All posts by Andy

Banning VPNs and Proxies is Dangerous, IT Experts Warn

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/banning-vpns-and-proxies-is-dangerous-it-experts-warn-170623/

In April, draft legislation was developed to crack down on systems and software that allow Russian Internet users to bypass website blockades approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor.

Earlier this month the draft bill was submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. If passed, the law will make it illegal for services to circumvent web blockades by “routing traffic of Russian Internet users through foreign servers, anonymous proxy servers, virtual private networks and other means.”

As the plans currently stand, anonymization services that fail to restrict access to sites listed by telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor face being blocked themselves. Sites offering circumvention software for download also face potential blacklisting.

This week the State Duma discussed the proposals with experts from the local Internet industry. In addition to the head of Rozcomnadzor, representatives from service providers, search engines and even anonymization services were in attendance. Novaya Gazeta has published comments (Russian) from some of the key people at the meeting and it’s fair to say there’s not a lot of support.

VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world with more than 240 million subscribers, sent along Director for Relations with Government, Sergey Malyanov. He wondered where all this blocking will end up.

“First we banned certain information. Then this information was blocked with the responsibility placed on both owners of resources and services. Now there are blocks on top of blocks – so we already have a triple effort,” he said.

“It is now possible that there will be a fourth iteration: the block on the block to block those that were not blocked. And with that, we have significantly complicated the law and the activities of all the people affected by it.”

Malyanov said that these kinds of actions have the potential to close down the entire Internet by ruining what was once an open network running standard protocols. But amid all of this, will it even be effective?

“The question is not even about the losses that will be incurred by network operators, the owners of the resources and the search engines. The question is whether this bill addresses the goal its creators have set for themselves. In my opinion, it will not.”

Group-IB, one of the world’s leading cyber-security and threat intelligence providers, was represented CEO Ilya Sachkov. He told parliament that “ordinary respectable people” who use the Internet should always use a VPN for security. Nevertheless, he also believes that such services should be forced to filter sites deemed illegal by the state.

But in a warning about blocks in general, he warned that people who want to circumvent them will always be one step ahead.

“We have to understand that by the time the law is adopted the perpetrators will already find it very easy to circumvent,” he said.

Mobile operator giant MTS, which turns over billions of dollars and employs 50,000+ people, had their Vice-President of Corporate and Legal Affairs in attendance. Ruslan Ibragimov said that in dealing with a problem, the government should be cautious of not causing more problems, including disruption of a growing VPN market.

“We have an understanding that evil must be fought, but it’s not necessary to create a new evil, even more so – for those who are involved in this struggle,” he said.

“Broad wording of this law may pose a threat to our network, which could be affected by the new restrictive measures, as well as the VPN market, which we are currently developing, and whose potential market is estimated at 50 billion rubles a year.”

In its goal to maintain control of the Internet, it’s clear that Russia is determined to press ahead with legislative change. Unfortunately, it’s far from clear that there’s a technical solution to the problem, but if one is pursued regardless, there could be serious fallout.

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

Three Men Sentenced Following £2.5m Internet Piracy Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/three-men-sentenced-following-2-5m-internet-piracy-case-170622/

While legal action against low-level individual file-sharers is extremely rare in the UK, the country continues to pose a risk for those engaged in larger-scale infringement.

That is largely due to the activities of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and private anti-piracy outfits such as the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Investigations are often a joint effort which can take many years to complete, but the outcomes can often involve criminal sentences.

That was the profile of another Internet piracy case that concluded in London this week. It involved three men from the UK, Eric Brooks, 43, from Bolton, Mark Valentine, 44, from Manchester, and Craig Lloyd, 33, from Wolverhampton.

The case began when FACT became aware of potentially infringing activity back in February 2011. The anti-piracy group then investigated for more than a year before handing the case to police in March 2012.

On July 4, 2012, officers from City of London Police arrested Eric Brooks’ at his home in Bolton following a joint raid with FACT. Computer equipment was seized containing evidence that Brooks had been running a Netherlands-based server hosting more than £100,000 worth of pirated films, music, games, software and ebooks.

According to police, a spreadsheet on Brooks’ computer revealed he had hundreds of paying customers, all recruited from online forums. Using PayPal or utilizing bank transfers, each paid money to access the server. Police mentioned no group or site names in information released this week.

“Enquiries with PayPal later revealed that [Brooks] had made in excess of £500,000 in the last eight years from his criminal business and had in turn defrauded the film and TV industry alone of more than £2.5 million,” police said.

“As his criminal enterprise affected not only the film and TV but the wider entertainment industry including music, games, books and software it is thought that he cost the wider industry an amount much higher than £2.5 million.”

On the same day police arrested Brooks, Mark Valentine’s home in Manchester had a similar unwelcome visit. A day later, Craig Lloyd’s home in Wolverhampton become the third target for police.

Computer equipment was seized from both addresses which revealed that the pair had been paying for access to Brooks’ servers in order to service their own customers.

“They too had used PayPal as a means of taking payment and had earned thousands of pounds from their criminal actions; Valentine gaining £34,000 and Lloyd making over £70,000,” police revealed.

But after raiding the trio in 2012, it took more than four years to charge the men. In a feature common to many FACT cases, all three were charged with Conspiracy to Defraud rather than copyright infringement offenses. All three men pleaded guilty before trial.

On Monday, the men were sentenced at Inner London Crown Court. Brooks was sentenced to 24 months in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 140 hours of unpaid work.

Valentine and Lloyd were each given 18 months in prison, suspended for 12 months. Each was ordered to complete 80 hours unpaid work.

Detective Constable Chris Glover, who led the investigation for the City of London Police, welcomed the sentencing.

“The success of this investigation is a result of co-ordinated joint working between the City of London Police and FACT. Brooks, Valentine and Lloyd all thought that they were operating under the radar and doing something which they thought was beyond the controls of law enforcement,” Glover said.

“Brooks, Valentine and Lloyd will now have time in prison to reflect on their actions and the result should act as deterrent for anyone else who is enticed by abusing the internet to the detriment of the entertainment industry.”

While even suspended sentences are a serious matter, none of the men will see the inside of a cell if they meet the conditions of their sentence for the next 12 months. For a case lasting four years involving such large sums of money, that is probably a disappointing result for FACT and the police.

Nevertheless, the men won’t be allowed to enjoy the financial proceeds of their piracy, if indeed any money is left. City of London Police say the trio will be subject to a future confiscation hearing to seize any proceeds of crime.

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

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-riaa-demand-tough-copyright-standards-in-nafta-negotiations-170621/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago. With a quarter of a decade of developments to contend with, the United States wants to modernize.

“While our economy and U.S. businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not,” the government says.

With this in mind, the US requested comments from interested parties seeking direction for negotiation points. With those comments now in, groups like the MPAA and RIAA have been making their positions known. It’s no surprise that intellectual property enforcement is high on the agenda.

“Copyright is the lifeblood of the U.S. motion picture and television industry. As such, MPAA places high priority on securing strong protection and enforcement disciplines in the intellectual property chapters of trade agreements,” the MPAA writes in its submission.

“Strong IPR protection and enforcement are critical trade priorities for the music industry. With IPR, we can create good jobs, make significant contributions to U.S. economic growth and security, invest in artists and their creativity, and drive technological innovation,” the RIAA notes.

While both groups have numerous demands, it’s clear that each seeks an environment where not only infringers can be held liable, but also Internet platforms and services.

For the RIAA, there is a big focus on the so-called ‘Value Gap’, a phenomenon found on user-uploaded content sites like YouTube that are able to offer infringing content while avoiding liability due to Section 512 of the DMCA.

“Today, user-uploaded content services, which have developed sophisticated on-demand music platforms, use this as a shield to avoid licensing music on fair terms like other digital services, claiming they are not legally responsible for the music they distribute on their site,” the RIAA writes.

“Services such as Apple Music, TIDAL, Amazon, and Spotify are forced to compete with services that claim they are not liable for the music they distribute.”

But if sites like YouTube are exercising their rights while acting legally under current US law, how can partners Canada and Mexico do any better? For the RIAA, that can be achieved by holding them to standards envisioned by the group when the DMCA was passed, not how things have panned out since.

Demanding that negotiators “protect the original intent” of safe harbor, the RIAA asks that a “high-level and high-standard service provider liability provision” is pursued. This, the music group says, should only be available to “passive intermediaries without requisite knowledge of the infringement on their platforms, and inapplicable to services actively engaged in communicating to the public.”

In other words, make sure that YouTube and similar sites won’t enjoy the same level of safe harbor protection as they do today.

The RIAA also requires any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

In any event, NAFTA should not “support interpretations that no longer reflect today’s digital economy and threaten the future of legitimate and sustainable digital trade,” the RIAA states.

For the MPAA, Section 512 is also perceived as a problem. While noting that the original intent was to foster a system of shared responsibility between copyright owners and service providers, the MPAA says courts have subsequently let copyright holders down. Like the RIAA, the MPAA also suggests that Canada and Mexico can be held to higher standards.

“We recommend a new approach to this important trade policy provision by moving to high-level language that establishes intermediary liability and appropriate limitations on liability. This would be fully consistent with U.S. law and avoid the same misinterpretations by policymakers and courts overseas,” the MPAA writes.

“In so doing, a modernized NAFTA would be consistent with Trade Promotion Authority’s negotiating objective of ‘ensuring that standards of protection and enforcement keep pace with technological developments’.”

The MPAA also has some specific problems with Mexico, including unauthorized camcording. The Hollywood group says that 85 illicit audio and video recordings of films were linked to Mexican theaters in 2016. However, recording is not currently a criminal offense in Mexico.

Another issue for the MPAA is that criminal sanctions for commercial scale infringement are only available if the infringement is for profit.

“This has hampered enforcement against the above-discussed camcording problem but also against online infringement, such as peer-to-peer piracy, that may be on a scale that is immensely harmful to U.S. rightsholders but nonetheless occur without profit by the infringer,” the MPAA writes.

“The modernized NAFTA like other U.S. bilateral free trade agreements must provide for criminal sanctions against commercial scale infringements without proof of profit motive.”

Also of interest are the MPAA’s complaints against Mexico’s telecoms laws. Unlike in the US and many countries in Europe, Mexico’s ISPs are forbidden to hand out their customers’ personal details to rights holders looking to sue. This, the MPAA says, needs to change.

The submissions from the RIAA and MPAA can be found here and here (pdf)

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

US Embassy Threatens to Close Domain Registry Over ‘Pirate Bay’ Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-embassy-threatens-to-close-domain-registry-over-pirate-bay-domain-170620/

Domains have become an integral part of the piracy wars and no one knows this better than The Pirate Bay.

The site has burned through numerous domains over the years, with copyright holders and authorities successfully pressurizing registries to destabilize the site.

The latest news on this front comes from the Central American country of Costa Rica, where the local domain registry is having problems with the United States government.

The drama is detailed in a letter to ICANN penned by Dr. Pedro León Azofeifa, President of the Costa Rican Academy of Science, which operates NIC Costa Rica, the registry in charge of local .CR domain names.

Azofeifa’s letter is addressed to ICANN board member Thomas Schneider and pulls no punches. It claims that for the past two years the United States Embassy in Costa Rica has been pressuring NIC Costa Rica to take action against a particular domain.

“Since 2015, the United Estates Embassy in Costa Rica, who represents the interests of the United States Department of Commerce, has frequently contacted our organization regarding the domain name thepiratebay.cr,” the letter to ICANN reads.

“These interactions with the United States Embassy have escalated with time and include great pressure since 2016 that is exemplified by several phone calls, emails, and meetings urging our ccTLD to take down the domain, even though this would go against our domain name policies.”

The letter states that following pressure from the US, the Costa Rican Ministry of Commerce carried out an investigation which concluded that not taking down the domain was in line with best practices that only require suspensions following a local court order. That didn’t satisfy the United States though, far from it.

“The representative of the United States Embassy, Mr. Kevin Ludeke, Economic Specialist, who claims to represent the interests of the US Department of
Commerce, has mentioned threats to close our registry, with repeated harassment
regarding our practices and operation policies,” the letter to ICANN reads.

Ludeke is indeed listed on the US Embassy site for Costa Rica. He’s also referenced in a 2008 diplomatic cable leaked previously by Wikileaks. Contacted via email, Ludeke did not immediately respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.

Extract from the letter to ICANN

Surprisingly, Azofeifa says the US representative then got personal, making negative comments towards his Executive Director, “based on no clear evidence or statistical data to support his claims, as a way to pressure our organization to take down the domain name without following our current policies.”

Citing the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society of 2005, Azofeifa asserts that “policy authority for Internet-related public policy issues is the sovereign right of the States,” which in Costa Rica’s case means that there must be “a final judgment from the Courts of Justice of the Republic of Costa Rica” before the registry will suspend a domain.

But it seems legal action was not the preferred route of the US Embassy. Demanding that NIC Costa Rica take unilateral action, Mr. Ludeke continued with “pressure and harassment to take down the domain name without its proper process and local court order.”

Azofeifa’s letter to ICANN, which is cc’d to Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, United States Ambassador to Costa Rica and various people in the Costa Rican Ministry of Commerce, concludes with a request for suggestions on how to deal with the matter.

While the response should prove very interesting, none of the parties involved appear to have noticed that ThePirateBay.cr isn’t officially connected to The Pirate Bay

The domain and associated site appeared in the wake of the December 2014 shut down of The Pirate Bay, claiming to be the real deal and even going as far as making fake accounts in the names of famous ‘pirate’ groups including ettv and YIFY.

Today it acts as an unofficial and unaffiliated reverse proxy to The Pirate Bay while presenting the site’s content as its own. It’s also affiliated with a fake KickassTorrents site, Kickass.cd, which to this day claims that it’s a reincarnation of the defunct torrent giant.

But perhaps the most glaring issue in this worrying case is the apparent willingness of the United States to call out Costa Rica for not doing anything about a .CR domain run by third parties, when the real Pirate Bay’s .org domain is under United States’ jurisdiction.

Registered by the Public Interest Registry in Reston, Virginia, ThePirateBay.org is the famous site’s main domain. TorrentFreak asked PIR if anyone from the US government had ever requested action against the domain but at the time of publication, we had received no response.

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

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-breaks-record-after-sending-310-million-google-takedowns-170619/

A little over a year ago during March 2016, music industry group BPI reached an important milestone. After years of sending takedown notices to Google, the group burst through the 200 million URL barrier.

The fact that it took BPI several years to reach its 200 million milestone made the surpassing of the quarter billion milestone a few months later even more remarkable. In October 2016, the group sent its 250 millionth takedown to Google, a figure that nearly doubled when accounting for notices sent to Microsoft’s Bing.

But despite the volumes, the battle hadn’t been won, let alone the war. The BPI’s takedown machine continued to run at a remarkable rate, churning out millions more notices per week.

As a result, yet another new milestone was reached this month when the BPI smashed through the 300 million URL barrier. Then, days later, a further 10 million were added, with the latter couple of million added during the time it took to put this piece together.

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

While demanding that Google places greater emphasis on its de-ranking of ‘pirate’ sites, the BPI has called again and again for a “notice and stay down” regime, to ensure that content taken down by the search engine doesn’t simply reappear under a new URL. It’s a position BPI maintains today.

“The battle would be a whole lot easier if intermediaries played fair,” a BPI spokesperson informs TF.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down.”

The long-standing suggestion is that the volume of takedown notices sent would reduce if a “take down, stay down” regime was implemented. The BPI says it’s difficult to present a precise figure but infringing content has a tendency to reappear, both in search engines and on hosting sites.

“Google rejects repeat notices for the same URL. But illegal content reappears as it is re-indexed by Google. As to the sites that actually host the content, the vast majority of notices sent to them could be avoided if they implemented take-down & stay-down,” BPI says.

The fact that the BPI has added 60 million more takedowns since the quarter billion milestone a few months ago is quite remarkable, particularly since there appears to be little slowdown from month to month. However, the numbers have grown so huge that 310 billion now feels a lot like 250 million, with just a few added on top for good measure.

That an extra 60 million takedowns can almost be dismissed as a handful is an indication of just how massive the issue is online. While pirates always welcome an abundance of links to juicy content, it’s no surprise that groups like the BPI are seeking more comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Previously, it was hoped that the Digital Economy Bill would provide some relief, hopefully via government intervention and the imposition of a search engine Code of Practice. In the event, however, all pressure on search engines was removed from the legislation after a separate voluntary agreement was reached.

All parties agreed that the voluntary code should come into effect two weeks ago on June 1 so it seems likely that some effects should be noticeable in the near future. But the BPI says it’s still early days and there’s more work to be done.

“BPI has been working productively with search engines since the voluntary code was agreed to understand how search engines approach the problem, but also what changes can and have been made and how results can be improved,” the group explains.

“The first stage is to benchmark where we are and to assess the impact of the changes search engines have made so far. This will hopefully be completed soon, then we will have better information of the current picture and from that we hope to work together to continue to improve search for rights owners and consumers.”

With more takedown notices in the pipeline not yet publicly reported by Google, the BPI informs TF that it has now notified the search giant of 315 million links to illegal content.

“That’s an astonishing number. More than 1 in 10 of the entire world’s notices to Google come from BPI. This year alone, one in every three notices sent to Google from BPI is for independent record label repertoire,” BPI concludes.

While it’s clear that groups like BPI have developed systems to cope with the huge numbers of takedown notices required in today’s environment, it’s clear that few rightsholders are happy with the status quo. With that in mind, the fight will continue, until search engines are forced into compromise. Considering the implications, that could only appear on a very distant horizon.

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

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

“Kodi Boxes Are a Fire Risk”: Awful Timing or Opportunism?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-boxes-are-a-fire-risk-awful-timing-or-opportunism-170618/

Anyone who saw the pictures this week couldn’t have failed to be moved by the plight of Londoners caught up in the Grenfell Tower inferno. The apocalyptic images are likely to stay with people for years to come and the scars for those involved may never heal.

As the building continued to smolder and the death toll increased, UK tabloids provided wall-to-wall coverage of the disaster. On Thursday, however, The Sun took a short break to put out yet another sensationalized story about Kodi. Given the week’s events, it was bound to raise eyebrows.

“HOT GOODS: Kodi boxes are a fire hazard because thousands of IPTV devices nabbed by customs ‘failed UK electrical standards’,” the headline reads.

Another sensational ‘Kodi’ headline

“It’s estimated that thousands of Brits have bought so-called Kodi boxes which can be connected to telly sets to stream pay-per-view sport and films for free,” the piece continued.

“But they could be a fire hazard, according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which has been nabbing huge deliveries of the devices as they arrive in the UK.”

As the image below shows, “Kodi box” fire hazard claims appeared next to images from other news articles about the huge London fire. While all separate stories, the pairing is not a great look.

A ‘Kodi Box’, as depicted in The Sun

FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp told The Sun that his group had uncovered two parcels of 2,000 ‘Kodi’ boxes and found that they “failed electrical safety standards”, making them potentially dangerous. While that may well be the case, the big question is all about timing.

It’s FACT’s job to reduce copyright infringement on behalf of clients such as The Premier League so it’s no surprise that they’re making a sustained effort to deter the public from buying these devices. That being said, it can’t have escaped FACT or The Sun that fire and death are extremely sensitive topics this week.

That leaves us with a few options including unfortunate opportunism or perhaps terrible timing, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a moment.

There’s a good argument that FACT and The Sun brought a valid issue to the public’s attention at a time when fire safety is on everyone’s lips. So, to give credit where it’s due, providing people with a heads-up about potentially dangerous devices is something that most people would welcome.

However, it’s difficult to offer congratulations on the PSA when the story as it appears in The Sun does nothing – absolutely nothing – to help people stay safe.

If some boxes are a risk (and that’s certainly likely given the level of Far East imports coming into the UK) which ones are dangerous? Where were they manufactured? Who sold them? What are the serial numbers? Which devices do people need to get out of their houses?

Sadly, none of these questions were answered or even addressed in the article, making it little more than scaremongering. Only making matters worse, the piece notes that it isn’t even clear how many of the seized devices are indeed a fire risk and that more tests need to be done. Is this how we should tackle such an important issue during an extremely sensitive week?

Timing and lack of useful information aside, one then has to question the terminology employed in the article.

As a piece of computer software, Kodi cannot catch fire. So, what we’re actually talking about here is small computers coming into the country without passing safety checks. The presence of Kodi on the devices – if indeed Kodi was even installed pre-import – is absolutely irrelevant.

Anti-piracy groups warning people of the dangers associated with their piracy habits is nothing new. For years, Internet users have been told that their computers will become malware infested if they share files or stream infringing content. While in some cases that may be true, there’s rarely any effort by those delivering the warnings to inform people on how to stay safe.

A classic example can be found in the numerous reports put out by the Digital Citizens Alliance in the United States. The DCA has produced several and no doubt expensive reports which claim to highlight the risks Internet users are exposed to on ‘pirate’ sites.

The DCA claims to do this in the interests of consumers but the group offers no practical advice on staying safe nor does it provide consumers with risk reduction strategies. Like many high-level ‘drug prevention’ documents shuffled around government, it could be argued that on a ‘street’ level their reports are next to useless.

Demonizing piracy is a well-worn and well-understood strategy but if warnings are to be interpreted as representing genuine concern for the welfare of people, they have to be a lot more substantial than mere scaremongering.

Anyone concerned about potentially dangerous devices can check out these useful guides from Electrical Safety First (pdf) and the Electrical Safety Council (pdf)

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

Pirates Cost Australia’s Ten Network “Hundreds of Millions of Dollars”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-cost-australias-ten-network-hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-170616/

In 2016, Australia’s Ten Network posted losses of AUS$157 million. This April, the broadcaster showed signs of continuing distress when it posted a half-year loss of AUS$232 million.

In a statement to the stock exchange, Ten said it was trying to secure new terms for a AUS$200 million debt financing guarantee. According to ABC, the company had lost more than 60% of its value in the preceding 12 months and almost 98% over the previous five years.

More bad news arrived this week when Ten’s board decided to put the company into voluntary administration after failing to secure a guarantee for a AUS$250 million loan that could’ve kept the ship afloat into the new year. As moves get underway to secure the company’s future, fingers of blame are being raised.

According to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke, Internet pirates cost Ten “hundreds of millions of dollars” in advertising revenue due to their tendency to obtain movies and TV shows from the web rather than via legitimate means.

Burke told The Australian (paywall) that movies supplied to Ten by 21st Century Fox (including The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie which were both leaked) had received lower broadcast ratings due to people viewing them online in advance.

“Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined,” Burke told the publication.

“Movies from Fox arrive with several million people having seen them through piracy. If it wasn’t for piracy, the ratings would be stronger and the product would not be arriving clapped out.”

But leaked or not, content doesn’t come cheap. As part of efforts to remain afloat, Ten Network recently tried to re-negotiate content supply deals with Fox and CBS. Together they reportedly cost the broadcaster more than AUS$900 million over the previous six years.

Despite this massive price tag and numerous other problems engulfing the troubled company, Burke suggests it is pirates that are to blame for Ten’s demise.

“A large part of Ten’s expenditure is on movies and they are being seen by millions of people ­illegitimately on websites supported by rogue ­advertising for drugs, prostitution and even legitimate advertising. The cumulative effect of all the ­pirated product out there has brought down Ten,” Burke said.

While piracy has certainly been blamed for a lot of things over the years, it is extremely rare for a senior industry figure to link it so closely with the potential demise of a major broadcaster.

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

Pirate Bay Ruling is Bad News For Google & YouTube, Experts Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-ruling-is-bad-news-for-google-youtube-experts-says-170615/

After years of legal wrangling, yesterday the European Court of Justice handed down a decision in the case between Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN and ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL.

BREIN had demanded that the ISPs block The Pirate Bay, but both providers dug in their heels, forcing the case through the Supreme Court and eventually the ECJ.

For BREIN, yesterday’s decision will have been worth the wait. Although The Pirate Bay does not provide the content that’s ultimately downloaded and shared by its users, the ECJ said that it plays an important role in how that content is presented.

“Whilst it accepts that the works in question are placed online by the users, the Court highlights the fact that the operators of the platform play an essential role in making those works available,” the Court said.

With that established the all-important matter is whether by providing such a platform, the operators of The Pirate Bay are effectively engaging in a “communication to the public” of copyrighted works. According to the ECJ, that’s indeed the case.

“The Court holds that the making available and management of an online sharing platform must be considered to be an act of communication for the purposes of the directive,” the ECJ said.

Add into the mix that The Pirate Bay generates profit from its activities and there’s a potent case for copyright liability.

While the case was about The Pirate Bay, ECJ rulings tend to have an effect far beyond individual cases. That’s certainly the opinion of Enzo Mazza, chief at Italian anti-piracy group FIMI.

“The ruling will have a major impact on the way that entities like Google operate, because it will expose them to a greater and more direct responsibility,” Mazza told La Repubblica.

“So far, Google has worked against piracy by eliminating illegal content after it gets reported. But that is not enough. It is a fairly ineffective intervention.”

Mazza says that platforms like Google, YouTube, and thousands of similar sites that help to organize and curate user-uploaded content are somewhat similar to The Pirate Bay. In any event, they are not neutral intermediaries, he insists.

The conclusion that the decision is bad for platforms like YouTube is shared by Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with Sarzana and Partners, a law firm specializing in Internet and copyright disputes.

“In the ruling, the Court has in fact attributed, for the first time, secondary liability to sharing platforms due to the violation of copyrights carried out by the users of a platform,” Sarzana informs TF.

“This will have consequences for video-sharing platforms and user-generated content sites like YouTube, but it excludes responsibility for platforms that play a purely passive role, without affecting users’ content. This the case with cyberlockers, for example.”

Sarzana says that “unfortunate judgments” like this should be expected, until the approval of a new European copyright law. Enzo Mazza, on the other hand, feels that the copyright reform debate should take account of this ruling when formulating legislation to stop platforms like YouTube exploiting copyright works without an appropriate license.

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

“Top ISPs” Are Discussing Fines & Browsing Hijacking For Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/top-isps-are-discussing-fines-browsing-hijacking-for-pirates-170614/

For the past several years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been moderately successful in forcing smaller fringe ISPs in the United States to collaborate in a low-tier copyright trolling operation.

The way it works is relatively simple. Rightscorp monitors BitTorrent networks, captures the IP addresses of alleged infringers, and sends DMCA notices to their ISPs. Rightscorp expects ISPs to forward these to their customers along with an attached cash settlement demand.

These demands are usually for small amounts ($20 or $30) but most of the larger ISPs don’t forward them to their customers. This deprives Rightscorp (and clients such as BMG) of the opportunity to generate revenue, a situation that the anti-piracy outfit is desperate to remedy.

One of the problems is that when people who receive Rightscorp ‘fines’ refuse to pay them, the company does nothing, leading to a lack of respect for the company. With this in mind, Rightscorp has been trying to get ISPs involved in forcing people to pay up.

In 2014, Rightscorp said that its goal was to have ISPs place a redirect page in front of ‘pirate’ subscribers until they pay a cash fine.

“[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what’s called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web,” the company said.

In the three years since that statement, the company has raised the issue again but nothing concrete has come to fruition. However, there are now signs of fresh movement which could be significant, if Rightscorp is to be believed.

“An ISP Good Corporate Citizenship Program is what we feel will drive revenue associated with our primary revenue model. This program is an attempt to garner the attention and ultimately inspire a behavior shift in any ISP that elects to embrace our suggestions to be DMCA-compliant,” the company told shareholders yesterday.

“In this program, we ask for the ISPs to forward our notices referencing the infringement and the settlement offer. We ask that ISPs take action against repeat infringers through suspensions or a redirect screen. A redirect screen will guide the infringer to our payment screen while limiting all but essential internet access.”

At first view, this sounds like a straightforward replay of Rightscorp’s wishlist of three years ago, but it’s worth noting that the legal landscape has shifted fairly significantly since then.

Perhaps the most important development is the BMG v Cox Communications case, in which the ISP was sued for not doing enough to tackle repeat infringers. In that case (for which Rightscorp provided the evidence), Cox was held liable for third-party infringement and ordered to pay damages of $25 million alongside $8 million in legal fees.

All along, the suggestion has been that if Cox had taken action against infringing subscribers (primarily by passing on Rightscorp ‘fines’ and/or disconnecting repeat infringers) the ISP wouldn’t have ended up in court. Instead, it chose to sweat it out to a highly unfavorable decision.

The BMG decision is a potentially powerful ruling for Rightscorp, particularly when it comes to seeking ‘cooperation’ from other ISPs who might not want a similar legal battle on their hands. But are other ISPs interested in getting involved?

According to the Rightscorp, preliminary negotiations are already underway with some big players.

“We are now beginning to have some initial and very thorough discussions with a handful of the top ISPs to create and implement such a program that others can follow. We have every reason to believe that the litigations referred to above are directly responsible for the beginning of a change in thinking of ISPs,” the company says.

Rightscorp didn’t identify these “top ISPs” but by implication, these could include companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, Charter, Verizon, and/or even Cox Communications.

With cooperation from these companies, Rightscorp predicts that a “cultural shift” could be brought about which would significantly increase the numbers of subscribers paying cash demands. It’s also clear that while it may be seeking cooperation from ISPs, a gun is being held under the table too, in case any feel hesitant about putting up a redirect screen.

“This is the preferred approach that we advocate for any willing ISP as an alternative to becoming a defendant in a litigation and facing potential liability and significantly larger statutory damages,” Rightscorp says.

A recent development suggests the company may not be bluffing. Back in April the RIAA sued ISP Grande Communcations for failing to disconnect persistent pirates. Yet again, Rightscorp is deeply involved in the case, having provided the infringement data to the labels for a considerable sum.

Whether the “top ISPs” in the United States will cave into the pressure and implied threats remains to be seen but there’s no doubting the rising confidence at Rightscorp.

“We have demonstrated the tenacity to support two major litigation efforts initiated by two of our clients, which we feel will set a precedent for the entire anti-piracy industry led by Rightscorp. If you can predict the law, you can set the competition,” the company concludes.

Meanwhile, Rightscorp appears to continue its use of disingenuous tactics to extract money from alleged file-sharers.

In the wake of several similar reports, this week a Reddit user reported that Rightscorp asked him to pay a single $20 fine for pirating a song. After paying up, the next day the company allegedly called the user back and demanded payment for a further 200 notices.

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

UK Police Claim Success in Keeping Gambling Ads off Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-police-claim-success-in-keeping-gambling-ads-off-pirate-sites-170614/

Over the past several years, there has been a major effort by entertainment industry groups to cut off revenue streams to ‘pirate’ sites. The theory is that if sites cannot generate funds, their operators will eventually lose interest.

Since advertising is a key money earner for any website, significant resources have been expended trying to keep ads off sites that directly or indirectly profit from infringement. It’s been a multi-pronged affair, with agencies being encouraged to do the right thing and brands warned that their ads appearing on pirate sites does nothing for their image.

One sector that has trailed behind most is the gambling industry. Up until fairly recently, ads for some of the UK’s largest bookmakers have been a regular feature on many large pirate sites, either embedded in pages or more often than not, appearing via popup or pop-under spreads. Now, however, a significant change is being reported.

According to the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), over the past 12 months there has been an 87% drop in adverts for licensed gambling operators being displayed on infringing websites.

The research was carried out by whiteBULLET, a brand safety and advertising solutions company which helps advertisers to assess whether placing an advert on a particular URL will cause it to appear on a pirate site.

PIPCU says that licensed gambling operators have an obligation to “keep crime out of gambling” due to their commitments under the Gambling Act 2005. However, the Gambling Commission, the UK’s gambling regulatory body, has recently been taking additional steps to tackle the problem.

In September 2015, the Commission consulted on amendments (pdf) to licensing conditions that would compel licensees to ensure that advertisements “placed by themselves and others” do not appear on websites providing unauthorized access to copyrighted content.

After the consultation was published in May 2016 (pdf), all respondents agreed in principle that gambling operators should not advertise on pirate sites. A month later, the Commission said it would ban the placement of gambling ads on such platforms.

When the new rules came into play last October, 40 gambling companies (including Bet365, Coral and Sky Bet, who had previously been called out for displaying ads on pirate sites) were making use of PIPCU’s ‘Infringing Website List‘, a database of sites that police claim are actively involved in piracy.

Speaking yesterday, acting Detective Superintendent Peter Ratcliffe, Head of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), welcomed the ensuing reduction in ad placement on ‘pirate’ domains.

“The success of a strong relationship built between PIPCU and The Gambling Commission can be seen by these figures. This is a fantastic example of a joint working initiative between police and an industry regulator,” Ratcliffe said.

“We commend the 40 gambling companies who are already using the Infringing Website List and encourage others to sign up. We will continue to encourage all UK advertisers to become a member of the Infringing Website List to ensure they’re not inadvertently funding criminal websites.”

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

Global Entertainment Giants Form Massive Anti-Piracy Coalition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/global-entertainment-giants-form-massive-anti-piracy-coalition-170613/

It’s not unusual for companies within the same area of business to collaborate in order to combat piracy. The studios and labels that form the MPAA and RIAA, for example, have doing just that for decades.

Today, however, an unprecedented number of global content creators and distribution platforms have announced the formation of a brand new coalition to collaboratively fight Internet piracy on a global scale.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order the members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In a joint announcement today, ACE notes that there are now more than 480 services available for consumers to watch films and TV programs online. However, despite that abundance of content, piracy continues to pose a threat to creators and the economy.

“Films and television shows can often be found on pirate sites within days – and in many cases hours – of release,” ACE said in a statement.

“Last year, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. There were also an estimated 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide across both desktops and mobile devices in 2016.”

Rather than the somewhat fragmented anti-piracy approach currently employed by ACE members separately, the coalition will present a united front of all major content creators and distributors, with a mission to cooperate and expand in order to minimize the threat.

At the center of the alliance appears to be the MPAA. ACE reports that the anti-piracy resources of the Hollywood group will be used “in concert” with the existing anti-piracy departments of the member companies.

Unprecedented scale aside, ACE’s modus operandi will be a familiar one.

The coalition says it will work closely with law enforcement to shut down pirate sites and services, file civil litigation, and forge new relationships with other content protection groups. It will also strive to reach voluntary anti-piracy agreements with other interested parties across the Internet.

MPAA chief Chris Dodd, whose group will play a major role in ACE, welcomed the birth of the alliance.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,” Dodd said.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

The traditionally non-aggressive BBC described ACE as “hugely important” in the fight against “theft and illegal distribution”, with Netflix noting that even its creative strategies for dealing with piracy are in need of assistance.

“While we’re focused on providing a great consumer experience that ultimately discourages piracy, there are still bad players around the world trying to profit off the hard work of others,” said Netflix General Counsel, David Hyman.

“By joining ACE, we will work together, share knowledge, and leverage the group’s combined anti-piracy resources to address the global online piracy problem.”

It’s likely that the creation of ACE will go down as a landmark moment in the fight against piracy. Never before has such a broad coalition promised to pool resources on such a grand and global scale. That being said, with great diversity comes the potential for greatly diverging opinions, so only time will tell if this coalition can really hold together.

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

Popular Release Group ShAaNiG Permanently Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popular-release-group-shaanig-permanently-shuts-down-170612/

While there are dozens of torrent release groups in operation today, some providing extremely high quality work, every few years a notable ‘brand’ group appears.

Two of the most famous from recent memory were aXXo and YIFY. Neither were known for historic individual releases or world-beating quality, but both were particularly consistent. An aXXo or YIFY label on an official torrent assured the potential downloader they would be getting a ‘McDonalds-quality’ product; never haute cuisine but just enough taste and in enough volume to fill people up.

As a result, these groups gained millions of followers, something that put anti-piracy targets on their backs. No surprise then that neither are around today, with YIFY subjected to legal action in New Zealand and aXXo….well, no one seems to know.

With those groups gone, there was a gap in the market for a similar product. Popular releases delivered to the masses in small file sizes is clearly a recipe for success and an existing group called ShAaNiG decided to step in to take up some of the slack.

What followed was thousands of ShAaNiG movie and TV show releases, which were uploaded to The Pirate Bay and direct download sites. They also took pride of place on the group’s forum at Shaanig.org, where they were neatly organized into relevant categories.

ShAaNiG’s release forum

But like aXXO and YIFY before it, something went wrong at ShAaNiG. After publishing a couple of releases on Saturday, including a Blu-ray rip of the movie Jawbone and an episode of TV show Outcast, ShAaNiG unexpectedly threw in the towel. A notice on the group’s homepage gives no reason for the sudden shutdown but makes it clear that ShAaNiG won’t be coming back.

“ShAaNiG has shut down permanently,” it reads. “Every journey must come to an end, This is the end of our journey. Thank you for all your support.”

While there are only so many ways to say that a site has been shut down for good, the first sentence is identical to the one used by ExtraTorrent when it closed down last month.

Another potentially interesting similarity is that both ExtraTorrent and ShAaNiG had huge followings in India, with both sites indexing a lot of local content, especially movies.

More than 30% of ShAaNiG’s traffic came from India, with much of it driven from The Pirate Bay where more than a thousand releases live on today. When ExtraTorrent shut down, around 40% of the new traffic arriving at another popular platform came from India.

Whether the Indian connection is pure coincidence remains to be seen, but it seems possible if not likely that some kind of legal pressure played a part in the demise of both. However, if the situation plays out in the same manner, we’ll hear no more and like ExtraTorrent, ShAaNiG will simply fade away.

While that will come as a huge disappointment to ShAaNiG fans, other file-sharers are likely to have less sympathy. Like aXXo and YIFY before it, ShAaNiG was rarely (if ever) the source of the material it released, instead preferring to re-encode existing releases. For some pirates, that’s a red line that should never be crossed.

Whether a new group will rise phoenix-like from the ashes will remain to be seen but as these ‘brand’ groups have established time and again, there’s always a market for passable quality movie releases, if they come in a compact file-size.

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

Who’s To Blame For The Kodi Crackdown?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/whos-to-blame-for-the-kodi-crackdown-170611/

Perfectly legal as standard, the Kodi media player can be easily modified to turn it into the ultimate streaming piracy machine.

Uptake by users has been nothing short of phenomenal. Millions of people are now consuming illicit media through third-party Kodi addons. With free movies, TV shows, sports, live TV and more on tap, it’s not difficult to see why the system is so popular.

As a result, barely a day goes by without Kodi making headlines and this week was no exception. On Monday, TorrentFreak broke the news that the ZEMTV addon and TV Addons, one of the most popular addon communities, were being sued by Dish Network for copyright infringement.

Within hours of the announcement and apparently as a direct result, several addons (including the massively popular Phoenix) decided to throw in the towel. Quite understandably, users of the platforms were disappointed, and that predictably resulted in people attempting to apportion blame.

The first comment to catch the eye was posted directly beneath our article. Interestingly, it placed the blame squarely on our shoulders.

“Thanks Torrentfreak, for ruining Kodi,” it read.

While shooting the messenger is an option, it’s historically problematic. Town criers were the original newsreaders, delivering important messages to the public. Killing a town crier was considered treason, but it was also pointless – it didn’t change the facts on the ground.

So if we can’t kill those who read about a lawsuit in the public PACER system and reported it, who’s left to blame? Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of targets, but most of them fall short.

The underlying theme is that most people voicing a negative opinion about the profile of Kodi do not appreciate their previously niche piracy system being in the spotlight. Everything was just great when just a few people knew about the marvelous hidden world of ‘secret’ XBMC/Kodi addons, many insist, but seeing it in the mainstream press is a disaster. It’s difficult to disagree.

However, the point where this all falls down is when people are asked when the discussion about Kodi should’ve stopped. We haven’t questioned them all, of course, but it’s almost guaranteed that while most with a grievance didn’t want Kodi getting too big, they absolutely appreciate the fact that someone told them about it. Piracy and piracy techniques spread by word of mouth so unfortunately, people can’t have it both ways.

Interestingly, some people placed the blame on TV Addons, the site that hosts the addons themselves. They argued that the addon scene didn’t need such a high profile target and that the popularity of the site only brought unwanted attention. However, for every critic, there are apparently thousands who love what the site does to raise the profile of Kodi. Without that, it’s clear that there would be fewer users and indeed, fewer addons.

For TV Addons’ part, they’re extremely clear who’s responsible for bringing the heat. On numerous occasions in emails to TF, the operators of the repository have blamed those who have attempted to commercialize the Kodi scene. For them, the responsibility must be placed squarely on the shoulders of people selling ‘Kodi boxes’ on places like eBay and Amazon. Once big money got involved, that attracted the authorities, they argue.

With this statement in mind, TF spoke with a box seller who previously backed down from selling on eBay due to issues over Kodi’s trademark. He didn’t want to speak on the record but admitted to selling “a couple of thousand” boxes over the past two years, noting that all he did was respond to demand with supply.

And this brings us full circle and a bit closer to apportioning blame for the Kodi crackdown.

The bottom line is that when it comes to piracy, Kodi and its third-party ‘pirate’ addons are so good at what they do, it’s no surprise they’ve been a smash hit with Internet users. All of the content that anyone could want – and more – accessible in one package, on almost any platform? That’s what consumers have been demanding for more than a decade and a half.

That brings us to the unavoidable conclusion that modified Kodi simply got too good at delivering content outside controlled channels, and that success was impossible to moderate or calm. Quite simply, every user that added to the Kodi phenomenon by installing the software with ‘pirate’ addons has to shoulder some of the blame for the crackdown.

That might sound harsh but in the piracy world it’s never been any different. Without millions of users, The Pirate Bay raid would never have happened. Without users, KickassTorrents might still be rocking today. But of course, what would be the point?

Users might break sites and services, but they also make them. That’s the piracy paradox.

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

Nintendo & BREIN Target Seller of ‘Pirate’ Retro Gaming System

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-brein-target-seller-of-pirate-retro-gaming-system-170610/

As millions of often younger gamers immerse themselves in the latest 3D romp-fests from the world’s leading games developers, huge numbers of people are reliving their youth through the wonders of emulation.

The majority of old gaming systems can be emulated on a decent PC these days, opening up the possibility of reanimating thousands of the greatest games to ever grace the planet. While that’s a great prospect, the good news doesn’t stop there. The games are all free – if you don’t mind pirating them.

While many people go the do-it-yourself route by downloading emulators and ROMs (the games) from the Internet, increasingly people are saving time by buying systems ready-made online. Some of these are hugely impressive, housed in full-size arcade machine cabinets and packing many thousands of games. They also have sizeable price tags to match, running in some cases to thousands of dollars. But there are other options.

The rise of affordable compact computers has opened up emulation and retro gaming to a whole new audience and inevitable some people have taken to selling these devices online with the games pre-bundled on SD cards. These systems can be obtained relatively cheaply but despite the games being old, companies like Nintendo still take a dim view of their sale.

That’s also the case in the Netherlands, where Nintendo and other companies are taking action against people involved in the sale of what are effectively pirate gaming systems. In a recent case, Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN took action against the operator of the Retrospeler (Retro Player) site, an outlet selling a ready-made retro gaming system.

Retro Player site (translated from Dutch)

As seen from the image above, for a little under 110 euros the player can buy a games machine with classics like Super Mario, Street Fighter, and Final Fantasy pre-installed. Add a TV via an HDMI lead and a joypad or two, and yesteryear gaming becomes reality today. Unfortunately, the fun didn’t last long and it was soon “Game Over” for Retro Player.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, BREIN chief Tim Kuik says that the system sold by Retro Player was based on the popular Raspberry Pi single-board computer. Although small and relatively cheap, the Pi is easily capable of running retro games via software such as RetroPie, but it’s unclear which product was installed on the version sold by Retro Player.

What is clear is that the device came pre-installed with a lot of games. The now-defunct Retro Player site listed 6,500 titles for a wide range of classic gaming systems, including Gameboy, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Megadrive and Playstation. Kuik didn’t provide precise numbers but said that the machine came packaged with “a couple of thousand” titles.

BREIN says in this particular case it was acting on behalf of Nintendo, among others. However, it doesn’t appear that the case will be going to court. Like many other cases handled by the anti-piracy group, BREIN says it has reached a settlement with the operator of the Retro Player site for an unspecified amount.

The debate and controversy surrounding retro gaming and emulation is one that has been running for years. The thriving community sees little wrong with reanimating games for long-dead systems and giving them new life among a new audience. On the other hand, copyright holders such as Nintendo view their titles as their property, to be exploited in a time, place and manner of their choosing.

While that friction will continue for a long time to come, there will be few if any legal problems for those choosing to pursue their emulation fantasies in the privacy of their own home. Retro gaming is here to stay and as long as computing power continues to increase, the experience is only likely to improve.

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

Bill to Ban VPNs & Unmask Operators Submitted to Russia’s Parliament

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bill-to-ban-vpns-unmask-operators-submitted-to-russias-parliament-170609/

Website blocking in Russia is becoming a pretty big deal. Hundreds of domains are now blocked at the ISP level for a range of issues from copyright infringement through to prevention of access to extremist material.

In common with all countries that deploy blocking measures, there is a high demand in Russia for services and software that can circumvent blockades. As a result, VPNs, proxies, mirror sites and dedicated services such as Tor are growing in popularity.

Russian authorities view these services as a form of defiance, so for some time moves have been underway to limit their effectiveness. Earlier this year draft legislation was developed to crack down on systems and software that allow Internet users to bypass website blockades approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor.

This week the draft bill was submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. If passed, it will effectively make it illegal for services to circumvent web blockades by “routing traffic of Russian Internet users through foreign servers, anonymous proxy servers, virtual private networks and other means.”

As it stands, the bill requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to keep a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. Once the bypassing services are identified, Rozcomnadzor will send a notice to their hosts, giving them a 72-hour deadline to reveal the identities of their operators.

After this stage is complete, the host will be given another three days to order the people running the circumvention-capable service to stop providing access to banned domains. If the service operator fails to comply within 30 days, all Internet service providers will be required to block access to the service and its web presence, if it has one.

This raises the prospect of VPN providers and proxies being forced to filter out traffic to banned domains to stay online. How this will affect users of Tor will remain to be seen, since there is no way to block domains. Furthermore, sites offering the software could also be blocked, if they continue to offer the tool.

Also tackled in the bill are search engines such as Google and Yandex that provide links in their indexes to banned resources. The proposed legislation will force them to remove all links to sites on Rozcomnadzor’s list, with the aim of making them harder to find.

However, Yandex believes that if sites are already blocked by ISPs, the appearance of their links in search results is moot.

“We believe that the laying of responsibilities on search engines is superfluous,” a spokesperson said.

“Even if the reference to a [banned] resource does appear in search results, it does not mean that by clicking on it the user will get access, if it was already blocked by ISPs or in any other ways.”

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

Online Platforms Should Collaborate to Ban Piracy and Terrorism, Report Suggests

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/online-platforms-collaborate-ban-piracy-terrorism-report-suggests-170608/

With deep ties to the content industries, the Digital Citizens Alliance periodically produces reports on Internet piracy. It has published reports on cyberlockers and tried to blame Cloudflare for the spread of malware, for example.

One of the key themes pursued by DCA is that Internet piracy is inextricably linked to a whole bunch of other online evils and that tackling the former could deliver a much-needed body blow to the latter.

Its new report, titled ‘Trouble in Our Digital Midst’, takes this notion and runs with it, bundling piracy with everything from fake news to hacking, to malware and brand protection, to the sextortion of “young girls and boys” via their computer cameras.

The premise of the report is that cybercrime as a whole is undermining America’s trust in the Internet, noting that 64% of US citizens say that their trust in digital platforms has dropped in the last year. Given the topics under the spotlight, it doesn’t take long to see where this is going – Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube must tackle the problem.

“When asked, ‘In your opinion, are digital platforms doing enough to keep the Internet safe and trustworthy, or are do they need to do more?’ a staggering 75 percent responded that they need to do more to keep the Internet safe,” the report notes.

It’s abundantly clear that the report is mostly about piracy but a lot of effort has been expended to ensure that people support its general call for the Internet to be cleaned up. By drawing attention to things that even most pirates might find offensive, it’s easy to find more people in agreement.

“Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the pairing of brand name advertising with offensive online content – like ISIS/terrorism recruiting videos – as a threat to the continued trust and integrity of the Internet,” the report notes.

Of course, this is an incredibly sensitive topic. When big brand ads turned up next to terrorist recruiting videos on YouTube, there was an almighty stink, and rightly so. However, at every turn, the DCA report manages to weave the issue of piracy into the equation, noting that the problem includes the “$200 million in advertising that shows up on illegal content theft websites often unbeknownst to the brands.”

The overriding theme is that platforms like Google, Facebook, and YouTube should be able to tackle all of these problems in the same way. Filtering out a terrorist video is the same as removing a pirate movie. And making sure that ads for big brands don’t appear alongside terrorist videos will be just as easy as starving pirates of revenue, the suggestion goes.

But if terrorism doesn’t grind your gears, what about fake news?

“64 percent of Americans say that the Fake News issue has made them less likely to trust the Internet as a source of information,” the report notes.

At this juncture, Facebook gets a gentle pat on the back for dealing with fake news and employing 3,000 people to monitor for violent videos being posted to the network. This shows that the company “takes seriously” the potential harm bad actors pose to Internet safety. But in keeping with the theme running throughout the report, it’s clear DCA are carefully easing in the thin end of the wedge.

“We are at only the beginning of thinking through other kinds of illicit and illegal activity happening on digital platforms right now that we must gain or re-gain control over,” DCA writes.

Quite. In the very next sentence, the group goes on to warn about the sale of drugs and stolen credit cards, adding that the sale of illicit streaming devices (modified Kodi boxes etc) is actually an “insidious yet effective delivery mechanism to infect computers with malware such as Remote Access Trojans.”

Both Amazon and Facebook receive praise in the report for their recent banning (1,2) of augmented Kodi devices but their actions are actually framed as the companies protecting their own reputations, rather than the interests of the media groups that have been putting them under pressure.

“And though this issue underscores the challenges faced by digital platforms – not all of which act with the same level of responsibility – it also highlights the fact digital platforms can and will step up when their own brands are at stake,” the report reads.

But pirate content and Remote Access Trojans through Kodi boxes are only the beginning. Pirate sites are playing a huge part as well, DCA claims, with one in three “content theft websites” exposing people to identify theft, ransomware, and sextortion via “the computer cameras of young girls and boys.”

Worst still, if that was possible, the lack of policing by online platforms means that people are able to “showcase live sexual assaults, murders, and other illegal conduct.”

DCA says that with all this in mind, Americans are looking for online digital platforms to help them. The group claims that citizens need proactive protection from these ills and want companies like Facebook to take similar steps to those taken when warning consumers about fake news and violent content.

So what can be done to stop this tsunami of illegality? According to DCA, platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter need to up their game and tackle the problem together.

“While digital platforms collaborate on policy and technical issues, there is no evidence that they are sharing information about the bad actors themselves. That enables criminals and bad actors to move seamlessly from platform to platform,” DCA writes.

“There are numerous examples of industry working together to identify and share information about exploitive behavior. For example, casinos share information about card sharks and cheats, and for decades the retail industry has shared information about fraudulent credit cards. A similar model would enable digital platforms and law enforcement to more quickly identify and combat those seeking to leverage the platforms to harm consumers.”

How this kind of collaboration could take place in the real world is open to interpretation but the DCA has a few suggestions of its own. Again, it doesn’t shy away from pulling people on side with something extremely offensive (in this case child pornography) in order to push what is clearly an underlying anti-piracy agenda.

“With a little help from engineers, digital platforms could create fingerprints of unlawful conduct that is shared across platforms to proactively block such conduct, as is done in a limited capacity with child pornography,” DCA explains.

“If these and other newly developed measures were adopted, digital platforms would have the information to enable them to make decisions whether to de-list or demote websites offering illicit goods and services, and the ability to stop the spread of illegal behavior that victimizes its users.”

The careful framing of the DCA report means that there’s something for everyone. If you don’t agree with them on tackling piracy, then their malware, fake news, or child exploitation angles might do the trick. It’s quite a clever strategy but one that the likes of Google, Facebook, and YouTube will recognize immediately.

And they need to – because apparently, it’s their job to sort all of this out. Good luck with that.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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

Mysterious Group Lands Denuvo Anti-Piracy Body Blow

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mysterious-group-lands-denuvo-anti-piracy-body-blow-170607/

While there’s always excitement in piracy land over the release of a new movie or TV show, video gaming fans really know how to party when a previously uncracked game appears online.

When that game was protected by the infamous Denuvo anti-piracy system, champagne corks explode.

There’s been a lot of activity in this area during recent months but more recently there’s been a noticeable crescendo. As more groups have become involved in trying to defeat the system, Denuvo has looked increasingly vulnerable. Over the past 24 hours, it’s looked in serious danger.

The latest drama surrounds DISHONORED.2-STEAMPUNKS, which is a pirate release of the previously uncracked action adventure game Dishonored 2. The game uses Denuvo protection and at the rate titles have been falling to pirates lately, it’s appearance wasn’t a surprise. However, the manner in which the release landed online has sent shockwaves through the scene.

The cracking scene is relatively open these days, in that people tend to have a rough idea of who the major players are. Their real-life identities are less obvious, of course, but names like CPY, Voksi, and Baldman regularly appear in discussions.

The same cannot be said about SteamPunks. With their topsite presence, they appear to be a proper ‘Scene’ group but up until yesterday, they were an unknown entity.

It’s fair to say that this dramatic appearance from nowhere raised quite a few eyebrows among the more suspicious crack aficionados. That being said, SteamPunks absolutely delivered – and then some.

Rather than simply pre-crack (remove the protection) from Dishonored 2 and then deliver it to the public, the SteamPunks release appears to contain code which enables the user to generate Denuvo licenses on a machine-by-machine basis.

If that hasn’t sunk in, the theory is that the ‘key generator’ might be able to do the same with all Denuvo-protected releases in future, blowing the system out of the water.

While that enormous feat remains to be seen, there is an unusual amount of excitement surrounding this release and the emergence of the previously unknown SteamPunks. In the words of one Reddit user, the group has delivered the cracking equivalent of The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, yet no one appears to have had any knowledge of them before yesterday.

Only adding to the mystery is the lack of knowledge relating to how their tool works. Perhaps ironically, perhaps importantly, SteamPunks have chosen to protect their code with VMProtect, the software system that Denuvo itself previously deployed to stop people reverse-engineering its own code.

This raises two issues. One, people could have difficulty finding out how the license generator works and two, it could potentially contain something nefarious besides the means to play Dishonored 2 for free.

With the latter in mind, a number of people in the cracking community have been testing the release but thus far, no one has found anything untoward. That doesn’t guarantee that it’s entirely clean but it does help to calm nerves. Indeed, cracking something as difficult as Denuvo in order to put out some malware seems a lot of effort when the same could be achieved much more easily.

“There is no need to break into Fort Knox to give out flyers for your pyramid scheme,” one user’s great analogy reads.

That being said, people with experience are still urging caution, which should be the case for anyone running a cracked game, no matter who released it.

Finally, another twist in the Denuvo saga arrived yesterday courtesy of VMProtect. As widely reported, someone from the company previously indicated that Denuvo had been using its VMProtect system without securing an appropriate license.

The source said that legal action was on the horizon but an announcement from VMProtect yesterday suggests that the companies are now seeing eye to eye.

“We were informed that there are open questions and some uncertainty about the use of our software by DENUVO GmbH,” VMProtect said.

“Referring to this circumstance we want to clarify that DENUVO GmbH had the right to use our software in the past and has the right to use it currently as well as in the future. In summary, no open issues exist between DENUVO GmbH and VMProtect Software for which reason you may ignore any other divergent information.”

While the above tends to imply there’s never been an issue, a little more information from VMProtect dev Ivan Permyakov may indicate that an old dispute has since been settled.

“Information about our relationship with Denuvo Software has long been outdated and irrelevant,” he said.

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

MPAA Chief Praises Site-Blocking But Italians Love Piracy – and the Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-praises-site-blocking-but-italians-love-pirate-quality-170606/

After holding a reputation for being soft on piracy for many years, in more recent times Italy has taken a much tougher stance. The country now takes regular action against pirate sites and has a fairly aggressive site-blocking mechanism.

On Monday, the industry gathered in Rome and was presented with new data from local anti-piracy outfit FAPAV. The research revealed that while there has been some improvement over the past six years, 39% of Italians are still consuming illicit movies, TV shows, sporting events and other entertainment, at the rate of 669m acts of piracy every year.

While movie piracy is down 4% from 2010, the content most often consumed by pirates is still films, with 33% of the adult population engaging in illicit consumption during the past year.

The downward trend was not shared by TV shows, however. In the past seven years, piracy has risen to 22% of the population, up 13% on figures from 2010.

In keeping with the MPAA’s recent coding of piracy in 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 variants (P2P as 1.0, streaming websites as 2.0, streaming devices/Kodi as 3.0), FAPAV said that Piracy 2.0 had become even more established recently, with site operators making considerable technological progress.

“The research tells us we can not lower our guard, we always have to work harder and with greater determination in communication and awareness, especially with regard to digital natives,” said FAPAV Secretary General, Bagnoli Rossi.

The FAPAV chief said that there needs to be emphasis in two areas. One, changing perceptions among the public over the seriousness of piracy via education and two, placing pressure on websites using the police, judiciary, and other law enforcement agencies.

“The pillars of anti-piracy protection are: the judicial authority, self-regulatory agreements, communication and educational activities,” said Rossi, adding that cooperation with Italy’s AGCOM had resulted in 94 sites being blocked over three years.

FAPAV research has traditionally focused on people aged 15 and up but the anti-piracy group believes that placing more emphasis on younger people (aged 10-14) is important since they also consume a lot of pirated content online. MPAA chief Chris Dodd, who was at the event, agreed with the sentiment.

“Today’s youth are the future of the audiovisual industry. Young people must learn to respect the people who work in film and television that in 96% of cases never appear [in front of camera] but still work behind the scenes,” Dodd said.

“It is important to educate and direct them towards legal consumption, which creates jobs and encourages investment. Technology has expanded options to consume content legally and at any time and place, but at the same time has given attackers the opportunity to develop illegal businesses.”

Despite large-scale site-blocking not being a reality in the United States, Dodd was also keen to praise Italy for its efforts while acknowledging the wider blocking regimes in place across the EU.

“We must not only act by blocking pirate sites (we have closed a little less than a thousand in Europe) but also focus on legal offers. Today there are 480 legal online distribution services worldwide. We must have more,” Dodd said.

The outgoing MPAA chief reiterated that movies, music, games and a wide range of entertainment products are all available online legally now. Nevertheless, piracy remains a “growing phenomenon” that has criminals at its core.

“Piracy is composed of criminal organizations, ready to steal sensitive data and to make illegal profits any way they can. It’s a business that harms the entire audiovisual market, which in Europe alone has a million working professionals. To promote the culture of legality means protecting this market and its collective heritage,” Dodd said.

In Italy, convincing pirates to go legal might be more easily said than done. Not only do millions download video every year, but the majority of pirates are happy with the quality too. 89% said they were pleased with the quality of downloaded movies while the satisfaction with TV shows was even greater with 91% indicating approval.

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

TheDarkOverlord Leaks Eight Episodes of an Unreleased ABC Show

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/thedarkoverlord-leaks-eight-episodes-of-unreleased-abc-show-170605/

Late April, a hacking group calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO) warned that unless a ransom was paid, it would begin leaking a trove of unreleased TV shows and movies.

Almost immediately it carried through with its threat by leaking the season five premiere of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black. The leak was just the start though, with another nine episodes quickly following. Netflix had clearly refused to pay any ransom.

Ever since there have been suggestions that TDO could leak additional material. It was previously established that the Orange is the New Black leak was the result of a breach at post-production studio Larson Studios. TDO previously indicated that it had more content up its sleeve from the same location.

During the past few hours that became evident when a message sent to TF heralded a new leak of yet another unaired show.

“We’ve just released ABC’s ‘Steve Harvey’s Funderdome’ Season 01 Episodes 01 through 08. This is a completely unaired show,” TDO told TF.

TDO refused to confirm where it had obtained the content but since the show was present in an earlier list distributed by TDO, it seems possible if not probable that the episodes were also obtained from Larson.

“We’re unwilling to discuss the source of this material, but we’ll go on the record stating that this is content that is owned by American Broadcasting Company and it’s just been released on the world wide web for everyone’s consumption,” TDO said.

As can be seen from the image below, the series is now being distributed on The Pirate Bay.

At the time of writing, interest in the episodes is low, with less than a dozen peers reported on the torrent. Those numbers are likely to increase as the day goes on but it’s safe to say that interest is at a much lower level than when Orange is the New Black was dumped online.

Interest levels aside, the reason that both series were leaked appears to be the same. Although TDO wouldn’t go into specifics, the hacking entity told TF that it contacted ABC with demands but had no success.

“We approached ABC with a most handsome business proposal, but we were so rudely denied an audience. Therefore, we decided to bestow a gift upon the good people of the internet,” TDO said.

On June 2, TDO already indicated that ABC could be the next target with a short announcement on Twitter. “American Broadcasting Company may be up next, ladies and gentlemen,” TDO wrote.

Interestingly, there’s a suggestion that TDO views the Netflix and ABC leaks as being different, in that it views the companies’ routes to market as dissimilar.

“This is a different model than Netflix as ABC’s profits are generated much differently,” TDO concludes.

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