Posts tagged ‘Censorship’

TorrentFreak: Tumblr Censors “Torrent” Related Tags and Searches

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

tumblrnopostsIt appears that piracy is becoming a growing concern for micro-blogging platform Tumblr.

Earlier this week users panicked following an increase in takedown notices, which resulted in the termination of several blogs.

While this uproar was rather public, there are also better concealed changes that seem to target pirated content. Tumblr’s decision to hide posts mentioning the word “torrent” for example.

Those who search the site for “torrent” related queries will notice that there are no results displayed, even though there are plenty of posts mentioning the word. The same is true for posts tagged with “torrent.”

Tumblr is hiding the results in question from both public and logged in users but the latter can make the posts show up if they switch off the “safe mode” lock on the right hand side of the screen.

Below is what the search results for “Ubuntu Torrent” currently look like.

No torrents allowed
tumblr-torrent

Tumblr’s “safe mode” was turned on by default over a year ago to hide offensive “adult oriented” content from the public view. The same filter also blocks words such as “penis” for the same reason.

Needless to say, not all “torrent” posts are offensive or damaging to children’s eyes. A Vuze developer who highlighted the issue notes that other uses of the dictionary word are less threatening.

“Amusingly, the first result for us is pictures of water flowing over rocks.. so, non-adults feel safe, Tumblr will protect you against pictures of the outdoors,” the developer writes on Tumblr.

“Although, it is true that a torrent is a VIOLENT stream of liquid. And we should all be protecting our children against violence,” he adds.

It’s not clear whether the word “torrent” has been banned over piracy concerns or whether its frequent association with porn is the reason for the ban.

In any case, Tumblr’s filter is also hiding plenty of legitimate content, showing once again that Internet censorship is a slippery slope.

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

TorrentFreak: Steam Censors Kickass.to Mentions in Chat Client

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

steamWith millions of active users Steam is not just a game distribution platform, but also a social network and a communication tool.

Many people use Steam’s instant messaging tool for chats with friends. About games of course, but also about lots of other stuff.

Interestingly, it appears that Steam doesn’t want its users to talk about certain topics. When the popular torrent site KickassTorrents went offline earlier this week, one Steam user noticed that his messages on the topic were being censored.

“There is no warning or blocked message notification. The messages simply disappeared,” we were told.

After running some tests, which have been replicated by TF, it’s clear that messages mentioning the Kickass.to domain name are not coming through. It’s not just the domain that’s censored, but the entire message.

Below is an example of the vanishing text where the user sent the following three lines.

steamcensored1. The next line may be missing
2. A line mentioning Kickass.to
3. Was there a line 2

The person on the other end of the conversation only sees line 1 and 3, without a warning or notification that the second line was not sent.

It’s unclear why Steam is censoring these conversations. TorrentFreak contacted Valve to find out more about the disappearing chats, but at the time of publication we have yet to receive a response.

It would be easy to conclude that the copyright infringing links on Kickass.to are the reason, but then it’s strange that The Pirate Bay and all other torrent sites are not affected.

Interestingly, however, kickass.to seems to be the only one that’s affected right now. Other domains including Kickass.so and Torrentz.eu are flagged by Steam as potentially malicious, and users get a warning if they attempt to open them. These domains do show up in private chats though.

steammal

Without a comment from Valve the true reason for the awkward censorship measures remains unknown. It is clear though, that Steam is keeping a close eye on what people talk about.

That by itself is already quite concerning.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Chrome Dragged Into Internet Censorship Fight

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

chromeHelped by the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.

The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass.

The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned” about the developments.

To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to quash a pending subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites.

Recognizing the importance of this case, several interested parties have written to the court to share their concerns. There’s been support for both parties with some siding with Google and others backing Hood.

In a joint amicus curae brief (pdf) the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Computer & Communications Association (CCIA) and
advocacy organization Engine warn that Hood’s efforts endanger free speech and innovation.

“No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet. Where the public official is one of fifty state attorneys general, the danger to free speech and to innovation is even more profound,” they write.

According to the tech groups it would be impossible for Internet services to screen and police the Internet for questionable content.

“Internet businesses rely not only on the ability to communicate freely with their consumers, but also on the ability to give the public ways to communicate with each other. This communication, at the speed of the Internet, is impossible to pre-screen.”

Not everyone agrees with this position though. On the other side of the argument we find outfits such as Stop Child Predators, Digital Citizens Alliance, Taylor Hooton Foundation and Ryan United.

In their brief they point out that Google’s services are used to facilitate criminal practices such as illegal drug sales and piracy. Blocking content may also be needed to protect children from other threats.

“Google’s YouTube service has been used by those seeking to sell steroids and other illegal drugs online,” they warn, adding that the video platform is also “routinely used to distribute other content that is harmful to minors, such as videos regarding ‘How to Buy Smokes Under-Age’, and ‘Best Fake ID Service Around’.

Going a step further, the groups also suggest that Google should filter content in its Chrome browser. The brief mentions that Google recently removed Pirate Bay apps from its Play Store, but failed to block the site in search results or Chrome.

“In December 2014, responding to the crackdown on leading filesharing website PirateBay, Google removed a file-sharing application from its mobile software store, but reports indicate that Google has continued to allow access to the same and similar sites through its search engine and Chrome browser,” they write.

The Attorney General should be allowed to thoroughly investigate these threats and do something about it, the groups add.

“It is simply not tenable to suggest that the top law enforcement officials of each state are powerless even to investigate whether search engines or other intermediaries such as Google are being used—knowingly or unknowingly—to facilitate the distribution of illegal content…”

In addition to the examples above, several other organizations submitted amicus briefs arguing why the subpoena should or shouldn’t be allowed under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the CDA, including the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology and Public Knowledge.

Considering the stakes at hand, both sides will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. In any event, this is certainly not the last time we’ll hear of the case.

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

TorrentFreak: In Memory Of The Liberties Lost In The War on Piracy

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

copyright-brandedThere are a couple of things we of the net generation knew all along in the so-called piracy debate that started.

The first of those things is that the copyright industry had a medical case of severe rectocranial inversion when they made the sloppy business assumption that an unlicensed copy of a movie or a piece of music was equivalent to a lost sale.

The second of those things is that it wouldn’t have mattered even if it were true (which it wasn’t), because no industry gets to eliminate fundamental civil liberties like the private letter, completely regardless of whether the continued existence of civil liberties means they can make money or not.

So we of the net generation knew all along that the copyright industry was not only wrong and stupid, but also that their assertion was – or should have been – irrelevant in the first place.

However, the copyright industry was absolutely determined to prevent people from discussing and sharing interesting things (which is what file-sharing amounts to), damn the consequences to civil liberties and society at large to hell. If you put it this way – what kind of measures would it take to physically and legally prevent people from discussing the things they want in private? – you should arrive at conclusions which make hairs rise on your arms. The measures required would amount to something beyond Orwellian, and that’s exactly what the copyright industry demanded.

Unfortunately and tragically, the politicians didn’t understand what the copyright monopoly was asking for. They regarded the Internet as some kind of novel and regulatable toy, and not as the space for private correspondence that it is. When you mistake a private conversation arena for something completely different, and regulate it like any ordinary commercial toy, disaster to civil liberties is just around the corner.

That’s exactly what happened. But what would you expect when lawmakers get their e-mail printed for them by their secretaries (yes, really), and still think they understand what the internet is.

Last week, we saw that the entire initial business assumption – that unlicensed manufacturing of music and movies had been the root cause of the collapse of profit – was utterly wrong. With unlicensed file-sharing reduced to a mere 4% in Norway, without a significant effect on revenues, it’s trivial to observe that file-sharing was never a business problem in the first place. To the contrary, we of the net generation assert confidently that sharing has a positive – not negative – correlation with sales.

So the copyright industry has successfully lobbied for laws that ban people from sharing and discussing interesting things in private, and done so from the sloppiest conceivable of false business assumptions. As a result of this dimwitted business sense combined with diehard foolhardiness, we’re left with nowhere to talk or walk in private.

It’s helpful to remember what rights have been lost to this dumb crusade, when you compare to the analog equivalent:

The right to communicate anonymously has been lost, due to the copyright industry’s lobbying. This was so fundamental a right – putting up anonymous posters – that the United States would not exist without it (see the Federalist Papers which were anonymously posted everywhere).

We no longer have the right to modify, rebuild, and repurpose our own possessions, because we may do so with an intent of discussing interesting things with our friends.cameraspy

Mail carriers no longer have messenger immunity, something that had otherwise been a sacred constant between the Roman Empire and the Dimwitted Copyright Industry.

We no longer have the legal right to point at or give directions to interesting places if what happens in that location breaks a law somewhere. (Just to illustrate the special treatment of the copyright industry here, compare this to the fact that Wikipedia has a helpful page on nuclear weapons design.)

The copyright industry has been given the right to write its own laws thanks to an intentional legal loophole that prohibits us from circumventing digital restriction measures, even when those measures prevent still-legal uses of our own possessions.

The right to send private letters is being lost, due to a long-standing tirade. The copyright industry has successfully lobbied the largest correspondence carriers today – Facebook and the like – to just ban anything they don’t like. Not long ago, if you posted a link to The Pirate Bay on Facebook, you would be interrupted by a message saying that you had discussed a forbidden subject. Imagine that happening in an old-fashioned phonecall or a conversation in the street, and you’ll realize what a horrifying development it is.

A diary has extensive protection in law against search and seizure in most legislations. However, a computer – which is far more sensitive – does not. After all, it may contain a copy of a bad movie.

The right to be presumed innocent has been lost, thanks to the copyright industry’s lobbying for things like Data Retention – laws that log all our conversations pre-emptively, whom we talk to and from where and when and how, just in case it was found out later that the copyright industry didn’t like what we discussed.

The right to have laws enforced by dedicated law enforcement has been lost – the copyright industry has successfully lobbied for laws that give them a fast lane past the slow judiciary with its irritating “due process” and other nonsense, when it comes to forcefully enforcing their commercial monopolies against dangerous single mothers. The copyright industry specifically intended to use this in combination with Data Retention above.

Did you know the copyright industry has even sued Internet Service Providers with the demand to install wiretapping-and-censorship equipment in the deepest of their switches, effectively demanding to wiretap and censor an entire country? We’re not talking about the NSA or GCHQ here, but a private dimwitted industry that are going on a crusade against its evil customers?

This is just a short list of examples. There are many more.

And these civil liberties – vital, fundamental civil liberties that aren’t passing from our parents to our children – were lost because of a damn dimwitted sloppy business assumption that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. It’s beyond depressing. It’s enraging.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

Book Falkvinge as speaker?

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

TorrentFreak: Amazon Bans BitTorrent App FrostWire Over Piracy Concerns

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

fwlogoTaking “infringing” apps out of popular app stores is one of Hollywood’s key anti-piracy priorities for the years to come.

Various copyright holder groups frequently report “piracy-enabling” apps to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, alongside requests for the stores to take them offline.

The stores themselves also screen for potentially problematic software. Apple, for example, has notoriously banned all BitTorrent related apps.

This week, Amazon is following in Apple’s footsteps by banning one of the most used BitTorrent clients from its store. The Android version of FrostWire had been listed for well over a year but Amazon recently had a change of heart.

FrostWire developer Angel Leon tells TF that the app was removed without prior warning. When he asked the company for additional details, he was told that Amazon sees his app as a pirate tool.

“In reviewing your app, we determined that it can be used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content. Any facilitation of piracy or illegal downloads is not allowed in our program,” Amazon’s support team writes.

fw-mail

Leon was baffled by the response. FrostWire had been a member of the Developer Select program for over a year and always made sure to avoid any links to piracy. On the contrary, FrostWire was actively promoting Creative Commons downloads and other legal content.

“We have never promoted illegal file sharing, we actually promote creative commons downloads, and free legal downloads from soundcloud, archive.org. The app is also a full blown music player, but none of this probably counts,” Leon tells us.

“Web browsers and email clients are still there, programs that also fall in the category of being ‘used to facilitate the piracy or illegal download of content’,” he adds, pointing out the arbitrary decision.

While it’s not clear why Amazon changed its stance towards FrostWire, it wouldn’t be a surprise if pressure from copyright holders played a role.

FrostWire’s developer believes that the mobile developer industry may have to come up with a less censorship prone store in the future. There’s a need for a decentralized app store that secures the interests of both iOS and Android developers.

For now, Leon hopes that other stores will be less eager to pull the plug on perfectly legal apps. While it may seem to be a small decision for the stores, having a popular app removed can ruin a developer’s entire business.

The beauty of FrostWire and other BitTorrent clients is that they offer the freedom to share files with people from all over the world without being censored. Restricting access to apps that make this possible will harm society, Leon believes.

“This is a freedom which eventually protects society from the likes of totalitarian governments, something some of us at FrostWire have lived first hand in Latin America, something that forced me and so many Venezuelans to leave our countries and start again from scratch in the US,” Leon concludes.

Despite being banned from Amazon’s store, Kindle users will still be able to get updates via the FrostWire website. A special installer for Kindle will be available soon.

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

Krebs on Security: Spreading the Disease and Selling the Cure

This post was syndicated from: Krebs on Security and was written by: BrianKrebs. Original post: at Krebs on Security

When Karim Rattani isn’t manning the till at the local Subway franchise in his adopted hometown of Cartersville, Ga., he’s usually tinkering with code. The 21-year-old Pakistani native is the lead programmer for two very different yet complementary online services: One lets people launch powerful attacks that can knock Web sites, businesses and other targets offline for hours at a time; the other is a Web hosting service designed to help companies weather such assaults.

Grimbooter

Grimbooter

Rattani helps run two different “booter” or “stresser” services – grimbooter[dot]com, and restricted-stresser[dot]info. He also works on TheHosted[dot]me, a Web hosting firm marketed to Web sites looking for protection from the very attacks he helps to launch.

As part of an ongoing series on booter services, I reached out to Rattani via his Facebook account (which was replete with images linking to fake Youtube sites that foist malicious software disguised as Adobe’s Flash Player plugin). It turns out, the same Google Wallet is used to accept payment for all three services, and that wallet traced back to Rattani.

In a Facebook chat, Rattani claimed he doesn’t run the companies, but merely accepts Google Wallet payments for them and then wires the money (minus his cut) to a young man named Danial Rajput — his business partner back in Karachi. Rajput declined to be interviewed for this story.

The work that Rattani does for these booter services brings in roughly $2,500 a month — far more than he could ever hope to make in a month slinging sandwiches. Asked whether he sees a conflict of interest in his work, Rattani was ambivalent.

“It is kind of [a conflict], but if my friend won’t sell [the service], someone else will,” he said.

Rattani and his partner are among an increasing number of young men who sell legally murky DDoS-for-hire services. The proprietors of these services market them as purely for Web site administrators to “stress test” their sites to ensure they can handle high volumes of visitors.

But that argument is about as convincing as a prostitute trying to pass herself off as an escort. The owner of the attack services (the aforementioned Mr. Rajput) advertises them at hackforums[dot]net, an English language forum where tons of low-skilled hackers hang and out and rent such attack services to prove their “skills” and toughness to others. Indeed, in his own first post on Hackforums in 2012, Rajput states that “my aim is to provide the best quality vps [virtual private server] for ddosing :P”.

Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science at George Mason University, said the number of these DDoS-for-hire services has skyrocketed over the past two years. Nearly all of these services allow customers to pay for attacks using PayPal or Google Wallet, even though doing so violates the terms of service spelled out by those payment networks.

“The main reason they are becoming an increasing problem is that they are profitable,” McCoy said. “They are also easy to setup using leaked code for other booters, increasing demand from gamers and other customers, decreasing cost of attack infrastructure that can be amplified using common DDoS attacks. Also, it is relatively low-risk to operate a booter service when using rented attack servers instead of botnets.”

The booter services are proliferating thanks mainly to free services offered by CloudFlare, a content distribution network that offers gratis DDoS protection for virtually all of the booter services currently online. That includes the Lizardstresser, the attack service launched by the same Lizard Squad (a.k.a. Loser Squad) criminals whose assaults knocked the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation networks offline on Christmas Day 2014.

The sad truth is that most booter services probably would not be able to remain in business without CloudFlare’s free service. That’s because outside of CloudFlare, real DDoS protection services are expensive, and just about the only thing booter service customers enjoy attacking more than Minecraft and online gaming sites are, well, other booter services.

For example, looking at the (now leaked) back-end database for the LizardStresser, we can see that TheHosted and its various properties were targeted for attacks repeatedly by one of the Loser Squad’s more prominent members.

The Web site crimeflare.com, which tracks abusive sites that hide behind CloudFlare, has cataloged more than 200 DDoS-for-hire sites using CloudFlare. For its part, CloudFlare’s owners have rather vehemently resisted the notion of blocking booter services from using the company’s services, saying that doing so would lead CloudFlare down a “slippery slope of censorship.”

As I observed in a previous story about booters, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince has noted that while Cloudflare will respond to legal process and subpoenas from law enforcement to take sites offline, “sometimes we have court orders that order us to not take sites down.” Indeed, one such example was CarderProfit, a Cloudflare-protected carding forum that turned out to be an elaborate sting operation set up by the FBI.

I suppose it’s encouraging that prior to CloudFlare, Prince was co-creators of Project Honey Pot, which bills itself as the largest open-source community dedicated to tracking online fraud and abuse. In hacking and computer terminology, a honeypot is a trap set to detect, deflect or otherwise counteract attempts at unauthorized use or abuse of information systems.

It may well turn out to be the case that federal investigators are allowing these myriad booter services to remain in operation so that they can gather copious evidence for future criminal prosecutions against their owners and users. In the meantime, however, it will continue to be possible to purchase powerful DDoS attacks with little more than a credit card or prepaid debit card.

TorrentFreak: Torrent Site Blockades Are Disproportional, Greek Court Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Hotline Miami 2 Censored – So Pirate It, Devs Say

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

miami2Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a 2D top-down video game developed by Dennaton Games and published by Devolver Digital. It’s the follow-up to the original Hotline Miami which developed into a fan favorite shifting hundreds of thousands of units in its first weeks on sale.

While HM2 is set to ride on its predecessor’s successes, its nature means that the some gamers will not be seeing the game on shelves, virtual or otherwise. The problem lies with HM2’s depiction of sex and violence, often in the same scenes.

Kotaku, for example, has a report on one particular scene which involves lots of killing rounded off with what appears to be rape. While this scene isn’t the only culprit, it’s all been too much for the Australian Classification Board, the body tasked with ensuring titles are suitable for a local audience.

According to government guidelines, publications that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified” will not be classified.

hotline

As a result the Australian Classification Board has now effectively banned Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number in Australia meaning that Aussies won’t be able to get their hands on the title. Well not by official means of course.

Normally this kind of situation would see gamers disappearing off to torrent sites hoping to obtain the title without being caught. However, thanks to HM2’s developers they can not only still do the former but can do so without any fear of the latter.

The move was uncovered by Reddit user Max Cartwright who wrote to Jonatan Söderström, co-creator of Hotline Miami, expressing disappointment at the game being banned.

“As you obviously are aware, Hotline Miami 2 has been refused classification in Australia. This killed me, knowing that there is no legitimate way to purchase one of my most anticipated games,” Cartwright began.

“My question to you is, how would you, as the developer, most prefer me to obtain your game? I was thinking maybe I could torrent it and donate to you directly, but I’m not a fan of torrenting games and I don’t want to get in legal trouble.”

Söderström responded, and it was everything Cartwright could’ve hoped for.

“If it ends up not being released in Australia, just pirate it after release,” Söderström said. “No need to send us any money, just enjoy the game!”

With the email confirmed as genuine it now seems that Australians will not only be able to bypass the censors but do so with permission – a somewhat unique situation for commercially available title.

For their part, Devolver Digital have expressed disappointment at the decision not to classify but say they have no plans to censor the title.

“We are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review,” the company said.

This isn’t the first time that the creators of Hotline Miami have rubbed shoulders with pirates. In 2012 the developer took the decision to give customer support and a special patch to users of The Pirate Bay who had downloaded the game without paying for it.

Playing nice with pirates worked out well two years ago. Let’s see how that pans out second time around.

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

TorrentFreak: Chilling Effects DMCA Archive Censors Itself

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

chillingOn an average day Google now processes more than a million takedown requests from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Thanks to Google’s transparency report the public is able to see where these notices come from and what content they’re targeting. In addition, Google partners with Chilling Effects to post redacted copies of all notices online.

The Chilling Effects DMCA clearing house is one of the few tools that helps to keep copyright holders accountable. Founded by Harvard’s Berkman Center, it offers an invaluable database for researchers and the public in general.

At TF we use the website on a weekly basis to spot inaccurate takedown notices and other wrongdoings. Since the native search engine doesn’t always return the best results, we mostly use Google to spot newsworthy notices on the site.

This week, however, we were no longer able to do so. The Chilling Effects team decided to remove its entire domain from all search engines, including its homepage and other informational and educational resources.

chilling1res

Ironically enough, complaints from copyright holders are at the base of this unprecedented display of self-censorship. Since Chilling Effects has partnered with Google to publish all takedown notices Google receives, its pages contain hundreds of millions of non-linked URLs to infringing material. Copyright holders are not happy with these pages. Previously, Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars described the activities of the Chilling Effects projects as “repugnant.”

As a result of the increased criticisms Chilling Effects has now decided to hide its content from search engines, making it harder to find.

“After much internal discussion the Chilling Effects project recently made the decision to remove the site’s notice pages from search engines,” Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland informs TF.

“Our recent relaunch of the site has brought it a lot more attention, and as a result, we’re currently thinking through ways to better balance making this information available for valuable study, research, and journalism, while still addressing the concerns of people whose information appears in the database.”

The self censorship may sound strange coming from an organization that was founded to offer more transparency, but the Chilling Effects team believes that it strikes the right balance, for now.

“As a project, we’ve always worked to strike that balance, for example by removing personally identifying information. Removing notice pages from search engine results is the latest step in that balancing process,” Holland tells us.

“It may or may not prove to be permanent, but for now it’s the step that makes the most sense as we continue to think things through,” he adds.

While we respect the decision it’s a real shame for researchers that the notices and other informational material are now hidden from search engines. The notices themselves remain online, but with just the site’s own search it’s harder to find cases of abuse.

The copyright holders on the other hand will be happy. But they probably don’t care much about the chilling effect it has.

Photo: CC

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

TorrentFreak: PirateSnoop Browser Unblocks Torrent Sites

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

pirate-cardBlocking of file-sharing related sites is becoming widespread in Europe, particularly so in the UK. In fact, it’s now almost impossible to access a top torrent site from any of the country’s leading ISPs, with the notable exception of OldPirateBay since the site is so new.

Users in the United States can’t rest easy either. As reported here in December, the MPAA is working hard to introduce site-blocking by utilizing creative interpretations of existing law. It seems unlikely that Hollywood will stop until it gets its way.

It’s becoming clear that Internet users everywhere will need to prepare if they want unfettered access to the Internet. While that can be achieved using premium services such as VPNs, there will always be those looking for a free solution. Today we have news of one such product.

In appearance PirateSnoop looks a lot like the popular Chrome browser. In fact the only immediate giveaway that things are a little different is the existence of a small pirate-themed button on the right hand side of its toolbar.

pirate-unblock

Underneath, however, PirateSnoop is based on the freeware web browser SRWare Iron which aims to eliminate some of the privacy-compromising features present in Google Chrome. PirateSnoop is then augmented with special extensions to enable its site unblocking features.

PirateSnoop (PS) was created by the team at public torrent site RARBG. While certainly less referenced by the mainstream media than The Pirate Bay for example, RARBG is now the 7th most popular torrent site in the world and a force to be reckoned with. It was also blocked by major UK ISPs recently.

Anti-censorship agenda

rarbg-logo“Nazi Germany had less censorship than we have today on the Internet,” the PS team informs TorrentFreak.

“However you are not paying for the Internet itself to your ISPs, but for the carrying of the Internet connectivity. ISPs are legally enforced by their countries to block content and what we are worried about is that little to none of the ISPs decided to fight any blocking court order.”

PirateSnoop vs PirateBrowser

The web-blocking features of PirateSnoop are similar to those of The Pirate Bay’s PirateBrowser, but there are some important differences. Although users are not rendered anonymous, PirateBrowser uses the TOR network. PirateSnoop sees this as problematic as torrent sites are increasingly blocking TOR IPs.

“The TOR network is abused by a lot of people – uploading fakes for example. It’s also used by DMCA agencies to scan sites. TOR is no longer an option to access sites. Its blocked on almost every site I know,” a dev explains.

Instead, PirateSnoop uses its own custom proxy network which utilizes full HTTPS instead of the HTTP used by basic proxies. Just like a regular browser to website connection, PS allows websites to see their users’ IP addresses (unless they’re using a VPN) in order to cut down on abuse.

Overall, PirateSnoop should be a faster browsing solution than PirateBrowser, its creators say.

Limitations and future upgrades

Currently several major blocked sites are supported by PirateSnoop but there are a couple of omissions. However, the team is prepared to expand the browser’s reach based on user demand.

“Any site that is requested to be added will be added immediately with no questions asked,” the team note.

The PirateSnoop team say they are committed to upgrades of their software to include proxy updates (added automatically upon browser restart) and full browser updates following any Iron browser core updates.

PirateSnoop can be downloaded here (using BitTorrent, of course).

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Sites of 2015

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

2015-top-torrent-sitesMost torrent users rarely change their downloading habits or the places where they get their daily torrent dose.

This is also reflected in our annual top 10 where most sites have had a consistent listing for more than half a decade.

Like every year there are a few movers and shakers though, and the biggest impact was made by the Pirate Bay raid early last month.

The notorious torrent site has been crowned the most popular torrent site since 2008, but isn’t serving any torrents at the beginning of this year. As a result, the top spot is now taken by KickassTorrents.

The Pirate Bay hasn’t gone away completely though. There are currently several popular clones and copies of the site that together can easily match the traffic of most other sites that are listed.

Thanks to one of its top copies TPB managed to secure a spot in 4th place. Considering the situation we decided to mention both the original Pirate Bay domain and the most-used copy.

The rest of the top 10 consists of other familiar names. Bitsnoop.com is the only site to drop from the list, with Limetorrents.cc taking its place.

Demonoid, which returned online earlier this year, just fell out of the top 10 but appears to be making a slow but steady comeback that’s worth mentioning. There is a good chance that it will return again next year.

Below is the full list of the top 10 most-visited torrent sites at the start of the new year. Only public and English language content sites are included. The list is based on various traffic reports and we display the Alexa and U.S. Compete rank for each. In addition, we include last year’s ranking for each of the 10 sites.

1. KickassTorrents

KickassTorrents was founded in 2009 and surpassed The Pirate Bay in traffic this year, even before it went down. Battling various censorship efforts the site has burned through a few different domain names over the years. Most recently it switched to the Somalian Kickass.so address.

Alexa Rank: 151 / Compete Rank: 711 / Last year #2

2. Torrentz

Torrentz has been the leading BitTorrent meta-search engine for many years. Unlike the other sites featured in the list Torrentz does not host any torrent files, it merely redirects visitors to other places on the web. The site uses several domain names with .eu being the most popular.

Alexa Rank: 206 / Compete Rank: 1.716 / Last year #3

3. ExtraTorrent

ExtraTorrent continues to gain more traffic and has become one of the most active torrent communities. The site is also the home of the popular ETTV and ETRG release groups.

Alexa Rank: 356 / Compete Rank: 3,446 / Last year #4

4. The Pirate Bay (copies and clones)

At the time of writing The Pirate Bay isn’t serving any torrents. However, there are several copies and clones of the site which, at least temporarily, take its place. OldPiratebay.org is currently the most popular and based on its recent traffic the site is already ranked at least 4th in this list.

Alexa Rank: NA / Compete Rank: NA / Last year #1

5. YTS

YTS, also known as the release group “YIFY,” has become the most recognizable movie piracy brands on the Internet. Despite a court court-ordered ISP blockade in the UK the group’s torrent site continues expand.

Alexa Rank: 740 / Compete Rank: 4,271 / Last year #5

6. EZTV

TV-torrent distribution group EZTV is a niche site specializing in TV content only. Because of its narrow focus, EZTV’s traffic varies in line with the TV seasons. Despite posting only a few dozen torrents per week it attracts millions of visitors.

Alexa Rank: 1,262 / Compete Rank: 5,421 / Last year #6

7. RARBG

RARBG, which started out as a Bulgarian tracker, was last year’s newcomer and continues to rake in more visitors. The site was blocked by UK ISPs last month, which put it on par with most other sites in the top 10.

Alexa Rank: 1,326 / Compete Rank: 8,890 / Last year #10

8. isoHunt.to

Isohunt.to was launched in 2013, less than two weeks after isoHunt.com shut down. The site is not affiliated with the old isoHunt but hopes to keep its spirit alive. The same people are also behind Oldpiratebay.org, which is is listed in 4th place.

Alexa Rank: 1,890 / Compete Rank: 7,723 / Last year #8

9. 1337x

1337x is a community driven torrent site. The site’s owners say they launched 1337x to “fill an apparent void where it seemed there was a lack of quality conscience ad free torrent sites with public trackers.” This year the site dropped its .org domain and is now operating from 1337x.to.

Alexa Rank: 2,581 / Compete Rank: 11,389 / Last year #7

10. Limetorrents

Limetorrents.cc has been around for several years already, and regained a spot in the top 10 this year. The site appeared in the news this summer after it was sued by LionsGate for posting a link to a leaked copy of The Expendables 3. The case is still ongoing.

Alexa Rank: 2,608 / Compete Rank: 3,984 / Last year #NA

Disclaimer: Yes, we know that Alexa isn’t perfect and that Compete has plenty of flaws, but combined both do a pretty good job at comparing sites that operate in a similar niche.

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

The Hacker Factor Blog: Oh Baby!

This post was syndicated from: The Hacker Factor Blog and was written by: The Hacker Factor Blog. Original post: at The Hacker Factor Blog

For me, 2014 was a serious suck year. Two family deaths and associated family drama, some of my good friends get laid off due to significant cutbacks, and some of my favorite projects came to an end. November just seemed to lose steam and December continued the downward slope. By the time News Years Eve arrived, the entire Internet seemed to come to a stop. No news stories, Digg came to a crawl, people stopped tweeting, and even FotoForensics saw the lowest visitor rate since the site started nearly three years ago.

This slow-growth seems to be creating a “don’t care” attitude. We seem to have more censorship and less anger, less reliable news and more people accepting it, and a growing general lack interest. Another airplane crashed in Asia? It barely received three minutes of news coverage around here. In previous years, they would hype up all of the previous crashes and as they rode the fear wagon. But by the end of 2014? Barely a footnote. You can even see this in the length of news reports by Reuters. Their initial coverage of the recent AirAsia Flight QZ8501 crash is only a few paragraphs. In contrast, their initial report of MH17 goes on for pages.

2014 ended with a lackadaisical respect for traditions. Around here, fewer stores participated in the three-months of Christmas music, and the after-holiday discount aisles (like buying Halloween candy after Halloween) only lasted days instead of weeks. Even some hospitals have stopped celebrating the New Years Baby — even though the new year is typically represented by an old Father Time passing his duties to a Baby New Year.

2015 seems to be starting slowly. But hopefully it will pick up and become more interesting.

Old Acquaintance will be forgot

The New Year has already started with a strong wave of censorship. Sony has escalated from sending “don’t publish anything” threats to sending DMCA takedown notices. WikiLeaks says that their employee’s email has been seized, and China is seriously restricting access to Gmail.

The latest censorship news came out today. News outlets are reporting on widespread government censorship in India. The Indian government has decided to blacklist at least 60 web sites associated with file sharing, picture sharing, and video sharing. The claim is that these sites carry anti-India and pro-ISIS related content.

The list of censored sites includes SourceForge and GitHub (open source code), PasteBin and justpast.it (data sharing), Imgur (pictures), Vimeo (video), and Archive.org (the Internet Archive). Honestly, if they are going to block sites that host significantly less than 1% offensive content, then they should add Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to their lists. In fact, they should just block anything that starts with “http://”.

This isn’t the first time India has tried to cut off a limb instead of applying a bandage. As The Economic Times mentioned, “In June 2014, the Delhi High Court ordered a block of 472 file sharing websites including Google Docs and Pirate Bay following a complaint filed by Sony Entertainment.”

The Hacker News was quick to point out the irony of this situation, writing, “the contents of the list is particularly embarrassing for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well, who recently unveiled a ‘Make In India’ campaign earlier this year in an attempt to encourage international businesses to invest in India, which also includes information technology sector. And blocking websites like GitHub is the most definitely not in sync with that vision.”

It looks like India is starting the New Year by throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Or as they say in Hindi: Sonay ko kachray ke saath phenk dena! (Thanks to Gibran Ashraf for the translation!)

Baby Tossing

Yesterday, one of my fourteen loyal readers (Janne), showed me a news photo that came out earlier this year. I had not seen it before now, but apparently it created quite a stir when it first came out. The AFP/Getty photo claims to show a father playing with his child at the beach in Gaza City. Here’s the picture:

Janne pointed out that the error level analysis (ELA) result for this picture really makes it look like the baby was added to the picture.

ELA visually represents the JPEG compression level. In an unaltered original photo, all edges should have similar intensities, all near-uniform colored areas (sky, shirt) should be consistent, and all textures (all water, all rocks) should be similar. Each time a picture is saved, the quality degrades and the ELA result should get darker. (If it is saved too many times, then nothing will stand out but small patches of chromatic noise.) If anything under ELA stands out as being significantly different, then the differences identify a probable alteration.

In this case, the flying baby is bright white, while the rest of the picture is dark. Dark indicates multiple resaves, while white identifies “newer pixels” that have not been saved as many times. The baby appears edited.

At this point, we don’t know if someone selectively sharpened the child or digitally added in the kid. Fortunately, there are additional tools that can be used for evaluating the image. For example, I’ve previously mentioned using color distance as a metric to evaluate blending. A natural photo should have blended edges, while splices do not. Splices typically show up as a single-pixel black line (or a black dashed line). With this picture, the baby definitely has the black line around large sections of his body.

And then there’s the camera lighting (luminance gradient, or LG). This identifies the sensor noise from the camera and differences in lighting direction.

In this case, LG shows that the baby has very sharp edges, while nothing else in the photo is that sharp. This could be due to someone selectively sharpening the picture. Regarding the baby, LG is consistent with the ELA and color distance results.

However, LG is also very good at picking up slight distortions from alterations. For example, LG highlights the clouds that are about the baby’s height. The clouds stretch the entire width of the picture, but are distorted around the child. The clouds even appear broken in the color distance picture — there is a smooth halo around the kid. If the child was digitally placed there, then the artist screwed up the surrounding clouds.

More importantly, there are some subtle distortions in the water, at the horizon, and to the photo-left of the child’s hip. The water distortions are almost shaped like the kid’s legs, and the round shape next to the kid looks like a head. Because they are very subtle, I have drawn in black lines to show these distortion edges:

If we overlay the image, aligning the child’s feet with the distortion, then we can see that the original child was likely no higher than the father’s hands. And this lower height is consistent with another photo taken by the same photographer. In this other photo, the father is only throwing the child a little bit into the air. (Let’s forget the fact that the buildings on the horizon are gone…)

In this case, the flying-baby photo is attributed to AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams. He was a 2008 Pulitzer finalist who captured an equally controversial photo of a missile falling. (Was the missile digitally added? The Jawa Report makes very strong arguments for staged and altered.)

Hasta La Vista, Baby

Personally, I’m glad to see the end of 2014, and it won’t take much for 2015 to be a better year. Ghandi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” (At least, that quote is commonly attributed to Ghandi, even though he may not have said it. It’s hard to validate this with all of the censorship in India. In any case…) I’ve decided to take this philosophy to heart this year. I do not want 2015 to be a repeat of 2014, and I’ve already set things in motion. Expect some big announcements in the near future.

TorrentFreak: Google & MPAA Publicly Slam Each Other Over Piracy

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

mpaa-logoEven after running for weeks, the fallout from the Sony hacking fiasco is showing no signs of waning. In fact in some areas it appears that matters are only getting worse.

Earlier this month a TF report revealed how the MPAA (with a SOPA defeat still ringing loudly in its ears) is still intent on bringing website blocking to the United States.

The notion that Hollywood was intent on reintroducing something so unpopular didn’t sit well with critics, but that was only the beginning. A subsequent article in The Verge revealed a campaign by the MPAA to attack “Goliath” – a codeword for Google – by “convincing state prosecutors to take up the fight” against the search giant.

The MPAA budgeted $500,000 for the project with costs potentially rising to $1.175 million. The Hollywood group subsequently called on SOPA-supporting Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood to attack Google, which he did.

The New York times has a copy of the letter he sent to the search giant – worryingly it was almost entirely drafted by the MPAA’s lawfirm Jenner and Block.

After a week of “no comment” from Google, the company has just broken its silence. In a statement from SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker, Google questions the MPAA’s judgment over its SOPA-like aims and apparent manipulation of an Attorney General.

“Almost three years ago, millions of Americans helped stop a piece of congressional legislation—supported by the MPAA—called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If passed, SOPA would have led to censorship across the web. No wonder that 115,000 websites—including Google—participated in a protest, and over the course of a single day, Congress received more than 8 million phone calls and 4 million emails, as well as getting 10 million petition signatures,” Walker writes.

“We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.”

Then, in what can only be a huge embarrassment for the MPAA and the Attorney General, Walker turns to the letter AG Hood sent to him in 2013.

“The MPAA did the legal legwork for the Mississippi State Attorney General.
The MPAA then pitched Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, an admitted SOPA supporter, and Attorney General Hood sent Google a letter making numerous accusations about the company,” Walker explains.

“The letter was signed by General Hood but was actually drafted by an attorney at Jenner & Block — the MPAA’s law firm. As the New York Times has reported, the letter was only minimally edited by the state Attorney General before he signed it.”

The Google SVP ends with a shot at the MPAA and questions its self-professed position as an upholder of the right to free speech.

“While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part ‘to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression.’ Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?” Walker concludes.

Without delay, Google’s public comments were pounced upon by the MPAA who quickly published a statement of their own. It pulls no punches.

“Google’s effort to position itself as a defender of free speech is shameful. Freedom of speech should never be used as a shield for unlawful activities and the internet is not a license to steal,” the statement begins.

“Google’s blog post today is a transparent attempt to deflect focus from its own conduct and to shift attention from legitimate and important ongoing investigations by state attorneys general into the role of Google Search in enabling and facilitating illegal conduct – including illicit drug purchases, human trafficking and fraudulent documents as well as theft of intellectual property.”

And, in a clear indication that the MPAA feels it acted appropriately, the Hollywood group lets Google know that nothing will change.

“We will seek the assistance of any and all government agencies, whether federal, state or local, to protect the rights of all involved in creative activities,” the MPAA concludes.

The statements by both Google and the MPAA indicate that in this fight the gloves are now well and truly off. Will ‘David’ slay ‘Goliath’? Who will get hurt in the crossfire?

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

TorrentFreak: Researchers Make BitTorrent Anonymous and Impossible to Shut Down

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

triblerThe Pirate Bay shutdown has once again shows how vulnerable the BitTorrent ‘landscape’ is to disruptions.

With a single raid the largest torrent site on the Internet was pulled offline, dragging down several other popular BitTorrent services with it.

A team of researchers at Delft University of Technology has found a way to address this problem. With Tribler they’ve developed a robust BitTorrent client that doesn’t rely on central servers. Instead, it’s designed to keep BitTorrent alive, even when all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers are pulled offline.

“Tribler makes BitTorrent anonymous and impossible to shut down,” Tribler’s lead researcher Dr. Pouwelse tells TF.

“Recent events show that governments do not hesitate to block Twitter, raid websites, confiscate servers and steal domain names. The Tribler team has been working for 10 years to prepare for the age of server-less solutions and aggressive suppressors.”

To top that, the most recent version of Tribler that was released today also offers anonymity to its users through a custom-built in Tor network. This allows users to share and publish files without broadcasting their IP-addresses to the rest of the world.

“The public was beginning to lose the battle for Internet freedom, but today we are proud to be able to present an attack-resilient and censorship-resilient infrastructure for publishing,” Dr. Pouwelse says.

After thorough tests of the anonymity feature earlier this year, it’s now built into the latest release. Tribler implemented a Tor-like onion routing network which hides who is seeding or sharing files. Users can vary the number of “hops” the client uses to increase anonymity.

“Tribler creates a new dedicated network for anonymity that is in no way connected to the main Tor network. By using Tribler you become part of a Tor-like network and help others become anonymous,” Dr. Pouwelse says.

“That means you no longer have any exposure in any swarm, either downloading or seeding,” he adds.

Tribler_anonymous_downloading_in action__select_your_privacy_level_for_each_torrent

The downside to the increase in privacy is higher bandwidth usage. After all, users themselves also become proxies and have to relay the transfers of others. In addition, the anonymity feature may also slow down transfer speeds depending on how much other users are willing to share.

“We are very curious to see how fast anonymous downloads will be. It all depends on how social people are, meaning, if they leave Tribler running and help others automatically to become anonymous. If a lot of Tribler users turn out to be sharing and caring, the speed will be sufficient for a nice downloading experience,” Pouwelse says.

Another key feature of Tribler is decentralization. Users can search for files from within the application, which finds torrents through other peers instead of a central server. And if a tracker goes offline, the torrent will continue to download with the help of other users too.

The same decentralization principle applies to spam control. Where most torrent sites have a team of moderators to delete viruses, malware and fake files, Tribler uses user-generated “channels” which can be “liked” by others. If more people like a channel, the associated torrents get a boost in search results.

triblernew

Overall the main goal of the University project is to offer a counterweight to the increased suppression and privacy violations the Internet is facing. Supported by million of euros in taxpayer money, the Tribler team is confident that it can make the Internet a bit safer for torrent users.

“The Internet is turning into a privacy nightmare. There are very few initiatives that use strong encryption and onion routing to offer real privacy. Even fewer teams have the resources, the energy, technical skills and scientific know-how to take on the Big and Powerful for a few years,” Pouwelse says.

After the Pirate Bay raid last week Tribler enjoyed a 30% increase in users and they hope that this will continue to grow during the weeks to come.

Those who want to give it a spin are welcome to download Tribler here. It’s completely Open Source and with a version for Windows, Mac and Linux. In addition, the Tribler team also invites researchers to join the project.

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

TorrentFreak: BitTorrent Inc Works on P2P Powered Browser

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

bittorrent-logoBitTorrent Inc. announced a new project today, a web browser with the ambition of making the Internet “people powered.”

Project Maelstrom, as it’s called, is in the very early stages of development but BitTorrent Inc. is gearing up to send out invites for a closed Alpha test.

The company hasn’t released a feature set as yet, but it’s clear that the browser will serve websites and other content through users.

According to BitTorrent Inc. this can not only speed up websites but also boost people’s privacy. In addition, it should be capable of bypassing website blockades and other forms of censorship.

“If we are successful, we believe this project has the potential to help address some of the most vexing problems facing the Internet today,” BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker notes.

“How can we keep the Internet open? How can we keep access to the Internet neutral? How can we better ensure our private data is not misused by large companies? How can we help the Internet scale efficiently for content?”

The idea for a BitTorrent powered browser is not new. The Pirate Bay started work on a related project a few months ago with the aim of keeping the site online even if its servers were raided.

The project hasn’t been released yet, although it would have come in handy today.

Interestingly, BitTorrent’s brief summary of how the browser will work sounds a lot like Pirate Bay’s plans. The company shared the following details with Gigaom.

“It works on top of the BitTorrent protocol. Websites are published as torrents and Maelstrom treats them as first class citizens instead of just downloadable content. So if a website is contained within a torrent we treat it just like a normal webpage coming in over HTTP.”

More details are expected to follow during the months to come. Those interested in Project Maelstrom can sign up for an invite to the Alpha test here.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Removes Pirate Bay Apps From Play Store

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

google-bayFacing harsh criticism from copyright holders, Google is gradually changing its attitudes towards sites and services that are often associated with piracy.

A few weeks ago the company implemented a major change to its search algorithm, aimed at downranking sites that often link to copyright infringing material.

Another drastic move came today when Google began removing many Pirate Bay related apps from its Play store. The apps in question include “The Pirate Bay Proxy,” “The Pirate Bay Premium,” “The Pirate Bay Mirror” and “PirateApp.”

The apps targeted by Google offer mobile optimized web-browsers for The Pirate Bay. In addition, many of them used proxy sites so users could easily circumvent local ISP blockades.

The apps appear to have been removed proactively as there is no mention of a DMCA takedown notice. According to an email sent to the developers, the apps in question are violating the intellectual property provisions of Google’s content policy.

“REASON FOR REMOVAL: Violation of the intellectual property and impersonation or deceptive behavior provisions of the Content Policy. Please refer to the IP infringement and impersonation policy help article for more information,” the email reads.

piratebaygoogleplay

The developers are further informed that they received a “policy strike” which may lead to the termination of their accounts, if similar problems arise in the future.

TF spoke with Gavin, the developer of “The Pirate Bay Proxy” app, which has 900,000 downloads and 45,000 active users per day. He is disappointed with Google’s decision and has filed an appeal hoping to get his software reinstated.

According to Gavin, his app doesn’t do anything different than other browsers, Google Chrome included. It simply points people to a working proxy site and then acts as any other browser.

“The app is no different from Firefox or Chrome in that it’s a tool which provides access to TPB or any other web address,” Gavin says.

Gavin originally developed the app as a simple tool to bypass court-ordered ISP blockades. However, the app itself is now being censored as well, which is somewhat ironic.

“The removal has a sense of irony as the app is described as an anti-censorship tool,” Gavin notes.

Those who have already downloaded the apps can continue to use them, for now. New downloads from the Google Play Store are no longer allowed, but a copy of “The Pirate Bay Proxy” is available on the app’s website.

Alternatively, people can still use Google and the Chrome browser as these points of access remain uncensored for now.

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

TorrentFreak: Demonoid Frustrates Censors With Domain Name Switch

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

demonoid-logoAs one of the oldest torrent communities online the Demonoid tracker has had its fair share of troubles over the years.

Earlier in 2014 the site returned after nearly two years of downtime, which began following a DDoS attack and legal troubles in Ukraine.

Since then Demonoid has been rebuilding its community up to a point where it now has millions of visitors per month, making it one of the largest torrent sites online once again.

In an effort to obstruct the site’s growth Demonoid is now plagued by blocking requests from copyright holders. Last month the site was blocked by Italian ISPs and a few days ago major ISPs in the UK were told to do the same.

In addition, the site’s visibility on Google has significantly diminished. Those who Google for “demonoid” will see a Wikipedia entry as the top result because the Demonoid.ph domain was removed following a takedown notice.

In what appears to be a response to these censorship efforts, Demonoid switched domain names today. Out of the blue the site began redirecting its .ph domain to demonoid.pw which uses Palau ‘s TLD .pw.

The new domain was registered this weekend just days after reports of a fresh UK High Court injunction ordering ISPs to block the site.

The true motives for the recent domain changes remain unconfirmed at this point. TorrentFreak reached out to the Demonoid team for more details but we have yet to hear back.

If it’s indeed an effort to beat the various censorship attempts, the effects will be limited. While Italian ISP blockades are relatively easy to circumvent with a new domain, UK ISPs are generally quick to update their blocklists.

For now Demonoid.pw is still accessible in the UK via most ISPs, although it has to be noted that some still have to implement the most recent block.

ISP blockades aside, the torrent site will definitely start with a clean sheet on Google. This means that it’s only a matter of days before Demonoid will have its own domain as the top result again, for as long as it lasts.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA: The Pirate Bay Assaults Fundamental Human Rights

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

tpbfistFollowing in the footsteps of Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA has now submitted its overview of “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

These submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position toward foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement. The RIAA’s report (odt) includes more than 50 alleged pirate sites, but it is the introduction that draws most attention.

Neil Turkewitz, RIAA Executive Vice President, informs the Government that some of the rogue websites, and their supporters, falsely argue that they aid freedom of speech and counter censorship.

Specifically, the RIAA describes The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites as an assault on our humanity, suggesting that the right to protect one’s copyrights trumps freedom of expression.

“Some observers continue to suggest that the protection of expression is a form of censorship or restriction on fundamental freedoms, and some pirate sites cloak themselves in the language of freedom to justify themselves—sites like The Pirate Bay…” Turkewitz writes.

“We must end this assault on our humanity and the misappropriation of fundamental human rights. If the protection of expression is itself a restriction on freedom of expression, then we have entered a metaphysical Wonderland that stands logic on its head, and undermines core, shared global values about personhood,” he adds.

The RIAA says it’s hopeful that the piracy threat can be addressed if society and legitimate companies stop doing business with these sites. To do so, the public must stop conflating anti-piracy measures with censorship.

“We may not be able to eradicate piracy—there will always be an isolated number of individuals or enterprises who are prepared to steal whatever they can, but we can—and must—stop providing moral cover by conflating copyright enforcement with censorship, or by misapplying notions of Internet freedom or permissionless innovation so that they extend to an embrace of lawlessness.”

In recent months copyright holders have often hammered on payment processors and advertising networks to stop doing business with pirate sites. The RIAA reiterates this in their USTR submission, but also points a finger at the ISPs, at least indirectly.

According to the RIAA, BitTorrent indexing sites make deals with hosting providers to pay lower fees if they have more traffic. While this is standard business for most ISPs, the industry group frames it as an indirect source of revenue for the pirate sites.

“Indexing services can, and usually do, generate revenue from one or more of the following: advertising, user donations and suspected arrangements with ISPs whereby reduced fees are offered in return for increased traffic on the sites. The particular financial model, structure and approach vary from site to site,” Turkewitz notes.

Finally, the RIAA admits that some torrent sites process DMCA takedown notices, but believes that this is only an attempt to “appear” legitimate. In reality the infringing content is re-uploaded almost instantly, so the problem remains.

“As a result, copyright owners are forced into an endless ‘cat and mouse’ game, which requires considerable resources to be devoted to chasing infringing content, only for that same infringing content to continually reappear,” the report reads.

Without specifying what, Turkewitz notes that torrent site owners have to do more if they really want to become legitimate services.

“It is imperative that BitTorrent site operators take reasonable measures to prevent the distribution of infringing torrents or links and to implement measures that would prevent the indexing of infringing torrents,” he writes.

In addition to torrent sites the submission also lists various cyberlockers, blogs and linking sites which allegedly deserve the label “notorious market.”

Below is the RIAA’s full list as it was reported to the USTR. These, and the other submissions will form the basis of the U.S. Government’s Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, which is expected to come out later this year.

- vKontakte
– EX.UA
– The Pirate Bay
– KickAss.to
– Torrentz.eu
– Bitsnoop.com
– ExtraTorrent.cc
– Isohunt.to
– Zamunda
– Arena.bg
– Torrenthound.com
– Fenopy.se
– Monova.org
– Torrentreactor.net
– Sumotorrent.sx
– Seedpeer.me
– Torrentdownloads.me
– 4shared.com
– Uploaded.net
– Oboom.com
– Zippyshare.com
– Rapidgator.net
– Turbobit.net
– Ulozto.cz
– Sdílej.cz
– Hell Spy
– HellShare
– Warez-dk.org
– Freakshare.com
– Bitshare.com
– Letitbit.net
– 1fichier.com
– Filestube.to
– Music.so.com
– Verycd.com
– Gudanglagu.com
– Thedigitalpinoy.org
– Todaybit.com
– Chacha.vn
– Zing.vn
– Songs.to
– Boerse.to
– Mygully.com
– Wawa-mania.ec
– Bajui.com
– Goear.com
– Pordescargadirecta.com
– Exvagos.com
– Degraçaémaisgostoso.org
– Baixeturbo.org
– Hitsmp3.net
– Musicasparabaixar.org
– Sapodownloads.net
– Sonicomusica.com
– Jarochos.net
– Rnbexclusive.se
– Newalbumreleases.net

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Sends 100,000 New Users to “Free” VPN

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

froot-vpnWith an increasing number of BitTorrent users seeking solutions to hide their identities from the outside world, VPN services have seen a spike in customers in recent years.

Pirate Bay users also have a great interest in anonymity. A survey among the site’s users previously revealed that nearly 70% already had a VPN or proxy or were interested in signing up with one.

For this last group The Pirate Bay has an interesting promotion running. For the past few days the site has replaced its iconic logo with an ad for FrootVPN, a new startup that offers free VPN accounts.

The promo has has been seen by millions of people, many of whom very interested in the costless offer.

Since VPNs are certainly not free to run, many people are wondering if there’s a catch behind this rather generous offer. Previously TPB advertised an adware ridden client so this suspicion is understandable.

TorrentFreak contact the Pirate Bay team for more information, and they informed us that the FrootVPN promotion is not a paid ad. It’s merely a friendly plug for a startup run by some guys they know.

While that’s assuring, it doesn’t explain how they can offer their service for free. We contacted the FrootVPN operators to find out more, and they told us that they started the free VPN to counter the commercialization of the VPN business.

“The whole idea behind FrootVPN was to provide a free simple VPN service without any bandwidth limitations. Of course the maintenance isn’t free but we had some resources over from our other projects from which we were able to launch FrootVPN.”

“We are a bunch of guys who support freedom of speech and don’t like the idea that VPN providers charge so much money for just a simple proxy, especially since the bandwidth costs nowadays is so cheap,” FrootVPN tells us.

While a free VPN sounded like a good idea, the VPN service has become a victim of its own success. They gained 100,000 users in less than a week and admit that it’s not sustainable to keep the service free forever.

“The word has spread rapidly and we thank all our promoters including TPB for supporting us. We got 100,000 users within a week, which we never expected. However, this does indicate that we will be forced to charge something for the service in order to maintain it,” FrootVPN says.

FrootVPN’s VPN servers are currently hosted at Portlane, who have been very helpful in accommodating the growth. During the weeks to come they hope to increase their capacity and FrootVPN has already bought several new servers to keep the quality of the service on par.

“We have 20x servers running currently with 2x10Gbps total capacity. We have now additionally bought 40x more servers and 4x10Gbps bandwidth from Portlane which will be ready within a week or two. We hope that after this upgrade the quality of our service will be much better,” they say.

While they may have to charge a few dollars in the future, one of the main motivations of the FrootVPN team remains in line with The Pirate Bay’s original philosophy. That is, to provide tools that help to bypass censorship and promote freedom of speech.

“FrootVPN supports freedom of speech and want the Internetz to be an uncensored place,” they say.

Although free VPNs are often not the fastest, especially not when they are growing with tens of thousands of users per day, FrootVPN says it will try to keep up. In any case, “free” is an offer that’s hard to refuse for those who are on a tight budget.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: The Art of Unblocking Websites Without Committing Crimes

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

networkThe blocking of sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and Torrentz in the UK led to users discovering new ways to circumvent ISP-imposed censorship. There are plenty of solutions, from TOR and VPNs, to services with a stated aim of unblocking ‘pirate’ sites deemed illegal by UK courts.

Last month, however, dozens of these went offline when the operator of Immunicity and other related proxy services was arrested by City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit. He now faces several charges including breaches of the Serious Crime Act 2007, Possession of Articles for Use in Fraud, Making or Supplying Articles for use in Frauds and money laundering.

While it’s generally accepted that running a site like The Pirate Bay is likely to attract police attention, merely unblocking a domain was not thought to carry any such risk. After all, visitors to torrent sites are just that, it’s only later on that they make a decision to infringe or not.

In our earlier article we discussed some of the possible reasons why the police might view “pirate” proxies to be illegal. However, there are very good arguments that general purpose proxies, even ones that are expressly setup to bypass filtering (and are able to unblock sites such as Pirate Bay), remain on a decent legal footing.

One such site is being operated by Gareth, a developer and networking guru who grew so tired of creeping Internet censorship he began lobbying UK MPs on the topic, later moving on to assist with the creation of the Open Rights Group’s Blocked.org.uk.

After campaigning and documenting Internet censorship issues for some time, Gareth first heard of last month’s proxy arrest during a visit to the United States.

“I was at DefCon in Las Vegas when the news of the Immunicity arrest reached me and I realized that for all my volunteer work, my open source applications, operation of Tor relays, donations and letters to MPs to highlight/combat the issues with Internet censorship, it was not enough,” the developer told TorrentFreak.

“I felt that this issue has moved from a political / technical issue to one about personal liberty and Internet freedom. e.g. first they came for the ‘pirate proxies’, then the Tor operators, then the ISPs that don’t censor their customers. The slippery slope is becoming a scary precipice.”

Since his return to the UK, Gareth has been busy creating his own independent anti-censorship tool. He’s researched in detail what happened to Immunicity, taken legal advice, and is now offering what he hopes is an entirely legal solution to website filtering and subsequent over-blocking (1)(2).

“Unlike Immunicity et al I’m not specifically building a ‘Pirate Proxy’. Granted people might use this proxy to navigate to torrent websites but were I to sell a laptop on eBay that same person may use it for the same reasons so I see no difference,” he explains.

“In fact Section 44, subsection 2 of the Serious Crimes Act 2007 even states [that an individual] is not to be taken to have intended to encourage or assist the commission of an offense merely because such encouragement or assistance was a foreseeable consequence of his act.”

The result of Gareth’s labor is the anti-censorship service Routing Packets is Not a Crime (RPINAC). People who used Immunicity in the past should feel at home, since RPINAC also utilizes the ability of popular browsers to use Proxy Auto-Config (PAC) files.

In the space of a couple of minutes and with no specialist knowledge, users can easily create their own PAC files covering any blocked site they like. Once configured, their browser will silently unblock them.

Furthermore, each PAC file has its own dedicated URL on RPINAC’s servers which users can revisit in order to add additional URLs for unblocking. PAC ‘unblock’ files can also be shared among like-minded people.

“When someone creates a PAC file they are redirected to a /view/ endpoint e.g. https://routingpacketsisnotacrime.uk/view/b718ce9b276bc2f10af90fe1d5b33c0d. This URL is not ephemeral, you can email it, tweet it (there is a tweet button on the left hand side of the site) etc and it will provide the recipient with the exact same view.

“It’ll show which URLs are specified to be proxied, which have been detected as blocked (using the https://blocked.org.uk database) and if the author passed along the password (assuming the PAC was password protected) they can add or remove URLs too,” Gareth explains.

“Each view page also has a comments section, this could allow for a small collection of individuals to co-ordinate with a smaller subset of password possessing moderators to create a crowd sourced PAC file in an autonomous fashion. There is also a ‘Clone’ button allowing anybody to create their own copy of the PAC file with their own name, description and password if the PAC file they’ve received isn’t quite what they need.”

This user-generated element of the process is important. While dedicated ‘pirate’ proxy sites specifically unblock sites already deemed illegal by the UK courts (and can be deemed to be facilitating their ‘crimes’), RPINAC leaves the decision of which sites to unblock completely down to the user. And since no High Court injunction forbids any user from accessing a blocked domain, both service and user remain on the right side of the law.

In terms of use, RPINAC is unobtrusive, has no popups, promotions or advertising, and will not ask for payment or donations, a further important legal point.

“To avoid any accusations of fraud and to avoid any tax implications RPINAC will never ask for donations,” the dev explains. “The current platform is pre-paid for at least a year, the domain for 10. At a bare minimum PAC file serving and education for creating local proxies will continue indefinitely.”

Finally, Gareth notes that without free and open source software his anti-censorship platform wouldn’t have been possible. So, in return, he has plans to release the source code for the project under the GPL 3.0 license.

RoutingPacketsIsNotACrime can be found here and is compatible with Firefox, Chrome, Safari and IE. Additional information can be sourced here.

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

TorrentFreak: Censorship Is Not The Answer to Online Piracy

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

This is a guest post written by Simon Frew, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia.

The Australian Government recently called for submissions into its plans to introduce a range of measures that are the long-standing dreams of the copyright lobby: ISP liability, website blocking for alleged pirate sites and graduated response.

The Government’s discussion paper specifically asked respondents to ignore other Government inquiries into copyright. This meant ignoring an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into copyright in the digital economy and an IT pricing inquiry. These reviews both covered important aspects of sharing culture in the 21st century, yet they were completely ignored by the Government’s paper and respondents were instructed to ignore issues covered in them.

The ALRC review examined issues around the emerging remix culture, the ways the Australian copyright regime limits options for companies to take advantage of the digital environment and issues around fair dealing and fair use. It recommended a raft of changes to update Australian copyright law to modernize it for the digital age. Whilst the recommendations were modest, they were a step in the right direction, but this step has been ignored by the Australian Parliament.

The IT pricing inquiry held last year, looked into why Australians pay exorbitant prices for digital content, a practice that has been dubbed the Australia Tax. Entertainment and Tech companies were dragged in front of the inquiry to explain why Australians pay much more for products than residents of other countries. The review found that, compared to other countries, Australians pay up to 84% more for games, 52% more for music and 50% more for professional software than comparable countries. The result of this review was to look at ways to end geographic segmentation and to continue to turn a blind eye to people using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the higher prices in Australia.

Between the Australia Tax and the substantially delayed release dates for TV shows and movies, Australians don’t feel too bad about accessing content by other means. According to some estimates, over 200,000 people have Netflix accounts by accessing the service through VPNs.

Pirate Party Australia (PPAU) responded to the latest review with a comprehensive paper, outlining the need to consider all of the evidence and what that evidence says about file-sharing.

To say the Government’s discussion paper was biased understates the single-mindedness of the approach being taken by the Government. A co-author of the Pirate Party submission, Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer summed it up:

The discussion paper stands out as the worst I have ever read. The Government has proposed both a graduated response scheme and website blockades without offering any evidence that either of these work. Unsurprisingly the only study the discussion paper references was commissioned by the copyright lobby and claims Australia has a high level of online copyright infringement. This calls into question the validity of the consultation process. The Government could not have arrived at these proposals if independent studies and reports had been consulted.

The entire review was aimed at protecting old media empires from the Internet. This is due in part, to the massive support given to the Liberal (Conservatives) and National Party coalition in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election which saw Murdoch owned News Ltd media, comprising most major print-news outlets in Australia, actively campaign for the in-coming Government. There is also a long history of media companies donating heavily to buy influence. Village Roadshow, one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates, has donated close to four million dollars to both major parties since 1998: in the lead up to the 2013 election alone, they donated over $300,000 to the LNP.

The sort of influence being wielded by the old media is a big part of what Pirate parties worldwide were formed to counter. The Internet gives everyone a platform that can reach millions, if the content is good enough. The money required to distribute culture is rapidly approaching zero and those who built media empires on mechanical distribution models (you know, physical copies of media, DVDs, cassettes etc) want to turn the clock back, because they are losing their power to influence society.

Much of the Pirate Party response centred on the need to allow non-commercial file-sharing and dealing with the wrong, bordering on fraudulent assumptions, the paper was based on. From the paper:

Digital communications provide challenges and opportunities. Normal interactions, such as sharing culture via the Internet, should not be threatened. Creators should seize the new opportunities provided and embrace new forms of exposure and distribution. The Pirate Party believes the law should account for the realities of this continually emerging paradigm by reducing copyright duration, promoting the remixing and reuse of existing content, and legalising all forms of non-commercial use and distribution of copyrighted materials.

The discussion paper asked, ‘What could constitute ‘reasonable steps’ for ISPs to prevent or avoid copyright infringement?’ This was of particular concern because it is aimed at legally overturning the iiNet case, which set a legal precedent that ISPs couldn’t be sued for the behavior of their users. This section was a not-so-subtle attempt to push for a graduated response (‘three strikes’) system which has been heavily criticized in a number of countries.

The agenda laid out in this discussion paper was very clear, as demonstrated by Question 6: “What matters should the Court consider when determining whether to grant an injunction to block access to a particular website?”

The Pirate Party obviously disagrees with the implication that website blocking was a foregone conclusion. Censorship is not the answer to file-sharing or any other perceived problem on the Internet. Government control of the flow of information is not consistent with an open democracy. The Pirate Party submission attacked website blocking on free speech grounds and explained how measures to block websites or implement a graduated response regime would be trivial to avoid through the use of VPNs.

On Tuesday September 9, a public forum was held into the proposed changes. The panel was stacked with industry lobbyists, no evidence was presented while the same tired arguments were trotted out to try to convince attendees that there was need to crack down on file-sharing. It wasn’t all bad though, with the host of the meeting, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, flagging a Government re-think on how to tackle piracy after the scathing responses to the review from the public.

Despite signalling a re-think, the Australian Government is still intent on implementing draconian copyright laws. Consumers may have won this round, but the fight will continue.

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

TorrentFreak: ISP Alliance Accepts Piracy Crackdown, With Limits

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

us-ausFollowing last week’s leaked draft from Hollywood, Aussie ISPs including Telstra, iiNet and Optus have published their submission in response to a request by Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

While the movie industry’s anti-piracy proposal demonstrates a desire to put ISPs under pressure in respect of their pirating customers, it comes as no surprise that their trade group, the Communications Alliance, has other things in mind.

The studios would like to see a change in copyright law to remove service providers’ safe harbor if they even suspect infringement is taking place on their networks but fail to take action, but the ISPs reject that.

ISP liability

“We urge careful consideration of the proposal to extend the authorization liability within the Copyright Act, because such an amendment has the potential to capture many other entities, including schools, universities, internet cafes, retailers, libraries and cloud-based services in ways that may hamper their legitimate activities and disadvantage consumers,” they write.

But while the ISPs are clear they don’t want to be held legally liable for customer piracy, they have given the clearest indication yet that they are in support of a piracy crackdown involving subscribers. Whether one would work is up for debate, however.

Graduated response

“[T]here is little or no evidence to date that [graduated response] schemes are successful, but no shortage of examples where such schemes have been
distinctly unsuccessful. Nonetheless, Communications Alliance remains willing to engage in good faith discussions with rights holders, with a view to agreeing on a scheme to address online copyright infringement, if the Government maintains that such a scheme is desirable,” they write.

If such as scheme could be agreed on, the ISPs say it would be a notice-and-notice system that didn’t carry the threat of ISP-imposed customer sanctions.

“Communications Alliance notes and supports the Government’s expectation, expressed in the paper that an industry scheme, if agreed, should not provide for the interruption of a subscriber’s internet access,” they note.

However, the appointment of a “judicial/regulatory /arbitration body” with the power to apply “meaningful sanctions” to repeat infringers is supported by the ISPs, but what those sanctions might be remains a mystery.

On the thorny issue of costs the ISPs say that the rightsholders must pay for everything. Interestingly, they turn the copyright holders’ claims of huge piracy losses against them, by stating that if just two-thirds of casual infringers change their ways, the video industry alone stands to generate AUS$420m (US$392) per year. On this basis they can easily afford to pay, the ISPs say.

Site blocking

While warning of potential pitfalls and inadvertent censorship, the Communications Alliance accepts that done properly, the blocking of ‘pirate’ sites could help to address online piracy.

“Although site blocking is a relatively blunt instrument and has its share of weaknesses and limitations, we believe that an appropriately structured and safeguarded injunctive relief scheme could play an important role in addressing online copyright infringement in Australia,” the Alliance writes.

One area in which the ISPs agree with the movie studios is in respect of ISP “knowledge” of infringement taking place in order for courts to order a block. The system currently employed in Ireland, where knowledge is not required, is favored by both parties, but the ISPs insist that the copyright holders should pick up the bill, from court procedures to putting the blocks in place.

The Alliance also has some additional conditions. The ISPs say they are only prepared to block “clearly, flagrantly and totally infringing websites” that exist outside Australia, and only those which use piracy as their main source of revenue.

Follow the Money

Pointing to the project currently underway in the UK coordinated by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the Communications Alliance says that regardless of the outcome on blocking, a “follow the money” approach should be employed against ‘pirate’ sites. This is something they already have an eye on.

“Some ISP members of Communications Alliance already have policies in place which prevent any of their advertising spend being directed to sites that promote or facilitate improper file sharing. Discussions are underway as to whether a united approach could be adopted by ISPs whereby the industry generally agrees on measures or policies to ensure the relevant websites do not benefit from any of the industry’s advertising revenues,” the ISPs note.

Better access to legal content

The Communications Alliance adds that rightsholders need to do more to serve their customers, noting that improved access to affordable content combined with public education on where to find it is required.

“We believe that for any scheme designed to address online copyright infringement to be sustainable it must also stimulate innovation by growing the digital content market, so Australians can continue to access and enjoy new and emerging content, devices and technologies.

“The ISP members of Communications Alliance remain willing to work toward an approach that balances the interests of all stakeholders, including consumers,” they conclude.

Conclusion

While some harmonies exist, the submissions from the movie studios and ISPs carry significant points of contention, with each having the power to completely stall negotiations. With legislative change hanging in the air, both sides will be keen to safeguard their interests on the key issues, ISP liability especially.

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

TorrentFreak: Major Torrent Sites and Google Purge The Expendables 3

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

With The Expendables 3 now officially released in theaters, the autopsy over its leak last month and the potential effects on box office figures has begun.

Many news outlets reported yesterday that the first weekend’s takings represent a flop for the third in the Expendables franchise and, of course, those closest to Hollywood are pointing the figure firmly at piracy.

But on the ground, on some of the very sites accused of facilitating piracy of the action movie, there are signs which suggests that this leaked title is being treated somewhat differently to any that have gone before.

LimeTorrents

Noting that the site was named in a Lions Gate lawsuit, TF monitored for the presence of The Expendables 3 torrents on popular torrent site LimeTorrents. The result is shown in the image below.

Lime-Expend

While the site lists 14 torrents, not a single working Expendables 3 torrent appears in the search results. The three that do appear are sponsored links that do not lead to anything useful.

But while LimeTorrents are clearly doing all they can to comply with the terms of a lawsuit, other sites that have not been named by Lions Gate also appear to have been taking action.

KickassTorrents

KickassTorrents is the world’s second largest torrent site and the go-to place for many looking for fresh content. However, anyone searching for leaked Expendables 3 torrents will be going home disappointed. There are currently nine torrents returned in results, all of which are trailers. The leaked movie cannot be found.

Kick-expend

It’s worth noting that like many of the leading torrent sites, Kickass removes torrents following copyright holder requests, so that goes someway to explaining why the Expendables 3 torrents have all disappeared. What is notable, however, is that no fresh ones seem to be reappearing as is usually the case.

RARBG

There’s a similar story over at RARBG, the site placed 10th in our Top Torrent Sites 2014 post. A search produces the two torrents shown in the screenshot below and as they clearly point out, these definitely ain’t The Expendables.

rarbg

BitSnoop

The effect of these takedowns, whether from rightsholders or introduced on a voluntary basis, can also be seen on torrent sites that specialize in indexing torrents found elsewhere. BitSnoop, the 9th most popular torrent site online with an index of 23 million torrents, currently has none related to The Expendables 3.

bitsnoop-expend

Torrentz

Over at Torrentz, a meta-search engine that indexes content on other sites, we can see that just four torrents are returned following an Expendables 3 search, none of which are the movie in question.The links at the top are sponsored and don’t relate to torrents.

The note at the bottom reveals that 41 torrent links have been removed following DMCA notices and their euro equivalent. Again, no more torrents seem to be reappearing.

torrentz-expend

Google

While torrents disappearing and not reappearing within major torrent sites is quite unusual in itself, perhaps the most dramatic effect can be seen in Google search results.

As previously documented, Lions Gate has put in a herculean effort to have listings removed. This, combined with any torrent site self-censorship efforts, has resulted in a tiny number of usable entries in the first 20 pages of Google results for common searches such as ‘The Expendables 3 + download + torrent’.

Of course, more experienced downloaders and those who persevere through a few searches can still find torrents and other ways to watch the movie. Torrents still remain on The Pirate Bay too, but there are clear signs that the leak of this movie is being treated differently from any other in recent memory, and not only by those involved in its legal distribution either.

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