Posts tagged ‘mpaa’

TorrentFreak: YIFY Torrents Faces Domain Suspension, Moves to YTS.to

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

YTSOperated by the popular ‘YIFY’ release group, YTS has become one of the most popular pirate brands.

The group releases its movies on various popular torrent sites and its home base YTS.re has also become increasingly popular.

Over the past year YTS gathered fame as the movie source for the “pirate Netflix” app Popcorn Time. Pretty much all popular Popcorn Time forks get their movie releases from the YTS API.

This connection further raised YTS’s profile and turned it into a prime target for various copyright holder groups. Even the U.S. Government chimed in, labeling YTS a notorious pirate site.

Apparently this pressure has paid off. YTS is now being forced to switch to a new domain after being advised by French domain name registry FRNIC that its .re domain is doomed.

“We got a warning from FRNIC that the domain is frozen and will be suspended by the end of March,” a YTS admin informs TorrentFreak while announcing YTS.to as their new domain.

It’s unclear where the complaint originates from, but the MPAA and BREIN would be on top of the list if YTS has to take a guess. The admin is happy, however, that FRNIC informed them in advance so they have time to inform users about the transition.

“It was very nice of FRNIC to give us more than a week prep time. I see too many cases were the registrar closes an account without warning,” the YTS admin says.

The MPAA and other anti-piracy groups are increasingly pressuring domain name registrars and registries to cut off “pirate” domain names. While not all organizations are as eager to comply as FRNIC, YTS doesn’t blame them for the suspension.

“I don’t blame them for caving into threats. After all, 10 to 50 USD per year is not enough to warrant the hassle of dealing with lawyers and 3rd party law enforcement bodies. It’s easier and cheaper to just drop the client,” the admin concludes.

Despite the unforeseen move, YTS will continue to release the latest movie torrents from its new YTS.to domain.

For its users the implications are limited to updating their bookmarks. The various Popcorn Time forks will have to update their API links to point to the new domain name, but other than that things should work as usual.

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. Net Neutrality Has a Massive Copyright Loophole

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

copyright-brandedIn 2007 we uncovered that Comcast was systematically slowing down BitTorrent traffic to ease the load on its network.

The Comcast case was the first to ignite a broad discussion about Net Neutrality. It became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

This Open Internet Order was the foundation of the Net Neutrality rules the FCC adopted two weeks ago. The big change compared to the earlier attempt is that ISPs can now be regulated as carriers under Title II.

Interestingly, the exact language of the new rules remained secret until three days ago. The broader concepts, including a ban on paid prioritization and blocking were known, but the fine print was kept secret until everything was signed off on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the full text has quite a few caveats.

When we read the new rules it’s clear that the “copyright loophole” many activists protested against in the past is still there. In short, ISPs can still throttle or block certain types of traffic as long as it’s related to copyright infringement.

In its most recent order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC argues that copyright infringement hurts the economy, so ISPs are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

Interestingly, this issue has been pretty much absent from the discussion in recent months. This is curious as many activist groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), protested heavily against the copyright loophole in the past, issuing warnings over massive collateral damage.

“Carving a copyright loophole in net neutrality would leave your lawful activities at the mercy of overbroad copyright filtering schemes, and we already have plenty of experience with copyright enforcers targeting legitimate users by mistake, carelessness, or design,” the EFF wrote at the time.

So why was there little outrage about the copyright loophole this time around? TF contacted EFF staff attorney Kit Walsh who admits that the issue didn’t get much attention, but that it’s certainly problematic.

“The language about ‘lawful’ content and applications creates a serious loophole that seems to leave it up to ISPs to make judgments about what content is lawful or infringes a copyright, subject to challenges after the fact about whether their conduct was ‘reasonable’,” Walsh says.

“It’s one thing to say that ISPs can block subject to a valid court order, quite another to let ISPs make decisions about the lawfulness of content for themselves,” he adds.

According to Walsh the issue is particularly concerning because many ISPs also have their own media properties. This means that their incentive to block copyright infringement may be greater than the incentive to protect fair use material.

For example, although the Net Neutrality rules prescribe no blocking and throttling, ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as an anti-piracy measure. Throttling BitTorrent traffic in general is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

A related concern is that ISPs can use privacy invasive technologies such as Deep Packet Inspection to monitor users’ traffic for possible copyright violations. The FCC didn’t include any protections against these practices. Instead, it simply noted that people can use SSL, VPNs and TOR to circumvent it.

“The FCC’s response to concerns about deep packet inspection is that users can just use SSL, VPNs and TOR,” Walsh says.

“Of course SSL, VPNs, and TOR are great tools for Internet users to preserve their privacy, but this approach of leaving users to fend for themselves isn’t a great start for the FCC on protecting the privacy of broadband subscribers,” he adds.

The above makes it clear that Net Neutrality has its limits. The problem remains, however, that it’s still unclear how far ISPs can go under the “copyright” and “network management” loopholes.

Previously, the EFF seriously doubted if it was a good idea at all to give FCC control over the Internet. However, as things stand now they are happy with the new rules, even though they aren’t perfect.

Title II regulation with forbearance was the main goal, and that was achieved. In addition, the EFF is also content with the bright line rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic.

“We won a large portion of what we argued for, thanks to a broad coalition of advocates and the voices of four million Americans, but we did not get everything we wanted. We’re clearly better off overall with the order than without, but we’re not going to hesitate to criticize the areas where the FCC gets it wrong,” Walsh says.

Fingers crossed….

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

TorrentFreak: Music Industry Demands Action Against “Pirate” Domain Names

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

cassetteIn recent years copyright holders have demanded stricter anti-piracy measures from ISPs, search engines, advertising networks and payment processors, with varying results.

Continuing this trend various entertainment industry groups are now going after companies that offer domain name services.

The MPAA, for example, has joined the domain name system oversight body ICANN and is pushing for policy changes from the inside.

A few days ago the RIAA added more pressure. The music group sent a letter to ICANN on behalf of several industry players asking for tougher measures against pirate domains.

The RIAA’s senior vice president Victoria Sheckler wants the Internet to be a safe place for all, where music creation and distribution can thrive.

“… we expect all in the internet ecosystem to take responsible measures to deter copyright infringement to help meet this goal,” she notes.

The music groups believe, however, that domain registrars don’t do enough to combat piracy. ICANN’s most recent registrar agreement states that domain names should not be used for copyright infringement, but most registrars fail to take action in response.

Instead, many registrars simply note that it’s not their responsibility to act against pirate sites.

“We […] do not see how it is an appropriate response from a registrar to tell a complainant that it has investigated or responded appropriately to a copyright abuse complaint by stating it does not provide non-registrar related services to the site in question,” Sheckler writes.

In what appears to be a coordinated effort to pressure ICANN and other players in the domain name industry, the U.S. Government also chimed in last week.

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, Canada-based Tucows is reported as “an example of a registrar that fails to take action when notified of its clients’ infringing activity.”

Despite the critique, it’s far from clear that Tucows and other registrars are doing anything wrong. In fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation notes that there is no law requiring registrars to disconnect pirate sites.

“Domain registrars do not have an obligation to respond to a random third party’s complaints about the behavior of a domain name user. Unless ordered by a court, registrars cannot be compelled to take down a website,” notes Jeremy Malcolm, EFF’s Senior Global Policy Analyst.

“What the entertainment industry groups are doing is exaggerating the obligations that registrars of global top-level domains (gTLDs) have under their agreement with ICANN to investigate reports of illegal activity by domain owners, an expansion of responsibilities that is, to put it mildly, extremely controversial, and not reflected in current laws or norms.”

Law or no law, the entertainment industry groups are not expected to back down. They hope that ICANN will help to convince registrars that pirate sites should be disconnected, whether they like it or not.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood’s Anti-Piracy Secrets Must Be Revealed, Court Rules

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

lockMore than a year has passed since the MPAA defeated Hotfile, but the case has still been stirring in the background.

Hoping to find out more about Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously asked the court to make several sealed documents available to the public.

These documents are part of the counterclaim Hotfile filed, where it accused Warner of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process. In particular, the EFF wants the public to know how Hollywood’s anti-piracy policies and tools work.

District Court Judge Kathleen Williams sided with the EFF and ruled that it’s in the public interest to unseal the information. The MPAA, however, argued that this may hurt some of its members.

Information regarding Columbia Pictures’ anti-piracy policies, in particular, would still be beneficial to pirates for decades to come, the Hollywood group argued.

“Defendants have cited two specific pieces of information regarding Columbia’s enforcement policies that, if revealed to the public, could compromise Columbia’s ability to protect its copyrighted works,” the MPAA’s lawyers wrote.

In addition, anti-piracy vendor Vobile feared that having its pricing information revealed could severely hurt the company.

Judge Williams has now reviewed these and other arguments but ruled that sealing records indefinitely is not an option. In this case, the public interest in the records outweighs the concerns of the MPAA.

“In reaching this conclusion, the Court has weighed the parties’ interests in maintaining the confidentiality of the sealed entries, including Plaintiffs’ assertions that disclosure of the sealed information would undermine the effectiveness of their antipiracy systems and copyright enforcement abilities, as well as third-party Voible’s argument that disclosure of the sealed data would unfairly put it at economic risk, against the presumption in favor of public access to court records,” Williams writes (pdf).

As a result of this decision all sealed documents will be made public ten years after the case was filed, which is on February 8, 2021.

Previously, Warner Bros. already released some of the confidential documents. Among other things the unsealed records showed that Warner Bros. uses “sophisticated robots” to track down infringing content.

How damaging the other documents are to Hollywood’s anti-piracy efforts will become clear in five years. However, it’s unlikely to top the Sony-leak of last December, through which many sensitive anti-piracy strategies were already unveiled.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Keeps Rejecting Hollywood’s Broad Takedown Requests

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

google-bayThe MPAA and Google are not on speaking terms, to say the least.

In recent years the Hollywood group has pushed Google and other search engines to increase their anti-piracy efforts.

This prompted the search giant to filter certain keywords and update its algorithms to downrank pirate sites, but the MPAA is still not happy. Ideally, they want Google to de-list pirate sites entirely.

In a related effort, the group has been sending very targeted takedown requests. Instead of linking to individual download or streaming pages, they ask for the removal of the homepages of various pirate sites.

While these homepages often list links to infringing movies, as shown here, they also include a lot of other content that’s not specified in the takedowns. As a result, Google refuses to take action.

The MPAA’s most recent request lists 43 allegedly infringing URLs and Google refused to take 36 out of its search results, a total of 86 percent.

MPAA’s failed requests
mpaarequest

We previously asked Google under what circumstances a homepage might be removed from search results. A spokesperson couldn’t go into detail but noted that “it’s more complex than simply counting how many clicks one page is from another.”

“We’ve designed a variety of policies to comply with the requirements of the law, while weeding out false positives and material that’s too remote from infringing activity,” Google spokesperson told us.

Perhaps frustrated with Google’s inaction, the MPAA also sent Google a takedown notice for its own homepage at mpaa.org. At least, if that’s not a prank by someone else. Again, the search engine refused to take action.

Google’s stance was to be expected. After all, the search engine has refused to comply with similar requests in the past.

But it’s the MPAA’s continued attempts to censor entire homepages that’s most interesting here.

As the main force behind State Attorney General Jim Hood’s investigation into Google’s anti-piracy obligation, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if these refusals are pointed out to a judge in the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: World’s Most Beautiful Pirate Movie Site Killed in Infancy

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

nachoWhile sites like The Pirate Bay are stuck in a presentational time-warp, in recent times other file-sharing related domains have been revamping their appearances.

KickassTorrents is probably one of the best looking public torrent sites but there are plenty of private trackers whose presentations are something to behold. Streaming sites have also made big strides in their graphical layouts, something which has spooked entertainment industry outfits such as the MPAA.

That being said, one of the biggest problems for them at the moment is Popcorn Time. Its Netflix-style interface not only looks good but behind the scenes it works almost flawlessly. Add to the mix complete simplicity of use and the software is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

However, Popcorn Time – in whatever format chosen by the user – needs to be installed on a PC, cellphone, tablet or other device in order to work. A small obstacle for many users perhaps, but for the real novice that still has the potential to cause problems – unless people have nachos as well as popcorn, that is.

Sometime last week a brand new service hit the Internet. Titled NachoTime, the best way of explaining the product is PopcornTime in a browser. It looked absolutely beautiful, with full color graphics for all the content it presented – mainly mainstream movies of course.

Every single one played almost instantly in a YouTube-style interface with no noticeable buffering and it even worked flawlessly on mobile devices with no extra software required.

nacho1

In addition to instant streaming, NachoTime provided links to torrents for the same content in various qualities supported by the appropriate subtitles if needed. No other public site has ever looked this good.

However, all of this is now relegated to history as Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN acted against the service before it even got off the ground. The site now displays a notice explaining that it has been permanently shutdown.

This site has been removed by BREIN because it supplies illicit entertainment content.

This website made use of an illegal online supply of films and television series.

Uploading and downloading of illegal content is prohibited by law and will therefore result in liability for the damages caused.

SUPPORT CREATIVITY

Go to Thecontentmap.nl and see where you can legally download and stream

BREIN says it contacted the site’s host who in turn contacted the site’s owner, who took NachoTime down immediately. TorrentFreak contacted BREIN chief Tim Kuik and put it to him that his group has just taken down the best looking site around.

“I agree, very well presented,” Kuik said. “A pity it was illegal.”

The reaction to NachoTime’s arrival by BREIN was particularly quick. That, Kuik says, is due to the nature of these new waves of PopcornTime-like services. The anti-piracy group says it views them as a greater threat than torrent sites.

“Their ease of use makes them very popular so they are hurting the growth of legal online platforms,” Kuik explains.

What will happen to the individual running the site isn’t clear, but Kuik told us that he’s a 22-year-old from the Dutch city of Utrecht who signed a declaration to keep the site offline. His quick response appears to have been well received by BREIN but others thinking of embarking on the same kind of project are already on a warning.

“They will be offered a settlement or they will be sued,” Kuik explains.

“Settlement is a cease and desist undertaking with a penalty sum, a BREIN text on the site referring to Thecontentmap.nl that lists legal online platforms and payment of compensation depending on circumstances. A court case would include an injunction and full costs (likely between € 8,000 – 15,000) and a procedure on the merits regarding damages and again full costs.”

While Popcorn and Nachos are definitely tasty snacks for pirates, at least one is currently off the menu. Time will tell when the next one will come along and how long it will last.

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

TorrentFreak: ISP Categorically Refuses to Block Pirate Bay – Trial Set For October

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

Despite its current difficulties in maintaining an efficient online presence, The Pirate Bay remains the world’s most hounded website. Entertainment industry companies around the globe have made the notorious site their number one anti-piracy target and legal action continues in many regions.

Perhaps one of the most interesting at the moment is the action filed last November by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry. It targets Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget (The Broadband Company) and effectively accuses the provider of being part of the Pirate Bay’s piracy machine.

The papers filed at the Stockholm District Court demand that Bredbandsbolaget block its subscribers from accessing The Pirate Bay and popular streaming portal Swefilmer. In December the ISP gave its response, stating in very clear terms that ISPs cannot be held responsible for the traffic carried on their networks.

Last month on February 20 the parties met in the Stockholm District Court to see if some kind of agreement or settlement could be reached. But the entertainment companies’ hopes have been dashed following the confirmation that Bredbandsbolaget will not comply with its wishes.

“It is an important principle that Internet providers of Internet infrastructure shall not be held responsible for the content that is transported over the Internet. In the same way that the Post should not meddle in what people write in the letter or where people send letters,” Commercial Director Mats Lundquist says.

“We stick to our starting point that our customers have the right to freely communicate and share information over the internet.”

With no settlement or compromise to be reached, DagensMedia reports that the district court has now set a date for what is being billed as a “historic trial”.

It will begin on Thursday 23 October and the outcome has the potential to reshape provider liability in The Pirate Bay’s spiritual homeland, despite the fact that it’s now run from overseas.

Bredbandsbolaget will certainly be outnumbered. TV companies including SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More will team up with the IFPI and the Swedish Video Distributors group which counts Fox Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony among its members.

Internal movie industry documents obtained by TorrentFreak reveal that IFPI and the Swedish film producers have signed a binding agreement which compels them to conduct and finance the case. However, the MPAA is exerting its influence while providing its own evidence and know-how behind the scenes.

Also of interest is that IFPI took a decision to sue Bredbandsbolaget and not Teliasonera (described by the MPAA as “the largest and also very actively ‘copy-left’ Swedish ISP”). The reason for that was that IFPI’s counsel represents Teliasonera in other matters which would have raised a conflict of interest.

There are also some intriguing political implications and MPAA nervousness concerning the part of the case involving streaming portal Swefilmer. Those will be the topic of an upcoming TF article.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Slams MPAA Censorship Efforts After Court ‘Victory’

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

mpaa-logoWith help from the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.

The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass.

The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned” about the developments.

To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites.

This week Google scored its first victory in the case (pdf) as U.S. District Judge Wingate granted a preliminary injunction to put the subpoena on hold.

This means that Hood can’t yet use the investigative powers that were granted in the subpoena. In addition, the injunction also prohibits Hood from filing civil or criminal charges, at least for the time being.

While the Court still has to rule on the merits of the case Google is happy with the first “win.” What stands out most, however, is Google slamming the MPAA’s efforts to censor the Internet.

“We’re pleased with the court’s ruling, which recognizes that the MPAA’s long-running campaign to censor the Web — which started with SOPA — is contrary to federal law,” Google’s general counsel Kent Walker notes.

While the MPAA wasn’t mentioned in the court’s decision, Google wants to make it clear that they see the Hollywood group as the driving force behind Hood’s “censorship” campaign.

Google’s harsh words are illustrative of the worsening relationship between the search giant and the Hollywood lobby group.

After a previous clash, a top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business” with the movie group.

Thus far, the MPAA has remained relatively silent on the court case, at least in public. But given the stakes at hand it’s probably all hands on deck behind the scenes.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Pushes For ICANN Policy Changes to Target “Pirate” Domains

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

mpaa-logoThe Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the main oversight body for the Internet’s global domain name system.

Among other things, ICANN develops policies for accredited registrars to prevent abuse and illegal use of domain names.

What not many people know, however, is that the MPAA is actively involved in shaping these policies.

As a member of several ICANN stakeholder groups the lobby outfit is keeping a close eye on the movie industry’s interests. Most of these efforts are directed against pirate sites.

For example, in ICANN’s most recent registrar agreements it’s clearly stated that domain names should not be used for copyright infringement.

As the MPAA’s Alex Deacon explains, these agreements “contain new obligations for ICANN’s contract partners to promptly investigate and respond to use of domain names for illegal and abusive activities, including those related to IP infringement.”

The MPAA hopes that “the community” will take these new obligations seriously and make sure that they are enforced.

“As with any new contractual obligations, it is essential that the community as a whole be on the same page on how these obligations are interpreted and ultimately enforced,” Deacon writes.

The MPAA’s involvement with ICANN’s policy making is a sensitive subject and Deacon’s comments in public are carefully worded. However, the MPAA is getting involved with ICANN for a reason.

Thanks to internal documents that were made public in the Sony leak, we know that the MPAA ideally wants to adopt “procedures for broad-based termination of pirate sites.”

While admitting that such a major change is “unlikely,” the MPAA notes that “seeking to make policy changes through ICANN meetings” remains an important strategy.

Besides influencing future policy, the MPAA also sees an option to use the existing agreements to convince registrars to take action against domain names that are used by “pirate” sites.

“The recent ICANN changes to the registrar agreement for new gTLDs apparently provide non-judicial ‘notice’ opportunities that may suggest new strategies requiring fewer resources. We need to explore these further,” the internal MPAA document reveals.

Whether registrars are likely to comply with voluntary takedown requests has yet to be seen though. Previously, City of London Police didn’t have much luck with a similar strategy.

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

TorrentFreak: Pre-Release Movie ‘Hacker’ Indicted By The Feds

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

hackedYear in and year out dozens of movies leak online, some long before they are set to appear in theaters.

These pre-release leaks are of great concern to Hollywood and the cases often see the FBI become involved. But despite law enforcement’s best efforts the leakers are seldom identified.

This week, however, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles indicted Dutch resident Joey Vogelaar for unlawfully obtaining three Hollywood movies back in November 2010.

The now 28-year-old from Delft allegedly accessed the Sony Pictures Entertainment film “How Do You Know,” Paramount’s “Rango” and the Dreamworks movie “Megamind,” all of which were unreleased at the time.

A copy of the indictment obtained by TF (pdf) shows that Vogelaar, also known under the aliases “TyPeR” and “neXus”, is accused of computer hacking and identity theft. Interestingly, no copyright infringement charges have been filed.

The Dutchman allegedly “hacked” into the computer of a company involved in the production of the three movies. The term “hacking” should be used loosely here, as Vogelaar appears to have accessed the computer with the login credentials of an employee, who’s mentioned by the initials T.H.

How the man obtained the login credentials is unknown, but it’s not unlikely that they were already available online.

For the computer hacking charge Vogelaar faces five years in prison, and a possible identity theft sentence could add two more years – if he’s extradited to the United States.

First the defendant will have to be served but according to his father, Ben, they haven’t yet been informed of the charges. “We’ll wait, it’ll be okay,” he says.

The Department of Justice is taking the case very seriously, especially with the Sony hack fresh in mind. This hack put cybersecurity firmly back on top of the political agenda and in part triggered President Obama’s new cybersecurity plans.

MPAA CEO Chris Dodd said that because of hackers certain companies have their “digital products exposed and available online for anyone to loot.”

“That’s why law enforcement must be given the resources they need to police these criminal activities,” Dodd noted at the time.

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

TorrentFreak: “Canada Remains A Safe Haven For Online Piracy”

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

canada-pirateThe International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has just published its latest submission to the U.S. Government, providing an overview of countries it believes should better protect the interests of the copyright industry.

The IIPA, which includes a wide range of copyright groups including the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and ESA, has listed its complaints against a whole host of countries. As in previous years, Canada was discussed in detail with the recommendation to put it on the 2014 Special 301 ‘watch list’.

One of the main criticisms against Canada is that the country offers a home to many pirate sites. The country recently revised its copyright law but that has done little to address this problem, IIPA believes.

“Although there has been some improvement in recent years, Canada still has far to go to rectify its reputation as a safe haven for Internet pirates. Indeed, a number of the world’s most popular Internet sources dedicated to online theft of copyright material retain connections to Canada.”

Among others, the report lists the popular torrent sites Torrentz.eu, Kickass.to and streaming portal Solarmovie.is as partially Canada-based.

Canada’s inaction against these websites has forced copyright holders to request website blockades in other countries, IIPA claims. In addition, these pirate sites hamper the growth of legal services.

“As long as these sites continue to use Canada as a base, efforts to provide a space within which legitimate, licensed services can take root and grow are undermined, not only in Canada, but around the world,” the report reads.

According to the report Canada’s current copyright law lacks the ability to motivate hosting providers to stop dealing with this sites. Instead, IIPA argues that the law gives these companies “overbroad safe harbors.”

“Clearly the legal incentives remain insufficient for Canadian providers of hosting services to cooperate with right holders to deal with massive and flagrant infringements carried out using their services,” they write.

Aside from hosting pirate sites, IIPA characterizes Canada as a pro-piracy country in general. Canadians download more than twice as much pirated music per capita, according the copyright group.

The “notice and notice” system that was implemented recently, where ISPs have to forward copyright infringement warnings to alleged pirates, is not expected to change much either they say.

“… while the Canadian “notice and notice” system requires service providers to retain records on the identity of subscribers whose accounts have been used for unauthorized file sharing or other infringing behaviors, multiple repeat infringers will be delivered the same notice.”

Ideally, IIPA would like to see a system where repeat infringers can be identified and punished if needed, similar to the “strikes” systems that have been implemented in other countries.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg for Canada. Among other things, the groups also call for stronger border protections and limiting the copyright exceptions for educational use.

The group ask the U.S. Government to “continue to press Canada” to address these and other issues that may hinder the growth of the copyright industry.

“[The U.S. Government] should encourage Canadian authorities to do what they can to give service providers greater incentives to come together with right holders to make meaningful progress against online copyright infringement; but further legislative change is likely to be needed.”

The IIPA’s full 2014 Special 301 recommendation report is available here. This also includes assessments from more than a dozen other countries, including Brazil, China, India, Russia and Switzerland.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA to Undergo Major Changes Following Studio Disquiet

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

mpaa-logoDuring November 2014, Sony Pictures was subjected to one of the most aggressive cyber-attacks in living memory. The studio’s systems were almost completely compromised, with thousands of emails leaking online alongside several major films.

While the hackers clearly wanted to finish Sony for good, in the end their efforts proved unsuccessful. The studio appears to be on the path to recovery with the hack costing ‘just’ $15m so far. Nevertheless, the fallout continues.

Last week it was revealed that Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal will be stepping down and now further revelations suggest that the hack will have wider implications outside Sony.

According to a report, Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton became infuriated by the complete lack of support offered to his company by the MPAA as it withered under the hack last year. While MPAA chief Chris Dodd eventually admitted that he’d handled the issue poorly, the damage had been done.

Alongside disquiet over the amount of cash the MPAA burns through every year, it’s now been revealed that Lynton began making plans for Sony to take the unprecedented move of leaving the movie industry group.

While this immediate crisis appears to have been averted (Lynton is said to have reversed course around Oscar time), he and other studio executives are now seeking to comprehensively alter the way the MPAA operates.

Several options are currently on the table, including opening up the MPAA to new members and expanding its mandate to include TV and digital content. Also under the spotlight are costs.

At the moment each of the member studios – Sony, Disney, Warner, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal – pumps around $20 million into the MPAA every year (some of it going to Dodd’s salary of $3.3m) but it’s still not enough as the group is currently running at a loss.

The MPAA does have assets though, such as a valuable property (mentioned on several occasions in emails leaked from the Sony hack) located in Washington near the White House. That could be sold or developed to balance the books.

The New York Times managed to reach MPAA chief Chris Dodd on the telephone Thursday. When asked about the prospect for big changes at the MPAA he said: “I’m for that, completely.”

Dodd was on his way to have dinner in Los Angeles with top studio executives – Sony’s Lynton included – and he confirmed that a revamp of the organization was on the menu.

“He’s there. I’m glad he’s there. I think he’s handled this well,” Dodd said of Lynton, noting that some “feel more strongly” about potential changes at the MPAA than others.

Part of the MPAA’s problems relate to its inability to move quickly. All member companies have to agree on a course of action before it can be taken, something highlighted only too clearly when Dodd became hamstrung when considering what to do in support of Sony.

It’s questionable if that situation would improve with the addition of yet more members, but it would bring in much needed cash. The organization lost $4.4m in 2013 according to its latest tax filing.

Whether the coffers can be buoyed with a cash injection from the sale of MPAA real estate seems less certain. Asked about the MPAA’s Washington building and its lobbying-friendly location, Dodd sounded a note of caution.

“It’s an important spot,” he said.

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

TorrentFreak: Google Chrome Dragged Into Internet Censorship Fight

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

chromeHelped by the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.

The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass.

The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned” about the developments.

To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to quash a pending subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites.

Recognizing the importance of this case, several interested parties have written to the court to share their concerns. There’s been support for both parties with some siding with Google and others backing Hood.

In a joint amicus curae brief (pdf) the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Computer & Communications Association (CCIA) and
advocacy organization Engine warn that Hood’s efforts endanger free speech and innovation.

“No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet. Where the public official is one of fifty state attorneys general, the danger to free speech and to innovation is even more profound,” they write.

According to the tech groups it would be impossible for Internet services to screen and police the Internet for questionable content.

“Internet businesses rely not only on the ability to communicate freely with their consumers, but also on the ability to give the public ways to communicate with each other. This communication, at the speed of the Internet, is impossible to pre-screen.”

Not everyone agrees with this position though. On the other side of the argument we find outfits such as Stop Child Predators, Digital Citizens Alliance, Taylor Hooton Foundation and Ryan United.

In their brief they point out that Google’s services are used to facilitate criminal practices such as illegal drug sales and piracy. Blocking content may also be needed to protect children from other threats.

“Google’s YouTube service has been used by those seeking to sell steroids and other illegal drugs online,” they warn, adding that the video platform is also “routinely used to distribute other content that is harmful to minors, such as videos regarding ‘How to Buy Smokes Under-Age’, and ‘Best Fake ID Service Around’.

Going a step further, the groups also suggest that Google should filter content in its Chrome browser. The brief mentions that Google recently removed Pirate Bay apps from its Play Store, but failed to block the site in search results or Chrome.

“In December 2014, responding to the crackdown on leading filesharing website PirateBay, Google removed a file-sharing application from its mobile software store, but reports indicate that Google has continued to allow access to the same and similar sites through its search engine and Chrome browser,” they write.

The Attorney General should be allowed to thoroughly investigate these threats and do something about it, the groups add.

“It is simply not tenable to suggest that the top law enforcement officials of each state are powerless even to investigate whether search engines or other intermediaries such as Google are being used—knowingly or unknowingly—to facilitate the distribution of illegal content…”

In addition to the examples above, several other organizations submitted amicus briefs arguing why the subpoena should or shouldn’t be allowed under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the CDA, including the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology and Public Knowledge.

Considering the stakes at hand, both sides will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. In any event, this is certainly not the last time we’ll hear of the case.

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

TorrentFreak: The Pirate Bay Left Moldova Before Government Piracy Meeting

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

phoenix1The Pirate Bay is without doubt the most controversial file-sharing site ever to hit the Internet. Even Napster, still mentioned nearly 15 years after its demise, fails to eclipse the sheer number of headlines generated by The ‘Bay.

Throughout the site’s roller-coaster history, one element has remained constant. Sooner or later, one way or another, companies and organizations that provide infrastructure to the notorious site all come under the spotlight.

The latest Internet service provider to become associated with The Pirate Bay is Moldovan-based Trabia, the country’s largest datacenter. In January the ISP said that it supports freedom of speech and “barrier-free Internet usage” but noted that clients – Pirate Bay included – have to obey local and international laws.

It goes without saying that The Pirate Bay has rarely been associated with that kind of compliance so when the site came back online last Saturday, Trabia would’ve had good reasons to expect trouble. However, in the event, it did not do so from the company’s servers, Trabia has announced.

Trabia founder Sven Wiese says the operator of the infamous site contacted the ISP in January to inform the company that it would move to another location. While there’s no real reason to doubt Wiese’s word, it is now fairly difficult to backup the move with hard facts since, as usual, TPB is obfuscating its true location.

Speaking with Moldova.org, Wiese notes that The Pirate Bay is now ‘hosted’ with Cloudflare. While that’s not strictly true (the actual site is bound to be located in a separate hidden location), Cloudflare services are indeed providing a ‘front-end’ to the site.

It’s an interesting situation. After Hollywood pumped cash into Sweden to have local anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance investigate and then raid The Pirate Bay in December, the site has not only resurrected itself but has boldly planted some of its infrastructure firmly in the studios’ backyard.

Use of U.S.-based Cloudflare is not without its issues and has certainly helped the conspiracy theorists. Earlier this week several large publications bought into the notion that The Pirate Bay is now an FBI honeypot. It’s not (and the site will discontinue using it soon) – but if simply using Cloudflare is a cause for concern, let the nail-biting begin.

In addition to the original Pirate Bay, many of the largest Pirate Bay clones and alternatives also use Cloudflare. They include ThePirateBay.com.ua, ThePirateBay.co.in, ThePirateBay.cr, ThePirateBayv2.org and ThePirateBay.lv. Even the largest of them all – OldPirateBay.org – uses Cloudflare in its setup.

Cloudflare hasn’t commented on The Pirate Bay’s use of its services but for Trabia over in Moldova, associations with the site are set to put piracy discussions back on the agenda. According to the State Agency for Intellectual Property (AGEPI), the hosting of the Pirate Bay in the country may have “boosted the notoriety” of Moldova overseas.

“In our country no one doubts that a thief who stole something must be arrested,” said AGEPI deputy Ion Tiganas. “We want to be considered as a country that has laws and where these laws are respected.”

Tiganas says that this month there will be a meeting to discuss intellectual property rights and as a result of The Pirate Bay’s foray into the country, the site will be on the agenda.

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

TorrentFreak: Hotfile Agrees to Settle Piracy Lawsuit With Major Book Publishers

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

hfpLittle over a year ago the MPAA announced that it had settled its legal dispute with Hotfile for $80 million, which in reality came down to just $4 million.

Shortly after the settlement was announced a group of major book publishers followed in Hollywood’s footsteps.

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 told TF at the time.

The publishers held Hotfile liable for the many copyright-infringing works that were shared by its users, including ‘Office 2007 for Dummies’ and ‘C++ How to Program,’ As compensation for the damage that was suffered they demanded up to $7.5 million.

Hotfile later refuted that is was responsible for pirating users, and last December the Court scheduled a mediation conference hoping both parties would be able to resolve their issues.

This session was indeed effective as mediator Jeffrey Grubman informed the Court this week that both parties have agreed on a settlement.

“Mr. Anton Titov attended the mediation via Skype on behalf of Defendants, along with Defendants’ counsel. At the conclusion of the mediation session, the parties agreed in principle to a complete resolution of the dispute subject to final written settlement documentation,” Grubman writes.

The details of the agreement are unlikely to become public. However, it’s likely that Hotfile agreed to pay a settlement fee as it did in the MPAA case.

The finer details still have to be fleshed out and District Court Judge Beth Bloom has decided to administratively close the case for now. If the planned settlement falls apart either party has the option to reopen it.

For Hotfile the settlement will mark the end of several controversial years where it went from being one of the top file-hosting sites more than 100 million page views per month, to a defunct service with no visitors at all.

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

TorrentFreak: YTS Rolls Out New Design and Features

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

YTSOperated by the popular ‘YIFY’ release group, YTS has become one of the most popular pirate brands releasing several top movies on a weekly basis.

The group releases its movies on various popular torrent sites, but in recent years its home base YTS.re has also gathered a steady user base.

“We are currently looking at around 6.5 million pages views with just under a million unique users coming daily to the site,” the YTS team informs TF, adding that it’s roughly a 33 percent increase in uniques compared to last year.

Since the old site wasn’t built to serve millions of page views per day it started to fail more often, causing all sorts of problems. Several improvements were needed to keep things running smoothly, and in recent weeks YTS worked hard to put these in place.

Over the past weekend YTS was ready to roll out a major overhaul of the site. The backend was completely redone and the site got a redesign as well.

“We didn’t really decide to make these changes, we were kind of forced to. In the past half a year the old site was failing us. It started to crash and die with all sorts of errors on a regular basis,” YTS tells us.

While YTS was working on the backend they also decided to give the site a new look and roll out some frequently requested features. The movie pages were improved with new info and list both 720p and 1080p versions on the same page, for example.

yts-new

Another big change is the responsive design, which makes the site more easily accessible across various devices, including smartphones.

“We are finally embracing the future. We have added a responsive layout for our mobile users making life a little easier when it comes to surfing the website from your smartphone,” YTS notes.

Finally, the site’s API has also been upgraded and should be more simple to use now. This means that the developers of various Popcorn Time forks and other apps that rely on YTS will have to do some upgrades as well.

The growth of YTS hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood either. A few months ago the MPAA reported YTS to the U.S. Government in its overview of notorious markets, describing it as one of the most popular release groups.

“[Yts.re] facilitates the downloading of free copies of popular movies, and currently lists more than 5,000 high-quality movie torrents available to download for free,” MPAA wrote.

Needless to say, the movie industry group will be less excited with YTS’ continued expansion.

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

TorrentFreak: Hollywood’s Release Delays Breed Pirates

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

babypirateHollywood has a message to all those pirates who keep making excuses to download and stream films illegally.

“You have no excuse.”

The major movie studios have done enough to make their content legally available, launching thousands of convenient movie services worldwide, they claim.

“We need to bust the myth that legal content is unavailable. Creative industries are tirelessly experimenting with new business models that deliver films, books, music, TV programs, newspapers, games and other creative works to consumers,” Stan McCoy noted on the MPAA blog this week.

“In Europe, there are over 3,000 on-demand audio-visual services available to European citizens,” he adds.

So is the MPA right? Is “availability” an imaginary problem that pirates use as an excuse not to pay?

We decided to investigate the issue by looking at the online availability of the ten most downloaded films of last week. Since the MPAA’s blog post talked about Europe and the UK we decided to use Findanyfilm.com which focuses on UK content. The results of our small survey speak for themselves.

Of the ten most pirated movies only Gone Girl is available to buy or rent online. A pretty weak result, especially since it’s still missing from the most popular video subscription service Netflix.

Ranking Movie Available Online? Buy / Rent
torrentfreak.com
1 Interstellar NO
2 American Sniper NO
3 Taken 3 NO
4 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies NO
5 John Wick NO
6 Into The Woods NO
7 Fury NO
8 Gone Girl Rent/Buy
9 American Heist NO
10 The Judge NO

Yes, the results above are heavily skewed because they only include movies that were released recently. Looking up films from 2011 will result in a much more favorable outcome in terms of availability.

But isn’t that the problem exactly? Most film fans are not interested in last year’s blockbusters, they want to able to see the new stuff in their home too. And since the movie industry prefers to keep its windowing business model intact, piracy is often the only option to watch recent movies online.

So when the MPA’s Stan McCoy says that lacking availability is a myth, he’s ignoring the elephant in the room.

For as long as the film industry keeps its windowing business model intact, releasing films online months after their theatrical release, people will search for other ways to access content, keeping their piracy habit alive.

Admittedly, changing a business that has relied on complex licensing schemes and windowing strategies for decades isn’t easy. But completely ignoring that these issues play a role is a bit shortsighted.

There’s no doubt that the movie studios are making progress. It’s also true that many people choose to pirate content that is legally available, simply because it’s free. There is no good excuse for these freeriders, but it’s also a myth that Hollywood has done all it can to eradicate piracy.

Even its own research proves them wrong.

Earlier this year a KPMG report, commissioned by NBC Universal, showed that only 16% of the most popular and critically acclaimed films are available via Netflix and other on-demand subscription services. The missing 84% includes recent titles but also older ones that are held back due to rights issues.

Clearly, availability is still an issue.

So if Hollywood accuses Google of breeding pirates, then it’s safe to say the same about Hollywood.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Trademark Forces “Rated R” Beer To Drop Its Name

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

ratedrThe MPAA is best known for its efforts to protect the rights of the major movie studios. However, the group also has some intellectual property of its own to defend.

A few weeks ago the MPAA sent a cease and desist letter to Minneapolis beer brewery 612 Brew, who’re known for their tasty beers including the popular “Rated R” brand.

The movie industry group pointed out that the company was using the “Rated R” trademark without permission and urged the beer maker to drop the name to avoid confusion.

The MPAA registered “Rated R” at the trademark office in the eighties as a certification mark, indicating that a movie is rated unsuitable for children under 17, unless they’re accompanied by an adult.

While movie ratings have nothing to do with beer, the MPAA took offense at the name after the brewery filed their own trademark application. According to 612 Brew co-founder Kasak, the MPAA didn’t want the beer makers to use any of the “Rated” variants.

“[Our beer] could have been PG, PG-13 or R. It didn’t matter. As long as it contained the word ‘rated’ it would still get flagged,” Kasak told Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.

An MPAA spokesperson confirmed that the group sent a cease and desist letter but further details are not available.

The brewery first responded to the demands by arguing that the Rated R name can be used as they clearly operate in a different industry. The MPAA wasn’t convinced though, so 612 decided that it was easiest to change the name.

The trademark specifically notes that the MPAA doesn’t have an exclusive right to the word “rated,” but 612 Brew decided to go for a different variant.

Starting this year the name of “Rated R” beer was changed to “Unrated,” which isn’t trademarked by the MPAA. While the change is a setback for the brewery it’s co-founder doesn’t believe it will harm business in the long run.

“It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it, but it will be OK. It’s a great beer and they’ll drink it regardless of the name,” Kasak notes.

The brewery now has to hope that the “unrated” name won’t cause any headaches in the future. A quick search reveals that there’s an “unrated” trademark application in progress by a “yoga pants” outfit, so fingers crossed.

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

TorrentFreak: How Hollywood Plans to Seize Pirate Site Domain Names

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

pirate-runningLast December a leaked document from the MPAA exposed Hollywood’s global anti-piracy priorities for the coming years.

The leak listed the mysterious term “Fujian” as one of the top priorities, without explaining what the name of a Chinese province has to do with online piracy.

Additional documents seen by TF shed more light on the issue. It turns out that the MPAA is slowly but steadily testing a novel legal procedure through which it hopes to seize the domain names of top pirate sites.

Fujian actually refers to the company “Fujian Sharing Import & Export Ltd,” which was sued several years ago for selling counterfeit Polo Ralph Lauren and The North Face clothing.

The counterfeiters used thousands of websites to sell their knockoffs using just as many domain names. If one was taken down, Fujian would simply replace it by a new one selling the same counterfeit gear.

To stop this game of Whack-A-Mole a federal court in New York ordered various intermediaries, including domain name registries, to stop working with the company and hand over the domain names to the clothing manufacturers. If they failed to comply, the registries themselves would be held liable.

In recent years both The North Face and Polo Ralph Lauren frequently updated the list of counterfeit domain names and had them seized by their registries and deleted from search engines.

The movie studios are now planning to use the same strategy against pirate sites. Besides asking reputable domain name registries to take voluntary action, they also plan to use the “Fujian” model in court.

In a detailed overview of its strategies the MPAA says that it wants to “persuade or compel domain name registries that control the reputable gTLDs (e.g., .com, .org) to terminate domain services for demonstrated pirate sites.”

“Efforts principally include civil litigation (Fujian strategy) and outreach to registries seeking to ensure they do not provide domain services to pirate sites,” they add.

Thus far they have had some success in the U.S. in a lawsuit against a ring of counterfeit DVD sites. However, the tactic has yet to be tried against sites that offer streaming services, torrents or links to pirated material.

Behind closed doors the MPAA admits that targeting domain names will be less effective than site blocking, which is also on the agenda, as sites can move to so-called “rogue” registries. But it is still expected to have a decent impact.

“Nevertheless, domain name termination can be very effective in disrupting pirate sites and the user experience in visiting them. At least temporarily, thesite is made inaccessible,” MPAA notes.

“Even sites that come back online can be expected to see reduced traffic, with a corresponding impact on profitability and sustainability,” they add.

And there’s more to worry about. Looking at one of the most recent (24th!) supplemental order in the Fujian case we see that the court grants rightsholders powers that go much further than targeting domain names alone.

The order also requires search engines to delist the infringing URLs, banks to seize the site’s assets, and forbids ISPs, back-end service providers and web designers to do business with the domain name owners.

Whether the MPAA will be successful with their efforts has yet to be seen but persistent pirates may want to learn the IP-addresses of their favorite sites by heart, just in case.

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

TorrentFreak: Failed MPAA / Xunlei Anti-Piracy Deal is Shocking

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

mpaa-logoAs one of China’s top 10 Internet companies, Xunlei is a massive operation. In the first three months of 2014 the company enjoyed 300 million monthly unique visitors.

Among other file-sharing ventures, Xunlei operates ‘Thunder’, the world’s most popular torrent client. This and other issues have placed the company firmly on the radar of the MPAA.

The movie group first took legal action against the China-based outfit in 2008 but by 2014 relations began to warm with Xunlei pursuing an IPO in the United States. In May last year there was a breakthrough, with the former rivals signing a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) requiring Xunlei to protect MPAA studio content including movies and TV shows.

In October 2014, however, the MPAA reported Xunlei to the U.S. government, complaining that piracy was rampant on the service. Something had clearly gone wrong, an assertion that was only underlined this morning with a report that the MPAA has now sued Xunlei.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner. That has to stop and stop now,” said Mike Ellis, the MPAA’s Asia-Pacific chief.

While it’s clear that the MPAA are disappointed with Xunlei’s efforts, it’s certainly possible that the company found it impossible to fulfill its agreement with the MPAA. Documents obtained by TorrentFreak dated May 2014 (days before the deal was signed) detailing a draft agreement which Xunlei “stated unequivocally in writing that it will accept” reveal the toughest set of anti-piracy demands ever seen.

Content filtering

The CPA reveals that Xunlei agreed to deploy Vobile‘s fingerprinting system across all of its services (including file-sharing clients) to ensure that no unfiltered content would ever be uploaded or downloaded. Filters were to have been deployed within 120 days of signing the agreement and would have to be implemented on both past and future projects.

Repeat infringers

The CPA requires Xunlei to terminate those who not only infringe but also those who attempt to infringe copyright. For all U.S.-based users of Xunlei the company agreed to implement a three-strike policy, with Chinese user strike numbers to be determined later.

“This is a very strict repeat infringer policy — as strict as exists anywhere in key respects — in that both uploads and downloads count and in that infringement is determined by the filter (not just based on
notices received),” the MPAA document reads.

“[The] filter will identify each and every instance of a user attempting to infringe a studio work, by uploading or downloading. Thus, the repeat infringer numbers likely will be off the charts in our favor when we have those later negotiations. Xunlei is also obligated to preserve data on identified infringers, and we can request this data in our due diligence reviews.”

Site blocking

The CPA also grants the MPAA the power to determine who Xunlei can deal with online.

“[The MPAA] will be able to identify to Xunlei what we believe to be ‘pirate sites’ and Xunlei will block those domains from all aspects of its system (e.g., no using those domains for accelerated downloads and no accepting communications/links from those domains),” the MPAA writes.

Licensing – content is banned unless the MPAA says otherwise

As a content provider Xunlei has licensing deals with many companies to provide legitimate content. However, the CPA with the MPAA restricts the company’s ability to make its own decisions without reference.

“The definition of Unauthorized Content…excludes content for which Xunlei has a license directly or for which the studios have granted a license to a site or users that would extend to and authorize the use contemplated by Xunlei. However, this is not left to Xunlei to determine,” the MPAA notes.

“All content is deemed Unauthorized unless Xunlei obtains express written confirmation from the appropriate studio that a relevant license has been granted,” with the CPA “putting the burden on [Xunlei] to get written confirmations and effectively to create a white list.”

Access to source code

“[The MPAA] will have rights of due diligence, which will allow us access to source code and technical data/documents, to assess Xunlei’s compliance,” the MPAA adds.

When it all goes wrong

The Content Protection Agreement includes clauses for the MPAA not to sue Xunlei for copyright infringement as long as it keeps to its side of the deal. However, it appears the MPAA wanted to avoid legal action if at all possible.

“[In] the event that we are still seeing significant infringement even with Xunlei honoring its filtering obligations, then either [Xunlei] violated its representation (which by agreement is deemed a material breach) or the ongoing cooperation provisions kick in – and if [Xunlei] does not comply with them, we can sue,” the MPAA notes.

“Given the limited relief available in an action in China and the uncertainty of suit in the US, we strongly recommend that we accept the contingent covenant not to sue in the draft CPA.”

There are currently no reports of the MPAA’s legal action in Chinese media but it will be interesting to see the reaction in the days to come.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Wants to Censor OpenCulture’s Public Domain Movies

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

opencultureDespite the growing availability of legal services in many countries, movie studios face a constant stream of pirated films.

In an attempt to deter these infringements, the MPAA and individual movie studios send thousands of takedown notices to Internet services every month. Most of these requests are directed at Google.

When it comes to takedown notices the MPAA has a dubious track record. The movie industry group has got into the habit of asking Google to remove the homepages of allegedly infringing sites instead of individual pages where the infringing movies are listed.

A few days ago, for example, the MPAA asked Google to remove the homepage of the most popular torrent site Kickass.so, alongside several other torrent and streaming sites. As with previous requests Google declined to do so as the request was too broad.

kickmpaa

The same takedown notice includes another unusual and perhaps more worrying request. Between all the “pirate sites” the MPAA also targeted Open Culture’s list of public domain movies.

For those unfamiliar with the project, Open Culture offers an archive of high-quality cultural & educational media. With Stanford University’s Dan Colman as founder and lead editor, the content listed on the site is selected with great care.

The MPAA, however, appears to have spotted a problem with the list and has asked Google to remove the entire page (containing 700 movies) from its search results, as shown in the image below.

openculturedown

So why would MPAA target content that’s seemingly in the public domain?

The full details of the takedown notice have yet to be published, but there is a good chance that the request was sent in error.

In any case, the notice doesn’t look good for the MPAA. Over the past seferal months the MPAA has lobbied Google to block entire domains from its search results, but mistakes like these are a reminder for Google to remain cautious.

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

TorrentFreak: MPAA Links Online Piracy to Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan

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

mpaa-logoThe unprecedented Sony hack has put cybersecurity on top of the political agenda in the United States.

Just last week Representative Ruppersberger re-introduced the controversial CISPA bill and yesterday President Obama announced his new cybersecurity plans.

New measures are needed to “investigate, disrupt and prosecute” cybercrime as recent events have shown that criminals can and will exploit current weaknesses, according to the White House

“In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector,” President Obama notes.

Together with Congress the Obama administration hopes to draft a new bill that will address these concerns. Among other things, the new plan aims to improve information sharing between private Internet companies and the Government.

Privacy advocates argue that this kind of data sharing endangers the rights of citizens, who may see more private data falling into the hands of the Government. President Obama, on the other hand, sees it as a necessity to stop attacks such as the Sony breach.

“Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant,” the President cautions.

With the Sony hack Hollywood played a central role in putting cybersecurity back on the agenda. And although President Obama makes no mention of online piracy, the MPAA is quick to add it to the discussion.

In a statement responding to the new cybersecurity plans, MPAA CEO Chris Dodd notes that because of these criminals certain companies have their “digital products exposed and available online for anyone to loot.”

“That’s why law enforcement must be given the resources they need to police these criminal activities,” Dodd says.

The MPAA appears to blend the Sony hack with online piracy. It calls upon Congress to keep the interests of Hollywood in mind, and urges private actors including search engines and ISPs to help in curbing the piracy threat.

“… responsible participants in the Internet ecosystem – content creators, search, payment processors, ad networks, ISPs – need to work more closely together to forge initiatives to stop the unlawful spread of illegally-obtained content,” Dodd says.

Hollywood’s effort to frame online piracy as a broader cybersecurity threat is not entirely new.

Last year an entertainment industry backed report claimed that 90 percent of the top pirate sites link to malware or other unwanted software. In addition, two-thirds were said to link to credit card scams.

This report was later cited in a Senate Subcommittee hearing where the MPAA urged lawmakers to take steps so young Americans can be protected from the “numerous hazards on pirate sites.”

Whether a new cybersecurity bill will indeed include anti-piracy measures has yet to be seen. But for the MPAA it may be one of the few positive outcomes of the Sony hack, which exposed some of its best kept secrets in recent weeks.

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

TorrentFreak: Student “Not Guilty” in First 3D Movie Piracy Case

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

There have been a number of so-called “camming” cases in the UK in recent years with the MPAA-affiliated Federation Against Copyright Theft keen to stamp out the practice.

Punishments can be severe. Fast and Furious 6 ‘cammer’ Philip Danks was sentenced to 33 months in prison last year for recording, uploading and selling physical copies of the popular movie. But prosecutions can be complex and sometimes things can backfire in the biggest possible way.

Earlier this month, Birmingham student Ciprian Florea went on trial accused of attempting to ‘cam’ the space blockbuster Gravity. The case was special in a number of ways, not least that this was the first time that an individual had been accused of going equipped to capture a movie in full 3D.

According to the prosecution, Florea attended a Cineworld cinema in the city during November 2013 equipped with a home-made recording rig consisting of a pair of high-def cameras fashioned together in a device held on the man’s chest.

Florea, a student of film technology at Birmingham City University, is said to have hired the cameras the day before his arrest. These had been placed in a custom-made box in order to record the left and right eye as required for 3D imaging.

But before he had even entered the screening the student was spotted by a security guard who confiscated the device and called the police.

Florea said he had no intention to record the movie and only had the device to record his friends. He attended the screening without the device.

In the light of the fact that the UK has no specific “anti-camming” legislation and no copyright works were ever recorded, the prosecution accused the student of possessing a 3D camera with intent to commit fraud, i.e the recording and subsequent distribution of the movie.

The Judge didn’t buy it.

“I am sure everything was done with the best of motives. However I have real concern as to whether this prosecution should have been brought at all,” said Mr Recorder Nolan QC.

“It ought to have been absolutely clear there was no legal basis for it,” he added.

The Judge added that there was nothing to suggest that Florea had intended to commercially exploit any copy. Going further, he noted that even if a copy had been made and posted online, the offense may have been a breach of copyright but would not have amounted to fraud.

This may well present a problem for similar future prosecutions. With no uploading to the Internet and no evidence to support that was the intent, it appears claims of copyright infringement and/or fraud are effectively ruled out. In a case like this, where the movie hadn’t even been recorded, it’s not difficult to see why the case fell apart.

Nevertheless, the Federation Against Copyright Theft, who supported the prosecution, told TorrentFreak that the student’s behavior suggested he intended to break the law.

“The circumstances of Mr Florea’s actions in entering a cinema with equipment constructed to capture a 3D film provided strong evidence that he intended to commit a criminal offense,” FACT said.

“FACT supported the prosecution brought against him by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service on the basis of the serious damage caused to the film industry by those who illegally record films in cinemas. We are disappointed with the verdict, but respect the decision of the court.”

In comments to the Birmingham Mail after the verdict, Florea said he was glad the whole thing was over.

“I am relieved. It has taken a year and to be honest it has been a big pain in my life,” the student said.

“Although I won the case it has really been hard for me in my third year of my course. It was the first test of my final year’s project. I was just taking film of friends at the cinema.”

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

TorrentFreak: IFPI Targets ‘Pirate’ Domains With New Site Blocking Law

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

Domain blocking is now firmly established as one of the entertainment industries’ go-to methods for reducing online copyright infringement. Its use is widespread around Europe by both the music and movie sector.

In Europe the most important legal decision was announced in March last year when the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed that EU ISPs can be required to block access to sites engaged in copyright infringement.

Elsewhere, individual countries are making their own decisions on how to move forward. Last July, Singapore legislators approved the Copyright Amendment Bill which allows copyright holders to obtain High Court orders forcing local service providers to block “flagrantly infringing” websites. Now, six months on, entertainment companies are ready to launch their first tests.

IFPI regional director Ang Kwee Tiang confirmed that the music group will initially target three to five “infringing sites” over the next two months.

“We are now actively looking into exercising this in the future,” he said.

The sites to be targeted have not yet been revealed but it’s always been the understanding that The Pirate Bay would be tackled first. The site’s reputation as the “worst-of-the-worst” allows entertainment companies to present a relatively straightforward case to the courts. The rising number of blocking orders already granted elsewhere only add to the mix.

“Now, The Pirate Bay has more than 6 million links. We take the screenshots and we show that these are not licensed. We’re going to show that The Pirate Bay has been blocked in nine or 10 different countries. I think that will be very convincing for our cause,” Ang said.

However, with The Pirate Bay currently down, it’s possible that other targets will have to be selected in the first batch. Ang confirms that evidence is still being collated but he’s confident that a successful blockade will help to reduce piracy.

“I divide (consumers) 80 to 20 – 80 per cent are average consumers, if they cannot get it easily and if a legal site offers it, they may go for the legal site,” he said.

“The committed pirate is like a committed criminal. They will search for ways to circumvent. But once we have the website blocking, then we are free to tackle the 20 per cent.”

The driving force behind the site blocking phenomenon can be found in the entertainment companies of the United States but following the SOPA debacle public discussion to progress site blocking has been fairly muted. That doesn’t mean nothing has been happening, however.

In December it was revealed that behind closed doors the MPAA has been working hard to bring site blocking to the United States. Whether those aims will still be progressed following the somewhat embarrassing leaks will remain to be seen, but it’s likely the movie group won’t be steered off course for long.

Overall, Hollywood definitely sees blocking as an important anti-piracy tool. The practice is endorsed by none other than MPAA chief Chris Dodd and internal MPAA research has found it to be effective.

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

TorrentFreak: U.S. ‘Strikes’ Scheme Fails to Impact Piracy Landscape

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

FBIpiracydeptAlongside site blocking and attacking the finances of pirate sites, so-called “strike” schemes are one of the preferred anti-piracy mechanisms of the mainstream entertainment companies.

The idea is simple. Rightsholders monitor their works being exchanged on file-sharing networks, capture IP addresses of alleged infringers, and send complaints to those individuals’ ISPs. These notices are then forwarded to inform customers of their errant behavior.

There can be little doubt that this option is preferable to suing users en masse, but is the approach effective? Thanks to MPAA documents sent to the studios and obtained by TorrentFreak, we now have a clearer idea of whether the movie business itself thinks that “strikes” programs work – and more besides.

One document, titled ‘Notice & Graduated Response Programs’ begins by stating the primary aim of the programs: “Reduce P2P piracy while educating consumers about, and directing them to, legal content.”

Also confirmed is the MPAA’s desire to implement graduated response schemes with mitigation measures and awareness campaigns attached, the U.S. “Copyright Alerts System” (CAS) for example.

CAS mitigation measures haven’t proven to be particularly aggressive thus far but plenty of users have received notices. Around 1.3 million notices were sent in the first 10 months of operations. By November last year, Comcast alone had sent one million warnings.

But does the Copyright Alerts System work?

While it’s clear that the studios believe these schemes are part of the answer, the MPAA is pragmatic about the CAS behind closed doors, largely since it believes efforts thus far are just the beginning.

The U.S. system is “not yet at scale” or operating with “enough education support” according to the MPAA. As a result the CAS has not made an “impact on the overall [piracy] landscape.”

That said, the MPAA does claim some successes among those receiving notices.

“US program – with escalating remedial measures – [is] reasonably effective in decreasing P2P piracy by those actually receiving notices/alerts,” one summary reads.

However, the claim that some notice recipients mend their ways after receiving a warning (the rate of re-offending is actually quite high) is somewhat contradicted by another statement later in the same document.

“No current information as to the behavior of users who appear to stop P2P infringement – do not know whether [they are] migrating to other pirate systems or to lawful services,” the statement reads.

Nevertheless, the MPAA appears keen to expand the program to a point where impact is more meaningful. This will require cooperation with ISPs, both on volumes and mitigation measures.

Expansion, tougher punishments

“Attainability as to existing programs boils down to whether ISPs will agree (a) to expand scale to levels that might impact overall P2P piracy, and (b) to enhance remedial measures so as to improve efficacy,” the MPAA writes.

Plans to double up on the number of warnings being sent have already been revealed but whether ISPs will be keen to further punish customers remains to be seen. Still, the MPAA’s graduated response “secondary objective” might help them decide.

“Build and leverage relationships with ISPs; acknowledgement by ISPs of some responsibility for infringement through their systems; gain and/or strengthen government and other influential support for ISP accountability,” the objective reads.

Strikes systems worked elsewhere, right?

Perhaps surprisingly the MPAA has pushed ahead with CAS in the United States despite knowing that similar schemes have produced lukewarm results elsewhere.

“Programs in France and South Korea (both mandated/managed by government) – and available in New Zealand and Ireland” have had a “limited impact” according to the MPAA.

And the notice-and-notice scheme just launched in Canada and the UK’s upcoming VCAP warning system probably won’t produce nice surprises either. The MPAA believes that both are “likely” to prove less effective than programs with mitigation measures, such as the United States’. CAS.

The future

For the coming year it seems likely that while the MPAA will try to expand its current notice programs by volume, it will not attempt to introduce similar schemes elsewhere.

Will users flood to legitimate services though? The MPAA doesn’t know today and won’t know anytime soon but in any event that desired effect will probably require much more investment.

“Should see reasonable economies of scale…but to scale to level that will impact overall P2P piracy will likely require substantial additional resources,” the movie group says.

“May not have reliable data about impact for 1-2 years.”

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