Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: Uploaded.net Liable For Failing to Delete Copyright Content

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

uploaded-logoHaving content removed from the Internet is a task undertaken by most major entertainment industry companies. While laws differ around the world, the general understanding is that once notified of an infringement, Internet-based companies need to take action to prevent ongoing liability.

A case in Germany involving popular file-hosting service Uploaded.net has not only underlined this notion, but clarified that in some instances a hosting service can be held liable even if they aren’t aware of the content of a takedown notice.

It all began with anti-piracy company proMedia GmbH who had been working with their record label partners to remove unauthorized content from the Internet. The Hamburg-based company spotted a music album being made available on Uploaded so wrote to the company with a request for it to be removed.

“In the case at hand, a notice with regards to some infringing URLs on the file-hosting site was sent to the given abuse contact of the site,” Mirko Brüß, a lawyer with record label lawfirm Rasche Legal, told TorrentFreak.

However, three days later the album was still being made available so the lawfirm sent Uploaded an undertaking to cease and desist. When the file-hosting site still didn’t respond, Rasche Legal obtained a preliminary injunction against Uploaded.

“After it was served in Switzerland, the file-hoster objected and the court had an oral hearing in September,” Brüß explains.

In its response Uploaded appealed the injunction claiming it had never been aware of the takedown notices from proMedia GmbH. Lars Sobiraj of Tarnkappe told TF that Uploaded claimed to have received an empty Excel spreadsheet so didn’t react to it, preferring instead to receive plain text documents or complaints via its official takedown tool.

Rasche Legal later sent another email but Uploaded staff reportedly didn’t get a chance to read that either since an email server identified the correspondence as spam and deleted it.

“We did not believe this ‘story’ but thought they had just failed to process the notice expeditiously,” Brüß tolf TF.

In its judgment on the case the Hamburg District Court found that while service providers have no general obligations to monitor for infringing content on their services, the same cannot be said of infringements they have been made aware of.

However, the big question sat on Uploaded’s claims that it had never been aware of the infringements in question since it had never received the notices relating to them. In the event the Court found that sending the emails to Uploaded was enough to notify the service that infringements were taking place and that it must take responsibility for ending them.

“The Court followed our reasoning, meaning it is sufficient that the file-hoster actually receives the notice in a way that you can expect it to be read under normal circumstances,” Brüß says.

“There is a similar jurisdiction with regards to postal mail, where it is sufficient that the letter has reached your inbox and it is not necessary that you actually read the content of the letter in order for it to take legal effect. So here, we had proved that the takedown notice did reach the file-hoster’s mailserver, they only failed to act upon it.”

A ruling in the opposite direction would have opened up the possibility of other companies in a similar position to Uploaded blaming technical issues each time they failed to take down infringing content, Brüß explains. Instead, file-hosters are now required to respond quickly to complaints or face liability.

“So in essence, file-hosters need to make sure that they attain knowledge of all notices sent to them and act upon these notices expeditiously, or they face secondary (or even primary) liability. Also, the court stated that it does not matter by which means the notices are sent,” Brüß concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Will Punish “Pirate” Sites Harder in Search Results

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

google-bayOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has slowly implemented various new anti-piracy measures in response.

Today Google released an updated version of its “How Google Fights Piracyreport. The company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy, but also stresses that copyright holders themselves have a responsibility to make content available.

One of the most prominent changes is a renewed effort to make “pirate” sites less visible in search results. Google has had a downranking system in place since 2012, but this lacked effectiveness according to the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright industry groups.

The improved version, which will roll out next week, aims to address this critique.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,” says Katherine Oyama, Google’s Copyright Policy Counsel.

The report notes that the new downranking system will still be based on the number of valid DMCA requests a site receives, among other factors. The pages of flagged sites remain indexed, but are less likely to be the top results.

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

Looking at the list of sites for which Google received the most DMCA takedown request, we see that 4shared, Filestube and Dilandau can expect to lose some search engine traffic.

The report further highlights several other tweaks and improvements to Google’s anti-piracy efforts. For example, in addition to banning piracy related AutoComplete words, Google now also downranks suggestions that return results with many “pirate” sites.

Finally, the report also confirms our previous reporting which showed that Google uses ads to promote legal movie services when people search for piracy related keywords such as torrent, DVDrip and Putlocker. This initiative aims to increase the visibility of legitimate sites.

A full overview of Google’s anti-piracy efforts is available here.

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

TorrentFreak: United States Hosts Most Pirate Sites, UK Crime Report Finds

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

sam-pirateThe UK IP Crime Group, a coalition of law enforcement agencies, government departments and industry representatives, has released its latest IP Crime Report.

The report is produced by the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office and provides an overview of recent achievements and current challenges in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting. Increasingly, these threats are coming from the Internet.

“One of the key features in this year’s report is the continuing trend that the Internet is a major facilitator of IP crime,” the Crime Group writes.

The report notes that as in previous years, Hollywood-funded industry group FACT remains one of the key drivers of anti-piracy efforts in the UK. Over the past year they’ve targeted alleged pirate sites though various channels, including their hosting providers.

Not all hosts are receptive to FACT’s complaints though, and convincing companies that operate abroad is often a challenge. This includes the United States where the majority of the investigated sites are hosted.

“Only 14% of websites investigated by FACT are hosted in the UK. While it is possible to contact the hosts of these websites, there still remains a considerable number of copyright infringing websites that are hosted offshore and not within the jurisdiction of the UK.”

“Analysis has shown that the three key countries in which content is hosted are the UK, the USA and Canada. However, Investigating servers located offshore can cause specific problems for FACT’s law enforcement partners,” the report notes.

ushostpirate

The figure above comes as a bit of a surprise, as one would expect that United States authorities and industry groups would have been keeping their own houses in order.

Just a few months ago the US-based IIPA, which includes MPAA and RIAA as members, called out Canada because local hosting providers are “a magnet” for pirate sites. However, it now appears they have still plenty of work to do inside U.S. borders.

But even when hosting companies are responsive to complaints from rightsholders the problem doesn’t always go away. The report mentions that most sites simply move on to another host, and continue business as usual there.

“In 2013, FACT closed a website after approaching the hosting provider on 63 occasions. Although this can be a very effective strategy, in most instances the website is swiftly transferred onto servers owned by another ISP, often located outside the UK.”

While downtime may indeed be relatively brief the report claims that it may still hurt the site, as visitors may move on to other legitimate or illegitimate sources.

“The [moving] process usually involves a disruptive period of time whereby the website is offline, during which users will often find an alternative service, thus negatively affecting the website’s popularity.”

While hosting companies remain a main target, tackling the online piracy problem requires a multi-layered approach according to the UK Crime Group.

With the help of local law enforcement groups such as City of London’s PIPCU, copyright holders have rolled out a variety of anti-piracy measures in recent months. This includes domain name suspensions, cutting off payment processors and ad revenue, website blocking by ISPs and criminal prosecutions.

These and other efforts are expected to continue during the years to come. Whether that will be enough to put a real dent in piracy rates has yet to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Leaked TPP Draft Reveals Tough Anti-Piracy Measures

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

copyright-brandedThe Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties between the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and eight other countries in the region, has been largely shrouded in secrecy.

Today whistleblower outfit Wikileaks sheds some light on the ongoing negotiations by leaking a new draft of the agreement’s controversial intellectual property chapter.

The draft dates back to May 2014 and although it’s far from final, some significant progress has been made since the first leak during August last year.

For example, the countries have now agreed that a new copyright term will be set in the agreement. No decision has been made on a final term but options currently on the table are life of the author plus 50, 70 or 100 years.

The proposal to add criminal sanctions for non-commercial copyright infringement, which is currently not the case in many countries, also remains in play.

The leak further reveals a new section on ISP liability. This includes a proposal to make it mandatory for ISPs to alert customers who stand accused of downloading copyrighted material, similar to the requirement under the U.S. DMCA.

Alberto Cerda of Georgetown University Law Center points out that some of the proposals in the ISP liability section go above and beyond the DMCA.

“The most worrying proposal on the matter is that one that would extend the scope of the provisions from companies that provide Internet services to any person who provides online services,” Cerda told TorrentFreak.

This means that anyone who passes on Internet traffic could be held liable for the copyright infringements of others. This could include the local coffeehouse that offers free wifi, or even someone’s own Internet connection if it’s shared with others.

The leaked draft also adds a provision that would allow ISPs to spy on their own users to catch those who download infringing content. This is another concern, according to the law Professor.

“From a human rights viewpoint, that should be expressly limited to exceptional circumstances,” Cerda says.

It’s clear that the ISP liability section mimicks the DMCA. In fact, throughout the TPP chapter the most draconian proposals often originate from the United States.

Law Professor Michael Geist notes that Canada has been the leading opponent of many of the U.S. proposals, which often go against the country’s recently revamped copyright law. Geist warns that the TPP may eventually lead to tougher local laws as U.S. pressure continues.

“As the treaty negotiations continue, the pressure to cave to U.S. pressure will no doubt increase, raising serious concerns about whether the TPP will force the Canadian government to overhaul recently enacted legislation,” Geist writes.

Compared to the previous draft that leaked last year there are also some positive developments to report.

For example, Canada put forward a proposal that permits countries to allow exceptions to technological protection measures. This would makes it possible to classify DRM-circumvention as fair use, for example. A refreshing proposal, but one that’s unlikely to be approved by the U.S.

If anything, the leaked TPP chapter shows once again that there is still a very long way to go before a final draft is ready. After more than three years of negotiating many of the proposals are still heavily debated and could go in multiple directions.

That is, if an agreement is ever reached.

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

TorrentFreak: Freedom-Friendly Iceland Blocks The Pirate Bay

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

In 2013, copyright groups including the local equivalents of the RIAA (STEF) and MPAA (SMAIS) reported the operators of The Pirate Bay to Icelandic police. It had zero negative effect on the site.

So, with a public anti-piracy awareness campaign under their belts, STEF and SMAIS embarked on a strategy successfully employed by copyright holders in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and other European countries. The groups issued demands for local ISPs to block not only The Pirate Bay, but also Deildu.net, Iceland’s most popular private torrent tracker.

Modifications to the country’s Copyright Act in 2010 authorized injunctions against intermediaries, so the chances of success seemed good. However, this was Iceland, a country strongly associated with freedom of speech. Could protection of copyrights trump that?

“This action doesn’t go against freedom of expression as it aims to prevent copyright infringement and protect the rights and income of authors, artists and producers,” the rightsholders insisted.

Initial legal action against ISPs faced issues, with one blocking request rejected on a procedural matter. Another featuring four plaintiffs was reduced to three when in May this year the Supreme Court decided that only music group STEF had the rights to claim injunctive relief.

But despite the setbacks, this week the rightsholders achieved the ruling they had been hoping for. The Reykjavík District Court handed down an injunction to ISPs Vodafone and Hringdu forcing them to block several domains belonging to The Pirate Bay and Deildu.

STEF Director of Policy Gudrun Bjork Bjarnadóttir told local media that the decision of the Court is an important event that will smooth the way for much-needed additional blockades.

“We will never reach a final victory in the battle so it makes sense for people to realize that it’s likely that new sites will spring up. However, following similar actions abroad visitor numbers to such sites have declined significantly,” Bjarnadóttir said.

The domains to be blocked include thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.sx and thepiratebay.org, plus deildu.net and deildu.com. Currently the injunction applies to just two ISPs and it’s unclear whether there will be an attempt at expansion, but in the meantime the effort is likely to be a symbolic one.

The block against The Pirate Bay will be circumvented almost immediately due to the wide range of reverse proxy sites available and Deildu has already taken evasive action of its own. Within hours the private tracker announced a brand new domain – Iceland.pm – one that isn’t listed in the court order.

ISP Hringdu says that the Court ruling runs counter to company policies.

“It is clear that [the ruling] is not in harmony with Hringdu’s policy regarding net freedom,” director Kristinn Pétursson told Vísir. “The company has placed great emphasis on the idea that our customers should have unrestricted access to the internet.”

Neither of the ISPs has yet indicated an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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

TorrentFreak: Teen Pirates Pay For Movies More Often Than Non-Pirates

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

sadpirateOver the past few years Australia has been labeled one of the world’s hotspots when it comes to online piracy, with movie and TV show companies criticizing the public for obtaining content without paying for it.

Countering, Australians have complained fiercely about being treated as second-class consumers, with products often appearing months after their debut in other territories. There are signs that entertainment companies are beginning to listen, but piracy will probably be a difficult habit to break in the short term.

A new study published today claims that not only are the numbers of pirates increasing, but they’re also pirating more frequently.

Commissioned by the IP Awareness Foundation which counts the MPA, Foxtel and other key industry players among its members, the study found that 29% of Aussie adults aged between 18-64 are regular or occasional pirates, up from 25% last year.

The anonymous study also reveals some interesting trends as teens progress towards adulthood. In the 12 to 13 year-old group active pirates made up 14% of respondents but just a year later this doubles. Among 14 to 15 year-olds, active pirates increased to 29%.

By the ages of 16 and 17 this figure had grown even further to 36%.

teen-pirates

It’s clear that the industry would like to have the older generation influence its children to download less or not at all and the study suggests that parental influence carries the most weight with teens.

Overall, 67% of respondents said it is their parents who provide the most guidance on how to behave online, with 19% citing schools and teachers. Interestingly, just 7% mentioned peers as an influence with 1% or less mentioning the government.

However, while parents appear to carry the most influence, the perils of illegal downloading aren’t at the top of their concerns. Not releasing personal details online was the most discussed topic, followed by virus and malware, unsuitable (18+) websites and care over financial details.

Although the topic of illegal downloading was last on the list overall, those who don’t pirate said their parents discussed the subject more than those who pirate regularly.

teen-parent

Whether the parental discussions over malware paid off isn’t clear, but 63% of teen pirates said they were aware that ads on pirate sites could contain malicious software. But while aware of the risks, most had experienced no problems, with just 13% claiming an infection when downloading movies or TV shows or clicking ads on a pirate site.

Perhaps of most interest is the finding that teen pirates engage in legal media consumption habits at similar or improved levels to their illegal ones. Furthermore, teens who don’t pirate appear to consume less content legally than their pirating counterparts.

For instance, while around 35% of active downloaders obtain a movie from the Internet at least once each month without paying, 38% also rent a movie or TV show legally. Among non-pirates, this figure is just 27%.

Equally, while 37% of pirates admit to illegally streaming content at least once a month, 69% pay to see movies at the cinema. Among the non-pirates, the figure is just 49%.

teen-download

The findings also show that pirates are more engaged when it comes to consuming legal media online digitally. Some 46% of teen pirates said they download movies and TV shows from services such as iTunes each month while among non-pirates the figure is just 29%.

In respect of finding illegal content, just two main methods are cited by the teen respondents. A total of 59% said they go directly to their favorite sites to find movies and TV shows, while 22% said they used a search engine such as Google or Bing.

The study concludes by suggesting that anti-piracy education should be focused on the younger generation, to educate children before they reach 13 years-old when peer pressure kicks in and parents have less involvement.

A good balance might also be to work out how to get non-pirating teens as involved in buying legal content as their pirating counterparts.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Group Plans to Block In Excess of 100 Sites

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

stop-blockedWhen copyright holders turn to the courts for a solution to their problems it’s very rare that dealing with one site, service or individual is the long-term aim. Legal actions are designed to send a message and important decisions in rightsholders’ favor often open the floodgates for yet more action.

This is illustrated perfectly by the march towards large-scale website blocking in several regions around the world.

A topic pushed off the agenda in the United States following the SOPA debacle, web blockades are especially alive and well in Europe and living proof that while The Pirate Bay might the initial target of Hollywood and the record labels, much bigger plans have always been in store.

A typical example is now emerging in Austria. Having spent years trying to have streaming sites Kino.to, Kinox.to and Movie4K blocked at the ISP level, anti-piracy group VAP has just achieved its aims. Several key local ISPs began blocking the sites this month but the Hollywood affiliated group has now admitted that they’ve had bigger plans in mind all along.

Speaking with DerStandard, VAP CEO Werner Müller has confirmed that his group will now work to have large numbers of additional sites banned at the ISP level.

Using a term often used by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, Müller says his group has compiled a list of sites considered by the movie industry to be “structurally infringing”. The sites are expected to be the leaders in the torrent, linking and streaming sector, cyberlockers included. IFPI has already confirmed it will be dealing with The Pirate Bay and two other sites.

The VAP CEO wouldn’t be drawn on exact numbers, but did confirm that a “low three digit” number of domains are in the crosshairs for legal action.

Although Austria is in the relatively early stages, a similar situation has played out in the UK, with rightsholders obtaining blocks against some of the more famous sites and then streamlining the process to add new sites whenever they see fit. Dozens of sites are now unavailable by regular means.

If VAP has its way the blockades in Austria will be marginally more broad than those in the UK, affecting the country’s eighth largest service providers and affecting around 95% of subscribers.

Of course, whenever web blockades are mentioned the topic of discussion turns to circumvention. In Austria the blockades are relatively weak, with only DNS-based mitigation measures in place. However, VAP predicts the inevitable expansion towards both DNS and IP address blocking and intends to head off to court yet again to force ISPs to implement them.

Describing the Internet as a “great machine” featuring good and bad sides, Müller says that when ordering website blocks the courts will always appreciate the right to freedom of expression.

“But there’s no human right to Bruce Willis,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Drop Charges Against Industrial-Scale ‘Pirate’

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

cityoflondonpoliceEarly September news broke of another significant anti-piracy action carried out by City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit.

After traveling 200 miles from their London base, PIPCU officers were assisted by Greater Manchester Police in raid carried out on a residential address in the Cheetham Hill area.

Their target was Zain Parvez, a 27-year-old whom police believed was the operator of a series of websites (CoolSport.se, CoolSport.tv and KiwiSportz.tv) which allegedly offered unauthorized access to subscription-only TV services, including matches from the Premier League.

Following Parvez’s arrest, police used the word “industrial” to describe the scale of the operation, having seized 12 servers said to have illegally streamed sports globally. The picture below was released to the press to underline the gravity of the situation.

Coolraid

Instead of releasing him on bail, Parvez was kept in custody under suspicion of offenses under the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, engaging in money laundering, conspiracy to defraud and possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud.

But now, six weeks later, a surprising development appears to have undermined the case. After an appearance before magistrates the case went to Manchester Crown Court, at which point it was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

“Following consultations with the CPS, a decision has been made to cease the initial charges put before the court in relation to a man arrested by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit on September 1 in Manchester,” a PIPCU spokesperson said.

PIPCU says the investigation into Parvez’s alleged operation is still ongoing but with all the main charges now dropped, it’s unclear where the case can now go.

Parvez’s detention marked the third occasion an alleged streaming site operator had been arrested in the UK, but to date there has been no news of a successful prosecution.

The domains previously operated by Parvez are now all redirecting to a suspicious-looking site promoting Alibaba share deals, not City of London Police’s ‘seized site’ banner as previously might have been expected.

TorrentFreak contacted Parvez for comment and will update this article with any response.

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

TorrentFreak: ISPs Agree Voluntary Pirate Site Blocks

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

throttleWhen it comes to pirate site blockades, Denmark is somewhat of a pioneer. Way back in 2006 in a case initiated by the IFPI, a court ordered ISP Tele2 to block Russian MP3 site, AllofMP3.

Another case ended in victory for the music group in 2008, with a blockade of The Pirate Bay the end result.

In 2011 the music industry looked to expand its list of blocked domains by using anti-piracy group Rettigheds Alliancen (Rights Alliance) to attack US-based streaming service Grooveshark via the courts. A matter of months later the coalition of 30 rightsholders prevailed in a case in which Grooveshark took no part.

While the entertainment industries are now well capable of obtaining blocking injunctions against pirate sites, each action has to be targeted at a specific service provider. That means that while an injunction might be issued against one ISP, rival ISPs are free to carry on providing access.

This week, however, all that changed.

Following negotiations with anti-piracy group Rights Alliance, the telecommunications industry in Denmark has signed a Code of Conduct which will ensure that blockades are put in place country-wide.

The agreement ensures that when a court issues an injunction against a single ISP ordering it to implement DNS blocking against a ‘pirate’ site, within days all rival ISPs will voluntarily implement a similar blockade.

Speaking for the telecoms sector, Jakob Willer of Tele Industrien said that industry-wide regulation will support the growth of authorized services.

“In the telecommunications industry, we find it important to ensure rapid and effective implementation of regulatory decisions across the entire industry. It is also important to ensure the development of legitimate online services, where consumers can find what they are looking for and the artists can get paid for what they have created,” Willer said.

Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund is pleased with the agreement which will assist her group and its members to more easily block ‘pirate’ sites at the ISP level. Under the Code of Conduct, ISPs will block domains within seven days of another provider being issued with an injunction.

Commenting on the agreement, Minister for Culture Marianne Jelved said that it’s important for rightsholders to have tools at their disposal when they feel that their music, movies and books are being used online without their permission.

“I am glad that the copyright holders and telecommunications companies in this area are working together to ensure that we have the most creative and legal digital content. The new Code of Conduct is an important step in this effort,” Jelved said.

The Code of Conduct also allows for expanded blocking if ‘pirate’ sites move to new IP addresses or domains. However, the code states that should wrongful blocking occur due to rightsholder error, then the rightsholders will be liable to the ISPs for any financial costs incurred.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Studios Willingly Advertise on Notorious ‘Pirate’ Site

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

vkThe Russian social network VKontakte (VK) has long been criticized for its passive approach to piracy. The site is flooded with unauthorized content including movies and music, all uploaded by its millions of users.

As a result the United States Trade Representative has labeled the site a “notorious market” on several occasions. While VK has taken some steps to address the issues this year, copyright holders are far from satisfied.

This week the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups, called out VK as one of the worst piracy havens around. The U.S. Government is organizing a hearing on Russia’s WTO implementation and in a request to testify the IIPA points out that piracy is rampant in the country.

“Russia is home to several of the U.S. Government’s ‘Notorious Markets’ for copyright piracy, especially digital piracy,” IIPA’s Eric Schwartz writes (pdf).

“One such Notorious Market is vKontakte, the most popular online social network in Russia, and the largest single distributor of infringing music in Russia; it is also a hotbed for online piracy of movies and television programming.”

Despite the numerous complaints that have been submitted to the Russian authorities, widespread piracy remains a problem on the social network. Last year Russia implemented a new law that would allow copyright holders to have structurally infringing websites blocked, but attempts to target VK have failed thus far.

“To date, the Government of Russia has taken little or no action against this site, or the other sites or services identified by the U.S. and other foreign governments and copyright rightsholders. This is symptomatic of the problems of ineffective enforcement in Russia,” Schwartz adds.

The critique of VK is not new. The MPAA and other copyright holders have complained about it for years. Having this in mind, we were surprised to find that several Hollywood studios still advertise their content on VK.

In recent months copyright holders have been lobbying advertising networks to stop doing business with so-called pirate sites. However, major movie studios including Warner Bros see no problem with having a presence on VK.

Below is a screenshot of the VK profile of Warner Bros. Russian branch, which currently has 146,780 members. Aside from promoting new movies, they also list several music tracks they don’t appear to hold the copyrights to.

Warner Bros. on VK
warnervk

Warner Bros. is of course not the only studio with an official VK account. Universal Pictures has a dedicated page for Russian fans too, and so do Disney, Marvel and 20th Century Fox.

The above are just a few examples. There are many other companies represented by the IIPA who have a profile on the “notorious pirate site”, Microsoft included.

So instead of asking Russia to take action against the site, shouldn’t these companies stop advertising on it first? Considering the fact that they place VK in the same category as The Pirate Bay, that would make sense.

Or perhaps the Hollywood studios will create an official Pirate Bay profile, to start uploading trailers of their latest movies there as well…?

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

TorrentFreak: Pirates Prepare to ‘Blockade’ Anti-Piracy Outfit

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

stop-blockedIn addition to corporate blocking solutions that categorize sites as unsuitable for viewing audiences based on their own secret rules, almost every month news breaks of entertainment industry groups aiming to have sites blocked at the ISP level.

Most recently Austrian anti-piracy group VAP completed its mission to have two streaming sites – Movie4K and Kinox – blocked by local ISPs. The achievement was the culmination of years of work through the Austrian courts right through to the European Court of Justice and back again.

Several local ISPs (UPC, 3, Tele2 and A1) are now all blocking the sites and it’s widely expected that not only will VAP return for blocks of additional sites, but it will also be accompanied by recording group IFPI who will take on Pirate Bay and other sites.

In the meantime, however, the Austrian division of the Pirate Party is complaining loudly about what they view as web censorship. So today, just a few hours from now, they intend to give the Hollywood-affiliated group a small taste of their own medicine.

At 2pm Austrian time, party members and their supporters say they will descend on VAP headquarters in Vienna to air their opinions on blocking and other censorship measures. The organizers hope that their small offline ‘blockade’ will in some way mirror those experienced online.

Under the slogan “Block the Blocker”, the pirates say they will form their own symbolic obstruction outside Wiedner Hauptstrasse 63, 1040 Vienna, to raise awareness of why web filtering is highly problematic and useless for protecting artists. It’s a position broadly shared by several political parties in Austria including the Greens.

Of course, the pirates won’t be able to fully block access to VAP’s building, since that would be against the law. However, if they did manage to achieve that somehow – even unintentionally – VAP employees could simply enter their workplace through another entrance, or perhaps an adjoining building.

And with Kinox now circumventing the ISP blockade after adding a new .TV domain, there won’t be a pirate present today who doesn’t appreciate that irony.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Lifts Overbroad “Piracy” Blockade of Mega and Other Sites

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

megaLast July the Court of Rome ordered all local Internet providers to block 24 websites including Mega.co.nz and Russia’s largest email provider Mail.ru.

The broad anti-piracy measures were requested by small independent Italian movie distributor Eyemoon Pictures. The company complained that the sites in question distributed two films, “The Congress” and “Fruitvale Station,” before they were released in Italian cinemas.

Several sites affected by the blockade decided to appeal the order, and not without success. Fulvio Sarzana, who acts as lawyer for several of the accused sites including Mega, told TorrentFreak that the sites in question can now be accessed again.

The lawyer took up the case with the local Prosecutor, and pointed out that the blockades are overbroad. Instead of blocking access to a single file it makes entire sites unreachable.

In addition, Sarzana noted that the measures are not needed as the file-hosting sites have strict takedown policies in place which allow copyright holders to remove infringing content.

The Prosecutor was receptive to these arguments and after a settlement agreement with several of the affected services was reached last month, local ISPs were ordered to lift the blockades.

“For Mega we negotiated a court settlement with the Office of the Prosecutor of Rome, which recognized the legitimacy of Mega’s activities and ordered the removal of the blockade. The same is the case for other hosting services,” Sarzana tells TorrentFreak.

For another site, which prefers not to be named, it was necessary to take the case to the Appeals Court. In common with a similar case earlier this year, the Court held that the blocking order was indeed too broad. As a result this blockade was also lifted.

“The Court held that the ISP blockade of the website was disproportionate because the copyright infringement occurs on individual pages. The entire website can therefore not be blocked for copyright reasons,” Sarzana notes.

The lawyer expects that the Appeals Court ruling will have implications for the Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM), which currently has the power to block allegedly infringing sites without a court order.

Considering the recent Appeals Court decision, this procedure may be unconstitutional. This possibility has also been raised by several consumer groups who have asked the court to review AGCOM’s legitimacy.

Last week the Court of Rome referred these complaints to the Constitutional Court. Here it will be examined whether the current procedure violates right to freedom of expression and free speech, among other things.

To be continued.

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

TorrentFreak: Miramax Demands Payment From Kill Bill Pirates

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

miramaxWhile the mainstream recording labels and movie studios regroup to tackle the piracy issue from new directions, other companies are being convinced to do things the old-fashioned way.

In move reminiscent of the RIAA’s war on the public during the last decade, hundreds of thousands of Internet users are now receiving demands for cash settlements after allegedly downloading and sharing copyright-infringing content.

Alongside traditional ‘trolls’ such as the now-infamous Malibu Media, US-based Rightscorp Inc. has been recruiting copyright holders to pursue alleged pirates for relatively modest sums. As previously reported, in emails sent via their ISPs, subscribers are asked for $20.00 to settle copyright complaints.

One of the more recent additions to the Rightscorp fold is US-based entertainment company Miramax. The distributor has hundreds of movies in its catalog, with the image below representing just a tiny sample.

Miramax

As can be seen top right, the Tarantino classic Kill Bill: Volume 1 is a Miramax title and one that is now being handled by Rightscorp. The company has been sending out cash demands to alleged sharers via their ISPs and some have taken to file-sharing sites including The Pirate Bay to send warnings to other potential downloaders.

“I got [a settlement demand] sent to me recently via email. This file is being tracked,” a user of the Pirate Bay explained.

Tracing back the details the user posted in the comments section of a Blu-ray ‘YIFY’ release led TF to the relevant settlement page on the Rightscorp website. As shown below, the company wants $20.00 to settle the case.

killbill

The extent to which Miramax has exposed its hundreds of other titles to Rightscorp is currently unknown, but in the particular case detailed above the company won’t be picking up any cash. The settlement page is yet to be filled in suggesting that the recipient simply ignored the demand which, incidentally, was sent to his ISP Charter Communications.

And here lies the problem. Although Rightscorp currently claims to have “closed” 100,000 infringement cases, in the majority of instances recipients are free to ignore the company’s demands since their identities remain a mystery to the anti-piracy outfit.

While thousands have undoubtedly paid up, the company refuses to reveal what percentage do not. Even investors on a recent conference call with the company were told the figures were a trade secret.

While companies like Miramax are testing out the cheap settlement option, there are signs that investor confidence could be much better. Since the company went public (NASDAQ) late 2013, the trend after the first quarter of 2014 is all downhill, with a particularly steep drop off at the end of last month.

Rights-stock

The $20 request is an attractive amount for people to put a complaint completely behind them, and Rightscorp clearly know that, but discussions on community sites suggest that file-sharers are beginning to realize that paying up a few bucks might only be the beginning.

Rightscorp often send users a $20 claim for a single track and then once that amount is paid their target discovers that they’re on the hook for the rest of the songs on the album they downloaded, at $20 per track thereafter.

Only time will tell if the Rightscorp strategy will pay off, but if the company finds itself in worsening conditions it wouldn’t be a surprise if the amounts demanded for settlement begin to increase, alongside an even more aggressive pay-up-or-else tone.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Adds Custom Pirate Bay Search With Autocomplete

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

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

According to the RIAA, MPAA and others, Google is making it too easy for its users to find pirated content. Instead, they would prefer Google to remove sites such as the Pirate Bay from its search results.

Thus far this hasn’t happened and it’s unlikely that the position will change in the near future. The search engine has changed Pirate Bay’s appearance in the search results, however, but not in the direction the copyright holders had hoped for.

A few weeks ago Google announced its new and improved “sitelinks” section. This section also appears when searching for Pirate Bay related keywords and lists links to popular sections of the site.

In an additional new move, it now shows a prominent search box that people can use to search for content on The Pirate Bay directly from Google.

Google’s Pirate Bay search box
tpbsitelinks

The feature also works with other large search related sites and wasn’t intended for The Pirate Bay specifically. However, considering the entertainment industries’ previous critique this will soon be added to their long list of complaints.

Perhaps even more painful than the search box itself is the fact that the new sitelinks also support AutoComplete. This means that people get pirate-themed search suggestions if they use the box in question.

Simply typing in the letter G shows the following search suggestions, for example.

Pirate autocomplete
tpbsuggest

It’s unclear where these suggested terms are sourced from. They could come from popular searches on Google that relate to The Pirate Bay, or perhaps they are based on Pirate Bay pages that are indexed by the search engine.

It’s worth noting that the “pirate” AutoComplete appears to go against Google’s policy of not showing copyright-infringing suggestions. Regular Google searches don’t suggest “Pirate Bay” when entering “Pirate B” for example.

And things could get even worse in the future.

For now, the custom Pirate Bay search box returns its results within Google. However, if The Pirate Bay decides to implement the right markup it will take users directly to The Pirate Bay, which is likely to escalate the situation further.

The Pirate Bay team is aware of Google’s new feature and is considering adding support for these direct searches. Whether Google will allow that to happen remains to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Revealed: Warner Bros. Uses “Sophisticated Robots” to Fight Piracy

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

warnerIt’s been nearly a year since Hotfile was defeated by the MPAA, but the case hasn’t gone away completely yet.

As part of their $80 million settlement agreement with the movie studios, the file-hosting service also let the counter-suit over Warner Bros. alleged DMCA-abuse go.

This meant that the true workings of Warner Bros. takedown systems remained secret, since many of the court filings were heavily redacted. Arguing that the public has the right to know how Warner operated, the Electronic Frontier Foundation therefore asked the court to unseal the records.

Warner Bros. objected to this request, arguing that the effectiveness of their anti-piracy technology would be undermined by a public disclosure. However, two weeks ago U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ordered that it’s in the public interest to unseal the information.

The first set of unredacted documents were published by Warner Bros. yesterday evening. While it’s only a fraction of all sealed material, we can now see what the movie studio was so eager to keep out of the public eye.

Most of the unsealed information deals with Warner’s automated DMCA takedown tools. In the court filings these are described as “robots” which are programmed to mimic human behavior.

“Warner uses a system of computer programs known as ‘robots’ to help search link sites. for links to infringing copies of its content. These programmable robots are highly sophisticated and can effectively mimic the search a human would conduct, except faster,” Warner explains.

Warner’s (previously) redacted robots
warnerredact

This isn’t a big surprise, but Warner clearly preferred to keep its automated takedown tools out of the public domain.

The unsealed information further shows that the script in question searches 200 hand-picked link sites for specific keywords. A takedown notice then goes out to the source site of this link. The actual content was never downloaded and reviewed, nor were the titles checked to see if Warner actually owned the content in question.

“Its search process relied on computer automation to execute programs and did not involve human review of the file titles, page names or other overt characteristics before issuing a takedown notice,” an unredacted court order reads.

“And because the files were not reviewed, neither Warner’s robots nor its employees made a determination whether there were legal uses for the files.”

Despite revealing details of its “robots”, Warner still redacts how many employees its anti-piracy division employs. Unfortunately for them they forgot to black out one reference. According to an unredacted court order Warner employed seven people in its anti-piracy division at the time.

All in all it appears that most of the redactions revealed up until now were meant to keep the anti-piracy operations shrouded in mystery. There is not much that can actually hurt the company’s anti-piracy efforts.

While it’s now clear that Warner’s DMCA takedowns were highly automated, there is still a lot more information to unseal. Many questions about specific errors also remain unanswered, including the fact that the studio intentionally targeted the open source JDownloader software.

Whether future revelations will lift more of the veil will become apparent in the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: NetNames Anti-Piracy Chief Moves to IFPI

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

price-imgNetNames is one of a number of brand protection businesses operating online today. The company, which aims to cushion the effects of fraud on its clients’ brands, positions itself as a global leader in the sector.

Established as Group NBT in 1995, the company was renamed NetNames in 2013 and shortly after grabbed dozens of headlines after publishing a major study into online piracy.

Commissioned by NBC Universal and titled ‘Sizing the Piracy Universe‘, the study mapped piracy volumes and prevalence around the world. NetNames’ found that piracy is both “tenacious and persistent”, with a penchant for consuming increasing amounts of Internet bandwidth every year.

The report was overseen by Dr David Price, then Director of Piracy and Counterfeit Analysis at NetNames. Price also presided over the publication last month of NetNames’ latest piracy study which focused on the role played by credit card companies in the cyberlocker space.

Published exactly a year after the NBC study, ‘Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions‘ was commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), ostensibly to protect consumers. DCA doesn’t openly reveal its sources of funding but the report has all the hallmarks of an entertainment industry-focused study.

Previously, Price was the chief of Piracy Intelligence at Envisional and the head of a study claiming to be the first to accurately estimate the amount of infringing traffic on the Internet.

Now it appears that Price’s work has received the ultimate compliment from one of the most powerful entertainment industry organizations on the planet.

ifpilogoThe International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI as it’s more often called, is the umbrella anti-piracy organization for the world’s leading recording labels. As of now, IFPI – probably in their UK office since that’s where Price is based – has a new employee.

According to an amendment tucked away on his Linkedin profile, Price – who has a doctorate in Criminology from the University of Cambridge – is now working for the IFPI as their Head of Anti-Piracy Research and Analysis.

davidprice

In recent years Price has maintained a clear anti-piracy stance, which will obviously suit IFPI. He has participated in discussions calling for government action against piracy and regularly uses content-industry friendly terms such as “stealing” to describe unauthorized copying.

TorrentFreak contacted NetNames’ PR company for a comment on Price’s departure but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

IFPI London, where the organization’s anti-piracy operations are based, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Get Demonoid Blocked in Italy, For Now

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

demonoid-logoAfter 20 months of downtime the infamous Demonoid BitTorrent tracker came back online earlier this year.

The site slowly started to rebuild its community and is now getting millions of visitors per month again. At the same time, however, the torrent site is also drawing attention from various copyright holders.

On behalf of Sony, Warner and Universal, Italian anti-piracy group FIMI submitted a complaint against Demonoid to the Communications Regulatory Authority (AGCOM) last month. AGCOM is a regulatory body that has the power to order website blockades without court interference, if sites are deemed to be infringing.

The labels’ complaint listed several tracks by Italian artists including Laura Pausini, Max Pezzali and Vasco Rossi, which were made available on Demonoid. However, instead of ordering blockades for these infringing works, AGCOM has now instructed ISPs to block the entire website.

As a result, Italian Internet subscribers can no longer access Demonoid.

TorrentFreak contacted Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer specialized in Internet and copyright disputes, who told us that the scope of the preliminary injunction is too broad and disproportional.

“The order, in my opinion, is not proportional. The Court of Rome repeatedly ruled that blocking orders must be directed only at illegal content, and not the whole site,” Sarzana says.

The lawyer refers to a ruling earlier this year, where the Court of Rome recalled a blocking order against the video streaming site Filmakerz.org. The Court argued that partial blocking of a specific URL is preferred over site-wide bans, something that clearly didn’t happen with Demonoid.

“Demonoid would do well to contest the measure which appears to be illegitimate,” Sarzana notes, adding that the AGCOM procedures may be unconstitutional.

This issue has also been raised by several consumer groups who asked the court to review AGCOM’s legitimacy. Earlier this week the Court of Rome referred these complaints to the Constitutional Court. Here it will be examined whether the current procedure violates right to freedom of expression and free speech, among other things.

If AGCOM is indeed deemed to be unconstitutional there’s a good chance that all existing blockades will be lifted. In addition, Sarzana believes that the wrongfully blocked websites may then be entitled to receive compensation for the damages they suffered.

However, until a decision from the Constitutional Court arrives AGCOM will continue to operate normally. FIMI is happy with this decision as well as the new blockades against Demonoid.

“We are extremely satisfied with this new blocking order and also about the outcome of the decision from the administrative Court of Rome on the regulation,” FIMI’s Enzo Mazza tells TorrentFreak.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders Immediate Pirate Site Blockade

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

Kino.to, at the time one of the world’s largest illegal streaming portals, was shut down in 2011 as part of Europe’s largest ever action against piracy sites.

However, just a month before Kino.to was dismantled, Austrian ISP ‘UPC’ was served with a preliminary injunction ordering it to block subscriber access to the site. The order had been obtained by the Hollywood-affiliated anti-piracy group VAP but it was called into doubt by the ISP. This led to the Austrian Supreme Court referring the matter to the European Court of Justice.

Earlier this year the ECJ handed down its widely publicized decision which stated that yes, in reasonable circumstances, pirate sites can indeed be blocked by European ISPs.

On the back of this ruling, VAP subsequently wrote to several local ISPs (UPC, 3, Tele2 and A1) demanding blockades of Movie4K.to and Kinox.to, a site that took over from Kino.to. This would become the test case on which all future blockades would be built.

When this formal request for the ISPs to block the sites was rejected, in August VAP sued the providers. And now, after more than three years of wrangling, VAP have finally got their way.

In a ruling handed down yesterday by the Commercial Court of Vienna, UPC, 3, Tele2 and A1 were ordered to block Movie4K and Kinox with immediate effect. According to Der Standard, UPC and A1 placed blocks on the sites within hours, with 3 and Tele2 expected to comply with the injunction today.

But while another important hurdle has now been overcome, there is some way to go before VAP will have achieved everything they initially set out to do. At issue now is how far the ISPs will have to go in order to comply with the court order. It’s understood that VAP requires DNS and IP address blocking at a minimum, but whether the ISPs intend to comply with that standard remains to be seen.

It’s important for VAP, and other anti-piracy groups waiting in the wings, that these technical steps are workable going forward. Both VAP and the IFPI have lists of sites they would like blocked in the same way as Movie4K and Kinox have been, so it’s crucial to them that blockades aren’t easily circumvented.

Once this issue has been dealt with, in the next few months it’s likely that attention will turn to legal action being planned by the IFPI. The recording group has taken on the task of having torrent sites blocked in Austria, starting off with The Pirate Bay, isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to.

IFPI is expected to sue several ISPs in the hope that local courts will treat torrent sites in the same way as they have streaming services. Once that’s been achieved – and at this stage it seems likely – expect long lists of additional domains to be submitted to the courts.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Asked to Remove Half a Billion “Pirate” Search Results

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

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

These requests have increased dramatically over the years. In 2008, the search engine received only a few dozen takedown notices during the entire year, but today it processes a million per day on average.

Adding up the numbers reported in Google’s Transparency Report, we found that since the release of the report three years ago Google has been asked to remove over 500 million links to allegedly infringing webpages.

The number of notices continues to increase at a rapid pace as nearly half of the requests, 240 million, were submitted during the first months of 2014. The graph below illustrates this sharp rise in takedown notices.

takedownincrease

Most of the reported webpages have indeed been removed and no longer appear in Google’s search results. As an example, more than two million Pirate Bay pages have quietly been wiped from Google.

TorrentFreak asked Google for a comment on the most recent milestone but the company has chosen not to respond on the record.

Despite the frequent use of the takedown process many copyright holders aren’t happy with the way things are going. While Google does its best to comply with its obligations under current law, some industry insiders claim that the search giant can and should do more to tackle the piracy problem.

The UK music industry group BPI, which is responsible for roughly 20% of all submitted URLs, points out that Google should do more to lower the visibility of unauthorized content in its search results. Despite promises to do so, the music group still sees very little improvement on this front

“Despite its clear knowledge as to which sites are engines of piracy, Google continues to help build their illegal businesses, by giving them a prominent ranking in search results,” BPI told us last week.

“Google can simply fix this problem by amending its algorithm. We hope they will respond positively to the invitation from Government to negotiate voluntary measures to do so.”

The BPI and other copyright holders are pushing for some sort of agreement to implement more far-reaching anti-piracy measures. However, thus far Google maintains that it’s already doing its best to address the concerns of copyright holders.

Last year the company released a report detailing the various anti-piracy measures it uses. However, the company also stressed that copyright holders can do more to prevent piracy themselves.

Without legal options it’s hard to beat unauthorized copying, is the argument Google often repeats.

“Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply. As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services,” the company previously explained.

“The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.”

While this standoff continues, copyright holders are expected to increase the volume of requests. At the current pace Google may have processed a billion URLs by the end of next year.

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

TorrentFreak: Universal Music Moves For Summary Judgment Against Grooveshark

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

In January 2010, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit in a New York court in which it alleged that Grooveshark was offering unauthorized copies of its musical works. The content in question were tracks from Universal’s pre-1972 back catalog.

The date when the tracks were recorded is important, since songs recorded before February 15, 1972, are covered under New York state law and not federal copyright legislation where safe harbor provisions of the DMCA apply.

“This case arises from Defendant’s massive willful copyright infringement and unfair
competition in violation of New York common law,” Universal writes in its latest submission to the Court.

“[Grooveshark parent company] Escape infringed UMG’s copyrighted works billions of times since it launched the current iteration of Grooveshark without any license from UMG and in flagrant violation of UMG’s exclusive rights.”

Describing Escape’s “pervasive copyright infringement” as part of a “premeditated business strategy” carried out by a “blatantly infringing pirate music service”, Universal Music (UMG) has now moved for summary judgment in the case on copyright infringement and unfair competition grounds.

“Escape has admitted that it competes with UMG in the market for the
dissemination of music over the Internet. Accordingly, it obtained an unfair competitive advantage over authorized streaming services by using UMG’s sound recordings without a license or payment.”

Previously, Escape Media counter-claimed against UMG when the company allegedly that UMG had tried to interfere with its business by influencing third-party companies to curtail relationships with the streaming service. UMG states those were legitimate anti-piracy tactics and dismisses Escape’s claims as an attempt to distract from the case in hand.

“Having no substantive defense to UMG’s infringement claims, Escape filed several baseless counterclaims against UMG for alleged interference with contracts and business relations,” UMG writes.

“The undisputed record confirms that the communications at issue directly related to the efforts by UMG and related companies to curtail the massive infringement of its copyrights by Escape’s Grooveshark service and thus were wholly appropriate and justified.”

UMG says it is entitled to summary judgment on all matters including copyright infringement, unfair competition and Escape’s counter-claims.

“In view of the foregoing, UMG respectfully requests that this Court grant summary
judgment against Escape for common law copyright infringement of UMG’s copyrights in the Works-in-Suit, based on Escape’s invasion of its rights of reproduction, distribution, and performance, as well as for unfair competition, and for UMG on Escape’s counterclaims for tortious interference with contract and business relations,” UMG concludes.

In 2011 it appeared that Grooveshark would be able to claim safe harbor protections on pre-1972 recordings after all when a court ruled in its favor. However, in April 2013 a panel reversed the decision.

“The statutory language at issue involves two equally clear and compelling Congressional priorities: to promote the existence of intellectual property on the Internet, and to insulate pre-1972 sound recordings from federal regulation,” Justice Angela Mazzarrelli wrote.

Whether UMG will obtain their summary judgment and at what financial expense to Escape Media and Grooveshark will be developments for the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Piracy Police Chief Calls For State Interference to Stop Internet Anarchy

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

cityoflondonpoliceFounded little over a year ago, the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has quickly grown to become one of the world’s most active anti-piracy operations.

The unit uses a wide range of strategies, from writing to domain registrars and threatening them, to working with advertisers in order to cut off revenues from ‘pirate’ sites.

PIPCU is determined to continue its anti-piracy efforts in the years to come. However, the unit’s head Andy Fyfe also believes that the Government may have to tighten the rules on the Internet, to stop people from breaking the law.

In an interview with PC Pro, Fyfe says he wants to see this topic being debated in the media.

“I’m very interested in having a debate in the media about how much policing of the internet people want. At the moment, there’s almost no regulation and no policing of the internet,” Fyfe says.

PIPCU’s chief believes that the public has to be protected from criminals including pirate site operators who take advantage of their trust. If that doesn’t happen then the Internet may descend into anarchy, he says, suggesting that the Government may have to intervene to prevent this.

“In the end, that might mean that the Internet becomes completely ungovernable, and that no one can dare operate on it at all, no one can dare do their shopping or banking on it. So should there be a certain level of … state inference in the interest of protecting consumers? I’m very keen to raise that as a debate,” Fyfe notes.

The Police chief believes that tighter rules may be needed to prevent people from breaking the law in the future. This could mean that not everyone is allowed to launch a website, but that a license would be required, for example.

“There may well come a time when government decides it’s had enough and it’s not getting enough help from those main companies that control the way we use the internet – they’re not getting enough help from them, so they’re going to start imposing regulations, imposing a code of conduct about the way people may be allowed to operated on the internet,” Fife says.

PIPCU’s head doesn’t detail what the “code of conduct” might look like or how it may be enforced. Perhaps it’s finally time for the Internet passport to be introduced?

We’re keen on having this debate as well, so please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders Warner Bros. to Reveal Flawed Anti-Piracy Technology

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

warnerThree years ago file-hosting service Hotfile countersued Warner Bros., accusing the movie studio of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process.

Hotfile alleged that after giving Warner access to its systems, the studio removed hundreds of files that weren’t theirs, including games demos and Open Source software.

The case was poised to reveal how Warner Bros. anti-piracy system works and what mistakes were made by the movie studio. But last November, a few weeks before the trial was due to begin, the case was closed as part of a settlement between Hotfile and the MPAA.

The decision was a disappointment to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who asked the court to unseal documents regarding Warner’s alleged abuse. According to the group, the public has the right to know what mistakes Warner made.

Warner Bros. objected to this request, arguing that the effectiveness of their anti-piracy technology would be undermined by a public disclosure. The movie studio asked the Court to permanently seal the records, but during an oral hearing this week U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams denied this request.

The Judge ordered Warner Bros. to hand over some of the information within ten days, and come up with a schedule for the release of all relevant documents. According to Judge Williams the public has the right to see how Warner Bros. handles DMCA takedown requests.

The EFF is happy with the ruling, and says it will help legislators to refine and improve the current DMCA process. This year both the Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee have looked into possible changes to the current process.

“More information about how the DMCA process has been abused – particularly through automated takedown systems with inadequate human review – will help us improve it, and hold people responsible when they use this powerful tool of censorship abusively or without caution,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz says in a comment.

“The sealed documents from the Hotfile case will help,” he adds.

While it’s too late for Hotfile, it is definitely valuable to see what how Warner Bros. made its mistakes and how their piracy takedown technology is set up.

“We’re pleased that Judge Williams preserved the public’s right to open court proceedings here, and we are looking forward to a close analysis of the Warner documents when they are released,” Stoltz concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Lionsgate Hopes Server Logs Will Expose Expendables Leaker

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

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

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

While this campaign had some success, the studio has yet to identify who first published the leaked copy online. In a new court request filed at a California federal court Lionsgate states that the weblogs of file-hosting service Swankshare.com may provide more details.

Swankshare is one of the sites that was targeted in Lionsgate’s lawsuit. Following a preliminary injunction the site’s servers were taken down by its hosting company FDCServers. However, the Expendables makers now want to gain access to the server logs to see who uploaded the leaked copy of the film.

“Lions Gate is informed and believes that as the website host for Swankshare, FDCServers is likely to have weblogs and other data evidencing traffic on Swankshare that will be useful to Lions Gate in its investigation of the source of the infringement at issue in this lawsuit,” Lionsgate’s lawyers inform the court.

The request suggests that there is reason to believe that Swankshare may have been used by the initial leaker. However, it’s currently unknown whether the movie studio has any concrete leads to proof this or if it’s merely grasping at straws.

Lionsgate’s request
lionslogs

The court filing also shows that the movie studio has been able to track down the owner of Swankshare, Mr. Lucas Lim. They are currently trying to resolve their dispute, and as part of these discussions Mr. Lim agreed that Lionsgate can access the sites server logs.

“Lions Gate and Mr. Lim have discussed whether a resolution of the dispute between them might be possible, and to further those discussions Mr. Lim has stipulated that Lions Gate may seek authority from the Court to serve a subpoena on FDCServers for the production of weblogs and other data evidencing traffic on Swankshare,” they explain.

Hosting provider FDCServers is willing to cooperate but requested clarification from the court that it’s permitted to grant access to the servers, as they were ordered to take them offline in the previous injunction.

Whether the server logs will indeed expose the initial leaker has yet to be seen, but Lionsgate has clearly not given up the effort to track down the source.

Meanwhile, the movie studio continues to stop the distribution of The Expendables 3 via various file-sharing sites.

Earlier this week the court approved a request to add Limetorrents.net and Torrentdownload.biz to the injunction as these sites are connected to the owner of Limetorrents.com. Both sites currently remain online but no longer list any copies of Expendables 3.

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

TorrentFreak: Mega Goes Legal, Issues Ultimatum Over Cyberlocker Report

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

Last week the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a new report with the aim of shining light on the business models of “shadowy” file-storage sites.

While listing some domains that may well live up to that less-than-flattering billing, the authors of Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions, also decided to include New Zealand-based Mega.

Mega was founded by Kim Dotcom but the site bears little resemblance to his now defunct Megaupload. Perhaps most importantly, Mega was the most-scrutinized file-hosting startup ever, so every single detail simply had to be squeaky clean. As a result the site took extensive legal advice to ensure that it complies with every single facet of the law.

Nevertheless, NetNames took the decision to put Mega in its report anyway, bundling the site in with what are described as some of the market’s most dubious players. This was not received well by Mega CEO Graham Gaylard. In a TorrentFreak article he demanded a full apology from NetNames and Digital Citizens Alliance and for his company to be withdrawn from the report. Failure to do so would result in “further action”, he said.

TF asked NetNames’ David Price whether his company stood by its allegations. The response suggested that it did and no apology was forthcoming. It’s been a week since that ultimatum and as promised Mega is now making good on its threats.

“Mega’s legal counsel has written to NetNames, Digital Citizens Alliance and The Internet Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) stating that the report is clearly defamatory,” Mega CEO Graham Gaylard told TorrentFreak this morning.

Given NetNames’ and Digital Citizens Alliance failure to respond, it comes as little surprise that Mega’s formalized demands now go beyond an apology and retraction.

Firstly, Mega’s legal team are now demanding the removal of the report, and all references to it, from all channels under the respondents’ control. They also demand that further circulation of the report must be discontinued and no additional references to it should be made in public.

That’s a tough one. NetNames’ effort is currently the most-circulated report in the ‘piracy’ space and TorrentFreak is also informed that the paper is set to become the supporting documentation to Hollywood and the labels’ follow-the-money anti-piracy drive.

Mega are also demanding a list of everyone who has had a copy of the report made available to them along with details of all locations where the report has been published. Again, that will be an interesting one to see Mega’s targets fulfill.

Finally, Mega is demanding a full public apology “to its satisfaction” to be published on the homepages of the respondents’ websites. What form that could take without discrediting the rest of the report is probably up for negotiation, but having Mega in there at all was bound to be a controversial and potentially damaging move.

Mega has given the companies seven days to comply with the above requests. No official line has been provided as to what will happen if Mega is met with a refusal, but it seems that the company is serious about protecting its reputation and will do whatever it takes to do that.

It’s perhaps of note that to our knowledge none of the other sites listed in the report have come out publicly to protest their inclusion in it. That’s not to say that some weren’t wrongfully included of course, but when a company like Mega stands up in order to protect its brand that should set off alarm bells.

Do ‘pirate’ sites with “shadowy” business models ever bother to publicly defend their reputations unless they’re the ones being hauled into court?

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

TorrentFreak: UK Govt Hopes to ‘Profit’ From Anti-Piracy Measures

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

pirate-cardA few weeks ago the UK Government announced its support for a new anti-piracy plan, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP).

The Government teamed up with copyright holders and ISPs, who will start sending warning emails to pirating Internet users next year. In addition there will be a broader educational campaign to steer people towards using legal options.

While the campaign is a private initiative the Government has decided to back it financially with several million pounds. However, TorrentFreak has learned that the Government funding wasn’t straightforward and was made outside of the available marketing budget.

Through a Freedom of Information request we obtained an email conversation between the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and music industry group BPI. In the email from May this year IPO’s Ros Lynch explains that there are no regular marketing funds available to support VCAP.

“As part of the process of agreeing Government financial support for the educational element of VCAP we will need to seek a marketing exemption as we are currently not permitted to spend on marketing,” Lynch writes to BPI’s Ian Moss.

To be able to get the exception the Government needs additional information from the entertaining industries, showing that the investment makes sense financially. Or put differently, that the Government will see a good return for their invested taxpayer money.

“Essentially this will require a proper business case which includes hard figures,” Lynch writes.

“For example, what research are you basing your target audiences on? How have you calculated your 5% reduction in infringement? What £ saving does a 5% reduction bring? What overall estimate can you make of the ROI of this campaign e.g. what financial benefit would a £2.2m Government investment bring?”

ipoemail

The above suggests that the BPI is predicting a 5% drop in piracy from the anti-piracy measures. However, in a response to the IPO’s request the industry group writes that even with a lower success rate the Government’s spending will pay off.

In a “Summary Business Case” (pdf) BPI uses the expected VAT increase to convince the Government of the “profitability” of the campaign. It estimates that if 15% of all illegal downloads are lost sales, piracy only has to decline 1% over three years for the Government to recoup their investment.

“The underlying assumptions are based on very good data that has been produced by Ofcom and by a number of academic studies looking at the replacement ratios. It shows that only very small changes in piracy lead to significant returns to Government,” BPI notes.

The music industry group stresses that the calculation only looks at VAT income and that the effects on the wider economy may be even greater. However, the static model they presented should already be good enough to warrant the funding.

“So even from a very simple, static assumption, a small reduction in piracy of between .49% and 1% over the three years would return Government investment of £4m in an education scheme,” BPI writes.

This prediction was apparently good enough for the Government to invest in the new anti-piracy plans beyond the available marketing budget. Even more so, the authorities committed £3.5 million to the campaign, instead of the £2.2 that was discussed in May.

Whether the Government will indeed be able to recoup the taxpayer money through the anti-piracy campaign will be hard to measure, but the plan is going full steam ahead.

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