Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

TorrentFreak: Five Years Before Any New U.S. Anti-Piracy Laws, MP Predicts

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

sam-pirateUnder immense pressure from powerful entertainment companies, in 2011 it looked almost inevitable that the United States would introduce powerful new legislation to massively undermine Internet piracy.

Championed by Hollywood and the world’s leading record labels, the Stop Online Piracy Act made headlines around the world for putting super-aggressive tools into the government’s arsenal. At the same time, however, proper consideration wasn’t given to their potential impact on innovation.

As a result, citizens and technology companies teamed up to stage the biggest protest the Internet has ever seen resulting in a back-down by the government – and Hollywood in particular – on an unprecedented scale.

The fallout became obvious in the months that followed. The usual anti-piracy rhetoric from the MPAA and RIAA was massively toned down, at times becoming non-existent. In its place emerged a new and softer approach, one aimed at making peace with the very technology companies that had stood in their way.

This week an intellectual property enforcement leader very familiar with the big studios and record labels revealed just how much damage the SOPA defeat is responsible for.

Speaking in Los Angeles at an event hosted by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp., UK MP and Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor Mike Weatherley said that it would be a very long time before anyone dared to push for new legislation in the United States.

weatherley“It’s going to be five years before anybody puts his head above the parapet again,” Weatherley told executives.

If Weatherley’s predictions are correct, that takes us beyond 2020 before any new legislation gets put in place, a comparative lifetime online and a timescale during which almost anything can happen.

But Hollywood and the labels aren’t sitting still in this apparent ‘quiet’ period. A new strategy has been adopted, one that seeks voluntary cooperation with technology-based companies, the “six-strikes” deal with United States ISPs being a prime example.

Cooperation has also been sought from advertising companies in an attempt to strangle the revenues of so-called pirate sites, a move that has been gathering momentum in recent months. Weatherley told the meeting that existing laws might need to be “beefed up” a little, but from his overall tone those tweaks seem unlikely to provoke any SOPA-like backlash.

Also generating interest is Weatherley’s attitude towards Google. The world’s leading search engine has been under intense pressure to do something about the infringing results that appear in its listings. At times the rhetoric, especially from the music industry, has been intense, and could’ve easily spilled over into aggression if Google had decided to bite back. However, the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor says he sees things differently.

“I know in America [Google] are considered much more of a pariah than they are perhaps in the U.K. But I have to say they are engaging with me and they recognize that something has got to be done,” Weatherley told the meeting.

But while Weatherley talks peace and cooperation and the MPAA and RIAA keep their heads down in the States, much anti-piracy work is being conducted through their proxies FACT and the BPI in the UK. Instead of tackling the world’s leading file-sharing sites from U.S. soil, the job has been transferred to the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Not only does it keep the controversy down at home, it also costs much less, with the British taxpayer footing much of the bill.

TorrentFreak has learned that only last week a new batch of letters went out to file-sharing related sites, with yet more demands for them to shut down or face the consequences. Things might appear quiet in the United States, but that doesn’t meant things aren’t happening.

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

TorrentFreak: Landmark Case Sees Pirate Bay User Hit With 5 Year Sentence

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

pirate bayIn a blaze of publicity mid December 2013 it was revealed that South Africa had netted its very first Internet pirate. SAFACT, the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft, said it had caught a man uploading a high-profile movie to The Pirate Bay.

The case had unusual hallmarks from the start, not least since SAFACT admitted it had engaged the services of a “certified ethical hacker” to identify, profile and trace the uploader. Adding to the intrigue, SAFACT also refused to name the uploaded movie, although it was later revealed to be Four Corners, a local gangland film that was yet to be officially released.

Initially, the identity of the uploader was also shrouded in mystery but he was later revealed to be 29-year-old Majedien Norton. The IT engineer was reported to have uploaded the movie on November 21, 2013, although there is no sign of it now, which suggests that the father of two later deleted the file. Norton later admitted to buying a ‘screener’ copy of the movie off the streets and uploading it to Pirate Bay.

As in many countries, relatively minor and non-commercial instances of copyright infringement are dealt with via the civil courts in South Africa, but from fairly early on it was clear that this case would be different. The overall anti-piracy tone was that an example needed to be made and a precedent set for those tempted to make the same kind of mistake in future.

Today the case concluded in the Commercial Crimes Court in Cape Town and it seems that SAFACT largely achieved its aims. After being arrested under the Counterfeit Goods Act and facing a fine plus up to three years in jail, Norton came to an arrangement with the state, pleaded guilty, and was handed a five-year suspended jail sentence.

“It’s a huge relief for me and my wife,” Norton told local news outlet htxt.africa. “I’m just glad we can put this behind us now and move on.”

But while SAFACT and the rest of the anti-piracy lobby will be pleased with the harsh albeit suspended sentence, in a recent interview the director of Four Corners was philosophical over the piracy of his movie.

“I think the way people think now ­ digitally ­they don’t see piracy as piracy any more. They see it as sharing. We will definitely not get as many people to the cinemas as we would have if the film were not pirated,” Ian Gabriel said.

“At the same time, there are people who have seen the film who would never have got to the cinema. I’m pleased the film is reaching those people because there’s a message of pride and self recognition and of choice for ordinary people that the film is delivering and its important that message be heard.”

And while SAFACT clearly believe that the threat of criminal punishments will help solve the piracy problem, Gabriel sees things from a different angle. Noting that movies cannot exist without money, the director says a more considered approach to piracy is required.

“I suggest in order to continue to enhance our quality of life, creative rights of origination need to be secured on some consensual level, probably not through aggressive policing, but rather through a common sense approach to the protection of creative endeavour for the benefit of all,” the director concludes.

SAFACT are yet to comment on the conclusion of the case.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Video Streaming Sites Exploit Google’s Servers

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

google-logoGoogle has been in the crosshairs of the entertainment industries for a while now. These companies believe that Google is not doing enough to prevent pirate sites from showing up in search results.

However, there is another less visible problem that cropped up in recent months. Increasingly, streaming portals with a focus on the latest pirated copies and TV-shows are using Google as a source.

A German anti-piracy outfit has identified more than 18,000 pirated videos that are featured on more than a dozen large sites. All these streaming sites use the same movie sources without charge, and the bandwidth bill goes to Google.

The list of sites includes Movie4k.to, hdmoviezone.net, viooc.co, viooz.be, viooz.cc, vioozmovies.me, watch32.com, putlocker.bz, putocker.to, putlocker.tw, megashare.info, megashare.sh, megashare.ca, afdah.com, yify.tv, watch32.com.

Together these streaming portals are good for several million daily visitors, which means that Google must be seeing a lot of traffic originating from these sites. The screenshot below shows a copy of The Wolf of Wall Street on YIFY.tv, available in several video qualities and with subtitles if needed.

YIFY.tv Using Google
yifytvgoogle

It’s unclear where the videos are hosted, but the URL above shows the googlevideo.com domain. In addition, it includes a “source=picasa” string, suggesting Google’s image hosting service has something to do with it.

While the site owners are benefiting from the free storage, copyright holders are less excited. A German media outfit, which remains unnamed, reportedly sent requests to Google last month hoping to take down the files, but without success.

Since the files remain online, the lawyers of the media company have now applied for an injunction against Google at a local court.

Two weeks ago Warner Bros. also asked Google to remove several of these URLs from its search engine. These requests were denied, most likely because the videos can’t be accessed directly through the link Warner provided.

In a comment to TorrentFreak, Google stresses that users are not permitted to distribute copyrighted content without permission. The company is actively trying to stop these kinds of abuses and also responds swiftly to takedown notices.

“Use of Google platforms to host infringing materials is a violation of our terms of use, and we design features into our systems to make them unattractive for this kind of abuse,” a Google spokesperson told TF.

“We also respond quickly to disable access to any materials on our platforms identified to us by copyright owners as infringing,” Google adds.

Why the thousands of Google-hosted videos on these streaming portals remain online is unclear. It could be that Google indeed removed the files in question, but that they were re-uploaded. Another possibility is that the copyright holder didn’t correctly identify the source file, as Warner Bros’ takedown notice suggests.

One of the additional problems copyright holders face is that the URLs of the videos are harder to identify. Automated takedown tools can’t easily spot where the files are coming from, which makes it more complicated to send takedown requests.

It will be interesting to see how this issue will be dealt with in the future. It’s clear that neither Google not the copyright holders are happy with the current situation. For now, the only ones benefiting are the streaming portals and their millions of users.

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

TorrentFreak: Square Enix: DRM Boosts Profits and It’s Here to Stay

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

squareEven in the early 1980s illegal copies of games were viewed as lost sales. In response, software producers built anti-copying mechanisms into their cassette-based content.

While these systems made copying more awkward, they did very little to stop piracy. Also, it didn’t take long for legitimate buyers to begin noticing something strange. For some reason, games with copy protection errored more often when loading than games without it.

Fast forward more than 30 years and technology is almost unrecognizable from those early 8 bit days, but perhaps surprisingly today’s copy protection – or DRM as we now know it – is still producing conundrums similar to those of three decades ago.

People who use pirate copies these days are generally unaffected by DRM since it is removed in advance, whereas legitimate buyers often have to jump through several hoops in order to get their products running as expected. This punishing of ‘honest’ customers is at the root of most DRM complaints.

Still, many of the world’s games developers see DRM as a necessary evil, claiming that without it copying would continue completely unchecked and as a result sales would decline. One such company is Square Enix, the gaming giant behind Final Fantasy and many dozens of other iconic cross-platform titles.

Adam Sullivan, Square Enix America’s Senior Manager of Business and Legal Affairs, informs TorrentFreak that the company’s choice to include DRM in its products has its roots in a simple concept – maximizing revenue.

“The primary benefit to us is the same as with any business: profit,” Sullivan explains.

So does DRM really work?

“We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates,” Sullivan adds. “However, effectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure — in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.”

drm-noOf course, consumer feedback in the Internet space often includes fierce criticism of DRM, especially when it goes catastrophically wrong, as it has done on a number of occasions in recent years. So has Square Enix learned from these mistakes?

“The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says.

“It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”

But while the problems persist, Sullivan says that Square Enix will pursue its anti-piracy strategy while considering the factors that are most important to the company and the game’s target audience. So is DRM here to stay?

“This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes — I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan explains.

“When F2P [free-to-play] began trending, lots of people thought it would be the death of DRM. I remember talking with one F2P developer who couldn’t imagine why hackers would want to attack his game, since it was free and all. Two months later they were barraged with several hacks.

“So long as we’re concerned about things like data privacy, accounting sharing and hacking, we’ll need some form of DRM,” Square Enix America’s Head of Legal concludes.

More of Square Enix’s thoughts on anti-piracy and DRM initiatives will be heard during the Anti-Piracy and Content Protection Summit in Los Angeles this summer where Adam Sullivan will be a guest speaker.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Prime Minister Asked for Permanent Police Anti-Piracy Unit Funding

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

cityoflondonpoliceLast summer it became evident that police in the UK would be taking a greater interest in the activities of torrent, streaming and other sharing sites. Announcing the creation of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), last year City of London Police said that sites would be pressured to step into line, close, or face the consequences.

The unit, which has already claimed the scalps of several smaller domains, including the forced shutdown last week of a handful of sports-stream related sites, has been active on various fronts. In addition to putting registrars under pressure to close domains, the unit is also working with advertisers in an attempt to cut off advertising revenue.

PIPCU is good news for rightsholders in several ways, not least since the anti-piracy battles of groups such as the BPI and FACT are now being partly financed by the UK taxpayer. PIPCU is currently funded by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills’ Intellectual Property Office, to the tune of £2.56m over two years.

The funding, which was allocated on a temporary basis, will expire in 2015 if the government doesn’t allocate additional finances. It could fall back into private hands, but that would mean a significant loss of ‘clout’ for the companies relying on PIPCU’s authority. However, if the UK Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Adviser has anything to do with it, that won’t happen.

In a letter to David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May, Mike Weatherley MP praised the “excellent work” of PIPCU and urged the funding of the unit on a permanent basis.

“I appreciate that funding for this new unit is not permanent. However, I would like to put on record my support for committing future funding to fighting IP crime and boosting the current level of financial support that is available for PIPCU,” Weatherley wrote. “As I am sure that you are aware, the creative industries add over £70 billion to our economy each year and so it really is in our national interest to protect that revenue.”

As previously reported, PIPCU is currently focusing on cutting off ad revenue to ‘pirate’ sites. Speaking to fellow Conservatives, Weatherley said if that could be done the effects would be dramatic.

“If we stop advertisers from shoveling money into illegal sites, we can stop a lot of the content. Possibly as much as 95 per cent according to the newly formed national Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU),” Weatherley said.

“If you value the NHS [National Health Service], you should also value IP and our creative industries, as together they help pay for the services in this country that we all cherish. If we take the wrong approach, national services that we take for granted will have a huge budget shortfall.”

There are currently no formal indications that PIPCU will get the permanent funding it needs to continue its work but considering the backing it has among the music and movie industries (not to mention the Prime Minister’s top IP advisor) it seems unthinkable that a couple of million a year won’t be found from somewhere.

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

TorrentFreak: Raging Anti-Piracy Boss Goes on a Tirade Against BitTorrent

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

steeleFor a few years now, BitTorrent Inc. has done its best to position the company as a neutral and legitimate business.

In a recent interview with “That Was Me”, BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen explained this challenge, as well as the general benefits BitTorrent has to offer.

The interview got some coverage here and there, including at Upstart, where it drew the attention of Robert Steele, Chief Technology Officer at anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp, a company that has made quite a few headlines this year.

Steele was not happy with the positive press coverage BitTorrent received from the media outlets, to say the least. Through Facebook (which uses BitTorrent) he wrote two responses to the article, which are worth repeating for a variety of reasons.

The comments appear to have been made late at night, possibly under influence, so we have left them intact and unedited for authenticity’s sake. Steele starts off by claiming that BitTorrent was designed for only one reason – to distribute pirated content.

“Absolutely ridiculous. Bram Cohen said in 2012 that ‘my goal is to destroy television’. BitTorrent’s architecture and features are designed for one reason only – to assist people in avoiding legitimate law enforcement efforts when they illgally consume other people’s intellectual property,” Steele begins.

It may not come as a surprise that Steele is quoting Cohen out of context. At the time, BitTorrent’s founder was actually referring to his new streaming technology, that would make it possible for anyone to stream video content to a large audience at virtually no cost.

Also, BitTorrent isn’t in any way helping people to avoid law enforcement, quite the contrary. People who use BitTorrent are easy to track down, which is in fact something that Rightscorp is banking its entire business model on.

In the second comment Steele brings in Accel, the venture capital firm that invested millions of dollars in BitTorrent Inc. According to the Rightscorp CTO Accel is also guilty of encouraging piracy, and he suggests that uTorrent should have been equipped with a blacklist of pirate torrent hashes.

“If Accell Partner’s BitTorrent was actually a legitimate business not directly involved in driving and facilitating piracy, they would have a blacklist of copyrighted hashes that the BT client won’t ‘share’. Dropbox does this. Why does Dropbox do this? Because they actually obey the law and respect content creators,” Steele says.

Steele touches on a sensitive subject here, as BitTorrent could indeed implement a blacklist to prevent some pirated content from being shared. TorrentFreak has raised this issue with BitTorrent Inc in the past, but we have never received a response on the matter.

rageMoving on from this sidetrack, Steele’s tirade in the first comment evolves into something that’s scarily incomprehensible.

“BTTracker software is not needed unless the goal is to enable other people outside of BitTorrent, Inc. to operate the systems that log the ip addresses of infringing computers. Why do they do it that way? Not becuase it is needed to move big files. Dropbox doesnt need trackers. They do it that way because Limewire got sued for hosting those lists.” Steele notes.

From what we understand, Steele doesn’t get why BitTorrent is decentralized, which is the entire basis of the technology. The comment is wrong on so many points that we almost doubt that Steele has any idea how BitTorrent works, or Limewire for that matter.

We surely hope that the investors in Rightscorp, which is a publicly traded company now, aren’t reading along.

Finally, Rightscorp’s CTO suggests that BitTorrent and its backers should be taken to court, to pay back the damage they cause to the entertainment industries.

“Bram Cohen and Accell Partner’s BitTorrent should be held accountable for the wages and income they have helped take from hundreds of thousands of creative workers just like Limewire, Grokster, Aimster, Kazaa and Napster were.”

Right.

From the incoherent reasoning and the many grammar and spelling mistakes we have to assume that Steele wasn’t fully accountable when he wrote the comments. Perhaps the end of a busy week, or the end of an eventful night.

In any case, we’ve saved a copy of the comments below, just in case they are accidentally deleted.

Steele’s comments
steele-comments

Photo: Michael Theis

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

TorrentFreak: 39% of Film Industry Professionals are Movie & TV Show Pirates

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

Reports, research and surveys covering piracy-related issues have been released in their dozens in recent years, with many of them painting a picture of two distinct groups of people – those who illegally download and those who pay for content.

Of course, the reality is that many people who obtain content for free also cheerfully pay for content too. In fact, some studies have found that the entertainment industry’s best customers are also illegal downloaders.

But what if there was evidence to suggest that some of those pirates were actually the very people helping to create movies and TV shows? That’s one of the intriguing findings of a survey carried out by Stephen Follows, a writer and producer with a keen interest in discovering what makes the industry tick.

“Many of the decisions in the film business are based on gut, opinion and gossip so I find it fascinating to research the topics and see what the numbers say,” Follows informs TorrentFreak.

“Piracy seemed like a ready topic to research so I added a few question into a survey I ran of 1,235 film industry professionals. The respondents were all people who had been to one of the three major films markets in the past five years – Cannes, Berlin or the American film Market.”

Follows first set of questions focused on whether the film professionals felt that piracy had affected their business. The responses were then split by industry sector and budgets the professionals work to.

Considering the anti-piracy rhetoric coming out of Hollywood during the past thirty years, it’s perhaps surprising that 53% of all respondents said that piracy had either no effect or a positive effect on their business.

Survey1

Respondents were from all sectors of the industry including development, production, post-production, sales and distribution, exhibition and marketing. When the responses from each sector are broken down, one can see that respondents in sales and distribution – arguably the role that file-sharing fulfills – say they are most worried by piracy.

survey 2

Turning the tables to discover how the industry professionals are themselves affecting piracy rates couldn’t be approached directly for obvious reasons, so Follows tried a different tactic.

“When it came to researching how many of them actually illegally download movies I felt I needed to be a bit sneaky,” he told TF.

“To one randomly assigned set of participants I presented three statements
about the industry (such as ‘I prefer to watch films on DVD than in the cinema’). I then asked the respondent how many of the three statements they agreed with, but only asking for the combined total (i.e. ‘I agree with two of the three statements’).”

“Then, to a different randomly assigned set I offered the same three statements with the additional statement ‘I have illegally downloaded a TV show or feature film’. By subtracting the average number of agreed-with statements from the average of the control group I was able to calculate the percentage of people who agreed with the additional statement.”

survey3

As can be seen from the diagram, 39% of the industry respondents admitted to illegally downloading video content, with 61% claiming never to have done so. Interestingly, respondents working on lower budgets were more likely to have illegally downloaded than those working on big budgets.

“Only 2% of people working on films over $10 million admitted to illegally downloading a film or TV show, compared with 65% of those working on films under $1 million,” Follows explains.

Also of interest is how the percentage of those who admitted illegal downloading fluctuated according to industry sector, with 55% of those in marketing saying they have grabbed movies or TV shows without paying versus zero percent in exhibition (movie theaters).

survey 4

Sales and distribution, the sector that said they’d been most affected by piracy, accounted for the next lowest piracy ‘confession’ rate of 28%.

“These are the middlemen behind the scenes of the industry who negotiate the rights between producers and cinemas/retailers. They are part of the reason why there are so many damned logos at the start of every movie,” Follows explains.

“They have the largest vested interest in stopping piracy as they don¹t have many other reasons for doing what they do (unlike filmmakers who might be wanting to create art/entertainment) and no other source of income, unlike cinemas who make a fortune on Coke/popcorn etc.”

Further reading on Stephen Follows’ research and methodology can be found here and here. A great video he produced for Friends of the Earth can be watched on Vimeo.

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

TorrentFreak: American Express Accuses Pirate Sites of ‘Stealing’ Their Ads

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

pirate-cardHurting the revenue streams of infringing sites has become a prime anti-piracy strategy for the entertainment industries in recent months.

By cutting off revenue through deals with payment providers and advertising agencies, they hope to make it less profitable to operate these sites.

This is not an easy task, as there are many advertising companies who are still eager to team up with “rogue” torrent sites and streaming portals. Likewise, site owners often implement tricks to hide the site where the ads are displayed.

As a result, several major brands see their ads showing up on sites they don’t want to be associated with. A few weeks ago a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance revealed that companies such as Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego, McDonalds, Xfinity are contributing to the problem.

These problematic ad placements were also highlighted by a publication of the Australian media and entertainment group mUmBRELLA, which focused on ads appearing on streaming portals such as watchseries.lt and videoweed.es. The report shows that American Express and other brands had their ads on display, and that the companies were asked for comment.

As expected, none of the major brands said it willingly promoted its products through these pirate sites. However, the explanations that were given varied, and the response from American Express was the most intriguing of all.

The payment processor’s media agency Mindshare says that the ads in question weren’t real ads at all. Instead, American Express accuses the pirate sites of “photoshopping” their banners into their designs, to increase site credibility.

AmEx on Videoweed
amex-ad

Timothy Whitfield, general operations director at the responsible advertising placement outfit Xaxis, confirms this suspicion.

“Now when we dug into it what happened is that in some cases they were using basic photoshopping skills to take an old creative from Amex and building it into the homepage and into the video leads and on the homepage of the website,” Whitfield said

“It wasn’t a real creative it was just someone who had photoshopped it into the site. Now the reason that we think they were doing that is that they were working very hard to make themselves look like a reputable website,” he ads.

While this type of banner ‘theft’ is certainly an option, TorrentFreak was unable to replicate the finding from a wide variety of locations. It is also unclear why the sites in question would give up valuable advertising placements. There is hardly any positive effect on the site’s reputation when it’s not done structurally.

The insurance company Allianz was also caught advertising on pirate sites, but here the explanation was a more common one. According to Whitfield, Xaxis didn’t place the ad directly, but instead it loaded through several iframes thereby disguising the website where it appeared.

Through this “nesting” technique pirate sites can trick advertising agencies and have higher paid ads.

“Every man and his dog blocks these websites – Watchseries.it, Videoweed etc. – but because you’re seven layers deep you don’t know if it is one you have blocked or not,” Whitfield said in a comment.

Finally, HotelsCombined came up with yet another reason why their banners appeared on infringing websites. Again, without their explicit knowledge.

Kristen McKenzie, global PR and content manager of HotelsCombined, explained that it may have been the result of ad-retargeting. HotelsCombined tracks people who visit their website, and their advertising provider then displays ads on some of the sites these people visit afterwards.

“Our retargeting provider does not disclose their extensive list of networks, and with millions of different sites being accessed simultaneously in real-time, it is ultimately impossible for us to police where retargeting may occur,” McKenzie said.

The above shows that getting rid of banners on rogue sites is proving to be more difficult than simply compiling a blacklist. It’s a cat and mouse game, much like the efforts to go after hosting companies and payment providers. And if pirates are starting to use Photoshop to promote brands for free, it’s never-ending.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Arrest Streaming Site Admin, Several Domains Suspended

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

Speaking with TorrentFreak late last week, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) clarified the stages behind Operation Creative, an ongoing campaign aimed at disrupting the activities of unauthorized content sites.

“At the first instance of a website being identified, evidenced and confirmed as providing copyright infringing content, the site owner is contacted by officers at the PIPCU and offered the opportunity to engage with the police, to correct their behavior and to begin to operate legitimately,” a spokesperson explained.

“In the contact sent to the website owners PIPCU clearly states that if a website fails to comply and engage with the police, then a variety of other tactical options may be used including; contacting the domain registrar to seek suspension of the site, disrupting advertising revenue and advert replacement.”

But while disruption is clearly on the agenda, the police can also rely on the traditional investigation and arrest process. Earlier this week, that’s exactly what they did.

pipcu-mapSometime on Monday morning, detectives from PIPCU carried out an arrest of a 26-year-old man in the UK. He was detained in York, England, a city located around four hours drive from PIPCU’s base in the City of London.

The man was arrested on suspicion of operating a number of streaming-related domains.

At the time of writing PIPCU has not responded to our requests for comment [Update: PIPCU comment below], but TF has discovered that earlier this week sports streaming domains BoxingGuru.co.uk, boxingguru.eu, boxingguru.tv and nutjob.eu were all suspended.

The sites currently redirect to a page carrying a statement indicating they are under investigation for online copyright infringement. Police have not yet publicly linked their closure with the arrest on Monday.

PIPCU-shutdown

The logos of four key Operation Creative partners – BPI, FACT, IFPI and The Publishers Association – are displayed on the page although it seems highly likely that FACT were behind the recommendation to investigate the sites closed down this week.

All domains with ‘boxing’ in their titles linked to the world’s biggest boxing events. This would have put the sites on a collision course with FACT members including British Sky Broadcasting, BT Sport and cable provider Virgin Media, all of which generate revenue from that market.

Nutjob.eu linked to streams of a variety of sporting events including soccer, putting the site firmly in the cross-hairs of the powerful Premier League. Other links would certainly have proven unpopular with the NHL, NBA and ESPN.

While the sites certainly embedded videos and provided links to unauthorized content hosted elsewhere, their operator has always maintained he has nothing to do with placing the content online. Whether that holds true – or even if the police care at this stage – will be revealed as the investigation unfolds.

FACT did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Update: “A 26 year old man was arrested on Monday 7 April by detectives from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) in York, on suspicion of hosting a number of websites allowing people to illegally stream TV and films,” a PIPCU spokesperson told TF.

“A number of websites have been suspended and the suspect was taken to a local police station for questioning. The investigation is ongoing.”

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

TorrentFreak: Sony Blocks Creative Commons Movie With Bogus DMCA Takedown

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

sonyWe’ve reported on dozens of wrongful DMCA takedowns over the years, with each raising their own unique issues. Some are just sloppy efforts executed by careless anti-piracy companies while others have been carried out in a deliberate effort to stifle speech.

But while all wrongful takedowns have the potential to cause damage, few can be so clumsy and likely to enrage as the one carried out by Sony Pictures a few hours ago. If there was a competition to annoy as many people as possible with one click, Sony would definitely take the top spot. Here goes.

The Blender Foundation is the non-profit group behind the development of the open source 3D graphics program Blender. The Foundation is funded by donations with the aim of giving “the worldwide Internet community access to 3D technology in general, with Blender as a core.”

To showcase what Blender can do and promote the platform, since 2006 the Blender Foundation and Blender Institute have released movies including Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny.

Their third movie, Sintel, was released in 2010 and was funded by donations, DVD sales and other sponsorship. So that people were free to work with the movie, all animation data, characters and textures were released under Creative Commons Attribution License.

The open source beauty of Sintelsintel

Up until yesterday the movie was available on YouTube where it had been viewed millions of times. This version of the video is embedded in dozens upon dozens of news stories talking about the movie itself and the wider Blender project.

However, the beauty of Sintel has now been transformed into something infinitely less creative. Apparently Sony Pictures think they created and therefore own Sintel so on that basis have had the video blocked on YouTube on copyright grounds.

Sintel

If prizes were being handed out for the ‘best’ wrongful DMCA takedown likely to annoy the greatest numbers of people, Sony would be taking Olympic gold here.

Free and open source software – check.
Multiple instances of community funding via donation – check.
Creative Commons content censorship – check.
Blatantly claiming copyright on someone else’s content – check.
Shoot first, ask questions later mentality – check.

The only good thing to come out of this as far as Blender is concerned is all the free publicity they’re going to get in the next 48 hours. Bad publicity aside, *nothing* will happen to Sony – people aren’t going to like that either.

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

TorrentFreak: Rightscorp Finds Scary Shortcut to Expose Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

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

ip-addressWeek in and week out hundreds of U.S. citizens are dragged into lawsuits because their Internet account was used by someone to share copyrighted material.

These cases all follow a familiar pattern. The copyright holder files a lawsuit mentioning several IP-addresses, and asks the court for a subpoena to identify the account holders connected to it.

It’s then up to a judge to decide whether or not the subpoena should be granted. If it is, ISPs usually inform the affected customer who can then appeal the disclosure before a judge. If this fails, the personal details of the subscriber are handed over by the ISP, after which the affected user usually receives a settlement request from the copyright holder.

This is how file-sharing cases have worked for years, and on the surface it appears to be a fair process. However, for piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp this process is proving too cumbersome. Instead of arguing their case before a judge, they’re using a shortcut that will be of great interest to copyright trolls.

A few weeks ago several people received a settlement request from Rightscorp via snail mail. This is peculiar since the company generally doesn’t know who the account holder is. As opposed to classic copyright trolls, Rightscorp usually sends its settlement requests via DMCA requests.

Perhaps even more worrying, the settlement letter in question mentions a subpoena. Not a regular one, but a DMCA-subpoena, which bypasses the judge and only has to be signed off by a court clerk. In other words, Rightscorp used an uncommon shortcut to cheaply and quickly expose the alleged pirates, and the ISPs in question happily complied.

Rightscorp letter
rightscorp-subpoena-letter

Wondering why all other trolls aren’t doing the very same thing, we asked several legal experts for advice. Without exception they told us that DMCA subpoenas are not meant to be used against ISPs who only pass through information, only those who actually store content.

This was decided in a case between Verizon and the RIAA more than a decade ago, and has been upheld in subsequent cases.

“The RIAA v. Verizon case clarified that 512(h) subpoenas could only be issued to service providers who hosted infringing content directly on their servers. Because in filesharing cases the allegedly infringing material is stored on users’ systems, 512(h) subpoenas are inapplicable,” Cathy Gellis, a technology lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area told TF.

So why is Rightscorp using these DMCA subpoenas? We asked the company, and CEO Christopher Sabec said that they believe the court made the wrong decision at the time. According to Sabec the verdict won’t hold up at the Supreme Court, so they’re ignoring it.

“The [RIAA vs. Verizon] Court case used flawed reasoning in concluding that an ISP such as Verizon is not a ‘Service Provider’ even though it clearly meets the definition laid out in the statute,” Sabec told us.

“The issue has actually not been addressed by the vast majority of Circuit Courts. We believe that the decision you cite will be overturned when the issue reaches the Supreme Court,” he adds.

It’s worth noting that for now Rightscorp is avoiding any of the major Internet providers. Below is the list of ISPs that were targeted, which includes Fidelity Communication, Sweetwater Cable and even the City of Wilson. Of course, these smaller organizations are less likely to object.

Rightscorp targets
rightscorp-cases

The cases above make it clear that court clerks have no problem with signing off on these requests. As a result, Rightscorp obtained subpoenas for hundreds of IP-addresses at virtually no cost. In the case of Fidelity Communication alone, court records reveal more than a hundred pages of IP-addresses.

While it seems that Rightscorp is currently the only party to use DMCA subpoenas, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some of the classic copyright trolls now follow suit.

After all, it’s much easier to obtain people’s personal details when a judge isn’t looking over your shoulder.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrent Site Operators Face Jail For Sharing Warner, Disney Movies

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

warnerpirateWhile pressure is being applied to file-sharing sites all the time in various ways, overall there seems to be a reduced appetite for expensive litigation. In Sweden, however, direct prosecutions of file-sharers are still raising their head.

The latest involves two men who were arrested way back in 2011. They are the suspected operators of a private tracker called eXcelleNT, or XNT.nu as it was publicly known. The site launched in 2010 and in its first year accumulated some 17,000 users who between them uploaded around 30,000 torrents.

Among those torrents were copyrighted Hollywood movies and TV shows, something which triggered an investigation by anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån. In May 2011, police in Borlänge, Sweden, arrested one of the men, moving on to Stockholm where they arrested another. Computers were seized locally, plus XNT’s server in Germany.

XNT

The men were soon released, leaving them to speculate on their fate.

“Since we haven’t heard much from the police after being released, much of the information in this post is speculations,” one of the men wrote on the XNT blog.

“Anyhow, we’ll have to assume that the police is running an investigation. Since they confiscated almost 10 computers in this bust it’s probably going to take a while. For the time being, we are living life as usual. Minus all the tracker stuff of course.”

It did indeed take a while. Yesterday, almost three years after the raids, prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad announced that the men had been prosecuted and would be heading to court.

“This is one of the largest cases in terms of number of films distributed,” Ingblad told the Siren news agency.

The case, which received support from German authorities, centers around the unauthorized distribution of some 1,050 movies between March and May 2011, including content owned by Warner Bros. and Disney.

The men, now aged 23 and 24, face fines or potential jail sentences when they appear later in the year. Both are believed to have offered some level of confession.

In December 2012 it was reported that a man suspected of being an active XNT user was acquitted of copyright offenses after police were unable to decrypt his hard drive.

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Sue Russian Facebook Over Large-Scale Piracy

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

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

In several Special 301 Reports published by the United States Trade Representative, Russia’s Facebook equivalent has been criticized for the huge quantities of unauthorized media it hosts. As a result it is currently labeled a “notorious market”, a term usually reserved for piracy’s apparent worst-of-the-worst.

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. Unlike Facebook and other major players, Russia’s social network has been very slow to adopt anti-piracy measures.

Three major record labels – Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music – have now taken their concerns to the Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court. The labels accuse VK of running a service that facilitates large-scale copyright infringement and are demanding countermeasures and compensation.

The record labels have asked for an order requiring VK to implement fingerprinting technology to delete copyrighted works and prevent them from being re-uploaded. In addition, Sony, Warner and Universal are demanding 50 million rubles ($1.4 million) from the social networking site to compensate for losses suffered.

“VK’s music service, unlike others in Russia, is an unlicensed file-sharing service that is designed for copyright infringement on a large-scale,” IFPI’s Frances Moore says in a comment.

“We have repeatedly highlighted this problem over a long period of time. We have encouraged VK to cease its infringements and negotiate with record companies to become a licensed service. To date the company has taken no meaningful steps to tackle the problem, so today legal proceedings are being commenced,” Moore adds.

VK has yet to respond to the accusations. Russia’s telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor previously said that VK was trying very hard to better their anti-piracy practices, but these efforts apparently came too late.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Prepare to Place Banner Ads on Pirate Sites

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

For several months City of London Police have been working with the music and movie industries to develop “Operation Creative”, a campaign designed to make life difficult for sites that provide access to unauthorized copyrighted content.

The latest stage, announced this Monday, will see the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit team up with partners including the BPI, FACT, IFPI, The Publishers Association, and the Internet Advertising Bureau UK.

The product of their toils is the Infringing Website List (IWL), a database containing domains that companies and brands should avoid when placing their advertising online. The idea is simple – by throttling advertising revenue to these sites they will no longer be able to operate.

In the music and movie industries’ ideal world the likes of The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents will eventually wither and die, but before they do the police have another trick up their sleeve.

The plan, revealed yesterday by Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe during Adweek Europe, will see the police reaching out directly to users of piracy sites in the hope they will change their ways. The police will do that by ‘advertising’ on the sites themselves.

According to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) who first reported the development, City of London Police intend to take over banner advertising on ‘pirate’ sites with the aim of influencing consumer behavior. Or, to put it more directly, they will try to encourage people using file-sharing sites to stop doing so.

The Pirate Bay, UK Police edition?TPBAds

Speaking with TorrentFreak, FACT said the precise details of how this will work will have to come from PIPCU, but the aim is straightforward.

“What is clear is that [the police] are looking to find new and effective ways of reducing criminal profits and also inform and educate consumers,” said FACT Director of Communications Eddy Leviten.

PIPCU did not immediately respond to our requests for comment, but taking over banner adverts on ‘pirate’ sites raises some interesting questions, not least one at the very core of the current issue – revenue.

The police will need to find a way to advertise on sites without paying money, or the campaign itself will end up financing the very sites they aim to close. Furthermore, sites probably won’t have much interest in running free ads, particularly those that aim to take their users away, so how long these ‘rogue’ ads will remain live is up for debate.

While a traditionally aggressive anti-piracy campaign could be on the cards, a more considered positive reinforcement of legitimate services may have more longevity. Where the ads will appear is not clear either as the Infringing Website List is being kept a secret, but FACT says that sites are being told of their inclusion in advance.

“I want to clarify that all site owners are contacted before being placed on the IWL, giving them the chance to change their behavior,” FACT’s Eddy Leviten explains.

This latest stage in Operation Creative follows two initiatives last year. The first, during late summer 2013, saw police writing to site owners in the hope of securing voluntary shutdowns. This effort was followed by the police targeting registrars with the aim of forcing the seizure or suspension of ‘pirate’ domains.

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

TorrentFreak: Mobile Music Piracy More Popular Than Torrents and Cyberlockers

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

cassetteIn recent years the music industry ‘s battle against piracy mostly focused on torrent sites, cyberlockers and unauthorized MP3 indexes. However, new research from the industry analysis firm NPD Group suggests that a new, much bigger threat, has arrived.

NPD’s Senior Vice President, Industry Analysis, Russ Crupnick informs us that mobile music piracy through apps has outgrown traditional P2P file-sharing and direct downloads.

“In terms of the number of internet users doing a variety of music sharing activities, downloading from mobile apps is the most popular,” Crupnick tells TF.

The data comes from unpublished research, which was the first to include statistics on the usage of mobile apps to download music. Quite surprisingly, mobile piracy comes out on top right away.

It is estimated that in the United States 27 million people downloaded at least one music track via their mobile over the past year, mostly without permission. This trumps all other forms of online piracy. By comparison, 21 million people used traditional P2P sites such as The Pirate Bay to download music.

For other media types the results are different, but the findings signal an interesting trend.

According to NPD mobile apps are, as one would expect, most popular with younger consumers. There are a variety of reasons for the mobile piracy explosion, but the research firm believes that increased usage of smartphones and apps among Millennials is a major driver.

“My guess is there is an underground buzz network about music apps that is fueled by teens and Millennials,” Crupnick says.

NPD believes that it’s important for copyright holders and app platforms to work together to tackle this problem. While some people may know that these apps are unauthorized, the fact that they appear in iTunes or Google Play may give them an air of legitimacy.

“Lots of things on the web are free or ad-supported, including some entertainment content. I’m sure some users are quite aware that there is music that is not legally distributed on these apps, but others may not be as educated,” Crupnick tells us.

“If it’s on an app store, it must be ‘OK’. This is where the music industry and technology companies have an opportunity and maybe an obligation to work together to make sure consumers understand, and artists get compensated,” he adds.

These last comments appear to signal a new working territory for the music industry’s anti-piracy initiatives. Until now, there hasn’t been a major campaign against “infringing” apps, but this is bound to change in the near future.

Whether a crackdown on apps will be enough to counter the current mobile piracy trend has yet to be seen. In addition to pirate apps, several unauthorized MP3 indexes have also developed mobile versions, which will prove much harder to deal with.

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

TorrentFreak: EZTV Fights Piracy By Going Much Further Than Google

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

eztvsmallEZTV is undoubtedly the most popular TV-focused torrent site on the Internet today. Founded way back in 2005, it is also one of the oldest with nine full years under its belt.

Through its indexing of all popular TV shows, EZTV has become the go-to venue for torrent downloaders but behind the scenes the site has been wrestling with a copyright predicament. Instead of sending in takedown notices via email, in recent months several studios switched to sending theirs in via regular mail, overloading the site’s staff in the process.

“For the first few days UPS turned up with a couple of small boxes of notices, but it was soon several crates a day stacking several feet deep,” EZTV informs TorrentFreak.

In a bid to solve the crisis, EZTV decided to speak with the two studios responsible for sending the majority of the notices. The outcome of the discussions, which were facilitated by the MPAA, was unequivocal – EZTV would have to massively change the way it does business.

EZTV went back to the drawing board. Which model could they emulate to show that they were now a completely neutral, content agnostic platform? Which company, by virtue of the fact that it had never been sued by the studios over its indexing, could EZTV emulate?

It was obvious – GOOGLE.

Visitors to EZTV today can see the outcome. Instead of the layout users have become accustomed to over the past near-decade, EZTV now sports a minimal Google-style search engine beneath a new and rebranded EZTV logo.

EZTVGoogle

All TV show categories have gone and all that remains are descriptions pulled from the Internet using algorithms licensed from Google. Completing the sterilization of the site, all torrents have been deleted and now only magnet hash values of content specifically searched for by the user are listed.

EZTVResults

But EZTV’s operators wanted to do more. Realizing that Google’s Auto-Complete and Auto-Suggest features only serve to direct people to infringing content, EZTV now filters these from Google’s API and hence its own search results. Not suggesting stuff before people had even asked for it was a key MPAA-pleasing move.

moneybannedHoning the business model that has enabled Google to avoid being sued by any Hollywood studio over its search results, EZTV went further still. Working closely with City of London Police’s new Operation Creative, EZTV has filtered out not only all major brands’ advertising, but all advertising entirely.

“We’ve never had any advertising on EZTV but noticed how little trouble Google has had monetizing links to potentially infringing content. With that in mind, we decided nearly a decade ago to go much further, but we’re only really shouting about it now,” EZTV told TF.

Unsurprisingly, the MPAA are pleased with the results.

“By working with the industry, EZTV has successfully removed all financial incentives for it to exist by cutting off its own revenues for the last nine years,” the MPAA said in a statement. “This is just the kind of action that will save jobs and fuel innovation.”

The changes, which were phased in during the past month but visible over the past few hours, were expected to solve all of EZTV’s problems, but this morning at the site’s spacious New York offices a different picture was emerging.

ups“Becoming just like Google is proving to be a nightmare. Just like them we’re now receiving millions of notices every hour,” EZTV told TF in phone call a few minutes ago.

“UPS just turned up with a convoy of trucks. We’re scanning the notices as quickly as we can but the folks at Chilling Effects have already run out of space.”

Whether EZTV will continue to emulate Google into the future is unclear, but at this point it seems that going back to the way they were might be the best option.

Update: Yes this this was an April Fools prank. EZTV is back to normal now.

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

TorrentFreak: Bad Google DMCA Takedown is Hurting Us, Hosting Site Says

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

As revealed in a report earlier this week, DMCA takedown notices issued to Google have surged 711,887 percent in just four years.

In fact, this month saw a new record week for notices received by the search engine. In a seven day period starting March 10, Google processed an amazing 6,532,393 notices, sent mainly by the music and adult industries.

GoogleDMCA

While the majority of these notices are precise, there are some serious inaccuracies. Google does a pretty good job of rejecting many that are sent in error but it’s inevitable that some slip through the net, and when they do sites can suffer.

One of the latest sites to get on the wrong end of an overbroad notice is UpToBox, a file-hosting service with millions of visitors each month. Particularly popular with the French, the site is France’s 191st most-visited site.

On March 25, anti-piracy company Piracy Stops Here LLC sent a notice on behalf of adult movie company Jim Weathers Productions, asking for more than a thousand URLs to be removed from Google’s search results. All of them were specific URLs, except one – UptoBox’s homepage at UptoBox.com.

uptobox

Despite zero infringing content appearing on the file-hosting site’s homepage, Google subsequently de-listed the site. On Friday, French news site Numerama contacted Google to find out whether there had been a mistake or whether removing the homepage was intentional, but received no response.

UptoBox

Speaking with TorrentFreak, UpToBox operator ‘Guillaume’ says despite contacting Google several times in the past few days, no one from the company has responded to their requests for an explanation.

“We have sent a notice to Google to cancel this decision some days ago, without any reply from them,” Guillaume explains. “We will continue to send a notice everyday to get us put back in the search engine.”

Guillaume says the cost to his site is already high. Thousands of people have failed to find the site as they might do ordinarily and as a result UptoBox has lost “a huge quantity” of new members.

So, could there be unusual circumstances which would explain the complete de-listing of the site? To find out, we asked Guillaume how the site responds to copyright complaints.

“We analyze them one by one, to see if notices are legal, and if files are really copyright infringing. We have received some DMCA notices about legal files in the past, so now we analyze everything,” he explains. “We delete an infringing file quickly when we received the notification, usually in 24 to 48 hours.”

So for now the UptoBox homepage remains delisted by Google with no idea of when, if ever, it will be restored. The big question now is whether Piracy Stops Here knew what they were doing when they sent the notice or if it was a genuine mistake. That said, with no punishments available for those who send bad notices, nothing can be done against them anyway, a problem raised by WordPress owners Automattic earlier this month.

Update: Good new for UptoBox, as the homepage has now been reinstated.

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

TorrentFreak: Putin: Pirate Site Blocking Has Failed to End Piracy

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

In the early days of 2013 it became clear that after years of wavering, Russia was finally going to get tough on Internet piracy. Despite outcry from Internet giants such as Google, and Yandex, the country’s largest search engine, the government pressed ahead with its plans.

On August 1, 2013, a new law was passed which would allow sites to be blocked at the ISP level if they failed to respond to copyright infringement complaints in a timely fashion. But despite the legislative teeth, file-sharing sites were not blocked, with many simply complying with takedown demands as required by law.

In January 2014, however, the government said that the law was actually having the required effect, with the number of Internet users purchasing legal content going up by 30%. But at the same time there were complaints.

The founder of IVI.ru, the country’s leading source of Hollywood-licensed video, said that his company had not benefited from the law. And now it seems that the law’s lack of success is being admitted be people right at the top – the very, very top.

During a meeting with members of the House of the Federation Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the legislation introduced in August 2013 had failed to meet its objectives.

“This is an extremely important area, and we still have very much to do here,” he told the meeting.

“Even after we have adopted these solutions for intellectual property protection in the field of cinema, recent analysis has shown that it does not work as effectively as we expected.”

Putin added that despite the new law, pirate movies can appear on websites anywhere and completely undermine the framework.

“The effect is that all of our protection is reduced to zero,” the President said.

But even though things aren’t working, there are no signs of any retreat. Instead the Russian government is looking to get even more aggressive.

“It is necessary to consider additional steps to protect intellectual property rights,” Putin concluded.

Work is already underway to expand the current legislation to encompass all content since right now only video is protected. The government is also looking at introducing fines for errant hosting providers and wants to find a way to permanently close sites persistently engaging in piracy.

“Sites engaging in piracy professionally (it’s their business) should be closed,” said Vladimir Medina of the Ministry of Culture.

But the idea that closing sites will solve the problem was dismissed by a representative from the body in control of .ru domains. Noting that she is reminded of the “Streisand Effect”, where suppressed information only leads to wider dissemination, Olga Alexandrova-Massine said people will find a way to access blocked content.

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

TorrentFreak: Early iTunes Release Boosted Movie Piracy, Anti-Piracy Group Says

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

pirate-runningThere are many factors responsible for people illegally downloading content from the Internet. Of course, some just like the idea of something for nothing, while others may not have the means or ability to pay, but pricing is only part of the story.

After a decade-and-a-half of consumers crying out for content to be made available online in a timely fashion, only now are there truly encouraging signs that the entertainment companies are at least on the right track, with the music industry making better progress than most.

But with its emphasis on keeping theater, PPV, DVD and other revenue channels sacred and in a pretty strict sequence, Hollywood has other ideas. The studios are still years away from debuting all movies online and in theaters on the same day which inevitably leads to piracy.

This week, however, an MPA-affiliated anti-piracy group claimed that having an early online release only leads to movies being pirated more.

The debate surrounds the Lars von Trier movie Nymphomaniac [trailer:NSFW], a controversial two-part drama starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and featuring Christian Slater, Uma Thurman and Willem Dafoe. It documents the decades-long destructive sex life of its lead character, Joe.

The movie had its theatrical release in its native Denmark on Christmas Day 2013 but no copy appeared on torrent sites. Usually a movie would then get released in theaters in other countries, but instead it appeared on the U.S. version of iTunes on March 6, 2014. Shortly after the movie appeared illegally online, and quickly became a bit of a hit.

NymphiTunes

Anti-piracy group Rights Alliance said it hired US-based MarkMonitor to track downloads of the movie and discovered that in the first two weeks after airing on iTunes, the movie was illegally downloaded more than 283,600 times. By March 24 that number had increased to almost 349,000 downloads.

Commenting on the findings, lawyer and Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund said that the large number of illegal downloads go towards dispelling the notion that people download less when content is made available quickly online.

“We often hear the story that if only the movies came out earlier in the legal market, then it would reduce piracy on the web,” Fredenslund told DR.dk.

“Here we see that the number of illegal downloads actually explodes while the film is being made available on the U.S. iTunes.”

But while there can be little doubt that the copies currently circulating online are from U.S. VOD sources, stating that an online release caused all this piracy isn’t really the full picture. What Rights Alliance didn’t mention was that the movie didn’t hit U.S. theaters until March 21, which left a two-week plus window in which piracy could thrive.

Also complicating matters is that distributor Magnolia Pictures only released the movie to 22 theaters on March 21, with just another 17 gaining access today. The rest will have to wait well into April, by which time part two of the movie will already be debuting.

But despite the doom and gloom coming out of Denmark, Magnolia Pictures says the movie is “doing very well.” Nymphomaniac’s budget was less than $5 million with Magnolia reportedly paying $2 million for U.S. rights.

Finally, it’s interesting that Rights Alliance admit that when they did their tracking of Nymphomaniac downloads they only came across 1,003 Danish IP addresses pirating the movie.

Did giving the movie to Denmark first contribute to that low amount? Or maybe it’s because Danes have become so familiar with obtaining foreign IP addresses to get around a 2008 blockade of The Pirate Bay and gain access to the U.S. version of Netflix, they have since disappeared into the crowd.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA Demands Personal Details of Pirating YouTube Users

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

youtubesadsmallTo many, uploading a music video of their favorite artist seems to be a relatively harmless act, but the major record labels clearly disagree.

Up until now “pirating” YouTube users would only get a slap on the wrist by Google, and have their YouTube accounts terminated at worst. However, it appears that the RIAA has had enough and is now going after the uploaders of two leaked Chris Brown tracks.

The RIAA’s quest started earlier this month when Vice President Anti-Piracy Mark McDevitt contacted YouTube personally to demand the takedown of the leaked tracks “New Flame” and “Die it For You.”

“We are asking you for your immediate assistance in stopping this unauthorized activity,” McDevitt wrote in a letter to the video hosting service.

“Specifically, we request that you ensure the removal of the infringing files from your system, or that you disable access to the infringing files, and that you inform the site operator of the illegality of his or her conduct,” he added.

YouTube was quick to comply, as both videos are unavailable at the time of writing. However, the RIAA didn’t stop there. Instead, the music group went to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to obtain a subpoena for the personal details of the uploader, or uploaders.

In their request the RIAA explains that it requires a subpoena to identify those responsible for the uploads. Among other things, they are looking for the IP-addresses and emails associated with the accounts in question.

“The purpose for which this subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity or identities of the individual or individuals assigned to this URL,” RIAA writes. “This information will only be used for the purposes of protecting the rights granted to our members, the sound recording copyright owners, under [the DMCA].”

The RIAA’s request for a subpoena was granted by a court clerk on the same day. This means that YouTube now has until April 15 to hand over the requested information, unless it decides to appeal.

RIAA subpoena to YouTube
subpoena-riaa-youtube

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the RIAA has gone after YouTube users. Whether this is an isolated incident has yet to be seen, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the record labels want to set an example.

The RIAA has been an active proponent of criminalizing those who “stream” copyrighted videos in the past. While that failed through the PIPA bill, this may be an opportunity for them to test the water under current copyright laws.

In any case, YouTube users should be aware that the RIAA and others can obtain their personal details on a whim.

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders Usenet Provider to Prevent Copyright Infringement

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

usenextWhile the music and movie industries are still developing strategies to deal with illegal file-sharing at the end-user level, tackling Internet companies remains a key component of their anti-piracy arsenals.

While pressure is maintained against search engines and sites such as YouTube, not all Internet-based companies are as willing (or indeed easily able) to cooperate due to the way they are setup. One such complication arises from the continued availability of illicit content on the worldwide Usenet (newsgroup) system.

Considering the masses of copyright-infringing content uploaded to Usenet, legal action against companies that provide access to the system is relatively rare. Adult publisher Perfect 10 fought battles against Usenet giant Giganews and five years ago the RIAA crushed Usenet.com in the what was probably the most significant victory of its type.

This week in the latest action against a Usenet supplier, German anti-piracy group GEMA reported a new victory against Aviteo Ltd, the Munich-based operator of UseNeXT.

For years the music-focused rights group has been pressuring UseNeXT claiming that tracks from its repertoire are being made available for illegal download via the company’s services. UseNeXT isn’t responsible for putting the tracks online and they weren’t necessarily placed there by a UseNeXT user, but GEMA wants the company to take responsibility.

This week GEMA obtained an injunction against UseNeXT / Aviteo Ltd at the Hamburg Regional Court in respect of a sample 10 tracks from GEMA’s repertoire. The injunction is the latest development in GEMA’s long-running legal battle with UseNeXT.

gemaThe dispute dates back to 2006 and has already resulted in a pair court injunctions issued in 2007 and 2010, each ordering the provider to do more to protect GEMA’s rights.

“The adoption of this [latest] injunction is a positive signal for all rightsowners,” said GEMA CEO Dr. Harald Heker.

“It confirms that services whose business model is based on the illegal downloading of protected works and thereby make a profit, have a duty towards rightsholders.”

The precise details have not yet been made public, but according to GEMA the injunction “extends the responsibility of services providers towards rights holders” in the event that copyright works are continually made available.

“In such a case, the service provider has an obligation to eliminate the danger created by him for illegal use of protected content, through the use of an appropriate filtering system, or if necessary, even the closure of the service,” GEMA said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, UseNeXT have a different interpretation of the decision. The company says that it only provides access to the Usenet system and has no control of the content to be found there. It is common practice, UseNeXT says, for copyright holders to send takedown notices to the actual server operators so that files can be removed from newsgroups.

In a sure sign that this battle is far from over, UseNeXT / Aviteo says it will appeal.

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

TorrentFreak: ‘Fining’ File-Sharers Makes Anti-Piracy Company Lose Money

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

rightscorpFor the past six years or so the idea that piracy can be turned into profit has been gaining traction. After Internet users sharing copyrighted material without permission are identified, they can be contacted and pressured into settling what might otherwise be an expensive lawsuit.

Discovering the real-life identities of pirates is not cheap, and that’s where US-based Rightscorp spotted a gap in the market. By attaching settlement demands to DMCA notices that ISPs are compelled to forward to alleged pirates, Rightscorp can reach alleged infringers without even knowing who they are.

Once a warning letter enters the email inbox of an account holder, he or she is invited to visit the Rightscorp website to settle for around $20.00. Some people simply ignore the warnings and nothing else happens. Others choose to pay $20 for say, a single music track, but sometimes discover that Rightscorp has more demands for the rest of the tracks in the album lined up at $20 a pop.

But while collecting $20 for sending an email might sound like a winner, financial results for 2013 just published by Rightscorp paint a pretty miserable picture.

For the year ending December 31, 2013, Rightscorp reports total revenue of just $324,016. So, presuming all of that revenue came from $20.00 settlements, around 16,200 infringement notices were paid during the 12 month period, or around 311 per week.

While this might seem like a decent return for just sending emails, they don’t just appear out of thin air. Rightscorp has costs, lots of them in fact.

When an Internet user settles with Rightscorp some of this money goes back to companies such as Warner Bros., who give permission for the anti-piracy company to exploit their content to generate revenue. According to Rightscorp, during 2013 it paid a total of $161,868 to these companies. When we compare that amount with total revenue of $324,016, we can see that Rightscorp gives away $10 from every $20 settlement.

On paper it’s money for nothing for the copyright holders, but Rightscorp’s $10 cut just isn’t balancing the books due to the large costs of running the business. Under ‘General and administrative expenses’ the company says it burnt through $1,663,921 in 2013, with ‘sales and marketing’ and ‘depreciation and amortization’ coming in at $275,616 and $33,438 respectively.

Add those all together and Rightscorp cost $2,134,843 to run in 2013, yet it brought in just $324,016, a shortfall of more than $1.8 million. After other adjustments the bottom line shows a loss of $2,042,779 for the anti-piracy company, an amount that would take their share of another 204,278 settlements to balance, providing no other costs increased.

While the company has expansion plans for Canada and has filed for patents to extend its monitoring services to Europe, China, Israel, Japan, Brazil, and India, the elusive aim of turning piracy into profit is still some way off.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA: Moviegoers Use More ‘Piracy-Enabling’ Smartphones

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

The MPAA just released their latest box-office statistics. Despite the continuing threat of online piracy the numbers once again show an increase in revenue worldwide, up to a record-breaking $35.9 billion in 2013.

In addition to the revenue increase, the movie group emphasizes the importance of new technology in expanding its audience. The MPAA stresses that frequent moviegoers are also technology fanatics, with nearly three-quarters owning at least four new devices.

Smartphones are particularly popular among movie fans, and the MPAA notes that the movie industry can do more to use this technology to boost theater attendance even further.

“We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said at The Colosseum inside Caesar’s Palace where the findings were presented.

“We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings….A smartphone can make more content available, but it will never be able to surpass the shared experience that you deliver to every person who sits in your theaters,” he added.

Moviegoers own more tech devices (source: mpaa.org)
technology-mpaa

With the release of these statistics the MPAA wants to show that technology is not just a threat to the movie industry, but also an opportunity. While this is certainly true, the statements are not without conflict.

Using smartphones to drive more people to the movies also presents a problem, as the MPAA doesn’t want them to be used inside the theater.

The MPAA has previously published a set of anti-piracy practices movie theater owners should adhere to. This includes a very skeptical stance against any device that can be used to capture video, including smartphones.

“The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording,” the group adds.

mobile-mpaa

Past anecdotes show that theaters take these recommendations very seriously. A few years ago a girl was arrested for recording a 20 second clip from the movie Transformers on her phone, and more recently a Google Glass wearer was handed over to the authorities, without recording anything.

The above is a classical example of the dual role technology plays for the entertainment industries. Nearly every new invention poses both threats and opportunities, and the challenge is to find the right balance between them.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Takedown Notices Surge 711,887 Percent in Four Years

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

google-baySigned into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) aimed to ready copyright law for the digital age.

The law heightened punishment for copyright infringement over the Internet and criminalized circumvention of DRM. In addition, it also introduced a safe harbor for Internet services, meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices.

Initially these notices were mostly sent to consumer ISPs to alert them to pirating subscribers. At the time, rightsholders showed little interest in sending takedown notices to other online services, but this changed drastically in the years that followed.

New research by Stanford Law School’s Daniel Seng reveals that online services such as Google and Twitter have seen a surge in takedown requests in recent years. In fact, drawing on data from ChillingEffects.org, Seng finds that the number of DMCA notices processed by Google increased 711,887 percent in four years, from 62 in 2008 to 441,370 in 2012.

Published takedown notices per recipient*
noticesperyear

Titled “The State of the Discordant Union” and published in the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, the paper discusses this upward trend. Two key changes Seng observes are that the average number of URLs in each notice is increasing, and that claims for multiple works are often included in a single notice.

Where copyright holders previously listed only one work per notice, there are now sometimes dozens of movies or tracks bundled in each. This is a worrying development according to Seng.

“It is disturbing to see the trend where more claims and more takedown requests are packed into each takedown notice. Up until 2010, each notice contained only one claim. But in 2011, the average number of claims per notice is 2.18, and in 2012, this average is 5.05,” Seng writes.

More copyrighted works per notice also means that the number of URLs per notice is increasing too. For example, between 2011 and 2012 the average number of URLs listed in each notice increased from 47.79 to 124.75.

According to Seng, these changes can be attributed to a small number of copyright holders. In fact, most copyright holders still submit only one notice.

“These increasing averages paint a slightly misleading picture. More than 65% of all reporters have only issued one notice, and almost 95% of all reporters have issued no more than 10 notices in 2012,” Seng writes.

The most active copyright holders up until 2012 were the RIAA, Froytal and Microsoft, each listing more than five million notices. Seng’s paper doesn’t include the most recent data, but Google’s Transparency Report shows that these numbers more than doubled again in 2013.

Total URLs for all notices per reporting group
copyrightholder
A breakdown by industry shows that most of the notices (59%) come from the music industry, followed by adult entertainment companies (20%), and the movie industry (10%) respectively.

Notices per industry
noticesperind
The paper emphasizes that most changes are driven by a small number of copyright holders and industry groups, who are mostly targeting Google. Roughly 95% of all notices and 99% of all URLs included in the research were sent to the search engine, which has been under fire from the MPAA and RIAA for two years now.

Interestingly, the surge in notices started right after the SOPA and PIPA bills failed to pass, suggesting that this is anti-piracy plan B for the entertainment industries.

The release of the paper documents an important change in the use of DMCA takedown notices and coincides with ongoing discussions between copyright holders and online service providers on how to improve the DMCA takedown process. What changes will be made, if any, remains to be seen.

*The number of notices sent by Yahoo in 2011 and 2012 are most likely 0 because they stopped reporting them to Chillingeffects.

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

TorrentFreak: Busted: BSA Steals Photo For “Snitch On a Pirate” Campaign

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

nopiracyA few weeks ago we reported on a controversial anti-piracy campaign operated by the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

Representing major software companies, the BSA is using Facebook ads which encourage people to report businesses that use unlicensed software. If one of these reports results in a successful court case, the pirate snitch can look forward to a cash reward.

Below is one of the promoted Facebook posts that appeared in the timeline of thousands of people on Saint Patrick’s Day. It features a homemade cake in the shape of a pot of gold and sends a clear message to the readers.

“Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID,” the post reads.

Unlicensed Photo
snitchbsa

The ad is a bit misleading, since those who read the fine-print realize that the pot of gold is as unreachable as any. However, there’s a more worrying issue with the ad.

On closer inspection the photo appears to be lifted from Cakecentral where a user named ‘bethasd’ posted her home-baked creation. Indeed, all signs suggest that the photo for this campaign wasn’t properly licensed, but pirated by the BSA.

Hoping that this was all a misunderstanding, TF contacted the BSA yesterday afternoon, asking for a comment. Thus far the group hasn’t responded to us, but an hour after we sent the inquiry the infringing photo magically disappeared from Facebook.

Luckily we made a copy, and so did Google.

So while the BSA didn’t comment, their attempt to cover up the situation clearly shows that they didn’t have the right to use the image in question. Needless to say, that is more than a touch ironic, especially for an image that’s being used in an anti-piracy campaign.

We encourage ‘bethasd’ to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her.

For the BSA it’s probably wise to reconsider their marketing strategy on Facebook. Right now the overwhelming majority of the comments are negative, which defeats the purpose of the campaign.

Facebook love

face

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