Tag Archives: ISPs

Cloudflare Kicking ‘Daily Stormer’ is Bad News For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-kicking-daily-stormer-is-bad-news-for-pirate-sites-170817/

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.”

Those are the words of Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who decided to terminate the account of controversial Neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

Bam. Gone. At least for a while.

Although many people are happy to see the site go offline, the decision is not without consequence. It goes directly against what many saw as the core values of the company.

For years on end, Cloudflare has been asked to remove terrorist propaganda, pirate sites, and other possibly unacceptable content. Each time, Cloudflare replied that it doesn’t take action without a court order. No exceptions.

“Even if it were able to, Cloudfare does not monitor, evaluate, judge or store content appearing on a third party website,” the company wrote just a few weeks ago, in its whitepaper on intermediary liability.

“We’re the plumbers of the internet. We make the pipes work but it’s not right for us to inspect what is or isn’t going through the pipes,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince himself said not too long ago.

“If companies like ours or ISPs start censoring there would be an uproar. It would lead us down a path of internet censors and controls akin to a country like China,” he added.

The same arguments were repeated in different contexts, over and over.

This strong position was also one of the reasons why Cloudflare was dragged into various copyright infringement court cases. In these cases, the company repeatedly stressed that removing a site from Cloudflare’s service would not make infringing content disappear.

Pirate sites would just require a simple DNS reconfiguration to continue their operation, after all.

“[T]here are no measures of any kind that CloudFlare could take to prevent this alleged infringement, because the termination of CloudFlare’s CDN services would have no impact on the existence and ability of these allegedly infringing websites to continue to operate,” it said.

That comment looks rather misplaced now that the CEO of the same company has decided to “kick” a website “off the Internet” after an emotional, but deliberate, decision.

Taking a page from Cloudflare’s (old) playbook we’re not going to make any judgments here. Just search Twitter or any social media site and you’ll see plenty of opinions, both for and against the company’s actions.

We do have a prediction though. During the months and years to come, Cloudflare is likely to be dragged into many more copyright lawsuits, and when they are, their counterparts are going to bring up Cloudflare’s voluntary decision to kick a website off the Internet.

Unless Cloudflare suddenly decides to pull all pirate sites from its service tomorrow, of course.

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

New Premier League Blocking Disrupts Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-premier-league-blocking-disrupts-pirate-iptv-providers-170814/

Top tier football in the UK is handled by the English Premier League (EPL) and broadcasting partners Sky and BT Sport. All face considerable problems with Internet piracy, through free web or Kodi-based streaming and premium IPTV feeds.

To mitigate the threat, earlier this year the Premier League obtained a unique High Court injunction which required ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block ‘pirate’ football streams in real-time.

Although the success of the program was initially up for debate, the EPL reported it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. When that temporary injunction ran out, the EPL went back to court for a new one, valid for the season that began this past weekend. There are signs the EPL may have upped its game.

As soon as the matches began on Saturday, issues were reported at several of the more prominent IPTV providers. Within minutes of the match streams going live, subscribers to affected services were met with black screens, causing anger and frustration. While some clearly knew that action was on the cards, relatively few had an effective plan in place.

One provider, which targets subscribers in the UK, scrambled to obtain new domain names, thinking that the existing domains had been placed on some kind of Premier League blacklist. While that may have indeed been the case, making a service more obscure in that sense was never going to outwit the systems deployed by the anti-piracy outfits involved.

Indeed, the provider in question was subjected to much chaos over both Saturday and Sunday, since it’s clear that large numbers of subscribers had absolutely no idea what was going on. Even if they understood that the EPL was blocking, the change of domain flat-footed the rest. The subsequent customer service chaos was not a pretty sight but would’ve been a pleasure for the EPL to behold.

An interesting side effect of this EPL action is that even if IPTV subscribers don’t care about football, many were affected this past weekend anyway.

TF is aware of at least three services (there are probably many more) that couldn’t service their UK customers with any other channels whatsoever while the Premier League games were being aired. This suggests that the IP addresses hit by the EPL and blocked by local ISPs belonged to the same servers carrying the rest of the content offered by the IPTV providers.

When the High Court handed down its original injunction it accepted that some non-Premier League content could be blocked at the same time but since that “consists almost exclusively of [infringing] commercial broadcast content such as other sports, films, and television programs,” there was little concern over collateral damage.

So the big question now is what can IPTV providers and/or subscribers do to tackle the threat?

The first interesting thing to note is not all of the big providers were affected this past weekend, so for many customers the matches passed by as normal. It isn’t clear whether EPL simply didn’t have all of the providers on the list or whether steps were taken to mitigate the threat, but that was certainly the case in a handful of cases.

Information passed to TF shows that at least a small number of providers were not only waiting for the EPL action but actually had a backup plan in place. This appears to have resulted in a minimum of disruption for their customers, something that will prove of interest to the many frustrated subscribers looking for a new service this morning.

While the past few days have been somewhat chaotic, other issues have been muddying the waters somewhat.

TF has learned that at least two, maybe three suppliers, were subjected to DDoS attacks around the time the matches were due to air. It seems unlikely that the EPL has been given permission to carry out such an attack but since the High Court injunction is secret in every way that describes its anti-piracy methods, that will remain a suspicion. In the meantime, rival IPTV services remain possible suspects.

Also, a major IPTV stream ‘wholesaler’ is reported to have had technical issues on Saturday, which affected its ability to serve lower-tier providers. Whether that was also linked to the Premier League action is unknown and TF couldn’t find any source willing to talk about the provider in any detail.

So, sports fans who rely on IPTV for their fix are wondering how things will pan out later this week. If this last weekend is anything to go by, disruption is guaranteed, but it will be less of a surprise given the problems of the last few days. While some don’t foresee huge problems, several providers are already advising customers that VPNs will be necessary.

An IPTV provider suggesting the use of VPNs

While a VPN will indeed solve the problem in most cases, for many subscribers that will amount to an additional expense, not to mention more time spent learning about VPNs, what they can do, and how they can be setup on the hardware they’re using for IPTV.

For users on Android devices running IPTV apps or Kodi-type setups, VPNs are both easy to install and use. However, Mag Box STB users cannot run a VPN directly on the device, meaning that they’ll need either a home router that can run a VPN or a smaller ‘travel’ type router with OpenVPN capabilities to use as a go-between.

Either way, costs are beginning to creep up, if IPTV providers can’t deal with the EPL’s blocking efforts. That makes the new cheaper football packages offered by various providers that little bit more attractive. But that was probably the plan all along.

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

Usenet Pirate Pays €4,800 ‘Fine’ After Being Exposed by Provider

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/usenet-pirate-pays-e4800-fine-after-being-exposed-by-provider-170811/

Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN has been very active over the past several years, targeting uploaders on various sharing sites and services.

They cast their net wide and have gone after torrent users, Facebook groups, YouTube pirates and Usenet uploaders as well.

To pinpoint the latter group, BREIN contacts Usenet providers asking them to reveal the identity of a suspected user. This is also what happened in a case involving a former customer of Eweka.

The person in question, known under the alias ‘Badfan69,’ was accused of uploading 9,538 infringing works to Usenet, mostly older titles. After Eweka handed over his home address, BREIN reached out to him and negotiated a settlement.

The 44-year-old man has now agreed to pay a settlement of €4,800. If he continues to upload infringing content he will face an additional penalty of €2,000 per day, to a maximum of €50,000.

The case is an important victory for BREIN, not just because of the money.

When the anti-piracy group reached out to Usenet provider Eweka, the company initially refused to hand over any personal details. The Usenet provider argued that it’s a neutral intermediary that would rather not perform the role of piracy police. Instead, it wanted the court to decide whether the request was legitimate.

This resulted in a legal dispute where, earlier this year, a local court sided with BREIN. The Court stressed that in these type of copyright infringement cases, the Usenet provider is required to hand over the requested details.

Under Dutch law, ISPs can be obliged to hand over the personal details of their customers if the infringing activity is plausible and the damaged party has a legitimate interest. Importantly, the legal case clarified that this generally doesn’t require an intervention from the court.

“Providers must decide on a motivated request for the handover of a user’s address, based on their own consideration. A refusal to provide the information must be motivated, otherwise, it will be illegal and the provider will be charged for the costs,” BREIN notes.

While these Usenet cases are relatively rare, BREIN and other parties in the Netherlands, such as Dutch Filmworks, are also planning to go after large groups of torrent users. With the Usenet decision in hand, BREIN may want to argue that regular ISPs must also expose pirating users, without an intervention of the court.

This is not going to happen easily though. Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate and are likely to fight out these requests in court to get a solid ‘torrent’ precedent.

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

Internet Archive Blocked in 2,650 Site Anti-Piracy Sweep

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-archive-blocked-in-2650-site-anti-piracy-sweep-170810/

Reports of sites becoming mysteriously inaccessible in India have been a regular occurance over the past several years. In many cases, sites simply stop functioning, leaving users wondering whether sites are actually down or whether there’s a technical issue.

Due to their increasing prevalence, fingers are often pointed at so-called ‘John Doe’ orders, which are handed down by the court to prevent Internet piracy. Often sweeping in nature (and in some cases pre-emptive rather than preventative), these injunctions have been known to block access to both file-sharing platforms and innocent bystanders.

Earlier this week (and again for no apparent reason), the world renowned Internet Archive was rendered inaccessible to millions of users in India. The platform, which is considered by many to be one of the Internet’s most valued resources, hosts more than 15 petabytes of data, a figure which grows on a daily basis. Yet despite numerous requests for information, none was forthcoming from authorities.

The ‘blocked’ message seen by users accessing Archive.org

Quoted by local news outlet Medianama, Chris Butler, Office Manager at the Internet Archive, said that their attempts to contact the Indian Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) had proven fruitless.

Noting that site had previously been blocked in India, Butler said they were no clearer on the reasons why the same kind of action had seemingly been taken this week.

“We have no information about why a block would have been implemented,” he said. “Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it’s happening and see full access restored to archive.org.”

Now, however, the mystery has been solved. The BBC says a local government agency provided a copy of a court order obtained by two Bollywood production companies who are attempting to slow down piracy of their films in India.

Issued by a local judge, the sweeping order compels local ISPs to block access to 2,650 mainly file-sharing websites, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, the revived KickassTorrents, and hundreds of other ‘usual suspects’. However, it also includes the URL for the Internet Archive, hence the problems with accessibility this week.

The injunction, which appears to be another John Doe order as previously suspected, was granted by the High Court of the Judicature at Madras on August 2, 2017. Two film productions companies – Prakash Jah Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment – obtained the order to protect their films Lipstick Under My Burkha and Jab Harry Met Sejal.

While India-based visitors to blocked resources are often greeted with a message saying that domains have been blocked at the orders of the Department of Telecommunications, these pages never give a reason why.

This always leads to confusion, with news outlets having to pressure local government agencies to discover the reason behind the blockades. In the interests of transparency, providing a link to a copy of a relevant court order would probably benefit all involved.

A few hours ago, the Internet Archive published a statement questioning the process undertaken before the court order was handed down.

“Is the Court aware of and did it consider the fact that the Internet Archive has a well-established and standard procedure for rights holders to submit take down requests and processes them expeditiously?” the platform said.

“We find several instances of take down requests submitted for one of the plaintiffs, Red Chillies Entertainments, throughout the past year, each of which were processed and responded to promptly.

“After a preliminary review, we find no instance of our having been contacted by anyone at all about these films. Is there a specific claim that someone posted these films to archive.org? If so, we’d be eager to address it directly with the claimant.”

But while the Internet Archive appears to be the highest profile collateral damage following the ISP blocks, it isn’t the only victim. Now that the court orders have become available (1,2), it’s clear that other non-pirate entities have also been affected including news site WN.com, website hosting service Weebly, and French ISP Free.fr.

Also, in a sign that sites aren’t being checked to see if they host the movies in question, one of the orders demands that former torrent index BitSnoop is blocked. The site shut down earlier this year. The same is true for Shaanig.org.

This is not the first time that the Internet Archive has been blocked in India. In 2014/2015, Archive.org was rendered inaccessible after it was accused of hosting extremist material. In common with Google, the site copies and stores huge amounts of data, much of it in automated processes. This can leave it exposed to these kinds of accusations.

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

Foxtel Targets 128 Torrent & Streaming Domains For Blocking Down Under

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/foxtel-targets-128-torrent-streaming-domains-for-blocking-down-under-170808/

In 2015, Australia passed controversial legislation which allows ‘pirate’ sites located on servers overseas to be blocked at the ISP level.

“These offshore sites are not operated by noble spirits fighting for the freedom of the internet, they are run by criminals who profit from stealing other people’s creative endeavors,” commented then Foxtel chief executive Richard Freudenstein.

Before, during and after its introduction, Foxtel has positioned itself as a keen supporter of the resulting Section 115a of the Copyright Act. And in December 2016, with the law firmly in place, it celebrated success after obtaining a blocking injunction against The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound and isoHunt.

In May, Foxtel filed a new application, demanding that almost 50 local ISPs block what was believed to be a significant number of ‘pirate’ sites not covered by last year’s order.

Today the broadcasting giant was back in Federal Court, Sydney, to have this second application heard under Section 115a. It was revealed that the application contains 128 domains, each linked to movie and TV piracy.

According to ComputerWorld, the key sites targeted are as follows: YesMovies, Vumoo, LosMovies, CartoonHD, Putlocker, Watch Series 1, Watch Series 2, Project Free TV 1, Project Free TV 2, Watch Episodes, Watch Episode Series, Watch TV Series, The Dare Telly, Putlocker9.is, Putlocker9.to, Torlock and 1337x.

The Foxtel application targets both torrent and streaming sites but given the sample above, it seems that the latter is currently receiving the most attention. Streaming sites are appearing at a rapid rate and can even be automated to some extent, so this battle could become extremely drawn out.

Indeed, Justice Burley, who presided over the case this morning, described the website-blocking process (which necessarily includes targeting mirrors, proxies and replacement domains) as akin to “whack-a-mole”.

“Foxtel sees utility in orders of this nature,” counsel for Foxtel commented in response. “It’s important to block these sites.”

In presenting its application, Foxtel conducted live demonstrations of Yes Movies, Watch Series, 1337x, and Putlocker. It focused on the Australian prison drama series Wentworth, which has been running on Foxtel since 2013, but also featured tests of Game of Thrones.

Justice Burley told the court that since he’s a fan of the series, a spoiler-free piracy presentation would be appreciated. If the hearing had taken place a few days earlier, spoilers may have been possible. Last week, the latest episode of the show leaked onto the Internet from an Indian source before its official release.

Justice Burley’s decision will be handed down at a later date, but it’s unlikely there will be any serious problems with Foxtel’s application. After objecting to many aspects of blocking applications in the past, Australia’s ISPs no longer appear during these hearings. They are now paid AU$50 per domain blocked by companies such as Foxtel and play little more than a technical role in the process.

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

RIAA’s Piracy Claims are Misleading and Inaccurate, ISP Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaas-piracy-claims-are-misleading-and-inaccurate-isp-says-170807/

For more than a decade, copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices to alert them that their subscribers are sharing copyrighted material.

Under US law, providers have to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” and increasingly they are being held to this standard.

Earlier this year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of failing to take action against its pirating subscribers.

The ISP is not happy with the claims and was quick to submit a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. One of the arguments is that the RIAA’s evidence is insufficient.

In its original motion, Grande doesn’t deny receiving millions of takedown notices from piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believes that these notices are flawed as Rightscorp is incapable of monitoring actual copyright infringements.

The RIAA disagreed and pointed out that their evidence is sufficient. They stressed that Rightcorp is able to monitor actual downloads, as opposed to simply checking if a subscriber is offering certain infringing content.

In a response from Grande, late last week, the ISP argues that this isn’t good enough to build a case. While Rightcorp may be able to track the actual infringing downloads to which the RIAA labels hold the copyrights, there is no such evidence provided in the present case, the ISP notes.

“Importantly, Plaintiffs do not allege that Rightscorp has ever recorded an instance of a Grande subscriber actually distributing even one of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works. Plaintiffs certainly have not alleged any concrete facts regarding such an act,” Grande’s legal team writes (pdf).

According to the ISP, the RIAA’s evidence merely shows that Rightscorp sent notices of alleged infringements on behalf of other copyright holders, who are not involved in the lawsuit.

“Instead, Plaintiffs generally allege that Rightscorp has sent notices regarding ‘various copyrighted works,’ encompassing all of the notices sent by Rightscorp on behalf of entities other than Plaintiffs.”

While the RIAA argues that this circumstantial evidence is sufficient, the ISP believes that there are grounds to have the entire case dismissed.

The record labels can’t hold Grande liable for secondary copyright infringement, without providing concrete evidence that their works were actively distributed by Grande subscribers, the company claims.

“Plaintiffs cannot allege direct infringement without alleging concrete facts which show that a Grande subscriber actually infringed one of Plaintiffs’ copyrights,” Grande’s lawyers note.

“For this reason, it is incredibly misleading for Plaintiffs to repeatedly refer to Grande having received ‘millions’ of notices of alleged infringement, as if those notices all pertained to Plaintiffs’ asserted copyrights.”

The “misleading” copyright infringement evidence argument is only one part of the ISPs defense. The company also notes that it has no control over what its subscribers do, nor do they control the BitTorrent clients that were allegedly used to download content.

If the court ruled otherwise, Grande and other ISPs would essentially be forced to become an “unpaid enforcement agent of the recording industry,” the company’s lawyers note.

The RIAA, however, sees things quite differently.

The music industry group believes that Grande failed to take proper action in response to repeat infringers and should pay damages to compensate the labels. This claim is very similar to the one BMG brought against Cox, where the latter was eventually ordered to pay $25 million.

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

Hotspot Shield VPN Reported to FTC For Alleged Privacy Breaches

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hotspot-shield-vpn-reported-to-ftc-for-alleged-privacy-breaches-170807/

With online privacy becoming an increasingly hot topic, large numbers of companies are offering products which claim to stop third-parties from snooping on users’ Internet activities.

At the forefront are Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which push consumer traffic through encrypted tunnels and remote servers to hide activity from ISPs while offering varying levels of anonymity.

Claims made by VPN companies are often scrutinized by privacy advocates but if a complaint filed this morning by the Center for Democracy and Technology
(CDT) gains momentum, there could be a government investigation into one of the most popular.

Developed by AnchorFree, Inc. and initially released more than nine years ago, the Hotspot Shield application allows users to connect to a VPN service. According to its makers, it’s been downloaded 75 million times and provides “anonymous web surfing with complete privacy.” That claim, however, is now under the spotlight.

In a complaint filed this morning with the Federal Trade Commission, CDT notes that Hotspot Shield makes “strong claims” about the privacy and security of its data collection and sharing practices, including that it “never logs or stores user data.” Crucially, the company also claims never to track or sell its customers’ information, adding that security and privacy are “guaranteed.”

Countering, CDT says that Hotspot Shield engages in logging practices that contradict its claims, noting that it collects information to “identify [a user’s] general location, improve the Service, or optimize advertisements displayed through the Service.”

The complaint says that IP addresses and unique device identifiers are regularly
collected by Hotspot Shield but the service gets around this issue by classing neither sets of data as personal information.

CDT says it used Carnegie Mellon University’s Mobile App Compliance System to gain insight into Hotspot Shield’s functionality and found problems with privacy.

“CMU’s analysis of Hotspot Shield’s Android application permissions found undisclosed data sharing practices with third party advertising networks,” the group notes.

“While an ad-supported VPN may be beneficial in certain instances, it should not be paired with a product or service that tells users that it ensures anonymity, privacy, and security.”

CDT also says that Hotspot Shield tries to cover its back with a disclaimer that the company “may not provide a virtual IP Address for every web site you may visit and third-party web sites may receive your original IP Address when you are visiting those web sites.” But this runs counter to the stated aim of the service, CDT writes.

Accusing Hotspot Shield of unfair and deceptive trade practices, CDT calls on the Commission to conduct an investigation into its data collection and sharing practices.

Hotspot Shield is yet to respond to the complaint or accusations but in a 2014 blog post, welcomed the FTC’s involvement in online security issues.

Full complaint here, courtesy Ars

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

Dutch Film Distributor to Target BitTorrent Users For Cash ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-film-distributor-to-target-bittorrent-users-for-cash-fines-170802/

For many carefree years, Dutch Internet users were allowed to download copyrighted content, provided it was for their own personal use. In 2014, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the country’s “piracy levy” to compensate rightsholders was unlawful. An immediate downloading ban followed.

That action took place more than three years ago but as recently reported by Dutch anti-piracy BREIN, the country still has an appetite for unauthorized content consumption. Some of that takes place with the assistance of torrent sites but for the most part, file-sharers have had little to worry about.

That could all be about to change with the news that local film distributor Dutch Filmworks (DFW) has announced its intention to monitor torrent site users and collect data on their online activities. The news comes via the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens), which needs to be formally advised in order for the data collection to go ahead.

DFW’s plans are outlined in a detailed application (Dutch, pdf) dated July 2017. It explains that DFW wishes to combat “the unlawful dissemination of copyright protected works” in order to protect their own interests, and this involves collecting data on Dutch individuals without their knowledge or permission.

“DFW intends to collect data from people who exchange files over the Internet through BitTorrent networks. The data processing consists of capturing proof of exchange of files via IP addresses for the purpose of researching involvement of these users in the distribution or reproduction of copyrighted works,” it reads.

DFW will employ an external German-based tracking company to monitor alleged pirates which will “automatically participate in swarms in which works from DFW are being shared.” Data collected from non-Dutch users will be stripped and discarded but information about local pirates will be retained and processed for further action.

However, in order for DFW to connect an IP address with an individual, the company will have to approach Internet service providers to obtain subscriber information including names and addresses. DFW says that if ISPs won’t cooperate voluntarily, it will be forced to take its case to court. Given past experience, that will probably have to happen.

In March 2016, anti-piracy outfit BREIN obtained permission from the Dutch Data Protection Authority to collect similar data on alleged BitTorrent users, aiming to change attitudes among pirates with fines and legal action.

Several ISPs, most prominently Ziggo, announced that they would not voluntarily cooperate with BREIN and that personal information would only be handed over if BREIN took them to court. It’s logical to presume that Dutch Filmworks will receive the same treatment.

Should the company be successful, however, it has had detailed a stepped plan. First, the alleged pirate will receive a warning and DFW will aim to reach “an amicable settlement” for the breach. If one cannot be reached, further legal action could be taken, up to and including prosecution and claims for damages.

The whole scheme certainly sounds like a classic “copyright trolling” operation in the making but only time will tell which end of the spectrum this project will fall. When asked by NU.nl whether DFW would actually be seeking cash from alleged pirates, it declined to comment.

“This is the first step in this process. We’re going to see what we’re going to do after 25 August,” a spokesperson said.

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

Russia Bans ‘Uncensored’ VPNs, Proxies and TOR

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-bans-unrestricted-vpns-proxies-and-tor-in-russia-170731/

Russia has swiftly become a world leader when it comes to website blocking. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other grounds.

However, as is often the case, not all citizens willingly subject themselves to these type of restrictions. On the contrary, many use proxies or anonymizing services such as VPNs and TOR to gain access.

In recent months, the Russian Government has worked on legislation to crack down on these circumvention tools as well, and local media report that President Vladimir Putin has now signed the proposed bill into law.

Under the new law, local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor will keep a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. Rozcomnadzor will then try to contact the operators of the services, urging them to ban the blocked websites, or face the same fate.

The FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be tasked with monitoring offenses, which they will then refer to the telecoms watchdog.

In addition to targeting the circumvention sites, services, and their hosts, the bill targets search engines as well.

Search engines will be required to remove links to blocked resources from their results, as these would encourage people to access prohibited material. Search engines that fail to comply with the new requirements face a $12,400 penalty per breach.

Local search giant Yandex previously spoke out against the far-reaching requirements, describing them as unnecessary.

“We believe that the laying of responsibilities on search engines is superfluous,” a Yandex spokesperson said.

“Even if the reference to a [banned] resource does appear in search results, it does not mean that by clicking on it the user will get access, if it was already blocked by ISPs or in any other ways,” the company added.

The new legislation has not been without controversy. Earlier this month many Russians protested the plans, but this had little effect on the final vote. In the Duma, the bill was approved by 373 deputies. Only two voted against the plans, and another and two abstained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Italian ISPs Say New Copyright Amendment Infringes Human Rights

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/italian-isps-say-new-copyright-amendment-infringes-human-rights-170728/

After being spoken of in unfavorable terms by the United States Trade Representative in its Special 301 Reports, Italy achieved a sudden breakthrough in 2014.

“Italy’s removal from the Special 301 List reflects the significant steps the Government of Italy has taken to address the problem of online piracy, and the continued U.S. commitment to meaningful and sustained engagement with our critical partner Italy,” the USTR said in a special announcement.

This praise was in part due to the way Italy promised to deal with online piracy. Instead of legislating to make a piracy crackdown easier, the government handed AGCOM, the Italian Communications Regulatory Authority, the power to deal with infringement based on complaints filed by rightsholders.

Without any need for legal cases or court injunctions, at the end of March 2014, AGCOM was granted the power to have allegedly infringing content removed from sites and to have domains blocked at the ISP level.

Now, just over three years later, AGCOM has been granted even more power. Passed last week, Amendment 1.022 effectively gives AGCOM the power to order sites to not only take allegedly infringing content down but to keep it down permanently, all without intervention from the judiciary.

The decision has provoked a furious response from a body representing the country’s ISPs, which describes the “unconstitutional rules” as a way to protect the economic interests of right holders behind various creative works and live sporting events.

“This measure abolishes procedural safeguards for citizens, imposes interception obligations to Internet providers, and damages consumers by imposing technical measures that will result in increased costs,” the Italian Association of Internet Providers (AIIP) said in a statement.

According to AIIP, it is the judiciary that should have sole power over copyright infringement disputes in Italy. When other bodies such as AGCOM are given control over criminal issues, it represents a violation of both constitutional principles and EU law.

“Any rule that would require Internet Providers to filter and carry out preventive checks – as well as to remove content generated by users without a court order – is in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Community legislation on electronic communications services, and case law of the European Court of Justice,” AIIP says.

The ISP body says that AGCOM now possesses discretionary powers that even magistrates do not have, which from a technical perspective includes monitoring, interception, and blocking of user activity, a position that amounts to “gigantic state censorship.”

Only time will tell how the situation pans out but it’s crystal clear that ISPs feel that unlike the views of the copyright industry, their concerns have not been taken into consideration.

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

Premier League Wins New Stream Blocking Injunction to Fight Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-wins-new-stream-blocking-injunction-to-fight-piracy-170727/

Earlier this year the Premier League obtained a rather special High Court injunction to assist in its fight against illegal football match streaming.

Similar in its aims to earlier blocking orders that targeted torrent sites including The Pirate Bay, the injunction enabled the Premier League to act quickly, forcing local ISPs such as Sky, BT, and Virgin to block football streams in real-time.

Although public results varied, the English Premier League (EPL) reports that under the injunction it was able to block 5,000 server IP addresses that were streaming its content. That appears to have encouraged the organization to apply for another injunction for the upcoming 2017-18 season.

According to a statement published on the EPL site, that has now been granted.

“This blocking order is a game-changer in our efforts to tackle the supply and use of illicit streams of our content,” said Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“It will allow us to quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded Kodi boxes’.”

Although the details of the new injunction are yet to be published by the High Court, the EPL indicates that the injunction is very similar to the one obtained previously, which targets overseas servers streaming Premier League matches into the UK.

Upon notice from the Premier League, ISPs including Sky, BT, Virgin Media, Plusnet, EE and TalkTalk are required to block IP addresses quickly as matches are being streamed, all without any direct intervention from the court.

“The protection of our copyright, and the investment made by our broadcast partners, is hugely important to the Premier League and the future health of English football,” the Premier League said.

The injunction itself lists the Internet service providers as defendants but it’s important to note that most have a vested interest in the injunction being put in place. Sky, BT and Virgin Media all screen Premier League matches in some way so there’s no surprise that none put up a fight when confronted by the football organization.

Indeed, several of the ISPs appeared to have assisted the EPL in some pretty intimate ways, even going as far as sharing a certain level of customer traffic data with the organization.

It will be interesting to see what effect the new blocking efforts will have on stream availability when the new season begins. Saturday afternoons, when matches take place around the country but are prohibited from being screened due to the blackout, should be the main focal point. As previously suggested, the EPL will probably enjoy more success than last season with experience under their belts.

Finally, tabloids in the UK have been giving the injunction their usual dramatic coverage but a special mention must go out to The Sun. In an article titled “Closing the Net“, the paper said that under the injunction, “BRITS who illegally stream Premier League football matches could have their internet connection shut off.”

The way things are worded it suggests that people who watch streams could be disconnected by their ISP. That is not the case.

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

Defending anti-netneutrality arguments

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/07/defending-anti-netneutrality-arguments.html

Last week, activists proclaimed a “NetNeutrality Day”, trying to convince the FCC to regulate NetNeutrality. As a libertarian, I tweeted many reasons why NetNeutrality is stupid. NetNeutrality is exactly the sort of government regulation Libertarians hate most. Somebody tweeted the following challenge, which I thought I’d address here.

The links point to two separate cases.

  • the Comcast BitTorrent throttling case
  • a lawsuit against Time Warning for poor service
The tone of the tweet suggests that my anti-NetNeutrality stance cannot be defended in light of these cases. But of course this is wrong. The short answers are:

  • the Comcast BitTorrent throttling benefits customers
  • poor service has nothing to do with NetNeutrality

The long answers are below.

The Comcast BitTorrent Throttling

The presumption is that any sort of packet-filtering is automatically evil, and against the customer’s interests. That’s not true.
Take GoGoInflight’s internet service for airplanes. They block access to video sites like NetFlix. That’s because they often have as little as 1-mbps for the entire plane, which is enough to support many people checking email and browsing Facebook, but a single person trying to watch video will overload the internet connection for everyone. Therefore, their Internet service won’t work unless they filter video sites.
GoGoInflight breaks a lot of other NetNeutrality rules, such as providing free access to Amazon.com or promotion deals where users of a particular phone get free Internet access that everyone else pays for. And all this is allowed by FCC, allowing GoGoInflight to break NetNeutrality rules because it’s clearly in the customer interest.
Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent is likewise clearly in the customer interest. Until the FCC stopped them, BitTorrent users were allowed unlimited downloads. Afterwards, Comcast imposed a 300-gigabyte/month bandwidth cap.
Internet access is a series of tradeoffs. BitTorrent causes congestion during prime time (6pm to 10pm). Comcast has to solve it somehow — not solving it wasn’t an option. Their options were:
  • Charge all customers more, so that the 99% not using BitTorrent subsidizes the 1% who do.
  • Impose a bandwidth cap, preventing heavy BitTorrent usage.
  • Throttle BitTorrent packets during prime-time hours when the network is congested.
Option 3 is clearly the best. BitTorrent downloads take hours, days, and sometimes weeks. BitTorrent users don’t mind throttling during prime-time congested hours. That’s preferable to the other option, bandwidth caps.
I’m a BitTorrent user, and a heavy downloader (I scan the Internet on a regular basis from cloud machines, then download the results to home, which can often be 100-gigabytes in size for a single scan). I want prime-time BitTorrent throttling rather than bandwidth caps. The EFF/FCC’s action that prevented BitTorrent throttling forced me to move to Comcast Business Class which doesn’t have bandwidth caps, charging me $100 more a month. It’s why I don’t contribute the EFF — if they had not agitated for this, taking such choices away from customers, I’d have $1200 more per year to donate to worthy causes.
Ask any user of BitTorrent which they prefer: 300gig monthly bandwidth cap or BitTorrent throttling during prime-time congested hours (6pm to 10pm). The FCC’s action did not help Comcast’s customers, it hurt them. Packet-filtering would’ve been a good thing, not a bad thing.

The Time-Warner Case
First of all, no matter how you define the case, it has nothing to do with NetNeutrality. NetNeutrality is about filtering packets, giving some priority over others. This case is about providing slow service for everyone.
Secondly, it’s not true. Time Warner provided the same access speeds as everyone else. Just because they promise 10mbps download speeds doesn’t mean you get 10mbps to NetFlix. That’s not how the Internet works — that’s not how any of this works.
To prove this, look at NetFlix’s connection speed graphis. It shows Time Warner Cable is average for the industry. It had the same congestion problems most ISPs had in 2014, and it has the same inability to provide more than 3mbps during prime-time (6pm-10pm) that all ISPs have today.

The YouTube video quality diagnostic pages show Time Warner Cable to similar to other providers around the country. It also shows the prime-time bump between 6pm and 10pm.
Congestion is an essential part of the Internet design. When an ISP like Time Warner promises you 10mbps bandwidth, that’s only “best effort”. There’s no way they can promise 10mbps stream to everybody on the Internet, especially not to a site like NetFlix that gets overloaded during prime-time.
Indeed, it’s the defining feature of the Internet compared to the old “telecommunications” network. The old phone system guaranteed you a steady 64-kbps stream between any time points in the phone network, but it cost a lot of money. Today’s Internet provide a free multi-megabit stream for free video calls (Skype, Facetime) around the world — but with the occasional dropped packets because of congestion.
Whatever lawsuit money-hungry lawyers come up with isn’t about how an ISP like Time Warner works. It’s only about how they describe the technology. They work no different than every ISP — no different than how anything is possible.
Conclusion

The short answer to the above questions is this: Comcast’s BitTorrent throttling benefits customers, and the Time Warner issue has nothing to do with NetNeutrality at all.

The tweet demonstrates that NetNeutrality really means. It has nothing to do with the facts of any case, especially the frequency that people point to ISP ills that have nothing actually to do with NetNeutrality. Instead, what NetNeutrality really about is socialism. People are convinced corporations are evil and want the government to run the Internet. The Comcast/BitTorrent case is a prime example of why this is a bad idea: government definitions of what customers want is actually far different than what customers actually want.

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

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

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-thrones-pirates-monitored-hbo-warnings-way-170719/

Earlier this week, HBO released the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by HBO. Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company’s anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates.

The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements.

“We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization,” the notification begins.

“HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.”

Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders.

Redacted infringement details from one of the notices

The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it’s likely that many more are being tracked.

  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.WEB.h264-TBS[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[rarbg]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.WEB.h264-TBS[ettv]
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.HDTV.x264-SVA[eztv].mkv
  • Game.of.Thrones.S07E01.720p.HDTV.x264-AVS[eztv].mkv

This isn’t the first time that Game of Thrones pirates have received these kinds of warnings. Similar notices were sent out last year for pirated episodes of the sixth season, and it’s now clear that HBO is not backing down.

Although HBO stresses that copyright infringement is against the law, there are no legal strings attached for the subscribers in question. The company doesn’t know the identity of the alleged pirates, and would need to go to court to find out. This has never happened before.

Filing lawsuits against Game of Thrones fans is probably not high on HBO’s list, but the company hopes that affected subscribers will think twice before downloading future episodes after they are warned.

The DMCA notice asks ISPs to inform subscribers about the various legal alternatives that are available, to give them a push in the right direction.

“We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package,” the notice reads.

While this type of message may have an effect on some, they only cover a small fraction of the piracy landscape. Millions of people are using pirate streaming tools and websites to watch Game of Thrones, and these views can’t be monitored.

In addition, the fact that many broadcasters worldwide suffered technical issues and outages when Game of Thrones premiered doesn’t help either. The legal options should be superior to the pirated offerings, not the other way around.

A redacted copy of one of the notices is available below.

Dear xxx Communications,

This message is sent on behalf of HOME BOX OFFICE, INC.

We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xxx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization (additional details are listed below). HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks.

As the owner of the IP address, HBO requests that xxx Communications immediately contact the subscriber who was assigned the IP address at the date and time below with the details of this notice, and take the proper steps to prevent further downloading or sharing of unauthorized content and additional infringement notices.

We also encourage you to inform the subscriber that HBO programming can easily be watched and streamed on many devices legally by adding HBO to the subscriber’s television package.

We have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted material detailed below is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law. The information in this notice is accurate and we state, under penalty of perjury, that we are authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. This letter is not a complete statement of HBO’s rights in connection with this matter, and nothing contained herein constitutes an express or implied wavier of any rights or remedies of HBO in connection with this matter, all of which are expressly reserved.

We appreciate your assistance and thank you for your cooperation in this matter. Your prompt response is requested. Any further enquiries can be directed to [email protected] Please include this message with your enquiry to ensure a quick response.

Respectfully,

Adrian Leatherland
CEO
IP-Echelon

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

Court: Warner Bros Needs Stronger Evidence Against Alleged BitTorrent Pirate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just How Risky is Internet Piracy in 2017?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/just-how-risky-is-internet-piracy-in-2017-170715/

The world’s largest entertainment companies in the spheres of music, movies, and gaming would jump for joy if the Internet piracy phenomenon came to a crashing halt tomorrow. (Spoiler: it won’t)

As a result, large sums of money are expended every day in an effort to keep unlawful distribution under control. Over the years there have been many strategies and several of these have involved targeting end users.

The world is a very big place and the tackling of piracy differs from region to region, but what most consumers of unauthorized media want to know is whether they’re putting themselves at risk.

The short answer is that no matter where people are, there is always some level of risk attached to obtaining and using pirate content. The long answer is more nuanced.

BitTorrent and other P2P protocols

By its very nature, using BitTorrent to access copyrighted content comes with a risk. Since downloaders are also distributors and their IP addresses are necessarily public, torrent users are extremely easy to track. In fact, with a minimum of equipment, any determined rightsholder is able spot and potentially uncover the identity of a file-sharer.

But while basic BitTorrent sharing gets a 0/10 for privacy, that’s a bit like saying that a speeding car gets 0/10 for stealth. Like the speeding car, anyone can see the pirating torrent user, but the big question is whether there’s anyone around who intends to do anything about it.

The big surprise in 2017 is that users are still statistically unlikely to face any consequences.

In the United States, for example, where copyright trolling can be a serious issue for those who get caught up in the net, the problem still only affects a tiny, tiny proportion of pirates. A one percent risk of getting snared would be overstating the risk but these are still odds that any gambler would be happy to take.

Surprisingly, pirates are also less likely to encounter a simple friendly warning than they were last year too. The “Six Strikes” Copyright Alerts System operated by the MPAA and RIAA, that set out to advise large volumes of pirates using notices sent via their ISPs, was discontinued in January. Those behind it gave in, for reasons unknown.

This means that millions of torrent users – despite exposing their IP addresses in public while sharing copyrighted content – are doing so without significant problems. Nevertheless, large numbers are also taking precautions, by using anonymization technologies including VPNs.

That’s not to say that their actions are legal – they’re not – but outside the few thousand people caught up in trolls’ nets each year, the vast and overwhelming majority of torrent users (which number well over 100 million) are pirating with impunity.

In the UK, not even trolling is a problem anymore. After a few flurries that seemed to drag on longer than they should, copyright trolls appear to have left the country for more lucrative shores. No cases have gone through the courts in recent times which means that UK users are torrenting pretty much whatever they like, with no legal problems whatsoever.

It’s important to note though, that their actions aren’t going unnoticed. Unlike the United States, the UK has a warning system in place. This means that a few thousand customers of a handful of ISPs are receiving notices each month informing them that their piratey behavior has been monitored by an entertainment company.

Currently, however, there are no punishments for those who are ‘caught’, even when they’re accused of pirating on a number of occasions. At least so far, it seems that the plan is to worry pirates into submission and in some cases that will probably work. Nevertheless, things can easily change when records are being kept on this scale.

Germany aside (which is overrun with copyright trolling activity), a handful of other European countries have also endured relatively small troll problems (Finland, Sweden, Denmark) but overall, file-sharers go about their business as usual across the continent. There are no big projects in any country aiming to punish large numbers of BitTorrent users and only France has an active warning notice program.

Canada and Australia have also had relatively small problems with copyright trolls (the former also has a fairly toothless ISP warning system) but neither country is considered a particularly ‘dangerous’ place to share files using BitTorrent. Like the United States, UK, and Europe, the chances of getting prosecuted for infringement are very small indeed.

Why such little enforcement?

There are a number of reasons for the apparent lack of interest in BitTorrent users but a few bubble up to the top. Firstly, there’s the question of resources required to tackle millions of users. Obviously, some scare tactics could be deployed by hitting a few people hard, but it feels like most companies have moved beyond that thinking.

That’s partly due to the more recent tendency of entertainment groups and governments to take a broader view of infringement, hitting it at its source by strangling funds to pirate sites, hitting their advertisers, blocking their websites, and attempting to forge voluntary anti-piracy schemes with search engines.

It’s also worth noting that huge numbers of people are routinely protecting themselves with VPN-like technology, which allows them to move around the Internet with much improved levels of privacy. Just recently, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp partly blamed this for falling revenues.

Importantly, however, the nature of infringement has been changing for some time too.

A few years ago, most people were getting their movies and music from torrent sites but now they’re more likely to be obtaining their fix from a streaming source. Accessing the top blockbusters via a streaming site (perhaps via Kodi) is for the most part untraceable, as is grabbing music from one of the hundreds of MP3 portals around today.

But as recent news revealed, why bother with ‘pirate’ sites when people can simply rip music from sites like YouTube?

So-called stream-ripping is now blamed for huge swathes of piracy and as a result, torrent sites get far fewer mentions from anti-piracy groups than they did before.

While still a thorn in their side, it wouldn’t be a stretch to presume that torrent sites are no longer considered the primary problem they once were, at least in respect of music. Now, the ‘Value Gap‘ is more of a headache.

So, in a nutshell, the millions of people obtaining and sharing copyrighted content using BitTorrent are still taking some risks in every major country, and those need to be carefully weighed.

The activity is illegal almost everywhere, punishable in both civil and criminal courts, and has the potential to land people with big fines and even a jail sentence, if the scale of sharing is big enough.

In truth, however, the chances of the man in the street getting caught are so slim that many people don’t give the risks a second thought. That said, even people who drive 10mph over the limit get caught once in a while, so those that want to keep a clean sheet online often get a VPN and reduce the risks to almost 0%.

For people who stream, life is much less complicated. Streaming movies, TV shows or music from an illicit source is untraceable by any regular means, which up to now has made it almost 100% safe. Notably, there hasn’t been a single prosecution of a user who streamed infringing content anywhere in the world. In the EU it is illegal though, so something might happen in future, potentially…..possibly…..at some point….maybe.

And here’s the thing. While this is the general position today, the ‘market’ is volatile and has the ability to change quickly. A case could get filed in the US or UK next week, each targeting 50,000 BitTorrent users for downloading something that came out months ago. Nobody knows for sure so perhaps the best analogy is the one drummed into kids during high-school sex education classes.

People shouldn’t put themselves at risk at all but if they really must, they should take precautions. If they don’t, they could easily be the unlucky one and that is nearly always miserable.

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

China Denies User VPN Crackdown, Blames False “Foreign Media” Reports

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-denies-user-vpn-crackdown-blames-false-foreign-media-reports-170713/

A notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in January said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

The idea is that all Internet services such as data centers, ISPs, CDNs, and VPNs, will eventually need pre-approval from the government to operate. Operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications business license will constitute an offense.

After the news broke, a source with contacts at a high-level telecoms company in the region told TF that, in his opinion, user-based VPNs were not the target and that MPLS VPNs were. These types of VPN (pdf) allow businesses, including those in China, to connect their geographically separated business locations, such as those in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia, for example.

This week, however, Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to Virtual Private Networks. This, the publication said, would stop citizens from accessing the global Internet.

According to the report, the government ordered at least three state-run telecommunications firms, including China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to stop people from using VPNs which allow people to circumvent censorship restrictions, otherwise known as the Great Firewall, by February next year.

Jake Parker, Beijing-based vice president of the US-China Business Council, agreed that the move “seems to impact individuals,” but last evening the Chinese authorities were attempting to pour cold water on the report.

In comments to China-based media outlet The Paper, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology denied issuing a notice to the telecoms companies requiring them to block user VPNs. It said that “foreign media reports” were inaccurate.

“Our subordinate Secretary did not issue the relevant notice, what foreign media reported was false,” the Ministry said.

The local media report then has the Ministry citing news that previously broke in January, detailing the new government measures that require cross-border enterprise-level VPN systems to be authorized and licensed.

“Foreign trade enterprises and multinational companies, due to office for personal use and other reasons, need to access cross-border networking,” the Ministry said, adding that licensing is available and won’t have a detrimental effect on normal operations.

Given this statement, the announcement in January, and the comments made to TF regarding the government targeting enterprise-level VPNs, it raises the question whether the term ‘VPN’ has perhaps been interpreted too widely, to include user-based services.

Nevertheless, in a follow-up report last evening, Bloomberg repeated its claims that Beijing had ordered state-run telecoms firms to stop people from using VPNs that route traffic overseas to avoid censorship.

“The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis,” the report said.

Only time will tell how the landscape will pan out, but it’s safe to say that China would like a tighter hold on the web than it has now and that VPNs of all kinds will continue to undermine that control, unless something is done.

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

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates’ Fight Anymore

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/net-neutrality-is-not-a-pirates-fight-anymore-170712/

Today, millions of people are protesting the FCC’s plan to repeal the net neutrality rules that were put in place by the former Obama administration.

In this “Battle for the Net,” they are joined by many prominent groups and companies, including Amazon, BitTorrent, Dropbox, Netflix, and even Pornhub.

Under the present net neutrality rules, there’s a clear standard that prevents ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. In addition, they allow Internet providers to be regulated as carriers under Title II.

If the current net neutrality rules disappear, some fear that throttling and ‘fast lanes’ for some services will become commonplace.

Historically, there is a strong link to between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network.

When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II.

While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they’re no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content.

In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.

This glaring “copyright loophole” doesn’t mean that the net neutrality rules are irrelevant. They’re certainly not perfect, but there are many aspects that benefit the public and companies alike.

What should be clear though clear though, is that the fight for net neutrality is no longer a pirate’s fight.

While the current protest is reminiscent of the massive “Internet blackout” revolt against the SOPA anti-piracy law five years ago, where many pirate sites joined in as well, you won’t see many of these sites calling for net neutrality today. Not out of personal interest, at least.

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