Posts tagged ‘Censorship’

TorrentFreak: Sony Blocks Creative Commons Movie With Bogus DMCA Takedown

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

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

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

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

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

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

The open source beauty of Sintelsintel

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

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

Sintel

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders ISPs to Unblock “Pirate” Site

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

filmakerzLast month the Public Prosecutor of Rome ordered Italian Internet providers to block access to 46 torrent, streaming and other file-sharing portals.

The crackdown was the largest enforcement action against copyright-infringing sites in Italy, and local authorities hinted that it wouldn’t be the last.

One of the sites affected by the blockades was Filmakerz.org, a video streaming portal that offers a variety of movies and TV-shows for free. Mainly popular among Italians, the site’s traffic plummeted as a result of the ban.

But while most blocked sites are quick to throw in the towel, Filmakerz.org decided to appeal the case, with success. This week the Court of Appeals overturned the blocking order against the site, ruling that it was too broad.

The panel of judges clarified that each blocking request should specify under what exact URLs copyrighted works are being infringed, instead of submitting a single domain name. Without the exact location of the infringing content, the court can’t verify the validity of the blocking request.

According to Fulvio Sarzana, the lawyer who represented Filmakerz.org, the ruling is a clear blow against the increasing censorship efforts in Italy. Sarzana says that the court specified two important ground rules.

“The first is that the Public Prosecutor must prove the existence of a for-profit motivation to get the blocking order,” the lawyer tells TF.

“The second is that parts of the site that contain legitimate content must not affected. This means that a partial seizure of an individual URL is preferred over the seizure of the entire site,” Sarzana adds.

The ruling comes at a crucial time, a few days after Italy’s independent Electronic Communications Authority (AGCOM) implemented new regulations that would allow foreign sites to be blocked more easily.

“The verdict is important because it shows that the order to block a site should be carefully decided, and is also important in the light of AGCOM rules,” Sarzana told us, adding that the regulation to block entire domains contradicts with European and Italian jurisprudence.

Following the Court of Appeals verdict, local ISPs have been instructed to unblock Filmakerz.org, which is expected to be accessible again soon. It is unclear whether any of the other blocked sites also plan to appeal the blockade, but with the appeal decision in Filmakerz’s favor it might be worth a shot.

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

TorrentFreak: Saudi Arabia Government Blocks The Pirate Bay (and More)

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

tpb-logoBlocking The Pirate Bay has become quite common around Europe in recent years, and today this practice spread to Saudi Arabia.

Without prior warning or official announcement, the country’s Ministry for Culture and Information ordered local ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. In addition, several other torrent sites were also censored, including Torrentz.eu and Rarbg.com.

The reason for the blockade remains unknown, but piracy concerns seem plausible as the measures are coming from the Ministry of Culture, and not the Communications Commission which administers the country’s regular filters.

As can be seen below, the blocking notification for The Pirate Bay is also different from the green notice that appears for sites that are blocked in violation of the Islamic religion.

Saudi Arabia’s Pirate Bay blockade
saudi-arabia-block

Interestingly, the measures come two months after several copyright holder groups urged the U.S. Government to place Saudi Arabia on its priority watchlist. MPAA, RIAA and others suggested that the country isn’t doing enough to stop online piracy.

The blockade is currently active on nearly all ISPs, but TF has learned that Zain customers can still access the site. Zain does block Pirate Bay’s porn category, but that’s nothing new.

The Pirate Bay is among the 50 most visited websites in Saudi Arabia, and the blockade has caused quite a bit of uproar on social media. The topic is currently trending on Twitter where many people are voicing their frustration.

TPB block trending on Twitter
sa-tweets-tpb

However, as with all censorship attempts there are plenty of ways to circumvent this blockade. The easiest option at the moment is to simply use the https version of the site. Other workarounds, such as VPNs or Pirate Bay proxies, work fine too.

The Pirate Bay team is not impressed by yet another country blocking access to their website. A few months ago they released Pirate Browser which allows users to access the site without restrictions. It has been downloaded millions of times since.

Update: The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information has now confirmed that the blockades are copyright related. 22 domain names have been blocked in total.

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

LWN.net: Full Disclosure Mailing List: A Fresh Start

This post was syndicated from: LWN.net and was written by: jake. Original post: at LWN.net

The full-disclosure mailing list is back. Nmap developer Fyodor has announced that he is resurrecting the list after its abrupt closure in mid-March. “The new list must be run by and for the security community in a vendor-neutral fashion. It will be lightly moderated like the old list, and a volunteer moderation team will be chosen from the active users. As before, this will be a public forum for detailed discussion of vulnerabilities and exploitation techniques, as well as tools, papers, news, and events of interest to the community. FD differs from other security lists in its open nature, light (versus restrictive) moderation, and support for researchers’ right to decide how to disclose their own discovered bugs. The full disclosure movement has been credited with forcing vendors to better secure their products and to publicly acknowledge and fix flaws rather than hide them. Vendor legal intimidation and censorship attempts won’t be tolerated!

TorrentFreak: Music Industry Wants Pirate Site Blockades in More Countries

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

stop-blockedIn recent years blockades of “pirate” websites have spread across Europe and elsewhere. In the UK, for example, more than 30 websites are currently blocked by the major ISPs per court order.

Opponents of this censorship route often warn that the measures inhibit free speech and risk overblocking. However, music industry group IFPI disagrees, pointing out that the rights of creators to protect their work trump these concerns.

“Despite misrepresentation by some anti-copyright campaigners, courts have consistently found that the blocking of sites providing illegal content achieves an appropriate balance of fundamental rights,” IFPI writes in its latest Digital Music Report.

IFPI points out that the ISP blockades in several European countries are having effect. Drawing on information supplied by data intelligence firms comScore and Nielsen, they report that “BitTorrent usage” decreased 11 percent in countries where pirate sites are censored, while it increased elsewhere.

“Website blocking measures implemented by ISPs have been effective. Between January 2012 and July 2013, European countries where blocking orders are in place saw BitTorrent use decline by 11 per cent, while European countries without such orders saw BitTorrent use increase by 15 per cent.”

tpbblockade

The data further shows that this blockade effect is most pronounced in Italy and the UK, where the most torrent sites are blocked. In Italy BitTorrent traffic dropped 13 percent and in the UK the decline was even larger, 20 percent.

The report doesn’t make it clear whether actual BitTorrent traffic was measured, or only page views at popular torrent sites. Regardless, IFPI notes that there’s still plenty of work to be done.

The blockades are currently limited to fixed lines, for example, and should be expanded to mobile networks as well. In addition, IFPI says that the blockades should be expanded to other countries worldwide.

“The industry believes that website blocking is an effective tool to help tackle digital piracy and should be available in more countries worldwide. It also needs to be extended to cover mobile networks,” IFPI reports.

The music industry group doesn’t name any countries, but perhaps they are hinting at the RIAA to push for “voluntary” blockades in the United States. In any case, if it’s up to IFPI the number of ISP blockades around the world will continue to increase.

The results reported by IFPI run contrary to a decision from the Dutch Court of Appeals earlier this year, which concluded that the Pirate Bay blockade was “disproportionate and ineffective.” As a result, Dutch ISPs were allowed to lift the access restrictions.

Photo: Michael Theis

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

TorrentFreak: Turkey’s Twitter Ban Collapse Fueled By VPNs and DNS Tricks

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

twitterlogoTwo days ago on the campaign trail ahead of end-of-March elections, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan showed his Internet naivety by doing something extremely silly. In the midst of a corruption scandal he first threatened and then carried through with an outright ban of Twitter.

“I don’t care what the international community says at all. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic,” Erdogan said on Thursday.

Angry that Twitter did not respond to requests by Turkish courts to remove material that showed him in a bad light, Erdogan swung the banhammer and by Friday everything was in place. Turkish visitors to Twitter were greeted with notices displayed by their ISPs indicating that Twitter had been blocked by court order.

“Because there was no other choice, access to Twitter was blocked in line with court decisions to avoid the possible future victimisation of citizens,” Turkish telecoms watchdog BTK said on Friday.

What followed was anger from citizens, then delicious payback against yet another government trying – and ultimately failing – to artificially restrict access to information on the Internet.

Rather than bow to Erdogan’s wishes, Turkish citizens reacted in much the same that file-sharers around the world have done when sites such as The Pirate Bay were blocked by their ISPs. They took to the open web to spread the word on how to circumvent web censorship but in a fresh twist, they also took to the streets

The wonderful image below, ironically posted to Twitter itself, shows a poster on a Turkish street explaining how to change DNS settings to obliterate the Twitter ban.

Turkposter

Another photograph, again posted to Twitter, shows graffiti on a housing block informing people of the IP addresses used by Google’s DNS service rather than the ‘infected’ ones offered by local ISPs.

DNs

But while these images will be a delight to anti-censorship advocates everywhere, it was online that the real battle was taking place. Here at TF we noticed an unusual level of interest from Turkish visitors in our latest VPN article and then later in the day the effect on VPN takeup was confirmed by the company behind Hotspot Shield.

AnchorFree CEO David Gorodyansky told WSJ that 270,000 Turkish users installed their software in one 12 hour period Friday versus around 10,000 on a normal day, a huge increase by any standards.

TorrentFreak spoke with Andrew Lee at Private Internet Access who explained that while his company does not track the identities or locations of its customers, there had definitely been an uptick in signups following the introduction of Twitter censorship in Turkey.

“More and more, we are seeing that censorship is a form of control that the weak use in an attempt to hang onto power. In addition to Turkey, we can also see this happening in China, the United Kingdom and other various countries,” Lee explained.

“Fortunately, the people of this world, including Turkey, are strong, and democracy will continue to stand. As such, the attempt to censor Twitter in Turkey has all but failed.”

This article began with the suggestion that censorship of the type imposed by Turkey is something to be embraced. Not welcomed, of course, but treated as an opportunity to gain knowledge on how the Internet works and how web blockades can be circumvented.

Those who think they can control the Internet and people’s right to communicate should be made to think again and in Turkey this week that point has been admirably made.

According to analysis site Zete.com, tweets in Turkey before the ban numbered 10 million a day – they now sit at 24 million.

Update: According to a local report, Turkey has now appears to have blocked Google’s DNS, although other sources say that this is an actual network issue.

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

TorrentFreak: Bitcoin Donations Now Integrated into BitTorrent Client

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

While content distributed via BitTorrent is almost always free (a situation most users would like to keep intact) there has long been a desire to find a straightforward mechanism for optional donations.

The possibilities are intriguing, from artists being able to seed their own content to the public and getting paid directly by fans, to curators of already free content being rewarded for their distribution efforts.

In file-sharing circles there has been a traditional reliance upon PayPal transactions to show appreciation, but with the rise of alternative cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, new avenues have opened up. Many sites, The Pirate Bay included, accept donations in Bitcoin and Litecoin, and some artists have adopted the currencies for fans who want to chip-in.

Despite these developments there remains a disconnect between downloading content and a subsequent donation, meaning that split-second urges to hand over cash in appreciation often have time to cool. That, however, is about to change.

Following their teaser in December 2013, a brand new build of FrostWire’s BitTorrent client (Windows, Mac, Linux) now includes torrent creation supporting not only Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin and PayPal donations, but also the selection of appropriate Creative Commons licenses for delivered content.

We’ll bring you comment from the FrostWire team in just a moment, but first let’s look at the simple process from the creator’s perspective.

After loading up FrostWire one simply goes about creating a .torrent file in the usual way, by selecting the tracking options and pointing it to the relevant content on the host computer. If the torrent creator would then like to give fans the option to donate, two extra screens appear.

The first allows the user to select an appropriate Creative Commons license under which to spread the content.

Frost2

The next screen configures payment/tips/donation options, whether Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, PayPal, or a mix-and-match between all four.

Frostdonate

Obviously the creator/distributor will now need to seed, at least until plenty of other people download and start sharing the content.

For the downloader it’s simply a case of installing the correct version of FrostWire (this is a must at the moment until other clients implement the feature) and clicking on a donation-enabled .torrent file.

FrostWire have made a couple available for testing, one of which is a track by FriCtrl labeled Bitcoin_Revolution. Downloading that reveals a box next to the torrent title labeled “Tips/Donations”, with Bitcoin’s logo highlighted. Hovering over reveals the text shown below.

Hover

Once an option is clicked, FrostWire launches a payment process which opens a web page containing the target wallet’s cryptocurrency address in QR, hyperlink, and text form.

Donate

Of course, there will be those who immediately see possibilities for monetizing piracy. But, speaking with TorrentFreak, FrostWire’s Angel Leon says their objectives actually run counter to that.

“We believe piracy is best fought by giving consumers the options of getting legal content, and we want to build solutions that use this technology to empower content creators no matter how big or small they are. We want them to try BitTorrent as an alternative, an additional channel. We think it will be easier to convince more and more artists to join us with the new possibilities,” Leon told TF.

“Putting it bluntly, Bitcoin and BitTorrent integration give us the tools to create the P2P equivalents of iTunes and Netflix, which are centralized venues which work great for big content but not so much for the little guys who have to jump through many hoops to get in.” 

Leon says that the end result could be a decentralized media store “owned by nobody and available to all,” one which allows consumers to deal directly with content creators “without the corporate interests, censorship issues and draconian rules that make it hard for the little guy to publish his work.”

The possibilities don’t always have to be commercial either.

“Just imagine a BitTorrent bundle powered by this technology in which Bono from U2 shares free songs or a free video documentary to raise awareness and collect Bitcoin donations for the (Red) foundation to further the fight against HIV worldwide,” the FrostWire team teases.

Further information, including the experimental builds and info on how to activate .torrent-enabled donations, can be found here.

Photo: Steve Garfield

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Group Will Take Pirate Bay Blocking Case to Supreme Court

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

brein-newFollowing a 2010 attempt by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN to force local ISP Ziggo to block The Pirate Bay, rival ISP XS4ALL joined in the fight against the Hollywood-funded group. Initially a court decided that the ISPs wouldn’t have to block the site, but BREIN took the case to a full trial – and won.

On appeal the verdict swung in favor of the ISPs after they successfully argued that the blockade was ineffective and denied subscribers’ free access to information. January 28, 2014, marked a big day in the Netherlands for both The Pirate Bay and its millions of fans, despite neither party’s involvement in the just-completed legal proceedings.

BREIN, on the other hand, went away licking its wounds and contemplating its 326,000 euro ($445,000) legal bill. Neither ISP wasted time unblocking The Pirate Bay.

pirate bayWith the verdict handed down and The Pirate Bay unblocked, the next step in the battle, should there even be one, lay in BREIN’s hands.

Now, three weeks later, the anti-piracy group has signaled its intention to fight on, criticizing The Court of The Hague’s ruling that site blocking should be dismissed if it’s ineffective.

“That statement is at odds with the opinion of judges in other European countries on blocking and preempts the judgment of the highest European court which is expected shortly. BREIN’s claim is that service providers blocking access to illegal websites has already been assigned by the court,” the group said in a statement.

BREIN adds that it has already established a number of grounds for appeal and will take its case to the Supreme Court.

“Depending on the type of appeal it can take a year to eighteen months before a decision,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik told Tweakers. “Moreover, there are still questions for the European Court of Justice so it might take even longer.”

In the wake of the Ziggo and XS4ALL victory, UPC, the Netherlands’ second largest ISP, said that it had reached an agreement with BREIN over its blocking of The Pirate Bay. The company said it would suspend the block, pending the outcome of its own case with the anti-piracy group.

Commenting on that development Friday, Kuik said that only the Supreme Court can provide the final answers. Taking further legal action now makes no sense, he said, as it only “makes the lawyers richer.”

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

Schneier on Security: Building an Online Lie Detector

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

There’s an interesting project to detect false rumors on the Internet.

The EU-funded project aims to classify online rumours into four types: speculation — such as whether interest rates might rise; controversy — as over the MMR vaccine; misinformation, where something untrue is spread unwittingly; and disinformation, where it’s done with malicious intent.

The system will also automatically categorise sources to assess their authority, such as news outlets, individual journalists, experts, potential eye witnesses, members of the public or automated ‘bots’. It will also look for a history and background, to help spot where Twitter accounts have been created purely to spread false information.

It will search for sources that corroborate or deny the information, and plot how the conversations on social networks evolve, using all of this information to assess whether it is true or false. The results will be displayed to the user in a visual dashboard, to enable them to easily see whether a rumour is taking hold.

I have no idea how well it will work, or even whether it will work, but I like research in this direction. Of the three primary Internet mechanisms for social control, surveillance and censorship have received a lot more attention than propaganda. Anything that can potentially detect propaganda is a good thing.

Three news articles.

TorrentFreak: Take Action to Protect Your Privacy on The Internet

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

dayfightTwo years ago, websites including Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and the one you’re reading now, took drastic action to protect the Internet. In an inspiring show of collective defiance, hundreds of websites went dark to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act, a rising piece of legislation with the potential to increase censorship and hamper innovation.

Sparked and guided by Aaron Swartz, the end result of the movement was nothing short of ground-breaking. The unity shown on January 18, 2012, led to Congress backing down and forcing some of the world’s most powerful copyright-focused companies into retreat. SOPA was done, but an even bigger issue was just around the corner.

Revelations by Edward Snowden, that unveiled a shocking level of mass surveillance being carried out by the U.S. government and its allies, caused turmoil around the world. Their plan was to become the all-seeing all-knowing eye, spying on communications everywhere and sucking up mind-boggling quantities of electronic data both on-and-offline.

These authorities now routinely spy on the Internet, telephone calls and other communication channels used by their very own citizens, undermining the basic level of privacy people believed would be upheld by their own democratically elected governments. The mantra that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about holds no water, as entities including the NSA and GCHQ systematically spy wherever they like, whether their targets are suspected of crimes or not.

But today is a special day. Thousands of websites, this one included, will join together to demand progress towards restoring our right to privacy and the reigning in of mass surveillance. Two years after the historic SOPA protests, The Day We Fight Back has arrived.

Today’s anti-surveillance web protest, held in memory of hacktivist Aaron Swartz, is being headed up by a coalition including Demand Progress, Access, EFF, and sites such as Reddit, Mozilla and BoingBoing. It provides an unprecedented opportunity to fight back against the greatest invasion of privacy the world has ever known.

“Today the greatest threat to a free Internet, and broader free society, is the National Security Agency’s mass spying regime,” says David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress.

“If Aaron were alive he’d be on the front lines, fighting back against these practices that undermine our ability to engage with each other as genuinely free human beings.”

While Aaron is tragically no longer with us, all Internet users concerned about the activities of the NSA can step up to the front lines and fight back with a few clicks.

1. Visit TheDayWeFightBack.org
2. Sign up to indicate that you’ll participate and receive updates.
3. Install widgets on websites encouraging its visitors to fight back against surveillance.
4. Use the social media tools on the site to announce your participation.
5. Develop memes, tools, websites, and do whatever else you can to participate — and encourage others to do the same.

While a large proportion of Internet users have been blind-sided by the revelations of the past year, being monitored is something that those connected to the file-sharing scene have become aware of for a decade or more. Privacy solutions have existed for some time but it took the launch of the Pirate Party-affiliated Relakks VPN service in 2006 to really boost the awareness of encrypted communications in the file-sharing space. Today, privacy companies including Private Internet Access and BlackVPN will join the protests.

Many hundreds of thousands – millions – of file-sharers and other privacy conscious individuals currently and routinely encrypt their communications in order to mitigate the effects of online spying. But while that’s a good day-to-day solution, more needs to be done.

Fighting back requires people to contact politicians and lawmakers and urge them to engage on the issues of cyber surveillance and other dangers to the free Internet. But be warned. Unlike the fight against SOPA this battle won’t be over in a month or two. The Day We Fight Back will go on for much, much longer.

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

TorrentFreak: Censorship is No Cure for Piracy, Legal Options Are

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

pirate bayLast week the Dutch court of appeals ruled that The Pirate Bay blockade should be lifted. One of the arguments given was that the measures implemented in 2012 were ineffective.

This conclusion was in part based on a working paper from researchers at the University of Amsterdam and Tilburg University. After the publication of the paper this week in the Telecommunications Policy journal, TF caught up with the authors to discuss the results as well as the wider topic of Internet censorship.

The researchers are happy with the peer-reviewed publication. It affirms that BREIN’s attempts to defame their work during the court hearing were unfounded. The court already concluded as much, as the findings were at the basis of the ruling to unblock The Pirate Bay.

“Our research, together with research by TNO showed quite indisputably that the measure has little to no effect,” says Joost Poort, lead author of the Baywatch paper.

“We do not want to take sides in the case by calling the decision the right one in a legal sense. However, we are very content with the fact that the effectiveness of blocking access to The Pirate Bay was taken into account in the decision,” he adds.

The Baywatch paper shows that censoring The Pirate Bay had no lasting net impact on the overall number of downloaders from illegal sources in the Netherlands. On the contrary, local piracy rates went up.

According to the researchers the Pirate Bay blockade could be easily circumvented. Thanks to the many readily available proxy sites online, users only had to update their bookmarks to gain access.

“Basically, the required knowledge to circumvent the blocking is no more advanced than the knowledge required to download from illegal sources, and the emergence of new mirror-websites and proxies is something that regulators can hardly keep up with,” Poort tells TF.

Researcher Jeroen van der Ham adds that people could simply move to other torrent sites, or move to other download platforms. They found that, in line with previous research, the initial effect of such anti-piracy measures wears off in about six months, as people turn to alternatives.”

While the researchers focused on the Dutch public they believe that their results should apply elsewhere too. This includes the UK, where numerous file-sharing sites have been blocked in recent years.

“We believe that the results can probably be generalized to any service that has a widespread user-base. Internet users have shown to be very inventive in circumventing blockades, or moving to similar services if that is not possible,” Van Der Ham says.

Censoring websites has no lasting effects on piracy. On the contrary, the researchers say they these measures may reflect negatively on the image of the entertainment industries. At the same time, the blockades threaten the open Internet.

“These measures bear a risk of alienating customers from the content industries and giving them incentives to adopt covert technologies such as dark nets, IP-spoofing and VPN,” Poort tells us.

“The interventions threaten the transparency of the Internet, effectively introducing censorship, Van Der Ham adds.

So how should copyright holders combat piracy? According to the researchers there is some evidence in the literature that harsher punishments and strong enforcement may be effective.

However, this also introduces the risk that customers will become further alienated from the entertainment industries. This could result in more customers going “underground” and consuming even less. Ultimately, the researchers believe that the piracy problem can be best solved by offering superior legal options.

In their Filesharing 2©12 report Poort and colleagues saw a decline in file-sharing for music over recent years, while sharing films and TV series increased. They are currently analyzing this data set to find out whether a change in legal offerings may explain these developments.

“All in all, the best strategy seems to be to arrange reasonably priced, up-to-date and easy-to-use legal supply,” Poort concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Sony Claims Hulu is Hosting a Pirated TV-Show

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

sony face palmDay in and day out copyright holders send hundreds of thousands of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find.

During the past month alone copyright holders asked Google to remove 24,322,084 URLs from its search results. Unfortunately, not all of these requests are legitimate.

This week we stumbled upon a recent takedown request that was sent by the Spanish division of Sony Pictures Television. The notice lists several links to the Fox’ show “Almost Human,” which they distribute locally.

Most of the links do indeed point to pirated content, but Sony also requests the takedown of a perfectly legal episode on Hulu, claiming it infringes on their copyrights.

Sony Television’s takedown notice
hulu-sony-takedown

While we could be witnessing a feud between Sony and Fox here, it’s more likely that the takedown request is the result of a failing DMCA bot. A pretty big failure though, as it means that people will no longer be able to find a legitimate copy of the show through Google.

Sony is not the only rightsholder to target Hulu either. Last month 4K Media sent takedown notices for two non-infringing ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ series on Hulu.

MPI Media Group also joined the Hulu censorship frenzy as it wants Google to remove the TV-series ‘Dark Shadows.’

Luckily for Sony and the others Google is determined to prevent abuse and mistakes by catching the errors before the URLs are removed. But for every error that’s caught, dozens will probably slip through.

“We still do our best to catch errors or abuse so we don’t mistakenly disable access to non-infringing material. Google continues to put substantial resources into improving and streamlining this process, including into identifying erroneous and abusive takedowns, and deterring abuse,” Google told us previously.

Preventing mistakes such as the ones above isn’t exactly rocket science. The search engine most likely works with a whitelist of non-infringing sites, something copyright holders could easily implement in their takedown systems.

But of course it’s more convenient for them when Google does all the hard work.

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

TorrentFreak: Wrongly Blocked Websites to Be Added to ISP Whitelist, UK Govt Says

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

stopstopOnce it became evident that Prime Minister David Cameron was dead set on the introduction of a “think of the children” approach to web censorship in the UK, those who understand the Internet knew there would be problems.

Filters of most kinds are incredibly blunt instruments that lack the finesse to deal with the complex nature of the online world. Sadly, it didn’t take long for them to live up to that billing.

During the past few months dozens of innocent sites have been blocked – TorrentFreak included – a situation that really hits the credibility of what the government has been trying to achieve.

Blocking entities such as charities and drug advice sites obviously leads to terribly bad publicity, so the government has been looking at ways to deal with the problem. According to the BBC a working group has been looking into accidental blocking with a view to finding a solution. They believe one has been found.

The idea is that some kind of master white-list will be drawn up containing sites that have already been wrongly blocked or might find themselves subjected to wrongful blocking in the future. That list would then be passed around Internet service providers so that filters could be tweaked to avoid the censorship of innocent domains. Charities are involved in the creation of the list so it appears public service sites may be a priority.

Also under discussion is the creation of a mechanism which would allow the owners of regular but wrongly-blocked websites to contact ISPs in order to have their sites added to the white-list.

“There’s a feeling that some sites sit in a gray area and more needs to be done for them,” a spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association told the BBC.

While it is commendable that the government is looking into the problem of over-blocking, one has to question why the filtering mechanisms being put in place aren’t erring on the side of caution. If some sites are in a “gray area” then they should be given the benefit of the doubt, not found guilty until proven innocent.

If a system can’t tell the difference between a sex education charity and a porn site there must be something seriously wrong. A white-list is probably just a Band-Aid.

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

TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay Unblocking Decision’s Knock-On Effect on Proxy Sites

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

pirate bayThis week The Court of The Hague handed down its decision in a long running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Finding that the block had proven ineffective and had restricted the ISP’s entrepreneurial freedoms, the Court ruled in the ISPs’ favor. In response the ISPs vowed to unblock The Pirate Bay immediately.

Needless to say, BREIN is bitterly disappointed and is currently investigating its options, which includes taking the case to the Supreme Court. But while BREIN plans its next move, other entities wrapped up in the whole Pirate Bay censorship debate are planning theirs too.

Moving into the spotlight as a potential beneficiary of this week’s ruling is former BREIN ‘victim’ the Dutch Pirate Party.

Following the original blocking ruling against the two ISPs, traffic surged to an existing Pirate Bay proxy (unblocking) service run by the Dutch Pirates. By unblocking The Pirate Bay the party were undermining BREIN’s efforts and as a result the anti-piracy group took the case to court. That action culminated in an April 2012 ruling from The Court of The Hague which ordered the Pirate Party proxy service offline with immediate effect.

With this week’s lifting of the injunction against Ziggo and XS4ALL, questions are now being asked about the validity of subsequent bans against the Pirate Party’s proxy and others that were issued on the back of the now-overturned ruling.

“You can not evade a judgment that does not exist,” Dirk Poot of the Pirate Party told Webwereld.

Mark Krul, a lawyer with of WiseMen Advocaten who worked with the Pirate Party in its fight against BREIN, informs TorrentFreak that while the ruling offers promise there are still hurdles to be overcome.

“Now that the Court of Appeal has decided that the providers Ziggo and XS4ALL cannot be forced to block The Pirate Bay, this means that The Pirate Bay can be visited again by the Dutch public,” Krul explains.

“In this respect, there is no need for the Dutch public to use any proxy. But, since there are blockades of The Pirate Bay worldwide, there is still a need for proxies to ensure that internet users in other parts of the world have the freedom to decide whether they want to use a website such as The Pirate Bay or any other website.”

brein-newStressing that the first proxy offered by the Pirate Party was an open one which gave users’ access to any blocked website, Krull says that this week’s decision by the Court of Appeal can only mean that offering even dedicated Pirate Bay-proxies is allowed. However, in the case of the Dutch Pirate Party he wants the court to say so.

“There still is a valid order from the Dutch court that says that the proxy is infringing the rights of the entertainment industry, represented by BREIN. And this order must be destroyed by the Court of Appeal,” Krul says.

“These proceedings will come to an end, probably by the end of this year. Unfortunately these proceedings take time. I am still reviewing the decision of the Court of Appeal to see if we can ask the court for suspension of the first court order in which the court decided the proxy is illegal.”

While things sound promising, Krul says that all of the decisions thus far only affect the parties involved and it is certainly possible that BREIN might try to have other Pirate Bay proxies shut down. However, in Krul’s opinion BREIN probably wouldn’t enjoy success.

“In my opinion, with the decision in the Ziggo/XS4ALL case, it is clear that a proxy is not illegal. But as said, BREIN is not totally defeated yet. They can – and probably will – take action against anyone offering services to visit The Pirate Bay. But then they will also have to act against other torrent websites such as Kickass.to and Torrentz.eu. This will of course be very complex to initiate.”

In conclusion, Krul says that this weeks Court of Appeal decision is “truly important” in light of fundamental rights to freedom of speech and the freedom to receive information.

“As a lawyer I am therefore very happy with this ruling,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: ISPs No Longer Have to Block The Pirate Bay, Dutch Court Rules

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

The Pirate Bay is arguably the most-censored website on the Internet, but that’s no longer the case in the Netherlands.

In 2010 Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN went to court to try and force Ziggo, the Netherlands’ largest ISP, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ziggo were later joined in the case by rival ISP XS4ALL, fighting the action together in the hope of avoiding a damaging precedent.

Initially the court decided that blocking all subscribers went too far but BREIN wasn’t satisfied and took the case to a full trial, which they won. Both Ziggo and XS4ALL filed subsequent appeals, arguing that the blockade was ineffective and denied subscribers’ free access to information.

Today the Court of The Hague released its verdict which sides with the Internet providers.

In its ruling the Court states that the Pirate Bay blockade is disproportionate and ineffective, citing TNO research and the Baywatch report of the University of Amsterdam. As a result, the blockade was found to hinder the Internet providers’ entrepreneurial freedoms.

The court based its decision on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which both includes “freedom to conduct a business” and “right to property.” In this case the entrepreneurial freedom outweighs property rights, because the blockades are disproportionate and ineffective.

tpb blockadeBased on the above, the appeal court overturned the blocking order and ordered the Hollywood-funded anti-piracy group to pay 326,000 euros ($445,000) in legal fees.

Commenting on the ruling, XS4ALL says that the verdict allows them to keep the Internet free from censorship. The ISP will disable the blockade effective immediately.

“We are very pleased the court’s verdict. This guarantees freedom of access to information. That is good for Dutch citizens, good for the Internet and good for ISPs who can continue to fulfill their important role neutrally,” the company states.

Ziggo is also happy with the outcome of the case and says the court found the right balance. “We’re not a police officer,” spokesman Erik van Doeselaar told Tweakers.

BREIN is disappointed in the court’s decision but noted that it agreed with the anti-piracy group on several issues. The anti-piracy group notes, however, that the court agreed that traffic to The Pirate Bay had reduced, even though BitTorrent usage in The Netherlands didn’t.

“The court’s ruling is detrimental to the development of the legal online market which requires protection against illegal competition,” BREIN director Tim Kuik says in a response.

“The purpose of blocking The Pirate Bay is obviously to reduce copyright infringement via The Pirate Bay. It is paradoxical that although the court finds that this goal is indeed achieved, it rejects the blockade because users are going to other sites,” Kuik adds.

Besides Ziggo and XS4ALL, several other Internet providers were ordered to block The Pirate Bay based on the original ruling. The appeals of these ISPs are still pending, and will be decided on later this year.

Needless to say the verdict is a major win for the Internet providers. Unlike their counterparts in the UK and elsewhere they decided to appeal the case to the bitter end – and won.

Update: added response from BREIN as well as some context.

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

TorrentFreak: New VPN Technology Claims to Thwart Great Firewall of China

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

vyprvpnThe Great Firewall of China is a formidable and oppressive beast. This series of surveillance and censorship mechanisms operated by the Chinese government was created in order to restrict Chinese citizens’ access to content on the Internet, thereby controlling their information intake and shaping their opinions.

By Western standards the list of sites censored by the government is shocking. Facebook, YouTube, various Google sites, Wikipedia, WordPress, the Internet Movie Database, Dropbox, Archive.org and even The Pirate Bay are all blocked in China, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, this blatant censorship only prompts the tech savvy to find technological solutions to the problem, known locally as the Golden Shield Project. One of the most popular in recent times is to use a VPN service but there are signs that the Chinese authorities are beginning to take notice. Entering the URLs of some popular VPN services into a specialist censorship checker reveals that many are getting blocked.

VPNblock

The Chinese government is also going beyond simple website blocking and is now able to “learn, discover and block” the use of VPN protocols. However, Golden Frog, the company behind Usenet service Giganews and VyprVPN, believe it has developed a solution.

Later today the company will announce the launch of a new 256-bit SSL technology designed to scramble VPN packet data in order to thwart Deep Packet Inspection (DPI). Called Chameleon after the way it hopes to “mutate and modulate” to counter new threats, the system aims to hide VPN traffic so it cannot be identified and subsequently blocked.

Golden Frog President Sunday Yokubaitis says the main challenge was understanding the various ways that DPI can inspect traffic.

“We actually tested DPI algorithms from several well known DPI vendors to reverse-engineer a proof of concept,” Yokubaitis told TorrentFreak.

“After we engineered an initial solution, we deployed the server code worldwide and integrated the Chameleon technology into our Windows, Mac and Android apps so we could start beta testing. Beta testers in some of the most restrictive regimes in the world are currently using Chameleon to defeat a variety of DPI technologies.”

Yokubaitis says the company has carried out extensive testing in recent months with beta testers located in China, Iran, Turkey, France and Germany. While the latter two countries aren’t best known for Internet censorship, they are prone to that other Internet evil – ISP throttling. Golden Frog say that Chameleon works well in this area too.

“Unfortunately, users are reporting that ISPs are starting to identify VPN connections and throttle connection speeds. Internet users should not sacrifice speed to gain increased privacy and security,” Yokubaitis says.

“The irony is that ISPs are also throttling non-VPN connections and users are now discovering that popular Internet services, such as Youtube, are actually faster when using a VPN than without a VPN. Chameleon makes it more difficult for ISPs to throttle the connection. We like to think of Golden Frog as a ‘virtual ISP’ that is providing the speeds that ISPs should be providing.”

Chameleon is available to existing VyprVPN users by selecting the option within the apps for Windows, Mac and Android.

As a footnote, TorrentFreak maintains a list of services that excel due to their attention to anonymity, i.e carrying no identifying logs so no external IP addresses can be matched to those operated by the user.

VyprVPN / Chameleon makes no such promises, so while the system may very well turn out to be perfect for those looking to regain freedom in China or Iran, or those hoping to bypass their ISP’s attempts at throttling, total anonymity of those using the service is hampered by logging. We hope this is something that Golden Frog can address in the future as it would really enhance the service.

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

TorrentFreak: YIFY Torrents Announces Retirement of Founder, But Show Goes On

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

yifyBack in 2010 a fresh movie piracy brand was hitting the Internet. Side-stepping the so-called ‘Scene’, YIFY became part of the new breed of release groups who make releases directly to fans using P2P networks.

Just a year later and YIFY releases – easily visible on torrent sites due to the YIFY ‘tag’ at the end of their file titles – had gained enough traction to warrant their very own website.

In 2011, YIFY-Torrents.com was born and since then millions of movie fans have flooded to the YIFY website and others such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents to obtain YIFY releases. Like the aXXo group before them YIFY took the crown of most popular movie release group with the general public, and one with successful branding to match.

YIFY itself was founded by a guy, unsurprisingly, nicknamed YIFY. He was not only the group’s founder but its main movie encoder.

“I personally think that many people are following and downloading YIFY encodes due to the consistency we offer in our releasing,” YIFY told TorrentFreak in a 2013 interview. “Everything from the consistent film cover art, to the information layout, and ultimately to the file-size of our encodes.”

But after founding the YIFY group, brand and website, today marks his retirement.

“After two and half years of running the YIFY-Torrents website, and almost four years of being involved in the torrent community, I have decided that the time has come for a new challenge. As much as I have loved being able to provide content for all of you, it is simply time for a change in my life,” YIFY explains.

From today, YIFY-Torrents and the site’s releases will switch over to a new management team comprised of existing staff members, with OTTO handling encodes and uploads and Seraph managing the site. The site will also undergo a re-branding exercise.

yts“The website, domains and everything linked to the website will be changed to YTS,” YIFY (now YTS) web developer jduncanator informs TorrentFreak.

“We’re looking forward to the future, and have been lucky to be entrusted with such an excellent platform and userbase by YIFY,” the team adds.

Visitors to the site’s main page at the existing URL can already see the new YTS logo, but should be aware that the domain switches to YTS.RE, the URL the site will use going forward.

Although the site has changed its name and domain, the famous YIFY release name will continue, even with YIFY himself long gone. This will make searching for past and future releases as easy as its ever been.

“Releases and torrents will still carry the YIFY tag,” jduncanator clarifies.

For those who have always accessed YIFY releases without visiting the site itself, nothing will change. All uploads on sites such as PublicHD, KickassTorrents, 1337x, The Pirate Bay and ExtraTorrent will still be marked with the YIFY tag at the end. All files inside torrents and torrent naming conventions will remain intact.

YIFY himself says he has fond memories of his time with the group, citing the joys of uploading from a 10-year-old laptop, being featured on TF in last year’s interview, and battling Internet censorship in the UK. But essentially, he says, none of that would have been possible without followers of the group.

“Thank you all, for spreading your seed, making us one of the biggest trackers in the world, and for giving me a reason to do this for so long. You were YIFY Torrents every bit as much as I ever was,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Irish Internet Providers Roll Out KickassTorrents Blockade

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

kickasstorrentsIn an effort to reduce piracy, copyright holder all over the world are trying to get popular torrent sites blocked by ISPs.

In 2009 Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to have an ISP block The Pirate Bay on copyright grounds. Eircom backed out of a court battle with the major music labels and blocked the site voluntarily.

Getting other providers to follow suit proved to be more difficult due to legal complications, but last year the ball was rolling again.

Following an action initiated by EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal against the ISPs UPC, Imagine, Vodafone, Digiweb, Hutchison 3G and Telefonica O2, in June 2013 the High Court gave the ISPs just 30 days to block The Pirate Bay.

After this success the labels moved on to their next target, KickassTorrents, or KAT for short. Following The Pirate Bay blockade KAT quickly took over the crown, and up until last week was one of the 25 most-visited websites in Ireland.

Hoping to significantly reduce this threat the record labels applied to the High Court to have local ISPs block subscriber access to KAT. The request was successful and Mr Justice Kelly ordered the new blockade in December.

This week most ISPs implemented the blockade, much to the disappointment of Irish KAT visitors.

Interestingly, Eircom, the largest Internet provider in the country, was not included in the court case, but together with several other ISPs chose to implement a block voluntarily. As a result, Eircom subscribers are now greeted with the following message when they attempt to access the site.

Blocked

blocked

As with all blockades there are still plenty of workarounds that let people access the KAT site. Several users note that KAT proxies work just fine, and a VPN also lifts all restrictions.

Nevertheless, the music labels will celebrate the new blocks as a victory and, with KAT taken care of, they are likely to prepare another lawsuit targeted at the next large torrent site, continuing the game of Whack-A-Mole..

Update: The KAT team tells TorrentFreak that the traffic to their site is severely impacted by these blockades. They are advising users to use a VPN. Proxies are also an option, although people have to be careful as these are not officially run by KAT, so the proxy owner could harvest logins and passwords.

“We are still getting traffic from those countries where KAT is blocked. But its amount is significantly lower (up to 10% from what we had before).

“These measures can be be pretty effective when appropriate authorities react very quickly on domain or IP change. For example, for Italy it’s just 3 days.”

“Our suggestion would be to use VPN servers placed outside country where site is banned and user is actually present. Also it will have sense to start using Google DNS or similar service to bypass domain block.”

“As an alternative it’s also possible to start using any KAT mirrors. But all those mirrors are provided by 3d parties so we would not recommend to enter credentials while user are using them.”

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

TorrentFreak: How The Pirate Bay Plans to Beat Censorship For Good

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

tpb-logoOver the past few years The Pirate Bay has had to deal with its fair share of censorship, mostly through court-ordered blockades.

In response to these efforts the site launched the PirateBrowser last summer, and not without success. The tool, which allows users to circumvent ISP blockades, clocked its 2.5 millionth download a week ago.

However, there’s a much bigger project in the pipeline, one that will make The Pirate Bay and other sites more resilient than ever before. Instead of bypassing external censors, the new tool will create its own P2P network through which sites can be accessed without restrictions.

“The goal is to create a browser-like client to circumvent censorship, including domain blocking, domain confiscation, IP-blocking. This will be accomplished by sharing all of a site’s indexed data as P2P downloadable packages, that are then browsed/rendered locally,” a Pirate Bay insider explains.

In other words, when users load The Pirate Bay or any other site that joins the new platform, the site’s data will be shared among users and stored locally. The website doesn’t require a public facing portal and only needs minimal resources to “seed” the site’s files to the rest of the world.

“It’s basically a browser-like app that uses webkit to render pages, BitTorrent to download the content while storing everything locally,” the Pirate Bay insider says.

All further site updates are incremental, so people don’t end up downloading the entire site day after day. The disk space users need for the locally stored sites ranges from a few dozen megabytes for a small site, to several gigabytes for a larger torrent index.

The new software will be released as a standalone application as well as Firefox and Chrome plugins.

Since the site data comes from other peers, there is no central IP-address that can be blocked by Internet providers. Site owners will still offer webseeds to speed up loading, but sites are fully accessible when these are blocked.

Another important change is that the new software will not use standard domain names. Instead, it will use its own fake DNS system that will link the site’s name to a unique and verified public key. For example, within the application bt://mysite.p2p/ will load 929548249111abadfjab29347282374.p2p.

“Site owners will be able to register their own names, which will serve as an alias for the curve25519 pub-key that will identify the site,” the Pirate Bay insider notes.

“The “domain” registrations will be Bitcoin authenticated, on a first come first served basis. After a year the name will expire unless it’s re-verified.”

The entire project will be open source and built using existing code such as Libtorrent, Webkit, SQLite v3 and node-js. The Pirate Bay team is still looking for coders to assist, mainly on the Windows side, but thus far the development has been going steady.

It may take a few months before the first version is released in public, but it already promises to be a game changer in the ongoing censorship Whack-a-Mole.

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

[Медийно право] [Нели Огнянова]: Свобода на изразяване в ЕС: Индекс на цензурата

This post was syndicated from: [Медийно право] [Нели Огнянова] and was written by: nellyo. Original post: at [Медийно право] [Нели Огнянова]

Пeu-map freedom index 2013рез декември международната организация Index of censorship публикува поредния си доклад за свободата на изразяване.

Вижда се, България е в категорията с най-лошо състояние на свободата на изразяване.

Така серията доклади, показващи устойчива негативна тенденция, продължава.

Авторът на доклада Майк Харис припомня писмото от март 2013 на външните министри на Германия, Холандия, Дания и Финландия, в което се призовава за създаването на механизъм за защита на демокрацията, върховенството на закона и правовата държава. В отговор  и комисар Рединг се включи в разговора за възможностите за намеса на ЕС в подкрепа на демократичните стандарти.

TorrentFreak: UK ‘Porn Filter’ Blocks Legitimate File-Sharing Services (And TorrentFreak)

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

blockedInternet filters are now on the political agenda in many countries around the world. While China and Iran are frontrunners for political censorship, the UK is leading the way when it comes to porn and other types of adult content.

Last summer Prime Minister David Cameron announced a default filter for all Internet connections. This means that UK Internet subscribers will be required to opt-in if they want to view adult content online.

Sky was one of the first ISPs to roll out its network level filter in November. As a result, new subscribers will now have to opt out from Broadband Shield‘s default PG13 setting if they want to see adult content. Later this year existing customers will also be forced to make the same choice.

While most of the discussion has focused on porn, Sky’s filter – and those operated by other ISPs – actually block a much wider range of content. Below are the options Sky users are given at the moment, showing that if people want to block porn, they also have to block various other categories.

The 13-years-old-and-over setting is ticked by default, which also includes dating, anonymizers, file-sharing and hacking.

Sky’s blocking options

skyoptions

In other words, those customers who don’t opt out from the ‘porn filter’ will also have file-sharing sites and services blocked. A quick round on the internet reveals that this category is rather inclusive, and not limited to ‘pirate sites.’

Among the blocked sites are BitTorrent.com, who work with Madonna and other artists on a regular basis to release free-to-download content. The same is true for other BitTorrent clients including uTorrent, Transmission and Vuze. Tribler, which is developed at Delft University of Technology with EU taxpayer money, is filtered as well.

Websites which offer perfectly legitimate content via P2P downloads are also filtered by Sky’s default settings. This includes VODO, the distribution platform for indie filmmakers, the download page of the Linux-based Fedora, as well as the download portal Linuxtracker.

In addition, several websites that merely write news about file-sharing issues are blocked by the filter too, including TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak blocked by Sky’s filter

sky-tf-blocked

According to Sky, the decision to extend the filter beyond porn and other adult content was partly made based on input from subscribers.

“Our customers have told us they want the option to control the content that enters their homes. As part of this, they have also told us what sort of content they would like included in Sky Broadband Shield,” a Sky spokesperson told us.

The provider further points out that account holders have the option to turn the filter off or allow certain sites to be unblocked.

“We know that no single setting will suit everybody, so our product allows customers to make their own decisions about individual websites, overriding the pre-defined categories to unblock a particular site if they wish. This gives any Sky home the ability to fully customise their filters.”

The question is, however, how many people will be familiar with this unblocking option. There is little doubt that the filtered sites will see a drop in visitors, which may become problematic when more and more providers employ similar filters by default.

TorrentFreak spoke with the Open Rights Group (ORG), who have been very critical of the filtering schemes in the UK. According to Executive Director Jim Killock, Sky is not the only problem here, as other UK ISPs employ overbroad blocking schemes, including the older mobile network filters.

“Most of the filters seem to encourage parents to block anything that is related to anonymizers, hacking and filesharing. In short, the filters seem to adopt a strategy of stopping under 18s from learning how to do anything useful with a computer, in case that helps them get round blocks,” Killock says.

ORG stresses that the filters may prevent young people from learning much-needed computer skills, which could eventually hurt the local computer industry.

“It could damage the learning of a generation, and the competitiveness of the UK computer industry. Computer related websites and discussions should always be available to young people as it is part of their right to an education.”

To find out what is being blocked exactly, ORG has been building its own checking tools, as well as a website where false positives can be reported.

Whether anything can be done against the overblocking and false positives that are reported remains to be seen. For now all legitimate file-sharing services and sites remain blocked, including the article you are reading right now.

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

TorrentFreak: Scary Site Blocking Announcement Threatens 750,000+ Sites

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

censorshipSites are currently being blocked all around Europe, mostly via court-ordered procedures such as those actioned in several countries against The Pirate Bay.

However, there are other censorship mechanisms coming to the forefront. Developments in Italy mean that from April blockades against file-sharing sites will be initiated without the need for a court order, a worrying development and a slap in the face for due process.

In addition to the common High Court injunction, in the UK there is now ‘voluntary’ site blocking being carried out by ISPs in the form of parental controls that are activated by default. They have already caused outrage by blocking children’s anti-abuse charities and are bound to cause even more trouble during the new year.

Once the site blocking genie was let out of the bottle it was only a matter of time as to when it would cause a proper disaster. Worryingly, a new announcement coming out of Russia is an indicator of what kind of damage could be caused if the wrong people are given access to the website kill-switch.

Telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor is the body responsible for maintaining Russia’s Internet blacklist. Sites can be placed on the blacklist for any number of reasons, from promoting drugs, crime and suicide, to failing to respond to rightholders complaints under the anti-piracy legislation passed earlier this year.

There are already tens of thousands of sites (including file-sharing portals) already on the list but if Roskomnadzor carries through on its latest threats the situation could quickly accelerate out of all proportion.

The problem, the watchdog says, is being caused by foreign hosts and service providers, mainly in the United States, who are refusing to disable access to a range of ‘illegal’ material when Russian authorities ask. The sites they host apparently “hop around” from location to location, but within the same provider, testing Roskomnadzor’s patience.

“We have serious questions about a particular group of providers offering such sites hosting services. We ask them to block content, but they refuse to cooperate with us,” says spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky.

As a result Roskomnadzor says it is considering blocking a range of overseas hosts for failing to comply. They include Ukrainian host Vedekon.ua, Endurance International (US), Hostnoc (US), DataShack (US), Infinitie (US), and the torrent and file-sharing friendly OVH (France) and Voxility (Romania).

While blocking these entire hosts would be a drastic move, when one examines the other sites on the regulator’s list one sees how things could get a whole lot worse.

Stop-ddos.net, staminus.net and incapsula.com are all US-based content-agnostic services that provide websites with DDoS and other security-related protection. Even though they clearly do not provide any illegal content, they are being held responsible for the activities of their customers.

And, as if it couldn’t get any worse, rounding off the Russian list is CloudFlare, a US-based CDN company that assists many hundreds of thousands of sites worldwide. Back in March, CloudFlare experienced technical difficulties which resulted in 750,000 sites being taken offline. If the Russian’s block CloudFlare, similar numbers of sites would be rendered locally inaccessible.

Whether Roskomnadzor carries through with its threats remains to be seen, but even putting the majority of these companies on its list shows that collateral damage is hardly a major concern of theirs.

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

TorrentFreak: RapidGator Wiped From Google by False DMCA Notices

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

rapidgatorEvery week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google in the hope of making pirated content harder to find.

Thus far this has resulted in more than 200 million URLs being removed from Google’s search engine. While many of these takedown claims are legit, some are clearly false, censoring perfectly legitimate webpages from search results.

File-hosting service RapidGator.net is one site that has fallen victim to such overbroad takedown requests. The file-hosting service has had nearly all its URLs de-listed, including its homepage, making the site hard to find through Google.

Several other clearly non-infringing pages, including the FAQ, the news section, and even the copyright infringement policy, have also been wiped from Google by various takedown requests.

Removed URLs

rapid-wiped

People who now search for RapidGator on Google will no longer see the site’s domain listed on top of the search results. Instead, the first result now points to RapidGator.org, which appears to be a RapidGator affiliate.

RapidGator is one of the most visited file-sharing portals on the Internet, and the site believes it misses out on thousands of visitors now they have become invisible through Google.

“We’ll lose thousands of visitors because of this action. This is not right. If it happens to us, it can happen to MediaFire or Dropbox tomorrow,” RapidGator’s Dennis told TorrentFreak.

“Most importantly, it opens the door for phishing sites, who will register similar site name and mislead our users,” he adds.

At the time of writing, only two RapidGator URLs are indexed by Google. The file-hosting service has submitted counter-notices for several of the false takedown requests, but thus far they haven’t heard back from Google.

RapidGator’s indexed pages

rapidgator2results

Interestingly, Google has processed takedown requests for millions of RapidGator links over the past months, even though the site only allowed the search engine to crawl a dozen of its pages. In other words, most of the RapidGator pages copyright holders ask Google to remove were never indexed by Google to begin with.

“Our robots.txt forbids search engines bots to index any file/* folder/ URLs. We only allow them to crawl our main page and the pages we have in a footer of the website. So most of the URLs for which Google gets DMCA notices are not listed in index by default,” RapidGator’s Dennis explains.

RapidGator hopes that Google will eventually reinstate the homepage listing, as well as the other pages that have been removed without basis.

This is not the first setback for the file-hosting site this year. Last month an Italian court ordered local ISPs to block RapidGator to protect the rights of a movie distribution company controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Despite these troubles, the site remains one of the most visited file-sharing sites on the Internet, serving millions of users per day.

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

TorrentFreak: Imgur Wiped Out By Sky Broadband Torrent Site Blocking

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

imgurThanks to legal action by the Hollywood studios and major recording labels, more than a couple of dozen file-sharing sites are now blocked by the six leading ISPs in the UK.

One of those sites is YIFY-Torrents, a particularly popular file-sharing site best known for its compact movie rips. Over the weekend TorrentFreak ran an article on the site which detailed its efforts to beat the censors.

Although we aren’t privy to exactly what was going on behind the scenes at YIFY, we do know that in addition to other tweaks they were experimenting with CloudFlare, a CDN and security company which, according to stats released by the company last year, is used by hundreds of thousands of websites.

What we also learned is that the main ISPs in the UK – BT, SKY, Virgin, TalkTalk etc – are each using their own techniques to try and render torrent sites unavailable to their subscribers. Tricks that worked on one ISP didn’t necessarily produce the same results on another, with YIFY managing to unblock Sky and TalkTalk seemingly quite quickly but with Virgin Media requiring more work.

This is where it gets interesting. By using CloudFlare’s services as a front-end to YIFY’s caching servers alongside other backroom tweaks, YIFY managed to beat the censors to became accessible in the UK over the weekend. But that came at a price.

As revealed by these extended discussions on Reddit and StackOverflow, sometime on Saturday Imgur was rendered inaccessible to all five million users of Sky Broadband in the UK.

There was much speculation, ranging from Imgur somehow ending up on the Internet Watch Foundation’s blocklist to Sky simply being a “terrible” broadband supplier. However, there was a more straightforward but ultimately bewildering explanation.

Sky employs an automated blocking system that polls torrent sites’ DNS records in order to quickly re-block them in the event they switch servers or IP addresses.

“Sky regularly pull IP addresses listed on our DNS servers and adds them to their block list. This block list is then used by an advanced proxy system that redirects any requests to the blacklisted IP addresses to a webserver that the ISP owns which returns a blocked page message,” YIFY explains.

Therefore, when YIFY began using CloudFlare servers in Australia, Sky pulled these IP addresses and blocked them in the mistaken belief that they were YIFY’s. Since Imgur uses the same IP addresses, Sky’s automated blocking took the site offline, to the huge disappointment of countless customers.

IMGURBlocked

Unbelievably this isn’t the first time that Sky’s systems have managed to block entirely innocent sites. Back in August, Sky blocked TorrentFreak.com after EZTV experimented with its DNS settings and just days later it blocked RadioTimes and other sites following a screw-up initiated by the Premier League.

Of course, to some extent this whole blocking problem has been placed in Sky’s lap by the High Court, but by now one would have thought that the ISP would have mastered the process. Allowing their systems to be dictated to by other external systems over which it has no control can never be a good idea.

Sometime yesterday Imgur was eventually unblocked by Sky.

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

TorrentFreak: Our Free Society Stands Or Falls With Our Defense Of Sharing Knowledge And Culture

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

censorshipThe Pirate Bay has been no stranger to jumping domain names to evade feeble censorship.

Starting out at thepiratebay.org in 2003, it switches addresses nowadays as soon as one is threatened. However, the fact that Internet addresses can be censored like this is a large problem.

The copyright industry has been pushing relentlessly for the ability to censor sites they don’t like. Unfortunately, through a mix of digitally illiterate politicians who don’t understand that they’re creating censorship, and digitally literate bureaucrats who want to create this kind of censorship if they can get away with it, several legislatures and administrations have agreed to the insane demands of the copyright industry.

It’s not just bad because it blocks access to The Pirate Bay – because it doesn’t. It’s bad because it creates a precedent of how administrations and legislatures can, and should, deal with publishers they don’t like for whatever reason.

For once the censorship regime is in place, you won’t think for a second that it will stop at culture-sharing sites, would you? Once such a tool is available in the bureaucrat toolbox, it will be applied to anything and everything considered insubordinate or troublesome.

There is a reason the copyright industry loves child pornography so much – the reason that industry lobbied hard to create censorship of child abuse sites, actively hiding the problem and preventing assistance. They knew politicians wouldn’t dare disagree on such a toxic subject, and once the box was open, “other illegal sites” – those that circumvent the harmful copyright monopoly – were next in line. In reality, the culture-sharing hubs had been the target all along, and mentioning “child pornography” had merely been a battering ram to get the censorship started – notwithstanding that the censorship actually creates more child abuse and protects predators, something the copyright industry doesn’t care about at all.

Governments would not hesitate to build further on such a censorship regime. In Finland, meta-discussions about the child pornography censorship were themselves placed under censorship – effectively censoring political discussion that was embarrassing to the administration. In the UK, censorship that started as “violent pornography” has crept to “all pornography”, already censoring a lot of political opinion under that definition, and crept further into “extremist views” and other clearly political material.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see where this is going. And the copyright regime is pushing for an actively-censored society to protect their monopolistic and parasitic business interests. It is therefore, exactly therefore, that the free society stands or falls with our defense of sharing knowledge and culture, and activists like the operators of The Pirate Bay.

In their wannabe censorship regime, the copyright industry has attacked the DNS infrastructure, one of few systems on the Internet that is relatively centralized. Wisely, activists with The Pirate Bay have therefore announced a browser package that makes DNS censorship utterly ineffective.

Now, one could argue that this is a technically advanced solution that would challenge ordinary people’s uptake. While such an observation would be correct, it doesn’t really matter: 250 million Europeans and 150 million Americans have learned to use BitTorrent, which is far from a walk in the park. The demand for sharing is so great that entire generations gladly climb the learning curve without blinking. Any new censorship attempt has always resulted in more traffic to the culture-sharing hubs. It would be a safe prediction to say that a permanent anti-censorship device would be quickly taken up.

Therefore, the copyright industry’s screams for censorship are actively driving the defense of a free society. While I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the copyright industry, it’s heartwarming to see the battle for a free society take place in a location where people actually mount a defense, and make sure that censorship can always be circumvented.

For if such censorship can be circumvented for culture-sharing sites – and it can, and it will – then we still have some hope of communicating insubordinate political opinions in the future, too.

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.

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