All posts by Andy

Russia Blacklists 250 Pirate Sites For Displaying Gambling Ads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blacklists-250-pirate-sites-for-displaying-gambling-ads-180421/

Blocking alleged pirate sites is usually a question of proving that they’re involved in infringement and then applying to the courts for an injunction.

In Europe, the process is becoming easier, largely thanks to an EU ruling that permits blocking on copyright grounds.

As reported over the past several years, Russia is taking its blocking processes very seriously. Copyright holders can now have sites blocked in just a few days, if they can show their operators as being unresponsive to takedown demands.

This week, however, Russian authorities have again shown that copyright infringement doesn’t have to be the only Achilles’ heel of pirate sites.

Back in 2006, online gambling was completely banned in Russia. Three years later in 2009, land-based gambling was also made illegal in all but four specified regions. Then, in 2012, the Russian Supreme Court ruled that ISPs must block access to gambling sites, something they had previously refused to do.

That same year, telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor began publishing a list of banned domains and within those appeared some of the biggest names in gambling. Many shut down access to customers located in Russia but others did not. In response, Rozcomnadzor also began targeting sites that simply offered information on gambling.

Fast forward more than six years and Russia is still taking a hard line against gambling operators. However, it now finds itself in a position where the existence of gambling material can also assist the state in its quest to take down pirate sites.

Following a complaint from the Federal Tax Service of Russia, Rozcomnadzor has again added a large number of ‘pirate’ sites to the country’s official blocklist after they advertised gambling-related products and services.

“Rozkomnadzor, at the request of the Federal Tax Service of Russia, added more than 250 pirate online cinemas and torrent trackers to the unified register of banned information, which hosted illegal advertising of online casinos and bookmakers,” the telecoms watchdog reported.

Almost immediately, 200 of the sites were blocked by local ISPs since they failed to remove the advertising when told to do so. For the remaining 50 sites, breathing space is still available. Their bans can be suspended if the offending ads are removed within a timeframe specified by the authorities, which has not yet run out.

“Information on a significant number of pirate resources with illegal advertising was received by Rozcomnadzor from citizens and organizations through a hotline that operates on the site of the Unified Register of Prohibited Information, all of which were sent to the Federal Tax Service for making decisions on restricting access,” the watchdog revealed.

Links between pirate sites and gambling companies have traditionally been close over the years, with advertising for many top-tier brands appearing on portals large and small. However, in recent times the prevalence of gambling ads has diminished, in part due to campaigns conducted in the United States, Europe, and the UK.

For pirate site operators in Russia, the decision to carry gambling ads now comes with the added risk of being blocked. Only time will tell whether any reduction in traffic is considered serious enough to warrant a gambling boycott of their own.

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

Facebook Privacy Fiasco Sees Congress Urged on Anti-Piracy Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-privacy-fiasco-sees-congress-urged-on-anti-piracy-action-180420/

It has been a tumultuous few weeks for Facebook, and some would say quite rightly so. The company is a notorious harvester of personal information but last month’s Cambridge Analytica scandal really brought things to a head.

With Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in the midst of a PR nightmare, last Tuesday the entrepreneur appeared before the Senate. A day later he faced a grilling from lawmakers, answering questions concerning the social networking giant’s problems with user privacy and how it responds to breaches.

What practical measures Zuckerberg and his team will take to calm the storm are yet to unfold but the opportunity to broaden the attack on both Facebook and others in the user-generated content field is now being seized upon. Yes, privacy is the number one controversy at the moment but Facebook and others of its ilk need to step up and take responsibility for everything posted on their platforms.

That’s the argument presented by the American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, CreativeFuture, and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, who together represent more than 650 entertainment industry companies and 240,000 members. CreativeFuture alone represents more than 500 companies, including all the big Hollywood studios and major players in the music industry.

In letters sent to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the coalitions urge Congress to not only ensure that Facebook gets its house in order, but that Google, Twitter, and similar platforms do so too.

The letters begin with calls to protect user data and tackle the menace of fake news but given the nature of the coalitions and their entertainment industry members, it’s no surprise to see where this is heading.

“In last week’s hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg stressed several times that Facebook must ‘take a broader view of our responsibility,’ acknowledging that it is ‘responsible for the content’ that appears on its service and must ‘take a more active view in policing the ecosystem’ it created,” the letter reads.

“While most content on Facebook is not produced by Facebook, they are the publisher and distributor of immense amounts of content to billions around the world. It is worth noting that a lot of that content is posted without the consent of the people who created it, including those in the creative industries we represent.”

The letter recalls Zuckerberg as characterizing Facebook’s failure to take a broader view of its responsibilities as a “big mistake” while noting he’s also promised change.

However, the entertainment groups contend that the way the company has conducted itself – and the manner in which many Silicon Valley companies conduct themselves – is supported and encouraged by safe harbors and legal immunities that absolve internet platforms of accountability.

“We agree that change needs to happen – but we must ask ourselves whether we can expect to see real change as long as these companies are allowed to continue to operate in a policy framework that prioritizes the growth of the internet over accountability and protects those that fail to act responsibly. We believe this question must be at the center of any action Congress takes in response to the recent failures,” the groups write.

But while the Facebook fiasco has provided the opportunity for criticism, CreativeFuture and its colleagues see the problem from a much broader perspective. They suck in companies like Google, which is also criticized for shirking its responsibilities, largely because the law doesn’t compel it to act any differently.

“Google, another major global platform that has long resisted meaningful accountability, also needs to step forward and endorse the broader view of responsibility expressed by Mr. Zuckerberg – as do many others,” they continue.

“The real problem is not Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg, regardless of how sincerely he seeks to own the ‘mistakes’ that led to the hearing last week. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet and fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on businesses that are built around monetizing other people’s personal information and content.”

Noting that Congress has encouraged technology companies to prosper by using a “light hand” for the past several decades, the groups say their level of success now calls for a fresh approach and a heavier touch.

“Facebook and Google are grown-ups – and it is time they behaved that way. If they will not act, then it is up to you and your colleagues in the House to take action and not let these platforms’ abuses continue to pile up,” they conclude.

But with all that said, there is an interesting conflict that develops when presenting the solution to piracy in the context of a user privacy fiasco.

In the EU, many of the companies involved in the coalitions above are calling for pre-emptive filters to prevent allegedly infringing content being uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. That means that all user uploads to such platforms will have to be opened and scanned to see what they contain before they’re allowed online.

So, user privacy or pro-active anti-piracy filters? It might not be easy or even legal to achieve both.

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

Pirates Taunt Amazon Over New “Turd Sandwich” Prime Video Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-taunt-amazon-over-new-turd-sandwich-prime-video-quality-180419/

Even though they generally aren’t paying for the content they consume, don’t fall into the trap of believing that all pirates are eternally grateful for even poor quality media.

Without a doubt, some of the most quality-sensitive individuals are to be found in pirate communities and they aren’t scared to make their voices known when release groups fail to come up with the best possible goods.

This week there’s been a sustained chorus of disapproval over the quality of pirate video releases sourced from Amazon Prime. The anger is usually directed at piracy groups who fail to capture content in the correct manner but according to a number of observers, the problem is actually at Amazon’s end.

Discussions on Reddit, for example, report that episodes in a single TV series have been declining in filesize and bitrate, from 1.56 GB in 720p at a 3073 kb/s video bitrate for episode 1, down to 907 MB in 720p at just 1514 kb/s video bitrate for episode 10.

Numerous theories as to why this may be the case are being floated around, including that Amazon is trying to save on bandwidth expenses. While this is a possibility, the company hasn’t made any announcements to that end.

Indeed, one legitimate customer reported that he’d raised the quality issue with Amazon and they’d said that the problem was “probably on his end”.

“I have Amazon Prime Video and I noticed the quality was always great for their exclusive shows, so I decided to try buying the shows on Amazon instead of iTunes this year. I paid for season pass subscriptions for Legion, Billions and Homeland this year,” he wrote.

“Just this past weekend, I have noticed a significant drop in details compared to weeks before! So naturally I assumed it was an issue on my end. I started trying different devices, calling support, etc, but nothing really helped.

“Billions continued to look like a blurry mess, almost like I was watching a standard definition DVD instead of the crystal clear HD I paid for and have experienced in the past! And when I check the previous episodes, sure enough, they look fantastic again. What the heck??”

With Amazon distancing itself from the issues, piracy groups have already begun to dig in the knife. Release group DEFLATE has been particularly critical.

“Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to start fucking with the quality of their encodes. They’re now reaching Netflix’s subpar 1080p.H264 levels, and their H265 encodes aren’t even close to what Netflix produces,” the group said in a file attached to S02E07 of The Good Fight released on Sunday.

“Netflix is able to produce drastic visual improvements with their H265 encodes compared to H264 across every original. In comparison, Amazon can’t decide whether H265 or H264 is going to produce better results, and as a result we suffer for it.”

Arrr! The quality be fallin’

So what’s happening exactly?

A TorrentFreak source (who tells us he’s been working in the BluRay/DCP authoring business for the last 10 years) was kind enough to give us two opinions, one aimed at the techies and another at us mere mortals.

“In technical terms, it appears [Amazon has] increased the CRF [Constant Rate Factor] value they use when encoding for both the HEVC [H265] and H264 streams. Previously, their H264 streams were using CRF 18 and a max bitrate of 15Mbit/s, which usually resulted in file sizes of roughly 3GB, or around 10Mbit/s. Similarly with their HEVC streams, they were using CRF 20 and resulting in streams which were around the same size,” he explained.

“In the past week, the H264 streams have decreased by up to 50% for some streams. While there are no longer any x264 headers embedded in the H264 streams, the HEVC streams still retain those headers and the CRF value used has been increased, so it does appear this change has been done on purpose.”

In layman’s terms, our source believes that Amazon had previously been using an encoding profile that was “right on the edge of relatively good quality” which kept bitrates relatively low but high enough to ensure no perceivable loss of quality.

“H264 streams encoded with CRF 18 could provide an acceptable compromise between quality and file size, where the loss of detail is often negligible when watched at regular viewing distances, at a desk, or in a lounge room on a larger TV,” he explained.

“Recently, it appears these values have been intentionally changed in order to lower the bitrate and file sizes for reasons unknown. As a result, the quality of some streams has been reduced by up to 50% of their previous values. This has introduced a visual loss of quality, comparable to that of viewing something in standard definition versus high definition.”

With the situation failing to improve during the week, by the time piracy group DEFLATE released S03E14 of Supergirl on Tuesday their original criticism had transformed into flat-out insults.

“These are only being done in H265 because Amazon have shit the bed, and it’s a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche,” they wrote, offering these images as illustrative of the problem and these indicating what should be achievable.

With DEFLATE advising customers to start complaining to Amazon, the memes have already begun, with unfavorable references to now-defunct group YIFY (which was often chastized for its low quality rips) and even a spin on one of the most well known anti-piracy campaigns.

You wouldn’t download stream….

TorrentFreak contacted Amazon Prime for comment on both the recent changes and growing customer complaints but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

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

Telegram Founder Pledges Millions in Bitcoin For VPNs and “Digital Resistance”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/telegram-founder-pledges-millions-in-bitcoin-for-vpns-and-digital-resistance-180418/

Starting yesterday, Russia went to war with free cross-platform messaging app Telegram. Authorities including the FSB wanted access to Telegram’s encryption keys, but the service refused to hand them over.

As a result, the service – which serviced 200,000,000 people in March alone – came under massive attack. Supported by a court ruling obtained last Friday, authorities ordered ISPs to block huge numbers of IP addresses in an effort to shut Telegram down.

Amazon and Google, whose services Telegram uses, were both hit with censorship measures, with around 1.8 million IP addresses belonging to the Internet giants blocked in an initial wave of action. But the government was just getting warmed up.

In an updated posted by Pavel Durov to Twitter from Switzerland late last night, the Telegram founder confirmed that Russia had massively stepped up the fight against his encrypted messaging platform.

Of course, 15 million IP addresses is a huge volume, particularly since ‘just’ 14 million of Telegram’s users are located in Russia – that’s more than one IP address for each of them. As a result, there are reports of completed unrelated services being affected by the ban, which is to be expected given its widespread nature. But Russia doesn’t want to stop there.

According to Reuters, local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor asked both Google and Apple [Update: and APKMirror] to remove Telegram from their app stores, to prevent local citizens from gaining access to the software itself. It is unclear whether either company intends to comply but as yet, neither has responded publicly nor taken any noticeable action.

An announcement from Durov last night thanked the companies for not complying with the Russian government’s demands, noting that the efforts so far had proven mostly futile.

“Despite the ban, we haven’t seen a significant drop in user engagement so far, since Russians tend to bypass the ban with VPNs and proxies. We also have been relying on third-party cloud services to remain partly available for our users there,” Durov wrote on Telegram.

“Thank you for your support and loyalty, Russian users of Telegram. Thank you, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft – for not taking part in political censorship.”

Durov noted that Russia accounts for around 7% of Telegram’s userbase, a figure that could be compensated for with organic growth in just a couple of months, even if Telegram lost access to the entire market. However, the action only appears to have lit a fire under the serial entrepreneur, who now has declared a war of his own against censorship.

“To support internet freedoms in Russia and elsewhere I started giving out bitcoin grants to individuals and companies who run socks5 proxies and VPN,” Durov said.

“I am happy to donate millions of dollars this year to this cause, and hope that other people will follow. I called this Digital Resistance – a decentralized movement standing for digital freedoms and progress globally.”

As founder of not only Telegram but also vKontakte, Russia’s answer to Facebook, Durov is a force to be reckoned with. As such, his promises are unlikely to be hollow ones. While Russia has drawn a line in the sand on encryption, it appears to have energized Durov to take a stand, one that could have a positive effect on anti-censorship measures both in Russia and further afield.

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

Russia’s Encryption War: 1.8m Google & Amazon IPs Blocked to Silence Telegram

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-encryption-war-1-8m-google-amazon-ips-blocked-to-silence-telegram-180417/

The rules in Russia are clear. Entities operating an encrypted messaging service need to register with the authorities. They also need to hand over their encryption keys so that if law enforcement sees fit, users can be spied on.

Free cross-platform messaging app Telegram isn’t playing ball. An impressive 200,000,000 people used the software in March (including a growing number for piracy purposes) and founder Pavel Durov says he will not compromise their security, despite losing a lawsuit against the Federal Security Service which compels him to do so.

“Telegram doesn’t have shareholders or advertisers to report to. We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties,” Durov said.

“Above all, we at Telegram believe in people. We believe that humans are inherently intelligent and benevolent beings that deserve to be trusted; trusted with freedom to share their thoughts, freedom to communicate privately, freedom to create tools. This philosophy defines everything we do.”

But by not handing over its keys, Telegram is in trouble with Russia. The FSB says it needs access to Telegram messages to combat terrorism so, in response to its non-compliance, telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor filed a lawsuit to degrade Telegram via web-blocking. Last Friday, that process ended in the state’s favor.

After an 18-minute hearing, a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia. The hearing was scheduled just the day before, giving Telegram little time to prepare. In protest, its lawyers didn’t even turn up to argue the company’s position.

Instead, Durov took to his VKontakte account to announce that Telegram would take counter-measures.

“Telegram will use built-in methods to bypass blocks, which do not require actions from users, but 100% availability of the service without a VPN is not guaranteed,” Durov wrote.

Telegram can appeal the blocking decision but Russian authorities aren’t waiting around for a response. They are clearly prepared to match Durov’s efforts, no matter what the cost.

In instructions sent out yesterday nationwide, Rozomnadzor ordered ISPs to block Telegram. The response was immediate and massive. Telegram was using both Amazon and Google to provide service to its users so, within hours, huge numbers of IP addresses belonging to both companies were targeted.

Initially, 655,352 Amazon IP addresses were placed on Russia’s nationwide blacklist. It was later reported that a further 131,000 IP addresses were added to that total. But the Russians were just getting started.

Servers.ru reports that a further 1,048,574 IP addresses belonging to Google were also targeted Monday. Rozcomnadzor said the court ruling against Telegram compelled it to take whatever action is needed to take Telegram down but with at least 1,834,996 addresses now confirmed blocked, it remains unclear what effect it’s had on the service.

Friday’s court ruling states that restrictions against Telegram can be lifted provided that the service hands over its encryption keys to the FSB. However, Durov responded by insisting that “confidentiality is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised because of fear or greed.”

But of course, money is still part of the Telegram equation. While its business model in terms of privacy stands in stark contrast to that of Facebook, Telegram is also involved in the world’s biggest initial coin offering (ICO). According to media reports, it has raised $1.7 billion in pre-sales thus far.

This week’s action against Telegram is the latest in Russia’s war on ‘unauthorized’ encryption.

At the end of March, authorities suggested that around 15 million IP addresses (13.5 million belonging to Amazon) could be blocked to target chat software Zello. While those measures were averted, a further 500 domains belonging to Google were caught in the dragnet.

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

TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said.

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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

Pirate Site-Blocking? Music Biz Wants App Blocking Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blocking-music-biz-wants-app-blocking-too-180415/

In some way, shape or form, Internet piracy has always been carried out through some kind of application. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer client utilizing BitTorrent or eD2K, or a Usenet or FTP tool taking things back to their roots, software has always played a crucial role.

Of course, the nature of the Internet beast means that software usage is unavoidable but in recent years piracy has swung more towards the regular web browser, meaning that sites and services offering pirated content are largely easy to locate, identify and block, if authorities so choose.

As revealed this week by the MPA, thousands of platforms around the world are now targeted for blocking, with 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains blocked in Europe alone.

However, as the Kodi phenomenon has shown, web-based content doesn’t always have to be accessed via a standard web browser. Clever but potentially illegal addons and third-party apps are able to scrape web-based resources and present links to content on a wide range of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to set-top boxes.

While it’s still possible to block the resources upon which these addons rely, the scattered nature of the content makes the process much more difficult. One can’t simply block a whole platform because a few movies are illegally hosted there and even Google has found itself hosting thousands of infringing titles, a situation that’s ruthlessly exploited by addon and app developers alike.

Needless to say, the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has spent the last year (1,2,3) targeting many people involved in the addon and app scene, hoping they’ll take their tools and run, rather than further develop a rapidly evolving piracy ecosystem.

Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.

The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.

“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.

“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.

And if Blinov is to be believed, music in Russia is doing particularly well at the moment. Attributing successes to efforts by parliament, the Ministry of Communications, and copyright holders, Blinov said the local music market has doubled in the past two years.

“We are now in the top three fastest growing markets in the world, behind only China and South Korea,” Blinov said.

While some apps can work in the same manner as a basic web interface, others rely on more complex mechanisms, ‘scraping’ content from diverse sources that can be easily and readily changed if mitigation measures kick in. It will be very interesting to see how Russia deals with this threat and whether it will opt for highly technical solutions or the nuclear options demonstrated recently.

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

IP Address Fail: ISP Doesn’t Have to Hand ‘Pirates’ Details to Copyright Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ip-address-fail-isp-doesnt-have-to-hand-pirates-details-to-copyright-trolls-180414/

On October 27, 2016, UK-based Copyright Management Services (CMS) filed a case against Sweden-based ISP, Tele2.

CMS, run by Patrick Achache of German-based anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye (which in turn is deeply involved with infamous copyright troll outfit Guardaley), claimed that Tele2 customers had infringed its clients’ copyrights on the movies Cell and IT by sharing them via BitTorrent.

Since Tele2 had the personal details of the customers behind those IP addresses, CMS asked the Patent and Market Court to prevent the ISP from deleting the data before it could be handed over. Once in its possession, CMS would carry out the usual process of writing to customers and demanding cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits go away.

Tele2 complained that it could not hand over the details of customers using NAT addresses since it simply doesn’t hold that information. The ISP also said it could not hand over details of customers if IP address information had previously been deleted.

Taking these objections into consideration, in November 2017 the Court approved an interim order in respect of the remaining IP addresses. But there were significant problems which led the ISP to appeal.

According to tests carried out by Tele2, many of the IP addresses in the case did not relate to Sweden or indeed Tele2. In fact, some IP addresses belonged to foreign companies or mere affiliates of the ISP.

“Tele2 thus lacks the actual ability to provide information regarding a large part of the IP addresses covered by the submission,” the Court of Appeal noted in a decision published this week.

The problem appears to lie with the way the MaverickEye monitoring system attributed monitored IP addresses to Tele2.

The Court notes that the company relied on the RIPE Database which stated that the IP addresses in question were allocated to the “geographic area of Sweden”. According to Tele2, however, that wasn’t the case and as such, it had no information to hand over.

CMS, on the other hand, maintained that according to RIPE’s records, Tele2 was indeed the controller of the IP addresses in question so must hand over the information as requested.

While the Patent and Market Court said that Tele2 didn’t object to the MaverickEye monitoring software in terms of the data it collects on file-sharers, it noted that CMS had failed to initiate an investigation in respect of the IP addresses allegedly not belonging to Tele2.

“CMS has not invoked any investigation showing how the identification of the IP addresses in question is made in this case or who at Maverickeye UG was responsible for this,” the Court writes.

“Nor did CMS use the opportunity to hear representatives of Tele2 or others with Tele2 in mind to discover if the company has access to any of the current IP addresses and, if so, which.”

Considering the above, the Court notes that Tele2’s statement, that it doesn’t have access to the data, must stand.

“In these circumstances, CMS, against Tele2’s appeal, has not shown that Tele2 holds the information requested by the disclosure order. CMS’ application for a disclosure order should therefore be rejected,” the Court concludes.

The decision cannot be appealed so Copyright Management Services won’t get its hands on the personal details of the people behind the IP addresses, at least through this process.

The decision (Swedish, pdf)

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

WHOIS Limits Under GDPR Will Make Pirates Harder to Catch, Groups Fear

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/whois-limits-under-gdpr-will-make-pirates-harder-to-catch-groups-fear-180413/

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law covering data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

As more and more personal data is gathered, stored and (ab)used online, the aim of the GDPR is to protect EU citizens from breaches of privacy. The regulation applies to all companies processing the personal data of subjects residing in the Union, no matter where in the world the company is located.

Penalties for non-compliance can be severe. While there is a tiered approach according to severity, organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. Needless to say, the regulations will need to be taken seriously.

Among those affected are domain name registries and registrars who publish the personal details of domain name owners in the public WHOIS database. In a full entry, a person or organization’s name, address, telephone numbers and email addresses can often be found.

This raises a serious issue. While registries and registrars are instructed and contractually obliged to publish data in the WHOIS database by global domain name authority ICANN, in millions of cases this conflicts with the requirements of the GDPR, which prevents the details of private individuals being made freely available on the Internet.

As explained in detail by the EFF, ICANN has been trying to resolve this clash. Its proposed interim model for GDPR compliance (pdf) envisions registrars continuing to collect full WHOIS data but not necessarily publishing it, to “allow the existing data
to be preserved while the community discussions continue on the next generation of WHOIS.”

But the proposed changes that will inevitably restrict free access to WHOIS information has plenty of people spooked, including thousands of companies belonging to entertainment industry groups such as the MPAA, IFPI, RIAA and the Copyright Alliance.

In a letter sent to Vice President Andrus Ansip of the European Commission, these groups and dozens of others warn that restricted access to WHOIS will have a serious effect on their ability to protect their intellectual property rights from “cybercriminals” which pose a threat to their businesses.

Signed by 50 organizations involved in IP protection and other areas of online security, the letter expresses concern that in attempting to comply with the GDPR, ICANN is on a course to “over-correct” while disregarding proportionality, accountability and transparency.

A small sample of the groups calling on ICANN

“We strongly assert that this model does not properly account for the critical public and legitimate interests served by maintaining a sufficient amount of data publicly available while respecting privacy interests of registrants by instituting a tiered or layered access system for the vast majority of personal data as defined by the GDPR,” the groups write.

The letter focuses on two aspects of “over-correction”, the first being ICANN’s proposal that no personal data whatsoever of a domain name registrant will be made available “without appropriate consideration or balancing of the countervailing interests in public disclosure of a limited amount of such data.”

In response to ICANN’s proposal that only the province/state and country of a domain name registrant be made publicly available, the groups advise the organization that publishing “a natural person registrant’s e-mail address” in a publicly accessible WHOIS directory will not constitute a breach of the GDPR.

“[W]e strongly believe that the continued public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address – specifically the e-mail address that the registrant supplies to the registrar at the time the domain name is purchased and which e-mail address the registrar is required to validate – is critical for several reasons,” the groups write.

“First, it is the data element that is typically the most important to have readily available for law enforcement, consumer protection, particularly child protection, intellectual property enforcement and cybersecurity/anti-malware purposes.

“Second, the public accessibility of the registrant’s e-mail address permits a broad array of threats and illegal activities to be addressed quickly and the damage from such threats mitigated and contained in a timely manner, particularly where the abusive/illegal activity may be spawned from a variety of different domain names on different generic Top Level Domains,” they add.

The groups also argue that since making email addresses is effectively required in light of Article 5.1(c) ECD, “there is no legitimate justification to discontinue public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address in the WHOIS directory and especially not in light of other legitimate purposes.”

The EFF, on the other hand, says that being able to contact a domain owner wouldn’t necessarily require an email address to be made public.

“There are other cases in which it makes sense to allow members of the public to contact the owner of a domain, without having to obtain a court order,” EFF writes.

“But this could be achieved very simply if ICANN were simply to provide something like a CAPTCHA-protected contact form, which would deliver email to the appropriate contact point with no need to reveal the registrant’s actual email address.”

The groups’ second main concern is that ICANN reportedly makes no distinction between name registrants that are “natural persons versus those that are legal entities” and intends to treat them all as if they are subject to the GDPR, despite the fact that the regulation only applies to data associated with an “identified or identifiable natural person”.

They say it is imperative that EU Data Protection Authorities are made to understand that when registrants obtain a domain for illegal purposes, they often only register it as a “natural person” when registering as a legal person (legal entity) would be more appropriate, despite that granting them less privacy.

“Consequently, the test for differentiating between a legal and natural person should not merely be the legal status of the registrant, but also whether the registrant is, in fact, acting as a legal or natural person vis a vis the use of the domain name,” the groups note.

“We therefore urge that ICANN be given appropriate guidance as to the importance of maintaining a distinction between natural person and legal person registrants and keeping as much data about legal person domain name registrants as publicly accessible as possible,” they conclude.

What will happen with WHOIS on May 25 still isn’t clear. It wasn’t until October 2017 that ICANN finally determined that it would be affected by the GDPR, meaning that it’s been scrambling ever since to meet the compliance date. And it still is, according to the latest available documentation (pdf).

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

Reddit Copyright Complaints Jump 138% But Almost Half Get Rejected

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-copyright-complaints-jump-138-but-almost-half-get-rejected-180411/

So-called ‘transparency reports’ are becoming increasingly popular with Internet-based platforms and their users. Among other things, they provide much-needed insight into how outsiders attempt to censor content published online and what actions are taken in response.

Google first started publishing its report in 2010, Twitter followed in 2012, and they’ve now been joined by a multitude of major companies including Microsoft, Facebook and Cloudflare.

As one of the world’s most recognized sites, Reddit joined the transparency party fairly late, publishing its first report in early 2015. While light on detail, it revealed that in the previous year the site received just 218 requests to remove content, 81% of which were DMCA-style copyright notices. A significant 62% of those copyright-related requests were rejected.

Over time, Reddit’s reporting has become a little more detailed. Last April it revealed that in 2016, the platform received ‘just’ 3,294 copyright removal requests for the entire year. However, what really caught the eye is how many notices were rejected. In just 610 instances, Reddit was required to remove content from the site, a rejection rate of 81%.

Having been a year since Reddit’s last report, the company has just published its latest edition, covering the period January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.

“Reddit publishes this transparency report every year as part of our ongoing commitment to keep you aware of the trends on the various requests regarding private Reddit user account information or removal of content posted to Reddit,” the company said in a statement.

“Reddit believes that maintaining this transparency is extremely important. We want you to be aware of this information, consider it carefully, and ask questions to keep us accountable.”

The detailed report covers a wide range of topics, including government requests for the preservation or production of user information (there were 310) and even an instruction to monitor one Reddit user’s activities in real time via a so-called ‘Trap and Trace’ order.

In copyright terms, there has been significant movement. In 2017, Reddit received 7,825 notifications of alleged copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that’s up roughly 138% over the 3,294 notifications received in 2016.

For a platform of Reddit’s unquestionable size, these volumes are not big. While the massive percentage increase is notable, the site still receives less than 10 complaints each day. For comparison, Google receives millions every week.

But perhaps most telling is that despite receiving more than 7,800 DMCA-style takedown notices, these resulted in Reddit carrying out just 4,352 removals. This means that for whatever reasons (Reddit doesn’t specify), 3,473 requests were denied, a rejection rate of 44.38%. Google, on the other hand, removes around 90% of content reported.

DMCA notices can be declared invalid for a number of reasons, from incorrect formatting through to flat-out abuse. In many cases, copyright law is incorrectly applied and it’s not unknown for complainants to attempt a DMCA takedown to stifle speech or perceived competition.

Reddit says it tries to take all things into consideration before removing content.

“Reddit reviews each DMCA takedown notice carefully, and removes content where a valid report is received, as required by the law,” the company says.

“Reddit considers whether the reported content may fall under an exception listed in the DMCA, such as ‘fair use,’ and may ask for clarification that will assist in the review of the removal request.”

Considering the numbers of community-focused “subreddits” dedicated to piracy (not just general discussion, but actual links to content), the low numbers of copyright notices received by Reddit continues to baffle.

There are sections in existence right now offering many links to movies and TV shows hosted on various file-hosting sites. They’re the type of links that are targeted all the time whenever they appear in Google search but copyright owners don’t appear to notice or care about them on Reddit.

Finally, it would be nice if Reddit could provide more information in next year’s report, including detail on why so many requests are rejected. Perhaps regular submission of notices to the Lumen Database would be something Reddit would consider for the future.

Reddit’s Transparency Report for 2017 can be found here.

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

MPA Reveals Scale of Worldwide Pirate Site Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpa-reveals-scale-of-worldwide-pirate-site-blocking-180410/

Few people following the controversial topic of Internet piracy will be unaware of the site-blocking phenomenon. It’s now one of the main weapons in the entertainment industries’ arsenal and it’s affecting dozens of countries.

While general figures can be culled from the hundreds of news reports covering the issue, the manner in which blocking is handled in several regions means that updates aren’t always provided. New sites are regularly added to blocklists without fanfare, meaning that the public is kept largely in the dark.

Now, however, a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) by Motion Picture Association Canada provides a more detailed overview. It was presented in support of the proposed blocking regime in Canada, so while the key figures are no doubt accurate, some of the supporting rhetoric should be viewed in context.

“Over the last decade, at least 42 countries have either adopted and implemented, or are legally obligated to adopt and implement, measures to ensure that ISPs take steps to disable access to copyright infringing websites, including throughout the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, and South Korea,” the submission reads.

The 42 blocking-capable countries referenced by the Hollywood group include the members of the European Union plus the following: Argentina, Australia, Iceland, India, Israel, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

While all countries have their own unique sets of legislation, countries within the EU are covered by the requirements of Article 8.3 of the INFOSEC Directive which provides that; “Member States shall ensure that rightholders are in a position to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right.”

That doesn’t mean that all countries are actively blocking, however. While Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia have the legal basis to block infringing sites, none have yet done so.

In a significant number of other EU countries, however, blocking activity is prolific.

“To date, in at least 17 European countries, over 1,800 infringing sites and over 5,300 domains utilized by such sites have been blocked, including in the following four countries where the positive impact of site-blocking over time has been demonstrated,” MPA Canada notes.

Major blocking nations in the EU

At this point, it’s worth pointing out that authority to block sites is currently being obtained in two key ways, either through the courts or via an administrative process.

In the examples above, the UK and Denmark are dealt with via the former, with Italy and Portugal handled via the latter. At least as far as the volume of sites is concerned, court processes – which can be expensive – tend to yield lower site blocking levels than those carried out through an administrative process. Indeed, the MPAA has praised Portugal’s super-streamlined efforts as something to aspire to.

Outside Europe, the same two processes are also in use. For example, Australia, Argentina, and Singapore utilize the judicial route while South Korea, Mexico, Malaysia and Indonesia have opted for administrative remedies.

“Across 10 of these countries, over 1,100 infringing sites and over 1,500 domains utilized by such sites have been blocked,” MPA Canada reveals.

To date, South Korea has blocked 460 sites and 547 domains, while Australia has blocked 91 sites and 355 domains. In the case of the latter, “research has confirmed the increasingly positive impact that site-blocking has, as a greater number of sites are blocked over time,” the Hollywood group notes.

Although by no means comprehensive, MPA Canada lists the following “Notorious Sites” as subject to blocking in multiple countries via both judicial and administrative means. Most will be familiar, with the truly notorious The Pirate Bay heading the pile. Several no longer exist in their original form but in many cases, clones are blocked as if they still represent the original target.


The methods used to block the sites vary from country to country, dependent on what courts deem fit and in consideration of ISPs’ technical capabilities. Three main tools are in use including DNS blocking, IP address blocking, and URL blocking, which can also include Deep Packet Inspection.

The MPA submission (pdf) is strongly in favor of adding Canada to the list of site-blocking countries detailed above. The Hollywood group believes that the measures are both effective and proportionate, citing reduced usage of blocked sites, reduced traffic to pirate sites in general, and increased visits to legitimate platforms.

“There is every reason to believe that the website blocking measures [presented to the CRTC] will lead to the same beneficial results in Canada,” MPA Canada states.

While plenty of content creators and distributors are in favor of proposals, all signs suggest they will have a battle on their hands, with even some ISPs coming out in opposition.

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

Roku Bans Popular Social IPTV Linking Service cCloud TV

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-bans-popular-social-iptv-linking-service-ccloud-tv-180409/

Despite being one of the more popular set-top box platforms, until last year Roku managed to stay completely out of the piracy conversation.

However, due to abuse of its system by third-parties, last June the Superior Court of Justice of the City of Mexico banned the importation and distribution of Roku devices in the country.

The decision followed a complaint filed by cable TV provider Cablevision, which said that some Roku channels and their users were infringing its distribution rights.

Since then, Roku has been fighting to have the ban lifted, previously informing TF that it expressly prohibits copyright infringement of any kind. That led to several more legal processes yet last month and after considerable effort, the ban was upheld, much to Roku’s disappointment.

“It is necessary for Roku to make adjustments to its software, as other online content distribution platforms do, so that violations of copyrighted content do not take place,” Cablevision said.

Then, at the end of March, Roku suddenly banned the USTVnow channel from its platform, citing a third-party copyright complaint.

In a series of emails with TF, the company declined to offer further details but there is plenty of online speculation that the decision was a move towards the “adjustments” demanded by Cablevision. Today yet more fuel is being poured onto that same fire with Roku’s decision to ban the popular cCloud TV service from its platform.

For those unfamiliar with cCloud TV, it’s a video streaming platform that relies on users to contribute media links found on the web, whether they’re movie and TV shows or live sporting events.

“Project cCloud TV is known as the ‘Popcorn Time for Live TV’. The project started with 50 channels and has grown over time and now has over 4000 channels from all around the world,” its founder ‘Bane’ told TF back in 2016.

“The project was inspired by Popcorn Time and its simplicity for streaming torrents. The service works based on media links that can be found anywhere on the web and the cCloud project makes it easier for users to stream.”

Aside from the vast array of content cCloud offers, its versatility is almost unrivaled. In an addition to working via most modern web browsers, it’s also accessible using smartphones, tablets, Plex media server, Kodi, VLC, and (until recently at least) Roku.

But cCloud and USTVnow aren’t the only services suffering bans at Roku.

As highlighted by CordCuttersNews, other channels are also suffering similar fates, such as XTV that was previously replaced with an FBI warning.

cCloud has had problems on Kodi too. Back in September 2017, TVAddons announced that it had been forced to remove the cCloud addon from its site.

“cCloud TV has been removed from our web site due to a complaint made by Bell, Rogers, Videotron and TVA on June 12th, 2017 as part of their lawsuit against our web site,” the site announced.

“Prior to hearing of the lawsuit, we had never received a single complaint relating to the cCloud TV addon for Kodi. cCloud TV for Kodi was developed by podgod, and was basically an interface for the community-based web service that goes by the same name.”

Last week, TVAddons went on to publish an “blacklist” that lists addons that have the potential to deliver content not authorized by rightsholders. Among many others, the list contains cCloud, meaning that potential users will now have to obtain it directly from the Kodi Bae Repository on Github instead.

At the time of publication, Roku had not responded to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.

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

Piracy Falls 6%, in Spain, But It’s Still a Multi-Billion Euro Problem

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-falls-6-in-spain-but-its-still-a-multi-billion-euro-problem-180409/

The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, which represents Spain’s leading entertainment industry companies, is keeping a close eye on the local piracy landscape.

The outfit has just published its latest Piracy Observatory and Digital Content Consumption Habits report, carried out by the independent consultant GFK, and there is good news to report on headline piracy figures.

During 2017, the report estimates that people accessed unlicensed digital content just over four billion times, which equates to almost 21.9 billion euros in lost revenues. While this is a significant number, it’s a decrease of 6% compared to 2016 and an accumulated decrease of 9% compared to 2015, the coalition reports.

Overall, movies are most popular with pirates, with 34% helping themselves to content without paying.

“The volume of films accessed illegally during 2017 was 726 million, with a market value of 5.7 billion euros, compared to 6.9 billion in 2016. 35% of accesses happened while the film was still on screens in cinema theaters, while this percentage was 33% in 2016,” the report notes.

TV shows are in a close second position with 30% of users gobbling up 945 million episodes illegally during 2017. A surprisingly high 24% of users went for eBooks, with music relegated to fourth place with ‘just’ 22%, followed by videogames (11%) and football (10%).

The reasons given by pirates for their habits are both varied and familiar. 51% said that original content is too expensive while 43% said that taking the illegal route “is fast and easy”. Half of the pirates said that simply paying for an internet connection was justification for getting content for free.

A quarter of all pirates believe that they aren’t doing anyone any harm, with the same number saying they get content without paying because there are no consequences for doing so. But it isn’t just pirates themselves in the firing line.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, the report heavily criticizes search engines for facilitating access to infringing content.

“With 75%, search engines are the main method of accessing illegal content and Google is used for nine out of ten accesses to pirate content,” the report reads.

“Regarding social networks, Facebook is the most used method of access (83%), followed by Twitter (42%) and Instagram (34%). Therefore it is most valuable that Facebook has reached agreements with different industries to become a legal source and to regulate access to content.”

Once on pirate sites, some consumers reported difficulties in determining whether they’re legal or not. Around 15% said that they had “big difficulties” telling whether a site is authorized with 44% saying they had problems “sometimes”.

That being said, given the amount of advertising on pirate sites, it’s no surprise that most knew a pirate site when they visited one and, according to the report, advertising placement is only on the up.

Just over a quarter of advertising appearing on pirate sites features well-known brands, although this is a reduction from more than 37% in 2016. This needs to be further improved, the coalition says, via collaboration between all parties involved in the industry.

A curious claim from the report is that 81% of pirate site users said they were required to register in order to use a platform. This resulted in “transferring personal data” to pirate site operators who gather it in databases that are used for profitable “e-marketing campaigns”.

“Pirate sites also get much more valuable data than one could imagine which allow them to get important economic benefits, as for example, Internet surfing habits, other websites visited by consumers, preferences, likes, and purchase habits,” the report states.

So what can be done to reduce consumer reliance on pirate sites? The report finds that consumers are largely in line with how the entertainment industries believe piracy should or could be tackled.

“The most efficient measures against piracy would be, according to the internet users’ own view, blocking access to the website offering content (78%) and penalizing internet providers (73%),” the report reads.

“Following these two, the best measure to reduce infringements would be, according to consumers, to promote social awareness campaigns against piracy (61%). This suggests that increased collaboration between the content sector and the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) could count on consumers’ support and positive assessment.”

Finally, consumers in Spain are familiar with the legal options, should they wish to take that route in future. Netflix awareness in the country is at 91%, Spotify at 81%, with Movistar+ and HBO at 80% and 68% respectively.

“This invalidates the reasons given by pirate users who said they did so because of the lack of an accessible legal offer at affordable prices,” the report adds.

However, those who take the plunge into the legal world don’t always kick the pirate habit, with the paper stating that users of pirates sites tend to carry on pirating, although they do pirate less in some sectors, notably music. The study also departs from findings in other regions that pirates can also be avid consumers of legitimate content.

Several reports, from the UK, Sweden, Australia, and even from Hollywood, have clearly indicated that pirates are the entertainment industries’ best customers.

In Spain, however, the situation appears to be much more pessimistic, with only 8% of people who access illegal digital content paying for legal content too. That seems low given that Netflix alone had more than a million Spanish subscribers at the end of 2017 and six million Spanish households currently subscribe to other pay TV services.

The report is available here (Spanish, pdf)

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

Piracy & Money Are Virtually Inseparable & People Probably Don’t Care Anymore

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-money-are-virtually-inseparable-people-probably-dont-care-anymore-180408/

Long before peer-to-peer file-sharing networks were a twinkle in developers’ eyes, piracy of software and games flourished under the radar. Cassettes, floppy discs and CDs were the physical media of choice, while the BBS became the haunt of the need-it-now generation.

Sharing was the name of the game. When someone had game ‘X’ on tape, it was freely shared with friends and associates because when they got game ‘Y’, the favor had to be returned. The content itself became the currency and for most, the thought of asking for money didn’t figure into the equation.

Even when P2P networks first took off, money wasn’t really a major part of the equation. Sure, the people running Kazaa and the like were generating money from advertising but for millions of users, sharing content between friends and associates was still the name of the game.

Even when the torrent site scene began to gain traction, money wasn’t the driving force. Everything was so new that developers were much more concerned with getting half written/half broken tracker scripts to work than anything else. Having people care enough to simply visit the sites and share something with others was the real payoff. Ironically, it was a reward that money couldn’t buy.

But as the scene began to develop, so did the influx of minor and even major businessmen. The ratio economy of the private tracker scene meant that bandwidth could essentially be converted to cash, something which gave site operators revenue streams that had never previously existed. That was both good and bad for the scene.

The fact is that running a torrent site costs money and if time is factored in too, that becomes lots of money. If site admins have to fund everything themselves, a tipping point is eventually reached. If the site becomes unaffordable, it closes, meaning that everyone loses. So, by taking in some donations or offering users other perks in exchange for financial assistance, the whole thing remains viable.

Counter-intuitively, the success of such a venture then becomes the problem, at least as far as maintaining the old “sharing is caring” philosophy goes. A well-run private site, with enthusiastic donors, has the potential to bring in quite a bit of cash. Initially, the excess can be saved away for that rainy day when things aren’t so good. Having a few thousand in the bank when chaos rains down is rarely a bad thing.

But what happens when a site does really well and is making money hand over fist? What happens when advertisers on public sites begin to queue up, offering lots of cash to get involved? Is a site operator really expected to turn down the donations and tell the advertisers to go away? Amazingly, some do. Less amazingly, most don’t.

Although there are some notable exceptions, particularly in the niche private tracker scene, these days most ‘pirate’ sites are in it for the money.

In the current legal climate, some probably consider this their well-earned ‘danger money’ yet others are so far away from the sharing ethos it hurts. Quite often, these sites are incapable of taking in a new member due to alleged capacity issues yet a sizeable ‘donation’ miraculously solves the problem and gets the user in. It’s like magic.

As it happens, two threads on Reddit this week sparked this little rant. Both discuss whether someone should consider paying $20 and 37 euros respectively to get invitations to a pair of torrent sites.

Ask a purist and the answer is always ‘NO’, whether that’s buying an invitation from the operator of a torrent site or from someone selling invites for profit.

Aside from the fact that no one on these sites has paid content owners a dime, sites that demand cash for entry are doing so for one reason and one reason only – profit. Ridiculous when it’s the users of those sites that are paying to distribute the content.

On the other hand, others see no wrong in it.

They argue that paying a relatively small amount to access huge libraries of content is preferable to spending hundreds of dollars on a legitimate service that doesn’t carry all the content they need. Others don’t bother making any excuses at all, spending sizable sums with pirate IPTV/VOD services that dispose of sharing morals by engaging in a different business model altogether.

But the bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that money and Internet piracy have become so intertwined, so enmeshed in each other’s existence, that it’s become virtually impossible to separate them.

Even those running the handful of non-profit sites still around today would be forced to reconsider if they had to start all over again in today’s climate. The risk model is entirely different and quite often, only money tips those scales.

The same holds true for the people putting together the next big streaming portals. These days it’s about getting as many eyeballs on content as possible, making the money, and getting out the other end unscathed.

This is not what most early pirates envisioned. This is certainly not what the early sharing masses wanted. Yet arguably, through the influx of business people and the desire to generate profit among the general population, the pirating masses have never had it so good.

As revealed in a recent study, volumes of piracy are on the up and it is now possible – still possible – to access almost any item of content on pirate sites, despite the so-called “follow the money” approach championed by the authorities.

While ‘Sharing is Caring’ still lives today, it’s slowly being drowned out and at this point, there’s probably no way back. The big question is whether anyone cares anymore and the answer to that is “probably not”.

So, if the driving force isn’t sharing or love, it’ll probably have to be money. And that works everywhere else, doesn’t it?

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

If YouTube-Ripping Sites Are Illegal, What About Tools That Do a Similar Job?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/if-youtube-ripping-sites-are-illegal-what-about-tools-that-do-a-similar-job-180407/

In 2016, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube.

While this might not have surprised those who regularly participate in the activity, IFPI said that volumes had become so vast that stream-ripping had overtaken pirate site music downloads. That was a big statement.

Probably not coincidentally, just two weeks later IFPI, RIAA, and BPI announced legal action against the world’s largest YouTube ripping site, YouTube-MP3.

“YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3’s users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3’s servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones,” the complaint read.

The labels sued YouTube-MP3 for direct infringement, contributory infringement, vicarious infringement, inducing others to infringe, plus circumvention of technological measures on top. The case was big and one that would’ve been intriguing to watch play out in court, but that never happened.

A year later in September 2017, YouTubeMP3 settled out of court. No details were made public but YouTube-MP3 apparently took all the blame and the court was asked to rule in favor of the labels on all counts.

This certainly gave the impression that what YouTube-MP3 did was illegal and a strong message was sent out to other companies thinking of offering a similar service. However, other onlookers clearly saw the labels’ lawsuit as something to be studied and learned from.

One of those was the operator of NotMP3downloader.com, a site that offers Free MP3 Recorder for YouTube, a tool offering similar functionality to YouTube-MP3 while supposedly avoiding the same legal pitfalls.

Part of that involves audio being processed on the user’s machine – not by stream-ripping as such – but by stream-recording. A subtle difference perhaps, but the site’s operator thinks it’s important.

“After examining the claims made by the copyright holders against youtube-mp3.org, we identified that the charges were based on the three main points. [None] of them are applicable to our product,” he told TF this week.

The first point involves YouTube-MP3’s acts of conversion, storage and distribution of content it had previously culled from YouTube. Copies of unlicensed tracks were clearly held on its own servers, a potent direct infringement risk.

“We don’t have any servers to download, convert or store a copyrighted or any other content from YouTube. Therefore, we do not violate any law or prohibition implied in this part,” NotMP3downloader’s operator explains.

Then there’s the act of “stream-ripping” itself. While YouTube-MP3 downloaded digital content from YouTube using its own software, NotMP3downloader claims to do things differently.

“Our software doesn’t download any streaming content directly, but only launches a web browser with the video specified by a user. The capturing happens from a local machine’s sound card and doesn’t deal with any content streamed through a network,” its operator notes.

This part also seems quite important. YouTube-MP3 was accused of unlawfully circumventing technological measures implemented by YouTube to prevent people downloading or copying content. By opening up YouTube’s own website and viewing content in the way the site demands, NotMP3downloader says it does not “violate the website’s integrity nor performs direct download of audio or video files.”

Like the Betamax video recorder before it that enabled recording from analog TV, NotMP3downloader enables a user to record a YouTube stream on their local machine. This, its makers claim, means the software is completely legal and defeats all the claims made by the labels in the YouTube-MP3 lawsuit.

“What YouTube does is broadcasting content through the Internet. Thus, there is nothing wrong if users are allowed to watch such content later as they may want,” the NotMP3downloader team explain.

“It is worth noting that in Sony Corp. of America v. United City Studios, Inc. (464 U.S. 417) the United States Supreme Court held that such practice, also known as time-shifting, was lawful representing fair use under the US Copyright Act and causing no substantial harm to the copyright holder.”

While software that can record video and sounds locally are nothing new, the developments in the YouTube-MP3 case and this response from NotMP3downloader raises interesting questions.

We put some of them to none other than former RIAA Executive Vice President, Neil Turkewitz, who now works as President of Turkewitz Consulting Group.

Turkewitz stressed that he doesn’t speak for the industry as a whole or indeed the RIAA but it’s clear that his passion for protecting creators persists. He told us that in this instance, reliance on the Betamax decision is “misplaced”.

“The content is different, the activity is different, and the function is different,” Turkewitz told TF.

“The Sony decision must be understood in its context — the time shifting of audiovisual programming being broadcast from point to multipoint. The making available of content by a point-to-point interactive service like YouTube isn’t broadcasting — or at a minimum, is not a form of broadcasting akin to that considered by the Supreme Court in Sony.

“More fundamentally, broadcasting (right of communication to the public) is one of only several rights implicated by the service. And of course, issues of liability will be informed by considerations of purpose, effect and perceived harm. A court’s judgment will also be affected by whether it views the ‘innovation’ as an attempt to circumvent the requirements of law. The decision of the Supreme Court in ABC v. Aereo is certainly instructive in that regard.”

And there are other issues too. While YouTube itself is yet to take any legal action to deter users from downloading rather than merely streaming content, its terms of service are quite specific and seem to cover all eventualities.

“[Y]ou agree not to access Content or any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming,” YouTube’s ToS reads.

“‘Streaming’ means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.

“You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.”

In this respect, it seems that a user doing anything but real-time streaming of YouTube content is breaching YouTube’s terms of service. The big question then, of course, is whether providing a tool specifically for that purpose represents an infringement of copyright.

The people behind Free MP3 Recorder believe that the “scope of application depends entirely on the end users’ intentions” which seems like a fair argument at first view. But, as usual, copyright law is incredibly complex and there are plenty of opposing views.

We asked the BPI, which took action against YouTubeMP3, for its take on this type of tool. The official response was “No comment” which doesn’t really clarify the position, at least for now.

Needless to say, the Betamax decision – relevant or not – doesn’t apply in the UK. But that only adds more parameters into the mix – and perhaps more opportunities for lawyers to make money arguing for and against tools like this in the future.

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

Japan Seeks to Outmaneuver Constitution With Piracy Blocking Proposals

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/japan-seeks-to-outmaneuver-constitution-with-piracy-blocking-proposals-180406/

Speaking at a news conference last month, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the Japanese government is considering measures to prohibit access to pirate sites, initially to protect the country’s manga and anime industries.

“The damage is getting worse. We are considering the possibilities of all measures including site blocking,” he said.

But Japan has a problem.

The country has no specific legislation that allows for site-blocking of any kind, let alone on copyright infringement grounds. In fact, the constitution expressly supports freedom of speech and expressly forbids censorship.

“Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed,” Article 21 reads.

“No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated,” the constitution adds.

Nevertheless, the government appears determined to do something about the piracy threat. As detailed last month, that looks like manifesting itself in a site-blocking regime. But how will this be achieved?

Mainichi reports that the government will argue there are grounds for “averting present danger”, a phrase that’s detailed in Article 37 of Japan’s Penal Code.

“An act unavoidably performed to avert a present danger to the life, body, liberty
or property of oneself or any other person is not punishable only when the harm
produced by such act does not exceed the harm to be averted,” the Article (pdf) begins.

It’s fairly clear that this branch of Japanese law was never designed for use against pirate sites. Furthermore, there is also a clause noting that where an act (in this case blocking) causes excessive harm it may lead “to the punishment being reduced or may exculpate the offender in light of the circumstances.”

How, when, or if that ever comes into play will remain to be seen but in common with most legal processes against pirate site operators elsewhere, few turn up to argue in their defense. A contested process is therefore unlikely.

It appears that rather than forcing Internet providers into compliance, the government will ask for their “understanding” on the basis that damage is being done to the anime and manga industries. ISPs reportedly already cooperate to censor child abuse sites so it’s hoped a similar agreement can be reached on piracy.

Initially, the blocking requests will relate to just three as-yet-unnamed platforms, one local and two based outside the country. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg and if ISPs agree to block this trio, more demands are sure to follow.

Meanwhile, the government is also working towards tightening up the law to deal with an estimated 200 local sites that link, but do not host pirated content. Under current legislation, linking isn’t considered illegal, which is a major problem given the manner in which most file-sharing and streaming is carried out these days.

However, there are also concerns that any amendments to tackle linking could fall foul of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. It’s a problem that has been tackled elsewhere, notably in Europe, but in most cases the latter has been trumped by the former. In any event, the government will need to tread carefully.

The proposals are expected to be formally approved at a Cabinet meeting on crime prevention policy later this month, Mainichi reports.

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

Fox Networks Obtains Piracy Blocking Injunction Against Rojadirecta

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fox-networks-obtains-piracy-blocking-injunction-against-rojadirecta-180405/

Twelve years ago this October, a court in Denmark ordered a local ISP to begin blocking unlicensed Russian music site AllofMP3. It was a landmark moment that opened the floodgates.

Although most countries took a few years to follow, blocking is now commonplace across Europe and if industry lobbyists have their way, it will soon head to North America. Meanwhile, other regions are getting their efforts underway, with Uruguay the latest country to reserve a place on the list.

The news comes via Fox Sports Latin America, which expressed satisfaction this week that a court in the country had handed down an interim injunction against local ISPs which compels them to block access to streaming portal Rojadirecta.

Despite a focus on Spanish speaking regions, Rojadirecta is one of the best known and longest-standing unauthorized sports in the world. Offering links to live streams of most spectator sports, Rojadirecta has gained a loyal and international following.

This has resulted in a number of lawsuits and legal challenges in multiple regions, the latest being a criminal copyright infringement complaint by Fox Sports Latin America. As usual, the company is annoyed that its content is being made available online without the proper authorization.

“This exemplary ruling marks the beginning of judicial awareness on online piracy issues,” said Daniel Steinmetz, Chief Anti-Piracy Officer of Fox Networks Group Latin America.

“FNG Latin America works constantly to combat the illegal use of content on different fronts and with great satisfaction we have found in Uruguay an important ally in the fight against this scourge. We are on our way to ending the impunity of these illegal content relay sites.”

Fox Sports says that with this pioneering action, Uruguay is now at the forefront of the campaign to tackle piracy currently running rampant across South America.

According to a NetNames report, there are 222 million Internet users in the region, of which 110 million access pirated content. This translates to 1,377 million TV hours per year but it’s hoped that additional action in other countries will help to stem the rising tide.

“We have already presented actions in other countries in the region where we will seek to replicate what we have obtained in Uruguay,” Fox said in a statement.

Local reports indicate that Internet providers have not yet taken action to block RojaDirecta but it’s expected they will do so in the near future.

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

Men Who Sold Pirate IPTV Service to Pubs Jailed for 4.5 Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/men-who-sold-pirate-iptv-service-to-pubs-jailed-for-4-5-years-180404/

For owners and landlords of pubs and clubs in the UK, providing top-tier sports on TV can be the key to bringing in plenty of thirsty customers.

That being said, the costs of doing so is viewed by many as extortionate, with companies including Sky and BT Sport demanding huge fees for the privilege.

As a result, there is a growing opportunity for people to step in to provide cheaper alternatives. With satellite-type piracy now on the wane, IPTV is now a rising force and there’s no shortage of companies prepared to sell a device and associated subscription service to a landlord for the fraction of Sky’s fees.

That’s where John Dodds, 65, and Jason Richards, 45, stepped in. From 2009 until 2016, the pair were involved in an operation selling such services to a staggering 270 pubs and clubs in the North-East of England.

While Sky could charge thousands per month, the duo allegedly charged customers less than £200 per month. For this fee, they received a set-top box plus a service, which included Premier League soccer and otherwise PPV boxing matches.

According to local sources, the scheme was incredibly lucrative for the pair. Via a fraudulent company, the duo generated revenues of £1.5m, which provided luxury cars and foreign homes.

Unfortunately, however, the business – which at some point was branded ‘Full Effects HD Sports’ – attracted the attention of the Premier League. In common with the movie industry before them, they carried out a private prosecution on the basis the pair were defrauding the organization.

“What the defendants created was their own, highly professional broadcasting service which was being sold to subscribers at a rate designed to undercut any legitimate broadcaster, which they were able to do as they weren’t paying to make any of the programmes or buy from the owners, such as the Premier League,” Prosecutor David Groome told the court.

The court was convinced by the Premier League’s arguments and this morning, before Newcastle Crown Court, the pair were sentenced to four-and-a-half years each in prison.

“This was a sophisticated fraud committed against numerous broadcasters throughout the world and those who have interests in the contents of broadcasts, particularly the Football Association, Premier League,” the judge said, as quoted by Sunderland Echo.

“You both knew perfectly well you were engaged in fraud because you knew the broadcasters were not being paid any or any appropriate fee for the use of their broadcasts. You were able to mislead customers, tell them that the services were lawful for them to use when you knew they were not.”

Unfortunately for the duo’s customers, a number of publicans who bought the service were also sued or prosecuted, which the judge noted could have negative consequences in relation to their future suitability to hold a liquor license.

“This is a hugely significant judgment as it provides further evidence that selling these devices is illegal and can result in a prison sentence,” said Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb.

“We hope this verdict gets the message out that selling or using these devices is simply not worth the risk.”

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

Police Assisted By MPAA Shut Down Pirate TV Box Sellers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-assisted-by-mpaa-shut-down-pirate-tv-box-sellers-180404/

Piracy configured set-top boxes are the next big thing, today. Millions have been sold around the world and anti-piracy groups are scrambling to rein them in.

Many strategies are being tested, from pressurizing developers of allegedly infringing addons to filing aggressive lawsuits against sites such as TVAddons, a Kodi addon repository now facing civil action in both the United States and Canada.

Also under fire are companies that sell set-top boxes that come ready configured for piracy. Both Tickbox TV and Dragon Media Inc are being sued by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) in the US. At this stage, neither case looks promising for the defendants.

However, civil action isn’t the only way to deal with defendants in the United States, as a man and woman team from Tampa, Florida, have just discovered after being arrested by local police.

Mickael Cantrell and Nancy Major were allegedly the brains behind NBEETV, a company promising to supply set-top boxes that deliver “every movie, every tv show that’s ever been made, plus live sports with no blackouts” with “no monthly fees ever.”

As similar cases have shown, this kind of marketing spiel rarely ends well for defendants but the people behind NBEE TV (also known as FreeTVForLife Inc.) were either oblivious or simply didn’t care about the consequences.

A company press release dated April 2017 advertising the company’s NBPro 3+ box and tracked down by TF this week reveals the extent of the boasts.

“NBPRO 3+ is a TV box that offers instant access to watch every episode of any TV show without paying any monthly bill. One just must attach the loaded box to his TV and stream whatever they want, with no commercials,” the company wrote.

But while “Free TV for Life” was the slogan, that wasn’t the reality at the outset.

NBEETV’s Kodi-powered Android boxes were hellishly expensive with the NBPRO 1, NBPRO 3, NBPRO 5 costing $199.00, $279.00 and $359.00 respectively. This, however, was presented as a bargain alongside a claim that the “average [monthly] cable bill across the country is approximately $198.00” per month.

On top of the base product, NBEETV offered an 800 number for customer support and from their physical premises, they ran “training classes every Tuesday and Thursdays at 11:00” for people to better understand their products.

The location of that building isn’t mentioned in local media but a WHOIS on the company’s FreeTVForLife domain yields a confirmed address. It’s one that’s also been complained about in the past by an unhappy customer.

“Free TV for LIFE [redacted]..(next to K-Mart) Hudson, Fl.. 34667. We bought the Little black box costing $277.00. The pictures were not clear,” Rita S. wrote.

“The screen froze up on us all the time, even after hooking straight into the router. When we took the unit back they kept $80 of our money….were very rude, using the ************* word and we will not get the remainder of our money for 14-28 days according to the employee at the store. Buyers beware and I am telling everyone!!!”

While this customer was clearly unhappy, NBEETV claimed to be a “movement which is spreading across the country.” Unfortunately, that movement reached the eyes of the police, who didn’t think that the content being offered on the devices should have been presented for free.

“We saw [the boxes] had Black Panther, The Shape Of Water, Jumanji was on there as well,” said Detective Darren Hill.

“This is someone blatantly on the side of the road just selling them, with signage, a store front; advertising on the internet with a website.”

Detective Hill worked on the case with the MPAA but even from TorrentFreak’s limited investigations this week, the couple were incredibly easy to identify.

Aside from providing accurate and non-hidden address data in WHOIS records, Mickael Cantrell (also known as Michael Cantrell) put in his real name too. The listed email address is also easily traced back to a company called Nanny Bees Corporation which was operated by Cantrell and partner Nancy Major, who was also arrested in the NBEETV case.

Unfortunately for the couple, the blundering didn’t stop there. Their company YouTube channel, which is packed with tutorials, is also in Cantrell’s real name. Indeed, the photograph supplied to YouTube even matches the mugshot published by ABC Action News.

The publication reports that the Sheriff’s Office found the couple with around 50 ‘pirate’ boxes. The store operated by the couple has also been shutdown.

Finally, another curious aspect of NBEETV’s self-promotion comes via a blog post/press release dated August 2017 in which Cantrell suddenly ups the ante by becoming Michael W. Cantrell, Ph. D alongside some bold and unusual claims.

“Dr. Cantrell unleashes his latest innovation, a Smart TV Box that literally updates every ten minutes. Not only does the content (what you can view) but the whole platform updates automatically. If the Company changes an icon you receive the change in real time,” the release reads.

“Thanks to the Overlay Processor that Dr. Cantrell created, this processor named B-D.A.D (Binary Data Acceleration Dump) which enhances an Android unit’s operating power 5 times than the original bench test, has set a new industry standard around the world.”

Sounds epic….perhaps it powered the following video clip.

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