Posts tagged ‘mpaa’

TorrentFreak: Google Will Punish “Pirate” Sites Harder in Search Results

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

google-bayOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has slowly implemented various new anti-piracy measures in response.

Today Google released an updated version of its “How Google Fights Piracyreport. The company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy, but also stresses that copyright holders themselves have a responsibility to make content available.

One of the most prominent changes is a renewed effort to make “pirate” sites less visible in search results. Google has had a downranking system in place since 2012, but this lacked effectiveness according to the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright industry groups.

The improved version, which will roll out next week, aims to address this critique.

“We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,” says Katherine Oyama, Google’s Copyright Policy Counsel.

The report notes that the new downranking system will still be based on the number of valid DMCA requests a site receives, among other factors. The pages of flagged sites remain indexed, but are less likely to be the top results.

“Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,” the report reads.

Looking at the list of sites for which Google received the most DMCA takedown request, we see that 4shared, Filestube and Dilandau can expect to lose some search engine traffic.

The report further highlights several other tweaks and improvements to Google’s anti-piracy efforts. For example, in addition to banning piracy related AutoComplete words, Google now also downranks suggestions that return results with many “pirate” sites.

Finally, the report also confirms our previous reporting which showed that Google uses ads to promote legal movie services when people search for piracy related keywords such as torrent, DVDrip and Putlocker. This initiative aims to increase the visibility of legitimate sites.

A full overview of Google’s anti-piracy efforts is available here.

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

TorrentFreak: United States Hosts Most Pirate Sites, UK Crime Report Finds

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

sam-pirateThe UK IP Crime Group, a coalition of law enforcement agencies, government departments and industry representatives, has released its latest IP Crime Report.

The report is produced by the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office and provides an overview of recent achievements and current challenges in the fight against piracy and counterfeiting. Increasingly, these threats are coming from the Internet.

“One of the key features in this year’s report is the continuing trend that the Internet is a major facilitator of IP crime,” the Crime Group writes.

The report notes that as in previous years, Hollywood-funded industry group FACT remains one of the key drivers of anti-piracy efforts in the UK. Over the past year they’ve targeted alleged pirate sites though various channels, including their hosting providers.

Not all hosts are receptive to FACT’s complaints though, and convincing companies that operate abroad is often a challenge. This includes the United States where the majority of the investigated sites are hosted.

“Only 14% of websites investigated by FACT are hosted in the UK. While it is possible to contact the hosts of these websites, there still remains a considerable number of copyright infringing websites that are hosted offshore and not within the jurisdiction of the UK.”

“Analysis has shown that the three key countries in which content is hosted are the UK, the USA and Canada. However, Investigating servers located offshore can cause specific problems for FACT’s law enforcement partners,” the report notes.

ushostpirate

The figure above comes as a bit of a surprise, as one would expect that United States authorities and industry groups would have been keeping their own houses in order.

Just a few months ago the US-based IIPA, which includes MPAA and RIAA as members, called out Canada because local hosting providers are “a magnet” for pirate sites. However, it now appears they have still plenty of work to do inside U.S. borders.

But even when hosting companies are responsive to complaints from rightsholders the problem doesn’t always go away. The report mentions that most sites simply move on to another host, and continue business as usual there.

“In 2013, FACT closed a website after approaching the hosting provider on 63 occasions. Although this can be a very effective strategy, in most instances the website is swiftly transferred onto servers owned by another ISP, often located outside the UK.”

While downtime may indeed be relatively brief the report claims that it may still hurt the site, as visitors may move on to other legitimate or illegitimate sources.

“The [moving] process usually involves a disruptive period of time whereby the website is offline, during which users will often find an alternative service, thus negatively affecting the website’s popularity.”

While hosting companies remain a main target, tackling the online piracy problem requires a multi-layered approach according to the UK Crime Group.

With the help of local law enforcement groups such as City of London’s PIPCU, copyright holders have rolled out a variety of anti-piracy measures in recent months. This includes domain name suspensions, cutting off payment processors and ad revenue, website blocking by ISPs and criminal prosecutions.

These and other efforts are expected to continue during the years to come. Whether that will be enough to put a real dent in piracy rates has yet to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: New Github DMCA Policy Gives Alleged Infringers a Second Chance

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

githubLike other highly-trafficked domains relying heavily on user contributed content, coding and collaboration platform Github now publishes its own transparency report detailing copyright-related complaints received by the company.

Some of these DMCA notices have been reported here on TF in recent months, including one sent by the MPAA which effectively ended Popcorn Time’s presence on the site and another sent by Microsoft targeting an Xbox music app.

Now, in a move to bring more transparency and clarity to its copyright processes, Github has announced significant changes to the way it handles DMCA complaints. The company says that three major changes have been implemented in order to improve on-site experience and better serve users.

In the first instance, copyright owners will need to conduct their investigations as usual and send a properly formatted takedown notice to Github. Presuming it meets statutory requirements, Github will publish it in their transparency report and pass a link to the user in question.

At this point Github’s new policy begins to take effect. Previously the company would’ve immediately taken down the complained-about content but Github now says it wants to provide alleged infringers with a chance to put things right “whenever possible.”

24 hours to take action

To this end, Github says users will have the opportunity to modify or remove content within 24 hours of a complaint. Copyright holders will be notified that Github has given the affected user this leeway and it will be down to the user to inform Github within the allotted period that the appropriate changes have been made. Failure to do so will see the repository removed.

Despite this wiggle room, not all complaints will result in the luxury of a 24 hour ‘action’ period. Should a DMCA notice claim that the entire contents of a repository infringe, the repository in question will be removed “expeditiously.”

Forks will not be automatically disabled

The second significant change is that when Github receives a copyright complaint against a parent repository, it will not automatically disable project forks. For that to happen any complaint will have to specifically include not only the parent’s URL, but also the locations of all related forks.

“GitHub will not automatically disable forks when disabling a parent repository. This is because forks belong to different users, may have been altered in significant ways, and may be licensed or used in a different way that is protected by the fair-use doctrine,” Github explains.

Fighting back: Counter-notices

As required by law, users affected by takedown notices have a right of reply if they believe they’ve been wrongly targeted. Sufficiently detailed counter notices can be submitted to Github for forwarding to complaining rightsholders. They will also be published in the site’s transparency report.

This right of reply is very important and one that appears to be under utilized. Earlier this month Github published a complaint which targeted and took down a wide range of addons for the popular media player XBMC.

Apparently sent by ‘DMCA Secure’, a company that has no immediately visible web presence, the notice claimed to represent a wide range of copyright holders including Sony, Fox, Dreamworks, NFL and WWE, to name just a few.

The notice is unusual. While it’s common for the first three companies to team up, we’d never seen a notice featuring such a wide range of diverse rightsholders before. Also, while the functionality of the code could give rise to copyright issues, none of those companies own the copyrights to the code in question.

TF put it to Github that the complaint looked unusual and might even be bogus, but the company declined to comment on specific cases. Like many companies in similar positions, it appears Github has to take notices on face value and relies on users to submit counter-notices to air their complaints. None of the repositories in question have done so.

Github’s revamped DMCA policy can be found here, along with how-to guides on submitting takedown and counter notices.

While Github is well-known in the technology sector, it may come as a surprise just how popular the service is. Around seven million people use the site and according to Alexa, Github.com is the 127th most-visited domain in the world.

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

TorrentFreak: Freedom-Friendly Iceland Blocks The Pirate Bay

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

In 2013, copyright groups including the local equivalents of the RIAA (STEF) and MPAA (SMAIS) reported the operators of The Pirate Bay to Icelandic police. It had zero negative effect on the site.

So, with a public anti-piracy awareness campaign under their belts, STEF and SMAIS embarked on a strategy successfully employed by copyright holders in the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and other European countries. The groups issued demands for local ISPs to block not only The Pirate Bay, but also Deildu.net, Iceland’s most popular private torrent tracker.

Modifications to the country’s Copyright Act in 2010 authorized injunctions against intermediaries, so the chances of success seemed good. However, this was Iceland, a country strongly associated with freedom of speech. Could protection of copyrights trump that?

“This action doesn’t go against freedom of expression as it aims to prevent copyright infringement and protect the rights and income of authors, artists and producers,” the rightsholders insisted.

Initial legal action against ISPs faced issues, with one blocking request rejected on a procedural matter. Another featuring four plaintiffs was reduced to three when in May this year the Supreme Court decided that only music group STEF had the rights to claim injunctive relief.

But despite the setbacks, this week the rightsholders achieved the ruling they had been hoping for. The Reykjavík District Court handed down an injunction to ISPs Vodafone and Hringdu forcing them to block several domains belonging to The Pirate Bay and Deildu.

STEF Director of Policy Gudrun Bjork Bjarnadóttir told local media that the decision of the Court is an important event that will smooth the way for much-needed additional blockades.

“We will never reach a final victory in the battle so it makes sense for people to realize that it’s likely that new sites will spring up. However, following similar actions abroad visitor numbers to such sites have declined significantly,” Bjarnadóttir said.

The domains to be blocked include thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.sx and thepiratebay.org, plus deildu.net and deildu.com. Currently the injunction applies to just two ISPs and it’s unclear whether there will be an attempt at expansion, but in the meantime the effort is likely to be a symbolic one.

The block against The Pirate Bay will be circumvented almost immediately due to the wide range of reverse proxy sites available and Deildu has already taken evasive action of its own. Within hours the private tracker announced a brand new domain – Iceland.pm – one that isn’t listed in the court order.

ISP Hringdu says that the Court ruling runs counter to company policies.

“It is clear that [the ruling] is not in harmony with Hringdu’s policy regarding net freedom,” director Kristinn Pétursson told Vísir. “The company has placed great emphasis on the idea that our customers should have unrestricted access to the internet.”

Neither of the ISPs has yet indicated an appeal to the Supreme Court.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Studios Willingly Advertise on Notorious ‘Pirate’ Site

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

vkThe Russian social network VKontakte (VK) has long been criticized for its passive approach to piracy. The site is flooded with unauthorized content including movies and music, all uploaded by its millions of users.

As a result the United States Trade Representative has labeled the site a “notorious market” on several occasions. While VK has taken some steps to address the issues this year, copyright holders are far from satisfied.

This week the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents MPAA, RIAA and other entertainment industry groups, called out VK as one of the worst piracy havens around. The U.S. Government is organizing a hearing on Russia’s WTO implementation and in a request to testify the IIPA points out that piracy is rampant in the country.

“Russia is home to several of the U.S. Government’s ‘Notorious Markets’ for copyright piracy, especially digital piracy,” IIPA’s Eric Schwartz writes (pdf).

“One such Notorious Market is vKontakte, the most popular online social network in Russia, and the largest single distributor of infringing music in Russia; it is also a hotbed for online piracy of movies and television programming.”

Despite the numerous complaints that have been submitted to the Russian authorities, widespread piracy remains a problem on the social network. Last year Russia implemented a new law that would allow copyright holders to have structurally infringing websites blocked, but attempts to target VK have failed thus far.

“To date, the Government of Russia has taken little or no action against this site, or the other sites or services identified by the U.S. and other foreign governments and copyright rightsholders. This is symptomatic of the problems of ineffective enforcement in Russia,” Schwartz adds.

The critique of VK is not new. The MPAA and other copyright holders have complained about it for years. Having this in mind, we were surprised to find that several Hollywood studios still advertise their content on VK.

In recent months copyright holders have been lobbying advertising networks to stop doing business with so-called pirate sites. However, major movie studios including Warner Bros see no problem with having a presence on VK.

Below is a screenshot of the VK profile of Warner Bros. Russian branch, which currently has 146,780 members. Aside from promoting new movies, they also list several music tracks they don’t appear to hold the copyrights to.

Warner Bros. on VK
warnervk

Warner Bros. is of course not the only studio with an official VK account. Universal Pictures has a dedicated page for Russian fans too, and so do Disney, Marvel and 20th Century Fox.

The above are just a few examples. There are many other companies represented by the IIPA who have a profile on the “notorious pirate site”, Microsoft included.

So instead of asking Russia to take action against the site, shouldn’t these companies stop advertising on it first? Considering the fact that they place VK in the same category as The Pirate Bay, that would make sense.

Or perhaps the Hollywood studios will create an official Pirate Bay profile, to start uploading trailers of their latest movies there as well…?

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

TorrentFreak: Google Adds Custom Pirate Bay Search With Autocomplete

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

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

According to the RIAA, MPAA and others, Google is making it too easy for its users to find pirated content. Instead, they would prefer Google to remove sites such as the Pirate Bay from its search results.

Thus far this hasn’t happened and it’s unlikely that the position will change in the near future. The search engine has changed Pirate Bay’s appearance in the search results, however, but not in the direction the copyright holders had hoped for.

A few weeks ago Google announced its new and improved “sitelinks” section. This section also appears when searching for Pirate Bay related keywords and lists links to popular sections of the site.

In an additional new move, it now shows a prominent search box that people can use to search for content on The Pirate Bay directly from Google.

Google’s Pirate Bay search box
tpbsitelinks

The feature also works with other large search related sites and wasn’t intended for The Pirate Bay specifically. However, considering the entertainment industries’ previous critique this will soon be added to their long list of complaints.

Perhaps even more painful than the search box itself is the fact that the new sitelinks also support AutoComplete. This means that people get pirate-themed search suggestions if they use the box in question.

Simply typing in the letter G shows the following search suggestions, for example.

Pirate autocomplete
tpbsuggest

It’s unclear where these suggested terms are sourced from. They could come from popular searches on Google that relate to The Pirate Bay, or perhaps they are based on Pirate Bay pages that are indexed by the search engine.

It’s worth noting that the “pirate” AutoComplete appears to go against Google’s policy of not showing copyright-infringing suggestions. Regular Google searches don’t suggest “Pirate Bay” when entering “Pirate B” for example.

And things could get even worse in the future.

For now, the custom Pirate Bay search box returns its results within Google. However, if The Pirate Bay decides to implement the right markup it will take users directly to The Pirate Bay, which is likely to escalate the situation further.

The Pirate Bay team is aware of Google’s new feature and is considering adding support for these direct searches. Whether Google will allow that to happen remains to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: IMAGiNE BitTorrent Group Sysop Speaks Out From Prison

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

In 2011 the notorious IMAGiNE movie piracy group was dismantled by the feds. The group was known for releasing large numbers of movies onto the Internet, many of which were still playing in theaters.

This attracted the attention of the MPAA who launched an investigation which eventually led to the arrests of four U.S. residents.

These IMAGiNE members were charged with several counts of criminal copyright infringement and they eventually received prison sentences ranging from 23 months up to five years in prison.

imagine

Among the sentenced was the then 53-year-old IMAGiNE sysop Gregory Cherwonik, mentor of a robotics team from Canandaigua. Cherwonik was sent to prison January last year and has now served half of his sentence.

Through one of his family members, TorrentFreak recently received an open letter from Cherwonik, where he shares his thoughts on his prosecution, the life he’s living now, and what awaits after his release.

The letter doesn’t lend itself to be excerpted or evaluated in detail, so with permission from Gregory and a close family member we have decided to post it pretty much as it arrived. It’s definitely controversial, but written from the heart.

—-

A Letter From Prison – by Gregory Cherwonik

This is the fourth time writing this, trying to get it to sound good to me. It’s hard to complain without sounding whiny.

Anyways. I’m past the halfway point of my sentence. 21 of 34 months paid in my debt to the MPAA. Usually when you’re sentenced to prison you’re sent for crimes against society or the government. Unfortunately it no longer works that way in the United States of America.

The IMAGiNE group provided society a service, so I owe it no debt. We gave those that couldn’t afford or have access to first run movies access to them. The poor, the service men and women, those that didn’t want to get their wallets raped to see for the most part poor quality movies. Seems only half (if even) of the movies produced these days are worth seeing.

We didn’t do it for money or fame, we did it because the government and the corporations gave us the tools. The government with the “Disabilities Act” where all theaters had to have a secondary audio signal for those with hearing disabilities. The Corporations by providing higher and higher quality video cameras WITH 24fps speeds. It’s like they wanted us to pirate movies. There was never any expectation of cash for this service. The fact of the matter is we voted on whether we should make money from it… it was voted down.

But what we did get out of this was a government that would lie and cheat to achieve its end result, a government that feels it can do what it wants to whoever it wants, anytime it wants, no matter where in the world they live. A government that no longer takes the people’s interest to mind when it makes laws. Now it’s a matter of who’ll pad their pockets the most. In my opinion we as a country took a nose dive when we started treating corporations as people.

While I was first getting into torrenting long before IMAGiNE was even thought of, I read the law. As I understood it, as long as there was no “Financial Gain” it was a misdemeanor. I see the newer DVDs new state that whether there’s Monetary Gain or not. Did they amend the law, or is it that the MPAA feels it can also do as it pleases?

Did the lMAGiNE case have something to do with this? I’m sure the prosecutors were fit to be tied when we stated we never received or expect any monetary gain from our endeavors. In fact it problem screwed them when they found out we actually paid money to do what we did. I guess not many people do things for a simple “Thank You” any more.

But the reason I myself am in prison is because my “Financial Gain” was invented. When the US attornies couldn’t prove any monetary gain they decided to lie. They said my gain was the “THOUSANDS” of DVDs I downloaded. If you added up all the VCDs, SVCDs, Xvid, and DVDs I’ve download over the 10 years I’m sure you’d struggle to make 1,500 titles. If in fact I downloaded “THOUSANDS” over the last three years I’m sure my ISP would have shutoff my service.

I currently have a library of over 400 bought and paid for titles; if the movie is good I buy it. You still can’t replicate the DTS sound, besides I am aware that if you don’t support those that make good, quality movies the industry will die. Many of the confiscated DVDs they took from me were nothing more than copies of my library.

If it wasn’t for this made up “Financial Gain”, [co-defendants] Willie, Sean and myself would have only been charged with misdemeanors. Of course that wouldn’t look good in the press or on resumes. It wouldn’t send the right message. So let’s lie and make things look a lot worse, show everyone how terrible those “PIRATES” are.

Please, do they really think the public bought that crap? 1 in 3 people aged 13 – 50 have downloaded or purchased bootleg or counterfeit goods. Yes we broke the law, I never said we didn’t. But we didn’t break the law we were charged with, and we sure as hell didn’t deserve the stiff sentences handed down.

So here I sit waiting for my release date. Then I can get back to doing what I do best… care for my family. Providing for them, working, paying taxes, volunteering my time and money for and in the community. Just as I was doing before I was sent away to waste my time and the government’s money. Let me tell you, from what I’ve seen the government is great at wasting money. It’s no wonder the MPAA has to “CONTRIBUTE” millions to the Dept of Justice, to Homeland Security, to the people who are supposed to be representing us, the citizens of this land.

Do you see the pattern here? Let me show you how I see it. The MPAA pays the Senators and Representatives to pass its laws via campaign “Contributions”(aka bribes, just about confirmed from Chris Dodd’s own mouth). They then contribute to Homeland Security to police these bought and paid for laws. Then to top it all off they contribute to the Justice Dept to enforce them. You would think there would be a conflict of interest there somewhere. Oh I forgot, we’re talking about people who the law doesn’t apply to.

But as we say here, it is what it is. So I’ll finish my time out, go back to my family, my job, my life with a felony conviction hanging over me. At least I’m old and only have to carry it a short time. The three years the MPAA took from me is actually a very high percentage of the time I had remaining in my life.

It would have been, except I did get some positive things out of this whole debacle. I came in weighing 300lbs, 20 months later from the lack of any stress, crappy meals and being so bored, all I do is walk and run, and I’ve managed to get my weight down to 180lbs. My blood pressure is good, as is my sugar. You might say I’ve lost three years but gained 10 back.

I’ve found out my wife of 26 years is my one, my only. My soul mate. That’s a wonderful feeling to have, to know you are loved as much as you love. I’ve found out that blood is definitely thicker, family is there for you always, but then I’ve also found out that friendship isn’t.

I’ve often wondered if piracy actually hurt or helped the industry. I really wish an independent source would release a study on it. On one hand it might take away from the ticket and DVD sales. But on the other hand would these people actually have gone to the theaters or bought the DVD? What l do know is that if l watched a pirated movie and it happened to be good, I would tell people just that. The movie was good. I’m sure others do the same.

Does this increase sales? Lets take the movie “The Hurt Locker“, it had a dismal showing at the theaters. It won an Oscar if I’m not mistaken, which doesn’t make it a good movie. But it also topped the lists for downloads at the time, and I’m sure the DVD sales went very well. Were those DVD sales because of the awards? Or were they because of word of mouth? I think it would be interesting to see the results of a good study. Then and only then can we know if we are criminals or not.

Oh BTW would I do it again if I had to do over????? You bet your ass, but I would do it differently. I told the group from the very start that a website [Unleashthe.net] would be the biggest security threat to the group. Obviously I was right.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Now Available as iOS App

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

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

The software amassed millions of users by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.

When the original version shut down various forks continued the project, each releasing their own features. One of the most-used Popcorn Time versions comes from time4popcorn.eu, who remain very active on the development side.

After previously rolling out an Android version and Chromecast and Apple TV support, today the fork released the first Popcorn Time app for iOS. The first release requires a jailbreak and can be accessed through the Cydia platform.

TorrentFreak spoke with the developers who say they are working on a solution for non-jailbroken devices as well, but that will take some more time to complete. Nonetheless, they are happy with the progress they’ve made thus far.

“After only 5.5 months, Popcorn Time is available on all major platforms! And this is only the beginning. Our future plans are huge,” the time4popcorn.eu team notes.

The iOS app is currently missing some features that are available in the desktop version. Chromecast and Apple TV support are still works in progress, likewise the built-in VPN.

The standard functionality appears to work just fine, provided that there’s enough bandwidth available to stream the video files via BitTorrent.

The developers have released the iOS source code under a GPL V3 license, which allows others to extend and improve it. The team itself will also continue to work on improving the code, and they promise to release more “exiting details” on the application’s future in a week or two.

Popcorn Time’s appeal to pirates hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. Two months ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Github claiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios.

While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and show no sign of throwing the towel voluntarily anytime soon.

Popcorn Time fork on iOS
captiospopcorn

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

TorrentFreak: Most Top Films Are Not Available on Netflix, Research Finds

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

netflix-logoThere is little doubt that, in the United States, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.

The subscription service is responsible for a third of all Internet traffic during peak hours, dwarfing that of online piracy and other legal video platforms.

It’s safe to assume that Netflix is the best and most convenient alternative to piracy at this point. That is, if the service carries the movies people want to see. This appears to be a problem.

Research firm KPMG has just released a new study that looks at the online availability of the 808 most popular and critically acclaimed films. The study was commissioned by NBC Universal and praised by the MPAA, presumably to dispel the argument that many people pirate because they don’t have the option to watch some films legally.

“This first-of-its-kind report analyzed the availability of 808 different film titles over 34 major online video distribution services and found that 94 percent of the films were available on at least one service,” MPAA’s Chris Dodd commented on the study.

The MPAA is right that most of the movies are available through online stores and rental services. However, the Hollywood group conveniently ignores the lacking availability on popular subscription platforms which services such as Netflix and Hulu use.

This is not a minor oversight as the study finds that availability of top films on Netflix and other subscription services is very low.

Although KPMG decided not to mention it in the executive summary of the report, the findings show that only 16% of the films are available through on-demand subscription services (SOVD).

Availability of the top films
topfilmavail

The above sheds a different light on the availability argument. Because, what good is it if 94 percent of the films are available online, but (at least) 84% are missing from the most-used movie service?

After all, most people prefer to get their movies in one place as it’s not very convenient to use a few dozen services to get your movie fix.

Of course this is not an excuse for people to go out and download films without permission, and we have to admit that a lot of progress has been made on the availability side in recent years. However, Hollywood can definitely learn from the music industry, where most of the popular content is available through subscription services.

From the availability point of view there’s another issue worth pointing out. The most pirated titles are usually recent releases, and these are generally not available, not even through iTunes, Amazon or rental services.

This is also illustrated in the KPMG report which shows that 100% of the top 2012 films are available online, compared to 77% of the 2013 releases. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of all pirated downloads are of films that are not yet legally available.

In other words, there’s still plenty of improvement possible.

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

TorrentFreak: Search Engines Can Diminish Online Piracy, Research Finds

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

google-bayIn recent years Hollywood and the music industry have taken a rather aggressive approach against Google. The entertainment industry companies believe that the search engine isn’t doing enough to limit piracy, and have demanded more stringent measures.

One of the suggestions often made is to remove or demote pirate sites in search results. A lower ranking would lead fewer people to pirate sources and promoting legal sources will have a similar effect.

Google previously said it would lower the ranking of sites based on DMCA complaints, but thus far these changes have had a limited effect. A few weeks ago the company also began promoting legal options but this effort is in the testing phase for now.

The question that remains is whether these changes would indeed decrease piracy. According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, they can.

In a paper titled “Do Search Engines Influence Media Piracy?” the researchers ran two experiments where they let participants use a custom search engine to find a movie they wanted to watch. The respondents could pick from a list of 50 titles and received a $20 prepaid virtual Visa card as compensation.

All search results were pulled from a popular search engine. In the control category the results were not manipulated, but in the “legal” and “infringing” conditions the first page only listed “legal” (e.g Amazon) and neutral (e.g IMDb) sites or “infringing” (e.g. Pirate Bay) and neutral sites respectively.

While it’s quite a simple manipulation, and even though users could still find legal and pirated content in all conditions, the results are rather strong.

Of all participants who saw the standard results, 80% chose to buy the movie via a legal option. This went up to 94% if the results were mostly legal, and dropped to 57% for the group who saw mostly infringing results on the first page.

To Pirate or Not to Pirate
resulttable

TorrentFreak contacted Professor Rahul Telang who says that the findings suggest that Google and other search engines have a direct effect on people’s behavior, including the decision to pirate a movie.

“Prominence of legal versus infringing links in the search results seem to play a vital role in users decision to consume legal versus pirated content. In particular, demoting infringing links leads to lower rate of consumption of pirated movie content in our sample,” he notes.

In a second study the researchers carried out a slightly modified version of the experiment with college students, a group that tends to pirate more frequently. The second experiment also added two new conditions where only the first three results were altered, to see if “mild” manipulations would also have an effect.

The findings show that college students indeed pirate more as only 62% went for the legal option in the control condition. This percentage went up gradually to 76% with a “mild legal” manipulation, and to 92% in the legal condition. For the infringing manipulations the percentages dropped to 48% and 39% respectively.

To Pirate or Not to Pirate, take two
table2

According to Professor Telang their findings suggest that even small changes can have a significant impact and that altering search algorithms can be instrumental in the fight against online piracy.

“The results suggest that the search engines may play an important role in fight against intellectual property theft,” Telang says.

It has to be noted that Professor Telang and his colleagues received a generous donation from the MPAA for their research program. However, the researchers suggest that their work is carried out independently.

As a word of caution the researchers point out that meddling with search results in the real world may be much more challenging. False positives could lead to significant social costs and should be avoided, for example.

This and other caveats aside, the MPAA and RIAA will welcome the study as a new piece of research they can wave at Google and lawmakers. Whether that will help them to get what they want has yet to be seen though.

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Movie Group Members Set to Face FACT in Court

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

There’s a good case to argue that the UK’s Federation Against Copyright (FACT) Theft is the most aggressive anti-piracy group operating in the West today.

While the MPAA softens its approach and becomes friendly on its home turf, FACT – a unit funded by Hollywood – is acting as a proxy overseas in the United Kingdom.

Later this year FACT will take another private prosecution to a criminal court in the UK. According to a press release issued yesterday, five men will face charges that they coordinated to action the unauthorized online distribution of recently released films.

Other than noting that the men were arrested in 2013, FACT provided no other details and due to legal reasons declined further comment. However, TorrentFreak has been able to confirm the following.

Following an investigation into the “sourcing and supply” of pirated films on the Internet, February last year FACT and police from the economic crime unit targeted four addresses in the West Midlands.

Image from the raid

Raid

Four men, then aged 20, 22, 23 and 31, were arrested on suspicion of offenses committed under the Copyright Act, but exactly who they were was never made public.

However, TF discovered that the men were members of a pair of P2P movie release groups known as 26K and RemixHD, a former admin of UnleashTheNet (the site run by busted US-based release group IMAGiNE) and an individual from torrent site The Resistance.

The image below shows the final movie releases of RemixHD, the last taking place on January 29, 2013. The raids took place on February 1, 2013.

RemixHD

FACT now report that five men, one more than originally reported, will face charges at Wolverhampton Crown Court later this year. While men from the two release groups are set to appear, it is unclear whether the former torrent site admins are still in the frame, although it is possible that FACT are referring to them collectively as a release group.

Aside from the fact that this will be the first time that a release group case has ever gone to court in the UK, the case is notable in two other respects.

Firstly, FACT – not the police – are prosecuting the case. Second, nowhere does FACT mention that the five will face charges of copyright infringement – it appears that the main charge now is conspiracy to defraud.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA: We’re Not Going to Arrest 14 Year Olds, We Educate Them

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

mpaa-logoThree years ago, Hollywood had a dream. That dream centered around new legislation that would deal a body blow to Internet piracy, one that would starve sites of their revenue and seriously cut visitor numbers.

But in early 2012, following a huge backlash from the public and technology sector, the dream turned into a nightmare. SOPA was not only dead and buried, but Hollywood had made new enemies and re-ignited old rivalries too.

In the period since the studios have been working hard to paint the technology sector not as foes, but as vital partners with shared interests common goals. The aggressive rhetoric employed during the SOPA lobbying effort all but disappeared and a refocused, more gentle MPAA inexplicably took its place.

Yesterday, in ongoing efforts to humanize the behind-the-scenes movie making industry as regular people out to make a living, “Beyond the Red Carpet: TV & Movie Magic Day” landed on Capitol Hill.

Among other things, the event aimed to show lawmakers that those involved in the movie making process are not only vital to the economy, but are the real victims when it comes to piracy. The message is laid out in this infographic from the Creative Rights Caucus.

Behind

As co-chair of the caucus, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif. will be hoping to maintain momentum on issues such as tax incentives to keep film production in California, but yesterday the words of MPAA CEO Chris Dodd provided the most food for thought.

In comments to The Wrap, Dodd said that the MPAA is no longer seeking anti-piracy legislation from Congress.

“The world is changing at warp speed. We are not going to legislate or litigate our way out of it,” Dodd said.

For an organization that has spent more than a decade and a half tightening up ‘Internet’ copyright law in its favor, the admission is certainly a notable one, especially when the favored alternatives now include winning hearts and minds through education.

“We are going to innovate our way out by educating people about the hard work of people,” the MPAA CEO said.

“In this space everyone has to contribute to ensure that peoples’ content can be respected. Instead of finger pointing at everybody and arresting 14-year olds, the answer is making our product accessible in as many formats and distributive services as possible at price points they can afford. We are discovering that works.”

This tacit admission, that the industry itself has contributed to the piracy problems it faces today, is an interesting move. Over in Australia content providers and distributors have also been verbalizing the same shortcomings and they too have offered promises to remedy the situation.

But the development of new services doesn’t exist in a vacuum and time and again, across the United States to Europe and beyond, the insistence by Hollywood is that for legal services to flourish, use of pirate sources must be tackled, if not through legislation, by other means.

And here’s the key. Successfully humanizing the industry with lawmakers will provide Hollywood with much-needed momentum to push along its agenda of cooperation with its technology-focused partners.

ISPs will be encouraged to engage fully with the six-strikes “educational” program currently underway across America and advertising companies and big brands will be reminded to further hone their systems to keep revenue away from pirate sites.

But perhaps the more pressing efforts will entail bringing companies like Google on board. Voluntary agreements with the search sector can certainly be influenced by those on Capitol Hill, but with Google’s insistence that Hollywood moves first, by providing content in a convenient manner at a fair price, the ball is back in the movie industry’s court.

Dodd, however, is now promising just that, so things should start to get interesting. And in the meantime the MPAA can continue to fund groups such as the Copyright Alliance, a non-profit which regularly testifies before Congress on copyright and anti-piracy matters and of which the MPAA is a founding member.

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

TorrentFreak: Oh No! Web Sheriff Targets ‘Pirating’ Reddit Users

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

sheriff1The Web Sheriff, aka John Giacobbi, has been protecting the Internet from pirates for roughly a decade.

In the early days he became somewhat of a cult figure thanks to his polite style and trademarked letterhead. This set him apart from other anti-piracy crusaders who usually sent DMCA takedown requests with a more aggressive lawyer-like style.

The Sheriff once had a lively discussion with The Pirate Bay folks, who then sent him this invoice fax. Not much later relationships deteriorated even further after Giacobbi announced he would sue the site’s operators in the US, France and Sweden, but not much came of that.

In recent years things have quietened down a bit, but The Web Sheriff and his deputies are still active. In recent years they have taken down over half a million URLs from Google alone. Most recently, the Sheriff has been targeting several Reddit.com pages.

In one of the most recent complaints the Sheriff demands the takedown of a submission in the r/megalinks subreddit, linking to two parts of the movie Nymphomaniac hosted on Mega.co.nz.

reddit-websher

The request for removal was sent to Google last week but the search engine decided not to remove the URLs. It’s unclear why, but one reason for the inaction may be that the Mega links are no longer active.

Not all links reported by the Web Sheriff are “infringing” though. Another recent submission shows that he also tried to get this submission take down, which points to a perfectly legitimate news article from Variety.

redd2

This year copyright holders have increasingly targeted allegedly infringing Reddit links, Google’s data shows. The Web Sheriff is currently ranked second in number of URLs sent, placed after LeakID and before Disney.

Even the MPAA went after Reddit a few weeks ago. The Hollywood group tried to take down the subreddit r/fulllengthfilms, but failed and drove hundreds of thousands of eyeballs to the page instead.

Thus far the Web Sheriff hasn’t booked any real successs either, but Reddit users are warned. The Sheriff is watching and will shoot down your submissions whenever he can.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA and RIAA Teach Copyright in Elementary Schools, Now With Fair Use

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

pirateAlmost a year ago we questioned a new initiative from the Center for Copyright Information (CCI).

The group, which has the MPAA and RIAA as key members, had just started piloting a kindergarten through sixth grade curriculum on copyright in California schools.

The curriculum was drafted in collaboration with the California School Libraries Association and iKeepSafe, who aim to teach kids the basics of copyright. The lesson materials were rather one-sided, however, often ignoring fair use and the free-to-share copyright licences Creative Commons provides.

These concerns were later picked up by the mainstream press, creating a massive backlash. Responding to the critique the CCI and other partners were quick to state that it was just a pilot and that the final materials would probably be more balanced.

Glen Warren, vice president of the California School Library Association, acknowledged the problems and suggested that the early drafts were coming straight from the content industry.

“We’re moving along trying to get things a little closer to sanity. That tone and language, that came from that side of the fence, so to speak,” Warren commented.

This week, TorrentFreak spotted the final version of the curriculum and it’s clear that the public outcry for more nuance has paid off.

Instead of focusing on enforcement and the things people can’t do with copyrighted content, it now emphasizes that sharing can be a good thing. Creative Commons licenses are discussed in detail and every lesson plan also informs students about fair use.

For example, in the old second grade lesson plan the teacher was supposed to say the following sentence:

“You’re not old enough yet to be selling your pictures online, but pretty soon you will be. And you’ll appreciate if the rest of us respect your work by not copying it and doing whatever we want with it.”

While the above paragraph ignores the fact that some people are happy to share their photos with flexible Creative Commons licenses, it has been completely removed from the final version.

The sentence “we recognize that it’s hard work to produce something, and we want to get paid for our work” has been completely stripped from the lesson plan too. Instead students are reminded that “the projects they created are fun / informative / respectful, and so they may want to share them online.”

The sixth grade lesson material has also been thoroughly updated, as well as the accompanying video which doubled in length to explain fair use.

The changes become clear by comparing the old “purpose” and “key concepts” with the new one. Below is a copy of the old text, with no reference to fair use and Creative Commons licenses.

Old
grade6old

And here’s the new and improved version, with these two concepts included, and without the strong focus on consequences for “illegal use.”

New
grade6new

Another positive change is that instead of warning students against using copyrighted images and music from the Internet in Powerpoint presentations, they are now told that this is totally fine, as long as the material is only shown in class.

Similar changes have been made throughout the entire curriculum, which is now much more balanced than the rather strict and biased view that was presented before.

There’s still one question that lingers in the back of our mind though. Would the curriculum have been as balanced as it is right now if we hadn’t pointed out the problems in the first place?

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Government Wants Kim Dotcom’s Cash and Cars

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

megauploadActing on a lead from the entertainment industry, the U.S. Government shut down Megaupload early 2012.

Since then the case hasn’t progressed much. Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing has been delayed until 2015 and most of the recent court proceedings dealt with how the seized assets should be handled.

Dotcom tried to regain his possessions but this effort failed last month. Meanwhile, both the MPAA and RIAA have protected their claims on the Megaupload millions, and now the U.S. Government has joined in as well.

In a complaint submitted at a federal court in Virginia the Department of Justice asks for a forfeiture of the bank accounts, cars and other seized possessions, claiming they were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes.

The filing starts with a brief summary of the indictment that was brought against Dotcom and his colleagues. According to the Government, Megaupload was a criminal organization set up to profit from copyright infringement.

“The members of the Mega Conspiracy described themselves as ‘modern day pirates’ and virtually every aspect of the Mega Sites was carefully designed to encourage and facilitate wide-scale copyright infringement,” the U.S. attorney writes.

The Government wants the seized properties to be handed over to the authorities, and claims it’s permitted under U.S. law. This includes the bank account that was used by Megaupload for PayPal payouts.

The account, described as “DSB 0320,” had a balance of roughly $4.7 million (36 million Hong Kong Dollars) at the time of the seizure, but processed more than $160 million over the years.

“Records indicate that from August 2007 through January 2012 there were 1,403 deposits into the DBS 0320 account totaling HKD 1,260,508,432.01 from a PayPal account. These funds represent proceeds of crime and property involved in money laundering as more fully set out herein,” the complaint reads.

One of Megaupload’s bank accounts
bankkd

More than a dozen bank accounts are listed in total including some of the property they were used for to buy.

The list of assets further includes several luxury cars, such as a 2011 Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG with a “Wow” license plate, TVs including a 108″ Sharp LCD TV and artwork in the form of Olaf Mueller photographs.

The Government claims that the possessions can be forfeited since they were obtained through criminal copyright infringement and money laundering, but Megaupload’s lawyer Ira Rothken disagrees.

“Kim Dotcom and Megaupload will vigorously oppose the US Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture action,” Rothken tells TF.

“The DOJ’s efforts to use lopsided procedures over substance to destroy a cloud storage company is both offensive to the rights of Megaupload and to the rights of millions of consumers worldwide who stored personal data with the service,” he adds.

According to Rothken the U.S. ignores several crucial issues, including the Sony Doctrine and the fact that criminal secondary copyright infringement no longer exists.

“The DOJ’s forfeiture complaint ignores the US Supreme Court’s protection called the Sony Doctrine provided to dual use technologies like cloud storage, ignores substantial non infringing uses of such cloud storage including by DOJ users themselves, and ignores the fact that Congress removed criminal secondary copyright infringement from the copyright statute in 1976,” Rothken says.

Which side the District Court judge will agree with has yet to be seen, but with so many parties claiming their cut of the Megaupload assets it’s certainly not getting easier for Dotcom to reclaim his property.

To be continued.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Research: Blocking The Pirate Bay Works, So…..

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

blocktpb1Website blocking has become one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries in recent years.

The UK is a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to dozens of popular file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents.

Not everyone is equally excited about these measures and researchers have called their effectiveness into question. This prompted a Dutch court to lift The Pirate Bay blockade a few months ago. The MPAA, however, hopes to change the tide and prove these researchers wrong.

Earlier today Hollywood’s anti-piracy wish list was revealed through a leaked draft various copyright groups plan to submit to the Australian Government. Buried deep in the report is a rather intriguing statement that refers to internal MPAA research regarding website blockades.

“Recent research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included,” it reads.

MPAA internal research
mpaa-leak

In other words, MPAA’s own data shows that website blockades do help to deter piracy. Without further details on the methodology it’s hard to evaluate the findings, other than to say that they conflict with previous results.

But there is perhaps an even more interesting angle to the passage than the results themselves.

Why would the MPAA take an interest in the UK blockades when Hollywood has its own anti-piracy outfit (FACT) there? Could it be that the MPAA is planning to push for website blockades in the United States?

This is not the first sign to point in that direction. Two months ago MPAA boss Chris Dodd said that ISP blockades are one of the most effective anti-tools available.

Combine the above with the fact that the United States is by far the biggest traffic source for The Pirate Bay, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place.

It seems only a matter of time before the MPAA makes a move towards website blocking in the United States. Whether that’s through a voluntary agreement or via the courts, something is bound to happen.

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

TorrentFreak: LA Police: Online Piracy Funds Drug Dealers and Terrorists

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

lacountyEarlier this month we reported how media conglomerate ABS-CBN is going after several website owners who link to pirated streams of its programming.

The Philippines-based company filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Oregon looking for millions of dollars in damages from two local residents. The court case has barely started but that didn’t prevent ABS-CBN from using its journalistic outlet to taint public opinion.

In a news report released by its American branch, the company slams the defendants who they align with hardcore criminals.

The coverage is presented as news but offers no balance. Instead it frames online piracy as a threat to everyone, with billions of dollars in losses that negatively impact America’s education and health care budgets.

But it gets even worse. It’s not just public services that are threatened by online piracy according to the news outlet, national security is at stake as well.

“Piracy actually aids and abets organized crime. Gangs and even terrorist groups have reportedly entered the piracy market because the penalties are much lighter than traditional crimes such as drug dealing – and the profit could be much higher,” ABS-CBN’s senior reporter Henni Espinosa notes.

It’s not the first time that we have heard these allegations. However, for a news organization to present them without context to further its own cause is a line that not even the MPAA and RIAA would dare to cross today.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, on the other hand, has also noticed the link with organized crime and terrorism.

“[Piracy is] supporting their ability to buy drugs and guns and engage in violence. And then, the support of global terrorism, which is a threat to everybody,” LA County Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers tells the new outlet.

Los Angeles County police say that piracy is one of their top priorities. They hope to make the local neighborhoods a little safer by tracking down these pirates and potential terrorists.

“To identify bad guys that we need to take out of the community so the rest of the folks can enjoy their neighborhood and their families,” Rogers concludes.

Since the above might have to sink in for a moment, we turn to the two Oregon citizens who ABS-CBN based the report on. Are Jeff Ashby and his Filipina wife Lenie Ashby really hardcore criminals?

Based on public statistics the five sites they operated barely had any visitors. According to Jeff he created them for his wife so she could enjoy entertainment from her home country. He actually didn’t make any copies of the media but merely provided links to other websites.

‘I created these websites for my wife who is from the Philippines, so she and others who are far from the Philippines could enjoy materials from their culture that are otherwise unavailable to them, Jeff Ashby wrote to the court.

“Since these materials were already on the web, we did not think there would-be a problem to simply link to them. No content was ever hosted on our server,” he adds.

The websites were all closed as soon as the Oregon couple were informed about the lawsuit. They regret their mistake and say they didn’t know that it could get them into trouble, certainly not $10 million worth of it.

So are these really the evil drug lords or terrorists the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and ABS-CBN are referring to?

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Hits Popcorn Time But Leaves the Mega Rich Alone

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

Popcorn Time was embraced by millions following its debut earlier this year, but what if there was a similar looking service providing additional features but with a small monthly price tag?

Visually, TVShowTime is clean and tidy. It allows the tracking of TV shows and provides associated content on top of community and social networking features. It’s easy to use – click a series from the 40,000 in its databases and one can quickly begin tracking – and watching.

TVShow1

After adding a show – we chose Game of Thrones – TVShow Time gave us a link to buy the first season on DVD from Amazon. Links also appeared to download the subtitles in a convenient zip file.

Simultaneously a big ‘play’ button marked “watch episode” sat invitingly in the middle of the screen. With a click a new page appeared.

TVShowT2

As can be seen from the screenshot, TVShow Time provides two options. The first is a free service offering calender and subtitling downloads, plus links to buy the shows from official online sources including Netflix and iTunes.

The second allows the viewer to sign up to a $7.99 a month subscription with torrent downloading service Put.io (TVShow Time is free). When this external account with Put.io is integrated with TVShow Time, users can access all their TV shows from BitTorrent networks in both 480p and 720p, and collect the resulting episodes from Put.io via HTTP download. Unlike standard Popcorn Time downloads, these are impossible for anti-piracy companies to monitor.

The image below shows the first three already-filled-in torrent sources for Game of Thrones as directed by TVShow Time (Put.io remains a “dumb” service and only takes instruction from users).

tvshow-t3

So, what we have here, at least on the surface, is a Popcorn Time-style interface on steroids with a small price tag attached for downloads. However, while Popcorn Time is being developed pretty much for free and is visible on the radar of the MPAA, TVShow Time sits very much at the opposite end of the financial spectrum.

According to reports 1, 2, TVShow Time, which operates more or less like many other streaming or torrent-like indexes (with social networking features attached), is sitting on a $500,000 investment. (see update below)

The people who put up the money are hardly lightweights either. They include Jean-David Blanc (Allociné), Deezer founder Daniel Marhely, and telecoms giant Xavier Niel, said to be worth in excess of $8 billion.

The situation provides an interesting contrast.

While the hobbyists behind the several Popcorn Time forks find themselves in the crosshairs of the MPAA, and amateur Swedish subtitlers get raided by the police, a company with serious investment can somehow offer similar functionality without incurring the wrath of the studios.

But when potential rivals have this much influence, it’s probably easier to turn the other way – at least for now.

Update: This article has been updated to correct an error – TVShow Time’s Antonio Pinto confirms investment last year amounted to “less than $500,000.”

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Director: Abusing Staff Can Lead to Movie Leaks

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

lexiIt’s pretty obvious that Lexi Alexander isn’t scared of rocking the boat. In an unprecedented move last month, the movie director was pictured holding up a sign calling for the release of Peter Sunde, an individual not exactly the movie industry’s most-loved man.

But Alexander is no ordinary person or director. Instead of towing the usual line by decrying piracy as a scourge, the 39-year-old recently noted that several studies have found that piracy has actually benefited movie profits. For a movie worker this is a controversial stance to take, but rather than back off, Alexander only seems motivated to continue her abrasive approach.

In new comments Alexander takes aim at Hollywood, this time referencing the recent leak of The Expendables 3. She doesn’t condone the leak, but instead looks at possible reasons why it ended up online.

“The piracy issue makes me want to tear my hair out at times. I do not understand how so many of my filmmaker colleagues have bought into this MPAA propaganda. Recently these think tanks and organizations have popped up which are not officially associated with the MPAA, but definitely on their payroll,” Alexander begins.

“But okay, you want to be mad at the kid in Sweden or Australia for uploading your movie? Go for it. Oh wait, in cases like Expendables 3 it’s actually someone here in Hollywood leaking it,” she notes.

The idea that The Expendables 3 leaked directly from Hollywood is not new. Pristine copies like these simply aren’t available on the streets unless an insider has had a hand in it somehow, whether that interaction was intentional or otherwise.

In some instances the motivation to leak, Alexander suggests, could be borne out of a desire to get even. Assistants to the higher-ups are often treated badly, so more consideration should be given to what they might do in return, the director notes.

“It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and thinking twice about insulting the waiter or busboy because you’re afraid of what they’ll put in the food before they bring it back,” Alexander explains.

“Imagine those famously abusive directors, producers or stars (#notall….) having to tone down the abuse, otherwise LOUD EVENT MOVIE # 5 will show up on The Pirate Bay with a little note that says: ‘Don’t bother seeing this in the theater. Everybody above the line was a monster to us’.”

The thought that leaks might happen as a type of personal revenge is in itself the stuff of a Hollywood plot. However, just as it’s unlikely that a story about a movie leak would ever make the silver screen, Hollywood insiders involved in them also tend to escape criticism.

In fact, history shows us that the *actual* leakers, whether that’s an assistant with a grudge or otherwise, are rarely – if ever – paraded around in public as criminals. That honor is usually reserved for the first uploaders and/or their ‘pirate’ allies. Still, Alexander feels it would be wise to keep those close to home in a good frame of mind.

“Maybe the MPAA should drop some of their $$ on PSAs about the danger of abusing assistants: ‘If you kick me everyday, your film will land on Pirate Bay’,” she warns.

Finally, in a move likely to further annoy the Hollywood brass, Alexander presents a “hypothetical” mechanism through which abused assistants could beat the bullies.

“I’m not suggesting anything, but hypothetically, if there were an anonymous address people could send not-yet-released movie DVDs to, so someone else could upload them without a chance of it being backtracked to the source, then a whole bunch of abused and mistreated assistants wouldn’t be defenseless anymore,” she concludes.

Due to the hugely controversial nature of her comments its difficult to judge how serious Alexander is with her suggestions. But, whatever the case, it’s safe to say that she’s one of a kind and likely to continue rocking the boat in future.

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

TorrentFreak: Microsoft Gets GitHub to Remove “Infringing” Xbox Music App

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

audioticaA few weeks ago Microsoft extended its Xbox Music API, allowing third-party developers to link their apps to the music service.

This resulted in a range of new apps that provide access to Xbox Music tracks, but Microsoft is not happy with all of them.

Earlier this week the company contacted developer platform GitHub, asking the company to remove all code related to the Audiotica download tool, which they did.

In its takedown notice Microsoft explains that the app in question provides users with DRM-free music, something it is not allowed to do. Specifically, the app is said to violate the circumvention clause of the DMCA.

“This code violates [...] the DMCA in that it allows users to circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted works by facilitating the unauthorized conversion of songs streamed via Xbox Music into DRM-free MP3s that can be easily shared online,” Microsoft writes.

Microsoft explains that the application puts its licensing agreements with the major music labels in jeopardy. Under these agreements the company has to protect music tracks from being shared online without restrictions.

“As part of Microsoft’s agreements with the copyright owners of the songs included in the service, Microsoft has both authorization from and an obligation to those copyright owners to control access to their works by employing an effective DRM system,” Microsoft notes.

An interesting argument, since the tracks provided by Xbox’s Music service appear to be free of DRM.

Xbox Music API
music_api

TorrentFreak contacted Audiotica developer Harry who was unpleasantly surprised by Microsoft’s takedown notice. He notes that Microsoft itself is the one making it easy to access DRM-free music through the Xbox Music API.

“Audiotica is programmed so users with an Xbox Subscription can download directly from Xbox Music. This is what surprised me about the takedown. Microsoft claims we can’t allow users to obtain DRM free music from their service, while they’re the one providing it,” Harry says.

Microsoft most likely took offense to the fact that the application allowed users to download and store tracks. Although this might not technically be a form of “circumvention,” it does violate the API’s terms of service.

The Audiotica developer says he will ask GitHub to reinstate his project, without the Xbox Music feature. The application will still be able to access music from other sources including YouTube, VK and Soundcloud.

“Right now I will be filling a counter notice to bring it back. To avoid further problems with Microsoft I will be removing Xbox Music from the MP3 crawler engine and the downloader.”

Microsoft’s takedown request follows a new trend in which copyright holders are targeting GitHub projects. Previously the MPAA successfully requested the takedown of two popular Popcorn Time forks. While both the MPAA and Microsoft don’t own any of the code, the alleged indirect infringements were sufficient to take the code down.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Adds Apple TV Support, iOS App Coming Soon

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

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

The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.

While the original app was shut down by the developers after a few weeks, the project was quickly picked up by others. This resulted in several popular forks that have gained millions of users in recent months.

Today one of the most popular Popcorn Time forks releases a highly anticipated feature. The developers inform TorrentFreak that the latest version now has Airplay support, making it possible to stream movies directly to Apple TVs and other supported devices.

Ironically, Airplay support is currently limited to the Windows release, but a Mac version is due early next week and the Linux release will follow shortly after.

The latest feature follows the addition of Chromecast support a few weeks ago, but this is by no means the last planned development.

Popcorn Time adds Airplay support

popcorn_time_appletv_airplay

Looking ahead the developers hope to bring the Popcorn Time experience to as many operating systems and devices as possible.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring Popcorn Time to every platform, operating system and device that can play videos, so Airplay is one particle of a huge revolution we’re making to the torrents and movies world online,” the time4popcorn.eu team told us.

“This is only the beginning… You know us, we have many more surprises coming your way,” they add.

One of the “surprises” is a native iOS app. Although it probably won’t be featured in Apple’s App Store anytime soon, Popcorn Time will be available on jailbroken iPhones and iPads in the near future.

“Support for iOS devices will be ready in August. It’s already working in our development environment and it’s looking beautiful,” the team notes.

Popcorn Time’s popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. A few weeks ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Github claiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios.

While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and new features are being rolled out faster than ever.

Update Due to a last minute bug the release has been postponed. It will arrive later today.

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

TorrentFreak: University Sets Fines & Worse For Pirating Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Megaupload Wants to Freeze MPAA and RIAA Lawsuits Until 2015

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

megauploadWell over two years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but there is still little progress in the criminal proceedings against its founders.

The United States want New Zealand to extradite Kim Dotcom and his colleagues but this process has been delayed several times already. Earlier this month the extradition hearing was postponed again until February next year.

In addition to the U.S. Government, Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were also sued by the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios a few months ago.

Fearing that these cases might influence the criminal case, Megaupload’s legal team successfully obtained a freeze on them until this summer, when the extradition hearing was originally scheduled for. Now that this has been delayed until next year, Megaupload wants to place the MPAA and RIAA cases on hold until April 2015.

In a new motion for a stay, the lawyers ask the court to freeze both civil cases because the accused may otherwise be forced to implicate themselves, which would violate their rights.

“The individual Defendants still face extradition, and therefore still have an interest in preserving the Fifth Amendment rights that arise from the prosecution of the Criminal Action,” the motion reads.

There’s also a more practical concern. Since the U.S. Government refuses to provide access to the raided servers, it may be difficult to access evidence that’s crucial to build a proper defense.

“Relevant evidence that is electronically stored on servers, which would be needed to defend the civil cases, is not reasonably accessible. As a result of the Criminal Action, the Megaupload cloud-storage servers have been taken offline and are housed in a locked third-party warehouse in Virginia,” Megaupload’s lawyers write.

“The Department of Justice has opposed Megaupload’s efforts to gain access to those servers and data. Standard civil e-discovery protocols would typically include accessing and “mirroring” the original servers so that the resultant copies may used to analyze the data contained therein. At present, that cannot be done,” they add.

If the court grants the request then it will take another year before there’s any progress in the civil cases against Megaupload. The movie and music studios didn’t object to the previous freezing request, but they may be running out of patience soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Breaking Bad Torrent”
breakingtorrent

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

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

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

Noah DVDrip
noahdvdrip1

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

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

Noah Watch
noahwatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pulls “Popcorn Time” Repositories Off GitHub

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popcorn Time removed
dmcagit

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

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

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

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

ptdmca

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

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

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

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