Tag Archives: DMCA

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

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

DMCA Used to Remove Ad Server URL From Easylist Ad Blocklist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-used-to-remove-ad-server-url-from-easylist-ad-blocklist-170811/

The default business model on the Internet is “free” for consumers. Users largely expect websites to load without paying a dime but of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. To this end, millions of websites are funded by advertising revenue.

Sensible sites ensure that any advertising displayed is unobtrusive to the visitor but lots seem to think that bombarding users with endless ads, popups, and other hindrances is the best way to do business. As a result, ad blockers are now deployed by millions of people online.

In order to function, ad-blocking tools – such as uBlock Origin or Adblock – utilize lists of advertising domains compiled by third parties. One of the most popular is Easylist, which is distributed by authors fanboy, MonztA, Famlam, and Khrinunder, under dual Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike and GNU General Public Licenses.

With the freedom afforded by those licenses, copyright tends not to figure high on the agenda for Easylist. However, a legal problem that has just raised its head is causing serious concern among those in the ad-blocking community.

Two days ago a somewhat unusual commit appeared in the Easylist repo on Github. As shown in the image below, a domain URL previously added to Easylist had been removed following a DMCA takedown notice filed with Github.

Domain text taken down by DMCA?

The DMCA notice in question has not yet been published but it’s clear that it targets the domain ‘functionalclam.com’. A user called ‘ameshkov’ helpfully points out a post by a new Github user called ‘DMCAHelper’ which coincided with the start of the takedown process more than three weeks ago.

A domain in a list circumvents copyright controls?

Aside from the curious claims of a URL “circumventing copyright access controls” (domains themselves cannot be copyrighted), the big questions are (i) who filed the complaint and (ii) who operates Functionalclam.com? The domain WHOIS is hidden but according to a helpful sleuth on Github, it’s operated by anti ad-blocking company Admiral.

Ad-blocking means money down the drain….

If that is indeed the case, we have the intriguing prospect of a startup attempting to protect its business model by using a novel interpretation of copyright law to have a domain name removed from a list. How this will pan out is unclear but a notice recently published on Functionalclam.com suggests the route the company wishes to take.

“This domain is used by digital publishers to control access to copyrighted content in accordance with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and understand how visitors are accessing their copyrighted content,” the notice begins.

Combined with the comments by DMCAHelper on Github, this statement suggests that the complainants believe that interference with the ad display process (ads themselves could be the “copyrighted content” in question) represents a breach of section 1201 of the DMCA.

If it does, that could have huge consequences for online advertising but we will need to see the original DMCA notice to have a clearer idea of what this is all about. Thus far, Github hasn’t published it but already interest is growing. A representative from the EFF has already contacted the Easylist team, so this battle could heat up pretty quickly.

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

Pirate Domain Blocking ‘Door’ Should Remain Open, RIAA Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-domain-blocking-door-should-remain-open-riaa-tells-court-170808/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

While Cloudflare is a neutral service provider, rightsholders are not happy with its role. The company has been involved in several legal disputes already, including the RIAA’s lawsuit against MP3Skull.

Last year the record labels won their case against the MP3 download portal but the site ignored the court order and continued to operate. This prompted the RIAA to go after third-party services including Cloudflare, to target associated domain names.

The RIAA demanded domain blockades, arguing that Cloudflare actively cooperated with the pirates. The CDN provider objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. In turn, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering.

While it’s still to be determined whether Cloudflare is indeed “in active concert or participation” with MP3Skull, the company recently asked the court to vacate the order, arguing that the case is moot.

MP3Skull no longer has an active website, and previous domain names either never used Cloudflare or stopped using it long before the order was issued, the company argued.

The RIAA clearly disagrees. According to the music industry group, Cloudflare’s request relies on “misstatements.” The motion wasn’t moot when the court issued it in March, and it isn’t moot today, they argue.

Some MP3Skull domains were still actively using Cloudflare as recently as April, but Cloudflare failed to mention these.

“CloudFlare’s arguments to the contrary rely largely on misdirection, pointing to the status of domain names that expressly were not at issue in Plaintiffs’ motion,” the RIAA writes.

Even if all the domain names are no longer active on Cloudflare, the order should remain in place, the RIAA argues. The group points out that nothing is preventing the MP3Skull owners from relaunching the site and moving back to Cloudflare in the future.

“By its own admission, CloudFlare took no steps to prevent Defendants from using its services at any time. Given Defendants’ established practice of moving from domain to domain and from service to service throughout this case in contempt of this Court’s orders, Defendants could easily have resumed — and may tomorrow resume — their use of CloudFlare’s services.”

In addition, the RIAA stressed that the present ruling doesn’t harm Cloudflare at all. Since there are no active MP3Skull domains using the service presently, it need take no action.

“The March 23 Order does not require CloudFlare to do anything. All that Order did was to clarify that Rule 65, and not Section 512(j) of the DMCA, applied,” the RIAA stresses.

While it seems pointless to spend hours of legal counsel on a site that is no longer active, it shows the importance of the court’s ruling and the wider site blocking implications it has.

The RIAA wants to keep the door open for similar requests in the future, and Cloudflare wants to avoid any liability for pirate sites. These looming legal consequences are the main reason why the CDN provider asked the court to vacate the order, the RIAA notes.

“It is evident that the only reason why CloudFlare wants the Court to vacate its March 23 Order is that it does not like the Court’s ruling on the purely legal issue of Rule 65(d)’s scope,” the RIAA writes.

It is now up to the court to decide how to move forward. A decision on Cloudflare’s request is expected to be issued during the weeks to come.

The RIAA’s full reply is available here (pdf).

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

‘US Should Include Fair Use and Safe Harbors in NAFTA Negotiations’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-should-include-fair-use-and-safe-harbors-in-nafta-negotiations-170806/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

Various copyright industry groups recognized this as an opportunity to demand tougher copyright enforcement. The MPAA and RIAA previously presented their demands, proposing various new limitations, including restrictions to the existing safe harbor protections against copyright infringement claims.

While no concrete plans have been made public yet, the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) recently gave an overview of its NAFTA renegotiation objectives. The language leaves plenty of wiggle room, but it’s clear that strong copyright enforcement takes a central role.

“Provide strong protection and enforcement for new and emerging technologies and new methods of transmitting and distributing products embodying intellectual property, including in a manner that facilitates legitimate digital trade,” one of the key points reads.

It is no surprise that copyright enforcement plays a central role in a possible extension of NAFTA. However, according to the Re:Create Coalition, which includes members such as the the Consumer Technology Association, the American Library Association and EFF, future proposals should be more balanced.

This means that if copyright enforcement is included, the US Government should also make sure that fair use, safe harbor protections and other copyright limitations and exceptions are added as well.

“The United States government should promote balance in copyright law to unlock the fullest potential of innovation and creativity globally, and to help U.S. innovators, creators, and small businesses reach foreign audiences.” Re:Create Executive Director Josh Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“If a re-negotiated NAFTA includes a chapter on copyright, which seems likely, it must have mandatory language on copyright limitations and exceptions, including fair use and protections from intermediary liability.”

The USTR stressed that the NAFTA agreement should cover copyright protections similar to those found in US law. If that is the case, the coalition urges the US Government to ‘export’ fair use and other copyright limitations as well, to keep the balance.

Strong enforcement without balance could lead to all sorts of abuse, according to the Re:Create coalition. Just recently, a Colombian student faced a hefty prison sentence for sharing a research paper on Scribd, something which would be less likely with a proper fair use defense.

“Trade agreements should reflect the realities of the world we live in today. If strong intellectual property protections and enforcement measures are included in a trade agreement, so should exceptions and limitations to copyright law,” Lamel says.

“You can’t have one without the other. Furthermore, the copyright system cannot function effectively without fair use, and neither can the U.S. economy. 16 percent of the U.S. economy depends on fair use, and 18 million U.S. workers across the country are employed in fair use industries.”

In addition to fair use, Re:Create argues that DMCA-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet. The RIAA wants to restrict safe harbor protection to limit copyright infringement and abuse, but the coalition believes that these proposals go too far.

If the RIAA had its way, many large Internet service providers wouldn’t be able to operate freely. This would result in a loss of American jobs, and innovation would be stifled, Re:Create notes.

“If you looked up excessive overreach in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the RIAA and MPAA submissions. Limiting safe harbors would be corporate cronyism at its worst,” Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“The safe harbors are at the cornerstone of the Internet economy and consumer Internet experience. It would be an economic disaster. Recent economic analysis found that weakened safe harbors would result in the loss of 4.25 million American jobs and cost nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade,” he adds.

While it’s still early days, it will be interesting to see what concrete proposals will come out of the negotiations and if fair use and other copyright protections are indeed going to be included. Re-Create promises to keep a close eye on the developments, and they’re certainly not alone.

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

RIAA: Hip-Hop Mixtape Site Has No DMCA Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-hip-hop-mixtape-site-has-no-dmca-safe-harbor-170731/

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

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

“Spinrilla specializes in ripping off music creators by offering thousands of unlicensed sound recordings for free,” the RIAA commented at the time.

The hip-hop site countered the allegations by pointing out that it installed an RIAA-approved anti-piracy filter and actively worked with major record labels to promote their tracks. In addition, Spinrilla stressed that the DMCA’s safe harbor protects the company.

The DMCA safe-harbor shields Internet services from liability for copyright infringing users. However, to apply for this protection, companies have to meet certain requirements. This is where Spinrilla failed, according to a filing just submitted by the record labels.

The RIAA points out that Spinrilla failed to register a designated DMCA agent with the copyright office, which is one of the requirements. In addition, they claim that the mix-tape site took no clear action against repeat infringers, another prerequisite.

“Defendants have not registered a designated DMCA agent with the Copyright Office and have not adopted, communicated, or reasonably implemented a policy that prevents repeat infringement. Either of these undisputed facts alone renders Defendants ineligible for the protections of the DMCA,” the RIAA writes.

On the repeat infrimnger issue, the record labels say that some of Spinrilla’s “artist” accounts were used to upload infringing material for weeks on end.

“For example, one such ‘artist’ uploaded a new mixtape each week for over 80 consecutive weeks, each containing sound recordings that the RIAA identified to Spinrilla as infringing, including recordings by such well-known major label artists as Bruno Mars, The Weeknd, Missy Elliott, Common, and Ludacris,” RIAA notes.

Based on the above, RIAA argues that Spinrilla is not entitled to safe harbor protections under the DMCA. They ask the court for a summary judgment to render this defense inapplicable, which would be a severe blow to the hip-hop mixtape site.

“And, because Defendants have pinned their defense to liability almost entirely on the DMCA, a ruling now that Defendants are ineligible for the DMCA safe harbor will substantially streamline — if not end entirely — this litigation going forward.

“The Court should therefore grant Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment now,” the RIAA stresses (pdf).

While the case doesn’t end here, without DMCA safe harbor protection it will definitely be harder for Spinrilla to come out unscathed.

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

Cloudflare Wants to Eliminate ‘Moot’ Pirate Site Blocking Threat

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-asks-court-to-vacate-moot-pirate-site-blocking-order-170724/

Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull in 2015.

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

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

Despite the multi-million dollar verdict, MP3Skull continued to operate using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA’s legal team. As the site refused to shut down, the RIAA eventually moved up the chain targeting CDN provider Cloudflare with the permanent injunction.

The RIAA argued that Cloudflare was operating “in active concert or participation” with the pirates. Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn’t apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering.

The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is “in active concert or participation” with the pirate site. However, this has yet to happen. Since MP3Skull has ceased its operations the RIAA has shown little interest in pursuing the matter any further.

Cloudflare now wants the dangerous anti-piracy filtering order to be thrown out. The company submitted a motion to vacate the order late last week, arguing that the issue is moot. In fact, it has been for a while for some of the contended domain names.

The CDN provider says it researched the domain names listed in the injunction and found that only three of the twenty domains used Cloudflare’s services at the time the RIAA asked the court to clarify its order. Some had never used CloudFlare’s services at all, they say.

“Indeed, six domains – including five of the so-called ‘Active MP3Skull Domains’ in the amended injunction – had never used Cloudflare services at all. And the remaining eleven had stopped using Cloudflare before Plaintiffs brought their motion, in some cases long before Plaintiffs filed suit,” Cloudflare writes.

“Every domain Plaintiffs identified had stopped using Cloudflare by December 2016, without any independent or affirmative action by Cloudflare. Yet Plaintiffs made no effort to inform the Court of the mootness of their ’emergency’ motion in the three months before the Court issued its Order.”

Cloudflare’s research

Making the matter even worse, several of the domain names listed in the injunction were owned by the record labels, when the RIAA tried to have Cloudflare block them.

“Moreover, Cloudflare’s investigation revealed that that Plaintiff Sony Music Entertainment itself owned seven of the twenty domains months as of the time Plaintiffs brought their motion, and Sony acquired one more domain shortly after.”

The latter is due to the seizure order, which was also granted by the court. However, according to Cloudflare, the RIAA failed to inform the court about these and several other changes.

“Plaintiffs did not inform the Court of the mootness of their motion against Cloudflare,” the company writes.

Since the RIAA was not entirely upfront, and the issue is no longer relevant, Cloudflare is now asking the court to vacate the order. This will push the looming piracy blocking obligations aside, which could otherwise come back to haunt the company in the future.

The RIAA has yet to reply to CloudFlare’s request, but they would likely want to keep the order in place. There’s always a tiny chance that MP3Skull might arise from the ashes, and they would want to be prepared should that be the case.

Cloudflare’s full motion is available here (pdf).

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

TVStreamCMS Brings Pirate Streaming Site Clones to The Masses

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tvstreamcms-brings-pirate-streaming-site-clones-to-the-masses-170723/

In recent years many pirates have moved from more traditional download sites and tools, to streaming portals.

These streaming sites come in all shapes and sizes, and there is fierce competition among site owners to grab the most traffic. More traffic means more money, after all.

While building a streaming from scratch is quite an operation, there are scripts on the market that allow virtually anyone to set up their own streaming index in just a few minutes.

TVStreamCMS is one of the leading players in this area. To find out more we spoke to one of the people behind the project, who prefers to stay anonymous, but for the sake of this article, we’ll call him Rick.

“The idea came up when I wanted to make my own streaming site. I saw that they make a lot of money, and many people had them,” Rick tells us.

After discovering that there were already a few streaming site scripts available, Rick saw an opportunity. None of the popular scripts at the time offered automatic updates with freshly pirated content, a gap that was waiting to be filled.

“I found out that TVStreamScript and others on ThemeForest like MTDB were available, but these were not automatized. Instead, they were kinda generic and hard to update. We wanted to make our own site, but as we made it, we also thought about reselling it.”

Soon after TVStreamCMS was born. In addition to using it for his own project, Rick also decided to offer it to others who wanted to run their own streaming portal, for a monthly subscription fee.

TVStreamCMS website

According to Rick, the script’s automated content management system has been its key selling point. The buyers don’t have to update or change much themselves, as pretty much everything is automatized.

This has generated hundreds of sales over the years, according to the developer. And several of the sites that run on the script are successfully “stealing” traffic from the original, such as gomovies.co, which ranks well above the real GoMovies in Google’s search results.

“Currently, a lot of the sites competing against the top level streaming sites are using our script. This includes 123movies.co, gomovies.co and putlockers.tv, keywords like yesmovies fmovies gomovies 123movies, even in different Languages like Portuguese, French and Italian,” Rick says.

The pirated videos that appear on these sites come from a database maintained by the TVStreamCMS team. These are hosted on their own servers, but also by third parties such as Google and Openload.

When we looked at one of the sites we noticed a few dead links, but according to Rick, these are regularly replaced.

“Dead links are maintained by our team, DMCA removals are re-uploaded, and so on. This allows users not to worry about re-uploading or adding content daily and weekly as movies and episodes release,” Rick explains.

While this all sounds fine and dandy for prospective pirates, there are some significant drawbacks.

Aside from the obvious legal risks that come with operating one of these sites, there is also a financial hurdle. The full package costs $399 plus a monthly fee of $99, and the basic option is $399 and $49 per month.

TVStreamCMS subscription plans

There are apparently plenty of site owners who don’t mind paying this kind of money. That said, not everyone is happy with the script. TorrentFreak spoke to a source at one of the larger streaming sites, who believes that these clones are misleading their users.

TVStreamCMS is not impressed by the criticism. They know very well what they are doing. Their users asked for these clone templates, and they are delivering them, so both sides can make more money.

“We’re are in the business to make money and grow the sales,” Rick says.

“So we have made templates looking like 123movies, Yesmovies, Fmovies and Putlocker to accommodate the demands of the buyers. A similar design gets buyers traffic and is very, very effective for new sites, as users who come from Google they think it is the real website.”

The fact that 123Movies changed its name to GoMovies and recently changed to a GoStream.is URL, only makes it easier for clones to get traffic, according to the developer.

“This provides us with a lot of business because every time they change their name the buyers come back and want another site with the new name. GoMovies, for instance, and now Gostream,” Rick notes.

Of course, the infringing nature of the clone sites means that there are many copyright holders who would rather see the script and its associated sites gone. Previously, the Hollywood group FACT managed to shut down TVstreamScript, taking down hundreds of sites that relied on it, and it’s likely that TVStreamCMS is being watched too.

For now, however, more and more clones continue to flood the web with pirated streams.

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

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-thrones-pirates-monitored-hbo-warnings-way-170719/

Earlier this week, HBO released the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by HBO. Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company’s anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates.

The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements.

“We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization,” the notification begins.

“HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.”

Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders.

Redacted infringement details from one of the notices

The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it’s likely that many more are being tracked.

  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.WEB.h264-TBS[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[rarbg]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.WEB.h264-TBS[ettv]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.HDTV.x264-AVS[eztv].mkv

This isn’t the first time that Game of Thrones pirates have received these kinds of warnings. Similar notices were sent out last year for pirated episodes of the sixth season, and it’s now clear that HBO is not backing down.

Although HBO stresses that copyright infringement is against the law, there are no legal strings attached for the subscribers in question. The company doesn’t know the identity of the alleged pirates, and would need to go to court to find out. This has never happened before.

Filing lawsuits against Game of Thrones fans is probably not high on HBO’s list, but the company hopes that affected subscribers will think twice before downloading future episodes after they are warned.

The DMCA notice asks ISPs to inform subscribers about the various legal alternatives that are available, to give them a push in the right direction.

“We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package,” the notice reads.

While this type of message may have an effect on some, they only cover a small fraction of the piracy landscape. Millions of people are using pirate streaming tools and websites to watch Game of Thrones, and these views can’t be monitored.

In addition, the fact that many broadcasters worldwide suffered technical issues and outages when Game of Thrones premiered doesn’t help either. The legal options should be superior to the pirated offerings, not the other way around.

A redacted copy of one of the notices is available below.

Dear xxx Communications,

This message is sent on behalf of HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.

We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xxx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization (additional details are listed below). HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.

As the owner of the IP address, HBO requests that xxx Communications immediately contact the subscriber who was assigned the IP address at the date and time below with the details of this notice, and take the proper steps to prevent further downloading or sharing of unauthorized content and additional infringement notices.

We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package.

We have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted material detailed below is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. The information in this notice is accurate and we state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. This letter is not a complete statement of HBO’s rights in connection with this matter, and nothing contained herein constitutes an express or implied wavier of any rights or remedies of HBO in connection with this matter, all of which are expressly reserved.

We appreciate your assistance and thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Your prompt response is requested. Any further enquiries can be directed to [email protected] Please include this message with your enquiry to ensure a quick response.

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon

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

Movie Studios Wipe Pirate Site Homepages From Google Search

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-studios-wipe-pirate-site-homepages-from-google-search-170716/

Over the past two weeks several pirate streaming sites have seen their homepages disappear from Google’s search results.

Earlier this week we reported how GoMovies switched to a new domain name, for this very reason, but on closer inspection it appears that several other sites have suffered the same fate.

While homepages have been removed before, the takedown notices that triggered the recent removals seem to be a systematic effort. They are all sent by the prominent law firm Kilpatrick Townsend, which acts on behalf of a variety of Hollywood movie studios.

The notices, of which the first was sent roughly two weeks ago, all follow a similar pattern. They identify infringing content on pirate streaming sites and list the individual URLs for these movies. In addition, however, many also include the homepage, which often highlights the same movie as a “new” or popular title.

In the case of Gomovies.is, a request was sent on behalf of Warner Bros. to remove Wonder Woman’s streaming page from Google, as well as the homepage where the movie was listed in the popular section.

This worked, not only for the GoMovies domain name but also for dozens of other streaming sites including yesmovies.org, watchfree.ac, xmovies.is, watch29.com, vivo.to, tunemovie.com, putlockervip.com, playmovies.to, moviesub.is and fmovies.ac.

The takedown notice

The example above is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past two weeks the law firm has targeted many pirate streaming sites, acting on behalf of Warner Bros, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, NBC Universal and others. This effectively removed dozens of pirate site homepages from search results.

To outsiders, it may seem like a homepage is just another link but for site owners, it’s a crucial matter. Many of these streaming sites rely on their brand name to remain findable in search engines, and when the homepage is removed, it’s nearly impossible to rise to the top of search results.

Although Google removed many of the early requests, it’s not blindly removing all URLs.

In response to several recent notices the search engine decided to take “no action” for the homepages, which is why gomovies.sc, cmovieshd.com, ap551.com, and others remain indexed. It’s possible that the infringing content was no longer linked on these homepages when Google reviewed the DMCA notices in question.

As for GoMovies, they simply decided to move to a new URL and remove any infringing content from the homepage so they don’t face the same problem in the future.

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

GoMovies Moves to GoStream.is and Evades Google ‘Ban’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/gomovies-moves-to-gostream-is-and-evades-google-ban-170714/

Pirate video streaming sites are booming. Their relative ease of use through on-demand viewing makes them a viable alternative to P2P file-sharing, which traditionally dominated the piracy arena.

The popular movie streaming sites GoMovies, formerly known as 123movies, is one of the most-used streaming sites. While it’s built a steady userbase of millions of users over the past year, the site’s home keeps changing.

The latest move came this week. Going forward, the site will be active from GoStream.is, operating from the Icelandic gostream.is domain name.

While the site hasn’t officially commented on the reason for the move, on Twitter a site representative mentioned a Google ‘penalty’ as the main driver behind the recent change.

Penalized

When we looked at the issue more closely, we found that it’s not so much a penalty, but rather a response to a DMCA takedown request.

Earlier this week the site’s homepage was removed from Google’s search engine following a takedown notice from Warner Bros. This made it harder for users to find the site through Google, as various knockoffs were ranked higher in the search results for the “Gomovies” keyword.

In addition to relocating to a new domain name, the site has also changed the look of its homepage. Instead of a page filled with the most popular movies and TV-shows, it now lists a basic search box.

New GoMovies homepage

The homepage change is likely a response to Google’s search engine removal as well. The previous GoMovies domain was targeted by Warner Bros. because it listed a link to a pirated movie, but such links are no longer present on the new homepage.

That said, users who prefer the old look can still access it with a single click, which is prominently mentioned on the site.

Despite the domain name change, the GoMovies brand hasn’t changed. The logo and all other references to the site’s name remain intact. Confusingly, people who search for GoMovies on Google still won’t see the Gostream.is URL in the top results, but perhaps that will change in the future.

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

Google Removed 2.5 Billion ‘Pirate’ Search Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google’s takedown overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Holders Ask Google to Block Site-Blocking Notifications

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-ask-google-to-block-site-blocking-notifications-170702/

Following a series of High Court orders, UK Internet providers now block access to thousands of pirate domain names.

If prospective pirates try to access these sites, they are presented with a blocking notification instead.

Virgin Media, for example, shows the following message to its subscribers.

“Virgin Media has received an order from the High Court requiring us to prevent access to this site.”

While these type of messages are crystal clear to the general public, they appear to cause confusion among copyright holders. Or more likely, among the automated takedown tools they use.

This week we stumbled upon an unusual request from the anti-piracy group RipBlock, sent on behalf of Amorphous Music. The notice in question targets several links, but also the blocking page of Virgin Media, as seen below.

Virgin takedown

Needless to say, Virgin’s blocking notification doesn’t list any infringing material. Perhaps RipBlock’s monitoring tool is using a Virgin Media connection, entering the notification in their system instead of the URL of a pirate site?

While that seems plausible, it would mean that the UK company is using more than one ISP, as it also frequently reports the blocking notifications of Sky in its takedown requests.

In any case, it’s clear that the company doesn’t check its submissions very carefully, as the same URLs are listed in dozens of DMCA notices.

Sky takedown

Interestingly, this kind of mistake is not unique to RipBlock. Another UK company, Leak Delete, asked Google to remove BT’s blocking page from its search results with a similar takedown notice.

BT’s “ukispcourtorders.co.uk” page provides a list of blocked sites and no infringing content. Nonetheless, Leak Delete has targeted it repeatedly according to Google’s transparency report.

BT takedown

In situations like this, we can see how erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. If blocking requests are used to block access to site blocking notifications, anything can be targeted.

It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, Google is still able to spot most of these flaws.

The search giant can’t catch them all though. As a result, BT’s blocking notification is no longer listed in the search engine.

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

Nintendo Shuts Down “Donkey Kong” Remake For Roku

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nintendo-shuts-down-donkey-kong-remake-for-roku-170630/

When Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto came up with Donkey Kong more than 35 years ago, gaming was still a niche pastime.

How different is that today, where the average household has more than a handful of devices that play computer games.

While the gaming industry has come a long way, plenty of people are still drawn to older arcade games. There’s something nostalgic about their look and feel, and thanks to emulators and remakes, they are still widely available.

Donkey Kong, for example, could be played on Roku thanks to the efforts of Marcelo Lv Cabral, who released an unofficial version of the Nintendo game using the original art and music.

The software developer, who lives in Arizona, started the project as a hobby to improve his programming skills. He previously did the same with other games such as Lode Runner and Prince of Persia.

When he finished the project he released the code on GitHub, incuding a disclaimer stating his intent.

“This source code was developed as a programming exercise, it is not being used for profit or any kind of financial gain, all assets and images belong to the original copyright owner,” it read.

Screenshot from the GitHub page

While nostalgic arcade game fans will appreciate the effort, Nintendo was not amused. This week the gaming giant instructed the developer platform GitHub to remove the repository, which it did.

“The reported repository contains a recreation of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong video game for Roku, which was created and published without Nintendo’s authorization,” Nintendo writes in its takedown notice. “Please immediately remove the repository.”

We reached out to the developer, who is disappointed to see his code taken down. While he realizes that Nintendo owns the rights to Donkey Kong, his code was unique and completely custom.

“I believe they have the rights related to the name and the assets, but not to my code. That was completely done by myself, no porting of any Nintendo code, but GitHub took down everything,” Cabral tells TorrentFreak.

“What I don`t understand is why only my project was removed, if you search Donkey Kong on the GitHub you`ll found several other remake projects,” he adds.

The developer doesn’t plan to challenge the takedown. In theory, he could re-release the code with unique artwork and a new name, but Cabral prefers to focus on other projects for the time being.

He is currently working on a remake of the game Moon Patrol for example, also for the Roku platform.

While Nintendo has every right to take the infringing Donkey Kong content offline, some might feel that the company should allow fans a little more leeway for their fan-made projects.

However, judging from recent history, this is idle hope. In recent years the company has taken several fan-projects offline, including a popular JavaScript-powered Game Boy Advance emulator

Luckily for Cabral, his Lode Runner and Prince of Persia remakes are still available, for now. These games were originally released by Brøderbund Software, which no longer exists.

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

Cox: Supreme Court Suggests That Pirates Shouldn’t Lose Internet Access

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cox-supreme-court-suggests-that-pirates-shouldnt-lose-internet-access-170627/

December 2015 a Virginia federal jury held Internet provider Cox Communications responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP refused to disconnect alleged pirates and was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement. In addition, it was ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox has since filed an appeal and this week it submitted an additional piece of evidence from the US Supreme Court, stating that this strongly supports its side of the argument.

Last week the Supreme Court issued an important verdict in Packingham v. North Carolina, ruling that it’s unconstitutional to bar convicted sex offenders from social media. The Court described the Internet as an important tool for people to exercise free speech rights.

While nothing in the ruling refers to online piracy, it could turn out to be crucial in the case between Cox and BMG. The Internet provider now argues that if convicted criminals have the right to use the Internet, accused file-sharers should have it too.

“Packingham is directly relevant to what constitute ‘appropriate circumstances’ to terminate Internet access to Cox’s customers. The decision emphatically establishes the centrality of Internet access to protected First Amendment activity..,” Cox writes in its filing at the Court of Appeals.

“As the Court recognized, Internet sources are often ‘the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge’.”

Citing the Supreme Court ruling, Cox notes that the Government “may not suppress lawful speech as the means to suppress unlawful speech.” This would be the case if entire households lost Internet access because a copyright holder accused someone of repeated copyright infringements.

“The Court’s analysis strongly suggests that at least intermediate scrutiny must apply to any law that purports to restrict the ability of a class of persons to access the Internet,” ISP writes (pdf).

In its case against BMG, Cox was held liable because it failed to take appropriate action against frequent pirates, solely based on allegations of piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp. Cox doesn’t believe these one-sided complaints should be enough for people to be disconnected from the Internet.

If convicted sex offenders still have the right to use social media, accused pirates should not be barred from the Internet on a whim, the argument goes.

“And if it offends the Constitution to cut off a portion of Internet access to convicted criminals, then the district court’s erroneous interpretation of Section 512(i) of the DMCA — which effectively invokes the state’s coercive power to require ISPs to terminate all Internet access to merely accused infringers — cannot stand,” Cox writes.

Whether the Court of Appeals will agree has yet to be seen, but with the stakes at hand this issue is far from resolved. In addition to the case between BMG and Cox, the MPAA recently filed a lawsuit against Grande Communications, which centers around the same issue.

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

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-riaa-demand-tough-copyright-standards-in-nafta-negotiations-170621/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago. With a quarter of a decade of developments to contend with, the United States wants to modernize.

“While our economy and U.S. businesses have changed considerably over that period, NAFTA has not,” the government says.

With this in mind, the US requested comments from interested parties seeking direction for negotiation points. With those comments now in, groups like the MPAA and RIAA have been making their positions known. It’s no surprise that intellectual property enforcement is high on the agenda.

“Copyright is the lifeblood of the U.S. motion picture and television industry. As such, MPAA places high priority on securing strong protection and enforcement disciplines in the intellectual property chapters of trade agreements,” the MPAA writes in its submission.

“Strong IPR protection and enforcement are critical trade priorities for the music industry. With IPR, we can create good jobs, make significant contributions to U.S. economic growth and security, invest in artists and their creativity, and drive technological innovation,” the RIAA notes.

While both groups have numerous demands, it’s clear that each seeks an environment where not only infringers can be held liable, but also Internet platforms and services.

For the RIAA, there is a big focus on the so-called ‘Value Gap’, a phenomenon found on user-uploaded content sites like YouTube that are able to offer infringing content while avoiding liability due to Section 512 of the DMCA.

“Today, user-uploaded content services, which have developed sophisticated on-demand music platforms, use this as a shield to avoid licensing music on fair terms like other digital services, claiming they are not legally responsible for the music they distribute on their site,” the RIAA writes.

“Services such as Apple Music, TIDAL, Amazon, and Spotify are forced to compete with services that claim they are not liable for the music they distribute.”

But if sites like YouTube are exercising their rights while acting legally under current US law, how can partners Canada and Mexico do any better? For the RIAA, that can be achieved by holding them to standards envisioned by the group when the DMCA was passed, not how things have panned out since.

Demanding that negotiators “protect the original intent” of safe harbor, the RIAA asks that a “high-level and high-standard service provider liability provision” is pursued. This, the music group says, should only be available to “passive intermediaries without requisite knowledge of the infringement on their platforms, and inapplicable to services actively engaged in communicating to the public.”

In other words, make sure that YouTube and similar sites won’t enjoy the same level of safe harbor protection as they do today.

The RIAA also requires any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

In any event, NAFTA should not “support interpretations that no longer reflect today’s digital economy and threaten the future of legitimate and sustainable digital trade,” the RIAA states.

For the MPAA, Section 512 is also perceived as a problem. While noting that the original intent was to foster a system of shared responsibility between copyright owners and service providers, the MPAA says courts have subsequently let copyright holders down. Like the RIAA, the MPAA also suggests that Canada and Mexico can be held to higher standards.

“We recommend a new approach to this important trade policy provision by moving to high-level language that establishes intermediary liability and appropriate limitations on liability. This would be fully consistent with U.S. law and avoid the same misinterpretations by policymakers and courts overseas,” the MPAA writes.

“In so doing, a modernized NAFTA would be consistent with Trade Promotion Authority’s negotiating objective of ‘ensuring that standards of protection and enforcement keep pace with technological developments’.”

The MPAA also has some specific problems with Mexico, including unauthorized camcording. The Hollywood group says that 85 illicit audio and video recordings of films were linked to Mexican theaters in 2016. However, recording is not currently a criminal offense in Mexico.

Another issue for the MPAA is that criminal sanctions for commercial scale infringement are only available if the infringement is for profit.

“This has hampered enforcement against the above-discussed camcording problem but also against online infringement, such as peer-to-peer piracy, that may be on a scale that is immensely harmful to U.S. rightsholders but nonetheless occur without profit by the infringer,” the MPAA writes.

“The modernized NAFTA like other U.S. bilateral free trade agreements must provide for criminal sanctions against commercial scale infringements without proof of profit motive.”

Also of interest are the MPAA’s complaints against Mexico’s telecoms laws. Unlike in the US and many countries in Europe, Mexico’s ISPs are forbidden to hand out their customers’ personal details to rights holders looking to sue. This, the MPAA says, needs to change.

The submissions from the RIAA and MPAA can be found here and here (pdf)

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

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

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

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

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

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

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

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney Asks Google to Remove Its Own (Invisible) Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disney-asks-google-to-remove-its-own-invisible-takedown-notices-170618/

Pretty much every major copyright holder regularly reports infringing links to Google, hoping to decrease the visibility of pirated files.

Over the past several years, the search engine has had to remove more than two billion links and most of these requests have been neatly archived in the Lumen database.

Walt Disney Company is no stranger to these takedown efforts. The company has sent over 20 million takedown requests to the search engine, covering a wide variety of content. All of these notices are listed in Google’s transparency report, and copies are available at Lumen.

While this is nothing new, we recently noticed that Disney doesn’t stop at reporting direct links to traditional “pirate” sites. In fact, they recently targeted one of their own takedown notices in the Lumen database, which was sent on behalf of its daughter company Lucasfilm.

In the notice below, the media giant wants Google to remove a links to a copy of its own takedown notice, claiming that it infringes the copyright of the blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Disney vs. Disney?

This is not the first time that a company has engaged in this type of meta-censorship, it appears.

However, it’s all the more relevant this week after a German court decided that Google can be ordered to stop linking to its own takedown notices. While that suggests that Disney was right to ask for its own link to be removed, the reality is a bit more complex.

When it was still known as ChillingEffects, the Lumen Database instructed Google not to index any takedown notices. And indeed, searching for copies of takedown notices yields no result. This means that Disney asked Google to remove a search result that doesn’t exist.

Perhaps things are different in a galaxy far, far away, but Disney’s takedown notice is not only self-censorship but also entirely pointless.

Disney might be better off focusing on content that Google has actually indexed, instead of going after imaginary threats. Or put in the words of Gold Five: “Stay on Target,” Disney..

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

Court Orders Google to Remove Links to Takedown Notice

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-google-to-remove-links-to-takedown-notice-170616/

On an average day Google processes more than three million takedown notices from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Thanks to Google’s transparency report, the public is able to see where these notices come from and what content they’re targeting. In addition, Google partners with Lumen to post copies of most notices online.

Founded by Harvard’s Berkman Center, Lumen is one of the few tools that helps to keep copyright holders accountable, while offering an invaluable database for researchers and the public in general.

However, not everyone is pleased with the service. Many copyright holders find it unfair that Google still indirectly links to the infringing URLs, because the search results point people to the takedown notice on Lumen, where these are listed in public.

Google linking to a standard DMCA notice

In Germany, a similar complaint was at the center of a lawsuit. A local company found that when people entered its name into the search engine combined with the term ‘suspected fraud’ (Betrugsverdacht), several search results would appear suggesting that the two were linked.

Since making false claims against companies is not allowed in Germany, the company wanted the results removed. The court agreed with this assessment and ordered Google to take action, which it did. However, after removing the results, Google added a mention at the bottom of the results pointing users to the takedown request on Lumen.

“As a reaction to a legal request that was sent to Google, we have removed one search result. You can find further information at LumenDatabase.org,” Google noted, with a link.

The company wasn’t happy with this and wanted Google to remove this mention, since it indirectly linked to the offensive URLs. After a lower court first sided with Google, the Higher Regional Court of Munich has now ordered (pdf) the search engine to remove the link to the Lumen notice.

Mirko Brüß, a lawyer and expert on German copyright law, wrote a detailed overview of the case in question on IPKAT explaining the court’s reasoning.

“By presenting its users an explanation about the deleted search result, combined with a hyperlink to the Lumen website where the deleted search result could be clicked, Google (still) enabled users to find and read the infringing statements, even after being ordered by a court to discontinue doing so,” he notes.

“The court found that it made no difference whether one or two clicks are needed to get to the result,” Brüß adds.

Lumen

While the order only refers to the link at the bottom of the search results, it may also apply to the transparency report itself, Brüß informs TorrentFreak.

It will be interesting to see if copyright holders will use similar means to ensure that Google stops linking to copies of their takedown notices. That would seriously obstruct Google’s well-intentioned transparency efforts, but thus far this hasn’t happened.

Finally, it is worth noting that Google doesn’t index the takedown notices from Lumen itself. Links to takedown notices are only added to search results where content has been removed, either by court order or following a DMCA request.

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

“Top ISPs” Are Discussing Fines & Browsing Hijacking For Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/top-isps-are-discussing-fines-browsing-hijacking-for-pirates-170614/

For the past several years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been moderately successful in forcing smaller fringe ISPs in the United States to collaborate in a low-tier copyright trolling operation.

The way it works is relatively simple. Rightscorp monitors BitTorrent networks, captures the IP addresses of alleged infringers, and sends DMCA notices to their ISPs. Rightscorp expects ISPs to forward these to their customers along with an attached cash settlement demand.

These demands are usually for small amounts ($20 or $30) but most of the larger ISPs don’t forward them to their customers. This deprives Rightscorp (and clients such as BMG) of the opportunity to generate revenue, a situation that the anti-piracy outfit is desperate to remedy.

One of the problems is that when people who receive Rightscorp ‘fines’ refuse to pay them, the company does nothing, leading to a lack of respect for the company. With this in mind, Rightscorp has been trying to get ISPs involved in forcing people to pay up.

In 2014, Rightscorp said that its goal was to have ISPs place a redirect page in front of ‘pirate’ subscribers until they pay a cash fine.

“[What] we really want to do is move away from termination and move to what’s called a hard redirect, like, when you go into a hotel and you have to put your room number in order to get past the browser and get on to browsing the web,” the company said.

In the three years since that statement, the company has raised the issue again but nothing concrete has come to fruition. However, there are now signs of fresh movement which could be significant, if Rightscorp is to be believed.

“An ISP Good Corporate Citizenship Program is what we feel will drive revenue associated with our primary revenue model. This program is an attempt to garner the attention and ultimately inspire a behavior shift in any ISP that elects to embrace our suggestions to be DMCA-compliant,” the company told shareholders yesterday.

“In this program, we ask for the ISPs to forward our notices referencing the infringement and the settlement offer. We ask that ISPs take action against repeat infringers through suspensions or a redirect screen. A redirect screen will guide the infringer to our payment screen while limiting all but essential internet access.”

At first view, this sounds like a straightforward replay of Rightscorp’s wishlist of three years ago, but it’s worth noting that the legal landscape has shifted fairly significantly since then.

Perhaps the most important development is the BMG v Cox Communications case, in which the ISP was sued for not doing enough to tackle repeat infringers. In that case (for which Rightscorp provided the evidence), Cox was held liable for third-party infringement and ordered to pay damages of $25 million alongside $8 million in legal fees.

All along, the suggestion has been that if Cox had taken action against infringing subscribers (primarily by passing on Rightscorp ‘fines’ and/or disconnecting repeat infringers) the ISP wouldn’t have ended up in court. Instead, it chose to sweat it out to a highly unfavorable decision.

The BMG decision is a potentially powerful ruling for Rightscorp, particularly when it comes to seeking ‘cooperation’ from other ISPs who might not want a similar legal battle on their hands. But are other ISPs interested in getting involved?

According to the Rightscorp, preliminary negotiations are already underway with some big players.

“We are now beginning to have some initial and very thorough discussions with a handful of the top ISPs to create and implement such a program that others can follow. We have every reason to believe that the litigations referred to above are directly responsible for the beginning of a change in thinking of ISPs,” the company says.

Rightscorp didn’t identify these “top ISPs” but by implication, these could include companies such as Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, CenturyLink, Charter, Verizon, and/or even Cox Communications.

With cooperation from these companies, Rightscorp predicts that a “cultural shift” could be brought about which would significantly increase the numbers of subscribers paying cash demands. It’s also clear that while it may be seeking cooperation from ISPs, a gun is being held under the table too, in case any feel hesitant about putting up a redirect screen.

“This is the preferred approach that we advocate for any willing ISP as an alternative to becoming a defendant in a litigation and facing potential liability and significantly larger statutory damages,” Rightscorp says.

A recent development suggests the company may not be bluffing. Back in April the RIAA sued ISP Grande Communcations for failing to disconnect persistent pirates. Yet again, Rightscorp is deeply involved in the case, having provided the infringement data to the labels for a considerable sum.

Whether the “top ISPs” in the United States will cave into the pressure and implied threats remains to be seen but there’s no doubting the rising confidence at Rightscorp.

“We have demonstrated the tenacity to support two major litigation efforts initiated by two of our clients, which we feel will set a precedent for the entire anti-piracy industry led by Rightscorp. If you can predict the law, you can set the competition,” the company concludes.

Meanwhile, Rightscorp appears to continue its use of disingenuous tactics to extract money from alleged file-sharers.

In the wake of several similar reports, this week a Reddit user reported that Rightscorp asked him to pay a single $20 fine for pirating a song. After paying up, the next day the company allegedly called the user back and demanded payment for a further 200 notices.

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