Posts tagged ‘Torrent Sites’

TorrentFreak: UFC Pirate Apologizes & Settles Following $32m Lawsuit

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

ufcAccording to fans around the world, MMA is the fastest growing sport, bar none. The planet’s premier MMA production company is the Ultimate Fighting Championship, more often known as simply UFC.

In addition to events broadcast on regular TV, each month the UFC puts on special PPV cards. These cards attract a lot of attention and are a major money spinner for the martial arts organization. However, there are thousands of fans out there who prefer not to pay to view. For them, torrent sites are the answer.

Until the first few months of this year one of the most prolific releasers of UFC content was an individual known online as Secludedly. However, during April his activities came to an abrupt halt after he was targeted in a $32 million lawsuit filed by UFC parent company, Zuffa.

Secludedly was soon revealed to be Steven A. Messina, a 27-year-old from Staten Island, New York.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t understand the laws and all that around this type of thing, so I’m a little lost here and overwhelmed,” Messina told TorrentFreak at the time. “I don’t even know what is going on. I think people on the Internet know more than me.”

With a default judgment looming TorrentFreak further interviewed Messina who told us that he’d decided to launch a funding campaign to defend himself against Zuffa. He raised a few hundred dollars, nowhere near enough to take on the multi-billion valued company.

Then the inevitable happened. On June 4, 2014, a default judgment was entered against Messina and his fight with the UFC was over. The question now was how badly they’d choose to beat him up financially after the final bell.

All went quiet until early September when Zuffa filed for a permanent injunction to stop Messina pirating UFC content in the future. Behind the scenes the UFC and their arch-enemy had settled their case, with the only public record being the injunction jointly signed by the martial arts organization and Messina.

As can be seen from the excerpt from the injunction below, the UFC are keen to learn from Messina’s operation, and that means collecting all data they can from the New Yorker.

“This Court hereby enters an injunction requiring Defendant, Steven A Messina, to turn over to the plaintiff, Zuffa..[..].. any readily available information, processes, records accounts, bills received for the purchase of any UFC event, user profile names and identifications, domains utilized by Defendant and any user information for any website or computer used by, owned or controlled by Defendant that was used or assisted in the unauthorized access, streaming, copyright, uploading, downloading, distributing or public performance of any UFC event, including, but not limited to, the events that are the subject of the instant litigation,” the injunction reads.

Also of interest to Zuffa is the equipment used by Messina to pirate their content. The injunction cites a 2013 TorrentFreak article in which Messina explained how he captured super-smooth video. All equipment related to that must be surrendered to Zuffa including various pieces of software, scripts and storage devices.

In addition to restraining Messina from future piracy acts, the UFC are also allowed to check up on him to ensure compliance.

“Plaintiff shall be entitled to conduct all discovery permitted under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for the period of six (6) months from the date of the filing of this stipulation for the purpose of monitoring Defendant’s compliance with the terms of this permanent injunction,” the injunction reads.

There is no mention of a cash settlement and even if there was one it wouldn’t amount to much, certainly not $32 million. However, to act as a deterrent, the UFC has had Messina come out in public to both apologize and warn others away from the perils of piracy.

“I apologize to the UFC for any damages incurred as a result of my actions in illegally distributing copyrighted UFC broadcasts. As a result of my confession for piracy of UFC’s protected content, I fully accept the terms of the settlement with the UFC,” Messina said.

“I now realize the harm caused by my actions. It is my hope that I can use this difficult period as a learning experience as I move on with my life. I would also like to tell anyone pirating UFC broadcasts, either through illegal downloading or non-authorized streaming, that it is illegal and not worth the risk.”

Kirk Hendrick, UFC’s Chief Legal Officer, said the MMA organization was satisfied with the result.

“The UFC organization is pleased with the outcome of this case and Messina’s willingness to assist the UFC’s efforts in protecting our intellectual property and broadcasts. With Messina’s apology and understanding, the UFC organization will learn more to help us continue uncovering illegal distribution of our content.”

But while Messina may have been brought under control, the lawsuit against him has done nothing to stop content appearing online. Following last weekend’s Jacare vs Mousasi card, no less than five separate release groups uploaded the event online.

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

TorrentFreak: Tribler Makes BitTorrent Anonymous With Built-in Tor Network

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

boxedThe Tribler client has been around for more nearly a decade already, and during that time it’s developed into the only truly decentralized BitTorrent client out there.

Even if all torrent sites were shut down today, Tribler users would still be able to find and add new content.

But the researchers want more. One of the key problems with BitTorrent is the lack of anonymity. Without a VPN or proxy all downloads can easily be traced back to an individual internet connection.

The Tribler team hopes to fix this problem with a built-in Tor network, routing all data through a series of peers. In essence, Tribler users then become their own Tor network helping each other to hide their IP-addresses through encrypted proxies.

“The Tribler anonymity feature aims to make strong encryption and authentication the Internet default,” Tribler leader Dr. Pouwelse tells TF.

For now the researchers have settled for three proxies between the senders of the data and the recipient. This minimizes the risk of being monitored by a rogue peer and significantly improves privacy.

“Adding three layers of proxies gives you more privacy. Three layers of protection make it difficult to trace you. Proxies no longer need to be fully trusted. A single bad proxy can not see exactly what is going on,” the Tribler team explains.

“The first proxy layer encrypts the data for you and each next proxy adds another layer of encryption. You are the only one who can decrypt these three layers correctly. Tribler uses three proxy layers to make sure bad proxies that are spying on people can do little damage.”

Tribler’s encrypted Tor routing
wtvTMix

Today Tribler opens up its technology to the public for the first time. The Tor network is fully functional but for now it is limited to a 50 MB test file. This will allow the developers to make some improvements before the final release goes out next month.

There has been an increased interest in encryption technologies lately. The Tribler team invites interested developers to help them improve their work, which is available on Github.

“We hope all developers will unite inside a single project to defeat the forces that have destroyed the Internet essence. We really don’t need a hundred more single-person projects on ‘secure’ chat applications that still fully expose who you talk to,” Pouwelse says.

For users the Tor like security means an increase in bandwidth usage. After all, they themselves also become proxies who have to pass on the transfers of other users. According to the researchers this shouldn’t result in any slowdowns though, as long as people are willing to share.

“Tribler has always been for social and sharing people. Like private tracker communities with plenty of bandwidth to go around we think we can offer anonymity without slow downs, if we can incentivize people to leave their computers on overnight and donate,” Pouwelse says.

“People who share will have superior anonymous speeds,” he adds.

Those interested in testing Tribler’s anonymity feature can download the latest version. Bandwidth statistics are also available. Please bear in mind that only the test file can be transferred securely at the moment.

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

TorrentFreak: KickassTorrents Goes Secure, Encrypts Traffic For All Visitors

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

KATLike most Internet users, torrent site visitors prefer not to have their browsing habits exposed to third parties.

One way to prevent this from happening is by using SSL encryption. This is supported by more and more sites, and last year Google even went as far as encrypting all searches by default.

Most of the larger torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and Torrentz also offer SSL support. However, KickassTorrents is the first to force encryption. This means that everyone who visits the site will now be sending data over a secure https connection.

TorrentFreak spoke with the KickassTorrents team who told us that the new feature was implemented by popular demand.

“We’re just thinking about those people who will feel safer when they know all the data transferred between them and KAT is completely encrypted. People requested it, so we respond,” the KAT team informs TF.

SSL encryption will prevent one’s boss, school, or ISP from monitoring what pages are visited what data is sent or retrieved from the site. However, it’s still possible to see that the KickassTorrents domain was accessed, and how much time was spent there.

Also, it’s worth emphasizing that it doesn’t anonymize the visitor’s IP-addresses in any way, as a VPN or proxy might.

That said, enabling encryption is a good way for KickassTorrents to offer its users a little more security. On top of that, Google recently noted that it would prioritize SSL encrypted sites in its search results, something the site’s operators probably wont mind either.

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

TorrentFreak: Four ISPs Sued For Failing To Block Pirate Movie Sites

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

pirate-cardFavorable rulings in both the European Court of Justice and the local Supreme Court earlier this year gave Austrian anti-piracy groups the power they needed to move forward on site-blocking.

What transpired was an attack from two directions. The first involved VAP, the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry. The second was launched by the local branch of IFPI, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

In late July, VAP wrote to UPC, Drei, Tele2 and A1 with a request for the ISPs to block ThePirateBay.se plus streaming sites Movie4K.to and Kinox.to. Days later in a letter dated August 4, the IFPI asked five local ISPs to block access to four torrent sites – ThePirateBay,se, isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to.

Unfortunately for VAP and the IFPI, the ISPs were going to need more than just a letter to begin censoring the Internet. By mid August, with their deadlines expired, none had initiated blockades. That led to threats of lawsuits from both anti-piracy groups.

With August now drawing to a close, VAP has made good on its word. CEO Werner Müller confirmed to German media that his organization has now sued four Austrian ISPs. Müller would not be drawn on their names, but DerStandard spoke with UPC and A1 who both confirmed receiving letters.

“[The decision on blocking] should be left to the judgment of a judge, since in a specific case the rights of Internet users and the movie / music industry can be weighed more,” said A1 spokeswoman Livia Dandrea-Böhm. “We will now take a position in the time allowed by the court. Thereafter, the judge has to decide.”

Of further interest is VAP’s decision to exclude The Pirate Bay from their legal action and only sue for blockades against kinox.to and movie4k.to. There are suggestions that this could prove an easier legal route for VAP as the local Supreme Court is already familiar with the operations of Kinox and Movie4K, sites similar in structure to the now defunct Kino.to, the site which originally prompted calls for blocks in Austria.

However, The Pirate Bay will not escape so easily. The IFPI will tackle the infamous torrent site alongside others including isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to. The music group is expected to sue several ISPs to force a blockade, although papers are still being drawn up.

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

TorrentFreak: Major Torrent Sites and Google Purge The Expendables 3

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

With The Expendables 3 now officially released in theaters, the autopsy over its leak last month and the potential effects on box office figures has begun.

Many news outlets reported yesterday that the first weekend’s takings represent a flop for the third in the Expendables franchise and, of course, those closest to Hollywood are pointing the figure firmly at piracy.

But on the ground, on some of the very sites accused of facilitating piracy of the action movie, there are signs which suggests that this leaked title is being treated somewhat differently to any that have gone before.

LimeTorrents

Noting that the site was named in a Lions Gate lawsuit, TF monitored for the presence of The Expendables 3 torrents on popular torrent site LimeTorrents. The result is shown in the image below.

Lime-Expend

While the site lists 14 torrents, not a single working Expendables 3 torrent appears in the search results. The three that do appear are sponsored links that do not lead to anything useful.

But while LimeTorrents are clearly doing all they can to comply with the terms of a lawsuit, other sites that have not been named by Lions Gate also appear to have been taking action.

KickassTorrents

KickassTorrents is the world’s second largest torrent site and the go-to place for many looking for fresh content. However, anyone searching for leaked Expendables 3 torrents will be going home disappointed. There are currently nine torrents returned in results, all of which are trailers. The leaked movie cannot be found.

Kick-expend

It’s worth noting that like many of the leading torrent sites, Kickass removes torrents following copyright holder requests, so that goes someway to explaining why the Expendables 3 torrents have all disappeared. What is notable, however, is that no fresh ones seem to be reappearing as is usually the case.

RARBG

There’s a similar story over at RARBG, the site placed 10th in our Top Torrent Sites 2014 post. A search produces the two torrents shown in the screenshot below and as they clearly point out, these definitely ain’t The Expendables.

rarbg

BitSnoop

The effect of these takedowns, whether from rightsholders or introduced on a voluntary basis, can also be seen on torrent sites that specialize in indexing torrents found elsewhere. BitSnoop, the 9th most popular torrent site online with an index of 23 million torrents, currently has none related to The Expendables 3.

bitsnoop-expend

Torrentz

Over at Torrentz, a meta-search engine that indexes content on other sites, we can see that just four torrents are returned following an Expendables 3 search, none of which are the movie in question.The links at the top are sponsored and don’t relate to torrents.

The note at the bottom reveals that 41 torrent links have been removed following DMCA notices and their euro equivalent. Again, no more torrents seem to be reappearing.

torrentz-expend

Google

While torrents disappearing and not reappearing within major torrent sites is quite unusual in itself, perhaps the most dramatic effect can be seen in Google search results.

As previously documented, Lions Gate has put in a herculean effort to have listings removed. This, combined with any torrent site self-censorship efforts, has resulted in a tiny number of usable entries in the first 20 pages of Google results for common searches such as ‘The Expendables 3 + download + torrent’.

Of course, more experienced downloaders and those who persevere through a few searches can still find torrents and other ways to watch the movie. Torrents still remain on The Pirate Bay too, but there are clear signs that the leak of this movie is being treated differently from any other in recent memory, and not only by those involved in its legal distribution either.

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

TorrentFreak: I Visited Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde in Prison, Here’s What he Had to Say

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

sunde-small— by Julia Reda

It wasn’t easy to meet Peter in prison. Initially, his request for the approval of my visit was rejected, as have been requests on behalf of other friends. It was only when he read up on the regulations and filed a complaint – pointing out my status as an elected representative of the European Parliament – that my visit was approved.

He tells me that this is par for the course in prison. “If you don’t constantly insist upon your rights, you will be denied them”. Repeatedly, he had to remind the guards that they’re not allowed to open confidential mail he receives from journalists. His alleged right to an education or occupation during his jail time in practice amounted to being given a beginners’ Spanish book.

“Prison is a bit like copyright,” Peter remarks. In both areas, there is a lack of transparency and the people in power profit from the fact that the average person doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the issue. That opens the door to misuse and corruption.

Few people feel directly affected by these systems (even though a lot of Internet users commit copyright infringements, many don’t even realize that they are breaking laws and suffer no repercussions). Hence it is difficult to get traditional politics to change even the most blatant injustices that these systems produce. I ask him whether his imprisonment has changed his political views.

“It has confirmed them,” he replies. “I knew the system was broken before, but now I know to what extent.”

“The worst thing is the boredom”, Peter informs me when I ask him about life in prison. He gives an account of his daily routine: “I have soy yoghurt and muesli for breakfast, which I was recently allowed to buy from my own money, as the prison doesn’t offer any vegan food.”

That is followed by one hour of exercise – walking around the yard in circles – and sometimes the chance to play ping-pong or visit the prison library in the afternoon, before Peter is locked in his cell for the night. The only other distraction comes from the dozens of letters Peter receives every day.

Not all the books that his friends and supporters send make their way to him – they are screened for “inappropriate content” first. Other items that arrive in the mail, such as vegan candy, won’t be handed out to him until after his release, “but at least the prison has to catalog every single thing you send me, which pisses them off,” Peter says with a wink.

While his notoriety mostly comes from his role in founding the Pirate Bay, Peter has been critical of the platform’s development for a long time and has been focusing his energy on other projects.

“There should be 10,000 Pirate Bays by now!” he exclaims. “The Internet was built as a decentralized network, but ironically it is increasingly encouraging centralization. Because The Pirate Bay has been around for 11 years now, almost all other torrent sites started relying on it as a backbone. We created a single point of failure and the development of file sharing technology got stuck.”

In Peter’s eyes, the Pirate Bay has run its course and turned into a commercial enterprise that has little to do with the values it was founded on. Nowadays, the most important battles for an open Internet take place elsewhere, he says, noting that the trend towards centralization is not limited to file sharing.

Facebook alone has turned into its own little walled-garden version of the Internet that a lot of users would be content using without access to the wider Net. At the same time, services from Google to Wikipedia are working on distribution deals that make their services available to people without real Internet access.

One step to counter this trend towards centralization could be data portability, the right to take all one’s personal data from a service such as Facebook and bring it along to a competitor. The right to data portability is part of the proposed European data protection regulation that is currently stuck in negotiations among the EU member states.

“Having data portability would be a great step forward, but it’s not enough. Portability is meaningless without competition.” Peter says.

“As activists and entrepreneurs, we need to challenge monopolies. We need to build a Pirate social network that is interoperable with Facebook. Or build competition to small monopolies before they get bought up by the big players in the field. Political activism in parliaments, as the Pirate Party pursues it, is important, but needs to be combined with economic disruptions.

“The Internet won’t change fundamentally in the next two years, but in the long-term, the effects of the decisions we take today can be dramatic.”

According to Peter, establishing net neutrality, especially on mobile networks, will be one of the crucial fights. The Internet may have started out as a non-commercial space, but is entirely ruled by business arguments nowadays, and without net neutrality, large corporations will be able to strengthen their monopolies and stifle innovation. A pushback will be needed from small enterprises as well as civil society – but those groups struggle to be heard in political debates as they often lack the financial resources for large-scale lobbying efforts.

Although Peter is visibly affected by his imprisonment and talks about struggling with depression, he has not stopped making plans for the future. “Things will get easier once I get out. I’ve been a fugitive for two years and could hardly go to conferences or would have to show up unannounced.”

Once his eight month sentence has come to an end, Peter wants to get back to activism. When I ask about his upcoming projects, he starts grinning and tells me to be patient.

“All I can say now is that I’m brimming with ideas and that one of my main goals will be to develop ethical ways of funding activism. You often need money to change things. But most ways of acquiring it require you to compromise on your ideals. We can do better than that.”

Peter is now hoping for his prison sentence to eventually be transformed into house arrest, which would allow him to see his critically ill father and spend less time in isolation. Whether that happens will largely depend on whether the Swedish state will continue to view a file-sharing activist as a serious threat to the public. In a society where the majority of young people routinely break copyright law simply by sharing culture, that view seems entirely unsustainable.

About The Author

Julia Reda is a German politician for the Pirate Party Germany and a member of the European Parliament since 2014, where she serves as a Vice-President of the Greens/EFA group. She is also the chairperson of the Young Pirates of Europe.

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

TorrentFreak: Popcorn Time Hit By Massive DDoS Attack

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

popcornEvery year sees periods when sites in the file-sharing sector are subjected to denial of service attacks. The attackers and their motives are often unknown and eventually the assaults pass away.

Early in 2014 many torrent sites were hit, pushing some offline and forcing others to invest in mitigation technology. In May a torrent related host suffered similar problems.

Today it’s the turn of the main open source Popcorn Time fork to face the wrath of attackers unknown. TorrentFreak spoke with members of the project including Ops manager XeonCore who told us that the attack is massive.

“We are currently mitigating a large scale DDoS attack across our entire network. We are currently rerouting all traffic via some of our high bandwidth nodes and are working on imaging and getting our remaining servers back online to help deal with the load,” the team explain.

The attack is project-wide with huge amounts of traffic hitting all parts of the network, starting with the site hosting the Popcorn Time source code.

Attack on the source code site – 980Mbps

source

Also under attack is the project’s CDN and API. The graph below shows one of the project’s servers located in France. The green shows the normal traffic from the API server, the blue represents the attack.

Attack on the France API server – 931Mbps

france-api

Not even the project’s DNS servers have remained untouched. At one point two of three DNS servers went down, with a third straining under almost 1Gbps of traffic. To be sure, a fourth DNS server was added to assist with the load.

Attack on the Dutch DNS server – peaking at 880Mbps

dutch-dns

All told the whole network is being hit with almost 10Gbps of traffic, but the team is working hard to keep things operational.

“We’ve added additional capacity. Our DNS servers are currently back up and running but there is still severe congestion around Europe and America. Almost 10Gbps across the entire network. Still working on mitigating. API is still online for most users!” they conclude.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and it’s certainly possible things will remain that way. Only time will tell when the attack will subside, but the team are determined to keep their project online in the meantime.

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

TorrentFreak: Exploring the Legal Basis for the New ‘Pirate’ Proxy War

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

Since the launch of Operation Creative last year, UK police have contacted a range of so-called ‘pirate’ sites while giving their operators the opportunity to shut down quietly to avoid further action. It was pretty much certain that torrent and streaming sites would be prime targets, and we’ve seen that play out in recent months.

This week, however, PIPCU delivered a surprise. Instead of going after sites that host or link to infringing material, they targeted a series of sites that have never done so, arresting their alleged operator in the process.

Reverse Proxies

So-called ‘reverse proxies’ are not file-sharing sites, they merely restore access to third-party sites that have been rendered inaccessible by ISPs, as the result of a court order for example. The sites that were closed down this week enabled users to access The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, even if their ISP actively blocks the site.

The police intervention raises many questions, none of which will be officially answered while an investigation is underway. So, in order to try and fill in some of the blanks, TorrentFreak spoke with expert intellectual property lawyer Darren Meale to explore a possible basis for this week’s arrest of a proxy site operator.

“Internet users have sought ways to continue to access the sites by getting round the blocking put in place by the ISPs. One of the ways to do this is to use proxy servers. This operation is a major step in tackling those providing such services.” – FACT director Kieron Sharp commenting this week on the proxy shutdowns.

Breach of a High Court order?

Darren Meale: “The individual has been accused of helping Internet users access websites which the English High Court has ordered the major UK ISPs to block. That order arose in a civil, not a criminal action, and only applies to the ISPs in question. If it applied to the individual and he ignored the Court order, he would be in contempt of court and a judge could commit him to prison. But I don’t understand that to be what is going on here.”

Assisting a criminal enterprise?

So, with the High Court blocks a potential red herring, our attention is turned to the activities of the sites being unblocked by the proxies, and how merely facilitating access to those sites might be perceived as an offense by the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.

Darren Meale: “Sites like The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents have been the subject of all sorts of civil and criminal actions around the world, but are tricky to target because of where they are based and the way they operate. That’s why initiatives like site blocking have become popular in the UK.

“The rights owners, police and other authorities can’t get their hands on the sites directly, at least not practically. Of course, that doesn’t mean that those sites aren’t still committing criminal offenses.

“Although we tend to think of copyright infringement as a civil wrong, it is also a criminal offense provided it is carried out ‘in the course of business’. Sites like KAT run as a commercial enterprise and make a lot of money out of advertising, so there is a pretty strong case that they are committing criminal offenses, including in the UK.”

If sites like The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents are committing crimes, others can also commit crimes by helping them, Meale says.

Darren Meale: “The Serious Crime Act 2007 makes it a crime to intentionally encourage or assist someone else committing a crime, in the same way as it used to be a crime to ‘incite’ someone to commit a crime.

“The UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) has previously accused operators of file-sharing websites of committing crimes of this nature. PIPCU’s statement in this matter also refers to its intention to ‘come down hard on people believed to be committing or deliberately facilitating such offenses’.

“These kinds of ‘inchoate‘ offenses are, in my view, the most likely candidate for what this individual has been arrested for.”

But other ISPs are facilitating access to illegal sites too..

Only six ISPs in the UK have been ordered to block sites like The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, the others are, at this very moment, knowingly facilitating access to these potentially criminal sites. How is it that a proxy service operator now finds himself in hot water while these ISPs continue with no repercussions?

Meale points out that the L’Oreal v eBay decision found that service providers (eBay in that case) had no duty to police their services for infringement. Also, service providers benefit from safe harbors under the E-commerce Directive, rendering them immune from prosecution in certain circumstances.

Darren Meale: “However, there is a difference between providing Internet access generally (which ISPs do) and providing a service or website which sets out to link to another, illegal, website. An attempt to make ISPs liable for what flows through them in the same way as someone running a file-sharing site failed in Australia in a case called iiNet. I think the same distinction would be drawn in Europe and the UK.

“Providing general Internet access: OK subject to exceptions such as if the ISP is hosting. But setting up a service designed to help people access illegal websites: that’s much more dubious. That’s not to say that the legal issues that surround all this are straightforward – they’re not.”

Conclusion

What shines through following the events of this week is how untested the waters are in cases such as these. Whether PIPCU intends to follow this matter through to the bitter end (risking a potentially unfavorable outcome) remains to be seen, but it’s possible that won’t be needed.

At this point they have already achieved the total closure of all targeted sites along with the seizure of their domains. That, along with a clear message to others mulling the same course of action might, in the overall scheme of things, be considered “mission accomplished.”

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

TorrentFreak: Blocking Pirate Bay is Not Censorship, IFPI Chief Says

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

censorshipEarlier this year a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice confirmed that ISPs can be forced to block “infringing” websites, providing it’s done in a proportionate manner.

The ruling was prompted by a movie distributor case originating in Austria, so it comes as no surprise that local record companies are now seeking to make the most of it.

Earlier this week the local branch of the IFPI wrote to local ISPs with a demands that they block The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, 1337x and H33t within days. While the development was welcomed by many pro-copyright entities, among many in the Internet community the feeling persists that site blocking amounts to censorship.

Now, IFPI Austria CEO Franz Medwenitsch has countered with his opinion, explaining that the term “Internet blocking” is both misleading and controversial, and that web blockades cannot be considered a restriction of free speech.

“Barring is misleading and downright polemical. No one wants to deny access to the Internet!” the IFPI chief explains.

“[Our action is] therefore isolated to prevent access to specific websites that offer illegal content and massively engage in copyright infringement. This is a legitimate means of legal protection, the Austrian Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union have justified it.”

In his FutureZone piece, Medwenitsch discusses critics’ perception that blocking websites interferes with fundamental rights such as freedom of information.

“Blocking access to illegal sites is explicitly compatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights,” he contends, adding that comments to the contrary cannot be equated with the those shared by “the people of Europe.”

“According to a GfK survey last year, 83 percent of those surveyed in Austria alone – equivalent to more than six million people – held the opinion that artists have a right to their intellectual property and to be paid for the use of their works,” Medwenitsch notes.

But just as it’s clear that the blocking of websites has many opponents on fundamental rights grounds, the notion that blockades amount to censorship is an even more thorny issue. Medwenitsch does not share those feelings.

“Censorship is the suppression of free speech and everyone who lives in a democratic society categorically rejects censorship,” the IFPI chief says.

“But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating advertising revenues by illegally offering tens of thousands of movies and music recordings on the Internet with disregard for creators and artists? And yet the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves is trampled!”

Medwenitsch says that individual freedoms have their limits and must be brought to an end when they begin to limit the freedoms of others. In other words, people can have free access to sites while those operating them aren’t infringing on the rights of the recording industry.

Finally, Medwenitsch criticizes those who accuse the industry of concentrating on blocking sites like The Pirate Bay while failing to adapt their business models. The industry has indeed adapted, the IFPI chief insists, but unauthorized services inhibit growth and need to be dealt with.

“The fact is the digital music services on the Internet today carry 37 million songs. There are 230 digital platforms in Europe – in Austria there are 40 – and the European user numbers have already reached 100 million,” he explains.

“The development of the digital market will take a long time due to the inhibiting factors of illegal offerings. Therefore, on the one hand we will investment in new platforms, and on the other hand, take measures against illegal sites.”

It remains unclear whether site blocking is having any effect on the availability of infringing content or the numbers of people consuming it. Safe to say, no group has yet put their head above the parapet and presented sales figures to clearly show that is the case.

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

TorrentFreak: BTindex Exposes IP-Addresses of BitTorrent Users

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

spyUnless BitTorrent users are taking steps to hide their identities through the use of a VPN, proxy, or seedbox, their downloading habits are available for almost anyone to snoop on.

By design the BitTorrent protocol shares the location of any user in the swarm. After all, without knowing where to send the data nothing can be shared to begin with.

Despite this fairly common knowledge, even some experienced BitTorrent users can be shocked to learn that someone has been monitoring their activities, let alone that their sharing activity is being made public for the rest of the world to see.

Like it or not, this is exactly what the newly launched torrent search engine BTindex is doing.

Unlike most popular torrent sites BTindex adds new content by crawling BitTorrent’s DHT network. This is already quite unique as most other sites get their content from user uploads or other sites. However, the most controversial part without doubt is that the IP-addresses of BitTorrent users are being shared as well.

People who download a file from The Pirate Bay or any other torrent site expose their IP-addresses via the DHT network. BTindex records this information alongside the torrent metadata. The number of peers are displayed in the search results and for each file a selection of IP-addresses is made available to the public.

The image below shows a selection of peers who shared a pirated copy of the movie “Transcendence,” this week’s most downloaded film.

Some IP-addresses sharing “Transcendence.”
btindexips

Perhaps even more worrying to some, the site also gives an overview of all recorded downloads per IP-address. While the database is not exhaustive there is plenty of dirt to be found on heavy BitTorrent users who have DHT enabled in their clients.

Below is an example of the files that were shared via the IP-address of a popular VPN provider.

Files shared by the IP-address of a popular VPN provider
btindexvpnips

Since all data is collected through the DHT network people can avoid being tracked by disabling this feature in their BitTorrent clients. Unfortunately, that only gives a false sense of security as there are plenty of other monitoring firms who track people by gathering IP-addresses directly from the trackers.

The idea to index and expose IP-addresses of public BitTorrent users is not entirely new. In 2011 YouHaveDownloaded did something similar. This site generated considerable interest but was shut down a few months after its launch.

If anything, these sites should act as a wake up call to people who regularly share files via BitTorrent without countermeasures. Depending on the type of files being shared, a mention on BTindex is probably the least of their worries.

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

TorrentFreak: IFPI Wants Major Torrent Sites Blocked in Days

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

A long-running legal case involving an Austrian anti-piracy group, a local ISP, and both the Supreme Court and European Court of Justice came to an end this July.

The case, which centered around the now-defunct movie site Kino.to, concluded with both courts agreeing that provided any action is both balanced and proportional, Internet service providers could be forced to block copyright-infringing websites.

Taking that decision and running with it, the IFPI in Austria has now written to the country’s largest Internet service providers with demands that they block several of the world’s largest torrent sites.

In a letter dated today, five ISPs were given less than two weeks to block subscriber access to ThePirateBay,se, isoHunt.to, 1337x.to and H33t.to.

IFPI says the sites are “internationally known piracy portals” which have already been blocked in UK, Belgium, Ireland, Finland and Denmark.

The music industry group, which protects the rights of the world’s largest recording labels, notes that its blocking request is reasonable given that the sites’ engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material for profit.

“The foundation for website-blocking in Austria was created following a four year process involving the European Court of Justice,” IFPI’s Franz Medwenitsch added in a statement.

“The sites are all internationally known, structurally-infringing BitTorrent portals. Of course, we do not want to have access to the Internet itself blocked, only access to these four sites.”

The ISPs have been given until August 14 to implement the blockades, but whether they will have any effect remains to be seen. The Pirate Bay, the world’s most-blocked torrent site, recently informed TF that despite years of blockages, its traffic has doubled overall.

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

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.