Posts tagged ‘Copyright’

TorrentFreak: Why Are Porn Perfomers Scared to Talk About Internet Piracy?

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

Internet porn is big – extremely big – and one of the reasons often cited for the rapid growth of the Internet. Every second there is an average of 28,258 Internet users watching porn online, together accounting for an estimated 35% of Internet downloads.

Over the past few years, porn industry claims that its very existence has become threatened by piracy have only increased. In addition to the hundreds of torrent sites offering content for no charge, a new type of site has emerged offering a staggering and immediately accessible range of content, at an entry price of absolutely free.

Due to their similarity with YouTube, these sites are known as ‘tube’ sites. They operate in much the same way as YouTube, with content being uploaded by their users for viewing by others.

The space is dominated by giants including YouPorn and Pornhub, sites which have been heavily criticized due to the endless quantities of unauthorized content they host. But in the ever-evolving adult industry, things are not what they seem.

Tube giant takeover

youpornpornhub‘Mindgeek’ may not sound familiar to everyone, but this is the new name for one of the biggest companies in the adult industry.

Formerly known as Manwin, Mindgeek is a huge company that has scooped up some of the biggest tube sites in the world including YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, RedTube, ExtremeTube and SpankWire to name a few. All in all, Mindgeek is reported to be one of the top three consumers of bandwidth in the world.

While Mindgeek sites act within the law by operating an efficient DMCA process that removes user-uploaded content at the request of copyright holders, many adult producers and performers feel that the sites are hitting their bottom line. But while that might be true for some, for others a much more complex situation is emerging.

A report this week from ABC showed the news outlet attempting to solicit comments from adult industry performers. However, when the topic turned to piracy on tube sites, suddenly they didn’t want to talk.

“I can’t talk about THAT part,” said one actress walking away from the camera. “I really don’t want to say anything because I don’t want them to ban me.”

“Them” in this context is Mindgeek, the operator of the tube sites offering unauthorized copies of porn movies uploaded by their users. So why are these actresses scared to talk about Mindgeek and what possible control could it have over them?

Spending tube money

dollar-moneyAfter making huge quantities of cash via its tube sites, Manwin/Mindgeek bought up several top studios including Brazzers, Digital Playground, Mofos, MyDirtyHobby and Twistys. The company also sucked up the Reality Kings brand and became an online partner of Playboy. This means that some of the performers complaining about piracy on tube sites are actually being paid by the company running them.

“Some people have asked me why i’m being a hypocrite and working for [Mindgeek companies],” one actress told ABC. “As a performer, boycotting these companies is not going to take any time, money or anything away from them because if I say no there are another hundred blondes who are willing to do it.”

Providing yet another twist, the report also shows adult actress and outspoken piracy critic Tasha Reign arranging to have one of her illegally uploaded videos taken down from Mindgeek-owned PornHub.

Reign then admits that she too works for Mindgeek.

“It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way, because if I want to shoot content then I kinda have to shoot for [Mindgeek] because that’s the company that books me because they own…almost…everything,” Reign says.

In the meantime, it’s reported that a new porn video is made in the United States every 39 minutes. How many will be produced by Mindgeek companies or distributed via their tube sites remains to be seen, but in any event the company could be making money at one end, the other, or intriguingly – both ends at once.


ABC US News | ABC Business News

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

TorrentFreak: Now the RIAA Sues Megaupload “For Massive Copyright Theft”

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

megauploadRolled out to a background of what Kim Dotcom describes as a “failing” criminal process against both him and his former Megaupload associates, earlier this week the MPAA launched yet more litigation.

In a complaint filed at a Virginia District Court, the studios described Megaupload as a business designed and operated with copyright infringement in mind. Over the course of its life the site generated millions of dollars at the expense of the movie industry, the studios say, and for this Dotcom and partners Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk must be held accountable.

But fighting Hollywood is not the only thing that Dotcom has to worry about. In a fresh complaint filed yesterday in Virginia, Warner Music, UMG Recordings, Sony Music and Capitol Records teamed up against Megaupload, Vestor Limited, Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk in pursuit of yet more millions in damages.

The RIAA’s 30-page complaint appears to be substantially the same as that filed by the movie studios, with claims that Dotcom and his associates “actively and intentionally” encouraged users to upload infringing copies of popular content in order to distribute those copies to millions of people without a license.

The complaint, which lists 87 specific copyright works from artists including Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Coldplay and David Guetta, treads familiar ground when it comes to the rewards program Megaupload was said to operate.

“Indeed, for several years, through what it called an ‘Uploader Rewards’ program, Defendants even paid their users to upload popular content that Defendants knew infringed copyrights, until Defendants finally discontinued this program a few months before their indictment,” the RIAA writes.

Unsurprisingly the RIAA heavily references the US Government’s action against Megaupload, noting that in 2011 the site was designated a “notorious market” by the USTR. Of course, just a month later Megaupload was shut down and by the end of January 2012 its operators were being indicted on charges including criminal copyright infringement.

In common with their movie industry counterparts, the RIAA demands a trial by jury on allegations of direct copyright infringement, inducement of copyright infringement, vicarious and contributory infringement against all defendants. Millions of dollars are at stake but Kim Dotcom’s U.S. attorney Ira Rothken believes that the lawsuit will not succeed.

“The RIAA, MPAA, and DOJ are like three blind mice following each other in the pursuit of meritless copyright claims and [an] assault on copyright neutral cloud technology,” Rothken said.

“Megaupload strongly believes it’s going to prevail.”

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

TorrentFreak: Record Labels Lose Big as Court Declares File-Sharing Tools Legal

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

In 2008, Universal, Sony, EMI, Warner and “Spanish RIAA” Promusicae (Productores de Música de España) joined forces to sue MP2P Technologies, a company created by Pablo Soto, the brains behind Blubster, the “Spanish Napster” file-sharing software.

The record companies said that Soto had designed his Blubster, Piolet and Manolito software with the intent of providing a platform for users to pirate music while he generated profit. This, the labels said, amounted to unfair competition in the market. Soto should pay them 13 million euros ($18m) in damages, the labels argued.

Following years of litigation, in 2011 a Madrid court handed defeat to the labels by declaring Soto’s technology neutral. While his users may have infringed copyright, Soto was not responsible for that, the court said. Furthermore, since Soto wasn’t in the record business and the labels weren’t in the file-sharing business, the unfair competition claim was also dismissed.

After investing so much time in the case, the labels weren’t prepared to concede defeat. The case went to the Madrid Court of Appeals which has just made its decision public. It’s a decisive win for Soto and a big loss for the labels.

“[Soto's] activity is not only neutral, and perfectly legal, moreover it is protected by article 38 of our Constitution,” the Court wrote in its ruling.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Soto says that the Court saw no problem with sharing technology and discovered no plan “to sink or unbalance the recording industry” or obstruct the development of its business.

“The court affirmed — yet again — that [the creation of sharing technologies] is not an act of looting, unfair competition or unfair benefit from others’ effort,” Soto informs TF.

The Spaniard, who has been developing software since he was 16 years old, adds that the win is not only good news for him, but also for others seeking to innovate.

“This clears the path for more opportunities to bring leading edge technologies to the marketplace and no longer be distracted by misguided legal tactics from the copyright conglomerates. We really appreciate and thank our loyal following, especially among the readers at TorrentFreak.”

Soto’s lawyer, David Bravo, who described the ruling as having a “very strong foundation”, said developers will now be able to go about their business free from “inventive legal interpretations that define the very creator of a file-sharing tool as the responsible of copyright infringement.”

In celebration of the victory, Soto has released a brand new version of his Blubster software, for the first time powered by BitTorrent.

“While we have continued innovating with Torrents.fm, we can now also focus once again on further creating and offering advanced P2P technology across our other networks with this new version of Blubster just launched today,” Soto told TF.

Traditionally Windows only, Blubster will soon debut on both Linux and Mac.

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

TorrentFreak: The Netherlands Must Outlaw Downloading, EU Court Rules (Update)

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

amsterdamIn common with many other countries around the world, downloading music and movies is hugely popular in the Netherlands. Surveys estimate that a third of the population downloads copyrighted content without paying for it.

Contrary to most other countries, however, downloading and copying movies and music for personal use is not punishable by law. In return, the Dutch compensate rightsholders through a “piracy levy” on writable media, hard drives and electronic devices with storage capacity, including smartphones.

In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice has declared this system unlawful. The case was brought by several electronics stores and manufacturers, whose products were made more expensive because of the levy.

In its judgment the Court held that the levy system is a threat to the internal market and that it puts copyright holders at an unfair disadvantage.

“If Member States were free to adopt legislation permitting, inter alia, reproductions for private use to be made from an unlawful source, the result of that would clearly be detrimental to the proper functioning of the internal market,” the Court noted in a briefing on the verdict today.

“Similarly, the objective of proper support for the dissemination of culture may not be achieved by sacrificing strict protection of copyright or by tolerating illegal forms of distribution of counterfeited or pirated works.”

As a result the Court ruled that the Dutch system, in which people are permitted to copy files from pirated sources, can not be tolerated.

The Court believes that “legalizing” file-sharing encourages the distribution of counterfeit and pirated works. In addition, it explains that the system poses “an unfair disadvantage to the copyright holders.”

The Court further notes that the Dutch system also punishes those who buy their digital movies and music from authorized sources, as they also pay the piracy levy on the devices and media they record them to.

“All users are indirectly penalized since they necessarily contribute towards the compensation payable for the harm caused by private reproductions made from an unlawful source. Users consequently find themselves required to bear an additional, non-negligible cost in order to be able to make private copies,” the Court notes.

Today’s judgment is also likely to affect other European countries with similar systems, such as Switzerland where downloading pirated works for personal use is also permitted.

Ironically, copyright holders may be worse off if the Netherlands does indeed outlaw downloading pirated material. This would result in millions of euros in lost revenue through the piracy levy, which may be hard to match by an increase in legal sales, if there’s any increase at all.

Update: The Dutch Government confirmed to Tweakers that downloading copyrighted material for personal use is no longer allowed, effective immediately.

The Government also clarified that in general offenses will be prosecuted through civil cases, not criminal ones. We have updated this article accordingly.

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

TorrentFreak: Police Arrest Streaming Site Admin, Several Domains Suspended

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PIPCU-shutdown

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

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

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

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

FACT did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Studios Demand Millions From Megaupload in New Lawsuit

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

megauploadA few months ago the U.S. Department of Justice released a summary of its evidence against Megaupload, to assist civil parties who would want to start their own cases against the defunct file-hosting service.

Previously there have been some rumors that the MPAA was working on a lawsuit and this has now been confirmed. Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. have teamed up and filed a complaint in a Virginia District Court.

The lawsuit is filed against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and the former employees Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk. The same defendants are also part of the ongoing criminal proceedings by the U.S. Government, and the complaint itself raises many of the same allegations that were put forward in the indictment.

The movie studios describe Megaupload as a business that was designed to facilitate copyright infringement and are looking for millions of dollars in damages. One of the problems they describe is that, after a DMCA notice was received by Megaupload, it would only remove the URL while the actual file and other URLs pointing to that file would remain intact.

The movie studios claim that this was done to ensure that the most popular infringing files remained available. However, they fail to mention that removing the actual files would be overbroad and wrong in some instances. For example, if an artist stores his files on Hotfile but wants to take unauthorized copies offline, he or she would not want Megaupload to delete the original as well.

Megaupload’s reward program is also cited as a piracy promoting tool by the studios. According to the complaint it was set up to reward people who shared popular content, which would often be pirated movies. The rewards therefore served as an incentive to share links to Megaupload in public and advertise these through other sites.

This point is also raised by MPAA’s Steven Fabrizio, who notes that Megaupload wasn’t a cloud storage service but an “unlawful hub for mass distribution.”

“Megaupload was built on an incentive system that rewarded users for uploading the most popular content to the site, which was almost always stolen movies, TV shows and other commercial entertainment content. It paid users based on how many times the content was downloaded by others – and didn’t pay at all until that infringing content was downloaded 10,000 times,” Fabrizio explains.

TorrentFreak spoke to Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken who believes that this new case might show that Hollywood and the U.S. Government have little faith in the criminal proceedings.

“Megaupload believes that the suit lacks merit and we will vigorously defend against the claims,” Rothken tells TF.

“The MPAA is apparently concocting a civil claim out of desperation two years after the indictment because it is likely that they and Department of Justice believe the pending criminal allegations lack merit, as there is no such thing as secondary criminal copyright infringement”

Rothken stresses that Megaupload was predominantly used for backup, and not for file-sharing as the complaint suggests. The movie studios paint a distorted picture of Megaupload according to the lawyer, who notes that the money paid out to uploaders was minimal, and that terminating the rewards program didn’t affect the number of visitors.

“The amount of money paid out in the rewards programs was tiny and a rounding error compared to revenue. The rewards program was halted about six months before the indictment with no resulting drop in traffic – it was copyright neutral,” Rothken explains to TF.

The case promises to be a vital one for the future of cloud hosting services in the United States, and a backup plan for when the criminal case fails.

The MPAA previously settled its lawsuit against Hotfile, and hopes for another win against Dotcom and his colleagues. Megaupload, however, believes it is protected by the DMCA safe harbor and is determined to show that the movie studio’s allegations are meritless.

In addition to the lawsuit filed this week, Megaupload has also been sued by Microhits in 2012. This case has been frozen pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

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

TorrentFreak: Document Reveals When Copyright Trolls Drop Piracy Cases

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

trollIt’s well known that while copyright trolls may suggest they are going to pursue all of their cases to the bitter end, they simply do not. Plenty of cases are dropped or otherwise terminated, although the precise reasons why this happens usually remain a closely guarded secret.

Today, however, we have a much clearer idea of what happens behind the scenes at Malibu Media, one of the main companies in the United States currently chasing down BitTorrent users for cash settlements.

The company was required by Illinois Judge Milton Shadur to submit a summary of its activities in Illinois and, as spotted by troll watcher SJD over at Fight Copyright Trolls, there was an agreement that it could remain under seal.

Somehow, however, that document has now became available on Pacer and it reveals some rather interesting details on Malibu’s operations.

Overall, Malibu Media reports that it filed cases in Illinois against 886 defendants. According to the company, just 174 have paid up so far, with 150 of those hiring a lawyer to do so.

While 100 cases are still open (including 42 still at discovery stage and 30 in negotiations), for various reasons a total of 612 defendants paid nothing at all and the cases against them were dismissed. Malibu reveal the reasons for this in their filing, and they’re quite eye-opening to say the least.

Hardship

“Hardship is when a defendant may be liable for the conduct, but has extenuating circumstances where Plaintiff does not wish to proceed against him or her,” the Malibu document explains.

“Examples are when a defendant has little or no assets, defendant has serious illness or has recently deceased, defendant is currently active duty US military, defendant is a charitable organization or school, etc.”

Out of 886 defendants, Malibu reports that cases against 49 were dropped on hardship grounds.

Insufficient Evidence

It has long been said that an IP address alone isn’t enough to identify an infringer and Malibu’s own submission to the court underlines this in grand fashion.

“Insufficient evidence is defined as when Plaintiff’s evidence does not raise a strong
presumption that the defendant is the infringer or some other ambiguity causes Malibu to question the Defendant’s innocence,” the company writes.

So, in an attempt to boost the value of the IP address evidence, Malibu says it investigates further to determine whether the account holder is in fact the infringer. The company says it looks in three areas.

1. Length of the infringement, i.e. how long it took place, when it began, when it ended, whether it took place during the day or night, and any other patterns.

2. Location of the residence where the infringement occurred, i.e. whether it is in a remote location or with other dwellings within wireless access range.

3. Profiling suspected pirates using social media (Facebook, Twitter)

The third element is of particular interest. Malibu says that since July 2012 it has been monitoring not just its own content online, but also piracy on music, movies, ebooks and software. It compares the IP addresses it spots downloading other pirate content with the IP addresses known to be infringing copyright on its own titles.

The data collected is then used to profile the person behind the IP address and this is compared with information gleaned from sites including Facebook and Twitter.

“Oftentimes, a subscriber will publicly admit on social media to enjoying sports teams,
music groups, or favorite TV shows. Malibu will compare their likes and interests to their [downloads of other content] and determine whether the interests match,” the company explains.

So in what circumstances will Malibu dismiss a case on evidence grounds?

In the company’s own words:

-Multiple roommates within one residence with similar profiles and interests share a single Internet connection

-The defendant has left the country and cannot be located

-The results of additional surveillance do not specifically match profile interests or occupation of Defendant or other authorized users of the Internet connection

-The subscriber is a small business with public Wi-Fi access, etc

From a total of 886 defendants, cases against 259 were dropped due to insufficient evidence.

The Polygraph Defense

In the absence of any other supporting evidence, how can a subscriber prove a negative, i.e that he or she did not carry out any unlawful file-sharing? Quite bizarrely, Malibu says that it will accept the results of a lie detector test.

“[M]alibu will dismiss its claims against any Defendant who agrees to and passes a
polygraph administered by a licensed examiner of the Defendant’s choosing,” the company told the court.

So has anyone taken the bait? Apparently so.

“Out of the entirety of polygraphs administered within the United States by Malibu, no Defendant has passed and all such examinations have subsequently led to the Defendant settling the case,” Malibu writes.

No discovery

In order for Malibu to pressure account holders into settling, it first needs to find out who they are from their ISPs. Malibu’s submission reveals that this is not always possible due to:

- ISPs not retaining logging data for a long enough period
- Subpoenas being quashed due to cases being severed
- Information held on file at ISPs does not match identities of an address’s occupants
- ISP could not match the IP address with a subscriber at the time and date stipulated by Malibu

From a total of 886 defendants, cases against 304 were dropped due to failed discovery.

Cases dismissed due to settlement / actual judgments obtained

In total, 174 cases were settled by defendants without need for a trial but the amounts paid are not included in the document. However, the submission does reveal that two cases did go to court resulting in statutory damages awards of $26,250 and $15,000 respectively.

Conclusion

Malibu’s submission points to a few interesting conclusions, not least that the vast majority of their cases get dismissed for one reason or another and a significant proportion simply do not pay up.

The document also suggests that Malibu are working under the assumption that an IP address alone isn’t enough to secure a settlement and that additional social media-sourced evidence is required to back it up.

This information, plus the reasons listed by Malibu for not pursuing cases, should ensure that even less people are prompted to pay up in future.

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

TorrentFreak: The Next Five Years Could Determine Our Liberties

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

This European Parliament was elected in June 2009. Its term is coming to an end, and new elections are coming up in six weeks. As a movement for net liberty, we’ve had unprecedented successes holding the corporate forces of darkness at bay during this term – but the next term is going to give us a chance to reverse the trend of bad things and start making good things happen instead.

It’s no secret that I’m the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, and that we’ve delivered during our term in the Europarl since 2009, as one important part of this liberty movement. We stopped three strikes in Europe – most people don’t even remember that it was a real danger that the copyright industry could do something as unthinkable as actually shut people off the Internet en masse by just pointing fingers. Our people on the inside were also critical in stopping ACTA. Our line with strong Net Neutrality, going against the European Commission, just won an important first reading on the European Parliament floor. We managed to get mainline support for a radical copyright monopoly reform proposal that would, as part of the package, fully legalize noncommercial file-sharing and ban DRM. This is not news, just background.

For the past five years, we’ve seen important battles being fought where we – we as a liberty movement and pretty much as a whole generation – have managed to keep dark forces at bay. The next five years will give us an opportunity to go on the offensive and actually start improving the legal state of things, rather than just preventing them from getting worse. I cannot overemphasize how great this opportunity is. However, this obviously requires that we have people in the European Parliament who can outvoice the corporate lobbyists.

Outvoicing lobbyists isn’t actually a very hard thing to do, if you’re a Member of Parliament yourself. Lobbyists have a strong voice when, and only when, MPs and MEPs don’t have a good view of the subject on their own. When people on the inside of Parliament are able to call out the lobbyist bullshit as just that, those lobbyists lose an enormous amount of influence. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to have people – individuals – in office who understand the issues and are able to do so.

The issues for the coming five years will be an opportunity to go on the offensive for liberty. We’ve already had a first reading of strong Net Neutrality in Europe, locking down the fundamental principle of the net that everybody’s an equal, and denying the telcos the right to seek rent for running a business. This is absolutely critical – it’s a matter of whether we want free enterprise in Europe or not. We’ve won in a so-called first reading, but this issue will bounce a bit between the EU institutions until determined, so it will spill over past the election and be finalized by the next European Parliament.

Net Neutrality will be finalized in the next five years.

On an even stronger note, the entire copyright monopoly will be rewritten in the European Union in the next five years. Literally everything is up in the air, and many lobbyists will be fighting for the corporate clampdown on liberty and freedom of speech. But we’ve learned how to outvoice and outcompete those activists now. There is a very real possibility that we can finally settle that freedom of speech, messenger immunity, and the civil liberties we exercise through the net (mostly all of them) totally, unequivocally, and unambiguously supersede the copyright monopoly – a distribution monopoly for a powerful but basically unnecessary entertainment industry.

Legalized file-sharing and a ban on DRM can be a reality in the next five years.

The future of the net is being determined in the next six weeks. And what happens in Europe, will necessarily spill over to the rest of the world – if file-sharing is legal in Europe, no country is able to effectively outlaw it, as it only takes one country to undo today’s ridiculous monopoly. Once file-sharing is completely legal, and I really want to underscore that this is within reach now, any lobbyism from the copyright industry for harsher penalties will be for absolutely nothing, as you can’t penalize a legal action to begin with.

Obviously, I’m not going to use a TorrentFreak column to tell people to vote Pirate. That would be abuse of column privileges, and besides, most everybody know I’m the founder of the Pirate party movement, so people would read it like that anyway. But the reason I founded this movement is because I think there was and still is a critical shortage of politicians who take these issues with the gravity they deserve – no, let’s say there’s a shortage of net liberty activists in office who understand the importance of the net.

So what I am going to do, if you live in Europe, is to ask you to vote in the European Elections, and to do so for a candidate who does take these issues seriously.

It doesn’t much matter what party they’re running for – all the good forces cooperate on an individual level in the European Parliament, regardless of party affiliation, and we need individuals in parliament who understand net neutrality, basic liberty, and the problems with Industrial Protectionism (IP) at a deep level. After all, if you’re reading TorrentFreak, odds are overwhelmingly in favor of you understanding the crucial importance of these issues to every aspect of our common future.

In May, that future is in your hands. What I ask is that you participate.

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: Sony Blocks Creative Commons Movie With Bogus DMCA Takedown

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

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

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

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

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

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

The open source beauty of Sintelsintel

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

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

Sintel

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Rightscorp Finds Scary Shortcut to Expose Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rightscorp letter
rightscorp-subpoena-letter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rightscorp targets
rightscorp-cases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

XNT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Slysoft DVD Ripper Owner Found Guilty in Criminal Action

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

slysoftIf one existed, Antigua would hardly head up a list of countries sympathetic to copyright claims originating from the United States.

A dispute over the imposition of a trade blockade preventing Antigua from offering Internet gambling services has been lingering for some time, eventually resulting in a 2013 WTO ruling which officially allowed the country to ignore U.S. copyright law in order to reclaim lost revenue.

But despite the hostilities, in the background a copyright-related dispute has flourished between U.S.-based AACS LA – the decryption licensing outfit founded by a group of movie studios and technology partners including Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft and Intel – and Slysoft Inc, a local company offering DVD and Blu-ray backup tools.

Slysoft is currently labeled a “rogue site” by the USTR but AACS has had the company on its radar for some time. After technical measures introduced by AACS failed to thwart Slysoft’s software, the group looked towards legal action. With the DMCA useless overseas, AACS looked to Antigua’s Copyright Act of 2003 which includes anti-circumvention clauses, as detailed below.

AntiguaCircumvent

However, a quirk of the law meant that only criminal action could be taken against Slysoft, leaving AACS at the mercy of Antiguan authorities who they hoped would bring a case against company owner, Giancarlo Bettini. Fortunately for the U.S. giants that’s exactly what happened in 2012 and now, 11 years after the anti-circumvention law was introduced, Antigua has its first conviction.

In an Antigua & Barbuda court, Bettini was found guilty of six charges under the 2003 Copyright Act and ordered to pay a find of $5,000 per offense. Bettini was told to settle two of the $5,000 fines immediately, with payment of the other four deadlined for the end of April. Failure to pay carries six months in jail for each offense.

“[SlySoft was] clearly violating Antiguan law, and the court ruled accordingly,” said AACS attorney Bruce Turnbull.

Meanwhile, however, Slysoft continues to do business. TorrentFreak spoke to the company who told us that this decision is not the end of the road.

“Subsequent to the recent ruling against Bettini, his lawyer Dane Hamilton QC immediately filed a notice of appeal so the judgment has been stayed,” Slysoft said, adding that it would not comment further on a pending case.

On the heels of the recent AACS case against DVDFab which saw the company’s US-based assets seized, it appears that AACS may be contemplating further pressure on Slysoft business partners.

“[The Antiguan legal victory] gives us a concrete decision to take to others who facilitate SlySoft and their business. We can say to those who do business with them: ‘This is an illegal activity’,” AACS’s lawyer added.

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

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

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

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

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

In common with many user-generated sites, VK allows its millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. Unlike Facebook and other major players, Russia’s social network has been very slow to adopt anti-piracy measures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Police Prepare to Place Banner Ads on Pirate Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pirate Bay, UK Police edition?TPBAds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TPB block trending on Twitter
sa-tweets-tpb

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Mobile Music Piracy More Popular Than Torrents and Cyberlockers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: EZTV Fights Piracy By Going Much Further Than Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was obvious – GOOGLE.

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

EZTVGoogle

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

EZTVResults

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

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

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

Unsurprisingly, the MPAA are pleased with the results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Microsoft Censors TorrentFreak For Security Reasons

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

censorshipHere at TorrentFreak we frequently cover website blockades against file-sharing websites, which are often put in place on copyright infringement grounds.

In many European countries, for example, national courts have ordered ISPs to block access to sites such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass.to.

However, that’s not the only type of blocking and filtering that’s common nowadays. There are thousands of companies, schools and other organizations that voluntarily use commercial blocking software to restrict access to objectionable or threatening sites.

As with all filters, however, there are false positives. TorrentFreak, for example, is often categorized as a file-sharing site, and blocked to prevent copyright infringement or other associated “threats”.

Apparently this is also happening at Microsoft, where the filter managed by the local information security risk management department blocks TorrentFreak on the internal network. Microsoft employees who try to access our site are welcomed with the following message.

“The requested resource has been blocked as an identified risk to your client and the Microsoft corporate network.”

TorrentFreak Blocked at Microsoft
ms-block

The notice shows that TorrentFreak is blocked under the “peer-to-peer file sharing” category. A false positive, of course, and one that results in a form of overblocking many perfectly secure and legitimate sites are suffering from.

Unfortunately the issues above are not limited to Microsoft. Every other week we are notified by readers who can’t access TorrentFreak since it’s blocked at their work or school because the site is classified as a source of illegal file-sharing. More often than not we’re collateral damage.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that the UK ISP Sky blocked TorrentFreak for all subscribers who turned on their “porn” filter. After the BBC got involved the block was eventually lifted, but other sites may not be so lucky.

If anything, the above shows that these filtering systems can cause harm to legitimate sites, and the people responsible should be called out for it. TorrentFreak reached out to Microsoft to ask for a comment, but thus far without any luck.

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

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

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

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

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

GoogleDMCA

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

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

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

uptobox

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

UptoBox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: UK Govt: DVD and CD Ripping Will Be Legalized This Summer

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

uk-flagTo most consumers it is common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this is currently illegal.

After a public consultation and a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation, the UK Government decided to change current laws in favor of consumers. The changes have been in the planning stage for a few years, but this summer they will finally be implemented.

Starting in July people are free to make copies of DVDs, CDs and other types of media, as long as it’s for personal use. To inform the public about these upcoming changes the Government has just released a consumer guide, summing up citizens’ new rights.

“Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup,” the UK’s Intellectual Property Office writes.

“The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.”

The UK Government stresses that the changes will make current copyright law more reasonable, and doesn’t expect that copyright holders will suffer any significant harm. However, the changes could generate extra revenue for the technology sector, increasing revenue by £31 million per year.

“This measure will benefit technology firms by removing barriers and costs and improving entry to technology markets which rely on consumers being able to make private copies,” the government concluded previously.

Under the updated law people will also be able to legally store copies of their music and movies in the cloud. However, the Government stresses that giving others access to your files will remain illegal.

“You will be permitted to make personal copies to any device that you own, or a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud. However, it will be illegal to give other people access to the copies you have made, including, for example, by allowing a friend to access your personal cloud storage,” the guide explains.

Similarly, people are free to sell any media they purchase, but all backup copies will have to be destroyed.

The mismatch between the law and public opinion became apparent through a Government-commissioned survey, which found that 85% of consumers already thought that DVD and CD ripping was legal. More than one-third of all consumers admitted that they’d already made copies of media they purchased.

Besides the new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized.

From a public point of view the amendments are certainly a welcome change to the restrictive copyright laws that are in place currently, but they are also fashionably late. For those who are interested, a full overview of the upcoming changes is available here.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA Demands Personal Details of Pirating YouTube Users

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RIAA subpoena to YouTube
subpoena-riaa-youtube

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: EU Court: ISPs Can Be Forced to Block Pirate Sites

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

Although the dream of blocking sites in the United States was completely crushed along with the now-dead SOPA legislation, music and movie companies across Europe have enjoyed a much smoother ride.

Torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents are blocked in several countries around the EU and in the UK, for example, dozens of ‘pirate’ domains are now blocked at the ISP level.

A notable case originating from Austria, however, has been on hold pending a decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union. The dispute saw movie companies Constantin Film Verleih and Wega Filmproduktionsgesellschaft complain that local ISP UPC Telekabel Wien had been providing subscriber access to illegal streaming site Kino.to, a site now shuttered following police action.

The movie companies previously obtained interim injunctions to have UPC block the site, despite UPC arguing that it couldn’t be held responsible for a site that it had absolutely nothing to do with. UPC also noted that there was no court ruling indicating its customers had broken the law.

To settle the matter the Austrian Supreme Court asked the Court of Justice to clarify whether a company that provides Internet access to those using an illegal website could be required to block that site. Today the Court of Justice handed down its long-awaited decision.

The Court found that a person who makes copyrighted material available to the public without permission from rightsholders is using the services of the Internet service provider of the people accessing that content. EU law does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom any injunction has been issued, the Court found.

Addressing UPC’s concerns that none of its customers had been deemed by a court to have acted unlawfully, the EU Court said that proof was not necessary as the law is in place not only to bring an end to infringement, but also to prevent it.

The EU Court added that since any ISP targeted by an injunction is free to carry out its obligations in a way that fits its circumstances, blocking orders do not therefore restrict an ISP’s freedom to conduct its business.

Any injunction must, however, must be proportional so as not to unnecessarily stop subscribers from lawfully accessing information. Furthermore, any blocking measures must have the effect of preventing access to copyrighted content or at least make it more difficult. National courts are required to ensure that these conditions are met.

The take-home from today’s ruling, which follows last year’s advice from the Advocate General, is clear: ISPs can be required to block access to infringing sites but any injunction must be balanced and proportional.

Photo: Dan Zen

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

TorrentFreak: Court Orders Usenet Provider to Prevent Copyright Infringement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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