Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Tries to Crush Popcorn Time, Again

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

popcornThis year Popcorn Time became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming inside an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.

The breakthrough app had Hollywood concerned but luckily for them the developers shut it down after a few weeks, saying that they wanted to move on with their lives.

It was never revealed whether Hollywood forces had threatened the developers, but an MPAA update that surfaced as part of the Sony leaks now reveals that this was indeed the case.

In the MPAA’s “first quarter update,” sent to the movie studio heads in March, the group stated that it had “scored a major victory in shutting down the key developers of Popcorn Time.”

The MPAA added that the investigative and enforcement actions required collaboration on three continents, which they hoped would prevent Popcorn Time from becoming a “major piracy threat.”

Unfortunately for Hollywood the threat didn’t go away. The Open Source project was quickly picked up by others and in recent months several popular forks gained steady user-bases.

Popcorn-Time.se, one of the most-used forks, has since turned into a bigger threat than the original application. As a result, Hollywood is trying its best to dismantle it.

Previously the fork had its domain name suspended and over the past few weeks found itself being kicked out by various hosting providers. Complaints from the Hollywood backed anti-piracy group BREIN were to blame.

The hosting troubles resulted in long periods of downtime, which isn’t good for morale among the developers.

“We had a tough two weeks with a few shut downs that came unexpectedly. We moved our service through three different hosting companies in these weeks,” the Popcorn-Time.se team tells TF.

“All caved after a few hours to a day or two, after ‘some’ copyright organization contacted them, saying suddenly that they don’t want to host our ‘illegal’ domain. We were shocked actually to see how quickly these organizations work.”

While Popcorn-Time.se might have been down, they’re not out yet. The team is determined to keep its software available and will be releasing new updates to the app today.

“BREIN is on our backs? Well, we found a new hosting company which we hope will be more cooperative, and we’re releasing updates for both Windows and Mac today to show everyone that business is as usual.”

“No one said it was gonna be easy, but what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and we’re not into dying… ;-),” the Popcorn-Time.se team concludes.

Whether other Popcorn Time forks have had similar problems recently is unknown, but the above makes it clear that Hollywood is still determined to crush these popular apps.

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

TorrentFreak: Swedish Supreme Court Determines Movie Piracy Fines

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

nopiracyWhile headlines may suggest otherwise, the vast majority of online file-sharers go about their business without ever falling foul of the law. Like hundreds of millions of speeding motorists every day, most breaches go unnoticed or unpunished.

Nevertheless, that’s not to say people can forget about the risks. Breaches of copyright law can result in hefty fines in most developed countries, if rightsholders feel strongly enough about prosecuting the case.

One such case began in Sweden four years ago when police investigating another incident stumbled across content being shared on a man’s computer. The discovery, which involved material obtained from The Pirate Bay, was reported to both copyright holders and the prosecutor.

After moving through an initial case and an appeal, the prosecutor’s office was disappointed when the file-sharer was issued with just a fine. With ambitions for a scary legal precedent, those sharing files habitually should be sent to jail, the prosecutor argued.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court but it didn’t work out as planned. The Court agreed that the defendant (known as JS) had damaged the interests of copyright holders with his actions but noted that in the majority of cases (57 out of the 60 movies) his subsequent sharing with others had been brief.

Also in the man’s favor was how the Court viewed his activities. No commercial motivation was found, with the Court noting that his file-sharing had been for personal use, despite its scale.

“Such use of the current networks and services should not be considered as an aggravating factor when assessing the penalty amount,” the judgment reads.

Sweden operates an income-calibrated system of fines known as “day fines” which are equal to the amount the defendant could have earned in a day. The Court ruled that for each movie download with a short upload, the man would be sentenced to 50 day fines.

While that sounds like the fine could increase to a huge amount, in Sweden when people are convicted of several offenses at the same time the penalty is gradually reduced for each subsequent offense. In any event the maximum punishment is 200 day fines.

In this case the man was sentenced to 180 day fines, up from the 160 handed down by the lower court. Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance who assisted with the case welcomed the judgment, but there can be little doubt that a custodial sentence (even a suspended one) was the target here.

Nevertheless, it appears that the judgment could have drawn a line in the sand.

“This is a borderline case where the sentence is located on the edge of going over to prison. If you’re looking to see what is necessary for a prison sentence, it’s not much more than this,” Supreme Court Judge Svante O. Johansson concluded.

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

TorrentFreak: Morgan Freeman: Movie Pirates Have Tiny, Useless Penises

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

downloadcarYou wouldn’t steal a car. You wouldn’t steal a handbag. You wouldn’t steal a television. You wouldn’t steal a movie.

Today there can be few of us unaware of the origins of those lines since for nearly ten years the anti-piracy PSA in question has been subjected to online ridicule.

Educating people on piracy matters, especially those aged between 15 and 35, is notoriously difficult. It’s all too easy to patronize those of a more mature age with amped up drama and needless scaremongering but that’s easily eclipsed by the chances of appearing terribly “uncool” to the cutting-edge youth.

None of these pitfalls appear to have fazed Creative Future, the huge coalition of entertainment industry companies with a mission to suck profit out of piracy and educate the masses.

When they’re not taking a shot at BitTorrent Inc., the organization supports groups such as iKeepSafe who in turn aim to keep the younger generation safe (and pirate-free) online.

And next year, if all goes to plan, we’ll get the chance to view Creative Future’s anti-piracy PSAs. TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the concepts and scripts and they range from mildly annoying and stereotypical to outrageously daring and hilarious.

Torrent – The Slightly Smug, BitTorrent Veteran Douchebag

One of the campaigns involves a character called “Torrent”. This intriguing fellow, set to played by a young male actor in his late 20s or early 30s, appears to be a bit of a file-sharing veteran since he has “all the answers” when it comes to justifying his piracy.

“Confident and unapologetic”, Torrent isn’t ashamed of what he does because he believes he’s right, in fact he’s so sure of his moral compass “he speaks the opinions of the BitTorrent community word for word.”

However, while Torrent is living up to his billing as a “slightly smug douchebag” with a mantra of “if it’s online, it’s mine”, his actions are affecting people who create content.

“I support art but I don’t pay big corporations for entertainment,” Torrent says, his words overlaying images of production assistants packing vans at 3am and games coders working through the night.

But while the campaign outlined above plays to a specific file-sharing sterotype, there are more exciting plans ahead.

Don’t Be An Asshole

Another PSA campaign, surprisingly titled “Don’t Be An Asshole”, features big name stars filmed on the sets of big movies. We’ve read all the early scripts (featuring everyone from Sandra Bullock to Morgan Freeman) and not only are they pretty funny but they might even turn into a campaign people won’t actually hate. Better than that, they’re a parody goldmine.

The premise is simple – if you download movies illegally, you’re an asshole. While the title of the campaign gives that away, the content of the scripts is nothing short of a huge surprise.

One PSA, set to be filmed on the set of Ted 2, features Mark Wahlberg and Ted (Seth MacFarlane) sitting together chatting on a couch.

—————————-

MARK: “Hey, buddy. Have you ever done anything, like, illegal. You
know…illegal illegal?”

TED: “Oh, ya man. Tons of stuff.”

MARK: “Like what?”

TED: “Alright, uh, top of my head…I once paid two prostitutes to have a boob
fight. Does that count?”

MARK: “That sounds awesome. One time I pooped in the deep fryer at a Doug’s Sr.”

TED: “I kicked a nine year old in the nuts. No reason. And not when I was
younger either, this was like, Tuesday.”

MARK: “One time I punched a blind guy in the face, cause I knew he couldn’t
identify me.”

TED: “I had sex with a Grifford the Dog doll…that was not consensual”

MARK: “I’m guilty of that one, too.”

TED: “I posted those naked pictures of your ex without her permission.”

MARK: “I took ‘em without her permission.”

TED: “Wow. We’ve both done some pretty messed up things.”

– The laughter dies down, but Mark has one last question.

MARK: “Ya. Hey, have you ever illegally downloaded a movie?”

- The tone in the room shifts immediately. Ted is clearly upset by this.

TED: “What? No. I’m not an asshole.”

TITLES: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE

—————————-

As made clear by the above, this is no ordinary anti-piracy campaign and the scripts we’ve seen reveal there are plenty more surprises where these came from.

We won’t spoil the fun but I for one simply cannot wait to see Morgan Freeman captured on film reciting the lines set down for him in one script….

MORGAN: “If you illegally download movies off of the Internet, you have a tiny, useless penis, and you should be embarrassed to be alive.”

No, really……

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Holdout Still Holds 40 “Illegal Sites”, Lawyer Says

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

smashedserverThis whole week has felt like a crazy rollercoaster of a dream foretelling an impossible future. Has the world’s most resilient torrent site really gone for good?

At this point in time it’s hard to say for sure, but optimism is pretty low. The Pirate Bay was hit hard on Tuesday by Swedish police and currently not a shred of evidence suggests that a recovery is on the cards.

The action against TPB, which took place in a cave-built datacenter in Nacka, Sweden, affected several other sites too including Zoink, Torrage, the Istole tracker, Suprbay.org, Bayimg.com and Pastebay.net. EZTV was also taken down, but is currently working its way back online.

However, according to one of the key figures behind the complaint and subsequent police raid of The Pirate Bay, the sites taken down this week are just the tip of a pretty large Swedish iceberg.

Henrik Pontén is a lawyer with Rights Alliance, the anti-piracy group previously known as Antipiratbyrån. He informs TorrentFreak that there are dozens of other ‘pirate’ sites operating in the very same datacenter that previously housed parts of The Pirate Bay.

“At the hosting provider that the police raided [this week] there are still around 40 illegal sites still up and running,” Pontén explains.

Quite why those sites didn’t go down too isn’t clear, but according to the lawyer some big ones remain operational including torrent site 1337x.to and streaming movie portal Solarmovie.is.

Perhaps even more of a surprise is Pontén’s allegation that movie release group SPARKS is operating a topsite there. TorrentFreak has no way of verifying the claim and the fact we were given the information is in itself curious, but the Rights Alliance lawyer seems pretty convinced.

The big question is whether the anti-piracy group intends to do anything about the sites. We weren’t told anything specific but received a general warning.

“Rights Alliance acts wherever a crime has been committed against our rightsholders. The guilty persons will be prosecuted and damages will be required,” Pontén said.

In the meantime and in the wake of the The Pirate Bay’s untimely disappearance there’s no shortage of sites stepping up to try and take its place. As previously mentioned certain impostors have directed people to malware and have even tried to charge for access.

Right now this misdirection only looks set to get worse – unless there’s a miraculous rebirth this Christmas.

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

TorrentFreak: Leak Exposes Hollywood’s Global Anti-Piracy Strategy

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

mpaa-logoThe Sony Pictures leak has caused major damage to the Hollywood movie studio, but the fallout doesn’t end there.

Contained in one of the leaked data batches is a complete overview of the MPAA’s global anti-piracy strategy for the years to come.

In an email sent to top executives at the major Hollywood studios earlier this year, one of the MPAA’s top executives shared a complete overview of Hollywood’s anti-piracy priorities.

The email reveals key areas of focus for the coming years, divided into high, medium and low priority categories, as shown below.

piracy-strategy-page

The plan put forward by the MPAA is the ideal strategy. Which elements are to be carried out will mostly depend on the funds made available by the studios.

High priority

For cyberlockers and video streaming sites the MPAA plans to reach out to hosting providers, payment processing companies and advertising networks. These companies are urged not to work with so-called rogue sites.

Part of the plan is to create “legal precedent to shape and expand the law on cyberlockers and their hosting providers,” with planned lawsuits in the UK, Germany and Canada.

Cyberlocker strategy
mpaa-cyberlocker

Other top priorities are:

Apps: Making sure that pirate apps are taken down from various App stores. Google’s removal of various Pirate Bay apps may be part of this. In addition, the MPAA wants to make apps “unstable” by removing the pirated files they link to.

Payment processors: The MPAA wants to use government influence to put pressure on payment processors, urging them to ban pirate sites. In addition they will approach major players with “specific asks and proposed best practices” to deter piracy.

Site blocking: Expand site blocking efforts in the UK and other countries where it’s supported by law. In other countries, including the U.S., the MPAA will investigate whether blockades are an option through existing principles of law.

Domain seizures: The MPAA is slowly moving toward domain seizures of pirate sites. This strategy is being carefully tested against sites selling counterfeit products using trademark arguments.

Site scoring services: Developing a trustworthy site scoring system for pirate sites. This can be used by advertisers to ban rogue sites. In the future this can be expanded to payment processors, domain name registrars, hosting providers and search engines, possibly with help from the government.

Copyright Notices: The MPAA intends to proceed with the development of the UK Copyright Alert System, and double the number of notices for the U.S. version. In addition, the MPAA wants to evaluate whether the U.S. Copyright Alert System can expand to mobile carriers.

Mid and low priority

BitTorrent is categorized as a medium priority. The MPAA wants to emphasize the role of BitTorrent in piracy related apps, such as Popcorn Time. In addition, illegal torrent sites will be subject to site blocking and advertising bans.

BitTorrent strategy
mpaa-bittorrent-strategy

Other medium and low priorities are:

Search: Keep putting pressure on search engines and continue periodic research into its role in facilitating piracy. In addition, the MPAA will support third-party lawsuits against search engines.

Hosting: The MPAA sees Cloudflare as a problem and is developing a strategy of how to deal with the popular hosting provider. Lawsuits against hosting providers are also in the agenda.

Link sites: Apart from potential civil lawsuits in Latin America, linking sites will only be targeted if they become “particularly problematic.”

In the email the MPAA’s top executive does not consider the above strategies to be “final” or “set in stone”. How much the MPAA will be able to carry out with its partners depends on funds being availble, which appears to be a subtle reminder that the studios should keep their payments coming.

“…the attached represents priorities and activities presuming online CP is adequately resourced. Your teams understand that, depending upon how the budget process plays out, we may need to lower priorities and activities for many sources of piracy and/or antipiracy initiatives,” the email reads.

The leaked strategy offers a unique insight into Hollywood’s strategy against various forms of online infringement.

It exposes several key priorities that were previously unknown. The MPAA’s strong focus on domain name seizures for example, or the plans to target cyberlockers with lawsuits in the UK, Germany and Canada.

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

TorrentFreak: Furious Google Ended MPAA Anti-Piracy Cooperation

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

Each week Google removes millions of ‘infringing’ links from search engine results at rightsholders’ request, 9.1m during the last documented week alone. In the main Google removes these links within hours of receiving a complaint, a record few other large sites can match.

But no matter what Google does, no matter how it tweaks its search algorithms, it’s never been enough for the MPAA. For years the movie group has been piling on the pressure and whenever Google announces a new change, the MPAA (and often RIAA) tell the press that more can be done.

By most standards, this October Google really pulled out the stops. Responding to years of criticism and endless complaints that it’s one of the world’s largest facilitators of pirate content, Google came up with the goods.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites,” said Katherine Oyama, Google’s Copyright Policy Counsel.

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

Google’s claims were spot on. Within days it became clear that torrent sites had been hit hard. Was this the tweak the MPAA had been waiting for?

Google seemed confident, in fact so confident that according to an email made public due to the recent Sony hack attack, the company contacted MPAA chief Senator Chris Dodd the day before to give him the headsup.

But if Google was hoping for a congratulatory public statement, they would need to look elsewhere. Instead of a warm reception the MPAA chose to suggest that Google knew it have been involved in wrongdoing.

“Everyone shares a responsibility to help curb unlawful conduct online, and we are glad to see Google acknowledging its role in facilitating access to stolen content via search,” the MPAA’s press release began.

The leaked emails reveal that Google responded furiously to the perceived slur.

“At the highest levels [Google are] extremely unhappy with our statement,” an email from the MPAA to the studios reads.

“[Google] conveyed that they feel as if they went above and beyond what the law requires; that they bent over backwards to give us a heads up and in return we put out a ‘snarky’ statement that gave them no credit for the positive direction.”

In response to the snub, Google pressed the ‘ignore’ button. A top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business” with the movie group.

In future Google would speak with the studios directly, since “at least three” had already informed the search engine that they “were very happy about the new features.”

While the MPAA and Google will probably patch things up in future, the emails also suggest reasons why the MPAA might have given Google a frosty reception.

First up, the MPAA had no time to assess the changes Google had put in place, so had no idea whether they would work. Welcoming changes that fail to perform in future is clearly something the MPAA would want to avoid.

But intriguingly the emails suggest that the MPAA were trying not to affect another external matter from progressing.

“We were also sensitive to the fact that Mississippi [Attorney General] Hood is expected to issue a [Civil Investigative Demand] to Google sometime this week; we did not want an unduly favorable statement by us to discourage AG Hood from moving forward,” the MPAA email reads.

In conclusion the MPAA felt that Google overreacted to their October press release and that the problems will eventually blow over. It’s certainly possible that relations have improved since the emails were written in October.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Prepares to Bring Pirate Site Blocking to the U.S.

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

mpaa-logoSite blocking has become one of the go-to anti-piracy techniques for the music and movie industries. Mechanisms to force ISPs to shut down subscriber access to “infringing” sites are becoming widespread in Europe but have not yet gained traction in the United States.

If the Stop Online Piracy Act had been introduced, U.S. blocking regimes might already be in place but the legislation was stamped down in 2012 following a furious public and technology sector revolt. Behind closed doors, however, blocking proponents were simply waiting for the storm to die down.

TorrentFreak has learned that during 2013 the MPAA and its major studio partners began to seriously consider their options for re-introducing the site blocking agenda to the United States. Throughout 2014 momentum has been building but with no real option to introduce new legislation, the MPAA has been looking at leveraging existing law to further its aims.

Today we can reveal that the MPAA has been examining four key areas.

DMCA

According to TF sources familiar with the plan, the MPAA began by exploring the possibility of obtaining a DMCA 512(j) blocking injunction without first having to establish that an ISP is also liable for copyright infringement.

To get a clearer idea the MPAA commissioned an expert report from a national lawfirm with offices in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington, DC. Returned in July, the opinion concluded that a U.S. court would “likely” require a copyright holder to establish an ISP as secondarily liable before granting any site-blocking injunction.

This option might be “difficult” and financially costly, the law firm noted.

Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Rule 19 – ‘Required Joinder of Parties’ – is also under consideration by the MPAA as a way to obtain a blocking injunction against an ISP. In common with the DMCA option detailed above, the MPAA hopes that a blocking order might be obtained without having to find an ISP liable for any wrongdoing.

The MPAA is considering a situation in which they obtain a judgment finding a foreign “rogue” site guilty of infringement but one whose terms the target rogue site has failed to abide by. Rule 19 could then be used to join an ISP in the lawsuit against the rogue site without having to a) accuse the ISP of wrongdoing or b) issue any claims against it.

The same lawfirm again provided an expert opinion, concluding that the theory was “promising, but largely untested.”

Using the ITC to force ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites

Among other things the United States International Trade Commission determines the impact of imports on U.S. industry. It also directs action on unfair trade practices including those involving patents, trademarks and copyright infringement.

The MPAA has been examining two scenarios. The first involves site-blocking orders against “transit” ISPs, i.e those that carry data (infringing content) across U.S. borders. The second envisions site-blocking orders against regular ISPs to stop them providing access to “rogue” sites.

Again, the same lawfirm was asked for its expert opinion. In summary its lawyers found that scenario one presented significant technical hurdles. Scenario two might be feasible, but first ISPs would have to be found in violation of Section 337.

“Section 337 declares the infringement of certain statutory intellectual property rights and other forms of unfair competition in import trade to be unlawful practices,” the section reads (pdf).

The lawfirm’s August report highlights several potential issues. One noted that an injunction against a domestic ISP would effectively stop outbound requests to “rogue” sites when it is in fact “rogue” sites’ inbound traffic that is infringing. Also at issue is sites that don’t “import” content themselves but merely offer links to such content (torrent sites, for example).

Nevertheless, the general conclusion is that if a clear relationship between the linking sites and the infringing content can be established, the ITC may take the view that the end result still amounts to “unfair competition” and “unfair acts” during importation of articles.

The Communications Act

Details on this final MPAA option involves the Communications Act and how it is perceived by the Federal Communications Commission and the Supreme Court.

The scenario balances on the MPAA’s stance that ISPs have taken the “public position” that they are not “telecommunications services”. When the position of the ISPs and opinions of the FCC and Supreme Court are combined, the MPAA wonders whether the ISPs could become vulnerable.

The scenario under discussion is one in which ISPs are not eligible for safe harbor as DMCA 512(a) “conduits” since the DMCA definition of a conduit is the same as the Communications Act’s definition of “telecommunications service” provider.

Major meeting two months ago

TorrentFreak sources reveal that a large meeting consisting of more than two dozen studio executives took place in October to discuss all aspects of site-blocking. A senior engineer from U.S. ISP Comcast was also invited.

On the agenda was a wide range of topics including bringing on board “respected” people in the technology sector to agree on technical facts and establish policy support for site blocking.

Other suggestions included encouraging academics to publish research papers with a narrative that site blocking elsewhere in the world has been effective, is not a threat to DNSSEC, and has not “broken the Internet”.

Conclusion

In June, MPAA chief and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd praised pirate site blockades as one of the most important anti-piracy measures, and in August a leaked draft revealed MPAA research on the topic.

The big question now is whether the studios’ achievements in Europe will be mirrored in the United States – without a SOPA-like controversy alongside. While the scale is unlikely to be the same, opposition is likely to be vigorous.

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

TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay HAS NOT Been Resurrected – YET

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

pirate-crThere hasn’t been this much panic in the file-sharing world since 2006. Back then the cause was a huge police raid that targeted The Pirate Bay in its Swedish homeland. Now, eight years later, it’s deja vu all over again.

As everyone knows by now, yesterday morning Swedish police raided a data center in Nacka, Stockholm. A little time later The Pirate Bay disappeared offline and late last evening anti-piracy group Rights Alliance took responsibility for the complaint that forced the site offline.

In the hours that followed dozens of news reports appeared, most of which accurately reported the facts so far. However, several outlets, Sydney Morning Herald included, reported overnight that The Pirate Bay was in the process of being resurrected at a brand new domain.

The domain mentioned in most of the reports is the Costa Rica based ThePirateBay.cr. As can be seen from the screenshot below, it does indeed look like The Pirate Bay.

pirate-cr

Only adding to the excitement (or perhaps causing it), plenty of posts appeared on Reddit trumpeting this domain as the site’s new home. Sadly, however, these reports are wide of the mark.

ThePirateBay.cr is a Pirate Bay proxy/mirror service (it’s listed by Proxybay) and as such relies entirely on The Pirate Bay for its torrent content. Currently it has none. The site appears to be operating out of the Netherlands and only became widely available in October.

While admittedly quite popular in India (it recently became its 1,349th most popular site according to Alexa, already people are proclaiming the .CR domain as the new Pirate Bay. In fact, someone has already begun marketing a range of t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, posters and greetings cards carrying the site’s name.

The confusion appears to stem from the fact that some “proxy” homepages stay up even when The Pirate Bay goes down as they cache some content. As can be seen from the screenshot below, another proxy ‘labaia.me‘ displays just fine, but then does nothing when the user attempts to find torrents.

LaBaia

While still in the early hours following the shutdown, there’s nothing to suggest that The Pirate Bay’s domains have fallen into the hands of the authorities. This suggests that if the site does reappear, it will do so via one of its existing domains, although that position is certainly open to change.

In the meantime users should be cautious of sites claiming to be “the new Pirate Bay”. While most probably just want to get some traffic, there could be others with more nefarious ideas in mind.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders French ISPs to Block The Pirate Bay

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

pirate bayHounded by copyright holders all around the world for a decade, somehow The Pirate Bay manages to stay afloat. Today the site is doing as well as ever, despite the jailing of the now-famous individuals behind the project.

Faced with an adversary that to date has proven impossible to kill, entertainment companies have chosen what they believe to be the next best course of action. If the site itself can’t be stopped, then users must be stopped from reaching the site.

This has been achieved by court-ordered ISP blockades in various regions of the world, notably Europe. Today comes news of yet another blocking injunction, this time in France.

The legal process was initiated earlier this year by collection society and anti-piracy group La Société Civile des Producteurs Phonographiques, or SCPP as it’s more commonly known.

Late Thursday the organization, which represents in excess of 2,000 labels including Warner, Universal and Sony, announced victory in a short statement.

Welcoming a decision handed down by the Paris Court, SCPP said that French service providers will soon be required to “implement all necessary measures” to prevent consumer access not only to The Pirate Bay, but also “its proxy and mirror sites”.

“This decision is another step in the fight against music piracy and one that strengthens existing similar decisions in the EU and worldwide,” SCPP said.

Although the details of the injunction are still to be published, the introduction of a clause which orders the blocking of proxy and mirror sites could be a significant achievement for the labels.

Guillaume Champeau of French news outlet Numerama informs TorrentFreak that SCPP previously pushed for automatic proxy-accommodating court orders, but without success.

While no announcements have yet been made, it’s likely that this action against The Pirate Bay and its mirrors won’t be the last for the French labels and their counterparts in the movie and TV industries. If earlier predictions hold out, more sites will quickly move onto the radars of outfits such as SCPP.

For an indication of what can happen one only needs to look a couple of dozen miles north to the UK. After several years of court action, all major ISPs are required to block most major torrent sites and even some private trackers.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Shut Down Spain’s Top ‘Pirate’ Streaming Sites

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

pirate-cardWhile Spain has built a reputation over the years for being easy on copyright infringement, there are now signs that the country intends to take a tougher line.

The latest action involves two of the region’s largest streaming sites, peliculaspepito.com seriespepito.com. The portals had a combined audience of 2.5 million visits per month, with Seriespepito.com taking the larger share as Spain’s 69th most popular site.

A court injunction served on ISPs including Telefónica, Ono, Jazztel. Orange and Vodafone and R Cable blocked access to the sites yesterday. Two men were arrested by police and taken away for questioning.

The investigation into the sites began in May after a complaint was filed at Court No.3 of Elche by anti-piracy group FAP and major film producers including 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Disney, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures.

The movie companies complained that the sites provided links to other sites where it was possible to stream or download thousands of movies and TV shows without permission, generating thousands of euros in advertising revenue along the way.

pepito

An investigation found that the sites were both owned by Zeniox Media SL, a company founded in 2007 and headquartered in the coastal city of Elche. Police uncovered several bank and PayPal accounts which revealed that over the past three years the company generated revenues of 1,085,000 euros.

The individuals targeted yesterday were the company’s operators. Detained following raids in the cities of Madrid and Alicante, the men aged 20 and 30 were questioned and subsequently charged with intellectual property crime offenses.

“Through these popular websites an act of public communication is made, being the means by which a number of people can access protected audiovisual content. The large amount of unauthorized content brings immense losses to the film industry,” police said in a statement.

But while the police seem confident that crimes have been committed, the men’s lawyer sees things rather differently.

Citing an October 2014 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Carlos Sánchez Almeida says that judges have “ruled repeatedly” that offering links to content does not amount to communicating a work to the public.

Almeida also describes police claims of more than a million euros generated from advertising and premium accounts as “bloated” since not all of the men’s business activities were Internet related. The raids on his clients came as no surprise, however.

“This is typical of the complaints these websites have been suffering since 2003,” Almeida says. “We don’t find this strange at all. Every December there is always a spectacular operation.”

Police say that both men face penalties of hundreds of thousands of euros or even prison sentences.

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

TorrentFreak: FilesTube Transforms ‘Piracy Haven’ into Licenced Movie Aggregator

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

filestube-newFounded in 2007, Polish-operated FilesTube is the largest meta-search engine for content hosted on cyberlockers such as Uploaded, 4Shared and Mediafire.

At one point in time the site had several million visitors a day, but this popularity decayed in recent years in part through Google’s anti-piracy measures.

The site does still have plenty of visitors though, and last month it was highlighted by the RIAA as one of the top pirate sites on the Internet.

Hoping to shake off this pirate image, FilesTube shut down its search engine today. Instead, it transformed itself into a video portal through which users can watch licensed content, for free.

“FilesTube is now a film aggregation platform, using third-party video players. The business model change means that the site is now an aggregator of only licensed content,” a spokesperson tells TF.

“Users now have the option to stream films and series directly on FilesTube. These are free, legal, and can’t be downloaded,” FilesTube adds.

The change from a search engine of virtually all popular online media to a licensed platform is a big one. The site now lists relatively unknown content and not the Hollywood blockbusters many users were used to. Music, books, games and other media categories are entirely gone.

new-filestube

With the move to a licensed platform FilesTube no longer has to rely on shady ads and pop-unders. This increases revenue potential as the site can run higher value advertisements.

To build traffic FilesTube is offering partners hard cash in exchange for traffic. The site has been hit hard by Google’s algorithm changes in the past so it can’t rely on search engine traffic anymore.

“As one of our marketing channels FilesTube has started an affiliate program. Now Filestube users can earn up to $10 per 1000 visits by promoting legal content on websites and social media,” FilesTube tells TF.

During the coming months FilesTube will continue to expand its content library and hopefully add more mainstream content. At the site time, it hopes that the remnants of its pirate image will fade away.

Google has received more than 10 million DMCA notices for the site, and currently downranks the site in its search engine. Similarly, a UK High Court order still requires the country’s major ISPs to block access to the site.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Site Admin Sentenced to Five Months Prison

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

tankanerWhen it comes to file-sharing news arriving from Sweden, these days it’s rarely something positive. Week after week there’s news of a fresh prosecution, or historical cases being brought to a conclusion.

This Thursday a case running since 2012 came to an end, with a particularly miserable outcome for the man involved.

It began two years ago when anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance filed a complaint against a man they believed to be the owner of torrent site Tankaner. Local police launched an investigation and the man was later arrested.

In April 2014 the man was prosecuted for copyright infringement related to the illegal distribution of 32 movies during 2012 and 2013. At the time prosecutor Fredrik Inglad said that since there were ads on the site he would be pushing for a prison sentence.

In his defense the 40-year-old claimed that he’d disposed of the site four years ago. But according to Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén, the court didn’t buy that version of events.

“There was extensive evidence against the man in the form of signed contracts for the piracy server, login information, book keeping, e-mails and a photo in which he is posing in a T-shirt with ‘Tankaner’ printed on it,” Pontén told TF.

“The man argued that he was innocent and that he had transferred the operation from him to unknown persons who had made alterations to his encrypted computer while he was asleep. The court did not accept this version of events.”

Pontén says that the Court applied principles from the Svensson case previously referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union by Sweden’s Court of Appeal.

“In the case the suspect argued similar stand points to the ones argued by the suspects in the Pirate Bay case and they were dismissed on the same merits. However a difference from the Pirate Bay case is that the man was convicted as a direct infringer and not for contributory infringement,” Pontén adds.

On Thursday the Uppsala District Court sentenced the man to five months in prison. Rights Alliance are now seeking damages for one of the movies made available to the public.

Meanwhile, Tankaner remains online.

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

TorrentFreak: Sony Movies Leak Online After Hack Attack

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

sonyThe company is certainly no stranger to security issues but this week has been particularly miserable even by Sony’s ‘high’ standards.

Hacked on Monday by a group calling themselves the Guardians of Peace, Sony Pictures’ systems remain down today, a sign of the situation’s gravity.

While the attack appears to be aimed at punishing Sony for its actions in the past, reports suggest that the attackers also made off with an estimated 11,000 gigabytes of files. Seriously upping the ante, the hackers warned Sony that “sensitive” data would be released into the wild if their demands were not met.

sony-gop

A thread on Reddit has been piecing together details of what information could have been obtained and it’s not pretty. Documents containing passport and visa information for cast and crew working on Sony movies, Outlook inboxes, documents detailing the company’s IT systems plus accounting and research information appear to be just the tip of what could be a gigantic data iceberg.

Since this is Sony Pictures it will come as no surprise that video files are also reported as being part of the hackers’ booty. Interestingly the first reports detailed pirated TV shows which may have been downloaded by Sony staff.

Adventure Time-2x04a-Power Animal.avi
Adventure Time Her Parents.avi
Adventure Time The Silent King.avi
Adventure Time-2x09b-Susan Strong.avi
Adventure Time-2x11a-Belly of the Beast.avi
Human.Planet.S01E05.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E02.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E06.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E03.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E04.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E01.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv
Human.Planet.S01E07.720p.BluRay.x264-SHORTBREHD.mkv

But while Sony desperately tried to get its systems back online and figure out what had been taken, mid-week and within minutes of each other, DVD screener copies of four Sony movies began appearing online. Making matters worse, just one has been officially released in the United States. They are:

Still Alice‘ starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin (US date: Jan 16, 2015)

Mr Turner‘ starring Timothy Spall. (US date: Dec 19, 2014)

Annie‘ starring Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz. (US date: Dec 19, 2014)

Fury‘ starring Brad Pitt (US date: Oct 17, 2014)

In the absence of any useful comment from Sony there’s little to officially link the leaks with Monday’s hack attack. However, a page on popular torrent site 1337x reveals that a user uploaded these and another upcoming Sony movie (‘To Write Love on Her Arms’ – US release date March 2015) on Wednesday or Thursday with a naming convention highlighting Sony.

god-movie

While all of the leaked titles are proving popular, the Sony-watermarked ‘Fury’ is way out in front and currently the second most downloaded movie among Pirate Bay users.

sony-water

Finally, among the thousands of files taken from Sony there are other items of interest to piracy watchers. The files detailed below appear to relate to the automatic content recognition systems operated by anti-piracy company Audible Magic.

audible_magic_sftp_private_key.ppk
audible_magic_sftp_private_key.ppk
set_ssh-private-key-file.htm
audible_magic_sftp_private_key.ppk
private_and_private_key.txt

Whether more Sony movies will appear online in the days to come remains to be seen, but the fallout from this week’s hack will send shockwaves through the company for months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Cox Communications Sued For Not Disconnecting Pirates

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

Since February 2013, five U.S. Internet providers have been sending so-called ‘Copyright Alerts’ to subscribers who use BitTorrent to pirate movies, TV-shows and music.

AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are all participants in the scheme while telecoms giant Cox Communications chose to opt out. Instead, the company operates its own “strikes” program but by some rightsholders’ standards, the ISP simply isn’t doing enough.

According to WSJ, two music publishers – BMG Rights Management LLC and Round Hill Music LP – have just sued Cox for failing to disconnect customers who allegedly infringed on the companies’ rights multiple times.

The companies, which control the publishing rights to songs by Katy Perry, The Beatles and David Bowie among others, says that Cox’s inaction means that the company has given up its safe harbor protections under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Of interest is the involvement of Rightscorp in the case. BMG and Round Hill are both clients of the anti-piracy monetization company which sends out cash settlement demands to Internet users on their behalf. Rightscorp has been harvesting data on Cox subscribers and will use it in the case.

The anti-piracy company has stated on numerous occasions that its patent-pending technology enables it to accurately identify repeat infringers. According to the complaint there are “hundreds” of these at Cox, all of which should have been disconnected by the ISP.

Filed Wednesday but not yet available to the public, the complaint says that Cox has actual knowledge of repeat infringement by its subscribers yet has failed to do anything about it.

“..Cox has repeatedly refused to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers. The reason that Cox does not terminate these subscribers and account holders is obvious — it would cause Cox to lose revenue,” the music publishers say.

While BMG and Round Hill insist there is a financial motive for not disconnecting customers, the big question involves the ISP’s obligations under the law and, crucially, the very definition of “repeat infringer” and who gets to determine a subscriber as such.

For example, AT&T previously stated that it would never terminate customer accounts without a court order on the basis that only a court can decide what constitutes a repeat infringement.

By contrast, the current complaint suggests that Rightscorp is qualified to make that determination, even though it’s likely that the company has scant idea of the alleged infringers’ true identities.

While BMG and Round Hill are seeking monetary damages from the ISP, Rightscorp itself has a huge interest in the publishers prevailing as success could boost its revenues elsewhere.

When Rightscorp sends its settlement demands to alleged infringers the company is known to include threats that if subscribers don’t pay, disconnection will be the outcome. While some ISPs do indeed disconnect repeat infringers following Rightscorp claims, a court ruling in hand against Cox would be a powerful tool to force other ISPs down the same route.

Equally, however, a ruling in Cox’s favor could undermine the “muscle” behind Rightscorp’s pay-up-or-get-disconnected threats. But with the company currently teetering on the edge and predicting closure if it can’t get fresh cash injections, one last throw of the dice is probably worth the gamble.

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

TorrentFreak: Fail: MPAA Makes Legal Content Unfindable In Google

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

wheretowatchThe entertainment industries have gone head to head with Google in recent months, demanding tougher anti-piracy measures from the search engine.

According to the MPAA and others, Google makes it too easy for its users to find pirated content. Instead, they would prefer Google to downrank sites such as The Pirate Bay from its search results or remove them entirely.

A few weeks ago Google took additional steps to decrease the visibility of pirated content, but the major movie studios haven’t been sitting still either.

Last week MPAA announced the launch of WhereToWatch.com, a website that lists where movies and TV-shows can be watched legally.

“WheretoWatch.com offers a simple, streamlined, comprehensive search of legitimate platforms – all in one place. It gives you the high-quality, easy viewing experience you deserve while supporting the hard work and creativity that go into making films and shows,” the MPAA’s Chris Dodd commented.

At first glance WhereToWatch offers a rather impressive database of entertainment content. It even features TorrentFreak TV, although this is listed as “not available” since the MPAA’s service doesn’t index The Pirate Bay.

Overall, however, it’s a decent service. WhereToWatch could also be an ideal platform to beat pirate sites in search results, something the MPAA desperate wants to achieve.

Sadly for the MPAA that is only a “could” since Google and other search engines currently have a hard time indexing the site. As it turns out, the MPAA’s legal platform isn’t designed with even the most basic SEO principles in mind.

For example, if Google visits the movie overview page all links to individual pages are hidden by Javascript, and the search engine only sees this. As a result, movie and TV-show pages in the MPAA’s legal platform are invisible to Google.

Google currently indexes only one movie page, which was most likely indexed through an external link. With Bing the problem is just as bad.

wtw-google

It’s worth noting that WhereToWatch doesn’t block search engines from spidering its content through the robots.txt file. It’s just the coding that makes it impossible for search engines to navigate and index the site.

This is a pretty big mistake, considering that the MPAA repeatedly hammered on Google to feature more legal content. With some proper search engine optimization (SEO) advice they can probably fix the problem in the near future.

Previously Google already offered SEO tips to copyright holders, but it’s obvious that the search engine wasn’t consulted in this project.

To help the MPAA on its way we asked isoHunt founder Gary Fung for some input. Last year Fung lost his case to the MPAA, forcing him to shut down the site, but he was glad to offer assistance nonetheless.

“I suggest MPAA optimize for search engine keywords such as ‘download ‘ and ‘torrent ‘. For some reason when people google for movies, that’s what they actually search for,” Fung tells us.

A pretty clever idea indeed, as the MPAA’s own research shows that pirate-related search terms are often used to “breed” new pirates.

Perhaps it’s an idea for the MPAA to hire Fung or other “industry” experts for some more advice. Or better still, just look at how the popular pirate sites have optimized their sites to do well in search engines, and steal their work.

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

TorrentFreak: Swedes Prepare Record File-Sharing Prosecution

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

serversFollowing a lengthy investigation by anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån, in 2010 police raided a “warez scene” topsite known as Devil. Dozens of servers were seized containing an estimated 250 terabytes of pirate content.

One man was arrested and earlier this year was eventually charged with unlawfully making content available “intentionally or by gross negligence.”

Police say that the man 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. It’s claimed that the Devil topsite had around 200 members.

All told the man is accused of illegally making available 2,250 mainly Hollywood movies, a record amount according to the prosecutor.

“We have not prosecuted for this many movies in the past. There are many movies and large data set,” says prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad. “It is also the largest analysis of computers ever made in an individual case.”

Few details have been made available on the case but it’s now been revealed that Antipiratbyrån managed to trace the main Devil server back to the data center of a Stockholm-based electronics company. The site’s alleged operator, a man from Väsbybo in his 50s and employee of the company, reportedly admitted being in control of the server.

While it would likely have been the intention of Devil’s operator for the content on the site to remain private, leaks inevitably occurred. Predictably some of that material ended up on public torrent sites, an aggravating factor according to Antipiratbyrån lawyer Henrik Pontén.

“This is a very big issue and it is this type of crime that is the basis for all illegal file sharing. The films available on Pirate Bay circulate from these smaller networks,” Pontén says.

The big question now concerns potential damages. Pontén says that the six main studios behind the case could demand between $673,400 and $2.69m per movie. Multiply that by 2,250 and that’s an astonishing amount, but the lawyer says that in order not to burden the justice system, a few titles could be selected.

Henrik Olsson Lilja, a lawyer representing the defendant, declined to comment in detail but criticized the potential for high damages.

“I want to wait for the trial, but there was no intent in the sense that the prosecutor is looking for,” Lilja told Mitte.se. “In practice, these are American-style punitive damages.”

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Copyright Alert System Security Could Be Improved, Review Finds

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

spyFebruary last year the MPAA, RIAA and five major Internet providers in the United States launched their “six strikes” anti-piracy plan.

The Copyright Alert System’s main goal is to inform subscribers that their Internet connections are being used to share copyrighted material without permission. These alerts start out friendly in tone, but repeat infringers face a temporary disconnection from the Internet or other mitigation measures.

The evidence behind the accusations is provided by MarkMonitor, which monitors BitTorrent users’ activities on copyright holders’ behalf. The overseeing Center for Copyright Information (CCI) previously hired an impartial and independent technology expert to review the system, hoping to gain trust from the public.

Their first pick, Stroz Friedberg, turned out to be not that impartial as the company previously worked as RIAA lobbyists. To correct this unfortunate choice, CCI assigned Professor Avi Rubin of Harbor Labs to re-examine the system.

This week CCI informed us that a summary of Harbor Labs’s findings is now available to the public. The full review is not being published due to the vast amount of confidential information it contains, but the overview of the findings does provide some interesting details.

Overall, Harbor Labs concludes that the evidence gathering system is solid and that false positives, cases where innocent subscribers are accused, are reasonably minimized.

“We conclude, based on our review, that the MarkMonitor AntiPiracy system is designed to ensure that there are no false positives under reasonable and realistic assumptions. Moreover, the system produces thorough case data for alleged infringement tracking.”

However, there is some room for improvement. For example, MarkMonitor could implement additional testing to ensure that false positives and human errors are indeed caught.

“… we believe that the system would benefit from additional testing and that the existing structure leaves open the potential for preventable failures. Additionally, we recommend that certain elements of operational security be enhanced,” Harbor Labs writes.

In addition, the collected evidence may need further protections to ensure that it can’t be tampered with or fall into the wrong hands.

“… we believe that this collected evidence and other potentially sensitive data is not adequately controlled. While MarkMonitor does protect the data from outside parties, its protection against inside threats (e.g., potential rogue employees) is minimal in terms of both policy and technical enforcement.”

The full recommendations as detailed in the report are as follows:

recommendations

The CCI is happy with the new results, which they say confirm the findings of the earlier Stroz Friedberg review.

“The Harbor Labs report reaffirms the findings from our first report – conducted by Stroz Friedberg – that the CAS is well designed and functioning as we hoped,” CCI informs TF.

In the months to come the operators of the Copyright Alert System will continue to work with copyright holders to make further enhancements and modifications to their processes.

“As the CAS exits the initial ramp-up period, CCI has been assured by our content owners that they have taken all recommendations made within both reports into account and are continuing to focus on maintaining the robust system that minimizes false positives and protects customer security and privacy,” CCI adds.

Meanwhile, they will continue to alert Internet subscribers to possible infringements. After nearly two years copyright holders have warned several million users, hoping to convert then to legal alternatives.

Thus far there’s no evidence that Copyright Alerts have had a significant impact on piracy rates. However, the voluntary agreement model is being widely embraced by various stakeholders and similar schemes are in the making in both the UK and Australia.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pays University $1,000,000 For Piracy Research

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

mpaa-logoLast week the MPAA submitted its latest tax filing covering 2013. While there are few changes compared to previous years there is one number that sticks out like a sore thumb.

The movie industry group made a rather sizable gift of $912,000 to Carnegie Mellon University, a figure that neither side has made public before.

This brings the MPAA’s total investment in the University over the past two years to more than a million dollars.

The money in question goes to the University’s “Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics” (IDEA) that researches various piracy related topics. During 2012 MPAA also contributed to the program, albeit significantly less at $100,000.

TF contacted IDEA co-director Rahul Telang, who told us that much of the money is spent on hiring researchers and, buying data from third parties and covering other research related expenses.

“For any substantial research program to progress it needs funding, and needs access to data and important stakeholders who care about this research. IDEA center has benefited from this funding significantly,” he says, emphasizing that the research applies to academic standards.

“All research is transparent, goes through academic peer review, and published in various outlets,” Telang adds.

While IDEA’s researchers operate independently, without an obligation to produce particular studies, their output thus far is in line with Hollywood’s agenda.

One study showed that the Megaupload shutdown boosted digital sales while another reviewed academic literature to show that piracy mostly hurts revenues. The MPAA later used these results to discredit an independent study which suggested that Megaupload’s closure hurt box office revenues.

Aside from countering opponents in the press, the MPAA also uses the research to convince lawmakers that tougher anti-piracy measures are warranted.

Most recently, an IDEA paper showed that search engines can help to diminish online piracy, an argument the MPAA has been hammering on for years.

The tax filing, picked up first by Variety, confirms a new trend of the MPAA putting more money into research. Earlier this year the industry group launched a new initiative offering researchers a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics.

The MPAA sees academic research as an important tool in its efforts to ensure that copyright protections remain in place, or are strengthened if needed.

“We want to enlist the help of academics from around the world to provide new insight on a range of issues facing the content industry in the digital age,” MPAA CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd said at the time.

The movie industry isn’t alone in funding research for ‘political’ reasons. Google, for example, heavily supports academic research on copyright-related projects in part to further its own agenda, as do many other companies.

With over a million dollars in Hollywood funding in their pocket, it’s now up to IDEA’s researchers to ensure that their work is solid.

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

TorrentFreak: Why Hollywood Director Lexi Alexander Sides With “Pirates”

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

lexIt’s pretty obvious that Lexi Alexander isn’t your average Hollywood director. Instead of parading on the red carpet sharing redundant quotes, she prefers to challenge the powers that rule Hollywood.

A few months ago Alexander campaigned to get Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde released from prison, pointing out that throwing people in jail is not going to stop piracy.

She believes that the MPAA and other pro-copyright groups are a bigger threat than casual pirates, and unlike some of her colleagues she is not afraid to tell the world.

Recently Alexander penned five reasons why she’s pro file-sharing and copyright reform. While she’s doesn’t agree with the “everything should be free” mantra of some anti-copyright activists, Alexander believes that file-sharing is mostly a symptom of Hollywood’s failures.

Over the past day or so this turned into a heated debate (e.g. 1, 2) between a movie industry workers on Twitter, where various anti-piracy advocates condemned the movie director and others for siding with “pirates.”

From a Hollywood perspective Alexander’s ‘balanced’ comments may indeed appear extreme, not least since like-minded voices keep quiet for career reasons. So why has she decided to jump on the barricades then? Today, Alexander explains her motivations to us in a short interview.

TF: What triggered you to discuss file-sharing and copyright related topics in public?

Lexi: It wasn’t my intent to be that outspoken about file-sharing, at first I just wanted to expose the hypocrisy of Hollywood going after anybody for any crime. But after I had published that first blog, I was suddenly exposed to a lot more information about the issue, either from people in the copyright reform movement or through outlets like yours.

Frankly, TorrentFreak has a lot to do with the extent of my outspokenness. Sometimes I see your headlines in my Twitter feed and I think I’m in some alternative universe, where I’m the only one who swallowed the red pill. “Another kid in prison for a file-sharing”, “Anti file-sharing propaganda taught in schools”, “torrent sites reported to the state department”, etc., etc. All done in the name of an industry that is infamous for corruption. I mean, doesn’t anybody see that? Hollywood studios shaking their finger at people who illegally download stuff is like the Vatican shaking their finger at pedophiles.

TF: What’s your main motivation to support file-sharing and copyright reform??

Lexi: Well, first and foremost I will not stand for young, bright minds being hunted and locked up in my name. And since I am still part of the film & TV industry, albeit not the most popular member at this point, these acts are done in my name. Even if I would agree with this ludicrous idea that everything to do with file-sharing or downloading is theft and should be punished with prison…then I’d still insist that everybody in Hollywood who has ever stolen anything or cheated anybody needs to go to prison first. If we could somehow make that rule happen with magical fairy dust…you’d never hear another beep about imprisoning file-sharers.

Secondly, I have said this a million times and it’s like I’m talking to the wall…horrible thieves (aka the four letter acronym) are stealing 92.5 % of foreign levies from filmmakers in countries outside of the US, breaking the Berne Convention in the process. It’s actually not legal for those countries to hand any money to anybody else but the creator. But somehow, some very smart con men duped these shady collection societies into handing them all the dough. Ask me again why I need copyright reform?

See, I wish more of my colleagues would come out of the fog…but that fog is made of fears, so it is thick and consistent. Fear to upset the decision makers, fear to get blacklisted and never get to make movies again, fear to get fired by your agents, fear to become unpopular with your film-industry peers, it’s so much easier to blame the British, pimple-faced teenager, who uploaded Fast and the Furious 6, for the scarcity we experience.

I used to get frustrated about my peers’ lack of courage, but lately I feel only empathy. I don’t like seeing talented storytellers ruled by fear. I don’t even enjoy the endless admissions I get anymore from producers or Executives who whisper in my ear that they’re pro file-sharing too (this is often followed by a demonstration of their illegally downloaded goods or their torrent clients, as if they’re trying to make sure I’ll put in a good word, if the power were to shift to the other side one of these days).

TF: Do you believe that your opinions on these topics may impact your career? If so, how?

Lexi: What do you think? LOL

But my opinions on these topics are based on facts, so therefore the question I have to ask myself next is: If I keep the truth to myself and watch innovators get sent to prison by actual criminals…how does that impact my soul?

I do realize how huge the giant I decided to criticize really is whenever I read about the amount of money that’s at play here.

At the moment I still have a TV show under option, which I am currently developing and I’m getting ready to pitch another one. A few things definitely fell through right after my first piracy post and I’m not sure how many people don’t consider me for projects because of my file-sharing stance. I can’t really worry about that. First and foremost I’m still a filmmaker, so if this shit gets too real I have to force my mind down the rabbit hole (filmmaker euphemism for escaping into your screenplays or movies).

TF: File-sharing also has its downsides of course. What’s the worst side of piracy in your opinion?

Lexi: The worst part is that there are a lot of people who suddenly feel entitled to do anything they want with our work, at any given stage. I spoke to a filmmaker the other day whose film got leaked during post production. It was missing the visual effects and it had a temp score (temporary music used as a filler before the real score is ready). Then reviews started popping up about this version of the film on IMDB, yet the people who posted those reviews had no fucking clue what they were judging, revealed by the many comments about “the director ripping off the Dark Knight score”. It was the Dark Knight score, you morons.

That was really heartbreaking and whoever doesn’t understand that can go to hell. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who’d like their work, whatever it may be, stolen when it’s half way done and paraded around the world with their name on it.

I also will never be able to respect anybody who films or watches one of those shaky cam movies. I don’t buy that there’s anybody who enjoys a movie that way, I think this is all about trying to be the shit on some forum.

TF: In what way do you think file-sharing will (and has) change(d) the movie industry?

Lexi: I entered this industry right at the beginning of the transition to digital technology. I remember insisting to shoot my first two films on film stock, by then people were already dropping the “dinosaur” and “stone age” hints. We were all beaten into submission when it came to new digital technologies, because they reduced production and distribution costs. Then the powers started realizing that those same technologies also made unauthorized duplications much easier, so the narrative changed and now we were told to hate that part of it. It’s almost comical isn’t it?

I quickly realized that file-sharing would shatter borders and as someone who considers herself a citizen of the world, rather than of one country, this made me extremely happy. I have always wanted entertainment events to be global rather than national. This is good for the world.

The more the audience becomes familiar with foreign movies and TV shows (not synchronized and released months later, but subtitled and premiering simultaneously) the sooner we will start accepting, maybe even demanding shows and movies with a diverse, global cast from the get go. And since those are the shows I create… it cannot happen fast enough.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Chief Describes University Piracy Fines as “Terrific”

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

wifi-dangerIn addition to their obligations under the DMCA, in 2010 a new requirement was put in place which meant that university funding in the U.S. was placed in jeopardy if establishments didn’t take their anti-piracy responsibilities seriously.

The policy hasn’t been repeated in any other key countries in Europe or elsewhere, but that hasn’t stopped educational institutions from introducing their own policies to deal with on-campus infringement. A particularly harsh example can be found in Australia.

The University of New South Wales, which is ranked among the top five universities in Australia, offers its students free Wi-Fi Internet access. Known as Uniwide, the system was upgraded last year to offer speeds of 1.3 Gigabits per second in order to cope with around 20,000 devices being regularly connected to the network.

With students achieving up to 10 megabits per second on their connections, it’s perhaps no surprise that some use the Wi-Fi network for downloading movies, TV shows and other copyrighted content. In order to curtail the practice the university has put in place tough punishments for those who flout the rules.

uniwide

While disconnections and up to $1,000 in fines are serious enough, it may come as a surprise that monies collected don’t go to compensate artists. University of New South Wales pumps the money back into “student amenities” instead.

“I just find it disturbing that a university has decided how it will enforce the laws of the Commonwealth,” Michael Speck, an independent anti-piracy investigator and former NSW policeman told The Age. “It’s quite disturbing and without too much natural justice.”

Adding fuel to the fire, two parties embroiled in the general piracy debate currently raging in Australia have also weighed in with their opinions.

Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer of Internet provider iiNet, called the fines “very strange”. The response from Dalby is predictable. The ISP famously refused to pass on infringement notices to its customers when prompted to by movie company Village Roadshow, a spat that took the pair to court.

On the other hand, comments from Graham Burke, co-chief executive of Village Roadshow, reveal that the rivals are still just as far apart in their views. Burke said it was “terrific” that the university was fining students and being “proactive and taking responsibility for the users of its network.”

“We think it is more important for students to be educated about copyright by the university imposing these fines than it is for the rights holders to collect damages for the breaches that are occurring,” Burke told The Age.

“In fact the more I think about it this action by the university is helping the future of good citizenship of its many students.”

There can be little doubt that traditionally poor students would find themselves thinking deeply about copyright when landed with a $1,000 fine but whether that would put money back in the artists’ pockets long-term is another matter.

Fortunately not too many WiFi users are falling foul of the rules. According to the university, three students and one staff member have received punishments this year. All had their access suspended and two of the students were fined $480 each.

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

TorrentFreak: KickassTorrents Moves to Kickass.so Domain Name

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

kickasstorrents_500x500With millions of unique visitors per day KickassTorrents (KAT) is one of the most used torrent sites. In recent months it has even rivaled The Pirate Bay in terms of traffic.

Over the years KAT has moved from domain to domain on a few occasions, to evade law enforcement and pressure from the entertainment industries. Most recently the site had been operating from the Kickass.to domain.

Starting today however, the site is serving its pages from the Somalian TLD Kickass.so.

Wondering whether the site may have run into issues with the .to registry we contacted the KAT team for further details. “It’s just annual domain rotation,” we were told in a brief reply.

An additional announcement posted on the site today assures the site’s users that there is nothing to worry about.

“We are moving to kickass.so now. As you know we change our domain regularly. Nothing more has been changed for you, so don’t worry, you can use Kickass as usually, it’s automatically redirected,” the KAT team writes.

Intended or not, the domain change will have some consequences on the anti-piracy front. For example, the site will become accessible again in most countries where it has been blocked previously.

In addition all the URLs that were blocked by Google through DMCA notices, more than 1.6 million, will become accessible again under the new domain. This also means that Google’s new downranking algorithm will be bypassed, at least temporarily.

In recent weeks KAT has lost a significant amount of traffic due to Google’s new anti-piracy measure, so intended or not, that may be an extra incentive to keep the yearly domain rotations going.

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

TorrentFreak: Liam Neeson Downloaders Face Anti-Piracy Shakedown

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

File-sharers in the United States, Germany and the UK are particularly familiar with the tactics of so-called copyright trolls. In recent years the lucrative nature of the business has attracted many companies, all out to turn piracy into profit.

Most countries have managed to avoid the attentions of these outfits, Sweden, the spiritual home of The Pirate Bay, included. However, in a surprise move the Scandinavian country has now appeared on the file-sharing lawsuit radar.

Along with Universal Pictures and Studio Canal, Check Entertainment is one of the companies behind the 2014 Liam Neeson movie, Non-Stop. According to latest figures from Box Office Mojo it has done very well, bringing in excess of $222 million on a $50 million budget.

Nevertheless, according to Dagens Media, Check Entertainment has hired lawfirm Nordic Law to go to court in Sweden to obtain the identities of individuals said to have downloaded and shared the action thriller.

The U.S.-based company has targeted subscribers of five local Internet service providers – Com Hem, Bredbandsbolaget, Banhof, Telia Sonera and Telenor – with the aim of forcing them to turn over the names and addresses of 12 of their Internet subscribers. Data on the alleged file-sharers was captured by German anti-piracy outfit Excipio.

At this point Check Entertainment says it wants to “investigate and prosecute” the subscribers for alleged copyright infringement but if cases in the rest of the world are any yardstick the aim will be a cash settlement, not a full court case.

Interestingly, one ISP from the five has indicated that its customers do not have to be concerned about possible lawsuits or shakedowns.

Service provider Banhof, a company long associated with subscriber privacy, says it is currently the only ISP in the Swedish market that does not store data on its customers’ Internet activities.

The development dates back to April when the EU Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive to be invalid. In response, many Swedish ISPs stopped storing data but since then most have reversed their decision to comply with apparent obligations under the Swedish Electronic Communications Act. Banhof did not, however.

This means that even if the ISP is ordered by the court to reveal which subscribers were behind a particular IP address at a certain time, it has no data so simply cannot comply.

“We have no such data. We turned off data storage on the same day that the EU judgment was handed down,” Banhof CEO Jon Karlung told Dagens Media.

While Sweden has a long tradition of file-sharing and the state regularly prosecutes large scale file-sharers, actions against regular sharers of a single title are extremely rare, ‘trolling’ even more so.

“It’s pretty rare,” Karlung says. “It has been quite a long time since it happened last.”

The big question now is whether the courts will be sympathetic to Check Entertainment’s complaint.

“We have submitted [our case] to the district court and now we want to see what the service providers say in response,” Nordic Law’s Patrick Andersson concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Firm Rightscorp On The Brink of Bankruptcy?

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

rightscorp-realFor years the entertainment industries have been complaining that online piracy hurts their revenues.

This problem has motivated people to start anti-piracy companies such as Rightscorp, a company that uses standard DMCA takedown requests to send settlement offers to alleged copyright infringers.

Rightscorp had big plans and went public last year on the NASDAQ exchange, aiming to help the biggest entertainment companies turn piracy into profit. Thus far, however, the results have been rather disappointing.

Despite teaming up with prominent names such as Warner Bros. and BMG, the company hasn’t been able to turn a profit.

In their latest SEC filing published earlier today the company reports a total loss of $2.2 million for the current year. This brings the total loss since its founding in 2011 to more than $6.5 million.

“The Company had a cumulative net loss from inception to September 30, 2014 of $6,540,194. The Company has not yet established an ongoing source of revenues sufficient to cover its operating costs and to allow it to continue as a going concern,” the SEC filing reads.

For Rightscorp to remain in business it desperately needs extra investment. The current revenue stream of $250,000 per quarter from piracy settlements doesn’t come close to covering operating costs.

In a word of caution to investors, Rightscorp warns that without extra funding the company may have to cease its operations.

“If the Company is unable to obtain adequate capital it could be forced to cease operations. Accordingly, these factors raise substantial doubt as to the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” the filing reads.

Investors appear to have foreseen Rightcorp’s troubles as the companies stock price continues to nosedive, straight to the bottom. This week it reached a new low of 13 cents per share.

riht

One of Rightscorp’s problems is that they can only reach a fraction of U.S. Internet subscribers. Most large ISPs, including Comcast, have thus far refused to forward their settlement demands.

Several smaller providers are not eager to forward the “settlement” DMCA notices either. In an attempt to force them to do so the company recently obtained several DMCA subpoenas against local ISPs, but these are also being protested.

Whether Rightscorp will be able to survive these setbacks has yet to be seen. One thing’s for sure though, profiting from piracy is not as easy as they had hoped.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Boss Spent $50K in Brothels to ‘Protect Copyright’

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

Most commonly known as SGAE, the Spanish Society of Authors and Publishers (Sociedad General de Autores y Editores) is Spain’s main collecting society for songwriters, composers and music publishers.

The group, which also acts as the leading music anti-piracy outfit in the country, has campaigned endlessly for tougher penalties for both file-sharing site operators and the unauthorized downloader at home.

SGAE’s position is to protect the rights of artists, but in 2011 a dark cloud fell over the organization. More than 50 police, tax officials and staff from Spain’s Audit Office raided SGAE’s headquarters in Madrid following allegations of fraud and misappropriation of funds.

One of those investigated was Pedro Farré, SGAE’s former head of corporate relations and the boss of its anti-piracy office. This week he was sentenced to 30 months in jail and the back story is quite extraordinary.

Farré’s problems stemmed from his penchant for spending time in the company of prostitutes. While some might argue that’s a personal matter that should remain private, it became a public interest story when Farré chose to mix his pleasures with the business of protecting copyrights.

To carry out his work the anti-piracy chief had been given a credit card by SGAE to cover legitimate business expenses. However, Farré ran up bills on the VISA card in numerous visits to brothels where he used it to withdraw cash from the premises which he spent on champagne and prostitutes.

According to Publico.es, evidence at trial revealed that on at least once occasion Farré had taken a booth at a brothel “..at five in the afternoon and left at six o’clock the next day, consuming drinks, champagne, and frequently changing girls.”

All told, Farré ran up bills of almost 40,000 euros ($50,000) on the SGAE card, falsifying receipts as he went. He claimed that money had been spent on meals with guests, entertaining the police commissioner, financing meetings with journalists and holding a university seminar.

The judge did not buy Farré’s version of events and said it was “pure absurdity” that academics and those involved in protecting copyrights would go to a brothel to discuss the topic. Farré’s claims that he went to the brothels to check their music rights compliance was rejected as “pure nonsense”.

Former SGAE CFO Ricardo Azcoaga, who was also arrested in 2011, was jailed for 12 months after concealing Farré’s expenditure.

The sentences can be appealed.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Demands Tougher Penalties for Aussie Pirates

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

ausThe MPAA has published its latest submission to the U.S. Government. It provides an overview of countries the studios believe could better protect the interests of the copyright industry.

The movie group lists more than two dozen countries and describes which “trade barriers” they present.

In recent years the Obama administration has helped Hollywood to counter online piracy and with a letter, signed by MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd, the movie organization urges the Government not to drop the ball.

“The US government must not falter from being a champion of protecting intellectual property rights, particularly in the online market,” Dodd told the United States Trade Representative.

According to the MPAA there are more than two dozen countries that require special attention. This includes Australia, which has one of the highest online piracy rates in the world

“Australia has consistently ranked amongst the highest incidence of per capita P2P infringement of MPAA member company films in the region,” the MPAA chief writes.

One of the main grievances against Australia is the lack of thorough copyright laws. On this front the movie studios put forward a specific recommendation to draft legislation to deter ‘camming’ in movie theaters.

“Australia should adopt anti-camcording legislation. While illegal copying is a violation of the Copyright Act, more meaningful deterrent penalties are required,” the MPAA notes.

In recent years there have been several arrests of people linked to scene release groups who illegally recorded movies in theaters. However, instead of several years in jail they usually get off with a slap on the wrist.

“For instance, in August 2012, a cammer was convicted for illicitly recording 14 audio captures, many of which were internationally distributed through his affiliation with a notorious release group; his fine was a non-deterrent AUD 2,000,” the MPAA writes.

“These lax penalties fail to recognize the devastating impact that this crime has on the film industry,” they add.

The MPAA hopes that the U.S. Government can help to change this legal climate Down Under. The most recent anti-piracy plans of the Aussie Government are a step in the right direction according to the Hollywood group.

This is not the first time that the MPAA has become involved in Australian affairs. Previously a Wikileaks cable revealed that the American movie group was also the main force behind the lawsuit against iiNet.

In addition to Australia, the MPAA also points out various copyright challenges in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden. The latter country is seen as a “safe haven” for pirates and lacks effective enforcement, as The Pirate Bay remains online despite the convictions of its founders.

“The law [in Sweden] must also change in order to effectively curb organized commercial piracy, as evidenced by the difficulties thwarting The Pirate Bay – an operation the court system has already deemed illegal,” MPAA writes.

MPAA’s full list of comments and recommendations is available here.

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