Tag Archives: Censorship

The Democratization of Censorship

Post Syndicated from BrianKrebs original https://krebsonsecurity.com/2016/09/the-democratization-of-censorship/

John Gilmore, an American entrepreneur and civil libertarian, once famously quipped that “the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” This notion undoubtedly rings true for those who see national governments as the principal threats to free speech.

However, events of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach.

underwater

More than 20 years after Gilmore first coined that turn of phrase, his most notable quotable has effectively been inverted — “Censorship can in fact route around the Internet.” The Internet can’t route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity. I call this rather unwelcome and hostile development the “The Democratization of Censorship.”

Allow me to explain how I arrived at this unsettling conclusion. As many of you know, my site was taken offline for the better part of this week. The outage came in the wake of a historically large distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack which hurled so much junk traffic at Krebsonsecurity.com that my DDoS protection provider Akamai chose to unmoor my site from its protective harbor.

Let me be clear: I do not fault Akamai for their decision. I was a pro bono customer from the start, and Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company’s paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple.

Nevertheless, Akamai rather abruptly informed me I had until 6 p.m. that very same day — roughly two hours later — to make arrangements for migrating off their network. My main concern at the time was making sure my hosting provider wasn’t going to bear the brunt of the attack when the shields fell. To ensure that absolutely would not happen, I asked Akamai to redirect my site to 127.0.0.1 — effectively relegating all traffic destined for KrebsOnSecurity.com into a giant black hole.

Today, I am happy to report that the site is back up — this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship. And make no mistake, DDoS attacks — particularly those the size of the assault that hit my site this week — are uniquely effective weapons for stomping on free speech, for reasons I’ll explore in this post.

Google's Project Shield is now protecting KrebsOnSecurity.com

Google’s Project Shield is now protecting KrebsOnSecurity.com

Why do I speak of DDoS attacks as a form of censorship? Quite simply because the economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists.

In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack — if sustained — likely would have cost the company millions of dollars. In the hours and days following my site going offline, I spoke with multiple DDoS mitigation firms. One offered to host KrebsOnSecurity for two weeks at no charge, but after that they said the same kind of protection I had under Akamai would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 per year.

Ask yourself how many independent journalists could possibly afford that kind of protection money? A number of other providers offered to help, but it was clear that they did not have the muscle to be able to withstand such massive attacks.

I’ve been toying with the idea of forming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization — ‘The Center for the Defense of Internet Journalism’, if you will — to assist Internet journalists with obtaining the kind of protection they may need when they become the targets of attacks like the one that hit my site.  Maybe a Kickstarter campaign, along with donations from well-known charitable organizations, could get the ball rolling.  It’s food for thought.

CALIBRATING THE CANNONS

Earlier this month, noted cryptologist and security blogger Bruce Schneier penned an unusually alarmist column titled, “Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet.” Citing unnamed sources, Schneier warned that there was strong evidence indicating that nation-state actors were actively and aggressively probing the Internet for weak spots that could allow them to bring the entire Web to a virtual standstill.

“Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services,” Schneier wrote. “Who would do this? It doesn’t seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It’s not normal for companies to do that.”

Schneier continued:

“Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes — and especially their persistence — points to state actors. It feels like a nation’s military cyber command trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.”

Whether Schneier’s sources were accurate in their assessment of the actors referenced in his blog post is unknown. But as my friend and mentor Roland Dobbins at Arbor Networks eloquently put it, “When it comes to DDoS attacks, nation-states are just another player.”

“Today’s reality is that DDoS attacks have become the Great Equalizer between private actors & nation-states,” Dobbins quipped.

UM…YOUR RERUNS OF ‘SEINFELD’ JUST ATTACKED ME

What exactly was it that generated the record-smashing DDoS of 620 Gbps against my site this week? Was it a space-based weapon of mass disruption built and tested by a rogue nation-state, or an arch villain like SPECTRE from the James Bond series of novels and films? If only the enemy here was that black-and-white.

No, as I reported in the last blog post before my site was unplugged, the enemy in this case was far less sexy. There is every indication that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — mainly routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords. Most of these devices are available for sale on retail store shelves for less than $100, or — in the case of routers — are shipped by ISPs to their customers.

Some readers on Twitter have asked why the attackers would have “burned” so many compromised systems with such an overwhelming force against my little site. After all, they reasoned, the attackers showed their hand in this assault, exposing the Internet addresses of a huge number of compromised devices that might otherwise be used for actual money-making cybercriminal activities, such as hosting malware or relaying spam. Surely, network providers would take that list of hacked devices and begin blocking them from launching attacks going forward, the thinking goes.

As KrebsOnSecurity reader Rob Wright commented on Twitter, “the DDoS attack on @briankrebs feels like testing the Death Star on the Millennium Falcon instead of Alderaan.” I replied that this maybe wasn’t the most apt analogy. The reality is that there are currently millions — if not tens of millions — of insecure or poorly secured IoT devices that are ripe for being enlisted in these attacks at any given time. And we’re adding millions more each year.

I suggested to Mr. Wright perhaps a better comparison was that ne’er-do-wells now have a virtually limitless supply of Stormtrooper clones that can be conscripted into an attack at a moment’s notice.

A scene from the 1978 movie Star Wars, which the Death Star tests its firepower by blowing up a planet.

A scene from the 1977 movie Star Wars, in which the Death Star tests its firepower by blowing up a planet.

SHAMING THE SPOOFERS

The problem of DDoS conscripts goes well beyond the millions of IoT devices that are shipped insecure by default: Countless hosting providers and ISPs do nothing to prevent devices on their networks from being used by miscreants to “spoof” the source of DDoS attacks.

As I noted in a November 2015 story, The Lingering Mess from Default Insecurity, one basic step that many ISPs can but are not taking to blunt these attacks involves a network security standard that was developed and released more than a dozen years ago. Known as BCP38, its use prevents insecure resources on an ISPs network (hacked servers, computers, routers, DVRs, etc.) from being leveraged in such powerful denial-of-service attacks.

Using a technique called traffic amplification and reflection, the attacker can reflect his traffic from one or more third-party machines toward the intended target. In this type of assault, the attacker sends a message to a third party, while spoofing the Internet address of the victim. When the third party replies to the message, the reply is sent to the victim — and the reply is much larger than the original message, thereby amplifying the size of the attack.

BCP38 is designed to filter such spoofed traffic, so that it never even traverses the network of an ISP that’s adopted the anti-spoofing measures. However, there are non-trivial economic reasons that many ISPs fail to adopt this best practice. This blog post from the Internet Society does a good job of explaining why many ISPs ultimately decide not to implement BCP38.

Fortunately, there are efforts afoot to gather information about which networks and ISPs have neglected to filter out spoofed traffic leaving their networks. The idea is that by “naming and shaming” the providers who aren’t doing said filtering, the Internet community might pressure some of these actors into doing the right thing (or perhaps even offer preferential treatment to those providers who do conduct this basic network hygiene).

A research experiment by the Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) called the “Spoofer Project” is slowly collecting this data, but it relies on users voluntarily running CAIDA’s software client to gather that intel. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of the networks that allow spoofing are hosting providers that offer extremely low-cost, virtual private servers (VPS). And these companies will never voluntarily run CAIDA’s spoof-testing tools.

CAIDA's Spoofer Project page.

CAIDA’s Spoofer Project page.

As a result, the biggest offenders will continue to fly under the radar of public attention unless and until more pressure is applied by hardware and software makers, as well as ISPs that are doing the right thing.

How might we gain a more complete picture of which network providers aren’t blocking spoofed traffic — without relying solely on voluntary reporting? That would likely require a concerted effort by a coalition of major hardware makers, operating system manufacturers and cloud providers, including Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and entities which maintain the major Web server products (Apache, Nginx, e.g.), as well as the major Linux and Unix operating systems.

The coalition could decide that they will unilaterally build such instrumentation into their products. At that point, it would become difficult for hosting providers or their myriad resellers to hide the fact that they’re allowing systems on their networks to be leveraged in large-scale DDoS attacks.

To address the threat from the mass-proliferation of hardware devices such as Internet routers, DVRs and IP cameras that ship with default-insecure settings, we probably need an industry security association, with published standards that all members adhere to and are audited against periodically.

The wholesalers and retailers of these devices might then be encouraged to shift their focus toward buying and promoting connected devices which have this industry security association seal of approval. Consumers also would need to be educated to look for that seal of approval. Something like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), but for the Internet, perhaps.

THE BLEAK VS. THE BRIGHT FUTURE

As much as I believe such efforts could help dramatically limit the firepower available to today’s attackers, I’m not holding my breath that such a coalition will materialize anytime soon. But it’s probably worth mentioning that there are several precedents for this type of cross-industry collaboration to fight global cyber threats.

In 2008, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) announced that researcher Dan Kaminsky had discovered a fundamental flaw in DNS that could allow anyone to intercept and manipulate most Internet-based communications, including email and e-commerce applications. A diverse community of software and hardware makers came together to fix the vulnerability and to coordinate the disclosure and patching of the design flaw.

deathtoddosIn 2009, Microsoft heralded the formation of an industry group to collaboratively counter Conficker, a malware threat that infected tens of millions of Windows PCs and held the threat of allowing cybercriminals to amass a stupendous army of botted systems virtually overnight. A group of software and security firms, dubbed the Conficker Cabal, hashed out and executed a plan for corralling infected systems and halting the spread of Conficker.

In 2011, a diverse group of industry players and law enforcement organizations came together to eradicate the threat from the DNS Changer Trojan, a malware strain that infected millions of Microsoft Windows systems and enslaved them in a botnet that was used for large-scale cyber fraud schemes.

These examples provide useful templates for a solution to the DDoS problem going forward. What appears to be missing is any sense of urgency to address the DDoS threat on a coordinated, global scale.

That’s probably because at least for now, the criminals at the helm of these huge DDoS crime machines are content to use them to launch petty yet costly attacks against targets that suit their interests or whims.

For example, the massive 620 Gbps attack that hit my site this week was an apparent retaliation for a story I wrote exposing two Israeli men who were arrested shortly after that story ran for allegedly operating vDOS — until recently the most popular DDoS-for-hire network. The traffic hurled at my site in that massive attack included the text string “freeapplej4ck,” a reference to the hacker nickname used by one of vDOS’s alleged co-founders.

Most of the time, ne’er-do-wells like Applej4ck and others are content to use their huge DDoS armies to attack gaming sites and services. But the crooks maintaining these large crime machines haven’t just been targeting gaming sites. OVH, a major Web hosting provider based in France, said in a post on Twitter this week that it was recently the victim of an even more massive attack than hit my site. According to a Tweet from OVH founder Octave Klaba, that attack was launched by a botnet consisting of more than 145,000 compromised IP cameras and DVRs.

I don’t know what it will take to wake the larger Internet community out of its slumber to address this growing threat to free speech and ecommerce. My guess is it will take an attack that endangers human lives, shuts down critical national infrastructure systems, or disrupts national elections.

But what we’re allowing by our inaction is for individual actors to build the instrumentality of tyranny. And to be clear, these weapons can be wielded by anyone — with any motivation — who’s willing to expend a modicum of time and effort to learn the most basic principles of its operation.

The sad truth these days is that it’s a lot easier to censor the digital media on the Internet than it is to censor printed books and newspapers in the physical world. On the Internet, anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor.

I sincerely hope we can address this problem before it’s too late. And I’m deeply grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support and solidarity that I’ve seen and heard from so many readers over the past few days. Thank you.

German Library Claims Copyright on “Nazi Anthem,” Censors Documentary on YouTube

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/german-library-claims-copyright-nazi-anthem-censors-documentary-youtube-160924/

docudownWhen it comes to Nazi propaganda, Germany has an extensive censorship track record. After the Second World War it was policy to ban all Nazi propaganda, most famously Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Even today the issue is still a hot topic. For example, earlier this week our attention was drawn towards a rather unusual censorship effort on behalf of the German National Library.

With help from BR:Enter Music, the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek sent a takedown request to YouTube, targeting the historical 2006 documentary You Don’t Know Hitler.

The film in question serves as a reminder of the horrors Hitler brought forth. It is composed of historical material and other propaganda footage, including clips from Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 film Triumph of the Will.

The content that triggered the takedown request is a version of the infamous Horst Wessel Lied, also known to a wider public as the Nazi Anthem. According to the claim, the library owns the right to the recording.

Documentarian and filmmaker James K. Lambert informs TorrentFreak that this is not the first time that his film has been targeted, but usually these claims are dropped when he protests them.

“The complete film has been posted for nearly four years and I periodically get claims against me from companies who say they own this sound recording or that image. These false claims were always dropped once I pushed back.”

Copyright claim

german-national-library-youtube

This time, however, that was not enough. The National German Library insists that the film infringes on their rights and as a result the filmmaker has been slapped with a copyright strike.

“According to BR Enter, DNB owns the ‘sound recording’ rights to this track, ‘Version 11’ specifically, which is allegedly the version I used in my film when I extracted it from the Nazi propaganda documentary, Triumph Of The Will.”

While it seems strange that the German state would own the rights to a 87-year-old song it didn’t produce, the issue is a bit of a minefield. Over the years, Germany has indeed obtained the copyrights to a lot of Nazi propaganda, some of which are still enforceable today.

On the other hand, there is a long history of denying Nazi copyrights or permitting its use, starting with the US Government which sanctioned it in Frank Capra’s counter propaganda series Why We Fight.

What’s clear, however, is that after all these years Nazi copyrights are still being enforced. This is something Lambert is fiercely protesting. According to the documentarian, people have the right to see history for what it was.

“Nazi propaganda is part of the criminal record of their Crimes Against Humanity; they are not marketable commodities that should exclusively belong to anyone,” Lambert tells us.

To get his documentary reinstated Lambert submitted a counter-notice which he documented in detail in a lengthy blog post. According to Lambert the song he used is in the public domain and even if it isn’t, it would fall under fair use.

TorrentFreak contacted both BR:Enter and the National German Library several days ago asking for comment on the issue. However, at the time of publication we have yet to hear back.

Lambert hopes that his counterclaim will be accepted and that the documentary will be reinstated soon. For the future, he hopes that YouTube will improve its processes so it can better deal with these fair use cases, keeping the rights of documentarians in mind.

“This matter should never have reached this absurd point. YouTube should not have given unquestioned deference to BR Enter Music’s claim against me and my documentary should not have been taken down from YouTube.

“I hope this counter-claim will finally resolve this matter and restore the video to my channel because I am completely within my rights to have made this film and to publicly show it to others,” Lambert concludes.

For those who are interested, Lambert’s documentary You Don’t Know Hitler is still available on Vimeo.

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

Former Disney Digital Boss Says He “Loves Piracy”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/former-disney-digital-boss-says-he-loves-piracy-160919/

disney-pirateThe piracy debate can be broadly split into two camps – those who believe it’s a destructive thing that needs to be stopped at all costs, and those who maintain the phenomenon has its upsides.

Unsurprisingly, many of those in the first camp hail from entertainment industry companies with a shared mission to harness every possible sale. As a result, they’re often united when it comes to condemning unauthorized sharing and downloading.

Every now and again, however, someone comes along with a controversial opinion of their own.

Samir Bangara is the former managing director of The Walt Disney Company in India (Disney UTV). Appointed in 2012, Bangara helped to drive growth in video, games and audio for mobile, online and interactive TV following a restructuring of Disney’s digital assets.

Later, Bangara left Disney to form media startup Qyuki.com as MD and CEO. Qyuki is a platform for artists to share their creations, connect with others, and generate revenue. With these goals in mind, one might think the company would take an anti-piracy stance. Instead, its MD suggests otherwise.

“I’m going to put it out there. I love piracy,” said Bangara during the huge All That Matters content conference in Singapore.

With key players from Netflix, Spotify, Merlin, FOX, Universal, Warner, UFC, Disney, Beggars Group and RIAJ all speaking at the event, Bangara’s statement probably raised a few eyebrows. However, there was method in his madness.

According to Mumbrella, the former Disney boss believes that one of the main problems in today’s content-rich world is getting noticed.

“I love piracy. Because guess what, the biggest problem right now is discoverability,” Bangara told a panel moderated by Tony Zameczkowski, Vice President of Business Development for Asia-Pacific at Netflix.

While Bangara’s love of piracy probably wasn’t shared by many in attendance, illicit consumption has always been useful for showing what is popular among the fans. Indeed, the concept is one Netflix is very familiar with.

Back in 2013, the streaming platform revealed that it had been monitoring pirate sites in order to gauge the popularity of shows.

The data compiled by Netflix was subsequently used to decide which shows to invest in. The company could buy with confidence, safe in the knowledge that the content they were buying had already been tested in the market.

With huge volumes of content available online, Bangara says that finding the good stuff can be a challenge. But knowing in advance what will work is definitely an advantage.

“There are tens of thousands of hours of content getting uploaded. The challenge is finding what is working,” he told the panel.

“What is getting pirated is by default working. Game of Thrones is great, so it’s going to get pirated,” he said.

Netflix took the same approach when it launched in the Netherlands. The company discovered that Prison Break was “exceptionally popular” on pirate sites, so took the decision to buy the show.

Of course, not everyone listening to Bangara shared his love of piracy. Shufen Lin, Vice-President & Head at Singapore-based telecoms and content company Starhub, said that piracy was “the biggest thing that keeps us awake at night.”

Interestingly, however, Lin says the challenge presented by piracy in Singapore isn’t simply competing with ‘free’, at least not in the traditional sense. By Western standards, Singapore has strict censorship in place, meaning that content available on torrent sites provides an attractive alternative to locally censored material.

In reality, many companies use piracy networks to gather information which helps their businesses. In most cases, they just aren’t as up front about it as Bangara or indeed Netflix.

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

Internet Disinformation Service for Hire

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/09/internet_disinf.html

Yet another leaked catalog of Internet attack services, this one specializing in disinformation:

But Aglaya had much more to offer, according to its brochure. For eight to 12 weeks campaigns costing €2,500 per day, the company promised to “pollute” internet search results and social networks like Facebook and Twitter “to manipulate current events.” For this service, which it labelled “Weaponized Information,” Aglaya offered “infiltration,” “ruse,” and “sting” operations to “discredit a target” such as an “individual or company.”

“[We] will continue to barrage information till it gains ‘traction’ & top 10 search results yield a desired results on ANY Search engine,” the company boasted as an extra “benefit” of this service.

Aglaya also offered censorship-as-a-service, or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, for only €600 a day, using botnets to “send dummy traffic” to targets, taking them offline, according to the brochure. As part of this service, customers could buy an add-on to “create false criminal charges against Targets in their respective countries” for a more costly €1 million.

[…]

Some of Aglaya’s offerings, according to experts who reviewed the document for Motherboard, are likely to be exaggerated or completely made-up. But the document shows that there are governments interested in these services, which means there will be companies willing to fill the gaps in the market and offer them.

Warner Bros. Flags Its Own Website as a Piracy Portal

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/warner-bros-flags-website-piracy-portal-160904/

warnerThe movie industry has gone head to head with Google in recent years, demanding tougher anti-piracy measures from the search engine.

According to Warner Bros. and other major studios, Google makes it too easy for its users to find pirated content. Instead, they would prefer Google to remove sites such as The Pirate Bay from search results entirely.

Warner itself is also taking action, by reporting pirated content to the search engine, asking it to be removed from the index. This year the movie studio intensified its efforts and thus far it has flagged over four million allegedly infringing URLs.

We use the term allegedly with good reason, as not all of the reports are accurate. In fact, this week we stumbled upon recent takedown requests that have some glaring errors.

With help from its anti-piracy partner Vobile, Warner asked Google to censor several of its own URLs from the search engine.

The screenshot below, taken from the following DMCA notice, lists the official Warner page of the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight among various reported pirate links.

Dark Knight

warnerbrosdarkknight

The same notice also lists another Warnerbros.com URL for the sci-fi classic The Matrix. Again, Vobile asks Google to remove this link from search results, acting on behalf of the Hollywood studio.

The Matrix

warnerbrosmatrix

The apparent ‘self-censorship’ is not a one-off mistake either. A few days earlier, a similar DMCA takedown notice targeted Warner’s website, claiming that the official page for The Lucky One is infringing Warner’s copyrights.

The Lucky One

warnerbrosluckyone

Of course, Warner only hurts itself with these erroneous takedown requests. Unfortunately, however, Warnerbros.com is not the only ‘legitimate’ domain that’s being targeted.

The same notices highlighted above also target a link to the Amazon store, where users can rent or buy a copy of The Dark Knight. In addition, it targets a link to Batman Begins in the Sky Cinema store, as well as the film’s official IMDb page.

In other words, Warner is inadvertently trying to make it harder for the public to find links to legitimate content, which runs counter to their intentions.

Luckily for the Hollywood studio, Google is there to save the day. The search engine spotted their mistakes and decided to take no action for the Amazon, Sky and IMDb links.

The Warnerbros.com URLs are still under investigation though, perhaps to make the studio sweat a little.

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

WebTorrent: 250K Downloads & Strong With Zero Revenue

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/webtorrent-250k-downloads-strong-with-zero-revenue-160827/

Stanford University graduate Feross Aboukhadijeh is passionate about P2P technology. The founder of
P2P-assisted content delivery network PeerCDN (sold to Yahoo in 2013), Feross is also the inventor of WebTorrent.

In its classic form, WebTorrent is a BitTorrent client for the web. No external clients are needed for people to share files since everything is done in the user’s web browser with Javascript. No browser plugins or extensions need to be installed, nothing needs to be configured.

In the beginning, some doubted that it could ever work, but Feross never gave up on his dream.

“People thought WebTorrent was crazy. One of the Firefox developers literally said it wouldn’t be possible. I was like, ‘challenge accepted’,” Feross told TF this week.

WebTorrent

webt

A few months after WebTorrent’s debut, Feross announced the arrival of WebTorrent Desktop (WD), a standalone torrent client with a few tricks up its sleeve.

After posting a torrent or magnet link into its somewhat unusual client interface, content can be played almost immediately via an inbuilt player. And with AirPlay, Chromecast and DLNA support, WD is at home at the heart of any multi-display household.

webdesk-main

But WebTorrent Desktop’s most interesting feature is its ability to find peers not only via trackers, DHT and PEX, but also using the WebTorrent protocol. This means that WD can share content with people using the web-based version of WebTorrent too.

WebTorrent Desk

Since our April report, WebTorrent has been under constant development. It is now more responsive and uses fewer resources, casting has been improved, and subtitles are auto-detected, to name just a few improvements. As a result, the client has been growing its userbase too.

“The WebTorrent project is going full steam ahead and there has been lots of progress in the past few months,” Feross informs TF.

“We just passed a quarter million total downloads of the app – 254,431 downloads as of right now.”

For a young and totally non-commercial project, that’s an impressive number, but the accolades don’t stop there. The project currently has more than 2,083 stars on Github and it recently added its 26th new contributor.

In all, WebTorrent has nine people working on the core team, but since the client is open source and totally non-commercial, no one is earning anything from the project. According to Feross, this only makes WebTorrent stronger.

“People usually think that having revenue, investors, and employees gives you an advantage over your competition. That’s definitely true for certain things: you can hire designers, programmers, marketing experts, product managers, etc. to build out the product, add lots of features,” the developer says.

“But you have to pay your employees and investors, and these pressures usually cause companies to resort to adding advertising (or worse) to their products. When you have no desire to make a profit, you can act purely in the interests of the people using your product. In short, you can build a better product.”

So if not money, what drives people like Feross and his team to give up their time to create something and give it away?

“The real reason I care so much about WebTorrent is that I want decentralized apps to win. Right now, it’s so much easier to build a centralized app: it’s faster to build, uses tried-and-true technology, and it’s easier to monetize because the app creator has all the control. They can use that control to show you ads, sell your data, or make unilateral product changes for their own benefit,” he says.

“On the other hand, decentralized apps are censorship resistant, put users in control of their data, and are safe against user-hostile changes.

“That last point is really important. It’s because of the foresight of Bram Cohen that WebTorrent is even possible today: the BitTorrent protocol is an open standard. If you don’t like your current torrent app, you can easily switch! No one person or company has total control.”

WebTorrent Desktop developer DC Posch says that several things motivate him to work on the project, particularly when there’s no one to order him around.

“There’s satisfaction in craftsmanship, shipping something that feels really solid. Second, it’s awesome having 250,000 users and no boss,” he says.

“Third, it’s something that I want to exist. There are places like the Internet Archive that have lots of great material and no money for bandwidth. BitTorrent is a technologically elegant way to do zero cost distribution. Finally, I want to prove that non-commercial can be a competitive advantage. Freed from the need to monetize or produce a return, you can produce a superior product.”

To close, last year TF reported that WebTorrent had caught the eye of Netflix. Feross says that was a great moment for the project.

“It was pretty cool to show off WebTorrent at Netflix HQ. They were really interested in the possibility of WebTorrent to help during peak hours when everyone is watching Netflix and the uplink to ISPs like Comcast gets completely saturated. WebTorrent could help by letting Comcast subscribers share data amongst themselves without needing to traverse the congested Comcast-Netflix internet exchange,” he explains.

For now, WebTorrent is still a relative minnow when compared to giants such as uTorrent but there are an awful lot of people out there who share the ethos of Feross and his team. Only time will tell whether this non-commercial project will fulfill its dreams, but those involved will certainly have fun trying.

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

Steal This Show S02E01: Zeronet

Post Syndicated from J.J. King original https://torrentfreak.com/steal-show-s02e01-zeronet/

steal240In this first episode of our new season, we interview Tamas Kocsis, the founder and developer Zeronet.

Zeronet is a relatively new project that gives us the ability to develop completely distributed websites, invulnerable to censorship of any kind.

With Tor anonymity baked in, at least on the Windows version, that creates a very powerful environment for free expression.

Today Zeronet founder Tamas talks us through the history of the platform and some of the features he’s working on at the moment.

In addition he discusses plans to add a BitTorrent plugin that may be able to provide distributed, anonymous video streaming – which sounds like a new headache for Hollywood just around the corner.

But, Zeronet isn’t just a about torrents: we also hear from Tamas how it can be used right now to set up anonymous messaging, forums, marketplaces, and more.

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

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

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Tamas Kocsis

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

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

Cloudflare Fights RIAA’s Piracy Blocking Demands in Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-fights-riaas-piracy-blocking-demands-in-court-160823/

skullRepresenting various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull last year.

With millions of visitors per month the MP3 download site had been one of the prime sources of pirated music for a long time, frustrating many music industry insiders.

Although the site was facing a claim of millions of dollars in damages, the owners failed to respond in court. This prompted the RIAA to file for a default judgment, with success.

Earlier this year a Florida federal court awarded the labels more than $22 million in damages. In addition, it issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site’s domain names.

However, despite the million dollar verdict, MP3Skull still continues to operate today. The site actually never stopped and simply added several new domain names to its arsenal, with mp3skull.vg as the most recent.

MP3Skull’s most recent home

mp3skullvg

The RIAA is not happy with MP3Skull’s contempt of court and has asked Cloudflare to help out. As a CDN provider, Cloudflare relays traffic of millions of websites through its network, including many pirate sites.

According to the RIAA, Cloudflare should stop offering its services to any MP3Skull websites, but the CDN provider has thus far refused to do so without a proper court order.

To resolve this difference of opinion, the RIAA has asked the Florida federal court for a “clarification” of the existing injunction, so it applies to Cloudflare as well.

In practice, this would mean that Cloudflare has to block all currently active domains, as well as any future domains with the keyword “MP3Skull,” which are tied to the site’s known IP-addresses.

“Cloudflare should be required to cease its provision of services to any of the Active MP3Skull Domains, as well as any website at either 89.46.100.104 or 151.80.100.107 that includes ‘MP3Skull’ in its name,” RIAA argued.

RIAA’s request

riaareq

However, Cloudflare believes that this goes too far. While the company doesn’t object to disconnecting existing accounts if ordered to by a court, adding a requirement to block sites based on a keyword and IP-address goes too far.

The proposed injunction goes well beyond the scope of the DMCA, the CDN provider informs the court in an opposition brief this week (pdf).

“…Plaintiffs’ proposed injunction would force Cloudflare —which provides services to millions of websites— to investigate open-ended domain letter-string and IP address combinations to comply with the injunction.

“Cloudflare believes that this Court should hold the Plaintiffs accountable for following clear rules of the road,” Cloudflare adds.

The company suggests that the court could require it to terminate specific accounts that are found to be infringing, but doesn’t want to become the RIAA’s copyright cop.

“What Cloudflare cannot do, and which the Court should not require, is to serve as a deputy for the Plaintiffs and their RIAA trade association in investigating and identifying further targets of an injunction.”

To outsiders the difference between RIAA’s request and what Cloudflare suggests may seem small, but the company draws a clear line to prevent having to scan for pirate sites, proactively. This could turn into a slippery censorship slope, they feel.

This isn’t the first time that the RIAA has requested a keyword ban. In a similar case last year Cloudflare was ordered to terminate any accounts with the term “grooveshark” in them. However, in this case the RIAA owned the trademark, which makes it substantially different as it doesn’t involve the DMCA.

The EFF applauds Cloudflare’s actions and hopes the court will properly limit the scope of these and other blocking efforts.

“The limits on court orders against intermediaries are vital safeguards against censorship, especially where the censorship is done on behalf of a well-financed party,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz writes.

“That’s why it’s important for courts to uphold those limits even in cases where copyright or trademark infringement seems obvious,” he adds.

The Florida court is expected to rule on the RIAA’s injunction demands during the days to come, a decision that will significantly impact future blocking requests.

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

‘Mutable’ Torrents Proposal Makes BitTorrent More Resilient

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mutable-torrents-proposal-makes-bittorrent-resilient-160813/

bittorrent_logoRegardless of differing opinions on what kind of content should be shifted around using the protocol, few will contest the beauty of BitTorrent.

Thanks to the undoubted genius of creator Bram Cohen, it is still extremely robust some 15 years after its debut.

But while some may assume that BitTorrent is no longer under development, the opposite is true. Behind the scenes, groups of developers are working to further develop the protocol via BitTorrent Enhancement Proposals (BEPs).

Early BEPs, such as those covering DHT, PEX and private torrents, have long since been implemented but the process continues today.

Just one of the P2P developers involved is Luca Matteis. He lives in Rome, Italy, where he studies Computer Science at the Sapienza University and works part-time on various projects.

Passionate about P2P and decentralized systems, Luca informs TorrentFreak that his goal is to enable people to share and communicate in a censorship resistant manner. His fresh proposal, Updating Torrents Via DHT Mutable Items, was submitted last month and aims to live up to that billing.

We asked Luca to explain what his group’s proposal (it’s a team effort) is all about and he kindly obliged. It begins with the Distributed Hash Table (DHT) and a previous enhancement proposal.

“So currently the DHT in BitTorrent is used as a peer discovery mechanism for torrents, and it has really nice decentralized properties. It works just like a tracker, with the difference being that trackers are on central servers with a domain name, and therefore can be easily shut down,” Luca begins.

“[An earlier enhancement proposal] BEP44 added some interesting properties to the DHT network, namely the feature of being able to store arbitrary data. So instead of just storing IP addresses of people downloading specific torrents, we can now store any kind of data (max 1000 bytes per item).”

Luca says that so far this functionality hasn’t been used by torrent clients. uTorrent apparently has it under the hood, with some developers believing it’s there for reasons connected to BitTorrent Inc’s Bleep software. At this point, however, it only exists at the network level.

Importantly, however, Luca says that BEP44 allows one to store changing values under a key.

“We call these mutable items. So what you could do is generate a public key, which can be thought of as your address, and share this with the world. Then you use this public key to store stuff in BitTorrent’s DHT network. And, because it’s your public key, you (and only you) can change the value pointed by your public key.”

As mentioned earlier, only a 1000 bytes can be stored (less than 1kB), but Luca points out that it’s possible to store the info hash of a torrent, 79816060EA56D56F2A2148CD45705511079F9BCA, for example. Now things get interesting.

“At this point, your public key has very similar properties to an HTTP URL [a website address], with the difference that (just like trackers before) the value does not exist on a single computer/server, but is constantly shared across the DHT network,” he explains.

“Our BEP46 extension is an actual standardization of what the value, pointed by your public key, should look like. Our standard says it should be an info hash of a torrent. This allows for a multitude of use cases, but more practically it allows for torrents to automatically change what they’re downloading based on the public key value inside the DHT.”

While the technically minded out there might already know where this is going, Luca is kind enough to spell it out.

“Torrent sites (such as The Pirate Bay) could share a magnet link they control, which contains their public key. What they would store at this ‘address’ is the infohash of a torrent which contains a database of all their torrents,” he says.

“Users who trust them would bookmark the magnet link, and when they click on it, a torrent will start downloading. Specifically, they’d start downloading the database dump of the torrent site.”

While that might not yet sound like magic, the ability to change the value held in the DHT proves extremely useful.

“The cool thing is that when the torrent site decides to share more torrents (new releases, better quality stuff, more quality reviews), all they need to do is update the value in the DHT with a new torrent containing a new .rss file.

“At this point, all the users downloading from their magnet link will automatically be downloading the new torrent and will always have an up-to-date .RSS dump of torrents,” he says.

But while this would be useful to users, Luca says that sites like The Pirate Bay could also benefit.

“For torrent sites, this would be an attractive solution because they wouldn’t need to maintain a central HTTP server which implies costs and can be easily shut down. On the other hand, their mutable torrent magnet link cannot be easily shut down, does not imply maintenance costs, and cannot be easily tracked down,” he concludes.

For those interested in the progress of this enhancement proposal and others like it, all BEPs can be found here.

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

Breaking through censorship barriers, even when Tor is blocked (Tor Blog)

Post Syndicated from jake original http://lwn.net/Articles/696468/rss

The Tor Blog looks at using Pluggable Transports to avoid country-level Tor blocking. There are some new easy-to-follow graphical directions for using the transports.

Many repressive governments and authorities benefit from blocking their users from having free and open access to the internet. They can simply get the list of Tor relays and block them. This bars millions of people from access to free information, often including those who need it most. We at Tor care about freedom of access to information and strongly oppose censorship. This is why we’ve developed methods to connect to the network and bypass censorship. These methods are called Pluggable Transports (PTs).
Pluggable Transports are a type of bridge to the Tor network. They take advantage of various transports and make encrypted traffic to Tor look like not-interesting or garbage traffic. Unlike normal relays, bridge information is kept secret and distributed between users via BridgeDB.

Anti-Piracy Group Reveals Personal Details of Counter-Notice Senders

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-group-reveals-personal-details-of-counter-notice-senders-160730/

remove-smallOver the past few years, transparency reports have become more and more common. Many big Internet companies publish them on an annual basis to keep the public informed about requests for user data or content takedowns.

One of the largest archives is maintained at Lumen Database and contains millions of DMCA notices received by companies including Google, Twitter, WordPress and Reddit.

Typically these notices contain the name of the complainant, the title of the content, the URLs where it can be found, and other non-sensitive information. Nevertheless, their publication is still unpopular with some.

In 2014, when Lumen was known as Chilling Effects, the archive was described as “repugnant” by then Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars.

“[T]he site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 [of the DMCA] as proponents of censorship,” she said.

While Lumen insists that is not the case, the project still has its enemies. Thanks to the transparency it brings, the work of anti-piracy outfits is made more public. This is an irritant to some, a notion that was made clear this week when US-based Remove Your Media took to Twitter to announce a new project.

removemedia1

As the tweet shows, Remove Your Media has launched its own transparency report which details the counter-notices filed by people it has filed DMCA notices against.

However, while Lumen Database goes to some lengths to protect the personal details (company names aside) of the people who send DMCA notices, Remove Your Media offers no such courtesy.

remove-counter

As can be seen from the screenshot above, the company publishes names, addresses, email address and even personal telephone/cellphone numbers of counter-notice senders. Given the tone of the tweet directed towards Lumen (transparency “works both ways now”), it seems reasonable to presume this is a deliberately provocative move.

What’s more, in practical terms the report is hopeless. The counter-notices published so far don’t contain any information that might allow the public to understand the complaints or whether they’re justified. It’s simply a list of names and other personal details plus a link to the copyright holder involved, no content details are provided.

TorrentFreak contacted Remove Your Media for comment on the aims of the just-launched database but received no response. However, some of those targeted by the company were happy to contribute.

“I run a website called fanart.tv which is community of fans submitting artwork for their favorite media,” site operator ‘Kode’ told TF.

“We are in effect offering free promotion for artists / tv shows / movies and making them look as good as possible.”

Kode told us that he believes the original complaint that triggered the counter-notice might be related to one of three YouTube videos that are already more than four years old.

“To be honest, it’s all a bit confusing as I only very vaguely remember submitting a YouTube counter-notice, and i’m pretty sure it wasn’t even this year. I’m trying to find out where I would see the details of it.”

Strangely, in correspondence with FanArt.tv around a year ago, Remove Your Media promised to whitelist the site from takedowns after acknowledging that there was no issue with its activities. Why the company has chosen to go back on its word now is a mystery.

But while Kode took his personal contact details being outed somewhat in his stride, others were not so relaxed.

“What the hell??? I never gave permission for this, and I doubt anyone else did either. This is illegal. I’ve reported the blog,” another told TF.

“I really don’t know [what this is about]. I have a YouTube account where I used to make [anime videos] years ago but there is no action against them. My account is fine. I don’t recognise the name [Remove Your Media]. As far as I’m concerned it’s BS. And even if they are taking action, my details should not have been published.”

TF is aware that Remove Your Media adopted an aggressive stance against people who sent false DMCA counter-notices in the past, so this move isn’t a complete surprise.

However, if the aim of the report really is transparency, the company should consider publishing its original DMCA complaint alongside a lightly redacted counter-notice. That will allow people to evaluate the credibility (or otherwise) of both claims.

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

Court Orders News Site Blocked Following Article Piracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Google Piracy Blame Game is Headache Inducing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expanding Pirate Site Blocks Spark Censorship Fears

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/expanding-pirate-site-blocks-spark-censorship-fears-160714/

blocked-censorLast year Norway joined the ranks of countries where ISPs are ordered to block access to websites on the behest of entertainment industry companies.

In a case started by the Motion Picture Association (MPA), a local court ordered Internet providers to block users’ access to several large ‘pirate’ websites to deter online copyright infringement.

As is often the case with these type of blockades, the Hollywood movie studios didn’t stop at one attempt. They recently went back to court asking for an expansion that would target eight “pirate” streaming sites.

The court granted this request, and as a result WatchSeries, Putlocker, TUBE+, CouchTuner, Watch32, SolarMovie, ProjectFreeTV and Watch Free were added to the national blocklist.

Rune Ljøstad, Partner at the MPA’s lawfirm Simonsen Vogt Wiig, is happy with the outcome which paves the way for similar blocking expansions in the future.

“Together, the decisions create a clear legal basis in Norway to block sites that make copyrighted works available to the public without permission,” Ljøstad says.

While Hollywood is understandably happy, the blocking efforts raise concerns as well. The local Pirate Party, which protested the initial blocks by launching a censorship free DNS server, fears a slippery blocking-slope that may lead to overbroad censorship.

“I’m afraid that blocking sites will have a domino effect,” says Tale Haukbjørk Østrådal, leader of the Norwegian Pirate Party.

“If we block copyright infringement now, what will be the next thing our society accepts to block? The path from blocking torrent sites to censorship is short, and I do not wish to go down that path,” she adds.

The Pirate Party sees blocking as a threat to democracy, as it’s a tool to filter and manipulate what information people can see.

“Censorship is toxic to a democracy. We need to keep the Internet free of censorship, because we need the Internet as a tool to make informed choices. A democracy is failing without informed citizens,” Østrådal notes.

There are alternatives to blocking, according to the Pirate’s leader. The entertainment industries should rethink their business models to compete with piracy, instead of trying to hide it.

“To find the best alternatives the entertainment industry must know why people are sharing, and change their business models. The question isn’t ‘How do we make people pay?’, it is ‘How do we let people pay and feel comfortable with our business model?’”

This means offering more content for a good price, without limitations or artificial boundaries. At the same time artists should use the Internet to connect with fans directly, cutting out the middle-man who profits from their work.

“Personally, I would love to tear down the whole entertainment industry and built it anew. The distributors were never the good guys. They have built an empire by making money from other people’s art,” Østrådal says.

“When we hear the word ‘artist’, we all think of a creative, poor person. It’s fucked up,” she adds.

The Pirate Party’s fears won’t stop Internet providers from complying with the most recent court order.

This means that the streaming sites in question are now a no-go zone. Whether the movie studios have concrete plans to expand the blocking efforts even further is unknown.

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

Google: Punishing Pirate Sites in Search Results Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Megaupload 2.0 to Launch With Original Megaupload User Database

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-2-0-to-launch-with-original-megaupload-user-database-160708/

megaupload-logoFollowing a few hints earlier this week, it is now fully confirmed. Kim Dotcom will be launching a brand new file-sharing site with a familiar name.

Megaupload 2.0 is pencilled in for a January 2017 launch, an event that will coincide with the 2012 closure of the original Megaupload and the massive police raid on its operators.

Having successfully avoided the clutches of a hungry United States government for half a decade, this five-year anniversary is an important one for Dotcom, and it’s becoming clear he hopes to celebrate it with another poke in the eye for the Obama administration.

Details are few at this stage, but here’s what we know. Megaupload 2.0 will have 100gb of free storage. It will allow users to sync all of their devices and there will be no data transfer limits. On-the-fly encryption will be baked-in.

But while site features are important, what the original Megaupload had going for it was millions of loyal users. They were all made homeless and scattered when the site was shut down but according to Dotcom, there will be a future grand reunion.

Intriguingly, the serial entrepreneur says that Megaupload 2.0 will get a fantastic start in life. Rather than simply relying on word-of-mouth advertising to get going, his new venture will launch with the original Megaupload user database intact.

How Dotcom managed to preserve a copy of this data isn’t clear, but he says that each user account held within will get a foot up.

“Most Megaupload accounts will be reinstated with Premium privileges on the new Megaupload,” Dotcom announced this morning.

If every one of those former Megaupload users hit the site on day one, that’s 100 million people needing attention. It’s unlikely that anywhere near that will come aboard, but just one or two percent would be a tremendous start.

But hosting files isn’t the only thing on Dotcom’s mind. His censorship-resistant MegaNet project is still in development and although it’s not going to be ready until 2018 at the earliest, Dotcom says that Megaupload 2.0 will be a crucial component of that network.

“Megaupload 2.0 will be the launch platform for MegaNet. Let’s make sure that we have critical mass first. #100MillionUsers,” he said this morning.

Dotcom clearly has much work to do and even flat-out will struggle to meet his January deadline. Still, he doesn’t intend to do it alone.

“To former Megaupload and current Mega employees. We welcome you with open arms. Mega App developers, we have a great deal for you. Ping me,” he wrote a few hours ago.

So how will former Megaupload users know if they can use their old credentials to access the new site?

“Expect an email,” Dotcom concludes.

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

Kim Dotcom Hints at Second Coming of Megaupload

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-hints-at-second-coming-of-megaupload-160706/

dotcom-laptopWith multiple legal cases underway in several jurisdictions, Kim Dotcom is undoubtedly a man with things on his mind.

In New Zealand, he’s fighting extradition to the United States. And in the United States he’s fighting a government that wants to bring him to justice on charges of copyright infringement, conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering.

After dramatically launching and then leaving his Mega file-hosting site following what appears to have been an acrimonious split, many believed that Dotcom had left the file-sharing space for good. But after a period of quiet, it now transpires that the lure of storing data has proven too much of a temptation for the businessman.

In a follow-up to previous criticism of his former company, earlier today Dotcom took another shot at Mega. That was quickly followed by a somewhat surprising announcement.

“A new site is in the making. 100gb free cloud storage,” Dotcom said.

Intrigued, TorrentFreak spoke with Dotcom to find out more. Was he really planning to launch another file-sharing platform?

“I can say that this year I have set things in motion and a new cloud storage site is currently under development,” Dotcom confirmed.

“I’m excited about the new innovations the site will contain.”

When pressed on specific features for the new platform, Dotcom said it was too early to go into details. However, we do know that the site will enable users to sync all of their devices and there will be no data transfer limits.

For the privacy-conscious, Dotcom also threw out another small bone, noting that the site will also feature on-the-fly encryption. Given the German’s attention to security in recent years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if additional features are added before launch.

“Eight years of knowledge and a long planning period went into this. It will be my best creation yet,” Dotcom told TF.

A potential launch date for the site hasn’t been confirmed but the Megaupload and Mega founder is currently teasing the hashtag #5thRaidAnniversary, suggesting that his new project will launch in January 2017, five years after the Megaupload raids.

Of course, we also asked Dotcom if he’d decided on a name for his new cloud-storage site. Typically he’s playing his cards close to his chest and leaving us to fill in the blanks, but he hinted that an old name with a big reputation might be making a comeback.

“The name of the new site will make people happy,” he told us.

TF will be getting a sneak peek at the site when it’s ready for launch but in the meantime, readers might be wondering what has happened to Dotcom’s censorship-resistant MegaNet project.

“Mobile networks and devices still have to catch up with my vision for MegaNet and it will probably not be before 2018 until a beta goes live,” Dotcom concludes.

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

KickassTorrents Enters The Dark Web, Adds Official Tor Address

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kickasstorrents-enters-the-dark-web-adds-official-tor-address-160607/

kickassWith millions of visitors per day KickassTorrents (KAT) is currently the most visited torrent site on the Internet.

As a result, copyright holders have taken aim at the site in recent years, resulting in ISP blockades in the UK, Finland and elsewhere. Soon, even Australia may be added to this list.

While these blocks are somewhat effective, there are also plenty of ways to circumvent them. KAT itself is operating various proxy sites, for example, and today it steps up its unblocking efforts by joining the dark web.

Through a newly launched domain KAT users can now access their favorite site on the Tor network. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router, is an encrypted anonymity network that can’t be easily blocked by ISPs.

“Good news for those who have difficulties accessing KAT due to the site block in their country, now you can always access KAT via this address lsuzvpko6w6hzpnn.onion on a TOR network,” Mr. White announces.

kattor

Tor users can access regular websites, but also dedicated Tor sites that use an .onion address. People who want to access these addresses have to be connected to the Tor network, through the special Tor browser for example.

TorrentFreak spoke to KAT’s Mr. White who informs us that an .onion address was added by popular request, making it easier for users to bypass even the strictest blockades.

KAT is not the first torrent site to become active on the Tor network. The Pirate Bay has had an .onion address for several years already. In addition, there are also several smaller torrent and warez communities active on the dark web.

Thus far the response from KAT users has been mostly positive, with many welcoming bridge to the dark web.

“This is fantastic news. I had quite some difficulties trying to log in. Now no more,” one user notes. Another one adds, “welcome to Tor KAT family, nothing beats sailing on the dark net.”

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

Takedown, Staydown Would Be a Disaster, Internet Archive Warns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/takedown-staydown-would-be-a-disaster-internet-archive-warns-160607/

Currently there is a huge and coordinated effort by the world’s major copyright holders to push for changes to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

In a nutshell, key entertainment industry players believe that the DMCA is no longer fit for purpose and has been twisted out of shape by pirate sites, Google and even YouTube, to work against their best interests.

One of the main problems is taking down infringing content. The legislation allows content to be removed following the issuing of a so-called DMCA notice, but copyright holders say that this descends into a game of whac-a-mole, with content repeatedly reappearing.

To end this cycle they’re pushing for a new mechanism provisionally titled ‘Takedown, Staydown’ or ‘Notice and Staydown’. This would order web platforms to ensure that once content is taken down it will never appear again on the same platform. These proposals are currently under review by the US Copyright Office.

But while copyright holders feel this would be a great tool for them, it’s perhaps unsurprising that content platforms are less enthusiastic. After weighing in earlier in the year, the latest warnings from the Internet Archive, a gigantic public repository of a wide range of media, and are among the sternest yet.

Noting that even the current system is regularly abused by those seeking to silence speech, the Archive says that on a daily basis it receives wrongful takedowns for content that is in the public domain, is fair use, or is critical of the content owner. Therefore, further extending takedown rights could prove extremely problematic.

“We were very concerned to hear that the Copyright Office is strongly considering recommending changing the DMCA to mandate a ‘Notice and Staydown’ regime. This is the language that the Copyright Office uses to talk about censoring the web,” the Archive warns.

The Archive has a number of concerns but key issues involve due process and user monitoring. Once a platform is in receipt of a “staydown” order, it will be required to ensure that content never reappears, regardless of the context in which it does so. This means that users posting content subject to fair use exceptions will effectively be denied their right to issue a counter-notice when their upload is blocked, thus trampling due process.

But of course, blocking content also requires that users are monitored, and the Internet Archive doesn’t like that idea at all.

“The current statute protects user privacy by explicitly stating that platforms have no duty to monitor user activity for copyright infringement. Notice and Staydown would change this – requiring platforms to be constantly looking over users’ shoulders,” the Archive warns.

With free speech potentially at stake here, the Internet Archive says that taking content down and keeping it down has constitutional implications.

“Notice and Staydown has a serious First Amendment problem. The government mandating the use of technology to affirmatively take speech offline before it’s even posted, without any form of review, potentially violates free speech laws,” it says.

Such an automated system would amount to a censorship “black box”, the Archive adds, to which the public would be denied the key.

“It would be very difficult to know how much legitimate activity was being censored.”

Fair use has come up time and time again during this DMCA debate and the Internet Archive is clearly very concerned that it receives protection. Worried that content filtering technology isn’t even up to today’s challenges, the Archive warns that systems that can identify instances of fair use simply don’t exist.

“So far, no computer algorithm has been developed that can determine whether a particular upload is fair use. Notice and Staydown would force many cases of legitimate fair use off the web,” it warns.

“Further, intermediaries are not the right party to be implementing this technology. They don’t have all the facts about the works, such as whether they have been licensed. Most platforms are not in a good position to be making legal judgments, and they are motivated to avoid the potential for high statutory damages. All this means that platforms are likely to filter out legitimate uses of content.”

Finally, there is the not insignificant matter of who is going to pay for all of these systems should platforms be forced to adopt them. While copyright holders would apparently reap the benefits, sites like the Internet Archive would probably be expected to foot the bill.

“Developing an accurate filter that will work for each and every platform on the web will be an extremely costly endeavor. Nonprofits, libraries, and educational institutions who act as internet service providers would be forced to spend a huge amount of their already scarce resources policing copyright,” the Archive warns.

“The DMCA has its problems, but Notice and Staydown would be an absolute disaster,” it concludes.

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

Axl Rose Sends DMCA Notices to Google Targeting ‘Fat’ Photo

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/axl-rose-sends-dmca-notices-to-google-targeting-fat-photo-160605/

censoredAs regularly documented in these pages, copyright holders expend a lot of energy trying to protect their work from Internet piracy.

The tried and tested method is to issue a DMCA takedown notice to webhosts and platforms such as Google, Facebook and YouTube. Millions of these requests are sent and processed every week.

However, while copyright holders are fully entitled to protect their work, there are many instances that cause controversy. These cases often amount to ham-handed efforts at taking down infringing content but others arouse suspicions that censorship is the likely goal.

Details of several such cases appeared in the Lumen Database’s DMCA archive this week, having been filed there by Google. They all relate to a wave of copyright claims sent to Blogspot and GoogleUserContent on May 31, 2016 demanding the removal of pictures depicting Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose.

“Copyright image of Axl Rose. Please be advised that no permission has been granted to publish the copyright image so we cannot direct you to an authorized example of it,” the notices sent by Web Sheriff on behalf of the singer read.

axl1

Each notice (1,2,3,4,5,6) relates to the same image, an excellently framed but rather unflattering picture of Axl Rose taken at the MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Canada, back in 2010.

axl2

Intrigued, TorrentFreak tracked down the photographer who captured this moment to see if he was aware of these takedown efforts. We eventually found Boris Minkevich at the Winnipeg Free Press where his fine work is published in all its glory.

During our initial discussions a few things became clear. Firstly, Minkevich definitely took the photo. Second, Minkevich had no idea that Rose was trying to “cleanse the web” of his photo.

Perhaps the first reaction here is that Rose has no right to take down Minkevich’s photo. Since Minkevich was the one who took it, he must own the copyright, right? Web Sheriff doesn’t seem to think so.

“We can gladly confirm that all official / accredited photographers at [Axl Rose] shows sign-off on ‘Photography Permission’ contracts / ‘Photographic Release’ agreements which A. specify and limit the manner in which the photos can be exploited and B. transfer copyright ownership in such photos to AR’s relevant service company,” the company told TF in a statement.

We contacted Minkevich again and asked whether he’d signed any contracts as suggested by Web Sheriff or had any clear idea of who owns the copyrights. He confirmed that some shows make photographers sign an agreement and some don’t. This event was in 2010, a long time to remember back.

However, even if Minkevich took this photograph in an unofficial and/or unauthorized capacity, Web Sheriff still believes there would be issues surrounding ownership.

“[If a photographer] was there and taking shots without permission or authority, then other considerations / factors would come-into-play as to what such individuals can and cannot do in terms of attempting to commercially exploit the resultant images of someone else’s show,” TF was informed.

So while the waters about who owns what continue to swirl, the big question remains – why target the picture at all? Understandably, Web Sheriff told us that client work is confidential but it’s certainly possible that part of the puzzle lies a quick Google search away.

As can been seen below, the photographs taken by Mr Minkevich all those years ago also triggered a viral Axl Rose ‘fat’ meme – hardly the kind of image someone like Axle Rose would like to preserve.

axl3

While poking fun at someone’s appearance is sadly par for the course on some parts of the Internet, sending DMCA notices is hardly likely to cure the problem, if indeed that’s what the aim of the half-dozen notices was. It’s possible we’ll never find out for sure.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Google hasn’t complied with the requests to remove the images and all remain up and accessible. That may be because Google believes that Axl Rose doesn’t own the photo and that the copyrights sit with Minkevich and/or the Winnipeg Free Press.

Clearly Axl Rose thinks otherwise but as pointed out by Minkevich to TF, the images being targeted on Blogspot are definitely infringing, although perhaps not in the way Axl might’ve hoped.

“Either way the photo was stolen off our website with no permission granted by the Winnipeg Free Press,” he concludes.

Messy? You bet.

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