Posts tagged ‘cyberlockers’

TorrentFreak: 4shared Demands Retraction Over Misleading Piracy Report

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

profitLast month the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a new report with the aim of exposing the business models and profitability of “rogue” file-storage sites.

The report titled Behind The Cyberlocker Door: Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions, is being used as ammunition for copyright holders to pressure credit card companies and advertisers to cut ties with the listed sites.

While some of the sites mentioned are indeed of a dubious nature the report lacks nuance. The “shadowy” label certainly doesn’t apply to all. Mega, for example, was quick to point out that the report is “grossly untrue and highly defamatory.” The company has demanded a public apology.

4shared, the most visited site in the report with over 50 million unique visitors per month, is now making similar claims. According to 4shared’s Mike Wilson the company has put its legal team on the case.

“We decided to take action and demand a public retraction of the information regarding 4shared’s revenues and business model as published in the report. Our legal team is already working on the respective notes to Digital Citizens Alliance and Netnames,” Wilson tells TorrentFreak.

As the largest file-hosting service the report estimates that 4shared grosses $17.6 million per year. However, 4shared argues that many of the assumptions in the report are wrong and based on a distorted view of the company’s business model.

“Revenue volumes in this report are absolutely random. For instance, 4shared’s actual revenue from premium subscription sales is approximately 20 times smaller than is shown in the document,” Wilson says.

4shared explains that its premium users are mostly interested in storing their files safely and securely. In addition, the company notes that it doesn’t have any affiliate programs or other encouragements for uploading or downloading files.

Unlike the report claims, 4shared stresses that it’s not setup as a service that aims to profit from copyright infringement, although it admits that this does take place.

To deal with this unauthorized use the file-hosting service has a DMCA takedown policy in place. In addition, some of the most trusted rightsholder representative have direct access to the site where they can delete files without sending a takedown notice.

This works well and the overall takedown volume is relatively low. Together, the site’s users store a billion files and in an average month 4shared receives takedown notices for 0.05% of these files.

In addition to their takedown procedure 4shared also scans publicly shared music files for copyright-infringing content. This Music ID system, custom-built by the company, scans for pirated music files based on a unique audio watermark and automatically removes them.

Despite these efforts 4shared was included in the “shadowy cyberlocker” report where it’s branded a rogue and criminal operation. Whether the company’s legal team will be able to set the record straight has yet to be seen.

Netnames and Digital Citizens have thus far declined to remove Mega from the report as the company previously demanded. Mega informs TorrentFreak that a defamation lawsuit remains an option and that they are now considering what steps to take next.

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

TorrentFreak: Anti-Piracy Group Plans to Block In Excess of 100 Sites

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

stop-blockedWhen copyright holders turn to the courts for a solution to their problems it’s very rare that dealing with one site, service or individual is the long-term aim. Legal actions are designed to send a message and important decisions in rightsholders’ favor often open the floodgates for yet more action.

This is illustrated perfectly by the march towards large-scale website blocking in several regions around the world.

A topic pushed off the agenda in the United States following the SOPA debacle, web blockades are especially alive and well in Europe and living proof that while The Pirate Bay might the initial target of Hollywood and the record labels, much bigger plans have always been in store.

A typical example is now emerging in Austria. Having spent years trying to have streaming sites Kino.to, Kinox.to and Movie4K blocked at the ISP level, anti-piracy group VAP has just achieved its aims. Several key local ISPs began blocking the sites this month but the Hollywood affiliated group has now admitted that they’ve had bigger plans in mind all along.

Speaking with DerStandard, VAP CEO Werner Müller has confirmed that his group will now work to have large numbers of additional sites banned at the ISP level.

Using a term often used by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, Müller says his group has compiled a list of sites considered by the movie industry to be “structurally infringing”. The sites are expected to be the leaders in the torrent, linking and streaming sector, cyberlockers included. IFPI has already confirmed it will be dealing with The Pirate Bay and two other sites.

The VAP CEO wouldn’t be drawn on exact numbers, but did confirm that a “low three digit” number of domains are in the crosshairs for legal action.

Although Austria is in the relatively early stages, a similar situation has played out in the UK, with rightsholders obtaining blocks against some of the more famous sites and then streamlining the process to add new sites whenever they see fit. Dozens of sites are now unavailable by regular means.

If VAP has its way the blockades in Austria will be marginally more broad than those in the UK, affecting the country’s eighth largest service providers and affecting around 95% of subscribers.

Of course, whenever web blockades are mentioned the topic of discussion turns to circumvention. In Austria the blockades are relatively weak, with only DNS-based mitigation measures in place. However, VAP predicts the inevitable expansion towards both DNS and IP address blocking and intends to head off to court yet again to force ISPs to implement them.

Describing the Internet as a “great machine” featuring good and bad sides, Müller says that when ordering website blocks the courts will always appreciate the right to freedom of expression.

“But there’s no human right to Bruce Willis,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: NetNames Anti-Piracy Chief Moves to IFPI

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

price-imgNetNames is one of a number of brand protection businesses operating online today. The company, which aims to cushion the effects of fraud on its clients’ brands, positions itself as a global leader in the sector.

Established as Group NBT in 1995, the company was renamed NetNames in 2013 and shortly after grabbed dozens of headlines after publishing a major study into online piracy.

Commissioned by NBC Universal and titled ‘Sizing the Piracy Universe‘, the study mapped piracy volumes and prevalence around the world. NetNames’ found that piracy is both “tenacious and persistent”, with a penchant for consuming increasing amounts of Internet bandwidth every year.

The report was overseen by Dr David Price, then Director of Piracy and Counterfeit Analysis at NetNames. Price also presided over the publication last month of NetNames’ latest piracy study which focused on the role played by credit card companies in the cyberlocker space.

Published exactly a year after the NBC study, ‘Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions‘ was commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), ostensibly to protect consumers. DCA doesn’t openly reveal its sources of funding but the report has all the hallmarks of an entertainment industry-focused study.

Previously, Price was the chief of Piracy Intelligence at Envisional and the head of a study claiming to be the first to accurately estimate the amount of infringing traffic on the Internet.

Now it appears that Price’s work has received the ultimate compliment from one of the most powerful entertainment industry organizations on the planet.

ifpilogoThe International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, or IFPI as it’s more often called, is the umbrella anti-piracy organization for the world’s leading recording labels. As of now, IFPI – probably in their UK office since that’s where Price is based – has a new employee.

According to an amendment tucked away on his Linkedin profile, Price – who has a doctorate in Criminology from the University of Cambridge – is now working for the IFPI as their Head of Anti-Piracy Research and Analysis.

davidprice

In recent years Price has maintained a clear anti-piracy stance, which will obviously suit IFPI. He has participated in discussions calling for government action against piracy and regularly uses content-industry friendly terms such as “stealing” to describe unauthorized copying.

TorrentFreak contacted NetNames’ PR company for a comment on Price’s departure but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

IFPI London, where the organization’s anti-piracy operations are based, also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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

TorrentFreak: Mega Goes Legal, Issues Ultimatum Over Cyberlocker Report

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

Last week the Digital Citizens Alliance and NetNames released a new report with the aim of shining light on the business models of “shadowy” file-storage sites.

While listing some domains that may well live up to that less-than-flattering billing, the authors of Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions, also decided to include New Zealand-based Mega.

Mega was founded by Kim Dotcom but the site bears little resemblance to his now defunct Megaupload. Perhaps most importantly, Mega was the most-scrutinized file-hosting startup ever, so every single detail simply had to be squeaky clean. As a result the site took extensive legal advice to ensure that it complies with every single facet of the law.

Nevertheless, NetNames took the decision to put Mega in its report anyway, bundling the site in with what are described as some of the market’s most dubious players. This was not received well by Mega CEO Graham Gaylard. In a TorrentFreak article he demanded a full apology from NetNames and Digital Citizens Alliance and for his company to be withdrawn from the report. Failure to do so would result in “further action”, he said.

TF asked NetNames’ David Price whether his company stood by its allegations. The response suggested that it did and no apology was forthcoming. It’s been a week since that ultimatum and as promised Mega is now making good on its threats.

“Mega’s legal counsel has written to NetNames, Digital Citizens Alliance and The Internet Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) stating that the report is clearly defamatory,” Mega CEO Graham Gaylard told TorrentFreak this morning.

Given NetNames’ and Digital Citizens Alliance failure to respond, it comes as little surprise that Mega’s formalized demands now go beyond an apology and retraction.

Firstly, Mega’s legal team are now demanding the removal of the report, and all references to it, from all channels under the respondents’ control. They also demand that further circulation of the report must be discontinued and no additional references to it should be made in public.

That’s a tough one. NetNames’ effort is currently the most-circulated report in the ‘piracy’ space and TorrentFreak is also informed that the paper is set to become the supporting documentation to Hollywood and the labels’ follow-the-money anti-piracy drive.

Mega are also demanding a list of everyone who has had a copy of the report made available to them along with details of all locations where the report has been published. Again, that will be an interesting one to see Mega’s targets fulfill.

Finally, Mega is demanding a full public apology “to its satisfaction” to be published on the homepages of the respondents’ websites. What form that could take without discrediting the rest of the report is probably up for negotiation, but having Mega in there at all was bound to be a controversial and potentially damaging move.

Mega has given the companies seven days to comply with the above requests. No official line has been provided as to what will happen if Mega is met with a refusal, but it seems that the company is serious about protecting its reputation and will do whatever it takes to do that.

It’s perhaps of note that to our knowledge none of the other sites listed in the report have come out publicly to protest their inclusion in it. That’s not to say that some weren’t wrongfully included of course, but when a company like Mega stands up in order to protect its brand that should set off alarm bells.

Do ‘pirate’ sites with “shadowy” business models ever bother to publicly defend their reputations unless they’re the ones being hauled into court?

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

TorrentFreak: Mega Demands Apology Over “Defamatory” Cyberlocker Report

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

Yesterday the Digital Citizens Alliance released a new report that looks into the business models of “shadowy” file-storage sites.

Titled “Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions,” the report attempts to detail the activities of some of the world’s most-visited hosting sites.

While it’s certainly an interesting read, the NetNames study provides a few surprises, not least the decision to include New Zealand-based cloud storage site Mega.co.nz. There can be no doubt that there are domains of dubious standing detailed in the report, but the inclusion of Mega stands out as especially odd.

Mega was without doubt the most-scrutinized file-hosting startup in history and as a result has had to comply fully with every detail of the law. And, unlike some of the other sites listed in the report, Mega isn’t hiding away behind shell companies and other obfuscation methods. It also complies fully with all takedown requests, to the point that it even took down its founder’s music, albeit following an erroneous request.

With these thoughts in mind, TorrentFreak alerted Mega to the report and asked how its inclusion amid the terminology used has been received at the company.

Grossly untrue and highly defamatory

mega“We consider the report grossly untrue and highly defamatory of Mega,” says Mega CEO Graham Gaylard.

“Mega is a privacy company that provides end-to-end encrypted cloud storage controlled by the customer. Mega totally refutes that it is a cyberlocker business as that term is defined and discussed in the report prepared by NetNames for the Digital Citizens Alliance.”

Gaylard also strongly refutes the implication in the report that as a “cyberlocker”, Mega is engaged in activities often associated with such sites.

“Mega is not a haven for piracy, does not distribute malware, and definitely does not engage in illegal activities,” Gaylard says. “Mega is running a legitimate business alongside other cloud storage providers in a highly competitive market.”

The Mega CEO told us that one of the perplexing things about the report is that none of the criteria set out by the report for “shadowy” sites is satisfied by Mega, yet the decision was still taken to include it.

Infringing content and best practices

One of the key issues is, of course, the existence of infringing content. All user-uploaded sites suffer from that problem, from YouTube to Facebook to Mega and thousands of sites in between. But, as Gaylard points out, it’s the way those sites handle the issue that counts.

“We are vigorous in complying with best practice legal take-down policies and do so very quickly. The reality though is that we receive a very low number of take-down requests because our aim is to have people use our services for privacy and security, not for sharing infringing content,” he explains.

“Mega acts very quickly to process any take-down requests in accordance with its Terms of Service and consistent with the requirements of the USA Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) process, the European Union Directive 2000/31/EC and New Zealand’s Copyright Act process. Mega operates with a very low rate of take-down requests; less than 0.1% of all files Mega stores.”

Affiliate schemes that encourage piracy

One of the other “rogue site” characteristics as outlined in the report is the existence of affiliate schemes designed to incentivize the uploading and sharing of infringing content. In respect of Mega, Gaylard rejects that assertion entirely.

“Mega’s affiliate program does not reward uploaders. There is no revenue sharing or credit for downloads or Pro purchases made by downloaders. The affiliate code cannot be embedded in a download link. It is designed to reward genuine referrers and the developers of apps who make our cloud storage platform more attractive,” he notes.

The PayPal factor

As detailed in many earlier reports (1,2,3), over the past few years PayPal has worked hard to seriously cut down on the business it conducts with companies in the file-sharing space.

Companies, Mega included, now have to obtain pre-approval from the payment processor in order to use its services. The suggestion in the report is that large “shadowy” sites aren’t able to use PayPal due to its strict acceptance criteria. Mega, however, has a good relationship with PayPal.

“Mega has been accepted by PayPal because we were able to show that we are a legitimate cloud storage site. Mega has a productive and respected relationship with PayPal, demonstrating the validity of Mega’s business,” Gaylard says.

Public apology and retraction – or else

Gaylard says that these are just some of the points that Mega finds unacceptable in the report. The CEO adds that at no point was the company contacted by NetNames or Digital Citizens Alliance for its input.

“It is unacceptable and disappointing that supposedly reputable organizations such as Digital Citizens and NetNames should see fit to attack Mega when it provides the user end to end encryption, security and privacy. They should be promoting efforts to make the Internet a safer and more trusted place. Protecting people’s privacy. That is Mega’s mission,” Gaylard says.

“We are requesting that Digital Citizens Alliance withdraw Mega from that report entirely and issue a public apology. If they do not then we will take further action,” he concludes.

TorrentFreak asked NetNames to comment on Mega’s displeasure and asked the company if it stands by its assertion that Mega is a “shadowy” cyberlocker. We received a response (although not directly to our questions) from David Price, NetNames’ head of piracy analysis.

“The NetNames report into cyberlocker operation is based on information taken from the websites of the thirty cyberlockers used for the research and our own investigation of this area, based on more than a decade of experience producing respected analysis exploring digital piracy and online distribution,” Price said.

That doesn’t sound like a retraction or an apology, so this developing dispute may have a way to go.

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

TorrentFreak: Report Brands Dotcom’s Mega a Piracy Haven

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

profitThe most popular file-hosting sites, also known as cyberlockers, have millions of visitors per day.

In recent years many of these sites have gotten a bad reputation as they are frequently used to share copyrighted files.

Today the Digital Citizens Alliance released a new report (pdf) that looks into the profitability of these sites and services. Titled “Behind The Cyberlocker Door: A Report How Shadowy Cyberlockers Use Credit Card Companies to Make Millions,” it offers insight into the money streams that end up at these alleged pirate sites.

The study, carried out by NetNames and backed by the entertainment industry, uses information from the busted Megaupload service to estimate the earnings of various other sites. Based on these and other assumptions it concludes that the top cyberlockers generate an average $3.2 million per site per year.

“Overall, total annual revenue across the thirty cyberlockers equated to $96.2 million or $3.2 million per site. One site gathered $17.6m per year in revenue,” the report notes, adding that it’s a conservative estimate.

Estimated revenue and profit per direct download cyberlocker
roguerev

The report brands these sites as piracy havens based on a sample of the files they host. All the sites that are listed are used predominantly for copyright infringement, they claim.

“The overwhelming use of cyberlockers is for content theft. Analysis of a sampling of the files on the thirty cyberlocker sites found that the vast majority of files were clearly infringing,” the report reads.

“At least 78.6 percent of files on direct download cyberlockers and 83.7 percent of files on streaming cyberlockers infringed copyright,” it adds.

Alleged “infringing” use per cyberlocker
rogueinfper

Here’s where the researchers make a crucial mistake. The sample, where the percentage of allegedly infringing files is based on, is drawn from links that are posted publicly online. These are certainly not representative for the entire site, at least not in all cases.

For Mega the researchers looked at 500 files that were shared online. However, the overwhelming majority of Mega’s files, which number more than 500,000,000, are never shared in public.

Unlike some other sites in the report, Mega is a rather traditional cloud hosting provider that’s frequently used for personal backup, through its desktop client or mobile apps for example. The files that are shared in public are the exception here, probably less than one percent of the total.

There is no denying that there are shady and rogue sites that do profit heavily from piracy, but lumping all these sites together and branding them with a pirate label is flat-out wrong.

Aside from “exposing” the estimated profitability of the cyberlockers the report also has a secondary goal. It puts out a strong call to the credit card companies Visa and MasterCard, and hosting providers such as Cloudflare, urging them to cut their ties with these supposed pirate havens.

“They should take a hard look at the checkered history of their cyberlocker partners. Simply put, the businesses that simply exploit and expropriate the creative efforts of others do not occupy a legitimate place in the Internet ecosystem,” the report notes.

“Content theft is a cancer on the Internet. It introduces viruses and malware to computers, robs creators who rely on the Internet to sell their products, damages brands by associating them with illegal and inappropriate content and provides seed money for criminals to engage in other illegal activities,” it adds.

Hopefully future reports will have more nuance. At minimum they should make sure to have all the facts right, as that’s generally more convincing.

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