Tag Archives: DMCA

Watch Tower DMCA Subpoena Case Hots Up as Anonymous Objector Gains Traction

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/watchtower-dmca-subpoena-case-hots-up-as-anonymous-objector-gains-traction-200407/

Last month we reported on what appeared to be a relatively straightforward DMCA subpoena application filed by the supervising body and publisher for the Jehovah’s Witness religious group.

After discovering that a number of its video sermons had been uploaded to YouTube, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania went to court in New York requesting that the video-hosting platform hand over the personal identifying information of ‘JW Apostate’, the operator of the channel of the same name.

Watch Tower told the court that it had fulfilled all the requirements for obtaining a subpoena and its sole purpose was to “obtain the identity of an alleged infringer or infringers” so that its copyrighted content could be protected. The subpoena was granted but before YouTube could hand over any information, a rather angry and apparently motivated individual stepped in.

In a motion to quash, Jane / John Doe – who identifies as a “noted author and journalist” – told the court that the DMCA subpoena application amounted to an illegal attempt by the religious group to violate the First Amendment rights of journalists by attempting to obtain information about confidential sources. From here, however, the objections became rather more personal.

“[T]he Court utterly failed in its duty to balance the interests of news reporters from stupid fishing expeditions by angry pedophile and pedophile enablers in its hurried effort at rubber stamping whatever documents are handed to the Court in an effort by this judge to appease stupid religious cults who live in her neighborhood,” the motion continued.

“The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is no stranger when it comes to DMCA subpoena applications or indeed Judge Seibel. The religious cult has attempted to obtain several subpoenas in New York courts against Facebook and YouTube users, filing around 60 applications overall since June 2017. This is complete BULLSHIT(to use a legal term).”

A little under two weeks later, Watch Tower attorney Paul Polidoro filed an opposition to the motion to quash, noting that Watch Tower had applied to the US Copyright Office for registration of all of the allegedly infringed works, citing the registration or application numbers for each.

Polidoro further noted that YouTube-owner Google had advised him that until the court ruled on the matter, no identifying information would be handed over.

“JW Apostate (hereinafter ‘Movant’) posted a number of Watch Tower’s complete videos. There were no transformative efforts made in these postings. Rather, as is clear from the motion, he/she asserts the right to unfettered use of Watch Tower’s corporate intellectual property,” Polidoro wrote.

“The filthy diatribe he/she submitted claims this right is grounded in reporter’s shield laws, and the First Amendment right to anonymous speech. As both arguments are without any legal support, his/her motion should be dismissed.

“Movant also seeks refuge in the right of anonymous speech. The law in this circuit is clear: there is no right to anonymously infringe copyrights,” the attorney added.

Late last week, Jane / John Doe hit back in a new filing which describes the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “notorious group of criminal pedophiles running a scam ‘religion’ who are guilty of abuse of process and emotional extortion through sham litigation in their pathetic efforts at discovering leaks and moles and whistleblowers.”

“Unfortunately for them,” the filing continues, “this is the year 2020 and things like VPNs, anonymous proxies, and TOR exit nodes frustrate them at every turn.”

With those claims out of the way, the Doe movant states that Watch Tower does not have a valid copyright claim for any of the videos allegedly made available via YouTube because the necessary registration process wasn’t completed before legal action was taken.

Furthermore, the movant alleges that the videos posted were either “secret recordings” or “edited videos” which only displayed material in such volumes necessary to “inform the public about these anti-government, child molesting religious fanatics.”

In a quite extraordinary filing, the movant makes additional, and at this stage totally unsupported, claims about the relationship between Watch Tower’s attorney and the presiding judge, suggesting that a friendship might be undermining the judicial process.

“The whole point of this response, Judge Seibel, is to get you to think first before you pull out your rubber stamp when these assholes show up on your doorstep hollering about alleged copyright violations,” the anonymous movant continues.

“Lives are at stake here in what you do, Judge Seibel. You need to be more cognizant of the fact that these people are a bunch of damn liars, pedophiles, and bullies.”

Given the outrageous tone of the filings objecting to Watch Tower’s demands for a DMCA subpoena, one could be forgiven for thinking that Judge Seibel might not respond as the movant might’ve hoped. However, the Judge now appears to be taking the objections seriously.

In initial comments, Judge Seibel rejects the notion that the movant is being asked to reveal a journalistic source. She further states that the First Amendment does not protect acts of copyright infringement. However, the claim that Watch Tower keeps requesting DMCA subpoenas appears to have piqued her interest.

“[M]ovant challenges the good faith of Watchtower’s representation that its purpose in seeking a DMCA subpoena is solely to identify a potential defendant for a copyright infringement action, alleging that Watchtower has invoked the [sic] 59 times without ever then bringing such a lawsuit,” Judge Siebel writes.

“The Court can imagine reasons for that fact (if it is a fact) that do not evidence lack of good faith, but Watchtower should address (by declaration or affidavit of someone with knowledge) whether it is true, and if so, why I should not conclude that it evidences lack of good faith.”

Furthermore, the Judge also wants to get a closer look at what content was obtained and the context in which it was posted to YouTube. This is important because, under certain circumstances, there may not have been any infringement at all.

“Watchtower suggests that Movant posted full videos produced by Watchtower. Movant says he posted: 1) ‘undercover’ videos of meetings, in which (he suggests) Watchtower would have no copyright rights; and 2) portions of videos produced by Watchtower, which (he implies) would be fair use because it was part of criticism,” the memo reads.

“Accordingly, Watchtower should address (by declaration or affidavit of someone with knowledge) what exactly it claims was infringed by Movant and how,” Judge Siebel concludes.

DMCA subpoena applications are usually open-and-shut cases but at least in this instance, the evidence will now be subjected to additional scrutiny. Where that will lead is open to question but determining fair use is often a complex not to mention expensive matter.

The various filings can be found here 1,2,3,4 (pdf)

Image credit: Pixabay

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

‘Pirate’ Porn Sites Under Pressure as MG Premium Tightens the Screw

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-porn-sites-under-pressure-as-mg-premium-tightens-the-screw-200405/

MG Premium, the adult entertainment giant behind brands including Reality Kings, Brazzers, MOFOS, Babes.com, and Twistys, appears to be increasing the pressure on sites that allegedly distribute its content without permission.

As previously reported, one of those targets is the massive adult tube site YesPornPlease. This February, MG Premium filed a full-blown lawsuit against the site in a Washington court, potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, the action began months earlier with a DMCA subpoena directed at Cloudflare.

Through processes like this, MG Premium hopes to obtain crucial identifying information about site operators and/or uploaders. At US courts this week, MG Premium made several similar requests targeting additional adult domains, all of which use the services of Cloudflare.

The first pair of subpoenas, filed at a Washington district court, target YesPornPlease.biz and YesPornPlease.best. Whether these are directly connected to MG’s earlier target isn’t made clear in the applications but the nature of the action is obvious.

“MG is the owner of numerous copyrighted audiovisual works. In the course of protecting its works, MG has determined that infringing copies of these works, posted at the direction of individual users and without authorization from MG, appear on Cloudflare, Inc.’s website ‘yespornplease.biz’,” one of the applications reads.

MG notes that it has been sending DMCA infringement notices to Cloudflare but it is now applying for a DMCA subpoena to obtain the identity of the individuals “who are posting the infringing content.” A closer examination of the wording in the subpoena shows that this can easily extend to the site’s operators too.

“For the period January 1, 2016 through the present, produce all documents and account records that identify the person(s) or entities that caused the infringement of the material described in the attached Exhibit B DMCA notifications to the DMCA Agent for Cloudflare, Inc., and/or who unlawfully uploaded MG Premium Ltd’s copyrighted works at the URLs listed in the notifications, including but not limited to identification by names, email addresses, IP addresses, user history, posting history, physical addresses, telephone numbers, and any other identifying information,” the request reads.

An almost identical application seeks the same information relating to alleged infringers at YesPornPlease.best, a domain that appears to have been put into use around October last year.

A third application, which in most key respects is a copy of the others, targets PornDish.com. At the time of writing and according to SimilarWeb stats, this ‘tube’ site receives just under three million visits per month. Right on its front page it states that visitors can “Watch full premium Sis Loves Me, Brazzers, RealityKings, Teamskeet, Naughty America 2020 HD videos online for free!”, which is probably why MG Premium is interested in the site.

Yet another subpoena application, again filed at a Washington district court, demands the same information relating to watchxxxfree.org. According to traffic statistics, the site didn’t get any significant traction until December 2019 but steep gains since then now mean it’s pulling in around 1.4 million visits per month. This domain triggered malware warnings several times (apparently due to different threats) during our investigation so we backed away carefully.

XTapes.to, another MG Premium target, was also the subject of a cookie-cutter DMCA subpoena this week. With around 3.8 million visits in February, it’s bigger than the also-targeted XMoviesForYou.video but, unlike the latter, didn’t cause MalwareBytes to light up in panic.

Finally, MG Premium also fired off a subpoena application listing a domain called ‘PornForDays.net’ as infringing its rights. Sadly, this had us running round in circles because there is no site of that name and the domain is yet to be registered.

After closely examining additional paperwork, however, it became clear that this was in fact an error by MG Premium’s law firm. The correct domain should have been listed as the 2.9 million visits per month tube site Porn4Days.net, which also triggered malware warnings during our checks.

Where these cases will go from here remains to be seen but if MG Premium’s action against YesPornPlease is any indicator, more lawsuits could appear on the horizon.

The DMCA subpoena applications can be found here (1,2,3,4,5,6,7 (all pdf))

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Copyright Holders Continue to Report Fewer Piracy Links to Google Search

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-continue-to-report-fewer-piracy-links-to-google-search-200329/

For most people, search engines such as Google are an essential tool to discover and enjoy the web in all its glory.

With help from complicated algorithms, the company offers a gateway to billions of sites, many of which would otherwise remain undiscovered.

This also includes many ‘pirate’ sites. While there are plenty of people who don’t mind seeing these show up in search results, their presence is a thorn in the side of copyright holders.

Roughly a decade ago this was hardly recognized as a problem. At the time, Google was asked to remove a few dozen URLs per day. In the years that followed, that changed drastically.

In 2012, Google was asked to remove more than 50 million URLs and by 2016, the search engine processed more than a billion reported URLs a year. This increase in notices coincided in large part with heavy critique from copyright holders, which asked Google to do more to curb piracy.

These comments didn’t go unnoticed at the Googleplex in Mountain View. In recent years, the search engine has taken a variety of measures to ensure that pirate sites are less visible. This includes demoting known offenders in search results.

Around the same time, the number of takedown requests from copyright holders started to drop. While we don’t know if that’s directly related to Google’s anti-piracy measures, it is clear that the number of reported URLs has gone down significantly.

According to Google’s transparency report, the company processed little over 500 million takedown requests over the past 12 months. That’s a 50% decrease compared to the billion it received a few years ago, and a 25% decrease compared to two years ago, when we first noticed the shift.

The decrease is in large part caused by the most active senders of takedown requests. For example, three years ago UK music group BPI sent in an average of two million URLs per week, with peaks of over three million. This year, the same group is averaging less than a million per week.

Similarly, the Mexican music group APDIF previously reported over four million pirate links to Google every week. This has now dropped to a few thousand, including some weeks with zero requests.

Also, MarkMonitor, which works with many Hollywood studios, reduced its takedown requests by roughly half.

While the data can’t be linked directly to Google’s anti-piracy measures, BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor informed us earlier this month that demotion of known pirate sites “has significantly improved the quality of results presented to consumers.”

After years of animosity between copyright holders and Google, both in public and behind closed doors, that’s certainly a major change in attitude.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

YouTube Refuses to Process DMCA Counternotice for ‘Creepy Bugs’ Cartoon

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-refuses-to-process-dmca-counternotice-for-creepy-bugs-cartoon-200328/

Earlier this week we reported on a dark parody cartoon depicting a washed-out Bugs Bunny as a sex pest. The controversial video was created by Hunter Hancock, the person behind the MeatCanyon channel.

It was hit with a copyright complaint by Warner Bros. As a result, the MeatCanyon channel received a copyright strike and the cartoon was taken down.

When a video is targeted by a copyright holder with a manual complaint (i.e one not actioned as a result of ContentID matching), users can generally refer to the DMCA for guidance. This means that if they believe their content was not infringing (under fair use guidelines, for example), they can submit a DMCA counternotice to YouTube explaining why the content should not have been taken down.

This is exactly what Hancock did in response to the Warner complaint.

“This is my own creation. I animated every frame, composed the music, recorded the audio and made the backgrounds,” he told YouTube in his counternotice shared with TorrentFreak.

“This creation is under fair use,” he continued. “The characters have been stylized by myself to not reflect directly with the traditional characters. There is no branded logo to incite that this is a real video owned by Warner Brothers, but is in fact a parody video created by none other than by myself.”

As required under the law, Hancock swore that he had a “good faith belief” that the material had been removed due to a mistake and also consented to the jurisdiction of his local federal court, in case Warner chose to sue him – something it must do within two weeks to prevent the content from being restored. Should that time pass with no lawsuit, then the content would’ve been put back up and the strike removed.

In the event, however, none of those things happened. In short, YouTube declined to accept the apparently valid DMCA counternotice filed by Hancock and refused to pass it on to Warner.

“Based on the information you provided, it appears that you do not have the necessary rights to post the content on YouTube. Therefore, we regretfully cannot honor your request. It has not been forwarded to the original claimant, and we will not be able to restore your video,” YouTube’s correspondence reads.

While this response from YouTube runs counter to what most people would expect under the DMCA counter-claim process, it is not unprecedented. The EFF previously reported that agreements YouTube has with rightsholders may effectively deny access to the system.

“In many instances, even if you successfully submit a DMCA counter-notice, the video will not be reinstated. These agreements are opaque, and scope of what’s allowed under them is unknown. They may be short-term, or long-term,” the EFF previously explained.

In this case, the refusal of YouTube to allow a counter-claim represents a double-edged sword. While Hancock submitted the notice in good faith, genuinely believing he was in a good position to put his side of the argument by insisting he was protected under fair use doctrines, the reality of dealing with a lawsuit, should one be initiated, is a serious proposition and not to be underestimated.

After being denied by YouTube and further consideration, he decided that fighting probably wasn’t the best option after all.

“I am in no place to fight this in court due to financial reasons. It seems unnecessary to start a GoFund me or ask for help, because it’s between me and Warner Brothers,” he told TF.

“It also made me think YouTube wanted the video off the platform. It is a very crude video so I can’t blame them for that, but it would’ve been nice to have been given more information on why this video was unacceptable to stay up on my page. It’s very disheartening.”

While the decision by YouTube will be viewed by some as anti-consumer and a denial of due process, in this case the platform arguably did the animator a favor. Instead of expending resources he doesn’t have on a legal process that could go either way and could even prove financially ruinous, he can now concentrate on creating new content for fans.

Some battles are worth fighting but it’s definitely worth weighing the costs first.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

AMD Uses DMCA to Mitigate Massive GPU Source Code Leak

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/amd-uses-dmca-to-mitigate-massive-gpu-source-code-leak-200325/

Graphics cards are big business and AMD is one of the leading brands with an estimated 32% share of the discrete desktop market.

In July 2019, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, AMD released its Radeon RX 5000 series powered by ‘Navi’ GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit). The source code for these devices is extremely sensitive and considered secret but perhaps not for much longer.

This week rumors began to circulate that an unnamed individual had somehow obtained the source for Navi 10, Navi 21 and Arden devices, the latter representing the rumored GPU for the yet-to-be-released Xbox Series X. Confirming whether such leaks are genuine is difficult but yesterday AMD took action which tends to support the theory.

In a DMCA notice sent to development platform Github, AMD identified the recently-created ‘xxXsoullessXxx’ repository and a project titled “AMD-navi-GPU-HARDWARE-SOURCE” as the location of its “stolen” intellectual property.

“This repository contains intellectual property owned by and stolen from AMD,” the semiconductor company wrote. “The original IP is held privately and was stolen from AMD.”

Github responded by immediately taking the repository down, as per AMD’s request. That prompted us to try and find the person behind the repo and to ask some questions about what AMD was trying to suppress. The individual informed TorrentFreak that AMD’s GPU source code was the content in question. (Responses edited for clarity)

“In November 2019, I found AMD Navi GPU hardware source codes in a hacked computer,” the person explained. “The user didn’t take any effective action against the leak of the codes.”

Questioned further on the route of extraction, we were told that a combination of factors led to the leak.

“The source code was unexpectedly achieved from an unprotected computer//server through some exploits. I later found out about the files inside it. They weren’t even protected properly or even encrypted with anything which is just sad.”

The individual, who claims to be female, told us that the package included code for Navi 10 and Navi 21 devices. She also confirmed that the source for the Xbox Series X GPU ‘Arden’ was part of the haul.

When asked whether the person had spoken to AMD about the leak, the answer was negative.

“I haven’t spoken to AMD about it because I am pretty sure that instead of accepting their mistake and moving on, they will try to sue me. So why not just leak it to everyone?” we were told.

The alleged leaker further told us that one “source code packet” had already been released. Whether that is limited to the material made available via Github remains unclear but TF was able to find links to a file-hosting site where an archive claiming to be the content was stored. Given the potentially criminal route via which the content was obtained, we did not download the package.

That AMD is concerned about the leak was underlined once again late yesterday. Having indicated in its initial complaint to Github that the source couldn’t be found anywhere else, the company later backtracked, identifying at least four other locations on Github where the project had been forked. All of those repos have been taken down.

While taking down the repositories is a logical first step for AMD, the gravity of this leak is hard to underestimate. The claimed hacker told TF that she valued the source at $100m but how that calculation was arrived at is unknown. While AMD considers its next steps, an even bigger storm may be heading the company’s way.

“If I get no buyer I will just leak everything,” the leaker concluded, adding that the files would be secured with passwords that will only be handed out to select individuals.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

YouTube Cartoon Featuring Creepy Bugs Bunny Copyright Claimed By Warner Bros.

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-cartoon-featuring-creepy-bugs-bunny-copyright-claimed-by-warner-bros-200323/

Despite racking up to close to 67 million views on its popular YouTube account, MeatCanyon’s cartoons are not yet mainstream fodder.

Thanks to the actions of a copyright holder, however, more publicity is certainly on the horizon.

Many of MeatCanyon’s cartoons are extremely dark, featuring a creepy Ronald McDonald and Jimmy Fallon as a previously-masked character in Scooby-Doo, to give just two examples. But when Patreon-funded MeatCanyon released a two-minute cartoon entitled ‘Wabbit Time’ recently, the end result was a copyright strike on its YouTube account.

The parody cartoon is dark — super dark — and features a character that looks broadly like Bugs Bunny but is both predatory, washed-out, and a shadow of his usual self.

With horrible teeth, drooping teats and a foul mouth, this is clearly not the Bugs everyone is used to, despite sharing the same name. Following his opening line (“What’s up Doc?” which is trademarked but not copyrighted) he attempts to do something awful to a man resembling Elmer Fudd, which reinforces the disconnect from the original ten times over.

Reading between the lines, this was all too much for Warner Bros. As can be seen in the image below, the company filed a copyright complaint with YouTube and had the video taken down.

“Warner brothers just copyright claimed my wabbit season vid….so it’s removed and now I have a strike on my channel….but why [YouTube?],” MeatCanyon wrote on Twitter before the weekend.

With Warner claiming its rights had been infringed and YouTube effectively agreeing, it was the end of the road for the Wabbit Season video.

“It is unfortunate that Youtube decided to side with Warner Brothers. Deleting my video, and giving my channel a strike. I worked very hard on that video and its honestly pretty sad to see it go. There was a lot of people who really enjoyed that video, and it at least makes me happy to know that so many people out there will miss it being on this channel,” MeatCanyon wrote.

But the channel wasn’t done just yet.

In a new cartoon uploaded yesterday titled ‘RIP Wabbit Season’, numerous grotesque characters mourn the ‘death’ of the sinister Bugs Bunny while raising a pretty dark question: Why would Warner claim a video depicting Bugs Bunny as a “struggling rapist” as their own?

The truth, of course, is that Warner didn’t claim the video as its own but claimed copyright infringement instead. There’s little doubt that the cartoon is intended as a parody but that intent in itself doesn’t provide absolute protection under US law.

Should MeatCanyon choose to take the matter further, the intricacies of fair use would need to be examined by a court, including (but not limited to) whether Wabbit Season represented a comedic commentary relating to the original work that necessarily required copying its elements.

There’s also the matter of whether the new work has a detrimental effect on the market (or potential market) for the original work(s). No one could reasonably argue that MeatCanyon’s variant represents direct market competition for Warner’s version but the nature of the former could potentially cast the latter in a different light, at least in some eyes.

These are complex and potentially massively expensive matters to definitively conclude (a reference list of ‘fair use’ case outcomes can be found here) so it seems likely that MeatCanyon will accept the strike and move on. TorrentFreak reached out to MeatCanyon for comment but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

Movie Industry Praises the Effectiveness of Pirate Site Blocking in U.S. Senate

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-industry-praises-the-effectiveness-of-pirate-site-blocking-in-u-s-senate-200311/

Late last year, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis launched a new initiative in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property to find ways the US can better address online piracy.

The DMCA is more than two decades old now and, increasingly, the creative industries are calling for legislative change and bolstered enforcement.

To review the available options and possible hurdles, Tillis chaired a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee yesterday, to examine the approaches taken in foreign jurisdictions.

In two panels, academics plus stakeholders from the entertainment and tech industries shared their thoughts, complemented by written testimonies. While a wide variety of issues were raised, much of the discussion revolved around site blocking.

At the moment, known pirate sites are blocked by Internet providers in dozens of countries around the world. But in the US, which is the largest audience for these sites, pirate site blocking is notably absent. This presents room for improvement.

Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA region, informed the Senate Subcommittee that foreign site blocking efforts are the “most successful approach to online piracy” to date.

“This remedy allows a rights holder to seek a legal order, subject to due process, from an online intermediary that is capable of preventing its service from being used for unlawful purposes,” he mentions.

A ‘no-fault’ injunction puts no blame on intermediaries such as ISPs. However, it does order them to take action against infringing sites and services, which can include blocking.

“Many countries currently offer such a no-fault injunctive remedy to address infringing conduct by pirate sites, including Australia, most member states of the European Union, India and the United Kingdom, to name a just a few,” McCoy notes, while adding that Canada recently joined in as well.

These blocking efforts, many of which the MPA is directly involved in, have proven to be effective according to the movie industry group.

“Our internal data shows us that site blocking is very effective at cutting traffic to pirate domains – meaning that an order applicable to the main access providers in a given country reduces traffic to a targeted domain by 70% on average and can be as high as 80-90% in some countries,” McCoy notes.

In addition to decreasing traffic to blocked domains, which is an obvious result, McCoy also mentions that traffic to other pirate sites also decreased, while legal websites enjoyed more visitors at the same time.

“So yes, site blocking is effective. And that is why much of the rest of the world has embraced this approach,” McCoy concludes.

The effectiveness claims were backed up in other testimonies as well, including that of Dr. Michael D. Smith of Carnegie Mellon University, who published and reviewed several papers on the effectiveness of anti-piracy enforcement.

While the MPA didn’t explicitly call for new legislation, it’s obvious that the movie industry sees blocking as a viable option in the US as well. This was reiterated in testimony from Jonathan Yunger, the co-president of Millennium Media, which is one of the largest independent film production companies.

Millennium Media is the driving force behind several lawsuits against BitTorrent users, websites such as YTS, and apps including Showbox, Popcorn Time, and Cotomovies. According to Yunger, these and other forms of piracy represent an existential threat to the movie business which the DMCA hasn’t been able to curb.

“The truth is that the battle against piracy has only intensified since the DMCA became law, with too little progress to show for it,” Yunger notes.

“Anything that could be distributed digitally online was stolen and monetized by criminals, facilitated by some of the world’s wealthiest internet companies including Google, its now-sibling YouTube, and Facebook.”

Yunger sees large tech companies as clear rivals, which have only made matters worse. For example, when Millennium did a search on YouTube two years ago it found over 200 pirated versions of its films which had been viewed over 110 million times in just one month.

While blocking YouTube isn’t very realistic, Millennium’s co-president does see site blocking as the prime answer to piracy.

“I would like to be able to tell you that America is on the front lines of this global fight against piracy, but, unfortunately, that is not true. Other countries around the world have taken the lead,” he says.

“The first and most important tool being used abroad is no-fault injunctive relief aimed at blocking access to the market by known, adjudicated pirate sites, referred to by some as ‘site blocking,’ Yunger adds.

Like many others, Yunger knows that site blocking is a sensitive topic in US Congress, specifically after the SOPA legislation failed to pass in 2012. At the time, opponents warned that site blocking would ‘break the internet’ and ‘stifle free speech,’ but that was all “fearmongering” and “hyperbole” according to Yunger.

“Back then, we all thought Silicon Valley was simply trying to make the world a better place. The tech industry and its allies tried to portray the creative community as a rich and greedy behemoth that was trying to take away people’s free content and destroy their access to a safe and well-functioning internet,” he says.

“Well, I think we all know who the rich and greedy industry behemoth is today, and there are plenty of questions about who can properly wave the guardian banner on behalf of internet users. In this David and Goliath scenario, the creative industry is obviously the David to the Big Tech Goliath.”

Millennium sees site blocking as an effective anti-piracy tool and the company wants the US to join other countries. A clear message, but the company’s co-president does derail at the end, by mentioning two long-defunct pirate sites.

“Since the first website blocking order went into place in May 2010, notorious piracy site ThePirateBay has been blocked in 19 countries. Isohunt is now blocked in 10 countries and KickAssTorrents is blocked in 11 countries. But, sadly, all of those sites are still available to Americans.”

Apparently, Yunger believes that torrent sites isoHunt and KickassTorrents remain threats. However, isoHunt shut down years ago after it lost a lawsuit against the MPA, and KickassTorrents was shut down by the feds in 2016.

The overall message is obvious, however. The movie industry sees site blocking as a great tool to combat piracy and the suggestion is that US lawmakers should do something with it.

That brings us to a crucial matter. The DMCA already includes a provision to provide injunctive relief against intermediaries, which could order ISPs to block foreign pirate sites.

This matter was also brought up at the hearing by Matt Schruers, President at the Computer & Communications Industry Association. Schreurs, who represents the interests of many major tech companies, stresses that there are also potential negative consequences to site blocking.

He references several mistakes that were made when US authorities first started seizing domains of allegedly infringing websites, including the fact that 84,000 websites were taken down in error.

In addition, Schreurs also highlights that the DMCA does allow for injunctive relief under subsection 512(j).

“It is interesting to hear talk of other jurisdictions having pioneered site blocking when members of this committee gave the earliest thought to injunctive relief in this context, and it’s embodied in 512(J),” he says. “The notion that there isn’t an injunction remedy in US law is really not accurate.”

Stan McCoy of the MPA acknowledges this “hypothetical” option but points to the crux of why we haven’t seen any site-blocking efforts yet.

“The great benefit we see in a lot of the jurisdictions that have no-fault injunctive relief around the world is that it’s very clearly no-fault. We’re not asserting any kind of wrongdoing on the part of the intermediary against whom the order is sought.”

“Unfortunately, that aspect is not ideally clear in 512(j) and that’s perhaps one reason why that provision has not been used,” McCoy adds.

Yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Subcommittee is part of an ongoing process to review the state of US copyright law and to see what other options are available. In addition to site blocking, the EU Copyright Directive, including Article 17, was also discussed.

While it is clear that site blocking is on the agenda of US lawmakers, any concrete changes to the DMCA or other legislation are not on the table yet.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

BPI Has Reported Half a Billion ‘Pirate’ Links to Google

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bpi-has-reported-half-a-billion-pirate-links-to-google-290310/

Over the past two decades, the music industry has witnessed several shifts in music consumption. First, CDs were traded in for downloads and in recent years streaming has taken over.

Despite the growing availability of legal streaming services in many countries, the piracy problem hasn’t disappeared. In just a few clicks, virtually every music track can be accessed for free through unauthorized sources.

In an attempt to prevent these infringements, the BPI and other music industry groups send millions of takedown notices to Internet services every month. Although all major search engines are targeted, most of these requests are directed at Google.

With roughly a million URLs reported to Google every week, the BPI is the most active music industry sender. When added up the numbers are substantial and have just resulted in the music group hitting a new milestone.

After crossing the mark of 500,000,000 reported links, the BPI has become the second most active reporter after Rivendell. It also means that, of all the URLs reported to Google over the past several years, more than 11% come from the UK group.

While the massive numbers open the door to mistakes, the BPI has a very decent track record. Close to 97% of the links are indeed removed by Google, which rejected less than one percent. The rest are either duplicates or links that aren’t indexed.

For comparison, Google only removed 72% of Rivendell’s reported links while more than a quarter were marked as duplicates or not listed in Google’s search results.

Over the years, the BPI has flagged ‘copyright infringing’ links on more than 30,000 domains. Many of these are no longer operational. The top targeted sites that are still online today are 4shared.com and chomikuj.pl, which were reported 9.2 million and 7.9 million times respectively.

According to BPI Chief Executive Geoff Taylor, the new milestone shows that piracy remains a massive problem that requires the full attention of all stakeholders involved.

“The fact the BPI has had to delist half a billion infringing music links from Google alone, on behalf of UK artists and labels, highlights the staggering scale of the problem of illegal sites, as well as BPI’s unwavering commitment to fighting for the rights of artists and their record labels,” Taylor says.

In the past, the BPI stressed that companies such as Google should take more responsibility. These continued requests eventually led to a “code of practice” where major search engines committed to do more.

This has led to progress, Taylor says, noting that demotion of known pirate sites “has significantly improved the quality of results presented to consumers.”

“The collaboration with search engines, including Google, sets a good example for online intermediaries and platforms, which must urgently take on greater responsibility to combat illegal content,” Taylor stresses.

This is not limited to search engines but also applies to advertising networks, payment providers, hosting services, domain registries, and registrars.

”For too long we have accepted a reactive approach that places all the burden on creators to search for and police hundreds of millions of infringements of their rights across the entire internet. That approach cannot succeed,” Taylor says.

“Instead we should expect reasonable, proactive, preventative measures by all online businesses, using technology and good business practices, to sweep the black market to the edges of the internet.”

According to the BPI, these changes are achievable. If not voluntarily, then with a little help from lawmakers, to push these companies in the right direction.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

DMCA Notices Took Down 14,320 Github Projects in 2019

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-notices-took-down-14320-github-projects-in-2019-200226/

Code development platform Github is home to a staggering 40 million developers worldwide, most of whom use its world-class features without much outside interference.

Occasionally, however, code published to the site can attract the negative attention of outside parties, some of whom believe that it somehow infringes on their rights.

The reasons for these claims are varied but most commonly on TF we cover copyright infringement issues. Recent examples can be found in a notice filed by the MPA which targeted the repository of ‘pirate’ app TeaTV or when Instagram requested code to be removed, ostensibly to protect its users’ copyrights.

In common with platforms like Google and Reddit, Github publishes an annual transparency report, which offers additional information on how the company responds to requests for user information and removal of content. Its latest, the sixth since 2014, reveals that in response to copyright complaints, Github permanently took down 14,320 projects.

“14,320 may sound like a lot of projects,” says Abby Vollmer, senior manager of policy at GitHub, “but it’s only about one one-hundredth of a percent of the repositories on GitHub at the end of 2019.”

Since multiple projects can be targeted in a single DMCA notice, the actual volume of notices processed by Github is much lower, 1,762 valid notices to be precise. The company handled just 37 counter-notices, which are sent to Github by users requesting that content is reinstated due to the belief it is non-infringing or has been incorrectly targeted.

The counter-notice figure provided by Github also includes DMCA notice retractions, where the submitter withdrew their original complaint. The company does not track incomplete or insufficient notices, so these are not detailed in its report.

Github acknowledges that it has seen considerable growth in the volume of DMCA notices submitted to the platform over the past several years. However, the company highlights that the increase in repositories affected is somewhat in line with its surging userbase.

“Based on DMCA data we’ve compiled over the last few years, we’ve seen an increase in DMCA notices received and processed, trending with growth in registered users over the same period of time, until this year,” Vollmer says.

“However, if we compare the number of repositories affected by DMCA notices to the approximate number of registered users over the same period of time, then we see an increase this year that correlates with that of GitHub’s community.”

While most copyright complaints are filed by companies, their agents, or individuals, Github said that this year it needed to add a new category titled ‘court-ordered takedowns’. Github says it received a single order in 2019 that was about copyright but wasn’t a regular complaint. Unfortunately, however, it’s not allowed to provide many details.

“We received one this year and interestingly, it was about copyright but not under the DMCA. Since it was a gagged court order, we weren’t able to provide our usual transparency to the user of sharing and posting the notice, but we are able to report on the fact that we processed a takedown on this basis,” Vollmer concludes.

Overall, the number of copyright complaints received by Github is relatively small considering its size. It’s unlikely that leading rightsholders see the platform as a major problem but over the years many have had projects taken down, including Nintendo, WinRAR, the body in charge of HDMI administration, and Grindr.

A pirate site even got in on the act, but that was a clear anomaly.

Github’s 2019 Transparency Report can be viewed in full here

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Activision Subpoenas Reddit to Identify Call of Duty Warzone ‘Leaker’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/activision-subpoenas-reddit-to-identify-call-of-duty-warzone-image-200221/

Sometime last week, speculation that a new Call of Duty ‘battle royale’ mode might be due for a March launch began to intensify.

Noted leaker TheGamingRevoYT (TheGamingRevolution) posted footage on YouTube claiming to be from the ‘Warzone’ mode and as VGC reported, players were able to glitch into menus following the Season 2 update.

It didn’t take long to work out that Activision was unhappy with the leaks. The video posted by TheGamingRevoYT was taken down, leaving a notice behind declaring that the video was no longer available due to a copyright claim by the gaming giant.

Around the same time – perhaps earlier, perhaps a little later – a Reddit user called Assyrian2410 took to Reddit’s /r/modernwarfare to post a new thread. “I found this image online. Not sure what it is. Possibly Battle Royale,” he or she wrote.

The thread linked to an image, hosted by Reddit. According to a source detailing the captured image and crediting it to the user, it shows Call of Duty soldiers standing on top of a downed chopper. Most strikingly, the text in the background shouts “CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE.”

According to a user who participated in the Reddit thread, TheGamingRevolution confirmed on Twitter that the image was “legit”. However, the tweet was removed and according to Twitter, that account has now been suspended. Another tweet, published by a moderator of the /r/modernwarfare sub-Reddit, was also “withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder.”

Whether any further action is being taken against most of the alleged leakers listed above or indeed the many others around the web remains unclear. However, documents obtained by TorrentFreak show that Activision has taken to a US court in an effort to discover the identity of Reddit user Assyrian2410.

In a filing on February 14, 2020 at a California district court, attorneys acting for Activision requested a DMCA subpoena against Reddit.

“Petitioner, Activision Publishing, Inc. through its undersigned counsel of record, hereby requests that the Clerk of this Court issue a subpoena to Reddit, Inc. to identify alleged infringers at issue, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), 17 U.S.C. § 512(h),” the request reads.

“The DMCA Subpoena is directed to Reddit, Inc. Reddit is the service provider to which the subject of the subpoena – Reddit user ‘Assyrian241O’ – posted infringing Activision content.”

As the image shows, the proposed subpoena provides a Reddit URL where the supposedly infringing content was published. However, rather than listing the specific Reddit URL where the actual image was hosted, it instead references the Reddit discussion thread.

No infringing content was posted in the thread itself and the actual image URL isn’t mentioned at all in the subpoena request. In any event, the image was deleted days ago.

Nevertheless, Activision claims that the image content infringes its exclusive rights under copyright law, “Specifically, it infringes Activision’s rights in its popular video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” the request adds.

The image in question is currently being used on many gaming sites in articles discussing Warzone but it’s unclear whether the Reddit user was the source of the original material. However, an aggravating factor can be found in the thread itself.

Contrary to the initial claim, that the user “found this image online”, he or she later confessed to it being sent to them by an “inside source”. That raises the question of who Activision is more interested in – the Reddit user or the person who sent them the image, possibly from inside Activision or a related company.

Despite the URL issue, the seemingly deficient subpoena request was signed off by the clerk of the court and will now be delivered to Reddit, which is required to hand over the personal details of its user by February 29, 2020.

Whether it will or can comply is currently unknown. The Assyrian241O account was deleted days ago but it’s not clear what data Reddit retains on users after such an event, particularly in light of a legal issue.

The DMCA subpoena request and related documents can be found here (1,2,3 pdf)

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New Wave Of Nintendo Anti-Piracy Complaints Helps Microsoft Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-wave-of-nintendo-anti-piracy-complaints-helps-microsoft-too-200215/

While most if not all gaming companies have piracy issues to contend with, Nintendo is among the most aggressive when it comes to protecting its intellectual property rights.

The company has a multi-pronged strategy that tackles the issue from almost every conceivable direction. When sites create archives of gaming ROMs available for download, Nintendo is happy to sue their operators and when entities are more difficult to pursue with direct legal action, it has taken to the courts to have ISPs block piracy-facilitating platforms.

While it has many adversaries on the piracy front, the infamous Team-Xecutor is perhaps the company’s arch-nemesis. With its development of hardware and software solutions to skirt Nintendos technical protection measures, such as those available for the Switch platform, Team-Xecutor is now one of Nintendo’s priorities.

Last November we reported that Nintendo had begun targeting Google with relatively rare DMCA anti-circumvention notices, which detailed URLs where Team-Xecutor and similar piracy-enabling products could be found.

Since these notices aren’t easily countered, Google removed many listings from its indexes, meaning that anyone searching for Team-Xecutor’s SX OS and SX Pro products would find related pages more difficult to find. It now transpires that on this front, Nintendo is keeping up the pressure, firing off more and more complaints to Google in an effort to reduce the popularity of these products.

In early December, following our last update, Nintendo sent a notice to Google targeting 91 pages on Team-Xecutor.com.

“The URLs listed below promote, and direct visitors to resellers of, circumvention software and devices called the SX OS and SX Pro,” the notice reads.

“The SX OS and SX Pro is designed to bypass technological protection measures in the Nintendo Switch video game system and allows users to play unauthorized copies of Nintendo’s video game files that are offered unlawfully via the Internet.”

While that was certainly the case for many of the listed URLs, rival gaming companies also benefited from the notice. Intentionally or otherwise, Nintendo also requested the delisting of pages relating to modification devices for Microsoft’s XBox 360, including the Xecutor Sonos 360 sound module, for example.

Another, a couple of days later, listed another 65 URLs, again targeting a mixture of Nintendo and Xbox-related products.

While Team-Xecutor and sellers of the R4 range of backup cartridges are the main targets, these devices are distributed through networks of resellers, all of which Nintendo wants to render harder to find. Many notices in December also addressed this issue, targeting a range of sites selling Team-Xecutor and similar products.

After a six week hiatus, this month Nintendo began sending notices again, largely following the same format as before by deleting specific pages on a range of sites from Google’s search results. While this is a nuisance for the targeted platforms, three in particular appeared to have made the mistake of offering circumvention devices on their homepages.

As a result, sxswitch.com, mod-switch.com, and gogioco.com have all had their homepages deleted from search results. Team-Xecutor.com received the same treatment back in September 2019.

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

US Congress Starts Review on Possible Modernization of the DMCA

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-congress-starts-review-on-possible-modernization-of-the-dmca-20021/

When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was introduced in 1998, few people could of imagined the online developments of the next two decades. Nevertheless, the law remains in place today and at times, according to some, struggles to keep up with whatever technology throws at it.

The DMCA is a complex beast but some of its key goals are to outlaw the production and distribution of tools and services designed to circumvent DRM systems controlling access to copyright works (Section 1201 anti-circumvention) and limit the liability of online service providers for the actions of their users (Section 512). Particularly in respect of the latter, many copyright holders believe that changes are long overdue.

With the U.S. Copyright Office already conducting its own study into the DMCA, Senator Thom Tillis has launched a new initiative in the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property to find ways to modernize the DMCA to better tackle the drastic changes of the past 22 years. Supported by written testimony from a number of copyright experts, the first hearing took place yesterday.

Even at this early stage, it seems clear that while Section 1201 isn’t considered perfect and has its detractors, it is Section 512 that will likely prove the most controversial to address, particularly in respect of notice-and-takedown and related service provider safe harbor provisions. In his testimony, Steven J. Metalitz, who helped to draft the DMCA more than two decades ago, provided his assessment of why the law no longer works as intended.

Metalitz references three ‘V’s as major issues faced by rightsholders today – the volume of infringement; the velocity of infringing activity; and the importance of voluntary arrangements, including licensing and technological collaboration.

“Section 512 in general, and the notice-and-takedown system in particular, implicitly assume a model in which the volume of infringing activity is sufficiently low that human decision making can feasibly be applied on virtually a case-by case basis to decisions about whether to file a notice of infringement, how such notices are to be processed, and what action should be taken in response to them,” Metalitz testified.

“If that model was ever a realistic approach, the huge volume of online infringement soon outstripped it. It was not long before the entire notice-and-takedown process became fully automated on both sides: robots talking to robots to decide the fate of particular disputed postings or links, which themselves had been generated through automated processes.”

Addressing the current velocity of online infringements, Metalitz said the question of how quickly a service provider must act to deal with an infringement complaint to maintain safe harbor is now an issue.

Drafters of the DMCA may not have envisioned a situation where infringing content is not only made instantly available to an audience of millions, but can instantly reappear even following a successful takedown notice, rendering the system pointless, Metalitz said.

“In reviewing section 512, the subcommittee should consider what changes are needed to respond to this vast acceleration in the velocity of online infringement, as well as the ease with which Internet users with even limited tech savvy can carry it out,” he added.

To help address some of these issues, Metalitz hopes that the subcommittee will look at the role of voluntary arrangements between copyright holders and service providers, such as licensing and other mechanisms, that can help to mitigate and manage online infringement, perhaps underpinned by changes in the law.

Given her position as Director of Copyright Research and Policy at the Center For Protection of Intellectual Property, the testimony of Sandra Aistars demonstrated a clear determination towards a tightening of the law, with suggestions on the notice-and-takedown/service provider front proving of particular interest.

“I do not advocate doing away with the protections safe harbors have afforded internet companies, because along with the negative, they have also done much to spur positive developments and creativity on the internet. Nevertheless, I believe that the last twenty two years of applying the DMCA to everyday practice have demonstrated that the marketplace and the courts have eroded the original intent of Congress,” Aistars testified.

“In considering legislation, it will be important to focus on how best to restore those elements of the DMCA intended to foster cooperation between stakeholders. One clear area of legislative reform would be to restore/clarify the original meaning of red flag knowledge.

“Similarly, elements of the DMCA which have received little or no attention — such as the concept of sending notice of infringements by means of representative lists, rather than link by link, and the requirement to accommodate standard technical measures, should be revisited and incorporated more effectively into any new legislation,” she added.

That brings Aistars to the conclusion that notice-and-takedown is for the past and something more permanent should be considered for the future. Legislation that provides incentives for service providers to develop technologies or policies to achieve notice-and-staydown regimes would be favorable, she argued, especially since Europe is moving towards that with Article 17 of the Copyright Directive.

“Some progress has already been made on this in the European Union Digital Single Market Directive, demonstrating not only that this is an achievable goal, but that internet services operating in the EU will already be required to meet such standards,” Aistars added.

But while Aistars suggests that the DMCA needs significant work to be effective in today’s environment, others believe that it is still delivering on its goal to encourage innovation. Any significant change, perhaps in line with the EU’s plans, could hinder that, some suggest.

Professor Rebecca Tushnet of the Harvard Law School works with the Organization for Transformative Works, a user-generated content project with a budget of less than $400,000 per year. It receives 1.12 billion page views per month yet receives less than one DMCA notice per month, most of them invalid.

“Empirical research reveals that most of the internet service providers who rely on §512 are like us: receiving relatively low levels of notices and handling them individually. There just aren’t that many entities receiving millions of notices,” her testimony reads.

“While market pressures and business decisions have led a few large sites like YouTube to more filter-based systems, it is important not to treat YouTube as a model for the internet at large—unless the only online service we want to survive is YouTube.”

Tushnet believes that most beneficiaries of Section 512 are not companies like Google or Facebook. Indeed, if Congress targets these kinds of entities with changes to copyright law, it will only help them dominate the market.

“If Congress changes the DMCA to target Google and Facebook, or because of rogue overseas sites that already aren’t complying with the DMCA to begin with, it will ensure that only Facebook, Google and pirate sites survive, making the problem of market concentration even worse without protecting creators,” Tushnet said.

“Most service providers don’t need and can’t get expensive filtering technology. A mandate for that, whether called ‘staydown’ or something else, would destroy the small and medium entities that are vital to innovation, creativity, and competition on the internet.”

Finally and perhaps unsurprisingly, the thorny issue of dealing with so-called ‘repeat infringers’ is set for hot debate, embedded as it is with Section 512, safe harbor, and its potential effect on regular Internet users. It is certainly on Sandra Aistars’ agenda, up to and including taking the most aggressive measures possible against those accused of infringing copyright via their home connections.

Referencing the recent BMG v Cox case, which dealt with the repeat infringements of BitTorrent users and the failure of the ISP to disconnect them, Aistars expressed disappointment at those who submitted amicus briefs arguing that disconnection would be unfavorable if multiple users in a household had access to an Internet connection.

“Apparently these parties believe high speed internet service is more of a basic human necessity than housing or transportation, which can both be seized under federal forfeiture laws regardless if jointly held,” Aistars testimony reads.

“While I do not suggest that the circumstances under which federal forfeiture is permitted are exactly comparable, surely if the seizure of a jointly owned home or automobile is permissible, disabling internet service must also be under appropriate circumstances. Clearly ISPs have no qualms disabling service for nonpayment, for instance.”

Yesterday’s hearing was just the beginning but for those who want all of the details thus far, the testimonies are available here.

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Instagram Uses DMCA Complaint to Protect Users’ “Copyrighted Works”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/instagram-uses-dmca-complaint-to-protect-users-copyrighted-works-200130/

DMCA notices are sent in their millions every single week, mainly to restrict access to copyright-infringing content. These notices usually target the infringing content itself or links to the same, but there are other options too.

The anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA allow companies that own or provide access to copyrighted works to target tools and systems that facilitate access to that content in an unauthorized manner. Recent examples can be found in the war currently being waged by the RIAA against various YouTube-ripping sites, which provide illicit access to copyright works, according to the industry group.

This week Facebook-owned Instagram entered the arena when it filed a DMCA notice against code repository Github. It targeted Instagram-API, an independent Instagram API created by a Spain-based developer known as ‘mgp25‘. Instagram claims that at least in part, the notice was filed to prevent unauthorized access to its users’ posts, which can contain copyrighted works.

“The Company maintains technological measures to control access to and protect Instagram users’ posts, which are copyrighted works. This notice relates to GitHub users offering, providing, and/or trafficking in technologies, products, and/or services primarily designed to circumvent the Company’s technological measures,” the complaint begins.

According to Instagram, Instagram-API is code that was designed to emulate the official Instagram mobile app, allowing users to send and receive data, including copyrighted content, through Instagram’s private API. It’s a description that is broadly confirmed by the tool’s creator.

“The API is more or less like a replica of the mobile app. Basically, the API mimics the requests Instagram does, so if you want to check someone’s profile, the mobile app uses a certain request, so through basic analysis we can emulate that request and be able to get the profile info too. The same happens with other functionalities,” mgp25 informs TorrentFreak.

While Instagram clearly views the tool as a problem, mgp25 says that it was originally created to solve one.

“Back in the day I wasn’t able to use Instagram on my phone, and I wanted something to upload photos and communicate with my friends. That’s why I made the API in the first place,” he explains.

There are no claims from Instagram that Instagram-API was developed using any of its copyrighted code. Indeed, the tool’s developer says that it was the product of reverse-engineering, something he believes should be protected in today’s online privacy minefield.

“I think reverse engineering should be exempt from the DMCA and should be legal. By reverse engineering we can verify whether apps are violating user privacy, stealing data, backdooring your device or doing even worse things,” he says.

“Without reverse engineering we wouldn’t know whether the software was a government spy tool. Reverse engineering should be a right every user should have, not only to provide interoperability functionalities but to assure their privacy rights are not being violated.”

While many would consider that to be a reasonable statement, Instagram isn’t happy with the broad abilities of Instagram-API. In addition to the above-mentioned features, it also enables access to “Instagram users’ copyrighted works in manners that exceed the scope of access and functionality that would be permitted by a user with a legitimate, authorized Instagram account,” the company adds.

After the filing of the complaint, it took a couple of days for Github to delete the project but it is now well and truly down. The same is true for more than 1,500 forks of Instagram-API that were all wiped out after their URLs were detailed in the same complaint.

Regardless of how mgp25 feels about the takedown, the matter will now come to a close. The developer says he has no idea how far Instagram and Facebook are prepared to go in order to neutralize his software so he won’t be filing a counter-notice to find out.

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Movie & TV Show Database Bombards Google With Bizarre Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/movie-tv-show-database-bombards-google-with-bizarre-takedown-notices-200126/

First launched in 1993, France-based company AlloCiné aims to support the entertainment industries by providing information on movies and TV shows.

The company operates a portal located at Allocine.fr where users can research movies, TV series, actors and view a wide range of additional information such as release dates, for example. While less well-known than iMDb, for example, Allocine.fr is a huge draw with more than 46 million visits per month.

During December 2019 and for reasons that remain unclear, a new wave of DMCA takedown notices began appearing on Google’s Transparency Report, reportedly sent by AlloCiné and targeting a broad range of sites. All told and from a standing start, the company appears to have requested the removal of more than 6,300 URLs from third-party sites, claiming that they infringe AlloCiné’s rights.

Determining whether that’s actually the case is not easy since the notices submitted to Google don’t include links where original content can be found. The first notice, dated December 16, 2019, seems to target sites that give the impression of being streaming portals. They bear no close resemblance to AlloCiné and Google eventually rejected every single request.

This pattern largely continues across many copyright claims targeting thousands of URLs but then even more glaring errors start to appear.

While similar to those that preceded it, this notice asks Google to delete a page on rival entertainment database JustWatch featuring Game of Thrones. It also demands that a link to a Rotten Tomatoes page detailing The Mandalorian is deleted, just one of many targeting the site in the days that followed.

For reasons unknown, this notice targets the History Channel while another attempts to delist a Harley Quinn article published by Newsweek.

With Google refusing to take action for almost all URLs thus far, another notice persists by demanding the takedown of an information page relating to the TV series Asylum City published on the CanalPlus website. Another targets pages on both MetaCritic and Decider after they covered the Disney show The Imagineers.

Things only go down from here, with another notice targeting four more Rotten Tomatoes URLs, one belonging to Hulu, plus one owned by Paramount Network. Just a day later, another notice swooped back for another bite at Hulu (it is targeted in several notices) plus an attack on the site AllSeries.co.uk. While this might sound like a TV show platform, it is in fact a BMW-focused sales and repairs company in the UK.

Sadly, subsequent notices don’t offer any improvement, with one in particular standing out after targeting news site Le Parisien for writing about Netflix, Wired.com for reporting on The Witcher, and Vulture for recapping The Mandalorian.

Quite what AlloCiné is trying to achieve here isn’t clear but the very same notice also targets the New York Times, Netflix, KickStarter, IGN, Express.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, Wikipedia and – for good measure – AlloCiné’s very own domain.

TorrentFreak’s request for comment from AlloCiné remains unanswered.

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Rivendell Has Now Sent Half a Billion DMCA Takedown Requests to Google

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rivendell-has-now-sent-half-a-billion-dmca-takedown-requests-to-google-200125/

DMCA notices or their equivalents can be filed against websites, hosts, ISPs and other services almost anywhere in the world, with the majority of entities taking some action in response.

At Google, for example, the company receives DMCA notices requesting that allegedly-infringing URLs are delisted from search results and at this company alone, the scale is astonishing. At the time of writing, Google has processed requests to remove 4.43 billion URLs from its indexes across 2.77 million domains. These were filed by more than 196,100 copyright holders and 186,100 reporting organizations, which includes anti-piracy groups.

This week, one of those anti-piracy groups reached a historic milestone. French anti-piracy group Rivendell sent its 500 millionth URL delisting request to Google, breaking the half-a-billion barrier for a single reporting entity for the first time.

Hervé Lemaire is the owner of Rivendell’s sister company LeakID, a company he formed in 2006 after he left EMI/Virgin as Head of Digital. Speaking with TorrentFreak this week, he explained that Rivendell was launched in 2013 with a key focus to prevent unlicensed content appearing in Google’s indexes.

Lemaire didn’t provide specific details on Rivendell’s top clients but a cursory view of Google’s report shows many familiar names from the world of entertainment, including what recently appears to be a strong focus on sports content owned by the Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.

In common with all anti-piracy companies, Rivendell isn’t keen to give away its secrets. Lemaire did confirm however that patroling Google’s indexes is only part of the puzzle and that scanning piracy platforms to identify infringing material quickly plays a big part.

When it comes to dealing with Google itself, Lemaire bucks the trend by complimenting (rather than criticizing) the company for its anti-piracy work.

“We work closely with the Google team and we are very happy with them,” he told TF. “They are very cooperative and when we have a problem with a link we always have an answer and a solution from them.”

Google doesn’t impose any reporting limits on Rivendell either, with Lemaire noting that all Google wants is to work with “serious companies doing a serious job.”

While the sending of more than half-a-billion URL reports is certainly remarkable, it’s worth breaking down what type of action was taken in response to them. The image below shows what action Google took, with just under three-quarters of URL requests resulting in immediate removal.

That raises the question of why 25% of Rivendell’s URL reports failed to result in content being removed.

The red category – almost 20% – indicates content that didn’t actually exist in Google’s indexes at the time it was detected by Rivendell. The company suggests that because it acts so quickly, it can detect content before it appears in Google’s results.

“If you search the links only on Google, you have nothing to do with the protection of content,” Lemaire says.

“We do not expect Google to show us the pirated links [immediately]. To be effective we must go to where content is found before it appears on the search engine, especially for live content.”

This type of proactive takedown isn’t a problem for Google. As previously revealed, the company is happy to receive the URLs for content it hasn’t yet indexed for action when they do eventually appear.

“We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Google copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson previously explained.

“We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results.”

Lemaire also has straightforward explanations for the other categories too. Requests labeled as ‘duplicate’ by Google have already been targeted by other anti-piracy companies while the 1% marked “No Action” can be the result of several issues including a lack of evidence, a homepage delisting request, hidden content, or even a ‘fake’ pirate website.

The big question, however, is whether all of these delisting efforts actually have any serious impact on the volumes of pirated content being consumed. Lemaire is clear: “It works.”

“For live events like football we were the first to work on removing links before, during and after matches. This is why several European leagues trust us in particular on this subject,” he says.

“In general, the removal of illegal links allows legal offers to occupy the top places in search results. There are still improvements to be made regarding the pagerank of illegal sites, however.”

Lemaire is brief when questioned on what measures are taken to avoid erroneous takedowns, stating that all domains are validated before they are notified to Google. Finally, he also appears to recognize the resourcefulness of his adversaries but says that countering them is enjoyable.

“Pirates are not stupid and are constantly finding new solutions. It’s up to us to work to outsmart them .. we love it,” he concludes.

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

All DMCA Notices Filed Against TorrentFreak in 2019 Were Bogus

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/all-dmca-notices-filed-against-torrentfreak-in-2019-were-bogus-191231/

Every year we publish around 800 articles here at TorrentFreak, all of them covering copyright, piracy, privacy and closely related issues.

Over the course of 2019, many have detailed the efforts of content companies and their anti-piracy partners who have filed lawsuits, copyright complaints, and DMCA-type takedown notices to have content removed from allegedly-infringing sites.

In many cases those legal efforts were warranted but there have been some obvious screw-ups too.

Time and again, anti-piracy companies have overstepped the mark, attempting to have legitimate content removed. And, yet again, TorrentFreak.com has also been targeted by companies, their bots, or even individuals who simply can’t tell the difference between pirated content and legitimate news and informational pieces.

In previous years we’ve received erroneous complaints from the likes of Amazon, Electronic Arts, Disney, Entertainment One, Vertigo Films, Magnolia Pictures, NBCUniversal, Paramount, and even BBC Worldwide. This year we can add more.

According to Google’s Transparency Report, in 2019 Google received a further 11 DMCA takedown notices targeting our domain, sent on behalf of Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, and sundry others. All of them were completely bogus.

In January, we were accused of infringing the rights of Dreamworks, among others, after simply mentioning that a DVD Screener copy of the movie Green Book was the 9th most popular movie downloaded using BitTorrent during the first week of 2019.

In March, a complaint sent on behalf of Columbia Pictures told Google that an archive page referencing Boss Baby downloads (dating back to 2016) was somehow infringing their rights.

In April we were the dubious recipient of two complaints, both from the Estonian Organization for Copyright Protection. The first claimed that we were offering the CBS movie Five Feet Apart, simply because we have a content tag on the site mentioning torrent site YTS.

The second claimed we’d somehow helped to distribute the Finnish movie The Eternal Road after publishing a list of the top 10 most popular torrent sites of 2016.

After a whole month of peace, Google received yet another bogus complaint about TF in June, this time from Japanese company ‘유니콘미디어” stating that we were offering the Illumination/Universal Pictures title The Secret Life of Pets for download. We were not.

In July we received two complaints, both on behalf of Sony Pictures. The first because we referenced the movie Inferno and the second because we did the same for the movie Breathe.

The complaint filed against us in August was even more absurd than the others. Fourteen years ago, back in 2005 when TorrentFreak was in its formative years, we published a list of public domain movies that are not only free but also legal to download and share.

However, according to a complaint filed by movie company Vertigo Releasing, that article included pirate links to the 2019 movie ‘The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil’. Why? We have no idea but there were a total of five public domain movies in that list that included either the word ‘cop’ or ‘devil’ in their titles.

A DMCA notice filed with Google in October set pulses racing. According to an adult content creator called ‘LittleSubGirl’, our 2018 article explaining how Netflix was dominating Internet traffic infringed her copyrights. It’s really not the kind of dominating we had in mind when the piece was written, honest.

In November a shockingly broad notice was sent to Google targeting not only us but Facebook, Beatport, TrustPilot, RottenTomatoes and a swathe of others. It claimed that we were offering John Wick 3 for download but was immediately flagged by Google as suspect.

“We believe that an impostor or someone else abusing the process submitted this request. We report it here for the sake of completeness and to provide a view into one kind of abuse of the DMCA process,” the company advised.

Finally, December brought yet another complaint from a company that can’t tell the difference between a news report detailing the most popular titles being shared on BitTorrent and a pirate site offering links to the same.

Grand total: 11 DMCA complaints filed in 2019, all of them completely bogus.

See you next year folks….

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

American Petroleum Institute Obtains DMCA Subpoena Ordering Cloudflare Action Against Pirate Site

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/american-petroleum-institute-obtains-dmca-subpoena-ordering-cloudflare-action-against-pirate-site-191222/

Most reports of copyright-based legal action in the United States center on the unlicensed downloading, sharing, or distribution of movies, TV shows, music and software.

Albeit at a slower rate, other less mainstream materials are also detailed in infringement complaints, notably copyrighted scientific and research papers, often with pirate sites like Sci-Hub or Libgen somewhere in the equation. This week a relatively rare complaint was filed in a US court protesting the illegal sale of copyrighted petroleum industry documents.

The application for a DMCA subpoena, filed at a Delaware district court by powerful oil and gas industry association American Petroleum Institute (API), claims that its authored standards documents are being made available online without its permission.

“For decades, API has authored standards for the safety and quality of products in the petroleum and gas industry. As author, API owns the copyright in these standards and has registered the copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office,” counsel for API writes.

“The copyrighted standards constitute a very valuable asset to API. Indeed, sales of the API standards to petroleum and gas industry professionals create considerable income for API.”

According to API, others are also benefiting from the sale of its standards. The application lists several problematic domains (e-standard.org, e-stds.org, pdfstandards.org) all of which direct to one main site located at e-standardstore.org.

“This company is not an authorized distributor of API’s standards. Despite not being an authorized distributor, these links display images of API’s logos. This unauthorized use of API’s logos falsely suggests to consumers that this company is an authorized distributor of API standards,” API adds.

The E-Standards.org ‘pirate’ site

As the image above shows, API’s publications are easily discoverable on the infringing site. API says there are at least 1,700 standards for sale in PDF format, which is problematic in itself since the association only offers physical standards which means the downloads must be copies.

“Additionally, API does not permit sales of its standards in PDF format (or any other electronic format) by anyone. Therefore, the sale of downloadable or e-mailed copies of API’s standards are clearly sales of unauthorized copies or scans of API’s publications,” API adds.

API says that after investigating the ‘pirate’ site’s IP addresses, they were determined to be operated by Cloudflare. As a result, API wants the CDN company to immediately terminate its services utilized by E-Standards.org while handing over the personal details of whoever is behind the platform.

From the API subpoena to Cloudflare

The Delaware court quickly signed off on the API subpoena so some type of action by Cloudflare can be expected soon. That being said, this set of domains isn’t only a thorn in the side of API but also various other specialist organizations that author their own standards.

According to Google’s Transparency Report, all of the redirection domains have been the subject of DMCA notices, some of which date back to 2013. The main domain cited by API (E-Standards.org) is also at the center of most additional complaints including those filed by safety company Underwriters Laboratories, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the National Fire Protection Association, and American Water Works Association.

A copy of the DMCA subpoena to Cloudflare is available here (pdf)

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

Google Sees DMCA Anti-Circumvention Notices Skyrocket

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-sees-dmca-anti-circumvention-notices-skyrocket-191208/

A few weeks ago, we reported that the RIAA targeted several YouTube converters and downloaders by sending relatively rare takedown requests to Google.

Instead of the usual DMCA copyright notices, the music group asked the search engine to remove various URLs for alleged violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

This proved to be quite effective. After taking down the many links to FLVTO, 2Conv, Y2Mate, and Yout, the RIAA expanded its scope to other streamrippers. In total, the music group targeted hundreds of URLs in a few dozen notices.

And the RIAA is not alone. Other copyright holders are using the anti-circumvention route as well. This includes game companies such as Nintendo and Rockstar Games, as well as Netflix.

One upside for rightsholders is that there’s no official counter-notification option. This means that affected sites can’t easily complain when they are mistakenly targeted. However, there’s another major benefit as well.

Some sites that don’t infringe any copyrights directly, can be seen as anti-circumvention tools. This gives rightsholders an extra option to remove URLs. To illustrate this, we only have to look at the RIAA’s recent takedown efforts.

When the music group sent a standard DMCA takedown request to Google for several streamripper URLs in November, the search engine didn’t take these offline. However, a similar DMCA circumvention notice that was sent a few days later was successful.

This may be why there has been quite an increase in these anti-circumvention notices lately. While Google doesn’t list these by default in its transparency report, we used the Lumen database to find out how many notices were sent this year.

At the time of writing, Google has received 6,281 DMCA anti-circumvention notices in 2019. These notices can contain multiple links, sometimes even hundreds. The number of notices has increased significantly compared to last year when 2,960 notices came in.

In 2017 there were even fewer anti-circumvention notices, 921 to be precise.

While today’s numbers are still very modest, there’s definitely a visible upward trend that hasn’t been reported before. This increase is all the more interesting because Google now receives fewer standard copyright takedown notices.

TorrentFreak reached out to the RIAA to hear more about their motivation to use anti-circumvention notices, but the music group declined to comment on the issue.

Considering the effectiveness of their campaign to remove steamrippers from Google’s search results, we expect the efforts to continue. And when more rightsholders discover this option, we expect the number of anti-circumvention notices to grow further still.

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

RIAA Delists YouTube Rippers From Google Using Rare Anti-Circumvention Notices

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-delists-youtube-rippers-from-google-using-rare-anti-circumvention-notices-191108/

While music piracy has reduced in recent years due to the popularity of platforms such as Spotify, the major labels remain highly concerned over so-called steam-ripping services.

These sites allow users to enter a YouTube URL, for example, and then download audio from the corresponding video, mostly in MP3 format. This means that users can download music and store it on their own machines, negating the need to revisit YouTube for the same content. This, the major labels say, deprives content creators of streaming revenue.

Tackling this issue has become one of the industry’s highest anti-piracy priorities. Previously, YouTube-MP3 – the largest ripping site at the time – was shut down following legal action by the major labels. Since then, lawsuits have been filed against other platforms but the battle is far from over and recently a new strategy appears to have been deployed.

A pair of DMCA notices appeared on the Lumen Database late October, having been filed there by Google. The sender of both notices is listed as the RIAA, acting on behalf of its members including Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

They are worded slightly differently but each target the homepages of five major YouTube-ripping sites – 2conv.com, flvto.biz, y2mate.com, yout.com, and youtubeconverter.io. Both contain the following key claim:

“To our knowledge, the URLs provide access to a service (and/or software) that circumvents YouTube’s rolling cipher, a technical protection measure, that protects our members’ works on YouTube from unauthorized copying/downloading,” the notices read.

Unlike regular DMCA takedown notices filed with Google, these notices do not appear in Google’s Transparency report. However, Google has acted on them by delisting the homepages of all five platforms from its search results. Other URLs for the platforms still appear, but their homepages are all gone.

The notices are listed on the Lumen Database in the anti-circumvention section, meaning that the RIAA-labeled complaints demand action from Google under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, rather than demanding the takedown of URLs based on the claim they carry infringing music titles.

The ‘technical measures’ allegedly being circumvented (such as the “rolling cypher” referenced in the complaints) are those put in place by YouTube, which in turn protect the copyrighted content of the labels.

TorrentFreak contacted the RIAA yesterday, requesting comment and seeking additional information on the basis for the notices. Unfortunately, the industry group declined to make any further comment on any aspect of the complaints.

Nevertheless, the RIAA and its members are no strangers to the claim that by circumventing YouTube’s ‘technological measures’, so-called ‘ripping’ sites infringe their rights too. Two of the sites targeted in the recent notices – 2conv.com and flvto.biz – were sued by the labels in 2018. The original complaint contains the following text:

From the complaint

That circumvention (at least in respect of the labels’ works when users select them for download) may also amount to an infringement of the labels’ rights seems to be supported by comments made in the Disney vs VidAngel case.

An opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stated that “[n]o person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work. Circumvention means ‘to decrypt an encrypted work.. without the authority of the copyright owner’.”

Nevertheless, it was previously argued by the EFF that stream-ripping sites are not by definition illegal since on top of the usual fair use exemptions, some creators who upload their content to online platforms grant permission for people to freely download and modify their work.

“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stresses.

“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”

The anti-circumvention notices detailed above are not only relatively rare but also have an additional interesting property – they are harder to dispute than regular DMCA takedown notices.

As detailed here last year, Google told the target of a similar complaint requesting URL delisting that “There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs.”

The pair of DMCA anti-circumvention notices can be found here 1,2 (pdf)

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

YouTube Settles Lawsuit With Alleged DMCA Extortion Scammer for $25,000

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-settles-lawsuit-with-alleged-dmca-extortion-scammer-for-25000-191016/

YouTube’s copyright takedown policy poses one of the biggest threats to the streaming platform’s content creators.

YouTubers who receive three copyright infringement strikes can easily lose their channel, which for some equates to their livelihood.

This looming threat also provides an opportunity for scammers. As we reported a few months ago, YouTube’s copyright takedown process was being abused to extort YouTubers, including ‘ObbyRaidz’ and ‘Kenzo.’ Both repeatedly received ‘strikes’ against their channels.

The scammer in question pretended that he was the legitimate owner of the videos uploaded by the users and requested money to retract the false claims.

“We striked you. Our request is $150 PayPal, or $75 btc. You may send the money via goods/ services if you do not think we will cancel or hold up our end of the deal,” the scammer wrote.

This abuse didn’t go unnoticed by YouTube, which tracked down the alleged offender and took action.

Last month the video streaming service sued Nebraska-resident Christopher Brady, accusing him of violating the DMCA by falsely claiming the content of other YouTubers as his own.

According to YouTube, Brady repeatedly attempted to harass and extort money from content creators through his bogus copyright infringement claims.

The company believes Brady went as far as using the address of YouTube user Cxlvxn, which is shared with a rightsholder for the purpose of filing a lawsuit, in an attempt to dispatch a large number of police officers to his home.

In the complaint, YouTube demanded a jury trial but it didn’t get that far. A few hours ago they submitted an agreed judgment and permanent injunction to the Nebraska federal court, which settles the matter without any further bloodshed.

Under the proposed injunction (pdf), Brady is prevented from filing any bogus copyright claims going forward. In addition, he separately agreed to pay $25,000 for his misconduct, offering a public apology to all the people who were hurt by his actions.

“I, Christopher L. Brady, admit that I sent dozens of notices to YouTube falsely claiming that material uploaded by YouTube users infringed my copyrights,” reads the apology, which YouTube shared with The Verge.

“I apologize to the YouTube users that I directly impacted by my actions, to the YouTube community, and to YouTube itself,” Brady adds.

The proposed judgment and injunction have yet to be signed off by the court, but this is expected to happen later this week. It’s not clear whether any of the affected users will receive compensation, but YouTube says that it’s happy with this outcome.

“This settlement highlights the very real consequences for those that misuse our copyright system. We’ll continue our work to prevent abuse of our systems,” a YouTube spokesperson said.

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