Posts tagged ‘Digital Economy Act’

TorrentFreak: Piracy Isn’t Killing The Entertainment Industry, Scholars Show

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

lbeOver the past years there have been ample research reports showing that file-sharing can have positive effects on the entertainment industries.

Industry lobbyists are often quick to dismiss these findings as incidents or weak research, and counter them with expensive studies they have commissioned themselves.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) jumps into the discussion this week with a media policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the reports lobbyists hand to them. Their report concludes that the entertainment industry isn’t devastated by piracy, and that sharing of culture has several benefits.

“Contrary to the industry claims, the music industry is not in terminal decline, but still holding ground and showing healthy profits. Revenues from digital sales, subscription services, streaming and live performances compensate for the decline in revenues from the sale of CDs or records,” says Bart Cammaerts, LSE Senior Lecturer and one of the report’s authors.

The report shows that the entertainment industries are actually doing quite well. The digital gaming industry is thriving, the publishing sector is stable, and the U.S. film industry is breaking record after record.

“Despite the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) claim that online piracy is devastating the movie industry, Hollywood achieved record-breaking global box office revenues of $35 billion in 2012, a 6% increase over 2011,” the report reads.

Even the music industry is doing relatively well. Revenue from concerts, publishing and digital sales has increased significantly since the early 2000s and while recorded music revenues show a decline, there is little evidence that piracy is the lead cause.

“The music industry may be stagnating, but the drastic decline in revenues warned of by the lobby associations of record labels is not in evidence,” the report concludes.

Music industry revenue

musicgraph

The authors further argue that file-sharing can actually benefit the creative industries in various ways.

The report mentions the success of the SoundCloud service where artists can share their work for free through Creative Commons licenses, the promotional effect of YouTube where copyrighted songs are shared to promote sales, and the fact that research shows that file-sharers actually spend more money on entertainment than those who don’t share.

“Within the creative industries there is a variety of views on the best way to benefit from online sharing practices, and how to innovate to generate revenue streams in ways that do not fit within the existing copyright enforcement regime,” the authors write.

Finally, the report shows that punitive enforcement strategies such as the three strikes law in France are not as effective as the entertainment industries claim.

The researchers hope that the U.K. Government will review the Digital Economy Act in this light, and make sure that it will take into account the interests of both the public and copyright holders.

This means expanding fair use and private copying exceptions for citizens, while targeting enforcement on businesses rather than individuals.

“We recommend a review of the DEA and related legislation that strikes a healthy balance among the interests of a range of stakeholders including those in the creative industries, Internet Service Providers and internet users.”

“When both [the creative industries and citizens] can exploit the full potential of the internet, this will maximize innovative content creation for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the authors write.

Source: Piracy Isn’t Killing The Entertainment Industry, Scholars Show

TorrentFreak: Google “Condemned” By UK Politicians For Linking to Piracy

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

google-bayDuring the last couple of years entertainment companies have heavily criticized Google for linking to copyright-infringing material in its search results.

Google has responded by removing many millions of links but apparently that’s just not enough. In the past couple of weeks the world’s largest search engine has become a punching bag for the music and movie industries and today they find themselves battered again, this time by a British House of Commons report.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee comprises MPs from several parties including those from the Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition government and Labour opposition. Today in a new report aimed at supporting the creative economy, the Committee dedicates an entire section to copyright and piracy issues. It has many targets for criticism but begins with a swipe at the UK’s leading Internet rights groups.

Open Rights Group

“The relationship between the strength of Britain’s creative industries and robust copyright laws is acknowledged by the Open Rights Group which aims radically to liberalise the use and sharing of copyrighted content.

“While we share the Open Rights Group’s attachment to freedom of expression via the internet, we firmly repudiate their laissez-faire attitudes towards copyright infringement,” the Committee says.

Repeating industry claims that film and music piracy results in lost annual sales of £400 million (while noting it could be well in excess of £1 billion) the report says the Open Rights Group’s “quibbles” that the figures “were not based on exact science” should not detract from the damage piracy causes the creative economy.

IP Crime Unit and site blocking

cityoflondonpoliceThe report goes on to mention the creation of a new City of London Police unit dedicated to cracking down on intellectual property crime and reveals that a first-of-its-kind conference is being planned “to bring players from across the world to London” to discuss enforcement issues.

On the blocking of infringing websites by ISPs the Committee said there were signs that the courts are making it easier, citing comment from the MPAA supporting “improvements to the justice system” to allow site blocking orders to be obtained more efficiently.

“We encourage businesses to use the current law to bring claims wherever it is feasible for them to do so. There nonetheless remains a systemic failure to enforce the existing laws effectively against rife online piracy,” the report notes.

But inevitably the big guns were turned on the messenger.

Google in the firing line again

The Committee begins by quoting Google itself, who at the time were removing around 9 million URLs from its indexes every month at the request of copyright holders. This was countered with information provided by the BPI who said that despite Google’s alleged algorithm changes, the instances of infringing sites turning up in the top 10 results had fallen only marginally, from 63% in August 2012 to 61% a year later. Clearly the Committee are unimpressed.

“We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites,” the report states in emphasized bold type.

“We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content. The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective,” it continues.

“We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results. Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content.”

Turning up the heat further still in an attempt to have Google held accountable through the reporting of a government office, the report has more proposals.

“We recommend that the Intellectual Property Office’s annual reports include an assessment of the degree of online copyright infringement and the extent to which identified search engines and other internet services facilitate this. We further recommend that the Government consider how it might incentivise technology companies to hinder access via the internet to copyright infringing material.”

Of course, while “carrots” are offered to do something about infringement, no document of this nature could conclude without a recommendation to bring out the sticks.

10 years in jail for “serious” online infringement

Citing the successful prosecution of SurftheChannel owner Anton Vickerman, the report notes that while large scale copyright infringement in the offline world can result in harsh penalties, online those punishments are limited to two years. To sidestep this issue a decision was made to prosecute Vickerman on counts of Conspiracy to Defraud which ultimately secured a four year jail sentence. In future the Committee would like to see such maneuvering become unnecessary.

“We recommend that the maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft be extended to ten years’ imprisonment. Criminal offences in the online world should attract the same penalties as those provided for the physical world by the Copyright, etc. and Trade Marks (Offences and Enforcement) Act 2002,” the Committee notes.

Digital Economy Act

Finally the report criticizes the delay in implementing the controversial Digital Economy Act, stalled now for the best part of three years. In particular, the issuing of warning notices to infringers should come sooner rather than later.

“We recommend that a copyright infringement notification system envisaged by the Digital Economy Act be implemented with far greater speed than the Government currently plans. By targeting information letters to the worst infringers, early implementation will, we believe, serve an important educative purpose which could percolate more widely,” the report states.

However, if the government can’t get its act together, a voluntary scheme between ISPs and copyright holders should be put in place.

“We are encouraged by the progress that has been made towards instituting a voluntary system of warning letters following discussions involving internet service providers and rights owners. If this can be achieved by mutual cooperation rather than legislation, it will be a major step forward.

“However, should voluntary initiatives such as this prove unsuccessful then the Government should ensure that the equivalent measures in the Digital Economy Act are promptly put into effect,” the Committee concludes.

Source: Google “Condemned” By UK Politicians For Linking to Piracy

TorrentFreak: Copyright Holders Want Voluntary UK Three-Strikes Anti-Piracy Scheme

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

bpiDuring the past couple of years it has become evident that attempts at bringing tough but workable anti-piracy measures into law – particularly ones that target consumers directly – have not been as straightforward as rightsholders would have liked.

After immense effort and with a background of controversy, in 2010 the then Labour government rushed through the Digital Economy Act (DEA) in the UK. That legislation contained provisions which would allow rightsholders to monitor alleged file-sharers and send them warning letters via their Internet service providers. But three years on and the implementation of the law is still well over a year (maybe two) away.

In the meantime the music business has concentrated on legal action to have file-sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents blocked at the ISP level. But despite their claims that this is an effective anti-piracy technique (and in the face of reports to the contrary), the labels have grown weary of waiting for the additional powers allocated to them by the DEA.

According to a Guardian report, the labels are currently in talks with Virgin Media, BSkyB and TalkTalk in an effort to have the ISPs implement a voluntary graduated response scheme for dealing with errant subscribers.

And the music biz, headed by the BPI, aren’t on their own. The negotiations have also included the British Video Association, an organization which represents a wide range of Hollywood studios and local broadcasters including the BBC and Channel 4.

So what do the labels and Hollywood want?

At the core is a three-strikes or graduated response-style scheme, which will see rightsholders monitor networks such as BitTorrent for infringements and send warning notifications to Internet subscribers via their ISPs. It appears a US-style ‘Copyright Alert’ model would be desirable but it’s almost certain that there will be calls for a tougher regime with harsher punishments such as throttling and disconnections. But industry dreams aside, there are issues with introducing a system like this on a voluntary basis in the UK.

In order to create an escalating response to serial offenders, someone will need to keep track of which subscribers have had letters in the past. It’s pretty much a certainty that on privacy grounds the ISPs would not freely share this information with rightsholders, but even holding onto this data themselves as part of a voluntary scheme could get them into trouble under the Data Protection Act.

And as far as negotiations go, already there appears to be problems. TalkTalk, a company that previously ran a campaign in direct opposition to any kind of anti-piracy punishment that includes subscriber disconnection, told the Guardian that while talks are indeed underway, the company would “never agree to anything” that would compromise their customers.

Virgin Media went further still, describing the industry’s demands as “unworkable.”

As Prime Minister David Cameron invites key UK music figures to Number 10 to have a chat about government support for their industry, the BPI have confirmed that anti-piracy proposals are on the agenda.

“We expect a range of issues to be covered, including encouraging the growth of legal digital music services in the UK and overseas exports,” a BPI spokesperson said.

“As concerns the Digital Economy Act, we will discuss with Government the need for swifter action to reduce online copyright theft, improve consumer awareness of legal services and make the UK the leading digital economy in Europe.”

Source: Copyright Holders Want Voluntary UK Three-Strikes Anti-Piracy Scheme

TorrentFreak: MPAA Says Court Action Could Give Google Legal Basis to Delist Sites

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

Following the passing of the UK’s Digital Economy Act in 2010, one of the remaining big questions is when ISPs will begin sending out warning letters to subscribers suspected of illicit file-sharing.

There has been delay after delay, but yesterday Mark Jackson of ISPreview broke the news that the Department for Culture, Media & Sport had confirmed that the previous target of early 2014 will no longer be met. The notices are now expected to go out during the second half of 2015.

However, the revelation didn’t come from any official announcement but from the minutes of an anti-piracy roundtable held in May and hosted by UK Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey. A copy obtained by TorrentFreak shows that the meeting was attended by a who’s who of rightsholders, anti-piracy groups and ISPs, including the MPAA, BPI, FACT, Google and the Premier League, plus BT, Virgin, TalkTalk and Sky.

Pressuring Google

google-bayPerhaps unsurprisingly at this point is how rightsholders and the authorities are increasingly putting pressure on Google. Ed Vaizey said the UK Government now wants to see the issue of infringing search results “addressed and producing tangible results.”

The usual complaints came from Ian Moss, the BPI’s Director of Public Affairs, over the apparent lack of progress demonstrated by Google following the earlier tweaking of its search algorithm. Autocomplete, Moss said, is still suggesting illegal sites in response to user searches.

Theo Bertram, UK Policy Manager for Google, countered that progress had been made but conceded there was more to be done. Over time the algorithm would yield better results, Bertram said.

Censoring search via legal action?

While the wrangling over algorithm adjustment has been heard many times before, what followed next appears to be something quite new. Noting that an analysis is under way to investigate the role of search engines on infringement, the discussion turned to how the law might have a role to play in manipulating search results.

highcourtSection 97a of Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is currently being used by the MPAA and BPI to have sites such as The Pirate Bay and KAT.ph blocked by UK ISPs, but could it have additional usefulness when it comes to dealing with search?

The meeting suggested that s97a could provide Google with a legal basis on which to remove sites from its search rankings.

Rightsholders could “apply to the courts to establish principles on which Google could base decisions to remove sites from rankings,” the MPAA’s Chris Marcich said.

Current site blocking

New uses for S97a aside, the current process appears to be going quite well, at least as far as the rightsholders are concerned.

The BPI and MPAA told the meeting that the court procedure to have sites blocked in the UK had become “increasingly efficient and quick” on the back of ISPs becoming more comfortable with the process and copyright holders getting a better grasp on the kind of evidence required by the court.

However, for reasons not made clear, the MPAA doesn’t consider the process quick enough to deal with “streaming websites.”

Advertising

whitebulletAnother area discussed was the advertising being placed on unauthorized content sites. Peter Szyszko of whiteBULLET said his company has a system in place funded by ad networks looking to protect their brands. It contains a database of 150,000 sites which have been scored for ad suitability.

Szyszko said that rightsholders could use his company’s system to measure the advertising on “high-risk” sites so that decisions could be made on “compliance action.” Lavinia Carey of the Federation Against Copyright Theft expressed support for such independent automated systems and said they could prove useful for evidence purposes.

Bill Bush, Director of Communications and Public Policy at Premier League, raised the issue of online gambling sites advertising on sites illegally streaming live sport. He questioned whether this problem could be addressed not via copyright legislation, but through the Remote Gambling Bill. Ed Vaizey said he would follow this up through the Minister for Sport and Tourism’s office.

Finally, as revealed earlier this week, the music and movie industries are working more closely than ever with police in the UK. FACT’s Lavinia Carey told the meeting that copyright owners had been working with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to compile a register of infringing sites. That work, she said, would be completed soon.

Source: MPAA Says Court Action Could Give Google Legal Basis to Delist Sites

TorrentFreak: UK ISPs Block Huge Movie Site Movie2K, Proxy Immediately Unblocks

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

During the past couple of years the UK has become the easiest country in the world to have a website blocked on copyright grounds.

Against a background of initial pessimism, Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act has proven more than capable of enabling the filtering dreams of the entertainment industries after blocking provisions in the Digital Economy Act were deemed too controversial.

While more recent blocks were actioned by the UK recording industry under the watchful eye of the BPI, it was the MPAA who pioneered site censorship in the UK. Their success against Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 has become the model through which ISPs can be forced to black out sites based on the order of a judge.

Last week we reported that the music industry are considering future action against a wide range of sites but there is a more immediate situation developing courtesy of their movie-making counterparts.

Sometime in the past two months the MPAA went to court with a copyright complaint against two sites – Movie2K and another called Download4All (DL4All). The precise details are unclear, but it seems likely that they presented similar arguments to those offered in earlier cases.

Broadly speaking the studios will explain that these sites breach their copyrights and cost them money and, since ISPs are now aware that they’re facilitating their users’ infringements, they must now block the sites to avoid becoming liable themselves.

TorrentFreak can confirm that in the last week of April several of the UK’s leading ISPs including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and almost certainly O2, EE and Sky, received a copy of a High Court order compelling them to block the sites.

BT have already begun blocking the site in the UK and Virgin Media inform us that they too will initiate a blockade today.

“Virgin Media has received an order from the Courts requiring it to prevent access to Download4All and Movie2K in order to help protect against copyright infringement,” a spokesperson told TorrentFreak.

“As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to the company, but strongly believes that changing consumer behaviour to tackle copyright infringement also needs compelling legal alternatives to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”

And in a final and somewhat amazing note, the operators of PirateReverse.info, one of the largest Pirate Bay proxy services, informs TorrentFreak that they have already deployed a proxy site to unblock Movie2K.

“We’ve just deployed movie2kproxy.com (in record time), still working on getting the images to load properly but should all be fixed shortly.”

The moles in this game now appear to be getting whacked even before they appear.

UPDATE: The operator of PirateProxy.net, the world’s largest Pirate Bay proxy, says that he too will unblock Movie2K for UK users.

Source: UK ISPs Block Huge Movie Site Movie2K, Proxy Immediately Unblocks

TorrentFreak: UK Government ‘Wastes’ £200k on New Anti-Piracy Tech

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

ipoLet’s face facts here. Piracy-wise, the horse has already bolted. A majority of the population knows how to get what they want, and how to circumvent measures.

The old guard, however, are pushing for ever more draconian measures in an attempt to turn back the tide. Now the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has reached out to some groups it hopes might provide the metaphorical Silver Bullet (or at least white one) to deal with it.

On Thursday, the IPO and the Department of Business Industry and Skills (BIS – better known for being the department that rammed the Digital Economy act through after some back-room deals) proudly announced two anti-piracy grants. Contracts totaling £196,000 were signed with two companies as a result of a competition by the Technology Strategy Board called “How to promote Legitimate Online Intellectual Property Markets”. The simple business-oriented answers of “adapt to new technologies” and “give consumers what they want” clearly were not submitted.

£83,000 went to the University of Surrey for what the BIS calls “a novel scheme for protecting digital media content”, or as we generally call it, DRM. Few details are actually available at present, but the IPO describes it thusly:

Digital content which has been obtained illegally is automatically blocked by the system. A key feature of the proposed technology is not to inconvenience legitimate users like existing Digital Rights Management systems do: Users don’t need to worry about how to configure and use the system; they just use their devices as usual without even knowing about its existence. The technology is patent-pending and further details will be available once it is published.

And if this sounds like the claims made of every other DRM product, you’d be right. Once removed for one person, it’s removed for anyone else, making DRM’d goods MORE popular for piracy.

drm-noMeanwhile those using the DRM’d product are restricted to what the DRM allows, which does inconvenience others. Just ask Apple about Fairplay and why they removed it, or users who’ve fallen foul of CSS, AACS, or indeed any other DRM scheme. In reality, ditching DRM reduces piracy

The lion’s share of the money – £113,000 – went to a company called ‘WhiteBullet’. If you’ve not heard of them, you’re not alone. Started less than 3 months ago, its big idea is that websites really need a colour-coding system so people can tell how ‘legitimate’ it is. Called the “IP Infringement Index”, or IPI, it’s a red/amber/green rating for sites based on how ‘infringing’ they think a site is.

Of course, like all automated systems there are going to be significant errors. When Viacom can’t tell if it uploaded stuff to YouTube itself in court filings, or music blogs get seized because record labels forgot they told them to distribute songs, any automated system assessing 3rd party infringement will be next to useless.

Also missing is exactly how this IPI rating will be used. A consumer-based system would require either a browser plugin, or the likes of Google to integrate it. A private ‘look at our score for your site’ model, by contrast, will have all the wide-ranging appeal and accuracy of a Special 301 report. Also, its claim to be “developed in conjunction with industry and law enforcement” and “in accordance with legal best practices and have been openly reviewed with key Internet stakeholders” might be more believable if they had some actual specifics.

Of course, that’s not so surprising when you find out the two people behind White Bullet are Peter Szyszko and Jane Sunderland. Peter was Senior Legal Counsel at NBC Universal from January 2006, until he left to form White Bullet.

Sunderland is no slouch in the establishment anti-piracy world either. Between 1997 and 2011 she was Vice President of Content Protection at Fox, with another three years before that as VP Intellectual Property. Some of her most memorable actions there include the statement back in 2007 that episodes of 24 uploaded to YouTube before their airdate could cause irreparable harm to Fox (and yet they’re still here)

So never fear our British readers. Public funds are being spent wisely on yet another DRM scheme and a ‘scoring’ system that has no obvious method of use, all to protect massively profitable media companies. Isn’t austerity great?

And if we find out more about how these new white elephant bullets, or DRM-that-isn’t are supposed to work,  we’ll let you know.

Source: UK Government ‘Wastes’ £200k on New Anti-Piracy Tech

TorrentFreak: New Details of UK Piracy Monitoring Plan Made Public

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

The anti-piracy elements of the UK’s controversial and much-delayed Digital Economy Act are continuing their slow march to implementation with the publication of OFCOM’s updated Initial Obligations Code today.

As the DEA dictates, ISP accounts linked to peer-to-peer infringements will be subject to receiving a series of notifications warning the bill payer that their activities (or those of people in their household) are unacceptable and in need of change.

The amendments to the Code, which provides a set of standards and procedures by which the anti-P2P (mainly BitTorrent related) elements of the Act will be governed, are very much a mixed bag.

First, and on the plus side for subscribers, is that evidence collection systems of copyright holders will have to fall into line with OFCOM standards before they can send any CIRs (copyright infringement reports) to ISPs.

Additionally, the Code states that copyright owners may only send a CIR if they have “gathered evidence in accordance with the approved procedures” which lead to the “reasonable” belief that the subscriber has infringed a rightsholder’s copyright or that he has allowed someone else to use his account in order to do so.

In the original version of OFCOM’s Code rightsholders were given 10 days in which to send CIRs to ISPs, but in the updated code they are allowed a month following the time of detection – roughly three times longer than before.

For their part, ISPs were previously allowed 10 days from receipt of a CIR to notify a customer that they had been tracked. That period has now been extended to one month. This means that there could be a 60 day gap between an alleged infringement and a subscriber being notified, up from just 20 days.

On the downside for consumer protection is the complete removal of a clause which allowed ISPs to reject rightholder CIRs if they felt in their “reasonable opinion” they were invalid.

Originally it was envisaged that so-called ‘first and ‘second’ strike warnings would go out via email with only the ‘third’ going out by recorded regular mail. That has now been scrapped. All warnings will now go out by regular first class mail, meaning that there will be absolutely no proof that a subscriber has received his third warning.

In addition to conveying the warning itself, CIRs will now have to show the time and date when any infringement took place (as opposed to simply when the evidence was gathered) and also display the number of previous CIRs sent to the subscriber.

OFCOM reports that it has also introduced a requirement that there be a 20 day gap introduced between the date a previous CIR was sent out to a subscriber and evidence being valid for the creation of a subsequent CIR.

Under the previous iteration of the Code, copyright owners would only be able to request a copyright infringement report from ISPs once every three months, and the service provider would be given 5 days to produce it. That three month period has been reduced to a single month and ISPs will have double the time – 10 days – to produce it.

Under the Code subscribers will be able to lodge an appeal against wrongful accusations of infringement. The time to do so has now been clarified as 20 days from the date of receiving a CIR. It will cost an Internet account holder £20.00 to do so.

Finally, the amended Code ends with notes that the UK Government ordered the removal of two elements, both of which would have given a level of protection to subscribers.

“On the instruction of Government we have removed the ability for subscribers to appeal on any other ground on which they choose to rely,” the report notes, adding:

“On the instruction of Government we have removed the requirement for ISPs and copyright owners to provide a statement showing how their processes and systems are compliant with the Data Protection Act.”

This draft Code is now open for a one month consultation period before being presented to parliament later this year. Letters will start going out in 2014…..maybe.

The full report is available here.

Source: New Details of UK Piracy Monitoring Plan Made Public

TorrentFreak: Should Websites Charge A Fee To Process Copyright Takedowns?

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

The publication last week of Google’s Transparency Report gave us a clearer idea of the pressures the search engine is under from copyright holders. The report revealed that in a single month Google was asked to take down an astonishing 1.2m links to allegedly infringing material.

As a US company Google must comply with the requests in order to maintain its DMCA Safe Harbor protection. The reports stops short of revealing the associated financial costs but considering the scale of the operation it’s safe to say that they’re significant. So who should pay?

This interesting issue has been raised not by Google, but anti-piracy company Takedown Piracy whose recent dispute with a torrent site spilled over into the public domain a few hours ago.

Piracy site uses extortion with copyright holders” says the blog headline penned by Takedown Piracy owner Nate Glass.

“Recently, we sent a fully DMCA compliant notice to a large torrent site. While our notice was accurate and fully DMCA compliant, we did forget one thing. The lump of money the piracy site demanded,” Glass writes.

TorrentFreak recognized the torrent site in questions as H33T.com. It’s worth noting that H33T is outside US jurisdiction so is not required to comply with the terms of the DMCA. They will take down links but they have a set of terms and conditions.

The fee is $50 USD charged per takedown item in each request regardless of number of requests to cover reasonable administration expenses accounted to work we undertake on our network at your behest. If the list of items for takedown ever exceeds 500 total items in a single request then we will negotiate a bulk rate payment schedule

Glass is not amused by the business proposal.

“So not only does this site profit by selling ads using other people’s hard work, but in the event you want your property removed from their website, it’s going to cost you $50 for EACH instance of copyright infringement,” he continued.

Admittedly it is fairly out of the ordinary for a torrent site to attach a fee to a copyright takedown, but the admin of H33T told TorrentFreak that it’s simply a question of being practical.

“Nothing in this world is for free and where the network service provider, in this case h33t, is a third party to the rights holder’s complaint against the uploader, then it is only proper that costs are properly allocated to the party who is incurring the costs,” he explained.

Thanks to the DMCA, US service providers have had no choice but to carry these costs themselves, but what about sites not subject to US law?

H33T says it is “established practice” for rights holders and network service providers to negotiate the burden of costs. While there are indeed prominent examples of this around the world, what they all have in common is disputes over who will pay for what.

The fledgling “3 strikes”-style regime introduced in New Zealand recently was plagued with argument over money and in the end it was decided that the ISPs – the “network service providers” referenced by H33T – should be paid $25 NZD by rightsholders when they send a warning to a customer.

The UK’s now-delayed Digital Economy Act is also the center of a costs argument between ISPs and rightsholders, and negotiations in Australia aren’t going well either.

“The rightsholders want all the benefits of remedial action, but want the ISPs to foot the bill. ISPs don’t want to pay to protect the rights of third parties,” iiNet chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said recently.

And of course this is where it all gets quite interesting. Takedown Piracy are a piracy takedown service – they get paid by rightholders to have links to infringing content taken down. Takedown Piracy’s entire business model exists on the removal of links, a service that H33T is demanding a fee for – just like Takedown Piracy does.

“How hypocritical can Takedown Piracy be?” questions H33T.

“Their business model is to charge the rights holder a fee to make takedowns happen. But when the third party, in this case h33t, responsibly engages with them to expedite the takedown they refuse to apply the funds the rights holders have given them for the purpose. It’s outrageous and clearly a major wrong against their clients.”

Aldor Nini from anti-piracy company Acromax GmbH says that in some instances sites should be able to charge for takedowns, but with conditions.

“Sites may charge if their business is not based on copyright infringements and they are not already earning money from the illegitimate usage of infringing material,” Nini told TorrentFreak.

Interestingly, H33T informs us that the site responds to all takedown requests using the emails it is supplied with, but in the 6 months since the $50 takedown policy was put in place, only in two instances has he received a response.

But is $50 per takedown good value for money? It is if the one-download-equals-one-lost-sale mantra is applied, say H33T.

“What we see here is that the MAFIAA claim that a download equals a lost sale is absolute bull crap. If it were true, using MAFIAA math, $50 for a takedown is an extremely cheap and effective price to pay for 10s of thousands of lost sales.

“The MAFIAA narrative is deceit, lies and more lies.”

Source: Should Websites Charge A Fee To Process Copyright Takedowns?

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TorrentFreak: ‘Pay Up Or Else’ BitTorrent Scheme Resurrected in UK High Court

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

In the early months of 2010, Golden Eye (International) Ltd, a company connected with the Ben Dover porn brand, decided to chance their hand at obtaining settlements from alleged file-sharers in the UK.

Although they successfully obtained the identities of alleged file-sharers through the court using the Tilly Bailey & Irvine (TBI) law firm, things quickly went wrong for GoldenEye. TBI pulled out due to bad publicity and the company was eventually fined late 2011 by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for their mishandling of the cases.

In September 2011, Golden Eye were back again, trying to extract money from Internet users via the previously untested route of the small claims court. But in December 2011 it all fell apart following proper scrutiny in the High Court.

And now, in March 2012, unbelievably Golden Eye are back again with a third attempt.

Their new case against ISP Telefonica UK was up in the High Court this morning before Mr Justice Arnold, the judge responsible for ordering the ISP level block against Newzbin2 and the ongoing proceedings aimed towards a block of The Pirate Bay.

Golden Eye were seeking a Norwich Pharmacal Order, a document which if granted would allow them to identify their target of 9,000 alleged file-sharers and write to them with a demand for £700 each. If totally successful the scheme could net the company a cool £6.3 million in settlements.

From the court Computeractive’s Dinah Greek reported that Mr Justice Arnold was unhappy with the wording of the draft letters created by Golden Eye which claim they could ask ISPs to cut off or throttle the connections of alleged file-sharers, something the porn company has no authority to do.

Furthermore, Greek later posted another key point on Twitter – all Golden Eye have by way of evidence is a simple IP address, a particularly poor item of proof that has proven both unreliable and insufficient in the past.

Justice Arnold eventually deferred his decision to grant or deny the order pending the presentation of further evidence. He is expected to rule in approximately two weeks.

Although it will have serious implications for potential recipients of Golden Eye threats, the Open Rights Group believes that Justice Arnold’s decision also has the potential to have a big impact on how the Digital Economy Act works.

“At issue is the strength of the evidence required against alleged copyright infringers facing possible civil action. It should help focus attention on the need for [communications regulator] Ofcom to demand that water-tight standards of evidence are required for rights holders chasing alleged infringers through the Digital Economy Act,” says ORG’s Peter Bradwell.

“Ofcom are required to define the standards of evidence required against alleged infringers through the Initial Obligations Code (pdf). The revised version of this is due out soon. Without stringent standards, there is a risk that people are wrongly placed on infringement lists and are subject to the civil action in the initial phases of the Act.”

But even if Golden Eye are successful in obtained a Norwich Pharmacal Order, they will not be getting an easy ride and won’t be pulling in the cash they expect. After all, a similar venture cost ACS:Law’s Andrew Crossley his business, reputation, possessions and even his girlfriend.

“Golden Eye (should they get their NPO) will get very little money and a TONNE of grief,” predicted Will Gilmour, an expert in so-called pay-up-or-else schemes. “Speculative invoicing does not equal good business.”

Source: ‘Pay Up Or Else’ BitTorrent Scheme Resurrected in UK High Court

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TorrentFreak: UK File-Sharers Face Disconnections After Appeal Court Ruling

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

For almost a year the UK’s Digital Economy Act has been in limbo after two of the country’s largest Internet service providers challenged the legislation. BT and TalkTalk had argued that the controversial law was incompatible with EU legislation and in March 2011 the High Court began a judicial review.

In April 2011 the High Court sided with the government and said that copyright holders have the right to tackle unlawful file-sharing, but in October the ISPs were granted leave to appeal on the grounds that the DEA might breach several EU directives.

Just minutes ago judges Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Patten declared that the ISPs have lost their appeal and the Digital Economy Act will stand.

TalkTalk described the ruling as “disappointing” and along with BT say they are now considering their options. Groups representing copyright holders have welcomed the Court of Appeal ruling.

“The ISPs’ failed legal challenge has meant yet another year of harm to British musicians and creators from illegal filesharing,” said Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI.

UK Internet service providers will now be required to send warning letters to customers who the music, movie and software industries claim are infringing their copyrights on file-sharing networks.

After a year of sending letters, communications regulator Ofcom must report on the results of the campaign. In the event it has been ineffective in reducing file-sharing, so-called “technical measures” can be put in place – a euphemism for Internet disconnections and/or Internet throttling.

Open Rights Group, who have been campaigning against the legislation, said the Court of Appeal ruling has shortcomings.

“There is one thing the court cannot tell us: that this is a good law. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport had no evidence when they wrote this Act, except for the numbers they were given by a couple of industry trade bodies. This is a policy made on hearsay and assumptions, not proper facts or analysis,” ORG’s Peter Bradwell said in a statement.

“So significant problems remain. Publicly available wifi will be put at risk. Weak evidence could be used to penalize people accused of copyright infringement. And people will have to pay £20 for the privilege of defending themselves against these accusations. The Government needs to correct these errors with a proper, evidence-based review of the law.”

In comments to the BBC, Adam Rendle, a copyright lawyer at international law firm Taylor Wessing, said he expected BT and Talk Talk to take their appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court.

Source: UK File-Sharers Face Disconnections After Appeal Court Ruling

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TorrentFreak: With Digital Economy Act Ruling Due, ISPs Stung With Piracy Claims

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

In March 2011, the High Court began a judicial review of the controversial Digital Economy Act (DEA). The review was ordered after the legislation, which was rushed through during the final hours of the previous Labour government, was met with complaints from two of the UK’s biggest Internet service providers, BT and TalkTalk. The pair question whether the Act was enforceable under current EU legislation.

In April the High Court’s Justice Kenneth Parker sided with the government and “upheld the principle of taking measures to tackle the unlawful downloading of music, films, books and other copyright material.”

In October, BT and TalkTalk were given permission to appeal, with Lord Justice Lewison stating that the ISPs should be allowed to argue that the Act “was enacted without following proper procedures and that it may breach the EU’s E-Commerce Directive, Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, Data Protection Directive, Authorization Directive.”

As long as certain conditions are met, under EU law Internet service providers are not liable for the data carried over their networks, a situation known as the “mere conduit” defense. But today it’s being claimed that staff from both BT and TalkTalk gave advice to customers that they knew had intentions of breaching copyright.

According to a ThisIsMoney report, ‘mystery shoppers’ were asked to call ISPs asking questions about using file-sharing sites.

Perhaps conveniently considering developments due in court today, the allegations focus on advice given by BT and TalkTalk staff. However, based on the information given in the article, first impressions suggest that only one call is worthy of immediate attention and the rest seem potentially overblown.

During that call, made to BT, the ‘customer’ says they want to use Pirate Bay or isoHunt to download movies such as Harry Potter or Cars 2. The BT staff member allegedly noted that the films could be downloaded from those sites “in less time than it would take to watch the film”.

In another call to TalkTalk, the investigators claim that the customer services operator admits to using BitTorrent himself and says that The Pirate Bay would perform best with an ‘unlimited’ broadband package. But there are millions of items on The Pirate Bay, plenty of them legal, and the advice is good, piracy hasn’t been condoned and certainly no laws have been broken.

The report goes on to state that “a string of similar calls elicited no warnings about the potential illegality of such activity” and in every call “the use of such sites is mentioned clearly by the caller as a reason for signing up to a faster broadband package.”

While the initial item which references specific copyright works might be problematic, it is not up to an ISP to attempt to police customer activity or predict which content someone might access on The Pirate Bay. It is certainly not up to telesales operators to try and understand the intricacies of copyright law and then give impromptu advice in response to casual comments by ‘customers’.

Both BT and TalkTalk say that they only want customers to use the Internet for legal activities but Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI who have been critical of the ISPs’ opposition to the Digital Economy Act, says what has happened is unacceptable.

“It is shocking if broadband providers have been boosting their revenues selling broadband to customers who make it clear they intend to break the law,” he said. “This is not the behavior we should expect from responsible companies.”

As highlighted earlier, the information provided in the report is not exactly detailed, so it will be interesting to read the full transcripts of the calls – we’ve asked for copies from the editor and we’ll report back should we received them.

Later today, appeal judges Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Patten will give their decision on the future of the Digital Economy Act and announce whether BT and TalkTalk have been successful.

Source: With Digital Economy Act Ruling Due, ISPs Stung With Piracy Claims

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TorrentFreak: Is Copyright Only For the Big Guys?

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

When it comes to copyright, we’re constantly hearing how the big companies are spending untold amounts of money to ‘create’ content, only for it to be ‘stolen’ by people downloading it. Less often we hear of the reverse; big companies infringing the copyright of regular people. But it’s more common than you might think.

Let’s take a look at two of these stories that surfaced recently, starting with the BBC.

When the BBC reported on the riots in London, it frequently used pictures that were shared by Twitter users witnessing the events. This wouldn’t be that bad as the BBC would at least credit the people who took the pictures. Yet, in its reporting, the BBC completely failed to attribute any of the images it used, instead attributing them to Twitter.

When a complaint was made, the first response back included the following outrageous statement:

I understand you were unhappy that pictures from Twitter are used on BBC programmes as you feel it may be a breach of copyright. Twitter is a social network platform which is available to most people who have a computer and therefore any content on it is not subject to the same copyright laws as it is already in the public domain.  The BBC is aware of copyright issues and is careful to abide by these laws. (emphasis added)

Everyone reading this knows that to be untrue and the BBC did too, as Chris Hamilton (BBC News Social Media Editor) later admitted.

It’s not the position of BBC News, he said, adding that that the BBC tries to clear photos before using them but if there are time constraints that may not be possible. Unfortunately, UK law doesn’t allow fair dealing exceptions for this at present. So time constraints or not, it’s still a copyright violation.

And the BBC is not the only major news outfit to bend the copyright rules this month, the Daily Mail has been at it as well. This time, though, they probably picked the worst target possible, the wife of OpenRightsGroup founder and noted blogger Cory Doctorow.

In reporting on a story about Gap and their anorexic lines of jeans, the Daily Mail contacted Doctorow’s wife, Alice Taylor, asking for permission to use her work. She then offered the photos in exchange for £250 to a charity of her choice but the Mail declined this offer as ‘too expensive’.

Instead of buying it The Mail simply lifted the picture from the Washington Post, to whom Taylor had licensed it for use on their own site.

Only after numerous emails and an outraged crowd of commenters the newspaper promised to send a £1000 donation to the OpenRightsGroup and another £1000 to a charity dealing with eating disorders. We’ll wait to see if that happens.

This isn’t an isolated incident though. The net is awash with cases of the Daily Mail infringing copyright, and one photo agency is even suing them for more than £1M in damages.

The Digital Economy Act could have made a big difference here. Under the Act, after a certain number of accusations a website could have been taken offline. Thankfully, that’s now been taken out of consideration, but how much of that was down to judicial proportionality and feasibility, and how much was down to pressure from groups like the BBC and the Daily Mail (who belatedly realised that a major aspect of their business could be quite easily curtailed by the legislation) remains unclear.

The BBC is certainly no innocent in this, as it repeatedly pushed for strong punishments for copyright violators, even noting in some consultations that even more needs to be done than is being proposed. And who can forget the piece on a prime time BBC show, where they ‘reported‘ on a study, that we had poked major holes in weeks earlier, and yet had only ‘Industry’ participants. A complaint to the BBC had the response that it was “balanced”.

The issue is that few individuals can afford to pay for lawyers to file a copyright lawsuit, especially against large media companies such as the BBC. In effect, current copyright law is a tool for the rich allowing major companies to infringe frequently for commercial gain, yet face little sanction.

It would seem that in the end, we’re left with one question. Is copyright just for the Big Guys?

Source: Is Copyright Only For the Big Guys?

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TorrentFreak: UK Report Shows Futility Of US Anti-Piracy Law

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

Last week UK business secretary Vince Cable confirmed that the website blocking provisions put in place under the country’s controversial Digital Economy Act would be abandoned. Communications regulator OFCOM had been asked to conduct a review to see if the system could work. Ultimately it found that the plans were unworkable.

Parts of the report produced by OFCOM were censored by the UK government but those restrictions, ironically, were easily bypassed. The net result is that the uncensored report provides a pretty decent guide on how Internet users are expected to bypass future website blocks and how ‘pirate’ site operators will attempt to help them. We offer a summary below.

What makes the assessment of OFCOM particularly interesting is that it shows how ineffective the anti-piracy plans of the US government are. According to the report, many of the censorship measures that are included in the PROTECT IP Act wont be as effective as advertised.

Measures Users Can Take To Bypass Website Blocking Measures

— Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

The key to a VPN is that they hide a user’s traffic from their own ISP. Since ISPs will be the entities required to implement blocks, it necessarily follows that they cannot block VPN’d users accessing blocked sites if they cannot see what they’re doing.

OFCOM notes that any UK-based VPN services which facilitate access to a previously blocked site (say, Newzbin2 to give a current example) may also be required to comply with the terms of a blocking injunction. This means that subscribers to a UK-based VPN service could find that it is rendered useless. In order to avoid such a situation, users would need to subscribe to a non-UK VPN service.

— Change their DNS servers to those offered by 3rd parties

OFCOM states that in the event that a DNS block of a site is ordered, users can circumvent their own ISP’s blockade simply by changing to a DNS server operated by 3rd parties outside the UK.

Helpfully they also provide two examples – Google Public DNS and OpenDNS – both of which come with detailed instructions to get them working.

— Use an anonymous web proxy which is not reliant on UK ISP DNS servers

Foreign web proxy sites such as Kproxy and HideMyAss both offer free services which can be used to bypass DNS blocks.

OFCOM also says that the use of TOR (The Onion Router) would also prove effective.

— Don’t use a remote DNS at all

Windows users can add IP address entries to their ‘hosts file’ which means that external DNS systems won’t even be consulted. Further information on the technicalities, provided by critics of US blocking, can be found here.

Another often-effective option is for a user to enter the IP address of a site directly into the URL bar of their browser.

Measures Site Operators Can Take To Bypass Bans

— Change the site’s IP address by moving host and manipulating TTL

In respect of IP address cycling, OFCOM also explain how TTL can be manipulated to assist with domain unblocking.

“When moving to a new IP address a site operator may register multiple IP addresses for a given site in order to maintain service in the event that some of those individual IP addresses are blocked,” OFCOM writes.

“Furthermore, Domain Name System (DNS) record value, determining the length of time that the IP address for a particular domain (expressed in seconds) remains in remote name server caches, it is easier for a site operator to move IP addresses without end users losing access. Where a low TTL is expressed the ISP DNS name server resolution cache is purged quickly thereby ensuring that newly assigned site IP addresses are retrieved from the authoritative name server and site accessibility is maintained.”

— Change domains and IP addresses

“Similarly, site operators may quickly mirror or make copies of a blocked site on new top level or country code domains pointing towards new IP addresses e.g. www.blockedsite.cc; www.blockedsite.ru; www.blockedsite.vn; www.blockedsite.net,” OFCOM explains.

— Facilitate user access to blocked site via Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Sites could offer an in-house VPN service to offer access to blocked users. However, in keeping with the VPN item in the section above, if they are deemed to be too closely associated with the blocked site in question, they too could be blocked via UK injunction. See the Pirate Bay and BTjunkie proxy-blocking cases in Italy for a practical example of how that can happen.

— Operate a so-called Fast Flux network

Fast Flux systems are often associated with malware, but can also be used to facilitate access to blocked sites. In very shallow detail, users of a blocked site could choose to operate a piece of software which would associate hundreds or thousands of IP addresses with a blocked site which could change as often as every few minutes. More technical detail here.

— Possible site operator counter-measures specific to URL blocking

OFCOM list a number of techniques operators can use to circumvent blocks which target a site’s URL (i.e Newzbin.com, ThePirateBay.org)

- Provide encrypted access via SSL/TLS, i.e via HTTPS rather than simple HTTP.

- Running a website on a port other than the standard port 80

- Reorganizing site structure if blocking is directed only at specific URLs

- Encoding URLs to evade blocking

Blocking techniques and OFCOM’s assessment of how difficult they are to circumvent

IP address blocking – Easy by site operator & various ways by end-user

DNS blocking – Easy. Use of 3rd party UK or overseas DNS, new domain registration, end-user bypass, mirroring to new domains.

Shallow Packet Inspection (SPI) – Easy by site operator and various ways by end-user e.g encryption, anonymity-networks.

Deep Packet Inspection – Evade by use of encryption, anonymity networks.

URL Blocking – Site operator can reorganize site with ease thereby creating new URLS. Evade by use of encryption, anonymity networks.

Hybrid DNS and DPI – Evasion by use of encryption, anonymity networks.

Hybrid DNS and URL – Evasion by use of encryption, anonymity networks – new domain registration, mirroring.

Hybrid DNS and SPI – Evasion by use of encryption, anonymity networks – new domain registration, mirroring on new site/domain.

OFCOM final conclusion on DNS blocking effectiveness from a technical stance

“For site operators and end users with a sufficient incentive to engage in circumvention DNS blocking is technically relatively straightforward to bypass,” OFCOM notes.

Another paragraph sums up their technical assessment clearly.

“Circumvention of a block is technically a relatively trivial matter irrespective of which of the techniques used. Knowledge of how site operators and end users can work around blocks is widely distributed and easily accessible on the internet.”

“It is not technically challenging and does not require a particularly high level of skill or expertise.”

Source: UK Report Shows Futility Of US Anti-Piracy Law

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TorrentFreak: UK Govt. Censors Concerns of Erroneous Piracy Allegations

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

Yesterday, detailing the government’s response to the Hargreaves report, business secretary Vince Cable confirmed that the website blocking provisions put in place under the controversial Digital Economy Act will be discontinued. The decision coincided with an OFCOM report which noted that website blocking would not be effective.

OFCOM also released a second report titled Digital Economy Act, Online Copyright Infringement Appeals Process: Options for reducing costs.

On the front page of the report there is a note that redactions have taken place to censor sections relating to “on-going policy development” of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The DCMS did a better job of hiding the blacked-out text than earlier in the week but not so good as to keep out TorrentFreak and our X-ray specs.

The first redaction on Page 3 says simply “Revisit the grounds for appeal set out in Ofcom’s draft Initial Obligations Code” but two pages later things start to get much more interesting. It seems the government (or more likely their friends in the copyright lobby) doesn’t want talk of an error-prone system becoming public.

Page 5 – OFCOM wants rights holders’ accusations to be ‘quality assured’

Ofcom has also sought to ensure efficiency by introducing into the Code a requirement that Copyright Owners take part in a quality assurance process with the aim of minimising errors. This should help to reduce the number of wrongly identified infringements and subscribers. (ISPs can also have some impact here by ensuring that the letters they send to subscribers make clear the implications of receiving a notification).

A “quality assurance process” sounds like a great idea, but who could be trusted to implement such a regime and ensure independent scrutiny? Anti-piracy tracking companies are notoriously secretive and unlikely to be open about the short-comings of their “proprietary systems”.

Page 11 – Government rejects OFCOM suggestion of subscriber appeal “on any reasonable grounds”

The grounds set out in the Act are non-exhaustive and we reflected this in our drafted Code by including an option to appeal on “any other reasonable ground”. This was intended to provide an efficient mechanism through which to avoid a lengthy revision of the Code should subscribers find additional, but reasonable, grounds for appeal as technologies and consumer behaviours evolve.

We understand that Government believes we should not include this mechanism in the final Code

It is far from clear why the government wishes to remove the right for a citizen to appeal a wrongful accusation on “any reasonable ground”. What is clear, however, is why the government might wish to redact this statement from the report – it looks very bad indeed.

Page 11 – ISP IP address matching to be “quality assured”

We have also introduced into the Code a requirement that Copyright Owners take part in a quality assurance process with the aim of minimising errors. We are proposing to sponsor a similar standard for the IP address matching processes of the ISPs, although participation will be voluntary. This should help to reduce the number of wrongly identified infringements and subscribers (appeal grounds (a) and (b)). We anticipate that the majority of appeals will rely on ground (c) in the absence of systematic failures by a Copyright Owner or ISP under the Code.

When it comes to copyright infringement cases ISPs make errors so it is good they will be required to adopt similar “quality assurance” processes as rights holders. However, how many will choose to do so when participation is voluntary remains to be seen.

Redactions on page 17 merely repeat details covered in earlier redactions. Redactions on page 19 likewise, save a comment that a rightsholder “quality assurance” process

….does not create a rebuttable presumption in favour of the rights holder but should help bring down the proportion of incorrect CIRs [Copyright Infringement Reports] and therefore appeals costs since there are likely to be fewer meritorious appeals in this respect. This quality assurance is also intended to make sure that the number of CIRs rejected by ISPs for process reasons is minimised

The full but redacted document can be downloaded here.

Source: UK Govt. Censors Concerns of Erroneous Piracy Allegations

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TorrentFreak: UK Govt. Censors Concerns of Erroneous Piracy Allegations

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

Yesterday the UK government announced that following a report from regulator OFCOM, plans to block alleged copyright-infringing websites would be dropped. However, there was a second report where OFCOM detailed ways of keeping the costs of Digital Economy Act infringement appeals down. The document carried the usual redactions but TorrentFreak has put on its X-ray vision for your viewing pleasure.

Yesterday, detailing the government’s response to the Hargreaves report, business secretary Vince Cable confirmed that the website blocking provisions put in place under the controversial Digital Economy Act will be discontinued. The decision coincided with an OFCOM report which noted that website blocking would not be effective.

OFCOM also released a second report titled Digital Economy Act, Online Copyright Infringement Appeals Process: Options for reducing costs.

On the front page of the report there is a note that redactions have taken place to censor sections relating to “on-going policy development” of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The DCMS did a better job of hiding the blacked-out text than earlier in the week but not so good as to keep out TorrentFreak and our X-ray specs.

The first redaction on Page 3 says simply “Revisit the grounds for appeal set out in Ofcom’s draft Initial Obligations Code” but two pages later things start to get much more interesting. It seems the government (or more likely their friends in the copyright lobby) doesn’t want talk of an error-prone system becoming public.

Page 5 – OFCOM wants rights holders’ accusations to be ‘quality assured’

Ofcom has also sought to ensure efficiency by introducing into the Code a requirement that Copyright Owners take part in a quality assurance process with the aim of minimising errors. This should help to reduce the number of wrongly identified infringements and subscribers. (ISPs can also have some impact here by ensuring that the letters they send to subscribers make clear the implications of receiving a notification).

A “quality assurance process” sounds like a great idea, but who could be trusted to implement such a regime and ensure independent scrutiny? Anti-piracy tracking companies are notoriously secretive and unlikely to be open about the short-comings of their “proprietary systems”.

Page 11 – Government rejects OFCOM suggestion of subscriber appeal “on any reasonable grounds”

The grounds set out in the Act are non-exhaustive and we reflected this in our drafted Code by including an option to appeal on “any other reasonable ground”. This was intended to provide an efficient mechanism through which to avoid a lengthy revision of the Code should subscribers find additional, but reasonable, grounds for appeal as technologies and consumer behaviours evolve.

We understand that Government believes we should not include this mechanism in the final Code

It is far from clear why the government wishes to remove the right for a citizen to appeal a wrongful accusation on “any reasonable ground”. What is clear, however, is why the government might wish to redact this statement from the report – it looks very bad indeed.

Page 11 – ISP IP address matching to be “quality assured”

We have also introduced into the Code a requirement that Copyright Owners take part in a quality assurance process with the aim of minimising errors. We are proposing to sponsor a similar standard for the IP address matching processes of the ISPs, although participation will be voluntary. This should help to reduce the number of wrongly identified infringements and subscribers (appeal grounds (a) and (b)). We anticipate that the majority of appeals will rely on ground (c) in the absence of systematic failures by a Copyright Owner or ISP under the Code.

When it comes to copyright infringement cases ISPs make errors so it is good they will be required to adopt similar “quality assurance” processes as rights holders. However, how many will choose to do so when participation is voluntary remains to be seen.

Redactions on page 17 merely repeat details covered in earlier redactions. Redactions on page 19 likewise, save a comment that a rightsholder “quality assurance” process

….does not create a rebuttable presumption in favour of the rights holder but should help bring down the proportion of incorrect CIRs [Copyright Infringement Reports] and therefore appeals costs since there are likely to be fewer meritorious appeals in this respect. This quality assurance is also intended to make sure that the number of CIRs rejected by ISPs for process reasons is minimised

The full but redacted document can be downloaded here.

Source: UK Govt. Censors Concerns of Erroneous Piracy Allegations

TorrentFreak: UK Government Abandons File-Sharing Website Blocking Plans

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

Outlining the government’s response to the Hargreaves report, business secretary Vince Cable today confirmed that the website blocking provisions put in place under the country’s controversial Digital Economy Act will be abandoned.

As widely predicted, a review by communications regulator OFCOM found that the plans were unworkable.

“Ofcom was also asked to consider whether the site-blocking provisions in the Digital Economy Act would work in practice,” began today’s statement from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

“The Act contains reserve powers to allow courts to order that websites dedicated to copyright infringement are blocked. The regulator concluded the provisions as they stand would not be effective and so the Government will not bring forward the Act’s site-blocking provisions at this time.”

While some will see the decision as a victory for common sense, it does not necessarily follow that there will be no site blocking in the UK.

As the recent MPA v BT case showed all too clearly, existing legislation (the Copyrights, Design and Patents Act) is now deemed powerful enough to carry out the same function. The ruling in that case ordered ISP BT to block all subscriber access to Usenet indexing site Newzbin2.

However, without the assistance of the now-nuked provisions of the Digital Economy Act, copyright holders may be forced to go “the long way round” to get sites blocked, i.e through the legal system and existing legislation.

But as complicated as it was, the Newzbin2 case had a number of special features (such as a previous UK court ruling against Newzbin1) which helped the case along and through to ultimate success for the MPA. Relatively speaking, future legal attempts will not be as easy.

“The MPA focus until now has been on this Newzbin case and not beyond it,” the MPA told TorrentFreak when asked about future site-blocking plans. “Although there will be other targets, no decisions have yet been made.”

“However, other rights-holders have been watching the case with interest and may well have their own target rogue sites,” the MPA concludes.

But of course, there are still ongoing discussions between the government, rights-holders and ISPs concerning the voluntary blocking of websites, something which the MPA and international music industry will be keen to pursue.

Other elements of Cable’s announcement, such as the creation of a Digital Copyright Exchange, the relaxation of laws which currently forbid UK citizens from format-shifting their own legally purchased media, and the permitting of parody works without copyright-holder permission, can be read here.

Source: UK Government Abandons File-Sharing Website Blocking Plans

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TorrentFreak: ISP Survey: Three Strikes Won’t Deter Pirates

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

Initiatives to punish alleged copyright infringers after repeated warnings are popping up all over the world, most recently in the United States. In the UK a similar scheme is embedded in the Digital Economy Act despite strong opposition from ISPs, the public and various human rights groups.

The entertainment industries claim that the threat of losing one’s Internet connection will deter a large group of copyright infringers. Thus far, however, no research has backed up this prediction. On the contrary, the results of a recent survey conducted by the British Internet provider BE Broadband reveals that the impact might be far less than expected.

BE Broadband surveyed a few hundred customers and asked them whether they are aware of the Digital Economy Act, and how they think their file-sharing habits would change under the new law. The results are intriguing.

Of all the respondents who use file-sharing networks (85% of the total sample) more than 94 percent say they will not share less when the Digital Economy Act gets into full swing. Instead, the majority of the file-sharers say they will simply take measures to hide their IP-address, by using VPN and proxy services for example.

Roughly 1 percent of the people who share files now say they will stop doing so and about 5 percent claim they will reduce their use of file-sharing software. Needless to say, the survey results suggest that three-strikes measures can hardly be called effective.

BE Broadband Survey Results

BE

Taking into account that the survey may not be representative of the general population in the UK (judging from the high percentage of file-sharers), it does appear that many of the people who now use file-sharing networks won’t be deterred from doing so under the new law. Instead, many of them will simply take measures to ensure that they’re not caught.

This raises some serious concerns.

Although the entertainment industries may argue that even a few percent less copyright infringers is a victory, the question of costs remain. Implementing the three strikes procedures will cost ISPs millions of pounds a year, money that will be eventually clawed back from consumers.

In addition, the three strikes scheme puts tens of thousands of innocent Internet users at risk of being wrongfully accused and disconnected by mistake. This has been demonstrated several times in the ACS:Law debacle, and was even reported on in the British mainstream media.

Last but not least, even if the right person is targeted then there’s still the human rights issue. A UN report published last month labeled the three strikes provision in the Digital Economy Act a breach of human rights. Disconnecting users from the Internet is a disproportionate penalty, the report concluded.

Perhaps it’s time for the copyright lobby and legislators to look at the alternatives. Preferably measures that improve the legal offerings and take away the incentive for people to pirate, rather than radically enforcing copyright infringement without knowing that it will have any effect at all.

Source: ISP Survey: Three Strikes Won’t Deter Pirates

TorrentFreak: Ireland Set To Force ISPs To Disconnect Pirates

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

After reaching a negotiated settlement with ISP Eircom to deal with illicit file-sharing, the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) took ISP UPC to court after it refused to implement a similar scheme. IRMA wanted UPC to disconnect persistent pirates, UPC insisted there was no legal basis for doing so.

The case went to the High Court but although Mr Justice Peter Charleton acknowledged that recording companies were being harmed by Internet piracy, he said that laws to cut off file-sharers were not enforceable in Ireland.

“It is not surprising that the legislative response laid down in our country in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, at a time when this problem was not perceived to be as threatening to the creative and retail economy as it has become in 2010, has made no proper provision for the blocking, diverting or interrupting of internet communications intent on breaching copyright,” he said in his judgment.

By not having this legislative mechanism in place, Justice Charleton said that Ireland is not in compliance with its obligations under European law. The only thing the courts can force an Internet host to carry out, he said, is the removal of infringing material.

Now, through its ‘Consultation on Amendment to Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000′, the Irish government is taking steps to change legislation to close this apparent loophole.

“It must be emphasised that this proposed amendment is not about the introduction of a statutory regulatory regime in relation to copyright infringement such as the French ‘Hadopi’ system or the ‘Three strikes’ regime set out in the Digital Economy Act in the United Kingdom,” notes the proposal.

Nevertheless, while they do not implement a statutory regime, adoption of the proposals could yield a similar result, a situation welcomed by IRMA.

“We have always been looking for the right to take injunctions against ISPs if they are not dealing with illegality on their networks,” said IRMA chief executive Dick Doyle.

The proposals published yesterday are open for public consultation with a closing date of July 1st, just over a week away. Submissions should be sent to IPU@djei.ie or posted to the Intellectual Property Unit, Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

The proposals come on the back of the news that due to an administrative computer error, in October last year Eircom wrongly sent out around 300 “first strike” warning letters to innocent subscribers. The error is now being investigated by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner.

Source: Ireland Set To Force ISPs To Disconnect Pirates

TorrentFreak: UN: Disconnecting File-Sharers Breaches Human Rights

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

According to a UN report published in May and set to be adopted today, tough provisions in the UK’s Digital Economy Act and France’s ‘Hadopi’ legislation breach human rights.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression details concern for measures being put in place by various governments to punish online copyright infringement. In many cases those measures include the draconian step of denying citizens’ Internet access.

“While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely,” says the report.

“The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of
the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The report highlights the legislation adopted by France and the UK, noting that the author of the report, Frank La Rue, is “alarmed” by proposals to severely punish Internet users if they violate intellectual property rights.

“This also includes legislation based on the concept of ‘graduated response’, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three-strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom,” notes the report.

In addition to calling on governments to maintain Internet access “during times of political unrest,” the report goes on to urge States to change copyright laws, not in favor of the music and movie industries as has been the recent trend, but in keeping with citizens’ rights.

“In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws,” the report adds.

Whether or not the report will carry any influence with these so-far stubborn governments remains to be seen, but the Open Rights Group are keeping up the pressure on UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. ORG have written to Hunt asking for his reaction to the Special Rapporteur’s report and his recommendation that the Digital Economy Act’s disconnection provisions should be repealed.

Source: UN: Disconnecting File-Sharers Breaches Human Rights

TorrentFreak: Pirate Bay Heads Norwegian Domain Blocking List

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

pirate bayThe spread of anti-filesharing measures across the United States and Europe appears to be accelerating at a somewhat dizzying pace. On an almost daily basis during the last few months stories about controversial and sometimes draconian measures to deal with online infringement have hit the headlines.

Say what you like about the big movie and music studios – they certainly know how to coordinate their lobbying to perfection. Timing like this, with legislation being mulled in many major markets simultaneously, sends a powerful message.

Adding to a growing list, Norway is the latest country to propose tough legislative amendments in favor of rightsholders.

“The Ministry of Culture today sends for comment on a proposal for amendments to the Copyright Act. With this we will give licensees the tools they need to follow-up on copyright infringement on the Internet, while protecting privacy,” said Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.

The main proposals come in two parts – making it easier for rightsholders to identify infringers from their IP addresses and, unsurprisingly, the wholesale ISP-level blocking of sites deemed to be infringing copyright on a large scale.

In order to monitor and collect IP address-based evidence on alleged file-sharers, currently Norway requires companies to be licensed by the Datatilsynet, the country’s data protection office. The new amendments propose that this safeguard be relaxed. Monitoring companies will still have to register, but won’t need a license to operate.

The process for rightsholders to extract personally identifying information from ISPs based on IP address evidence will also be streamlined.

“The rules for how licensees should be able to obtain information about who is behind an IP address used for illegal file sharing, is proposed to be simplified and clarified,” said Culture Minister Anniken Huitfeldt.

“Before making a decision about any identification made by the court, the Post and Telecommunications Authority may make a statement about whether ISPs should be released from confidentiality [obligations].”

The second amendment, and certainly the most controversial, is file-sharing site domain blocking as already suggested by the PROTECT IP bill in the United States and Digital Economy Act in the UK.

“While freedom of speech today will be maintained, it will open for the blocking of sites that clearly and in large-scale make available content in violation of copyright,” said Huitfeldt, who later confirmed during a press conference this would include The Pirate Bay.

The Minister said that any blockage orders would be imposed on Internet service providers after initially going through one of the two models suggested in the consultation paper.

The first would empower the country’s Media Authority to authorize blocks, backed up by a complaints appeals board. The second would see the courts given authority to issue blocks under an amended Copyright Act.

Together, IFPI and music rights group TONO spent a year unsuccessfully pursuing the ISP Telenor in an attempt to force it to block subscriber access to The Pirate Bay. Eventually the pair conceded that there was “no legal authority under Norwegian law for such blocking requirements.”

In a comment they described the proposals from the Ministry of Culture as “a good start.”

It is expected that should the proposals be approved by their September 30th deadline, the bill will be adopted in 2012.

Source: Pirate Bay Heads Norwegian Domain Blocking List

TorrentFreak: Scottish File-Sharing Conviction Dismays OiNK and FileSoup Lawyer

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

This a guest feature from UK-based lawyer David Cook from Burrows Bussin Solicitors.

Cook and Burrows Bussin successful defended a 17-year-old alleged uploader to the now-defunct music tracker OiNK, and a 56-year-old administrator of the BitTorrent forum, FileSoup.

It was reported in the national media on Tuesday 10th May that Anne Muir, a 58 year old woman in Glasgow has pleaded guilty to criminal file-sharing offences, for which she will be sentenced later this month. Although not a party to that case, I believe that this is a stark reminder of where we are at.

It seems to me that the media consciousness has been diverted by the Digital Economy Act 2010, and all that it entails. The infringement notification procedure and “technical measures” suggested for alleged file-sharers and website blocking has understandably caused great concern. However, the elephant in the room remains s.107 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA). This legislation is the source of the ability of the State to prosecute someone in a criminal court for a copyright offence.

It is still possible for a criminal prosecution under CDPA, despite the availability of the civil remedies of which the public are now more than aware. The Digital Economy Act 2010 not only leaves the criminal copyright provisions unchanged, but, in fact, ups the ante. As well as the Crown Court having the power to impose a 10 year custodial sentence and an unlimited fine, the Digital Economy Act now gives the Magistrates Court the power to impose a £50,000 fine. Be under no illusions – people can and will continue to be prosecuted in criminal courts for file-sharing offences.

Reports that the British Phonographic Industry and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry played a major role in the prosecution of Anne Muir are of great concern.

In the recent OiNK case, in which we successfully defended a boy accused of similar file-sharing allegations, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and British Phonographic Industry used their influence to gain entry to our client’s family home, gather evidence and dictate the direction of inquiries. Despite Government ministers categorically stating they do not want to see teenagers arrested in their bedrooms for file-sharing, such assurances are evidently hollow. That prosecution was not only incompetently handled, it was also never in the public interest and the CPS were forced to admit that in March 2010 when they discontinued their case in the face of the rigorous and aggressive defence that we had forwarded.

In February 2011, we had another case before the UK courts. Again, a rights-holder group was heavily involved in the prosecution. The FileSoup prosecution was aimed at the peer-to-peer distribution of films, so the Federation Against Copyright Theft was the relevant body. Again, we mounted a robust defence and, again, the CPS dropped the case, offering no evidence and allowing our client to be formally acquitted by the Crown Court Judge.

It is of concern that our clients in the OiNK and FileSoup cases were members of the public whose alleged criminality appeared extremely limited. In OiNK, it was alleged that our client had found the music on one publicly accessible music site and simply moved it onto a members-only site (OiNK). In FileSoup, the prosecution was initially focused on a film (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) for which they had already prosecuted the person responsible for the real criminality in this case – the original leaker. That film was then circulated on the internet for a considerable period of time and its distribution was widespread. FACT then took the decision to prosecute a non-profit making community forum of film buffs. This FileSoup prosecution was clearly not directed at the person responsible for any loss or to blame for any leaks.

The OiNK and FileSoup investigations were carried out almost entirely by the rights-holder groups, who then gave the police and CPS the evidence they sought to rely upon, in order to prosecute. However, the duty is on the police and the prosecuting authority to independently investigate alleged offences. It appears that they simply did not do so in those cases. The only people who had investigated were the rights-holder groups, who are not independent bodies. FACT, BPI and IFPI are funded by the media industries and it was they who controlled the OiNK and FileSoup investigations. Little or nothing independent was carried out by the police. The role of the rights-holder groups became effectively that of investigators, witnesses and experts in their own case.

These internet sites are evidently, in the view of the rights-holders, encouraging breaches of copyright. While there is no doubt that a copyright holder is entitled to the protection of the law, it is nevertheless fundamental that a prosecution is conducted impartially and independently. This was not our experience in the OiNK and FileSoup cases.

I only know about the case of Anne Muir from the media reports that have been published. However, I am willing to bet that the rights-holder groups have acted in a similar way in the prosecution of Muir.

It was our view that the rights-holder groups target the people with the least chance of resisting a prosecution of this nature; those having made no commercial gain and often with little funds to defend such a case. They have prosecuted the very people who spend significant amounts of their time and money in pursuing their interests in music and film. It certainly appears that rights-holder groups are avoiding taking on those with funds at their disposal, perhaps for fear of them exposing the manner in the way in which these groups go about such investigations. It was only through a methodical and painstaking consideration of the evidence that we were able to draw the attention of the Court to the investigative failures and flawed evidence in the OiNK and FileSoup cases.

It is reported that Anne Muir was not a leaker or a site administrator, but a simple file-sharer on the Direct Connect client. She therefore appears to be an unremarkable file-sharer – part of a class of people that must include the vast majority of UK citizens between the ages of 14 and 30. This legislation and series of cases seek to criminalise a large proportion of the youth of this country.

The inequality in real terms is substantial. FACT, BPI and IFPI wield enormous financial resources and clout. They clearly do lobby Parliament and pressure prosecutors to take cases on their behalf. FileSoup and OiNK operated as forums for people with an interest in films and music and were not commercial or profit making organisations. Anne Muir was not alleged to have made any money from her file-sharing activities.

FileSoup, OiNK and the prosecution of Muir were directed at people who are considered in the most vulnerable groups of society. Our OiNK client was a 17 year old boy. Our client in FileSoup was, due to illness, largely housebound in his flat in Scotland. Anne Muir is reported to have suffered mental health problems.

These are the people who the mighty US film and music industries choose to pursue.

The frustrating part is that it falls to the British tax payer to fund these prosecutions. The defence funding, also borne by the British tax payer, is based on a page count of disclosed material controlled by these rights-holders groups. In the OiNK and FileSoup cases, the funding we were able to receive was inadequate to cover the costs that we had incurred in defending the prosecutions. These are the conditions in which alleged file-sharers are supposed to defend against the limitless resources of the US media industries.

As news of Anne Muir’s conviction washes over an indifferent British public, the repercussions may eventually be felt as the rights-holder groups become more buoyant by their successes in Court and through their lobbying. With vast proportions of the UK public involved in file-sharing to some degree, who will be next?

David Cook is a solicitor from Burrows Bussin Solicitors in Manchester.

Source: Scottish File-Sharing Conviction Dismays OiNK and FileSoup Lawyer

TorrentFreak: ISPs Challenge to Digital Economy Act Rejected

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

Last month the High Court began a judicial review of the controversial Digital Economy Act (DEA). The review was ordered after the legislation, which was rushed through by the previous Labour government, was met with complaints from two of the UK’s biggest Internet service providers, BT and TalkTalk.

Both ISPs accused the former government of pushing through the legislation without due process and questioned whether the Act is enforceable under current EU legislation. They also challenged the statutory order, currently in draft, designed to apportion the costs of meeting the requirements of the DEA.

Under the law, service providers are required to take action against subscribers flagged as illicit file-sharers and could be required to block domains associated with infringement.

Just under an hour ago, that decision arrived.

“The High Court today ruled in favour of the Government in a judicial review of measures to tackle online copyright infringement in the Digital Economy Act,” said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in an announcement.

“Mr Justice Kenneth Parker upheld the principle of taking measures to tackle the unlawful downloading of music, films, books and other copyright material. BT and TalkTalk had brought the judicial review, claiming that the measures in the Act were not compliant with EU law and were not proportionate. The judge rejected the challenge.”

On the statutory order dealing with the costs of implementing the DEA, the government indicated that the ISPs could avoid some, but not all costs.

“The judicial review also considered the statutory instrument that splits the cost of the Act’s mass notification system between rights holders and internet service providers.

“The judge ruled ISPs could be made to pay a share of the cost of operating the system and the appeals process but not Ofcom’s costs from setting up, monitoring and enforcing it. The Government will now consider changes to the statutory instrument.”

In a statement responding to the judgement, a DCMS spokesperson said the government is pleased that the court has decided in favor of the DEA.

“We are pleased that the Court has recognised these measures as both lawful and proportionate. The Government remains committed to tackling online piracy and so will set out the next steps for implementation of the Digital Economy Act shortly.”

Both BT and TalkTalk say they are “disappointed” with the outcome and are considering their options. They could include going to the Court of Appeal and the European Court of Justice.

Regulatory body OFCOM is currently considering if site blocking under the DEA is a workable practice. They will report to government shortly.

Source: ISPs Challenge to Digital Economy Act Rejected

TorrentFreak: Proposal Suggests Browsers Should Block Users From BitTorrent Sites

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

For years the entertainment industries’ have been attacking services that provide access to illicit content, such as Napster, Kazaa, LimeWire or any one of the now-defunct BitTorrent trackers. These efforts have run in parallel with trying to scare users away from such sites.

In recent times, however, it has become increasingly clear that these strategies aren’t working. Suing Internet users proved both ineffective and counter-productive and sites like The Pirate Bay, isoHunt and Newzbin simply refuse to give in, despite the studios throwing millions of dollars away trying to destroy them.

So, if sites are to remain online and users refuse to stop accessing them, it’s time for a new plan – get in the middle of sites and their users and physically stop them from communicating with each other.

In the UK, while the faltering Digital Economy Act stumbles around in its own mess, discussions behind the scenes are focused on the entertainment companies and ISPs formulating a voluntary code to have domain names conveniently blocked.

UK communications watchdog Ofcom is currently considering whether or not website blocking is actually feasible, but other countries who already have experience of such measures have decided that it probably isn’t. One of those is Denmark, a country already subjected to court-ordered ISP DNS blocks of both The Pirate Bay and Russian MP3 vendor, AllofMP3.com, various foreign gambling sites and illicit pharmaceutical vendors.

This week, an MPs consultation on blocking sites has been underway in Denmark. There was a broad consensus that DNS blocking is easily circumvented and is therefore not a viable solution to the problem. So where is there left to go?

During the consultation, Niels Elgaard Larsen, Chairman of the IT-Political Association, suggested an alternative – enhanced browser malware filtering.

“We know of course that when Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome visits a page with a virus, we get a warning that there is virus on the site. This is not filtered by the network, but by browser vendors who maintain lists of viral sites, which then sit in the browser,” Larsen subsequently told Computerworld.

“One must of course be critical of suppliers’ blacklists, but it is much smarter that users have a list of banned sites in their browsers because the approach both warns users and respects their privacy,” he added.

Who has the authority to place domains on such a list is a whole new can of problematic worms, but the idea has received cross-party support with Liberal IT spokesman Michael Aastrup-Jensen suggesting that the issue should be raised at the EU level. To have the required effect, he added, agreement and support must be sought from, among others, the United States.

Of course, the United States has its own take on the issue. Rather than blocking domain names it has simply been seizing them, but even that hasn’t had the required effect.

It’s not inconceivable, however, if one looks far enough down the road and amalgamates the UK, Danish and US approaches (voluntary blocking, court-ordered DNS blocks, enhanced ‘malware’ type web browser blocks and domain seizures) it could become quite difficult to access many piracy-related domains.

But this statement is only true for the layman and no matter what route is taken, ways around these blocks will be found by the tech-savvy. Indeed, it’s an absolute certainty that new products and services will appear immediately to circumvent all of these measures.

So as they look to their ideal future of an Internet filtered in their favor, the entertainment industries will find their magic numbers when taking the numbers of subscribers who can’t understand or be bothered learning how to get around blocks, and adding up how many of those will head off to authorized media sources instead. Will it be worth all the effort?

TorrentFreak

TorrentFreak: ACS:Law Judgment Has Serious Implications for Digital Economy Act

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

The battle against ACS:Law, MediaCAT and other companies previously involved in developing the so-called Speculative Invoicing model in the UK, has been fought on many fronts. A key group that has championed the rights of the innocent caught in the dragnet, and indeed introduced the term ‘Speculative Invoicing’ to the legal landscape, is BeingThreatened.com. This compact and highly resourceful team have worked tirelessly to protect innocent members of the public from the predatory tactics we have read so much about lately.

Following yesterday’s judgment in the Patents County Court, today TorrentFreak is pleased to welcome BeingThreatened.com spokesman James Bench, who will give us more detail about this legal debacle and explain how the judgment has implications for the UK’s Digital Economy Act.

BeingThreatened ON BIRSS’ JUDGEMENT IN Media CAT Ltd v Adams & Ors [2011]

On Tuesday HHJ Colin Birss QC handed down judgement in the hearing for Media CAT Ltd v Adams & Ors a.k.a. the Media CAT 27. The full judgement is well over seventeen thousand words and is a near-encyclopaedic catalogue of the errors, omissions, misrepresentations, factual flaws, and thoroughly insufficiently considered and ill-conceived (supposed) legal stance of Andrew Crossley’s ACS:Law and his associate, pornography licensee Lee Bowden, trading as Media CAT Ltd.

The 117-section judgement thoroughly discusses the events of the hearings that took place at the Patents County Court on the 17th and 24th of January and the extraordinary business model that brought the cases to his courtroom. The judgement dissects, with terminal accuracy, the operational practices that have been employed by ACS:Law (and indeed by the other law firms that have adopted the same model – Davenport Lyons, Tilly Bailey Irvine and Gallant Macmillan).

Despite a thorough search, readers will struggle to find a good word said about the work of the ‘anti-piracy’ lawyers. The judgement, though, is damning with good reason. It is made abundantly clear that HHJ Birss is wise to the genuine motivation behind the actions of these individuals.

He wrote, “Simple arithmetic shows that the sums involved in the Media CAT exercise must be considerable. 10,000 letters for Media CAT claiming £495 each would still generate about £1 Million if 80% of the recipients refused to pay and only the 20% remainder did so.”

It has always been clear to unbiased observers that the principal incentive behind speculative invoicing was revenue generation for the lawyers involved. Birss was under no illusions about Media CAT’s claims to be a ‘copyright protection society’. “No copyright lawyer would use that term to describe Media CAT,” he stated. A ‘copyright exploitation company’ would perhaps be a marginally more accurate term but Crossley and Bowden’s single-minded misapplication of copyright law with the intention of extracting cash settlements from threatened broadband subscribers means that a number of the other labels that may also have been applied to them could also be seen as accurate.

While keen observers, amateur adversaries and the personally aggrieved will doubtless be pleased by the terminal judgement on Media CAT and the fate of symbiotic law firm ACS:Law (and inevitably, in the longer term, Andrew Crossley personally) there are bigger issues that arise from Birss’ deliberations and decisions.

The Digital Economy Act (DEA) was pushed through Parliament during the ‘wash up’ in spring 2010 with numerous elemental flaws. This was despite a massive majority of the public responses to the Government’s consultation opposing its underdeveloped ‘anti-piracy’ measures. Now, unsurprisingly, the Act, which was already due to be subject to a Select Committee review, will also be reconsidered in a judicial review next month upon the application of ISPs BT and TalkTalk.

Birss, in his judgement has now judicially questioned the key concept behind the ‘three strikes’ provision of the DEA – casting doubt on theories and assumptions upon which the DEA was unwisely founded and which had not previously seen the light of a courtroom.

In his judgement Birss referred to technical issues raised by barrister Francis Davey for the defence and cast doubt himself as to whether the “process of identifying an IP address [from a tracker system] establish[ed] that any infringement of copyright has taken place by anyone related to that IP address at all”.

Birss also enters into discussion regarding the use of internet routers and difficulties in determining who may, or may not, have carried out (or authorised) an alleged infringement. “… I am aware of no published decision in this country which deals with the issue of unsecured internet connections in the context of copyright infringement…. The point about “allowing” is that the word used in s16(2) of the 1988 Act is “authorising” not “allowing”. They are by no means the same and the difference may be very important if the allegation is about unauthorised use of an internet router by third parties.

“[The claimant’s] monitoring exercise cannot and does not purport to identify the individual who actually did anything. All the IP address identifies is an internet connection, which is likely today to be a wireless home broadband router. All [this] monitoring can identify is the person who has the contract with their ISP to have internet access. …[the claimant does] not know who did it and know that they do not know who did it.”

In fact, there are serious doubts as to whether the monitoring has accurately determined ‘if it was done’ at all – and certainly similar doubts may well arise with monitoring that may be commissioned as a result of the DEA, should those provisions ever be realised.

HHJ Colin Birss QC, in these thorough hearings and incisive judgement, has demonstrated that we do have reason to hope that justice may yet prevail. In the event that justice suffers any hiccups, or is delayed, all would do well to remember – public and ‘copyright protection societies’ alike – that the demise of this scheme, and the likely potential fate of future similarly-founded strategies was first and foremost brought about by the people. To everyone that played a part: never forget that you did this, and you can do it again.

TorrentFreak

TorrentFreak: Irish Government Wants File-Sharing Compromise, or Legislation Will Follow

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

Conor Lenihan, Minister of State with responsibility for Science, Technology and Innovation, has indicated he hasn’t given up on the chance of a negotiated settlement of the illicit file-sharing issue in Ireland. In an Intellectual Property debate, Lenihan praised the IRMA/Eircom agreement and said that while he hopes there can be more arrangements of this type, if they do not arrive, legislation will be the outcome.

After reaching a negotiated settlement with ISP Eircom to deal with file-sharing, the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) took ISP UPC to court after it refused to implement a similar scheme.

In a hearing last month at Ireland’s High Court, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said that recording companies were being harmed by Internet piracy but noted that laws to cut off file-sharers were not enforceable in Ireland. This meant that UPC won their case against IRMA.

In a government debate last week titled Protection of Intellectual Property Rights, one of the topics of discussion centered around illicit file-sharing, the October ruling, and where Ireland goes from here.

“The area in question is complex and encompasses issues such as the illegal downloading of copyrighted material, the treatment of ISPs in such circumstances, the obligations imposed on member states by EU law and the upcoming requirement for Ireland to transpose the 2009 framework directive on a common regulatory framework for electronic communication networks and services,” began Conor Lenihan, Minister of State with responsibility for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Noting that a copy of the judgment had been sent to the Attorney General’s office for advice, Lenihan went on to explain in length his opinions on the importance of solid trademark, patent and copyright protection mechanisms.

“A rigorous and effective system for the protection of copyright, and what are deemed to be related rights, is necessary to provide authors and producers with a just reward for their creative efforts and also to encourage producers and publishers to continue to invest in creative works,” said Lenihan. “In the modern world of business, the intangible assets of a company are often more valuable than the company’s physical assets.”

While all present made a worthwhile contribution to the debate, Independent Senator David Norris had some interesting comments to consider when trying to find a solution to the file-sharing issue.

“I have been approached by various interests in this area and I believe there is a balance of rights to be achieved because there is an entire generation of young people who believe, rightly or wrongly, with or without legal support, they have developed an entitlement to free downloading. That is embedded in our culture,” he explained.

“There will be a public relations difficulty in selling whatever agreement is reached and one must be aware of the interests of young people. That is what I would say is the establishment of apparent rights on the ground. The facts are stark. The majority of young people – 675,000 in the space of a year – are engaged in this practice. That is an enormous number of people and therefore this matter must be addressed without alienating an entire section of our community,” added Norris.

Although he didn’t quote his source, Norris went on to indicate that the High Court ruling had the effect of increasing file-sharing in Ireland.

“There has been an increase of more than 30% in such downloads because the public were given the impression that it was perfectly legal,” he told the debate. This statement was supported by Mark Deary of the Green Party who said that music industry figures indicated that the weekend following the ruling there was “a significant spike in download traffic.”

Norris added that 60% of Irish ISPs are either supporting the music industry or are prepared to do so, presumably with an Eircom-style arrangement. Some 40% are apparently holding back.

“Within weeks of being in my current job, and before this High Court ruling by Mr. Justice Charleton, I invited the Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to my office. We had a long discussion, although it was not very profitable,” said Minister of State Conor Lenihan. He said the meeting proved frustrating, with ISPs resisting the notion of a graduated response to file-sharing.

Lenihan went on to say that the French model was not one that Ireland should examine, and that the UK’s Digital Economy Act now faces legal challenges. With that, he gave ISPs and the music industry an ultimatum.

“I am putting down a challenge again today to all those involved in this business,” he told the debate.

“The last thing I want to do is provide further legislation and regulation. If they [ISPs / industry] cannot come to a sensible arrangement however, I will have to legislate and examine the matter in a deeper, more far-seeing way. I have tried my best to bring people together. They should get together.”

Article from: TorrentFreak.