Posts tagged ‘anonymous’

TorrentFreak: Wounded Warrior Project Sues ‘Rival’ Over Copyright

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

Helping the most disadvantaged in society is an honorable aim, so it’s always sad when groups with similar missions choose to fight each other in the courts. Making lawyers rich is not what most donors have in mind when they make their contributions.

Still, this is the path being embarked on by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). The non-profit, which was founded after the events of 9/11 in order to support wounded veterans of the military, says another non-profit is unfairly piggybacking on its image and marketing.

Keystone Wounded Warriors is an Eastern Pennsylvania-based non-profit which aids veterans by raising awareness and seeking the public’s support for related programs and services.

“Funds donated to Keystone Wounded Warriors are used to support local post-9/11 veterans and their families located in or with ties to Pennsylvania,” KWW says.

Unfortunately WWP have a number of issues with KWW and have ordered their legal team to resolve them via action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Lawyers for Wounded Warrior Project are seeking an injunction against Keystone Wounded Warriors on several grounds, including copyright and trademark. Firstly, WWP say that the logo used by KWW is too similar to its own. Both use silhouettes to depict scenes of war in which veterans help veterans, and each use a similar font.

woundedlogo

According to PennRecord, the Wounded Warrior Project has used its logo for 10 years and received trademark approval in 2005. This trademark, WWP says, has an estimated publicity value of $500 million.

In addition to a dispute over WWP imagery allegedly present in photographs of KWW fund-raising events, the Wounded Warrior Project says the Keystone Wounded Warriors mission statement is far too close to their own. WWP promise “To honor and empower Wounded Warriors” while their ‘rival’ claims “To honor, empower, aid, and assist Pennsylvania service members.”

While WWP appear to have a reasonable point that KWW’s branding is likely to cause confusion, their demands are such that if KWW lose the case, KWW-supported veterans will suffer. In addition to an advertising campaign to educate donors and the public that the WWP and KWW are not affiliated, WWP is seeking punitive and compensatory damage for any infringements.

According to its latest report, Wounded Warrior Project generated revenues of $300 million, up from $200 million the year before.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Legalizes CD Ripping and Cloud Backups Today

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

uk-flagTo most consumers it’s common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this has been illegal until today.

After consulting various stakeholders the Government decided that it would be in the best interests of consumers to legalize copying for personal use.

Earlier this year the UK Intellectual Property Office announced that the changes would go into effect in June. However, when June came around the most crucial changes were still pending Parliamentary approval.

These final issues were resolved this summer and after a brief delay private copying is now legal.

This means that people are now free to make copies of DVDs, CDs and other types of media, as long as they’re for personal use. In addition, it’s no longer copyright-infringing to store copies of legally purchased media to the cloud.

“These changes are going to bring our IP laws into the 21st century,” IP Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe says commenting on the changes. “They will mean that the UK IP regime will now be responsive to the modern business environment and more flexible for consumers.”

The changes aim to fix the mismatch between the law and public opinion. A Government-commissioned survey previously found that 85% of consumers believed that DVD and CD ripping was legal already, while more than one-third of all consumers admitted that they’d made copies of media they purchased.

Besides the new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized.

For the public the amendments are certainly a welcome change from the more restrictive copyright laws that were previously in place. For those who are interested, a full overview of the upcoming changes is available here.

Update: The time-shifting reference was removed from this article, as that was already allowed under a previous amendment. Apologies for the confusion.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Now Available as iOS App

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

popiosThe Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far.

The software amassed millions of users by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.

When the original version shut down various forks continued the project, each releasing their own features. One of the most-used Popcorn Time versions comes from time4popcorn.eu, who remain very active on the development side.

After previously rolling out an Android version and Chromecast and Apple TV support, today the fork released the first Popcorn Time app for iOS. The first release requires a jailbreak and can be accessed through the Cydia platform.

TorrentFreak spoke with the developers who say they are working on a solution for non-jailbroken devices as well, but that will take some more time to complete. Nonetheless, they are happy with the progress they’ve made thus far.

“After only 5.5 months, Popcorn Time is available on all major platforms! And this is only the beginning. Our future plans are huge,” the time4popcorn.eu team notes.

The iOS app is currently missing some features that are available in the desktop version. Chromecast and Apple TV support are still works in progress, likewise the built-in VPN.

The standard functionality appears to work just fine, provided that there’s enough bandwidth available to stream the video files via BitTorrent.

The developers have released the iOS source code under a GPL V3 license, which allows others to extend and improve it. The team itself will also continue to work on improving the code, and they promise to release more “exiting details” on the application’s future in a week or two.

Popcorn Time’s appeal to pirates hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. Two months ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Github claiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios.

While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and show no sign of throwing the towel voluntarily anytime soon.

Popcorn Time fork on iOS
captiospopcorn

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

TorrentFreak: BitTorrent Wants to Become RIAA Certified Music Service

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

bittorrent-logoLast Friday Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke released his new solo album via BitTorrent. A few tracks were made available for free, but those who want the full album are charged $6.

The new experiment is part of BitTorrent Inc’s bundles project, which allows artists to easily share their work with fans. While many artists tested the waters before Yorke, he is the first to ask for money directly from consumers.

“If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers,” commented Thom Yorke on his decision to join.

Fast forward a few days and the album release has turned out to be a great success. At the time of writing the number of downloads surpassed 500,000, and at the current rate this will have doubled before the end of the week.

These numbers are for both the free sample and the full album, which are both being counted by BitTorrent. Thom Yorke doesn’t want the sales figures to become public but judging from the number of people sharing the torrent this lies well above one hundred thousand.

“When the Bundle is downloaded using one of our clients, it pings back with a torrent added event which is how these are being counted. Thom Yorke has asked that sales figures remain undisclosed, which is his discretion,” BitTorrent spokesman Christian Averill told TorrentFreak.

yorke500k

Now that BitTorrent Inc. has become a paid music service, a whole new world opens up. Will there soon be a BitTorrent release at the top of the charts for example? We asked BitTorrent whether they are considering becoming an RIAA-certified seller, and the company’s answer was an unequivocal yes.

“Our vision is absolutely that Bundles will count toward all the usual industry accolades and charts. Again, it will be up to the publisher of the specific Bundle. But the numbers certainly merit the recognition,” Averill says.

If that happens, BitTorrent sales will be eligible for RIAA’s gold and platinum awards as well as other charts.

While some music industry insiders may need some time to adjust to the idea of BitTorrent (Inc) as an authorized music service, the RIAA itself doesn’t see any reason why the company can’t apply.

“Music sales … on digital music services that are authorized by and reported to the record labels, whether paid for by the consumer through a subscription or free to the consumer through ad-supported services, are accepted for RIAA certifications,” RIAA’s Liz Kennedy tells TorrentFreak.

Becoming RIAA-certified doesn’t happen overnight though. BitTorrent would first have to request the certification and a full audit is then required to receive an Authorized service stamp and a possible listing on whymusicmatters.com.

“Whymusicmatters.com, a joint initiative of the RIAA and Music Biz, lists the leading authorized music services in the United States,” Kennedy explains.

For BitTorrent this would be a great achievement. The company has had to withstand a fair amount of criticism from copyright holders in recent years, and recognition as an authorized music service will surely silence some of it.

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

TorrentFreak: Labels Win Grooveshark Copyright Infringement Case

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

Beleaguered music service Grooveshark is facing its biggest threat yet after a long-running case with the major labels of the RIAA came to a close last evening.

In a ruling by United States District Judge Thomas P. Griesa in the United States District Court in Manhattan, Grooveshark parent company Escape Media and two of the company’s top executives were found liable for infringing the rights of the labels on a grand scale.

The summary judgment is not a pretty read. It summarizes Grooveshark’s history and how the service began with licensed aims in mind, but achieved that by infringing the labels’ rights in the hope of reaching deals later on.

The initial problem was obtaining content to offer to users. The company solved the issue by getting employees to “seed” music to other users via its own P2P sharing software known as Sharkbyte. A 2007 email from co-founder Josh Greenberg to employees reads:

Please share as much music as possible from outside the office, and leave your computers on whenever you can. This initial content is what will help to get our network started—it’s very important that we all help out! If you have available hard drive space on your computer, I strongly encourage you to fill it with any music you can find. Download as many MP3’s as possible, and add them to the folders you’re sharing on Grooveshark. Some of us are setting up special “seed points” to house tens or even hundreds of thousands of files, but we can’t do this alone… There is no reason why ANYONE in the company should not be able to do this, and I expect everyone to have this done by Monday… IF I DON’T HAVE AN EMAIL FROM YOU IN MY INBOX BY MONDAY, YOU’RE ON MY OFFICIAL SHIT LIST.

In 2007, music obtained via Sharkbyte and other means was used to populate Grooveshark’s central music storage library. Internal company emails showed Greenberg, Tarantino and Escape’s senior programmer encouraging employees to bring in and download music so it could be uploaded to the company’s servers.

By 2008 the Grooveshark service carried more than a million tracks, including thousands uploaded by Greenberg, Tarantino and other employees. That service grew by another million tracks and eventually into the streaming service available today.

A year later the service was beginning to receive DMCA takedown notices but according to the decision handed down yesterday, the company had a solution to keep that content online.

“Escape’s senior officers searched for infringing songs that had [been] removed in response to DMCA takedown notices and re-uploaded infringing copies of those songs to Grooveshark to ensure that the music catalog remained complete,” the decision reads.

Furthermore, records show that thousands of the DMCA notices sent by the labels were forwarded internally to employees, including Greenberg and Tarantino, for the music they had personally uploaded. The fact that employees were uploading content became known to the labels following discovery in another case currently before the courts.

While the Court accepted that Escape and its employees uploaded thousands of tracks, the huge numbers claimed by the labels were rejected. In total the Court found that the defendants are liable for uploading ‘just’ 5,977 copyright works.

And, of course, there is the not insignificant number of tracks the company streamed to its users over the course of its operations. Escape’s own records show that it “streamed or publicly performed”, copies of plaintiffs’ copyrighted sound recordings at least 36 million times.

“Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’ song recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights,” the decision reads.

As a result of Greenberg and Tarantino instructing company employees to upload copyright-protected music to Grooveshark, the Court granted the labels’ motion for summary judgment on its claim for direct copyright infringement.

On the secondary infringement front the Court ruled that Escape Media is liable for the direct infringements of the employees it instructed to upload music.

“[The record labels] advance three theories of secondary liability: (1) vicarious copyright infringement, (2) inducement of copyright infringement, and (3) contributory copyright infringement. The court finds for plaintiffs on all three theories of liability,” the judgment reads.

In respect of Escape’s co-founders, Tarantino and Greenberg, the Court found that they are not only “jointly and severally liable for Escape’s direct and secondary copyright infringement” but also liable for direct infringement due to their own personal uploads of infringing content to Grooveshark.

The judgment concludes with an instruction for the parties to submit proposals on the scope of a permanent injunction against Grooveshark within 21 days. Escape Media has already announced its intention to appeal.

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

TorrentFreak: Photographer Sues Imgur For Failing to Remove Copyrighted Photos

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

imgurWhen 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 this is usually not a problem with a picture of the average Internet meme, when it comes to professional photography there can be serious consequences.

Earlier this year the Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli discovered that dozens of photos from his well-known “miniatures of food” series were being shared on Imgur. The photos were uploaded by a user named kdcoco who published them without permission.

This type of infringement is fairly common and usually easy to stop through a DMCA notice. In this case, however, that didn’t produce any results, so the photographer saw no other option than to take Imgur to court.

In a complaint (pdf) filed at a federal court in Seattle, Boffoli explains that he sent Imgur a DMCA takedown request on February 21. This seemed to work, as the image sharing site was quick to respond.

“The images have been marked for removal and will be deleted from all of our servers within 24 hours,” Imgur quickly replied.

One of Boffoli’s photos
boffoli

But following this initial reply nothing happened. According to the complaint all of the images remained online for several months.

“As late as September 2014 — more than 200 days after receiving Boffoli’s notice — Imgur had not removed or disabled access to the Infringing Content. To date, the Infringing Content is still accessible on Imgur’s servers,” the photographer’s lawyers write.

Aside from the infringing behavior of the Imgur user, Boffoli holds the image sharing service responsible for continued copyright infringement.

“Imgur had actual knowledge of the Infringing Content. Boffoli provided notice to Imgur in compliance with the DMCA, and Imgur failed to expeditiously disable access to or remove the Infringing Website,”

The photographer is asking the court to order an injunction preventing Imgur from making his work available. In addition, the complaint asks for actual and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement.

With at least 73 photos in the lawsuit, Imgur theoretically faces more than $10 million in damages. Thus far Imgur hasn’t responded to the complaint but at the time of writing the infringing photos are no longer available online.

It’s not the first time Boffoli has sued an online service for failing to remove his photos. He also filed lawsuits against Twitter, Google and others. These cases were settled out for court under undisclosed terms.

Time will tell whether Imgur will go for the same option, or if it will defend itself in court.

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

TorrentFreak: Universal Music Moves For Summary Judgment Against Grooveshark

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

In January 2010, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit in a New York court in which it alleged that Grooveshark was offering unauthorized copies of its musical works. The content in question were tracks from Universal’s pre-1972 back catalog.

The date when the tracks were recorded is important, since songs recorded before February 15, 1972, are covered under New York state law and not federal copyright legislation where safe harbor provisions of the DMCA apply.

“This case arises from Defendant’s massive willful copyright infringement and unfair
competition in violation of New York common law,” Universal writes in its latest submission to the Court.

“[Grooveshark parent company] Escape infringed UMG’s copyrighted works billions of times since it launched the current iteration of Grooveshark without any license from UMG and in flagrant violation of UMG’s exclusive rights.”

Describing Escape’s “pervasive copyright infringement” as part of a “premeditated business strategy” carried out by a “blatantly infringing pirate music service”, Universal Music (UMG) has now moved for summary judgment in the case on copyright infringement and unfair competition grounds.

“Escape has admitted that it competes with UMG in the market for the
dissemination of music over the Internet. Accordingly, it obtained an unfair competitive advantage over authorized streaming services by using UMG’s sound recordings without a license or payment.”

Previously, Escape Media counter-claimed against UMG when the company allegedly that UMG had tried to interfere with its business by influencing third-party companies to curtail relationships with the streaming service. UMG states those were legitimate anti-piracy tactics and dismisses Escape’s claims as an attempt to distract from the case in hand.

“Having no substantive defense to UMG’s infringement claims, Escape filed several baseless counterclaims against UMG for alleged interference with contracts and business relations,” UMG writes.

“The undisputed record confirms that the communications at issue directly related to the efforts by UMG and related companies to curtail the massive infringement of its copyrights by Escape’s Grooveshark service and thus were wholly appropriate and justified.”

UMG says it is entitled to summary judgment on all matters including copyright infringement, unfair competition and Escape’s counter-claims.

“In view of the foregoing, UMG respectfully requests that this Court grant summary
judgment against Escape for common law copyright infringement of UMG’s copyrights in the Works-in-Suit, based on Escape’s invasion of its rights of reproduction, distribution, and performance, as well as for unfair competition, and for UMG on Escape’s counterclaims for tortious interference with contract and business relations,” UMG concludes.

In 2011 it appeared that Grooveshark would be able to claim safe harbor protections on pre-1972 recordings after all when a court ruled in its favor. However, in April 2013 a panel reversed the decision.

“The statutory language at issue involves two equally clear and compelling Congressional priorities: to promote the existence of intellectual property on the Internet, and to insulate pre-1972 sound recordings from federal regulation,” Justice Angela Mazzarrelli wrote.

Whether UMG will obtain their summary judgment and at what financial expense to Escape Media and Grooveshark will be developments for the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 09/29/14

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

transThis week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Transformers: Age of Extinction 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) Transformers: Age of Extinction 6.1 / trailer
2 (2) Edge Of Tomorrow 8.1 / trailer
3 (…) 22 Jump Street 7.6 / trailer
4 (…) Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 7.0 / trailer
5 (3) X-Men: Days of Future Past 8.4 / trailer
6 (4) Maleficent 7.4 / trailer
7 (…) Good People 5.4 / trailer
8 (8) Million Dollar Arm 7.3 / trailer
9 (7) The Fault in Our Stars 8.3 / trailer
10 (6) How To Train Your Dragon 2 8.3 / trailer

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

TorrentFreak: Copyright Apocalypse: Trolls Attack the Net, From the Future

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

badtrollWithout copyright, people in the creative industries would have no incentive to keep on creating. In recent years this kind of statement has been regularly pumped out by entertainment companies in their defense of tougher intellectual property legislation.

Countering, advocates such as Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge frequently argue that copyright monopolies stifle creativity and hinder innovation.

But what would happen if rather than providing an incentive to create, the existence of copyright meant that no-one would ever need to create anything original online ever again? And if they did, they could be sued for it?

That’s the staggering notion being put forward by Qentis Corporation. The outfit, which claims a base in Russia, says that its business model is to use massive computing power to generate digital intellectual property on a never-seen-before scale and transfer the rights to its partners.

“Our clients are private high net-worth individuals (HNWI), investment funds and corporations that act as pure investors,” Qentis explains.

What Qentis are proposing is the bulk algorithmic creation of content – music, text, images etc – on such a large scale that in a few years its clients will own the rights to just about anything people might care to create and upload.

The worrying claim on the Qentis homepage

qentisclaim

“Qentis aims to produce all possible combinations of text (and later on images and sound) and to copyright them,” Qentis’ Michael Marcovici told TorrentFreak.

“Concerning text we try this in chunks of 400 word articles in English, German and Spanish. That would mean that we will hold the copyright to any text produced from now on and that it becomes impossible for anyone to circumvent Qentis when writing a text.”

In terms of graphics, Qentis promotional material states that a subsidiary has already generated 3.23% of “all possible images” in the 1000×800 pixel format.

“We are now generating images at a much faster pace and expect to complete 10 percent of all possible images by the end of 2015. At current projections, we will by 2020 generate every possible image in the 1000×800 pixel resolution,” the company claims.

qentisimage

Of course, ‘creating’ this ‘content’ has a purpose. According to Qentis it effectively seeks to become the biggest copyright troll on the planet. The company says it will identify copyright infringements and help investors to pursue infringers. And, astonishingly, it claims it will free companies from having to rely on people to come up with creative content.

“It is only a matter of time before Qentis becomes the universal single source for all web content, freeing corporations from their expensive dependence on writers, musicians and artists,” says Qentis co-founder Howard Lafarge.

TF spoke with Rick Falkvinge about Qentis’ stated aims and needless to say he’s completely unimpressed.

“Interesting, and complete bullshit,” Rick said.

“They claim to have generated all possible texts in English that are up to 400 words in length, and therefore, any text below that length ‘infringes’. However, having the copyright monopoly on a text is solidly dependent on having had artistic skill gone into generating it. Merely mechanically generating all combinations does not, repeat NOT, reward a copyright monopoly.”

Having spent way more time on the Qentis website than we probably should, (and arriving at the conclusion that they’re either crazy, evil geniuses or masters of parody) we’re still left with an interesting concept.

The fact remains that there are plenty of huge, heavily pro-copyright corporations on the planet today who would happily embark on a Qentis-style operation of copyrighting all content before a human can create it, if indeed such a thing was possible. Rest assured, at that point the ‘artists’ would be a forgotten and inconvenient part of their business models.

“The mere concept that somebody thinks of generating all possible texts and then thinks they can sue humanity for coming up with one of these combinations through actual artistic talent shows how completely screwed up copyright monopoly law is,” Rick concludes.

Since Qentis claims to have come up with the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’ before she did, TF pressed Qentis to give us more examples where their creations have successfully predicted the future. The company couldn’t immediately give us any, but said there were “many more” to be found.

We also asked about the mathematical implications of coming up with every available combination of text in a 400 word article, given there are one million words in the English language alone. How many generated articles would be a ‘miss’ in trying to come up with one ‘hit’?

“About the mathematics, this is mainly about working with n-grams, we don’t work iteratively with misses because that would produce as you mention a LOT of misses, probably only 1 out of few million would be readable,” the company’s Michael Marcovici told us.

“We do not include entities in the text as it does not matter and we concentrate on the structure of the text. Using known or predicted combinations is more economical, the main challenge is storage and not so much generating text.”

For those interested in reading just how bad things could get on the copyright front, given the chance, the fully comprehensive and quite incredible Qentis website can be found here. We’re not sure what their endgame is, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they have a secret underground base.

Everyone is invited to comment below, scholars of copyright and mathematics in particular.

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

TorrentFreak: Piracy Police Chief Calls For State Interference to Stop Internet Anarchy

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

cityoflondonpoliceFounded little over a year ago, the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has quickly grown to become one of the world’s most active anti-piracy operations.

The unit uses a wide range of strategies, from writing to domain registrars and threatening them, to working with advertisers in order to cut off revenues from ‘pirate’ sites.

PIPCU is determined to continue its anti-piracy efforts in the years to come. However, the unit’s head Andy Fyfe also believes that the Government may have to tighten the rules on the Internet, to stop people from breaking the law.

In an interview with PC Pro, Fyfe says he wants to see this topic being debated in the media.

“I’m very interested in having a debate in the media about how much policing of the internet people want. At the moment, there’s almost no regulation and no policing of the internet,” Fyfe says.

PIPCU’s chief believes that the public has to be protected from criminals including pirate site operators who take advantage of their trust. If that doesn’t happen then the Internet may descend into anarchy, he says, suggesting that the Government may have to intervene to prevent this.

“In the end, that might mean that the Internet becomes completely ungovernable, and that no one can dare operate on it at all, no one can dare do their shopping or banking on it. So should there be a certain level of … state inference in the interest of protecting consumers? I’m very keen to raise that as a debate,” Fyfe notes.

The Police chief believes that tighter rules may be needed to prevent people from breaking the law in the future. This could mean that not everyone is allowed to launch a website, but that a license would be required, for example.

“There may well come a time when government decides it’s had enough and it’s not getting enough help from those main companies that control the way we use the internet – they’re not getting enough help from them, so they’re going to start imposing regulations, imposing a code of conduct about the way people may be allowed to operated on the internet,” Fife says.

PIPCU’s head doesn’t detail what the “code of conduct” might look like or how it may be enforced. Perhaps it’s finally time for the Internet passport to be introduced?

We’re keen on having this debate as well, so please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders Warner Bros. to Reveal Flawed Anti-Piracy Technology

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

warnerThree years ago file-hosting service Hotfile countersued Warner Bros., accusing the movie studio of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process.

Hotfile alleged that after giving Warner access to its systems, the studio removed hundreds of files that weren’t theirs, including games demos and Open Source software.

The case was poised to reveal how Warner Bros. anti-piracy system works and what mistakes were made by the movie studio. But last November, a few weeks before the trial was due to begin, the case was closed as part of a settlement between Hotfile and the MPAA.

The decision was a disappointment to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who asked the court to unseal documents regarding Warner’s alleged abuse. According to the group, the public has the right to know what mistakes Warner made.

Warner Bros. objected to this request, arguing that the effectiveness of their anti-piracy technology would be undermined by a public disclosure. The movie studio asked the Court to permanently seal the records, but during an oral hearing this week U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams denied this request.

The Judge ordered Warner Bros. to hand over some of the information within ten days, and come up with a schedule for the release of all relevant documents. According to Judge Williams the public has the right to see how Warner Bros. handles DMCA takedown requests.

The EFF is happy with the ruling, and says it will help legislators to refine and improve the current DMCA process. This year both the Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee have looked into possible changes to the current process.

“More information about how the DMCA process has been abused – particularly through automated takedown systems with inadequate human review – will help us improve it, and hold people responsible when they use this powerful tool of censorship abusively or without caution,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz says in a comment.

“The sealed documents from the Hotfile case will help,” he adds.

While it’s too late for Hotfile, it is definitely valuable to see what how Warner Bros. made its mistakes and how their piracy takedown technology is set up.

“We’re pleased that Judge Williams preserved the public’s right to open court proceedings here, and we are looking forward to a close analysis of the Warner documents when they are released,” Stoltz concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Gottfrid Svartholm Trial: IT Experts Give Evidence

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

The hacking trial of Gottfrid Svartholm and his alleged 21-year-old Danish accomplice continued this week in Copenhagen, Denmark. While Gottfrid is well known as a founder of The Pirate Bay, his co-defendant’s identity is still being kept out of the media.

In what’s being described as the largest case of its kind ever seen in the Scandinavian country, both stand accused of hacking computer mainframes operated by US IT giant CSC. This week various IT experts have been taking the stand.

On Tuesday, IT investigator Flemming Grønnemose appeared for the third time and stated that during the summer and fall of 2012, Swedish police had tipped off Danish police about possible hacker attacks against CSC.

According to DR.dk, as part of Grønnemose’s questioning Gottfrid’s lawyer Luise Høj raised concerns over a number of changes that had taken place on her client’s computer since it had been taken into police custody.

Grønnemose admitted that when police installed programs of their own onto the device, security holes which could have been exploited for remote control access could have been closed. However, it appears police also have an exact copy of the machine in an unmodified state.

Further evidence centered around the IP addresses that were traced during the attacks. IP addresses from several countries were utilized by the attackers including those in Cambodia, Germany, Iran, Spain and the United States. German police apparently investigated the local IP address and found that it belonged to a hacked server in a hosting facility.

The server had not been rented out for long, but was still on and had been taken over by hackers, Grønnemose said. According to the prosecution, the same server also featured in last year’s Logica case in Sweden. Gottfrid was found guilty in that case and sentenced to two years in jail.

Another IT expert called to give evidence on the same day was Allan Lund Hansen who had examined the files found on Gottfrid’s computer. Those files, garnered from the CSC hack, contained thousands of names, addresses and social security numbers of Danish citizens. Since the files were in an encrypted folder along with data from earlier attacks on IT company Logica and the Nordea bank, the prosecution are linking the files to Gottfrid.

On Thursday, DR.dk reported that the debate over Gottfrid’s computer being remotely controlled continued. Previously Jacob Appelbaum argued that an outside attacker could have used the machine to carry out the attacks but defense experts from the Center for Cyber ​​Security disputed that.

This week Thomas Krismar from the Center said that Python scripts found on Gottfrid’s computer were able to carry out automated tasks but in this case remote control was unlikely to be one of them.

“There are two characteristics we always look for when we try to discover remote control features. The first is one that starts automatically when you turn on your computer since the attacker will always try to maintain their footing on the computer. The second is one that ‘phones home’ to indicate that it is ready to receive commands,” Krismar said.

The script in question on Gottfrid’s machine needed to be started manually and did not attempt to make contact with anything on the web, the expert said.

Also appearing Thursday were further witnesses including Joachim Persson of Stockholm police who investigated Gottfrid’s computers after his arrest in Cambodia.

Persson said he found a tool known as Hercules, a sophisticated piece of software that emulates the kind of systems that were hacked at CSC. Persson did note, however, that such tools have legitimate uses for those learning how to operate similar systems.

The trial continues.

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

TorrentFreak: Thom Yorke Sells New Album via Paywall Protected Torrent

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

Radiohead’s Tom Yorke has been very critical of new music services such as Spotify. Last year he pulled his music from the popular streaming service claiming that “new artists get paid fuck all.”

Yorke would like to see more money flowing to the artists and in an effort to accomplish this goal he has teamed up with BitTorrent Inc.

The San-Francisco company has experimented with artist bundles for a while and together with Yorke they have now launched their first paywalled torrent. After paying $6, fans can download Yorke’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” album via a protected torrent file.

“It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around,” Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich write in a joint statement.

“If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers,” they add.

In recent years BitTorrent Inc. has been working very hard to show that its technology can be used for more than “piracy” and today’s bundle is a prime example. After releasing various free samples from other artists, Yorke’s full album is definitely a breakthrough.

The paywall and other restrictions are not something traditional BitTorrent users are used to, but it’s a necessary “evil” to draw mainstream artists to the model.

BitTorrent Inc. emphasizes that the album itself is DRM-free but that the torrents do have copy protection. This means that people can’t easily share them with others who haven’t paid.

“BitTorrent Bundles features protected torrents, limiting the number of times a torrent can be downloaded. While Bundle content is DRM-free, torrents are protected with this new way of managing how often a Bundle is downloaded,” BitTorrent Inc. notes.

This works very much like private trackers, where only members can share files with each other. With the “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” torrent those who pay are a “member” and only they can share the file.

It will be interesting to see if other artists are also willing to join the experiment. A full album for $6 definitely sounds like a fair price and the artists get to keep most of the cash. BitTorrent Inc. says it currently gets 10% of the revenue for enabling the distribution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several unauthorized torrents without a paywall are also doing the rounds on various torrent sites. The good news is, however, that the paywalled version currently has more people sharing than the pirated one.

Those interested in Thom Yorke’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” can grab a copy here.

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

TorrentFreak: Most Top Films Are Not Available on Netflix, Research Finds

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

netflix-logoThere is little doubt that, in the United States, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.

The subscription service is responsible for a third of all Internet traffic during peak hours, dwarfing that of online piracy and other legal video platforms.

It’s safe to assume that Netflix is the best and most convenient alternative to piracy at this point. That is, if the service carries the movies people want to see. This appears to be a problem.

Research firm KPMG has just released a new study that looks at the online availability of the 808 most popular and critically acclaimed films. The study was commissioned by NBC Universal and praised by the MPAA, presumably to dispel the argument that many people pirate because they don’t have the option to watch some films legally.

“This first-of-its-kind report analyzed the availability of 808 different film titles over 34 major online video distribution services and found that 94 percent of the films were available on at least one service,” MPAA’s Chris Dodd commented on the study.

The MPAA is right that most of the movies are available through online stores and rental services. However, the Hollywood group conveniently ignores the lacking availability on popular subscription platforms which services such as Netflix and Hulu use.

This is not a minor oversight as the study finds that availability of top films on Netflix and other subscription services is very low.

Although KPMG decided not to mention it in the executive summary of the report, the findings show that only 16% of the films are available through on-demand subscription services (SOVD).

Availability of the top films
topfilmavail

The above sheds a different light on the availability argument. Because, what good is it if 94 percent of the films are available online, but (at least) 84% are missing from the most-used movie service?

After all, most people prefer to get their movies in one place as it’s not very convenient to use a few dozen services to get your movie fix.

Of course this is not an excuse for people to go out and download films without permission, and we have to admit that a lot of progress has been made on the availability side in recent years. However, Hollywood can definitely learn from the music industry, where most of the popular content is available through subscription services.

From the availability point of view there’s another issue worth pointing out. The most pirated titles are usually recent releases, and these are generally not available, not even through iTunes, Amazon or rental services.

This is also illustrated in the KPMG report which shows that 100% of the top 2012 films are available online, compared to 77% of the 2013 releases. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of all pirated downloads are of films that are not yet legally available.

In other words, there’s still plenty of improvement possible.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Logos Justification For Website Blockades, Cartier Says

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

stop-blockedThe UK is now one of the easiest countries in the world to obtain a website blocking injunction on copyright grounds. While much work had to be done initially, having websites filtered out by the leading ISPs is now a streamlined and largely closed-door practice.

Child protection issues aside, up until now it has been copyright holders leading the charge for websites to be blacked out. Dozens of sites are affected, with the majority of the world’s leading file-sharing portals now inaccessible by regular means. If the parent company of luxury watchmaker Cartier has its way, soon a new and potentially more widespread wave of website blockades will begin.

Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A. owns several well-known luxury brands including Cartier and Mont Blanc. For some time it has been trying to pressure sites offering counterfeits into closing down, but without success. Mirroring the tactics being employed by the studios and recording labels, Richemont has essentially given up on that approach and has decided to take legal action ISPs instead.

In March 2014, Richemont reportedly wrote to the country’s leading ISPs (Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Meda, EE, Telefonica (O2)) complaining that third party sites were engaged in illegal activity and were displaying pirated logos which infringe on Richemont trademarks.

In May the ISPs responding by telling the company that it had not done enough to have the sites close down, such as contacting their webhosts to have service discontinued. The ISPs also complained that by blocking the websites there was a chance that legitimate trade could be affected. An unfair financial burden for the ISPs was also a probability, particularly given the number of likely copycat requests if the application was successful.

While it appears the ISPs are putting up more of a fight in this case than they did with entertainment company blocking requests, those were actioned under copyright law where injunctions against service providers are catered for. UK trademark law has no such direct provision.

The case, which is now being heard at the High Court, has attracted the attention of the Open Rights Group. ORG says it takes no view on the merits of the case, but has been given permission to intervene in order to raise awareness over the possibility that third party interests could be affected if blocking injunctions are granted.

“As the court is being asked to extend the circumstances in which blocking orders are granted, it’s vital that the wider public interest is taken into account. We hope that our intervention will help ensure that future claimants cannot use blocking orders to restrict legitimate activity or free speech,” says ORG Legal Director Elizabeth Knight.

ORG says its concern is that if Geneva-based Richemont are successful, further applications could be made which are contrary to public interest. These could include blocking sites that use logos to legitimately criticize or parody well known brands

“Court blocking orders may also affect commercial third parties who have no involvement in any alleged infringement – for example law abiding businesses whose products appear on websites alongside those of companies involved in infringing activity,” the group says.

It remains to be seen how smoothly the process pans out, but there could be interesting side effects. Entertainment industry companies and artists also own plenty of trademarks that are often displayed on ‘pirate’ websites. If the trademark route proves a simple one, that could end up being their chosen path for future blocking requests.

Mr Justice Arnold has requested submissions on how third party rights could be affected if injunctions are granted. ORG will ensure he gets the message.

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

The Hacker Factor Blog: Works Like a Charm

This post was syndicated from: The Hacker Factor Blog and was written by: The Hacker Factor Blog. Original post: at The Hacker Factor Blog

As a software developer, one of my core philosophies is to automate common tasks. If you have to do something more than once, then it is better to automate it.

Of course, there always is that trade-off between the time to automate and the time saved. If a two-minute task takes 20 hours to automate, then it’s probably faster (and a better use of your time) to do it manually when needed. However, if you need to do it hundreds of times, then it’s better to spend 20 hours automating it.

Sometimes you may not even realize how often you do a task. All of those minutes may not seem like much, but they can really add up.

Work Harder, Not Smarter

FotoForensics is currently receiving over 1,000 unique pictures per day. We’re at the point where we can either (A) hire more administrators, or (B) simplify existing administrative duties.

Recently I’ve been taking a closer look at some of the tasks we manually perform. Things like categorizing content for various research projects, identifying trends, scanning content for “new” features that run the gambit from new devices to new attacks, reviewing flagged content, and responding to user requests. A lot of these tasks are time consuming and performed more than once. And a few of them can be automated.

Blacklists
Network abuses come in many different forms. Users may upload prohibited content, automate submissions, attack the site with port scans and vulnerability tests, or submit comment-spam to our contact form. It’s always a good idea to check abusers against known blacklists. This tells me whether it is a wide-spread abuse or if my site is just special.

There are a bunch of servers that run DNS-based blacklists. They all work in similar ways:

  1. You encode the query as a hostname. Like “2.1.9.127.dnsbl.whatever”. This encodes the IP address in reverse-notation: 127.9.1.2.
  2. You perform a DNS hostname lookup.
  3. The DNS result encodes the response as an IP address. Different DNSBL servers have different encoded values, but they typically report suspicious behavior, known proxies, and spammer.

Some DNSBL servers seem too focused for my use. For example, if they only report known-spam systems and not proxies or malware, then it will rarely find a match for my non-spam queries. Other DNSBL systems seem to have dated content, with lists of proxies that have not been active for years. (One system will quickly add proxies but won’t remove them without a request. So dead proxies remain listed indefinitely.)

Most DNSBL servers focus on anti-spam. They report whether the address was used to send spam, harvest addresses, or other related actions. Ideally, I’d like a DNSBL that focuses on other hostile activities: network scanners, attackers, and proxies. But for now, looking for other abuses, like harvesters and comment-spam, is good enough.

Anonymous Proxies
I believe that anonymous proxies are important. They permit whistle-blowers to make anonymous reports and allow people to discuss personal issues without the fear of direct retribution. Groups like “Alcoholics Anonymous” would not be as successful if members had to be fully outed.

Unfortunately, anonymity also permits abuses. The new automated system downloads the list of TOR nodes daily. This allows us to easily check if a ban is tied to a TOR node. We don’t ban every TOR node. Instead, we only ban the nodes used for uploading prohibited content to the site.

For beginner TOR users, this may not make sense. Banning one node won’t stop the problem since the user will just change nodes. Except… Not all TOR nodes are equal. Nodes that can handle a higher load are given a higher weight and are more likely to carry traffic. We’ve only banned about 300 of the 6,100 TOR nodes, but that seems to have stopped most abuses from TOR. (And best yet: only about a dozen of these bans were manually performed — most were caught by our auto-ban system.)

Automating History
The newly automated system also scans the logs for own ban records and any actions made after being banned. I can tell if the network address is associated with network attacks or if the user just uploaded prohibited content. I can also tell if the user attempted to avoid the ban.

I recently had one person request a ban-removal. He claimed that he didn’t know why he was banned. After looking at the automated history report, I decided to leave the ban in place and not respond to him. But I was very tempted to write something like: “Dude… You were banned three seconds after you uploaded that picture. You saw the ban message that said to read the FAQ, and you read it twelve seconds later. Then you reloaded eight times, switched browsers, switched computers, and then tried to avoid the ban by changing your network address. And now you’re claiming that you don’t know why you were banned? Yeah, you’re still banned.”

Performing a full history search though the logs for information related to a ban used to take minutes. Now it takes one click.

NCMEC Reports
The word forensics means “relating to the use of scientific knowledge or methods in solving crimes” or “relating to, used in, or suitable to a court of law”. When you see a forensic system, you know it is geared toward crime detection and legal issues.

And people who deal in child exploitation photos know that their photos are illegal. Yet, some people are stupid enough to upload illegal pictures to FotoForensics.

The laws regarding these pictures are very explicit: we must report pictures related to child abuse and exploitation to the CyberTipline at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

While I don’t mind the reporting requirement, I don’t like the report form. The current online form has dozens of fields and takes me more than 6 minutes to complete each time I need to submit a report. I need to gather the picture(s), information about the submitter, and other related log information. Some reports have a lot of files to attach, so they can take 12 minutes or more to complete. The total time I’ve spent using this form in the last year can be measured in days.

I’ve finally had enough of the manual submission process. I just spent a few days automating it from my side. It’s a PHP script that automatically logs in (for the session tokens), grabs the form (for the fields and any pre-populated values), fills out the data, attaches files, and submits it. It also automatically writes a short report (that I can edit with more information), records the confirmation information, and archives the stuff I am legally required to retain.

Instead of taking me 6+ minutes for each report, it now takes about 3 seconds. This simplifies the entire reporting process and significantly reduces the ick-factor.

Will Work for Work

A week of programming effort (spread over three weeks) has allowed me to reduce the overhead. Administrative tasks that would take a few hours each day now take minutes.

There’s still a good number of tasks that can be automated. This includes spotting certain types of pictures that are currently being included in specific research projects, and some automated classification. I can probably add in a little more automated NCMEC reporting, for those common cases where there is no need for a manually confirmation.

Eventually I will need to get a more powerful server and maybe bring on more help. But for right now, simply automating common tasks makes the current server very manageable.

TorrentFreak: Lionsgate Hopes Server Logs Will Expose Expendables Leaker

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

expendablespiracyOver the past two months movie studio Lionsgate has rolled out an unprecedented anti-piracy campaign to stop people from sharing leaked copies of The Expendables 3.

Aside from dragging six file-sharing sites to court, Lionsgate sent out hundreds of thousands of takedown notices to websites that linked to pirated copies of the leaked movie.

While this campaign had some success, the studio has yet to identify who first published the leaked copy online. In a new court request filed at a California federal court Lionsgate states that the weblogs of file-hosting service Swankshare.com may provide more details.

Swankshare is one of the sites that was targeted in Lionsgate’s lawsuit. Following a preliminary injunction the site’s servers were taken down by its hosting company FDCServers. However, the Expendables makers now want to gain access to the server logs to see who uploaded the leaked copy of the film.

“Lions Gate is informed and believes that as the website host for Swankshare, FDCServers is likely to have weblogs and other data evidencing traffic on Swankshare that will be useful to Lions Gate in its investigation of the source of the infringement at issue in this lawsuit,” Lionsgate’s lawyers inform the court.

The request suggests that there is reason to believe that Swankshare may have been used by the initial leaker. However, it’s currently unknown whether the movie studio has any concrete leads to proof this or if it’s merely grasping at straws.

Lionsgate’s request
lionslogs

The court filing also shows that the movie studio has been able to track down the owner of Swankshare, Mr. Lucas Lim. They are currently trying to resolve their dispute, and as part of these discussions Mr. Lim agreed that Lionsgate can access the sites server logs.

“Lions Gate and Mr. Lim have discussed whether a resolution of the dispute between them might be possible, and to further those discussions Mr. Lim has stipulated that Lions Gate may seek authority from the Court to serve a subpoena on FDCServers for the production of weblogs and other data evidencing traffic on Swankshare,” they explain.

Hosting provider FDCServers is willing to cooperate but requested clarification from the court that it’s permitted to grant access to the servers, as they were ordered to take them offline in the previous injunction.

Whether the server logs will indeed expose the initial leaker has yet to be seen, but Lionsgate has clearly not given up the effort to track down the source.

Meanwhile, the movie studio continues to stop the distribution of The Expendables 3 via various file-sharing sites.

Earlier this week the court approved a request to add Limetorrents.net and Torrentdownload.biz to the injunction as these sites are connected to the owner of Limetorrents.com. Both sites currently remain online but no longer list any copies of Expendables 3.

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

TorrentFreak: Google to News Corp: Nobody Fights Piracy Like Us

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

google-waterIn an open letter to the European competition commissioner earlier this month, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson was highly critical of Google.

Thompson began by speaking warmly of Google’s roots as a “wonderfully feisty” Silicon Valley startup, but that developed into warnings over its immense power today as an “often unaccountable bureaucracy”. And, as is so often the case with Google’s rivals, matters soon turned to Google’s attitudes towards online piracy.

“The shining vision of Google’s founders has been replaced by a cynical management, which offers advertisers impressively precise data about users and content usage, but has been a platform for piracy and the spread of malicious networks, all while driving more traffic and online advertising dollars to Google,” Thompson said.

The News Corp statement was never likely to go unanswered and today Google officially returned fire.

“Google has done more than almost any other company to help tackle online piracy,” said Rachel Whetstone, Google’s senior vice president of global communications.

“In 2013 we removed 222 million web pages from Google Search due to copyright infringement. The average take-down time is now just six hours,” she added.

The SVP also underlined Google’s earlier assertions that sites found to repeatedly violate copyright get downgraded in search rankings. It’s something the movie studios and record labels have being demanding for some time but although Google insists it delivers, few content creators appear pleased with the results.

On YouTube, however, things play out somewhat differently. Whetstone reminded News Corp that Google has spent tens of millions of dollars developing technology such as its ContentID, a system that not only combats piracy but enables creators to monetize their content.

And hitting back at the accusation that Google has been a platform for the spread of malicious networks, Whetstone said the company is committed to protecting its users’ security.

“It’s why we remove malware from our search results and other products, and protect more than 1 billion users every day from phishing and malware with our Safe Browsing warnings,” she said.

In response to News Corp accusations that Google undermines the business models of high quality content creators with “egregious aggregation”, Whetstone said that the days of news being controlled by a small number of media organizations were over.

“Today, people have far greater choice. That has had a profound impact on newspapers, who face much stiffer competition for people’s attention and for advertising Euros,” the SVP said.

“Google has worked hard to help publishers succeed online — both in terms of generating new audiences and also increasing their digital revenues. Our search products drive over 10 billion clicks a month to 60,000 publishers’ websites, and we share billions of dollars annually with advertising publishing partners.”

Finally, in a moment of comedy but with a serious point, Whetston held up a mirror to News Corp in response to its argument that Google’s actions could lead to “a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society” and only add to “the intemperate trends we are already seeing in much of Europe.”

By linking to an image of a front page published by Murdoch’s ‘The Sun’ tabloid, Google makes clear that if you’re going to criticize others, getting your own house in order should always come first.

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

TorrentFreak: Mega Goes Legal, Issues Ultimatum Over Cyberlocker Report

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

Last week the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a new report with the aim of shining light on the business models of “shadowy” file-storage sites.

While listing some domains that may well live up to that less-than-flattering billing, the authors of Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions, also decided to include New Zealand-based Mega.

Mega was founded by Kim Dotcom but the site bears little resemblance to his now defunct Megaupload. Perhaps most importantly, Mega was the most-scrutinized file-hosting startup ever, so every single detail simply had to be squeaky clean. As a result the site took extensive legal advice to ensure that it complies with every single facet of the law.

Nevertheless, NetNames took the decision to put Mega in its report anyway, bundling the site in with what are described as some of the market’s most dubious players. This was not received well by Mega CEO Graham Gaylard. In a TorrentFreak article he demanded a full apology from NetNames and Digital Citizens Alliance and for his company to be withdrawn from the report. Failure to do so would result in “further action”, he said.

TF asked NetNames’ David Price whether his company stood by its allegations. The response suggested that it did and no apology was forthcoming. It’s been a week since that ultimatum and as promised Mega is now making good on its threats.

“Mega’s legal counsel has written to NetNames, Digital Citizens Alliance and The Internet Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) stating that the report is clearly defamatory,” Mega CEO Graham Gaylard told TorrentFreak this morning.

Given NetNames’ and Digital Citizens Alliance failure to respond, it comes as little surprise that Mega’s formalized demands now go beyond an apology and retraction.

Firstly, Mega’s legal team are now demanding the removal of the report, and all references to it, from all channels under the respondents’ control. They also demand that further circulation of the report must be discontinued and no additional references to it should be made in public.

That’s a tough one. NetNames’ effort is currently the most-circulated report in the ‘piracy’ space and TorrentFreak is also informed that the paper is set to become the supporting documentation to Hollywood and the labels’ follow-the-money anti-piracy drive.

Mega are also demanding a list of everyone who has had a copy of the report made available to them along with details of all locations where the report has been published. Again, that will be an interesting one to see Mega’s targets fulfill.

Finally, Mega is demanding a full public apology “to its satisfaction” to be published on the homepages of the respondents’ websites. What form that could take without discrediting the rest of the report is probably up for negotiation, but having Mega in there at all was bound to be a controversial and potentially damaging move.

Mega has given the companies seven days to comply with the above requests. No official line has been provided as to what will happen if Mega is met with a refusal, but it seems that the company is serious about protecting its reputation and will do whatever it takes to do that.

It’s perhaps of note that to our knowledge none of the other sites listed in the report have come out publicly to protest their inclusion in it. That’s not to say that some weren’t wrongfully included of course, but when a company like Mega stands up in order to protect its brand that should set off alarm bells.

Do ‘pirate’ sites with “shadowy” business models ever bother to publicly defend their reputations unless they’re the ones being hauled into court?

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

TorrentFreak: UK Govt Hopes to ‘Profit’ From Anti-Piracy Measures

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

pirate-cardA few weeks ago the UK Government announced its support for a new anti-piracy plan, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP).

The Government teamed up with copyright holders and ISPs, who will start sending warning emails to pirating Internet users next year. In addition there will be a broader educational campaign to steer people towards using legal options.

While the campaign is a private initiative the Government has decided to back it financially with several million pounds. However, TorrentFreak has learned that the Government funding wasn’t straightforward and was made outside of the available marketing budget.

Through a Freedom of Information request we obtained an email conversation between the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and music industry group BPI. In the email from May this year IPO’s Ros Lynch explains that there are no regular marketing funds available to support VCAP.

“As part of the process of agreeing Government financial support for the educational element of VCAP we will need to seek a marketing exemption as we are currently not permitted to spend on marketing,” Lynch writes to BPI’s Ian Moss.

To be able to get the exception the Government needs additional information from the entertaining industries, showing that the investment makes sense financially. Or put differently, that the Government will see a good return for their invested taxpayer money.

“Essentially this will require a proper business case which includes hard figures,” Lynch writes.

“For example, what research are you basing your target audiences on? How have you calculated your 5% reduction in infringement? What £ saving does a 5% reduction bring? What overall estimate can you make of the ROI of this campaign e.g. what financial benefit would a £2.2m Government investment bring?”

ipoemail

The above suggests that the BPI is predicting a 5% drop in piracy from the anti-piracy measures. However, in a response to the IPO’s request the industry group writes that even with a lower success rate the Government’s spending will pay off.

In a “Summary Business Case” (pdf) BPI uses the expected VAT increase to convince the Government of the “profitability” of the campaign. It estimates that if 15% of all illegal downloads are lost sales, piracy only has to decline 1% over three years for the Government to recoup their investment.

“The underlying assumptions are based on very good data that has been produced by Ofcom and by a number of academic studies looking at the replacement ratios. It shows that only very small changes in piracy lead to significant returns to Government,” BPI notes.

The music industry group stresses that the calculation only looks at VAT income and that the effects on the wider economy may be even greater. However, the static model they presented should already be good enough to warrant the funding.

“So even from a very simple, static assumption, a small reduction in piracy of between .49% and 1% over the three years would return Government investment of £4m in an education scheme,” BPI writes.

This prediction was apparently good enough for the Government to invest in the new anti-piracy plans beyond the available marketing budget. Even more so, the authorities committed £3.5 million to the campaign, instead of the £2.2 that was discussed in May.

Whether the Government will indeed be able to recoup the taxpayer money through the anti-piracy campaign will be hard to measure, but the plan is going full steam ahead.

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

TorrentFreak: Alleged Topsite Operator Charged With Mass Movie Piracy

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

pirate-cardAfter becoming almost synonymous with file-sharing and its connections with The Pirate Bay, Sweden began escalating its efforts to stamp out online piracy.

As a result, during the past several years many file-sharers were targeted by anti-piracy groups looking to send a message to the masses. And with government providing additional funding, increasingly police became involved in joint operations.

After a period of dealing with smaller cases, Swedish police have just charged a man for illegally making available large amounts of copyrighted material. According to their intellectual property division, the suspect “intentionally or by gross negligence” unlawfully made films available on 2,250 occasions.

The police add that the individual acted “in consultation or concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the file-sharing network from where the infringements were carried out.

The charges are the result of an investigation initially carried out by Rights Alliance, the anti-piracy group previously known as Antipiratbyran. It’s been revealed they’re representing six major studios in the case, so the usual Hollywood giants will be directly involved.

Few additional details have been made public but after contacting lawyer Henrik Pontén at Rights Alliance, TorrentFreak has learned that the charges relate to a raid carried out in 2010 against “The Scene”, the collection of servers and individuals which inhabit the top of the so-called piracy pyramid.

The case involves a so-called ‘topsite’ known as ‘Devil’ which at the time was claimed to carry between 200 and 250 terabytes of media. During the raid, which according to Scene sources took place December 15, 2010, police seized a dozen servers and detained one person.

In press releases following the police action it was claimed that the man was responsible for the unauthorized distribution of “tens of thousands” of mainly Hollywood movies. Those estimates appear to have been rounded down.

An element of the case that remains a mystery for now surrounds the prosecution’s current claims that the man made the movies available “to the public”. Topsites tend not to deliberately distribute movies outside of their immediate circles for security reasons.

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

TorrentFreak: The Art of Unblocking Websites Without Committing Crimes

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

networkThe blocking of sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Torrentz in the UK led to users discovering new ways to circumvent ISP-imposed censorship. There are plenty of solutions, from TOR and VPNs, to services with a stated aim of unblocking ‘pirate’ sites deemed illegal by UK courts.

Last month, however, dozens of these went offline when the operator of Immunicity and other related proxy services was arrested by City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit. He now faces several charges including breaches of the Serious Crime Act 2007, Possession of Articles for Use in Fraud, Making or Supplying Articles for use in Frauds and money laundering.

While it’s generally accepted that running a site like The Pirate Bay is likely to attract police attention, merely unblocking a domain was not thought to carry any such risk. After all, visitors to torrent sites are just that, it’s only later on that they make a decision to infringe or not.

In our earlier article we discussed some of the possible reasons why the police might view “pirate” proxies to be illegal. However, there are very good arguments that general purpose proxies, even ones that are expressly setup to bypass filtering (and are able to unblock sites such as Pirate Bay), remain on a decent legal footing.

One such site is being operated by Gareth, a developer and networking guru who grew so tired of creeping Internet censorship he began lobbying UK MPs on the topic, later moving on to assist with the creation of the Open Rights Group’s Blocked.org.uk.

After campaigning and documenting Internet censorship issues for some time, Gareth first heard of last month’s proxy arrest during a visit to the United States.

“I was at DefCon in Las Vegas when the news of the Immunicity arrest reached me and I realized that for all my volunteer work, my open source applications, operation of Tor relays, donations and letters to MPs to highlight/combat the issues with Internet censorship, it was not enough,” the developer told TorrentFreak.

“I felt that this issue has moved from a political / technical issue to one about personal liberty and Internet freedom. e.g. first they came for the ‘pirate proxies’, then the Tor operators, then the ISPs that don’t censor their customers. The slippery slope is becoming a scary precipice.”

Since his return to the UK, Gareth has been busy creating his own independent anti-censorship tool. He’s researched in detail what happened to Immunicity, taken legal advice, and is now offering what he hopes is an entirely legal solution to website filtering and subsequent over-blocking (1)(2).

“Unlike Immunicity et al I’m not specifically building a ‘Pirate Proxy’. Granted people might use this proxy to navigate to torrent websites but were I to sell a laptop on eBay that same person may use it for the same reasons so I see no difference,” he explains.

“In fact Section 44, subsection 2 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007 even states [that an individual] is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offense merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.”

The result of Gareth’s labor is the anti-censorship service Routing Packets is Not a Crime (RPINAC). People who used Immunicity in the past should feel at home, since RPINAC also utilizes the ability of popular browsers to use Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) files.

In the space of a couple of minutes and with no specialist knowledge, users can easily create their own PAC files covering any blocked site they like. Once configured, their browser will silently unblock them.

Furthermore, each PAC file has its own dedicated URL on RPINAC’s servers which users can revisit in order to add additional URLs for unblocking. PAC ‘unblock’ files can also be shared among like-minded people.

“When someone creates a PAC file they are redirected to a /view/ endpoint e.g. https://routingpacketsisnotacrime.uk/view/b718ce9b276bc2f10af90fe1d5b33c0d. This URL is not ephemeral, you can email it, tweet it (there is a tweet button on the left hand side of the site) etc and it will provide the recipient with the exact same view.

“It’ll show which URLs are specified to be proxied, which have been detected as blocked (using the https://blocked.org.uk database) and if the author passed along the password (assuming the PAC was password protected) they can add or remove URLs too,” Gareth explains.

“Each view page also has a comments section, this could allow for a small collection of individuals to co-ordinate with a smaller subset of password possessing moderators to create a crowd sourced PAC file in an autonomous fashion. There is also a ‘Clone’ button allowing anybody to create their own copy of the PAC file with their own name, description and password if the PAC file they’ve received isn’t quite what they need.”

This user-generated element of the process is important. While dedicated ‘pirate’ proxy sites specifically unblock sites already deemed illegal by the UK courts (and can be deemed to be facilitating their ‘crimes’), RPINAC leaves the decision of which sites to unblock completely down to the user. And since no High Court injunction forbids any user from accessing a blocked domain, both service and user remain on the right side of the law.

In terms of use, RPINAC is unobtrusive, has no popups, promotions or advertising, and will not ask for payment or donations, a further important legal point.

“To avoid any accusations of fraud and to avoid any tax implications RPINAC will never ask for donations,” the dev explains. “The current platform is pre-paid for at least a year, the domain for 10. At a bare minimum PAC file serving and education for creating local proxies will continue indefinitely.”

Finally, Gareth notes that without free and open source software his anti-censorship platform wouldn’t have been possible. So, in return, he has plans to release the source code for the project under the GPL 3.0 license.

RoutingPacketsIsNotACrime can be found here and is compatible with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE. Additional information can be sourced here.

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

TorrentFreak: Why Record Labels Want Kim Dotcom’s Album Taken Down

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

goodtimesEarlier this year Kim Dotcom released his first music album “Good Times,” giving it away for free to anyone interested.

An official copy of the album was posted on the cloud hosting service Mega, which is linked from Dotcom’s homepage. This has never caused any issues, until a few weeks ago, when various copyright holders started sending unusual takedown requests to have the content removed.

IFPI, representing the major music labels, submitted several DMCA notices to Mega claiming that the file infringed the rights of various artists. This resulted in a game of whack-a-mole in which the album was removed and reinstated a few times. Currently it’s unavailable yet again.

megadown

When we previously covered the issue, Mega stressed that the takedown requests were clearly mistaken. The company accused IFPI of not doing their homework and doubted the accuracy of their notices in general.

However, since the takedown notices kept targeting the same link, there was a good chance that these mistakes were orchestrated in some way. Assuming that someone was making IFPI and others believe that the link pointed to albums of other artists, we decided to do some research.

Eventually we stumbled upon a series of Pastebin pages where the URL of Dotcom’s album is linked to titles of other artists. Several of the artists mentioned in the pastes are the same as the one’s IFPI listed in their DMCA notices, so this would explain the mistakes.

kimdown

The above is concerning for several reasons. First of all, it shows that IFPI and others don’t verify the legitimacy of their takedown notices. This means that pranksters can easily get them to censor legitimate content.

Secondly, Mega usually can’t check the validity of a claim, or it simply doesn’t know whether or not a user has permission to publish it. So they have very little options to stop the abuse.

“Mega aims to process all takedowns promptly, within a few hours. It is impossible to verify the claims as the files are encrypted so we don’t know the contents (unless the full link is provided with the key included), and we can’t verify if the person has a valid ownership/license or not,” a Mega spokesperson told us.

Despite these restrictions, the cloud hosting provider says it’s setting up a system where repeated takedowns can be flagged to prevent this type of abuse in the future.

“We are improving our systems to monitor the takedown process and will eventually be able to identify repeated incorrect notices,” Mega says.

Until then, Dotcom’s album will most likely disappear from Mega a few more times. Luckily for the fans, there’s also a copy hosted on the soon-to-be-released music service Baboom.

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

TorrentFreak: Giganews Resorts to DMCA to Quieten FBI Allegations

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

GNlogoOn the morning of September 11, 2014, TorrentFreak was greeted with one of the most unusual emails we’ve ever received.

Sent from an alleged former employee of Giganews who identified himself as Nick Caputo, the email contained serious allegations about his former employer. Caputo told us that he’d begun working at the company in 2009 and as a “huge pirate” he loved to help people download “all the rich multimedia content they could.” But that was just the beginning.

The email outlined Caputo’s rise through the company through two quick promotions in two-and-a-half years. However, it quickly descended into allegations that far from being a straight-down-the-line newsgroup provider, Giganews is in fact an FBI-run operation. Caputo says he discovered this after getting into a dispute with the company about removing child abuse material and elevating his complaint to the FBI.

TorrentFreak decided not to run with the story, despite clear indications that Caputo is who he claimed he was. The story, which had plenty of detail, just didn’t hold up on its own. There was plenty of ‘evidence’ provided but the problem was that none of it added up to a level of proof that we’d be prepared to stand behind.

But four days later and after being contacted by Caputo, Cryptome published the email and documents originally sent to TorrentFreak and possibly others.

The story quickly spread around dozens of sites including Reddit and HackerNews forcing Giganews to respond, acknowledging that Caputo was indeed a former employee but denying the allegations.

“This is a hoax. These allegations are 100% false,” the company wrote.

“Unfortunately, since his termination, the poster has periodically posted versions of this information online. Sometimes, he tries to misrepresent himself as our CEO and sometimes he posts as himself.”

With Giganews criticizing Cryptome for publishing the allegations, Caputo it seemed was not giving up. The archive of evidence originally offered to TF found itself uploaded to Internet Archive from where Caputo hoped it would be spread far and wide.

However, according to a new email published by Cryptome, that has now been brought to halt by the issuing of a DMCA notice.

Subject: archive.org item subject to copyright claim
From:”Internet Archive”
Date:Sep 18, 2014 9:41:11 PM

Hello,

Access to the item at https://archive.org/details/giganews-fbi has been disabled following receipt by Internet Archive of a copyright claim submitted on behalf of Data Foundry, Inc (datafoundry.com). The claim was submitted with information and statements requested by Internet Archive’s Copyright Policy (posted at https://archive.org/about/terms.php near the bottom of the page). If you have questions regarding the claim, please let us know.

Sincerely,

The Internet Archive Team

While Giganews clearly thinks the contents of the archive are defamatory, one has to dig into the details to see where the company has a copyright claim over the file.

That can be found in a dump of employee contact details which documents show were obtained from Data Foundry’s intranet. Each employee card has a photograph attached and those are likely to have been taken by a company employee in company time.

Also included in the dump is a Giganews appraisal of Caputo’s performance during 2010. It was authored by a manager and the rights to the form will most likely sit with the company. While Giganews would probably write something different today, four years ago the company felt that Caputo was “the go-to guy” for getting stuff done on nights, ranking his overall performance as “exceeding” the standard required.

“Giganews is in the impossible position of proving a negative,” the company said in a statement.

“If we say our list of employees does not include any FBI employees, then they must be ‘using false identities.’ If we say the named FBI operatives don’t look like any of our employee photos, ‘the pictures must have been altered.’ Even the denial itself is used as further evidence of the truth of the accusation. In a court of law, such an accusation would never stand up to scrutiny, but on the Open Internet, opinions can be formed by only a few words on a popular website.”

Whether the allegations will now calm down and go away is anyone’s guess, but a DMCA notice to one of the many sources of the file is unlikely to make it disappear forever.

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

TorrentFreak: BPI Hits Record Breaking 100 Million Google Takedowns

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

bpiDespite the growing availability of legal music services in many countries, record labels are facing a constant stream of pirated music.

In an attempt to prevent these infringements, the BPI and other music industry groups send millions of takedown notices to Internet services every month. Most of these requests are directed at Google.

This week the UK music industry group BPI reached a new milestone after notifying Google of the 100 millionth allegedly infringing URL, up from 50 million just 10 months ago.

As can be seen below, the latest update shows that the 100 million links were spread out over 274,810 separate DMCA takedown notices.

BPI’s takedown notices
bpi100m

With 100 million requests the BPI has broken a new milestone. Never before has a copyright holder representative reported so many allegedly infringing links to Google. Degban is currently second in this list with 99 million URLs, followed by the RIAA with 57 million.

For the BPI this record isn’t something to be proud of though. The music industry group tells us that it shows just how hard it is for copyright holders to have infringing content taken offline.

“This milestone makes two things very clear. First, that however much creators do, the system of ‘notice and takedown’ will never be enough on its own to protect them or consumers from the online black market, or to spur growth in the digital economy,” a BPI spokesperson says.

“Second, that despite its clear knowledge as to which sites are engines of piracy, Google continues to help build their illegal businesses, by giving them a prominent ranking in search results.”

The BPI stresses that Google should do more to lower the visibility of unauthorized content in its search results. Despite promises to do so, the music group still sees very little improvement on this front.

“To illustrate: Google’s records show it has been told more than 10 million times that content on 4shared.com is illegal – yet it’s still the very first result today when we search for ‘Calvin Harris mp3′ – ahead of Amazon and every other legal service,” BPI notes.

Addressing this issue is pretty straightforward, the BPI argues. Google should work with the entertainment industries to adjust its search algorithm, as the UK Government also highlighted recently.

“Google can simply fix this problem by amending its algorithm. We hope they will respond positively to the invitation from Government to negotiate voluntary measures to do so,” BPI says, closing with an iconic lyric.

“It’s time the media giant changed its tune – we need a little less conversation and a little more action please.”

Google has thus far been hesitant to fiddle with its search results.

The company has made several changes to address the complaints of copyright holders. However, it also stressed that the entertainment industries themselves should take responsibility, arguing that piracy is primarily an availability and pricing problem.

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