Tag Archives: bpi

Google Search Receives Fewer Takedown Notices Than Before

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APDIF’s weekly DMCA volume

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

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

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

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

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

If YouTube-Ripping Sites Are Illegal, What About Tools That Do a Similar Job?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/if-youtube-ripping-sites-are-illegal-what-about-tools-that-do-a-similar-job-180407/

In 2016, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube.

While this might not have surprised those who regularly participate in the activity, IFPI said that volumes had become so vast that stream-ripping had overtaken pirate site music downloads. That was a big statement.

Probably not coincidentally, just two weeks later IFPI, RIAA, and BPI announced legal action against the world’s largest YouTube ripping site, YouTube-MP3.

“YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3’s users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3’s servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones,” the complaint read.

The labels sued YouTube-MP3 for direct infringement, contributory infringement, vicarious infringement, inducing others to infringe, plus circumvention of technological measures on top. The case was big and one that would’ve been intriguing to watch play out in court, but that never happened.

A year later in September 2017, YouTubeMP3 settled out of court. No details were made public but YouTube-MP3 apparently took all the blame and the court was asked to rule in favor of the labels on all counts.

This certainly gave the impression that what YouTube-MP3 did was illegal and a strong message was sent out to other companies thinking of offering a similar service. However, other onlookers clearly saw the labels’ lawsuit as something to be studied and learned from.

One of those was the operator of NotMP3downloader.com, a site that offers Free MP3 Recorder for YouTube, a tool offering similar functionality to YouTube-MP3 while supposedly avoiding the same legal pitfalls.

Part of that involves audio being processed on the user’s machine – not by stream-ripping as such – but by stream-recording. A subtle difference perhaps, but the site’s operator thinks it’s important.

“After examining the claims made by the copyright holders against youtube-mp3.org, we identified that the charges were based on the three main points. [None] of them are applicable to our product,” he told TF this week.

The first point involves YouTube-MP3’s acts of conversion, storage and distribution of content it had previously culled from YouTube. Copies of unlicensed tracks were clearly held on its own servers, a potent direct infringement risk.

“We don’t have any servers to download, convert or store a copyrighted or any other content from YouTube. Therefore, we do not violate any law or prohibition implied in this part,” NotMP3downloader’s operator explains.

Then there’s the act of “stream-ripping” itself. While YouTube-MP3 downloaded digital content from YouTube using its own software, NotMP3downloader claims to do things differently.

“Our software doesn’t download any streaming content directly, but only launches a web browser with the video specified by a user. The capturing happens from a local machine’s sound card and doesn’t deal with any content streamed through a network,” its operator notes.

This part also seems quite important. YouTube-MP3 was accused of unlawfully circumventing technological measures implemented by YouTube to prevent people downloading or copying content. By opening up YouTube’s own website and viewing content in the way the site demands, NotMP3downloader says it does not “violate the website’s integrity nor performs direct download of audio or video files.”

Like the Betamax video recorder before it that enabled recording from analog TV, NotMP3downloader enables a user to record a YouTube stream on their local machine. This, its makers claim, means the software is completely legal and defeats all the claims made by the labels in the YouTube-MP3 lawsuit.

“What YouTube does is broadcasting content through the Internet. Thus, there is nothing wrong if users are allowed to watch such content later as they may want,” the NotMP3downloader team explain.

“It is worth noting that in Sony Corp. of America v. United City Studios, Inc. (464 U.S. 417) the United States Supreme Court held that such practice, also known as time-shifting, was lawful representing fair use under the US Copyright Act and causing no substantial harm to the copyright holder.”

While software that can record video and sounds locally are nothing new, the developments in the YouTube-MP3 case and this response from NotMP3downloader raises interesting questions.

We put some of them to none other than former RIAA Executive Vice President, Neil Turkewitz, who now works as President of Turkewitz Consulting Group.

Turkewitz stressed that he doesn’t speak for the industry as a whole or indeed the RIAA but it’s clear that his passion for protecting creators persists. He told us that in this instance, reliance on the Betamax decision is “misplaced”.

“The content is different, the activity is different, and the function is different,” Turkewitz told TF.

“The Sony decision must be understood in its context — the time shifting of audiovisual programming being broadcast from point to multipoint. The making available of content by a point-to-point interactive service like YouTube isn’t broadcasting — or at a minimum, is not a form of broadcasting akin to that considered by the Supreme Court in Sony.

“More fundamentally, broadcasting (right of communication to the public) is one of only several rights implicated by the service. And of course, issues of liability will be informed by considerations of purpose, effect and perceived harm. A court’s judgment will also be affected by whether it views the ‘innovation’ as an attempt to circumvent the requirements of law. The decision of the Supreme Court in ABC v. Aereo is certainly instructive in that regard.”

And there are other issues too. While YouTube itself is yet to take any legal action to deter users from downloading rather than merely streaming content, its terms of service are quite specific and seem to cover all eventualities.

“[Y]ou agree not to access Content or any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming,” YouTube’s ToS reads.

“‘Streaming’ means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.

“You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.”

In this respect, it seems that a user doing anything but real-time streaming of YouTube content is breaching YouTube’s terms of service. The big question then, of course, is whether providing a tool specifically for that purpose represents an infringement of copyright.

The people behind Free MP3 Recorder believe that the “scope of application depends entirely on the end users’ intentions” which seems like a fair argument at first view. But, as usual, copyright law is incredibly complex and there are plenty of opposing views.

We asked the BPI, which took action against YouTubeMP3, for its take on this type of tool. The official response was “No comment” which doesn’t really clarify the position, at least for now.

Needless to say, the Betamax decision – relevant or not – doesn’t apply in the UK. But that only adds more parameters into the mix – and perhaps more opportunities for lawyers to make money arguing for and against tools like this in the future.

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

UK Govt. Met With Copyright Holders Dozens of Times in Just Three Months

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-met-with-copyright-holders-dozens-of-times-in-just-three-months-180310/

While doing business with clients and suppliers is the usual day-to-day routine for most businesses, companies in the entertainment sector seem keener than most to spend time with those in power.

Whether there’s pressure to be applied in respect of upcoming changes in policy or long-term plans for modifying legislation, at least a few times a year news breaks of rightsholders having private meetings with officials. Most of the time, however, the head-to-heads fly under the radar.

This week, however, the UK government published a response to a Freedom of Information Request which asked for details of meetings between the government and copyright owner organizations, enforcement organizations, and collection societies (think BPI, MPA, FACT, Publishers Association, PRS, etc) including times, dates and topics discussed.

The request asked for details of meetings held between May 2016 and April 2017 but the government declined to provide all of this information since the effort required to extract the information “would exceed the cost limit.”

Given the amount of data published, this isn’t a surprise. Even though the government chose to limit the response to events held between January 16, 2017 and April 17, 2017, the meetings between the government and the above groups number in their dozens.

January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start but week three and beyond saw a flurry of meetings with groups and companies such as ITV, BBC, PRS for Music, Copyright Licensing Agency and several other organizations to discuss the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals.

On January 18, 2017 Time Warner had a meeting to discuss content protection and analytics, followed a day later by the Premier League who were booked in to discuss “illicit streaming devices” (a topic mirrored in March during a meeting with the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance).

Just a few days later the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit held a “Partnership Working Group Meeting involving industry” and two days after that the police, Trading Standards, and the EU Police Agency convened to discuss enforcement activity.

January 26, 2017 saw an IP Outreach Workshop involving members of the IP Crime Group. This was potentially a big meeting. The IPCG consists of several regional police forces, PIPCU, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Trading Standards, HMRC, IFPI, BPI, FACT, Sky TV, PRS, FAST and the Publishers Association, to name just a few.

As the first month of the year was drawing to a close, Amazon met with the government to discuss “current procedures for removing copyright, design and trademark infringing material from their platform.” A similar meeting was held with eBay on February 1 and on February 20, Facebook had its turn on the same topic.

All three companies had come in for criticism from copyright holders for not doing enough to stem the tide of infringing content available on their platforms, particularly so-called Kodi boxes that provide access to movies, shows, and live TV.

However, in the months that followed they each responded positively, with eBay, Amazon and Facebook announcing restrictions on devices sold. While all three platforms still have a problem with infringing device sales, the situation appears to have improved since last year.

On the final day of January 2017, the MPAA attended a meeting to discuss the looming Digital Economy Bill and digital TV piracy. A couple of days later they were back again for a “business awareness seminar” with other big shots including the Alliance for IP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Trading Standards and the Premier League.

However, given the dozens that took place, perhaps one of the more interesting meetings in terms of the mix of those in attendance took place February 7.

Titled “Organized Crime Task Force Meeting – Belfast” it was attended by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs, the Border Force, and (spot the odd one out) the Federation Against Copyright Theft.

This seems to suggest that FACT (a private company) is effectively embedded at the highest level of law enforcement, something that has made people very uncomfortable in the past.

Later in February, there was a roundtable meeting with the Alliance for IP, MPAA, Publishers’ Association, BPI, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft (again) to discuss Brexit, the Digital Single Market, IP enforcement and industrial strategy. A similar meeting was held in March which was attended by UK Music, BPI, PRS, Featured Artists Coalition, and many more.

The full list of meetings, which number in their dozens for just a three-month period, can be found here pdf. Whether the volume is representative of other three-month periods isn’t clear but it seems reasonable to conclude that copyright organizations have the ears of government officials in the UK on an almost continual basis.

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

Sony & Warner Sue TuneIn For Copyright Infringement in UK High Court

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sony-warner-sue-tunein-for-copyright-infringement-in-uk-high-court-171109/

When it comes to providing digital online audio content, TuneIn is one of the world’s giants.

Whether music, news, sport or just chat, TuneIn provides more than 120,000 radio stations and five million podcasts to 75,000,000 global users, both for free and via a premium tier service.

Accessible from devices including cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, digital receivers, games consoles and even cars, TuneIn reaches more than 230 countries and territories worldwide. One, however, is about to cause the company a headache.

According to a report from Music Business Worldwide (MBW), Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group are suing TuneIn over unlicensed streams.

MBW sources say that the record labels filed proceedings in the UK High Court last week, claiming that TuneIn committed copyright infringement on at least 800 music streams accessible in the UK.

While TuneIn does offer premium streams to customers, the service primarily acts as an index for radio streams hosted by their respective third-party creators. It describes itself as “an audio guide service” which indicates it does not directly provide the content listened to by its users.

However, previous EU rulings (such as one related to The Pirate Bay) have determined that providing an index to content is tantamount to a communication to the public, which for unlicensed content would amount to infringement in the UK.

While it would be difficult to avoid responsibility, TuneIn states on its website that it makes no claim that its service is legal in any other country than the United States.

“Those who choose to access or use the Service from locations outside the United States of America do so on their own initiative and are responsible for compliance with local laws, if and to the extent local laws are applicable,” the company writes.

“Access to the Service from jurisdictions where the contents or practices of the Service are illegal, unauthorized or penalized is strictly prohibited.”

All that being said, the specific details of the Sony/Warner complaint are not yet publicly available so the precise nature of the High Court action is yet to be determined.

TorrentFreak contacted the BPI, the industry body that represents both Sony and Warner in the UK, for comment on the lawsuit. A spokesperson informed us that they are not directly involved in the action.

We also contacted both the IFPI and San Francisco-based TuneIn for further comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back from either.

TuneIn reportedly has until the end of November to file a defense.

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

YouTube MP3 Converters Block UK Traffic to Avoid Trouble

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-mp3-converters-block-uk-traffic-to-avoid-trouble-171029/

The music industry sees stream ripping as one of the largest piracy threats, worse than torrent sites or direct download portals.

Last year the RIAA, IFPI and BPI filed legal action against YouTube-MP3, the largest stream ripping site at the time. This case eventually resulted in a settlement where the site agreed to shut down voluntarily.

This was a clear victory for the music groups which swiftly identified their next targets. These include Convert2mp3.net, Savefrom.net, MP3juices.cc and YtMp3.cc, which were highlighted by the RIAA in a letter to the US Government.

The legal action against YouTube-MP3 and the RIAA’s notorious markets report appears to have made an impact, as MP3Juices.cc and YtMp3.cc have shut their doors. Interestingly, this only applies to the UK.

..not available in the UK

It’s unclear why both sites are “shutting down” in the UK and not elsewhere, as the operators haven’t commented on the issue. However, in other parts of the world, the site is readily available.

MP3juices

Last year, music industry group BPI signed an agreement with YouTube-MP3 to block UK visitors, which sounds very familiar. While the BPI is not directly responsible for the recent geo-blocks, the group sees it as a positive trend.

“We are seeing that the closure of the largest stream ripping site, YouTube-mp3, following coordinated global legal action from record companies, is having an impact on the operations of other ripping sites,” BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor informs TorrentFreak.

“However, stream ripping remains a major issue for the industry. These sites are making large sums of money from music without paying a penny to those that invest in and create it. We will continue to take legal action against other illegal ripping sites where necessary.”

Stream rippers or converters are not by definition illegal, as pointed out by the CCIA last week. However, music industry groups will continue to crack down on the ones they view as copyright infringing.

MP3Juices.cc and YtMp3.cc are likely hoping to take the pressure off with their voluntary geo-blocking. Time will tell whether that’s a good strategy. In any event, it didn’t prevent YouTube-MP3 from caving in completely, in the end.

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

Google Asked to Remove 3 Billion “Pirate” Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-remove-3-billion-pirate-search-results-171018/

Copyright holders continue to flood Google with DMCA takedown requests, asking the company to remove “pirate links” from its search results.

In recent years the number of reported URLs has exploded, surging to unprecedented heights.

Since Google first started to report the volume of takedown requests in its Transparency Report, the company has been asked to remove more than three billion allegedly infringing search results.

The frequency at which these URLs are reported has increased over the years and at the moment roughly three million ‘pirate’ URLs are submitted per day.

The URLs are sent in by major rightsholders including members of the BPI, RIAA, and various major Hollywood studios. They target a wide variety of sites, over 1.3 million, but a few dozen ‘repeat offenders’ are causing the most trouble.

File-hosting service 4shared.com currently tops the list of most-targeted domains with 66 million URLs, followed by the now-defunct MP3 download site MP3toys.xyz and Rapidgator.net, with 51 and 28 million URLs respectively.

3 billion URLs

Interestingly, the high volume of takedown notices is used as an argument for and against the DMCA process.

While Google believes that the millions of reported URLs per day are a sign that the DMCA takedown process is working correctly, rightsholders believe the volumes are indicative of an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole.

According to some copyright holders, the takedown efforts do little to seriously combat piracy. Various industry groups have therefore asked governments and lawmakers for broad revisions.

Among other things they want advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach. In addition, Google has often been asked to demote pirate links in search results.

UK music industry group BPI, who are responsible for more than 10% of all the takedown requests on Google, sees the new milestone as an indicator of how much effort its anti-piracy activities take.

“This 3 billion figure shows how hard the creative sector has to work to police its content online and how much time and resource this takes. The BPI is the world’s largest remover of illegal music links from Google, one third of which are on behalf of independent record labels,” Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive, informs TF.

However, there is also some progress to report. Earlier this year BPI announced a voluntary partnership with Google and Bing to demote pirate content faster and more effectively for US visitors.

“We now have a voluntary code of practice in place in the UK, facilitated by Government, that requires Google and Bing to work together with the BPI and other creator organizations to develop lasting solutions to the problem of illegal sites gaining popularity in search listings,” Taylor notes.

According to BPI, both Google and Bing have shown that changes to their algorithms can be effective in demoting the worst pirate sites from the top search results and they hope others will follow suit.

“Other intermediaries should follow this lead and take more responsibility to work with creators to reduce the proliferation of illegal links and disrupt the ability of illegal sites to capture consumers and build black market businesses that take money away from creators.”

Agreement or not, there are still plenty of pirate links in search results, so the BPI is still sending out millions of takedown requests per month.

We asked Google for a comment on the new milestone but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. In any event, the issue is bound to remain a hot topic during the months and years to come.

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

Music Industry Urges YouTube to Block Stream Rippers

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/music-industry-urges-youtube-to-block-stream-rippers-170911/

With over a billion users, YouTube is the largest video portal on the Internet.

The site is a blessing to thousands of content creators, but there are also concerns among rightsholders. The music industry, in particular, is not happy with the fact that music can easily be ripped from the site through external services.

Last week the major record labels managed to take out YouTube-MP3, the largest ripping site of all. Still, there are many like it that continue business as usual. For many music industry insiders, who see streamripping as one of the largest piracy threats, this is a constant source of frustration.

In the UK, music industry group BPI worked hard to tackle the issue proactively. Last year the organization already signed an agreement with YouTube-MP3 to block UK traffic. This limited the availability of the site locally, but the group believes that YouTube itself should take responsibility as well.

Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive, tells TorrentFreak that they, and several other industry groups, have asked YouTube to step up to help solve this problem.

“BPI and other music industry bodies have been urging YouTube for several years to take effective action to block access to its servers for stream ripping sites, which infringe copyright on a huge scale and also breach YouTube’s terms of service.

“There are more steps YouTube could take to prevent stream ripping but so far the music community has been forced to pursue the stream ripping sites directly,” Taylor adds.

BPI is not alone in its criticism. After we broke the story last Monday, many reports followed, including an opinion piece on the industry outlet Hypebot asking why YouTube didn’t take more responsibility. In the comment section, long-time RIAA executive Neil Turkewitz, who left the organization a few weeks ago, came in with a strong opinion.

“This is something that Google/YouTube should have handled on its own. They were well aware of it, and didn’t need RIAA to step up to identify it as problematic,” Turkewitz notes.

The former RIAA exec speaks freely on the issue in his new role. He is now the head of his own Turkewitz Consulting Group, which fittingly focuses on expanding accountability in the Internet ecosystem.

“I should add, sadly, that Google is still steering people to stream rippers through auto-complete. If you search ‘YouTube,’ one of the first auto-complete recommendations you get is “YouTube to MP3!” Turkewitz states.

“C’mon Google, what’s with that? Not only have they not disabled access to available stream rippers, but they are driving traffic to them. That is inexcusable,” he adds.

Google’s “suggestions”

In YouTube’s defense, the company isn’t completely apathetic when it comes to the stream-ripping problem. They have threatened legal action against YouTube-MP3 and similar sites in the past and implemented some restrictive measures. Still, they never went to court and, restrictions or not, the problem didn’t go away.

TorrentFreak contacted YouTube to hear their stance on the issue, but at the time of publication we haven’t heard back.

While many of the frustrations are not played out in public, it is clear that the stream-ripping problems further complicate the relationship between the labels and YouTube’s parent company Google.

In recent years, rightsholders have called out Google on many occasions over copyright-infringing content on YouTube, in their search engine results, and on their cloud hosting services. While the company has made several changes to accommodate the concerns, the critique hasn’t gone away.

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

New UK IP Crime Report Reveals Continued Focus on ‘Pirate’ Kodi Boxes

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-uk-ip-crime-report-reveals-continued-focus-on-pirate-kodi-boxes-170908/

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published its annual IP Crime Report, spanning the period 2016 to 2017.

It covers key events in the copyright and trademark arenas and is presented with input from the police and trading standards, plus private entities such as the BPI, Premier League, and Federation Against Copyright Theft, to name a few.

The report begins with an interesting statistic. Despite claims that many millions of UK citizens regularly engage in some kind of infringement, figures from the Ministry of Justice indicate that just 47 people were found guilty of offenses under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act during 2016. That’s down on the 69 found guilty in the previous year.

Despite this low conviction rate, 15% of all internet users aged 12+ are reported to have consumed at least one item of illegal content between March and May 2017. Figures supplied by the Industry Trust for IP indicate that 19% of adults watch content via various IPTV devices – often referred to as set-top, streaming, Android, or Kodi boxes.

“At its cutting edge IP crime is innovative. It exploits technological loopholes before they become apparent. IP crime involves sophisticated hackers, criminal financial experts, international gangs and service delivery networks. Keeping pace with criminal innovation places a burden on IP crime prevention resources,” the report notes.

The report covers a broad range of IP crime, from counterfeit sportswear to foodstuffs, but our focus is obviously on Internet-based infringement. Various contributors cover various aspects of online activity as it affects them, including music industry group BPI.

“The main online piracy threats to the UK recorded music industry at present are from BitTorrent networks, linking/aggregator sites, stream-ripping sites, unauthorized streaming sites and cyberlockers,” the BPI notes.

The BPI’s website blocking efforts have been closely reported, with 63 infringing sites blocked to date via various court orders. However, the BPI reports that more than 700 related URLs, IP addresses, and proxy sites/ proxy aggregators have also been rendered inaccessible as part of the same action.

“Site blocking has proven to be a successful strategy as the longer the blocks are in place, the more effective they are. We have seen traffic to these sites reduce by an average of 70% or more,” the BPI reports.

While prosecutions against music pirates are a fairly rare event in the UK, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Specialist Fraud Division highlights that their most significant prosecution of the past 12 months involved a prolific music uploader.

As first revealed here on TF, Wayne Evans was an uploader not only on KickassTorrents and The Pirate Bay, but also some of his own sites. Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans reportedly cost the UK’s Performing Rights Society more than £1m in a single year. He was sentenced in December 2016 to 12 months in prison.

While Evans has been free for some time already, the CPS places particular emphasis on the importance of the case, “since it provided sentencing guidance for the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, where before there was no definitive guideline.”

The CPS says the case was useful on a number of fronts. Despite illegal distribution of content being difficult to investigate and piracy losses proving tricky to quantify, the court found that deterrent sentences are appropriate for the kinds of offenses Evans was accused of.

The CPS notes that various factors affect the severity of such sentences, not least the length of time the unlawful activity has persisted and particularly if it has done so after the service of a cease and desist notice. Other factors include the profit made by defendants and/or the loss caused to copyright holders “so far as it can accurately be calculated.”

Importantly, however, the CPS says that beyond issues of personal mitigation and timely guilty pleas, a jail sentence is probably going to be the outcome for others engaging in this kind of activity in future. That’s something for torrent and streaming site operators and their content uploaders to consider.

“[U]nless the unlawful activity of this kind is very amateur, minor or short-lived, or in the absence of particularly compelling mitigation or other exceptional circumstances, an immediate custodial sentence is likely to be appropriate in cases of illegal distribution of copyright infringing articles,” the CPS concludes.

But while a music-related trial provided the highlight of the year for the CPS, the online infringement world is still dominated by the rise of streaming sites and the now omnipresent “fully-loaded Kodi Box” – set-top devices configured to receive copyright-infringing live TV and VOD.

In the IP Crime Report, the Intellectual Property Office references a former US Secretary of Defense to describe the emergence of the threat.

“The echoes of Donald Rumsfeld’s famous aphorism concerning ‘known knowns’ and ‘known unknowns’ reverberate across our landscape perhaps more than any other. The certainty we all share is that we must be ready to confront both ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’,” the IPO writes.

“Not long ago illegal streaming through Kodi Boxes was an ‘unknown’. Now, this technology updates copyright infringement by empowering TV viewers with the technology they need to subvert copyright law at the flick of a remote control.”

While the set-top box threat has grown in recent times, the report highlights the important legal clarifications that emerged from the BREIN v Filmspeler case, which found itself before the European Court of Justice.

As widely reported, the ECJ determined that the selling of piracy-configured devices amounts to a communication to the public, something which renders their sale illegal. However, in a submission by PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, box sellers are said to cast a keen eye on the legal situation.

“Organised criminals, especially those in the UK who distribute set-top boxes, are aware of recent developments in the law and routinely exploit loopholes in it,” PIPCU reports.

“Given recent judgments on the sale of pre-programmed set-top boxes, it is now unlikely criminals would advertise the devices in a way which is clearly infringing by offering them pre-loaded or ‘fully loaded’ with apps and addons specifically designed to access subscription services for free.”

With sellers beginning to clean up their advertising, it seems likely that detection will become more difficult than when selling was considered a gray area. While that will present its own issues, PIPCU still sees problems on two fronts – a lack of clear legislation and a perception of support for ‘pirate’ devices among the public.

“There is no specific legislation currently in place for the prosecution of end users or sellers of set-top boxes. Indeed, the general public do not see the usage of these devices as potentially breaking the law,” the unit reports.

“PIPCU are currently having to try and ‘shoehorn’ existing legislation to fit the type of criminality being observed, such as conspiracy to defraud (common law) to tackle this problem. Cases are yet to be charged and results will be known by late 2017.”

Whether these prosecutions will be effective remains to be seen, but PIPCU’s comments suggest an air of caution set to a backdrop of box-sellers’ tendency to adapt to legal challenges.

“Due to the complexity of these cases it is difficult to substantiate charges under the Fraud Act (2006). PIPCU have convicted one person under the Serious Crime Act (2015) (encouraging or assisting s11 of the Fraud Act). However, this would not be applicable unless the suspect had made obvious attempts to encourage users to use the boxes to watch subscription only content,” PIPCU notes, adding;

“The selling community is close knit and adapts constantly to allow itself to operate in the gray area where current legislation is unclear and where they feel they can continue to sell ‘under the radar’.”

More generally, pirate sites as a whole are still seen as a threat. As reported last month, the current anti-piracy narrative is that pirate sites represent a danger to their users. As a result, efforts are underway to paint torrent and streaming sites as risky places to visit, with users allegedly exposed to malware and other malicious content. The scare strategy is supported by PIPCU.

“Unlike the purchase of counterfeit physical goods, consumers who buy unlicensed content online are not taking a risk. Faulty copyright doesn’t explode, burn or break. For this reason the message as to why the public should avoid copyright fraud needs to be re-focused.

“A more concerted attempt to push out a message relating to malware on pirate websites, the clear criminality and the links to organized crime of those behind the sites are crucial if public opinion is to be changed,” the unit advises.

But while the changing of attitudes is desirable for pro-copyright entities, PIPCU says that winning over the public may not prove to be an easy battle. It was given a small taste of backlash itself, after taking action against the operator of a pirate site.

“The scale of the problem regarding public opinion of online copyright crime is evidenced by our own experience. After PIPCU executed a warrant against the owner of a streaming website, a tweet about the event (read by 200,000 people) produced a reaction heavily weighted against PIPCU’s legitimate enforcement action,” PIPCU concludes.

In summary, it seems likely that more effort will be expended during the next 12 months to target the set-top box threat, but there doesn’t appear to be an abundance of confidence in existing legislation to tackle all but the most egregious offenders. That being said, a line has now been drawn in the sand – if the public is prepared to respect it.

The full IP Crime Report 2016-2017 is available here (pdf)

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

Google Removed 2.5 Billion ‘Pirate’ Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-removed-2-5-billion-pirate-search-results-170706/

Google is coping with a continuous increase in takedown requests from copyright holders, which target pirate sites in search results.

Just a few years ago the search engine removed ‘only’ a few thousand URLs per day, but this has since grown to millions. When added up, the numbers are truly staggering.

In its transparency report, Google now states that it has removed 2.5 billion reported links for alleged copyright infringement. This is roughly 90 percent of all requests the company received.

The chart below breaks down the takedown requests into several categories. In addition to the URLs that were removed, the search engine also received 154 million duplicate URLs and 25 million invalid URLs.

Another 80 million links remain in search results because they can’t be classified as copyright infringing, according to Google.

Google’s takedown overview

The 2.5 billion removed links are spread out over 1.1 million websites. File-storage service 4shared takes the crown with 64 million targeted URLs, followed at a distance by mp3toys.xyz, rapidgator.net, uploaded.net, and chomikuj.pl.

While rightsholders have increased their takedown efforts over the years, the major entertainment industry groups are still not happy with the current state of Google’s takedown process.

One of the main complaints has been that content which Google de-lists often reappears under new URLs.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down,” a BPI spokesperson told us last month.

Ideally, rightsholders would like Google to ensure that content “stays down” while blocking the most notorious pirate sites from search results entirely. Known ‘pirate’ sites such as The Pirate Bay have no place in search results, they argue.

Google, however, believes such broad measures will lead to all sorts of problems, including over-blocking, and maintains that the current system is working as the DMCA was intended.

The search engine did implement various other initiatives to counter piracy, including the downranking of pirate sites and promoting legal options in search results, which it details in its regularly updated “How Google Fights Piracy” report.

In addition, Google and various rightsholders have signed a voluntary agreement to address “domain hopping” by pirate sites and share data to better understand how users are searching for content. For now, however, this effort is limited to the UK.

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

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-breaks-record-after-sending-310-million-google-takedowns-170619/

A little over a year ago during March 2016, music industry group BPI reached an important milestone. After years of sending takedown notices to Google, the group burst through the 200 million URL barrier.

The fact that it took BPI several years to reach its 200 million milestone made the surpassing of the quarter billion milestone a few months later even more remarkable. In October 2016, the group sent its 250 millionth takedown to Google, a figure that nearly doubled when accounting for notices sent to Microsoft’s Bing.

But despite the volumes, the battle hadn’t been won, let alone the war. The BPI’s takedown machine continued to run at a remarkable rate, churning out millions more notices per week.

As a result, yet another new milestone was reached this month when the BPI smashed through the 300 million URL barrier. Then, days later, a further 10 million were added, with the latter couple of million added during the time it took to put this piece together.

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

While demanding that Google places greater emphasis on its de-ranking of ‘pirate’ sites, the BPI has called again and again for a “notice and stay down” regime, to ensure that content taken down by the search engine doesn’t simply reappear under a new URL. It’s a position BPI maintains today.

“The battle would be a whole lot easier if intermediaries played fair,” a BPI spokesperson informs TF.

“They need to take more proactive responsibility to reduce infringing content that appears on their platform, and, where we expressly notify infringing content to them, to ensure that they do not only take it down, but also keep it down.”

The long-standing suggestion is that the volume of takedown notices sent would reduce if a “take down, stay down” regime was implemented. The BPI says it’s difficult to present a precise figure but infringing content has a tendency to reappear, both in search engines and on hosting sites.

“Google rejects repeat notices for the same URL. But illegal content reappears as it is re-indexed by Google. As to the sites that actually host the content, the vast majority of notices sent to them could be avoided if they implemented take-down & stay-down,” BPI says.

The fact that the BPI has added 60 million more takedowns since the quarter billion milestone a few months ago is quite remarkable, particularly since there appears to be little slowdown from month to month. However, the numbers have grown so huge that 310 billion now feels a lot like 250 million, with just a few added on top for good measure.

That an extra 60 million takedowns can almost be dismissed as a handful is an indication of just how massive the issue is online. While pirates always welcome an abundance of links to juicy content, it’s no surprise that groups like the BPI are seeking more comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Previously, it was hoped that the Digital Economy Bill would provide some relief, hopefully via government intervention and the imposition of a search engine Code of Practice. In the event, however, all pressure on search engines was removed from the legislation after a separate voluntary agreement was reached.

All parties agreed that the voluntary code should come into effect two weeks ago on June 1 so it seems likely that some effects should be noticeable in the near future. But the BPI says it’s still early days and there’s more work to be done.

“BPI has been working productively with search engines since the voluntary code was agreed to understand how search engines approach the problem, but also what changes can and have been made and how results can be improved,” the group explains.

“The first stage is to benchmark where we are and to assess the impact of the changes search engines have made so far. This will hopefully be completed soon, then we will have better information of the current picture and from that we hope to work together to continue to improve search for rights owners and consumers.”

With more takedown notices in the pipeline not yet publicly reported by Google, the BPI informs TF that it has now notified the search giant of 315 million links to illegal content.

“That’s an astonishing number. More than 1 in 10 of the entire world’s notices to Google come from BPI. This year alone, one in every three notices sent to Google from BPI is for independent record label repertoire,” BPI concludes.

While it’s clear that groups like BPI have developed systems to cope with the huge numbers of takedown notices required in today’s environment, it’s clear that few rightsholders are happy with the status quo. With that in mind, the fight will continue, until search engines are forced into compromise. Considering the implications, that could only appear on a very distant horizon.

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

Hold ISPs Responsible For Piracy After Brexit, Music Biz Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hold-isps-responsible-for-piracy-after-brexit-music-biz-says-170512/

UK Music is an umbrella organization representing music interests in the UK, from artists and composers, through to studios, recording labels and collecting societies.

The group counts many influential bodies as members, including the BPI, PRS for Music, and licensing outfit PPL. No surprise then that it has a keen anti-piracy agenda, much in tune with its member groups.

Yesterday, UK Music published its 2017 manifesto, covering a wide range of topics from regional development, skills and education, to finance and investment. Needless to say, anti-piracy measures feature prominently, with the group urging vigilance during the Brexit process to ensure music gets a good deal.

“Copyright and its enforcement should be a key part of the trade negotiations, ensuring that our trading partners protect not only their respective creative industries but also the interests of the UK music industry,” the group says.

“Maintaining and strengthening the copyright framework is of great importance to the music industry during the Brexit negotiations and beyond.”

When the UK leaves the EU mid-2019, the government proposes to convert all EU law into UK law. According to David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the so-called Great Repeal Bill will provide “clarity and certainty” for businesses and citizens alike.

However, the Bill will also grant power for MPs to change these laws once the UK has left the EU. For UK Music, this should be a time for stability for the music business.

“Withdrawal from the EU does not require substantial changes to the UK copyright framework. This continuity is critical to ensuring confidence amongst music businesses,” the group says.

“There is no evidence of the need for new exceptions to copyright. If this is not accepted by the Government then it would only serve to take away rights and undermine the potential for growth.”

But while stressing the importance of post-Brexit stability for the music industry, UK Music sees no problem with changing the law to impose additional responsibilities on others.

“There were 7.2 billion visits to copyright-infringing stream-ripping websites in 2016, representing a 60% increase in the previous year. Withdrawal from the EU provides an opportunity for the UK to strengthen the enforcement of copyright,” the group says.

That toughening-up of the law should be focused on tech companies, UK Music insists.

“Initiatives should be developed to place responsibility on internet service providers and require them to have a duty of care for copyright protected music,” the group says.

While UK Music has a clear mandate to look after its own interests, it’s likely that service providers would also like the opportunity to enjoy both continuity and stability after the Brexit negotiations are complete. Being held responsible for piracy is unlikely to help them reach that goal.

Nevertheless, UK Musicwill require further support from ISPs, if it is to meet another of its manifesto goals. Currently, several of the UK’s largest providers are cooperating with the industry to send piracy notices to their subscribers. UK Music would like to expand the scheme.

“The Get It Right From A Genuine Site campaign, designed to promote greater copyright understanding online, is also showing evidence of success. With further support it has the potential to broaden its reach,” the organization says.

Finally, UK Music says that Brexit will give the UK an opportunity to put forward “a coherent definition of hyperlinking under copyright law.”

The group doesn’t go into specifics, but it could be argued that the recent GS Media case handled by the European Court of Justice offers all the clarity the UK needs to transfer the decision into local law.

The full manifesto can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Police Investigate Former BPI Anti-Piracy Chief & PIPCU Board Member

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-investigate-former-bpi-anti-piracy-chief-pipcu-board-member-170317/

In December 2015, it was reported that the BPI’s Content Protection and Internet Investigations unit leaders would be leaving.

The music group said that the restructuring would enable it to better focus on the task ahead but with long-standing employees David Wood and John Hodge both departing the BPI, it certainly felt like there may have been more to the story.

To be absolutely clear, Hodge’s voluntary departure appears to have been both unconnected to Wood’s and completely benign, with no suggestion of impropriety. However, it now transpires that the story with Wood was much more complex.

After serving 15 years in the police force where he reached the rank of detective, David Wood left West Yorkshire Police in May 2002. Soon after, he began work at the BPI where he remained for the next 13 years, reaching the lofty position of Director of Copyright Protection at his peak.

Wood’s role saw him speaking to the media on many occasions, often decrying the dishonesty of Internet pirates and welcoming lengthy jail sentences as a suitable deterrent. This position eventually led him to the corridors of power at City of London Police.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood became a senior figure within the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) after it was set up in May 2013. He states that he held a stakeholder position on PIPCU’s Management Board and was instrumental in the development of Operation Creative, the UK’s groundbreaking anti-piracy initiative. At some point, however, it all went wrong.

TorrentFreak has learned that while John Hodge’s departure from his role as Head of Internet Investigations at the BPI was his own choice (he served out an orderly notice at a later point and appears to have left on amicable terms), Wood’s earlier and entirely unrelated exit was not a voluntary affair.

According to our sources, Wood and the BPI had – and continue to have – a major dispute over the alleged misappropriation of the latter’s funds. This led to Wood’s dismissal from the company.

In fact, the allegations were so serious that the BPI decided to report the matter to the police, a claim that was confirmed this week when we spoke to the music group.

“BPI can confirm that a former employee, David Wood, was dismissed for gross misconduct in December 2015,” a BPI spokesperson told TF.

“BPI has referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police who are investigating. As investigations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment in any more detail at this stage.”

TorrentFreak sources indicate that very large sums of money are involved in the dispute, running well into six figures. Precise details have proven impossible to verify (the BPI declined to comment) but we understand the numbers involved are “significant”. What we do know for sure, however, is that the BPI felt it necessary to pursue Woods into bankruptcy.

In a bankruptcy petition filed against Woods on November 7, 2016, the BPI is listed as the petitioner. The bankruptcy order itself was granted on January 4, 2017 and was listed in the London Gazette.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood left the BPI in December 2015 and joined a new company, OCAP Ltd, during the same month. Records at the UK’s Companies House reveal that Wood and another individual set the company up as directors during August 2015, months before Wood was dismissed from the BPI.

Archival copies of OCAP’s website reveal that the company was involved in the IP enforcement market, a logical move for Wood considering his history.

“Online Copyright Auditing and Protection (OCAP) is a unique company which specializes in bespoke intellectual property (IP) protection,” a notice on the now-defunct site read.

“Our services help not only brands but law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt those intent on unlawfully exploiting other’s IP Rights. OCAP Ltd also has access to specialist trainers in online investigations and in the field of Anti Money laundering for which we can arrange bespoke training sessions.”

Given the police investigation confirmed by the BPI, the OCAP site surprisingly listed City of London Police – whose PIPCU unit Wood was heavily involved in – as “just one example of a client that trusts us to deliver solutions to their big data problems.”

Now, however, OCAP Ltd is drawing its final breaths. During January and following his bankruptcy, Wood filed an application to strike the company off the register. If there are no further interventions, the company will cease to exist in April 2017 having never filed any accounts.

TorrentFreak attempted to contact Wood for comment, but emails to his listed addresses ultimately bounced.

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

Google Anti-Piracy Agreement Will Target Domain Hopping, Share Search Data

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-anti-piracy-agreement-will-target-domain-hopping-share-search-data-170307/

Following roundtable discussions between the BPI, Motion Picture Association, Alliance for IP, plus representatives of Google and Bing, in February a voluntary anti-piracy agreement was announced.

Under this anti-piracy code, search engines agreed to further optimize their algorithms to demote pirated content in search results, with the aim of making infringing content less visible and legal alternatives easier to find.

As highlighted last month, details of the arrangement were planned to remain largely secret but thanks to a pair of Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests from both the EFF and TJ McIntyre from Digital Rights Ireland, we now have a somewhat clearer idea of what will be happening between the groups.

As expected, the main focus is the search deranking of sites “dedicated to infringement” based on the volume of valid DMCA-style notices rightsholders send to Google. In other words, sites that index a majority of infringing content and are subjected to a lot of rightsholder complaints will find their results buried.

Unfortunately, the report released under the FOIA request is redacted, which leaves some sections ambiguous at best and hard to follow at worst. This section, however, seems to indicate an additional effort to manipulate search results that are generated from “neutral” non-piracy related search terms.

“All parties support the objective of removing links to infringing content from [REDACTED] search results returned to consumers in the UK in response to ‘neutral’ formulations of search query (exact search terms to be agreed) with the goal of presenting the consumer with links to legitimate sites. This includes search results presented to the user in the form of natural search results, sponsored or advertisement results or media player ‘box’ results,” the document reads.

These search terms haven’t been defined publicly but based on previous copyright holder complaints, words such as ‘download’, ‘MP3’ and even artist or content names could be in the mix. In any event, an assessment will take place to see how they prejudice rightsholders, especially when it comes to fresh content.

“Selection of such search queries by the parties shall take into account data indicating the actual levels of usage of such search terms, as well as the harm that illegal access to content via specific queries can cause to creators, in particular for new releases,” the agreement notes.

Google’s AutoComplete feature, which has proven controversial in the past, will also be subject to tweaks that focus on not suggesting infringing content when neutral terms are entered.

Moving forward, an area that is likely to raise an eyebrow or two is a statement in the agreement which possibly suggests the sharing of search engine user behavior data with rightsholders.

“Search engines and rights holders will exchange detailed information on a confidential basis in order to better understand how users are searching for content,” it reads.

“This information exchange will not be expected to include commercially confidential information, and is without prejudice to the existing legal remedies available to either party.”

To give an indication of how complex these discussions must’ve been at times, one only has to look at the following paragraph, which appears to be an effort to lay some of the blame with rightsholders, should infringing links appear more prominently than legal ones in search results.

“Performance in achieving the above metric should be considered in tandem with an objective assessment of the existence of legitimate websites (of rights holders or their partners, distributors or other authorized locations) that offer consumers access to legitimate content or information for the measured queries, and the efforts made by rights holders to take advantage of reasonable techniques such as search engine optimisation,” it reads.

In other words, rightsholders shouldn’t be able to blame Google and Bing for the appearance of ‘pirate’ results if they don’t make legal alternatives available or fail to carry out effective SEO. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem though, since the agreement notes that the parties will work together to optimize SEO for legitimate sites to “improve the likelihood such sites will rank higher in results for well-meaning queries.”

Another interesting detail in the agreement is how the parties intend to tackle so-called “domain hopping” by pirate sites. Currently, when Google receives a lot of DMCA notices for a domain utilized by a pirate site, the site is downranked in results. That often leads to the site getting a new domain, at which point the ‘clean’ domain starts appearing higher in results again. The agreement seeks to deal with that.

“All parties will work with the [Intellectual Property Office] to evaluate how frequently copyright infringing websites, subjected to demotion, change their top-level domain (TLD), but otherwise retain substantially the same identity,” the agreement reads.

“If this activity is sufficiently widespread as to justify it, search engines and rights holders should develop a process whereby rights holders can notify search engines of the occurrence so that, when verified, such domains can be appropriately demoted.”

Overall, Google and Bing will work with rightsholders to demote domains quicker, with the latter encouraged to use APIs and better-formatted infringement notices. A whitelist of sorts will also be introduced, to ensure that legitimate sites don’t get caught up in Google and Bing’s downgrading filters.

But for those concerned about the potential for this voluntary agreement to spread beyond those currently involved, there’s something looming on the horizon. Google and Bing have also committed to sharing their work in this area with search engines and rightsholders that are not already signatories.

“All parties to this Code of Practice commit to ensure that progress or best practice in this area (to the extent that such information is non-confidential) is shared widely with smaller search engines and independent rights holders,” the agreement notes.

As previously reported, the Minister of State for Intellectual Property will oversee the implementation of the voluntary code, and provide quarterly cycles of research and a review after one year.

The full, albeit redacted document, can be viewed here (pdf)

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

Search Engines and Rightsholders Sign Landmark Anti-Piracy Deal

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/search-engines-and-rightsholders-sign-landmark-anti-piracy-deal-170220/

Following a Digital Economy Bill committee two weeks ago, we first learned that copyright holders and search engines were close to finalizing a voluntary anti-piracy code.

Following roundtable discussions chaired by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, the parties worked hard to reach a deal that everyone could live with.

These kinds of discussions are not new. Similar talks have been ongoing for more than half a decade, but without success. However, this time the Government turned up the pressure to the maximum, threatening to force search engines into cooperation by law if consensus could not be reached.

This approach appears to have reached its goals, with the world’s first anti-piracy agreement between search engines and rightsholders being officially announced today. The deal is a partnership between Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and several organizations in the creative industry.

Under this new anti-piracy code, search engines will further optimize their algorithms and processes to demote pirated content in their search results. The aim is to make infringing content less visible and at a faster rate. At the same time, legal alternatives should be easier to find.

“This should start to trigger faster and more effective demotion – and delisting. That should also mean that legal content sources are better promoted and artists and creators better rewarded,” Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property informs TorrentFreak.

The changes should take effect by June 1st and are targeted at the UK public. This means that search results may not be impacted to the same degree elsewhere.

The parties have also agreed to cooperate more closely and share data to optimize future anti-piracy strategies. This includes efforts to make sure that pirate search terms do not show up in autocomplete suggestions.

“Autocomplete is an area where it has been agreed we need to work – and it will need cooperation to look at what terms are delivering consumers to pirate content,” Leviten clarifies.

The news was made public by several creative industry players, but it’s expected the UK Government, which played an important role in facilitating the talks, will follow with an announcement later today.

The rightsholder groups are happy that an agreement was finally reached and hope that it will help to steer search engine users toward legal alternatives.

“Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties’ willingness to try to improve that situation,” says Stan McCoy, President & Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association EMEA.

While the agreement is a milestone, it’s also clearly a compromise. The measures announced today are not substantially new.

Google, for one, has been demoting pirate sites in search results for several years already and it previously banned various pirate terms from autocomplete. Under the anti-piracy code, these measures will be intensified.

More far-reaching demands from rightsholders, such as removing pirate sites from search results entirely or a takedown-staydown policy, are not part of the deal.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of UK music group BPI, recognizes that the new partnership isn’t going to stop piracy entirely but hopes that it will help to improve the current situation.

“There is much work still to do to achieve this. The Code will not be a silver bullet fix, but it will mean that illegal sites are demoted more quickly from search results and that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.

“We look forward to working with Google, Microsoft and our partners across the creative industries to build a safer, better online environment for creators and fans.”

TorrentFreak also reached out to Google to hear their vision on the landmark agreement, but at the time of publication, the company hadn’t replied.

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

Pirate Site With No Traffic Attracts 49m Mainly Bogus DMCA Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-with-no-traffic-attracts-49m-mainly-bogus-dmca-notices-170219/

As reported in these pages on many occasions, Google’s Transparency Report is a goldmine for anyone prepared to invest time trawling its archives.

The report is a complete record of every DMCA notice Google receives for its ‘search’ function and currently lists more than two billion URL takedowns spread over a million websites. Of course, most of those websites will remain faceless since there’s far too many to research. That said, the really big ‘offenders’ are conveniently placed at the top of the list by Google.

The most-reported sites, according to Google

As we can see, the 4shared file-hosting site is at the top of the list. That isn’t a big surprise since the site has been going for years, attracts massive traffic, and stores countless million files.

There are a number of other familiar names too, but what is the site in second place? MP3Toys.xyz has a seriously impressive 49.5m takedown requests logged against it. We’ve never even heard of it.

Checking the site out, MP3Toys is clearly a pirate platform that allows users to download and stream unlicensed MP3s from thousands of artists. There are hundreds of these kinds of sites around, probably pulling content from YouTube and other web sources.

But here’s the problem. According to Google, MP3Toys.xyz (which also uses a .tech extension) has only been appearing in its databases since Jun 30, 2016. During this short time, Google has received requests to remove 49.5 million URLs from its indexes. That’s about 1.6 million URLs for each of the 31 weeks MP3Toys has been online.

No site in history has ever achieved these numbers, it’s completely unprecedented. So MP3Toys must be huge, right? Not exactly.

According to Alexa, the site’s .xyz domain is ranked the 25 millionth most popular online, while its .tech domain is currently ranked 321,614 after being introduced in January 2017.

In loose terms, this site has no significant traffic yet will soon be the most-infringing site on the whole Internet. How can this be? Well, it’s all down to an anti-piracy company making things up and MP3Toys going along with the charade.

As seen in the image below, along with outfits such as the BPI and BREIN, anti-piracy outfit APDIF do Brasil has an unusual fascination with MP3Toys. In fact, it’s sent the vast majority of the notices received by Google.

However, while some of the notices are undoubtedly correct, it appears a huge number are absolutely bogus. Instead of scanning the site and sending an accurate takedown notice to Google, APDIF tries to guess the URLs where MP3Toys stores its content. A sample list is shown below.

The problem here is that in real terms, none of these URLs exist until they’re requested. However, APDIF’s guesses are entertained by the site, which creates a random page of music for every search. The content on these auto-generated pages cycles, but it never relates to the searches being put in. As shown below, even TorrentFreak’s Greatest Hits Volume 77 is a winner (Test it yourself here)

So in summary, APDIF makes up its own URLs, MP3Toys randomly generates a page of music that has nothing to do with the URL input, APDIF logs it as an infringement of its clients’ rights, and sends a complaint to Google.

Then, putting the icing on an already confused cake, Google ‘removes’ every URL from its search results, even though it appears they were never in them in the first place. And that’s how a site with virtually no traffic received more DMCA complaints than The Pirate Bay. Unbelievable.

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

Advertisers Promise to Boycott Pirate Sites After Police Visit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/advertisers-promise-boycott-pirate-sites-police-visit-170113/

One of the entertainment industries’ main strategies for tackling ‘pirate’ sites is to prevent them generating revenue from their activities. The theory is that such sites are profit-motivated and if none can be made, they will soon shut down.

With this in mind, industry bodies have sought to target companies who place or pay for advertising to appear on pirate sites. In many cases the companies don’t know exactly where their adverts are appearing, but in case they were in any doubt, this week the police stepped up to remind them.

According to information just released by City of London Police, this Wednesday, officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) paid visits to eight organizations involved in placing adverts on pirate sites.

Accompanied by representatives from the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), British Phonographic Industry (BPI), International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and PRS for music, PIPCU targeted brands, advertising agencies and networks.

The visits took place as part of the multi-agency anti-piracy initiative Operation Creative. PIPCU says that the companies were made aware that their advertising is appearing on pirate sites. It is not clear whether any of them already knew, but the police got the result they were hoping for.

After discussion, all agreed to cooperate by ensuring that they no longer support any of the platforms listed on the Infringing Website List (IWL) maintained by police and rightsholders.

“All of the organisations were keen to support Operation Creative and have pledged to sign up to the IWL to ensure advert placement from their brand and clients do not appear on the 1,232 websites listed on the IWL,” PIPCU said.

PIPCU offered no further details on the companies visited this week, which suggests that it views them as partners moving forward.

“Operation Creative is key to ending the funding of websites involved in digital piracy. It is important we tackle this issue, not only for brands and businesses’ reputation, but for consumers too,” said Operation Creative’s lead officer Detective Constable Steven Salway.

“When adverts from established brands appear on these sites, they lend them a look of legitimacy. By working with industry to discourage reputable brands from advertising on piracy sites, we will help consumers realise these sites are neither official nor legal.”

Director General of FACT, Kieron Sharp, praised the IWL and said that his group is pleased to be raising awareness within the advertising community.

“PIPCU’s IWL is the first of its kind and is a great tool for businesses to protect their brand reputation by ensuring their adverts don’t appear on pirate sites,” Sharp said.

“Consumers need to be aware that not only are the criminals behind these websites making substantial amounts of money from adverts, but simply visiting the sites can put the public at risk of malware, viruses and click-through scams.”

While the police action is likely to have some effect, there are still plenty of advertisers willing to show off their products on pirate platforms. It is clear, however, that the quality of advertising on such sites is steadily diminishing.

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

Google Removed Over 900 Million ‘Pirate’ Links in 2016

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-removed-over-900-million-pirate-links-in-2016-161230/

google-bayDay in and day out copyright holders are bombarding Google with DMCA takedown notices, pointing out links to pirated content.

The majority of these requests are sent by the music and film industries, targeting hundreds of thousands of different websites.

In recent years the volume of takedown notices has increased spectacularly and in 2016 new records were shattered again.

Over the past 12 months, rightsholders asked Google to remove more than a billion links to allegedly infringing content, nearly twice as much as the 558 million it received last year.

Thanks to a new update to Google’s Transparency Report we now know for the first time how many of these were actually deleted. According to Google’s records, 89.8 percent of the requests were, resulting in 914 million removals.

Looking at the number of sites that are highlighted we see that it’s not just a few usual suspects that are causing problems. In total, rightsholders targeted content on 351,000 different websites.

Google takedown requests (past 12 months to December 29)

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There is a great variety of copyright holders too. The UK music industry group BPI is at the forefront as usual, with more than 80 million requests, but Fox, NBC Universal, HBO and Microsoft are also among the top senders.

While the number of notices has steadily increased over the past several years, there are some early signs that they may level off in 2017. Over the past six months, the overall volume hasn’t increased, with the number of weekly takedowns hovering around 20 million.

Still, it’s clear that the major rightsholder groups and Google have different views on the DMCA takedown procedure and how to move forward.

The MPAA, RIAA, and other industry groups are calling for extensive revisions and don’t want Google and others to “hide” behind their safe harbor protections. Among other things, they want a ‘notice-and-stay-down‘ policy to ensure that, once deleted, content doesn’t pop up elsewhere.

Google, however, sees this an unworkable solution and believes that the current system is capable of dealing with infringing content.

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

IFPI Sneers at YouTube’s $1 Billion Music Industry Revenue Payout

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ifpi-sneers-at-youtubes-1-billion-music-industry-revenue-payout-161207/

sadyoutubeYouTube is one of the most popular sites on the Internet so when owners Google make an announcement about revenues, people tend to sit up and listen.

Yesterday, via its official YouTube blog, Google said that there were “a billion reasons to celebrate music” on YouTube.

“Last year was a bright one for music — after several tough years of declining revenues, the industry started growing again, spurred in large part by the growth of music streaming subscriptions,” YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl wrote.

“This year, the industry has even more reasons to be optimistic. Even as music subscriptions have been growing faster than any other subscription type, advertising is another powerful driver of revenue. In fact, in the last 12 months, YouTube has paid out over $1 billion to the music industry from advertising alone, demonstrating that multiple experiences and models are succeeding alongside each other.”

In ordinary circumstances a company paying a trading partner a billion dollars worth of spoils would definitely be a reason for celebration. However, the relationship between YouTube and the labels is both uneasy and fractured, so IFPI openly poured cold water all over the hosting platform’s party instead.

“Google has today issued more unexplained numbers on what it claims YouTube pays the music industry. The announcement gives little reason to celebrate, however,” IFPI began.

“With 800 million music users worldwide, YouTube is generating revenues of just over US$1 per user for the entire year. This pales in comparison to the revenue generated by other services, ranging from Apple to Deezer to Spotify. For example, in 2015 Spotify alone paid record labels some US$2 billion, equivalent to an estimated US$18 per user.”

While on the surface this appears to be a business problem, IFPI and its member labels see things differently. They believe this is a legislative issue, one borne out of YouTube’s apparent exploitation of the DMCA and similar frameworks which offer the platform safe harbor when users upload infringing content.

While Apple, Deezer and Spotify must pay out huge sums to license and distribute music (Spotify is said to part with 85 cents for every dollar in revenue), YouTube can sit back and allow its users to upload ‘pirate’ music instead. It pays nothing for this content but still places ads alongside to generate revenue, the labels say.

YouTube correctly argues that the DMCA protects it under these circumstances and when copyright holders ask for content to be taken down, it acts quickly. YouTube also correctly notes that its Content ID fingerprinting system already goes above and beyond what is required of it under the law and is in itself a great system to help copyright holders generate revenue.

The labels, however, see this whole setup as a protection racket, one in which YouTube gets the content for nothing and as a result is free to offer poor rates when the industry comes begging for licensing fees.

“YouTube, the world’s largest on-demand music service, is not paying artists and producers anything like a fair rate for music,” IFPI said last night.

“This highlights more than ever the need for legislative action to address the ‘value gap’ that is denying music rights holders a fair return for their work.”

What IFPI and its recording label members want are changes in the law which will effectively force YouTube to pay a fair price for the content from which it generates revenue.

In the United States, the labels want the DMCA tightened. In Europe, all eyes are on Article 13 (1,2)of the proposed Copyright Directive which would require online services to monitor and filter pirated content.

Whether the labels will get their way will remain to be seen, but this kind of legislative change has the potential to shake up the entire Internet, with far-reaching effects that go way beyond music. Expect more battles – and mudslinging – as the months and years unfold.

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

UK Considers Fines to Force Search Engines to Tackle Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-considers-fines-force-search-engines-tackle-piracy-161027/

parliamentContent owners regularly accuse companies such as Google and Bing of including infringing content in their search results, often on the initial pages following a search where exposure to the public is greatest.

In addition to having these ‘pirate’ results demoted or removed entirely, content providers believe that results featuring genuine content should receive priority, to ensure that the legitimate market thrives.

At least in part, Google has complied with industry requests. Sites which receive the most takedown notices are demoted in results, while some legitimate content has been appearing higher. But of course, entertainment industry companies want more – and they might just get it.

Currently under discussion in Parliament is the Digital Economy Bill. It’s been covered here on several occasions (1,2,3) due to a key aim of harmonizing the punishments for on-and-offline infringement.

However, the Bill appears to be broadening in scope and the role of search engines is now on the agenda, something which the BPI hinted at last week in comments to TorrentFreak.

A new clause titled “Power to provide for a code of practice related to copyright infringement” envisions a situation whereby search engines come to a voluntary agreement with rightsholders on how best to tackle piracy, or have one forced upon them.

“The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a search engine to be required to adopt a code of practice concerning copyright infringement that complies with criteria specified in the regulations,” the proposed clause reads.

“The regulations may provide that if a search engine fails to adopt such a code of practice, any code of practice that is approved for the purposes of that search engine by the Secretary of State, or by a person designated by the Secretary of State, has effect as a code of practice adopted by the search engine.”

If the clause was adopted, the Secretary of State would also be granted powers to investigate disputes surrounding a search engine’s compliance with any code, appoint a regulator, and/or impose “financial penalties or other sanctions” if companies like Google fall short.

The Conservative government previously made a manifesto commitment to reduce copyright infringement and several MPs believe that this clause would help it to achieve that aim.

Speaking in Parliament this week, Labour MP Kevin Brennan said that Baroness Neville-Rolfe, the Minister for Intellectual Property, had chaired a series of roundtable discussions and meetings between rights holders and search engines including Google, Bing and Yahoo.

The rights holders proposed a voluntary code of practice, with some interesting parameters for the search engines to live up to.

“The guiding principles for the voluntary code of conduct would have been that in the top three results, fewer than 1% link to illegal sites; in the top 10, fewer than 5%; and in the top 20, fewer than 10%,” Brennan explained.

“Achieving these objectives would improve the quality of search results and resolve disadvantages that limit the visibility of legitimate sites on which consumers can buy or stream copyrighted works.”

However, it appears that the search engines in question aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the role they’re being asked to play.

“In essence, rights holders want search engines to do what ISPs already do — work co-operatively to take action against sites that have been identified by the High Court as pirate sites — but despite numerous efforts, search engines will not co-operate or agree to the code of practice,” Brennan said.

“They continue to take little responsibility for the fact that listings can overwhelmingly consist of illegal content—the equivalent of the ‘Yellow Pages’ refusing to take responsibility for publishing the details of crooked traders and fraudsters.”

Introducing the new clause (which grants the Secretary of State power to fine search engines) could help the search engines to become more compliant, Brennan said.

“Given the difficulties in negotiations, the new clause would provide a legal backstop to prevent search engines from refusing point-blank to co-operate in discussions. While the code of practice remains a voluntary dream, search engines can refuse to collaborate, as they have for many years.”

Concluding, Brennan indicated that given the Digital Economy Bill is in front of MPs, there is no better time to introduce such a clause. However, Minister for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock urged patience.

“I care about the substance of getting this Bill through right. There are, of course, important parts of parliamentary process both here and in the [House of Lords],” Hancock said.

“Given that the round table discussions are ongoing, including a meeting next week, now is not the right time for the broad reserve power.”

The debates continue.

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

BPI Reports Quarter Billion ‘Pirate’ Links to Google, Ask UK Govt. For Help

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-reports-quarter-billion-pirate-links-to-google-ask-uk-govt-for-help-161024/

googlepiratebayDespite the growing availability of legal music services in many countries, record labels are facing a constant stream of pirated music.

In an attempt to prevent these infringements, BPI and other music industry groups send millions of takedown notices to Internet services every month.

Although several major search engines are targeted, most of these requests are directed at Google. The numbers are quite staggering, and over the past few hours UK music industry group BPI hit a new milestone.

BPI just crossed the mark of 250,000,000 reported links, and is currently adding nearly three million new ones every week.

The majority of these allegedly copyright infringing URLs have been removed from Google’s search results. While this usually happens in a matter of hours, the music group believes that more should be done to address the underlying problem.

“Consumers are still too often directed towards the online black market when they search online for entertainment, rather than to legal services that reward artists and creators,” BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor informs TorrentFreak.

“The fact the BPI alone has now sent a quarter of a billion notices to Google to remove search results directing consumers to illegal copies of music – and almost as many again to Bing – demonstrates that there is a major problem underlying the UK digital economy,” he adds.

Copyright holder groups and search engines have organized several roundtable discussions in an attempt to find new solutions, but thus far without a satisfactory result for both sides.

In recent years Google has introduced a variety of tweaks and changes to the way its search engine operates. It downranks sites for which it receives a lot of takedown requests, for example. Similarly, it actively promotes legal content in search results.

However, BPI and other rightsholders would like search engines to go even further, by delisting pirate sites in their entirety or making sure that pirated content can’t simply reappear under a new URL.

Google is not willing to go this far, as it may lead to over-blocking and other problems, which has brought both camps to a stalemate.

BPI hopes that the UK Government can help to break this impasse. Lawmakers are currently working on a new and revised version of the Digital Economy Bill which could be used to address the search issue, by demanding a proactive stance from Google, Bing and others.

“The Digital Economy Bill which is before Parliament represents a real opportunity for Government to back the creative businesses that provide millions of UK jobs, by insisting that search engines put in place an effective Code of Practice to address this problem,” Taylor says.

While the search issue has been brought up in the recent discussions in parliament, there is no search engine related language in the current form of the bill. So for now, BPI has to keep adding to the quarter billion URLs they have targeted already, onto the next milestone.

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