Tag Archives: Intellectual property

ISP Questions Impartiality of Judges in Copyright Troll Cases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-questions-impartiality-of-judges-in-copyright-troll-cases-180602/

Following in the footsteps of similar operations around the world, two years ago the copyright trolling movement landed on Swedish shores.

The pattern was a familiar one, with trolls harvesting IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms and tracing them back to Internet service providers. Then, after presenting evidence to a judge, the trolls obtained orders that compelled ISPs to hand over their customers’ details. From there, the trolls demanded cash payments to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

It’s a controversial business model that rarely receives outside praise. Many ISPs have tried to slow down the flood but most eventually grow tired of battling to protect their customers. The same cannot be said of Swedish ISP Bahnhof.

The ISP, which is also a strong defender of privacy, has become known for fighting back against copyright trolls. Indeed, to thwart them at the very first step, the company deletes IP address logs after just 24 hours, which prevents its customers from being targeted.

Bahnhof says that the copyright business appeared “dirty and corrupt” right from the get go, so it now operates Utpressningskollen.se, a web portal where the ISP publishes data on Swedish legal cases in which copyright owners demand customer data from ISPs through the Patent and Market Courts.

Over the past two years, Bahnhof says it has documented 76 cases of which six are still ongoing, 11 have been waived and a majority 59 have been decided in favor of mainly movie companies. Bahnhof says that when it discovered that 59 out of the 76 cases benefited one party, it felt a need to investigate.

In a detailed report compiled by Bahnhof Communicator Carolina Lindahl and sent to TF, the ISP reveals that it examined the individual decision-makers in the cases before the Courts and found five judges with “questionable impartiality.”

“One of the judges, we can call them Judge 1, has closed 12 of the cases, of which two have been waived and the other 10 have benefitted the copyright owner, mostly movie companies,” Lindahl notes.

“Judge 1 apparently has written several articles in the magazine NIR – Nordiskt Immateriellt Rättsskydd (Nordic Intellectual Property Protection) – which is mainly supported by Svenska Föreningen för Upphovsrätt, the Swedish Association for Copyright (SFU).

“SFU is a member-financed group centered around copyright that publishes articles, hands out scholarships, arranges symposiums, etc. On their website they have a public calendar where Judge 1 appears regularly.”

Bahnhof says that the financiers of the SFU are Sveriges Television AB (Sweden’s national public TV broadcaster), Filmproducenternas Rättsförening (a legally-oriented association for filmproducers), BMG Chrysalis Scandinavia (a media giant) and Fackförbundet för Film och Mediabranschen (a union for the movie and media industry).

“This means that Judge 1 is involved in a copyright association sponsored by the film and media industry, while also judging in copyright cases with the film industry as one of the parties,” the ISP says.

Bahnhof’s also has criticism for Judge 2, who participated as an event speaker for the Swedish Association for Copyright, and Judge 3 who has written for the SFU-supported magazine NIR. According to Lindahl, Judge 4 worked for a bureau that is partly owned by a board member of SFU, who also defended media companies in a “high-profile” Swedish piracy case.

That leaves Judge 5, who handled 10 of the copyright troll cases documented by Bahnhof, waiving one and deciding the remaining nine in favor of a movie company plaintiff.

“Judge 5 has been questioned before and even been accused of bias while judging a high-profile piracy case almost ten years ago. The accusations of bias were motivated by the judge’s membership of SFU and the Swedish Association for Intellectual Property Rights (SFIR), an association with several important individuals of the Swedish copyright community as members, who all defend, represent, or sympathize with the media industry,” Lindahl says.

Bahnhof hasn’t named any of the judges nor has it provided additional details on the “high-profile” case. However, anyone who remembers the infamous trial of ‘The Pirate Bay Four’ a decade ago might recall complaints from the defense (1,2,3) that several judges involved in the case were members of pro-copyright groups.

While there were plenty of calls to consider them biased, in May 2010 the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, a fact Bahnhof recognizes.

“Judge 5 was never sentenced for bias by the court, but regardless of the court’s decision this is still a judge who shares values and has personal connections with [the media industry], and as if that weren’t enough, the judge has induced an additional financial aspect by participating in events paid for by said party,” Lindahl writes.

“The judge has parties and interest holders in their personal network, a private engagement in the subject and a financial connection to one party – textbook characteristics of bias which would make anyone suspicious.”

The decision-makers of the Patent and Market Court and their relations.

The ISP notes that all five judges have connections to the media industry in the cases they judge, which isn’t a great starting point for returning “objective and impartial” results. In its summary, however, the ISP is scathing of the overall system, one in which court cases “almost looked rigged” and appear to be decided in favor of the movie company even before reaching court.

In general, however, Bahnhof says that the processes show a lack of individual attention, such as the court blindly accepting questionable IP address evidence supplied by infamous anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye.

“The court never bothers to control the media company’s only evidence (lists generated by MaverickMonitor, which has proven to be an unreliable software), the court documents contain several typos of varying severity, and the same standard texts are reused in several different cases,” the ISP says.

“The court documents show a lack of care and control, something that can easily be taken advantage of by individuals with shady motives. The findings and discoveries of this investigation are strengthened by the pure numbers mentioned in the beginning which clearly show how one party almost always wins.

“If this is caused by bias, cheating, partiality, bribes, political agenda, conspiracy or pure coincidence we can’t say for sure, but the fact that this process has mainly generated money for the film industry, while citizens have been robbed of their personal integrity and legal certainty, indicates what forces lie behind this machinery,” Bahnhof’s Lindahl concludes.

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

GoDaddy to Suspend ‘Pirate’ Domain Following Music Industry Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/godaddy-to-suspend-pirate-domain-following-music-industry-complaints-180601/

Most piracy-focused sites online conduct their business with minimal interference from outside parties. In many cases, a heap of DMCA notices filed with Google represents the most visible irritant.

Others, particularly those with large audiences, can find themselves on the end of a web blockade. Mostly court-ordered, blocking measures restrict the ability of Internet users to visit a site due to ISPs restricting traffic.

In some regions, where copyright holders have the means to do so, they choose to tackle a site’s infrastructure instead, which could mean complaints to webhosts or other service providers. At times, this has included domain registries, who are asked to disable domains on copyright grounds.

This is exactly what has happened to Fox-MusicaGratis.com, a Spanish-language music piracy site that incurred the wrath of IFPI member UNIMPRO – the Peruvian Union of Phonographic Producers.

Pirate music, suspended domain

In a process that’s becoming more common in the region, UNIMPRO initially filed a complaint with the Copyright Commission (Comisión de Derecho de Autor (CDA)) which conducted an investigation into the platform’s activities.

“The CDA considered, among other things, the irreparable damage that would have been caused to the legitimate rights owners, taking into account the large number of users who could potentially have visited said website, which was making available endless musical recordings for commercial purposes, without authorization of the holders of rights,” a statement from CDA reads.

The administrative process was carried out locally with the involvement of the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi), an autonomous public body tasked with handling anti-competitive behavior, unfair competition, and intellectual property matters.

Indecopi HQ

The matter was decided in favor of the rightsholders and a subsequent ruling included an instruction for US-based domain name registry GoDaddy to suspend Fox-MusicaGratis.com. According to the copyright protection entity, GoDaddy agreed to comply, to prevent further infringement.

This latest action involving a music piracy site registered with GoDaddy follows on the heels of a similar enforcement process back in March.

Mp3Juices-Download-Free.com, Melodiavip.net, Foxmusica.site and Fulltono.me were all music sites offering MP3 content without copyright holders’ permission. They too were the subject of an UNIMPRO complaint which resulted in orders for GoDaddy to suspend their domains.

In the cases of all five websites, GoDaddy was given the chance to appeal but there is no indication that the company has done so. GoDaddy did not respond to a request for comment.

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

Legal Blackmail: Zero Cases Brought Against Alleged Pirates in Sweden

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/legal-blackmail-zero-cases-brought-against-alleged-pirates-in-sweden-180525/

While several countries in Europe have wilted under sustained pressure from copyright trolls for more than ten years, Sweden managed to avoid their controversial attacks until fairly recently.

With Germany a decade-old pit of misery, with many hundreds of thousands of letters – by now probably millions – sent out to Internet users demanding cash, Sweden avoided the ranks of its European partners until two years ago

In September 2016 it was revealed that an organization calling itself Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) headed up by law firm Gothia Law, would begin targeting the public.

Its spokesperson described its letters as “speeding tickets” for pirates, in that they would only target the guilty. But there was a huge backlash and just a couple of months later Spridningskollen headed for the hills, without a single collection letter being sent out.

That was the calm before the storm.

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the center of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested by the law firm’s partners who were determined to link them with real-life people.

Indeed, in a single batch, Njord Law was granted permission from the court to obtain the identities of citizens behind 25,000 IP addresses, from whom it hoped to obtain cash settlements of around US$550. But it didn’t stop there.

Time and again the trolls headed back to court in an effort to reach more people although until now the true scale of their operations has been open to question. However, a new investigation carried out by SVT has revealed that the promised copyright troll invasion of Sweden is well underway with a huge level of momentum.

Data collated by the publication reveals that since 2017, the personal details behind more than 50,000 IP addresses have been handed over by Swedish Internet service providers to law firms representing copyright trolls and their partners. By the end of this year, Njord Law alone will have sent out 35,000 letters to Swede’s whose IP addresses have been flagged as allegedly infringing copyright.

Even if one is extremely conservative with the figures, the levels of cash involved are significant. Taking a settlement amount of just $300 per letter, very quickly the copyright trolls are looking at $15,000,000 in revenues. On the perimeter, assuming $550 will make a supposed lawsuit go away, we’re looking at a potential $27,500,000 in takings.

But of course, this dragnet approach doesn’t have the desired effect on all recipients.

In 2017, Njord Law said that only 60% of its letters received any kind of response, meaning that even fewer would be settling with the company. So what happens when the public ignores the threatening letters?

“Yes, we will [go to court],” said lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen last year.

“We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.”

But despite the tough-talking, SVT’s investigation has turned up an interesting fact. The nuclear option, of taking people to court and winning a case when they refuse to pay, has never happened.

After trawling records held by the Patent and Market Court and all those held by the District Courts dating back five years, SVT did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning a case. Furthermore, no law firm contacted by the publication could show that such a thing had happened.

“In Sweden, we have not yet taken someone to court, but we are planning to file for the right in 2018,” Emelie Svensson, lawyer at Njord Law, told SVT.

While a case may yet reach the courts, when it does it is guaranteed to be a cut-and-dried one. Letter recipients can often say things to damage their case, even when they’re only getting a letter due to their name being on the Internet bill. These are the people who find themselves under the most pressure to pay, whether they’re guilty or not.

“There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University.

“With [the copyright holders’] legal and economic muscles, small citizens are scared into paying claims that they do not legally have to pay.”

It’s a position shared by Marianne Levine, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University.

“One can only show that an IP address appears in some context, but there is no point in the evidence. Namely, that it is the subscriber who also downloaded illegitimate material,” she told SVT.

Njord Law, on the other hand, sees things differently.

“In Sweden, we have no legal case saying that you are not responsible for your IP address,” Emelie Svensson says.

Whether Njord Law will carry through with its threats will remain to be seen but there can be little doubt that while significant numbers of people keep paying up, this practice will continue and escalate. The trolls have come too far to give up now.

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

Singapore ISPs Block 53 Pirate Sites Following MPAA Legal Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/singapore-isps-block-53-pirate-sites-following-mpaa-legal-action-180521/

Under increasing pressure from copyright holders, in 2014 Singapore passed amendments to copyright law that allow ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites.

“The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore’s creative sector,” said then Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah.

“It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of intellectual property.”

After the amendments took effect in December 2014, there was a considerable pause before any websites were targeted. However, in September 2016, at the request of the MPA(A), Solarmovie.ph became the first website ordered to be blocked under Singapore’s amended Copyright Act. The High Court subsequently ordering several major ISPs to disable access to the site.

A new wave of blocks announced this morning are the country’s most significant so far, with dozens of ‘pirate’ sites targeted following a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year.

In total, 53 sites across 154 domains – including those operated by The Pirate Bay plus KickassTorrents and Solarmovie variants – have been rendered inaccessible by ISPs including Singtel, StarHub, M1, MyRepublic and ViewQwest.

“In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows,” an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times (paywall).

“This action by rights owners is necessary to protect the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audiences.”

Before granting a blocking injunction, the High Court must satisfy itself that the proposed online locations meet the threshold of being “flagrantly infringing”. This means that a site like YouTube, which carries a lot of infringing content but is not dedicated to infringement, would not ordinarily get caught up in the dragnet.

Sites considered for blocking must have a primary purpose to infringe, a threshold that is tipped in copyright holders’ favor when the sites’ operators display a lack of respect for copyright law and have already had their domains blocked in other jurisdictions.

The Court also weighs a number of additional factors including whether blocking would place an unacceptable burden on the shoulders of ISPs, whether the blocking demand is technically possible, and whether it will be effective.

In common with other regions such as the UK and Australia, for example, sites targeted for blocking must be informed of the applications made against them, to ensure they’re given a chance to defend themselves in court. No fully-fledged ‘pirate’ site has ever defended a blocking application in Singapore or indeed any jurisdiction in the world.

Finally, should any measures be taken by ‘pirate’ sites to evade an ISP blockade, copyright holders can apply to the Singapore High Court to amend the blocking order. This is similar to the Australian model where each application must be heard on its merits, rather than the UK model where a more streamlined approach is taken.

According to a recent report by Motion Picture Association Canada, at least 42 countries are now obligated to block infringing sites. In Europe alone, 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains have been rendered inaccessible, with Portugal, Italy, the UK, and Denmark leading the way.

In Canada, where copyright holders are lobbying hard for a site-blocking regime of their own, there’s pressure to avoid the “uncertain, slow and expensive” route of going through the courts.

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

Sci-Hub ‘Pirate Bay For Science’ Security Certs Revoked by Comodo

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-pirate-bay-for-science-security-certs-revoked-by-comodo-ca-180503/

Sci-Hub is often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science”. Like its namesake, it offers masses of unlicensed content for free, mostly against the wishes of copyright holders.

While The Pirate Bay will index almost anything, Sci-Hub is dedicated to distributing tens of millions of academic papers and articles, something which has turned itself into a target for publishing giants like Elsevier.

Sci-Hub and its Kazakhstan-born founder Alexandra Elbakyan have been under sustained attack for several years but more recently have been fending off an unprecedented barrage of legal action initiated by the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry.

After winning a default judgment for $4.8 million in copyright infringement damages last year, ACS was further granted a broad injunction.

It required various third-party services (including domain registries, hosting companies and search engines) to stop facilitating access to the site. This plunged Sci-Hub into a game of domain whac-a-mole, one that continues to this day.

Determined to head Sci-Hub off at the pass, ACS obtained additional authority to tackle the evasive site and any new domains it may register in the future.

While Sci-Hub has been hopping around domains for a while, this week a new development appeared on the horizon. Visitors to some of the site’s domains were greeted with errors indicating that the domains’ security certificates had been revoked.

Tests conducted by TorrentFreak revealed clear revocations on Sci-Hub.hk and Sci-Hub.nz, both of which returned the error ‘NET::ERR_CERT_REVOKED’.

Certificate revoked

These certificates were first issued and then revoked by Comodo CA, the world’s largest certification authority. TF contacted the company who confirmed that it had been forced to take action against Sci-Hub.

“In response to a court order against Sci-Hub, Comodo CA has revoked four certificates for the site,” Jonathan Skinner, Director, Global Channel Programs at Comodo CA informed TorrentFreak.

“By policy Comodo CA obeys court orders and the law to the full extent of its ability.”

Comodo refused to confirm any additional details, including whether these revocations were anything to do with the current ACS injunction. However, Susan R. Morrissey, Director of Communications at ACS, told TorrentFreak that the revocations were indeed part of ACS’ legal action against Sci-Hub.

“[T]he action is related to our continuing efforts to protect ACS’ intellectual property,” Morrissey confirmed.

Sci-Hub operates multiple domains (an up-to-date list is usually available on Wikipedia) that can be switched at any time. At the time of writing the domain sci-hub.ga currently returns ‘ERR_SSL_VERSION_OR_CIPHER_MISMATCH’ while .CN and .GS variants both have Comodo certificates that expired last year.

When TF first approached Comodo earlier this week, Sci-Hub’s certificates with the company hadn’t been completely wiped out. For example, the domain https://sci-hub.tw operated perfectly, with an active and non-revoked Comodo certificate.

Still in the game…but not for long

By Wednesday, however, the domain was returning the now-familiar “revoked” message.

These domain issues are the latest technical problems to hit Sci-Hub as a result of the ACS injunction. In February, Cloudflare terminated service to several of the site’s domains.

“Cloudflare will terminate your service for the following domains sci-hub.la, sci-hub.tv, and sci-hub.tw by disabling our authoritative DNS in 24 hours,” Cloudflare told Sci-Hub.

While ACS has certainly caused problems for Sci-Hub, the platform is extremely resilient and remains online.

The domains https://sci-hub.is and https://sci-hub.nu are fully operational with certificates issued by Let’s Encrypt, a free and open certificate authority supported by the likes of Mozilla, EFF, Chrome, Private Internet Access, and other prominent tech companies.

It’s unclear whether these certificates will be targeted in the future but Sci-Hub doesn’t appear to be in the mood to back down.

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

2018 Специален доклад 301

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/05/02/2018-301/

В изпълнение на Търговския закон от 1974 г. американското правителство публикува доклад  – т.нар. Доклад 301 – за наличието на адекватна и ефективна защита на правата  на интелектуалната собственост по света – в държавите-търговски партньори на САЩ.

Сега  е оповестен Доклад 301 за 2018 година (2018 Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights).

За миналата година 11 държави са в  т.нар. Priority Watch List, между тях Китай, Индия, Русия, Украйна,   и 23 – в  Watch List, между тях България. Тази година България е извадена от Watch List – с обяснението на стр. 28, че България през март 2018 г. е приела изменения на закона за авторското право,  участвала е в операция  ЕВРОПОЛ  срещу голяма пиратска мрежа в региона,  отделила е  допълнителни ресурси на звеното за разследване на онлайн пиратството, а Главна прокуратура се е ангажирала да предприеме допълнителни стъпки за подобряване на прилагането. Според доклада проблемите, свързани с прилагането на законодателството, продължават да се отнасят до високите нива на онлайн пиратството, недостатъчното съдебно преследване, недостатъчно възспиращото действие на наказателните санкции.

Министерството на външните работи е отбелязало новия доклад 301 с отделно съобщение, в което се казва, че “в резултат на дългогодишните усилия на посолството на Република България във Вашингтон и българските институции  страната ни вече е изключена от т.нар. „черен списък“ за защита на интелектуалната собственост на САЩ.”

Няма съмнение, че напускането на Watch List  е изисквало усилия. Все пак съобщението е можело да бъде по-прецизно по отношение на т.нар. в съобщението черен списък, защото – както се вижда, има черен, има и по-черен. 

Критично отношение към доклада изразява EFF:  “Някои доклади и публикации от американските правителствени агенции имат репутация на задълбочени, актуални и основани на факти[…] Специален доклад  301, чието последно годишно издание е публикуванo миналата седмица, не е такъв.” Според EFF докладът разкрива законите, политиките и практиките, които не осигуряват адекватна и ефективна защита на интелектуалната собственост, но  няма последователна методология за оценка  кое  е  адекватно и ефективно.

Неотдавна ЕК обяви обществена консултация относно евентуално наблюдение на защитата на интелектуалната собственост по света.

Former Judge Accuses IP Court of Using ‘Pirate’ Microsoft Software

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/former-judge-accuses-ip-court-of-using-pirate-microsoft-software-180429/

While piracy of movies, TV shows, and music grabs most of the headlines, software piracy is a huge issue, from both consumer and commercial perspectives.

For many years, software such as Photoshop has been pirated on a grand scale and around the world, millions of computers rely on cracked and unlicensed copies of Microsoft’s Windows software.

One of the key drivers of this kind of piracy is the relative expense of software. Open source variants are nearly always available but big brand names always seem more popular due to their market penetration and perceived ease of use.

While using pirated software very rarely gets individuals into trouble, the same cannot be said of unlicensed commercial operators. That appears to be the case in Russia where somewhat ironically the Court for Intellectual Property Rights stands accused of copyright infringement.

A complaint filed by the Paragon law firm at the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Court for Intellectual Property Rights (CIP) alleges that the Court is illegally using Microsoft software, something which has the potential to affect the outcome of court cases involving the US-based software giant.

Paragon is representing Alexander Shmuratov, who is a former Assistant Judge at the Court for Intellectual Property Rights. Shmuratov worked at the Court for several years and claims that the computers there were being operated with expired licenses.

Shmuratov himself told Kommersant that he “saw the notice of an activation failure every day when using MS Office products” in intellectual property court.

A representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office confirmed that a complaint had been received but said it had been forwarded to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In respect of the counterfeit software claims, CIP categorically denies the allegations. CIP says that licenses for all Russian courts were purchased back in 2008 and remained in force until 2011. In 2013, Microsoft agreed to an extension.

Only adding more intrigue to the story, CIP Assistant chairman Catherine Ulyanova said that the initator of the complaint, former judge Alexander Shmuratov, was dismissed from the CIP because he provided false information about income. He later mounted a challenge against his dismissal but was unsuccessful.

Ulyanova said that Microsoft licensed all courts from 2006 for use of Windows and MS Office. The licenses were acquired through a third-party company and more licenses than necessary were purchased, with some licenses being redistributed for use by CIP in later years with the consent of Microsoft.

Kommersant was unable to confirm how licenses were paid for beyond December 2011 but apparently an “official confirmation letter from the Irish headquarters of Microsoft, which does not object to the transfer of CIP licenses” had been sent to the Court.

Responding to Shmuratov’s allegations that software he used hadn’t been activated, Ulyanova said that technical problems had no relationship with the existence of software licenses.

The question of whether the Court is properly licensed will be determined at a later date but observers are already raising questions concerning CIP’s historical dealings with Microsoft not only in terms of licensing, but in cases it handled.

In the period 2014-2017, the Court for Intellectual Property Rights handled around 80 cases involving Microsoft and claims of between 50 thousand ($800) and several million rubles.

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

MPAA Chief Says Fighting Piracy Remains “Top Priority”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-says-fighting-piracy-remains-top-priority-180425/

After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA.

The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight.

Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said.

“But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.”

Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free.

“Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said.

“I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.”

That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years.

With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media.

“One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said.

“This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.”

Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms.

From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers.

The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV.

With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases.

“I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said.

“Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have.

Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon.

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

Registrars Suspend 11 Pirate Site Domains, 89 More in the Crosshairs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/registrars-suspend-11-pirate-site-domains-89-more-in-the-crosshairs-180423/

In addition to website blocking which is running rampant across dozens of countries right now, targeting the domains of pirate sites is considered to be a somewhat effective anti-piracy tool.

The vast majority of websites are found using a recognizable name so when they become inaccessible, site operators have to work quickly to get the message out to fans. That can mean losing visitors, at least in the short term, and also contributes to the rise of copy-cat sites that may not have users’ best interests at heart.

Nevertheless, crime-fighting has always been about disrupting the ability of the enemy to do business so with this in mind, authorities in India began taking advice from the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) a couple of years ago.

After studying the model developed by PIPCU, India formed its Digital Crime Unit (DCU), which follows a multi-stage plan.

Initially, pirate sites and their partners are told to cease-and-desist. Next, complaints are filed with advertisers, who are asked to stop funding site activities. Service providers and domain registrars also receive a written complaint from the DCU, asking them to suspend services to the sites in question.

Last July, the DCU earmarked around 9,000 sites where pirated content was being made available. From there, 1,300 were placed on a shortlist for targeted action. Precisely how many have been contacted thus far is unclear but authorities are now reporting success.

According to local reports, the Maharashtra government’s Digital Crime Unit has managed to have 11 pirate site domains suspended following complaints from players in the entertainment industry.

As is often the case (and to avoid them receiving even more attention) the sites in question aren’t being named but according to Brijesh Singh, special Inspector General of Police in Maharashtra, the sites had a significant number of visitors.

Their domain registrars were sent a notice under Section 149 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, which grants police the power to take preventative action when a crime is suspected. It’s yet to be confirmed officially but it seems likely that pirate sites utilizing local registrars were targeted by the authorities.

“Responding to our notice, the domain names of all these websites, that had a collective viewership of over 80 million, were suspended,” Singh said.

Laxman Kamble, a police inspector attached to the state government’s Cyber Cell, said the pilot project was launched after the government received complaints from Viacom and Star but back in January there were reports that the MPAA had also become involved.

Using the model pioneered by London’s PIPCU, 19 parameters were applied to list of pirate sites in order to place them on the shortlist. They are reported to include the type of content being uploaded, downloaded, and the number of downloads overall.

Kamble reports that a further 89 websites, that have domains registered abroad but are very popular in India, are now being targeted. Whether overseas registrars will prove as compliant will remain to be seen. After booking initial success, even PIPCU itself experienced problems keeping up the momentum with registrars.

In 2014, information obtained by TorrentFreak following a Freedom of Information request revealed that only five out of 70 domain registrars had complied with police requests to suspend domains.

A year later, PIPCU confirmed that suspending pirate domain names was no longer a priority for them after ICANN ruled that registrars don’t have to suspend domain names without a valid court order.

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

Pirate Site-Blocking? Music Biz Wants App Blocking Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blocking-music-biz-wants-app-blocking-too-180415/

In some way, shape or form, Internet piracy has always been carried out through some kind of application. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer client utilizing BitTorrent or eD2K, or a Usenet or FTP tool taking things back to their roots, software has always played a crucial role.

Of course, the nature of the Internet beast means that software usage is unavoidable but in recent years piracy has swung more towards the regular web browser, meaning that sites and services offering pirated content are largely easy to locate, identify and block, if authorities so choose.

As revealed this week by the MPA, thousands of platforms around the world are now targeted for blocking, with 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains blocked in Europe alone.

However, as the Kodi phenomenon has shown, web-based content doesn’t always have to be accessed via a standard web browser. Clever but potentially illegal addons and third-party apps are able to scrape web-based resources and present links to content on a wide range of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to set-top boxes.

While it’s still possible to block the resources upon which these addons rely, the scattered nature of the content makes the process much more difficult. One can’t simply block a whole platform because a few movies are illegally hosted there and even Google has found itself hosting thousands of infringing titles, a situation that’s ruthlessly exploited by addon and app developers alike.

Needless to say, the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has spent the last year (1,2,3) targeting many people involved in the addon and app scene, hoping they’ll take their tools and run, rather than further develop a rapidly evolving piracy ecosystem.

Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.

The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.

“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.

“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.

And if Blinov is to be believed, music in Russia is doing particularly well at the moment. Attributing successes to efforts by parliament, the Ministry of Communications, and copyright holders, Blinov said the local music market has doubled in the past two years.

“We are now in the top three fastest growing markets in the world, behind only China and South Korea,” Blinov said.

While some apps can work in the same manner as a basic web interface, others rely on more complex mechanisms, ‘scraping’ content from diverse sources that can be easily and readily changed if mitigation measures kick in. It will be very interesting to see how Russia deals with this threat and whether it will opt for highly technical solutions or the nuclear options demonstrated recently.

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

WHOIS Limits Under GDPR Will Make Pirates Harder to Catch, Groups Fear

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/whois-limits-under-gdpr-will-make-pirates-harder-to-catch-groups-fear-180413/

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law covering data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

As more and more personal data is gathered, stored and (ab)used online, the aim of the GDPR is to protect EU citizens from breaches of privacy. The regulation applies to all companies processing the personal data of subjects residing in the Union, no matter where in the world the company is located.

Penalties for non-compliance can be severe. While there is a tiered approach according to severity, organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. Needless to say, the regulations will need to be taken seriously.

Among those affected are domain name registries and registrars who publish the personal details of domain name owners in the public WHOIS database. In a full entry, a person or organization’s name, address, telephone numbers and email addresses can often be found.

This raises a serious issue. While registries and registrars are instructed and contractually obliged to publish data in the WHOIS database by global domain name authority ICANN, in millions of cases this conflicts with the requirements of the GDPR, which prevents the details of private individuals being made freely available on the Internet.

As explained in detail by the EFF, ICANN has been trying to resolve this clash. Its proposed interim model for GDPR compliance (pdf) envisions registrars continuing to collect full WHOIS data but not necessarily publishing it, to “allow the existing data
to be preserved while the community discussions continue on the next generation of WHOIS.”

But the proposed changes that will inevitably restrict free access to WHOIS information has plenty of people spooked, including thousands of companies belonging to entertainment industry groups such as the MPAA, IFPI, RIAA and the Copyright Alliance.

In a letter sent to Vice President Andrus Ansip of the European Commission, these groups and dozens of others warn that restricted access to WHOIS will have a serious effect on their ability to protect their intellectual property rights from “cybercriminals” which pose a threat to their businesses.

Signed by 50 organizations involved in IP protection and other areas of online security, the letter expresses concern that in attempting to comply with the GDPR, ICANN is on a course to “over-correct” while disregarding proportionality, accountability and transparency.

A small sample of the groups calling on ICANN

“We strongly assert that this model does not properly account for the critical public and legitimate interests served by maintaining a sufficient amount of data publicly available while respecting privacy interests of registrants by instituting a tiered or layered access system for the vast majority of personal data as defined by the GDPR,” the groups write.

The letter focuses on two aspects of “over-correction”, the first being ICANN’s proposal that no personal data whatsoever of a domain name registrant will be made available “without appropriate consideration or balancing of the countervailing interests in public disclosure of a limited amount of such data.”

In response to ICANN’s proposal that only the province/state and country of a domain name registrant be made publicly available, the groups advise the organization that publishing “a natural person registrant’s e-mail address” in a publicly accessible WHOIS directory will not constitute a breach of the GDPR.

“[W]e strongly believe that the continued public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address – specifically the e-mail address that the registrant supplies to the registrar at the time the domain name is purchased and which e-mail address the registrar is required to validate – is critical for several reasons,” the groups write.

“First, it is the data element that is typically the most important to have readily available for law enforcement, consumer protection, particularly child protection, intellectual property enforcement and cybersecurity/anti-malware purposes.

“Second, the public accessibility of the registrant’s e-mail address permits a broad array of threats and illegal activities to be addressed quickly and the damage from such threats mitigated and contained in a timely manner, particularly where the abusive/illegal activity may be spawned from a variety of different domain names on different generic Top Level Domains,” they add.

The groups also argue that since making email addresses is effectively required in light of Article 5.1(c) ECD, “there is no legitimate justification to discontinue public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address in the WHOIS directory and especially not in light of other legitimate purposes.”

The EFF, on the other hand, says that being able to contact a domain owner wouldn’t necessarily require an email address to be made public.

“There are other cases in which it makes sense to allow members of the public to contact the owner of a domain, without having to obtain a court order,” EFF writes.

“But this could be achieved very simply if ICANN were simply to provide something like a CAPTCHA-protected contact form, which would deliver email to the appropriate contact point with no need to reveal the registrant’s actual email address.”

The groups’ second main concern is that ICANN reportedly makes no distinction between name registrants that are “natural persons versus those that are legal entities” and intends to treat them all as if they are subject to the GDPR, despite the fact that the regulation only applies to data associated with an “identified or identifiable natural person”.

They say it is imperative that EU Data Protection Authorities are made to understand that when registrants obtain a domain for illegal purposes, they often only register it as a “natural person” when registering as a legal person (legal entity) would be more appropriate, despite that granting them less privacy.

“Consequently, the test for differentiating between a legal and natural person should not merely be the legal status of the registrant, but also whether the registrant is, in fact, acting as a legal or natural person vis a vis the use of the domain name,” the groups note.

“We therefore urge that ICANN be given appropriate guidance as to the importance of maintaining a distinction between natural person and legal person registrants and keeping as much data about legal person domain name registrants as publicly accessible as possible,” they conclude.

What will happen with WHOIS on May 25 still isn’t clear. It wasn’t until October 2017 that ICANN finally determined that it would be affected by the GDPR, meaning that it’s been scrambling ever since to meet the compliance date. And it still is, according to the latest available documentation (pdf).

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

Why Did The World’s Largest Streaming Site Suddenly Shut Down?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/why-did-the-worlds-largest-streaming-site-suddenly-shut-down-180401/

With sites like The Pirate Bay still going great guns in the background, streaming sites are now all the rage. With their Netflix style interfaces and almost instant streaming, these platforms provide the kind of instant fix impatient pirates long for.

One of the most successful was 123Movies, which over the past 18 months and several rebrandings (123movieshub, GoMovies) later managed to build a steady base of millions of users.

Had such a site made its base in the US or Europe, it’s likely that authorities would’ve been breathing down its neck somewhat sooner. However, the skyrocketing platform was allegedly based in Vietnam, a country not exactly known for its staunch support of intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, the tentacles of Hollywood and its friends in government are never far away.

In March 2017, US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius called on the local Government to criminally prosecute the people behind movie streaming site 123movies, Kisscartoon, and a Putlocker variant.

Osius had a meeting with Truong Minh Tuan, Vietnam’s Minister of Information and Communications, after which the Minister assured the Ambassador that Vietnam wanted to protect copyrights. He reportedly told Osius that a decision would soon be made on how to deal with the pirate streaming sites. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, during the discussions 123Movies suffered a significant period of downtime.

Almost exactly a year later, the MPAA piled on the pressure again when it branded 123Movies as the “most popular illegal site in the world”, noting that its 98 million monthly visitors were being serviced from Vietnam.

Then, around March 19, 2018, 123Movies announced that it would be shutting down for good. A notice on the site was accompanied by a countdown timer, predicting the end of the site in five days. When the timer ran out, so did the site and it remains down to this day. But was its closure entirely down to the MPAA?

For the past couple of years, Vietnam has been seeking to overhaul its intellectual property laws, not least due to pressure from countries like the United States. Then, last October, Vietnamese Ambassador Duong Chi Dung was voted in as chairman of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) General Assembly for the 2018-19 tenure.

It was the first time in 12 years that the Asia-Pacific region had had one of its representatives serving as chairperson of the WIPO General Assembly. Quite an honor considering the diplomat enjoyed the backing of 191 member nations during the Assembly’s 49th session in Geneva, Switzerland.

Then in February, local media began publishing stories detailing how Vietnam was improving its stance towards intellectual property. Citing the sixth annual International IP Index released that month by the US Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC), it was noted that Vietnam’s score was on the increase.

“Vietnam has taken some positive steps forward towards strengthening its IP framework to compete more closely with its Southeast Asian peers, increasing its score,” said Patrick Kilbride, vice president of GIPC.

“With continued investment in strong IP rights, Vietnam can harness this positive momentum to become a leader in the region, stimulate its domestic capacity for innovation, and enhance its global competitiveness.”

The Vietnam government was also credited with passing legislation to “strengthen the criminal standards for IP infringement”, a move set to “strengthen the enforcement environment” in the country.

Amid the positive developments, it was noted that Vietnam has a way to go. Early March a report in Vietnam News cited a deputy chief inspector of the Ministry of Science and Technology as saying that while an intellectual property court is “in sight”, it isn’t yet clear when one will appear.

“There needs be an intellectual property court in Vietnam, but we don’t know when it will be established,” Nguyễn Như Quỳnh said. That, it appears, is happily being exploited, both intentionally and by those who don’t know any better.

“Several young people are making tonnes of money out of their online businesses without having to have capital, just a few tricks to increase the number of ‘fans’ on their Facebook pages,” she said. “But a lot of them sell fake stuff, which is considered an infringement.”

Come April 10, 2018, there will be new IP regulations in place in Vietnam concerning local and cross-border copyright protection. Additionally, amendments made last year to the Penal Code, which took effect this year, mean that IP infringements carried out by businesses will now be subject to criminal prosecution.

“Article 225 of the Penal Code stipulates that violations of IPR and related rights by private individuals carries a non-custodial sentence of three years or a jail term of up to three years,” Vietnamnet.vn reports.

“Businesses found guilty will be fined VND300 million to VND1 billion (US$13,000-43,800) for the first offense. If the offense is repeated, the penalty will be a fine of VND3 billion ($130,000) or suspension of operations for up to two years.”

The threshold for criminality appears to be quite low. Previously, infringements had to be carried out “on a commercial scale” to qualify but now all that is required is an illicit profit of around US$500.

How this soup of intellectual property commitments, legislative change, hopes, dreams and promises will affect the apparent rise and fall of streaming platforms in Vietnam is unclear. All that being said, it seems likely that all of these factors are playing their part to ratchet up the pressure.

And, with the US currently playing hardball with China over a lack of respect for IP rights, Vietnam will be keen to be viewed as a cooperative nation.

As for 123Movies, it’s unknown whether it will reappear anytime soon, if at all, given the apparent shifting enthusiasm towards protecting IP in Vietnam. Perhaps against the odds its sister site, Animehub, which was launched in December 2017, is still online. But that could be gone in the blink of an eye too, if recent history is anything to go by.

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

Streaming Joshua v Parker is Illegal But Re-Streaming is the Real Danger

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/streaming-joshua-v-parker-is-illegal-but-re-streaming-is-the-real-danger-180329/

This Saturday evening, Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker will string up their gloves and do battle in one of the most important heavyweight bouts of recent times.

Joshua will put an unbeaten professional record and his WBA, IBF and IBO world titles on the line. Parker – also unbeaten professionally – will put his WBO belt up for grabs. It’s a mouthwatering proposition for fight fans everywhere.

While the collision will take place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff in front of a staggering 80,000 people, millions more will watch the fight in front of the TV at home, having paid Sky Sports Box Office up to £24.95 for the privilege.

Of course, hundreds of thousands won’t pay a penny, instead relying on streams delivered via illicit Kodi addons, Android apps, and IPTV services. While these options are often free, quality and availability on the night is far from guaranteed. Even those paying for premium ‘pirate’ access have been let down at the last minute but in the scheme of things, that’s generally unlikely.

Despite the uncertainty, this morning the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Federation Against Copyright Theft took the unusual step of issuing a joint warning to people thinking of streaming the fight to their homes illegally.

“Consumers need to be aware that streaming without the right permissions or subscriptions is no longer a grey area,” PIPCU and FACT said in a statement.

“In April last year the EU Court of Justice ruled that not only was selling devices allowing access to copyrighted content illegal, but using one to stream TV, sports or films without an official subscription is also breaking the law.”

The decision, which came as part of the BREIN v Filmspeler case, found that obtaining a copyright-protected work “from a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder” was an illegal act.

While watching the fight via illicit streams is undoubtedly illegal, tracking people who simply view content is extremely difficult and there hasn’t been a single prosecution in the UK (or indeed anywhere else that we’re aware of) against anyone doing so.

That being said, those who make content available for others to watch illegally are putting themselves at considerable risk. While professional pirate re-streamers tend to have better security, Joe Public who points his phone at his TV Saturday night to stream the fight on Facebook should take time out to consider his actions.

In January, Sky revealed that 34-year-old Craig Foster had been caught by the company after someone re-streamed the previous year’s Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko fight on Facebook Live using Foster’s Sky account.

Foster had paid Sky for the fight but he claims that a friend used his iPad to record the screen and re-stream the fight to Facebook. Sky, almost certainly using tracking watermarks (example below), traced the ‘pirate’ stream back to Foster’s set-top box.

Watermarks during the Mayweather v McGregor fight

The end result was a technical knockout for Sky who suspended Foster’s Sky subscription and then agreed not to launch a lawsuit providing he paid the broadcaster £5,000.

“The public should be aware that misusing their TV subscriptions has serious repercussions,” said PIPCU and FACT referring to the case this morning.

“For example, customers found to be illegally sharing paid-for content can have their subscription account terminated immediately and can expect to be prosecuted and fined.”

While we know for certain this has happened at least once, TorrentFreak contacted FACT this morning for details on how many Sky subscribers have been caught, warned, and/or prosecuted by Sky in this manner. FACT told us they don’t have any figures but offered the following statement from CEO Kieron Sharp.

“Not only is FACT working closely with broadcasters and rights owners to identify the original source of illegally re-streamed content, but with support from law enforcement, government and social media platforms, we are tightening the net on digital piracy,” Sharp said.

Finally, it’s also worth keeping in mind that even when people live-stream an illegal yet non-watermarked stream to Facebook, they can still be traced by Sky.

As revelations this week have shown only too clearly, Facebook knows a staggering amount about its users so tracking an illegal stream back to a person would be child’s play for a determined rightsholder with a court order.

While someone attracting a couple of dozen viewers might not be at a major risk of repercussions, a viral stream might require the use of a calculator to assess the damages claimed by Sky. Like boxing, this kind of piracy is best left to the professionals to avoid painful and unnecessary trauma.

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

GoDaddy Ordered to Suspend Four Music Piracy Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/godaddy-ordered-to-suspend-four-music-piracy-domains-180327/

There are many methods used by copyright holders and the authorities in their quest to disable access to pirate sites.

Site blocking is one of the most popular but pressure can also be placed on web hosts to prevent them from doing business with questionable resources. A skip from one host to another usually solves the problem, however.

Another option is to target sites’ domains directly, by putting pressure on their registrars. It’s a practice that has famously seen The Pirate Bay burn through numerous domains in recent years, only for it to end up back on its original domain, apparently unscathed. Other sites, it appears, aren’t always so lucky.

As a full member of IFPI, the Peruvian Union of Phonographic Producers (UNIMPRO) protects the rights of record labels and musicians. Like its counterparts all over the world, UNIMPRO has a piracy problem and a complaint filed against four ‘pirate’ sites will now force the world’s largest domain registrar into action.

Mp3Juices-Download-Free.com, Melodiavip.net, Foxmusica.site and Fulltono.me were all music sites offering MP3 content without the copyright holders’ permission. None are currently available but the screenshot below shows how the first platform appeared before it was taken offline.

MP3 Juices Downnload Free

Following a complaint against the sites by UNIMPRO, the Copyright Commission (Comisión de Derecho de Autor) conducted an investigation into the platforms’ activities. The Commission found that the works they facilitated access to infringed copyright. It was also determined that each site generated revenue from advertising.

Given the illegal nature of the sites and the high volume of visitors they attract, the Commission determined that they were causing “irreparable damage” to legitimate copyright holders. Something, therefore, needed to be done.

The action against the sites involved the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi), an autonomous public body of the Peruvian state tasked with handling anti-competitive behavior, unfair competition, and intellectual property matters.

Indecopi HQ

After assessing the evidence, Indecopi, through the Copyright Commission, issued precautionary (interim) measures compelling US-based GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain registrar which handles the domains for all four sites, to suspend them with immediate effect.

“The Copyright Commission of INDECOPI issued four precautionary measures in order that the US company Godaddy.com, LLC (in its capacity as registrar of domain names) suspend the domains of four websites, through which it would have infringed the legislation on Copyright and Related Rights, by making available a large number of musical phonograms without the corresponding authorization, to the detriment of its legitimate owners,” Indecopi said in a statement.

“The suspension was based on the great evidence that was provided by the Commission, on the four websites that infringe copyright, and in the framework of the policy of support for the protection of intellectual property.”

Indecopi says that GoDaddy can file an appeal against the decision. At the time of writing, none of the four domains currently returns a working website.

TorrentFreak has requested a comment from GoDaddy but at the time of publication, we were yet to receive a response.

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

Dolby Labs Sues Adobe For Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dolby-labs-sues-adobe-for-copyright-infringement-180314/

Adobe has some of the most recognized software products on the market today, including Photoshop which has become a household name.

While the company has been subjected to more than its fair share of piracy over the years, a new lawsuit accuses the software giant itself of infringement.

Dolby Laboratories is best known as a company specializing in noise reduction and audio encoding and compression technologies. Its reversed double ‘D’ logo is widely recognized after appearing on millions of home hi-fi systems and film end credits.

In a complaint filed this week at a federal court in California, Dolby Labs alleges that after supplying its products to Adobe for 15 years, the latter has failed to live up to its licensing obligations and is guilty of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

“Between 2002 and 2017, Adobe designed and sold its audio-video content creation and editing software with Dolby’s industry-leading audio processing technologies,” Dolby’s complaint reads.

“The basic terms of Adobe’s licenses for products containing Dolby technologies are clear; when Adobe granted its customer a license to any Adobe product that contained Dolby technology, Adobe was contractually obligated to report the sale to Dolby and pay the agreed-upon royalty.”

Dolby says that Adobe promised it wouldn’t sell its any of its products (such as Audition, After Effects, Encore, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro) outside the scope of its licenses with Dolby. Those licenses included clauses which grant Dolby the right to inspect Adobe’s records through a third-party audit, in order to verify the accuracy of Adobe’s sales reporting and associated payment of royalties.

Over the past several years, however, things didn’t go to plan. The lawsuit claims that when Dolby tried to audit Adobe’s books, Adobe refused to “engage in even basic auditing and information sharing practices,” a rather ironic situation given the demands that Adobe places on its own licensees.

Dolby’s assessment is that Adobe spent years withholding this information in an effort to hide the full scale of its non-compliance.

“The limited information that Dolby has reviewed to-date demonstrates that Adobe included Dolby technologies in numerous Adobe software products and collections of products, but refused to report each sale or pay the agreed-upon royalties owed to Dolby,” the lawsuit claims.

Due to the lack of information in Dolby’s possession, the company says it cannot determine the full scope of Adobe’s infringement. However, Dolby accuses Adobe of multiple breaches including bundling licensed products together but only reporting one sale, selling multiple products to one customer but only paying a single license, failing to pay licenses on product upgrades, and even selling products containing Dolby technology without paying a license at all.

Dolby entered into licensing agreements with Adobe in 2003, 2012 and 2013, with each agreement detailing payment of royalties by Adobe to Dolby for each product licensed to Adobe’s customers containing Dolby technology. In the early days when the relationship between the companies first began, Adobe sold either a physical product in “shrink-wrap” form or downloads from its website, a position which made reporting very easy.

In late 2011, however, Adobe began its transition to offering its Creative Cloud (SaaS model) under which customers purchase a subscription to access Adobe software, some of which contains Dolby technology. Depending on how much the customer pays, users can select up to thirty Adobe products. At this point, things appear to have become much more complex.

On January 15, 2015, Dolby tried to inspect Adobe’s books for the period 2012-2014 via a third-party auditing firm. But, according to Dolby, over the next three years “Adobe employed various tactics to frustrate Dolby’s right to audit Adobe’s inclusion of Dolby Technologies in Adobe’s products.”

Dolby points out that under Adobe’s own licensing conditions, businesses must allow Adobe’s auditors to allow the company to inspect their records on seven days’ notice to confirm they are not in breach of Adobe licensing terms. Any discovered shortfalls in licensing must then be paid for, at a rate higher than the original license. This, Dolby says, shows that Adobe is clearly aware of why and how auditing takes place.

“After more than three years of attempting to audit Adobe’s Sales of products containing Dolby Technologies, Dolby still has not received the information required to complete an audit for the full time period,” Dolby explains.

But during this period, Adobe didn’t stand still. According to Dolby, Adobe tried to obtain new licensing from Dolby at a lower price. Dolby stood its ground and insisted on an audit first but despite an official demand, Adobe didn’t provide the complete set of books and records requested.

Eventually, Dolby concluded that Adobe had “no intention to fully comply with its audit obligations” so called in its lawyers to deal with the matter.

“Adobe’s direct and induced infringements of Dolby Licensing’s copyrights in the Asserted Dolby Works are and have been knowing, deliberate, and willful. By its unauthorized copying, use, and distribution of the Asserted Dolby Works and the Adobe Infringing Products, Adobe has violated Dolby Licensing’s exclusive rights..,” the lawsuit reads.

Noting that Adobe has profited and gained a commercial advantage as a result of its alleged infringement, Dolby demands injunctive relief restraining the company from any further breaches in violation of US copyright law.

“Dolby now brings this action to protect its intellectual property, maintain fairness across its licensing partnerships, and to fund the next generations of technology that empower the creative community which Dolby serves,” the company concludes.

Dolby’s full complaint can be found here (pdf).

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

UK Govt. Met With Copyright Holders Dozens of Times in Just Three Months

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-govt-met-with-copyright-holders-dozens-of-times-in-just-three-months-180310/

While doing business with clients and suppliers is the usual day-to-day routine for most businesses, companies in the entertainment sector seem keener than most to spend time with those in power.

Whether there’s pressure to be applied in respect of upcoming changes in policy or long-term plans for modifying legislation, at least a few times a year news breaks of rightsholders having private meetings with officials. Most of the time, however, the head-to-heads fly under the radar.

This week, however, the UK government published a response to a Freedom of Information Request which asked for details of meetings between the government and copyright owner organizations, enforcement organizations, and collection societies (think BPI, MPA, FACT, Publishers Association, PRS, etc) including times, dates and topics discussed.

The request asked for details of meetings held between May 2016 and April 2017 but the government declined to provide all of this information since the effort required to extract the information “would exceed the cost limit.”

Given the amount of data published, this isn’t a surprise. Even though the government chose to limit the response to events held between January 16, 2017 and April 17, 2017, the meetings between the government and the above groups number in their dozens.

January 2017 got off to a pretty slow start but week three and beyond saw a flurry of meetings with groups and companies such as ITV, BBC, PRS for Music, Copyright Licensing Agency and several other organizations to discuss the EU’s Digital Single Market proposals.

On January 18, 2017 Time Warner had a meeting to discuss content protection and analytics, followed a day later by the Premier League who were booked in to discuss “illicit streaming devices” (a topic mirrored in March during a meeting with the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance).

Just a few days later the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit held a “Partnership Working Group Meeting involving industry” and two days after that the police, Trading Standards, and the EU Police Agency convened to discuss enforcement activity.

January 26, 2017 saw an IP Outreach Workshop involving members of the IP Crime Group. This was potentially a big meeting. The IPCG consists of several regional police forces, PIPCU, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Trading Standards, HMRC, IFPI, BPI, FACT, Sky TV, PRS, FAST and the Publishers Association, to name just a few.

As the first month of the year was drawing to a close, Amazon met with the government to discuss “current procedures for removing copyright, design and trademark infringing material from their platform.” A similar meeting was held with eBay on February 1 and on February 20, Facebook had its turn on the same topic.

All three companies had come in for criticism from copyright holders for not doing enough to stem the tide of infringing content available on their platforms, particularly so-called Kodi boxes that provide access to movies, shows, and live TV.

However, in the months that followed they each responded positively, with eBay, Amazon and Facebook announcing restrictions on devices sold. While all three platforms still have a problem with infringing device sales, the situation appears to have improved since last year.

On the final day of January 2017, the MPAA attended a meeting to discuss the looming Digital Economy Bill and digital TV piracy. A couple of days later they were back again for a “business awareness seminar” with other big shots including the Alliance for IP, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, Trading Standards and the Premier League.

However, given the dozens that took place, perhaps one of the more interesting meetings in terms of the mix of those in attendance took place February 7.

Titled “Organized Crime Task Force Meeting – Belfast” it was attended by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, Trading Standards, HM Revenue and Customs, the Border Force, and (spot the odd one out) the Federation Against Copyright Theft.

This seems to suggest that FACT (a private company) is effectively embedded at the highest level of law enforcement, something that has made people very uncomfortable in the past.

Later in February, there was a roundtable meeting with the Alliance for IP, MPAA, Publishers’ Association, BPI, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft (again) to discuss Brexit, the Digital Single Market, IP enforcement and industrial strategy. A similar meeting was held in March which was attended by UK Music, BPI, PRS, Featured Artists Coalition, and many more.

The full list of meetings, which number in their dozens for just a three-month period, can be found here pdf. Whether the volume is representative of other three-month periods isn’t clear but it seems reasonable to conclude that copyright organizations have the ears of government officials in the UK on an almost continual basis.

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Trump Promises Copyright Crackdown as DoJ Takes Aim at Streaming Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trump-promises-copyright-crackdown-as-doj-takes-aim-at-streaming-pirates-180308/

For the past several years most of the world has been waking up to the streaming piracy phenomenon, with pre-configured set-top boxes making inroads into millions of homes.

While other countries, notably the UK, arrested many individuals while warning of a grave and looming danger, complaints from the United States remained relatively low-key. It was almost as if the stampede towards convenient yet illegal streaming had caught the MPAA and friends by surprise.

In October 2017, things quickly began to change. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment sued Georgia-based Tickbox TV, a company selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes. In January 2018, the same anti-piracy group targeted Dragon Media, a company in the same line of business.

With this growing type of piracy now firmly on the radar, momentum seems to be building. Yesterday, a panel discussion on the challenges associated with piracy from streaming media boxes took place on Capitol Hill.

Hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), ‘Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes’ went ahead with some big name speakers in attendance, not least Neil Fried, Senior Vice President, Federal Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs at the MPAA.

ITIF and various industry groups tweeted many interesting comments throughout the event. Kevin Madigan from Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property told the panel that torrent-based content “is becoming obsolete” in an on-demand digital environment that’s switching to streaming-based piracy.

While there’s certainly a transition taking place, 150 million worldwide torrent users would probably argue against the term “obsolete”. Nevertheless, the same terms used to describe torrent sites are now being used to describe players in the streaming field.

“There’s a criminal enterprise going on here that’s stealing content and making a profit,” Fried told those in attendance.

“The piracy activity out there is bad, it’s hurting a lot of economic activity & creators aren’t being compensated for their work,” he added.

Tom Galvin, Executive Director at the Digital Citizens Alliance, was also on the panel. Unsurprisingly, given the organization’s focus on the supposed dangers of piracy, Galvin took the opportunity to underline that position.

“If you go down the piracy road, those boxes aren’t following proper security protocols, there are many malware risks,” he said. It’s a position shared by Fried, who told the panel that “video piracy is the leading source of malware.”

Similar claims were made recently on Safer Internet Day but the facts don’t seem to back up the scare stories. Still, with the “Piracy is Dangerous” strategy already out in the open, the claims aren’t really unexpected.

What might also not come as a surprise is that ACE’s lawsuits against Tickbox and Dragon Media could be just a warm-up for bigger things to come. In the tweet embedded below, Fried can be seen holding a hexagonal-shaped streaming box, warning that the Department of Justice is now looking for candidates for criminal action.

What form this action will take when it arrives isn’t clear but when the DoJ hits targets on home soil, it tends to cherry-pick the most blatant of infringers in order to set an example with reasonably cut-and-dried cases.

Of course, every case can be argued but with hundreds of so-called “Kodi box” sellers active all over the United States, many of them clearly breaking the law as they, in turn, invite their customers to break the law, picking a sitting duck shouldn’t be too difficult.

And then, of course, we come to President Trump. Not usually that vocal on matters of intellectual property and piracy, yesterday – perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not – he suddenly delivered one of his “something is coming” tweets.

Given Trump’s tendency to focus on problems overseas causing issues for companies back home, a comment by Kevin Madigan during the panel yesterday immediately comes to mind.

“To combat piracy abroad, USTR needs to work with the creative industries to improve enforcement and target the source of pirated material,” Madigan said.

Interesting times and much turmoil in the streaming world ahead, it seems.

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

Hollywood Commissioned Tough Jail Sentences for Online Piracy, ISP Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-commissioned-tough-jail-sentences-for-online-piracy-isp-says-180227/

According to local prosecutors who have handled many copyright infringement cases over the past decade, Sweden is nowhere near tough enough on those who commit online infringement.

With this in mind, the government sought advice on how such crimes should be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the damages alleged to have been caused by defendants’ activities.

The corresponding report was returned to Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon earlier this month by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson. The paper proposed a new tier of offenses that should receive special punishment when there are convictions for large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Partitioning the offenses into two broad categories, the report envisions those found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement “of a normal grade” may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years. For those at the other end of the scale, engaged in “cases of gross crimes”, the penalty sought is a minimum of six months in prison and not more than six years.

The proposals have been criticized by those who feel that copyright infringement shouldn’t be put on a par with more serious and even potentially violent crimes. On the other hand, tools to deter larger instances of infringement have been welcomed by entertainment industry groups, who have long sought more robust sentencing options in order to protect their interests.

In the middle, however, are Internet service providers such as Bahnhof, who are often dragged into the online piracy debate due to the allegedly infringing actions of some of their customers. In a statement on the new proposals, the company is clear on why Sweden is preparing to take such a tough stance against infringement.

“It’s not a daring guess that media companies are asking for Sweden to tighten the penalty for illegal file sharing and streaming,” says Bahnhof lawyer Wilhelm Dahlborn.

“It would have been better if the need for legislative change had taken place at EU level and co-ordinated with other similar intellectual property legislation.”

Bahnhof chief Jon Karlung, who is never afraid to speak his mind on such matters, goes a step further. He believes the initiative amounts to a gift to the United States.

“It’s nothing but a commission from the American film industry,” Karlung says.

“I do not mind them going for their goals in court and trying to protect their interests, but it does not mean that the state, the police, and ultimately taxpayers should put mass resources on it.”

Bahnhof notes that the proposals for the toughest extended jail sentences aren’t directly aimed at petty file-sharers. However, the introduction of a new offense of “gross crime” means that the limitation period shifts from the current five years to ten.

It also means that due to the expansion of prison terms beyond two years, secret monitoring of communications (known as HÖK) could come into play.

“If the police have access to HÖK, it can be used to get information about which individuals are file sharing,” warns Bahnhof lawyer Wilhelm Dahlborn.

“One can also imagine a scenario where media companies increasingly report crime as gross in order to get the police to do the investigative work they have previously done. Harder punishments to tackle file-sharing also appear very old-fashioned and equally ineffective.”

As noted in our earlier report, the new proposals also include measures that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. Bahnhof also takes issue with this, noting that domains are not the problem here.

“In our opinion, it is not the domain name which is the problem, it is the content of the website that the domain name points to,” the company says.

“Moreover, confiscation of a domain name may conflict with constitutional rules on freedom of expression in a way that is very unfortunate. The issues of freedom of expression and why copyright infringement is to be treated differently haven’t been addressed much in the investigation.”

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would also be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises questions as to what extent someone could be held liable for piracy when a rightsholder maintains damage was caused yet no profit was generated.

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Spanish Authorities Launch New Campaign to Block Pirate Websites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-authorities-launch-new-campaign-to-block-pirate-websites-180223/

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, a court in Spain recently ordered local ISPs to block HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv, a pair of popular pirate sites.

Citing changes in local law which helped facilitate the action, the MPA welcomed the blockades as necessary to prevent further damage to the creative industries. Now, just a week later, it seems that Spain really has the bit between its teeth.

An announcement from the Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), the oldest law enforcement agency in the country, reveals that almost two dozen websites have just been blocked for infringing intellectual property rights.

“The Civil Guard, within the framework of the ‘Operation CASCADA’, has initiated a campaign to block websites that allow people to download content protected by copyright and disseminate them through links in P2P networks, that is, networks of computers that work without fixed servers,” the Civil Guard said in a statement.

“In this first phase, a total of 23 web domains have been blocked from which direct download links of all kinds of protected audiovisual material such as movies, series, music and video games were accessed, many of them of recent creation and without being released yet in our country.

“High-quality versions of films available on the cinema billboards of our country were offered, although they had not yet been sold in physical or digital format and dubbed with audio in several languages.”

A full list of websites and domains hasn’t yet been provided by the authorities but familiar names including divxtotal.com and gamestorrents.com are confirmed to be included in the first wave.

The Civil Guard, which is organized as a military force under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defense, said that the administrators of the sites operate their platforms from abroad, generating advertising revenue from Spanish visitors who are said to make up 80% of the sites’ traffic.

In common with similar sites, the authorities accuse their owners of taking evasive action to avoid being shut down, including hiding the true location of their servers while moving them from country to country and masking domain registration data.

“Cases have been detected in which previously judicially blocked domains were reactivated in a matter of hours, with practically identical domain names or even changing only the extension thereof. In this way, and even if several successive blocks were made, they were able to ‘resurrect’ the web pages again in a very short space of time,” the Civil Guard reports.

“For all these reasons, components of the Department of Telematic Crimes of the Central Operative Unit of the Civil Guard, responsible for the investigation, were forced to implement a series of measures tending to cause a total blockade of them that would be effective and definitive, being currently inaccessible web pages or lacking download links.”

According to the authorities, the sites are now being continuously monitored, with replacement domains being blocked in less than three hours. That doesn’t appear to have been the case yesterday, however.

It’s claimed that the blocked sites were created by “a person of Spanish origin” who subsequently sold them to a company in Argentina. On Thursday, Argentina-based site Dixv.com.ar fired back against the blockade with a new site called Yadivx.com, which is reportedly serving all of the former’s content to users in Spain.

The sites’ owners continue to administer the rogue sites from Argentina, Spanish authorities believe. Only time will tell who will emerge victorious but at least for now, the sites are remaining defiant.

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Tech wishes for 2018

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/02/18/tech-wishes-for-2018/

Anonymous asks, via money:

What would you like to see happen in tech in 2018?

(answer can be technical, social, political, combination, whatever)

Hmm.

Less of this

I’m not really qualified to speak in depth about either of these things, but let me put my foot in my mouth anyway:

The Blockchain™

Bitcoin was a neat idea. No, really! Decentralization is cool. Overhauling our terrible financial infrastructure is cool. Hash functions are cool.

Unfortunately, it seems to have devolved into mostly a get-rich-quick scheme for nerds, and by nearly any measure it’s turning into a spectacular catastrophe. Its “success” is measured in how much a bitcoin is worth in US dollars, which is pretty close to an admission from its own investors that its only value is in converting back to “real” money — all while that same “success” is making it less useful as a distinct currency.

Blah, blah, everyone already knows this.

What concerns me slightly more is the gold rush hype cycle, which is putting cryptocurrency and “blockchain” in the news and lending it all legitimacy. People have raked in millions of dollars on ICOs of novel coins I’ve never heard mentioned again. (Note: again, that value is measured in dollars.) Most likely, none of the investors will see any return whatsoever on that money. They can’t, really, unless a coin actually takes off as a currency, and that seems at odds with speculative investing since everyone either wants to hoard or ditch their coins. When the coins have no value themselves, the money can only come from other investors, and eventually the hype winds down and you run out of other investors.

I fear this will hurt a lot of people before it’s over, so I’d like for it to be over as soon as possible.


That said, the hype itself has gotten way out of hand too. First it was the obsession with “blockchain” like it’s a revolutionary technology, but hey, Git is a fucking blockchain. The novel part is the way it handles distributed consensus (which in Git is basically left for you to figure out), and that’s uniquely important to currency because you want to be pretty sure that money doesn’t get duplicated or lost when moved around.

But now we have startups trying to use blockchains for website backends and file storage and who knows what else? Why? What advantage does this have? When you say “blockchain”, I hear “single Git repository” — so when you say “email on the blockchain”, I have an aneurysm.

Bitcoin seems to have sparked imagination in large part because it’s decentralized, but I’d argue it’s actually a pretty bad example of a decentralized network, since people keep forking it. The ability to fork is a feature, sure, but the trouble here is that the Bitcoin family has no notion of federation — there is one canonical Bitcoin ledger and it has no notion of communication with any other. That’s what you want for currency, not necessarily other applications. (Bitcoin also incentivizes frivolous forking by giving the creator an initial pile of coins to keep and sell.)

And federation is much more interesting than decentralization! Federation gives us email and the web. Federation means I can set up my own instance with my own rules and still be able to meaningfully communicate with the rest of the network. Federation has some amount of tolerance for changes to the protocol, so such changes are more flexible and rely more heavily on consensus.

Federation is fantastic, and it feels like a massive tragedy that this rekindled interest in decentralization is mostly focused on peer-to-peer networks, which do little to address our current problems with centralized platforms.

And hey, you know what else is federated? Banks.

AI

Again, the tech is cool and all, but the marketing hype is getting way out of hand.

Maybe what I really want from 2018 is less marketing?

For one, I’ve seen a huge uptick in uncritically referring to any software that creates or classifies creative work as “AI”. Can we… can we not. It’s not AI. Yes, yes, nerds, I don’t care about the hair-splitting about the nature of intelligence — you know that when we hear “AI” we think of a human-like self-aware intelligence. But we’re applying it to stuff like a weird dog generator. Or to whatever neural network a website threw into production this week.

And this is dangerously misleading — we already had massive tech companies scapegoating The Algorithm™ for the poor behavior of their software, and now we’re talking about those algorithms as though they were self-aware, untouchable, untameable, unknowable entities of pure chaos whose decisions we are arbitrarily bound to. Ancient, powerful gods who exist just outside human comprehension or law.

It’s weird to see this stuff appear in consumer products so quickly, too. It feels quick, anyway. The latest iPhone can unlock via facial recognition, right? I’m sure a lot of effort was put into ensuring that the same person’s face would always be recognized… but how confident are we that other faces won’t be recognized? I admit I don’t follow all this super closely, so I may be imagining a non-problem, but I do know that humans are remarkably bad at checking for negative cases.

Hell, take the recurring problem of major platforms like Twitter and YouTube classifying anything mentioning “bisexual” as pornographic — because the word is also used as a porn genre, and someone threw a list of porn terms into a filter without thinking too hard about it. That’s just a word list, a fairly simple thing that any human can review; but suddenly we’re confident in opaque networks of inferred details?

I don’t know. “Traditional” classification and generation are much more comforting, since they’re a set of fairly abstract rules that can be examined and followed. Machine learning, as I understand it, is less about rules and much more about pattern-matching; it’s built out of the fingerprints of the stuff it’s trained on. Surely that’s just begging for tons of edge cases. They’re practically made of edge cases.


I’m reminded of a point I saw made a few days ago on Twitter, something I’d never thought about but should have. TurnItIn is a service for universities that checks whether students’ papers match any others, in order to detect cheating. But this is a paid service, one that fundamentally hinges on its corpus: a large collection of existing student papers. So students pay money to attend school, where they’re required to let their work be given to a third-party company, which then profits off of it? What kind of a goofy business model is this?

And my thoughts turn to machine learning, which is fundamentally different from an algorithm you can simply copy from a paper, because it’s all about the training data. And to get good results, you need a lot of training data. Where is that all coming from? How many for-profit companies are setting a neural network loose on the web — on millions of people’s work — and then turning around and selling the result as a product?

This is really a question of how intellectual property works in the internet era, and it continues our proud decades-long tradition of just kinda doing whatever we want without thinking about it too much. Nothing if not consistent.

More of this

A bit tougher, since computers are pretty alright now and everything continues to chug along. Maybe we should just quit while we’re ahead. There’s some real pie-in-the-sky stuff that would be nice, but it certainly won’t happen within a year, and may never happen except in some horrific Algorithmic™ form designed by people that don’t know anything about the problem space and only works 60% of the time but is treated as though it were bulletproof.

Federation

The giants are getting more giant. Maybe too giant? Granted, it could be much worse than Google and Amazon — it could be Apple!

Amazon has its own delivery service and brick-and-mortar stores now, as well as providing the plumbing for vast amounts of the web. They’re not doing anything particularly outrageous, but they kind of loom.

Ad company Google just put ad blocking in its majority-share browser — albeit for the ambiguously-noble goal of only blocking obnoxious ads so that people will be less inclined to install a blanket ad blocker.

Twitter is kind of a nightmare but no one wants to leave. I keep trying to use Mastodon as well, but I always forget about it after a day, whoops.

Facebook sounds like a total nightmare but no one wants to leave that either, because normies don’t use anything else, which is itself direly concerning.

IRC is rapidly bleeding mindshare to Slack and Discord, both of which are far better at the things IRC sadly never tried to do and absolutely terrible at the exact things IRC excels at.

The problem is the same as ever: there’s no incentive to interoperate. There’s no fundamental technical reason why Twitter and Tumblr and MySpace and Facebook can’t intermingle their posts; they just don’t, because why would they bother? It’s extra work that makes it easier for people to not use your ecosystem.

I don’t know what can be done about that, except that hope for a really big player to decide to play nice out of the kindness of their heart. The really big federated success stories — say, the web — mostly won out because they came along first. At this point, how does a federated social network take over? I don’t know.

Social progress

I… don’t really have a solid grasp on what’s happening in tech socially at the moment. I’ve drifted a bit away from the industry part, which is where that all tends to come up. I have the vague sense that things are improving, but that might just be because the Rust community is the one I hear the most about, and it puts a lot of effort into being inclusive and welcoming.

So… more projects should be like Rust? Do whatever Rust is doing? And not so much what Linus is doing.

Open source funding

I haven’t heard this brought up much lately, but it would still be nice to see. The Bay Area runs on open source and is raking in zillions of dollars on its back; pump some of that cash back into the ecosystem, somehow.

I’ve seen a couple open source projects on Patreon, which is fantastic, but feels like a very small solution given how much money is flowing through the commercial tech industry.

Ad blocking

Nice. Fuck ads.

One might wonder where the money to host a website comes from, then? I don’t know. Maybe we should loop this in with the above thing and find a more informal way to pay people for the stuff they make when we find it useful, without the financial and cognitive overhead of A Transaction or Giving Someone My Damn Credit Card Number. You know, something like Bitco— ah, fuck.

Year of the Linux Desktop

I don’t know. What are we working on at the moment? Wayland? Do Wayland, I guess. Oh, and hi-DPI, which I hear sucks. And please fix my sound drivers so PulseAudio stops blaming them when it fucks up.