Posts tagged ‘mpaa’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Kim Dotcom Goes Head to Head With The MPAA’s Top Lawyer

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

mpaa-restrictedEarlier this week the MPAA filed a lawsuit against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and two former employees of the defunct file-storage service.

In their complaint the movie studios repeat many of the claims that were laid out in the criminal case while demanding millions of dollars in damages.

But according to Dotcom the lawsuit is just a desperate attempt at an asset-grab by the MPAA because the criminal case against Megaupload is going to fail.

“The criminal case is failing. There will be no extradition. They are now trying to get at our seized assets with civil forfeitures. It’s a move of desperation,” Dotcom tells TF.

MPAA General Counsel Steven Fabrizio disagrees, and has told his side of the story to many news outlets this week. Dotcom and Fabrizio are usually not heard at the same time, but in a rare interview with Radio New Zealand the two bumped heads.

Fabrizio was seemingly under the impression that he was doing a solo interview, but that changed when the reporter informed him that Dotcom was listening in on a second line. When she asked the MPAA lawyer whether he wanted to discuss the case with Dotcom there was a brief silence, but he eventually agreed.

First MPAA’s General Counsel had the opportunity to explain what Megaupload did wrong and why. In line with their complaint, Fabrizio described the file-storage site as a business that was set up to facilitate and encourage copyright infringement.

“Megaupload was never a cloud storage service to begin with,” Fabrizio noted. “From its birth to its death, it was a service that was designed to profit from copyright infringement, and in fact, it did profit handsomely from copyright infringement.”

“The proof of the pudding that it was not a storage service, is that almost 98 percent of the people who used Megaupload were not premium users. If you weren’t a premium user, and your content wasn’t downloaded frequently enough, then Megaupload would delete it,” he added.

Dotcom, who in private refers to the MPAA’s counsel as “Fabricatio,” because he is “script writing and ‘fabricating’ Hollywood’s science fiction lawsuits”, later refuted the claim that Megaupload deleted files uploaded by free users.

“That is a blatant lie,” Dotcom said. “We have not purged any files from Megaupload for many years. If you were a non-premium user and you had an account with us that was free, your files would not be deleted.”

Fabrizio’s second argument was that Megaupload offered a rewards program which encouraged people to share large video files. Again, Dotcom contested this claim by pointing out that people only got paid for files smaller than 100 megabytes. Megaupload’s founder conceded that users could circumvent the limits by uploading split archives, but he stressed that the restriction was specifically put in place to discourage copyright infringement.

The third allegation Fabrizio made was that Megaupload employees had private conversations where they allegedly discussed the “pirate” status of their work.

“Internally they referred to themselves as modern pirates. Some of the employees and some of the co-defendants actually uploaded infringing popular movies themselves, so that they could be downloaded by others,” the MPAA’s top lawyer noted.

Again, Dotcom disagreed and explained that the “pirates” the employee referred to were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

“Yeah, well that’s complete nonsense, right. One of our employees who was admin staff and a developer has chatted with our CTO and he watched a documentary called Pirates of Silicon Valley. That was a movie about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how they stole the ideas from each other,” Dotcom said.

“He then made this remark to [the CTO] saying we are modern-day pirates, comparing himself to the attitude those guys had, simply because they were copying from each other and we were copying from our competitors and vice versa,” he added.

Responding to the reporter’s question on why he wouldn’t go to the U.S. voluntarily to stand trial, Dotcom said that he offered to do so, but only on the condition that he would get access to his funds as well as bail, which the Department of Justice refused.

The reporter then switched back to Fabrizio, who didn’t seem to believe much of what Dotcom was saying.

“Mr. Dotcom can talk all he wants about his excuses, but the reality is that you can say anything you want if you’re not constrained by the truth of the facts that you’re saying,” Fabrizio said.

Of course, the same also applies to the MPAA and Mr. Fabrizio…

The interview is an intriguing face-off, and the first time ever that the MPAA and Dotcom have gone head-to-head. It probably wont be the last time either, although the venue will very much depend on how the criminal proceedings and the civil case progress.

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

TorrentFreak: Movie Studios Demand Millions From Megaupload in New Lawsuit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: 1,103 Megaupload Servers Gather Dust at Virginia Warehouse

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

megauploadWhen Megaupload was raided early 2012, the U.S. Government seized 1,103 servers at Carpathia’s hosting facility in the United States.

Well over two years have passed since and still it remains uncertain if former users will ever be able to retrieve their files.

A reporter who used Megaupload to store work-related files did take legal steps to secure his files. However, despite six requests asking the court to find a solution for the return of his data, there is still no progress.

Hosting provider Carpathia previously estimated that it cost them $9,000 a day to keep the hardware in storage. The company even threatened that without compensation, it could have no other option than to wipe the data. This is also what Dutch hosting company Leaseweb did to the hundreds of Megaupload servers it had stored.

The bulk of Megaupload’s data is stored at Carpathia though, and to learn whether those servers remain intact TF reached out to the hosting company for a status update. Unfortunately, our repeated requests remained unanswered.

Megaupload lawyer Ira Rothken was willing to provide some insight into the issue, and says that according to the information they have the servers remain in storage. Not at the original location, but in a warehouse of the hosting company in Virginia.

“Our understanding is that the Megaupload servers previously hosted at Carpathia are stacked in a disconnected state in a secure Carpathia facility in Virginia,” Rothken tells TF.

The U.S. Government is no longer claiming the Megaupload servers as they have copied all crucial data. However, the MPAA and the Department of Justice previously objected to a deal between Carpathia and Megaupload, where the latter would buy their own servers back.

This effort was stopped because the U.S. didn’t want Kim Dotcom to have access to the files. Hoping to get out of this stalemate the Court then suggested that all affected parties should get together and come up with a solution, thus far without success.

“In separate written requests in the past year both Carpathia and Megaupload have asked Magistrate Judge Anderson – who was appointed by Judge O’Grady to mediate the cloud storage server data issue – to preside over follow-up negotiations on data preservation and consumer access,” Rothken tells TF.

“The US DOJ has shown little interest in such negotiations and the Judge has not been inclined to set any additional meetings,” he adds.

In other words, there are no signs that former Megaupload users will get their files back in the near future. The question now is for how long hosting provider Carpathia will keep the servers in storage.

If Carpathia follows the example of Leaseweb and destroys the data, Megaupload’s business will be wiped for good before the criminal proceedings get into the meat of the matter. Perhaps that’s what the U.S. planned all along?

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

TorrentFreak: EZTV Fights Piracy By Going Much Further Than Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was obvious – GOOGLE.

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

EZTVGoogle

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

EZTVResults

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

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

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

Unsurprisingly, the MPAA are pleased with the results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA: Moviegoers Use More ‘Piracy-Enabling’ Smartphones

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

The MPAA just released their latest box-office statistics. Despite the continuing threat of online piracy the numbers once again show an increase in revenue worldwide, up to a record-breaking $35.9 billion in 2013.

In addition to the revenue increase, the movie group emphasizes the importance of new technology in expanding its audience. The MPAA stresses that frequent moviegoers are also technology fanatics, with nearly three-quarters owning at least four new devices.

Smartphones are particularly popular among movie fans, and the MPAA notes that the movie industry can do more to use this technology to boost theater attendance even further.

“We need to keep exploring fresh ways of leveraging our new technology to drive traffic to your theaters,” MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said at The Colosseum inside Caesar’s Palace where the findings were presented.

“We can embrace technology, and use it to complement our offerings….A smartphone can make more content available, but it will never be able to surpass the shared experience that you deliver to every person who sits in your theaters,” he added.

Moviegoers own more tech devices (source: mpaa.org)
technology-mpaa

With the release of these statistics the MPAA wants to show that technology is not just a threat to the movie industry, but also an opportunity. While this is certainly true, the statements are not without conflict.

Using smartphones to drive more people to the movies also presents a problem, as the MPAA doesn’t want them to be used inside the theater.

The MPAA has previously published a set of anti-piracy practices movie theater owners should adhere to. This includes a very skeptical stance against any device that can be used to capture video, including smartphones.

“The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording,” the group adds.

mobile-mpaa

Past anecdotes show that theaters take these recommendations very seriously. A few years ago a girl was arrested for recording a 20 second clip from the movie Transformers on her phone, and more recently a Google Glass wearer was handed over to the authorities, without recording anything.

The above is a classical example of the dual role technology plays for the entertainment industries. Nearly every new invention poses both threats and opportunities, and the challenge is to find the right balance between them.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Takedown Notices Surge 711,887 Percent in Four Years

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

google-baySigned into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) aimed to ready copyright law for the digital age.

The law heightened punishment for copyright infringement over the Internet and criminalized circumvention of DRM. In addition, it also introduced a safe harbor for Internet services, meaning that they can’t be held liable for their pirating users as long as they properly process takedown notices.

Initially these notices were mostly sent to consumer ISPs to alert them to pirating subscribers. At the time, rightsholders showed little interest in sending takedown notices to other online services, but this changed drastically in the years that followed.

New research by Stanford Law School’s Daniel Seng reveals that online services such as Google and Twitter have seen a surge in takedown requests in recent years. In fact, drawing on data from ChillingEffects.org, Seng finds that the number of DMCA notices processed by Google increased 711,887 percent in four years, from 62 in 2008 to 441,370 in 2012.

Published takedown notices per recipient*
noticesperyear

Titled “The State of the Discordant Union” and published in the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, the paper discusses this upward trend. Two key changes Seng observes are that the average number of URLs in each notice is increasing, and that claims for multiple works are often included in a single notice.

Where copyright holders previously listed only one work per notice, there are now sometimes dozens of movies or tracks bundled in each. This is a worrying development according to Seng.

“It is disturbing to see the trend where more claims and more takedown requests are packed into each takedown notice. Up until 2010, each notice contained only one claim. But in 2011, the average number of claims per notice is 2.18, and in 2012, this average is 5.05,” Seng writes.

More copyrighted works per notice also means that the number of URLs per notice is increasing too. For example, between 2011 and 2012 the average number of URLs listed in each notice increased from 47.79 to 124.75.

According to Seng, these changes can be attributed to a small number of copyright holders. In fact, most copyright holders still submit only one notice.

“These increasing averages paint a slightly misleading picture. More than 65% of all reporters have only issued one notice, and almost 95% of all reporters have issued no more than 10 notices in 2012,” Seng writes.

The most active copyright holders up until 2012 were the RIAA, Froytal and Microsoft, each listing more than five million notices. Seng’s paper doesn’t include the most recent data, but Google’s Transparency Report shows that these numbers more than doubled again in 2013.

Total URLs for all notices per reporting group
copyrightholder
A breakdown by industry shows that most of the notices (59%) come from the music industry, followed by adult entertainment companies (20%), and the movie industry (10%) respectively.

Notices per industry
noticesperind
The paper emphasizes that most changes are driven by a small number of copyright holders and industry groups, who are mostly targeting Google. Roughly 95% of all notices and 99% of all URLs included in the research were sent to the search engine, which has been under fire from the MPAA and RIAA for two years now.

Interestingly, the surge in notices started right after the SOPA and PIPA bills failed to pass, suggesting that this is anti-piracy plan B for the entertainment industries.

The release of the paper documents an important change in the use of DMCA takedown notices and coincides with ongoing discussions between copyright holders and online service providers on how to improve the DMCA takedown process. What changes will be made, if any, remains to be seen.

*The number of notices sent by Yahoo in 2011 and 2012 are most likely 0 because they stopped reporting them to Chillingeffects.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Refuses to Take Down Pirate-Movies-on-YouTube Sites

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

youtubeEarlier today news broke that Viacom and Google/YouTube have settled their billion dollar copyright infringement dispute, in which the former had accused the latter of hosting its video content without permission.

The precise terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but the fact that YouTube has been trying hard to combat piracy in recent years can hardly have gone unnoticed. It invests large sums into Content ID, but this anti-piracy / monetization system can’t ever hope to solve the problem completely.

So, while the world is worrying about The Pirate Bay and other so-called ‘rogue sites’, through no fault of its own YouTube continues to be a pretty decent place to watch unauthorized content, not least hundreds if not thousands of Hollywood movies.

Finding that content is fairly easy too, via a title search (sometimes followed by “full movie”) and the activation of the “Duration Long” feature which only returns videos in excess of 20 minutes. However, spammers have been doing their best to pollute these results for some time, with fake video uploads of around two hours which claim to be the movie but are actually ploys to generate traffic to other sites.

If only there was a pre-moderated YouTube-movie-indexing site with a great Popcorn Time-style interface complete with reviewer ratings. Maybe looking something like this?

FullMoviesOnYouTube

Actually there are already quite a few of these kinds of sites but MovieFork attracted our attention after it appeared in a complaint to Google penned by Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Warner and Disney – together the MPAA.

The complaint features three sites – MovieFork, FullMovies.cc and Otakhang.com, each dedicated to indexing Hollywood movies already available on YouTube. While many of the titles indexed by these sites are older classics, there’s no shortage of newer titles from the past year. Quality is half decent too, hardly the peer-through-a-letterbox experience of years gone by.

In its complaint the MPAA asks Google to take down specific URLs, including the MovieFork homepage. In another it asks for the FullMovies.cc domain to be delisted along with that of fellow YouTube movie indexing site Uflix.net.

Uflix

But despite the nature of the sites, Google refused to comply with the MPAA’s requests. Google’s own Transparency Report shows it took “no action” in respect of the takedown notices and searching for the precise URLs with Google search reveals they are still indexed, with none of the sites’ homepages being delisted either.

Quite why Google is refusing to respond is unclear, but there are some interesting pointers. For example, similar requests to take down URLs that point to movies hosted on sites other than YouTube have been successful, such as the one for Man of Steel listed in this complaint.

It’s certainly possible that Google expects rightsholders to send their takedowns directly to YouTube, rather than shooting endless links and leaving the original content intact. Indeed, there are plenty of signs they are doing just that as some links are no longer available.

The scale of the free-full-movies problem is evident when one looks at Zero Dollar Movies, a site that claims to index 15,000 movies, all available for free from YouTube. It appears to use the YouTube Search API and even has its own ‘Instant’ feature for suggesting content that searchers may be interested in.

Other indexes, such as /FullMoviesonYoutube, a section of Reddit dedicated to just that, are pretty basic but show that not much infrastructure is needed in order to create a decent selection.

The movies-on-YouTube problem isn’t new in the same way that the torrents issue isn’t, but like Popcorn Time showed, it’s certainly got an awful lot prettier.

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

TorrentFreak: Dotcom: Popcorn Time Shows Where Road Ends for Hollywood

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

popcorn-timeLast week Popcorn Time burst onto the scene, offering content to be found on dozens of other sites but sitting head and shoulders above the rest in simplicity and presentation. But after a dream start and dozens of news articles, it was all over.

Pressure had been building within the project and rather than let things get completely out of hand, a decision was taken to move away. At the start of the weekend the Popcorn Time team called it quits and interest in the project expressed by a dev at YTS was later withdrawn by the site’s operator.

Earlier in the week there had been other complications too, including the removal of the Popcorn Time installer from Mega.co.nz, the hosting service chosen by the software’s devs. So what did Kim Dotcom know about that?

“I just woke up. No idea what happened,” Dotcom told TF at 03:50am local time Thursday. “I’m not involved in Mega’s day-to-day business since I resigned from Management to work on an alternative Internet concept called Meganet, Baboom and the Internet Party.”

Days later we’re still no closer to discovering why the files were taken down, whether that was due to Mega’s own decision based on a ToS violation or if the hosting service was pressured by the MPAA. What is clear, however, is that Popcorn Time, the most elegant unofficial movie-viewing application of recent times, has underlined that the destruction of Mega did little to ease Hollywood’s plight.

dotcom-laptop“I support innovation,” Dotcom told TF.

“Popcorn Time and countless similar applications show where the road ends for Hollywood. Ultimately it’s a cat-and-mouse game Hollywood can’t win by force but only with smarter Internet offerings.”

Interestingly, it seems that the people behind Popcorn Time actually understand where Dotcom is coming from.

In a file-sharing world dominated by the likes of The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, Popcorn Time came along this week and took what XBMC has being doing for some time and amped it up to eleven. They took the same content being offered by everyone else and made it more accessible and desirable.

Dotcom says this is what Hollywood should be doing, but instead their anti-piracy fixation remains.

“The destruction of Megaupload did nothing for Hollywood. Piracy is bigger than ever, despite overreaching law enforcement action & efforts by the MPAA and Chris Dodd to buy aggressive copyright laws and treaties. Hollywood made a mistake when they hired a powerful former Senator to run the MPAA in an attempt to fix their Internet problems with a sledgehammer,” he adds.

While Popcorn Time was hardly stealth with its public torrent sources and open source format, Dotcom says that the worst is yet to come.

“The innovators of today are working on fully encrypted parallel Internets which don’t rely on IPs. They are fluid oceans of homeless data that can’t be controlled by anybody. I know of several projects that will make it extremely difficult for Hollywood. How do you take things down that can’t be taken down?” he questions.

“Combine that with apps and sites that provide a no-takedown one-click high-speed content experience and Hollywood’s nightmare is complete.”

The signs indeed point to things getting worse. This week TF spoke to a developer who told us that work is already underway to bring a Popcorn Time-style experience to smart TVs, showing that not only is innovation far from dead, but soon even the likes of The Pirate Bay will have to do something to catch up.

According to Dotcom, however, there’s still time for Hollywood to properly open up.

“It’s not to late for Hollywood to embrace the Internet and offer more appealing services than those unauthorized services out there. Within three years Hollywood could double global income with an ingenious new online content service I have created. It’s so good that International license holders of content would join this offering in a heartbeat. I have offered my help in an open letter to Hollywood some time ago. They still prefer the sledgehammer,” he says.

“Hollywood has built a fortune on stories with happy endings, yet they don’t get it in the real world. The Internet has the potential to be the biggest happy ending for Hollywood – and I know how,” Dotcom concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Deleted By Dotcom’s Mega, MPAA Lawsuit Pending?

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

After a decade of seemingly constant innovation in the public file-sharing space, the past few years have seen a relative decline in new ideas. This means that well presented and well thought out file-sharing solutions stand out a mile.

One such tool, the recently unveiled Popcorn Time, ticks all the boxes. Based on BitTorrent technology, the software hides all the complexities away and presents high-quality video content to the user in a way familiar to any user of Netflix.

Since piracy often drives the consumer solutions of the future, Popcorn Time’s elegance definitely warranted an article here on TF last weekend and in the days that followed dozens more appeared, all singing the praises of what is probably the most beautifully simple (yet unofficial) movie viewing solution of recent times.

But despite the rave reviews, those looking to jump on the Popcorn Time bandwagon today will find themselves disappointed.

Since its launch the software has been distributed via getpopcornti.me but the actual installer has been hosted as a public download (encryption key included) on Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz. Today, however, all that came to a halt. Visitors to the previously published link are greeted by the following page.

PopcornMega

What we know for sure is that the developers didn’t delete their own file. Speaking with TF a few moments ago, a Popcorn Time dev team member said that the file had been removed by Mega.

To try and find out more, TF contacted Kim Dotcom himself to see if he could shine some light on developments. At least for now (its night-time in New Zealand) Dotcom is maintaining radio silence.

The entrepreneur certainly knows about the software. Yesterday he tweeted about TechCrunch’s coverage of the original TF article, alongside a note directed at the MPAA with a cheeky ‘wink’ emoticon at the end. Whether he was aware at the time that Mega.co.nz was hosting the software is unknown, but it’s unlikely the gesture would’ve been appreciated in Hollywood.

“It’s strange, yesterday Kim Dotcom tweeted about us. He seemed ironic and happy. Bad luck he removed the link,” Popcorn Time’s Sebastian told TF.

TechPop

The big question is why Mega deleted the file. Thus far the MPAA hasn’t answered our questions on Popcorn Time, but the Popcorn Time team told us that they have been given a headsup that the MPAA is preparing a lawsuit to take the project down.

Whether that is really the case remains to be seen, but a formal takedown demand to Mega would be a predictable prelude to a lawsuit, should the MPAA choose that route.

So what now for the biggest app of the year so far? Obviously any lawsuit could hinder the software’s development but being open source, alternative routes could conceivably be found.

That said, speaking off-the-record with someone else closely familiar with the project, TF has today learned that a plan had previously been put in place to strengthen distribution of Popcorn Time in a way that doesn’t involve relying on third-party hosting companies such as Mega.

So, will Popcorn Time quickly return to poke Hollywood in the eye with its considerable beauty and simplicity, or are things about to get ugly?

“We are discussing our next step,” Popcorn Time’s Sebastian informs TF. “This could be the end of Popcorn Time (not the community, its open source!) but maybe our goodbye as a team.”

Update: Kim Dotcom wrote to us at 03:50 local time. Obviously the Mega offices are closed.

“No idea what happened,” he told TF. “I’m not involved in Mega’s day-to-day business since I resigned from Management to work on an alternative Internet concept called Meganet, Baboom and the Internet Party.”

We’ll post additional thoughts from Kim in the hours to come.

Update: Strangely enough the installer is still available to MEGA users who are logged in to their account.

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

TorrentFreak: Russia’s Facebook Prepares To Make Peace With USTR Over Piracy

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

ustrEvery year the Special 301 Report identifies countries thought by the United States Trade Representative to pose the biggest intellectual property-related threats to U.S. companies. Russia has been a ‘priority’ country for some time, not least due to the actions of one of its biggest and most influential websites.

VKontakte (In Touch), is Russia’s Facebook. It’s a huge operation with tens of millions of users, each of whom has the ability to upload music, movies and TV shows to share with their friends. And with their friends’ friends. And with their friends’ friends’ friends.

Needless to say, entertainment companies aren’t pleased that this social networking giant is facilitating piracy on a grand scale, especially when that content – music in particular – goes on to fuel countless free MP3 download portals all around the Internet. If you’ve ever downloaded MP3s from the free web, chances are some of that music has come from VK.

For some time VK has been keen to update its image by making steps towards becoming more rightsholder-friendly. That said, it’s never really been enough for the U.S. and as a result Russia has again found itself on the latest Special 301 Report. But there signs that things could be getting more serious.

VK Executive Director Dmitry Sergeyev told ITAR-TASS yesterday that consultations between his company and rightsholders were underway, with a view to the signing of an anti-piracy memorandum with telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor.

As the government outfit at the center of Russia’s web-blocking mechanism, Roskomnadzor has significant power. Its anti-piracy memo deals with the pre-trial settlement of disputes between sites and copyright holders and requires signatories to implement content fingerprinting and identification systems in order to filter and block unauthorized material.

vk“VKontakte will introduce content identification, which will be used to monitor and promptly delete published content protected by copyright,” a source close to the company said.

“This will be the first step towards eliminating the social network from of the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report, which is currently limiting the company’s ability to raise funds abroad and sign agreements with foreign rightsholders.”

Anti-piracy memorandum signatory the Russian Anti-Piracy Organization (RAPO) will be the messenger of progress. The group says it will monitor VK for pirate content in the months to come and if there is significant improvement, the MPAA will be informed.

“During this year, the industry will be observing what is happening to the sites, including VK.com,” RAPO chief Konstantin Zemchenkov said.

“If pirate content disappears from the social network, we’ll report to the MPAA, which in turn will report that fact to the IIPA [International Intellectual Property Alliance], which will inform the US authorities.”

Since the Special 301 Report is based on the previous years’ data, even in the event of progress VK won’t be able to get off the list until 2015. The site has been included since 2011, so removal isn’t going to come easy. Other local sites, such as RUtracker.org and Rapidgator, remain on the list as thorns in the side of the U.S.

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

TorrentFreak: Warner Bros. DMCA Abuse Records Should be Unsealed, EFF Tells Court

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

warnerIn a retaliatory move, three years ago file-hosting service Hotfile sued Warner Bros., accusing the movie studio of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process.

Hotfile alleged that after giving Warner access to its systems, the studio removed hundreds of files that weren’t theirs, including games demos and Open Source software.

In a response, Warner Bros. admitted the accusations. However, the movie studio argued that they were not to blame because a computer made the mistakes, not a person. As a result, the false takedown requests were not “deliberate lies.”

Warner Bros. asked the court for summary judgment in its favor but Florida District Court Judge Kathleen Williams eventually decided to let the issue be heard before a jury, stating that there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Warner intentionally took down files it didn’t own.

With instances of automated abuse becoming more frequent in recent years the case promised to be crucial. But last November, a few weeks before the trial was due to begin, it was closed as part of a settlement between Hotfile and the MPAA.

The decision was a disappointment to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who have now asked the court to unseal documents regarding Warner’s alleged abuse. According to the group, the public has the right to know what mistakes Warner made.

“Judge Williams’ decision was encouraging, but mysterious – we don’t get to see evidence of how Warner’s system works and which of its improper DMCA takedown notices gave rise to liability. So we know that Warner may have crossed a line, but not how or why,” EFF notes.

EFF’s interest in the matter is heightened because Congress and the Patent and Trademark Office have asked the public for input on the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown procedure. Details about Warner’s alleged abuse can help to shape these discussions, the group explains.

“Without seeing the facts that went into Judge WIlliams’s decision, it doesn’t help people design takedown systems that comply with the law, and it doesn’t help anyone make informed arguments about the DMCA when Congress takes it up,” EFF says.

According to EFF, public interest trumps Warner’s motivations to keep the court documents under seal. In fact, EFF believes that one of Warner’s main reasons not to disclose the details is to avoid embarrassment.

“There are indications that Warner simply seeks to avoid embarrassment that might follow from public disclosure of abusive practices that the Court’s summary judgment order strongly suggest were taking place. Avoiding embarrassment of a corporate litigant is not a legitimate reason for denying the public its right of access,” EFF tells Judge Williams.

The EFF is convinced that some copyright holders are abusing the DMCA to censor free speech. If this is the case with Warner, then lawmakers should know about it, so these violations can be stopped in the future.

“Lawmakers need to hear about how well the system is actually working, and whether it protects Internet users against having their speech curtailed by takedown-bots or overzealous and poorly trained reviewers.”

“Actual data about major DMCA users like Warner is vital,” EFF concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Downranks The Pirate Bay in Search Results

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

tpb-logoOver 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. For example, the company began filtering “piracy-related” terms from its AutoComplete and Instant services.

One of the main demands from copyright holders is that Google should downrank copyright-infringing websites, so these don’t show up as the top results in Google. The search engine promised it would do so, but reports published by the MPAA and RIAA a few months back provided little evidence to back that up.

To see how accessible The Pirate Bay is in Google we decided to run a few tests of our own. The results undoubtedly show that Google is now downranking the most-used torrent site, although it is far from completely gone.

For example, those who type “The Pirate Bay” in Google’s search box will still see the notorious torrent site as the first result. The same is true for the three-letter abbreviation TPB and several related searches.

The results are quite different, though, when people search for specific titles such as “12 years a slave dvdrip“. For these keywords The Pirate Bay doesn’t appear on the first pages of the search results. Several other popular torrent sites do show up of course.

In itself the above doesn’t really prove that any downranking is going on, although it’s strange that the world’s biggest torrent site is absent from results. So, the next step is to take content that’s unique to The Pirate Bay, and let Google search for that.

We picked a phrase from TPB’s help page, which doesn’t show or link to any pirated files. The phrase in question is as follows: “There are many different clients for bittorrent, this guide explains how to use Bitlord”. As can be seen below, The Pirate Bay is not showing in the top results when we search for it on Google.com, even though it’s the source of the content.

Instead, the first result is a Pirate Bay proxy.

googletpb-com

We used the same method with a few other targeted searches, including a track Dan Bull uploaded to the site, and got a similar result. The top result doesn’t list The Pirate Bay site, which is the original place where the “Sharing Is Caring” song was uploaded.

The above suggests that individual Pirate Bay pages are being downranked. This is confirmed by the fact that the results for the search phrases above do show TPB as the first result on other Google domains, such as Google.ca and Google.co.uk. Apparently, the downranking for this phrase only happens on the .com domain.

googletpb-ca

It has to be noted though, that the result above shows the Pirate Bay’s old domain, thepiratebay.org, where one would expect thepiratebay.se. The .se site does appear on other Google domains for the Dan Bull song and several other keyword variations we tested.

The more phrases and keywords we tried, the more varying results we encountered. For example, searching for a sentence on The Pirate Bay’s “doodle” page doesn’t list TPB’s official site in the top results of any of the Google domains we tried. Clearly, something is going on here.

Our findings show that Google is certainly downranking The Pirate Bay in its search results. Whether this is part of the earlier announced anti-piracy initiatives is unknown at this point.

In any case, The Pirate Bay is not really bothered by Google’s decision to downrank websites that are accused of linking to pirated material. According to The Pirate Bay team, it will only result in more direct traffic.

“That Google is putting our links lower is in a way a good thing for us. We’ll get more direct traffic when people don’t get the expected search result when using Google, since they will go directly to TPB,” the site previously told TF.

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

TorrentFreak: Scary UFC Copyright Propaganda Matters to Everyone

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

ufcTo some it’s just a couple of half-naked men or nowadays women (NSFW) wriggling round in a sweat and blood filled cage in a pointless display of mindless violence. To others it’s the pinnacle of unarmed combat, the planet’s most elite warriors pushing their bodies and minds to the limit while showcasing the very best of martial arts.

Whatever your stance, the UFC and its aggressive approach to copyright enforcement matters to you, because where they tread today, others may tread tomorrow. And it’s a scary path indeed, one that would tick all the boxes of “overly-paranoid file-sharer”, if such a meme existed.

The file-sharing site honeytrap is a much-feared beast, set up to ensnare unsuspecting users in order to subject them to an awful but largely undocumented fate. But while in 2005 the MPAA were believed to have obtained the database of then-famous torrent site LokiTorrent, nothing has been publicly done with that data. Almost certainly, no one has been sued.

Since then dozens of sites have come and gone, many along with whispers that some evil entity or other has secured access to thousands of user’s details. No proof has ever surfaced to show a grain of truth in that notion, but now – not for the first but for the second time – the UFC is claiming to have done just that.

In 2012, the UFC announced that it had obtained the user database of a site called Greenfeedz, along with a promise it would chase down its members for watching unauthorized UFC streams.

While the announcement caused concern at the time, little was known about the outcome. However this week the UFC were back again, categorically stating they were going to sue people who watched unauthorized streams on another site. But how were those people identified? By the UFC obtaining the site’s database, that’s how.

“As part of the on-going initiative against online piracy, Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) organization, successfully took down and seized the records of www.cagewatcher.eu, a website that illegally streamed two UFC pay-per-view events,” the UFC announced.

“UFC has obtained details of the streaming site’s userbase, including email addresses, IP addresses, user names and information pertaining to individuals who watched pirated UFC events including UFC 169. Also recovered were chat transcripts from the website. Using this data, UFC will work with Lonstein Law Office to prosecute identified infringers.”

If the UFC is to be taken on face value, anyone watching an unauthorized video on YouTube or Vimeo for example, can be subjected to legal action by the UFC. However, rather than go through the messy process of subpoenas and the like, the UFC can turn up at any unauthorized site, threaten the owner, and walk away with the site’s entire database and use it for legal action.

The UFC says it’s carried through with its threats too, stating that Lonstein Law Office has “successfully prosecuted hundreds of claims for the UFC organization for sites illegally streaming content and individual users since 2007.”

In order to find out more, MMA site Bloody Elbow did some digging and found a case dating to just after the UFC made its Greenfeedz announcement. It turns out the UFC did indeed have some success against one individual. However, the case navigated an extremely unusual track.

Probably understanding they were on delicate ground in respect of a regular copyright infringement prosecution, the UFC took action under Title 47 of the United States Code, Section 553, which prohibits people from intercepting or receiving “any communications service offered over a cable system, unless specifically authorized to do so.” Basically the UFC claimed that the individual had received a PPV signal without paying for it.

Since the defendant didn’t show, the court noted this was an admission of guilt, even though it was established that “there is no evidence that defendant obtained any financial gain from his illegal receipt of the copyrighted broadcasts since he viewed them on his home computer.”

Case won by the UFC via default judgment, with the target landed with a bill for $11,948.70.

How the UFC is intimidating others into settling isn’t clear, but it seems very likely that this judgment will be waved in front of users from sites where the databases have been obtained, with the threat that they will suffer the same fate unless they pay a few thousand dollars.

And this is why the UFC’s actions are important to everyone.

If big companies like Zuffa can intimidate site owners into ratting out their users, those users can be bullied into paying settlements. Remember, there is no official discovery process here, no friendly ISP to contest the handing over of their subscribers’ details. Just an aggressive copyright holder bullying victims over the simple viewing – not distribution – of a video stream.

Note: First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza previously told us that if anyone was threatened by the UFC for simply viewing a stream, he would defend their case for free.

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

TorrentFreak: Putlocker Rebrands as Firedrive, User Files Remain Intact

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

firedriveDespite only being online for a few years, much of Putlocker’s existence as a file-storage site has been tarnished by accusations from Hollywood.

Back in 2011 the MPAA categorized Putlocker as a “rogue site”, operations that amount to a “direct threat to our community and the millions of hard-working Americans that rely on it for their livelihoods.”

Hollywood’s problem with Putlocker is that its users regularly upload movies and TV shows to the service without permission. Links to these videos are then posted on third-party streaming portals, enabling visitors to watch the latest blockbusters for free. Putlocker has always insisted that it’s complied with the letter of the law and by 2012 it was fighting back.

“Putlocker takes a strong stand against copyright infringement and in the past year and a half we have taken down hundreds of thousands of infringing files and blocked the accounts of hundreds of repeat offenders,” the site told TF at the time.

Despite the public statements and apparent copyright takedowns, Hollywood’s position on the site has remained unchanged. Up to and including their latest submission to the USTR, the MPAA has continued to insist that Putlocker is a “notorious market.”

USTR’s 2014 report on PutlockerPutlockerUSTR

Earlier this week, however, and in parallel with Hollywood’s latest accusations, Putlocker simply disappeared. Visitors to the domain were redirected to a completely new site with a brand new name – Firedrive.com. What followed was a steady stream of emails to TorrentFreak asking if we could shine any light on developments. Here are our findings.

“Putlocker has been under active redevelopment for over a year under a new management and development team. It was decided to rebrand the site, in order to get a fresh start,” the Firedrive team told TF.

The new site certainly looks fresh, with a brand new design that makes it look more like a competitor to the revamped Mediafire than some kind of alleged pirate hangout. Firedrive offers 50GB of free storage for everyone, with files accessible on any device along with features to share files as privately or as publicly as the user might like.

FireDrive SS

“Firedrive has all the features of Putlocker like free unrestricted access to files, streaming of media files, and mobile access, but that’s just the start. Firedrive has a wide array of new features that really make it a unique product. These include groups, public profiles, filedrops, advanced file permissions, document viewing, and much more,” Firedrive explains.

While Firedrive is clearly looking towards a fresh start, former users of Putlocker will be pleased to know that their data has been fully shipped over to the new site.

“Firedrive has all the user accounts and files that were on Putlocker, so users can just login with their old credentials and have access to their data. Anyone who had a Pro account on Putlocker, will continue to have a Pro account on Firedrive,” TF was informed.

Other features to make FireDrive even more accessible are currently in the works, including desktop and mobile applications, syncing across devices, and end-to-end encryption.

The additions are likely to please users, but whether the changes will be enough to improve the site’s image with Hollywood remains to be seen.

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

TorrentFreak: Downloaded Dallas Buyers Club? The Piracy Lawsuits Are Coming

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

dallasWhile the MPAA does indeed take action against sites and services and does more than its fair share of aggressive lobbying, the group has never gone down the controversial route of suing the general public. There are others that do, but somehow they tend to escape most of the criticism.

One such oufit is Voltage Pictures, a production company with plenty of lesser-known titles under its belt but one with a penchant for taking legal action over the ones that break into the mainstream. Voltage drew widespread criticism for suing tens of thousands of BitTorrent users who downloaded their movie The Hurt Locker so it should come as no surprise that at the start of 2014 they are back again.

Dallas Buyers Club, a movie about a man who smuggled unapproved drugs into the United States to help fellow HIV patients, was released in the U.S. in November 2013. According to Box Office Mojo it has already brought in nearly $23 million, not bad for a relatively modest $5m budget. However, it appears that Voltage has plans to boost up revenues by suing file-sharers who downloaded a leaked DVD screener copy of the movie during January.

In a lawsuit filed in the Southern District of Texas and unearthed by THR, Voltage retreads familiar copyright-troll territory.

“Plaintiff brings this action to stop Defendants from copying and distributing to others over the Internet unauthorized copies of Plaintiff’s copyrighted movie,” the complaint reads.

“Each time a Defendant unlawfully distributes a free copy of Plaintiff’s copyrighted movie to others over the Internet, each person who copies the movie then distributes the unlawful copy to others without any significant degradation in sound and picture quality. Thus, a Defendant’s distribution of even one unlawful copy of a motion picture can result in the nearly instantaneous worldwide distribution of that single copy to a limitless number of people.”

In common with all similar suits Voltage has no idea who its targets are, having identified them only by their IP addresses. Following a discovery process involving their ISPs, however, Voltage predicts it will unmask the defendants and take them to trial by jury. That being said, if past history is anything to go by not a single defendant will see the inside of a court room. Cash settlements are the aim here.

Aside from the unusually high profile of the movie (most U.S. based trolls target fairly obscure adult movies) there is another interesting aspect to the case.

In a break from their usual tactic of suing tens of thousands of BitTorrent users, in this case Voltage are currently going after just 31. Of course, if they can extract a few thousand dollars from each defendant they can easily turn a fat profit on the exercise, but clearly that amount would be much more with a few hundred – or few thousand – defendants.

Time will tell what strategy Voltage intends to employ, but considering Dallas Buyers Club was one of the world’s most-downloaded movies in the closing days of January, this could be just the beginning.

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

TorrentFreak: Antivirus Software Starts Blocking Pirate Websites

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

drwebFor years the MPAA and RIAA have been warning people not to visit The Pirate Bay and other sites where pirated files are traded. These sites pose a threat to the public, they argue, and Russian anti-virus vendor Dr. Web agrees.

The company, whose products are installed on millions of devices around the world, added a new feature to its anti-virus suite which can block copyright-infringing content.

The new feature, which is included in the latest release of Dr.Web 9.0, is the first of its kind. Unlike other blocklists Dr. Web’s database of pirate URLs is built based on reports from copyright holders.

Rightsholders can submit “takedown” notices to the antivirus vendor, who will then block access to the URLs if the copyright claim holds up. TorrentFreak talked to Dr. Web CEO Boris Sharov who sees the new feature as a natural extension of anti-virus products.

“Antivirus products have a built-in web-filtering system, therefore it’s no problem to block URLs. In the parental control module many malicious URLs have already been blocked for years,” Sharov tells TF.

According to the CEO, the purpose of the new feature is to not only prevent piracy, but also to minimize security risks for users.

“Copyright protection is not just about blocking some URLs. In fact, the new feature is completely in the line of our main functionality – we warn users about possible fraud when they access a copyright-infringing site.”

The company explains that the public is sometimes unable to distinguish infringing files from legal ones, which can lead to all sorts of problems.

“It is both anti-phishing and anti-malware protection – we let people know that someone is going to fool them,” Sharov tells us.

Several copyright holders have submitted takedown requests to Dr. Web recently, and more are expected to follow in the near future. However, the anti-virus company says that it isn’t necessarily out to block all pirated content.

“We have just launched the service and there are some copyright holders who have already asked us to include URLs that are infringing on their copyrights,” Sharov says.

“It’s not our goal to include as many URLs in the database as possible. We just want copyright holders to know that there is a service for them in Dr.Web products,” he adds.

Dr. Web stresses that it will only add URLs to the database upon request from copyright holders. The company won’t use algorithms to detect and block infringing content, such as McAfee recently suggested.

Copyright holders who are interested in the feature can file requests on Dr. Web’s Brand Protection page. Users of the software who prefer an unfiltered web have the option to disable the feature at their own risk.

Whether other anti-virus vendors will follow Dr. Web’s example has yet to be seen.

Photo: Dan Zen

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Writers Warn Against Draconian Anti-Piracy Measures

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

writers-guildLast year the U.S. Government’s Internet Policy Task Force published a Green Paper signaling various copyright issues that need to be addressed.

Interested parties were invited to comment on the plans and many have done so. Thus far most responses have been rather predictable. The MPAA and RIAA, for example, vowed to keep high fines for pirates, and civil rights groups and copyright experts argued against it.

A few days ago the second round of comments was made public and many of the same arguments were repeated. However, there also was a submission from the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), that is quite atypical to say the least.

The labor union represents thousands of screen writers in Hollywood and Southern California, many of whom work for the major movie and TV studios. In common with other people in the copyright industry, the writers are concerned by piracy, but they also warn that copyright shouldn’t trump the open Internet and free speech.

“While many of the most pirated works are created by WGAW members, we believe that copyright must be balanced with the preservation of an open, competitive Internet and protection of consumers’ rights to access the lawful content, services and applications of their choice,” WGAW writes.

“Achieving this balance requires the creation of guiding principles for the development of piracy detection and prevention tools in laws and industry agreements that do not infringe on free speech and the right to privacy,” the writers add.

Instead of calling to increase copyright enforcement, they suggest that current initiatives and legislation should be toned down.

For example, unlike the MPAA and RIAA the writers are against high statutory damages for copyright infringement. According to WGAW these high damages are unreasonable and unnecessary, citing the recent case against BitTorrent site isoHunt as an example.

“High statutory penalties are not only often unreasonable but unpayable. Recently, in its case against the torrent site isoHunt, the MPAA requested nearly $600 million in statutory damages despite admitting that $5 million at most would be enough to bankrupt the defendants. Whether a statutory penalty bankrupts infringers once or a hundred times over probably has little additional deterrent effect.”

The writers don’t agree with the Hollywood studios, who argue that high damages are needed as a deterrent. Instead, they warn that the current legislation stifles innovation as people may be hesitant to start innovating businesses, fearing that copyright holders may come after them.

“Rather, the threat of such large damages and the cost of litigation may deter further investment in web sites that serve as venues for independent production and allow users to upload content without gatekeeper permission for fear of liability.”

runThe same “chilling effect” applies to a proposal which would make streaming of copyrighted videos a felony. This could introduce jail sentences for people who watch or stream copyrighted material on YouTube, and prevent people from showing off their talent online.

“A broad interpretation of such a law could chill innovation through the use of copyrighted works in remixes, cover versions of songs and fair use. For example, artists like Justin Bieber have used YouTube videos of themselves singing covers as a way to gain exposure,” WGAW writes.

“Allowing felony charges for such activities could have a chilling effect on artists who use such independent forums and may harm sites that allow streaming of user-generated content by driving away contributors,” the writers add.

With regard to the DMCA the labor union suggests that the Government could setup a common template for takedown notices, making them easier for smaller copyright holders to issue and for websites to process. At the same time, DMCA abuse and mistakes should be prevented where possible.

Finally, the writers warn against the voluntary anti-piracy agreements that have emerged recently, including the six-strikes Copyright Alert System. WGAW fears that these initiatives are not always in the best interests of consumers.

“While these agreements have yet to prove their effectiveness in limiting copyright infringement, they have raised concerns regarding their lack of consumer protections,” they write.

One of the examples the writers give is that the notices can only be appealed after several warnings, and that the burden of proof lies on the alleged copyright infringers. In addition, the Copyright Alert System may hurt the availability of open Wi-Fi networks, as people can be held liable for the actions of others.

“Private agreements must not become a way of circumventing due process when an essential forum for free speech and commerce is at stake. If the government is going to endorse private agreements it should also promote transparency and comprehensive stakeholder participation in these initiatives,” WGAW writes.

With their submission the writers guild goes directly against the comments of the major Hollywood studios, which is a surprise. The comments are more in line with those from civil rights groups and academics, who will welcome an organization from the core of the copyright industry at their side.

All comments in response to the Green Paper have been published on the Internet Policy Task Force website.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA: Google Glass is No Threat, but Mobile Phones Are

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

mpaaThe MPAA sees illegally recorded movies as one of the biggest piracy threats, and it will go to extremes to stop it.

This stance was illustrated once again this week when a Google Glass wearer was detained in Ohio. When employees at the local AMC movie theater spotted the man they alerted the MPAA, who quickly escalated the matter to the Department of Homeland Security.

The feds wasted no time and rushed to the scene to remove the man from his seat, all while the movie was playing.

“About an hour into the movie, a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says ‘follow me outside immediately’,” the Google glass wearer later recalled.

After hours of questioning and a careful review of the Glass’ contents on a laptop, the feds concluded that the man had done nothing wrong. He was merely using his Google Glass as prescription glasses, and had not recorded a single frame.

Soon after the story made headlines all over the world. The MPAA received numerous inquiries from the press and eventually delivered an official response. The movie group said that the whole incident was an unfortunate misunderstanding, and that Google Glass is actually not a significant piracy threat.

“Google Glass is an incredible innovation in the mobile sphere, and we have seen no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft,” the MPAA said in a statement.

The MPAA’s response was cited in dozens of reports without any questioning, but to us it seems puzzling for a number of reasons.

It’s no secret that the MPAA has a strict set of anti-piracy practices they want movie theater owners to adhere to. When reading some of these recommendations it becomes clear why the AMC employees acted as they did.

“The MPAA recommends that theaters adopt a Zero Tolerance policy that prohibits the video or audio recording and the taking of photographs of any portion of a movie,” MPAA states.

The movie group further emphasizes that employees should take immediate action when they spot someone with a recording device, including smartphones. Even when in doubt, the local police should be notified as quickly as possible.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect prohibited activity is taking place. Do not assume that a cell phone or digital camera is being used to take still photographs and not a full-length video recording,” MPAA writes.

“Let the proper authorities determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should be taken,” they add.

mobile-mpaa

But Google Glass isn’t a phone or camcorder, one might think. That is true, but in its best practices the MPAA specifically states that all recording-enabled equipment should be considered a threat, including recording equipment concealed in glasses.

“Movie thieves are very ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as placing a coat or hat over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device (e.g., a small camera built into eyeglass frames or a camera built into the lid of a beverage container),” MPAA warns.

A camera built into eyeglass frames? Doesn’t that sound exactly like Google Glass?

TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to clarify their stance and explain why Google Glass isn’t seen as a threat. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard back from them on this issue, and it’s doubtful that we ever will.

To us the MPAA’s Google Glass comments were nothing more than an attempt to redirect responsibility for this week’s PR disaster. It’s a clever way to conceal the fact that they themselves are likely the number one reason why the incident escalated in the fist place.

The MPAA clearly instructs theater owners to be suspicious of any device that can capture a single frame of a movie. To them, every person is a potential movie pirate, and they even go as far as putting a $500 bounty on their heads.

As for the future, hopefully people will still be able to see a few minutes of a movie on the big screen, in between the pat downs, questioning rounds, and other anti-piracy efforts.

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

TorrentFreak: FBI Drags Google Glass Man From Theater on Piracy Fears

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

glassSometime during 2014 the much-anticipated Google Glass will launch to the general public. When it does the age of the wearable computer will have truly arrived in the form of a relatively unobtrusive pair of eye glasses.

While every technology enthusiast is bursting to at least test the device, there are concerns over its appearance. On the one hand it looks cool and futuristic, but on the other it could quickly be perceived in the same way as the original bluetooth ear-piece.

Nevertheless, in a few months time thousands of people will be wearing them, which will only serve to amplify the already considerable debate over the device. From the inside looking out, the integrated video camera is generating privacy worries in abundance and just last week a San Diego traffic court threw out a traffic violation against a Californian motorist after she was accused of watching video on her Glass while driving.

And now, right on cue, for the first time a Glass user has revealed the kind of treatment people can expect from the movie industry should they dare to wear even a switched-off device in one of their establishments.

Last Saturday evening a man and his wife attended the AMC movie theater in Easton Mall, Columbus, Ohio, to watch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The Glass unit itself was switched off, but out of convenience the man had paid for prescription lenses to be fitted to the device turning them into regular glasses. Sadly, theater staff and their friends at the MPAA and FBI were geared up to presume only the worst.

“About an hour into the movie, a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says ‘follow me outside immediately’. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops,” the man told Gadgeteer.

After trying to establish the official’s identity and authority (and trying to get his property back), the man was put firmly in his place.

“You see all these cops, you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie,” he was told.

AMC

His protests that this was a big misunderstanding only led to the couple being split up and taken to different rooms. The man was searched and his wallet plus work and personal phones (both off) were taken away from him.

“What followed was over an hour of the ‘feds’ telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a ‘voluntary interview’, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me,” he explained.

“They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.”

And then yet more paranoia. Even though the Google Glass was switched off the man wasn’t allowed to touch the device out of fear he would “erase the evidence.” The FBI also asked some pretty strange questions.

“Then they wanted to know what does Google ask of me in exchange for Glass, how much is Google paying me, who is my boss and why am I recording the movie,” he explained.

Finally someone had the good sense to connect the Glass up to a laptop. Five minutes later and all family photos viewed (some 3.5 hours after the movie began) Mr Google Glass wearer was declared an innocent man. But not to worry, since the guy from the ‘movie association’ was about to make amends.

“A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes ‘so I can see the movie again’,” a gesture that was subsequently upped to four passes after the revelation that AMC had called him first and he’d decided to escalate the matter to the FBI.

This kind of heavy-handed response is what people have come to expect from the movie industry when confronted by people they suspect of piracy. Sure, there’s a need for them to be vigilant, but shooting first and then asking questions later is something that could and should be avoided. Google Glass might be the first device of this type, but it won’t be the last. Expect the problems – and controversy – to continue.

Update: Homeland Security has issued a statement to the Washington Post.

“On Jan. 18, special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations and local authorities briefly interviewed a man suspected of using an electronic recording device to record a film at an AMC theater in Columbus,” said ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls. “The man, who voluntarily answered questions, confirmed to authorities that the suspected recording device was also a pair of prescription eye glasses in which the recording function had been inactive. No further action was taken.”

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

TorrentFreak: Major Book Publishers Sue Hotfile For Copyright Infringement

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

hfpLast month Hotfile and the MPAA ended their legal dispute with an $80 million settlement.

While the agreement left room for the file-hosting service to continue its operations by implementing a filtering mechanism, the company decided to throw in the towel and shut down.

However, that doesn’t mean the trouble is over for the defunct file-sharing site. Encouraged by Hollywood’s multi-million dollar victory, several of the world’s largest book publishers have now filed a lawsuit of their own against the site and its owner.

Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, John Wiley and Sons, Elsevier and McGraw-Hill lodged a complaint with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, accusing Hotfile of vicarious copyright infringement.

“Hotfile built a business off of infringement. The book publishers’ rights were massively infringed by the site and its operators. They should not be allowed to simply pocket their profits and walk away from the harm they caused,” a representative of the book publishers tells TorrentFreak.

The publishers have submitted 50 books as evidence, including ‘Office 2007 for Dummies’ and ‘C++ How to Program,’ for which they demand compensation. This means that Hotfile is facing up to $7.5 million in damages, if they are found guilty.

The complaint itself offers little new and repeats several arguments that were previously made in the MPAA vs. Hotfile case. Among other things, the publishers note that Hotfile knew that their service was widely used for copyright infringement.

“Hotfile was aware that the vast majority of the files on its service were copyrighted. It received millions of takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, received correspondence from users and affiliates identifying copyrighted works and recognized that users were migrating to Hotfile for copyrighted works after competitor RapidShare was sued,” the complaint reads.

The publishers further accuse Hotfile of doing nothing to remove pirated files from its service, and claim that the filehoster lacked a repeat infringer policy, which the court previously saw as a requirement by the DMCA to qualify for safe harbor.

“Hotfile failed to ban with any consistency repeat infringers who accounted for a large percentage of the infringing files on the system. Despite receiving millions of DMCA notices, Hotfile did not track whether any of the uploads came from the same user,” the publishers note.

As a result of these lax policies, a relatively small group of persistent infringers was able to upload dozens of millions of files, the publishers say.

“In fact, by early 2011, nearly 25,000 users had accumulated more than three DMCA notices and many had received 100 or more. This group of uploaders was responsible for posting 50 million files, which amounts to 44 percent of the files on Hotfile,” the complaint states.

Taking into account Hotfile’s legal history, the publishers have a pretty strong case. This may in part explain why they chose to pursue this target. The question is, however, whether Hotfile still has funds left to pay any damages.

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

TorrentFreak: IsoHunt.to: From Zero to the 8th Biggest Torrent Site in Just 2 Months

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

isohunt-toWhen popular torrent site isoHunt.com shutdown on October 17, 2013, it marked the end of an era.

Having endured a several-years-long legal battle with the MPAA, owner Gary Fung sensibly negotiated a way out of his potentially ruinous copyright infringement predicament, eventually settling for a headline amount of $110 million, something (thankfully) he’ll never have to pay.

Nevertheless, the end result was that one of the Internet’s favorite torrent sites, with an owner that was both visible and well-liked, shut its doors for good leaving users without their regular home. Seeing an opportunity in waiting, a torrent-friendly group seized the day.

Within a couple of weeks, isoHunt.to was born. The site is a loose clone of isoHunt.com – graphically similar but with no connections to the original isoHunt team – with an aim to give former users a pace to share files. Just two months later at the end of 2013, isoHunt.to was making serious waves. From a standing start the site became the Internet’s 8th most popular torrent site, slotting in just behind 1337x.org in the overall top 10.

“When we launched isohunt.to we gained the level of about 200k uniques per day in about a week. Right before Christmas we hit 500k uniques per day. After that we’ve been going up and down but the overall trend remains upward,” an isoHunt.to admin informs TorrentFreak.

“Of course, many people are looking for ‘isohunt’ and that drives them to us. But there’s a lot of new traffic as well. We do lots of stuff to keep users happy and improve the site constantly. In a couple of days we’ll be rolling out another pack of features we’ve done since Christmas. Hopefully, users will be satisfied.”

While it’s certainly likely that millions of users are now happy at having a familiar looking site to frequent, the same can not be said about people who worked on the original isoHunt. When the clone site launched some quite understandably felt that it was unfairly trading on isoHunt.com’s image, not to mention their hard work.

isoHunt

“We tried to contact former isohunt.com members (admins and moderators) to get involved with the new site but we were rejected in a very rude way,” the isoHunt.to admin explains.

“Their position is clear – isohunt.to is a ripoff and our intention is only to make profit from the well-known brand. They have contributed so much into the original website it’s painful for them to see a wannabe isohunt in a current condition. But their rejection just means we have to continue ourselves. We may not reach the same heights as isohunt.com but we’ll definitely try to create a new wave of isohunt followers and make a new home for them.”

But in the world of file-sharing there is another bogeyman that often raises its head. When sites come out of nowhere and quickly start getting big, people question their motives. Is it money? Is it malware? Or, God forbid, do they have something even bigger up their sleeve?

“Since honeypots have been created over the last few years some people thought (and still think) our site is a honeypot made by MAFIAA,” the admin explains.

“It’s interesting to read comments where people assume we work for a government agency like the FBI, or an organization like the MPAA and others. We don’t blame them, we would probably think the same. And we don’t try to encourage these people into using isohunt.to. Everyone should decide it for himself or herself. But there are plenty of opportunities to be anonymous on the net. Just a hint,” he adds.

But despite the setbacks, the popularity of the site is booming and while some won’t use the site, others have put the past and other worries behind them.

“There are lots of people saying we made them happier with the new isohunt. When they found out the original site closed down many regular users felt like a huge part of their lives had just disappeared. They were sad and lost. That shows us again how great the original place was and how immense was the effort to keep it going. We can only see a fraction of that but are happy we can preserve something valuable for people.”

Finally, the isoHunt.to admin says he believes that the new site is in itself symbolic of torrenting.

“First there’s someone sharing something. Then others join and continue sharing when the original sharer can’t do it anymore. That feels great to be a part of something bigger. So we’ll be happy for new people to join the new-wave isohunt community and continue sharing,” he concludes.

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

TorrentFreak: Thirty Years Since Betamax, and Movies Are Still Being Made

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

To those that don't remember, these are Betamax tapesIn 1984, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 5-4 that the Sony Betamax recorder was legal, due to its significant non-infringing uses. This led to the consumer entertainment revolution of the last 30 years.

Everything from DVRs to tablets to MP3 players were made possible. Even the camera in your cellphone owes its existence to that ruling, as otherwise the ability to produce a copy of a copyrighted work (even of degraded quality) would have been enough to scupper its production.

Of the Betamax debate, however, the bit most people recall came from Congressional testimony some two years earlier, with MPAA President Jack Valenti telling Congress how the machine was ‘the Boston Strangler’ of the industry.

What most don’t remember though is that it was only one of four arguments made at the time. He also argued that the movie business was a really risky one, and that VCRs would impact the already tough advertising business. Additionally, machines made overseas would kill the US economy because of imports. And of course, OMG PIRATES!!!!!!!

So, how true were those claims? Sure the US economy’s pretty bad, but overseas electronics are not really a factor in that. Indeed, domestic production of machines to compete would probably have started before Valenti’s speech if it weren’t for… Valenti and his ilk. It happened later with MP3 players too, with the threats over the Diamond Rio in 1998 delaying their introduction.

What about advertising? Since we’ve had fast-forward buttons for 30+ years, all adverts are gone, right? No, as most people know, Google makes a fortune from adverts, even skippable and blockable ones. Sure some are made unskippable, but that’s only in the last few years – they could be sped-through at will during most of the 90s. It’s yet another non-starter argument.

How about the Risky Business part? Well, there’s another name for ‘risky business’, it’s called ‘business’. All businesses are a risk and most don’t last a year. And here the movie studios have not done themselves any favors over the past thirty years. While blockbuster films like ET, Ghostbusters and Superman III hovered at $30-40 million dollar budgets in the early 80s, the likes of Man of Steel and Iron Man 3 now cost more than $200Million. The first rule of pleading poverty is don’t massively increase your risk and spending. Not that they’ve had it so bad, with record year after record year.

Finally, how’s that piracy angle? Well, let’s start with VCRs themselves. Back in 1987 we had video sales surpassing the box office for studio income, so it doesn’t seem to have hurt them there. In fact, once they were resigned to it, it took them only four years to turn things around.

So what about the wider economy? Everyone remember the much maligned MPAA LEK study, that claimed piracy cost the world economy $6.1Billion in 2006? Well, Blockbuster, a company that existed ONLY because of the Betamax decision, had revenues of $5.5Billion in 2006. In other words, a loss to the economy the MPAA almost certainly exaggerated was almost wiped out by JUST ONE company that the MPAA almost prevented from existing.

To call Blockbuster the only beneficiary of the Betamax decision is short-sighted. US sales for that same year in ‘home video’ were another $5.4 billion just across the top 100 titles. Now anti-piracy activism looks a little short-sighted.

When you look back on all this and what that decision by the SCOTUS meant 30 years ago, there’s certainly something to worry about when it comes to further restrictions. Just these two things alone made a TEN BILLION DOLLAR increase to the US economy in one year, which would have been lost if the judges had listened to the same people whining about a $6 billion worldwide loss.

With that in perspective, any future claims of loss and damages should certainly be considered with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile it’s a happy 30th to the Betamax decision.

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

TorrentFreak: Why MPAA’s Senior Executive Vice President Framed isoHunt

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

isohunt-fredomThe MPAA just closed one of its best years, scoring two major victories in recent months.

In October the anti-piracy group won its case against the BitTorrent search engine isoHunt, resulting in a $110 settlement. Soon after that, the MPAA agreed on a similar deal with file-hosting service Hotfile.

While the MPAA is unlikely to recoup much of this money, Hollywood’s anti-piracy group believes that the millions of dollars that were spent on these cases were worth it. MPAA’s new Senior EVP and Global General Counsel, Steve Fabrizio, led both cases as outside counsel and thinks that without these victories piracy would have been an even bigger problem today.

“I think if you were to look at the state of piracy today compared to what the state of piracy would have been [had Hollywood not] been diligent in protecting rights, I think you would see a very different scenario,” Fabrizio told THR in an interview.

The MPAA sees the BitTorrent ecosystem as one of the greatest threats for the movie industry. In this regard, shutting down isoHunt was a big win, despite the fact that a third-party copy of the site lives on as one of the most visited torrent sites.

“One of our greatest problem areas is the whole BitTorrent ecosystem. Obviously the IsoHunt case was one of a series of important actions to help create the rules of the road there,” Fabrizio notes.

To illustrate the significance of the isoHunt case, Fabrizio has framed the permanent injunction the Court of Appeals issued last year. This framed verdict is one of the major trophies currently on display at MPAA headquarters.

isoHunt Framed (photo by Joshua Cogan)

frame-isohunt

In addition to BitTorrent sites, the MPAA is also concerned with the dozens of file-hosting services through which pirated Hollywood movies are currently being shared. According to Fabrizio these sites are mostly set up to infringe copyrights, and not for users to store files.

“These are not storage vehicles at all, they are distribution hubs, and to call them cyberlockers is a misnomer. They are better referred to as distribution hubs because they exist for the sole purpose of helping third parties gain access to the content,” Fabrizio says.

Interestingly, however, the MPAA doesn’t seem keen on initiating more lawsuits against individual sites. Instead, the group is expressing a preference to deal with these issues through voluntary agreements. The six-strikes system for example, and strict anti-piracy policies in the advertising and payment processor industries.

With regard to Kim Dotcom and Megaupload, the MPAA is considering its options for filing a civil lawsuit. According to Fabrizio, however, it is clear that Dotcom is guilty. He believes that Megaupload’s founder’s role as a martyr for Internet freedom is little more than a clever PR play.

“I’ve been in this game for close to 15 years dealing with the Kim Dotcoms of the world, by whatever name they call themselves. And they all position themselves as a champion of something because it doesn’t sell papers for them to position themselves for what they are — people who just slap together some crude technology to make as much money as quickly as they can before they get caught and then run and hide.”

“So it doesn’t surprise me that Kim Dotcom has set himself up as some champion of something or a martyr, but it doesn’t stick. The facts on the ground don’t support it. The guy does business for the sole purpose of infringing copyrights, and that’s exactly what his business did. And now he just has to face the consequences of that,” Fabrizio adds.

Quite surprisingly, the MPAA is not looking for new copyright legislation, and Fabrizio doesn’t believe in a revival of the much protested SOPA and PIPA bills. Instead, the MPAA will continue to focus on voluntary agreements, as well as building up its relations with academics who now tend to favor less stringent approaches to copyright law.

In the months and years to come we’ll learn how successful this new approach is.

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

TorrentFreak: Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Sites of 2014

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

2014With 2013 now behind us, which torrent sites are pulling in the most visitors at the start of 2014?

Traditionally, BitTorrent users are very loyal, which is reflected in the top 10 where most sites have had a consistent listing for more than half a decade. But in common with every year, 2014 sees a few movers and shakers, as well as several newcomers.

The top three slots remain intact compared to last year, with The Pirate Bay in the lead despite several domain name changes.

The most notable absentee this year is isoHunt. The site has been featured in the top 10 since 2006, but went offline in 2013 after it settled its legal dispute with the MPAA for $110 million.

Last year’s newcomer H33t also fell out of the top 10 after it lost its domain name. The site relaunched after two months downtime at H33t.to but has lost most of its traffic.

The first newcomer in the top 10 this year is YIFY-Torrents, which is also one of the youngest torrent sites after being founded in 2011. The site has grown tremendously over recent months, and by focusing on popular movie releases YIFY has evolved into Hollywood’s new nemesis.

Isohunt clone/replacement isoHunt.to is the second newcomer, which is quite an achievement since the site only launched two months ago. RARBG is the last ‘new’ name, the site has been around for many years but is listed in the top 10 for the first time.

Below is the full list of the top 10 most-visited torrent sites at the start of the new year. Only public and English language content sites are included. The list is based on various traffic reports and we display the Alexa and U.S. Compete rank for each. In addition, we include last year’s ranking for each of the 10 sites.

Did we miss anything? Feel free to join the discussion below.

1. The Pirate Bay

To many people The Pirate Bay is synonymous with BitTorrent. The site was founded more than a decade ago and is still expanding, despite various legal troubles, domain hops and ISP blockades. The Pirate Bay currently has well over a billion page views a month.

Alexa Rank: 79 (est) / Compete Rank: NA / Last year #1

2. KickassTorrents

KickassTorrents was founded in 2009 and has quickly moved up in our top 10, settling into 2nd position this year. Responding to a looming domain seizure the site moved from its kat.ph domain to Kickass.to last August. Despite domain troubles and blockades by Internet providers in the UK and Italy, the site continues to grow.

Alexa Rank: 103 / Compete Rank: 452 / Last year #2

3. Torrentz

Torrentz has been the leading BitTorrent meta-search engine for many years. Unlike the other sites featured in the list Torrentz does not host any torrent files, it merely redirects visitors to other places on the web. The site uses several domain names with .eu being the most popular.

Alexa Rank: 153 / Compete Rank: 1.377 / Last year #3

4. ExtraTorrent

ExtraTorrent continues to gain more traffic and has moved up again in the top 10, now placed as the 4th most-visited torrent site. This success didn’t go unnoticed by rightsholders groups such as the MPAA who recently called out ExtraTorrent as one of the top pirate sites. The site was forced to trade in its .com domain for .cc this year, after it was suspended by its domain registrar.

Alexa Rank: 363 / Compete Rank: 2,286 / Last year #5

5. YIFY-Torrents

Roughly three years ago nobody had ever heard of YIFY but today the movie release group is one of the most recognizable movie piracy brands on the Internet. This reputation resulted in a court-ordered ISP blockade in the UK last year.

Alexa Rank: 809 / Compete Rank: 6,245 / Last year #NA

6. EZTV

Unlike the other sites in the top 10, TV-torrent distribution group EZTV is a niche site specializing in TV content only. Because of its focus, EZTV’s traffic varies in line with the TV seasons.

Alexa Rank: 1,050 / Compete Rank: 10,790 / Last year #7

7. 1337x

1337x focuses more on the community aspect than some competitors. The site’s owners say they launched 1337x to “fill an apparent void where it seemed there was a lack of quality conscience ad free torrent sites with public trackers.” In common with most other sites in the top 10, 1337x.org is currently blocked by the larger UK Internet providers.

Alexa Rank: 1,382 / Compete Rank: 11,445 / Last year #6

8. isoHunt.to

Isohunt.to was launched last October, less than two weeks after isoHunt.com shut down. The site is not affiliated with the old isoHunt crew but copied the site’s design. This has not been without success, as the site now has millions of pageviews a day.

Alexa Rank: 1,550 / Compete Rank: NA / Last year #NA

9. BitSnoop

BitSnoop is one of the largest BitTorrent indexes, claiming to index a massive 21,437,061 torrent files at the time of writing. The site’s torrents list continues to grow steadily, as do the number of DMCA notices that it receives.

Alexa Rank: 1,714 / Compete Rank: 5,633 / Last year #8

10. RARBG

RARBG, which started out as a Bulgarian tracker several years ago, is the third newcomer in the top 10. Together with isoHunt.to it is the only website in the list that hasn’t been blocked in the UK, which may in part explain its popularity.

Alexa Rank: 1,867 / Compete Rank: 13,238 / Last year #NA

Disclaimer: Yes, we know that Alexa isn’t perfect and that Compete has plenty of flaws, but combined both do a pretty good job at comparing sites that operate in a similar niche. The Alexa rank for The Pirate Bay is estimated based on the ranking of the .sx domain and isoHunt’s Alexa ranking is based on the past month only.

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