Posts tagged ‘mpaa’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image from the raid

Raid

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

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

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

RemixHD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

reddit-websher

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

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

redd2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old
grade6old

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

New
grade6new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of Megaupload’s bank accounts
bankkd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MPAA internal research
mpaa-leak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVShow1

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

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

TVShowT2

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

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

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

tvshow-t3

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

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

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

The situation provides an interesting contrast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xbox Music API
music_api

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popcorn Time adds Airplay support

popcorn_time_appletv_airplay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: University Sets Fines & Worse For Pirating Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Breaking Bad Torrent”
breakingtorrent

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

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

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

Noah DVDrip
noahdvdrip1

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

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

Noah Watch
noahwatch

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

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

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pulls “Popcorn Time” Repositories Off GitHub

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

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

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

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

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

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

Popcorn Time removed
dmcagit

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

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

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

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

ptdmca

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

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

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

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

TorrentFreak: Copyright Education Needed in Every School, Parliament Hears

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

The idea that the copyright wars can be won through education is nothing new, but it’s a notion that’s likely to gain more traction in the coming years.

Suing the hell out of file-sharers might currently be popular with trolls, but the mainstream entertainment companies are increasingly opting to “educate” consumers via emailed warnings instead.

However, getting into the hearts and minds of young people before they become budding adult pirates is also an option, some believe.

The likes of the RIAA and MPAA have been dabbling in this area for many years and just last year it was revealed that the group behind the U.S. “six-strikes” program had developed a curriculum targeted at kids from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Yesterday ideas along the same lines were put forward by UK authors during a debate in the House of Commons. Bemoaning the state of renumeration for writers and authors in the UK, Joanne Harris MBE, the author of the Oscar-winning movie Chocolat starring Johnny Depp, said that downloading literature from the Internet was not “sticking it to the man”.

If children could understand that not everyone is as lucky or rich as J.K. Rowling, and that “real” people are behind these works, progress might be made, Harris said.

“Authors and creators should go into schools. Let children see what an author is like, let them go out into the community and talk to people, let them understand that we have children, we have mortgages; we do not simply get showered with Hollywood money because we happened to write a little story about wizards one day,” Harris said.

Award-winning poet Wendy Cope OBE was in agreement, noting that a general failure to do anything effective against illegal downloading meant that educating children about copyright is the only solution left.

“There is a need of education, because so many people are so completely ignorant of the basic fact of copyright. It seems to me it would take five minutes to explain, once a year in assembly, that there is such a thing as the law of copyright,” Cope said.

“Assemblies in every school in the country that such a thing of copyright exists – so these people who tell me I have photocopied your poem and sent it to all my friends know that they are breaking the law.”

And herein lies a problem.

While Cope undoubtedly works very hard to produce her poetry, one might think that the sharing culture facilitated by today’s social media phenomenon would be a useful ally, not a foe, when it comes to getting her noticed by young people. But Cope was born in the 1940s and clearly still views photocopying (Xeroxing) as something to be concerned about, so there’s a bit of a disconnect here.

Also, when one compares Cope’s views with those of Paulo Coelho, one of the most widely read authors in the world, who loves BitTorrent and people pirating his books, it becomes clear that the failure of an author to gain an audience won’t be overcome by talking about copyright in a classroom once a year.

Finally, Cope’s idea of informing children that illegal downloading is the same as stealing sweets or candy presumes that children can not only tell the difference between a legal and illegal copy of her poems, but also between a purchased Paulo Coehlo book and a ‘pirated’ one – and all the shades of fair-use gray in between.

Whether copyright proponents and anti-piracy outfits will care about those subtle shades once they’re allowed inside a classroom is another matter entirely – especially if they only get five minutes.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Director Slams “Pathetic” Anti-Piracy Crusade

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

lexi2It’s not every day that you see a Hollywood director holding up a “Free Peter Sunde” sign, but Lexi Alexander is on a mission.

With her support for the Pirate Bay founder who’s currently locked up in a Swedish prison, Alexander hopes to reach out to the “other side” with whom she shares a common goal.

Alexander is not a fan of the anti-piracy crusade the MPAA and other groups are waging against file-sharers. The massive losses that are claimed due to piracy are “bullshit” according to her. In fact, she believes that piracy may do more good than harm.

“I get a little upset when I hear how hard my industry jumps into action, sparing neither time, manpower or resources, as soon as someone even hints at potential loss to the crown estate,” Alexander notes.

“Piracy has NOT been proven to hurt box-office numbers, on the contrary, several studies say it may have boosted the bottom line,” she adds.

In recent years the movie industry has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into expensive anti-piracy measures, nearly all of which are counterproductive according to Alexander.

For example, as a German living in Hollywood she can’t watch German news online due to geographical restrictions and the same is true for U.S. shows when she’s visiting Germany. But thanks to the pirates, Hollywood director can easily bypass these restrictions.

“But guess what, for every IP block, DRM and who-knows-what security feature Hollywood spends thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on, some piracy kid will undo it for free and within a couple of minutes.”

“And this is my favorite part: I am 100% certain that the hacking of entertainment industry’s security features provides better entertainment for these kids than the entertainment we’re trying to prevent them from stealing. Let that sink in for a second, then try not to bust up laughing.”

hulu-sorry

In a recent interview with Daily Record, Alexander describes criminalization of file sharing as “pathetic.” It is mostly an issue that keeps Hollywood’s “Fat Cats” busy, but not so much independent filmmakers.

“The people who complain most about piracy in Hollywood are Fat Cats who did little to deserve their wealth or position. I doubt you’ll find many people on the anti-piracy train amongst film crews or indie filmmakers, unless they’re being paid a retainer,” she says.

Contrary to what the MPAA and others may lead the public to believe, Alexander says that piracy is rather common among filmmakers. She herself admits to downloading films when there are no legal options available.

“I download stuff myself, so do many of my colleagues here in Hollywood. Usually we do it only when we can’t find something on mainstream streaming services,” Alexander says.

gsh

The movie director uses pirate sites to grab movies that are relevant for an upcoming meeting for example, something which has saved her on a few occasions.

“I cannot tell you how often my ass was saved by some torrent site in those situations. And I assume that 99% of my Hollywood filmmaker colleagues or their poor assistants have found themselves on a piracy site for just that reason (if they deny it, they’re lying. The end.)”

Despite her own piracy habits, Alexander doesn’t endorse the existing piracy status quo. In a blog post on her own site she notes that many of the people running pirate sites are just as motivated by greed as the people in Hollywood.

The movie director considered reaching out to Kim Dotcom but concluded that his luxurious lifestyle makes him just like the Hollywood elite. The Pirate Bay team was second on the list, but this was scrapped after learning about historical connections with right-winger Carl Lundström.

The movie director is nonetheless reaching out to all pirates with good intentions who put art and talent before the dollar signs. An “Occupy Hollywood movement,” as she describes it, and calling for Peter Sunde’s release, is her way to reach out to those who support this cause.

So will the real pirates please stand up?

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

TorrentFreak: Singapore Passes Pirate Bay-Blocking Anti-Piracy Law

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

tpb-logoThe battle to stop Internet users from downloading copyrighted material is one that can never be won, but that hasn’t stopped a growing list of countries from having a go.

Domain blocking is now one of the preferred methods of reducing copyright infringement around Europe and is endorsed by none other than MPAA chief Chris Dodd.

Today, Singapore can be added to the list of site-blocking countries after passing freshing amendments to its Copyright Act. The news, unpopular with many Internet users, caused the term ‘piracy’ to trend on Twitter.

SingaporeTrend

The Bill was put before Parliament yesterday but was pushed over to today after time ran out. The newly-passed legislation will allow copyright holders to obtain High Court orders to force local service providers to block access to websites that “flagrantly infringe” copyright. How that will be determined is not yet clear.

The new tool will be a useful one for music and movie companies. Previously content was taken down or blocked by ISPs on a case-by-case basis but now wholesale site blocking will become the favored weapon. Local media suggests that the new mechanism could allow sites to be blocked within eight weeks of a successful application.

In a statement, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the new amendments will help reduce piracy and boost legal alternatives.

“The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector,” Rajah said.

“It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of intellectual property.”

Unsurprisingly The Pirate Bay is first on the list of sites set to be targeted by copyright holders, with KickassTorrents reportedly a close second. The law could come into force by the end of August so it’s possible that both sites – and most probably more – will be blocked before the end of the year.

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

TorrentFreak: Tough New Piracy Law Sees No Takers in More Than a Year

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

For many years regular file-sharers in Norway have been largely free to go about their business with little concern for the consequences. A 2011 decision disallowed the only entity licensed to collect information on P2P networks from doing so, meaning that tracking pirates without permission would breach privacy laws.

In 2011 under significant rightsholder pressure, the Ministry of Culture announced amendments to the country’s Copyright Act alongside promises to give the entertainment industries the tools to go after pirates. Two years later in July 2013 the new law went into effect and as promised it gave the pirate hunters a sporting chance.

Out went the days of restrictions on P2P user monitoring and in came a system whereby groups seeking to spy on pirates only needed to get permission from the country’s Data Inspectorate. The big MPAA affiliates obtained permission within the first few months and promised to target uploaders, but what followed next?

Since it’s been a full 12 months since the start of the new law and seven months since the MPA obtained clearance to monitor, Hardware.no filed some questions with the Ministry of Culture to find out the state of play. It also contacted the Post and Telecommunications Authority to find out if any personal details of file-sharers had been handed over to copyright holders.

“The short answer is no,” said Deputy Director Elisabeth Aarsæther.

“From our point of view it looks like the word ‘share’ means go ahead and ‘steal’ among users. I cannot say for certain that nothing will happen going forward, but we have not received any requests so far.”

Aarsæther said that the lack of requests might have something to do with the greater number of legal services now available online. However, there also appears to be a lack of interest from copyright holders who only need to register with the authorities in order to collect IP addresses.

“We took stock moments ago, and we have not received any new messages in a long time,” senior Data Inspectorate adviser Guro Skåltveit told Hardware. “There are currently twelve entities who have advised us and can now collect data.”

Eleven of that dozen registered back in the fall of 2013, and they include a successful application from the Norwegian Pirate Party. Thus far in 2014 there has only been one new application. None have sought personal details.

Finally the new law allows for the blocking of sites confirmed to breach copyright law, but again there has been little visible movement on that front. The industries’ main target, the infamous Pirate Bay, remains accessible in the country despite threats to have it blocked in court. However, this process was expected to take some time, particularly since local ISPs are refusing to do anything voluntarily.

After lobbying hard for new laws over many years one might have expected rightsholders to use every tool available to them as quickly as possible, but for some reason they’re gathering dust 12 months on. It may well be that chasing down individuals has become unpalatable, especially alongside efforts to woo consumers with better legal offerings.

Time will tell what the strategy is going forward, but for now Norwegian file-sharers can rest easy. Their next challenge probably won’t be a letter in the post, but the puzzle of how to unblock The Pirate Bay.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood Fails to Add Torrent Sites to Child Abuse Filter

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

stop-blockedWebsite blocking has become one of the music and movie industries’ favored weapons in their seemingly endless fight against online piracy. Blocks of torrent and other sharing sites are in place in many countries around Europe, mainly due to court injunctions forcing ISPs to take action against copyright infringement.

While legal action is one way of introducing a blockade, other methods require much less time, effort and money. This week the spotlight was placed on the UK, where the government has pressured ISPs to introduce default-on filtering for their subscribers, ostensibly for the protection of children. The result is huge overblocking and conveniently for the entertainment industries, hundreds – possibly thousands – of file-sharing sites wiped out with the correct settings.

With the right level of knowledge these filters can be turned off, but other more serious national anti-child abuse mechanisms cannot.

The UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) maintains a blocklist of URLs that point to sexual child abuse content. Over in New Zealand the Department of Internal Affairs maintains DCEFS, the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System. Both are run in cooperation with the countries’ ISPs with the sole aim of keeping the most objectionable material away from public eyes.

Today, however, it’s been revealed that Hollywood attempted to broaden the remit of New Zealand’s DCEFS in order to protect their own interests.

The Motion Pictures Distributors Association (MPDA) has a familiar sounding name and unsurprisingly has some well-known backers. Fox, Sony, Paramount, Disney, Universal and Roadshow are all members of the group which coordinates the distribution of movies in New Zealand.

According to a RadioLIVE report, in order to prevent copyright infringement the studios requested access to the DCEFS child abuse filtering system.

After obtaining government permission, Hollywood hoped to add their own list of sites to DCEFS so that by default subscribers to New Zealand’s main ISPs would be prohibited from accessing torrent and other file-sharing type sites.

But in the face of objections from both the ISPs and the Kiwi government, Hollywood was forced to scrap its plans.

“[The ISPs] were not prepared to agree to that extension and in any case it would have shifted the mandate somewhat from [the Department of Internal Affairs'] primary focus on preventing sexual abuse of young children,” Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne told the show.

There can be little doubt that Hollywood believes web filtering is an effective mechanism to reduce infringement – MPAA chief Chris Dodd explicitly said so during his speech at the International IP Enforcement Summit last month. But the notion that governments should treat the filtering of copyrighted content and child abuse in the same way is not only controversial but unlikely to win sympathy with the public.

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

TorrentFreak: Comcast Must Share Six-Strikes Warnings with Copyright Troll, Court Rules

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

comcastLast year the RIAA and MPAA teamed up with five of the largest Internet providers in the U.S. to begin issuing warnings to alleged copyright infringers.

As part of this partnership the ISPs have to store all warnings their customers receive. Opponents feared that this data could be used against these individuals in court, which is specifically permitted under the agreement.

“The Content Owner Representatives [MPAA / RIAA] or any other member of the Participating Content Owners Group may use such reports or data as the basis for seeking a Subscriber’s identity through a subpoena or order or other lawful process,” the agreement reads.

However, as it turns out, the first legal consequences aren’t a result of action taken by Hollywood or the major record labels. They come from the adult video publisher Malibu Media, a so-called copyright troll that has filed over 750 lawsuits against alleged infringers this year alone.

In their case against Kelley Tashiro, a middle-aged female nurse from Indianapolis, the company had trouble proving that an infringement actually took place. But instead of backing down, they put their money on the six-strikes warnings databases.

Malibu asked the court to order Comcast to release all data being held as part of the Copyright Alert System. While Malibu is not part of the program, this data may show that the Internet connection was used to share pirated content on more occasions.

“DMCA notices and six strike notices are relevant because these notices may prove a pattern of infringement or notice that infringement is occurring or both,” Malibu noted in its motion.

A copy of the recorded copyright infringements wasn’t enough for Malibu though, the company also asked for details of Tashiro’s bandwidth consumption, suggesting that this could indicate whether she is an infringer or not.

“Bandwidth usage is relevant because people who are heavy BitTorrent users use significantly more bandwidth than normal internet users,” the company’s sweeping generalization reads.

This week Indiana District Court Judge Mark Dinsmore granted Malibu’s motion, which means that Comcast will be ordered to share the requested evidence.

“Plaintiff’s Motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff may serve a third party subpoena on Comcast and Comcast should comply with Plaintiff’s Subpoena Duces Tecum
for deposition as outlined in Plaintiff’s Motion,” the Judge writes.

order-comcast

Comcast has not yet responded to the order, but considering the sensitivity of the subject the Internet provider is expected to file an appeal.

Currently it’s not known whether Tashiro has ever received a copyright alert, but the RIAA, MPAA and other participants in the Copyright Alerts System will not be pleased with these latest developments.

The Center for Copyright Information, which oversees the program, has always emphasized that the program respects the privacy of Internet subscribers. Having it used against alleged downloaders by copyright holders that are not even part of the scheme is bad PR for them, to say the least.

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

TorrentFreak: Respect for File-Sharers’ Privacy Keeps Swiss on US Watch List

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

congressOver the past 12 years the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus has worked to highlight enforcement practices in need of improvement and to place countries perceived to be falling short of United States standards under the spotlight.

Yesterday the caucus became the International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus, a change of name shunning the term ‘piracy’ in favor of an artist-focused theme that furthers the notion that infringement is the same as stealing.

The Watch List

As usual there are international winners and losers in the caucus report. On the up are Italy and the Philippines, with the former taking especially drastic steps to combat online file-sharing, including the blocking of ‘pirate’ sites by an administrative body, no court process required.

“In light of the reforms undertaken and a greater commitment to enforcing the law, both nations were removed from the Special 301 Report for the first time in its 25 year history. The caucus applauds Italy and the Philippines for undertaking reforms that recognize the importance of fostering creativity,” the report reads.

But in terms of improvements, the praise stopped there. In the file-sharing space, Switzerland came under attack after a momentous court decision four years ago

The Swiss file-sharing privacy safe haven

The controversy surrounds the so-called ‘Logistep Decision‘. The Logistep anti-piracy outfit became infamous in the latter half of the last decade for their work providing tracking services for copyright trolls in Europe and the UK.

In 2010 following several years of legal wrangling and controversy, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ordered the anti-piracy outfit to stop harvesting the IP addresses of file-sharers. Underlining the notion that IP addresses are private data, the court’s decision effectively outlawed the tracking of file-sharers in Switzerland with the aim of later filing a lawsuit.

In its report the caucus says that Switzerland’s timeline (18 months minimum) for bringing the country “back up to international standards for protection of copyright” is unacceptable so the country will remain on the Watch List. That position is unlikely to change anytime soon considering the long Swiss tradition of respecting privacy.

Russia

Unsurprisingly the main site mentioned in respect of Russia is local Facebook variant vKontakte. The site has come under sustained attacks from both the RIAA and MPAA and the caucus is happy to keep up the pressure in 2014, despite Russia’s efforts to really tighten up local copyright law.

“The Caucus urges the Russian Government to take prompt action against websites that actively facilitate the theft of copyrighted materials, in particular vKontakte which was again named as a Notorious Market while remaining one of the most highly trafficked websites in Russia. Given the scale of online piracy emanating from Russia, it is crucial the Russia take serious and large scale action to enforce the law against rogue actors and end their status as a haven for digital piracy,” the report reads.

China and India

As expected, China is yet again subjected to criticism, despite clear signs that the country is changing its attitudes towards IP enforcement.

“Though the climate for intellectual property has improved, driven in part by a growing domestic creative sector within China, the scale of piracy remains massive, inflicting substantial harm to American and Chinese creators,” the caucus says.

And despite playing host to a large local creative industry, the caucus says that India is not doing enough to protect IP either, with high rates of camcorder movie piracy and a lack of effective notice-and-takedown procedures both aggravating factors.

Follow-the-money

Given the current collaborations between governments and the private sector with their “follow-the-money” approach to dealing with infringement, it’s no surprise that the caucus has focused a section of its report on this initiative.

Current momentum sees strong international efforts to eliminate the appearance of major brands’ advertising on ‘rogue’ sites and the caucus reports further progress on that front. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA), American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As), and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have all reported taking “concrete steps” towards evaluating “digital ad assurance” technologies to keep revenue away from pirate sites.

In a response, RIAA Executive Vice President Neil Turkewitz praised the caucus for its efforts.

“Their work on advertising has already led to various improvements, and we hope that soon the lure of generating money from advertising will no longer be viable for sites serving as distribution hubs for infringing content,” Turkewitz said.

Echoing the words of Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero, who had been invited to the report’s unveiling in recognition of his country’s anti-piracy achievements, the MPAA reiterated that the protection of copyright on the Internet is essential to the development of business.

“At the MPAA, we couldn’t agree more, and deeply appreciate the steps being taken by the caucus to help protect the creative industries and the millions of workers they employ – both here in the United States and abroad,” the MPAA conclude.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Targets Reddit Community Over Movie Piracy

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

flfEvery week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find.

Not all copyright holders take the same approach. Where the RIAA targets millions of infringing URLs per month, the MPAA only sends out a handful of notices.

Instead of using dragnet scripts to take down everything that links to infringing copies, the movie industry group specifically targets homepages of ‘rogue’ sites and other high impact targets. In the latest DMCA notice, sent last week, Reddit ended up on the list.

Like many other user-generated content sites, Reddit has plenty of links to copyright infringing material. In fact, there are several sub-communities that are dedicated to finding and publishing lists to pirated material.

The subreddit r/fulllengthfilms is a good example. Here, users are encouraged to post links to their favorite movies, preferably from legal sources. However, pretty much all links point to streams of pirated films including “Gravity” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The MPAA is not happy with this growing list of movies. In their most recent takedown notice they ask Google to remove the entire subreddit from its search engine, because it contains a link to a camcorded copy of “Edge of Tomorrow.”

MPAA’s takedown request
flf-takedown-google

Interestingly, Google has declined to action the MPAA’s takedown request. It’s not clear why the search giant refused to take it down, but one of the reasons may be that the MPAA did not limit their request to the “Edge of Tomorrow” posting. Instead, the movie industry group targeted the entire subreddit.

These broad takedown requests are not uncommon as most of the MPAA’s takedown notices contain homepages of download portals or streaming sites. In some cases the infringing work listed in the takedown request no longer appears on these homepages, and the MPAA often fails to list the internal page it’s supposed to link to.

With this strategy the MPAA has managed to remove the homepages of several popular sites from Google’s search results, including KickassTorrents. But Google doesn’t always comply. For the most recent DMCA notice it refused to take down most links, including the Reddit one.

It’s still unclear whether the MPAA also sent a takedown notice to Reddit. TorrentFreak asked Reddit for a comment on the news but we have yet to receive a response.

At the time of writing the FullLengthFilms subreddit and the “Edge of Tomorrow” posting remain online.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Offers $20,000 Grants For “Unbiased” Piracy Research

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

mpaa-logoLate last year a study from European researchers revealed that the Megaupload shutdown had a negative effect on the box office revenues of smaller films.

The researchers suggested that the decrease in sales may be the result of a drop in word-of-mouth promotion from pirates, which affects smaller movies more since they have less advertising budget.

The MPAA wasn’t happy with the media coverage the study generated and went on the defensive citing two Carnegie Mellon University studies to show that piracy harms sales.

Interestingly, it failed to disclose that those findings came from research that was supported by a $100,000 grant from the MPAA.

While we trust that the research is solid, the above shows that academic research plays an important role in the MPAA’s lobbying efforts. For this reason, the Hollywood group has recently started a grants program, hoping to enlist more academics to conduct copyright-related research.

The MPAA is now accepting research proposals on a series of predefined topics. They include the impact of copyright law on innovation and the effectiveness of DMCA takedown notices. The best applications will be awarded a $20,000 grant.

“We want to enlist the help of academics from around the world to provide new insight on a range of issues facing the content industry in the digital age,” says MPAA CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd.

According to the MPAA boss, academic researchers can contribute to understanding the changes the industry faces by providing unbiased insights.

“We need more and better research regarding the evolving role of copyright in society. The academic community can provide unbiased observations, data analysis, historical context and important revelations about how these changes are impacting the film industry and other IP-reliant sectors,” Dodd notes.

The MPAA clearly sees academic research as an important tool in their efforts to ensure that copyright protections remain in place, or are strengthened if needed.

This outreach to academics may in part be fueled by what their ‘opponents’ are doing. Google, for example, is heavily supporting academic research on copyright-related projects in part to further their own interests.

Both sides clearly steer researchers by giving them precise directions on the grounds they want covered. It’s now up to the academics to make sure that they don’t become pawns in a much bigger fight, and that their research is conducted and results presented in an objective manner.

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

TorrentFreak: Vuze Torrent Client Condemns Piracy, Says It’s Stealing

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

piracy-crimeFollowing in the footsteps of the makers of uTorrent, the Vuze team is now taking a stand against piracy.

The California-based company says it will focus more on highlighting legal content through social media and other outlets. Vuze emphasizes that its technology is completely legal, but wants its users to understand that sharing files without permission of copyright holders isn’t.

“Although torrents themselves are a legitimate way to share files, understanding the rights of copyright holders and what content they have or have not authorized for free distribution is the core to understanding the difference between it being legal or illegal to share or distribute content using Vuze,” the company notes.

“Remember, if you use Vuze torrent client software for P2P file sharing then use it responsibly. Be aware of illegal torrents and avoid downloading them. Don’t infringe copyright,” Vuze adds.

This position is sensible for a technology company to take. Also, Vuze does highlight that copyright is a complex issue, and that there are ongoing discussions with varying positions. The bottom-line according to Vuze, however, is that downloading something without the permission of the owners is stealing.

“Now we can get into all sorts of political, social and even religious discussions on this topic, but right now as the laws exist in most places downloading and sharing content without the authorization of the rights-holder is stealing, and even if one copy was purchased, passing digital copies around via P2P is still illegal, sometimes criminally so.”

piracy-is-not-theft“Sharing and downloading infringing MP3s and MPEGs is virtually the same as swiping from a brick-and-mortar,” Vuze adds.

The “stealing” mention is a touchy subject. Many people, including scholars and a U.S. federal court, believe that this term should be avoided when talking about piracy.

Even the MPAA’s Chris Dodd agreed on this. “We’re on the wrong track if we describe this as thievery,” Dodd said two years ago, although the MPAA still uses the term today.

Vuze, however, doesn’t avoid this type of strong language. The company wants to make it clear that piracy is not allowed. In fact, the company encourages its users to follow suit, and “consider reporting illegal content infractions.”

Aside from the promise to highlight legal content on its blog, they also provide some tips for users to spot infringing content. Vuze hopes that with these guidelines, users will be able to steer away from any illegal behavior.

“We want to again stress that we respect the rights of copyright holders, and hope and expect that you do too,” Vuze concludes.

Whether that’s going to happen remains to be seen. Several studies have shown that more than 90% of all public transfers via BitTorrent are copyright infringing, and it will be hard to flip these numbers around.

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