Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: HBO Targets Torrent Users Over Game of Thrones Leak

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

got5Last week’s pre-release leak of four Game of Thrones episodes is one of the most prominent piracy cases in TV history.

The first copies, leaked from a review screener, quickly spread across public torrent sites and were downloaded millions of times.

While most piracy occurred through BitTorrent, HBO seemed mostly concerned with a few dozen people who watched a shoddy stream via Twitter’s Periscope. Behind the scenes, however, BitTorrent pirates were targeted as well.

Over the past week HBO sent out a flurry of takedown notices to those who shared the controversial leaks in public. TF has seen several notices, which all come in the standard format.

Through its anti-piracy partner IP-Echelon, HBO instructs Internet providers to relay the alerts to the account holder associated with the infringing IP-address.

“1. Contact the subscriber who has engaged in the conduct described above and take steps to prevent the subscriber from further downloading or uploading HBO content without authorization.”

In addition, ISPs may want to take additional measures such as disconnecting the accounts of repeat infringers.

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

As is always the case with DMCA notices, HBO doesn’t know the identity of the alleged pirates, so there are no legal strings attached.

gotpirateNonetheless, HBO hopes that the warnings will deter some from downloading future episodes. And indeed, some users may panic when they see that their downloads were flagged.

Not all warnings are effective though. Some DMCA notices were directed at VPN users who can’t be identified and never get to see the warnings in question.

It’s clear that containing the Game of Thrones leaks is important for HBO, but the DMCA notices themselves are nothing new. The company has been sending these out for various shows over the years, they just never got much attention.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Threats Trigger Massive Surge in VPN Usage

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

ausThis week news broke that the makers of Dallas Buyers Club have the court’s approval to go after 4,726 alleged movie pirates in Australia, opening the door to many more copyright lawsuits.

Around the same time the country’s largest Internet providers submitted their online anti-piracy code, announcing that 200,000 piracy warnings will be sent out each year.

Facing increased monitoring and potential legal action many file-sharers have taken counter measures, hiding their IP-addresses so their sharing activities can no longer be linked to their ISP account.

Early March, the initial announcement of the warning letters already increased interest in VPNs and other anonymizing services, but this week’s surge broke new records.

Data from Google trends reveals that interest in anonymizing services has soared, with searches for “VPN” quadrupling in recent weeks. This effect, shown in the graph below, is limited to Australia and likely a direct result of the recent anti-piracy threats.

aussievpn

The effects are clearly noticeable at VPN providers as well, in both traffic and sales. TorGuard, a VPN and BitTorrent proxy provider, has seen the number of Australian visitors spike this week, for example.

“Over the past week TorGuard has seen a massive jump in Australian subscribers. Traffic from this region is currently up over 150% and recent trends indicate that the upsurge is here to stay,” TorGuard’s Ben Van der Pelt tells us.

“VPN router sales to Australia have also increased significantly with AU orders now representing 50% of all weekly shipments.”

TorGuard traffic from Australia
TorGuardAU

The recent events are expected to drive tens of thousands of new users to anonymizing services. However, it appears that even before the surge they were already commonly used Down Under.

A survey among 1,008 Australians early March showed that 16% of the respondents already used VPNs or Tor to increase privacy. The Essential survey shows that anonymizing tools are most prevalent among people aged 18-34.

While copyright holders don’t like the increased interest in these evasion tools, it may not all be bad news.

In fact, to a certain degree it shows that pirates are spooked by the new initiatives. Where some decide to go underground, others may choose to pirate less. And for the “trolls” there are still plenty of unsecured file-sharers out there.

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

TorrentFreak: Aussies Set For 200,000 Piracy Notices Per Year Under New Code

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

Just 24 hours ago Australia was abuzz with the news that U.S.-based Voltage Pictures will now be allowed to launch a so-called ‘speculative invoicing’ scheme Down Under.

The company will obtain the names of people behind ISP accounts linked to the unlawful sharing of their works online and pursue them for cash settlements. It’s a business model with a grubby reputation, one that mainstream rightsholders have largely steered away from in recent years.

Instead, the world’s largest entertainment companies are focusing their efforts on schemes designed to educate citizens, those in Australia included, in the hope that they will voluntarily change their online media consumption habits.

The local result is today’s publication of ‘Industry Code C653:2015, Copyright Notice Scheme’(pdf), the anti-piracy framework hammered out by telecoms companies and key entertainment industry companies including ARIA, Australia Screen Association, Foxtel, Music Rights Australia, News Corporation and Village Roadshow.

A draft was presented in February but today’s paper represents its final form following more than 370 public submissions.

While there have been some tweaks and clarifications, the majority of the core policies outlined in the earlier publication remain the same. ISPs providing fixed access services to 1,000 account holders or more will take part, which amounts to roughly 70 local service providers.

Vision

According to telecoms body the Communications Alliance, the scheme will have “a strong emphasis on public education” and does not contain “explicit sanctions against internet users”. While it does have ‘teeth’ (we’ll come to that shortly), informing subscribers comes first.

Notices

The three-step notice process remains, with account holders receiving ‘educational’, ‘warning’ and then ‘final’ notices each subsequent time their IP addresses are connected to infringing activity online. Only users of P2P systems such as BitTorrent are affected.

“Any Account Holder who receives three Notices within a 12 month period will have the option to seek a review conducted by an independent Adjudication Panel,” the paper reads.

Appeals against notices, consumer protection

One significant change is the elimination of a fee if a subscriber feels he or she has been wrongly issued with a notice. While subscribers can appeal against any notice, so-called ‘Challenge Notices’ can only be sent to the adjudication panel upon receipt of a ‘Final’ notice.

Rightsholders will pick up the tab on appeals for now but if any abuse of the appeal process is observed, fees could be reintroduced.

There will also be “stronger consumer representation” on the Copyright Information Panel, the body that will oversee the notice scheme and operate the website setup to educate the public.

The sting in the tail

There are no disconnections or suspensions for subscribers who don’t get the message after three warnings but the scheme does have a potentially tougher lesson up its sleeve.

By accommodating a ‘facilitated preliminary discovery’ process, ISPs will be expected to assist (not challenge) copyright holders who decide to take legal action against persistent infringers.

“Where an Account Holder has received three Notices within a 12 month period and a Rights Holder files an application for preliminary discovery in a prescribed court seeking access to the Account Holder’s details, ISPs will act reasonably in relation to the preliminary discovery application,” the paper reads.

“It remains a matter for the Court to decide whether preliminary discovery should be granted. An Account Holder’s details will not be provided by ISPs to Rights Holders in the absence of a court order.”

Notice volume and who will pay

Considering that the issue of costs has been derailing anti-piracy discussion between ISPs and rightsholders for many years, the speed at which this code has been agreed after government issued an ultimatum last year is somewhat surprising.

However, it appears that who will pay is not only still undecided, but could also remain a secret even when it is.

“There are still some commercial details, including elements of the scheme funding arrangements, to be finalized and the finished product must meet the approval of the ACMA,” says Communication Alliance CEO, John Stanton.

The current agreement allows for up to 200,000 notices to be processed and sent by all ISPs during each 12 months of the scheme’s operation. However, if rightsholders subsequently deem that number to be insufficient to achieve their objectives, further financial negotiations can take place with ISPs with a view to them sending more.

“Any funding arrangements must be designed to ensure that smaller ISPs are not unduly burdened by the requirements of the scheme,” the code adds.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority will now consider whether to register the code. Once put into place, the effectiveness of the scheme will independently evaluated 18 months after launch.

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

TorrentFreak: Spanish Court Orders First Pirate Music Site Block

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

goearAfter long maintaining a reputation for being one of the softest countries in Europe on piracy, in recent years Spain has really toughened up its approach to online infringement.

Last month the strength of new legislation became evident when a Madrid court gave local Internet service providers just 72 hours to block notorious torrent site The Pirate Bay (TPB).

The legal action against TPB was launched by the Association of Intellectual Rights Management (AGEDI) last year, but that wasn’t the only domain in the anti-piracy group’s sights. AGEDI and music group Promusicae had also been targeting Goear, an unlicensed music streaming service providing access to an estimated four million tracks.

goear

Early efforts to bring down the site didn’t go to plan when a Madrid court refused to issue an order to block the site’s IP address back in March 2014. Undeterred, AGEDI responded with an appeal and complaint to the country’s Intellectual Property Commission.

Complaining that Goear provides access to copyrighted music without any permission from artists or rightsholders, AGEDI built a case highlighting commercial aspects of the site, particularly its advertising efforts which offered to put products in front of three million registered users via “millions of quality impressions.”

Goear had previously actioned some copyright takedowns, AGEDI said, but it was never enough to keep up with the rate that infringing content reappeared on the site.

After reviewing the case the National Court has now sided with AGEDI. Handing down an order similar to that issued last month in respect of The Pirate Bay, local ISPs have been given just 72 hours to block the site at the subscriber level. Currently the Goear website is hosted in the Netherlands.

“This new resolution adds to the one recently handed down in Spain against The Pirate Bay and confirms web blockades as the only effective measure to eliminate the websites that violate intellectual property rights,” said Promusicae and AGEDI president, Antonio Guisasola.

“The block against Goear means that the site will no longer be able to profit from the works of others. I always insist on the absolute need to act decisively to stop these kinds of sites that represent true unfair competition to other [authorized sites] that offer all the guarantees for consumers and producers of music.”

Whether local users will rush to unblock the site will remain to be seen. There are many dozens of similar portals offering access to the same level of content, none of which appear to be shutting down anytime soon.

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

TorrentFreak: Top Torrent Tracker Knocked Offline Over “Infringing Hashes”

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

opentrackerIn recent years Coppersurfer.tk has quickly become one of the most used BitTorrent trackers.

Running on the beerware-licensed Opentracker software, the standalone tracker offers a non-commercial service which doesn’t host or link to torrent files themselves.

The free service coordinates the downloads of 10 million people at any given point in time, processing roughly billions of connections per month.

However, since last weekend Coppersurfer.tk has been offline. Responding to a complaint from Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, hosting provider LeaseWeb suddenly pulled the plug.

According to a LeaseWeb rep “torrents are illegal” and the company had no other option than to shut down the tracker.

This came as quite a surprise to the operator, since his service doesn’t link to or host torrent files. In fact, Coppersurfer doesn’t know what titles are tracked or where all the corresponding torrents are stored.

coppers

Hoping to resolve the matter the tracker operator reached out to BREIN, pointing out that he provided a content neutral service. However, the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group disagreed.

One of the problems for BREIN is that The Pirate Bay uses Coppersurfer as a default tracker. This means that all torrents shared through the site are automatically tracked by the service.

“Your claim that a tracker can be compared to a neutral internet service provider is not correct. The Coppersurfer tracker is far from neutral. You are aware that your tracker is used for torrents of illegal websites like ThePiratebay,” BREIN’s Pieter Haringsma replied.

“There is no question about the fact that ThePirateBay is an illegal website, which is being blocked in numerous countries and, whose founders have been sentenced to jail. You know that your tracker is added automatically to all the torrents that are uploaded to that website,” he added.

Interestingly, BREIN is willing to make a deal with the tracker owner if he agrees to blocklist infringing hashes. In addition, BREIN demands that the owner identifies himself claiming that all commercial services are required to so under the European e-commerce directive.

“That is why you have the obligation to check [The Pirate Bay] and blacklist all illegal titles of that site, because you know that your tracker is added automatically to all the torrents that are uploaded to that website,” Haringsma wrote.

“Once you have stepped out of anonymity and have implemented measures to avoid illegal use of your tracker by blacklisting illegal torrents from ThePiratebay, BREIN is prepared to discuss the terms of a proper [takedown] procedure that Coppersurfer should put in place, including e.g. enforceable penalties,” he added.

The Coppersurfer operator is surprised by the broad demands and has chosen not to comply.

If a standalone tracker should ban hashes, should browsers and torrent clients do the same? He also fails to see how a non-profit service that doesn’t even require a website, can be seen as online commerce.

While LeaseWeb is no longer an option, the tracker operator hopes to put the service back online at another hosting company. Another option would be to donate it to an organization that’s dedicated to protecting free speech digital rights.

“My plans now are to seek a new home. I’m searching for a cheap server with 100Mbps/unmetered connection,” he informs TF.

“I could also give the tracker for free to any organization related to free speech and human progress,” he adds.

TF contacted LeaseWeb for a clarification on the “torrents are illegal” but at the time of publication we hadn’t heard back. The above example suggests, however, that hosting torrent related services in the Netherlands is getting more difficult.

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

TorrentFreak: Research: Piracy Increases Literacy and Access to Knowledge

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

piratesdillemmaIn Western countries piracy is often seen as a leisure tool, granting people unauthorized access to the latest hits and Hollywood blockbusters.

However, there are also parts of the world where piracy is frequently used as a means to gather and spread knowledge. In parts of Africa, for example, where legal access to educational books and software is often restricted or unavailable.

Over the years we have seen various illustrations of the educational importance of piracy in developing countries. When the e-book portal Library.nu was shut down, for instance, we were contacted by a United Nations worker in Kenya, who voiced his disappointment.

“I am very concerned about the recent injunction against library.nu. The site was particularly useful for people like me working in Nairobi, a city that has no more than four bookshops with nothing but bestsellers,” the UN worker informed TF at the time.

In an effort to determine how piracy affects literacy and the spread of knowledge, the African Governance and Development Institute conducted an in-depth study comparing piracy and human development data from 11 African countries.

The findings, presented in a paper titled “The Impact of Software Piracy on Inclusive Human Development: Evidence from Africa” show that “software piracy increases literacy”.

“Adoption of tight IPRs regimes may negatively affect human development by diminishing the literacy rate and restricting diffusion of knowledge,” the authors write.

Not all copyright protection measures have a negative effect though, and the researchers found that is negatively linked to the human development index.

“Adherence to international IPRs protection treaties (laws) may not impede per capita economic prosperity and could improve life-expectancy,” the paper reads.

The paper reports mostly correlational data so it’s not unthinkable that countries where human development is higher have less need to pirate, as there are better alternatives.

The reverse effect could also apply to the literacy findings but according to the researchers this is unlikely. Researcher Simplice Asongu informed TF that his previous work showed a causal effect from piracy on scientific publications.

“I tested the impact of piracy on scientific publications and established a positive causality flowing from the former to the latter,” Asongu says.

From that research, it was concluded that African countries with less copyright restrictions on software will substantially boost the spread of knowledge through scientific and technical publications.

The findings reported here are limited to the effect of software piracy, but it’s not hard to see how book piracy may also positively influence literacy and the spread of knowledge.

In sum, the research suggests that piracy does have its positive sides, especially in terms of human development. Still, it seems unlikely that rightsholders will take that into account when lobbying for new policy changes.

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

TorrentFreak: Strike Becomes Totally Dynamic With No Torrents to Takedown

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

Last month we published an article on Strike, a new torrent site with a fresh approach.

In addition to a less-is-more philosophy when displaying results, Strike obtains torrent data not only from all public trackers but also BitTorrent’s Distributed Hash Table (DHT), a first in the torrent world as far as we’re aware.

But since that piece a couple of weeks ago, Strike has been under attack from multiple directions.

“The first major one was a DDOS attack, I’m still not sure who or why did it, but at 300gb/s they took half of my servers offline; some are still off and will probably never come back on because of my hosting provider not wanting to deal with it,” site operator Andrew Sampson informs TF.

But that was just the beginning. Rightsholders quickly began contacting not only Sampson, but also Cloudflare and the site’s host, complaining that Strike was infringing their copyrights. Additionally, “tons of morons” threatened to sue Strike if it didn’t stop “hosting their content”, the bemused dev explains.

Eventually German host Hetzner said it didn’t want to deal with any more DMCA notices. Sampson said the provider null-routed the non-commercial Strike which took down another of Sampson’s projects, NetflixRoulette, at the same time.

“I can’t begin to tell you how badly that hurt my revenue stream. A company in Germany adhering to a US law and not even taking the time to investigate. Note to public: Avoid Hetzner,” Sampson says.

The developer says that the majority of complaints against his site were filed by anti-piracy company Entura International. Sampson says he tried to explain that his site carries no content and no torrents but simply extracts these from DHT upon user request but the company wasn’t particularly interested.

“I have a technical background and implement many of Strike’s technologies within the toolset of my organization, so I believe that I have a good understanding of how Strike operates,” an Entura contact told Sampson.

“Our copyright infringement notifications are not requesting the removal of a hash from the BitTorrent/DHT network, we know this is not possible. We are simply requesting the de-indexing or de-listing of results from your site that allow for the downloading of copyrighted content via the magnet link that you provide or .torrent files via your API/RSS.”

In response to the DMCA issues, Sampson says he has now taken things a step further. During the past few days the dev took the decision to stop storing any data whatsoever on Strike’s servers “except for search phrases for learning purposes.”

This presents an intriguing situation. Aside from some disk caching, Sampson says that Strike now operates purely on demand. When a user types in a search the site pulls the results from its usual sources and presents them in the browser window. When that browser is closed the data effectively disappears, meaning that there is nothing for anti-piracy companies to take down because it’s already gone.

Whether that will be enough for Entura remains to be seen. An email shared with TF suggests that the company feels that Sampson’s responsibilities go beyond compliance with the law.

“I understand that the listing pages might not be served via local storage on your infrastructure, that does not detract from the matter that you are providing the platform or portal for which these remote browser requests are made,” Entura told the dev.

“Your compliance in this matter should not be reliant on me creating a compelling case, it should instead be reliant on your good will, desire to support creative industries and comply with the law.”

Nevertheless, the following message now appears on the front page on Strike.

“If you are visiting this site for anti piracy means, just know a few things. Any content you see is because you requested it. We do not provide or offer any files. You cannot download from us. We do not store any data, all content is dynamic and on demand requested via YOUR browser. So leave us alone,” the notice reads.

After moving to yet another new host, Sampson thought that things might improve but during our email exchange he received more bad news. His hosting had been terminated once again.

“Dumb media companies, bad hosting, lack of funding, lots of development. Take your pick, Strike has been a big undertaking, one I’m not sure I really want to continue, but I know I have to for the greater good,” Sampson concludes.

At the time of publication Entura had not responded to TF’s requests for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: Grooveshark Publishes Proactive Anti-Piracy Policy

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

groovesharkThroughout Grooveshark’s history the company has come to rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As a site that largely relies on users to upload content, the protections provided by the DMCA allow the company to operate without being held liable for the infringements of others.

While that’s certainly the theory, those protections are only available if strict patterns of behavior are adhered to and many conditions are met. It’s an area that has seen Grooveshark and parent company Escape Media face a string of lawsuits in recent years.

In response to a case involving Capitol Records and the company’s responsibilities in dealing with repeat infringers, Grooveshark has just published some interesting amendments to its anti-piracy policy.

“The requirements for hosting digital music evolve with every new court ruling and we regularly update our policies to remain compliant. Therefore, we are implementing the following changes until the final outcome of this case, including our expected appeal,” the company explains.

Dealing with infringers

Interestingly the first change sees Grooveshark shifting from a “one strike” policy to a now familiar “three strikes” arrangement. This will see Grooveshark terminating user accounts on the third offense “in order to make sure no repeat infringers can ‘slip through the cracks’.”

In the Capitol case the Court noted that while Grooveshark keeps records of all processed DMCA takedown complaints and associated users, it does not keep an “independent record” of repeat infringers.

“Escape does not try to identify repeat infringers and fails to keep
records that would allow it to do so,” the judge said.

Grooveshark says it is now dealing with that criticism.

“In an era of simple database queries this new requirement may be redundant, but we will now create an additional independent record of repeat infringers from our existing databases, until our appeal clarifies this issue for Grooveshark and other hosting services committed to complying with the DMCA,” the company writes.

Taking down infringing content

While Grooveshark does takedown content quickly when asked (TorrentFreak was informed just this week that an independent artist had no issues having his music removed from the service), the company says it will now go even further.

“We will provide a pre-screening tool for rights-holders that provides immediate access to compare uploaded files on our servers that aren’t even yet available for end-user streaming with content owned by the rights-holder,” Grooveshark explains.

While no further details have been provided at this stage, on the surface this appears to be a step towards a YouTube-like Content ID system. Just how automated the system will be remains to be seen, but in some respects it appears that Grooveshark is actually prepared to go a step further.

In addition to removing content that matches rightsholder content (possibly by comparing fingerprint data), Grooveshark will proactively suggest additional content that it believes may also be prime for deletion.

“When a rights-holder provides a single file URL to the tool, they will receive a list of other files on our servers that have been found to be digitally different, but contain similar metadata,” the company explains.

In conclusion Grooveshark says that it hopes that its anti-piracy policies now go “well beyond” the standard required by the court, something which will allow the company to expand.

“Our goal remains to license every bit of audio content ever created, with ongoing commitment to operate a service that complies with the DMCA and all legal requirements as standards for hosting providers continue to evolve,” Grooveshark concludes.

But even as the company looks forward it still has massive legal issues to deal with. As reported by Billboard, Judge Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York has just granted EMI Music’s motion for summary judgment in its copyright infringement case against Grooveshark parent Escape Media.

The case, which concerns more than 2,800 copyrighted tracks, exposes Escape Media to potential damages of $420 million. A conference on damages will now take place early May and Grooveshark will be able to appeal any judgment.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay To Open Its Own .PIRATE Domain Name Registry

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

pirate bayThe Pirate Bay’s parent company Reservella Ltd. has started the registration process for a new gTLD with a .PIRATE extension.

Responding to increased pressure from the MPAA and RIAA on the domain name industry, the torrent site hopes to break away from the rules and regulations which forced it to move to several new domains in recent years.

“We can no longer trust third party services and registries, who are under immense pressure from the copyright lobby. So we decided to apply for our very own gTLD and be a true Pirate registry,” TPB’s Winston informs TF.

The new registration is currently being processed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the main oversight body for the Internet’s global domain name system which accepts new gTLD proposals.

.PIRATE application
pirapri1

If the new TLD is finalized the Pirate Bay team plans to open registrations to the public. While it has to agree to some oversight formalities and ICANN agreements, the .PIRATE domains are expected to be less prone to censorship.

“The ultimate goal is to create a true PIRATE hydra. This means that we will allow other sites to register .PIRATE domain names too. Staying true to our pirate roots the domains can be registered anonymously without charge,” Winston tells us.

The Pirate Bay crew has prepared the application in secret, setting the wheels in motion nearly a year ago. Ideally, the process would have been finished by late January but a police raid and persistent hosting problems caused some delay.

“Things are looking good so far, but we’re not there yet. Fingers crossed. Let’s hope nothing foolish happens,” Winston concludes.

For the time being, however, The Pirate Bay will continue operating from the Swedish based .SE domain name. A transition to the .PIRATE domain is expected to take place this summer, at the earliest.

The MPAA and RIAA couldn’t be reached for a comment on today’s news, but it’s expected that they will do everything within their power to block Pirate Bay’s deviant plans.

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

TorrentFreak: UK IP Chief Wants ISPs to Police Piracy Proactively

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

uk-flagMike Weatherley, a Conservative MP and Intellectual Property Adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has pushed various copyright related topics onto the political agenda since early last year.

Previously Weatherley suggested that search engines should blacklist pirate sites, kids should be educated on copyright ethics, and that persistent file-sharers should be thrown in jail.

In his latest proposal the UK MP targets information society service providers (ISSPs) including ISPs, who he believes could do more to fight piracy. The just-released 18-page report stresses that these companies have a moral obligation to tackle copyright infringement and can’t stand idly by.

The report (pdf) draws on input from various pro-copyright groups including the MPAA, BPI, and the Music Publishers Association. It offers various recommendations for the UK Government and the EU Commission to strengthen their anti-piracy policies.

One of the key points is to motivate Internet services and providers to filter content proactively. According to the report it’s feasible to “filter out infringing content” and to detect online piracy before it spreads.

The UK Government should review these systems and see what it can do to facilitate cooperation between copyright holders and Internet service providers.

“There should be an urgent review, by the UK Government, of the various applications and processes that could deliver a robust automated checking process regarding illegal activity being transmitted,” Weatherley advises.

In a related effort, Weatherley notes that Internet services should not just remove the content they’re asked to, but also police their systems to ensure that similar files are removed, permanently.

“ISSPs to be more proactive in taking down multiple copies of infringing works, not just the specific case they are notified of,” he recommends.

“This would mean ISSPs actively taking down multiple copies of the same work which are hosted on its services, not just the individual copy which is subject to the complaint. The MPA believe this principle could be extended further still to ensure that all copies of the infringing work are not just taken down…,” Weatherley explains.

This type of filtering is already used by YouTube, which takes down content based on fingerprint matches. However, the report suggests that regular broadband providers could also filter infringing content.

Concluding, Weatherley admits that it’s all too easy to simply demand that ISPs take the role of policemen, but at the same time he stresses that they have a “moral responsibility” to do more.

The UK MP presents an analogy of a landlord whose property is used for illegal activities. The landlord cannot be held liable for these activities, but he may have to take action if a third-party reports it.

“If the landlord is told that the garage is being used for illegal activity, and that this information is from a totally reliable source, then does the landlord have a moral obligation to report it?”

“I would argue that it is the duty of every citizen or company to do what they can to stop illegal activity and therefore the answer is, yes, the landlord should report the activity,” Weatherley notes.

Weatherley also believes that protecting the rights of copyright holders has priority over a “no monitoring” principle that would ensure users’ privacy. That is, if the monitoring is done right.

“There is also the question as to whether society will want to have their private activities monitored (even if automatically and entirely confidentially) and whether the trade off to a safer, fairer internet is a price worth paying to clamp down on internet illegal activity. My ‘vote’ would be “yes” if via an independent body …”

Overall, the recommendations will be welcomed by the industry groups who provided input. The report is not expected to translate directly into legislation, but they will be carefully weighed by the UK Government and the EU Commission when taking future decisions.

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

TorrentFreak: Filmmakers Demand Cash From Popcorn Time Pirates

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

popcorntAfter suing hundreds of alleged downloaders in the United States, the makers of Dallas Buyers Club expanded their legal campaign to Europe late last year.

The first cases were brought in Denmark, with anti-piracy lawfirm Maqs demanding fines of roughly 250 euros per infringement.

After collecting several successful payments the scheme is now getting traction locally, especially following reports that Popcorn Time has become more popular than Netflix.

“You could say that the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ letters have been a success in the number of inquiries that have come in,” Maqs’ lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen told DR, noting that new letters are still being sent out for Dallas Buyers Club.

One of the filmmakers interested in the “speculative invoicing” scheme is Danish producer Ronnie Fridthjof. Together with other industry players he’s determined to go after Popcorn Time users.

“I had hoped that politicians and the police would take care of such matters, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. When my business is threatened, I am more or less forced to do something,” Fridthjof tells TV2.

While Popcorn Time is specifically mentioned as a target, the action will affect regular BitTorrent users as well. After all, Popcorn Time streams films by connecting to regular torrent swarms.

The new fines are expected to be sent out this summer. The first ones will be around 1,000 to 2,000 Danish krone ($150 to $300), and will increase if recipients fail to respond. As a last resort the filmmakers are considering whether to take alleged pirates to court.

According to some users streaming films via Popcorn Time is seen as something in a legal gray area. Fridthjof, however, has no doubt that it’s against the law.

“It is absolutely crazy that people believe it is legal. It is in no way! It is comparable buying and selling counterfeit goods right next to an official store,” he says.

Similarly, the filmmaker doesn’t buy the excuse that people use Popcorn Time because the legal services don’t have the latest films. That doesn’t justify grabbing something for free, he says.

“We must be able to choose which business model we want, and it must not be guided by unlawful acts. We will not make a business model that competes with free content,” he says.

Legal threats against Popcorn Time users are not new. In the U.S. lawsuits against BitTorrent pirates are quite common, and in Germany Popcorn Time related ‘fines’ have also been issued.

Responding to these developments, various Popcorn Time variants have warned their users over possible legal repercussions and have started offering anonymizing options. Both popcorntime.io and popcorn-time.se now have built-in VPN support.

For now there are still many people using Popcorn Time without anonymizing services, so there will still be plenty of people to fine.

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

TorrentFreak: Cox Refuses to Reveal Financials in “Repeat Infringer” Piracy Case

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

cox-logoEvery month copyright holders and anti-piracy groups send hundreds of thousands of takedown notices to Internet providers.

These notifications have to be forwarded to individual account holders under the DMCA law, to alert them that their connection is being used to share copyrighted works without permission.

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 December 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, claim 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. In recent weeks both parties have started the discovery process to gather as many details as they can for the upcoming trial.

Cox, for example, is looking into the ownership of the 1,000 works for which they received seven million DMCA takedown notices. In addition, the ISP also wants an expert opinion on the source code of the Rightscorp’s crawler that was used to spot the alleged infringements.

For their part, BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music have asked for details on Cox’s policy towards repeat copyright infringers and extensive details on the company’s financials. The ISP believes the latter request is too broad and as a result is refusing to produce the requested documents.

In a response the music companies have filed a motion asking the federal court to force the ISP to comply (pdf). Among other things, they argue that the financial details are needed to calculate damages and show that Cox has a financial motive to keep persistent pirates on board.

“The financial information that Cox refused to produce is directly relevant to Cox’s strong motivation for ignoring rampant infringement on its network because ignoring this infringement results in a financial benefit to Cox,” they argue.

“Moreover, Cox’s financial motivation for refusing to take meaningful actions against its repeat infringing customers is important to both the knowledge element of contributory infringement and the financial benefit element of vicarious liability,” the music groups add.

In its response Cox states that the rightsholders’ demands are too broad (pdf) since the documents requested include those related to the ISP’s market share, capital expenditures, profits per customer for each service, and so forth. According to Cox most of the information is irrelevant to this case.

“Plaintiffs’ document requests seek virtually every financial record that Cox maintains about its internet Customers and its provision of internet services,” Cox notes.

The ISP says it’s willing to share some financial detail but with a far more limited scope than demanded by the rightsholders.

“To be clear, Cox has been and remains willing to produce high-level, aggregate financial data of the kind that courts permit in cases involving statutory copyright damages, for example corporate tax returns. But Plaintiffs have never offered to entertain even minor limitations to the scope of their discovery requests, making any compromise effectively impossible,” the ISP notes.

The court has yet to decide how many of its financial secrets Cox must reveal but judging from the demands being made from both sides, it’s clear that we can expect more fireworks during the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Why Game Of Thrones Will Be The Most Pirated TV-Show, Again

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

got5Mid April the first episode of Game of Thrones’ fifth season will find its way onto dozens of torrent sites.

Like previous years, a few hours later millions of people will have downloaded this unofficial release.

Traditionally, pirates have used “availability” as an excuse to download movies and TV-shows from illegal sources. In some countries there is simply no legal option available, the arguments often go.

To remove this piracy incentive HBO has made sure that the new Game of Thrones series is available in as many countries as possible. The company recently announced that it will air in 170 countries roughly at the same time as the U.S. release.

This decision is being framed as an anti-piracy move and may indeed have some effect. However, availability is not the only reason why so many people choose to download the show from unauthorized sources.

In fact, if we look at the list of countries where most Game of Thrones downloaders came from last year, we see that it was legally available in all of these countries.

Data gathered during the first 12 hours of the season 4 premiere revealed that most downloads originated from Australia, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. So there must be something else going on.

Pricing perhaps?

The price tag attached to many of legal services may be too high for some. In Australia, for example, it cost $500 to follow last year’s season and in the U.S. some packages were priced as high as $100 per month.

This year there is some positive change to report in the US, as iTunes now offers a $15-per-month subscription without the need for a cable subscription. But if the steep prices remain in most countries it’s unlikely that the piracy rates will drop significantly.

This is nothing new for HBO of course. The company has probably considered offering separate and cheaper Game of Thrones packages, but while this may result in less pirates it will also severely hurt the value of their licensing deals and full subscription plans.

And aside from the financials, piracy also has it upsides.

Game of Thrones director David Petrarca previously admitted that piracy generated much-needed “cultural buzz” around his show. Similarly, Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO’s parent company Time Warner, noted that piracy resulted in more subscriptions for his company and that receiving the title of “most-pirated” was “better than an Emmy.

All in all it’s safe to say that Game of Thrones will be crowned the most pirated TV-show again in 2015. The only uncertainty right now is whether it will break last year’s BitTorrent “swarm record,” which currently stands at 254,114 simultaneous sharers.

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

TorrentFreak: After Eliminating Music Piracy, Norway Hits ‘First’ Movie Site

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

norkseDue to the borderless nature of the Internet, online piracy is very much an international affair. The world’s most popular torrent and streaming sites attract audiences from all around the globe.

Nevertheless, there are hundreds of smaller sites that have a much more geographically restricted aims in mind as they cater to mainly local audiences. Norway’s Norskfilm.net was one such site.

The site appeared on the radar of anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Rettighetsalliansen) during the past year although at one point appears to be have been hosted in the United States. Offering international movies and TV shows on top of local content and subtitles, Norskfilm soon became the subject of a criminal investigation.

Following hundreds of tweets announcing the latest movies, last month the site’s Twitter account fell silent and soon after the site itself disappeared. Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen now says that was due to his organization closing down its very first ‘pirate’ website.

“This is the first time we have succeeded in halting a page operated from Norway,” Johansen told local media Friday.

Lawyer Torje Arneson confirmed that Vestfold Police had raided the home of a 20-year-old man and seized computer and telecommunications equipment. After questioning the man confessed and was subsequently charged with copyright infringement offenses.

While Norwegian police have previously investigated ‘scene’ groups and anti-piracy companies have chased down key individuals in special file-sharing cases, in recent years raids against websites have been pretty much non-existent.

Instead, groups like Rights Alliance have focused on pushing for fresh legislation enabling them to monitor file-sharing networks and have ISPs block sites at the subscriber level.

But according to Johansen it’s still not enough. As it stands today the flow of pirate movies simply cannot be stopped and with the advent of services such as Popcorn Time and their increasing popularity in Scandinavia, there can only be one solution.

“I think we need a change of legislation,” Johansen says.

But is that really needed? According to figures from the music industry, almost certainly not.

During December 2014 music industry group IFPI conducted a nationwide survey among under 30-year-olds and discovered that just 4% of respondents were using illegal file-sharing platforms to obtain music. A similar 2009 IFPI survey returned a figure of 70%. The reason for the drop? Improved legal music platforms.

“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,” said IFPI Norway chief Marte Thorsby.

But as highlighted again last month, the movie industry is still painting itself into a corner. Instead of making content freely available from the start, its windowing business model ensures that the public is kept waiting for months to be granted access to content. This only fuels piracy.

Fix that and there will not only be no need for new laws in Norway, but also less need for Rights Alliance to shut down its second pirate movie site.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA Bites Grooveshark With Record Google Takedowns

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

riaa-logoIt would be fair to say that the relationship between the world’s major recording labels and streaming music service Grooveshark is a rocky one at best.

Founded in 2006 as a site where users could upload their own music and listen to streams for free, friction with record companies built alongside Grooveshark’s growth. EMI first filed a copyright infringement suit against the company in 2009 but it was withdrawn later that year after the pair reached a licensing agreement.

Since then there have been major and ongoing disputes with the labels of the RIAA who accuse Grooveshark of massive copyright infringement. Those behind the service insist that Grooveshark is simply a YouTube-like site which is entitled to enjoy the safe harbor protections of the DMCA.

Part of Grooveshark’s DMCA responsibilities is to remove infringing content once a copyright holder asks for it to be taken down. Grooveshark doesn’t publish any kind of transparency report but there is nothing to suggest that in 2015 it doesn’t take that responsibility extremely seriously.

However, Google’s transparency report reveals that the world’s major recording labels are currently hitting Grooveshark particularly hard. In fact, between the RIAA, IFPI and several affiliated anti-piracy groups, Google handled 346,619 complaints during the past month alone, with up to 10,000 URLs reported in a single notice.

groovesharkWhile the labels have always complained about Grooveshark to Google, the big question is why the game is being stepped up now. Both the RIAA and Grooveshark tend to remain tight-lipped on such matters, but in recent times Google’s transparency report has become a convenient barometer for rightsholders to illustrate how ‘infringing’ any particular site is.

According to the report, last month those complaints made Grooveshark the 7th most-complained about domain in the world, just one position behind 4Shared, a site the USTR declares a “notorious market”. It should be noted that Grooveshark is definitely not on that list, but there are other reasons for Google to be sent as many complaints about Grooveshark as possible.

Around October 2014, Google tweaked its search algorithm so that sites receiving the most takedown notices were placed lower in its search results. The move not only hit torrent sites hard, but also affected many cyber-locker type domains too. As show in the Alexa chart below, Grooveshark’s traffic has also been largely on the decline since October.

groove1

While there could be other factors at play for the downturn in traffic, perhaps the most obvious sign that a recent and massive surge in DMCA notices sent to Google is having an effect on Grooveshark’s visibility can be seen below. Early February the site’s traffic from search fell off a cliff and is currently just half of what it was seven weeks ago.

groove2

While results are currently being removed from Google in their hundreds of thousands, Grooveshark is far from on its knees. The site services millions of happy users who are currently enjoying a fully redesigned platform which looks and performs better than its predecessor.

One thing is for certain; if the current pressure continues Grooveshark’s own search engine will work much better than Google’s when it comes to finding music on the service.

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

TorrentFreak: YIFY Torrents Faces Domain Suspension, Moves to YTS.to

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

YTSOperated by the popular ‘YIFY’ release group, YTS has become one of the most popular pirate brands.

The group releases its movies on various popular torrent sites and its home base YTS.re has also become increasingly popular.

Over the past year YTS gathered fame as the movie source for the “pirate Netflix” app Popcorn Time. Pretty much all popular Popcorn Time forks get their movie releases from the YTS API.

This connection further raised YTS’s profile and turned it into a prime target for various copyright holder groups. Even the U.S. Government chimed in, labeling YTS a notorious pirate site.

Apparently this pressure has paid off. YTS is now being forced to switch to a new domain after being advised by French domain name registry FRNIC that its .re domain is doomed.

“We got a warning from FRNIC that the domain is frozen and will be suspended by the end of March,” a YTS admin informs TorrentFreak while announcing YTS.to as their new domain.

It’s unclear where the complaint originates from, but the MPAA and BREIN would be on top of the list if YTS has to take a guess. The admin is happy, however, that FRNIC informed them in advance so they have time to inform users about the transition.

“It was very nice of FRNIC to give us more than a week prep time. I see too many cases were the registrar closes an account without warning,” the YTS admin says.

The MPAA and other anti-piracy groups are increasingly pressuring domain name registrars and registries to cut off “pirate” domain names. While not all organizations are as eager to comply as FRNIC, YTS doesn’t blame them for the suspension.

“I don’t blame them for caving into threats. After all, 10 to 50 USD per year is not enough to warrant the hassle of dealing with lawyers and 3rd party law enforcement bodies. It’s easier and cheaper to just drop the client,” the admin concludes.

Despite the unforeseen move, YTS will continue to release the latest movie torrents from its new YTS.to domain.

For its users the implications are limited to updating their bookmarks. The various Popcorn Time forks will have to update their API links to point to the new domain name, but other than that things should work as usual.

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

TorrentFreak: Exposing Canadian Pirates Costs $11 Per IP-Address

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

hurt-locker-lawMore than two years ago movie studio Voltage Pictures took its legal crusade against pirating BitTorrent users to Canada.

After targeting tens of thousands of people in the US, the company hoped to expose 2,000 Internet subscribers of Canadian ISP TekSavvy. The studio behind “The Hurt Locker” argued that they have a solid case under the Copyright Act.

The efforts led to objections from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) who demanded safeguards so Voltage wouldn’t demand hefty fines from subscribers without oversight. The court agreed on this, but allowed the customers to be exposed.

The only matter that remained were the costs associated with identifying the alleged pirates. According to Voltage these would only be a few hundred Canadian dollars, but Teksavvy claimed more that $350,000.

This week the Federal Court ruled on the matter (pdf), settling the costs at $21,557. This includes $17,057 in technical administrative costs and $4,500 in legal fees associated with the IP-address lookups.

The total sum translates to roughly $11 per IP-address, which is a tiny fraction of the thousands of dollars in settlements Voltage usually requests.

The Court decided not to award any assessment costs, noting that both parties are intent on disparaging each other’s business practices. Taking claims from both sides into account it concluded that neither party should be rewarded for its conduct.

“TekSavvy, without justification, has greatly exaggerated its claim, while Voltage has unreasonably sought to trivialize it based on unreliable and largely irrelevant evidence,” Judge Aronovitch writes.

In the future it would be wise to agree on a fixed rate for linking IP-addresses to the personal details of subscribers before taking the matter to court, the Judge further notes.

“The best practice, in my view, would be for the rights holder to ascertain, in advance, with clarity and precision, the method of correlation used by the ISP, as well as the time and costs attendant on the execution of the work based, to begin, on a hypothetical number of IP addresses.”

The verdict opens the door for more of these cases in Canada. The question is, however, whether the costs and the restrictions still make it worthwhile.

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, who followed the case closely, believes this troll-type activity may not be as financially viable as Voltage has hoped.

“With the cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, the further costs of litigating against individuals, the actual value of the works, and the need to obtain court approval on demand letters, it is hard to see how this is a business model that works,” Geist notes.

Voltage, however, appears to be determined to continue its actions against the subscribers. The studio’s lawyer is happy with the verdict and says the decision “confirms the court’s commitment to facilitate anti-piracy and allow companies like Voltage to pursue pirates.”

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Net Neutrality Has a Massive Copyright Loophole

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

copyright-brandedIn 2007 we uncovered that Comcast was systematically slowing down BitTorrent traffic to ease the load on its network.

The Comcast case was the first to ignite a broad discussion about Net Neutrality. It became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

This Open Internet Order was the foundation of the Net Neutrality rules the FCC adopted two weeks ago. The big change compared to the earlier attempt is that ISPs can now be regulated as carriers under Title II.

Interestingly, the exact language of the new rules remained secret until three days ago. The broader concepts, including a ban on paid prioritization and blocking were known, but the fine print was kept secret until everything was signed off on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the full text has quite a few caveats.

When we read the new rules it’s clear that the “copyright loophole” many activists protested against in the past is still there. In short, ISPs can still throttle or block certain types of traffic as long as it’s related to copyright infringement.

In its most recent order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC argues that copyright infringement hurts the economy, so ISPs are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

Interestingly, this issue has been pretty much absent from the discussion in recent months. This is curious as many activist groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), protested heavily against the copyright loophole in the past, issuing warnings over massive collateral damage.

“Carving a copyright loophole in net neutrality would leave your lawful activities at the mercy of overbroad copyright filtering schemes, and we already have plenty of experience with copyright enforcers targeting legitimate users by mistake, carelessness, or design,” the EFF wrote at the time.

So why was there little outrage about the copyright loophole this time around? TF contacted EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh who admits that the issue didn’t get much attention, but that it’s certainly problematic.

“The language about ‘lawful’ content and applications creates a serious loophole that seems to leave it up to ISPs to make judgments about what content is lawful or infringes a copyright, subject to challenges after the fact about whether their conduct was ‘reasonable’,” Walsh says.

“It’s one thing to say that ISPs can block subject to a valid court order, quite another to let ISPs make decisions about the lawfulness of content for themselves,” he adds.

According to Walsh the issue is particularly concerning because many ISPs also have their own media properties. This means that their incentive to block copyright infringement may be greater than the incentive to protect fair use material.

For example, although the Net Neutrality rules prescribe no blocking and throttling, ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as an anti-piracy measure. Throttling BitTorrent traffic in general is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

A related concern is that ISPs can use privacy invasive technologies such as Deep Packet Inspection to monitor users’ traffic for possible copyright violations. The FCC didn’t include any protections against these practices. Instead, it simply noted that people can use SSL, VPNs and TOR to circumvent it.

“The FCC’s response to concerns about deep packet inspection is that users can just use SSL, VPNs and TOR,” Walsh says.

“Of course SSL, VPNs, and TOR are great tools for Internet users to preserve their privacy, but this approach of leaving users to fend for themselves isn’t a great start for the FCC on protecting the privacy of broadband subscribers,” he adds.

The above makes it clear that Net Neutrality has its limits. The problem remains, however, that it’s still unclear how far ISPs can go under the “copyright” and “network management” loopholes.

Previously, the EFF seriously doubted if it was a good idea at all to give FCC control over the Internet. However, as things stand now they are happy with the new rules, even though they aren’t perfect.

Title II regulation with forbearance was the main goal, and that was achieved. In addition, the EFF is also content with the bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic.

“We won a large portion of what we argued for, thanks to a broad coalition of advocates and the voices of four million Americans, but we did not get everything we wanted. We’re clearly better off overall with the order than without, but we’re not going to hesitate to criticize the areas where the FCC gets it wrong,” Walsh says.

Fingers crossed….

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police and PRS Shutdown Karaoke Torrent Site

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

music-featuredWhile at some stages wildly popular in the East, to most in the West a night at a karaoke bar is probably more closely associated with too many beers and individuals belting out classics wearing the aural equivalent of beer goggles.

The pastime is considered by some as a bit of a joke but karaoke is big business. According to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn, the global karaoke market could be worth as much as $10 billion.

Since most karaoke content is now digital, it’s also prime for pirating. Mainstream movies, music, applications and video games are the most pirated media items on the Internet today, no doubt, but the karaoke sub-genre has a niche but somewhat fanatical following.

Today, however, there is one less place online for KJ’s (karaoke jockeys) to get their fix.

On Wednesday the users of Karaoke-World, one of the few dedicated karaoke torrent trackers online, were informed that a disaster had befallen the site after around five years online.

“Just to let you all know the owner of kW was taken to the police station and had to close the site down by the Internet police so sorry we are no longer,” the site announced.

karaoke1

It now transpires that kW was being monitored not by the BPI or IFPI as is usually the case with music-based sites, but UK-based licensing and royalty group PRS for Music.

PRS make available so-called ‘KAR’ licenses which grants holders permission to manufacture and distribute karaoke on discs and in other formats. The license also covers the reproduction of lyrics for display on screen at the same time as the karaoke music is being played. It seems very unlikely that Karaoke-World possessed such a license.

As a result PRS for Music teamed up with PIPCU, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, to close down the site.

On Wednesday a 46-year-old man was arrested in Dewsbury in the north of England and taken to a police station in Halifax. Although no names have been released, the kW domain was registered in the name of ‘DJ Mikey L’. Although the name is clearly a pseudonym, there are dozens of karaoke-focused torrents bearing the same name.

“The unlicensed BitTorrent site directed users to a catalogue of tens of thousands of copyrighted music files, in particular the latest chart music and karaoke hits,” PIPCU said in a statement.

“Like most BitTorrent trackers, the site had rules for its members to abide by. One of the rules required users to immediately ‘seed’ files, which means to upload any file they have downloaded so that others can download it too. If a file is not seeded for more than 24 hours, the user was deemed as a ‘Hit and Run’ and their account was disabled.”

PIPCU’s statement also introduces a commercial element to the site, although the site is unlikely to have been a huge money spinner.

“The music service also offered VIP memberships for users of the website, which ranged from £5.00 to £90.00,” police said.

“The public needs to be aware that by accessing sites like this, they are putting money directly in the hands of criminals, which often then funds other serious organized crime, as well as putting their own financial and personal details at risk of being compromised and used for other fraudulent scams,” PIPCU chief Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medlycott said in a statement.

“These websites are stealing from the creative industries that employ thousands of people and PIPCU will continue to work closely with our partners to tackle the criminals behind these sites and bring them to justice.”

Simon Bourn, Head of Litigation, Enforcement and Anti-Piracy for PRS for Music said that songwriters and creators deserve protection from unlicensed operations.

“PRS for Music’s Anti-Piracy Unit is committed to actively pursuing those who use our songwriters’ and composers’ repertoire without permission, particularly the operation of online music services without the necessary licensing. The unit’s dedication in this case, involving careful investigative support which it provided to the police, ensured that an unlicensed UK-based BitTorrent music service for karaoke was located and closed down,” Bourn said.

Karaoke-World sister site TheNutBox.info is also currently offline.

TorrentFreak contacted ‘DJ Mikey L’ for comment and we’ll update as soon as a response is received.

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

TorrentFreak: France’s New Online Piracy Battle Prepares For Launch

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

pirate-cardAcross Europe countries are continuing their struggle with online piracy but France was the first brave enough to introduce a system of warning file-sharers.

The so-called Hadopi law received widespread coverage, with praise and criticism arriving from many corners, but the big question of whether the process has been effective has never been definitively answered.

Whatever the program’s achievements, if any, the French are still looking to reduce online copyright infringement in an attempt to boost the creative sector. Now the government has announced the next wave in its continuing anti-piracy drive.

Fleur Pellerin, France’s Minister of Culture and Communication, has now presented a paper to the Council of Ministers outlining a plan of action against all sites involved in online piracy. The range will be broad, to include sites that not only stream or offer copyrighted material for download, but also those that “take advantage” of pirate content in other ways.

The first part of the program is a familiar one. In common with the United States and the United Kingdom (1,2)where similar programs have been in place for some time, France will seek to deprive piracy related websites of their revenue streams with a particular focus on those that utilize advertising.

On March 23 at the Ministry of Culture and Communication, advertisers and advertising agencies will come together with representatives from rightsholder bodies to sign an anti-piracy charter. The agreement will formalize a commitment to keep advertising off platforms deemed to benefit from online piracy.

The next phase also mirrors developments elsewhere, particularly in the United States under pressure from government. Being able to process payments is crucial for some online file-sharing sites, particularly those in the file-hosting sector that rely on subscriptions to stay afloat. Moves already taken by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal are already underway elsewhere and negotiations in France will now commence with a view to the signing of an agreement in June 2015.

Continuing on the financial front the French Government says it will mobilize to fight against those benefiting from illegal channels of revenue and will consider “all the tax consequences of these activities.”

Site blocking is another anti-piracy method utilized extensively elsewhere and it’s clear that the French wish to follow the same path. Blocks against a handful of sites already exist but the Minister of Culture says that enhanced judicial efficiency and a system to monitor the effectiveness of these and other measures will be introduced.

Effectively rightsholders will still have to go to court to get sites blocked, but unlike the UK where they are relatively free to keep adding sites to blocklists as and when they see fit, in France they will still have to go back to court for enhanced blocking, if a site moves domain or introduces proxies for example.

Also on the cards is a sharpening of coordination between departments responsible for dealing with online piracy. To this end the Ministry of the Interior will assume responsibility for the direction of the fight against cybercrime.

Finally, the government will look at the role that sites like YouTube play in the distribution of unauthorized content. Sites will be expected to streamline their processes in ways that make it easier for rightsholders to monitor and remove unauthorized material.

Whether these measures will prove to be a boost to the entertainment sector remains to be seen, but it’s now clear that a coordinated and revenue-attacking response to dealing with piracy is now developing on a global scale.

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

TorrentFreak: Music Industry Demands Action Against “Pirate” Domain Names

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

cassetteIn recent years copyright holders have demanded stricter anti-piracy measures from ISPs, search engines, advertising networks and payment processors, with varying results.

Continuing this trend various entertainment industry groups are now going after companies that offer domain name services.

The MPAA, for example, has joined the domain name system oversight body ICANN and is pushing for policy changes from the inside.

A few days ago the RIAA added more pressure. The music group sent a letter to ICANN on behalf of several industry players asking for tougher measures against pirate domains.

The RIAA’s senior vice president Victoria Sheckler wants the Internet to be a safe place for all, where music creation and distribution can thrive.

“… we expect all in the internet ecosystem to take responsible measures to deter copyright infringement to help meet this goal,” she notes.

The music groups believe, however, that domain registrars don’t do enough to combat piracy. ICANN’s most recent registrar agreement states that domain names should not be used for copyright infringement, but most registrars fail to take action in response.

Instead, many registrars simply note that it’s not their responsibility to act against pirate sites.

“We […] do not see how it is an appropriate response from a registrar to tell a complainant that it has investigated or responded appropriately to a copyright abuse complaint by stating it does not provide non-registrar related services to the site in question,” Sheckler writes.

In what appears to be a coordinated effort to pressure ICANN and other players in the domain name industry, the U.S. Government also chimed in last week.

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, Canada-based Tucows is reported as “an example of a registrar that fails to take action when notified of its clients’ infringing activity.”

Despite the critique, it’s far from clear that Tucows and other registrars are doing anything wrong. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that there is no law requiring registrars to disconnect pirate sites.

“Domain registrars do not have an obligation to respond to a random third party’s complaints about the behavior of a domain name user. Unless ordered by a court, registrars cannot be compelled to take down a website,” notes Jeremy Malcolm, EFF’s Senior Global Policy Analyst.

“What the entertainment industry groups are doing is exaggerating the obligations that registrars of global top-level domains (gTLDs) have under their agreement with ICANN to investigate reports of illegal activity by domain owners, an expansion of responsibilities that is, to put it mildly, extremely controversial, and not reflected in current laws or norms.”

Law or no law, the entertainment industry groups are not expected to back down. They hope that ICANN will help to convince registrars that pirate sites should be disconnected, whether they like it or not.

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

TorrentFreak: Ebook Library Punishes Anti-Piracy Outfit For Wrongful DMCA Notices

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

tueblLike many other Internet-based services, The Ultimate Ebook Library (TUEBL) has to process numerous takedown requests to make sure that pirated content is swiftly removed from the site.

Unfortunately, not all requests they receive are legitimate. According to TUEBL there’s one company that stands out negatively, and that’s the London-based outfit MUSO.

When browsing through the takedown notices TUEBL founder Travis McCrea stumbled upon several automated requests that were submitted by MUSO, each listing inaccurate information.

The takedown notices were not merely incorrect, according to McCrea. They also circumvented the site’s CAPTCHA system, which is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

This isn’t the first time TUEBL has noticed problems with MUSO’s takedown tactics. The company previously tried to remove several legitimately hosted titles, including a Creative Commons licensed book by Cory Doctorow.

“A year ago, after another issue where they were sending requests without any of the required information, they had filed a wrongful DMCA request for one of our featured authors Laurel Russwurm, and we sent them a warning,” McCrea tells TF.

“They further used our system to send a DMCA request for a book by Cory Doctorow. At that time we sent them an $150 invoice for our time reverting their improper DMCA request. When they didn’t reply, we let it slide… not wanting to make waves.”

MUSO never paid the $150 ‘fine’ and TUEBL initially let them get away with that. But after the recent mistakes McCrea decided that enough is enough.

On Sunday evening TUEBL sent the anti-piracy company an ultimatum. If MUSO fails to pay up, the company will be banned from sending further notices. In addition, hundreds of previously removed books will be restored.

“Today we are going to insist that your $150 fine be paid, or we will cut off all MUSO IP addresses, computers, and/or servers from accessing our DMCA page. Emailed requests will also be rejected as SPAM and all requests to be removed will have to come directly from the copyright holder instead of MUSO,” TUEBL wrote to the company.

MUSO has until 10PM PST today to respond, but thus far TUEBL hasn’t received a reply. The ebook library is still holding out for a peaceful resolution, but as the hours pass by this becomes less likely.

Despite the current problems, TUEBL’s founder says that the site respects copyright and notes that the amount of infringing material on its server is less than one percent of all books. However, wrongful takedown notices are making it harder to keep the site clean.

“DMCA abuse is a real threat to not only community websites like Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and our own… but it also makes it more difficult to successfully process legitimate DMCA requests by authors who have had their copyright violated,” McCrea says.

“We have decided to fight this, not in spite of authors and their rights regarding their work, but rather to protect authors and to ensure our automated system remains open for them to use for the rare cases that copyrighted material make it onto our site,” he adds.

TF contacted MUSO for a comment on the allegations, but we haven’t heard back from the company at the time of publication.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood’s Anti-Piracy Secrets Must Be Revealed, Court Rules

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

lockMore than a year has passed since the MPAA defeated Hotfile, but the case has still been stirring in the background.

Hoping to find out more about Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously asked the court to make several sealed documents available to the public.

These documents are part of the counterclaim Hotfile filed, where it accused Warner of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process. In particular, the EFF wants the public to know how Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies and tools work.

District Court Judge Kathleen Williams sided with the EFF and ruled that it’s in the public interest to unseal the information. The MPAA, however, argued that this may hurt some of its members.

Information regarding Columbia Pictures’ anti-piracy policies, in particular, would still be beneficial to pirates for decades to come, the Hollywood group argued.

“Defendants have cited two specific pieces of information regarding Columbia’s enforcement policies that, if revealed to the public, could compromise Columbia’s ability to protect its copyrighted works,” the MPAA’s lawyers wrote.

In addition, anti-piracy vendor Vobile feared that having its pricing information revealed could severely hurt the company.

Judge Williams has now reviewed these and other arguments but ruled that sealing records indefinitely is not an option. In this case, the public interest in the records outweighs the concerns of the MPAA.

“In reaching this conclusion, the Court has weighed the parties’ interests in maintaining the confidentiality of the sealed entries, including Plaintiffs’ assertions that disclosure of the sealed information would undermine the effectiveness of their antipiracy systems and copyright enforcement abilities, as well as third-party Voible’s argument that disclosure of the sealed data would unfairly put it at economic risk, against the presumption in favor of public access to court records,” Williams writes (pdf).

As a result of this decision all sealed documents will be made public ten years after the case was filed, which is on February 8, 2021.

Previously, Warner Bros. already released some of the confidential documents. Among other things the unsealed records showed that Warner Bros. uses “sophisticated robots” to track down infringing content.

How damaging the other documents are to Hollywood’s anti-piracy efforts will become clear in five years. However, it’s unlikely to top the Sony-leak of last December, through which many sensitive anti-piracy strategies were already unveiled.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Group To “Kill Piracy” By Not Releasing Movies For Months

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

stopstopEntertainment companies all around the globe bemoan the fact that their creations cost millions to create and often require years of preparation, but all that can be undone in an instant by pirates.

It’s certainly true that any media – whether movies, music or software – can be instantly cloned and distributed to a potential audience of hundreds of millions. According to the industry the doomsday scenario of this position is that filmmakers, musicians, authors and coders will eventually give up the game and go do something else more profitable instead.

Of course, this hasn’t happened yet, largely due to the fact that the public is still digging deep. Hollywood, for example, is having its best year on record. But what if all content suddenly stopped appearing on physical and digital shelves. What would the pirates do then?

Well, if the threats of India’s Tamil Film Producer’s Council (TFPC) come to fruition, we won’t have long to find out. Plagued by the menace of persistent and large scale piracy of their movies, the Council is close to making the most radical stand against copyright infringement ever seen.

Yesterday the TFPC held their general meeting and of course piracy was high on the agenda. Several solutions were reportedly discussed but one came to the forefront – a complete boycott on releasing films for the foreseeable future.

“Some groups wanted a six-month ban, while others wanted a three-month ban,” said council president Kalaipuli S Thanu.

The producer and distributor, who regained control of TFPC in January following allegations of corruption against his rivals, said that something drastic needs to be done.

“The basic fact is that all producers are suffering losses and we have to look into that. We have asked them for some time to call in all the parties concerned and try to reach a resolution that is beneficial to everybody.”

In addition to promising the establishment of a dedicated anti-piracy unit compromised of ex-police officers, Thanu says that not releasing movies at all will be the best way to hit pirates.

“Piracy will automatically stop when there’s no content. When we stop film releases, say for three months, the movie pirates will go out of business. We are looking into this option because film producers have suffered heavily in the last 24 months,” Thanu said.

“We haven’t finalized on the decision yet. A resolution has been passed but we’d like to discuss the idea with all the parties involved and only when found beneficial for everybody, will we implement it. It’s going to take some time.”

But speaking against the proposed ban, a leading producer told IAS that release suspension will only make matters worse.

“Piracy has become a menace, but stopping the release of films is not a solution. Filmmakers are already struggling to find a suitable window to release their films, and now this step to halt release of films will make it worse,” he said.

“Each Friday, a minimum of three Tamil films are releasing in cinemas. If you stop release of films for three months, we are holding back about 36 films. Post the ban, these 36 films have to battle it out with more films for release, which looks impossible.”

At this stage it appears that support for a three-month ban is gaining momentum but there are others that see a much better response to the problem. Filmmaker ‘Cheran’ said that releasing via DVD and VOD at a fair price is by far the best option.

“If an original DVD of a new film is available for Rs.50 ($0.80), why would anyone think of buying a pirated copy? We all know the quality of pirated prints. I’ve sold nearly Rs.10 lakh ($16,800) DVDs of my film in the first two days,” he said.

This ban, if it comes to pass, should be fascinating to watch. But whatever happens the pirates will still exist – that’s 100% guaranteed.

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

TorrentFreak: Aussie Anti-Piracy Plans Boost Demand for Anonymous VPNs

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

spyAustralia has been called out as the world’s piracy capital for several years, a claim that eventually captured the attention of the local Government.

After negotiations between ISPs and entertainment companies bore no fruit, authorities demanded voluntary anti-piracy measures from Internet providers. If that failed, the Government threatened to tighten the law.

Faced with an ultimatum the telecoms body Communications Alliance published a draft proposal on behalf of the ISPs, outlining a three-strikes notification system.

Titled ‘Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code‘, the proposal suggests that ISPs start to forward infringement notices to their subscribers. After the initial notice subscribers are warned that copyright holders may go to court to obtain their identities.

Several groups have voiced their concerns in response. Australia’s leading consumer group Choice, for example, warns over the potential for lawsuits and potentially limitless fines.

These threats haven’t gone unnoticed by the general public either. While the proposals have not yet been implemented, many Australians are already taking countermeasures.

Over the past two weeks many file-sharers have been seeking tools to hide their IP-addresses and bypass the proposed monitoring system. By using VPN services or BitTorrent proxies their sharing activities can no longer be linked to their ISP account, rendering the three-strikes system useless.

Data from Google trends reveals that interest in anonymizing services has surged, with searches for “VPN” nearly doubling in recent days. This effect, shown in the graph below, is limited to Australia and appears to be a direct result of the ISPs proposals.

Google searches for VPN in Australia
aussievpn

TF spoke to several VPN providers who noticed an increase in both traffic and sales from down under. TorGuard, a VPN and BitTorrent proxy provider, saw the number of Australian visitors and subscribers increase significantly, as seen in the traffic graph below.

“TorGuard has seen a steady increase in Australian subscribers and this new surge of users shows no signs of slowing. To keep up with the demand from this region we have recently added many new VPN servers in Australia, New Zealand, and Los Angeles,”

TorGuard Aussie traffic increase
aussietorg

Another VPN service, which preferred not to be named, also witnessed a similar spike in interest from Australians.

“We are seeing a peak in traffic and sales from Australia. In the past two weeks we saw an 88% traffic increase,” the VPN provider informed us.

These changes have to be seen in perspective of course. It’s still only a fraction of Aussie file-sharers who have taken countermeasures. However, it’s a clear signal that warnings are not the silver bullet to stop piracy.

The Aussie case is not the first time that anti-piracy measures have turned people to anonymizing tools. The same happened when the US Copyright Alert System launched, and earlier this year there was also a spike in Canada when ISPs began forwarding piracy notices.

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