Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: Unprecedented Music Piracy Collapse Fails to Boost Revenues

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

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

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

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

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

mbw-stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Site Blockades Are Disproportional, Greek Court Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: How Hollywood Plans to Seize Pirate Site Domain Names

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

pirate-runningLast December a leaked document from the MPAA exposed Hollywood’s global anti-piracy priorities for the coming years.

The leak listed the mysterious term “Fujian” as one of the top priorities, without explaining what the name of a Chinese province has to do with online piracy.

Additional documents seen by TF shed more light on the issue. It turns out that the MPAA is slowly but steadily testing a novel legal procedure through which it hopes to seize the domain names of top pirate sites.

Fujian actually refers to the company “Fujian Sharing Import & Export Ltd,” which was sued several years ago for selling counterfeit Polo Ralph Lauren and The North Face clothing.

The counterfeiters used thousands of websites to sell their knockoffs using just as many domain names. If one was taken down, Fujian would simply replace it by a new one selling the same counterfeit gear.

To stop this game of Whack-A-Mole a federal court in New York ordered various intermediaries, including domain name registries, to stop working with the company and hand over the domain names to the clothing manufacturers. If they failed to comply, the registries themselves would be held liable.

In recent years both The North Face and Polo Ralph Lauren frequently updated the list of counterfeit domain names and had them seized by their registries and deleted from search engines.

The movie studios are now planning to use the same strategy against pirate sites. Besides asking reputable domain name registries to take voluntary action, they also plan to use the “Fujian” model in court.

In a detailed overview of its strategies the MPAA says that it wants to “persuade or compel domain name registries that control the reputable gTLDs (e.g., .com, .org) to terminate domain services for demonstrated pirate sites.”

“Efforts principally include civil litigation (Fujian strategy) and outreach to registries seeking to ensure they do not provide domain services to pirate sites,” they add.

Thus far they have had some success in the U.S. in a lawsuit against a ring of counterfeit DVD sites. However, the tactic has yet to be tried against sites that offer streaming services, torrents or links to pirated material.

Behind closed doors the MPAA admits that targeting domain names will be less effective than site blocking, which is also on the agenda, as sites can move to so-called “rogue” registries. But it is still expected to have a decent impact.

“Nevertheless, domain name termination can be very effective in disrupting pirate sites and the user experience in visiting them. At least temporarily, thesite is made inaccessible,” MPAA notes.

“Even sites that come back online can be expected to see reduced traffic, with a corresponding impact on profitability and sustainability,” they add.

And there’s more to worry about. Looking at one of the most recent (24th!) supplemental order in the Fujian case we see that the court grants rightsholders powers that go much further than targeting domain names alone.

The order also requires search engines to delist the infringing URLs, banks to seize the site’s assets, and forbids ISPs, back-end service providers and web designers to do business with the domain name owners.

Whether the MPAA will be successful with their efforts has yet to be seen but persistent pirates may want to learn the IP-addresses of their favorite sites by heart, just in case.

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

TorrentFreak: Failed MPAA / Xunlei Anti-Piracy Deal is Shocking

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

mpaa-logoAs one of China’s top 10 Internet companies, Xunlei is a massive operation. In the first three months of 2014 the company enjoyed 300 million monthly unique visitors.

Among other file-sharing ventures, Xunlei operates ‘Thunder’, the world’s most popular torrent client. This and other issues have placed the company firmly on the radar of the MPAA.

The movie group first took legal action against the China-based outfit in 2008 but by 2014 relations began to warm with Xunlei pursuing an IPO in the United States. In May last year there was a breakthrough, with the former rivals signing a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) requiring Xunlei to protect MPAA studio content including movies and TV shows.

In October 2014, however, the MPAA reported Xunlei to the U.S. government, complaining that piracy was rampant on the service. Something had clearly gone wrong, an assertion that was only underlined this morning with a report that the MPAA has now sued Xunlei.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner. That has to stop and stop now,” said Mike Ellis, the MPAA’s Asia-Pacific chief.

While it’s clear that the MPAA are disappointed with Xunlei’s efforts, it’s certainly possible that the company found it impossible to fulfill its agreement with the MPAA. Documents obtained by TorrentFreak dated May 2014 (days before the deal was signed) detailing a draft agreement which Xunlei “stated unequivocally in writing that it will accept” reveal the toughest set of anti-piracy demands ever seen.

Content filtering

The CPA reveals that Xunlei agreed to deploy Vobile‘s fingerprinting system across all of its services (including file-sharing clients) to ensure that no unfiltered content would ever be uploaded or downloaded. Filters were to have been deployed within 120 days of signing the agreement and would have to be implemented on both past and future projects.

Repeat infringers

The CPA requires Xunlei to terminate those who not only infringe but also those who attempt to infringe copyright. For all U.S.-based users of Xunlei the company agreed to implement a three-strike policy, with Chinese user strike numbers to be determined later.

“This is a very strict repeat infringer policy — as strict as exists anywhere in key respects — in that both uploads and downloads count and in that infringement is determined by the filter (not just based on
notices received),” the MPAA document reads.

“[The] filter will identify each and every instance of a user attempting to infringe a studio work, by uploading or downloading. Thus, the repeat infringer numbers likely will be off the charts in our favor when we have those later negotiations. Xunlei is also obligated to preserve data on identified infringers, and we can request this data in our due diligence reviews.”

Site blocking

The CPA also grants the MPAA the power to determine who Xunlei can deal with online.

“[The MPAA] will be able to identify to Xunlei what we believe to be ‘pirate sites’ and Xunlei will block those domains from all aspects of its system (e.g., no using those domains for accelerated downloads and no accepting communications/links from those domains),” the MPAA writes.

Licensing – content is banned unless the MPAA says otherwise

As a content provider Xunlei has licensing deals with many companies to provide legitimate content. However, the CPA with the MPAA restricts the company’s ability to make its own decisions without reference.

“The definition of Unauthorized Content…excludes content for which Xunlei has a license directly or for which the studios have granted a license to a site or users that would extend to and authorize the use contemplated by Xunlei. However, this is not left to Xunlei to determine,” the MPAA notes.

“All content is deemed Unauthorized unless Xunlei obtains express written confirmation from the appropriate studio that a relevant license has been granted,” with the CPA “putting the burden on [Xunlei] to get written confirmations and effectively to create a white list.”

Access to source code

“[The MPAA] will have rights of due diligence, which will allow us access to source code and technical data/documents, to assess Xunlei’s compliance,” the MPAA adds.

When it all goes wrong

The Content Protection Agreement includes clauses for the MPAA not to sue Xunlei for copyright infringement as long as it keeps to its side of the deal. However, it appears the MPAA wanted to avoid legal action if at all possible.

“[In] the event that we are still seeing significant infringement even with Xunlei honoring its filtering obligations, then either [Xunlei] violated its representation (which by agreement is deemed a material breach) or the ongoing cooperation provisions kick in – and if [Xunlei] does not comply with them, we can sue,” the MPAA notes.

“Given the limited relief available in an action in China and the uncertainty of suit in the US, we strongly recommend that we accept the contingent covenant not to sue in the draft CPA.”

There are currently no reports of the MPAA’s legal action in Chinese media but it will be interesting to see the reaction in the days to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Admins Get Probation But Face Millions in Damages

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

disney-pirateFive years ago, pressure was building against Swedish private torrent tracker ‘eXcelleNT’. The site, known to its users as XNT, had been on the radar of local anti-piracy outfits for some time, but had chosen not to shut down.

Behind the scenes, Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (then Antipiratbyrån) was closing in and early 2011 the group filed an official police complaint.

In May that year authorities pounced, arresting a man in Borlänge, Sweden, and another in the Stockholm area a day later. The site’s server was seized in Germany.

What followed was a wait of more than three years as the authorities prepared their case and in December the men went on trial. The pair were accused of making available more than 1,000 different movies and TV shows without permission from rightsholders including Warner Bros. and Disney.

Yesterday the verdict was handed down by the Falu District Court and it’s mixed news for the pair.

Although 1,050 titles were referenced in the case (an unusually large amount), the court only found the men guilty of copyright infringement in 28 cases. In the remaining 1,022 cases there was no proof that infringement had been committed.

This meant that rather than the hefty jail sentences demanded by the prosecutor, the 24 and 25-year-olds received probation and were ordered to complete 120 hours of community service instead.

Speaking with DN.se, prosecutor Frederick Ingblad, the man also running the case against The Pirate Bay, says he has not decided if he will appeal the decison.

“I think the sentence was low, but it’s good that they still got community service and not just probation,” Ingblad said.

But while probation is probably a relief to the men, another significant challenge lies ahead.

The judgment reveals that film company Nordisk Film has also filed a claim for damages amounting to some 18 million kronor ($2.2 million). This will be dealt with through a separate legal process handled by Rights Alliance.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Links Online Piracy to Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan

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

mpaa-logoThe unprecedented Sony hack has put cybersecurity on top of the political agenda in the United States.

Just last week Representative Ruppersberger re-introduced the controversial CISPA bill and yesterday President Obama announced his new cybersecurity plans.

New measures are needed to “investigate, disrupt and prosecute” cybercrime as recent events have shown that criminals can and will exploit current weaknesses, according to the White House

“In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector,” President Obama notes.

Together with Congress the Obama administration hopes to draft a new bill that will address these concerns. Among other things, the new plan aims to improve information sharing between private Internet companies and the Government.

Privacy advocates argue that this kind of data sharing endangers the rights of citizens, who may see more private data falling into the hands of the Government. President Obama, on the other hand, sees it as a necessity to stop attacks such as the Sony breach.

“Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant,” the President cautions.

With the Sony hack Hollywood played a central role in putting cybersecurity back on the agenda. And although President Obama makes no mention of online piracy, the MPAA is quick to add it to the discussion.

In a statement responding to the new cybersecurity plans, MPAA CEO Chris Dodd notes that because of these criminals certain companies have their “digital products exposed and available online for anyone to loot.”

“That’s why law enforcement must be given the resources they need to police these criminal activities,” Dodd says.

The MPAA appears to blend the Sony hack with online piracy. It calls upon Congress to keep the interests of Hollywood in mind, and urges private actors including search engines and ISPs to help in curbing the piracy threat.

“… responsible participants in the Internet ecosystem – content creators, search, payment processors, ad networks, ISPs – need to work more closely together to forge initiatives to stop the unlawful spread of illegally-obtained content,” Dodd says.

Hollywood’s effort to frame online piracy as a broader cybersecurity threat is not entirely new.

Last year an entertainment industry backed report claimed that 90 percent of the top pirate sites link to malware or other unwanted software. In addition, two-thirds were said to link to credit card scams.

This report was later cited in a Senate Subcommittee hearing where the MPAA urged lawmakers to take steps so young Americans can be protected from the “numerous hazards on pirate sites.”

Whether a new cybersecurity bill will indeed include anti-piracy measures has yet to be seen. But for the MPAA it may be one of the few positive outcomes of the Sony hack, which exposed some of its best kept secrets in recent weeks.

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Try to Force ISP to Disconnect Pirates

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

Half a decade ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended its legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to implement a new anti-piracy policy against its own subscribers.

The agreement saw IRMA-affiliated labels including Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online. Eircom then forwarded warning notices to customers found to be sharing content without permission and agreed to disconnect those who were caught three times.

In a follow-up move IRMA tried to force another ISP, UPC, to implement the same measures. UPC fought back and a 2010 High Court ruling went in the ISP’s favor.

However, a 2012 change in the law emboldened IRMA to have a second bite and now the music group’s case is being heard by the Commercial Court. As before, IRMA wants an injunction issued against UPC forcing it to implement a “three strikes” or similar regime against its customers.

According to the Irish Times, Michael McDowell SC representing the labels said that UPC could come up with its own graduated response, whether it be “two strikes” or “five strikes”.

For its part, UPC appears to be more concerned about the cost of operating such a system rather than the actual introduction of one. UPC has provided estimates for doing so but the labels view the amounts involved as excessive.

Surprisingly, Cian Ferriter SC, for UPC, said the ISP has “no difficulty in handing over information” (on pirates) for the labels to pursue but the company has issues with setting up an “entire system” to deal with the problem.

The stance of UPC seems markedly different from its position during February 2014. At the time the company said that subjecting customers to a graduated response scheme would raise a “serious question of freedom of expression and public policy” and would “demand fair and impartial procedures in the appropriate balancing of rights.”

In the event, however, Mr McDowell said that UPC’s offer was not only a new but one that raises concern over privacy and data protection issues.

IRMA chairman Willie Kavanagh previously said that the Eircom three-strikes scheme had been “remarkably effective,” since only 0.2% of warned users have proceeded to the disconnection stage. Perhaps even more remarkable is that even after four years of the program, Eircom hadn’t disconnected a single customer.

“We are continuing to implement the graduated response process,” a spokesman said last March. “We haven’t, as yet, disconnected anyone.”

IRMA is contractually bound by its agreement with Eircom to pursue UPC and/or other ISPs to implement a graduated response scheme, so expect this one to run either until the bitter end – or when UPC cave in. For now the case is scheduled to run for eight days.

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

TorrentFreak: Aussie ISPs Rushing Ahead With Anti-Piracy Proposals

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

ausFor years Australian citizens have complained of being treated as second class citizens by content companies who have failed to make content freely available at a fair price. As a result millions of Aussies have turned to file-sharing networks for their media fix.

This has given the country somewhat of a reputation on the world stage, which in turn has put intense pressure on the Australian government to do something to reduce unlawful usage.

After years of negotiations between ISPs and entertainment companies went nowhere, last year the government stepped in. ISPs were warned that if they don’t take voluntarily measures to deter and educate pirating subscribers, the government would force a mechanism upon them by law.

With a desire to avoid that option at all costs, the service providers went away with orders to come up with a solution. Just last month Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull set an April 8 deadline, a tight squeeze considering the years of failed negotiations.

Nevertheless, iiNet, Australia’s second largest ISP, feels that the deadline will be met.

“We will have code; whether or not it gets the rubber stamp remains to be seen,” says iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby. “Dedicated people are putting in a lot of work drafting documents and putting frameworks together.”

With just 120 days to come up with a solution the government’s deadline is a big ask and Dalby says there are plenty of complications.

“There are issues around privacy, there are issues around appeals. There are issues around costs. There is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he says.

Of course, these are exactly the same issues that caused talks to collapse on a number of occasions in the past. However, in recent months it’s become clear that the government is prepared to accept less stringent measures than the entertainment industries originally wanted. Slowing and disconnecting subscribers is now off the table, for example.

Although there has been no official announcement, it seems likely that the ISPs will offer a notice-and-notice system similar to the one being planned for the UK.

Subscribers will be informed by email that their connections are being used to share content unlawfully and will be politely but firmly asked to stop. An educational program, which advises users where to obtain content legally, is likely to augment the scheme.

Who will pay for all this remains to be seen. ISPs have previously refused to contribute but with the government threatening to impose a code if a suitable one is not presented, compromise could be on the table.

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

TorrentFreak: IFPI Targets ‘Pirate’ Domains With New Site Blocking Law

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

Domain blocking is now firmly established as one of the entertainment industries’ go-to methods for reducing online copyright infringement. Its use is widespread around Europe by both the music and movie sector.

In Europe the most important legal decision was announced in March last year when the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed that EU ISPs can be required to block access to sites engaged in copyright infringement.

Elsewhere, individual countries are making their own decisions on how to move forward. Last July, Singapore legislators approved the Copyright Amendment Bill which allows copyright holders to obtain High Court orders forcing local service providers to block “flagrantly infringing” websites. Now, six months on, entertainment companies are ready to launch their first tests.

IFPI regional director Ang Kwee Tiang confirmed that the music group will initially target three to five “infringing sites” over the next two months.

“We are now actively looking into exercising this in the future,” he said.

The sites to be targeted have not yet been revealed but it’s always been the understanding that The Pirate Bay would be tackled first. The site’s reputation as the “worst-of-the-worst” allows entertainment companies to present a relatively straightforward case to the courts. The rising number of blocking orders already granted elsewhere only add to the mix.

“Now, The Pirate Bay has more than 6 million links. We take the screenshots and we show that these are not licensed. We’re going to show that The Pirate Bay has been blocked in nine or 10 different countries. I think that will be very convincing for our cause,” Ang said.

However, with The Pirate Bay currently down, it’s possible that other targets will have to be selected in the first batch. Ang confirms that evidence is still being collated but he’s confident that a successful blockade will help to reduce piracy.

“I divide (consumers) 80 to 20 – 80 per cent are average consumers, if they cannot get it easily and if a legal site offers it, they may go for the legal site,” he said.

“The committed pirate is like a committed criminal. They will search for ways to circumvent. But once we have the website blocking, then we are free to tackle the 20 per cent.”

The driving force behind the site blocking phenomenon can be found in the entertainment companies of the United States but following the SOPA debacle public discussion to progress site blocking has been fairly muted. That doesn’t mean nothing has been happening, however.

In December it was revealed that behind closed doors the MPAA has been working hard to bring site blocking to the United States. Whether those aims will still be progressed following the somewhat embarrassing leaks will remain to be seen, but it’s likely the movie group won’t be steered off course for long.

Overall, Hollywood definitely sees blocking as an important anti-piracy tool. The practice is endorsed by none other than MPAA chief Chris Dodd and internal MPAA research has found it to be effective.

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

TorrentFreak: Canadian Govt. Outlaws Bogus Piracy Notices

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

Recent changes to Canadian copyright law mean that when rightsholders observe local Internet users infringing copyright online, ISPs must forward any resulting infringement notices to their customers.

The new system has only been in place for just over a week but rightsholders haven’t wasted any time sending notices out. Even smaller ISPs such as Teksavvy are forwarding in excess of 3,000 notices per day.

While notices are one of the more reasonable anti-piracy options available today, there are companies that want to augment those gentle warnings into something more aggressive. Close to day one of the new law, U.S.-based anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp began sending infringement notices to Canadians with cash-settlement threats attached.

“You could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement in civil penalties,” the notices told alleged music pirates.

Sadly, the claim is completely untrue. Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. This miscalculated eagerness to break the Canadian market could now cost Rightscorp dearly.

Within a day of the company’s bogus threats being made public, Rightscorp attracted the negative attentions of the Canadian government and placed the turn-piracy-into-profit business model under scrutiny.

“These notices are misleading and companies cannot use them to demand money from Canadians,” said Jake Enright, a spokesman for Industry Minister James Moore.

The good news for Internet subscribers is that government officials will contact Internet service providers during the days to come in order to put an end to these threats. However, it’s not clear that will put a complete end to Rightscorp’s activities in Canada.

According to University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, there is nothing in Canada’s new legislation which restricts the ability of rights holders to include information in notices that goes beyond a simple advisory that copyright law has been breached.

On this basis it seems unlikely that Rightscorp will simply give up. Government comment on the original notices centers around the anti-piracy company’s erroneous citing of U.S. law so modification to reflect the true Canadian position should bring the piracy monetization outfit into line.

It may be, however, that given the government intervention ISPs will choose not to forward Rightscorp notices at all.

Demands for cash aren’t popular with Internet subscribers and there are signs that leading ISPs in the United States don’t like the approach either. While they forward the infringement notices themselves, Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other major ISPs remove the attached cash settlement demands.

Nevertheless, Rightscorp does work with dozens of smaller ISPs who are happy to assist with the company’s business model. And despite plenty of information being available which advises letter recipients not to pay, many still pay a $20 ‘fine’ to get the company off their back.

Sadly though, sometimes this has the opposite effect. One of Rightscorp’s tactics is to send a bill for $20 for one track from an album and then when people pay, they are subsequently billed for the rest of the tracks at a further $20 each.

Before the notice recipient pays the first $20, Rightscorp has no idea of the person’s identity and would need to spend a lot of money in court to find out – hardly worth it for $20. But having paid $20 and signed a disclaimer, the company now knows the person’s name and address.

At this point the pressure to pay can become overwhelming. Time will tell if Canadians can avoid these tactics.

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. ‘Strikes’ Scheme Fails to Impact Piracy Landscape

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

FBIpiracydeptAlongside site blocking and attacking the finances of pirate sites, so-called “strike” schemes are one of the preferred anti-piracy mechanisms of the mainstream entertainment companies.

The idea is simple. Rightsholders monitor their works being exchanged on file-sharing networks, capture IP addresses of alleged infringers, and send complaints to those individuals’ ISPs. These notices are then forwarded to inform customers of their errant behavior.

There can be little doubt that this option is preferable to suing users en masse, but is the approach effective? Thanks to MPAA documents sent to the studios and obtained by TorrentFreak, we now have a clearer idea of whether the movie business itself thinks that “strikes” programs work – and more besides.

One document, titled ‘Notice & Graduated Response Programs’ begins by stating the primary aim of the programs: “Reduce P2P piracy while educating consumers about, and directing them to, legal content.”

Also confirmed is the MPAA’s desire to implement graduated response schemes with mitigation measures and awareness campaigns attached, the U.S. “Copyright Alerts System” (CAS) for example.

CAS mitigation measures haven’t proven to be particularly aggressive thus far but plenty of users have received notices. Around 1.3 million notices were sent in the first 10 months of operations. By November last year, Comcast alone had sent one million warnings.

But does the Copyright Alerts System work?

While it’s clear that the studios believe these schemes are part of the answer, the MPAA is pragmatic about the CAS behind closed doors, largely since it believes efforts thus far are just the beginning.

The U.S. system is “not yet at scale” or operating with “enough education support” according to the MPAA. As a result the CAS has not made an “impact on the overall [piracy] landscape.”

That said, the MPAA does claim some successes among those receiving notices.

“US program – with escalating remedial measures – [is] reasonably effective in decreasing P2P piracy by those actually receiving notices/alerts,” one summary reads.

However, the claim that some notice recipients mend their ways after receiving a warning (the rate of re-offending is actually quite high) is somewhat contradicted by another statement later in the same document.

“No current information as to the behavior of users who appear to stop P2P infringement – do not know whether [they are] migrating to other pirate systems or to lawful services,” the statement reads.

Nevertheless, the MPAA appears keen to expand the program to a point where impact is more meaningful. This will require cooperation with ISPs, both on volumes and mitigation measures.

Expansion, tougher punishments

“Attainability as to existing programs boils down to whether ISPs will agree (a) to expand scale to levels that might impact overall P2P piracy, and (b) to enhance remedial measures so as to improve efficacy,” the MPAA writes.

Plans to double up on the number of warnings being sent have already been revealed but whether ISPs will be keen to further punish customers remains to be seen. Still, the MPAA’s graduated response “secondary objective” might help them decide.

“Build and leverage relationships with ISPs; acknowledgement by ISPs of some responsibility for infringement through their systems; gain and/or strengthen government and other influential support for ISP accountability,” the objective reads.

Strikes systems worked elsewhere, right?

Perhaps surprisingly the MPAA has pushed ahead with CAS in the United States despite knowing that similar schemes have produced lukewarm results elsewhere.

“Programs in France and South Korea (both mandated/managed by government) – and available in New Zealand and Ireland” have had a “limited impact” according to the MPAA.

And the notice-and-notice scheme just launched in Canada and the UK’s upcoming VCAP warning system probably won’t produce nice surprises either. The MPAA believes that both are “likely” to prove less effective than programs with mitigation measures, such as the United States’. CAS.

The future

For the coming year it seems likely that while the MPAA will try to expand its current notice programs by volume, it will not attempt to introduce similar schemes elsewhere.

Will users flood to legitimate services though? The MPAA doesn’t know today and won’t know anytime soon but in any event that desired effect will probably require much more investment.

“Should see reasonable economies of scale…but to scale to level that will impact overall P2P piracy will likely require substantial additional resources,” the movie group says.

“May not have reliable data about impact for 1-2 years.”

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Investigation “Will Take Months” to Complete

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

piratebaydowncountYesterday was the one month anniversary of the December 9, 2014 raid on The Pirate Bay. To this day the site remains down.

First week aside, most news has focused on the fate of the notorious site and whether it will rise like a phoenix from the ashes. There have been numerous teasers from people with access to The Pirate Bay’s main domain, thepiratebay.se, but no concrete signs either way.

But while millions of former users adjust to life without the site, authorities have remained fairly tight-lipped about when their investigation began and the position it’s at today. There are signs, however.

In 2012 it became evident that new action was being planned against the site when the Pirate Bay team revealed the existence of a new investigation. Just days later Swedish hosting company Binero confirmed that they had been approached by the police for information about the site’s domain.

Then, as predicted, in April 2013 prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad filed a motion at the District Court of Stockholm requesting the seizure of several Pirate Bay domains.

Shortly after, Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm was questioned in prison, a visit which confirmed the existence of a new investigation involving Swedish anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån and led by Ingblad.

Outwardly things went quiet in the months that followed but in November 2014 there was a significant development. The Pirate Bay’s Fredrik Neij was arrested, ostensibly to serve the sentence handed down for his previous involvement in the site.

However, emails obtained by TorrentFreak revealed Hollywood insiders discussing new criminal charges against Neij for his alleged continued involvement in the site.

Also of interest but not revealed until today, TF understands that last year Thai police were briefed on a number of individuals said to be involved in The Pirate Bay’s operations.

One of those individuals was a man employed at a hosting company back in Sweden, but not the company that was raided in December. After obtaining his photograph from a police briefing document TorrentFreak approached the man himself and also Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Ponten for more information. Neither responded to our requests for comment.

The task ahead for Swedish authorities is said to be substantial. In the December raid large amounts of equipment and other evidence was seized and that will have to be systematically processed as the days unfold. According to prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad, that will take a considerable time.

“[The Pirate Bay] was seized, everything needs to be reviewed and analyzed. It will take many months to do so,” Ingblad said this week.

The big question now is whether Ingblad’s team will be investigating a dead site or one that has already risen from the ashes. They are watching, he confirmed.

“We will keep track of what happens,” the prosecutor added.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Wants to Sue ‘Pirate’ Site Hosting Providers

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

mpaa-logoLast month a leaked document from the MPAA exposed Hollywood’s global anti-piracy priorities for the coming years.

The leak revealed where the movie studios would focus their efforts, with file-hosting and streaming sites among the top targets.

The same data breach also included a more in-depth overview of the anti-piracy plans which were previously unreported. This new leak comes from an email the MPAA sent to the movie studio’s top executives October last year and provides additional background.

One of MPAA’s main anti-piracy priorities are file-hosting services, often referred to as cyberlockers. As part of the strategy to deal with this threat the movie studios plan to sue the site’s hosting providers.

The two items below reveal Dutch hosting provider LeaseWeb is named as one of the possible targets. The MPAA also leaves the option open to go after “recalcitrant” hosters in the United States, if these choose not to cooperate.

- Litigation against a significant hosting provider in the Netherlands (e.g., Leaseweb).
– Outreach to hosting providers in the US, where sufficient legal precedent exists (potentially to be followed by litigation against recalcitrant US hosting providers).

mpaastrat1

In a specific section describing its strategy towards hosting services the MPAA also notes that it will put a “political spotlight and pressure” on hosting providers who make a lot of revenue from pirate sites.

In addition the MPAA plans to make criminal referrals against hosting companies, accusing them of money laundering and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Interestingly, it’s unclear whether the criminal route will be successful as the document mentions that the U.S. Government may be reluctant to take these on “given difficulty with Megaupload case.”

mpaahosting1

LeaseWeb is surprised to learn that they are referenced in these MPAA documents. According to the company’s Senior Regulatory Counsel Alex de Joode there is no reason why they should be considered a target.

“There is no basis or ground for the MPAA to target any LeaseWeb company as part of its anti-piracy strategy,” De Joode tells TF.

“LeaseWeb companies that provide services to third parties have stringent policies to which cloud storage providers and video streaming sites must adhere, and which ensure rights holders can enforce their rights effectively. All LeaseWeb companies also have efficient abuse notification procedures in place, and act quickly upon takedown requests,” he adds.

LeaseWeb operates various companies, also in the United States, but the MPAA’s plan suggests that a possible lawsuit would take place in the Netherlands.

Thus far, however, LeaseWeb hasn’t seen any signs of or reasons for a potential lawsuit. In fact, they maintain a good relationship with the local Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group BREIN with which they have regular meetings in the Netherlands.

“Neither BREIN nor the MPAA has informed any LeaseWeb company that the MPAA may consider any of the LeaseWeb companies a target as part of its anti-piracy strategy or why such may be the case. The only reason that we can think of for ‘LeaseWeb’ to be on the list is that we are a big brand and big player in the hosting business, and as a group of companies have a vast and fast network.”

LeaseWeb is indeed a major player in the hosting business. It previously provided hundreds of servers to the now defunct Megaupload, and still serves many streaming sites and file-hosting services.

For now, no lawsuits against hosting providers have been filed by the MPAA. Whether or not this will happen depends in part on the level of funding the major movie studios are willing to contribute to the laid out anti-piracy proposals.

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

TorrentFreak: Canadian Piracy Notices: From Benign to Ridiculous

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

canada-pirateA change in the law means that when copyright holders spot Canadian subscribers’ Internet connections sharing content online without permission, ISPs must forward any resulting infringement notices to their customers.

Following its introduction less than a week ago, the so-called notice-and-notice system is already being utilized by entertainment companies. Small but popular ISP Teksavvy confirms that it’s already sending out thousands of notices to its subscribers every single day.

“With notice-and-notice, in early January 2015 we were receiving about 3000 copyright infringement notices each day,” the company confirms.

But despite knowing about the system for some time (and the relevant Canadian laws which led to its introduction), it seems that rightsholders haven’t yet found the time to customize their takedown notices to accommodate the law of the land.

“Many of [the notices] are formatted based on the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’) requirements, although we expect that to change over time,” Teksavvy add.

While the aims of a DMCA takedown notice tend to be understood internationally, there are companies involved in anti-piracy activities who make more explicit threats so should be more prepared. University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist has already spotted a particularly bad example.

The ridiculous

Rightscorp Inc. is a U.S. based anti-piracy outfit whose activities have been documented here many times. Their business model involves tagging cash demands onto takedown notices so it perhaps comes as no surprise that Canada has become the company’s latest target.

However, instead of tailoring their demands to the Canadian market, Rightscorp have simply exported their U.S. model north. A notice obtained by Geist and sent by Rightscorp on behalf of music outfit BMG reveals the details.

“Your ISP account has been used to download, upload or offer for upload copyrighted content in a manner that infringes on the rights of the copyright owner. Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved. You could be liable for up to $150,000 per infringement in civil penalties,” the notice reads.

As Geist points out, the $150,000 claim is bogus since Canadian law caps liability for non-commercial infringement at $5,000 for all infringements. Disconnecting a user from the Internet is also out since there is no provision under Canadian law. Even the claim against music piracy is up for debate.

“Given the existence of the private copying system (which features levies on blank media such as CDs), some experts argue that certain personal music downloads may qualify as private copying and therefore be legal in Canada,” Geist explains.

The benign

But while Rightscorp aim to scare Internet subscribers, it’s clear that other notices being received are much less worrisome. A copy of a notice sent to a Bell Aliant subscriber and obtained by TorrentFreak is a good example.

The subscriber had been downloading a DVD screener copy of the movie American Sniper on Thursday which took just 10 mins to complete. Nevertheless, that was enough to receive a standard U.S. DMCA notice from Warner Bros a few hours later.

“We have received information that an individual has utilized the below-referenced IP address at the noted date and time to offer downloads of copyrighted material. The title in question is: American Sniper,” the Warner Bros. notice begins.

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

The notice made no threats but did contain a request for the ISP to deal with the customer under its abuse policy. The ISP forwarded the notice but nothing was done to punish the recipient.

From: Copyright Notification
Date: Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at XX:XX
Subject: Important notice regarding your Internet activity [******]

The Government of Canada requires by law that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) let their clients know when content owners contact them about possible unauthorized use of the content owner’s material such as illegal downloading of music, videos and games. As a result, we must let you know that we have received the below notification related to your account.

We want to assure you that Bell Aliant as your Internet Service Provider played no part in the identification of possible unauthorized use of content but are only passing on the owner’s message as required by law.

If you have any questions or need clarification please contact the content owner directly. For more information on why you received this notice visit http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=858069 . Thank you for your cooperation.

The person who received the notice told TF that while he was surprised to have received one so quickly, his downloading habits won’t change.

“I’ll continue to download, I’ll now be activating my VPN though whenever torrenting activity is going on,” he explained. “I suspect it’s a scare tactic that will work on most of the novice Canadians that download. I also suspect that roughly 90% of Canadians have downloaded something illegally, or know some who does for them.”

It’s expected that most ISPs will handle notices carefully but if any reader receives any notices containing threats or aggressive language, please feel free to forward them.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Firm ‘Caught’ Pirating News Articles

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

Copyright is a double-edged sword, and those who sharpen one side often get cut by the other. We see it happening time and time again with lawyers, lawmakers, anti-piracy groups and copyright holders.

In Canada the local anti-piracy group Canipre is running into the same trap. The blog copyrightenforcement.ca, which is linked to one of the company’s top executives and often used to post Canipre press releases, has been making a habit out of lifting articles written by hard-working journalists.

Most of the articles that appear on the site are copied from other news sources, including TechCrunch, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, TorrentFreak and many others.

At TF we publish our content under a CC license, so there’s no foul play there, but the other news sites are not all copy friendly. In fact, the publication of most of the lifted articles amounts to blatant copyright infringement.

While fair dealing exists, posting full articles, some of which are behind a paywall, generally doesn’t fall into this category. And it’s not only the text that’s being copied but also the images which are often independently copyrighted.

After becoming the first company to go after individual Canadian file-sharers in court, this week Canipre announced a new campaign to send copyright infringement warnings to ISPs under the notice-and-notice program.

However, as University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist points out, they may have to start sending piracy notices to their own staff first.

“Canipre would likely offer its services to the media companies whose work is affected, yet it might want to take a closer look at its internal conduct before throwing stones in the form of thousands of notices alleging infringement,” Geist notes.

Making matter even worse, this isn’t the first time that Canipre has been linked to unauthorized copying. Two years ago the company’s own website blatantly used photos that were ripped-off from independent photographers.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Porn Takedowns Carpet Bomb Github

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

google-bayEvery single week thousands of copyright holders and anti-piracy companies demand that Google removes links to allegedly infringing content.

The effort required to deal with this deluge is considerable. Google has received as many as 11 million requests in a single week and in 2014 alone the search giant processed some 345 million URL takedowns.

While it’s believed that most takedown requests are accurate, Google still does its best to ensure that erroneous notices don’t negatively affect legitimate online services. Google regularly rejects overbroad and inaccurate notices but like everyone else, the company isn’t perfect.

The latest head-shaker arrives courtesy of anti-piracy outfit Takedown Piracy (TDP). Acting on behalf of porn outfit Wicked Pictures, TDP sent Google a notice containing thousands of URLs targeting dozens of well and lesser-known file-sharing sites.

Sadly, however, the notice also targeted coding site Github – over and over and over again. And Google complied.

“The materials reported in this notice are the copyrighted DVD/videos of Wicked Pictures,” the notice begins.

Not exactly.

Impure Takedown

Two URLs targeted – github.com/yahoo/pure and github.com/yahoo/pure/releases/ belong to the Pure.css project. Described as “a set of small, responsive CSS modules that you can use in every web project”, Pure.css is owned by Yahoo.

Apparent reason for takedown: Wicked has a movie titled Impure Hunger

On the rebound

tpbfacebook“Rebound is a java library that models spring dynamics. Rebound spring models can be used to create animations that feel natural by introducing real world physics to your application,” the project’s lead in begins.

Sadly, TDP thinks that this BSD-licensed Facebook-owned project’s URLs (1) (2) infringes on its client’s copyrights.

Thanks to another takedown, a separate project of the same name exploring “collisional dynamics” and operated by several academics is now harder to find too.

Their crimes? Wicked’s “Stormy Daniels” has a movie called Rebound.

Get down Netflix

netflixIn June 2013, Netflix announced Lipstick, the company’s open source Pig workflow visualization tool.

Unfortunately for the movie streaming outfit TDP believes that their Github project located at https://github.com/Netflix/Lipstick infringes Wicked Picture’s copyrights.

Another project, also titled Lipstick, was also accused of doing the same.

Reason for takedown? Wicked has a movie title containing the same word.

A wickedly poor choice of name

opensuseIf only the people behind the free Linux-based operating system openSUSE had been a little more cautious. When selecting a name for their network configuration tool located here there were millions to choose from.

But by titling their project ‘Wicked’ they became sitting ducks for several URL takedowns by an adult company of the same name.

The same goes for Wicked Charts, whose main URL for their “beautiful and interactive javascript charts” has been delisted from Google. The Schneems ‘wicked’ project likewise.

No pushover

Wicked Pictures’ 1999 movie Pushover has a lot to answer for too.

Takedown Piracy hit Google with demands to delist the main URLs for no less than ten Github projects simply because they had the word ‘pushover’ in their titles.

https://github.com/Thibauth/python-pushover

https://github.com/tcnksm/vagrant-pushover

https://github.com/substack/pushover

https://github.com/sps/pushover4j

https://github.com/qbit/node-pushover

https://github.com/laprice/pushover

https://github.com/kryap/php-pushover

https://github.com/danesparza/Pushover.NET

https://github.com/jnwatts/pushover.sh

https://github.com/dyaa/Laravel-pushover

https://github.com/erniebrodeur/pushover

Tip of the iceberg

The above are just a few examples from a single takedown notice which can be viewed on ChillingEffects. It makes disappointing reading.

In Takedown Piracy’s defense the company has sent 39.6 million URL notices to Google since 2011. However, that will be of little comfort to the many legitimate projects which are now harder to find due to the company’s errors.

Conclusion: Always blaming Google

Taking a wider look at Google’s Transparency Report, one discovers that Github is being targeted on a regular basis by a wide range of copyright holders. Few if any bother to send a notice to Github itself. If they did they might make few mistakes, but carpet-bombing Google is much easier, quicker and cheaper.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Asked to Remove 345 Million “Pirate” Links in 2014

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 more than a million reported “pirate” links per day.

Google doesn’t report yearly figures, but at TF we processed all the weekly reports and found that the number of URLs submitted by copyright holders last year surpassed the 345 million mark – 345,169,134 to be exact.

The majority of these requests are honored with the associated links being removed from Google’s search results. However, Google sometimes takes “no action” if they are seemed not to be infringing or if they have been taken down previously.

Most takedown requests were sent for the domains 4shared.com, rapidgator.net and uploaded.net, with more than five million targeted URLs each. The UK Music industry group BPI is the top copyright holder of 2014, good for more than 60 million reported links.

2014-takedown

Despite the frequent use of the takedown process many copyright holders have stressed that the search giant should take responsibility and do more to tackle the piracy problem.

Facing this harsh criticism from copyright holders, Google has gradually changed its attitudes towards sites and services that are often associated with piracy.

October last year the company implemented the most significant change to its search algorithm to date, aimed at downranking sites that often link to copyright-infringing material.

This significantly reduced the visibility of pirate links in search results and had a major impact on the traffic levels of some sites. However, Google also reminded copyright holders that they too can do more to prevent piracy.

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 noted earlier.

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

In recent weeks tensions between rightsholders and Google reached a new high. After the MPAA issued a ‘snarky’ press release responding to Google’s downranking efforts, the company ended its anti-piracy cooperation with the Hollywood group.

Not much later, Google sued Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood who secretly collaborated with the MPAA to get certain pirate sites delisted.

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

TorrentFreak: Dozens of Pirate Bays Isn’t Necessarily a Pirate’s Dream

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

kongbayThe Pirate Bay was quite possibly the world’s most-loved torrent site before it was taken offline in a police raid. Through thick and thin fans supported the site but now, in a somewhat unbelievable bad dream, the site has gone – possibly for good.

Of course at this point there will be some shouting at the screen while furiously pointing towards various domains where the site has been supposedly resurrected. To be clear, TPB hasn’t been brought back to life yet, on any domain. All these other sites are clones.

But aren’t 30 Pirate Bays better than one? Isn’t it now 30 times more difficult for law enforcement to disappear the site? Hasn’t that single point of failure been taken away?

There are many arguments in favor of having multiple Pirate Bays but when examining the situation from a user perspective, they don’t really add up. In fact, by having so many clones everything that made The Pirate Bay such a success has been critically watered down.

A pirate Pirate Bay is not as good as the original

It’s a truly great irony that The Pirate Bay cannot be successfully copied by outsiders. Sure, millions of torrents and magnet links can be put into a searchable database and most will probably work as advertised, but clones are missing several key components.

No community

While basic torrent indexes are undoubtedly useful, one of Pirate Bay’s strengths was its community. It’s true that not many of the site’s users took the time to participate on its Suprbay discussion forum, but the comments section attached to every torrent was an unrivaled source of information.

At any point, one could jump into a pool of torrents dating back 10 years, pick one, and get an idea of what it was about and how it had been received by the community. Were better versions available? The comments would have link. Was the download poorly seeded? Potential peers could be found. Anything interesting or topical about the torrent would also be noted.

No cloned Pirate Bay has yet managed to fully recreate the comments section of the site (although one is trying). And since no clone has access to the genuine TPB database, every user account has disappeared. In some cases names exist, but logins are impossible. That’s bad because……

Sharing is caring (and getting thanked is awesome too)

To dismiss the importance of genuine, active, verifiable user accounts is to misunderstand the mindset of uploaders and those who appreciate their work. Despite the claims of some anti-piracy companies, many uploaders do what they do not for money, but for recognition – and fun.

With the disappearance of The Pirate Bay, thousands of recognizable uploader accounts (many of them verified ‘VIP’) have simply gone. Worse than that, the pages of historical uploads regular users see when they click on these names has gone too. The work of these ‘famous’ uploaders has been wiped from history – and much of their kudos with it.

Another issue relates to those same valuable uploaders. Where are they now? Some are indeed present on torrent sites such as Kickass.so and a number of others, but bringing them all back together under one Pirate Bay-branded roof that’s not the real thing could prove impossible.

It’s unlikely that any of the current clones has the standing to assure uploaders that they’re the single site worth supporting, which leaves the prospect of a release force scattered in dozens of locations. As a result, the largely single-location competition between these players could easily wither away.

Quality control

What The Pirate Bay offered that it’s clones largely do not is a team of human beings prepared to wade through every single uploaded torrent in order to check it for authenticity. Fakes, virus and malware-laden files had short lives on the real Pirate Bay and as a result the site gained a reputation among users.

The little colored skulls on Pirate Bay uploads meant that users could click and forget, safe in the knowledge that their chosen torrents will perform as expected. That entire system was destroyed when the site was raided early this month and any ‘clone’ site will struggle to emulate it.

Reputation and trust

While they may not have stayed with the site until the end, in the eyes of millions the three most recognizable names behind The Pirate Bay have remained associated with the site. In fact, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Fredrick Neij are the only world-famous torrent site celebrities around today.

Through years of news, Pirate Bay users have built up a trust with not only these guys, but by proxy whoever they handed the site over to. With that level of respect gone, copy Pirate Bays will struggle to relive the dream.

Sure, Pirate Bay’s advertising ethics got a little bent up in recent years, with soft and even hardcore porn appearing when it should not, but the feeling remained that the site would never completely sell users down the river to the highest bidder. One can never be so certain about many of the faceless clones popping up today.

Fragmentation is not the same as decentralization

Finally, an anecdote. One night more than 20 years ago, a nightclub frequented every Saturday by myself and by association hundreds of friends, unceremoniously burnt to the ground. For the previous five years it had been not only our dance music mecca, but also our home. We were devastated.

Several other clubs stepped in to recreate the experience – one even took the name of the now-destroyed venue. Homeless and desperate, a group of us went around testing the ‘clone’ clubs. Some were OK, but didn’t have all the DJs we’d been used to. Others had the music right, but lacked half our friends who had chosen to go elsewhere.

Before the fire we’d been a powerful, well-developed community in a venue we knew and trusted, coming to the same place at the same time every week to do what we loved. The fire hadn’t just destroyed the place where we met, but also the unfathomable something that had been holding us all together.

Sure, our club was a dump with badly functioning bathrooms and carpet your feet stuck to. But it was our club with a community we’d built. Without it we drifted apart.

Conclusion

Dozens of Pirate Bays might look like defiance, but the long-term outcome will be a lot less glamorous unless something can be done to play to uploaders’ sense of pride and achievement.

From a technological standpoint, decentralization or a multi-location clone setup is clearly much more difficult for authorities to deal with, but fragmenting the community and key uploaders is perhaps an even bigger problem waiting for a solution.

Make no mistake, a solution will be found. But dozens of sites that look the same and offer a watered down version of something already in need of repair probably won’t be it.

See everyone back here, February 1.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Site Blocking Gives Boost to Pirate Linking Sites

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

unblockerDuring 2014, several key strategies emerged to lead the mainstream entertainment industries’ anti-piracy efforts. At the consumer end, so-called “strikes” programs saw errant Internet subscribers receive warning notices in an effort to correct their behaviors.

Then, on top of sending millions of DMCA-style takedown notices to sites and search engines, entertainment companies went to court in several regions to have domains blocked at the ISP level. The UK was hit particularly hard and now dozens of sites are inaccessible via regular means.

But the big question remains – is this an effective way to reduce piracy? Earlier this year the movie studios decided to find out by hiring a company called Incopro to conduct a study. The report has never been made public but TorrentFreak has now obtained a copy.

The report, titled ‘Site Blocking Efficacy Study United Kingdom’ is dated September 30, 2014 and focuses on the top 250 “open access” websites involved in the unauthorized distribution of film and television content. Dedicated music sites were not included.

Overall the 26 page report, which relies heavily on Alexa data, found that blocking had resulted in targeted sites losing an average 73.2% of their direct traffic. And, when compared to the global control, usage of pirate sites had declined over time.

The report breaks sites down into three categories – linking only sites (the majority of sites in the top 250), public P2P portals and hosting.

Three sites were identified as the most popular among UK users in August 2014 – watchseries.lt (link), putlocker.is (link) and nowvideo.sx (host), with the former maintaining the number one position for the previous six months. And despite being blocked in March 2013 and taking a large hit in direct traffic, KickassTorrents maintained its place in the top 10.

In all cases, direct traffic to ‘pirate’ sites plummeted when ISPs implemented court-ordered blockades. The chart below shows the effect of a 2013 blocking order against BitSnoop, TorrentReactor, TorrentHound, Torrent Downloads, Monova, Filestube, Filecrop, 1337x, Torrentz, TorrentCrazy and ExtraTorrent.

site-traff

However, while direct traffic to ‘pirate’ sites diminishes following blocking actions, Incopro found that a particular kind of site in the top 250 actually does better over time.

So-called “linking only” sites (i.e not a P2P portal or hosting site) enjoy significant boosts, as shown in the chart below.

block-effect

“Linking Only sites have shown a growth in usage over time, indicating that these sites increase in usage and can take the place of those that are blocked if they are allowed to grow over time,” the company warns.

“In summary, where there are sustained periods of blocking, usage levels are driven downwards across all site categories. Linking Only sites are the fastest growing category and should be considered as blocking targets over a sustained period to curtail their growth.”

Circumvention techniques

While the Alexa data relied on by Incopro relates to direct traffic to sites, the big unknown is how many people continue to visit blocked sites using circumvention tools such as VPNs and proxy services. In its report, Incopro highlights three different types

1. Dedicated sites offering access or a mirror of a blocked site
2. Sites offering access to more than one blocked site (i.e come.in)
3. VPNs or proxy services offering access to any site

Immediately there is a problem for anyone looking to measure traffic to sites when the above methods are used. While option 1 is relatively easy to measure, options 2 and 3 present significant technical issues. For these reasons, Incopro measured only option 1. Nevertheless, as the chart below shows, use of dedicated proxies accounts for more than half of blocked “pirate” site traffic.

block-proxy

Conclusion

In summing up, Incopro found that when a website and all of its domains and dedicated proxies are blocked by court order (and updated quickly), “there is a significant impact in reducing infringement by the sites themselves and a reduction in the overall infringement undertaken by the most popular websites in the UK.”

But to really get to the heart of the problem requires a much deeper analysis and the answer to a question that sits way outside the scope of the report.

Does site blocking really put more money into the pockets of the entertainment industries?

———————————————————————————

Top 250 leading “pirate” movie/TV sites (dedicated music sites excluded)

watchseries.lt
putlocker.is
nowvideo.sx
uploaded.net
kickass.to
videoweed.es
sockshare.com
firedrive.com
movshare.net
alluc.to
vodlocker.com
isohunt.to
thepiratebay.se
4shared.com
novamov.com
rapidgator.net
torrentz.eu
gorillavid.in
free-tv-video-online.me
cucirca.eu
rarbg.com
torlock.com
warez-bb.org
mega.co.nz
yify-torrent.org
g2g.fm
watchtvseries.to
rlslog.net
zzstream.li
allmyvideos.net
thevideo.me
dfiles.eu
played.to
sendspace.com
letitbit.net
icefilms.info
vidbull.com
daclips.in
couchtuner.eu
billionuploads.com
thefile.me
watchseries-online.ch
thedarewall.com
filenuke.com
promptfile.com
primewire.ag
extratorrent.cc
stream-tv.me
cokeandpopcorn.ch
letmewatchthis.ae
tv-series.me
eztv.it
turbobit.net
videomega.tv
vidto.me
zalukaj.tv
torrentbutler.eu
watchserieshd.eu
filmai.in
watchtvseries.ch
watch32.com
iwatchonline.to
uploadboy.com
movreel.com
ch131.so
movie4k.to
movpod.in
tubeplus.me
p30download.com
rapidshare.com
viooz.co
avaxsearch.net
bitshare.com
sceper.ws
torrents.to
nosvideo.com
sharesix.com
torrentfunk.com
expressleech.com
rapidmoviez.com
heroturko.me
vidspot.net
seedpeer.me
www2.zmovie.tw
downloadha.com
uploadc.com
torrentbit.net
180upload.com
vidbux.com
tehparadox.com
bestreams.net
clicktoview.org
divxstage.to
2shared.com
sharebeast.com
ffilms.org
watchmovies.to
terafile.co
rlsbb.com
torrentus.si
mightyupload.com
filefactory.com
vidxden.com
freakshare.com
losmovies.com
flashx.tv
youtubeonfire.com
uppit.com
desitorrents.com
movie25.cm
Filmix.net
torrents.net
uploadable.ch
watchseries7.eu
fsplay.net
sharerepo.com
watch-tvseries.net
watchonlineseries.eu
videobull.to
tusfiles.net
seriespepito.com
seventorrents.re
zalaa.com
wareztuga.tv
uploadbaz.com
filepost.com
afdah.com
990.ro
tv-release.net
vidshark.ws
kinogo.net
torrenthound.com
moovyshoovy.com
vodu.ch
rutor.org
peliculaspepito.com
boerse.bz
lostfilm.tv
allyoulike.com
kinox.to
bigcinema.tv
kino-v-online.tv
kinozal.tv
rodfile.com
putlockertvshows.me
watchfreemovies.ch
filehoot.com
nowdownload.ch
solarmovie.ag
2baksa.net
filecore.co.nz
shaanig.com
luckyshare.net
d-addicts.com
sumotorrent.sx
1337x.to
exsite.pl
yourbittorrent.com
awesomedl.ru
thetorrent.org
filecloud.io
kinoman.tv
cloudyvideos.com
vidics.ch
300mbfilms.co
zone-telechargement.com
cuevana2.tv
video.tt
uptobox.com
linksfu.com
depfile.com
h33t.to
megafilmeshd.net
onfillm.ru
vitorrent.org
movzap.com
dpstream.net
videobam.com
greek-movies.com
softarchive.net
filmifullizle.com
torrentroom.com
v1vn.com
1fichier.com
youwatch.org
tnttorrent.info
apnadesiforums.com
divxplanet.com
movie8k.to
1channelmovie.com
watchonlinefree.tv
online.stepashka.com
fileom.com
tormovies.org
movierulz.com
oneclickwatch.org
stream.cz
torrent.cd
mobi-live.ru
myvideolinks.eu
rajtamil.com
netload.in
dubbedepisodes.org
monova.org
torrentreactor.net
channelcut.tv
rslinks.org
torrenty.org
fileserve.com
keep2s.cc
divxstream.net
zi-m.com
torrentz.to
kingfiles.net
uloz.to
tvshow7.eu
megashares.com
darkwarez.pl
vodly.to
scrapetorrent.com
ryushare.com
cinemaxx.ro
watchmoviespro.pw
hdvnbits.org
torrents.fm
datafile.com
secureupload.eu
phim3s.net
vidhog.com
peb.pl
solarmovie.me
share-online.biz
watchopolis.net
mega-search.me
fileswap.com
chameleons-download.com
zmovie.in
vertor.eu
kinoprosmotr.net
rusfolder.com
divxcentral.com
popcorntime.io
ourrelease.org
keep2share.cc
uploadrocket.net
motionempire.me
crocko.com
filenuke.net
fulldls.com
filestube.to

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

TorrentFreak: Wiziwig and EliteTorrent ‘Shut Down’ Facing New Anti-Piracy Law

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

For a long time Spain has had a reputation for being easy on copyright infringement, but this lenient stance shifted last year. After continued pressure from entertainment industry groups, new copyright law amendments were passed which outlaw sites that link to pirated material.

The changes expose site owners to massive fines of up to €600,000 if they fail to respond to takedown requests in time. This liability also applies to non-profit sites that only use advertisements to cover their costs.

Today the changes officially go into effect and already they’ve resulted in two prominent casualties. Popular sports streaming links site Wiziwig.tv and torrent index Elitetorrent.net have both stopped linking to copyrighted material effective immediately.

With hundreds of thousands of visitors per day Wiziwig is the goto site for many sports fans who can’t watch their favorite teams through legal channels. wiziwig

According to the owner the site was specifically setup in Spain, where linking sites were declared legal in the past.

With the new amendments, however, the site can no longer operate from Spain without risking potential bankruptcy.

“Today is a sad day for all fans of live sports streaming, as we at Wiziwig have to announce that we’re forced to close our website, at least for now. This due to new laws in Spain,” the site’s owner writes in a statement.

“Failing to comply with the new reform puts us at risks of fines being as high as €600,000,- and also losing our domain, hosting and other necessary stuff to operate wiziwig,” he adds.

The founder of Elitetorrent.net also took drastic measures in response to the new legislation. et-censuradoHis website, which is ranked among the 100 most visited sites in Spain, didn’t shut down completely but removed all torrents.

“I have always shown to be operating within the law, so I regret that after 11 years elitetorrent.net has to remove all links to downloads that are copyright protected, to suit the new legislation,” Elitetorrent’s Juan José says.

“Despite having fought battles for years against powerful forces, this last battle is very unequal and impossible to win. While the powerful use an army with tanks and warplanes, I can only fight with a stick,” he adds.

Elitetorrent.net remains open without links to downloads, but the owner is encouraging visitors to stay on board. He plans to transform the site into a lively community of movie and TV-fans, with news, trailers and other information.

Wiziwig.tv will shut down completely with the site’s owner deciding to push official content instead of unauthorized streams. He’s joined a new project, GetYourFixtures.com, a website providing information and official links to live sports events.

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

TorrentFreak: Mortally Wounded Pirate Bay Enters 2015 in Uncertainty

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

tpb-logoMay 31, 2006 was a momentous day for everyone involved in the BitTorrent scene.

The Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most famous torrent sites, was smashed to its knees. Dozens of police, acting on information provided by the global entertainment industries via local anti-piracy group Antipiratbyran, raided Swedish datacenter PRQ and seized all of the site’s hardware.

But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, three days later The Pirate Bay was back online utilizing a backup that Fredrik Neij, aka TiAMO, had made of the site. In a public speech heralding the site’s return, Neij excited gathered crowds in Sweden.

“It’s a pleasure to announce that the Pirate Bay is back online. In your face, Hollywood,” the Swede declared. TPB was back.

TPB Back online in 2006 – Image from TPB AFK

tpb-back

In the years that followed The Pirate Bay grew in size and reputation, an apparently unstoppable behemoth supported by a hard-core following renewed determination.

But while the masses enjoyed the spoils of the site for years to come, in November 2014 history caught up with Neij when he was arrested at the Laos/Thai border, shipped back to Sweden and locked in a prison cell.

Several weeks later, on a December morning more than eight years after the original raid, Antipiratbyran – now known as Rights Alliance – showed the world that they also have extremely long memories when it comes to The Pirate Bay.

Following a new investigation and presentations to the authorities, police descended on a datacenter in Nacka and once again ripped The Pirate Bay offline.

The events of 2006 and the Megaupload case aside, never before had so much attention been focused on the shutdown of a file-sharing site. Tens of millions of worried Pirate Bay users sat in disbelief as the hours passed by. Some thought the downtime was related to technical issues. Others believed news of a fresh raid was a hoax. It was neither.

As file-sharers and interested observers absorbed developments, one train of thought persisted through most conversations. Hadn’t The Pirate Bay become raid-proof? Wasn’t its virtual server setup immune to the attentions of the police? Who was in charge of making the backups this time around and why isn’t the site back online already?

piratesaintThe days passed and it became increasingly clear – this wasn’t The Pirate Bay of 2006. Times – and people – had changed.

The team that had driven the site to glory during the last decade had long since parted ways and the collective defiance of Piratbyran (the Pirate Bay’s founding group) had dissipated following a decade of pursuing still unsurpassed culture sharing ideals.

“We were not that surprised by the raid. That is something that is a part of this game. We couldn’t care less really,” a Pirate Bay insider informed TF in the wake of the shutdown.

“We have however taken this opportunity to give ourselves a break. How long are we supposed to keep going?”

So what could be done to fill the vacuum before any Pirate Bay return? Interestingly it was previous efforts to limit the availability of The Pirate Bay in countries such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom and elsewhere that provided the springboard.

Sites and domains that previously acted as mirrors and proxies to TPB suddenly transformed themselves into clones of the famous site. Some early efforts were controversial, with fears over impostors and malware unsettling the masses. Others (such as ThePirateBay.com.ua) became the closest representation of what the site once was, with user names and a high percentage of comments now restored.

But despite the claims and suggestions, not a single one of these sites is the real Pirate Bay resurrected. Nevertheless, many have flourished simply by virtue of similar looking domains and a half decent torrent index. However, one of the most interesting developments was launched by the team responsible for launching isoHunt.com clone, isoHunt.to.

TheOpenBay project is an attempt at open-sourcing a Pirate Bay-like site, and not without success. The initiative has resulted in hundreds of mini TPB clones and the sky-rocketing of the project to the top spot on developer platform Github.

OpenBay has real potential and provides an easier route into the torrent scene for budding admins, but ultimately this platform provides an alternative, not a replacement, to The Pirate Bay.

The disappearance of The Pirate Bay has been somewhat of a roller-coaster. Emotions have been running high all month, with hopes for a return and/or a worthy replacement at the forefront of millions of users’ minds.

Dreams of a grand return were boosted four days before Christmas when the original Pirate Bay domain – ThePirateBay.se – burst back to life. While the famous front page was missing, an elaborate pirate flag has waved on the site ever since. Alongside other cryptic hints, the flag is keeping the pirate spirit alive and hopes of a resurrection with it.

At the time of writing The Pirate Bay has been down a record-setting three weeks. In all of its history the site has never been offline for such a long time which raises some obvious questions. Will the site ever return or is the delay down to important technical issues which need to be overcome in order for the site to come back up and stay up?

Whatever the reason, it now seems that 2015 will begin without The Pirate Bay and if that is to be the case, somehow the community needs to come to terms with that. Will things ever be the same? Perhaps not. But file-sharing did not begin with The Pirate Bay and will not end with it either.

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

Schneier on Security: More Data on Attributing the Sony Attack

This post was syndicated from: Schneier on Security and was written by: schneier. Original post: at Schneier on Security

An analysis of the timestamps on some of the leaked documents shows that they were downloaded at USB 2.0 speeds — which implies an insider.

Our Gotnews.com investigation into the data that has been released by the “hackers” shows that someone at Sony was copying 182GB at minimum the night of the 21st — the very same day that Sony Pictures’ head of corporate communications, Charles Sipkins, publicly resigned from a $600,000 job. This could be a coincidence but it seems unlikely. Sipkins’s former client was NewsCorp and Sipkins was officially fired by Pascal’s husband over a snub by the Hollywood Reporter.

Two days later a malware bomb occurred.

We are left with several conclusions about the malware incident:

  1. The “hackers” did this leak physically at a Sony LAN workstation. Remember Sony’s internal security is hard on the outside squishy in the center and so it wouldn’t be difficult for an insider to harm Sony by downloading the material in much the same way Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden did at their respective posts.

  2. If the “hackers” already had copies, then it’s possible they made a local copy the night of the 21st to prepare for publishing them as a link in the malware screens on the 24th.
  3. Sony CEO Michael Lynton’s released emails go up to November 21, 2014. Lynton got the “God’sApstls” email demand for money on the 21st at 12:44pm.

Other evidence implies insiders as well:

Working on the premise that it would take an insider with detailed knowledge of the Sony systems in order to gain access and navigate the breadth of the network to selectively exfiltrate the most sensitive of data, researchers from Norse Corporation are focusing on this group based in part on leaked human resources documents that included data on a series of layoffs at Sony that took place in the Spring of 2014.

The researchers tracked the activities of the ex-employee on underground forums where individuals in the U.S., Europe and Asia may have communicated prior to the attack.

The investigators believe the disgruntled former employee or employees may have joined forces with pro-piracy hacktivists, who have long resented the Sony’s anti-piracy stance, to infiltrate the company’s networks.

I have been skeptical of the insider theory. It requires us to postulate the existence of a single person who has both insider knowledge and the requisite hacking skill. And since I don’t believe that insider knowledge was required, it seems unlikely that the hackers had it. But these results point in that direction.

Pointing in a completely different direction, a linguistic analysis of the grammatical errors in the hacker communications implies that they are Russian speakers:

Taia Global, Inc. has examined the written evidence left by the attackers in an attempt to scientifically determine nationality through Native Language Identification (NLI). We tested for Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and German using an analysis of L1 interference. Our preliminary results show that Sony’s attackers were most likely Russian, possibly but not likely Korean and definitely not Mandarin Chinese or German.

The FBI still blames North Korea:

The FBI said Monday it was standing behind its assessment, adding that evidence doesn’t support any other explanations.

“The FBI has concluded the government of North Korea is responsible for the theft and destruction of data on the network of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Attribution to North Korea is based on intelligence from the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, DHS, foreign partners and the private sector,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “There is no credible information to indicate that any other individual is responsible for this cyber incident.”

Although they are now thinking that the North Koreans hired outside hackers:

U.S. investigators believe that North Korea likely hired hackers from outside the country to help with last month’s massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures, an official close to the investigation said on Monday.

As North Korea lacks the capability to conduct some elements of the sophisticated campaign by itself, the official said, U.S. investigators are looking at the possibility that Pyongyang “contracted out” some of the cyber work.

This is nonsense. North Korea has had extensive offensive cyber capabilities for years. And they have extensive support from China.

Even so, lots of security experts don’t believe that it’s North Korea. Marc Rogers picks the FBI’s evidence apart pretty well.

So in conclusion, there is NOTHING here that directly implicates the North Koreans. In fact, what we have is one single set of evidence that has been stretched out into 3 separate sections, each section being cited as evidence that the other section is clear proof of North Korean involvement. As soon as you discredit one of these pieces of evidence, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.

But, as I wrote earlier this month:

Tellingly, the FBI’s press release says that the bureau’s conclusion is only based “in part” on these clues. This leaves open the possibility that the government has classified evidence that North Korea is behind the attack. The NSA has been trying to eavesdrop on North Korea’s government communications since the Korean War, and it’s reasonable to assume that its analysts are in pretty deep. The agency might have intelligence on the planning process for the hack. It might, say, have phone calls discussing the project, weekly PowerPoint status reports, or even Kim Jong Un’s sign-off on the plan.

On the other hand, maybe not. I could have written the same thing about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of that country, and we all know how wrong the government was about that.

I also wrote that bluffing about this is a smart strategy for the US government:

…from a diplomatic perspective, it’s a smart strategy for the US to be overconfident in assigning blame for the cyberattacks. Beyond the politics of this particular attack, the long-term US interest is to discourage other nations from engaging in similar behavior. If the North Korean government continues denying its involvement, no matter what the truth is, and the real attackers have gone underground, then the US decision to claim omnipotent powers of attribution serves as a warning to others that they will get caught if they try something like this.

Of course, this strategy completely backfires if the attackers can be definitely shown to be not from North Korea. Stay tuned for more.

TorrentFreak: Talos Principle Traps Pirating Gamers in An Elevator

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

talospEvery day hundreds of thousands of games are downloaded from various torrent sites. While it can be quite a challenge to get a pirated game working, most will play just fine.

The same is true for Croteam’s latest release The Talos Principle. A few days ago a pirated copy of the puzzle title surfaced online which initially appeared to work as a regular game.

However, the fun didn’t last long as the developers had previously embedded a feature that traps free-riding pirates in a virtual elevator.

“When I unlocked the 2nd floor on the tower, all the elevators have stopped working. Whenever I want to get somewhere, it just stops in the middle of the way and I can’t do anything,” J.K. wrote on the Steam forums.

The measure had many pirates puzzled, but in a thread on Neogaf the purpose of the “bug” soon came to light.

While bugs in “cracked” games are a regular occurrence, in this case it’s clearly an intentional anti-piracy measure. As can be seen below, the QR code visible in the elevator clearly references the scene release group SKIDROW, who are responsible for many pirated game copies.

talospirate

Croteam acknowledged the feature on social media by retweeting a mention of the puzzled Steam user, which must have been good for a few laughs among the developers.

Even more so, it probably led to a few extra sales as well. Apparently some pirates were hooked enough to get a legit copy of the game on Steam, to continue playing without any hassles.

“I hit the bug where the elevators stopped working correctly, so I bought the game on Steam and was able to import my save,” an anonymous user wrote on a popular torrent site, adding that it’s been worth the money.

“I did lose some progress, possibly a side effect of the elevator bug, but I was able to get back to where I was pretty quickly. I just finished the game (one ending, at least) and it was totally worth the purchase price.”

So the developers managed to punish pirates and get paid. That’s a pretty good outcome to say the least.

As Kotaku mentions, this isn’t the first time that Croteam has come up with a rather creative form of DRM. Three years ago the developers added an invincible scorpion to Serious Sam, making it impossible for pirates to progress.

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

TorrentFreak: Sony Accidentally Funded “Rogue” Piracy Sites

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

In recent years the mainstream entertainment industries have largely come to the realization that chasing down individual file-sharers is unlikely to yield significant anti-piracy results.

With this in mind new strategies have been adopted, one of the most important being the attacking of ‘pirate’ site revenue streams. The theory under consideration is that such sites would cease to exist if a profit could not be made from their operations.

One of the key ways sites generate revenue is via advertising so pressure has been mounting on agencies and the companies placing the ads to do everything possible to stop their promotions appearing on pirate sites. On occasion, groups such as the Digital Citizens Alliance publish information aimed at naming and shaming big brands who’ve let their ads appear in the wrong places.

“Good Money Gone Bad: Digital Thieves and the Hijacking of the Online Ad Business” was a DCA report from February 2014 which estimated that the top “pirate sites” generate $227 million in annual ad revenue.

The report also called out big companies including Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego and McDonalds for allowing their ads to appear on pirate domains. What it failed to do was point the finger at companies a little closer to home.

TorrentFreak has learned that during its monitoring of “pirate” sites in early 2014, the MPAA discovered that ads commissioned by entertainment companies close to the ones it represents were appearing on those very same sites.

In a five month analysis (Jan to May 2014) the MPAA found that Sony companies including Sony Online Entertainment, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Entertainment Network, Sony Corporation, and Sony Mobile Communications, were placing ads on ‘rogue’ sites.

This wasn’t a few here and a few there either. In the first five months of the year Sony company ads appeared on “pirate” sites almost two million times, with the lion’s share placed by SCE and its partners.

Internal correspondence reveals that Sony Pictures were keen to eliminate this embarrassment, with the company’s content protection department writing to other divisions requesting that ads are kept aware from pirate networks in future.

Sony said its goals were threefold:

– “Starving pirate sites of any additional ad revenue generated by viewers clicking through on those internet ads”

– “Eliminating any semblance of legitimacy that ads for well­ known
brands might lend these rogue sites”

– “Protecting the reputation of our brand, since these sites often include malware and ads for questionable and/or illegal content.”

Noting that the information had been provided by the MPAA, Sony asked its sister companies to assist them in the fight against piracy. It’s unclear whether Sony has achieved its aims but in any event, don’t expect an MPAA partner company to be called out for supporting piracy anytime soon.

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