Tag Archives: issa

Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-leaks-carried-out-by-former-iranian-military-hacker-171122/

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

“Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

Image released by the hackers

Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

Wanted

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New – Interactive AWS Cost Explorer API

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-interactive-aws-cost-explorer-api/

We launched the AWS Cost Explorer a couple of years ago in order to allow you to track, allocate, and manage your AWS costs. The response to that launch, and to additions that we have made since then, has been very positive. However our customers are, as Jeff Bezos has said, “beautifully, wonderfully, dissatisfied.”

I see this first-hand every day. We launch something and that launch inspires our customers to ask for even more. For example, with many customers going all-in and moving large parts of their IT infrastructure to the AWS Cloud, we’ve had many requests for the raw data that feeds into the Cost Explorer. These customers want to programmatically explore their AWS costs, update ledgers and accounting systems with per-application and per-department costs, and to build high-level dashboards that summarize spending. Some of these customers have been going to the trouble of extracting the data from the charts and reports provided by Cost Explorer!

New Cost Explorer API
Today we are making the underlying data that feeds into Cost Explorer available programmatically. The new Cost Explorer API gives you a set of functions that allow you do everything that I described above. You can retrieve cost and usage data that is filtered and grouped across multiple dimensions (Service, Linked Account, tag, Availability Zone, and so forth), aggregated by day or by month. This gives you the power to start simple (total monthly costs) and to refine your requests to any desired level of detail (writes to DynamoDB tables that have been tagged as production) while getting responses in seconds.

Here are the operations:

GetCostAndUsage – Retrieve cost and usage metrics for a single account or all accounts (master accounts in an organization have access to all member accounts) with filtering and grouping.

GetDimensionValues – Retrieve available filter values for a specified filter over a specified period of time.

GetTags – Retrieve available tag keys and tag values over a specified period of time.

GetReservationUtilization – Retrieve EC2 Reserved Instance utilization over a specified period of time, with daily or monthly granularity plus filtering and grouping.

I believe that these functions, and the data that they return, will give you the ability to do some really interesting things that will give you better insights into your business. For example, you could tag the resources used to support individual marketing campaigns or development projects and then deep-dive into the costs to measure business value. You how have the potential to know, down to the penny, how much you spend on infrastructure for important events like Cyber Monday or Black Friday.

Things to Know
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you start to think about ways to make use of the API:

Grouping – The Cost Explorer web application provides you with one level of grouping; the APIs give you two. For example you could group costs or RI utilization by Service and then by Region.

Pagination – The functions can return very large amounts of data and follow the AWS-wide model for pagination by including a nextPageToken if additional data is available. You simply call the same function again, supplying the token, to move forward.

Regions – The service endpoint is in the US East (Northern Virginia) Region and returns usage data for all public AWS Regions.

Pricing – Each API call costs $0.01. To put this into perspective, let’s say you use this API to build a dashboard and it gets 1000 hits per month from your users. Your operating cost for the dashboard should be $10 or so; this is far less expensive than setting up your own systems to extract & ingest the data and respond to interactive queries.

The Cost Explorer API is available now and you can start using it today. To learn more, read about the Cost Explorer API.

Jeff;

Florida Court Orders ‘Pirate’ Site KissAsian to Pay 1.8M in Damages

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/florida-court-orders-pirate-site-kissasian-to-pay-1-8m-in-damages-170825/

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, continues its legal campaign against pirate sites in the US.

The company has singled out dozens of streaming sites that offer access to ‘Pinoy’ content without permission, both in the US and abroad.

This week a federal court in Florida signed a default judgment against KissAsian, one of the biggest targets thus far. Since the defendants failed to show up it was a relatively easy win.

The lawsuit in question was filed in February and accused KissAsian of both copyright and trademark infringement. According to ABS-CBN, the site was using its trademarks and copyrighted content to draw visitors and generate profit.

“ABS-CBN is suffering irreparable and indivisible injury and has suffered substantial damages as a result of Defendant’sunauthorized and unlawful use of the ABS-CBN Marks and Copyrighted Works,” the complaint read.

When the operators of the pirate site failed to respond to the allegations, the media company asked for a default judgment. United States District Judge William Dimitrouleas has now approved the company’s request, granting it $1 million in trademark damages, and another $810,000 for copyright infringement.

The order (pdf)

In addition, the judge granted a request to hand over the KissAsian.com domain name to ABS-CBN, which hasn’t happened thus far.

While the order is a clear win for the Philippine media conglomerate, it might be hard to recoup the damages from the unknown operators of the site. In fact, it doesn’t appear that the site is going to cease its activities anytime soon, as the order requires.

Soon after KissAsian.com was put at risk, the site’s operators simply relocated to a new domain name; KissAsian.ch.

“We are transferring domain, new domain is kissasian.ch, and kissasian beta mirror is not working temporarily, it will be done in next 5-10mins. Sorry for the inconvenience!” a statement on Facebook reads.

And so it continues.

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Nazis, are bad

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/08/13/nazis-are-bad/

Anonymous asks:

Could you talk about something related to the management/moderation and growth of online communities? IOW your thoughts on online community management, if any.

I think you’ve tweeted about this stuff in the past so I suspect you have thoughts on this, but if not, again, feel free to just blog about … anything 🙂

Oh, I think I have some stuff to say about community management, in light of recent events. None of it hasn’t already been said elsewhere, but I have to get this out.

Hopefully the content warning is implicit in the title.


I am frustrated.

I’ve gone on before about a particularly bothersome phenomenon that hurts a lot of small online communities: often, people are willing to tolerate the misery of others in a community, but then get up in arms when someone pushes back. Someone makes a lot of off-hand, off-color comments about women? Uses a lot of dog-whistle terms? Eh, they’re not bothering anyone, or at least not bothering me. Someone else gets tired of it and tells them to knock it off? Whoa there! Now we have the appearance of conflict, which is unacceptable, and people will turn on the person who’s pissed off — even though they’ve been at the butt end of an invisible conflict for who knows how long. The appearance of peace is paramount, even if it means a large chunk of the population is quietly miserable.

Okay, so now, imagine that on a vastly larger scale, and also those annoying people who know how to skirt the rules are Nazis.


The label “Nazi” gets thrown around a lot lately, probably far too easily. But when I see a group of people doing the Hitler salute, waving large Nazi flags, wearing Nazi armbands styled after the SS, well… if the shoe fits, right? I suppose they might have flown across the country to join a torch-bearing mob ironically, but if so, the joke is going way over my head. (Was the murder ironic, too?) Maybe they’re not Nazis in the sense that the original party doesn’t exist any more, but for ease of writing, let’s refer to “someone who espouses Nazi ideology and deliberately bears a number of Nazi symbols” as, well, “a Nazi”.

This isn’t a new thing, either; I’ve stumbled upon any number of Twitter accounts that are decorated in Nazi regalia. I suppose the trouble arises when perfectly innocent members of the alt-right get unfairly labelled as Nazis.

But hang on; this march was called “Unite the Right” and was intended to bring together various far right sub-groups. So what does their choice of aesthetic say about those sub-groups? I haven’t heard, say, alt-right coiner Richard Spencer denounce the use of Nazi symbology — extra notable since he was fucking there and apparently didn’t care to discourage it.


And so begins the rule-skirting. “Nazi” is definitely overused, but even using it to describe white supremacists who make not-so-subtle nods to Hitler is likely to earn you some sarcastic derailment. A Nazi? Oh, so is everyone you don’t like and who wants to establish a white ethno state a Nazi?

Calling someone a Nazi — or even a white supremacist — is an attack, you see. Merely expressing the desire that people of color not exist is perfectly peaceful, but identifying the sentiment for what it is causes visible discord, which is unacceptable.

These clowns even know this sort of thing and strategize around it. Or, try, at least. Maybe it wasn’t that successful this weekend — though flicking through Charlottesville headlines now, they seem to be relatively tame in how they refer to the ralliers.

I’m reminded of a group of furries — the alt-furries — who have been espousing white supremacy and wearing red armbands with a white circle containing a black… pawprint. Ah, yes, that’s completely different.


So, what to do about this?

Ignore them” is a popular option, often espoused to bullied children by parents who have never been bullied, shortly before they resume complaining about passive-aggressive office politics. The trouble with ignoring them is that, just like in smaller communitiest, they have a tendency to fester. They take over large chunks of influential Internet surface area like 4chan and Reddit; they help get an inept buffoon elected; and then they start to have torch-bearing rallies and run people over with cars.

4chan illustrates a kind of corollary here. Anyone who’s steeped in Internet Culture™ is surely familiar with 4chan; I was never a regular visitor, but it had enough influence that I was still aware of it and some of its culture. It was always thick with irony, which grew into a sort of ironic detachment — perhaps one of the major sources of the recurring online trope that having feelings is bad — which proceeded into ironic racism.

And now the ironic racism is indistinguishable from actual racism, as tends to be the case. Do they “actually” “mean it”, or are they just trying to get a rise out of people? What the hell is unironic racism if not trying to get a rise out of people? What difference is there to onlookers, especially as they move to become increasingly involved with politics?

It’s just a joke” and “it was just a thoughtless comment” are exceptionally common defenses made by people desperate to preserve the illusion of harmony, but the strain of overt white supremacy currently running rampant through the US was built on those excuses.


The other favored option is to debate them, to defeat their ideas with better ideas.

Well, hang on. What are their ideas, again? I hear they were chanting stuff like “go back to Africa” and “fuck you, faggots”. Given that this was an overtly political rally (and again, the Nazi fucking regalia), I don’t think it’s a far cry to describe their ideas as “let’s get rid of black people and queer folks”.

This is an underlying proposition: that white supremacy is inherently violent. After all, if the alt-right seized total political power, what would they do with it? If I asked the same question of Democrats or Republicans, I’d imagine answers like “universal health care” or “screw over poor people”. But people whose primary goal is to have a country full of only white folks? What are they going to do, politely ask everyone else to leave? They’re invoking the memory of people who committed genocide and also tried to take over the fucking world. They are outright saying, these are the people we look up to, this is who we think had a great idea.

How, precisely, does one defeat these ideas with rational debate?

Because the underlying core philosophy beneath all this is: “it would be good for me if everything were about me”. And that’s true! (Well, it probably wouldn’t work out how they imagine in practice, but it’s true enough.) Consider that slavery is probably fantastic if you’re the one with the slaves; the issue is that it’s reprehensible, not that the very notion contains some kind of 101-level logical fallacy. That’s probably why we had a fucking war over it instead of hashing it out over brunch.

…except we did hash it out over brunch once, and the result was that slavery was still allowed but slaves only counted as 60% of a person for the sake of counting how much political power states got. So that’s how rational debate worked out. I’m sure the slaves were thrilled with that progress.


That really only leaves pushing back, which raises the question of how to push back.

And, I don’t know. Pushing back is much harder in spaces you don’t control, spaces you’re already struggling to justify your own presence in. For most people, that’s most spaces. It’s made all the harder by that tendency to preserve illusory peace; even the tamest request that someone knock off some odious behavior can be met by pushback, even by third parties.

At the same time, I’m aware that white supremacists prey on disillusioned young white dudes who feel like they don’t fit in, who were promised the world and inherited kind of a mess. Does criticism drive them further away? The alt-right also opposes “political correctness”, i.e. “not being a fucking asshole”.

God knows we all suck at this kind of behavior correction, even within our own in-groups. Fandoms have become almost ridiculously vicious as platforms like Twitter and Tumblr amplify individual anger to deafening levels. It probably doesn’t help that we’re all just exhausted, that every new fuck-up feels like it bears the same weight as the last hundred combined.

This is the part where I admit I don’t know anything about people and don’t have any easy answers. Surprise!


The other alternative is, well, punching Nazis.

That meme kind of haunts me. It raises really fucking complicated questions about when violence is acceptable, in a culture that’s completely incapable of answering them.

America’s relationship to violence is so bizarre and two-faced as to be almost incomprehensible. We worship it. We have the biggest military in the world by an almost comical margin. It’s fairly mainstream to own deadly weapons for the express stated purpose of armed revolution against the government, should that become necessary, where “necessary” is left ominously undefined. Our movies are about explosions and beating up bad guys; our video games are about explosions and shooting bad guys. We fantasize about solving foreign policy problems by nuking someone — hell, our talking heads are currently in polite discussion about whether we should nuke North Korea and annihilate up to twenty-five million people, as punishment for daring to have the bomb that only we’re allowed to have.

But… violence is bad.

That’s about as far as the other side of the coin gets. It’s bad. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Also, guess who we bombed today?

I observe that the one time Nazis were a serious threat, America was happy to let them try to take over the world until their allies finally showed up on our back porch.

Maybe I don’t understand what “violence” means. In a quest to find out why people are talking about “leftist violence” lately, I found a National Review article from May that twice suggests blocking traffic is a form of violence. Anarchists have smashed some windows and set a couple fires at protests this year — and, hey, please knock that crap off? — which is called violence against, I guess, Starbucks. Black Lives Matter could be throwing a birthday party and Twitter would still be abuzz with people calling them thugs.

Meanwhile, there’s a trend of murderers with increasingly overt links to the alt-right, and everyone is still handling them with kid gloves. First it was murders by people repeating their talking points; now it’s the culmination of a torches-and-pitchforks mob. (Ah, sorry, not pitchforks; assault rifles.) And we still get this incredibly bizarre both-sides-ism, a White House that refers to the people who didn’t murder anyone as “just as violent if not more so“.


Should you punch Nazis? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m extremely dissatisfied with discourse that’s extremely alarmed by hypothetical punches — far more mundane than what you’d see after a sporting event — but treats a push for ethnic cleansing as a mere difference of opinion.

The equivalent to a punch in an online space is probably banning, which is almost laughable in comparison. It doesn’t cause physical harm, but it is a use of concrete force. Doesn’t pose quite the same moral quandary, though.

Somewhere in the middle is the currently popular pastime of doxxing (doxxxxxxing) people spotted at the rally in an attempt to get them fired or whatever. Frankly, that skeeves me out, though apparently not enough that I’m directly chastizing anyone for it.


We aren’t really equipped, as a society, to deal with memetic threats. We aren’t even equipped to determine what they are. We had a fucking world war over this, and now people are outright saying “hey I’m like those people we went and killed a lot in that world war” and we give them interviews and compliment their fashion sense.

A looming question is always, what if they then do it to you? What if people try to get you fired, to punch you for your beliefs?

I think about that a lot, and then I remember that it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay in half the country. (Courts are currently wrangling whether Title VII forbids this, but with the current administration, I’m not optimistic.) I know people who’ve been fired for coming out as trans. I doubt I’d have to look very far to find someone who’s been punched for either reason.

And these aren’t even beliefs; they’re just properties of a person. You can stop being a white supremacist, one of those people yelling “fuck you, faggots”.

So I have to recuse myself from this asinine question, because I can’t fairly judge the risk of retaliation when it already happens to people I care about.

Meanwhile, if a white supremacist does get punched, I absolutely still want my tax dollars to pay for their universal healthcare.


The same wrinkle comes up with free speech, which is paramount.

The ACLU reminds us that the First Amendment “protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech”. I think they’ve forgotten that that’s a side effect, not the goal. No one sat down and suggested that protecting vile speech was some kind of noble cause, yet that’s how we seem to be treating it.

The point was to avoid a situation where the government is arbitrarily deciding what qualifies as vile, hateful, and ignorant, and was using that power to eliminate ideas distasteful to politicians. You know, like, hypothetically, if they interrogated and jailed a bunch of people for supporting the wrong economic system. Or convicted someone under the Espionage Act for opposing the draft. (Hey, that’s where the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” line comes from.)

But these are ideas that are already in the government. Bannon, a man who was chair of a news organization he himself called “the platform for the alt-right”, has the President’s ear! How much more mainstream can you get?

So again I’m having a little trouble balancing “we need to defend the free speech of white supremacists or risk losing it for everyone” against “we fairly recently were ferreting out communists and the lingering public perception is that communists are scary, not that the government is”.


This isn’t to say that freedom of speech is bad, only that the way we talk about it has become fanatical to the point of absurdity. We love it so much that we turn around and try to apply it to corporations, to platforms, to communities, to interpersonal relationships.

Look at 4chan. It’s completely public and anonymous; you only get banned for putting the functioning of the site itself in jeopardy. Nothing is stopping a larger group of people from joining its politics board and tilting sentiment the other way — except that the current population is so odious that no one wants to be around them. Everyone else has evaporated away, as tends to happen.

Free speech is great for a government, to prevent quashing politics that threaten the status quo (except it’s a joke and they’ll do it anyway). People can’t very readily just bail when the government doesn’t like them, anyway. It’s also nice to keep in mind to some degree for ubiquitous platforms. But the smaller you go, the easier it is for people to evaporate away, and the faster pure free speech will turn the place to crap. You’ll be left only with people who care about nothing.


At the very least, it seems clear that the goal of white supremacists is some form of destabilization, of disruption to the fabric of a community for purely selfish purposes. And those are the kinds of people you want to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Usually this is hard, because they act just nicely enough to create some plausible deniability. But damn, if someone is outright telling you they love Hitler, maybe skip the principled hand-wringing and eject them.

Growing up alongside tech

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/08/09/growing-up-alongside-tech/

IndustrialRobot asks… or, uh, asked last month:

industrialrobot: How has your views on tech changed as you’ve got older?

This is so open-ended that it’s actually stumped me for a solid month. I’ve had a surprisingly hard time figuring out where to even start.


It’s not that my views of tech have changed too much — it’s that they’ve changed very gradually. Teasing out and explaining any one particular change is tricky when it happened invisibly over the course of 10+ years.

I think a better framework for this is to consider how my relationship to tech has changed. It’s gone through three pretty distinct phases, each of which has strongly colored how I feel and talk about technology.

Act I

In which I start from nothing.

Nothing is an interesting starting point. You only really get to start there once.

Learning something on my own as a kid was something of a magical experience, in a way that I don’t think I could replicate as an adult. I liked computers; I liked toying with computers; so I did that.

I don’t know how universal this is, but when I was a kid, I couldn’t even conceive of how incredible things were made. Buildings? Cars? Paintings? Operating systems? Where does any of that come from? Obviously someone made them, but it’s not the sort of philosophical point I lingered on when I was 10, so in the back of my head they basically just appeared fully-formed from the æther.

That meant that when I started trying out programming, I had no aspirations. I couldn’t imagine how far I would go, because all the examples of how far I would go were completely disconnected from any idea of human achievement. I started out with BASIC on a toy computer; how could I possibly envision a connection between that and something like a mainstream video game? Every new thing felt like a new form of magic, so I couldn’t conceive that I was even in the same ballpark as whatever process produced real software. (Even seeing the source code for GORILLAS.BAS, it didn’t quite click. I didn’t think to try reading any of it until years after I’d first encountered the game.)

This isn’t to say I didn’t have goals. I invented goals constantly, as I’ve always done; as soon as I learned about a new thing, I’d imagine some ways to use it, then try to build them. I produced a lot of little weird goofy toys, some of which entertained my tiny friend group for a couple days, some of which never saw the light of day. But none of it felt like steps along the way to some mountain peak of mastery, because I didn’t realize the mountain peak was even a place that could be gone to. It was pure, unadulterated (!) playing.

I contrast this to my art career, which started only a couple years ago. I was already in my late 20s, so I’d already spend decades seeing a very broad spectrum of art: everything from quick sketches up to painted masterpieces. And I’d seen the people who create that art, sometimes seen them create it in real-time. I’m even in a relationship with one of them! And of course I’d already had the experience of advancing through tech stuff and discovering first-hand that even the most amazing software is still just code someone wrote.

So from the very beginning, from the moment I touched pencil to paper, I knew the possibilities. I knew that the goddamn Sistine Chapel was something I could learn to do, if I were willing to put enough time in — and I knew that I’m not, so I’d have to settle somewhere a ways before that. I knew that I’d have to put an awful lot of work in before I’d be producing anything very impressive.

I did it anyway (though perhaps waited longer than necessary to start), but those aren’t things I can un-know, and so I can never truly explore art from a place of pure ignorance. On the other hand, I’ve probably learned to draw much more quickly and efficiently than if I’d done it as a kid, precisely because I know those things. Now I can decide I want to do something far beyond my current abilities, then go figure out how to do it. When I was just playing, that kind of ambition was impossible.


So, I played.

How did this affect my views on tech? Well, I didn’t… have any. Learning by playing tends to teach you things in an outward sprawl without many abrupt jumps to new areas, so you don’t tend to run up against conflicting information. The whole point of opinions is that they’re your own resolution to a conflict; without conflict, I can’t meaningfully say I had any opinions. I just accepted whatever I encountered at face value, because I didn’t even know enough to suspect there could be alternatives yet.

Act II

That started to seriously change around, I suppose, the end of high school and beginning of college. I was becoming aware of this whole “open source” concept. I took classes that used languages I wouldn’t otherwise have given a second thought. (One of them was Python!) I started to contribute to other people’s projects. Eventually I even got a job, where I had to work with other people. It probably also helped that I’d had to maintain my own old code a few times.

Now I was faced with conflicting subjective ideas, and I had to form opinions about them! And so I did. With gusto. Over time, I developed an idea of what was Right based on experience I’d accrued. And then I set out to always do things Right.

That’s served me decently well with some individual problems, but it also led me to inflict a lot of unnecessary pain on myself. Several endeavors languished for no other reason than my dissatisfaction with the architecture, long before the basic functionality was done. I started a number of “pure” projects around this time, generic tools like imaging libraries that I had no direct need for. I built them for the sake of them, I guess because I felt like I was improving some niche… but of course I never finished any. It was always in areas I didn’t know that well in the first place, which is a fine way to learn if you have a specific concrete goal in mind — but it turns out that building a generic library for editing images means you have to know everything about images. Perhaps that ambition went a little haywire.

I’ve said before that this sort of (self-inflicted!) work was unfulfilling, in part because the best outcome would be that a few distant programmers’ lives are slightly easier. I do still think that, but I think there’s a deeper point here too.

In forgetting how to play, I’d stopped putting any of myself in most of the work I was doing. Yes, building an imaging library is kind of a slog that someone has to do, but… I assume the people who work on software like PIL and ImageMagick are actually interested in it. The few domains I tried to enter and revolutionize weren’t passions of mine; I just happened to walk through the neighborhood one day and decided I could obviously do it better.

Not coincidentally, this was the same era of my life that led me to write stuff like that PHP post, which you may notice I am conspicuously not even linking to. I don’t think I would write anything like it nowadays. I could see myself approaching the same subject, but purely from the point of view of language design, with more contrasts and tradeoffs and less going for volume. I certainly wouldn’t lead off with inflammatory puffery like “PHP is a community of amateurs”.

Act III

I think I’ve mellowed out a good bit in the last few years.

It turns out that being Right is much less important than being Not Wrong — i.e., rather than trying to make something perfect that can be adapted to any future case, just avoid as many pitfalls as possible. Code that does something useful has much more practical value than unfinished code with some pristine architecture.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in game development, where all code is doomed to be crap and the best you can hope for is to stem the tide. But there’s also a fixed goal that’s completely unrelated to how the code looks: does the game work, and is it fun to play? Yes? Ship the damn thing and forget about it.

Games are also nice because it’s very easy to pour my own feelings into them and evoke feelings in the people who play them. They’re mine, something with my fingerprints on them — even the games I’ve built with glip have plenty of my own hallmarks, little touches I added on a whim or attention to specific details that I care about.

Maybe a better example is the Doom map parser I started writing. It sounds like a “pure” problem again, except that I actually know an awful lot about the subject already! I also cleverly (accidentally) released some useful results of the work I’ve done thusfar — like statistics about Doom II maps and a few screenshots of flipped stock maps — even though I don’t think the parser itself is far enough along to release yet. The tool has served a purpose, one with my fingerprints on it, even without being released publicly. That keeps it fresh in my mind as something interesting I’d like to keep working on, eventually. (When I run into an architecture question, I step back for a while, or I do other work in the hopes that the solution will reveal itself.)

I also made two simple Pokémon ROM hacks this year, despite knowing nothing about Game Boy internals or assembly when I started. I just decided I wanted to do an open-ended thing beyond my reach, and I went to do it, not worrying about cleanliness and willing to accept a bumpy ride to get there. I played, but in a more experienced way, invoking the stuff I know (and the people I’ve met!) to help me get a running start in completely unfamiliar territory.


This feels like a really fine distinction that I’m not sure I’m doing justice. I don’t know if I could’ve appreciated it three or four years ago. But I missed making toys, and I’m glad I’m doing it again.

In short, I forgot how to have fun with programming for a little while, and I’ve finally started to figure it out again. And that’s far more important than whether you use PHP or not.

New – GPU-Powered Streaming Instances for Amazon AppStream 2.0

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-gpu-powered-streaming-instances-for-amazon-appstream-2-0/

We launched Amazon AppStream 2.0 at re:Invent 2016. This application streaming service allows you to deliver Windows applications to a desktop browser.

AppStream 2.0 is fully managed and provides consistent, scalable performance by running applications on general purpose, compute optimized, and memory optimized streaming instances, with delivery via NICE DCV – a secure, high-fidelity streaming protocol. Our enterprise and public sector customers have started using AppStream 2.0 in place of legacy application streaming environments that are installed on-premises. They use AppStream 2.0 to deliver both commercial and line of business applications to a desktop browser. Our ISV customers are using AppStream 2.0 to move their applications to the cloud as-is, with no changes to their code. These customers focus on demos, workshops, and commercial SaaS subscriptions.

We are getting great feedback on AppStream 2.0 and have been adding new features very quickly (even by AWS standards). So far this year we have added an image builder, federated access via SAML 2.0, CloudWatch monitoring, Fleet Auto Scaling, Simple Network Setup, persistent storage for user files (backed by Amazon S3), support for VPC security groups, and built-in user management including web portals for users.

New GPU-Powered Streaming Instances
Many of our customers have told us that they want to use AppStream 2.0 to deliver specialized design, engineering, HPC, and media applications to their users. These applications are generally graphically intensive and are designed to run on expensive, high-end PCs in conjunction with a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). Due to the hardware requirements of these applications, cost considerations have traditionally kept them out of situations where part-time or occasional access would otherwise make sense. Recently, another requirement has come to the forefront. These applications almost always need shared, read-write access to large amounts of sensitive data that is best stored, processed, and secured in the cloud. In order to meet the needs of these users and applications, we are launching two new types of streaming instances today:

Graphics Desktop – Based on the G2 instance type, Graphics Desktop instances are designed for desktop applications that use the CUDA, DirectX, or OpenGL for rendering. These instances are equipped with 15 GiB of memory and 8 vCPUs. You can select this instance family when you build an AppStream image or configure an AppStream fleet:

Graphics Pro – Based on the brand-new G3 instance type, Graphics Pro instances are designed for high-end, high-performance applications that can use the NVIDIA APIs and/or need access to large amounts of memory. These instances are available in three sizes, with 122 to 488 GiB of memory and 16 to 64 vCPUs. Again, you can select this instance family when you configure an AppStream fleet:

To learn more about how to launch, run, and scale a streaming application environment, read Scaling Your Desktop Application Streams with Amazon AppStream 2.0.

As I noted earlier, you can use either of these two instance types to build an AppStream image. This will allow you to test and fine tune your applications and to see the instances in action.

Streaming Instances in Action
We’ve been working with several customers during a private beta program for the new instance types. Here are a few stories (and some cool screen shots) to show you some of the applications that they are streaming via AppStream 2.0:

AVEVA is a world leading provider of engineering design and information management software solutions for the marine, power, plant, offshore and oil & gas industries. As part of their work on massive capital projects, their customers need to bring many groups of specialist engineers together to collaborate on the creation of digital assets. In order to support this requirement, AVEVA is building SaaS solutions that combine the streamed delivery of engineering applications with access to a scalable project data environment that is shared between engineers across the globe. The new instances will allow AVEVA to deliver their engineering design software in SaaS form while maximizing quality and performance. Here’s a screen shot of their Everything 3D app being streamed from AppStream:

Nissan, a Japanese multinational automobile manufacturer, trains its automotive specialists using 3D simulation software running on expensive graphics workstations. The training software, developed by The DiSti Corporation, allows its specialists to simulate maintenance processes by interacting with realistic 3D models of the vehicles they work on. AppStream 2.0’s new graphics capability now allows Nissan to deliver these training tools in real time, with up to date content, to a desktop browser running on low-cost commodity PCs. Their specialists can now interact with highly realistic renderings of a vehicle that allows them to train for and plan maintenance operations with higher efficiency.

Cornell University is an American private Ivy League and land-grant doctoral university located in Ithaca, New York. They deliver advanced 3D tools such as AutoDesk AutoCAD and Inventor to students and faculty to support their course work, teaching, and research. Until now, these tools could only be used on GPU-powered workstations in a lab or classroom. AppStream 2.0 allows them to deliver the applications to a web browser running on any desktop, where they run as if they were on a local workstation. Their users are no longer limited by available workstations in labs and classrooms, and can bring their own devices and have access to their course software. This increased flexibility also means that faculty members no longer need to take lab availability into account when they build course schedules. Here’s a copy of Autodesk Inventor Professional running on AppStream at Cornell:

Now Available
Both of the graphics streaming instance families are available in the US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions and you can start streaming from them today. Your applications must run in a Windows 2012 R2 environment, and can make use of DirectX, OpenGL, CUDA, OpenCL, and Vulkan.

With prices in the US East (Northern Virginia) Region starting at $0.50 per hour for Graphics Desktop instances and $2.05 per hour for Graphics Pro instances, you can now run your simulation, visualization, and HPC workloads in the AWS Cloud on an economical, pay-by-the-hour basis. You can also take advantage of fast, low-latency access to Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), AWS Lambda, Amazon Redshift, and other AWS services to build processing workflows that handle pre- and post-processing of your data.

Jeff;

 

Journey into Deep Learning with AWS

Post Syndicated from Tara Walker original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/journey-into-deep-learning-with-aws/

If you are anything like me, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Deep Learning are completely fascinating and exciting topics. As AI, ML, and Deep Learning become more widely used, for me it means that the science fiction written by Dr. Issac Asimov, the robotics and medical advancements in Star Wars, and the technologies that enabled Captain Kirk and his Star Trek crew “to boldly go where no man has gone before” can become achievable realities.

 

Most people interested in the aforementioned topics are familiar with the AI and ML solutions enabled by Deep Learning, such as Convolutional Neural Networks for Image and Video Classification, Speech Recognition, Natural Language interfaces, and Recommendation Engines. However, it is not always an easy task setting up the infrastructure, environment, and tools to enable data scientists, machine learning practitioners, research scientists, and deep learning hobbyists/advocates to dive into these technologies. Most developers desire to go quickly from getting started with deep learning to training models and developing solutions using deep learning technologies.

For these reasons, I would like to share some resources that will help to quickly build deep learning solutions whether you are an experienced data scientist or a curious developer wanting to get started.

Deep Learning Resources

The Apache MXNet is Amazon’s deep learning framework of choice. With the power of Apache MXNet framework and NVIDIA GPU computing, you can launch your scalable deep learning projects and solutions easily on the AWS Cloud. As you get started on your MxNet deep learning quest, there are a variety of self-service tutorials and datasets available to you:

  • Launch an AWS Deep Learning AMI: This guide walks you through the steps to launch the AWS Deep Learning AMI with Ubuntu
  • MXNet – Create a computer vision application: This hands-on tutorial uses a pre-built notebook to walk you through using neural networks to build a computer vision application to identify handwritten digits
  • AWS Machine Learning Datasets: AWS hosts datasets for Machine Learning on the AWS Marketplace that you can access for free. These large datasets are available for anyone to analyze the data without requiring the data to be downloaded or stored.
  • Predict and Extract – Learn to use pre-trained models for predictions: This hands-on tutorial will walk you through how to use pre-trained model for predicting and feature extraction using the full Imagenet dataset.

 

AWS Deep Learning AMIs

AWS offers Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) for use on Amazon EC2 for quick deployment of an infrastructure needed to start your deep learning journey. The AWS Deep Learning AMIs are pre-configured with popular deep learning frameworks built using Amazon EC2 instances on Amazon Linux, and Ubuntu that can be launched for AI targeted solutions and models. The deep learning frameworks supported and pre-configured on the deep learning AMI are:

  • Apache MXNet
  • TensorFlow
  • Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK)
  • Caffe
  • Caffe2
  • Theano
  • Torch
  • Keras

Additionally, the AWS Deep Learning AMIs install preconfigured libraries for Jupyter notebooks with Python 2.7/3.4, AWS SDK for Python, and other data science related python packages and dependencies. The AMIs also come with NVIDIA CUDA and NVIDIA CUDA Deep Neural Network (cuDNN) libraries preinstalled with all the supported deep learning frameworks and the Intel Math Kernel Library is installed for Apache MXNet framework. You can launch any of the Deep Learning AMIs by visiting the AWS Marketplace using the Try the Deep Learning AMIs link.

Summary

It is a great time to dive into Deep Learning. You can accelerate your work in deep learning by using the AWS Deep Learning AMIs running on the AWS cloud to get your deep learning environment running quickly or get started learning more about Deep Learning on AWS with MXNet using the AWS self-service resources.  Of course, you can learn even more information about Deep Learning, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence on AWS by reviewing the AWS Deep Learning page, the Amazon AI product page, and the AWS AI Blog.

May the Deep Learning Force be with you all.

Tara

FUNimation Targets ‘Pirate’ Streaming Site KissAnime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FUNimation DMCA notice sent to Digital Ocean

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

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

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

The DMCA subpoena

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

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

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

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

Streaming Site Operator Jailed For Three Years After Landmark Trial

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/streaming-site-operator-jailed-for-three-years-after-landmark-trial-170516/

Founded more than half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was credited alongside another streaming portal for serving up to 25% of all online video streaming in Sweden.

With this level of prominence, it was only a question of time before authorities stepped in to end the free streaming bonanza. In 2015, that happened when an operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police.

This was followed by the arrest of a now 26-year-old Turkish man in Germany, who was accused of receiving donations from users and setting up Swefilmer’s deals with advertisers.

The pair, who had never met in person, appeared at the Varberg District Court in January, together accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.

As the trial progressed, it was clear that the outcome was not likely to be a good one for the men.

Prosecutor Anna Ginner described the operation as being like “organized crime”, with lawyer Henrik Pontén of RightsAlliance claiming that the evidence only represented a small part of the money made by the pair.

From the beginning, it was always claimed that the 26-year-old was the main player behind the site, with the now 23-year-old playing a much smaller role. While the latter received an estimated $4,000 of the proceeds, the former was said to have enriched himself with more than $1.5m in advertising revenue.

The Varberg District Court has now handed down its ruling and it’s particularly bad news for the 26-year-old, who is reported to have led a luxury lifestyle with proceeds from the site.

In a short statement the court confirmed he had been convicted of 1,044 breaches of copyright law and serious money laundering offenses. He was sentenced to serve three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.59m. The Court was far more lenient with the younger man.

After being found guilty of four counts of copyright infringement but playing almost no role in the site’s revenue operations, no sentencing for money laundering was handed down. He was instead handed probation and ordered to complete 120 hours of community service, a sentence that was positively affected by his age when the offenses were committed.

It’s worth noting that the sentence received by the 26-year-old goes way beyond the sentences handed down even in the notorious Pirate Bay case, where defendants Fredrik Neij, Peter Sunde and Gottfrid Svartholm received 10 months, 12 months and 8 months respectively.

However, with Henrik Pontén describing the Swefilmer case as being primarily about money laundering, his group is clearly unhappy that copyright offenses aren’t considered serious enough to warrant lengthy sentences in their own right.

“We welcome the judgment, but it is clear that copyright law must be adapted to today’s serious piracy. The penalty for copyright infringement should in itself be enough to deter people from crime,” Pontén says.

“The low level of penalties allows foreign piracy organizations to locate their operations in Sweden. The trend is very worrying.”

An important factor in the case moving forward is that in determining whether infringement had taken place, the Court drew heavily on the GS Media ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice last September.

In that decision, the Court found that linking to copyrighted material is only allowed when there is no intent to profit and when the linker is unaware that the content is infringing.

When there is a profit motive, which there clearly was in the Swefilmer case, operators of a site are expected to carry out the “checks necessary” to ensure that linked works have not been illegally published.

The operators of Swefilmer failed on all counts, so the local court determined that the platform had communicated copyrighted works to the public, in breach of copyright law.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, the 23-year-old expressed relief at his relatively light sentence but noted it may not be over yet.

“I was really happy when the judgment came. The long wait is finally over,” he said.

“RightsAlliance will appeal because they did not receive any compensation for the trial. But the prosecutor is satisfied with the judgment so it is only RightsAlliance who are dissatisfied.”

According to IDG, the lawyer of the 26-year-old believes that his client’s sentence is far too severe, so there may be an appeal in that direction too.

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

Judge Threatens to Bar ‘Copyright Troll’ Cases Over Lacking IP-location Evidence

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-threatens-to-bar-copyright-troll-cases-over-lacking-ip-location-evidence-170212/

While relatively underreported, many U.S. district courts are still swamped with lawsuits against alleged film pirates.

The copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on an IP address as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to a geographical location using geolocation tools.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to grant a subpoena, directing Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders.

Malibu Media, the Los Angeles-based company behind the ‘X-Art’ adult movies, is behind most of these cases. The company has filed thousands of lawsuits in recent years, targeting Internet subscribers whose accounts were allegedly used to share Malibu’s films via BitTorrent.

Increasingly, judges around the country have grown wary of these litigation efforts. This includes US Federal Judge William Alsup, who’s tasked with handling all such cases in the Northern District of California.

Responding to a recent request, Judge Alsup highlights the fact that Malibu filed a “monsoon” of hundreds of lawsuits over the past 18 months, but later dismissed many of them after without specifying a reason.

The judge is skeptical about the motivation for these dismissals. In particular, because courts have previously highlighted that Maxmind’s geolocation tools, which are cited in the complaints, may not be entirely accurate. This could mean that the cases have been filed in the wrong court.

“Malibu Media’s voluntary dismissal without prejudice of groups of its cases is not a new pattern. A sizable portion of the cases from previous waves were terminated in the same way,” Judge Alsup writes (pdf).

“The practice has just become more frequent, and it follows skepticism by the undersigned judge and others around the country about the accuracy of the Maxmind database,” he adds.

This is not the first time that geolocation tools have been called into doubt and to move the accuracy claims beyond Maxmind’s own “hearsay,” Judge Alsup now demands extra evidence.

In his order he denies the request to continue a case management conference in one of their cases. Instead, he will use that hearing to address the geolocation issues. In addition, all Malibu cases in the district may be barred if the accuracy of these tools isn’t “fully vetted.”

“That request is DENIED. Instead, Malibu Media is hereby ordered to SHOW CAUSE at that hearing, why the Court should not bar further Malibu Media cases in this district until the accuracy of the geolocation technology is fully vetted,” the order reads.

“To be clear, this order applies even if Malibu Media voluntarily dismisses this action,” Judge Alsup adds.

Denied

SJD, who follows the developments closely and first reported on the order, suspects that the IP-address ‘error rate’ may in fact be higher than most people believe. She therefore recommends defense lawyer to depose ISP employees to get to the bottom of the issue.

“If you are a defense attorney who litigates one of the BitTorrent infringement cases, I suggest deposing a Comcast employee tasked with subpoena processing. I suspect that the error rate is much higher than trolls want everyone to believe, and such testimony has a potential to become a heavy weapon in every troll victim’s arsenal,” SJD says.

In any case, it’s no secret that geolocation databases are far from perfect. Most are not updated instantly, which means that the information could be outdated, and other entries are plainly inaccurate.

This is something the residents of a Kansas farm know all too well, as their house is the default location of 600 million IP-addresses, which causes them quite a bit of trouble.

It will be interesting to see if Malibu will make any efforts to properly “vet” Maxmind’s database. It’s clear, however, that Judge Alsup will not let the company use his court before fully backing up their claims.

To be continued.

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

Blizzard Beats “Cheat” Maker, Wins $8.5 Million Copyright Damages

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/blizzard-beats-cheat-maker-wins-85-million-copyright-damages-170403/

While most gamers do their best to win fair and square, there are always those who try to cheat themselves to victory.

With the growth of the gaming industry, the market for “cheats,” “hacks” and bots has also grown spectacularly. The German company Bossland is one of the frontrunners in this area.

Bossland created cheats and bots for several Blizzard games including World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Heroes of the Storm, Hearthstone, and Overwatch, handing its users an unfair advantage over the competition. Blizzard is not happy with these and the two companies have been battling in court for quite some time, both in the US and Germany.

Last week a prominent US case came to a conclusion in the California District Court. Because Bossland decided not to represent itself, it was a relatively easy for Blizzard, which was awarded several million in copyright damages.

The court agreed that hacks developed by Bossland effectively bypassed Blizzard’s cheat protection technology “Warden,” violating the DMCA. By reverse engineering the games and allowing users to play modified versions, Bossland infringed Blizzard’s copyrights and allowed its users to do the same.

“Bossland materially contributes to infringement by creating the Bossland Hacks, making the Bossland Hacks available to the public, instructing users how to install and operate the Bossland Hacks, and enabling users to use the software to create derivative works,” the court’s order reads (pdf).

The WoW Honorbuddy

The infringing actions are damaging to the game maker as they render its anti-cheat protection ineffective. The cheaters, subsequently, ruin the gaming experience for other players who may lose interest, causing additional damage.

“Blizzard has established a showing of resulting damage or harm because Blizzard expends a substantial amount of money combating the use of the Bossland Hacks to ensure fair game play,” the court writes.

“Additionally, players of the Blizzard Games lodge complaints against cheating players, which has caused users to grow dissatisfied with the Blizzard Games and cease playing. Accordingly, the in-game cheating also harms Blizzard’s goodwill and reputation.”

As a result, the court grants the statutory copyright damages Blizzard requested for 42,818 violations within the United States, totaling $8,563,600. In addition, the game developer is entitled to $174,872 in attorneys’ fees.

To prevent further damage, Bossland is also prohibited from marketing or sellings its cheats in the United States. This applies to hacks including “Honorbuddy,” “Demonbuddy,”
“Stormbuddy,” “Hearthbuddy,” and “Watchover Tyrant,” as well as any other software designed to exploit Blizzard games.

While its a hefty judgment, the order doesn’t really come as a surprise given that the German cheat maker failed to defend itself.

Bossland CEO Zwetan Letschew previously informed TorrentFreak that his company would continue the legal battle after the issue of a default judgment. Whatever the outcome, the cheats will remain widely available outside of the US for now.

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

ISP RCN and BMG Agree to Settle Internet Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-rcn-and-bmg-agree-to-settle-internet-piracy-lawsuit-170331/

In common with many other Internet service providers in the United States, RCN receives its fair share of copyright infringement notices, including sizeable numbers from anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp.

These notices, sent on behalf of music rights group BMG, are paired with settlement demands which Rightscorp expects RCN customers to pay at around $30 per shot. On top, the anti-piracy outfit and its client previously warned the ISP that if it did not take appropriate action against its allegedly infringing subscribers, it could be held liable.

That claim lit a fire under RCN who responded with a lawsuit filed against BMG at a New York federal court last summer.

“The central question for this Court’s determination is whether an Internet service provider should be held liable for copyright infringement simply because it provides Internet connectivity to its customers,” RCN wrote.

“BMG’s repeated assertions that RCN is liable for copyright infringement lack merit. RCN therefore seeks a judgment from this Court declaring that it is not liable to BMG for copyright infringement.”

Last September, RCN submitted an amended complaint which revealed how BMG put it under pressure take action against subscribers while demanding compensation. The rights group said that RCN had failed to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers, despite receiving millions of notices.

“We are hopeful that a resolution of this ongoing and damaging infringement can be reached. To that end, we suggest the parties meet to discuss a settlement that would include a means of preventing or limiting future infringement and appropriate compensation to BMG,” the letter from BMG read.

Since then the case has continued with filings back and forth. However, two weeks ago it was revealed that progress had been made, with lawyers for both RCN and BMG informing the court that an agreement had been reached in principle to settle the matter peacefully.

“We write to inform Your Honor that the parties have reached an agreement in principle to settle this matter without Court intervention and are in the process of executing the same. We expect a dismissal with prejudice of this matter to be filed shortly,” the letter dated March 16 reads.

Then, on Wednesday this week, the previously warring factions informed the court it was all over.

Neither party has indicated what the settlement entails but since the case has been dismissed with prejudice, it cannot be revived again in the future.

With the parties paying their own legal bills there’s a suggestion that things might stop there financially, but it remains unclear whether RCN has agreed to deal with its pirating subscribers in a more aggressive manner, as originally requested by BMG.

In any event, it seems likely that the BMG v Cox Communications case has hung heavy on this dispute, at least from RCN’s perspective. That case is currently going to appeal but with a $25m ruling in BMG’s favor (not to mention $8m bill in legal costs for Cox), taking big risks along similar lines was probably not high on the agenda for RCN.

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

‘Pirate’ Kodi Box Sellers Fail to Overturn Sales Ban in Canada

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-box-sellers-fail-overturn-sales-ban-canada-170321/

From a niche hobbyist affair under its former name XBMC, Kodi is now grabbing international headlines on a daily basis. The media player is both benign and entirely legal in standard form, but boost it with special addons and it becomes a piracy powerhouse.

One of the main problems for the content industries arises from the software’s ability to run on cheap Android and similar hardware. Whether that’s a phone, tablet, set-top box or a device such as Amazon’s Fire Stick, these setups are now in millions of homes, delivering free content to the masses.

Authorities everywhere are now scrambling to deal with the problem and Canada is one of the areas where content producers and cable providers have resorted to legal action. Last year, Rogers Communications, Bell, Videotron and others targeted several retailers who supplied so-called “fully loaded” Android and Apple set-top boxes to the public.

The original defendants, including ITVBOX.NET, My Electronics, Android Bros Inc., WatchNSaveNow Inc and MTLFreeTV, all sold devices that came pre-configured to receive content that customers would otherwise have had to pay for.

Inquiries into the sales began in April 2015 and in the months that followed test purchases were made. The plaintiffs found that the devices not only provided access to their content for free but that the sellers advertised their products as a way to avoid paying bills.

In response, the TV and content companies went to the Federal Court with claims under the Copyright Act and Radiocommunication Act. Last June they were successful in obtaining an interlocutory injunction to stop the devices being made available for sale.

“The devices marketed, sold and programmed by the Defendants enable consumers to obtain unauthorized access to content for which the Plaintiffs own the copyright,” Judge Daniele Tremblay-Lamer wrote in her order.

“For the time being, I am satisfied that the Plaintiffs have established a strong prima facie case of copyright infringement and that an injunction would prevent irreparable harm without unduly inconveniencing the Defendants.”

While the majority of the defendants in the case have been silent (the list has now grown to more than 50 sellers), WatchNSaveNow and MTLFreeTV took the decision to appeal the injunction, arguing that it was never established in court that sales of the devices would hurt the plaintiffs’ business in advance of a trial.

According to CBC, that argument failed to convince the Appeal Court, which yesterday upheld the Federal Court’s decision to hand down an injunction. Turning the box-sellers’ marketing material against them, the Court noted that they’d advertised their devices as providing a way to access free content and avoid paying cable bills.

One of the sellers to appeal, Vincent Wesley of MTLFreeTV, was the only box-seller to turn up at the original Federal Court hearing last year. Back then he said he had nothing to do with the development or maintenance of the software installed on the devices he sold. That didn’t appear to help back then and now the Appeal Court has failed to see the case in the defendants’ favor.

“I’m actually very disappointed. We weren’t even given a fair shot,” Wesley said.

Unsurprisingly, the plaintiffs were rather pleased with the outcome, with both Bell and Rogers welcoming the decision to uphold the injunction.

“Today’s swift dismissal of the appeal of the Federal Court’s injunction speaks to what this case is all about — an obvious case of piracy,” Rogers spokesperson Sarah Schmidt told CBC.

A Bell spokesperson said the decision provided more confirmation that the devices are illegal and that those that sell them face “significant consequences.”

For Wesley, those consequences are already being felt in the shape of a $5,000 court costs bill, something which he says has left him “at the end of his finances.”

With no money left to fight, any trial will almost certainly go the way of the cable and TV companies. Certainly, the public hasn’t signaled any intention to come to the sellers’ rescue. A GoFundMe campaign set up by Wesley in June last year has seen just 10 people deposit $350 of a $30,000 target.

The legal assaults on Kodi, Showbox, and Popcorn-Time enabled devices seems set to continue for some time but one has to wonder what effect the endless flood of news articles is doing to promote the availability of free content through the platforms. Legal action is perhaps inevitable but every case only serves to raise the profile of this new piracy phenomenon.

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

Police Investigate Former BPI Anti-Piracy Chief & PIPCU Board Member

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-investigate-former-bpi-anti-piracy-chief-pipcu-board-member-170317/

In December 2015, it was reported that the BPI’s Content Protection and Internet Investigations unit leaders would be leaving.

The music group said that the restructuring would enable it to better focus on the task ahead but with long-standing employees David Wood and John Hodge both departing the BPI, it certainly felt like there may have been more to the story.

To be absolutely clear, Hodge’s voluntary departure appears to have been both unconnected to Wood’s and completely benign, with no suggestion of impropriety. However, it now transpires that the story with Wood was much more complex.

After serving 15 years in the police force where he reached the rank of detective, David Wood left West Yorkshire Police in May 2002. Soon after, he began work at the BPI where he remained for the next 13 years, reaching the lofty position of Director of Copyright Protection at his peak.

Wood’s role saw him speaking to the media on many occasions, often decrying the dishonesty of Internet pirates and welcoming lengthy jail sentences as a suitable deterrent. This position eventually led him to the corridors of power at City of London Police.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood became a senior figure within the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) after it was set up in May 2013. He states that he held a stakeholder position on PIPCU’s Management Board and was instrumental in the development of Operation Creative, the UK’s groundbreaking anti-piracy initiative. At some point, however, it all went wrong.

TorrentFreak has learned that while John Hodge’s departure from his role as Head of Internet Investigations at the BPI was his own choice (he served out an orderly notice at a later point and appears to have left on amicable terms), Wood’s earlier and entirely unrelated exit was not a voluntary affair.

According to our sources, Wood and the BPI had – and continue to have – a major dispute over the alleged misappropriation of the latter’s funds. This led to Wood’s dismissal from the company.

In fact, the allegations were so serious that the BPI decided to report the matter to the police, a claim that was confirmed this week when we spoke to the music group.

“BPI can confirm that a former employee, David Wood, was dismissed for gross misconduct in December 2015,” a BPI spokesperson told TF.

“BPI has referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police who are investigating. As investigations are ongoing, it would not be appropriate to comment in any more detail at this stage.”

TorrentFreak sources indicate that very large sums of money are involved in the dispute, running well into six figures. Precise details have proven impossible to verify (the BPI declined to comment) but we understand the numbers involved are “significant”. What we do know for sure, however, is that the BPI felt it necessary to pursue Woods into bankruptcy.

In a bankruptcy petition filed against Woods on November 7, 2016, the BPI is listed as the petitioner. The bankruptcy order itself was granted on January 4, 2017 and was listed in the London Gazette.

According to his Linkedin profile, Wood left the BPI in December 2015 and joined a new company, OCAP Ltd, during the same month. Records at the UK’s Companies House reveal that Wood and another individual set the company up as directors during August 2015, months before Wood was dismissed from the BPI.

Archival copies of OCAP’s website reveal that the company was involved in the IP enforcement market, a logical move for Wood considering his history.

“Online Copyright Auditing and Protection (OCAP) is a unique company which specializes in bespoke intellectual property (IP) protection,” a notice on the now-defunct site read.

“Our services help not only brands but law enforcement agencies to investigate and disrupt those intent on unlawfully exploiting other’s IP Rights. OCAP Ltd also has access to specialist trainers in online investigations and in the field of Anti Money laundering for which we can arrange bespoke training sessions.”

Given the police investigation confirmed by the BPI, the OCAP site surprisingly listed City of London Police – whose PIPCU unit Wood was heavily involved in – as “just one example of a client that trusts us to deliver solutions to their big data problems.”

Now, however, OCAP Ltd is drawing its final breaths. During January and following his bankruptcy, Wood filed an application to strike the company off the register. If there are no further interventions, the company will cease to exist in April 2017 having never filed any accounts.

TorrentFreak attempted to contact Wood for comment, but emails to his listed addresses ultimately bounced.

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

UK Court Dismisses Case Against Torrent Site Proxy Operator

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-court-dismisses-case-against-torrent-site-proxy-operator-170307/

cityoflondonpoliceDuring the summer of 2014, City of London Police arrested then 20-year-old Callum Haywood of Bakersfield for his involvement with several proxy sites and services.

The investigation linked Haywood to Immunicity, a censorship circumvention tool that allowed users to route their traffic through a proxy network. In addition, he was also connected to the Pirate Bay proxy list Piratereverse.info plus several KickassTorrents and other proxy sites.

These proxies all served as a copy of the original sites, which are blocked by several UK ISPs, allowing users to bypass restrictions imposed by the High Court. While Haywood wasn’t operating any of the original sites, police decided to move ahead with the case anyway.

Following the arrest, progress was slow. It took nearly two years for the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to formally announce charges, which amounted to one count of converting and/or transferring criminal property and six counts of possession of an article for use in fraud.

The charges related to the operation of a Pirate Bay proxy and two KickassTorrent proxies, and could’ve potentially landed the now 23-year-old a prison sentence of over ten years.

Haywood, however, denied any wrongdoing and after three dismissal hearings, his Honour Judge Dickinson QC of the Nottingham Crown Court agreed that the case should be dismissed. The initial dismissal was signed late last week, and after PIPCU chose not to appeal, the case is now over.

Piratereverse.info

piratereverse

No official paperwork has been released yet, but we were informed that the Court dismissed the case because of conflicting arguments that were presented during hearings last September and December.

The prosecution initially argued that the reverse proxy sites allowed users to make a fraudulent false representation to their ISP, by obscuring their IP-addresses. In a later hearing, however, they argued that Haywood was the one who made the false representation through his software.

The contradicting claims appear to demonstrate a lack of technical understanding on the prosecution’s side. In their September argument, they seemed to confuse a reverse proxy site with a forward proxy, which would indeed hide a user’s activity from an ISP.

In the December hearing, the prosecution made another error. In their attempt to explain what a reverse proxy server is, they relied on printouts from Wikipedia as official evidence. The judge wasn’t happy and stressed that it was unacceptable for the prosecution to submit clearly inadmissible evidence.

While Haywood is obviously pleased with the end result, the case took its toll. There was a looming uncertainty present for years, as well as the prospect of ending up in prison if the case went in the wrong direction.

“Two and a half years is a long time, I have gone from being an undergrad computer science student to graduating with a first class honours, and working as a software developer for a network appliance vendor,” Haywood informs TF.

“While I don’t think it has prevented me from achieving what I wanted, it has been a very difficult period of time for my family, and my friends. Having the case dismissed goes to show how the right decision was to plead not guilty – had I pleaded guilty, I would have been sentenced without contest.”

Haywood always maintained his innocence and in the end it paid off. He now hopes to leave the bad times behind and focus on the future. As for the authorities, he hopes that they will address real threats to society, instead of reverse proxy sites.

“I am pleased that it is over, as it was very frustrating. Everyone that I had discussed the case with who had a decent understanding of the technicalities was shocked that it had been allowed to get so far.

“It is also a disappointment how many resources were wasted in dealing with this case, when there are much more serious actual crimes on our streets,” Haywood concludes.

TorrentFreak contacted PIPCU for a comment, but we haven’t heard back at the time of publication.

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

Warner Bros. Settles With Company That Leaked Oscar Screeners

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/warner-bros-settles-with-company-that-leaked-oscar-screeners-170223/

Perfect copies of movies still in theaters are relatively hard to come by, unless you know someone with access to DVD screeners, that is.

These discs are often given out to awards voters “for their consideration” and are supposed to be handled extremely securely so that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

Nevertheless, every year screeners end up on torrent sites, much to the disappointment of movie companies.

Two titles that leaked back in 2015 were Creed and In the Heart of the Sea but their route to the Internet was a particularly unusual one. After obtaining the discs legally on behalf of its clients, talent agency Innovative Artists used ripping software to copy the movies to its own digital distribution platform.

Quite clearly its security was lacking, as notorious pirate group Hive-CM8 obtained copies of the movies and dumped them online. Both were watermarked, however, which allowed content security company Deluxe Entertainment Services to trace the copies back to Innovative Artists.

In response, Warner Bros. filed a lawsuit against the company last October. Warner pulled no punches, accusing Innovative Artists of using illegal software to circumvent the protection on the discs before placing them on an illegal distribution platform.

The agency publicly apologized for its actions but added that it was surprised by the lawsuit. It had cooperated with Warner right from the beginning in an effort to put things right, so the legal action came out of the blue.

Now, however, the dispute appears to be have been sorted out. According to information received by THR, Warner Bros. and Innovative Artists have come to some kind of settlement agreement.

No court documents have yet been filed to indicate that a settlement has been reached. That being said, it’s rare for such agreements to be made fully public so any terms could remain confidential, even when the notice of dismissal appears. THR says it contacted both parties for comment but neither side provided any information.

Meanwhile, Hive-CM8 have continued releasing copies of leaked DVD screeners over the past several weeks, showing that when one route of supply closes, another one opens.

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

US and KickassTorrents Go Head to Head in Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-and-kickasstorrents-go-head-to-head-in-court-170202/

kickasstorrents_500x500This week KickassTorrents’ alleged owner Artem Vaulin asked the Illinois District Court to dismiss the criminal indictment and set him free.

The fundamental flaw of the case, according to defense lawyer Ira Rothken, is that torrent files themselves are not copyrighted content.

In addition, he argued that the secondary copyright infringement claims would fail as these are non-existent under criminal law.

District Court Judge John Lee previously questioned the evidence in the case and according to Rothken, it is certainly not enough to keep his client behind bars. This is also what he told the court during the hearing this week, stressing that torrents themselves are not copyrighted.

“We believe that the indictment against Artem Vaulin in the KAT torrent files case is defective and should be dismissed. Torrent files are not content files. The reproduction and distribution of torrent files are not a crime,” Rothken tells TF.

“If a third party uses torrent files to infringe it is after they leave the KAT site behind and such conduct is too random, inconsistent, and attenuated to impose criminal liability on Mr. Vaulin. The government cannot use the civil judge-made law in Grokster as a theory in a criminal case.”

Furthermore, Rothken argued that the US indictment is flawed because it fails to allege an actual criminal copyright infringement anywhere in the world, the United States included. The defense likened KickassTorrents to general search engines such as Google instead.

On the other side of the aisle stood US Department of Justice prosecutor Devlin Su. He urged the court to wait for the extradition hearing in Poland before ruling on the request, noting that Vaulin should come to the US voluntarily if he wanted to speed things up.

According to the prosecution, KickassTorrents operated as a piracy flea market, with an advertising revenue of about $12.5 million to $22.3 million. Comparing it with Google is nonsense, Su argued.

“Google is not dedicated to uploading and distributing copyrighted works,” Law360 quotes the prosecutor.

It is now up to the Illinois District Court to decide how to move forward. The defense is hoping for an outright dismissal, while the U.S. wants to move forward.

Meanwhile, over in Poland, Vaulin remains in custody after he was denied bail. Facing severe health issues, the Ukrainian was transferred from Polish prison to a local hospital a few weeks ago, where he remains under heavy guard.

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

No, Yahoo! isn’t changing its name

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/01/no-yahoo-isnt-changing-its-name.html

Trending on social media is how Yahoo is changing it’s name to “Altaba” and CEO Marissa Mayer is stepping down. This is false.

What is happening instead is that everything we know of as “Yahoo” (including the brand name) is being sold to Verizon. The bits that are left are a skeleton company that holds stock in Alibaba and a few other companies. Since the brand was sold to Verizon, that investment company could no longer use it, so chose “Altaba”. Since 83% of its investment is in Alibabi, “Altaba” makes sense. It’s not like this new brand name means anything — the skeleton investment company will be wound down in the next year, either as a special dividend to investors, sold off to Alibaba, or both.

Marissa Mayer is an operations CEO. Verizon didn’t want her to run their newly acquired operations, since the entire point of buying them was to take the web operations in a new direction (though apparently she’ll still work a bit with them through the transition). And of course she’s not an appropriate CEO for an investment company. So she had no job left — she made her own job disappear.

What happened today is an obvious consequence of Alibaba going IPO in September 2014. It meant that Yahoo’s stake of 16% in Alibaba was now liquid. All told, the investment arm of Yahoo was worth $36-billion while the web operations (Mail, Fantasy, Tumblr, etc.) was worth only $5-billion.

In other words, Yahoo became a Wall Street mutual fund who inexplicably also offered web mail and cat videos.

Such a thing cannot exist. If Yahoo didn’t act, shareholders would start suing the company to get their money back.That $36-billion in investments doesn’t belong to Yahoo, it belongs to its shareholders. Thus, the moment the Alibaba IPO closed, Yahoo started planning on how to separate the investment arm from the web operations.

Yahoo had basically three choices.

  • The first choice is simply give the Alibaba (and other investment) shares as a one time dividend to Yahoo shareholders. 
  • A second choice is simply split the company in two, one of which has the investments, and the other the web operations. 
  • The third choice is to sell off the web operations to some chump like Verizon.

Obviously, Marissa Mayer took the third choice. Without a slushfund (the investment arm) to keep it solvent, Yahoo didn’t feel it could run its operations profitably without integration with some other company. That meant it either had to buy a large company to integrate with Yahoo, or sell the Yahoo portion to some other large company.

Every company, especially Internet ones, have a legacy value. It’s the amount of money you’ll get from firing everyone, stop investing in the future, and just raking in year after year a stream of declining revenue. It’s the fate of early Internet companies like Earthlink and Slashdot. It’s like how I documented with Earthlink [*], which continues to offer email to subscribers, but spends only enough to keep the lights on, not even upgrading to the simplest of things like SSL.

Presumably, Verizon will try to make something of a few of the properties. Apparently, Yahoo’s Fantasy sports stuff is popular, and will probably be rebranded as some new Verizon thing. Tumblr is already it’s own brand name, independent of Yahoo, and thus will probably continue to exist as its own business unit.

One of the weird things is Yahoo Mail. It permanently bound to the “yahoo.com” domain, so you can’t do much with the “Yahoo” brand without bringing Mail along with it. Though at this point, the “Yahoo” brand is pretty tarnished. There’s not much new you can put under that brand anyway. I can’t see how Verizon would want to invest in that brand at all — just milk it for what it can over the coming years.

The investment company cannot long exist on its own. Investors want their money back, so they can make future investment decisions on their own. They don’t want the company to make investment choices for them.

Think about when Yahoo made its initial $1-billion investment for 40% of Alibaba in 2005, it did not do so because it was a good “investment opportunity”, but because Yahoo believed it was good strategic investment, such as providing an entry in the Chinese market, or providing an e-commerce arm to compete against eBay and Amazon. In other words, Yahoo didn’t consider as a good way of investing its money, but a good way to create a strategic partnership — one that just never materialized. From that point of view, the Alibaba investment was a failure.

In 2012, Marissa Mayer sold off 25% of Alibaba, netting $4-billion after taxes. She then lost all $4-billion on the web operations. That stake would be worth over $50-billion today. You can see the problem: companies with large slush funds just fritter them away keeping operations going. Marissa Mayer abused her position of trust, playing with money that belong to shareholders.

Thus, Altbaba isn’t going to play with shareholder’s money. It’s a skeleton company, so there’s no strategic value to investments. They can make no better investment choices than its shareholders can with their own money. Thus, the only purpose of the skeleton investment company is to return the money back to the shareholders. I suspect it’ll choose the most tax efficient way of doing this, like selling the whole thing to Alibaba, which just exchanges the Altaba shares for Alibaba shares, with a 15% bonus representing the value of the other Altaba investments. Either way, if Altaba is still around a year from now, it’s because it’s board is skimming money that doesn’t belong to them.


Key points:

  • Altaba is the name of the remaining skeleton investment company, the “Yahoo” brand was sold with the web operations to Verizon.
  • The name Altaba sucks because it’s not a brand name that will stick around for a while — the skeleton company is going to return all its money to its investors.
  • Yahoo had to spin off its investments — there’s no excuse for 90% of its market value to be investments and 10% in its web operations.
  • In particular, the money belongs to Yahoo’s investors, not Yahoo the company. It’s not some sort of slush fund Yahoo’s executives could use. Yahoo couldn’t use that money to keep its flailing web operations going, as Marissa Mayer was attempting to do.
  • Most of Yahoo’s web operations will go the way of Earthlink and Slashdot, as Verizon milks the slowly declining revenue while making no new investments in it.

Presenting an Open Source Toolkit for Lightweight Multilingual Entity Linking

Post Syndicated from mikesefanov original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/154168092396

yahooresearch:

By Aasish Pappu, Roi Blanco, and Amanda Stent

What’s the first thing you want to know about any kind of text document (like a Yahoo News or Yahoo Sports article)? What it’s about, of course! That means you want to know something about the people, organizations, and locations that are mentioned in the document. Systems that automatically surface this information are called named entity recognition and linking systems. These are one of the most useful components in text analytics as they are required for a wide variety of applications including search, recommender systems, question answering, and sentiment analysis.

Named entity recognition and linking systems use statistical models trained over large amounts of labeled text data. A major challenge is to be able to accurately detect entities, in new languages, at scale, with limited labeled data available, and while consuming a limited amount of resources (memory and processing power).

After researching and implementing solutions to enhance our own personalization technology, we are pleased to offer the open source community Fast Entity Linker, our unsupervised, accurate, and extensible multilingual named entity recognition and linking system, along with datapacks for English, Spanish, and Chinese.

For broad usability, our system links text entity mentions to Wikipedia. For example, in the sentence Yahoo is a company headquartered in Sunnyvale, CA with Marissa Mayer as CEO, our system would identify the following entities:

On the algorithmic side, we use entity embeddings, click-log data, and efficient clustering methods to achieve high precision. The system achieves a low memory footprint and fast execution times by using compressed data structures and aggressive hashing functions.

Entity embeddings are vector-based representations that capture how entities are referred to in context. We train entity embeddings using Wikipedia articles, and use hyperlinked terms in the articles to create canonical entities. The context of an entity and the context of a token are modeled using the neural network architecture in the figure below, where entity vectors are trained to predict not only their surrounding entities but also the global context of word sequences contained within them. In this way, one layer models entity context, and the other layer models token context. We connect these two layers using the same technique that (Quoc and Mikolov ‘14) used to train paragraph vectors.

image


Architecture for training word embeddings and entity embeddings simultaneously. Ent represents entities and W represents their context words.

Search click-log data gives very useful signals to disambiguate partial or ambiguous entity mentions. For example, if searchers for “Fox” tend to click on “Fox News” rather than “20th Century Fox,” we can use this data in order to identify “Fox” in a document. To disambiguate entity mentions and ensure a document has a consistent set of entities, our system supports three entity disambiguation algorithms:

*Currently, only the Forward Backward Algorithm is available in our open source release–the other two will be made available soon!

These algorithms are particularly helpful in accurately linking entities when a popular candidate is NOT the correct candidate for an entity mention. In the example below, these algorithms leverage the surrounding context to accurately link Manchester City, Swansea City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal to their respective football clubs.



Ambiguous mentions that could refer to multiple entities are highlighted in red. For example, Chelsea could refer to Chelsea Football team or Chelsea neighborhood in New York or London. Unambiguous named entities are highlighted in green.


Examples of candidate retrieval process in Entity Linking for both ambiguous and unambiguous examples referred in the example above. The correct candidate is highlighted in green.


At this time, Fast Entity Linker is one of only three freely-available multilingual named entity recognition and linking systems (others are DBpedia Spotlight and Babelfy). In addition to a stand-alone entity linker, the software includes tools for creating and compressing word/entity embeddings and datapacks for different languages from Wikipedia data. As an example, the datapack containing information from all of English Wikipedia is only ~2GB.

The technical contributions of this system are described in two scientific papers:

There are numerous possible applications of the open-source toolkit. One of them is attributing sentiment to entities detected in the text, as opposed to the entire text itself. For example, consider the following actual review of the movie “Inferno” from a user on MetaCritic (revised for clarity): “While the great performance of Tom Hanks (wiki_Tom_Hanks) and company make for a mysterious and vivid movie, the plot is difficult to comprehend. Although the movie was a clever and fun ride, I expected more from Columbia (wiki_Columbia_Pictures).”  Though the review on balance is neutral, it conveys a positive sentiment about wiki_Tom_Hanks and a negative sentiment about wiki_Columbia_Pictures.

Many existing sentiment analysis tools collate the sentiment value associated with the text as a whole, which makes it difficult to track sentiment around any individual entity. With our toolkit, one could automatically extract “positive” and “negative” aspects within a given text, giving a clearer understanding of the sentiment surrounding its individual components.

Feel free to use the code, contribute to it, and come up with addtional applications; our system and models are available at https://github.com/yahoo/FEL.

Great work from our Yahoo Research team!

$1bn Getty Images Public Domain Photograph Dispute is Over

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/1bn-getty-images-public-domain-photograph-dispute-is-over-161125/

Seattle-based Getty Images is an agency
with control over an archive of millions of stock images. It also has a reputation for strongly protecting its copyrights and chasing down companies and individuals who use Getty images without paying an appropriate fee.

Late December 2015, established US-based photographer Carol Highsmith was a recipient of a Getty threat via License Compliance Services (LCS) on behalf of Alamy, another Getty-affiliated company.

“We have seen that an image or image(s) represented by Alamy has been used for online use by your company. According to Alamy’s records your company doesn’t have a valid license for use of the image(s),” the letter began.

“Although this infringement might have been unintentional, use of an image without a valid license is considered copyright infringement in violation of the Copyright Act, Title 17, United States Code. This copyright law entitles Alamy to seek compensation for any license infringement.”

Targeting Highsmith with this particular threat was problematic. The image in question was one of her own. It was among thousands of other images she previously donated to the Library of Congress and made available to the public to reproduce and display for free. Highsmith subsequently discovered that Getty and its affiliates were making available more than 18,000 of her other photographs too.

The photographer responded with a $1bn lawsuit but the stock image company didn’t back down. Fighting back, Getty said it would vigorously defend its position based on the fact that Highsmith had placed her work in the public domain.

Considering the David and Goliath nature of the case (not to mention Getty’s reputation for picking on the little guy), observers hoped that during the lawsuit Getty would at least get a bloody nose. That has not come to pass.

To begin, on October 28, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed each of Carol Highsmith’s federal copyright claims.

“Defendants Getty Images (US), Inc., License Compliance Services, Inc., Alamy, including thatInc., and Alamy Ltd. collectively moved to dismiss all claims of plaintiffs Carol Highsmith and This is America!, Inc. under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,…the Lanham Act,… New York General Business Law,… and New York common law of unfair competition,” the Judge wrote.

“Upon consideration, the Court grants defendants’ motions,” he added.

With the federal claims gone, three state law claims werincluding that Getty charged licensing fees for images when it shouldn’t have and collected settlements from alleged infringers when it had no right. However, these claims have now also been dismissed, along with the rest of the case.

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and among the parties, that this action shall be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(a)(l)(A)(ii) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each party to bear its own costs and fees,” the Judge wrote in his dismissal.

Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, it is done and cannot be brought back to court.

getty-highsmith-dismiss

The Judge added that a memorandum explaining the reasoning behind the rulings will be issued in due course, but it seems fairly clear that since Highsmith had passed her images into the public domain in 1988, that seriously undermined her case.

The terms of the settlement have not been released, and a lengthy protective order issued early November forbids all parties from discussing any information obtained during the pre-trial discovery phase.

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