Posts tagged ‘Copyright’

TorrentFreak: Kim Dotcom Leaves Bail Hearing a Free Man, For Now

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

kimmegaLast week during a hearing at the Auckland District Court, Crown Prosecutor Christine Gordon said that following an apparent breach of conditions an application had been made to revoke Kim Dotcom’s bail.

The allegations, which are reportedly serious enough to put Dotcom back behind bars, resulted in the Court ordering tightened restrictions preventing the entrepreneur from using helicopters, traveling by boat, or going more than 80 kilometers from his Coatesville mansion.

The details of the allegations were set to be revealed this Monday during a second bail hearing but a day earlier a new affidavit containing more allegations led Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield to request and receive a delay until Thursday.

Dotcom arrived in good time for this morning’s hearing. Pulling up at the Auckland District Court in his familiar Mercedes G-Class, Dotcom exited the vehicle while ignoring questions from the waiting press.

“Mr Dotcom, are you worried about the prospect of returning to jail?” one reporter asked.

dotcom-courtWearing his trademark all black and carrying a small towel and water bottle, within seconds a somber Dotcom was inside, passing metal detectors and riding up an escalator to the next floor.

What happened next is largely cloaked in mystery due to a media blackout imposed by the court.

What we do know is that the hearing was due to begin at 10:00 and the topic would be whether to extend or revoke Dotcom’s bail. The Crown alleges that Dotcom breached his bail conditions and it now appears those claims date back to events in 2012, potentially almost three years ago.

The hearing took place before Judge Nevin Dawson. A veteran of Dotcom cases, at one point Dawson cleared the courtroom so that private discussions on how Dotcom should be cross-examined could take place.

More than seven hours after it began and having failed to reach a conclusion on Dotcom’s bail, the hearing was terminated around 5pm. It will resume lunchtime tomorrow with Dotcom potentially learning his fate before the end of the day.

Dotcom has been on bail since February 2012 following the raids a month earlier on his Coatesville mansion. His extradition battle with the United States has been running ever since and has now been delayed until 2015 to allow the Megaupload founder to put together a new legal team.

Although the companies involved have remained tight-lipped, Dotcom revealed this week that his high-profile New Zealand-based legal team quit after he ran out of money.

“I’m officially broke right now,” he told a digital technology conference in London this week. According to the entrepreneur, to date he’s spent $10m on his defense.

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

TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay Goes Down Locally

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

tpb-logoMany U.S. Internet subscribers across various ISPs are experiencing trouble accessing The Pirate Bay at the moment.

Every time TPB becomes inaccessible thousands of people begin to worry that their ISPs have begun blocking or that something awful has happened to their beloved site.

However, the current downtime appears to be a routing issue as the site is still reachable in most parts of the world.

There’s also good news for people who can’t access The Pirate Bay at the moment because many of the proxies are still working just fine, as do VPNs.

TF reached out to the TBC crew who confirmed that that there are connectivity problems. However, this appears to be beyond their control.

“As far as we are concerned TPB is online. Network connectivity issues are outside of our control. Many people are experiencing no issues connecting to TPB,” a TPB crew member says.

“Sooner or later these routing issues will be resolved. In the meantime, a proxy or VPN can be used,” he adds.

There is no ETA for when the problems will be resolved but the most resilient torrent site is expected come back online for everyone eventually.

Stay tuned.

Pirate Bay Downtime

tpb

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

TorrentFreak: Record Biz Wants To Tax Brits For Copying Their Own Music

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

Until recently the vast majority of British citizens believed that copying music bought with their own money was something they could do without legal concerns.

The truth, however, was somewhat different. Until recently UK legislation did not permit so-called “private copying”, meaning that anyone who transferred music from a purchased CD to an MP3 player was committing an offense.

Recognizing this as a problem, earlier this year the government decided that it would be in the best interests of consumers to legalize copying for personal use. After a delay through the summer, last month changes were put into place enabling people to make copies of DVDs, CDs and other types of media, as long as they’re for personal use.

But now, less than two months on, the music industry is voicing its collective displeasure at the government’s decision and announcing plans to have consumers pay a new “copy tax” to rightsholders.

The Musicians’ Union (MU), The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music (of which the BPI is a member) say they have launched an application for a judicial review into the government’s decision to introduce a so-called “private copying exception” without including a kickback to rightsholders.

What the industry groups want is a tax to be applied to blank media including blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other devices capable of recording. This money would then be funneled back to the music industry for distribution among rightsholders, a mechanism already operating in other European countries.

Despite never earning a penny from the billions of copies made before October 1, 2014, the music industry groups say that allowing citizens to record in future “will damage the musician and composer community” and amounts to a contravention of the EU Copyright Directive.

The judicial review will see the High Court examine the introduction of the levy-less copying exception to ascertain whether the government acted legally. The music groups’ aim is to have the legislation amended in the industry’s favor.

“We have sought judicial review because of the way the government made its decision not to protect the UK’s creative industries – in stark contrast to other countries that have introduced copyright exceptions,” says Vick Bain, CEO of The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

“We fully support the right of the consumer to copy legally bought music for their own personal and private use, but there must be fair compensation for the creators of the music.”

UK Music CEO Jo Dipple says that licensing is the key to the industry’s success in the digital age so when the right to copy without a license is granted, in this case to the public, rightsholders must be compensated.

“Copyright enables people to earn a living out of their creativity and sustains jobs. The Government has made a serious error with regards to private copying. The legislative framework must guarantee musicians and composers are fairly compensated,” Dipple says.

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

TorrentFreak: BT Starts Blocking Private Torrent Sites

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

bt-blockedFollowing a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are currently required to block subscriber access to dozens of the world’s largest torrent sites.

The latest order was issued last month after a complaint from the major record labels. It expands the UK blocklist by 21 torrent sites, including limetorrents.com, nowtorrents.com, picktorrent.com, seedpeer.me and torlock.com.

This weekend both BT and Sky implemented the new changes, making it harder for their subscribers to reach these sites. Interestingly, however, BT appears to have gone above and beyond the court order, limiting access to various other sites as well.

Over the past several days TorrentFreak has received reports from several users of private torrent sites who get an “error blocked” message instead of their favorite sites. These include the popular IPTorrents.com and TorrentDay.com trackers, as well as scene release site Scnsrc.me.

IPTorrents and Torrentday are significant targets. Although both sites require prospective users to obtain an invite from a current member (or from the site itself in exchange for cash), they have over a hundred thousand active users.

The error displayed when BT subscribers try to access the above URLs is similar to that returned when users to try access sites covered by High Court injunctions.

However, there is no known court decision that requires BT to block these URLs. In fact, no UK ISP has ever blocked a private torrent site before.

TF contacted BT’s press contact and customer service team but we have yet to receive a response to our findings. Meanwhile, several of the affected users are discussing on Facebook and Twitter how they can bypass the blockades.

bt-blocked

It appears that for now IPTorrents is still accessible via https and via the site’s alternative .me and .ru domains. In addition, VPNs and proxy servers are often cited among suggested workaround techniques.

Whether the private torrent sites will remain blocked and on what grounds remains a mystery for now. We will update this article if BT sends us a response. BT users who spot more unusual blocks are encouraged to get in touch.

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

TorrentFreak: ABS-CBN Sues Another 18 Sites Over TV and Movie Piracy

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

money-featBack in August TF published a reported on copyright-focused legal action initiated in the United States by ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines.

The media giant filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Oregon looking for millions of dollars in damages from two local husband and wife residents. Their main target, Jeff Ashby, claimed he created several tiny websites so that his wife could enjoy entertainment from her home country. Lawyers for ABS-CBN viewed those sites rather differently.

Last month the case ended badly for the defendants. After branding Ashby a hardcore criminal and using its own news shows to paint him in a poor light, ABS-CBN hit their home run. The media giant reached a consent agreement with Ashby and the Oregon District Court ordered him to pay a mind-blowing $10 million in damages.

Here at TF we suspected that the $10m decision might be of value to ABS-CBN should they wish to begin suing other sites. After all, no one wants to get hit with a $10m bill so settlement offers below this amount might seem more attractive and become more easily arrived at. Sure enough, just weeks later ABS-CBN is back.

In an action filed in a Florida district court, ABS-CBN is now targeting 100 ‘Does’ and another 18 sites in a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit. ABS-CBN says that in the United States it makes its content available through companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Cox Communications, AT&T, Verizon and Charter to name just a few, but these ‘pirate’ services are undermining that commercial activity.

“Through their various websites, Defendants hold out to the public that they have ABS-CBN’s content, and re-broadcast ABS-CBN’s TV shows and movies over the Internet, in order to illegally profit from ABS-CBN’s intellectual property, without ABS-CBN’s consent,” court papers read.

“Further, Defendants control the organization and presentation of the content by themselves providing links to ABS-CBN shows and promote and advertise the content as ABS-CBN’s, including through the use of ABS-CBN’s marks; and stream the shows for users’ viewing through their websites.”

The media company also claims that the ‘pirate’ sites distribute malware, spyware and “other nefarious, malicious and harmful software….typically in the guise of software updates ‘needed’ by the viewer in order to enhance their viewing experience of Plaintiffs’ video content.”

Visits to a handful of the sites carried out by TF confirmed that some do indeed request the installation of a browser addon but when those are rejected the sites remain functional.

In order to end any infringement quickly, ABS-CBN is seeking temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctions not only against the sites, but also anyone “acting in concert or participation” with them including Internet search engines, web hosts, domain name registrars, and domain name registries.

In respect of domains, ABS-CBN wants all domains put “On Hold” by their registries and then canceled, deleted or transferred “so that they may no longer be used for illegal purposes.”

On the copyright front the action seeks the maximum statutory damages from the defendants of $150,000 per infringement plus attorneys’ fees and costs. In respect of abuse of trademarks, ABS-CBN requests $2 million for each counterfeit trademark used.

Finally, the Philippines-based company demands that all funds generated by the pirate sites should be handed over to partially satisfy any judgment handed down.

It seems unlikely that any of the sites (listed below) will go head-to-head with ABS-CBN in court so settlement agreements will have to be reached. Whether the media giant will begin publishing the details of yet more large settlements will remain to be seen, but it’s doubtful that any will have $10m just sitting around.

Sites targeted by ABS-CBN in its latest lawsuit.

1 buhaypinoyofw.net
2 freepinoytvshows.net
2 pinoylovetvshowreplay.com
3 hapeetube.biz
3 lovelytube.biz
3 pinoy-telebisyon.biz
3 pinoy-telebisyon.org
4 lambingan.tk
5 movieserye.com
6 pinaytambayan.org
7 pinoy-ako.me
8 pinoymoviegallery.net
9 pinoytambayan.me
10 pinoytelesine.com
11 pinoytopmovies.com
12 pinoytv.me
13 projectcabbage.com
14 tambayanofwtv.info
15 telebesyon.com
16 telebyuwers.ph
16 telebyuwers.tv
17 teleseryereplay.com
18 yzreplay.com

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

TorrentFreak: Senator Uses Piracy Report to Pressure Visa, Mastercard

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

visa-mastercardFollowing the crash and burn of the defunct SOPA legislation in the United States, Hollywood and the recording industry regrouped to formulate a new strategy.

Their new approach is more considered and cautious, but underneath there is still a burning desire to achieve the main goals of SOPA without need for new legislation. One aim is to strangle the finances of allegedly copyright-infringing sites, particularly if those funds touch American soil.

Unsurprisingly payment processors including Visa and MasterCard have become a key focal point. Directly or otherwise, file-sharing related sites worldwide use the services of these U.S.-based companies, a situation the entertainment industries (and their government allies) would love to bring to an end. Today that fight has been given new momentum.

As the former lead sponsor of the defunct controversial Protect IP Act (PIPA), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is no stranger to pro-copyright issues. Today he’s again leading the way with letters to both Visa and MasterCard on the topic of online piracy.

Leahy begins by outlining how the work of America’s artists is being undermined by largely overseas websites dedicated to copyright infringement. This type of “foreign invasion” imagery was rolled out in lobbying efforts for both PIPA and SOPA but this time around Leahy draws on a recent study to support his pitch to the processors.

“A report recently released by NetNames and the Digital Citizens Alliance analyzed the financial performance of leading cyberlockers, which (unlike lawful cloud storage services) exist to unlawfully store and disseminate infringing files around the world,” Leahy writes.

profitThe Senator informs the processors that a vast majority of the “most pernicious cyberlockers” rely on them for their financial viability. The companies surely agree, Leahy says, that no amount of money derived from “unlawful activity” should end up on their balance sheets.

Although the site is not mentioned by name, Leahy praises the work of both MasterCard and Visa in 2006 when they suspended their services to Russian-based music download portal AllofMP3. However, eight years on more work needs to be done to “revise policies” concerning infringing websites.

“The cyberlockers listed in the NetNames report bear red flags of having no legitimate purpose or activity. I ask [Visa / MasterCard] to review the complaints against those cyberlockers and to ensure that payment processing services offered by [both companies] to those sites, or any others dedicated to infringing activity, cease,” Leahy adds.

While there are indeed some dubious sites in the NetNames report, Leahy’s words are bound to further infuriate New Zealand-based file-hosting site Mega.co.nz. Although the status of the complaint is unclear, Mega has already threatened legal action against NetNames after the company included the file-hoster in its report.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that letters like the ones sent by Leahy to MasterCard and Visa usually start out amicably but end in implied threats to intervene should no progress be made. However, Leahy carefully tows the current entertainment industry line of cooperation over confrontation.

Urging the payment processors to work with copyright owners, Leahy says partnerships should develop methods and practices for the “efficient investigation” of sites alleged to be involved in infringement.

“Voluntary agreements, developed and refined over time between the relevant stakeholders, hold great promise for addressing the problem of infringement online,” Leahy concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Piracy Police Arrest Two for The Expendables 3 Movie Leak

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

expendablespiracyEarlier this year the movie The Expendables 3 leaked in extremely high-quality several weeks before its theatrical debut, causing a huge Hollywood controversy.

A fully finished so-called DVD Screener copy of the action movie featuring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on July 25 and had already been downloaded millions of times before its official release August 15.

In the U.S., movie distributor LionsGate has been working hard on the legal front, chasing down alleged downloaders and even suing file-sharing sites and domain registrars. News in just a few moments ago reveals that the hunt has traveled across the Atlantic.

According to the Intellectual Property Crime Unit of City of London Police (PIPCU), two people were taken into custody this morning under suspicion of leaking The Expendables 3 online.

Detectives from PIPCU traveled to Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, where they arrested a 33-year-old man. PIPCU detectives also arrested a 36-year-old man at his home in Upton, Wirral.

PIPCU informs TorrentFreak that the men are believed to have “stolen the film from a cloud based system” before uploading it to the Internet. The statement raises important questions though. Were the men involved in obtaining the original leaked copy and, crucially, were they the first to leak it online?

“The two suspects are believed to be involved in the leaking of the movie and are currently being questioned by PIPCU detectives,” is all PIPCU would tell TF, adding that the pair are being held at local police stations.

Earlier this year Lionsgate collaborated with the owner of file-hosting site Swankshare in an effort to identify who leaked the movie. That site subsequently shut down but it’s possible that logs were handed over in the meantime. Whether this is the “cloud based system” referred to by PIPCU remains a mystery for now.

“Today’s operation shows you the significant impact intellectual property crime has on our creative industries, with millions of pounds being lost as a result of criminal actions,” Head of PIPCU, Detective Chief Inspector Danny Medlycott said in a statement.

“The public need to be aware that piracy is not a victimless crime. By downloading illegal music, film, TV and books, not only are you exposing your own computer to the risk of viruses and malware, but you are also putting hardworking people’s livelihoods at risk as piracy threatens the security of thousands of jobs in the UK’s creative industries.”

It’s of some interest that the first suspects to be arrested in this super high-profile case are based in the UK. There have been no reports of arrests in the United States where the movie was made and being prepared for distribution.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Asked to Censor Three Million Pirate Bay URLs

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

pirate bayDespite the criminal prosecution of The Pirate Bay four, the notorious torrent site remains available to the public at large.

TPB is setup to make it especially difficult for law enforcement to take it down, so copyright holders have to turn to third parties to address the threat.

One of the main strategies is to ask Google and other search engines to remove infringing Pirate Bay URLs from their search results.

Google in particular is heavily targeted and this week the number of thepiratebay.se URLs submitted to Google reached the three million mark. Nearly all of these links have indeed been removed and can no longer be accessed through search results.

The chart below shows the number of links that have been submitted per week. There is a sharp decline towards the end of 2013 when The Pirate Bay used another domain name. The requests increased again in December when the torrent site switched back.

3 Million Pirate Bay URLs reported
thepiratebay3m

While most of the reported links do indeed point to copyrighted material, some none-infringing pages have been removed as well.

Paramount Pictures, for example, asked to remove this blog post where a comment mentions “the beast of hercules,” not the Hercules movie. Similarly, TPB’s Doodles page is gone because an adult entertainment company confused it with Kelly Madison’s “Yankee Doodle Dame”

In total, the three million URLs were submitted in 135,486 separate takedown notices, averaging more than 22 links per takedown request. A staggering number, but one that pales in comparison to other sites.

Looking at the list of domains for which Google received the most URLs removal requests, The Pirate Bay is currently listed in 23rd place. The top spot goes to rapidgator.net with close to 13 million URLs, followed by 4shared.com, filestube.com, dilandau.eu and zippyshare.com. Torrentz.eu, the first torrent site in the list, comes in 8th with 5.4 million URLs.

For The Pirate Bay the reduced availability in Google is not much of a problem. Previously the Pirate Bay team informed TorrentFreak that they stopped relying on search engines as a traffic source a long time ago.

And indeed, despite the censored pages The Pirate Bay’s traffic has continued to grow. Even today the site remains among the 100 most visited websites on the Internet.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Founder Preps Appeal, Puts the Press Straight

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

After being arrested in Cambodia during September 2012 it soon became clear that two Scandinavian countries wanted to get their hands on Gottfrid Svartholm.

Sweden had a long-standing interest in their countryman for his infamous work on The Pirate Bay, but once that was out-of-the-way a pair of hacking cases had to be dealt with.

The first, in Sweden, resulted in partial successes for both sides. While Gottfrid was found guilty of hacking into IT company Logica, following testimony from Jacob Appelbaum he was later cleared by the Appeal Court (Svea Hovrätt) of hacking into Nordea Bank.

But despite this significant result and a repeat appearance from Appelbaum, the trial that concluded in Denmark last month went all one way, with Gottfrid picking up a three-and-a-half year sentence.

With his mother Kristina acting as go-between, TorrentFreak recently fired off some questions to Gottfrid to find out how he’s been bearing up following October’s verdict and to discover his plans for the future.

Firstly, TF asked about his opinion on the decision. Gottfrid declined to answer directly but indicated we should look to the fact that he has already filed an appeal against the verdict. That should be enough of an answer, he said.

As it stands and considering time served, Gottfrid could be released as early as August 2015, but that clearly isn’t deterring him from the possibility of leaving sooner. Gottfrid has always shown that he’s both stubborn and a fighter, so sitting out his sentence in silence was probably never an option.

Moving on, TF pressed Gottfrid on what he feels were the points of failure during the court process and how these will play out alongside his appeal.

“Can’t discuss defense strategy at this point,” he responded. Fair enough.

Even considering the preparations for an appeal, there are a lot of hours in the coming months that will prove hard to fill. However, Gottfrid’s comments suggest that his access to books has improved since his days in solitary confinement and he’s putting that to use.

“I study neurobiology and related subjects to pass the time,” he says, with mother Kristina noting that this education is self-motivated.

“The ‘arrest house’ can of course not provide him with opportunities for higher studies,” she says.

Although he’s been thrust into the public eye on many occasions, Gottfrid’s appearances at court in Sweden (documented in TPB AFK) and later in his Danish trial reveal a man with an eye for detail and accuracy. It perhaps comes as little surprise then that he also took the opportunity to put the record straight on something he knows a lot about – the history of The Pirate Bay.

If one searches for “founders of The Pirate Bay” using Google, it’s very clear from many thousands of reports that they are Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde. According to Gottfrid, however, that simply isn’t true.

“TPB was founded by me and two people who haven’t been involved since 2004,” Gottfrid says. “Fredrik came into the picture when the site moved from Mexico to Sweden, probably early 2004.”

While acknowledging Fredrik’s work as important for the growth of the site, Gottfrid noted that Peter’s arrival came sometime later. He didn’t specify who the other two founders were but it’s likely they’re to be found among the early members of Piratbyrån as detailed here.

With Peter Sunde already released from his sentence and Fredrik Neij close to beginning his, it’s possible that the founders trio could all be free men by the end of 2015. So does Gottfrid have anything exciting up his sleeve for then?

“Yes, I have plans, but I’m not sharing them,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Piracy Monetization Firm Rightscorp Sued for Harassment and Abuse

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

rightscorp-realCopyright holders have been sending DMCA takedown notices to ISPs for over a decade, but in recent years these warnings turned into revenue opportunities.

Companies such as Rightscorp ask U.S. ISPs to forward DMCA notices to subscribers,with a settlement offer tagged on to the end. On behalf of Warner Bros, BMG and others Rightscorp asks subscribers to pay $20 per pirated file or risk a potential $150,000 in court.

In recent months there have been various complaints from people who were aggressively approached by Rightscorp, which has now resulted in a class-action complaint against the piracy monetization firm.

The lawsuit was filed at a California federal court on behalf of Karen Reif, Isaac Nesmith and others who were approached by Rightscorp. In the complaint, Rightscorp is accused of violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, violations of debt Collection laws and Abuse of Process.

One of the allegations describes the repeated use of robo-calls to alleged infringers. A summary of what happened to Karen Reif shows that once Rightscorp knows who you are, they don’t give up easily.

“By late September of 2014, Ms. Reif was receiving on average about one robo-call per day, and sometimes one robo-call and one live call in the same day.These calls came in from a variety of different numbers, from different area codes all over the country,” the complaint alleges.

This bombardment of harassing robo-calls is a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the lawyers argue.

The class-action further includes a long list of violations regarding Rightscorp’s debt collection practices, violating both the FDCPA and the Rosenthal Act.

“Among other wrongful conduct: Rightscorp has engaged in telephone harassment and abuse; made various false and misleading representations; engaged in unfair collections practices; failed to provide validation and required notices relating to the debts..,” the complaint reads.

In addition to the above Rightscorp allegedly made false representations that ISPs were participating in the debt collection. For example, the warning letter stated that ISPs would disconnect repeat infringers, something that rarely happened.

Finally, the complaint raises the issue of Rightscorp’s controversial DMCA subpoenas which demand that smaller ISPs should hand over personal details of their subscribers. Thus far most ISPs have complied, but according to the complaint these requests are a “sham and abuse” of the legal process.

“To identify potential consumers to target, Rightscorp has willfully misused this Court’s subpoena power by issuing at least 142 special DMCA subpoenas, per [the DMCA], to various Internet Service Providers.”

“These subpoenas, which were issued on this Court’s authority, but procured outside of an adversarial proceeding and without any judicial review, are so clearly legally invalid as to be a sham and abuse of the legal process,” the complaint reads.

The above is just a summary of the long list of complaints being brought against Rightscorp. With these settlement practices becoming more common, the case will definitely be one to watch.

Attorney Morgan Pietz is confident that they have a strong case and told FCT that other Rightscorp victims are invited to get in touch.

“We would still be very interested to talking to anyone who was being contacted by Rightscorp or who paid settlements, particularly anyone who was getting the pre-recorded robo-calls,” Pietz said.

For Rightscorp the lawsuit is yet another setback. Earlier this month the piracy monetization firm reported that it continues to turn a loss, which may eventually drive the company towards bankruptcy.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Refuses MPAA Request to Blacklist ‘Pirate Site’ Homepages

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

google-bayEvery week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find.

The music industry groups RIAA and BPI are among the most active senders. Together they have targeted more than 170 million URLs in recent years.

The MPAA’s statistics are more modest. Thus far the Hollywood group has asked Google to remove only 19,288 links from search results. The most recent request is one worth highlighting though, as it shows a clear difference of opinion between Hollywood and Google.

Last week the MPAA sent a DMCA request listing 81 allegedly infringing pages, mostly torrent and streaming sites.

Unlike most other copyright holders, the MPAA doesn’t list the URLs where the pirated movies are linked from, but the site’s homepages instead. This is a deliberate strategy, one that previously worked against KickassTorrents.

However, this time around Google was less receptive. As can be seen below most of the MPAA’s takedown requests were denied. In total, Google took “no action” for 60 of the 81 submitted URLs, including casa-cinema.net, freemoviestorrents.com and solarmovie.is.

Part of MPAA’s takedown request
mpaa-takedown-refusal

It’s unclear why Google refused to take action, but it seems likely that the company views the MPAA’s request as too broad. While the sites’ homepages may indirectly link to pirated movies, for most this required more than one click from the homepage.

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

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

In this case Google appears to see most reported homepages as not infringing, at least not for the works the MPAA specified.

The MPAA previously said that it would like to move towards blocking pirate sites from search engines entirely, however Google’s recent actions suggest that the company doesn’t want to go this far just yet.

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

The Hacker Factor Blog: Lowering The Bar

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

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is one of my favorite non-profit organizations. They have a huge number of attorneys who are ready to help people with issues related to online privacy, copyright, and security. If you’re about to make an 0-day exploit public and receive a legal threat from the software provider, then the EFF should be the first place you go.

The EFF actually provides multiple services. Some are top-notch, but others are not as high quality as they should be. These services include:

Legal Representation
If you need an attorney for an online issue, such as privacy or security, then they can give you direction. When I received a copyright extortion letter from Getty Images, the EFF rounded up four different attorneys who were interested in helping me fight Getty. (Getty Images backed down before I could use these attorneys.) Legal assistance is one of the EFF’s biggest and best offerings.

Legal News
The EFF continually releases news blurbs and whitepapers that discuss current events and their impact on security and privacy. Did you know that U.S. companies supply eavesdropping gear to Central Asian autocrats or that Feds proposed the secret phone database used by local Virginia cops? If you follow the EFF’s news feed, then you saw these reports. As a news aggregation service, their reports are very timely, but also very biased. The EFF’s reporting is biased toward a desire for absolute privacy online, even though nobody’s anonymous online.

Technical Services
The EFF occasionally promotes or releases software designed to assist with online privacy. While these efforts have good intentions, they are typically poorly thought out and can lead to significant problems. For example:

  • HTTPS Everywhere. This browser extension forces your web browser to use HTTPS whenever possible. It has a long set of configuration files that specify which sites should use HTTPS. Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the problems created by this application in “EFF’ing Up“. Specifically: (1) Some sites return different content if you use HTTPS instead of HTTP, (2) they do not appear to test their configuration files prior to releasing them, and (3) they do not fix bad configuration files.

  • TOR. The EFF is a strong supporter of the TOR Project, which consists of a network of servers that help anonymize network connections. The problem is that the EFF wants everyone to run a TOR relay. For a legal organization, the EFF seems to forget that many ISPs forbid end consumers from running public network services — running a TOR relay may violate your ISP’s terms of service. The TOR relay will also slow down your network connection as other people use your bandwidth. (Having other people use your bandwidth is why most consumer-level ISPs forbid users from hosting network services.) And if someone else uses your TOR relay to view child porn, then you are the person that the police will interrogate. In effect, the EFF tells people to run a network service without revealing any of the legal risks.

Free SSL

The EFF recently began promoting a new technical endeavor called Let’s Encrypt. This free CA server should help web sites move to HTTPS. News outlets like Boing Boing, The Register, and ExtremeTech all reported on this news announcement.

A Little Background

Let’s backup a moment… On the web, you can either connect to sites using HTTP or HTTPS. The former (HTTP) is unencrypted. That means anyone watching the network traffic can see what you are doing. The latter (HTTPS) is HTTP over SSL; SSL provides a framework for encrypting network traffic.

But notice how I say “framework”. SSL does not encrypt traffic. Instead, it provides a way for a client (like your web browser) and a server (like a web site) to negotiate how they want to transfer data. If both sides agree on a cryptographic setting, then the data is encrypted.

HTTPS is not a perfect solution. In many cases, it really acts as a security placebo. A user may see that HTTPS is being used, but may not be aware that they are still vulnerable. The initial HTTPS connection can be hijacked (a man-in-the-middle attack) and fake certificates can be issued to phishing servers. Even if the network connection is encrypted, this does nothing to stop the web server from tracking users or providing malware, and nothing to stop vandals from attacking web server. And all of this is before SSL exploits like Heartbleed and POODLE. In general, HTTPS should be considered a “better than nothing” solution. But it is far from perfect.

Entry Requirements

Even with all of the problems associated with SSL and HTTPS, for most uses it is still better than nothing. So why don’t more sites use HTTPS? There’s really a few limitations to entry. The EFF’s “Let’s Encrypt” project is a great solution to one of these problems and a partial solution to another problem. However, it doesn’t address all of the issues, and it is likely to create some new problems that the EFF has not disclosed.

Problem #1: Pay to Play
When an HTTPS client connects to an HTTPS server, the server transmits a server-side certificate as part of the cryptographic negotiation. The client then checks with a third-party certificate authority (CA server) and asks whether the server’s certificate is legitimate. This allows the client to know that the server is actually the correct server.

The server’s certificate identifies the CA network that should be used to verify the certificate. Unfortunately, if the certificate can say where to go to verify it, then bad guys can issue a certificate and tell your browser that it should be verified by a CA server run by the same bad guys. (Yes, fake-bank.com looks like your bank, and their SSL certificate even looks valid, according to fake-ca.com.) For this reason, every web browser ships with a list of known-trusted CA servers. If the CA server is not on the known-list, then it isn’t trusted by default.

If there are any problems with the server’s certificate, then the web browser issues an alert to the user. The problems include outdated/expired certificates, coming from the wrong domain, and untrusted CA servers.

And this is where the first barrier toward wide-spread use comes in… All of those known-trusted CA servers charge a fee. If you want your web server to run with an SSL certificate that won’t generate any user warnings, then you need to pay one of these known-trusted CA servers to issue an SSL certificate for your online service. And if you run multiple services, then you need to pay them multiple times.

The problems should be obvious. Some people don’t have money to pay for the trusted certificate, or they don’t want to spend the money. You can register a domain name for $10 a year, but the SSL certificate will likely run $150 or more. If your site doesn’t need SSL, then you’re not going to pay $150 to require it.

And then there are people like me, who cannot justify paying for a security solution (SSL) that isn’t secure. I cannot justify paying $150 or more, just so web browsers won’t see a certificate warning when they connect to my HTTPS services. (I use self-signed certificates. By themselves, they are untrusted and not secure, but I offer client-side certificates. Virtually no sites use client-side certificates. But client-side certs are what actually makes SSL secure.)

The EFF’s “Let’s Encrypt” project is a free SSL CA server. With this solution, cost is no longer an entry barrier. When their site goes live, I hope to use it for my SSL needs.

Of course, other CA services, like Entrust, Thawte, and GoDaddy, may lower their prices of offer similar free services. (You cannot data-mine users unless they use your service. Even with a “free” pricing model, these CA issuers can still make a hefty profit from collected user data.) As far as the EFF’s offerings go, this is a very disruptive technology for the SSL industry.

Problem #2: Server Installation
Let’s assume that you acquired an SSL certificate from a certificate authority (Thawte, GoDaddy, Let’s Encrypt, etc.). The next step is to install the certificate on your web server.

HTTPS has never been known for its simplicity. Installing the SSL server-side certificate is a nightmare of configuration files and application-specific complexity. Unless you are a hard-core system administrator, then you probably cannot do it. Even GUI interfaces like cPanel have multiple complex steps that are not for non-technies. You, as a user with a web browser, have no idea how much aggravation the system administrator went through in order to provide you with HTTPS and that little lock icon on the address bar. If they are good, then they spent hours. If it was new to them, then it could have been days.

In effect, lots of sites do not run HTTPS because it is overly complicated to install and configure. (And let’s hope that you don’t have to change certificates anytime soon…) Also, HTTPS certificates include an expiration date. This means that there is an ongoing maintenance cost that includes time and effort.

The EFF’s “Let’s Encrypt” solution says that it will include automated management software to help mitigate the installation and maintenance effort. This will probably work if you run one of their supported platforms and have a simple configuration file. But if you’re running a complex system with multiple domains, custom configuration files, and strict maintenance/update procedures, then no script from the EFF will assist you.

Of course, all of this is speculation since the EFF has not announced the supported platforms yet… So far, they have only mentioned a python script for Apache servers. I assume that they mean “Apache2″ and not “Apache”. And even then, the configuration at FotoForensics has been customized for my own needs, so I suspect that their solution won’t work out-of-the-box for my needs.

Problem #3: Client Installation
So… let’s assume that it is past Summer 2015, when Let’s Encrypt becomes available. Let’s also assume that you got the server-side certificate and their automated maintenance script running. You’ve got SSL on your server, HTTPS working, and you’re ready for users. Now everything is about to work without any problems, right? Actually, no.

As pointed out in problem #1, unknown CA servers are not in the user’s list of trusted CA servers. So every browser connecting to one of these web servers will see that ugly alert about an untrusted certificate.

Every user will need to add the new Let’s Encrypt CA servers to their trusted list. And every browser (and almost every version of every browser) does this differently. Making matters worse, lots of mobile devices do not have a way to add new CA servers. It will take years or even decades to fully resolve this problem.

Windows XP reached its “end of life” (again), yet nearly 30% of Windows computers still run XP. IPv6 has been around for nearly 20 years, yet deployment is still at less than 10% for most countries. Getting everyone in the world to update/upgrade is a massive task. It is easier to release a new system than it is to update a deployed product.

The EFF may dream of everyone updating their web browsers, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that users will be quickly trained to ignore any certificate alerts from the web browsers. This opens the door for even more phishing and malware sites. (If the EFF really wanted to solve this problem, then they would phase out the use of SSL and introduce something new.)

There is one other possibility… Along with the EFF, IdenTrust is sponsoring Let’s Encrypt. IdenTrust runs a trusted CA service that issues SSL certificates. (The cost varies from $40 per year for personal use to over $200 per year, depending on various options.) Let’s Encryption could piggy-back off of IdenTrust. This would get past the “untrusted CA service” problem.

But if they did rely on the known-trusted IdenTrust that is already listed in every web browser… the why would anyone buy an SSL certificate from IdenTrust when they can get it for free via Let’s Encrypt? There has to be some catch here. Are they collecting user data? Every browser must verify every server, so whoever runs this free CA server knows when you connected to specific online services — that’s a lot of personal information. Or perhaps they hope to drive sales to their other products. Or maybe there will be a license agreement that prohibits the free service from commercial use. All of this would undermine the entire purpose of trying to protect user’s traffic.

Problem #4: Fake Domains
Phishing web sites, where bad guys impersonate your bank or other online service, have been using SSL certificates for years. They will register a domain like “bankofamerica.fjewahuif.com” and hope that users won’t notice the “fjewahuif” in the hostname. Then they register a real SSL certificate for their “fjewahuif.com” domain. At this point, victims see the “bankofamerica” text in the hostname and they see the valid HTTPS connection and they assume that this is legitimate.

The problem gets even more complicated when they use DNS hijacking. On rare occasions, bad guys have temporarily stolen domains and used to to capture customer information. For example, they could steal the “bankofamerica.com” domain and register a certificate for it at any of the dozens of legitimate CA servers. (If the real Bank of America uses VeriSign, then the fake Bank of America can use Thawte and nobody will notice.) With domain hijacking, it looks completely real but can actually be completely fake.

The price for an SSL certificate used to be a little deterrent. (Most scammers don’t mind paying $10 for a domain and $150 for a legitimate certificate, when the first victim will bring in a few thousands of dollars in stolen money.) But a free SSL CA server? Now there’s no reason not to run this scam. I honestly expect the volume of SSL certificate requests at the EFF’s Let’s Encrypt servers to quickly grow to 50%-80% scam requests. (A non-profit with a legal emphasis that helps scammers? As M. Night Shyamalan says in Robot Chicken: “What a twist!“)

“Free” as in “Still has a lot of work to do before it’s really ready”

The biggest concern that I have with this EFF announcement is that the technology does not exist yet. Their web site says “Arriving Summer 2015” — it’s nearly a year away. While they do have some test code available, their proposed standard is still a draft and they explicitly say to not run the code on any production systems. Until this solidifies into a public release, this is vaporware.

But I do expect this to eventually become a reality. The EFF is not doing this project alone. Let’s Encrypt is also sponsored by Mozilla, Akamai, Cisco, and IdenTrust. These are companies that know browsers, network traffic, and SSL. These are some of the biggest names and they are addressing one of the big problems on today’s Internet. I have no doubt that they are aware of these problems; I just dislike how they failed to disclose these issues when they had their Pollyannaish press release. Just because it is “free” doesn’t mean it won’t have costs for implementation, deployment, maintenance, and customer service. In the open source world, “free” does not mean “without cost”.

Overall, I do like the concept. Let’s Encrypt is intended to make it easier for web services to implement SSL. They will be removing the cost barrier and, in some cases, simplifying maintenance. However, they still face an uphill battle. Users may need to update their web browsers (or replace their old cellphones), steps need to be taken to mitigate scams, users must not be trained to habitually accept invalid certificates, and none of this helps the core issue that HTTPS is a security placebo and not a trustworthy solution. With all of these issues still needing to be addressed, I think that their service announcement a few days ago was a little premature.

TorrentFreak: Luxury Watchmakers Target Pirate Smartwatch Faces

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

rolx-360While digital watches have been becoming more complex in recent years, the advent of a new generation of smartwatches is changing the market significantly. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony, Pebble, Motorola and LG all have an interest in the game, with Apple set to show its hand in the early part of 2015.

Currently Android Wear compatible devices such as Motorola’s Moto360 are proving popular, not least due to their ability to display custom watch faces. Fancy Tag Heuer’s latest offering on your wrist? No problem. Rolex? Omega? Cartier? Patek Philippe? All just a click or two away.

Of course, having a digital copy of a watch on one’s wrist is a much cheaper option than the real deal. See that Devon watch fourth from left in the image below? A real-world version will set you back a cool $17,500. The copy? Absolutely free.

watches

While it’s been fun and games for a while, makers of some of the world’s most expensive and well known watches are now targeting sites offering ‘pirate’ smartwatch faces in order to have digital likenesses of their products removed from the market.

TorrentFreak has learned that IWC, Panerai, Omega, Fossil, Armani, Michael Kors, Tissot, Certina, Swatch, Flik Flak and Mondaine are sending cease and desist notices to sites and individuals thought to be offering faces without permission.

Richemont, a company behind several big brands including Cartier, IWC and Panerai, appears to be one of the frontrunners. The company is no stranger to legal action and recently made the headlines after obtaining court orders to have domains selling counterfeit watches blocked at the ISP level in the UK.

Notices seen by TorrentFreak reveal that the company, which made 2.75 billion euros from its watch division during 2012/2013, is lodging notices against watch face sites citing breaches of its trademark rights. Owners are being given 24 hours to remove infringing content.

We discussed the issue with Richemont’s PR representatives but were informed that on this occasion the company could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week a source informed TF that Swatch-owned Omega had also been busy, targeting a forum with demands that all Omega faces should be removed on “registered trademark, copyright and design rights” grounds. Although the forum would not talk on the record, its operator revealed that the content in question had been removed. Omega did not respond to our requests for comment.

While watchmakers are hardly a traditional foe for those offering digital content, history shows us that they are prepared to act aggressively in the right circumstances.

mondaineMondaine, a Swiss-based company also involved in the latest takedowns, famously found itself in a huge spat with Apple after the company included one of its designs in iOS6. That ended up costing Apple a reported $21 million in licensing fees. The same design is readily available for the Moto360 on various watch face sites.

So how are sites handing the claims of the watchmakers? TorrentFreak spoke with Luke, the operator of leading user-uploaded watch face site FaceRepo. He told us that the site had indeed received takedown notices from brand owners but made it very clear that uploading infringing content is discouraged and steps are being taken to keep it off the site.

“Although some of the replica faces we’ve received take downs for are very cool looking and represent significant artistic talent on the part of the designer, we believe that owners of copyrights or trademarks have the right to defend their brand,” Luke explained.

“If a copyright or trademark owner contacts us, we will promptly remove infringing material. To date, all requests for removal of infringing material have been satisfied within a matter of hours.”

Learning very quickly from other user generated content sites, FaceRepo notifies its users that their content has been flagged as infringing and also deactivates accounts of repeat infringers. A keyword filter has also been introduced which targets well known brands.

“If these [brand names] are found in the face name, description or tags, this will cause the upload to be rejected with a message stating that sharing of copyrighted or trademarked material is prohibited,” FaceRepo’s owner notes.

The development of a new front in the war to keep copyrighted and trademarked content off the Internet is hardly a surprise, and considering their power it comes as no shock that the watchmakers have responded in the way they have. We may be some time from an actual lawsuit targeting digital reproductions of physical content, but as the wearables market develops, one can not rule them out.

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

TorrentFreak: Fail: MPAA Makes Legal Content Unfindable In Google

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

wheretowatchThe entertainment industries have gone head to head with Google in recent months, demanding tougher anti-piracy measures from the search engine.

According to the MPAA and others, Google makes it too easy for its users to find pirated content. Instead, they would prefer Google to downrank sites such as The Pirate Bay from its search results or remove them entirely.

A few weeks ago Google took additional steps to decrease the visibility of pirated content, but the major movie studios haven’t been sitting still either.

Last week MPAA announced the launch of WhereToWatch.com, a website that lists where movies and TV-shows can be watched legally.

“WheretoWatch.com offers a simple, streamlined, comprehensive search of legitimate platforms – all in one place. It gives you the high-quality, easy viewing experience you deserve while supporting the hard work and creativity that go into making films and shows,” the MPAA’s Chris Dodd commented.

At first glance WhereToWatch offers a rather impressive database of entertainment content. It even features TorrentFreak TV, although this is listed as “not available” since the MPAA’s service doesn’t index The Pirate Bay.

Overall, however, it’s a decent service. WhereToWatch could also be an ideal platform to beat pirate sites in search results, something the MPAA desperate wants to achieve.

Sadly for the MPAA that is only a “could” since Google and other search engines currently have a hard time indexing the site. As it turns out, the MPAA’s legal platform isn’t designed with even the most basic SEO principles in mind.

For example, if Google visits the movie overview page all links to individual pages are hidden by Javascript, and the search engine only sees this. As a result, movie and TV-show pages in the MPAA’s legal platform are invisible to Google.

Google currently indexes only one movie page, which was most likely indexed through an external link. With Bing the problem is just as bad.

wtw-google

It’s worth noting that WhereToWatch doesn’t block search engines from spidering its content through the robots.txt file. It’s just the coding that makes it impossible for search engines to navigate and index the site.

This is a pretty big mistake, considering that the MPAA repeatedly hammered on Google to feature more legal content. With some proper search engine optimization (SEO) advice they can probably fix the problem in the near future.

Previously Google already offered SEO tips to copyright holders, but it’s obvious that the search engine wasn’t consulted in this project.

To help the MPAA on its way we asked isoHunt founder Gary Fung for some input. Last year Fung lost his case to the MPAA, forcing him to shut down the site, but he was glad to offer assistance nonetheless.

“I suggest MPAA optimize for search engine keywords such as ‘download ‘ and ‘torrent ‘. For some reason when people google for movies, that’s what they actually search for,” Fung tells us.

A pretty clever idea indeed, as the MPAA’s own research shows that pirate-related search terms are often used to “breed” new pirates.

Perhaps it’s an idea for the MPAA to hire Fung or other “industry” experts for some more advice. Or better still, just look at how the popular pirate sites have optimized their sites to do well in search engines, and steal their work.

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

TorrentFreak: Swedes Prepare Record File-Sharing Prosecution

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

serversFollowing a lengthy investigation by anti-piracy group Antipiratbyrån, in 2010 police raided a “warez scene” topsite known as Devil. Dozens of servers were seized containing an estimated 250 terabytes of pirate content.

One man was arrested and earlier this year was eventually charged with unlawfully making content available “intentionally or by gross negligence.”

Police say that the man acted “in consultation or concert with other persons, supplied, installed, programmed, maintained, funded and otherwise administered and managed” the file-sharing network from where the infringements were carried out. It’s claimed that the Devil topsite had around 200 members.

All told the man is accused of illegally making available 2,250 mainly Hollywood movies, a record amount according to the prosecutor.

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

Few details have been made available on the case but it’s now been revealed that Antipiratbyrån managed to trace the main Devil server back to the data center of a Stockholm-based electronics company. The site’s alleged operator, a man from Väsbybo in his 50s and employee of the company, reportedly admitted being in control of the server.

While it would likely have been the intention of Devil’s operator for the content on the site to remain private, leaks inevitably occurred. Predictably some of that material ended up on public torrent sites, an aggravating factor according to Antipiratbyrån lawyer Henrik Pontén.

“This is a very big issue and it is this type of crime that is the basis for all illegal file sharing. The films available on Pirate Bay circulate from these smaller networks,” Pontén says.

The big question now concerns potential damages. Pontén says that the six main studios behind the case could demand between $673,400 and $2.69m per movie. Multiply that by 2,250 and that’s an astonishing amount, but the lawyer says that in order not to burden the justice system, a few titles could be selected.

Henrik Olsson Lilja, a lawyer representing the defendant, declined to comment in detail but criticized the potential for high damages.

“I want to wait for the trial, but there was no intent in the sense that the prosecutor is looking for,” Lilja told Mitte.se. “In practice, these are American-style punitive damages.”

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Copyright Alert System Security Could Be Improved, Review Finds

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

spyFebruary last year the MPAA, RIAA and five major Internet providers in the United States launched their “six strikes” anti-piracy plan.

The Copyright Alert System’s main goal is to inform subscribers that their Internet connections are being used to share copyrighted material without permission. These alerts start out friendly in tone, but repeat infringers face a temporary disconnection from the Internet or other mitigation measures.

The evidence behind the accusations is provided by MarkMonitor, which monitors BitTorrent users’ activities on copyright holders’ behalf. The overseeing Center for Copyright Information (CCI) previously hired an impartial and independent technology expert to review the system, hoping to gain trust from the public.

Their first pick, Stroz Friedberg, turned out to be not that impartial as the company previously worked as RIAA lobbyists. To correct this unfortunate choice, CCI assigned Professor Avi Rubin of Harbor Labs to re-examine the system.

This week CCI informed us that a summary of Harbor Labs’s findings is now available to the public. The full review is not being published due to the vast amount of confidential information it contains, but the overview of the findings does provide some interesting details.

Overall, Harbor Labs concludes that the evidence gathering system is solid and that false positives, cases where innocent subscribers are accused, are reasonably minimized.

“We conclude, based on our review, that the MarkMonitor AntiPiracy system is designed to ensure that there are no false positives under reasonable and realistic assumptions. Moreover, the system produces thorough case data for alleged infringement tracking.”

However, there is some room for improvement. For example, MarkMonitor could implement additional testing to ensure that false positives and human errors are indeed caught.

“… we believe that the system would benefit from additional testing and that the existing structure leaves open the potential for preventable failures. Additionally, we recommend that certain elements of operational security be enhanced,” Harbor Labs writes.

In addition, the collected evidence may need further protections to ensure that it can’t be tampered with or fall into the wrong hands.

“… we believe that this collected evidence and other potentially sensitive data is not adequately controlled. While MarkMonitor does protect the data from outside parties, its protection against inside threats (e.g., potential rogue employees) is minimal in terms of both policy and technical enforcement.”

The full recommendations as detailed in the report are as follows:

recommendations

The CCI is happy with the new results, which they say confirm the findings of the earlier Stroz Friedberg review.

“The Harbor Labs report reaffirms the findings from our first report – conducted by Stroz Friedberg – that the CAS is well designed and functioning as we hoped,” CCI informs TF.

In the months to come the operators of the Copyright Alert System will continue to work with copyright holders to make further enhancements and modifications to their processes.

“As the CAS exits the initial ramp-up period, CCI has been assured by our content owners that they have taken all recommendations made within both reports into account and are continuing to focus on maintaining the robust system that minimizes false positives and protects customer security and privacy,” CCI adds.

Meanwhile, they will continue to alert Internet subscribers to possible infringements. After nearly two years copyright holders have warned several million users, hoping to convert then to legal alternatives.

Thus far there’s no evidence that Copyright Alerts have had a significant impact on piracy rates. However, the voluntary agreement model is being widely embraced by various stakeholders and similar schemes are in the making in both the UK and Australia.

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

TorrentFreak: BitTorrent Users are Avid, Eclectic Content Buyers, Survey Finds

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

Each month 150-170 million Internet users share files using the BitTorrent protocol, a massive audience by most standards. The common perception is that these people are only interested in obtaining content for free.

However, studies have found that file-sharers are often more engaged than the average consumer, as much was admitted by the RIAA back in 2012. There’s little doubt that within those millions of sharers lie people spending plenty of money on content and entertainment.

To get a closer look, in September BitTorrent Inc. conducted a survey among a sample of its users. In all, 2,500 people responded and now the company has published the results. The figures aren’t broken down into age groups, but BitTorrent Inc. informs TF that BitTorrent users trend towards young and male.

Music

From its survey the company found that 50% of respondents buy music each month, with a sway towards albums rather than singles (44% v 32%). BitTorrent users are reported as 170% more likely to have paid for a digital music download in the past six months than Joe Public.

Citing figures from the RIAA, BitTorrent Inc. says its users are also 8x more likely than the average Internet user to pay for a streaming music service, with 16% of BitTorrent users and 2% of the general public holding such an account.

Perhaps a little unexpectedly, supposedly tech-savvy torrent users are still buying CDs and vinyl, with 45% and 10% respectively reporting a purchase in the past 12 months. BitTorrent Inc. says that the latter represents users “engaging and unpacking art as a multimedia object”, a clear reference to how the company perceives its BitTorrent Bundles.

On average, BitTorrent Inc. says its user base spends $48 a year on music, with 31% spending more than $100 annually.

bit-music

Movies

When it comes to movies, 47% of respondents said they’d paid for a theater ticket in the preceding 12 months, up on the 38% who purchased a DVD or Blu-ray disc during the same period.

Users with active movie streaming accounts and those making digital movie purchases tied at 23%, with DVD rental (22%) and digital rental (16%) bringing up the rear.

All told, BitTorrent Inc. says that 52% of respondents buy movies on a monthly basis with the average annual spend amounting to $54. More than a third say they spend in excess of $100.

bit-movie

So do the results of the survey suggest that BitTorrent Inc.’s users have a lot to offer the market and if so, what?

“The results confirm what we knew already, that our users are super fans. They are consumers of content and are eager to reward artists for their work,” Christian Averill, BitTorrent Inc.’s Director of Communications, told TF.

“BitTorrent Bundle was started based on this premise and we have more than 10,000 artists now signed up, with more to come. With 90% of purchase going to the content creators, BitTorrent Bundle is the most artist friendly, direct-to-fan distribution platform on the market.”

It seems likely that promoting and shifting Bundles was a major motivator for BitTorrent Inc. to carry out the survey and by showing that torrent users aren’t shy to part with their cash, more artists like Thom Yorke will hopefully be prepared to engage with BitTorrent Inc.’s fanbase.

Also of note is the way BitTorrent Inc. is trying to position that fanbase or, indeed, how that fanbase has positioned itself. While rock (20%), electronic (15%) and pop (13%) took the top spots in terms of genre popularity among users, 23% described their tastes as a vague “other”. Overall, 61% of respondents described their musical tastes as “eclectic”.

“[Our] users are engaged in the creative community and they have diverse taste. They also do not define themselves by traditional genres. We feel this is a true representation about how fans view themselves universally these days. They are eclectic,” Averill concludes.

While monetizing content remains a key focus for BitTorrent Inc., the company is also making strides towards monetizing its distribution tools. Last evening uTorrent Plus was replaced by uTorrent Pro (Windows), an upgraded client offering torrent streaming, an inbuilt player, video file converter and anti-virus features. The ad-free client (more details here) is available for $19.95 per year.

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Brands Kim Dotcom a Fugitive, ‘Spies’ on Others

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

megaupload-logoIt’s been nearly three years since Megaupload was taken down by the U.S. authorities but it’s still uncertain whether Kim Dotcom and his fellow defendants will be extradited overseas.

Two months ago the U.S. Government launched a separate civil action in which it asked the court to forfeit the bank accounts, cars and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants, claiming they were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes.

Megaupload responded to these allegations at the federal court in Virginia with a motion to dismiss the complaint. According to Megaupload’s lawyers the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) is making up crimes that don’t exist.

In addition, Dotcom and his co-defendants claimed ownership of the assets U.S. authorities are trying to get their hands on. A few days ago the DoJ responded to these claims, arguing that they should be struck from the record as Dotcom and his colleagues are fugitives.

In a motion (pdf) submitted to a Virginia District Court the U.S. asks for the claims of the defendants to be disregarded based on the doctrine of fugitive disentitlement.

“Claimants Bram van der Kolk, Finn Batato, Julius Bencko, Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, and Sven Echternach, are deliberately avoiding prosecution by declining to enter the United States where the criminal case is pending,” U.S. Attorney Dana Boente writes.

“The key issue in determining whether a person is a fugitive from justice is that person’s intent. A defendant who flees with intent to avoid arrest is a fugitive from justice,” he adds.

Since Kim Dotcom and his New Zealand-based Megaupload colleagues are actively fighting their extradition they should be seen as fugitives, the DoJ concludes.

“Those claimants who are fighting extradition on the criminal charges in the related criminal case, claimants van der Kolk, Batato, Kim Dotcom, and Ortmann, are fugitives within the meaning of the statute, regardless of the reason for their opposition.”

Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken disagrees with this line of reasoning. He told TF that the fugitive disentitlement doctrine shouldn’t apply here.

“The DOJ is trying to win the Megaupload case on procedure rather than the merits. Most people don’t realize that Kim Dotcom has never been to the United States,” Rothken says.

A person who has never been to the United States and is currently going through a lawful procedure in New Zealand shouldn’t be seen as a fugitive, according to Rothken.

The recent DoJ filing also highlights another aspect of the case. According to a declaration by special FBI agent Rodney Hays, the feds have obtained “online conversations” of Julius Bencko and Sven Echternach, the two defendants who currently reside in Europe.

These conversations were obtained by law enforcement officers and show that the authorities were ‘spying’ on some of the defendants months after Megaupload was raided.

tapped

“During a conversation that occurred on or about March 28, 2012, Bencko allegedly told a third-party, ‘I can come to Bratislava [Slovakia] if needed .. bu [sic] you know .. rather not travel around much .. ‘ Later in the conversation, Bencko states ‘i’m facing 55 years in usa’,” the declaration reads.

In addition to the two defendants, law enforcement also obtained a conversation of Kim’s wife Mona Dotcom, who is not a party in the case herself.

“During a conversation that occurred on or about February 9, 2012 a third-party told Mona Dotcom, ‘Also Julius [Bencko] wants Kim [Dotcom] to know that he will be supportive in what ever way possible that he needs’,”

According to the U.S. the ‘tapped’ conversations of Bencko and Echternach show that since they are avoiding travel to the United States, they too can be labeled fugitives.

It’s unclear how the online conversations were obtained, but Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken told TF that he wouldn’t be surprised if civil liberties were violated in the process, as has happened before in the case.

Whether these fugitive arguments will be accepted by the court has yet to be seen. Highlighting the motion Megaupload submitted earlier, Rothken notes that regardless of these arguments the case should be dismissed because the court lacks jurisdiction.

“The United States doesn’t have a stature for criminal copyright infringement,” Rothken tells us. “We believe that the case should be dismissed based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”

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

TorrentFreak: Court: $30,000 for Sharing a Pirated Movie is Excessive Punishment

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

cashOver the past several years hundreds of thousands of Internet subscribers have been sued in the United States for allegedly sharing copyrighted material, mostly films, online.

The goal of these lawsuits is to encourage alleged downloader to settle, and in some cases copyright holders continue proceedings against the defendants after being identified by their ISPs.

If the alleged pirates then fail to respond, the rightsholder can ask the court for a default judgment, where they usually get their way.

This also happened in lawsuits brought by the makers of the independent films Elf-Man and The Thompsons. In both cases the copyright holders asked the court for a default judgment of $30,000 for sharing a single film.

With 11 defendants, including one couple who would share the fine, the potential damage award amounted to a massive $300,000. The copyright holders argued that this is justified since they suffered significant losses as a result, but the court disagreed.

In related orders U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice notes that a $30,000 punishment per shared film is excessive, considering the evidence that was presented.

“This Court finds the evidence in this case, which merely shows that each Defendant copied and published via BitTorrent Plaintiff’s motion picture––the cost of which to rent or purchase was less than $20––rather than distributed for commercial resale, does not support a $30,000 penalty for each Defendant,” Judge Rice writes.

In his order the Judge refers to the Eighth Amendment which prohibits excessive fines as well as cruel and unusual punishments. In this case the requested damages are unconstitutional as they’re seen as excessive in relation to the nature of the offense.

“This Court finds an award of $30,000 for each defendant would be an excessive punishment considering the seriousness of each Defendant’s conduct and
the sum of money at issue,” the order reads.

The filmmakers argued that the pirated downloads threaten the financing of future films and that high damages could serve as a deterrent. Judge Rice, however, was not convinced and set these arguments aside.

“… this Court is unpersuaded that the remote damages––’downstream revenue’ and destroyed plans for a sequel due, in part, to piracy––justify an award of $30,000 per defendant, even in light of the statute’s goal of deterrence.”

Judge Rice opted to award the minimum in statutory damages instead, which is $750 per film. In addition, he awarded $2,225 in attorney fees per defendant, which brings the total to a little under $3,000.

This is not the first time that the Eighth Amendment has been raised in a file-sharing case. The same argument was used to lower the damages award in RIAA’s case against Jammie Thomas, although this was overturned on appeal.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pays University $1,000,000 For Piracy Research

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

mpaa-logoLast week the MPAA submitted its latest tax filing covering 2013. While there are few changes compared to previous years there is one number that sticks out like a sore thumb.

The movie industry group made a rather sizable gift of $912,000 to Carnegie Mellon University, a figure that neither side has made public before.

This brings the MPAA’s total investment in the University over the past two years to more than a million dollars.

The money in question goes to the University’s “Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics” (IDEA) that researches various piracy related topics. During 2012 MPAA also contributed to the program, albeit significantly less at $100,000.

TF contacted IDEA co-director Rahul Telang, who told us that much of the money is spent on hiring researchers and, buying data from third parties and covering other research related expenses.

“For any substantial research program to progress it needs funding, and needs access to data and important stakeholders who care about this research. IDEA center has benefited from this funding significantly,” he says, emphasizing that the research applies to academic standards.

“All research is transparent, goes through academic peer review, and published in various outlets,” Telang adds.

While IDEA’s researchers operate independently, without an obligation to produce particular studies, their output thus far is in line with Hollywood’s agenda.

One study showed that the Megaupload shutdown boosted digital sales while another reviewed academic literature to show that piracy mostly hurts revenues. The MPAA later used these results to discredit an independent study which suggested that Megaupload’s closure hurt box office revenues.

Aside from countering opponents in the press, the MPAA also uses the research to convince lawmakers that tougher anti-piracy measures are warranted.

Most recently, an IDEA paper showed that search engines can help to diminish online piracy, an argument the MPAA has been hammering on for years.

The tax filing, picked up first by Variety, confirms a new trend of the MPAA putting more money into research. Earlier this year the industry group launched a new initiative offering researchers a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics.

The MPAA sees academic research as an important tool in its efforts to ensure that copyright protections remain in place, or are strengthened if needed.

“We want to enlist the help of academics from around the world to provide new insight on a range of issues facing the content industry in the digital age,” MPAA CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd said at the time.

The movie industry isn’t alone in funding research for ‘political’ reasons. Google, for example, heavily supports academic research on copyright-related projects in part to further its own agenda, as do many other companies.

With over a million dollars in Hollywood funding in their pocket, it’s now up to IDEA’s researchers to ensure that their work is solid.

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

TorrentFreak: Why Hollywood Director Lexi Alexander Sides With “Pirates”

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

lexIt’s pretty obvious that Lexi Alexander isn’t your average Hollywood director. Instead of parading on the red carpet sharing redundant quotes, she prefers to challenge the powers that rule Hollywood.

A few months ago Alexander campaigned to get Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde released from prison, pointing out that throwing people in jail is not going to stop piracy.

She believes that the MPAA and other pro-copyright groups are a bigger threat than casual pirates, and unlike some of her colleagues she is not afraid to tell the world.

Recently Alexander penned five reasons why she’s pro file-sharing and copyright reform. While she’s doesn’t agree with the “everything should be free” mantra of some anti-copyright activists, Alexander believes that file-sharing is mostly a symptom of Hollywood’s failures.

Over the past day or so this turned into a heated debate (e.g. 1, 2) between a movie industry workers on Twitter, where various anti-piracy advocates condemned the movie director and others for siding with “pirates.”

From a Hollywood perspective Alexander’s ‘balanced’ comments may indeed appear extreme, not least since like-minded voices keep quiet for career reasons. So why has she decided to jump on the barricades then? Today, Alexander explains her motivations to us in a short interview.

TF: What triggered you to discuss file-sharing and copyright related topics in public?

Lexi: It wasn’t my intent to be that outspoken about file-sharing, at first I just wanted to expose the hypocrisy of Hollywood going after anybody for any crime. But after I had published that first blog, I was suddenly exposed to a lot more information about the issue, either from people in the copyright reform movement or through outlets like yours.

Frankly, TorrentFreak has a lot to do with the extent of my outspokenness. Sometimes I see your headlines in my Twitter feed and I think I’m in some alternative universe, where I’m the only one who swallowed the red pill. “Another kid in prison for a file-sharing”, “Anti file-sharing propaganda taught in schools”, “torrent sites reported to the state department”, etc., etc. All done in the name of an industry that is infamous for corruption. I mean, doesn’t anybody see that? Hollywood studios shaking their finger at people who illegally download stuff is like the Vatican shaking their finger at pedophiles.

TF: What’s your main motivation to support file-sharing and copyright reform??

Lexi: Well, first and foremost I will not stand for young, bright minds being hunted and locked up in my name. And since I am still part of the film & TV industry, albeit not the most popular member at this point, these acts are done in my name. Even if I would agree with this ludicrous idea that everything to do with file-sharing or downloading is theft and should be punished with prison…then I’d still insist that everybody in Hollywood who has ever stolen anything or cheated anybody needs to go to prison first. If we could somehow make that rule happen with magical fairy dust…you’d never hear another beep about imprisoning file-sharers.

Secondly, I have said this a million times and it’s like I’m talking to the wall…horrible thieves (aka the four letter acronym) are stealing 92.5 % of foreign levies from filmmakers in countries outside of the US, breaking the Berne Convention in the process. It’s actually not legal for those countries to hand any money to anybody else but the creator. But somehow, some very smart con men duped these shady collection societies into handing them all the dough. Ask me again why I need copyright reform?

See, I wish more of my colleagues would come out of the fog…but that fog is made of fears, so it is thick and consistent. Fear to upset the decision makers, fear to get blacklisted and never get to make movies again, fear to get fired by your agents, fear to become unpopular with your film-industry peers, it’s so much easier to blame the British, pimple-faced teenager, who uploaded Fast and the Furious 6, for the scarcity we experience.

I used to get frustrated about my peers’ lack of courage, but lately I feel only empathy. I don’t like seeing talented storytellers ruled by fear. I don’t even enjoy the endless admissions I get anymore from producers or Executives who whisper in my ear that they’re pro file-sharing too (this is often followed by a demonstration of their illegally downloaded goods or their torrent clients, as if they’re trying to make sure I’ll put in a good word, if the power were to shift to the other side one of these days).

TF: Do you believe that your opinions on these topics may impact your career? If so, how?

Lexi: What do you think? LOL

But my opinions on these topics are based on facts, so therefore the question I have to ask myself next is: If I keep the truth to myself and watch innovators get sent to prison by actual criminals…how does that impact my soul?

I do realize how huge the giant I decided to criticize really is whenever I read about the amount of money that’s at play here.

At the moment I still have a TV show under option, which I am currently developing and I’m getting ready to pitch another one. A few things definitely fell through right after my first piracy post and I’m not sure how many people don’t consider me for projects because of my file-sharing stance. I can’t really worry about that. First and foremost I’m still a filmmaker, so if this shit gets too real I have to force my mind down the rabbit hole (filmmaker euphemism for escaping into your screenplays or movies).

TF: File-sharing also has its downsides of course. What’s the worst side of piracy in your opinion?

Lexi: The worst part is that there are a lot of people who suddenly feel entitled to do anything they want with our work, at any given stage. I spoke to a filmmaker the other day whose film got leaked during post production. It was missing the visual effects and it had a temp score (temporary music used as a filler before the real score is ready). Then reviews started popping up about this version of the film on IMDB, yet the people who posted those reviews had no fucking clue what they were judging, revealed by the many comments about “the director ripping off the Dark Knight score”. It was the Dark Knight score, you morons.

That was really heartbreaking and whoever doesn’t understand that can go to hell. I don’t think there’s anybody in the world who’d like their work, whatever it may be, stolen when it’s half way done and paraded around the world with their name on it.

I also will never be able to respect anybody who films or watches one of those shaky cam movies. I don’t buy that there’s anybody who enjoys a movie that way, I think this is all about trying to be the shit on some forum.

TF: In what way do you think file-sharing will (and has) change(d) the movie industry?

Lexi: I entered this industry right at the beginning of the transition to digital technology. I remember insisting to shoot my first two films on film stock, by then people were already dropping the “dinosaur” and “stone age” hints. We were all beaten into submission when it came to new digital technologies, because they reduced production and distribution costs. Then the powers started realizing that those same technologies also made unauthorized duplications much easier, so the narrative changed and now we were told to hate that part of it. It’s almost comical isn’t it?

I quickly realized that file-sharing would shatter borders and as someone who considers herself a citizen of the world, rather than of one country, this made me extremely happy. I have always wanted entertainment events to be global rather than national. This is good for the world.

The more the audience becomes familiar with foreign movies and TV shows (not synchronized and released months later, but subtitled and premiering simultaneously) the sooner we will start accepting, maybe even demanding shows and movies with a diverse, global cast from the get go. And since those are the shows I create… it cannot happen fast enough.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Chief Describes University Piracy Fines as “Terrific”

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

wifi-dangerIn addition to their obligations under the DMCA, in 2010 a new requirement was put in place which meant that university funding in the U.S. was placed in jeopardy if establishments didn’t take their anti-piracy responsibilities seriously.

The policy hasn’t been repeated in any other key countries in Europe or elsewhere, but that hasn’t stopped educational institutions from introducing their own policies to deal with on-campus infringement. A particularly harsh example can be found in Australia.

The University of New South Wales, which is ranked among the top five universities in Australia, offers its students free Wi-Fi Internet access. Known as Uniwide, the system was upgraded last year to offer speeds of 1.3 Gigabits per second in order to cope with around 20,000 devices being regularly connected to the network.

With students achieving up to 10 megabits per second on their connections, it’s perhaps no surprise that some use the Wi-Fi network for downloading movies, TV shows and other copyrighted content. In order to curtail the practice the university has put in place tough punishments for those who flout the rules.

uniwide

While disconnections and up to $1,000 in fines are serious enough, it may come as a surprise that monies collected don’t go to compensate artists. University of New South Wales pumps the money back into “student amenities” instead.

“I just find it disturbing that a university has decided how it will enforce the laws of the Commonwealth,” Michael Speck, an independent anti-piracy investigator and former NSW policeman told The Age. “It’s quite disturbing and without too much natural justice.”

Adding fuel to the fire, two parties embroiled in the general piracy debate currently raging in Australia have also weighed in with their opinions.

Steve Dalby, chief regulatory officer of Internet provider iiNet, called the fines “very strange”. The response from Dalby is predictable. The ISP famously refused to pass on infringement notices to its customers when prompted to by movie company Village Roadshow, a spat that took the pair to court.

On the other hand, comments from Graham Burke, co-chief executive of Village Roadshow, reveal that the rivals are still just as far apart in their views. Burke said it was “terrific” that the university was fining students and being “proactive and taking responsibility for the users of its network.”

“We think it is more important for students to be educated about copyright by the university imposing these fines than it is for the rights holders to collect damages for the breaches that are occurring,” Burke told The Age.

“In fact the more I think about it this action by the university is helping the future of good citizenship of its many students.”

There can be little doubt that traditionally poor students would find themselves thinking deeply about copyright when landed with a $1,000 fine but whether that would put money back in the artists’ pockets long-term is another matter.

Fortunately not too many WiFi users are falling foul of the rules. According to the university, three students and one staff member have received punishments this year. All had their access suspended and two of the students were fined $480 each.

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

TorrentFreak: Giganews Not Liable for Pirating Usenet Customers, Court Rules

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

giganewsAdult magazine publisher Perfect 10 has made a business out of suing online services for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement.

Over the past several years the company has targeted a dozen high-profile companies including Google, Amazon, Yandex, MasterCard, Visa, RapidShare, Giganews and Depositfiles.

Aside from a few private settlements the company has yet to score its first victory in court. The company was confident that this would happen in their prolonged battle with Usenet provider Giganews, but late last week these hopes were shattered.

On Friday the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled on several motions (1, 2, 3) regarding Giganews’ liability for copyright infringement, as well as the nature of its DMCA takedown process.

In its order the court confirms that there is no evidence that Giganews is directly involved in any infringing practices.

“A claim for direct copyright liability demands evidence that the defendant had a direct hand in causing the infringement. The undisputed evidence before the Court, however, demonstrates that Defendants had no direct causal role in the alleged infringement,” the order reads.

According to the Court, Perfect 10 confuses direct and indirect copyright infringement, as the company has presented no evidence that Giganews employees are engaged in distributing pirated content.

Furthermore, claims of indirect copyright infringement also failed. The Court didn’t accept that Giganews is liable for the alleged copyright infringements of its users, as there is no proof that the company enjoyed direct financial benefit from any Perfect 10 images its subscribers may have distributed.

“[T]he ‘direct financial benefit’ requirement demands more than evidence that customers were ‘drawn’ to Giganews to obtain access to infringing material in general. Perfect 10 must prove with competent evidence that at least some of Giganews’ customers were ‘drawn’ to Giganews’ services, in part, to obtain access to infringing Perfect 10 material.”

“This action is a specific lawsuit by a specific plaintiff against a specific defendant about specific copyrighted images; it is not a lawsuit against copyright infringement in general on the Usenet,” the order adds.

In addition to their infringement claims Perfect 10 also argued that Giganews didn’t respond properly to takedown requests. While the court doesn’t dispute that proper takedown notices would give Giganews actual knowledge of infringements, the publisher’s notices were not proper.

Instead of listing message-IDs that could identify specific content, Perfect 10 sent in screenshots of a newsreader window, instructing Giganew “to conduct searches of specific names within certain newsgroups” and remove all results that were returned “on a certain date.” These notices do not comply with the DMCA’s standards, the court argues.

All in all the orders mean that Giganews is not liable for the infringements Perfect 10 claimed, and as a result the company can put the case to rest after three years.

However, as noted by Techdirt, it’s unlikely that Perfect 10 will stop its legal campaigns anytime soon. Just this summer the company initiated a new suit against hosting service OVH, who thanks to Giganews now have some additional ammunition to fight back.

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

TorrentFreak: The Copyright Monopoly Wars Are About To Repeat, But Much Worse

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

copyright-brandedPeople sometimes ask me when I started questioning if the copyright monopoly laws were just, proper, or indeed sane. I respond truthfully that it was about 1985, when we were sharing music on cassette tapes and the copyright industry called us thieves, murderers, rapists, arsonists, and genocidals for manufacturing our own copies without their permission.

Politicians didn’t care about the issue, but handwaved away the copyright industry by giving them private taxation rights on cassette tapes, a taxation right that would later infest anything with digital storage capacity, ranging from games consoles to digital cameras.

In 1990, I bought my first modem, connecting to FidoNet, an amateur precursor to the Internet that had similar addressing and routing. We were basically doing what the Internet is used for today: chatting, discussing, sharing music and other files, buying and selling stuff, and yes, dating and flirting. Today, we do basically the same things in prettier colors, faster, and more realtime, on considerably smaller devices. But the social mechanisms are the same.

The politicians were absolutely clueless.

The first signal that something was seriously wrong in the heads of politicans was when they created a DMCA-like law in Sweden in 1990, one that made a server owner legally liable for forum posts made by somebody else on that server, if the server operator didn’t delete the forum post on notice. For the first time in modern history, a messenger had been made formally responsible for somebody else’s uttered opinion. People who were taking part in creating the Internet at the time went to Parliament to try to explain the technology and the social contract of responsibilities, and walked away utterly disappointed and desperate. The politicians were even more clueless than imagined.

It hasn’t gotten better since. Cory Doctorow’s observation in his brilliant speech about the coming war on general computing was right: Politicians are clueless about the Internet because they don’t care about the Internet. They care about energy, healthcare, defense, education, and taxes, because they only understand the problems that defined the structures of the two previous generations – the structures now in power have simply retained their original definition, and those are the structures that put today’s politicians in power. Those structures are incapable of adapting to irrelevance.

Enter bitcoin.

The unlicensed manufacturing of movie and music copies were and are such small time potatoes the politicians just didn’t and don’t have time for it, because energy healthcare defense. Creating draconian laws that threaten the Internet wasn’t an “I think this is a good idea” behavior. It has been a “copyright industry, get out of my face” behavior. The copryight industry understands this perfectly, of course, and throws tantrums about every five years to get more police-like powers, taxpayer money, and rent from the public coffers. Only when the population has been more in the face of politicians than the copyright industry – think SOPA, ACTA – have the politicians backpedaled, usually with a confused look on their faces, and then absentmindedly happened to do the right thing before going back to energy healthcare defense.

However, cryptocurrency like bitcoin – essentially the same social mechanisms, same social protocols, same distributed principles as BitTorrent’s sharing culture and knowledge outside of the copyright industry’s monopolies – is not something that passes unnoticed. Like BitTorrent showed the obsolescence of the copyright monopoly, bitcoin demonstrates the obsolescence of central banks and today’s entire financial sector. Like BitTorrent didn’t go head-to-head with the copyright monopoly but just circumvented it as irrelevant, bitcoin circumvents every single financial regulation as irrelevant. And like BitTorrent saw uptake in the millions, so does bitcoin.

Cryptocurrency is politically where culture-sharing was in about 1985.

Politicians didn’t care about the copyright monopoly. They didn’t. Don’t. No, they don’t, not in the slightest. That’s why the copyright industry has been given everything they point at. Now for today’s million dollar question: do you think politicians care about the authority of the central bank and the core controllability of funds, finances, and taxation?

YES. VERY MUCH.

This is going to get seriously ugly. But this time, we have a blueprint from the copyright monopoly wars. Cory Doctorow was right when he said this isn’t the war, this is just the first skirmish over control of society as a whole. The Internet generation is claiming that control, and the old industrial generation is pushing back. Hard.

We’ve already seen the magic trigger words usually applied to culture-sharing being tried on bitcoin. Like this infamous quote:

“Bitcoin is used to buy illegal drugs!”

Since this is laughably used in defense of the US Dollar, that argument cannot go uncountered by the trivial observation that “So… you’re claiming that the US Dollar isn’t?”. But we’re already seeing the arguments that were used in the copyright monopoly battle getting rehashed against the next generation of peer-to-peer technology. The exact same trigger words: organized crime, file sharing, child porn, drug trade. The trigger words that mirror the way “communism” was used in the US in the 1950. And “jazz music” before then, by the way.

Beyond bitcoin, there are technologies like Ethereum and Counterparty, which aim to make the more core services of government – incorporation, courts, arbitration – obsolete and circumvented. The old structures will not accept that development sitting down.

The entire copyright monopoly war is about to repeat. But rather than brushing it off because politicians don’t care about what’s being discussed, this time, the technology and social changes are going to be attacking the very core power of politicians head-on. This time, they will try to crush technology and its users quite deliberately, rather than out of ignorance. This time, they will hold no punches and consider no balance against rights to privacy, life, happiness, or liberty.

But this time we’re ready. This time, we have a blueprint for exactly what will happen, because the copyright monopoly wars were the tutorial missions in the game of civil liberties. To be honest, we haven’t played the tutorial very well. But we know all the adversary’s capabilities, moves, and patterns now.

The end of that development is either a Big Brother society beyond dystopian nightmares, or a society where cryptocurrency is firmly established and the copyright monopoly has also been abolished to cheers and whistles from a new, liberated generation, who have new problems to deal with instead of those that defined our grandparents’ generation.

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 and anonymous VPN services.

TorrentFreak: Hey UK: Jailing File-Sharers for Years is Shameful

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

jailMonday this week, Kane Robinson and Richard Graham, an admin and uploader of now-defunct file-sharing forum Dancing Jesus, had their lives turned upside down when they were handed jail sentences of 32 and 21 months respectively.

The pair had got involved in Dancing Jesus years ago, when they were teenagers. The site dealt in leaked music, no one disputes that, but if you knew of Dancing Jesus before the site got raided you were in the minority. It was a niche site, to say the least.

Still, the UK record labels claimed the duo had cost them around £240m ($378m) in losses. It appears the court believed them and as a result the pair are locked away at this very moment for a very long time indeed.

Sadly that estimate can only be a dramatic exaggeration. If we are to believe claims from the other side of the Atlantic, the behemoth that was Megaupload – the subject of the world’s largest copyright case – ‘only’ managed to cost the entertainment industry an alleged $500m, and that’s the estimate of a notoriously aggressive US Government.

Also, Megaupload hosted 12 billion unique files and had 100 million users. Dancing Jesus had 12,000 registered users and carried 22,500 allegedly infringing links. Robinson and Kane made no money from their activities, that much was accepted in court. Megaupload made an alleged $175m.

The sums don’t add up, anyone can see that, but at this point, today, none of that means much to the pair staring at four gray walls with devastated families at home and ruined lives behind them.

Ok, they knew what they were doing and many will argue that there needs to be some kind of punishment for distributing content to the public without permission, but this week’s sentences go way too far by most sensible standards.

Before his incarceration, Graham told TF that he’d been taking school exams when the music industry first homed in on him, and since being arrested he’d gone on to university and obtained a degree.

And leading up to Dancing Jesus, Kane Robinson was headhunted to run the official Arctic Monkeys website by the band’s manager.

“Kane’s fansite (which ironically shared their tracks for free and gained the band a lot of exposure) was receiving a lot more traffic than theirs. He ran that for several months,” Kane brother Kyle informs TF.

After the closure of Dancing Jesus, both men had put file-sharing behind them and were working in legitimate jobs. Dangerous? No. Violent? No. Dancing Jesus years behind them? No doubt. Compassion then? Not a chance.

To underline the harshness of this week’s sentences we could compare them with cases recently before the UK courts.

Consider the pilot who admitted to flying a plane whilst three times over the drink limit yet faces a maximum two years in jail? Or what about the sex offender caught file-sharing Category A-rated child abuse images on file-sharing networks? He got a 15 month suspended sentence just days after Robinson and Graham were given 32 and 21 months each.

Instead, however, let’s take a look at a file-sharing case that concluded last week in Finland. It involved a 40-year-old man also accused of making copyrighted content available to the public – 964 video files, 49,951 music tracks and 573 other sundry files to be precise.

Last week the court found the man guilty of copyright infringement, fined him 1,000 euros with 2,000 euros in legal costs. He was also ordered to pay damages to local music rights group Teosto to the tune of 1,500 euros plus 3,000 euros to IFPI. Jail wasn’t on the agenda.

Whether this is a fair punishment for the offenses in hand is for others to decide. However, it seems unlikely that those with the ability to look beyond this week’s “£240 million losses” headlines will feel that it’s proportionate for two non-violent men to spend the next few Christmas Days behind bars.

That said, in today’s legal climate it’s unrealistic to expect UK-based file-sharing site operators to simply walk away from a court without some kind of punishment, even if they did only operate a linking forum. But even then, several years in jail makes little to no sense for non-commercial operators, especially when supposed financial losses are either plucked from thin air or a product of highly speculative accounting.

The lesson here is simple. The ground rules, at least in the UK, have changed. The last three big cases in the UK (SurftheChannel, Fast and Furious ‘cammer’, Dancing Jesus) were all private prosecutions by the entertainment industries and have all ended in prison time for the defendants. There is no reason to think things are about to change.

In the meantime, people like Kane’s family are left trying to rally support on Facebook in an attempt to scrape together £5,000 in a GoFundMe fundraiser to finance an appeal aimed at achieving a more realistic sentence.

In conclusion it now appears that anyone other than low-level UK file-sharers need to consider whether their “fun” hobby is really worth losing years of their freedom over. And of course, shameful as it might be, that’s the message the industry wanted to send all along.

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