Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: ISP Categorically Refuses to Block Pirate Bay – Trial Set For October

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

Despite its current difficulties in maintaining an efficient online presence, The Pirate Bay remains the world’s most hounded website. Entertainment industry companies around the globe have made the notorious site their number one anti-piracy target and legal action continues in many regions.

Perhaps one of the most interesting at the moment is the action filed last November by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry. It targets Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Company) and effectively accuses the provider of being part of the Pirate Bay’s piracy machine.

The papers filed at the Stockholm District Court demand that Bredbandsbolaget block its subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay and popular streaming portal Swefilmer. In December the ISP gave its response, stating in very clear terms that ISPs cannot be held responsible for the traffic carried on their networks.

Last month on February 20 the parties met in the Stockholm District Court to see if some kind of agreement or settlement could be reached. But the entertainment companies’ hopes have been dashed following the confirmation that Bredbandsbolaget will not comply with its wishes.

“It is an important principle that Internet providers of Internet infrastructure shall not be held responsible for the content that is transported over the Internet. In the same way that the Post should not meddle in what people write in the letter or where people send letters,” Commercial Director Mats Lundquist says.

“We stick to our starting point that our customers have the right to freely communicate and share information over the internet.”

With no settlement or compromise to be reached, DagensMedia reports that the district court has now set a date for what is being billed as a “historic trial”.

It will begin on Thursday 23 October and the outcome has the potential to reshape provider liability in The Pirate Bay’s spiritual homeland, despite the fact that it’s now run from overseas.

Bredbandsbolaget will certainly be outnumbered. TV companies including SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More will team up with the IFPI and the Swedish Video Distributors group which counts Fox Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony among its members.

Internal movie industry documents obtained by TorrentFreak reveal that IFPI and the Swedish film producers have signed a binding agreement which compels them to conduct and finance the case. However, the MPAA is exerting its influence while providing its own evidence and know-how behind the scenes.

Also of interest is that IFPI took a decision to sue Bredbandsbolaget and not Teliasonera (described by the MPAA as “the largest and also very actively ‘copy-left’ Swedish ISP”). The reason for that was that IFPI’s counsel represents Teliasonera in other matters which would have raised a conflict of interest.

There are also some intriguing political implications and MPAA nervousness concerning the part of the case involving streaming portal Swefilmer. Those will be the topic of an upcoming TF article.

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

TorrentFreak: Aussie Telecoms Minister Receives Downloading Warning Notice

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

choice-downAfter years of complaints from mainly Hollywood-affiliated companies and anti-piracy groups, Australia is now having to deal with its online piracy issues.

Faced with deadlock the government ordered ISPs and entertainment companies to find a solution and against a backdrop of failed negotiations, last week telecoms body Communications Alliance published a draft proposal on behalf of its ISP members.

Titled ‘Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code‘, the document outlined a graduated response “three strikes”-style mechanism to deal with file-sharers. It was put together in concert with rightsholders, so it’s fair to assume Hollywood is somewhat satisfied with the framework.

The same cannot be said about Australia’s leading consumer group, however.

Choice, which has long warned against a file-sharing crackdown, says that current proposals raise the specter of a streamlined conveyor belt of consumers heading towards a notoriously litigious entertainment industry.

“Although an ‘education scheme’ to stop piracy sounds harmless, the proposed Code will actually funnel internet users into court actions where industry can seek unlimited amounts of money for alleged piracy, and provide a way for rights holders to gain access to your internet records and personal details so they can sue you or send you a letter demanding payment,” the group warns this morning.

Highlighting mechanisms already in place in the US, UK and New Zealand, Choice says that the proposals for Australia are the worst of the bunch. ‘Education’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Final’ notices could be followed by rightsholder access to subscriber details alongside threats of legal action and potentially limitless fines.

“The system proposed by the industry purports to be educational, but clearly has a focus on facilitating court actions. There is no limit on the amount of money that a rights holder can seek from the customer,” Choice explains.

Also under fire is consumer access to remedy should they have complaints about notices received in error, for example. While there is a system being proposed, access costs Internet subscribers $25, and even then the adjudication panel is far from impartial.

“If a consumer objects to any notice received, they can lodge a complaint with a largely industry-controlled body. There is no avenue for appeal if the consumer disagrees with the decision made,” Choice complains.

In order to raise awareness of these shortcomings, Choice says it has now implemented its own “three-strikes” program. And the first notice is about to go out.

“CHOICE is concerned that this scheme will funnel consumers into legal action, bypassing ordinary checks and balances. We’re sending an Education Notice to the Minister for Communications to let him know about the dangers of these ‘education’ measures for consumers,” the group says.

The notice to Malcolm Turnbull reads as follows:

EDUCATION NOTICE

You are receiving this Education Notice due to a complaint from the Australian public that it has detected the development of a damaging, industry-run internet policing scheme in your portfolio.

This scheme will allow big Hollywood corporations to obtain consumers’ contact details and internet records from Internet Service Providers, based on unproven accusations.

There is no limit to the amount of money that could be sought in court. In the US, a student was recently ordered to pay $675,000 for downloading and sharing 30 songs.

You may not be aware of this anti-consumer scheme. Perhaps somebody else in your household accessed your internet account and provided instructions to your Department without your knowledge.

If you believe this is the case, please forward this notice to the person who may be responsible. If the Government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to address the real causes of the problem: the fact that Australians pay far too much for content that is often delayed or completely unavailable..

We know that you are a well-educated consumer, so we ask you to step in before it is too late.

This Education Notice is your first warning. If Australian consumers detect further infractions, we reserve the right to take further action.

The warning letter is being “authorized” by the Australian public who are being asked to sign a petition in support of Choice’s position.

After just a few hours online the petition is already close to reaching its initial target but whether it will make any difference remains to be seen. It’s taken so long for the ISPs and Hollywood to agree on any action against piracy, it will take something huge to derail it now.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time “Fan Pages” Nuked By Anti-Piracy Outfit

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

Released in the first quarter of 2014, any minute now Popcorn Time will celebrate its one year anniversary.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the various forks of the project after generating hundreds of headlines between them. Needless to say, many have focused on how the project provides sleek access to unauthorized content.

Predictably that ease of use has proven most popular in the United States but interestingly Popcorn Time also proved itself a disproportionate hit in the Netherlands. Last September one fork reported 1.3 million installs in a population of just 17 million.

No surprise then that Popcorn Time has appeared on the radar of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. The Hollywood-affiliated group has been relatively quiet in recent months but is now reporting action aimed at stemming the flow of users to the popular torrent streaming application.

Denouncing Popcorn Time as an “illegal service”, BREIN reports that it has recently shut down “six Dutch Popcorn Time sites” and reached a settlement with their operators.

BREIN usually keeps the names of shuttered sites a closely guarded secret, but on this occasion has chosen to name four out of the six.

PopcornTime.nl, Popcorn-Time.eu, Popcorn-Time.info and PopcornTimeFilms.nl are now non-operational and currently display the warning message below as per their agreement with BREIN.

This site has been removed by the BREIN foundation for propagating Popcorn Time Software.

Popcorn Time encourages illegal use and uses an illegal online supply of films and television series.

WARNING: Popcorn Time software uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology allowing users to both up – and download. Streaming, uploading and downloading of illegal content is prohibited by law and will therefore result in liability for the damages caused.

NOTE: Uploading is illegal and causes greater damage than a single download.

SUPPORT CREATIVITY: Go to Thecontentmap.nl and see where you can legally download and stream.

According BREIN each site operator also agreed to pay a financial penalty relative to the circumstances of his or her case, but the big question is just how important these sites were. The answer in all cases is “not very”.

Firstly, none of the sites were affiliated in any way with either of the current large forks located at Popcorntime.io and Popcorn-time.se. None hosted the software either, instead preferring to link to their official sources.

“We are not a part or makers of Popcorn Time. This is just a fansite. Not hosting content, merely linking to files hosted elsewhere,” an archive copy of Popcorntime.nl reads.

“Popcorn-Time.info is a fanpage Popcorn Time,” that site declared before being targeted by BREIN.

“Popcorn-Time.info hosts no downloads of Popcorn Time on its server.
Popcorn-Time.info has no links with the developers and designers of Popcorn Time.”

None of the sites were particularly popular either. Alexa currently scores PopcornTime.nl as the most visited of the bunch with a global rank of 205,405 and 3,215 in the Netherlands. PopcornTimeFilms.nl is the least visited and ranked the 1.84 millionth most popular site in the world.

Nevertheless, BREIN is warning that it will continue to take local “Popcorn Time sites” offline. Legal proceedings could be initiated against those who fail to comply and the anti-piracy group isn’t ruling out criminal referrals either.

“For Popcorn-Time sites that entrench themselves in foreign countries including the illegal torrent sites which are used, BREIN cooperates with similar national and international organizations,” the group warns.

Considering the Netflix-related news that broke mid-January, it was almost inevitable that BREIN wouldn’t wait long before positioning itself against Popcorn Time.

In a letter to the company’s shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings specifically highlighted the Popcorn Time ‘problem’ in the Netherlands, describing the app’s popularity in the country as “sobering”.

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

TorrentFreak: The World’s Most Idiotic Copyright Complaint

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

picarddmcaAt least once a month TorrentFreak reports on the often crazy world of DMCA takedown notices. Google is kind enough to publish thousands of them in its Transparency Report and we’re only too happy to spend hours trawling through them.

Every now and again a real gem comes to light, often featuring mistakes that show why making these notices public is not only a great idea but also in the public interest. The ones we found this week not only underline that assertion in bold, but are actually the worst examples of incompetence we’ve ever seen.

German-based Total Wipes Music Group have made these pages before after trying to censor entirely legal content published by Walmart, Ikea, Fair Trade USA and Dunkin Donuts. This week, however, their earlier efforts were eclipsed on a massive scale.

wipedFirst, in an effort to ‘protect’ their album “Truth or Dare” on Maze Records, the company tried to censor a TorrentFreak article from 2012 on how to download anonymously. The notice, found here, targets dozens of privacy-focused articles simply because they have the word “hide” in them.

But it gets worse – much worse. ‘Protecting’ an album called “Cigarettes” on Mona Records, Total Wipes sent Google a notice containing not a single infringing link. Unbelievably one of the URLs targeted an article on how to use PGP on the Mac. It was published by none other than the EFF.

EFF-wipes

So that was the big punchline, right? Pfft, nowhere near.

Going after alleged pirates of the album “In To The Wild – Vol.7″ on Aborigeno Music, Total Wipes offer their pièce de résistance, the veritable jewel in their crown. The notice, which covers 95 URLs, targets no music whatsoever. Instead it tries to ruin the Internet by targeting the download pages of some of the most famous online companies around.

Some of the URLs in the most abusive notice ever

wipe-notice1

In no particular order, here is a larger selection of some of the download pages the notice attacks.

ICQ, RedHat, SQLite, Vuze, LinuxMint, WineHQ, Foxit, Calibre, Kodi/XBMC, Skype, Java, OpenOffice, Gimp, Ubuntu, Python, TeamViewer, MySQL, VLC, Joomla, Z-Zip, RaspberryPI, Unity3D, Apache, MalwareBytes, Pidgin, LibreOffice, VMWare, uTorrent, WinSCP, WhatsApp, Evernote, AMD, AVG, Origin, TorProject, PHPMyAdmin, Nginx, FFmpeg, phpbb, Plex, GNU, WireShark, Dropbox and Opera.

If you can bear to read it the full notice can be found here. Worryingly Total Wipes Music are currently filing notices almost every day. Google rejects many of them but it’s only a matter of time before some sneak through.

We’ve said it before but it needs to be said again. Some people can’t be trusted to send takedown notices and must lose their right to do so when they demonstrate this level of abuse. The sooner Google kicks these people out the better.

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

TorrentFreak: Oscar Nominations Massively Boosted Pirate Downloads

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

While Hollywood would’ve liked it to remain a secret, news that the majority of Oscar contenders were available online just a day after the Academy’s announcement traveled fast.

In anticipation of this eventuality, at the turn of the year piracy monitoring firm Irdeto began tracking dozens of top movies in order to compare the number of downloads before and after the Oscar nominations were made public. Some of the numbers just revealed by the company are eye-watering.

After monitoring from January 1 through February 14, Irdeto found that there was a 385% increase in piracy of nominated films following the Academy’s announcement on January 15.

“While Gone Girl was the early frontrunner after nominations, American Sniper took the lead and is currently the most pirated film in the world post-nomination,” Irdeto reveals.

As the chart below shows, the majority of nominees had download numbers boosted between 161% and 230%, but clearly out in front is Selma with a 1033% uplift.

post-nom

In terms of pure downloads, however, the Martin Luther King movie isn’t an Oscar high-flyer. Despite the huge boost in interest after nomination day, Selma sits in 10th place well behind piracy leaders American Sniper and Gone Girl.

oscar-downs

Of course, the big question now is whether popularity on BitTorrent networks will be mirrored in the final Oscars ceremony. Ranking movies based on downloads since January 15 in the categories they were nominated, Irdeto predicts the winners as follows:

Best Picture: American Sniper (1.39m)

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper (1.39m)

Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (796.7K)

Best Actress: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl (1.25m)

Hollywood’s own leaks contributed to the piracy problem

While the Oscar-nominated movies now available online come from a wide variety of sources including Blu-ray, DVD (34% combined) and Cams (11%), Irdeto’s study highlights the problems the Academy has with its own leaks. Handed out to voters, critics and others in the industry, screeners are the most prized source for online booty. And this year there were plenty of them.

“Hollywood screeners specifically accounted for a substantial 31% of the total illegal downloads tracked between January 15 and February 14,” Irdeto reveals.

“Six nominated movies currently unavailable for retail purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD or legal streaming/download sites saw the majority of piracy coming directly from these screeners: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Wild, Selma, Whiplash and Still Alice.”

While noting that not every download is a lost sale, the anti-piracy company still believes that an estimated $40m could have been lost on these titles alone, simply because they weren’t made available legally to consumers.

Release windows

“Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies to be available earlier, in more geographies and over more platforms,” says Rory O’Connor, VP of Managed Services at Irdeto.

“In the world of internet re-distribution, the window between theatrical release and worldwide market availability may simply be too long, leaving room for pirates to take advantage and offer consumers alternative means of instant gratification. Today’s consumers simply refuse to wait to access these movies through legitimate services.”

The rest of the world

Finally, outside of the United States the top ten countries accounting for the most illegal downloads were Russia, Italy, UK, Brazil, Canada, India, Australia, Spain, South Korea and the Netherlands.

And in what is bound to be yet more ammunition for the copyright lobby Down Under, the Oscar for the country with the highest percentage of piracy per Internet user population goes to….

…….Australia.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Raid Movie & TV Show Site, Three Arrested

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

cityoflondonpoliceAfter scaling considerable heights during much of 2013 and 2014, overt operations to reduce online copyright infringement tapered off in the UK at the end of last year.

The first six weeks of 2015 also remained quiet, with the now-famous Police Intellectual Property Unit (PIPCU) holding a lower profile. Today, however, there is news of fresh action by local authorities.

Following an investigation by the Hollywood-affiliated anti-piracy group Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), this morning detectives raided individuals said to be involved in the operations of a movie and TV show download site.

The men, aged 24, 25 and 26, all from the Southwark area of London, were arrested at 06:45 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and copyright infringement offenses. Equipment and financial documents were also seized.

Speaking with TorrentFreak a few moments ago, FACT said that they weren’t able to name the site “for operational reasons.” Nevertheless, police say it was popular among users.

“The site was extremely popular. It was viewed about 70,000 times a day and, internationally, it ranked thousands of places higher than a well-known and legitimate film download site,” said investigating officer Detective Sergeant Neil Reynolds.

Similar raids in recent times have been carried out by PIPCU but today’s operation is being accredited to the London Regional Asset Recovery Team.

LRART is a Home Office-funded team comprised of officers and financial investigators from City of London Police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, among others. The unit carries out financial investigations aimed at seizing criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

“It can be difficult for people to care about copyright laws being broken but the money made from such sites is often spent on funding other crime,” said DS Reynolds. “We are looking at how much money was made from advertising on this website and where that money went to.”

FACT say that the site was registered to one of the suspects in the UK but was then re-registered to a second suspect at an address in Romania. Advertising revenue was paid into a London-based bank account.

Director General Kieron Sharp said that unauthorized sites undermine legitimate businesses and warned that people running such ventures face stiff penalties.

“Websites which set out to direct users to illegal copies of films and TV shows are engaged in criminal activity which not only reaps huge financial benefits for the individuals involved but also undermines the fundamental business model which allows for future investment in the creative industries,” Sharp said.

“As these latest arrests show, this type of criminal enterprise will not go without action, and those involved face severe penalties.”

If anyone has any further information please contact us in confidence

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

TorrentFreak: Tumblr Panics as Site Gets Tough on Music Piracy

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

tumblrFounded February 2007, Tumblr now processes huge amounts of traffic. According to latest figures from the site it currently hosts more than 223 million blogs containing almost 104 billion posts.

In common with all sites of a similar size, keeping on top of what every user posts is a formidable and near impossible task, even with the 300+ employees Tumblr has at its disposal.

Nevertheless, effort does have to be made and when it comes to copyright issues the law demands it. The DMCA requires Tumblr to respond to copyright holder complaints by removing infringing content in a timely manner. According to the site’s users, however, a more aggressive response is now being pursued.

A large number of recent complaints suggest that music group IFPI is making a renewed effort to target Tumblr in order to weed out users who post copyright music to the site. Since several users have posted Tumblr copyright notices citing IFPI complaints, it seems like a reasonable assumption.

But what is really spooking users is Tumblr’s policy of terminating those who have three complaints lodged against their account. It’s been in place for some time but with enforcement against the site seemingly being ramped up, more people are falling into the trap.

“As outlined in previous emails, we implement a strict three-strike policy against repeat copyright infringement. Your blog has received three strikes in an 18 month period. Consequently, your account has been terminated. In addition, any new accounts you create will also be terminated,” Tumblr told one user.

Of course, anti-piracy bots don’t discriminate between content posted today or 18 months ago so any tracks they find can result in a notice to Tumblr and a subsequent “strike” against a user’s account. As a result, many users are now desperately trying to clear up their post history (using sites like trntbl.me) to avoid getting three strikes all at once.

To find out what changes may have contributed to the panic TorrentFreak contacted Tumblr for further details. We’re yet to hear back (we’ll update this article when we do) but in the meantime its worth noting that the company updated its copyright notice policy last month.

“After removing material pursuant to a valid DMCA notice, Tumblr will immediately notify the Subscriber responsible for the allegedly infringing material that it has removed or disabled access to the material,” it reads.

“Tumblr will terminate, under appropriate circumstances, the Accounts of Subscribers who are repeat copyright infringers, and reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate any Subscriber for actual or apparent copyright infringement.”

In order for users to be able to contest copyright complaints, Tumblr operates a counter-notification system. However, users including Stewardessme complain that on the third strike she was simply locked out. Her story also highlights the importance of contesting invalid claims early on.

“Since the IFPI sent takedowns for two songs, that was two strikes, and I had a previous strike months earlier due to being erroneously accused of a copyright violation by Harper-Collins (the photo in question was not theirs),” she writes.

“In my case, the time period between getting the two strikes for music and my account being terminated was zero time; I found out something was wrong when I tried to log into my account.”

Since Tumblr is yet to publicly respond to the concerns of its userbase, TorrentFreak asked the company to comment on any changes that could have triggered what is now being perceived as a piracy crackdown. We’ll update here in due course.

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

TorrentFreak: Android Piracy News Gives App a Sales Boost

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

Today Calendar Pro is a popular replacement calendar for Android. Several thousand voters on Google Play agree on its quality, most voting near to the fabled five stars.

However, at the start of February developer Jack Underwood announced that rather than pay for his software, a huge majority are preferring to pirate it instead. The figures were substantial. According to the UK-based dev, 85% of ‘pro’ users were using his software without paying for it.

While that fact might’ve caused some creators to go nuclear, Underwood remained pragmatic. He engaged his public and decided to make light of the situation by introducing some novel anti-piracy measures in his software. Rather than make it unusable, Underwood added some pirate-themed events as detailed in our earlier article.

It turned out to be a great move on the PR front. News of Underwood’s approach spread quickly and dozens of news outlets covered the story giving the developer and his software plenty of exposure. Interested in the effects of this new-found fame, TF caught up with the dev to assess his mood.

As it turns out Underwood was in fine form. News of massive piracy of his app published February 2nd/3rd onwards had certainly turned into a positive. Sales of his software enjoyed a significant boost, as the graph below illustrates.

Calendar Pro Sales

While reluctant to talk about money generated, Underwood did reveal the size of the increase over regular sales. Today Calender Pro sold around three times more than it usually does after the news broke, leveling to twice as many sales shortly after.

However, it was the effect on Google Play’s rankings that appears to have done Underwood the biggest favor. Following news of the high piracy rates there was a five-fold increase in Play user ratings, averaging a score of 4.8. This means that Today Calendar Pro is now the highest rated calendar on the Play store.

The ratings boost means that sales are now running at a steady 50% uplift, a great result all considered.

Interestingly, however, the free version of the app hasn’t done quite so well. On the first day sales increased two-fold, dropping to 1.5x the day after. Unlike the ‘Pro’ version, there was no change in Play ratings and ‘sales’ are now back to the level they were before.

But perhaps of most interest is how these new figures have affected piracy rates overall, which previously sat at 85%.

“Over the last week pirated installs have made up 56% of the downloads,” Underwood informs TF. “Much better, but I guess we’ll see how long it lasts!”

Finally, Underwood says that interest in the pirate-themed events he added to his software has resulted in lots of requests from users wanting to see them. He’s come up with the following solution.

“Users can now trigger the pirate events themselves. Any event title with ‘walk the plank’ or ‘swashbuckling’ or ‘pirate’ (providing there’s no other trigger words) will cause the pirate images to be displayed,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: ISP’s “Three Strikes” Scheme is Weird and Broken

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

pirate-cardMore than five years ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended its legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to implement a new anti-piracy policy.

The agreement sees Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online and the ISP forwarding infringement notices to customers uploading music without permission. Eircom promises to disconnect subscribers who are caught sharing three times.

The entire point of this scheme and others like it is to inform Internet users that a “graduated response” is in operation. Whenever a notice is received users should be in no doubt they’re edging closer to being punished and ultimately cut off.

For its part the music industry is clear. ‘Strikes’ regimes which don’t promise to disconnect or otherwise punish users are much less effective than those that have these measures. After all, who wants to be cut off by their ISP?

But if that’s indeed the case, why then is Eircom keeping the prospect of disconnections out of its communications with alleged pirates?

TorrentFreak has obtained one of the latest letters being sent out to Eircom subscribers. Received by a customer already on a warning, it begins normally enough.

“Eircom has a long association with Irish music and we believe that artists deserve to be paid for the work they create. Most music files are protected by copyright and while it may be acceptable for them to be stored on a computer for personal use, it is unlawful to share those files without the copyright owner’s permission,” the letter reads.

The warning goes on to note that sharing copyrighted music is a breach of Eircom’s terms and conditions and as such it’s the subscriber’s responsibility to ensure the connection is not used to breach copyright. Standard stuff so far.

At this point one might expect Eircom to be getting into the details of its “three strikes” scheme implemented on IRMA’s behalf, informing the subscriber how after the third time sharing copyrighted material he or she will have their broadband connection terminated. Instead, however, the ISP makes no mention of it.

“Please accept this letter as an advisory notice, and should no further activity as described above occur then no further action will be taken. The details of this notification will be retained for 12 months from the dates of this letter and will be deleted thereafter unless we receive an additional notification in that period,” the notice adds.

And that’s pretty much it. No mention of a graduated response, no mention that subscribers will disconnected from the Internet. It’s a very strange approach considering the substantial sums of money spent by IRMA and Eircom to reach their “three strikes” agreement.

So why the kid gloves?

Since disconnecting customers is not exactly helpful to profitability, Eircom’s agreement with IRMA requires that the ISP isn’t put at a commercial disadvantage. To that end, IRMA has been locked in a five-year legal battle to force rival ISP UPC to also implement “three strikes”.

Pending the outcome of that case, Eircom is currently the only ISP in Ireland promising to disconnect pirates. Playing that fact down in its letters to customers would certainly make commercial sense and stop those looking to jump ship.

However, the other elephant in the room is that last year Eircom admitted it hadn’t disconnected anyone in four years of the “strikes” scheme. Add that to “weak” letters being sent out to customers and some might presume that disconnections are already off the table, at least unofficially.

Still, there’s always the educational aspect to “graduated response” campaigns – you’ve been caught once so why not go straight now?

As required by the IRMA deal, Eircom informs “strike” recipients where they can go to obtain legal music downloads – or at least that’s the idea. Sadly, in its infringement notices Eircom points them to eircom.net/legalmusic, a page that hasn’t existed for some time.

eircom-wrong

A secondary educational effort in the letter sees the ISP encourage customers to completely remove file-sharing software and infringing files from their computers.

“IRMA provides a program called ‘Digital File Check’ which can be downloaded from their website. It checks for and removes any infringing files and applications commonly used to share music illegally,” the letter notes.

However, those following the link (www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/digital-file-check.html) find it less than helpful. Links to the software on IFPI’s site send users round in a never-ending loop and the official domain DigitalFileCheck.com, for those who can be bothered to hunt it down, is completely dead.

The situation is baffling. Why spend years pushing for this system yet execute it so poorly once it’s in place? Why then force other ISPs to do the same? It’s debatable whether these schemes have any effect at all, but if this is the model that’s no surprise.

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

TorrentFreak: Megaupload Programmer Sentenced to a Year in Prison

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

megaupload-logoAfter three years of relative inaction the criminal case against Megaupload and seven of its employees heated up this week.

Just a few days ago the U.S. authorities arrested Andrus Nomm, one of the indicted Megaupload defendants.

The 36-year-old programmer had been living in the Netherlands but came to the States to take a plea deal.

The Department of Justice announced that Nomm pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement, and sentenced to a year and a day in prison.

According to the DoJ statement Nomm acknowledged that he “was aware that copyright-infringing content was stored on the websites, including copyright protected motion pictures and television programs, some of which contained the “FBI Anti-Piracy” warning.”

“Nomm also admitted that he personally downloaded copyright-infringing files from the Mega websites. Nomm continued to participate in the Mega Conspiracy,” the statement continues.

The authorities are happy with their first vistory in this case and are determined to bring the other defendants to the U.S. as well.

“This outcome is the result of years of hard work by our office and our partners from the Criminal Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente said.

“The Mega Conspiracy engaged in massive criminal infringement of copyrighted works on the Internet, and we are confident that this case will be a sign to those who would abuse technology for illegal profit,” he added.

Meanwhile, Megaupload’s founder Kim Dotcom slams the U.S. legal system in a comment, but says that he understands Nomm’s decision.

“The US Justice system: An innocent coder pleads guilty after 3 years of DOJ abuse, with no end in sight, in order to move on with his life,” Dotcom tweeted. “I have nothing but compassion and understanding for Andrus Nomm and I hope he will soon be reunited with his son.”

Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken told TF and the U.S. authorities might have taken advantage of Nomm. As an Estonian citizen living in a foreign country he was vulnerable, and running out of funds.

“The DOJ apparently used Andrus Nomm’s weak financial condition and inability to fight back to manufacture a hollywood style publicity stunt in the form of a scripted guilty plea in court,” Rothken says.

“The facts mentioned in court, like a lack of cloud filtering of copyrighted works, are civil secondary copyright issues not criminal issues,” he adds.

According to Rothken the “publicity stunt” reveals how weak the DoJ’s case is.

“The DOJ apparently convinced Andrus Nomm to say the conclusory phrase that Kim Dotcom “did not care about protecting copyrights” and such point shows off the weakness in the DOJ’s case as Megaupload, amongst many other ways of caring, had a robust copyright notice and takedown system which gave direct delete access to major content owners and from which millions of links were removed.”

Nomm’s sentencing for criminal copyright infringement is raising eyebrows among several experts.

In the indictment there was only one example of possible copyright infringement, and that referred to watching a copy of a pirated TV-show. For now it remains unclear what other evidence the authorities have.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Sites Shut Down After Swedish Police Arrest Five

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

swedpoliceIt’s been just over two months since Swedish police carried out a dramatic raid that took the infamous Pirate Bay offline. While the action certainly had an impact on its raid-proof reputation, the torrent site rose from the ashes two weeks ago with its databases largely intact.

While that resurrection must’ve been a blow to Swedish authorities, action against torrent sites is far from over. As the investigation into The Pirate Bay and former operator Fredrik Neij continues, police have struck again in the notorious torrent site’s backyard. In common with December’s raid, local authorities are providing a bare minimum of details.

“We have made ​​significant seizures, but I will not say more than that,” said prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist.

It is known that five people are in police custody under suspicion of being involved in the unlawful distribution of copyrighted movies. While it’s yet to be confirmed, the investigation will almost certainly have been launched at the behest of the major Hollywood studios and local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance.

One of the sites targeted is Tankafetast, Sweden’s second largest torrent site. It’s been hit before, at least a couple of times, but has always managed to reappear. This time the situation seems more serious.

Also down is torrent site PirateHub and streaming portal Tankefetast Play. The latter is currently redirecting to the same political site as its namesake.

Promotional image previously released by Tankafetast

tankafetast

While confirming that an investigation into PirateHub had been ongoing for some time, Ljungqvist did not reveal whether equipment such as servers had been seized in the latest operation. When quizzed about the downtime of the sites listed above, however, the prosecutor said that they’d been disabled by their operators.

“It is not us who have taken down the sites, it is they themselves who did so in order to prevent further crime,” Ljungqvist said.

dreamfilmIf that is indeed the case, the development has clear parallels with the news last week concerning streaming portal DreamFilm.se. The operators of that site reported that after one of their admins was arrested the site did a deal with police to close down voluntarily.

While that didn’t go quite to plan, with some admins leaving to start a new venture with a similar name, it’s possible that the replacement URL won’t be reported on the old DreamFilm.se homepage for long. According to IDG, the prosecution in the case has now filed a motion at the district court in Linköping for that domain name to be forfeited.

As reported earlier this week, two Pirate Bay domain names are also under threat, with authorities targeting the Punkt SE registry with pioneering legal action to have the domains revoked and/or seized by the state.

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

TorrentFreak: “Canada Remains A Safe Haven For Online Piracy”

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

canada-pirateThe International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has just published its latest submission to the U.S. Government, providing an overview of countries it believes should better protect the interests of the copyright industry.

The IIPA, which includes a wide range of copyright groups including the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and ESA, has listed its complaints against a whole host of countries. As in previous years, Canada was discussed in detail with the recommendation to put it on the 2014 Special 301 ‘watch list’.

One of the main criticisms against Canada is that the country offers a home to many pirate sites. The country recently revised its copyright law but that has done little to address this problem, IIPA believes.

“Although there has been some improvement in recent years, Canada still has far to go to rectify its reputation as a safe haven for Internet pirates. Indeed, a number of the world’s most popular Internet sources dedicated to online theft of copyright material retain connections to Canada.”

Among others, the report lists the popular torrent sites Torrentz.eu, Kickass.to and streaming portal Solarmovie.is as partially Canada-based.

Canada’s inaction against these websites has forced copyright holders to request website blockades in other countries, IIPA claims. In addition, these pirate sites hamper the growth of legal services.

“As long as these sites continue to use Canada as a base, efforts to provide a space within which legitimate, licensed services can take root and grow are undermined, not only in Canada, but around the world,” the report reads.

According to the report Canada’s current copyright law lacks the ability to motivate hosting providers to stop dealing with this sites. Instead, IIPA argues that the law gives these companies “overbroad safe harbors.”

“Clearly the legal incentives remain insufficient for Canadian providers of hosting services to cooperate with right holders to deal with massive and flagrant infringements carried out using their services,” they write.

Aside from hosting pirate sites, IIPA characterizes Canada as a pro-piracy country in general. Canadians download more than twice as much pirated music per capita, according the copyright group.

The “notice and notice” system that was implemented recently, where ISPs have to forward copyright infringement warnings to alleged pirates, is not expected to change much either they say.

“… while the Canadian “notice and notice” system requires service providers to retain records on the identity of subscribers whose accounts have been used for unauthorized file sharing or other infringing behaviors, multiple repeat infringers will be delivered the same notice.”

Ideally, IIPA would like to see a system where repeat infringers can be identified and punished if needed, similar to the “strikes” systems that have been implemented in other countries.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for Canada. Among other things, the groups also call for stronger border protections and limiting the copyright exceptions for educational use.

The group ask the U.S. Government to “continue to press Canada” to address these and other issues that may hinder the growth of the copyright industry.

“[The U.S. Government] should encourage Canadian authorities to do what they can to give service providers greater incentives to come together with right holders to make meaningful progress against online copyright infringement; but further legislative change is likely to be needed.”

The IIPA’s full 2014 Special 301 recommendation report is available here. This also includes assessments from more than a dozen other countries, including Brazil, China, India, Russia and Switzerland.

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

TorrentFreak: File-Sharing Icon RapidShare Shuts Down

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

rapidsharelogoFounded in 2002, Swiss-based RapidShare was one of the first and most popular one-click file-hosting services on the Internet.

Like most sites of this nature, RapidShare was frequently used by people to share copyright-infringing material. It was a relationship that got the company into trouble on various occasions.

RapidShare fought many legal battles with entertainment companies seeking to hold the company liable for the actions of its users, and to top it off the site was called out by the U.S. Government as a “notorious market.”

Hoping to clear up its image the company made tremendous efforts to cooperate with copyright holders and limit copyright infringements. Among other things, the company adopted one of the most restrictive sharing policies while (re)branding itself as a personal cloud storage service.

The anti-piracy measures seemed to work, but as a result RapidShare’s visitor numbers plunged. The dwindling revenues eventually cost most of RapidShare’s employees their jobs.

Today marks the beginning of the final chapter in RapidShare’s controversial history. The company just announced that it will shut down at the end of March and is recommending that users store their files elsewhere.

rsclosed

“Kindly note that RapidShare will stop the active service on March 31st, 2015. Extensions of STANDARD PLUS and PREMIUM will be possible until February 28th, 2015,” RapidShare writes on its homepage.

“We strongly recommend all customers to secure their data. After March 31st, 2015 all accounts will no longer be accessible and will be deleted automatically,” the company adds.

TF asked the company for further details on the planned shutdown but we have yet to hear back. The most likely explanation is that RapidShare can’t sustain its business with the smaller number of users it has today.

The demise of RapidShare marks the end of an era. Half a decade ago RapidShare was listed among the 50 most-visited sites on the Internet, with hundreds of millions of page-views per month, but in a just a few weeks it will be gone.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Site’s Deal With Police Backfires Massively

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

dreamfilm-polisWhile BitTorrent is considered the king when it comes to obtaining video online, there are other ways to obtain content that eclipse it in ease of use.

So-called ‘streaming’ sites have grown massively in popularity in recent years, largely due to the way they’re presented. Rather than the text-heavy indexes associated with large volume torrent sites, streaming portals present the latest movies and TV shows in a user-friendly interface with plenty of graphics.

What’s more, for the novice ‘pirate’ these sites are simplicity itself. Find a movie, click it, deal with the pop-ups, and in a few moments the latest blockbuster plays in a browser-based YouTube-style window. Even the Swedes, largely proud supporters of The Pirate Bay, have embraced the concept. Sadly for them, however, they’re now one sizable portal down.

In the wake of The Pirate Bay raid in December, Swedish police intensified their focus on one of the country’s top streaming portals, Dreamfilm.se. The site had been growing in popularity for some time but it appears that in recent weeks police had been homing in.

Early January everything seemed fairly normal when the site ran a promotion offering 100 movie tickets to fans who shared the picture below on Facebook. Plenty of people participated.

dreamfilm-polis

On January 14 the site published the Facebook links of 100 winners and requested that they send in their names and addresses to claim their prizes. But just a few weeks later and it’s now all over for Dreamfilm.

“After an administrator was detained and interrogated, it has been mutually agreed that dreamfilm.se will be shut down for good,” the site reveals in a statement.

“The police gave us an ultimatum, to shut down the site and be free, or to keep it online and be detained again.”

It seems that after an extended period trying to close the site, the authorities finally had the upper hand.

“Following controversial interrogation methods it was decided that the site and everything to do with it will be shut down for good. With this, all other administrators decided to resign altogether from the site’s operations with immediate effect,” the site’s operators add.

Thanking users for their dedication over the years, the admins bid farewell to the site and its members. Well, sort of…..

It appears that while some of the site’s admins agreed to close down the site, others did not give the police the same undertakings. They have now broken ranks and created a brand new venture. Today, DreamFilm.se is dead but DreamFilmHD.com lives on in its predecessor’s form.

“By the way, if you are film-goers, then that part of the crew who chose not to resign cloned [DreamFilm.se] to continue on their own,” the former admins say. “The administrators of DreamFilm.se do not in any way endorse this move, but the site is available at: DreamfilmHD.com.”

Sure enough, the replacement site at that address is more or less identical to the site now closed down following an agreement with the police. How this will be viewed by the authorities remains to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that this outcome wasn’t the one they’d hoped for.

At the time of publication Rights Alliance, the anti-piracy outfit behind most file-sharing site complaints in Sweden, had not responded to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Explores I2P Anonymity as VPN Overloads

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

popcorntBranded a “Netflix for Pirates,” the Popcorn Time app quickly gathered a user base of millions of people over the past year.

There are several successful forks of the application available online who all work on their own feature sets.

Popcorn-time.se, has been one of the most active projects. The fork added numerous features and made privacy one of its key selling points.

Last year it was the first fork to roll out a built-in VPN that could be used free of charge. However, with millions of users the associated VPN provider Kebrum had trouble keeping up with the massive demand.

“Our user base grew so quickly and is still growing at a tremendous pace that we’re having difficulties keeping up with the volume. Only a small percentage of the huge number of our users we have can use the VPN simultaneously at the moment,” the Popcorn Time team tells TF.

This motivated the developers to look for various alternatives to keep its users secure. In this quest the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) caught their eye.

“We’re now making the first steps in examining integration of Popcorn Time with the I2P network,” the team explains.

The I2P network has been around for more than a decade but never really caught on with the mainstream public. It operates as an anonymous overlay network, similar to Tor, but is optimized for file-sharing.

One of the major downsides of this type of anonymity is that it may slow down transfer speeds, and that’s also the main concern for the Popcorn Time developers.

“Our biggest question in regards to using the I2P network, and we’re examining this question thoroughly to see if it’s the best solution for anonymity for Popcorn Time, is whether the download speed will be good enough for Popcorn Time to work well and for users to be able to still get the awesome viewing experience they have become accustomed to.”

“We are trying to find ways in which we can use the huge user base Popcorn Time has in order to enhance the speed of I2P to our users,” the Popcorn Time team adds.

In addition to safeguarding the privacy of its users, Popcorn Time is also concerned about attacks on its own infrastructure. Android Planet reports that Popcorn Time also plans to distribute its software through P2P technology, so users can get the latest updates even when the server’s offline.

This is not just a hypothetical situation. A few months ago this fork of Popcorn Time lost its .eu domain name after they were put “under investigation” by the EURid registry, and pressure from copyright holders hasn’t stopped since according to the developers.

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

TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay Left Moldova Before Government Piracy Meeting

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

phoenix1The Pirate Bay is without doubt the most controversial file-sharing site ever to hit the Internet. Even Napster, still mentioned nearly 15 years after its demise, fails to eclipse the sheer number of headlines generated by The ‘Bay.

Throughout the site’s roller-coaster history, one element has remained constant. Sooner or later, one way or another, companies and organizations that provide infrastructure to the notorious site all come under the spotlight.

The latest Internet service provider to become associated with The Pirate Bay is Moldovan-based Trabia, the country’s largest datacenter. In January the ISP said that it supports freedom of speech and “barrier-free Internet usage” but noted that clients – Pirate Bay included – have to obey local and international laws.

It goes without saying that The Pirate Bay has rarely been associated with that kind of compliance so when the site came back online last Saturday, Trabia would’ve had good reasons to expect trouble. However, in the event, it did not do so from the company’s servers, Trabia has announced.

Trabia founder Sven Wiese says the operator of the infamous site contacted the ISP in January to inform the company that it would move to another location. While there’s no real reason to doubt Wiese’s word, it is now fairly difficult to backup the move with hard facts since, as usual, TPB is obfuscating its true location.

Speaking with Moldova.org, Wiese notes that The Pirate Bay is now ‘hosted’ with Cloudflare. While that’s not strictly true (the actual site is bound to be located in a separate hidden location), Cloudflare services are indeed providing a ‘front-end’ to the site.

It’s an interesting situation. After Hollywood pumped cash into Sweden to have local anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance investigate and then raid The Pirate Bay in December, the site has not only resurrected itself but has boldly planted some of its infrastructure firmly in the studios’ backyard.

Use of U.S.-based Cloudflare is not without its issues and has certainly helped the conspiracy theorists. Earlier this week several large publications bought into the notion that The Pirate Bay is now an FBI honeypot. It’s not (and the site will discontinue using it soon) – but if simply using Cloudflare is a cause for concern, let the nail-biting begin.

In addition to the original Pirate Bay, many of the largest Pirate Bay clones and alternatives also use Cloudflare. They include ThePirateBay.com.ua, ThePirateBay.co.in, ThePirateBay.cr, ThePirateBayv2.org and ThePirateBay.lv. Even the largest of them all – OldPirateBay.org – uses Cloudflare in its setup.

Cloudflare hasn’t commented on The Pirate Bay’s use of its services but for Trabia over in Moldova, associations with the site are set to put piracy discussions back on the agenda. According to the State Agency for Intellectual Property (AGEPI), the hosting of the Pirate Bay in the country may have “boosted the notoriety” of Moldova overseas.

“In our country no one doubts that a thief who stole something must be arrested,” said AGEPI deputy Ion Tiganas. “We want to be considered as a country that has laws and where these laws are respected.”

Tiganas says that this month there will be a meeting to discuss intellectual property rights and as a result of The Pirate Bay’s foray into the country, the site will be on the agenda.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Outfit Sends Porn ‘Fines’ to University

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

pirate-cardFor more than a decade copyright holders have been sending out warnings and threats to people they believe have downloaded and shared content without permission. In 2015 the practice is now at unprecedented levels.

While some might agree that targeting student pirates is fair game, it can cause issues. The RIAA got the ball rolling more than ten years ago but abandoned the practice amid public outcry – and after having new laws passed which compel educational establishments to deal with the issue or lose funding.

But while receiving a notice about an unauthorized music download is one thing, receiving a threat over porn downloads is something entirely different. Nevertheless, students are now receiving cash demands from anti-piracy companies acting on behalf of the adult industry which include the titles of the movies allegedly downloaded.

Two such cases have just been documented by the University of California in Santa Barbara. The University reports that the Associated Students Legal Resources Center received two cases inside a week after students were sent threats by anti-piracy outfit CEG TEK via the University’s Information Technology Office and Cox Communications.

The threats included demands for $300, which AS Legal Resource Center attorney Robin Unander told the University’s Daily Nexus were deterrent amounts and not designed to be compensation.

“Right now it seems that the intent from CEG Tek is to make aware to students to stop,” Unander said.

Sadly, Unander is seems unaware of CEG Tek’s business model. The outfit regularly demands much higher sums, up to several thousand dollars, and is very clear that payments are to be made to avoid legal action.

ceg-tek

Unander also advises students who are caught by CEG TEK to comply with the cash demands but CEG TEK have no history of ever carrying a threat through to its conclusion. Indeed, the company has no idea who they are targeting since their threats are forwarded by ISPs to users and only they know the identity of the recipient.

But while the advice given above may be a little wide of the mark, comments made by UCSB computer science professor Giovanni Vigna are of greater concern. From the Daily Nexus:

Computer science professor Giovanni Vigna said he thinks the students who allegedly downloaded the porn illegally made their usage easy to track by using a website like BitTorrent.com, which makes it accessible for anyone, including anti-piracy firms, to see what they have downloaded

Of course, BitTorrent.com certainly isn’t offering porn downloads to anyone but it’s the subsequent advice that raises the biggest alarm. Things start off well, however.

“If people use well-known content distribution networks, those users can be easily tracked,” Vigna said.

Fair enough, but then Vigna suggests that if BitTorrent users only download and don’t continue to seed once the file is complete, they wouldn’t have received a threat.

“After [students have] downloaded, they make [the files] available to the rest of the world and they usually raise a sort of alarm. If they would have probably taken the porn and movies out of their disk right away, they probably wouldn’t have been targeted,” Vigna said.

The advice is poor. What many BitTorrent users don’t appreciate is that anti-piracy companies monitor torrents of their clients’ content all the time and they don’t care whether users have some or all of the file. Once people start participating in a swarm, whether that’s downloading, uploading or both (such is the nature of BitTorrent) they can and will be tracked by companies such as CEG TEK.

While it’s now clear that the University of California forwards CEG TEK cash demands to students, they’re not the only ones. According to the Cashman Law Firm, Rice University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, Wisconsin University and the University of Alaska all comply with the company’s requests.

Finally, other anti-piracy companies see an alternative solution to the problem of campus file-sharing. Yesterday digital fingerprinting company Audible Magic debuted a new version of its CopySense system.

CopySense can monitor campus networks for users attempting to download and share content on peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent. Using a built-in database of digital fingerprints of music and movies, CopySense is able to detect attempts by users to download or share infringing content. They are then directed to a landing page informing them of the University’s network policies.

“Sharing of non-copyrighted files on P2P networks is ignored, thus allowing the campus to embrace and allow P2P file sharing for non-infringing uses,” the company says.

While that will be some comfort to users, the fact that everything they do is being spied on by Audible Magic will probably not.

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

TorrentFreak: Android Dev ‘Punishes’ Pirates at the Behest of Reddit

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

walkplankIt doesn’t really matter what kind of digital media a company or individual produces, it’s a given that someone, somewhere, will attempt to pirate it.

Software, which has traditionally been expensive to buy, has always been targeted by those with small budgets seeking to enjoy products often placed out of reach. But price doesn’t always provide an excuse for those obtaining software without permission. With the rise of smart phones and tablet computers, software has become cheaper than ever, with many paid apps now available for just a few dollars.

One such app is Today Calendar Pro from UK developer Jack Underwood. It’s an already popular replacement calendar for Android with 4.5 stars from several thousand voters on Google Play. However, like many devs, Underwood is trying to find a way to bring down piracy rates. Just a few hours ago he revealed to Reddit users that 85% of people are using pirate versions of his app.

How to reduce that volume quickly became the topic of conversation. Some Reddit users were very aggressive but Underwood eventually settled on a more gentle approach.

“Today Calendar Pro has a 85% piracy rate, so the way we’ve chosen to combat that is to have the app randomly insert pirate-themed events if the app decides the install is pirated,” Underwood told TorrentFreak.

The first one, which has already been implemented, sees a graphical depiction of a plank suspended over shark-infested waters alongside a subtle reminder – “That’s what ye get fer piratin’ matey.”

pirate-matey

But despite the huge piracy rates, Underwood is surprisingly pragmatic. The developer informs TF that he actually ‘gets’ piracy and understands the mindset behind it.

“I’m not against piracy, from either a consumer or developer standpoint – I can totally understand why people pirate Today Calender. They want to try it out for an extended period of time, or they can’t afford to buy it, or they don’t think it’s worth the asking price, and that’s 100% fine with me,” he says.

Nevertheless, there’s no getting away from the fact that almost 9 out of 10 people using the Pro version aren’t paying the $6 price tag. Underwood feels there could be two reasons.

“Maybe it’s far too convenient to pirate (for the consumer, not the cracker), and the cost of the pro version is more than the convenience of updates from the Play Store. Or perhaps it’s not actually worth $6,” he says.

“Obviously I’m a little biased, but personally I think it’s worth $6 to people who use a calendar app on a daily basis. I also update the app a lot, probably three times a week.”

In the meantime Underwood will stick with more unorthodox ways of tackling piracy – he has no interest in investing time in the old tried-and-failed methods.

“Fighting piracy in a traditional way is a waste of time in my eyes, software will get cracked anyway. The majority of people who pirate my apps wouldn’t have bought them anyway, so it’s not as if I’m losing 85% of my revenue. In any event, I’d rather spend that time making Today more awesome.”

People who do decide to pirate Today Calender Pro will find it easily using Google, but Underwood hopes that the ‘special events’ appearing in the app at surprise intervals might encourage people to spend $6 if they find the software useful long-term.

“These events wont start occurring instantly, but when they do they’ll happen a lot – so the cracker (at first) won’t see the event coming, but once they start, they might get annoying quite quickly.

“The plan is that people will get so bored of being invited to ‘pirate parties’ and being told to walk the plank that they’ll give up and just buy the thing,” Underwood concludes.

Those who do want to spend $6 can do so here, but for everyone else there’s a free ad-supported version. Those choosing to use unauthorized sources can do so, but expect to be invited to pirate-themed parties – every Tharrrrrsday.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Release Group Members Plead Guilty

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

factPlacing unreleased movies onto the Internet whilst located in the UK is a risky business and one likely to attract the attention of anti-piracy companies if done on a large-scale.

FACT, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, are particularly vigilant in this area and have launch numerous investigations into those it believes have infringed their movie partners’ copyrights.

On February 1 2013, FACT announced that they had joined police officers from the Economic Crime Unit to carry out raids in the UK targeting four addresses in the West Midlands.

Following a hearing in September 2014, the case was heard in Wolverhampton Crown Court this week. It’s the culmination of three years’ investigative work by FACT into the “source and supply” of copyrighted movies.

The accused are: Graeme Reid, 40, from Chesterfield, Scott Hemming, 25, and Reece Baker, 22, both from Birmingham, Sahil Rafiq, 24, of Wolverhampton and Ben Cooper, 33, of Willenhall.

In line with previous FACT-led prosecutions, copyright infringement is completely off the table. All men pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud a charge that previously saw SurfTheChannel’s Anton Vickerman jailed for four years.

In an earlier FACT press release the men were referred to as members of The Scene but one of the accused informs TorrentFreak that simply isn’t true.

“They say we were in The Scene – no, we were P2P,” he said.

Unless other connections come out in court, his claims appear to be true.

TorrentFreak has learned that the investigation spanned several BitTorrent-based release groups including 26K, RemixHD and UNiQUE, plus torrent sites Unleashthe.net (the site run by busted US-based release group IMAGiNE) and TheResistance.

remixhd-releases

Nevertheless, the case marks the first time that a group of movie releasers have ever gone to court in the UK and the signs are not promising for the men. Big numbers are being thrown around including the unauthorized release of up to 9,000 movies alongside claims that up to five million people may have viewed them.

At the end of the hearing the men were released on bail. They’re now in the hands of FACT’s private prosecution and whatever the court decides is an appropriate sentence following their guilty pleas. The extent of both will be revealed at a hearing later in the year.

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

TorrentFreak: Music Group Threatens Popcorn Time’s Blog Platform

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

popcorncensorIn a few weeks time the Popcorn Time phenomenon will reach a symbolic milestone` when the ‘Netflix for Pirates’ celebrates its first birthday.

Of course, after serving millions of users in a short space of time, copyright holders have their eyes on the now-several forks of the popular project. Today we have news of yet another effort to limit the software’s reach.

PopcornTime.io is considered by many to be the true successor to the original Popcorn Time project that was shut down just weeks after it launched in 2014. Its development team is proudly open source and operates with an ethos closely aligned with that of the original team. It also receives similar legal threats and the latest to involve the project is somewhat of a head-scratcher.

PopcornTime.io has a blog where it publishes important updates. The latest entry heralds the project’s latest Android client in all its bug-fixed glory. It’s presented using the Ghost open source blogging platform and quite bizarrely copyright holders are trying to change that.

“The Greek equivalent of RIAA are threatening @TryGhost with legal action because we host @popcorntimetv’s blog,” Ghost founder John O’Nolan said this week.

“Good luck with that, Greece.”

Somewhat intrigued, TorrentFreak contacted O’Nolan – the former Deputy Head of the WordPress UI Group – who confirmed the threats.

“We were incredibly shocked to be contacted by a representative in 2015 requesting the personal information of one of our users without any basis. The clear lack of understanding here is worrying on many levels,” O’Nolan told TF.

And it gets worse. In the first instance O’Nolan thought that his company was actually hosting Popcorn Time’s blog, but in fact its being hosted by the project itself. All O’Nolan does is offer the completely neutral Ghost blogging platform.

To try and get to the bottom of this curious situation we contacted the organization targeting Popcorn Time. AEPI, the Greek Society for the Protection of Intellectual Property, did not officially respond to our request for comment. However, we did manage to learn more about this music group’s claim.

It appears that since Popcorn Time allows people to download movies and TV shows that have music playing in the background, AEPI believes that Popcorn Time should pay royalties and/or a music licensing fee to do so legally in Greece.

While it seems unlikely that the project is interested in any such license, the complaint to Ghost has only warmed relations between the blogging platform and Popcorn Time.

“If you ever have a need for more security/encryption features – don’t hesitate to reach out,” O’Nolan ‏informed the project. “Likewise if you have any trouble with your current host, we’ll host you.”

And as far as Popcorn Time are concerned, there’s only one blogging platform for them.

“We use Ghost as our blogging platform because it’s lightweight yet packed full of features. Unlike WordPress you can concentrate on writing your post. Throw in the fact it’s open source and written on Node.js and it’s the perfect match!” the team told TF.

It’s not been a good 2015 for AEPI thus far. Earlier this month the anti-piracy group lost its bid to have various torrent sites blocked by local ISPs. The Athens Court ruled that barring access to torrent sites such as KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay would be disproportionate, unconstitutional, and would hinder ISPs’ entrepreneurial freedoms.

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

TorrentFreak: Canadian Government Spies on Millions of File-Sharers

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

spyBeing monitored online is a reality largely acknowledged by millions of file-sharers worldwide. Countless rightsholders, anti-piracy outfits, analytics companies and other interested parties crawl BitTorrent and other P2P networks every day, spying on downloads and gathering data.

While the public nature of these networks is perfect for those looking to eavesdrop, individuals who use file-hosting sites are often under the impression that their transfers cannot be monitored by third parties since transactions take place privately from user to site via HTTP.

That assumption has today been blown completely out of the water amid revelations that Canada’s top electronic surveillance agency has been spying on millions of downloads from more than 100 file-sharing sites.

Led by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Canada’s equivalent of the NSA, and codenamed LEVITATION, the project unveils widespread Internet surveillance carried out by Canadian authorities.

A document obtained by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and released to CBC News shows that in an effort to track down extremists the spy agency monitors up to 15 million downloads carried out by users around the world every day.

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According to the 2012 document, 102 file-sharing platforms were monitored by CSE. Just three were named – RapidShare, SendSpace, and the now defunct Megaupload. None of the sites were required to cooperate with the Canadian government since CSE had its own special capabilities.

“A separate secret CSE operation codenamed ATOMIC BANJO obtains the data directly from internet cables that it has tapped into, and the agency then sifts out the unique IP address of each computer that downloaded files from the targeted websites,” The Intercept‘s analysis of the document notes.

Once harvested those IP addresses are cross-referenced with vast amounts of additional data already intercepted by the United States’ NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ. Subsequent searches have the ability to show a list of other websites visited by those downloading from file-hosting sites.

Further associations can then be made with Facebook or Google accounts (via Google analytics cookies) which have the potential to link to names, addresses and other personal details. It’s a potent mix but one apparently designed to weed out just a small number of files from millions of daily events.

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According to the LEVITATION documents the system has the ability to track downloads in countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and North America.

Under law, CSE isn’t allowed to spy on Canadians, but IP addresses belonging to a web server in Montreal appeared in a list of “suspicious” downloads. Also monitored by CSE were downloads carried out by citizens located in closely allied countries including the U.S., UK, Germany and Spain.

“CSE is clearly mandated to collect foreign signals intelligence to protect Canada and Canadians from a variety of threats to our national security, including terrorism,” CSE spokesman Andrew McLaughlin told CBC.

While it may be of comfort for Canadians to learn that the government is only interested in a small number of files being exchanged outside the country’s borders, mass surveillance of this kind always has the potential to unnerve when mission-creep raises its head.

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

TorrentFreak: Amazon Bans BitTorrent App FrostWire Over Piracy Concerns

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

fwlogoTaking “infringing” apps out of popular app stores is one of Hollywood’s key anti-piracy priorities for the years to come.

Various copyright holder groups frequently report “piracy-enabling” apps to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, alongside requests for the stores to take them offline.

The stores themselves also screen for potentially problematic software. Apple, for example, has notoriously banned all BitTorrent related apps.

This week, Amazon is following in Apple’s footsteps by banning one of the most used BitTorrent clients from its store. The Android version of FrostWire had been listed for well over a year but Amazon recently had a change of heart.

FrostWire developer Angel Leon tells TF that the app was removed without prior warning. When he asked the company for additional details, he was told that Amazon sees his app as a pirate tool.

“In reviewing your app, we determined that it can be used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content. Any facilitation of piracy or illegal downloads is not allowed in our program,” Amazon’s support team writes.

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Leon was baffled by the response. FrostWire had been a member of the Developer Select program for over a year and always made sure to avoid any links to piracy. On the contrary, FrostWire was actively promoting Creative Commons downloads and other legal content.

“We have never promoted illegal file sharing, we actually promote creative commons downloads, and free legal downloads from soundcloud, archive.org. The app is also a full blown music player, but none of this probably counts,” Leon tells us.

“Web browsers and email clients are still there, programs that also fall in the category of being ‘used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content’,” he adds, pointing out the arbitrary decision.

While it’s not clear why Amazon changed its stance towards FrostWire, it wouldn’t be a surprise if pressure from copyright holders played a role.

FrostWire’s developer believes that the mobile developer industry may have to come up with a less censorship prone store in the future. There’s a need for a decentralized app store that secures the interests of both iOS and Android developers.

For now, Leon hopes that other stores will be less eager to pull the plug on perfectly legal apps. While it may seem to be a small decision for the stores, having a popular app removed can ruin a developer’s entire business.

The beauty of FrostWire and other BitTorrent clients is that they offer the freedom to share files with people from all over the world without being censored. Restricting access to apps that make this possible will harm society, Leon believes.

“This is a freedom which eventually protects society from the likes of totalitarian governments, something some of us at FrostWire have lived first hand in Latin America, something that forced me and so many Venezuelans to leave our countries and start again from scratch in the US,” Leon concludes.

Despite being banned from Amazon’s store, Kindle users will still be able to get updates via the FrostWire website. A special installer for Kindle will be available soon.

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

TorrentFreak: Unprecedented Music Piracy Collapse Fails to Boost Revenues

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

piracydownAfter years of effort and expenditure, in 2013 Norway introduced new legislation to crack down on Internet piracy. It gave rightsholders new powers to track down file-sharers and have sites blocked at the ISP level.

To date and despite various threats not a single file-sharer has been prosecuted. No sites – not even the Pirate Bay – have been blocked. However, news coming out of Norway suggests that at least as far as the music industry goes, those legislative weapons are now obsolete.

During December 2014 music industry group IFPI conducted a nationwide survey among under 30-year-olds and discovered some amazing things about the piracy landscape in Norway.

According to the survey results, just 4% of respondents are now using illegal file-sharing platforms to obtain music. While that figure is certainly impressive, MBW compares that finding with the results of a similar 2009 IFPI survey which found that a huge 70% of the population under 30 used those platforms to obtain music.

mbw-stats

The drop is certainly dramatic, especially when coupled with the fact that less than 1% of respondents now cite file-sharing networks as their main source of obtaining music. What is telling, however, is that IFPI Norway chief Marte Thorsby did not connect the drop with anti-piracy measures.

“We are now offering services that are both better and more user-friendly than illegal platforms. In [the past] five years, we have virtually eliminated illegal file sharing in the music industry,” Thorsby said.

The December survey also found that 80% of under 30-year-olds now use streaming services as their main source of music.

“Younger audiences are using streaming services to the greatest extent. When older audiences [start] embracing these services we will probably see a somewhat different distribution of revenues,” Thorsby told MBW. “Hopefully this will also involve a better economy for several Norwegian artists and record companies.”

But while the drop in piracy will certainly be welcomed by the industry, it appears young people fleeing file-sharing networks has done nothing to boost revenues.

In 2009 revenues were NOK 592 million ($75.94m) yet by 2014 there had only been a modest increase to NOK 601 million ($77.1m). That’s just a 1.5% uplift in five years, not accounting for inflation. Place that into the equation and in real terms revenues are down.

That being said, that particular period witnessed a dramatic change in the supply model, with physical giving way massively to digital purchases. In 2009 just 15% of content was supplied in digital format but by 2014 that had reached 86%.

For IFPI to claim the virtual elimination of music piracy is certainly an important if not unprecedented event but the take-home is simple. Provide people with effective and engaging legal alternatives and piracy becomes irrelevant.

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

TorrentFreak: Cox: We’re Not Responsible For Pirating Customers

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

cox-logoFor more than a decade copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices to alert account holders that someone’s been using their connection to share copyrighted material.

These notifications have to be forwarded under the DMCA law and are meant to deter Internet subscribers from sharing unauthorized material.

Cox Communications is one of the ISPs that forwards these notices. The ISP also implemented a strict set of rules of its own accord to ensure that its customers understand the severity of the allegations.

According to some copyright holders, however, Cox’s efforts are falling short. Last month BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music sued the ISP because it fails to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers.

The companies, which control the publishing rights to songs by Katy Perry, The Beatles and David Bowie among others, claimed that Cox has given up its DMCA safe harbor protections due to this inaction.

The case is a critical test for the repeat infringer clause of the DMCA and the safe harbor protections ISPs enjoy.

Today Cox replied (pdf) to the complaint, denying pretty much all allegations put forward by the music publishers. In addition, the ISP briefly outlined various defenses it submits in reply.

The company argues that the claims against the company are barred for a wide range of reasons. Cox had no knowledge of the infringements, for example, and never had the intent to induce, profit from, or materially contribute to piracy conducted by its customers.

In addition the ISP notes that the claim of vicarious liability falls flat because the company has no controlling (Respondeat superior) relationship with its customers.

While the responses are very brief, and have yet to be detailed in the future, Cox also argues that the music publishers may not have the proper copyrights to some of the works that are at stake.

“Plaintiffs’ claims are barred to the extent they do not own copyrights in the works underlying their claims,” they note,

In addition, Cox’s lawyers argue that “the doctrine of copyright misuse” bars their claims, suggesting that BMG and Round Hill Music used abusive or improper practices in exploiting or enforcing copyright.

The latter may refer to the settlement schemes the publishers are engaged in together with Rightscorp. A few weeks ago Rightscorp and its clients were sued for fraud, harassment and abuse for their controversial anti-piracy actions.

The case will now move forward with both sides substantiating their claims during the months to come. Given the importance of the issue at hand it wouldn’t be a surprise if other ISPs and web services such as Google also chime in.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Site Blockades Are Disproportional, Greek Court Rules

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

censorshipSite blocking actions have become relatively common throughout Europe over the past several years. Copyright groups have won court cases in various countries including the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and France.

The rightsholders typically argue that ‘pirate’ sites infringe their rights and demand that ISPs stop forwarding traffic to them. This was also the plan in Greece, where the Greek Society for the Protection of Intellectual Property (AEPI) sued local ISPs two years ago.

AEPI wanted the Internet providers to block access to The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, isoHunt, 1337x and H33T, plus several local sites. The group argued that the sites damage their members’ businesses, but the ISPs countered this request by pointing out that censorship is not the answer.

A few days ago the Athens Court reached its conclusion which largely sides with the ISPs. The ruling states that blockades are disproportional and in violation of various constitutional rights.

Among other things, such measures would breach people’s right to freedom of information, confidential communications and protections against the collection, processing and use of personal data.

One of the problems the Court signaled is that the torrent sites also contain links to files that are distributed legally. These would be needlessly censored by the blockades.

In addition the verdict doubts that the blockades will be effective to begin with, as there are various circumvention options for site owners and users.

The Court further referenced the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, noting that ISPs’ “freedom to conduct a business” is at stake, as well as net neutrality principles.

“…the requested injunction goes contrary to Article 16 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, violating the rights of defendants providers in entrepreneurship, and the basic principle of Internet neutrality, which provides that all information must be handled without discrimination,” it notes.

TF spoke with Dr. Konstantinos Komaitis, an expert in Internet governance and intellectual property, who argues that in such cases proportionality is key in determining the appropriate balance.

“The decision by the Greek Court is very well thought and reasoned both from a legal and technology perspectives,” Komaitis says.

Komaitis explains that other, more appropriate and technology neutral measures should be considered, because blocking torrent sites would interfere with the right to freely share and receive information. In addition the measures are unnecessary and ineffective, since users would be able to find ways to get past the blockades.

“On the technology side, the Court correctly understood that torrent technology can — and has been – used for legal purposes, so blocking would not only be ineffective but also jeopardize its legal use,” Komaitis adds.

“All in all, the Court’s decision demonstrates two things: first, proportionality is an unwavering principle in the Greek legal system that is able to strike a very important balance between various rights; and, second, the ability of courts to understand and protect technologies that are part of an innovative Internet environment.”

The Greek verdict is similar to that of a Dutch Appeals court in The Hague last year, which ruled that the local blockade of The Pirate Bay had to be lifted.

In Greece AEPI still has the option to appeal the verdict, but whether they plan to do so is unknown at the moment. For the time being, however, the targeted torrent sites remain accessible.

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