Tag Archives: Opinion

UK ‘Pirate’ IPTV Users’ Favorite Channels “Are Free-to-Air”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-iptv-users-favorite-channels-are-free-to-air-190915/

While the TV licensing system in the UK is viewed as an unpopular tax by many citizens, millions hand over money every year in order to receive broadcasts into their homes.

For the sum of £154.50 for a color TV license and £52 for a black and white equivalent, residents can potentially obtain access to dozens of channels via satellite (Freesat) or antenna (Freeview), none of which come with a subscription charge. In fact, those who don’t pay the license fee can still receive them, just not entirely legally.

Of course, those subscribing to a ‘pirate’ IPTV provider gain access to thousands of channels, including all the premium channels that would otherwise add hundreds of pounds of costs to the average bill.

There’s no doubt that gaining access to Sky’s premium offerings for next to nothing is an attractive proposition for customers. However, a UK-based IPTV provider informs TorrentFreak that these aren’t always the most popular channels with his subscribers.

Perhaps surprisingly, when looking at the Top 10 most-watched channels on the service, BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all get a prominent position. Every single one is not only available for free (license permitting) via satellite or antenna but also available via the Internet for UK residents.

TF was able to review data from the IPTV provider’s panel which listed the service’s most popular streams from a few weeks ago. It showed that the most-viewed channel was ITV HD with just over 16%, with BBC1 HD in second place with close to 13%. National Geographic, a non-free to air channel, sat in third with just under 10%, closely followed by free to air Channel 4 HD.

Of the top 12 most popular channels listed in a provided chart, six are already free to air – ITV, BBC1 One, Channel 4, BBC Two, 4seven, Channel 5, ITV2, E4, Quest Red, and Quest. So why the inflated interest in channels already covered by a TV license and free-to-air?

The IPTV provider said it polled some customers, with a number of interesting reasons reportedly coming up, most of which appear to center around service-related issues. Firstly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, users of Freeview complained about not being able to get a good enough signal.

The digital Freeview service is supposedly available to 98% of the population but anecdotal evidence suggests that many are left with a poor signal, a reduced channel offering, picture break up, or not being able to receive the service at all.

Freesat (satellite) users can usually overcome most of these issues but many televisions don’t come with an appropriate tuner and in all cases, an external satellite dish must be installed, which presents another barrier to entry.

IPTV services, on the other hand, require a broadband connection and a cheap subscription, no external equipment (satellite dishes, antenna, or tuners) required.

It could be countered that several of the main BBC channels can be acquired via the Internet using the BBC iPlayer, which unquestionably provides a first-class service. However, online offerings from ITV (ITV Hub), Channel 4 (All 4), and Channel 5 (My5) only come in SD quality and in some cases, that’s a best-case scenario.

Most of the rest of the channels in the ‘free’ range (outside the regular TV license fee) have no online offer at all but an IPTV service can provide them all, in most cases in HD quality.

Only adding to the hassle of going legal is the fact that most if not all of the above channels’ online offerings now require registration, meaning that users have to have accounts with them all to receive them on a TV. On the other side, a subscription with an IPTV provider requires a single sign-up.

According to the provider, users don’t like to have accounts with all of these different official suppliers and they don’t enjoy the low-quality images on offer from their online portals, even if they are free to access. They also prefer the flexibility of being able to watch channels on any device they like, rather than being restricted to the platforms supported by various providers.

A UK user with experience of all of the systems above confirmed that while having Freeview or Freesat is a nice option, switching from app to app to receive other channels on various devices is a sub-standard experience when compared to that offered by unlicensed providers. He also questioned whether “any harm was being done” to the legitimate providers by accessing their channels from an IPTV provider.

“I pay my license for the BBC and I don’t use up any of their Internet [bandwidth]. I watch all the adverts on everything else same as everyone. Where’s the negative, I don’t see any?” he said.

In common with the provider we spoke with, the TV viewer pointed out that having everything in one place (a single IPTV subscription) is much more convenient than having to switch around various sources, even if that means paying a few pounds per month.

So while some people clearly latch on to unlicensed IPTV subscriptions for premium content usually offered by companies such as Sky, it seems that at least, in this case, convenience is also playing a big factor.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Plex is a Pirate’s Dream But Could Also Build Bridges to Legal Content

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/plex-is-a-pirates-dream-but-could-also-build-bridges-to-legal-content-190914/

A little while back, Bijan Stephen over at The Verge published a well-received piece on the topic of Plex, the popular media server software. It’s well worth a read for those who aren’t already familiar with this incredibly sleek tool.

For those in need of a quick summary, Plex comes in two parts. A server component that does all the hard work behind the scenes on the host computer and a client, which can be typically run on a smart TV, Firestick-like device, tablet, phone or indeed another computer. The latter is used to access the former.

In brief (and from a video consumption perspective) people can dump all of their properly named movies and TV shows into a folder, adjust a few settings, wait a minute or three and have this uninspiring bleak landscape…

Before…

….transformed into something like this:

After…

Users of software like Popcorn Time or Showbox will probably wonder what all the fuss is about – but that’s only if they haven’t used Plex.

When properly configured (and it isn’t hard) its search and curation features blow Netflix’s out of the water. Search by genre, actor, director, running time – almost anything is possible. As a bonus, Plex has one of the most beautiful interfaces ever made for media consumption.

What Plex doesn’t have, when people first install it, is any movie or TV show content in its library – especially of the kind shown above. The company behind Plex is completely above board, providing a tool that’s no more responsible for piracy than Windows or Android. Nevertheless, plenty of users build their own self-hosted Netflix-beaters with Plex, sometimes with the help of others.

The article in The Verge explains how some Plex users solve this problem by teaming up with other Plex users to share their own libraries. It a system that operates in a manner not dissimilar to the way smaller BBS admins of yesteryear traded and obtained content for their own platforms.

As The Verge put it, “as streaming offerings become more expensive and convoluted, people are setting up their own smaller, more intimate platforms.” And indeed they are, but there’s more to this rodeo.

There is a side to Plex use (copyright holders and indeed Plex itself will argue ‘abuse’) that isn’t small at all. It doesn’t involve sharing any of your own content either, it’s a simple case of handing over a few dollars, euros, or pounds and suddenly everything is a click away.

If one knows where to look, so-called P4S (Plex For Share) services are available that make Netflix’s multi-billion dollar offering look like a second-class citizen. And after handing over the cash or requesting a free trial, users can be accessing huge – HUGE – libraries of content in a matter of minutes.

The smaller and cheaper shares (a few hundred movies and TV shows, a handful of simultaneous users) are probably being run on home connections. The bigger and more expensive ones are entirely more professional, offering thousands of video files to many concurrent users.

Just as an example, one particular service (for less than $10) per month, lists more than 11,000 movies in HD and above (including 4K) plus 2,000 TV shows. Others prefer to list content in terabytes, with more than 200TB not being particularly uncommon. These big boys utilize CDNs to ensure content is delivered seamlessly to subscribers, wherever they may be.

The big deal here isn’t just the volume of content available, it’s the nature and breadth. Given that professional P4S offers don’t have politics to deal with or business models to protect, the movies on offer range from old classics to the very latest blockbusters. And Friends will not be removed because somebody offered a better deal.

The world of Plex shares is nothing new and for those thinking that their existence should be kept under the radar, it’s already too late. Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN, which is affiliated with Hollywood studios, has already taken action against people offering these services to the public. The cat is well and truly out of the bag, it’s just a question of how far it will run.

But while Plex might be a pirate’s dream, the company is doing some very interesting things to ensure that rightsholders get in on the act. Late last month, Plex announced it had struck a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution to supply free, ad-supported movies and TV shows to Plex users.

The company reportedly has plans for its software to become a “one-stop-shop” for content and has grand plans to begin reselling subscription content in 2020 along with video on demand products. This opens up the possibility of introducing pirates to premium products in an interface they are already very familiar with.

While some will naturally object, this could be clever bridge-building in action. Big content companies would never try to tempt pirates by putting movies or TV shows on The Pirate Bay, for example, but Plex and the company behind it are so neutral, politics can be kept to a minimum. Let’s see how it plays out, things could get very interesting.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

The Solution to Music Piracy in Nigeria is No Joke – Or is It?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-solution-to-music-piracy-in-nigeria-is-no-joke-or-is-it-190908/

Even when one has visited many countries around the world, subtleties of cultural differences can be difficult to grasp.

What’s funny or makes sense in one country may draw a blank expression in another, which is why a recent set of stories from Nigeria catch the eye.

Music industry group IFPI describes Africa as a whole as an emerging opportunity for business, with digital music services sometimes available alongside mobile phone services. Nevertheless, the physical music market, while dwindling, is still going strong – even if piracy remains a big problem.

Enter stage left popular musician and comedian Koffi Idowu, who in sits on the board of the Copyright Society of Nigeria. COSON, as it’s known locally, describes itself as Africa’s fastest-growing copyright collective management organization.

While ‘Koffi’ is known locally for his comedy, one might think that joking about piracy would be off-limits, considering his position. However, it’s almost impossible for outsiders to determine whether his recent comments are serious or not.

Content leaks from manufacturing and distribution processes can sometimes be tackled using watermarking, for example. However, Koffi is publicly advocating the use of a “modern technology” that actually debuted in the 1970s.

“Modern trends need to be applied by the right commissions to successfully combat piracy. People in the creative industry need to start barcoding their works,” he said, according to several local sources.

“We also need to start tracing these works from the sources where they were being stolen. We cannot monitor them physically but with technology, we can go a long way,” he added.

Without being disrespectful to Nigeria’s position as an emerging nation (and, of course, presuming this isn’t a joke that doesn’t translate across borders), it seems bizarre to think that a barcode could prevent music piracy in any way. One CD out, and it gets copied, barcode or not.

But then Koffi advocates getting the military involved to deal with the problem.

“When we discover warehouses where piracy is being carried out, arrests and sanctions can only be done by the appropriate officials,” he said.

It all sounds real enough, but it’s only when one takes a look at articles on Nigeria’s market published in the West that one gets a grip on just how different things are in the African nation. Not just different, but also bizarre.

An article in Billboard published in April describes how local digital music streaming service uduX is making progress in Nigeria. We’re all used to installing apps for music and banking, for example, but what if they were the same thing?

“Through GTBank’s Habari app, a platform for shopping and lifestyle content, uduX, whose name derives from a musical instrument played in Nigeria called udu, will gain access to a community of 16.8 million users,” the Billboard piece reads.

“Since consumers have already entered their banking information, they can subscribe to the streaming platform in a few clicks.”

Now while this makes sense on a basic level, the privacy-conscious among us might be thinking “what could possibly go wrong?” As it turns out, those fears appear to be not only well-founded but considered a feature in Nigeria.

That’s according to Chidi Okeke, the CEO of Groove Platforms, the company behind uduX.

“I want to get people to pay for my service and for that, I just needed to be close to where the money is,” Okeke said.

And thanks to the partnership with the bank, the streaming service can get information on the bank’s customers, including their ages and location, and perhaps a whole lot more.

“We know how they spend their money, so it’s easier for us to target people,” said Okeke.

That doesn’t sound like a joke. But the barcodes and military are up for debate, potentially. Or maybe not.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

IPTV Providers Reject Claims of Links to Drugs, Weapons, People Trafficking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-providers-reject-claims-of-links-to-drugs-weapons-people-trafficking-190825/

For as long as piracy and counterfeiting have existed, there have been claims that groups engaged in the practices have links to other, more serious crimes.

Over the past couple of decades the claims have persisted but even the most serious legal cases (ones for which people have been jailed for many years) have failed to turn up evidence that people running pirate sites, services, and similar platforms are connected to even more serious crimes.

This week, however, following news from FACT that it had targeted numerous IPTV sellers and providers in the UK, Lesley Donovan – the National Coordinator for the multi-agency Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) – repeated similar claims.

Referencing even the smaller players – those who re-sell access to larger IPTV providers – Donovan said that they are contributing to what many people consider to be some of the most serious crimes.

“This type of activity is also often a cog in a larger criminal machine, often ultimately funding drugs, weapons and people trafficking,” Donovan said.

Clearly, most members of the general public wouldn’t want to feel that they’re funding drug supply, helping to encourage the flow of weapons, or contributing to the suffering of those trafficked illegally across or even within borders.

However, these claims are rarely (if ever) backed up with references to cases where people can see evidence of that happening for themselves in Internet cases. And with the word “often” being used twice in the GAIN statement, one might be forgiven for thinking it’s commonplace.

Several weeks ago, while in discussion with the operator of an IPTV service based in Europe, this very topic raised its head. Our contact, while acknowledging that what goes on the IPTV space isn’t exactly legal, bemoaned claims that links to wider crime are rampant.

“The truth is that most IPTV services that I know of only do IPTV. The other half have normal jobs that they do day in, day out,” he explained.

Indeed, TF is informed from several sources that IT professionals, both former and current (and particularly those in the networking space), have close interests in supplying IPTV services to the public. “A natural progression and salary supplement,” is how one described it recently.

Interestingly, one provider spoke of how supplying IPTV to the public has actually become an alternative option for those who may have become involved in other types of crime. Nevertheless, gun-running and people trafficking aren’t part of the equation.

“I’m not saying they are whiter than white but they certainly aren’t some mobster gangsters involved in human trafficking,” he said.

Another thing that seems to have irritated IPTV suppliers is the claim by anti-piracy groups that members of the public open themselves up to being stolen from when they deal with ‘pirate’ IPTV providers.

It’s often claimed that handing over personal information along with payment details can result in people being deprived of their cash through ancillary fraudulent transactions. But again, this is something rarely reported in public by any alleged victims, or backed up by evidence from law enforcement.

“Nobody is forced to give real details when signing up [to an IPTV service]. In fact we don’t care what name or address you put as we aren’t going verify the information,” one source told TF.

“We use third-party gateways for payment such as PayPal or Stripe and so on, so none of us ever see card details [enabling us to] commit fraud.”

Of course, it could also be argued that in common with the thus-far unsubstantiated claims that IPTV providers are involved in more serious crime, the claims of these providers are also without supporting evidence.

Nevertheless, they seem keen to distance themselves from the claims and in the main, approached us first to dispel the narrative they’re involved in anything other than the supply of illegal streams.

In the interim, it will be for the public to decide who to believe and a court case showing otherwise to run its course and reveal if such connections are both real and substantiated. Until then, the business will remain in the shadows, with both claims and counterclaims up for debate.

Finally, we spoke to one lower-tier reseller and asked him about the recent involvement of organized crime units and whether “organized crime” was an accurate description of his reseller sideline.

“I’ve got about 250 customers,” he told TF. “It’s too many for me really and if it is crime it’s VERY disorganized. So no.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Will Cloudflare Kicking 8chan Undermine Pirate Sites?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/will-cloudflare-kicking-8chan-undermine-pirate-sites-190805/

Another day, another senseless mass shooting in the United States, claiming the lives of yet more innocent victims.

While the authorities attempt to sift through this catastrophe and work out what drives people to carry out such terrible acts, attention is being placed on how their messages of evil are spread. Somewhat inevitably, parts of the Internet are set to shoulder at least some of the blame.

Not at all unsurprisingly, service providers are usually reluctant to take any responsibility for the actions of their users or some cases, customers. However, in an announcement early this morning, CDN company Cloudflare said it would cease its work with 8chan, the “cesspool of hate” messaging board where it’s alleged the shooter shared his manifesto.

“8chan is among the more than 19 million Internet properties that use Cloudflare’s service. We just sent notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a statement.

“The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.”

While other publications will quite rightly focus on the human aspect of this weekend’s awful events, our reporting of issues affecting Cloudflare always center on the company’s involvement in copyright infringement actions. And there are several, almost every month.

Cloudflare is not a copyright infringer and always acts within the law but if 8chan is guilty of violating “the spirit” of the law and ripe for termination, it will be no surprise that copyright-focused groups will now be quietly rubbing their hands in anticipation.

The Pirate Bay, perhaps the most high-profile ‘pirate’ customer of Cloudflare, provides the most obvious example of a site with a stated aim of violating the law – copyright law, to be specific.

Yet to date nothing has been done to prevent the site from being a Cloudflare customer, because from Cloudflare’s side – perhaps counterintuitively – the CDN service itself hasn’t broken any laws. A similar argument can be made for the many hundreds or even thousands of comparable ‘pirate’ platforms which use Cloudflare in the same way.

It would be distasteful to compare the events of this past weekend with the sharing of movies, TV shows, and music, but copyright holders have had no problem using that as leverage in the past.

In a case brought against Cloudflare by ALS Scan, the adult publisher reminded the court that Cloudflare had previously terminated its business dealings with the Daily Stormer but hadn’t terminated its pirate site customers. Cloudflare didn’t want that discussion to take place at trial but its arguments were rejected by the judge.

In the end, Cloudflare and ALS Scan agreed to settle their case, meaning that a claim for contributory copyright infringement – through the prism of the Daily Stormer disconnection – didn’t get placed in front of a jury. But here we are, a little over a year later, with 8chan also having been terminated by Cloudflare under broadly similar circumstances.

In his message this morning, CEO Matthew Prince highlighted the fact that Cloudflare realizes that having policies that are more conservative than those of their customers would undermine customers’ abilities to run their ships as they see fit. This, the CEO says, means that the company sometimes has to bite its tongue – up to a point.

“We reluctantly tolerate content that we find reprehensible, but we draw the line at platforms that have demonstrated they directly inspire tragic events and are lawless by design. 8chan has crossed that line. It will therefore no longer be allowed to use our services,” Prince added.

Copyright holders regularly argue that pirate sites are “lawless” by their very nature but none have ever caused or inspired the kind of tragic events inflicted upon innocents in recent times.

All that being said, Cloudflare’s decision to terminate a site it states may have only violated “the spirit” of the law will eventually come back to haunt it, even if it was absolutely right to do so. No brand wants to be associated with those reveling in murder, but the clock is already ticking to see which copyright holder brings it up first, to support a case against Cloudflare and its customers.

It’s happened once, it will surely happen again.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Inside the UK’s ‘Pirate’ IPTV Blocking System

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-uks-secret-pirate-iptv-blocking-system-190728/

Millions of people in the UK cite football (soccer for those over the pond) as their favorite sport. Every week, huge numbers head off to grounds far and wide but for the travel averse, watching matches on TV is the only option.

Broadcasters like Sky and BT Sport would like consumers to choose their premium offerings but that can be prohibitively expensive. Even then, the Premier League’s top games played on a Saturday afternoon are banned from TV, thanks to the somewhat archaic “3pm blackout“.

As a result, pirate IPTV services, which all but eliminate high costs while completely ignoring the blackout, are thriving. In response, the Premier League obtained a pioneering injunction from the High Court in 2017 that compelled the largest ISPs to block ‘pirate’ servers for a season. It has obtained permission to continue along the same lines twice since.

Based on information made available in the initial injunction, we previously provided a rough guide on how the system operates. However, the High Court also accepted that other details were secret and agreed to them not being detailed in public.

Since then, TF has received various pieces of information about how the blocking system works in practice but recently a new source came forward offering much more detail, from both the perspective of IPTV providers dealing with the technology and based on information that we’re told was leaked from inside an anti-piracy company.

TF was able to review copies of some of the information. We have been unable to confirm the manner in which the leaks allegedly took place but a secondary source, who has proven reliable in the past, acknowledged that a leak had taken place. It therefore seems likely that the company in question, which we have also chosen not to name, is already familiar with the circumstances.

We’re told that the original source of the leaks, with whom TF has had no contact and whose identity is unknown to us, went AWOL a number of months ago and stopped providing data. Exactly why is unclear but at this point, the details aren’t particularly important.

Inside the Blocking System

In a detailed analysis, our source explained that, unsurprisingly, the anti-piracy company first needs to become a customer of the providers it targets. That means signing up to services in the usual manner and handing over money to what are essentially illegal services.

Documents reviewed by TF also suggest the use of fake online social media accounts which solicit IPTV providers for trials. One particular account, created less than a week before the new season began in August 2017, had nothing but these kinds of requests in its timeline. At least one provider responded in public, apparently unaware of the nature of his potential customer.

Other information supplied suggests that in some instances PayPal accounts with fake details were used to sign up to IPTV providers. This, the source says, probably caused problems because the details on the accounts didn’t match real people’s identities, so they would eventually fail PayPal’s checks and become much less useful.

Once signed up, the anti-piracy company could act like any other subscriber but this didn’t go unnoticed. TF was shown a screenshot from an IPTV service’s customer panel, dated sometime in 2018, which revealed a suspect subscriber who had been a member for many months. The last login was actioned from a particular IP address which, according to current public WHOIS information, remains registered to the anti-piracy company in question.

An invoice for between 10 and 20 euros, dated 2019, which the source says was issued to one of the anti-piracy accounts, gave a name plus an address in London. The supplied postcode relates to an address in another country of the UK. When all put together it is clearly a fake account, although we weren’t able to positively link it to a specific anti-piracy operative.

Nevertheless, it seems clear from the supplied channel surfing logs (which we were told were retained and supplied by a cooperative third-party IPTV provider) that a normal human viewer almost certainly wasn’t behind the subscription.

The logs show that sports channels were systematically selected, presumably to be analyzed back at base, and then skipped to fresh channels over pretty precise set periods. According to our source, these durations were sometimes varied, in his opinion to avoid detection as a computerized system.

Of course, not all attempts at subscribing to channels for anti-piracy purposes are spotted early by the affected IPTV providers. Once in, we’re informed that the preferred method of scanning for infringement is via the humble .m3u playlist file, with channels to be monitored being captured for set periods and then rotated.

The scanning system reportedly allows for a VPN to be assigned to each .m3u line/account, in order to make detection more difficult. VPNs are also sometimes used to sign up and/or used for contact via customer support services offered by the providers.

According to the source, captured frames from ‘pirate’ streams are compared with a direct source from the original content. If there’s an automatic match (sometimes manual intervention is required) then the source server’s IP address is logged and sent to the big six ISPs in the UK for blocking.

We’re told that an email is also sent to the hosting companies of the servers informing them of the block, accompanied by a link to the High Court order. Often these notices aren’t passed on to the operators of IPTV services.

According to one IPTV provider, the process for checking for infringing streams begins around 15 minutes before a match begins and continues for 15 minutes after. Further checks are conducted in the interim to catch any IP address or other network changes carried out by the providers.

However, while infringing streams are apparently blocked in just a “few seconds”, it can take a couple of hours for them to become unblocked by ISPs after the games have finished.

While reports online indicate that some services have been affected by this type of blocking, it has also had some unintended consequences that may have made IPTV providers more resilient and more adept at countering the blocking program. We’ll cover some of those next time.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Is Innovation Making Casual Pirates Less Knowledgable?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/is-innovation-making-casual-pirates-less-knowledgable-190721/

Anyone with a technically-minded older relative happy to reminisce over their particular ‘golden age’ of motoring is likely to dwell for a moment on a particular train of thought.

Cars today are oversized computers, ones that are designed to be mechanically inaccessible to the regular Joe. Unlike their predecessors, elders argue, they often require specialist tools for repairs, adding that today’s vehicles are not made like they used to be.

Whether one agrees with these points is an individual matter, but it’s difficult to argue that in the face of rising technology, regular motorists are now less likely than ever to tackle even a basic oil change, previously the most simple of maintenance tasks.

In many respects, the same can be said of today’s consumer computing environments.

Enthusiasts of yesteryear had to be well-versed in languages like MS-DOS or BASIC simply to get by, which helped them to understand a great deal more about how their machines actually worked. Today’s graphical interfaces have all but demolished those barriers to entry, meaning there are now millions of people who class clicking icons as the height of ‘programming’ expertise.

For today’s casual pirates, this could be a ticking timebomb.

This week, Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of the MPA in Europe, published an interesting piece titled “Piracy Went from Geeky to Easy. What’s Next?”

“[W]hile the makers innovate, so do the takers,” McCoy wrote.

“In the last 15 years, piracy went from geeky to easy. Transmission technologies improved with the advent of streaming, and delivery via new apps and devices bridged the divide between the PC and the living room.

“Today’s piracy has become a very different type of organized crime: more sophisticated, tech intensive, very elusive, and massive in scale. Where will it go next? Increasingly, industry antipiracy efforts are bending the trajectory from geeky, to easy, to … broken.”

McCoy’s argument goes as follows;

Piracy was once the realm of the technically minded but as technologies developed – pirate streaming sites, Kodi add-ons, dedicated apps, IPTV – it became very easy and more accessible to the masses. However, with numerous anti-piracy initiatives underway, piracy is more easily broken.

Add-ons suddenly fail, app creators and their tools ‘mysteriously’ disappear, IPTV platforms become less reliable. In this new and somewhat dumbed-down piracy world, access can be switched off in an instant, sometimes by hitting just one component in a system.

At this point, the more seasoned pirate will argue that none of these things present a problem for them. Add-ons can be reconfigured, new sites pop up to replace the last, new app makers fill in the gaps, and so on and so forth. Which, generally speaking, is correct. However, for the less well informed, these things are much more of a headache.

Casual pirates – the friend or colleague who bought a “loaded Firestick” off Craigslist or eBay – make up a huge proportion of today’s pirating masses. And the vast majority haven’t a clue how anything really works. To cite McCoy, “95 percent of TV piracy is driven by purpose-built set-top boxes.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that 100% of these boxes are owned by tech-illiterates, far from it. However, it seems very likely that the screaming majority have little to no idea how their device works, or what to do when it all goes wrong. The ‘blame’ for this can be placed squarely at the feet of technology and plug-and-play culture.

As piracy has grown more sophisticated, partly due to evolution and partly due to anti-piracy measures, much of the brainpower has become entrenched behind the scenes. Like the people who fix modern cars using a laptop and a ‘black magic’ cable, many pirates rely completely on the wizardry of a tiny minority to get them out of a jam.

To put it another way, Joe Public’s ability to carry out the equivalent of a simple oil change is being lost, largely due to pirated content being presented to them as a sophisticated pre-cooked meal on a plate, made using a recipe that few know about or even care to understand.

To an extent, piracy has always been like this. In general terms, the brains have always been at the top while those at the bottom take what’s available. That said, today’s prevalence of “click-and-get” apps and services means that few have the motivation to learn anything technical while those that do can run into trouble.

Thanks to pirate sites and apps being downranking and removed from search results (sometimes after a lawsuit), combined with the opportunism of the malicious-minded, it’s now harder than ever for the novice to separate the wheat from the chaff.

“Try looking for alternatives on a search engine and you’re more likely than ever to get malware and clickbait sites posing as pirates. Are you feeling lucky?” McCoy asked this week.

While the more technically advanced will dismiss the above paragraph as scare tactics, McCoy’s comments can hold true for the casual user. It’s becoming a minefield out there for novices and unless people take the time to study and do their own research, bad things always have the potential to happen.

It will probably take many more years for the piracy ‘brain drain’ to show its full effects but the popularity and ease of today’s ultra-simple and feature-rich pirate apps and services could potentially end up as a positive for entertainment companies.

Will the casual pirating masses spend days, months or years learning how to do piracy the ‘old school’ way when things go pear-shaped, or dump a few dollars a month into a couple of legal services and get the headaches over and done with?

As usual, time will tell.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

UK Pirate Site Blocking Requests Have Stopped, For Now

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-pirate-site-blocking-requests-have-stopped-for-now-190715/

Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries.

The UK has been a leader on this front. Since 2011, the High Court has ordered ISPs to block access to many popular pirate sites.

Over time the number of blocked URLs in the UK has grown steadily to well over 1,000. This includes many popular torrent, streaming, and direct download sites, which remain barred today.

We have covered these efforts extensively here at TorrentFreak. However, since late 2016 something appears to have changed. The movie industry’s MPA(A) and the music industry’s BPI suddenly stopped submitting new requests.

The latest regular blocking order dates back nearly three years. While the Premier League did request some “dynamic” blockades of streaming related IP-addresses more recently, there have been no new efforts targeting traditional pirate sites.

This lack of new blocking requests is striking, especially since the UK model is often used as a prime example of anti-piracy enforcement around the world. Just a few months ago, MPAA and RIAA argued that it should become part of a possible US-UK trade deal.

“Website blocking has been successful in the United Kingdom with 63 music sites being ordered to be blocked following music right holders’ initiatives. On average this produces a reduction in the use of those sites by UK users by approximately 75 percent,” the RIAA said at the time.

Despite this effectiveness, UK piracy site-blocking efforts have been rather stagnant. While older court order are sill updated with new domain names, no new sites have been targeted by the MPA(A) and BPI in years. As such, new pirate sites can flourish.

TorrentFreak reached out to the MPA and BPI for a comment on this apparent slowdown. Neither organization gave a concrete reason for the absence of recent applications.

MPA informed TorrentFreak that it will continue to use a range of different methods for its enforcement efforts around the world. That includes working with local enforcement agencies to refer criminal cases, offering consumers new and innovative ways to access content, as well as seeking court orders to block access to pirate sites.

“The MPA will continue to use this range of methods as appropriate in the UK as we do around the world. Ensuring that filmmakers everywhere are compensated for their work and that revenues can be reinvested in new productions continues to be the number one priority for the MPA,” the group said.

BPI also stressed that site-blocking remains part of its anti-piracy toolbox.

“There are a very wide range of effective and complementary tools we use to reduce music piracy – site blocking is just a part of these,” a BPI spokesperson told us.

BPI’s other tools include delisting infringing URLs from search engines, site demotion under the search engine Voluntary Code of Practice, direct litigation against sites, criminal investigations, disrupting money flows to pirate sites, anti-piracy partnerships with online platforms, and consumer education.

The music group didn’t provide any details that explain why no new blocking orders were requested in recent years. However, it suggests that other tools are more appropriate at the current time.

“The mix of techniques we use varies over time and reflects the most appropriate strategy for dealing with a given problem at a given time,” the BPI spokesperson says.

“Having obtained High Court orders to block many of the major pirate brands, over the last few years other approaches have been effective to continue the reduction in music piracy. However, website blocking remains part of the mix and we will continue to use it in appropriate cases.”

The question remains why site blocking is seen as less appropriate. Perhaps the rightsholders feel that requesting additional blockades is not worth the resources, compared to other anti-piracy initiatives.

Part of the reason may be that the blocking orders can be quite expensive. Previously, it was estimated that  an unopposed application for a section 97A blocking order is roughly £14,000 per website, while maintaining it costs an additional £3,600 per year.

With well over a hundred sites blocked, the costs are quite significant, to say the least.

While there haven’t been any new requests, the previously ordered blockades are still in place, of course. That being said, we have to note that these are not effective everywhere. When we tried to access The Pirate Bay on a Virgin connection this week, it was freely accessible.

While the notorious pirate site may still be blocked on other ISPs, workarounds are not hard to find. At the time of writing PirateProxy.ch, a TPB proxy,  is among the 150 most-visited websites in the UK.

That said, rightsholders were never under the illusion that they can prevent the most determined pirates from accessing these sites. They simply want to dissuade casual pirates, and they feel that the current site blocking efforts are doing their job.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Magnificent BitTorrent Speed or Half-Baked Magic Beans?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/magnificent-bittorrent-speed-or-half-baked-magic-beans-190714/

By now most people will be familiar with the news that BitTorrent Inc. recently released a new version of its dominant uTorrent client.

The claims are that this will revolutionize torrenting, with people able to earn BTT in exchange for seeding. The plan is that this will make swarms more healthy because there is more bandwidth available. This, in turn, should speed up downloads — for BTT-spending uTorrent users, at least.

The idea of a torrent client allocating bandwidth to peers via financial discrimination is contrary to the broad aims of the original BitTorrent protocol. As such it is a divisive and sensitive topic. Nevertheless, we wanted to find out more because if it does work, loyalty to tradition might be a thing of the past.

As reported during launch week, all downloaders of the new uTorrent were gifted 10 BTT to bootstrap the system. One way or another, we were determined to make this value change. However, despite extensive seeding of in-demand and low-seeded torrents alike, it stubbornly remained the same, despite the client insisting that there were plenty of BTT-enabled peers in the swarms.

Meanwhile, crypto-focused people appearing in BitTorrent CEO Justin Sun’s Twitter feed were apparently having huge success, raking in more than a dollar’s worth of BTT after seeding dozens of torrents during the first day.

This success raised a few eyebrows because one of our sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told us July 10 that after running two instances of the software, one with 6.5TB seeded and another with 1.1TB downloaded, he hadn’t made or lost a penny, with his BTT stubbornly sitting at 10 BTT. Some people just can’t catch a break, it seems.

Of course, these uploads and downloads have to be made to and from BTT-enabled peers to count, so it’s possible (although a little improbable) that not a single uTorrent user with the feature enabled entered any of the swarms being serviced by the expert torrent user mentioned above.

However, the crypto-minded Twitter user in Sun’s feed was kind enough to hand out some advice, including getting torrents from BitTorrent’s own ‘Now‘ index. That felt like a good idea since users of that resource might be more likely to be running uTorrent with BTT enabled than random torrent users elsewhere. Particularly those who prefer open-source software rather than the proprietary offering from BitTorrent.

To allow us to do some tests over a number of minutes, we needed a reasonably-sized torrent from the Now resource. We picked a 416MB file called “Live From Brixton and Beyond” since most of the other files were too small to measure beyond a few seconds.

Our aim was to find plenty of BTT-powered uTorrent users ready to boost our download speeds, spend some of our own BTT, potentially earn some BTT back, and test out exactly how much faster these downloads can go with this new system promising to change the world.

To do this we downloaded the file detailed above six times in total — three times with BitTorrent Speed enabled and three times without. Each Speed-enabled download was followed by a non-Speed transfer directly after, to ensure that the swarm conditions stayed roughly the same throughout.

Each ‘Speed’ download initiated would enable us to see the number of BTT-enabled peers in the swarm prepared to connect to us (the client provides this number), see the promised speed boost (it also provides that), then compare the promised boosts with the results of an equal number of downloads with everything turned off.

The rough images below show the following: Our download reference number at the top, BTT balance, promised Speed boost in MB/s, number of peers (we allowed this to reach a minimum of 15 before taking a screenshot) followed by the percentage Speed boost.

Underneath that are two further screenshots showing stats from the uTorrent client. The first reveals the download time elapsed with Speed turned on, the second with Speed turned off. All screenshots of transfers were taken as close to one second remaining as possible to show that no transfers were extended beyond the downloading phase, which would distort download times.

Downloads 1 and 2

As the image above shows, 24 BTT-enabled peers wanted to do business with the promise of increasing download speeds massively. However, the “download speed increase” bar is next to useless as a measurement tool (particularly when a torrent is just starting) and as the final elapsed times show, the Speed boost — if there is any at all as a result of spending BTT — is pretty small.

So, on to Downloads 3 and 4, the first with Speed, the second without. Again, it’s exactly the same file and as close to the same swarm as possible by executing both transfers immediately after the first batch.

Downloads 3 and 4

The results show that the Speed-enabled transfer took 28 seconds less than the one without, but given the promises of massive speed boosts when the torrent first started, we can conclude that the figures in the client are misleading at best. So, onto downloads 5 and 6 as quickly as possible, to ensure a consistent swarm.

Downloads 5 and 6

As the transfer stats for Download 5 show, the elapsed time (6m 16s) is remarkably consistent when compared to Download 1 (6m 14s) and Download 4 (6m 12s), a testament to the stability of the swarm. It’s worth noting that Download 4 (the fastest of the three) was a test with Speed turned off.

Importantly, we can also see that during this final test the results were reversed over the previous one, with the non-Speed Download 6 trumping the BTT-powered Download 5 by 43 seconds.

Finally, we decided to put two torrent clients into exactly the same swarm. One of the clients was uTorrent with Speed turned on, the other was a basic Deluge client. We loaded the same torrent into both and gave uTorrent a small head start, basically the time it took to move the mouse over to Deluge and trigger the start. This is what uTorrent promised as a boost;

More than 320% speed increase offered…

As the video below shows, uTorrent managed to connect to many more seeders than Deluge and the performance of each client differed quite a bit in other areas too. Crucially, however, the downloads in both clients finished within a second of each other.

It’s important to note that there are many moving parts in any torrent swarm but the bottom line here is that when a BTT-enabled uTorrent client was placed in a swarm with many other clients with the same ability, it performed no better than one without, despite lofty claims to the contrary.

Of course, we should also remind people that with Deluge (in this case) people won’t earn any BTT for seeding but we’ve already established that the figure of 10 BTT that we began with has never changed since the client was installed.

Magic beans? People should taste them themselves before making their own minds up. Maybe they’ll taste better in future….we’ll see.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Fake MPAA Asks Google to Remove Thousands of URLs, Including MPAA.org

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/fake-mpaa-asks-google-to-remove-thousands-of-urls-including-mpaa-org-190714/

In 2012, Google first published a Transparency Report for search-related copyright takedown notices.

This rather enlightening database allows outsiders to check what URLs copyright holders want removed from the search engine.

In recent years Google has processed more than four billion URLs. While most of these requests are legitimate, there have also been plenty of errors, mistakes, and in some instances; clear abuse.

Most of the cases we covered in the past dealt with rightsholders targeting perfectly legal content, ranging from news articles, through open-source software, to Facebook’s homepage. Over the past year, however, we’ve noticed a different but equally disturbing trend.

Among the millions of notices Google receives on a weekly basis, there are now quite a few ‘fake’ submissions. Fake, in this case, means that the submitter pretends to be or represent someone else. Someone who it clearly isn’t.

We first spotted this late last year when imposters targeted many pirate sites with suspicious takedown requests. These were presumably sent by competing pirate sites, trying to remove the competition from Google’s search results. More recently, imposters even tried to remove a Netflix listing.

Today we have another example that’s perhaps even more blatant. It involves the name of Hollywood’s very own anti-piracy group, the MPAA.

In recent weeks Google received a flood of notices claiming to be from the Hollywood group. While the MPAA is based in the U.S., the notices in question are sent on behalf of “MPAA UK” and “MPAA Member Studios DE”. 

However, none of the listings below, including “MPAA Member Studios US,” are legitimate. It appears that someone is pretending to be the MPAA, sending takedown requests for tens of thousands of URLs. 

Fake MPAA’s

Looking more closely at the takedown requests, we see a familar pattern emerge. The notices mainly target a small group of ‘pirate’ sites. For example, over 10,000 URLs of the Turkish movie streaming site Filmifullizle.tv were targeted in just one week, with most notices coming from fake MPAA’s.

Filmmodu.com, and other Turkish streaming portals such as Yabancidizi.org, Fullhdfilmizleten.org, and Filmionlineizle.tv, get the same treatment, either by a fake MPAA or another scammer.

Interestingly, these imposters are rather sloppy at times. On several occasions they put the infringing URLs in the “original works” box, labeling the MPAA’s homepage as the infringing content. Luckily for the real MPAA, Google didn’t remove it.  

Pirate MPAA?

As we have highlighted in the past, these imposters are likely to be competing pirate sites, who want to take out the competition by making their opponents’ sites unfindable in Google’s search results. A clear case of abuse. 

At the time of writing, Google has complied with several of the fake takedown requests, removing the allegedly-infringing URLs. However, the search engine does appear to be aware of the problem, and has labeled some submissions as being fake. 

The imposter situation definitely doesn’t help the credibility of the takedown process. Google has its hands full and we imagine that the MPAA isn’t happy with the misuse of its name either. 

That said, the Hollywood group certainly isn’t alone in this. Several other rightsholders and anti-piracy organizations have imposters as well, including Marvel, Warner Bros., MarkMonitor, DigiGuardians, Marketly, and many others.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

The Scene: Pirates Ripping Content From Amazon & Netflix

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-scene-pirates-ripping-content-from-amazon-netflix-190707/

In recent weeks, TF was able to speak to a member of The Scene, the shadowy network of individuals and groups sitting right at the apex of the so-called ‘piracy pyramid’.

If the tip of this polyhedron represents the exclusive few, the progressively larger and lower portions constitute the increasing masses, all enjoying the pirated content flooding down, albeit without the consent of those at the very top.

Our introduction dealt with a selection of the basics, from how The Scene is structured to who takes on various roles. Our contact – “Source” – runs his own release group, something we were able to verify by having a unique marker placed in a Scene release. However, he also touched on something that’s rarely discussed in public.

So-called WEB releases are videos obtained from streaming services, particularly Netflix and Amazon. Not to be confused with WEBRip content, which is obtained using technology such as hardware capture cards or software-based ‘capping’ tools, WEB releases involve downloading the raw video files to a computer or server.

“Source” describes himself as a programmer with involvement with WEB releases. For security reasons he wasn’t prepared to identify which groups he’s affiliated with but he did provide an overview of the process.

“Content for WEB releases are obtained by downloading the source content. Whenever you stream a video online, you are downloading chunks of a video file to your computer. Sceners simply save that content and attempt to decrypt it for non-DRM playback later,” he says.

When accessing the content, legitimate premium accounts are used, often paid for using prepaid credit cards supported by bogus identities. It takes just a few minutes to download a video file since they’re served by CDNs with gigabits of bandwidth.

“Once files are downloaded from the streaming platform, however, they are encrypted in the .mp4 container. Attempting to view such video will usually result in a blank screen and nothing else – streams from these sites are protected by DRM.

“The most common, and hard to crack DRM is called Widevine. The way the Scene handles WEB-releases is by using specialized tools coded by The Scene, for The Scene. These tools are extremely private, and only a handful of people in the world have access to the latest version(s),” “Source” notes.

“Without these tools, releasing Widevine content is extremely difficult, if not impossible for most. The tools work by downloading the encrypted video stream from the streaming site, and reverse engineering the encryption.”

Our contact says that decryption is a surprisingly quick process, taking just a few minutes. After starting with a large raw file, the finalized version ready for release is around 30% smaller, around 7GB for a 1080p file. Subtitle files, which can be numerous on a typical WEB release, are not encrypted, meaning there’s nothing further to do.

Although evasive over the name of the WEB groups he’s affiliated with, “Source” told us his role involves creating scripts for downloading content in an automated manner from Widevine-protected sites.

“A simple example is a bot, where you feed a stream URL and a release gets downloaded, packed and uploaded to topsites fully automatically, with no human interaction needed,” he explains.

“Source” says that the decryption tools he’s familiar with mainly target protected content using Windows tools and Google Chrome. He also mentioned exploits for Smart TVs and other platforms but wasn’t able to provide additional details on those or the apparent exploit of iTunes which saw 4K content leak online earlier this year.

However, he did reveal that, in an attempt to ensure that Scene decryption tools don’t leak out to the wider public, some versions of the Scene’s tools only work server-side and are protected by Hardware ID (HWID). The aim here is to restrict which machines are capable of running the software.

Perhaps surprisingly, “Source” went on to send us screenshots of what he said were two Widevine decrypter tools in action. One of them, which has been redacted to hide some sensitive information, is shown below.

Since we’re always protective of our sources, the supply of these screenshots raised alarm bells with us. If these decryption tools are so secretive, why would he put himself at risk by allowing us to publish images of them?

It transpires that in common with other ‘pirate’ content, Scene-only tools sometimes leak out too. “Source” told us that the screenshots he provided were culled from older tools that were leaked and subsequently offered for sale on the wider Internet, so that’s why he is comfortable with them being published.

“There are countless other tools,” he added, “but I can’t publicly say about them.”

He did, however, point us to an online platform where the tools had been offered in exchange for bitcoin.

We spent some time looking around but couldn’t immediately match the screenshots to any specific software on offer. Surprisingly, part of the problem was the sheer number of Netflix and Amazon ripping tools being offered by various anonymous parties.

Given the high prices being attached to these products and their illegal nature (circumvention, in this case, would constitute a breach of the DMCA), we weren’t prepared to buy or test them. However, it is clear that this is an area ripe for exploitation, with several buyers claiming that supplied tools do not work as advertised.

As a result, we can’t say for sure whether any of the software being offered in public is real, currently works, or indeed ever worked. It is obvious, considering the number of releases being made, that tools inside The Scene are working as intended, something that may have been underlined by the recent release of 4K video sourced from Netflix.

But for pirates, this may not be the case for much longer. “Source” says that the flood of WEB releases (also known as WEB-DL in the P2P arena) may start to dry up – at least for a while.

“Widevine is expected to update their DRM, and the only working Windows-based crack (I’m aware of) is strictly regulated, and most groups won’t get access to it, compared to the current older tools not requiring any sort of server-side or hardware verification for use,” he concludes.

Part 3 of this series, dealing with the technical aspects of The Scene, is a work in progress.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Pirates: So You Want to Join ‘The Scene’?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-so-you-want-to-join-the-scene-part-1-190630/

Anyone involved in the piracy ecosystem could stake claim to being ‘in the scene’ but for those with a discerning interest in pirate matters, terminology is all important.

After decades of existence, The Scene has attained mythical status among pirates. It’s not a site, a place, a person, or a group. ‘The Scene’ is all of these things, combined in a virtual world to which few people ever gain access.

In basic terms, The Scene is a collection of both loose and tight-knit individuals and groups, using Internet networks as meeting places and storage vessels, in order to quickly leak as much pirated content as possible. From movies, TV shows and music, to software, eBooks and beyond. Almost anything digital is fair game for piracy at the most elite level.

These people – “Sceners” – are as protective of ‘their’ content as they are meticulous of their privacy but that doesn’t stop huge volumes of ‘their’ material leaking out onto the wider Internet. And occasionally – very occasionally – one of their members breaking ranks to tell people about it.

TorrentFreak recently made contact with one such individual who indicated a willingness to pull back the veil. However, verifying that ‘Sceners’ are who they say they are is inherently difficult. In part, we tackled this problem by agreeing for a pre-determined character string to be planted inside a Scene release.

With a fairly quick turnaround and as promised, the agreed characters appeared in a specific release. That the release had been made was confirmed by the standard accompanying text-based NFO file, which collectively are both widely and publicly available.

In respect of the group’s identity, we were asked to say that it has been active since 2018, but nothing more. We can confirm, however, that it already has dozens of releases thus far in 2019.

Our contact, who we will call “Source”, also claims to work with groups involved with so-called WEB releases, such as video content obtained and decrypted using sources including Netflix and Prime Video.

For security reasons, he wasn’t prepared to prove membership of that niche in the same fashion. However, the information he provided on those activities (to be covered in an upcoming part 2 of this article) is very interesting indeed. But first, an introduction to the basics, for those unfamiliar with how The Scene operates.

Basics of ‘The Scene’ – “Source’s” summary (in his own words)

  • Topsites: Top-secret, highly protected FTP servers storing up to hundreds or thousands of terabytes of copyrighted material. Users have to be authorized to the topsite by pre-existing members, and the users can only connect from specific IP-ranges.
  • Topsites usually always have an IRC channel where they announce the releases made on the specific topsite, alongside other things such as newly traded releases, requests and chat. These IRC chatrooms are encrypted using encryption tools on top of SSL.
  • Topsites can either be home hosted or rented. Rented sites are avoided by members of The Scene who are higher up in the food chain, since those are generally riskier due to being located at hosting companies’ datacenters. Users of a topsite are usually one of the following:
    • Traders / Racers
    • Release Groups (Affiliates)
    • Site Operator: User who owns or administrates a topsite
  • Release Groups (Affiliates): A single or group of users, who work together to download/rip, prepare, pack and pre a release. These groups usually compete against each other to get a release out as fast as possible, beating other groups.
  • Traders / Racers: A user who moves releases between topsites. For example: As soon as the group -XYZ releases an MP3 album on topsite -ASD, multiple traders instantly grab the new release and transfer it to their other topsites. When the release lands on the other topsites, traders there start sharing it further and further until every single topsite has the release. In some cases it only takes minutes for every single topsite to have the release in question.

Becoming a member of The Scene

Despite “Source’s” own group being relatively new, he says his history with The Scene dates back three years. Intrigued at the possibility of becoming a member but with no prior experience, he contacted a Scene group using an email address inside an NFO, offering his coding skills.

“I was able to convince the group to slowly adopt me into The Scene by providing them scripts and tools to make their job easier and faster, alongside other programming related tasks. The thing with Scene groups is that they don’t trust outsiders,” he explains.

Given that not granting access to the wrong people is fundamental to the security of The Scene, we asked how this “vetting” took place. “Source” explained that it was conducted over a period of time (around four months), with a particular Scene group carrying out its own investigations to ensure he wasn’t lying about himself or his abilities.

“The groups who vet new members also often try their best to dox the recruit, to make sure that the user is secure. If you’re able to be doxed (based on the info you give, your IP-addresses, anything really) you will lose your chances to join. The group won’t actually do anything with your personal info,” he adds, somewhat reassuringly.

Once the group was satisfied with his credentials, “Source” gained access to his very first topsite, which he describes as small and tight-knit. Topsites often use IRC (Internet Relay Chat) for communications so from there it was a matter of being patient while simultaneously attempting to gain the trust of others in the channel.

“Most Sceners are very cautious of new users, even after being vetted in, due to the risk of a user still being insecure, an undercover officer or generally unwanted in terms of behavior. Once you’ve been idling in the chats and such for months, you slowly start gaining some basic recognition and trust,” he says.

Branching out

Once he’d gained access via the first topsite, “Source” says he decided to branch out on his own by creating his own Scene group and gathering content to release. From there he communicated with other users on the topsite in an effort to gain access to additional topsites as an affiliate.

As mentioned earlier, his own releases via his own group (the name of which we aren’t disclosing here) number in the dozens over the past several months alone. They are listed on publicly available ‘pre-databases‘ which archive information and NFO files which provide information related to Scene releases.

However, his own group isn’t the only string to the Source bow. Of particular interest is his involvement with so-called WEB releases, i.e pirate releases of originally protected video content obtained from platforms like Netflix and Prime Video.

“Content for WEB releases are obtained by downloading the source content. Whenever you stream a video online, you are downloading chunks of a video file to your computer. Sceners simply save that content and attempt to decrypt it for non-DRM playback later,” Source explains.

“Streams from these sites are protected by DRM. The most common, and hard to crack DRM is called Widevine. The way the Scene handles WEB-releases is by using specialized tools coded by The Scene, for The Scene.”

This is a particularly sensitive area, not least since Source says he’s acted as a programmer for multiple Scene groups making these releases. He’s understandably cautious so until next week (when we’ll continue with more detail specifically about WEB content) he leaves an early cautionary note for anyone considering joining The Scene.

“You can become Sceners with friends, but not friends with Sceners,” he concludes.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Scammers Abuse Steam to Attract Would-Be Movie Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/scammers-abuse-steam-to-trap-would-be-movie-pirates-190623/

According to an October 2018 report, Steam has around 90 million active monthly users, making it the largest digital distribution platform for PC games.

Steam user accounts overall are many times more numerous. In April, PCGamesN indicated that the platform had attracted its billionth account, noting that “a significant number of these are undoubtedly spam, scam, alt, and bot accounts.”

Indeed, an activity that appears to have taken root on the platform over the past few months shows that accounts don’t have to be limited to just one type of the above suspicious activity. Steam is the last place one might expect to find links to pirate movies, but that’s part of the trap.

As the image below shows, this Steam page is supposedly offering the movie Escape Room “for FREE online” but that certainly isn’t the case.

Beware

Users who scroll down to the bottom find extremely lengthy hyperlinks hidden under a pair of “Watch Now” and “Download” buttons. Since this is clearly some kind of dodgy activity, we truncated those links in order to visit only their final destination.

That led us to another site called “Daily Movie” which appeared to begin playing not Escape Room, but Avengers: Infinity War. After viewing what seemed to be a real movie intro (the lion of MGM in this case), neither movie was presented. Instead, we got the following;

Don’t give them a penny

Needless to say, in the context of the offer on Steam (recent Hollywood movies) most of the claims in the above statement are a lie. The ‘continue’ link goes to a subscription content service (Dontra) that has none of the movies previously promised and will only leave users disappointed – after earning the Steam spammer some commission, of course.

Another page, which claims to offer Aquaman for download, contains hyperlinks to what appears to be a full ‘pirate’ streaming site called Cinemago. While the links are not directly functional (and Steam helpfully warns that these go to an external site), it does send users to the Cinemago platform, as shown below.

CinemaNO

This site, unsurprisingly, does not offer pirate movies. Instead, when users click any of the film covers they are introduced to a similar “sign up” window and are then re-directed to a site called Funwraith. It is absolutely identical to Dontra and as such has none of the movies offered.

This bait-and-switch subscription trap is repeated on dozens of Steam pages too numerous to outline here. However, if readers want to see more of them (not recommended), typing site:steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/ “full movie” into Google will bring up pages and pages of results.

While unusual, legitimate platforms have been abused for piracy and scam schemes in the past. Facebook, Google, Google Maps and even Change.org have all been repurposed in similar fashion.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Veteran Pirate With Millions of Downloads Says “Sharing is Caring”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/veteran-pirate-with-millions-of-downloads-says-sharing-is-caring-190602/

Probably not Thumper

Every week, millions of pirates head off to popular torrent sites for their software fix.

Whether they’re looking for the latest operating systems, graphics tools, or DVD/Blu-ray burning software, most things are available for free download.

What most people never question is why these tools are available for free and indeed, who puts them online. Today we can put a little meat on those bones.

We recently spoke with Thumper, aka ThumperTM, one of the longest-standing uploaders on public torrent sites like The Pirate Bay and 1337x. But this isn’t just any uploader. Thumper is responsible for almost 1,000 torrent uploads over the past nine years, leading to millions of downloads across the Internet.

Thumper identifies as female (impossible to confirm, but we’ll proceed on that basis) and sports the profile picture as seen top right. It’s an image used by many Internet users so probably isn’t an accurate depiction. Thumper also claims to be from Switzerland but in this game, such ‘facts’ should be taken with a pinch of salt alongside a knowingly obvious nod to security.

What cannot be denied, however, is the popularity of Thumper’s torrents. If we take her Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2016 release as an example, that has received more than 801,000 downloads on 1337x alone.

801,864 downloads on 1337x alone

“This torrent has been download a few million times from all sites, because Office is one of the must-have programs for most of us,” Thumper informs TF.

Of course, not all torrents are this popular but Thumper’s history goes back around 14 years, when torrents weren’t even a priority for her. Things began on so-called “one-click” hosting sites in 2005, with a progression to torrents in 2007.

“I started uploading torrents at H33t, Demonoid, 1337x, ThePirateBay, and RARBG. Then I started my own site in 2010 (ThumperDC.com and TechTools.NET). Now all of those sites redirect to our legit Windows forum, TheWindowsForum.com,” she explains.

Over the past 12 years, Thumper’s torrents (mainly Windows software uploads) have spread far and wide. She has been uploading on The Pirate Bay since April 2010 and on that site alone has a confirmed 946 torrents, as the private user panel screenshot below shows.

946 torrents at the time of writing

The Pirate Bay is obviously a very high-profile site but Thumper is a bit of a celebrity elsewhere too.

More than nine years ago she joined 1337x and for the last eight has been a trusted moderator there. In the interim, Thumper was also an uploader at the now-defunct original KickassTorrents, but still continues over at that platform’s namesake, KATCR.

Uploading and seeding so many torrents is a big undertaking, especially over a large number of years. There’s also a bit of a stigma attached to software uploads because unlike movies and TV shows, they have the potential to contain a virus or malware.

However, since reputations can be gone in a flash if an uploader lets something nefarious slip through the net, Thumper says that precautions are carried out in advance. Most uploaded software is obtained from friendly crackers (people who remove copy protection) before being run through a virtual machine and then scanned for viruses. Only then is it uploaded.

This perhaps contributed to Thumper earning a “green skull” from The Pirate Bay team around 2011, which is a small logo next to a user name which informs potential downloaders that while releases aren’t guaranteed to be flawless, they are more trusted than others without.

This is particularly important when one considers that people sometimes try to masquerade as Thumper in order to gain traction. We independently confirmed her status on one of the torrent sites she uploads to but most people don’t have that luxury so should proceed with caution when seeing her ‘brand’ online.

“The Pirate Bay has a ton of fake uploads lately, even some of them are infected and uploaded by other users with our tag ‘Windows app name v1.0 [ThumperDC] or [TechTools] or [TheWindowsForum]’, for example,” Thumper explains.

“1337x has other rules for new uploaders, you must apply for uploader status, then we review and decide if x_User is legit. People should always use torrent sites which are safe: 1337x, TPB, KATCR, RARBG, or TorrentGalaxy.  And make sure to download from trusted uploaders.”

Finally, one of the biggest questions is why someone like Thumper keeps releasing torrent after torrent, year after year. What’s in it for her?

Each release does contain links to her own site (which now specializes in discussions and technical support for Windows software), so there’s obviously some benefit there. However, she insists that this isn’t the main motivation.

“Sharing is caring,” she concludes, citing the years-old ‘pirate’ mantra.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

File-Sharing Legend “Napster” Turns 20 Years Old Today

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/filesharing-legend-napster-turns-20-years-old-today-190601/

Somewhere in the fall of 1998 a user named ‘Napster’ joined the w00w00 IRC channel, a chatroom on the EFnet network populated by a few dozen elite ‘hackers’.

‘Napster’ shared a new idea with the group. The then 17-year-old developer wanted to create a network of computers that could share files with each other. More specifically, music tracks.

To many people, including some in the IRC channel, that idea sounded absurd. At the time people could already download files from the fringes of the Internet but on a very limited scale. And even then, the choice was limited, and transfers were very unreliable.

Creating a network of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people who would all open up their hard drives to the rest and offer up bandwidth, was something that was entirely alien. ‘Napster’, however, had a feeling that people might be interested.

This feeling was shared by another teenage computer fanatic named ‘Man0War’. The two shared ideas online and eventually decided to meet up.

That’s when Shawn Fanning (aka Napster), who got the Napster nickname for his ‘nappy’ hair, first saw Sean Parker (aka Man0War). Together, they came up with a plan to bring the idea to fruition.

Fast forward a few months and it’s June 1, 1999. What started as a distant vision was now a fully-fledged application that was ready to shake the world. The software, which carried the name of its inventor, Napster, soon found its way to millions of computers all over the world.

Napster

From there, things developed quickly. After roughly three months, Napster already provided access to four million songs and in less than a year, 20 million people had downloaded the application.

What started as a simple idea quickly transformed into a multi-million dollar business. The company, which employed several people that were in the w00w00 IRC channel, changed the way millions of people enjoyed music.

For many of Napster’s users, the application represented something magical. It was a gateway for musical exploration that dwarfed even the largest record stores in town. And all for free.

Initially, the novelty concealed the fact that people were not supposed to share their music libraries with the rest of the world, but this would quickly change. Within a year, the RIAA sued Napster Inc. and soon after several artists including Metallica and Dr. Dre followed.

Like most record labels, these artists saw the file-sharing software as a threat. They felt that it would destroy the music industry, which was at its peak at the time. However, there were also more positive sounds from artists who recognized the promotional effect of Napster.

While Dr. Dre said “Fuck Napster,” Chuck D famously described it as “the new radio.”

Napster’s users were not concerned about what the labels and artists thought. They were interested in expanding their music libraries. While there are no official numbers, Napster was responsible for a significant portion of the global Internet traffic at the time.

Napster

University campuses were soon transformed into file-sharing hotspots. At some campuses over half of all bandwidth was consumed by MP3-sharing students and staff. This eventually led to a ban of the application at several universities, even before copyright issues arose. 

Meanwhile, the user base swelled to a peak of more than 26.4 million users worldwide in February 2001. But despite the epidemic growth and backing from investors, the small file-sharing empire couldn’t overcome the legal challenges.

The RIAA case resulted in an injunction from the Ninth Circuit Court, which ordered the network to shut down. This happened during July 2001, little more than two years after Napster launched. By September that year, the case had been settled for millions of dollars.

While the Napster craze was over, file-sharing had mesmerized the masses and the cat was out of the bag. Grokster, KaZaa, Morpheus, LimeWire, and many others popped up and provided sharing alternatives, for as long as they lasted. Meanwhile, BitTorrent was also knocking on the door. 

While the aforementioned software was often associated with piracy, Napster had a momentous impact on the development of legal services. People clearly signaled that there were interested in downloading music, so the first download stores were launched, with iTunes taking the lead.

These download portals never came close to what Napster offered though. Many music fans were not interested in buying a few tracks here and there, they wanted millions of files at their fingertips, ready to be played. This included a Swedish teenager named Daniel Ek. 

The Napster experience eventually triggered Ek to come up with a legal alternative that would replicate his first experience with piracy. That application was Spotify, which for its part sparked a music streaming subscription boom. 

Interestingly, music streaming is now the most important source of income for the music industry. These Napster-inspired services are good for roughly half of all the music revenues worldwide, completing the circle, in a way. 

Even the Napster brand, which has switched owners several times, lives on as a music subscription service today, owned by US retailer Best Buy. 

Napster’s founders, meanwhile, went on to create several other successful companies.

Sean Parker is a multi-billionaire now, in part thanks to his early involvement with Facebook. Fanning, aka Napster, is not doing badly either, with a net worth of more than 100 million, much like many other members of the w00w00 IRC channel.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

1XBET: The Bizarre ‘CAM’ Brand That Movie Pirates Love to Hate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/1xbet-the-bizarre-cam-brand-that-movie-pirates-love-to-hate-190526/

For several decades, movie pirates have visited cinemas with cameras to record the latest movies.

In the early 80s, for example, pirate copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial made their way all over the planet, mainly for consumption via VHS and Betamax tapes. The quality was always dire but back then, beggars certainly couldn’t be choosers.

Since the early 2000s, things have changed dramatically. With the advent of high-quality cameras, sometimes operated by near-professional volunteers, the act of ‘camming’ turned into an artform.

Now-defunct groups including Centropy and maVen graced the web with outstandingly good copies of the latest titles, driven in part by a desire to create the best possible products and with them a lasting legacy. If these groups had a voice in 2019, they’d be horrified at the ‘camming’ state of play.

For reasons that appear to be entirely motivated by money, large numbers of cam copies hitting the web today are doing so in a defaced fashion. While studios have been watermarking their content for close to 20 years to defeat piracy, pirates are now disfiguring videos themselves in order to promote big business.

1XBET in-movie advertising watermark

While they are not the only culprit (some streaming sites also carry out the practice), online betting site 1XBET has its brand stamped all over dozens of pirate releases.

Indeed, it seems that most of the big ‘cammed’ movies these days can’t avoid the clutches of 1XBET advertising. From Avengers: Endgame and John Wick 3, to Hellboy and Pokémon Detective Pikachu, 1XBET ‘sponsored’ releases are an incredibly invasive species.

A small sample from The Pirate Bay

In addition to the kind of watermarks shown above, downloaders of 1XBET-labeled releases are now being ‘treated’ to full-blown ads for the gambling platform in the middle of movies. And there’s no escaping them.

For example, the recent release of ‘Shazam’ doesn’t even get six minutes into the movie before a glaring 30-second advert for the platform kicks in, complete with promo codes in several different languages. If pirates thought that downloading movies from pirate sites was a convenient way to avoid intrusive advertising, 1XBET releases are not a good option.

Less than six minutes into Shazam? Have an ad break

Dmitry Tyunkin, Deputy Director of Anti-Piracy and Brand Protection at cyber-security firm Group-IB, says that cam watermarking is a cost-effective way to promote the gambling platform.

“1XBET is a gambling company originating from Russia that uses cam copies to advertise itself internationally. The strategy became popular and widespread because it is a relatively cheap way to promote their services – a raw cam copy would cost 300-400 USD, 600-700 USD after editing,” Tyunkin informs TF.

“According to our data, usually those who film cam copies sell them to camcording piracy groups, who offer to integrate the ads to gambling companies, such as 1XBET. [They then upload] the pirated copies to torrent websites, which spread [them] very fast across the Internet with watermarks and ads included in the pirated film.”

Many surprising things have happened in the piracy world over the past couple of decades but this recent phenomenon ranks up there with the most outlandish.

These are pirate releases, of some of Hollywood’s biggest titles, carrying advertising for a multi-million dollar gambling company. Group-IB says 1XBET has been involved in the practice since 2018, primarily targeting developing English-speaking countries, such as India.

But at least as far as we can see, little is being done about it.

Hollywood itself hasn’t made any public statement. The USTR, which ordinarily attempts to protect the interests of US companies, hasn’t complained about the advertising in its piracy reports calling out other nations.

That is puzzling, to say the least. But it’s nothing short of bewildering when one considers that 1XBET is the ‘International Presenting Partner’ of Italy’s ‘Serie A’, a soccer league that has been very vocal about the threats presented by online piracy.

“As part of the agreement, 1xBet will be featured in all match graphics, idents and virtual goal mat advertising across every live Serie A game, on all platforms that are broadcast in the regions covered in the terms of the deal,” a report on the partnership reads.

It’s important to note that there’s no overwhelming evidence available to the general public that 1XBET itself is driving camming ‘sponsorship’ directly. Some have suggested that overenthusiastic affiliates may have taken this upon themselves but it’s so unorthodox that few explanations would come as a surprise.

Either way, it doesn’t just look bad for 1XBET.

The horrible watermarks and intrusive advertising are making many of the big releases look bad when viewed by pirates too. Never in the history of camming have cammed copies of movies been made to look deliberately worse before being uploaded online.

Pirate sites are littered with negative comments in respect of 1XBET ‘releases’. Pirates love getting the movies early but absolutely hate the ads. For now, however, there doesn’t appear to be much of an opportunity to get away from them.

When everything is considered it’s one of the most puzzling developments to come out of the piracy world, not just recently, but ever. The big question is how long it will continue. Until it stops paying off, perhaps.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Can a New Anti-Piracy System Really Defeat Cinema “Camming”?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/can-a-new-anti-piracy-system-really-defeat-cinema-camming190519/

During February, China’s National Copyright Administration (NCAC) announced that it would be upping efforts to deal with copyright infringement.

On top of a promise to “dig deep” into the sources of piracy and “sternly investigate” online platforms that help to distribute pirated content, the NCAC said it would also target unauthorized “camming”.

Camming, the act of recording movies in theaters with video cameras, has been a major headache for the entertainment industries for decades. Illegal copies often hit the Internet within hours of a movie’s premiere, as was the case last month with Avengers: Endgame.

While the NCAC clearly couldn’t do anything about that serious event, the question remains whether physical deterrents (such as bag searches and action against complicit theater owners) can also be augmented by technical measures.

Before Endgame dramatically hit the web, the China-based partnership of Ogilvy and Focus Film Media, part of Focus Media Group, announced that they had developed a new system to prevent camming taking in place in cinemas.

“Originality is the soul of the film industry and the foundation from which it thrives upon; it is our job to protect this originality,” said Jason Jiang, Founder and Chairman of Focus Media Group.

“We are delighted to have gone beyond a conventional approach and develop the ‘Piracy Blockr,’ which allows us to address the problem in a discrete but effective way, ensuring that the film industry is protected for years to come.”

Piracy Blockr in action? (Credit: Ogilvy/Focus Film Media)

The image above, although clearly mocked up, provides an idea of how the system is supposed to work. A watermark, invisible to the viewer, is captured by camcorders when an attempt is made to record the screen.

So how does it work? TorrentFreak spoke with Ogilvy to find out.

“There is a lot more to light than what mere human eyes can detect, but a device in your pocket can help you see beyond your biological limits. Our eyes can only detect colors of light that we see as a rainbow, primarily shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet,” says Silvia Zhang, Ogilvy Marketing & Communications Manager.

“So while our naked eyes can’t pick up on the wavelength of infrared light, the sensors in your phones and cameras can – essentially making the invisible visible.”

Image: Supplied by Ogilvy

Anyone with a smartphone can easily see what the system is about. Simply press a button on an infrared remote control and point it at the camera lens and the image on the screen will display the infrared light emitted by the device. The camera can ‘see’ the infrared light, we can’t.

“We used this to our advantage to combat the multi-billion dollar illegal cam recording industry by embedding panels of infrared light powered watermarks, which we call the ‘Piracy Blockr’, behind cinema screens in China,” Zhang adds.

The idea of using infrared light to foil pirates isn’t new. A report dating back almost 10 years reveals that Japan’s National Institute of Informatics had teamed up with Sharp to pulse infrared light through cinema screens to disturb digital recording devices.

Since we haven’t heard of any such devices actually being deployed in cinemas, we asked Ogilvy how many screens its system currently ‘protects’ in China. The company didn’t respond to our question, despite repeated attempts.

We also asked how the Piracy Blockr system is able to defeat determined cammers who attach infrared filters to their devices. The company didn’t respond to that question either. A request for a real-life image or video clip of Piracy Blockr in action received the same response.

Some research appears to have been carried out in India (pdf) which considered the challenges presented by pirates who deploy infrared filtering but the problem clearly isn’t straightforward. If it was, someone would be making millions by now while resigning ‘camming’ to history.

As for Piracy Blockr, we won’t be holding our breath while waiting for a live demo.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

The Pirate Bay’s Oldest Torrents Survived 15 Years of Turmoil

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bays-oldest-torrents-survived-15-years-of-turmoil-190519/

When The Pirate Bay launched in the second half of 2003, the World Wide Web looked nothing like it does today.

Mark Zuckerberg was still preoccupied with “Facemash,” the “hot or not” site he launched before Facebook was invented. YouTube wasn’t around yet either, nor were Twitter and Instagram, which launched years later.

At the time nearly everyone used regular computers to access the web. Smartphones and tablets didn’t exist, and high-quality online video streaming was unthinkable on most residential Internet connections. If there was anything to stream at all.

People interested in watching a movie could use the Internet to buy a DVD at one of the early webshops or sign up with Netflix, which shipped DVDs through the mail. There were no download stores yet.

Given this context, imagine the appeal of a website that offered a high-quality archive of digital movies and tv-series to download, for free.

That site was The Pirate Bay.

TPB in 2014

Remarkably, many of the videos that were posted on the site during the early days remain available today. In fact, quite a few torrents on The Pirate Bay have been around longer than some of the site’s users.

This is quite an achievement, as torrents require at least one person with a full copy of the file to keep it alive. This prompted us to take a look at the oldest Pirate Bay torrents that are still being shared today.

During the early months of the site, it appears that some torrents were purged or otherwise lost. The oldest ones we can find data back to March 2004, which means that they are well over 15 years old today. 

An episode of “The High Chaparral” has the honor of being the oldest torrent. The file was originally uploaded on March 25, 2004, and although it lists zero seeders in search results, there are still several people actively sharing the torrent.

Many of the other torrents in the list above need some help. However, the Top Secret Recipes E-Books and a copy of the documentary Revolution OS, which covers the history of Linux, GNU, and the free software movement, are doing very well.

While these torrents have survived one-and-a-half decades of turmoil, including two raids, they’re still going strong. In part, perhaps, because some people want to keep history alive.

“To maintain history, I will gladly put this on my seedbox forever,” one commenter writes below the High Chaparral torrent, with another one adding “I will save this torrent for history!!!”

History indeed, as it is clear that things have changed over the past 15 years. In the early days, The Pirate Bay wasn’t just popular because people didn’t have to pay. It was often the only option to get a digital copy of a movie, TV-show, or even a music album. It was a revolution in a way.

This is still the case to a certain degree in some countries, but to many, the magical appeal has gone now that there are so many legal alternatives online.

It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that these legal alternatives were in part a direct answer to sites such as The Pirate Bay.

In fact, if piracy hadn’t existed the world might have looked entirely different today. Piracy showed the entertainment industries that people wanted instant online access to media, a demand that was later fulfilled by iTunes, Netflix streaming, Spotify, and many others.

Today The Pirate Bay remains online. Despite several raids, criminal prosecutions, dozens of website blockades, and other anti-piracy measures, the site continues to thrive. And so do its torrents.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Rightscorp Done Anti-Pirating? Stock Worthless, Website Gone

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-done-stock-worthless-website-gone-190518/

For many years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been on a mission to turn piracy into profit.

The company monitors BitTorrent networks, captures IP addresses, then asks ISPs to forward cash settlement demands to its subscribers.

While some companies in the same niche have “gone big” by demanding hundreds or even thousands of dollars for each alleged infringement, Rightscorp deployed a “speeding fine” model. To make Rightscorp go away, the company regularly demanded settlements of between $20 and $30, shared with rightsholders 50/50.

These, of course, mounted up. According to a set of financial results covering the three months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp had closed more than 230,000 alleged cases of infringement.

What happened after that is unclear, as the company opted not to report any further financial details in public. If it had, they probably wouldn’t have made pretty reading.

During the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp recorded a net loss of $1,448,899. During the same period a year earlier, it lost $1,380,698. As a result, the company had just $3,147 left in cash at the end of September 2017.

Against the odds, however, Rightscorp appears to have kept going, although what that means on an operational level is anyone’s guess. Now, however, the writing appears to be on the wall.

A cursory visit to Rightscorp’s website today doesn’t yield any detailed information. Or, indeed, any information at all.

Most pages are completely blank apart from a solitary line of text on its investor page. An ironic one too given how Rightscorp frequently demanded that ISPs should suspend the accounts of subscribers who refuse to pay up.

Those who called for those to be suspended, have been suspended

We’re not aware of any public explanations being made by Rightscorp but things don’t look bright and sunny on the investor front either.

In January 2012, Rightscorp shares (RIHT) reached the dizzy heights of $0.80 each. At the beginning of 2015, they were worth $0.074, falling to $0.017 in January 2017.

From there, things only got worse. At the time of writing Rightscorp stock is currently worth just $0.0025.

So what next for Rightscorp? It seems unlikely the company is still sending out settlement demands, without a working website it can’t handle any payments. But even if it could, the amounts probably wouldn’t amount to much.

During its last reporting period covering the three months to September 2017, it collected just $45,848 from BitTorrent users but paid out $22,924 of that amount to copyright holders.

Finally (and whatever happens to the company next), it’s important to note that Rightscorp data is still being utilized in various copyright infringement lawsuits filed by music companies against ISPs in the United States, including against Cox Communications and Grande Communications.

Indeed, the data collated for use against Grande customers cost the RIAA $700,000. That was considerably better value for Rightscorp than scraping $20 from each infringer and then having to pay $10 straight back out. That last big deal might’ve been the last throw of the dice but only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Rightscorp founder and former CEO Christopher Sabec is currently advising “cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and other licensees” over at Fox Rothschild LLP, an appointment that was announced this March.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Former “Copyright Alert System” Portal Now Links to Mattress Review Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/former-copyright-alert-system-portal-now-links-to-mattress-review-site-190512/

In 2011, the MPAA and RIAA teamed up with several major U.S. Internet providers, announcing their plan to shift the norms and behavior of BitTorrent pirates.

The parties launched the Center for Copyright Information and agreed on a system through which Internet account holders would be warned if their connections were used to download pirated content.

The program allowed ISPs to take a variety of repressive measures, including bandwidth throttling and temporary Internet disconnections. The “voluntary” agreement was praised by the US Government and seen as a prime example for other countries.

However, it didn’t last. 

Early 2017 the MPAA, RIAA, and several major US ISPs pulled the plug. The parties never explained in detail why the effort was halted but it was clearly not the ideal solution for all involved. 

This was good news for the people who were on the brink of being ‘punished’ by their ISPs after repeated notices. They could finally sleep easy again. That’s actually something the now-defunct Copyright Alert System website can help them with today. 

After the scheme was stopped, the ‘copyrightinformation.org’ website remained online for months, offering the public information on how to avoid copyright infringement notices and where to obtain legal content.

That stopped eventually, and it now seems that the official domain has been taken over by a mattress review site.

People who try to access the former Copyright Alert System website are now redirected to buymattress.net. Apparently, none of the parties involved was interested in renewing the domain registration.

Mattress anyone?

The mattress site gladly picked up this valuable domain which has thousands of backlinks all over the web, including some from reputable news sites. That’s generally good for search engine optimization purposes.

Of course, a mattress site is not much of a problem for the RIAA and MPAA, but it seems like the anti-piracy groups dodged a bullet here. 

Imagine if the domain was picked up the likes of The Pirate Bay, a prominent pirate streaming site, or even a stream-ripping service? That would have been quite an embarrassment, to say the least.

The MPAA is not completely unaware of this risk. After all, it still owns the TorrentSpy.com domain name, even though the website was shut down over a decade ago. Similarly, Isohunt.com and Hotfile.com are still under control of the Hollywood group, redirecting to MPAA.org.

That said, it’s not completely unprecedented for piracy or anti-piracy related domain names to fall into the hands of third parties. The Department of Justice, for example, let go of several Megaupload related domains a few years ago.

Most famously, back in 2007 The Pirate Bay took over IFPI.com, a domain name that was previously owned by the prominent music industry organization IFPI. The torrent site kept the acronym, but changed the meaning to “International Federation of Pirate Interests.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.