Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Warnings Double This Year

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

pirate-runningFebruary last year, five U.S. Internet providers started sending Copyright Alerts to customers who use BitTorrent to pirate movies, TV-shows and music.

These efforts are part of the Copyright Alert System, an anti-piracy plan that aims to educate the public. Through a series of warnings suspected pirates are informed that their connections are being used to share copyrighted material without permission, and told where they can find legal alternatives.

During the first ten months of the program more than more than 1.3 million anti-piracy alerts were sent out. That was just a ramp up phase though. This year the number of alerts will grow significantly.

“The program doubles in size this year,” says Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the overseeing Center for Copyright Information (CCI).

Lesser joined a panel at the Technology Policy Institute’s Aspen Forum where the Copyright Alert System was the main topic of discussion. While the media has focused a lot on the punishment side, Lesser notes that the main goal is to change people’s norms and regain their respect for copyright.

“The real goal here is to shift social norms and behavior. And to almost rejuvenate the notion of the value of copyright that existed in the world of books and vinyl records,” Lesser said.

The notifications are a “slap on the wrist” according to Lesser, but one which is paired with information explaining where people can get content legally.

In addition to sending more notices, the CCI will also consider adding more copyright holders and ISPs to the mix. Thus far the software and book industries have been left out, for example, and the same is true for smaller Internet providers.

“We’ve had lots of requests from content owners in other industries and ISPs to join, and how we do that is I think going to be a question for the year coming up,” Lesser noted.

Also present at the panel was Professor Chris Sprigman, who noted that the piracy problem is often exaggerated by copyright holders. Among other things, he gave various examples of how creative output has grown in recent years.

“This problem has been blown up into something it’s not. Do I like piracy? Not particularly. Do I think it’s a threat to our creative economy? Not in any area that I’ve seen,” Sprigman noted.

According to the professor the Copyright Alert System is very mild and incredible easy to evade, which is a good thing in his book.

The professor believes that it’s targeted at casual pirates, telling them that they are being watched. This may cause some to sign up for a VPN or proxy, but others may in fact change their behavior in the long run.

“Do I think that this is a solution to the piracy problem. No. But I think this is a way of reducing the size of it over time, possibly changing social norms over time. That could be productive. Not perfect but an admirable attempt,” Sprigman said.

Just how effective this attempt will be at changing people’s piracy habits is something that has yet to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Four ISPs Sued For Failing To Block Pirate Movie Sites

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

pirate-cardFavorable rulings in both the European Court of Justice and the local Supreme Court earlier this year gave Austrian anti-piracy groups the power they needed to move forward on site-blocking.

What transpired was an attack from two directions. The first involved VAP, the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry. The second was launched by the local branch of IFPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

In late July, VAP wrote to UPC, Drei, Tele2 and A1 with a request for the ISPs to block ThePirateBay.se plus streaming sites Movie4K.to and Kinox.to. Days later in a letter dated August 4, the IFPI asked five local ISPs to block access to four torrent sites – ThePirateBay,se, isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to.

Unfortunately for VAP and the IFPI, the ISPs were going to need more than just a letter to begin censoring the Internet. By mid August, with their deadlines expired, none had initiated blockades. That led to threats of lawsuits from both anti-piracy groups.

With August now drawing to a close, VAP has made good on its word. CEO Werner Müller confirmed to German media that his organization has now sued four Austrian ISPs. Müller would not be drawn on their names, but DerStandard spoke with UPC and A1 who both confirmed receiving letters.

“[The decision on blocking] should be left to the judgment of a judge, since in a specific case the rights of Internet users and the movie / music industry can be weighed more,” said A1 spokeswoman Livia Dandrea-Böhm. “We will now take a position in the time allowed by the court. Thereafter, the judge has to decide.”

Of further interest is VAP’s decision to exclude The Pirate Bay from their legal action and only sue for blockades against kinox.to and movie4k.to. There are suggestions that this could prove an easier legal route for VAP as the local Supreme Court is already familiar with the operations of Kinox and Movie4K, sites similar in structure to the now defunct Kino.to, the site which originally prompted calls for blocks in Austria.

However, The Pirate Bay will not escape so easily. The IFPI will tackle the infamous torrent site alongside others including isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to. The music group is expected to sue several ISPs to force a blockade, although papers are still being drawn up.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Research: Blocking The Pirate Bay Works, So…..

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

blocktpb1Website blocking has become one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries in recent years.

The UK is a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to dozens of popular file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents.

Not everyone is equally excited about these measures and researchers have called their effectiveness into question. This prompted a Dutch court to lift The Pirate Bay blockade a few months ago. The MPAA, however, hopes to change the tide and prove these researchers wrong.

Earlier today Hollywood’s anti-piracy wish list was revealed through a leaked draft various copyright groups plan to submit to the Australian Government. Buried deep in the report is a rather intriguing statement that refers to internal MPAA research regarding website blockades.

“Recent research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included,” it reads.

MPAA internal research
mpaa-leak

In other words, MPAA’s own data shows that website blockades do help to deter piracy. Without further details on the methodology it’s hard to evaluate the findings, other than to say that they conflict with previous results.

But there is perhaps an even more interesting angle to the passage than the results themselves.

Why would the MPAA take an interest in the UK blockades when Hollywood has its own anti-piracy outfit (FACT) there? Could it be that the MPAA is planning to push for website blockades in the United States?

This is not the first sign to point in that direction. Two months ago MPAA boss Chris Dodd said that ISP blockades are one of the most effective anti-tools available.

Combine the above with the fact that the United States is by far the biggest traffic source for The Pirate Bay, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.

It seems only a matter of time before the MPAA makes a move towards website blocking in the United States. Whether that’s through a voluntary agreement or via the courts, something is bound to happen.

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

TorrentFreak: Leaked Draft Reveals Hollywood’s Anti-Piracy Plans

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

us-ausAs the discussions over the future of anti-piracy legislation in Australia continue, a draft submission has revealed the wish-list of local movie groups and their Hollywood paymasters.

The draft, a response to a request by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull for submissions on current anti-piracy proposals, shows a desire to apply extreme pressure to local ISPs.

The authors of the draft (obtained by Crikey, subscription, ) are headed up by the Australia Screen Association, the anti-piracy group previously known as AFACT. While local company Village Roadshow is placed front and center, members including the Motion Picture Association, Disney, Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Warner make for a more familiar read.

Australian citizens – the world’s worst pirates

The companies begin with scathing criticism of the Australian public, branding them the world’s worst pirates, despite the ‘fact’ that content providers “have ensured the ready availability of online digital platforms and education of consumers on where they can acquire legitimate digital content.” It’s a bold claim that will anger many Australians, who even today feel like second-class consumers who have to wait longer and pay more for their content.

So what can be done about the piracy problem?

The draft makes it clear – litigation against individuals isn’t going to work and neither is legal action against “predominantly overseas” sites. The answer, Hollywood says, can be found in tighter control of what happens on the Internet.

Increased ISP liability

In a nutshell, the studios are still stinging over their loss to ISP iiNet in 2012. So now, with the help of the government, they hope to introduce amendments to copyright law in order to remove service providers’ safe harbor if they even suspect infringement is taking place on their networks but fail to take action.

“A new provision would deem authorization [of infringement] to occur where an ISP fails to take reasonable steps – which are also defined inclusively to include compliance with a Code or Regulations – in response to infringements of copyright it knows or reasonably suspects are taking place on its network,” the draft reads.

“A provision in this form would provide great clarity around the steps that an ISP would be required to take to avoid a finding of authorization and provide the very kind of incentive for the ISP to cooperate in the development of a Code.”

With “incentives” in place for them to take “reasonable steps”, ISPs would be expected to agree to various measures (outlined by a ‘Code’ or legislation) to “discourage or reduce” online copyright infringement in order to maintain their safe harbor. It will come as no surprise that subscriber warnings are on the table.

‘Voluntary’ Graduated Response

“These schemes, known as ‘graduated response schemes’, are based on a clear allocation of liability to ISPs that do not (by complying with the scheme) take steps to address copyright infringement by their users,” the studios explain.

“While this allocation of liability does not receive significant attention in most discussions of graduated response schemes, common sense dictates that the schemes would be unlikely to exist (much less be complied with by ISPs) in the absence of this basic incentive structure.”

While pointing out that such schemes are in place in eight countries worldwide, the movie and TV companies say that a number of them contain weaknesses, a trap that Australia must avoid.

“There are flaws in a number of these models, predominantly around the allocation of costs and lack of effective mitigation measures which, if mirrored in Australia, would make such a scheme ineffective and unlikely to be used,” the paper reads.

It appears that the studios believe that the US model, the Copyright Alerts System (CAS), is what Australia should aim for since it has “effective mitigation measures” and they don’t have to foot the entire bill.

“Copyright owners would pay their own costs of identifying the infringements and notifying these to the ISP, while ISPs would bear the costs of matching the IP addresses in the infringement notices to subscribers, issuing the notices and taking any necessary technical mitigation measures,” they explain.

In common with the CAS in the United States, providers would be allowed discretion on mitigation measures for persistent infringers. However, the studios also imply that ISPs’ ‘power to prevent’ piracy should extend to the use of customer contracts.

“[Power] to prevent piracy would include both direct and indirect power and definitions around the nature of the relationship which would recognize the significance of contractual relationships and the power that they provide to prevent or avoid online piracy,” they write.

Voluntary agreements, required by law, one way or another

The key is to make ISPs liable first, the studios argue, then negotiations on a “voluntary” scheme should fall into place.

“Once the authorization liability scheme is amended to make clear that ISPs will be liable for infringements of copyright by their subscribers which they know about but do not take reasonable steps to prevent or avoid, an industry code prescribing the content of those ‘reasonable steps’ is likely to be agreed between rightsholders and ISPs without excessively protracted negotiations.”

However, any failure by the ISPs to come to the table voluntarily should be met by legislative change.

“In the absence of any current intention of and incentive for ISPs in Australia to support such a scheme (and the strong opposition from some ISPs) legislative recognition of the reasonable steps involved in such a scheme is necessary,” they write.

Site blocking

Due to “weakness” in current Australian law in respect of ISP liability, site blocking has proved problematic. What the studios want is a “no-fault” injunction (similar to the model in Ireland) which requires ISPs to block sites like The Pirate Bay without having to target the ISPs themselves.

“Not being the target of a finding against it, an ISP is unlikely to oppose the injunction – as long as the procedural requirements for the injunction are met. Once made, a blocking injunction would immediately prevent Australian internet users from being tempted to or accessing the blocked sites,” the studios explain.

Despite The Pirate Bay doubling its traffic in the face of extensive blocking across Europe, the movie companies believe that not blocking in Australia is part of the problem.

“The absence of a no-fault procedure may explain the very high rates of film and TV piracy in Australia when compared with European countries
that have such a procedure,” they write.

Unsurprisingly, the studios want to keep the bar low when it comes to such injunctions.

“The extended injunctive relief provision should not require the Court to be satisfied that the dominant purpose of the website is to infringe copyright,” they urge.

“Raising the level of proof in this way would severely compromise the effectiveness of the new provision in that it would become significantly more difficult for rightsholders to obtain an injunction under the scheme: allegedly non-infringing content would be pointed to in each case, not for reasons of freedom of access to information on the internet, but purely as a basis to defeat the order.”

The studios also want the ISPs to pick up the bill on site-blocking.

“[Courts in Europe] have ordered the costs of site blocking injunctions be borne by the ISP. The Australian Film/TV Bodies submit that the same position should be adopted in Australia, especially as it is not likely that the evidence would be any different on a similar application here,” they add.

Conclusion

If the studios get everything they’ve asked for in Australia, the ensuing framework could become the benchmark for models of the future. There’s a still a long way to go, however, and some ISPs – iiNet in particular – won’t be an easy nut to crack.

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

TorrentFreak: Lionsgate Targets Downloaders of Expendables 3 Leak

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

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

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

As a result all traces of the movie were completely wiped from many file-sharing sites. However, the movie studio still isn’t satisfied and is now going after individual downloaders as well.

Lionsgate has started sending takedown notices targeting people sharing the movie via BitTorrent. The notices are being sent to various ISPs who are urged to forward them to the customers whose accounts were monitored sharing the movie.

Interestingly, this also includes those who use remote servers known as BitTorrent seedboxes. While many believe that seedboxes keep them safe from the prying eyes of piracy monitoring firms, this is not always the case. Yesterday, a customer of the Canadian seedbox provider Whatbox received the following notice.

Copyright warning
expendable-seedbox

Via an email Whatbox urged the customer to delete the file in question, or face account suspension.

“A copyright complaint has been received for content existing on your account. To prevent account suspension, please delete the affected content within the next 24 hours,” the notice reads.

TorrentFreak contacted Whatbox, who explained that this takedown procedure is standard policy. As an Internet access provider it properly processes all incoming requests form copyright holders.

“When we receive a notice we check for the infohash and email the appropriate customer asking them to remove the file(s). Nothing is passed along to the copyright enforcement group except to confirm that the content was found and subsequently removed,” Anthony Ryan of Whatbox says.

“If a customer causes a large number of copyright complaints, we reserve the right terminate their service with a prorated refund and 24 hours of complimentary service to backup all their non-infringing files,” Ryan adds.

The above notice confirms that Lionsgate’s takedown efforts are now targeting individual downloaders, through their ISPs. The action appears limited to warning letters and at least for now there are no signs that Lionsgate will drag file-sharers to court.

Nu Image, another studio involved in the production of The Expendables 3, hasn’t taken any legal action either. However, they are more familiar with the topic than Lionsgate, as they sued a record breaking 23,322 U.S. Internet users for downloading a copy of the first Expendables film.

To be continued?

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Lawyer Wants Domain Registrars to Silence Critics

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

Several years ago when suing BitTorrent users was gaining in popularity, lawyers on both sides of the copyright fence saw there was good money to be made by getting involved.

On the one hand some lawyers teamed up with piracy monitoring firms to track and then file lawsuits against file-sharers in the hope of grabbing some quick and easy settlement cash. On the other were the “good guys”, lawyers who helped Joe Public defend against the corporate might of those who by now were being openly described as “trolls”.

One such “good guy” was Mike Meier, a DC attorney who previously placed on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s list of file-sharing defense lawyers.

“In my opinion, [settlement outfits] are bill collectors for the movie industry,” Meier said at the time. “They’re basically extorting money”.

Then in November 2011, SJD over at the FightCopyrightTrolls website noticed something interesting. A redesign of Meier’s website revealed that the lawyer had switched sides. No longer was he championing those wrongly accused by “trolls”, but instead the site was acting as an information portal for people Meier himself had sued.

The FightCopyrightTrolls (FCT) article on the topic has remained intact for almost three years but last Friday Meier tried to have it taken down. He went about that in a quite unusual way too, by bypassing the FCT website operators, bypassing their webhost, and going straight for their domain registrar.

Writing directly to registrar Internet.bs, Meier said that various pages on FCT were not only defamatory and libelous, but also infringed upon his copyrights.

“You are hosting a website with information that infringes on my copyrights and defames me. I am requesting that you take that information down immediately,” his letter to Internet.bs reads.

While Meier’s other allegations are focused here, his copyright complaint appears to be directed at screenshots of his website posted by FCT which provide commentary and criticism of Meier’s transformation from one side of the settlement fence to the other.

Meier’s website before the transformation

Meier’s website after the transformation

In his communication with Internet.bs, Meier goes on to warn the registrar that as a service provider the law requires it “to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice” or risk losing its immunity from having a lawsuit brought against itself.

Despite Internet.bs not “hosting a website” as Meier claims, it didn’t stop him from doubling up on his takedown efforts. The domain registrar of another site, ExtortionLetter.info, also received a DMCA notice from Meier after it partially reproduced the article originally published by FCT in 2011 and commented on the same.

To date Meier’s actions appear to have had very little effect, the effect he was hoping for at least. Neither FightCopyrightTrolls nor ExtortionLetter have been taken down in whole or in part by their domain registrars, and the articles in question have now become renewed topics of discussion after being forgotten for several years.

Add to that the method of complaint – what appear to be a pair of flawed DMCA notices sent by an apparent copyright expert – and the information that Meier hoped to suppress will now be more visible than ever before.

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

TorrentFreak: Police: Finding Pirate Bay Documents is Too Expensive

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

pirate bayThanks to the UK’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the public is able to check what the government is up to, and hold it accountable. At least, that’s what it’s intended for.

FOIA requests are a helpful tool for journalists and at TorrentFreak we previously used this right to uncover the scope of City of London Police’s anti-piracy efforts.

There is more to reveal though. It is widely known that the police work in tandem with entertainment industry groups such as FACT and the BPI, so we also attempted to find out what’s being discussed behind closed doors.

Since asking for all information shared between City of London Police and entertainment industry groups might be a bit much, we focused our FOIA request on The Pirate Bay.

More specifically, we requested police correspondence with representatives of the creative industry “regarding the pirate bay also known as TPB, thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.sx, thepiratebay.org, or Pirate Bay.”

On Friday we heard back from the responsible Information Access Officer, but no documents were provided. Instead, we were told that the request can’t be processed as the cost would exceed the statutory limit of £450.

“In order to establish the existence of any correspondence of this kind it would be necessary to examine all mail systems, all call logs and all files/documents held by the force,” the reply read.

“The cost of completing this work would exceed the limit prescribed by the Secretary of State in accordance with powers contained in Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. The limit is currently set at £450 and the hourly rate is set at £25.”

Apparently the police estimate that it would take more than 18 hours to locate the information we asked for. That would make sense if none of the documents are organized, but we assume that the force has some type of archiving system.

The above response leaves us with no other option than to limit the request to electronic information only, specifying a narrow time frame. Whether this will fall within the desired cost projection has yet to be seen though. Let’s hope there’s no hard drive crash in the meantime.

To be continued…

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

TorrentFreak: Backup Service Kicks Customer Over “Infringing” Torrent Files

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

torrentsMost people who regularly use a computer know that it’s wise to have all critical data backed up. Whether it’s on a local hard drive or in the cloud, a copy can come in handy if something breaks.

Zoolz is one of the many commercial backup solutions. The company services regular customers but also business clients including Microsoft, Dell, the BBC and the Washington post.

Zoolz allows customers to backup their files in the cloud, including entire hard-drives. This is all done privately and securely, the company claims, with zero knowledge of what’s being transferred.

This zero knowledge claim has been called into doubt recently as one of Zoolz’ customers, Ryan Gallagher, had his account terminated after the company found several .torrent files in his backups. Gallagher didn’t store any infringing media, but just 1 Megabyte worth of old metadata.

Apparently, scanning for pirated filenames is standard practice at Zoolz, which is also explained in the product agreement.

“If Metadata checking (i.e. file names) reveals that an account has content relating to video piracy, software piracy or any copyrighted data with the intent to distribute (i.e. torrents) the account will be immediately terminated,” it reads.

And this is indeed what happened. Zoolz promptly notified the customer that his account would be terminated, and he was given a few days to transfer over a terabyte of data to a safer place.

“My account and all data (1.3TB) was nuked, they would not budge on deleting specific ‘prohibited file names’ saying they had no way to do it. It’s a complete waste of time and bandwidth,” former Zoolz customer Gallagher comments.

While there is nothing wrong with strict anti-piracy policies, deleting an entire account over a few small pieces of metadata goes pretty far. The .torrent files Zoolz found only reference pirated files, nothing more.

And it got even worse. When Geoff Akerlund of the Backup Review site confronted the company with its drastic actions, he was accused of supporting illegal behavior himself.

“We are sad to see you side with illegal behavior, the torrents could mean that the user has the actual media files, and downloading any media file without any proof of ownership is considered illegal,” Zoolz told him.

The backup service claims that the torrents “could” indicate that the user has a copy of the files as well, and that without proof of ownership terminating the account is warranted.

Aside from this rude behavior and terminating users accounts because they store non-infringing .torrent files, one has to wonder what business a backup provider has snooping through the computers of their customers.

In any case, Zoolz has “zero knowledge” of proper customer service.

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

TorrentFreak: Russian Govt. Plans Tougher Anti-Piracy Legislation

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

In an effort to crack down on rampant online piracy, last August Russia introduced a brand new anti-piracy law.

The legislation provides a mechanism for sites to be blocked should they not comply with rightsholder takedown requests within 72 hours.

The ultimate sanction was applied in a limited number of cases during the first year leaving rightsholders with many complaints, not least that the law only applies to movies and TV shows.

For months the authorities have been investigated ways to boost the legislation and in early July a set of amendments were passed following their second reading. They are currently being considered by the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

According to Deputy Duma Speaker Sergei Zhelezniak, it is likely they will return for a further reading during the fall, this time containing provisions for the protection of music, books and software.

“Most likely, we will table amendments at the beginning of the autumn session,” Zhelezniak told a meeting of the copyright protection working group.

Zhelezniak says that legislators have carefully studied the proposals of the executive authorities and generally agreed that there should be tightened penalties for owners of Internet sites which intentionally engage in piracy. These sites will be blocked by court order and placed in a “special register”.

Ministry of Culture State Secretary Grigory Ivliev says that the government wants to increase the level of fines levied against those who engage in the piracy of music, books and software. For businesses fines could be increased to around one million rubles ($26,600) while individuals could face fines up to 300,000 rubles ($8,300)

If all goes to plan, the new amendments could in force as early as this December.

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

TorrentFreak: No VPN on Earth Can Protect Careless Pirates

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

pirate-cardLast year, Philip Danks, a man from the West Midlands, UK, went into a local cinema and managed to record the movie Fast and Furious 6. He later uploaded that content to the Internet.

After pleading guilty, this week Wolverhampton Crown Court sentenced him to an unprecedented 33 months in prison.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft are no doubt extremely pleased with this result. After their successful private prosecution, the Hollywood-affiliated anti-piracy group is now able to place Danks’ head on a metaphorical pike, a clear warning to other would-be cammers. But just how difficult was this operation?

There’s often a lot of mystery attached to the investigations process in a case like this. How are individuals like Danks tracked and found? Have FACT placed spies deep into file-sharing sites? Are the authorities sniffing traffic and breaking pirates’ VPN encryption?

Or are they spending half an hour with Google and getting most of it handed to them on a plate? In Danks’ case, that appears to be exactly what happened.

Something that many millions of people use online is a nickname, and Danks was no exception. His online alias in the torrenting scene was TheCod3r, and as shown below it is clearly visible in the release title.

Kick-up

The idea behind aliases is that they provide a way to mask a real name. Military uses aside, adopting an alternative communications identity was something popularized in the 70s with the advent of Citizens Band radio. The practice continues online today, with many people forced to adopt one to register with various services.

However, what many in the file-sharing scene forget is that while aliases on a torrent site might be useful, they become as identifying as a real name when used elsewhere in ‘regular’ life. The screenshot below shows one of Danks’ first huge mistakes.

Fish-Google

Clicking that link on dating site Plenty of Fish (POF) reveals a whole range of information about a person who, at the very least, uses the same online nickname as Danks. There’s no conclusive proof that it’s the same person, but several pieces of information begin to build a picture.

In his POF profile, Danks reveals his city as being Willenhall, a small town situated in an area known locally as the Black Country. What FACT would’ve known soon after the movie leaked online was which cinema it had been recorded in. That turned out to be a Showcase cinema, just a few minutes up the road from Willenhall in the town of Walsall.

Also revealed on Danks’ POF profile is his full name and age. When you have that, plus a town, you can often find a person’s address on the UK’s Electoral Register.

It’s also trivial to find social networking pages. Not only do pictures on Danks’ POF profile match those on his Facebook page, he also has a revealing movie item listed in his interests section.

fb-1

Of course, none of this in itself is enough to build a decent case, but when you have the police on board as FACT did, things can be sped up somewhat. On May 23, 2013 Danks was raided and then, just two days later, he did something quite astonishing.

Posting on his Facebook page, the then 24-year-old took to his Facebook account (he has two) to mock the makers of Fast and Furious 6.

“Seven billion people and I was the first. F*** you Universal Pictures,” he wrote.

Also amazing was Danks’ apparent disregard for the predicament he was in. On May 10, 2013, Danks again took to Facebook, this time to advertise that he was selling copies of movies including Robocop and Captain America.

sale

This continued distribution of copyrighted material particularly aggravated the Court at his sentencing hearing this week, with Danks’ behavior being described as “bold, arrogant and cocksure offending.”

While the list of events above clearly shows a catalog of errors that some might even find amusing, the desire of many pirates to utilize the same nickname across many sites is a common one employed by some of the biggest in the game.

Once these and other similar indicators migrate across into real-life identities and activities (and the ever-present Facebook account of course), joining the dots is not difficult – especially for the police and outfits like FACT. And once that happens, no amount of VPN encryption of lack of logging is going to put the genie back in the bottle.

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

TorrentFreak: Fraud and Embezzlement Drives Anti-Piracy Group into Bankruptcy

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

smaisguyAnti-piracy groups are often quick to label file-sharing sites as criminal organizations, but these outfits also have some rotten apples amongst their own.

A few months ago we reported on the President of the Lithuanian Anti-Piracy Association LANVA, who was jailed for two years for drug trafficking. The boss of Iceland’s anti-piracy group SMAIS is not doing much better, it seems, as he stands accused of fraud and embezzlement.

SMAIS is a local branch of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association. The group recently failed to get The Pirate Bay blocked in Iceland, and has now run into the law itself.

The organization’s board filed for bankruptcy after it discovered a wide range of serious problems. The group’s financial statements were falsified, the books were not in order, and taxes haven’t been paid since 2007.

Making matters even worse, the board says that its CEO Snæbjörn Steingrímsson has admitted to embezzlement. This case is now under review by the Special Prosecutor, who has to decide whether a criminal investigation will be launched against the anti-piracy chief.

The last time SMAIS made international headlines was last year, when the group pulled its Facebook page offline after four days. According to Steingrímsson, SMAIS didn’t have enough resources to handle the constant flaming comments from the public.

What certainly didn’t help was that the launch of the Facebook page coincided with the news that SMAIS never paid for the film and game rating software they purchased from a Dutch company back in 2007. Considering the position the group is in now this is hardly a surprise.

Whether Hollywood has plans to install a new anti-piracy group in Iceland if the bankruptcy goes through is currently unknown.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Asked to Remove 1 Million Pirate Links Per Day

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

google-bayIn the hope of steering prospective customers away from pirate sites, copyright holders are overloading Google with DMCA takedown notices.

These requests have increased dramatically since Google began making the data public. A few years ago the search engine received just a few dozen takedown notices during an entire year, but today it processes millions of allegedly infringing links per week.

Over the past months the number of reported URLs has continued to rise. Now, for the first time ever, Google has processed an average of more than one million URLs per day.

Last week Google was asked to remove more than 7.8 million results, up more than 10% compared to the previous record a week earlier. The graph below shows the remarkable increase in requests over the past three years.

To put these numbers in perspective, Google is currently asked to remove an infringing search result every 8 milliseconds, compared to one request per six days back in 2008.

google-dmca-record

The massive surge in removal requests is not without controversy. It’s been reported that some notices reference pages that contain no copyrighted material, due to mistakes or abuse, but are deleted nonetheless. Google has a pretty good track record of catching these errors, but since manual review of all links is unachievable, some URLs are removed in error.

Google says it’s doing its best to address the concerns of copyright holders. Last year the company released a report detailing the various anti-piracy measures it uses. However, according to some industry groups the search giant can and should do more.

For the RIAA the staggering amount of takedown requests only confirms the notion that the process isn’t very effective. Brad Buckles, RIAA executive vice president of anti-piracy, previously suggested that Google should start banning entire domains from its search results.

“Every day produces more results and there is no end in sight. We are using a bucket to deal with an ocean of illegal downloading,” Buckles said.

The issue has also piqued the interest of U.S. lawmakers. Earlier this year the House Judiciary Subcommittee had a hearing on the DMCA takedown issue, and both copyright holders, Internet service providers, and other parties are examining what they can do to optimize the process.

In the meantime, the number of removal requests is expected to rise and rise, with 10 million links per week being the next milestone.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Boss Avoids Copyright Q&A to Avoid Piracy “Crazies”

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

runningThe main thrust from the government and entertainment industry figures is that something pretty drastic needs to be done about the illegal downloading habits of many Australians.

Consumer groups and citizens, on the other hand, want any response to be measured and coupled with assurances from entertainment companies that Australians will stop being treated like second-class consumers. Local ISPs have varying opinions, depending on the depth of their Big Media affiliations.

Back in July a discussion paper leaked revealing government proposals that include measures such as the tweaking of ISP liability right through to ‘pirate’ website blocking. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull later indicated that a public Q&A would be held in September for representatives from the entertainment industries, ISPs, and consumer groups to air their thoughts on the proposals.

While the opportunity was welcomed by the majority of stakeholders, it’s now clear that not everyone will be there.

Village Roadshow is the company that mounted the most aggressive anti-piracy legal action ever against iiNet, one of Australia’s largest ISPs. They have a deep interest in how this debate pans out. This morning, however, co-CEO Graham Burke told ZDNet that his company wouldn’t be attending the discussions because he’ll be overseas at the time.

While that may be true, an email Burke sent to Turnbull and other participants shines rather more light on the topic.

“My company is not prepared to participate in the forum. As expressed to you previously these Q and A style formats are judged by the noise on the night and given the proposed venue I believe this will be weighted by the crazies,” Burke told the Minister.

According to ZDNet, attendees from the ISP industry will include iiNet CEO David Buckingham, Telstra executive director Jane Van Beelen and Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein.

On a musical front the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) will be in attendance, as will writer and producer Peter Duncan. Looking after the interests of citizens will be consumer group Choice, but it appears Burke and Village Roadshow are concerned about potential dissent from the “crazies”.

“What is at stake here is the very future of Australian film production itself and it is too crucially important to Australia’s economy and the fabric of our society to put at risk with what will be a miniscule group whose hidden agenda is theft of movies,” Burke told the Minister.

It’s perhaps understandable for the movie boss to avoiding walking into a losing battle, but referring to those that do wish to participate in an open debate as having a hidden agenda of “movie theft” isn’t going to win over potential allies.

Boycotting discussions in which people get the opportunity to air their perhaps opposing opinions doesn’t indicate a willingness to enter a dialog or negotiations either.

But that might be the nail on the head right there.

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

TorrentFreak: Attackers Can ‘Steal’ Bandwidth From BitTorrent Seeders, Research Finds

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

swarmBitTorrent is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to share large files over the Internet. The popular file-sharing protocol is used by dozens of millions of people every day and accounts for a substantial amount of total Internet traffic.

This popularity makes BitTorrent an interesting target for attacks, which various anti-piracy companies have shown in the past. One of these possible attacks was recently unveiled by Florian Adamsky, researcher at the City University London.

In an article published in “Computers & Security” Adamsky and his colleagues reveal an exploit which allows attackers to get a higher download rate from seeders than other people.

In technical terms, the exploit misuses BitTorrent’s choking mechanism of clients that use the “Allowed Fast” extension. Attackers can use this to keep a permanent connection with seeders, requesting the same pieces over and over.

The vulnerability was extensively tested in swarms of various sizes and the researchers found that three malicious peers can already slow download times up to 414.99%. When the number of attackers is greater compared to the number of seeders, the worse the effect becomes.

The impact of the attack further depends on the download clients being used by the seeders in the swarm. The mainline BitTorrent clients and uTorrent are not vulnerable for example, while Vuze, Transmission and Libtorrent-based clients are.

TorrentFreak spoke with Adamsky who predicts that similar results are possible in real swarms. Even very large swarms of more than 1,000 seeders could be affected through a botnet, although it’s hard to predict the precise impact.

“If an attacker uses a botnet to attack the swarm, I think it would be possible to increase the average download time of all peers [of swarms with 1,000 seeders] up to three times,” Adamsky tells us.

“If most of the clients would have a vulnerable client like Vuze or Transmission it would be possible to increase the average download time up ten times,” he adds.

In their paper the researchers suggest a relatively easy fix to the problem, through an update of the “Allowed Fast” extension. In addition, they also propose a new seeding algorithm that is less prone to these and other bandwidth attacks.

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

TorrentFreak: Court: Usenet Provider Doesn’t Have to Filter Pirated Content

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

news-serviceIn 2009, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, representing the movie and music industries, took Europe’s largest Usenet provider News-Service Europe (NSE) to court.

Through the court BREIN demanded that NSE delete all infringing content from its servers, and in 2011 the Court of Amsterdam sided with the copyright holders.

The Court argued that NSE willingly facilitated copyright infringement through its services. In its verdict the Court ruled that NSE had to remove all copyrighted content, and filter future posts for possible copyright infringements.

Responding to the verdict the Usenet provider said that it was economically unfeasible to filter all messages. The company therefore saw no other option than to shut down its services while the appeal was pending.

This week the Appeals Court ruled on the case overturning the previous verdict, setting a more positive precedent for Usenet providers and similar services.

The Court concluded that NSE does not facilitate copyright infringement as long as it maintains a procedure through which copyright holders can send unlimited takedown notices.

In addition, the Court decided that proactive filtering of copyrighted content is not required, as that conflicts with existing jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice.

“We are very pleased with this ruling,” NSE CEO Patrick Schreurs says. “The Court correctly states that a Usenet provider such as News-Service Europe can not be expected to proactively monitor the messages others place.”

The ruling this week is an interlocutory verdict. The Court still has to rule on how NSE’s notice and takedown procedure should operate. Afterwards, both BREIN and NSE still have the option to take the case to the Supreme Court.

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

TorrentFreak: ISPs Face Lawsuits After Failing to Block The Pirate Bay

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

pirate bayFollowing favorable rulings on website-blocking from both the European Court of Justice and the local Supreme Court, at the end of July several Austrian movie companies renewed their mission to have ‘pirate’ sites blocked at the ISP level.

VAP, the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry, wrote to several local ISPs – UPC, Drei, Tele2 and A1 – demanding a blockade of three domains – ThePirateBay.se, Movie4K.to and Kinox.to.

Just days later the IFPI signaled its intention to join the fray. In a letter dated August 4 and sent to five local ISPs, the music group set a deadline of less than two weeks for the service providers to block subscriber access to ThePirateBay,se, isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to.

After the VAP letter came talks between the anti-piracy outfit and the ISPs, but a deadline of August 14 expired last week with no blocking having taken place. While the courts have confirmed that in certain circumstances service providers can be required to block errant sites, it appears that the ISPs don’t want to take action based on mere requests from rightsholders.

“We continue to believe that the decision to block websites or other Internet content should lie with the courts and legislators,” UPC told Austrian news outlet Future Zone.

“We have sympathy for rightsholders and we are in full support of the creative industries. However, we offer our customers access to the Internet and have no obligation or right to choose which content is accessed.”

Faced with blocking requests around Europe, most if not all ISPs have required a court order in order to restrict access to ‘pirate’ sites. Given this history, UPC’s reluctance comes as no surprise to VAP. Managing Director Werner Müller admitted last week that it was always unlikely that the ISPs would act without being legally required to do so. That means legal action, and VAP are ready for it.

“There will soon be a lawsuit concerning blocking against two websites – kinox.to and movie4k.to – against four major domestic Internet providers,” Müller says. “The lawsuits are prepared and are waiting almost only on their delivery.”

And, according to comments made by IFPI CEO Franz Medwenitsch, the music industry won’t be far behind.

“As of today there has been no response from the service providers so we had our attorney begin the preparations for legal action,” Medwenitsch confirms.

These web-blocking cases being brought against Austrian ISPs are of particular importance as they represent the first to take place following the March 27 ruling of the European Court of Justice. How that ruling is interpreted will be closely watched by rightsholders across the continent.

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

TorrentFreak: WWE Asked Google to Hit Live Piracy…From the Future

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

WWE2Removing content from the Internet has become big business in recent years, with rightsholders from all over the globe seeking to limit access to infringing content.

As the world’s leading search engine, Google receives millions of DMCA-style notices every week. Its internal systems, both automated and human-reviewed, then attempt to assess the validity of the notices before removing URLs from its indexes.

What these notices all have in common is that they refer to infringements that have already taken place, since that’s the nature of a takedown. However, a notice that recently appeared in Google’s Transparency Report reveals that for at least one organization, looking into the future is now also on the agenda.

The notice was sent by an anti-piracy company working on behalf of World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE as it’s more commonly known. The notice aimed to tackle piracy of a WWE Event titled Money In The Bank 2014, which took place on June 29, 2014. However, the notice was sent to Google two days before, on June 27.

“The following links infringe on WWE’s copyrighted Pay Per View event Money In The Bank 2014, set to air this Sunday, June 29, by one or more of the following means,” the notice begins.

WWE then sets out three potential infringements.

wwe-bank

“Providing a link to a free (pirated) stream of this event” is misleading since it’s impossible to link to an event that hasn’t aired yet. Conceivably an advance static link could have been setup to air the event come June 29, but on June 27 the event had definitely not aired, hence no piracy.

“Providing a promise of DIRECT free streaming of this event on the identified site” seems no different from the allegation made above. It’s certainly possible that some of the sites promised to illegally stream the event, but at the date of the notice that would have been impossible.

The fact that WWE resorted to telling Google that the event’s predictions show was the source material being infringed upon shows that no actual live event infringements had yet taken place.

The final claim – “Using copyrighted images, logos and celebrity photos to promote the site” – is one that carries far more weight than the two key instances of infringement alleged above. Some of the sites listed did use WWE artwork to promote their upcoming streams, but there were some notable omissions, not least the homepage of Justin.tv. Google refused to comply in this and three other instances.

The notice from WWE, which can be viewed here, illustrates the problems faced by companies airing live events. While outfits such as WWE often know where streams and links to streams will appear once an event goes live, taking them down quickly once it actually begins may not always go as smoothly as they would like.

While attempts at a pro-active DMCA-style notice like this might work on a small scale, it’s not difficult to imagine the chaos that would ensue if all rightsholders tried to have unauthorized content removed before it even appeared online.

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

TorrentFreak: TalkTalk Wants Resellers to Warn Pirating Customers

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

talktalklogoUnlike those in the US, Internet providers in the UK are not obliged to forward copyright infringement notices to their subscribers. This means that local Internet users are spared the typical warnings that are so common elsewhere.

Despite the lacking legal requirements, some anti-piracy groups do send copyright infringement notices to UK ISPs. In most cases these are ignored by the providers, but last week TalkTalk forwarded a notice to one of its resellers.

In the email the ISP asks Opal Solutions to forward the notice in question to one of its subscribers who allegedly shared a pirated copy of “Godzilla”. In addition the reseller was urged to take “preventive” measures, but what these should be is left open.

“Please see below copyright infringement email regarding an IP address of one of your clients, Please inform your client and take necessary preventative measures,” TalkTalk wrote.

At the bottom of this article is a copy of the original copyright infringement notice TalkTalk forwarded. It is a typical DMCA style notice sent by IP Echelon on behalf of Warner Bros.

IP Echelon didn’t make any effort to customize the notice for the UK audience. The email specifically references US copyright law, which doesn’t apply to the reseller or TalkTalk.

What’s most noteworthy, though, is that TalkTalk has decided to pass on this notice. The ISP is not known to forward these notices to its own subscribers, yet they appear to be urging a reseller to go beyond what’s required by law.

The forwarded email is most likely an attempt to avoid any type of liability. The question that remains is this: if TalkTalk do this with resellers does this mean they will start warning their subscribers as well?

Earlier this year the news broke that TalkTalk and other UK providers will voluntarily start sending infringement notices under the VCAP program. While VCAP isn’t going into effect before the summer of 2015, TalkTalk’s forwarded infringement notice could suggest that they might do something sooner.

Below is a full copy of the copyright infringement notice.

—-

We are writing this message on behalf of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc..

We have received information that an individual has utilized the
below-referenced IP address at the noted date and time to offer
downloads of copyrighted material.

The title in question is: Godzilla

The distribution of unauthorized copies of copyrighted television
programs constitutes copyright infringement under the Copyright Act,
Title 17 United States Code Section 106(3). This conduct may also
violate the laws of other countries, international law, and/or treaty
obligations.

Since you own this IP address
we request that you immediately do the following:

1) Contact the subscriber who has engaged in the conduct described
above and take steps to prevent the subscriber from further downloading
or uploading Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. content without authorization; and

2) Take appropriate action against the account holder under your Abuse
Policy/Terms of Service Agreement.

On behalf of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., owner of the exclusive rights
in the copyrighted material at issue in this notice, we hereby state that
we have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner
complained of is not authorized by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.,
its respective agents, or the law.

Also, we hereby state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized
to act on behalf of the owner of the exclusive rights being infringed
as set forth in this notification.

We appreciate your assistance and thank you for your cooperation in this
matter. Your prompt response is requested.

Any further enquiries can be directed to copyright@ip-echelon.com
Please include this message with your enquiry to ensure a swift response.

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon
Email: copyright@ip-echelon.com
Address: 6715 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, 90028, United States

- ————- Infringement Details ———————————-
Title: Godzilla
Timestamp: 2014-08-13T14:06:26Z
IP Address:
Port: 60261
Type: BitTorrent
Torrent Hash: c5cdf551eea353484657d45dbe93f688575a1e31
Filename: Godzilla.2014.WEBRiP.XviD-VAiN
Filesize: 2485 MB
- ———————————————————————

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Outfit Wants to Hijack Browsers Until Fine Paid

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

Many rightsholders around the world are looking for ways to cut down on Internet piracy and US-based Rightscorp thinks it has an attractive solution.

The company monitors BitTorrent networks for infringement, links IP addresses to ISPs, and then asks those service providers to forward DMCA-style notices to errant subscribers. Those notices have a sting in the tail in the shape of a $20 settlement demand to make supposed lawsuits go away. The company says 75,000 cases have been settled so far with copyright holders picking up $10 from each.

Earlier this year the company reported that its operation cost $2,134,843 to run in 2013, yet it brought in just $324,016, a shortfall of more than $1.8 million. With the second quarter of 2014 now in the bag, Rightscorp has been reporting again to investors. TorrentFreak has seen a transcript of an August 13 conference call which contains some interesting facts.

In pure revenue terms the company appears to be doing better, $440,414 during the first six months of 2014. However, operating costs were $1.8m compared to $771,766 in the same period last year. Bottom line – the company lost $1.4m in the first six months of 2014.

Still, Rightscorp is pushing on. It now represents the entire BMG catalog, plus artists belonging to the Royalty Network such as Beyonce, Calvin Harris and Kanye West. And, as previously reported, it’s now working with 140 ISPs, some of which are apparently disconnecting repeat infringers.

Interestingly, and despite the ISP removing settlement demands from infringement notices, Comcast subscribers are apparently handing cash over to Rightscorp too. How this is being achieved wasn’t made clear.

What is clear is that Rightscorp is determined to go after “Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Cable Vision and one more” in order to “get all of them compliant” (i.e forwarding settlement demands). The company predicts that more details on the strategy will develop in the fall, but comments from COO & CTO Robert Steele hint on how that might be achieved.

“So we start in the beginning of the ISP relationship by demanding the forwarding of notices and the terminations,” Steele told investors.

“But where we want to end up with our scalable copyright system is where it’s not about termination, it’s about compelling the user to make the payment so that they can get back to browsing the web.”

Steele says the trick lies in the ability of ISPs to bring a complete halt to their subscribers’ Internet browsing activities.

“So every ISP has this ability to put up a redirect page. So that’s the goal,” he explained.

“[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what’s called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web.”

The idea that mere allegations from an anti-piracy company could bring a complete halt to an entire household or business Internet connection until a fine is paid is less like a “piracy speeding ticket” and more like a “piracy wheel clamp”, one that costs $20 to have removed.

Except that very rarely are Rightscorp looking for just $20.

According to comments Steele made to investors, “very few” people targeted by his company pay a fine of just $20, even though that’s what most of them believe to be the case after Googling the company.

“[For] most people, piracy is a lifestyle, and so most people are getting multiple notices,” Steele explained. “So we’re closing cases everyday for $300, $400, $500 because people got multiple notices.”

One of the ways Rightscorp achieves these inflated settlements is by having a headline settlement fee of $20, but not applying that to a full album. By charging $20 for each and every album track, costs begin to climb.

So, while someone receiving an initial infringement notice might think the matter can be solved by paying $20, after contacting the company they realize the matter is much more serious than first believed. At this point the company knows the name and address of the target, something they didn’t initially know. Now the pressure is really on to settle.

Finally, we come to the question of success rates. We know that 75,000 cases have been settled overall, but how many people have simply ignored Rightscorp notices and moved on. One investor indirectly asked that question, but without luck.

“At the moment we consider that trade secret,” Steele said.

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

TorrentFreak: TorrentShack Resurrected After Hollywood Takedown

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

With police and trade groups such as the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the BPI on the prowl, it has to be said that running a file-sharing site in the UK right now is not without its risks.

Earlier this month it became clear that the long-standing private torrent site TorrentShack (TSH) had run its course after FACT managed to track down the site’s operator. As is usually the case, FACT told the site’s operator he could either close down the site and hand over its domain – or face the consequences.

To avoid trouble TSH’s admin agreed to FACT’s terms, and at the time of writing the site is unreachable, presumably as agreed. However, if FACT are thinking of cracking open the champagne, those celebrations might be a bit premature.

A few hours ago the official TorrentShack Twitter account published its final tweet, but it didn’t signal the end of the road.

The end result is that a TorrentShack clone is now online. An announcement reveals that the site’s former .net domain is already in FACT’s hands and the old servers and their databases have been taken offline and wiped. However, the former admin of the site was apparently not the only person with a set of keys to the back door.

“Luckily for us though, [the admin] was not the only one with access to the main site box,” the announcement reads.

“In short we have managed to get hold of one of the latest back ups before everything was taken offline.”

So, against the odds, TorrentShack appears to have been resurrected. The site’s operators warn that they currently have no funds but will do their best to get the site back to normal soon. Whether FACT will stand for that remains to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Hijack Ads of 74 Pirate Websites, Refuse to Name Them

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

cityoflondonpoliceOver the past year City of London Police have been working together with the music and movie industries to tackle sites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content.

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

Two weeks ago police began the latest initiative in “Operation Creative,” a partnership with online advertising companies to replace ads on suspected pirate sites with police banners. The banners in question inform users that the site they’re browsing has been reported to the authorities.

Police banner
pipcu-ad-mp3

Until now little was known about the scope of the anti-piracy initiative, but a Freedom of Information (FOI) request TorrentFreak sent to the police reveals some additional details.

In total, 74 domain names are being targeted by the advertisement hijacking effort. All of these domains have been reported to the police by copyright holder groups. Unfortunately, however, our request to get a full list of the affected domains was rejected.

While the police recognize that the public has a legitimate interest in knowing which sites are being targeted, it believes that the possible negative consequences of the disclosure weigh stronger. They fear that the list of domains could prove useful to pirates and increase traffic to the sites in question.

“This is an ongoing investigation and disclosure to the public domain would raise the profile of those sites unlawfully providing copyright material. This would enable individuals to visit the sites highlighted and unlawfully download copyright material and increase the scale of the loss,” City of London Police inform us.

The FOI request further reveals that 83 advertising companies are currently participating in the effort to target ads on pirate sites. All these companies are UK-based or have a UK office, but many are multinationals and have a presence in the US and elsewhere too.

As with the domain names, the police also refused to share the names of their advertising company partners. The police fear that publishing the names of the companies could result in cyber-attacks.

“In the case of advertisers, public identification would increase the risk of harm to them by way of cyber attack or other means,” TorrentFreak was told.

A FOI request TorrentFreak sent previously also revealed more details on the other “Operation Creative” efforts. It showed that City of London Police has warned 107 websites since its launch last year, and sent out suspension requests for 75 domain names.

The domain name suspension efforts were not particularly effective as only five of these were granted. The other 70 requests were denied by domain registrars.

Whether the ad hijacking campaign will have much effect is doubtful too. Thus far there haven’t been any reports from users who have spotted these warning banners in the wild.

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

TorrentFreak: Domain Registrars Deny Police Requests to Suspend Pirate Sites

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

cityoflondonpoliceEarlier this week City of London Police arrested the alleged operator of a range of proxy sites. The action was framed as a success but new information obtained by TorrentFreak shows that other police anti-piracy efforts are far less effective.

“Operation Creative” began with the sending of warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites.

“If a website fails to comply and engage with the police, then a variety of other tactical options may be used including; contacting the domain registrar informing them of the criminality and seeking suspension of the site,” the City of London Police told TorrentFreak.

To find out more about the scope of this operation, back in June TorrentFreak sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the police which provided new insights into the effectiveness of this process.

Following its launch in the last quarter of 2013, City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) sent warning letters to the operators of 107 ‘pirate’ sites. All of these sites were referred by entertainment industry groups, and include most of the popular file-sharing domains.

Interestingly, the FOI data further reveals that 109 domain names were referred to PIPCU in total, which means that the police didn’t take any action against two of the reported sites. There are no additional details explaining why these sites were not considered to be infringing.

In addition to contacting site owners directly, PIPCU also approached domain name registrars with requests to suspend these pirate sites. In total the police sent out suspension requests for 75 domain names, and only five of these were granted. The other 70 requests were denied.

This relatively low success rate of less than 7% shows that domain registrars are not easily convinced to suspend accounts without a court order. The only registrar that we know of who did comply was PDR Ltd (Public Domain Registry), who seized ExtraTorrent’s domain name and several others.

PIPCU letter to registrars
grounds

At the other end of the spectrum is EasyDNS. The registrar refused to suspend any domains without due process, and helped to transfer several suspended domains away from PDR by launching an appeal at ICANN.

EasyDNS CEO Mark Jeftovic is happy to hear that other registrars also denied the PIPCU requests. While he believes that registrars and other Internet services have an obligation to prevent acute threats to the network, which may require domain suspensions, this is not the case with alleged pirate sites that haven’t been found guilty by a court of law.

“When somebody identifying themselves as law enforcement, directs registrars to takedown functioning websites or even hijack their traffic in the absence of some legal due process, then we are in the early stages of living in a world of ‘rule by decree’,” Jeftovic tells TorrentFreak.

EasyDNS’ CEO believes that in a time where governments and law enforcement agencies are illegally monitoring their own citizens to make sure that they obey the law, the public has the right to question authority.

“In a world where our governments are quickly losing their legitimacy to rule, we, as citizens and private enterprises now have to put the onus on governments and their enforcement agencies at every turn: prove what you’re doing is legal, or leave me alone. That’s what ‘due process’ is all about,” Jeftovic says.

In the case of PIPCU’s domain suspensions, nearly all registrars did indeed question the legitimacy of the request. While PIPCU has the right to request action from a registrar, its letter carries no more weight than one from the average man in the street.

That said, thus far there are no signs that PIPCU is backing down. Operation Creative is still in full force and last week they began hijacking the first ad banners. As it turns out, advertising companies are easier to convince than domain name registrars.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Hits Popcorn Time But Leaves the Mega Rich Alone

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

Popcorn Time was embraced by millions following its debut earlier this year, but what if there was a similar looking service providing additional features but with a small monthly price tag?

Visually, TVShowTime is clean and tidy. It allows the tracking of TV shows and provides associated content on top of community and social networking features. It’s easy to use – click a series from the 40,000 in its databases and one can quickly begin tracking – and watching.

TVShow1

After adding a show – we chose Game of Thrones – TVShow Time gave us a link to buy the first season on DVD from Amazon. Links also appeared to download the subtitles in a convenient zip file.

Simultaneously a big ‘play’ button marked “watch episode” sat invitingly in the middle of the screen. With a click a new page appeared.

TVShowT2

As can be seen from the screenshot, TVShow Time provides two options. The first is a free service offering calender and subtitling downloads, plus links to buy the shows from official online sources including Netflix and iTunes.

The second allows the viewer to sign up to a $7.99 a month subscription with torrent downloading service Put.io (TVShow Time is free). When this external account with Put.io is integrated with TVShow Time, users can access all their TV shows from BitTorrent networks in both 480p and 720p, and collect the resulting episodes from Put.io via HTTP download. Unlike standard Popcorn Time downloads, these are impossible for anti-piracy companies to monitor.

The image below shows the first three already-filled-in torrent sources for Game of Thrones as directed by TVShow Time (Put.io remains a “dumb” service and only takes instruction from users).

tvshow-t3

So, what we have here, at least on the surface, is a Popcorn Time-style interface on steroids with a small price tag attached for downloads. However, while Popcorn Time is being developed pretty much for free and is visible on the radar of the MPAA, TVShow Time sits very much at the opposite end of the financial spectrum.

According to reports 1, 2, TVShow Time, which operates more or less like many other streaming or torrent-like indexes (with social networking features attached), is sitting on a $500,000 investment. (see update below)

The people who put up the money are hardly lightweights either. They include Jean-David Blanc (Allociné), Deezer founder Daniel Marhely, and telecoms giant Xavier Niel, said to be worth in excess of $8 billion.

The situation provides an interesting contrast.

While the hobbyists behind the several Popcorn Time forks find themselves in the crosshairs of the MPAA, and amateur Swedish subtitlers get raided by the police, a company with serious investment can somehow offer similar functionality without incurring the wrath of the studios.

But when potential rivals have this much influence, it’s probably easier to turn the other way – at least for now.

Update: This article has been updated to correct an error – TVShow Time’s Antonio Pinto confirms investment last year amounted to “less than $500,000.”

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

TorrentFreak: Police Arrest Operator of Torrent Site Proxies

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

cityoflondonpoliceEarlier today news broke that the proxy service Immunicity had been taken offline by the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU). Several reverse proxies offering access to blocked sites such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents suffered the same fate.

Initially it appeared that the domain seizures were the result of a request PIPCU sent to the domain registrar, as happened previously with other ‘pirate’ domains. However, as more information came in this case turned out to be different.

City of London Police inform TorrentFreak that they actually arrested the alleged owner of the domain names. The 20-year-old man from Nottingham was interviewed at a local police station and later released on bail.

Pending further investigation he agreed to voluntarily transfer the domains to the police.

This is the second arrest since the start of “Operation Creative” last year – the first involved the alleged admin of sports streaming site BoxingGuru. As is often the case, the police were assisted by Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group FACT.

According to Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe, the arrest is a prime example of a successful partnership between the copyright industry and local law enforcement.

“This week’s operation highlights how PIPCU, working in partnership with the creative and advertising industries is targeting every aspect of how copyrighting material is illegally being made available to internet users,” Fyfe says.

“We will come down hard on people believed to be committing or deliberately facilitating such offences,” he adds.

While the arrest is being framed as a major success, none of the domains operated by the man were offering a file-sharing or illegal streaming service. They were merely proxies that allowed Internet users to access The Pirate Bay and other sites that were blocked per court order by some (not all) UK Internet providers. Many UK ISPs still routinely offer access to the very same sites on a daily basis.

Commenting on the arrest, FACT Director Kieron Sharp argues that these proxy sites and services are just as illegal as the blocked sites themselves.

“Internet users have sought ways to continue to access the sites by getting round the blocking put in place by the ISPs. One of the ways to do this is to use proxy servers. This operation is a major step in tackling those providing such services,” Sharp notes.

Whether this argument will hold up in court has yet to be seen. That is, if the case ever goes to court. Unlike the blocked pirate sites the proxies didn’t appear to be operating for profit, but as a hobby project instead.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Take Down Proxy Service Over Piracy Concerns

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

cityoflondonpoliceSince last year City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide or link to pirated content.

The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites.

Yesterday police started out another round of anti-piracy actions targeted at sites that offer access to pirated content.

Among the new targets is Immunicity, a general proxy server that was set up as a censorship circumvention tool.

The police action against Immunicity is concerning as the service merely allows users to route their traffic through a proxy network, much like other anonimizing services such as TOR and VPNs do. The service itself doesn’t host or link to infringing content.

In addition in Immunicity the Pirate Bay proxy Piratereverse.info and KickassTorrents proxies Kickassunblock.info and Katunblock.com were taken down as well. The same happened with movie2kproxy.com, h33tunblock.info and several other sites. The DNS entries of the domains have all been replaced and now point at a PIPCU IP-address which displays a warning banner.

PIPCU-filecrop

PIPCU has not yet confirmed the nature of the takedowns but at the time of writing the most likely explanation is that the U.S. based registrar suspended the sites in question.

Based on letters that were sent out to registrars previously, the police accuse proxy services and sites of running a criminal operation. While no court order has been obtained, PIPCU claims to have launched an investigation into the sites and has asked the domain registrar to cooperate.

“The owners of the aforementioned domains are suspected to be involved in the criminal distribution of copyrighted material either directly or indirectly and are liable to prosecution under UK law for the following offences: Conspiracy to Defraud, Offences under the Fraud Act 2006, Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988,” PIPCU states.

“Should a conviction be brought for the above offences, UK courts may impose sentences of imprisonment and/or fines. PIPCU has criminal and civil powers in UK law to seize money, belongings and any property in connection with these offences.”

It’s important to note that with the previous requests the City of London Police did not present a court order or other warrant. However, it turns out that police letterhead is sometimes enough to throw due process concerns overboard.

TorrentFreak has asked PIPCU for a comment on the most recent actions, but we have yet to hear back.

Update: TorrentFreak has received new information suggesting that PIPCU managed to take control of the domains without the involvement of eNom. We will present more details when we are allowed to share it in public.

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