Tag Archives: Anti-Piracy

Court Orders News Site Blocked Following Article Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-news-site-blocked-following-article-piracy-160726/

news-smallWhile countries like China have a dubious reputation for online censorship, millions of Internet users are now reluctantly becoming accustomed to sites being blocked on copyright grounds.

The practice is present in scattered countries across Europe but is most prevalent in the UK where more than a thousand sites are now being rendered inaccessible by regular means.

Most of the complaints originate from traditional copyright holders such as movie, TV show and recording labels, but a new threat has just emerged in Russia for the very first time.

Launched in 1999, Gazeta.ru is one of Russia’s leading Internet news resources and the 68th most-visited site overall. The platform enjoys an impressive 11 million readers each month but like many others it claims to have a problem with people republishing its content without permission.

Back in March, Gazeta published an article about tourism in Azerbaijan. The piece was popular with Gazeta readers but other commercial outfits were also attracted to the content. One of them, Story-media.ru, later reproduced the Gazeta article in full, without obtaining permission from the copyright holder.

In the world of news this is hardly a rare event. Many outlets find their articles being reproduced elsewhere on the Internet without permission and within seconds of publication. However, Gazeta decided that enough was enough and decided to fight back.

Using the same copyright complaints system that has been used countless times by movie studios and record labels since its 2013 introduction, Gazeta filed a case at the Moscow City Court.

Categorizing the tourism article as a “literary work” (literary works were added to Russia’s anti-piracy law last May), Gazeta owner Rambler & Co demanded action against Story-media.ru for the unauthorized reproduction of its copyright work.

According to Vedomosti, lawyers for Rambler & Co argued that the company “consistently fights the illegal placement of [copyrighted] content” and since the operators of Story-media.ru hide their identities (WHOIS is anonymous), the site should be blocked.

The Moscow City Court found the argument persuasive and in response ordered Russian ISPs to immediately block Story-media.ru. The court order describes the injunction as “an interim measure” designed to protect the “intellectual rights to the literary work.”

While plenty of torrent, streaming and linking sites have been blocked under the same process, this is believed to be the first use of Russia’s anti-piracy law to block a news resource following a complaint from a publisher over a written article.

Gazeta has previously taken action against a site that published an infographic without permission, resulting in the block of media site go2life.net, Vedomosti reports.

Story-media.ru now needs to respond to the Gazeta complaint but it is unclear whether it will do so. The site is currently offline.

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

VKontakte CEO: Time to Remove Us From ‘Pirate’ Blacklists

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vkontakte-ceo-time-to-remove-us-from-pirate-blacklists-160724/

After years of being branded one of the world’s worst Internet piracy facilitators, last week social networking giant vKontakte took another important step towards making peace with rightsholders.

Parent company Mail.ru signed a licensing agreement with Universal Music and United Music Agency which will see music and video content appear legally on vKontakte, Classmates (Odnoklassniki) and My World, the three most-visited social networking sites in Russia.

With all copyright-related disputes now settled with Universal Music, the deal effectively transforms bitter conflict into cooperation, opening up opportunities for music sales development in a notoriously difficult region.

To find out more about the deal, this week TF caught up with VKontakte CEO Boris Dobrodeyev, who told us he’s optimistic for the future.

TF: Can you explain how the music licensing system with Universal Music will work?
 
BD: In accordance with the terms of the agreement, we cannot disclose the specific licensing provisions. However, we can say that the licensing agreements cover use of content on existing and planned new services on all of Mail.Ru Group’s social networks: VKontakte, Odnoklassniki and My World.

TF: What happens to the thousands/millions of ‘pirate’ tracks that are stored already on VKontakte? Do these effectively become legal or will Universal Music be supplying new content?
 
BD: The term “piracy” is not applicable to User Generated Content (UGC) services. Our position, which we have successfully defended in legal disputes, is that we do not distribute pirate content.

VKontakte’s content is user-generated, and so the rights holders’ requests were directed to them. From our side, we do everything that we can to protect the rights of the holders and remove content that violates their ownership rights.

Now that VKontake has signed the respective agreements with the major music companies, it is implementing substantial measures to identify the ownership of user content on the basis of the original files provided by the rights holders. VKontakte’s new services will be created using original content from the labels (including Warner, Sony and Universal).

Boris Dobrodeyev, VKontakte CEO

Boris Dobrodeyev

TF: Is VKontakte obliged to end all music piracy on its platform now, or just for the recoding labels it has struck a deal with?
 
BD: We would reiterate that the term “piracy” is not correct when talking about UGC services. Following significant efforts to license music content, the overwhelming majority of music by global artists on VK is completely legal.

With regard to music rights holders that have not yet signed an agreement with VK, at the very least they are able to use the existing procedures and technology in place to remove content and prevent it from being re-uploaded. It goes without saying that we also intend to sign corresponding agreements with these other rights holders in the near future.

We would add that many users and artists voluntarily upload their own music to VK in order to increase their popularity.

TF: Will fingerprinting technology or any other anti-piracy measures implemented?
 
BD: Yes, we intend to use a unique content identification system, which we developed in-house, and is similar to the technologies used in Audible Magic and Gracenote Content ID.

We will work together with the rights holders to continuously improve this technology in line with the development of the IT industry in general.

Moving forward

Of course, after years of copyright disputes vKontakte’s reputation in the United States has been somewhat sullied, largely due to rightsholders lobbying the United States Trade Representative to add the site to its Notorious Markets list. Dobrodeyev informs TF that it’s now time to move forward.

“We certainly hope that VKontakte will be removed from ‘piracy’ lists following the settlements and taking into account the enormous amount of work that the network has undertaken in this area,” he concludes.

Mail.ru and its subsidiaries now have licensing agreements in place with the three leading recording labels – Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music and Sony Music. Together they’ll hope to make inroads and indeed profit from a difficult and largely untapped Russian music market.

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

Court: Google and Bing Don’t Have to Censor “Torrent” Searches

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-google-and-bing-dont-have-to-censor-torrent-searches-160719/

google-bayFor years, entertainment industry groups have been demanding that search engines do something about “pirate sites” showing up in their search results.

In France, this prompted music industry group SNEP to take the matter to court. Representing three local artists, they demanded automated search engine filters from both Google and Microsoft.

Before the High Court of Paris the music group argued that, when paired with the artist names, “torrent” related searches predominantly link to pirated content.

To counter this, they demanded a filter that would block results for these searches for the keyword “torrent,” as well as websites that include the same word in their domain name.

SNEP based its request on Article L336-2 of France’s intellectual property code, which states that “all appropriate measures” are permitted to prevent copyright infringement. The same article has been used before to force Google and Bing to make various other pirate sites disappear.

However, in the present cases the High Court of Paris decided against the music industry group, Nextinpact reports.

In their defense Microsoft had warned that the broad filtering system requested by the music group would be imprecise, disproportionate and inefficient, something the court agreed with.

While French law permits far-reaching anti-piracy measures, it also states that it’s necessary to preserve the rights of individual Internet users, such as freedom of expression and communication. An overbroad filtering scheme would go against this principle.

“SNEP’s requests are general, and pertain not to a specific site but to all websites accessible through the stated methods, without consideration for identifying or even determining the site’s content, on the premise that the term ‘Torrent’ is necessarily associated with infringing content,” the Court writes in its order.

More specifically, the court notes that the word “torrent” has many legitimate uses, as does the BitTorrent protocol, which is a neutral communication technology. This means that blocking everything “torrent” related is likely to censor legal content as well.

“Yet [torrent] is primarily a common noun, with a meaning in French and in English; it also refers to a neutral communication protocol developed by the company Bittorrent that enables access to lawfully downloaded files.

“The requested measures are thus tantamount to general monitoring and may block access to lawful websites,” the High Court order adds.

Part of the Bing order

snepgoo

The case against Google, which was similar in nature, also ended in favor of the search engine. The High Court dismissed this case on the grounds that it would only protect the interests of three artists, Kendji Girac, Shy’m and Christophe Willem.

For Article L336-2 to be invoked, the preventive anti-piracy measures have to protect a wider range of artists and rightsholders.

This means that both “torrent” filtering requests have not been rejected. Instead, the music group has been ordered to pay Microsoft and Bing 10,000 to cover legal fees and costs.

Interestingly, French media highlights that TorrentFreak would have been automatically censored if Google and Microsoft would have lost their case. After all, our URL includes the word torrent.

This means that a mere mention of the artists’ names would have been enough to make an article disappear from the search results.

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

Accused “Pirate” Questions Dallas Buyers Club’s Copyright Claim

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/accused-pirate-questions-dallas-buyers-clubs-copyright-claim-160718/

dallasMovie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Most of these cases target downloaders of the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club. Voltage Pictures is one of the production companies behind the film, but as is common in Hollywood, it’s not the sole rightsholder.

In fact, another company named “Dallas Buyers Club LLC” (DBC) has also filed dozens of cases against pirates. While one might think that both rightsholders are working in tandem, they are in fact fighting over the anti-piracy loot behind the scenes.

In a case DBC and Truth Entertainment filed against Voltage Pictures last year (pdf), the latter is accused of various deceptive practices, including breach of contract and fraud.

The two plaintiffs suggest that Voltage has been holding back money from foreign proceeds. They further state that the production company hasn’t been open about its practices.

Aside from claims that money has gone missing, its anti-piracy methods are also under the spotlight. According to DBC, Voltage hasn’t provided any details on enforcement actions, nor has it shared any of the proceeds from its anti-piracy efforts.

“DBC entered into an Agreement with Voltage to act as its agent to enforce Anti-piracy actions against people who have illegally downloaded or otherwise obtained the ability to watch the movie without paying for the right to watch it,” the filing reads.

“The only updates DBC receives are thorough, mostly negative, media reports about the actions of Voltage around the World. DBC has not received any funds, reports, updates or any information from Voltage on the status numerous lawsuits filed around the World in the name of DBC.”

Where’s the anti-piracy bounty?

voltagedbc

While the paperwork doesn’t explicitly state that both parties agreed to share the anti-piracy bounty, the claims above suggest that this is the case. Most interesting, perhaps, is that it’s unclear whether all enforcement actions are ultimately driven by Voltage.

This confusing situation is casting doubt over the legitimacy of these piracy lawsuits, as FCT highlights. This prompted Nicholas Ranallo, attorney for an accused “pirate”, to ask a California federal court for an extra safeguard.

Ranallo mentions that there is doubt over who owns the movie and he cites the legal battle between Dallas Buyers Club LLC, in whose name his defendant was sued, and Voltage.

“It is unclear what rights (if any) are actually held by Voltage Pictures or the suing entities, though it is abundantly clear that Voltage Pictures controls the litigation and keeps the proceeds collected on behalf of the purported plaintiffs,” Ranallo writes.

The amended complaint against the accused pirate identifies Dallas Buyers Club LLC as the owner, but the original complaint listed Truth LLC as such. Then again, the DVD cover and other material list Voltage as the copyright holder.

“Various advertising and promotional materials cast further doubt about the claims that Dallas Buyers Club LLC owns the relevant copyright(s), and reveal a myriad of entities that have, at one time or another, claimed copyright in the film.”

As a safeguard, Ranallo asks the court to require Dallas Buyers Club to post a $50,000 bond (pdf), to secure costs and attorney fees if the suspicions do indeed hold ground.

While it’s not uncommon for several companies to have a stake in a single movie, it will be interesting to see if this case leads to more clarity over the rights they have to pursue a copyright claim in court.

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

VKontakt & Universal Sign Anti-Piracy & Licensing Deal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vkontakt-universal-sign-anti-piracy-licensing-deal-160718/

After years of being branded one of the world’s worst Internet piracy facilitators, social networking giant vKontakte has taken a huge step towards fixing its reputation.

As predicated last week, vKontakte owner Mail.ru has now signed a licensing agreement with Universal Music and United Music Agency which will see music and video content appear legally on the platform.

The deal also covers Mail.ru’s two other social networking platforms, Classmates (Odnoklassniki) and My World. Along with vKontakte, these sites are the three most popular social networking platforms in Russia.

With the agreement now signed, Mail.ru has licensing agreements in place with the three leading music rights groups – Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music and Sony Music.

In addition to allowing huge catalogs of music to appear on vKontakte legitimately, the Universal deal also puts to rest all copyright-related legal action between the companies. VKontakte has now settled its differences with all three music giants.

Details on the UMG deal are scarce, but Mail.ru says that its social network platforms will “test various monetization models jointly with other market players” to find the best solution for artists and fans.

Insiders familiar with the negotiations told Russian news outlet Vedomosti that Universal has received a “minimum guarantee” that it will generate around $8m over the next three years.

VKontakte CEO Boris Dobrodeyev welcomed the deal between the companies and expressed optimism for the future.

“Following extensive negotiations, we have agreed terms with all of the major music rights holders, enabling us to draw a line under this process. This is a historic moment and a new milestone in VKontakte’s history,” Dobrodeyev said.

“Our constructive and mutually beneficial collaboration has put an end to earlier disputes with the record companies. Following the removal of legal barriers, we can now create new products based on VKontakte’s music service that users will value.”

Adrian Cheesley, Senior Vice President at Universal Music Group, said that the deal will ensure that artists will now be paid when their content is exploited on social networks.

“Music has tremendous value and we’re gratified to reach a commercial agreement that ensures UMG’s artists are fairly compensated for the use of their music,” Cheesley said.

“Russia is an important, and growing, market for UMG and with this important step we’re looking forward to developing more local artists, investing in growing the music scene and broadly licensing services.”

It is not yet clear how the terms of the licensing deal will affect how music is made available on vKontakte in future, but it’s likely it will be less of a free-for-all than it currently is. Music downloaded from vKontakte is an important fuelling element of the pirate content landscape so this is definitely something to watch in the weeks and months to come.

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

The Google Piracy Blame Game is Headache Inducing

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-piracy-blame-game-headache-inducing-160717/

google-bayMusic piracy in 2016 is a somewhat curious beast. Streaming platforms are readily accessible and the service provided by outfits like Spotify out-perform the vast majority of pirate sites.

With many legitimate platforms providing an ad-supported free tier, it’s even difficult to complain about the price. Still, some people prefer to pirate and this infuriates the labels, and understandably so. Sadly, however, their response is to blame people that have nothing to do with that infringement.

After being put under intense pressure by copyright holders, Google now feels obliged to let everyone know what measures it’s taking against this kind of piracy. This week it produced a comprehensive report covering every possible angle. Within minutes the record labels had responded, not with thanks, but with intence criticism.

On a personal level I’d like to think that Google is now pretty pissed off, and this is coming from someone who supports artists with subscriptions to Spotify, Deezer and Digitally Imported, and purchases from Beatport and Juno.

For the millionth time, Google does not engage in copyright infringement, yet faced with a problem they can’t solve on their own, the labels have adopted a strategy of painting Google as the villain. The contempt shown by the labels for a company that is already going way beyond what’s required of it under the law is quite unbelievable.

The maddening reality of it all really hits home when one reads a piece penned by the BPI’s Geoff Taylor and published in MBW this week. It begins with complaints that Content ID doesn’t work as well as it should and he invites Google to up its game.

“Despite its amazing innovations in mapping the Earth and inventing driverless cars, Google hasn’t managed to implement a Content ID system that people can’t easily get around,” Taylor complains.

First, Google had no obligation to make Content ID at all but it did and now artists are $2bn better off. Second, people invent systems, people get around them, everyone knows that. But apparently, Google is partly to blame for that too.

“Of course the fact that Google refuses to remove YouTube videos that show you exactly how to circumvent Content ID doesn’t help,” Taylor adds.

No, it’s not helpful, but what it does show is that Google isn’t prepared to stifle free speech, even if it does find it objectionable. Talking about circumventing Content ID is not a crime, nor a breach of YouTube’s terms and conditions. Those videos should stay up, no matter how annoying.

Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that when looking at any industry demands, history shows us that whatever is offered, it will never, ever be enough. Taylor’s piece demonstrates that with flying colors.

“Google should concentrate its formidable resources on making a Content ID system that is genuinely effective in protecting creators; and then apply a similar proactive system to Google search and its other services.”

Proactively censor existence of content on the web. Right. That should be both easy and completely problem free.

To be fair, it’s obvious why the music industry wants Google to go down this route, but the thought of any third party becoming permanent judge and jury over what we can and cannot see online is bewildering. And that’s ignoring the fact that Content ID works for material Google hosts. Applying that to content hosted elsewhere would be a minefield, if not impossible.

But it doesn’t stop there. Also bewildering is how the labels are trying to shame Google into paying them more.

“This isn’t strictly a piracy issue, but we can’t ignore the fact that YouTube pays 1/16th as much for each of its music users as competing services like Spotify,” Taylor writes.

“It’s time that Google started sharing a fair proportion of the value it derives from YouTube with creators.”

In any other marketplace people simply don’t do business with a company if they don’t like the prices being paid, but apparently the labels are being held to ransom.

That being said, since we’re playing this game of “fair proportions”, consider this. YouTube makes pretty much no money. Does the BPI want a share of that?

But the complaint that is perhaps the most frustrating is that the BPI and others are still complaining that pirate sites are turning up in search results for music content.

Let’s be clear, the most popular pirate sites do not turn up in the first results because they’re all being downranked by Google’s anti-piracy algorithm. This means that sites that most people have never heard of get pushed up the list, apparently above legitimate offerings.

That raises the preposterous notion that the people behind many of these bottom tier pirate sites have better SEO skills than the world’s biggest music companies. That being the case, someone needs a kick in the ass – and it’s not Google.

Finally, Taylor criticizes Google for not going after sites that rip audio content from YouTube videos and convert them to MP3s.

“Although such sites breach YouTube’s terms of service and seem to contradict its business model – by turning ad-supported transient streams into permanent copies – Google continues to point to these sites in autocomplete and to host YouTube videos showing how to use them,” he writes.

Again, the BPI is asking for censorship of content that simply isn’t illegal. But more than that it’s yet again demanding action from YouTube when it could take action itself. If these sites are illegal, why aren’t they being added to the UK’s national website blocking list, for example?

The problem with this continual assault on Google is that it’s not only tiresome but it largely misses the point. Google already does way more than the law requires yet it only has control over content hosted on YouTube. No matter what actions it takes, it simply cannot remove illicit content from the web, it can only make it a bit less visible.

Google can look after itself, but copyright holders should be extremely cautious of treating its many overtures with this level of contempt. One volunteer is worth ten pressed men and one can only guess at how much patience Google has left.

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

BitTorrent Users Present a Goldmine of Marketing Opportunities

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-users-present-a-goldmine-of-marketing-opportunities-160716/

swarmAfter years of aggressive litigation against hundreds of thousands of file-sharers, by now the message should be sinking in. Peer-to-peer networks, BitTorrent included, are very public and anyone with the know-how can look in.

Commonly, most of the people doing the monitoring have anti-piracy motives. Some aim to assess how much business may or may not be disappearing due to unauthorized sharing. Others spy with the sole intention of extracting cash settlements from users. US-based Peerlogix has a different agenda.

“We formed the company in 2013 out of a need of independent film studios. The types you see with $100k to maybe $1M budgets. We wanted to show them how to sell their films better,” says Peerlogix CEO and Co-founder William Gorfein.

With no chance of a Netflix deal, Gorfein says these studios often relied on sales to foreign countries that had a demand for American films.

“The problem is, these guys are artists, not analytics pros. Where would the movie be popular? Germany? South Korea? Because these guys typically didn’t have a clue, we felt there would be room for us to step in. We’d be the analysis side,” he explains.

“A film would be released, we could see the countries it’s popular in, and we’d then make introductions to key people in international markets to help broker film distribution deals. That was the idea at least, and our business model was to make money on the analytics.”

In 2014, Peerlogix became a measurement company, similar to Nielsen and comScore, but one gathering data from BitTorrent networks, the only fully international means to obtain video and music content online.

“Going to plan a new tour for an up and coming artist? Let us use this information together to help plan the cities the artist should be in. Trying to produce and finance a movie for international markets? Let’s finally use this activity to see which A and B list actors are popular in foreign markets,” Gorfein says.

In the music sector, Peerlogix has undertaken digital advertising projects for music festivals, gathering consumption data from torrent swarms to improve sales.

“Our goal is to show artists that there’s an entire segment of fans they’re not reaching. That the demographics look great, and that extra tickets and merchandise can be sold as a result of reaching them,” Gorfein explains.

“Your YouTube efforts are garnering X ROI, your social media efforts are giving you Y ROI – but how about the fans on torrents? There are millions, so we’ve been showing artists that there’s an equivalent ROI that can be realized from torrenters (without lawsuits!) and that it’s a necessary strategy to incorporate.”

For those more interested in the mechanics, Peerlogix told us that they’re close to being able to monitor every publicly available torrent.

“As far as protocols go, this includes conventional tracker servers, DHT (and subsequent magnet links), and Peer Exchange (PEX). DHT, by and large, makes up the bulk of the incoming data we collect,” Gorfein says.

“The conventional tracker servers were the simplest to track and mine. We were able to get that ability launched and running after our first few months and with relative ease. DHT is far trickier.”

Once harvested, the data is crunched and shared with third party companies, typically agencies who target individuals with advertising on multiple platforms.

“Does a consumer products company want to advertise to all viewers of Modern Family on ABC? If so, they will need to incorporate the 20% of the viewers that choose to do so via torrents, and that’s where we come in,” Gorfein says.

In order to add value to their service, Peerlogix works with other companies to augment harvested torrent information with demographic and behavioral data. That has provided some valuable insights into the nature of BitTorrent users.

“A eureka moment occurred when we saw that the demographics behind torrent households are borderline incredible – well educated, large discretionary dollars to spend and tech-savvy,” Gorfein says.

“Did you know that homes watching Real Housewives on torrent also have high affinities for fishing? Or that downloaders of Tomb Raider have a 3.3x greater likelihood of watching Game of Thrones? Or that these same Tomb Raider players love the X-Men and Hunger Games series? Me neither but the numbers speak for themselves,” he concludes.

Being monitored for advertising purposes is a daily occurrence for everyone using the Internet, whether that’s on the web or even BitTorrent. Not everyone likes it, but when a timely job opportunity lands on the mat due to the latter, things might not be so bad.

More information on Peerlogix can be found here.

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

‘Tor and Bitcoin Hinder Anti-Piracy Efforts’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tor-and-bitcoin-hinder-anti-piracy-efforts-160715/

euipoTo avoid enforcement efforts, pirate sites often go to extremes to hide themselves from rightsholders and authorities.

Increasingly, this also means that they use various encryption technologies to increase their resilience and anonymity.

Several of these techniques are highlighted in a new report published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The report gives a broad overview of the business models that are used to illegally exploit intellectual property. This includes websites dedicated to counterfeit goods, but also online piracy hubs such as torrent sites and file-hosting platforms.

EUIPO hopes that mapping out these business models will help to counter the ongoing threat they face.

“The study will provide enhanced understanding to policymakers, civil society and private businesses. At the same time, it will help to identify and better understand the range of responses necessary to tackle the challenge of large scale online IPR infringements,” EUIPO notes.

According to the research, several infringing business models rely on encryption-based technologies. The Tor network and Bitcoin, for example, are repeatedly mentioned as part of this “shadow landscape”.

“It more and more relies on new encrypted technologies like the TOR browser and the Bitcoin virtual currency, which are employed by infringers of IPR to generate income and hide the proceeds of crime from the authorities,” the report reads.

According to the report, Bitcoin’s threat is that the transactions can’t be easily traced to a person or company. This is problematic, since copyright enforcement efforts are often based on a follow-the-money approach.

“There are no public records connecting Bitcoin wallet IDs with personal information of individuals. Because of these Bitcoin transactions are considered semi-anonymous,” EUIPO writes.

Similarly, sites and services that operate on the darknet, such as the Tor network, are harder to take down. Their domain names can’t be seized, for example, and darknet sites are not subject to ISP blockades.

“Through the use of TOR, a user’s Internet traffic is encrypted and routed in specific ways to achieve security and anonymity,” the report notes.

While the report doesn’t list any names, it describes various popular torrent, streaming and file-hosting sites. In one specific case, it mentions an e-book portal that operates exclusively on the darknet, generating revenue from Bitcoin donations.

Most traditional pirate sites still operate on the ‘open’ Internet. However, several sites now allow users to donate Bitcoin and both The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents both have a dedicated darknet address as well.

EUIPO is clearly worried about these developments, but the group doesn’t advocate a ban of encryption-based services as they also have legitimate purposes.

However, it signals that these and other trends should be followed with interest, as they make it harder to tackle various forms of counterfeiting and piracy online.

As part of the efforts to cut back various forms of copyright infringement, EUIPO also announced a new partnership with Europol this week. The organizations launched the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition which aims to strengthen the fight against counterfeiting and piracy.

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

VKontakte & Universal Music Close to Anti-Piracy Deal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vkontakte-universal-music-close-to-anti-piracy-deal-160715/

For many years, social networking giant vKontakte has been branded one of the world’s worst facilitators of copyright infringement.

The site, often dubbed ‘Russia’s Facebook’, has clashed with copyright holders everywhere, and has even found itself the subject of intense criticism from the U.S. Government.

One of vKontakte’s longest running disputes has been with Universal Music. Like several other recording labels, Universal has put the social network under intense pressure to curtail infringement on its platform.

Patience ran out two years ago when the label filed a lawsuit at the Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region Arbitration Court. Since then the case has flipped both ways, first with a partial victory for the labels, then a Court of Appeal ruling in favor of vKontakte.

After Universal filed another appeal in May, the case looked like it might drag on, but according to a report from Russia’s Vedomosti, peace is on the horizon.

Citing two sources within vKontakte parent company Mail.ru, the publication says that negotiations to strike a licensing deal with Universal are advanced and an announcement is imminent.

According to the insiders, the companies are in the “final stages” of approval and confirmation of the deal could arrive before the end of the week.

The scope of the licensing/anti-piracy deal appears to be broad, encompassing not only vKontakte but other Mail.ru ventures including Classmates (Odnoklassniki) and My World. These sites are the three most popular social networking platforms in Russia and where millions of tracks are downloaded for free.

So what’s in it for Universal? Currently, it appears that the record label is being guaranteed a minimum fee of $8m over three years. However, there is also a revenue sharing arrangement under discussion which could see Mail.ru companies make money when their users sign up for a premium music subscription package.

There is some speculation that an announcement could take place during this weekend’s VK Fest music festival but the sources warn there are still some legal complications to be ironed out.

In the event that confirmation of the deal is pushed back, the suggestion is that the parties could announce an “agreement of intent” instead, with the final details to be hammered out during the next few weeks.

If Universal does indeed sign on the dotted line, it will be in good company. Mail.ru already has annual licensing deals in place with Sony Music ($2m), Warner Music ($2.5m), distributor The Orchard, plus a handful of local publishers. Adding the world’s largest music company into the mix would largely complete the circle.

Assuming the Universal deal goes ahead, Mail.ru is initially expected to spend around $7m per year on music licensing, a huge amount considering that the entire Russian digital music market was worth just $23.5m in 2015.

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

Nintendo Cracks Down on Pokémon Go Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-cracks-pokemon-go-piracy-160714/

pokeThe Pokémon Go game is taking the world by storm, despite the fact that it’s not yet officially released in most countries.

The game came out in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States last week, and over the past few days Germany and the UK joined in.

However, that doesn’t mean people elsewhere can’t play it yet.

As the craze spread, so did the various pirated copies, which have been downloaded millions of times already. The Internet is littered with unauthorized Pokémon Go files and guides explaining how to install the game on various platforms.

To give an indication of how massive Pokémon Go piracy is, research from Similarweb revealed that as of yesterday 6.8% of all Android devices in Canada and the Netherlands had the game installed.

In fact, it’s safe to say that unauthorized copies are more popular than the official ones, for the time being.

The APK files for Android are shared widely on torrent sites. At The Pirate Bay, for example, it’s the most shared Android game by far. Even more impressive, it also sent millions of extra daily visitors to APKmirror.com, which hosts copies of the game as well.

Most pirated Android games

pokepirate

Nintendo is obviously not happy with this black market distribution. Although it doesn’t seem to hurt its stock value, the company is targeting the piracy issue behind the scenes.

TorrentFreak spotted several takedown requests on behalf of Nintendo that were sent to Google Blogspot and Google Search this week. The notices list various links to pirated copies of the game, asking Google to remove them.

One of the takedown notices

pokedown

Thus far the efforts have done little to stop the distribution. The files are still widely shared on torrent sites and various direct download services. The copies on APKmirror.com remain online as well.

In fact, it’s virtually impossible to stop a game that’s gone viral from being shared online. Even if it issues thousands of takedown requests, Nintendo won’t be able to catch ’em all.

Nintendo probably has good reasons to roll Pokémon Go out gradually, but the best anti-piracy strategy is obviously to make the game available worldwide as quickly as possible.

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

Google Ends Lawsuit Against Mississippi AG Over Piracy Practices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-ends-lawsuit-against-mississippi-ag-over-piracy-practices-160714/

googlepopFor the past several years, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has been pressuring Google to stop copyright infringing content and prescription medicines being made available in search results.

In November 2014, Hood issued an administrative subpoena which aimed to reveal inside information detailing Google’s efforts to curtail the appearance of illegal content in listings.

A month later and on the back of secrets revealed as part of the Sony email leaks, Google sued Hood’s office, claiming that the Attorney General was working with groups including the MPAA to undermine its business.

Indeed, evidence produced in court filings showed Hood’s office being coached by lawyers at the MPAA, who in their “cozy relationship” even went as far as helping with the drafting of letters aimed at pressuring Google over piracy.

In March 2015, a judge in the Southern District of Mississippi granted an injunction to stop Hood’s investigation into Google, finding that “interference with Google’s judgment…would likely produce a chilling effect on Google’s protected speech.” Hood was also ordered not to bring any criminal or civil charges against the company.

However, in a blow to Google, just over a year later the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ruling, noting that the federal judge’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction was made in error (pdf).

While this meant that Hood was free to pursue the administrative subpoena, shortly after the Court of Appeals decision he sent a letter to the court withdrawing it. However, Hood wasn’t quite done, noting that Google still needed to preserve documents demanded under the subpoena, just in case they were needed in future.

In response, Google demanded a rehearing before the Fifth Circuit panel. That was denied but the panel issued a slightly modified opinion which allowed Google to pursue a court ruling declaring that it can not be held liable for content posted by third parties.

But now, however, it appears that from conflict, some kind of peace has broken out. According to a court filing Wednesday, Google has backed down from its efforts to block Hood from investigating its copyright infringement and illegal content practices.

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and between the parties to the above captioned action, by their undersigned counsel, that…….all of the claims that have been asserted in this action are hereby dismissed without costs to any party,” the filing reads (pdf).

The document, signed by lawyers representing both Google and Hood’s office, is short on detail and offers no clear explanation as to why Google decided to discontinue its complaint. However, it does suggest that some kind of agreement has been reached over the core issues at the heart of the dispute.

“[T]he Attorney General and Google endeavor to collaborate in addressing the harmful consequences of unlawful and/or dangerous online content,” the document reads.

While Google will be pleased with the outcome, the case was seen by some as a golden opportunity to see just how far Hood and the MPAA had collaborated on ‘Project Goliath‘. Now that an agreement of sorts has been reached, future revelations seem much less likely.

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

Google: Punishing Pirate Sites in Search Results Works

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-punishing-pirate-sites-in-search-results-works-160713/

googlefightspiracyOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to its anti-piracy efforts.

These calls haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has slowly implemented various new anti-piracy measures in response.

Today, Google released an updated version of its “How Google Fights Piracy” report. The company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy while countering some of the entertainment industry complaints.

One of the steps Google has taken in recent years aims to downrank the most egregious “pirate” sites.

To accomplish this, Google made changes to its core algorithms which punish clear offenders. Using the number of accurate DMCA requests as an indicator, these sites are now demoted in search results for certain key phrases.

Despite continuing critique from rightsholders, Google notes that this change has been very effective.

“This process has proven extremely effective. Immediately upon launching improvements to our demotion signal in 2014, one major torrent site acknowledged traffic from search engines had dropped by 50% within the first week,” Google writes, citing one of our articles.

More recently, Google’s own findings confirmed this trend. As a result of the demotion policy, pirate sites lose the vast majority of their Google Search traffic.

“In May 2016, we found that demoted sites lost an average of 89% of their traffic from Google Search. These successes spur us to continue improving and refining the DMCA demotion signal.”

Despite this success, entertainment industry groups have recently called for a more rigorous response. Ideally, they would like Google to remove the results from pirate sites entirely, and make sure that infringing links don’t reappear under a different URL.

However, Google doesn’t want to go this far. The company warns that removing entire sites is dangerous as it may lead to censorship of content that’s perfectly legal.

“Whole-site removal is ineffective and can easily result in the censorship of lawful material,” Google writes.

“Blogging sites, for example, contain millions of pages from hundreds of thousands of users, as do social networking sites, e-commerce sites, and cloud computing services. All can inadvertently contain material that is infringing.”

Similarly, Google doesn’t believe in a “takedown and staydown” approach, where the company would proactively filter search results for pirated content. This would be unfeasible and unnecessary, the company states.

“One problem is that there is no way to know whether something identified as infringing in one place and at one time is also unlawful when it appears at a different place and at a different time,” Google notes.

Instead, the company says that copyright holders should use the existing takedown procedure, and target new sites when they appear so these can be downranked as well.

Finally, Google stresses that search is not a major driver of traffic to pirate sites to begin with. Only a small fraction of users reach these sites through search engines.

While the company is willing to help alleviate the problem, search engines are not the only way to eradicate piracy.

“Search engines do not control what content is on the Web. There are more than 60 trillion web addresses on the internet, and there will always be new sites dedicated to making copyrighted works available as long as there is money to be made doing so.”

Instead of focusing on search, copyright holders should take a “follow the money” approach and make sure that pirate sites are cut off from their revenue sources, Google argues.

In addition, they shouldn’t forget to offer consumers plenty of legal alternatives to piracy.

Convincing the entertainment industries of its good intentions is easier said than done though. “This report looks a lot like “greenwash”,” says Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of the music industry group BPI.

“Although we welcome the measures Google has taken so far, it is still one of the key enablers of piracy on the planet. Google has the resources and the tech expertise to do much more to get rid of the illegal content on its services,” he adds.

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

Romanian Govt. Seizes Leading Pirate Site Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/romanian-govt-seizes-leading-pirate-site-domain-160711/

domainseizedOver the past several years, many countries in mainly Western Europe have responded to pressure from US-based companies to act against Internet piracy.

In some cases, this has involved passing new legislation to make life harder for pirates but largely it has been left to national courts and informal industry-led stakeholders groups to decide how to deal with unauthorized distribution.

In Eastern Europe, anti-piracy activity is much more limited but now it appears that tough measures can be taken when the authorities see fit. According to reports coming out of Romania, the government has seized the domain of one of the country’s most popular streaming portals.

990.ro was among Romania’s top 100 most popular sites overall and looked like this before being shut down by the state.

rom-seized1

A TorrentFreak reader familiar with the site confirmed that 990.ro was one of the most popular locations for streaming video, TV shows in particular.

“Game of Thrones episodes were live within just a few hours after airing, complete with new (local) translations. This site was huge, you could almost watch any TV show on the planet and about 90% of the latest movies,” he explained.

For now, however, the show(s) won’t go on. Following action by the government, 990.ro’s domain is now under the control of the Ministry of Justice and displays the following message.

rom-seized

While no notice was given of this seizure, the action didn’t entirely come out of the blue. In 2012, Romania’s Audiovisual Council (CNA) reported more than 40 ‘pirate’ movie and TV show websites to the police, demanding action to shut them down.

990.ro was among those reported. The list also included Vplay.ro, the largest site of its type at the time. That domain is also under the control of the Ministry of Justice. Many of the others mentioned have since shut down, moved to new domains and/or had old ones seized.

The action against 990.ro follows a similar crackdown carried out in June 2015 which received assistance from the FBI. Three sites were shut down then and several people were arrested.

Thus far there has been no reports of arrests following the latest domain seizure. However, more serious breaches of Romanian copyright law can be punishable by fines and jail sentences of up to four years.

Since 990.ro carried a lot of advertising, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that tax evasion and money laundering offenses are being investigated, just as they were following last year’s raids.

Local media initially reported that 990.ro is owned by Romanian news and entertainment portal Romania Online but the company is now denying the allegations.

“The 990.ro site does not belong and has never belonged to the company ROL ONLINE NETWORK SA or any other companies in the group ROL.ro,” the company said in a statement.

“990.ro site was one of the 145,232 customers of the FASTUPLOAD.ro free service that lets you store, transfer and viewing files. FASTUPLOAD.ro site is the largest Romanian storage services and file transfer and operates under Romanian law.”

According to ROL.ro’s Linkedin page, ROL.ro is indeed affiliated with FASTUPLOAD but says that any liability lies with that company, not them.

A direct IP address for 990.ro has since ceased to function and there is no news of any return for the site.

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

NBC Universal Scores Patent to Detect and Target Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nbc-universal-scores-patent-to-detect-and-target-pirates-160710/

nbcuniDespite the growing availability of legal services, unauthorized file-sharing remains one of the core threats for entertainment industry companies.

Over the past several years various anti-piracy tools have been deployed. Nonetheless, piracy is still very much alive today with hundreds of millions of people sharing infringing files every month.

While there’s no silver bullet to stop all piracy indefinitely, NBC Universal scored a new patent this month which it believes may help.

Titled “Early Detection of High Volume Peer-To-Peer swarms,” one of the patent’s main goals is to detect and target instances of online piracy before the problem spreads.

The patent (pdf) describes P2P in general as something that can be positive, but is often abused.

“While the P2P infrastructure has many advantages, it also has led to abuses. Piracy of digital assets on peer-to-peer networks incurs losses by content owners estimated in billions of dollars annually.”

The high volume traffic generated by BitTorrent pirates also poses a problem for ISPs. Pirates tend to strain the network, the patent explains, which can become costly in terms of resources.

To address these issues NBC Universal proposes to monitor file-sharing swarms. Once a swarm exceeds a threshold of a certain number of users, alarm bells will ring so appropriate action can be taken.

patuni

The patent summarizes the invention as “a system that provides for early identification of high risk swarms to enable a more proactive stance towards anti-piracy efforts.”

“The early detection provides for enhanced anti-piracy efforts, improved allocation of network resources, and better business decision-making,” it adds.

For example, the swarm data can be used to provide real-time business intelligence, to be utilized for business advantages. In addition, the anti-piracy efforts can include takedown messages to ISPs, which are already quite common today.

Most controversial is the suggestion to use swarm data to limit or block file-sharing traffic. According to the patent, this may be useful for ISPs to save costs.

“Alternatively, the network provider may proceed to diminish or cap network resources once some limit of data activity is met. In certain aspects the processing for the high risk swarms also indicate the high volume swarms and allows for traffic shaping for the ISPs.”

While Net Neutrality advocates are not going to be pleased with such an implementation, technically the current FCC rules allow ISPs to block file-sharing traffic as long as it’s “unlawful”.

Still, it’s doubtful that NBC Universal’s parent company Comcast will tread down this path anytime soon. The company previously faced significant pushback when it actively throttled BitTorrent traffic.

While there are some interesting suggestions and ideas in the patent, we have to admit that it feels a bit dated.

Perhaps that’s not a surprise since the application was submitted eight years ago. At the time, piracy monitoring technologies were relatively rare. Nowadays, however, it’s a multi-million dollar industry with dozens of companies.

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

Fake Pirate Movies Annoy Pirates & Anti-Pirates Alike

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-pirate-movies-annoy-pirates-anti-pirates-alike-160710/

fakeIn case readers missed it, copyright holders are very unhappy with YouTube. In recent months the site has developed into a battleground over the DMCA and the entertainment industries’ war with Google, with the record labels making most of the noise.

This week it was the MPAA’s turn to put more pressure on the site, this time by linking to an article published by filmmaker and anti-piracy advocate Ellen Seidler. As can be seen below, it implores YouTube to clean up its act.

The piece by Seidler is an interesting one, in that it criticizes YouTube for allowing people to upload fake movies that lead people to scammy sites.

In the unlikely event readers haven’t seen them, these fake movies are easily found by typing the name of almost any mainstream film into YouTube’s search box and adding the words “full movie”.

Once accessed, the videos nearly always instruct users to ‘click the link’ below the video to access the full movie. These links rarely, if ever, lead to anything good, and especially not the movie people expect.

dead1

While Seidler’s post expresses concern over the dubious sites that YouTube users are sent to, it seems likely that her post is more broadly aimed at chipping away at YouTube’s credibility and reputation. Little doubt that the MPAA’s retweet had that in mind too.

However, taking a step back reveals a much more complex picture.

Seidler correctly notes that these fakes pollute YouTube’s results but she also reports a secondary problem – it makes her anti-piracy work much harder.

“When I search for copies of my film using my Content ID account, I have to wade through dozens of these fake uploads,” Seidler complains.

“Removing them is an incredibly time-consuming task as it seems YouTube has purposely chosen to make the Content ID dashboard as inconvenient as possible for users.”

fakes-11

Of course, this situation is bad for people like Seidler who are trying to protect their content but consider for a moment the tremendous negative effect on pirates.

For many years people were able to type a movie title into YouTube, filter out all clips less than 20 minutes long, and more often than not come up with a decent copy of the movie in question.

Well, no more.

Today, YouTube’s search results are a horrible place to attempt ‘full movie’ piracy and that’s mostly down to the ‘full movie’ scammers.

If anything, one might think that Hollywood would be at least marginally grateful for third-parties infecting would-be pirates with malware or getting them stuck in horrible subscription traps. That’s quality piracy deterrence right there.

Instead, Seidler suggests ways that YouTube could clean up its site, perhaps by detecting and removing these fakes with ContentID. Pirates would certainly appreciate that, but YouTube isn’t likely to oblige.

Proactively removing content in that manner would only invite calls for YouTube do the same for copyrighted content. Before long, the same calls would go out to Google in general, with big implications for its search business.

So for now, both Seidler and would-be pirates are going to have to put up with these fake movie operations. Anti-piracy people will have to figure it out for themselves, but the best advice for regular users is to never click on the links in ‘fake movie’ YouTube descriptions.

Finally, Seidler raises the question of who is behind these scams. One of the outfits she names is TzarMedia.com, a site that has hundreds of negative online reviews.

The rabbit hole seems very, very deep on this one but there seems to be a recurring theme for those with an urge to investigate further. It looks messy, really messy.

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

Fair Use Threatens Innovation, Copyright Holders Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fair-use-threatens-innovation-copyright-holders-warn-160708/

ausEarlier this year the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission released a Draft Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, recommending various improvements to the country’s copyright policies.

The commission suggested allowing the use of VPNs to bypass geo-blocking efforts. In addition, the proposals include drastically lowering the copyright term, while also introducing fair use exceptions.

Various interested parties have since responded to the proposals. As expected, copyright holders are not happy with the plans and some are outright offended by the recommendations.

For example, a coalition of Aussie TV and movie groups point out that the language being used reflects a “slanted, superficial and under-informed approach.” Similarly, two writers’ guilds describe the draft report as an “attack on the livelihoods” of Australian creators.

From the “offending” report

aussie-fair-use

Several rightsholder groups argue that strong copyright protections are essential for the survival of their businesses. This includes a long copyright term of 70 years, as well as the ability to block access to content based on the location of a consumer.

In addition, many believe that fair use exceptions will do more harm than good. For example, music group IFPI warns that fair use will threaten innovation and create legal uncertainty.

“Licensing, not exceptions to copyright, drives innovation. Innovation is best achieved through licensing agreements between content owners and users, including technological innovators,” IFPI writes.

Copyright is the cornerstone of the music industry, according to IFPI, while fair use will mostly benefit outsiders who want to profit from the work of others.

“The music industry exists because of copyright. Copyright drives innovation and creativity, enables record companies to invest in artists and repertoire, and gives creators an income.

“It is no coincidence that those who champion the ‘flexibility’ of fair use exceptions/defenses typically are those whose business models depend on unfettered access to copyright works.”

TV company Foxtel issues a similar warning about fair use. According to the Australian pay television company, it will directly damage the country’s creative industries.

“Fair use will introduce significant and unnecessary uncertainty into Australian law,” Foxtel writes.

“A fair use exception would be wide, vague and uncertain, while at the same time it would significantly erode the scope of copyright protection which is so critical in protecting investment in Australia‘s cultural industries.”

Foxtel also warns that third parties will exploit fair use exceptions at the expense of rightsholders. This will eventually hurt revenues and threaten the creation of new content.

“Fair use will have negative economic consequences and have a significant impact on creative output due to the associated uncertainties. Foxtel strongly believes that this type of reform will have a significant impact on creative outputs due to the uncertainties it will create,” the TV company adds.

But it’s not just major companies protesting against the proposed changes. The Australian Writers’ Guild also warns against fair use.

They believe that it will disadvantage their members, who don’t have the means to protect themselves against large corporations that could invoke fair use as a defense.

“We are particularly concerned about the uncertainty created by the introduction of fair use,” they write.

“It will contingent on scriptwriters, for example, to mount legal cases that their work has been infringed and is not subject to legitimate fair use by the respondent, who is likely to be a large corporation such as a news organization or search engine.”

While the copyright holders fiercely oppose fair use exceptions, others such as Google welcome it with open arms. According to Google, fears surrounding the uncertainty it would create are overblown.

Interestingly, Google cites none other than Hollywood’s anti-piracy group MPAA to make its case.

“Our members rely on the fair use doctrine every day when producing their movies and television shows – especially those that involve parody and news and documentary programs,” the MPAA stated previously.

The Government’s Productivity Commission will take the comments from various stakeholders into account before moving forward. The final report will be handed to the Government in August and published shortly after.

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

Phishing Scam Targets Game of Thrones Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/scam-targets-game-thrones-pirates-160708/

scamScammers have found a way to exploit copyright infringement notices for their own profit.

Posing as a well-known anti-piracy monitoring outfit representing major movie and TV companies, they’re sending numerous takedown notices to Internet providers.

We first noticed the phishing scam last month when a Cox subscriber was targeted, but at the time it was unclear how significant it was.

Since then, we have learned that the phishing expedition is not limited to the United States. Also, the scammers are actively targeting a variety of alleged movie and TV-show pirates.

Employees at several ISPs have contacted TorrentFreak with additional information over the past several weeks. This detail shows that the scheme is much broader than previously thought.

The notices in question are not being exclusively sent to U.S. ISPs. Internet providers in the UK and Australia have also received similar notifications. While some ISPs realize that it’s a scam, others have forwarded the notices to their customers.

After our first report the imposters changed the domain name they’re using to collect the settlements. In addition, they also began targeting other content including the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

One of the phishing mails

gotphishing

In a professionally worded email, the account holder connected to an IP-address is accused of downloading a pirated copy of the popular TV show. If the recipient fails to settle the case for a few hundred dollars, the fake HBO says it might take legal action.

“You have 72 hours to access the settlement offer and settle online. If you fail to settle, the claim(s) will be referred to our attorneys for legal action. At that point the original settlement offer will no longer be an option and the amount will increase as a result of us having to involve our attorneys,” they write.

The emails are causing confusion at some ISPs as HBO and its piracy monitoring firm IP-Echelon do send takedown notices to Game of Thrones pirates. However, they have nothing to do with the threatening settlement requests.

“The notices are fake and not sent by us. It’s a phishing scam,” IP-Echelon informed TorrentFreak previously.

TorrentFreak spoke to an employee at a datacenter that was targeted by the phishing scam. The notices in question raised suspicion as not all reported IP-addresses were part of their network, but other than that they appeared to be real.

“They seemed believable at first because they were sending notices about customers who we are accustomed to seeing a high volume of torrenting complaints about,” the employee informed us.

Interestingly, this also suggests that the notices are not being sent to random addresses, and it may very well be that the scammers are scraping the IPs from real torrent swarms.

“We have a few VPN providers on our network and they get a lot of complaints from the real IP Echelon. At first I thought IP Echelon renamed their service or got bought out. I do think they are monitoring P2P networks, not just making these up out of thin air,” the datacenter employee adds.

TorrentFreak approached HBO for additional information about the issue but the company did not respond to our inquiry. Other rightsholders which are being faked, including Lionsgate and Warner Bros, are also yet to comment.

According to IP-Echelon, U.S. law enforcement is currently looking into the matter. However, tracking down the source of phishing operations is usually quite hard.

In the meantime, both ISPs and subscribers should be extra cautious.

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

FACT Rewards Cinema Workers For Stopping Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fact-rewards-cinema-workers-for-stopping-piracy-160707/

The Federation Against Copyright Theft is perhaps the most well-known anti-piracy group in the UK and it regularly makes headlines for its work tackling both on-and-offline infringement.

In addition to monitoring unauthorized content that has already been uploaded to the Internet, part of FACT’s work in recent years has been to disrupt the activities of would-be pirates before online distribution is undertaken.

That has often meant acting on intelligence gathered from watermarks embedded in previously pirated (‘cammed’) content, which enables outfits like FACT to predict where future cinema recordings might take place.

In addition, FACT works with cinema operators to ensure that staff are trained to spot suspicious activity that could indicate that an unauthorized recording or ‘camming’ is underway. FACT sees these frontline workers as a valuable asset.

In recognition of their efforts, each year FACT holds a special ceremony during which it presents awards to cinema workers whose actions have prevented potential movie piracy. This year’s event, which was co-hosted with the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA), was held yesterday in London.

FACT reports that a total of 17 cinema staff received awards as part of the ‘Fight Film Theft’ program. Each received a cash prize of up to £500 and a certificate for helping to prevent piracy on a range of movies including Deadpool, The Jungle Book, and Angry Birds.

cambusters

The 17 cinema employees were involved in 17 ‘camming’ incidents that took place in a broad range of locations, including London, Leeds, Hull, Sunderland and Glasgow.

All of the incidents were reported to the police. FACT has provided no additional detail on how many of the police attendances resulted in arrests or prosecutions. Nevertheless, the anti-piracy outfit is pleased with the results.

“Illegal recording is still the source of more than 90% of all pirated films and so our Fight Film Theft program with the FDA, is essential to protecting new releases and preventing criminal activity,” says FACT Director General Kieron Sharp.

While FACT has been front and center of movie anti-piracy enforcement in the UK for many years, it faces an uncertain future. In May, the major Hollywood studios announced that after thirty years working with FACT they would soon withdraw its funding.

That leaves FACT with a 50% budget shortfall for 2017. No announcement has yet been made on how that deficit will be corrected.

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

‘Just’ 5% of UK Internet Users are Hardcore Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/just-5-uk-internet-users-hardcore-pirates-160705/

ip-officeIn an effort to monitor the shifting habits of Internet pirates in the UK, the Intellectual Property Office has commissioned regular reports from the researchers at Kantar Media.

Originally commissioned by telecoms watchdog Ofcom and sponsored by the IPO back in 2012, the reports cover the consumption of both legal and illegal content by Internet users aged 12 and above. “Wave 6” was published this morning and covers the three-month period March to May 2016.

The headline figure is that around 15% of Internet users consumed at least one item of infringing content during the monitoring period, which equates to around 6.7 million people throughput the population.

However, when the study considered only Internet users who had actually consumed content online during the three-month period (rather than all Internet users regardless of consumption), the number of infringers jumped to 25%.

According to the study, the use of peer-to-peer (P2P) networks has decreased again this year, from 12% down to 10% among all Internet users and from 26% to 23% among those who admit to being infringers.

UTorrent remains the most popular ‘service’ used to infringe, but usage is on the decline from 17% of infringers last year to 12% in 2016. The Pirate Bay sits one place behind with 11%.

Levels of infringement vary across content formats. The highest levels relate to audio, with 8% of all Internet users saying they obtain music from illegal sources.

“Music was by far the most-consumed content type, both digitally (355 million tracks) and physically (88 million tracks) over the three-month period. We estimate that 78 million music tracks were accessed illegally online [during the monitoring period],” the researchers write.

Those are indeed big numbers but progress is being made. Estimated illegal consumption of music in the same period last year was more than 96 million tracks.

This year, around 7% of Internet users say they obtained TV shows from illegal sources, with movies in third place with 6%. While consumption of legal content has gone up, both figures represent a deteriorating piracy situation when compared to last year.

“[Legal consumption of] films showed an increase in volumes of just over 5 million and a more notable shift was seen for TV programmes of a 16 million increase over the last year,” the researchers note.

“These categories also both showed increases in the digital volumes of infringement with films now estimated at 24 million and TV programmes 27 million pieces of content.”

This year there are few surprises when it comes to people’s motivation to obtain content without paying for it.

“The most commonly cited reasons for infringing were because it is free (49%), convenient (45%) and quick (42%). Speed and convenience have both shown increases in 2016,” the researchers report.

Given the above, it’s straightforward to predict how infringers say they could be persuaded to pirate less.

Just under a quarter of infringers say that cheaper prices would help, while one in five say that content being made available legally would reduce their reliance on illicit sources.

Interestingly, the study also shows that non-service related solutions to deter pirates might not be particularly effective. Year on year, it appears that fewer Internet users are worried about oppressive anti-piracy measures.

“Responses to the threat of ISP letters suspending their accounts or restricting their internet speed have decreased again in 2016; the suspension of internet service in particular has fallen by a small proportions wave-on-wave, from 22% in the first wave, to 15% in 2015 and the current level of 11%,” the researchers write.

The headline figure of millions of citizens engaged in piracy certainly sounds like a lot but there are relatively few hardcore pirates in the UK.

Just 5% of all UK Internet users admit to exclusively obtaining content from illegal sources, meaning that the remainder who consume content are also happy to “do the right thing” via subscription or ad-supported services. That’s a very encouraging sign.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Pirating TV-Shows and a Movie Costs Finnish Man Over €32,000

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirating-tv-shows-and-a-movie-costs-finnish-man-over-e32000-160705/

finlandStarting two years ago TV-show and movie distributors in Finland began sending out thousands of settlement letters to alleged pirates, demanding payments of between 600 and 3,000 euros.

The letters in question are sent by lawfirm Hedman Partners, which threatens legal action if accused pirates refuse to cooperate.

It’s unclear how many recipients have paid up since the scheme started, but it is no surprise that some have ignored the warnings, hoping that the lawfirm wouldn’t follow-up on the threat.

However, Hedman Partners did take several people to court and the first case came to its conclusion in court yesterday.

The lawsuit in question was filed against a man who was accused of downloading ten episodes of the pirate TV-series “Black Sails” and a copy of the movie A Walk Among the Tombstones via BitTorrent.

The rightsholders employed the German tracking company Excipio, who linked the man’s IP-address to several swarms where these videos were distributed. In addition, the same IP-address was linked to dozens of other downloads.

In his defense, the man denied having downloaded the videos while pointing out that his Wi-Fi network was open to anyone. In fact, he actually bought the router on the same day the first infringement was observed.

Because of the open Wi-Fi network, outsiders could have easily been responsible for downloading the pirated videos, the defense argued. To illustrate this point, they setup a Wi-Fi honeypot at the defendant’s home to which the first outsider connected within minutes.

In response, the rightsholders provided evidence showing that the man ‘admitted guilt’ in an online forum, where an unredacted copy of the initial settlement letter was posted.

After weighing these and other arguments from both sides, the Finnish Market court found the defendant guilty.

The rightsholders demanded 8,500 euros in damages, but the court limited this to 50 euros per TV-episode and 100 euros for the movie, which makes 600 euros in total.

However, in addition the man must now pay 31,762 euros to cover the legal expenses of the copyright holders, Crystalis Entertainment and Scanbox Entertainment.

Jaana Pihkala, Executive Director at the local anti-piracy group, is happy with the court’s decision. He warns people who use unauthorized services, and notes that the settlement letter campaign is designed to limit the number of lawsuits.

“The letters and reconciliation process are designed to reduce unnecessary litigation,” Pihkala says.

Previously, the Market Court’s Chief Judge Kimmo Mikkola warned that a flood of file-sharing cases could prove problematic, as the court’s resources are limited.

The defendant in this case is not ready to give up just yet though. He has announced that he will appeal the case before the high court, which has yet to decide whether it will take on the case.

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