Tag Archives: blockades

Putin Asked to Investigate Damage Caused By Telegram Web-Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/putin-asked-to-investigate-damage-caused-by-telegram-web-blocking-180526/

After a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia last month, the Internet became a battleground.

On the instructions of telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, ISPs across Russia tried to block Telegram by blackholing millions of IP addresses. The effect was both dramatic and pathetic. While Telegram remained stubbornly online, countless completely innocent services suffered outages as Roscomnadzor charged ahead with its mission.

Over the past several weeks, Roscomnadzor has gone some way to clean up the mess, partly by removing innocent Google and Amazon IP addresses from Russia’s blacklist. However, the collateral damage was so widespread it’s called into question the watchdog’s entire approach to web-blockades and whether they should be carried out at any cost.

This week, thanks to an annual report presented to President Vladimir Putin by business ombudsman Boris Titov, the matter looks set to be escalated. ‘The Book of Complaints and Suggestions of Russian Business’ contains comments from Internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev, who says that the Prosecutor General’s Office should launch an investigation into Roscomnadzor’s actions.

Marinichev said that when attempting to take down Telegram using aggressive technical means, Roscomnadzor relied upon “its own interpretation of court decisions” to provide guidance, TASS reports.

“When carrying out blockades of information resources, Roskomnadzor did not assess the related damage caused to them,” he said.

More than 15 million IP addresses were blocked, many of them with functions completely unrelated to the operations of Telegram. Marinichev said that the consequences were very real for those who suffered collateral damage.

“[The blocking led] to a temporary inaccessibility of Internet resources of a number of Russian enterprises in the Internet sector, including several banks and government information resources,” he reported.

In advice to the President, Marinichev suggests that the Prosecutor General’s Office should look into “the legality and validity of Roskomnadzor’s actions” which led to the “violation of availability of information resources of commercial companies” and “threatened the integrity, sustainability, and functioning of the unified telecommunications network of the Russian Federation and its critical information infrastructure.”

Early May, it was reported that in addition to various web services, around 50 VPN, proxy and anonymization platforms had been blocked for providing access to Telegram. In a May 22 report, that number had swelled to more than 80 although 10 were later unblocked after they stopped providing access to the messaging platform.

This week, Roscomnadzor has continued with efforts to block access to torrent and streaming platforms. In a new wave of action, the telecoms watchdog ordered ISPs to block at least 47 mirrors and proxies providing access to previously blocked sites.

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

ISP Telenor Will Block The Pirate Bay in Sweden Without a Shot Fired

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-telenor-will-block-the-pirate-bay-in-sweden-without-a-shot-fired-180520/

Back in 2014, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry filed a lawsuit against Bredbandsbolaget, one of Sweden’s largest ISPs.

The copyright holders asked the Stockholm District Court to order the ISP to block The Pirate Bay and streaming site Swefilmer, claiming that the provider knowingly facilitated access to the pirate platforms and assisted their pirating users.

Soon after the ISP fought back, refusing to block the sites in a determined response to the Court.

“Bredbandsbolaget’s role is to provide its subscribers with access to the Internet, thereby contributing to the free flow of information and the ability for people to reach each other and communicate,” the company said in a statement.

“Bredbandsbolaget does not block content or services based on individual organizations’ requests. There is no legal obligation for operators to block either The Pirate Bay or Swefilmer.”

In February 2015 the parties met in court, with Bredbandsbolaget arguing in favor of the “important principle” that ISPs should not be held responsible for content exchanged over the Internet, in the same way the postal service isn’t responsible for the contents of an envelope.

But with TV companies SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More teaming up with the IFPI alongside Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony in the case, Bredbandsbolaget would need to pull out all the stops to obtain victory. The company worked hard and initially the news was good.

In November 2015, the Stockholm District Court decided that the copyright holders could not force Bredbandsbolaget to block the pirate sites, ruling that the ISP’s operations did not amount to participation in the copyright infringement offenses carried out by some of its ‘pirate’ subscribers.

However, the case subsequently went to appeal, with the brand new Patent and Market Court of Appeal hearing arguments. In February 2017 it handed down its decision, which overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court and ordered Bredbandsbolaget to implement “technical measures” to prevent its customers accessing the ‘pirate’ sites through a number of domain names and URLs.

With nowhere left to go, Bredbandsbolaget and owner Telenor were left hanging onto their original statement which vehemently opposed site-blocking.

“It is a dangerous path to go down, which forces Internet providers to monitor and evaluate content on the Internet and block websites with illegal content in order to avoid becoming accomplices,” they said.

In March 2017, Bredbandsbolaget blocked The Pirate Bay but said it would not give up the fight.

“We are now forced to contest any future blocking demands. It is the only way for us and other Internet operators to ensure that private players should not have the last word regarding the content that should be accessible on the Internet,” Bredbandsbolaget said.

While it’s not clear whether any additional blocking demands have been filed with the ISP, this week an announcement by Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor revealed an unexpected knock-on effect. Seemingly without a single shot being fired, The Pirate Bay will now be blocked by Telenor too.

The background lies in Telenor’s acquisition of Bredbandsbolaget back in 2005. Until this week the companies operated under separate brands but will now merge into one entity.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget today take the final step on their joint trip and become the same company with the same name. As a result, Telenor becomes a comprehensive provider of broadband, TV and mobile communications,” the company said in a statement this week.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget have shared both logo and organization for the last 13 years. Today, we take the last step in the relationship and consolidate the companies under the same name.”

Up until this final merger, 600,000 Bredbandsbolaget broadband customers were denied access to The Pirate Bay. Now it appears that Telenor’s 700,000 fiber and broadband customers will be affected too. The new single-brand company says it has decided to block the notorious torrent site across its entire network.

“We have not discontinued Bredbandsbolaget, but we have merged Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and become one,” the company said.

“When we share the same network, The Pirate Bay is blocked by both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and there is nothing we plan to change in the future.”

TorrentFreak contacted the PR departments of both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget requesting information on why a court order aimed at only the latter’s customers would now affect those of the former too, more than doubling the blockade’s reach. Neither company responded which leaves only speculation as to its motives.

On the one hand, the decision to voluntarily implement an expanded blockade could perhaps be viewed as a little unusual given how much time, effort and money has been invested in fighting web-blockades in Sweden.

On the other, the merger of the companies may present legal difficulties as far as the court order goes and it could certainly cause friction among the customer base of Telenor if some customers could access TPB, and others could not.

In any event, the legal basis for web-blocking on copyright infringement grounds was firmly established last year at the EU level, which means that Telenor would lose any future legal battle, should it decide to dig in its heels. On that basis alone, the decision to block all customers probably makes perfect commercial sense.

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

Russia Blocks 50 VPNs & Anonymizers in Telegram Crackdown, Viber Next

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blocks-50-vpns-anonymizers-in-telegram-crackdown-viber-next-180504/

Any entity operating an encrypted messaging service in Russia needs to register with local authorities. They must also hand over their encryption keys when requested to do so, so that users can be monitored.

Messaging giant Telegram refused to give in to Russian pressure. Founder Pavel Durov said that he would not compromise the privacy of Telegram’s 200m monthly users, despite losing a lawsuit against the Federal Security Service which compelled him to do so. In response, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor filed a lawsuit to degrade Telegram via web-blocking.

After a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia last month, chaos broke out. ISPs around the country tried to block the service, which was using Amazon and Google to provide connectivity. Millions of IP addresses belonging to both companies were blocked and countless other companies and individuals had their services blocked too.

But despite the Russian carpet-bombing of Telegram, the service steadfastly remained online. People had problems accessing the service at times, of course, but their determination coupled with that of Telegram and other facilitators largely kept communications flowing.

Part of the huge counter-offensive was mounted by various VPN and anonymizer services that allowed people to bypass ISP blocks. However, they too have found themselves in trouble, with Russian authorities blocking them for facilitating access to Telegram. In an announcement Thursday, the telecoms watchdog revealed the scale of the crackdown.

Deputy Head of Roskomnadzor told TASS that dozens of VPNs and similar services had been blocked while hinting at yet more to come.

“Fifty for the time being,” Subbotin said.

With VPN providers taking a hit on behalf of Telegram, there could be yet more chaos looming on the horizon. It’s feared that other encrypted services, which have also failed to hand over their keys to the FSB, could be targeted next.

Ministry of Communications chief Nikolai Nikiforov told reporters this week that if Viber doesn’t fall into line, it could suffer the same fate as Telegram.

“This is a matter for the Federal Security Service, because the authority with regard to such specific issues in the execution of the order for the provision of encryption keys is the authority of the FSB,” Nikiforov said.

“If they have problems with the provision of encryption keys, they can also apply to the court and obtain a similar court decision,” the minister said, responding to questions about the Japanese-owned, Luxembourg-based communications app.

With plenty of chaos apparent online, there are also reports of problems from within Roscomnadzor itself. For the past several days, rumors have been circulating in Russian media that Roskomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov has resigned, perhaps in response to the huge over-blocking that took place when Telegram was targeted.

When questioned by reporters this week, Ministry of Communications chief Nikolai Nikiforov refused to provide any further information, stating that such a matter would be for the prime minister to handle.

“I would not like to comment on this. If the chairman of the government takes this decision, I recall that the heads of services are appointed by the decision of the prime minister and personnel decisions are never commented on,” he said.

Whether Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will make a statement is yet to be seen, but this week his office has been dealing with a blocking – or rather unblocking – controversy of its own.

In a public post on Facebook May 1, Duma deputy Natalya Kostenko revealed that she was having problems due to the Telegram blockades.

“Dear friends, do not write to me on Telegram, I’m not getting your messages. Use other channels to contact me,” Kostenko wrote.

In response, Dmitry Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalia Timakova, told her colleague to circumvent the blockade so that she could access Telegram once again.

“Use a VPN! It’s simple. And it works almost all the time,” Timakov wrote.

Until those get blocked too, of course…..

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

Danish Traffic to Pirate Sites Increases 67% in Just a Year

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/danish-traffic-to-pirate-sites-increases-67-in-just-a-year-180501/

For close to 20 years, rightsholders have tried to stem the tide of mainstream Internet piracy. Yet despite increasingly powerful enforcement tools, infringement continues on a grand scale.

While the problem is global, rightsholder groups often zoom in on their home turf, to see how the fight is progressing locally. Covering Denmark, the Rights Alliance Data Report 2017 paints a fairly pessimistic picture.

Published this week, the industry study – which uses SimilarWeb and MarkMonitor data – finds that Danes visited 2,000 leading pirate sites 596 million times in 2017. That represents a 67% increase over the 356 million visits to unlicensed platforms made by citizens during 2016.

The report notes that, at least in part, this explosive growth can be attributed to mobile-compatible sites and services, which make it easier than ever to consume illicit content on the move, as well as at home.

In a sea of unauthorized streaming sites, Rights Alliance highlights one platform above all the others as a particularly bad influence in 2017 – 123movies (also known as GoMovies and GoStream, among others).

“The popularity of this service rose sharply in 2017 from 40 million visits in 2016 to 175 million visits in 2017 – an increase of 337 percent, of which most of the traffic originates from mobile devices,” the report notes.

123movies recently announced its closure but before that the platform was subjected to web-blocking in several jurisdictions.

Rights Alliance says that Denmark has one of the most effective blocking systems in the world but that still doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from consuming pirate content from sites that aren’t yet blocked.

“Traffic to infringing sites is overwhelming, and therefore blocking a few sites merely takes the top of the illegal activities,” Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak.

“Blocking is effective by stopping 75% of traffic to blocked sites but certainly, an upscaled effort is necessary.”

Rights Alliance also views the promotion of legal services as crucial to its anti-piracy strategy so when people visit a blocked site, they’re also directed towards legitimate platforms.

“That is why we are working at the moment with Denmark’s Ministry of Culture and ISPs on a campaign ‘Share With Care 2′ which promotes legal services e.g. by offering a search function for legal services which will be placed in combination with the signs that are put on blocked websites,” the anti-piracy group notes.

But even with such measures in place, the thirst for unlicensed content is great. In 2017 alone, 500 of the most popular films and TV shows were downloaded from P2P networks like BitTorrent more than 15 million times from Danish IP addresses, that’s up from 11.9 million in 2016.

Given the dramatic rise in visits to pirate sites overall, the suggestion is that plenty of consumers are still getting through. Rights Alliance says that the number of people being restricted is also hampered by people who don’t use their ISP’s DNS service, which is the method used to block sites in Denmark.

Additionally, interest in VPNs and similar anonymization and bypass-capable technologies is on the increase. Between 3.5% and 5% of Danish Internet users currently use a VPN, a number that’s expected to go up. Furthermore, Rights Alliance reports greater interest in “closed” pirate communities.

“The data is based on closed [BitTorrent] networks. We also address the challenges with private communities on Facebook and other [social media] platforms,” Fredenslund explains.

“Due to the closed doors of these platforms it is not possible for us to say anything precisely about the amount of infringing activities there. However, we receive an increasing number of notices from our members who discover that their products are distributed illegally and also we do an increased monitoring of these platforms.”

But while more established technologies such as torrents and regular web-streaming continue in considerable volumes, newer IPTV-style services accessible via apps and dedicated platforms are also gaining traction.

“The volume of visitors to these services’ websites has been sharply rising in 2017 – an increase of 84 percent from January to December,” Rights Alliance notes.

“Even though the number of visitors does not say anything about actual consumption, as users usually only visit pages one time to download the program, the number gives an indication that the interest in IPTV is increasing.”

To combat this growth market, Rights Alliance says it wants to establish web-blockades against sites hosting the software applications.

Also on the up are visits to platforms offering live sports illegally. In 2017, Danish IP addresses made 2.96 million visits to these services, corresponding to almost 250,000 visits per month and representing an annual increase of 28%.

Rights Alliance informs TF that in future a ‘live’ blocking mechanism similar to the one used by the Premier League in the UK could be deployed in Denmark.

“We already have a dynamic blocking system, and we see an increasing demand for illegal TV products, so this could be a natural next step,” Fredenslund explains.

Another small but perhaps significant detail is how users are accessing pirate sites. According to the report, large volumes of people are now visiting platforms directly, with more than 50% doing so in preference to referrals from search engines such as Google.

In terms of deterrence, the Rights Alliance report sticks to the tried-and-tested approaches seen so often in the anti-piracy arena.

Firstly, the group notes that it’s increasingly encountering people who are paying for legal services such as Netflix and Spotify so believe that allows them to grab something extra from a pirate site. However, in common with similar organizations globally, the group counters that pirate sites can serve malware or have other nefarious business interests behind the scenes, so people should stay away.

Whether significant volumes will heed this advice will remain to be seen but if a 67% increase last year is any predictor of the future, piracy is here to stay – and then some. Rights Alliance says it is ready for the challenge but will need some assistance to achieve its goals.

“As it is evident from the traffic data, criminal activities are not something that we, private companies (right holders in cooperation with ISPs), can handle alone,” Fredenslund says.

“Therefore, we are very pleased that DK Government recently announced that the IP taskforce which was set down as a trial period has now been made permanent. In that regard it is important and necessary that the police will also obtain the authority to handle blocking of massively infringing websites. Police do not have the authority to carry out blocking as it is today.”

The full report is available here (Danish, pdf)

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

Vodafone Appeals Decision Forcing it to Block Pirate Streaming Site Kinox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vodafone-appeals-decision-forcing-it-to-block-pirate-streaming-site-kinox-180317/

Streaming site Kinox has proven hugely problematic for German authorities and international rightsholders for many years.

Last year, following a three-year manhunt, one of the site’s alleged operators was detained in Kosovo. Despite this and other actions, the site remains online.

Given the profile of the platform and its popularity in Germany, it came as no surprise when Kinox became the guinea pig for site-blocking in the country. Last month following a complaint from local film production and distribution company Constantin Film, a district court in Munich handed down a provisional injunction against Internet provider Vodafone.

In common with many similar cases across the EU, the Court cited a 2017 ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that local authorities can indeed order blockades of copyright-infringing sites. The Court ordered Vodafone to prevent its subscribers from accessing the site and shortly after the provider complied, but not willingly it seems.

According to local news outlet Golem, last week Vodafone filed an appeal arguing that there is no legal basis in Germany for ordering the blockade.

“As an access provider, Vodafone provides only neutral access to the Internet, and we believe that under current law, Vodafone cannot be required to curb copyright infringement on the Internet,” a Vodafone spokesperson told the publication.

The ISP says that not only does the blocking injunction impact its business operations and network infrastructure, it also violates the rights of its customers. Vodafone believes that blocking measures can only be put in place with an explicit legal basis and argues that no such basis exists under German law.

Noting that blockades are easily bypassed by determined users, the ISP says that such measures can also block lots of legal content, making the whole process ineffective.

“[I]nternet blocking generally runs the risk of blocking non-infringing content, so we do not see it as an effective way to make accessing illegal offers more difficult,” Vodafone’s spokesperson said.

Indeed, it appears that the Kinox blockade is a simple DNS-only effort, which means that people can bypass it by simply changing to an alternative DNS provider such as Google DNS or OpenDNS.

Given all of the above, Vodafone is demanding clarification of the earlier decision from a higher court. Whether or not the final decision will go in the ISP’s favor isn’t clear but there is plenty of case law at the European level that suggests the balance of probabilities lies with Constantin Film.

When asked to balance consumer rights versus copyrights, courts have tended to side with the latter in recent years.

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

The Pirate Bay’s Domain Suffers “40% Traffic Drop” After Dutch Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bays-domain-suffers-40-traffic-drop-after-dutch-blocking-180302/

Over the past several years, Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN has been engaged in continuous legal action against local ISPs Ziggo and XS4All. BREIN felt they should block The Pirate Bay to reduce copyright infringement but the ISPs felt blocking was disproportionate.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court and then to the EU Court of Justice for clarification. Last June, the ECJ ruled that as a platform effectively communicating copyright works to the public, The Pirate Bay can indeed be blocked by ISPs.

The case will go back to the Supreme Court which is likely to give permanent blocking the go ahead. However, BREIN wanted a blocking decision more quickly and got one last September when The Hague Court of Appeal told Ziggo and XS4All to block The Pirate Bay pending a Supreme Court decision.

With The Pirate Bay blocked by the ISPs from September last year, BREIN has been monitoring the effect of the blockade on traffic to the site. In a statement, the anti-piracy outfit suggests that blocking is doing its job.

“Monitoring by ComScore shows that the number of unique visitors to thepiratebay.org from the Netherlands has dropped by more than 40% between September 2017 and December 2017 after internet providers Ziggo and XS4ALL were ordered by the court to demand access to the site on the basis of BREIN’s claim,” BREIN writes.

Ziggo is the largest cable operator in the Netherlands and XS4All one of the longest standing, so it comes as no surprise to learn that traffic to The Pirate Bay’s main domain has been hit. However, since the site can be accessed in numerous different indirect ways, including via proxies, mirrors and VPNs, to name a few, does BREIN’s claim that “blocking works” still hold water?

According to BREIN director Tim Kuik, yes it does.

“We also are blocking many proxies and mirrors. There is a whole list of them which also changes. New ones are added and others may be deleted,” Kuik informs TF.

“The monitoring compares like with like and shows a trend that correlates with other sources. I think this trend holds true for all blocked sites.”

So, to be clear, the 40% does not represent a drop in Dutch traffic to The Pirate Bay’s site and/or content overall, it only represents traffic which goes directly to the specific thepiratebay.org domain. Anyone circumventing the blockade isn’t counted.

Of course, that’s not to say that the overall traffic numbers from the Netherlands aren’t down as well, but there are no public figures to prove that one way or another. The precise impact of proxies and mirrors is also unclear but Kuik thinks that the blockades themselves send a message.

“Bypassing a blockade requires users to take action to illegally download and it is now clear that they are committing a criminal offense and most people do not want that,” he says.

VPNs are undoubtedly an effective unblocking solution for some but Kuik doesn’t believe they represent a big threat, currently at least.

“We think VPN use is not common under the average user, that is more something for the hardcore and not all of those will use it for access to illegal sources,” he informs TF.

While BREIN is fairly relaxed about VPNs for now, the group suggests it could take action if they begin to pose a risk to the site-blocking regime they’ve fought so hard for.

“If it becomes problematic, blocking could in principle also be demanded from VPN services,” Kuik warns.

Given the 40% figure and the caveats above, it is likely that the direct traffic figure to The Pirate Bay’s domain will fall again in the months to come. Mid-January a Dutch court ruled that local Internet providers KPN, Tele2, T-Mobile, Zeelandnet and CAIW must follow Ziggo and XS4All by also blocking The Pirate Bay.

There’s no doubt that blocking has at least some effect on direct traffic to pirate sites and it’s clear that entertainment industry groups feel it’s essential as part of a bigger anti-piracy toolkit.

Thus far, however, pirates have proven to be extremely resilient so the Netherlands will probably need further action against a much broader range of sites if blocking is to have any meaningful effect.

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

Russia VPN Blocking Law Failing? No Provider Told To Block Any Site

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-vpn-blocking-law-failing-no-provider-told-to-block-any-site-180224/

Continuing Russia’s continued pressure on the restriction of banned websites for copyright infringement and other offenses, President Vladimir Putin signed a brand new bill into law July 2017.

The legislation aimed to prevent citizens from circumventing ISP blockades with the use of services such as VPNs, proxies, Tor, and other anonymizing services. The theory was that if VPNs were found to be facilitating access to banned sites, they too would find themselves on Russia’s national Internet blacklist.

The list is maintained by local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor and currently contains many tens of thousands of restricted domains. In respect of VPNs, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Internal Affairs is tasked with monitoring ‘unblocking’ offenses, which they are then expected to refer to the telecoms watchdog for action.

The legislation caused significant uproar both locally and overseas and was widely predicted to signal a whole new level of censorship in Russia. However, things haven’t played out that way since, far from it. Since being introduced November 1, 2017, not a single VPN has been cautioned over its activities, much less advised to block or cease and desist.

The revelation comes via Russian news outlet RBC, which received an official confirmation from Rozcomnadzor itself that no VPN or anonymization service had been asked to take action to prevent access to blocked sites. Given the attention to detail when passing the law, the reasons seem extraordinary.

While Rozcomnadzor is empowered to put VPN providers on the blacklist, it must first be instructed to do so by the FSB, after that organization has carried out an investigation. Once the FSB gives the go-ahead, Rozcomnadzor can then order the provider to connect itself to the federal state information system, known locally as FGIS.

FGIS is the system that contains the details of nationally blocked sites and if a VPN provider does not interface with it within 30 days of being ordered to do so, it too will be added to the blocklist by Rozcomnadzor. Trouble is, Rozcomnadzor hasn’t received any requests to contact VPNs from higher up the chain, so they can’t do anything.

“As of today, there have been no requests from the members of the RDD [operational and investigative activities] and state security regarding anonymizers and VPN services,” a Roskomnadzor spokesperson said.

However, the problems don’t end there. RBC quotes Karen Ghazaryan, an analyst at the Russian Electronic Communications Association (RAEC), who says that even if it had received instructions, Rozcomnadzor wouldn’t be able to block the VPN services in question for both technical and legal reasons.

“Roskomnadzor does not have leverage over most VPN services, and they can not block them for failing to comply with the law, because Roskomnadzor does not have ready technical solutions for this, and the law does not yet have relevant by-laws,” the expert said.

“Copying the Chinese model of fighting VPNs in Russia will not be possible because of its high cost and the radically different topology of the Russian segment of the Internet,” Ghazaryan adds.

This apparent inability to act is surprising, not least since millions of Russian Internet users are now using VPNs, anonymizers, and similar services on a regular basis. Ghazaryan puts the figure as high as 25% of all Russian Internet users.

However, there is also a third element to Russia’s VPN dilemma – how to differentiate between VPNs used by the public and those used in a commercial environment. China is trying to solve this problem by forcing VPN providers to register and align themselves with the state. Russia hasn’t tried that, yet.

“The [blocking] law says that it does not apply to corporate VPN networks, but there is no way to distinguish them from services used for personal needs,” concludes Sarkis Darbinian from the anti-censorship project, Roskomvoboda.

This week, Russia’s Ministry of Culture unveiled yet more new proposals for dealing with copyright infringement via a bill that would allow websites to be blocked without a court order. It’s envisioned that if pirate material is found on a site and its operator either fails to respond to a complaint or leaves the content online for more than 24 hours, ISPs will be told to block the entire site.

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

Spanish Authorities Launch New Campaign to Block Pirate Websites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-authorities-launch-new-campaign-to-block-pirate-websites-180223/

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, a court in Spain recently ordered local ISPs to block HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv, a pair of popular pirate sites.

Citing changes in local law which helped facilitate the action, the MPA welcomed the blockades as necessary to prevent further damage to the creative industries. Now, just a week later, it seems that Spain really has the bit between its teeth.

An announcement from the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, reveals that almost two dozen websites have just been blocked for infringing intellectual property rights.

“The Civil Guard, within the framework of the ‘Operation CASCADA’, has initiated a campaign to block websites that allow people to download content protected by copyright and disseminate them through links in P2P networks, that is, networks of computers that work without fixed servers,” the Civil Guard said in a statement.

“In this first phase, a total of 23 web domains have been blocked from which direct download links of all kinds of protected audiovisual material such as movies, series, music and video games were accessed, many of them of recent creation and without being released yet in our country.

“High-quality versions of films available on the cinema billboards of our country were offered, although they had not yet been sold in physical or digital format and dubbed with audio in several languages.”

A full list of websites and domains hasn’t yet been provided by the authorities but familiar names including divxtotal.com and gamestorrents.com are confirmed to be included in the first wave.

The Civil Guard, which is organized as a military force under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense, said that the administrators of the sites operate their platforms from abroad, generating advertising revenue from Spanish visitors who are said to make up 80% of the sites’ traffic.

In common with similar sites, the authorities accuse their owners of taking evasive action to avoid being shut down, including hiding the true location of their servers while moving them from country to country and masking domain registration data.

“Cases have been detected in which previously judicially blocked domains were reactivated in a matter of hours, with practically identical domain names or even changing only the extension thereof. In this way, and even if several successive blocks were made, they were able to ‘resurrect’ the web pages again in a very short space of time,” the Civil Guard reports.

“For all these reasons, components of the Department of Telematic Crimes of the Central Operative Unit of the Civil Guard, responsible for the investigation, were forced to implement a series of measures tending to cause a total blockade of them that would be effective and definitive, being currently inaccessible web pages or lacking download links.”

According to the authorities, the sites are now being continuously monitored, with replacement domains being blocked in less than three hours. That doesn’t appear to have been the case yesterday, however.

It’s claimed that the blocked sites were created by “a person of Spanish origin” who subsequently sold them to a company in Argentina. On Thursday, Argentina-based site Dixv.com.ar fired back against the blockade with a new site called Yadivx.com, which is reportedly serving all of the former’s content to users in Spain.

The sites’ owners continue to administer the rogue sites from Argentina, Spanish authorities believe. Only time will tell who will emerge victorious but at least for now, the sites are remaining defiant.

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

Court Orders Spanish ISPs to Block Pirate Sites For Hollywood

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-spanish-isps-to-block-pirate-sites-for-hollywood-180216/

Determined to reduce levels of piracy globally, Hollywood has become one of the main proponents of site-blocking on the planet. To date there have been multiple lawsuits in far-flung jurisdictions, with Europe one of the primary targets.

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, Spain has become one of the latest targets. According to the studios a pair of sites – HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv – infringe their copyrights on a grand scale and need to be slowed down by preventing users from accessing them.

HDFull is a platform that provides movies and TV shows in both Spanish and English. Almost 60% its traffic comes from Spain and after a huge surge in visitors last July, it’s now the 337th most popular site in the country according to Alexa. Visitors from Mexico, Argentina, United States and Chile make up the rest of its audience.

Repelis.tv is a similar streaming portal specializing in movies, mainly in Spanish. A third of the site’s visitors hail from Mexico with the remainder coming from Argentina, Columbia, Spain and Chile. In common with HDFull, Repelis has been building its visitor numbers quickly since 2017.

The studios demanding more blocks

With a ruling in hand from the European Court of Justice which determined that sites can be blocked on copyright infringement grounds, the studios asked the courts to issue an injunction against several local ISPs including Telefónica, Vodafone, Orange and Xfera. In an order handed down this week, Barcelona Commercial Court No. 6 sided with the studios and ordered the ISPs to begin blocking the sites.

“They damage the legitimate rights of those who own the films and series, which these pages illegally display and with which they profit illegally through the advertising revenues they generate,” a statement from the Spanish Federation of Cinematographic Distributors (FEDECINE) reads.

FEDECINE General director Estela Artacho said that changes in local law have helped to provide the studios with a new way to protect audiovisual content released in Spain.

“Thanks to the latest reform of the Civil Procedure Law, we have in this jurisdiction a new way to exercise different possibilities to protect our commercial film offering,” Artacho said.

“Those of us who are part of this industry work to make culture accessible and offer the best cinematographic experience in the best possible conditions, guaranteeing the continuity of the sector.”

The development was also welcomed by Stan McCoy, president of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, which represents the plaintiffs in the case.

“We have just taken a welcome step which we consider crucial to face the problem of piracy in Spain,” McCoy said.

“These actions are necessary to maintain the sustainability of the creative community both in Spain and throughout Europe. We want to ensure that consumers enjoy the entertainment offer in a safe and secure environment.”

After gaining experience from blockades and subsequent circumvention in other regions, the studios seem better prepared to tackle fallout in Spain. In addition to blocking primary domains, the ruling handed down by the court this week also obliges ISPs to block any other domain, subdomain or IP address whose purpose is to facilitate access to the blocked platforms.

News of Spain’s ‘pirate’ blocks come on the heels of fresh developments in Germany, where this week a court ordered ISP Vodafone to block KinoX, one of the country’s most popular streaming portals.

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

Russia Blocks 500 ‘Pirate’ Sites in Four Months, Without a Single Court Order

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blocks-500-pirate-sites-in-four-months-without-a-single-court-order-180204/

Once the legal process for blocking pirate sites has been accepted in a region, it usually follows that dozens if not hundreds of other sites are given the same treatment. Rightsholders simply point to earlier decisions and apply for new blockades under established law.

Very quickly, however, it became clear that when a domain is blocked it’s relatively easy to produce a clone or ‘mirror’ of a site to achieve the same purpose, thus circumventing a court order. This mirror site whac-a-mole was addressed in Russia last year with new legislation.

Starting October 1, 2017, Russian authorities allowed rightsholders to add mirror sites to the country’s national blocklist without having to return to court. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the relative convenience and cost-efficiency, they have been doing that en masse.

According to Alexei Volin, Russia’s Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media, hundreds of mirrors of pirate sites have been blocked since the introduction of the legislation in October, affecting an audience of millions of people.

“For the past few months, we have been able to block mirrors of pirate sites. As of today, we can already note that about 500 sites are blocked as mirrors,” said Volin at the CSTB 2018 television and telecommunications expo in Moscow.

While rightsholders were expected to quickly take advantage of the change in the law, the speed at which they have done so is unprecedented. According to Volin, more pirate platforms have been blocked in the four months since October 1, 2017, than in the previous two years’ worth of judicial decisions.

“Colleagues from the industry recently found a general audience of blocked sites, it’s about 200 million people,” Volin said, while describing the results as “encouraging.”

The process is indeed quite straightforward. Following a request from a rightsholder, the Ministry of Communications decides whether the site being reported is actually a copy of a previously blocked pirate site. If it is, the owner of the site and telecoms regulator Rozcomnadzor are informed about the situation, while local ISPs are ordered to begin blocking the site.

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

RuTracker Reveals Innovative Plan For Users to Subvert ISP Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rutracker-reveals-innovative-plan-for-users-to-subvert-isp-blocking-180110/

As Russia’s largest torrent site and one that earned itself a mention in TF’s list of most popular torrent sites 2018, RuTracker is continuously under fire.

The site has an extremely dedicated following but Russia’s telecoms watchdog, spurred on by copyright holders brandishing court rulings, does everything in its power to ensure that people can’t access the site easily.

As a result, RuTracker’s main domains are blocked by all ISPs, meaning that people have to resort to VPNs or the many dozens of proxy and mirror sites that have been set up to facilitate access to the popular tracker.

While all of these methods used to work just fine, new legislation that came into force during October means that mirror and proxy sites can be added to block lists without copyright holders having to return to court. And, following legislation introduced in November, local VPN services are forbidden from providing access to blocked sites.

While RuTracker has always insisted that web blockades have little effect on the numbers of people sharing content, direct traffic to their main domains has definitely suffered. To solve this problem and go some way towards mitigating VPN and proxy bans, the site has just come up with a new plan to keep the torrents flowing.

The scheme was quietly announced, not on RuTracker’s main forum, but to a smaller set of users on local site Leprosorium. The idea was that a quieter launch there would allow for controlled testing before a release to the masses. The project is called My.RuTracker and here’s how it works.

Instead of blocked users fruitlessly trying to find public circumvention methods that once seen are immediately blocked, they are invited to register their own domains. These can be single use, for the person who registers them, but it’s envisioned that they’ll be shared out between friends, family, and online groups, to better make use of the resource.

Once domains are registered, users are invited to contact a special user account on the RuTracker site (operated by the site’s operators) which will provide them with precise technical details on how to set up their domain (.ru domains are not allowed) to gain access to RuTracker.

“In response, after a while (usually every other day), a list of NS-addresses will be sent to the registrar’s domain settings. Under this scheme, the user domain will be redirected to the RuTracker site via a dynamic IP address: this will avoid blocking the torrent tracker for a particular IP address,” the scheme envisages.

According to local news resource Tjournal, 62 personal mirrors were launched following the initial appeal, with the operators of RuTracker now planning to publicly announce the project to their community. As more are added, the site will keep track of traffic from each of the personal “mirrors” for balancing the load on the site.

At least in theory, this seems like a pretty innovative scheme. Currently, the authorities rely on the scale and public awareness of a particular proxy or mirror in order to earmark it for blocking. This much more decentralized plan, in which only small numbers of people should know each domain, seems like a much more robust system – at least until the authorities and indeed the law catches up.

And so the cat-and-mouse game continues.

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

Massive Site-Blocking Measures Countered By 100K Browser Addon Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/massive-site-blocking-measures-countered-by-100k-browser-addon-users-171231/

FCT tyIn July 2015, Portugal’s Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain, and representatives from the advertising industry.

The memorandum laid out a new mechanism for blocking so-called ‘pirate’ sites. In common with similar frameworks elsewhere, the process can be triggered by a complaint from a rightsholder association. Local anti-piracy group MAPINET then collates evidence that a site is engaged in the unlawful distribution of copyright works and has failed to cease its activities.

The system was quickly utilized by rightsholders seeking to block access to their content. Within six months, 330 sites had been blocked by ISPs, but that was only the beginning. In the months and years that followed, hundreds more sites were rendered inaccessible but in common with similar programs elsewhere, no official list of blocked sites was made available. People are keeping watch, however.

SitesBloqueados (Blocked Sites) is a web portal run by Revolução dos Bytes (Bytes’ Revolution), a group of like-minded anti-censorship activists in Portugal. Created a few months after blocking began in the region, their comprehensive database now contains almost 1,400 domains, the majority of which have been blocked on copyright grounds.

“SitesBloqueados was mainly created because, although the Memorandum of Understanding contained certain requirements to make a site eligible to be blocked – such as 500 items [or links] to copyright content or one third of the site containing copyrighted material – there was no official way to validate that data and make sure that these ‘rules’ are being respected,” team member Henrique Mouta informs TF.

The manner in which the list is maintained is quite unique. As mentioned earlier, there are no official sources listing blocked domains so the people behind SitesBloqueados had to get creative. Alongside this project they also run Ahoy!, a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows users to circumvent censorship in Portugal and it’s through that tool they gather information.

“Ahoy! basically bypasses any traffic to a blocked site through our own proxies, allowing the users to navigate in a free, uncensored internet,” Henrique explains.

As this extension works on a whitelist basis, we had to create a mechanism to automatically detect and whitelist sites that have been blocked, so if a user accesses a blocked site that is not on our list yet, we get a notification so we can review the site and add it to the list. That is the list that is also powering SitesBloqueados.pt.”

When the voluntary agreement was first announced, local ISPs came under intense criticism for agreeing to work with copyright holders without need for a court process. However, Henrique says they are actually in a precarious position.

“We usually see the ISPs as the bad guys, blocking sites, throttling our internet and, more recently, going against the Internet Neutrality. But, in this particular case, all the major ISPs are forced to block any sites that have been requested in 15 days, or they might pay fines for every single day after the deadline.

“MAPiNET (MOVIMENTO CÍVICOANTI PIRATARIA NA INTERNET) is the organization, alongside with IGAC (Inspecção Geral Das Actividades Culturais), that compiles the lists of sites and sends them to the ISP. It’s usually two lists per month. Of course, I’m not excusing the ISPs, as they should stand up against censorship. But we all know that’s asking too much of them,” Henrique adds.

Interestingly, the first site blockade in Portugal wasn’t actioned on copyright grounds. It was, in fact, targeted at Uber.com.

“This happened in June 2015, after a court order to suspend all Uber activity in Portugal. This opened a huge precedent, with all these anti-piracy organizations seeing how easy is to block a site, technically speaking.

“So, at the end of August of that same year, the [anti-piracy] Memorandum was signed by all the parties and, since then, both MAPiNET and IGAC have the power to request any site block, without any court order, without any legal order,” Henrique notes.

This lit a fire under the team and two and half years later, Ahoy! is now being used by 100k people to unblock almost 1,400 sites, while feeding back information on newly blocked domains. These are then added to the blocklist database and considered for unblocking methods via the addon.

Currently, around 50 new domains are blocked every month in Portugal and Henrique and the team are determined to document every one of them. They believe that by keeping an eye on things publicly, it lets the anti-piracy groups know they are being watched and cannot act with impunity. Around 90% of all blocked domains are restricted on copyright grounds but some also fall foul of new gambling laws that forbid unlicensed sites.

From the beginning, the big question has surrounded potential abuse. So, given the lack of a court process, have any players attempted to game the system?

“So far, we haven’t seen any signs of intentional abuse. There have been a few problems with sites being wrongly blocked. The most popular case is Carbon Games site that was blocked nearly two years ago, and it was mistaken for a different site, a Gambling site, named Carbon Gaming,” Henrique says.

“A few months later, we detected another case. A Spanish journalist had a website where he was posting videoclips of the latest releases. All of these releases were originally on YouTube, uploaded by the respective owners, however that was not enough to keep the site alive.”

Under pressure from Revolução dos Bytes this block was reversed but it’s not the only instance of errors. Non-existent sites have been blocked as have sites publishing headlines and linking to the respective online newspapers.

With blocking continuing at a steady pace, dozens of new domains are restricted every month. But Henrique and the team believe it won’t achieve anything positive and only serves to harm the Internet and democracy.

“Blocking sites to prevent piracy is the same as being on a sinking submarine, trying to patch every leaking hull hole with duct tape. If they want to fight piracy, they should try to understand, in the first place, why it happens and what they can do to change it.

“It’s well known that having cheap and quality services like Netflix and Spotify helped Internet piracy levels drop to record lows, DRM issues aside, of course. And the worst of it is the timing: these organizations see the decreasing levels of piracy as a signal that their stupid censorship is actually working. I’m really afraid that this is now an unstoppable snowball. The Internet in Portugal has seen much better days,” Henrique concludes.

But while he’s pessimistic over current developments, it appears that the Ahoy! movement is only set to grow. The team say they want to bring the browser-based system to other countries that are suffering from similar blockades and that suggestions from the public are welcome.

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

Canadian Government Triggers Major Copyright Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/canadian-government-triggers-major-copyright-review-171214/

The Copyright Act of Canada was first passed in 1921 and in the decades that followed has undergone considerable amendment.

Between 2005 and 2010, several bills failed to gain traction due to opposition but in 2011 the Copyright Modernization Act was tabled. A year later, in the summer of 2012, it was passed into law.

The Act tackles a number of important issues, such as allowing time and format shifting, plus backup copies, as long as DRM isn’t circumvented along the way. So-called ‘fair dealing’ also enjoys expansion while statutory damages for non-commercial scale infringement are capped at CAD$5000 per proceeding. Along with these changes sits the “notice-and-notice” regime, in which ISPs forward infringement notices to subscribers on behalf of copyright holders.

The Act also mandates a review of copyright law every five years, a period that expired at the end of June 2017. Yesterday a House of Commons motion triggered the required parliamentary review, which will be carried out by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. It didn’t take long for the music industry to make its position known.

Music Canada, whose key members are Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music, enthusiastically welcomed the joint announcement from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

“I applaud Minister Bains and Minister Joly for initiating this review of the Copyright Act,” said Graham Henderson, President and CEO of Music Canada.

“Music creators, and all creators who depend on copyright, deserve a Copyright Act that protects their rights when their works are commercialized by others. This is our chance to address the Value Gap threatening the livelihood of Canadian creators and the future of Canadian culture.”

That the so-called “Value Gap” has been immediately thrown on the table comes as no surprise. The term, which loosely refers to the way user-generated platforms like YouTube are able to avoid liability for infringing content while generating revenue from it, is a hot topic around the world at the moment.

In the US and Europe, for example, greater emphasis is being placed on YouTube’s position than on piracy itself, with record labels claiming that the platform gains an unfair advantage in licensing negotiations, something which leads to a “gap” between what is paid for music, and what it’s actually worth.

But the recording labels are unlikely to get an easy ride. As pointed out in a summary by Canadian law professor Michael Geist, the notice-and-takedown rules that facilitate the “Value Gap” are not even part of Canadian law and even without them, the labels have done just fine.

“The industry has enjoyed remarkable success since 2012, growing far faster [than] the world average and passing Australia as the world’s 6th largest music market,” Geist writes.

“The growth has come largely through Internet streaming revenues, which now generate tens of millions of dollars every year for creators, publishers, and the broader industry. The industry is also likely to continue to lobby for copyright term extension, as foreshadowed by a lobbying blitz just last month in Ottawa.”

As reported in September, telecoms companies and the entertainment industries are pressing for website blockades, without intervention from the courts. The upcoming copyright review will provide additional opportunity to push that message home.

“Bell admits that copyright reform is not needed for site blocking, but the link to the Copyright Act ensures that the issue will be a prominent part of its lobbying campaign,” Geist notes.

“The reality is that Canada is already home to some of the toughest anti-piracy laws in the world with many legislative tools readily available for rights holders and some of the largest damages provisions found anywhere in the world.”

But for copyright holders, a review also has the potential to swing things the other way.

The previously mentioned notice-and-notice regime, for example, was put in place as an alternative to more restrictive schemes elsewhere. However, it was quickly abused by copyright trolls seeking cash settlements from alleged pirates. It’s certainly possible for that particular loophole to be closed or at least addressed as part of a comprehensive review.

In any event, the review is likely to prove spirited, with interested parties on all sides trying to carve out a smooth path for their interests under the next five years of copyright law.

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

Spanish Police Arrest Seven in Pirate Sports Streaming Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-police-arrest-seven-in-pirate-sports-streaming-crackdown-171111/

While most large broadcasters around the world now offer comprehensive sports packages to their customers, subscriptions are often quite expensive.

This has led to the proliferation of pirate services, each dedicated to bringing live sports to the masses at massively reduced prices or even completely free.

As a result, it’s now possible to watch almost any sport from a pirate source, whether that’s via a website, an augmented Kodi setup, or a premium IPTV provider. Today, however, there’s one less pirate service available after a series of raids in Spain.

According to the National Police, raids took place in Madrid, Alicante, Albacete, Gandía, and the Valencian cities of Xátiva and Antequera this week. In total, seven people were arrested for illegally broadcasting football matches.

Unusually in such cases, the suspects are alleged to have offered matches via a number of mechanisms, including direct download, streaming, subscription streaming, and peer-to-peer distribution. This, the police say, allowed them to have the broadest possible access to the market.

The group’s servers were scattered around the world; some located in Spain, others in France, with the remainder in the United States and Canada.

The investigation began in 2016 following a complaint from La Liga, the top professional association in Spanish football. The group alleged that a total of 13 websites were illegally offering lists of links which enabled visitors to access content to which it holds the exclusive rights.

Police say the operation was well organized, with matches presented to Internet users with schedules ordered by championships. Revenue was generated via advertising which appeared on the various pages viewed by visitors.

It’s claimed that the sites’ operators also attempted to make their scattered servers harder to find by utilizing intermediary companies, including those that offer server location anonymization services.

Across the country, eight house searches reportedly yielded a trove of evidence, both digital and physical, detailing the pirate operation and the profit obtained from it.

At this early stage, police estimate the “economic benefit” to the defendants from subscriptions and advertising to be in the region of 1.4 million euros, although it’s unclear whether those are actual historic or projected gains.

Following the raids, seven websites were ordered to be blocked and three bank accounts, said to be linked to the pirate operation, were frozen. Police say that the investigation continues so further arrests and website blockades can’t be ruled out.

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

Russian Site-Blocking Chiefs Under Investigation For Fraud

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russian-site-blocking-chiefs-under-investigation-for-fraud-171024/

Over the past several years, Rozcomnadzor has become a highly controversial government body in Russia. With responsibility for ordering web-blockades against sites the country deems disruptive, it’s effectively Russia’s online censorship engine.

In total, Rozcomnadzor has ordered the blocking of more than 82,000 sites. Within that total, at least 4,000 have been rendered inaccessible on copyright grounds, with an additional 41,000 innocent platforms blocked as collateral damage.

This massive over-blocking has been widely criticized in Russia but until now, Rozcomnadzor has appeared pretty much untouchable. However, a scandal is now engulfing the organization after at least four key officials were charged with fraud offenses.

News that something was potentially amiss began leaking out two weeks ago, when Russian publication Vedomosti reported on a court process in which the initials of the defendants appeared to coincide with officials at Rozcomnadzor.

The publication suspected that three men were involved; Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky, head of the legal department Boris Yedidin, and Alexander Veselchakov, who acts as an advisor to the head of the department monitoring radio frequencies.

The prosecution’s case indicated that the defendants were involved in “fraud committed by an organized group either on an especially large scale or entailing the deprivation of citizen’s rights.” Indeed, no further details were made available, with the head of Rozcomnadzor Alexander Zharov claiming he knew nothing about a criminal case and refusing to answer questions.

It later transpired that four employees had been charged with fraud, including Anastasiya Zvyagintseva, who acts as the general director of CRFC, an agency under the control of Rozcomnadzor.

According to Kommersant, Zvyagintseva’s involvement is at the core of the matter. She claims to have been forced to put “ghost employees” on the payroll, whose salaries were then paid to existing employees in order to increase their salaries.

The investigation into the scandal certainly runs deep. It’s reported that FSB officers have been spying on Rozcomnadzor officials for six months, listening to their phone conversations, monitoring their bank accounts, and even watching the ATM machines they used.

Local media reports indicate that the illegal salary scheme ran from 2012 until February 2017 and involved some 20 million rubles ($347,000) of illegal payments. These were allegedly used to retain ‘valuable’ employees when their regular salaries were not lucrative enough to keep them at the site-blocking body.

While Zvyagintseva has been released pending trial, Ampelonsky, Yedidin, and Veselchakov have been placed under house arrest by the Chertanovsky Court of Moscow until November 7.

Rozcomnadzor’s website is currently inaccessible.

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

Anti-Piracy Group Joins Internet Organization That Controls Top-Level Domain

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-group-joins-internet-organization-that-controls-top-level-domain-171019/

All around the world, content creators and rightsholders continue to protest against the unauthorized online distribution of copyrighted content.

While pirating end-users obviously share some of the burden, the main emphasis has traditionally been placed on the shuttering of illicit sites, whether torrent, streaming, or hosting based.

Over time, however, sites have become more prevalent and increasingly resilient, leaving the music, movie and publishing industries to play a frustrating game of whac-a-mole. With this in mind, their focus has increasingly shifted towards Internet gatekeepers, including ISPs and bodies with influence over domain availability.

While most of these efforts take place via cooperation or legal action, there’s regularly conflict when Hollywood, for example, wants a particular domain rendered inaccessible or the music industry wants pirates kicked off the Internet.

As a result, there’s nearly always a disconnect, with copyright holders on one side and Internet technology companies worried about mission creep on the other. In Denmark, however, those lines have just been blurred in the most intriguing way possible after an infamous anti-piracy outfit joined an organization with significant control over the Internet in the country.

RettighedsAlliancen (or Rights Alliance as it’s more commonly known) is an anti-piracy group which counts some of the most powerful local and international movie companies among its members. It also operates on behalf of IFPI and by extension, most of the world’s major recording labels.

The group has been involved in dozens of legal processes over the years against file-sharers and file-sharing sites, most recently fighting for and winning ISP blockades against most major pirate portals including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Torrentz, and many more.

In a somewhat surprising new announcement, the group has revealed it’s become the latest member of DIFO, the Danish Internet Forum (DIFO) which “works for a secure and accessible Internet” under the top-level .DK domain. Indeed, DIFO has overall responsibility for Danish internet infrastructure.

“For DIFO it is important to have a strong link to the Danish internet community. Therefore, we are very pleased that the Alliance wishes to be part of the association,” DIFO said in a statement.

Rights Alliance will be DIFO’s third new member this year but uniquely it will get the opportunity to represent the interests of more than 100,000 Danish and international rightholders from inside an influential Internet-focused organization.

Looking at DIFO’s membership, Rights Alliance certainly stands out as unusual. The majority of the members are made up of IT-based organizations, such as the Internet Industry Association, The Association of Open Source Suppliers and DKRegistrar, the industry association for Danish domain registrars.

A meeting around a table with these players and their often conflicting interests is likely to be an experience for all involved. However, all parties seem more than happy with the new partnership.

“We want to help create a more secure internet for companies that invest in doing business online, and for users to be safe, so combating digital crime is a key and shared goal,” says Rights Alliance chief, Maria Fredenslund. “I am therefore looking forward to the future cooperation with DIFO.”

Only time will tell how this partnership will play out but if common ground can be found, it’s certainly possible that the anti-piracy scene in Denmark could step up a couple of gears in the future.

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

Yarrrr! Dutch ISPs Block The Pirate Bay But It’s Bad Timing for Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/yarrrr-dutch-isps-block-the-pirate-bay-but-its-bad-timing-for-trolls-171005/

While many EU countries have millions of Internet pirates, few have given citizens the freedom to plunder like the Netherlands. For many years, Dutch Internet users actually went about their illegal downloading with government blessing.

Just over three years ago, downloading and copying movies and music for personal use was not punishable by law. Instead, the Dutch compensated rightsholders through a “piracy levy” on writable media, hard drives and electronic devices with storage capacity, including smartphones.

Following a ruling from the European Court of Justice in 2014, however, all that came to an end. Along with uploading (think BitTorrent sharing), downloading was also outlawed.

Around the same time, The Court of The Hague handed down a decision in a long-running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ruling against local anti-piracy outfit BREIN, it was decided that the ISPs wouldn’t have to block The Pirate Bay after all. After a long and tortuous battle, however, the ISPs learned last month that they would have to block the site, pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

On September 22, both ISPs were given 10 business days to prevent subscriber access to the notorious torrent site, or face fines of 2,000 euros per day, up to a maximum of one million euros.

With that time nearly up, yesterday Ziggo broke cover to become the first of the pair to block the site. On a dedicated diversion page, somewhat humorously titled ziggo.nl/yarrr, the ISP explained the situation to now-blocked users.

“You are trying to visit a page of The Pirate Bay. On September 22, the Hague Court obliged us to block access to this site. The pirate flag is thus handled by us. The case is currently at the Supreme Court which judges the basic questions in this case,” the notice reads.

Ziggo Pirate Bay message (translated)

Customers of XS4ALL currently have no problem visiting The Pirate Bay but according to a statement handed to Tweakers by a spokesperson, the blockade will be implemented today.

In addition to the site’s main domains, the injunction will force the ISPs to block 155 URLs and IP addresses in total, a list that has been drawn up by BREIN to include various mirrors, proxies, and alternate access points. XS4All says it will publish a list of all the blocked items on its notification page.

While the re-introduction of a Pirate Bay blockade in the Netherlands is an achievement for BREIN, it’s potentially bad timing for the copyright trolls waiting in the wings to snare Dutch file-sharers.

As recently reported, movie outfit Dutch Filmworks (DFW) is preparing a wave of cash-settlement copyright-trolling letters to mimic those sent by companies elsewhere.

There’s little doubt that users of The Pirate Bay would’ve been DFW’s targets but it seems likely that given the introduction of blockades, many Dutch users will start to educate themselves on the use of VPNs to protect their privacy, or at least become more aware of the risks.

Of course, there will be no real shortage of people who’ll continue to download without protection, but DFW are getting into this game just as it’s likely to get more difficult for them. As more and more sites get blocked (and that is definitely BREIN’s overall plan) the low hanging fruit will sit higher and higher up the tree – and the cash with it.

Like all methods of censorship, site-blocking eventually drives communication underground. While anti-piracy outfits all say blocking is necessary, obfuscation and encryption isn’t welcomed by any of them.

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

Russia’s Largest Torrent Site Celebrates 13 Years Online in a Chinese Restaurant

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-largest-torrent-site-celebrates-13-years-online-in-a-chinese-restaurant-170923/

For most torrent fans around the world, The Pirate Bay is the big symbol of international defiance. Over the years the site has fought, avoided, and snubbed its nose at dozens of battles, yet still remains online today.

But there is another site, located somewhere in the east, that has been online for nearly as long, has millions more registered members, and has proven just as defiant.

RuTracker, for those who haven’t yet found it, is a Russian-focused treasure trove of both local and international content. For many years the site was frequented only by native speakers but with the wonders of tools like Google Translate, anyone can use the site at the flick of the switch. When people are struggling to find content, it’s likely that RuTracker has it.

This position has attracted the negative attention of a wide range of copyright holders and thanks to legislation introduced during 2013, the site is now subject to complete blocking in Russia. In fact, RuTracker has proven so stubborn to copyright holder demands, it is now permanently blocked in the region by all ISPs.

Surprisingly, especially given the enthusiasm for blockades among copyright holders, this doesn’t seem to have dampened demand for the site’s services. According to SimiliarWeb, against all the odds the site is still pulling in around 90 million visitors per month. But the impressive stats don’t stop there.

Impressive stats for a permanently blocked site

This week, RuTracker celebrates its 13th birthday, a relative lifetime for a site that has been front and center of Russia’s most significant copyright battles, trouble which doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Back in 2010, for example, RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar and web-hosting provider, pulled the plug on the site’s former Torrents.ru domain. The Director of Public Relations at RU-Center said that the domain had been blocked on the orders of the Investigative Division of the regional prosecutor’s office in Moscow. The site never got its domain back but carried on regardless, despite the setbacks.

Back then the site had around 4,000,000 members but now, seven years on, its ranks have swelled to a reported 15,382,907. According to figures published by the site this week, 778,317 of those members signed up this year during a period the site was supposed to be completely inaccessible. Needless to say, its operators remain defiant.

“Today we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our tracker, which is the largest Russian (and not only) -language media library on this planet. A tracker strangely banished in the country where most of its audience is located – in Russia,” a site announcement reads.

“But, despite the prohibitions, with all these legislative obstacles, with all these technical difficulties, we see that our tracker still exists and is successfully developing. And we still believe that the library should be open and free for all, and not be subject to censorship or a victim of legislative and executive power lobbied by the monopolists of the media industry.”

It’s interesting to note the tone of the RuTracker announcement. On any other day it could’ve been written by the crew of The Pirate Bay who, in their prime, loved to stick a finger or two up to the copyright lobby and then rub their noses in it. For the team at RuTracker, that still appears to be one of the main goals.

Like The Pirate Bay but unlike many of the basic torrent indexers that have sprung up in recent years, RuTracker relies on users to upload its content. They certainly haven’t been sitting back. RuTracker reveals that during the past year and despite all the problems, users uploaded a total of 171,819 torrents – on average, 470 torrents per day.

Interestingly, the content most uploaded to the site also points to the growing internationalization of RuTracker. During the past year, the NBA / NCAA section proved most popular, closely followed by non-Russian rock music and NHL games. Non-Russian movies accounted for almost 2,000 fresh torrents in just 12 months.

“It is thanks to you this tracker lives!” the site’s operators informed the users.

“It is thanks to you that it was, is, and, for sure, will continue to offer the most comprehensive, diverse and, most importantly, quality content in the Russian Internet. You stayed with us when the tracker lost its original name: torrents.ru. You stayed with us when access to a new name was blocked in Russia: rutracker.org. You stayed with us when [the site’s trackers] were blocked. We will stay with you as long as you need us!”

So as RuTracker plans for another year online, all that remains is to celebrate its 13th birthday in style. That will be achieved tonight when every adult member of RuTracker is invited to enjoy Chinese meal at the Tian Jin Chinese Restaurant in St. Petersburg.

Turn up early, seating is limited.

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

Internet Archive Blocked in 2,650 Site Anti-Piracy Sweep

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-archive-blocked-in-2650-site-anti-piracy-sweep-170810/

Reports of sites becoming mysteriously inaccessible in India have been a regular occurance over the past several years. In many cases, sites simply stop functioning, leaving users wondering whether sites are actually down or whether there’s a technical issue.

Due to their increasing prevalence, fingers are often pointed at so-called ‘John Doe’ orders, which are handed down by the court to prevent Internet piracy. Often sweeping in nature (and in some cases pre-emptive rather than preventative), these injunctions have been known to block access to both file-sharing platforms and innocent bystanders.

Earlier this week (and again for no apparent reason), the world renowned Internet Archive was rendered inaccessible to millions of users in India. The platform, which is considered by many to be one of the Internet’s most valued resources, hosts more than 15 petabytes of data, a figure which grows on a daily basis. Yet despite numerous requests for information, none was forthcoming from authorities.

The ‘blocked’ message seen by users accessing Archive.org

Quoted by local news outlet Medianama, Chris Butler, Office Manager at the Internet Archive, said that their attempts to contact the Indian Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) had proven fruitless.

Noting that site had previously been blocked in India, Butler said they were no clearer on the reasons why the same kind of action had seemingly been taken this week.

“We have no information about why a block would have been implemented,” he said. “Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it’s happening and see full access restored to archive.org.”

Now, however, the mystery has been solved. The BBC says a local government agency provided a copy of a court order obtained by two Bollywood production companies who are attempting to slow down piracy of their films in India.

Issued by a local judge, the sweeping order compels local ISPs to block access to 2,650 mainly file-sharing websites, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, the revived KickassTorrents, and hundreds of other ‘usual suspects’. However, it also includes the URL for the Internet Archive, hence the problems with accessibility this week.

The injunction, which appears to be another John Doe order as previously suspected, was granted by the High Court of the Judicature at Madras on August 2, 2017. Two film productions companies – Prakash Jah Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment – obtained the order to protect their films Lipstick Under My Burkha and Jab Harry Met Sejal.

While India-based visitors to blocked resources are often greeted with a message saying that domains have been blocked at the orders of the Department of Telecommunications, these pages never give a reason why.

This always leads to confusion, with news outlets having to pressure local government agencies to discover the reason behind the blockades. In the interests of transparency, providing a link to a copy of a relevant court order would probably benefit all involved.

A few hours ago, the Internet Archive published a statement questioning the process undertaken before the court order was handed down.

“Is the Court aware of and did it consider the fact that the Internet Archive has a well-established and standard procedure for rights holders to submit take down requests and processes them expeditiously?” the platform said.

“We find several instances of take down requests submitted for one of the plaintiffs, Red Chillies Entertainments, throughout the past year, each of which were processed and responded to promptly.

“After a preliminary review, we find no instance of our having been contacted by anyone at all about these films. Is there a specific claim that someone posted these films to archive.org? If so, we’d be eager to address it directly with the claimant.”

But while the Internet Archive appears to be the highest profile collateral damage following the ISP blocks, it isn’t the only victim. Now that the court orders have become available (1,2), it’s clear that other non-pirate entities have also been affected including news site WN.com, website hosting service Weebly, and French ISP Free.fr.

Also, in a sign that sites aren’t being checked to see if they host the movies in question, one of the orders demands that former torrent index BitSnoop is blocked. The site shut down earlier this year. The same is true for Shaanig.org.

This is not the first time that the Internet Archive has been blocked in India. In 2014/2015, Archive.org was rendered inaccessible after it was accused of hosting extremist material. In common with Google, the site copies and stores huge amounts of data, much of it in automated processes. This can leave it exposed to these kinds of accusations.

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