generate revenue from one or more of the following: advertising, user donations and suspected arrangements with ISPs whereby reduced fees are offered in return for increased traffic on the sites. The particular financial model, structure and approach vary from site to site,” Turkewitz notes.

Finally, the RIAA admits that some torrent sites process DMCA takedown notices, but believes that this is only an attempt to “appear” legitimate. In reality the infringing content is re-uploaded almost instantly, so the problem remains.

“As a result, copyright owners are forced into an endless ‘cat and mouse’ game, which requires considerable resources to be devoted to chasing infringing content, only for that same infringing content to continually reappear,” the report reads.

Without specifying what, Turkewitz notes that torrent site owners have to do more if they really want to become legitimate services.

“It is imperative that BitTorrent site operators take reasonable measures to prevent the distribution of infringing torrents or links and to implement measures that would prevent the indexing of infringing torrents,” he writes.

In addition to torrent sites the submission also lists various cyberlockers, blogs and linking sites which allegedly deserve the label “notorious market.”

Below is the RIAA’s full list as it was reported to the USTR. These, and the other submissions will form the basis of the U.S. Government’s Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, which is expected to come out later this year.

- vKontakte
– EX.UA
– The Pirate Bay
– KickAss.to
– Torrentz.eu
– Bitsnoop.com
– ExtraTorrent.cc
– Isohunt.to
– Zamunda
– Arena.bg
– Torrenthound.com
– Fenopy.se
– Monova.org
– Torrentreactor.net
– Sumotorrent.sx
– Seedpeer.me
– Torrentdownloads.me
– 4shared.com
– Uploaded.net
– Oboom.com
– Zippyshare.com
– Rapidgator.net
– Turbobit.net
– Ulozto.cz
– Sdílej.cz
– Hell Spy
– HellShare
– Warez-dk.org
– Freakshare.com
– Bitshare.com
– Letitbit.net
– 1fichier.com
– Filestube.to
– Music.so.com
– Verycd.com
– Gudanglagu.com
– Thedigitalpinoy.org
– Todaybit.com
– Chacha.vn
– Zing.vn
– Songs.to
– Boerse.to
– Mygully.com
– Wawa-mania.ec
– Bajui.com
– Goear.com
– Pordescargadirecta.com
– Exvagos.com
– Degraçaémaisgostoso.org
– Baixeturbo.org
– Hitsmp3.net
– Musicasparabaixar.org
– Sapodownloads.net
– Sonicomusica.com
– Jarochos.net
– Rnbexclusive.se
– Newalbumreleases.net

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Reports The Pirate Bay to The U.S. Government

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

mpaa-logoResponding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has sent in its annual list of rogue websites.

TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the MPAA’s latest submission. The Hollywood group targets a wide variety of websites which they claim are promoting the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows, with declining incomes and lost jobs in the movie industry as a result.

These sites and services not only threaten the movie industry, but according to the MPAA they also put consumers at risk through identity theft and by spreading malware.

“It is important to note that websites that traffic in infringing movies, television shows, and other copyrighted content do not harm only the rights holder. Malicious software or malware, which puts Internet users at risk of identity theft, fraud, and other ills, is increasingly becoming a source of revenue for pirate sites,” MPAA writes.

Below is an overview of the “notorious markets” the MPAA reported to the Government. The sites are listed in separate categories and each have a suspected location, as defined by the movie industry group.

Torrent Sites

BitTorrent remains the most popular P2P software as the global piracy icon, MPAA notes. The Pirate Bay poses one of the largest threats here. Based on data from Comscore, the MPAA says that TPB has about 40 million unique visitors per month, which appears to be a very low estimate.

“Thepiratebay.se (TPB) claims to be the largest BitTorrent website on the Internet with a global Alexa rank of 91, and a local rank of 72 in the U.S. Available in 35 languages, this website serves a wide audience with upwards of 43.5 million peers,” MPAA writes.

“TPB had 40,551,220 unique visitors in August 2014 according to comScore World Wide data. Traffic arrives on this website through multiple changing ccTLD domains and over 90 proxy websites that assist TPB to circumvent site blocking actions.”

For the first time the MPAA also lists YIFY/YTS in its overview of notorious markets. The MPAA describes YTS as one of the most popular release groups, and notes that these are used by the Popcorn Time streaming application.

“[Yts.re] facilitates the downloading of free copies of popular movies, and currently lists more than 5,000 high-quality movie torrents available to download for free,” MPAA writes.

“Additionally, the content on Yts.re supports desktop torrent streaming application ‘Popcorn Time’ which has an install base of 1.4 million devices and more than 100,000 active users in the United States alone.”

The full list of reported torrent sites is as follows:

- Kickass.to (Several locations)
– Thepiratebay.se (Sweden)
– Torrentz.eu (Germany/Luxembourg)
– Rutracker.org (Russia)
– Yts.re (Several locations)
-Extratorrent.cc (Ukraine)
-Xunlei.com (China)

The mention of Xunlei.com is interesting as the Chinese company signed an anti-piracy deal with the MPA earlier this year. However, according to the MPAA piracy is still rampant, and there is no evidence that Xunlei has fulfilled its obligations.

Direct Download and Streaming Cyberlockers

The second category of pirate sites reported by the MPAA are cyberlockers. The movie industry group points out that these sites generate million of dollars in revenue, citing the recently released report from Netnames.

Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t include 4shared and Mega, the two services who discredited the report in question. As in previous submissions VKontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is also listed as a notorious market.

- VK.com (Russia)
– Uploaded.net (Netherlands)
– Rapidgator.net (Russia)
– Firedrive.com (New Zealand)
– Nowvideo.sx and the “Movshare Group” (Panama/Switzerland/Netherlands)
– Netload.in (Germany)

Linking Websites

The largest category in terms of reported sites represents linking websites. These sites don’t host the infringing material, but only link to it. The full list of linking sites is as follows.

- Free-tv-video-online.me (Canada)
– Movie4k.to (Romania)
– Primewire.ag (Estonia)
– Watchseries.lt (Switzerland)
– Putlocker.is (Switzerland)
– Solarmovie.is (Latvia)
– Megafilmeshd.net (Brazil)
– Filmesonlinegratis.net (Brazil)
– Watch32.com (Germany)
– Yyets.com (China)
– Cuevana.tv (Argentina)
– Viooz.ac (Estonia)
– Degraçaemaisgostoso.org (Brazil)
– Telona.org (Brazil)

The inclusion of Cuevana.tv is noteworthy as the website stopped offering direct links to infringing content earlier this year. Instead, it now direct people to its custom “Popcorn Time” equivalent “Storm.”

Finally, the MPAA lists one Usenet provider, the German based Usenext.com. This service was included because, unlike other providers, it allegedly heavily markets itself to P2P users.

Later this year the US Trade Representative will use the submissions of the MPAA and other parties to make up its final list of piracy havens. The U.S. Government will then alert the countries where these sites are operating from, hoping that local authorities take action.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 10/27/14

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

letsbecopsThis week we have five newcomers in our chart.

Let’s Be Cops is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
torrentfreak.com
1 (…) Let’s Be Cops 6.7 / trailer
2 (…) Step Up All In 6.1 / trailer
3 (2) How to Train Your Dragon 2 8.2 / trailer
4 (…) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 6.3 / trailer
5 (1) 22 Jump Street 7.6 / trailer
6 (…) A Most Wanted Man 7.2 / trailer
7 (…) The Expendables 3 6.2 / trailer
8 (8) Annabelle 5.9 / trailer
9 (3) The Purge: Anarchy 6.6 / trailer
10 (9) Sex Tape 5.2 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Kelly Brook Wants Fappening Nudes Removed From Google

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

brookSince late August hundreds of photos of naked celebrities have leaked online in what’s now known as “The Fappening.”

The leaks resulted in a massive takedown operation targeted at sites that host and link to the controversial images.

As a hosting provider and search engine Google inadvertently plays a role in distributing the compromising shots, much to the displeasure of the women involved.

Several celebrities threatened legal action against Google for its “unlawful activity,” demanding tgat the company should zap all their images. Others, including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton, used DMCA requests to remove the images from the public eye.

The famous UK actress, model and TV presenter Kelly Brook now joins this group as one of the latest Fappening victims.

Brook’s pictures leaked onto the Internet early October and last week she asked Google to remove three links to her pictures from search results, claiming that she holds the copyrights to the selfies.

The images are allegedly hosted on thefappening.so, and according to Google’s transparency report the request is still “pending”. However, during this week something unusual happened.

brook

For reasons unknown, Google has decided to remove all URLs of thefappening.so from its search results. Whether the pages were removed because of the leaked pictures, or for another reason, is unknown.

Kelly Brook is not the only celebrity to ask Google to remove thefappening.so links, Argentinian singer Melina Lezcano did the same last week.

TorrentFreak asked Google whether the removal of the entire domain name is due to its content or if there’s another reason, but we have yet to receive a response.

Whatever the reason, Brook and Lezcano’s takedown requests are moot. Whether they will be relieved is doubtful though, as most of the Fappening photos are still being shared through thousands of other sites.

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

TorrentFreak: Embedding Is Not Copyright Infringement, EU Court Rules

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

carembedOne of the key roles of the EU’s Court of Justice is to interpret European law to ensure that it’s applied in the same manner across all member states.

The Court is also called upon by national courts to clarify finer points of EU law to progress local cases with Europe-wide implications.

This week the Court of Justice issued a landmark ruling on one such case that deals with a crucial and integral part of today’s Internet. Is it legal to embed copyrighted content without permission from the rightsholder?

The case in question was referred to EU’s Court of Justice by a German court. It deals with a dispute between the water filtering company BestWater International and two men who work as independent commercial agents for a competitor.

Bestwater accused the men of embedding one of their promotional videos, which was available on YouTube without the company’s permission. The video was embedded on the personal website of the two through a frame, as is usual with YouTube videos.

While EU law is clear on most piracy issues, the copyright directive says very little about embedding copyrighted works. The Court of Justice, however, now argues that embedding is not copyright infringement.

The full decision has yet to be published officially by the Court’s website but TorrentFreak has received a copy (in German) from the defendants’ lawyer Dr. Bernhard Knies, who describes it as a landmark victory.

The Court argues that embedding a file or video is not a breach of creator’s copyrights under European law, as long as it’s not altered or communicated to a new public. In the current case, the video was already available on YouTube so embedding it is not seen as a new communication.

“The embedding in a website of a protected work which is publicly accessible on another website by means of a link using the framing technology … does not by itself constitute communication to the public within the meaning of [the EU Copyright directive] to the extent that the relevant work is neither communicated to a new public nor by using a specific technical means different from that used for the original communication,” the Court’s verdict reads.

The Court based its verdict on an earlier decision in the Svensson case, where it found that hyperlinking to a previously published work is not copyright infringement. Together, both cases will have a major impact on future copyright cases in the EU.

For Internet users it means that they are protected from liability if they embed copyrighted videos or images from other websites, for example. In addition, it may also protect streaming sites who use third-party services to embed videos, even if the source is an infringing copy.

During the days to come the Court of Justice is expected to issue official translations of the ruling as well as a press release. Many legal experts have been waiting for the decision and further analysis of the verdict’s implications is expected to follow soon after.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Sends 100,000 New Users to “Free” VPN

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

froot-vpnWith an increasing number of BitTorrent users seeking solutions to hide their identities from the outside world, VPN services have seen a spike in customers in recent years.

Pirate Bay users also have a great interest in anonymity. A survey among the site’s users previously revealed that nearly 70% already had a VPN or proxy or were interested in signing up with one.

For this last group The Pirate Bay has an interesting promotion running. For the past few days the site has replaced its iconic logo with an ad for FrootVPN, a new startup that offers free VPN accounts.

The promo has has been seen by millions of people, many of whom very interested in the costless offer.

Since VPNs are certainly not free to run, many people are wondering if there’s a catch behind this rather generous offer. Previously TPB advertised an adware ridden client so this suspicion is understandable.

TorrentFreak contact the Pirate Bay team for more information, and they informed us that the FrootVPN promotion is not a paid ad. It’s merely a friendly plug for a startup run by some guys they know.

While that’s assuring, it doesn’t explain how they can offer their service for free. We contacted the FrootVPN operators to find out more, and they told us that they started the free VPN to counter the commercialization of the VPN business.

“The whole idea behind FrootVPN was to provide a free simple VPN service without any bandwidth limitations. Of course the maintenance isn’t free but we had some resources over from our other projects from which we were able to launch FrootVPN.”

“We are a bunch of guys who support freedom of speech and don’t like the idea that VPN providers charge so much money for just a simple proxy, especially since the bandwidth costs nowadays is so cheap,” FrootVPN tells us.

While a free VPN sounded like a good idea, the VPN service has become a victim of its own success. They gained 100,000 users in less than a week and admit that it’s not sustainable to keep the service free forever.

“The word has spread rapidly and we thank all our promoters including TPB for supporting us. We got 100,000 users within a week, which we never expected. However, this does indicate that we will be forced to charge something for the service in order to maintain it,” FrootVPN says.

FrootVPN’s VPN servers are currently hosted at Portlane, who have been very helpful in accommodating the growth. During the weeks to come they hope to increase their capacity and FrootVPN has already bought several new servers to keep the quality of the service on par.

“We have 20x servers running currently with 2x10Gbps total capacity. We have now additionally bought 40x more servers and 4x10Gbps bandwidth from Portlane which will be ready within a week or two. We hope that after this upgrade the quality of our service will be much better,” they say.

While they may have to charge a few dollars in the future, one of the main motivations of the FrootVPN team remains in line with The Pirate Bay’s original philosophy. That is, to provide tools that help to bypass censorship and promote freedom of speech.

“FrootVPN supports freedom of speech and want the Internetz to be an uncensored place,” they say.

Although free VPNs are often not the fastest, especially not when they are growing with tens of thousands of users per day, FrootVPN says it will try to keep up. In any case, “free” is an offer that’s hard to refuse for those who are on a tight budget.

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

TorrentFreak: Google’s New Search Downranking Hits Torrent Sites Hard

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

google-bayIn recent years Hollywood and the music industry have taken a rather aggressive approach against Google. The entertainment industry companies have accused the search engine of not doing enough to limit piracy, and demanded more stringent anti-piracy measures.

One of the suggestions often made is the removal or demotion of pirate sites in search results. A lower ranking would lead fewer people to pirate sources and promoting legal sources would have a similar effect, rightsholders argue.

While Google already began changing the ranking of sites based on DMCA complaints in 2012, it announced more far-reaching demotion measures last week. According to Google the new alghorithm changes would “visibly” lower the search rankings of the most notorious pirate sites, and they were right.

TorrentFreak has spoken with various torrent site owners who confirm that traffic from Google has been severely impacted by the recent algorithm changes. “Earlier this week all search traffic dropped in half,” the Isohunt.to team told us.

The drop is illustrated by a day-to-day traffic comparison before and after the changes were implemented, as shown below. The graph shows a significant loss in traffic which Isohunt.to solely attributes to Google’s recent changes.

Torrent site traffic drop
traffic drop

The downranking affects all sites that have a relatively high percentage of DMCA takedown requests. When Google users search for popular movie, music or software titles in combination with terms such as “download,” “watch” and “torrent”, these sites are demoted.

The new measures appear to be far more effective than previous search algorithm changes, and affect all major ‘pirate’ sites. Below is an overview of the SEO visibility of several large torrent sites in the UK and US, based on a list of 100 keywords.

Google SEO visibility torrent sites
seo-visibility

The true impact varies from site to site, depending on how much it relies on Google traffic. Confirming their earlier stance, The Pirate Bay team told TorrentFreak that they are not really concerned about the changes as they have relatively little traffic from Google.

“That Google is putting our links lower is in a way a good thing for us. We’ll get more direct traffic when people don’t get the expected search result when using Google, since they will go directly to TPB,” they said.

To get an idea of how the search results have changed we monitored a few search phrases that were likely to be affected. The before and after comparisons, which are only three days apart, show that popular ‘pirate sites’ have indeed disappeared.

A search for “Breaking Bad torrent” previously featured Kickass.to, Torrentz.eu and Isohunt.com on top, but these have all disappeared. Interestingly, in some cases their place has been taken by other less popular torrent sites.

old – “Breaking Bad torrent” – new
breaking bad torrent

The top torrent sites have also vanished from a search for the movie The Social Network. “The Social Network download” no longer shows results from Kickass.to, ThePirateBay.se and Movie4k.to but shows the IMDb profile on top instead.

old – “The Social Network download” – new
the social network download

Searches for music tracks have changed as well. The phrase “Eminem lose yourself mp3″ no longer shows links to popular MP3 download sites such as MP3Skull.com, but points to legal sources and lesser known pirate sites.

old – “Eminem lose yourself mp3″ – new
eminemp3

The traffic data and search comparisons clearly show that Google’s latest downranking changes can have a severe impact on popular “pirate” sites. Ironically, the changes will also drive a lot of traffic to smaller unauthorized sources for the time being, but these will also be demoted as their takedown notice count increases.

Rinse and repeat.

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

TorrentFreak: Photographer Who Sued Imgur Now Has a Pirate Bay Problem

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

boffoli1When it comes to online piracy most attention usually goes out to music, TV-shows and movies. However, photos are arguably the most-infringed works online.

Virtually every person on the Internet has shared a photo without obtaining permission from its maker, whether through social networks, blogs or other services.

While most photographers spend little time on combating piracy, Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli has taken some of the largest web services to court for aiding these infringements

Boffoli has filed lawsuits against Twitter, Google and others, which were settled out for court under undisclosed terms. Last month he started a new case against popular image sharing site Imgur after it allegedly ignored his takedown requests.

The photographer asked the court to order an injunction preventing Imgur from making 73 of his photos available online. In addition, he requested millions of dollars in statutory damages for willful copyright infringement.

Imgur has yet to file an official reply to the complaint. In the meantime, however, Boffoli’s actions appear to have triggered another less welcome response.

A few days ago a user of The Pirate Bay decided to upload a rather large archive of the photographer’s work to the site. The archive in question is said to hold 20,754 images, including the most famous “Big Appetites” series.

A torrent with 20,754 images
tpb-boffoli

The image archive, which is more than eight gigabytes in size, had to be partly wrapped in an .iso file because otherwise the .torrent file itself would have been too large.

The description of the archive mentions Boffoli’s recent actions against Imgur, which could have triggered the upload. One of the commenters points out that the Imgur lawsuit may have done more harm than good, and a new Internet meme was born.

“Sued for 73 images, got 20,754 uploaded to TPB, LOL. About the Big Appetites series, if I ever get my hands on a copy, I’ll scan it at 600 dpi and upload it here, have fun trying to censor the internet, Boffoli,” the commenter notes.

TorrentFreak asked Boffoli for a comment on the leak and whether he will take steps to prevent the distribution, but we have yet to hear back.

While not everyone may agree with the lawsuit against Imgur piracy can impact photographers quite a bit. It’s usually not the average Pirate Bay user that’s causing the damage though, but rather companies that use professional photos commercially without a license.

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Government Shuts Down Music Sharing Sites

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

IPRC_SeizedDuring the spring of 2010 U.S. authorities started a campaign to take copyright-infringing websites offline.

Since then Operation in Our Sites has resulted in thousands of domain name seizures and several arrests. While most of the sites are linked to counterfeit goods, dozens of “pirate” sites have also been targeted.

After a period of relative calm the authorities appear to have restarted their efforts with the takedown of two large music sites. RockDizFile.com and RockDizMusic.com, which are connected, now display familiar banners in which ICE takes credit for their demise.

“This domain has been seized by ICE- Homeland Security Investigations, pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by a United States District Court under the authority of 18 U.S.C. §§ 981 and 2323,” the banner reads.

TorrentFreak contacted ICE yesterday for a comment on the recent activity but we have yet to receive a response.

The domain names are now pointing to the same IP-address where many of the previously seized websites, such as torrent-finder.com and channelsurfing.net, are directed. Both domain names previously used Cloudflare and had their NS entries updated earlier this week.

Despite the apparent trouble, RockDizFile.com and RockDizMusic.com’s Twitter and Facebook pages have remained silent for days.

RockDizMusic presented itself as an index of popular new music. Artists were encouraged to use the site to promote their work, but the site also featured music being shared without permission, including pre-release tracks.

RockDizMusic.com
rockdizmusic

RockDizFile used a more classic file-hosting look, but with a 50MB limit it was mostly used for music. The site offered premium accounts to add storage space and remove filesize and bandwidth limitations.

RockDizFile.com
rockdizfile

Both websites appear to have a strong focus on rap and hip-hop music. This is in line with previous ICE seizures which targeted RapGodFathers.com, RMX4U.com, OnSmash.com and Dajaz1.com.

The latter was seized by mistake. The record labels failed to deliver proof of alleged infringements to the authorities and after a long appeal the domain was eventually returned to its owners.

This incident and the general lack of due process of ICE’s domain seizures has led to critique from lawmakers and legal scholars. The authorities are nevertheless determined to keep Operation in Our Sites going.

“Operation In Our Sites’ enforcement actions involve federal law enforcement investigating and developing evidence to obtain seizure warrants from federal judges,” ICE states on its website.

Once a credible lead comes in ICE says it “will work with the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute, convict, and punish individuals as well as seize website domain names, profits, and other property from IP thieves.”

At this point it’s unclear whether ICE has targeted any of the individuals connected to RockDizFile.com and RockDizMusic.com or whether the unit has taken down any other sites in a similar fashion.

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

TorrentFreak: Retired Scene Groups Return to Honor Fallen Member

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

ripTo many people the Warez Scene is something mythical or at least hard to comprehend. A group of people at the top of the piracy pyramid.

The Scene is known for its aversion to public file-sharing, but nonetheless it’s in large part responsible for much of the material out there today.

The goal of most Scene groups is to be the first to release a certain title, whether that’s a film, music or software. While there is some healthy competition The Scene is also a place where lifelong friendships are started.

A few days ago, on October 17, the Scene lost Goolum, a well-respected member and friend. Only in his late thirties, he passed away after being part of the Scene for more than a decade.

As a cracker Goolum, also known as GLM, was of the more experienced reverse engineers who worked on numerous releases.

Through the years Goolum was connected to several groups which are now retired, some for more than a decade. To honor their fallen friend, the groups ZENiTH, Lz0, SLT and MiDNiGHT have made a one-time comeback.

Below is an overview of their farewell messages, which honor him for his cracking skills but most of all as a friend. Our thoughts go out to Goolum’s friends and family.

ZENiTH: THUNDERHEAD.ENGINEERING.PYROSIM.V2014.2.RIP.GOOLUM-ZENiTH (NFO)

ZENiTH, a group that retired around 2005, mentions Goolum’s loyalty and the love for his daughter.

“Goolum has been in and around the scene since the Amiga days but had never been a guy to jump from group to group, but stayed loyal and dedicated to the few groups he was involved in.”

“We are all proud to have been in a group with you, to have spent many a long night sharing knowledge about everything, learning about your daughter who you where very proud of, and all the projects you were involved in.”

ZENiTH’s in memoriam
zenith1

Lz0: CEI.Inc.EnSight.Gold.v10.1.1b.Incl.Keygen.RIP.GOOLUM-Lz0 (NFO)

Lz0 or LineZer0, split from the Scene last year but many of its members are still actively involved in other roles. The group mentions the hard time Goolum has had due to drug problems. LzO also highlights Goolum’s love for his daughter, and how proud he was of her.

“We all knew that he struggled in life – not just economical but also on a personal level and not the least with his drug issues. One of the things that kept him going was his wonderful daughter whom he cherished a lot. He often talked about her, and how proud of her he was. He was clear that if there was one thing in life he was proud of – it was that he became the dad of a wonderful girl.”

“We’re shocked that when finally things started to move in the right direction, that we would receive the news about his death. It came without warning and we can only imagine the shock of his family. It’s hard to find the right words – or words for that matter. Even though it might have appeared as that he was lonely – with few friends, he knew that we were just a keyboard away.”

Lz0′s in memoriam
Lz0mem

SLT: PROTEUS.ENGINEERING.FASTSHIP.V6.1.30.1.RIP.GOOLUM-SLT (NFO)

SLT or SOLiTUDE has been retired since 2000 but returns to remember Goolum. The group notes that he will be dearly missed.

“You will be missed. It is not easy to say goodbye to someone who you have known for over a decade, trading banter, laughs, advice and stories. You leave behind a daughter, a family and a group of friends, who will miss you dearly.”

“As the news have spread, the kind words have poured in. Solitude is releasing this in honor of you, to show that the values we founded the group on is the exact values you demonstrated through your decades of being in the scene. Loyalty, friendship and hard work. Our thoughts are with you, wherever you may be.”

SLT’s in memoriam
SLT

MiDNiGHT: POINTWISE_V17.2.R2_RIP_GOOLUM-MIDNIGHT (NFO)

MiDNiGHT hasn’t been active for nearly a decade but have also honored Goolum with a comeback. The group mentions that he was a great friend who was always in for a chat and a beer.

“Life won’t ever be the same again my friend. We could sit and chat for hours and hours, and even then we knew each other well enough that nothing more was required than a beer, a rant and a small *yarr* and we’d know it would all be good.”

“This time it’s not good mate. I am here, you are not. I can’t even begin to express how this makes me feel – except an absolute sadness.”

MiDNiGHT’s in memoriam
midnight

RIP Goolum 1977 – 2014

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

TorrentFreak: 4shared Demands Retraction Over Misleading Piracy Report

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

profitLast month the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a new report with the aim of exposing the business models and profitability of “rogue” file-storage sites.

The report titled Behind The Cyberlocker Door: Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions, is being used as ammunition for copyright holders to pressure credit card companies and advertisers to cut ties with the listed sites.

While some of the sites mentioned are indeed of a dubious nature the report lacks nuance. The “shadowy” label certainly doesn’t apply to all. Mega, for example, was quick to point out that the report is “grossly untrue and highly defamatory.” The company has demanded a public apology.

4shared, the most visited site in the report with over 50 million unique visitors per month, is now making similar claims. According to 4shared’s Mike Wilson the company has put its legal team on the case.

“We decided to take action and demand a public retraction of the information regarding 4shared’s revenues and business model as published in the report. Our legal team is already working on the respective notes to Digital Citizens Alliance and Netnames,” Wilson tells TorrentFreak.

As the largest file-hosting service the report estimates that 4shared grosses $17.6 million per year. However, 4shared argues that many of the assumptions in the report are wrong and based on a distorted view of the company’s business model.

“Revenue volumes in this report are absolutely random. For instance, 4shared’s actual revenue from premium subscription sales is approximately 20 times smaller than is shown in the document,” Wilson says.

4shared explains that its premium users are mostly interested in storing their files safely and securely. In addition, the company notes that it doesn’t have any affiliate programs or other encouragements for uploading or downloading files.

Unlike the report claims, 4shared stresses that it’s not setup as a service that aims to profit from copyright infringement, although it admits that this does take place.

To deal with this unauthorized use the file-hosting service has a DMCA takedown policy in place. In addition, some of the most trusted rightsholder representative have direct access to the site where they can delete files without sending a takedown notice.

This works well and the overall takedown volume is relatively low. Together, the site’s users store a billion files and in an average month 4shared receives takedown notices for 0.05% of these files.

In addition to their takedown procedure 4shared also scans publicly shared music files for copyright-infringing content. This Music ID system, custom-built by the company, scans for pirated music files based on a unique audio watermark and automatically removes them.

Despite these efforts 4shared was included in the “shadowy cyberlocker” report where it’s branded a rogue and criminal operation. Whether the company’s legal team will be able to set the record straight has yet to be seen.

Netnames and Digital Citizens have thus far declined to remove Mega from the report as the company previously demanded. Mega informs TorrentFreak that a defamation lawsuit remains an option and that they are now considering what steps to take next.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 10/20/14

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

22jumpThis week we have four newcomers in our chart.

22 Jump Street is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
torrentfreak.com
1 (1) 22 Jump Street 7.6 / trailer
2 (…) How to Train Your Dragon 2 8.2 / trailer
3 (5) The Purge: Anarchy 6.6 / trailer
4 (3) Stretch 6.8 / trailer
5 (2) Transformers: Age of Extinction 6.1 / trailer
6 (…) Planes: Fire & Rescue 5.8 / trailer
7 (…) The Giver 6.7 / trailer
8 (…) Annabelle 5.9 / trailer
9 (4) Sex Tape 5.2 / trailer
10 (9) X-Men: Days of Future Past 8.4 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Sports Streaming Site Hides Itself From The UK Piracy Police

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

cityoflondonpoliceOver the past few months City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to take on sites that provide or link to pirated content.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) uses a variety of measures to achieve its goals. This includes sending requests to registrars requesting the suspension of allegedly infringing domain names.

The sports streaming site Fromhot, also known as Sportlemon and Frombar, was one of the most recent targets of the latter strategy. The “franchise” has well over a million visitors per month but some of these went missing after the Frombar.com domain was suspended.

The streaming site does remain operational from several alternative domain names, which now point to Fromhot.com, but interestingly enough the site can no longer be accessed from the UK.

fromhot1

A few days after its main domain was suspended the sport streaming site decided to block all visitors from the UK. It appears that this measure was taken in the hope of avoiding further actions from PIPCU.

TorrentFreak contacted the people behind the site for a comment on the unusual measure, but we have yet to hear back.

Frombar is not the first sports streaming site to be targeted by PIPCU. In May, PIPCU had the domain of the Cricfree.tv streaming portal suspended but its operator was able to bring the site back under a new domain.

In addition to the domain suspensions PIPCU also had several sports streaming site operators arrested. TorrentFreak previously revealed that the operator of BoxingGuru.co.uk, boxingguru.eu, boxingguru.tv and nutjob.eu was arrested during April.

This was followed by the arrest last month of 27-year old Zain Parvez, who allegedly operated CoolSport.se, CoolSport.tv and KiwiSportz.tv. Parvez was described as the head of an “industrial scale” sports streaming operation but all charges against him were dropped earlier this week.

Whether the blockade of UK traffic will keep PIPCU at bay has yet to be seen. The notice posted on the seized Frombar.com still notes that the site is “under criminal investigation.”

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

TorrentFreak: Jennifer Lawrence Gets Google to Censor Leaked Pictures, Sort Of

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

pixelatedOver the past several weeks hundreds of photos of naked celebrities leaked online. This “fappening” triggered a massive takedown operation targeting sites that host and link to the controversial images.

As a hosting provider and search engine Google inadvertently plays a role in distributing the compromising shots, much to the displeasure of the women involved.

More than a dozen of them sent Hollywood lawyer Marty Singer after the company. Earlier this month Singer penned an angry letter to Google threatening legal action if it doesn’t remove the images from YouTube, Blogspot and its search results.

“It is truly reprehensible that Google allows its various sites, systems and search results to be used for this type of unlawful activity. If your wives, daughters or relatives were victims of such blatant violations of basic human rights, surely you would take appropriate action,” the letter reads.

While no legal action has yet been taken, some celebrities have also sent individual DMCA takedown requests to Google. On September 24 Jennifer Lawrence’s lawyers asked the search engine to remove two links to thefappening.eu as these infringe on the star’s copyrights.

The DMCA takedown request
jlawdmca
Earlier this week the request was still pending, so TorrentFreak asked Google what was causing the delay. The company said it could not comment on individual cases but a day later the links in question were removed.

This means that both the thefappening.eu main domain and the tag archive of Jennifer Lawrence posts no longer appear in Google’s search results.

Whether this move has helped Lawrence much is doubtful though. The site in question had already redirected its site to a new domain at thefappening.so. These links remain indexed since they were not mentioned in the takedown request.

The good news is that many of Lawrence’s pictures are no longer hosted on the site itself. In fact, the URLs listed in the takedown request to Google no longer show any of the infringing photos in question, so technically Google had no obligation to remove the URLs.

A prominent disclaimer on the site points out that the operator will gladly take down the compromising photos if he’s asked to do so. Needless to say, this is much more effective than going after Google.

The disclaimer
attention

Photo via

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TorrentFreak: Google Will Punish “Pirate” Sites Harder in Search Results

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

google-bayOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has slowly implemented various new anti-piracy measures in response.

Today Google released an updated version of its “How Google Fights Piracyreport. The company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy, but also stresses that copyright holders themselves have a responsibility to make content available.

One of the most prominent changes is a renewed effort to make “pirate” sites less visible in search results. Google has had a downranking system in place since 2012, but this lacked effectiveness according to the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright industry groups.

The improved version, which will roll out next week, aims to address this critique.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,” says Katherine Oyama, Google’s Copyright Policy Counsel.

The report notes that the new downranking system will still be based on the number of valid DMCA requests a site receives, among other factors. The pages of flagged sites remain indexed, but are less likely to be the top results.

“Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,” the report reads.

Looking at the list of sites for which Google received the most DMCA takedown request, we see that 4shared, Filestube and Dilandau can expect to lose some search engine traffic.

The report further highlights several other tweaks and improvements to Google’s anti-piracy efforts. For example, in addition to banning piracy related AutoComplete words, Google now also downranks suggestions that return results with many “pirate” sites.

Finally, the report also confirms our previous reporting which showed that Google uses ads to promote legal movie services when people search for piracy related keywords such as torrent, DVDrip and Putlocker. This initiative aims to increase the visibility of legitimate sites.

A full overview of Google’s anti-piracy efforts is available here.

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

TorrentFreak: United States Hosts Most Pirate Sites, UK Crime Report Finds

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

sam-pirateThe UK IP Crime Group, a coalition of law enforcement agencies, government departments and industry representatives, has released its latest IP Crime Report.

The report is produced by the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office and provides an overview of recent achievements and current challenges in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting. Increasingly, these threats are coming from the Internet.

“One of the key features in this year’s report is the continuing trend that the Internet is a major facilitator of IP crime,” the Crime Group writes.

The report notes that as in previous years, Hollywood-funded industry group FACT remains one of the key drivers of anti-piracy efforts in the UK. Over the past year they’ve targeted alleged pirate sites though various channels, including their hosting providers.

Not all hosts are receptive to FACT’s complaints though, and convincing companies that operate abroad is often a challenge. This includes the United States where the majority of the investigated sites are hosted.

“Only 14% of websites investigated by FACT are hosted in the UK. While it is possible to contact the hosts of these websites, there still remains a considerable number of copyright infringing websites that are hosted offshore and not within the jurisdiction of the UK.”

“Analysis has shown that the three key countries in which content is hosted are the UK, the USA and Canada. However, Investigating servers located offshore can cause specific problems for FACT’s law enforcement partners,” the report notes.

ushostpirate

The figure above comes as a bit of a surprise, as one would expect that United States authorities and industry groups would have been keeping their own houses in order.

Just a few months ago the US-based IIPA, which includes MPAA and RIAA as members, called out Canada because local hosting providers are “a magnet” for pirate sites. However, it now appears they have still plenty of work to do inside U.S. borders.

But even when hosting companies are responsive to complaints from rightsholders the problem doesn’t always go away. The report mentions that most sites simply move on to another host, and continue business as usual there.

“In 2013, FACT closed a website after approaching the hosting provider on 63 occasions. Although this can be a very effective strategy, in most instances the website is swiftly transferred onto servers owned by another ISP, often located outside the UK.”

While downtime may indeed be relatively brief the report claims that it may still hurt the site, as visitors may move on to other legitimate or illegitimate sources.

“The [moving] process usually involves a disruptive period of time whereby the website is offline, during which users will often find an alternative service, thus negatively affecting the website’s popularity.”

While hosting companies remain a main target, tackling the online piracy problem requires a multi-layered approach according to the UK Crime Group.

With the help of local law enforcement groups such as City of London’s PIPCU, copyright holders have rolled out a variety of anti-piracy measures in recent months. This includes domain name suspensions, cutting off payment processors and ad revenue, website blocking by ISPs and criminal prosecutions.

These and other efforts are expected to continue during the years to come. Whether that will be enough to put a real dent in piracy rates has yet to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Leaked TPP Draft Reveals Tough Anti-Piracy Measures

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

copyright-brandedThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties between the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and eight other countries in the region, has been largely shrouded in secrecy.

Today whistleblower outfit Wikileaks sheds some light on the ongoing negotiations by leaking a new draft of the agreement’s controversial intellectual property chapter.

The draft dates back to May 2014 and although it’s far from final, some significant progress has been made since the first leak during August last year.

For example, the countries have now agreed that a new copyright term will be set in the agreement. No decision has been made on a final term but options currently on the table are life of the author plus 50, 70 or 100 years.

The proposal to add criminal sanctions for non-commercial copyright infringement, which is currently not the case in many countries, also remains in play.

The leak further reveals a new section on ISP liability. This includes a proposal to make it mandatory for ISPs to alert customers who stand accused of downloading copyrighted material, similar to the requirement under the U.S. DMCA.

Alberto Cerda of Georgetown University Law Center points out that some of the proposals in the ISP liability section go above and beyond the DMCA.

“The most worrying proposal on the matter is that one that would extend the scope of the provisions from companies that provide Internet services to any person who provides online services,” Cerda told TorrentFreak.

This means that anyone who passes on Internet traffic could be held liable for the copyright infringements of others. This could include the local coffeehouse that offers free wifi, or even someone’s own Internet connection if it’s shared with others.

The leaked draft also adds a provision that would allow ISPs to spy on their own users to catch those who download infringing content. This is another concern, according to the law Professor.

“From a human rights viewpoint, that should be expressly limited to exceptional circumstances,” Cerda says.

It’s clear that the ISP liability section mimicks the DMCA. In fact, throughout the TPP chapter the most draconian proposals often originate from the United States.

Law Professor Michael Geist notes that Canada has been the leading opponent of many of the U.S. proposals, which often go against the country’s recently revamped copyright law. Geist warns that the TPP may eventually lead to tougher local laws as U.S. pressure continues.

“As the treaty negotiations continue, the pressure to cave to U.S. pressure will no doubt increase, raising serious concerns about whether the TPP will force the Canadian government to overhaul recently enacted legislation,” Geist writes.

Compared to the previous draft that leaked last year there are also some positive developments to report.

For example, Canada put forward a proposal that permits countries to allow exceptions to technological protection measures. This would makes it possible to classify DRM-circumvention as fair use, for example. A refreshing proposal, but one that’s unlikely to be approved by the U.S.

If anything, the leaked TPP chapter shows once again that there is still a very long way to go before a final draft is ready. After more than three years of negotiating many of the proposals are still heavily debated and could go in multiple directions.

That is, if an agreement is ever reached.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Removes Pirate Bay Search Box and Links

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

google-bayAbout a month ago Google announced its new and improved “sitelinks” sections.

This section appears when searching for keywords related to large sites, including YouTube and Twitter, and lists links to popular parts of the site.

Last week TorrentFreak reported that The Pirate Bay had also been added to this list. This allowed people to use Google to search Pirate Bay pages, complete with a pirate-themed AutoComplete function.

While this unusual addition was the work of algorithms, it was bound to upset some entertainment industry groups. After all, many copyright holders have been asking to make sites such as The Pirate Bay less visible in the search results, and this change was doing the opposite.

This is how a search for The Pirate Bay looked like until yesterday, complete with a search box and prominent sitelinks.

Pirate Bay search box and sitelinks
tpbsitelinks

Now, less than a week later the search bar no longer appears for Pirate Bay related content. Even more so, other prominent sitelinks which have been in place for more than a year are gone too.

Today, the only things left are a few rather small sitelinks under the site description, as shown below.

Pirate Bay ….
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TorrentFreak has confirmed that the sitelinks features were removed for several torrent sites including Isohunt.to and Torrentz.eu. For Google, Twitter and other sites the new search box remains online.

The removal of the search box and prominent links appears to be intentional. TorrentFreak learned that Google was not happy with the unintended feature for The Pirate Bay, and must have felt the need to take action.

While the removal may be a well intended move to keep copyright holders pleased, it places Google in a difficult position. It could be argued that if the sitelinks features have been removed due to the “infringing” aspects of a site, why still keep the site in search results at all?

To find out more TorrentFreak contacted Google, but the company didn’t wish to comment on the recent changes. Google did stress that the placing of the sitelinks is determined automatically.

“Not every site will get the sitelinks search box; it’s determined automatically based on a number of factors. As always, we’ll keep working to improve the quality of our search results,” a Google spokesperson says.

The comment evades the issue at hand, but it appears that these factors were changed recently to exclude The Pirate Bay and other “pirate” sites.

For now, however, all Pirate Bay pages remain indexed as usual. In that regard the recent change is mostly interesting from a political perspective, as a possible result on the entertainment’s continuing pressure on the search engine.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirates Become Biggest Political Party in Local Czech Election

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

ppczLast weekend there were local elections in the Czech Republic, and the local Pirate Party has dozens of candidates on the ballots.

The Pirates campaigned with a program that advocates more Government transparency, more involvement for citizens, less copyright monopolies and the use of free software.

This message was received well by the public as 21 Pirate Party representatives were voted into regional parliaments. In addition, several other Pirates gained seats through the lists of other local parties.

One of the biggest victories was booked in Mariánské lázně where the Pirates came out as the biggest party with 21% of the total vote. This means that the Czech town may soon have its first Pirate mayor.

Pirate Party seats in Mariánské lázně
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The Pirate Party also did well in the capital city of Prague where it received 5.3% of the vote. This translates to four seats in the local parliament.

Despite the successes the Pirates don’t expect that they will govern in many regions. This may happen in a few places, but only if they can agree on a good program with the other parties.

“Generally we are against coalitions, especially in Prague, but in some regions with parties and people who are closer to our program we might govern,” Pirate Party’s Markéta Gregorová tells TorrentFreak.

According to Maša Čorak, co-chairperson of Pirate Parties International, the Czech success was welcomed after several disappointing results in other European countries. Talking to the Pirate Times, she says that the victory will carry over to other countries.

‘I have no doubt that every single Czech pirate that succeeds in being an elected official will do a tremendous job in promoting our core goals and ideas and putting them back in the public spotlight. That is, after all, the beauty of this movement; a victory in just one country can be and will be a huge step forward throughout entire Europe,” she says.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Under “Legal Investigation,” Switches Domain

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

popcornBranded a “Netflix for Pirates,” the Popcorn Time app quickly gathered a user base of millions of people in just a few months.

There are several successful versions of the application available online, and last week the most popular fork ran into trouble. Out of the blue Time4popcorn.eu had its domain name suspended by the EURid registry.

TorrentFreak spoke with the developers who contacted EURid hoping to get the domain name back. They were informed that the suspension was the result of an ongoing legal investigation that could take weeks to complete.

“Apparently there’s some sort of legal investigation going on against us in Belgium and this is what started this whole thing. This is what made EURid remove our domain just like that without any warning,” the Time4Popcorn team says.

What prompted the investigation is unknown and EURid refuses to release any further details, but it seems likely that a copyright holder group filed a complaint with the domain name registry.

Resolving the matter, if possible at all, would require the fork to show proof of identity. This complicated matters even further and the developers therefore decided to permanently move to a new domain name.

From today the Time4Popcorn name will be dropped as the fork is switching to the new Popcorn-time.se domain name, hoping that this won’t be such an easy target.

“Our main agenda was to get a domain that will stay. Something that will not be taken down as easily as our .eu domain got taken down. We have a feeling that an .es domain will be much harder to remove, but we don’t really know for sure,” they say.

The developers stress that everything is working as usual on their new domain. The domain troubles have been a setback but the service itself will never be taken down.

The domain troubles haven’t gone unnoticed by other Popcorn Time forks either. The Time4Popcorn version used to be the number one search result but this spot now goes to PopcornTime.io, the fork that initially took over from the original developers.

PopcornTime.io informs TorrentFreak that they have been working hard to keep up with the growing demand. As a result of the ranking improvement PopcornTime.io saw its traffic quadruple, with hundreds of thousands of new visitors flocking to their site.

Time4Popcorn, now known as Popcorn-time.se, hopes to regain some of this traffic in the months to come as they roll out new features and updates.

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

TorrentFreak: “Megaupload’s Imaginary Copyright Crimes Should be Dismissed”

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

megaupload-logoActing on a lead from the entertainment industry, the U.S. Government shut down Megaupload early 2012.

Since then the case hasn’t progressed much. Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing has been delayed until 2015 and most of the recent court proceedings dealt with how the seized assets should be handled.

Two months ago the Department of Justice launched a separate civil action in which it asked the court for a forfeiture of the bank accounts, cars and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants, claiming they were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes.

Megaupload has now responded to these allegations at the federal court in Virginia, with a motion to dismiss (pdf) the complaint. According to Megaupload’s lawyers the Department of Justice is making up crimes that don’t exist.

One of the main arguments is that the Government accuses the Megaupload defendants of secondary criminal copyright infringement, a crime that doesn’t exist under common law.

“The crimes for which the Government seeks to punish the Megaupload defendants do not exist. Although there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement, that is the crime on which the Government’s Superseding Indictment and instant Complaint are predicated,” Megaupload’s lawyers write.

“That is the nonexistent crime for which Megaupload was destroyed and all of its innocent users were denied their rightful property. And that is the nonexistent crime for which the Government would now strip the criminal defendants, and their families, of all their assets,” they add.

In addition, Megaupload mentions another argument why the Court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the case. It’s a requirement that the infringements took place in the United States, but the DOJ’s compliant fails to back that up.

“Tellingly, the Complaint and the Superseding Indictment together fail to identify a single instance in which an act of infringement — particularly an unauthorized upload or download — occurred entirely within the United States,” the motion reads.

This is true for the alleged infringements committed by Megaupload users and also for the 50 Cent track Kim Dotcom allegedly distributed himself. There is no mention or proof that this infringement took place in the United States.

“Although the Complaint alleges that Kim Dotcom personally distributed a link to a copy of a copyrighted work on, and has received at least one infringing copy of a copyrighted work from, the Mega Sites, the Complaint never alleges where that occurred,” the lawyers argue.

Based on these and several other arguments Megaupload’s legal team has asked the Court to dismiss the DOJ’s complaint. At the very least, they want the case to be put on hold until the criminal case is completed.

TorrentFreak spoke with Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken who explains that this is the first time that the Government has been called out for prosecuting “nonexistent” crimes.

“For the first time in the case, with this motion to dismiss, we are attacking the merits of the DOJ’s core copyright claims. We are optimistic that the Court will find that there is no such thing as criminal secondary copyright infringement,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

The Government’s efforts are no surprise to Megaupload’s legal team. The civil attempt to obtain possession of the assets fits a pattern of meritless claims according to Rothken.

“The DOJ is trying to win the Megaupload case on procedure rather than the merits,” Rothken told us.

“We are hopeful the US Court will finally decide the threshold copyright issues in Kim Dotcom’s and Megaupload’s favor and bring this global legal matter to a rapid end.”

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