Posts tagged ‘anonymous’

TorrentFreak: Is Your VPN / Proxy Working? Check Your Torrent IP-Address

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

boxedEvery day dozens of millions of people share files using BitTorrent, willingly exposing their IP-addresses to the rest of the world.

For those who value their privacy this is a problem, so many sign up with a VPN provider or torrent proxy service. This is fine, but some people then forget to check whether their setup is actually working.

While it’s easy enough to test your web IP-address through one of the many IP-checking services, checking the IP-address that’s broadcasted via your torrent client is more complex.

There are a few services that offer a “torrent IP check” tool, but for the truly paranoid there’s now an Open Source solution as well.

The developer, who goes by the nickname “cbdev”, found most of the existing tools to be somewhat “fishy,” so he coded one for himself and those who want to run their own torrent IP checkers.

“I’d rather have something I can control entirely,” cbdev tells TF.

“So, I wrote a tool people can install on their own servers, with the added bonus of it using magnet links, so ‘Tracking torrent’ files are required,” he adds.

The ipMagnet tool allows BitTorrent users to download a magnet link which they can then load into their BitTorrent client. When the magnet link connects to the tracker, the user’s IP-address will be displayed on the site, alongside a time-stamp and the torrent client version.

ip-magnet

Alternatively, users can check out the tracker tab in their torrent clients, where the IP-address will be displayed as well.

For users who are connected to a VPN, the IP-address should be the same as the one they see in their web browser, and different from the IP-address that’s displayed when the VPN is disconnected.

Proxy users, on the other hand, should see a different IP-address than their browser displays, since torrent proxies only work through the torrent client.

torrent-ip

People are free to use the ipMagnet tool demo here, but are encouraged to run a copy on their own server. The whole project is less than 500 lines of code, so those with basic knowledge of PHP, JavaScript and HTML can verify that it’s not doing anything nefarious.

If you’re setting up a copy of your own, feel free to promote it in the comments below. Those who want more tips can read up on how to make a VPN more secure, and which VPN providers and torrent proxies really take anonymity seriously.

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

TorrentFreak: ‘Notorious Market’ Blocks Piracy in its P2P Streaming Player

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

ustrEvery year the United States Trade Representative calls out countries, companies and services that step over the line when it comes to copyright enforcement. Year after year the same core players appear and China is one of the countries regularly subjected to criticism.

Chinese companies such as Baidu have been fixtures in the USTR’s reporting for many years, but changes to its operations in 2011 meant that it was able to stay off the list, although at home it is still the subject of various legal clashes. Now, just two months after the USTR published its 2013 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, another Chinese company is hoping to please both local and US interests by ditching its pirate reputation.

In its last publication, sandwiched between KickassTorrents and MP3Skull, the USTR called out a site called Kuaibo. The company behind that site is the Shenzhen QVOD Technology Co. It’s the creator of QVOD, a technology originally designed to enable small and medium sized business to distribute their content online using BitTorrent, P2P, and streaming technology.

With an estimated userbase of 25 million (100 million on its mobile app) the company’s player software is undoubtedly popular. However, many of its users are now using QVOD to share unauthorized content via what appears to be a Popcorn Time-style P2P streaming feature.

QVOD

“QVOD has become a leading facilitator of wide-scale distribution of copyright-infringing content and of other content considered illicit in China,” the USTR wrote, referring to pirate movies/music and pornography.

However, in an announcement this week, Shenzhen QVOD Technology Co reported that it had taken steps to stop the unlawful distribution of both copyright-infringing and adult content via its software. All illegal content will be blocked and the company will move to a commercial and fully-licensed footing.

“From now on, the previous ‘fast play mode’ [of QVOD’s Nora Player) will come to an end,” a company spokesman said. “Nora is willing to work with counterparts to jointly promote the development of the genuine video industry.”

The motivation for “going legal” appears to be financial. Analysts quoted in Chinese media say that its become increasingly difficult for QVOD to get advertisers who are happy for their brands to appear alongside infringing content. Since the company is pledging to spend more than $16m on licenses it needs money quickly, but whether its millions of pirates are ready to spend is far from clear.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA and RIAA Members Uploaded Over 2,000 Gigabytes to Megaupload

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

megauploadFollowing in the footsteps of the U.S. Government, this month the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios filed lawsuits against Megaupload and Kim Dotcom.

While the legal action doesn’t come as a surprise, there is a double standard that has not been addressed thus far.

The entertainment industry groups have always been quick to brand Megaupload as a pirate haven, designed to profit from massive copyright infringement. The comment below from MPAA’s general counsel Steve Fabrizio is a good example.

“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,” Fabrizio commented when the MPAA filed its suit.

However, data from Megaupload’s database shared with TorrentFreak shows that employees of MPAA and RIAA member companies had hundreds of accounts at the file-storage site. This includes people working at Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, Sony, and Warner Music.

In total, there were 490 Megaupload accounts that were connected to MPAA and RIAA members, who sent 181 premium payments in total. Together, these users uploaded 16,455 files which are good for more than 2,097 gigabytes in storage.

Remember, those are only from addresses that could be easily identified as belonging to a major movie studio or record label, so the real numbers should be much higher.

MPAA / RIAA member accounts
mega-mpaariaa

But there’s more. The same companies that are now asking for millions of dollars in damages due to massive copyright infringement were previously eager to work with Megaupload and Megavideo.

As we noted previously, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and others contacted Kim Dotcom’s companies to discuss advertising and distribution deals.

For example, Shelina Sayani, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Warner Bros, offered a deal to syndicate “exciting” Warner content to Megaupload’s Megavideo site.

Subject: Warner Bros. – Looking for Content Manager
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 08:55:50 -0800
From: Sayani, Shelina
To: demand@megavideo.com

Dear Megavideo,

I’m writing from Warner Bros., offering opportunities to syndicate our exciting entertainment content (e.g. Dark Knight, Harry Potter, Sex and the City clips and trailer) for your users. Could you please pass on my information to the appropriate content manager or forward me to them? Thanks so much for your time.

Shelina Sayani
WB Advanced Digital Services
3300 W Olive Ave, Bldg 168 Room 4-023
Burbank, CA 91505
818.977.4668

Similarly, Disney attorney Gregg Pendola reached out to Megaupload, not to threaten or sue the company, but to set up a deal to have Disney content posted on the Megavideo site.

Subject: Posting on Megavideo.com
From: “Pendola, Gregg”
Date: 8/13/2008 10:06 AM
To: love@megavideo.com

My name is Gregg Pendola. I am Executive Counsel for The Walt Disney Company. Certain properties of The Walt Disney Company have content that they would like to post on your site.

However, we are uncomfortable with a couple of the provisions of your Terms of Use that we feel may jeopardize our rights in our content. We were hoping that you would be amenable to reviewing a 1-page agreement we have drafted that we would like to use in place of your Terms of Use.

Is there someone I can contact to discuss this? Or someone I can email the Agreement to for review?

Thanks. Gregg

Gregg Pendola
Executive Counsel
The Walt Disney Company

For Fox, the interest in Megaupload wasn’t necessarily aimed at spreading studio content, but to utilize Megaupload’s considerable reach by setting up an advertising deal. In this email former Senior Director Matt Barash touts FAN, the Fox Audience Network.

Subject: Fox Ad Partnership
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 08:09:14 -0800
From: Matt Barash
To: sales@megaupload.com

I’m reaching out to see if you have a few minutes to discuss the recently launched Fox Audience Network.

FAN is now up and running and fully operational, utilizing best of breed optimization technology to bring cutting edge relevancy to the ad network landscape.
We are scaling rapidly and seeking the right 3rd party publishers to add as partners to our portfolio.

Please let me know if you have some time to chat this week about how we can work together to better monetize your inventory.

Best,
Matt

Matt Barash
Director, Publisher Development
Fox Audience Network

The above are just a few examples of major industry players who wanted to team up with Kim Dotcom. Now, several years later, the same companies accuse the site of being one of the largest piracy vehicles the Internet has ever seen.

If the MPAA and RIAA cases proceed, Megaupload’s defense will probably present some of these examples to highlight the apparent double standard. That will be an interesting narrative to follow, for sure.

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

TorrentFreak: Five Years Before Any New U.S. Anti-Piracy Laws, MP Predicts

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

sam-pirateUnder immense pressure from powerful entertainment companies, in 2011 it looked almost inevitable that the United States would introduce powerful new legislation to massively undermine Internet piracy.

Championed by Hollywood and the world’s leading record labels, the Stop Online Piracy Act made headlines around the world for putting super-aggressive tools into the government’s arsenal. At the same time, however, proper consideration wasn’t given to their potential impact on innovation.

As a result, citizens and technology companies teamed up to stage the biggest protest the Internet has ever seen resulting in a back-down by the government – and Hollywood in particular – on an unprecedented scale.

The fallout became obvious in the months that followed. The usual anti-piracy rhetoric from the MPAA and RIAA was massively toned down, at times becoming non-existent. In its place emerged a new and softer approach, one aimed at making peace with the very technology companies that had stood in their way.

This week an intellectual property enforcement leader very familiar with the big studios and record labels revealed just how much damage the SOPA defeat is responsible for.

Speaking in Los Angeles at an event hosted by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp., UK MP and Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor Mike Weatherley said that it would be a very long time before anyone dared to push for new legislation in the United States.

weatherley“It’s going to be five years before anybody puts his head above the parapet again,” Weatherley told executives.

If Weatherley’s predictions are correct, that takes us beyond 2020 before any new legislation gets put in place, a comparative lifetime online and a timescale during which almost anything can happen.

But Hollywood and the labels aren’t sitting still in this apparent ‘quiet’ period. A new strategy has been adopted, one that seeks voluntary cooperation with technology-based companies, the “six-strikes” deal with United States ISPs being a prime example.

Cooperation has also been sought from advertising companies in an attempt to strangle the revenues of so-called pirate sites, a move that has been gathering momentum in recent months. Weatherley told the meeting that existing laws might need to be “beefed up” a little, but from his overall tone those tweaks seem unlikely to provoke any SOPA-like backlash.

Also generating interest is Weatherley’s attitude towards Google. The world’s leading search engine has been under intense pressure to do something about the infringing results that appear in its listings. At times the rhetoric, especially from the music industry, has been intense, and could’ve easily spilled over into aggression if Google had decided to bite back. However, the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor says he sees things differently.

“I know in America [Google] are considered much more of a pariah than they are perhaps in the U.K. But I have to say they are engaging with me and they recognize that something has got to be done,” Weatherley told the meeting.

But while Weatherley talks peace and cooperation and the MPAA and RIAA keep their heads down in the States, much anti-piracy work is being conducted through their proxies FACT and the BPI in the UK. Instead of tackling the world’s leading file-sharing sites from U.S. soil, the job has been transferred to the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Not only does it keep the controversy down at home, it also costs much less, with the British taxpayer footing much of the bill.

TorrentFreak has learned that only last week a new batch of letters went out to file-sharing related sites, with yet more demands for them to shut down or face the consequences. Things might appear quiet in the United States, but that doesn’t meant things aren’t happening.

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

TorrentFreak: Landmark Case Sees Pirate Bay User Hit With 5 Year Sentence

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

pirate bayIn a blaze of publicity mid December 2013 it was revealed that South Africa had netted its very first Internet pirate. SAFACT, the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft, said it had caught a man uploading a high-profile movie to The Pirate Bay.

The case had unusual hallmarks from the start, not least since SAFACT admitted it had engaged the services of a “certified ethical hacker” to identify, profile and trace the uploader. Adding to the intrigue, SAFACT also refused to name the uploaded movie, although it was later revealed to be Four Corners, a local gangland film that was yet to be officially released.

Initially, the identity of the uploader was also shrouded in mystery but he was later revealed to be 29-year-old Majedien Norton. The IT engineer was reported to have uploaded the movie on November 21, 2013, although there is no sign of it now, which suggests that the father of two later deleted the file. Norton later admitted to buying a ‘screener’ copy of the movie off the streets and uploading it to Pirate Bay.

As in many countries, relatively minor and non-commercial instances of copyright infringement are dealt with via the civil courts in South Africa, but from fairly early on it was clear that this case would be different. The overall anti-piracy tone was that an example needed to be made and a precedent set for those tempted to make the same kind of mistake in future.

Today the case concluded in the Commercial Crimes Court in Cape Town and it seems that SAFACT largely achieved its aims. After being arrested under the Counterfeit Goods Act and facing a fine plus up to three years in jail, Norton came to an arrangement with the state, pleaded guilty, and was handed a five-year suspended jail sentence.

“It’s a huge relief for me and my wife,” Norton told local news outlet htxt.africa. “I’m just glad we can put this behind us now and move on.”

But while SAFACT and the rest of the anti-piracy lobby will be pleased with the harsh albeit suspended sentence, in a recent interview the director of Four Corners was philosophical over the piracy of his movie.

“I think the way people think now ­ digitally ­they don’t see piracy as piracy any more. They see it as sharing. We will definitely not get as many people to the cinemas as we would have if the film were not pirated,” Ian Gabriel said.

“At the same time, there are people who have seen the film who would never have got to the cinema. I’m pleased the film is reaching those people because there’s a message of pride and self recognition and of choice for ordinary people that the film is delivering and its important that message be heard.”

And while SAFACT clearly believe that the threat of criminal punishments will help solve the piracy problem, Gabriel sees things from a different angle. Noting that movies cannot exist without money, the director says a more considered approach to piracy is required.

“I suggest in order to continue to enhance our quality of life, creative rights of origination need to be secured on some consensual level, probably not through aggressive policing, but rather through a common sense approach to the protection of creative endeavour for the benefit of all,” the director concludes.

SAFACT are yet to comment on the conclusion of the case.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Video Streaming Sites Exploit Google’s Servers

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

google-logoGoogle has been in the crosshairs of the entertainment industries for a while now. These companies believe that Google is not doing enough to prevent pirate sites from showing up in search results.

However, there is another less visible problem that cropped up in recent months. Increasingly, streaming portals with a focus on the latest pirated copies and TV-shows are using Google as a source.

A German anti-piracy outfit has identified more than 18,000 pirated videos that are featured on more than a dozen large sites. All these streaming sites use the same movie sources without charge, and the bandwidth bill goes to Google.

The list of sites includes Movie4k.to, hdmoviezone.net, viooc.co, viooz.be, viooz.cc, vioozmovies.me, watch32.com, putlocker.bz, putocker.to, putlocker.tw, megashare.info, megashare.sh, megashare.ca, afdah.com, yify.tv, watch32.com.

Together these streaming portals are good for several million daily visitors, which means that Google must be seeing a lot of traffic originating from these sites. The screenshot below shows a copy of The Wolf of Wall Street on YIFY.tv, available in several video qualities and with subtitles if needed.

YIFY.tv Using Google
yifytvgoogle

It’s unclear where the videos are hosted, but the URL above shows the googlevideo.com domain. In addition, it includes a “source=picasa” string, suggesting Google’s image hosting service has something to do with it.

While the site owners are benefiting from the free storage, copyright holders are less excited. A German media outfit, which remains unnamed, reportedly sent requests to Google last month hoping to take down the files, but without success.

Since the files remain online, the lawyers of the media company have now applied for an injunction against Google at a local court.

Two weeks ago Warner Bros. also asked Google to remove several of these URLs from its search engine. These requests were denied, most likely because the videos can’t be accessed directly through the link Warner provided.

In a comment to TorrentFreak, Google stresses that users are not permitted to distribute copyrighted content without permission. The company is actively trying to stop these kinds of abuses and also responds swiftly to takedown notices.

“Use of Google platforms to host infringing materials is a violation of our terms of use, and we design features into our systems to make them unattractive for this kind of abuse,” a Google spokesperson told TF.

“We also respond quickly to disable access to any materials on our platforms identified to us by copyright owners as infringing,” Google adds.

Why the thousands of Google-hosted videos on these streaming portals remain online is unclear. It could be that Google indeed removed the files in question, but that they were re-uploaded. Another possibility is that the copyright holder didn’t correctly identify the source file, as Warner Bros’ takedown notice suggests.

One of the additional problems copyright holders face is that the URLs of the videos are harder to identify. Automated takedown tools can’t easily spot where the files are coming from, which makes it more complicated to send takedown requests.

It will be interesting to see how this issue will be dealt with in the future. It’s clear that neither Google not the copyright holders are happy with the current situation. For now, the only ones benefiting are the streaming portals and their millions of users.

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

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: High Court: Kim Dotcom Can Have His Cars, Millions in Cash Returned

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

When Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand mansion was raided in 2012, some of the most memorable images were of his luxury car collection being loaded onto trailers and taken away. The authorities hoped the pictures would help to symbolize Dotcom’s fall from ‘power’ but two years later he might be burning rubber in them once again.

Just two days before the raid on Dotcom’s home, foreign restraining orders were granted to enable the seizure of the entrepreneur’s assets. As they are set to run out on Friday, the Crown applied to the High Court yesterday to have them extended.

Unfortunately for United States and local authorities, the application was turned down, which means that Dotcom’s assets including his car collection, substantial quantities of cash, artwork and other equipment, could soon be returned.

Shortly after the news broke, Dotcom took to his beloved Twitter to celebrate.

CarsTwitter

Dotcom added that when his cars are returned he will be treating member of his newly formed Internet Party to a day out racing.

“I will rent the Taupo race track for a track day with #InternetParty members when my cars are returned!” he tweeted.

While Dotcom is understandably excited, the Crown has two weeks to file an appeal. That is almost certain to happen.

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

TorrentFreak: Android Pirate Agrees To Work Undercover For the Feds

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

snappzIn 2012, three Android-focused websites were seized by the Department of Justice. With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com, a trio of so-called ‘rogue’ app stores.

Carrying out several arrests the authorities heralded the operation as the first of its kind, alongside claims that together the sites had facilitated the piracy of more than two million apps.

Last month the Department of Justice announced that two of the three admins of Appbucket had entered guilty pleas to charges of criminal copyright infringement and would be sentenced in June.

Yesterday the DoJ reported fresh news on the third defendant. Appbucket’s Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and will be sentenced in July.

As reported in late March, the former operator of Applanet says he intends to fight the U.S. Government. However, the same definitely cannot be said about Kody Jon Peterson of Clermont, Florida.

The 22-year-old, who was involved in the operations of SnappzMarket, pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. He admitted being involved in the illegal copying and distribution of more than a million pirated Android apps with a retail value of $1.7 million. His sentencing date has not been set, but even when that’s over his debt to the government may still not be paid.

As part of his guilty plea, Peterson entered into a plea agreement in which he gave up his right to be tried by a jury and any right to an appeal. He also accepted that he could be jailed for up to five years, be subjected to supervised release of up to three years, be hit with a $250,000 fine, and have to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes.

spyPeterson also agreed to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation, including producing all relevant records and attending interviews when required. However, in addition to more standard types of cooperation, the 22-year-old also agreed to go much further. A copy of his plea agreement obtained by TF reveals that Peterson has agreed to work undercover for the Government.

“Upon request by the Government, the Defendant agrees to act in an undercover investigative capacity to the best of his ability,” the agreement reads.

“The Defendant agrees that Defendant will make himself available to the law enforcement agents designated by the Government, will fully comply with all reasonable instructions given by such agents, and will allow such agents to monitor and record conversations and other interactions with persons suspected of criminal activity.”

The plea agreement also notes that in order to facilitate this work, Government attorneys and agents are allowed to contact Peterson on no notice and communicate with him without his own attorney being present. The extent of Peterson’s cooperation will eventually be detailed to the sentencing court and if it is deemed to be “substantial” then the Government will file a motion to have his sentence reduced.

But despite the agreements, Peterson has another huge problem to face. According to court documents he is an immigrant to the United States and as such a guilty plea could see him removed from the country. Whether he will be allowed to stay will be the subject of a separate proceeding but given his agreement to work undercover it seems unlikely the Government would immediately choose to eject such a valuable asset.

In the meantime, former associates and contacts of Peterson could potentially be talking online to him right now, with a FBI agent listening in over his shoulder and recording everything being said.

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

TorrentFreak: Square Enix: DRM Boosts Profits and It’s Here to Stay

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

squareEven in the early 1980s illegal copies of games were viewed as lost sales. In response, software producers built anti-copying mechanisms into their cassette-based content.

While these systems made copying more awkward, they did very little to stop piracy. Also, it didn’t take long for legitimate buyers to begin noticing something strange. For some reason, games with copy protection errored more often when loading than games without it.

Fast forward more than 30 years and technology is almost unrecognizable from those early 8 bit days, but perhaps surprisingly today’s copy protection – or DRM as we now know it – is still producing conundrums similar to those of three decades ago.

People who use pirate copies these days are generally unaffected by DRM since it is removed in advance, whereas legitimate buyers often have to jump through several hoops in order to get their products running as expected. This punishing of ‘honest’ customers is at the root of most DRM complaints.

Still, many of the world’s games developers see DRM as a necessary evil, claiming that without it copying would continue completely unchecked and as a result sales would decline. One such company is Square Enix, the gaming giant behind Final Fantasy and many dozens of other iconic cross-platform titles.

Adam Sullivan, Square Enix America’s Senior Manager of Business and Legal Affairs, informs TorrentFreak that the company’s choice to include DRM in its products has its roots in a simple concept – maximizing revenue.

“The primary benefit to us is the same as with any business: profit,” Sullivan explains.

So does DRM really work?

“We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates,” Sullivan adds. “However, effectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure — in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.”

drm-noOf course, consumer feedback in the Internet space often includes fierce criticism of DRM, especially when it goes catastrophically wrong, as it has done on a number of occasions in recent years. So has Square Enix learned from these mistakes?

“The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says.

“It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”

But while the problems persist, Sullivan says that Square Enix will pursue its anti-piracy strategy while considering the factors that are most important to the company and the game’s target audience. So is DRM here to stay?

“This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes — I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan explains.

“When F2P [free-to-play] began trending, lots of people thought it would be the death of DRM. I remember talking with one F2P developer who couldn’t imagine why hackers would want to attack his game, since it was free and all. Two months later they were barraged with several hacks.

“So long as we’re concerned about things like data privacy, accounting sharing and hacking, we’ll need some form of DRM,” Square Enix America’s Head of Legal concludes.

More of Square Enix’s thoughts on anti-piracy and DRM initiatives will be heard during the Anti-Piracy and Content Protection Summit in Los Angeles this summer where Adam Sullivan will be a guest speaker.

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: Ryushare File-Host Owner Arrested – Cash, Cars, Motorcycles Seized

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

ryushareThere are many hundreds, probably thousands, of file-hosting sites online, each serving their own area of the market. One only has to watch discussion on so-called warez forums to discover which ones are popular with pirates.

Ryushare was one such site. Whether its operators deliberately influenced that is up for debate, but healthy affiliate and rewards programs certainly made it more attractive than similar sites without them. The site grew steeply in the latter half of 2012, peaking near the Alexa 500 at the turn of 2013.

But while the mere existence of a reward program doesn’t signal a breach of the law, Ryushare clearly had other legal problems. Earlier this month the site completely disappeared alongside reports that its operators had been arrested.

This weekend a more detailed report from the Vietnamese government stated that police had shut down an operation dedicated to the illegal distribution of pornography.

According to the report, Nguyen Duc Nhat, the Vietnamese owner of Ryushare, was arrested along with three others. This led to the shutdown of the site which according to police had been operating 500 overseas servers.

The alleged operators of RyushareRyushare

Authorities say that during its lifetime Ryushare generated profits of 132,000,000,000 Vietnamese dong, or $6.2 million for those who prefer less zeros.

During the course of the arrests, police say they seized two cars, three motorcycles, five laptops and five accounts containing around $355,000.

The Ryushare site remains offline and rumors of a resurrection have yet to come true. Authorities say the investigation continues.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Prime Minister Asked for Permanent Police Anti-Piracy Unit Funding

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

cityoflondonpoliceLast summer it became evident that police in the UK would be taking a greater interest in the activities of torrent, streaming and other sharing sites. Announcing the creation of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), last year City of London Police said that sites would be pressured to step into line, close, or face the consequences.

The unit, which has already claimed the scalps of several smaller domains, including the forced shutdown last week of a handful of sports-stream related sites, has been active on various fronts. In addition to putting registrars under pressure to close domains, the unit is also working with advertisers in an attempt to cut off advertising revenue.

PIPCU is good news for rightsholders in several ways, not least since the anti-piracy battles of groups such as the BPI and FACT are now being partly financed by the UK taxpayer. PIPCU is currently funded by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ Intellectual Property Office, to the tune of £2.56m over two years.

The funding, which was allocated on a temporary basis, will expire in 2015 if the government doesn’t allocate additional finances. It could fall back into private hands, but that would mean a significant loss of ‘clout’ for the companies relying on PIPCU’s authority. However, if the UK Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Adviser has anything to do with it, that won’t happen.

In a letter to David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, Mike Weatherley MP praised the “excellent work” of PIPCU and urged the funding of the unit on a permanent basis.

“I appreciate that funding for this new unit is not permanent. However, I would like to put on record my support for committing future funding to fighting IP crime and boosting the current level of financial support that is available for PIPCU,” Weatherley wrote. “As I am sure that you are aware, the creative industries add over £70 billion to our economy each year and so it really is in our national interest to protect that revenue.”

As previously reported, PIPCU is currently focusing on cutting off ad revenue to ‘pirate’ sites. Speaking to fellow Conservatives, Weatherley said if that could be done the effects would be dramatic.

“If we stop advertisers from shoveling money into illegal sites, we can stop a lot of the content. Possibly as much as 95 per cent according to the newly formed national Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU),” Weatherley said.

“If you value the NHS [National Health Service], you should also value IP and our creative industries, as together they help pay for the services in this country that we all cherish. If we take the wrong approach, national services that we take for granted will have a huge budget shortfall.”

There are currently no formal indications that PIPCU will get the permanent funding it needs to continue its work but considering the backing it has among the music and movie industries (not to mention the Prime Minister’s top IP advisor) it seems unthinkable that a couple of million a year won’t be found from somewhere.

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: Why Are Porn Perfomers Scared to Talk About Internet Piracy?

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

Internet porn is big – extremely big – and one of the reasons often cited for the rapid growth of the Internet. Every second there is an average of 28,258 Internet users watching porn online, together accounting for an estimated 35% of Internet downloads.

Over the past few years, porn industry claims that its very existence has become threatened by piracy have only increased. In addition to the hundreds of torrent sites offering content for no charge, a new type of site has emerged offering a staggering and immediately accessible range of content, at an entry price of absolutely free.

Due to their similarity with YouTube, these sites are known as ‘tube’ sites. They operate in much the same way as YouTube, with content being uploaded by their users for viewing by others.

The space is dominated by giants including YouPorn and Pornhub, sites which have been heavily criticized due to the endless quantities of unauthorized content they host. But in the ever-evolving adult industry, things are not what they seem.

Tube giant takeover

youpornpornhub‘Mindgeek’ may not sound familiar to everyone, but this is the new name for one of the biggest companies in the adult industry.

Formerly known as Manwin, Mindgeek is a huge company that has scooped up some of the biggest tube sites in the world including YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, RedTube, ExtremeTube and SpankWire to name a few. All in all, Mindgeek is reported to be one of the top three consumers of bandwidth in the world.

While Mindgeek sites act within the law by operating an efficient DMCA process that removes user-uploaded content at the request of copyright holders, many adult producers and performers feel that the sites are hitting their bottom line. But while that might be true for some, for others a much more complex situation is emerging.

A report this week from ABC showed the news outlet attempting to solicit comments from adult industry performers. However, when the topic turned to piracy on tube sites, suddenly they didn’t want to talk.

“I can’t talk about THAT part,” said one actress walking away from the camera. “I really don’t want to say anything because I don’t want them to ban me.”

“Them” in this context is Mindgeek, the operator of the tube sites offering unauthorized copies of porn movies uploaded by their users. So why are these actresses scared to talk about Mindgeek and what possible control could it have over them?

Spending tube money

dollar-moneyAfter making huge quantities of cash via its tube sites, Manwin/Mindgeek bought up several top studios including Brazzers, Digital Playground, Mofos, MyDirtyHobby and Twistys. The company also sucked up the Reality Kings brand and became an online partner of Playboy. This means that some of the performers complaining about piracy on tube sites are actually being paid by the company running them.

“Some people have asked me why i’m being a hypocrite and working for [Mindgeek companies],” one actress told ABC. “As a performer, boycotting these companies is not going to take any time, money or anything away from them because if I say no there are another hundred blondes who are willing to do it.”

Providing yet another twist, the report also shows adult actress and outspoken piracy critic Tasha Reign arranging to have one of her illegally uploaded videos taken down from Mindgeek-owned PornHub.

Reign then admits that she too works for Mindgeek.

“It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way, because if I want to shoot content then I kinda have to shoot for [Mindgeek] because that’s the company that books me because they own…almost…everything,” Reign says.

In the meantime, it’s reported that a new porn video is made in the United States every 39 minutes. How many will be produced by Mindgeek companies or distributed via their tube sites remains to be seen, but in any event the company could be making money at one end, the other, or intriguingly – both ends at once.


ABC US News | ABC Business News

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

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TorrentFreak: 39% of Film Industry Professionals are Movie & TV Show Pirates

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

Reports, research and surveys covering piracy-related issues have been released in their dozens in recent years, with many of them painting a picture of two distinct groups of people – those who illegally download and those who pay for content.

Of course, the reality is that many people who obtain content for free also cheerfully pay for content too. In fact, some studies have found that the entertainment industry’s best customers are also illegal downloaders.

But what if there was evidence to suggest that some of those pirates were actually the very people helping to create movies and TV shows? That’s one of the intriguing findings of a survey carried out by Stephen Follows, a writer and producer with a keen interest in discovering what makes the industry tick.

“Many of the decisions in the film business are based on gut, opinion and gossip so I find it fascinating to research the topics and see what the numbers say,” Follows informs TorrentFreak.

“Piracy seemed like a ready topic to research so I added a few question into a survey I ran of 1,235 film industry professionals. The respondents were all people who had been to one of the three major films markets in the past five years – Cannes, Berlin or the American film Market.”

Follows first set of questions focused on whether the film professionals felt that piracy had affected their business. The responses were then split by industry sector and budgets the professionals work to.

Considering the anti-piracy rhetoric coming out of Hollywood during the past thirty years, it’s perhaps surprising that 53% of all respondents said that piracy had either no effect or a positive effect on their business.

Survey1

Respondents were from all sectors of the industry including development, production, post-production, sales and distribution, exhibition and marketing. When the responses from each sector are broken down, one can see that respondents in sales and distribution – arguably the role that file-sharing fulfills – say they are most worried by piracy.

survey 2

Turning the tables to discover how the industry professionals are themselves affecting piracy rates couldn’t be approached directly for obvious reasons, so Follows tried a different tactic.

“When it came to researching how many of them actually illegally download movies I felt I needed to be a bit sneaky,” he told TF.

“To one randomly assigned set of participants I presented three statements
about the industry (such as ‘I prefer to watch films on DVD than in the cinema’). I then asked the respondent how many of the three statements they agreed with, but only asking for the combined total (i.e. ‘I agree with two of the three statements’).”

“Then, to a different randomly assigned set I offered the same three statements with the additional statement ‘I have illegally downloaded a TV show or feature film’. By subtracting the average number of agreed-with statements from the average of the control group I was able to calculate the percentage of people who agreed with the additional statement.”

survey3

As can be seen from the diagram, 39% of the industry respondents admitted to illegally downloading video content, with 61% claiming never to have done so. Interestingly, respondents working on lower budgets were more likely to have illegally downloaded than those working on big budgets.

“Only 2% of people working on films over $10 million admitted to illegally downloading a film or TV show, compared with 65% of those working on films under $1 million,” Follows explains.

Also of interest is how the percentage of those who admitted illegal downloading fluctuated according to industry sector, with 55% of those in marketing saying they have grabbed movies or TV shows without paying versus zero percent in exhibition (movie theaters).

survey 4

Sales and distribution, the sector that said they’d been most affected by piracy, accounted for the next lowest piracy ‘confession’ rate of 28%.

“These are the middlemen behind the scenes of the industry who negotiate the rights between producers and cinemas/retailers. They are part of the reason why there are so many damned logos at the start of every movie,” Follows explains.

“They have the largest vested interest in stopping piracy as they don¹t have many other reasons for doing what they do (unlike filmmakers who might be wanting to create art/entertainment) and no other source of income, unlike cinemas who make a fortune on Coke/popcorn etc.”

Further reading on Stephen Follows’ research and methodology can be found here and here. A great video he produced for Friends of the Earth can be watched on Vimeo.

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

Schneier on Security: More on Heartbleed

This post was syndicated from: Schneier on Security and was written by: schneier. Original post: at Schneier on Security

This is an update to my earlier post.

Cloudflare is reporting that it’s very difficult, if not practically impossible, to steal SSL private keys with this attack.

Here’s the good news: after extensive testing on our software stack, we have been unable to successfully use Heartbleed on a vulnerable server to retrieve any private key data. Note that is not the same as saying it is impossible to use Heartbleed to get private keys. We do not yet feel comfortable saying that. However, if it is possible, it is at a minimum very hard. And, we have reason to believe based on the data structures used by OpenSSL and the modified version of NGINX that we use, that it may in fact be impossible.

The reasoning is complicated, and I suggest people read the post. What I have heard from people who actually ran the attack against a various servers is that what you get is a huge variety of cruft, ranging from indecipherable binary to useless log messages to peoples’ passwords. The variability is huge.

This xkcd comic is a very good explanation of how the vulnerability works. And this post by Dan Kaminsky is worth reading.

I have a lot to say about the human aspects of this: auditing of open-source code, how the responsible disclosure process worked in this case, the ease with which anyone could weaponize this with just a few lines of script, how we explain vulnerabilities to the public — and the role that impressive logo played in the process — and our certificate issuance and revocation process. This may be a massive computer vulnerability, but all of the interesting aspects of it are human.

EDITED TO ADD (4/12): We have one example of someone successfully retrieving an SSL private key using Heartbleed. So it’s possible, but it seems to be much harder than we originally thought.

And we have a story where two anonymous sources have claimed that the NSA has been exploiting Heartbleed for two years.

EDITED TO ADD (4/12): Hijacking user sessions with Heartbleed. And a nice essay on the marketing and communications around the vulnerability

EDITED TO ADD (4/13): The US intelligence community has denied prior knowledge of Heatbleed. The statement is word-game free:

NSA was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL, the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, until it was made public in a private sector cybersecurity report. Reports that say otherwise are wrong.

The statement also says:

Unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need, this process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities.

Since when is “law enforcement need” included in that decision process? This national security exception to law and process is extending much too far into normal police work.

Another point. According to the original Bloomberg article:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-11/nsa-said-to-have-used-heartbleed-bug-exposing-consumers.html

Certainly a plausible statement. But if those millions didn’t discover something obvious like Heartbleed, shouldn’t we investigate them for incompetence?

Finally — not related to the NSA — this is good information on which sites are still vulnerable, including historical data.

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: Now the RIAA Sues Megaupload “For Massive Copyright Theft”

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

megauploadRolled out to a background of what Kim Dotcom describes as a “failing” criminal process against both him and his former Megaupload associates, earlier this week the MPAA launched yet more litigation.

In a complaint filed at a Virginia District Court, the studios described Megaupload as a business designed and operated with copyright infringement in mind. Over the course of its life the site generated millions of dollars at the expense of the movie industry, the studios say, and for this Dotcom and partners Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk must be held accountable.

But fighting Hollywood is not the only thing that Dotcom has to worry about. In a fresh complaint filed yesterday in Virginia, Warner Music, UMG Recordings, Sony Music and Capitol Records teamed up against Megaupload, Vestor Limited, Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk in pursuit of yet more millions in damages.

The RIAA’s 30-page complaint appears to be substantially the same as that filed by the movie studios, with claims that Dotcom and his associates “actively and intentionally” encouraged users to upload infringing copies of popular content in order to distribute those copies to millions of people without a license.

The complaint, which lists 87 specific copyright works from artists including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Coldplay and David Guetta, treads familiar ground when it comes to the rewards program Megaupload was said to operate.

“Indeed, for several years, through what it called an ‘Uploader Rewards’ program, Defendants even paid their users to upload popular content that Defendants knew infringed copyrights, until Defendants finally discontinued this program a few months before their indictment,” the RIAA writes.

Unsurprisingly the RIAA heavily references the US Government’s action against Megaupload, noting that in 2011 the site was designated a “notorious market” by the USTR. Of course, just a month later Megaupload was shut down and by the end of January 2012 its operators were being indicted on charges including criminal copyright infringement.

In common with their movie industry counterparts, the RIAA demands a trial by jury on allegations of direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, vicarious and contributory infringement against all defendants. Millions of dollars are at stake but Kim Dotcom’s U.S. attorney Ira Rothken believes that the lawsuit will not succeed.

“The RIAA, MPAA, and DOJ are like three blind mice following each other in the pursuit of meritless copyright claims and [an] assault on copyright neutral cloud technology,” Rothken said.

“Megaupload strongly believes it’s going to prevail.”

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Lose Big as Court Declares File-Sharing Tools Legal

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

In 2008, Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and “Spanish RIAA” Promusicae (Productores de Música de España) joined forces to sue MP2P Technologies, a company created by Pablo Soto, the brains behind Blubster, the “Spanish Napster” file-sharing software.

The record companies said that Soto had designed his Blubster, Piolet and Manolito software with the intent of providing a platform for users to pirate music while he generated profit. This, the labels said, amounted to unfair competition in the market. Soto should pay them 13 million euros ($18m) in damages, the labels argued.

Following years of litigation, in 2011 a Madrid court handed defeat to the labels by declaring Soto’s technology neutral. While his users may have infringed copyright, Soto was not responsible for that, the court said. Furthermore, since Soto wasn’t in the record business and the labels weren’t in the file-sharing business, the unfair competition claim was also dismissed.

After investing so much time in the case, the labels weren’t prepared to concede defeat. The case went to the Madrid Court of Appeals which has just made its decision public. It’s a decisive win for Soto and a big loss for the labels.

“[Soto's] activity is not only neutral, and perfectly legal, moreover it is protected by article 38 of our Constitution,” the Court wrote in its ruling.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Soto says that the Court saw no problem with sharing technology and discovered no plan “to sink or unbalance the recording industry” or obstruct the development of its business.

“The court affirmed — yet again — that [the creation of sharing technologies] is not an act of looting, unfair competition or unfair benefit from others’ effort,” Soto informs TF.

The Spaniard, who has been developing software since he was 16 years old, adds that the win is not only good news for him, but also for others seeking to innovate.

“This clears the path for more opportunities to bring leading edge technologies to the marketplace and no longer be distracted by misguided legal tactics from the copyright conglomerates. We really appreciate and thank our loyal following, especially among the readers at TorrentFreak.”

Soto’s lawyer, David Bravo, who described the ruling as having a “very strong foundation”, said developers will now be able to go about their business free from “inventive legal interpretations that define the very creator of a file-sharing tool as the responsible of copyright infringement.”

In celebration of the victory, Soto has released a brand new version of his Blubster software, for the first time powered by BitTorrent.

“While we have continued innovating with Torrents.fm, we can now also focus once again on further creating and offering advanced P2P technology across our other networks with this new version of Blubster just launched today,” Soto told TF.

Traditionally Windows only, Blubster will soon debut on both Linux and Mac.

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.