Tag Archives: Censorship

Treasure Trove of AACS 2.0 UHD Blu-Ray Keys Leak Online

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/treasure-trove-of-aacs-2-0-uhd-blu-ray-keys-leak-online-171211/

Nowadays, movie buffs and videophiles find it hard to imagine a good viewing experience without UHD content, but disc rippers and pirates have remained on the sidelines for a long time.

Protected with strong AACS 2.0 encryption, UHD Blu-ray discs have long been one of the last bastions movie pirates had yet to breach.

This year there have been some major developments on this front, as full copies of UHD discs started to leak online. While it remained unclear how these were ripped, it was a definite milestone.

Just a few months ago another breakthrough came when a Russian company released a Windows tool called DeUHD that could rip UHD Blu-ray discs. Again, the method for obtaining the keys was not revealed.

Now there’s another setback for AACS LA, the licensing outfit founded by Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft, Intel, and others. On various platforms around the Internet, copies of 72 AACS 2.0 keys are being shared.

The first mention we can find was posted a few days ago in a ten-year-old forum thread in the Doom9 forums. Since then it has been replicated a few times, without much fanfare.

The keys

The keys in question are confirmed to work and allow people to rip UHD Blu-ray discs of movies with freely available software such as MakeMKV. They are also different from the DeUHD list, so there are more people who know how to get them.

The full list of leaked keys includes movies such as Deadpool, Hancock, Passengers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and The Martian. Some movies have multiple keys, likely as a result of different disc releases.

The leaked keys are also relevant for another reason. Ten years ago, a hacker leaked the AACS cryptographic key “09 F9” online which prompted the MPAA and AACS LA to issue DMCA takedown requests to sites where it surfaced.

This escalated into a censorship debate when Digg started removing articles that referenced the leak, triggering a massive backlash.

Thus fas the response to the AACS 2.0 leaks has been pretty tame, but it’s still early days. A user who posted the leaked keys on MyCe has already removed them due to possible copyright problems, so it’s definitely still a touchy subject.

The question that remains now is how the hacker managed to secure the keys, and if AACS 2.0 has been permanently breached.

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

Apple CEO is Optimistic VPN Apps Will Return to China App Store

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-ceo-is-optimistic-vpn-apps-will-return-to-china-app-store-171206/

As part of an emerging crackdown on tools and systems with the ability to bypass China’s ‘Great Firewall’, during the summer Chinese government pressure began to affect Apple.

During the final days of July, Apple was forced to remove many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese App Store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers and software developers were told that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

While the position on the ground doesn’t appear to have changed in the interim, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook today expressed optimism that the VPN apps would eventually be restored to their former positions on China’s version of the App Store.

“My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that’s been pulled, come back,” Cook said. “I have great hope on that and great optimism on that.”

According to Reuters, Cook said that he always tries to find ways to work together to settle differences and if he gets criticized for that “so be it.”

Speaking at the Fortune Forum in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, Cook said that he believes strongly in freedoms. But back home in the US, Apple has been strongly criticized for not doing enough to uphold freedom of speech and communication in China.

Back in October, two US senators wrote to Cook asking why the company had removed the VPN apps from the company’s store in China.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy wrote.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’.”

They were comments Senator Leahy underlined again yesterday.

“American tech companies have become leading champions of free expression. But that commitment should not end at our borders,” Leahy told CNBC.

“Global leaders in innovation, like Apple, have both an opportunity and a moral obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights in countries that routinely deny these rights.”

Whether the optimism expressed by Cook today is based on discussions with the Chinese government is unknown. However, it seems unlikely that authorities would be willing to significantly compromise on their dedication to maintaining the Great Firewall, which not only controls access to locally controversial content but also seeks to boost the success of Chinese companies.

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

Sky’s Pirate Site-Blocking Move is Something For North Korea, ISPs Say

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/skys-pirate-site-blocking-move-is-something-for-north-korea-isps-say-171129/

Entertainment companies have been taking legal action to have pirate sites blocked for more than a decade so it was only a matter of time before New Zealand had a taste of the action.

It’s now been revealed that Sky Network Television, the country’s biggest pay-TV service, filed a complaint with the High Court in September, demanding that four local Internet service providers block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.

At this point, the sites haven’t been named, but it seems almost inevitable that the likes of The Pirate Bay will be present. The ISPs are known, however. Spark, Vodafone, Vocus and Two Degrees control around 90% of the Kiwi market so any injunction handed down will affect almost the entire country.

In its application, Sky states that pirate sites make available unauthorized copies of its entertainment works, something which not only infringes its copyrights but also undermines its business model. But while this is standard fare in such complaints, the Internet industry backlash today is something out of the ordinary.

ISPs in other jurisdictions have fought back against blocking efforts but few have deployed the kind of language being heard in New Zealand this morning.

Vocus Group – which runs the Orcon, Slingshot and Flip brands – is labeling Sky’s efforts as “gross censorship and a breach of net neutrality”, adding that they’re in direct opposition to the idea of a free and open Internet.

“SKY’s call that sites be blacklisted on their say so is dinosaur behavior, something you would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand. It isn’t our job to police the Internet and it sure as hell isn’t SKY’s either, all sites should be equal and open,” says Vocus Consumer General Manager Taryn Hamilton.

But in response, Sky said Vocus “has got it wrong”, highlighting that site-blocking is now common practice in places such as Australia and the UK.

“Pirate sites like Pirate Bay make no contribution to the development of content, but rather just steal it. Over 40 countries around the world have put in place laws to block such sites, and we’re just looking to do the same,” the company said.

The broadcaster says it will only go to court to have dedicated pirate sites blocked, ones that “pay nothing to the creators” while stealing content for their own gain.

“We’re doing this because illegal streaming and content piracy is a major threat to the entertainment, creative and sporting industries in New Zealand and abroad. With piracy, not only is the sport and entertainment content that we love at risk, but so are the livelihoods of the thousands of people employed by these industries,” the company said.

“Illegally sharing or viewing content impacts a vast number of people and jobs including athletes, actors, artists, production crew, customer service representatives, event planners, caterers and many, many more.”

ISP Spark, which is also being targeted by Sky, was less visibly outraged than some of its competitors. However, the company still feels that controlling what people can see on the Internet is a slippery slope.

“We have some sympathy for this given we invest tens of millions of dollars into content ourselves through Lightbox. However, we don’t think it should be the role of ISPs to become the ‘police of the internet’ on behalf of other parties,” a Spark spokesperson said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sky’s blocking efforts haven’t been well received by InternetNZ, the non-profit organization which protects and promotes Internet use in New Zealand.

Describing the company’s application for an injunction as an “extreme step”, InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter said that site-blocking works against the “very nature” of the Internet and is a measure that’s unlikely to achieve its goals.

“Site blocking is very easily evaded by people with the right skills or tools. Those who are deliberate pirates will be able to get around site blocking without difficulty,” Carter said.

“If blocking is ordered, it risks driving content piracy further underground, with the help of easily-deployed and common Internet tools. This could well end up making the issues that Sky are facing even harder to police in the future.”

What most of the ISPs and InternetNZ are also agreed on is the need to fight piracy with competitive, attractive legal offerings. Vocus says that local interest in The Pirate Bay has halved since Netflix launched in New Zealand, with traffic to the torrent site sitting at just 23% of its peak 2013 levels.

“The success of Netflix, iTunes and Spotify proves that people are willing to pay to access good-quality content. It’s pretty clear that SKY doesn’t understand the internet, and is trying a Hail Mary to turnaround its sunset business,” Vocus Consumer General Manager Taryn Hamilton said.

The big question now is whether the High Court has the ability to order these kinds of blocks. InternetNZ has its doubts, noting that it should only happen following a parliamentary mandate.

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

NetNeutrality vs. Verizon censoring Naral

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-verizon-censoring-naral.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in support of net neutrality. It’s wrong. In this post, I debunk the second item. I debunk other items in other posts [1] [4].

Firstly, it’s not a NetNeutrality issue (which applies only to the Internet), but an issue with text-messages. In other words, it’s something that will continue to happen even with NetNeutrality rules. People relate this to NetNeutrality as an analogy, not because it actually is such an issue.

Secondly, it’s an edge/content issue, not a transit issue. The details in this case is that Verizon provides a program for sending bulk messages to its customers from the edge of the network. Verizon isn’t censoring text messages in transit, but from the edge. You can send a text message to your friend on the Verizon network, and it won’t be censored. Thus the analogy is incorrect — the correct analogy would be with content providers like Twitter and Facebook, not ISPs like Comcast.

Like all cell phone vendors, Verizon polices this content, canceling accounts that abuse the system, like spammers. We all agree such censorship is a good thing, and that such censorship of content providers is not remotely a NetNeutrality issue. Content providers do this not because they disapprove of the content of spam such much as the distaste their customers have for spam.
Content providers that are political, rather than neutral to politics is indeed worrisome. It’s not a NetNeutrality issue per se, but it is a general “neutrality” issue. We free-speech activists want all content providers (Twitter, Facebook, Verizon mass-texting programs) to be free of political censorship — though we don’t want government to mandate such neutrality.
But even here, Verizon may be off the hook. They appear not be to be censoring one political view over another, but the controversial/unsavory way Naral expresses its views. Presumably, Verizon would be okay with less controversial political content.

In other words, as Verizon expresses it’s principles, it wants to block content that drivers away customers, but is otherwise neutral to the content. While this may unfairly target controversial political content, it’s at least basically neutral.

So in conclusion, while activists portray this as a NetNeutrality issue, it isn’t. It’s not even close.

Sci-Hub Won’t Be Blocked by US ISPs Anytime Soon

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-wont-be-blocked-by-us-isps-anytime-soon-171111/

Sci-Hub, often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” hasn’t had a particularly good run in US courts so far.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages late last week.

In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site.

The order specifically mentions domain registrars and hosting companies, but also search engines and ISPs, although only those who are in “active concert or participation” with the site. This order sparked fears that Google, Comcast, and others would be ordered to take action, but that’s not the case.

After the news broke ACS issued a press release clarifying that it would not go after search engines and ISPs when they are not in “active participation” with Sci-Hub. The problem is that this can be interpreted quite broadly, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty.

Luckily, ACS Director Glenn Ruskin was willing to provide more clarity. He stressed that search engines and ISPs won’t be targeted for simply linking users to Sci-Hub. Companies that host the content are a target though.

“The court’s affirmative ruling does not apply to search engines writ large, but only to those entities who have been in active concert or participation with Sci-Hub, such as websites that host ACS content stolen by Sci-Hub,” Ruskin said.

When we asked whether this means that ISPs such as Comcast are not likely to be targeted, the answer was affirmative.

“That is correct, unless the internet service provider has been in active concert or participation with SciHub. Simply linking to SciHub does not rise to be in active concert or participation,” Ruskin clarified.

The above suggests that ACS will go after domain name registrars, hosting companies, and perhaps Cloudflare, but not any further. Still, even if that’s the case there is cause for worry among several digital rights activists.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that these type of orders set a dangerous precedent. The concept of “active concert or participation” should only cover close associates and co-conspirators, not everyone who provides a service to the defendant. Domain registrars and registries have often been compelled to take action in similar cases, but EFF says this goes too far.

“The courts need to limit who can be bound by orders like this one, to prevent them from being abused,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz informs TorrentFreak.

“In particular, domain name registrars and registries shouldn’t be ordered to help take down a website because of a dispute over the site’s contents. That invites others to use the domain name system as a tool for censorship.”

News of the Sci-Hub injunction has sparked controversy and confusion in recent days, not least because Sci-hub.cc became unavailable soon after. Instead of showing the usual search box, visitors now see a “403 Forbidden” error message. On top of that, the bulletproof Tor version of the site also went offline.

The error message indicates that there’s a hosting issue. While it’s easy to conclude that the court’s injunction has something to do with this, that might not necessarily be the case. Sci-Hub’s hosting company isn’t tied to the US and has a history of protecting sites from takedown efforts.

We reached out to Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for comment but we’re yet to receive a response. The site hasn’t posted any relevant updates on its social media pages either.

That said, the site is far from done. In addition to the Tor domain, Sci-Hub has several other backups in place such as Sci-Hub.io and Sci-Hub.ac, which are up and running as usual.

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

Russian Site-Blocking Chiefs Under Investigation For Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rozcomnadzor’s website is currently inaccessible.

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

Pirate Party Wins Big in Czech Parliament Elections

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-wins-big-in-czech-parliament-elections-171023/

The Czech Pirates have made quite a name for themselves in recent years.

The political party previously took on a local anti-piracy outfit by launching their own movie download sites, making the point that linking is not a crime.

The bold move resulted in a criminal investigation, but the case was eventually dropped after it was deemed that the Pirates acted in accordance with EU law.

In the political arena, the Czech Pirate Party booked several successes as well. In Parliamentary elections, however, the party never managed to beat the required threshold. Until this weekend.

With 10.79% of the total vote, the Pirates won 22 seats in the national parliament. Not just that, they also became the third largest political party in the country, where more than 30 parties participated in the elections.

The Czech Republic becomes the fourth country where a Pirate Party is represented in the national parliament, following Sweden, Germany, and Iceland, which is quite an achievement.

“It is the best result of any Pirate Party in history and gives us a great mandate to transform the dynamics of Czech politics. At the same time, we understand this as a huge responsibility towards the voters and the Pirate movement as a whole,” Tomáš Vymazal, one of the new Members of Parliament, tells TorrentFreak.

The Pirates (photo via)

While there were some celebrations after the election result came in, the Czech Pirate Party is moving full steam ahead. The twenty-two newly elected members have already held their first meeting, discussing how to get the most out of their negotiations with other parties.

“The negotiation team has been established and the club’s chairman was elected. We’ll now need to set up our offices, hire assistants and distribute specific responsibilities among the club,” Vymazal says.

“One of the first issues we will open up a discussion about how parliament will be fixing an historic anti-corruption bill.”

The bill in question makes sure that every contract the state or a state-owned business enters into is put on the record. However, the previous parliament introduced several exceptions and as a result, many of the money flows remain hidden from the public.

Like other Pirate parties, the Czech branch is by no means a single issue outfit. The party has a broad vision which it distilled to a twenty point program. In addition to fighting corruption, this includes tax reform and increasing teachers’ salaries, for example.

More classical pirate themes are also on the agenda of course. The Pirate Party wants to overhaul the country’s copyright legislation, stop internet censorship, and put an end to cell phone tracking. In addition, the use of medical marijuana should be allowed.

With the backing of hundreds of thousands of Czechs, these and other issues will certainly be on the political agenda during the years to come. It’s now up to the Pirates to make them a reality.

“We must do a very good job to successfully establish the Pirate Party in Czech politics and deliver on the promises we made to the voters,” Vymazal says.

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

Cloudflare Counters MPAA and RIAA’s ‘Rehashed’ Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-counters-mpaa-and-riaas-rehashed-piracy-complaints-171020/

A few weeks ago several copyright holder groups sent their annual “Notorious Markets” complaints to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

While the recommendations usually include well-known piracy sites such as The Pirate Bay, third-party services are increasingly mentioned. MPAA and RIAA, for example, wrote that Cloudflare frustrates enforcement efforts by helping pirate sites to “hide”.

The CDN provider is not happy with these characterizations and this week submitted a rebuttal. Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer says that the company was surprised to see these mentions. Not only because they “distort” reality, but also because they are pretty much identical to those leveled last year.

“Most surprising is that their comments were basically the same complaints they filed in 2016 and contain the same mistakes and distortions that we pointed out in our rebuttal comments from October, 2016.”

“Simply repeating the same mischaracterizations for a second year in a row does not convert them into facts, so we are compelled to reiterate our objections,” Kramer adds (pdf).

There is indeed quite a bit of overlap between the submissions from both years. In fact, several sections are copied word for word, such as the RIAA’s allegation below.

“In addition, more sites are now employing services of Cloudflare, a content delivery network and distributed domain name server service. BitTorrent sites, like many other pirate sites, are increasing [sic] turning to Cloudflare because routing their site through Cloudflare obfuscates the IP address of the actual hosting provider, masking the location of the site.”

The same can be said about the MPAA’s submission, which includes a lot of the same comments and sentences as last year. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if the information was correct, but according to Cloudflare, that’s not the case.

The two industry groups claim that the CDN provider makes it more difficult to track where pirate sites are hosted. However, Cloudflare argues the opposite.

Both RIAA and MPAA are part of the “Trusted Reporter” program and use it frequently, Cloudflare points out. This program allows rightsholders to easily obtain the actual IP-addresses of Cloudflare-hosted websites that engage in widespread copyright infringement.

Most importantly, according to Cloudflare, is that the company follows the letter of the law.

“Cloudflare does not make the process of enforcing intellectual property rights online any harder — or any easier. We follow all applicable laws and regulations,” Cloudflare explained in its submission last year.

In its 2017 rebuttal, the company reiterates this position once again. Kramer also points to a recent blog post from CEO Matthew Prince, which discusses free speech and censorship issues. The message is that vigilante justice is not the answer to piracy, and all relevant stakeholders should get together to discuss how to handle these issues going forward.

For now, however, the USTR should disregard the comments regarding Cloudflare as irrelevant and inaccurate, the company argues.

“We trust that USTR will once again agree with Cloudflare that complaints implying that Cloudflare is aiding illegal activities have no place whatsoever in USTR’s Notorious Markets inquiry. It would seem to distract from and dilute the message of that report to focus on companies that are working to make the internet more cybersecure,” Kramer concludes.

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

US Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed in China

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-senators-ask-apple-why-vpn-apps-were-removed-in-china-171020/

As part of what is now clearly a crackdown on Great Firewall-evading tools and services, during the summer Chinese government pressure reached technology giant Apple.

On or around July 29, Apple removed many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese app store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers were informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

Now, in a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy express concern at the move by Apple, noting that if reports of the software removals are true, the company could be assisting China’s restrictive approach to the Internet.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chines government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet.”

Describing China as a country with “an abysmal human rights record, including with respect to the rights of free expression and free access to information, both online and offline”, the senators cite Reporters Without Borders who previously labeled the country as “the enemy of the Internet”.

While senators Cruz and Leahy go on to praise Apple for its contribution to the spread of information, they criticize the company for going along with the wishes of the Chinese government as it seeks to suppress knowledge and communication.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’,” the senators write.

“To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.”

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had indeed launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate in China. And the aggression against VPNs and their providers didn’t stop there.

In September, a Chinese man who sold Great Firewall-evading VPN software via a website was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Chinese court. Just weeks later, a software developer who set up a VPN for his own use but later sold access to the service was arrested and detained for three days.

This emerging pattern is clearly a concern for the senators who are now demanding that Tim Cook responds to ten questions (pdf), including whether Apple raised concerns about China’s VPN removal demands and details of how many apps were removed from its store. The senators also want to see copies of any pro-free speech statements Apple has made in China.

Whether the letter will make any difference on the ground in China remains to be seen, but the public involvement of the senators and technology giant Apple is certain to thrust censorship and privacy further into the public eye.

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

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

"Responsible encryption" fallacies

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/10/responsible-encryption-fallacies.html

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech recently calling for “Responsible Encryption” (aka. “Crypto Backdoors”). It’s full of dangerous ideas that need to be debunked.

The importance of law enforcement

The first third of the speech talks about the importance of law enforcement, as if it’s the only thing standing between us and chaos. It cites the 2016 Mirai attacks as an example of the chaos that will only get worse without stricter law enforcement.

But the Mira case demonstrated the opposite, how law enforcement is not needed. They made no arrests in the case. A year later, they still haven’t a clue who did it.

Conversely, we technologists have fixed the major infrastructure issues. Specifically, those affected by the DNS outage have moved to multiple DNS providers, including a high-capacity DNS provider like Google and Amazon who can handle such large attacks easily.

In other words, we the people fixed the major Mirai problem, and law-enforcement didn’t.

Moreover, instead being a solution to cyber threats, law enforcement has become a threat itself. The DNC didn’t have the FBI investigate the attacks from Russia likely because they didn’t want the FBI reading all their files, finding wrongdoing by the DNC. It’s not that they did anything actually wrong, but it’s more like that famous quote from Richelieu “Give me six words written by the most honest of men and I’ll find something to hang him by”. Give all your internal emails over to the FBI and I’m certain they’ll find something to hang you by, if they want.
Or consider the case of Andrew Auernheimer. He found AT&T’s website made public user accounts of the first iPad, so he copied some down and posted them to a news site. AT&T had denied the problem, so making the problem public was the only way to force them to fix it. Such access to the website was legal, because AT&T had made the data public. However, prosecutors disagreed. In order to protect the powerful, they twisted and perverted the law to put Auernheimer in jail.

It’s not that law enforcement is bad, it’s that it’s not the unalloyed good Rosenstein imagines. When law enforcement becomes the thing Rosenstein describes, it means we live in a police state.

Where law enforcement can’t go

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim in the encryption debate:

Our society has never had a system where evidence of criminal wrongdoing was totally impervious to detection

Of course our society has places “impervious to detection”, protected by both legal and natural barriers.

An example of a legal barrier is how spouses can’t be forced to testify against each other. This barrier is impervious.

A better example, though, is how so much of government, intelligence, the military, and law enforcement itself is impervious. If prosecutors could gather evidence everywhere, then why isn’t Rosenstein prosecuting those guilty of CIA torture?

Oh, you say, government is a special exception. If that were the case, then why did Rosenstein dedicate a precious third of his speech discussing the “rule of law” and how it applies to everyone, “protecting people from abuse by the government”. It obviously doesn’t, there’s one rule of government and a different rule for the people, and the rule for government means there’s lots of places law enforcement can’t go to gather evidence.

Likewise, the crypto backdoor Rosenstein is demanding for citizens doesn’t apply to the President, Congress, the NSA, the Army, or Rosenstein himself.

Then there are the natural barriers. The police can’t read your mind. They can only get the evidence that is there, like partial fingerprints, which are far less reliable than full fingerprints. They can’t go backwards in time.

I mention this because encryption is a natural barrier. It’s their job to overcome this barrier if they can, to crack crypto and so forth. It’s not our job to do it for them.

It’s like the camera that increasingly comes with TVs for video conferencing, or the microphone on Alexa-style devices that are always recording. This suddenly creates evidence that the police want our help in gathering, such as having the camera turned on all the time, recording to disk, in case the police later gets a warrant, to peer backward in time what happened in our living rooms. The “nothing is impervious” argument applies here as well. And it’s equally bogus here. By not helping police by not recording our activities, we aren’t somehow breaking some long standing tradit

And this is the scary part. It’s not that we are breaking some ancient tradition that there’s no place the police can’t go (with a warrant). Instead, crypto backdoors breaking the tradition that never before have I been forced to help them eavesdrop on me, even before I’m a suspect, even before any crime has been committed. Sure, laws like CALEA force the phone companies to help the police against wrongdoers — but here Rosenstein is insisting I help the police against myself.

Balance between privacy and public safety

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim that encryption upsets the balance between privacy/safety:

Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety.

This is laughable, because technology has swung the balance alarmingly in favor of law enforcement. Far from “Going Dark” as his side claims, the problem we are confronted with is “Going Light”, where the police state monitors our every action.

You are surrounded by recording devices. If you walk down the street in town, outdoor surveillance cameras feed police facial recognition systems. If you drive, automated license plate readers can track your route. If you make a phone call or use a credit card, the police get a record of the transaction. If you stay in a hotel, they demand your ID, for law enforcement purposes.

And that’s their stuff, which is nothing compared to your stuff. You are never far from a recording device you own, such as your mobile phone, TV, Alexa/Siri/OkGoogle device, laptop. Modern cars from the last few years increasingly have always-on cell connections and data recorders that record your every action (and location).

Even if you hike out into the country, when you get back, the FBI can subpoena your GPS device to track down your hidden weapon’s cache, or grab the photos from your camera.

And this is all offline. So much of what we do is now online. Of the photographs you own, fewer than 1% are printed out, the rest are on your computer or backed up to the cloud.

Your phone is also a GPS recorder of your exact position all the time, which if the government wins the Carpenter case, they police can grab without a warrant. Tagging all citizens with a recording device of their position is not “balance” but the premise for a novel more dystopic than 1984.

If suspected of a crime, which would you rather the police searched? Your person, houses, papers, and physical effects? Or your mobile phone, computer, email, and online/cloud accounts?

The balance of privacy and safety has swung so far in favor of law enforcement that rather than debating whether they should have crypto backdoors, we should be debating how to add more privacy protections.

“But it’s not conclusive”

Rosenstein defends the “going light” (“Golden Age of Surveillance”) by pointing out it’s not always enough for conviction. Nothing gives a conviction better than a person’s own words admitting to the crime that were captured by surveillance. This other data, while copious, often fails to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is nonsense. Police got along well enough before the digital age, before such widespread messaging. They solved terrorist and child abduction cases just fine in the 1980s. Sure, somebody’s GPS location isn’t by itself enough — until you go there and find all the buried bodies, which leads to a conviction. “Going dark” imagines that somehow, the evidence they’ve been gathering for centuries is going away. It isn’t. It’s still here, and matches up with even more digital evidence.
Conversely, a person’s own words are not as conclusive as you think. There’s always missing context. We quickly get back to the Richelieu “six words” problem, where captured communications are twisted to convict people, with defense lawyers trying to untwist them.

Rosenstein’s claim may be true, that a lot of criminals will go free because the other electronic data isn’t convincing enough. But I’d need to see that claim backed up with hard studies, not thrown out for emotional impact.

Terrorists and child molesters

You can always tell the lack of seriousness of law enforcement when they bring up terrorists and child molesters.
To be fair, sometimes we do need to talk about terrorists. There are things unique to terrorism where me may need to give government explicit powers to address those unique concerns. For example, the NSA buys mobile phone 0day exploits in order to hack terrorist leaders in tribal areas. This is a good thing.
But when terrorists use encryption the same way everyone else does, then it’s not a unique reason to sacrifice our freedoms to give the police extra powers. Either it’s a good idea for all crimes or no crimes — there’s nothing particular about terrorism that makes it an exceptional crime. Dead people are dead. Any rational view of the problem relegates terrorism to be a minor problem. More citizens have died since September 8, 2001 from their own furniture than from terrorism. According to studies, the hot water from the tap is more of a threat to you than terrorists.
Yes, government should do what they can to protect us from terrorists, but no, it’s not so bad of a threat that requires the imposition of a military/police state. When people use terrorism to justify their actions, it’s because they trying to form a military/police state.
A similar argument works with child porn. Here’s the thing: the pervs aren’t exchanging child porn using the services Rosenstein wants to backdoor, like Apple’s Facetime or Facebook’s WhatsApp. Instead, they are exchanging child porn using custom services they build themselves.
Again, I’m (mostly) on the side of the FBI. I support their idea of buying 0day exploits in order to hack the web browsers of visitors to the secret “PlayPen” site. This is something that’s narrow to this problem and doesn’t endanger the innocent. On the other hand, their calls for crypto backdoors endangers the innocent while doing effectively nothing to address child porn.
Terrorists and child molesters are a clichéd, non-serious excuse to appeal to our emotions to give up our rights. We should not give in to such emotions.

Definition of “backdoor”

Rosenstein claims that we shouldn’t call backdoors “backdoors”:

No one calls any of those functions [like key recovery] a “back door.”  In fact, those capabilities are marketed and sought out by many users.

He’s partly right in that we rarely refer to PGP’s key escrow feature as a “backdoor”.

But that’s because the term “backdoor” refers less to how it’s done and more to who is doing it. If I set up a recovery password with Apple, I’m the one doing it to myself, so we don’t call it a backdoor. If it’s the police, spies, hackers, or criminals, then we call it a “backdoor” — even it’s identical technology.

Wikipedia uses the key escrow feature of the 1990s Clipper Chip as a prime example of what everyone means by “backdoor“. By “no one”, Rosenstein is including Wikipedia, which is obviously incorrect.

Though in truth, it’s not going to be the same technology. The needs of law enforcement are different than my personal key escrow/backup needs. In particular, there are unsolvable problems, such as a backdoor that works for the “legitimate” law enforcement in the United States but not for the “illegitimate” police states like Russia and China.

I feel for Rosenstein, because the term “backdoor” does have a pejorative connotation, which can be considered unfair. But that’s like saying the word “murder” is a pejorative term for killing people, or “torture” is a pejorative term for torture. The bad connotation exists because we don’t like government surveillance. I mean, honestly calling this feature “government surveillance feature” is likewise pejorative, and likewise exactly what it is that we are talking about.

Providers

Rosenstein focuses his arguments on “providers”, like Snapchat or Apple. But this isn’t the question.

The question is whether a “provider” like Telegram, a Russian company beyond US law, provides this feature. Or, by extension, whether individuals should be free to install whatever software they want, regardless of provider.

Telegram is a Russian company that provides end-to-end encryption. Anybody can download their software in order to communicate so that American law enforcement can’t eavesdrop. They aren’t going to put in a backdoor for the U.S. If we succeed in putting backdoors in Apple and WhatsApp, all this means is that criminals are going to install Telegram.

If the, for some reason, the US is able to convince all such providers (including Telegram) to install a backdoor, then it still doesn’t solve the problem, as uses can just build their own end-to-end encryption app that has no provider. It’s like email: some use the major providers like GMail, others setup their own email server.

Ultimately, this means that any law mandating “crypto backdoors” is going to target users not providers. Rosenstein tries to make a comparison with what plain-old telephone companies have to do under old laws like CALEA, but that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, for such rules to have any effect, they have to punish users for what they install, not providers.

This continues the argument I made above. Government backdoors is not something that forces Internet services to eavesdrop on us — it forces us to help the government spy on ourselves.
Rosenstein tries to address this by pointing out that it’s still a win if major providers like Apple and Facetime are forced to add backdoors, because they are the most popular, and some terrorists/criminals won’t move to alternate platforms. This is false. People with good intentions, who are unfairly targeted by a police state, the ones where police abuse is rampant, are the ones who use the backdoored products. Those with bad intentions, who know they are guilty, will move to the safe products. Indeed, Telegram is already popular among terrorists because they believe American services are already all backdoored. 
Rosenstein is essentially demanding the innocent get backdoored while the guilty don’t. This seems backwards. This is backwards.

Apple is morally weak

The reason I’m writing this post is because Rosenstein makes a few claims that cannot be ignored. One of them is how he describes Apple’s response to government insistence on weakening encryption doing the opposite, strengthening encryption. He reasons this happens because:

Of course they [Apple] do. They are in the business of selling products and making money. 

We [the DoJ] use a different measure of success. We are in the business of preventing crime and saving lives. 

He swells in importance. His condescending tone ennobles himself while debasing others. But this isn’t how things work. He’s not some white knight above the peasantry, protecting us. He’s a beat cop, a civil servant, who serves us.

A better phrasing would have been:

They are in the business of giving customers what they want.

We are in the business of giving voters what they want.

Both sides are doing the same, giving people what they want. Yes, voters want safety, but they also want privacy. Rosenstein imagines that he’s free to ignore our demands for privacy as long has he’s fulfilling his duty to protect us. He has explicitly rejected what people want, “we use a different measure of success”. He imagines it’s his job to tell us where the balance between privacy and safety lies. That’s not his job, that’s our job. We, the people (and our representatives), make that decision, and it’s his job is to do what he’s told. His measure of success is how well he fulfills our wishes, not how well he satisfies his imagined criteria.

That’s why those of us on this side of the debate doubt the good intentions of those like Rosenstein. He criticizes Apple for wanting to protect our rights/freedoms, and declare they measure success differently.

They are willing to be vile

Rosenstein makes this argument:

Companies are willing to make accommodations when required by the government. Recent media reports suggest that a major American technology company developed a tool to suppress online posts in certain geographic areas in order to embrace a foreign government’s censorship policies. 

Let me translate this for you:

Companies are willing to acquiesce to vile requests made by police-states. Therefore, they should acquiesce to our vile police-state requests.

It’s Rosenstein who is admitting here is that his requests are those of a police-state.

Constitutional Rights

Rosenstein says:

There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption.

Maybe. It’s something the courts will have to decide. There are many 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendment issues here.
The reason we have the Bill of Rights is because of the abuses of the British Government. For example, they quartered troops in our homes, as a way of punishing us, and as a way of forcing us to help in our own oppression. The troops weren’t there to defend us against the French, but to defend us against ourselves, to shoot us if we got out of line.

And that’s what crypto backdoors do. We are forced to be agents of our own oppression. The principles enumerated by Rosenstein apply to a wide range of even additional surveillance. With little change to his speech, it can equally argue why the constant TV video surveillance from 1984 should be made law.

Let’s go back and look at Apple. It is not some base company exploiting consumers for profit. Apple doesn’t have guns, they cannot make people buy their product. If Apple doesn’t provide customers what they want, then customers vote with their feet, and go buy an Android phone. Apple isn’t providing encryption/security in order to make a profit — it’s giving customers what they want in order to stay in business.
Conversely, if we citizens don’t like what the government does, tough luck, they’ve got the guns to enforce their edicts. We can’t easily vote with our feet and walk to another country. A “democracy” is far less democratic than capitalism. Apple is a minority, selling phones to 45% of the population, and that’s fine, the minority get the phones they want. In a Democracy, where citizens vote on the issue, those 45% are screwed, as the 55% impose their will unwanted onto the remainder.

That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, to protect the 49% against abuse by the 51%. Regardless whether the Supreme Court agrees the current Constitution, it is the sort right that might exist regardless of what the Constitution says. 

Obliged to speak the truth

Here is the another part of his speech that I feel cannot be ignored. We have to discuss this:

Those of us who swear to protect the rule of law have a different motivation.  We are obliged to speak the truth.

The truth is that “going dark” threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity.

This is not true. Sure, he’s obliged to say the absolute truth, in court. He’s also obliged to be truthful in general about facts in his personal life, such as not lying on his tax return (the sort of thing that can get lawyers disbarred).

But he’s not obliged to tell his spouse his honest opinion whether that new outfit makes them look fat. Likewise, Rosenstein knows his opinion on public policy doesn’t fall into this category. He can say with impunity that either global warming doesn’t exist, or that it’ll cause a biblical deluge within 5 years. Both are factually untrue, but it’s not going to get him fired.

And this particular claim is also exaggerated bunk. While everyone agrees encryption makes law enforcement’s job harder than with backdoors, nobody honestly believes it can “disable” law enforcement. While everyone agrees that encryption helps terrorists, nobody believes it can enable them to act with “impunity”.

I feel bad here. It’s a terrible thing to question your opponent’s character this way. But Rosenstein made this unavoidable when he clearly, with no ambiguity, put his integrity as Deputy Attorney General on the line behind the statement that “going dark threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity”. I feel it’s a bald face lie, but you don’t need to take my word for it. Read his own words yourself and judge his integrity.

Conclusion

Rosenstein’s speech includes repeated references to ideas like “oath”, “honor”, and “duty”. It reminds me of Col. Jessup’s speech in the movie “A Few Good Men”.

If you’ll recall, it was rousing speech, “you want me on that wall” and “you use words like honor as a punchline”. Of course, since he was violating his oath and sending two privates to death row in order to avoid being held accountable, it was Jessup himself who was crapping on the concepts of “honor”, “oath”, and “duty”.

And so is Rosenstein. He imagines himself on that wall, doing albeit terrible things, justified by his duty to protect citizens. He imagines that it’s he who is honorable, while the rest of us not, even has he utters bald faced lies to further his own power and authority.

We activists oppose crypto backdoors not because we lack honor, or because we are criminals, or because we support terrorists and child molesters. It’s because we value privacy and government officials who get corrupted by power. It’s not that we fear Trump becoming a dictator, it’s that we fear bureaucrats at Rosenstein’s level becoming drunk on authority — which Rosenstein demonstrably has. His speech is a long train of corrupt ideas pursuing the same object of despotism — a despotism we oppose.

In other words, we oppose crypto backdoors because it’s not a tool of law enforcement, but a tool of despotism.

Cloudflare CEO Has to Explain Lack of Pirate Site Terminations

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-ceo-has-to-explain-lack-of-pirate-site-terminations-171010/

In August, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to terminate the account of controversial neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet,” he wrote.

The decision was meant as an intellectual exercise to start a conversation regarding censorship and free speech on the internet. In this respect it was a success but the discussion went much further than Prince had intended.

Cloudflare had a long-standing policy not to remove any accounts without a court order, so when this was exceeded, eyebrows were raised. In particular, copyright holders wondered why the company could terminate this account but not those of the most notorious pirate sites.

Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan raised this question in its piracy liability case against Cloudflare, asking for a 7-hour long deposition of the company’s CEO, to find out more. Cloudflare opposed this request, saying it was overbroad and unneeded, while asking the court to weigh in.

After reviewing the matter, Magistrate Judge Alexander MacKinnon decided to allow the deposition, but in a limited form.

“An initial matter, the Court finds that ALS Scan has not made a showing that would justify a 7 hour deposition of Mr. Prince covering a wide range of topics,” the order (pdf) reads.

“On the other hand, a review of the record shows that ALS Scan has identified a narrow relevant issue for which it appears Mr. Prince has unique knowledge and for which less intrusive discovery has been exhausted.”

ALS Scan will be able to interrogate Cloudflare’s CEO but only for two hours. The deposition must be specifically tailored toward his motivation (not) to use his authority to terminate the accounts of ‘pirating’ customers.

“The specific topic is the use (or non-use) of Mr. Prince’s authority to terminate customers, as specifically applied to customers for whom Cloudflare has received notices of copyright infringement,” the order specifies.

Whether this deposition will help ALS Scan argue its case has yet to be seen. Based on earlier submissions, the CEO will likely argue that the Daily Stormer case was an exception to make a point and that it’s company policy to require a court order to respond to infringement claims.

Meanwhile, more questions are being raised. Just a few days ago Cloudflare suspended the account of a customer for using a cryptocurrency miner. Apparently, Cloudflare classifies these miners as malware, triggering a punishment without a court order.

ALS Scan and other copyright holders would like to see a similar policy against notorious pirate sites, but thus far Cloudflare is having none of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ziggo Pirate Bay message (translated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Daily Stormer’ Termination Haunts Cloudflare in Online Piracy Case

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/daily-stormer-termination-haunts-cloudflare-in-online-piracy-case-170929/

Last month Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to terminate the account of controversial neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet,” he announced.

While the decision is understandable from an emotional point of view, it’s quite a statement to make as the CEO of one of the largest Internet infrastructure companies. Not least because it goes directly against what many saw as Cloudflare’s core values.

For years on end, Cloudflare has been asked to remove terrorist propaganda, pirate sites, and other controversial content. Each time, Cloudflare replied that it doesn’t take action without a court order. No exceptions.

In addition, Cloudflare repeatedly stressed that it was impossible for them to remove a website from the Internet, at least not permanently. It would only require a simple DNS reconfiguration to get it back up and running.

While the Daily Stormer case has nothing to do with piracy or copyright infringement, it’s now being brought up as important evidence in an ongoing piracy liability case. Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan views Prince as a “key witness” in the case and wants to depose Cloudflare’s CEO to find out more about his decision.

“Mr. Prince’s statement to the public that Cloudflare kicked neo-Nazis off the internet stand in sharp contrast to Cloudflare’s testimony in this case, where it claims it is powerless to remove content from the Internet,” ALS Scan writes.

The above is part of a recent submission where both parties argue over whether Prince can be deposed or not. Cloudflare wants to prevent this from happening and claims it’s unnecessary, but the adult publisher disagrees.

“By his own admissions, Mr. Prince’s decision to terminate certain users’ accounts was ‘arbitrary,’ the result of him waking up ‘in a bad mood,’ and a decision he made unilaterally as ‘CEO of a major Internet infrastructure corporation’.

“Mr. Prince has made it clear that he is the one who determines the circumstances under which Cloudflare will terminate a user’s account,” ALS Scan adds.

For its part, Cloudflare says that the CEO’s deposition is not needed. This is backed up by a declaration where Prince emphasizes that he has no unique knowledge on the company’s DMCA and repeat infringer policies, issues that directly relate to the case at hand.

“I have no unique personal knowledge regarding Cloudflare’s DMCA policy and procedure, including its repeat infringer policies, or Cloudflare’s published Terms of Service,” Prince informs the court

Prince’s declaration

The adult publisher, however, harps on the fact that the CEO arbitrarily decided to remove one site from the service, while requiring court orders in other instances. They quote from a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article he wrote and highlight the ‘kick off the internet’ claim, which contradicts earlier statements.

Cloudflare’s lawyers contend that the WSJ article in question was meant to kick off a conversation and shouldn’t be taken literally.

“The WSJ Article was intended as an intellectual exercise to start a conversation regarding censorship and free speech on the internet. The WSJ Article had nothing to do with copyright infringement issues or Cloudflare’s DMCA policy and procedure.

“When Mr. Prince stated in the WSJ Article that ‘[he] helped kick a group of neo-Nazis off the internet last week,’ his comments were intended to illustrate a point – not to be taken literally,” Cloudflare’s legal team adds.

The deposition of Trey Guinn, a technical employee at Cloudflare, confirms that the company doesn’t have the power to cut a site off the Internet. It further suggests that the entire removal of Daily Stormer was in essence a provocation to start a conversation around freedom of speech.

From Guinn’s deposition

Still, since the lawsuit in question revolves around terminating customers, ALS Scan wants to depose Price to find out exactly when clients are terminated, and why he decided to go beyond Couldflare’s usual policy.

“No other employee can testify to Mr. Prince’s decision-making process when it comes to terminating a user’s access. No other employee can offer an explanation as to why The Daily Stormer’s account was terminated while repeat infringers’ accounts are allowed to remain.

“In a case where Mr. Prince’s personal judgment appears to govern even over Cloudflare’s own policies and procedures, Cloudflare cannot meet its heavy burden of demonstrating why he should not be deposed,” ALS Scan’s lawyers add.

To be continued.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Impressive stats for a permanently blocked site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turn up early, seating is limited.

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

Chinese Man Jailed For Nine Months For Selling VPN Software

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/chinese-man-jailed-for-nine-months-for-selling-vpn-software-170904/

Back in January, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that due to Internet technologies and services expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, regulation would be needed to restore order.

The government said that it would take measures to “strengthen network information security management” and would embark on a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up.”

One of the initial targets was reported as censorship-busting VPNs, which allow citizens to evade the so-called Great Firewall of China. Operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications business license would constitute an offense, the government said.

The news was met with hostility, with media and citizens alike bemoaning Chinese censorship. Then early July, a further report suggested that the government would go a step further by ordering ISPs to block VPNs altogether. This elicited an immediate response from local authorities, who quickly denied the reports, blaming “foreign media” for false reporting.

But it was clear something was amiss in China. Later that month, it was revealed that Apple had banned VPN software and services from its app store.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed developers.

With an effort clearly underway to target VPNs, news today from China suggests that the government is indeed determined to tackle the anti-censorship threat presented by such tools. According to local media, Chinese man Deng Mouwei who ran a small website through which he sold VPN software, has been sentenced to prison.

The 26-year-old, from the city of Dongguan in the Guangdong province, was first arrested in October 2016 after setting up a website to sell VPNs. Just two products were on offer but this was enough to spring authorities into action.

A prosecution notice, published by Chinese publication Whatsonweibo, reveals the university educated man was arrested “on suspicion of providing tools for illegal control of a computer information system.”

It’s alleged that the man used several phrases to market the VPNs including “VPN over the wall” and “Shadow shuttle cloud”. The business wasn’t particularly profitable though, generating just 13957 yuan ($2,133) since October 2015.

“The court held that the defendant Deng Mouwei disregarded state law, by providing tools specifically for the invasion and illegal control of computer information systems procedures,” the Guandong Province’s First People’s Court said in its ruling, handed down earlier this year but only just made public.

“The circumstances are serious and the behavior violated the ‘Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 285.”

Article 285 – don’t interfere with the state

“The facts of the crime are clear, the evidence is true and sufficient. In accordance with the provisions of Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the defendant shall be sentenced according to law.”

Under Chinese law, Article 172 references stolen goods, noting that people who “conceal or act as distributors” shall be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, or fined, depending on circumstances. Where VPNs fit into that isn’t clear, but things didn’t end well for the defendant.

For offering tools that enable people to “visit foreign websites that can not be accessed via a domestic (mainland) IP address,” Deng Mouwei received a nine-month prison sentence.

News of the sentencing appeared on Chinese social media over the weekend, prompting fear and confusion among local users. While many struggled to see the sense of the prosecution, some expressed fear that people who even use VPN software to evade China’s Great Firewall could be subjected to prosecution in the future.

Whatever the outcome, it’s now abundantly clear that China is the midst of a VPN crackdown across the board and is serious about stamping out efforts to bypass its censorship. With the Internet’s ability to treat censorship as damage and route round it, it’s a battle that won’t be easily won.

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

Datavalet Wi-Fi Blocks TorrentFreak Over ‘Criminal Hacking Skills’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/datavalet-wi-fi-blocks-torrentfreak-over-criminal-hacking-skills-170903/

At TorrentFreak we regularly write about website blocking efforts around the globe, usually related to well-known pirate sites.

Unfortunately, our own news site is not immune to access restrictions either. While no court has ordered ISPs to block access to our articles, some are doing this voluntarily.

This is especially true for companies that provide Wi-Fi hotspots, such as Datavalet. This wireless network provider works with various large organizations, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and airports, to offer customers free Internet access.

Or rather to a part of the public Internet, we should say.

Over the past several months, we have had several reports from people who are unable to access TorrentFreak on Datavalet’s network. Users who load our website get an ominous warning instead, suggesting that we run some kind of a criminal hacking operation.

“Access to TORRENTFREAK.COM is not permitted as it is classified as: CRIMINAL SKILLS / HACKING.”

Criminal Skills?

Although we see ourselves as skilled writing news in our small niche, which incidentally covers crime and hacking, our own hacking skills are below par. Admittedly, mistakes are easily made but Datavalet’s blocking efforts are rather persistent.

The same issue was brought to our attention several years ago. At the time, we reached out to Datavalet and a friendly senior network analyst promised that they would look into it.

“We have forwarded your concerns to the proper resources and as soon as we have an update we will let you know,” the response was. But a few years later the block is still active, or active again.

Datavalet is just one one the many networks where TorrentFreak is blocked. Often, we are categorized as a file-sharing site, probably due to the word “torrent” in our name. This recently happened at the NYC Brooklyn library, for example.

After a reader kindly informed the library that we’re a news site, we were suddenly transferred from the “Peer-to-Peer File Sharing” to the “Proxy Avoidance” category.

“It appears that the website you want to access falls under the category ‘Proxy Avoidance’. These are sites that provide information about how to bypass proxy server features or to gain access to URLs in any way that bypass the proxy server,” the library explained.

Still blocked of course.

At least we’re not the only site facing this censorship battle. Datavelet and others regularly engage in overblocking to keep their network and customers safe. For example, Reddit was recently banned because it offered “nudity,” which is another no-go area.

Living up to our “proxy avoidance” reputation, we have to mention that people who regularly face these type of restrictions may want to invest in a VPN. These are generally quite good at bypassing these type of blockades. If they are not blocked themselves, that is.

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

Director of Kim Dotcom Documentary Speaks Out on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/director-of-kim-dotcom-documentary-speaks-out-on-piracy-170902/

When you make a documentary about Kim Dotcom, someone who’s caught up in one of the largest criminal copyright infringement cases in history, the piracy issue is unavoidable.

And indeed, the topic is discussed in depth in “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web,” which enjoyed its digital release early last week.

As happens with most digital releases, a pirated copy soon followed. While no filmmaker would actively encourage people not to pay for their work, director Annie Goldson wasn’t surprised at all when she saw the first unauthorized copies appear online.

The documentary highlights that piracy is in part triggered by lacking availability, so it was a little ironic that the film itself wasn’t released worldwide on all services. However, Goldson had no direct influence on the distribution process.

“It was inevitable really. We have tried to adopt a distribution model that we hope will encourage viewers to buy legal copies making it available as widely as possible,” Goldson informs TorrentFreak.

“We had sold the rights, so didn’t have complete control over reach or pricing which I think are two critical variables that do impact on the degree of piracy. Although I think our sales agent did make good strides towards a worldwide release.”

Now that millions of pirates have access to her work for free, it will be interesting to see how this impacts sales. For now, however, there’s still plenty of legitimate interest, with the film now appearing in the iTunes top ten of independent films.

In any case, Goldson doesn’t subscribe to the ‘one instance of piracy is a lost sale’ theory and notes that views about piracy are sharply polarized.

“Some claim financial devastation while others argue that infringement leads to ‘buzz,’ that this can generate further sales – so we shall see. At one level, watching this unfold is quite an interesting research exercise into distribution, which ironically is one of the big themes of the film of course,” Goldson notes.

Piracy overall doesn’t help the industry forward though, she says, as it hurts the development of better distribution models.

“I’m opposed to copyright infringement and piracy as it muddies the waters when it comes to devising a better model for distribution, one that would nurture and support artists and creatives, those that do the hard yards.”

Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web trailer

The director has no issues with copyright enforcement either. Not just to safeguard financial incentives, but also because the author does have moral and ethical rights about how their works are distributed. That said, instead of pouring money into enforcement, it might be better spent on finding a better business model.

“I’m with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales who says [in the documentary] that the problem is primarily with the existing business model. If you make films genuinely available at prices people can afford, at the same time throughout the world, piracy would drop to low levels.

“I think most people would prefer to access their choice of entertainment legally rather than delving into dark corners of the Internet. I might be wrong of course,” Goldson adds.

In any case, ‘simply’ enforcing piracy into oblivion seems to be an unworkable prospect – not without massive censorship, or the shutdown of the entire Internet.

“I feel the risk is that anti-piracy efforts will step up and erode important freedoms. Or we have to close down the Internet altogether. After all, the unwieldy beast is a giant copying machine – making copies is what it does well,” Goldson says.

The problems is that the industry is keeping piracy intact through its own business model. When people can’t get what they want, when, and where they want it, they often turn to pirate sites.

“One problem is that the industry has been slow to change and hence we now have generations of viewers who have had to regularly infringe to be part of a global conversation.

“I do feel if the industry is promoting and advertising works internationally, using globalized communication and social media, then denying viewers from easily accessing works, either through geo-blocking or price points, obviously, digitally-savvy viewers will find them regardless,” Goldson adds.

And yes, this ironically also applies to her own documentary.

The solution is to continue to improve the legal options. This is easier said than done, as Goldson and her team tried hard, so it won’t happen overnight. However, universal access for a decent price would seem to be the future.

Unless the movie industry prefers to shut down the Internet entirely, of course.

For those who haven’t seen “Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web yet,” the film is available globally on Vimeo OnDemand, and in a lot of territories on iTunes, the PlayStation Store, Amazon, Google Play, and the Microsoft/Xbox Store. In the US there is also Vudu, Fandango Now & Verizon.

If that doesn’t work, then…

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

TVAddons Returns, But in Ugly War With Canadian Telcos Over Kodi Addons

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-returns-ugly-war-canadian-telcos-kodi-addons-170801/

After Dish Network filed a lawsuit against TVAddons in Texas, several high-profile Kodi addons took the decision to shut down. Soon after, TVAddons itself went offline.

In the weeks that followed, several TVAddons-related domains were signed over (1,2) to a Canadian law firm, a mysterious situation that didn’t dovetail well with the US-based legal action.

TorrentFreak can now reveal that the shutdown of TVAddons had nothing to do with the US action and everything to do with a separate lawsuit filed in Canada.

The complaint against TVAddons

Two months ago on June 2, a collection of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons.

The 18-page complaint details the plaintiffs’ case against Lackman, claiming that he communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, to the public in breach of copyright.

The key claim is that Lackman achieved this by developing, hosting, distributing or promoting Kodi add-ons.

Adam Lackman, the man behind TVAddons (@adam.lackman on Instagram)

A total of 18 major add-ons are detailed in the complaint including 1Channel, Exodus, Phoenix, Stream All The Sources, SportsDevil, cCloudTV and Alluc, to name a few. Also under the spotlight is the ‘FreeTelly’ custom Kodi build distributed by TVAddons alongside its Kodi configuration tool, Indigo.

“[The defendant] has made the [TV shows] available to the public by telecommunication in a way that allows members of the public to have access to them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them…consequently infringing the Plaintiffs’ copyright…in contravention of sections 2.4(1.1), 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act,” the complaint reads.

The complaint alleges that Lackman “induced and/or authorized users” of the FreeTelly and Indigo tools to carry out infringement by his handling and promotion of infringing add-ons, including through TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com, in contravention of sections 3(1)(f) and 27(1) of the Copyright Act.

“Approximately 40 million unique users located around the world are actively using Infringing Addons hosted by TVAddons every month, and approximately 900,000 Canadian households use Infringing Add-ons to access television content. The amount of users of Infringing add-ons hosted TVAddons is constantly increasing,” the complaint adds.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint asked for interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman and associates from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

The interim injunction and Anton Piller Order

Following the filing of the complaint, on June 9 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman which restrained him from various activities in respect of TVAddons. The process took place ex parte, meaning in secret, without Lackman being able to mount a defense.

The Court also authorized a bailiff and computer forensics experts to take control of Internet domains including TVAddons.ag and Offshoregit.com plus social media and hosting provider accounts for a period of 14 days. These were transferred to Daniel Drapeau at DrapeauLex, an independent court-appointed supervising counsel.

The order also contained an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant that grants plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter a defendant’s premises in order to secure and copy evidence to support their case, before it can be destroyed or tampered with.

The order covered not only data related to the TVAddons platform, such as operating and financial details, revenues, and banking information, but everything in Lackman’s possession.

The Court ordered the telecoms companies to inform Lackman that the case against him is a civil proceeding and that he could deny entry to his property if he wished. However, that option would put him in breach of the order and would place him at risk of being fined or even imprisoned. Catch 22 springs to mind.

The Court did, however, put limits on the number of people that could be present during the execution of the Anton Piller order (ostensibly to avoid intimidation) and ordered the plaintiffs to deposit CAD$50,000 with the Court, in case the order was improperly executed. That decision would later prove an important one.

The search and interrogation of TVAddons’ operator

On June 12, the order was executed and Lackman’s premises were searched for more than 16 hours. For nine hours he was interrogated and effectively denied his right to remain silent since non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order amounts to contempt of court. The Court’s stated aim of not intimidating Lackman failed.

The TVAddons operator informs TorrentFreak that he heard a disturbance in the hallway outside and spotted several men hiding on the other side of the door. Fearing for his life, Lackman called the police and when they arrived he opened the door. At this point, the police were told by those in attendance to leave, despite Lackman’s protests.

Once inside, Lackman was told he had an hour to find a lawyer, but couldn’t use any electronic device to get one. Throughout the entire day, Lackman says he was reminded by the plaintiffs’ lawyer that he could be held in contempt of court and jailed, even though he was always cooperating.

“I had to sit there and not leave their sight. I was denied access to medication,” Lackman told TorrentFreak. “I had a doctor’s appointment I was forced to miss. I wasn’t even allowed to call and cancel.”

In papers later filed with the court by Lackman’s team, the Anton Piller order was described as a “bombe atomique” since TVAddons had never been served with so much as a copyright takedown notice in advance of this action.

The Anton Piller controversy

Anton Piller orders are only valid when passing a three-step test: when there is a strong prima facie case against the respondent, the damage – potential or actual – is serious for the applicant, and when there is a real possibility that evidence could be destroyed.

For Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, serious problems emerged on at least two of these points after the execution of the order.

For example, TVAddons carried more than 1,500 add-ons yet only 1% of those add-ons were considered to be infringing, a tiny number in the overall picture. Then there was the not insignificant problem with the exchange that took place during the hearing to obtain the order, during which Lackman was not present.

Clearly, the securing of existing evidence wasn’t the number one priority.

Plaintiffs: We want to destroy TVAddons

And the problems continued.

No right to remain silent, no right to consult a lawyer

The Anton Piller search should have been carried out between 8am and 8pm but actually carried on until midnight. As previously mentioned, Adam Lackman was effectively denied his right to remain silent and was forbidden from getting advice from his lawyer.

None of this sat well with the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

“It is important to note that the Defendant was not permitted to refuse to answer questions under fear of contempt proceedings, and his counsel was not permitted to clarify the answers to questions. I conclude unhesitatingly that the Defendant was subjected to an examination for discovery without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances,” the Judge said.

“Here, I would add that the ‘questions’ were not really questions at all. They took the form of orders or directions. For example, the Defendant was told to ‘provide to the bailiff’ or ‘disclose to the Plaintiffs’ solicitors’.”

Evidence preservation? More like a fishing trip

But shockingly, the interrogation of Lackman went much, much further. TorrentFreak understands that the TVAddons operator was given a list of 30 names of people that might be operating sites or services similar to TVAddons. He was then ordered to provide all of the information he had on those individuals.

Of course, people tend to guard their online identities so it’s possible that the information provided by Lackman will be of limited use, but Judge Bell was not happy that the Anton Piller order was abused by the plaintiffs in this way.

“I conclude that those questions, posed by Plaintiffs’ counsel, were solely made in furtherance of their investigation and constituted a hunt for further evidence, as opposed to the preservation of then existing evidence,” he wrote in a June 29 order.

But he was only just getting started.

Plaintiffs unlawfully tried to destroy TVAddons before trial

The Judge went on to note that from their own mouths, the Anton Piller order was purposely designed by the plaintiffs to completely shut down TVAddons, despite the fact that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons available on the site were allegedly used to infringe copyright.

“I am of the view that [the order’s] true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the Defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him, and to provide an opportunity for discovery of the Defendant in circumstances where none of the procedural safeguards of our civil justice system could be engaged,” Judge Bell wrote.

As noted, plaintiffs must also have a “strong prima facie case” to obtain an Anton Piller order but Judge Bell says he’s not convinced that one exists. Instead, he praised the “forthright manner” of Lackman, who successfully compared the ability of Kodi addons to find content in the same way as Google search can.

So why the big turn around?

Judge Bell said that while the prima facie case may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte (without Lackman being present to defend himself), the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell declared the Anton Piller order unlawful. Things didn’t improve for the plaintiffs on the injunction front either.

The Judge said that he believes that Lackman has “an arguable case” that he is not violating the Copyright Act by merely providing addons and that TVAddons is his only source of income. So, if an injunction to close the site was granted, the litigation would effectively be over, since the plaintiffs already admitted that their aim was to neutralize the platform.

If the platform was neutralized, Lackman could no longer earn money from the site, which would harm his ability to mount a defense.

“In considering the balance of convenience, I also repeat that the plaintiffs admit that the vast majority of add-ons are non-infringing. Whether the remaining approximately 1% are infringing is very much up for debate. For these reasons, I find the balance of convenience favors the defendant, and no interlocutory injunction will be issued,” the Judge declared.

With the Anton Piller order declared unlawful and no interlocutory injunction (one effective until the final determination of the case) handed down, things were about to get worse for the telecoms companies.

They had paid CAD$50,000 to the court in security in case things went wrong with the Anton Piller order, so TVAddons was entitled to compensation from that amount. That would be helpful, since at this point TVAddons had already run up CAD$75,000 in legal expenses.

On top, the Judge told independent counsel to give everything seized during the Anton Piller search back to Lackman.

The order to return items previously seized

But things were far from over. Within days, the telecoms companies took the decision to the Court of Appeal, asking for a stay of execution (a delay in carrying out a court order) to retain possession of items seized, including physical property, domains, and social media accounts.

Mid-July the appeal was granted and certain confidentiality clauses affecting independent counsel (including Daniel Drapeau, who holds the TVAddons’ domains) were ordered to be continued. However, considering the problems with the execution of the Anton Piller order, Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron and Rogers et al, were ordered to submit an additional security bond of CAD$140,000, on top of the CAD$50,000 already deposited.

So the battle continues, and continue it will

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Adam Lackman says that he has no choice but to fight the telcoms companies since not doing so would result in a loss by default judgment. Interestingly, both he and one of the judges involved in the case thus far believe he has an arguable case.

Lackman says that his activities are protected under the Canadian Copyright Act, specifically subparagraph 2.4(1)(b) which states as follows:

A person whose only act in respect of the communication of a work or other subject-matter to the public consists of providing the means of telecommunication necessary for another person to so communicate the work or other subject-matter does not communicate that work or other subject-matter to the public;

Of course, finding out whether that’s indeed the case will be a costly endeavor.

“It all comes down to whether we will have the financial resources necessary to mount our defense and go to trial. We won’t have ad revenue coming in, since losing our domain names means that we’ll lose the majority of our traffic for quite some time into the future,” Lackman told TF in a statement.

“We’re hoping that others will be as concerned as us about big companies manipulating the law in order to shut down what they see as competition. We desperately need help in financially supporting our legal defense, we cannot do it alone.

“We’ve run up a legal bill of over $100,000 to date. We’re David, and they are four Goliaths with practically unlimited resources. If we lose, it will mean that new case law is made, case law that could mean increased censorship of the internet.”

In the hope of getting support, TVAddons has launched a fundraiser campaign and in the meantime, a new version of the site is back on a new domain, TVAddons.co.

Given TVAddons’ line of defense, the nature of both the platform and Kodi addons, and the fact that there has already been a serious abuse of process during evidence preservation, this is now one of the most interesting and potentially influential copyright cases underway anywhere today.

TVAddons is being represented by Éva Richard , Hilal Ayoubi and Karim Renno in Canada, plus Erin Russell and Jason Sweet in the United States.

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

Apple Bans VPNs From App Store in China

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-bans-vpns-from-app-store-in-china-170729/

Apple is known to have a rigorous app-review policy.

Over the past several years, dozens of apps have been rejected from the App Store because they mention the word BitTorrent, for example.

The mere association with piracy is good enough to warrant a ban. This policy is now expanding to the privacy-sphere as well, at least in China.

It is no secret that the Chinese Government is preventing users from accessing certain sites and services. The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ works reasonably well, but can be circumvented through VPN services and other encryption tools.

These tools are a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, which are now receiving help from Apple to limit their availability.

Over the past few hours, Apple has removed many of the most-used VPN applications from the Chinese app store. In a short email, VPN providers are informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

VPN providers and users are complaining bitterly about the rigorous action. However, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Over the past few months there have been various signals that the Chinese Government would crack down on non-authorized VPN providers.

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This essentially means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate there.

Earlier this month Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to VPNs. The Chinese Government denied that this was the case, but it’s clear that these services remain a high-profile target.

Thanks to Apple, China’s Government no longer has to worry about iOS users having easy access to the most popular VPN applications. Those users who search the local app store for “VPN” still see plenty of results, but, ironically, many of these applications are fake.

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