Posts tagged ‘Torrent Sites’

TorrentFreak: Torrent Sites Stay Blocked Long After World Cup Ends

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

stopstopWhile news of site blockades breaks every month (oftentimes more frequently) reports that sites have been unblocked are far less regular events.

In fact, it’s becoming apparent that aside from isolated instances, once websites get put on national blocklists in the UK or Italy, for example, it is unlikely that they will become readily available again.

Since no one in power is lobbying for blocked sites to be removed from censorship filters, sites such as The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents will probably remain blocked indefinitely. There are no immediately obvious time-out events attached to these injunctions and there’s certainly no one prepared to go to court to argue over the details.

Such sunset clauses are important though, as India is finding out.

Back in July a TV network owned by Sony went to court in India to have hundreds of sites blocked at the ISP level after they allegedly made World Cup matches available online without permission.

The 472 sites requested was reduced to 219 after an appeal by ISPs, but the injunction was still one of the broadest to date anywhere in the world. Whether it reduced piracy or placed money in Sony’s back pocket is anyone’s guess, but now – long after the World Cup ended – the blockades are still in place.

Medianama says it has carried out tests and discovered that The Pirate Bay, Mega.co.nz, TorrentHound, LimeTorrents and TorrentFunk among dozens of others are still inaccessible through local ISPs.

The news outlet also contacted Multi Screen Media, the Sony company behind the blocks, asking whether the company had asked for the blocks to be removed and why Dotcom’s Mega was targeted. The company did not respond.

While some will argue that having sites blocked is a legitimate response to online piracy, it is difficult to maintain that stance long after any infringements cited in court cases have ended. That said, ex parte hearings are by their nature one-side, so it’s unlikely anyone will be looking out for the rights of their rivals anytime soon.

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

TorrentFreak: BitTorrent to Crowdfund TV-Show Through New Paywall

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

bundleFollowing in the footsteps of FrostWire and VODO, BitTorrent Inc. launched an artist promotion program a few years ago.

The idea was to let artists share their work for free, exposing it to millions of BitTorrent users all around the world.

Helped by a massive user base of more than 170 million the program has been very successful. But, aside from promotion some artists would also like to see some hard cash in return. This is now an option thanks to the “paygate” uTorrent’s parent company will launch this September.

The walled content can only be accessed and shared after a user pays a fixed fee to the creator. To prevent users from sharing it without permission there will be some restrictions in place.

The paywall idea was initially announced last year and film producer Marco Weber will be one of the first to try it in the wild. Through BitTorrent, Weber will release a pilot of the new TV-series “Children of the Machine” and those who like it can pay $9.95 to buy the entire series.

“If viewers fall in love with the show, they can purchase the entire series in advance via Bundle paygates. Once the funding threshold is reached — 250K subscribers — the first season will be produced, and delivered back to the fans who kicked in to support the project,” BitTorrent announces.

The filmmaker chose the crowdfunding format, which means that if the project is not funded the series will never see the light of day. This is a serious possibility as no artists have ever raised more than a few thousand dollars, even though many have tried.

The film producer is nevertheless confident that the the project will turn into a success.

“With over 170 million users, BitTorrent is a powerhouse. Add in paygates, and you have a fantastic tool to distribute content to a growing, influential youth audience,” Weber says.

The good news is that many of these millions of BitTorrent users are already familiar with downloading TV-shows, be it without permission. However, an often heard excuse for this deviant behavior is that it takes too long before an episode becomes available through legal channels, so whether these people will be patient enough to prepay a series months in advance will remain to be seen.

Both Weber and BitTorrent Inc. have to be applauded for giving it a try and it will be interesting to see the results.

BitTorrent isn’t the first to experiment with these new models though. The VODO platform has used a similar paywall system for quite some time, and together with The Pirate Bay and several other torrent sites they helped to crowdfund the TV-series Pioneer One.

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

TorrentFreak: Adobe Says Piracy is Down, But Photoshop Still Rules Pirate Bay

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

There can be little doubt that Adobe products are a crowd pleaser among digital creatives. Designers love them, photographers and videographers do too, and Adobe’s Photoshop, Flash and Acrobat brands are recognized worldwide.

But while millions of people use Adobe’s premium products, not everyone pays for that privilege. Unauthorized Photoshop releases have been appearing on computers worldwide for 25 years and other Adobe products are regularly pirated close to their launch. Over time this has led Adobe to invest substantial sums of money on anti-piracy measures including DRM and even legal action. But there are other ways to deal with the problem.

In May last year and much to the disappoint of Adobe’s millions of pirate ‘customers’, the company announcemend that it would be changing the way it does business. Boxed products, a hangover from the last decade and earlier, would be phased out and replaced with a cloud-based subscription model.

On the one hand, many pirates heard the word “cloud” and associated that with a lack of local machine control, something that can cause issues when trying to run unlicensed software. Adobe, on the other hand, appeared to be looking at product development and the piracy problem from a different angle.

While attempts at hacking its cloud service would present another technical barrier to piracy, with its new offering the tech giant also looked towards making its product more affordable. A few dollars a month rather than $700 in one go was aimed at providing an economic reason for even the most budget-restricted not to pirate. But has the strategy worked?

According to new comments from Fabio Sambugaro, VP of Enterprise Latin America at Adobe, unauthorized use of the company’s products is definitely down since the cloud switch.

“Piracy has fallen,” Sambugaro says. “It’s hard to measure, but we’ve seen many companies seeking partnerships that in the past wouldn’t have done so.”

According to information released to investors last month, Adobe exited quarter two this year with 2,308,000 subscribers of its Creative Cloud service, an increase of 464,000 over the first quarter of 2014. The company attributed 53% of the company’s quarter two revenue to “recurring sources” such as its Creative and Marketing Cloud services.

So have the pirates given up on Adobe? In a word, no.

One only has to scour the indexes of the world’s most popular torrent sites to see that Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom, Illustrator, Premiere, Indesign, After Effects and Acrobat Pro all take prominent places in the charts of most-popular torrents. No surprise then that on The Pirate Bay, Photoshop CS6 – the last version of Photoshop before the cloud switch – is king of the software downloads by a long way.

Also, and contrary to fears aired by pirates alongside Adobe’s original strategy change announcement, the cloud has not made it impossible to run unauthorized versions of Photoshop CC 2014, for example. Expected functional restrictions aside, torrent sites have plenty of working copies of Creative Cloud releases, but is this necessarily a bad thing?

There are those who believe that some level of piracy is useful as a try-before-you-buy option on a traditionally expensive product such as Photoshop. But what makes this notion even more interesting today is that Adobe’s switch to the cloud – and its much lower price point for entry – may see people investing a few dollars a month for increased functionality and a simple life, instead of one spent jumping through hoops with an inferior and oftentimes awkward product.

And Adobe knows it.

“I do not think people who pirate our software do it because they are bad people, or because they like to steal things. I just think that they decided that they can not afford it,” said Adobe’s David Wadhwani previously.

“And now, with the switch to subscriptions and with the ability to offer software at a cheaper price, we see that the situation is beginning to change and we’re excited.”

Richard Atkinson, Corporate Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy, admitted last year that the company would move away from “enforcement-led anti piracy” to a “business-focused pirate-to-pay conversion program.”

If the company is to be believed, that is now paying off.

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: Flixtor Finds Anti-Piracy Investigator on Its Doorstep, Shuts Down

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

This weekend the website of the movie torrent streaming application Flixtor suddenly went offline, and the same happened to search engine TorrentLookup.com.

Both projects were run by the same team, which is based in Canada, and were slowly but steadily expanding their user bases. This suddenly changed a few days ago when a message posted on both sites announced that the streaming app and search engine were being discontinued.

“We voluntarily decided to close all services of torrentlookup.com. Thanks to everybody that used Flixtor and bought the mobile version. We have reached the finish line,” a message now displays on both sites.

The decision came as a total surprise to users of the site and app. Flixtor, a custom-built Popcorn Time alternative based on the same Peerflix engine, was just a few weeks old.

The Flixtor app had a user interface similar to Popcorn Time, but was not a fork. Instead, it used its own code and the movies/series API from TorrentLookup.com, which claimed to have the latest releases faster.

Flixtor
flixtor

TorrentFreak got in touch with one of the developers, who informed us that the decision to close was the result of movie industry pressure. The developer in question had an investigator from the MPAA-funded Motion Picture Association Canada come by his house, and it didn’t stop there.

“They were annoying me with phone calls repeatedly, and I talked to them quite a few times,” the developer explained.

The movie industry group only had one goal, and that was to shut down the streaming application and the torrent site. The investigator threatened the developer with legal action if he refused to comply.

“They wanted me to close Flixtor/Torrentlookup and then they would drop the charges against me, which are $20,000 per copyrighted file,” the developer told us.

With the threat of a massive lawsuit on their shoulders, the people behind the two projects decided to pull the plug this weekend. Even if they wanted to, they lack the funds to properly defend themselves in court.

The above shows that, behind the scenes, a lot of pressure is being put on the people who operate torrent sites and related services. It may also explain why some sites simply disappear, or why some of the “Popcorn Time” developers ceased their activities.

TorrentFreak contacted the Motion Picture Association Canada for a comment yesterday, but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

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

TorrentFreak: Italy Orders Blockade of Three More Torrent Sites

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

After coming under intense criticism, this year Italy was removed from the Watch List in the USTR’s Special 301 Report. Part of the formula for that achievement was to be found in telecoms regulator AGCOM.

Instead of legislating against piracy, the Italian government gave the watchdog the power to deal with infringement, up to and including the removal of infringing content and even the blocking of allegedly copyright-infringing domains.

In May and following complaints from the entertainment industry, AGCOM ordered the blocking of four torrent sites – LimeTorrents, TorrentDownload.ws, Torrentz.pro and TorrentDownloads.me. Just over a month later and yet more sites have fallen victim to its blocking regime.

This time around it’s the turn of Torrent.cd, Torrentvia and TorrentRoom to land on the AGCOM blacklist. None of the sites are large, quite the opposite in fact, but a dig down into their traffic stats reveals why Italy is interested in them.

The largest of the trio, Torrent.cd, has the greatest proportion of its visitors arrive from India, closely followed by the United States. Just a fraction of a percent behind are Italian visitors, making Torrent.cd fairly popular with locals.

In mid 2012, TorrentRoom.com was among the top 5000 sites in the world, but traffic to the site diminished to a near all time low in mid 2013. A recovery in the early part of 2014 reversed the trend for a while, but traffic is currently the worst it has ever been. However, stats from Alexa show that Italian visitors to the site are only outnumbered by those from the United States, again making the site relatively popular with locals.

TorrentVia.com is a very small site indeed with a global Alexa rank of 178,400. Traffic is so low in fact that it’s difficult to obtain stats. That said, Google.it is the site’s second most-popular referrer, something which again reflects local interest.

For now it seems that AGCOM are going after sites that are enjoyed more locally, but that could very well change once the regulator runs out of targets.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time For Music Really Has To Be Pretty Epic

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

ilovemusic]At this very moment, anyone with a keyboard and access to the Internet can listen to pretty much any track currently available.

Much to the annoyance of the music industry, most of that music can be found with a simple Google search and if it’s already been deleted from there, switching to Yahoo does the trick. Hundreds of sites lie a click away, many offering access to millions of free MP3s.

While there’s no doubt that plenty of people use them, there’s no absolute need to access music from unauthorized sources anymore, even if the listener is payment averse. YouTube, for example, works very well indeed, even for the biggest selling tracks.

The story for movies is quite different. Sure, there are unauthorized services a few clicks away but even the hottest torrent sites represent a daunting prospect for Joe Public. Streaming sites bridge the usability gap somewhat with their advanced presentation and simple interfaces but often spoil the viewing experience with waves of popups, fake download buttons and other intrusive advertising.

Then earlier this year Popcorn Time arrived, offering the power of torrents under the hood and a Netflix-style quality interface on top. Unlike its legal competitor, however, the latest spinoff versions of the software have no restrictions on content availability. When all the angles are considered, this software pretty much beats the professionals at their own game – no wonder Hollywood wants to kill it.

It was with excitement, then, that news of a “Popcorn Time for music” reached our ears recently. Called HipHop, the tool has actually been out for a number of weeks already but recently received renewed exposure on Hacker News. The tool has a decent interface and boasts free access to 45 million tracks, that’s better than iTunes and most of the official streaming services around today.

HipHop

So where are the dozens of news articles charting HipHop’s rise to fame in the way they did with Popcorn Time? Thing is, apart from a token mention here and there, there aren’t any. This isn’t because people don’t like music or that HipHop doesn’t do what it claims, because it does. Maybe it’s because free access to music and music alone simply doesn’t cut it these days.

While pirates have run rings around Hollywood for some time and in some ways continue to do so, in the music sector services like Spotify and even YouTube are doing a much better job than the majority of mainstream pirate alternatives. Sure, anyone can head over to MP3Skull, MP3Juices or GoSong and grab free MP3s all day, but aren’t we demanding more these days?

YouTube provides not only the music but the videos to accompany them. Spotify provides great content discovery opportunities, unrivaled multi-device convenience and is completely free at entry level. It’s been in development for years and it performs better than HipHop in every way. It’s competing with free and winning.

While a Popcorn Time or similar for movies is likely to prove attractive for many years to come due to Hollywood’s archaic release restrictions and unfriendly pricing, pirates are really going to have to up their game to make a Spotify beater for music.

While someone might appear with something amazing, at this point we have to consider that it might never happen. That in itself is quite extraordinary.

Image credit

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

TorrentFreak: PublicHD Disappears, Twitter & Facebook Accounts Gone

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

publichd-logoWhile new file-sharing sites appear on a regular basis, it’s reasonably rare for fresh torrent sites to fill a niche in an effective and public fashion. PublicHD was a site that bucked that trend, in part by delivering focused content rather than simply making existing material searchable.

From a standing start, during the last quarter of 2012 PublicHD’s popularity skyrocketed. Concentrating on movie rips at the higher end of the quality spectrum, PublicHD grew steadily throughout 2013, a trend that continued – blips aside – into the first few months of this year.

PublicHD-stats

Then yesterday, without warning, PublicHD simply disappeared and into today the site is still inaccessible via its main Swedish domain, .EU alternative, or official proxy. There has been no official announcement or explanation. Needless to say, currently there are plenty of worried users.

Of course, sites go offline for technical reasons all the time, and it may yet transpire that PublicHD has had some serious technical issues. The signs, however, are less than encouraging. The first logical places for users to check for status updates are PublicHD’s Twitter and Facebook accounts but just like the main site, they have completely disappeared.

PublicHD-twitter

Since PublicHD is, as its name suggests, a public site, its activities can be seen not only on its own domain but on other torrent sites too. For example, The Pirate Bay has a user account by the name of DibyaTPB, which is believed to be a PublicHD auto-uploading bot. After making hundreds of releases and rarely if ever having a break, yesterday DibyaTPB fell silent, indicating that the site is indeed completely offline.

Public-dibya

Furthermore, BOZX, another Pirate Bay account associated with PublicHD, also went quiet on Saturday. And, after 19,199 uploads, the corresponding account for BOZX on KickassTorrents was silenced too. At some point, it’s not clear when, the account was also renamed.

The disappearance of PublicHD is even more puzzling given that earlier this month the site’s operators were planning new and bigger things.

“Soon we are a going to have a makeover and a brand new PublicHD with tons of new features and stronger security system,” they said in an announcement.

It’s certainly feasible that the upgrades are underway now, but why that would go hand in hand with PublicHD’s decision to disappear themselves from social media thus keeping their users entirely in the dark makes little sense.

Rightsholders have issued a steady stream of complaints against PublicHD to Google since late 2012 but since the start of 2014 the number being processed has steadily increased, with April and May being the most active months in the site’s history.

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

TorrentFreak: UK IP Chief: Google Should Blacklist Pirate Sites

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

google-bayMike Weatherley, a Conservative MP and Intellectual Property Adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has become increasingly involved in the online piracy debate in recent months.

Weatherley’s current focus is on the role search engines can play in reducing infringement. In contrast to the approach taken by the entertainment industries, the MP has taken a much more positive stance when speaking of Google’s efforts thus far. In a new report, however, Weatherley lays out often far-reaching recommendations that puts him almost completely in sync with industry demands.

The report, which Weatherley says is intended to stimulate debate, begins with praise for Google for “engaging positively” during its creation. Its recommendations are directed at all search engines, but as the market leader Google is called on to show leadership. Where Google goes, others will follow, Weatherley believes.

Search results – demoting illegal sites

The music and movie industries have long complained that illegal content is too easy to find and for a long time they’ve been putting Google under pressure to do something about that. Weatherley believes that by working with two existing sources of information – Google’s Transparency Report and the recently formed Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit’s infringing site “blacklist” – Google has a ready formula at hand.

The BPI’s input suggests that when a search engine has received 10,000 infringement notices for a site, that site should no longer appear on the first page of search results. Any that receive 100,000 notices should no longer appear in the first 10 pages. However, it’s envisioned that “certificates” could be handed out to some sites to help them avoid being relegated – more on that later.

Voluntarily complying with site-blocking court orders

In the UK around 30 ‘pirate’ sites are now blocked via the UK’s major ISPs after both the BPI and MPA went to court to obtain injunctions. While these injunctions only legally apply to their formal targets (the ISPs), in future Weatherley would like Google to acknowledge the existence of injunctions by immediately removing the affected sites from all search results. The MP acknowledges that this may require a change in the law.

Accepting takedown notices for AutoComplete terms

For some time Google has been accepting applications from rightsholders to remove “infringing” terms from its AutoComplete service. Weatherley now wants to see this process formalized.

“Given that Google has accepted that Autocomplete for pirate sites should not occur, it seems uncontroversial to recommend that steps are taken to continue to ensure this does not happen,” he writes.

AutoComplete takedown notices should be included in Google’s Transparency Report, the MP says.

Incorporating “Trust Marks” and “Warnings” to inform consumers

The idea here is that somehow Google will consider the reputation of a site when formulating its algorithms and when it presents its search results. “Trust Marks” would be used to denote a legal and licensed resource while “Warnings” would be used to highlight an illegal site.

The exact process through which a site could become trusted is unclear, but suggestions from the BPI indicate that a “certificate” could be obtained from its own Music Matters project to indicate that a resource is “clean”. Similar certificates could be obtained by sites that receive a lot of takedown notices but operate legally (YouTube for example) so that they are whitelisted by Google and not downgraded in search results.

In terms of warning against unlicensed sites, rightsholders suggest that Google takes note of PIPCU’s “pirate” site blacklist by either negatively marking affected sites in search results or removing them completely.

Referencing a TorrentFreak article published last month reporting how Google had signaled that Demonoid was a potentially dangerous site, Weatherley said Google can do more to protect consumers.

“Google has not only proven in relation to malware on certain torrent sites that it has the technical capability within its systems to deliver consumer messaging in search listings, but that such messages can be an effective deterrent to consumers,” the MP explains.

Licensed services should do more to help themselves in search results

While the music and movie industries complain endlessly about “pirate” results appearing above their own licensed content, not much time is given to explaining why that’s the case. Weatherley reveals that Google has made a request for movie and music streaming services behind a paywall to allow Google to crawl their sites in order for consumers to be able to see them in results. For some services, apparently that’s not currently allowed.

“Google maintains that it is perfectly possible to create crawlable pages for each movie or album title in a security-friendly way. I am told by rights holders that there are potential security issues around making licensed services crawlable and they have concerns with this proposal,” Weatherley notes.

Conclusion

While Weatherley is currently praising Google in order to keep the tone positive and the discussion flowing, the IP advisor clearly believes that the search engine is capable of assisting rightsholders much more but is failing to do so.

The MP’s report has no official standing in respect of government policy but it addresses most if not all of the movie and music industries’ main problems with Google. Expect this document to become a point of reference in the months to come.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrentz.eu Domain Unsuspended and Back In Action

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

torrentz-euWith millions of visitors per day Torrentz is one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet.

Yesterday many of its regular users were in for a surprise though, after their favorite search engine suddenly became unreachable.

It turned out that the site’s domain name registrar, the Poland-based company Nazwa, had suspended the Torrentz.eu domain. This drastic step was taken after they received a letter from the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.

In recent months City of London Police have targeted dozens of domains through their registrars. Some complied, but others refused to take action without a court order, which is appropriate in these cases.

At first Nazwa placed themselves in the first group, as they were quick to suspend the torrentz.eu domain. However, it appears that the company was willing to listen to reason since their initial decision has now been reversed.

This morning Torrentz.eu’s old DNS entries were put back in place, replacing the ns1.blocked.netart.pl and ns2.blocked.netart.pl ones.

The Torrentz team informs TorrentFreak that their lawyer contacted the registrar yesterday afternoon. In a long letter the lawyer explained that the domain can’t simply be held hostage based on a third-party request.

Among other things, this argument is based on an earlier decision by ICANN’s Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy panel which concluded that a court order is required to take such drastic action (although it has to be noted .EU doesn’t fall under ICANN’s TDRP).

While the registrar has not yet replied to the letter, the fact that the old DNS entries have been restored suggests that they admit that the suspension was in error.

The Torrentz team is happy with the outcome thus far and will continue operating from the .eu domain. The site should be accessible again worldwide, at least to those who have the latest DNS information.

The UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit informs TorrentFreak that the recent efforts to ask registrars to suspend domain names is part of “Operation Creative.” The websites targeted by the police are identified by copyright holders, and then verified by police officers.

Update: Responding to the inquiry we sent yesterday, the police sent the following statement explaining how websites are identified and what actions are taken in response. As with the previous initiatives, such as the pirate site advertising blocklist, these fall under “Operation Creative.”

“As part of Operation Creative, rights holders in the creative industries identify and report copyright infringing websites to PIPCU, providing a detailed package of evidence indicating how the site is involved in illegal copyright infringement. Officers from PIPCU then evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright. At the first instance of a website being confirmed as providing copyright infringing content, the site owner is contacted by officers at PIPCU and offered the opportunity to engage with the police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately.”

“If a website fails to comply and engage with the police, then a variety of other tactical options may be used including; contacting the domain registrar informing them of the criminality and seeking suspension of the site and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of an Infringing Website List (IWL) available to those involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising.”

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

TorrentFreak: Huge Wolfenstein Download Infuriates But Doesn’t Deter Pirates

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

wolfensteinJust how far we’ve come on the bandwidth front in the past few decades is astonishing.

In the early 80s the 8-bit demo scene manage to thrive with pedestrian transfers of 75 characters per second. By 2002 in the heyday of Kazaa, users still on dial-up were pondering whether an awful 28mb cam rip of 28 Days Later would be worth the herculean effort.

These days, some users are still happily gobbling up 700mb YIFY movie rips but for others bandwidth has become so plentiful that only multi-gig Blu-ray releases will suffice. However, there is a point at which even the swarthiest of pirates begin to complain.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is the long-awaited re-imagining of the cult classic game of the same name and as expected upon its release last week it quickly turned up on torrent sites. However, its huge size had some potential downloaders wondering whether to bother or not.

“43GB? holy fuck,” exclaimed Pirate Bay user sealtmx2.

“I have to uninstall like 10 games to play this shit!!” added ucci4life.

Reports suggest that the massive file size is due to uncompressed graphics textures but it comes as no surprise that some believe that annoying downloaders was in the developers’ minds. Bethesda had deliberately padded out the game with junk as a clever anti-piracy deterrent, some concluded.

While extremely unlikely, for some the big download was simply too much.

“43GB, the hell? No thanks, guess I will buy this when the price drops to £29.99,” said user u2konline.

The impatience in torrent sites comments sections was interesting to behold, with several downloaders reporting the abandoning of the download in favor of paying for the game instead. For them, waiting two or three days (according to times estimated by their torrent client at the time) was simply too much.

“I was gonna get this torrent but I saw the size and how long it would take me to download it, I said fuck it I’m getting it from Steam,” said user Caxtilteca. “Took me 2 hours to download 40GB including the day one update.”

Part of the problem, especially when the torrents were fresh, is that due to the time to completion there were a tiny amount of seeders (users with the whole game) compared to leechers (those still downloading). The effect of that was highlighted by speed157.

“38 hours later I finally finish my download and have uploaded 122.15 GB,” he wrote.

But while the huge download clearly deterred some, it appears to have had no serious effect on the number of downloaders overall. Although its size clearly had something to do with it, Wolfenstein: The New Order had the largest torrent swarms of any game last week and by the weekend more than 100,000 pirates had endured the wait to grab themselves a copy.

Reports on exactly how long people had to wait varied, from a few hours to a few days. However, it’s still interesting to see how that desire for content right here and right now led some to the doors of Steam or retailers when they became more convenient than the pirate option. For once and for a few, the boot seemed to have switched to the other foot.

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

TorrentFreak: Torrentz.eu Domain Suspended After UK Police Request

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

torrentz-euOver the past few months City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide or link to pirated content.

The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites.

A few days ago police sent out another round of requests to various domain name registrars, asking them to suspend the domains of several allegedly infringing sites. Before the weekend we reported that the cyberlocker search engine FileCrop was targeted, and today the same happened to Torrentz.eu.

Starting a few hours ago the popular search engine became unreachable after its DNS entries were pointed at ns1.blocked.netart.pl and ns2.blocked.netart.pl.

The operator of Torrentz informs TorrentFreak that the site’s main domain name was suspended by its registrar following a request from police in the UK. The site is still registered to the Torrentz team, who hope that they will be able to lift the suspension or move the domain name elsewhere.

Several other Torrentz domains remain unaffected, and the site can still be accessed via the Torrentz.ch and Torrentz.me domains.

Torrentz is the most prominent site thus far to lose control of its domain following action by UK police. With millions of visitors a day it’s one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet. The site is also an unusual target since it is a pure meta-search engine, showing nothing more than a search box on the homepage.

The actions of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit are not without controversy. While some registrars are willing to cooperate, Canada-based easyDNS previously refused to comply and successfully defended its customers.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to ‘some guy on the internet’ sending emails. While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here,” easyDNS’ CEO Mark Jeftovic said at the time.

In Torrentz’s case, however, it appears that an email from the UK Police was good enough to have their domain suspended. However, the site’s owner should still be able to regain full control over the domain name.

Previously, ICANN’s Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy panel ruled that registrars can’t hold domain names hostage simply because a law enforcement agency believes it may be infringing.

“Although there are compelling reasons why the request from a recognized law enforcement agency such as the City of London Police should be honored, the Transfer Policy is unambiguous in requiring a court order before a Registrar of Record may deny a request to transfer a domain name,” the panel wrote in its decision.

“To permit a registrar of record to withhold the transfer of a domain based on the suspicion of a law enforcement agency, without the intervention of a judicial body, opens the possibility for abuse by agencies far less reputable than the City of London Police,” it added.

The above means that there’s a good chance that Torrentz will be able to get its domain unsuspended, or transferred to a new registrar at least (although it has to be noted .EU doesn’t fall under ICANN’s TDRP). Time will tell if this is indeed the case.

TorrentFreak has asked the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit for a comment on the renewed suspension requests, but we haven’t heard back from them thus far – today is a national holiday in the UK.

Update: Torrentz.eu is unsuspended and back in action.

Update: The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit shared the following response with TorrentFreak.

“Operation Creative is a ground-breaking initiative is designed to disrupt and prevent websites from providing unauthorised access to copyrighted content, in partnership with the creative and advertising industries.

“As part of Operation Creative, rights holders in the creative industries identify and report copyright infringing websites to PIPCU, providing a detailed package of evidence indicating how the site is involved in illegal copyright infringement. Officers from PIPCU then evaluate the websites and verify whether they are infringing copyright. At the first instance of a website being confirmed as providing copyright infringing content, the site owner is contacted by officers at PIPCU and offered the opportunity to engage with the police, to correct their behaviour and to begin to operate legitimately.

“If a website fails to comply and engage with the police, then a variety of other tactical options may be used including; contacting the domain registrar informing them of the criminality and seeking suspension of the site and disrupting advertising revenue through the use of an Infringing Website List (IWL) available to those involved in the sale and trading of digital advertising.

“The IWL, the first of its kind to be developed, is an online portal providing the digital advertising sector with an up-to-date list of copyright infringing sites, identified and evidenced by the creative industries and verified by the City of London Police unit. The aim of the IWL is that advertisers, agencies and other intermediaries will use it as a brand safety tool and cease advert placement on these illegal websites.”

Photo: Michael Theis

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

TorrentFreak: Sites to Be Blocked in Russia, Even if They Remove Pirate Content

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

russiaComplying with elements of the DMCA and its European equivalents is an important measure in the operations of many thousands of websites. Not being held liable for infringements carried out by users has allowed entrepreneurs to develop countless user-generated content projects.

For many rightsholders, however, the notice and takedown provisions of the DMCA and similar legislation are being abused by ‘pirate’ sites. While these sites take down content when asked thereby gaining protection, they are also accused of turning a blind eye to large-scale infringing content elsewhere on their indexes.

In Russia, rightsholders say they face similar problems, even though the country introduced tough anti-piracy legislation in 2013.

Following a legitimate complaint, current law allows for content to be blocked at the ISP level if site operators fail to respond to takedown requests in a timely manner. However, many sites – including popular torrent sites indexing huge amounts of infringing content – have been complying with the notices as required, thus avoiding punitive measures. The government now wants to close this loophole.

Amendments to copyright law being prepared by a working group at the Ministry of Communications foresee a regime in which sites can be blocked by court order, even if they comply with takedown notices.

“Unscrupulous illegal sites should be blocked entirely,” Ministry of Communications deputy Alexei Volin told Izvestia.

According to experts familiar with the discussions, rightsholders want the government to introduce the concept of a “malicious site”. However, the puzzle faced by the Ministry is the development of criteria which will enable it to classify sites into pirate and non-pirate categories.

One option is to classify a site as pirate when it violates copyright and distributes content for profit. Rightsholders say they want either element alone to be enough.

Other amendments under consideration would see site owners and hosting providers forced to restrict access not only to copyright-infringing content, but also to “information necessary to obtain it using the Internet,” a clear reference to torrents.

But according to Irina Levova, director at the Strategic Internet Projects Research Institute, this amendment goes too far.

“The wording in the law is incorrect,” Leva says. “Under it falls even ordinary hyperlinks, including those that are placed in search engines. We believe that this phrase should be abolished.”

But according to Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry, hosting actual content or links to it amounts to the same problem.

“The business of a torrent tracker is not very different from the business of any site that hosts pirated content,” Agronov says. “They all offer access to content in exchange for viewing ads or paying for higher download speeds. For us, the rights holders, these sites are indistinguishable, regardless of their technical features.”

The amendments are set to be presented to the government on Friday.

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

TorrentFreak: Hosting Provider Plagued by DDoS Attacks on Torrent Sites

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

bad502BitTorrent trackers are no strangers to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Pretty much all sites of a respectable size are targeted on occasion by unknown sources.

In most cases these attacks don’t last too long, but every now and then they get more serious. For example, in recent weeks several French torrent sites have had to deal with a serious flood of unwanted connections, rendering the sites and trackers in question unavailable.

The Morocco-based provider Genious Communications hosts several of the affected torrent sites, including smartorrent.com and cpasbien.pe. To find out more TorrentFreak contacted CEO Hamza Aboulfeth, who told us that the attacks come in all shapes and sizes.

“The biggest attack was on smartorrent.com where we had over 30 Gbit/s which gave us no choice but nullroute the IP at the moment of the attack,” Aboulfeth says.

The attacks range from common HTTP floods to UDP and SYN flood attacks and huge botnets. As a result, Genious has migrated several clients over to a specialized DDoS protection setup.

“We have our own professional DDoS protection system so we had to move some of our clients to it, the rest just moved to Cloudflare where they offer decent protection for a reasonable price,” Aboulfeth says.

The biggest challenge is to mitigate the attacks on trackers as these are not dealing with regular HTTP requests, but so far the company has managed to take the edge off the assaults.

The attacks started a few weeks ago and have been continuing ever since at varying intensities. They are all targeted at several of Genious Communications’ file-sharing related clients, but the identities of the individuals behind them remains a mystery.

Aboulfeth hasn’t heard of any cash demands, which excludes the extortion scheme several other sites were subjected to earlier this year. According to the CEO, it’s most likely that competitors or an anti-piracy group are behind the attacks.

“I think the attacks are most likely coming from competitors or some copyright agency,” Aboulfeth says.

“One common thing is they are all French torrent websites, and I know for a fact that I have been contacted by someone hosted somewhere else claiming that one of our clients is attacking him, and of course my client is denying that,” he adds.

In the long term the sites have no other option than to make sure that they can cope with the DDoS attacks. In most cases they eventually pass, without their victims ever knowing what their purpose was.

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

TorrentFreak: How Sweden Gained Access to a Canada-Hosted Torrent Site

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

Earlier this week tips coming into TorrentFreak suggested that a relatively small torrent site known as Sparvar had come under the scrutiny of the police. Sure enough, the site subsequently went offline.

Problems had been building for more than two years. Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Antipiratbyran) had built up an interest in Sparvar, a site directed at a largely Swedish audience. In early 2012 following action against a private site known as Swepiracy, Rights Alliance warned that Sparvar was on their list of targets.

Until this week, however, Sparvar had been hosted in Canada with Montreal-based Netelligent Hosting Services. For some time it had been presumed that hosting a torrent site is Canada is legal, a notion that was recently backed up by Netelligent president Mohamed Salamé.

“[As] long as there are no violations of our [acceptable use policy], we take no actions against torrent sites which are still legal in Canada,” Salamé told TF.

Nevertheless, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) still took action against Sparvar. How did this come to pass?

A source familiar with the case who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity told TorrentFreak that Netelligent was served with a data preservation order by the RCMP who were working together with authorities in Sweden.

In the first instance Netelligent were gagged from informing their client about the investigation, presumably so that no data could be tampered with. Netelligent was then sent a hard drive by the RCMP for the purposes of making a copy of the Sparvar server. This was to be handed over to their authorities.

We’re led to believe that Netelligent put up a fight to protect their customer’s privacy but in the end they were left with no choice but to comply with the orders. And here’s why.

MLAT, or Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty agreements, enable countries to gather, share and exchange information in order to enforce the law. Since 2001, Canada has had an MLAT with Sweden and since there was a criminal investigation underway in Sweden against Sparvar, Canada and Netelligent were legally obligated to provide assistance in the case.

So what does this mean for other sites hosted in Canada? Well, according to our source anyone running a site should be aware of the countries that Canada has MLAT agreements with, just in case another country decides to launch a case.

Those countries can be found here but they include everyone from the United States to Australia, from China to Russia, and many countries across Europe including the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Poland, France and Italy.

Finally, our source informs us that while cooperation in criminal cases has obviously been requested before, to the extent of his knowledge this is the first time that a torrent site has been a target.

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

TorrentFreak: Updated: Canadian Police Raid BitTorrent Tracker, Confiscate Server

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

If one would like to gauge the opinions of the world’s leading entertainment companies on Canadian attitudes towards BitTorrent sites, one only needs to look at this year’s International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) submission to the USTR.

“It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Canada remains a magnet for sites whose well-understood raison d’être is to facilitate and enable massive unauthorized downloading of pirated versions of feature films, TV shows, recorded music, entertainment software, and other copyright materials,” the IIPA wrote.

These claims are actually the tip of a very large iceberg. It’s indeed true that some large public torrent sites are at least partly hosted on Canadian soil but mildly under the radar are also dozens of private tracker communities, many of which have happily operated from Canada for many, many years.

The overall impression is that Canada is one of the safest countries in which to put a file-sharing site, but developments yesterday cast a shadow over that notion.

With 10,000 members, Sparvar.org (Sparrows) was a reasonably sized private site. Aimed largely at a Swedish audience, Sparvar had enjoyed Canadian hosting on an IP address belonging to Montreal-based Netelligent Hosting Services, a company that has welcomed many similar sites in the past. Sometime in the past 24 hours, however, Sparvar disappeared from the Internet.

Netelligent servers

Neteligent

Soon after a rumor began circulating that Sparvar had been raided by the police. That version of events has now been confirmed by Scandinavian anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance.

Update: Netelligent confirm action against Sparvar’s server, but deny any raid took place. See update below.

“Police in Canada have seized a server belonging to the illegal file-sharing service sparvar.org. Sparrows was a secret service with some 10 000 registered members. The server was located in Canada, but the activity was directed mainly against Sweden,” the anti-piracy group says.

“Behind the complaint stands Rights Alliance which has long been monitoring and documenting this business. The investigation is continuing with a focus on identifying the perpetrators. The seized server will be analyzed.”

The action against Sparvar shows that Rights Alliance have long memories. More than two years ago following their action against private site Swepiracy, Rights Alliance warned of further action to come, specifically naming Sparvar as a target.

That the group can conduct its work across borders, especially into Canada where it was believed there was a more torrent friendly environment, will come as a surprise to the many other sites hosted there under similar circumstances.

Canada has been paying more attention to IP issues in recent years, enacting the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012 and subsequently introducing a bill designed to strengthen IP enforcement. Following these efforts the United States shifted Canada from the Priority Watch List to the standard Watch List in this year’s Special 301 Report. How much further Canada is prepared to go remains to be seen.

Update: TorrentFreak has been informed by Netelligent president Mohamed Salamé that the police action against Sparvar was carried out in an orderly cooperative fashion with authorities and was not the product of a raid.

“The fact of the matter is we are a datacenter hosting all sorts of customers downstream from us. And as long as there are no violations of our AUP, we take no actions against torrent sites which are still legal in Canada,” Salamé explains.

“We also don’t get ‘raids’ as we have a very professional relationship with all agencies on the federal and provincial level to address the issues. And by professional relationship I mean that we do not just give out information or hardware just because they are law agencies. We make sure their requests are legitimate and that they have subpoenas, court orders, or warrants before complying with any of their demands.”

A separate source familiar with the case informs TorrentFreak that contrary to claims by Rights Alliance, no hardware was seized. It appears that a server was indeed cloned but that was in response to an official order to preserve data following a request by Swedish and Canadian authorities.

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

TorrentFreak: Game of Thrones Makes History With 200,000 Strong Torrent Swarm

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

thronesGame of Thrones has been the focus of many piracy discussions in recent years, and for good reason.

The HBO hit series has a following of millions of “pirates” who prefer to watch the show through unauthorized channels instead of paid subscriptions.

Some TV-industry insiders closely connected to the show see it as a compliment, or believe the show may even benefit from these rogue followers. On the other hand, however, HBO is cracking down on fans and sites who spread the show without permission.

The pirates themselves are also divided in the reasons why they pirate. Some have no other option, as Game of Thrones is not available where they live, while others simply find the legal options too expensive.

In the midst of all these different view points there is one stable factor. The demand among pirates is growing year after year. During the first season in 2011 the most popular episode was shared 3.4 million times during the entire year, a number that’s now reached in just a few days.

Game of Thrones is particularly popular on torrent sites and this week BitTorrent pirates broke the magical record of 200,000 simultaneous sharers.

A few hours after the first torrent of the show appeared on torrent sites, the Demonii tracker reported that 207,054 people were sharing one single torrent at the same time. 163,496 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 43,558 were still downloading.

These are mind-boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before. The latest record was set just a few weeks ago, also for a Game of Thrones episode.

Record-breaking 200,000+ simultaneous sharers
got-200k-record

This Game of Thrones torrent isn’t the only one that is widely shared. There are several copies of the show available in varying qualities which also have thousands of people downloading.

Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode was downloaded more than 1.5 million times during the first day. This makes the show the likely candidate to be crowned the most-downloaded TV-show at the end of the year.

As previously revealed, Game of Thrones downloaders come from all over the world. Data gathered by TorrentFreak previously revealed that most downloaders came from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands.

It will be interesting to see if the current record will be broken again later this year. For now, however, there are no signs that the pirates’ interest is waning. This means that, unless a miracle happens, Game of Thrones will be crowned the most torrented show for the third consecutive year.

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

TorrentFreak: HBO Demands Takedown of “Pirated” Game of Thrones Trailers

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

thronesGame of Thrones is without a doubt the most pirated TV-show on the Internet.

The popular series entered its fourth season early April and broke the record of most people sharing a pirated copy simultaneously. While several people connected to Game of Thrones have noted that piracy might actually benefit the show, HBO executives are clamping down on widespread piracy nonetheless.

Over the past few weeks the TV-network has sent dozens of takedown requests to Google, listing thousands of allegedly pirated copies of their work. Many of these are links to torrent sites and streaming portals where recent episodes can be downloaded for free.

With these takedown requests HBO hopes to make it harder for people to find unauthorized copies. However, a careful inspection of the notices by TorrentFreak reveals that promotional material such as trailers are also being censored.

Unfortunately for HBO, Google happily processed these requests and removed the “infringing” trailers from their search results. As can be seen below, a search for “Game of Thrones trailer torrent” includes a notice that several results have been removed on copyright grounds.

GoT trailer torrent search results
gottrailertorrent

Looking at the individual notices, it becomes clear that these are indeed links to promotional trailers which should be freely available to the public. The DMCA notice pictured in the screenshot below lists several of these URLs, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

GoT trailer takedowns
gotdmca

The current crackdown on Game of Thrones runs counter to comments from director David Petrarca who said that piracy generates much-needed “cultural buzz.” These dubious takedowns may create a buzz as well, but probably not the kind HBO is hoping for.

As for the trailer takedowns, we expect that these have been taken down in error. That wouldn’t be HBO’s first mistake either, as the company previously tried to censor their own website HBO.com because it apparently contained infringing content.

Perhaps their automated takedown tools need some further adjustments?

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

TorrentFreak: Pirate Sites Are Rife With Malware and Scams, Report Claims

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

scamMost seasoned visitors of torrent sites and streaming portals know that many of the “download” and “play” buttons present are non-functional, at least in the regular sense.

In fact, many of these buttons link to advertisements of some sort, ranging from relatively harmless download managers to dubious services that ask for one’s credit card details.

A new report backed by the UK entertainment industry has looked into the prevalence of these threats. The study, carried out by the anti-piracy analysts of Intelligent Content Protection (Incopro), found that only 1 of the 30 most-visited pirate sites didn’t link to unwanted software or credit card scams.

According to a press release released this morning, the research found that of the 30 top pirate sites, “90% contained malware and other ‘Potentially Unwanted Programmes’ designed to deceive or defraud unwitting viewers.”

The “Potentially Unwanted Programmes” category is rather broad, and includes popups and ads that link to download managers. In addition, the report links one-third of the sites to credit card fraud.

“The rogue sites are also rife with credit card scams, with over two-thirds (67%) of the 30 sites containing credit card fraud,” the press release states.

While it’s true that many pirate sites link to malware and other dubious products, the sites themselves don’t host any of the material. For example, none of the top pirate sites TorrentFreak tested were flagged by Google’s Safebrowsing tool.

This nuance is left out of the official announcement, but the executive summary of the report does make this distinction.

“We did not encounter the automatic injection of any malicious program on the sites that we scanned. In all instances, the user must be tricked into opening a downloaded executable file or in the case of credit card fraud, the user needs to actively enter credit card details,” Incopro writes.

downloadnow

Most of the malware and “potentially” unwanted software ends up on users’ computers after they click on the wrong “download” button and then install the presented software. In many cases these are installers that may contain relatively harmless adware. However, the researchers also found links to rootkits and ransomware.

The allegation of “credit card fraud” also requires some clarification. Incopro told TorrentFreak that most of these cases involve links to services where users have to pay for access.

“There were 17 separate credit card schemes that were detected through our scanning, with many appearing to be similar or possibly related. Five of the sites had instances of two credit card fraud/scam sites, with the remaining 15 containing one credit card fraud/scam site,” Incopro told us.

“An example is someone visits one of the pirate sites and clicks a ‘Download’ or ‘Play now’ button, which is actually an advert appearing on the page, which then asks for payment details to access the content.”

This is characterized as “fraud” because these “premium” streaming or download services can result in recurring credit card charges of up to $50 per month, without an option to cancel.

The report, which isn’t available to the public, was commissioned by the UK film service FindAnyFilm and backed by several industry groups. Commenting on the findings, FACT’s Kieron Sharp noted that those who fall for these scams are inadvertently funding organized crime.

“Not only are you putting your personal security at risk, by using pirate websites you could be helping fund the organised criminal gangs who run these sites as a front for other cyber scams,” Sharp says.

It is clear that the research is used for scaremongering. Regular users of these sites know all too well what buttons not to click, so they are not affected by any of the threats.

However, there’s no denying that some pirate sites deliberately place these “ads” to confuse novice and unsuspecting visitors. Those visitors may indeed end up with adware, malware or run into scam services.

This isn’t in any way a new phenomenon though, it has been going on for more than a decade already. Ironically, the same anti-piracy groups who now warn of these threats are making them worse by cutting pirate sites off from legitimate advertisers.

Photo: Michael Theis

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

TorrentFreak: Zona is a Popcorn Time Beater and a Pirate’s Dream

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

zonalogoPopcorn Time has had more than its fair share of press since it appeared earlier this year. The tale has enjoyed twists and turns in buckets, not to mention controversy and mystery.

The software was undoubtedly a game changer and the most simple and elegant way of downloading and viewing content using torrents. Nothing came close.

Except all along something else did – and then some.

Let’s not take anything away from it, Popcorn Time is pretty neat, but the software just introduced to TorrentFreak goes much, much further. It’s called Zona and could very well ignite an even bigger storm.

Zona hails from Russia but fear not, its 27mb installer appears in standard English. Getting the thing working is child’s play too, just make sure it’s being allowed through your firewall after setup. If users want it to become their standard torrent downloader that option is available too, but advanced users will probably prefer the flexibility of their regular client.

Once setup is complete, users are presented with the following screen, movies up first. Much of the artwork depicted is pulled from Russian sources, so for non-speakers a reliance on movie covers will be required. If that fails, directly under each movie is the title in clear English.

Zona1movies

Click those titles and new page will appear, detailing everything people might want to know about the movie including its date of production, iMDb rating, genre, actors (including photos), runtime, and other sundry details. Here’s the page for the Creative Commons movie, Big Buck Bunny.

BigBuck

When selecting a movie a choice can be made – to stream Popcorn Time-style, or to download to the PC like a regular torrent client. If the former is chosen there is a wait of between a few seconds and a minute while enough buffering takes place. The movie is first presented in a small non-intrusive window in the left corner of the app, but this can be expanded to any size, including full screen.

Zonaplayer

Eagle-eyed viewers will note the ‘audio and subtitles’ text on the bottom right of the window above. This enables switching between English and often Russian audio, plus the toggling of various subtitles.

While Popcorn Time was restricted to content indexed on YTS, Zona has no such limitation. The app appears to have access to many, many thousands of movies pulled from torrent sites around the web. It is not clear where, but random searches hardly ever fail to turn up the required content although sometimes playback can hesitate, possibly due to lack of seeds. That said, a database of 500,000 torrents should be more than enough.

Zona is no slouch on the movie front, but it isn’t done yet. The software also caters to the TV fan and does it with never-seen-before flair. After selecting ‘TV’ from the list on the left, Zona presents TV shows in the same way as it does movies. However, when clicking through to the details screen one can see how it excels, with options to select any series and any episode. Since it’s topical, here’s how the page looks for Game of Thrones.

zona-got

Just below the recommended additional viewing graphics, one can see options to select a series and episode. Clicking on those brings up all of the sources, usefully filtered by video quality. Also on offer is a “subscription” feature, which allows people to subscribe to a series ‘Tivo-style’, leave the software running, and have the content appear when a new episode is released.

Another trick up Zona’s sleeve is its ability to steam live TV from a selection of built in channels. While many are Russian, there are plenty of English language channels too. Covering everything from news, to light entertainment to documentaries, it’s also particularly strong in sport, with free access to UK premium channels including all Sky Sports and BT Sport channels.

After ticking every box on the video front, Zona goes one step further by streaming music too. Users need to quickly sign up for a VK.com social networking account first, but after that almost every track one can think of will become available in the software.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s hard to fault Zona. It looks great and works nearly as well. There’s a huge range of content spanning movies, TV shows and music, and no other app that we’re aware of has as many options and features. It’s not open source, at least that we can see, so one up for Popcorn Time there. But it can stream to DLNA-enabled TVs, so that might balance things up a bit.

Oh, and you can filter out the adult content if kids are around. We did mention it does porn as well, didn’t we? No? That means we probably forgot to mention the Android version too.

Zona can be downloaded from its homepage, or directly here.

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

TorrentFreak: UK Police Force Shutdown of Sports Torrent Network

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

cityoflondonpoliceAfter obtaining government funding to protect the rights of mainstream music and movie companies, last year UK police began a campaign aimed at closing dozens of torrent and other file-sharing sites.

Many sites subsequently reported receiving letters from PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, warning that their operations had been scouted and deemed to be infringing.

While most sites ignored the warnings, some inevitably felt the pressure and decided to quit while they were ahead. In the months that followed direct pressure on sites reduced when police began to concentrate on indirect measures, such as pressuring registrars to retract domains and advertisers to stop supporting sharing sites.

However, earlier this month police restarted their direct approach, sending threat letters out to the operators of torrent sites in an attempt to close them down directly. In at least one case the police have been successful.

Due to its coverage of sports including the NHL, NBA, soccer and Formula 1, The Sports Torrent Network (TSTN) was a site popular with fans on both sides of the Atlantic. With an estimated 20,000 userbase and its own ‘capping’ team, the site was certainly a fan favorite and possibly the largest site of its type. But now, after an unwelcome warning, the party is over.

TSTN

Along with other sites, a little under two weeks ago TSTN received communications from the police which stated that the site’s operators could be committing crimes with serious penalties attached.

“Such activity is an indictable offense under the Serious Crime Act 2007 and is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment (two years for encouraging/assisting communication to the public; and ten years for encouraging/assisting distribution to the public),” the police explained.

“PIPCU has the lawful right to pursue action against you and against the thesportstorrentnetwork.co.uk website in order to prevent, detect and disrupt criminal activity.”

While the threats looked official enough, a more detailed examination of the correspondence sent to TSTN raised questions over its authenticity. As can be seen from the screenshot below, a clear spelling error was present in the title of the mail, which lead to concerns this may have been some kind of fake.

PIPCU-TSTN

However, an additional error later in the email suggested that it was probably genuine. As can be seen under the highlight, it appears that police neglected to fill in a precise date instead of the placeholder text.

TSTN-error

But errors aside, TSTN decided that while it had been a good run, now was the time to thrown in the towel. The site is now permanently closed.

“We are sad the site had to go but feel it was the only option,” a staff member told TF.

With calls from the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor to permanently fund the Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the shutdown of TSTN will certainly not be the last.

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

TorrentFreak: Why Are Porn Perfomers Scared to Talk About Internet Piracy?

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

Internet porn is big – extremely big – and one of the reasons often cited for the rapid growth of the Internet. Every second there is an average of 28,258 Internet users watching porn online, together accounting for an estimated 35% of Internet downloads.

Over the past few years, porn industry claims that its very existence has become threatened by piracy have only increased. In addition to the hundreds of torrent sites offering content for no charge, a new type of site has emerged offering a staggering and immediately accessible range of content, at an entry price of absolutely free.

Due to their similarity with YouTube, these sites are known as ‘tube’ sites. They operate in much the same way as YouTube, with content being uploaded by their users for viewing by others.

The space is dominated by giants including YouPorn and Pornhub, sites which have been heavily criticized due to the endless quantities of unauthorized content they host. But in the ever-evolving adult industry, things are not what they seem.

Tube giant takeover

youpornpornhub‘Mindgeek’ may not sound familiar to everyone, but this is the new name for one of the biggest companies in the adult industry.

Formerly known as Manwin, Mindgeek is a huge company that has scooped up some of the biggest tube sites in the world including YouPorn, Pornhub, Tube8, XTube, RedTube, ExtremeTube and SpankWire to name a few. All in all, Mindgeek is reported to be one of the top three consumers of bandwidth in the world.

While Mindgeek sites act within the law by operating an efficient DMCA process that removes user-uploaded content at the request of copyright holders, many adult producers and performers feel that the sites are hitting their bottom line. But while that might be true for some, for others a much more complex situation is emerging.

A report this week from ABC showed the news outlet attempting to solicit comments from adult industry performers. However, when the topic turned to piracy on tube sites, suddenly they didn’t want to talk.

“I can’t talk about THAT part,” said one actress walking away from the camera. “I really don’t want to say anything because I don’t want them to ban me.”

“Them” in this context is Mindgeek, the operator of the tube sites offering unauthorized copies of porn movies uploaded by their users. So why are these actresses scared to talk about Mindgeek and what possible control could it have over them?

Spending tube money

dollar-moneyAfter making huge quantities of cash via its tube sites, Manwin/Mindgeek bought up several top studios including Brazzers, Digital Playground, Mofos, MyDirtyHobby and Twistys. The company also sucked up the Reality Kings brand and became an online partner of Playboy. This means that some of the performers complaining about piracy on tube sites are actually being paid by the company running them.

“Some people have asked me why i’m being a hypocrite and working for [Mindgeek companies],” one actress told ABC. “As a performer, boycotting these companies is not going to take any time, money or anything away from them because if I say no there are another hundred blondes who are willing to do it.”

Providing yet another twist, the report also shows adult actress and outspoken piracy critic Tasha Reign arranging to have one of her illegally uploaded videos taken down from Mindgeek-owned PornHub.

Reign then admits that she too works for Mindgeek.

“It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way, because if I want to shoot content then I kinda have to shoot for [Mindgeek] because that’s the company that books me because they own…almost…everything,” Reign says.

In the meantime, it’s reported that a new porn video is made in the United States every 39 minutes. How many will be produced by Mindgeek companies or distributed via their tube sites remains to be seen, but in any event the company could be making money at one end, the other, or intriguingly – both ends at once.


ABC US News | ABC Business News

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

TorrentFreak: American Express Accuses Pirate Sites of ‘Stealing’ Their Ads

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

pirate-cardHurting the revenue streams of infringing sites has become a prime anti-piracy strategy for the entertainment industries in recent months.

By cutting off revenue through deals with payment providers and advertising agencies, they hope to make it less profitable to operate these sites.

This is not an easy task, as there are many advertising companies who are still eager to team up with “rogue” torrent sites and streaming portals. Likewise, site owners often implement tricks to hide the site where the ads are displayed.

As a result, several major brands see their ads showing up on sites they don’t want to be associated with. A few weeks ago a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance revealed that companies such as Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego, McDonalds, Xfinity are contributing to the problem.

These problematic ad placements were also highlighted by a publication of the Australian media and entertainment group mUmBRELLA, which focused on ads appearing on streaming portals such as watchseries.lt and videoweed.es. The report shows that American Express and other brands had their ads on display, and that the companies were asked for comment.

As expected, none of the major brands said it willingly promoted its products through these pirate sites. However, the explanations that were given varied, and the response from American Express was the most intriguing of all.

The payment processor’s media agency Mindshare says that the ads in question weren’t real ads at all. Instead, American Express accuses the pirate sites of “photoshopping” their banners into their designs, to increase site credibility.

AmEx on Videoweed
amex-ad

Timothy Whitfield, general operations director at the responsible advertising placement outfit Xaxis, confirms this suspicion.

“Now when we dug into it what happened is that in some cases they were using basic photoshopping skills to take an old creative from Amex and building it into the homepage and into the video leads and on the homepage of the website,” Whitfield said

“It wasn’t a real creative it was just someone who had photoshopped it into the site. Now the reason that we think they were doing that is that they were working very hard to make themselves look like a reputable website,” he ads.

While this type of banner ‘theft’ is certainly an option, TorrentFreak was unable to replicate the finding from a wide variety of locations. It is also unclear why the sites in question would give up valuable advertising placements. There is hardly any positive effect on the site’s reputation when it’s not done structurally.

The insurance company Allianz was also caught advertising on pirate sites, but here the explanation was a more common one. According to Whitfield, Xaxis didn’t place the ad directly, but instead it loaded through several iframes thereby disguising the website where it appeared.

Through this “nesting” technique pirate sites can trick advertising agencies and have higher paid ads.

“Every man and his dog blocks these websites – Watchseries.it, Videoweed etc. – but because you’re seven layers deep you don’t know if it is one you have blocked or not,” Whitfield said in a comment.

Finally, HotelsCombined came up with yet another reason why their banners appeared on infringing websites. Again, without their explicit knowledge.

Kristen McKenzie, global PR and content manager of HotelsCombined, explained that it may have been the result of ad-retargeting. HotelsCombined tracks people who visit their website, and their advertising provider then displays ads on some of the sites these people visit afterwards.

“Our retargeting provider does not disclose their extensive list of networks, and with millions of different sites being accessed simultaneously in real-time, it is ultimately impossible for us to police where retargeting may occur,” McKenzie said.

The above shows that getting rid of banners on rogue sites is proving to be more difficult than simply compiling a blacklist. It’s a cat and mouse game, much like the efforts to go after hosting companies and payment providers. And if pirates are starting to use Photoshop to promote brands for free, it’s never-ending.

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

TorrentFreak: Game of Thrones Premiere Triggers Piracy Craze

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

thronesYesterday evening saw a massive demand for the premiere of Game of Thrones’ fourth season, both on legal and less-authorized channels.

The unprecedented demand caused trouble for the HBO Go service, which crashed and was unreachable for several hours on end.

This outage probably motivated some to look for unauthorized copies, which were widely available through dozens of torrent sites soon after the episode finished. Unlike HBO Go, downloads via BitTorrent actually benefit from the increased interest, which usually means that downloads finish faster.

And indeed, there has been plenty of interest in unauthorized copies of the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Data gathered by TorrentFreak reveals that half a day after the first episode appeared online over a million people have already grabbed a copy via a torrent site. Earlier this morning, more than 300,000 people were actively sharing one of the three most-popular torrents.

The number of downloads is roughly the same as last year, but the season premiere didn’t set a record for the largest BitTorrent swarm, most likely because there were multiple popular copies available. The most shared torrent file had around 140,000 people sharing at once at its height this morning.

Game of Thrones sharers
got-peers

During the days to come the number of downloads is expected to grow by several millions. Last year Game of Thrones became the most pirated TV-show for the second time, and with today’s numbers it is well on its way to securing the title for another year.

In addition to the downloads, we also looked at the countries people were sharing from. A sample of 18,333 IP-addresses collected over the day shows that Australia takes the crown with 11.6% of the total. The United States is a good second with 9.3%, followed by the United Kingdom with 5.8%.

The number one spot for Australia is all the more impressive since it has a population of just over 22 million people, relatively small compared to the other two countries. Looking at the city level we see that most downloads (during the first half day) come from Melbourne, before Athens and Sydney.

So, why are all these people pirating Game of Thrones?

As always, there are many reasons why people may choose torrents or other pirate sources. In some cases there is simply no legal alternative, because of licensing issues for example, or due to technical troubles such as those suffered yesterday by HBO Go. In other cases the legal options are too limited, restrictive, or expensive.

The reasons above are not exhaustive of course, there are many more reasons why people turn to BitTorrent. For some it’s become a habit that will be hard to break, no matter where they live and how good the legal alternatives are.

If there are any Game of Thrones pirates reading this, let us know what drives you in the comments.

Note: To clarify, the IP-address sample was collected during the first 12 hours, which means that there’s a geographical bias. Also, downloaders who use VPNs may appear to be in a different country.

# Country % City %
torrentfreak.com
1 Australia 11.6% Melbourne 3.2%
2 United States 9.3% Athens 2.9%
3 United Kingdom 5.8% Sydney 2.0%
4 Canada 5.2% London 1.9%
5 The Netherlands 4.7% Stockholm 1.7%
6 Philippines 4.6% Amsterdam 1.7%
7 India 4.2% Madrid 1.5%
8 Greece 3.6% Warsaw 1.4%
9 Poland 3.0% Brisbane 1.4%
10 Sweden 2.7% Perth 1.3%

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

TorrentFreak: Saudi Arabia Government Blocks The Pirate Bay (and More)

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

tpb-logoBlocking The Pirate Bay has become quite common around Europe in recent years, and today this practice spread to Saudi Arabia.

Without prior warning or official announcement, the country’s Ministry for Culture and Information ordered local ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay. In addition, several other torrent sites were also censored, including Torrentz.eu and Rarbg.com.

The reason for the blockade remains unknown, but piracy concerns seem plausible as the measures are coming from the Ministry of Culture, and not the Communications Commission which administers the country’s regular filters.

As can be seen below, the blocking notification for The Pirate Bay is also different from the green notice that appears for sites that are blocked in violation of the Islamic religion.

Saudi Arabia’s Pirate Bay blockade
saudi-arabia-block

Interestingly, the measures come two months after several copyright holder groups urged the U.S. Government to place Saudi Arabia on its priority watchlist. MPAA, RIAA and others suggested that the country isn’t doing enough to stop online piracy.

The blockade is currently active on nearly all ISPs, but TF has learned that Zain customers can still access the site. Zain does block Pirate Bay’s porn category, but that’s nothing new.

The Pirate Bay is among the 50 most visited websites in Saudi Arabia, and the blockade has caused quite a bit of uproar on social media. The topic is currently trending on Twitter where many people are voicing their frustration.

TPB block trending on Twitter
sa-tweets-tpb

However, as with all censorship attempts there are plenty of ways to circumvent this blockade. The easiest option at the moment is to simply use the https version of the site. Other workarounds, such as VPNs or Pirate Bay proxies, work fine too.

The Pirate Bay team is not impressed by yet another country blocking access to their website. A few months ago they released Pirate Browser which allows users to access the site without restrictions. It has been downloaded millions of times since.

Update: The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Culture and Information has now confirmed that the blockades are copyright related. 22 domain names have been blocked in total.

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