Tag Archives: DMCA

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BPI Breaks Record After Sending 310 Million Google Takedowns

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

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

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

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

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

BPI takedown notices, as reported by Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disney vs. Disney?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court Orders Google to Remove Links to Takedown Notice

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

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

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

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

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

Google linking to a standard DMCA notice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lumen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dish Network Sues ‘ZemTV’ and ‘TV Addons’ For Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-network-sues-zemtv-and-tv-addons-for-copyright-infringement-170605/

More and more people are starting to use Kodi-powered set-top boxes to stream video content to their TVs.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, third-party add-ons can turn it into the ultimate pirate machine, providing access to movies, TV-shows and IPTV channels.

These add-ons are direct competition for traditional broadcast providers, such as Dish Network in the United States, which filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court late last week.

The complaint lists the add-on ZemTV as the prime target. The service in question allows users to watch a variety of Dish channels, without permission.

“The ZemTV service is retransmitting these channels over the Internet to end-users that download the ZemTV add-on for the Kodi media player, which is available for download at the websites www.tvaddons.ag and www.tvaddons.org,” Dish’s lawyers write.

The TVAddons platform, which hosts hundreds of unofficial Kodi add-ons including ZemTV, is also listed as a defendant. According to Dish, TVAddons plays an important role in the distribution of the infringing add-on.

The ZemTV operator, who is only known as “Shani” and “Shani_08,” used the TVAddons platform to share and promote its service while asking for donations, the complaint alleges.

“Website Operators have actual or constructive knowledge of this infringing activity and materially contribute to that activity by providing the forum where the ZemTV add-on can be downloaded and soliciting and accepting donations from ZemTV users,” Dish writes.

“But for the availability of the ZemTV add-on at www.tvaddons.ag or www.tvaddons.org, most if not all of Developer’s distribution and/or public performance would not occur,” the complaint adds.

Dish claims that it sent numerous takedown requests to Internet service providers associated with the ZemTV service, but the developer has continued to offer the add-on, circumventing any countermeasures.

With the lawsuit, the broadcast provider holds ZemTV accountable for direct copyright infringement, demanding $150,000 per infringement in damages. TVAddons is accused of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement and also faces statutory damages.

TorrentFreak spoke to a representative from TVAddons, who wasn’t aware of the lawsuit. Dish has not contacted them directly with any takedown requests, he says.

“This is the first we’ve heard of this lawsuit. No one ever sent us any type of takedown or DMCA notice or even tried to contact us prior, they could have easily done so through our contact page or site emails,” TVAddons informs us.

TVAddons says that the ZemTV add-on was already removed prior to the lawsuit due to a technical issue, and it won’t return.

“The Zem addon was actually removed from our addon library and community tools weeks ago due to a completely unrelated technical issue. I have already spoken to the developer, and he has since deleted the Zem addon entirely,” the TVAddons representative says.

Also, shortly after we started to inquire about the lawsuit, the ZemTV add-on appears to have shut down completely. According to Kodi Tips, developer “Shani” said it became too popular to maintain, but the legal threat likely played a role as well.

The lawsuit against ZemTV and TVAddons is the first of its kind in the United States. As such, it will be closely watched by other rightsholders, add-on developers, and platforms similar to TVAddons that distribute software.

The full complaint Dish Network filed is available here (pdf).

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

FUNimation Targets ‘Pirate’ Streaming Site KissAnime

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/funimation-targets-pirate-streaming-site-kissanime-170601/

American anime distributor FUNimation is no stranger to hunting down pirates.

Headquartered in Texas, the company targeted 1337 alleged BitTorrent downloaders of the anime series “One Piece” at a local court a few years ago.

While the company no longer targets individual users through the U.S. legal system, it now appears to have its eyes set on a higher profile target, the popular anime streaming site KissAnime.

With millions of pageviews per day, KissAnime is the go-to site for many anime fans. The site is listed among the 250 most visited websites in the United States, making it one of the largest unauthorized streaming platforms in the world.

This is a thorn in the side of FUNimation, which recently obtained a DMCA subpoena to unmask part of the site’s infrastructure. Like many other streaming portals, KissAnime uses Google’s servers to host videos. These videos are served through CDN links, presumably to make them harder to take down.

FUNimation traced a CDN IP-address, used by KissAnime to stream pirated “One Piece” content, back to U.S. cloud hosting platform DigitalOcean, and asked the company to disable the associated link.

“Through our investigations, we have a good faith belief that a web server for which Digital Ocean, Inc. provides service, located at 138.68.244.174, is being used for the unauthorized copying and distribution […] of digital files embodying the Property,” FUNimation lawyer Evan Stone recently wrote to the company.

“FUNimation hereby requests that Digital Ocean expeditiously causes all such infringing materials to be removed or blocked or freezes the account at issue until the account holder removes all infringing materials or disables access thereto.”

FUNimation DMCA notice sent to Digital Ocean

Although KissAnime isn’t specifically mentioned in the DMCA notice or the subpoena request, a source close to the issue informs TorrentFreak that the IP-address in question is linked to the anime streaming site.

Because the CDN links keep rotating, FUNimation now wants to know the name of the customer that’s connected to the IP-address in question. The company therefore requested a DMCA subpoena from a federal court in Texas, which was granted earlier this month.

The subpoena orders DigitalOcean to hand over any and all contact information they have on the customer linked to the offending IP-address.

The DMCA subpoena

To find out what FUNimation intends to do with the information, provided that DigitalOcean will hand it over, we contacted the company’s lawyer Evan Stone. He couldn’t confirm the target but noted that it’s not about an end-user.

“We are targeting someone associated with disseminating infringing content on a MASSIVE scale, for profit. This is not a prelude to an end-user lawsuit, nor does this involve your typical fan uploader,” Stone told TF.

It’s likely that Funimation will pursue further action against the DigitalOcean customer associated with the pirates KissAnime streams. Whether this will be a central player or someone only remotely connected to the site remains unknown for now.

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

EU Piracy Filter Proposals Being Sabotaged Says MEP Julia Reda

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-piracy-filter-proposals-being-sabotaged-says-mep-julia-reda-170601/

After complaining about “rogue” sites and services for more than 15 years, the music business is now concentrating on the so-called “value gap”.

The theory is that platforms like YouTube are able to avoid paying expensive licensing fees for music by exploiting the safe harbor protections of the DMCA and similar legislation. Effectively, pirate music uploaded by site users becomes available to the public at no cost to the platform and due to safe harbor rules, there is no legal recourse for the labels.

To close this loophole, the EU is currently moving forward with reforms that could limit the protections currently enjoyed by platforms like YouTube. In short, sites that allow users to upload content will be forced to partner up with content providers to aggressively filter all user uploads for infringing content, thus limiting the number of infringing works eventually communicated to the public.

Even as they stand the proposals are being heavily protested (1,2,3) but according to Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda, a new threat has appeared on the horizon.

Ahead of a crucial June 8 vote on how to move forward, Reda says that some in the corridors of power are now “resorting to dirty tactics” to defend and extend the already “disastrous plans” by any means.

Specifically, Reda accuses MEP Pascal Arimont from the European People’s Party (EPP) of trying to sabotage the Parliamentary process, by going behind negotiators’ backs and pushing a new filtering proposal text that makes the “original bad proposal look tame in comparison.”

Reda says that in the face of other MEPs’ efforts to come up with a compromise text upon which all of them are agreed, Arimont has been encouraging some MEPs to rebel against their negotiators. He wants them to support his own super-aggressive “alternative compromise” text that shows disregard for the Charter of Fundamental Rights and principles of EU law.

Arimont’s text is certainly an interesting read and a document that could have been formulated by the record labels themselves. It tightens just about every aspect of the text proposed by the Commission while running all over the compromise text put together by Reda and other MEPs.

For example, where others are agreed on the phrase “Where information society
service providers store and provide access to the public to copyright protected works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users”, Arimont’s text removes the key word “store”.

This means that his filtering demands go beyond sites like YouTube that actually host content, to encompass those that merely carry links. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the potential for chaos there.

Also, where the Commission is happy with the proposed rules only affecting sites that store and provide access to “large amounts” of copyright protected works uploaded by users, Arimont wants the “store” part removed and “large” changed to “significant”.

“[Arimont] doesn’t want [filtering rules] to just apply to services hosting ‘large amounts’ of copyrighted content, as proposed by the Commission, but to any service facilitating the availability of such content, even if the service is not actually hosting anything at all,” Reda explains.

The text also ignores proposals by MEPs that anti-piracy measures to be taken by platforms should be proportionate to their profit and size. That being said, Arimont does accept that start-ups would probably face “insurmountable financial obstacles” if required to deploy filtering technologies, so he proposes they should be exempt.

While that sounds reasonable, any business that’s over five years old would need to comply and Reda warns that the threshold could be set particularly low.

“So if you’ve been self-employed for more than 5 years, rules the Commission wrote with the likes of YouTube and Facebook in mind would suddenly also apply to your personal website,” she warns.

But Arimont’s proposal goes further still and has the potential to have privacy advocates up in arms.

In order to check that all user uploaded content is non-infringing, platforms would necessarily be required to check every single piece of data uploaded by users. This raises considerable privacy concerns and potential conflicts with EU law, for instance with Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive, which prohibits general monitoring obligations for service providers.

Indeed, during the Netlog filtering case that went before the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) in 2012, the Court held that requiring an online platform to install broad piracy filters is incompatible with EU law.

Nevertheless, Arimont sees bridging the “value gap” as somehow different.

“The use of technical measures is essential for the functioning of online licensing and rights management purposes. Such technical measures therefore do not require the identity of uploaders and hence do not pose any risk for privacy of individual end users,” his proposal reads.

“Furthermore, those technical measures involve a highly targeted technical cooperation of rightholders and information society service providers based on the data provided by rightholders, and therefore do not lead to general obligation to monitor and find facts about the content.”

But what should really raise alarm bells for user-uploaded content platforms is how Arimont proposes to strip them of their safe harbor protections, if they optimize the presentation of that content to users. That, as Reda points out, could be something as benign as listing content in alphabetical order.

Julia Reda’s article has some information at the end for those who want to protest Arimont’s proposals (pdf).

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

Pornhub Piracy Stopped Me Producing Porn, Jenna Haze Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pornhub-piracy-stopped-me-producing-porn-jenna-haze-says-170531/

Last week, adult ‘tube’ site Pornhub celebrated its 10th anniversary, and what a decade it was.

Six months after its May 2007 launch, the site was getting a million visitors every day. Six months after that, traffic had exploded five-fold. Such was the site’s success, by November 2008 Pornhub entered the ranks of the top 100 most-visited sites on the Internet.

As a YouTube-like platform, Pornhub traditionally relied on users to upload content to the site. Uploaders have to declare that they have the rights to do so but it’s clear that amid large quantities of fully licensed material, content exists on Pornhub that is infringing copyright.

Like YouTube, however, the site says it takes its legal responsibilities seriously by removing content whenever a valid DMCA notice is received. Furthermore, it also has a Content Partner Program which allows content owners to monetize their material on the platform.

But despite these overtures, Pornhub has remained a divisive operation. While some partners happily generate revenue from the platform and use it to drive valuable traffic to their own sites, others view it as a parasite living off their hard work. Today those critics were joined by one of the biggest stars the adult industry has ever known.

After ten years as an adult performer, starring in more than 600 movies (including one that marked her as the first adult performer to appear on Blu-ray format), in 2012 Jenna Haze decided on a change of pace. No longer interested in performing, she headed to the other side of the camera as a producer and director.

“Directing is where my heart is now. It’s allowed me to explore a creative side that is different from what performing has offered me,” she said in a statement.

“I am very satisfied with what I was able to accomplish in 10 years of performing, and now I’m enjoying the challenges of being on the other side of the camera and running my studio.”

But while Haze enjoyed success with 15 movies, it wasn’t to last. The former performer eventually backed away from both directing and producing adult content. This morning she laid the blame for that on Pornhub and similar sites.

It all began with a tweet from Conan O’Brien, who belatedly wished Pornhub a happy 10th anniversary.

In response to O’Brien apparently coming to the party late, a Twitter user informed him how he’d been missing out on Jenna Haze. That drew a response from Haze herself, who accused Pornhub of pirating her content.

“Please don’t support sites like porn hub,” she wrote. “They are a tube site that pirates content that other adult companies produce. It’s like Napster!”

In a follow-up, Haze went on to accuse Pornhub of theft and blamed the site for her exit from the business.

“Well they steal my content from my company, as do many other tube sites. It’s why I don’t produce or direct anymore,” Haze wrote.

“Maybe not all of their content is stolen, but I have definitely seen my content up there, as well as other people’s content.”

Of course, just like record companies can do with YouTube, there’s always the option for Haze to file a DMCA notice with Pornhub to have offending content taken down. However, it’s a route she claims to have taken already, but without much success.

“They take the videos down and put [them] back up. I’m not saying they don’t do legitimate business as well,” she said.

While Pornhub has its critics, the site does indeed do masses of legitimate business. The platform is owned by Mindgeek, whose websites receive a combined 115 million visitors per day, fueled in part by content supplied by Brazzers and Digital Playground, which Mindgeek owns. That being said, Mindgeek’s position in the market has always been controversial.

Three years ago, it became evident that Mindgeek had become so powerful in the adult industry that performers (some of whom felt their content was being exploited by the company) indicated they were scared to criticize it.

Adult actress and outspoken piracy critic Tasha Reign, who also had her videos uploaded to Pornhub without her permission, revealed she was in a particularly tight spot.

“It’s like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place in a way, because if I want to shoot content then I kinda have to shoot for [Mindgeek] because that’s the company that books me because they own…almost…everything,” Reign said.

In 2017, Mindgeek’s dominance is clearly less of a problem for Haze, who is now concentrating on other things. But for those who remain in the industry, Mindgeek is a force to be reckoned with, so criticism will probably remain somewhat muted.

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

Huge Coalition Protests EU Mandatory Piracy Filter Proposals

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/huge-coalition-protests-eu-mandatory-piracy-filter-proposals-170530/

Last September, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced plans to modernize copyright law in Europe.

The proposals (pdf) are part of the Digital Single Market reforms, which have been under development for the past several years.

The proposals cover a broad range of copyright-related issues, but one stands out as being particularly controversial. Article 13 requires certain online service providers to become deeply involved in the detection and policing of allegedly infringing copyright works, uploaded to their platforms by users.

Although its effects will likely be more broad, the proposal is targeted at the so-called “value gap” (1,2,3), i.e the notion that platforms like YouTube are able to avoid paying expensive licensing fees (for music in particular) by exploiting the safe harbor protections of the DMCA and similar legislation.

To close this loophole using Article 13, services that provide access to “large amounts” of user-uploaded content would be required to cooperate with rightsholders to prevent infringing works being communicated to the public.

This means that platforms like YouTube would be forced to take measures to ensure that their deals with content providers to distribute official content are protected by aggressive anti-piracy mechanisms.

The legislation would see platforms forced to deploy content-recognition, filtering and blocking mechanisms, to ensure that only non-infringing content is uploaded in the first place, thus limiting the chances that unauthorized copyrighted content will be made available to end users.

Supporters argue that the resulting decrease in availability of infringing content will effectively close the “value gap” but critics see the measures as disproportionate, likely to result in censorship (no provision for fair use), and a restriction of fundamental freedoms. Indeed, there are already warnings that such a system would severely “restrict the way Europeans create, share, and communicate online.”

The proposals have predictably received widespread support from entertainment industry companies across the EU and the United States, but there are now clear signs that the battle lines are being drawn.

On one side are the major recording labels, movie studios, and other producers. On the other, companies and platforms that will suddenly become more liable for infringing content, accompanied by citizens and scholars who feel that freedoms will be restricted.

The latest sign of the scale of opposition to Article 13 manifests itself in an open letter to the European Parliament. Under the Copyright for Creativity (C4C) banner and signed by the EFF, Creative Commons, Wikimedia, Mozilla, EDRi, Open Rights Group plus sixty other organizations, the letter warns that the proposals will cause more problems than they solve.

“The European Commission’s proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market failed to meet the expectations of European citizens and businesses. Instead of supporting Europeans in the digital economy, it is backward looking,” the groups say.

“We need European lawmakers to oppose the most damaging aspects of the proposal, but also to embrace a more ambitious agenda for positive reform.”

In addition to opposing Article 11 (the proposed Press Publishers’ Right), the groups ask the EU Parliament not to impose private censorship on EU citizens via Article 13.

“The provision on the so-called ‘value gap’ is designed to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they want to have any chance of staying in business,” the groups write.

“The Commission’s proposal misrepresents some European Court rulings and seeks to impose contradictory obligations on Member States. This is simply bad regulation.”

Calling for the wholesale removal of Article 13 from the copyright negotiations, the groups argue that the reforms should be handled in the appropriate contexts.

“We strenuously oppose such ill thought through experimentation with intermediary liability, which will hinder innovation and competition and will reduce the opportunities available to all European businesses and citizens,” they add.

C4C concludes by calling on lawmakers to oppose Article 13 while seeking avenues for positive reform.

The full letter can be found here (pdf)

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

YouTube Content ID Critic Doesn’t Appreciate the Irony

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-content-id-critic-doesnt-appreciate-the-irony-170514/

YouTube is not only one of the best sites on the Internet today but is arguably the best multimedia platform ever created. There can be barely a person alive who has heard of the Internet but not of YouTube. The site is that important.

But today, YouTube has problems. Despite generating hundreds of millions each year for the music industry, the major labels argue that the company fails to do enough about piracy while exploiting the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

YouTube sees things quite differently. The company says that its Content ID recognition system, which was developed at huge cost, allows creators to block or monetize otherwise pirated content uploaded to the platform by users.

Like every anti-piracy system ever created, Content ID is fallible. It can be circumvented using various techniques and tricks found on any number of sites and indeed, on YouTube itself. This week, that fact attracted the attention of the Music Tech Policy blog.

“What’s Wrong With Content ID? Start with Dozens of YouTube Videos on How to Defeat It,” wrote editor, industry veteran, and outspoken Google critic, Chris Castle.

Castle begins by talking a little about one of the techniques often used by people trying to evade the clutches of Content ID – changing the tempo of an uploaded music track. The idea is that by altering the speed, the fingerprint of the uploaded track is changed enough for YouTube not to recognize it as an infringing copy.

No doubt it’s a popular trick, but at this point the conspiracy theories begin.

YouTube has a feature which allows people to speed up or slow down videos, which can be handy for speed ‘reading’ an audio book, for example, or slowing down a tutorial so someone inexperienced in the task can keep up.

However, discounting fans of pitch-shifted vocals, Castle says it’s actually there for Google to make money from pirates. Slowed-down, Content ID-evading tracks can be sped back up to enjoy at normal speeds, he says.

“Why is it there? To cater to fans of Alvin and the Chipmunks? No. It’s there so YouTube can monetize illegal copies of music and movies,” he says.

“If Google were serious about piracy, they’d dump the speed control on YouTube. They’d also police the ‘how to’ defeat Content ID videos on YouTube.”

While Castle is perfectly entitled to his opinion (and it’s one that is popular in the industry) he seems oblivious to the fact that his own article not only reveals how Content ID can be gamed, but also goes on to demand that YouTube censors discussion on the same topic.

If that doesn’t already feel like a case of “don’t do as I do, do as I tell you”, then perhaps the next bit will.

Amping the irony up to 11, Castle then embeds one of the Content ID circumvention videos from YouTube into his own article.

How the video appears in the article

Of course, some people will quite rightly argue that in order to properly report on the problem, someone writing on this topic might need to show an example of an ‘offending’ video on YouTube. We wouldn’t disagree with that assertion at all, 100% in agreement.

There are, however, plenty of problems. For a start, discussing how Content ID can be bypassed isn’t illegal, so if any uploaded videos covering that topic are all the creators’ own work, the resulting videos are legal too.

With that in mind, it’s difficult to see what grounds YouTube would have for taking those videos down. If nothing else, it would be seen as stifling free speech, no matter how disappointing that speech is to the music and movie industries.

Admittedly, inciting people to commit a civil wrong might be a problem in some regions, but in most cases that’s not what we’re talking about here, as illustrated by Music Tech Policy’s willingness to embed the video on its site.

The take-home here is that some material on YouTube is always going to be offensive to some people, we just have to learn how to deal with it and in some cases, make the best of it.

For example, last year I was particularly irritated to find a video on YouTube which detailed how my car could be stolen in seconds using a special device. A link to buy that device was included below the video. Screw YouTube, right? Not really.

With the information presented in the video, I was able to find and buy an aftermarket alarm/immobilizer that defeated that device and others like it.

Admittedly the video (and ‘buy’ link) had the potential to recruit other would-be car thieves to the party, but if I hadn’t have seen it too, my car would still be vulnerable today. The thieves, meanwhile, would still have the ability to steal it. As it stands, it’s going nowhere, at least by that method.

Ultimately, knowledge is power and it is absolutely pointless to try and suppress it with censorship, people are always one step ahead. We just need to use all available knowledge to our advantage.

So, despite Chris Castle perhaps not appreciating the irony, he was absolutely within his rights to write that article and embed those videos in order to illustrate a point that is not only important to him, but others too. Whether people agree with him or not is moot.

He shouldn’t be censored, and YouTube shouldn’t be required to censor people either. The site already provides Content ID to millions of satisfied users and presumably, it’s in YouTube’s best interest to have that working as advertised.

That it fails sometimes is no surprise but talking about its weaknesses, on YouTube and sites like Music Tech Policy and indeed here on TF, draws attention to the topic. And only when people are allowed to discuss stuff openly does anything get done.

Censorship is never the answer and only makes matters like these worse.

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

YouTube Keeps People From Pirate Sites, Study Shows

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-keeps-people-from-pirate-sites-study-shows-170511/

The music industry has witnessed some dramatic changes over the past decade and a half.

With the rise of digital, people’s music consumption habits evolved dramatically, followed by more change when subscription streaming services came along.

Another popular way for people to enjoy music noawdays is via YouTube. The video streaming platform offers free access to millions of songs, which are often uploaded by artists or the labels themselves.

Still, YouTube is getting little praise from the major labels. Instead, music insiders often characterize the video platform as a DMCA-protected piracy racketeer, that exploits legal loopholes to profit from artists’ hard work.

YouTube is generating healthy profits at a minimal cost and drives people away from legal platforms, the argument goes.

In an attempt to change this perception, YouTube has commissioned a study from the research outfit RBB Economics to see how the service impacts the music industry. The first results, published today, are a positive start.

The study examined exclusive YouTube data and a survey of 1,500 users across Germany, France, Italy and the U.K, asking them about their consumption habits. In particular, they were asked if YouTube keeps them away from paid music alternatives.

According to YouTube, which just unveiled the results, the data paints a different picture.

“The study finds that this is not the case. In fact, if YouTube didn’t exist, 85% of time spent on YouTube would move to lower value channels, and would result in a significant increase in piracy,” YouTube’s Simon Morrison writes.

If YouTube disappeared overnight, roughly half of all the time spent there on music would be “lost.” Furthermore, a significant portion of YouTube users would switch to using pirate sites and services instead.

“The results suggest that if YouTube were no longer able to offer music, time spent listening to pirated content would increase by +29%. This is consistent with YouTube being a substitute for pirated content,” RBB Economics writes.

In addition, the researchers also found that blocking music on YouTube doesn’t lead to an increase in streaming on other platforms, such as Spotify.

While YouTube doesn’t highlight it, the report also finds that some people would switch to “higher value” (e.g. paid) services if YouTube weren’t available. This amounts to roughly 15% of the total.

In other words, if the music industry is willing to pass on the $1 billion YouTube currently pays out and accept a hefty increase in piracy, there would be a boost in revenue through other channels. Whether that’s worth it is up for debate of course.

YouTube believes that the results are pretty convincing though. They rely on RBB Economic’s conclusion that there no evidence of “significant cannibalization” and believe that their service has a positive impact overall.

“The cumulative effect of these findings is that YouTube has a market expansion effect, not a cannibalizing one,” YouTube writes.

The full results are available here (pdf), courtesy of RBB Economics. YouTube announced that more of these reports will follow in the near future.

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

City of Abbotsford Enters WordPress’ DMCA “Hall of Shame”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/city-of-abbotsford-enters-wordpress-dmca-hall-of-shame-170506/

As one of the leading blog platforms, WordPress.com receives thousands of DMCA takedown requests every year, but nearly half of these are rejected.

Parent company Automattic is known to inspect all notices carefully, and has a track record of defending its users against DMCA abuse. In addition, it occasionally highlights the worst offenders in its own “Hall of Shame.”

This week the company added a new entry for the first time in several months. The dubious honor goes to the City of Abbotsford, Canada, which tried to clean up its ‘image’ with a recent DMCA notice.

The “infringement” Abbotsford reported concerns an article written by a homeless blogger, who highlighted that city officials deliberately spread chicken manure on a camp for homeless people.

To illustrate this unfortunate event with a fitting image, the blogger posted a parody logo of the city, replacing the pine tree with a turd.

Abbotsford’s parody logo

Pretty innocent, one would think, but apparently the city of Abbotsford thought otherwise. Through a marketing company, Abbotsford city council sent a DMCA notice to Automattic, asking it to remove the offending image.

However, since there is a clear fair use case here, the company behind the WordPress blogging platform was not impressed.

“Pardon the pun. It was glaringly obvious that the addition of the hilariously large feces was for the purposes of parody, and tied directly to the criticisms laid out in the post,” Automattic writes.

“As a result, it seems hard to believe that the city council took fair use considerations into account before firing off their ill-advised notice, and trying to wipe up this mess,” the company adds.

Instead of taking the image offline, Automattic referred the takedown notice to the blogger in question. He decided to keep it online as well, adding a massive “parody” watermark just to avoid any further confusion.

PARODY

So, instead of wiping the “crappy” logo from the Internet, the marketing firm actually managed to magnify the issue, entering WordPress’ DMCA Hall of Shame. Since the original article is nearly four years old, they would have been better off ignoring it, but some people have to learn that the hard way.

In its closing comments, Automattic stresses that their use of the ‘shitty’ logo also falls under fair use protection, urging the City counsel to refrain from sending them any additional takedown requests.

“Our use of the Abbotsford city logo in this post is also for the purposes of commentary or criticism, and therefore falls under fair use protections. If anybody on the council happens to be reading, please don’t send us another DMCA takedown.”

At TorrentFreak we would like to repeat Automattic’s argument, also adding a fair use exception for the purpose of news reporting.

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

Microsoft Patents Technology to Block Pirated Content, Track Repeat Offenders

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-patents-technology-to-block-pirated-content-track-repeat-offenders-170505/

Hundreds of millions of people upload and share files every day, and not always with permission from their rightful owners.

Aside from the traditional pirate sites, social networks and cloud hosting services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive are also frequently used to share copyright-infringing content.

When copyright holders find out, they can report these files and ask the companies to take them offline and prevent similar files from being shared in the future, which regularly happens. However, with cloud storage services, simply deleting a file is not always an option.

If you buy a music album, you’re allowed to store this on your personal cloud-hosting account, for example, while sharing is prohibited. In this case, disabling that sharing option for this file while leaving it on the server seems to be the preferred option.

Still, it might be worth keeping an eye on frequent abusers, so they can be punished if needed, and Microsoft recently obtained a patent to do just that.

Titled: “Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems,” the patent describes a system where copyright infringers, and those who publish other objectionable content, are flagged so that frequent offenders can be singled out.



With an overview of the infringements, the hosting provider can choose to limit the sharing permissions of users, or terminate their accounts if warranted.

“Incidents that result in objects being so marked can be stored in an incident history associated with a user responsible for those objects. The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users,” the patent reads.

The “repeat infringer” is a hot topic at the moment, after ISP Cox Communications was ordered to pay $25 million for its failure to disconnect repeat offenders.

According to the DMCA, online service providers must implement a reasonable policy against frequent offenders, and the system described in the patent would allow Microsoft to do that.

The patent describes a variety of situations, ranging from disabling a single file from being shared, to taking measures against repeat infringers. However, it doesn’t state which policy Microsoft employs.

As far a we know, this is the first patent that specifically deals with the repeat infringer situation in these hosting situations, but it’s not uncommon for cloud hosting services to prevent users from sharing infringing content. We previously uncovered that Google Drive uses hash matching to prevent people from sharing “flagged” files in public, and Dropbox does the same.

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

Premier League Asks Google to Take Down Facebook’s Homepage

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-asks-google-to-take-down-facebooks-homepage-170429/

Removing search results is nothing new for Google. The company has been cleaning up its search index for years, in response to complaints from copyright holders.

Every week the search engine processes millions of requests. In most cases these claims are legitimate, but every now and then innocent web pages are mistakenly targeted.

This week we stumbled upon a takedown notice that’s clearly not right. The request was sent by NetResult on behalf of the Premier League, and targets a wide variety of sports streaming related sites.

“The reported URLs are offering unauthored live streams of Premier League content,” it reads, listing the homepages of sites such as streamsarena.eu, letsfooty.com, tvlink.in and sportcategory.com.

While targeting the homepages of these sites is already quite broad, it also lists the main Facebook.com URL among the infringing domains, asking Google to remove it from the search engine entirely.

Premier League Takedown Notice

Google has investigated the claims, including the Facebook one, but decided not to comply with the notice in question, leaving Facebook’s homepage in search results.

In situations like this, we can see how easy erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, the search engine is still able to spot most of these flaws.

Unfortunately, however, not all mistakes are easily caught, especially when they concern smaller sites.

Just a few days ago we noticed that a page from the copyright troll blog DieTrollDie was removed from Google’s search results because it mentioned a torrent hash of a Lionsgate film, and another blog had several court filings removed from the results for the same reason.

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

Cloudflare Ordered to Expose Gay-Torrents Operator, Or Else…

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-ordered-to-expose-gay-torrents-operator-or-else-170428/

Cloudflare has taken quite a bit of heat from copyright holders in recent months.

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe, some of which are notorious pirate sites.

However, instead of proactively taking down these sites, Cloudflare maintains its position as a neutral service provider. If copyright holders want them to take action, they have to follow the legal process.

This is the route adult company Flava Works is taking now. The company went to a clerk at the Illinois federal court and succesfully obtained a DMCA subpoena to expose the personal details connected to the account of the gay torrent community Gay-Torrents.org.

The order commands CloudFlare to hand over the personal details of the associated account holder within a month. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, account numbers, billing records and other identifying information.

Unlike regular subpoenas, DMCA subpoenas are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from the court clerk. However, in a letter sent to Cloudflare, Flava Works says that it’s considering further legal steps, if they’re needed.

The DMCA subpoena

The adult company explains that it sent three DMCA takedown notices to the company, but that dozens of copyright infringing files on Gay-Torrents.org are still being served through Cloudflare’s servers.

Flava argued that Cloudflare is required to take proper action against repeat infringers under the DMCA, and wants it to terminate the associated account in its entirety, or face lagal action.

“Accordingly, demand is hereby made upon you to immediately and permanently disable and remove the Infringing Site as a repeat infringer and terminate all related accounts,” Flava writes in its letter.

“Absent full compliance with this demand, our Client will be forced to investigate all legal remedies available to it, including, without limitation, bringing a civil cause of action against you to compel compliance.”

The adult entertainment company ends by saying that it would be in the best interests of all parties to avoid costly litigation, but clearly doesn’t rule out the possibility.

It’s doubtful, however, that Cloudflare will be sensitive to this kind of threat. The company has repeatedly said that it follows the letter of the law, and in its opinion this doesn’t cover the termination of clients solely based on third party claims.

TorrentFreak reached out to Cloudflare for a comment on the allegations. The company informed us that they have yet to be served with the subpoena, adding that it is Cloudflare’s policy to respond to proper court process once served.

To be continued.

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

The RIAA is Now Copyright Troll Rightscorp’s Biggest Customer

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-riaa-is-now-copyright-troll-rightscorps-biggest-customer-170424/

Nurturing what appears to be a failing business model, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been on life-support for a number of years, never making a cent while losing millions of dollars.

As a result, every annual report filed by the company is expected to reveal yet more miserable numbers. This year’s, filed two weeks late a few days ago, doesn’t break the trend. It is, however, a particularly interesting read.

For those out of the loop, Rightscorp generates revenue from monitoring BitTorrent networks, logging infringements, and sending warning notices to ISPs. It hopes those ISPs will forward notices to customers who are asked to pay $20 or $30 per offense. Once paid, Rightscorp splits this revenue with its copyright holder customers.

The company’s headline sales figures for 2016 are somewhat similar to those of the previous year. In 2015 the company generated $832,215 in revenue but in 2016 that had dropped to $778,215. While yet another reduction in revenue won’t be welcome, the company excelled in trimming its costs.

In 2015, Rightscorp’s total operating costs were almost $5.47m, something which led the company to a file an eye-watering $4.63 million operational loss.

In 2016, the company somehow managed to reduce its costs to ‘just’ $2.73m, a vast improvement over the previous year. But, despite the effort, Rightscorp still couldn’t make money in 2016. In its latest accounts, the company reveals an operational loss of $1.95m and little salvation on the bottom line.

“During the year ended December 31, 2016, the Company incurred a net loss of $1,355,747 and used cash in operations of $807,530, and at December 31, 2016, the Company had a stockholders’ deficit of $2,092,060,” the company reveals.

While a nose-diving Rightscorp has been a familiar story in recent years, there are some nuggets of information in 2016’s report that makes it stand out.

According to Rightscorp, in 2014 BMG Rights Management accounted for 76% of the company’s sales, with Warner Bros. Entertainment made up a token 13%. In 2015 it was a similar story, but during 2016, big developments took place with a brand new and extremely important customer.

“For the year ended December 31, 2016, our contract with Recording Industry Association of America accounted for approximately 44% of our sales, and our contract with BMG Rights Management accounted for 23% of our sales,” the company’s report reveals.

The fact that the RIAA is now Rightscorp’s biggest customer to the tune of $342,000 in business during 2016 is a pretty big reveal, not only for the future of the anti-piracy company but also the interests of millions of BitTorrent users around the United States.

While it’s certainly possible that the RIAA plans to start sending settlement demands to torrent users (Warner has already done so), there are very clear signs that the RIAA sees value in Rightscorp elsewhere. As shown in the table below, between 2015 and 2016 there has been a notable shift in how Rightscorp reports its revenue.

In 2015, all of Rightscorp’s revenue came from copyright settlements. In 2016, roughly 50% of its revenue (a little over the amount accounted for by the RIAA’s business) is listed as ‘consulting revenue’. It seems more than likely that the lion’s share of this revenue came from the RIAA, but why?

On Friday the RIAA filed a big lawsuit against Texas-based ISP Grande Communications. Detailed here, the multi-million suit accuses the ISP of failing to disconnect subscribers accused of infringement multiple times.

The data being used to prosecute that case was obtained by the RIAA from Rightscorp, who in turn collected that data from BitTorrent networks. The company obtained a patent under its previous Digital Rights Corp. guise which specifically covers repeat infringer identification. It has been used successfully in the ongoing case against another ISP, Cox Communications.

In short, the RIAA seems to be planning to do to Grande Communications what BMG and Rightscorp have already done to Cox. They will be seeking to show that Grande knew that its subscribers were multiple infringers yet failed to disconnect them from the Internet. This inaction, they will argue, means that Grande loses its protection from liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA.

Winning the case against Grande Communications is extremely important for the RIAA and for reasons best understood by the parties involved, it clearly places value on the data held by Rightscorp. Whether the RIAA will pay another few hundred thousand dollars to the anti-piracy outfit in 2017 remans to be seen, but Rightscorp will be hoping so as it’s desperate for the cash.

The company’s year-end filing raises “substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern” while noting that its management believes that the company will need at least another $500,000 to $1,000,000 to fund operations in 2017.

This new relationship between the RIAA and Rightscorp is an interesting one and one that’s likely to prove controversial. Grande Communications is being sued today, but the big question is which other ISPs will follow in the months and years to come.

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

Anti-Piracy Outfit Targets ‘Troll’ Defense Sites With DMCA Takedowns

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-outfit-targets-troll-defense-sites-with-dmca-takedowns-170923/

Anti-piracy enforcement comes in all shapes and sizes and there can be little doubt that’s it’s an extremely challenging and complex arena. Little surprise then that screw-ups are pretty common.

This week’s facepalm moment arrives courtesy of IP Arrow, an anti-piracy outfit working on behalf of clients including California-based movie company Lionsgate.

For some time, IP Arrow has been sending takedown notices to Google asking it to delist thousands of ‘pirate’ URLs for the movie Mechanic: Resurrection. In the main, the company appears to have done a good job, but like so many similar operations, at times it struggles to tell the difference between pirate copies of a movie and completely non-infringing content.

This week, the operator of troll defense blog Fight Copyright Trolls pointed out to fellow troll defenders DieTrollDie that IP Arrow had reported the site to Google for being a copyright infringer, which it most clearly is not.

The problem began in January when DieTrollDie (DTD) published an article about numerous trolling cases filed by ME2 Productions, the company that holds rights to Mechanic: Resurrection.

ME2 has been suing BitTorrent users all over the United States, so the cases naturally came to the attention of DTD, which offered its usual critique of the company’s actions thus far. However, in explaining certain flaws in some cases, the site referenced the hash value (B5201111ACEC1E5025DE3087B15DF84612C02579) of one of the pirate copies of Mechanic: Resurrection floating about on the Internet.

This was enough for IP Arrows’ bots to flag DTD as a pirate site and report it to Google. While this was probably a simple error, this is an extremely sensitive area so it’s easy to see how some might view the takedown as an attempt to silence ME2’s critics.

Certainly, that’s the view of DTD’s operator, who informs TF that he was surprised that IP Arrow had targeted his site.

“I was a bit surprised that IP Arrow asked Google to remove the listing of one of my pages. I knew there was absolutely no reason to justify it,” he told TF.

“They claim that they wanted the links removed because, ‘These links are facilitating piracy of my client’s work.’ What they actually wanted removed was one of the ‘Tags’ I used to index an article concerning the BT copyright troll cases for Mechanic: Resurrection.”

But whatever the conclusion, the problems don’t stop there. The same takedown notice filed against DTD makes matters worse by also targeting yet another website setup to help people targeted by copyright trolls.

Troll-Defense.com is operated by Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus, a Washington law firm that’s extremely unlikely to be infringing upon Lionsgate or ME2 copyrights. Nevertheless, the site was also reported to Google for copyright infringement.

Bizarrely, in each case the target of the infringement notices were court papers referencing ME2’s Mechanic: Resurrection cases against alleged copyright infringers. As in the reporting of DTD, it doesn’t look good that sites offering legal help to citizens are being targeted by companies with connections to the content in question.

“At first I thought IP Arrow was too stupid to understand what a hash file is. But after seeing that they also tried to remove search listings to publically available court documents, it looks like an effort to hide information concerning their copyright trolling operation,” DTD’s operator says.

“They are probably of the opinion that if you throw enough crap at a target, something is eventually going to stick.”

DTD also expressed concern that considering the volumes of notices being received by Google, it’s likely that innocent sites will fall victim to errors like these. It turns out that those concerns are well founded.

Torrent-Defense has been targeted by IP Arrow on several occasions (1,2,3), with Google delisting pages 100% of the time.

This hasn’t pleased lawyer Benjamin Justus, who operates the site for Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus.

“With courts and consumers already concerned that mass copyright suits by ME2 and its affiliates are being pursued in arbitrary fashion, I think that ME2’s agents’ targeting innocent parties with baseless takedown notices will only further the skepticism that these companies are not engaged in legitimate enforcement efforts,” he concludes.

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

RIAA Sues ISP Grande Communications For Failing to Disconnect Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-sues-isp-grande-communications-for-failing-to-disconnect-pirates-170422/

Despite approaching the problem from a number of directions, major copyright holders have been unable to do much to stop millions of BitTorrent-based infringements taking place every day.

A new lawsuit filed by the RIAA against ISP Grande Communications aims to change all that.

Yesterday, UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and almost a dozen other music companies sued the Texas-based provider over the infringements of its subscribers.

“Defendants have been notified that their internet customers have engaged in more than one million infringements of copyrighted works over BitTorrent systems, including tens of thousands of blatant infringements by repeat infringers of Plaintiffs’copyrighted works,” the lawsuit reads.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted
repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence.”

Right from the outset it’s clear that this case has a lot in common with the litigation currently underway against Cox Communications. In that case, Cox was accused by publishing company BMG of not taking significant action against thousands of its customers who persistently shared content using BitTorrent.

Like BMG’s case against Cox, the RIAA’s suit against Grande aims to strip away the protection the ISP normally enjoys under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. By not taking “meaningful action” against repeat infringers, the RIAA says that Grande can be held liable for the copyright infringements of its customers.

“Neither Grande or its management company Patriot has taken any meaningful action to discourage this continuing theft, let alone suspend or terminate subscribers who repeatedly commit copyright infringement through its network, as required by law,” the RIAA writes.

“Upon information and belief, this is so even where Defendants have specific and actual knowledge of those subscribers’ blatant, repeat infringement. Defendants’ effective acquiescence in this wholesale violation of Plaintiffs’ rights, coupled with their failure to adopt and reasonably implement a policy to stop repeat infringers, excludes Defendants from the safe harbor protections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’).”

The RIAA says that since Grande failed to take action against infringers, especially those identified as repeat infringers, it protected a “significant revenue stream” it receives each month from pirating subscribers. As such it is not only liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, but inducement of copyright infringement too.

What’s also interesting about this case is the involvement of anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp. The anti-piracy settlement company is deeply involved in the Cox case having provided the infringement data for the litigation. The same is true of the case against Grande.

It appears that Rightscorp’s claimed expertise in identifying repeat infringers is now central to the case, having had contact with Grande in the past. It seems likely that historical data collected by the company is now proving useful in the RIAA’s case against Grande.

“Rightscorp has provided Grande with notice of specific infringers using Grande’s internet service to infringe various copyrighted works. Rightscorp also requested that Grande terminate the ‘subscribers and account holders’ who are repeat infringers of copyrighted works,” the RIAA writes.

“Despite its knowledge of specific repeat infringers of copyrighted works, Grande apparently refused to do so.”

The RIAA says that Grande received notices that 1,840 of its customers had engaged in infringement at least 100 times, with 456 customers generating 500 infringement notices between them. More than 200 subscribers generated 1000 notices each with some generating more than 2000.

In closing, the RIAA seeks statutory damages, which could go up to $150,000 per infringed work, actual damages, plus profits generated by Grande as a result of infringement. The music group also asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing Grande from further infringement, plus a jury trial in due course.

Having backed away from the so-called “six strikes” scheme earlier this year, the RIAA was left without any effective means to tackle online infringement. It’s now clear that it intends to force Internet service providers to be its unpaid enforcers.

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

ISP Can’t Have Blanket Immunity From Pirating Subscribers, Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-cant-have-blanket-immunity-from-pirating-subscribers-court-rules-170420/

Internet provider Windstream is among the companies that are gravely concerned about the verdict against fellow ISP Cox, which was held liable for pirating subscribers in 2015.

With more than a million subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States, and as such it regularly receives takedown notices targeting its subscribers.

Many of these notices come from music rights group BMG and its anti-piracy partner Rightscorp, which accused the ISP of being liable for the actions of its customers.

Windstream wasn’t happy with these accusations and the associated risk, filing a request for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court last year. It asked the court to rule that it’s not liable for the infringing actions of its subscribers under the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.

For their part, BMG and Rightscorp protested the request and told the court that a lawsuit is premature, as the copyright holder hasn’t even officially filed an infringement complaint. Instead, they accused the ISPs of trying to get broad immunity without going into specifics, such as their repeat infringer policies.

In a motion to dismiss the case music rights group told the court that concrete actions and policies play a crucial role in determining liability, accusing Windstream of trying to escape this responsibility.

This week the court issued its final verdict in the case, which brings bad news for the Internet provider.

The court ruled that there is indeed no actual controversy and that it can’t issue a hypothetical and advisory opinion without concrete facts. As such, the case is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

“The amended complaint does not present such a controversy. Instead, Windstream seeks a blanket approval of its business model, without reference to any specific copyright held by BMG or any specific act of direct infringement by any Windstream subscriber,” the court writes.

“Windstream seeks the kind of hypothetical and advisory opinion, isolated from concrete facts, that cannot confer jurisdiction upon this Court,” the order adds (pdf).

The ISP hoped to get clarity on how to respond to the copyright infringement notices BMG sends, but the court says that it can’t decide on this without concrete examples.

This doesn’t mean that Windstream is liable, of course. The ISP may very well be protected by the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, but this has to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“Because Windstream seeks declarations untethered from any actual instances of copyright infringement or any mention of a specific copyrighted work, the complaint fails to identify an actual case or controversy and the declaratory judgment claims must be dismissed,” the court writes.

The order is a major disappointment for Windstream, which can still only guess whether it’s doing the right thing or not.

BMG and Rightscorp previously said that the ISP was liable for damages as high as $150,000 per infringed work, and with the current order this threat is still hanging over its head.

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