Tag Archives: damages

BitTorrent Inc. Emerges Victorious Following EU Trademark Dispute

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-inc-emerges-victorious-following-eu-trademark-dispute-171213/

For anyone familiar with the BitTorrent brand, there can only be one company that springs to mind. BitTorrent Inc., the outfit behind uTorrent that still employs BitTorrent creator Bram Cohen, seems the logical choice, but not everything is straightforward.

Back in June 2003, a company called BitTorrent Marketing GmbH filed an application to register an EU trademark for the term ‘BitTorrent’ with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). The company hoped to exploit the trademark for a wide range of uses from marketing, advertising, retail, mail order and Internet sales, to film, television and video licensing plus “providing of memory space on the internet”.

The trademark application was published in Jul 2004 and registered in June 2006. However, in June 2011 BitTorrent Inc. filed an application for its revocation on the grounds that the trademark had not been “put to genuine use in the European Union in connection with the services concerned within a continuous period of five years.”

A year later, the EUIPO notified BitTorrent Marketing GmbH that it had three months to submit evidence of the trademark’s use. After an application from the company, more time was given to present evidence and a deadline was set for November 21, 2011. Things did not go to plan, however.

On the very last day, BitTorrent Marketing GmbH responded to the request by fax, noting that a five-page letter had been sent along with 69 pages of additional evidence. But something went wrong, with the fax machine continually reporting errors. Several days later, the evidence arrived by mail, but that was technically too late.

In September 2013, BitTorrent Inc.’s application for the trademark to be revoked was upheld but in November 2013, BitTorrent Marketing GmbH (by now known as Hochmann Marketing GmbH) appealed against the decision to revoke.

Almost two years later in August 2015, an EUIPO appeal held that Hochmann “had submitted no relevant proof” before the specified deadline that the trademark had been in previous use. On this basis, the evidence could not be taken into account.

“[The appeal] therefore concluded that genuine use of the mark at issue had not been proven, and held that the mark must be revoked with effect from 24 June 2011,” EUIPO documentation reads.

However, Hochmann Marketing GmbH wasn’t about to give up, demanding that the decision be annulled and that EUIPO and BitTorrent Inc. should pay the costs. In response, EUIPO and BitTorrent Inc. demanded the opposite, that Hochmann’s action should be dismissed and they should pay the costs instead.

In its decision published yesterday, the EU General Court (Third Chamber) clearly sided with EUIPO and BitTorrent Inc.

“The [evidence] document clearly contains only statements that are not substantiated by any supporting evidence capable of adducing proof of the place, time, extent and nature of use of the mark at issue, especially because the evidence in question was submitted, in the present case, three days after the prescribed period expired,” the decision reads.

The decision also notes that the company was given an additional month to come up with evidence and then some – the evidence was actually due on a Saturday so the period was extended until Monday for the convenience of the company.

“Next, EUIPO had duly informed the applicant, by letter of 19 July 2011, that it was ‘required to submit the required evidence of use in reply to the request within three months of receipt of this communication’ and that ‘if no evidence of use [was] submitted within this period, the [EU] mark w[ould] be revoked’,” the decision reads, adding;

“That letter also included guidance on how to provide evidence in a timely manner. Consequently, the applicant knew not only what documents it must submit, but also what the consequences of late submission of evidence were.”

All things considered, the Court rejected Hochmann Marketing GmbH’s application, ultimately deciding that not enough evidence was produced and what did appear was too late. For that, the trademark remains revoked and Hochmann Marketing must cover EUIPO and BitTorrent Inc.’s legal costs.

This isn’t the first time that BitTorrent Inc. has taken on BitTorrent/Hochmann Marketing GmbH and won. In 2014, it took the company to court in the United States and walked away with a $2.2m damages award.

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YouTuber Convicted For Publishing Video Piracy ‘Tutorials’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtuber-convicted-for-publishing-video-piracy-tutorials-171212/

While piracy-focused tutorials have been around for many years, the advent of streaming piracy coupled with the rise of the YouTube star created a perfect storm online.

Even a cursory search on YouTube now turns up thousands of Kodi addon and IPTV-focused channels, each vying to become the ultimate location for the latest and hottest piracy tips. While these videos don’t appear to be a priority for copyright holders, a channel operator in Brazil has just discovered that they aren’t without consequences.

The case involves Marcelo Otto Nascimento, the operator of YouTube channel Café Tecnológico. It began, strangely, with videos about baking bread but later experimented with videos on technological topics including observations on streaming content without paying for it.

In time, this attracted the negative attention of local TV industry group Associação Brasileira de Televisões por Assinatura (Brazilian Association of Television By Signature / ABTA). The group eventually took legal action, complaining about the nature of Nascimento’s YouTube and Facebook pages.

ABTA told the court that Nascimento had been posting tutorials that “encourage the use of equipment and applications designed to allow access to services and content” of its members, despite that content being protected by copyright. The trade group called for the removal of the content, an injunction against Nascimento, an apology, plus compensation for “material and moral damages.”

In his defense, Nascimento said that he merely comments on IPTV systems, does not breach copyright, doesn’t represent unfair competition, and did not cause the TV companies to incur any losses. Overall, Judge Fernando Henrique de Oliveira Biolcati did not agree with his assertions.

“[T]he plain intention of the defendant was to guide users in order for them to obtain access to the restricted content of the applicant’s associates….while gaining advantages for this, especially via remuneration from the providers of the mentioned applications (YouTube and Facebook), proportional to the volumes of visitors,” the Judge wrote in his ruling.

“This is not a question of mere disinterested comments, in the exercise of freedom of expression,” he added.

As a result, Nascimento was ordered to remove all of his online content that could be deemed instructional for pirates, in order to protect the interests of ABTA’s members and their ability to earn revenue from their content. In addition, the channel operator was forbidden from publishing any more videos of a similar nature.

On top, Nascimento must now pay the copyright holders for material damages, yet to be determined, measured from the posting of the first ‘pirate’ tutorial until such a date when all of the tutorials have been removed.

The ruling (PDF via Mg, Portuguese) also requires Nascimento to pay the equivalent of US$7,600 for “moral damages” plus extra for legal costs, during the next 15 days.

In a statement, ABTA said that following this conviction, more people could fall under the spotlight.

“ABTA is also monitoring the activities of other channels on YouTube and on social networks that publish illegal content such as channel lists, movies and ‘free’ access TV series, as well as tutorials and comparisons of devices or applications intended for illicit use (such as Megabox, HtvBox, Kodi, Dejavu, IPTV, ITVGo, etc.),” the group said.

Meanwhile, Nascimento says that he would’ve taken the videos down if only ABTA had asked him to. He will be appealing the decision, claiming that the videos did not teach people about piracy, they only demonstrated functionality. YouTube declined to comment.

Update: Following publication, a spokesperson for TVAddons – which has previously published instructional videos for Kodi – commented to TorrentFreak on the apparent urgency to take this matter to court, rather than handle via YouTube’s established complaints procedure.

“Taking the matter to courts rather than going through YouTube’s takedown system is part of an increasing pattern of legal bullying in the realm of intellectual property enforcement. Fighting a lawsuit against a major corporation can cost more than buying a house, it’s not a fair playing field for your average individual,” he said.

One of the remaining IPTV-focused videos

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Digital Rights Groups Warn Against Copyright “Parking Tickets” Bill

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/digital-rights-groups-warn-against-copyright-parking-tickets-bill-171203/

Nearly five years ago, US lawmakers agreed to carry out a comprehensive review of United States copyright law.

In the following years, the House Judiciary Committee held dozens of hearings on various topics, from DMCA reform and fair use exemptions to the possibility of a small claims court for copyright offenses.

While many of the topics never got far beyond the discussion stage, there’s now a new bill on the table that introduces a small claims process for copyright offenses.

The CASE Act, short for Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement, proposes to establish a small claims court to resolve copyright disputes outside the federal courts. This means that legal costs will be significantly reduced.

The idea behind the bill is to lower the barrier for smaller copyright holders with limited resources, who usually refrain from going to court. Starting a federal case with proper representation is quite costly, while the outcome is rather uncertain.

While this may sound noble, digital rights groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge, warn that the bill could do more harm than good.

One of the problems they signal is that the proposed “Copyright Claims Board” would be connected to the US Copyright Office. Given this connection, the groups fear that the three judges might be somewhat biased towards copyright holders.

“Unfortunately, the Copyright Office has a history of putting copyright holders’ interests ahead of other important legal rights and policy concerns. We fear that any small claims process the Copyright Office conducts will tend to follow that pattern,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz warns.

The copyright claims board will have three judges who can hear cases from all over the country. They can award damages awards of up to $15,000 per infringement, or $30,000 per case.

Participation is voluntary and potential defendants can opt-out. However, if they fail to do so, any order against them can still be binding and enforceable through a federal court.

An opt-in system would be much better, according to EFF, as that would prevent abuse by copyright holders who are looking for cheap default judgments.

“[A]n opt-in approach would help ensure that both participants affirmatively choose to litigate their dispute in this new court, and help prevent copyright holders from abusing the system to obtain inexpensive default judgments that will be hard to appeal.”

While smart defendants would opt-out in certain situations, those who are less familiar with the law might become the target of what are essentially copyright parking tickets.

“Knowledgeable defendants will opt out of such proceedings, while legally unsophisticated targets, including ordinary Internet users, could find themselves committed to an unfair, accelerated process handing out largely unappealable $5,000 copyright parking tickets,” EFF adds.

In its current form, the small claims court may prove to be an ideal tool for copyright trolls, including those who made a business out of filing federal cases against alleged BitTorrent pirates.

This copyright troll issue angle highlighted by both EFF and Public Knowlege, who urge lawmakers to revise the bill.

“[I]t’s not hard to see how trolls and default judgments could come to dominate the system,” Public Knowledge says.

“Instead of creating a reliable, fair mechanism for independent artists to pursue scaled infringement claims online, it would establish an opaque, unaccountable legislation mill that will likely get bogged down by copyright trolls and questionable claimants looking for a payout,” they conclude.

Various copyright holder groups are more positive about the bill. The Copyright Alliance, for example, says that it will empower creators with smaller budgets to protect their rights.

“The next generation of creators deserves copyright protection that is as pioneering and forward-thinking as they are. They deserve practical solutions to the real-life problems they face as creators. This bill is the first step.”

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

Epic Games Settles First Copyright Case Against Fortnite Cheater

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-settles-first-copyright-case-against-fortnite-cheater-171201/

Frustrated by thousands of cheaters who wreak havoc in Fortnite’s “Battle Royale,” game publisher Epic Games decided to take several of them to court.

One of the defendants is Minnesota resident Charles Vraspir, a.k.a. “Joreallean,”

The game publisher accused him of copyright infringement and breach of contract, by injecting unauthorized computer code in order to cheat.

According to Epic’s allegations, Vraspir was banned at least nine times but registered new accounts to continue his cheating. In addition, he was also suspected of having written code for the cheats.

“Defendant’s cheating, and his inducing and enabling of others to cheat, is ruining the game playing experience of players who do not cheat,” Epic games wrote.

While the complaint included all the elements for an extensive legal battle, both sides chose to resolve the case without much of a fight. Yesterday, they informed the court that a settlement had been reached.

Epic Games’ counsel asked the court to enter the agreement as well as a permanent injunction, which both have agreed on.

The proposed injunction, signed today, forbids Vraspir from carrying out any copyright infringements in the future, to destroy all cheats, and to never cheat again.

Among other things, he is prohibited from “creating, writing, developing, advertising, promoting, and/or distributing anything that infringes Epic’s works now or hereafter protected by any of Epic’s copyrights.”

While there is no mention of a settlement fee or fine, Vraspir will have to pay $5,000 if he breaches the agreement.

From the injunction

Based on the swift settlement, it can be assumed that Epic Games is not aiming to bankrupt the cheaters. Instead, it’s likely that the company wants to set an example and deter others from cheating in the future.

In addition to the settlement, Epic Games also responded to the mother of the 14-year-old cheater who was sued in a separate case. After we first covered the news last week it was quickly picked up by mainstream media, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the game publisher either.

The mother accused Epic of taking a minor to court and making his personal info known to the public.

In a response this week, the company notes that it had no idea of the age of the defendant when it filed the complaint. In addition, Epic notes that by handing over his full name and address in the unredacted letter, she exposed her son.

The rules dictate that filings mentioning an individual known to be a minor should use the minor’s initials only, not the full name as the mother did. While the mother may have waived this protection with her letter, Epic says it will stick to the initials going forward.

“Although there is an argument that by submitting the Letter to the Court containing Defendant’s name and address, Defendant’s mother waived this protection […] we plan to include only Defendant’s initials or redact his name entirely in all future filings with the Court, including this letter.”

Given the quick settlement in the Vraspir case, it’s likely that the case against the 14-year-old boy will also be resolved without much additional damage. That is, if both sides can come to an agreement.

A copy of the stipulation and injunction is available here (pdf). The reply to the mother can be found here (pdf).

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

Court: Accused Pirate Doesn’t Have to ‘Spy’ on Family Members

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-accused-pirate-doesnt-have-to-spy-on-family-members-171127/

Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

The targeted account holder is sometimes the perpetrator, but it could just as easily be another member of the household or even a complete stranger, especially if the Wi-Fi network is unsecured.

This was brought up recently in a case before a District Court Charlottenburg, where a man was accused by the makers of the movie The Call. Law firm Waldorf Frommer demanded 1,000 euros in damages for the alleged infringement, but the defendant denied that he downloaded the film.

Several other people were in the house at the time of the alleged offense, including the man’s adult son, his adult daughter and his sister-in-law. These people all have good computer skills and could, in theory, have downloaded the movie.

The filmmakers argued that the man should be held liable for the alleged infringement on his connection, even when he denies direct involvement, but the court disagreed and denied a request for a thorough investigation.

Attorney Christian Solmecke, who represented the defendant, informs TorrentFreak that subscribers indeed have an obligation to ask household members if they have anything to do with the claimed infringement, but it pretty much ends there.

“Internet subscribers have a general duty to inquire with family members, who have also used the internet connection, about the specific accusation and submit the information to court. In other words: if a family member admits to having committed the offense, the information must be submitted to court.”

“However, if they deny any wrongdoing, the subscriber is not obliged to continue ‘investigating’ the matter. For instance, they are under no circumstances expected to search computers, tablets etc,” Solmecke adds.

The District Court of Charlottenburg agreed and decided that the father cannot be held liable for damages. The fact that he questioned the other members of the household, which yielded no results, was sufficient in this case.

In a news release, Solmecke’s law firm notes that the man’s respect for private and family life is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. As such, he cannot be required to spy on the downloading habits of household members.

“He was not required to document the use of the Internet connection or to investigate the computers for file-sharing software. Such investigation obligations would not be reasonable for him,” the law firm stresses.

“Once again, it has been established that undisturbed marital and family life is protected from harm by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which has a massive impact on the investigation obligations of the subscribers.”

The ruling is in line with recent orders from the German Federal Court of Justice. Last year, the highest German civil court ruled that subscribers are not required to spy on the downloading habits of family members, which was confirmed in a separate order a few months ago.

Solmecke notes that while some courts have previously judged otherwise, it seems likely they will now follow the higher court’s legal view on this. This is precisely District Court of Charlottenburg has done, which is good news for accused file-sharers.

“Families, in particular, should not be intimidated by law firms. These often make demands for investigations, which the Federal Court of Justice has recently rejected,” his law firm adds.

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

Supreme Court Will Decide if ISP Can Charge Money to Expose Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/supreme-court-to-decide-if-isp-can-charge-money-to-expose-pirates-171124/

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

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

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to an ISP using an IP-database.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to direct Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, in order to go after the alleged pirates.

In Canada, this so-called copyright trolling practice hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year Voltage Pictures launched a “reverse class action” to demand damages from an unspecified number of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case was unprecedented in itself. In a single swoop, many of Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely.

Instead, Rogers demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts.

The Federal Court agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. The Appeals Court noted that there’s currently no fixed maximum charge defined by law. As long as this is the case, ISPs can charge no fees at all, the argument was.

In addition, the court stressed that it’s important for copyright holders to be able to protect their rights in the digital era.

“The internet must not become a collection of safe houses from which pirates, with impunity, can pilfer the products of others’ dedication, creativity and industry,” the appeal court Justice David Stratas wrote.

Not happy with the decision, Rogers decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which just decided that it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court hasn’t given an explanation for its decision to take the case. For the accused BitTorrent pirates in Canada, it’s certainly one to watch though.

The case will in large part determine how profitable the copyright trolling scheme is in Canada. When ISPs can charge a substantial fee for the IP-address lookups the efforts might not bring in enough money through settlements, making them less likely to continue.

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

Sci-Hub Loses Domain Names, But Remains Resilient

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-loses-domain-names-but-remains-resilient-171122/

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages earlier this month.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, which have the power to suspend domains worldwide if needed.

Yesterday, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable. While the site had some issues in recent weeks, several people noticed that the present problems are more permanent.

Sci-hub.io, sci-hub.cc, and sci-hub.ac now have the infamous “serverhold” status which suggests that the responsible registries intervened. The status, which has been used previously when domain names are flagged for copyright issues, strips domains of their DNS entries.

Serverhold

This effectively means that the domain names in question have been rendered useless. However, history has also shown that Sci-Hub’s operator Alexandra Elbakyan doesn’t easily back down. Quite the contrary.

In a message posted on the site’s VK page and Twitter, the operator points out that users can update their DNS servers to the IP-addresses 80.82.77.83 and 80.82.77.84, to access it freely again. This rigorous measure will direct all domain name lookups through Sci-Hub’s servers.

Sci-Hub’s tweet

In addition, the Sci-Hub.bz domain and the .onion address on the Tor network still appear to work just fine for most people.

It’s clear that Ukraine-born Elbakyan has no intention of throwing in the towel. By providing free access to published research, she sees it as simply helping millions of less privileged academics to do their work properly.

Authorized or not, among researchers there is still plenty of demand and support for Sci-Hub’s service. The site hosts dozens of millions of academic papers and receives millions of visitors per month.

Many visits come from countries where access to academic journals is limited, such as Iran, Russia and China. But even in countries where access is more common, a lot of researchers visit the site.

While the domain problems may temporarily make the site harder to find for some, it’s not likely to be the end for Sch-Hub.

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

Pirate Site Owner Found Guilty, But He Can Keep The Profits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-owner-found-guilty-can-keep-profits/

Traditionally, Sweden has been rather tough on people who operate file-sharing sites, with The Pirate Bay case as the prime example.

In 2009, four people connected to the torrent site were found guilty of assisting copyright infringement. They all received stiff prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines.

The guilty sentence was upheld in an appeal. While the prison terms of Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström were reduced to eight, ten and four months respectively, the fines swelled to $6.5 million.

This week another torrent related filesharing case concluded in Sweden, but with an entirely different outcome. IDG reports that the 47-year-old operator of Filmfix was sentenced to 120 hours of community service.

Filmfix.se offered community-curated links to a wide variety of pirated content hosted by external sources, including torrent sites. The operator charged users 10 Swedish Krona per month to access the service, which is little over a dollar at the current exchange rate.

With thousands of users, Filmfix provided a decent income. The site was active for more than six years and between April 2012 and October 2013 alone it generated over $88,000 in revenue. Interestingly, the court decided that the operator can keep this money.

Filmfix

While the District Court convicted the man for facilitating copyright infringement, there was no direct link between the subscription payments and pirated downloads. The paying members also had access to other unrelated features, such as the forums and chat.

Henrik Pontén, head of the local Rights Alliance, which reported the site to the police, stated that copyright holders have not demanded any damages. They may, however, launch a separate civil lawsuit in the future.

The man’s partner, who was suspected of helping out and owned the company where Filmfix’s money went to, was acquitted entirely by the District Court.

The 120-hours of community service stands in stark contrast to the prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines in The Pirate Bay case, despite there being quite a few similarities. Both relied on content uploaded by third parties and didn’t host any infringing files directly.

The lower sentence may in part be due to a fresh Supreme Court ruling in Sweden. In the case against an operator of the now-defunct private torrent tracker Swepirate, the Court recently ruled that prison sentences should not automatically be presumed in file-sharing cases.

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

How to Recover From Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/complete-guide-ransomware/

Here’s the scenario. You’re working on your computer and you notice that it seems slower. Or perhaps you can’t access document or media files that were previously available.

You might be getting error messages from Windows telling you that a file is of an “Unknown file type” or “Windows can’t open this file.”

Windows error message

If you’re on a Mac, you might see the message “No associated application,” or “There is no application set to open the document.”

MacOS error message

Another possibility is that you’re completely locked out of your system. If you’re in an office, you might be looking around and seeing that other people are experiencing the same problem. Some are already locked out, and others are just now wondering what’s going on, just as you are.

Then you see a message confirming your fears.

wana decrypt0r ransomware message

You’ve been infected with ransomware.

You’ll have lots of company this year. The number of ransomware attacks on businesses tripled in the past year, jumping from one attack every two minutes in Q1 to one every 40 seconds by Q3.There were over four times more new ransomware variants in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first quarter of 2016, and damages from ransomware are expected to exceed $5 billion this year.

Growth in Ransomware Variants Since December 2015

Source: Proofpoint Q1 2017 Quarterly Threat Report

This past summer, our local PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, KQED, was debilitated for weeks by a ransomware attack that forced them to go back to working the way they used to prior to computers. Five months have passed since the attack and they’re still recovering and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware typically spreads via spam or phishing emails, but also through websites or drive-by downloads, to infect an endpoint and penetrate the network. Once in place, the ransomware then locks all files it can access using strong encryption. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (typically payable in bitcoins) to decrypt the files and restore full operations to the affected IT systems.

Encrypting ransomware or “cryptoware” is by far the most common recent variety of ransomware. Other types that might be encountered are:

  • Non-encrypting ransomware or lock screens (restricts access to files and data, but does not encrypt them)
  • Ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a drive or Microsoft’s NTFS, which prevents victims’ computers from being booted up in a live OS environment
  • Leakware or extortionware (exfiltrates data that the attackers threaten to release if ransom is not paid)
  • Mobile Device Ransomware (infects cell-phones through “drive-by downloads” or fake apps)

The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:

1
Infection
After it has been delivered to the system via email attachment, phishing email, infected application or other method, the ransomware installs itself on the endpoint and any network devices it can access.
2
Secure Key Exchange
The ransomware contacts the command and control server operated by the cybercriminals behind the attack to generate the cryptographic keys to be used on the local system.
3
Encryption
The ransomware starts encrypting any files it can find on local machines and the network.
4
Extortion
With the encryption work done, the ransomware displays instructions for extortion and ransom payment, threatening destruction of data if payment is not made.
5
Unlocking
Organizations can either pay the ransom and hope for the cybercriminals to actually decrypt the affected files (which in many cases does not happen), or they can attempt recovery by removing infected files and systems from the network and restoring data from clean backups.

Who Gets Attacked?

Ransomware attacks target firms of all sizes — 5% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked — and no no size business, from SMBs to enterprises, are immune. Attacks are on the rise in every sector and in every size of business.

Recent attacks, such as WannaCry earlier this year, mainly affected systems outside of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected from Taiwan to the United Kingdom, where it crippled the National Health Service.

The US has not been so lucky in other attacks, though. The US ranks the highest in the number of ransomware attacks, followed by Germany and then France. Windows computers are the main targets, but ransomware strains exist for Macintosh and Linux, as well.

The unfortunate truth is that ransomware has become so wide-spread that for most companies it is a certainty that they will be exposed to some degree to a ransomware or malware attack. The best they can do is to be prepared and understand the best ways to minimize the impact of ransomware.

“Ransomware is more about manipulating vulnerabilities in human psychology than the adversary’s technological sophistication.” — James Scott, expert in Artificial Intelligence

Phishing emails, malicious email attachments, and visiting compromised websites have been common vehicles of infection (we wrote about protecting against phishing recently), but other methods have become more common in past months. Weaknesses in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have allowed cryptoworms to spread. Desktop applications — in one case an accounting package — and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange — DDE) have been the agents of infection.

Recent ransomware strains such as Petya, CryptoLocker, and WannaCry have incorporated worms to spread themselves across networks, earning the nickname, “cryptoworms.”

How to Defeat Ransomware

1
Isolate the Infection
Prevent the infection from spreading by separating all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
2
Identify the Infection
From messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools, determine which malware strain you are dealing with.
3
Report
Report to the authorities to support and coordinate measures to counter attacks.
4
Determine Your Options
You have a number of ways to deal with the infection. Determine which approach is best for you.
5
Restore and Refresh
Use safe backups and program and software sources to restore your computer or outfit a new platform.
6
Plan to Prevent Recurrence
Make an assessment of how the infection occurred and what you can do to put measures into place that will prevent it from happening again.

1 — Isolate the Infection

The rate and speed of ransomware detection is critical in combating fast moving attacks before they succeed in spreading across networks and encrypting vital data.

The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.

Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.

This Week in Tech (TWiT.tv) did a videocast showing what happens when WannaCry is released on an isolated system and encrypts files and trys to spread itself to other computers. It’s a great lesson on how these types of cryptoworms operate.

2 — Identify the Infection

Most often the ransomware will identify itself when it asks for ransom. There are numerous sites that help you identify the ransomware, including ID Ransomware. The No More Ransomware! Project provides the Crypto Sheriff to help identify ransomware.

Identifying the ransomware will help you understand what type of ransomware you have, how it propagates, what types of files it encrypts, and maybe what your options are for removal and disinfection. It also will enable you to report the attack to the authorities, which is recommended.

wanna decryptor 2.0 ransomware message

WannaCry Ransomware Extortion Dialog

3 — Report to the Authorities

You’ll be doing everyone a favor by reporting all ransomware attacks to the authorities. The FBI urges ransomware victims to report ransomware incidents regardless of the outcome. Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases. Knowing more about victims and their experiences with ransomware will help the FBI to determine who is behind the attacks and how they are identifying or targeting victims.

You can file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

There are other ways to report ransomware, as well.

4 — Determine Your Options

Your options when infected with ransomware are:

  1. Pay the ransom
  2. Try to remove the malware
  3. Wipe the system(s) and reinstall from scratch

It’s generally considered a bad idea to pay the ransom. Paying the ransom encourages more ransomware, and in most cases the unlocking of the encrypted files is not successful.

In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said their organization is not at all likely to pay the ransom in order to recover their data (77%). Only a small minority said they were willing to pay some ransom (3% of companies have already set up a Bitcoin account in preparation).

Even if you decide to pay, it’s very possible you won’t get back your data.

5 — Restore or Start Fresh

You have the choice of trying to remove the malware from your systems or wiping your systems and reinstalling from safe backups and clean OS and application sources.

Get Rid of the Infection

There are internet sites and software packages that claim to be able to remove ransomware from systems. The No More Ransom! Project is one. Other options can be found, as well.

Whether you can successfully and completely remove an infection is up for debate. A working decryptor doesn’t exist for every known ransomware, and unfortunately it’s true that the newer the ransomware, the more sophisticated it’s likely to be and a perhaps a decryptor has not yet been created.

It’s Best to Wipe All Systems Completely

The surest way of being certain that malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is to do a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. If you’ve been following a sound backup strategy, you should have copies of all your documents, media, and important files right up to the time of the infection.

Be sure to determine as well as you can from file dates and other information what was the date of infection. Consider that an infection might have been dormant in your system for a while before it activated and made significant changes to your system. Identifying and learning about the particular malware that attacked your systems will enable you to understand how that malware operates and what your best strategy should be for restoring your systems.

Backblaze Backup enables you to go back in time and specify the date prior to which you wish to restore files. That date should precede the date your system was infected.

Choose files to restore from earlier date in Backblaze Backup

If you’ve been following a good backup policy with both local and off-site backups, you should be able to use backup copies that you are sure were not connected to your network after the time of attack and hence protected from infection. Backup drives that were completely disconnected should be safe, as are files stored in the cloud, as with Backblaze Backup.

System Restores Are not the Best Strategy for Dealing with Ransomware and Malware

You might be tempted to use a System Restore point to get your system back up and running. System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date. Also, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration, so don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

Local backups can be encrypted by ransomware. If your backup solution is local and connected to a computer that gets hit with ransomware, the chances are good your backups will be encrypted along with the rest of your data.

With a good backup solution that is isolated from your local computers, such as Backblaze Backup, you can easily obtain the files you need to get your system working again. You have the flexility to determine which files to restore, from which date you want to restore, and how to obtain the files you need to restore your system.

Choose how to obtain your backup files

You’ll need to reinstall your OS and software applications from the source media or the internet. If you’ve been managing your account and software credentials in a sound manner, you should be able to reactivate accounts for applications that require it.

If you use a password manager, such as 1Password or LastPass, to store your account numbers, usernames, passwords, and other essential information, you can access that information through their web interface or mobile applications. You just need to be sure that you still know your master username and password to obtain access to these programs.

6 — How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

“Ransomware is at an unprecedented level and requires international investigation.” — European police agency EuroPol

A ransomware attack can be devastating for a home or a business. Valuable and irreplaceable files can be lost and tens or even hundreds of hours of effort can be required to get rid of the infection and get systems working again.

Security experts suggest several precautionary measures for preventing a ransomware attack.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to Patch Early and Patch Often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

It’s clear that the best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Other than that, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or avoided completely.

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please let us know in the comments.

The post How to Recover From Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Cracking Group 3DM Loses Piracy Case Against Game Maker

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cracking-group-3dm-loses-piracy-case-against-game-maker-171115/

While most cracking groups operate under a veil of secrecy, China-based 3DM is not shy to come out in public.

The group’s leader, known as Bird Sister, has commented on various gaming and piracy related issues in the past.

She also spoke out when her own group was sued by the Japanese game manufacturer Koei Tecmo last year. The company accused 3DM of pirating several of its titles, including Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

However, Bird Sister instead wondered why the company should be able to profit from a work inspired by a 3rd-century novel from China.

“…why does a Japanese company, Koei have the copyright of this game when the game is obviously a derivation from the book “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” written by Chen Shou. I think Chinese gaming companies should try taking back the copyright,” she said.

Bird Sister

birdsister

The novel in question has long since been in the public domain so there’s nothing stopping Koei Tecmo from using it, as Kotaku points out. The game, however, is a copyrighted work and 3DM’s actions were seen as clear copyright infringement by a Chinese court.

In a press release, Koei Tecmo announces that it has won its lawsuit against the cracking group.

The court ordered 3DM to stop distributing the infringing games and awarded a total of 1.62 million Yuan ($245,000) in piracy damages and legal fees.

While computer games are cracked and pirated on a daily basis, those responsible for it are rarely held accountable. This makes the case against 3DM rather unique. And it may not be the last if it’s up to the game manufacturer.

“We will continue to respond rigorously to infringements of our copyrights and trademark rights, both in domestic and overseas markets, while also developing satisfying games that many users can enjoy,” said the company, commenting on the ruling.

While the lawsuit may help to steer the cracking group away from pirating Koei Tecmo games, it can’t undo any earlier releases. Court order or not, past 3DM releases, including Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles, are still widely available through third-party sites.

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

Microsoft Sued Over ‘Baseless’ Piracy Threats

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-sued-over-baseless-piracy-threats-171113/

For many years, Microsoft and the Business Software Alliance (BSA) have carried out piracy investigations into organizations large and small.

Companies accused of using Microsoft software without permission usually get a letter asking them to pay up, or face legal consequences.

Rhode Island-based company Hanna Instruments is one of the most recent targets. The company stands accused of using Microsoft Office products without a proper license.

However, instead of Microsoft going after Hanna in court for copyright infringement, Hanna has filed a lawsuit against BSA and Microsoft asking for a declaratory judgment that it did nothing wrong.

The lawsuit is the result of a long back-and-forth that started in June. At the time, BSA’s lawyers sent Hanna a letter accusing it of using Microsoft products without a proper license, while requesting an audit.

Hanna’s management wasn’t aware of any pirated products but after repeated requests, the company decided to go ahead and conduct a thorough investigation. The results, combined in a detailed spreadsheet, showed that it purchased 126 copies of Microsoft Office software, while only 120 were in use.

Perfectly fine, they assumed, but the BSA was not convinced.

Since Hanna only had Microsoft generated key cards for the most recent purchases, the company used purchase orders, requisitions, and price quotes to prove that it properly licensed earlier copies of Microsoft Office. Not good enough, according to the BSA, which wanted to see money instead.

The BSA’s lawyers informed Hanna that the company would face up to $4,950,000 in damages if the case went to court. Instead, however, they offered to settle the matter for $72,074.

From the complaint

Hanna wasn’t planning to pay and pointed out that they sent in as much proof as they could find, documenting legal purchases of Microsoft Office licenses for a period covering more than ten years. While the BSA appreciated the effort, it didn’t accept this as hard evidence.

“…the provision of purchase orders, price quotes, purchase requisitions are not acceptable as valid proof of purchase to our client. Reason being, the aforesaid documents do not demonstrate that a purchase has taken place, they merely establish intent to make a purchase of software,” the BSA wrote in yer another email.

Interestingly, the BSA itself still failed to provide any solid proof that Hanna was using unlicensed software. The Rhode Island company repeatedly requested this, but the BSA simply replied that it’s neither appropriate nor efficient to request evidence from their clients in every case.

The BSA then went a step further and suggested that Microsoft did the company a favor by approaching it directly. The alternative would have been to call in the U.S. Marshals and raid the company’s headquarters.

“The rights holders had the alternative option of simply commencing litigation and seeking a court order permitting a raid by U.S. Marshals,” the BSA’s lawyers wrote in one of their letters.

This ‘threat’ wasn’t completely in vain. In the past, the BSA and Microsoft’s accusations have developed into fully-fledged raids, with armed law enforcement officials assisting the software vendor, taking away computers for further inspection.

Still, Hanna maintained that it didn’t do anything wrong. At this point, they’d spent $25,000 on disproving the BSA’s “baseless” claims, and saw no other option than to take the matter to court.

Late last week the company submitted a complaint against Microsoft and the BSA in a Rhode Island federal court, asking for a declaratory judgment and monetary compensation.

“To date, the Defendants have not provided any documentation supporting the baseless allegation that Hanna illegally copied Microsoft Office, in spite of repeated requests by Plaintiff’s counsel that BSA produce such information,” the complaint reads.

“By this Complaint, Hanna seeks a declaration by the Court that it has not infringed any Microsoft copyrights, that Hanna has been harmed by BSA’s relentless and unsupported charges, and that Defendants pay Hanna’s costs and expenses for this action, together with reasonable attorney fees, and any additional monetary award this Court deems appropriate.”

It’s now up to the court to decide who’s right and who’s wrong, but the case already provides a rare and intriguing insight into the anti-piracy practices of Microsoft and the BSA.

This isn’t the first time that one of these cases has gone to court. In Belgium, the BSA and Microsoft lost a similar case. Here, a local company was ordered to pay a settlement on the spot or lose its computers. With law enforcement at the ready, the owner decided to pay, despite owning valid licenses.

The full complaint is available here (pdf).

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

Twitter Sued Over Slow Response to DMCA Takedown Request

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/twitter-sued-over-slow-response-to-dmca-takedown-request-171112/

In common with many other user-generated content sites, Twitter is used by some of its members to host or link to copyright-infringing material.

If rightsholders submit a takedown request, Twitter swiftly takes the infringing content down. Over the past several months the company has processed thousands of requests and complied with most of them.

However, a new lawsuit filed in a California federal court suggests that Twitter’s takedown efforts aren’t perfect.

Rhode Island-based photographer Kristen Pierson filed a complaint against Twitter, accusing the company of hosting and linking to one of her works without permission.

The photo in question, taken at an Alice in Chains concert in 2006, was posted by Twitter user Karen Juanita. After Pierson found out she sent a DMCA takedown notice to Twitter on April 26 of this year.

Twitter promptly replied that it had “disabled access” to the photo, but this didn’t happen right away. While Twitter noted that it could take some time for the removal to propagate, it appears that something went wrong.

Twitter’s response

According to the complaint, it took 90 days before it was effectively taken down. It seems unlikely that Twitter intentionally waited three months, but Pierson is not looking for an excuse. Instead, she’s demanding damages from the social media outfit.

“Twitter had actual knowledge of the direct infringement and contributory infringement. Pierson provided notice to Twitter in compliance with the DMCA, and Twitter failed to expeditiously disable access to or remove the Copyrighted Photograph from their servers,” the complaint notes.

“Alternatively, Twitter directly infringed Pierson’s copyrights by continuing to allow public access to the Copyrighted Photograph on Twitter’s server or on servers controlled by Twitter.”

Theoretically, damages could go up to $150,000, should willful copyright infringement be proven. However, it’s more likely that both parties will settle their differences, or that the case will be dismissed for other reasons.

This isn’t the first time that Twitter has been sued for failing to promptly remove infringing content. Several photographers, including Pierson herself, have done so before. In most cases, these lawsuits are settled after a few weeks, behind closed doors.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf).

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

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

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-grants-isps-and-search-engine-blockade-of-sci-hub-171106/

Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan.

The non-profit organization publishes tens of thousands of articles a year in its peer-reviewed journals. Because many of these are available for free on Sci-Hub, ACS wants to be compensated.

Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site.

In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site.

The broad request was later adopted in a recommendation from Magistrate Judge John Anderson. This triggered a protest from the tech industry trade group CCIA, which represents global tech firms including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, that warned against the broad implications. However, this amicus brief was denied.

Just before the weekend, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a final decision which is a clear win for ACS. The publisher was awarded the maximum statutory damages of $4.8 million for 32 infringing works, as well as a permanent injunction.

The injunction is not limited to domain name registrars and hosting companies, but expands to search engines, ISPs and hosting companies too, who can be ordered to stop linking to or offering services to Sci-Hub.

“Ordered that any person or entity in active concert or participation with Defendant Sci-Hub and with notice of the injunction, including any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of ACS’s trademarks or copyrighted works,” the injunction reads.

part of the injunction

There is a small difference with the recommendation from the Magistrate Judge. Instead of applying the injunction to all persons “in privity” with Sci-Hub, it now applies to those who are “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site.

The injunction means that Internet providers, such as Comcast, can be requested to block users from accessing Sci-Hub. That’s a big deal since pirate site blockades are not common in the United States. The same is true for search engine blocking of copyright-infringing sites.

It’s clear that the affected Internet services will not be happy with the outcome. While the CCIA’s attempt to be heard in the case failed, it’s likely that they will protest the injunction when ACS tries to enforce it.

Previously, Cloudflare objected to a similar injunction where the RIAA argued that it was “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site MP3Skull. Here, Cloudflare countered that the DMCA protects the company from liability for the copyright infringements of its customers, limiting the scope of anti-piracy injunctions.

However, a Florida federal court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in these cases.

It’s likely that ISPs and search engines will lodge similar protests if ACS tries to enforce the injunction against them.

While this case is crucial for copyright holders and Internet services, Sci-Hub itself doesn’t seem too bothered by the blocking prospect or the millions in damages it must pay on paper.

It already owes Elsevier $15 million, which it can’t pay, and a few million more or less doesn’t change anything. Also, the site has a Tor version which can’t be blocked by Internet providers, so determined scientists will still be able to access the site if they want.

The full order is available here (pdf) and a copy of the injunction can be found here (pdf).

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

CBS Sues Man for Posting Image of a 59-Year TV-Show on Social Media

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cbs-sues-man-for-posting-image-of-a-59-year-tv-show-on-social-media-171030/

Just a few days ago we posted an article about the dozens of cases independent photographers file against mainstream media outlets.

These lawsuits accuse companies such as CBS, NBC, and Warner Bros of using copyrighted photos without the owners’ permission and have resulted in hundreds of settlements this year alone.

While the evidence in these cases is often strong, going up against such powerful companies is not without risk. They have the money and resources to fight back, by any means necessary. This is what New York photographer Jon Tannen has witnessed as well.

In February, Tannen sued CBS Interactive because it used one of his copyrighted photos on the website 247sports.com without being paid. While he hoped this would result in a decent settlement, CBS found a smoking gun and decided to fire back.

A few days ago the photographer was hit with a rather unusual lawsuit. In a four-page complaint, CBS Broadcasting accuses him of posting a copyright-infringing image of the classic TV-show Gunsmoke on social media.

Gunsmoke is one of the longest-running drama TV-shows in US history and aired on CBS from 1955 through 1975. In the complaint, the media giant brands Tannen a hypocrite for posting the infringing CBS screenshots online.

“This copyright infringement action arises out of Defendant’s unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s valuable intellectual property. Tannen hypocritically engaged in this act of infringement while simultaneously bringing suit against Plaintiff’s sister company, CBS Interactive Inc., claiming it had violated his own copyright.”

The complaint

The screenshot(s), which we were unable to locate at the time of writing, is taken from the “Dooley Surrenders” episode first aired in 1958. While many would classify a screenshot from a full episode as fair use, CBS is having none of it.

“Without any license or authorization from Plaintiff, Defendant has copied and published via social media platforms images copied from the ‘Dooley Surrenders’ episode of GUNSMOKE,” CBS writes, adding that the “infringement of Plaintiff’s copyright is willful within the meaning of the Copyright Act.”

CBS says that it’s been harmed by the infringing action but it can’t determine any actual damages. Instead, it requests statutory damages for willful copyright infringement which can reach $150,000 per work.

Of course, it’s unlikely that Tannen will have to pay that. CBS’s lawsuit is a clear retaliatory move through which the company hopes to lessen the potential damages for their own alleged infringement.

Posting a screenshot of a TV-episode is on a completely different level than using a full photo in a publication, of course. Still, CBS has shown that it’s willing to put up a fight, and with a powerful team of lawyers they are a tricky adversary.

—-

The full CBS complaint is available here (pdf). A copy of Tannen’s original suit against CBS Interactive can be found here (pdf).

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

Appeals Court Grills Cox and BMG in Piracy Liability Case

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/appeals-court-grills-cox-and-bmg-in-piracy-liability-case-171027/

December 2015, a Virginia federal jury ruled that Internet provider Cox Communications was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox swiftly filed its appeal arguing that the district court made several errors that may ultimately restrict the public’s access to Internet services.

This week the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument from both sides, which turned out to be an interesting exercise. The panel of judges Motz, Shedd, and Wynn grilled of both attorneys in an effort to distill the crucial arguments.

Cox attorney Michael Elkin was first up. Among other things, he stressed that Cox didn’t have actual and sufficient knowledge of the claimed infringements.

While BMG uncovered internal Cox emails discussing how frequent offenders were kept on board, these were not specifically discussing BMG infringed works, he argues. However, Judge Wynn stressed that the emails in question did discuss Cox’s policy of not disconnecting infringers.

“But they’re talking about the general abuse department in terms of, where we get these things, this is what we’re going to do with them because we don’t want to lose customers. I mean, it’s the same thing,” he said.

It’s also clear that BMG sent over a million takedown notices to Cox. However, since these were not the ones referenced in the company’s internal emails, these are irrelevant when it comes to the company’s liability for alleged contributory infringement, Cox’s attorney noted.

The back and forth over various issues became rather lively up to a point where Elkin was asked to stop interrupting. “When a judge speaks, you have to be quiet,” Judge Shedd said.

BMG attorney Michael Allan was next in line to present his arguments, which were also carefully dissected by the judges. The attorney stressed that in addition to the takedown notices, BMG provided Cox with a wealth of information on the alleged infringers.

He explained that they sent 1.8 million takedown notices to Cox. When asked what the Internet provider should do with all these notices, Allan mentioned the dashboard they made available, which would help the ISP to check all claims.

“We also provided them with a dashboard. It’s a searchable website that they can search by most egregious repeat infringer, they can pull up every single piece of information we’ve ever provided to them, and they can play the actual songs that were downloaded,” BMG’s attorney said.

Judge Wynn, however, questioned whether the ISP’s abuse department would listen to thousands of infringing songs.

“An internet service provider is going to receive 20,000 of these things per day, 1.8 million a year, or whatever, I don’t care. And they’re going to start playing songs and things like that to see if it’s going on?

“You think that’s where this case is going to go?” Wynn added.

The judges then moved on to the repeat infringer question. An important question asked, was what a ‘repeat infringer’ actually is. BMG’s attorney described this as “someone who repeatedly infringes copyright,” but that wasn’t enough.

“How does somebody know a third party is an infringer? ‘Cause you say so?” Judge Shedd asked.

Cox, for example, sees a repeat infringer as someone who has been previously adjudicated, not someone who has received several takedown notices. Eventually, all had to admit that a repeat infringer is not clearly defined in the DMCA.

Judge Wynn then moved on to highlight another peculiarity. While this case deals with Cox’s failure to implement a repeat infringer policy, this legal requirement by itself is rather meaningless. Even when subscribers are disconnected, they can still join another ISP or come back to Cox after a few months, which makes it pointless.

“As Judge Motz indicated it’s not a perfect solution,” BMG’s lawyer commented.

“It’s not even a good one,” Judge Wynn added.

Another controversial topic that came up is the fact that Cox refused to pass on BMG’s demands because the ISP saw the included settlement demands as extortion. While BMG’s attorney tried to downplay the money issue, Judge Shedd made it very clear what this case is actually about.

“[The DMCA notice] says: you are infringing, you can go to this website and click and pay us $20 or $30. If not, you’re looking at a $150,000 fine. It was about collecting money. We don’t dance around that do we?” Shedd said.

Both Cox and BMG ultimately wanted money from the allegedly infringing subscribers, who might now face an even bigger threat.

“You have two corporations fighting over money, which may be justified. But the net effect of this battle is going to be up against another policy, which is, I think it is the policy, that people should have access to the Internet,” Judge Shedd said.

While the case can still go either way, the oral hearing suggests that the panel of judges is not putting too much weight on the notices sent by BMG. The internal emails from Cox appear to be the key part. Still, we’ll have to wait for the full opinion to see if that’s really true.

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

High Court Passes Judgment in Illegal Sky Sports Streaming Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/high-court-passes-judgment-in-illegal-sky-sports-streaming-case-171026/

Without doubt, streaming is the hot topic in piracy right now, with thousands of illicit channels, TV shows and movies just a few clicks away.

As widely reported, the legal Kodi software augmented with illicit third-party addons is the preferred way to watch for millions of users. However, if people don’t mind sitting at a desktop machine, there’s also a thriving underbelly of indexing sites and similar platforms offering unauthorized access to infringing content.

According to information released by the Federation Against Copyright Theft, an individual in the UK has just felt the wrath of the High Court for providing content to one such platform.

“On Monday 23 October 2017 a judgment was obtained in the High Court against a Sky customer who had been streaming Sky Sports content illegally online,” FACT reports.

“Mr Yusuf Mohammed, of Bristol, has been ordered to pay legal costs of over £16,000, and to disclose details about the money he made and people he colluded with.”

With FACT releasing no more information, TorrentFreak contacted the anti-piracy group for more details on the case.

“Mohammed shared the Sky Sports stream via a piracy blog,” FACT Director of Communications Alice Skeats told TF.

Although FACT didn’t directly answer our question on the topic, their statement that Mohammed was a Sky customer seems to suggest that he might’ve re-streamed content he previously paid for. When we can clarify this point, we will.

FACT didn’t name the ‘piracy blog’ either, nor did it respond to questions about how many people may have viewed Mohammed’s illegal streams. However, FACT did confirm that he streamed Sky Sports channels so potentially a wide range of sports was made available.

The other interesting factor is the claim that Mohammed made money from his streams. Again, FACT didn’t reveal how that revenue was generated (understandable since the case is ongoing) but it seems likely that advertising played a part, as it often does on pirate platforms.

Whether Mohammed will comply with the High Court’s orders to reveal who he colluded with is something for the future but even if he does, Sky isn’t finished with him yet. According to FACT, Mohammed’s already sizeable costs bill will be augmented with a claim for damages from the satellite broadcaster.

While providing and profiting from illegal streams could easily be considered criminal in the UK, FACT confirmed that the case against Mohammed was brought by Sky and supported by FACT in a civil proceeding alone. That was also the case last week when an individual who shared the Joshua vs Klitschko fight on Facebook apologized to Sky and agreed to pay Sky legal costs.

That’s an option Middlesborough businessman Brian Thompson didn’t enjoy when he was arrested for selling infringing ‘Kodi boxes’ two years ago. He was handed an 18 month suspended prison sentence last Friday, after being prosecuted by his local council.

Thompson won’t have to pay compensation but he still gets a criminal record, which can be a major hindrance when trying to get a job or even something as simple as cost-effective insurance cover. Whether these details will have any effect on other commercial pirates in the UK will remain to be seen but it’s certainly possible that some will begin to think twice.

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

Lose Yourself: National Party Guilty of Eminem Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/lose-yourself-national-party-guilty-of-eminem-copyright-infringement-171025/

In recent years, New Zealand has been the center stage of the largest copyright battle in Internet history; the criminal prosecution of Megaupload and several of its former employees.

In 2012, the country’s law enforcement officials helped to bring down the file-sharing site, including a military-style raid on its founder, Kim Dotcom.

While the Megaupload case is still ongoing, a separate copyright battle in New Zealand came to a conclusion this week. In this case, the country’s leading National Party was the accused.

In 2014 the party of former Prime Minister and Kim Dotcom nemesis John Key was sued for copyright infringement by Eminem’s publisher Eight Mile Style. In an advertising spot for the General Election campaign, the party used a song heavily inspired by the track “Lose Yourself.” A blatant copyright infringement, they argued.

This week the High Court agreed with the publisher ruling that the ad indeed infringed on their copyright. The National Party must now pay a total of $600,000 (415,000 USD) including damages and interest, NZ Herald reports.

Recognizing the irony, Kim Dotcom swiftly took the matter to Twitter. He launched a poll asking who’s guilty of copyright infringement, him or the National Party? The results are, as expected, in his favor.

Lose Yourself?

Dotcom sees the matter as something the old government is responsible for and he has more faith in the current leadership.

“All I can say is that the irony of this is hilarious and that Karma has finally caught up with the corrupt !former! National government. Honest people are now running New Zealand and the courts will be busy dealing with the crimes committed by the last government,” Dotcom informs us.

The National Party didn’t simply use the song without paying for it. They actually sought professional advice before starting the campaign and licensed a track called Eminem Esque, which is the one they used in the ad.

While the party hoped to avoid more expensive licensing fees by using the knock-off song, the High Court ruled that the similarities between Lose Yourself and Eminem Esque are so significant that it breached copyright.

And indeed, the music used in the ad campaign below is quite similar to the original Eminem track.

National Party president Peter Goodfellow is disappointed with the outcome and stresses that the party did not act flagrantly and properly licensed the song that was used.

“The music was licensed with one of New Zealand’s main industry copyright bodies, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society. Being licensed and available for purchase, and having taken advice from our suppliers, the party believed the purchase was legal.”

The fact that the Party sought advice and licensed the knock-off track was taken into account. The High Court didn’t award any additional damages, but nonetheless, the copyright infringement claims stuck.

The other camp was more positive about the outcome. Adam Simpson, who represented Eminem’s publisher, described the ruling as a win for musicians and a warning to those who infringe on their rights.

“The ruling clarifies and confirms the rights of artists and songwriters. It sets a major precedent in New Zealand and will be influential in Australia, the UK and elsewhere,” Simpson said.

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

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

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

Spinrilla Wants RIAA Case Thrown Out Over ‘Lies’ About ‘Hidden’ Piracy Data

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/spinrilla-wants-riaa-case-thrown-out-over-lies-about-hidden-piracy-data-171016/

Earlier this year, a group of well-known labels targeted Spinrilla, a popular hip-hop mixtape site and app which serves millions of users.

The coalition of record labels, including Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records, and Universal Music Group, filed a lawsuit against the service over alleged copyright infringements.

While the discovery process is still ongoing, Spinrilla recently informed the court that the record labels have “just about derailed” the entire case. The company has submitted a motion for sanctions, which is currently sealed, but additional information submitted to the court this week reveals what’s going on.

When the labels filed their original complaint they listed 210 tracks, without providing the allegedly infringing URLs. These weren’t shared during the early stages of the discovery process either, forcing the site to manually search for potentially infringing links.

Then, early October, Spinrilla received a massive spreadsheet with over 2,000 tracks, including the infringing URLs. This data came from the RIAA and supported the long list of infringements in the amended complaint submitted around the same time.

The spreadsheet would have made the discovery process much easier for Spinrilla. In a supplemental brief supporting a motion for sanctions, Spinrilla accuses the labels of hiding the piracy data from them and lying about it, “derailing” the case in the process.

“Significantly, Plaintiffs used that lie to convince the Court they should be allowed to add about 1,900 allegedly infringed sound recordings to their original list of 210. Later, Plaintiffs repeated that lie to convince the Court to give them time to add even more sound recordings to their list.”

vbcn

Spinrilla says they were forced to go down an expensive and unnecessary rabbit hole to find the infringing files, even though the RIAA data was available all along.

“By hiding and lying about the RIAA data, Plaintiffs forced Defendants to spend precious time and money fumbling through discovery. Not knowing that Plaintiffs had the RIAA data,” the company writes.

The hip-hop mixtape site argues that the alleged wrongdoing is severe enough to have the entire complaint dismissed, as the ultimate sanction.

“It is without exaggeration to say that by hiding the RIAA spreadsheets and that underlying data, Defendants have been severely prejudiced. The Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice and, if it is, Plaintiffs can only blame themselves,” Spinrilla concludes.

The stakes are certainly high in this case. With well over 2,000 infringing tracks listed in the amended complaint, the hip-hop mixtape site faces statutory damages as high as $300 million, at least in theory.

Spinrilla’s supplement brief in further support of the motion for sanctions is available here (pdf).

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