Tag Archives: mpaa

Tech Giants Warn Against Kodi Scapegoating

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-giants-warn-kodi-scapegoating-171022/

At the beginning of October, several entertainment industry groups shared their piracy concerns with the US Government’s Trade Representative (USTR).

Aside from pointing towards traditional websites, pirate streaming boxes were also brought up, by the MPAA among others.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA noted.

This week the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes members such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, notes that the USTR should be careful not to blame an open source media player such as Kodi, for the infringing actions of others.

CCIA wrote a rebuttal clarifying that Kodi and similar open source players are not the problem here.

“Another example of commenters raising concerns about generalized technology is the MPAA’s characterization of customizable, open-source set-top boxes utilizing the Kodi multimedia player application along with websites that allegedly ‘enable one-click installation of modified software onto set-top boxes or other internet-connected devices’,” CCIA writes.

While the MPAA itself also clearly mentioned that “Kodi is not itself unlawful,” CCIA stresses that any enforcement actions should be aimed at those who are breaking the law. The real targets include vendors who sell streaming boxes pre-loaded with infringing addons.

“These enforcement activities should focus on the infringers themselves, however, not a general purpose technology, such as an operating system for set-top boxes, which may be used in both lawful and unlawful ways.

“Open-source software designed for operating a home electronics device is unquestionably legitimate, and capable of substantial non-infringing uses,” CCIA adds in its cautionary letter the USTR.

While the MPAA’s submission was not trying to characterize Kodi itself as illegal, it did call out TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository.” The new incarnation of TVAddons wasn’t happy with this label and previously scolded the movie industry group for its comments, pointing out that it only received a handful of DMCA takedown notices in recent years.

“…in the entire history of TV ADDONS, XBMC HUB and OffshoreGit, we only received a total of about five DMCA notices in all; two of which were completely bogus. None of which came from a MPAA affiliate.”

While it’s obvious to most that Kodi isn’t the problem, as CCIA is highlighting, to many people it’s still unclear where the line between infringing and non-infringing is drawn. Lawsuits, including those against TVAddons and TickBox, are expected to bring more clarity.

CCIA’s full submission is available here (pdf).

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

MP3 Stream Rippers Are Not Illegal Sites, EFF Tells US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mp3-stream-rippers-are-not-illegal-sites-eff-tells-us-government-171021/

Free music is easy to find nowadays. Just head over to YouTube and you can find millions of tracks including many of the most recent releases.

While some artists happily share their work, the major record labels don’t want tracks to leak outside YouTube’s ecosystem. For this reason, they want YouTube to MP3 rippers shut down.

Earlier this month, the RIAA sent its overview of “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), highlighting several of these sites and asking for help.

“The overall popularity of these sites and the staggering volume of traffic it attracts evidences the enormous damage being inflicted on the U.S. record industry,” the RIAA wrote, calling out Mp3juices.cc, Convert2mp3.net, Savefrom.net, Ytmp3.cc, Convertmp3.io, Flvto.biz, and 2conv.com as the most popular offenders.

This position is shared by many other music industry groups. They see stream ripping as the largest piracy threat online. After shutting down YouTube-MP3, they hope to topple other sites as well, ideally with the backing of the US Government.

However, not everyone shares the belief that stream ripping equals copyright infringement.

In a rebuttal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) informs the USTR that the RIAA is trying to twist the law in its favor. Not all stream ripping sites are facilitating copyright infringement by definition, the EFF argues.

“RIAA’s discussion of ‘stream-ripping’ websites misstates copyright law. Websites that simply allow users to extract the audio track from a user-selected online video are not ‘illegal sites’ and are not liable for copyright infringement, unless they engage in additional conduct that meets the definition of infringement,” the EFF writes.

Flvto

While some people may use these sites to ‘pirate’ tracks there are also legitimate purposes, the digital rights group notes. Some creators specifically allow others to download and modify their work, for example, and in other cases ripping can be seen as fair use.

“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stresses.

“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”

The fact that these sites generate revenue from advertising doesn’t make them illegal either. While there are some issues that could make a site liable, such as distributing infringing content to third parties, the EFF argues that many of the sites identified by the RIAA are not clearly involved in such activities.

Instead of solely relying on the characterizations of the RIAA, the US Government should judge these sites independently, in accordance with the law.

“USTR must apply U.S. law as it is, not as particular industry organizations wish it to be. Accordingly, it is inappropriate to describe ‘stream-ripping’ sites as engaging in or facilitating infringement. That logic would discourage U.S. firms from providing many forms of useful, lawful technology that processes or interacts with copyrighted work in digital form, to the detriment of U.S. trade,” the EFF concludes.

It is worth highlighting that most sites the RIAA mentioned specifically advertise themselves as YouTube converters. While this violates YouTube’s Terms of Service, something the streaming platform isn’t happy with, it doesn’t automatically classify them as infringing services.

Ideally, the RIAA and other music industry group would like YouTube to shut down these sites but if that doesn’t happen, more lawsuits may follow in the future. Then, the claims from both sides can be properly tested in court.

The full EFF response is available here (pdf). In addition to the stream ripping comments, the digital rights group also defends CDN providers such as Cloudflare, reverse proxies, and domain registrars from MPAA and RIAA piracy complaints.

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

Cloudflare Counters MPAA and RIAA’s ‘Rehashed’ Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-counters-mpaa-and-riaas-rehashed-piracy-complaints-171020/

A few weeks ago several copyright holder groups sent their annual “Notorious Markets” complaints to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

While the recommendations usually include well-known piracy sites such as The Pirate Bay, third-party services are increasingly mentioned. MPAA and RIAA, for example, wrote that Cloudflare frustrates enforcement efforts by helping pirate sites to “hide”.

The CDN provider is not happy with these characterizations and this week submitted a rebuttal. Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer says that the company was surprised to see these mentions. Not only because they “distort” reality, but also because they are pretty much identical to those leveled last year.

“Most surprising is that their comments were basically the same complaints they filed in 2016 and contain the same mistakes and distortions that we pointed out in our rebuttal comments from October, 2016.”

“Simply repeating the same mischaracterizations for a second year in a row does not convert them into facts, so we are compelled to reiterate our objections,” Kramer adds (pdf).

There is indeed quite a bit of overlap between the submissions from both years. In fact, several sections are copied word for word, such as the RIAA’s allegation below.

“In addition, more sites are now employing services of Cloudflare, a content delivery network and distributed domain name server service. BitTorrent sites, like many other pirate sites, are increasing [sic] turning to Cloudflare because routing their site through Cloudflare obfuscates the IP address of the actual hosting provider, masking the location of the site.”

The same can be said about the MPAA’s submission, which includes a lot of the same comments and sentences as last year. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if the information was correct, but according to Cloudflare, that’s not the case.

The two industry groups claim that the CDN provider makes it more difficult to track where pirate sites are hosted. However, Cloudflare argues the opposite.

Both RIAA and MPAA are part of the “Trusted Reporter” program and use it frequently, Cloudflare points out. This program allows rightsholders to easily obtain the actual IP-addresses of Cloudflare-hosted websites that engage in widespread copyright infringement.

Most importantly, according to Cloudflare, is that the company follows the letter of the law.

“Cloudflare does not make the process of enforcing intellectual property rights online any harder — or any easier. We follow all applicable laws and regulations,” Cloudflare explained in its submission last year.

In its 2017 rebuttal, the company reiterates this position once again. Kramer also points to a recent blog post from CEO Matthew Prince, which discusses free speech and censorship issues. The message is that vigilante justice is not the answer to piracy, and all relevant stakeholders should get together to discuss how to handle these issues going forward.

For now, however, the USTR should disregard the comments regarding Cloudflare as irrelevant and inaccurate, the company argues.

“We trust that USTR will once again agree with Cloudflare that complaints implying that Cloudflare is aiding illegal activities have no place whatsoever in USTR’s Notorious Markets inquiry. It would seem to distract from and dilute the message of that report to focus on companies that are working to make the internet more cybersecure,” Kramer concludes.

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

New ‘Coalition Against Piracy’ Will Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Boxes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/new-coalition-against-piracy-will-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-boxes-171017/

Traditionally there have only been a handful of well-known industry groups fighting online piracy, but this appears to be changing.

Increasingly, major entertainment industry companies are teaming up in various regions to bundle their enforcement efforts against copyright infringement.

Earlier this year the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) was formed by major players including Disney, HBO, and NBCUniversal, and several of the same media giants are also involved in the newly founded Coalition Against Piracy (CAP).

CAP will coordinate anti-piracy efforts in Asia and is backed by CASBAA, Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

The coalition has hired Neil Gane as its general manager. Gane is no stranger to anti-piracy work, as he previously served as the MPAA’s regional director in Australasia and was chief of the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.

The goal of CAP will be to assist in local enforcement actions against piracy, including the disruption and dismantling of local businesses that facilitate it. Pirate streaming boxes and apps will be among the main targets.

These boxes, which often use the legal Kodi player paired with infringing add-ons, are referred to as illicit streaming devices (ISDs) by industry insiders. They have grown in popularity all around the world and Asia is no exception.

“The prevalence of ISDs across Asia is staggering. The criminals who operate the ISD networks and the pirate websites are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware”, Gane said, quoted by Indian Television.

Gane knows the region well and started his career working for the Hong Kong Police. He sees the pirate streaming box ecosystem as a criminal network which presents a major threat to the entertainment industries.

“This is a highly organized transnational crime with criminal syndicates profiting enormously at the expense of consumers as well as content creators,” Gane noted.

The Asian creative industry is a major growth market as more and more legal content is made available. However, the growth of these legal services is threatened by pirate boxes and apps. The Coalition Against Piracy hopes to curb this.

The launch of CAP, which will be formalized at the upcoming CASBAA anti-piracy convention in November, confirms the trend of localized anti-piracy coalitions which are backed by major industry players. We can expect to hear more from these during the years to come.

Just a few days ago the founding members of the aforementioned ACE anti-piracy initiative filed their first joint lawsuit in the US which, unsurprisingly, targets a seller of streaming boxes.

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

Netflix Expands Content Protection Team to Reduce Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-expands-content-protection-team-to-reduce-piracy-171015/

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

Despite the widespread availability, however, Netflix originals are widely pirated. Episodes from House of Cards, Narcos, and Orange is the New Black are downloaded and streamed millions of times through unauthorized platforms.

The streaming giant is obviously not happy with this situation and has ramped up its anti-piracy efforts in recent years. Since last year the company has sent out over a million takedown requests to Google alone and this volume continues to expand.

This growth coincides with an expansion of the company’s internal anti-piracy division. A new job posting shows that Netflix is expanding this team with a Copyright and Content Protection Coordinator. The ultimate goal is to reduce piracy to a fringe activity.

“The growing Global Copyright & Content Protection Group is looking to expand its team with the addition of a coordinator,” the job listing reads.

“He or she will be tasked with supporting the Netflix Global Copyright & Content Protection Group in its internal tactical take down efforts with the goal of reducing online piracy to a socially unacceptable fringe activity.”

Among other things, the new coordinator will evaluate new technological solutions to tackle piracy online.

More old-fashioned takedown efforts are also part of the job. This includes monitoring well-known content platforms, search engines and social network sites for pirated content.

“Day to day scanning of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Periscope, Google Search, Bing Search, VK, DailyMotion and all other platforms (including live platforms) used for piracy,” is listed as one of the main responsibilities.

Netflix’ Copyright and Content Protection Coordinator Job

The coordinator is further tasked with managing Facebook’s Rights Manager and YouTube’s Content-ID system, to prevent circumvention of these piracy filters. Experience with fingerprinting technologies and other anti-piracy tools will be helpful in this regard.

Netflix doesn’t do all the copyright enforcement on its own though. The company works together with other media giants in the recently launched “Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment” that is spearheaded by the MPAA.

In addition, the company also uses the takedown services of external anti-piracy outfits to target more traditional infringement sources, such as cyberlockers and piracy streaming sites. The coordinator has to keep an eye on these as well.

“Liaise with our vendors on manual takedown requests on linking sites and hosting sites and gathering data on pirate streaming sites, cyberlockers and usenet platforms.”

The above shows that Netflix is doing its best to prevent piracy from getting out of hand. It’s definitely taking the issue more seriously than a few years ago when the company didn’t have much original content.

The switch from being merely a distribution platform to becoming a major content producer and copyright holder has changed the stakes. Netflix hasn’t won the war on piracy, it’s just getting started.

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

SOPA Ghosts Hinder U.S. Pirate Site Blocking Efforts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sopa-ghosts-hinder-u-s-pirate-site-blocking-efforts-171008/

Website blocking has become one of the entertainment industries’ favorite anti-piracy tools.

All over the world, major movie and music industry players have gone to court demanding that ISPs take action, often with great success.

Internal MPAA research showed that website blockades help to deter piracy and former boss Chris Dodd said that they are one of the most effective anti-tools available.

While not everyone is in agreement on this, the numbers are used to lobby politicians and convince courts. Interestingly, however, nothing is happening in the United States, which is where most pirate site visitors come from.

This is baffling to many people. Why would US-based companies go out of their way to demand ISP blocking in the most exotic locations, but fail to do the same at home?

We posed this question to Neil Turkewitz, RIAA’s former Executive Vice President International, who currently runs his own consulting group.

The main reason why pirate site blocking requests have not yet been made in the United States is down to SOPA. When the proposed SOPA legislation made headlines five years ago there was a massive backlash against website blocking, which isn’t something copyright groups want to reignite.

“The legacy of SOPA is that copyright industries want to avoid resurrecting the ghosts of SOPA past, and principally focus on ways to creatively encourage cooperation with platforms, and to use existing remedies,” Turkewitz tells us.

Instead of taking the likes of Comcast and Verizon to court, the entertainment industries focused on voluntary agreements, such as the now-defunct Copyright Alerts System. However, that doesn’t mean that website blocking and domain seizures are not an option.

“SOPA made ‘website blocking’ as such a four-letter word. But this is actually fairly misleading,” Turkewitz says.

“There have been a variety of civil and criminal actions addressing the conduct of entities subject to US jurisdiction facilitating piracy, regardless of the source, including hundreds of domain seizures by DHS/ICE.”

Indeed, there are plenty of legal options already available to do much of what SOPA promised. ABS-CBN has taken over dozens of pirate site domain names through the US court system. Most recently even through an ex-parte order, meaning that the site owners had no option to defend themselves before they lost their domains.

ISP and search engine blocking is also around the corner. As we reported earlier this week, a Virginia magistrate judge recently recommended an injunction which would require search engines and Internet providers to prevent users from accessing Sci-Hub.

Still, the major movie and music companies are not yet using these tools to take on The Pirate Bay or other major pirate sites. If it’s so easy, then why not? Apparently, SOPA may still be in the back of their minds.

Interestingly, the RIAA’s former top executive wasn’t a fan of SOPA when it was first announced, as it wouldn’t do much to extend the legal remedies that were already available.

“I actually didn’t like SOPA very much since it mostly reflected existing law and maintained a paradigm that didn’t involve ISP’s in creative interdiction, and simply preserved passivity. To see it characterized as ‘copyright gone wild’ was certainly jarring and incongruous,” Turkewitz says.

Ironically, it looks like a bill that failed to pass, and didn’t impress some copyright holders to begin with, is still holding them back after five years. They’re certainly not using all the legal options available to avoid SOPA comparison. The question is, for how long?

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

RIAA Identifies Top YouTube MP3 Rippers and Other Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-identifies-top-youtube-mp3-rippers-and-other-pirate-sites-171006/

Around the same time as Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA has also submitted its overview of “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

These submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position toward foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

The RIAA’s overview begins positively, announcing two major successes achieved over the past year.

The first is the shutdown of sites such as Emp3world, AudioCastle, Viperial, Album Kings, and im1music. These sites all used the now-defunct Sharebeast platform, whose operator pleaded guilty to criminal copyright infringement.

Another victory followed a few weeks ago when YouTube-MP3.org shut down its services after being sued by the RIAA.

“The most popular YouTube ripping site, youtube-mp3.org, based in Germany and included in last year’s list of notorious markes [sic], recently shut down in response to a civil action brought by major record labels,” the RIAA writes.

This case also had an effect on similar services. Some stream ripping services that were reported to the USTR last year no longer permit the conversion and download of music videos on YouTube, the RIAA reports. However, they add that the problem is far from over.

“Unfortunately, several other stream-ripping sites have ‘doubled down’ and carry on in this illegal behavior, continuing to make this form of theft a major concern for the music industry,” the music group writes.

“The overall popularity of these sites and the staggering volume of traffic it attracts evidences the enormous damage being inflicted on the U.S. record industry.”

The music industry group is tracking more than 70 of these stream ripping sites and the most popular ones are listed in the overview of notorious markets. These are Mp3juices.cc, Convert2mp3.net, Savefrom.net, Ytmp3.cc, Convertmp3.io, Flvto.biz, and 2conv.com.

Youtube2mp3’s listing

The RIAA notes that many sites use domain privacy services to hide their identities, as well as Cloudflare to obscure the sites’ true hosting locations. This frustrates efforts to take action against these sites, they say.

Popular torrent sites are also highlighted, including The Pirate Bay. These sites regularly change domain names to avoid ISP blockades and domain seizures, and also use Cloudflare to hide their hosting location.

“BitTorrent sites, like many other pirate sites, are increasing [sic] turning to Cloudflare because routing their site through Cloudflare obfuscates the IP address of the actual hosting provider, masking the location of the site.”

Finally, the RIAA reports several emerging threats reported to the Government. Third party app stores, such as DownloadAtoZ.com, reportedly offer a slew of infringing apps. In addition, there’s a boom of Nigerian pirate sites that flood the market with free music.

“The number of such infringing sites with a Nigerian operator stands at over 200. Their primary method of promotion is via Twitter, and most sites make use of the Nigerian operated ISP speedhost247.com,” the report notes

The full list of RIAA’s “notorious” pirate sites, which also includes several cyberlockers, MP3 search and download sites, as well as unlicensed pay services, can be found below. The full report is available here (pdf).

Stream-Ripping Sites

– Mp3juices.cc
– Convert2mp3.net
– Savefrom.net
– Ytmp3.cc
– Convertmp3.io
– Flvto.biz
– 2conv.com.

Search-and-Download Sites

– Newalbumreleases.net
– Rnbxclusive.top
– DNJ.to

BitTorrent Indexing and Tracker Sites

– Thepiratebay.org
– Torrentdownloads.me
– Rarbg.to
– 1337x.to

Cyberlockers

– 4shared.com
– Uploaded.net
– Zippyshare.com
– Rapidgator.net
– Dopefile.pk
– Chomikuj.pl

Unlicensed Pay-for-Download Sites

– Mp3va.com
– Mp3fiesta.com

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

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA notes.

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

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

‘China Should Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Box Distributors’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-should-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-box-distributors-171001/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has informed the U.S. Government that China must step up its game to better protect the interests of copyright holders.

The US Trade Representative is reviewing whether China has done enough to comply with its WTO obligations, but IIPA members including RIAA and MPAA believe there is still work to be done.

One of the areas to which the Chinese Government should pay more attention is enforcement. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, especially in combating music piracy, new threats have emerged.

One of the areas highlighted by IIPA is the streaming box ecosystem, aptly dubbed as “piracy 3.0” by the Motion Picture Association. This appeals to a new breed of pirates who rely on set-top boxes which are filled with pirate add-ons.

Industry groups often refer to these boxes as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) and they see China as a major hub through which these are shipped around the world.

“ISDs are media boxes, set-top boxes or other devices that allow users, through the use of piracy apps, to stream, download, or otherwise access unauthorized content from the Internet,” IIPA writes.

“These devices have emerged as a significant means through which pirated motion picture and television content is accessed on televisions in homes in China as well as elsewhere in Asia and increasingly around the world. China is a hub for the manufacture of these devices.”

Although the hardware and media players are perfectly legal, things get problematic when they’re loaded with pirate add-ons and promoted as tools to facilitate copyright infringement.

IIPA states that the Chinese Government should do more to stop these devices from being sold. Cracking down on the main distribution points would be a good start, they say.

“However it is done, the Chinese government must increase enforcement efforts, including cracking down on piracy apps and on device retailers and/or distributors who preload the devices with apps that facilitate infringement.

“Moreover, because China is the main source of this problem spreading across Asia, the Chinese government should take immediate actions against key distribution points for devices that are being used illegally,” IIPA adds.

In addition to pirate boxes, the industry groups also want China to beef up its enforcement against online journal piracy, pirate apps, unauthorized camcording, and unlicensed streaming platforms.

IIPA intends to explain the above and several other shortcomings in detail during a hearing in Washington, DC, next Wednesday. The group has submitted an overview of its testimony to the Trade Representative, which is available here (pdf).

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

Roku Is Building Its Own Anti-Piracy Team

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-building-anti-piracy-team/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch unauthorized content through their regular TV.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and more.

The entertainment industry isn’t happy with this development and is trying to halt further growth wherever possible.

Just a few months ago, Roku was harshly confronted with this new reality when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it’s clear that Roku itself is now taking a more proactive role.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, the company is taking steps to better deal with the problem. The company has already begun warning users of copyright-infringing third-party channels, but that was only the beginning.

Two new job applications posted by Roku a few days ago reveal that the company is putting together an in-house anti-piracy team to keep the problem under control.

One of the new positions is that of Director Anti-Piracy and Content Security. Roku stresses that this is a brand new position, which involves shaping the company’s anti-piracy strategy.

“The Director, Anti-Piracy and Content Security is responsible for defining the technology roadmap and overseeing implementation of anti-piracy and content security initiatives at Roku,” the application reads.

“This role requires ability to benchmark Roku against best practices (i.e. MPAA, Studio & Customer) but also requires an emphasis on maintaining deep insight into the evolving threat landscape and technical challenges of combating piracy.”

The job posting

The second job listed by Roku is that of an anti-piracy software engineer. One of the main tasks of this position is to write software for the Roku to monitor and prevent piracy.

“In this role, you will be responsible for implementing anti-piracy and content protection technology as it pertains to Roku OS,” the application explains.

“This entails developing software features, conducting forensic investigations and mining Roku’s big data platform and other threat intelligence sources for copyright infringement activities on and off platform.”

While a two-person team is relatively small, it’s possible that this will grow in the future, if there aren’t people in a similar role already. What’s clear, however, is that Roku takes piracy very seriously.

With Hollywood closely eyeing the streaming box landscape, the company is doing its best to keep copyright holders onside.

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

Ukraine Faces Call for US Trade Sanctions over Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/ukraine-faces-call-us-trade-sanctions-over-online-piracy-170918/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is recommending that the U.S. Government should suspend Ukraine’s GSP trade benefits, claiming that the country doesn’t do enough to protect the interests of copyright holders.

Last year Ukraine enjoyed $53.7 million in unilateral duty-free benefits in the US, while US companies suffering millions of dollars in losses in Ukraine due to online piracy, they argue.

The IIPA, which includes a wide range of copyright groups including the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and ESA, characterizes the country as a safe harbor for pirate sites. While physical piracy was properly addressed ten years ago after a previous sanction, digital piracy remains rampant.

One of the main problems is that local hosting companies are offering their services to a wide variety of copyright-infringing websites. Without proper enforcement, more and more websites have moved their services there.

“By allowing these problems to fester for years, weak digital enforcement has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of illegal peer-to-peer (‘P2P’) hosting and website-based Internet piracy sites, including some of the world’s largest BitTorrent sites located in Ukraine,” IIPA writes.

“Some Internet pirates have purposefully moved their servers and operations to Ukraine in the past few years to take advantage of the current lawless situation. Many of these illegal services and sites target audiences throughout Europe and the United States.”

The copyright holders highlight the defunct ExtraTorrent site as an example but note that there are also many other torrent sites, pirate streaming sites, cyberlockers, and linking sites in Ukraine.

While pirate sites are hosted all over the world, the problem is particularly persistent in Ukraine because many local hosting companies fail to process takedown requests. This, despite repeated calls from copyright holders to work with them.

“Many of the websites offering pirated copyright materials are thriving in part because of the support of local ISPs,” IIPA writes.

“The copyright industries have, for years, sought private agreements with ISPs to establish effective mechanisms to take down illegal websites and slow illegal P2P traffic. In the absence of legislation, however, these voluntary efforts have generally not succeeded, although, some ISPs will delete links upon request.”

In order to make real progress, the copyright holders call for new legislation to hold Internet services accountable and to make it easier to come after pirate sites that are hosted in Ukraine.

“Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs.”

In addition to addressing online piracy, IIPA further points out that the collecting societies in Ukraine are not functioning properly. At the moment there are 18 active and competing organizations, creating a chaotic situation where rightsholders are not properly rewarded, they suggest.

IIPA recommends that the U.S. Government accepts its petition and suspends or withdraws Ukraine’s benefits until the country takes proper action.

Ukraine’s Government, for its part, informs the US Government that progress is being made. There are already several new laws in the works to improve intellectual property protection. The issue is one of the Government’s “key priorities,” they state, hoping to avert any sanctions.

IIPA’s full submission to the US Trade Representative is available here (pdf).

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

Inside the MPAA, Netflix & Amazon Global Anti-Piracy Alliance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-mpaa-netflix-amazon-global-anti-piracy-alliance-170918/

The idea of collaboration in the anti-piracy arena isn’t new but an announcement this summer heralded what is destined to become the largest project the entertainment industry has ever seen.

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

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

The aim of the project is clear. Instead of each company considering its anti-piracy operations as a distinct island, ACE will bring them all together while presenting a united front to decision and lawmakers. At the core of the Alliance will be the MPAA.

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

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

Since then, ACE and its members have been silent on the project. Today, however, TorrentFreak can pull back the curtain, revealing how the agreement between the companies will play out, who will be in control, and how much the scheme will cost.

Power structure: Founding Members & Executive Committee Members

Netflix, Inc., Amazon Studios LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, are the ‘Founding Members’ (Governing Board) of ACE.

These companies are granted full voting rights on ACE business, including the approval of initiatives and public policy, anti-piracy strategy, budget-related matters, plus approval of legal action. Not least, they’ll have the power to admit or expel ACE members.

All actions taken by the Governing Board (never to exceed nine members) need to be approved by consensus, with each Founding Member able to vote for or against decisions. Members are also allowed to abstain but one persistent objection will be enough to stop any matter being approved.

The second tier – ‘Executive Committee Members’ – is comprised of all the other companies in the ACE project (as listed above, minus the Governing Board). These companies will not be allowed to vote on ACE initiatives but can present ideas and strategies. They’ll also be allowed to suggest targets for law enforcement action while utilizing the MPAA’s anti-piracy resources.

Rights of all members

While all members of ACE can utilize the alliance’s resources, none are barred from simultaneously ‘going it alone’ on separate anti-piracy initiatives. None of these strategies and actions need approval from the Founding Members, provided they’re carried out in a company’s own name and at its own expense.

Information obtained by TorrentFreak indicates that the MPAA also reserves the right to carry out anti-piracy actions in its own name or on behalf of its member studios. The pattern here is different, since the MPAA’s global anti-piracy resources are the same resources being made available to the ACE alliance and for which members have paid to share.

Expansion of ACE

While ACE membership is already broad, the alliance is prepared to take on additional members, providing certain criteria are met. Crucially, any prospective additions must be owners or producers of movies and/or TV shows. The Governing Board will then vet applicants to ensure that they meet the criteria for acceptance as a new Executive Committee Members.

ACE Operations

The nine Governing Board members will meet at least four times a year, with each nominating a senior executive to serve as its representative. The MPAA’s General Counsel will take up the position of non-voting member of the Governing Board and will chair its meetings.

Matters to be discussed include formulating and developing the alliance’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’ and approving and developing the budget. ACE will also form an Anti-Piracy Working Group, which is scheduled to meet at least once a month.

On a daily basis, the MPAA and its staff will attend to the business of the ACE alliance. The MPAA will carry out its own work too but when presenting to outside third parties, it will clearly state which “hat” it is currently wearing.

Much deliberation has taken place over who should be the official spokesperson for ACE. Documents obtained by TF suggest that the MPAA planned to hire a consulting firm to find a person for the role, seeking a professional with international experience who had never been previously been connected with the MPAA.

They appear to have settled on Zoe Thorogood, who previously worked for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Money, money, money

Of course, the ACE program isn’t going to fund itself, so all members are required to contribute to the operation. The MPAA has opened a dedicated bank account under its control specifically for the purpose, with members contributing depending on status.

Founding/Governing Board Members will be required to commit $5m each annually. However, none of the studios that are MPAA members will have to hand over any cash, since they already fund the MPAA, whose anti-piracy resources ACE is built.

“Each Governing Board Member will contribute annual dues in an amount equal to $5 million USD. Payment of dues shall be made bi-annually in equal shares, payable at
the beginning of each six (6) month period,” the ACE agreement reads.

“The contribution of MPAA personnel, assets and resources…will constitute and be considered as full payment of each MPAA Member Studio’s Governing Board dues.”

That leaves just Netflix and Amazon paying the full amount of $5m in cash each.

From each company’s contribution, $1m will be paid into legal trust accounts allocated to each Governing Board member. If ACE-agreed litigation and legal expenses exceed that amount for the year, members will be required to top up their accounts to cover their share of the costs.

For the remaining 21 companies on the Executive Committee, annual dues are $200,000 each, to be paid in one installment at the start of the financial year – $4.2m all in. Of all dues paid by all members from both tiers, half will be used to boost anti-piracy resources, over and above what the MPAA will spend on the same during 2017.

“Fifty percent (50%) of all dues received from Global Alliance Members other than
the MPAA Member Studios…shall, as agreed by the Governing Board, be used (a) to increase the resources spent on online antipiracy over and above….the amount of MPAA’s 2017 Content Protection Department budget for online antipiracy initiatives/operations,” an internal ACE document reads.

Intellectual property

As the project moves forward, the Alliance expects to gain certain knowledge and experience. On the back of that, the MPAA hopes to grow its intellectual property portfolio.

“Absent written agreement providing otherwise, any and all data, intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, or know-how owned and/or contributed to the Global Alliance by MPAA, or developed or created by the MPAA or the Global Alliance during the Term of this Charter, shall remain and/or become the exclusive property of the MPAA,” the ACE agreement reads.

That being said, all Governing Board Members will also be granted “perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive licenses” to use the same under certain rules, even in the event they leave the ACE initiative.

Terms and extensions

Any member may withdraw from the Alliance at any point, but there will be no refunds. Additionally, any financial commitment previously made to litigation will have to be honored by the member.

The ACE agreement has an initial term of two years but Governing Board Members will meet not less than three months before it is due to expire to vote on any extension.

To be continued……

With the internal structure of ACE now revealed, all that remains is to discover the contents of the initiative’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’. To date, that document has proven elusive but with an operation of such magnitude, future leaks are a distinct possibility.

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

MPAA: Net Neutrality Rules Should Not Hinder Anti-Piracy Efforts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-net-neutrality-rules-should-not-hinder-anti-piracy-efforts-170907/

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

Well over 22 million comments are listed on the FCC site already and among those we spotted a response from the main movie industry lobby group, the MPAA.

Acting on behalf of six major Hollywood studios, the MPAA is not getting involved in the repeal debate. It instead highlights that, if the FCC maintains any type of network neutrality rules, these shouldn’t get in the way of its anti-piracy efforts.

The Hollywood group stresses that despite an increase in legal services, online piracy remains a problem. Through various anti-piracy measures, rightsholders are working hard to combat this threat, which is their right by law.

“Copyright owners and content providers have a right under the Copyright and Communications acts to combat theft of their content, and the law encourages internet intermediaries to collaborate with content creators to do so,” the MPAA writes.

Now that the net neutrality rules are facing a possible revision or repeal, the MPAA wants to make it very clear that any future regulation should not get in the way of these anti-piracy efforts.

“The MPAA therefore asks that any network neutrality rules the FCC maintains or adopts make explicit that such rules do not limit the ability of copyright owners and their licensees to combat copyright infringement,” the group writes to the FCC.

This means that measures such as website blocking, which could be considered to violate net neutrality as it discriminates against specific traffic, should be allowed. The same is true for other filtering and blocking efforts.

The MPAA’s position doesn’t come as a surprise and given the FCC’s actions in the past, Hollywood has little to worry about. The current net neutrality rules, which were put in place by the Obama administration, specifically exclude pirate traffic.

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity,” the current net neutrality order reads.

“We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC previously clarified.

Still, the MPAA is better safe than sorry.

This is not the first time that the MPAA has got involved in net neutrality debates. Behind the scenes the group has been lobbying US lawmakers on this issue for several years, previously arguing for similar net neutrality exceptions in Brazil and India.

The MPAA’s full comments can be found here (pdf).

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

MPAA Wins Movie Piracy Case in China After Failed Anti-Piracy Deal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wins-movie-piracy-case-in-china-after-failed-anti-piracy-deal-170822/

As one of China’s top 10 Internet companies, Xunlei is a massive operation with hundreds of millions of monthly users.

Among other file-sharing ventures, Xunlei operates ‘Thunder’, the world’s most popular torrent client. This and other almost inevitable copyright-related issues put the company on the radar of the MPAA.

With Xunlei pursuing an IPO in the United States in 2014, relationships with the MPAA began to thaw, resulting in the breakthrough signing of a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) requiring Xunlei to protect MPAA studio content including movies and TV shows.

But in October 2014, with things clearly not going to plan, the MPAA reported Xunlei to the U.S. government, complaining of rampant piracy on the service. In January 2015, the MPAA stepped up a gear and sued Xunlei for copyright infringement.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner. That has to stop and stop now,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

Now, more than two-and-a-half years later, the case has come to a close. Yesterday, the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court found Xunlei Networking Technologies Co. guilty of copyright infringement.

The Court found that Xunlei made 28 movie titles (belonging to companies including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Disney and Warner Bros.) available to the public via its platforms without proper authorization, “in serious violation” of the movie group’s rights.

Xunlei was ordered to cease-and-desist and told to pay compensation of 1.4 million yuan ($210,368) plus the MPA’s litigation costs of $24,400. In its original complaint, the MPA demanded a public apology from Xunlei but it’s unclear whether that forms part of the ruling. The outcome was welcomed by the MPA.

“We are heartened that the court in Shenzhen has found in favor of strong copyright,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

“The legitimate Chinese film and television industry has worked hard to provide audiences with a wide range of legal options for their audio-visual entertainment — a marketplace that has flourished because of the rights afforded to copyright owners under the law.”

How the MPAA and Xunlei move ahead from here is unclear. This case has taken more than two-and-a-half years to come to a conclusion so further litigation seems somewhat unlikely, if not unwieldy. Then there’s the question of the anti-piracy agreement signed in 2014 and whether that is still on the table.

As previously revealed, the agreement not only compelled Xunlei to use pre-emptive content filtering technology but also required the platform to terminate the accounts of people who attempt to infringe copyright in any way.

“[The] filter will identify each and every instance of a user attempting to infringe a studio work, by uploading or downloading,” an internal MPAA document revealed.

All that being said, the document also contained advice for the MPAA not to sue Xunlei, so at this point anything could happen.

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

MPAA Revenue Stabilizes, Chris Dodd Earns $3.5 Million

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Popcorn Time Devs Help Streaming Aggregator Reelgood to ‘Fix Piracy’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-devs-help-streaming-aggregator-reelgood-to-fix-piracy-170812/

During the fall of 2015, the MPAA shut down one of the most prominent pirate streaming services, Popcorn Time fork PopcornTime.io.

While the service was found to be clearly infringing, many of the developers didn’t set out to break the law. Most of all, they wanted to provide the public with easy access to their favorite movies and TV-shows.

Fast forward nearly two years and several of these Popcorn Time developers are still on the same quest. The main difference is that they now operate on the safe side of the law.

The startup they’re working with is called Reelgood, which can be best described as a streaming service aggregator. The San-Francisco based company, founded by ex-Facebook employee David Sanderson, recently raised $3.5 million and has opened its doors to the public.

The goal of Reelgood is similar to Popcorn Time in the way that it aims to be the go-to tool for people to access their entertainment. Instead of using pirate sources, however, Reelgood stitches together content from various legal platforms, both paid and free.

Reelgood

TorrentFreak spoke to former Popcorn Time developer Luigi Poole, who’s leading the charge on the development of Reelgood’s web app. He stresses that the increasing fragmentation of streaming services, which drives some people to pirate sites, is one of the problems Reelgood hopes to fix.

“There’s a misconception that torrenting is done by bad people who don’t want to pay for content. I’d say, in the vast majority of cases, torrenting is a symptom of the massive fragmentation that’s been given as the only legal option to the consumer,” Poole says.

While people have many reasons to pirate, some stick to unauthorized services because it’s simply too cumbersome to dig through all the legal options. Pirate sites have a single interface to all popular movies and TV-shows and legal platforms don’t.

“The modern TV/movie ecosystem is made up of an increasing number of different services. This makes finding content like changing channels, only more complicated. Is that movie you’re about to buy or rent on a service you already pay for? Right now there’s no way to do this other than a cumbersome search using each service’s individual search. Time to go digging,” Poole says.

“We believe this is the main reason people torrent — it’s just easier, given that the legal options presented to us are essentially a ‘go fetch’ treasure hunt,” he adds.

Flipping that channel on an old school television often beats the online streaming experience. That is, for those who want more than Netflix alone.

And the problem isn’t going away anytime soon. As we reported earlier this week, there’s a trend towards more fragmentation, instead of less. Disney is pulling some of its most popular content from the US Netflix in 2019, keeping piracy relevant.

“The untold story is that consumers are throwing up their hands with all this fragmentation, and turning to torrenting not because it’s free, but because it’s intuitive and easy,” Poole says.

“Reelgood fixes this problem by acting as a pirate site interface for every legal option, sort of like a TV guide to anything streaming, also giving you notifications anytime something is new, letting you track when certain content becomes available, and not only telling you where it’s available but taking you straight there with one click to play.”

Reelgood can be seen as a defragmentation tool, creating a uniform interface for all the legal platforms people have access to. In addition to paid services such as Netflix and HBO, it also lists free content from Fox, CBS, Crackle, and many other providers.

TorrentFreak took it for a spin and it indeed works as advertised. Simply add your streaming service accounts and all will be bundled into an elegant and uniform interface that allows you to watch and track everything with a single click.

The service is still limited to US libraries but there are already plans to expand it to other countries, which is promising. While it may not eradicate piracy anytime soon, it does a good job of trying to organize the increasingly complex streaming landscape.

Unfortunately, it’s still not cheap to use more than a handful of paid services, but that’s a problem even Reelgood can’t fix. Not even with help from seven former Popcorn Time developers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘US Should Include Fair Use and Safe Harbors in NAFTA Negotiations’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-should-include-fair-use-and-safe-harbors-in-nafta-negotiations-170806/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

Various copyright industry groups recognized this as an opportunity to demand tougher copyright enforcement. The MPAA and RIAA previously presented their demands, proposing various new limitations, including restrictions to the existing safe harbor protections against copyright infringement claims.

While no concrete plans have been made public yet, the U.S Trade Representative (USTR) recently gave an overview of its NAFTA renegotiation objectives. The language leaves plenty of wiggle room, but it’s clear that strong copyright enforcement takes a central role.

“Provide strong protection and enforcement for new and emerging technologies and new methods of transmitting and distributing products embodying intellectual property, including in a manner that facilitates legitimate digital trade,” one of the key points reads.

It is no surprise that copyright enforcement plays a central role in a possible extension of NAFTA. However, according to the Re:Create Coalition, which includes members such as the the Consumer Technology Association, the American Library Association and EFF, future proposals should be more balanced.

This means that if copyright enforcement is included, the US Government should also make sure that fair use, safe harbor protections and other copyright limitations and exceptions are added as well.

“The United States government should promote balance in copyright law to unlock the fullest potential of innovation and creativity globally, and to help U.S. innovators, creators, and small businesses reach foreign audiences.” Re:Create Executive Director Josh Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“If a re-negotiated NAFTA includes a chapter on copyright, which seems likely, it must have mandatory language on copyright limitations and exceptions, including fair use and protections from intermediary liability.”

The USTR stressed that the NAFTA agreement should cover copyright protections similar to those found in US law. If that is the case, the coalition urges the US Government to ‘export’ fair use and other copyright limitations as well, to keep the balance.

Strong enforcement without balance could lead to all sorts of abuse, according to the Re:Create coalition. Just recently, a Colombian student faced a hefty prison sentence for sharing a research paper on Scribd, something which would be less likely with a proper fair use defense.

“Trade agreements should reflect the realities of the world we live in today. If strong intellectual property protections and enforcement measures are included in a trade agreement, so should exceptions and limitations to copyright law,” Lamel says.

“You can’t have one without the other. Furthermore, the copyright system cannot function effectively without fair use, and neither can the U.S. economy. 16 percent of the U.S. economy depends on fair use, and 18 million U.S. workers across the country are employed in fair use industries.”

In addition to fair use, Re:Create argues that DMCA-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet. The RIAA wants to restrict safe harbor protection to limit copyright infringement and abuse, but the coalition believes that these proposals go too far.

If the RIAA had its way, many large Internet service providers wouldn’t be able to operate freely. This would result in a loss of American jobs, and innovation would be stifled, Re:Create notes.

“If you looked up excessive overreach in the dictionary, there would be a picture of the RIAA and MPAA submissions. Limiting safe harbors would be corporate cronyism at its worst,” Lamel tells TorrentFreak.

“The safe harbors are at the cornerstone of the Internet economy and consumer Internet experience. It would be an economic disaster. Recent economic analysis found that weakened safe harbors would result in the loss of 4.25 million American jobs and cost nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade,” he adds.

While it’s still early days, it will be interesting to see what concrete proposals will come out of the negotiations and if fair use and other copyright protections are indeed going to be included. Re-Create promises to keep a close eye on the developments, and they’re certainly not alone.

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

Which Domain Names Are Safe From Copyright Bullies?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/which-domain-names-are-safe-from-copyright-bullies-170728/

There are plenty options for copyright holders to frustrate the operation of pirate sites, but one of the most effective is to attack their domain names.

The strategy has been deployed most famously against The Pirate Bay. Over the past couple of years, the site has lost more than a handful following copyright holder complaints.

While less public, hundreds of smaller sites have suffered the same fate. Sometimes these sites are clear infringers, but in other cases it’s less obvious. In these instances, a simple complaint can also be enough to have a domain name suspended.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Public Knowledge address this ‘copyright bullying’ problem in a newly published whitepaper. According to the digital rights groups, site owners should pick their domain names carefully, and go for a registry that shields website owners from this type of abuse.

“It turns out that not every top-level domain is created equal when it comes to protecting the domain holder’s rights. Depending on where you register your domain, a rival, troll, or officious regulator who doesn’t like what you’re doing with it could wrongly take it away,” the groups warn.

The whitepaper includes a detailed analysis of the policies of various domain name registries. For each, it lists the home country, under which conditions domain names are removed, and whether the WHOIS details of registrants are protected.

When it comes to “copyright bullies,” the digital rights groups highlight the MPAA’s voluntary agreements with the Radix and Donuts registries. The agreement allows the MPAA to report infringing sites directly to the registry. These can then be removed after a careful review but without a court order.

“Our whitepaper illustrates why remedies for copyright infringement on the Internet should not come from the domain name system, and in particular should not be wielded by commercial actors in an unaccountable process. Organizations such as the MPAA are not known for advancing a balanced approach to copyright enforcement,” the EFF explains.

While EFF and Public Knowledge don’t recommend any TLDs in particular, they do signal some that site owners may want to avoid. The Radix and Donuts domain names are obviously not the best choice, in this regard.

“To avoid having your website taken down by your domain registry in response to a copyright complaint, our whitepaper sets out a number of options, including registering in a domain whose registry requires a court order before it will take down a domain, or at the very least one that doesn’t have a special arrangement with the MPAA or another special interest for the streamlined takedown of domains,” the groups write.

Aside from the information gathered in the whitepaper, The Pirate Bay itself has also proven to be an excellent test case of which domain names are most resistant to copyright holder complaints.

In 2015, the notorious torrent site found out that exotic domain names are not always the best option after losing its .GS, .LA, .VG, .AM, .MN, and .GD TLDs in a matter of months. The good old .ORG is still up and running as of today, however, despite being operated by a United States-based registry.

EFF and Public knowledge’s full whitepaper is available here (pdf).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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