All posts by Ernesto

Steam Censors MEGA.nz Links in Chats and Forum Posts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/steam-censors-mega-nz-links-in-chats-and-forum-posts-180421/

With more than 150 million registered accounts, Steam is much more than just a game distribution platform.

For many people, it’s also a social hangout and a communication channel.

Steam’s instant messaging tool, for example, is widely used for chats with friends. About games of course, but also to discuss lots of other stuff.

While Valve doesn’t mind people socializing on its platform, there are certain things the company doesn’t want Steam users to share. This includes links to the cloud hosting service Mega.

Users who’d like to show off some gaming footage, or even a collection of cat pictures they stored on Mega, are unable to do so. As it turns out, Steam actively censors these type of links from forum posts and chats.

In forum posts, these offending links are replaced by the text {LINK REMOVED} and private chats get the same treatment. Instead of the Mega link, people on the other end only get a mention that a link was removed.

Mega link removed from chat

While Mega operates as a regular company that offers cloud hosting services, Steam notes on their website that the website is “potentially malicious.”

“The site could contain malicious content or be known for stealing user credentials,” Steam’s link checker warns.

Potentially malicious…

It’s unclear what malicious means in this context. Mega has never been flagged by Google’s Safe Browsing program, which is regarded as one of the industry standards for malware and other unwanted software.

What’s more likely is that Mega’s piracy stigma has something to do with the censoring. As it turns out, Steam also censors 4shared.com, as well as Pirate Bay’s former .se domain name.

Other “malicious sites” which get the same treatment are more game oriented, such as cheathappens.com and the CSGO Skin Screenshot site metjm.net. While it’s understandable some game developers don’t like these, malicious is a rather broad term in this regard.

Mega clearly refutes that they are doing anything wrong. Mega Chairman Stephen Hall tells TorrentFreak that the company swiftly removes any malicious content, once it receives an abuse notice.

“It is crazy for sites to block Mega links as we respond very quickly to disable any links that are reported as malware, generally much quicker than our competitors,” Hall says.

Valve did not immediately reply to our request for clarification so the precise reason for the link censoring remains unknown.

That said, when something’s censored the public tends to work around any restrictions. Mega links are still being shared on Steam, with a slightly altered URL. In addition, Mega’s backup domain Mega.co.nz still works fine too.

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

Cloudflare Kicks Out Torrent Site For Abuse Reporting Interference

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-kicks-out-torrent-site-for-abuse-reporting-interference-180420/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

The company’s clients include billion dollar companies and national governments, but also personal blogs, and even pirate sites.

Copyright holders are not happy with the latter category and are pressuring Cloudflare to cut their ties with sites like The Pirate Bay, both in and out of court.

Cloudflare, however, maintains that it’s a neutral service provider. They forward copyright infringement notices to their customers, for example, but deny any liability for these sites.

Generally speaking, the company only disconnects a customer in response to a court order, as it did with Sci-Hub earlier this year. That’s why it came as a surprise when the anime torrent site NYAA.si was disconnected this week.

The site, which is a replacement for the original NYAA, has millions of users and is particularly popular in Japan. Without prior warning, it became unavailable for several hours this week, after Cloudflare removed it from its services. So what happened?

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator who said that the exact reason for the termination remains a mystery to him. He reached out to Cloudflare looking for answers, but the comany simply stated that it’s about “avoiding measures taken to avoid abuse complaints,” as can be seen below.

One of Cloudflare’s messages

The operator says he hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary and showed his willingness to resolve any possible issues. However, that hasn’t changed Cloudflare’s stance.

“We asked multiple times for clarification. We also expressed that we were willing to attempt to work with them on whatever the problem actually was, if they would explain what they even mean.

“Naturally, I have been stonewalled by them at every stage. I’ve contacted numerous persons at Cloudflare and nobody will talk about this,” NYAA’s operator adds.

TorrentFreak asked Cloudflare for more details and the company confirmed that the matter was related to interference with its abuse reporting systems, without providing further detail.

“We determined that the customer had taken steps specifically intended to interfere with and thwart the operation of our abuse reporting systems,” Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer informed us.

Cloudflare’s statement suggests that the site took active steps to interfere with the abuse process. The company added that it can’t go into detail, but says that the reason for the termination was shared with the website owner.

The website owner, on the other hand, informs us that he has no clue what the exact problem is. NYAA.si occasionally swaps IP addresses and have recently set up some mirror domains, but these were all under the same account. So, he has no idea why that would interfere with any abuse reports.

“I’m honestly unsure of what we could have done that ‘circumvents” their abuse system,” NYAA’s operator says, adding that the only abuse reports received were copyright related.

It’s unlikely, however, that copyright takedown notices alone would warrant account termination, as most of the largest torrent sites use Cloudflare.

NYAA’s operator says he can do little more than speculate at the point. Some have hinted at a secret court order while Japan’s recent crackdown on manga and anime piracy also came to mind, all without a grain of evidence of course.

Whatever the reason, NYAA.si now has to move on without Cloudflare, while the mystery remains.

“Frankly, this whole thing is a joke. I don’t understand why they would willingly host much bigger sites like ThePirateBay without any issue, or even ISIS, or the various hacking groups that have used them over time,” the operator says.

If more information about the abuse process interfere becomes available, we’ll definitely follow it up.

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

Married Torrent Tracker Couple Settle With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/married-torrent-tracker-couple-settles-with-brein-180420/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted operators and uploaders of pirate sites for more than a decade.

The group’s main goal is to shut the sites down. Instead of getting embroiled in dozens of lengthy court battles, it prefers to settle the matter with those responsible.

This week, BREIN announced another victory against a small torrent site, Snuffelland. The private tracker was targeted at a Dutch audience and the anti-piracy group managed to track down its operators.

According to BREIN, the site was run by a married couple from the town of Montfort, a 65-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman. In addition, the group also identified one of the uploaders, a 60-year-old man from Heukelum.

All three are unemployed and their financial position was taken into account in determining the scale of the settlement. The couple agreed to pay 2,500 euros and the uploader settled for 650 euros, with a threat of further penalties if they are caught again.

The private tracker itself was shut down and replaced by a message that was provided by BREIN.

“Making copyright-protected works available infringes the copyrights of the entitled rightsholder. Downloading from unauthorized sources is also prohibited in the Netherlands,” the message reads.

“For providers of legal content, snuffelland.org refers you to thecontentmap.nl and film.nl,” it adds.

These type of shutdowns are nothing new. BREIN has taken down hundreds of smaller sites in the past. However, only in recent years has the group has started to publish these settlement details.

That serves as a deterrent but also provides some more insight into how the group prefers to solve these cases, which appears to be relatively softly. In this case, it also disproves the notion that torrent sites are run by youngsters.

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

IsoHunt Founder Returns With New Search Tool

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isohunt-founder-returns-with-new-search-tool-180419/

Of all the major torrent sites that dominated the Internet at the beginning of this decade, only a few remain.

One of the sites that fell prey to ever-increasing pressure from the entertainment industry was isoHunt.

Founded by the Canadian entrepreneur Gary Fung, the site was one of the early pioneers in the world of torrents, paving the way for many others. However, this spotlight also caught the attention of the major movie studios.

After a lengthy legal battle isoHunt’s founder eventually shut down the site late 2013. This happened after Fung signed a settlement agreement with Hollywood for no less than $110 million, on paper at least.

Launching a new torrent search engine was never really an option, but Fung decided not to let his expertise go to waste. He focused his time and efforts on a new search project instead, which was unveiled to the public this week.

The new app called “WonderSwipe” has just been added to Apple’s iOS store. It’s a mobile search app that ties into Google’s backend, but with a different user interface. While it has nothing to do with file-sharing, we decided to reach out to isoHunt’s founder to find out more.

Fung tells us that he got the idea for the app because he was frustrated with Google’s default search options on the mobile platform.

“I find myself barely do any search on the smartphone, most of the time waiting until I get to my desktop. I ask why?” Fung tells us.

One of the main issues he identified is the fact that swiping is not an option. Instead, people end up browsing through dozens of mobile browser tabs. So, Fung took Google’s infrastructure and search power, making it swipeable.

“From a UI design perspective, I find swiping through photos on the first iPhone one of the most extraordinary advances in computing. It’s so easy that babies would be doing it before they even learn how to flip open a book!

“Bringing that ease of use to the central way of conducting mobile search and research is the initial eureka I had in starting work on WonderSwipe,” Fung adds.

That was roughly three years ago, and a few hours ago WonderSwipe finally made its way into the App store. Android users will have to wait for now, but the application will eventually be available on that platform as well.

In addition to swiping through search results, the app also promises faster article loading and browsing, a reader mode with condensed search results, and a hands-free mode with automated browsing where summaries are read out loud.

WonderwSwipe


Of course, WonderSwipe is nothing like isoHunt ever was, apart from the fact that Google is a search engine that also links to torrents, indirectly.

This similarity was also brought up during the lawsuit with the MPAA, when Fung’s legal team likened isoHunt to Google in court. However, the Canadian entrepreneur doesn’t expect that Hollywood will have an issue with WonderSwipe in particular.

“isoHunt was similar to Google in how it worked as a search engine, but not in scope. Torrents are a small subset of all the webpages Google indexes,” Fung says.

“WonderSwipe’s aim is to find answers in all webpages, powered by Google search results. It presents results in extracted text and summaries with no connection to BitTorrent clients. As such, WonderSwipe can be bigger than isoHunt has ever been.”

Ironically, in recent years Hollywood has often criticized Google for linking to pirated content in its search results. These results will also be available through WonderSwipe.

However, Fung says that any copyright issues with WonderSwipe will have to be dealt with on the search engine level, by Google.

“If there are links to pirated content, tell search engines so they can take them down!” he says.

WonderSwipe is totally free and Fung tells us that he plans to monetize it with in-app purchases for pro features, and non-intrusive advertising that won’t slow down swiping or search results. More details on the future plans for the app are available here.

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

Pirate Party Urges Swedish Govt to Stop ‘Copyright Troll’ Invasion

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-urges-swedish-govt-to-stop-copyright-troll-invasion-180418/

In recent years, millions of file-sharers around the world have been ordered to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in several countries, with Sweden one of the latest hunting grounds.

Over the past months, tens of thousands of Swedes have been targeted in this manner.

The copyright holders go to court, armed with a list of IP-addresses, and when permission is granted they ask the associated ISPs for the account details of individual subscribers.

These suspected pirates then get a settlement demand in their mailbox, urging them to pay the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, or have their day in court.

As in many other countries, these practices are not without controversy. Several experts have spoken out against them, and ISPs have raised objections too. However, according to Swedish law, the rightsholders have the right to pursue these cases.

Despite its name, the Swedish Pirate Party has been relatively silent on the issue. However, that changed this week, as the party now calls on Justice Minister Morgan Johansson to take action.

The Pirate Party describes the copyright trolling efforts as extortion. It stresses that the evidence copyright holders rely on is far from solid, something they believe the courts should take into account.

“It is a scandal that the Swedish judicial system facilitates the mafia-like methods of copyright trolls,” says Pirate Party leader Magnus Andersson.

“To condone the sending of extortion letters without reasonable ground for suspicion of criminal activity is not acceptable. We demand the Justice Minister to do something about the situation with these copyright trolls!”

The Pirate Party sees plenty of opportunities to intervene. The Government could, for example, change how the IPRED directive is interpreted and demand higher scrutiny of the provided evidence.

Another option would be to work at the EU level to repeal the IPRED-directive in its entirety.

Besides calling on the Justice Minister to take action, the Pirate Party is also backing the anti-copyright troll initiative of Internet provider Bahnhof. Through this campaign, members of the public can voice their concerns to the Swedish Government.

Through these and other efforts, the Pirate Party hopes that something will be done to protect the public from the ‘trolling’ practices.

“We cannot accept a situation where private companies use the judicial system as a weapon of fear to extort innocent people,” Andersson tells TorrentFreak.

“This creates contempt for the judiciary and supports the view that the courts only exist to serve the state’s and the big companies’ interests,” he adds.

Thus far the copyright holders have shown no sign of backing down. They refute the “trolling” characterizations and counter that they are merely enforcing their rights. And with the courts on their side, they have little to worry about for now.

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

Hollywood Studios Get ISP Blocking Order Against Rarbg in India

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-studios-score-blocking-order-against-rarbg-in-india-180417/

While the major Hollywood studios are very reluctant to bring a pirate site blocking case to their home turf, they are very active abroad.

The companies are the driving force behind lawsuits in Europe, Australia, and are also active in India, where they booked a new success last week.

Website blocking is by no means a new phenomenon in India. The country is known for so-called John Doe orders, where a flurry of websites are temporarily blocked to protect the release of a specific title.

The major Hollywood studios are taking a different approach. Disney Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, and Warner Bros. are requesting blockades, accusing sites of being structural copyright infringers.

One of the most recent targets is the popular torrent site Rarbg. The Hollywood studios describe Rarbg as a ‘habitual’ copyright infringer and demand that several Internet providers block access to the site.

“It is submitted that the Defendant Website aids and facilitates the accessibility and availability of infringing material, and induce third parties, intentionally and/or knowingly, to infringe through their websites by various means,’ the movie studios allege.

The complaint filed at the High Court of Delhi lists more than 20 Internet providers as co-defendants, and also includes India’s Department of Telecommunications and Department of Electronics and Information Technology in the mix.

The two Government departments are added because they have the power to enforce blocking orders. Specifically, the Hollywood studios note that the Department of Technology’s license agreement with ISPs requires these companies to ensure that copyright infringing content is not carried on their networks.

“It is submitted that the DoT itself acknowledges the fact that service providers have an obligation to ensure that no violation of third party intellectual property rights takes place through their networks and that effective protection is provided to right holders of such intellectual property,” the studios write.

Last week the court granted an injunction that requires local Internet providers including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Telenor, You Broadband, and Vodafone to block Rarbg.

Blocking order

As requested, the Department of Telecommunications and Department of Electronics and Information Technology are directed to notify all local internet and telecom service providers that they must block the torrent site as well.

The order is preliminary and can still be contested in court. However, given the history of similar blocking efforts around the world, it is likely that it will be upheld.

While there’s not much coverage on the matter, this isn’t the first blocking request the companies have filed in India. Last October, a similar case was filed against another popular torrent site, 1337x.to, with success.

TorrentFreak reached out to the law firm representing the Hollywood studios to get a broader overview of the blocking plans in India. At the time of writing, we have yet to hear back.

A copy of the order obtained by Disney Enterprises, Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros and the local Disney owned media conglomerate UTV Software, is available here (pdf).

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

Microsoft Denies Piracy Extortion Claims, Returns Fire

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-denies-piracy-extortion-claims-returns-fire-180416/

For many years, Microsoft and the Software Alliance (BSA) have carried out piracy investigations into organizations large and small.

Companies accused of using Microsoft software without permission usually get a letter asking them to pay up, or face legal consequences.

This also happened to Hanna Instruments, a Rhode Island-based company that sells analytical instruments. Last year, the company was accused of using Microsoft Office products without a proper license.

In a letter, BSA’s lawyers informed Hanna that it would face up to $4,950,000 in damages if the case went to court. Instead, however, they offered to settle the matter for $72,074.

Adding some extra pressure, BSA also warned that Microsoft could get a court order that would allow U.S. marshals to raid the company’s premises.

Where most of these cases are resolved behind closed doors, this one escalated. After being repeatedly contacted by BSA’s lawyers, Hanna decided to take the matter to court, claiming that Microsoft and BSA were trying to ‘extort’ money on ‘baseless’ accusations.

“BSA, Microsoft, and their counsel have, without supplying one scintilla of evidence, issued a series of letters for the sole purpose of extorting inflated monetary damages,” the company informed the court.

Late last week Microsoft and BSA replied to the complaint. While the two companies admit that they reached out to Hanna and offered a settlement, they deny several other allegations, including the extortion claims.

Instead, the companies submit a counterclaim, backing up their copyright infringement accusations and demanding damages.

“Hanna has engaged and continues to engage in the unauthorized installation, reproduction, and distribution and other unlawful use of Microsoft Software on computers on its premises and has used unlicensed copies of Microsoft Software to conduct its business,” they write.

According to Microsoft and BSA, the Rhode Island company still uses unauthorized product keys to activate and install unlicensed Microsoft software.

Turning Hanna’s own evidence against itself, they argue that two product keys were part of a batch of an educational program in China — not for commercial use in the United States.

Microsoft / BSA counterclaim

Another key could be traced back to what appears to be a counterfeit store which Microsoft has since shut down.

“The materials provided by Hanna also indicate that it purchased at least one copy of Microsoft Software from BuyCheapSoftware.com, a now-defunct website that was sued by Microsoft for selling stolen, abused, and otherwise unauthorized decoupled product keys,” Microsoft and BSA write.

According to Hanna, BSA previously failed to provide evidence to prove that the company was using unlicensed keys. However, the counterclaim suggests that the initial accusations had merit.

Whether BSA’s tactic of bringing up millions of dollars in damages and a possible raid by the U.S. Marshalls is the best strategy to resolve such a matter is up for debate of course.

It could very well be that Hanna was duped into buying counterfeit software, without knowing it. Perhaps this will come out as the case progresses. That said, it could also help if both sides simply have a good conversation to see if they can make peace, without threats.

Microsoft and BSA’s reply and counterclaim is available here (pdf).

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

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 04/16/18

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-04-16-18/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (3) Maze Runner: The Death Cure 6.8 / trailer
2 (…) Den of Thieves 7.0 / trailer
3 (2) 12 Strong 6.8 / trailer
4 (1) The Commuter 6.4 / trailer
5 (4) The Greatest Showman 7.9 / trailer
6 (…) Hostiles 7.3 / trailer
7 (7) The Post 7.2 / trailer
8 (6) Black Panther (HDTS) 7.9 / trailer
9 (8) Star Wars: The Last Jedi 7.4 / trailer
10 (…) Wildling 6.3 / trailer

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

How Pirates Use New Technologies for Old Sharing Habits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/how-pirates-use-new-technologies-for-old-sharing-habits-180415/

While piracy today is more widespread than ever, the urge to share content online has been around for several decades.

The first generation used relatively primitive tools, such as a bulletin board systems (BBS), newsgroups or IRC. Nothing too fancy, but they worked well for those who got over the initial learning curve.

When Napster came along things started to change. More content became available and with just a few clicks anyone could get an MP3 transferred from one corner of the world to another. The same was true for Kazaa and Limewire, which further popularized online piracy.

After this initial boom of piracy applications, BitTorrent came along, shaking up the sharing landscape even further. As torrent sites are web-based, pirated media became even more public and easy to find.

At the same time, BitTorrent brought back the smaller and more organized sharing culture of the early days through private trackers.

These communities often focused on a specific type of content and put strict rules and guidelines in place. They promoted sharing and avoided the spam that plagued their public counterparts.

That was fifteen years ago.

Today the piracy landscape is more diverse than ever. Private torrent trackers are still around and so are IRC and newsgroups. However, most piracy today takes place in public. Streaming sites and devices are booming, with central hosting platforms offering the majority of the underlying content.

That said, there is still an urge for some pirates to band together and some use newer technologies to do so.

This week The Outline ran an interesting piece on the use of Telegram channels to share pirated media. These groups use the encrypted communication platform to share copies of movies, TV shows, and a wide range of other material.

Telegram allows users to upload files up to 1.5GB in size, but larger ones can be split, in common with the good old newsgroups.

These type of sharing groups are not new. On social media platforms such as Facebook and VK, there are hundreds or thousands of dedicated communities that do the same. Both public and private. And Reddit has similar groups, relying on external links.

According to an administrator of a piracy-focused Telegram channel, the appeal of the platform is that the groups are not shut down so easily. While that may be the case with hyper-private groups, Telegram will still pull the plug if it receives enough complaints about a channel.

The same is true for Discord, another application that can be used to share content in ‘private’ communities. Discord is particularly popular among gamers, but pirates have also found their way to the platform.

While smaller communities are able to thrive, once the word gets out to copyright holders, the party can soon be over. This is also what the /r/piracy subreddit community found out a few days ago when its Discord server was pulled offline.

This triggered a discussion about possible alternatives. Telegram was mentioned by some, although not everyone liked the idea of connecting their phone number to a pirate group. Others mentioned Slack, Weechat, Hexchat and Riot.im.

None of these tools are revolutionary. At least, not for the intended use by this group. Some may be harder to take down than others, but they are all means to share files, directly or through external links.

What really caught our eye, however, were several mentions of an ancient application layer protocol that, apparently, hasn’t lost its use to pirates.

“I’ll make an IRC server and host that,” one user said, with others suggesting the same.

And so we have come full circle…

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

Google Search Receives Fewer Takedown Notices Than Before

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-search-receives-fewer-takedown-notices-than-before-180414/

In recent years Google has had to cope with a continuous increase in takedown requests from copyright holders, which target pirate sites in search results.

Just a few years ago the search engine removed ‘only’ a few thousand URLs per day. This has since grown to millions and has kept growing, until recently.

Around a year ago Google received a billion takedown requests a year, and for a while, it stabilized at roughly 20 million requests per week. By October last year, Google search had processed over three billion DMCA requests since it started counting.

After that, it appears that things calmed down a little. Where Google’s weekly takedown chart went up year after year, it’s now trending in a downward direction.

During the past half year, Google received ‘only’ 375 million takedown requests. That translates to roughly 15 million per week or 750 million per year. This is a 25% decrease compared the average in 2016.

Does this mean that copyright holders can no longer find enough pirated content via the search engine? We doubt it. But it’s clear that some of the big reporting agencies are sending in less complaints.

Degban, for example, which was at one point good for more than 10% of the weekly number of DMCA requests, has disappeared completely. Other big players, such as the Mexican anti-piracy outfit APDIF and Remove Your Media, have clearly lowered their volumes.

APDIF’s weekly DMCA volume

Of all the big players, UK Music Group BPI has been most consistent. Their average hasn’t dropped much in recent years, but is certainly not rising either.

It’s too early to tell whether this trend will hold, but according to the numbers we see now, Google will for the first time have a significant decrease in the number of takedown requests this year.

Despite the decrease, Google is under quite a bit of pressure from copyright holders to improve its takedown efforts. Most would like Google to delist pirate site domains entirely.

While the search engine isn’t willing to go that far, it does give a lower ranking to sites for which it receives a large volume of takedown requests. In addition, the company recently started accepting ‘prophylactic’ DMCA requests, for content that is not indexed yet.

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

MPAA and RIAA Still Can’t Go After Megaupload

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-and-riaa-still-cant-go-after-megaupload-180414/

Well over six years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but there is still little progress in the criminal proceedings against its founders.

The United States wants New Zealand to extradite the men but have thus far failed to achieve that goal. Dotcom and his former colleagues are using all legal means to prevent this eventuality and a final conclusion has yet to be reached.

While all parties await the outcome, the criminal case in the United States remains pending. The same goes for the lawsuits filed by the MPAA and RIAA in 2014.

Since the civil cases may influence the criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these cases on hold, and last week another extension was granted.

Previous extensions didn’t always go this easy. Last year there were concerns that the long delays could result in the destruction of evidence, as some of Megaupload’s hard drives were starting to fail.

However, after the parties agreed on a solution to back-up and restore the files, this is no longer an issue.

“With the preservation order in place, and there being no other objection, Defendant Megaupload hereby moves the Court to enter the attached proposed order, continuing the stay in this case for an additional six months,” Megaupload’s legal team recently informed the court.

Without any objections from the MPAA and RIAA, U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady swiftly granted Megaupload’s request to stay both lawsuits until October this year.

While the US Government hopes to have Dotcom in custody by that time, the entrepreneur has different plans. Following a win at the Human Rights Tribunal in New Zealand, he hopes to put the criminal case behind him soon.

If that indeed happens, the MPAA and RIAA might have their turn.

The latest stay order

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

‘Pirate’ Android App Store Operator Avoids Prison

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-android-app-store-operator-avoids-prison-180413/

Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket in the summer of 2012.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, and slowly but surely these cases are reaching their conclusions.

This week the Northern District Court of Georgia announced the sentencing of one of the youngest defendants. Aaron Buckley was fifteen when he started working on Applanet, and still a teenager when armed agents raided his house.

Years passed and a lot has changed since then, Buckley’s attorney informed the court before sentencing. The former pirate, who pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement and Criminal Copyright Infringement, is a completely different person today.

Similar to many people who have a run-in with the law, life wasn’t always easy on him. Computers offered a welcome escape but also dragged Buckley into trouble, something he deeply regrets now.

Following the indictment, things started to change. The Applanet operator picked up his life, away from the computer, and also got involved in community work. Among other things, he plays a leading role in a popular support community for LGBT teenagers.

Given the tough circumstances of his personal life, which we won’t elaborate on, his attorney requested a downward departure from the regular sentencing guidelines, to allow for lesser punishment.

After considering all the options, District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten agreed to a lower sentence. Unlike some other pirate app stores operators, who must spend years in prison, Buckley will not be incarcerated.

Instead, the Applanet operator, who is now in his mid-twenties, will be put on probation for three years, including a year of home confinement.

The sentence (pdf)

In addition, he has to perform 20 hours of community service and work towards passing a General Educational Development (GED) exam.

It’s tough to live with the prospect of possibly spending years in jail, especially for more than a decade. Given the circumstances, this sentence must be a huge relief.

TorrentFreak contacted Buckley, who informed us that he is happy with the outcome and ready to work on a bright future.

“I really respect the government and the judge in their sentencing and am extremely grateful that they took into account all concerns of my health and life situation in regards to possible sentences,” he tells us.

“I am just glad to have another chance to use my time and skills to hopefully contribute to society in a more positive way as much as I am capable thanks to the outcome of the case.”

Time to move on.

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

uTorrent Flagged as ‘Threat’ by Microsoft and Anti-Virus Vendors

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/utorrent-flagged-as-threat-by-microsoft-and-anti-virus-vendors-180312/

Installed on dozens of millions of devices, uTorrent is the go-to torrent client for people all around the world.

While the software usually runs without hassle, many users started to experience problems recently. Several anti-virus tools, including Windows Defender, suddenly labeled the torrent client as dangerous.

Microsoft categorizes the affected clients as “Potentially Unwanted Software,” as can be seen below. The company has had a dedicated Utorrent page for a while, labeling it as a severe threat. This week, however, alarm bells started to go off on a broader scale.

uTorrent threat

It’s unclear what exactly triggered the recent warning. According to VirusTotal, a handful of anti-virus companies label uTorrent as problematic. ESET-NOD32 lists “Web Companion” as the trigger, which likely points to Lavasoft’s Ad-Aware software, which is sometimes bundled with uTorrent.

uTorrent parent company BitTorrent Inc. is aware of the problems but believes they’re false positives triggered by one of their recent releases.

“We believe that this passive flag changed to active just hours ago with the Windows patch Tuesday update, when a small percent of users started getting an explicit block,” the company told us.

“We had three uTorrent executables being served from our site. Two were going to 95% of our users and were not part of the Windows block. The third, which was going to 5% of users, was part of the Windows block. We stopped shipping that and confirmed we are no longer seeing any blocks.”

The issue doesn’t appear to be restricted to new installs only. Several users have reported that their uTorrent application was suddenly quarantined as unwanted software, possibly after an automatic update.

We rechecked the VirusTotal result with the most current uTorrent release, and this is still flagged by six anti-virus vendors.

VirusTotal results

But that’s not all. The uTorrent download page itself also triggers a warning from MalwareBytes’ real-time protection module, which brands the website itself as malicious.

Interestingly, when trying to install uTorrent, Windows lists Lavasoft Software Canada as the verified publisher. While Lavasoft’s “Ad-Aware WebCompanion” is regularly bundled with uTorrent as an ‘offer,’ we didn’t get that option when we last tried, nor was it installed.

After we installed it during an initial test yesterday, we did notice that WebCompanion was installed around the same time. However, we have been unable to replicate this result.

BitTorrent Inc. stresses that any of the offers users get during the install process are optional, Google-compliant, and in accordance with the Clean Software Alliance (CSA) standards.

Whatever is causing the red flags at Microsoft and the other companies remains a mystery for now, also for BitTorrent Inc.

“Based on our best assessment to date, we’ve found no reason why we would be blocked – especially on some builds and not others which are basically identical,” BitTorrent says.

“We are continuing to reach out, though, and hope to have more information,” the company adds.

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

MPAA Quietly Shut Down Its ‘Legal’ Movie Search Engine

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-quietly-shut-down-its-legal-movie-search-engine-180411/

During the fall of 2014, Hollywood launched WhereToWatch, its very own search engine for movies and TV-shows.

The site enabled people to check if and where the latest entertainment was available, hoping to steer U.S. visitors away from pirate sites.

Aside from the usual critics, the launch received a ton of favorable press. This was soon followed up by another release highlighting some of the positive responses and praise from the press.

“The initiative marks a further attempt by the MPAA to combat rampant online piracy by reminding consumers of legal means to watch movies and TV shows,” the LA Times wrote, for example.

Over the past several years, the site hasn’t appeared in the news much, but it did help thousands of people find legal sources for the latest entertainment. However, those who try to access it today will notice that WhereToWatch has been abandoned, quietly.

The MPAA pulled the plug on the service a few months ago. And where the mainstream media covered its launch in detail, the shutdown received zero mentions. So why did the site fold?

According to MPAA Vice President of Corporate Communications, Chris Ortman, it was no longer needed as there are many similar search engines out there.

“Given the many search options commercially available today, which can be found on the MPAA website, WheretoWatch.com was discontinued at the conclusion of 2017,” Ortman informs TF.

“There are more than 140 lawful online platforms in the United States for accessing film and television content, and more than 460 around the world,” he adds.

The MPAA lists several of these alternative search engines on its new website. The old WhereToWatch domain now forwards to the MPAA’s online magazine ‘The Credits,’ which features behind-the-scenes stories and industry profiles.

While the MPAA is right that there are alternative search engines, many of these were already available when WhereToWatch launched. In fact, the site used the services of the competing service GoWatchIt for its search results.

Perhaps the lack of interest from the U.S. public played a role as well. The site never really took off and according to traffic estimates from SimilarWeb and Alexa, most of the visitors came from Iran, where the site was unusable due to a geo-block.

After searching long and hard we were able to track down a former WhereToWatch user on Reddit. This person just started to get into the service and was disappointed to see it go.

“So, does anyone know of better places or simply other places where this information lives in an easily accessible place?” he or she asked.

One person responded by recommending Icefilms.info, a pirate site. This is a response the MPAA would cringe at, but luckily, most people mentioned justwatch.com as the best alternative.

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

Publisher Gets Carte Blanche to Seize New Sci-Hub Domains

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/publisher-gets-carte-blanche-to-seize-new-sci-hub-domains-180410/

While Sci-Hub is loved by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe if off the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier last June, the American Chemical Society (ACS) won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages a few months later.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, hosting companies and search engines.

Soon after the order was signed, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable as domain registries and Cloudflare complied with the court order. Still, Sci-Hub remained available all this time, with help from several newly registered domain names.

Frustrated by Sci-Hub’s resilience, ACS recently went back to court asking for an amended injunction. The publisher requested the authority to seize any and all Sci-Hub domain names, also those that will be registered in the future.

“Plaintiff has been forced to engage in a game of ‘whac-a-mole’ whereby new ‘sci-hub’ domain names emerge,” ACS informed the court.

“Further complicating matters, some registries, registrars, and Internet service providers have refused to disable newer Sci-Hub domain names that were not specifically identified in the Complaint or the injunction”

Soon after the request was submitted, US District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema agreed to the amended language.

The amended injunction now requires search engines, hosting companies, domain registrars, and other service or software providers, to cease facilitating access to Sci-Hub. This includes, but is not limited to, the following domain names.

‘sci-hub.ac, scihub.biz, sci-hub.bz, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.cf, sci-hub.cn, sci-hub.ga, sci-hub.gq, scihub.hk, sci-hub.is, sci-hub.la, sci-hub.name, sci-hub.nu, sci-hub.nz, sci-hub.onion, scihub22266oqcxt.onion, sci-hub.tw, and sci-hub.ws.’

From the injunction

The new injunction makes ACS’ enforcement efforts much more effective. It effectively means that third-party services can no longer refuse to comply because a Sci-Hub domain is not listed in the complaint or injunction.

This already appears to have had some effect, as several domain names including sci-hub.la and sci-hub.tv became inaccessible soon after the paperwork was signed. Still, it is unlikely that it will help to shut down the site completely.

Several service providers are not receptive to US Court orders. One example is Iceland’s domain registry ISNIC and indeed, at the time of writing, Sci-Hub.is is still widely available.

Seizing .onion domain names, which are used on the Tor network, may also prove to be a challenge. After all, there is no central registration organization involved.

For now, Sci-Hub founder and operator Alexandra Elbakyan appears determined to keep the site online, whatever it takes. While it may be a hassle for users to find the latest working domain names, the new court order is not the end of the “whac-a-mole” just yet.

A copy of the amended injunction is available here (pdf).

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

Popular Torrent Site Loses Domain After Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/popular-torrent-site-loses-domain-after-copyright-complaint-180409/

With millions of visitors per month, Yggtorrent is one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet.

Catering to a French audience, it’s not widely known everywhere, but in France, it’s getting close to a spot among the 100 most visited sites in the country.

Yggtorrent is not the typical torrent indexer. It sees itself as a community instead and has a dedicated tracker, something that’s quite rare these days. The site is really only a few months old and filled the gap T411 left behind when it closed last year.

Its popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by copyright holders either. In addition to sending thousands of DMCA notices, local anti-piracy group SACEM went a step further a few weeks ago, asking Yggtorrent’s domain registrar Internet.bs for help.

In a letter sent on behalf of SACEM, BrandAnalytic pointed out that the torrent site is offering copyrighted content without permission from the owners, thereby violating the law.

“This contravening domain name provides users with copyright-protected works without any express or tacit permission of the societies or their authors, composers and publishers,” the complaint reads.

BrandAnalytic/SACEM’s complaint

Strangely enough, the letter also accuses the site of phishing. As evidence, BrandAnalytic sent a screenshot of the site’s registration page while mentioning that it automatically installs cookies on users’ computers.

Since Yggtorrent uses a Whois privacy service, BrandAnalytic says it can’t identify the owners. They, therefore, ask Internet.bs to step in and take the domain offline.

“As you are the Registrar of this contravening domain name, we count on your prompt and amicable collaboration to remove it from the global domain tree,” BrandAnalytic writes.

The complaint was sent late February and Internet.bs forwarded it to the torrent site at the time, so it could respond appropriately. However, Yggtorrent did not respond at all.

After a reminder, the registrar decided to put the torrent site’s .com domain name on hold a few days ago, which means that it became inaccessible.

TorrentFreak spoke to an operator of Yggtorrent who explains that the site receives thousands of DMCA complaints and that it’s impossible to answer them all. They’ll now leave the .com domain domain behind and move to a new one, Yggtorrent.is.

Instead of using Internet.bs as registrar, the new domain name was purchased through Njalla, the privacy-oriented domain registration service that was founded by former Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde.

“Now, we know that we should not use internet.bs anymore. This is not the first time they suspend a domain name like this. It happened to Extratorrent in the past.

“We use Njalla right now, it’s safe,” Yggtorrent’s operator adds.

While the site is indeed back online, older torrents may not function as usual, as the tracker of the .com domain is no longer accessible. The site, therefore, recommends users to update the tracker address manually got get them going again.

Yggtorrent, which came under new management recently, appears to come out of this issue relatively unscathed. However, being in the crosshairs of SACEM is not without risk. The organization previously took out What.cd and Zone-Telechargement, among others.

Yggtorrent’s homepage

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Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 04/09/18

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-04-09-18/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

The Commuter is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (7) The Commuter 6.4 / trailer
2 (…) 12 Strong 6.8 / trailer
3 (1) Maze Runner: The Death Cure (Subbed HDrip) 6.8 / trailer
4 (2) The Greatest Showman 7.9 / trailer
5 (3) Molly’s Game 7.5 / trailer
6 (8) Black Panther (HDTS) 7.9 / trailer
7 (…) The Post 7.2 / trailer
8 (4) Star Wars: The Last Jedi 7.4 / trailer
9 (8) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 7.7 / trailer
10 (…) Fifty Shades Freed 4.4 / trailer

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

Spooky Torrent Warns EZTV Users About “Huge Security Risk”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/spooky-torrent-warns-eztv-users-about-huge-security-risk-180408/

For more than a decade EZTV has been a widely recognized brand among many BitTorrent users and known as one of the main TV-distribution groups.

While the original EZTV shut down following a hostile takeover, the people who took over are still serving torrents to millions of people every month.

Generally speaking, EZTV takes releases from outside encoders which they then distribute with their own nametag. It’s been like this for years and has never caused any real problems.

Last week, however, a disturbing release was added to the site, sending a message to EZTV users. What appeared to be a regular release of Lucifer S03E19, turned into something darker.

Ten minutes into the episode, a red warning appears, telling viewers that EZTV.ag is a huge security risk.

Huge Security Risk

Throughout the rest of the episode, a few dozen IP-addresses appear plastered across the screen. Needless to say, this makes the program rather unwatchable.

According to the earlier message, these IP-addresses are “used on EZTV.ag.” This seems to suggest that the website has a leak somewhere unless it refers to IP-addresses of downloaders, which are public anyway.

IP-addresses

It is hard to grasp what’s really going on here and there is no direct evidence that the site has been breached in any way. Not directly at least.

At the end of the episode, a final message appears, adding to the intrigue. The message comes from the encoder DeXoX and offers up a complete IP-address database, email addresses of registered EZTV users, and more.

DeXoX

Again, we have not been able to verify the validity of these claims but it’s certainly not good PR for EZTV. The spooky torrent has been downloaded by thousands of people already and is still listed on the site several days after first appearing.

We are not familiar with DeXoX, but it appears that the person behind the handle is not a fan of EZTV.ag, to say the least.

It remains unclear how the torrent was added to the site. It could be that the EZTV site has indeed been breached in some way, or DeXoX has access to the site where EZTV sources its material. In any event, the release page or the site itself contains no warnings, only the video itself.

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

China’s Website and VPN Blocking Hurts Business, US Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chinas-website-and-vpn-blocking-hurts-business-us-says-180407/

The Chinese government is known to keep a tight grip on the websites its citizens are allowed to see on the Internet.

The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ blocks pirate sites, but also a wide variety of other websites which the government believes could have a negative influence on society.

While the exact scope of the blocking effort is unknown, it’s certain that thousands of websites are affected.

The US Government, however, is not happy with this type of censorship. In its latest Trade Barriers report, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) notes that it has a detrimental impact on businesses around the world.

“China continues to engage in extensive blocking of legitimate websites, imposing significant costs on both suppliers and users of web-based services and products,” the report reads.

The Chinese blocking efforts are affecting billions of dollars in business according to the US. The services that are affected include app stores, news sites, as well as communication services.

While many of these are targeted intentionally, some are hit by over-blocking. This happens when a blocked site shares an IP-address with other sites, which are then censored as collateral damage.

“While becoming more sophisticated over time, the technical means of blocking, dubbed the Great Firewall, still often appears to affect sites that may not be the intended target, but that may share the same Internet Protocol address,” USTR writes.

According to industry figures, twelve of the top thirty most popular sites on the Internet are currently censored in China. And while it used to be relatively easy to bypass these measures with a VPN, that is changing too.

Starting this month, all unauthorized VPN services are banned. Companies can only operate a VPN if they lease state-approved services via the Government. This is hurting even more businesses, according to the US. Not just in their pockets, but also in terms of privacy.

“In the past, consumers and business have been able to avoid government-run filtering through the use of VPN services, but a crackdown in 2017 has all but eliminated that option, with popular VPN applications now banned,” USTR writes.

“This development has had a particularly dire effect on foreign businesses, which routinely use VPN services to connect to locations and services outside of China, and which depend on VPN technology to ensure confidentiality of communications.”

Ironically, US companies are assisting the Chinese Government to keep their Great Firewall up. For example, last year VPN applications started to disappear from Apple’s iOS store following pressure from Chinese authorities.

It’s clear that the United States is not happy with China’s censorship regime. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a reversal anytime soon. As long as China is willing to jail its citizens for operating VPN services, there’s still a long way to go.

A copy of USTR’s 2018 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers is available here (pdf).

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Not All Canadian ISPs Are Pro Site Blocking

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/not-all-canadian-isps-are-pro-site-blocking-180406/

Earlier this year several of the largest telcos in Canada teamed up with copyright holders to present their plan to tackle online piracy.

United in the Fairplay coalition, Bell, Rogers, and others urged telecoms regulator CRTC to institute a national website blocking program.

The Canadian blocklist should be maintained by a yet to be established non-profit organization called “Independent Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and both IPRA and the CRTC would be overseen by the Federal Court of Appeal, the organizations propose.

Over the past several weeks, the CRTC has asked the public for input on the plan. While we have already covered several responses, some notable entries were submitted at the very last minute.

The MPAA and the Premier League, which both applied for court-ordered blockades in the UK, voiced their support, for example. The same is true for ISP Shaw Communications. While Shaw is not part of the Fairplay Coalition it fully supports the site blocking proposal.

“New regulatory tools are needed to provide a comprehensive and coordinated response to combat piracy, and the FairPlay Proposal provides an expeditious, effective, and fair process,” Shaw writes, noting that the proposal doesn’t violate net neutrality.

The Independent Telecommunications Providers Association (ITPA) also chimed in. Representing more than a dozen smaller Internet providers, it takes no position on the merits of the plan, but stresses that copyright holders should pick up the bill.

“The ITPA would object to any regime that imposes costs without a cost recovery mechanism for service providers,” the association writes.

While many ISPs are backing the plan or taking a relatively neutral stance, TekSavvy is among the notable exceptions. The independent company that services more than 250,000 Canadian homes and businesses, says that the proposal would have a major impact.

“If implemented, the Applicants’ proposal for site blocking would fundamentally reshape how Internet services would work in Canada, including the manner in which TekSavvy provides Internet services.”

In a rather dry submission, the Internet provider argues that site blocking violates the Common Carrier doctrine of the Telecommunications Act.

“Rather than advancing the telecommunications policy objectives, the approach proposed in the Application to policing content on the Internet is in direct opposition to many of those objectives,” TekSavvy writes.

The proposal interferes with online traffic, the ISP explains, which could affect network neutrality principles. At the same time, it goes against several policy objectives, including the principle that any regulation should be efficient and effective.

“It is well-documented that blocking individual web sites is difficult and expensive and even so relatively trivial to circumvent,” the ISP notes. “As a result, site-blocking is neither efficient, nor effective.”

As such, TechSavvy argues that the site blocking proposal is not the kind of exceptional circumstance that warrants an exception to the common carrier doctrine.

The ISP is not alone in its critique, as Micheal Geist points out. In addition to its own submission, TekSavvy supports the Canadian Network Operators Consortium’s CNOC intervention, which covers a broad range of issues.

CNOC represents several dozen smaller Telcos and, among other things, it argues in detail that the blocking proposal will be costly but ineffective.

“CNOC is not convinced of the efficacy of FairPlay Canada’s proposal, and, in fact, believes that mandatory website blocking could be circumvented with such ease that expending any resources on it is unlikely to be productive, yet it would impose significant costs on ISPs,” CNOC notes.

The one thing that’s clear following all the submissions is that the CRTC will find it impossible to satisfy all parties. Even the Internet providers themselves have conflicting opinions.

A copy of Teksavvy’s submission is available here (pdf). ITPA’s letter can be found here (pdf), CNOC’s here (pdf), and Shaw’s submission in favor of the proposal is available here (pdf).

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