All posts by Ernesto

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 03/30/20

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

This week we have six newcomers in our chart.

Bloodshot 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 articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie RankRank last weekMovie nameIMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1(…)Bloodshot5.7 / trailer
2(…)Birds of Prey6.3 / trailer
3(8)Onward7.6 / trailer
4(2)The Invisible Man7.4 / trailer
5(…)The Gentlemen8.0 / trailer
6(1)Star Wars: Episode IX6.8 / trailer
7(…)Bad Boys for Life7.1 / trailer
8(3)19178.4 / trailer
9(…)The Way Back6.9 / trailer
10(…)The Call of the Wild6.8 / trailer

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Copyright Holders Continue to Report Fewer Piracy Links to Google Search

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

For most people, search engines such as Google are an essential tool to discover and enjoy the web in all its glory.

With help from complicated algorithms, the company offers a gateway to billions of sites, many of which would otherwise remain undiscovered.

This also includes many ‘pirate’ sites. While there are plenty of people who don’t mind seeing these show up in search results, their presence is a thorn in the side of copyright holders.

Roughly a decade ago this was hardly recognized as a problem. At the time, Google was asked to remove a few dozen URLs per day. In the years that followed, that changed drastically.

In 2012, Google was asked to remove more than 50 million URLs and by 2016, the search engine processed more than a billion reported URLs a year. This increase in notices coincided in large part with heavy critique from copyright holders, which asked Google to do more to curb piracy.

These comments didn’t go unnoticed at the Googleplex in Mountain View. In recent years, the search engine has taken a variety of measures to ensure that pirate sites are less visible. This includes demoting known offenders in search results.

Around the same time, the number of takedown requests from copyright holders started to drop. While we don’t know if that’s directly related to Google’s anti-piracy measures, it is clear that the number of reported URLs has gone down significantly.

According to Google’s transparency report, the company processed little over 500 million takedown requests over the past 12 months. That’s a 50% decrease compared to the billion it received a few years ago, and a 25% decrease compared to two years ago, when we first noticed the shift.

The decrease is in large part caused by the most active senders of takedown requests. For example, three years ago UK music group BPI sent in an average of two million URLs per week, with peaks of over three million. This year, the same group is averaging less than a million per week.

Similarly, the Mexican music group APDIF previously reported over four million pirate links to Google every week. This has now dropped to a few thousand, including some weeks with zero requests.

Also, MarkMonitor, which works with many Hollywood studios, reduced its takedown requests by roughly half.

While the data can’t be linked directly to Google’s anti-piracy measures, BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor informed us earlier this month that demotion of known pirate sites “has significantly improved the quality of results presented to consumers.”

After years of animosity between copyright holders and Google, both in public and behind closed doors, that’s certainly a major change in attitude.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

MPAA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Remain on Hold

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

When the U.S. Government shut down Megaupload in 2012, Internet traffic volumes dropped all over the world.

The destruction of one of the largest file-hosting services came as a shock to hundreds of millions of users, but particularly to the key players involved.

While the authorities had hoped to resolve the case swiftly, the opposite happened. Aside from Andrus Nomm’s plea deal years ago, there hasn’t been any progress in the criminal proceedings against Megaupload’s founder and his co-indicted associates.

After more than eight years, it is still not clear whether Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his associates will ever stand trial in the US. They have and continue to fight this request tooth and nail in New Zealand.

While all parties await the outcome, which could take several more years, the criminal case in the United States remains pending. The same goes for the civil cases launched by the MPAA and RIAA in 2014.

This brings us to two new filings Megaupload’s legal team submitted at a Virginia federal court this week. The defunct file-sharing platform requests to keep the RIAA and MPAA cases on hold for at least six more months, noting the lack of movement in the criminal case.

“The Criminal Action is still pending, and none of the individual defendants have been extradited,” writes Megaupload attorney Craig C. Reilly, asking the court to stay the cases.

This request and the court’s swift approval to extend the delay until October doesn’t come as a surprise. The MPAA and RIAA didn’t object to it and similar requests have been granted more than a dozen times already.

The civil cases are not expected to start until after the criminal case in the U.S. has been ‘resolved.’ That can take several more years. Meanwhile, data from Megaupload’s servers remains securely stored, possibly to serve as evidence in the future.

Previously there have been attempts to make it possible for millions of former Megaupload users to retrieve their personal files. However, in recent years there hasn’t been any update on this front.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice announced eight years ago that it would work on a solution to allow rightsholders to check whether their content was shared on Megaupload or related sites. Today, this feature is still listed as being “under construction.”

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Anti-Piracy Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers Has Very Little Effect

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Nowadays, most popular music is legally accessible on YouTube. While everyone is allowed to play it, downloading tracks without permission is strictly forbidden.

YouTube itself also prohibits downloading or ripping unless the uploader specifically allows it. However, there are third-party sites that have found ways around these restrictions.

These ‘YouTube-rippers’ have been around for many years, much to the frustration of the music industry. The RIAA, in particular, is actively cracking down on these sites.

In recent months, the music group has filed subpoenas to identify several site operators. In addition, it sends takedown requests to search engines hoping that this will make the sites harder to find.

The latter strategy is relatively new and started just a few months ago. The RIAA doesn’t use standard DMCA notices since most YouTube-rippers don’t host content. Instead, the sites are reported for violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

Through this route, the RIAA has managed to remove thousands of URLs from Google’s search results. While that sounds effective, a closer look at the estimated traffic data, kindly shared with us by piracy tracking company MUSO, shows that the measures have surprisingly little effect.

Below is an overview of the worldwide traffic to stream-ripper sites in the music category. It runs from September 2019, before the RIAA’s mass takedown campaign started, all the way to the end of January 2020. This reveals that traffic to these sites has remained relatively stable, without any sign of declining visitor numbers.

Global traffic in the music category to stream-rippers

The lack of movement by itself doesn’t say much about search traffic, so we decided to take a detailed look at that as well. MUSO reports search traffic separately, and this shows a similar pattern. In fact, search traffic to stream-rippers briefly appeared to grow at the end of last year.

In September, search engines were sending roughly 7.5 million visitors to stream-rippers per day, and at the end of January, that figure was pretty much the same.

Global search traffic in the music category to stream-rippers

These data are not entirely unexpected as YouTube-rippers are actively fighting back against the RIAA’s anti-piracy campaign. As we highlighted earlier, several sites are switching to new URL structures, to make sure that they remain visible in search engines.

And indeed, if we search on Google for the phrase “YouTube to MP3,” we see several YouTube-rippers in the top results.

Google search for “YouTube to MP3″”

Looking at the traffic statistics of individual sites we see some movement here and there. The two most popular stream-rippers, and, increased their traffic, while the third in line,, lost some visitors.’s sister site, however, saw its traffic go up. Both sites are also currently involved in a legal battle with the RIAA. While they won their first round, this case is currently on appeal.

The above shows that, thus far, the RIAA’s takedown efforts have had little effect. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to celebrate at all., which was the most popular stream-ripper just a year ago, is no longer a major threat.

The site saw its traffic drop from 207 million visitors in March 2019, to 15 million last month. This loss in visitors isn’t directly linked to the RIAA’s efforts, however. Instead, it’s the result of the site’s decision to disable YouTube ripping, after YouTube started to block its servers.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

‘Hellboy’ Must Explain Calculation For the $270,000 Piracy Damages Claim

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Last summer, the makers of the movie “Hellboy” (HB Productions) filed a complaint against torrent site MKVCage at a Hawaii federal court.

The movie company accused the site and its operator of promoting and distributing pirated copies of the Hellboy movie while demanding an end to the activity.

The lawsuit quickly had an effect as MKVCage became unreachable. At the same time, the uploader stopped pushing torrents to other sites as well. This meant that part of the plan had succeeded, without the torrent site putting up a defense.

But HB Productions wanted more. The company argued that the site caused irreparable damage and demanded compensation from the operator, a Pakistani man named Muhammad Faizan.

Since Faizan didn’t show up in court, the movie company’s attorney Kerry Culpepper requested a default judgment totaling more than $270,000 in infringement damages.

“The certain sum of $270,902.58 […] was calculated by multiplying the number of instances of infringement in the United States logged by Plaintiff’s agent by the price for purchasing a copy of the motion picture in Hawaii,” Culpepper wrote to the court.

Despite a hefty damages award hanging over his head, Faizan remained quiet. This generally means that the court will side with the plaintiff but in this case, Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield is reluctant.

In a recently issued report and recommendations, Mansfield advises the court to deny the damages request, as the “sum” is not as “certain” as Hellboy’s attorney makes it out to be.

“The First Amended Complaint and the Motion do not indicate how Plaintiff calculated its asserted $270,902.58 damages amount. Nor does Plaintiff’s Motion include documents setting forth amounts necessary to calculate a certain damages sum,” Judge Mansfield writes.

“Without such information, the Court is unable to determine the formula Plaintiff used to calculate its alleged damages. The Court thus finds that Plaintiff fails to establish that its claim is for a ‘sum certain’ and recommends that the district court deny the Motion,” he adds.

This recommendation serves as guidance to the federal court, which has yet to rule on the matter. However, before it could do so, HB Production’s attorney already withdrew his request for a default judgment.

The movie company now plans to file a new motion in the near future where it will provide more detail on its calculations. Among other things, it will have to explain in detail how many infringements were logged, and what retail price for the movie the company chose.

By law, the maximum statutory damages are $150,000 per work. Since HB Productions asked for a substantially higher amount here, these details are crucial in order to determine whether it will be granted, or not.

A copy of Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield’s report and recommendations is available here (pdf)

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

The Pirate Bay’s Oldest Active Torrent Turns 16 Years Old Today

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

The Pirate Bay has weathered quite a few storms since its inception.

The notorious torrent site, which is a piracy icon today, was originally founded by Swedish anti-copyright think tank Piratbyrån during the summer of 2003.

In the years that followed, a lot has happened. The site was raided twice, had various changes in ownership, and the original co-founders were sentenced to prison. And in recent years, prolonged downtime issues, as the site currently faces, are the rule rather than the exception.

Despite all these setbacks and challenges, TPB is still here. It remains accessible on the Tor network, where the latest blockbusters, as well as some rare old torrents, remain readily available.

While torrents rely on at least one active seed to keep them alive, some files have proven to be quite resilient. In fact, quite a few torrents are older than some of the site’s younger users.

Today, The Pirate Bay’s oldest active torrent celebrates its sixteenth anniversary. The honor goes to an episode of the Swedish comedy show “High Chaparral,” which was uploaded by ‘kbdcb’ on March 25, 2004. At the time of writing, the file has one seeder according to TPB’s statistics, but various public trackers list more.

The oldest active torrent on TPB

The High Chaparral episode has been marked as the oldest active Pirate Bay torrent for a while. In the video category, it is currently followed by a copy of the 2001 documentary Revolution OS, which still has over a dozen seeders.

Looking at other categories, we see that the oldest active music torrent is an album from the Swedish pop group Gyllene Tider, titled “Samtliga hits!” The oldest game torrent is a copy of the Lord of the Rings strategy game War of the Ring, while a torrent for a really old version of ArcSoft’s photo editing software Funhouse leads the applications category.

If anything, this shows that no matter how much downtime a site like The Pirate Bay suffers, these torrents still survive.

That the High Chaparral episode is the longest surviving torrent on the site is remarkable for another reason as well. A few weeks after the torrent was uploaded, several people complained that they were stuck at 99%, which means that there was no seeder around at the time.

Years later, people started to notice that it had become the oldest torrent on The Pirate Bay, including MasterWAV, who dedicated an entry in his or her diary to this discovery.

“Dear diary, my heart burst of excitement to discover the oldest torrent in The Pirate Bay. I am happy to comment on this book and be part of the history of TPB. It’s like climbing Everest. Sincerely, thanks.”

Other commenters promised to keep seeding the file “forever,” which may be the prime reason why it’s still around today.

While sixteen years is impressive, there are even older torrents available on the Internet. “The Fanimatrix” torrent file holds the all-time record. It was created in September 2013 and, after being previously resurrected, continues to be available today with more than 100 people seeding.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

‘Copyright Troll Identified the Wrong Facebook Account in Piracy Case’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Over the past three years, adult entertainment company Strike 3 Holdings has filed thousands of cases in US federal courts.

These lawsuits target people whose Internet connections were allegedly used to download and share copyright-infringing content via BitTorrent.

While many of these cases resulted in private settlements, Strike 3 has also experienced some setbacks. For example, in the ‘Cobbler’ case, the Court of Appeals previously ruled that copyright holders need “something more” than an IP-address for a viable case.

These and other rulings have motivated Strike 3 to adapt its business. As reported earlier this month, we noticed that the company had started to add information from social media services to its complaints, to ‘prove’ that the defendant is likely the infringer.

In theory, this could be a fruitful strategy but it is certainly not without flaws. This is what defense attorney Steven C. Vondran highlights in a recent BitTorrent piracy-related filing.

Vondran represents a defendant who is being sued by Strike 3 in a California federal court. This happened after the company first tried to expose this person at a Florida state court, through a controversial discovery request.

Among other things, the attorney argues that Strike 3 engages in “cut and run” tactics and that it fails to present “something more” than just an IP-address.

In making this argument, Vondran also draws attention to the social media tactic. While that wasn’t used in the case at issue, the attorney highlights it to show what can go wrong when Strike 3 tries to find “something more” than just an IP-address.

“If they can line up or match or correlate the movies being downloaded with a person’s Facebook ‘likes’ they figure this will overcome Cobbler and give them the ‘something more’ needed,” he points out.

According to the defense attorney, “this is total junk science” which he plans to make clear in a separate case he’s handling. Apparently, in that case the defendant’s interest in “Star Wars” on Facebook was brought up as relevant information.

“For example, in one case they stated that a Defendant is more likely to have downloaded their clients Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen videos because their social media likes indicate they have an interest in ‘Star Wars’,” Vondran writes.

Vondran informs the court that this is “a total joke.” Not just that, Strike 3 apparently also managed to identify the wrong account on Facebook, from someone who happens to carry a similar name.

“Making matters worse for them, the Defendant in that case will show that the Facebook account used was that of another person with a similar same,” Vondran writes.

“These are the type of callous intentional abuses that are going on and the Courts have the inherent power to quash the subpoena and dismiss the case for improper delay,” the attorney adds.

If this is indeed true, Strike 3’s attempt to present “something more” to the court has the potential to backfire. In any case, it’s worth keeping an eye on this motion to quash, as well as the upcoming filings about the wrongly identified Facebook account.

A copy of Steven C. Vondran reply to Strike 3’s opposition to the motion to quash is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 03/23/20

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

This week we have four newcomers in our chart.

Star Wars: Episode IX 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 articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie RankRank last weekMovie nameIMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1(1)Star Wars: Episode IX6.8 / trailer
2(…)The Invisible Man7.4 / trailer
3(4)19178.4 / trailer
4(2)Sonic The Hedgehog6.8 / trailer
5(3)Jumanji: The Next Level6.9 / trailer
6(…)The Hunt6.4 / trailer
7(7)Frozen II6.7 / trailer
8(…)Onward7.6 / trailer
9(8)Contagion8.4 / trailer
10(…)The Banker6.9 / trailer

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

The Pirate Bay Uses Downtime to ‘Rewrite Some Code’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

The Pirate Bay’s main domain has been missing in action for more than two weeks.

As previously reported, displays a Cloudflare error message across the entire site, and some proxies are affected by the downtime as well.

The official Pirate Bay forums remain open but the moderators there don’t know what’s going on either. The site’s operator, ‘Winston,’ appears to operate in his own bubble, without talking directly to TPB staff or the public at large.

This lack of information has caused some uncertainty among regular Pirate Bay users, with some fearing that things may never return to normal.

To find out more we contacted a source who has a direct line with Winston. This person informed us that the downtime is due to a technical issue. In addition, the TPB tech admin is taking the opportunity to rewrite some of the site’s code.

While the response isn’t very detailed, it suggests that everything may eventually return to normal. Our follow-up question asking why the .onion domain has no issues remains unanswered for now.

Another question that comes to mind is why there’s such a massive lack of communication. It shouldn’t be hard to put some kind of message out. However, aside from the response above, we heard nothing further.

In recent years there has been a slow and steady change in the public’s response to Pirate Bay downtime. A few years ago, 24-hours of downtime was a reason for many people to panic, but right now a week of downtime can pass without much fuss.

In the TPB forums, many people point out that the site is still accessible at the new .onion address. New uploads are coming through fine as well, which is important, as many other torrent sites partly rely on content from The Pirate Bay.

That said, recent weeks have shown that TPB is vulnerable, or at least, far from stable. When someone asked if there’s a replacement for ‘Winston’ in case something bad happened, TPB admin Moe answered jokingly.

“There is no replacement for Winston. We do have a Walter sleeping outside the server room who claims he can do the job, but we question his suitability because he seems overly sober,” Moe wrote.

That’s a typical response one can expect from the Pirate Bay crew. However, the question is certainly valid, especially since the true answer is unknown.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Mixtape Service Sues RIAA for Sending False Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Operating a mixtape site is not without risk. By definition, mixes include multiple sound recordings which are all protected by copyright.

Popular hip-hop mixtape site and app Spinrilla, which has millions of users, is well aware of these risks. To stay on the safe side, it has implemented various anti-piracy measures.

For example, users of the service have to be vetted before they can upload anything. All their uploads are also scanned for possible infringements using Audible Magic’s content recognition service. On top of that, repeat infringers have their accounts terminated after two strikes.

These resource-intensive precautions are not unwarranted. The mixtape site was previously sued by several major records labels – a case that remains ongoing – and it’s not looking for further problems.

This means that the site is processing numerous takedown notices from music companies, many of which are represented by the RIAA. While Spinrilla doesn’t object to legitimate takedowns, it recently noticed that not all of the RIAA’s notices are accurate.


Spinrilla believes that the RIAA is sending takedown requests based on text searches, which results in inaccurate takedown notices. To stop this from happening, the site has filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Georgia, accusing the RIAA of sending false DMCA takedowns.

“Defendant is sending DMCA takedown notices some of which materially misrepresent that audio files uploaded by certain Spinrilla’s users infringe sound recordings owned by RIAA’s members,” Spinrilla writes.

These inaccurate takedown requests harm the goodwill and reputation of the mixtape site, Spinrilla notes. It’s a waste of resources and can also result in user accounts being terminated without good cause.

“False takedown notices needlessly waste Spinrilla’s time, disrupts its personnel’s work and puts at risk for terminating a user as a ‘repeat infringer’ when in fact the user uploaded non-infringing content,” Spinrilla writes.

The mixtape site argues that text-based searching can’t distinguish legal from unauthorized content. Uploaders can, for example, use titles of tracks or artists that are not necessarily used in the mixes. After looking into the matter, Spinrilla notices that some of the audio that was flagged by the RIAA was not infringing.

To stop these errors from taking place the site asked the RIAA not to rely solely on text searches. The RIAA replied that this was already the case, mentioning that “human ears” reviewed the content, but the false notices apparently didn’t stop.

“Despite Spinrilla’s informing Defendant of the false Notices, Defendant has continued to send Notices which include allegations of infringement as to audio files that Defendant knows do not infringe any copyrights and/or constitute fair use,” Spinrilla writes.

As an example, the mixtape mentions that the RIAA asked it to take down this mix, as it would infringe the copyrights for the Big Sean & Jhené Aiko track ‘2 Minute Warning.’ According to Spinrilla, this is not the case.

“That accused audio file does not infringe the copyright in the sound file 2 Minute Warning. In fact, that audio file is a mostly empty track (approximately 6 minutes) with the last 5 seconds or so jumbled audio that is not from the copyrighted 2 Minute Warning,” Spinrilla notes.

The RIAA is well aware that its practices are resulting in false positives, Spinrilla argues. As such, it is knowingly misrepresenting that the audio files are copyright infringing, which is in violation of the DMCA.

Through the lawsuit, the mixtape site hopes to obtain an injunction preventing the RIAA from “knowingly” sending false takedown notices. In addition, it asks to be compensated for the damage it has suffered thus far.

“Defendant’s wrongful acts have caused, and are causing, damage to Spinrilla, which damage cannot be accurately computed, and therefore, unless this Court restrains Defendant from further making knowingly material misrepresentations, Spinrilla will suffer irreparable damage for which there is no adequate remedy at law,” Spinrilla writes.

The RIAA has yet to file an answer to the complaint.

A copy of the complaint filed last month by Spinrilla at a U.S. District Court in Atlanta, Georgia, is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Google Removes Official Kodi Download Page After “Bogus” Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Millions of people use the Kodi media player for their daily entertainment needs.

While the open-source software is content-neutral, some third-party addons have given the tool a bad reputation by using it to offer pirated content.

This isn’t anything the Kodi development team has control over. Luckily, most copyright holders realize this, but every now and then one appears having apparently missed the boat. And for Kodi, that can result in real damage.

For example, this week we noticed that the official Kodi download page is no longer listed in Google’s search results. Looking more closely, we spotted that it was removed by Google following a DMCA takedown request.

The takedown notice was sent a few weeks ago on behalf of the Turkish pay-TV service Digiturk, which is owned by the beIN Media Group. BeIN is known for its strong stance against piracy but in this case, it was too aggressive.

“The infringed content is sports content (illegal video stream) branded and watermarked with the trademark/logo BEIN SPORTS HD,” Digiturk writes.

The request identifies a series of URLs, many of which are associated with seemingly unauthorized IPTV services. However, it also lists, Kodi’s official download page.

Generally speaking, Google is pretty good at spotting such errors but in this case the URL was removed, as mentioned at the bottom of related search results.

Interestingly, Kodi was not the only legal open-source project that was targeted. The same notice also lists two URLs, which is the home of the popular media player VLC. Again, the download pages of the software were listed.

Luckily for VLC, Google flagged these requests as incorrect, meaning that the pages remain available in Google’s search results.

Kodi’s Keith Herrington is disappointed that their software is once again hit by the piracy stigma.

“It’s unfortunate content companies continue to lump us and VLC together with services who are clearly in violation of copyright law by not only providing streams to their content but using their logo, etc and that Google doesn’t even bother to check or validate, they just remove.

“It feels like a very ‘guilty until proven innocent’ model which I do not agree with,” Herrington adds.

The Kodi Foundation has submitted a DMCA counter-notice to Google and hopes that their download page will reappear in search results in due course.

TorrentFreak reached out to Digiturk for a comment on its unusual requests. While they could be intentional, it’s also possible that the company simply targeted these open source projects by mistake.

Talking about mistakes, Digiturk also sent takedown notices for its own website in the past, more than once actually. That’s another error they may want to pay attention to going forward.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Warner Bros Sues ‘Harry Potter’ Running Club over Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Harry Potter is without doubt one of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. As a result, the various copyright holders, including Warner Bros., are very protective of their ‘asset.’

For example, When an underground restaurant tried to host a Halloween party with a Harry Potter theme, Warner’s lawyers came knocking, urging the owner not to use any Harry Potter properties.

More recently, a Kickstarter campaign was hit with a takedown notice for having a Harry Potter-inspired title, while a Danish Harry Potter festival was kindly urged to change its name.

This week, we can add another example to the list. In a lawsuit filed at a federal court in California, Warner Bros. accuses Random Tuesday Inc. and its alleged owner Dawn Biggs of copyright infringement and various other offenses.

Random Tuesday is the organization behind various virtual running clubs, including the “Potterhead Running Club” and the “Chilton Running Club,” with the latter being based on the Gilmore Girls series.

“This is a lawsuit to remedy Defendants’ deliberate, pervasive, and willful infringement and dilution of Warner Bros.’ intellectual property rights with respect to the well-known and highly popular Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls entertainment franchises,” Warner Bros. writes.

According to Warner Bros, the clubs are using the reputation and goodwill of these brands to grow their customer base. This includes organizing themed events and selling merchandise inspired by Warner’s properties.

“They organize virtual running races whereby they collect fees in exchange for providing medals and other merchandise displaying the HP [Harry Potter] Marks and GG [Gilmore Girls] Marks,” Warner Bros. writes.

“In addition, the Clubs’ websites have offered for sale and continue to sell a wide variety of unauthorized merchandise bearing the HP Marks and GG Marks, including hats, t-shirts, stickers, hairbands, mugs, lip balm, toys, novelties, and running medals.”

Initially, the “Potterhead Running Club” was called the “Hogwarts Running Club.” This changed in 2018, but Warner believes that the name change is not enough. The branding and products still use Harry Potter inspired names such as “Gryffinroar,” “Huffletuff,” “Slytherwin,” and “Ravenclawesome,” it notes.

As such, Random Tuesday has and continues to infringe Warner Bros.’ copyrights in the Harry Potter films and Gilmore Girls series, Warner argues, while urging the court to put an end to it.

The lawsuit shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Warner Bros. explains that it tried to resolve the matter through telephone calls and in-person meetings with the organization. However, this didn’t result in the desired effect.

In addition to copyright infringement, Random Tuesday is also accused of trademark infringement, trademark dilution, false advertising, and unfair competition, among other things. Warner Bros. requests all infringing activity to stop and wishes to be compensated for damages suffered.

A copy of the complaint Warner Bros. filed at the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Charter Countersues Music Companies for Sending Inaccurate DMCA Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Last year, several major music companies sued Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US with 22 million subscribers.

Helped by the RIAA, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, and others accused Charter of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.

Under US law, providers must terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” and Charter failed to do so, according to the music labels. Specifically, the ISP is accused of ignoring repeat infringers on its network, which it continued to serve as customers.

This week Charter replied to the complaint, which was amended in February, denying most of these allegations. In addition, the ISP is countersuing the music companies on two issues.

Firstly, Charter requests a declaratory judgment from the court, ruling that it’s not contributorily liable for the alleged infringements of its customers. Among other things, it points out that it doesn’t host or promote any infringing activity, nor can it detect piracy on its network.

Other ISPs have issued similar counterclaims in the past. However, Charter goes a step further by also countersuing the music companies for violating copyright law themselves.

The ISP’s claim follows a decision by the music companies to remove 272 sound recordings and 183 music compositions from their initial complaint. These were dropped after the record labels were ordered to produce further evidence that they indeed owned the rights.

This doesn’t sit well with Charter, which believes that the record companies, through the RIAA, have sent inaccurate DMCA notices for these works.

“Upon information and belief, the Record Company Plaintiffs did not own the Dropped Works when they sent notices for them,” Charter writes, adding that “…the Record Company Plaintiffs did not have the right to send notices to Charter for the Dropped Works.”

The notices in question contained “inaccurate information,” which includes the “misrepresentation” that the RIAA was authorized on behalf of the record companies to send these, the ISP adds.

According to the court documents, some of these works were also part of the lawsuit against fellow ISP Cox, where a jury recently awarded a damages amount of nearly $100,000 per work.

Charter itself argues that it was also directly harmed. The notices were processed in its CATS anti-piracy system, through which they were forwarded to subscribers. This obviously costs money.

“Charter incurs costs in implementing its CATS, including when processing Plaintiffs’ inaccurate notices,” the ISP notes, adding that the inaccurate notices also resulted in reputational damage.

“Charter is injured when it processes inaccurate notices, causing it to forward false accusations to its subscribers, to the extent this creates tension with the impacted subscribers, negatively affects goodwill, and causes reputational harm to Charter,” the counterclaim reads.

The ISP demands a jury trial on these issues and wants to be compensated for all damages suffered. In addition, it asks the court to declare that it is not contributorily liable for the alleged copyright infringements of its subscribers.

A copy of Charter’s response to the amended complaint, including the affirmative defenses and the counterclaims, is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Copyright Holders Want to ‘Quietly’ Expand Canada’s Pirate Site Blocklist

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Late last year, Canada’s Federal Court approved the first piracy blockade in the country.

Following a complaint from three major media companies, Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV.

The blocking injunction is part of a regular copyright infringement case that started a few months earlier. While the targeted IPTV service is relatively small, the ruling set a new precedent.

The timing wasn’t entirely coincidental either. The case against GoldTV was filed after a bid for an administrative pirate site blocking scheme from the same media companies failed.

While the GoldTV case followed the regular legal process, site blocking opponents fear that this is merely a test event and that requests to block many other sites will follow.

Thus far there are no concrete signs of new cases. However, the blocklist created by the GoldTV case has expanded. After the IPTV service switched to new domains to circumvent the order, the copyright holders went back to court, requesting an updated blocklist which was granted not much later.

Although this updated list may have worked for a while, new ‘circumvention’ domains were soon added. This prompted Rogers, Bell and TVA to return to court again a few days ago, requesting another extension.

These update requests were foreseen and are permitted under the injunction. However, there is considerable secrecy surrounding them.

This is in part due to the fact that ISPs have been asked not to publicize the details, TekSavvy explained to us. While the filing is technically public, the rightsholders want to keep the details quiet, presumably because they don’t want to make GoldTV any wiser. This is also what happened with the previous update request.

“We were again asked not to publicize it,” Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, tells us. “As much as I do not like being in this position, we have decided not to publicize the list of domains for now.”

TorrentFreak also reached out to other sources, trying to get a copy of the court records, but thus far we have yet to get our hands on the documents. The filings can usually be picked up in person at the court but the coronavirus outbreak is complicating matters.

Although the lack of transparency is frustrating from a news perspective, we don’t expect to see anything unusual in the extension request. According to the Wire Report it contains six new domain names, but we haven’t been able to verify the figure.

TekSavvy, meanwhile, remains the only ISP to appeal the blocking order. While the company is complying with the recent injunction, it hopes to overturn the verdict in this separate proceeding.

This week the ISP submitted its memorandum of fact and law to the Federal Court of Appeal. This filing also references the ‘continual update’ process, noting that the court failed to consider that it would consume judicial resources.

A bigger problem, perhaps, will appear when more blocking injunctions are requested, targeting other pirate sites. These may all require updates during the years to come, TekSavvy warns, which will place a significant burden on the courts.

“Given that the Respondents describe a widespread problem with copyright infringement online, the Federal Court can expect many more such site-blocking motions. For each order, the Court will maintain a supervisory role for the duration of the order. Cumulatively, this will place a significant strain on judicial resources,” TekSavvy cautions.

The ISP’s motion reiterates many of the comments that were made when the appeal was announced, including potential net neutrality problems and a violation of the right to freedom of expression.

“The risks of over-blocking and compromising the integrity of the Internet are real, and are heightened in the absence of legislative guidance. As highlighted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this has serious implications for free expression,” the company adds.

On top of that, TekSavvy questions the effectiveness of the injunction, stressing that there is “strong evidence” that site blocking doesn’t work well as it’s easily circumvented. That alone would be enough to decline a blocking order, the ISP argues.

The appeal process is likely going to take a while, so, for now, the blocking injunction will stand. At the time of writing the federal court has yet to grant the most recent update request. When we learn more about that or the targeted domains, we will report accordingly.

A copy of TekSavvy’s memorandum of fact and law, filed at the Federal Court of Appeal, is ‘transparently’ made available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Cox Maintains That $1 Billion in Piracy Damages is Excessive

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Last December, Internet provider Cox Communications lost its legal battle against a group of major record labels.

Following a two-week trial, the jury held Cox liable for the copyright infringements of its subscribers, ordering the company to pay $1 billion in damages.

Heavily disappointed by the decision, Cox later asked the court to lower the damages. This triggered a scathing response from the music companies, which said that Cox deserved to be punished and that the billion-dollar damages award could have been higher.

The labels countered that Cox’s copyright infringement policy was a “sham,” effectively offering a safe haven for pirates. The ISP’s internal documentation showed that subscribers were let back in after being disconnected, quoting the head of the abuse department saying “f the dmca!!!”

Late last week Cox responded to this reply, stressing that its position is unchanged. According to the ISP, the opposition lacks a proper legal basis and only confirms that the damages amount is too high.

“Plaintiffs’ opposition confirms the need for remittitur to reduce the historically excessive damage award, which undisputedly dwarfs any previous award in a comparable case—or indeed in any case,” Cox writes.

The ISP argues that, even though there are ‘only’ around 10,000 infringements in this case, the labels are holding the company liable for piracy losses across the entire industry. That’s not justified, Cox argues, adding that its claimed piracy profits are overblown.

“Plaintiffs strove to convince the jury that the 10,017 infringements they could prove were evidence of millions more infringements they could not prove, and that the appropriate measure of damages was the harm not to Plaintiffs from Cox’s infringement but to the entire music industry from all infringement,” Cox states.

One of the key points of the reply focuses on the allegations that Cox didn’t have a proper repeat infringer policy as it let terminated subscribers back in. However, the ISP counters that many of its policies were in line with the Copyright Alert System (CAS), the voluntary agreement rightsholders struck with other US Internet providers.

“Plaintiffs call it ‘incredible’ that Cox allowed terminated subscribers to return to Cox’s service with ‘a clean slate,’ but CAS too allowed a ‘reset’ for an infringing subscriber after a period without notices, no matter how many times that subscriber had previously infringed.

“And Plaintiffs’ claim that Cox’s ‘never-suspend and never terminate’ policy for business customers ‘was even more outrageous’ rings hollow given that CAS imposed no obligations at all with respect to ISPs’ business customers,” the reply reads.

While there certainly are some differences with CAS, Cox believes that it could have simply escaped liability by joining the program. Because it didn’t, it now faces a billion-dollar judgment, even though its policy wasn’t that different, it says.

“The fact that Cox could have joined CAS and thereby avoided any liability for the conduct at issue here (it is undisputed that Plaintiffs have not sued any of the ISPs who signed onto CAS) makes readily apparent the gross disproportion between the culpability of its conduct and the $1 billion award.”

The record labels blasted Cox’s initial request to lower the damages award, which was sprinkled with shaded language such as “outrageous,” “egregious,” “flagrant,” “sham.” However, the ISP says that adjectives are not facts. It, therefore, urges the court to look at the evidence and properly weigh it in context.

This includes the way the damages are calculated, Cox’s conduct, but also damages awards that were handed down in similar copyright infringement cases. In this light, the ISP believes that a billion-dollar award is not justified.

“Fair consideration of the record establishes that the $1 billion award is excessive, not only by comparison to analogous awards, but in light of the trial evidence on which it must be based,” Cox concludes.

It is now up to the court to make a decision. If it decides not to lower the damages, Cox would like to have a new trial. In addition, the ISP also has a separate request outstanding for the court to issue a judgment as a matter of law, which effectively bypasses the jury.

A copy of Cox’s reply to the labels’ opposition to its motion for remittitur can be found here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Coronavirus Lockdown Boosts Interest in Pirate Sites and Services

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to unprecedented situations around the world, with governments implementing far-reaching measures to contain the threat.

These measures are creating new realities affecting many industries. However, most people understand and agree that they’re being taken in their best interest.

Health care workers are putting in extra hours, something they are being rightfully applauded for. At the same time, however, other people are being encouraged or even ordered to stay indoors to limit infection spread.

In Italy, the government ordered a lockdown of the entire country last week. Dozens of millions of people must stay indoors and are only allowed to go outside when it’s absolutely necessary. With this measure, the authorities hope to flatten the spread of the virus.

Mandatory home confinement has a strong effect on society as a whole but while health and security are the top priorities, people are also looking for news and entertainment to get through the days. As a result, Internet traffic is rising.

According to Cloudflare, traffic to its northern Italy node has grown more than 30% compared to earlier this year. While part of this is the result of remote working and news consumption, there also appears to be a spike in video streaming.

Looking at Italy’s Google search trend for the term “Netflix,” we see an obvious increase over the past several days, as clearly shown below. Apparently many people are passing the time by watching movies and TV-shows.

This effect isn’t limited to legal streaming options either. All large pirate streaming services in Italy are noticing increased interest as well. Searches for popular local sites such as Guardaserie, Filmpertutti, Altadefinizione, CB01, and Eurostreaming, all skyrocketed over the past few days.

All of these sites are among the top pirate sites in the country, where local pirate sites traditionally overshadow international ones.

Italy is not the only country where extreme precautions are being taken. In Spain, a lockdown has also been in place since last weekend. There is no recent Google trend data to measure the effect yet, but we may see a similar spike there.

TorrentFreak spoke to the owner of one of the largest torrent sites on the net. Contrary to the trend reported above, he isn’t seeing a massive spike in Italian visitors. However, the site in question never had many visitors from Italy.

The coronavirus does appear to have a broader effect on the file-sharing ecosystem though. Download and streaming service Real-Debrid is reporting a significant uptick in traffic, breaking new records.

“Corona virus has an impact on the traffic we have on our service but also peering capabilities of many ISPs, we had a traffic spike yesterday night (new record), we expect to get this amount of traffic for quite some time but, for now, we still have enough capabilities,” they reported on Twitter.

After installing a new server, Real-Debrid reported another 20% boost in traffic a few hours later.

Not only has traffic to pirate sites and services increased, but the nature of the current pandemic has also raised the interest in specific content. We previously reported that the number of downloads of the movie “Contagion” had increased significantly, and this trend continues.

After the popular torrent release group YTS released two new rips of “Contagion” last week, the movie was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, enough to earn a spot in our weekly top 10 of most pirated films.

This is an unprecedented listing, as the movie is almost a decade old. Never before has an older movie made its way into the top list, years after it was first featured.

It’s clear that the coronavirus outbreak is affecting most parts of the world, severely disrupting society. While these changes in piracy habits and streaming patterns are worth documenting, they are of course entirely insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 03/16/20

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

This week we have four newcomers in our chart.

Star Wars: Episode IX 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 articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie RankRank last weekMovie nameIMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1(…)Star Wars: Episode IX6.8 / trailer
2(7)Sonic The Hedgehog6.8 / trailer
3(1)Jumanji: The Next Level6.9 / trailer
4(…)19178.4 / trailer
5(4)Spies in Disguise6.8 / trailer
6(2)Spenser Confidential6.3 / trailer
7(3)Frozen II6.7 / trailer
8(…)Contagion8.4 / trailer
9(5)Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn6.5 / trailer
10(…)The Grudge4.1 / trailer

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

‘Copyright Troll’ Uses Social Media Info Against Alleged BitTorrent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Strike 3 Holdings is a familiar name in US federal courts. In recent years, the adult entertainment company has filed thousands of lawsuits against alleged copyright infringers.

While many of these resulted in private settlements, Strike 3 has also experienced some setbacks. This includes a scathing opinion that was released by Judge Royce C. Lamberth.

In 2018, Judge Lamberth accused the company of being a “copyright troll,” that uses “famously flawed” technology to prey on “low-hanging fruit,” flooding the courthouse “with lawsuits smacking of extortion.”

The Judge denied early discovery, which meant that Strike 3 couldn’t find out who the subscriber of an IP-address was, something that’s crucial in their cases.

The case in question is currently being appealed, with Strike 3 claiming that it wasn’t treated fairly, perhaps in part due to the adult nature of its works. This was discussed in detail during a hearing last week at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Among other things, the appeal court judges questioned Strike 3 about possible false accusations, where the subscriber on an IP-address is not the infringer. The company admitted this indeed happens in roughly a quarter of all cases. However, to determine that they first have to know who the subscriber is.

This is where Strike 3’s attorney Lincoln Bandlow provided some interesting background. To back up some of their claims, the company has been scouring social media sites for possible leads. In some cases, that helps to serve as indirect evidence.

“We have cases where we get the name and address and we can look. We found somebody who’s tweeted ‘Love your content, do more works with this particular talent, etcetera, etcetera.’ Clearly that’s somebody who likes the works and there’s reason to believe that they are the ones who have infringed,” the attorney writes.

According to Bandlow, Strike 3 conducts a substantial investigation to back up their initial claims. And if it turns out they have the wrong person and can’t identify the target, the case is dismissed. However, in order to get to that point, they need to know who’s behind the IP-address.

This position was countered by the amicus curiae appellant, which wants the district court order to be upheld. While this decision is ultimately up to the appeals court, the social media angle also applies elsewhere.

Earlier this week we stumbled upon a new case Strike 3 filed at a federal court in Connecticut, which also mentions social media.

The lawsuit in question is different from the traditional ‘trolling cases’ where Strike 3 doesn’t know the defendant. In this case, it already obtained the subscriber information through the Florida state court, which we reported on previously.

Having a name and address upfront allowed Strike 3 to dig up some extra information, more than just an IP-address, which in this case includes social media info.

“Defendant’s social media webpages establishes that Defendant is interested in…,” the complaint reads, listing a summary of redacted interests.

While the adult entertainment company redacted the details, they likely relate to adult interests, or perhaps something piracy related. Whatever the case, it shows that people who put this type of information on social media may eventually have to face it in court.

Whether the judge in this case will see if as sufficient is another question. However, it clearly shows that the traces people leave online are not always as innocent as they seem.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

There’s Something Fishy Going on with Australia’s Piracy Numbers

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Australia’s latest online copyright infringement report, released by the Department of Communications in December, suggested that piracy is falling.

The data pointed out that there’s been a steady decrease in the number of people who consume music, movies, and TV shows illegally. This follows a trend that was revealed in earlier reports.

According to the Government, a mere 16% of the population can be classified as pirates. This is a drastic drop compared to last year when a similar study found that 32% obtained content illegally. In 2015, when the first survey was taken, the number was even higher at 43%.

Like many other news outlets, we reported the numbers as they were presented. However, something didn’t feel right. This prompted us to step back and take a closer look at the reported data to see how this unprecedented drop took place.

Specifically, we want to see where this drop comes from and how it can be so massive.

The bar chart below provides a good starting point. It shows what percentage of a particular category of digital content is consumed 100% legally, 100% illegally, or a mix of both. The chart also shows the same data for “any of the four” content categories.

As reported, the bar on the far right shows that, across all categories, only 16% of the respondents consumed content unlawfully in any of the four categories. That is exactly as reported, so that’s good news.

The problem is, however, that this percentage doesn’t make much sense when we look at the individual categories.

Based on the reported sample numbers, the 16% across all categories translates to 314 respondents. In other words, 314 people pirated something from any of the four categories which includes music, games, movies and TV.

However, when we look at the movies category on its own we see that 25% of the respondents consumed movies illegally. Based on the sample size for that category, that translates to 316 respondents.

How can it be that more people consume movies illegally than in the four categories combined, which also includes movies, and thus the same respondents?

Technically this can be chalked up as rounding variance. But even when that’s the case, it seems implausible that every person who pirated something also pirated movies.

That explanation is even more implausible when we look at the exact same data from the year before. That year 32% of the people consumed content from any of the four categories unlawfully (555 respondents). However, less than half of these were also movie pirates (240 respondents).

It seems very unlikely that when in 2018 less than 50% of the self-proclaimed pirates consumed illegal movies, this suddenly went up to 100% in 2019.

We shared our findings with the Australian Government’s Department of Communications and the Arts. Despite several back and forths, they were not able to explain these findings.

In previous years the report also included the raw numbers for all the categories, which could provide more insight. However, the most recent report no longer includes these and the Government informed us that it does not have permission to share the data.

And it doesn’t stop there. The further we delve into the numbers the weirder things get.

For example, there is a similar chart to the one shown earlier but in this instance detailing the consumption of “free” content (e.g. downloading from torrent sites).

As shown above, this indicates that 46% of all respondents who consumed free content in any of the four categories did so unlawfully.

This translates to roughly 678 respondents, which is much more than the number cited for all content consumers (paid and free), which presumably includes the same people.

There are many other examples to give but the above clearly illustrates that there’s something fishy with these numbers. According to the Government, the entire pirate population was slashed in half last year, but we doubt that this is really the case.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Descenders ‘Rewards’ Pirating Gamers With a Fitting Flag

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original

Online piracy is an issue that affects many industries, and game developers are certainly no exception.

While some big game companies are responding with lawsuits and takedown notices, not all game studios necessarily see piracy was something that has to be rooted out.

Yesterday, game studio RageSquid brought attention to the topic in a unique and creative way. The company, known for the downhill mountain biking game “Descenders,” is all too familiar with ‘unlicensed’ players. Their game was pirated by groups such as CODEX and SKIDROW, which are familiar names in the game now.

The game studio, however, is pretty open to pirates and has never treated them any differently. But, after some internal discussions, that changed yesterday when RageSquid decided to give all known pirates a unique flag on their bikes.

“We just realized we never thanked SKIDROW and CODEX for sharing our game. So as appreciation we gave them all a little flag they can never unequip,” RageQuid wrote on Twitter.

Although pirates can still play the game just fine, they are forced to wave the pirate flag. Some may see this as a badge of honor, others may take it as a punishment. RageSquid’s Studio Director Lex Decrauw explains to us that it is certainly not intended that way.

“Honestly, we were just having a laugh at the office, it was a spur of the moment thing. We were having a look at our piracy rates and someone dropped a ‘wouldn’t it be fun if all pirates were forced to sail the pirate flag?’ and that was all that was needed for our artist to whip up something neat,” he says.

“We’ve not done this as some form of punishment as some people have suggested. We acknowledge how many people play our game through pirated versions and we’re okay with that,” Decrauw adds.

The game studio confirms that roughly 60% of all Descenders players have pirated the game. While that is a very substantial figure, the effect pirates have on the company’s revenues is nothing close to that.

“It would be really easy to shout ‘Oh no, there’s X amount of people playing our game on pirated versions, we’re being robbed of X * [game price] dollars!’ but that’s simply not true,” Decrauw says.

Ultimately, RageSquid wants as many people as possible playing the game, and piracy certainly helps with that. It makes it available to those who don’t have the means to pay for it or wouldn’t have tried it otherwise, the company says.

On top of that, the pirate players may spread the word, which eventually could very well lead to more buyers. In other words, piracy can be seen as a form of promotion as well.

“More often than not the people who pirate the game wouldn’t have bought it otherwise,” Decrauw says. “On top of that, there are people who pirate it and tell their friends about the game, who then may buy it through official channels.

“All in all, we’re perfectly fine with pirates and I’d say it is absolutely not a problem at all for us. The flag is simply supposed to be a friendly joke to our pirate friends out there,” RageSquid’s Studio Director adds.

Many of these pirate “friends” will now happily wave their pirate flags going downhill. And those who don’t like it can always buy the game. Similarly, legitimate customers who fancy a pirate flag on their bike have options too, although this gimmick probably isn’t intended to draw people to pirate sites.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.