Tag Archives: mpaa

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kim Dotcom Denied Access to Illegally Obtained Spy Recordings

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-denied-access-to-illegally-obtained-spy-recordings-170720/

In the months leading up to the infamous raid on Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand mansion and his now defunct cloud storage site Megaupload, the entrepreneur was under surveillance.

Not only were the MPAA and RIAA amassing information, the governments of the United States and New Zealand were neck-deep in the investigation too, using the FBI and local police to gather information. What soon became evident, however, is that the authorities in New Zealand did so while breaking the rules.

Between 16 December 2011 to 22 March 2012, New Zealand used the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) agency to spy on the private communications of Kim and Mona Dotcom, plus Megaupload co-defendant Bram van der Kolk. This was hugely problematic.

GCSB is an intelligence agency of the New Zealand government responsible for spying on external entities. It is forbidden by law from conducting surveillance on its own citizens or permanent residents in the country. His standing in the country meant that Dotcom should not have been spied on.

“Of course I apologize to Mr Dotcom, and I apologize to New Zealanders,” then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key later said.

Since it was established that New Zealand illegally spied on Dotcom, the Megaupload founder has been trying to find out what information the GCSB gathered about him, then wife Mona, and former colleague Bram van der Kolk. According to Dotcom, there was a total of 87 breaches, all of which the government wants to keep secret.

Since then, Dotcom has been fighting to gain access to the information GCSB illegally obtained, while seeking compensation for the damages caused.

In a ruling handed down this morning, the High Court details its findings in respect of a three-day hearing that took place early April 2017, during which GCSB said the raw, unredacted information should be withheld from Dotcom on national security grounds.

GCSB and the government argued that the public interest in the disclosure of the material is outweighed by the public interest in withholding it, adding that the security and defense of New Zealand would be compromised on the world stage.

For their part, the Dotcoms said that nondisclosure of the unredacted documents breaches their rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Given that any damages award is directly linked to the extent and nature of the illegal intrusions into their private lives, access to the documents is paramount.

That being the case, they argued that the public interest in disclosure outweighs any public interest in the information being withheld.

This morning, citing a 2013 Court of Appeal verdict that ruled the GCSB didn’t have to release the raw communications, Justice Murray Gilbert insisted that the recordings will not be released.

“A number of the redactions in the discovered documents are to protect the identity or contact details of personnel who were involved in or associated with the operation or copied into email communications concerning it,” Justice Gilbert wrote.

“It is hard to see how any of this information could be relevant to the relief that should be granted in this proceeding. Again, the public interest in withholding disclosure of this information far outweighs any public interest in its disclosure.”

In a statement, Kim Dotcom expressed his frustrations, noting that the government is doing everything it can to suppress details of the illegal surveillance.

“After being caught, the GCSB has fought to keep what it did, and how, a secret from me and from you, the New Zealand public. Worse, it seeks to hide behind ‘national security’ to keep the truth from us,” Dotcom said.

“To keep this secret, the GCSB applied to the High Court. It filed secret evidence and secret submissions. The GCSB’s lawyers were heard in a ‘closed’ court with the Judge, where they made secret submissions and secret witnesses gave secret evidence.”

Dotcom said neither his lawyers nor the public was allowed to be present during the hearing. And when his legal team could be heard, they were significantly hampered in their work.

“When my lawyers were heard, after that hearing, they had to make submissions as to why information they were not allowed to see, for reasons they were not allowed to know, should be disclosed. They were effectively shooting at a moving target, in the dark, with one hand tied behind their backs,” Dotcom said.

The Megaupload founder suggests there is there is a clear double-standard when he has to be tried in public for his alleged crimes, but when it comes to offenses carried out by the government, the process takes place behind closed doors.

“I will appeal this judgment and ask the Court of Appeal to shine some cleansing sunlight on what happened here. If there is transparency, there is accountability, and we can prevent this happening again,” he concludes.

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

Just How Risky is Internet Piracy in 2017?

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

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

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

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

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

BitTorrent and other P2P protocols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why such little enforcement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates’ Fight Anymore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Months On, eBay’s “Total Kodi Ban” Doesn’t Exist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/three-months-on-ebays-total-kodi-ban-doesnt-exist-170711/

Over the past twelve months, the sale of ‘pirate’ set-top devices in the UK has reached epidemic proportions.

Augmented Kodi setups are now the talk of both the Internet and the street, with unauthorized streaming sources now commonplace in British homes.

Many of these devices, which are often Android-based, were sold through platforms such as eBay and Amazon. Buyers have been spoilt for choice, with every hardware format and software configuration just a few clicks and a quick delivery away. However, at the end of March, things appeared to change.

As first reported by TF, Amazon updated its terms and conditions to effectively ban any devices capable of, or even suggesting, infringing purposes.

“Products offered for sale on Amazon should not promote, suggest the facilitation of, or actively enable the infringement of or unauthorized access to digital media or other protected content,” the policy reads.

“Any streaming media player or other device that violates this policy is prohibited from sale on Amazon.”

Then, a couple of weeks later, UK tabloid The Sun published an article with the headline “eBay follows Amazon’s lead and issues total ban on Kodi box which lets Brits stream sports and films for free.”

The breathless tone of the headline was nothing new but the content came as a bit of a surprise. The article claimed that eBay had decided to “wipe any Kodi boxes claiming to be ‘fully loaded’ (with access to illegal streams) from its site.”

Given eBay’s traditional stance, that it is not responsible for potentially infringing listings until advised of their existence by authorized rightsholders or their representatives, it seemed unlikely that the company was about to embark on a sudden spring cleaning session.

Indeed, comments from an eBay spokesperson suggested that in respect of business policy, little had changed.

“We run several initiatives designed to combat the infringement of intellectual property rights, including the Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO),” the spokesperson said.

“We work with the police and regulators to ensure that all listings on eBay comply with the law. There are blocks in place to prevent the listing of illegal items, but we also constantly monitor our marketplace. Anyone found to be knowingly selling items that don’t comply with the law will be investigated and could face account restrictions or suspension.”

Today, that announcement is exactly three months old and from even a cursory search of the platform, ‘pirate’ Kodi and similar setups are still a huge problem. In fact, if one wants to purchase a device, it’s not only just as easy as before, but prices appear to have fallen too.

“Kodi Box” search on eBay UK, first result

Indeed, no matter which searches one uses, whether that refers to the software installations (Kodi, Showbox, etc) or terms like “fully loaded”, all roads point to either infringing devices or devices which strongly suggest in their descriptions that infringement is the aim.

But while some might point to eBay as the problem here (in much the same way that rightsholders quickly level blame at Google), there seems to be a fairly straightforward solution to the problem. In fact, eBay mentioned it themselves, three months ago.

eBay’s Verified Rights Owner Program (VeRO) enables rightsholders and their representatives to have infringing eBay listings taken down if they contain infringing logos or other IP, or advertise items that infringe intellectual property rights.

Once an infringing listing is found, rightsholders can manually submit a Notice of Claimed Infringement (NOCI) in the first instance and via a dedicated tool thereafter. If the complaint is upheld by eBay the listing will be removed, and if sellers are guilty of multiple offenses, their accounts could be suspended or even closed.

Given the large number of infringing listings still present on the site, one might think that the big rightsholders aren’t making use of the NOCI system, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. eBay actually publishes a huge list of participating companies on its site and all the big ones are there.

The MPAA has its own page, for example, as do companies like Versace, who are worried about counterfeiting.

But being more UK specific, since that’s where most of the “Kodi” complaints originate, we can also see that the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) has its own VeRO account, as does key partner the English Premier League.

Given that both eBay, Amazon and even Facebook have been criticized for allowing sales of ‘pirate’ boxes on their platforms, it seems unusual that despite the grand announcements, devices are still so prolific and easy to find.

Whether a full three months hasn’t been long enough for rightsholders to file appropriate complaints is unknown, but it would probably be preferable to go down that route first, before threatening the man in the street with a criminal prosecution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Court Orders Advertisers to Freeze Revenue of ‘Pirate’ Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-advertisers-to-freeze-revenue-pirate-sites-170707/

When one thinks of anti-piracy efforts in the United States, the MPAA and RIAA are often the first groups that come to mind.

While that may be true, there’s another player which has made a massive impact, while barely being noticed at all.

ABS-CBN, the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines, has filed a series of lawsuits against pirate sites in the US, with the popular streaming portal Fmovies as the biggest target.

The company has already won several cases with damages ranging from a few hundred thousand to millions of dollars. However, the associated injunctions in these cases are perhaps even more significant.

We previously covered how ABS-CBN managed to get court orders to seize domain names, without the defendants getting actively involved. This is also the case in a recent lawsuit where a Florida federal court signed a broad injunction targeting more than two dozen sites.

The websites, including dramasget.com, latestpinoymovies.com, pinoydailyshows.com, tvnijuan.org and weeklywarning.org, may not ring a bell with a wide audience but their domain names have all been suspended, linking to a takedown message instead.

And there is another interesting element to the injunction, which hasn’t been widely used in the past. Hoping for a good shot at some damages down the road, ABS-CBN put in a request to freeze the advertising revenues of these sites at Google Adsense, MGID, Popads.net, and elsewhere.

The court signed off on this, and added it to the preliminary injunction. As a result, the advertisers must freeze the funds until further notice.

“…all funds in the advertising accounts related to Defendants as identified on Schedule B, including but not limited to those which are currently held by the advertising services […] are immediately restrained from movement, transfer, or otherwise being disturbed, as opposed to ongoing activity.”

None of the funds of the defendants are allowed to be moved. Instead, the court order directs the advertising companies to transfer everything to a holding account that is known to the court.

On top of that, Google Adsense, MGID, and the other advertising companies must send the copyright holder an overview of the revenue in each account and all transactions associated with it.

“(i) an accounting of the total funds restrained and identifies the advertising/financial account(s) which the restrained funds are related to, and (ii) the account transactions related to all funds transmitted into the advertising/financial account(s) which have been restrained.”

Needless to say, this injunction will have a pretty severe effect on alleged pirate sites. Not only do they lose their preferred advertising outlets, but they also miss out on any pending revenue.

The sites that are targeted in this case are relatively small, but it could, in theory, happen to the big players as well. While the RIAA and MPAA are not involved in this case, we’re pretty confident that they are watching this case very closely.

Finally, the injunction sheds an interesting light on which registrars and registries swiftly respond to US court orders. At the time of writing all .com, .org and .net domains are suspended, but some of the .ag, .ch and .ph domains are still operational. With new ads, of course.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf).

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

State Dept, MPAA, RIAA “Fake Twitter Feud” Plan Backfires

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/state-dept-mpaa-riaa-fake-twitter-feud-plan-backfires-170706/

By the first quarter of 2017, Twitter had 328 million users. It’s the perfect platform to give anyone a voice online and when like-minded people act together to make something “trend”, stories and ideas can go viral.

When this happens organically, through sharing based on a genuine appreciation of topics and ideas, it can be an awe-inspiring thing to behold. However, the mechanism doesn’t have to be spontaneous to reach a large audience, if it’s organized properly.

That was the plan of the US State Department when it sent an email to Stanford Law School. With the Office of Intellectual Property Enforcement involved, the State Department’s Bureau of Economic Affairs asked the law school to participate in a “fake Twitter feud” to promote Intellectual Property protection.

Leaked by a Stanford law professor to Mike Masnick at Techdirt, the email outlines the aims of the looming online war.

“This summer, we want to activate an audience of young professionals – the kind of folks who are interested in foreign policy, but who aren’t aware that intellectual property protection touches every part of their lives. I think the law school students at your institution may be the type of community that we would like to engage,” the email reads.

“The Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs wants to start a fake Twitter feud. For this feud, we would like to invite you and other similar academic institutions to participate and throw in your own ideas!” the email reads.

The plan clearly has some momentum. According to the email, big names in IP protection are already on board, including the US Patent and Trademark Office, the powerful Copyright Alliance, not to mention the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

The above groups can call on thousands of individuals to get involved so participation could be significant. Helpfully, the email also suggests how the ‘conflict’ should play out, suggesting various topics and important figures to fire up the debate.

“The week after the 4th of July, when everyone gets back from vacation but will still feel patriotic and summery, we want to tweet an audacious statement like, ‘Bet you couldn’t see the Independence Day fireworks without bifocals; first American diplomat Ben Franklin invented them #bestIPmoment @StateDept’,” the email reads.

As one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin is indeed one of the most important figures in US history. And, as the inventor of not only bifocals, the lighting rod, and myriad other useful devices, his contribution to science and society is unquestionable.

Attaching him to this campaign, however, is a huge faux pas.

Despite inventing swim fins, the Franklin stove, the flexible catheter, a 24-hour three-wheel clock, a long-arm device to reach books from a high shelf, and becoming the first person to use the words “positive” and “negative” to describe electricity,
Franklin refused to patent any of his inventions.

“As we benefit from the inventions of others, we should be glad to share our own…freely and gladly,” he wrote in his autobiography.

It’s abundantly clear that using Franklin as the seed for an IP protection campaign is problematic, to say the least. His inventions have enriched the lives of millions due to his kindness and desire to share.

Who knows what might have happened if patents for bifocals and lightning rods had been aggressively enforced. Certainly, the groups already committed to this campaign wouldn’t have given up such valuable Intellectual Property so easily.

To be fair to the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the decision to use the term “fake Twitter feud” seems more misguided than malicious and it seems unlikely that any conflict could have broken out when all participants are saying the same thing.

That being said, with the Copyright Alliance, MPAA and RIAA on board, the complexion changes somewhat. All three have an extremely tough stance on IP enforcement so will have a key interest in influencing how the “feud” develops and who gets sucked in.

The big question now, however, is if this campaign will now go ahead as laid out in the email. The suggested hashtags (#MostAmericanIP and #BestIPMoment) have little traction so far and now everyone will know that far from being a spontaneous event, the whole thing will have been coordinated. That probably isn’t the best look.

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

Hollywood Wants Governments to Push Voluntary Anti-Piracy Deals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACT Threatens Users of ‘Pirate’ Kodi Add-Ons

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fact-threatens-users-of-pirate-kodi-add-ons-170628/

In the UK there’s a war going on against streaming pirates. At least, that’s what the local anti-piracy body FACT would like the public to know.

The popular media streaming platform Kodi is at the center of the controversy. While Kodi is perfectly legal, many people use it in conjunction with third party add-ons that offer pirated content.

FACT hopes to curb this trend. The group has already taken action against sellers of Kodi devices pre-loaded with these add-ons and they’re keeping a keen eye on developers of illicit add-ons too.

However, according to FACT, the ‘crackdown’ doesn’t stop there. Users of pirate add-ons are also at risk, they claim.

“And then we’ll also be looking at, at some point, the end user. The reason for end users to come into this is that they are committing criminal offences,” FACT’s chief executive Kieron Sharp told the Independent.

While people who stream pirated content are generally hard to track, since they don’t broadcast their IP-address to the public, FACT says that customer data could be obtained directly from sellers of fully-loaded Kodi boxes.

“When we’re working with the police against a company that’s selling IPTV boxes or illicit streaming devices on a large scale, they have records of who they’ve sold them to,” Sharp noted.

While the current legal efforts are focused on the supply side, including these sellers, the end users may also be targeted in the future.

“We have a number of cases coming before the courts in terms of those people who have been providing, selling and distributing illicit streaming devices. It’s something for the very near future, when we’ll consider whether we go any further than that, in terms of customers.”

The comments above make it clear that FACT wants users of these pirate devices to feel vulnerable and exposed. But threatening talk is much easier than action.

It will be very hard to get someone convicted, simply because they bought a device that can access both legal and illegal content. A receipt doesn’t prove intent, and even if it did, it’s pretty much impossible to prove that a person streamed specific pirated content.

But let’s say FACT was able to prove that someone bought a fully-loaded Kodi box and streamed content without permission. How would that result in a conviction? Contrary to claims in the mainstream press, watching a pirated stream isn’t an offense covered by the new Digital Economy Act.

In theory, there could be other ways, but given the complexity of the situation, one would think that FACT would be better off spending its efforts elsewhere.

If FACT was indeed interested in going after individuals then they could easily target people who use torrents. These people broadcast their IP-addresses to the public, which makes them easy to identify. In addition, you can see what they are uploading, and they would also be liable under the Digital Economy Act.

However, after FACT’s decades-long association with the MPAA ended, its main partner in the demonization of Kodi-enabled devices is now the Premier League, who are far more concerned about piracy of live broadcasts (streaming) than content made available after the fact via torrents.

So, given the challenges of having a meaningful criminal prosecution of an end-user as suggested, that leaves us with the probability of FACT sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt. In other words, scaring the public to deter them from buying or using a fully-loaded Kodi box.

This would also fit in with FACT’s recent claims that some pirate devices are a fire hazard. While it’s kind of FACT to be concerned about the well-being of pirates, as an anti-piracy organization their warnings also serve as a deterrent.

This strategy could pay off to a degree but there’s also some risk involved. Every day new “Kodi” related articles appear in the UK tabloid press, many of them with comments from FACT. Some of these may scare prospective users, but the same headlines also make these boxes known to a much wider public.

In fact, in what is quite a serious backfire, some recent pieces published by the popular Trinity Mirror group (which include FACT comments) actually provide a nice list of pirate addons that are still operational following recent crackdowns.

So are we just sowing fear now or educating a whole new audience?

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

Cox: Supreme Court Suggests That Pirates Shouldn’t Lose Internet Access

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cox-supreme-court-suggests-that-pirates-shouldnt-lose-internet-access-170627/

December 2015 a Virginia federal jury held Internet provider Cox Communications responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP refused to disconnect alleged pirates and was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement. In addition, it was ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox has since filed an appeal and this week it submitted an additional piece of evidence from the US Supreme Court, stating that this strongly supports its side of the argument.

Last week the Supreme Court issued an important verdict in Packingham v. North Carolina, ruling that it’s unconstitutional to bar convicted sex offenders from social media. The Court described the Internet as an important tool for people to exercise free speech rights.

While nothing in the ruling refers to online piracy, it could turn out to be crucial in the case between Cox and BMG. The Internet provider now argues that if convicted criminals have the right to use the Internet, accused file-sharers should have it too.

“Packingham is directly relevant to what constitute ‘appropriate circumstances’ to terminate Internet access to Cox’s customers. The decision emphatically establishes the centrality of Internet access to protected First Amendment activity..,” Cox writes in its filing at the Court of Appeals.

“As the Court recognized, Internet sources are often ‘the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge’.”

Citing the Supreme Court ruling, Cox notes that the Government “may not suppress lawful speech as the means to suppress unlawful speech.” This would be the case if entire households lost Internet access because a copyright holder accused someone of repeated copyright infringements.

“The Court’s analysis strongly suggests that at least intermediate scrutiny must apply to any law that purports to restrict the ability of a class of persons to access the Internet,” ISP writes (pdf).

In its case against BMG, Cox was held liable because it failed to take appropriate action against frequent pirates, solely based on allegations of piracy monitoring outfit Rightscorp. Cox doesn’t believe these one-sided complaints should be enough for people to be disconnected from the Internet.

If convicted sex offenders still have the right to use social media, accused pirates should not be barred from the Internet on a whim, the argument goes.

“And if it offends the Constitution to cut off a portion of Internet access to convicted criminals, then the district court’s erroneous interpretation of Section 512(i) of the DMCA — which effectively invokes the state’s coercive power to require ISPs to terminate all Internet access to merely accused infringers — cannot stand,” Cox writes.

Whether the Court of Appeals will agree has yet to be seen, but with the stakes at hand this issue is far from resolved. In addition to the case between BMG and Cox, the MPAA recently filed a lawsuit against Grande Communications, which centers around the same issue.

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

MPAA & RIAA Demand Tough Copyright Standards in NAFTA Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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