Posts tagged ‘Copyright’

TorrentFreak: Google Protects Chilling Effects From Takedown Notices

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

google-bayEach week many millions of DMCA-style copyright notices are sent to sites and services around the planet. Initially the process flew almost entirely under the radar, with senders and recipients dealing with complaints privately.

In 2001, that began to change with the advent of Chilling Effects, an archive created by activists who had become concerned that increasing volumes of cease-and-desist letters were having a “chilling effect” on speech.

In the decade-and-a-third that followed the archive grew to unprecedented levels, with giants such as Google and Twitter routinely sending received notices to the site for public retrieval.

However, while Chilling Effects strives to maintain free speech, several times a month rightsholders from around the world try to silence the archive in specific ways by asking Google to de-index pages from the site.

As can be seen from the tables below, Home Box Office has tried to de-index Chilling Effects pages 240 times, with Microsoft and NBC Universal making 99 and 65 attempts respectively.

Chilling1

The ‘problem’ for these copyright holders is two-fold. Firstly, Chilling Effects does indeed list millions of URLs that potentially link to infringing content. That does not sit well with copyright holders.

“Because the site does not redact information about the infringing URLs identified in the notices, it has effectively become the largest repository of URLs hosting infringing content on the internet,” the Copyright Alliance’s Sandra Aistars complained earlier this year.

However, what Aistars omits to mention is that Chilling Effects has a huge team of lawyers under the hood who know only too well that their archive receives protection under the law. Chilling Effects isn’t a pirate index, it’s an educational, informational, research resource.

Thanks to Google, which routinely throws out all attempts at removing Chilling Effects URLs from its indexes, we are able to see copyright holder attempts at de-indexing.

Earlier this month, for example, Wild Side Video and their anti-piracy partners LeakID sent this notice to Google aiming to protect their title “Young Detective Dee.” As shown below, the notice contained several Chilling Effects URLs.

chill2

Each URL links to other DMCA notices on Chilling Effects, each sent by rival anti-piracy outfit Remove Your Media on behalf of Well Go USA Entertainment. They also target “Young Detective Dee”. This is an interesting situation that offers the potential for an endless loop, with the anti-piracy companies reporting each others’ “infringing” links on Chilling Effects in fresh notices, each time failing to get them removed.

chilling3

The seeds of the “endless loop” phenomenon were also experienced by HBO for a while, with the anti-piracy company sending notices (such as this one) targeting dozens of Chilling Effects pages listing notices previously sent by the company.

While publishing notices is entirely legal, the potential for these loops really angers some notice senders.

On April 10 this year a Peter Walley sent a notice to Google complaining that his book was being made available on a “pirate site” without permission. Google removed the link in its indexes but, as is standard practice, linked to the notice on Chilling Effects. This enraged Walley.

chilling4

None of these rantings had any effect, except to place yet another notice on Chilling Effects highlighting where the infringing material could be found.

It’s a lesson others should learn from too.

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

TorrentFreak: American ISPs Receive 1.1 Million Piracy Settlements per Week

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

pirate-runningFebruary last year, five U.S. Internet providers started sending copyright alerts to customers who allegedly pirate movies, TV-shows and music.

During the first year they sent out 1.3 million educational notices, warning account holders that their connection was used to share pirated content. However, its scope pales in comparison to what others are doing.

TorrentFreak spoke with anti-piracy outfit CEG TEK, who also send out warning letters on behalf of copyright holders. However, their version comes with a sting.

In addition to the traditional slap on the wrist their notices also include a settlement proposal, which can reach hundreds of dollars. These emails are sent as regular DMCA notices which the ISPs then forward to their customers.

Little has been revealed about the scope of this program, but CEG TEK’s Kyle Reed now informs us that in 2013 they sent out 26 million notices to U.S. based Internet providers. The volume is expected to double this year as the company currently sends out 1.1 million notices per week.

It’s an impressive number, but since not all ISPs are happy with the process only a small fraction of their customers receive the settlement offer to the respective account holder.

CEG TEK currently sends out requests to 3,493 Internet providers and 342 of these forward the settlement offer, which is roughly 10%. This includes many small ISPs as well as companies and universities.

Some providers forward the notice but without the request for a settlement. Comcast, for example, is known to do this. While CEG TEK prefers it if providers forward the entire notice, the stripped ones are also of value to their clients.

“There are various levels of cooperation. Success doesn’t always mean getting a settlement from an account holder. Rightsholders are also happy when they can get their anti-piracy message out there,” CEG TEK’s Kyle Reed tells TorrentFreak.

Interestingly, there are also various ISPs who don’t forward anything. According to their interpretation of the DMCA they are not obliged to send the notices to their customers.

“Several Internet providers don’t comply at all. They simply ignore our notices,” Reed says.

CEG TEK is not the only company to send these settlement requests as a DMCA takedown notice, Rightscorp does the same. Both companies have increased their output in recent years and major rightsholders such as Warner Bros. are in on the scheme.

It’s an interesting trend, one that goes above and beyond the official Copyright Alert System. According to CEG TEK the approach is effective. The company has gathered data on how their notices influence piracy rates, which it plans to publish in the future.

Whether that will be enough to make a dent in piracy rates remains to be seen though.

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

TorrentFreak: US Wants to Criminalize Movie and Music Streaming

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

streamingYesterday the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on punishments for and remedies against online copyright infringement. One of the speakers was David Bitkower, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, who laid out the wishes of the Obama administration.

After praising previous successes, such as the shutdown of Megaupload and the prosecution of several IMAGiNE members, Bitkower explained the evolving challenges copyright holders are dealing with.

From illegal piano rolls in the early 1900s to floppy disks a century later, new technologies have presented new threats, he argued. With the rise of broadband access this process has worsened and the most recent challenge is combating illegal streaming services.

“One new challenge confronting copyright owners and law enforcement authorities is the rise of Internet ‘streaming’ as the dominant means of disseminating many types of copyrighted content online. This activity also derives from advances in technology: in this case, the growth in availability of high-speed Internet to the average consumer,” Bitkower said.

The problem for the Department of Justice and copyright holders is that these services are harder to prosecute. Technically, streaming doesn’t count as distribution but as a public performance, which can only be charged as a misdemeanor.

The administration tried to remedy this in 2012, by implementing the SOPA and PIPA bills, but these were shelved after public outrage. Many people feared that uploading copyrighted YouTube videos could possibly land them in jail and took their concerns to the streets.

However, fast forward a few years and the same plan is back on the table.

“The Administration recommends that Congress amend the law to create a felony penalty for unauthorized Internet streaming. Specifically, we recommend the creation of legislation to establish a felony charge for infringement through unauthorized public performances conducted for commercial advantage or private financial gain,” Bitkower explained.

“It would emphasize the seriousness of the threat that unauthorized streaming poses to legitimate copyright holders, clarify the scope of conduct deemed to be illegal in order to deter potential infringers, and provide the Department with an important tool to prosecute and deter illicit Internet streaming.”

In addition to criminalizing illicit streaming, Bitkower also called for persistent funds to support its international operations. In recent years the DoJ has educated police forces abroad to deal with copyright infringement. This apparently includes training on very basic skills, such as how to connect to the Internet in the first place.

“The program has realized numerous successes, including a Ukrainian police officer who, after receiving training, was able to use a dial-up Internet connection from his home computer to bring down the largest illegal file sharing service in his country,” Bitkower said.

The international program helped to shut down Megaupload, but could also target The Pirate Bay through tools such as “diplomatic and trade-based pressure.” Worryingly, the United States has trouble getting the facts rights, as it believes that the political Pirate Party is connected to The Pirate Bay.

“In addition to the Mega Conspiracy described above, we have seen The Pirate Bay start as a file sharing site for unauthorized copies of works in Sweden, expand to other countries, and even develop its own political party in Europe,” Bitkower noted.

Mistakes aside, it’s clear that the Obama administration hasn’t lost its focus on copyright infringement.

All recommendations are aimed at more prosecutions, more international pressure and tougher punishments for pirates. Time will tell whether they can get Congress to agree this time around.

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

TorrentFreak: Leaked Paper Reveals Aussie Anti-Piracy Crackdown Musings

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

In common with all countries heavily involved with the distribution of U.S.-sourced entertainment products, Australia us under continuous pressure to do something about the online piracy phenomenon.

Much of the negotiations have Attorney-General George Brandis at their core, with the Senator regularly being accused of lacking transparency.

This week Aussie news outlet Crikey obtained (subscription) a leaked copy of a discussion paper in which Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull seek industry feedback on new anti-piracy proposals.

The discussion paper

Dated July 2014, the paper begins by outlining the Government’s perception of the piracy threat, noting that all players – from content creators to ISPs and consumers – have a role to play in reducing the illegal consumption of content.

It continues with details of schemes operating in the United States (Six-Strikes), UK (VCAP) and New Zealand which aim to develop consumer attitudes through education and mitigation. Inevitably, however, the paper turns to legislation, specifically what can be tweaked in order to give movie studios and record labels the tools they need to reduce infringement

ISP liability

The 2012 High Court ruling in the iiNet case signaled the end of movie and TV studio litigation against service providers. With their dream of holding ISPs responsible for the actions of their pirating users in tatters, copyright holders would need new tools to pursue their aims. It’s clear that Brandis now wants to provide those via a change in the law.

“The Government believes that even when an ISP does not have a direct power to prevent a person from doing a particular infringing act, there still may be reasonable steps that can be taken by the ISP to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement,” the paper reads.

“Extending authorization liability is essential to ensuring the existence of an effective legal framework that encourages industry cooperation and functions as originally intended, and is consistent with Australia’s international obligations.”

Proposal 1 – Extending liability

Aus-disc1

“The Government is looking to industry to reach agreement on appropriate industry schemes or commercial arrangements on what would constitute ‘reasonable steps’ to be taken by ISPs,” the paper notes.

Website blocking

Given several signals on the topic earlier this year, it comes as no surprise that website blocking is under serious consideration. The paper outlines blocking mechanisms in Europe, particularly the UK and Ireland, which allow for court injunctions to be issued against ISPs.

Proposal 2 – Website blocking

aus-disc2

The Irish model, which has already blocked sites including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, is of special interest to the Australian Government, since proving that an ISP had knowledge of infringing conduct is not required to obtain an injunction.

“A similar provision in Australian law could enable rights holders to take action to block access to a website offering infringing material, without the need to establish that a particular ISP authorized an infringement,” the paper notes, adding that such provisions would only apply to websites outside Aussie jurisdiction.

It’s likely that most copyright holders will be largely in favor of the Government’s proposals on the points detailed above, but whether ISPs will share their enthusiasm remains to be seen.

Stakeholders are expected to return their submissions by Monday 25th August.

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

The Hacker Factor Blog: A Victory for Fair Use

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

Last week I reported on a copyright infringement letter that I had received from Getty Images. The extremely hostile letter claimed that I was using a picture in violation of their copyright, ordered me to “cease and desist” using the picture, and demanded that I pay $475 in damages. Various outlets have referred to this letter as trolling and extortion.

Not being an attorney, I contacted my good friend, Mark D. Rasch. Mark is a well-known attorney in the computer security world. Mark headed the United States Department of Justice Computer Crime Unit for nine years and prosecuted cases ranging from computer crime and fraud to digital trespassing and viruses. If you’re old enough, then you remember the Hanover Hackers mentioned in The Cuckoo’s Egg, Robert Morris Jr. (first Internet worm), and Kevin Mitnick — Mark worked all of those prosecutions. He regularly speaks at conferences, appears in news interviews, and has taught cyberlaw to law enforcement and big universities. (If I were a big company looking for a chief privacy officer, I would hire him in a second.)

This letter from Getty had me concerned. But I can honestly say that, in the 12 years that I’ve known him, I have never seen Mark so animated about an issue. I have only ever seen him as a friendly guy who gives extremely informative advice. This time, I saw a side of Mark that I, as a friend, have never experienced. I would never want to be on the other side of the table from him. And even being on the same side was really intimidating. (Another friend told me that Mark has a reputation for being an aggressive bulldog. And this was my first time seeing his teeth.) His first advice to me was very straightforward. He said, “You have three options. One, do nothing. Two, send back a letter, and three, sue them.” Neither of us were fond of option #1. After a little discussion, I decided to do option #2 and prepare for #3.

First I sent the response letter. Then I took Mark’s advice and began to prepare for a lawsuit. Mark wanted me to take the initiative and file for a “Copyright Declaratory Judgment“. (Don’t wait for Getty.) In effect, I wanted the court to declare my use to be Fair Use.

Getty’s Reply

I honestly expected one of three outcomes from my response letter to Getty Images. Either (A) Getty would do nothing, in which case I would file for the Declaratory Judgment, or (B) Getty would respond with their escalation letter, demanding more money (in which case I would still file for the Declaratory Judgment), or (C) Getty would outright sue me, in which case I would respond however my attorney advised.

But that isn’t what happened. Remarkably, Getty backed down! Here’s the letter that they sent me (I’m only censoring email addresses):

From: License Compliance
To: Dr. Neal Krawetz
Subject: [371842247 Hacker Factor ]
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:51:13 +0000

Dr. Krawetz:

We have reviewed your email and website and are taking no further action. Please disregard the offer letter that has been presented in this case. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Nancy Monson
Copyright Compliance Specialist
Getty Images Headquarters
605 Fifth Avenue South, Suite 400
Seattle WA 98104 USA
Phone 1 206 925 6125
Fax 1 206 925 5001
[redacted]@gettyimages.com

For more information about the Getty Images License Compliance Program, please visit http://company.gettyimages.com/license-compliance

Helpful information about image copyright rules and how to license stock photos is located at www.stockphotorights.com and Copyright 101.

Getty Images is leading the way in creating a more visual world. Our new embed feature makes it easy, legal, and free for anybody to share some of our images on websites, blogs, and social media platforms.
http://www.gettyimages.com/Creative/Frontdoor/embed

(c)2014 Getty Images, Inc.

PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL
This message may contain privileged or confidential information and is intended only for the individual named. If you are not the named addressee or an employee or agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail or any attachments hereto. Please notify the sender immediately by e-mail if you have received this e-mail by mistake and delete this e-mail and any attachments from your system without copying or disclosing the contents. E-mail transmission cannot be guaranteed to be secure or error-free as information could be intercepted, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. The sender therefore does not accept liability for any errors or omissions in the contents of this message, which arise as a result of e-mail transmission. If verification is required please request a hard-copy version. Getty Images, 605 5th Avenue South, Suite 400. Seattle WA 98104 USA, www.gettyimages.com. PLEASE NOTE that all incoming e-mails will be automatically scanned by us and by an external service provider to eliminate unsolicited promotional e-mails (“spam”). This could result in deletion of a legitimate e-mail before it is read by its intended recipient at our firm. Please tell us if you have concerns about this automatic filtering.

Mark Rasch also pointed out that Getty explicitly copyrighted their email to me. However, the same Fair Use that permits me to use their pictures also permits me to post their entire email message. And that whole “PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL” paragraph? That’s garbage and can be ignored because I never agreed to their terms.

Findings

In preparing to file the Copyright Declaratory Judgment, I performed my due diligence by checking web logs and related files for information pertaining to this case. And since Getty has recanted, I am making some of my findings public.

Automated Filing
First, notice how Getty’s second letter says “We have reviewed your email and website…” This clearly shows up in my web logs. Among other things, people at Getty are the only (non-bot) visitors to access my site via “nealkrawetz.org” — everyone else uses “hackerfactor.com”. In each case, the Getty users initially went directly to my “In The Flesh” blog entry (showing that they were not searching or just browsing my site.) Their automated violation bot also used nealkrawetz.org. The big catch is that nobody at Getty ever reviewed “In The Flesh” prior to mailing their extortion letter.

In fact, I can see exactly when their bot visited my web site. Here are all of my logs related to their bot:

2014-06-08 23:41:44 | 14.102.40.242 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371654690
2014-06-08 23:41:44 | 14.102.40.242 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371654690
2014-06-09 21:08:00 | 14.102.40.242 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371654690
2014-06-09 21:08:00 | 14.102.40.242 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371654690
2014-06-14 23:05:36 | 109.67.106.4 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371842247
2014-06-14 23:05:36 | 109.67.106.4 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371842247
2014-06-14 23:05:44 | 109.67.106.4 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET /blog/index.php?/archives/423-In-The-Flesh.html | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/PreReport/Index/371842247?normalFlow=True
2014-06-14 23:06:39 | 109.67.106.4 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET /blog/index.php?/categories/18-Phones | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Infringer/Index/371842247
2014-06-16 05:35:47 | 95.35.10.33 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371842247
2014-06-16 05:35:47 | 95.35.10.33 | Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:29.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/29.0 | GET / | http://ops.picscout.com/QcApp/Classification/Index/371842247

This listing shows:

  • The date/time (in PST)
  • The bot’s IP address (two in Israel and one in India; none from the United States)
  • The user-agent string sent by the bot
  • Where they went — they most went to “/” (my homepage), but there is exactly one that went to “/blog/index.php?/archives/423-In-The-Flesh.html”. That’s when they compiled their complaint.
  • The “Referer” string, showing what they clicked in order to get to my site. Notice how their accesses are associated with a couple of complaint numbers. “371842247″ is the number associated with their extortion letter. However, “371654690″ appears to be a second potential complaint.

Getty’s complaint has a very specific timestamp on the letter. It’s doesn’t just have a date. Instead, it says “7/10/2014 11:05:05am” — a very specific time. The clocks may be off by a few seconds, but that “11:05″ matches my log file — it is off by exactly 12 hours. (The letter is timestamped 11:05am, and my logs recorded 11:05pm.) This shows that the entire filing process is automated.

When I use my bank’s online bill-pay system, it asks me when I want to have the letter delivered. Within the United States, it usually means mailing the letter four days earlier. I believe that Getty did the exact same thing. They scanned my web site and then mailed their letter so it would be delivered exactly one-month later, and dated the letter 4 days 12 hours before delivery.

Getty’s automated PicScout system is definitely a poorly-behaved web bot. At no time did Getty’s PicScout system retrieve my robots.txt file, showing that it fails to abide by Internet standards. I am also certain that this was a bot since a human’s web browser would have downloaded my blog’s CSS style sheet. (PicScout only downloaded the web page.)

Failure to perform due diligence
I want to emphasize that there are no other accesses to that blog entry by any address associated with Getty within months before their complaint. As of this year (from January 2014 to July 23, 2014), people at Getty have only visited the “In The Flesh” web page 13 times: once by the PicScout bot, and 12 times after they received my reply letter. This shows that Getty never viewed the web page prior to sending their letter. In effect, their “infringement” letter is nothing more than trolling and an attempt to extort money. They sent the letter without ever looking at the context in which the picture is used.

My claim that Getty never manually reviewed my web site prior to mailing is also supported by their second letter, where they recanted their claim of copyright infringement. Having actually looked at my blog, they realized that it was Fair Use.

My web logs are not my only proof that no human at Getty viewed the blog page in the months prior to sending the complaint. Getty’s threatening letter mentions only one single picture that is clearly labeled with Getty’s ImageBank watermark. However, if any human had visited the web page, then they would have seen FOUR pictures that are clearly associated with Getty, and all four pictures were adjacent on the web page! The four pictures are:

The first picture clearly says “GettyImages” in the top left corner. The second picture (from their complaint) is watermarked with Getty’s ImageBank logo. The third and fourth pictures come from Getty’s iStockPhoto service. Each photo was properly used as part of the research results in that blog entry. (And right now, they are properly used in the research findings of this blog entry.)

After Getty received my reply letter, they began to visit the “In The Flesh” URL from 216.169.250.12 — Getty’s corporate outbound web proxy address. Based on the reasonable assumption that different browser user-agent strings indicate different people, I observed them repeatedly visiting my site in groups of 3-5 people. Most of them initially visited the “In The Flesh” page at nealkrawetz.org; a few users visited my “About Me” and “Services” web pages. I am very confident that these indicate their attorneys reviewing my reply letter and web site. This is the absolute minimum evaluation that Getty should have done before sending their extortion letter.

Legal Issues
Besides pointing out how my blog entry clearly falls under Fair Use, my attorney noted a number of items that I (as a non-lawyer person) didn’t see. For example:

  • In Getty’s initial copyright complaint, they assert that they own the copyright. However, the burden of proof is on Getty Images. Getty provided no proof that they are the actual copyright holder, that they acquired the rights legally from the photographer, that they never transferred rights to anyone else, that they had a model release letter from the woman in the photo, that the picture was never made public domain, and that the copyright had not expired. In effect, they never showed that they actually have the copyright.

  • Getty’s complaint letter claims that they have searched their records and found no license for me to use that photo. However, they provided no proof that they ever searched their records. At minimum, during discovery I would demand a copy of all of their records so that I could confirm their findings and proof of their search. (Remember, the burden of proof is on Getty, not on me.) In addition, I have found public comments that explicitly identify people with valid licenses who reported receiving these hostile letters from Getty. This brings up the entire issue regarding how Getty maintains and searches their records.
  • Assuming some kind of violation (and I am not admitting any wrong here), there is a three-year statute of limitations regarding copyright infringement. My blog entry was posted on March 18, 2011. In contrast, their complaint letter was dated July 10, 2014 — that is more than three years after the pictures were posted on my site.

Known Research
Copyright law permits Fair Use for many purposes, including “research”. Even Getty’s own FAQ explicitly mentions “research” as an acceptable form of Fair Use. The question then becomes: am I a researcher and does my blog report on research? (Among other things, this goes toward my background section in the Copyright Declaratory Judgment filing.)

As it turns out, my web logs are extremely telling. I can see each time anyone at any network address associated with Getty Images visits my site. For most of my blog entries, I either get no Getty visitors or a few visitors. However, each time I post an in-depth research entry on digital photo forensics, I see large groups of people at Getty visiting the blog entry. I can even see when one Getty person comes through, and then a bunch of other Getty people visit my site — suggesting that one person told his coworkers about the blog entry. In effect, employees at Getty Images have been regular readers of my blog since at least 2011. (For discovery, I would request a forensic image of every computer in Getty’s company that has accessed my web site in order to determine if they used my site for research.)

Getty users also use my online analysis service, FotoForensics. This service is explicitly a research service. There are plenty of examples of Getty users accessing the FotoForensics site to view analysis images, read tutorials, and even upload pictures with test files that have names like “watermark.jpg” and “watermark-removed.jpg”. This explicitly shows that they are using my site as a research tool.

(For the ultra paranoid people: I have neither the time nor the desire to track down every user in my web logs. But if you send me a legal threat, I will grep through the data.)

However, the list does not stop there. For example, the Harvard Reference Guide lists me as the example for citing research from a blog. (PDF: see PDF page 44, document page 42.) Not only does Getty use my site as a research resource, Harvard’s style guide uses me as the example for a research blog (my bold for emphasis).

Blogs are NOT acceptable academic sources unless as objects of research

Paraphrasing, Author Prominent:
Krawetz (2011) uses a blog to discuss advanced forensic image analysis techniques.

Paraphrasing, Information Prominent:
Blogs may give credence to opinion, in some cases with supporting evidence; for example the claim that many images of fashion models have been digitally enhanced (Krawetz 2011).

Reference List Model:
Krawetz, N 2011, ‘The hacker factor blog’, web log, viewed 15 November 2011, http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/

I should also point out that the AP and Reuters have both been very aware of my blog — including a VP at the AP — and neither has accused me of copyright infringement. They appear to recognize this as Fair Use. Moreover, with one of blog entries on a Reuters photo (Without a Crutch), a Reuters editor referred to the blog entry as a “Great in-depth analysis” on Reuter’s web site (see Sep 30, 2011) and on her twitter feed. This shows that Getty’s direct competition recognize my blog as a research resource.

SLAPP
One of the things my attorney mentioned was California’s Anti-SLAPP law. Wikipedia explains SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, as “a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.” Wikipedia also says:

The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty is that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics.

In this case, Getty preceded to send me a legal threat regarding alleged copyright infringement. Then they demanded $475 and threatened more actions if I failed to pay it. In contrast, it would cost me $400 to file for a Declaratory Judgment (more if I lived in other states), and costs could rise dramatically if Getty filed a lawsuit against me. In either scenario, it places a financial burden on me if I want to defend my First Amendment rights.

In the United States, California has special anti-SLAPP legislation. While not essential, it helps that Getty has offices in California and a network trace shows that some packets went from Getty to my blog through routers in California. As Wikipedia explains:

To win an anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant must first show that the lawsuit is based on claims related to constitutionally protected activities, typically First Amendment rights such as free speech, and typically seeks to show that the claim lacks any basis of genuine substance, legal underpinnings, evidence, or prospect of success. If this is demonstrated then the burden shifts to the plaintiff, to affirmatively present evidence demonstrating a reasonable probability of succeeding in their case by showing an actual wrong would exist as recognized by law, if the facts claimed were borne out.

This isn’t even half of his legal advice. I could barely take notes fast enough as he remarked about topics like Rule 11, tortious interference with a business relationship, Groucho Marx’s reply to Warner Brothers, and how Getty’s repeated access to my web site could be their way to inflate potential damage claims (since damages are based on the number of views).

A Little Due Diligence Goes A Long Way

Although this entire encounter with Getty Images took less than two weeks, I was preparing for a long battle. I even contacted the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) to see if they could assist. The day after Getty recanted, I received a reply from the EFF: no less than four attorneys wanted to help me. (Thank you, EFF!)

I strongly believe that Getty Images is using a “cookie cutter” style of complaint and is not actually interested in any lawsuit; they just want to extort money from people who don’t know their rights or don’t have the fortitude for a long defense (SLAPP). Getty Images made no effort to evaluate the content beyond an automated search bot, made no attempt to review the bot’s results, provided no evidence that they are the copyright holder, provided no proof that they tried to verify licenses, and threatened legal action against me if I did not pay up.

I am glad that I stood up for my First Amendment rights.

TorrentFreak: University Sets Fines & Worse For Pirating Students

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

lsuAnyone providing an Internet-access infrastructure to third parties needs to be aware of the online piracy issue. For service providers, whether that’s a regular ISP, web host, or the operator of a free open WiFi in a local coffee shop, knowledge of how other people’s actions can affect them is a useful asset.

For universities in the United States, awareness of how Internet piracy can affect their establishment is especially crucial. On top of the requirements of the DMCA, in July 2010, exactly four years ago, the U.S. put in place a new requirement for colleges and universities to curtail illegal file-sharing on their networks. Failure to do so can result in the loss of federal funding so needless to say, campuses view the issue seriously.

Yesterday the The Daily Reveille, the official news resource of the Louisiana State University, revealed that LSU’s IT Services receive between 15 and 20 complaints a month from copyright holders, an excellent result for around 30,000 students.

At the start of the last decade it was music companies doing most of the complaining, but Security and policy officer Craig Callender says that with the advent of services such as Spotify being made available, reports from TV companies are more common.

But no matter where they originate, LSU acts on these allegations of infringement. A first complaint sees a student kicked offline, with Internet access only restored after the completion of an educational course covering illegal file-sharing.

Those who breach the rules again have worse to look forward to, starting with a fine.

“LSU is effectively combating unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by fining students implicated in a verified DMCA copyright violation,” the university’s official policy document reads.

“The $50 fine provides a mechanism for recovering costs incurred in reviewing and processing DMCA notifications, and funding programs for awareness (e.g., education and ad campaign costs).”

Educational campaigns include the promotion of legal services, such as those outlined on the university’s chosen official resource list. Interestingly, while the links for music and books work, the MPAA page for legal TV shows and movies (for which the university receives the most notices) no longer exists.

But while the $50 fine might be harsh enough for a student on a limited budget, LSU warns of even tougher sanctions. Allegations of illegal file-sharing are noted on the student’s academic record which can have implications for his or her career prospects.

In addition, complaints can result in a referral to the Dean of Students’ office for violation of the LSU Code of Student Conduct. According to official documentation, the Student Conduct Office keeps Student Conduct files for seven years after the date of the incident, or longer if deemed necessary.

It’s clear that the work of the RIAA and MPAA in the last decade seriously unnerved universities who have been forced to implement strict measures to curtail unauthorized sharing. LSU says it employs filtering technology to eliminate most P2P traffic but it’s clear that some users are getting through.

Almost certainly others will be using VPN-like solutions to evade not only the P2P ban, but also potential complaints. Still, universities will probably care much less about these users, since they don’t generate DMCA notices and have no impact on their ability to receive federal funding.

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

TorrentFreak: Online Store Can Sell ‘Used’ Ebooks, Court Rules

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

tomskabinetPeople who buy an MP3, digital movie or an eBook assume that they have the right to do whatever they want with it, but copyright holders see things differently.

Platforms that allow people to resell digital goods are meeting fierce resistance from the entertainment industries, who view them as a threat to their online business models.

For example, the major record labels previously pointed out that MP3s are simply too good to resell, as they don’t deteriorate in quality. Similarly, movie studios complained that the ability to sell “used” videos would kill innovation.

The book industry is also concerned and in an attempt to counter this threat several publishers launched a lawsuit against Tom Kabinet, an online marketplace for used eBooks based in the Netherlands.

The publishers fear that the site will negatively impact their business, and that it can’t prevent people from reselling pirated copies. The companies asked the Amsterdam Court for a preliminary injunction against Tom Kabinet, but the request was denied this week.

The Amsterdam Court concluded that selling used eBooks is a legal grey area and not by definition illegal in Europe.

Previously the EU Court of Justice previously ruled that consumers are free to resell games and software, even when there’s no physical copy. That case applied to licensed content, which is different from the Tom Kabinet case, so further investigation is needed to arrive at a final verdict.

The court therefore dismissed the publishers’ claims and ordered them to pay €23.469,56 in legal fees. Tom Kabinet, meanwhile, is still allowed to facilitate the sale of used eBooks.

It’s clear that the publishers didn’t get the result they hoped for. In fact, things have gotten worse, as Tom Kabinet’s visitor numbers have exploded. Shortly after the verdict was announced the site went offline because it couldn’t handle the surge in traffic.

These connectivity issues have been fixed now, and the site’s owner is happy with the outcome thus far.

“There is still a long way to go before legislation is clear on eBooks, but we’ve made a pretty good start,” Tom Kabinet informed TorrentFreak.

The publishers on the other hand are considering further steps, and it’s likely that the case will head to a full trial in the future.

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

TorrentFreak: Director Wants His Film on The Pirate Bay, Pirates Deliver…

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

suzyDutch movie director Martin Koolhoven sent out an unusual request on Twitter a few days ago.

While many filmmakers fear The Pirate Bay, Koolhoven asked his followers to upload a copy of his 1999 film “Suzy Q” to the site.

“Can someone just upload Suzy Q to The Pirate Bay?” Koolhoven asked.

The director doesn’t own all copyrights to the movie himself, but grew frustrated by the fact that his film is not available through legal channels.

The TV-film, which also features the film debut of Game of Thrones actress Carice Van Houten, was paid for with public money but after the music rights expired nobody was able to see it anymore.

The main problem is with the film’s music, which includes tracks from popular artists such as The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. This prevented the film from being released in movie theaters and on DVD, and the TV-network also chose not to extend the licenses for the TV rights.

Since the music was no longer licensed it couldn’t be shown anymore, not even on the websites of the public broadcasters.

“To me, it felt like the movie had died,” Koolhoven tells TorrentFreak.

Hoping to bring it back to life, Koolhoven tweeted his upload request, and it didn’t take long before the pirates delivered. Within a few hours the first copy of the film was uploaded, and several more were added in the days that followed.

“I had no idea the media would pick it up the way they did. That generated more media attention. At first I hesitated because I didn’t want to become the poster boy for the download-movement. All I wanted was for people to be able to see my film,” Koolhoven says.

Unfortunately the first upload of the movie that appeared on The Pirate Bay was in very bad quality. So the director decided to go all the way and upload a better version to YouTube himself.

“I figured it would probably be thrown off after a few days, due to the music rights issue, but at least people could see a half decent version instead of watching the horrible copy that was available on The Pirate Bay,” Koolhoven tells us.

Interestingly, YouTube didn’t remove the film but asked the director whether he had the right to use the songs. Since this is not the case the money made through the advertisements on YouTube will go to the proper rightsholders.

“We’re a few days later now and the movie is still on YouTube. And people have started to put higher quality torrents of Suzy Q on Pirate Bay. Even 720p can be found, I’ve heard,” Koolhoven notes.

While the director is not the exclusive rightsholder, he does see himself as the moral owner of the title. Also, he isn’t shying away from encouraging others to download and share the film.

In essence, he believes that all movies should be available online, as long as it’s commercially viable. It shouldn’t hurt movie theater attendance either, as that remains the main source of income for most films and the best viewing experience.

“I know not everybody cares about that, but I do. The cinema is the best place to see movies. If you haven’t seen ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ on the big screen, you just haven’t seen it,” Koolhoven says.

In the case of Suzy Q, however, people are free to grab a pirated copy.

“Everyone can go to The Pirate Bay and grab a copy. People are actually not supposed to, but they have my permission to download Susy Q,” Koolhoven said in an interview with Geenstijl.

“If other people download the movie and help with seeding then the download time will be even more reasonable,” Koolhoven adds.

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

TorrentFreak: The UK Did *NOT* Just Decriminalize File-Sharing

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

From next year people in the UK can download and share whatever they like. Movies, music and video games. You name it – it’s a free-for-all download bonanza with zero consequences other than four friendly letters asking people to try Netflix and Spotify.

In fact, the UK government has even gone as far as decriminalizing online copyright infringement entirely, despite risking the wrath of every intellectual property owner in the land.

That was the message doing the rounds yesterday in the media, starting on VG247 and going on to overload Reddit and dozens of other sites. Even Russia’s RT.com got in on the fun.

VG247

Except it’s not fun at all. It’s completely untrue on countless levels and to suggest otherwise puts people at risk. Let’s be absolutely clear here. Copyright infringement, whether that’s on file-sharing networks or elsewhere, is ILLEGAL in the UK. Nothing, repeat NOTHING, has changed.

As detailed in our previous article, VCAP is a voluntary (that’s the ‘V’ part) agreement between some rightsholders and a few ISPs to send some informational letters to people observed infringing copyright.

This means that the mainstream music labels and the major Hollywood studios will soon have an extra option to reach out to UK Internet users. However, whenever they want to – today, tomorrow or next year – any of the copyright holders involved in VCAP can still file a lawsuit or seek police action against ANYONE engaged in illegal file-sharing – FACT.

What makes the original VG247 report even more inaccurate is its headline: “Britain just decriminalised online game piracy.” If we’re still laboring under the illusion that VCAP is somehow the reason behind the government’s “decriminalization” of piracy, understand this – video game companies are not even part of the VCAP program.

Worst still, the biggest financial punishment ever ordered by a UK court was a default judgment in 2008 issued to – wait for it – a person who illegally file-shared a single video game. The case was a farce, but the judgment stands and the law on which it was based has not changed. There is nothing stopping any video game company from doing this again once VCAP starts, properly this time.

But why stop at video games? Porn companies/trolls aren’t involved in the VCAP scheme either and any of those could head off to court to obtain the identities of people they want to sue. It’s happening in the UK. There’s a VCAP-style scheme in the United States too, often referred to as “six strikes”, and that has done nothing to stop companies like Malibu Media filing lawsuits almost every day.

Voluntary agreements avoid the complication of changing the law, that’s their entire point. They offer helpful mechanisms that the law does not already provide. For example, UK ISPs are not expressly required to forward infringement notices to users under current law, yet VCAP means that some rightsholders, not all, will get that ‘right’.

So which other sectors are not involved in VCAP so therefore cannot rely on the assistance it provides? Well, thousands of smaller record labels and film companies for a start. They tend to be outside the walls of the BPI and MPA so do not enjoy the fruits of their lobbying. While these smaller outfits tend to stay away from litigation, they could soon have fresh options.

Piracy monetization firm Rightscorp works with many smaller companies and has recently indicated an interest in the UK. “We are getting a great reception from everyone we have spoken to [in the UK],” the company’s Robert Steele said in May. Whether Rightscorp will be able to pull this off is an entirely different matter, but since file-sharing of copyrighted material remains illegal in the UK, the company has a chance.

The other issue is how the VCAP warnings will be presented to alleged infringers. While they have a focus on education, it would be incredible if they contained the text “The UK has just decriminalized file-sharing, that’s why we have sent you this letter.” It would be even more amazing if the ISPs agreed to pass them on if file-sharing was no longer an offense.

While no laws have been changed, in some instances it’s probably fair to say that VCAP will make it less likely that people will be pursued by the major record labels and movie studios in the UK. It doesn’t eliminate the threat, however.

Try this. Head off to your local Odeon, Showcase or UCI this coming weekend, set up a camcorder, and see if you can get a really sweet copy of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Begin uploading this to The Pirate Bay and while it’s seeding send an email to the Federation Against Copyright Theft containing your personal details.

VCAP friendly letter incoming or a police raid? Yeah, thought so.

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

TorrentFreak: Six Android Piracy Group Members Charged, Two Arrested

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

usdojAssisted by police in France and the Netherlands, in the summer of 2012 the FBI took down three unauthorized Android app stores. Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket all had their domains seized, the first action of its type in the Android scene.

For two years the United States Department of Justice has released information on the case and last evening came news of more charges and more arrests.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division announced the unsealing of three federal indictments in the Northern District of Georgia charging six members of Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket for their roles in the unauthorized distribution of Android apps.

SnappzMarket

Joshua Ryan Taylor, 24, of Kentwood, Michigan, and Scott Walton, 28, of Cleveland, Ohio, two alleged members of SnappzMarket, were both arrested yesterday. They are due to appear before magistrates in Michigan and Ohio respectively.

An indictment returned on June 17 charges Gary Edwin Sharp II, 26, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, along with Taylor and Walton, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. Sharp is also charged with two counts of criminal copyright infringement.

It’s alleged that the three men were members of SnappzMarket between May 2011 through August 2012 along with Kody Jon Peterson, 22, of Clermont, Florida. In April, Peterson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. As part of his guilty plea he agreed to work undercover for the government.

Appbucket

Another indictment returned June 17 in Georgia charges James Blocker, 36, of Rowlett, Texas, with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

A former member of Appbucket, Blocker is alleged to have conspired with Thomas Allen Dye, 21, of Jacksonville, Florida; Nicholas Anthony Narbone, 26, of Orlando, Florida, and Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon to distribute Android apps with a value of $700,000.

During March and April 2014, Dye, Narbone and Pace all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

Applanet

applanetA further indictment June 17 in Georgia charges Aaron Blake Buckley, 20, of Moss Point, Mississippi; David Lee, 29, of Chino Hills, California; and Gary Edwin Sharp II (also of Appbucket) with one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement.

Lee is additionally charged with one count of aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement and Buckley with one count of criminal copyright infringement.

All three identified themselves as former members of Applanet. The USDOJ claims that along with other members they are responsible for the illegal distribution of four million Android apps with a value of $17m. Buckley previously launched a fund-raiser in an effort to fight off the United States government.

“As a result of their criminal efforts to make money by ripping off the hard work and creativity of high-tech innovators, the defendants are charged with illegally distributing copyrighted apps,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.

“The Criminal Division is determined to protect the labor and ingenuity of copyright owners and to keep pace with criminals in the modern, technological marketplace.”

A statement from the FBI’s Atlanta Field Office indicates that the FBI will pursue more piracy groups in future.

“The FBI will continue to provide significant investigative resources toward such groups engaged in such wholesale pirating or copyright violations as seen here,” Special Agent in Charge J. Britt Johnson said.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Targets ‘Pirate’ Searches to Promote Legal Content

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

googlepirateadOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its anti-piracy efforts.

One of the most often heard complaints is that pirated content sometimes ranks better than legal alternatives. Copyright holders want Google to remedy this situation by promoting legal content through higher placement in search results.

“Search engines should address the distortive search practices that result in listings and rankings that favor substantially infringing sites,” the MPAA complained earlier.

While it seemed that Google had rejected the boosting of legal offerings in results, it appears that the company is now taking measures to address copyright holder concerns.

Google has quietly rolled out an update that places banner ads for Google Play and other content platforms above the regular search results if people search for piracy related terms. The banners in question show up on searches for a title of a movie or TV-show in combination with keywords such as “torrent,” “BitTorrent,” or “DVDrip.”

As shown below, the first organic result is still a “pirate” site, but the legal options are now clearly visible through the inserted banner.

“Breaking Bad Torrent”
breakingtorrent

Initially these new ads were displayed in most of the US and UK. The availability was limited after TorrentFreak reached out to Google before the weekend, but they are still visible to us from a California IP-address.

It’s unknown how Google picks the keywords but the banner is also shown when searching for the video format “avi” and even “putlocker,” a popular file-hosting service.

The ads do not appear when searching for the movie or TV-show titles alone. They are specifically triggered by the extra ‘piracy’ keyword. For example, the banner shows up when searching for “Noah DVDrip” but not for “Noah DVD,” “Noah rent“, “Noah buy” or Noah paired with a random word.

Noah DVDrip
noahdvdrip1

In addition to piracy related keywords the ads also appear for more generic searches where pirate sites traditionally rank very high. These include words such as “download,” “watch,” “online” and “view” which often have unauthorized sites in the top results.

The “Noah watch” search below is a good example where a banner is placed above the first result, which in this case links to infringing material.

Noah Watch
noahwatch

TorrentFreak contacted Google but the company couldn’t say why the ads are displayed for these piracy related keywords. A spokesman did confirm that the ads appear for “various searches” and that they are the same format as the Knowledge Graph ads that were rolled out late last year.

“These ads will appear after various searches that include specific movie, TV, and music titles,” a Google spokesman told us.

Since the availability of the banners was limited overnight the company may still be experimenting with the setup. Unfortunately, Google couldn’t comment further on our findings.

Promoting legal content through ads would make sense for Google, as that would satisfy some of the copyright holders’ demands without changing the actual search results. On top of that, it can be quite useful to users as well.

Whether the banners will be able to steer people away from pirate sites has yet to be seen though.

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

TorrentFreak: Mail.ru Blasts Italy For Site Blocking Without Transparency

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

stop-blockedEvery few weeks fresh sites are blocked in Italy on copyright grounds, following either court proceedings or hearings as part of the new AGCOM mechanism.

Many of the big ‘pirate’ sites – The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, for example – have been blocked for years but now the country seems intent on blacking out sites that are definitely not in the piracy business.

As reported here on Saturday, last week a judge sitting in the Court of Rome ordered local ISPs to block a total of 24 websites including Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz and Russia’s largest email provider, Mail.ru.

The size and importance of Mail.ru in its home country and further afield is noteworthy. It’s the fifth most-visited domain in Russia behind only Yandex, Google and social networking giant vKontakte, of which it owns 51.99%. It’s the 39th busiest site worldwide according to Alexa, servicing in excess of 27 million users per day.

In a statement this morning Mail.ru said it has still not been able to establish the specifics that lead to it being blocked in Italy. Eyemoon Pictures, the complainant in the case, made no attempt to discuss any issues with Mail.ru before heading off to court, the email giant said.

“[Eyemoon Pictures] made no attempt to resolve the situation pretrial,” the company said in a statement.

“No notification of illegal content or requirements to remove copies of [Eyemoon's] films has been addressed to Mail.Ru Group from law enforcement agencies and Italy.”

The company only realized there was a problem when users began complaining of accessibility issues on July 17.

“We learned of the court’s decision from our users, as well as publications in the public domain,” Mail.ru added.

Criticizing the effects of the blockade on its userbase, this morning Mail.ru hit out at Italy for taking action without due consideration.

“We believe that this situation is detrimental to the interests of our users, and clearly illustrates the fact that some national laws in this area does not consider the specifics of the Internet companies and do not provide a clear, transparent process for resolving such conflicts,” the company said.

“There needs to be an active dialogue on the development of international pre-trial procedures for resolving disputes between copyright holders and Internet service providers. Their introduction will improve the position of all parties, including users worldwide,” Mail.ru concludes.

At the time of writing, Mail.ru is still inaccessible in Italy with the company having made no progress towards having the censorship lifted.

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

TorrentFreak: Another Argument Against The “Artist Must Get Paid” Nonsense

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

copyright-brandedWhen I was travelling recently, an interesting point came up. A colleague of mine didn’t mind buying copies of culture (games, movies, etc.), but always bought them second-hand – specifically so the copyright industry shouldn’t get any money.

I realized immediately that this point torpedoes the most common fallacy against culture-sharing completely: that of the artist having some sort of “right to money” when you enjoy work that they once created. There are many ways to show that as a complete fallacy, some more convoluted than others (planned economy, libraries, market value, street musicians…) but I realized this is one of the most straightforward yet.

Nobody, especially not technophobic dinosaurs, object to second-hand book and record shops. And yet, when somebody buys there, the author or musician doesn’t get a cent – and we think that’s completely in order, just as completely without question.

When this sinks in, you realize that it was never about the money at all in the first place. It was merely about what the self-appointed cultural elite saw as their territory and their habits, where they can allow others to tread or deny them the privilege. Second-hand shops have always been a central part of a cultural rich life. The Internet is something completely new (well, perhaps not anymore) that denies the old elite the privilege of having their established ways remain the norm.

And yet, there it is in black and white. There is no connection at all between “you enjoying a fine work” and “the artist getting paid”. None whatsoever. When you’re buying something at a second-hand store and enjoying it, the original writer doesn’t get a cent, and everybody thinks that’s okay. (Even if a few people in the copyright industry are trying to outlaw second-hand sales, they’re not being very successful at it.)

So try this conversation the next time a self-appointed Guardian Of The Ways criticizes the good art of sharing culture and knowledge:

- You shouldn’t enjoy somebody’s work without paying them for it.

- That’s nonsense. Second-hand bookstores and record stores are the backbone of a rich culture, and people are enjoying fine works there without the artist getting a cent.

- But, but, the artist got money when somebody originally bought it!

- Yes, maybe so, but that’s not what you said. You said that somebody must pay the artist to have a right to enjoy their work. That’s clearly not true.

At that point, the argument is derailed, and they will probably talk about how the Interwebs should be outlawed instead. Try it, it’s fun!

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: BPI Rejects Use of Spotify-Owned “Stay Down” Pirate Tool

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

There are hundreds of millions of pirate files inhabiting the Internet and it’s fair to say that many of those are music tracks. As a result, the world’s leading record labels, who together claim 90%+ of the market, spend significant sums making those files more awkward to find.

For sites like The Pirate Bay, which point-blank refuses to remove any torrents whatsoever, the labels have little option than to head off to Google. There the search giant will remove Pirate Bay links from its indexes so that users won’t immediately find them.

However, rather than engaging a link whack-a-mole, the best solution by far is to remove the content itself. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the world’s leading file-lockers (even ones labeled ‘rogue’ by the United States), allow copyright holders direct back-end access to their systems so they can remove content themselves. It doesn’t really get any fairer than that, and here’s the issue.

This week, while looking at Google’s Transparency Report, TF noticed that during the past month massive file-hosting site 4shared became the record labels’ public enemy number one. In just four weeks, Google received 953,065 requests for 4shared links to be taken down, the majority of them from record labels. In fact, according to Google the BPI has complained about 4shared a mind-boggling 6.75 million times overall.

So, is 4shared refusing to cooperate with the BPI, hence the group’s endless complaints to Google? That conclusion might make sense but apparently it’s not the case. In fact, it appears that 4shared operates a removal system that is particularly friendly to music companies, one that not only allows them to take content down, but also keep it down.

“Throughout the years 4shared developed several tools for copyright owners to protect their content and established a special team that reacts to copyright claims in timely manner,” 4shared informs TorrentFreak.

“We don’t completely understand BPI’s reasons for sending claims to Google instead of using our tools. From our point of view the best and most effective way for copyright holders to find and remove links to the content they own is to use our music identification system.”

To find out more, TF spoke with the BPI. We asked them to comment on 4shared’s takedown tools and in the light of their existence why they choose to target Google instead. After a few friendly back-and-forth emails, the group declined to comment on the specific case.

“We prefer to comment on our overall approach on search rather than on individual sites, which is to focus on known sources of wide scale piracy and to use a number of tools to tackle this problem,” a BPI spokesman explained.

“Notice-sending represents just one part of the measures available to us, along with site blocking and working with the Police to reducing advertising on copyright infringing sites.”

We asked 4shared to reveal other copyright holders using their system, but the site declined on privacy grounds. However, it’s clear that the BPI isn’t a user and 4shared have their own ideas why that might be.

“It’s possible that BPI goes for quantity not quality,” TF was told.

“If they are trying to increase the number of links in reports or for PR reasons, they probably use a bot to harvest and send links to Google despite the fact that such an approach may also result in false claims.”

The “PR” angle is an interesting one. Ever since Google began publishing its Transparency Report rightsholders have used it to demonstrate how bad the piracy problem is. Boosting those numbers certainly helps the cause.

But is it possible, perhaps, that the BPI doesn’t trust the 4shared system. They didn’t answer our questions on that front either but it seems unlikely since 4shared uses EchoPrint, a solution purchased by Spotify earlier this year.

“Our music identification system which is based on Echoprint technology will not only find all matching content but will also restrict sharing of all potential future uploads of such content,” 4shared concludes.

Take-down-and-stay-down is the Holy Grail for anti-piracy companies. It’s a solution being pushed for in the United States in the face of what rightsholders say is a broken DMCA. On that basis there must be a good reason for the BPI not wanting to work with 4shared and it has to be said that the company’s “PR” theory proves more attractive than most.

The volume of notices in Google’s Transparency Report provide believable evidence of large-scale infringement and it’s certainly possible that the BPI would prefer to have 4shared blocked in the UK than work with the site’s takedown tools.

We’ll find out the truth in the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: UK ISPs and Copyright Holders Praise New Piracy Warning System

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

pirate-cardIn an effort to curb online piracy, earlier this year the movie and music industries reached agreement with the UK’s leading ISPs to send warnings to alleged copyright infringers.

As we previously revealed, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) will only apply to P2P file-sharing and will mainly focus on repeat infringers.

The monitoring will be carried out by a third-party company and unlike other warning systems there won’t be any punishments. The main purpose of the warnings is to alert and educate copyright infringers, in the hope they will move over to legal alternatives.

The program was officially announced today and received support from all parties involved, including the UK Government which is financially backing the measures. Without exception they all praise the warning system and the accompanying educational campaign.

“It is fantastic that the UK creative community and ISPs have come together in partnership to address online copyright infringement and raise awareness about the multitude of legitimate online services available to consumers. We are also grateful to the UK Government for backing this important new initiative,” the MPA’s Chris Marcich comments.

Thus far BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have agreed to send warnings to customers whose connections are being used for unauthorized file-sharing. Commenting on the collaboration, all four ISPs praised the educational nature of the VCAP program.

“BT is committed to supporting the creative industries by helping to tackle the problem of online piracy while ensuring the best possible experience for its customers. That’s why we’ve worked very hard with rights-holders and other leading ISPs to develop a voluntary programme based on consumer education and awareness which promotes the use of legal online content.” BT Consumer CEO John Petter says.

Lyssa McGowan, Director of Sky Broadband, is equally delighted by the anti-piracy agreement.

“As both a content creator and ISP, we understand how vital it is to tackle online copyright infringement in order to protect future investment in content. As a result, we’re pleased [...] to help make consumers aware of illegal downloading and point them towards the wide range of legitimate sites where they can enjoy great content,” she notes.

The comments from the other ISPs, copyright holder groups, and the Government, are all variations on the same theme. The parties praise the new awareness campaign and note that the main goal is to convert consumers to legal alternatives through education.

The question that remains, however, is how genuine all this positivity really is.

While the scheme is being overwhelmed with praise, the parties also announced that the first warning emails will not be sent out before next summer, possibly even later. These delays are a thorn in the side of both copyright holders and the Government, suggesting that negotiations behind the scenes are less uplifting.

This also shows in earlier comments from the Prime Minister’s IP advisor Mike Weatherly who said that it’s already time to think about VCAP’s potential failure. He suggested that the program needs to be followed by something more enforceable, including disconnections, fines and jail sentences.

More background and details on the planned piracy warning are available in our previous VCAP overview article.

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

TorrentFreak: Dotcom’s MEGA Blocked in Italy Over Piracy Concerns

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

mega Italian authorities and the local entertainment industry are continuing their war on piracy with yet another round of broad website blockades.

This week Court of Rome Judge Constantino De Robbio ordered all local Internet providers to restrict access to 24 websites including Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz. The list further includes several other cloud storage sites such as Firedrive (formerly known as Putlocker) and even Russia’s largest email provider Mail.ru.

The broad anti-piracy measures were requested by a small independent Italian movie distributor Eyemoon Pictures. The company complained that the sites in question distributed two films, “The Congress” and “Fruitvale Station,” before they were released in Italian cinemas.

It appears that the injunction was issued without a very careful investigation of the true nature of the sites. Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz is known to be very responsive to takedown notices, and the targeting of Russia’s largest email providers is even more baffling.

In a comment Mega CEO Stephen Hall tells TorrentFreak that Mega views the blockade as disproportionate and illegal. The company operates an EU and DMCA compliant takedown process which allows copyright holder to remove infringing files swiftly.

“We believe that the blockade adopted by the Italian Prosecutor is illegal. The blocking order was placed on the basis of a complaint by a small distributor for two films and the effect of the total block is obviously disproportionate,” Hall says.

Hall further points out that the measures are easily circumvented by using Google DNS or any other non-ISP DNS provider. However, the company hopes that it can have the blockade reversed via soon-to-be-filed appeal.

“Mega is taking steps to ensure that our Italian customers regain access to their files without first having to fiddle with their nameserver settings by filing an appeal next week,” Hall adds.

TorrentFreak contacted Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer specialized in Internet and copyright disputes, who told us that the scope of the preliminary injunction is rather broad.

“This is the second-largest website blocking order in Italy, but certainly the most important one considering the names involved,” Sarzana says.

The lawyer is opposed to the measures and welcomes site owners who want to appeal the blockades.

“I see website blocking through DNS and IP-address as a form of censorship. The block can not distinguish between licit and illicit files. It’s like using a bomb broad-spectrum to hit only one person, the collateral damage is very obvious,” Sarzana notes.

The sites affected in today’s actions have an option to appeal the Court’s decision, which has been done before with success.

Earlier this year Rome’s Court of Appeals recalled a blocking order against the video streaming site Filmakerz.org, arguing that it was too broad. In its order the Court specified that partial blocking of a specific URL is preferred over site-wide bans, and that copyright-infringing sites must have a for-profit angle.

The full list of blocked domain names is as follows:

cineblog01.net, cineblog01.tv, ddlstorage.com, divxstage.eu, easybytez.com, filminstreaming.eu, filmstream.info, firedrive.com, mail.ru, mega.co.nz, movshare.sx, nowdownload.ag, nowdownload.sx, nowvideo.sx, piratestreaming.net, primeshare.tv, putlocker.com, rapidvideo.tv, sockshare.com, uploadable.ch, uploadinc.com, video.tt , videopremium.me and youwatch.org

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Firm Wants to Fine Aussie and Canadian File-Sharers

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

pirate-runningFor more than a decade copyright holders have been monitoring pirated downloads of their work on various file-sharing networks.

Traditionally these efforts have focused on the United States where ISPs are required to forward takedown notices to their account holders.

A recent trend has seen these notices become more than mere warnings. Companies such as CEG TEK and Rightscorp also tag on settlement requests, hoping to recoup some of the damages allegedly caused by file-sharers.

Since these requests are sent as DMCA notices, copyright holders do not have to involve the courts. Nonetheless, the ‘fines’ can be as high as several hundred dollars per shared file. Thus far these “automated fines” have been limited to the United States, but soon they will expand to Japan, with Australia and Canada next on the list.

TorrentFreak spoke with CEG TEK’s Kyle Reed who confirmed that they will soon start their piracy monetization service in Japan. At the same time the company will run various tests to see how Aussie and Canadian Internet providers respond to their notices.

“Increased coverage for our monetization clients in additional countries has always been top of mind. We have a base of international clients, some of which call these countries home,” Reed tells TorrentFreak

“Canada and Australia are both hot topics with rights owners and the market conditions afford us the opportunity to initiate ISP compliance testing,” Reed adds.

If the notice forwarding goes well with the ISPs, and there are decent response rates, the company will also begin sending out settlement requests in Australia and Canada.

Internet providers have to be tested in advance, because the settlement scheme fails if ISPs ignore or modify the notices. For example, in the U.S. many of the larger ISPs forward the notice without the actual settlement offer.

CEG TEK is not the only piracy monetization service to consider international expansion. Previously Rightscorp announced that it was interested in offering its services in Canada.

Whether Internet providers in Australia and Canada are willing to cooperate has yet to be seen. In Canada there is currently no legal obligation for ISPs to cooperate, although this will change soon. Australia has a notice and takedown policy but this doesn’t require ISPs to forward the settlement requests.

According to CEG TEK their settlement services are superior to traditional anti-piracy warnings since they stop more unauthorized transfers while making money in the process.

“In the United States and around the world, traditional peer-to-peer anti-piracy methods have proved to be largely ineffective. We have the only peer-to-peer solution shown to decrease infringements and repeat offenders, as well as return monetary settlements to rightful copyright owners,” Reed says.

The irony is of course that these companies will render themselves obsolete if they become too effective, but for now there are still plenty of pirates around.

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

TorrentFreak: ‘Pirate’ Site ISP Blockades Reversed By Court

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

In the eyes of the United States, Spain still needs to do more in the battle against unlawful file-sharing. The country has been making progress though, and in some instances has actually gone much further than any U.S. court would dare.

Following action by the MPAA-affiliated Anti-Piracy Federation (FAP), in May 2014 a court in the city of Zaragoza ordered local ISPs including Vodafone, Movistar and Orange, to block several sites allegedly engaged in copyright infringement.

Within days, SpanishTracker, PCTorrent.com, NewPCT.com, PCTestrenos.com, Descargaya.es and TumejorTV.com were rendered inaccessible. The injunctions were not permanent, however, and could be appealed by the sites’ operators.

As can be seen in the Alexa statistics shown below, direct traffic to NewPCT took a huge hit following the court order. However, the site quickly set up alternative domains and there were several reports in local media indicating that proxies and VPNs had quickly become popular with those looking to regain access to the site.

NewPCT

But while the court order was cheered by rightsholders keen to see Spain dispel ideas that the country is a safe-haven for file-sharing sites, the celebrations were to be short-lived.

The site blocks, championed by both FAP and the police Computer Security Brigade, were this week lifted by a court in Zaragoza.

A judge sitting in Court of Instruction No.10 found that there “insufficient grounds” for maintaining the domain blockades to protect property rights, “especially when it is not absolutely necessary for the continuation of the investigation.”

El Mundo reports that when the case was being processed back in 2013, a court already found that “the facts alleged did not constitute a crime.”

The ISP blockades against the domains are expected to be lifted in the coming days, leaving local and international rightsholders to ponder whether changes in Spanish legislation due this year will help solve the piracy conundrum.

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

TorrentFreak: RIAA Copyright Pressure Silences Historical Radio Archive

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

When sites like The Pirate Bay come under copyright holder pressure, there is often a big backlash from users who see such action as unfair. That being said, it’s generally accepted by both sides that The Pirate Bay courts trouble by, rightly or wrongly, laughing in the face of copyright law.

The situation now faced by ReelRadio, a site dedicated to the streaming of archived historical radio, sits at the other end of the spectrum, but nevertheless the site is still facing potential dismantling by the RIAA.

In existence since 1996, ReelRadio still looks and feels like a site made in, well, 1996. Its classic feel is further outdated by the content it hosts, decades-old ‘aircheck’ demo recordings which were often used to showcase radio announcers before being placed in the archives.

reelradio

Aircheck recordings appear to be popular among nostalgia hunters who can pick a memorable year from their life or another historical moment and become transported back in time. It’s a million miles away from what most people see as damaging piracy yet the RIAA is now applying the copyright thumbscrews to tax-exempt ReelRadio.

The problem is this. Airchecks are broadly split into two categories. ‘Unscoped’ airchecks contain not only the DJ or announcer’s voice, but also the music played in between. Airchecks recorded for troops fighting in Vietnam, for example, contain music being played during that era. ‘Scoped’ airchecks have the announcer’s voice intact but the music removed, leaving edited recordings that fail to flow.

ReelRadio streams both kind of recordings, or rather it did until the RIAA came knocking just over a week ago. Let’s be clear, ReelRadio does in fact have a license to play the music contained in its ‘unscoped’ airchecks. However, after years of operating trouble-free, the RIAA now wants the site to operate strictly within the parameters of its statutory license.

“The RIAA has determined that our service fails to meet the requirements for ‘archived programs’, which must be at least five hours in duration and may not be made available for more than two weeks. The service must also display the Title, Artist and Album of each featured song, but only while the recording is being performed,” ReelRadio President Richard Irwin explains.

The problems faced by the site are immediate. Irwin says he carries no airchecks with a duration of five hours and obviously the site makes them available for more than two weeks. Also, their streaming method does not cater to the display of meta-data. Worse still, it appears the RIAA also wants ReelRadio to do the impossible.

riaa-logo“The RIAA insists that we obtain permission from the copyright owners of these old radio broadcasts. Many broadcasters understand the difficulty of this requirement, since nearly all radio stations have changed ownership, format, and call letters, many times over,” Irwin explains.

“Nevertheless, we are expected to provide the RIAA with an explanation of how we have permission from radio stations that no longer exist and copyright owners who have no interest in historic recordings of their property.”

As a result of the RIAA complaint, ReelRadio has been forced to remove more than 1,100 ‘unscoped’ airchecks. Its ‘scoped’ airchecks, which are not part of its license, remain available under ‘fair use’ provisions.

The RIAA has given ReelRadio until August 8 to provide its response and holds the ability to close the site entirely by suspending its license. Whether it will choose to do so remains to be seen, but it’s clear that if it does there will be no gain whatsoever to the RIAA, but a really big loss to history.

“I would like to see the RIAA recognize the unique character of our historical archive,” Irwin told TorrentFreak.

“The statutory law was written for online radio stations and automated playout systems. It didn’t consider historical radio recordings. The law is outdated and inadequate. They don’t have to go any further, and they shouldn’t.”

Legally the RIAA appears to be on solid ground, but the court of public opinion on preserving nostalgia is likely to see things quite differently.

Those wanting to check out some unscoped airchecks can do so on YouTube. They won’t be going anywhere soon, there’s little doubt about that, so check out the gem below featuring the world’s easiest phone-in competition followed by a piece of unbelievable advertising for Winston cigarettes (1m 30s).

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

The Hacker Factor Blog: Dear Getty Images Legal Department

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

For the last few years, Getty Images has operated an aggressive anti-copyright infringement campaign. In 2011, they purchased PicScout to search the Internet for potential unlicensed uses of their pictures. Then they began sending out very scary-sounding takedown notices. These letters include a “cease and desist” paragraph as well as a bill for the unauthorized use.

I just received one of these letter. Here’s the 7-page (3.4 MB) letter: PDF. (The only thing I censored was the online access code for paying online.) They billed me $475 for a picture used on my blog. (If you log into their site, it’s $488 with tax.)

A number of news outlets as well as the blogosphere have begun reporting on these letters from Getty Images. For example:

  • International Business Times: “Getty Images Lawsuits: Enforcement Or Trolling? Fear Of Letters Dwindling, Stock-Photo Giant Hits Federal Courts”

  • The DG Group: “Image Copyright Infringement And Getty Images Scam Letter”
  • Extortion Letter Info: “Reporting on Getty Images & Stock Photo Settlement Demand Letters (Copyright Trolls, ‘Extortion’ Letters, ‘Shadown’ Letters)”
  • Women in Business: “Are You Being Set Up For Copyright Infringement? As Technology Becomes More Invasive Copyright Infringement Scams Flourish”
  • RyanHealy.com: “Getty Images Extortion Letter”
  • someguy72 @ Reddit: He states that he purchased the pictures legally from Getty and still received an infringement notice. His advice: if you purchase a picture from Getty, the “save your records FOREVER… they will come after you, years later and you might not have PROOF of PURCHASE, and then you will be screwed.”

As far as I can tell, this is an extortion racket. (I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a class-action lawsuit against Getty Images yet.) The basic premise is that they send out a threatening letter with a price tag. Some people will fear the strongly-worded letter and simply pay the amount. If you ignore it, then they send more letters with greater dollar amounts. If you call them up, the forums say that you can usually negotiate a lower amount. However, sometimes you may not actually owe anything at all.

Many people have reported that, if you just ignore it, then it goes away. However, Getty Images has sued a few people who ignored the letters. If you ignore it, then you place yourself at risk.

But here’s the thing… There are some situations where you can use the image without a license. It is in the Copyright law under the heading “Fair Use” (US Copyright Law Title 17 Section 107; in some countries, it’s called “Fair Dealing”). This is an exception from copyright enforcement. Basically, if you’re using the picture as art on your web site or to promote a product, then you are violating their copyright. (You should negotiate a lower rate.) However, if you use it for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, then you are allowed to use the picture.

For example, I have many blog entries where I forensically evaluate pictures. I do this to show techniques, criticize content, identify deceptive practices, etc. If Fair Use did not exist, then I would be unable to criticize or expose deception from media outlets. In effect, they would be censoring my freedom of speech by preventing me from directly addressing the subject.

Reply To Getty

The picture in question is one that is on an older blog entry: In The Flesh. This blog entry criticizes the media outlets Time and Salon for promoting misleading and hostile software. (It’s hostile because the demo software installs malware.) The software, False Flesh, claims to make people in any picture appear nude. The pictures in my blog entry are used to demonstrate some of the deceptive practices. Specifically, the pictures of nude women on the software’s web site did not come from their software.

I looked at the picture mentioned in Getty’s complaint and how it was being used in the blog entry. I really thought it was permitted under Copyright Fair Use. However, I’m not an attorney. So… I checked with an attorney about the Getty complaint and my use of the picture. I was actually surprised that he didn’t start his answer with “that depends…” (If you’ve every worked with an attorney, then you know any discussion about legality begins with them saying “that depends…”) Instead, he said outright “it’s clearly fair use.”

Personally, I’m offended that Getty Images made no attempt to look at the context in which the picture is used.

Rather than ignoring them, I sent them a letter:

Dr. Neal Krawetz
Hacker Factor
PO Box 270033
Fort Collins, CO
80527-0033

July 15, 2014

Legal Department
Getty Images
605 5th Ave S, Suite 400
Seattle, WA
98104

Dear Getty Images Legal Department,

I received your copyright infringement notification dated “7/10/2014 11:05:06 AM”, case number 371842247, on July 14, 2014. I have reviewed the image, the use of the picture on my web site, and discussed this situation with an attorney. It is my strong belief that I am clearly using the picture within the scope of Copyright Fair Use (Title 17 Section 107).

Specifically:

  • The blog entry, titled “In The Flesh”, criticizes the media outlets Time and Salon for promoting deceptive software. The software is called “False Flesh” and claims to turn any photo of a person into a nude. I point out that installing the False Flesh demo software will install malware.

  • The blog entry discloses research findings regarding the False Flesh software: there is no identified owner for the software and the sample pictures they use to demonstrate their software are not from their software. I specifically traced their sample images to pictures from sites such as Getty Images. I forensically evaluate the pictures and explicitly point out the misrepresentation created by these images on the False Flesh web site.
  • The picture is used on my web site to criticize the media reports by exposing fraud and misrepresentation associated with the product. It is also included as part of a demonstration for tracking and identifying potentially fraudulent products in general.
  • The blog entry reports on these findings to the public in order to educate people regarding the deceptive nature of False Flesh and the risks from using this software.
  • The image that you identified is not used is the blog entry to promote any products or services and is directly related to the comments, criticism, and research covered in the blog entry. The use is not commercial in nature. This goes toward the purpose and character, which is to identify fraud and misrepresentation in a product promoted by Time and Salon.
  • As described in the blog entry, I found sample images on the False Flesh web site and used TinEye and other forensic methods to identify the sources. This was used to prove that the False Flesh software did not generate any of their sample images.
  • I did not use the full-size version of this particular picture and it includes the Getty Images Image Bank watermark. The blog entry explicitly identifies that the source for the False Flesh picture was Getty Images and not False Flesh. I point out that False Flesh used the picture in a deceptive manner.
  • I believe that my use of this picture has no adverse effect on the potential market for the image.

I believe that this covers the Copyright Fair Use requirements for criticism, comment, teaching, research, and reporting.

Getty Images acknowledges Fair Use in their FAQ concerning license requirements:
http://company.gettyimages.com/license-compliance/faq/#are-there-limitations-on-a-copyright-owners-rights

Specifically, Getty Images calls out education and research. As a computer security and forensic researcher, I use this blog to describe tools and techniques, evaluate methodologies, and to identify deceptive practices. I believe that this specific blog entry, and my blog in general, clearly fit both of these areas.

As stated in this letter, the picture’s appearance on my blog is Fair Use and I have the right under copyright law to use the image without your consent. This letter serves as notice that any DMCA takedown or blocking notices to any third party would be in bad faith.

Sincerely,

/s/ Dr. Neal Krawetz

Chilling Effect

My blog in general reports on findings related to computer security and forensics. Many of these blog entries heavily focus on scams, fraud, and abuse from media outlets. Many of my blog entries (reports) have been repeated by news outlets, and some of my blog entries have had a direct effect on changing insecure and unethical practices. This includes a series of blog entries that exposed digital manipulation in World Press Photo’s annual contest (influencing changes in this year’s contest rules) and a paper on fundamental problems with credit card payment systems that lead to changes in the Visa security standards.

While this could be a wide-spread extortion racket, it could also be Getty’s way of testing the waters before going after some blog entries where I openly and explicitly criticize them for releasing digitally altered photos.

My primary concern is the chilling effect this could have. If I pay the extortion, then it opens me for more claims from Getty; I have previously criticized them for providing digitally altered photos and performed analysis to prove it. It also opens the way for similar claims from the Associated Press, Reuters, and every other media outlet that I have openly criticized. All of my blog entries that explicitly expose digital misrepresentation, report on media manipulation, and even those that disclose methods for evaluating content will be at risk.

In effect, bowing to this one threatening letter would force me to close my blog since I would no longer be allowed to freely write — report, comment, disclose research, and educate others — on topics related to media manipulation and digital photo analysis. I consider Getty’s attempt to censor my blog’s content to be an unacceptable attack on my freedom of speech.

TorrentFreak: Google Processes Millions of Useless DMCA Notices

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

A major Internet anti-piracy strategy is to trawl the Internet for infringing content in order to send sites a DMCA-style notice. This, if all goes to plan, results in the content, or at the least a link to it, being removed from availability.

The world’s largest recipient of these notices is Google and in the interests of transparency the company publishes a report detailing the requests it receives. But while the majority of the requests are processed without further issue, increasing numbers serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

Last year alone, Google discarded 21 million takedown requests, either because the claims were invalid or were duplicates of previously sent notices.

In 2014 the duplication problem appears to be getting worse, with even the BPI (who in all fairness are more accurate than most with their takedowns) sending large volumes of notices that contain high percentages of links that have already been taken down.

BPI-dup

Across the Atlantic, Fox – which is the fifth all-time greatest sender of notices (28 million) – is also having difficulty remembering which URLs it has already asked to be erased. How Google can remember what takedowns Fox has already sent and why the studio cannot isn’t clear, but the high percentages in the refusal column suggests the numbers are significant.

Fox-dup

That being said, these numbers should be put into perspective. The BPI has asked Google to take down more than 86 million URLs and Fox 28 million, so even many tens of thousands of duplicates are a relatively low percentage of the total. However, there is a far more depressing trend that suggests that some anti-piracy companies don’t check to see if the links they’re complaining about are actually infringing copyright at all.

The image below shows a selection of notices sent to Google this month by NBC, with a percentage of each rejected by Google. The reason for that is that they’re directed at isoHunt.com, a site that was shut down by NBC’s Hollywood allies last year. The links and the site itself simply do not exist.

Iso-notice

Another instance, shown below, lists several TV and movie companies plus software companies Adobe and Lynda looking to take down URLs from another allegedly infringing site. Except this one, Hotfile.com, is not only dead, but was actually taken down by the studios themselves. For reference, these notices were sent four days ago and Hotfile closed down last December.

hot-notice

To see how prevalent this problem is we dug through the TorrentFreak archives to find sites that have been closed by copyright holders or the police in the last couple of years, to see if anti-piracy companies have updated their records.

Despite huge publicity, even now plenty of companies are wasting Google’s time with notices for content hosted on Megaupload, even though it has been closed for two and a half years. Just last month on the Usenet front, publisher Lynda targeted dead-since-last-year NZBsRus.

Also living in the past are the people at Viacom, who this month sent a flurry of notices asking for content to be removed from BTjunkie, a site that shut down 30 months ago in the wake of the Megaupload fiasco. Viacom are definitely not on their own though, as this link shows.

Finishing up, Warner Bros., whose UK-based anti-piracy group FACT shut down streaming site SurftheChannel in 2012 and helped to get its owner jailed, sent a notice to Google in March asking for it to remove links to The Big Bang Theory.

And Fox (shown earlier to be sending lots of duplicates), plus HBO, Evil Angel, NBC and Viacom are apparently still unaware that the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit shut down Filecrop back in May.

Why this activity continues is anyone’s guess, but these takedowns either aren’t subjected to scrutiny or are deliberately passed with the knowledge that they’re invalid. Both options are causing unnecessary workloads for those employed to process them and putting money in the pockets of anti-piracy companies in return for zero effectiveness.

Some might argue that’s nothing new.

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

TorrentFreak: Suing File-Sharers Doesn’t Work, Lawyers Warn

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

pirate-runningFor more than a decade copyright holders and the U.S. Government have been trying to find the silver bullet to beat piracy.

This week the American Bar Association joined the discussion with a 113-page white paper. With their “call for action” the lawyers encourage Congress to draft new anti-piracy legislation and promote voluntary agreements between stakeholders.

Among the options on the table is the filing of lawsuits against individual file-sharers, something the RIAA did extensively in the past. Interestingly, the lawyers advise against this option as it’s unlikely to have an impact on current piracy rates.

According to the lawyers these type of lawsuits are also financially ineffective, oftentimes costing more than they bring in. In addition, they can create bad PR for the copyright holders involved.

“While it is technically possible for trademark and copyright owners to proceed with civil litigation against the consuming public who [...] engage in illegal file sharing, campaigns like this have been expensive, do not yield significant financial returns, and can cause a public relations problem for the plaintiff in addressing its consuming public,” the lawyers write.

“The [American Bar Association] does not believe that legislative action directly targeting consumers would prove effective in reducing piracy or counterfeiting at this time,” the white paper adds.

While the above may be true for any of the cases that go to trial, various copyright trolls might tend to disagree as they have shown that targeting file-sharers can be quite lucrative.

Pirates shouldn’t be too quick to cheer on the lawyers though, as the white paper also contains some pretty draconian suggestions.

The American Bar Association says that future legislation should target infringing websites, and it names The Pirate Bay as an example. Since site owners are often unknown and therefore hard to prosecute in America, they advise a series of more indirect tactics.

The lawyers are in favor of a “follow the money” principle where anti-piracy measures are targeted at strangling the finances of pirate sites. They call for legislation that makes it easier to cut off advertising, and to seize funds through banks or payment processors.

In addition, the white paper calls for new legislation that would allow copyright holders to obtain injunctions against the hosting companies of pirate sites. The American Bar Association also considered similar injunctions against domain registrars and search engines, but it couldn’t reach agreement on these issues.

Overall copyright holders will be pleased to see the recommendations put forward in the white paper, but it’s doubtful whether lawmakers will be quick pick them up.

Several of the suggestions were previously listed in the SOPA and PIPA bills, so if these are ever drafted into legislation Congress can expect a lot of public backlash.

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

TorrentFreak: News Corp Wants to Hold ISPs Responsible For Piracy

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

throttleRupert Murdoch’s News Corporation spin-off not only owns several major newspapers, but also has a stake in Foxtel, the Australian pay TV network that airs Game of Thrones.

The hit TV show has become a pivotal talking point in the copyright debate, so it comes as little surprise that News Corp is now regularly throwing its own anti-piracy opinions into the mix.

Last month, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson fired shots at Google for operating sophisticated algorithms that “know ­exactly where you are and what you’re doing” yet at the same time “pleading ignorance” on piracy.

“[It's an] untenable contradiction,” Thomson said.

Now the media outfit is making its feelings known again in a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, regarding the Free Trade Agreement between the governments of Australia and South Korea.

Specifically, News Corp doesn’t like the fact that following the failed Hollywood legal onslaught against iiNet, Aussie ISPs are able to distance themselves from the pirating habits of their subscribers.

“As News Corp Australia has expressed previously, we are concerned that the amendments made to the Copyright Act 1968 in 2004 regarding secondary liability of ISPs do not operate as intended,” the company writes.

“Specifically, the provisions of the Act – although intended to do so – do not provide rights holders with means to protect rights online as the provisions are technology specific and ineffective in dealing with online copyright infringement as it manifests today, nor as it may manifest in the future.”

The law as it stands, News Corps adds, is not “readily suited to enforcing the rights of copyright owners in respect of widespread infringements occasioned by peer-to-peer file sharing, as occurs with the BitTorrent system.”

Looking towards a solution, News Corp supports the position taken by Attorney-General George Brandis back in February when the Senator noted that Section 101 of the Copyright Act should be reformed so that an ISP which authorizes the copyright infringements of others can more effectively be held liable for those infringements.

“News Corp Australia supports the Attorney-General’s approach to the issue of online copyright infringement, and looks forward to contributing to ensuring domestic copyright protection provisions function as intended, and the balance between obligation (secondary liability) and benefit (safe harbour) is re-established,” the company concludes.

Whether ISPs will relish taking on more responsibility is up for debate, but it’s safe to say that one – Hollywood nemesis iiNet – definitely won’t. The company’s Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby has been in the press on numerous occasions in the past few weeks taking a particularly aggressive stance against most government and entertainment industry proposals.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pulls “Popcorn Time” Repositories Off GitHub

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

popcorncensorThe Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far.

The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy to use Netflix-style interface. Needless to say this has been a thorn in the side for Hollywood.

Today the MPAA decided to deploy countermeasures by filing requests with development platform GitHub to take down several Popcorn Time related repositories.

“We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation and further development of the GitHub projects Popcorn Time, and Time4Popcorn,” the MPAA writes in its takedown notice.

GitHub swiftly complied and starting a few hours ago the repositories were absent from the website, leaving the following note.

Popcorn Time removed
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In its takedown notice the MPAA specifically targets the “popcorn-official” and the “time4popcorn” projects, but it also urges GitHub to remove all related forks.

“By this notification, we are asking for your immediate assistance in stopping your users’ unauthorized activity. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable access to the infringing Projects’ repositories and all related forks,” MPAA writes.

Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t mention the original Popcorn Time repository, which remains intact.

To prove the infringing nature of Popcorn Time the takedown notice was accompanied by several screenshots of the user interface, as well as several pirated copies of Hollywood movies playing.

ptdmca

While the takedown notices may hinder the development of the software, at least temporarily, the websites of the forks remain online. This means that the applications themselves are still available for download.

Earlier this week the team behind the Time4Popcorn fork informed us that they have gathered millions of users over the past several months, and that the application is being downloaded tens of thousands of times per day.

Whether the MPAA also has plans to target the Popcorn Time fork websites remains to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Warner Bros. Censorship of Greenpeace LEGO Video Backfires (Updated)

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

lego-sadEarlier this month Greenpeace released a new campaign in which it targets LEGO for promoting Shell on its toys.

The campaign video titled “Everything is NOT Awesome” is inspired by the popular “Everything is Awesome” song, a callback to the LEGO movie. The video shows LEGO figures drowning in oil with a cover of the song playing in the background.

Over the past several days more than three million people have watched the video on YouTube. However, a few hours ago the video suddenly became unavailable due to a copyright claim by Warner Bros.

Censored
greenpeace-lego

TorrentFreak contacted Greenpeace who informed us that the email YouTube sent doesn’t clarify on what grounds the video was taken down. The group assumes that the use of the song is the culprit, but says it won’t let this case go without a fight.

“Our film was designed as a creative way of letting people know about the threat to the Arctic from Shell and the role LEGO has in the story. It seems to have struck a nerve with some important corporate bigwigs, but this crude attempt to silence dissent won’t work,” Greenpeace’s Ian Duff says.

Greenpeace will appeal the takedown request, a process that can take up to 10 days to complete. In the meantime the group has uploaded the video to Vimeo, along with a call to its millions of social media followers and mailing list subscribers to re-upload it elsewhere.

“We fully intend to challenge this claim, and we’re asking supporters to upload the video wherever they can,” Duff says.

In the appeal Greenpeace will argue that the video uses satire and parody and that it is in the public interest. The video should therefore be protected under the right to free speech.

This is not the first time that Greenpeace has had one of its campaign videos removed from YouTube. Previously a video featuring several Star Wars characters was taken down. The video was later reinstated after Greenpeace successfully appealed the takedown request.

Warner Bros’ motivation for the takedown remains unclear. It seems unlikely that it is an automated request since there are still more than 700 video on YouTube that use the same ‘Everything is Awesome’ song.

Whatever the reason may be, the takedown attempt will clearly backfire.

During the days to come the rift between Greenpeace and Warner Bros. will be widely covered by the media while hundreds of copies of the video will be uploaded and shared.

The censored campaign video

Update: The video is back online.

“18 hours later we’ve seen that the video has been re-instated. WB have withdrawn their complaint. It seems who ever wanted it censored has spotted the error in their ways,” Duff informs TorrentFreak.

Update 2: Warner Bros. now removed the video from Vimeo….

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