Tag Archives: Digital Economy Bill

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

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

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

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

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

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

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Years in Jail For Internet Pirates Now Reality in the UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/10-years-in-jail-for-internet-pirates-now-reality-in-the-uk-170501/

In 2015, the UK Government announced a controversial plan to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement from two to ten years.

The proposal followed a suggestion put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The study concluded that criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement available under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) should be harmonized with ‘offline’ penalties, such as those available for counterfeiting.

“By toughening penalties for commercial-scale online offending we are offering greater protections to businesses and sending a clear message to deter criminals,” then Intellectual Property Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said at the time.

In July 2016, the government published a new draft of its Digital Economy Bill which duly proposed an extension of the current prison term of two years to a maximum of ten.

Throughout the entire process of passing the legislation, the government has insisted that ‘regular’ members of the public would not be subjected to harsh punishments. However, that is not how the legislation reads.

As detailed in our earlier article, anyone who makes infringing content available to the public while merely putting a copyright holder at risk of loss, is now committing a criminal offense.

There are a number of variables, but this is the relevant part distilled down for the average file-sharer who downloads as well as uploads, using BitTorrent, for example.

A person…who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense if [the person] knows or has reason to believe that [they are] infringing copyright in the work, and…knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.

Earlier this year, the Open Rights Group launched a campaign to try and make the government see sense. ORG did not dispute that there need to be penalties for online infringement but asked the government make amendments to target large-scale infringers while protecting the public.

“Our proposal is to set a threshold of ‘commercial scale loss’, and revising ‘risk of loss’ to ‘serious risk of commercial scale loss’. These are flexible rather than ‘specific’,” ORG said.

But the group’s appeals fell on deaf ears. No one in the law-making process was prepared to make this minor change to the Digital Economy Bill, even though legislation already exists for punishing even the smallest of copyright infringements through the civil courts.

As a result, the bill received royal assent last week which means that the country’s millions of small-time copyright infringers are now criminals in the eyes of the law.

Worst still, depending on the whims of copyright holders, any one could now be reported to the police for sharing even a single movie, an offense (as painted in our hypothetical piece in March) that could result in years in jail.

The government says that won’t be allowed. We’ll see.

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

Lawyers & Academics Warn UK Against Criminalizing File-Sharers

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/lawyers-and-academics-warn-uk-against-criminalizing-file-sharers-170325/

Last year the UK Government introduced the Digital Economy Bill, which is set to revamp current copyright legislation.

One of the most controversial proposals is to lengthen the maximum sentence for online copyright infringement, without a clear criminal threshold.

If the bill passes, it will increase the maximum prison term for copyright infringement five-fold, from two to ten years. According to the Government, this change is needed to deter notorious copyright infringers. However, opponents warn that its broad definitions also put casual file-sharers at risk.

This week a group of campaigners, copyright scholars and lawyers teamed up to share their concerns with the Government and its Intellectual Property Office (IPO). In their letter, they urge the lawmakers to narrow the definition of ‘criminal online copyright infringement’ to prevent abuse and keep it proportionate.

Under the current draft of the bill, anyone who makes pirated content available will open themselves up to criminal liability, if they expose a copyright owner to the “risk of loss”. That definition is too broad, opponents warn, as it allows rightsholders to frame average file-sharers as criminals.

In the letter, the experts suggest two minor changes to the current text.

As it stands, the bill criminalizes people who make infringing files available in the knowledge that this “will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.”

The proposed change would swap the general mention of “loss” and “risk of loss” with “commercial scale loss” and “serious risk of causing commercial scale loss” respectively.

The proposed changes

“It is important to stress that this amendment would introduce thresholds for criminal liability to avoid prosecution of minor, small-scale, non-commercial copyright infringers such as file sharers,” the letter reads.

The Open Rights Group has been campaigning for this change for a while, but thus far the Government has seen no reason to alter the proposed text. With backing from many prominent experts, including scholars and lawyers, they hope lawmakers will consider it once more.

The Digital Economy Bill will go to a third reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday next week, which would provide an opportunity to make the suggested adjustments.

TorrentFreak spoke with Dr Felipe Romero-Moreno, Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, and one of the signees of the letter. He stresses that the changes are required to ensure that casual file-sharers are dealt with through civil courts, not through criminal prosecutions.

“This amendment would give the courts, lawyers, and the public a clear indication that minor, non-commercial infringement such as file-sharing or unlicensed online publication would be unlikely to meet the thresholds of ‘serious risk’ or ‘commercial scale’ losses,” Romero-Moreno says.

The proposed changes will also ensure that the bill is not in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law in general, which may not be the case right now. At the same time, it will shield the public against aggressive “copyright trolls,” which could use the current version to back up their practices.

“Crucially, in addition to being compatible with both the European Convention on Human Rights and EU law, our proposal would protect innocent individuals who received threatening letters from speculative invoicing copyright trolls. The latter is something which, unless the UK Government takes our suggested amendment on board, appears to be alarmingly supporting,” Romero-Moreno notes.

A full copy of the letter is available here (pdf). In a few days, we will know whether it has had the desired effect.

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

Future Shock: UK Teenager Jailed For 5 Years For Downloading One Movie

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/futureshock-uk-teenager-jailed-for-5-years-for-downloading-one-movie-170312/

It’s January 2018 and after enjoying a meal with her family, recent school-leaver Rachel Owen walks to the mat to pick up an envelope addressed to her father. It’s from the family’s Internet provider and she opens it expecting to see the latest special offers.

Instead, she’s confronted with a nasty surprise. Her ISP says that it has handed over her father’s personal details to a foreign copyright holder after it monitored the family’s IP address sharing a movie online.

Having read that copyright holders usually settle these complaints for a few hundred pounds, Rachel comes clean with her angry father. Five months later in May 2018, the inevitable letter arrives.

It’s from a UK-registered company, with little to no assets, operating from a virtual office in London. In the past, these so-called copyright trolls had used firms of solicitors, but with the Solicitors Regulatory Authority paying close attention, it’s now safer to conduct business outside their jurisdiction and from offices that effectively do not exist.

The letter claims that the family’s IP address was tracked using the latest “forensic” technology. As expected, there’s an offer to settle with cash, but not for the £500 Rachel had been expecting.

Instead, the company is demanding £5,000 for the massive “risk of loss” Rachel’s download had subjected them to. It becomes evident that this wording has been carefully extracted from the Digital Economy Act passed by the UK government in the latter half of 2017. It’s a clever but devious tactic.

Under that legislation, which passed through parliament despite many warnings, anyone merely exposing a copyright holder to a mere risk of loss can be jailed for up to ten years. Lucky then, that this copyright holder is choosing to settle.

Unfortunately, neither Rachel nor her family has £5,000. Rachel’s job at an insurance company call center brings in just £5.55 an hour. Her father, who works as a driver, has a mortgage, credit card bills, and an overdraft. £5,000 is out of the question. So, together, they decide to write back to the copyright trolls to inform them they cannot pay.

Another six weeks passes and in June 2018 a new letter drops onto the mat. The copyright trolls note the refusal to pay and offer another month to settle. After that, all of the evidence will be passed to the police and a criminal prosecution will take place. For a naive and otherwise law-abiding teenager who downloaded a single movie, this is unfathomable.

However, thanks to the Digital Economy Act, which criminalizes anyone who violates a copyright holders’ distribution rights, this isn’t an idle threat. Ignoring warnings from organizations such as the Open Rights Group, the government refused to put in a threshold of criminality back in 2017. This means that after sharing just a single movie online, Rachel committed a criminal offense.

No one really thought a case like this would end up at trial. No one thought that a teenager like Rachel could end up with a jail sentence for sharing a single movie. That said, everyone should have anticipated the venom of copyright trolls hell-bent on ensuring that people in Rachel’s position settle future claims without putting up a fight.

During Rachel’s trial the evidence against her began to build. Someone, no one knows who, recorded the sci-fi movie in a theater and uploaded it to a torrent site. Rachel had no part in that but circumstantial evidence against her began to build. The trolls know this game well and pushed all the right buttons. Content creators need to be protected, they argued time and again.

Rachel told the court that when she jumped on the torrent she thought there were lots of other people seeding already – she just wanted a quick movie. However, according to the copyright trolls’ tracking company, she was among the initial handful of sharers. These people, they argued, were effectively a torrent swarm conspiracy who kickstarted an unstoppable and damaging chain of events.

Rachel, through her state-appointed lawyer (who was competent but had no specific copyright expertise), was powerless to argue otherwise. The government’s promise that the Digital Economy Act wouldn’t target kids in a bedroom seemed a distant memory and things were clearly getting out of hand.

Within 24 hours of appearing online this independent movie, in which the copyright holders had reportedly “invested heavily”, was apparently shared illegally in more than 50 countries, the court heard. Faced with a public who had already seen the movie, a planned cinema roll-out across Europe had to be abandoned, a somber prosecution lawyer explained. It was suggested that dozens of people lost their jobs.

Rachel and her faceless and apparently “still-on-the-run co-conspirators” were entirely to blame, the copyright trolls’ lawyer argued. The teenager, who had no ability to argue against the outrageous claims and should never have been in a criminal court at all, stood bewildered as more flooded in.

The trolls said that the initial seeders of the movie, from where all other copies of the movie were reportedly made, were responsible for at least 750,000 subsequent downloads on torrent networks alone. Direct downloads and streams were harder to track but they easily numbered 250,000, it was claimed.

In all, an estimated one million downloads priced at £7 each by the trolls were rounded down to £4 million in lost sales. This figure, the trolls said, warranted punishment right at the top end of the scale. Thanks to the Digital Economy Act passed in late 2017, that’s now 10 years in prison.

The judge took things seriously. He had to, the wording of the law was crystal clear. While there was no intention on Rachel’s part to get rich, her guilty plea under the Digital Economy Act indicated that she “knew or had reason to believe that [her actions would] cause loss or expose the rights holder to a risk of loss in money.” It didn’t matter that she thought she was just downloading a free movie.

With a five-year sentence handed down, the judge commented that given the wide-scale loss to copyright holders and few arguments in defense, he’d had little opportunity to further reduce Rachel’s punishment. With good behavior, she’d be out on license in half the time, but possibly not in advance of her 21st birthday.

While in prison, Rachel had time to think. If only she’d heard of the Open Rights Group’s efforts back in March 2017 to introduce a threshold of criminality into the Digital Economy Bill. She could have helped to persuade Government minister Jo Johnson to do the right thing. That would’ve protected small-time and indeed naive infringers while ensuring that commercial infringers would still be held to account.

Hindsight is a wonderful but rare thing. Act today by supporting the Open Rights Group’s initiative to have the government determine a sensible threshold for criminal liability in the Digital Economy Act.

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

UK Govt Refuses to Back Down Over Criminalization of File-Sharers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-refuses-to-back-down-over-criminalization-of-file-sharers-170306/

Decades ago when the Internet was a distant dream, copyright legislation existed to protect content found in the physical world. As a result, most countries have robust legislation in place to tackle someone counterfeiting a CD or DVD, for example.

With the rise of online digital content, some of that legislation has been struggling to catch up. In the UK, for example, offline infringement is punishable by up to 10 years in jail, while online infringement currently carries a maximum two-year sentence.

Back in March 2014, Mike Weatherley MP, then IP advisor to former Prime Minister David Cameron, said that the disparity “sends all the wrong messages” and something should be done to correct it. Fast forward to today, and the UK is extremely close to making ten-year sentences for online infringement a reality.

The amendment contained in the Digital Economy Bill certainly ticks all the boxes as far as rightsholders are concerned. However, there is a serious problem for the general public.

As the draft law currently stands, anyone who makes available any amount of copyrighted content without permission will open themselves up to criminal liability, if when doing so they expose a copyright owner to the “risk of loss”. That definition is extremely broad and depending on how rightsholders choose to frame any infringement, prosecutions could have a worryingly low bar to entry.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed to the Open Rights Group, who have been putting the government under pressure to include specific wording in the legislation to ensure that a clear criminal threshold is written into the law. It also expressed concerns that the amendments could encourage more copyright trolls in the UK.

The government has now formally responded to ORG but not in any positive way.

“The criminal offenses penalize communicating a copyright work to the public and infringing a performer’s ‘making available’ right. Both of these acts are considered criminal where a person knows, or has reason to believe, that they are infringing the right and either intends to make a monetary gain, or knows or has reason to believe that they will cause loss or expose the rights holder to a risk of loss in money,” the government writes.

“These offenses focus on those causing harm either for monetary gain or a monetary loss or risk of loss to the rights holder. A mental element has been introduced which requires an intention to make a gain or knowledge or reason to believe that the copyright owner will suffer loss or be exposed to a risk of loss.”

As ORG points out in its response, many small-time infringements can be intentional, from using a photograph of a pop star on a personal site through to low-volume sharing music on torrent networks.

“As we have said, publication without a license is often an intentional act, where people either know or ought to know that they are infringing copyright. The question is whether these usually minor offenses are worthy of criminal sanctions?” the group writes.

“The acts appear to be criminal under the proposed offense. We understand that they are unlikely to be sentenced, or even prosecuted, but the question remains as to why these minor acts should be criminalized, rather than being subject to civil charges.”

It’s a question that the government doesn’t appear to want to answer, despite the relatively easy job of introducing a threshold for criminal behavior into the relevant Digital Economy Bill section.

“Our proposal is to set a threshold of ‘commercial scale loss’, and revising ‘risk of loss’ to ‘serious risk of commercial scale loss’. These are flexible rather than ‘specific’, so the government’s objection does not make sense to us,” ORG notes.

But despite these calls, the government remains unmoved.

“It would not be practical for the government to set a specific level of loss or gain at which infringement becomes a criminal offense. This is because the circumstances of each infringement needs to be taken into account,” it says.

The government’s comments on copyright trolling also raise concerns. While correctly noting that rightsholders are perfectly entitled to seek compensation when their rights are infringed, the government notes that those targeted have a support mechanism at hand, should they feel they are being bullied.

“Copyright owners are entitled to enforce their rights. On occasion this may include contacting members of the public who are alleged to have infringed their rights. Such approaches are entirely legal,” the government notes.

“However if done in a threatening or harassing way, members of the public can report the solicitors in question to the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA). The SRA has taken action in previous such cases.”

The SRA has indeed taken action against at least one rogue solicitor, but this Achilles heel was quickly spotted by copyright trolling companies. Now, to avoid this kind of scrutiny, none of the trolls currently active in the UK use solicitors to contact the public, it’s all done by private companies. That means the SRA has no jurisdiction and the public has no body of support to fall back on.

Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock informs TorrentFreak that the government’s resistance on both counts leaves the public open to exploitation and even imprisonment.

“ORG supporters asked for small and sensible changes to the Digital Economy Bill, which would reduce the risk of ordinary people facing the threat of criminal charges,” Killock informs TF.

“The IPO haven’t adequately explained why they cannot or should not introduce a threshold for criminality. Without these changes, we could see people being exploited by copyright trolls and threatened with prison sentences for minor offenses.”

The Open Rights Group are calling for supporters to keep up the pressure by emailing Jo Johnson MP, before it’s too late.

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

EU Court Hands Copyright Defeat to Streaming Site TVCatchup

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-court-hands-copyright-defeat-to-streaming-site-tvcatchup-170302/

Free-to-air TV in the UK is almost universal, with consumers offered extensive programming via an antennae or satellite dish. However, an option to view the content over the Internet hasn’t always been available.

Back in 2007, TVCatchup spotted a gap in the market and over the years has been streaming TV shows to the masses for free but without rightsholders’ permission. In many markets TVCatchup would be immediately considered a ‘pirate’ service but the site had an unusual defense.

Under Section 73 of the UK’s Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, copyright in a wireless broadcast is not infringed when a party re-transmits that content by cable within “the area of initial broadcast”.

The legislation was drawn up to support the development of cable infrastructure in the 1980s and 1990s but TVCatchup felt that it applied to them when they captured UK broadcasters’ signals and retransmitted them over the Internet.

Needless to say, broadcasters including ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 felt differently. They took the service to court, arguing that the platform was illegal under Section 20 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA), which declares infringement when a copyrighted broadcast is communicated to the public.

The High Court sided with TVCatchup, so the broadcasters took the case to the Court of Appeal, arguing that Internet streaming services are not entitled to protection under legislation intended for cable operators.

In common with other complex copyright cases, the Court of Appeal sought clarification from the Court of Justice of the European Union. Taking the view that section 73 of the CDPA should be interpreted in the light of Article 9 of Directive 2001/29, the Court of Appeal asked several questions, including whether the term “cable” could refer to Internet services.

The CJEU handed down its decision yesterday, ruling that when TVCatchup streamed copyrighted content without permission, that amounted to a communication to the public and was therefore illegal.

“The principal objective of that directive is to establish a high level of protection of authors, allowing them to obtain an appropriate reward for the use of their works, including on the occasion of communication to the public,” the Court wrote.

“Having regard to that high level of protection of authors, the Court …. held that the concept of ‘communication to the public’ … must be interpreted broadly … and that a retransmission by means of an internet stream, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, constitutes such a communication.”

Additionally, the CJEU found that Article 9 of Directive 2001/29 does not permit “national legislation which provides that copyright is not infringed in the case of the immediate retransmission by cable, including, where relevant, via the internet.”

That statement is effectively a huge thumbs-down to Section 73 of the CDPA on which TVCatchup had formed its defense.

While that will be bad news for TVCatchup, it will be of little hardship to the UK Government. The Digital Economy Bill currently moving through Parliament contains an amendment to remove Section 73 from the CDPA, with the government noting during a consultation that it was never intended to apply to Internet services.

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

Lawmakers Won’t Force Google to Police Piracy but Doubt Voluntary Code

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/lawmakers-wont-force-google-police-piracy-doubt-voluntary-code-170224/

Following a Digital Economy Bill committee earlier this month, it was revealed that copyright holders and search engines were close to finalizing a voluntary anti-piracy code. This Monday, it became reality.

Under this agreement, search engines will optimize their algorithms to demote pirated content in search results, with the aim of making infringing content less visible and legal content more so. The system is due to begin in earnest during early summer but what if it doesn’t do its job?

That eventuality has been discussed as part of the negotiations surrounding the Digital Economy Bill, with some lawmakers supporting an amendment which would give the Secretary of State the power to force Google and other search engines to tackle piracy, if the voluntary route fails.

To the relief of Google and the disappointment of rightsholders, this week the amendment was withdrawn but those in favor of the legislation didn’t go quietly. Lord Stevenson of Balmacara was particularly vocal after reading out a portion of the code (shown below) relating to the demoting of sites that receive large numbers of DMCA-style notices.

[T]o more effectively use such notices to demote domains demonstrated to be dedicated to infringement, and to work collaboratively with rights holders to consider other technically reasonable, scalable avenues empirically demonstrated to help materially reduce the appearance of illegitimate sites in the top search rankings

“I could read that again, because you would probably need to hear it again to have the faintest idea what we are talking about,” he said.

“I fear that it smacks of either a lowest common denominator approach or some hard arm-wrestling in the corridors where the discussion took place to get something that looks reasonable on paper.

“It does not smack of a real commitment to scourge out the terrible way in which search engines have referred people who should have known better to material that was not cleared for copyright and should not have been made available to them through that route.”

While Lord Stevenson clearly wasn’t happy, he did reveal some more information on how the code will be managed.

The Minister of State for Intellectual Property will oversee its implementation, supported by quarterly meetings of all parties involved. The Minister will also “set requirements for reporting by search engines and rights holders on any matter herein, including in particular those matters where the Code of Practice calls for ongoing discussion.”

Then, after a year of operation, the effectiveness of the code will be reviewed to ensure “continuing progress towards achieving the Shared Objectives.”

What those objectives are will remain a mystery, however. In response to Lord Stevenson’s request to see a copy of the code, Baroness Buscombe said that wouldn’t be possible.

“We do not plan to publish the code in full because details about the number of copyright infringement reports a site can receive before it is demoted might allow pirates to game the system. We are, however, very happy to share the commitments in the code in more general terms,” she said.

Baroness Buscombe went on to ask for the amendment to be dropped and that was followed by a spirited response from Lord Stevenson.

“I cannot see this agreement lasting and believe that there will have to be a backstop power at some stage,” he said.

“At the moment, it is a ‘large copyright holders against large search engines’ agreement, and on that level it might operate. I do not think it will be effective. I do not think it is sustainable because there will be new people coming in and business models and practices will change — we cannot foresee that.”

And with that the amendment was withdrawn and with it any chance of forcing search engines into compliance by law for the foreseeable future. Only time will tell how things will play out but as the wording of the paragraph cited by Lord Stevenson shows, there is plenty of room for manoever.

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

Search Engines and Rightsholders Sign Landmark Anti-Piracy Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Could Force Google to Tackle Piracy, By Law if Necessary

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-could-force-google-to-tackle-piracy-by-law-if-necessary-170215/

Copyright holders and search engines such as Google are not on the best of terms when it comes to links to infringing content appearing in search results.

The former wants the latter to do more, despite the considerable measures already in place. Google, until now at least, has insisted it’s doing enough.

In the UK, there have been on/off murmurings of the government stepping in to intervene, but to date, it’s been hoped that the parties will sit down and reach a voluntary agreement.

Some meetings have taken place, with the government reportedly playing a role in bringing the groups together. Then, last week, to not inconsiderable surprise, a breakthrough was reported.

During a Digital Economy Bill committee, Baroness Buscombe revealed some interesting news. Rightsholders and search engines are nearing a deal.

“Since the idea was last discussed in [parliament], Intellectual Property Office officials have chaired a further round-table meeting between search engines and representatives of the creative industries,” Buscombe said.

“While there are still elements of detail to be settled, the group is now agreed on the key content of the code and I expect an agreement to be reached very soon.”

The Baroness even gave a date – June 1, 2017 – by which the code would be in effect. However, it appears that the government is still preparing for a scenario in which the parties don’t reach a voluntary agreement.

Titled “Code of practice on search engines and copyright infringement”, a Digital Economy Bill amendment to be moved on report foresees the Secretary of State stepping in to force companies like Google into compliance.

“The Secretary of State may impose by order a code of practice (‘the code’) for search engine providers with the purpose of minimizing the availability and promotion of copyright infringing services, including those which facilitate copyright infringement by their users,” the amendment reads.

The amendment indicates that any order made in respect of the above “must include appropriate provisions to ensure compliance with the code by the providers.”

That sounds a lot like a stick being raised in the event the carrots at the negotiating table aren’t proving tasty enough. However, there appears to be some room for maneuver, even if voluntary discussions break down.

Before imposing any anti-piracy code, the Secretary of State will publish a draft code and consider submissions made by search engine providers, rightsholders and their representatives, plus any other interested parties.

At this point, however, some level of control will have already slipped away from the search engines, so it seems likely that reaching a voluntary arrangement would be preferable to all, if things are to avoid becoming messy.

Currently, there is no public record of what Google and its counterparts have agreed with the copyright holders, and the search engine is ignoring requests for comment on the topic. Furthermore, there is no clear idea of what the government might seek to impose, should negotiations fail.

In any event, legislation to force search engines to take broad action against allegedly infringing content would be unprecedented, especially when it includes the rather vague notion of taking action against “[sites that] facilitate copyright infringement by their users.”

That could include YouTube for instance, or even Google itself.

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

Search Engines & Copyright Holders Ready Voluntary Anti-Piracy Code

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/search-engines-copyright-holders-ready-voluntary-anti-piracy-code-170208/

For several years the entertainment industries have blamed companies like Google for not doing enough to prevent instances of Internet piracy. At times, Google has even been accused of fueling it.

The problem is with search results. Whether they’re presented by Google, Bing or Yahoo, copyright holders wish that more could be done to prevent the appearance of infringing links, particularly in the first crucial pages of results. To its credit, Google has taken a number of measures over the years but in the eyes of copyright holders, it’s never been enough.

Instead, Google has been flooded with a billion takedown requests in the last year alone, each demanding that links to infringing content be removed. When the notices are accurate, Google always complies but there have been rumblings in recent years, particularly in the UK, that search engines could find themselves on the end of legislation that forces them to do more.

With that eventuality a daunting prospect, companies like Google and representatives from the entertainment industries have been trying to reach some kind of voluntary agreement. Their meetings generally aren’t spoken about in public, but the UK government has played a strong role in bringing the groups together. What we now know is that a deal is extremely close to being signed.

This week, during a Digital Economy Bill committee, discussion again turned to the role of service providers when it comes to infringing content. For example, should they enjoy reduced safe harbors if they optimize the presentation and promotion of copyright-protected works?

A draft amendement to the bill would allow the government to impose a code of practice on search engines, forcing them to deal with infringement – a proposal has proven popular in parliament. However, when the matter was raised again this week it was revealed that the imposition of such a regime probably won’t be needed.

“Since the idea was last discussed in [parliament], Intellectual Property Office officials have chaired a further round-table meeting between search engines and representatives of the creative industries,” Baroness Buscombe said.

“While there are still elements of detail to be settled, the group is now agreed on the key content of the code and I expect an agreement to be reached very soon.”

According to Buscombe, all parties involved (that’s the search engines and entertainment industry companies) have agreed that the code should come into effect within four months.

“All parties have also agreed that the code should take effect, and the targets in it be reached, by 1 June this year,” the Baroness said.

With no such meetings ever documented in public by either the companies involved or the government, TorrentFreak reached out to Google – who are definitely at the hub of the agreement – with a few questions.

What companies are involved in the agreement, both from the search side and entertainment industries? What are the basics of the voluntary code and how will it affect the visibility of allegedly-infringing results? How will the agreement manifest itself to Google’s users come June 1?

At the time of publication, Google had not responded to our request for comment. However, without mentioning them by name, Baroness Buscombe was complimentary about Google and the other search engines involved, noting that cooperation with entertainment companies is ongoing.

“The search engines involved in this work have been very co-operative, making changes to their algorithms and processes, but also working bilaterally with creative industry representatives to explore the options for new interventions, and how existing processes might be streamlined,” she said.

“I understand that all parties are keen to finalize and sign up to the voluntary agreement, and so we believe there is no need to take a legislative power at this time.”

Noting that moving forward on a co-operative basis now is better than introducing legislation later, the Baroness said that other options could always be revisited in the future, should things not work out. At this stage, however, it seems unlikely that Google et al would prefer legislation over a voluntary code.

Due to the worldwide nature of the web, it will be extremely interesting to see how any UK-based agreement plays out overseas. It seems unlikely that Google will be able to implement strictly local measures without coming under pressure to follow suit in the United States, for example.If you can do it in the UK, you can do it everywhere, the company will be told.

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

Ten Years in Jail For UK Internet Pirates: How the New Bill Reads

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ten-years-in-jail-for-uk-internet-pirates-how-the-new-bill-reads-161204/

parliamentThis week, Members of Parliament debated the Report stage and Third Reading of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons. The bill is broad in scope and has the ability to upset Internet users in a number of ways.

As reported by The Guardian this week, if the bill passes web users in the UK will be banned from websites which portray certain sex acts, all of which are entirely legal between consenting adults in the country. Websites which fail to stop UK residents from viewing such content will be blocked.

Here at TF we’ve been keeping an eye on the proposed changes to the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) which will affect people who share copyrighted content online.

As previously reported, the government’s main aim is to harmonize penalties for offline infringements with those carried out online, chiefly by upping the maximum penalty from two to ten years in prison. The latest bill published this week puts some additional meat on the bones.

As things stand under current law, section 107 (criminal liability for making or dealing with infringing articles) reads as follows:

(2A) A person who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public —

(a) in the course of a business, or

(b) otherwise than in the course of a business to such an extent as to affect prejudicially the owner of the copyright,

commits an offense if he knows or has reason to believe that, by doing so, he is infringing copyright in that work.

The latest draft amendment makes no mention of carrying out infringement during the course of business. Instead, for a person to be held criminally liable for distribution (such as uploading), they only need to have reason to believe something infringes copyright while making a personal gain, a gain for someone else, or exposing a copyright owner to the mere risk of loss.

(2A) A person (“P”) who infringes copyright in a work by communicating the work to the public commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing copyright in the work, and
(b) either —
(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or
(ii) knows or has reason to believe that communicating the work to the public will cause loss to the owner of the copyright, or will expose the owner of the copyright to a risk of loss.

In this context, the words ‘gain’ and ‘loss’ are very important. For the avoidance of doubt, the draft sets the bar as low as it can practically go.

(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2A) —
(a) “gain” and “loss” —
(i) extend only to gain or loss in money, and
(ii) include any such gain or loss whether temporary or
permanent, and
(b) “loss” includes a loss by not getting what one might get.

Similar amendments are proposed for section 198 of the CDPA, which deals with ‘Criminal liability for making, dealing with or using illicit recordings’.

“These are recordings made without the consent of the performer (i.e. piracy or bootlegging). Bootlegging is the recording, duplication and sale of a performance such as a live concert stage performance without the permission of the performer,” a description from the Crown Prosecution Service reads.

Like the amendments to section 107, gone are the references in current legislation to offenses carried out in the course of a business. Instead, the wording closely follows the section detailed above.

(1A) A person (“P”) who infringes a performer’s making available right in a recording commits an offense if P —

(a) knows or has reason to believe that P is infringing the right, and
(b)either—
(i) intends to make a gain for P or another person, or
(ii) knows or has reason to believe that infringing the right will cause loss to the owner of the right, or expose the owner of the right to a risk of loss.

In common with the amendments to section 107, to be found criminally liable an infringer will only need to expose a rightsholder to the risk of loss, not an actual loss.

While at several points MPs have insisted that these legislative amendments won’t target the man in the street or the casual file-sharer, there appears to be nothing in the above that excludes a person who shares a single movie, song, or indeed bootleg recording, from being branded a criminal by the state.

The full draft bill can be downloaded here (pdf, 180 pages)

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

Google Asked to Remove a Billion “Pirate” Search Results in a Year

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-remove-a-billion-pirate-search-results-in-a-year-161128/

google-bayCopyright holders continue to flood Google with DMCA takedown requests, targeting “pirate links” in the company’s search results.

In recent years the number of notices has exploded, breaking record after record.

This week TorrentFreak crunched the numbers in Google’s Transparency Report and found that over the past 12 months Google has been asked to remove over a billion links to allegedly infringing pages, 1,007,741,143 to be precise.

More than 90 percent of the links, 908,237,861 were in fact removed. The rest of the reported links were rejected because they were invalid, not infringing, or duplicates of earlier requests.

In total, Google has now processed just over two billion allegedly infringing URLs from 945,000 different domains.

That the second billion took only a year, compared to several years for the first, shows how rapidly the volume of takedown requests is expanding. At the current rate, another billion will be added by the end of next summer.

Most requests, over 50 million, were sent in for the website 4shared.com. However, according to the site’s operators many of the reported URLs point to the same files, inflating the actual volume of infringing content.

Google takerdown requests over time

googletwobillion

The surge in takedown notices was also placed on the political agenda. In the UK, for example, proposed amendments to the UK’s Digital Economy Bill propose fines for search engines that fail to properly target piracy.

At the same time, the U.S. Government is considering changing the current takedown requirements.

The Copyright Office launched a public consultation in order to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of the current DMCA provisions. This review is still ongoing and was extended earlier this month.

Thus far the consultation already triggered heavy criticism of the DMCA process from various copyright groups. However, according to Google itself, the current system is working just fine.

“The notice-and-takedown process has been an effective and efficient way to address online infringement,” the company informed the Copyright Office earlier this year.

“The increasing volume of URLs removed from Search each year demonstrates that rightsholders are finding the notice-and-takedown process worthwhile, efficient, and scalable to their needs.”

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

Various copyright holders and industry groups have asked the Government for broad revisions.

Among other things they want advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach.

For now, however, nothing has changed, so it is expected that the number of reported pirate links will continue to increase.

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

UK Govt. Will Address Music ‘Value Gap” as Part of Brexit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-will-address-music-value-gap-as-part-of-brexit-161103/

Earlier this year, RIAA chief Cary Sherman accused YouTube of running a protection racket.

The DMCA requires the site to take down infringing content on request. However, millions of pieces of content are missed or are reuploaded after being taken down, meaning that YouTube is able to monetize them, without paying an appropriate license fee. Services like Spotify and Apple Music, on the other hand, must license all the content they offer.

While YouTube acts within the law, industry players have been working to get law in the United States and Europe tightened up so it cannot continue to exploit was has become known as the “value gap”.

This week the issue was raised again, this time as part of the debates surrounding the UK’s Digital Economy Bill. In order to assess the government’s position, Kevin Brennan MP tabled a probing amendment to section 19 of The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, which deals with service provider safe harbor.

directive-2002

“The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002, which put into law the EU’s e-commerce directive 2000, include certain exemptions from liability for online services, including copyright-protected works,” Brennan said.

“The fundamental concern from the music industry is that the hosting defense provided by regulation 19 of the 2002 regulations acts as a safe harbor and allows some services, including user-uploaded services such as YouTube, to circumvent the normal rules of licensing.”

Noting that this situation has led to the “value gap”, Brennan cited some figures from UK Music.

“User-uploaded service YouTube, the most widely used global streaming platform, increased its payments to music rights holders by 11% in 2015, despite consumption on the service growing by 132%. That is the value gap in a nutshell. Further industry analysis indicates that video streams increased by 88% year on year, but generated only a 0.4% increase in revenues,” he said.

To deal with the issue, Brennan suggested a new clause which would only permit sites like YouTube to enjoy safe harbor if they do not “play an active role in the storage of information including by optimizing the presentation of the uploaded works or promoting them.”

Brennan told MPs that the status quo is distorting the digital market, since YouTube benefits while services like Spotify do not. A line needs to be drawn in the sand, he said, to ensure that music services don’t enjoy the same protections as ‘dumb’ service providers.

“There was, and continues to be, a justification for exemptions in some areas for passive hosts, but those must reflect the balance between the rights of rights holders and users. The industry is concerned that existing ​provisions are not sufficiently defined and as a result are open to deliberate manipulation,” he said.

Minister of State for Digital & Culture Matt Hancock said he understood the concerns.

“As we have debated, the Bill sends a clear message about copyright infringement, not least because we are increasing the penalty for online copyright ​infringement from two to 10 years,” Hancock said.

“Of course, I know about the concern in the music industry and elsewhere that online intermediaries need to do more to share revenues fairly with creators. That is what this new clause seeks to tackle, and I agree with that concern.”

However, as the government seeks to make new laws it also has to consider current European Union law and what will happen when the UK eventually leaves the block. Hancock says that the new clause tabled by Brennan is already supported by European Court of Justice case law, a position supported in the UK.

He then turned to the issue of the EU’s Digital Single Market.

“We are heavily engaged in the digital single market negotiations and the discussions ongoing in Europe. While we are a member of the EU, we will continue to do that. The issue of the value gap, which the hon. Gentleman mentioned, is important, and the development of ECJ case law in that direction has been helpful,” Hancock said.

Indeed, during September the European Commission issued its draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. It contains the following text:

Article 13 creates an obligation on information society service providers storing and giving access to large amounts of works and other subject-matter uploaded by their users to take appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders and to prevent the availability on their services of content identified by rightholders in cooperation with the service providers.

“That brings me to Brexit because, as the e-commerce directive is EU single-market legislation, we will have to consider what the best future system will be as we exit the European Union,” Hancock continued.

“We will have to consider how the e-commerce regulations as a whole should work in the future. That will be part of the debate about leaving the European Union.”

Hancock said that given the progress in EU law he is “wary about making peacemeal changes” to the current UK regime, but offered assurances that he would take Brennan’s proposals into account as the UK leaves the EU.

“I acknowledge the need, through the Brexit negotiations and the process of setting domestic law where there is currently European law, to take into account the important considerations that have been raised,” he said.

Brennan subsequently withdrew the probing amendment but it’s clear that the value gap dispute won’t be going away anytime soon. However, in a sign that progress can be being made voluntarily, this week YouTube and German music rights group GEMA laid years of legal battles to rest with a landmark deal. Who knows what might follow next.

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

New Legislation to Tackle Pirate Kodi Box Sellers Rejected

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-legislation-to-tackle-pirate-kodi-box-sellers-rejected-161029/

streamingkeyOver the course of the past decade-and-a-half, the number of BitTorrent users has grown from a handful to a couple of hundred million. Usage is still massive but it’s now streaming that’s making strides.

Accessible via a standard browser or dedicated hardware devices, pirate streams of the latest movies, TV shows, and sporting events are now watched by millions in the comfort of their own homes, or even on the move.

Copyright holders everywhere are worried but it’s perhaps most evident in the UK where police and Trading Standards officers are targeting sellers of Kodi-enabled devices that have been modified to receive pirate streams. This week, as part of the forming Digital Economy Bill, Members of Parliament have been discussing potential amendments to UK copyright law aimed at clamping down on the sale of such devices.

“Android-based IPTV boxes are being loaded with software linking thousands of streams of infringing entertainment, movie and sport content. The boxes are sold on mainstream marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, and through Facebook,” said Labour MP Kevin Brennan.

“The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 has yet to be updated to reflect the new technology. It offers no effective remedies to copyright owners, who at present can rely only on laws that are not particularly tailored to copyright infringement.”

Brennan said that police currently need to prosecute under the Fraud Act 2006, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and the Serious Crime Act 2015. By amending the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, bodies such as Trading Standards would have an easier time prosecuting offenders, the MP said.

“New clause 33 would amend section 107(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) to create the new offense of supply of devices primarily used to infringe copyright. It is entirely logical to amend that section, which is concerned with ‘criminal liability for…dealing with infringing articles’, but which currently focuses only on physical copies of work and on communication to the public,” Brennan explained.

“The new clause would bring trading standards offices into the picture, empowering them to make investigations and to enforce the rules on such devices under section 107(1) of the 1988 Act. To minimize the risk of new and uncertain legal tests, concepts or unintended consequences, the drafting adopts for the most part language used elsewhere in that Act.”

IPTV ‘Clause 33’- CDPA Amendment proposalsiptv-clause

Support for the new clause came from the SNP’s Callum Kerr, who noted that people will continue to innovate when it comes to obtaining pirate content. Surprisingly, he also confessed that someone in Parliament actually encouraged him to buy a pirate box.

“Someone in [Parliament] recommended an IPTV box to me for my London flat because it is quite a cheap way of accessing content, but I did not follow that advice because I would not want to access any illegal content,” Kerr said.

“These boxes come pre-loaded, and there should be no pretense about it: they are designed to give people a way of avoiding paying for content that they know they should pay for. There is no excuse for that.”

Noting that the proposals for amendments to the CDPA have “a long list of supporters in the industry”, Brennan asked Matt Hancock, Minister for Digital and Culture, whether they could rely on his support too. Hancock said he understood the concerns but believes that current legislation (the Fraud Act 2006 and the Serious Crime Act 2015) can cope without having to modify the CDPA.

“This activity is already covered by criminal law under the Fraud Act 2006 and the Serious Crime Act 2015. The City of London police force is investigating cases. It seized over 500 set-top boxes earlier this year and arrested a man for fraud and IP offenses,” Hancock said.

“There is a danger in the digital world of legislating for a specific technology as opposed to legislating for the offense in a technology-neutral way. I strongly prefer the latter. As the law is already in existence in the two Acts that I mentioned, the best thing to do is to prosecute under the existing Acts, rather than try to chase a particular technology, which may well be out of date.”

Hancock told MPs that the government already has a strategy for tackling IP crime with a specific focus on dealing with the problem of IPTV and whatever technology eventually comes along to replace it. Sticking with existing legislation is the way forward, he said.

“The existing criminal ​offenses provide a legislative framework that is broad enough to protect our creative industries. However, I will of course keep this area under review,” he added, while asking for the new clause to be withdrawn. Brennan complied.

The fact that a request to amend the CDPA was rejected in this case raises questions over the current push to increase punishments for online copyright infringement offenses from two to ten years.

Many of the more serious online cases have also been successfully prosecuted under the Fraud Act, without any need to use the CDPA. Notably, these prosecutions were achieved without sucking in low-level offenders such as casual file-sharers.

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

UK Considers Fines to Force Search Engines to Tackle Piracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The debates continue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lawmakers Warned That 10 Year Sentences Could Apply to File-Sharers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/lawmakers-warned-that-10-year-sentences-could-apply-to-file-sharers-161016/

Under current UK legislation, pirates of physical media such as CDs and DVDs can be jailed for up to 10 years. On the other hand, those committing similar offenses online can be jailed for ‘only’ two years.

This has led to anti-piracy groups such as the Federation Against Copyright Theft choosing to pursue their own private prosecutions under the Fraud Act, which allows for much tougher sentences.

In an effort to fix this disparity, earlier this year a new draft of the Digital Economy Bill contained plans to extend the current ‘online’ prison term from two to ten years. The relevant section amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and simply replaces the word two with ten.

On its way to becoming law, the Bill has been progressing through various stages in the House of Commons. This week, however, concerns were raised over the precise wording of the amendments. The image below shows how they currently stand.


digec

Despite assurances from MPs that 10-year sentences are directed at large-scale commercial pirates, the text above does not clearly reflect that goal. In fact, just about any online infringer could be swept up in its net, a point not lost on Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG), who this week appeared before MPs.

In an exchange with Nigel Adams MP in the Commons, Killock said that ORG is concerned that ordinary members of the public could be affected by the amendments.

“We are worried about the impact of this on people who should not be criminalized and who we thought the Government were not trying to criminalize in this case,” Killock said.

“Our position is that if the Government are going to extend the sentence and have the same sentence online as offline for criminal copyright infringement — that is to say, 10 years — then they need to be very careful about how the lines are drawn, because the offenses are quite different.”

Killock said that offline criminal copyright infringement is all about criminal gangs duplicating things like DVDs, but online things are harder to define because everything looks like the same act – publication.

“You put something on the internet, it is a publication. So how do you tell who is the criminal and who is the slightly idiotic teenager, or whatever it happens to be? How do you make sure that people who should not be threatened with copyright criminal sentences are not given those threats?” Killock asked the MP.

To illustrate his point, Killock spoke about the current state of copyright trolling in the UK by companies such as Golden Eye International.

“They have no specific knowledge that these people are actually the people doing the downloading, all they know is that somebody appears to have downloaded,” Killock said.

At this point Adams interrupted, stating that there’s no intent for the new legislation to affect regular file-sharers.

“The idea of the Bill is not to go after people who are downloading content, it is purely for those who are uploading content for commercial gain. That is the whole purpose,” Adams said.

“Unfortunately, that is not how the language of the offense reads,” Killock responded.

“The test in the offense is that somebody is ‘causing a loss’, which is defined as not paying a licence fee, or is ‘causing the risk of loss’, about which your guess is as good as mine, but it is essentially the same as making available, because if you have made something available and somebody else can then make a copy, and then infringe copyright further and avoid further licence fees, basically that is a criminal act,” the ORG chief explained.

“So file sharers, whether they are small or large, all appear to be criminal copyright thieves. Similarly, people who are publishing things on websites without a license are also potentially criminalized. Those things can be dealt with much better and more simply through civil courts and civil copyright action.”

So, to solve the problem of the legislation potentially targeting the wrong people, Killock suggested a tightening-up of the wording in the amendments.

“What we are calling for is either to get rid of those things which are attacking individuals and wrongly bringing individuals into scope, or to put thresholds of seriousness around the risk of loss and/or causing loss. Something like, ‘Serious risk of causing significant loss’ would be the way to deal with this. Similarly, ‘Causing serious loss’,” he said.

Even with this explanation, the MP didn’t appear to understand.

“If you are knowingly uploading creative content online for commercial gain, to my mind it does not matter whether it is 50 quid or 50,000 quid, you are knowingly stealing someone’s content,” Nigel Adams said.

“The commercial gain is not part of this offense. That is what I am saying,” said Killock.

“The offense is purely to cause loss — in other words, to not pay a license fee — or to cause risk of loss. There is no ‘commercial’ in it. So you have to put the threshold somewhere. You have an offense for the commercial activities and, separately, individuals who cause risk of loss or fail to pay a license fee.”

The Open Rights Group are to be commended for raising this issue in the House of Commons since as things stand, the wording of the legislation is wide open to abuse from aggressive rightsholders. Whether appropriate amendments will be introduced remains to be seen, but there is clearly a need to be more specific. If not, trouble could lie ahead.

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

New Anti-Piracy Unit Takes Over UK Anti-Camming Operations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-anti-piracy-unit-takes-over-uk-anti-camming-operations-161012/

cammer1According to the movie industry the most damaging form of piracy involves the distribution of films that are not yet released or are enjoying their first-run in theaters.

The claim makes some sense. Due to the business model employed by the studios, titles still in cinemas are usually not available for consumption elsewhere, meaning that it’s impossible to compete for that business.

As a result, much time and effort is expended trying to stop people recording (‘camming’) movies in theaters. In the United States it’s an extremely serious offense punishable by jail time, and over in the UK those who record and then upload to the Internet can receive the same treatment.

The job of catching these people has usually fallen to two UK bodies – The Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA). In the past, the FDA fully sponsored a dedicated FACT investigator with duties that included staff training and building relationships with the police. Now, however, things are on the move.

The FDA says it has launched a new anti-piracy unit. Titled the Film Content Protection Agency, it will take over the work previously carried out by FACT. According to Screen Daily, several of FACT’s theatrical experts will be rolled into the new unit.

Back in May, it was announced that Hollywood will withdraw its funding for FACT, ending a 30-year relationship and depriving the anti-piracy group of 50% of its budget. Now it appears that the Motion Picture Association has thrown its support behind the FDA’s new unit instead.

“Cinema security is a key priority for the industry and the MPA welcomes this important step by FDA,” said Stan McCoy, MPA president and managing director for EMEA.

“We will work closely with the new unit to analyze threats and offer practical support as it fulfils its UK-wide remit on behalf of film distributors and other partners.”

According to the UK’s Companies House, the Film Content Protection Agency was formed as a limited company during the summer, registered to the FDA’s Kingly Street address in London.

At the time of incorporation, the FCPA had a single director, 85-year-old Barbara Kahan, who remained in the role for a whole day and then resigned. Kahan is rather active for an octagenarian. According to the government, she’s held posts in more than 18,000 companies.

It’s possible that Kahan set up the new anti-piracy company and then resigned, but that left FCPA without any directors or people with significant control. What’s also problematic is the state of the new website set up to promote the new anti-piracy group.

Currently it’s completely non-functional, having gone down sometime in the past couple of days. However, when the site was up it was providing information on the unit and detailing its goals. While most of the claims seemed fairly accurate, one particular section caught our eye.

Titled “It’s the Law”, the section stated that “The penalty for online copyright theft is up to a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine – in line with the theft of physical goods.”

Search snapshot of the currently-down site

fcpa-law

While all anti-piracy outfits hope this will indeed become true in the months to come, the above statement is certainly not accurate under current UK law.

Ignoring the deliberate replacement of ‘infringement’ with ‘theft’ (which is not helpful when advising the public about legal matters), the current maximum prison sentence in the UK for online infringement is two years.

Amendments to boost punishments are indeed underway as part of the Digital Economy Bill but they still in progress in the House of Commons and are many stages away from being written into law.

Only time will tell how the new anti-piracy unit will manifest itself but it seems likely that it will maintain the same pressure applied for years by FACT, but under a new banner.

FDA President Lord Puttnam welcomed the creation of the new unit.

“I’m delighted this new unit is up and running,” said FDA President Lord Puttnam.

“It’s an important addition to the distributors’ armoury in safeguarding theatrical releases and enabling UK audiences to enjoy films to their maximum effect in legitimate formats.”

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

10 Years in Prison For Online Pirates a Step Closer in the UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/10-years-in-prison-for-online-pirates-a-step-closer-in-the-uk-160914/

In an effort to control the prevalence of online piracy, numerous criminal actions against file-sharers and file-sharing site operators have already taken place in the UK. However, these prosecutions have not been straightforward.

Due to UK copyright law allowing for custodial sentences of ‘just’ two years for online offenses, anti-piracy groups such as the Federation Against Copyright Theft have chosen to pursue their own private prosecutions. These have largely taken place under legislation designed for those who have committed fraud, rather than the more appropriate offense of copyright infringement.

Physical pirates (CDs, DVDs) can be jailed for up to 10 years under current legislation. During the past few years, there have been lobbying efforts for this punishment to apply both on and offline. That resulted in a UK Government announcement last year indicating that it would move to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years.

This proposal was detailed in a draft of the Digital Economy Bill published in July. If passed into law, it would amend the relevant section of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

That likelihood increased yesterday with the 2nd Reading of the Digital Economy Bill in the House of Commons. Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was in attendance. The MP, who was appointed in July, spoke strongly in favor of strict copyright enforcement.

“We will help businesses from attacks on their intellectual property. Burglars can be sentenced to ten years in prison, but the criminal gangs that are making vast sums of money through exploiting the online creations of others only face a two-year sentence. We will increase this to ten,” Bradley said.

bradley

Interestingly, Bradley mentioned a convicted pirate by name. Paul Mahoney ran streaming portal FastPassTV and discussion and linking forum BedroomMedia. After being raided in 2011, the Northern Ireland-based man was sentenced to four years in jail under the Fraud Act, two more than the maximum he would’ve received under copyright legislation.

“Criminals like Paul Mahoney, who profited by almost £300,000 and cost industry millions by facilitating access to illegal films on the Internet, need to be sent a clear message,” Bradley said.

“We need to ensure that enforcement agencies and their partners have the right set of tools to tackle all types of piracy, which is why this clause is so important.”

When the increase to ten years was first reported, some news outlets suggested that regular file-sharers could be subjected to the decade-long sentence. That was addressed in Parliament yesterday by Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, who welcomed the move but sought assurances that the casual downloader wouldn’t be targeted.

“I am pleased that clause 26 amends the current legislation on copyright to bring online criminal penalties for copyright infringement in line with off-line penalties, with a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment. This will target anyone who infringes copyright in order to make a commercial gain,” he said.

“However, I wish to stress to hon. Members and to members of the public that this is not to catch out people who download music and unwittingly download or stream something illegal. I want to make that clear in adding my support to this measure. As far as I understand it, it targets the criminals who make money from distributing music to which they do not have the rights.”

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed that was indeed the case.

Speaking in support of the amendment, Conservative MP John Whittingdale said he was “delighted” that online and offline penalties will be equalized but said that more still needs to be done. Unsurprisingly, given the current environment, Google was again the target.

“The Conservative party manifesto stated that we would put pressure on search engines to try to prevent illegal sites from coming up at the top of a search. I know that round-table discussions have been taking place for a considerable time, but it is a matter of great concern that no significant progress has yet been made,” Whittingdale said.

“In the most recent attempt to find out whether or not there had been an improvement, a Google search was made for ‘Ed Sheeran Photograph download’, with ‘Photograph’ being one of Ed Sheeran’s most recent songs. Only one of the top 10 listings involved a legal site, and the legal site was YouTube, which, of course, is owned by Google.”

In response, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq offered his thoughts on how that might be mitigated in future.

“[John Whittingdale] said that Ed Sheeran’s song was available on illegal platforms. Does he agree that technology companies, ​and platforms such as Google and YouTube, should be compelled to list only legal sites?” Huq said.

“At present the pirates are sometimes listed higher up than legal sites, and our British musicians who contribute, I believe, £4 billion annually to the economy are losing out as a consequence.”

Whittingdale wasn’t convinced of Huq’s solution, but agreed that much more needs to be done.

“I think it would be unrealistic to expect Google to establish whether every single site was legal or illegal. What it can do is react when illegal sites are brought to its attention,” the MP said.

“[Google] does de-list, but new sites then appear immediately. There have been a vast number of complaints from rights owners about particular sites, but they should tweak their algorithms so that those sites no longer appear at the top of the search listings. Measures of that kind have been under discussion for months and months, but the problem still exists.”

Whittingdale added that there may be a need to include a legal provision which would encourage service providers to establish some kind of voluntary code.

“[T]here may well be a case for legislation, because we cannot allow Google and other search providers to go on allowing people access to illegal sites,” he said.

The Bill will now move to Committee and Report stages, before moving to its Third Reading. It will then pass to readings in the House of Lords before undergoing amendments and the final stage of Royal Assent.

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

TorrentFreak Gets Its First YouTube Copyright Claim, And It’s Bull….

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/torrentfreak-gets-its-first-youtube-copyright-claim-and-its-bull-160910/

sadyoutubeYouTube is a great platform for creators, allowing them to broadcast their work to hundreds of millions of people around the world, for free.

At TF we focus on writing news so we don’t use YouTube much for the site. A few years ago, however, we did host TorrentFreak TV and last week we decided to put the video archive on YouTube.

The shows were released seven to eight years ago so the news that’s discussed is all dated. However, having it all in one place on YouTube helps to keep it archived in an orderly fashion.

What we didn’t expect, however, is that hours after the first upload we were already presented with a copyright claim from a third-party.

Interestingly, the copyright claim was not coming from a major rightsholder or an obscure trolling operation. Neither was it some random bird humming that was flagged. The claim in question was made on a track by none other than Dan Bull. Yeah, Bull.

Copyright dispute

bullclaim

Dan Bull is an English rapper and songwriter who writes tracks about video games and various Internet related topics. We know him very well at TorrentFreak and he was featured and interviewed in several of our articles over the years.

For example, he protested against restrictive copyright legislation that would hunt down file-sharers and trample on free speech and fair use. In fact, the Dan Bull rap that was featured in the TorrentFreak TV video is a protest against the UK’s Digital Economy Bill.

Dear Mandy

We prominently featured this track in a TorrentFreak news article as well and used it with explicit permission from Dan himself.

So why are we receiving a copyright claim on YouTube now, seven years later? Perhaps Dan’s online accounts were hijacked? His Twitter account obviously wasn’t, as this was the first tweet I saw in his timeline.

How appropriate.

Dan’s tweet from last week

bulltweet

To find out what really happened we got in touch with Dan himself, who had a good explanation for the rather ironic situation.

“I am so embarrassed that TorrentFreak’s first copyright claim has been for a piece of content that I created. Ironically, TorrentFreak’s coverage of the music in question 7 years ago is what made it popular in the first place,” he says.

Dan explains that he’s part of a YouTube network which helps to monetize his videos and as part of this strategy they also claim his content on videos of other people who use his work. This includes our video.

So, the bots Dan was referring to in the earlier tweet also work ‘for’ him.

“The claim was made on my behalf by the YouTube network I’m a part of – Brave Bison. It was presumably done automatically by a bot which is unable to deal with the nuances of fair use. This is one of many serious issues with YouTube’s Content ID system,” Dan says.

The sad part is that this is not what Dan wants these bots to do. In fact, he actively encourages people to use his content in their own creations. However, the Brave Bison network doesn’t give him the option to do so without specifically whitelisting every video by hand.

“But even putting fair use aside, I have told the network before that I don’t mind people using clips of my music in their own videos. However, apparently the only way I can put that into practice is to personally submit them a whitelist of individual videos – this is of course not realistic, especially as new videos are being made all the time.

“For the record, I would like to say that if you want to use something I’ve made as part of your own project, please go ahead, I love seeing where people take things I’ve made,” Dan adds.

We applaud Dan for being so open about the situation and obviously don’t blame him for what happened.

However, we hope that Brave Bison and other YouTube networks seriously reconsider their restrictive policies. If a creator is more than happy to allow others to use his or her work, this should be allowed, instead of squeezing every cent from third-party videos.

Luckily, the TorrentFreak TV video that featured the Dan Bull track is still up. The only difference is that Brave Bison is now showing their ads on it, while it was free of advertising before.

We filed a counterclaim several days ago to get this lifted, clarifying that we have explicit permission from the owner to use the video. Fingers crossed that the entire situation will be resolved in a few weeks, more or less.

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