Tag Archives: holly

Roku Gets Tough on Pirate Channels, Warns Users

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-gets-tough-on-pirate-channels-warns-users-170815/

In recent years it has become much easier to stream movies and TV-shows over the Internet.

Legal services such as Netflix and HBO are flourishing, but there’s also a darker side to this streaming epidemic. Millions of people are streaming from unauthorized sources, often paired with perfectly legal streaming platforms and devices.

Hollywood insiders have dubbed this trend “Piracy 3.0” are actively working with stakeholders to address the threat. One of the companies rightsholders are working with is Roku, known for its easy-to-use media players.

Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn’t over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn’t without consequences.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance.

Pirate content generally doesn’t show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party “private” channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these “private” channels to “non-certified” channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed.

A “WARNING!” message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

Roku Warning

“By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences,” Roku’s warning reads.

“Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku’s terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE.”

TorrentFreak reached out to Roku to find out how they plan to enforce this policy, but we have yet to hear back. According to Cord Cutters News, several piracy channels have already been removed recently, with other developers opting to leave the platform.

Roku’s General Counsel Steve Kay previously informed us that the company is taking the piracy problem seriously. Together with various stakeholders, they are working hard to address the problem.

“We actively work to prevent third-parties from using our platform to distribute copyright infringing content. Moreover, we have been actively working with other industry stakeholders on a wide range of anti-piracy initiatives,” Kay said.

Roku is not the only platform dealing with the piracy epidemic, the popular media player software Kodi is in the same boat. Kodi has also taken an active anti-piracy stance but they’re not banning any add-ons. They believe it would be pointless due to the open source nature of their software.

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

MPAA Revenue Stabilizes, Chris Dodd Earns $3.5 Million

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-revenue-stabilizes-chris-dodd-earns-3-5-million170813/

Protecting the interests of Hollywood, the MPAA has been heavily involved in numerous anti-piracy efforts around the world in recent years.

Through its involvement in the shutdowns of Popcorn Time, YIFY, isoHunt, Hotfile, Megaupload and several other platforms, the MPAA has worked hard to target piracy around the globe.

Perhaps just as importantly, the group lobbies lawmakers globally while managing anti-piracy campaigns both in and outside the US, including the Creative Content UK program.

All this work doesn’t come for free, obviously, so the MPAA relies on six major movie studios for financial support. After its revenues plummeted a few years ago, they have steadily recovered and according to its latest tax filing, the MPAA’s total income is now over $72 million.

The IRS filing, covering the fiscal year 2015, reveals that the movie studios contributed $65 million, the same as a year earlier. Overall revenue has stabilized as well, after a few years of modest growth.

Going over the numbers, we see that salaries make up a large chunk of the expenses. Former Senator Chris Dodd, the MPAA’s Chairman and CEO, is the highest paid employee with a total income of more than $3.5 million, including a $250,000 bonus.

It was recently announced that Dodd will leave the MPAA next month. He will be replaced by Charles Rivkin, another political heavyweight. Rivkin previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration.

In addition to Dodd, there are two other employees who made over a million in 2015, Global General Counsel Steve Fabrizio and Diane Strahan, the MPAA’s Chief Operating Officer.

Looking at some of the other expenses we see that the MPAA’s lobbying budget remained stable at $4.2 million. Another $4.4 million went to various grants, while legal costs totaled $7.2 million that year.

More than two million dollars worth of legal expenses were paid to the US law firm Jenner & Block, which represented the movie studios in various court cases. In addition, the MPAA paid more than $800,000 to the UK law firm Wiggin, which assisted the group in local site-blocking efforts.

Finally, it’s worth looking at the various gifts and grants the MPAA hands out. As reported last year, the group handsomely contributes to various research projects. This includes a recurring million dollar grant for Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Initiative for Digital Entertainment Analytics’ (IDEA), which researches various piracy related topics.

IDEA co-director Rahul Telang previously informed us that the gift is used to hire researchers and pay for research materials. It is not tied to a particular project.

We also see $70,000+ in donations for both the Democratic and Republican Attorneys General associations. The purpose of the grants is listed as “general support.” Interestingly, just recently over a dozen Attorneys General released a public service announcement warning the public to stay away from pirate sites.

These type of donations and grants are nothing new and are a regular part of business across many industries. Still, they are worth keeping in mind.

It will be interesting to see which direction the MPAA takes in the years to come. Under Chris Dodd it has booked a few notable successes, but there is still a long way to go before the piracy situation is somewhat under control.



MPAA’s full form 990 was published in Guidestar recently and a copy is available here (pdf).

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

Piracy Narrative Isn’t About Ethics Anymore, It’s About “Danger”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-narrative-isnt-about-ethics-anymore-its-about-danger-170812/

Over the years there have been almost endless attempts to stop people from accessing copyright-infringing content online. Campaigns have come and gone and almost two decades later the battle is still ongoing.

Early on, when panic enveloped the music industry, the campaigns centered around people getting sued. Grabbing music online for free could be costly, the industry warned, while parading the heads of a few victims on pikes for the world to see.

Periodically, however, the aim has been to appeal to the public’s better nature. The idea is that people essentially want to do the ‘right thing’, so once they understand that largely hard-working Americans are losing their livelihoods, people will stop downloading from The Pirate Bay. For some, this probably had the desired effect but millions of people are still getting their fixes for free, so the job isn’t finished yet.

In more recent years, notably since the MPAA and RIAA had their eyes blacked in the wake of SOPA, the tone has shifted. In addition to educating the public, torrent and streaming sites are increasingly being painted as enemies of the public they claim to serve.

Several studies, largely carried out on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), have claimed that pirate sites are hotbeds of malware, baiting consumers in with tasty pirate booty only to offload trojans, viruses, and God-knows-what. These reports have been ostensibly published as independent public interest documents but this week an advisor to the DCA suggested a deeper interest for the industry.

Hemanshu Nigam is a former federal prosecutor, ex-Chief Security Officer for News Corp and Fox Interactive Media, and former VP Worldwide Internet Enforcement at the MPAA. In an interview with Deadline this week, he spoke about alleged links between pirate sites and malware distributors. He also indicated that warning people about the dangers of pirate sites has become Hollywood’s latest anti-piracy strategy.

“The industry narrative has changed. When I was at the MPAA, we would tell people that stealing content is wrong and young people would say, yeah, whatever, you guys make a lot of money, too bad,” he told the publication.

“It has gone from an ethical discussion to a dangerous one. Now, your parents’ bank account can be raided, your teenage daughter can be spied on in her bedroom and extorted with the footage, or your computer can be locked up along with everything in it and held for ransom.”

Nigam’s stance isn’t really a surprise since he’s currently working for the Digital Citizens Alliance as an advisor. In turn, the Alliance is at least partly financed by the MPAA. There’s no suggestion whatsoever that Nigam is involved in any propaganda effort, but recent signs suggest that the DCA’s work in malware awareness is more about directing people away from pirate sites than protecting them from the alleged dangers within.

That being said and despite the bias, it’s still worth giving experts like Nigam an opportunity to speak. Largely thanks to industry efforts with brands, pirate sites are increasingly being forced to display lower-tier ads, which can be problematic. On top, some sites’ policies mean they don’t deserve any visitors at all.

In the Deadline piece, however, Nigam alleges that hackers have previously reached out to pirate websites offering $200 to $5000 per day “depending on the size of the pirate website” to have the site infect users with malware. If true, that’s a serious situation and people who would ordinarily use ‘pirate’ sites would definitely appreciate the details.

For example, to which sites did hackers make this offer and, crucially, which sites turned down the offer and which ones accepted?

It’s important to remember that pirates are just another type of consumer and they would boycott sites in a heartbeat if they discovered they’d been paid to infect them with malware. But, as usual, the claims are extremely light in detail. Instead, there’s simply a blanket warning to stay away from all unauthorized sites, which isn’t particularly helpful.

In some cases, of course, operational security will prevent some details coming to light but without these, people who don’t get infected on a ‘pirate’ site (the vast majority) simply won’t believe the allegations. As the author of the Deadline piece pointed out, it’s a bit like Reefer Madness all over again.

The point here is that without hard independent evidence to back up these claims, with reports listing sites alongside the malware they’ve supposed to have spread and when, few people will respond to perceived scaremongering. Free content trumps a few distant worries almost every time, whether that involves malware or the threat of a lawsuit.

It’ll be up to the DCA and their MPAA paymasters to consider whether the approach is working but thus far, not even having government heavyweights on board has helped.

Earlier this year the DCA launched a video campaign, enrolling 15 attorney generals to publish their own anti-piracy PSAs on YouTube. Thus far, interest has been minimal, to say the least.

At the time of writing the 15 PSAs have 3,986 views in total, with 2,441 of those contributed by a single video contributed by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Despite the relative success, even that got slammed with 2 upvotes and 127 downvotes.

A few of the other videos have a couple of hundred views each but more than half have less than 70. Perhaps most worryingly for the DCA, apart from the Schimel PSA, none have any upvotes at all, only down. It’s unclear who the viewers were but it seems reasonable to conclude they weren’t entertained.

The bottom line is nobody likes malware or having their banking details stolen but yet again, people who claim to have the public interest at heart aren’t actually making a difference on the ground. It could be argued that groups advocating online safety should be publishing guides on how to stay protected on the Internet period, not merely advising people to stay away from certain sites.

But of course, that wouldn’t achieve the goals of the MPAA Digital Citizens Alliance.

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

Disney Ditching Netflix Keeps Piracy Relevant

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disney-ditching-netflix-keeps-piracy-relevant-170809/

There is little doubt that, in the United States, Netflix has become the standard for watching movies on the Internet.

The subscription service is responsible for a third of all Internet traffic during peak hours, dwarfing that of online piracy and other legal video platforms.

It’s safe to assume that Netflix-type streaming services are among the best and most convenient alternative to piracy at this point. There is a problem though. The whole appeal of the streaming model becomes diluted when there are too many ‘Netflixes.’

Yesterday, Disney announced that it will end its partnership with Netflix in 2019. The company is working on its own Disney-branded movie streaming platforms, where titles such as Frozen 2 and Toy Story 4 will end up in the future.

Disney titles are among the most-watched content on Netflix, and the company’s stock took a hit when the news came out. In a statement late yesterday, Disney CEO Bob noted that the company has a good relationship with Netflix but the companies will part ways at the end of next year.

At the moment no decision has been made on what happens to Lucasfilm and Marvel films, but these could find a new home as well. Marvel TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage will reportedly stay at Netflix

Although Disney’s decision may be good for Disney, a lot of Netflix users are not going to be happy. It likely means that they need another streaming platform subscription to get what they want, which isn’t a very positive prospect.

In piracy discussions, Hollywood insiders often stress that people have no reason to pirate, as pretty much all titles are available online legally. What they don’t mention, however, is that users need access to a few dozen paid services, to access them all.

In a way, this fragmentation is keeping the pirate ecosystems intact. While legal streaming services work just fine, having dozens of subscriptions is expensive, and not very practical. Especially not compared to pirate streaming sites, where everything can be accessed on the same site.

The music business has a better model, or had initially. Services such as Spotify allowed fans to access most popular music in one place, although that’s starting to crumble as well, due to exclusive deals and more fragmentation.

Admittedly, for a no-name observer, it’s easy to criticize and point fingers. The TV and movie business is built on complicated licensing deals, where a single Netflix may not be able to generate enough revenue for an entire industry.

But there has to be a better way than simply adding more streaming platforms, one would think?

Instead of solely trying to stamp down on pirate sites, it might be a good idea to take a careful look at the supply side as well. At the moment, fragmentation is keeping pirate sites relevant.

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

Portugal’s Pirate Site-Blocking System Works “Great,” Study Shows

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/portugals-pirate-site-blocking-system-works-great-study-shows-170728/

Rather than taking site operators to court, copyright holders increasingly demand that Internet providers should block access to ‘pirate’ domains instead.

As a result, courts all around the world have ordered ISPs to block subscriber access to various pirate sites. But there are other ways.

In Portugal, a voluntary process was formalized through an agreement between ISPs, rightsholders, and the Ministry of Culture and the Association of Telecommunication Operators.

The voluntary deal was struck two years ago, shortly after local Internet Providers were ordered to block access to The Pirate Bay. The agreement conveniently allows copyright holders to add new pirate sites without any intervention or oversight from a court.

The MPAA is happy with the non-adversarial collaboration and praises it as the best international example of anti-piracy practices. The Hollywood group has already presented the Portuguese model to the Spanish Senate and plans to do the same before the French Senate.

Aside from a smooth process, the results of the voluntary blocking deal are also important. This is why the MPA and Portuguese anti-piracy outfit FEVIP commissioned a study into its effects.

The results, published by INCOPRO this week, show that of the 250 most-used pirate sites in Portugal, 65 are blocked. Traffic to these blocked sites decreased 56.6 percent after the blocks were implemented, contrary to a 3.9 percent increase globally.

In total, usage of the top 250 pirate sites decreased 9.3 percent, while a control group showed that the same sites enjoyed a 30.8 percent increase in usage globally.

In summary, the research confirms that traffic to blocked sites has decreased significantly. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, as these domains are blocked after all. Whether traffic over VPN or people visiting smaller pirate sites subsequently increased was not covered by the research.

Earlier research, using INCOPRO’s own methodology, has shown that while blocked domains get less traffic, many sites simply move to other domain names where they enjoy a significant and sustained boost in traffic.

The current research did look at proxy site traffic but concludes that this only substitutes a small portion of the traffic that went to pirate sites before the blockades.

“Though usage is migrating to alternate sites in some cases, this shift of usage amounts to only minor proportions of previous pre-block usage,” the report reads.

Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA region, backs the study’s findings which he says confirm that piracy can be curbed.

“At the MPA, we take a three pronged approach: make legal content easy to access, engage consumers about the negative impact of piracy, and deter piracy through the appropriate legal avenues. All stakeholders must work together as joint stewards of the creative ecosystem,” McCoy notes.

The results of INCOPRO’s research will undoubtedly be used to convince lawmakers and other stakeholders to implement a similar blocking deal elsewhere.

Or to put it into the words of Helen Saunders, head of Intelligence and Operations at INCOPRO, they might serve as inspiration.

“It’s fantastic to see that more countries are starting to take action against piracy, and are getting great results. We hope that this report will inspire even more geographies to take similar action in a concerted effort to safeguard the global entertainment industry,” Saunders says.

Ironically, while American movie studios are working hard to convince foreign ISPs and governments to jump on board, Internet subscribers in the United States can still freely access all the pirate sites they want. No website blocking plans have been sighted on Hollywood’s home turf, yet.

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

Hackers Use Pirate Sites to Ruin Your Life, State Attorneys General Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hackers-use-pirate-sites-to-ruin-your-life-state-attorneys-general-warn-170727/

In recent years copyright holders have tried many things to dissuade the public from visiting pirate websites.

They often claim that piracy costs the entertainment industry thousands of jobs, for example. Another strategy to is to scare the public at large directly, by pointing out all the ills people may encounter on pirate sites.

The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), which has deep ties to the content industries, is a proponent of the latter strategy. The group has released a variety of reports pointing out that pirate sites are a hotbed for malware, identity theft, hacking and other evils.

To add some political weight to this message, the DCA recently helped to launch a new series of public service announcements where a group of 15 State Attorneys General warn the public about these threats.

The participating Attorneys General include Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, Kentucky’s Andy Bashear, Washington DC’s Karl Racine, and Wisconsin’s Brad Schimel, who all repeat the exact same words in their PSAs.

“Nowadays we all have to worry about cybersecurity. Hackers are always looking for new ways to break into our computers. Something as simple as visiting pirate websites can put your computer at risk.”

“Hackers use pirate websites to infect your computer and steal your ID and financial information, or even take over your computer’s camera without you knowing it,” the Attorneys General add.

Organized by the Digital Citizens Alliance, the campaign in question runs on TV and radio in several states and also appears on social media during the summer.

The warnings, while over dramatized, do raise a real concern. There are a lot of pirate sites that have lower-tier advertising, where malware regularly slips through. And some ads lead users to fake websites where people should probably not leave their credit card information.

Variety points out that the Attorneys General are tasked with the goal to keep their citizens safe, so the PSA’s message is certainly fitting.

Still, one has to wonder whether the main driver of these ads is online safety. Could perhaps the interests of the entertainment industry play a role too? It certainly won’t be the first time that State Attorneys General have helped out Hollywood.

Just a few years ago the MPAA secretly pushed Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like anti-piracy efforts in the United States. That was part of the MPAA’s “Project Goliath,” which was aimed at “convincing state prosecutors to take up the fight” against Google, under an anti-piracy umbrella.

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

TVStreamCMS Brings Pirate Streaming Site Clones to The Masses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVStreamCMS website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TVStreamCMS subscription plans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court: Warner Bros Needs Stronger Evidence Against Alleged BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-warner-bros-needs-stronger-evidence-against-alleged-bittorrent-pirate-170718/

Over the past decade, copyright holders have gone after hundreds of thousands of alleged pirates in Germany, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.

The targeted account holders are often indeed the perpetrator, but false accusations are bound to happen due to the sheer volume of these cases.

This is one of the reasons why local courts are paying careful attention to the provided evidence. At the District Court of Cologne, this recently resulted in a verdict, clarifying that simply linking an IP-address to a pirated download is not good enough.

The case in question deals with a claim from the local branch of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which accused an account holder of sharing a pirated episode of the popular TV-show “Person of Interest.”

The Hollywood studio claimed 500 euros in damages from the alleged copyright infringer, as well as 168.50 euros in expenses. The defendant, however, said he was innocent, refused to pay up, and contested the claim in court, with success.

Warner’s tracking partner Ipoque had only monitored the defendant’s IP-address twice during a period of 10 minutes. This is not good enough according to the court, since IP-address misassignments regularly take place.

“The causes for a misassignment don’t have to relate to the software of the tracking company, they can also come from others. For example, the transmission of acquired data, or the ISPs assignment of collected IP addresses to connection holders. In the latter case, the Court of First Instance has seen an error rate of at least 2 – 3%,” the court writes.

In this case, the defendant argued that his ISP failed to update the IP-address assignments and that he no longer used the infringing address at the contested time.

The District Court of Cologne agreed that this was a plausible argument. Ideally, Warner should have provided a more extensive tracking record, with more IP-addresses leading to the same account holder, assuming that the assignments regularly change.

Defense attorney Christian Solmecke tells TorrentFreak that so-called “simple tracking,” where only a single IP-address is used as evidence, is simply not good enough.

“In case of simple tracking, evaluation errors are always possible. For instance, mixing up the numbers of the IP-address. The tracking parameters are technically complicated so errors may occur at various stages of the process,” Solmecke notes.

In some cases the error rates can go up to 50%, a recent verdict has shown, which means that accused file-sharers have a solid defense when they are accused based on minimal evidence.

“This is important for defendants as courts usually tend to assume that it cannot be sufficiently clarified whether filesharing did indeed occur via the Internet connection of the defendant. Simple tracking can, therefore, be seen as a good chance for defendants to win against the warning letter industry,” Solmecke adds.

While the verdict is unlikely to stop the piracy settlement industry in Germany, it may prompt rightsholders to step up their BitTorrent monitoring practices.

This doesn’t only apply to Warner Bros. Entertainment, but also to other major rightsholders including the local branches of Universal Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Music, EMI Music and Sony Music, which are all active on the anti-piracy front in Germany.

The full verdict of the District Court of Cologne is available Tarnkappe.

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

Movie Studios Wipe Pirate Site Homepages From Google Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The takedown notice

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handy: Google Highlights ‘Best Torrent Sites’ in Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/handy-google-highlights-best-torrent-sites-in-search-results-170709/

With torrent sites dropping like flies recently, a lot of people are looking for alternatives.

For many, Google is the preferred choice to find them, and the search engine is actually quite helpful.

When you type in “best torrent sites” or just “torrent sites,” Google.com provides a fancy reel of several high traffic indexers.

The search engine displays the names of sites such as RARBG, The Pirate Bay and 1337x as well as their logo. When you click on this link, Google brings up all results for the associated term.

While it’s a thought provoking idea to think that Google employees are manually curating the list, the entire process is likely automated. Still, many casual torrent users might find it quite handy. Whether rightsholders will be equally excited is another question though.

The automated nature of this type of search result display also creates another problem. While many people know that most torrent sites offer pirated content, this is quite different with streaming portals.

This leads to a confusing situation where Google lists both legal and unauthorized streaming platforms when users search for “streaming sites.”

The screenshot below shows the pirate streaming site Putlocker next to Hulu and Crackle. The same lineup also rotates various other pirate sites such as Alluc and Movie4k.to.

The reels in question are most likely generated by algorithms, which don’t distinguish between authorized and unauthorized sources. Still, given the repeated criticism Hollywood has for Google for its supposed facilitation of piracy, it’s a bit unfortunate, to say the least.

This isn’t the first time that Google’s “rich” search results have featured pirate sites. The same happened in the past when the search engine displayed pirate site ratings of movies, next to ratings from regular review sites such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.

We can expect the MPAA and others to take note, and bring these and other issues up at their convenience.

Note: the search reel doesn’t appear on many localized Google domains. We tested and confirmed it only on Google.com.

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

Pirate Site Admin Must Pay 13 Million Euros – If Anyone Can Find Him

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-admin-must-pay-13-million-euros-if-anyone-can-find-him-170708/

Founded in 2006 by Dimitri Mader, Wawa-Mania grew into a million member strong ‘warez’ forum specializing in a broad range of ‘pirate’ content. But just three years later things were already starting to go bad.

In 2009, the Frenchman was detained by the authorities after the Association Against Audiovisual Piracy (ALPA) identified more than 3,600 films being made available via the platform without permission. In the meantime the site continued, generating income from advertising and accepting donations via PayPal.

The case dragged on for years but reached its goal in 2015. Mader was found guilty, sentenced to a year in prison, and hit with a 20,000 euro fine. But by this time the Frenchman was long gone and living with his family in the Philippines. He didn’t even attend the hearing – but things weren’t over yet.

With Mader’s guilt established, the court had to determine the level of damages payable to the plaintiffs, which included Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount, Tristar, Universal, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. The amount eventually arrived at by the court was around $15m.

“I won’t think about the penalty, it is just beyond any common sense,” Mader told TF at the time.

“I will surely not [pay anything] and even if a new court makes the penalty lower, it won’t change anything. Five million, 15 million or 30 million. What’s the difference after all?”

Being outside the country with a jail sentence and huge fines hanging over his head was a big problem for Mader, who told us that returning home after years outside the country would be a complicated affair. But things still weren’t over.

In a ruling handed down last month and just made public, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the lower court, affirming that Mader owes the plaintiffs 13 million euros ($14.85m).

According to a report from Numerama, the court said that “the likely harm [to rightsholders] must be assessed in light of the extent of visitors to this site [at the time of the investigation], the number of creative works involved, and the ‘views’ duly established.”

The court determined that every visit to the site wouldn’t necessarily have resulted in an illegal download, but it still placed a value of two euros on every work believed to have been downloaded by users.

Mader did not attend the appeal and was not represented, so things were never likely to go his way. His current whereabouts are not clear, but it seems likely that he remains in the Philippines with his family.

Correspondence sent by TF to his encrypted email account bounced. Only time will tell whether Hollywood will have equal difficulty contacting him.

The full decision can be found here.

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

Hollywood Wants Governments to Push Voluntary Anti-Piracy Deals

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-wants-governments-to-push-voluntary-anti-piracy-deals-170704/

The ever-present threat of online piracy remains a hot topic in Hollywood.

A lot has changed over the years. Piracy is arguably more mainstream now with easy to use streaming sites and tools, and site owners have become more skilled at evading various enforcement efforts.

Most sites have multiple domain names at their disposal, for example, as well as access to hosting facilities that are more responsive to complaints from rightsholders.

According to Hollywood’s MPAA, cross-border cooperation with various third-party intermediaries is required to curb piracy. The group has promoted this agenda for a while and is now reemphasizing the need for governments to facilitate these kinds of deals.

In a statement prepared for an upcoming meeting of WIPO’s Advisory Committee on Enforcement, MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief Dean Marks states that voluntary agreements are essential in their fight against piracy.

These agreements will help to adapt to the evolving piracy landscape, much quicker than copyright legislation can.

“Unlike laws and regulations, voluntary measures can quickly be adapted to address changing forms of online piracy. Such measures benefit not only rightsholders, but also internet intermediaries, service providers, governments and individual users of the internet,” Marks notes.

“Voluntary measures should therefore be encouraged by governments as an important means of addressing online copyright piracy,” he adds (pdf).

One of the problems, according to the Hollywood group, is that piracy sites are spreading their infrastructure all over the world. They may use a domain name in one country, hosting in a few others, and a CDN on top of all that.

This cross-border threat can often not be dealt with in a single country or by a single company. It requires cooperation from a wide variety of third-party intermediaries, including search engines and hosting providers.

“Clearly this new paradigm of infringement strains the foundational notion of territoriality of copyright law and increases the difficulty of effectively enforcing copyrights,” Marks writes.

“Hosting providers, domain name registries and registrars, CDNs, cloud storage services and even internet access providers and search engines all can serve a constructive role by adopting measures to prevent their platforms and services from being abused for copyright infringement.”

The MPAA has thus far struck two voluntary deals with the domain name registries Donuts and Radix. This allows the anti-piracy group to report infringing domain names, which may then be removed. Thus far this has resulted in 25 domain name suspensions, but the MPAA would like to broaden its scope and partner with more registries.

Hosting companies, CDNs such as Cloudflare, and search engines can also do more to curb copyright infringements. Ultimately this will be in their own interest, the MPAA says. These companies do not want to be associated with piracy or face tougher legislation when governments step in.

“…many companies do not wish to be associated with those engaged in illegal activities, including copyright pirates. Moreover, turning a blind eye to doing business with pirate websites can result in damaging repercussions.

“In the United States of America (USA), for example, intermediaries have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in criminal copyright prosecutions,” Marks notes.

MPAA’s Global Content Protection chief suggests a few ways governments can intervene. They could host hearings to facilitate cooperation, for example. Another option is to adopt laws or regulations that foster cooperation.

Finally, Marks notes that authorities can instruct law enforcement agencies to “work with” internet intermediaries and service providers to adopt voluntary anti-piracy measures, similar to the ones in place with City of London Police and its piracy watch list for advertisers.

Previously the MPAA has offered similar suggestions to the US Government. While this may have had some effect, many companies are still reluctant to jump on board.

Companies such as Google, CloudFlare and ICANN don’t believe they are required to proactively enforce against piracy on a broad scale, and it likely requires a massive push to change their perspective.

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

The Terrible Horrors of ‘Kodi Boxes’ Shock The UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-terrible-horrors-of-kodi-boxes-shock-the-uk-170702/

In the beginning, we were told that Kodi Boxes are probably going to destroy Hollywood, not to mention companies like Sky and The Premier League. But who cares about the big people in suits drinking champagne from gold swimming pools?

No, what the unwashed masses need to hear are stories that make us realize that these little plastic wonder boxes are going to ruin our miserable lives. Luckily, they’ve been appearing thick and fast this past couple of weeks.

It turns out that Kodi Boxes are not only likely to burn your house down, but they’re also part of a master plan to pick away at the delicate threads holding family life together.

Forget about the piracy, that doesn’t matter. The powers that be need you to understand that Kodi Boxes are Trojan horses of misery that people are willingly bringing in to their own homes. Can you believe people are being so stupid?

According to an article in this week’s The Mirror, for example, kids’ movies spewed out by these evil devices are now being interrupted by adverts for alcohol. Well, it makes a change from seeing Phil Mitchell smashed out of his mind at 8pm on BBC1, doesn’t it?

At the same time, Kodi Boxes are straining relationships between father and son, not to mention subjecting unsuspecting parents to malware threats. They include scams purporting to be from the ‘FBI’ which demand money for using Popcorn Time inside Kodi. The world truly has gone mad.

Of course, if only one person sees this nonsense it’s too much, and The Mirror piece is quite rightly filled with quotes from real people who gave up piracy as a result of their bad experiences. It also has plenty of useful advice from the UK’s leading anti-piracy outfit, as you’d expect.

Intrigued, we decided to carry out our own research among a handful of the millions of maniacs who are still prepared to plug one of these death devices into their UK mains supply. And we were shocked – not by a dodgy power adaptor from China – but by the huge numbers of other problems these Kodi Boxes can foist upon the honest working man.

A user called Neil told us that he’d bought a Kodi Box off eBay after hearing all the hype in the media. His plan was to watch Premier League football without paying a penny. However, instead of scooping up that forbidden 3pm kick-off excitement, all it did was ruin his enjoyment of the beautiful game.

“I’d been out drinking all day with the lads. I was proper, proper smashed. I got home and shoved the thing into the nearest telly to watch Liverpool versus Manchester United and although I felt really sick, couldn’t focus on the screen, and soon fell unconscious, I think the picture wasn’t too bad,” he said.

“I don’t think I saw that wheel thing spinning in the middle of the screen and everything stopping either, which is a big plus for me on a free box. And to top it all, Liverpool beat United 2:1, which was a real bonus.

“However, when discussing the game the next day with my dad who watched the game on Sky with a proper subscription, I was horrified to learn that Manchester United actually won the game 3:0 – against Arsenal! It just goes to show, you get what you pay for. My box is now where it should have been all along – in the bin.”

A man called Rich told us that he’d also heard good things about Kodi Boxes but was really upset after being completely misled by the person who sold him one.

“I used to be a subscriber to Sky’s top package, including those fifty channels nobody watches but they force you to have. I also forked out for all their boxing PPVs that come on at stupid o’clock in the morning, and bought several blu-ray discs each time I got paid. All in all I must’ve spent £140 a month.

“So, when a bloke down the pub who I’ve never met before told me that I could legally get the same stuff for free using a Kodi Box, I immediately believed him. I mean, what reasonable bloke wouldn’t? He had just one left as well, how lucky was that?”

But it didn’t take long for Rich’s enthusiasm to wane. The thought of owning a potential incendiary device filled with content provided by a Russian crime syndicate and funded by Columbian drug barons was too much.

“I watched a couple of films on it without my house burning down, but then I started reading horror stories in the paper about these boxes shoving drinks adverts in our kids’ faces,” he told us.

“Enough was enough. After being lied to by the seller the thought of my kids demanding toys and beer for Christmas was just too much, it just wasn’t worth the risk. So I went straight back to giving Sky over a grand a year and life’s never been better.”

Kodi Box user Peter told us that he could really relate to warnings published in the papers this week that set-top box users had been hit with popups demanding their bank details.

“I was hoping to watch the big fight last weekend but it only came on for a few minutes and then suddenly went off,” he explained. “Then a notice appeared telling me to ring a number with my credit card details. Well, I’d heard about these ransomware attacks and I wasn’t going to fall for that old trick.

“However, imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d accidentally put on my official satellite box instead of Kodi, and the message was actually from my pay-per-view provider. Just goes to show, everybody wants your money these days, and these crooks can rope you in for years, and make it really hard to cancel.”

Another chap called James told us that he never considered getting a Kodi Box until he saw an article in a UK tabloid explaining how Kodi Boxes pose a risk for families with children.

“The article quoted some anti-piracy company. They said that parents don’t realize that Kodi Boxes allow easy access to hardcore pornography. And it’s true, I had no idea,” James said.

“But I live alone, so I wasted no time buying one off eBay. I’m watching it in the shed with a fire extinguisher in the other hand, just to be safe.”

But while James clearly has his hands full, our last user is much less satisfied.

Sue told us that she was assured her Kodi box was a miracle device with endless uses. However, after its addons recently stopped working she decided to test the claim by sliding the failing unit under the leg of a wobbly table. It soon became clear the hardware had been massively oversold.

“They say these boxes can do anything but mine clearly wasn’t fit for purpose. It was way too thick so when I put it under the leg, the table sat at a really steep angle. If anything, it was more unstable than it was before.

“I dread to think what could’ve happened if I’d put a pot of boiling oil on it next to the baby. No wonder health and safety are up in arms.”

Tune in next week when we reveal how Kodi Boxes can cause unsightly hair growth and unwanted pregnancies.

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

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

Global Entertainment Giants Form Massive Anti-Piracy Coalition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/global-entertainment-giants-form-massive-anti-piracy-coalition-170613/

It’s not unusual for companies within the same area of business to collaborate in order to combat piracy. The studios and labels that form the MPAA and RIAA, for example, have doing just that for decades.

Today, however, an unprecedented number of global content creators and distribution platforms have announced the formation of a brand new coalition to collaboratively fight Internet piracy on a global scale.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order the members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In a joint announcement today, ACE notes that there are now more than 480 services available for consumers to watch films and TV programs online. However, despite that abundance of content, piracy continues to pose a threat to creators and the economy.

“Films and television shows can often be found on pirate sites within days – and in many cases hours – of release,” ACE said in a statement.

“Last year, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. There were also an estimated 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide across both desktops and mobile devices in 2016.”

Rather than the somewhat fragmented anti-piracy approach currently employed by ACE members separately, the coalition will present a united front of all major content creators and distributors, with a mission to cooperate and expand in order to minimize the threat.

At the center of the alliance appears to be the MPAA. ACE reports that the anti-piracy resources of the Hollywood group will be used “in concert” with the existing anti-piracy departments of the member companies.

Unprecedented scale aside, ACE’s modus operandi will be a familiar one.

The coalition says it will work closely with law enforcement to shut down pirate sites and services, file civil litigation, and forge new relationships with other content protection groups. It will also strive to reach voluntary anti-piracy agreements with other interested parties across the Internet.

MPAA chief Chris Dodd, whose group will play a major role in ACE, welcomed the birth of the alliance.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,” Dodd said.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

The traditionally non-aggressive BBC described ACE as “hugely important” in the fight against “theft and illegal distribution”, with Netflix noting that even its creative strategies for dealing with piracy are in need of assistance.

“While we’re focused on providing a great consumer experience that ultimately discourages piracy, there are still bad players around the world trying to profit off the hard work of others,” said Netflix General Counsel, David Hyman.

“By joining ACE, we will work together, share knowledge, and leverage the group’s combined anti-piracy resources to address the global online piracy problem.”

It’s likely that the creation of ACE will go down as a landmark moment in the fight against piracy. Never before has such a broad coalition promised to pool resources on such a grand and global scale. That being said, with great diversity comes the potential for greatly diverging opinions, so only time will tell if this coalition can really hold together.

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

More notes on US-CERTs IOCs

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/more-notes-on-us-certs-iocs.html

Yet another Russian attack against the power grid, and yet more bad IOCs from the DHS US-CERT.

IOCs are “indicators of compromise“, things you can look for in order to order to see if you, too, have been hacked by the same perpetrators. There are several types of IOCs, ranging from the highly specific to the uselessly generic.

A uselessly generic IOC would be like trying to identify bank robbers by the fact that their getaway car was “white” in color. It’s worth documenting, so that if the police ever show up in a suspected cabin in the woods, they can note that there’s a “white” car parked in front.

But if you work bank security, that doesn’t mean you should be on the lookout for “white” cars. That would be silly.

This is what happens with US-CERT’s IOCs. They list some potentially useful things, but they also list a lot of junk that waste’s people’s times, with little ability to distinguish between the useful and the useless.

An example: a few months ago was the GRIZZLEYBEAR report published by US-CERT. Among other things, it listed IP addresses used by hackers. There was no description which would be useful IP addresses to watch for, and which would be useless.

Some of these IP addresses were useful, pointing to servers the group has been using a long time as command-and-control servers. Other IP addresses are more dubious, such as Tor exit nodes. You aren’t concerned about any specific Tor exit IP address, because it changes randomly, so has no relationship to the attackers. Instead, if you cared about those Tor IP addresses, what you should be looking for is a dynamically updated list of Tor nodes updated daily.

And finally, they listed IP addresses of Yahoo, because attackers passed data through Yahoo servers. No, it wasn’t because those Yahoo servers had been compromised, it’s just that everyone passes things though them, like email.

A Vermont power-plant blindly dumped all those IP addresses into their sensors. As a consequence, the next morning when an employee checked their Yahoo email, the sensors triggered. This resulted in national headlines about the Russians hacking the Vermont power grid.

Today, the US-CERT made similar mistakes with CRASHOVERRIDE. They took a report from Dragos Security, then mutilated it. Dragos’s own IOCs focused on things like hostile strings and file hashes of the hostile files. They also included filenames, but similar to the reason you’d noticed a white car — because it happened, not because you should be on the lookout for it. In context, there’s nothing wrong with noting the file name.

But the US-CERT pulled the filenames out of context. One of those filenames was, humorously, “svchost.exe”. It’s the name of an essential Windows service. Every Windows computer is running multiple copies of “svchost.exe”. It’s like saying “be on the lookout for Windows”.

Yes, it’s true that viruses use the same filenames as essential Windows files like “svchost.exe”. That’s, generally, something you should be aware of. But that CRASHOVERRIDE did this is wholly meaningless.

What Dragos Security was actually reporting was that a “svchost.exe” with the file hash of 79ca89711cdaedb16b0ccccfdcfbd6aa7e57120a was the virus — it’s the hash that’s the important IOC. Pulling the filename out of context is just silly.

Luckily, the DHS also provides some of the raw information provided by Dragos. But even then, there’s problems: they provide it in formatted form, for HTML, PDF, or Excel documents. This corrupts the original data so that it’s no longer machine readable. For example, from their webpage, they have the following:

import “pe”
import “hash”

Among the problems are the fact that the quote marks have been altered, probably by Word’s “smart quotes” feature. In other cases, I’ve seen PDF documents get confused by the number 0 and the letter O, as if the raw data had been scanned in from a printed document and OCRed.

If this were a “threat intel” company,  we’d call this snake oil. The US-CERT is using Dragos Security’s reports to promote itself, but ultimate providing negative value, mutilating the content.

This, ultimately, causes a lot of harm. The press trusted their content. So does the network of downstream entities, like municipal power grids. There are tens of thousands of such consumers of these reports, often with less expertise than even US-CERT. There are sprinklings of smart people in these organizations, I meet them at hacker cons, and am fascinated by their stories. But institutionally, they are dumbed down the same level as these US-CERT reports, with the smart people marginalized.

There are two solutions to this problem. The first is that when the stupidity of what you do causes everyone to laugh at you, stop doing it. The second is to value technical expertise, empowering those who know what they are doing. Examples of what not to do are giving power to people like Obama’s cyberczar, Michael Daniels, who once claimed his lack of technical knowledge was a bonus, because it allowed him to see the strategic picture instead of getting distracted by details.

No, Netflix Hasn’t Won The War on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/no-netflix-hasnt-won-the-war-on-piracy-170604/

Recently a hacker group, or hacker, going by the name TheDarkOverlord (TDO) published the premiere episode of the fifth season of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, followed by nine more episodes a few hours later.

TDO obtained the videos from Larson Studios, which didn’t pay the 50 bitcoin ransom TDO had requested. The hackers then briefly turned their attention to Netflix, before releasing the shows online.

In the aftermath, a flurry of articles claimed that Netflix’s refusal to pay means that it is winning the war on piracy. Torrents are irrelevant or no longer a real threat and piracy is pointless, they concluded.

One of the main reasons cited is a decline in torrent traffic over the years, as reported by the network equipment company Sandvine.

“Last year, BitTorrent traffic reached 1.73 percent of peak period downstream traffic in North America. That’s down from the 60 percent share peer-to-peer file sharing had in 2003. Netflix was responsible for 35.15 percent of downstream traffic,” one reporter wrote.

Piracy pointless?

Even Wired, a reputable technology news site, jumped on the bandwagon.

“It’s not that torrenting is so onerous. But compared to legitimate streaming, the process of downloading a torrenting client, finding a legit file, waiting for it to download, and watching it on a laptop (or mirroring it to a television) hardly seems worth it,” the articles states.

These and many similar articles suggest that Netflix’s ease of use is superior to piracy. Netflix is winning the war on piracy, which is pretty much reduced to a fringe activity carried out by old school data hoarders, they claimed.

But is that really the case?

I wholeheartedly agree that Netflix is a great alternative to piracy, and admit that torrents are not as dominant as they were before. But, everybody who thinks that piracy is limited to torrents, need to educate themselves properly.

Piracy has evolved quite a bit over the past several years and streaming is now the main source to satisfy people’s ‘illegal’ viewing demands.

Whether it’s through pirate streaming sites, mobile apps or dedicated media players hooked to TVs; it’s not hard to argue that piracy is easier and more convenient than it has even been in the past. And arguably, more popular too.

The statistics are dazzling. According to piracy monitoring outfit MUSO there are half a billion visits to video pirate sites every day. Roughly 60% of these are to streaming sites.

While there has been a small decline in streaming visits over the past year, MUSO’s data doesn’t cover the explosion of media player piracy, which means that there is likely a significant increase in piracy overall.

TorrentFreak contacted the aforementioned network equipment company Sandvine, which said that we’re “on to something.”

Unfortunately, they currently have no data to quantify the amount of pirate streaming activity. This is, in part, because many of these streams are hosted by legitimate companies such as Google.

Torrents may not be dominant anymore, but with hundreds of millions of visits to streaming pirate sites per day, and many more via media players and other apps, piracy is still very much alive. Just ask the Motion Picture Association.

I would even argue that piracy is more of a threat to Netflix than it has ever been before.

To illustrate, here is a screenshot from one of the most visited streaming piracy sites online. The site in question receives millions of views per day and featured two Netflix shows, “13 Reasons Why” and the leaked “Orange is The New Black,” in its daily “most viewed” section recently.

Netflix shows among the “most viewed” pirate streams

If you look at a random streaming site, you’ll see that they offer an overview of thousands of popular movies and TV-shows, far more than Netflix. Pirate streaming sites have more content than Netflix, often in high quality, and it doesn’t cost a penny.

Throw in the explosive growth of piracy-capable media players that can bring this content directly to the TV-screen, and you’ll start to realize the magnitude of this threat.

In a way, the boost in streaming piracy is a bigger threat to Netflix than the traditional Hollywood studios. Hollywood still has its exclusive release windows and a superior viewing experience at the box office. All Netflix content is instantly pirated, or already available long before they add it to their catalog.

Sure, pirate sites might not appeal to the average middle-class news columnist who’s been subscribed to Netflix for years, but for tens of millions of less fortunate people, who can do without another monthly charge on their household bill, it’s an easy choice.

Not the right choice, legally speaking, but that doesn’t seem to bother them much.

That’s illustrated by tens of thousands of people from all over the world commenting with their public Facebook accounts, on movies and TV-shows that were obviously pirated.

Pirate comments on a streaming site

Of course, if piracy disappeared overnight then only a fraction of these pirates would pay for a Netflix subscription, but saying that piracy is irrelevant for the streaming giant may be a bit much.

Netflix itself is all too aware of this it seems. The company has launched its own “Global Copyright Protection Group,” an anti-piracy division that’s on par with those of many major Hollywood studios.

Netflix isn’t winning the war on piracy; it just got started….

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

When a Big Torrent Site Dies, Some Hope it Will Be Right Back

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/when-a-big-torrent-site-dies-some-hope-it-will-be-right-back-170604/

For a niche that has had millions of words written about it over the past 18 years or so, most big piracy stories have had the emotions of people at their core.

When The Pirate Bay was taken down by the police eleven years ago it was global news, but the real story was the sense of disbelief and loss felt by millions of former users. Outsiders may dismiss these feelings, but they are very common and very real.

Of course, those negative emotions soon turned to glee when the site returned days later, but full-on, genuine resurrections are something that few big sites have been able to pull off since. What we have instead today is the sudden disappearance of iconic sites and a scrambling by third-party opportunists to fill in the gaps with look-a-like platforms.

The phenomenon has affected many big sites, from The Pirate Bay itself through to KickassTorrents, YTS/YIFY, and more recently, ExtraTorrent. When sites disappear, it’s natural for former users to look for replacements. And when those replacements look just like the real deal there’s a certain amount of comfort to be had. For many users, these sites provide the perfect antidote to their feelings of loss.

That being said, the clone site phenomenon has seriously got out of hand. Pioneered by players in the streaming site scene, fake torrent sites can now be found in abundance wherever there is a brand worth copying. ExtraTorrent operator SaM knew this when he closed his site last month, and he took the time to warn people away from them personally.

“Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones,” he said.

It’s questionable how many listened.

Within days, users were flooding to fake ExtraTorrent sites, encouraged by some elements of the press. Despite having previously reported SaM’s clear warnings, some publications were still happy to report that ExtraTorrent was back, purely based on the word of the fake sites themselves. And I’ve got a bridge for sale, if you have the cash.

While misleading news reports must take some responsibility, it’s clear that when big sites go down a kind of grieving process takes place among dedicated former users, making some more likely to clutch at straws. While some simply move on, others who have grown more attached to a platform they used to call home can go into denial.

This reaction has often been seen in TF’s mailbox, when YTS/YIFY went down in particular. More recently, dozens of emails informed us that ExtraTorrent had gone, with many others asking when it was coming back. But the ones that stood out most were from people who had read SaM’s message, read TF’s article stating that ALL clones were fakes, yet still wanted to know if sites a, b and c were legitimate or not.

We approached a user on Reddit who asked similar things and been derided by other users for his apparent reluctance to accept that ExtraTorrent had gone. We didn’t find stupidity (as a few in /r/piracy had cruelly suggested) but a genuine sense of loss.

“I loved the site dude, what can I say?” he told TF. “Just kinda got used to it and hung around. Before I knew it I was logging in every day. In time it just felt like home. I miss it.”

The user hadn’t seen the articles claiming that one of the imposter ExtraTorrent sites was the real deal. He did, however, seem a bit unsettled when we told him it was a fake. But when we asked if he was going to stop using it, we received an emphatic “no”.

“Dude it looks like ET and yeah it’s not quite the same but I can get my torrents. Why does it matter what crew [runs it]?” he said.

It does matter, of course. The loss of a proper torrent site like ExtraTorrent, which had releasers and a community, can never be replaced by a custom-skinned Pirate Bay mirror. No matter how much it looks like a lost friend, it’s actually a pig in lipstick that contributes little to the ecosystem.

That being said, it’s difficult to counter the fact that some of these clones make people happy. They fill a void that other sites, for mainly cosmetic reasons, can’t fill. With this in mind, the grounds for criticism weaken a little – but not much.

For anyone who has watched the Black Mirror episode ‘Be Right Back‘, it’s clear that sudden loss can be a hard thing for humans to accept. When trying to fill the gap, what might initially seem like a good replacement is almost certainly destined to disappoint longer term, when the sub-standard copy fails to capture the heart and soul of the real deal.

It’s an issue that will occupy the piracy scene for some time to come, but interestingly, it’s also an argument that Hollywood has used against piracy itself for decades. But that’s another story.

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

Torrents Help Researchers Worldwide to Study Babies’ Brains

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/torrents-help-researchers-worldwide-to-study-babies-brains-170603/

One of the core pillars of academic research is sharing.

By letting other researchers know what you do, ideas are criticized, improved upon and extended. In today’s digital age, sharing is easier than ever before, especially with help from torrents.

One of the leading scientific projects that has adopted BitTorrent is the developing Human Connectome Project, or dHCP for short. The goal of the project is to map the brain wiring of developing babies in the wombs of their mothers.

To do so, a consortium of researchers with expertise ranging from computer science, to MRI physics and clinical medicine, has teamed up across three British institutions: Imperial College London, King’s College London and the University of Oxford.

The collected data is extremely valuable for the neuroscience community and the project has received mainstream press coverage and financial backing from the European Union Research Council. Not only to build the dataset, but also to share it with researchers around the globe. This is where BitTorrent comes in.

Sharing more than 150 GB of data with researchers all over the world can be quite a challenge. Regular HTTP downloads are not really up to the task, and many other transfer options have a high failure rate.

Baby brain scan (Credit: Developing Human Connectome Project)

This is why Jonathan Passerat-Palmbach, Research Associate Department of Computing Imperial College London, came up with the idea to embrace BitTorrent instead.

“For me, it was a no-brainer from day one that we couldn’t rely on plain old HTTP to make this dataset available. Our first pilot release is 150GB, and I expect the next ones to reach a couple of TB. Torrents seemed like the de facto solution to share this data with the world’s scientific community.” Passerat-Palmbach says.

The researchers opted to go for the Academic Torrents tracker, which specializes in sharing research data. A torrent with the first batch of images was made available there a few weeks ago.

“This initial release contains 3,629 files accounting for 167.20GB of data. While this figure might not appear extremely large at the moment, it will significantly grow as the project aims to make the data of 1,000 subjects available by the time it has completed.”

Torrent of the first dataset

The download numbers are nowhere in the region of an average Hollywood blockbuster, of course. Thus far the tracker has registered just 28 downloads. That said, as a superior and open file-transfer protocol, BitTorrent does aid in critical research that helps researchers to discover more about the development of conditions such as ADHD and autism.

Interestingly, the biggest challenges of implementing the torrent solution were not of a technical nature. Most time and effort went into assuring other team members that this was the right solution.

“I had to push for more than a year for the adoption of torrents within the consortium. While my colleagues could understand the potential of the approach and its technical inputs, they remained skeptical as to the feasibility to implement such a solution within an academic context and its reception by the world community.

“However, when the first dataset was put together, amounting to 150GB, it became obvious all the HTTP and FTP fallback plans would not fit our needs,” Passerat-Palmbach adds.

Baby brain scans (Credit: Developing Human Connectome Project)

When the consortium finally agreed that BitTorrent was an acceptable way to share the data, local IT staff at the university had to give their seal of approval. Imperial College London doesn’t allow torrent traffic to flow freely across the network, so an exception had to be made.

“Torrents are blocked across the wireless and VPN networks at Imperial. Getting an explicit firewall exception created for our seeding machine was not a walk in the park. It was the first time they were faced with such a situation and we were clearly told that it was not to become the rule.”

Then, finally, the data could be shared around the world.

While BitTorrent is probably the most efficient way to share large files, there were other proprietary solutions that could do the same. However, Passerat-Palmbach preferred not to force other researchers to install “proprietary black boxes” on their machines.

Torrents are free and open, which is more in line with the Open Access approach more academics take today.

Looking back, it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park to share the data via BitTorrent. Passerat-Palmbach was frequently confronted with the piracy stigma torrents have amoung many of his peers, even among younger generations.

“Considering how hard it was to convince my colleagues within the project to actually share this dataset using torrents (‘isn’t it illegal?’ and other kinds of misconceptions…), I think there’s still a lot of work to do to demystify the use of torrents with the public.

“I was even surprised to see that these misconceptions spread out not only to more senior scientists but also to junior researchers who I was expecting to be more tech-aware,” Passerat-Palmbach adds.

That said, the hard work is done now and in the months and years ahead the neuroscience community will have access to Petabytes of important data, with help from BitTorrent. That is definitely worth the effort.

Finally, we thought it was fitting to end with Passerat-Palmbach’s “pledge to seed,” which he shared with his peers. Keep on sharing!


On the importance of seeding

Dear fellow scientist,

Thank for you very much for the interest you are showing in the dHCP dataset!

Once you start downloading the dataset, you’ll notice that your torrent client mentions a sharing / seeding ratio. It means that as soon as you start downloading the dataset, you become part of our community of sharers and contribute to making the dataset available to other researchers all around the world!

There’s no reason to be scared! It’s perfectly legal as long as you’re allowed to have a copy of the dataset (that’s the bit you need to forward to your lab’s IT staff if they’re blocking your ports).

You’re actually providing a tremendous contribution to dHCP by spreading the data, so thank you again for that!

With your help, we can make sure this data remains available and can be downloaded relatively fast in the future. Over time, the dataset will grow and your contribution will be more and more important so that each and everyone of you can still obtain the data in the smoothest possible way.

We cannot do it without you. By seeding, you’re actually saying “cheers!” to your peers whom you downloaded your data from. So leave your client open and stay tuned!

All this is made possible thanks to the amazing folks at academictorrents and their infrastructure, so kudos academictorrents!

You can learn more about their project here and get some help to get started with torrent downloading here.

Jonathan Passerat-Palmbach

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