Author Archive

TorrentFreak: Spotify Starts Shutting Down Its Massive P2P Network

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

spotify-blackWhen Spotify launched its first beta in the fall of 2008, we branded it “an alternative to music piracy.

With the option to stream millions of tracks supported by an occasional ad, or free of ads for a small subscription fee, Spotify appeared to be a serious competitor to music piracy.

In the years that followed Spotify conquered the hearts and minds of many music fans. Currently available in 61 countries, the service has amassed dozens of millions of users. A true success story, one that was in part made possible due to Spotify’s heavy reliance on P2P technology.

In fact, Spotify has long been one of the largest P2P networks on the Internet. When Spotify subscribers play a track in the desktop client, this could come from three sources: a cached file on the computer, one of Spotify’s servers, or from other subscribers through P2P.

In 2011 we reported that of all tracks that were not accessed over the Internet, roughly 80% went through the P2P network. This allowed Spotify to reduced server resources and associated costs, which is a pretty big deal for a startup.

However, the end of the road is coming soon for this massive private sharing network. TorrentFreak has learned that Spotify plans to discontinue its P2P technology altogether, to rely solely on central servers instead.

“We’re gradually phasing out the use of our desktop P2P technology which has helped our users enjoy their music both speedily and seamlessly,” Spotify’s Alison Bonny informs TF.

Where Spotify previously needed P2P to guarantee that all tracks could be played with the lowest lag possible, this is no longer needed. During the months to come Spotify will effectively shut down its P2P servers.

“We’re now at a stage where we can power music delivery through our growing number of servers and ensure our users continue to receive a best-in-class service,” Bonny says.

P2P has been central to Spotify’s success for a variety of reasons. For one, it allowed the service to scale up quickly without having to invest heavily in servers and bandwidth. This must have saved the company millions of dollars per year.

Also, one of the lead engineers since the start is none other than Ludvig Strigeus, the original creator of the BitTorrent client uTorrent. Strigeus sold uTorrent to BitTorrent Inc. in 2006, and some believe that part of this money went into the development of Spotify.

Spotify’s departure from P2P technology marks the end of an era, but to most people the change will simply go unnoticed, just like the fact that they have been sharing tracks with thousands of people from all over the world for years, with permission from the major record labels.

Spotify’s (former) distribution setup
spotify-distribution-2011

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

TorrentFreak: Game of Thrones Sets New Torrent Swarm Record

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

thrones Yesterday the second episode of Game of Thrones’ fourth season made its way onto the Internet. As expected, this generated quite a bit of activity on various torrent sites.

From all over the world people virtually gathered around the various pirated copies of the show, breaking the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm ever in the process.

A few hours after the second episode came online the Demonii tracker reported that 193,418 people where sharing one single torrent. 145,594 had a complete copy of the episode and continued to upload, while 47,824 were still downloading the file.

These are unprecedented numbers – never before have 193,418 people shared a single file simultaneously. The previous record was set last year, when the season finale of Game of Thrones had 171,572 people sharing on a single tracker.

Last week’s season opening, on the other hand, had “only” 140,000 people sharing the most active torrent. There wasn’t per se less interest in this episode, but at the time the downloaders were spread out more across different torrents.

Game of Thrones’ new file-sharing record
trackers-got-record

In addition to this record-breaking torrent, there were also several other Game of Thrones torrents out there with tens of thousands of people sharing.

Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode was downloaded roughly 1.5 million times during the first day. This makes the show the likely candidate to be crowned the most-downloaded TV-show at the end of the year.

As previously revealed, Game of Thrones downloaders come from all over the world. Data gathered during the first 12 hours after the release last week revealed that most downloaders came from Australia, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and The Netherlands.

Interestingly, Game of Thrones is available through legal channels in all countries listed above, albeit not cheaply.

The current record probably won’t last for long. The show’s ratings generally go up throughout the season, and so do the unauthorized downloads. This makes it likely that the barrier of 200,000 simultaneous file-sharers will be broken during the weeks to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Cinefi Streams Movie and TV-Torrents Straight to Your Browser

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

cinefiA few weeks ago a new piece of software called “Popcorn Time” made headlines around the world.

The key to this success was the app’s sheer simplicity, something that was missing from most of the earlier torrent streaming services. Today, a new torrent streaming service launched, one that’s just as simple, but doesn’t require any extra software.

Using only HTML5 technology, Cinefi can stream video torrents directly to a browser. There is no need to install any software or plugins and it works on every platform. This is not limited to PCs and laptops either, since it also includes mobile devices and game consoles.

TorrentFreak caught up with the main developer Rich, who says that the main motivation to develop the service was to see if it was possible to make a torrent streaming tool without any additions.

“We started the project for the sheer challenge of seeing if we could stream torrents directly to the browser without any other software,” Rick explains to TF.

The result is a web service that looks awfully simple, but works as advertised. Similar to Popcorn Time, it taps into a database of YTS movies, but users can also stream other videos by pasting a magnet link into the search box.

“Right now you can search for movies, which come from YTS, but Cinefi will play any torrent or magnet link, except videos encoded in AVI. Just paste and click,” Rich says.

As can be seen below, a trailer of the fourth Game of Thrones season plays just fine after a few seconds of loading time. As with any torrent streaming service, the playback is the smoothest for files that have relatively many seeders.

Cinefi: Game of Thrones Trailer
cinefy-gottrailer

Cinefi is closed source and uses a “patent-pending technology” which blends several HTML5 technologies. According to the developer, this makes it the first torrent streaming service of its kind, and since it doesn’t depend on extra software, it can be used by pretty much anyone, anywhere.

Of course, the entertainment industries are not going to cheer on this development, but the technology itself isn’t infringing on any copyrights according to the Cinefi team. In fact, they advise people not to use the service in any way that might break the law.

“As stated on the site, the site is legal to use, but downloading illegal torrents isn’t. We don’t encourage any illegal activity on the site. We do not host or store any torrents,” Rich tells TF.

“We merely provide the technology and it is up to the user’s discretion,” he adds.

Those who are interested can head over to Cinefi.com and take the service for a spin, with this torrent for example. It’s free to use, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Update: Cinefi appears to have some trouble loading every now and then, probably due to the sudden increase in vsitors.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 04/14/14

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

themachineThis week we have four newcomers in our chart.

The Machine is the most downloaded movie this week.

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 (…) The Machine 6.3 / trailer
2 (1) Ride Along 6.4 / trailer
3 (2) The Nut Job 5.7 / trailer
4 (4) 47 Ronin 6.5 / trailer
5 (…) Joe 7.6 / trailer
6 (3) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 7.5 / trailer
7 (5) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8.2 / trailer
8 (…) Sparks 6.3 / trailer
9 (…) Captain America: The Winter Soldier (CAM) 8.3 / trailer
10 (8) Frozen 8.1 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Why People Pirate Game of Thrones, a Global Cost Breakdown

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

game of thronesIn a few hours a new episode of Game of Thrones will appear on BitTorrent, and a few days later roughly four million people will have downloaded this unofficial release.

Those who pirate the show have several reasons for doing so. In some countries there is simply no legal option available, however, the price tag that comes with many of the legal services is almost as big of a hurdle.

So what does it cost to access Game of Thrones legally in the countries where the show is most frequently pirated? We decided to take a look based on the list of countries that had the most Game of Thrones file-sharers last week.

Below is a selection of the options people have in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands.

Australia

In Australia, Game of Thrones fans need a Foxtel subscription. When we look at the packages offered on the website the cheapest option appears to be the movie and drama combo, which costs $74 AUD (~ 70 USD) per month.

However, the minimum subscription term is six months, which with the added costs adds up to $520 AUD (~ 490 USD).

Assuming that someone’s only interested in watching Game of Thrones, an Australian fan will have to pay $52 AUD (~ 49 USD) per episode, which is rather expensive.

While it’s not advertised as any of the standard options, there’s also the Foxtel Play subscription. This allows people to watch Game of Thrones on demand on a variety of devices. The regular cost of this plan is $50 AUD (~ 50 USD) per month, and there’s currently an offer to get the first three months for $35 AUD (~ 33 USD). The Foxtel website notes that there is no long contract, which makes this option considerably cheaper.

The United States

In the United States there are several options available, which vary per cable provider. The cost of most HBO subscriptions are between $15 and $25 per month, depending on where you live and what your current plan is.

The downside, in addition to being locked in for several months sometimes, is that the HBO deals require a cable/Internet subscription. This makes the total package considerably more expensive, more than $100 per month in some cases.

But then again, pirates need an Internet subscription anyway.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom Game of Thrones is available via Sky Atlantic. The costs are £21.50 (36 USD) a month, but with a minimum contract period of 12 months. This means that for those who are only interested in Game of Thrones, there’s a price tag of £25.80 per episode.

The good news is that UK viewers can watch the episodes simultaneously with the US broadcast, which 9,000 people did this past Sunday.

Update: Sky also offers an online “Now TV” entertainment pass without a contract. Now TV is currently available at an introductory rate of £4.99 per month.

Canada

In Canada, Game of Thrones comes in a package of The Movie Network. The price is roughly $20 CAD (~ 18 USD) per month on both Bell and Rogers. This also requires a digital or satellite TV subscription, which drives the price up to over $60 CAD per month for those who don’t have one.

Again, as with the previous examples, some plans require a several-months-long contract which makes it less interesting for those who only want to watch Game of Thrones.

The Netherlands

In the Netherlands HBO can be ordered as an add-on to most standard cable TV subscriptions. The standard price is roughly 15 euros (~ 21 USD) per month, and several providers allow subscribers to cancel after a month.

The cheapest cable subscriptions in the Netherlands average around 10 euros, which brings the total package to roughly 25 euros (~ 35 USD) per month.

Interestingly, HBO NL offers the first episode of season 4 for free, on YouTube. Of course, this is only available to people from the Netherlands.

Conclusion

The above shows that Game of Thrones certainly doesn’t come cheap, especially not for the true cable-cutters who have no interest in the other content it’s bundled with.

While most people will agree that paying for content is the right thing to do, it’s not always an intuitive choice when a single episode is twice as expensive as a box office ticket for the average Hollywood blockbuster.

So do all these pirates have a point or not?

According to Bruce Meagher, corporate director of “$52 AUD per episode” Foxtel, they do not.

“What we are left with is an argument at the margins about a few dollars. Yet some people still feel that they should be entitled to take this show for free without the consent of its creators rather than pay a reasonable price for an extraordinary product,” he says.

“The Lannisters may not be a pleasant lot, but they, at least, always pay their debts,” he adds.

So what do you think?

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

TorrentFreak: Raging Anti-Piracy Boss Goes on a Tirade Against BitTorrent

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

steeleFor a few years now, BitTorrent Inc. has done its best to position the company as a neutral and legitimate business.

In a recent interview with “That Was Me”, BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen explained this challenge, as well as the general benefits BitTorrent has to offer.

The interview got some coverage here and there, including at Upstart, where it drew the attention of Robert Steele, Chief Technology Officer at anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp, a company that has made quite a few headlines this year.

Steele was not happy with the positive press coverage BitTorrent received from the media outlets, to say the least. Through Facebook (which uses BitTorrent) he wrote two responses to the article, which are worth repeating for a variety of reasons.

The comments appear to have been made late at night, possibly under influence, so we have left them intact and unedited for authenticity’s sake. Steele starts off by claiming that BitTorrent was designed for only one reason – to distribute pirated content.

“Absolutely ridiculous. Bram Cohen said in 2012 that ‘my goal is to destroy television’. BitTorrent’s architecture and features are designed for one reason only – to assist people in avoiding legitimate law enforcement efforts when they illgally consume other people’s intellectual property,” Steele begins.

It may not come as a surprise that Steele is quoting Cohen out of context. At the time, BitTorrent’s founder was actually referring to his new streaming technology, that would make it possible for anyone to stream video content to a large audience at virtually no cost.

Also, BitTorrent isn’t in any way helping people to avoid law enforcement, quite the contrary. People who use BitTorrent are easy to track down, which is in fact something that Rightscorp is banking its entire business model on.

In the second comment Steele brings in Accel, the venture capital firm that invested millions of dollars in BitTorrent Inc. According to the Rightscorp CTO Accel is also guilty of encouraging piracy, and he suggests that uTorrent should have been equipped with a blacklist of pirate torrent hashes.

“If Accell Partner’s BitTorrent was actually a legitimate business not directly involved in driving and facilitating piracy, they would have a blacklist of copyrighted hashes that the BT client won’t ‘share’. Dropbox does this. Why does Dropbox do this? Because they actually obey the law and respect content creators,” Steele says.

Steele touches on a sensitive subject here, as BitTorrent could indeed implement a blacklist to prevent some pirated content from being shared. TorrentFreak has raised this issue with BitTorrent Inc in the past, but we have never received a response on the matter.

rageMoving on from this sidetrack, Steele’s tirade in the first comment evolves into something that’s scarily incomprehensible.

“BTTracker software is not needed unless the goal is to enable other people outside of BitTorrent, Inc. to operate the systems that log the ip addresses of infringing computers. Why do they do it that way? Not becuase it is needed to move big files. Dropbox doesnt need trackers. They do it that way because Limewire got sued for hosting those lists.” Steele notes.

From what we understand, Steele doesn’t get why BitTorrent is decentralized, which is the entire basis of the technology. The comment is wrong on so many points that we almost doubt that Steele has any idea how BitTorrent works, or Limewire for that matter.

We surely hope that the investors in Rightscorp, which is a publicly traded company now, aren’t reading along.

Finally, Rightscorp’s CTO suggests that BitTorrent and its backers should be taken to court, to pay back the damage they cause to the entertainment industries.

“Bram Cohen and Accell Partner’s BitTorrent should be held accountable for the wages and income they have helped take from hundreds of thousands of creative workers just like Limewire, Grokster, Aimster, Kazaa and Napster were.”

Right.

From the incoherent reasoning and the many grammar and spelling mistakes we have to assume that Steele wasn’t fully accountable when he wrote the comments. Perhaps the end of a busy week, or the end of an eventful night.

In any case, we’ve saved a copy of the comments below, just in case they are accidentally deleted.

Steele’s comments
steele-comments

Photo: Michael Theis

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

TorrentFreak: American Express Accuses Pirate Sites of ‘Stealing’ Their Ads

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

pirate-cardHurting the revenue streams of infringing sites has become a prime anti-piracy strategy for the entertainment industries in recent months.

By cutting off revenue through deals with payment providers and advertising agencies, they hope to make it less profitable to operate these sites.

This is not an easy task, as there are many advertising companies who are still eager to team up with “rogue” torrent sites and streaming portals. Likewise, site owners often implement tricks to hide the site where the ads are displayed.

As a result, several major brands see their ads showing up on sites they don’t want to be associated with. A few weeks ago a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance revealed that companies such as Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego, McDonalds, Xfinity are contributing to the problem.

These problematic ad placements were also highlighted by a publication of the Australian media and entertainment group mUmBRELLA, which focused on ads appearing on streaming portals such as watchseries.lt and videoweed.es. The report shows that American Express and other brands had their ads on display, and that the companies were asked for comment.

As expected, none of the major brands said it willingly promoted its products through these pirate sites. However, the explanations that were given varied, and the response from American Express was the most intriguing of all.

The payment processor’s media agency Mindshare says that the ads in question weren’t real ads at all. Instead, American Express accuses the pirate sites of “photoshopping” their banners into their designs, to increase site credibility.

AmEx on Videoweed
amex-ad

Timothy Whitfield, general operations director at the responsible advertising placement outfit Xaxis, confirms this suspicion.

“Now when we dug into it what happened is that in some cases they were using basic photoshopping skills to take an old creative from Amex and building it into the homepage and into the video leads and on the homepage of the website,” Whitfield said

“It wasn’t a real creative it was just someone who had photoshopped it into the site. Now the reason that we think they were doing that is that they were working very hard to make themselves look like a reputable website,” he ads.

While this type of banner ‘theft’ is certainly an option, TorrentFreak was unable to replicate the finding from a wide variety of locations. It is also unclear why the sites in question would give up valuable advertising placements. There is hardly any positive effect on the site’s reputation when it’s not done structurally.

The insurance company Allianz was also caught advertising on pirate sites, but here the explanation was a more common one. According to Whitfield, Xaxis didn’t place the ad directly, but instead it loaded through several iframes thereby disguising the website where it appeared.

Through this “nesting” technique pirate sites can trick advertising agencies and have higher paid ads.

“Every man and his dog blocks these websites – Watchseries.it, Videoweed etc. – but because you’re seven layers deep you don’t know if it is one you have blocked or not,” Whitfield said in a comment.

Finally, HotelsCombined came up with yet another reason why their banners appeared on infringing websites. Again, without their explicit knowledge.

Kristen McKenzie, global PR and content manager of HotelsCombined, explained that it may have been the result of ad-retargeting. HotelsCombined tracks people who visit their website, and their advertising provider then displays ads on some of the sites these people visit afterwards.

“Our retargeting provider does not disclose their extensive list of networks, and with millions of different sites being accessed simultaneously in real-time, it is ultimately impossible for us to police where retargeting may occur,” McKenzie said.

The above shows that getting rid of banners on rogue sites is proving to be more difficult than simply compiling a blacklist. It’s a cat and mouse game, much like the efforts to go after hosting companies and payment providers. And if pirates are starting to use Photoshop to promote brands for free, it’s never-ending.

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

TorrentFreak: Kim Dotcom Goes Head to Head With The MPAA’s Top Lawyer

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

mpaa-restrictedEarlier this week the MPAA filed a lawsuit against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and two former employees of the defunct file-storage service.

In their complaint the movie studios repeat many of the claims that were laid out in the criminal case while demanding millions of dollars in damages.

But according to Dotcom the lawsuit is just a desperate attempt at an asset-grab by the MPAA because the criminal case against Megaupload is going to fail.

“The criminal case is failing. There will be no extradition. They are now trying to get at our seized assets with civil forfeitures. It’s a move of desperation,” Dotcom tells TF.

MPAA General Counsel Steven Fabrizio disagrees, and has told his side of the story to many news outlets this week. Dotcom and Fabrizio are usually not heard at the same time, but in a rare interview with Radio New Zealand the two bumped heads.

Fabrizio was seemingly under the impression that he was doing a solo interview, but that changed when the reporter informed him that Dotcom was listening in on a second line. When she asked the MPAA lawyer whether he wanted to discuss the case with Dotcom there was a brief silence, but he eventually agreed.

First MPAA’s General Counsel had the opportunity to explain what Megaupload did wrong and why. In line with their complaint, Fabrizio described the file-storage site as a business that was set up to facilitate and encourage copyright infringement.

“Megaupload was never a cloud storage service to begin with,” Fabrizio noted. “From its birth to its death, it was a service that was designed to profit from copyright infringement, and in fact, it did profit handsomely from copyright infringement.”

“The proof of the pudding that it was not a storage service, is that almost 98 percent of the people who used Megaupload were not premium users. If you weren’t a premium user, and your content wasn’t downloaded frequently enough, then Megaupload would delete it,” he added.

Dotcom, who in private refers to the MPAA’s counsel as “Fabricatio,” because he is “script writing and ‘fabricating’ Hollywood’s science fiction lawsuits”, later refuted the claim that Megaupload deleted files uploaded by free users.

“That is a blatant lie,” Dotcom said. “We have not purged any files from Megaupload for many years. If you were a non-premium user and you had an account with us that was free, your files would not be deleted.”

Fabrizio’s second argument was that Megaupload offered a rewards program which encouraged people to share large video files. Again, Dotcom contested this claim by pointing out that people only got paid for files smaller than 100 megabytes. Megaupload’s founder conceded that users could circumvent the limits by uploading split archives, but he stressed that the restriction was specifically put in place to discourage copyright infringement.

The third allegation Fabrizio made was that Megaupload employees had private conversations where they allegedly discussed the “pirate” status of their work.

“Internally they referred to themselves as modern pirates. Some of the employees and some of the co-defendants actually uploaded infringing popular movies themselves, so that they could be downloaded by others,” the MPAA’s top lawyer noted.

Again, Dotcom disagreed and explained that the “pirates” the employee referred to were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

“Yeah, well that’s complete nonsense, right. One of our employees who was admin staff and a developer has chatted with our CTO and he watched a documentary called Pirates of Silicon Valley. That was a movie about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how they stole the ideas from each other,” Dotcom said.

“He then made this remark to [the CTO] saying we are modern-day pirates, comparing himself to the attitude those guys had, simply because they were copying from each other and we were copying from our competitors and vice versa,” he added.

Responding to the reporter’s question on why he wouldn’t go to the U.S. voluntarily to stand trial, Dotcom said that he offered to do so, but only on the condition that he would get access to his funds as well as bail, which the Department of Justice refused.

The reporter then switched back to Fabrizio, who didn’t seem to believe much of what Dotcom was saying.

“Mr. Dotcom can talk all he wants about his excuses, but the reality is that you can say anything you want if you’re not constrained by the truth of the facts that you’re saying,” Fabrizio said.

Of course, the same also applies to the MPAA and Mr. Fabrizio…

The interview is an intriguing face-off, and the first time ever that the MPAA and Dotcom have gone head-to-head. It probably wont be the last time either, although the venue will very much depend on how the criminal proceedings and the civil case progress.

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

TorrentFreak: The Netherlands Must Outlaw Downloading, EU Court Rules (Update)

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

amsterdamIn common with many other countries around the world, downloading music and movies is hugely popular in the Netherlands. Surveys estimate that a third of the population downloads copyrighted content without paying for it.

Contrary to most other countries, however, downloading and copying movies and music for personal use is not punishable by law. In return, the Dutch compensate rightsholders through a “piracy levy” on writable media, hard drives and electronic devices with storage capacity, including smartphones.

In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice has declared this system unlawful. The case was brought by several electronics stores and manufacturers, whose products were made more expensive because of the levy.

In its judgment the Court held that the levy system is a threat to the internal market and that it puts copyright holders at an unfair disadvantage.

“If Member States were free to adopt legislation permitting, inter alia, reproductions for private use to be made from an unlawful source, the result of that would clearly be detrimental to the proper functioning of the internal market,” the Court noted in a briefing on the verdict today.

“Similarly, the objective of proper support for the dissemination of culture may not be achieved by sacrificing strict protection of copyright or by tolerating illegal forms of distribution of counterfeited or pirated works.”

As a result the Court ruled that the Dutch system, in which people are permitted to copy files from pirated sources, can not be tolerated.

The Court believes that “legalizing” file-sharing encourages the distribution of counterfeit and pirated works. In addition, it explains that the system poses “an unfair disadvantage to the copyright holders.”

The Court further notes that the Dutch system also punishes those who buy their digital movies and music from authorized sources, as they also pay the piracy levy on the devices and media they record them to.

“All users are indirectly penalized since they necessarily contribute towards the compensation payable for the harm caused by private reproductions made from an unlawful source. Users consequently find themselves required to bear an additional, non-negligible cost in order to be able to make private copies,” the Court notes.

Today’s judgment is also likely to affect other European countries with similar systems, such as Switzerland where downloading pirated works for personal use is also permitted.

Ironically, copyright holders may be worse off if the Netherlands does indeed outlaw downloading pirated material. This would result in millions of euros in lost revenue through the piracy levy, which may be hard to match by an increase in legal sales, if there’s any increase at all.

Update: The Dutch Government confirmed to Tweakers that downloading copyrighted material for personal use is no longer allowed, effective immediately.

The Government also clarified that in general offenses will be prosecuted through civil cases, not criminal ones. We have updated this article accordingly.

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

TorrentFreak: YouTube Hurts Music Album Sales, Research Finds

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

youtubesadsmallIn recent years many academics have researched the link between Internet piracy and the revenues of the major music labels, with varying results. Some have concluded that there is no adverse impact of piracy on sales, others argue that there’s a moderate negative relation.

While the music industry and many researchers seek answers in the piracy realm, other drastic changes are too often ignored. The availability of free on-demand music through legal services such as YouTube for example.

Researchers from Fairfield University and the University of Colorado have started to fill this gap with a new study. In their working paper the researchers examine the effect of Warner Music’s 2009 YouTube blackout on the record label’s album sales.

At the time, Warner pulled all their music from the video hosting service due to a licensing dispute. The researchers use this event to compare the sales of Warner’s artists listed in the Billboard Album 200, to those from labels that still had their videos on YouTube.

The results are intriguing, to say the least. After controlling for several variables, such as music genre and album specific characteristics, they found that Warner’s top artists sold many more albums during the blackout.

“We showed that the removal of content from YouTube had a causal impact on album sales by upwards of on average 10,000 units per week for top albums,” the paper reads.

According to the researchers, these results indicate that YouTube doesn’t always serve as a promotional tool as many claim, certainly not for the top artists.

“While a great deal has been said about the potential role of these service in promoting and discovering new artists and music, our results cast some doubt on this widely believed notion, at least with regards to top selling albums [...], they write.

The researchers estimate that for the top albums the total in lost sales because of YouTube equals roughly $1 million per year. This is a significant percentage of the label’s total revenue.

It is hard to say, however, that YouTube is hurting overall revenue, as the advertising revenue it receives from Google also brings in a significant sum of money.

The results, which are largely driven by the top selling albums, suggest that there is no promotional effect of YouTube on album sales. In addition, there is no effect on Google searches for the artists in question either. In other words, YouTube doesn’t mainly hurt album sales.

“Our findings suggest that sales displacement effect can be real without a promotional effect. That is, the people listening on YouTube appear to be, to some extent people who would know about this album anyway, but may not buy it because of YouTube,” the researchers conclude.

The findings are interesting for a variety of reasons. Although they don’t prove that YouTube costs the music industry more than it brings in, it clearly shows that there are more factors that can explain people’s shift in music buying habits than piracy alone.

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

TorrentFreak: European ISPs Can Stop Logging User Data, Court Rules

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

europe-flagIn a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice has declared Europe’s Data Retention directive to be a violation of Internet users’ privacy.

Under the Directive Internet providers and other telecom companies were required to log and store vast amounts of information, including who their subscribers communicate with, and what IP-addresses they use.

The local authorities could then use this information to fight serious crimes, but it was also been frequently used by third parties, in online piracy cases for example.

Today the Court ruled that the data collection requirements are disproportionate. In a case started by Digital Rights Ireland the Court effectively annulled the directive, and it’s now up to the individual member states to change local laws accordingly.

“The Court is of the opinion that, by adopting the Data Retention Directive, the EU legislature has exceeded the limits imposed by compliance with the principle of proportionality,” the Court states.

“By requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data,” it adds.

The judgement has far-reaching implications for large telecom companies, but also for smaller businesses including many VPN providers. With the new ruling these companies are no longer required to log extensive amount of user data as was required under the EU Directive.

While many ISPs are waiting to see what local Governments decide, the Swedish provider Bahnhof immediately announced that it would wipe all subscriber data it stored.

“Bahnhof stops all data storage with immediate effect. In addition, we will delete the information that was already saved,” Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung says.

There’s also resistance against the Court decision. The Dutch Minister of Justice Fred Teeven, for example, wants local ISPs to continue storing user data for law enforcement purposes.

The European Court of Justice judgement is a clear victory for privacy activists, but mostly for the public who will regain some of their online privacy. While the ruling specified that some data retention may be needed, broad and mandatory retention laws and NSA-style data dragnets are no longer the standard.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Studios Demand Millions From Megaupload in New Lawsuit

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

megauploadA few months ago the U.S. Department of Justice released a summary of its evidence against Megaupload, to assist civil parties who would want to start their own cases against the defunct file-hosting service.

Previously there have been some rumors that the MPAA was working on a lawsuit and this has now been confirmed. Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. have teamed up and filed a complaint in a Virginia District Court.

The lawsuit is filed against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and the former employees Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk. The same defendants are also part of the ongoing criminal proceedings by the U.S. Government, and the complaint itself raises many of the same allegations that were put forward in the indictment.

The movie studios describe Megaupload as a business that was designed to facilitate copyright infringement and are looking for millions of dollars in damages. One of the problems they describe is that, after a DMCA notice was received by Megaupload, it would only remove the URL while the actual file and other URLs pointing to that file would remain intact.

The movie studios claim that this was done to ensure that the most popular infringing files remained available. However, they fail to mention that removing the actual files would be overbroad and wrong in some instances. For example, if an artist stores his files on Hotfile but wants to take unauthorized copies offline, he or she would not want Megaupload to delete the original as well.

Megaupload’s reward program is also cited as a piracy promoting tool by the studios. According to the complaint it was set up to reward people who shared popular content, which would often be pirated movies. The rewards therefore served as an incentive to share links to Megaupload in public and advertise these through other sites.

This point is also raised by MPAA’s Steven Fabrizio, who notes that Megaupload wasn’t a cloud storage service but an “unlawful hub for mass distribution.”

“Megaupload was built on an incentive system that rewarded users for uploading the most popular content to the site, which was almost always stolen movies, TV shows and other commercial entertainment content. It paid users based on how many times the content was downloaded by others – and didn’t pay at all until that infringing content was downloaded 10,000 times,” Fabrizio explains.

TorrentFreak spoke to Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken who believes that this new case might show that Hollywood and the U.S. Government have little faith in the criminal proceedings.

“Megaupload believes that the suit lacks merit and we will vigorously defend against the claims,” Rothken tells TF.

“The MPAA is apparently concocting a civil claim out of desperation two years after the indictment because it is likely that they and Department of Justice believe the pending criminal allegations lack merit, as there is no such thing as secondary criminal copyright infringement”

Rothken stresses that Megaupload was predominantly used for backup, and not for file-sharing as the complaint suggests. The movie studios paint a distorted picture of Megaupload according to the lawyer, who notes that the money paid out to uploaders was minimal, and that terminating the rewards program didn’t affect the number of visitors.

“The amount of money paid out in the rewards programs was tiny and a rounding error compared to revenue. The rewards program was halted about six months before the indictment with no resulting drop in traffic – it was copyright neutral,” Rothken explains to TF.

The case promises to be a vital one for the future of cloud hosting services in the United States, and a backup plan for when the criminal case fails.

The MPAA previously settled its lawsuit against Hotfile, and hopes for another win against Dotcom and his colleagues. Megaupload, however, believes it is protected by the DMCA safe harbor and is determined to show that the movie studio’s allegations are meritless.

In addition to the lawsuit filed this week, Megaupload has also been sued by Microhits in 2012. This case has been frozen pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

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

TorrentFreak: Game of Thrones Premiere Triggers Piracy Craze

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

thronesYesterday evening saw a massive demand for the premiere of Game of Thrones’ fourth season, both on legal and less-authorized channels.

The unprecedented demand caused trouble for the HBO Go service, which crashed and was unreachable for several hours on end.

This outage probably motivated some to look for unauthorized copies, which were widely available through dozens of torrent sites soon after the episode finished. Unlike HBO Go, downloads via BitTorrent actually benefit from the increased interest, which usually means that downloads finish faster.

And indeed, there has been plenty of interest in unauthorized copies of the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Data gathered by TorrentFreak reveals that half a day after the first episode appeared online over a million people have already grabbed a copy via a torrent site. Earlier this morning, more than 300,000 people were actively sharing one of the three most-popular torrents.

The number of downloads is roughly the same as last year, but the season premiere didn’t set a record for the largest BitTorrent swarm, most likely because there were multiple popular copies available. The most shared torrent file had around 140,000 people sharing at once at its height this morning.

Game of Thrones sharers
got-peers

During the days to come the number of downloads is expected to grow by several millions. Last year Game of Thrones became the most pirated TV-show for the second time, and with today’s numbers it is well on its way to securing the title for another year.

In addition to the downloads, we also looked at the countries people were sharing from. A sample of 18,333 IP-addresses collected over the day shows that Australia takes the crown with 11.6% of the total. The United States is a good second with 9.3%, followed by the United Kingdom with 5.8%.

The number one spot for Australia is all the more impressive since it has a population of just over 22 million people, relatively small compared to the other two countries. Looking at the city level we see that most downloads (during the first half day) come from Melbourne, before Athens and Sydney.

So, why are all these people pirating Game of Thrones?

As always, there are many reasons why people may choose torrents or other pirate sources. In some cases there is simply no legal alternative, because of licensing issues for example, or due to technical troubles such as those suffered yesterday by HBO Go. In other cases the legal options are too limited, restrictive, or expensive.

The reasons above are not exhaustive of course, there are many more reasons why people turn to BitTorrent. For some it’s become a habit that will be hard to break, no matter where they live and how good the legal alternatives are.

If there are any Game of Thrones pirates reading this, let us know what drives you in the comments.

Note: To clarify, the IP-address sample was collected during the first 12 hours, which means that there’s a geographical bias. Also, downloaders who use VPNs may appear to be in a different country.

# Country % City %
torrentfreak.com
1 Australia 11.6% Melbourne 3.2%
2 United States 9.3% Athens 2.9%
3 United Kingdom 5.8% Sydney 2.0%
4 Canada 5.2% London 1.9%
5 The Netherlands 4.7% Stockholm 1.7%
6 Philippines 4.6% Amsterdam 1.7%
7 India 4.2% Madrid 1.5%
8 Greece 3.6% Warsaw 1.4%
9 Poland 3.0% Brisbane 1.4%
10 Sweden 2.7% Perth 1.3%

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 04/07/14

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

ride-alongThis week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Ride Along is the most downloaded movie this week.

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 (…) Ride Along 6.4 / trailer
2 (…) The Nut Job 5.7 / trailer
3 (1) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 7.5 / trailer
4 (3) 47 Ronin 6.5 / trailer
5 (2) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8.2 / trailer
6 (5) The Wolf Of Wall Street 8.5 / trailer
7 (…) The Legend of Hercules 4.2 / trailer
8 (8) Frozen 8.1 / trailer
9 (7) The Pirate Fairy 6.9 / trailer
10 (4) 300: Rise of an Empire 6.9 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Rightscorp Finds Scary Shortcut to Expose Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

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

ip-addressWeek in and week out hundreds of U.S. citizens are dragged into lawsuits because their Internet account was used by someone to share copyrighted material.

These cases all follow a familiar pattern. The copyright holder files a lawsuit mentioning several IP-addresses, and asks the court for a subpoena to identify the account holders connected to it.

It’s then up to a judge to decide whether or not the subpoena should be granted. If it is, ISPs usually inform the affected customer who can then appeal the disclosure before a judge. If this fails, the personal details of the subscriber are handed over by the ISP, after which the affected user usually receives a settlement request from the copyright holder.

This is how file-sharing cases have worked for years, and on the surface it appears to be a fair process. However, for piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp this process is proving too cumbersome. Instead of arguing their case before a judge, they’re using a shortcut that will be of great interest to copyright trolls.

A few weeks ago several people received a settlement request from Rightscorp via snail mail. This is peculiar since the company generally doesn’t know who the account holder is. As opposed to classic copyright trolls, Rightscorp usually sends its settlement requests via DMCA requests.

Perhaps even more worrying, the settlement letter in question mentions a subpoena. Not a regular one, but a DMCA-subpoena, which bypasses the judge and only has to be signed off by a court clerk. In other words, Rightscorp used an uncommon shortcut to cheaply and quickly expose the alleged pirates, and the ISPs in question happily complied.

Rightscorp letter
rightscorp-subpoena-letter

Wondering why all other trolls aren’t doing the very same thing, we asked several legal experts for advice. Without exception they told us that DMCA subpoenas are not meant to be used against ISPs who only pass through information, only those who actually store content.

This was decided in a case between Verizon and the RIAA more than a decade ago, and has been upheld in subsequent cases.

“The RIAA v. Verizon case clarified that 512(h) subpoenas could only be issued to service providers who hosted infringing content directly on their servers. Because in filesharing cases the allegedly infringing material is stored on users’ systems, 512(h) subpoenas are inapplicable,” Cathy Gellis, a technology lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area told TF.

So why is Rightscorp using these DMCA subpoenas? We asked the company, and CEO Christopher Sabec said that they believe the court made the wrong decision at the time. According to Sabec the verdict won’t hold up at the Supreme Court, so they’re ignoring it.

“The [RIAA vs. Verizon] Court case used flawed reasoning in concluding that an ISP such as Verizon is not a ‘Service Provider’ even though it clearly meets the definition laid out in the statute,” Sabec told us.

“The issue has actually not been addressed by the vast majority of Circuit Courts. We believe that the decision you cite will be overturned when the issue reaches the Supreme Court,” he adds.

It’s worth noting that for now Rightscorp is avoiding any of the major Internet providers. Below is the list of ISPs that were targeted, which includes Fidelity Communication, Sweetwater Cable and even the City of Wilson. Of course, these smaller organizations are less likely to object.

Rightscorp targets
rightscorp-cases

The cases above make it clear that court clerks have no problem with signing off on these requests. As a result, Rightscorp obtained subpoenas for hundreds of IP-addresses at virtually no cost. In the case of Fidelity Communication alone, court records reveal more than a hundred pages of IP-addresses.

While it seems that Rightscorp is currently the only party to use DMCA subpoenas, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the classic copyright trolls now follow suit.

After all, it’s much easier to obtain people’s personal details when a judge isn’t looking over your shoulder.

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

TorrentFreak: 1,103 Megaupload Servers Gather Dust at Virginia Warehouse

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

megauploadWhen Megaupload was raided early 2012, the U.S. Government seized 1,103 servers at Carpathia’s hosting facility in the United States.

Well over two years have passed since and still it remains uncertain if former users will ever be able to retrieve their files.

A reporter who used Megaupload to store work-related files did take legal steps to secure his files. However, despite six requests asking the court to find a solution for the return of his data, there is still no progress.

Hosting provider Carpathia previously estimated that it cost them $9,000 a day to keep the hardware in storage. The company even threatened that without compensation, it could have no other option than to wipe the data. This is also what Dutch hosting company Leaseweb did to the hundreds of Megaupload servers it had stored.

The bulk of Megaupload’s data is stored at Carpathia though, and to learn whether those servers remain intact TF reached out to the hosting company for a status update. Unfortunately, our repeated requests remained unanswered.

Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken was willing to provide some insight into the issue, and says that according to the information they have the servers remain in storage. Not at the original location, but in a warehouse of the hosting company in Virginia.

“Our understanding is that the Megaupload servers previously hosted at Carpathia are stacked in a disconnected state in a secure Carpathia facility in Virginia,” Rothken tells TF.

The U.S. Government is no longer claiming the Megaupload servers as they have copied all crucial data. However, the MPAA and the Department of Justice previously objected to a deal between Carpathia and Megaupload, where the latter would buy their own servers back.

This effort was stopped because the U.S. didn’t want Kim Dotcom to have access to the files. Hoping to get out of this stalemate the Court then suggested that all affected parties should get together and come up with a solution, thus far without success.

“In separate written requests in the past year both Carpathia and Megaupload have asked Magistrate Judge Anderson – who was appointed by Judge O’Grady to mediate the cloud storage server data issue – to preside over follow-up negotiations on data preservation and consumer access,” Rothken tells TF.

“The US DOJ has shown little interest in such negotiations and the Judge has not been inclined to set any additional meetings,” he adds.

In other words, there are no signs that former Megaupload users will get their files back in the near future. The question now is for how long hosting provider Carpathia will keep the servers in storage.

If Carpathia follows the example of Leaseweb and destroys the data, Megaupload’s business will be wiped for good before the criminal proceedings get into the meat of the matter. Perhaps that’s what the U.S. planned all along?

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Sue Russian Facebook Over Large-Scale Piracy

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

vkFor several years vKontakte, or VK, has been marked as a piracy facilitator by copyright holders and even the U.S. Government.

In several Special 301 Reports published by the United States Trade Representative, Russia’s Facebook equivalent has been criticized for the huge quantities of unauthorized media it hosts. As a result it is currently labeled a “notorious market”, a term usually reserved for piracy’s apparent worst-of-the-worst.

In common with many user-generated sites, VK allows its millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. Unlike Facebook and other major players, Russia’s social network has been very slow to adopt anti-piracy measures.

Three major record labels – Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music – have now taken their concerns to the Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court. The labels accuse VK of running a service that facilitates large-scale copyright infringement and are demanding countermeasures and compensation.

The record labels have asked for an order requiring VK to implement fingerprinting technology to delete copyrighted works and prevent them from being re-uploaded. In addition, Sony, Warner and Universal are demanding 50 million rubles ($1.4 million) from the social networking site to compensate for losses suffered.

“VK’s music service, unlike others in Russia, is an unlicensed file-sharing service that is designed for copyright infringement on a large-scale,” IFPI’s Frances Moore says in a comment.

“We have repeatedly highlighted this problem over a long period of time. We have encouraged VK to cease its infringements and negotiate with record companies to become a licensed service. To date the company has taken no meaningful steps to tackle the problem, so today legal proceedings are being commenced,” Moore adds.

VK has yet to respond to the accusations. Russia’s telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor previously said that VK was trying very hard to better their anti-piracy practices, but these efforts apparently came too late.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders ISPs to Unblock “Pirate” Site

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

filmakerzLast month the Public Prosecutor of Rome ordered Italian Internet providers to block access to 46 torrent, streaming and other file-sharing portals.

The crackdown was the largest enforcement action against copyright-infringing sites in Italy, and local authorities hinted that it wouldn’t be the last.

One of the sites affected by the blockades was Filmakerz.org, a video streaming portal that offers a variety of movies and TV-shows for free. Mainly popular among Italians, the site’s traffic plummeted as a result of the ban.

But while most blocked sites are quick to throw in the towel, Filmakerz.org decided to appeal the case, with success. This week the Court of Appeals overturned the blocking order against the site, ruling that it was too broad.

The panel of judges clarified that each blocking request should specify under what exact URLs copyrighted works are being infringed, instead of submitting a single domain name. Without the exact location of the infringing content, the court can’t verify the validity of the blocking request.

According to Fulvio Sarzana, the lawyer who represented Filmakerz.org, the ruling is a clear blow against the increasing censorship efforts in Italy. Sarzana says that the court specified two important ground rules.

“The first is that the Public Prosecutor must prove the existence of a for-profit motivation to get the blocking order,” the lawyer tells TF.

“The second is that parts of the site that contain legitimate content must not affected. This means that a partial seizure of an individual URL is preferred over the seizure of the entire site,” Sarzana adds.

The ruling comes at a crucial time, a few days after Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority (AGCOM) implemented new regulations that would allow foreign sites to be blocked more easily.

“The verdict is important because it shows that the order to block a site should be carefully decided, and is also important in the light of AGCOM rules,” Sarzana told us, adding that the regulation to block entire domains contradicts with European and Italian jurisprudence.

Following the Court of Appeals verdict, local ISPs have been instructed to unblock Filmakerz.org, which is expected to be accessible again soon. It is unclear whether any of the other blocked sites also plan to appeal the blockade, but with the appeal decision in Filmakerz’s favor it might be worth a shot.

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

TorrentFreak: Saudi Arabia Government Blocks The Pirate Bay (and More)

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

tpb-logoBlocking The Pirate Bay has become quite common around Europe in recent years, and today this practice spread to Saudi Arabia.

Without prior warning or official announcement, the country’s Ministry for Culture and Information ordered local ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. In addition, several other torrent sites were also censored, including Torrentz.eu and Rarbg.com.

The reason for the blockade remains unknown, but piracy concerns seem plausible as the measures are coming from the Ministry of Culture, and not the Communications Commission which administers the country’s regular filters.

As can be seen below, the blocking notification for The Pirate Bay is also different from the green notice that appears for sites that are blocked in violation of the Islamic religion.

Saudi Arabia’s Pirate Bay blockade
saudi-arabia-block

Interestingly, the measures come two months after several copyright holder groups urged the U.S. Government to place Saudi Arabia on its priority watchlist. MPAA, RIAA and others suggested that the country isn’t doing enough to stop online piracy.

The blockade is currently active on nearly all ISPs, but TF has learned that Zain customers can still access the site. Zain does block Pirate Bay’s porn category, but that’s nothing new.

The Pirate Bay is among the 50 most visited websites in Saudi Arabia, and the blockade has caused quite a bit of uproar on social media. The topic is currently trending on Twitter where many people are voicing their frustration.

TPB block trending on Twitter
sa-tweets-tpb

However, as with all censorship attempts there are plenty of ways to circumvent this blockade. The easiest option at the moment is to simply use the https version of the site. Other workarounds, such as VPNs or Pirate Bay proxies, work fine too.

The Pirate Bay team is not impressed by yet another country blocking access to their website. A few months ago they released Pirate Browser which allows users to access the site without restrictions. It has been downloaded millions of times since.

Update: The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information has now confirmed that the blockades are copyright related. 22 domain names have been blocked in total.

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

TorrentFreak: Mobile Music Piracy More Popular Than Torrents and Cyberlockers

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

cassetteIn recent years the music industry ‘s battle against piracy mostly focused on torrent sites, cyberlockers and unauthorized MP3 indexes. However, new research from the industry analysis firm NPD Group suggests that a new, much bigger threat, has arrived.

NPD’s Senior Vice President, Industry Analysis, Russ Crupnick informs us that mobile music piracy through apps has outgrown traditional P2P file-sharing and direct downloads.

“In terms of the number of internet users doing a variety of music sharing activities, downloading from mobile apps is the most popular,” Crupnick tells TF.

The data comes from unpublished research, which was the first to include statistics on the usage of mobile apps to download music. Quite surprisingly, mobile piracy comes out on top right away.

It is estimated that in the United States 27 million people downloaded at least one music track via their mobile over the past year, mostly without permission. This trumps all other forms of online piracy. By comparison, 21 million people used traditional P2P sites such as The Pirate Bay to download music.

For other media types the results are different, but the findings signal an interesting trend.

According to NPD mobile apps are, as one would expect, most popular with younger consumers. There are a variety of reasons for the mobile piracy explosion, but the research firm believes that increased usage of smartphones and apps among Millennials is a major driver.

“My guess is there is an underground buzz network about music apps that is fueled by teens and Millennials,” Crupnick says.

NPD believes that it’s important for copyright holders and app platforms to work together to tackle this problem. While some people may know that these apps are unauthorized, the fact that they appear in iTunes or Google Play may give them an air of legitimacy.

“Lots of things on the web are free or ad-supported, including some entertainment content. I’m sure some users are quite aware that there is music that is not legally distributed on these apps, but others may not be as educated,” Crupnick tells us.

“If it’s on an app store, it must be ‘OK’. This is where the music industry and technology companies have an opportunity and maybe an obligation to work together to make sure consumers understand, and artists get compensated,” he adds.

These last comments appear to signal a new working territory for the music industry’s anti-piracy initiatives. Until now, there hasn’t been a major campaign against “infringing” apps, but this is bound to change in the near future.

Whether a crackdown on apps will be enough to counter the current mobile piracy trend has yet to be seen. In addition to pirate apps, several unauthorized MP3 indexes have also developed mobile versions, which will prove much harder to deal with.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Partners With Neuroscientists to Launch “Virtual Bay”

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

virtual bayThe Pirate Bay has been around for more than a decade and has undergone quite a lot of change during that time. However, nothing comes close to today’s announcement.

“We’re about to take the biggest step in our history,” says TPB in a blog post that went out earlier than expected.

In addition to changing the look of its frontpage the site has renamed itself to ‘The Virtual Bay’ to celebrate a new partnership with neuroscientists from Russia, Israel and Japan. The goal is to build a next generation virtual reality device that will change the way people interact with the site and the pirated media it offers.

“As piracy is about to change from sharing of files into the sharing of everything, we’re planning our departure from this earthly form. Preparing our final ascension into the transcendence. The final conflux,” the TPB team notes.

Traditional media companies are resisting change and have been slow to pick up on virtual reality, but The Pirate Bay is jumping in to fill this void. When the site’s device is ready, Pirate Bay users will be able to actively participate in the games and videos downloaded from the site.

“Using a simple plugin into the brain, you will no longer only be able to see and hear a movie, a game or whatever it is you want. You’ll be able to live it. Play the main character. Tweak any story in any way you want,” TPB writes.

In addition, the virtual reality component will store the entire Pirate Bay ecosystem in people’s minds, making it accessible instantaneously, faster than ever before, and impossible to shut down. In other words, the people will become The Pirate Bay and take the site to a new dimension.

“Using your brain power and nervous system, we will be able to speed things up. Every part of The Pirate Bay will be stored within you and everyone else that dares to participate in this step into the future. The more we are, the faster everything will be.

“Our scientists calculate that if we become at least 1,333,337 nodes, everything will be shared instantaneously,” the TPB team adds.

More details about this prestigious project are expected to come out later today, or tomorrow, depending on your time zone. Stay tuned.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Launch Pirate Site Blacklist for Advertisers

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 the music and movie industries to tackle sites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.

Initially the police only sent warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several so-called pirate sites.

Today sees the launch of the next initiative in “Operation Creative,” an official URL blacklist of “pirate sites”.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) just launched their “Infringing Website List” (IWL) and are encouraging advertising agencies to embrace it. The main goal of the blacklist is to disrupt the revenues of infringing websites worldwide.

Together with the movie and music industries the police carried out a three-month pilot which resulted in a 12% reduction of ads from major brands appearing on these sites. To what extent the blocklist will hurt total revenues is unclear though, as there are dozens of ad firms who focus on file-sharing sites, and these are unlikely to join the program.

The police and their partners, however, are convinced that the blacklist will have a positive effect, not only in terms of cutting off revenue to pirate sites, but also as a tool to prevent advertisers being associated with rogue websites.

“If an advert from an established brand appears on an infringing website not only does it lend the site a look of legitimacy, but inadvertently the brand and advertiser are funding online crime,” PIPCU Chief Andy Fyfe says.

From the information that was made available to TF, it appears that the blacklist will not be open to the public. This is worrying, since there is a serious threat of overblocking without any public oversight.

For example, in their announcement the police cite a recent report on the profitability of pirate sites. However, that report included many sites with perfectly legitimate uses, and even a purely informational website that doesn’t host or link to infringing content at all.

Concerns aside, music industry group BPI is confident that the “Infringing Website List” will turn out to be another successful voluntary agreement focused on tackling online piracy.

“The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites and the advertising that lends them a false air of legitimacy,” BPI’s Chief Executive Geoff Taylor says.

Similarly, the Hollywood backed group FACT is also positive about the new initiative.

“FACT is delighted to be working with PIPCU to deliver a unique initiative that puts the UK at the forefront of brand protection by allowing everyone in the advertising value chain to prevent misplacement of ads,” Kieron Sharp, Director General at FACT says.

“For those rogue sites that continue to provide access to illegally obtained films and TV programmes there will now be affirmative action taken by PIPCU to ask them to change their operation or shut up shop,” he adds.

Whether the “Infringing Website List” will indeed have a significant impact on the business of the affected sites has yet to be seen. In any case, City of London Police and the entertainment industries are determined to keep the pressure on.

Update: The City of London Police confirmed to to us that the blacklist will not be made public.

“All sites on IWL are identified and evidenced as infringing by rights holders and then verified by PIPCU. We are not making the IWL public. The List will be ever changing as new sites appear and older sites comply,” a City of London Police spokesperson told TF.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 03/31/14

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

secretlifeThis week we have three newcomers in our chart.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the most downloaded movie this week.

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 (…) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 7.5 / trailer
2 (2) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 8.2 / trailer
3 (1) 47 Ronin 6.5 / trailer
4 (8) 300: Rise of an Empire 6.9 / trailer
5 (5) The Wolf Of Wall Street 8.5 / trailer
6 (4) Anchorman 2 6.9 / trailer
7 (3) The Pirate Fairy 6.9 / trailer
8 (6) Frozen 8.1 / trailer
9 (…) Lone Survivor 7.8 / trailer
10 (…) Grudge Match 6.6 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Microsoft Censors TorrentFreak For Security Reasons

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

censorshipHere at TorrentFreak we frequently cover website blockades against file-sharing websites, which are often put in place on copyright infringement grounds.

In many European countries, for example, national courts have ordered ISPs to block access to sites such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass.to.

However, that’s not the only type of blocking and filtering that’s common nowadays. There are thousands of companies, schools and other organizations that voluntarily use commercial blocking software to restrict access to objectionable or threatening sites.

As with all filters, however, there are false positives. TorrentFreak, for example, is often categorized as a file-sharing site, and blocked to prevent copyright infringement or other associated “threats”.

Apparently this is also happening at Microsoft, where the filter managed by the local information security risk management department blocks TorrentFreak on the internal network. Microsoft employees who try to access our site are welcomed with the following message.

“The requested resource has been blocked as an identified risk to your client and the Microsoft corporate network.”

TorrentFreak Blocked at Microsoft
ms-block

The notice shows that TorrentFreak is blocked under the “peer-to-peer file sharing” category. A false positive, of course, and one that results in a form of overblocking many perfectly secure and legitimate sites are suffering from.

Unfortunately the issues above are not limited to Microsoft. Every other week we are notified by readers who can’t access TorrentFreak since it’s blocked at their work or school because the site is classified as a source of illegal file-sharing. More often than not we’re collateral damage.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that the UK ISP Sky blocked TorrentFreak for all subscribers who turned on their “porn” filter. After the BBC got involved the block was eventually lifted, but other sites may not be so lucky.

If anything, the above shows that these filtering systems can cause harm to legitimate sites, and the people responsible should be called out for it. TorrentFreak reached out to Microsoft to ask for a comment, but thus far without any luck.

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

TorrentFreak: Demonoid Returns, Website Now Back Online

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

demonoidAs the single largest semi-private BitTorrent tracker that ever existed, Demonoid offered a home to millions of file-sharers.

This changed abruptly August last year when a series of troubling events took the site offline. When it was still down after a year, many gave up hope that it would ever return.

Today, however, the site appears to have made a glorious comeback on Demonoid.ph, which the .com and .me domains are also linked to. TorrentFreak contacted the team behind the resurrection who confirmed the relaunch.

“We are running a pre-launch today,” TF was told by the admin, who added that the site could go offline again for a while if something breaks.

A message posted on the site’s homepage explains that Demonoid made some changes to the backend, and that there may be some glitches. However, several Demonoid users confirm that they are able to login using their old credentials.

“The site is now cloud based and there have been many changes to the code. As a result, you might see some weird glitches here and there. We’ll do our best to have everything working smoothly as soon as possible so please bear with us,” the Demonoid team writes.

Demonoid comeback
demonoid-comeback
The above is good news for those who hold Demonoid dear. Several of the former staffers are still involved according to the announcement, but for now it’s unclear whether the site’s management is still in the same hands as before.

However, the current resurrection is linked to the old domains, which suggests that it’s indeed the real thing.

Previously there were concerns that the user database may have been “compromised.” For example, last year a mysterious replacement surfaced, using a copy of the Demonoid user and torrent database. The operator of the spin-off claimed not to be related to the Demonoid owners, but he did have a copy of the site’s database.

Perhaps in the future the Demonoid team will be willing to explain a bit more about what happened over the past two years. For now, however, it appears that the comeback kid has pulled it off again.

Photo credit

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