All posts by Andy

Cheat Maker Shuts Down After Being Sued by Pokémon Go Creator

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cheat-maker-shuts-down-after-being-sued-by-pokemon-go-creator-190617/

Video gaming is huge business, generating billions for companies around the world. However, the way some people choose to play games doesn’t always sit well with entertainment companies.

In order to gain advantages over regular players, some resort to using cheats created by third parties. These provide access to skills and abilities unavailable in the regular versions of games. Development group Global++ provided such cheats for Pokémon Go and other titles but that drew the ire of San Francisco-based Niantic, the game’s original developer.

As first reported by Business Insider, on Friday Niantic filed a lawsuit in a California federal court against Global++, two individuals named as Ryan Hunt (aka ELLIOTROBOT) and Alen Hunter (aka IOS NOOB), plus 20 ‘John Does’.

Niantic’s complaint states that the only permissible way to play its augmented reality games (Pokémon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, and Ingress) is via its original apps installable on mobile devices.

These apps, which contain protected proprietary code, have permission to access Niantic’s servers. However, Niantic says that Global++ illegally copied its work.

Global++ website

“Defendants hack Niantic’s apps to access and copy Niantic’s Client Code, then modify and adulterate the Client Code to create what they call ‘tweaks’—i.e., unauthorized, hacked versions of Niantic’s apps. Defendants then market their hacked apps under the titles Potter++ (or, in some cases, Unite++), PokeGo++, and Ingress++,” the complaint reads.

These cheats not only undermine the gaming experience for legitimate players, Niantic adds, they are also used by Global++ to “steal valuable and proprietary game-related information” which is then utilized for commercial purposes.

These cheating programs have been reportedly distributed to hundreds of thousands of users but when Niantic asked Global++ to stop its activities, the unincorporated entity allegedly ignored the US-based developer and continued as before.

Seeking an injunction from the court, Niantic’s complaint begins with alleged breaches of the Copyright Act, given that Global++ copied Niantic’s code in order to develop its cheats, and then distributed that infringing code to its users.

According to the company’s analysis, up to 99% of Niantic’s original code is used in Global++ cheat software.

Niantic further alleges breaches of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act due to Global++ and its users accessing Niantic’s servers “through unauthorized, hacked versions of Niantic’s apps.” According to the company, this illegal activity persisted even after Global++ was informed in writing that their access was unauthorized.

Finally, Niantic notes that since Global++ are Niantic account holders bound by the company’s Terms of Service, breaches of that agreement – including copying Niantic’s code and misappropriating its code for commercial purposes – are also evident.

With Niantic’s new Harry Potter game set for launch, the company is urgently seeking a preliminary injunction from the court to prevent Global++ from launching a new version of its Potter++ cheat within days “or possibly even hours” of that event. However, Global++ now appears to be more receptive to Niantic’s demands.

Following claims in the complaint that Niantic has spent more than $1 million over the past year attempting to deal with Global++ cheats, Global++ took to its official Discord channel to indicate that the show is now over.

“It is with great sadness that we will be shutting down indefinitely incompliance [sic] with our legal obligations,” the statement reads.

“It has been a fun ride with the entire community and we have made some unbelievable memories. We will hold close to our heart all of the people that we were able to introduce Pokemon to that for various reasons could not play the game. Take care all.”

At the time of writing, the Global++ website is down, its Discord channel is closed, its Twitter account and Facebook accounts are no more, and its Github.io address is returning errors.

Niantic’s motion for a preliminary injunction can be found here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

After RIAA Targets DJ & Producer Site Mixstep, Site Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/after-riaa-targets-dj-producer-site-mixstep-site-shuts-down-190616/

In recent weeks the RIAA has really stepped on the gas in an effort to tackle sites offering allegedly-infringing content.

The music industry group’s current weapon-of-choice is the DMCA subpoena. These orders, which are easy to obtain and do not need to be scrutinized by a judge, give the RIAA significant discovery powers that help to identify the operators of online platforms.

The latest site to be targeted by the RIAA is Mixstep.co, an upload platform designed for audio works. Last week the powerful industry group told a Columbia federal court that the site was hosting content at a single URL which infringes one or more of its members’ copyrights.

The RIAA says the URL linked to the Ed Sheeran/Justin Bieber track “I Don’t Care” but the location was already inaccessible the morning after the subpoena was obtained. Nevertheless, the RIAA now wants to identify the operator of the site.

The message where the file used to be

The subpoena orders domain registry Namecheap to hand over the personal details of the platform’s domain owner, including name, physical address, IP address, telephone, email address, payment, account history, and other information.

TorrentFreak spoke with the operator of Mixstep who told us he wasn’t previously aware why the RIAA is targeting him. The site was never intended to host infringing content and was actually set up for the use of creators.

“We made this project for DJs and producers,” he told TF.

In common with many upload platforms – YouTube included – Mixstep has users who uploaded infringing content. However, the site has been working hard to take content down and has dealt severely with those who have abused the service.

“We already banned a lot of users who uploaded illegal files,” the operator added.

It’s not completely clear why the RIAA wants to identify the operator of the site but if its aim was to neutralize the platform, the music group has achieved that goal. With the service operated on a zero profit basis, its owner says it has run its course.

“I think it’s enough to fight with all these [users uploading infringing files] so we’re going to shut down our project very soon. Anyway, Mixstep was a no-profit project,” he said.

Visitors to the site now see the following message, so it may be ‘mission accomplished’ for the RIAA.

The end of the show

The RIAA’s letter to Cloudflare can be downloaded here (pdf)

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Just Six Percent of Finns Say They Illegally Stream Movies or TV Shows

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/just-six-percent-of-finns-say-they-illegally-stream-movies-or-tv-shows-190615/

Trying to persuade the public to consume content online legally is a battle that’s been waged by the entertainment industries for close to 20 years.

The advent of high-quality legal offers has made that task much easier in recent times but piracy levels continue to cause problems in many countries around the world. In Finland, however, the trend appears to be a downwards one.

An annual survey carried out by market research company Taloustutkimus Oy reveals that the majority of citizens are against piracy, with 58% of the population believing it’s not acceptable in any form. That figure falls just 11% when considering unauthorized downloading for personal use.

The most common form of illicit consumption was found to be streaming from illegal services, with 9% of respondents admitting that they do so. That’s down from the 12% returned in a similar study carried out last year.

Interestingly, just six percent of respondents admitted to accessing unlicensed movies or TV shows from illegal online services. That’s down from 7 percent in 2018.

Anti-piracy group TTVK, which published a summary of the study, says that illicit downloading has dropped overall.

“Although illegal downloads are still the most common among the youngest age group [15-24], downloading has still dropped significantly,” TTVK notes.

“According to the survey, 13% of people under 25 say that unauthorized downloading of Internet-based material is acceptable for their own use, but only nine percent of the age group themselves or a member of the family report doing this.

“In 2015, the corresponding figure was 29%, so the consumption of Finnish entertainment seems to have moved more and more to legal channels as streaming services became more common.”

As ‘pirate’ streaming services have developed, many have presented themselves with impressive Netflix-style interfaces. Popcorn Time was perhaps the most famous front-runner but now there are dozens of sites and apps that to the untrained eye are indistinguishable from legal sites.

The study found that around a third of respondents have difficulty distinguishing between legal and illegal sites. Fortunately, close to six out of ten (57%) say they can do so easily, even if the rest remain unsure.

For Finns, some clarity is available by visiting Laillisetpalvelut.fi, a portal designed to help consumers find legal resources. However, the study found that awareness is weak, with only 6% of respondents having knowledge of the resource.

In general terms, 84% of respondents regard copyright as an important issue, with just 3% believing it’s completely unnecessary. TTVK will also be pleased that 83% respondents feel that that copyright organizations are necessary, with 79% feeling they “are on the right track”.

“In addition, Finns are very much in agreement that creative workers should receive compensation for the work they do, depending on how much of their works are utilized,” TTVK notes, referencing 91% of respondents.

The full results of the 2019 survey can be viewed here, 2018 survey here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

BREIN Criticizes Bullet-Proof Hosts, Forces Pirate Webcasters to Get Licenses

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-criticizes-bullet-proof-hosts-forces-pirate-webcasters-to-get-licenses-190614/

While millions of the world’s pirates are focused on sites offering movies, TV shows, music, videogames and software, many are enjoying unlicensed content without even knowing it.

There are tens of thousands of radio stations on the Internet, most of which require licensing to operate legally. However, many operate on a hobbyist basis, with official paperwork and sanctioning left as a mere afterthought.

For many, there are zero consequences for taking this approach but for several Netherlands-based Internet stations, that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN informs TorrentFreak that following information provided by one of its members SENA, it successfully targeted four Dutch radio stations, or webcasters as they’re sometimes known.

SENA helps artists and producers exploit neighboring rights and part of that effort involves webcasters/stations paying the group a license fee to operate. Once paid, stations are able to display the SENA logo to indicate they are above board. The four stations in question, all Netherlands-based according to BREIN, hadn’t paid the necessary fee.

“The radio streams of the channels are provided by a hosting provider based abroad that is not affiliated with Stichting Webcasting Nederland and does not otherwise have the required licenses,” BREIN said in a statement.

Following BREIN’s approach, three paid up. A fourth took the nuclear option and shut down. However, BREIN had other stations on its radar too, but they indicated their streaming host is the formal owner of their channels.

The host, which BREIN says operates under the IDFNV and Microglo brands, offers Shoutcast and IceCast server hosting, among other things. The anti-piracy outfit says that the company failed to respond to a demand for it to obtaining licensing for the stations or shut them down. That probably didn’t come as a surprise.

“A complicating factor is that host profiles itself as a ‘bullet-proof host’ and is based in the Seychelles,” BREIN explains.

“In other words, the host will never provide data and states that it has nothing to do with Dutch or EU regulations. The host wants to make himself and his customers invulnerable to enforcement actions.”

However, both sales portals for the host offer servers inside the EU and indeed the Netherlands, a “vulnerability” that BREIN may yet exploit. BREIN adds that licensors could also play a part, by refusing to do business with webcasters and stations that utilize such companies.

“Licensors could make it a condition that licensees do not use hosts that deliberately also host unauthorized channels. After all, such hosts earn money from illegality and should not be supported by the legal providers,” BREIN says.

This type of action is rarely publicized but BREIN chief Tim Kuik says his company has carried out this type of enforcement before.

“It is not our job to license but we will enforce on the request of our participating right holders,” Kuik concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Red-Hot Vetements Fashion Brand is Selling a $845 Pirate Bay Hoodie

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/red-hot-vetements-fashion-brand-is-selling-a-845-pirate-bay-hoodie/

The Pirate Bay is the most recognized pirate site on the Internet. It has endured the roughest of high seas for more than 15 years and is still going strong.

The site’s logo, pictured right, has been published on thousands of websites and for many, its familiar tape-and-crossbones logo is both iconic and rebellious.

Enter stage left storming fashion brand Vetements. Previously based in Paris, the “design collective” has been making waves all over the world and is currently listed as one of the world’s hottest brands, just a single place behind Versace in the latest Lyst Index.

Hoping to climb even further up the greasy pole that is high fashion, Vetements is now selling a Pirate Bay-themed hoodie that shamelessly rips off the site’s logo. Buyers can pick one up for the bargain price of $845.

An absolute giveaway

While the full ship emblem on the front isn’t an exact replica of the original, it’s so close as to make very little difference. Those squinting to read the text along the bottom are advised it reads “Vetements Free Downloads”, in case anyone doesn’t recognize this is a Pirate Bay-themed hoodie, of course.

The back of this stunning piece of high-fashion cloth is adorned with an alphabetically-sorted list of countries of the world. While that’s perhaps expected given The Pirate Bay’s reach, Sweden – the site’s birthplace – is completely absent.

No Sweden?

The big question here is whether someone in the setting department screwed up and left Sweden out, or is this one of those clever fashion things that’s designed to provoke conversation. The Pirate Bay can be found everywhere except Sweden? That works – on a couple of levels.

But of course, now we’re getting sucked in and this was probably Vetements’ plan all along. Keep in mind this is a company that sells a t-shirt with a DHL logo on the front for several hundred dollars. And people buy them in droves.

For at least one person responsible for the creation of The Pirate Bay, this act of fabric-based piracy is definitely not acceptable.

While Marcin appears to make his position clear, he seems more irritated by the extortionate price than the fact that Vetements is attempting to profit from the site’s image. Either way, this can only lead to yet more publicity for the file-sharing movement and – sigh – Vetements.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Aussie Blocking Juggernaut Continues With 105 More ‘Pirate’ Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-blocking-juggernaut-continues-with-105-more-pirate-domains-190612/

Last December, Australia’s Federal Court issued an injunction in favor of Village Roadshow, Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Columbia, Universal, and Warner, requiring local ISPs to block 181 pirate domains linked to 78 sites.

Soon after, the same companies (plus Australian distributor Madman and Tokyo Broadcasting) returned to court with a new application to block 79 “online locations” associated with 99 domains.

In common with previous blocking applications, local ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG, Vodafone, plus their subsidiaries, were asked to prevent access to the platforms, stated as all being located overseas. In all, 52 Internet service providers were listed in the application.

This week, more than six months after the original documents were filed, Justice Nicholas in the Federal Court granted an order under Section 115A of the Copyright Act 1968 in favor of the studios.

The order appears to have changed slightly since the original application. It now lists 104 domains spread across 76 allegedly-infringing platforms. Many of the sites are well-known torrent and streaming services, including StreamCR, Torrenting, TorrentLeech, AnimeHeaven, and HorribleSubs, to name just a few.

It’s extremely unusual for any sites to mount any kind of defense against blocking but earlier this year, Socrates Dimitriadis – the operator of Greek-Movies.com – did just that.

“My site is just a search engine that refers users to third-party websites,” he explained in a letter to the Court.

That appears to have held no sway with the Judge. Greek-Movies is the 15th site listed in the injunction, with ISPs required to target its main domain (greek-movies.com) and/or its IP address 136.243.50.75, using DNS, IP address or URL blocking, or “any alternative technical means”.

A copy of the injunction can be downloaded here (pdf)

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La Liga Fined €250K For Breaching GDPR While Spying on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/la-liga-fined-for-breaching-gdpr-while-spying-on-piracy-190612/

With millions of fans around the globe, Spain’s La Liga soccer league is one of the most popular in the game.

To allow fans to keep up with all the latest news, La Liga offers an Android app with a number of features including schedules, kick-off times, and the all-important results.

Controversially, however, the app also has a surprising trick up its sleeve.

After gaining consent from users, La Liga’s software turns fans’ phones into spying devices which are able to analyze their surroundings using the microphone, listening out for unauthorized broadcasts in bars and restaurants, for example. This audio, collected Shazam-style, is then paired with phone GPS data to pinpoint establishments airing matches without a license.

The feature was outlined in the app’s privacy policy along with stated uses that include combating piracy.

“The purposes for which this functionality will be used are: (i) to develop statistical patterns on soccer consumption and (ii) to detect fraudulent operations of the retransmissions of LaLiga football matches (piracy),” the policy read when first uncovered last summer.

While controversial, La Liga felt that it was on solid ground in respect of the feature and its declaration to app users. AEPD, Spain’s data protection agency (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos), fundamentally disagrees.

As a result, AEPD has hit La Liga with a significant 250,000 euro fine for not properly informing its users in respect of the ‘microphone’ feature, including not displaying a mic icon when recording.

The data protection agency said that La Liga’s actions breached several aspects of the EU’s GDPR, including a failure to gain consent every time the microphones in users’ devices were activated.

In a statement, La Liga says it “disagrees deeply” with the AEPD’s decision and believes the agency has “not made the effort to understand how the technology works.” Announcing it will go to court to challenge the ruling, La Liga says it has always complied with the GDPR and other relevant data protection regulations.

Noting that users of the app must “expressly, proactively and on two occasions give their consent” for the microphone to be used, La Liga further insists that the app does not “record, store or listen” to people’s conversations.

“[T]he technology used is designed to generate only a specific sound footprint (acoustic fingerprint). This fingerprint only contains 0.75% of the information, discarding the remaining 99.25%, so it is technically impossible to interpret the voice or human conversations. This footprint is transformed into an alphanumeric code (hash) that is not reversible to the original sound,” La Liga says.

AEPD has ordered La Liga to introduce new mechanisms to ensure that users are properly notified when the anti-piracy features of the app are in use. However, La Liga says it has no need to implement them because at the end of the current season (June 30, 2019), the functionality will be disabled.

“La Liga will continue to test and implement new technologies and innovations that allow us to improve the experience of our fans and, of course, fight against this very serious scourge that is piracy,” the league concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

India Court Hands Down Cricket World Cup Piracy Blocking Order

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/india-court-hands-down-cricket-world-cup-piracy-blocking-order-190611/

Over the past decade there have been dozens of orders requiring Internet service providers around the world to block access to copyright-infringing content.

The majority of these orders have attempted to protect the movie and music industries but more recently live sports broadcasters have become involved.

In most if not all sports-blocking cases, the content has been both audio and visual, such as live soccer matches to which the English Premier League owns the rights. However, a new blocking order out of India is attempting to block ‘pirate’ radio streams, delivered via the Internet.

The application was made by Channel 2 Group Corporation. According to the company’s website, its founder is Ajay Sethi, a man with a passion for cricket, who launched “the first ever Radio over the internet – Cricket Radio.”

Channel 2’s application at the Delhi High Court states that the company previously acquired the audio rights to the ICC Men’s World Cup, 2019. The agreement allows it to transmit audio coverage of Cricket World Cup matches (live, delayed, or highlights) via the Internet and private FM radio stations throughout India.

Of course, while Channel 2’s agreement may be exclusive in theory, the company says that other entities are encroaching (or likely to encroach) on its rights as the tournament progresses. As such, it’s seeking protection from the Court to have such broadcasts blocked.

In an ex parte interim order handed down by the Delhi High Court, the broadcaster appears to have been granted permission to do just that.

In total there are 249 defendants in the case, two of which are government departments only present for administrative reasons and 247 for direct involvement. Just one is mentioned by name in the published order, lead defendant live.mycricketlive.net. The remainder are not detailed but are variously described as follows:

  • Defendants 1-64 (URLs/Websites)
  • Defendants 65-68 (private radio platform operators)
  • Defendants 69-105 (Internet service providers)
  • Defendants 105-107 (Government departments) (108 absent from list)
  • Defendants 109-249 (Unknown defendants, to be determined)

“The Plaintiff’s apprehension regarding the likely abuse of Plaintiff’s exclusive Audio Rights and intellectual property rights arises from previous instances of infringement of the Plaintiff’s exclusive broadcasting rights by various interested persons,” the order reads.

“The said instances of infringement caused considerable financial loss to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff is given to believe from its agencies that the Defendants arrayed herein will infringe the exclusive Audio Rights of the Plaintiff.”

Channel 2 states that defendants 1-105 have no right to offer radio/audio broadcasts of any ICC Event, including those in the World Cup. As a result, they urgently need to be restrained from doing so, since the tournament has already begun. Defendants 69-105 must take measures to block the unlicensed streams provided by the infringing websites/services.

Defendants 109-249 are so-called Ashok Kumars, which are the Indian equivalent of John Does. They are predicted to infringe on Channel 2’s rights so need to be dealt with quickly should they do so, the Court agreed.

“The Plaintiff apprehends that if the Plaintiff were to wait and identify specific parties and collect evidence of infringement by such specific parties, significant time would be lost and the cricket matches may come to an end,” the order reads.

“Irreparable injury, loss and damage, would be caused to the Plaintiff in such a scenario, which would be impossible to quantify in monetary terms alone.”

As part of the interim order, search engines are also required to delete from their results any websites/URLs that provide access to infringing sites/streams. They must do so following a notification from Channel 2 itself.

Given the broad nature of many blocking injunctions in this and other jurisdictions, not much of the above comes as a surprise anymore. However, there is a somewhat unusual addition to the order, which targets services that provide ball-by-ball and/or minute-by-minute updates on the status of matches.

They may only do so “gratuitously only after a time lag of 15 minutes.”

The interim order of the Delhi High Court can be found here (pdf)

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Kim Dotcom Begins Final Supreme Court Battle to Avoid US Extradition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-final-supreme-court-battle-to-avoid-us-extradition-190610/

When file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down in 2012, few could have predicted the events of the years to follow.

The arrest of founder Kim Dotcom and colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato in New Zealand, triggered dozens of legal processes, many designed to expedite, delay or indeed avoid the quartet’s extradition to the United States.

Before it was closed, Megaupload claimed responsibility for around 4% of global Internet traffic. Much of this, the United States government claims, was pirated content, particularly movies, TV shows and music, costing US companies around US$500 million.

Dotcom has persistently argued that as an online service provider, Megaupload should receive safe harbor protections in respect of the activities of its users. US authorities, on the other hand, see a massive criminal conspiracy for which the four should face justice on the other side of the world.

At every step thus far, the New Zealand legal system has found in favor of sending the men to the United States.

In December 2015, Judge Dawson in the District Court found that Dotcom and his associates were eligible for extradition. That decision was subsequently appealed to the High Court, with Dotcom and his now former colleagues launching an appeal alongside a demand for a judicial review.

During February 2017, the appellants discovered that both of those efforts had proven unsuccessful. However, the men were granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal on two questions of law, including whether the High Court was correct to find that their alleged conduct amounted to an extradition offense.

In July 2018, the Court of Appeal upheld the earlier decision that Dotcom and the others were indeed eligible to be extradited. Importantly, the Court considered whether copyright infringement can be a criminal offense in New Zealand and the United States.

It was ultimately found that the alleged conduct of the men would breach various offenses under the Crimes Act 1961, meaning that extradition would be permissible. But this wouldn’t be a typical Dotcom matter if a final chance of appeal wasn’t grabbed with both hands.

As a result, the case headed to the Supreme Court, where the final hearing is taking place over five days this week, beginning today.

“In 2005 I created a website that allowed people to upload files to the cloud. At the time only small files could be attached to emails. Megaupload allowed users to email a link to a file. That’s it,” Dotcom wrote on Twitter this morning.

“In 2019 the NZ Supreme Court decides if I should be extradited for this ‘crime’.”

While lawyers for the accused are set to pick at every available thread in order to unravel the decision against their clients, early reports from the Supreme Court suggest already familiar themes.

Grant Illingworth, representing Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, told the Court that he would be arguing that the alleged offenses did not amount to a crime in New Zealand, meaning that they could not be extraditable offenses. But, even if they were, insufficient evidence had been produced to show that offenses had even occurred.

“The district court judge misapplied the law at every stage of the judicial analysis,” Illingworth said, as quoted by RNZ.

“That constituted a serious miscarriage of justice. No higher court could have justified a finding of that kind, no matter how much they agreed with the outcome.”

Interestingly – or perhaps worryingly – it appears that discussions over how Megaupload operated were conducted via analogies this morning. At issue was Megaupload offering content for download and, in some cases, rewarding uploaders for putting that content there in the first place.

Justice Susan Glazebrook asked Illingworth whether it would be a breach of copyright if she photocopied a novel hypothetically written by one of her fellow judges and then sold it on a street corner. Illingworth said Megaupload didn’t make the copies, its users did.

“They’re providing the photocopier, someone else comes along and uses the photocopier. They’re [Megaupload] not putting up a sign saying, ‘Please come and use our photocopier for illegal purposes,’” he said.

Justice Joe Williams then elaborated on the analogy, alluding to Megaupload’s reward program.

“What if I get a wheelbarrow and I convey the copies [of the novel] to the street corner, knowing that she’ll be selling them, and she and I have some kind of agreement to share the profits?” he said.

Illingworth responded by saying it was never Megaupload’s intention to reward people for illegal behavior, it was all about rewarding them for increasing the site’s traffic.

While the hearing is set to run until Friday, any decision will take months to reach. Even if extradition is upheld, it will still need the approval of New Zealand’s Minister of Justice Andrew Little to take place.

His signature would mean that the men would be shipped to the US to face charges of copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering plus the possibility of years – even decades – in prison.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

One Amazon Copyright Complaint Costs Torrent Site its Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/one-amazon-copyright-complaint-costs-torrent-site-its-domain-190609/

There are thousands of torrent and streaming sites on the Internet today. They come in all shapes and sizes but most have one thing in common – they need a domain name for people to access them.

It’s not unheard of for such sites to lose their domains after dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of copyright complaints. But to lose control over a domain after just one is pretty bad luck but, as it turns out, not exactly straightforward.

The site in question is TheRedBear.cc, a lesser-known but perfectly functional torrent indexer. In conversations with the site’s operator last month it became clear to us that he was having issues with his domain registrar, EuroDNS. Those issues were the result of a copyright complaint filed by Amazon.

According to information provided by the site owner, he’s always eager to process DMCA takedown notices when they arrive. He uses scripts to automate takedowns and he says he has a good relationship with anti-piracy companies. However, the complaint from Amazon apparently ended up in a spam folder and wasn’t processed as quickly as it should’ve been.

This led Amazon to file a complaint with EuroDNS, which references a single URL and reads as follows (edited for clarity):

“Amazon has learned that the website located at theredbear.cc…for which you are the hosting provider, is distributing unauthorized copies of Amazon Properties via the distribution of Amazon Properties video files. This constitutes copyright infringement in violation of federal copyright law section 17 U.S.C. 501, as well as similar laws around the world,” the complaint reads.

“Amazon has already notified the Website of infringement through its vendor Digimarc. However, the Website has failed to comply expeditiously with this takedown request and continues to cause, enable, induce, facilitate and materially contribute to the infringement by continuing to provide its users with the means to unlawfully distribute, reproduce and otherwise exploit the property.”

While the complaint sounds serious, this wasn’t enough on its own for TheRedBear to lose its domain. What it did trigger, however, was a detailed review by EuroDNS of the account through which it was registered.

According to the site operator, EuroDNS then began demanding copies of his passport and a personal telephone call from his country of origin (rather than the virtual line he usually uses) to confirm various details.

The operator told us he provided information when he signed up in 2018 and that in his opinion, a review wasn’t necessary. Nevertheless, EuroDNS appears to have determined otherwise and suspended his account.

TorrentFreak spoke with EuroDNS about the issues. The company’s legal department spoke generally but confirmed that as long as they don’t host a website to which a domain points, they don’t suspend domains following a copyright complaint, as they do with domains that are clearly involved in illegal activity such as “phishing, social hatred etc.”

However, without the registry prejudging anything that has been alleged, copyright complaints do get forwarded to domain owners. In this case, two key complications then arose, both seemingly related to having verifiably accurate registration details.

“EuroDNS shall be entitled to charge the Customer for any action performed on the Customer’s behalf in connection with a third party claim, insofar as the Customer fails to acknowledge receipt of the EuroDNS notification in regard to such a claim, or if EuroDNS finds it necessary to take action in regard to such a claim such as sending a registered letter and making phone calls on behalf of the Customer and the complaining third party,” the company said.

“Nevertheless, such notification will automatically trigger a swift review of the concerned account to make sure that our customer complies with our Terms and Conditions. In case of a clear breach of our Terms and Conditions, unrelated to the original complaint, we might suspend our services to the concerned customer if the latter failed to take proper action.”

So, given the above, what appears to have happened in this case is that the copyright complaint triggered a review, the review criteria weren’t met, and EuroDNS suspended the account, which prevented changes to the domain.

While the domain is currently up it will shortly expire, meaning one domain gone, triggered by a copyright complaint but actioned on the basis of the registry’s own terms and conditions.

It’s unclear whether TheRedBear will continue with a similar domain registered elsewhere (news will reportedly be delivered via the site’s blog), but it seems unlikely that EuroDNS will be involved.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

DMCA Takedowns Try to Delist Dozens of Adult Homepages from Google

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-takedowns-try-to-delist-dozens-of-adult-homepages-from-google-190608/

Google receives millions of notices requesting the removal of allegedly-infringing links from its search results every month.

The load is truly huge, as is the flood of pirated content the DMCA notices attempt to address. It’s a huge task on all sides, so it’s not a surprise some dubious takedowns slip through the net. Over the past couple of weeks, more than usual appear to have done just that.

Without going into too much detail and annoying the purists, hentai can loosely be defined as adult-focused comics and cartoons. Hailing from Japan, hentai has a huge following worldwide and, of course, is widely pirated.

Several companies and organizations attempt to take infringing content down but this week a new one stepped up to cause waves across hundreds of sites.

It isn’t clear who is behind ‘Copyright Legal Services INC’ (CLS). A specific Google search yields nothing and its takedown notices offer no additional information either. However, several of its DMCA notices indicate that the original works it tries to protect can be bought from DLSite.com, a platform operated by Japan’s EYSIS, Inc.

At first view, the notices filed by CLS seem unremarkable. They list original works and then allegedly-infringing URLs. However, what these notices then try to do is purge from Google entire adult-site homepages, full sections, plus pages that clearly aren’t infringing.

Due to their inherent NSFW nature, we won’t quote them directly here but anyone interested can click the links provided.

For instance, this notice attempts to remove ‘xhamster.com/hd’ and the ‘subbed’ and ‘english’ tag archives on YouPorn.com.. Many other sites are listed too, with the notice even trying to take down their contact pages. Around two dozen homepages are among the 331 targeted URLs.

Another notice targets 198 URLs, six of them site homepages. In common with the other notices, some have been removed from Google search, others have not. It’s hard to make a clear determination but Google seems to delist some smaller sites while giving sites like YouPorn and xHamster a pass.

The list of notices goes on, and on, and on, and on, with the same general theme of some accurate reports, many massively overbroad ones, and notices that nearly always target some sites’ homepages, some of which were acted upon by Google.

A site operator affected by the wave of takedowns sent TorrentFreak a list of the homepages that were requested for removal from Google. They numbered 294, which is a lot by any measurement.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that also need to be highlighted.

While it’s impractical to check them all, a cursory view of a few dozen domain URLs shows that most of the sites are probably infringing someone’s copyrights, so these types of notices (when accurate) shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s also possible that some of the sites carried the content in question on their homepages when the notices were sent to Google. However, given the volume of sites and the limited range of content, it seems likely this would be the exception and not the rule.

The operator of one site – Gelbooru.com – which had its homepage delisted from Google despite containing no infringing content, told TorrentFreak that complaining to Google proved fruitless.

Homepage delisted

“Thanks for reaching out to us,” Google responded.

“At this time, Google has decided not to take action. We encourage you to review https://library.educause.edu/topics/policy-and-law/digital-millennium-copyright-act-dmca for more information about the DMCA. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.”

The full list of notices referenced above can be found here but may require registration to view in detail, as reported here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Russia Says it Will Soon Begin Blocking Major VPNs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-says-it-will-soon-begin-blocking-major-vpns/

When it comes to site-blocking, Russia is one of the most aggressive countries in the world.

Thousands of pirate sites are blocked on copyright grounds while others are restricted for containing various types of “banned information”, such as extremist material.

The domains of these platforms are contained in a national blacklist. Service providers of many types are required to interface with this database, in order to block sites from being accessible via their systems. This includes VPN providers, particular those that ordinarily provide censorship workarounds.

Back in March, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor wrote to ten major VPN providers – NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, and OpenVPN – ordering them to connect to the database. Many did not want to play ball.

NordVPN, for example, flat-out refused to comply, stating that doing so would violate service agreements made with its customers. IPVanish also rejected any censorship, as did VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN and OpenVPN.

The VPN services in question were given a limited time to respond (30 days) but according to Roscomnadzor, most are digging in their heels. In fact, of the companies contacted with the demands, only one has agreed to the watchdog’s terms.

“We sent out ten notifications to VPNs. Only one of them – Kaspersky Secure Connection – connected to the registry,” Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov informs Interfax.

“All the others did not answer, moreover, they wrote on their websites that they would not comply with Russian law. And the law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law – it should be blocked.”

And it appears that Roscomnadzor is prepared to carry through with its threat. When questioned on the timeline for blocking, Zharov said that the matter could be closed within a month.

If that happens, the non-compliant providers will themselves be placed on the country’s blacklist (known locally as FGIS), meaning that local ISPs will have to prevent their users from accessing them. It is not yet clear whether that means their web presences, their VPN servers, or both.

In the case of the latter, it’s currently unclear whether there will be a battle or not. TorGuard has already pulled its servers out of Russia and ExpressVPN currently lists no servers in the country. The same is true for OpenVPN although VyprVPN still lists servers in Moscow, as does HideMyAss.

Even if Roscomnadzor is successful in blocking any or all of the non-compliant services, there are still dozens more to choose from, a fact acknowledged by Zharov.

“These ten VPNs do not exhaust the entire list of proxy programs available to our citizens. I don’t think there will be a tragedy if they are blocked, although I feel very sorry about it,” Zharov concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

RIAA Targets 14 New Sites in Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers & Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-targets-14-new-sites-in-campaign-against-youtube-rippers-piracy-190606/

For some time, the world’s leading record labels have complained that YouTube doesn’t pay the going rate for musical content streamed to its users.

However, when consumers use so-called YouTube-ripping sites to obtain content, it’s claimed that the position worsens. By obtaining music in this fashion, users are able to keep local libraries which further deplete YouTube hits and by extension, revenue generated by the labels.

To plug this hole, the RIAA is working to identify the operators of leading YouTube-ripping platforms. Via DMCA subpoenas, the industry group has been forcing CDN service Cloudflare and domain registries such as NameCheap to hand over the personal details of the people behind these tools.

Two new DMCA subpoenas, obtained by the RIAA in recent days, reveal an apparent escalation in this activity. Mainly targeting Cloudflare but in one instance also NameCheap, the RIAA demands private information relating to several sites.

10Convert.com

With around two million visitors per month (SimilarWeb stats), this platform has a prime focus on YouTube-ripping. The majority of its traffic comes from Brazil (69%), with the United States accounting for a little over 2% of its users.

Amoyshare.com

Enjoying around 4.6m visits per month with most of its visitors coming from the United States (15%), this platform’s focus is offering downloadable tools that enable users to grab videos and music from a wide range of platforms.

However, Amoyshare also offers “AnyUTube”, an online converter which is the element the RIAA is complaining about.

Anything2MP3.cc

This site, which enjoys a relatively low 300,000 visits per month, appears to be dual-use. While it is possible to download content from YouTube, Anything2MP3 also offers users the ability to convert their own audio files in the browser.

IMP3Juices.com

With around six million visits per month, this platform is one of the more popular ones targeted by the RIAA. Around 12.5% of the site’s traffic comes from Italy, with the US following behind with just under 10%.

The site functions like a ‘pirate’ download portal, with users able to search for artists and download tracks. However, the RIAA provides a URL which reveals that the site also has a YouTube to MP4 conversion feature. Indeed, it seems possible that much of the site’s content is obtained from YouTube.

BigConverter.com

Down at the time of writing, possibly as a result of the subpoena, this site offered downloading functionality for a range of sites, from YouTube and Facebook through to Twitter, Vimeo, Vevo, Instagram, Dailymotion, Metacafe, VK, AOL, GoogleDrive and Soundcloud.

YouTubeMP4.to

Enjoying around 7.7 million visits per month, YouTubeMP4.to is a straightforward YouTube video downloader. Almost 23% of its traffic comes from the United States with the UK just behind at close to 11%.

QDownloader.net

This platform has perhaps the most comprehensive offering of those targeted. It claims to be able to download content from 800 sites, of which YouTube is just one. With more than 12 million visits per month, it’s not difficult to see why QDownloader has made it onto the RIAA’s hit list.

GenYouTube.net

Another big one, this multi-site downloader platform attracts around seven million visits per month. The majority of its traffic comes from India (14%), with the United States following behind with around 12%.

Break.TV

For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, YouTube and SoundCloud downloader Break.TV has lost a lot of its monthly traffic since late 2018. From a high edging towards three million visits per month, it now enjoys just over 1.6 million. Interestingly the site says it must only be used to obtain Creative Commons licensed material.

MP3XD.com

In common with IMP3Juices.com, MP3XD.com appears to be focused on offering pirate MP3 downloads rather than straightforward ripping services. However, its content does appear to have been culled from YouTube.

Given that it defaults to Spanish, it seems to target Latin America. Indeed, with close to 10 million visits per month, almost a third hail from Mexico, with Venezuela and Argentina following behind.

DL-YouTube-MP3.net

This platform is a straightforward YouTube-ripping site, offering downloads of both video and audio content. It is one of the lower-trafficked sites on the list, with around 870,000 visits per month with most of its traffic (38%) coming from France.

ConvertBox.net

With around 150,000 visits, ConvertBox is the smallest platform targeted by the RIAA in this batch. It offers conversion features for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and SoundCloud via its website and mobile apps. Around a fifth of its traffic comes from France.

Downloaders.io

Another multi-downloader, Downloaders.io offers tools to rip content from a number of platforms, YouTube included. It’s traffic has been up and down since the start of the year but has averaged around 200K visits per month. Close to 30% of traffic hails from the United States.

Hexupload.net

A relative newcomer, this site doesn’t appear to fit into the ripping or general pirate site niche. Down at the time of writing, this 270,000 visit per month platform appears to have acted as a file upload site, from which users could generate revenue per download.

Cloudflare and NameCheap will now be required to hand over the personal details they have on the users behind all of these sites. As usual, that will include names, addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and more.

It isn’t clear what the RIAA has planned for these platforms but since the request was made by the group’s Vice-President Online Piracy, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a few ideas.

This latest move by the RIAA follows similar action against several other sites detailed in our earlier reports (1,2,3).

The RIAA’s letters to Cloudflare and NameCheap can be found here and here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Ukraine Cyberpolice Reveal Results of ‘Operation Pirates’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ukraine-cyberpolice-reveal-results-of-operation-pirates-190605/

After being regularly featured in the USTR’s ‘Priority Watch List’ for failing to do enough to protect intellectual property rights, Ukraine has been under pressure to act against piracy.

As a result, Ukraine’s cyberpolice unit has made several announcements since mid-2018 indicating they are doing just that.

Last June, police shut down Olainfilm, a streaming site with half a million users. Then in February 2019, authorities announced that dozens of sites, allegedly operated by the same man, had also been closed down.

Building on this work, several weeks ago the Ukrainian government announced the launch of “Operation Pirates”, an anti-piracy initiative aimed at tackling all forms of piracy. With that specific effort now complete, it appears that most actions have been taken against pirates exploiting video content.

According to an announcement by the country’s cyberpolice unit, the operation closed “more than 30 pirate online cinemas”, a term that is most often used to describe streaming sites. In total, 19 criminal proceedings are now underway for alleged copyright infringement offenses.

Police haven’t provided a full list of fallen sites but four – three of which with relatively significant traffic – were named in a report last month. They were operated by two brothers, one of whom works for a high-level government department handling taxes and customs while tackling fraud.

Of the 30 sites closed by police, 13 were allegedly operated by one man based in Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine. His motivation is said to be the revenues generated by advertising on the platforms.

Given that so-called ‘camming’ is considered a particularly damaging form of piracy, Hollywood will be pleased that Ukrainian police have also captured their very first ‘cammer’.

According to the authorities, a case has been filed against a “young man” who was caught filming movie premieres for distribution via pirate sites. The man, from the city of Kryvy Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk region, now faces up to two years in prison for alleged violations of Part 1 of Art. 176 (Violation of copyright and allied rights) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

In addition to tackling piracy of movies and TV shows, the Ukrainian authorities say that they’ve also been investigating people involved the illegal transmission of thousands of live TV channels. No arrests have been reported in connection with the investigation.

“The completion of the operation does not mean that work in this direction is stopped,” said Ukrainian cyberpolice chief Sergey Demedyuk.

“We continue to take measures to expose so-called pirates and are ready to interact with the right holders to respond to the violation of their rights. So, we call on interested parties to cooperate in countering piracy.”

In recent weeks, an anti-piracy memorandum was signed by Starlight Media (Ukraine’s largest broadcasting group), Media Group Ukraine (one of the largest media holding companies), TV channel Studio 1 + 1, Discovery Networks, IFPI-member Music Industry Association of Ukraine, and the Ukrainian Anti-Piracy Association.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Pirate ‘CAM King’ 1XBET Becomes Russia’s 3rd Largest Online Advertiser

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-cam-king-1xbet-becomes-russias-3rd-largest-online-advertiser-190604/

Since 2018, it’s likely that Internet users searching for the latest pirate ‘cam’ copies of Hollywood movies will have been exposed to the brand 1XBET.

1XBET is an online gambling company based in Russia that currently has more than 140 of its URLs blocked by the Russian government after being declared illegal. However, it is still managing to attract eyeballs all around the world via online advertising, including via ads placed in pirated copies of movies.

In a TF report published last month, we covered some of the activities being associated with the company, along with thoughts from local anti-piracy sources. Interestingly, 1XBET is now making headlines in Russia for being one of the most prolific online advertisers in the entire region.

The information comes from a new study, published by research company Mediascope, ranking the companies that placed the greatest volume of advertising online in Russia during the first quarter of 2019.

At the top of the pile with 3.3% market share is Google, which doesn’t comes as a huge surprise. The search giant is followed by PepsiCo in second position with 3.1%. In a remarkable third place sits 1XBET, with a significant 2.4% of the market.

To give some perspective, food giant Danone claims 2.3% of the market while Universal Pictures Russia has even less with 1.9%.

Mediascope data (credit: RBC)

What makes this achievement even more bewildering is that last year, another ‘sponsor’ of piracy releases was also making headlines for similar reasons.

Azino 777, another gambling company closely connected to ‘pirate’ releases, previously took the top spot for advertising online in Russia with 6.7% of the market. This year the company was ranked just 60th. It’s believed that the anti-piracy memorandum signed last year is at least partly responsible for the decline since participants are able to delete ‘pirate’ sites from search results.

Mediascope data published by local news outlet RBC shows that during the first quarter of 2018, researchers found Azino 777 adverts on 670 sites but during the same period in 2019, that had fallen to just 143. Additionally, the volume of ad impressions for Azino 777 in videos delivered via Yandex’s video service was 11 times smaller during the same period.

Russia’s Internet Video Association, which represents legal online video operators, has been filing complaints with telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor against sites where Azino 777 ads can be viewed. Of around 500 complaints filed in 2019, around half – which include streaming sites and torrent indexes – have been blocked.

But despite the progress against Azino 777, the job still isn’t finished. The rise of 1XBET indicates there are still problems with gambling advertising connected with piracy.

“This indirectly indicates that piracy is still flourishing,” Maxim Ryabyko, director general of the Association for the Protection of Copyright on the Internet, told RBC.

According to Mediascope, in the first quarter of 2018, 1XBET ads appeared on 59 sites that were monitored. In the same period during 2019, that had risen to 447. In addition, advertising on Yandex video players grew 27 times over the volumes observed during the first three months of 2018.

During the past week alone, 1XBET-branded ‘cams’ have continued to hit the Internet. Among them copies of Ma, Rocketman, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters. 1XBET and/or its affiliates are clearly not yet done with their mission to grab the eyes and wallets of pirate consumers, in Russia and around the world.

Godzilla, 1XBET style….

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

YouTube Ordered to Hand Over Identities of Manga Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-ordered-to-hand-over-identities-of-manga-pirates-190603/

Users of YouTube upload millions of pieces of content to the platform every month, much of it without incident or irritation to third-parties.

However, there are those who upload copyright content, most of it music and videos, that infringe on the rights of the original owners.

When that happens, copyright holders can file claims with YouTube to have the content removed, via the platform’s Content ID system or by filing a manual claim.

Users are generally aware that these complaints have the potential to lead to a ‘strike’ against their accounts but a publishing giant in Japan seems to want to take things much further.

Founded in 1922, Shogakukan Inc. is one of Japan’s largest publishers offering more than 60 magazines, 8,000 books, and 13,000 manga titles (comics/graphic novels), to name a few. It’s also part owner of Viz Media, the largest publisher of comic books and graphic novels in the United States.

Shogakukan’s manga publications are often pirated in digital formats (PDF documents, for example) but they also get uploaded to YouTube. These take the form of videos, often set to music, featuring static views of the pages of each title, timed for easy reading.

YouTube users who uploaded the company’s content in this fashion now need to look over their shoulders.

On May 24, lawyers acting for Shogakukan requested a DMCA subpoena at a California district court to help it identify several YouTube channel operators who allegedly uploaded images of the company’s content.

DMCA subpoenas are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from a court clerk. As a result, Shogakukan may shortly be in receipt of some very sensitive information, at least according to its letter to YouTube.

In addition to requiring YouTube to disable access to the infringing works as listed by the publisher, the Google-owned video platform must also hand over the personal details of several channel operators identified as LNDA, Kile Russo, Anime FightClub, and Optimistic Neko, among others.

The subpoena requires YouTube to hand over information it holds on the alleged infringers “from the time of user registration with any and all of the Infringer’s Accounts”, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, IP address logs, account and credit card numbers and the names of financial institutions connected to them.

According to the subpoena, the information above shall be obtained “from any and all sources” including YouTube accounts, Google AdSense accounts, “or any other service accounts(s) registered with or linked to the infringer’s account” with YouTube.

Interestingly, however, the term “infringer” appears to apply to a broader range of YouTube users than just the handful of individuals listed in the subpoena.

The letter contains a list of Shogakukan works and then states that, in addition to the named channels/users, YouTube must hand over the details of “any other users registered with www.youtube.com who uploaded and/or posted any Infringing Work specified under the column entitled as “Infringing Work” in Exhibit A.”

Exhibit A (DMCA subpoena to YouTube)

Given the broad nature of the subpoena, it seems that YouTube is not only being asked to provide targeted information but is also required to work pro-actively by searching for the content in question and then handing over the personal details of anyone who may have uploaded it.

While the DMCA subpoena process may be quick, a judge’s experience might have proven valuable in this case, given its potential scope.

The subpoena and associated documents can be found here (1,2)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Veteran Pirate With Millions of Downloads Says “Sharing is Caring”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/veteran-pirate-with-millions-of-downloads-says-sharing-is-caring-190602/

Probably not Thumper

Every week, millions of pirates head off to popular torrent sites for their software fix.

Whether they’re looking for the latest operating systems, graphics tools, or DVD/Blu-ray burning software, most things are available for free download.

What most people never question is why these tools are available for free and indeed, who puts them online. Today we can put a little meat on those bones.

We recently spoke with Thumper, aka ThumperTM, one of the longest-standing uploaders on public torrent sites like The Pirate Bay and 1337x. But this isn’t just any uploader. Thumper is responsible for almost 1,000 torrent uploads over the past nine years, leading to millions of downloads across the Internet.

Thumper identifies as female (impossible to confirm, but we’ll proceed on that basis) and sports the profile picture as seen top right. It’s an image used by many Internet users so probably isn’t an accurate depiction. Thumper also claims to be from Switzerland but in this game, such ‘facts’ should be taken with a pinch of salt alongside a knowingly obvious nod to security.

What cannot be denied, however, is the popularity of Thumper’s torrents. If we take her Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2016 release as an example, that has received more than 801,000 downloads on 1337x alone.

801,864 downloads on 1337x alone

“This torrent has been download a few million times from all sites, because Office is one of the must-have programs for most of us,” Thumper informs TF.

Of course, not all torrents are this popular but Thumper’s history goes back around 14 years, when torrents weren’t even a priority for her. Things began on so-called “one-click” hosting sites in 2005, with a progression to torrents in 2007.

“I started uploading torrents at H33t, Demonoid, 1337x, ThePirateBay, and RARBG. Then I started my own site in 2010 (ThumperDC.com and TechTools.NET). Now all of those sites redirect to our legit Windows forum, TheWindowsForum.com,” she explains.

Over the past 12 years, Thumper’s torrents (mainly Windows software uploads) have spread far and wide. She has been uploading on The Pirate Bay since April 2010 and on that site alone has a confirmed 946 torrents, as the private user panel screenshot below shows.

946 torrents at the time of writing

The Pirate Bay is obviously a very high-profile site but Thumper is a bit of a celebrity elsewhere too.

More than nine years ago she joined 1337x and for the last eight has been a trusted moderator there. In the interim, Thumper was also an uploader at the now-defunct original KickassTorrents, but still continues over at that platform’s namesake, KATCR.

Uploading and seeding so many torrents is a big undertaking, especially over a large number of years. There’s also a bit of a stigma attached to software uploads because unlike movies and TV shows, they have the potential to contain a virus or malware.

However, since reputations can be gone in a flash if an uploader lets something nefarious slip through the net, Thumper says that precautions are carried out in advance. Most uploaded software is obtained from friendly crackers (people who remove copy protection) before being run through a virtual machine and then scanned for viruses. Only then is it uploaded.

This perhaps contributed to Thumper earning a “green skull” from The Pirate Bay team around 2011, which is a small logo next to a user name which informs potential downloaders that while releases aren’t guaranteed to be flawless, they are more trusted than others without.

This is particularly important when one considers that people sometimes try to masquerade as Thumper in order to gain traction. We independently confirmed her status on one of the torrent sites she uploads to but most people don’t have that luxury so should proceed with caution when seeing her ‘brand’ online.

“The Pirate Bay has a ton of fake uploads lately, even some of them are infected and uploaded by other users with our tag ‘Windows app name v1.0 [ThumperDC] or [TechTools] or [TheWindowsForum]’, for example,” Thumper explains.

“1337x has other rules for new uploaders, you must apply for uploader status, then we review and decide if x_User is legit. People should always use torrent sites which are safe: 1337x, TPB, KATCR, RARBG, or TorrentGalaxy.  And make sure to download from trusted uploaders.”

Finally, one of the biggest questions is why someone like Thumper keeps releasing torrent after torrent, year after year. What’s in it for her?

Each release does contain links to her own site (which now specializes in discussions and technical support for Windows software), so there’s obviously some benefit there. However, she insists that this isn’t the main motivation.

“Sharing is caring,” she concludes, citing the years-old ‘pirate’ mantra.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

YouTube-Rippers Infringe Copyright on “Industrial Scale” Says Judge

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-rippers-infringe-copyright-on-industrial-scale-says-judge-190601/

As part of the music industry’s war on so-called ‘stream-ripping’, earlier this year Sony, Universal, and Warner, with assistance from Music Rights Australia and the Australasian Performing Right Association, demanded that ISPs in Australia block access to several YouTube-ripping platforms.

Following a Federal Court appearance in April, during which the music groups asked for action against four key players – 2conv, Flv2mp3, FLVto, and Convert2mp3 – Justice Perram handed down an order requiring most of the country’s ISPs to block the platforms.

This week, the Judge published the reasoning for his decision. While the blocking aspects are specific to Australian law, it contains some interesting comments about the activities of such platforms that may inform similar cases and actions in other regions.

In setting up his arguments, Justice Perram places an emphasis on the differences between streaming and downloading from YouTube.

While it has been argued that in practice there is only one difference (the former is a transient process while the latter goes a step further by retaining the data), the Judge indicates that is not for the end user to decide. The decision is made by the entity that uploads the data to YouTube and by YouTube itself.

“A person who uploads media to YouTube is required, as part of that process, to determine who can view that media and under what circumstances. It is possible as part of that process to grant permission to permit downloading of files,” the Judge writes.

In most cases uploading takes place after the user selects the ‘Standard YouTube License’, which only allows end users to stream the media, not download. Uploading under a ‘Creative Commons License’ can permit end users to download but the labels do not upload on this basis. In essence, the decision of whether to allow streaming or downloading from YouTube lies with the uploader, the Judge says.

YouTube then delivers that content to end users under the terms of the uploading agreement, which is “achieved by YouTube defaulting to delivery of the media via the HTML5 format which enables streaming but not downloading.”

Turning to the ripping sites themselves, the Judge notes that in testing the platforms a paralegal at a law firm was able to “strip music files” out of the musical works uploaded to YouTube by the record companies. Since she was given permission, that was fine, but the Judge noted that there is “no doubt” that anyone else doing so would have infringed copyright.

After ripping took place on the sites in question, the resulting content was made available to end users. That, the Judge notes, is a “communication to the public” so in respect of the musical works detailed in the case, that represents copyright infringement.

“It follows that the operators of the websites are infringing the relevant music and performance copyrights by copying the soundtracks out of music videos streamed from YouTube,” the Judge writes.

“They are also infringing the same copyrights by making soundtracks then available online and electronically transmitting them to users. The operators also facilitate the infringement of both kinds of copyright by permitting users to make a copy of the soundtrack.”

Given that uploaders can grant the ability to allow streaming or downloading, the Judge says that such ripping platforms will only be of use to anyone where YouTube does not allow download functionality, i.e “where no permission is given to make a copy of media on YouTube.”

A statement published on the ConvertMP3 platform, that claims that downloading from YouTube is “completely legal” when users have obtained permission from the copyright owner to do so, is described as “technically correct” by the Judge. However, he dismissed the disclaimer as “entirely without substance”, existing only to “underscore the dishonesty of the website operators.”

The traffic to the websites listed in the order is considerable (66.5 million visits to Convert2mp3.net in January 2019 and 112.4 million to Flvto.biz in January 2019 alone), something which indicates that they are “responsible for piracy of music from music videos on an industrial scale.”

While it’s important to repeat that the order was considered and granted under Australian law, there are common threads with legislation in other regions that may yet prove important in cases against similar platforms.

Justice Perram’s order can be downloaded here.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

As US Stream-Ripping Increases, Almost Half of Rippers Are Educated & Affluent

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/as-us-stream-ripping-increases-almost-half-of-rippers-are-educated-affluent-190531/

According to major industry players, stream-ripping is a growing problem for recording labels and Internet platforms alike.

With revenues from streaming set to increase, people permanently downloading music from YouTube and similar platforms is considered a threat. Those who obtain content in this way can effectively circumvent the streaming business model, it’s argued.

A new study carried out by music industry research company MusicWatch suggests that in the United States, the phenomenon is on the increase.

The study was carried out among 5,000 Internet users 13 years and above in January and early February 2019. From 15 million participants in 2017, the study found that around 17 million citizens in the U.S. participated in stream-ripping during 2018.

“I suspect the gain might be related to a few reasons,” MusicWatch Managing Partner Russ H. Crupnick informs TorrentFreak.

Crupnick cites a few factors, including the overall popularity of YouTube and the decline in purchases from iTunes – but people still wanting to have a song for their collection. The gradual decline of P2P sharing may also play a part as people still retain a desire for music, thanks to streaming.

“As more people stream they get a greater appetite for music,” Crupnick notes.

MusicWatch says that just over half (56%) of those who stream-rip are male, with 68% of all ‘rippers’ falling into the 13 to 34-years-old bracket. The company categorizes 30% of users as ‘heavy’, ripping around 112 files (or roughly 10 to 11 albums worth of music) every year.

The main reasons for people to stream-rip are to have offline access to songs (46%) and wanting to own a song that isn’t considered worth buying (37%). While neither comes as a surprise, cost isn’t cited as a major factor.

Indeed, MusicWatch found that almost half (48%) of stream-rippers come from households with an annual income of $75K-$199K, with 43% holding down white-collar jobs. So what drives these people to rip?

“With a lot of piracy it’s not been about cost, it’s been about selectivity. I want something but not enough to pay for it?” Krupnick says.

“Unlike the P2P days, they aren’t downloading thousands of songs randomly. Just what they want for a collection, or a project. And they don’t want that song enough to pay $.99 for it.”

MusicWatch informs TF that the demographic for heavy streamers and those with a lot of devices is the affluent and the belief is that they are more tech-savvy than average. However, many people don’t consider that what they’re doing is potentially illegal.

“It’s using YouTube; the app is on Google Play or Apple’s App Store…what’s the problem?” Krupnick says,

“And in fact, I think that is part of the problem. We all knew that Napster/Limewire was ‘bad’. Here’s an app I get from Apple, that works fine on my iPhone or Mac, connects to a legal streaming service – where’s the problem?”

MusicWatch believes that search and app platforms should do more to educate consumers about which uses of their services could potentially result in copyright infringement. The company adds that stream-rippers are more likely to go the movies, play video games and subscribe to Netflix or Hulu, so if they pirate/rip music, that behavior could spill over to other areas.

“Discouraging stream-ripping isn’t just good for music; it’s good for the entire entertainment ecosystem,” MusicWatch concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

BitTorrent to Fork IPFS to Create Decentralized File-Storage System

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-to-fork-ipfs-to-create-decentralized-storage-system-190531/

In 2018, BitTorrent Inc. was officially aquired by Tron, a relatively new player in the cryptocurrency space.

Both companies have a keen interest in decentralization, with shared goals of allowing users around the world to communicate without third-party intervention.

While there is a constant online buzz about the cryptocurrency side of TRON, the 100+ million users of the uTorrent and BitTorrent Mainline clients have been keen to hear what this acquisition will mean for them.

Last year, TRON founder Justin Sun said that introducing financial rewards for seeders will lead to faster download speeds and greater content retention. While this system has yet to be revealed in public, this week Sun teased a potentially more exciting development via Twitter.

Last evening, as promised, BitTorrent Inc. put more meat on the bones of this tweet.

“BitTorrent, a leader in peer-to-peer protocols and products, will incorporate BitTorrent File System (BTFS) to allow users to receive and host storage on their computers with other individuals and businesses,” the company said in a statement.

While the existing BitTorrent system is already a kind of decentralized storage system, BTFS will be different. Based on the existing InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) protocol, BTFS seems destined to offer a way to store files online without the use of centralized hosting.

Instead of placing files on traditional hosting sites, files will be distributed across the computers of those participating in the BTFS network. At this stage, the most likely candidates appear to be the users of the uTorrent and BitTorrent Mainline torrent clients, but TRON hasn’t yet provided any solid information.

“BTFS is a continuing step in our mission to create a decentralized internet that allows everyone to share in the wealth of web commerce,” said Justin Sun, founder of TRON and CEO of BitTorrent.

“We’re creating a platform with BTFS, BitTorrent Speed blockchain integration and the BTT utility token to let users quickly and privately interact with each other around the world without a middleman or government intervention.”

Many believed that Sun’s tweet earlier this week meant that BTFS itself was three days from launch, but that isn’t the case. BitTorrent Inc. says the BTFS Mainnet will be launched “for public access” in Q3 2019 but BTFS itself is still undergoing testing and won’t be available until 2020.

An easy-to-understand explanation of how IPFS works can be found below.

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