Posts tagged ‘Anti-Piracy’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The case is a critical test for the repeat infringer clause of the DMCA and the safe harbor protections ISPs enjoy. In recent weeks both parties have started the discovery process to gather as many details as they can for the upcoming trial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pricing perhaps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA Bites Grooveshark With Record Google Takedowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

groove1

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

groove2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingers crossed….

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police and PRS Shutdown Karaoke Torrent Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

karaoke1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google searches for VPN in Australia
aussievpn

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

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

TorGuard Aussie traffic increase
aussietorg

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Google Keeps Rejecting Hollywood’s Broad Takedown Requests

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

google-bayThe MPAA and Google are not on speaking terms, to say the least.

In recent years the Hollywood group has pushed Google and other search engines to increase their anti-piracy efforts.

This prompted the search giant to filter certain keywords and update its algorithms to downrank pirate sites, but the MPAA is still not happy. Ideally, they want Google to de-list pirate sites entirely.

In a related effort, the group has been sending very targeted takedown requests. Instead of linking to individual download or streaming pages, they ask for the removal of the homepages of various pirate sites.

While these homepages often list links to infringing movies, as shown here, they also include a lot of other content that’s not specified in the takedowns. As a result, Google refuses to take action.

The MPAA’s most recent request lists 43 allegedly infringing URLs and Google refused to take 36 out of its search results, a total of 86 percent.

MPAA’s failed requests
mpaarequest

We previously asked Google under what circumstances a homepage might be removed from search results. A spokesperson couldn’t go into detail but noted that “it’s more complex than simply counting how many clicks one page is from another.”

“We’ve designed a variety of policies to comply with the requirements of the law, while weeding out false positives and material that’s too remote from infringing activity,” Google spokesperson told us.

Perhaps frustrated with Google’s inaction, the MPAA also sent Google a takedown notice for its own homepage at mpaa.org. At least, if that’s not a prank by someone else. Again, the search engine refused to take action.

Google’s stance was to be expected. After all, the search engine has refused to comply with similar requests in the past.

But it’s the MPAA’s continued attempts to censor entire homepages that’s most interesting here.

As the main force behind State Attorney General Jim Hood’s investigation into Google’s anti-piracy obligation, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if these refusals are pointed out to a judge in the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: World’s Most Beautiful Pirate Movie Site Killed in Infancy

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

nachoWhile sites like The Pirate Bay are stuck in a presentational time-warp, in recent times other file-sharing related domains have been revamping their appearances.

KickassTorrents is probably one of the best looking public torrent sites but there are plenty of private trackers whose presentations are something to behold. Streaming sites have also made big strides in their graphical layouts, something which has spooked entertainment industry outfits such as the MPAA.

That being said, one of the biggest problems for them at the moment is Popcorn Time. Its Netflix-style interface not only looks good but behind the scenes it works almost flawlessly. Add to the mix complete simplicity of use and the software is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

However, Popcorn Time – in whatever format chosen by the user – needs to be installed on a PC, cellphone, tablet or other device in order to work. A small obstacle for many users perhaps, but for the real novice that still has the potential to cause problems – unless people have nachos as well as popcorn, that is.

Sometime last week a brand new service hit the Internet. Titled NachoTime, the best way of explaining the product is PopcornTime in a browser. It looked absolutely beautiful, with full color graphics for all the content it presented – mainly mainstream movies of course.

Every single one played almost instantly in a YouTube-style interface with no noticeable buffering and it even worked flawlessly on mobile devices with no extra software required.

nacho1

In addition to instant streaming, NachoTime provided links to torrents for the same content in various qualities supported by the appropriate subtitles if needed. No other public site has ever looked this good.

However, all of this is now relegated to history as Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN acted against the service before it even got off the ground. The site now displays a notice explaining that it has been permanently shutdown.

This site has been removed by BREIN because it supplies illicit entertainment content.

This website made use of an illegal online supply of films and television series.

Uploading and downloading of illegal content is prohibited by law and will therefore result in liability for the damages caused.

SUPPORT CREATIVITY

Go to Thecontentmap.nl and see where you can legally download and stream

BREIN says it contacted the site’s host who in turn contacted the site’s owner, who took NachoTime down immediately. TorrentFreak contacted BREIN chief Tim Kuik and put it to him that his group has just taken down the best looking site around.

“I agree, very well presented,” Kuik said. “A pity it was illegal.”

The reaction to NachoTime’s arrival by BREIN was particularly quick. That, Kuik says, is due to the nature of these new waves of PopcornTime-like services. The anti-piracy group says it views them as a greater threat than torrent sites.

“Their ease of use makes them very popular so they are hurting the growth of legal online platforms,” Kuik explains.

What will happen to the individual running the site isn’t clear, but Kuik told us that he’s a 22-year-old from the Dutch city of Utrecht who signed a declaration to keep the site offline. His quick response appears to have been well received by BREIN but others thinking of embarking on the same kind of project are already on a warning.

“They will be offered a settlement or they will be sued,” Kuik explains.

“Settlement is a cease and desist undertaking with a penalty sum, a BREIN text on the site referring to Thecontentmap.nl that lists legal online platforms and payment of compensation depending on circumstances. A court case would include an injunction and full costs (likely between € 8,000 – 15,000) and a procedure on the merits regarding damages and again full costs.”

While Popcorn and Nachos are definitely tasty snacks for pirates, at least one is currently off the menu. Time will tell when the next one will come along and how long it will last.

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

TorrentFreak: ISP Categorically Refuses to Block Pirate Bay – Trial Set For October

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

Despite its current difficulties in maintaining an efficient online presence, The Pirate Bay remains the world’s most hounded website. Entertainment industry companies around the globe have made the notorious site their number one anti-piracy target and legal action continues in many regions.

Perhaps one of the most interesting at the moment is the action filed last November by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry. It targets Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Company) and effectively accuses the provider of being part of the Pirate Bay’s piracy machine.

The papers filed at the Stockholm District Court demand that Bredbandsbolaget block its subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay and popular streaming portal Swefilmer. In December the ISP gave its response, stating in very clear terms that ISPs cannot be held responsible for the traffic carried on their networks.

Last month on February 20 the parties met in the Stockholm District Court to see if some kind of agreement or settlement could be reached. But the entertainment companies’ hopes have been dashed following the confirmation that Bredbandsbolaget will not comply with its wishes.

“It is an important principle that Internet providers of Internet infrastructure shall not be held responsible for the content that is transported over the Internet. In the same way that the Post should not meddle in what people write in the letter or where people send letters,” Commercial Director Mats Lundquist says.

“We stick to our starting point that our customers have the right to freely communicate and share information over the internet.”

With no settlement or compromise to be reached, DagensMedia reports that the district court has now set a date for what is being billed as a “historic trial”.

It will begin on Thursday 23 October and the outcome has the potential to reshape provider liability in The Pirate Bay’s spiritual homeland, despite the fact that it’s now run from overseas.

Bredbandsbolaget will certainly be outnumbered. TV companies including SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More will team up with the IFPI and the Swedish Video Distributors group which counts Fox Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony among its members.

Internal movie industry documents obtained by TorrentFreak reveal that IFPI and the Swedish film producers have signed a binding agreement which compels them to conduct and finance the case. However, the MPAA is exerting its influence while providing its own evidence and know-how behind the scenes.

Also of interest is that IFPI took a decision to sue Bredbandsbolaget and not Teliasonera (described by the MPAA as “the largest and also very actively ‘copy-left’ Swedish ISP”). The reason for that was that IFPI’s counsel represents Teliasonera in other matters which would have raised a conflict of interest.

There are also some intriguing political implications and MPAA nervousness concerning the part of the case involving streaming portal Swefilmer. Those will be the topic of an upcoming TF article.

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

TorrentFreak: Aussie Telecoms Minister Receives Downloading Warning Notice

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

choice-downAfter years of complaints from mainly Hollywood-affiliated companies and anti-piracy groups, Australia is now having to deal with its online piracy issues.

Faced with deadlock the government ordered ISPs and entertainment companies to find a solution and against a backdrop of failed negotiations, last week telecoms body Communications Alliance published a draft proposal on behalf of its ISP members.

Titled ‘Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code‘, the document outlined a graduated response “three strikes”-style mechanism to deal with file-sharers. It was put together in concert with rightsholders, so it’s fair to assume Hollywood is somewhat satisfied with the framework.

The same cannot be said about Australia’s leading consumer group, however.

Choice, which has long warned against a file-sharing crackdown, says that current proposals raise the specter of a streamlined conveyor belt of consumers heading towards a notoriously litigious entertainment industry.

“Although an ‘education scheme’ to stop piracy sounds harmless, the proposed Code will actually funnel internet users into court actions where industry can seek unlimited amounts of money for alleged piracy, and provide a way for rights holders to gain access to your internet records and personal details so they can sue you or send you a letter demanding payment,” the group warns this morning.

Highlighting mechanisms already in place in the US, UK and New Zealand, Choice says that the proposals for Australia are the worst of the bunch. ‘Education’, ‘Warning’ and ‘Final’ notices could be followed by rightsholder access to subscriber details alongside threats of legal action and potentially limitless fines.

“The system proposed by the industry purports to be educational, but clearly has a focus on facilitating court actions. There is no limit on the amount of money that a rights holder can seek from the customer,” Choice explains.

Also under fire is consumer access to remedy should they have complaints about notices received in error, for example. While there is a system being proposed, access costs Internet subscribers $25, and even then the adjudication panel is far from impartial.

“If a consumer objects to any notice received, they can lodge a complaint with a largely industry-controlled body. There is no avenue for appeal if the consumer disagrees with the decision made,” Choice complains.

In order to raise awareness of these shortcomings, Choice says it has now implemented its own “three-strikes” program. And the first notice is about to go out.

“CHOICE is concerned that this scheme will funnel consumers into legal action, bypassing ordinary checks and balances. We’re sending an Education Notice to the Minister for Communications to let him know about the dangers of these ‘education’ measures for consumers,” the group says.

The notice to Malcolm Turnbull reads as follows:

EDUCATION NOTICE

You are receiving this Education Notice due to a complaint from the Australian public that it has detected the development of a damaging, industry-run internet policing scheme in your portfolio.

This scheme will allow big Hollywood corporations to obtain consumers’ contact details and internet records from Internet Service Providers, based on unproven accusations.

There is no limit to the amount of money that could be sought in court. In the US, a student was recently ordered to pay $675,000 for downloading and sharing 30 songs.

You may not be aware of this anti-consumer scheme. Perhaps somebody else in your household accessed your internet account and provided instructions to your Department without your knowledge.

If you believe this is the case, please forward this notice to the person who may be responsible. If the Government is serious about addressing piracy, it needs to address the real causes of the problem: the fact that Australians pay far too much for content that is often delayed or completely unavailable..

We know that you are a well-educated consumer, so we ask you to step in before it is too late.

This Education Notice is your first warning. If Australian consumers detect further infractions, we reserve the right to take further action.

The warning letter is being “authorized” by the Australian public who are being asked to sign a petition in support of Choice’s position.

After just a few hours online the petition is already close to reaching its initial target but whether it will make any difference remains to be seen. It’s taken so long for the ISPs and Hollywood to agree on any action against piracy, it will take something huge to derail it now.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time “Fan Pages” Nuked By Anti-Piracy Outfit

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

Released in the first quarter of 2014, any minute now Popcorn Time will celebrate its one year anniversary.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride for the various forks of the project after generating hundreds of headlines between them. Needless to say, many have focused on how the project provides sleek access to unauthorized content.

Predictably that ease of use has proven most popular in the United States but interestingly Popcorn Time also proved itself a disproportionate hit in the Netherlands. Last September one fork reported 1.3 million installs in a population of just 17 million.

No surprise then that Popcorn Time has appeared on the radar of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN. The Hollywood-affiliated group has been relatively quiet in recent months but is now reporting action aimed at stemming the flow of users to the popular torrent streaming application.

Denouncing Popcorn Time as an “illegal service”, BREIN reports that it has recently shut down “six Dutch Popcorn Time sites” and reached a settlement with their operators.

BREIN usually keeps the names of shuttered sites a closely guarded secret, but on this occasion has chosen to name four out of the six.

PopcornTime.nl, Popcorn-Time.eu, Popcorn-Time.info and PopcornTimeFilms.nl are now non-operational and currently display the warning message below as per their agreement with BREIN.

This site has been removed by the BREIN foundation for propagating Popcorn Time Software.

Popcorn Time encourages illegal use and uses an illegal online supply of films and television series.

WARNING: Popcorn Time software uses peer-to-peer (P2P) technology allowing users to both up – and download. Streaming, uploading and downloading of illegal content is prohibited by law and will therefore result in liability for the damages caused.

NOTE: Uploading is illegal and causes greater damage than a single download.

SUPPORT CREATIVITY: Go to Thecontentmap.nl and see where you can legally download and stream.

According BREIN each site operator also agreed to pay a financial penalty relative to the circumstances of his or her case, but the big question is just how important these sites were. The answer in all cases is “not very”.

Firstly, none of the sites were affiliated in any way with either of the current large forks located at Popcorntime.io and Popcorn-time.se. None hosted the software either, instead preferring to link to their official sources.

“We are not a part or makers of Popcorn Time. This is just a fansite. Not hosting content, merely linking to files hosted elsewhere,” an archive copy of Popcorntime.nl reads.

“Popcorn-Time.info is a fanpage Popcorn Time,” that site declared before being targeted by BREIN.

“Popcorn-Time.info hosts no downloads of Popcorn Time on its server.
Popcorn-Time.info has no links with the developers and designers of Popcorn Time.”

None of the sites were particularly popular either. Alexa currently scores PopcornTime.nl as the most visited of the bunch with a global rank of 205,405 and 3,215 in the Netherlands. PopcornTimeFilms.nl is the least visited and ranked the 1.84 millionth most popular site in the world.

Nevertheless, BREIN is warning that it will continue to take local “Popcorn Time sites” offline. Legal proceedings could be initiated against those who fail to comply and the anti-piracy group isn’t ruling out criminal referrals either.

“For Popcorn-Time sites that entrench themselves in foreign countries including the illegal torrent sites which are used, BREIN cooperates with similar national and international organizations,” the group warns.

Considering the Netflix-related news that broke mid-January, it was almost inevitable that BREIN wouldn’t wait long before positioning itself against Popcorn Time.

In a letter to the company’s shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings specifically highlighted the Popcorn Time ‘problem’ in the Netherlands, describing the app’s popularity in the country as “sobering”.

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

TorrentFreak: The World’s Most Idiotic Copyright Complaint

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

picarddmcaAt least once a month TorrentFreak reports on the often crazy world of DMCA takedown notices. Google is kind enough to publish thousands of them in its Transparency Report and we’re only too happy to spend hours trawling through them.

Every now and again a real gem comes to light, often featuring mistakes that show why making these notices public is not only a great idea but also in the public interest. The ones we found this week not only underline that assertion in bold, but are actually the worst examples of incompetence we’ve ever seen.

German-based Total Wipes Music Group have made these pages before after trying to censor entirely legal content published by Walmart, Ikea, Fair Trade USA and Dunkin Donuts. This week, however, their earlier efforts were eclipsed on a massive scale.

wipedFirst, in an effort to ‘protect’ their album “Truth or Dare” on Maze Records, the company tried to censor a TorrentFreak article from 2012 on how to download anonymously. The notice, found here, targets dozens of privacy-focused articles simply because they have the word “hide” in them.

But it gets worse – much worse. ‘Protecting’ an album called “Cigarettes” on Mona Records, Total Wipes sent Google a notice containing not a single infringing link. Unbelievably one of the URLs targeted an article on how to use PGP on the Mac. It was published by none other than the EFF.

EFF-wipes

So that was the big punchline, right? Pfft, nowhere near.

Going after alleged pirates of the album “In To The Wild – Vol.7″ on Aborigeno Music, Total Wipes offer their pièce de résistance, the veritable jewel in their crown. The notice, which covers 95 URLs, targets no music whatsoever. Instead it tries to ruin the Internet by targeting the download pages of some of the most famous online companies around.

Some of the URLs in the most abusive notice ever

wipe-notice1

In no particular order, here is a larger selection of some of the download pages the notice attacks.

ICQ, RedHat, SQLite, Vuze, LinuxMint, WineHQ, Foxit, Calibre, Kodi/XBMC, Skype, Java, OpenOffice, Gimp, Ubuntu, Python, TeamViewer, MySQL, VLC, Joomla, Z-Zip, RaspberryPI, Unity3D, Apache, MalwareBytes, Pidgin, LibreOffice, VMWare, uTorrent, WinSCP, WhatsApp, Evernote, AMD, AVG, Origin, TorProject, PHPMyAdmin, Nginx, FFmpeg, phpbb, Plex, GNU, WireShark, Dropbox and Opera.

If you can bear to read it the full notice can be found here. Worryingly Total Wipes Music are currently filing notices almost every day. Google rejects many of them but it’s only a matter of time before some sneak through.

We’ve said it before but it needs to be said again. Some people can’t be trusted to send takedown notices and must lose their right to do so when they demonstrate this level of abuse. The sooner Google kicks these people out the better.

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

TorrentFreak: Oscar Nominations Massively Boosted Pirate Downloads

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

While Hollywood would’ve liked it to remain a secret, news that the majority of Oscar contenders were available online just a day after the Academy’s announcement traveled fast.

In anticipation of this eventuality, at the turn of the year piracy monitoring firm Irdeto began tracking dozens of top movies in order to compare the number of downloads before and after the Oscar nominations were made public. Some of the numbers just revealed by the company are eye-watering.

After monitoring from January 1 through February 14, Irdeto found that there was a 385% increase in piracy of nominated films following the Academy’s announcement on January 15.

“While Gone Girl was the early frontrunner after nominations, American Sniper took the lead and is currently the most pirated film in the world post-nomination,” Irdeto reveals.

As the chart below shows, the majority of nominees had download numbers boosted between 161% and 230%, but clearly out in front is Selma with a 1033% uplift.

post-nom

In terms of pure downloads, however, the Martin Luther King movie isn’t an Oscar high-flyer. Despite the huge boost in interest after nomination day, Selma sits in 10th place well behind piracy leaders American Sniper and Gone Girl.

oscar-downs

Of course, the big question now is whether popularity on BitTorrent networks will be mirrored in the final Oscars ceremony. Ranking movies based on downloads since January 15 in the categories they were nominated, Irdeto predicts the winners as follows:

Best Picture: American Sniper (1.39m)

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper, American Sniper (1.39m)

Best Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman (796.7K)

Best Actress: Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl (1.25m)

Hollywood’s own leaks contributed to the piracy problem

While the Oscar-nominated movies now available online come from a wide variety of sources including Blu-ray, DVD (34% combined) and Cams (11%), Irdeto’s study highlights the problems the Academy has with its own leaks. Handed out to voters, critics and others in the industry, screeners are the most prized source for online booty. And this year there were plenty of them.

“Hollywood screeners specifically accounted for a substantial 31% of the total illegal downloads tracked between January 15 and February 14,” Irdeto reveals.

“Six nominated movies currently unavailable for retail purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD, VOD or legal streaming/download sites saw the majority of piracy coming directly from these screeners: American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Wild, Selma, Whiplash and Still Alice.”

While noting that not every download is a lost sale, the anti-piracy company still believes that an estimated $40m could have been lost on these titles alone, simply because they weren’t made available legally to consumers.

Release windows

“Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies to be available earlier, in more geographies and over more platforms,” says Rory O’Connor, VP of Managed Services at Irdeto.

“In the world of internet re-distribution, the window between theatrical release and worldwide market availability may simply be too long, leaving room for pirates to take advantage and offer consumers alternative means of instant gratification. Today’s consumers simply refuse to wait to access these movies through legitimate services.”

The rest of the world

Finally, outside of the United States the top ten countries accounting for the most illegal downloads were Russia, Italy, UK, Brazil, Canada, India, Australia, Spain, South Korea and the Netherlands.

And in what is bound to be yet more ammunition for the copyright lobby Down Under, the Oscar for the country with the highest percentage of piracy per Internet user population goes to….

…….Australia.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Raid Movie & TV Show Site, Three Arrested

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

cityoflondonpoliceAfter scaling considerable heights during much of 2013 and 2014, overt operations to reduce online copyright infringement tapered off in the UK at the end of last year.

The first six weeks of 2015 also remained quiet, with the now-famous Police Intellectual Property Unit (PIPCU) holding a lower profile. Today, however, there is news of fresh action by local authorities.

Following an investigation by the Hollywood-affiliated anti-piracy group Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), this morning detectives raided individuals said to be involved in the operations of a movie and TV show download site.

The men, aged 24, 25 and 26, all from the Southwark area of London, were arrested at 06:45 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and copyright infringement offenses. Equipment and financial documents were also seized.

Speaking with TorrentFreak a few moments ago, FACT said that they weren’t able to name the site “for operational reasons.” Nevertheless, police say it was popular among users.

“The site was extremely popular. It was viewed about 70,000 times a day and, internationally, it ranked thousands of places higher than a well-known and legitimate film download site,” said investigating officer Detective Sergeant Neil Reynolds.

Similar raids in recent times have been carried out by PIPCU but today’s operation is being accredited to the London Regional Asset Recovery Team.

LRART is a Home Office-funded team comprised of officers and financial investigators from City of London Police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, among others. The unit carries out financial investigations aimed at seizing criminal assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

“It can be difficult for people to care about copyright laws being broken but the money made from such sites is often spent on funding other crime,” said DS Reynolds. “We are looking at how much money was made from advertising on this website and where that money went to.”

FACT say that the site was registered to one of the suspects in the UK but was then re-registered to a second suspect at an address in Romania. Advertising revenue was paid into a London-based bank account.

Director General Kieron Sharp said that unauthorized sites undermine legitimate businesses and warned that people running such ventures face stiff penalties.

“Websites which set out to direct users to illegal copies of films and TV shows are engaged in criminal activity which not only reaps huge financial benefits for the individuals involved but also undermines the fundamental business model which allows for future investment in the creative industries,” Sharp said.

“As these latest arrests show, this type of criminal enterprise will not go without action, and those involved face severe penalties.”

If anyone has any further information please contact us in confidence

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

TorrentFreak: Tumblr Panics as Site Gets Tough on Music Piracy

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

tumblrFounded February 2007, Tumblr now processes huge amounts of traffic. According to latest figures from the site it currently hosts more than 223 million blogs containing almost 104 billion posts.

In common with all sites of a similar size, keeping on top of what every user posts is a formidable and near impossible task, even with the 300+ employees Tumblr has at its disposal.

Nevertheless, effort does have to be made and when it comes to copyright issues the law demands it. The DMCA requires Tumblr to respond to copyright holder complaints by removing infringing content in a timely manner. According to the site’s users, however, a more aggressive response is now being pursued.

A large number of recent complaints suggest that music group IFPI is making a renewed effort to target Tumblr in order to weed out users who post copyright music to the site. Since several users have posted Tumblr copyright notices citing IFPI complaints, it seems like a reasonable assumption.

But what is really spooking users is Tumblr’s policy of terminating those who have three complaints lodged against their account. It’s been in place for some time but with enforcement against the site seemingly being ramped up, more people are falling into the trap.

“As outlined in previous emails, we implement a strict three-strike policy against repeat copyright infringement. Your blog has received three strikes in an 18 month period. Consequently, your account has been terminated. In addition, any new accounts you create will also be terminated,” Tumblr told one user.

Of course, anti-piracy bots don’t discriminate between content posted today or 18 months ago so any tracks they find can result in a notice to Tumblr and a subsequent “strike” against a user’s account. As a result, many users are now desperately trying to clear up their post history (using sites like trntbl.me) to avoid getting three strikes all at once.

To find out what changes may have contributed to the panic TorrentFreak contacted Tumblr for further details. We’re yet to hear back (we’ll update this article when we do) but in the meantime its worth noting that the company updated its copyright notice policy last month.

“After removing material pursuant to a valid DMCA notice, Tumblr will immediately notify the Subscriber responsible for the allegedly infringing material that it has removed or disabled access to the material,” it reads.

“Tumblr will terminate, under appropriate circumstances, the Accounts of Subscribers who are repeat copyright infringers, and reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to terminate any Subscriber for actual or apparent copyright infringement.”

In order for users to be able to contest copyright complaints, Tumblr operates a counter-notification system. However, users including Stewardessme complain that on the third strike she was simply locked out. Her story also highlights the importance of contesting invalid claims early on.

“Since the IFPI sent takedowns for two songs, that was two strikes, and I had a previous strike months earlier due to being erroneously accused of a copyright violation by Harper-Collins (the photo in question was not theirs),” she writes.

“In my case, the time period between getting the two strikes for music and my account being terminated was zero time; I found out something was wrong when I tried to log into my account.”

Since Tumblr is yet to publicly respond to the concerns of its userbase, TorrentFreak asked the company to comment on any changes that could have triggered what is now being perceived as a piracy crackdown. We’ll update here in due course.

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

TorrentFreak: Android Piracy News Gives App a Sales Boost

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

Today Calendar Pro is a popular replacement calendar for Android. Several thousand voters on Google Play agree on its quality, most voting near to the fabled five stars.

However, at the start of February developer Jack Underwood announced that rather than pay for his software, a huge majority are preferring to pirate it instead. The figures were substantial. According to the UK-based dev, 85% of ‘pro’ users were using his software without paying for it.

While that fact might’ve caused some creators to go nuclear, Underwood remained pragmatic. He engaged his public and decided to make light of the situation by introducing some novel anti-piracy measures in his software. Rather than make it unusable, Underwood added some pirate-themed events as detailed in our earlier article.

It turned out to be a great move on the PR front. News of Underwood’s approach spread quickly and dozens of news outlets covered the story giving the developer and his software plenty of exposure. Interested in the effects of this new-found fame, TF caught up with the dev to assess his mood.

As it turns out Underwood was in fine form. News of massive piracy of his app published February 2nd/3rd onwards had certainly turned into a positive. Sales of his software enjoyed a significant boost, as the graph below illustrates.

Calendar Pro Sales

While reluctant to talk about money generated, Underwood did reveal the size of the increase over regular sales. Today Calender Pro sold around three times more than it usually does after the news broke, leveling to twice as many sales shortly after.

However, it was the effect on Google Play’s rankings that appears to have done Underwood the biggest favor. Following news of the high piracy rates there was a five-fold increase in Play user ratings, averaging a score of 4.8. This means that Today Calendar Pro is now the highest rated calendar on the Play store.

The ratings boost means that sales are now running at a steady 50% uplift, a great result all considered.

Interestingly, however, the free version of the app hasn’t done quite so well. On the first day sales increased two-fold, dropping to 1.5x the day after. Unlike the ‘Pro’ version, there was no change in Play ratings and ‘sales’ are now back to the level they were before.

But perhaps of most interest is how these new figures have affected piracy rates overall, which previously sat at 85%.

“Over the last week pirated installs have made up 56% of the downloads,” Underwood informs TF. “Much better, but I guess we’ll see how long it lasts!”

Finally, Underwood says that interest in the pirate-themed events he added to his software has resulted in lots of requests from users wanting to see them. He’s come up with the following solution.

“Users can now trigger the pirate events themselves. Any event title with ‘walk the plank’ or ‘swashbuckling’ or ‘pirate’ (providing there’s no other trigger words) will cause the pirate images to be displayed,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: ISP’s “Three Strikes” Scheme is Weird and Broken

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

pirate-cardMore than five years ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended its legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to implement a new anti-piracy policy.

The agreement sees Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online and the ISP forwarding infringement notices to customers uploading music without permission. Eircom promises to disconnect subscribers who are caught sharing three times.

The entire point of this scheme and others like it is to inform Internet users that a “graduated response” is in operation. Whenever a notice is received users should be in no doubt they’re edging closer to being punished and ultimately cut off.

For its part the music industry is clear. ‘Strikes’ regimes which don’t promise to disconnect or otherwise punish users are much less effective than those that have these measures. After all, who wants to be cut off by their ISP?

But if that’s indeed the case, why then is Eircom keeping the prospect of disconnections out of its communications with alleged pirates?

TorrentFreak has obtained one of the latest letters being sent out to Eircom subscribers. Received by a customer already on a warning, it begins normally enough.

“Eircom has a long association with Irish music and we believe that artists deserve to be paid for the work they create. Most music files are protected by copyright and while it may be acceptable for them to be stored on a computer for personal use, it is unlawful to share those files without the copyright owner’s permission,” the letter reads.

The warning goes on to note that sharing copyrighted music is a breach of Eircom’s terms and conditions and as such it’s the subscriber’s responsibility to ensure the connection is not used to breach copyright. Standard stuff so far.

At this point one might expect Eircom to be getting into the details of its “three strikes” scheme implemented on IRMA’s behalf, informing the subscriber how after the third time sharing copyrighted material he or she will have their broadband connection terminated. Instead, however, the ISP makes no mention of it.

“Please accept this letter as an advisory notice, and should no further activity as described above occur then no further action will be taken. The details of this notification will be retained for 12 months from the dates of this letter and will be deleted thereafter unless we receive an additional notification in that period,” the notice adds.

And that’s pretty much it. No mention of a graduated response, no mention that subscribers will disconnected from the Internet. It’s a very strange approach considering the substantial sums of money spent by IRMA and Eircom to reach their “three strikes” agreement.

So why the kid gloves?

Since disconnecting customers is not exactly helpful to profitability, Eircom’s agreement with IRMA requires that the ISP isn’t put at a commercial disadvantage. To that end, IRMA has been locked in a five-year legal battle to force rival ISP UPC to also implement “three strikes”.

Pending the outcome of that case, Eircom is currently the only ISP in Ireland promising to disconnect pirates. Playing that fact down in its letters to customers would certainly make commercial sense and stop those looking to jump ship.

However, the other elephant in the room is that last year Eircom admitted it hadn’t disconnected anyone in four years of the “strikes” scheme. Add that to “weak” letters being sent out to customers and some might presume that disconnections are already off the table, at least unofficially.

Still, there’s always the educational aspect to “graduated response” campaigns – you’ve been caught once so why not go straight now?

As required by the IRMA deal, Eircom informs “strike” recipients where they can go to obtain legal music downloads – or at least that’s the idea. Sadly, in its infringement notices Eircom points them to eircom.net/legalmusic, a page that hasn’t existed for some time.

eircom-wrong

A secondary educational effort in the letter sees the ISP encourage customers to completely remove file-sharing software and infringing files from their computers.

“IRMA provides a program called ‘Digital File Check’ which can be downloaded from their website. It checks for and removes any infringing files and applications commonly used to share music illegally,” the letter notes.

However, those following the link (www.ifpi.org/content/section_resources/digital-file-check.html) find it less than helpful. Links to the software on IFPI’s site send users round in a never-ending loop and the official domain DigitalFileCheck.com, for those who can be bothered to hunt it down, is completely dead.

The situation is baffling. Why spend years pushing for this system yet execute it so poorly once it’s in place? Why then force other ISPs to do the same? It’s debatable whether these schemes have any effect at all, but if this is the model that’s no surprise.

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