Tag Archives: mpaa

Pirate Site Pubfilm Taunts Hollywood With Domain Name Whac-A-Mole

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-pubfilm-taunts-hollywood-with-domain-name-whac-a-mole-170525/

In recent years, most large pirate sites have faced domain name issues of some kind, which can be quite frustrating.

Copyright holders realize that going after a website’s domain name is a good way to decrease its traffic. Eventually, the site owner might even give up entirely.

The major Hollywood studios might have had this in mind as one of their main goals when they filed a complaint against the pirate site Pubfilm earlier this year.

The lawsuit was kept sealed initially, to prevent Pubfilm’s operator from moving to a new domain preemptively, hoping that this would maximize the effect. This worked, as the site was taken by surprise when it lost its domain name through a court order. However, Pubfilm didn’t throw in the towel.

Soon after the pubfilm.com domain name was suspended, the site moved to pubfilm.ac. And that wasn’t all. Pubfilm also started to actively advertise its new domain through Google Adsense, something we had never witnessed before.

Fast forward a few weeks and Pubfilm is still around, and so is the lawsuit. While the Hollywood studios managed to have the new .ac and .io domains suspended, Pubfilm is still not backing off.

Instead, the pirate streaming site now has a series of alternative domain names people can use to access the site.

Pubfilm.is is the main domain name since yesterday, but the operator also has Pubfilm.ru, Pubfilm.eu and Pubfilm.su in hand. These alternatives are actively advertised on the website, so users know where to go if the current domain is suspended.

“Alternative domain names: PUBFILM.IS PUBFILM.EU PUBFILM.RU PUBFILM.SU. Any other domains are fake!!” a notice on the site reads.

The domain name whac-a-mole is reminiscent of a similar situation The Pirate Bay was in two years ago. At the time, the notorious torrent site rotated close to a dozen domain names, before going back to its original .org gTLD.

The difference with Pubfilm, however, is that Hollywood has a US court order which they can wave at registrars and registries. This makes it easier to have domains suspended, although that’s not guaranteed.

We expect that other pirate sites will keep a close eye on the current situation. Instead of crushing Pubfilm, MPAA’s lawsuit may turn into a field experiment to see what domain names are safe from a US court order, which is not something Hollywood hoped for.

To be continued.

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

RIAA Says Artists Don’t Need “Moral Rights,” Artists Disagree

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-says-artists-dont-need-moral-rights-artists-disagree-170521/

Most people who create something like to be credited for their work. Whether you make a video, song, photo, or blog post, it feels ‘right’ to receive recognition.

The right to be credited is part of the so-called “moral rights,” which are baked into many copyright laws around the world, adopted at the international level through the Berne Convention.

However, in the United States, this is not the case. The US didn’t sign the Berne Convention right away and opted out from the “moral rights” provision when they eventually joined it.

Now that the U.S. Copyright Office is looking into ways to improve current copyright law, the issue has been brought to the forefront again. The Government recently launched a consultation to hear the thoughts of various stakeholders, which resulted in several noteworthy contributions.

As it turns out, both the MPAA and RIAA are against the introduction of statutory moral rights for artists. They believe that the current system works well and they fear that it’s impractical and expensive to credit all creators for their contributions.

The MPAA stresses that new moral rights may make it harder for producers to distribute their work and may violate the First Amendment rights of producers, artists, and third parties who wish to use the work of others.

In the movie industry, many employees are not credited for their work. They get paid, but can’t claim any “rights” to the products they create, something the MPAA wants to keep intact.

“Further statutory recognition of the moral rights of attribution and integrity risks upsetting this well-functioning system that has made the United States the unrivaled world leader in motion picture production for over a century,” they stress.

The RIAA has a similar view, although the central argument is somewhat different.

The US record labels say that they do everything they can to generate name recognition for their main artists. However, crediting everyone who’s involved in making a song, such as the writer, is not always a good idea.

“A new statutory attribution right, in addition to being unnecessary, would likely have significant unintended consequences,” the RIAA writes (pdf).

The RIAA explains that the music industry has weathered several dramatic shifts over the past two decades. They argue that the transition from physical to digital music – and later streaming – while being confronted with massive piracy, has taken its toll.

There are signs of improvement now, but if moral rights are extended, the RIAA fears that everything might collapse once gain.

“After fifteen years of declining revenues, the recorded music industry outlook is finally showing signs of improvement. This fragile recovery results largely from growing consumer adoption of new streaming models..,” the RIAA writes.

“We urge the Office to avoid legislative proposals that could hamper this nascent recovery by injecting significant additional risk, uncertainty, and complexity into the recorded music business.”

According to the RIAA it would be costly for streaming services credit everyone who’s involved in the creative process. In addition, they simply might not have the screen real estate to pull this off.

“If a statutory attribution right suddenly required these services to provide attribution to others involved in the creative process, that would presumably require costly changes to their user interfaces and push them up against the size limitations of their display screens.”

This means less money for the artists and more clutter on the screen, according to the music group. Music fans probably wouldn’t want to see the list of everyone who worked on a song anyway, they claim.

“To continue growing, streaming services must provide a compelling product to consumers. Providing a long list of on-screen attributions would not make for an engaging or useful experience for consumers,” RIAA writes.

The streaming example is just one of the many issues that may arise, in the eyes of the record labels. They also expect problems with tracks that are played on the radio, or in commercials, where full credits are rarely given.

Interestingly, many of the artists the RIAA claims to represent don’t agree with the group’s comments.

Music Creators North America and The Future of Music Coalition, for example, believe that artists should have statutory moral rights. The latter group argues that, currently, small artists are often powerless against large corporations.

“Moral rights would serve to alleviate the powerlessness faced by creators who often must relinquish their copyright to make a living from their work. These creators should still be provided some right of attribution and integrity as these affect a creator’s reputation and ultimately livelihood.”

The Future of Music Coalition disagrees with the paternalistic perspective that the public isn’t interested in detailed information about the creators of music.

“While interest levels may vary, a significant portion of the public has a great interest in understanding who exactly contributed to the creation works of art which they admire,” they write (pdf).

Knowing who’s involved requires attribution, so it’s crucial that this information becomes available, they argue.

“Music enthusiasts revel in the details of music they adore, but when care is not taken to document and preserve that information, those details can often lost over time and eventually unattainable.”

“To argue that the public generally has a homogenously disinterested opinion of creators is insulting both to the public and to creators,” The Future of Music Coalition adds.

The above shows that the rights of artists are clearly not always aligned with the interests of record labels.

Interestingly, the RIAA and MPAA do agree with major tech companies and civil rights groups such as EFF and Public Knowledge. These are also against new moral rights, albeit for different reasons.

It’s now up to the U.S. Copyright Office to determine if change is indeed required, or if everything will remain the same.

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

Landmark Usenet Piracy Verdict Stands, Despite RIAA and MPAA Protests

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/landmark-usenet-piracy-verdict-stands-despite-riaa-and-mpaa-protests-170510/

Adult magazine publisher Perfect 10 has made a business out of suing online services for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement.

Over the past several years the company has targeted a dozen high-profile companies including Google, Amazon, Yandex, MasterCard, Visa, Leaseweb, RapidShare, Depositfiles and Giganews.

Private settlements aside the legal campaigns haven’t been particularly successful for the publisher. Last year Perfect 10 lost another battle against Giganews, with the court ordering the company to pay $5.6 million in legal fees, a decision which was upheld by the court of appeals.

While the parties involved are not the biggest names, the case itself has drawn the interest of key players in the movie and music industries, as well as several tech giants.

This became apparent once again when Perfect 10 asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing a few weeks ago. Soon after this request was submitted, both the MPAA and RIAA chimed in with their support.

The copyright industry groups were particularly concerned with the panel’s decision that Giganews is not liable for vicarious infringement, because there was no evidence indicating that anyone subscribed to Giganews to download pirated Perfect 10 material.

“Indeed, Perfect 10 provides evidence that suggests only that some subscribers joined Giganews to access infringing material generally; Perfect 10 does not proffer evidence showing that Giganews attracted subscriptions because of the infringing Perfect 10 material,” it read.

According to the MPAA and RIAA, this finding goes against existing case law, so they asked for a rehearing. According to the groups, it should be enough to simply show that the general availability of copyright-infringing material draws ‘pirate’ users.

“Courts have long held that a plaintiff can satisfy the direct financial benefit prong by showing that the general availability of a particular type of infringing material on the defendant’s premises—or, in the internet context, through the defendant’s site or service—draws third-parties hoping to obtain infringing material,” the MPAA wrote (pdf).


The RIAA agreed and said that rightsholders should not be required to show a direct causal link between infringements of their work as a “draw” for using Giganews.

“By imposing this novel standard, the panel departed from established and longstanding precedent in the Ninth Circuit and elsewhere, and its ruling will likely result in harmful unintended consequences,” the music group wrote (pdf).

“It could effectively eliminate the ‘only practical alternative’ for many copyright owners to protect their copyrights […] and insulate the largest and most egregious copyright-infringement businesses from vicarious infringement claims.”

Not everyone agrees with this doom and gloom scenario though. In fact, many prominent tech industry groups including the Internet Infrastructure Coalition, Internet Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and the Consumer Technology Association sided with the Usenet provider.

Representing high profile members such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, they urged the Court of Appeals in a joint brief (pdf) to keep the decision intact.

“Amici MPAA and RIAA now join ‘serial litigant’ Perfect 10 in asking this Court to rehear the case in order to discard this requirement. Doing so would have little effect on cases brought against pirates, but would severely and unnecessarily threaten innovation and investment in lawful online services and connected devices,” the groups warned.

The above is just a brief glimpse of the dozens of pages of paperwork the various parties submitted, showing that this case could have a major impact.

After carefully reviewing the various positions, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided (pdf) not to grant a rehearing. This means that the verdict will stand as it is, which is bad news for Perfect 10, the RIAA and the MPAA.

Dr. Norman Zada, president of Perfect 10, is indeed disappointed with the outcome, noting that it destroyed his company and threatens other rightsholders.

“Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit effectively immunized those who illegally copy, distribute, and sell access to pirated movies, songs, images, software, magazines, and other copyrighted works, as long as they use a computer to automate that process,” Zada said.

“The ruling is very bad news for this nation’s creative industries, who need to be paid for the use of their works. Prior to this case, no court had ever allowed a defendant to make untold millions by selling access to content they did not own.”

The only move left for Perfect 10 is the Supreme Court, but there are no guarantees that it will hear this case.

Giganews, meanwhile, will continue to offer its Usenet services with the outlook of having a few extra millions in the bank soon. That is, if Perfect 10 can pay the full amount before it goes bankrupt.

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

US Court Orders Registries to Seize Control of ‘Pirate’ Domains

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-court-orders-registries-seize-control-of-pirate-domains-170508/

ABS-CBN is the largest media and entertainment company in the Philippines and it is extremely aggressive when it comes to protecting its intellectual property. In fact, it now targets way more ‘pirate’ sites in the United States than the MPAA.

One of the tactics employed by ABS-CBN is targeting the domains of ‘pirate’ sites. On several occasions, the TV outfit has found courts willing to step in with ex parte orders, based on allegations of copyright and trademark infringement.

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is a popular venue for ABS-CBN and in April the company approached the Court again, this time with allegations against 19 streaming platforms (list below).

“Through their websites operating under the Subject Domain Names, Defendants advertise and hold out to the public that they have ABS-CBN’s copyrighted content and perform ABS-CBN’s copyrighted content over the Internet, in order to illegally profit from ABS-CBN’s intellectual property, without ABS-CBN’s consent,” the company wrote in its complaint.

“Defendants’ entire Internet-based website businesses amount to nothing more than illegal operations established and operated in order to infringe the intellectual property rights of ABS-CBN and others.”

Claiming direct and contributory copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition, among other things, ABS-CBN demanded maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement, plus injunctive relief to avoid future infringement. Following an ex parte process, the Court responded favorably.

In an order granting a preliminary injunction, the Florida district court agreed that the sites present an ongoing threat to ABS-CBN’s business and it’s likely they’ll continue to deceive the public by illegally using the company’s trademarks and content without a license.

Judge Robert N.Scola Jr. restrained everyone connected to the sites from “advertising, promoting, copying, broadcasting, publicly performing, and/or distributing” any of ABS-CBN’s content and/or abusing its trademarks.

While this is fairly standard for this kind of process, it was also remarkably easy for ABS-CBN to deprive the sites of their domains.

In his order, the Judge ordered the domain registrars of the ‘pirate’ sites to transfer the domains to a holding account operated by a new registrar of ABS-CBN’s choosing, pending the outcome of the case. If they fail to do that within a single business day, the TLD (top-level domain) registries are instructed to do it for them.

While the case is underway, each domain is ordered to be re-directed away from the pirate sites and towards a new URL displaying copies of the complaint and subsequent orders.

“After the New Registrar has effected this change, the Subject Domain Names shall be placed on lock status, preventing the modification or deletion of the domains by the New Registrar or the Defendants,” the order reads.

While 19 domains are listed, any other domains “properly brought to the Court’s attention” can be seized in the same manner, the order notes.

Since the ‘pirate’ site operators are unlikely to defend the action, the domains are almost certainly out of reach already. ABS-CBN says it now wants $40m in damages, so arguing over the fate of a few domains is probably low on the operators’ agenda.

“We will continue to shut down these pirate sites to protect the public from harm,” said ABS-CBN assistant vice president and head of global anti-piracy Elisha Lawrence.

“There is only one genuine ABS-CBN internet subscription service that is safe for our fans to use and that is TFC and TFC.t.”

The affected domains


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

Huge Pirate Site Owner To Be Held Under House Arrest

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/huge-pirate-site-owner-to-be-held-under-house-arrest-170506/

Serving more than a million users every day, FS.to was one of Ukraine’s largest pirate sites. Last year it was of the country’s top 20 most popular sites overall, but its focus on video content was to attract negative attention.

With FS.to in its sights for some time, the MPAA eventually filed formal complaints with local authorities. What followed was one of the biggest anti-piracy raids ever seen in Ukraine.

Last November, the cyber crime division of Ukraine’s national police shut down FS.to in what was a large and coordinated multi-location operation.

Authorities said that at least 19 people suspected of running the site via a network of local and offshore companies were arrested. The raids covered both residential and office locations, with swoops on datacenters where dozens of servers were seized.

One of those arrested was alleged FS.to owner Andrew Komlychenko. He was openly connected with the platform for a number of years, granting interviews with local media and discussing the site’s operations. In 2013 the site was reportedly sold to outside investors, but there are indications that the businessman remained involved.

Indeed, it appears that Komlychenko is now in considerable trouble. Alexander Strigunov, the prosecutor in charge of the case against FS.to, is calling for the toughest possible sentence. As a result, Komlychenko will be detained under house arrest for the next two months on a bail of almost $180,000.

Alexander Strigunov (credit)

“[The law] allows for up to six years in prison, but it is too early to begin talking about the sentence,” Strigunov said.

Also of interest is how Ukranian authorities have flip-flopped over what crimes the site and its owners have supposed to have committed. Initially it was made clear that FS.to had been shut down for being a piracy haven, but later it was suggested that non-payment of taxes and possibly money laundering was the main concern.

Of course, as the Megaupload case shows, these offenses aren’t mutually exclusive, but comments this week suggest that the protection of intellectual property with a distinctly political international angle is at the heart of this landmark case.

“I think it is necessary to compensate the losses incurred to foreign companies so that each company knows that its rights are protected not only by their national legislation, but the legislation of the countries where their rights are violated or affected. It is our image at stake,” Strigunov said.

But despite these notable efforts by the Ukrainian authorities, the country can’t seem to catch a break with the US Government. In the USTR’s latest annual Special 301 Report, Ukraine keeps its status as a priority threat.

Following the USTR’s announcement, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Stepan Kubiv said that his country will continue its efforts to improve its copyright standing with the United States.

“Our task is to ensure proper protection of intellectual property for all creative works,” Kubiv said.

“This will improve the assessment of the Office of the US Trade Representative and the position of Ukraine in the Special 301 Report. That will improve the economic development of Ukraine, encouraging inventions and innovations while attracting significant investment to Ukraine.”

In the meantime, efforts have been underway to resurrect FS.to. At the end of March a new site appeared under the FS.life domain, but for the past several days the site has reportedly been under a DDoS attack and is currently non-functional.

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

Hollywood Demands Net Neutrality Exceptions to Tackle Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-demands-net-neutrality-exceptions-to-tackle-piracy-170502/

Net neutrality is the notion that ISPs should treat all data traveling via the Internet in the same manner. Providers shouldn’t discriminate based on user, content or platform type, nor devices attached to the network.

While there are plenty of entities who support these principles, the free-flow of information is sometimes perceived as a threat. The concept of so-called fast and slow lanes with variable pricing, for example, has the potential to cause many anti-competitive headaches.

But for the content industries, particularly those involved in movies, TV shows, and other video entertainment, the concept of net neutrality has the potential to complicate plans to block and otherwise restrict access to copyright-infringing material.

As a result, Hollywood is making its feelings known both locally and overseas, including in India where it’s just contributed to the country’s net neutrality debate.

Early 2017, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) asked for input on its “Consultation Paper on Net Neutrality”, the fifth in the past two years aimed at introducing a legal framework for net neutrality.

Published by MediaNama in January, the 14-point questionnaire received responses from many stakeholders, including the Motion Picture Distribution Association, the local division of the MPA/MPAA representing Paramount, Sony, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal, Disney and Warner.

Exceptions to net neutrality principles for pirate content

In response to a question which asked whether there should be exceptions to net neutrality in order for ISPs to implement traffic management practices (TMP), Hollywood is clear. Net neutrality should only ever apply when Internet traffic is lawful, and ISPs should be able to take measures to deal with infringing content.

“For the Motion Picture Association’s members, as representatives of an industry that creates and distributes copyrighted content, it is critical that the Internet does not serve as a haven for illegal activity and that [service providers] should be permitted to take reasonable action to prevent the transfer of stolen copyrighted content,” the Hollywood group writes.

“It is commonly accepted that the requirements of [net neutrality] apply only in respect of access to lawful content. This implies that a [service provider] to, say, block content pursuant to a direction from authorities authorised by law to do so, and after following due process – will not be considered unreasonable.”

The studios say they’re in agreement that the Indian government should have the right to regulate content in “emergency situations” and also whenever content is deemed illegal, so in these instances, net neutrality rules would not apply.

Copyright-infringing content fits the latter category, but the MPA wants the government to include specific wording in any regulation that expressly denotes pirate material as exempt from the freedoms of net neutrality.

“We urge that a clear statement be included in any eventual net neutrality regulation that specifies that pirated and infringing content is unlawful and therefore not subject to the normal net neutrality policy of prohibiting content-based regulations,” the studios say.

Exemptions for blocking and throttling to counter piracy

The idea that infringing content should be blocked, throttled, or otherwise hindered is a cornerstone of Hollywood’s fight against infringing content worldwide, despite it being unable to achieve those things in its own backyard. In India, however, the studios see blocking as a fair response to the spread of infringing content and something that should be allowed under net neutrality rules.

“As a remedy to address the dissemination of, or unauthorized access to, unlawful content, blocking and throttling are necessary and appropriate measures,” the studios note.

“Blocking access to infringing sites is not inconsistent with net neutrality. In fact, blocking illegal sites, especially when they originate from outside the country, is often the only effective remedy to prevent access to illegal content in India.

“[Service providers] must be able to block sites that link, stream, make available, or otherwise communicate to the public unauthorized or illegal content.”

Rightsholders and ISPs should work together

In both the United States and Europe, Hollywood is an advocate of voluntary anti-piracy measures, with content owners and ISPs collaborating to hinder the spread of infringing content. According to its submission to the telecoms regulator, Hollywood would like to see something similar in India.

When forming its regulations, the studios would like to see service providers “encouraged” to work with rightsholders to “employ the best available tools and technologies” to fight piracy while affirming ISPs’ right to use traffic management practices (TMP) to deal with the spread of infringing content.

Furthermore, Hollywood would like a clear statement that the use of TMPs against infringing content “should not depend on an advance judicial or regulatory determination of ‘lawfulness’ prior to every use.” In other words, court oversight should not generally be required.

In conclusion, the MPA underlines that rightsholders and rightsholders alone should have the final say in respect of when, to whom, and under what circumstances they make content available. Should the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India interfere with that right, both domestic and international breaches of law could result.

The full submission can be found here (pdf)

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

MPAA Tracks ‘The Fate of the Furious’ Pirates, Two Men Arrested

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-tracks-the-fate-of-the-furious-pirates-two-men-arrested-170418/

According to the world’s major movie studios, piracy during a movie’s opening release window is the most damaging to the industry. That’s almost completely down to the way movies are marketed.

In the weeks and early months following a major title’s debut, the only place to see it is in a theater. When people make brand new movies available illegally in the home, it’s argued that fewer people go to the cinema and the subsequent retail window suffers with fewer sales.

This disruption in the market is the work of so-called movie ‘cammers’, people who enter movie theaters around the world, record the latest titles with a video device, and then make them available online and/or to physical bootleggers. They’re a prime target for movie studios who invest considerable resources in tracking them down, especially when it comes to the biggest titles.

Last Friday the MPAA was doing just that when one of their investigators shadowed two men into a Linthicum, Maryland theater from the parking lot at around 7:30 pm.

Troy Cornish, 38, of Baltimore, and Floyd Buchanan, 35, of Dundalk, were allegedly seen with recording equipment outside while preparing to target the US premiere of The Fate of the Furious (F8) starring Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson.

Like its predecessors, F8 is destined to be a guaranteed hit with the pirating masses so getting an early copy as quickly as possible is high on the list for capable cammers.

According to Anne Arundel County Police, when Cornish and Buchanan were approached inside the theater they were actively recording the $250m blockbuster. The pair were later found to be wearing some kind of recording harnesses under their clothing which held cell phones against their chests.

Both men were arrested and subsequently charged with the unauthorized recording of a movie in a theater. According to a local report, they face one year in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (which usually covers such offenses) can see a first time offender imprisoned for up to three years and a repeat offender for up to six. Potentially complicating matters is that the MPAA investigator told police that Buchanan was already known to the industry group as a movie piracy suspect.

While the fate of the pair will remain to be seen, the fate of The Fate of the Furious is already sealed in piracy circles. After being pirated (presumably by another group) within 24 hours of its release, the movie entered TF’s weekly “Top Ten Most Pirated” chart yesterday at number six, a position that’s guaranteed to improve next week.

There are several versions available online, but without a doubt the most popular is a cammed version uploaded by notorious release group Hive-CM8. It was reportedly obtained from a ‘latino’ source and appears online with hard-coded subtitles cropped off.

Hive-CM8 is perhaps best known for their DVD screener leaks over the past couple of years (1,2) but are known to work with movie cammers too.

The MPAA is yet to make a statement on the arrests of Cornish and Buchanan but recently noted that The Fate of the Furious had contributed over $65 million to Georgia’s local economy while employing over 1,600 local workers.

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

Game Pirates Celebrate Fall of Denuvo’s Brand New Protection

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-pirates-celebrate-fall-of-denuvos-brand-new-protection-170414/

When file-sharing was first getting off the ground, groups like the RIAA and MPAA were public enemy number one. They’re not exactly popular now but neither receive the hatred liberally poured on Denuvo.

The brainchild of Austria-based Denuvo Software Solutions GmbH, Denuvo is an anti-tamper technology designed to protect underlying DRM products. It’s been successfully deployed on gaming titles but just recently it’s iron skin has been showing the cracks.

After all previous versions were defeated, in January version three of Denuvo fell to pirates with the release of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard just five days after its street date. It was a landmark moment for a scene that had grown accustomed to Denuvo-protected games trickling down into the piracy scene months after their retail debut.

But while celebrations got underway, it seemed unlikely that Denuvo would simply sit back and take a beating. Indeed, within days of the crack, Denuvo marketing director Thomas Goebl told Eurogamer that improvements to Denuvo were underway.

“As always, we continue working to improve our solution to create security updates for upcoming Anti-Tamper versions. We will do the same with the learning from this bypass,” Goebl said.

With all eyes primed for a release of a game using the new technology (the cracking scene has labeled it Denuvo v4), earlier this month Mass Effect Andromeda was cracked by CPY, the group behind most of Denuvo’s recent pain. Despite some early claims, the title was actually protected by v3, so the big test was yet to arrive.

Yesterday it did so, in some style.

With its usual fanfare, cracking group CPY announced that it had defeated Denuvo v4 protection on 2Dark, a lesser-known stealth adventure game from the creator of Alone in the Dark.

As seen from the dates in the release notes above, the crack took a little over a month following 2Dark’s street date. Denuvo are still likely to claim that as a victory, since the first few weeks of sales were allowed to go ahead piracy-free. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is the new version of Denuvo which was supposed to put the anti-tamper company back out in front.

With celebrations now at fever pitch in game piracy land, there’s an interesting angle to the cracking of 2Dark. First of all, it’s apparent that the majority of people are more excited about Denuvo v4 being cracked than they are at the prospect of playing the game. However, the cracking of 2Dark is being seen as particularly sweet for other reasons.

About a month ago, a poster to Reddit’s /r/crackwatch highlighted that the developers of 2Dark had made some promises they later failed to keep.

It appears that during a 2014 crowdfunding campaign (French) for 2Dark, developer Gloomywood was asked whether there would be any DRM added to the game. For many game players this would be a deal-breaker, especially if they were the ones financing the game. Here’s the assurance that contributors received back.

On the game’s Steam page, the truth later emerged with a note confirming that the title would incorporate “3rd-party DRM: Denuvo Antitamper.” According to a subsequent interview with Techraptor, that was a result of Gloomywood having to team up with publisher Bigben Interactive who insisted on the protection.

Now all eyes are turning to potential forthcoming releases from CPY, each protected by Denuvo v4. Will Nier Automata, Dead Rising 4, and Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition fall as well? It probably won’t be long before we find out.

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

Cloudflare Doesn’t Want to Become the ‘Piracy Police’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-doesnt-want-to-be-the-piracy-police-170413/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites, including the likes of The Pirate Bay and ExtraTorrent, which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

Copyright holders are not happy that CloudFlare services these sites. Last year, the RIAA and MPAA called the company out for aiding copyright infringers and helping pirate sites to obfuscate their actual location.

The rightsholders want Internet services such as Cloudflare to help them address online piracy more effectively. They are pushing for voluntary agreements to go above and beyond what the law prescribes them to do.

In the UK, for example, search engines have agreed to do more to hinder piracy, and advertisers, payment processors, and ISPs have also taken more active roles in combatting infringement.

In a whitepaper, Cloudflare sees this trend as a worrying development. The company points out that the safe harbor provisions put in place by the DMCA and Europe’s eCommerce Directive have been effective in fostering innovation for many years. Voluntary “anti-piracy” agreements may change this.

“Slowly however, a wider net of intermediaries — from hosting providers to search engines, eCommerce platforms and other internet players — have been encouraged to help address new societal challenges, to help ‘clean up the web’, and effectively become internet police. Innovation continues but at the same time is threatened,” Cloudflare writes.

In addition, rightsholders are trying to update current legislation to increase liability for Internet services. In Europe, for example, a new copyright law proposal will make piracy filtering systems mandatory for some Internet services.

In its whitepaper, Cloudflare argues the such “back-door attempts to update legislation” should be closely monitored.

Instead of putting the blame on outsiders, copyright holders should change their views and embrace the Internet, the company argues. There are plenty of opportunities on the Internet, and the losses rightholders claim are often overblown rhetoric.

“Internet innovation has kept pace but many content creators and rights-holders have not adapted, and many content creators claim a loss in earning power as a result of online piracy.”

According to Cloudflare, content creators are often too quick to put the blame onto others, out of frustration.

“Many rights-holders are frustrated by their own inability to monetize the exchange of protected content and so the internet is seen not as a digital opportunity but rather a digital threat.”

Cloudflare argues that increased monitoring and censorship are not proper solutions. Third-party Internet services shouldn’t be pushed into the role of Internet police out of a fear of piracy.

Instead, the company cautions against far-reaching voluntary agreements that may come at the expense of the public.

“Voluntary measures have their limits and care must be taken not to have intermediaries be pushed into the area of excessive monitoring or indeed censorship. Intermediaries should not be forced to act as judge and jury, and indeed putting commercial entities in such a position is dangerous.”

Cloudfare stresses that it does not monitor, evaluate, judge or store content on sites operated by its clients, nor has it plans to do so. The company merely acts as a neutral ‘reverse proxy’ and operates within the boundaries of the law

Of course, Cloudflare isn’t completely deaf to the concerns of copyright holders. Among other things, it has a trusted notifier program that allows rightsholders to obtain the true location of pirate sites that use the service. However, they explicitly say ‘no’ to proactive monitoring.

“Policy makers should not look for quick, short-term solutions to other complex problems of the moment involving the internet. A firehose approach which soaks anyone and everyone standing around an issue, is simply not the way forward,” the company writes.

The full whitepaper titled “Intermediary Liability: Safeguarding Digital Innovation and the Role of Internet Intermediaries” is avaialble here (pdf).

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

Court Extends Hold on Megaupload’s MPAA and RIAA Lawsuits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-extends-hold-on-megauploads-mpaa-and-riaa-lawsuits-170409/

megaupload-logoWell over five years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown and it’s still unclear how the criminal proceedings will unfold.

A few weeks ago the New Zealand High Court ruled that Kim Dotcom and his former colleagues can be extradited to the US. Not on copyright grounds, but for conspiracy to defraud.

Following the ruling Dotcom quickly announced that he would take the matter to the Court of Appeal, which will prolong the case for several months at least.

While all parties await the outcome of this appeal, the criminal case in the United States remains pending. The same goes for the civil cases launched by the MPAA and RIAA in 2014.

Since the civil cases may influence the criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these cases on hold, and this week another extension was granted.

Previously there were concerns that the long delays could result in the destruction of evidence, as some of Megaupload’s hard drives were starting to fail. However, after the parties agreed on a solution to back-up and restore the files, this is no longer an issue.

“With the preservation order now in place, Defendant Megaupload hereby moves the Court to enter the attached proposed order, continuing the stay in this case for an additional six months, subject to the terms and conditions stated in the proposed order,” the company wrote in the motion to stay.

On Thursday U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady granted Megaupload’s request to stay both lawsuits until October this year, barring any new developments. The music and movie companies didn’t oppose the motion.

The order of U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady is available here (pdf). A copy of Megaupload’s request can be found here (pdf).

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

Amazon Bans Sales of “Pirate” Media Players, Will Destroy Them

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/amazon-bans-sales-of-pirate-media-players-will-destroy-them-170331/

Streaming piracy is on the rise with popular media player Kodi at the center of attention.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, millions of people use third-party add-ons to turn it into the ultimate pirate machine.

In some cases, the pirate add-ons are put onto the devices by vendors, who sell these “fully-loaded” boxes through their own stores or marketplaces such as Amazon. While Amazon has never explicitly allowed the sale of copyright-infringing devices, they are not hard to find in its store.

This is a thorn in the side of major copyright holders, who have repeatedly complained about fully-loaded boxes.

Amazon appears to be well aware of the controversy, as it recently published an updated policy clarifying that pirate media players are not permitted on the platform. Merely ‘suggesting’ that devices can be used for infringing purposes is enough to have them delisted.

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

Amazon states that it is up to the vendor to determine whether their products meet these standards. Those who still cross the line are in for an unpleasant and costly surprise. Amazon states that it will destroy the devices without reimbursement.

“If you sell these products, we may immediately suspend or terminate your selling privileges and destroy inventory in our fulfillment centers without reimbursement,” Amazon writes.

In addition, if there’s proof that the vendors were engaging in illegal activity, any pending payments may be withheld or forfeited under the policy.


While the announcement was published without fanfare, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Anti-piracy company Irdeto, which works with several major copyright holders on pirate streaming box cases, sees the new policy as a breakthrough.

“This first of its kind preventative measure aims to minimize the pirates’ promotional reach. It’s a policy I hope the other e-Commerce sites will emulate,”‎ Mark Mulready, Senior Director Cyber Services and Investigations at Irdeto, notes.

Despite Amazon’s strong language the site still features many devices marketed as fully-loaded streaming media players. Some, including the one below, even use pirate sources such as Icefilms, Primewire and the Genesis Kodi add-on to market their products.


According to Irdeto, the media player software itself is not at fault. In a way, they are a victim of the pirates too, much like copyright holders. The pirate sources and the rogue vendors are the ones that create and maintain the problem.

This is also reflected in the legal cases that have been launched thus far over the misuse of Kodi players. Both in the UK and the Netherlands, test cases against sellers of “fully-loaded” devices are aiming to stop the phenomenon.

In the United States, the problem is also on the radar now. MPAA boss Chris Dodd recently said that finding a solution to the illegal use of Kodi is one of the main piracy questions the industry currently faces, so it’s likely that more enforcement actions will follow.

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

Court: Megaupload’s Failing Drives Can Be Fixed, But Not Accessed

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-megauploads-failing-drives-can-be-fixed-but-not-accessed-170330/

After Megaupload was shut down more than five years ago, data from hundreds of the site’s servers were put in storage by several hosting facilities, Cogent included.

While the original machines are no longer intact, the company has backed up all data which it will keep in storage pending the various lawsuits against Megaupload and its former employees.

However, as time has dragged on, the condition of the hard drives has significantly deteriorated. Last year, Cogent first warned that sixteen of them have actually become unreadable.

Over the past months the MPAA, RIAA and Megaupload have worked on a mutual agreement to secure the data. This is important because of the pending civil and criminal lawsuits, where the information could be used as vital evidence.

Earlier this month the MPAA and RIAA submitted nearly identical filings, asking the court for a preservation order. The rightsholder groups informed the court that they had reached an agreement with Megaupload on “nearly all” terms of the restoration and backup process, to be carried out by the independent forensics company DriveSavers.

A few days ago Megaupload replied that they indeed agree to the backup and preservation procedure. However, the order proposed by the rightsholders would also prevent Megaupload from accessing its data afterward, which they see as a violation of their constitutional rights.

Megaupload, therefore, submitted a revised version of the preservation order specifying that it can access the data, but for litigation purposes only. If the MPAA or RIAA disagree, they can then share their concerns with the court on a case by case basis.

After hearing both arguments, District Court Judge Liam O’grady chose to side with the rightsholders, siging their version of the preservation order (pdf).

This means that after months of negotiating the failing drives can finally be repaired and preserved. However, when that process is complete no party will be able to access the files, Megaupload included.

“Once the drives and devices have been returned to Cogent’s custody and stored in Cogent’s facility, no person […] shall have access to those drives and devices, or to the data contained on those drives and devices, absent further order from this Court,” the order reads.

The data, and thus the evidence, can only be accessed with permission from the court. While the MPAA and RIAA will be pleased with the ruling, Megaupload is not.

“We are disappointed that the court is still preventing Megaupload from accessing its own server data to independently preserve and use in its own defense,” Megaupload’s counsel Ira Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

The good news, for Megaupload, is that they don’t have to pay for the data preservation. The MPAA and RIAA both agreed to share the cost associated with it and will pick up the full tab.

“We are pleased that the parties that contributed to the Megaupload data loss, by objecting in 2012 to Megaupload’s efforts to access and preserve its own data, are now paying for its recovery,” Megaupload’s counsel says.

“We are also pleased that the Court approved DriveSavers, a world class data recovery firm, as the vendor to handle data restoration,” Rothken adds.

As things stand now it could take years before a trial gets underway, so this is likely not the last time we hear about the data issue. In this regard, Megaupload is also disappointed in the US Government.

The authorities previously prevented the file-hosting service from accessing the files that are hosted at Carpathia. The US Government made backups of the data it wants to use as evidence, but repeatedly prevented Megaupload from doing the same.

“The US after bringing the largest criminal copyright in history is dead set on making sure that Megaupload and the other defendants cannot have access to the evidence they need to defend themselves,” Rothken tells us.

All in all, Megaupload’s counsel is still concerned that Kim Dotcom and the other defendants will not get a fair trial in the United States.

Rothken worries that other data, including the files stored at Carpathia, could become unreadable as well in the future, noting that this could have been prevented if they were allowed preserve it themselves in 2012.

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

DMCA Helps YouTube Avoid Up to $1bn in Royalties Per Year, Study Claims

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-helps-youtube-avoid-up-to-1bn-in-royalties-per-year-study-claims-170330/

With much at stake, one gets the impression that the debate over the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA is likely to boil over before it goes away.

In a nutshell, rightsholders believe that some Internet platforms that allow users to upload audio-visual content abuse their immunity in order to make money from copyrighted content for which they hold no licenses.

Given the recent hostility shown by Hollywood and the music industry towards Google, it’s no surprise that YouTube has become the focal point in this war of words.

In particular, the world’s leading record labels argue that YouTube draws a massive commercial benefit from infringing songs uploaded by its users since it avoids paying for the kinds of licenses ‘fairly’ negotiated with the likes of Spotify and Apple.

In its defense, YouTube says it does all it can to combat infringement, quickly taking down unlawful content when asked to and spending small fortunes on systems like Content ID, which allows creators to monetize otherwise infringing content, should they choose to do so. It also pays huge sums to the labels.

It’s a problem that may eventually be settled by a change in the law but in the meantime the entertainment industries are working hard to paint Google and YouTube as freeloaders making a fortune from other people’s hard work.

Exactly how much money is at stake is rarely quantified but a new study from the Phoenix Center in Washington claims to do just that. The numbers cited in ‘Safe Harbors and the Evolution of Music Retailing’ by authors T. Randolph Beard, PhD, George S. Ford, PhD, and Michael Stern, PhD, are frankly enormous.

“Music is vital to YouTube’s platform and advertising revenues, accounting for 40% of its views. Yet, YouTube pays the recording industry well-below market rates for this heavy and on-demand use of music by relying on those ‘safe harbor’ provisions,” the paper begins.

Citing figures from 2016 provided by IFPI, the study notes that 68 million global subscriptions to music services (priced as a result of regular licensing negotiations) generated $2 billion in revenues for artists and labels at around $0.008 per track play.

On the other hand, the 900 million users of ad-based services (like YouTube) are said to generate just $634 million in revenues, paying the recording industry just $0.001 per play.

“It’s plainly a huge price difference for close substitutes,” the paper notes.

What follows in the 20-page study is an economist-pleasing barrage of figures and theories that peak into what can only be described as an RIAA-friendly conclusion. As an on-demand music service, YouTube should be paying nearer the same kinds of royalties per spin as its subscription-based rivals do, the paper suggests.

“More rational royalty policies would significantly and positively affect the recording industry, helping it recover from the devastating consequences of the Digital Age and outdated public policies affecting the industry,” the paper notes.

“Simulating royalty rate changes for YouTube, one of the nation’s largest purveyors of digital music, we estimate, using 2015 data, that a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the U.S. of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year.

“This is a sizeable effect, and lends credence to the recording industry’s complaints about YouTube’s use of the safe harbor,” it concludes.

Given the timely nature of this report from an industry perspective, TF asked co-author George S. Ford what motivated the study and if any music industry entity had commissioned or been involved in its financing.

“We do a lot of work in copyright and I’ve run into this type of problem in numerous settings, including the recent SDARS III case before the CRB. I’ve wanted to write on this topic for ages and finally got around to it,” Ford told TF.

“The Phoenix Center does not take money to do specific projects, except for instances where a government asks us to do something, and then we indicate funding was received for that project. As noted in the paper, we relied on the RIAA for data.”

Since that did not specifically answer our question we tried again, asking whether the RIAA, IFPI, or any of their member labels are donors to and/or supporters of The Phoenix Center. We received no reponse.

The Phoenix Center has produced a number of pro-industry reports in recent years, including a study applauded by the MPAA which attacked earlier research concerning Megaupload.

The full paper can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Megaupload Wants to Recover Failing Hard Drives, But Won’t Sign Away Its Rights

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-wants-to-recover-failing-hard-drives-but-wont-sign-away-its-rights-170327/

megaupload-logoMegaupload was shutdown nearly half a decade ago, but it remains undecided whether Kim Dotcom and several of his former colleagues will stand trial in the US.

With the extradition process still ongoing, the criminal prosecution and the civil lawsuits filed by the MPAA and RIAA have been put on hold.

Aside from the many legal challenges in the pending cases, there are also technical concerns. Since the defunct file-hosting service conducted its business online, a lot of the evidence is digital and has to be carefully preserved, which doesn’t get easier over time.

Last year, hosting provider Cogent first warned that sixteen of Megaupload’s evidence hard drives had become unreadable. While the data could potentially be restored, this would require swift action from the parties involved.

The data are vital for Megaupload as well as the MPAA and the RIAA as they contain crucial evidence. After discussions failed earlier, Megaupload and the rightsholders have now reached an agreement.

Earlier this month the MPAA and RIAA presented a joint preservation plan to the Virginia Federal Court. The rightsholder groups informed the court that they had reached an agreement with Megaupload on “nearly all” terms of the data preservation process to be carried out by the independent forensics company DriveSavers.

A few days ago Megaupload responded to the copyright holder’s request. While it indeed agrees to the practical terms of recovering and preserving the sixteen failing hard drives, Megaupload disagrees on the part where it’s prohibited from accessing the data.

“Megaupload agrees that there is a ‘significant risk that relevant evidence will be lost or destroyed,’ and that ample grounds for a preservation order exist; however, Megaupload disputes certain terms of the preservation order proposed by Plaintiff,” the company’s counsel writes (pdf).

The order proposed by the MPAA and RIAA would prevent Megaupload from accessing its own data without the court’s permission. This violates the company’s constitutional rights, Megaupload argues.

Instead, Megaupload has submitted a revised version of the preservation order specifying that it can access the data, but for litigation purposes only. If the MPAA or RIAA disagree, they can then share their concerns with the court on a case by case basis.

“Only with these edits will Megaupload be able to access this critical data, as needed, in the defense of these cases. Otherwise, Megaupload is enjoined from obtaining access to the data without the Court’s permission, which is contrary to law,” Megaupload writes.

The Government is less concerned with preserving the data, it seems. The authorities have already made copies of the data they intend to use and have stated that they have no interest in the remaining hard drives.

However, the US Department of Justice previously objected to Megaupload’s efforts to free the Megaupload data, arguing that it contains “contraband,” so it’s not going to be pleased with the proposed preservation order.

Considering the recent history, it seems unlikely that all parties will fully agree on how to solve the current standoff. This means that the Court may have to make the final decision, before it’s too late.

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

MPAA’s Anti-Piracy Injunction Targets Wrong IP-Address Due to a Typo….

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaas-anti-piracy-injunction-targets-wrong-ip-address-due-to-a-typo-170317/

A few days ago news broke that the MPAA was granted a broad injunction, allowing them to shut down the domain names of Pubfilm’s alleged pirate site ring.

In addition to targeting domain registrars, the injunction also references third-party service providers that host or link to Pubfilm, preventing companies from doing business with these sites.

With the legal paperwork in hand the MPAA successfully shut down several domains. In addition, the Hollywood group also reached out to the associated hosting companies, DigitalOcean and Vultr, requesting them to take appropriate action.

Initially, the case was kept from public view, but this week the court lifted the veil. This allowed us to take a closer look at the injunction, and how it came to be. What caught our eye immediately, is that the court’s preliminary injunction lists an incorrect IP-address.

As it turns out, the MPAA’s private investigator Bob Brasich made a typo in his testimony, and it took several weeks before he spotted the mistake.

“I discovered yesterday, March 5, 2017, that the IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server as stated in paragraph 8 of the Second Supplemental Brasich Declaration contained a typographical error,” Brasich informed (pdf) the court last week.

“The Second Supplemental Brasich Declaration stated that the IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server was 108.61.191.ll4. However, the correct IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server in question is in fact, a transposition of the final two digits.”

As far as we can see, the preliminary injunction hasn’t been updated through a corrected order yet, but that’s besides the point really. What’s most concerning is that a simple typo can lead to the wrong server being disconnected.

In this example, the hosting companies also have a domain name as additional proof, but it’s not hard to see how small mistakes can potentially lead to large consequences, especially when these orders become broader and more common.

After the private investigator discovered the error, the MPAA immediately asked the court for a new order correcting the mistake. Ironically, however, that request ends with an apology that also contains a rather embarrassing error.

“Counsel apologies for any inconvenience,” the correction letter states (pdf), complete with glaring mistake.

Anothre Tyop

The typo mistake should act as a warning to illustrate how important oversight is in these cases. And there are more issues regarding the preliminary injunction that are worth keeping a close eye on too.

To a certain degree, it is reminiscent of the blocking provisions that were listed in the controversial SOPA bill, which aimed to increase liability for third party service providers. The application was also filed under seal and without alerting the defendant beforehand, which means that there was minimal oversight.

While it has only been used against registrars and hosting companies thus far, the language in the injunction is quite broad and the MPAA could try to apply it more broadly in the future.

This wouldn’t be a total surprise either. The testimony of the MPAA’s private investigator submitted against the Pubfilm sites is already rife with mentions of third-parties that provide services to the pirate sites.

Google Drive, for example, is named as a video host of the streaming sites. Doubleclick and Propeller Ads are mentioned as advertising partners, and other services such as Imgur, Facebook and Sucuri are listed as well.

If these type of injunctions indeed become more common, it will be interesting to see how other stakeholders will respond. As for the MPAA, they might want to double check their filings in the future, just to be sure.

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

MPAA and RIAA Present Plan to Recover Megaupload’s Failing Hard Drives

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-and-riaa-present-plan-to-recover-megauploads-failing-hard-drives-170315/

megaupload-logoMegaupload was shutdown more than five years ago, but data from hundreds of the site’s servers are still in storage.

This is also true for the servers that were placed at the Internet service provider Cogent.

While the original machines are no longer intact, the company has backed up all data which it will keep in storage pending the various lawsuits against Megaupload and its former employees.

However, as time has dragged on, the condition of the hard drives has significantly deteriorated. Last year, Cogent first warned that sixteen of them have actually become unreadable.

This is a serious concern for several of the parties involved, since these drives contain important evidence. The data are vital for Megaupload as well as the MPAA and the RIAA, which filed civil lawsuits against the company.

To move things along the MPAA and RIAA presented a joint preservation plan to the Virginia Federal Court this week. According to two similar motions submitted by the rightsholder groups, they have reached agreement on “nearly all” terms of the data preservation process.

In practical terms, the motions propose to ship the sixteen failing hard drives to the independent forensics company DriveSavers. The company will then try to recover the damaged data in a secure location, without any active connection to the Internet.

When the recovery is complete, the original and copied data will be shipped back to Cogent in separate transports. Cogent will store these two versions in different locations, and DriveSavers will not retain any copies after the process is complete.

In their request to the court, the rightsholders want to act swiftly now, fearing that crucial evidence will otherwise be lost.

“As Plaintiffs have repeatedly maintained, the only pressing issue for the Court now is the recovery and preservation of the evidence on the Cogent drives; questions of who may subsequently access that data, and under what circumstances, remain contested and can be addressed at a later date.

“Otherwise, potentially critical data will remain at risk of disappearance while the parties continue to argue over an issue as to which no negotiated resolution is possible,” MPAA tells the court.

With time running out, the money issue has also been resolved. Previously the parties disagreed about who should pay for the recovery process, but the MPAA and RIAA now state that they will pick up the full tab.

The parties could not reach agreement on a separate issue; whether Megaupload should be able to access the data. According to the MPAA and RIAA, this “collateral” issue could be dealt with at a later stage. In their proposed order they therefore stress that Megaupload, or any other party, shouldn’t have access.

Megaupload counsel Ira Rothken informs TorrentFreak that his client also wants the aging drives to be preserved. However, Megaupload is not happy with the current wording of the proposed preservation order as it specifically prevents the company from accessing its own data.

This language goes against the Stored Communications Act (SCA), he argues, noting that the whole issue would have been moot if Megaupload was allowed to take proper care of its data years ago.

“The proposal by the studios, under the guise of preservation, attempts to enjoin Megaupload from accessing its own ISP data. Megaupload believes that the Stored Communications Act mandates that Megaupload is the only entity that can access such ISP data,” Rothken tells TF.

“If the DOJ and studios wouldn’t have objected to Megaupload accessing its own data years ago then Megaupload’s legal team would have preserved the data in a forensically sound manner and there would be no need for the current motion to restore corrupted hard drives,” he adds.

Megaupload plans to respond to the MPAA and RIAA with their own proposal, which doesn’t limit the file-hosting company’s rights.

Then, it will be up to the court to decide if and how the deteriorating data should be preserved. Whether it is still in time to recover all data is uncertain at this point, but the condition of the evidence certainly isn’t improving.

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

‘Secret’ MPAA Lawsuit Targeted Domains of Pubfilm’s “Piracy Ring”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/secret-mpaa-lawsuit-targeted-domains-of-pubfilms-piracy-ring-170313/

A week ago we reported about the mysterious domain name issues pirate streaming site Pubfilm was facing.

The popular site lost control over several of its domains, including pubfilm.com, pubfilm.net, pubfilmhd.com, top100film.com, pidtv.com and pubfilm.cc.

Similar to other sites in this position, Pubfilm swiftly moved its operation to a new home; pubfilm.ac. Hoping to keep their visitors on board, the operators also took the unusual step of advertising this change through Google Adsense.

Now that a week has passed, more info has become available on Pubfilm’s domain troubles. As it turns out, the site is subject to a lawsuit filed by the MPAA, on behalf of several major Hollywood studios including Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and Disney.

The lawsuit was filed in a New York federal court early last month and accuses Pubfilm and several associated sites of operating a large-scale piracy operation causing significant harm to the movie industry.

The sites allegedly have eight million monthly visitors, of which roughly 40 percent are linked to US IP-addresses, THR reports. The operators are believed to be from Vietnam, and one of the defendants is named as Phat Bui.

“Defendants’ entire business amounts to nothing more than a blatant, large-scale copyright infringement operation, undertaken to maximize ill-gotten profits while evading the enforcement efforts of copyright owners,” the complaint reads.

“Plaintiffs bring this action to put an end to Defendants’ ongoing, massive violation of Plaintiffs’ rights and to recover damages therefrom.” the movie studios add.

The lawsuit was initially kept out of public view. However, after our report last week, the MPAA agreed that it could be unsealed. The court signed the unseal order last Friday, but at the time of writing the original complaint is still unavailable in the court docket.

MPAA agrees to unseal

What’s most significant about the lawsuit, aside from the initial secrecy, is the fact that the court swiftly granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against several domain registrars and registries.

The restraining order from early February required GoDaddy, VeriSign, and Enom to make six domain names unavailable without warning or informing their customers in advance.

While this is an isolated case for now, the MPAA could use this tactic to target other alleged pirate sites in future.

It is no secret that domain names are prime target for the Hollywood studios. Last month they targeted several domains in Europe through the domain name registrar EuroDNS, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if similar actions follow in the near future.

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

Italy’s Pirate Site Blocklist Expands with Flashx, RARBG and Others

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/italys-pirate-site-blocklist-expands-with-flashx-rarbg-and-others-170306/

Website blockades are becoming more common throughout Europe, but with a flurry of recent orders Italy takes the crown.

In recent months hundreds of domain names have been added to the nation’s pirate blocklist, based on complaints from a wide range of copyright holders.

An overview of most of the key cases available on the website of local telecoms watchdog AGCOM lists 300 blocked urls alone.

Over the past week several new domain names were added once again, including ddlhqfilm.com, flashx.tv, games.torrentsnack.com, mega-wii.com, musicplayon.com and rarbg.to.

The applications came from a variety of rightsholder groups and companies, listing several examples of copyright infringements. For Mega-Wii, for example, Digital Content Protection listed several pirated games belonging to EA, Nintendo and Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Based on the information provided, AGCOM ordered local ISPs to block access to the site within two days, as required by law.

TorrentFreak spoke to a site operator whose domain name was blocked recently. He says that in absolute terms, the effect is fairly obvious. Italian traffic to the site tanked soon after Internet providers processed the order, as can be seen below.

Traffic drop following blockade

Still, whether this means that these visitors will stop pirating is less clear. The operator, who prefers not to have his site named, points out that people will simply find ways arount the restrictions.

“These blockades definitely have major effects on site users. Users learn to circumvent them, realizing how stupid their governments are,” the operator informs TorrentFreak.

The effectiveness of the blockades is also put in doubt by academic research. University of Padua professor Giorgio Clemente previously ran a comprehensive analysis, comparing traffic data before and after the Italian blocking measures were implemented.

This research used the same methodology as an earlier MPAA-commissioned study which examined UK blockades. However, instead of merely looking at the blocked domains, Professor Clemente also took domain name changes into account because site operators commonly switch domains to bypass censorship efforts.

With this more complete set of datapoints, he found that Government-sanctioned blockades actually increased traffic to the targeted sites.

“The most important conclusion is that blocking access to websites increases their popularity. In particular, AGCOM helps to advertise pirated works, creating the classic and well-known Streisand effect,” Professor Clemente told TF at the time.

Still, AGCOM and rightsholders are convinced that their actions help people to stay away from pirate sites. In addition to the domains mentioned above, there’s also an application pending against the popular streaming site 123movies, which is the next target to be blocked.

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

Private Anti-Piracy Deals With Domain Registries are Dangerous, Professor Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/private-anti-piracy-deals-with-domain-registries-are-dangerous-professor-warns-170302/

In recent years various entertainment industry groups have switched their efforts away from legislation, towards voluntary cooperation with various stakeholders.

This has resulted in several agreements with Internet providers, advertising agencies and payment processors, which are all designed to help prevent piracy.

In 2016, this strategy was expanded to cover key players in the domain name industry. Last February, the MPAA and the Donuts registry signed a landmark agreement under which the movie industry group acts as a “trusted notifier” of “pirate” domains. A similar deal was later announced with Radix.

Traditionally, it has been very hard for rightsholders to get domain names suspended without a court order but through voluntary agreements, this process is simplified. Without a court order, the registries in question are now able to take pirate sites offline, if the evidence is sufficient.

Such agreements are praised by Hollywood and even have ICANN’s blessing. However, there are also concerns. In a recent article, University of Idaho Law Professor Annemarie Bridy expresses concern over these developments.

It is the first voluntary deal that touches on the Internet’s core technical functions, assigning private copyright enforcers as some sort of online police. The current agreements are fairly limited and Professor Bridy warns that it could be just the beginning.

“For now, non-judicial notice and takedown practices in the DNS are limited; however, demands on intermediaries for stronger online content regulation across the board are only growing,” Bridy writes.

With a lack of transparency and due process, the MPAA’s programs could easily expand to a broader range of controversial content such as fake news, hate speech, and terrorist propaganda, she warns.

“Lack of transparency and due process in such programs will make them inherently vulnerable to inconsistency, mistake, and abuse and could transform the DNS into a potent tool for suppressing disfavored speech.”

In copyright cases there are worrying consequences as well. Recent history has shown that over-blocking is a legitimate threat. Professor Bridy highlights the FBI’s seizure of the domain name MOOO.COM as an example, which took down 84,000 subdomains even though only ten were problematic.

ICANN, the non-profit body responsible for the smooth-running of the Internet’s Doman Name System, has always insisted that copyright disputes are beyond their mission. As such, it was happy to see registries and rightsholders coming to an agreement.

According to Bridy, however, ICANN is now giving the green light to private agreements that allow corporate and government parties to interfere with DNS without central oversight. That’s a very worrying development, in her book.

“[I]n creating that architecture, ICANN did nothing to secure any procedural protections or uniform substantive standards for domain name registrants who find themselves subject to this new form of DNS regulation,” Bridy writes.

“That omission should be a red flag for those who worry that ICANN’s newly minted independence from the U.S. government will make its internal governance more susceptible to capture by powerful commercial and governmental interests.”

It will be interesting to see where the private deals go from here and if they indeed move beyond copyright enforcement.

Last week the Donuts registry said that fears about a “slippery slope” toward inappropriate content control is unwarranted. Thus far they are correct by stressing that only a few domain names have been suspended under their deal, but that offers no guarantees for the future.

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

Is Megaupload’s ‘Crime’ a Common Cloud Hosting Practice?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/is-megauploads-crime-a-common-cloud-hosting-practice-170218/

Last week we reported that Google Drive uses hash filtering to prevent users from sharing alleged copyright infringing content, while leaving the actual files on its servers.

This practice is similar to what its competitor Dropbox does, and probably many other cloud hosting providers as well.

However, it also reminded us of a more controversial hosting service, Megaupload. When the US Department of Justice announced its allegations against the company five years ago, a similar issue was at the center.

One of the main arguments in the indictment is that Megaupload would only disable a URL when it received a takedown notice, not the underlying file. As a result of the deduplication technology it employed, this meant that the file could still be accessed under different URLs.

“…the Conspiracy has, at best, only deleted the particular URL of which the copyright holder complained, and purposefully left the actual infringing copy of the copyrighted work on the Mega Conspiracy-controlled server and any other access links completely intact,” the indictment reads.

The RIAA and MPAA later highlighted the similar takedown related issues in their civil complaints, with the latter stating:

“And although Megaupload had implemented a technology called ‘MDS hash’ filtering to identify and block uploads of various types of illicit content, Megaupload chose not to deploy that technology to identify and block infringing uploads of copyrighted works that had already been subject to takedown notices by plaintiffs and other copyright holders.”

Admittingly, the Megaupload cases are much broader than this single issue, but it does raise questions.

The apparent ‘failure’ to block infringing content from being uploaded by other users isn’t illegal by definition. In fact, neither Google Drive nor Dropbox does this today. So how is the Megaupload situation different?

The main difference appears to be that Megaupload only removed the links that were reported as infringing, while Dropbox and Drive also prevent others from publicly sharing links to the same file. All three services keep or kept the original files on their servers though.

There are good arguments for keeping the files, as others may have the legal right to store them. If someone downloads an MP3, he or she can’t share it in public without permission. However, making a private backup on Dropbox would be acceptable in many countries.

Since Dropbox and Drive don’t face criminal indictments, the question should therefore be whether Megaupload was legally required to delete all public links to the underlying file, even those that were not directly reported.

This is something legal experts have their doubts over, including Professor Lawrence Lessig.

“It is possible for one uploader to have a right to fair use of a copy of a file, e.g., a purchaser uploading a backup or an educational organization offering critical commentary, while other uploaders might have no such fair use right,” he explained earlier in an expert report.

In other words, while one person might not have the legal right to store a file, another person might. The same argument also applies to publishing such links. This is something we also see on YouTube, where rightsholders pull down videos which they themselves have openly published on the same site.

This week, Megaupload counsel Ira Rothken clarified that the service tried to strike a balance between the rights of copyright holders and its users. If one link is infringing, that doesn’t mean that all of the others on the service are as well.

“While Megaupload made efforts to curb abuse of its service, it recognized a competing obligation to its users who legitimately use[d] the service to store their own copies of copyrighted material,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

“For example, a music file that was purchased or covered by fair use and uploaded by a user for the purpose of ‘space shifting’ would look the same to Megaupload’s automated processes as a music file to which the user had no legal right.”

This was also brought up in the Dancing Baby” case recently, where it was held that copyright holders should consider fair use before requesting a takedown. This means that removing an underlying file may be too broad, as fair use isn’t considered for all URLs.

Megaupload saw it as an obligation to its users, who had a legal right to the files, to ensure that there’s a proper and legitimate basis to disable links or remove files.

“As a result, where a user was subject to a proper and specific take down notice for their unique link or URL, that user’s link to the file in question was taken down or broken.”

In sum, we can say that Megaupload operated slightly differently from Dropbox and Google Drive today. However, the difference is subtle. Not taking down the actual copyright infringing file from the servers is still common practice, for example.

When it comes to proactively preventing public sharing of links that are not reported yet, the service operated differently. Here Megaupload put the interests of its users first. Of course, the Megaupload case is much broader, but the above should illustrate that when it comes alleged hash filtering and file removal ‘crimes’, there is still an open debate.

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