All posts by Andy

US Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed in China

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-senators-ask-apple-why-vpn-apps-were-removed-in-china-171020/

As part of what is now clearly a crackdown on Great Firewall-evading tools and services, during the summer Chinese government pressure reached technology giant Apple.

On or around July 29, Apple removed many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese app store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers were informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

Now, in a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy express concern at the move by Apple, noting that if reports of the software removals are true, the company could be assisting China’s restrictive approach to the Internet.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chines government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet.”

Describing China as a country with “an abysmal human rights record, including with respect to the rights of free expression and free access to information, both online and offline”, the senators cite Reporters Without Borders who previously labeled the country as “the enemy of the Internet”.

While senators Cruz and Leahy go on to praise Apple for its contribution to the spread of information, they criticize the company for going along with the wishes of the Chinese government as it seeks to suppress knowledge and communication.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’,” the senators write.

“To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.”

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had indeed launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate in China. And the aggression against VPNs and their providers didn’t stop there.

In September, a Chinese man who sold Great Firewall-evading VPN software via a website was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Chinese court. Just weeks later, a software developer who set up a VPN for his own use but later sold access to the service was arrested and detained for three days.

This emerging pattern is clearly a concern for the senators who are now demanding that Tim Cook responds to ten questions (pdf), including whether Apple raised concerns about China’s VPN removal demands and details of how many apps were removed from its store. The senators also want to see copies of any pro-free speech statements Apple has made in China.

Whether the letter will make any difference on the ground in China remains to be seen, but the public involvement of the senators and technology giant Apple is certain to thrust censorship and privacy further into the public eye.

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

Anti-Piracy Group Joins Internet Organization That Controls Top-Level Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-group-joins-internet-organization-that-controls-top-level-domain-171019/

All around the world, content creators and rightsholders continue to protest against the unauthorized online distribution of copyrighted content.

While pirating end-users obviously share some of the burden, the main emphasis has traditionally been placed on the shuttering of illicit sites, whether torrent, streaming, or hosting based.

Over time, however, sites have become more prevalent and increasingly resilient, leaving the music, movie and publishing industries to play a frustrating game of whac-a-mole. With this in mind, their focus has increasingly shifted towards Internet gatekeepers, including ISPs and bodies with influence over domain availability.

While most of these efforts take place via cooperation or legal action, there’s regularly conflict when Hollywood, for example, wants a particular domain rendered inaccessible or the music industry wants pirates kicked off the Internet.

As a result, there’s nearly always a disconnect, with copyright holders on one side and Internet technology companies worried about mission creep on the other. In Denmark, however, those lines have just been blurred in the most intriguing way possible after an infamous anti-piracy outfit joined an organization with significant control over the Internet in the country.

RettighedsAlliancen (or Rights Alliance as it’s more commonly known) is an anti-piracy group which counts some of the most powerful local and international movie companies among its members. It also operates on behalf of IFPI and by extension, most of the world’s major recording labels.

The group has been involved in dozens of legal processes over the years against file-sharers and file-sharing sites, most recently fighting for and winning ISP blockades against most major pirate portals including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Torrentz, and many more.

In a somewhat surprising new announcement, the group has revealed it’s become the latest member of DIFO, the Danish Internet Forum (DIFO) which “works for a secure and accessible Internet” under the top-level .DK domain. Indeed, DIFO has overall responsibility for Danish internet infrastructure.

“For DIFO it is important to have a strong link to the Danish internet community. Therefore, we are very pleased that the Alliance wishes to be part of the association,” DIFO said in a statement.

Rights Alliance will be DIFO’s third new member this year but uniquely it will get the opportunity to represent the interests of more than 100,000 Danish and international rightholders from inside an influential Internet-focused organization.

Looking at DIFO’s membership, Rights Alliance certainly stands out as unusual. The majority of the members are made up of IT-based organizations, such as the Internet Industry Association, The Association of Open Source Suppliers and DKRegistrar, the industry association for Danish domain registrars.

A meeting around a table with these players and their often conflicting interests is likely to be an experience for all involved. However, all parties seem more than happy with the new partnership.

“We want to help create a more secure internet for companies that invest in doing business online, and for users to be safe, so combating digital crime is a key and shared goal,” says Rights Alliance chief, Maria Fredenslund. “I am therefore looking forward to the future cooperation with DIFO.”

Only time will tell how this partnership will play out but if common ground can be found, it’s certainly possible that the anti-piracy scene in Denmark could step up a couple of gears in the future.

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

Google Asked to Delist Pirate Movie Sites, ISPs Asked to Block Them

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-delist-pirate-movie-sites-isps-asked-to-block-them-171018/

After seizing several servers operated by popular private music tracker What.cd, last November French police went after a much bigger target.

Boasting millions of regular visitors, Zone-Telechargement (Zone-Download) was ranked the 11th most-visited website in the whole of the country. The site offered direct downloads of a wide variety of pirated content, including films, series, games, and music. Until the French Gendarmerie shut it down, that is.

After being founded in 2011 and enjoying huge growth following the 2012 raids against Megaupload, the Zone-Telechargement ‘brand’ was still popular with French users, despite the closure of the platform. It, therefore, came as no surprise that the site was quickly cloned by an unknown party and relaunched as Zone-Telechargement.ws.

The site has been doing extremely well following its makeover. To the annoyance of copyright holders, SimilarWeb reports the platform as France’s 37th most popular site with around 58 million visitors per month. That’s a huge achievement in less than 12 months.

Now, however, the site is receiving more unwanted attention. PCInpact says it has received information that several movie-focused organizations including the French National Film Center are requesting tough action against the site.

The National Federation of Film Distributors, the Video Publishing Union, the Association of Independent Producers and the Producers Union are all demanding the blocking of Zone-Telechargement by several local ISPs, alongside its delisting from search results.

The publication mentions four Internet service providers – Free, Numericable, Bouygues Telecom, and Orange – plus Google on the search engine front. At this stage, other search companies, such as Microsoft’s Bing, are not reported as part of the action.

In addition to Zone-Telechargement, several other ‘pirate’ sites (Papystreaming.org, Sokrostream.cc and Zonetelechargement.su, another site playing on the popular brand) are included in the legal process. All are described as “structurally infringing” by the complaining movie outfits, PCInpact notes.

The legal proceedings against the sites are based in Article 336-2 of the Intellectual Property Code. It’s ground already trodden by movie companies who following a 2011 complaint, achieved victory in 2013 against several Allostreaming-linked sites.

In that case, the High Court of Paris ordered ISPs, several of which appear in the current action, to “implement all appropriate means including blocking” to prevent access to the infringing sites.

The Court also ordered Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to “take all necessary measures to prevent the occurrence on their services of any results referring to any of the sites” on their platforms.

Also of interest is that the action targets a service called DL-Protecte.com, which according to local anti-piracy agency HADOPI, makes it difficult for rightsholders to locate infringing content while at the same time generates more revenue for pirate sites.

A judgment is expected in “several months.”

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

Abandon Proactive Copyright Filters, Huge Coalition Tells EU Heavyweights

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/abandon-proactive-copyright-filters-huge-coalition-tells-eu-heavyweights-171017/

Last September, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced plans to modernize copyright law in Europe.

The proposals (pdf) are part of the Digital Single Market reforms, which have been under development for the past several years.

One of the proposals is causing significant concern. Article 13 would require some online service providers to become ‘Internet police’, proactively detecting and filtering allegedly infringing copyright works, uploaded to their platforms by users.

Currently, users are generally able to share whatever they like but should a copyright holder take exception to their upload, mechanisms are available for that content to be taken down. It’s envisioned that proactive filtering, whereby user uploads are routinely scanned and compared to a database of existing protected content, will prevent content becoming available in the first place.

These proposals are of great concern to digital rights groups, who believe that such filters will not only undermine users’ rights but will also place unfair burdens on Internet platforms, many of which will struggle to fund such a program. Yesterday, in the latest wave of opposition to Article 13, a huge coalition of international rights groups came together to underline their concerns.

Headed up by Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) and European Digital Rights (EDRi), the coalition is formed of dozens of influential groups, including Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, and Open Rights Group (ORG), to name just a few.

In an open letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and a string of others, the groups warn that the proposals undermine the trust established between EU member states.

“Fundamental rights, justice and the rule of law are intrinsically linked and constitute
core values on which the EU is founded,” the letter begins.

“Any attempt to disregard these values undermines the mutual trust between member states required for the EU to function. Any such attempt would also undermine the commitments made by the European Union and national governments to their citizens.”

Those citizens, the letter warns, would have their basic rights undermined, should the new proposals be written into EU law.

“Article 13 of the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market include obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights,” it notes.

A major concern is that by placing new obligations on Internet service providers that allow users to upload content – think YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – they will be forced to err on the side of caution. Should there be any concern whatsoever that content might be infringing, fair use considerations and exceptions will be abandoned in favor of staying on the right side of the law.

“Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business,” the letter warns.

But while the potential problems for service providers and users are numerous, the groups warn that Article 13 could also be illegal since it contradicts case law of the Court of Justice.

According to the E-Commerce Directive, platforms are already required to remove infringing content, once they have been advised it exists. The new proposal, should it go ahead, would force the monitoring of uploads, something which goes against the ‘no general obligation to monitor‘ rules present in the Directive.

“The requirement to install a system for filtering electronic communications has twice been rejected by the Court of Justice, in the cases Scarlet Extended (C70/10) and Netlog/Sabam (C 360/10),” the rights groups warn.

“Therefore, a legislative provision that requires internet companies to install a filtering system would almost certainly be rejected by the Court of Justice because it would contravene the requirement that a fair balance be struck between the right to intellectual property on the one hand, and the freedom to conduct business and the right to freedom of expression, such as to receive or impart information, on the other.”

Specifically, the groups note that the proactive filtering of content would violate freedom of expression set out in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. That being the case, the groups expect national courts to disapply it and the rule to be annulled by the Court of Justice.

The latest protests against Article 13 come in the wake of large-scale objections earlier in the year, voicing similar concerns. However, despite the groups’ fears, they have powerful adversaries, each determined to stop the flood of copyrighted content currently being uploaded to the Internet.

Front and center in support of Article 13 is the music industry and its current hot-topic, the so-called Value Gap(1,2,3). The industry feels that platforms like YouTube are able to avoid paying expensive licensing fees (for music in particular) by exploiting the safe harbor protections of the DMCA and similar legislation.

They believe that proactively filtering uploads would significantly help to diminish this problem, which may very well be the case. But at what cost to the general public and the platforms they rely upon? Citizens and scholars feel that freedoms will be affected and it’s likely the outcry will continue.

The ball is now with the EU, whose members will soon have to make what could be the most important decision in recent copyright history. The rights groups, who are urging for Article 13 to be deleted, are clear where they stand.

The full letter is available here (pdf)

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

PureVPN Explains How it Helped the FBI Catch a Cyberstalker

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/purevpn-explains-how-it-helped-the-fbi-catch-a-cyberstalker-171016/

Early October, Ryan S. Lin, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested on suspicion of conducting “an extensive cyberstalking campaign” against a 24-year-old Massachusetts woman, as well as her family members and friends.

The Department of Justice described Lin’s offenses as a “multi-faceted” computer hacking and cyberstalking campaign. Launched in April 2016 when he began hacking into the victim’s online accounts, Lin allegedly obtained personal photographs and sensitive information about her medical and sexual histories and distributed that information to hundreds of other people.

Details of what information the FBI compiled on Lin can be found in our earlier report but aside from his alleged crimes (which are both significant and repugnant), it was PureVPN’s involvement in the case that caused the most controversy.

In a report compiled by an FBI special agent, it was revealed that the Hong Kong-based company’s logs helped the authorities net the alleged criminal.

“Significantly, PureVPN was able to determine that their service was accessed by the same customer from two originating IP addresses: the RCN IP address from the home Lin was living in at the time, and the software company where Lin was employed at the time,” the agent’s affidavit reads.

Among many in the privacy community, this revelation was met with disappointment. On the PureVPN website the company claims to carry no logs and on a general basis, it’s expected that so-called “no-logging” VPN providers should provide people with some anonymity, at least as far as their service goes. Now, several days after the furor, the company has responded to its critics.

In a fairly lengthy statement, the company begins by confirming that it definitely doesn’t log what websites a user views or what content he or she downloads.

“PureVPN did not breach its Privacy Policy and certainly did not breach your trust. NO browsing logs, browsing habits or anything else was, or ever will be shared,” the company writes.

However, that’s only half the problem. While it doesn’t log user activity (what sites people visit or content they download), it does log the IP addresses that customers use to access the PureVPN service. These, given the right circumstances, can be matched to external activities thanks to logs carried by other web companies.

PureVPN talks about logs held by Google’s Gmail service to illustrate its point.

“A network log is automatically generated every time a user visits a website. For the sake of this example, let’s say a user logged into their Gmail account. Every time they accessed Gmail, the email provider created a network log,” the company explains.

“If you are using a VPN, Gmail’s network log would contain the IP provided by PureVPN. This is one half of the picture. Now, if someone asks Google who accessed the user’s account, Google would state that whoever was using this IP, accessed the account.

“If the user was connected to PureVPN, it would be a PureVPN IP. The inquirer [in the Lin case, the FBI] would then share timestamps and network logs acquired from Google and ask them to be compared with the network logs maintained by the VPN provider.”

Now, if PureVPN carried no logs – literally no logs – it would not be able to help with this kind of inquiry. That was the case last year when the FBI approached Private Internet Access for information and the company was unable to assist.

However, as is made pretty clear by PureVPN’s explanation, the company does log user IP addresses and timestamps which reveal when a user was logged on to the service. It doesn’t matter that PureVPN doesn’t log what the user allegedly did online, since the third-party service already knows that information to the precise second.

Following the example, GMail knows that a user sent an email at 10:22am on Monday October 16 from a PureVPN IP address. So, if PureVPN is approached by the FBI, the company can confirm that User X was using the same IP address at exactly the same time, and his home IP address was XXX.XX.XXX.XX. Effectively, the combined logs link one IP address to the other and the user is revealed. It’s that simple.

It is for this reason that in TorrentFreak’s annual summary of no-logging VPN providers, the very first question we ask every single company reads as follows:

Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user/users of your service? If so, what information do you hold and for how long?

Clearly, if a company says “yes we log incoming IP addresses and associated timestamps”, any claim to total user anonymity is ended right there and then.

While not completely useless (a logging service will still stop the prying eyes of ISPs and similar surveillance, while also defeating throttling and site-blocking), if you’re a whistle-blower with a job or even your life to protect, this level of protection is entirely inadequate.

The take-home points from this controversy are numerous, but perhaps the most important is for people to read and understand VPN provider logging policies.

Secondly, and just as importantly, VPN providers need to be extremely clear about the information they log. Not tracking browsing or downloading activities is all well and good, but if home IP addresses and timestamps are stored, this needs to be made clear to the customer.

Finally, VPN users should not be evil. There are plenty of good reasons to stay anonymous online but cyberstalking, death threats and ruining people’s lives are not included. Fortunately, the FBI have offline methods for catching this type of offender, and long may that continue.

PureVPN’s blog post is available here.

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

‘Pirate’ EBook Site Refuses Point Blank to Cooperate With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-ebook-site-refuses-point-blank-to-cooperate-with-brein-171015/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is probably best known for its legal action against The Pirate Bay but the outfit also tackles many other forms of piracy.

A prime example is the case it pursued against a seller of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in the Netherlands. The subsequent landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice will reverberate around Europe for years to come.

Behind the scenes, however, BREIN persistently tries to take much smaller operations offline, and not without success. Earlier this year it revealed it had taken down 231 illegal sites and services includes 84 linking sites, 63 streaming portals, and 34 torrent sites. Some of these shut down completely and others were forced to leave their hosting providers.

Much of this work flies under the radar but some current action, against an eBook site, is now being thrust into the public eye.

For more than five years, EBoek.info (eBook) has serviced Internet users looking to obtain comic books in Dutch. The site informs TorrentFreak it provides a legitimate service, targeted at people who have purchased a hard copy but also want their comics in digital format.

“EBoek.info is a site about comic books in the Dutch language. Besides some general information about the books, people who have legally obtained a hard copy of the books can find a link to an NZB file which enables them to download a digital version of the books they already have,” site representative ‘Zala’ says.

For those out of the loop, NZB files are a bit like Usenet’s version of .torrent files. They contain no copyrighted content themselves but do provide software clients with information on where to find specific content, so it can be downloaded to a user’s machine.

“BREIN claims that this is illegal as it is impossible for us to verify if our visitor is telling the truth [about having purchased a copy],” Zala reveals.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, BREIN chief Tim Kuik says there’s no question that offering downloads like this is illegal.

“It is plain and simple: the site makes links to unauthorized digital copies available to the general public and therefore is infringing copyright. It is distribution of the content without authorization of the rights holder,” Kuik says.

“The unauthorized copies are not private copies. The private copy exception does not apply to this kind of distribution. The private copy has not been made by the owner of the book himself for his own use. Someone else made the digital copy and is making it available to anyone who wants to download it provided he makes the unverified claim that he has a legal copy. This harms the normal exploitation of the
content.”

Zala says that BREIN has been trying to take his site offline for many years but more recently, the platform has utilized the services of Cloudflare, partly as a form of shield. As readers may be aware, a site behind Cloudflare has its originating IP addresses hidden from the public, not to mention BREIN, who values that kind of information. According to the operator, however, BREIN managed to obtain the information from the CDN provider.

“BREIN has tried for years to take our site offline. Recently, however, Cloudflare was so friendly to give them our IP address,” Zala notes.

A text copy of an email reportedly sent by BREIN to EBoek’s web host and seen by TF appears to confirm that Cloudflare handed over the information as suggested. Among other things, the email has BREIN informing the host that “The IP we got back from Cloudflare is XXX.XXX.XX.33.”

This means that BREIN was able to place direct pressure on EBoek.info’s web host, so only time will tell if that bears any fruit for the anti-piracy group. In the meantime, however, EBoek has decided to go public over its battle with BREIN.

“We have received a request from Stichting BREIN via our hosting provider to take EBoek.info offline,” the site informed its users yesterday.

Interestingly, it also appears that BREIN doesn’t appreciate that the operators of EBoek have failed to make their identities publicly known on their platform.

“The site operates anonymously which also is unlawful. Consumer protection requires that the owner/operator of a site identifies himself,” Kuik says.

According to EBoek, the anti-piracy outfit told the site’s web host that as a “commercial online service”, EBoek is required under EU law to display its “correct and complete business information” including names, addresses, and other information. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the site doesn’t want to play ball.

“In my opinion, you are confusing us with Facebook. They are a foreign commercial company with a European branch in Ireland, and therefore are subject to Irish legislation,” Zala says in an open letter to BREIN.

“Eboek.info, on the other hand, is a foreign hobby club with no commercial purpose, whose administrators have no connection with any country in the European Union. As administrators, we follow the laws of our country of residence which do not oblige us to disclose our identity through our website.

“The fact that Eboek is visible in the Netherlands does not just mean that we are going to adapt to Dutch rules, just as we don’t adapt the site to the rules of Saudi Arabia or China or wherever we are available.”

In a further snub to the anti-piracy group, EBoek says that all visitors to the site have to communicate with its operators via its guestbook, which is publicly visible.

“We see no reason to make an exception for Stichting BREIN,” the site notes.

What makes the situation more complex is that EBoek isn’t refusing dialog completely. The site says it doesn’t want to talk to BREIN but will speak to BREIN’s customers – the publishers of the comic books in question – noting that to date no complaints from publishers have ever been received.

While the parties argue about lines of communication, BREIN insists that following this year’s European Court of Justice decision in the GS Media case, a link to a known infringing work represents copyright infringement. In this case, an NZB file – which links to a location on Usenet – would generally fit the bill.

But despite focusing on the Dutch market, the operators of EBoek say the ruling doesn’t apply to them as they’re outside of the ECJ’s jurisdiction and aren’t commercially motivated. Refusing point blank to take their site offline, EBoek’s operators say that BREIN can do its worst, nothing will have much effect.

“[W]hat’s the worst thing that can happen? That our web host hands [BREIN] our address and IP data. In that case, it will turn out that…we are actually far away,” Zala says.

“[In the case the site goes offline], we’ll just put a backup on another server and, in this case, won’t make use of the ‘services’ of Cloudflare, the provider that apparently put BREIN on the right track.”

The question of jurisdiction is indeed an interesting one, particularly given BREIN’s focus in the Netherlands. But Kuik is clear – it is the area where the content is made available that matters.

“The law of the country where the content is made available applies. In this case the EU and amongst others the Netherlands,” Kuik concludes.

To be continued…..

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

Popular Zer0day Torrent Tracker Taken Offline By Mass Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popular-zer0day-torrent-tracker-taken-offline-by-mass-copyright-complaint-171014/

In January 2016, a BitTorrent enthusiast decided to launch a stand-alone tracker, purely for fun.

The Zer0day platform, which hosts no torrents, is a tracker in the purest sense, directing traffic between peers, no matter what content is involved and no matter where people are in the world.

With this type of tracker in short supply, it was soon utilized by The Pirate Bay and the now-defunct ExtraTorrent. By August 2016, it was tracking almost four million peers and a million torrents, a considerable contribution to the BitTorrent ecosystem.

After handling many ups and downs associated with a service of this type, the tracker eventually made it to the end of 2016 intact. This year it grew further still and by the end of September was tracking an impressive 5.5 million peers spread over 1.2 million torrents. Soon after, however, the tracker disappeared from the Internet without warning.

In an effort to find out what had happened, TorrentFreak contacted Zer0day’s operator who told us a familiar story. Without any warning at all, the site’s host pulled the plug on the service, despite having been paid 180 euros for hosting just a week earlier.

“We’re hereby informing you of the termination of your dedicated server due to a breach of our terms of service,” the host informed Zer0day.

“Hosting trackers on our servers that distribute infringing and copyrighted content is prohibited. This server was found to distribute such content. Should we identify additional similar activity in your services, we will be forced to close your account.”

While hosts tend not to worry too much about what their customers are doing, this one had just received a particularly lengthy complaint. Sent by the head of anti-piracy at French collecting society SCPP, it laid out the group’s problems with the Zer0day tracker.

“SCPP has been responsible for the collective management and protection of sound recordings and music videos producers’ rights since 1985. SCPP counts more than 2,600 members including the majority of independent French producers, in addition to independent European producers, and the major international companies: Sony, Universal and Warner,” the complaints reads.

“SCPP administers a catalog of 7,200,000 sound tracks and 77,000 music videos. SCPP is empowered by its members to take legal action in order to put an end to any infringements of the producers’ rights set out in Article L335-4 of the French Intellectual Property Code…..punishable by a three-year prison sentence or a fine of €300,000.”

Noting that it works on behalf of a number of labels and distributors including BMG, Sony Music, Universal Music, Warner Music and others, SCPP listed countless dozens of albums under its protection, each allegedly tracked by the Zer0day platform.

“It has come to our attention that these music albums are illegally being communicated to the public (made available for download) by various users of the BitTorrent-Network,” the complaint reads.

Noting that Zer0day is involved in the process, the anti-piracy outfit presented dozens of hash codes relating to protected works, demanding that the site stop facilitation of infringement on each and every one of them.

“We have proof that your tracker udp://tracker.zer0day.to:1337/announce provided peers of the BitTorrent-Network with information regarding these torrents, to be specific IP Addresses of peers that were offering without authorization the full albums for download, and that this information enabled peers to download files that contain the sound recordings to which our members producers have the exclusive rights.

“These sound recordings are thus being illegally communicated to the public, and your tracker is enabling the seeders to do so.”

Rather than take the hashes down from the tracker, SCPP actually demanded that Zer0day create a permanent blacklist within 24 hours, to ensure the corresponding torrents wouldn’t be tracked again.

“You should understand that this letter constitutes a notice to you that you may be liable for the infringing activity occurring on your service. In addition, if you ignore this notice, you may also be liable for any resulting infringement,” the complaint added.

But despite all the threats, SCPP didn’t receive the response they’d demanded since the operator of the site refused to take any action.

“Obviously, ‘info hashes’ are not copyrightable nor point to specific copyrighted content, or even have any meaning. Further, I cannot verify that request strings parameters (‘info hashes’) you sent me contain copyrighted material,” he told SCPP.

“Like the website says; for content removal kindly ask the indexing site to remove the listing and the .torrent file. Also, tracker software does not have an option to block request strings parameters (‘info hashes’).”

The net effect of non-compliance with SCPP was fairly dramatic and swift. Zer0day’s host took down the whole tracker instead and currently it remains offline. Whether it reappears depends on the site’s operator finding a suitable web host, but at the moment he says he has no idea where one will appear from.

“Currently I’m searching for some virtual private server as a temporary home for the tracker,” he concludes.

As mentioned in an earlier article detailing the problems sites like Zer0day.to face, trackers aren’t absolutely essential for the functioning of BitTorrent transfers. Nevertheless, their existence certainly improves matters for file-sharers so when they go down, millions can be affected.

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

The Evil Within 2 Used Denuvo, Then Dumped it Before Launch

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-evil-within-2-used-denuvo-then-dumped-it-before-launch-171013/

At the end of September we reported on a nightmare scenario for videogame anti-tamper technology Denuvo.

With cracking groups chipping away at the system for the past few months, progressing in leaps and bounds, the race to the bottom was almost complete. After aiming to hold off pirates for the first few lucrative weeks and months after launch, the Denuvo-protected Total War: Warhammer 2 fell to pirates in a matter of hours.

In the less than two weeks that have passed since, things haven’t improved much. By most measurements, in fact, the situation appears to have gotten worse.

On Wednesday, action role-playing game Middle Earth: Shadow of War was cracked a day after launch. While this didn’t beat the record set by Warhammer 2, the scene was given an unexpected gift.

Instead of the crack appearing courtesy of scene groups STEAMPUNKS or CPY, which has largely been the tradition thus far this year, old favorite CODEX stepped up to the mark with their own efforts. This means there are now close to half a dozen entities with the ability to defeat Denuvo, which isn’t a good look for the anti-piracy outfit.

A CODEX crack for Denuvo, from nowhere

Needless to say, this development was met with absolute glee by pirates, who forgave the additional day taken to crack the game in order to welcome CODEX into the anti-Denuvo club. But while this is bad news for the anti-tamper technology, there could be a worse enemy crossing the horizon – no confidence.

This Tuesday, DSO Gaming reported that it had received a review copy of Bethesda’s then-upcoming survival horror game, The Evil Within 2. The site, which is often a reliable source for Denuvo-related news, confirmed that the code was indeed protected by Denuvo.

“Another upcoming title that will be using Denuvo is The Evil Within 2,” the site reported. “Bethesda has provided us with a review code for The Evil Within 2. As such, we can confirm that Denuvo is present in it.”

As you read this, October 13, 2017, The Evil Within 2 is enjoying its official worldwide launch. Early yesterday afternoon, however, the title leaked early onto the Internet, courtesy of cracking group CODEX.

At first view, it looked like CODEX had cracked Denuvo before the game’s official launch but the reality was somewhat different after the dust had settled. For reasons best known to developer Bethesda, Denuvo was completely absent from the title. As shown by the title’s NFO (information) file, the only protection present was that provided by Steam.

Denuvo? What Denuvo?

This raises a number of scenarios, none of them good for Denuvo.

One possibility is that all along Bethesda never intended to use Denuvo on the final release. Exactly why we’ll likely never know, but the theory doesn’t really gel with them including it in the review code reviewed by DSO Gaming earlier this week.

The other proposition is that Bethesda witnessed the fiasco around Denuvo’s ‘protection’ in recent days and decided not to invest in something that wasn’t going to provide value for money.

Of course, these theories are going to be pretty difficult to confirm. Denuvo are a pretty confident bunch when things are going their way but they go suspiciously quiet when the tide is turning. Equally, developers tend to keep quiet about their anti-piracy strategies too.

The bottom line though is that if the protection really works and turns in valuable cash, why wouldn’t Bethesda use it as they have done on previous titles including Doom and Prey?

With that question apparently answering itself at the moment, all eyes now turn to Denuvo. Although it has a history of being one of the most successful anti-piracy systems overall, it has taken a massive battering in recent times. Will it recover? Only time will tell but at the moment things couldn’t get much worse.

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

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Kim Dotcom Plots Hollywood Execs’ Downfall in Wake of Weinstein Scandal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-plots-hollywood-execs-downfall-in-wake-of-weinstein-scandal-171011/

It has been nothing short of a disastrous week for movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Accused of sexual abuse and harassment by a string of actresses, the latest including Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow, the 65-year-old is having his life taken apart.

This week, the influential producer was fired by his own The Weinstein Company, which is now seeking to change its name. And yesterday, following allegations of rape made in The New Yorker magazine, his wife, designer Georgina Chapman, announced she was leaving the Miramax co-founder.

“My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions,” the 41-year-old told People magazine.

As the scandal continues and more victims come forward, there are signs of a general emboldening of women in Hollywood, some of whom are publicly speaking out about their own experiences. If that continues to gain momentum – and the opportunity is certainly there – one man with his own experiences of Hollywood’s wrath wants to play a prominent role.

“Just the beginning. Sexual abuse and slavery by the Hollywood elites is as common as dirt. Tsunami,” Kim Dotcom wrote on Twitter.

Dotcom initially suggested that via a website, victims of Hollywood abuse could share their stories anonymously, shining light on a topic that is often shrouded in fear and secrecy. But soon the idea was growing legs.

“Looking for a Los Angeles law firm willing to represent hundreds of sexual abuse victims of Hollywood elites, pro-bono. I’ll find funding,” he said.

Within hours, Dotcom announced that he’d found lawyers in the US who are willing to help victims, for free.

“I had talks with Hollywood lawyers. Found a big law firm willing to represent sexual abuse victims, for free. Next, the website,” he teased.

It’s not hard to see why Dotcom is making this battle his own. Aside from any empathy he feels towards victims on a personal level, he sees his family as kindred spirits, people who have also felt the wrath of Hollywood executives.

That being said, the Megaupload founder is extremely clear that framing this as revenge or a personal vendetta would be not only wrong, but also disrespectful to the victims of abuse.

“I want to help victims because I’m a victim,” he told TorrentFreak.

“I’m an abuse victim of Hollywood, not sexual abuse, but certainly abuse of power. It’s time to shine some light on those Hollywood elites who think they are above the law and untouchable.”

Dotcom told NZ Herald that people like Harvey Weinstein rub shoulders with the great and the good, hoping to influence decision-makers for their own personal gain. It’s something Dotcom, his family, and his colleagues have felt the effects of.

“They dine with presidents, donate millions to powerful politicians and buy favors like tax breaks and new copyright legislation, even the Megaupload raid. They think they can destroy lives and businesses with impunity. They think they can get away with anything. But they can’t. We’ll teach them,” he warned.

The Megaupload founder says he has both “the motive and the resources” to help victims and he’s promising to do that with proven skills. Ironically, many of these have been honed as a direct result of Hollywood’s attack on Megaupload and Dotcom’s relentless drive to bounce back with new sites like Mega and his latest K.im / Bitcache project.

“I’m an experienced fundraiser. A high traffic crowdfunding campaign for this cause can raise millions. The costs won’t be an issue,” Dotcom informs TF. “There seems to be an appetite for these cases because defendants usually settle quickly. I have calls with LA firms today and tomorrow.

“Just the beginning. Watch me,” he concludes.

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

Sweden Supreme Court: Don’t Presume Prison Sentences For Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sweden-supreme-court-dont-presume-prison-sentences-for-pirates-171010/

The trend over the past several years is for prosecutors to present copyright infringement offenses as serious crimes, often tantamount to those involving theft of physical goods.

This has resulted in many cases across the United States and Europe where those accused of distributing or assisting in the distribution of copyrighted content face the possibility of custodial sentences. Over in Sweden, prosecutors have homed in on one historical case in order to see where the boundaries lie.

Originally launched as Swepirate, ‘Biosalongen‘ (Screening Room) was shut down by local authorities in early 2013. A 50-year-old man said to have been the main administrator of the private tracker was arrested and charged with sharing at least 125 TV shows and movies via the site, including Rocky, Alien and Star Trek.

After the man initially pleaded not guilty, the case went to trial and a subsequent appeal. In the summer of 2015 the Court of Appeal in Gothenburg sentenced him to eight months in prison for copyright infringement offenses.

The former administrator, referenced in court papers as ‘BH’, felt that the punishment was too harsh, filing a claim with the Supreme Court in an effort to have the sentence dismissed.

Prosecutor My Hedström also wanted the Supreme Court to hear the case, seeking clarity on sentencing for these kinds of offenses. Are fines and suspended sentences appropriate or is imprisonment the way to deal with pirates, as most copyright holders demand?

The Supreme Court has now handed down its decision, upholding an earlier ruling of probation and clarifying that copyright infringement is not an offense where a custodial sentence should be presumed.

“Whether a crime should be punished by imprisonment is generally determined based on its penal value,” a summary from International Law Office reads.

“If the penal value is less than one year, imprisonment should be a last resort. However, certain crimes are considered of such a nature that the penalty should be a prison sentence based on general preventive grounds, even if the penal value is less than one year.”

In the Swepirate/Biosalongen/Screening Room case, the Court of Appeal found that BH’s copyright infringement had a penal value of six months, so there was no presumption for a custodial sentence based on the penal value alone.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court found that there are no legislative indications that copyright infringement should be penalized via a term of imprisonment. In reaching this decision the Court referenced a previous trademark case, noting that trademark
infringement and copyright infringement are similar offenses.

In the trademark case, it was found that there should be no presumption of imprisonment. The Court found that since it is a closely related crime, copyright infringement offenses should be treated in the same manner.

According to an analysis of the ruling by Henrik Wistam and Siri Alvsing at the Lindahl lawfirm, the decision by the Supreme Court represents a change from previous case law concerning penalties for illegal file-sharing.

The pair highlight the now-infamous case of The Pirate Bay, where three defendants – Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström – were sentenced to prison terms of eight, ten and four months respectively.

“In 2010 the Svea Court of Appeal concluded that the penalty for such crimes should be imprisonment. The Supreme Court did not grant leave to appeal,” they note.

“The Supreme Court has now aligned the view on the severity of IP infringements. This is a welcome development, although rights holders may have benefited from a stricter view and a development in the opposite direction.

The full ruling is available here (pdf, Swedish)

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

PureVPN Logs Helped FBI Net Alleged Cyberstalker

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/purevpn-logs-helped-fbi-net-alleged-cyberstalker-171009/

Last Thursday, Ryan S. Lin, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested on suspicion of conducting “an extensive cyberstalking campaign” against his former roommate, a 24-year-old Massachusetts woman, as well as her family members and friends.

According to the Department of Justice, Lin’s “multi-faceted campaign of computer hacking and cyberstalking” began in April 2016 when he began hacking into the victim’s online accounts, obtaining personal photographs, sensitive information about her medical and sexual histories, and other private details.

It’s alleged that after obtaining the above material, Lin distributed it to hundreds of others. It’s claimed he created fake online profiles showing the victim’s home address while soliciting sexual activity. This caused men to show up at her home.

“Mr. Lin allegedly carried out a relentless cyber stalking campaign against a young woman in a chilling effort to violate her privacy and threaten those around her,” said Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb.

“While using anonymizing services and other online tools to avoid attribution, Mr. Lin harassed the victim, her family, friends, co-workers and roommates, and then targeted local schools and institutions in her community. Mr. Lin will now face the consequences of his crimes.”

While Lin awaits his ultimate fate (he appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston Friday), the allegation he used anonymization tools to hide himself online but still managed to get caught raises a number of questions. An affidavit submitted by Special Agent Jeffrey Williams in support of the criminal complaint against Lin provides most of the answers.

Describing Lin’s actions against the victim as “doxing”, Williams begins by noting that while Lin was the initial aggressor, the fact he made the information so widely available raises the possibility that other people got involved with malicious acts later on. Nevertheless, Lin remains the investigation’s prime suspect.

According to the affidavit, Lin is computer savvy having majored in computer science. He allegedly utilized a number of methods to hide his identity and IP address, including TOR, Virtual Private Network (VPN) services and email providers that “do not maintain logs or other records.”

But if that genuinely is the case, how was Lin caught?

First up, it’s worth noting that plenty of Lin’s aggressive and stalking behaviors towards the victim were demonstrated in a physical sense, offline. In that respect, it appears the authorities already had him as the prime suspect and worked back from there.

In one instance, the FBI examined a computer that had been used by Lin at a former workplace. Although Windows had been reinstalled, the FBI managed to find Google Chrome data which indicated Lin had viewed articles about bomb threats he allegedly made. They were also able to determine he’d accessed the victim’s Gmail account and additional data suggested that he’d used a VPN service.

“Artifacts indicated that PureVPN, a VPN service that was used repeatedly in the cyberstalking scheme, was installed on the computer,” the affidavit reads.

From here the Special Agent’s report reveals that the FBI received cooperation from Hong Kong-based PureVPN.

“Significantly, PureVPN was able to determine that their service was accessed by the same customer from two originating IP addresses: the RCN IP address from the home Lin was living in at the time, and the software company where Lin was employed at the time,” the agent’s affidavit reads.

Needless to say, while this information will prove useful to the FBI’s prosecution of Lin, it’s also likely to turn into a huge headache for the VPN provider. The company claims zero-logging, which clearly isn’t the case.

“PureVPN operates a self-managed VPN network that currently stands at 750+ Servers in 141 Countries. But is this enough to ensure complete security?” the company’s marketing statement reads.

“That’s why PureVPN has launched advanced features to add proactive, preventive and complete security. There are no third-parties involved and NO logs of your activities.”

PureVPN privacy graphic

However, if one drills down into the PureVPN privacy policy proper, one sees the following:

Our servers automatically record the time at which you connect to any of our servers. From here on forward, we do not keep any records of anything that could associate any specific activity to a specific user. The time when a successful connection is made with our servers is counted as a ‘connection’ and the total bandwidth used during this connection is called ‘bandwidth’. Connection and bandwidth are kept in record to maintain the quality of our service. This helps us understand the flow of traffic to specific servers so we could optimize them better.

This seems to match what the FBI says – almost. While it says it doesn’t log, PureVPN admits to keeping records of when a user connects to the service and for how long. The FBI clearly states that the service also captures the user’s IP address too. In fact, it appears that PureVPN also logged the IP address belonging to another VPN service (WANSecurity) that was allegedly used by Lin to connect to PureVPN.

That record also helped to complete another circle of evidence. IP addresses used by
Kansas-based WANSecurity and Secure Internet LLC (servers operated by PureVPN) were allegedly used to access Gmail accounts known to be under Lin’s control.

Somewhat ironically, this summer Lin took to Twitter to criticize VPN provider IPVanish (which is not involved in the case) over its no-logging claims.

“There is no such thing as a VPN that doesn’t keep logs,” Lin said. “If they can limit your connections or track bandwidth usage, they keep logs.”

Or, in the case of PureVPN, if they log a connection time and a source IP address, that could be enough to raise the suspicions of the FBI and boost what already appears to be a pretty strong case.

If convicted, Lin faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release.

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

Private Torrent Sites Allow Users to Mine Cryptocurrency for Upload Credit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/private-torrent-sites-allow-users-to-mine-cryptocurrency-for-upload-credit-171008/

Ever since The Pirate Bay crew added a cryptocurrency miner to their site last month, the debate over user mining has sizzled away in the background.

The basic premise is that a piece of software embedded in a website runs on a user’s machine, utilizing its CPU cycles in order to generate revenue for the site in question. But not everyone likes it.

The main problem has centered around consent. While some sites are giving users the option of whether to be involved or not, others simply run the miner without asking. This week, one site operator suggested to TF that since no one asks whether they can run “shitty” ads on a person’s machine, why should they ask permission to mine?

It’s a controversial point, but it would be hard to find users agreeing on either front. They almost universally insist on consent, wherever possible. That’s why when someone comes up with something innovative to solve a problem, it catches the eye.

Earlier this week a user on Reddit posted a screenshot of a fairly well known private tracker. The site had implemented a mining solution not dissimilar to that appearing on other similar platforms. This one, however, gives the user something back.

Mining for coins – with a twist

First of all, it’s important to note the implementation. The decision to mine is completely under the control of the user, with buttons to start or stop mining. There are even additional controls for how many CPU threads to commit alongside a percentage utilization selector. While still early days, that all sounds pretty fair.

Where this gets even more interesting is how this currency mining affects so-called “upload credit”, an important commodity on a private tracker without which users can be prevented from downloading any content at all.

Very quickly: when BitTorrent users download content, they simultaneously upload to other users too. The idea is that they download X megabytes and upload the same number (at least) to other users, to ensure that everyone in a torrent swarm (a number of users sharing together) gets a piece of the action, aka the content in question.

The amount of content downloaded and uploaded on a private tracker is monitored and documented by the site. If a user has 1TB downloaded and 2TB uploaded, for example, he has 1TB in credit. In basic terms, this means he can download at least 1TB of additional content before he goes into deficit, a position undesirable on a private tracker.

Now, getting more “upload credit” can be as simple as uploading more, but some users find that difficult, either due to the way a tracker’s economy works or simply due to not having resources. If this is the case, some sites allow people to donate real money to receive “upload credit”. On the tracker highlighted in the mining example above, however, it’s possible to virtually ‘trade-in’ some of the mining effort instead.

Tracker politics aside (some people believe this is simply a cash grab opportunity), from a technical standpoint the prospect is quite intriguing.

In a way, the current private tracker system allows users to “mine” upload credits by donating bandwidth to other users of the site. Now they have the opportunity to mine an actual cryptocurrency on the tracker and have some of it converted back into the tracker’s native ‘currency’ – upload credit – which can only be ‘spent’ on the site. Meanwhile, the site’s operator can make a few bucks towards site maintenance.

Another example showing how innovative these mining implementations can be was posted by a member of a second private tracker. Although it’s unclear whether mining is forced or optional, there appears to be complete transparency for the benefit of the user.

The mining ‘Top 10’ on a private tracker

In addition to displaying the total number of users mining and the hashes solved per second, the site publishes a ‘Top 10’ list of users mining the most currently, and overall. Again, some people might not like the concept of users mining at all, but psychologically this is a particularly clever implementation.

Utilizing the desire of many private tracker users to be recognizable among their peers due to their contribution to the platform, the charts give a user a measurable status in the community, at least among those who care about such things. Previously these charts would list top uploaders of content but the addition of a ‘Top miner’ category certainly adds some additional spice to the mix.

Mining is a controversial topic which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. But, for all its faults, it’s still a way for sites to generate revenue, away from the pitfalls of increasingly hostile and easy-to-trace alternative payment systems. The Pirate Bay may have set the cat among the pigeons last month, but it also gave the old gray matter a boost too.

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

Students Overwhelmingly Vote Pirate Party in Simulated “General Election”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/students-overwhelmingly-vote-pirate-party-in-simulated-general-election-171007/

While millions of people have died throughout history fighting for the right to vote, there is a significant wave of apathy among large swathes of the population in democracies where the ballot box is taken for granted.

With this in mind, an educational project in the Czech Republic aims to familiarize high school students with basic democratic principles, acquaint them with the local electoral system, while promoting dialog among students, teachers, and parents. The main goal is to increase participation of young people in elections.

In line with this project, young students across the country are invited to take part in a simulated general election, to get a taste of what things will be like when they reach voting age. This year, these Student Elections took place over two days starting October 3 in secondary schools across the Czech Republic.

Under the One World Education Program at People in Need, a nonprofit that implements educational and human rights programs in crisis zones, 40,068 students from 281 schools cast their votes for political parties, movements and coalition candidates standing for the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament in the upcoming real elections.

Students 15-years-old and above were eligible to vote and when they were all counted, the results were quite something for any follower of the worldwide Pirate Party movement.

Of all groups, the Czech Pirate Party won a decisive victory, netting 24.5% of the overall vote, double that achieved by the ANO movement (11.9%) and the right-wing TOP 09 (11.8%). The fourth and fifth-placed candidates topped out at 7.76% and 6.33% respectively.

“The results of the Student Elections will be compared to the results of the election in a couple of weeks. It is certain they will vary greatly,” says Karel Strachota, director of the One World at School Education Program and the person who launched the Student Election project seven years ago.

“At the same time, however, the choice of students seems to indicate a certain trend in the development of voter preferences. From our teachers and school visits, we know that, as in the past, most of the pupils have been able to choose responsibly.”

According to Prague Monitor, opinion polls for the upcoming election (October 20-21) place the ANO movement as the clear favorites, with the Pirates having “a big chance to succeed” with up to 7% of the vote. Given the results of the simulation, elections in coming years could be something really special for the Pirates.

The full results of the Student Elections 2017 can be found on the One World website here. Meanwhile, Czech Pirate Party President Ivan Bartos sings to voters in the pre-election video below, explaining why Pirates are needed in Parliament in 2017.

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

Spotify Threatened Researchers Who Revealed ‘Pirate’ History

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spotify-threatened-researchers-who-revealed-pirate-history-171006/

As one of the members of Sweden’s infamous Piratbyrån (Piracy Bureau), Rasmus Fleischer was also one of early key figures at The Pirate Bay. Over the years he’s been a writer, researcher, debater, and musician, and in 2012 he finished his PhD thesis on “music’s political economy.”

As part of a five-person research team (Pelle Snickars, Patrick Vonderau, Anna Johansson, Rasmus Fleischer, Maria Eriksson) funded by the Swedish Research Council, Fleischer has co-written a book about the history of Spotify.

Titled ‘Spotify Teardown – Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music’, the publication is set to shine light on the history of the now famous music service while revealing quite a few past secrets.

With its release scheduled for 2018, Fleischer has already teased a few interesting nuggets, not least that Spotify’s early beta version used ‘pirate’ MP3 files, some of them sourced from The Pirate Bay.

Fleischer says that following an interview earlier this year with DI.se, in which he revealed that Spotify distributed unlicensed music between May 2007 to October 2008, Spotify looked at ways to try and stop his team’s research. However, the ‘pirate’ angle wasn’t the clear target, another facet of the team’s research was.

“Building on the tradition of ‘breaching experiments’ in ethnomethodology, the research group sought to break into the hidden infrastructures of digital music distribution in order to study its underlying norms and structures,” project leader Pelle Snickars previously revealed.

With this goal, the team conducted experiments to see if the system was open to abuse or could be manipulated, as Fleischer now explains.

“For example, some hundreds of robot users were created to study whether the same listening behavior results in different recommendations depending on whether the user was registered as male or female,” he says.

“We have also investigated on a small scale the possibilities of manipulating the system. However, we have not collected any data about real users. Our proposed methods appeared several years ago in our research funding application, which was approved by the Swedish Research Council, which was already noted in 2013.”

Fleischer says that Spotify had been aware of the project for several years but it wasn’t until this year, after he spoke of Spotify’s past as a ‘pirate’ service, that pressure began to mount.

“On May 19, our project manager received a letter from Benjamin Helldén-Hegelund, a lawyer at Spotify. The timing was hardly a coincidence. Spotify demanded that we ‘confirm in writing’ that we had ‘ceased activities contrary to their Terms of Use’,” Fleischer reveals.

A corresponding letter to the Swedish Research Council detailed Spotify’s problems with the project.

“Spotify is particularly concerned about the information that has emerged regarding the research group’s methods in the project. The data indicate that the research team has deliberately taken action that is explicitly in violation of Spotify’s Terms of Use and by means of technical methods they sought to conceal these breaches of conditions,” the letter read.

“The research group has worked, among other things, to artificially increase the number of plays and manipulate Spotify’s services using scripts or other automated processes.

“Spotify assumes that the systematic breach of its conditions has not been known to the Swedish Research Council and is convinced that the Swedish Research Council is convinced that the research undertaken with the support of the Swedish Research Council in all respects meets ethical guidelines and is carried out reasonably and in accordance with applicable law.”

Fleischer admits that part of the research was concerned with the possibility of artificially increasing the number of plays, but he says that was carried out on a small scale without any commercial gain.

“The purpose was simply to test if it is true that Spotify could be manipulated on a larger scale, as claimed by journalists who did similar experiments. It is also true that we ‘sought to hide these crimes’ by using a VPN connection,” he says.

Fleischer says that Spotify’s lawyer blended complaints together, such as correlating terms of service violations with violation of research ethics, while presenting the same as grounds for legal action.

“The argument was quite ridiculous. Nevertheless, the letter could not be interpreted as anything other than an attempt by Spotify to prevent us from pursuing the research project,” he notes.

This week, however, it appears the dispute has reached some kind of conclusion. In a posting on his Copyriot blog (Swedish), Fleischer reveals that Spotify has informed the Swedish Research Council that the case has been closed, meaning that the research into the streaming service can continue.

“It must be acknowledged that Spotify’s threats have taken both time and power from the project. This seems to be the purpose when big companies go after researchers who they perceive as uncomfortable. It may not be possible to stop the research but it can be delayed,” Fleischer says.

“Sure [Spotify] dislikes people being reminded of how the service started as a pirate service. But instead of inviting an open dialogue, lawyers are sent out for the purpose of slowing down researchers.”

Spotify Teardown. Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music is to be published by MIT Press in 2018.

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

Yarrrr! Dutch ISPs Block The Pirate Bay But It’s Bad Timing for Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/yarrrr-dutch-isps-block-the-pirate-bay-but-its-bad-timing-for-trolls-171005/

While many EU countries have millions of Internet pirates, few have given citizens the freedom to plunder like the Netherlands. For many years, Dutch Internet users actually went about their illegal downloading with government blessing.

Just over three years ago, downloading and copying movies and music for personal use was not punishable by law. Instead, the Dutch compensated rightsholders through a “piracy levy” on writable media, hard drives and electronic devices with storage capacity, including smartphones.

Following a ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2014, however, all that came to an end. Along with uploading (think BitTorrent sharing), downloading was also outlawed.

Around the same time, The Court of The Hague handed down a decision in a long-running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ruling against local anti-piracy outfit BREIN, it was decided that the ISPs wouldn’t have to block The Pirate Bay after all. After a long and tortuous battle, however, the ISPs learned last month that they would have to block the site, pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

On September 22, both ISPs were given 10 business days to prevent subscriber access to the notorious torrent site, or face fines of 2,000 euros per day, up to a maximum of one million euros.

With that time nearly up, yesterday Ziggo broke cover to become the first of the pair to block the site. On a dedicated diversion page, somewhat humorously titled ziggo.nl/yarrr, the ISP explained the situation to now-blocked users.

“You are trying to visit a page of The Pirate Bay. On September 22, the Hague Court obliged us to block access to this site. The pirate flag is thus handled by us. The case is currently at the Supreme Court which judges the basic questions in this case,” the notice reads.

Ziggo Pirate Bay message (translated)

Customers of XS4ALL currently have no problem visiting The Pirate Bay but according to a statement handed to Tweakers by a spokesperson, the blockade will be implemented today.

In addition to the site’s main domains, the injunction will force the ISPs to block 155 URLs and IP addresses in total, a list that has been drawn up by BREIN to include various mirrors, proxies, and alternate access points. XS4All says it will publish a list of all the blocked items on its notification page.

While the re-introduction of a Pirate Bay blockade in the Netherlands is an achievement for BREIN, it’s potentially bad timing for the copyright trolls waiting in the wings to snare Dutch file-sharers.

As recently reported, movie outfit Dutch Filmworks (DFW) is preparing a wave of cash-settlement copyright-trolling letters to mimic those sent by companies elsewhere.

There’s little doubt that users of The Pirate Bay would’ve been DFW’s targets but it seems likely that given the introduction of blockades, many Dutch users will start to educate themselves on the use of VPNs to protect their privacy, or at least become more aware of the risks.

Of course, there will be no real shortage of people who’ll continue to download without protection, but DFW are getting into this game just as it’s likely to get more difficult for them. As more and more sites get blocked (and that is definitely BREIN’s overall plan) the low hanging fruit will sit higher and higher up the tree – and the cash with it.

Like all methods of censorship, site-blocking eventually drives communication underground. While anti-piracy outfits all say blocking is necessary, obfuscation and encryption isn’t welcomed by any of them.

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

Cloudflare Bans Sites For Using Cryptocurrency Miners

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-bans-sites-for-using-cryptocurrency-miners-171004/

After years of accepting donations via Bitcoin, last month various ‘pirate’ sites began to generate digital currency revenues in a brand new way.

It all began with The Pirate Bay, which quietly added a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to its main site, something that first manifested itself as a large spike in CPU utilization on the machines of visitors.

The stealth addition to the platform, which its operators later described as a test, was extremely controversial. While many thought of the miner as a cool and innovative way to generate revenue in a secure fashion, a vocal majority expressed a preference for permission being requested first, in case they didn’t want to participate in the program.

Over the past couple of weeks, several other sites have added similar miners, some which ask permission to run and others that do not. While the former probably aren’t considered problematic, the latter are now being viewed as a serious problem by an unexpected player in the ecosystem.

TorrentFreak has learned that popular CDN service Cloudflare, which is often criticized for not being harsh enough on ‘pirate’ sites, is actively suspending the accounts of sites that deploy cryptocurrency miners on their platforms.

“Cloudflare kicked us from their service for using a Coinhive miner,” the operator of ProxyBunker.online informed TF this morning.

ProxyBunker is a site that that links to several other domains that offer unofficial proxy services for the likes of The Pirate Bay, RARBG, KickassTorrents, Torrentz2, and dozens of other sites. It first tested a miner for four days starting September 23. Official implementation began October 1 but was ended last evening, abruptly.

“Late last night, all our domains got deleted off Cloudflare without warning so I emailed Cloudflare to ask what was going on,” the operator explained.

Bye bye

As the email above shows, Cloudflare cited only a “possible” terms of service violation. Further clarification was needed to get to the root of the problem.

So, just a few minutes later, the site operator contacted Cloudflare, acknowledging the suspension but pointing out that the notification email was somewhat vague and didn’t give a reason for the violation. A follow-up email from Cloudflare certainly put some meat on the bones.

“Multiple domains in your account were injecting Coinhive mining code without
notifying users and without any option to disabling [sic] the mining,” wrote Justin Paine, Head of Trust & Safety at Cloudflare.

“We consider this to be malware, and as such the account was suspended, and all domains removed from Cloudflare.”

Cloudflare: Unannounced miners are malware

ProxyBunker’s operator wrote back to Cloudflare explaining that the Coinhive miner had been running on his domains but that his main domain had a way of disabling mining, as per new code made available from Coinhive.

“We were running the miner on our proxybunker.online domain using Coinhive’s new Javacode Simple Miner UI that lets the user stop the miner at anytime and set the CPU speed it mines at,” he told TF.

Nevertheless, some element of the configuration appears to have fallen short of Cloudflare’s standards. So, shortly after Cloudflare’s explanation, the site operator asked if he could be reinstated if he completely removed the miner from his site. The response was a ‘yes’ but with a stern caveat attached.

“We will remove the account suspension, however do note you’ll need to re-sign up the domains as they were removed as a result of the account suspension. Please note — if we discover similar activity again the domains and account will be permanently blocked,” Cloudflare’s Justin warned.

ProxyBunker’s operator says that while he sees the value in cryptocurrency miners, he can understand why people might be opposed to them too. That being said, he would appreciate it if services like Cloudflare published clear guidelines on what is and is not acceptable.

“We do understand that most users will not like the miner using up a bit of their CPU but we do see the full potential as a new revenue stream,” he explains.

“I think third-party services need to post clear information that they’re not allowed on their services, if that’s the case.”

At time of publication, Cloudflare had not responded to TorrentFreak’s requests for comment.

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

Porn Copyright Trolls Terrify 60-Year-Old But Age Shouldn’t Matter

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-copyright-trolls-terrify-60-year-old-but-age-shouldnt-matter-171002/

Of all the anti-piracy tactics deployed over the years, the one that has proven most controversial is so-called copyright-trolling.

The idea is that rather than take content down, copyright holders make use of its online availability to watch people who are sharing that material while gathering their IP addresses.

From there it’s possible to file a lawsuit to obtain that person’s identity but these days they’re more likely to short-cut the system, by asking ISPs to forward notices with cash settlement demands attached.

When subscribers receive these demands, many feel compelled to pay. However, copyright trolls are cunning beasts, and while they initially ask for payment for a single download, they very often have several other claims up their sleeves. Once people have paid one, others come out of the woodwork.

That’s what appears to have happened to a 60-year-old Canadian woman called ‘Debra’. In an email sent via her ISP, she was contacted by local anti-piracy outfit Canipre, who accused her of downloading and sharing porn. With threats that she could be ‘fined’ up to CAD$20,000 for her alleged actions, she paid the company $257.40, despite claiming her innocence.

Of course, at this point the company knew her name and address and this week the company contacted her again, accusing her of another five illegal porn downloads alongside demands for more cash.

“I’m not sleeping,” Debra told CBC. “I have depression already and this is sending me over the edge.”

If the public weren’t so fatigued by this kind of story, people in Debra’s position might get more attention and more help, but they don’t. To be absolutely brutal, the only reason why this story is getting press is due to a few factors.

Firstly, we’re talking here about a woman accused of downloading porn. While far from impossible, it’s at least statistically less likely than if it was a man. Two, Debra is 60-years-old. That doesn’t preclude her from being Internet savvy but it does tip the odds in her favor somewhat. Thirdly, Debra suffers from depression and claims she didn’t carry out those downloads.

On the balance of probabilities, on which these cases live or die, she sounds believable. Had she been a 20-year-old man, however, few people would believe ‘him’ and this is exactly the environment companies like Canipre, Rightscorp, and similar companies bank on.

Debra says she won’t pay the additional fines but Canipre is adamant that someone in her house pirated the porn, despite her husband not being savvy enough to download. The important part here is that Debra says she did not commit an offense and with all the technology in the world, Canpire cannot prove that she did.

“How long is this going to terrorize me?” Debra says. “I’m a good Canadian citizen.”

But Debra isn’t on her own and she’s positively spritely compared to Christine McMillan, who last year at the age of 86-years-old was accused of illegally downloading zombie game Metro 2033. Again, those accusations came from Canipre and while the case eventually went quiet, you can safely bet the company backed off.

So who is to blame for situations like Debra’s and Christine’s? It’s a difficult question.

Clearly, copyright holders feel they’re within their rights to try and claw back compensation for their perceived losses but they already have a legal system available to them, if they want to use it. Instead, however, in Canada they’re abusing the so-called notice-and-notice system, which requires ISPs to forward infringement notices from copyright holders to subscribers.

The government knows there is a problem. Law professor Michael Geist previously obtained a government report, which expresses concern over the practice. Its summary is shown below.

Advice summary

While the notice-and-notice regime requires ISPs to forward educational copyright infringement notices, most ISPs complain that companies like Canipre add on cash settlement demands.

“Internet intermediaries complain…that the current legislative framework does not expressly prohibit this practice and that they feel compelled to forward on such notices to their subscribers when they receive them from copyright holders,” recent advice to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development reads.

That being said, there’s nothing stopping ISPs from passing on the educational notices as required by law but insisting that all demands for cash payments are removed. It’s a position that could even get support from the government, if enough pressure was applied.

“The sending of such notices could lead to abuses, given that consumers may be pressured into making payments even in situations where they have not engaged in any acts that violate copyright laws,” government advice notes.

Given the growing problem, it appears that ISPs have the power here so maybe it’s time they protected their customers. In the meantime, consumers have responsibilities too, not only by refraining from infringing copyright, but by becoming informed of their rights.

“[T]here is no legal obligation to pay any settlement offered by a copyright owner, and the regime does not impose any obligations on a subscriber who receives a notice, including no obligation to contact the copyright owner or the Internet intermediary,” government advice notes.

Hopefully, in future, people won’t have to be old or ill to receive sympathy for being wrongly accused and threatened in their own homes. But until then, people should pressure their ISPs to do more while staying informed.

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

Iran Arrests Six Movie Pirates After Rival ‘Licensed’ Pirates Complain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iran-arrests-six-movie-pirates-after-rival-licensed-pirates-complain-171003/

Article 23 of Iran’s Copyright law is quite clear. Anyone who publishes, distributes or broadcasts another person’s work without permission “shall be condemned to corrective imprisonment for a period of time not less than six months and not more than three years.”

That being said, not all content receives protection. Since there are no copyright agreements between Iran and the United States, for example, US content is pirated almost at will in the country. Even the government itself has run ‘warez’ servers in the past.

That makes the arrest late last month of six men tied to movie piracy site TinyMoviez all the more unusual. At first view (translated image below), the site looks just like any other streaming portal offering Hollywood movies.

TinyMoviez

Indeed, much of the content comes from abroad, augmented with local Farsi-language subtitles or audio voiceovers.

However, according to a source cited by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), the site was targeted because rival pirate sites (which had been licensed to ‘pirate’ by the Iranian government) complained about its unlicensed status.

“In July and August [2017], there was a meeting between a number of Iranian start-up companies and [current Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari] Jahromi, who was asked by film and TV series distributors as well as video game developers to help shut down and monitor unlicensed rivals,” a film distributor in Tehran told CHRI.

“The start-ups made the request because they could not compete with a site like TinyMovies,” the source added. “After that meeting, Jahromi was nicknamed the ‘Start-Up Tsar’ because of his supportive comments. They were happy that he became the minister.”

That being said, the announcement from the authorities suggested broader issues, including that the site offered movies (none are singled out) that may be unacceptable by Iranian standards.

“Tehran’s prosecutor, after referral of the case to the Cyberspace corruption and prostitution department, said that the defendants in the case, of whom six were currently detained, produced vagabond and pornographic films and sold them in cyberspace,” Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said in an announcement.

“This gang illegally operated the largest source for downloading Hollywood movies and over the past three years, has distributed 18,000 foreign films and series after dubbing, many of which were indecent and immoral, and thus facilitated by illegitimate funds.”

While the authorities say that TinyMoviez has been taken down, various URLs (including Tinyz.us, ironically) now divert to a new domain, Timoviez2.net. However, at least for the moment, download links seem to be disabled.

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

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

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