For the past several years, the Hollywood studios of the MPA/MPAA and the major recording labels have regularly attended the UK High Court to force ISPs to block pirate sites.
Following a slow start in 2012, a year later a wide range of sites were blocked, including EZTV, Movie2K, PrimeWire, Vodly, YIFY-Torrents, SolarMovie and TubePlus. Dozens of additional sites were targeted in 2014 and 2015, but with so many sites operational, a sizeable task lay ahead.
In May 2016, the MPA obtained a new injunction, this time against several streaming sites including Putlocker, WatchFree and Couchtuner. Also included in the package were Rainierland and RainierTamayo, two popular domains for a site showing the latest movies and TV shows.
Soon after the ISPs put their blocking measures in place the site’s operator began receiving notifications from users having difficulty reaching the site. In response, he published a Facebook post containing advice on how to circumvent the blockades.
Earlier this month, however, the site experienced much bigger problems. According to media reports in the Philippines, the operator of Rainierland and RainierTamayo was arrested following a complaint from Australia-based anti-piracy outfit Internet Fraud Watchdog.
Members of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group swooped on the computer science graduate who was reportedly “caught red-handed” as he uploaded movies to his site. In a sign that the authorities wanted to send a message, the arrest was televised on national TV, including Tamayo being put into a cell with several other prisoners.
Internet Fraud Watchdog (IFW) Executive Chairman Ken Gamble said they had been “investigating a person running a number of websites that were pirating a lot of US movies, big blockbuster movies online.” It’s not clear how complex that investigation became but the suspect certainly didn’t make himself difficult to identify.
Local media identified the operator of RainierTamayo.com as a local man called Rainier Tamayo. IFW say they were able to trace him through his website which had been leaking films online since 2011. Perhaps pointlessly, all domains currently registered to Tamayo are WHOIS-protected, despite featuring his name in various forms in their URLs.
Police say that during the raid they also seized several computers, laptops and routers but that is likely to be the least of the computer graduate’s worries. According to police sources, if found guilty Tamayo could face up to 12 years in jail for violating copyright law.
The sites in question are currently still up but appear to be non-functional when it comes to playing movies. Tamayo didn’t immediately respond to TF’s request for comment which raises the possibility that he’s still being held.
Virtual reality (VR) 360° videos are the next frontier of how we engage with and consume content. Unlike a traditional scenario in which a person views a screen in front of them, VR places the user inside an immersive experience. A viewer is “in” the story, and not on the sidelines as an observer.
Ivan Sutherland, widely regarded as the father of computer graphics, laid out the vision for virtual reality in his famous speech, “Ultimate Display” in 1965 . In that he said, “You shouldn’t think of a computer screen as a way to display information, but rather as a window into a virtual world that could eventually look real, sound real, move real, interact real, and feel real.”
Over the years, significant advancements have been made to bring reality closer to that vision. With the advent of headgear capable of rendering 3D spatial audio and video, realistic sound and visuals can be virtually reproduced, delivering immersive experiences to consumers.
When it comes to entertainment and sports, streaming in VR has become the new 4K HEVC/UHD of 2016. This has been accelerated by the release of new camera capture hardware like GoPro and streaming capabilities such as 360° video streaming from Facebook and YouTube. Yahoo streams lots of engaging sports, finance, news, and entertainment video content to tens of millions of users. The opportunity to produce and stream such content in 360° VR opens a unique opportunity to Yahoo to offer new types of engagement, and bring the users a sense of depth and visceral presence.
While this is not an experience that is live in product, it is an area we are actively exploring. In this blog post, we take a look at what’s involved in building an end-to-end VR streaming workflow for both Live and Video on Demand (VOD). Our experiments and research goes from camera rig setup, to video stitching, to encoding, to the eventual rendering of videos on video players on desktop and VR headsets. We also discuss challenges yet to be solved and the opportunities they present in streaming VR.
1. The Workflow
Yahoo’s video platform has a workflow that is used internally to enable streaming to an audience of tens of millions with the click of a few buttons. During experimentation, we enhanced this same proven platform and set of APIs to build a complete 360°/VR experience. The diagram below shows the end-to-end workflow for streaming 360°/VR that we built on Yahoo’s video platform.
Figure 1: VR Streaming Workflow at Yahoo
1.1. Capturing 360° video
In order to capture a virtual reality video, you need access to a 360°-capable video camera. Such a camera uses either fish-eye lenses or has an array of wide-angle lenses to collectively cover a 360 (θ) by 180 (ϕ) sphere as shown below.
Though it sounds simple, there is a real challenge in capturing a scene in 3D 360° as most of the 360° video cameras offer only 2D 360° video capture.
In initial experiments, we tried capturing 3D video using two cameras side-by-side, for left and right eyes and arranging them in a spherical shape. However this required too many cameras – instead we use view interpolation in the stitching step to create virtual cameras.
Another important consideration with 360° video is the number of axes the camera is capturing video with. In traditional 360° video that is captured using only a single-axis (what we refer as horizontal video), a user can turn their head from left to right. But this setup of cameras does not support a user tilting their head at 90°.
To achieve true 3D in our setup, we went with 6-12 GoPro cameras having 120° field of view (FOV) arranged in a ring, and an additional camera each on top and bottom, with each one outputting 2.7K at 30 FPS.
1.2. Stitching 360° video
Because a 360° view is a spherical video, the surface of this sphere needs to be projected onto a planar surface in 2D so that video encoders can process it. There are two popular layouts:
Equirectangular layout: This is the most widely-used format in computer graphics to represent spherical surfaces in a rectangular form with an aspect ratio of 2:1. This format has redundant information at the poles which means some pixels are over-represented, introducing distortions at the poles compared to the equator (as can be seen in the equirectangular mapping of the sphere below).
Figure 2: Equirectangular Layout 
CubeMap layout: CubeMap layout is a format that has also been used in computer graphics. It contains six individual 2D textures that map to six sides of a cube. The figure below is a typical cubemap representation. In a cubemap layout, the sphere is projected onto six faces and the images are folded out into a 2D image, so pieces of a video frame map to different parts of a cube, which leads to extremely efficient compact packing. Cubemap layouts require about 25% fewer pixels compared to equirectangular layouts.
Figure 3: CubeMap Layout 
In our setup, we experimented with a couple of stitching softwares. One was from Vahana VR , and the other was a modified version of the open-source Surround360 technology that works with a GoPro rig . Both softwares output equirectangular panoramas for the left and the right eye. Here are the steps involved in stitching together a 360° image:
Raw frame image processing: Converts uncompressed raw video data to RGB, which involves several steps starting from black-level adjustment, to applying Demosaic algorithms in order to figure out RGB color parts for each pixel based on the surrounding pixels. This also involves gamma correction, color correction, and anti vignetting (undoing the reduction in brightness on the image periphery). Finally, this stage applies sharpening and noise-reduction algorithms to enhance the image and suppress the noise.
Calibration: During the calibration step, stitching software takes steps to avoid vertical parallax while stitching overlapping portions in adjacent cameras in the rig. The purpose is to align everything in the scene, so that both eyes see every point at the same vertical coordinate. This step essentially matches the key points in images among adjacent camera pairs. It uses computer vision algorithms for feature detection like Binary Robust Invariant Scalable Keypoints (BRISK)  and AKAZE .
Optical Flow: During stitching, to cover the gaps between adjacent real cameras and provide interpolated view, optical flow is used to create virtual cameras. The optical flow algorithm finds the pattern of apparent motion of image objects between two consecutive frames caused by the movement of the object or camera. It uses OpenCV algorithms to find the optical flow .
Below are the frames produced by the GoPro camera rig:
Figure 4: Individual frames from 12-camera rig
Figure 5: Stitched frame output with PtGui
Figure 6: Stitched frame with barrel distortion using Surround360
Figure 7: Stitched frame after removing barrel distortion using Surround360
To get the full depth in stereo, the rig is set-up so that i = r * sin(FOV/2 – 360/n). where:
i = IPD/2 where IPD is the inter-pupillary distance between eyes.\
r = Radius of the rig.
FOV = Field of view of GoPro cameras, 120 degrees.
n = Number of cameras which is 12 in our setup.
Given IPD is normally 6.4 cms, i should be greater than 3.2 cm. This implies that with a 12-camera setup, the radius of the the rig comes to 14 cm(s). Usually, if there are more cameras it is easier to avoid black stripes.
For a truly immersive experience, users expect 4K (3840 x 2160) quality resolution at 60 frames per second (FPS) or higher. Given typical HMDs have a FOV of 120 degrees, a full 360° video needs a resolution of at least 12K (11520 x 6480). 4K streaming needs a bandwidth of 25 Mbps . So for 12K resolution, this effectively translates to > 75 Mbps and even more for higher framerates. However, average wifi in US has bandwidth of 15 Mbps .
One way to address the bandwidth issue is by reducing the resolution of areas that are out of the field of view. Spatial sub-sampling is used during transcoding to produce multiple viewport-specific streams. Each viewport-specific stream has high resolution in a given viewport and low resolution in the rest of the sphere.
On the player side, we can modify traditional adaptive streaming logic to take into account field of view. Depending on the video, if the user moves his head around a lot, it could result in multiple buffer fetches and could result in rebuffering. Ideally, this will work best in videos where the excessive motion happens in one field of view at a time and does not span across multiple fields of view at the same time. This work is still in an experimental stage.
The default output format from stitching software of both Surround360 and Vahana VR is equirectangular format. In order to reduce the size further, we pass it through a cubemap filter transform integrated into ffmpeg to get an additional pixel reduction of ~25%  .
At the end of above steps, the stitching pipeline produces high-resolution stereo 3D panoramas which are then ingested into the existing Yahoo Video transcoding pipeline to produce multiple bit-rates HLS streams.
1.3. Adding a stitching step to the encoding pipeline
Live – In order to prepare for multi-bitrate streaming over the Internet, a live 360° video-stitched stream in RTMP is ingested into Yahoo’s video platform. A live Elemental encoder was used to re-encode and package the live input into multiple bit-rates for adaptive streaming on any device (iOS, Android, Browser, Windows, Mac, etc.)
Video on Demand – The existing Yahoo video transcoding pipeline was used to package multiple bit-rates HLS streams from raw equirectangular mp4 source videos.
1.4. Rendering 360° video into the player
The spherical video stream is delivered to the Yahoo player in multiple bit rates. As a user changes their viewing angle, different portion of the frame are shown, presenting a 360° immersive experience. There are two types of VR players currently supported at Yahoo:
VR Display Capabilities: It has attributes to indicate position support, orientation support, and has external display.
VR Layer: Contains the HTML5 canvas element which is presented by VR Display when its submit frame is called. It also contains attributes defining the left bound and right bound textures within source canvas for presenting to an eye.
VREye Parameters: Has information required to correctly render a scene for given eye. For each eye, it has offset the distance from middle of the user’s eyes to the center point of one eye which is half of the interpupillary distance (IPD). In addition, it maintains the current FOV of the eye, and the recommended renderWidth and render Height of each eye viewport.
Get VR Displays: Returns a list of VR Display(s) HMDs accessible to the browser.
For web devices which support only monoscopic rendering like desktop browsers without HMD, it creates a single Perspective Camera object specifying the FOV and aspect ratio. As the device’s requestAnimationFrame is called it renders the new frames. As part of rendering the frame, it first calculates the projection matrix for FOV and sets the X (user’s right), Y (Up), Z (behind the user) coordinates of the camera position.
For devices that support stereoscopic rendering like mobile phones from Samsung Gear, the webvr player creates two PerspectiveCamera objects, one for the left eye and one for the right eye. Each Perspective camera queries the VR device capabilities to get the eye parameters like FOV, renderWidth and render Height every time a frame needs to be rendered at the native refresh rate of HMD. The key difference between stereoscopic and monoscopic is the perceived sense of depth that the user experiences, as the video frames separated by an offset are rendered by separate canvas elements to each individual eye.
Cardboard VR – Google provides a VR sdk for both iOS and Android . This simplifies common VR tasks like-lens distortion correction, spatial audio, head tracking, and stereoscopic side-by-side rendering. For iOS, we integrated Cardboard VR functionality into our Yahoo Video SDK, so that users can watch stereoscopic 3D videos on iOS using Google Cardboard.
With all the pieces in place, and experimentation done, we were able to successfully do a 360° live streaming of an internal company-wide event.
Figure 8: 360° Live streaming of Yahoo internal event
In addition to demonstrating our live streaming capabilities, we are also experimenting with showing 360° VOD videos produced with a GoPro-based camera rig. Here is a screenshot of one of the 360° videos being played in the Yahoo player.
Figure 9: Yahoo Studios produced 360° VOD content in the Yahoo Player
3. Challenges and Opportunities
3.1. Enormous amounts of data
As we alluded to in the video processing section of this post, delivering 4K resolution videos for each eye for each FOV at a high frame-rate remains a challenge. While FOV-adaptive streaming does reduce the size by providing high resolution streams separately for each FOV, providing an impeccable 60 FPS or more viewing experience still requires a lot more data than the current internet pipes can handle. Some of the other possible options which we are closely paying attention to are:
Compression efficiency with HEVC and VP9 – New codecs like HEVC and VP9 have the potential to provide significant compression gains. HEVC open source codecs like x265 have shown a 40% compression performance gain compared to the currently ubiquitous H.264/AVC codec. LIkewise, a VP9 codec from Google has shown similar 40% compression performance gains. The key challenge is the hardware decoding support and the browser support. But with Apple and Microsoft very much behind HEVC and Firefox and Chrome already supporting VP9, we believe most browsers would support HEVC or VP9 within a year.
Using 10 bit color depth vs 8 bit color depth – Traditional monitors support 8 bpc (bits per channel) for displaying images. Given each pixel has 3 channels (RGB), 8 bpc maps to 256x256x256 color/luminosity combinations to represent 16 million colors. With 10 bit color depth, you have the potential to represent even more colors. But the biggest stated advantage of using 10 bit color depth is with respect to compression during encoding even if the source only uses 8 bits per channel. Both x264 and x265 codecs support 10 bit color depth, with ffmpeg already supporting encoding at 10 bit color depth.
3.2. Six degrees of freedom
With current camera rig workflows, users viewing the streams through HMD are able to achieve three degrees of Freedom (DoF) i.e., the ability to move up/down, clockwise/anti-clockwise, and swivel. But you still can’t get a different perspective when you move inside it i.e., move forward/backward. Until now, this true six DoF immersive VR experience has only been possible in CG VR games. In video streaming, LightField technology-based video cameras produced by Lytro are the first ones to capture light field volume data from all directions . But Lightfield-based videos require an order of magnitude more data than traditional fixed FOV, fixed IPD, fixed lense camera rigs like GoPro. As bandwidth problems get resolved via better compressions and better networks, achieving true immersion should be possible.
VR streaming is an emerging medium and with the addition of 360° VR playback capability, Yahoo’s video platform provides us a great starting point to explore the opportunities in video with regard to virtual reality. As we continue to work to delight our users by showing immersive video content, we remain focused on optimizing the rendering of high-quality 4K content in our players. We’re looking at building FOV-based adaptive streaming capabilities and better compression during delivery. These capabilities, and the enhancement of our webvr player to play on more HMDs like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, will set us on track to offer streaming capabilities across the entire spectrum. At the same time, we are keeping a close watch on advancements in supporting spatial audio experiences, as well as advancements in the ability to stream volumetric lightfield videos to achieve true six degrees of freedom, with the aim of realizing the true potential of VR.
Glossary – VR concepts:
VR – Virtual reality, commonly referred to as VR, is an immersive computer-simulated reality experience that places viewers inside an experience. It “transports” viewers from their physical reality into a closed virtual reality. VR usually requires a headset device that takes care of sights and sounds, while the most-involved experiences can include external motion tracking, and sensory inputs like touch and smell. For example, when you put on VR headgear you suddenly start feeling immersed in the sounds and sights of another universe, like the deck of the Star Trek Enterprise. Though you remain physically at your place, VR technology is designed to manipulate your senses in a manner that makes you truly feel as if you are on that ship, moving through the virtual environment and interacting with the crew.
360 degree video – A 360° video is created with a camera system that simultaneously records all 360 degrees of a scene. It is a flat equirectangular video projection that is morphed into a sphere for playback on a VR headset. A standard world map is an example of equirectangular projection, which maps the surface of the world (sphere) onto orthogonal coordinates.
Spatial Audio – Spatial audio gives the creator the ability to place sound around the user. Unlike traditional mono/stereo/surround audio, it responds to head rotation in sync with video. While listening to spatial audio content, the user receives a real-time binaural rendering of an audio stream .
FOV – A human can naturally see 170 degrees of viewable area (field of view). Most consumer grade head mounted displays HMD(s) like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive now display 90 degrees to 120 degrees.
Monoscopic video – A monoscopic video means that both eyes see a single flat image, or video file. A common camera setup involves six cameras filming six different fields of view. Stitching software is used to form a single equirectangular video. Max output resolution on 2D scopic videos on Gear VR is 3480×1920 at 30 frames per second.
Presence – Presence is a kind of immersion where the low-level systems of the brain are tricked to such an extent that they react just as they would to non-virtual stimuli.
Latency – It’s the time between when you move your head, and when you see physical updates on the screen. An acceptable latency is anywhere from 11 ms (for games) to 20 ms (for watching 360 vr videos).
Head Tracking – There are two forms:
Positional tracking – movements and related translations of your body, eg: sway side to side.
Traditional head tracking – left, right, up, down, roll like clock rotation.
With more than half of its population living in “absolute poverty,” Nigeria is one of the world’s poorest countries.
The economy has been growing in recent years but unfortunately, not all people reap the rewards. This is also true for those in the film industry.
With close to a billion U.S. dollars in box office revenue, “Nollywood” appears to be doing well. Still, not all actors and filmmakers are rich, as some people falsely assume.
According to Nigerian Pastor Joshua Iginla, piracy is one of the main problems, and he urges the local government to tackle this menace.
“The level of piracy in this country is serious; I hope government will do something about it,” Iginla says.
The pastor has been preaching this anti-piracy message for quite some time. He believes that Nollywood’s actors and actresses are Nigeria’s ambassadors, showing the world a positive image of the country.
However, he warns that the threat of piracy is real, noting that it has already caused several early deaths.
“Many [people] have died prematurely because they are hardworking but piracy has crippled them. We enjoy watching their films but we watch them when they are helpless with none to help them,” he says.
The public at large believes that all actors and actresses are rich, but the pastor says that this is a misunderstanding. This is something he personally experienced when actor Ayo Emmanuel contacted him with a call for help.
“I wept when Ayo Emmanuel sent me a text a few weeks back that he was sick and needed financial assistance,” Iginla says.
The pastor, who is known for his philanthropy, decided not to sit idly by. During the Sunday service at Champions Royal Assembly at City of Wonders last week, he generously donated a brand new Peugeot 301 to the sick actor.
Emmanuel was floored by the generous surprise gift, as the picture below fittingly illustrates.
The actor reportedly suffers from “spiritual and depression” related problems. While a car might not help him to cope with these challenges, he no longer needs a bus to get to church.
A full photo-op of the giveaway ceremony was posted on the pastor’s Facebook page, including one in which Emmanuel, popularly known as “Nollywood Policeman”, poses with a handwritten sign in front of his new car.
Emmanuel’s new car
The pastor is often criticized for giving away expensive gifts while so many others don’t have enough food to feed their families. However, Iginla stresses that actors have it rough too and that it’s up to him to decide where his money is spent.
While he has helped a lot of poor people, Nollywood actors and actresses are among his favorites.
Over the past several years he has donated dozens of luxury cars to Nollywood celebrities, including a Hummer Jeep, Mercedes G-Wagon, and Mercedes CLS 550.
The fortunate pastor clearly has enough money in the bank. In addition, he’s also seen a prophet by some. In 2016 several of his “prophecies” came true, although one publication notes that he’s not always right.
How exactly he acquired his fortune remains a mystery though, just like his gift of predicting the future.
Every day, content production companies and their anti-piracy partners take a keen interest in people posting their material online without permission.
They’re often able to use technical means to identify infringers, often relying on IP address, financial, and similar information. However, some also resort to chasing pirates in the physical realm.
This is the approach currently being taken by Duco Events, who are said to be recognized by the World Boxing Organization as the leading promoter in the Asia Pacific region. Duco partners with companies including ESPN, Fox Sports, MAIN EVENT, SKY Sports and SKY Arena, and it is tired of having its content pirated.
One of the biggest thorns in its side is New Zealander James Bryant. Earlier this year he informed NZ Herald that he intended to stream a Duco boxing event taking place in July. That led to a private investigator being sent to his parents’ Auckland house to serve court papers. He wasn’t there.
Bryant, who claims to be a web developer and SEO specialist, says that on a separate occasion another person emailed him looking for a computer repair. Suspicious, he gave a friend’s address, which led to an investigator sitting outside there all day. He eventually asked for Bryant by name.
“They’ve called me twice, and they told me that it’s getting serious now, that it was too big to go away,” Bryant said.
That was back in the summer and it appears that as promised, Duco haven’t forgotten about Bryant. However, they still haven’t managed to locate him.
“I have been on holiday for the last few months and they are not doing a very good job at finding me,” Bryant said last week.
“It doesn’t bother me one bit … as soon as they find me, I will make it my personal mission to stream every event.”
Bryant’s defiance was not well received, with Duco chief executive Martin Snedden rejected claims that chasing streamers is counter-productive.
“In our view it is out-and-out theft, and people are starting to get the message that the risk isn’t worth getting involved. We know we can’t eradicate this, but we’re getting better at running interference,” Snedden said.
Now it appears that Duco are turning up the heat. In a posting this week to the company’s Facebook page, the boxing promotions outfit sought assistance in finding the elusive Bryant.
But if Duco thought that this would prompt Bryant to give himself up, they were very wrong. Instead, the self-confessed streamer has started a fund-raiser with two aims. First, to raise money to fight Duco, and second, to set up a new streaming service.
“My mission is to raise money for the upcoming battle and also to raise funds which will be put into developing a dedicated website which will be hosted on an overseas server which will broadcast live events as they happen,” Bryant explains.
“I am currently setting up a site which will provide live streams of legal events such as music, sport and festivals. It will be hosted off shore in any event that the courts do not allow me access to a computer, I plan on hosting a wide range of different events.
“I believe that as New Zealanders we shouldn’t have to feed the pockets of the corporations to watch sports we care about. It’s time to stand up New Zealand!” he concludes.
On today’s Internet, too much power is concentrated in too few hands. In the early days of the Internet, individuals were empowered. Now governments and corporations hold the balance of power. If we are to leave a better Internet for the next generations, governments need to rebalance Internet power more towards the individual. This means several things.
First, less surveillance. Surveillance has become the business model of the Internet, and an aspect that is appealing to governments worldwide. While computers make it easier to collect data, and networks to aggregate it, governments should do more to ensure that any surveillance is exceptional, transparent, regulated and targeted. It’s a tall order; governments such as that of the US need to overcome their own mass-surveillance desires, and at the same time implement regulations to fetter the ability of Internet companies to do the same.
Second, less censorship. The early days of the Internet were free of censorship, but no more. Many countries censor their Internet for a variety of political and moral reasons, and many large social networking platforms do the same thing for business reasons. Turkey censors anti-government political speech; many countries censor pornography. Facebook has censored both nudity and videos of police brutality. Governments need to commit to the free flow of information, and to make it harder for others to censor.
Third, less propaganda. One of the side-effects of free speech is erroneous speech. This naturally corrects itself when everybody can speak, but an Internet with centralized power is one that invites propaganda. For example, both China and Russia actively use propagandists to influence public opinion on social media. The more governments can do to counter propaganda in all forms, the better we all are.
And fourth, less use control. Governments need to ensure that our Internet systems are open and not closed, that neither totalitarian governments nor large corporations can limit what we do on them. This includes limits on what apps you can run on your smartphone, or what you can do with the digital files you purchase or are collected by the digital devices you own. Controls inhibit innovation: technical, business, and social.
Solutions require both corporate regulation and international cooperation. They require Internet governance to remain in the hands of the global community of engineers, companies, civil society groups, and Internet users. They require governments to be agile in the face of an ever-evolving Internet. And they’ll result in more power and control to the individual and less to powerful institutions. That’s how we built an Internet that enshrined the best of our societies, and that’s how we’ll keep it that way for future generations.
This essay previously appeared on Time.com, in a section about issues for the next president. It was supposed to appear in the print magazine, but was preempted by Donald Trump coverage.
Преди три седмици получих мейл от Google заради един от сайтовете ми – opendata.yurukov.net. Уведомиха ме, че някой е поискал при търсене на името му да бъде скрит един конкретен резултат – отворените данни за сътрудниците на Държавна сигурност. Макар да не съм ги обновявал от няколко години, те съдържат всички данни за около 5000 агента и информатори осветени от Комисията по досиетата.
Мейлът от Google е във връзка с т.н. механизъм “Правото да бъдеш забравен”. Той дава възможност на всеки гражданин на ЕС да иска от търсачките да не показват определени детайли за него или нея. Пример за това биха били неприятни снимки споделени от познати или новинарски статии показващи имената и лицата на жертви на насилие. В България имаме достатъчно примери на журналистически своеволия, които си просят да бъдат блокирани от потърпевшите. Пейо писа по-подробно за този механизъм преди две години.
Проблемът е, че този механизъм се експлоатира за не толкова чисти цели. В моя случай говорим за данни, които са публични със специален закон и ясната цел обществото да узнае кои са сътрудниците на ДС. Преди време отворих данните именно, за да е по-лесно търсенето. По-пълен списък с имената, но с по-малко данни, ще намерите отскоро на портала за отворени данни на правителството. Опитът на някого да скрие името си по такъв странен начин прави още по-интересно кой е той или тя.
Макар да не се споменава в мейла от кого идва искането, оказва се, че все пак може да разберем. В списъка има 4671 уникални осветени имена и още над 3000 имена на агенти и вербовчици. Започнах с имената на сътрудниците. Написах скрипт, който да ги търси в Google и да проверява дали отворените ми данни са сред резултатите. Търсачката има ограничение от 100 безплатни търсения на ден, така че отне време докато обработи значителен дял от имената.
И печелившият е…
Днес получих резултат. Оказа се, че с голяма вероятност човекът зад искането към Google да е Жорж Ганчев. Ако не сте забелязали, той е кандидат за президент с номер 5 бюлетината. При търсене на каквато и да е комбинация на старото или новото му име (преди се е казвал Георги Ганчев Петрушев) не излиза нищо от списъка ми със сътрудници. По принципа на изключване това означава, че именно той се е опитал да скрие миналото си на сътрудник. Странното е, че все пак откриваме сред резултатите страницата на самата Комисия. Причината най-вероятно е, че Google са му отказали да премахнат онзи резултат.
Решението на Комисията по досиетата ще намерите на сайта им. Жорж Ганчев е бил сътрудник към Второ главно управление на ДС между 1970 и 1990 г. с псевдоним “Жорж”, който изглежда е възприел като лично име след това. Вербуван е от Михаил Михайлов, който е също осветлен от Комисията в качеството му на началник отдел в МВР до 1990-та.
Не може да сме на 100% сигурни в този резултат обаче, защото Google няма право да потвърди. Няма друго обяснение имената на Ганчев да не излизат при търсене. Ако друг беше подал точно това конкретно заявление, щях да съм получил подобен мейл и за Ганчев по-рано. Така при липса на по-просто обяснение, остава единствено отговорът, че той и предизборният му щаб си мислят, че може да скрият миналото му.
Важен механизъм за жертви
Според данните на Google от 2014-та до сега от българи са постъпили запитвания за премахване на почти 8000 адреса от търсачката. Това включва единствено частни лица като Ганчев, които са искали да скрият нещо за себе си. Под 1/4 от обработените са били наистина премахнати.
Важно е да се разбере, че механизмът на “Правото да бъдеш забравен” е важен за жертви на насилие, експлоатация или тормоз. В наше време информацията е всичко и безпринципното разбиване на личното пространство води до необратими последствия за често невинни хора. Затова не може в никакъв начин да кажем, че голяма част от тези 8000 заявки са нямали легитимни причини за премахване. Всеки може да подаде такова заявление, ако смята, че има право.
От друга страна, ако имате сайт и искате да получавате такива и други известия от Google, трябва да се регистрирате в Webmaster инструмента им. Там освен такива сигнали има доста информация какви проблеми има сайта ви при търсене и как може да е оптимизира.
Нека да им припомним
За да защитим този механизъм обаче, трябва да покажем недостатъците му. В този случай Жорж Ганчев с голяма степен на сигурност се е опитал да скрие миналото си от избирателите в качеството си на кандидат за президент. Изглежда иска да забрави.
Аз предлагам да му припомним. Призовавам всички да му пишем с текст “Спомняте ли си, че 20 години сте били в ДС?” Мейли, съобщения и постове във Facebook, SMS-и, ако му имате телефоните, въпроси по време на интервюта в рамките на предизборната кампания.
Всъщност, защо да се ограничаваме до него? Има още трима участници в надпреварата, които навярно също си мислят, че ще забравим миналото им на сътрудници на ДС. Нека припомним на всички тях, че си спомняме.
In the present day and age piracy is perhaps more scattered than it’s ever been.
Torrent sites, streaming services, cyberlockers, mobile apps, linking sites and many more are all labeled as infringing sources.
But, the piracy problem is not restricted to ‘shady’ sites and services alone. On many ‘legal’ platforms there’s a wide availability of copyright infringing material as well, YouTube included.
Despite the availability of fingerprinting technology in YouTube’s controversial Content-ID system, it’s very easy to find full copies of popular films on the site, as we’ve illustrated in the past.
This is also what an observant Dutch copyright holder discovered a few days ago. However, instead of merely issuing a takedown notice, the rightsholder contacted local anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
BREIN, which has a track record of going after pirate uploaders of all shapes and sizes, took immediate action. The group managed to trace the person behind the ‘anonymous’ YouTube account, who had promised viewers that he’d upload a new movie every week.
“BREIN managed to identify the anonymous uploader and forced him to cease his infringing activities,” the group writes, adding that YouTube uploaders may have to pay for their infringing activities.
“On YouTube, illegal uploaders should also be aware that they could face a cease and desist order with a penalty clause for future infringements, and a settlement amount for those committed in the past.”
In this case the infringer, who is described as a “young man”, was let off without having to pay any damages but BREIN adds that repeat infringers may not be as lucky.
“In this particular case we have settled without payment of compensation from the uploader, that will be different in case of repeat infringement,” BREIN director Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.
Although the anti-piracy group didn’t need YouTube to hand over the personal details of the uploader, BREIN says it can take the necessary legal action to do so if needed. Previously, they did the same with an eBook pirate who used Google Play.
While we don’t know the exact circumstances it’s possible that the YouTube uploader was a minor, which may explain the lack of a monetary settlement. For BREIN, however, the larger goal is to let pirates know that they are vulnerable, also on YouTube.
Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has sent in its annual list of notorious markets.
In its latest submission the Hollywood group targets a wide variety of “rogue” sites and services which they claim are promoting the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows, with declining incomes and lost jobs in the movie industry as a result.
“The criminals who profit from the most notorious markets throughout the world threaten the very heart of our industry and in so doing they threaten the livelihoods of the people who give it life,” the MPAA writes.
What’s new this year is that the MPAA calls out several hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.
“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified.”
The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer, Altushost and Netbrella, which are linked to various countries including the Netherlands, Panama, Sweden and Switzerland.
CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company it can’t be included in the list. However, MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.
“An example of a CDN frequently exploited by notorious markets to avoid detection and enforcement is Cloudflare. CloudFlare is a CDN that also provides reverse proxy functionality. Reverse proxy functionality hides the real IP address of a web server.”
Stressing the importance of third-party services, the MPAA notes that domain name registrars can also be seen as possible “notorious markets.” As an example, the report mentions the Indian Public Domain Registry (PDR) which has repeatedly refused to take action against pirate sites.
At the heart of the MPAA’s report are as always the pirate sites themselves. This year they list 23 sites in separate categories, each with a suspected location, as defined by the movie industry group.
According to the MPAA, BitTorrent remains the most popular source of P2P piracy, despite the shutdowns of large sites such as KAT, Torrentz and YTS.
The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 47 million unique visitors per month.
The MPAA writes that the site was hit by various enforcement actions in recent years. They also mistakenly suggest that the site is no longer the number one pirate site, but add that it gained traction after KAT and Torrentz were taken down.
“While it has never returned to its number one position, it has had a significant comeback after kat.cr and torrentz.eu went offline in 2016,” the MPAA writes.
ExtraTorrent is another prime target. The site offers millions of torrents and is affiliated with the Trust.Zone VPN, which they advertise on their site.
“Extratorrent.cc claims astonishing piracy statistics: offering almost three million free files with sharing optimized through over 64 million seeders and more than 39 million leechers.
“The homepage currently displays a message warning users to use a VPN when downloading torrents. Extratorrent.cc is affiliated with Trust.Zone,” MPAA adds.
The full list of reported torrent sites is as follows:
The second category of pirate sites reported by the MPAA are cyberlockers. The movie industry group points out that these sites generate millions of dollars in revenue, citing a report from Netnames.
The “Movshare Group,” which allegedly operates Nowvideo.sx, Movshare.net, Novamov.com, Videoweed.es, Nowdownload.ch, Divxstage.to and several other pirate sites is a particularly large threat, they say.
As in previous submissions VKontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is also listed as a notorious market.
-Nowvideo.sx and the “Movshare Group” (several locations)
Finally, there are various linking websites, many of which focus on a foreign audience. These sites don’t host the infringing material, but only link to it. The full list of linking sites is as follows.
A few days ago systemd.conf 2016 ended, our
second conference of this kind. I personally enjoyed this conference a
lot: the talks, the atmosphere, the audience, the organization, the
location, they all were excellent!
I’d like to take the opportunity to thanks everybody involved. In
particular I’d like to thank Chris, Daniel, Sandra and Henrike
for organizing the conference, your work was stellar!
I’d also like to thank our sponsors, without which the conference
couldn’t take place like this, of course. In particular I’d like to
thank our gold sponsor, Red Hat, our organizing sponsor Kinvolk, as
well as our silver sponsors CoreOS and Facebook. I’d also like to
thank our bronze sponsors Collabora, OpenSUSE, Pantheon, Pengutronix,
our supporting sponsor Codethink and last but not least our media
sponsor Linux Magazin. Thank you all!
I’d also like to thank the Video Operation Center
(“VOC”) for their amazing work on live-streaming
the conference and making all talks available on YouTube. It’s amazing
how efficient the VOC is, it’s simply stunning! Thank you guys!
In case you missed this year’s iteration of the conference, please
have a look at our YouTube
find all of this year’s talks there, as well the ones from last
year. (For example, my welcome talk is available here). Enjoy!
We hope to see you again next year, for systemd.conf 2017 in Berlin!
It’s officially fall so warm up that hot cider and check out this month’s great AWS-powered startups:
Funding Circle – The leading online marketplace for business loans.
Karhoo – A ride comparison app.
nearbuy – Connecting customers and local merchants across India.
Funding Circle (UK) Funding Circle is one of the world’s leading direct lending platforms for business loans, where people and organizations can invest in successful small businesses. The platform was established in 2010 by co-founders Samir Desai, James Meekings, and Andrew Mullinger as a direct response to the noncompetitive lending market that exists in the UK. Funding Circle’s goal was to create the infrastructure – similar to a stock exchange or bond market – where any investor could lend to small businesses. With Funding Circle, individuals, financial institutions, and even governments can lend to creditworthy small businesses using an online direct lending platform. Since its inception, Funding Circle has raised $300M in equity capital from the same investors that backed Facebook, Twitter, and Sky. The platform expanded to the US market in October 2013 and launched across Continental Europe in October 2015.
Funding Circle has given businesses the ability to apply online for loans much faster than they could through traditional routes due in part to the absence of high overhead branch costs and legacy IT issues. Their investors include more than 50,000 individuals, the Government-backed British Business Bank, the European Investment Bank, and many local councils and large financial institutions. To date, more than £1.4 billion has been lent through the platform to nearly 16,000 small businesses in the UK alone. Funding Circle’s growth has led independent experts to predict that it will see strong growth in the UK business lending market within a decade. The platform has also made a huge impact in the UK economy – boosting it by £2.7 billion, creating up to 40,000 new jobs, and helping to build more than 2,000 new homes.
As a regulated business, Funding Circle needs separate infrastructure in multiple geographies. AWS provides similar services across all of Funding Circle’s territories. They use the full AWS stack from the top, with Amazon Route 53 directing traffic across global Amazon EC2 instances, to data analytics with Amazon Redshift.
Check out this short video to learn more about how Funding Circle works!
Karhoo (New York) Daniel Ishag, founder and CEO of Karhoo, found himself in a situation many of us have probably been in. He was in a hotel in California using an app to call a cab from one of the big on-demand services. The driver cancelled. Daniel tried three or four different companies and again, they all cancelled. The very next day he was booking a flight when he saw all of the ways in which travel companies clearly presented airline choices for travelers. Daniel realized that there was great potential to translate this to ground transportation – specifically with taxis and licensed private hire. Within 48 hours of this realization, he was on his way to Bombay to prototype the product.
Karhoo is the global cab comparison and booking app that provides passengers with more choices each time they book a ride. By connecting directly to the fleet dispatch system of established black cab, minicab, and executive car operators, the app allows passengers to choose the ride they want, at the right price with no surge pricing. The vendor-neutral platform also gives passengers the ability to pre-book their rides days or months in advance. With over 500,000 cars on the platform, Karhoo is changing the landscape of the on-demand transport industry.
In order to build a scalable business, Karhoo uses AWS to implement many independent integration projects, run an operation that is data-driven, and experiment with tools and technologies without committing to heavy costs. They utilize Amazon S3 for storage and Amazon EC2, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon RDS for operation. Karhoo also uses Amazon EMR, Amazon ElastiCache, and Amazon SES and is looking into future products such as a mobile device testing farm.
nearbuy (India) nearbuy is India’s first hyper-local online platform that gives consumers and local merchants a place to discover and interact with each other. They help consumers find some of the best deals in food, beauty, health, hotels, and more in over 30 cities in India. Here’s how to use them:
Explore options and deals at restaurants, spas, gyms, movies, hotels and more around you.
Buy easily and securely, using credit/debit cards, net-banking, or wallets.
Enjoy the service by simply showing your voucher on the nearbuy app (iOS and Android).
After continuously observing the amount of time people were spending on their mobile phones, six passionate individuals decided to build a product that allowed for all goods and services in India to be purchased online. nearbuy has been able to make the time gap between purchase and consumption almost instant, make experiences more relevant by offering them at the user’s current location, and allow services such as appointments and payments to be made from the app itself. The nearbuy team is currently charting a path to define how services can and will be bought online in India.
nearbuy chose AWS in order to reduce its time to market while aggressively scaling their operations. They leverage Amazon EC2 heavily and were one of the few companies in the region running their entire production load on EC2. The container-based approach has not only helped nearbuy significantly reduce its infrastructure cost, but has also enabled them to implement CI+CD (Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment), which has reduced time to ship exponentially.
Year in, year out, people with an interest in Internet file-sharing discuss what is permissible under current legislation. It’s an important exercise if people are to stay on the right side of the law.
These discussions have historically taken place among enthusiasts but with the advent of easily accessible piracy tools such as Popcorn Time, modified Kodi, and Showbox, the man in the street his now taking part.
One individual that has provoked interest among the public is UK-based Brian ‘Tomo’ Thompson, who was previously raided by police and Trading Standards after selling “fully loaded” Android boxes from his shop in the north-east.
Thompson is now being prosecuted by his local council. He says he intends to fight back to discover where the boundaries lie for sellers of similar devices.
“All I want to know is whether I am doing anything illegal. I know it’s a grey area but I want it in black and white,” he said this week.
“I’m prepared to accept what the court decides but at the moment as far as I’m concerned I’m not breaking the law.”
There are many people who share Thompson’s opinion and there’s no shortage of supporters willing the Middlesbrough man on to victory against what some see as a vindictive prosecution.
But while this is indeed an attack on the little guy, Thompson is almost certainly about to sacrifice himself for little to no gain. Admittedly the case isn’t completely straightforward, but a conviction seems almost inevitable. Here’s why.
Hardware devices – whether a computer, Android phone, tablet, or in this case, a set-top box – are 100% legal. Anyone can buy, sell or trade such devices almost anywhere in the world with no issues.
Thompson knows this, describing the blank devices as “just like a big USB stick.” While not a great analogy, for the purposes of the law, that will suffice.
On its own, the Kodi media player is also 100% legal. Anyone can download, install, use or give away the software with no problems whatsoever. Installing Kodi on an Android device and selling it is legal almost everywhere and definitely legal in the UK.
If Thompson had only done the above – sell Android set-top boxes with basic Kodi installed – he would have no issues with the police or indeed Trading Standards. Individually and combined, the software and devices are completely non-infringing.
However, Thompson did not stop there. What he did was sold Android boxes with Kodi installed, plus all the extra third-party addons that allow people to view infringing movies, TV shows, live sports, plus all the other ‘goodies’ that buyers of these boxes demand. His adverts on Facebook make that very clear.
It is these third-party addons that make what Thompson did unlawful. Selling devices and/or software designed for infringing copying purposes is illegal in the UK. Encouraging others to break the law never goes in a defendant’s favor either.
According to The Northern Echo, since he was raided in March, Thompson has been selling boxes that do not have the addons installed.
“These boxes are available from all over the place, not just me, but it’s the downloading of software to watch channels that is apparently causing the problem,” he said.
But despite not offering them himself, the businessman continued to encourage his customers to install the addons on devices he supplied, despite being targeted twice previously by the authorities.
The advert below is currently available on Thompson’s Facebook page and many of the channels are subscription-only affairs. Judges rarely look kindly on people encouraging others to break the law, especially where big corporate interests are the perceived victims.
Finally, there is another issue that could negatively affect Thompson’s defense. In June 2015, a company called Geeky Kit was raided near to Thompson’s premises. That company was also targeted for selling fully-loaded Android boxes. That company’s storefront at the time of the raid is shown below.
The signage clearly states that items being sold within are being offered on the basis that they provide access to subscription TV package channels for free. Geeky Kit’s premises remained closed in the weeks that followed the raid but in August came a surprise announcement from Thompson.
Thompson is now set to appear before Magistrates’ Court next week in what will be a first-of-its-kind case. Much will hinge on the outcome, for Thompson and others in his position.
“This may have to go to the crown court and then it may go all the way to the European court, but I want to make a point with this and I want to make it easier for people to know what it legal and what isn’t,” he said. “I expect it go against me but at least I will know where I stand.”
While some definitive legal clarity in this area would help thousands of people to understand where the boundaries lie with these boxes, one can’t help but think that this is a particularly bad case for testing the waters.
Whether it will go entirely against Thompson next week remains to be seen, but if he wins the case and boxes with addons are declared legal to sell, it will be nothing short of a miracle. Companies like Sky, Premier League, and the Federation Against Copyright Theft, will rightly go into meltdown.
“It is the first case of its kind in the world so it is going to be interesting,” Thompson concludes.
В началото на август попаднах на паркирала неправилно кола, която си просеше да влезе в регистъра Гражданите. Това, че шофьорът ме подгони да изтрия снимката, само ме убеди още повече да пусна сигнал.
10-тина дни по-късно подписах електронно сведение и екипът на Гражданите го подаде в Пътна полиция Благоевград. Било е прието, но нямаме още обратна връзка. Доколкото разбрах, Пътна полиция в повечето области не давала информация как се движат сигналите. За този тук ще научим дали е имало ефект най-вероятно само, ако шофьорът обжалва. През октомври ще се опитам да разбера дали нещо е станало.
Междувременно се разбра с голяма степен сигурност кой е собственикът на колата. Според съдебен акт от преди няколко години колата е на Венцислав Шалявски-Шаляфо. Медиите го описват като известен лихвар в града. Интересното е, че от две седмици въпросното дело от благоевградския съд вече не се намира в Google. Целият сайт на съда е паднал изглежда. Няма го и в търсачката за актове на съдебната система. Отдавам го на проблем в сървърите на съда.
Разбира се, информацията от това дело може да е стара и колата да е вече с нов собственик. Според коментиращите във Facebook обаче все още е негова. Работа на Пътна полиция е да установи това и да наложи санкция.
Залитане в социалните мрежи
В дните след поста ми направиха обаче неприятно впечатление многото жлъчни коментари. “Мафиот”, “бабаит”, “бой и страх по улиците”. Повечето бяха преди да има въобще догатки кой е собственикът. Несъмнено колата беше в нарушение и поведението на шофьорът беше най-малкото укорително. Наистина се опита да ме спре и се държеше заплашително.
В същото време обаче нито ме е нападал физически, нито ме е заплашвал пряко със саморазправа. Реакцията му беше първосигнална, просташка и по-скоро от страх от шефа му, както сам даде да се разбере. Толкова можеше момчето.
Дали обаче реакциите в социалните мрежи щяха да са същите, ако колата не беше мерцедес, а стар опел? Ако нарушителят не беше татуирано момче, а мъж на средна възраст с не особено добри маниери? Навярно пак щяхме да коментираме “селяни”, “българска му работа”, “ей затова избягаха нормалните”. Надали обаче щеше поста ми да бъде споделен 1300 пъти и да получи още толкова like-а. Нямаше и сигнала до Гражданите да бъде видян 82 хиляди пъти.
Но колата не беше опел. Беше мерцедес и то от моделите, които прилягат на “ония”. А не трябва да има значение, нали? Има нарушение, значи се налага глоба независимо дали е пенсионер или шеф на банка. Би трябвало поне. Много ме уверяват, че местната Пътна полиция няма да направи нищо, а и дори да се опита, ще се проточат едни жалби и пак нищо.
Нека да видим. Моята част съм си я свършил. Топката сега е в техния двор.
Yet another leaked catalog of Internet attack services, this one specializing in disinformation:
But Aglaya had much more to offer, according to its brochure. For eight to 12 weeks campaigns costing €2,500 per day, the company promised to “pollute” internet search results and social networks like Facebook and Twitter “to manipulate current events.” For this service, which it labelled “Weaponized Information,” Aglaya offered “infiltration,” “ruse,” and “sting” operations to “discredit a target” such as an “individual or company.”
“[We] will continue to barrage information till it gains ‘traction’ & top 10 search results yield a desired results on ANY Search engine,” the company boasted as an extra “benefit” of this service.
Aglaya also offered censorship-as-a-service, or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, for only €600 a day, using botnets to “send dummy traffic” to targets, taking them offline, according to the brochure. As part of this service, customers could buy an add-on to “create false criminal charges against Targets in their respective countries” for a more costly €1 million.
Some of Aglaya’s offerings, according to experts who reviewed the document for Motherboard, are likely to be exaggerated or completely made-up. But the document shows that there are governments interested in these services, which means there will be companies willing to fill the gaps in the market and offer them.
Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket during the summer of 2012.
The domain seizures were the first ever against “rogue” mobile app marketplaces and followed similar actions against BitTorrent and streaming sites.
During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, but progress has been slow. Today, we can report on what we believe to be the first sentencing in these cases.
Earlier this month, Scott Walton of Lovejoy, Georgia, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and sentenced to 46 months in prison.
The sentence hasn’t been announced publicly by the Department of Justice, but paperwork (pdf) obtained by TorrentFreak confirms that it was handed down by Georgia District Court Judge Timothy Batten.
According to the prosecution, one of Walton’s primary tasks was to manage public relations for SnappzMarket.
“In this role, defendant Walton monitored the Facebook fan page for SnappzMarket, provided responses to support inquiries, developed new ideas for SnappzMarket, and assisted with finding solutions to technical problems,” the indictment reads.
“In addition, defendant Walton searched for and downloaded copies of copyrighted apps, burned those copies to digital media such as compact discs, and mailed them to defendant Gary Edwin Sharp.”
The sentencing itself doesn’t come as a surprise, but it took a long time to be finalized.
Together with several co-defendants, Walton had already pleaded guilty two years ago, when he admitted to being involved in the illegal copying and distribution of more than a million pirated Android apps with a retail value of $1.7 million.
Before sentencing, Walton’s attorney Jeffrey Berhold urged the court to minimize the sentence. Citing letters from family and friends, he noted that his client can be of great value to the community.
“The Court can make this world a better place by releasing Scott Walton sooner rather than later,” Berhold wrote.
Whether these pleas helped is unknown. The 46-month sentence is short of the five years maximum, but it remains a very long time.
Initially, Walton was able to await his sentencing as a free man, but last year he was incarcerated after violating his pretrial release conditions. This means that he has already served part of his sentence.
The two other SnappzMarket members who were indicted, Joshua Ryan Taylor and Gary Edwin Sharp, are expected to be sentenced later this year. The same is true for co-conspirator Kody Jon Peterson.
After becoming the world’s largest torrent site months before, July 20 saw KickassTorrents’ reign collapse when the organization was dismantled by US law enforcement.
In addition to the site going offline, KAT’s alleged founder, Artem Vaulin, was arrested in Poland, from where the United States Government is now demanding his extradition.
In a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, Vaulin is charged with conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and two counts of criminal copyright infringement. All of these offences are naturally connected with KAT but according to US authorities, at least one other entity was closely involved.
If its website was to be believed, Cryptoneat was a sizeable web company with perhaps dozens of employees. It first appeared online in 2014 and months later was updated with a very basic logo.
For non-Russian speakers the message underneath the graphic reads “With no zombies”.
Over the months that followed the site had periodic updates and by August 2015 was sporting a new logo and some early indications of what its business might be.
“We develop our own products. From concept to the user’s screen,” a statement read.
“Cryptoneat is a software development company crafting our own products since 2008. Our latest project is Wine scanner iOS application Wineeapp.com,” the site read in January 2016.
“We support personal responsibility and involvement with no over-management standing in the way of imagination and creative thinking. Flexible schedules and smart workspace. We hold to the ergonomics cult: Herman Miller chairs, standing desks, Apple hardware and multi-monitor configurations.”
Cryptoneat’s logo was developed by former architect and Ukrainian graphic artist Andrey Koval. There’s no suggestion that Koval was directly involved in Cryptoneat or KAT, but he does share the same location, Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine.
Koval did not immediately respond to TorrentFreak’s requests for comment but we did manage to find a video which showcases the Cryptoneat logo he created for the company.
Cryptoneat operated from two URLs, .COM and .UA. In the early days following Vaulin’s arrest the sites were operational, but both have now disappeared. Perhaps not surprising given the statements made by the US Department of Justice.
“During a significant part of the conspiracy, Vaulin has operated KAT under the auspices of a Ukrainian-based front company called Cryptoneat,” wrote Jared Der-Yeghiayan, a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations.
“As of on or about June 20, 2016, Vaulin’s LinkedIn profile identifies him as the founder of Cryptoneat and lists the company’s creation date as November 2009. On Cryptoneat’s Instagram and Facebook page I have viewed pictures of Vaulin purportedly at Cryptoneat’s office.”
Cryptoneat’s Facebook and Instagram accounts have since been disabled. Various LinkedIn profiles relating to Vaulin and other employees have been edited. Having previously indicated the Cryptoneat’s employees could potentially number as many as 50, the company’s main LinkedIn page now list the company’s size as “myself only.”
Slowly but surely the company is disappearing from the web, with just a couple of pages now available via Google’s cache. One offers coding jobs with a competitive salary, paid vacation and holidays, health insurance, a stocked kitchen and gym fees.
But now, a month following KAT’s shutdown, Cryptoneat’s online presence has taken another hit. Two days ago the site’s .COM domain ceased to function after its two-year registration period expired.
Unlike several other KickassTorrents-related domains, the US Government doesn’t appear interested in seizing Cryptoneat’s domains at this stage, even though it clearly states that the Ukraine-based company was used as a KAT front. Indeed, the Homeland Security investigation found that at least several Cryptoneat employees worked on KickassTorrents.
“Many of the employees found on LinkedIn who present themselves as working for Cryptoneat are the same employees who received assignments from Vaulin in the KAT alert emails,” Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan reported.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three main individuals mentioned by Der-Yeghiayan (although not by name in the criminal complaint) have removed Cryptoneat from their resumes. Lower ranking employees have left their history in place but moved on to new jobs.
Given the apparent size of the Cryptoneat operation, it’s not yet clear why the US Government has only reported one arrest thus far. It’s certainly likely that it has more cards up its sleeve but it could be a considerable length of time before those are revealed in public.
Today BREIN announces another success in its ongoing anti-piracy quest. The group obtained an ex-parte court order against a man who uploaded music to a cyberlocker which he then shared to a Facebook group.
According to BREIN the man and other members of the Dutch Facebook group shared pirated music as a hobby, gaining recognition for the links they posted.
Presented with the court order, the man agreed to stop his activities and pay a €7,000 settlement. In a message posted to the Facebook group he announced the reason for his sudden departure.
“Ladies and gentlemen, by order of BREIN I have to stop uploading music. I will therefore quit effective immediately. In addition, I will leave the group today, both as administrator and as a member.”
“I wish everyone all the best,” he concludes, noting that he faces an additional fine up to €50,000 if he continues sharing links to pirated content.
The €7,000 settlement is lower than those negotiated in previous cases closed by BREIN. The anti-piracy group says that it bases the amount on the financial circumstances of the uploaders, suggesting that the man has a lower income than some of the previous defendants.
BREIN doesn’t explain how it tracked down the uploader in question, but it seems likely that his Facebook account exposed him. Whether Facebook also assisted in the investigation is unknown.
Initially, the Facebook music sharing group continued to operate, but it was closed shortly thereafter. In addition, Facebook closed several similar groups after reports from BREIN.
It’s clear that the anti-piracy group is targeting uploaders of all shapes and sizes. In addition, it continues to keep its eyes on linking sites and cyberlockers.
“Among cyberlockers are many who deceitfully use the limitation of liability for hosting services. They have ineffective Notice & Takedown policies, which ensure that their main source of revenue, unauthorized entertainment content, continues to exist,” BREIN notes.
The web is a great thing that’s come a long way, yadda yadda. It used to be an obscure nerd thing where you could read black Times New Roman text on a gray background. Now, it’s a hyper popular nerd thing where you can read black Helvetica Neue text on a white background. I hear it can do other stuff, too.
That said, I occasionally see little nagging reminders that the web is still quite primitive in some ways. One such nag: it has almost no way to preserve attribution, and sometimes actively strips it.
As a programmer, I’m here to propose some technical solutions to this social problem. It’s so easy! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?
I’m mostly thinking about images, but most of these ideas apply to other forms of media as well.
If you are familiar with The Twitter or other form of social media (read: website with people on it), you’ve seen some images float past. The vast majority were probably some form of artwork, interpreted loosely: maybe a photo, maybe a screenshot of part of an article.
Perhaps you have also asked the age-old question, where did this come from?
It can be surprisingly difficult to answer, and the web-savvy have a mental toolbox for figuring it out. You can try asking the person who tweeted it, but they might not know either, if it came from their hard drive or another social site. If it’s a screenshot of text, you can manually retype the text in a search engine and hope for the best. Otherwise, you can use reverse image search and… again, hope for the best. Ironically, a great deal of images on Twitter and Tumblr and Facebook don’t seem to be indexed by Google’s reverse image search, so if one of those is the original source (and a lot of people use Tumblr as a primary art gallery!), you’re out of luck.
The web is supposed to be a glorious land where anyone can contribute their own voice and work, so it’s a wee bit conspicuous to me that we’re pretty bad at preserving who made that stuff.
A lot of art sites do make some small effort at this. I looked at DeviantArt’s front page and the top item was Last Wish by radittz, for which the direct link is last_wish_by_radittz-dae07tz.jpg. If someone links the image directly (and this happens fairly frequently, for whatever reason), I have a pretty good idea of how to find the page dedicated to it.
If you save it, a little more effort is involved. If you don’t recognize DeviantArt’s particular filename pattern, you won’t even know what site it came from. (The da near the end seems to be constant, so maybe it’s meant to stand for “DeviantArt”, but to me it just looks like part of that nonsense slug.) You can try googling the filename, which sometimes works, but I don’t think Google itself indexes those. You can of course google the title and the artist name, and that’ll probably work — but if you have to use Google at all, the filename is clearly not working very well as a global identifier.
Non-art-gallery social sites, meanwhile, use unintelligible slurry as filenames. Twitter uses a short string of alphanumeric garbage. Facebook uses three long sequences of digits, separated by underscores. Tumblr is kind enough to start their filenames with tumblr_, which narrows it down a bit, but the rest is alphanumeric junk again. None of these platforms give you a way to get from an image filename back to an original post (and author!), and Google generally can’t make heads or tails of them. Even Google’s reverse image search generally comes up blank for an image that only exists on Tumblr.
The big three images formats — PNG, JPEG, and GIF — all support arbitrary metadata. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to agree on some simple format for storing attribution. Show it in the UI, add it if it’s not there, and otherwise preserve it. Image metadata isn’t surfaced too well in a lot of image editors, but perhaps that’d start to change if it were used for something interesting and not just “this was made in Photoshop!”
The rest of this post is dedicated to explaining why that won’t possibly work. Sigh.
First question: what precisely do you attribute work to?
The obvious thing is that if you upload a new image to Twitter and it doesn’t already have some form of attribution, it gets attributed to your Twitter account. But that’s clearly not right. Maybe you have a website and think of that as identifying you. Or maybe you use Tumblr or DeviantArt or Twitch or whatever, and you think of one of those as your “primary” representation. You could always manually add the attribution metadata, but who would bother? I don’t know if I would bother.
Even quite a few years into the web game, we don’t have any real concept of global identifiers (say, URLs) for people. That’s kind of weird. We do have email addresses, but those are black holes you write to, not something you can read. (Various proposals have attempted to bridge this gap; none have caught on.)
Of course, individual platforms have little interest in trying to fill this gap, since they all want you to use them as your primary identity. Ever seen a small forum with built-in support for linking to your profile on a bunch of other sites? Enter your YouTube account name, and now your posts will have a tiny YouTube logo pointing straight there. Somehow these end up working as better hubs than huge platforms. Good luck linking to much of anything on Twitter: you can put one URL in the URL field, and you can sacrifice your bio and pinned tweet to squeeze a couple more in. Hell, I keep seeing Brand™ accounts that use Snapchat’s QR-code-esque thing for their avatars, which makes them all nigh indistinguishable.
Okay, what about attributing to whatever’s in the account’s URL field? I don’t know if that would work, either — this website doesn’t actually have my artwork on it. In fact, the more I think about this, the more I’d want the attribution to point to the original page hosting the work, not just the person. (Or… perhaps both?) That creates a chicken-and-egg problem that only the site you upload to can actually resolve.
What of creators that aren’t even people? Say, GIFs or screencaps from a TV show or movie. Does every TV show and movie have its own website? Does it make sense to attribute like that if you can’t even find the given material on those sites? Does anyone know or care where those websites are?
Art sites are probably willing to stick the uploader’s name in the filename because for the most part, the uploader is the creator. That’s the whole point of an art site, after all.
In a general-purpose forum, the uploader is almost certainly not the creator. That’s not a condemnation, just common sense: any given work can only be created once, but can be shared any number of times.
So if you’re Twitter, and you really buy into this whole idea, what do you do when someone uploads an image with no attribution? Do you leave it blank (somewhat defeating the purpose), attribute it to them (almost certainly wrong), or force them to enter something (a good way to kill your platform)?
If you’re uploading a screenshot of some text… where is the attribution ever going to come from? Built into your screenshot tool, by some demon magic?
Twitter also reminds me of kind of the inverse problem: it re-encodes your images as relatively low-quality JPEGs, even if they were already JPEGs! Twitter itself could just preserve the metadata when it does this, but how many other platforms resize or re-encode your uploads and lose the metadata in the process?
Remixing is great, but it raises some questions here.
If you have two source images and you edit them together somehow, who gets the attribution? You? One of the original creators? All three?
Okay, let’s say attribution is a list, and image editors are clever and know how to combine attributions. Now what if you only opened the image in your editor to scale it down, crop it, or (how ironic) erase the artist’s signature? Do you still get attribution?
There are already people who erase artists’ signatures from their work (for seemingly no reason; this is so baffling), and there would of course be people who erase the original attribution and claim it as their own. That’s thinking small, though.
If a wizard cast a spell to make this system widespread overnight, two things would immediately happen in quick succession.
Someone would build a thing to index attributions from all across the web, so you can search for a creator and find all of their work.
Some asshole would start adding false attributions to horrible images, so the search would make people they don’t like look bad.
I already hear someone yelling from the back about PGP signatures — for data I’m not sure how to reliably get onto files in the first place. Yeah. Good luck with that.
Twitter has a number of self-described “parody” accounts that exist solely to steal other people’s jokes, rack up followers, and then get paid big bucks by advertisers to drop in the occasional link to some skeezy thing that can’t survive on its own merits.
Twitter has, by and large, not done a goddamn thing about any of these. I can’t imagine them buying into a whole system of attribution.
Less obviously, consider: both Twitter and Tumblr prominently feature ways to share other people’s work while preserving the attribution (as long as they’re on the same platform, of course). Twitter has retweets; Tumblr has reblogs. However, neither of them have any way to browse through a user’s post history excluding reshares. Twitter has “images-only” view, but that only works if your work is visual, doesn’t include embeds, and includes other junk like photos of your cats; Tumblr has a standard archive view, which is at least nicer than scrolling back a page at a time, but makes it even harder to distinguish originals from reblogs.
Both platforms also treat work as semi-disposable: the primary interface is a chronological-ish deluge of stuff, and anything you miss is basically lost forever. They both archive everything back to the beginning of time, but navigating backwards on either is kind of painful. Especially Twitter, where you’re stuck with either infinite scrolling or manually filtering by date via Twitter search.
I guess the true problem here isn’t really metadata, but the sharp contrast between platforms for people who make stuff and platforms for people who look at stuff. (Most of us are some blend of both, of course — all the more reason that the separation sucks.) Twitter is made for looking and sharing, so it’s used by everyone but sucks for creators; something like Flickr is made for making, so it has a lot of relevant tools but isn’t very heavily frequented. The result is that work gets clumsily cross-posted all over the place, and it’s left to individual creators to come up with their own ad-hoc rituals for disseminating new work.
Even the maker platforms are struggling a bit lately. DeviantArt looks to be in decline since everyone flocked to Tumblr, but Tumblr is a poor substitute for an art gallery. YouTube is 70% pirated TV shows by volume. Twitch and other streaming sites treat work as even more disposable than Twitter, not saving it at all by default. (There are obvious economic reasons for this, but still.)
Embedding would be a helpful alternative solution to this: put your work on a maker platform, then just link it everywhere else. Twitter sort of does this already; I think Facebook does it a bit but is more limited in what it embeds; Tumblr basically doesn’t do it at all.
If Twitter is really the reigning champ in this area, then it’s in a pretty sorry state. Embeds are very clearly second-class citizens. If you post a few images on Tumblr as a photo set and then link them on Twitter, Twitter will only preview a crop of the first one, and you’ll have to click through to the actual Tumblr website (even on mobile, where it is buggy garbage) to get a full view or see the rest. Twitter’s preview doesn’t even hint that there are more.
Attribution seems like such a trivial thing for computers to track for us… yet it would take a complete overhaul of how we think about and handle media, plus buy-in from numerous large companies that aren’t known for cooperating with each other.
Maybe this isn’t a real problem. We seem to be managing okay so far. It nags at me from time to time, though, as a sign that the web just doesn’t interoperate with itself terribly well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to link to this post on Twitter and Patreon.
But while users continue to flock to torrent sites and streaming portals, copyright holders and local authorities are concerned that social networking platforms are a potentially more serious threat.
In many cases, users are allowed to upload content at will, thereby creating huge libraries of infringing material, a serious headache for copyright holders.
To tackle this problem, authorities and entertainment industry groups are now in the process of drafting fresh legislation aimed at those social media platforms that allow users to upload content.
According to Izvestia, the Ministry of Culture and groups including the National Federation of the Music Industry (NFMI) and the Association of Producers of Cinema and Television (APKIT), believe that a change in the law will make it harder for social platforms to evade liability.
Under Article 1253.1 of the Civil Code, social media sites are considered “information brokers”, meaning that sites like vKontakte (Russia’s Facebook) can avoid being held liable for infringing content uploaded by their users.
Rightsholders would like that legislation to be removed or rewritten in a way that would provide them with more useful options to enforce their intellectual property rights.
Also under consideration are changes to the law that would further punish sites that have already been ordered to be blocked by the Moscow City Court. Currently, local ISPs currently put Internet blockades in place but rightsholders foresee a situation where the finances of infringing sites are put under pressure too.
On the table are proposals to ban those sites from carrying advertising. In the West, advertisers are working on voluntary schemes that aim to keep their funding away from ‘pirate’ sites but it appears that Russia is considering enshrining those principles into law.
Additionally, rightsholders are asking for sites that run on a subscription basis to be forbidden from accepting payments from their users. Again, voluntary agreements with companies such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal are already in place in the United States and Europe, but legislation could compel Russian companies to comply.
Also continuing its path through the system is another bill designed to tackle the rise of so-called mirrors, sites that crop up after a site is blocked in order to facilitate access to the same content.
It’s no secret that Facebook frequently removes copyright-infringing links shared by its users.
However, it sometimes goes a step further by removing entire pages. This is also what happened to ExtraTorrent, one of the largest torrent sites around.
Even though the site stopped sharing links to copyrighted material on Facebook years ago, it was still being reported by copyright holders, music industry group IFPI in particular.
As a result, Facebook flagged the ExtraTorrent page as a repeat copyright infringer. This recently resulted in the removal of its fan page, which had tens of thousands of followers.
According to ExtraTorrent operator SaM, it didn’t stop there either.
“They blocked multiple ExtraTorrent pages,” he says. “First our main page, and after some fans made new pages, these were removed every other day as well.”
Roughly a half dozen fan-made pages were removed by Facebook. On top of that, the user profiles and groups associated with the official ExtraTorrent page were disabled as well.
“They even disabled profiles of those who were moderating the page. All groups were removed and profiles of admins were disabled,” SaM tells us.
The complaints were sent to Facebook on behalf of IFPI, according to ExtraTorrent’s operator. However, since his profile was deleted he no longer has access to the messages in question.
Although the ExtraTorrent page did not post any updates linking to infringing material, it did list the site’s URLs and official mirrors in its profile. Perhaps this was enough for Facebook to warrant its actions.
That would make sense, as the social networking site is actively flagging all ExtraTorrent links on its service. Anyone who wants to post an ExtraTorrent link, with or without torrent, has to go through a “security check.”
Facebook’s security check
“It looks like a link you’re sharing might be unsafe. If you can, please remove this link: extratorrent.cc,” Facebook warns, adding “If you can’t remove this link and you still want to share it, please complete the security check below.”
The same warning also pops up for private messages, making it impossible to share an ExtraTorrent link without having to go through an additional check.
Whether the ExtraTorrent URL filter is piracy related is unknown, but the page removal certainly is.
Also, this is not the first time that ExtraTorrent has lost its Facebook following. The same happened last year, as well as a few years earlier.
Shortly before publishing this article a new unofficial ExtraTorrent Facebook page was registered, again started by fans. However, ExtraTorrent informed us that they’ll stay away from the social network for the time being.
One of the basic skills of hackers is “doxxing”. It’s actually not a skill. All you need to do is a quick search of public records databases through sites like Spokeo, Intelius, and Ancestry.com and you can quickly dox anybody.
During the Republican convention, Trump’s wife plagiarized Obama’s wife in a speech. A person in the Trump organization named “Meredith Mciver” took the blame for it. Trump haters immediately leapt to the conclusion that this person was fake, pointing out her Twitter and Facebook accounts were created after the controversy started.
So I’m going to go all gamergate on her and see what I can find.
According to New York public records, somebody named “Meredith Mciver” has been working for a company called the “The Trump Organization” as “Staff Writer” for many years. Her parents are Phyllis and James Mciver. Her older sister is Karen Mciver. She has an apartment at 588 W End Avenue in Manhattan (though I won’t tell you which apartment — find out for yourself). Through Ancestry.com, you can track down more information, such as her yearbook photo from 1962.
Now, all these public records could be fake, of course, but that would require a conspiracy larger than the one hiding the truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
I point this out because we have enough reasons to hate Trump (his populist demagoguery, his bankrupt character, his racism) and don’t need to search for more reasons. Yet, conspiracy theorists, “mciverers”, want to exploit this non-issue as much as they can.
The collective thoughts of the interwebz
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