All posts by Ernesto

Australian Pirate Site Blocks Actually Block Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-pirate-site-blocks-actually-block-pirate-sites-180221/

Australian copyright holders and lawmakers have been struggling to find an adequate response to online piracy for several years.

Progress has been slow, but with pirate site blockades now in effect, there appears to be some movement.

New research published by INCOPRO this week shows that traffic to blocked pirate sites has decreased 53.4% since the first measures were implemented a year ago. In total, usage of the top 250 pirate sites dropped a significant 25.4% in Australia.

In summary, the research confirms that direct traffic to blocked sites has decreased dramatically. Or put differently, the site blocking efforts actually block pirate sites, which by itself should hardly come as a surprise.

In fact, one might wonder how effective the blockades really are when nearly half of all direct traffic to the blocked sites in Australia remains intact and dozens of the country’s ISPs are involved.

On top, it’s also worth mentioning that the research doesn’t take VPN usage into account. Australian interest in VPNs surged after the blockades were announced, so many people are likely to be circumvented the blockades using foreign VPNs.

While VPNs were not factored in, the current research did look at proxy site traffic and concludes that this only substitutes a small portion of the traffic that went to pirate sites before the blockades.

While it’s undoubtedly true that direct traffic to blocked sites has dropped, the research also includes some odd results. For example, it attributes a recent drop in Isohunt.to traffic to the blocking measures, when in reality the site actually shut down.

“ISOHunt usage has been on a downward trend since December 2016, and is now at its lowest on record having reduced by 96.4% since blocking began,” the report reads, drawing on data from Alexa.

But perhaps we’re nitpicking.

Creative Content Australia (CCA) is happy with these results and states that the fight against piracy has claimed a significant victory. However, the anti-piracy group also stressed that more can be done.

“The reduction in piracy is exciting news but that 53% could be 90%,” CCA Chairman Graham Burke says, using the opportunity to take another stab at Google.

“The government has shut the front door, but Google is leading people to the back door, showing no respect for Australian law or courts let alone any regard for the Australian economy and cultural way of life,” Burke adds.

INCOPRO’s research will undoubtedly be used to convince lawmakers that the current site blocking efforts should remain in place.

With this in mind, the release of the report comes at an interesting time. The previously unpublished results were drawn up last December, but were only made public this week, a few days after the Australian Government announced a review of the site blocking measures.

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SkyTorrents Dumps Massive Torrent Database and Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/skytorrents-dumps-massive-torrent-database-and-shuts-down180221/

About a year ago we first heard about SkyTorrents, an ambitious new torrent site which guaranteed a private and ad-free experience for its users.

Initially, we were skeptical. However, the site quickly grew a steady userbase through sites such as Reddit and after a few months, it was still sticking to its promise.

“We will NEVER place any ads,” SkyTorrents’ operator informed us last year.

“The site will remain ad-free or it will shut down. When our funds dry up, we will go for donations. We can also handover to someone with similar intent, interests, and the goal of a private and ad-free world.”

In the months that followed, these words turned out to be almost prophetic. It didn’t take long before SkyTorrents had several million pageviews per day. This would be music to the ears of many site owners but for SkyTorrents it was a problem.

With the increase in traffic, the server bills also soared. This meant that the ad-free search engine had to cough up roughly $1,500 per month, which is quite an expensive hobby. The site tried to cover at least part of the costs with donations but that didn’t help much either.

This led to the rather ironic situation where users of the site encouraged the operator to serve ads.

“Everyone is saying they would rather have ads then have the site close down,” one user wrote on Reddit last summer. “I applaud you. But there is a reason why every other site has ads. It’s necessary to get revenue when your customers don’t pay.”

The site’s operator was not easily swayed though, not least because ads also compromise people’s privacy. Eventually funds dried up and now, after the passing of several more months, he has now decided to throw in the towel.

“It was a great experience to serve and satisfy people around the world,” the site’s operator says.

The site is not simply going dark though. While the end has been announced, the site’s operator is giving people the option to download and copy the site’s database of more than 15 million torrents.

Backup

That’s 444 gigabytes of .torrent files for all the archivists out there. Alternatively, the site also offers a listing of just the torrent hashes, which is a more manageable 322 megabytes.

SkyTorrents’ operator says that he hopes someone will host the entire cache of torrents and “take it forward.” In addition, he thanks hosting company NFOrce for the service it has provided.

Whether anyone will pick up the challenge has yet to be seen. What’s has become clear though is that operating a popular ad-free torrent site is hard to pull off for long, unless you have deep pockets.

Update: While writing this article Skytorrents was still online, but upon publication, it is no longer accessible. The torrent archive is still available.

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BitTorrent Client uTorrent Suffers Security Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-client-utorrent-suffers-security-vulnerability-180220/

With dozens of millions of active users a day, uTorrent has long been the most used torrent client.

The software has been around for well over a decade and it’s still used to shift petabytes of data day after day. While there haven’t been many feature updates recently, parent company BitTorrent Inc. was alerted to a serious security vulnerability recently.

The security flaw in question was reported by Google vulnerability researcher Tavis Ormandy, who first reached out to BitTorrent in November last year. Google’s Project Zero allows developers a 90-day window to address security flaws but with this deadline creeping up, BitTorrent had remained quiet.

Late last month Ormandy again reached out to BitTorrent Inc’s Bram Cohen, fearing that the company might not fix the vulnerability in time.

“I don’t think bittorrent are going to make a 90 day disclosure deadline, do you have any direct contacts who could help? I’m not convinced they understand the severity or urgency,” Ormandy wrote on Twitter.

Nudge

While Google’s security researcher might have expected a more swift response, the issue wasn’t ignored.

BitTorrent Inc has yet to fix the problem in the stable release, but a patch was deployed in the Beta version last week. BitTorrent’s Vice President of Engineering David Rees informed us that this will be promoted to the regular release this week, if all goes well.

While no specific details about the vulnerability have yet to be released, it is likely to be a remote execution flaw. Ormandy previously exposed a similar vulnerability in Transmission, which he said was the “first of a few remote code execution flaws in various popular torrent clients.”

BitTorrent Inc. told us that they have shared their patch with Ormandy, who confirmed that this fixes the security issues.

uTorrent Beta release notes

“We have also sent the build to Tavis and he has confirmed that it addresses all the security issues he reported,” Rees told us. “Since we have not promoted this build to stable, I will reserve reporting on the details of the security issue and its fix for now.”

BitTorrent Inc. plans to release more details about the issue when all clients are patched. Then it will also recommend users to upgrade their clients, so they are no longer at risk, and further information will also be available on Google’s Project Zero site.

Of course, people who are concerned about the issue can already upgrade to the latest uTorrent Beta release right away. Or, assuming that it’s related to the client’s remote control functionality, disable that for now.

Note: uTorrent’s Beta changelog states that the fixes were applied on January 15, but we believe that this should read February 15 instead.

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Steal This Show S03E13: The Tao of The DAO

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/steal-show-s03e13-tao-dao/

stslogo180If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

In this episode, we meet Chris Beams, founder of the decentralized cryptocurrency exchange Bisq. We discuss the concept of DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) and whether The Pirate Bay was an early example; how the start of Bitcoin parallels the start of the Internet itself; and why the meretricious Bitcoin Cash fork of Bitcoin is based on a misunderstanding of Open Source development.

Finally, we get into Bisq itself, discussing the potential political importance of decentralized crypto exchanges in the context of any future attempts by the financial establishment to control cryptocurrency.

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing copyright and file-sharing news. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

The guests for our news discussions will vary, and we’ll aim to introduce voices from different backgrounds and persuasions. In addition to news, STS will also produce features interviewing some of the great innovators and minds.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Chris Beams

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Riley Byrne
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Siraje Amarniss

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Canadian Pirate Site Blocks Could Spread to VPNs, Professor Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-pirate-site-blocks-could-spread-to-vpns-professor-warns-180219/

ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet.

In recent years sites have been blocked throughout Europe, in Asia, and even Down Under.

Last month, a coalition of Canadian companies called on the local telecom regulator CRTC to establish a local pirate site blocking program, which would be the first of its kind in North America.

The Canadian deal is backed by both copyright holders and major players in the Telco industry, such as Bell and Rogers, which also have media companies of their own. Instead of court-ordered blockades, they call for a mutually agreed deal where ISPs will block pirate sites.

The plan has triggered a fair amount of opposition. Tens of thousands of people have protested against the proposal and several experts are warning against the negative consequences it may have.

One of the most vocal opponents is University of Ottawa law professor Micheal Geist. In a series of articles, processor Geist highlighted several problems, including potential overblocking.

The Fairplay Canada coalition downplays overblocking, according to Geist. They say the measures will only affect sites that are blatantly, overwhelmingly or structurally engaged in piracy, which appears to be a high standard.

However, the same coalition uses a report from MUSO as its primary evidence. This report draws on a list of 23,000 pirate sites, which may not all be blatant enough to meet the blocking standard.

For example, professor Geist notes that it includes a site dedicated to user-generated subtitles as well as sites that offer stream ripping tools which can be used for legal purposes.

“Stream ripping is a concern for the music industry, but these technologies (which are also found in readily available software programs from a local BestBuy) also have considerable non-infringing uses, such as for downloading Creative Commons licensed videos also found on video sites,” Geist writes.

If the coalition tried to have all these sites blocked the scope would be much larger than currently portrayed. Conversely, if only a few of the sites would be blocked, then the evidence that was used to put these blocks in place would have been exaggerated.

“In other words, either the scope of block list coverage is far broader than the coalition admits or its piracy evidence is inflated by including sites that do not meet its piracy standard,” Geist notes.

Perhaps most concerning is the slippery slope that the blocking efforts can turn into. Professor Geist fears that after the standard piracy sites are dealt with, related targets may be next.

This includes VPN services. While this may sound far-fetched to some, several members of the coalition, such as Bell and Rogers, have already criticized VPNs in the past since these allow people to watch geo-blocked content.

“Once the list of piracy sites (whatever the standard) is addressed, it is very likely that the Bell coalition will turn its attention to other sites and services such as virtual private networks (VPNs).

“This is not mere speculation. Rather, it is taking Bell and its allies at their word on how they believe certain services and sites constitute theft,” Geist adds.

The issue may even be more relevant in this case, since the same VPNs can also be used to circumvent pirate sites blockades.

“Further, since the response to site blocking from some Internet users will surely involve increased use of VPNs to evade the blocks, the attempt to characterize VPNs as services engaged in piracy will only increase,” Geist adds.

Potential overblocking is just one of the many issues with the current proposal, according to the law professor. Geist previously highlighted that current copyright law already provides sufficient remedies to deal with piracy and that piracy isn’t that much of a problem in Canada in the first place.

The CRTC has yet to issue its review of the proposal but now that the cat is out of the bag, rightsholders and ISPs are likely to keep pushing for blockades, one way or the other.

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Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 02/19/18

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-02-19-18/

This week we have four newcomers in our chart.

Justice League 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) Justice League 7.1 / trailer
2 (2) Thor Ragnarok 8.1 / trailer
3 (…) Pitch Perfect 3 6.2 / trailer
4 (1) Coco 8.9 / trailer
5 (4) The Shape of Water (DVDScr) 8.0 / trailer
6 (…) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 8.3 / trailer
7 (3) Daddy’s Home 2 6.0 / trailer
8 (…) Lady Bird 7.7 / trailer
9 (8) Blade Runner 2049 8.9 / trailer
10 (…) The Gateway 5.9 / trailer

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Epic Games Uses Private Investigators to Locate Cheaters

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-uses-private-investigators-to-locate-cheaters-180218/

Last fall, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

This also included thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. Epic Games then went a step further by taking several cheaters to court for copyright infringement.

In the months that have passed several cases have been settled with undisclosed terms, but it appears that not all defendants are easy to track down. In at least two cases, Epic had to retain the services of private investigators to locate their targets.

In a case filed in North Carolina, the games company was unable to serve the defendant (now identified as B.B) so they called in the help of Klatt Investigations, with success.

“[A]fter having previously engaged two other process servers that were unable to locate and successfully serve B.B., Epic engaged Klatt Investigations, a Canadian firm that provides various services related to the private service of process in civil matters.

“In this case, we engaged Klatt Investigations to locate and effect service of process by personal service on Defendant,” Epic informs the court.

As Epic Games didn’t know the age of the defendant beforehand they chose to approach the person as a minor, which turned out to be a wise choice. The alleged cheater indeed appears to be a minor, so both the Defendant and Defendant’s mother were served.

Based on this new information, Epic Games asked the court to redact any court documents that reveal personal information of the defendant, which includes his or her full name.

Epic’s request to seal

This is not the first time Epic Games has used a private investigator to locate a defendant. It hired S&H Investigative Services in another widely reported case, where the defendant also turned out to be a minor.

In that case, the mother of the alleged cheater wrote a letter to the court in her son’s defense, but after that, things went quiet.

This lack of response prompted Epic Games to ask the court to enter a default in this case, which means that the defendant risks a default judgment for copyright infringement.

Epic’s declaration for the motion to seal the personal details of minor B.B. is available here (pdf). The request to enter a default in the separate C.R case can be found (here pdf).

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Game Companies Oppose DMCA Exemption for ‘Abandoned’ Online Games

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-companies-oppose-dmca-exemption-for-abandoned-online-games-180217/

There are a lot of things people are not allowed to do under US copyright law, but perhaps just as importantly there are exemptions.

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently considering whether or not to loosen the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, which prevent the public from ‘tinkering’ with DRM-protected content and devices.

These provisions are renewed every three years after the Office hears various arguments from the public. One of the major topics on the agenda this year is the preservation of abandoned games.

The Copyright Office previously included game preservation exemptions to keep these games accessible. This means that libraries, archives, and museums can use emulators and other circumvention tools to make old classics playable.

Late last year several gaming fans including the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (the MADE), a nonprofit organization operating in California, argued for an expansion of this exemption to also cover online games. This includes games in the widely popular multiplayer genre, which require a connection to an online server.

“Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical,” MADE wrote in its comment to the Copyright Office.

“Online games have become ubiquitous and are only growing in popularity. For example, an estimated fifty-three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week, and spend, on average, six hours a week playing with others online.”

This week, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which acts on behalf of prominent members including Electonic Arts, Nintendo and Ubisoft, opposed the request.

While they are fine with the current game-preservation exemption, expanding it to online games goes too far, they say. This would allow outsiders to recreate online game environments using server code that was never published in public.

It would also allow a broad category of “affiliates” to help with this which, according to the ESA, could include members of the public

“The proponents characterize these as ‘slight modifications’ to the existing exemption. However they are nothing of the sort. The proponents request permission to engage in forms of circumvention that will enable the complete recreation of a hosted video game-service environment and make the video game available for play by a public audience.”

“Worse yet, proponents seek permission to deputize a legion of ‘affiliates’ to assist in their activities,” ESA adds.

The proposed changes would enable and facilitate infringing use, the game companies warn. They fear that outsiders such as MADE will replicate the game servers and allow the public to play these abandoned games, something games companies would generally charge for. This could be seen as direct competition.

MADE, for example, already charges the public to access its museum so they can play games. This can be seen as commercial use under the DMCA, ESA points out.

“Public performance and display of online games within a museum likewise is a commercial use within the meaning of Section 107. MADE charges an admission fee – ‘$10 to play games all day’.

“Under the authority summarized above, public performance and display of copyrighted works to generate entrance fee revenue is a commercial use, even if undertaken by a nonprofit museum,” the ESA adds.

The ESA also stresses that their members already make efforts to revive older games themselves. There is a vibrant and growing market for “retro” games, which games companies are motivated to serve, they say.

The games companies, therefore, urge the Copyright Office to keep the status quo and reject any exemptions for online games.

“In sum, expansion of the video game preservation exemption as contemplated by Class 8 is not a ‘modest’ proposal. Eliminating the important limitations that the Register provided when adopting the current exemption risks the possibility of wide-scale infringement and substantial market harm,” they write.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision. It’s clear that the wishes of game preservation advocates, such as MADE, are hard to unite with the interests of the game companies, so one side will clearly be disappointed with the outcome.

A copy of ESA’s submissionavailablelble here (pdf).

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Major US Sports Leagues Report Top Piracy Nations to Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/major-us-sports-leagues-report-top-piracy-nations-to-government-180216/

While pirated Hollywood blockbusters often score the big headlines, there are several other industries that have been battling with piracy over the years. This includes sports organizations.

Many of the major US leagues including the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and the Tennis Association, are bundling their powers in the Sports Coalition, to try and curb the availability of pirated streams and videos.

A few days ago the Sports Coalition put the piracy problem on the agenda of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

“Sports organizations, including Sports Coalition members, are heavily affected by live sports telecast piracy, including the unauthorized live retransmission of sports telecasts over the Internet,” the Sports Coalition wrote.

“The Internet piracy of live sports telecasts is not only a persistent problem, but also a global one, often involving bad actors in more than one nation.”

The USTR asked the public for comments on which countries play a central role in copyright infringement issues. In its response, the Sports Coalition stresses that piracy is a global issue but singles out several nations as particularly problematic.

The coalition recommends that the USTR should put the Netherlands and Switzerland on the “Priority Watch List” of its 2018 Special 301 Report, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles and Sweden, which get a regular “Watch List” recommendation.

The main problem with these countries is that hosting providers and content distribution networks don’t do enough to curb piracy.

In the Netherlands, sawlive.tv, strikezoneme, wizlnet, AltusHost, Host Palace, Quasi Networks and SNEL pirated or provided services contributing to sports piracy, the coalition writes. In Switzerland, mlbstreamme, robinwidgetorg, strikeoutmobi, BlackHOST, Private Layer and Solar Communications are doing the same.

According to the major sports leagues, the US Government should encourage these countries to step up their anti-piracy game. This is not only important for US copyright holders, but also for licensees in other countries.

“Clearly, there is common ground – both in terms of shared economic interests and legal obligations to protect and enforce intellectual property and related rights – for the United States and the nations with which it engages in international trade to work cooperatively to stop Internet piracy of sports programming.”

Whether any of these countries will make it into the USTR’s final list has yet to be seen. For Switzerland it wouldn’t be the first time but for the Netherlands it would be new, although it has been considered before.

A document we received through a FOIA request earlier this year revealed that the US Embassy reached out to the Dutch Government in the past, to discuss similar complaints from the Sports Coalition.

The same document also revealed that local anti-piracy group BREIN consistently urged the entertainment industries it represents not to advocate placing the Netherlands on the 301 Watch List but to solve the problems behind the scenes instead.

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Embedding a Tweet Can be Copyright Infringement, Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/embedding-a-tweet-can-be-copyright-infringement-court-rules-180216/

Nowadays it’s fairly common for blogs and news sites to embed content posted by third parties, ranging from YouTube videos to tweets.

Although these publications don’t host the content themselves, they can be held liable for copyright infringement, a New York federal court has ruled.

The case in question was filed by Justin Goldman whose photo of Tom Brady went viral after he posted it on Snapchat. After being reposted on Reddit, it also made its way onto Twitter from where various news organizations picked it up.

Several of these news sites reported on the photo by embedding tweets from others. However, since Goldman never gave permission to display his photo, he went on to sue the likes of Breitbart, Time, Vox and Yahoo, for copyright infringement.

In their defense, the news organizations argued that they did nothing wrong as no content was hosted on their servers. They referred to the so-called “server test” that was applied in several related cases in the past, which determined that liability rests on the party that hosts the infringing content.

In an order that was just issued, US District Court Judge Katherine Forrest disagrees. She rejects the “server test” argument and rules that the news organizations are liable.

“[W]hen defendants caused the embedded Tweets to appear on their websites, their actions violated plaintiff’s exclusive display right; the fact that the image was hosted on a server owned and operated by an unrelated third party (Twitter) does not shield them from this result,” Judge Forrest writes.

Judge Forrest argues that the server test was established in the ‘Perfect 10 v. Amazon’ case, which dealt with the ‘distribution’ of content. This case is about ‘displaying’ an infringing work instead, an area where the jurisprudence is not as clear.

“The Court agrees with plaintiff. The plain language of the Copyright Act, the legislative history undergirding its enactment, and subsequent Supreme Court jurisprudence provide no basis for a rule that allows the physical location or possession of an image to determine who may or may not have “displayed” a work within the meaning of the Copyright Act.”

As a result, summary judgment was granted in favor of Goldman.

Rightsholders, including Getty Images which supported Goldman, are happy with the result. However, not everyone is pleased. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that if the current verdict stands it will put millions of regular Internet users at risk.

“Rejecting years of settled precedent, a federal court in New York has ruled that you could infringe copyright simply by embedding a tweet in a web page,” EFF comments.

“Even worse, the logic of the ruling applies to all in-line linking, not just embedding tweets. If adopted by other courts, this legally and technically misguided decision would threaten millions of ordinary Internet users with infringement liability.”

Given what’s at stake, it’s likely that the news organization will appeal this week’s order.

Interestingly, earlier this week a California district court dismissed Playboy’s copyright infringement complaint against Boing Boing, which embedded a YouTube video that contained infringing content.

A copy of Judge Forrest’s opinion can be found here (pdf).

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Court Dismisses Playboy’s Copyright Claims Against Boing Boing

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-dismisses-playboys-copyright-claims-against-boing-boing-180215/

Early 2016, Boing Boing co-editor Xeni Jardin published an article in which she linked to an archive of every Playboy centerfold image till then.

“Kind of amazing to see how our standards of hotness, and the art of commercial erotic photography, have changed over time,” Jardin commented.

While the linked material undoubtedly appealed to many readers, Playboy itself took offense to the fact that infringing copies of their work were being shared in public. While Boing Boing didn’t upload or store the images in question, the publisher filed a lawsuit late last year.

The blog’s parent company Happy Mutants was accused of various counts of copyright infringement, with Playboy claiming that it exploited their playmates’ images for commercial purposes.

Boing Boing saw things differently. With help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) it filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that hyperlinking is not copyright infringement. If Playboy would’ve had their way, millions of other Internet users could be sued for linking too.

“This case merely has to survive a motion to dismiss to launch a thousand more expensive lawsuits, chilling a broad variety of lawful expression and reporting that merely adopts the common practice of linking to the material that is the subject of the report,” they wrote.

The article in question

Yesterday US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin ruled on the matter. In a brief order, he concluded that an oral argument is not needed and that based on the arguments from both sides, the case should be dismissed with leave.

This effectively means that Playboy’s complaint has been thrown out. However, the company is offered a lifeline and is allowed to submit a new one if they can properly back up their copyright infringement allegations.

“The court will grant defendant’s Motion and dismiss plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint with leave to amend. In preparing the Second Amended Complaint, plaintiff shall carefully evaluate the contentions set forth in defendant’s Motion.

“For example, the court is skeptical that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged facts to support either its inducement or material contribution theories of copyright infringement,” Judge Olguin adds.

According to the order, it is not sufficient to argue that Boing Boing merely ‘provided the means’ to carry out copyright infringing activity. There also has to be a personal action that ‘assists’ the infringing activity.

Playboy has until the end of the month to submit a new complaint and if it chooses not to do so, the case will be thrown out.

The order is clearly a win for Boing Boing, which vehemently opposed Playboy’s claims. While the order is clear, it must come as a surprise to the magazine publisher, which won a similar ‘hyperlinking’ lawsuit in the European Court of Justice last year.

EFF, who defend Boing Boing, is happy with the order and hopes that Playboy will leave it at this.

“From the outset of this lawsuit, we have been puzzled as to why Playboy, once a staunch defender of the First Amendment, would attack a small news and commentary website,” EFF comments

“Today’s decision leaves Playboy with a choice: it can try again with a new complaint or it can leave this lawsuit behind. We don’t believe there’s anything Playboy could add to its complaint that would meet the legal standard. We hope that it will choose not to continue with its misguided suit.”

A copy of US District Court Judge Fernando Olguin’s order is available here (pdf).

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Tickbox Must Remove Pirate Streaming Addons From Sold Devices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tickbox-remove-pirate-streaming-addons-180214/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people now use dedicated media players to watch content through their regular TVs.

This is a thorn in the side of various movie companies, who have launched a broad range of initiatives to curb this trend.

One of these initiatives is the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company Tickbox TV, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

ACE sees these devices as nothing more than pirate tools so the coalition asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement, demanding that it removes all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

Last month, a California federal court issued an initial injunction, ordering Tickbox to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements going forward. In addition, the court directed both parties to come up with a proper solution for devices that were already sold.

The movie companies wanted Tickbox to remove infringing addons from previously sold devices, but the device seller refused this initially, equating it to hacking.

This week, both parties were able to reach an ‘agreement’ on the issue. They drafted an updated preliminary injunction which replaces the previous order and will be in effect for the remainder of the lawsuit.

The new injunction prevents Tickbox from linking to any “build,” “theme,” “app,” or “addon” that can be indirectly used to transmit copyright-infringing material. Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox are specifically excluded.

In addition, Tickbox must also release a new software updater that will remove any infringing software from previously sold devices.

“TickBox shall issue an update to the TickBox launcher software to be automatically downloaded and installed onto any previously distributed TickBox TV device and to be launched when such device connects to the internet,” the injunction reads.

“Upon being launched, the update will delete the Subject [infringing] Software downloaded onto the device prior to the update, or otherwise cause the TickBox TV device to be unable to access any Subject Software downloaded onto or accessed via that device prior to the update.”

All tiles that link to copyright-infringing software from the box’s home screen also have to be stripped. Going forward, only tiles to the Google Play Store or to Kodi within the Google Play Store are allowed.

In addition, the agreement also allows ACE to report newly discovered infringing apps or addons to Tickbox, which the company will then have to remove within 24-hours, weekends excluded.

“This ruling sets an important precedent and reduces the threat from piracy devices to the legal market for creative content and a vibrant creative economy that supports millions of workers around the world,” ACE spokesperson Zoe Thorogood says, commenting on the news.

The new injunction is good news for the movie companies, but many Tickbox customers will not appreciate the forced changes. That said, the legal battle is far from over. The main question, whether Tickbox contributed to the alleged copyright infringements, has yet to be answered.

Ultimately, this case is likely to result in a landmark decision, determining what sellers of streaming boxes can and cannot do in the United States.

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

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Pirate Streaming Search Engine Exploits Crunchyroll Vulnerability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-streaming-search-engine-exploits-crunchyroll-vulnerability-180213/

With 20 million members around the world, Crunchyroll is one of the largest on-demand streaming platforms for anime and manga content.

Much like Hollywood, the site has competition from pirate streaming sites which offer their content without permission. These usually stream pirated videos which are hosted on external sites.

However, this week Crunchyroll is facing a more direct attack. The people behind the new streaming meta-search engine StreamCR say they’ve found a way to stream the site’s content from its own servers, without paying.

“This works due to a vulnerability in the Crunchyroll system,” StreamCR’s operators tell TorrentFreak.

Simply put, StreamCR uses an active Crunchyroll account to locate the video streams and embeds this on its own website. This allows people to access Crunchyroll videos in the best quality without paying.

“This gives access to the full library in the region of our server, retrieving it as long as we’re not bound by the regular regional restriction. For this, we pick a US server as American Crunchyroll has the most library of content.

Stream in various qualities

The exploit was developed in-house, the StreamCR team informs us. While it works fine at the moment the team realizes that this may not last forever, as Crunchyroll might eventually patch the vulnerability.

However, the meta-search engine will have made its point by then.

“We expect them to fix this, Why wouldn’t they? In the meantime, this can demonstrate how vulnerable Crunchyroll is at the moment,” they tell us.

The site’s ultimate plan is to become the go-to search engine for people looking to stream all kinds of pirated videos. In addition to Crunchyroll, StreamCR also indexes various pirate sites, including YesMovies, Gomovies, and 9anime.

“StreamCR’s goal is to let people access streams with ease from a universal site, we’re trying to have a Google-like experience for finding online streams,” they say.

TorrentFreak reached out to Crunchyroll asking for a comment on the issue, but at the time of publication, we have yet to hear back.

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Pirate Site Blockades Enter Germany With Kinox.to as First Target

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blockades-enter-germany-with-kinox-to-as-first-target-180213/

Website blocking has become one of the leading anti-piracy mechanisms of recent years.

It is particularly prevalent across Europe, where thousands of sites are blocked by ISPs following court orders.

This week, these blocking efforts also reached Germany. Following a provisional injunction issued by the federal court in Munich, Internet provider Vodafone must block access to the popular streaming portal Kinox.to.

The injunction was issued on behalf of the German film production and distribution company Constantin Film. The company complained that Kinox facilitates copyright infringement and cited a recent order from the European Court of Justice in its defense, Golem reports.

While these types of blockades are common in Europe, they’re a new sight in Germany. Vodafone users who attempt to access the Kinox site will now be welcomed with a blocking notification instead.

“This portal is temporarily unavailable due to a copyright claim,” it reads, translated from German.

Blocked

The Kinox streaming site has been a thorn in the side of German authorities and copyright holders for a long time. Last year, one of the site’s admins was detained in Kosovo after a three-year manhunt, but despite these and other actions, the site remains online.

With the blocking efforts, Constantin Film hopes to make it harder for people to access the site, although this measure is also limited.

For now, it seems to be a simple DNS blockade, which means that people can bypass it relatively easily by switching to a free alternative DNS provider such as Google DNS or OpenDNS.

And there are other workarounds as well, as operators of Kinox point out in a message on their homepage.

“Vodafone User: Use the public Google DNS server: 8.8.8.8, that goes the .TO domain again! Otherwise, a VPN or the free Tor Browser can be used!” they write.

While the measure may not be foolproof, the current order is certainly significant. Previously, all German courts have denied similar blocking orders based on different arguments. This means that more blocking efforts may be on the horizon.

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

Hosting Provider Steadfast Maintains DMCA Safe Harbor Defense For Trial

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-maintains-dmca-safe-harbor-defense-for-trial-180212/

Two years ago, adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan dragged several third-party Internet services to court.

The company targeted several companies including CDN provider CloudFlare and the Chicago-based hosting company Steadfast, accusing them of copyright infringement because they offered services to pirate sites.

The case against Steadfast is getting close to trial and to start with an advantage, ALS Scan recently asked the court for partial summary judgment, determining that the hosting company contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection.

ALS argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform Imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. ALS Scan described the site as a repeat offender, as it had been targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accused Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

Steadfast, for its part, fiercely denied the allegations. The hosting provider admitted that it leased servers to Flixya for ten years but said that it forwarded all notices to its client. The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would have been disproportionate in their view.

A few days ago California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying ALS’s motion for summary judgment.

Both sides made sensible arguments on the contributory infringement issue, but it is by no means undisputed that the hosting provider ‘contributed’ to the infringing activities. The court, therefore, left this question open for the jury to determine at trial.

“Ultimately, both sides have raised triable issues of fact with respect to material contribution. As a result, the Court would deny Plaintiff’s Motion,” Judge Wu writes.

ALS also sought summary judgment on the DMCA safe harbor protection issue, but the court denied this request as well. While it’s clear that the hosting company never terminated a customer for repeat infringements, it’s not clear whether it was ever in a situation where it needed to.

The DMCA requires Internet services to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy, but in this case, Steadfast’s client Imagebam reportedly had a takedown policy of its own, which complicates the issue.

“While the fact Steadfast has never terminated one of its own customers for infringement is potentially damaging to its ability to fit the safe harbor, Plaintiff has not established that Steadfast faced a situation requiring it to terminate one of its users,” Judge Wu writes.

“Even in the present case it is unclear that Steadfast needed to terminate Flixya’s account given Flixya itself had a policy that was arguably successful at removing infringing images from imagebam.com.”

Judge Wu adds that safe harbor defenses are generally left to the jury, and this is what he decided as well.

As a result, ALS’s entire motion for summary judgment is denied. This is good news for Steadfast, who will have their safe harbor defense available at the upcoming trial. However, they will likely celebrate this win with caution, as the jury makes its ultimate decision.

A copy of the court’s order is available here (pdf).

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Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 02/12/18

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-021218/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Coco 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 (6) Coco 8.9 / trailer
2 (1) Thor Ragnarok 8.1 / trailer
3 (…) Daddy’s Home 2 6.0 / trailer
4 (3) The Shape of Water (DVDScr) 8.0 / trailer
5 (…) Murder on The Orient Express 6.7 / trailer
6 (2) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (HDTS) 7.3 / trailer
7 (9) Justice League (Subbed HDRip) 7.1 / trailer
8 (5) Blade Runner 2049 8.9 / trailer
9 (7) Braven 5.6 / trailer
10 (…) The Cloverfield Paradox 5.8 / trailer

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US Online Piracy Lawsuits Skyrocket in the New Year

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-online-piracy-lawsuits-skyrocket-in-the-new-year-180211/

Since the turn of the last decade, numerous people have been sued for illegal file-sharing in US courts.

Initially, these lawsuits targeted hundreds or thousands of BitTorrent users per case, but this practice has been rooted out since. Now, most file-sharing cases target a single person, up to a dozen or two at most.

While there may be fewer defendants, there are still plenty of lawsuits filed every month. These generally come from a small group of companies, regularly referred to as “copyright trolls,” who are looking to settle with the alleged pirates.

According to Lex Machina, there were 1,019 file-sharing cases filed in the United States last year, which is an average of 85 per month. More than half of these came from adult entertainment outfit Malibu Media (X-Art), which alone was good for 550 lawsuits.

While those are decent numbers, they could easily be shattered this year. Data collected by TorrentFreak shows that during the first month of 2018, three copyright holders filed a total of 286 lawsuits against alleged pirates. That’s three times more than the monthly average for 2017.

As expected, Malibu Media takes the crown with 138 lawsuits, but not by a large margin. Strike 3 Holdings, which distributes its adult videos via the Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen websites, comes in second place with 133 cases.

Some Malibu Media cases

While Strike 3 Holdings is a relative newcomer, their cases follow a similar pattern. There are also clear links to Malibu Media, as one of the company’s former lawyers, Emilie Kennedy, now works as in-house counsel at Strike 3.

The only non-adult copyright holder that filed cases against alleged BitTorrent pirates was Bodyguard Productions. The company filed 15 cases against downloaders of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, totaling a few dozen defendants.

While these numbers are significant, it’s hard to predict whether the increase will persist. Lawsuits targeted at BitTorrent users often come in waves, and the same companies that flooded the courts with cases last month could easily take a break the next.

While copyright holders have every right to go after people who share their work without permission, these type of cases are not without controversy.

Several judges have referred used strong terms including “harassment,” to describe some of the tactics that are used, and the IP-address evidence is not always trusted either.

That said, there’s no evidence that Malibu Media and others are done yet.

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

Comcast Explains How It Deals With Persistent Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/comcast-explains-how-it-deals-with-persistent-pirates-180210/

Dating back to the turn of the last century, copyright holders have alerted Internet providers about alleged copyright infringers on their network.

While many ISPs forwarded these notices to their subscribers, most were not very forthcoming about what would happen after multiple accusations.

This vagueness was in part shaped by law. While it’s clear that the DMCA requires Internet providers to implement a meaningful “repeat infringer” policy, the DMCA doesn’t set any clear boundaries on what constitutes a repeat infringer and when one should be punished.

With the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against Cox, it is now clear that “infringers” doesn’t imply people who are adjudicated, valid accusations from copyright holders are enough. However, an ISP still has some flexibility when it comes to the rest of its “repeat infringer” policy.

In this light, it’s interesting to see that Comcast recently published details of its repeat infringer policy online. While the ISP has previously confirmed that persistent pirates could be terminated, it has never publicly spelled out its policy in such detail.

First up, Comcast clarifies that subscribers to its Xfinity service can be flagged based on reports from rightsholders alone, which is in line with the Fourth Circuit ruling.

“Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer,” the company notes.

If Comcast receives multiple notices in a calendar month, the associated subscriber moves from one policy step to the next one. This means that the ISP will issue warnings with increased visibility.

These alerts can come in the form of emails, letters to a home address, text messages, phone calls, and also alerts sent to the subscriber’s web browser. The alerts then have to be acknowledged by the user, so it clear that he or she understands what’s at stake.

From Comcast’s repeat infringer policy

Comcast doesn’t state specifically how many alerts will trigger tougher action, but it stresses that repeat infringers risk having their accounts suspended. As a result, all devices that rely on Internet access will be interrupted or stop working.

“If your XFINITY Internet account is suspended, you will have no Internet access or service during suspension. This means any services and devices that use the Internet will not properly work or will not work at all,” Comcast states.

The suspension is applied as a last warning before the lights go out completely. Subscribers who reach this stage can still reinstate their Internet connectivity by calling Comcast. It’s unclear whether they have to take any additional action, but it could be that these subscribers have to ‘promise’ to behave.

After this last warning, the subscriber risks the most severe penalty, account termination. This is not limited to regular access to the web, but also affects XFINITY TV, XFINITY Voice, and XFINITY Home, including smart thermostats and home security equipment.

“If you reach the point of service termination, we will terminate your XFINITY Internet service and related add-ons. Unreturned equipment charges will still apply. If you also have XFINITY TV and/or XFINITY Voice services, they will also be terminated,” Comcast warns.

Comcast doesn’t specify how long the Internet termination lasts but the company states that it’s typically no less than 180 days. This means that terminated subscribers will need to find an Internet subscription elsewhere if one’s available.

The good news is that other XFINITY services can be restored after termination, without Internet access. Subscribers will have to contact Comcast to request a quote for an Internet-less package.

While this policy may sound harsh to some, Comcast has few other options if it wants to avoid liability. The good news is that the company requires users to acknowledge the warnings, which means that any measures shouldn’t come as a surprise.

There is no mention of any option to contest any copyright holder notices, which may become an issue in the future. After all, when copyright holders have the power to have people’s Internet connections terminated, their accusations have to be spot on.



Comcast’s repeat infringer policy is available here and was, according to the information we have available, quietly published around December last year.

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Cloudflare Hit With Piracy Lawsuit After Abuse Form ‘Fails’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-hit-with-piracy-lawsuit-after-abuse-form-fails-180210/

Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli is no stranger when it comes to suing tech companies for aiding copyright infringement of his work.

Boffoli has filed lawsuits against Imgur, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and others, which were dismissed and/or settled out of court under undisclosed terms.

This month he filed a new case against another intermediary, Cloudflare, which has had its fair share of piracy allegations in recent years.

In common with other companies, Cloudflare is accused of contributing to copyright infringements of Boffoli’s “Big Appetites” miniatures series. In this case, several Cloudflare customers allegedly posted these photos on their sites which were then reproduced on the servers of the CDN provider.

The lawsuit mentions that the infringing copies were posted on unique-landscape.com and baklol.com. This was also pointed out to Cloudflare by Boffoli, who sent the company DMCA takedown notices in October and November of last year.

While the photographer received an automated response, the photos in question remained online. Through the lawsuit, Boffoli hopes this will change.

“CloudFlare induced, caused, or materially contributed to the Infringing Websites’ publication,” the complaint reads. “CloudFlare had actual knowledge of the Infringing Content. Boffoli provided notice to CloudFlare in compliance with the DMCA, and CloudFlare failed to disable access to or remove the Infringing Websites.”

The photographer is asking the court to order an injunction preventing Cloudflare from making his work available. In addition, the complaint asks for actual and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement. With at least four photos in the lawsuit, the potential damages are more than half a million dollars.

While it’s not mentioned in the complaint, the email communication between Boffoli and Cloudflare goes further than just an automated response. Court records show that the photographer initially didn’t ask Cloudflare to remove the infringing photos. Instead, he asked the CDN provider to forward them to the ISP or site owner.

“I would be grateful if you would forward this DMCA takedown request to the website owner and ISP so these infringing links can immediately be removed,” it read.

Part of the email communication

From then on things escalated a bit. The emails reveal that Boffoli had trouble reporting the infringing photos through the required form.

When the photographer pointed this out in a direct email, Cloudflare urged him to try the form again as that was the only way to send the DMCA request to the designated copyright agent.

“The DMCA doesn’t require us to process reports not sent to our registered agent as per our registration with the US Copyright Office. Our registered copyright agent is the form located at cloudflare.com/abuse/form and you may proceed via that avenue,” Cloudflare wrote.

If the case moves forward, Cloudflare may use this to argue that it never received a proper DMCA takedown notice. However, Boffoli wasn’t planning on trying again and instead threatened a lawsuit, unless Cloudflare took immediate action.

“As I have said, your form did not work for me despite repeated attempts to use it. And it is insulting for you to suggest that it’s working fine when it is not. So again, this is absolutely my last attempt to get you to respond to this infringement for which you are impeding the removal,” Boffoli wrote.

“If you take no action now I will forward this to my legal team this week. It is more than enough of a burden to have to waste countless hours policing my own copyrights without organizations like Cloudflare running interference for copyright infringers. I am not averse to asking a federal judge to compel you to deal with these copyright infringements. And I will seek statutory damages for contributory infringement at that time.”

As it turns out, that was not an idle threat.

—-

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf) and the email exhibits can be found here (pdf).

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Chrome and Firefox Block 123movies Over “Harmful Programs”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chrome-and-firefox-block-123movies-over-harmful-programs-180209/

With millions of visitors per day, 123movies(hub), also known as Gomovies, is one of the largest pirate streaming sites on the web.

Today, however, many visitors were welcomed by a dangerous-looking red banner instead of the usual homepage.

“The site ahead contains harmful programs,” Chrome warns its users. “Attackers on 123movieshub.to might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience.”

It is not clear what the problem is in this particular case, but these type of notifications are often triggered by malicious or deceptive third-party advertising that has appeared on a site.

Warning

These warning messages are triggered by Google’s Safebrowsing algorithm which flags websites that pose a potential danger to visitors. Chrome, Firefox, and others use this service to prevent users from running into unwanted software.

In addition to the browser block, Google generally informs the site’s owners that their domain will be demoted in search results until the issue is resolved.

Google previously informed us that these kinds of warnings automatically disappear when the flagged sites no longer violate Google’s policy. This can take one or two days, but also longer.

This isn’t the first time that Google has flagged such a large website. Many pirate sites, including The Pirate Bay, have been affected by this issue in the past.

Chrome and Firefox users should be familiar with these intermittent warning notices be now. If users believe that an affected site is harmless they can always take steps (Chrome, FF) to bypass the blocks, but that’s completely at their own risk.

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