Tag Archives: notices

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

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

Google Asked to Remove 3 Billion “Pirate” Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-remove-3-billion-pirate-search-results-171018/

Copyright holders continue to flood Google with DMCA takedown requests, asking the company to remove “pirate links” from its search results.

In recent years the number of reported URLs has exploded, surging to unprecedented heights.

Since Google first started to report the volume of takedown requests in its Transparency Report, the company has been asked to remove more than three billion allegedly infringing search results.

The frequency at which these URLs are reported has increased over the years and at the moment roughly three million ‘pirate’ URLs are submitted per day.

The URLs are sent in by major rightsholders including members of the BPI, RIAA, and various major Hollywood studios. They target a wide variety of sites, over 1.3 million, but a few dozen ‘repeat offenders’ are causing the most trouble.

File-hosting service 4shared.com currently tops the list of most-targeted domains with 66 million URLs, followed by the now-defunct MP3 download site MP3toys.xyz and Rapidgator.net, with 51 and 28 million URLs respectively.

3 billion URLs

Interestingly, the high volume of takedown notices is used as an argument for and against the DMCA process.

While Google believes that the millions of reported URLs per day are a sign that the DMCA takedown process is working correctly, rightsholders believe the volumes are indicative of an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole.

According to some copyright holders, the takedown efforts do little to seriously combat piracy. Various industry groups have therefore asked governments and lawmakers for broad revisions.

Among other things they want advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach. In addition, Google has often been asked to demote pirate links in search results.

UK music industry group BPI, who are responsible for more than 10% of all the takedown requests on Google, sees the new milestone as an indicator of how much effort its anti-piracy activities take.

“This 3 billion figure shows how hard the creative sector has to work to police its content online and how much time and resource this takes. The BPI is the world’s largest remover of illegal music links from Google, one third of which are on behalf of independent record labels,” Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive, informs TF.

However, there is also some progress to report. Earlier this year BPI announced a voluntary partnership with Google and Bing to demote pirate content faster and more effectively for US visitors.

“We now have a voluntary code of practice in place in the UK, facilitated by Government, that requires Google and Bing to work together with the BPI and other creator organizations to develop lasting solutions to the problem of illegal sites gaining popularity in search listings,” Taylor notes.

According to BPI, both Google and Bing have shown that changes to their algorithms can be effective in demoting the worst pirate sites from the top search results and they hope others will follow suit.

“Other intermediaries should follow this lead and take more responsibility to work with creators to reduce the proliferation of illegal links and disrupt the ability of illegal sites to capture consumers and build black market businesses that take money away from creators.”

Agreement or not, there are still plenty of pirate links in search results, so the BPI is still sending out millions of takedown requests per month.

We asked Google for a comment on the new milestone but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. In any event, the issue is bound to remain a hot topic during the months and years to come.

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

Coaxing 2D platforming out of Unity

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/10/13/coaxing-2d-platforming-out-of-unity/

An anonymous donor asked a question that I can’t even begin to figure out how to answer, but they also said anything else is fine, so here’s anything else.

I’ve been avoiding writing about game physics, since I want to save it for ✨ the book I’m writing ✨, but that book will almost certainly not touch on Unity. Here, then, is a brief run through some of the brick walls I ran into while trying to convince Unity to do 2D platforming.

This is fairly high-level — there are no blocks of code or helpful diagrams. I’m just getting this out of my head because it’s interesting. If you want more gritty details, I guess you’ll have to wait for ✨ the book ✨.

The setup

I hadn’t used Unity before. I hadn’t even used a “real” physics engine before. My games so far have mostly used LÖVE, a Lua-based engine. LÖVE includes box2d bindings, but for various reasons (not all of them good), I opted to avoid them and instead write my own physics completely from scratch. (How, you ask? ✨ Book ✨!)

I was invited to work on a Unity project, Chaos Composer, that someone else had already started. It had basic movement already implemented; I taught myself Unity’s physics system by hacking on it. It’s entirely possible that none of this is actually the best way to do anything, since I was really trying to reproduce my own homegrown stuff in Unity, but it’s the best I’ve managed to come up with.

Two recurring snags were that you can’t ask Unity to do multiple physics updates in a row, and sometimes getting the information I wanted was difficult. Working with my own code spoiled me a little, since I could invoke it at any time and ask it anything I wanted; Unity, on the other hand, is someone else’s black box with a rigid interface on top.

Also, wow, Googling for a lot of this was not quite as helpful as expected. A lot of what’s out there is just the first thing that works, and often that’s pretty hacky and imposes severe limits on the game design (e.g., “this won’t work with slopes”). Basic movement and collision are the first thing you do, which seems to me like the worst time to be locking yourself out of a lot of design options. I tried very (very, very, very) hard to minimize those kinds of constraints.

Problem 1: Movement

When I showed up, movement was already working. Problem solved!

Like any good programmer, I immediately set out to un-solve it. Given a “real” physics engine like Unity prominently features, you have two options: ⓐ treat the player as a physics object, or ⓑ don’t. The existing code went with option ⓑ, like I’d done myself with LÖVE, and like I’d seen countless people advise. Using a physics sim makes for bad platforming.

But… why? I believed it, but I couldn’t concretely defend it. I had to know for myself. So I started a blank project, drew some physics boxes, and wrote a dozen-line player controller.

Ah! Immediate enlightenment.

If the player was sliding down a wall, and I tried to move them into the wall, they would simply freeze in midair until I let go of the movement key. The trouble is that the physics sim works in terms of forces — moving the player involves giving them a nudge in some direction, like a giant invisible hand pushing them around the level. Surprise! If you press a real object against a real wall with your real hand, you’ll see the same effect — friction will cancel out gravity, and the object will stay in midair..

Platformer movement, as it turns out, doesn’t make any goddamn physical sense. What is air control? What are you pushing against? Nothing, really; we just have it because it’s nice to play with, because not having it is a nightmare.

I looked to see if there were any common solutions to this, and I only really found one: make all your walls frictionless.

Game development is full of hacks like this, and I… don’t like them. I can accept that minor hacks are necessary sometimes, but this one makes an early and widespread change to a fundamental system to “fix” something that was wrong in the first place. It also imposes an “invisible” requirement, something I try to avoid at all costs — if you forget to make a particular wall frictionless, you’ll never know unless you happen to try sliding down it.

And so, I swiftly returned to the existing code. It wasn’t too different from what I’d come up with for LÖVE: it applied gravity by hand, tracked the player’s velocity, computed the intended movement each frame, and moved by that amount. The interesting thing was that it used MovePosition, which schedules a movement for the next physics update and stops the movement if the player hits something solid.

It’s kind of a nice hybrid approach, actually; all the “physics” for conscious actors is done by hand, but the physics engine is still used for collision detection. It’s also used for collision rejection — if the player manages to wedge themselves several pixels into a solid object, for example, the physics engine will try to gently nudge them back out of it with no extra effort required on my part. I still haven’t figured out how to get that to work with my homegrown stuff, which is built to prevent overlap rather than to jiggle things out of it.

But wait, what about…

Our player is a dynamic body with rotation lock and no gravity. Why not just use a kinematic body?

I must be missing something, because I do not understand the point of kinematic bodies. I ran into this with Godot, too, which documented them the same way: as intended for use as players and other manually-moved objects. But by default, they don’t even collide with other kinematic bodies or static geometry. What? There’s a checkbox to turn this on, which I enabled, but then I found out that MovePosition doesn’t stop kinematic bodies when they hit something, so I would’ve had to cast along the intended path of movement to figure out when to stop, thus duplicating the same work the physics engine was about to do.

But that’s impossible anyway! Static geometry generally wants to be made of edge colliders, right? They don’t care about concave/convex. Imagine the player is standing on the ground near a wall and tries to move towards the wall. Both the ground and the wall are different edges from the same edge collider.

If you try to cast the player’s hitbox horizontally, parallel to the ground, you’ll only get one collision: the existing collision with the ground. Casting doesn’t distinguish between touching and hitting. And because Unity only reports one collision per collider, and because the ground will always show up first, you will never find out about the impending wall collision.

So you’re forced to either use raycasts for collision detection or decomposed polygons for world geometry, both of which are slightly worse tools for no real gain.

I ended up sticking with a dynamic body.


Oh, one other thing that doesn’t really fit anywhere else: keep track of units! If you’re adding something called “velocity” directly to something called “position”, something has gone very wrong. Acceleration is distance per time squared; velocity is distance per time; position is distance. You must multiply or divide by time to convert between them.

I never even, say, add a constant directly to position every frame; I always phrase it as velocity and multiply by Δt. It keeps the units consistent: time is always in seconds, not in tics.

Problem 2: Slopes

Ah, now we start to get off in the weeds.

A sort of pre-problem here was detecting whether we’re on a slope, which means detecting the ground. The codebase originally used a manual physics query of the area around the player’s feet to check for the ground, which seems to be somewhat common, but that can’t tell me the angle of the detected ground. (It’s also kind of error-prone, since “around the player’s feet” has to be specified by hand and may not stay correct through animations or changes in the hitbox.)

I replaced that with what I’d eventually settled on in LÖVE: detect the ground by detecting collisions, and looking at the normal of the collision. A normal is a vector that points straight out from a surface, so if you’re standing on the ground, the normal points straight up; if you’re on a 10° incline, the normal points 10° away from straight up.

Not all collisions are with the ground, of course, so I assumed something is ground if the normal pointed away from gravity. (I like this definition more than “points upwards”, because it avoids assuming anything about the direction of gravity, which leaves some interesting doors open for later on.) That’s easily detected by taking the dot product — if it’s negative, the collision was with the ground, and I now have the normal of the ground.

Actually doing this in practice was slightly tricky. With my LÖVE engine, I could cram this right into the middle of collision resolution. With Unity, not quite so much. I went through a couple iterations before I really grasped Unity’s execution order, which I guess I will have to briefly recap for this to make sense.

Unity essentially has two update cycles. It performs physics updates at fixed intervals for consistency, and updates everything else just before rendering. Within a single frame, Unity does as many fixed physics updates as it has spare time for (which might be zero, one, or more), then does a regular update, then renders. User code can implement either or both of Update, which runs during a regular update, and FixedUpdate, which runs just before Unity does a physics pass.

So my solution was:

  • At the very end of FixedUpdate, clear the actor’s “on ground” flag and ground normal.

  • During OnCollisionEnter2D and OnCollisionStay2D (which are called from within a physics pass), if there’s a collision that looks like it’s with the ground, set the “on ground” flag and ground normal. (If there are multiple ground collisions, well, good luck figuring out the best way to resolve that! At the moment I’m just taking the first and hoping for the best.)

That means there’s a brief window between the end of FixedUpdate and Unity’s physics pass during which a grounded actor might mistakenly believe it’s not on the ground, which is a bit of a shame, but there are very few good reasons for anything to be happening in that window.

Okay! Now we can do slopes.

Just kidding! First we have to do sliding.

When I first looked at this code, it didn’t apply gravity while the player was on the ground. I think I may have had some problems with detecting the ground as result, since the player was no longer pushing down against it? Either way, it seemed like a silly special case, so I made gravity always apply.

Lo! I was a fool. The player could no longer move.

Why? Because MovePosition does exactly what it promises. If the player collides with something, they’ll stop moving. Applying gravity means that the player is trying to move diagonally downwards into the ground, and so MovePosition stops them immediately.

Hence, sliding. I don’t want the player to actually try to move into the ground. I want them to move the unblocked part of that movement. For flat ground, that means the horizontal part, which is pretty much the same as discarding gravity. For sloped ground, it’s a bit more complicated!

Okay but actually it’s less complicated than you’d think. It can be done with some cross products fairly easily, but Unity makes it even easier with a couple casts. There’s a Vector3.ProjectOnPlane function that projects an arbitrary vector on a plane given by its normal — exactly the thing I want! So I apply that to the attempted movement before passing it along to MovePosition. I do the same thing with the current velocity, to prevent the player from accelerating infinitely downwards while standing on flat ground.

One other thing: I don’t actually use the detected ground normal for this. The player might be touching two ground surfaces at the same time, and I’d want to project on both of them. Instead, I use the player body’s GetContacts method, which returns contact points (and normals!) for everything the player is currently touching. I believe those contact points are tracked by the physics engine anyway, so asking for them doesn’t require any actual physics work.

(Looking at the code I have, I notice that I still only perform the slide for surfaces facing upwards — but I’d want to slide against sloped ceilings, too. Why did I do this? Maybe I should remove that.)

(Also, I’m pretty sure projecting a vector on a plane is non-commutative, which raises the question of which order the projections should happen in and what difference it makes. I don’t have a good answer.)

(I note that my LÖVE setup does something slightly different: it just tries whatever the movement ought to be, and if there’s a collision, then it projects — and tries again with the remaining movement. But I can’t ask Unity to do multiple moves in one physics update, alas.)

Okay! Now, slopes. But actually, with the above work done, slopes are most of the way there already.

One obvious problem is that the player tries to move horizontally even when on a slope, and the easy fix is to change their movement from speed * Vector2.right to speed * new Vector2(ground.y, -ground.x) while on the ground. That’s the ground normal rotated a quarter-turn clockwise, so for flat ground it still points to the right, and in general it points rightwards along the ground. (Note that it assumes the ground normal is a unit vector, but as far as I’m aware, that’s true for all the normals Unity gives you.)

Another issue is that if the player stands motionless on a slope, gravity will cause them to slowly slide down it — because the movement from gravity will be projected onto the slope, and unlike flat ground, the result is no longer zero. For conscious actors only, I counter this by adding the opposite factor to the player’s velocity as part of adding in their walking speed. This matches how the real world works, to some extent: when you’re standing on a hill, you’re exerting some small amount of effort just to stay in place.

(Note that slope resistance is not the same as friction. Okay, yes, in the real world, virtually all resistance to movement happens as a result of friction, but bracing yourself against the ground isn’t the same as being passively resisted.)

From here there are a lot of things you can do, depending on how you think slopes should be handled. You could make the player unable to walk up slopes that are too steep. You could make walking down a slope faster than walking up it. You could make jumping go along the ground normal, rather than straight up. You could raise the player’s max allowed speed while running downhill. Whatever you want, really. Armed with a normal and awareness of dot products, you can do whatever you want.

But first you might want to fix a few aggravating side effects.

Problem 3: Ground adherence

I don’t know if there’s a better name for this. I rarely even see anyone talk about it, which surprises me; it seems like it should be a very common problem.

The problem is: if the player runs up a slope which then abruptly changes to flat ground, their momentum will carry them into the air. For very fast players going off the top of very steep slopes, this makes sense, but it becomes visible even for relatively gentle slopes. It was a mild nightmare in the original release of our game Lunar Depot 38, which has very “rough” ground made up of lots of shallow slopes — so the player is very frequently slightly off the ground, which meant they couldn’t jump, for seemingly no reason. (I even had code to fix this, but I disabled it because of a silly visual side effect that I never got around to fixing.)

Anyway! The reason this is a problem is that game protagonists are generally not boxes sliding around — they have legs. We don’t go flying off the top of real-world hilltops because we put our foot down until it touches the ground.

Simulating this footfall is surprisingly fiddly to get right, especially with someone else’s physics engine. It’s made somewhat easier by Cast, which casts the entire hitbox — no matter what shape it is — in a particular direction, as if it had moved, and tells you all the hypothetical collisions in order.

So I cast the player in the direction of gravity by some distance. If the cast hits something solid with a ground-like collision normal, then the player must be close to the ground, and I move them down to touch it (and set that ground as the new ground normal).

There are some wrinkles.

Wrinkle 1: I only want to do this if the player is off the ground now, but was on the ground last frame, and is not deliberately moving upwards. That latter condition means I want to skip this logic if the player jumps, for example, but also if the player is thrust upwards by a spring or abducted by a UFO or whatever. As long as external code goes through some interface and doesn’t mess with the player’s velocity directly, that shouldn’t be too hard to track.

Wrinkle 2: When does this logic run? It needs to happen after the player moves, which means after a Unity physics pass… but there’s no callback for that point in time. I ended up running it at the beginning of FixedUpdate and the beginning of Update — since I definitely want to do it before rendering happens! That means it’ll sometimes happen twice between physics updates. (I could carefully juggle a flag to skip the second run, but I… didn’t do that. Yet?)

Wrinkle 3: I can’t move the player with MovePosition! Remember, MovePosition schedules a movement, it doesn’t actually perform one; that means if it’s called twice before the physics pass, the first call is effectively ignored. I can’t easily combine the drop with the player’s regular movement, for various fiddly reasons. I ended up doing it “by hand” using transform.Translate, which I think was the “old way” to do manual movement before MovePosition existed. I’m not totally sure if it activates triggers? For that matter, I’m not sure it even notices collisions — but since I did a full-body Cast, there shouldn’t be any anyway.

Wrinkle 4: What, exactly, is “some distance”? I’ve yet to find a satisfying answer for this. It seems like it ought to be based on the player’s current speed and the slope of the ground they’re moving along, but every time I’ve done that math, I’ve gotten totally ludicrous answers that sometimes exceed the size of a tile. But maybe that’s not wrong? Play around, I guess, and think about when the effect should “break” and the player should go flying off the top of a hill.

Wrinkle 5: It’s possible that the player will launch off a slope, hit something, and then be adhered to the ground where they wouldn’t have hit it. I don’t much like this edge case, but I don’t see a way around it either.

This problem is surprisingly awkward for how simple it sounds, and the solution isn’t entirely satisfying. Oh, well; the results are much nicer than the solution. As an added bonus, this also fixes occasional problems with running down a hill and becoming detached from the ground due to precision issues or whathaveyou.

Problem 4: One-way platforms

Ah, what a nightmare.

It took me ages just to figure out how to define one-way platforms. Only block when the player is moving downwards? Nope. Only block when the player is above the platform? Nuh-uh.

Well, okay, yes, those approaches might work for convex players and flat platforms. But what about… sloped, one-way platforms? There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to have those. If Super Mario World can do it, surely Unity can do it almost 30 years later.

The trick is, again, to look at the collision normal. If it faces away from gravity, the player is hitting a ground-like surface, so the platform should block them. Otherwise (or if the player overlaps the platform), it shouldn’t.

Here’s the catch: Unity doesn’t have conditional collision. I can’t decide, on the fly, whether a collision should block or not. In fact, I think that by the time I get a callback like OnCollisionEnter2D, the physics pass is already over.

I could go the other way and use triggers (which are non-blocking), but then I have the opposite problem: I can’t stop the player on the fly. I could move them back to where they hit the trigger, but I envision all kinds of problems as a result. What if they were moving fast enough to activate something on the other side of the platform? What if something else moved to where I’m trying to shove them back to in the meantime? How does this interact with ground detection and listing contacts, which would rightly ignore a trigger as non-blocking?

I beat my head against this for a while, but the inability to respond to collision conditionally was a huge roadblock. It’s all the more infuriating a problem, because Unity ships with a one-way platform modifier thing. Unfortunately, it seems to have been implemented by someone who has never played a platformer. It’s literally one-way — the player is only allowed to move straight upwards through it, not in from the sides. It also tries to block the player if they’re moving downwards while inside the platform, which invokes clumsy rejection behavior. And this all seems to be built into the physics engine itself somehow, so I can’t simply copy whatever they did.

Eventually, I settled on the following. After calculating attempted movement (including sliding), just at the end of FixedUpdate, I do a Cast along the movement vector. I’m not thrilled about having to duplicate the physics engine’s own work, but I do filter to only things on a “one-way platform” physics layer, which should at least help. For each object the cast hits, I use Physics2D.IgnoreCollision to either ignore or un-ignore the collision between the player and the platform, depending on whether the collision was ground-like or not.

(A lot of people suggested turning off collision between layers, but that can’t possibly work — the player might be standing on one platform while inside another, and anyway, this should work for all actors!)

Again, wrinkles! But fewer this time. Actually, maybe just one: handling the case where the player already overlaps the platform. I can’t just check for that with e.g. OverlapCollider, because that doesn’t distinguish between overlapping and merely touching.

I came up with a fairly simple fix: if I was going to un-ignore the collision (i.e. make the platform block), and the cast distance is reported as zero (either already touching or overlapping), I simply do nothing instead. If I’m standing on the platform, I must have already set it blocking when I was approaching it from the top anyway; if I’m overlapping it, I must have already set it non-blocking to get here in the first place.

I can imagine a few cases where this might go wrong. Moving platforms, especially, are going to cause some interesting issues. But this is the best I can do with what I know, and it seems to work well enough so far.

Oh, and our player can deliberately drop down through platforms, which was easy enough to implement; I just decide the platform is always passable while some button is held down.

Problem 5: Pushers and carriers

I haven’t gotten to this yet! Oh boy, can’t wait. I implemented it in LÖVE, but my way was hilariously invasive; I’m hoping that having a physics engine that supports a handwaved “this pushes that” will help. Of course, you also have to worry about sticking to platforms, for which the recommended solution is apparently to parent the cargo to the platform, which sounds goofy to me? I guess I’ll find out when I throw myself at it later.

Overall result

I ended up with a fairly pleasant-feeling system that supports slopes and one-way platforms and whatnot, with all the same pieces as I came up with for LÖVE. The code somehow ended up as less of a mess, too, but it probably helps that I’ve been down this rabbit hole once before and kinda knew what I was aiming for this time.

Animation of a character running smoothly along the top of an irregular dinosaur skeleton

Sorry that I don’t have a big block of code for you to copy-paste into your project. I don’t think there are nearly enough narrative discussions of these fundamentals, though, so hopefully this is useful to someone. If not, well, look forward to ✨ my book, that I am writing ✨!

Cloudflare CEO Has to Explain Lack of Pirate Site Terminations

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-ceo-has-to-explain-lack-of-pirate-site-terminations-171010/

In August, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to terminate the account of controversial neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

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

The decision was meant as an intellectual exercise to start a conversation regarding censorship and free speech on the internet. In this respect it was a success but the discussion went much further than Prince had intended.

Cloudflare had a long-standing policy not to remove any accounts without a court order, so when this was exceeded, eyebrows were raised. In particular, copyright holders wondered why the company could terminate this account but not those of the most notorious pirate sites.

Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan raised this question in its piracy liability case against Cloudflare, asking for a 7-hour long deposition of the company’s CEO, to find out more. Cloudflare opposed this request, saying it was overbroad and unneeded, while asking the court to weigh in.

After reviewing the matter, Magistrate Judge Alexander MacKinnon decided to allow the deposition, but in a limited form.

“An initial matter, the Court finds that ALS Scan has not made a showing that would justify a 7 hour deposition of Mr. Prince covering a wide range of topics,” the order (pdf) reads.

“On the other hand, a review of the record shows that ALS Scan has identified a narrow relevant issue for which it appears Mr. Prince has unique knowledge and for which less intrusive discovery has been exhausted.”

ALS Scan will be able to interrogate Cloudflare’s CEO but only for two hours. The deposition must be specifically tailored toward his motivation (not) to use his authority to terminate the accounts of ‘pirating’ customers.

“The specific topic is the use (or non-use) of Mr. Prince’s authority to terminate customers, as specifically applied to customers for whom Cloudflare has received notices of copyright infringement,” the order specifies.

Whether this deposition will help ALS Scan argue its case has yet to be seen. Based on earlier submissions, the CEO will likely argue that the Daily Stormer case was an exception to make a point and that it’s company policy to require a court order to respond to infringement claims.

Meanwhile, more questions are being raised. Just a few days ago Cloudflare suspended the account of a customer for using a cryptocurrency miner. Apparently, Cloudflare classifies these miners as malware, triggering a punishment without a court order.

ALS Scan and other copyright holders would like to see a similar policy against notorious pirate sites, but thus far Cloudflare is having none of it.

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

Hitman’s Bodyguard Pirates Get Automated $300 Fine

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hitmans-bodyguard-pirates-get-automated-300-fine-171007/

Late August a ‘piracy disaster‘ struck the makers of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action comedy movie featuring Hollywood stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.

The film was leading the box office charts when, eight days after its theatrical release, a high definition copy hit various pirate sites.

While it’s hard to predict whether the leak substantially impacted the movie’s revenue, the people behind the film are determined to claim damages. They hired the services of “Rights Enforcement,” an outfit which tracks down BitTorrent pirates.

Rights Enforcement sends automated ‘fines’ via DMCA notices, which is cheaper than expensive lawsuits. At the same time, this also makes the settlement process easier to scale, as they can send out tens of thousands of ‘fines’ at once with limited resources, without any oversight from a court.

TorrentFreak has seen several notices targeted at The Hitman’s Bodyguard pirates. While the notices themselves don’t list the settlement fee, recipients are referred to a page that does. Those who admit guilt are asked to pay a $300 settlement fee.

“We have evidence that someone using your Internet service has placed a media file that contains the protected content for our client’s motion picture in a shared folder location and is enabling others to download copies of this content,” the notices warn.

Part of the DMCA notice

The text, which is forwarded by several ISPs, is cleverly worded. The account holders in question are notified that if the issue isn’t resolved, they may face a lawsuit.

“You may consider this a notice of potential lawsuit, a demand for the infringing activity to terminate, and a demand for damages from the actual infringer. We invite your voluntary cooperation in assisting us with this matter, identifying the infringer, and ensuring that this activity stops. Should the infringing activity continue we may file a civil lawsuit seeking judicial relief.”

The email points users to the settlement portal where they can review the claim and a possible solution. In this case, “resolving” the matter will set account holders back a hefty $300.



People are free to ignore the claim, of course, but Rights Enforcement warns that if the infringements continue they might eventually be sued.

“If you do not settle the claim and you continue to infringe then odds are you will eventually be sued and face substantial civil liability. So first thing is to stop the activity and make sure you are not involved with infringing activity in the future.”

The notice also kindly mentions that the recipients can contact an attorney for legal advice. However, after an hour or two a legal bill will have exceeded the proposed settlement amount, so for many this isn’t really an option.

It’s quite a clever scheme. Although most people probably won’t be sued for ignoring a notice, there’s always the possibility that they will. Especially since Rights Enforcement is linked to some of the most prolific copyright trolls.

The company, which emerged earlier this year, is operated by lawyer Carl Crowell who is known for his work with movie studios such as Voltage Pictures. In the past, he filed lawsuits for several films such as Dallas Buyers Club and The Hurt Locker.

When faced with a threat of an expensive lawsuit, even innocent subscribers may be inclined to pay the settlement. They should be warned, however, once the first payment is made, many similar requests may follow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MPAA calls out torrent sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pirate streaming boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Porn Copyright Trolls Terrify 60-Year-Old But Age Shouldn’t Matter

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-copyright-trolls-terrify-60-year-old-but-age-shouldnt-matter-171002/

Of all the anti-piracy tactics deployed over the years, the one that has proven most controversial is so-called copyright-trolling.

The idea is that rather than take content down, copyright holders make use of its online availability to watch people who are sharing that material while gathering their IP addresses.

From there it’s possible to file a lawsuit to obtain that person’s identity but these days they’re more likely to short-cut the system, by asking ISPs to forward notices with cash settlement demands attached.

When subscribers receive these demands, many feel compelled to pay. However, copyright trolls are cunning beasts, and while they initially ask for payment for a single download, they very often have several other claims up their sleeves. Once people have paid one, others come out of the woodwork.

That’s what appears to have happened to a 60-year-old Canadian woman called ‘Debra’. In an email sent via her ISP, she was contacted by local anti-piracy outfit Canipre, who accused her of downloading and sharing porn. With threats that she could be ‘fined’ up to CAD$20,000 for her alleged actions, she paid the company $257.40, despite claiming her innocence.

Of course, at this point the company knew her name and address and this week the company contacted her again, accusing her of another five illegal porn downloads alongside demands for more cash.

“I’m not sleeping,” Debra told CBC. “I have depression already and this is sending me over the edge.”

If the public weren’t so fatigued by this kind of story, people in Debra’s position might get more attention and more help, but they don’t. To be absolutely brutal, the only reason why this story is getting press is due to a few factors.

Firstly, we’re talking here about a woman accused of downloading porn. While far from impossible, it’s at least statistically less likely than if it was a man. Two, Debra is 60-years-old. That doesn’t preclude her from being Internet savvy but it does tip the odds in her favor somewhat. Thirdly, Debra suffers from depression and claims she didn’t carry out those downloads.

On the balance of probabilities, on which these cases live or die, she sounds believable. Had she been a 20-year-old man, however, few people would believe ‘him’ and this is exactly the environment companies like Canipre, Rightscorp, and similar companies bank on.

Debra says she won’t pay the additional fines but Canipre is adamant that someone in her house pirated the porn, despite her husband not being savvy enough to download. The important part here is that Debra says she did not commit an offense and with all the technology in the world, Canpire cannot prove that she did.

“How long is this going to terrorize me?” Debra says. “I’m a good Canadian citizen.”

But Debra isn’t on her own and she’s positively spritely compared to Christine McMillan, who last year at the age of 86-years-old was accused of illegally downloading zombie game Metro 2033. Again, those accusations came from Canipre and while the case eventually went quiet, you can safely bet the company backed off.

So who is to blame for situations like Debra’s and Christine’s? It’s a difficult question.

Clearly, copyright holders feel they’re within their rights to try and claw back compensation for their perceived losses but they already have a legal system available to them, if they want to use it. Instead, however, in Canada they’re abusing the so-called notice-and-notice system, which requires ISPs to forward infringement notices from copyright holders to subscribers.

The government knows there is a problem. Law professor Michael Geist previously obtained a government report, which expresses concern over the practice. Its summary is shown below.

Advice summary

While the notice-and-notice regime requires ISPs to forward educational copyright infringement notices, most ISPs complain that companies like Canipre add on cash settlement demands.

“Internet intermediaries complain…that the current legislative framework does not expressly prohibit this practice and that they feel compelled to forward on such notices to their subscribers when they receive them from copyright holders,” recent advice to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development reads.

That being said, there’s nothing stopping ISPs from passing on the educational notices as required by law but insisting that all demands for cash payments are removed. It’s a position that could even get support from the government, if enough pressure was applied.

“The sending of such notices could lead to abuses, given that consumers may be pressured into making payments even in situations where they have not engaged in any acts that violate copyright laws,” government advice notes.

Given the growing problem, it appears that ISPs have the power here so maybe it’s time they protected their customers. In the meantime, consumers have responsibilities too, not only by refraining from infringing copyright, but by becoming informed of their rights.

“[T]here is no legal obligation to pay any settlement offered by a copyright owner, and the regime does not impose any obligations on a subscriber who receives a notice, including no obligation to contact the copyright owner or the Internet intermediary,” government advice notes.

Hopefully, in future, people won’t have to be old or ill to receive sympathy for being wrongly accused and threatened in their own homes. But until then, people should pressure their ISPs to do more while staying informed.

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

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

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

EU Proposes Take Down Stay Down Approach to Combat Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-proposes-take-down-stay-down-approach-to-combat-online-piracy-170928/

In recent years, many copyright holders have grown frustrated with pirates copies of their content (re)appearing on hundreds of online platforms.

This problem is not restricted to pirate sites, but also affects other services where users can freely upload content, including Dropbox, Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

In an attempt to streamline these takedown procedures the European Commission published a detailed set of guidelines today. Their communication titled “Tackling Illegal Content Online” includes a comprehensive overview of how illegal content, including piracy, should be dealt with.

The recommendation, of which a non-final copy leaked earlier this month, is non-binding. However, future legislative measures are not ruled out if no significant progress is made.

One of the motivations to release the guidelines is to define clearly what a good takedown policy would look like. A harmonized and coherent takedown approach is currently missing in the EU, the Commission notes.

“A more aligned approach would make the fight against illegal content more effective. It would also benefit the development of the Digital Single Market and reduce the cost of compliance with a multitude of rules for online platforms, including for new entrants,” the recommendation reads.

One of the suggestions that stand out is “proactive” filtering. The Commission recommends that online services should implement measures that can automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

“Online platforms should do their utmost to proactively detect, identify and remove illegal content online. The Commission strongly encourages online platforms to use voluntary, proactive measures aimed at the detection and removal of illegal content and to step up cooperation and investment in, and use of, automatic detection technologies.”

This is similar to the much-discussed upload filters and raises the question whether such practice is in line with existing EU law. In the Sabam v Netlog case, the European Court of Justice previously ruled that hosting sites can’t be forced to filter copyrighted content, as this would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.

Importantly, the Commission emphasizes that when online services explicitly search for pirated material, they won’t lose the benefit of the liability exemption provided for in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. In other words, copyright holders can’t hold these services accountable for content that slips through the net.

The recommendation further includes some specific suggestions to make sure that content, once removed, does not reappear. This is the notice-and-stay-down approach copyright holders are lobbying for, which can be addressed by content recognition tools including hash filtering.

“The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic technologies to prevent the re-appearance of illegal content online,” the document reads, adding that errors should not be overlooked.

“Where automatic tools are used to prevent re-appearance of illegal content a reversibility safeguard should be available for erroneous decisions, and the use and performance of this technology should be made transparent in the platforms’ terms of service.”

Hash-based and other automatic filters are not new of course. Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox already have these in place and YouTube’s Content-ID system also falls into this category.

Another measure to prevent re-uploading of content is to ban frequent offenders. The Commission notes that services should take appropriate measures against such users, which could include the suspension or termination of accounts.

Most of the suggestions come with a recommendation to have sufficient safeguards in place to repair or prevent errors. This includes a counter-notice process as well as regularly published transparency reports. In some cases where context is relevant, it is important to have a human reviewer in the loop.

Finally, the Commission encourages cooperation between online services and so-called “trusted flaggers.” The latter are known representatives of copyright holders who are trusted. As such, their takedown notices can be prioritized.

“Notices from trusted flaggers should be able to be fast-tracked by the platform. This cooperation should provide for mutual information exchange so as to evaluate and improve the removal process over time.”

The proposals go above and beyond current legal requirements. For many larger online services, it might not be too hard to comply with most of the above. But, for smaller services, it could be quite a burden.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) has highlighted some good and bad elements but remains critical.

“The document puts virtually all its focus on internet companies monitoring online communications, in order to remove content that they decide might be illegal. It presents few safeguards for free speech, and little concern for dealing with content that is actually criminal,” EDRi writes.

Google has also been critical of the notice-and-stay-down principle in the past. Copyright counsel Cédric Manara previously outlined several problems, concluding that the system “just won’t work.

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

Windstream Gives Up Preemptive Fight Over ISP’s Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/windstream-gives-up-preemptive-fight-over-isps-piracy-liability-170920/

Can an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled two years ago.

This verdict caused great uncertainty in the ISP industry, as several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider Windstream is among the companies that are worried about the fallout. With 1.1 million subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States. As such, it receives takedown notices on a regular basis.

Many of these notices come from music rights group BMG, which accused Windstream and its subscribers of various copyright infringements. These notices are issued by the monitoring outfit Rightscorp and often come with a settlement demand for the account holders.

When Windstream refused to forward these notices, as it’s not required to do so by law, BMG and Rightscorp increased the pressure. They threatened that the ISP could be liable for millions of dollars in piracy damages for failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

Faced with this threat, Windstream filed a request for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court last year, requesting a legal ruling on the matter. This preemptive lawsuit didn’t turn out as planned for the ISP.

In April the court ruled that there is no ‘actual controversy’ and that it can’t issue a hypothetical and advisory opinion without concrete facts. As such, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Windstream didn’t throw in the towel right away though and appealed the verdict. The ISP argued that the $150,000 in damages per infringement BMG claimed caused a real controversy.

“BMG’s accusations were not idle threats in light of the undisputed fact that BMG had recently obtained a $25,000,000 recovery against another conduit ISP based on similar claims,” the ISP wrote in a brief last month.

“Thus, the undisputed facts conclusively establish that an actual controversy exists to support Windstream’s request for a declaration that it is not liable for any alleged infringement of BMG’s copyrights.”

Despite Windstream’s initial persistence, something changed in recent weeks. Without any prior signs in the court docket, the company has now asked the Judge to dismiss the case entirely, with both parties paying their own costs.

“Windstream respectfully requests that this Court dismiss in full Windstream’s present appeal with prejudice against BMG and Rightscorp, with each party bearing its own costs in this appeal.”

While there is no mention of a settlement of any kind, BMG and Rightscorp do not oppose the request. This effectively means that the case is over. The same previously happened in a similar lawsuit, where Internet provider RCN demanded a declaratory judgment.

This means that all eyes are once again on the case between BMG and Cox Communications, which got this all started and is currently under appeal.

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

Kodi ‘Trademark Troll’ Has Interesting Views on Co-Opting Other People’s Work

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-trademark-troll-has-interesting-views-on-co-opting-other-peoples-work-170917/

The Kodi team, operating under the XBMC Foundation, announced last week that a third-party had registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and was using it for their own purposes.

That person was Geoff Gavora, who had previously been in communication with the Kodi team, expressing how important the software was to his sales.

“We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen said.

According to the Kodi team, Gavora began delisting Amazon ads placed by companies selling Kodi-enabled products, based on infringement of Gavora’s trademark rights.

“[O]nly Gavora’s hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store,” Betzen explained.

Predictably, Gavora’s move is being viewed as highly controversial, not least since he’s effectively claiming licensing rights in Canada over what should be a free and open source piece of software. TF obtained one of the notices Amazon sent to a seller of a Kodi-enabled device in Canada, following a complaint from Gavora.

Take down Kodi from Amazon, or pay Gavora

So who is Geoff Gavora and what makes him tick? Thanks to a 2016 interview with Ali Salman of the Rapid Growth Podcast, we have a lot of information from the horse’s mouth.

It all began in 2011, when Gavora began jailbreaking Apple TVs, loading them with XBMC, and selling them to friends.

“I did it as a joke, for beer money from my friends,” Gavora told Salman.

“I’d do it for $25 to $50 and word of mouth spread that I was doing this so we could load on this media center to watch content and online streams from it.”

Intro to the interview with Ali Salman

Soon, however, word of mouth caused the business to grow wings, Gavora claims.

“So they started telling people and I start telling people it’s $50, and then I got so busy so I start telling people it’s $75. I’m getting too busy with my work and with this. And it got to the point where I was making more jailbreaking these Apple TVs than I was at my career, and I wasn’t very happy at my career at that time.”

Jailbreaking was supposed to be a side thing to tide Gavora over until another job came along, but he had a problem – he didn’t come from a technical background. Nevertheless, what Gavora did have was a background in marketing and with a decent knowledge of how to succeed in customer service, he majored on that front.

Gavora had come to learn that while people wanted his devices, they weren’t very good at operating XBMC (Kodi’s former name) which he’d loaded onto them. With this in mind, he began offering web support and phone support via a toll-free line.

“I started receiving calls from New York, Dallas, and then Australia, Hong Kong. Everyone around the world was calling me and saying ‘we hear there’s some kid in Calgary, some young child, who’s offering tech support for the Apple TV’,” Gavora said.

But with things apparently going well, a wrench was soon thrown into the works when Apple released the third variant of its Apple TV and Gavorra was unable to jailbreak it. This prompted him to market his own Linux-based set-top device and his business, Raw-Media, grew from there.

While it seems likely that so-called ‘Raw Boxes’ were doing reasonably well with consumers, what was the secret of their success? Podcast host Salman asked Gavora for his ‘networking party 10-second pitch’, and the Canadian was happy to oblige.

“I get this all the time actually. I basically tell people that I sell a box that gives them free TV and movies,” he said.

This was met with laughter from the host, to which Gavora added, “That’s sort of the three-second pitch and everyone’s like ‘Oh, tell me more’.”

“Who doesn’t like free TV, come on?” Salman responded. “Yeah exactly,” Gavora said.

The image below, taken from a January 2016 YouTube unboxing video, shows one of the products sold by Gavora’s company.

Raw-Media Kodi Box packaging (note Kodi logo)

Bearing in mind the offer of free movies and TV, the tagline on the box, “Stop paying for things you don’t want to watch, watch more free tv!” initially looks quite provocative. That being said, both the device and Kodi are perfectly capable of playing plenty of legal content from free sources, so there’s no problem there.

What is surprising, however, is that the unboxing video shows the device being booted up, apparently already loaded with infamous third-party Kodi addons including PrimeWire, Genesis, Icefilms, and Navi-X.

The unboxing video showing the Kodi setup

Given that Gavora has registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and prints the official logo on his packaging, this runs counter to the official Kodi team’s aggressive stance towards boxes ready-configured with what they categorize as banned addons. Matters are compounded when one visits the product support site.

As seen in the image below, Raw-Media devices are delivered with a printed card in the packaging informing people where to get the after-sales services Gavora says he built his business upon. The cards advise people to visit No-Issue.ca, a site setup to offer text and video-based support to set-top box buyers.

No-Issue.ca (which is hosted on the same server as raw-media.ca and claimed officially as a sister site here) now redirects to No-Issue.is, as per a 2016 announcement. It has a fairly bland forum but the connected tutorial videos, found on No Issue’s YouTube channel, offer a lot more spice.

Registered under Gavora’s online nickname Gombeek (which is also used on the official Kodi forums), the channel is full of videos detailing how to install and use a wide range of addons.

The No-issue YouTube Channel tutorials

But while supplying tutorial videos is one thing, providing the actual software addons is another. Surprisingly, No-Issue does that too. Filed away under the URL http://solved.no-issue.is/ is a Kodi repository which distributes a wide range of addons, including many that specialize in infringing content, according to the Kodi team.

The No-Issue repository

A source familiar with Raw-Media’s devices informs TF that they’re no longer delivered with addons installed. However, tools hosted on No-Issue.is automate the installation process for the customer, with unlisted YouTube Videos (1,2) providing the instructions.

XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen says that situation isn’t ideal.

“If that really is his repo it is disappointing to see that Gavora is charging a fee or outright preventing the sale of boxes with Kodi installed that do not include infringing add-ons, while at the same time he is distributing boxes himself that do include the infringing add-ons like this,” Betzen told TF.

While the legality of this type of service is yet to be properly tested in Canada and may yet emerge as entirely permissible under local law, Gavora himself previously described his business as operating in a gray area.

“If I could go back in time four years, I would’ve been more aggressive in the beginning because there was a lot of uncertainty being in a gray market business about how far I could push it,” he said.

“I really shouldn’t say it’s a gray market because everything I do is completely above board, I just felt it was more gray market so I was a bit scared,” he added.

But, legality aside (which will be determined in due course through various cases 1,2), the situation is still problematic when it comes to the Kodi trademark.

The official Kodi team indicate they don’t want to be associated with any kind of questionable addon or even tutorials for the same. Nevertheless, several of the addons installed by No-Issue (including PrimeWire, cCloud TV, Genesis, Icefilms, MoviesHD, MuchMovies and Navi-X, to name a few), are present on the Kodi team’s official ban list.

The fact remains, however, that Gavora successfully registered the trademark in Canada (one month later it was transferred to a brand new company at the same address), and Kodi now have no control over the situation in the country, short of a settlement or some kind of legal action.

Kodi matters aside, though, we get more insight into Gavora’s attitudes towards intellectual property after learning that he studied gemology and jewelry at school. He’s a long-standing member of jewelry discussion forum Ganoskin.com (his profile links to Gavora.com, a domain Gavora owns, as per information supplied by Amazon).

Things get particularly topical in a 2006 thread titled “When your work gets ripped“. The original poster asked how people feel when their jewelry work gets copied and Gavora made his opinions known.

“I think that what most people forget to remember is that when a piece from Tiffany’s or Cartier is ripped off or copied they don’t usually just copy the work, they will stamp it with their name as well,” Gavora said.

“This is, in fact, fraud and they are deceiving clients into believing they are purchasing genuine Tiffany’s or Cartier pieces. The client is in fact more interested in purchasing from an artist than they are the piece. Laying claim to designs (unless a symbol or name is involved) is outrageous.”

Unless that ‘design’ is called Kodi, of course, then it’s possible to claim it as your own through an administrative process and begin demanding licensing fees from the public. That being said, Gavora does seem to flip back and forth a little, later suggesting that being copied is sometimes ok.

“If someone copies your design and produces it under their own name, I think one should be honored and revel in the fact that your design is successful and has caused others to imitate it and grow from it,” he wrote.

“I look forward to the day I see one of my original designs copied, that is the day I will know my design is a success.”

From their public statements, this opinion isn’t shared by the Kodi team in respect of their product. Despite the Kodi name, software and logo being all their own work, they now find themselves having to claw back rights in Canada, in order to keep the product free in the region. For now, however, that seems like a difficult task.

TorrentFreak wrote to Gavora and asked him why he felt the need to register the Kodi trademark, but we received no response. That means we didn’t get the chance to ask him why he’s taking down Amazon listings for other people’s devices, or about something else that came up in the podcast.

“My biggest weakness, I guess, is that I’m too ethical about how I do my business,” he said, referring to how he deals with customers.

Only time will tell how that philosophy will affect Gavora’s attitudes to trademarks and people’s desire not to be charged for using free, open source software.

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

EU Prepares Guidelines to Force Google & Facebook to Police Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-prepares-guidelines-to-force-google-facebook-to-police-piracy-170915/

In the current climate, creators and distributors are forced to play a giant game of whac-a-mole to limit the unlicensed spread of their content on the Internet.

The way the law stands today in the United States, EU, and most other developed countries, copyright holders must wait for content to appear online before sending targeted takedown notices to hosts, service providers, and online platforms.

After sending several billion of these notices, patience is wearing thin, so a new plan is beginning to emerge. Rather than taking down content after it appears, major entertainment industry groups would prefer companies to take proactive action. The upload filters currently under discussion in Europe are a prime example but are already causing controversy.

Continuing the momentum in this direction, Reuters reports that the European Union will publish draft guidelines at the end of this month, urging platforms such as Google and Facebook to take a more proactive approach to illegal content of all kinds.

“Online platforms need to significantly step up their actions to address this problem,” the draft EU guidelines say.

“They need to be proactive in weeding out illegal content, put effective notice-and-action procedures in place, and establish well-functioning interfaces with third parties (such as trusted flaggers) and give a particular priority to notifications from national law enforcement authorities.”

On the copyright front, Google already operates interfaces designed to take down infringing content. And, as the recent agreement in the UK with copyright holders shows, is also prepared to make infringing content harder to find. Nevertheless, it will remain to be seen if Google is prepared to give even ‘trusted’ third-parties a veto on what content can appear online, without having oversight itself.

The guidelines are reportedly non-binding but further legislation in this area isn’t being ruled out for Spring 2018, if companies fail to make significant progress.

Interestingly, however, a Commission source told Reuters that any new legislation would not “change the liability exemption for online platforms.” Maintaining these so-called ‘safe harbors’ is a priority for online giants such as Google and Facebook – anything less would almost certainly be a deal-breaker.

The guidelines, due to be published at the end of September, will also encourage online platforms to publish transparency reports. These should detail the volume of notices received and actions subsequently taken. Again, Google is way ahead of the game here, having published this kind of data for the past several years.

“The guidelines also contain safeguards against excessive removal of content, such as giving its owners a right to contest such a decision,” Reuters adds.

More will be known about the proposals in a couple of weeks but it’s quite likely they’ll spark another round of debate on whether legislation is the best route to tackle illegal content or whether voluntary agreements – which have a tendency to be rather less open – should be the way to go.

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

Australian Government Want ISPs to Adopt Anti-Piracy Code

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-want-isps-to-adopt-anti-piracy-code-170915/

Australia has been struggling to find an adequate response to online piracy for several years, but progress has been slow.

While pirate site blockades are in effect now, an earlier plan to implement a three-strikes anti-piracy regime failed.

Despite this setback, Australian legislators are still determined to tackle widespread copyright infringement. The most recent effort comes through an overhaul of the country’s copyright regulations, with a new proposal (pdf) to adopt a voluntary anti-piracy code.

The code would apply to carriage service providers, including Internet providers, to agree on a joint anti-piracy strategy. The voluntary code should be supported by “broad consensus” and include technical measures that are “used to protect and identify copyright material.”

The proposal further stresses that the anti-piracy measures should be “non-discriminatory.” They also shouldn’t impose “substantial costs” on the service providers or “substantial burdens on their systems or networks.”

The code proposal

The description of the code is quite broad can include a wide variety of measures, including a new iteration of the “strikes” scheme where copyright holders report copyright infringements. A website blocking agreement, which avoids costly court procedures, also belongs to the options.

An accompanying consultation paper published by the Government stresses that any monitoring measures to track infringements should not interfere with the technology used at the originating sites, ZDNet notes.

While the Government pushes copyright holders and ISPs to come to a voluntary agreement, the failed “three strikes” negotiations suggest that this will be easier said than done.

At the time, the Australasian Music Publishers Association (AMPAL) noted that merely warning users did not go far enough. Instead, they recommended a system where ISPs themselves would implement monitoring and filtering technology to stop piracy.

It appears, however, that extensive monitoring and filtering on the ISPs’ networks goes beyond the scope of the proposed regulations. After all, that would be quite costly and place a significant burden on the ISPs.

The proposed regulations are not limited to the anti-piracy code but also specify how Internet providers should process takedown notices, among other things.

Before any changes are implemented or negotiations begin, the Government is first inviting various stakeholders to share their views. While it doesn’t intend to change the main outline, the Government welcomes suggestions to simplify the current proposal where possible.

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

No, Google Drive is Definitely Not The New Pirate Bay

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/no-google-drive-is-definitely-not-the-new-pirate-bay-170910/

Running close to two decades old, the world of true mainstream file-sharing is less of a mystery to the general public than it’s ever been.

Most people now understand the concept of shifting files from one place to another, and a significant majority will be aware of the opportunities to do so with infringing content.

Unsurprisingly, this is a major thorn in the side of rightsholders all over the world, who have been scrambling since the turn of the century in a considerable effort to stem the tide. The results of their work have varied, with some sectors hit harder than others.

One area that has taken a bit of a battering recently involves the dominant peer-to-peer platforms reliant on underlying BitTorrent transfers. Several large-scale sites have shut down recently, not least KickassTorrents, Torrentz, and ExtraTorrent, raising questions of what bad news may arrive next for inhabitants of Torrent Land.

Of course, like any other Internet-related activity, sharing has continued to evolve over the years, with streaming and cloud-hosting now a major hit with consumers. In the main, sites which skirt the borders of legality have been the major hosting and streaming players over the years, but more recently it’s become clear that even the most legitimate companies can become unwittingly involved in the piracy scene.

As reported here on TF back in 2014 and again several times this year (1,2,3), cloud-hosting services operated by Google, including Google Drive, are being used to store and distribute pirate content.

That news was echoed again this week, with a report on Gadgets360 reiterating that Google Drive is still being used for movie piracy. What followed were a string of follow up reports, some of which declared Google’s service to be ‘The New Pirate Bay.’

No. Just no.

While it’s always tempting for publications to squeeze a reference to The Pirate Bay into a piracy article due to the site’s popularity, it’s particularly out of place in this comparison. In no way, shape, or form can a centralized store of data like Google Drive ever replace the underlying technology of sites like The Pirate Bay.

While the casual pirate might love the idea of streaming a movie with a couple of clicks to a browser of his or her choice, the weakness of the cloud system cannot be understated. To begin with, anything hosted by Google is vulnerable to immediate takedown on demand, usually within a matter of hours.

“Google Drive has a variety of piracy counter-measures in place,” a spokesperson told Mashable this week, “and we are continuously working to improve our protections to prevent piracy across all of our products.”

When will we ever hear anything like that from The Pirate Bay? Answer: When hell freezes over. But it’s not just compliance with takedown requests that make Google Drive-hosted files vulnerable.

At the point Google Drive responds to a takedown request, it takes down the actual file. On the other hand, even if Pirate Bay responded to notices (which it doesn’t), it would be unable to do anything about the sharing going on underneath. Removing a torrent file or magnet link from TPB does nothing to negatively affect the decentralized swarm of people sharing files among themselves. Those files stay intact and sharing continues, no matter what happens to the links above.

Importantly, people sharing using BitTorrent do so without any need for central servers – the whole process is decentralized as long as a user can lay his or her hands on a torrent file or magnet link. Those using Google Drive, however, rely on a totally centralized system, where not only is Google king, but it can and will stop the entire party after receiving a few lines of text from a rightsholder.

There is a very good reason why sites like The Pirate Bay have been around for close to 15 years while platforms such as Megaupload, Hotfile, Rapidshare, and similar platforms have all met their makers. File-hosting platforms are expensive-to-run warehouses full of files, each of which brings direct liability for their hosts, once they’re made aware that those files are infringing. These days the choice is clear – take the files down or get brought down, it’s as simple as that.

The Pirate Bay, on the other hand, is nothing more than a treasure map (albeit a valuable one) that points the way to content spread all around the globe in the most decentralized way possible. There are no files to delete, no content to disappear. Comparing a vulnerable Google Drive to this kind of robust system couldn’t be further from the mark.

That being said, this is the way things are going. The cloud, it seems, is here to stay in all its forms. Everyone has access to it and uploading content is easier – much easier – than uploading it to a BitTorrent network. A Google Drive upload is simplicity itself for anyone with a mouse and a file; the same cannot be said about The Pirate Bay.

For this reason alone, platforms like Google Drive and the many dozens of others offering a similar service will continue to become havens for pirated content, until the next big round of legislative change. At the moment, each piece of content has to be removed individually but in the future, it’s possible that pre-emptive filters will kill uploads of pirated content before they see the light of day.

When this comes to pass, millions of people will understand why Google Drive, with its bots checking every file upload for alleged infringement, is not The Pirate Bay. At this point, if people have left it too long, it might be too late to reinvigorate BitTorrent networks to their former glory.

People will try to rebuild them, of course, but realizing why they shouldn’t have been left behind at all is probably the best protection.

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

WordPress Reports Surge in ‘Piracy’ Takedown Notices, Rejects 78%

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/wordpress-reports-surge-in-piracy-takedown-notices-rejects-78-170909/

Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress.com blogging platform, receives thousands of takedown requests from rightsholders.

A few days ago the company published its latest transparency report, showing that it had processed 9,273 requests during the first half of 2017.

This is more than double the amount it received during the same period last year, which is a significant increase. Looking more closely at the numbers, we see that this jump is solely due to an increase in incomplete and abusive requests.

Of all the DMCA notices received, only 22% resulted in the takedown of allegedly infringing content. This translates to 2,040 legitimate requests, which is less than the 2,342 Automattic received during the same period last year.

This logically means that the number of abusive and incomplete DMCA notices has skyrocketed. And indeed, in its most recent report, 78% of all requests were rejected due to missing information or plain abuse. That’s much more than the year before when 42% were rejected.

Automattic’s transparency report (first half of 2017)

WordPress prides itself on carefully reviewing the content of each and every takedown notice, to protect its users. This means checking whether a takedown request is properly formatted but also reviewing the legitimacy of the claims.

“We also may decline to remove content if a notice is abusive. ‘Abusive’ notices may be formally complete, but are directed at fair use of content, material that isn’t copyrightable, or content the complaining party misrepresents ownership of a copyright,” Automattic notes.

During the first half of 2017, a total of 649 takedown requests were categorized as abuse. Some of the most blatant examples go into the “Hall of Shame,” such as a recent case where the Canadian city of Abbotsford tried to censor a parody of its logo, which replaced a pine tree with a turd.

While some abuse cases sound trivial they can have a real impact on website operators, as examples outside of WordPress show. Most recently the operator of Oro Jackson, a community dedicated to the anime series “One Piece,” was targeted with several dubious DMCA requests.

The takedown notices were sent by the German company Comeso and were forwarded through their hosting company Linode. The notices urged the operator to remove various forum threads because they included words of phrases such as “G’day” and “Reveries of the Moonlight,” not actual infringing content.

G’day

Fearing legal repercussions, the operator saw no other option than to censor these seemingly harmless discussions (starting a thread with “G’day”!!), until there’s a final decision on the counter-notice. They remain offline today.

It’s understandable that hosting companies have to be strict sometimes, as reviewing copyright claims is not their core business. However, incidents like these show how valuable the skeptical review process of Automattic is.

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

‘Pirate’ Site Uses DMCA to Remove Pirated Copy from Github

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-uses-dmca-to-remove-pirated-copy-from-github-170902/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

Pirate sites are usually at the receiving end of these requests but apparently, they can use it to their advantage as well.

A few days ago the operators of sports streaming site soccerstreams.net informed the developer platform GitHub that a copy of their code was being made available without permission.

The targeted repository was created by “mmstart007,” who allegedly copied it from Bitbucket without permission. The operator of the streaming site wasn’t happy with this and sent a DMCA takedown notice to GitHub asking to take the infringing code offline.

“It’s not an open source work its [a] private project we [are] using on our site and that was a private repo on bitbucket and that guy got unauthorized access to it,” Soccerstreams writes.

The operators stress that the repository “must be taken down as soon as possible,” adding the mandatory ‘good faith’ statement.

“I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the infringing web pages is not authorized by the copyright owner, or its agent, or the law. I have taken fair use into consideration,” the complaint reads.

GitHub responded swiftly to the request and pulled the repository offline. Those who try to access it today see the following notification instead.

The people running the Soccer Streams site, which is linked with a similarly named Reddit community, are certainly no strangers to takedown requests themselves. The website and the Reddit community was recently targeted by the Premier League recently for example, which accused it of providing links to copyrighted streams.

While soccerstreams.net regularly links to unauthorized streams and is seen as a pirate site by rightsholders, the site doesn’t believe that it’s doing anything wrong.

It has a dedicated DMCA page on its site stating that all streams are submitted by its users and that they cannot be held liable for any infringements.

While it’s a bit unusual for sites and tools with a “pirate” stigma to issue takedown requests, it’s not unique. Just a few weeks ago one of the popular Sickrage forks was removed from GitHub, following a complaint from another fork.

This episode caused a bit of a stir, but the owner of the targeted Sickrage repository eventually managed to get the project restored after a successful counter-notice.

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

HDClub, Russia’s Leading HD-Only Torrent Site, Permanently Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hdclub-russias-leading-hd-torrent-site-permanently-shuts-down-170830/

While millions of users frequent popular public torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG every day, there’s a thriving scene that’s hidden from the wider public eye.

Every week, private torrent trackers cater to dozens of millions of BitTorrent users who have taken the time and effort to gain access to these more secretive communities. Often labeled as elitist and running counter to the broad sharing ethos that made file-sharing the beast it is today, private sites pride themselves on quality, order and speed, something public sites typically struggle to match.

In addition to these notable qualities, many private sites choose to focus on a particular niche. There are sites dedicated to obscure electronic music, comedy, and even magic, but HDClub’s focus was given away by its name.

Dubbing itself “The HighDefinition BitTorrent Community”, HDClub specialized in HD productions including Blu-ray and 3D content, covering movies, TV shows, music videos, and animation.

Born in 2007, HDClub celebrated its ninth birthday on March 9 last year, with 2017 heralding a full decade online for the site. Catering mainly to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, the site’s releases often preserved an English audio option, ideal for those looking for high-quality releases from an unorthodox source at decent speeds.

Of course, HDClub releases often leaked out of the site, meaning that thousands are still available on regular public trackers, as a search on any Western torrent engine reveals.

A sample of HDClub releases listed on Torrentz2

Importantly, the site offered thousands of releases completely unavailable in Russia from licensed sources, meaning it filled a niche in which official outlets either wouldn’t or couldn’t compete. This earned itself a place in Russia’s Top 1000 sites list, despite being a closed membership platform.

The site’s attention to detail and focus earned it a considerable following. For the past few years the site capped membership at 190,000 people but in practice, attendance floated around the 170,000 mark. Seeders peaked at approximately 400,000 with leechers considerably less, making seeding as difficult as one might expect on a ratio-based tracker.

Now, however, the decade-long run of HDClub has come to an abrupt end. Early this week the tracker went dark, reportedly without advance notice. A Russian language announcement now present on its main page explains the reasons for the site’s demise.

“Recently, we received several dozens of complaints from rightsholders weekly, and our community is subjected to attacks and espionage,” the announcement reads.

While public torrent sites are always bombarded with DMCA-style notices, private sites tend to avoid large numbers of complaints. In this case, however, HDClub were clearly feeling the pressure. The site’s main page was open to the public while featuring popular releases, so this probably didn’t help with the load.

It’s not clear what is meant by “attacks and espionage” but it’s possibly a reference to DDoS assaults and third-parties attempting to monitor the site. Nevertheless, as HDClub points out, the climate for torrent, streaming, and similar sites has become increasingly hostile in the region recently.

“In parallel, there is a tightening of Internet legislation in Russia, Ukraine and EU countries,” the site says.

Interestingly, the site’s operators also suggest that interest from some quarters had waned, noting that “the time of enthusiasts irretrievably goes away.” It’s unclear whether that’s a reference to site users, the site’s operators, or indeed both. But in any event, any significant decline in any area can prove fatal, particularly when other pressures are at play.

“In the circumstances, we can no longer support the work of the club in the originally conceived format. The project is closed, but we ask you to refrain from long farewells. Thank you all and goodbye!” the message concludes.

Interestingly, the site ends with a little teaser, which may indicate some hope for the future.

“There are talks on preserving the heritage of the club,” it reads, without adding further details.

Possibly stay tuned…..

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

Game of Thrones Piracy Peaks After Season Finale

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-piracy-peaks-after-season-finale-170828/

The seventh season of Game of Thrones has been the most-viewed thus far, with record-breaking TV ratings.

Traditionally, the season finale is among the most-viewed episodes of the season. This is true on official channels, but also on pirate sites.

Despite numerous legal options, Game of Thrones remains extremely popular among pirates. Minutes after the official broadcast ended last night people flocked to various torrent and streaming sites, to watch it for free.

Looking at the torrent download numbers we see that the latest episode is topping all previous ones of this season. At the time of writing, more than 400,000 people were actively sharing one of the many available torrents.

Some of the more popular GoT torrents

While the demand is significant, there is no all time “swarm record” as we saw two years ago.

In part, this may be due to improved legal options, but the recent rise of pirate streaming sites and services are also ‘stealing’ traffic. While there is no hard data available, millions of people now use streaming sites and services to watch pirated episodes of Game of Thrones.

Record or not, there is little doubt that Game of Thrones will end up being the most pirated show of the year once again. That will be the sixth year in a row, which is unprecedented.

In recent years, HBO has tried to contain piracy by sending DMCA takedown notices to pirate sites. In addition, the company also warned tens of thousands of BitTorrent downloaders directly. Nonetheless, many people still find their way to this unofficial market.

While HBO has grown used to mass-scale piracy in recent years, it encountered some other major setbacks this season. Hackers leaked preliminary outlines of various episodes before they aired. The same hackers also threatened to release the season finale, but that never happened.

There were two episode leaks this year, but these were unrelated to the aforementioned. The fourth episode leaked through the Indian media processing company Prime Focus Technologies, which resulted in several arrests. Two weeks later, HBO Spain accidentally made the sixth episode public days in advance, which spread online soon after.

On the upside. Piracy aside, the interest of the media and millions of ‘legal’ viewers appears to be on a high as well, so there’s certainly something left to celebrate.

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

Rightscorp Bleeds Another Million, Borrows $200K From Customer BMG

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-bleeds-another-million-borrows-200k-from-customer-bmg-170819/

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is one of the many companies trying to turn Internet piracy into profit. The company has a somewhat novel approach but has difficulty balancing the books.

Essentially, Rightscorp operates like other so-called copyright-trolling operations, in that it monitors alleged offenders on BitTorrent networks, tracks them to their ISPs, then attempts to extract a cash settlement. Rightscorp does this by sending DMCA notices with settlement agreements attached, in the hope that at-this-point-anonymous Internet users break cover in panic. This can lead to a $20 or $30 ‘fine’ or in some cases dozens of multiples of that.

But despite settling hundreds of thousands of these cases, profit has thus far proven elusive, with the company hemorrhaging millions in losses. The company has just filed its results for the first half of 2017 and they contain more bad news.

In the six months ended June 2017, revenues obtained from copyright settlements reached just $138,514, that’s 35% down on the $214,326 generated in the same period last year. However, the company did manage to book $148,332 in “consulting revenue” in the first half of this year, a business area that generated no revenue in 2016.

Overall then, total revenue for the six month period was $286,846 – up from $214,326 last year. While that’s a better picture in its own right, Rightscorp has a lot of costs attached to its business.

After paying out $69,257 to copyright holders and absorbing $1,190,696 in general and administrative costs, among other things, the company’s total operating expenses topped out at $1,296,127 for the first six months of the year.

To make a long story short, the company made a net loss of $1,068,422, which was more than the $995,265 loss it made last year and despite improved revenues. The company ended June with just $1,725 in cash.

“These factors raise substantial doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern within one year after the date that the financial statements are issued,” the company’s latest statement reads.

This hanging-by-a-thread narrative has followed Rightscorp for the past few years but there’s information in the latest accounts which indicates how bad things were at the start of the year.

In January 2016, Rightscorp and several copyright holders, including Hollywood studio Warner Bros, agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over intimidating robo-calls that were made to alleged infringers. The defendants agreed to set aside $450,000 to cover the costs, and it appears that Rightscorp was liable for at least $200,000 of that.

Rightscorp hasn’t exactly been flush with cash, so it was interesting to read that its main consumer piracy settlement client, music publisher BMG, actually stepped in to pay off the class-action settlement.

“At December 31, 2016, the Company had accrued $200,000 related to the settlement of a class action complaint. On January 7, 2017, BMG Rights Management (US) LLC (“BMG”) advanced the Company $200,000, which was used to pay off the settlement. The advance from BMG is to be applied to future billings from the Company to BMG for consulting services,” Rightscorp’s filing reads.

With Rightscorp’s future BMG revenue now being gobbled up by what appears to be loan repayments, it becomes difficult to see how the anti-piracy outfit can make enough money to pay off the $200,000 debt. However, its filing notes that on July 21, 2017, the company issued “an aggregate of 10,000,000 shares of common stock to an investor for a purchase price of $200,000.” While that amount matches the BMG debt, the filing doesn’t reveal who the investor is.

The filing also reveals that on July 31, Rightscorp entered into two agreements to provide services “to a holder of multiple copyrights.” The copyright holder isn’t named, but the deal reveals that it’s in Rightscorp’s best interests to get immediate payment from people to whom it sends cash settlement demands.

“[Rightscorp] will receive 50% of all gross proceeds of any settlement revenue received by the Client from pre-lawsuit ‘advisory notices,’ and 37.5% of all gross proceeds received by the Client from ‘final warning’ notices sent immediately prior to a lawsuit,” the filing notes.

Also of interest is that Rightscorp has offered not to work with any of the copyright holders’ direct competitors, providing certain thresholds are met – $10,000 revenue in the first month to $100,000 after 12 months. But there’s more to the deal.

Rightscorp will also provide a number of services to this client including detecting and verifying copyright works on P2P networks, providing information about infringers, plus reporting, litigation support, and copyright protection advisory services.

For this, Rightscorp will earn $10,000 for the first three months, rising to $85,000 per month after 16 months, valuable revenue for a company fighting for its life.

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

Court Orders Aussie ISPs to Block Dozens of Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-aussie-isps-to-block-dozens-of-pirate-sites-170818/

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

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

This is also happening in Australia where the first blockades were issued late last year. In December, the Federal Court ordered ISPs to block The Pirate Bay and several other sites, which happened soon after.

However, as is often the case with website blocking, one order is not enough as there are still plenty of pirate sites and proxies readily available. So, several rightsholders including movie studio Village Roadshow and local broadcaster Foxtel went back to court.

Today the Federal Court ruled on two applications that cover 59 pirate sites in total, including many popular torrent and streaming portals.

The first order was issued by Justice John Nicholas, who directed several Internet providers including IINet, Telstra, and TPG to block access to several pirate sites. The request came from Village Roadshow, which was backed by several major Hollywood studios.

The order directs the ISPs to stop passing on traffic to 41 torrent and streaming platforms including Demonoid, RARBG, EZTV, YTS, Gomovies, and Fmovies. The full list of blocked domains is even longer, as it also covers several proxies.

“The infringement or facilitation of infringement by the Online Locations is flagrant and reflect a blatant disregard for the rights of copyright owners,” the order reads.

“By way of illustration, one of the Online Locations is accessible via the domain name ‘istole.it’ and it and many others include notices encouraging users to implement technology to frustrate any legal action that might be taken by copyright owners.”

In a separate order handed down by Federal Court Judge Stephen Burley, another 17 sites are ordered blocked following a request from Foxtel. This includes popular pirate sites such as 1337x, Torlock, Putlocker, YesMovies, Vumoo, and LosMovies.

The second order also includes a wide variety of alternative locations, including proxies, which brings the total number of targeted domain names to more than 160.

As highlighted by SHM, the orders coincide with the launch of a new anti-piracy campaign dubbed “The Price of Piracy,” which is organized by Creative Content Australia. Lori Flekser, Executive director of the non-profit organization, believes that the blockades will help to significantly deter piracy.

“Not only is there decreasing traffic to pirate sites but there is a subsequent increase in traffic to legal sites,” she said.

At the same time, she warns people not to visit proxy and mirror sites, as these could be dangerous. This message is also repeated by her organization’s campaign, which warns that pirate sites can be filled with ransomware, spyware, trojans, viruses, bots, rootkits and worms.

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