Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: Sony Settles Piracy Lawsuit With Russia’s Facebook

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

vkFor several years VKontakte, or VK, has been branded as a piracy facilitator by copyright holders and even the U.S. Government.

In common with many user-generated sites, VK allows its millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. However, copyright holders often claim that Russia’s social network has failed to adopt proper anti-piracy measures.

Last year this resulted in a lawsuit filed at the Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbitration Court, in which Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music demanded countermeasures and compensation for the large scale copyright infringement VK allegedly facilitates.

The case is still ongoing, but as of this week Sony Music has dropped out. According to a local report Sony and VK signed a confidential settlement agreement to resolve the dispute.

No further details on the content of the deal have been published, but according to sources VK will upgrade its current music service.

Among other things, the social network will start charging mobile users for access to its official music platform. Desktop users will still have free access, but these views will be monetized through advertisements.

Both changes will be rolled out gradually after a thorough test phase.

The settlement with Sony Music is a breakthrough for the Russian equivalent of Facebook, but it doesn’t mean that all legal troubles are over.

The remaining cases against Universal Music and Warner Music haven’t been resolved yet. Together with Sony the companies demanded 50 million rubles ($830,000) in damages in their complaint last year, and VK is still on the hook for most of it.

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

TorrentFreak: Spanish Government Claims Success in Internet Piracy Fight

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

piracydownFor many years Spain was regarded as somewhat of a piracy safe-haven but in recent times the country has taken steps to repair its fractured relationship with the entertainment industries.

Since 2012, Spain has implemented a series of changes and adjustments to local copyright law, each aimed at clamping down on the online distribution of copyrighted content. January 1, 2015 saw the most notable development, with the introduction of tough new legislation aimed at quickly shutting down pirate sites.

Now the country’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports is reporting success in its battle with the Internet pirates in a new report highlighting achievements since the beginning of legislative change three years ago.

According to the Ministry, more than 95% of the 444 complaints filed with the Intellectual Property Commission by creators and rightsholders have been resolved.

In total, 252 websites were ordered by the Commission to remove illegal content with 247 (98%) responding positively to the demands. According to the Ministry, 31 ‘pirate’ sites chose to shut down completely.

Last December and following a complaint filed by 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Disney, Universal, Paramount and Sony, police also raided two of the country’s leading video streaming sites. Two men were arrested.

In addition to these voluntary and forced shutdowns, Spanish courts have recently ordered local ISPs to block several sites after rightsholders took advantage of a recent change in the law. Unsurprisingly The Pirate Bay was the first site to be targeted

In its report the Ministry reports that a total of five websites have now been ordered to be blocked in this manner following two High Court judgments. They include Goear, the first unlicensed music site to be tackled by the legislation.

Given the scale of the problem the gains being reported by the Spanish government seem relatively modest. Nevertheless, the Ministry insists that progress is definitely being made.

Citing figures from Alexa showing that three years ago 30 ‘pirate’ sites were among the top 250 most-visited sites in Spain, the Ministry says that now just 13 are present. Furthermore, those 13 are lower placed than they were before.

“It is clear from this data that pirate websites are losing their share of total Internet traffic in Spain,” the Ministry reports.

But while the claimed shuttering of dozens of sites and the removal of copyright content following complaints is being portrayed as a success story, the real test is whether Spaniards are buying more content.

According to figures published this week by local music industry group Promusicae, they are. Music sales in Spain totaled €70.6 million ($78 million) in the first half of 2015, an increase of almost 11%.

However, rather than solely attributing the successes to anti-piracy measures, Promusicae praised streaming as the industry’s savior. According to the group, streaming revenues increased 40% in the first six months of 2015 when compared to the same period last year.

With music industry successes ringing in their ears, later this year the TV and movie industries will learn whether Spaniards have a similar appetite for their products ‘on demand’. After a seemingly endless wait, Netflix will launch locally in the second half of 2015.

Beating piracy in Spain will be a tall order, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is upbeat.

“We can think of this as the bottled water business,” Hastings said. “Tap water can be drunk and is free, but there is still a public that demands bottled water.”

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

TorrentFreak: BREIN Hits 128 Sites Plus BitTorrent Uploaders & Moderator

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

nopiracyAnti-piracy groups come in all shapes and sizes but one of the most famous is Dutch outfit BREIN. Although its mission has expanded in recent years, BREIN is generally viewed as one of the more aggressive groups doing Hollywood’s bidding in Europe. That has included taking on giants such as The Pirate Bay.

Unlike most groups operating in its field, each year BREIN publishes an overview of its anti-piracy enforcement actions. It’s a broad report that for operational and security reasons tends to leave out specific details. Nevertheless, the highlights of its initial 2015 report provide a useful insight to the outfit’s current focus.

In the first half of the year BREIN continued its threats to local webhosts who offer services to file-sharing sites. While some are less responsive than others, BREIN says 128 ‘illegal’ sites were taken down in this way. Almost two dozen were BitTorrent sites, 37 takedowns hit streaming video portals and two targeted cyberlockers distributing music. The remainder were linking sites used to spread content hosted on cyberlockers and Usenet.

Like its counterparts overseas, BREIN mentions the tendency of ‘pirate’ sites to attempt to hide their locations behind the services of U.S.-based Cloudflare. However, the anti-piracy group says that unmasking sites’ true locations can be achieved upon request.

“BREIN believes that the services provided by CloudFlare to illegal providers should be discontinued after notification by BREIN,” the group adds.

As previously reported, BREIN also took action against several sites helping to distribute Popcorn Time software. The anti-piracy group says it targeted seven in all, with two “fleeing abroad” to be pursued by other copyright enforcers.

Also in the first half of 2015, BREIN says it obtained a total of 12 ex-parte injunctions, i.e court orders against alleged infringers who were not present to defend themselves during the proceedings.

Five of the orders concerned large uploaders, four connected to BitTorrent and the other to Usenet. BREIN said it also obtained an injunction against “an important moderator” on one of the “largest illegal BitTorrent sites”. In line with BREIN policy, the site itself is not named.

Five of the ex-parte orders related to those offering movies and TV shows without permission while two were connected to eBook offerings, one of which was a 13,500 title supplier. Two video game infringement injunctions were also obtained, one of which related to modification of consoles.

In action directed away from individuals, BREIN says it continued with its efforts to have infringing links delisted from Google. In the first half of the year the group says it sent 1.4 million infringement reports to Google, making 10 million reports since the program began in 2012.

BREIN also notes that it targeted various dedicated BitTorrent trackers with requests to “blacklist illegal infohashes”. Two of the trackers reportedly complied but a third “fled abroad” where it is now being pressured by another anti-piracy outfit.

Finally, BREIN reminds everyone that the long-running Pirate Bay blocking case is not over yet. After a big legal defeat in January 2014, BREIN is now taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Emails Expose Dirty Media Attack Against Google

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

google-bayLate last year leaked documents revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi Attorney General (AG) Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.

In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret plan. The company also demanded copies of internal communications from the MPAA which are now revealing how far the anti-Google camp planned to go.

Emails between the MPAA and two of AG Hood’s top lawyers include a proposal that outlines how the parties could attack Google. In particular, they aim to smear Google through an advanced PR campaign involving high-profile news outlets such as The Today Show and The Wall Street Journal.

With help from Comcast and News Corp, they planned to hire a PR firm to “attack” Google and others who resisted the planned anti-piracy efforts. To hide links to the MPAA and the AG’s office, this firm should be hired through a seemingly unaffiliated nonprofit organization, the emails suggest.

“This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The ‘live buys’ should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this),” the plan reads (pdf).

The Today Show feature would be followed up by a statement from a large Google investor calling on the company to do more to tackle the piracy problem.

“After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform.”

In addition, a planted piece in the Wall Street Journal should suggest that Google’s stock would lose value if the company doesn’t give in to the demands.

“Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google’s stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed,” the plan notes.

mpaasmear

Previously, the MPAA accused Google of waging an “ongoing public relations war,” but the above shows that the Hollywood group is no different.

On top of the PR-campaign the plan also reveals details on how the parties would taint Google before the National Association of Attorneys General.

Through a series of live taped segments they would show how easy it is for minors to pirate R-rated movies, buy heroin and order an assault weapon with the help of Google’s search engine.

Finally, the plan includes a “final step” where Attorney General Hood would issue a civil investigatory demand to Google.

In its court filing (pdf) Google uses the information above to argue that the AG’s civil investigatory demand was not the basis of a legitimate investigation. Instead, it was another tool pressuring the company to implement more stringent anti-piracy measures.

Given this new information, Google hopes that the court will compel Fox, NBC and Viacom to hand over relevant internal documents, as they were “plainly privy” to the secretive campaign.

It’s now up to the judge to decide how to proceed, but based on the emails above, the MPAA and the AG’s office have some explaining to do.

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

TorrentFreak: Massive Piracy Case Ends in Disappointment for Hollywood

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

warezAfter tracking down hundreds of Internet pirates over the years, a case that came to a head at the turn of the decade was shaping up to be one of the most important for anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån (now Rights Alliance).

More often focused on lower-hanging fruit, Antipiratbyrån had their eyes on the “warez scene”, the people and infrastructure at the very top of the so-called “piracy pyramid” from where content trickles down to the masses.

In 2010 and following a lengthy investigation by Antipiratbyrån, police raided a topsite known as ‘Devil’. Topsites are top-secret, high-speed servers used by piracy release groups and their affiliates for storing and distributing unauthorized copyrighted content. When Devil went down dozens of servers were seized, together containing an estimated 250 terabytes of pirate content.

One man was also arrested but it took until 2014 for him to be charged with unlawfully making content available “intentionally or by gross negligence.”

According to police the 50-something year old man from Väsby, Sweden, acted “in consultation or in concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the Devil file-sharing network. Before its shutdown, Devil was reported to service around 200 elite members.

Considering Antipiratbyrån’s links with the movie industry it came as no surprise that the charges included the unlawful making available of 2,250 mainly Hollywood movies. According to the prosecutor, those numbers made the case a record breaker.

“We have not prosecuted for this many movies in the past. There are many movies and large data set,” prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad commented earlier. “It is also the largest analysis of computers ever made in an individual case.”

devil-top

Given the scale of the case it was expected that punishments would be equally harsh but things did not play out that way.

Despite admitting that he operated servers at his home and in central Stockholm and the court acknowledging that rightsholders had suffered great damage, the man has just been sentenced to probation and 160 hours of community service.

According to Mitti.se, two key elements appear to have kept the man’s punishment down. Firstly, he cooperated with police in the investigation. Secondly – and this is a feature in many file-sharing prosecutions – the case simply dragged on for too long.

“It is worrying that the bottleneck at the police has affected the sentence,” says Sara Lindbäck of Rights Alliance.

Defense lawyer Henrik Olsson Lilja says that he’s pleased his client has avoided jail but adds that no decision has yet been made on any appeal. That being said, an end to the criminal case doesn’t necessarily mean the matter is completely over.

Last year Rights Alliance indicated that the six main studios behind the prosecution might initiate a civil action against the man and demand between $673,400 and $2.69m per title infringed, albeit on a smaller sample-sized selection of the 2,250 movies involved in the case.

No announcement has been made on that front and Rights Alliance did not respond to our requests for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: YouTube Faces Russia Web Block Over Pirate Content

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

youtubefaceFollowing intense pressure from local and international entertainment companies, on August 1, 2013 Russia introduced a brand new anti-piracy law.

Initially covering only movies, the law allowed websites offering ‘pirate’ content to be blocked by local ISPs if they fail to respond to complaints. Late November 2014 the law was further amended to include all copyrighted content except images.

The legislation has been used dozens of times to threaten unresponsive sites with blocking at the ISP level, but in many cases operators have complied to ensure they keep off Russia’s blocklist. Surprisingly the world’s largest user-generated content site YouTube today finds itself perilously close to becoming a new addition.

The problem dates back several months when TV shows owned by TNT-network appeared on the site without authorization. In April, YouTube received requests from local telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor to delete the content and apparently responded in a timely manner.

However, fresh monitoring carried out by Roskomnadzor this month reportedly found almost 140 links to the same content, an event that prompted the watchdog to initiate the start of the blocking procedure.

“On the application of the right holder ‘TNT-Teleset’ and in accordance with a decision of the Moscow City Court from April 7, 2015, tentative interim measures of protection of the exclusive rights to [two TV series] have been implemented against social networking website YouTube.com,” Roskomnadzor announced.

“Notification with a request to remove the unlawfully placed materials has been repeatedly directed at the administration of the Internet resource. Currently, access to the illegal videos has not been limited.”

For YouTube, the clock is now ticking. Roskomnadzor is alerting Russian users that on Monday July 27 YouTube pages will be added to Russia’s national register of copyright violators. However, due to the way blocking is sometimes implemented, Roskomnadzor warns that for some the entire site may be rendered inaccessible.

“The video hosting site has a huge audience, and for some users the resource could become completely unavailable,” Roskomnadzor’s Vadim Ampelonsky told local media.

“The administration of YouTube has always responded to our needs and removed illegal content. But in [this case] this hasn’t happened for reasons that aren’t apparent to us. We very much hope that we will not have to put YouTube on the blocklist registry.”

It’s unclear why YouTube hasn’t responded to the requests of Roskomnadzor. The company is usually responsive to complaints and it should be trivial to add the TV shows in question to its ContentID system so that uploads of the same can be spotted in the future. But in any event, YouTube has just days to respond before the banhammer falls.

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

TorrentFreak: French Anti-Piracy Regime Breaks 5 Million Warning Barrier

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

warningWhile site-blocking currently grabs most of the headlines as a key anti-piracy strategy of the entertainment industries, the so-called “graduated response” is still considered a valuable tool for reducing infringing activity online.

Also known as “three strikes”, these schemes are promoted as educational in nature, with alleged pirates receiving escalating warnings designed to discourage further infringing behavior.

In the fall of 2010, France became one of the pioneers of the warning system and now almost five years later a report from the country’s ‘Hadopi’ anti-piracy agency has revealed the extent of its operations.

Between September 2010 and June 2015, a total of 4,897,883 initial warning notices were sent to French Internet account holders. In the same period 482,667 individuals received a second notice while just 2,221 reached the third stage.

Referrals to the public prosecutor (for those still not getting the message) reached 169 in the first six months of 2015, up from 46 in the same period in 2014.

When it comes to overall notices sent, June 2015 was the most active month in the history of the program thus far. In total 231,000 account holders received a first strike, 21,400 received a second and 104 reached the third stage.

However, according to figures published by NextInpact, the volume of notices being sent out to Internet users represents just a fraction of the total number of complaints filed by rightsholders.

To date it’s estimated that more than 37 million complaints (alleged instances of infringement) have been filed with the Hadopi agency although many millions have been discarded. According to Hadopi, however, the processing rate is being improved, with around 50% of the 70,000 complaints currently filed by rightsholders each day being actioned.

The Hadopi report can be found here (French, pdf)

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

TorrentFreak: UK Anti-Piracy ‘Education’ Campaign Starts This Summer

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

uk-flagIn an effort to curb online piracy, early last year the movie and music industries reached agreement with the UK’s leading ISPs to send ‘warnings’ to alleged pirates.

As we previously revealed, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) will monitor illegal P2P file-sharing with a strong focus on repeat infringers.

The alerts program is part of the larger Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative, which will kick off with a broad anti-piracy PR campaign targeted at the general public.

This education part is nearly ready for launch and TF is informed that it will officially kick off this summer.

“…work has started on the education component of the campaign, which helps to lay the ground and is designed to inform and raise consumer awareness and to engage with people around their love of content. The first activities are scheduled to start later this summer,” ” a Creative Content UK spokesperson tells TF.

The education part is aimed at steering people away from piracy sites by pointing out how convenient and accessible legal services are.

The associated alerts campaign has no hard start date yet but is also being finalized and will begin at a later date.

“The education campaign will show consumers how to easily access content – such as music, film, TV, books, games, magazines and sport – from authorized online sources which provide a superior user experience. So it makes sense for this to happen before the alerts program starts,” CCUK informs us.

Both programs are supported by the UK Government with millions in funding. The Government justifies this contribution with an expected increase in sales, and thus tax revenue.

The ultimate goal is to bring down local piracy rates and during the months following the rollout the file-sharing habits of UK Internet users will be frequently polled to measure the impact of the campaign.

“The aim of Creative Content UK is to encourage greater use of legal content services and to reduce online copyright infringement. There will be regular measurements of legal and illegal consumption of content throughout the duration of the initiative, which will be compared with levels before the launch of the program,” CCUK tells TF.

To what degree the PR campaign and alerts will convert pirates into paying customers has yet to be seen. In any case, it won’t go by unnoticed.

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

TorrentFreak: One Direction Remix Comp Entry is Copyright Infringing, Sony Says

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

1d-fourIn advance of the release of their latest album ‘Four’, One Direction invited remixers and producers from the UK to remix their track Steal My Girl.

“This is a huge opportunity to work with the music and vocals of Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn,” said artist network TalentHouse in its introduction.

“After getting involved in remixing himself, Liam Payne wanted to give other people the opportunity. He, and their guest judges including senior A&R and Radio executives from Sony Music, will select one artist to receive a prize of £1,500. The selected remix will be posted to millions of music fans across the band’s official channels and potentially played on radio as an exclusive premiere,” TalentHouse continued.

The competition attracted the attention of UK-based producer and songwriter Lee Adams who took on the remix challenge after using the track stems uploaded to Soundcloud by TalentHouse themselves. Things didn’t go to plan, however.

Even though the stems were put on Soundcloud and entrants were told to upload their remixes there [“Artists must submit their remix via Talenthouse by pasting in their SoundCloud link”], the automated anti-piracy engines of the music site apparently weren’t informed.

“I made my remix, put it on Soundcloud about a week before the contest closing date. About two days later, it was taken down as it had been detected by SoundCloud’s own copyright system as infringement,” Lee informs TorrentFreak.

According to several other complaints left on the competition’s official page, Lee wasn’t the only one affected either. It’s not clear what happened in the other cases but Lee was left to negotiate with SoundCloud over the strike on his account. That didn’t go well either.

“I messaged SoundCloud back saying it was part of a remix contest. Then they told me that doesn’t mean I own the copyright,” Lee says.

“I then explained that if the stems had been put out by the record company officially, then they had given permission. They still argued that I didn’t own the copyright.”

Undeterred, Lee contacted the company running the competition on Sony’s behalf.

“As it was only a couple of days before the contest closed, I emailed TalentHouse themselves to see if they could do anything,” Lee explains.

“They were very good and after a couple of emails SoundCloud reinstated my track. Interestingly, TalentHouse made the comment that ‘this kind of thing happens all the time with SoundCloud’.”

But following months of silence and the ‘infringement’ episode now a fading memory, SoundCloud copyright complaints are again back on the agenda.

“We’ve received a report that your track ‘One Direction – Steal My Girl (Lee Adams Remix)’ contains copyrighted content. As a result, your track has been removed from your profile for the time being,” SoundCloud informed Lee this week.

Having a second complaint filed against his remix upset Lee, who took to Twitter to vent his frustration.

one-direction

“I only remix a song if I am asked to or a public contest is put out officially by a label. If I had just remixed this song unofficially because I wanted to, I think that would be a good claim that I had infringed the copyright,” Lee explains.

It must be noted that the competition rules make it clear that “all rights in materials that are created by entrants using the stems are assigned to Sony Music” but filing copyright infringement complaints against remix competition entrants seems like a particularly poor way to deal with fans.

“To me this is just a poor decision by Sony, maybe they shouldn’t do remix competitions of their artists if they don’t want problems like this. To me it’s a good marketing decision to do a remix competition in the first place but everything that has gone on after has been poor,” Lee concludes.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the original One Direction stems uploaded for the competition are still being offered on SoundCloud for people to remix. However, those tempted to do so should be warned, since re-uploading finished tracks back to SoundCloud risks a potential infringement strike against their account.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Founders Acquitted in Criminal Copyright Case

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

tpb-logoThere can be little doubt that The Pirate Bay is the most infamous torrent site of all time. Its attitude towards copyright and related laws has landed the site and its operators in endless legal trouble for more than a decade, conflict that continues today.

Following the convictions of The Pirate Bay Four – co-founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, former site spokesman Peter Sunde, and site financier Carl Lundström – most legal matters involving the site have been connected to local ISP blocking injunctions. Nevertheless, a separate legal process against the men themselves has persisted in Belgium.

Unusually, the case was based in criminal law, with Svartholm, Neij, Sunde and Lundström all standing accused of a range of crimes including criminal copyright infringement and abuse of electronic communications. However, the case itself has always experienced problems.

All four defendants deny having had anything to do with the site since its reported sale to a Seychelles-based company called Reservella in 2006. That has proven problematic, since the period in which the four allegedly committed the crimes detailed in the Belgian case spans September 2011 and November 2013.

Having failed to connect the quartet with the site’s operations during that period, the case has now fallen apart. Yesterday a judge at the Mechelse Court ruled that it could not be proven that the four were involved in the site during the period in question.

Indeed, for at least a year of that period, Svartholm was in jail in Sweden while connecting Lundström to the site a decade after his last involvement (which was purely financial) has always been somewhat ridiculous.

In the end, even the site’s anti-piracy adversaries in the case agreed with the decision.

“Technically speaking, we agree with the court,” said Olivier Maeterlinck, director of the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA).

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

TorrentFreak: “U.S. Copyright Group” Shuts Down Portugal’s Largest Pirate Site

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

babypirateLate last week file-sharing fans in Portugal received the worst possible news. WarezTuga, the country’s most popular ‘pirate’ movie and TV show site, announced it was closing down with immediate effect.

“It is an extremely difficult decision for all of us, more than most can even imagine, but our work reached heights of popularity so high, it became absolutely impossible to continue to fight and to manage a project of such scale,” its operators announced.

While less well-known overseas, WarezTuga was a significant operation. In February it was one of the top 20 most popular sites in all of Portugal, jostling for position with giants including Twitter and Yahoo. Even today, with traffic plummeting due to the shutdown, WarezTuga is still the country’s 25th most trafficked domain. But that success didn’t come easily.

“Four years of struggle, sweat, dedication and sacrifice have now come to an end, but also years of pleasure, satisfaction and pride for what we have achieved together. We leave with a clear conscience, because we have achieved what we always dreamed about: to be an example, a reference, a statue of what can be achieved when the will power is infinite,” its operators said.

“In the end, we are proud to say that today we close wareztuga.tv willingly and we were those who resisted longer, despite all the external pressures.”

Now, however, more details are emerging which make it clear that while the shutdown might ultimately have been voluntary, the site had been under massive pressure from the movie industry both locally and in the United States.

Local anti-piracy group FEVIP (Portuguese Association of Audiovisual Works Defense) has now revealed it was behind the shutdown. Complaints were filed against WarezTuga in May 2014 by FEVIP and now-defunct anti-piracy outfit ACAPOR who were acting on behalf of companies in the United States.

However, there was a problem to overcome. As is becoming increasingly common with similar sites, WarezTuga used U.S.-based Cloudflare, a service which can shield the true location of a site’s servers. But as other sites are discovering, that protection is easily unlocked by filing a complaint with the CDN service.

With the site’s location known, FEVIP headed off to Romania where WarezTuga operated its servers. There a webhost known as Alistar-Security received threats from “representatives of a U.S. copyright group”. Unconfirmed, but almost certainly the MPAA and its affiliates.

What happened next is unclear but whatever it was seems to have seriously spooked the operators of WarezTuga. After operating under pressure since 2011, the operators took the decision to close down the site. FEVIP welcomed the move.

“It was the pirate site most used in Portugal; even if others arise, at least this site has been taken down,” FEVIP chief Paulo Santos told Sapo.pt.

The shutdown of the site was bitter-sweet for Nuno Pereira, the former head of now-defunct anti-piracy group ACAPOR. The copyright group became one of WarezTuga’s most aggressive opponents but was shut down after the interests they represented – video rental outlets – became a thing of the past.

“It was the most important pirate site and the one we wanted to close down quickly, but it turned out it took more time to close,” Pereira said.

But while video rentals disappear into the Portuguese sunset, a new dawn of video consumption is appearing on the country’s horizon. After a long wait, Netflix will finally land on local shores in October and not a minute too soon for FEVIP’s Santos.

“Of course it would be desirable that the service had come much earlier, before everyone who uses the Internet modernly have sought alternatives. But it is likely to be a success, something seen immediately by the amount of attention that the Portugal arrival announcement has generated,” Santos says.

But even as Netflix tries to take hold in a market free of WarezTuga, Santos says that the pirate vacuum might be filled sooner rather than later.

“Generally, for every hundred sites that close, there are 60 returning. These are averages that we know in the industry,” the FEVIP chief concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Israeli Court Lifts Ineffective Popcorn Time Ban

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

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

The application has some of the major media giants shaking in their boots, including Netflix which sees the pirate app as a serious competitor.

In Israel, local anti-piracy group ZIRA took several Internet providers to court this year, with the goal to have several prominent Popcorn Time sites blocked. This effort resulted in an initial success when a preliminary injunction was granted in May.

However, after a careful review the Tel Aviv court has now reversed this decision. One of the arguments of the court is that blocking Popcorn Time domain names is relatively ineffective.

The court concluded that since the developers of the software can’t be tracked down, there’s nothing that prohibits them from launching new websites to render the blockade useless.

“Therefore, blockage or shutting down Popcorn Time sites does not guarantee that the application can no longer be downloaded,” the judgment reads.

In addition, the court points out that Popcorn Time applications that have been downloaded already will continue to work, even if the sites are blocked.

“This shows that the benefit of the requested measures is minimal, if any,” the verdict notes.

The Internet providers who protested the blocking requests further argued that the blockades would require a lot of resources and hurt their image, which the court largely agreed with.

“The cost of making ISPs some kind of censorship authority is at least equivalent, if not higher, than the cost of copyright infringement,” the verdict reads, mentioning that free competition and freedom of speech may be at risk.

Finally, the court gave ZIRA a slap on the wrist by pointing out that the requested blockade wasn’t as urgent as the copyright holders claimed, since Popcorn Time has been around for a long time.

“These sites, which presumably were visible to everyone, have been online for a long time. Given that, it seems that the applicant delayed the submission of the application which contradicts their urgency claim on the requested preliminary measures”, the judgment reads.

The outcome is a blow for ZIRA and the copyright holders they represent.

In addition to the negative outcome, the court also ordered the anti-piracy group to pay $1,060 to cover the legal fees of one ISP. The other ISPs settled the fees in question out of court.

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

TorrentFreak: Major Streaming Sites Must Be Blocked, Court Rules

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

In 2014 the European Court of Justice handed down a widely publicized decision which made clear that, in reasonable circumstances, pirate sites can be blocked by European ISPs.

On the back of this ruling, Austrian anti-piracy outfit VAP wrote to several local ISPs (UPC, 3, Tele2 and A1) demanding blockades of streaming sites Movie4K.to and Kinox.to. This would become the local test case on which all future site blockades would be built.

After the ISPs rejected their request, in August 2014 VAP sued the providers. In October VAP emerged victorious and the ISPs were ordered to implement a blockade.

While ISP UPC accepted the decision, Tele2, A1 and 3 filed a further appeal and the case went to the Supreme Court. Now the court has handed down its decision and it’s yet another defeat for the ISPs.

Affirming the earlier ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that blocking websites in Austria is entirely legal. Furthermore, the court also confirmed that the Internet Service Providers will have to bear the costs of blocking the sites, informing them that their business model should allow them to be “financially and technically equipped” to implement blockades.

VAP President Winfred Kunze welcomed the decision.

“Illegal portals do not contribute to film financing and do harm to creators. Legal services strengthen both the creative industry and the telecommunications industry, which indeed benefit from the attractiveness of a legal offer,” Kunze said.

According to Futurezone, the Association of Austrian Internet Providers (ISPA), is less enthusiastic about the outcome, in particular concerning costs and the “slippery slope” potential of web-blocking.

“Today Internet locks, tomorrow …,” the group concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Let Seized ‘Pirate’ Domains Expire, Some Up For Sale

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

cityoflondonpoliceFor the past several years the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been at the forefront of Internet-focused anti-piracy activity in the UK. The government-funded unit has been responsible for several high-profile operations and has been praised by a broad range of entertainment industry companies.

After carrying out raids against the operators of dozens of sites, PIPCU likes to take control of their domains. They do this for two key reasons – one, so that the sites can no longer operate as they did before and two, so they can be used to ‘educate’ former users of the downed sites.

That ‘education’ takes place when visitors to the now-seized ‘pirate’ domains are confronted not with a torrent, proxy, streaming or links site, but a banner published by PIPCU themselves. It’s aim is to send a message that sites offering copyrighted content will be dealt with under the law and to suggest that their visitors have been noted.

Earlier comments by PIPCU suggest that its banner has been seen millions of times by people who tried to access a ‘pirate’ site but subsequently discovered that it no longer exists. Last month in an announcement on Twitter, the unit revealed that since Jul 2015 it has diverted more than 11m ‘pirate’ site visits.


While the hits continue to mount for many domains PIPCU has seized (or gained control over by forcing site operators or registrars into compliance), it’s now likely that the group’s educational efforts will reach a smaller audience. Tests carried out by TorrentFreak reveal that PIPCU has somehow lost influence over several previously controlled domains.

Instead of the now-familiar PIPCU ‘busted’ banner, visitors to a range of defunct sites are now greeted with expired, advert-laden or ‘for sale’ domains.

MP3lemon.org, for example, currently displays ads/affiliate links. The same goes for Boxingguru.tv, a domain that was linked to a high-profile PIPCU raid in 2014. Former proxies Katunblock.com and Fenopyreverse.info, plus former streaming links site Potlocker.re complete the batch.

boxing-guru

Other domains don’t carry ads but are instead listed for sale. They include former anti-censorship tool site Torrenticity.com, proxy index PirateReverse.info and H33T proxy h33tunblock.info.

The fate of the final set of domains is much less glamorous. Movie2KProxy.com, Movie4KProxy.com, EZTVProxy.net, Metricity.org, YIFYProxy.net and TorrentProxies.com all appear to have simply expired.

Whether these domains will be snapped up at the first opportunity or left to die will largely hinge on whether people believe they can make a profit from them. Some have already changed hands and are now being touted for a couple of thousand dollars each but others are lying in limbo.

In any event, none of these domains seem destined to display PIPCU’s banner in the future. Whether or not the unit cares right now is up for debate, but if any of the domains spring back into life with a ‘pirate’ mission, that could soon change.

Unlike Megaupload’s old domains they don’t appear linked to obvious scams, so that’s probably the main thing.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Blamed For Movie Streaming Piracy Explosion

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

Up until last year, downloading content using BitTorrent was an activity that needed a reasonable level of technical competence. In addition to choosing the correct software and setting everything up, users needed to make themselves familiar with any number torrent indexes and platforms.

Then along came Popcorn Time and simplified the process to the point that almost anyone can now download the software and access a wide range of (mostly) infringing content within minutes. Needless to say, the various forks of the software have been a thorn in the side of the movie and TV show industry ever since.

With complaints being made against the software in most western countries, it’s now Norway’s turn to make some noise. While the country has expressed concerns about the software in the past, a report published in June by consultancy firm Mediavision is adding fuel to the fire.

According to the company, which analyzes consumer behavior within the sphere of digital media, around 750,000 Norwegians from a five million population are now obtaining video from illegal sources, up 17% on the previous year. However, it is the manner in which they are doing it that’s causing additional concern. According to the researchers, illegal consumption of streaming content has doubled in the past year. And no prizes for guessing who anti-piracy groups are blaming.

“The reason for the increase in piracy is Popcorn Time,” says Rights Alliance Norway chief Willy Johansen.

“It is unfortunately an incredibly easy way to watch movies. But one should be aware that this is a criminal offense. We are now collecting the IP addresses of Norwegian users of Popcorn Time.”

While users will be disappointed to hear that they are being tracked by a Hollywood-backed anti-piracy outfit, the big question is what Rights Alliance will choose to do with that data. The group says their hand may be forced.

“We have hoped for the longest time that we do not have to take on the end-user. But it is clear that if this does not stop, we will have no choice. Most people are now aware that they are doing something illegal, but many continue because ‘everyone else is doing it’,” Johansen says.

Also on the horizon are lawsuits against local ISPs. Rights Alliance hopes that by obtaining a blocking injunction against Popcorn Time-affiliated sites and services, the problem might be brought under control. However, things aren’t straightforward.

“It takes time in the Norwegian legal system, so there is a protracted process,” Johansen notes.

“There is nothing that can be sent to the court today. But we’re working on it together with our attorneys to look into the possibility of getting this stopped through a lawsuit against broadband providers.”

After changes in the law two years ago, these kinds of injunctions were supposed to be easy for groups like Rights Alliance to obtain, but it appears there are still significant hurdles to overcome. Not only are there very stringent requirements in order to obtain an injunction, all expenses incurred must be paid by the plaintiff.

“No independent licensees in Norway have the opportunity [to get injunctions], because they do not have the finances to do so. If we are to stop something, it must be an overall industry behind the lawsuit. It requires a very detailed presentation of evidence, says Johansen.

Interestingly, however, the group has been working on getting an injunction against another site, most probably The Pirate Bay. The results should become evident in a few weeks.

“The case we’re working on already started before Popcorn Time existed. The problem is that evidence is so extensive that the whole Popcorn Time phenomenon arose during the time we spent gathering evidence from the previous service,” the Rights Alliance chief adds.

As usual, however, the industry isn’t getting much help from ISPs including Telenor, Norway’s largest provider.

“We wish to contribute by relating to parliamentary procedure adopted in such cases,” says Telenor director Tormod Sandstø.

“So the court must make decisions in individual cases, also we will of course abide by those decisions. As an Internet provider we will not be a censorship body.”

The news that Norway may target end users is disappointing. The country has all but eliminated music piracy yet still prefers anti-piracy aggression over business model changes in the video sector.

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

TorrentFreak: Tech Giants Oppose Broad Anti-Piracy Injunctions

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

msfacebookIn recent months there have been several lawsuits in the U.S. in which copyright holders were granted broad injunctions, allowing them to seize domain names of alleged pirate sites.

In addition, these injunctions were sometimes directed at hosting providers, search engines and ISPs, preventing these companies from doing business with these sites.

Most recently, such a request came from the publishing company Elsevier, who sued the websites Libgen.org and Sci-Hub.org. The publisher asked for a preliminary injunction targeting several third-party services.

While the operators of the “pirate” sites have yet to respond, several tech companies have joined in to protest the request. This week the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes members such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, asked the court to limit the proposed injunction.

In its current form the proposal targets any search engine, ISP and hosting company, without naming any in particular, which isn’t allowed according to the tech companies.

“What Plaintiffs here are seeking is, in essence, an injunction against the world. It is well established that such a sweeping injunction against nonparty intermediaries is impermissible,” CCIA writes (pdf).

According to the tech companies, neutral service providers are not “in active concert or participation” with the defendant, and should therefore be excluded from the proposed text.

The CCIA gives the example of search engines, which may link to pirate websites but can’t be seen as “aiders and abettors,” or as collaborating with these sites to violate the law.

Even if one of the third party services could be found liable, the matter should be resolved under the DMCA and not through an injunction, the CCIA claims.

“The DMCA thus puts bedrock limits on the injunctions that can be imposed on qualifying providers if they are named as defendants and are held liable as infringers. Plaintiffs here ignore that.”

“What they seek, in the posture of a preliminary injunction against nonparties, goes beyond what Congress was willing to permit, even against service providers who come before a court as defendants against whom an actual judgment of infringement has been entered. That request must be rejected.”

The New York federal court has scheduled a hearing later this month after which it will decide whether to issue the preliminary injunction or not. Thus far, Elsevier hasn’t responded to CCIA’s opposition.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Lawfirm Defrauded Rightsholders Out of Millions

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

moneybannedMore than a decade ago, international and Danish entertainment industry groups banded together to tackle piracy of movies, music and other media. Their aggressive collaboration became known as Antipiratgruppen (Anti-Piracy Group).

Of course, all anti-piracy groups need lawyers and as a result Danish lawfirm Johan Schlüter was hired for the job. The lawfirm became deeply entrenched in tracking down pirates when it created anti-piracy tracking firm DtecNet in 2004 and in the same year it developed a tool for the MPAA which aimed to identify and then delete file-sharing software from users computers.

In the years that followed the Johan Schlüter lawfirm became ever more involved in the anti-piracy business and continued to support Antipiratgruppen after it changed its name to RettighedsAlliancen (Rights Alliance). The company eventually sold DtecNet to U.S.-based brand protection company MarkMonitor in 2010 but continued in the copyright business.

Now, however, the lawfirm is mired in a huge controversy after an investigation uncovered financial irregularities amounting to millions of dollars in the company’s accounts.

What makes the case so intriguing is the allegation that the money in question should have been distributed to movie and TV industry associations and their underlying rightsholders. The groups – CAB, Filmkopi and Filmret – hired Johan Schlüter to handle the registration, collection and administration of their rights but it appears the lawfirm hasn’t been playing things fair.

In January the associations asked U.S. auditing giant Deloitte to investigate Johan Schlüter. The study found that between 2011 and 30 April 2015, at least 100,000,000 Danish Kroner ($15m) that should have been paid to the associations wasn’t handed over.

The associations say they are in “shock” that their twenty year collaboration with the lawfirm has ended this way.

“It is deeply disappointing that a longtime partner has failed to this degree. This is a violent breach of trust,” Director of the Producers’ Association, Klaus Hansen, told Finans.dk.

Unsurprisingly, finger-pointing is already underway.

The Johan Schlüter lawfirm has three owners – Johan Schlüter himself, Lars Halgreen and Susanne Fryland. According to a police report cited by Finans, Susanne Fryland was responsible for the management of the TV and film producer accounts and now stands accused of committing “very serious economic crimes for financial gain.”

According to Halgreen, Fryland was fired by the lawfirm on Tuesday and has been reported for embezzlement, fraud and breach of trust. Nevertheless, Halgreen still attempted to cast doubt on the auditors’ $15m claim, noting that “it is far from certain that the amount is so high.”

Certainly, the three owners will be hoping the amount is lower.

While the associations acknowledge that there aren’t significant assets in the Johan Schlüter lawfirm business, they don’t intend to let the matter lie. Reports suggest that the movie and TV associations will try to hold Schlüter, Halgreen and Fryland personally liable for their losses.

“The most important thing for me has been to ensure a continuous operation, so the money comes out to the rights holders,” Hansen concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Scolds MPAA’s “Cozy” Anti-Piracy Lobby in Court

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

googlepopLate last year leaked documents from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.

In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret plan. The company also demanded internal communication from the MPAA and its lawfirm Jenner & Block.

After the Hollywood group and its lawyers refused to provide all information Google asked for, a separate legal battle began with both sides using rather strong language to state their case.

The MPAA accused Google of facilitating piracy and objected to a request to transfer the case to Mississippi, where the underlying case was started. According to the movie industry group and its lawyers they are merely bystanders who want to resolve the matter in a Washington court.

This week Google responded to the MPAA opposition with a scathing reply, which outs the cozy relationship between the MPAA and the Attorney General’s office.

“Their rhetoric does not match reality,” Google responds (pdf) to the request not to transfer the case. “The MPAA and Jenner are no strangers to Mississippi.”

“The Subpoenaed Parties sought out Mississippi when they co-opted the state’s Attorney General for their anti-Google campaign. Documents withheld by the MPAA until last week reveal a stunning level of involvement in Mississippi’s affairs.”

According to Google it’s clear that the MPAA and its law firm were in “intimate contact” with the Attorney General, offered monetary donations, hosted fundraisers and also helped him to draft legal paperwork.

“According to the Subpoenaed Parties, they are strangers to Mississippi. But documents produced last week by the MPAA tell a very different story. The Subpoenaed Parties and their representatives made repeated visits to AG Hood’s office in Mississippi to guide his anti-Google work.”

“Even when they weren’t physically at AG Hood’s office, they may as well have been, getting together with him in Denver and Santa Monica and holding a fundraising dinner for him in New Orleans.”

And there is more. The emails the MPAA recently produced also reveal “remarkably cozy and constant communications” between the MPAA and the Attorney General’s office.

In one email the MPAA’s Brian Cohen greeted one of Hood’s staffers with “Hello my favorite” offering to share pictures of his vacation in New Zealand via Dropbox. In another email discussing a meeting with the AG’s staff, MPAA’s Cohen writes “OMG we spent 3 hours.”

favorite

According to Google the examples above clearly show that there’s a rather close relationship between the MPAA’s lobbyists and the Attorney General.

“This pattern of sustained, intimate contact is hardly the mark of a party that merely ‘communicated with Attorney General Hood’ ‘previously,’ as the MPAA characterizes itself.”

Throwing in a movie reference, Google further notes that transferring the case would be in line with Rule 45, which ties the subpoena to the Mississippi case.

“But it is not merely the Subpoenaed Parties’ starring role in the underlying events that warrants transfer of Google’s Motions to Compel to Judge Wingate in Mississippi; all of the Rule 45 factors support it as well,” Google notes.

The reply continues adding more support and arguments to transfer the case, using more strong language, and the sarcastic-aggressive tone continues throughout.

If we hadn’t seen enough evidence already, the filing makes it clear that the MPAA and Google are not on speaking terms, to say the least. And with the Attorney General case just getting started, things may get even worse.

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

TorrentFreak: Organized Crime Police Raid ‘Pirate’ Android TV Box Sellers

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

As highlighted in a TorrentFreak report earlier this month, anti-piracy outfits are running out of patience with the proliferation of software and devices that allow for movies, TV shows and sports to be pirated and streamed with ease.

Popcorn Time and Kodi/XBMC derivatives are the industry’s primary targets and their installation in hardware devices including cheap Android-style set-top boxes is clearly becoming a real thorn in its side. Earlier this month police carried out several raids in the UK and today comes news of yet more operations, complete with accompanying video.

After a joint investigation by the Metropolitan Police and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) into the sales of set-top boxes programmed to provide access to movies, TV shows, live sports and subscription channels without permission, officers raided locations in the south and Midlands areas of the country.

In what appears to be the largest raid today, officers from the Metropolitan Police carried out raids in Feltham, Middlesex. A 48-year-old-man and a woman were arrested and more than 1,000 set-top boxes were seized.

Further north in the West Midlands town of Walsall, police seized “dozens” of pieces of electronics including set-top boxes, computers and sat nav systems. A 50-year-old man was voluntarily interviewed by police and FACT investigators.

While police and FACT involvement indicate that the authorities are taking these devices seriously, today raids were also assisted by officers from the West Midlands Regional Organized Crime Unit (ROCU) and the Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN). Completing what the Brits might call a “full house”, Trading Standards officers were also involved in the operation.

“The proliferation of IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) and set-top boxes along with apps and add-ons that facilitate illegal streams have created new opportunities for piracy and the delivery of stolen content,” said FACT Director General Kieron Sharp.

“As today’s action demonstrates, we are working in close partnership with our colleagues in law enforcement on addressing these threats and are committed to bringing those responsible to account.”

GAIN Co-ordinator Jason Grove underlined the high level of agency cooperation evident in this morning’s raids.

“Today’s action is an excellent example of our multi-agency working across force boundaries to tackle serious and organized crime,” Grove said.

“These kinds of offenses cost the economy and in particular the film and television industry tens of thousands of pounds each year and today shows that we will take action against those involved.”

Finally, in a further indication that the authorities and FACT want these operations to be highly visible, a video of one of the raids.

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

TorrentFreak: Cloudflare Reveals Pirate Site Locations in an Instant

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

cloudflareFive years ago, discovering the physical location of almost any ‘pirate’ site was achievable in a matter of seconds using widely available online tools. All one needed was an IP address and a simple lookup.

As sites became more aware of the need for security, cloaking efforts became more commonplace. Smaller sites, private trackers in particular, began using tunnels and proxies to hide their true locations, hampering anti-piracy efforts in the process. Later these kinds of techniques were used on even the largest sites, The Pirate Bay for example.

In the meantime the services of a rising company called Cloudflare had begun to pique the interest of security-minded site owners. Designed to optimize the performance of sites while blocking various kinds of abuse, Cloudflare-enabled sites get to exchange their regular IP address for one operated by Cloudflare, a neat side-effect for a site wishing to remain in the shadows.

cloud-pir

Today, Cloudflare ‘protects’ dozens – perhaps hundreds – of ‘pirate’ sites. Some use Cloudflare for its anti-DDoS capabilities but all get to hide their real IP addresses from copyright holders. This has the potential to reduce the amount of DMCA notices and other complaints filtering through to their real hosts.

Surprisingly, however, belief persists in some quarters that Cloudflare is an impenetrable shield that allows ‘pirate’ sites to operate completely unhindered. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

In recent days a perfect example appeared in the shape of Sparvar (Sparrows), a Swedish torrent site that has been regularly hounded by anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance. Sometime after moving to Canada in 2014, Sparvar began using the services of Cloudflare, which effectively cloaked the site’s true location from the world. Well, that was the theory.

According to an announcement from the site, Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén recently approached Cloudflare in an effort to uncover Sparvar’s email address and the true location of its servers. The discussions between Rights Alliance and Cloudflare were seen by Sparvar, which set alarm bells ringing.

“After seeing the conversations between Rights Alliance and server providers / CloudFlare we urge staff of other Swedish trackers to consider whether the risk they’re taking is really worth it,” site staff said.

“All that is required is an email to CloudFlare and then [anti-piracy companies] will have your IP address.”

As a result of this reveal, Sparvar is now offline. No site or user data has been compromised but it appears that the site felt it best to close down, at least for now.

spar-down

This obviously upset users of the site, some of whom emailed TorrentFreak to express disappointment at the way the situation was handled by Cloudflare. However, Cloudflare’s terms and conditions should leave no doubt as to how the company handles these kinds of complaints.

One clause in which Cloudflare reserves the right to investigate not only sites but also their operators, it’s made crystal clear what information may be given up to third parties.

“You acknowledge that CloudFlare may, at its own discretion, reveal the information about your web server to alleged copyright holders or other complainants who have filed complaints with us,” the company writes.

The situation is further underlined when Cloudflare receives DMCA notices from copyright holders and forwards an alert to a site using its services.

“We have provided the name of your hosting provider to the reporter. Additionally, we have forwarded this complaint to your hosting provider as well,” the site’s abuse team regular advises.

While Cloudflare itself tends not to take direct action against sites it receives complaints about, problems can mount if a copyright holder is persistent enough. Just recently Cloudflare was ordered by a U.S. court to discontinue services to a Grooveshark replacement. That site is yet to reappear.

Finally, Sparvar staff have some parting advice for other site operators hoping to use Cloudflare services without being uncovered.

“We hope that you do not have your servers directly behind CloudFlare which means a big security risk. We hope and believe that you are also running some kind of reverse proxy,” the site concludes.

At the time of publication, Henrik Pontén of Rights Alliance had not responded to our requests for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Outfits Boost Numbers With Bogus Takedown Notices

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

boostFour years ago Google decided to publish detailed statistics of all the takedown notices it receives for its search engine.

Since then, the number of requests have skyrocketed. The increase in notices is partly the result of their public nature, with anti-piracy groups proudly revealing how many URLs they have removed.

Over the past several years TF has spoken to insiders on condition of anonymity, and several mentioned that this PR-angle is hurting the validity of the requests. Some anti-piracy outfits are more concerned with the volume of requests than their accuracy.

“There are a number of automated services sending endless duplicate DMCA Notices to Google,” said ‘Jack,’ the owner of a boutique takedown company.

These duplicate requests include many URLs which have been removed previously (e.g. 1, 2, 3). This means that they don’t add anything in terms of effectiveness. However, Google does add them to the overall statistics.

“Consequently, anti-piracy companies can make it look like they’re doing far more work than they actually are and thus improve their business development, sales or PR story,” Jack added.

Whether the duplicate notices are intentional or just the result of a shoddy system will be hard to prove conclusively. But they do stand out, together with other dubious issues that boost the numbers.

Earlier this week the operator of popular MP3 search engine MP3Juices.is alerted us to an increasing number of fake notices, listing URLs that were never indexed by Google at all.

Instead of finding pages in Google’s search engine they list search terms such as the following from a recent takedown request:

http://mp3juices.is/search?q=Kay+One+Intro&hash=2accae5374d2477fnprt4f

These search pages are not indexed by Google, so can’t be removed. Also, MP3juices generates a unique hash for each search, but in the notices the same hash is used over and over again for different search terms.

This means that the search URLs are generated through a simple script instead of being the result of actual searches. In addition, the same keywords are used across different sites, as the image below shows.

musosearch1

“MUSO is the main offender, they’re sending dynamically generated (fake) URLs created by their poorly written script. They don’t even verify if the page exists,” MP3Juices informed TF.

In addition, and this is the case for many outfits, most notices sent to Google are not sent to the site which actually hosts or links to the content.

“Only a minority of the notices are directly sent to us, the vast majority are sent to Google even though we remove reported URLs quicker than Google does. We also replace the page with a message encouraging users to use Amazon MP3 as a legal alternative,” MP3Juices said.

MP3Juices is not happy with the bogus takedown notices and plans to report the false claims to Google, not least since Google uses the takedown numbers to downrank websites in its search results.

MUSO didn’t answer any of our specific questions regarding the non-existing pages and search results, but provided a generic statement.

“We analyse over 12 million pages of content daily, across thousands of different hosting, streaming, P2P or search sites,” a MUSO spokesperson said.

“We are focused on providing a fast, efficient and transparent solution, and we welcome correspondence with all sites with whom we work to remove content, including MP3Juices.”

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

TorrentFreak: Warning ‘Strikes’ Don’t Work Me, Movie Boss Admits

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

pirate-cardAs 2015 hits its mid-point, a handful of key strategies are clearly favored by the world’s largest entertainment companies.

Perhaps the most prominent this year thus far have been efforts to have sites blocked at the ISP level. Most recently Australia went through the months long process of introducing the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 and last week the Bill passed the Senate.

Earlier today the legislation received Royal Assent, meaning it is now firmly cast into local law.

With attention now turning to which copyright holders will bring the first site-blocking action (hint: movie industry, within six months), another anti-piracy strategy is almost ready to fly.

After the introduction of the United States’ “six strikes” program, in the coming months Aussie citizens are likely to be subjected to a similar “three strikes” regime. The idea is that after receiving an “educational” notice and then a “warning” notice, local Internet pirates will finally comply with the law before receiving a scary “final notice”.

This type of regime has the backing of some of the world’s largest entertainment companies, including the co-chief of Aussie movie giant Village Roadshow. However, despite giving the scheme his backing, Graham Burke has revealed that even people of his stature can be completely immune to government-backed educational efforts.

In an interview published by SMH this morning in which he again calls for action against piracy, Burke notes that society wouldn’t say “Hey we’re not going to have legislation against drunken driving or high-speed driving or legislation against stealing.”

Indeed, for driving offenses, Australia runs a demerit system, whereby each logged offense accumulates a set number of points. Get to 12 points and you’re at risk of getting your license suspended. But of course, the idea is that people will wise up before then and, more importantly, before they end up killing someone.

At its educational core the demerit program is similar to the “three strikes” system, albeit with much higher stakes. Trouble is, it doesn’t work on Burke. In fact, he appears completely immune to the numerous opportunities granted to him by the government.

“I got a note last night saying I’d been photographed by a camera in my car exceeding the speed limit and I’ve lost three points,” he told tech editor Ben Grubb. “As I’ve already lost nine points it’s rather worrying.”

While Burke faces having his license suspended for failing to heed the warnings, three-time piracy offenders face having their details handed over to copyright holders who may decide to sue. Of course, Village Roadshow are the major Hollywood-affiliated movie company in Australia, so Burke himself will almost certainly have a hand in who gets sued and when.

Fortunately, it seems that his company won’t make a habit of taking legal action. Burke says that they won’t be afraid to sue people “that act in a criminal way” but hopefully Village Roadshow “won’t have to sue too many people”.

Indeed, Burke will hope that ‘pirates’ take their warnings more seriously than he has done, even though he will have faced fines for his transgressions and they will not. He would’ve preferred some punishment, he reveals, but is satisfied with the direction of the scheme.

“A good agreement is when both sides are not deliriously happy but both sides are happy,” Burke says. “Am I thrilled? No. Do I think it’s a good code? Yes.”

So now all eyes turn to September 1, when the new “strikes” code is set to begin. Will the public respond to the warning notices? Or will they bury their heads in the sand like Burke has done until it’s too late?

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

TorrentFreak: Cox Wants Rightscorp’s Piracy Tracking Source Code

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

pirate-runningPiracy monetization firm Rightscorp has made quite a few headlines over the past year.

The company sends infringement notices to Internet providers on behalf of various copyright holders, including Warner Bros. These notices include a settlement proposal offering alleged downloaders an option to pay off their “debt.”

Not all ISPs are eager to forward these demands to their subscribers. Cox Communications, for example, labels Rightscorp’s practices as an “extortion scheme” and refuses to cooperate. As a result, several copyright holders who work with Rightscorp decided to sue the Internet provider over its inaction late last year.

Cox believes that this suit is an indirect way for Rightscorp to punish the company, as it explained to the court a few days ago (pdf).

“Cox refused to participate in Rightscorp’s extortion scheme,” Cox informs the court, arguing that “Rightscorp retaliated with this lawsuit.”

To mount a proper defense the Internet provider has demanded insight into the evidence gathering techniques employed by Rightscorp. Thus far, however, the company has failed to produce all requested information.

“Now, Rightscorp refuses to produce key categories of documents related to its core activities. Rightscorp has not produced all of its source code modules used for detection of alleged infringements,” Cox writes.

Evidence as presented in a Rightscorp letter
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The anti-piracy company maintains that it has already handed over all source code, but Cox says it can’t locate certain elements and points out that Rightscorp has made misleading statements in the past.

“Rightscorp has repeatedly represented that ‘all the code’ has been produced; yet, Cox’s expert has identified multiple components missing from the code that Rightscorp has then belatedly produced,” Cox explains.

In addition, Cox tells the court that Rightscorp failed to produce other documents that deal with how the company approaches alleged copyright infringers.

They include a script that is used to guide Rightscorp agents in their phone calls, a Rightscorp employee handbook, plus letter templates for Rightscorp’s communications with ISPs.

With various expert reports due soon, Cox has asked the court to issue an order compelling Rightscorp to immediately hand over all missing data and documents.

While Cox does not state how it will use the source code, it’s presumed that its experts will point out various flaws. For example, Rightscorp presumably lists repeated copyright infringers by IP-address, which is inaccurate since Cox regularly changes subscribers IPs.

Additional details on these and other issues are expected to be revealed this summer.

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

TorrentFreak: TorrentTags: A Database of ‘Risky’ Torrents

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

spyYou’ve spotted a hot music torrent in the top 100 most popular downloads on The Pirate Bay. You’re keen to obtain it but if you grab it now, the chances are that several anti-piracy companies will monitor the transaction.

Whether that decision will result in a strike on your ISP account, a $3,000 lawsuit, a $20 fine, or absolutely nothing at all, depends largely on a combination of luck and a collision of circumstances. However, a project currently in beta aims to better inform users whether the torrent they’re about to grab is of interest to anti-piracy companies.

Created by a team of Australian software developers in response to tougher anti-piracy legislation, TorrentTags is currently building a user-searchable database which aims to provide a level of ‘risk’ advice on any given torrent while helping to reduce piracy.

ttag-main

TorrentTags obtains its data in two ways. Firstly, it uses the Chilling Effects database to import the details of torrents that have already been subjected to a DMCA notice on feeder sites including Google search, Twitter and Facebook.

Second, and more controversially, the site is calling on rightsholders to submit details and hashes of content they do not want freely shared on BitTorrent. These can then be added to the TorrentTags database so that when people search for content, warnings are clearly displayed.

“Rightsholders can inform torrent users about copyrighted torrents by sending claims to our database. This is likely to lead to a decrease in the number of downloads of those torrents,” the team informs TF.

However, the team also views the problem from another angle. Concerned by companies such as Dallas Buyers Club LLC using downloaders as a cash-settlement revenue stream, TorrentTags would like to see public declarations placed on their site to warn potential targets in advance.

“Without a public claim [by copyright holders] the monitoring of users’ activity with the goal of suing would be equivalent to ‘honeypot’ strategies. This is because, from a user’s perspective, any torrent without a public claim is indistinguishable from a torrent created by a copyright owner with the aim of operating a ‘honeypot’,” the team explain.

Warning: Dallas Buyers Club

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And herein lies a problem. While it seems unlikely that companies like DBC are operating their own ‘honeypots’, copyright trolls do rely on users sharing their content on BitTorrent in order to track and eventually demand settlement from them. It is therefore unlikely that the most ‘dangerous’ torrents would be voluntarily submitted to TorrentTags by those monitoring them.

It’s certainly possible for information to be added to the database once a lawsuit is made public, but by this time many downloaders will have already been caught. Of course, it may serve as assistance for the future, but it’s also worth noting that Dallas Buyers Club have been suing people publicly for years and still people continue to download the movie.

On the other hand, for companies that simply don’t want their content shared in public, submitting data to a site like TorrentTags might be a way to deter at least some people from downloading their content without permission. Whether they could be encouraged to do so in large volumes remains to be seen – a strong level of participation from a broad range of rightsholders will be required in order to maximize the value of the resource.

While certainly an interesting concept, the TorrentTags team have significant hurdles to overcome to ensure that users of the site aren’t inadvertently misled. Although the importation of millions of notices from Chilling Effects is a good start, the existence of a DMCA notice doesn’t necessarily mean that a torrent is being monitored by trolls. Equally, just because a torrent isn’t listed as ‘dangerous’ it shouldn’t automatically be presumed that it’s safe to download.

In some ways TorrentTags faces some of the same challenges presented to blocklist providers. Although some users swear by them, IP blockers are well-known for not only overblocking, but also letting through a significant number of IP addresses that they should’ve blocked. Time will tell how the balance will be achieved.

Nevertheless, if TorrentTags indeed develops in the manner envisioned by its creators, it could turn into a fascinating resource, not only for BitTorrent users but also those researching anti-piracy methods.

“We hope that TorrentTags will be able to serve as a comprehensive and easily accessible claim database for users. We also hope that TorrentTags will help dissolve the social stigma unjustly associated with Torrents and allow them to be widely used by society for file sharing purposes,” the team conclude.

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

TorrentFreak: When Piracy Gets Too Easy, Expect a Big Response

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

moviesAfter one and a half decades of mainstream file-sharing, millions of people now have little trouble finding and consuming unauthorized content online.

For many the process is no more difficult than browsing the web but due to its technical nature the majority still find it bewildering. Then along came Popcorn Time, software that turned viewing movies into child’s play for anyone with a PC, tablet or phone.

But the idea behind Popcorn Time isn’t new. Advanced users of the popular Kodi software (previously known as XBMC) have been enjoying a super-charged Popcorn Time rival for many years. However, that largely requires the mastering of an often confusing third-party addon system. Inevitably, of course, that became streamlined too.

Just as Popcorn Time works out of the box, custom installations of Kodi do too. These installers make the previously complex setup process a breeze and in doing so introduce a whole new audience of novices to piracy, just like Popcorn Time has.

Of course, this simplicity hasn’t gone unnoticed by anti-piracy outfits. Legal action against Popcorn Time was common in 2014 and continued in 2015. No surprise then that those peddling ‘pirate’ Kodi variants (which have nothing to do with the team behind the project) are now getting more attention.

The problem is availability and ease of use. Sold pre-configured in Android set-top box form on both eBay and Amazon, the devices are essentially a one-stop shop for not only pirate movies and TV shows, but also a streaming hub for live sports and PPV. Anyone can have one of these devices delivered next day and learn how to use it in under an hour. Oh, and they run Popcorn Time too. And Showbox.

As a result, piracy has never been easier and anti-piracy groups are scrambling to stem the tide. Just last week a seller of ‘pirate’ Android boxes was raided by police in the UK and just days ago Amazon overreacted by banning the entirely legal Kodi software itself, presumably after a copyright holder complaint.

Other attacks have been more targeted. Last year the Federation Against Copyright Theft filed a complaint against a popular live sports plugin for Kodi known as Sports Devil. But according to FACT, this was just the beginning of their crackdown on these piracy platforms.

“Those engaged in piracy have always been quick to take advantage of technological advances to create new methods to profit from delivering stolen content to a wider audience. The proliferation of IPTV and set-top boxes which can stream content is no exception,” the anti-piracy group told TF.

“We are working with our members and partners in law enforcement on addressing these threats and significant measures are being taken by all parties, including online market places, to address the availability of these devices, as well as the apps and add ons that facilitate illegal streams, and bring those responsible to account.”

The ‘custom Kodi’ epidemic hasn’t gone unnoticed in the Netherlands either. Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is currently engaged in legal action against Filmspeler.nl, a seller of “fully loaded” (a euphemism for “piracy configured”) Android boxes.

In fact, BREIN is so serious about ending the problem that the case is being sent to the European Court of Justice so that an opinion can be gained on whether streaming from illegal sources represents a breach of EU law. If BREIN wins it won’t end the problem, but it will draw a line in the sand in terms of how such products can be advertised and sold.

“We will always look at any system that is aimed at providing access to copyrighted content without consent of the right holders and by doing so is causing damage to the earning potential of right holders and licensed platforms,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik told TorrentFreak.

Finally, since these devices are increasingly being targeted at the non-tech savvy, is it possible that buyers are naive to the point that they don’t appreciate their dubious legal standing? Kuik thinks not.

“We see that people using such systems tend to be aware they are getting access to unauthorized content even if they don’t know how it works technically,” the BREIN chief concludes.

The big question now is what comes next, and what will be the industry’s response? That will become clear in the months and years to come but rest assured, the easier piracy becomes, the more vigorous the response will be.

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