Tag Archives: Opinion

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.

Vader & the Truth About Pirate IPTV Services

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/vader-the-truth-about-pirate-iptv-services-100512/

Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, CBS All Access, fuboTV, DAZN, NowTV, the forthcoming Disney+, cable TV, terrestrial TV, satellite, cinema.

How long is this list? Nowhere near long enough if you want to come close to matching what’s currently being offered by premium pirate IPTV services.

If any of the important ‘pirate’ IPTV providers flicked a magic switch and suddenly became legal overnight, all of the above would struggle to keep their heads above water. Add another dozen legal services to the list, and the statement would still stand.

The range of content offered by ‘pirate’ IPTV services demolishes that offered by all of the world’s key providers combined. And many do it for between $5 and $25 per month – because they don’t have to worry about the costs of making it.

It usually takes a couple of minutes to sign up and that content is available on a wide range of devices, from phones through to smart TVs. Almost any device, wherever people like. How it should be.

The public wants what the public gets, at least when they sail the IPTV high seas. Until it all goes to shit in an instant, of course.

This week, Vader – one of the most recognized ‘pirate’ IPTV services – suddenly disappeared, taking not only the subscriptions of users with them but also money handed over by resellers of the service. Communication with what are effectively creditors was scrappy at best, quite incredible at worst.

After declaring that there had been “no choice but to close down Vader”, supposed facts about the closure were widely circulated by various parties, sometimes accompanied by documents and quotes to back up often-conflicting claims.

Depending on which version one believes, if any, Vader was raided, sued, told to enter into a settlement agreement with ACE (the huge anti-piracy coalition founded by the MPAA, Netflix and Amazon), or had simply taken everyone’s money and headed for the hills. Or perhaps a combination of the above. Or none.

The ‘running’ theory gained traction following a statement from Vader which asked people to “take the financial losses we are all going to take, as resellers and direct sellers”, i.e please don’t ask for your money back. That was further compounded by another statement in which the service asked for donations to fund its legal defense and to help pay back people who doggedly asked for a refund.

Now, if Vader was “raided” as some pretty detailed missives have claimed this week, would it still have control over its customer list and bank accounts, in order to make these refunds happen? That doesn’t seem likely, but stranger things have happened. If it was being sued it probably would, but there’s no evidence of that either.

While there appears to be no public record of Vader getting served, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the subject of legal action, won’t be in the future, or doesn’t need a big cash injection. For example, if ACE has really offered the service the opportunity to settle, Vader will be given a set of demands. If they do not comply, then legal action might follow.

We have proof that ACE, among other things, demanded cooperation as part of previous settlement agreements with other entities. That meant promising to hand over information on others in the ecosystem. But would ACE really offer such a giant service the opportunity to take the easy route when it has chosen to sue the likes of TickBox, Dragon Box, and SETTV?

To find out, within hours of Vader’s shutdown TorrentFreak contacted ACE directly and asked them to confirm or deny that the MPAA (which now conducts its anti-piracy activities through ACE) was involved in the shutdown of Vader. We were told that the ACE coalition was working on a statement. Perfect.

Four days later we had received nothing, so we prompted the anti-piracy group for a response. We were told that our request hadn’t been forgotten and that it was hoped it could get a statement to us this week.

Perhaps needless to say, we haven’t received anything.

This is, of course, interesting in itself. If ACE wasn’t involved in the closure of Vader, then a simple response to clarify that fact would have been simple and could have been done in two letters – NO. However, if ACE was involved, that would make any statement much more complex.

If some kind of deal is indeed being thrashed out, we know that previous agreements sent out by ACE contained clauses that recipients can’t talk about the settlement to anyone but their lawyers. Vader clearly doesn’t want to talk about much in public and, at least for now, neither does ACE. Draw your own conclusions.

However, the fact that ACE hasn’t made a statement to confirm or deny might also be advantageous, intentional or otherwise, from an anti-piracy perspective.

Whether ACE is involved in this debacle or not, the complete lack of clarity surrounding this entire situation only serves to undermine trust in pirate IPTV providers. Granted, a public lawsuit would achieve similar goals, but right now the lack of information looks bad on Vader, not on ACE. In fact, if they aren’t involved, this is a free lunch for ACE and a big minus for Vader and by extension, pirate IPTV.

And this brings us to the point. Pirate IPTV services do not operate like legitimate companies such as Netflix. When people give Netflix their hard earned cash they can be pretty sure that they’ll get what they pay for but should the company be unable to fulfill its obligations, a very clear public statement will be made.

It certainly won’t shut down with zero notice, with no proper explanation, and begin asking for donations to dig it out of a hole. But come on, does anyone really expect an entity in this niche to operate any differently?

The main reason why anyone chooses to do business with a pirate IPTV provider (whether that’s Vader or any other) is because they don’t play by “the rules”. It’s because they thumb their noses at authority. It’s because they solve the problems of having dozens of subscription packages. It’s because they offer great value for money.

People want all this with no drawbacks? Think again.

Fulfilling all of these demands flat-out requires them to be unorthodox. It requires them to be ambiguous. It requires them to act illegally and it requires them to save their own asses when the sheriff comes to town.

Anyone who thinks it should play out differently should stick to buying bridges.

The truth about ‘pirate’ TV services is simple. You pay your money, you take a chance. People should approach IPTV subscriptions expecting to lose their money – that’s why month-to-month packages are often recommended to those with an aversion to losing cash.

People should not be surprised when such services go down temporarily or indeed permanently without notice. And they should presume that they’ll buffer at times but be happy when they don’t. Expectations should be set low by default to avoid disappointment.

‘Pirate’ IPTV services are a gamble, pure and simple. The odds are usually stacked in the user’s favor so their popularity is unlikely to wane in the near future. That says a lot about the service they mostly deliver. But make no mistake, there are no guarantees in this game.

There’s a whole new generation of pirates entering this market on both sides, supply and demand, whose motivations – one way or another – is to either make or save money. In the end, it is that balancing act that will tip the scales of success for providers and users alike.

Vader may be gone for now but there are still plenty of options around. As soon as its demise was announced, many suppliers went into overdrive to pick up the slack. How many customers will now choose to stay away is anyone’s guess but with bargains on offer, there probably won’t be any shortage of money changing hands.

Just don’t expect anyone to be particularly upfront about what’s really going on, whether that’s the providers, resellers, or anti-piracy groups. There’s way too much at stake to unmuddy the waters just because some people want answers.

The truth is always the first casualty of any war and this one is no different.

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

‘YouTube Content-ID Abusers Could Face Millions of Dollars in Damages’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-content-id-abusers-could-face-millions-of-dollars-in-damages-190509/

With over 20 million subscribers of its main channel and over 30 million over its entire network, WatchMojo is one of the largest players on YouTube.

The Montreal-based video production company has been around for well over a decade and continues to expand its viewership, despite fierce competition.

While WatchMojo owes a lot of its success to YouTube, the company is also growing increasingly frustrated with rampant copyright abuse on the platform. We’re not talking about people who steal their content, but about companies that unlawfully claim their videos.

These complaints are far from new and we have highlighted these issues repeatedly over the years. However, when a channel the size of WatchMojo sounds the alarm bell, people should pay attention. This includes abusive rightsholders, which could be liable for millions of dollars in damages.

But let’s start with the basis for the recent uproar. Last weekend WatchMojo’s CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan published a video in which he exposed some of the worst Content-ID abusers. The video provides several examples of companies that claimed WatchMojo content which, according to the channel, is protected under fair use.

For example, when WatchMojo published a video commenting on an Avengers movie trailer, an outfit called Hexacorp (which does business as Orfium) claimed it, arguing that the trailer’s music was used without permission. Hexacorp represented Ramen Music, which licensed the track to Marvel, but apparently, WatchMojo wasn’t allowed to show it.

WatchMojo disagreed and protested the claim citing fair use. After all, the trailer and music were clearly used for commentary purposes. This worked and Hexacorp eventually let the claim go, but many other channels with less legal knowledge simply accepted the claim, allowing Hexacorp to monetize their videos.

What plays a major role here is that protesting Content-ID claims may eventually lead to copyright notices. These notices can result in “strikes” which can then cause people to lose all content in their YouTube channels. That’s not a risk many channels want to take.

TorrentFreak spoke to WatchMojo’s CEO who informed us that this is just one of the many examples. Every month they receive hundreds of Content-ID claims across their channels. However, WatchMojo vigorously fights back and prevails on nearly every occasion.

Karbasfrooshan notes that Content-ID abusers come in all shapes and sizes. Some stand out in terms of volume but are quick to let go of claims once a channel protests. Others send only a few complaints but protest when channels push back.

While there’s no doubt that rightsholders should be able to pursue legitimate claims, WatchMojo believes that many see the system as a revenue-generating opportunity. They simply issue thousands of frivolous claims, knowing that many won’t be protested, even though there are clear arguments for fair use.

This means that the rightsholders will scoop up extra revenue with very little expense. After all, most Content-ID claims are automated.

In addition, WatchMojo also signals a possible anti-competitive angle. The channel receives a lot of strikes for content from the music company BMG.  These, again, often target fair use videos and are sometimes issued globally, even though the rights can only be enforced in certain countries.

The full expose is explained in detail in WatchMojo’s video, where Karbasfrooshan highlights that BMG’s parent company, Bertelsmann, also has a stake in ZergNet, which happens to be a direct competitor of WatchMojo on YouTube.

“Bertelsmann, through their investment arm BMDI, has invested in our direct competitor ZergNet, whose assets Looper, Nicky Swift and a bunch of others compete with us for the same audience, fighting for the same ad dollars, competing for the same eyeballs,” WatchMojo’s CEO notes.

WatchMojo’s CEO Ash Karbasfrooshan

Whether the behavior is anti-competitive or not, the overarching problem is that many rightsholders ‘abuse’ the Content-ID system, willingly or not. According to US case law, they are required to consider fair use when issuing takedown requests, something that doesn’t happen very often it seems.

Content-ID is a voluntary system that’s not rooted in law. However, WatchMojo believes that abusive rightsholders are opening themselves up to millions of dollars in potential damages from YouTube channels. One way this could happen is through a class action lawsuit.

Karbasfrooshan floated this idea in his initial video which triggered a lot of response from fellow channel operators. The basic idea is that a group of affected channels files a class action suit against an abusive rightsholder, with the goal of obtaining a settlement for unlawfully claimed and monetized videos.

In a follow-up video, WatchMojo explains in detail how this would work. What is clear, is that the potential damages are massive. According to a calculation made by the channel, rightsholders earned over $2 billion through unlawfully claimed videos over the past several years.

YouTube revenue and potential damages (red) (credit: WatchMojo)

Whether the calculations hold up or not, it is clear that companies that send out a lot of claims against fair use content could theoretically face substantial damages. This, of course, has to be backed up in court, but according to WatchMojo’s CEO, who has plenty of legal experience, it’s a viable option.

“We are now actively exploring taking legal action against a couple of targets where we have built up a lot of evidence of wrongdoing, abuse, and received additional evidence from other channels too,” Karbasfrooshan tells TorrentFreak.

For now, WatchMojo is not ready to serve as a representative plaintiff in a class action suit. It hopes that by highlighting the potential risks for copyright holders, the associated companies will do the right thing and properly consider fair use.

WatchMojo has complained about Content-ID abuse for quite a while and it believes that some type of legal action against an abuser is inevitable. Whether that’s through a class action suit or not.

“It’s a matter of time, if not us, someone will come along and sue and win big,” Karbasfrooshan tells us.

WatchMojo’s CEO has spoken to lawyers who, once they were informed about what was going on, were also convinced that some type of legal action is inevitable.

“I assure you that once I explained how Content-ID worked vs. copyright law, and then how rightsholders abused it, the general consensus was: ok, these rightsholders are going to get sued,” Karbasfrooshan says.

“Now, whether that’s done via a class action suit or a direct lawsuit is a different matter. I think the former is interesting but the latter is practically more likely,” he adds.

Still, Karbasfrooshan hopes that lawsuits are not needed to address this. Ideally, copyright holders should change the way they operate and respect fair use, he says.

And there’s also a major role for YouTube here. They can make a simple change and whitelist channels that have good standing, so these are not harmed by frivolous claims.

“The answer is simple: it’s time for a separate class of channels for those who use the platform in a professional manner,” Karbasfrooshan notes.

The latter angle will be discussed in the third episode of WatchMojo’s four-part series on Content-ID abuse. In addition, the channel will also launch “The FU Show”, where it will break down and discuss fair use (FU) issues in regards to content claims. 

Needless to say, these videos are very informative, and there’s something in there for channel operators as well as copyright holders. 

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

Flight Sim Company Threatens Reddit Mods Over “Libelous” DRM Posts

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/flight-sim-company-threatens-reddit-mods-over-libellous-drm-posts-180604/

Earlier this year, in an effort to deal with piracy of their products, flight simulator company FlightSimLabs took drastic action by installing malware on customers’ machines.

The story began when a Reddit user reported something unusual in his download of FlightSimLabs’ A320X module. A file – test.exe – was being flagged up as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, something which rang alarm bells among flight sim fans.

As additional information was made available, the story became even more sensational. After first dodging the issue with carefully worded statements, FlightSimLabs admitted that it had installed a password dumper onto ALL users’ machines – whether they were pirates or not – in an effort to catch a particular software cracker and launch legal action.

It was an incredible story that no doubt did damage to FlightSimLabs’ reputation. But the now the company is at the center of a new storm, again centered around anti-piracy measures and again focused on Reddit.

Just before the weekend, Reddit user /u/walkday reported finding something unusual in his A320X module, the same module that caused the earlier controversy.

“The latest installer of FSLabs’ A320X puts two cmdhost.exe files under ‘system32\’ and ‘SysWOW64\’ of my Windows directory. Despite the name, they don’t open a command-line window,” he reported.

“They’re a part of the authentication because, if you remove them, the A320X won’t get loaded. Does someone here know more about cmdhost.exe? Why does FSLabs give them such a deceptive name and put them in the system folders? I hate them for polluting my system folder unless, of course, it is a dll used by different applications.”

Needless to say, the news that FSLabs were putting files into system folders named to make them look like system files was not well received.

“Hiding something named to resemble Window’s “Console Window Host” process in system folders is a huge red flag,” one user wrote.

“It’s a malware tactic used to deceive users into thinking the executable is a part of the OS, thus being trusted and not deleted. Really dodgy tactic, don’t trust it and don’t trust them,” opined another.

With a disenchanted Reddit userbase simmering away in the background, FSLabs took to Facebook with a statement to quieten down the masses.

“Over the past few hours we have become aware of rumors circulating on social media about the cmdhost file installed by the A320-X and wanted to clear up any confusion or misunderstanding,” the company wrote.

“cmdhost is part of our eSellerate infrastructure – which communicates between the eSellerate server and our product activation interface. It was designed to reduce the number of product activation issues people were having after the FSX release – which have since been resolved.”

The company noted that the file had been checked by all major anti-virus companies and everything had come back clean, which does indeed appear to be the case. Nevertheless, the critical Reddit thread remained, bemoaning the actions of a company which probably should have known better than to irritate fans after February’s debacle. In response, however, FSLabs did just that once again.

In private messages to the moderators of the /r/flightsim sub-Reddit, FSLabs’ Marketing and PR Manager Simon Kelsey suggested that the mods should do something about the thread in question or face possible legal action.

“Just a gentle reminder of Reddit’s obligations as a publisher in order to ensure that any libelous content is taken down as soon as you become aware of it,” Kelsey wrote.

Noting that FSLabs welcomes “robust fair comment and opinion”, Kelsey gave the following advice.

“The ‘cmdhost.exe’ file in question is an entirely above board part of our anti-piracy protection and has been submitted to numerous anti-virus providers in order to verify that it poses no threat. Therefore, ANY suggestion that current or future products pose any threat to users is absolutely false and libelous,” he wrote, adding:

“As we have already outlined in the past, ANY suggestion that any user’s data was compromised during the events of February is entirely false and therefore libelous.”

Noting that FSLabs would “hate for lawyers to have to get involved in this”, Kelsey advised the /r/flightsim mods to ensure that no such claims were allowed to remain on the sub-Reddit.

But after not receiving the response he would’ve liked, Kelsey wrote once again to the mods. He noted that “a number of unsubstantiated and highly defamatory comments” remained online and warned that if something wasn’t done to clean them up, he would have “no option” than to pass the matter to FSLabs’ legal team.

Like the first message, this second effort also failed to have the desired effect. In fact, the moderators’ response was to post an open letter to Kelsey and FSLabs instead.

“We sincerely disagree that you ‘welcome robust fair comment and opinion’, demonstrated by the censorship on your forums and the attempted censorship on our subreddit,” the mods wrote.

“While what you do on your forum is certainly your prerogative, your rules do not extend to Reddit nor the r/flightsim subreddit. Removing content you disagree with is simply not within our purview.”

The letter, which is worth reading in full, refutes Kelsey’s claims and also suggests that critics of FSLabs may have been subjected to Reddit vote manipulation and coordinated efforts to discredit them.

What will happen next is unclear but the matter has now been placed in the hands of Reddit’s administrators who have agreed to deal with Kelsey and FSLabs’ personally.

It’s a little early to say for sure but it seems unlikely that this will end in a net positive for FSLabs, no matter what decision Reddit’s admins take.

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

When Joe Public Becomes a Commercial Pirate, a Little Knowledge is Dangerous

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/joe-public-becomes-commercial-pirate-little-knowledge-dangerous-180603/

Back in March and just a few hours before the Anthony Joshua v Joseph Parker fight, I got chatting with some fellow fans in the local pub. While some were intending to pay for the fight, others were going down the Kodi route.

Soon after the conversation switched to IPTV. One of the guys had a subscription and he said that his supplier would be along shortly if anyone wanted a package to watch the fight at home. Of course, I was curious to hear what he had to say since it’s not often this kind of thing is offered ‘offline’.

The guy revealed that he sold more or less exclusively on eBay and called up the page on his phone to show me. The listing made interesting reading.

In common with hundreds of similar IPTV subscription offers easily findable on eBay, the listing offered “All the sports and films you need plus VOD and main UK channels” for the sum of just under £60 per year, which is fairly cheap in the current market. With a non-committal “hmmm” I asked a bit more about the guy’s business and surprisingly he was happy to provide some details.

Like many people offering such packages, the guy was a reseller of someone else’s product. He also insisted that selling access to copyrighted content is OK because it sits in a “gray area”. It’s also easy to keep listings up on eBay, he assured me, as long as a few simple rules are adhered to. Right, this should be interesting.

First of all, sellers shouldn’t be “too obvious” he advised, noting that individual channels or channel lists shouldn’t be listed on the site. Fair enough, but then he said the most important thing of all is to have a disclaimer like his in any listing, written as follows:

“PLEASE NOTE EBAY: THIS IS NOT A DE SCRAMBLER SERVICE, I AM NOT SELLING ANY ILLEGAL CHANNELS OR CHANNEL LISTS NOR DO I REPRESENT ANY MEDIA COMPANY NOR HAVE ACCESS TO ANY OF THEIR CONTENTS. NO TRADEMARK HAS BEEN INFRINGED. DO NOT REMOVE LISTING AS IT IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH EBAY POLICIES.”

Apparently, this paragraph is crucial to keeping listings up on eBay and is the equivalent of kryptonite when it comes to deflecting copyright holders, police, and Trading Standards. Sure enough, a few seconds with Google reveals the same wording on dozens of eBay listings and those offering IPTV subscriptions on external platforms.

It is, of course, absolutely worthless but the IPTV seller insisted otherwise, noting he’d sold “thousands” of subscriptions through eBay without any problems. While a similar logic can be applied to garlic and vampires, a second disclaimer found on many other illicit IPTV subscription listings treads an even more bizarre path.

“THE PRODUCTS OFFERED CAN NOT BE USED TO DESCRAMBLE OR OTHERWISE ENABLE ACCESS TO CABLE OR SATELLITE TELEVISION PROGRAMS THAT BYPASSES PAYMENT TO THE SERVICE PROVIDER. RECEIVING SUBSCRIPTION/BASED TV AIRTIME IS ILLEGAL WITHOUT PAYING FOR IT.”

This disclaimer (which apparently no sellers displaying it have ever read) seems to be have been culled from the Zgemma site, which advertises a receiving device which can technically receive pirate IPTV services but wasn’t designed for the purpose. In that context, the disclaimer makes sense but when applied to dedicated pirate IPTV subscriptions, it’s absolutely ridiculous.

It’s unclear why so many sellers on eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist and other platforms think that these disclaimers are useful. It leads one to the likely conclusion that these aren’t hardcore pirates at all but regular people simply out to make a bit of extra cash who have received bad advice.

What is clear, however, is that selling access to thousands of otherwise subscription channels without permission from copyright owners is definitely illegal in the EU. The European Court of Justice says so (1,2) and it’s been backed up by subsequent cases in the Netherlands.

While the odds of getting criminally prosecuted or sued for reselling such a service are relatively slim, it’s worrying that in 2018 people still believe that doing so is made legal by the inclusion of a paragraph of text. It’s even more worrying that these individuals apparently have no idea of the serious consequences should they become singled out for legal action.

Even more surprisingly, TorrentFreak spoke with a handful of IPTV suppliers higher up the chain who also told us that what they are doing is legal. A couple claimed to be protected by communication intermediary laws, others didn’t want to go into details. Most stopped responding to emails on the topic. Perhaps most tellingly, none wanted to go on the record.

The big take-home here is that following some important EU rulings, knowingly linking to copyrighted content for profit is nearly always illegal in Europe and leaves people open for targeting by copyright holders and the authorities. People really should be aware of that, especially the little guy making a little extra pocket money on eBay.

Of course, people are perfectly entitled to carry on regardless and test the limits of the law when things go wrong. At this point, however, it’s probably worth noting that IPTV provider Ace Hosting recently handed over £600,000 rather than fight the Premier League (1,2) when they clearly had the money to put up a defense.

Given their effectiveness, perhaps they should’ve put up a disclaimer instead?

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

Ray Ozzie’s Encryption Backdoor

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/ray_ozzies_encr.html

Last month, Wired published a long article about Ray Ozzie and his supposed new scheme for adding a backdoor in encrypted devices. It’s a weird article. It paints Ozzie’s proposal as something that “attains the impossible” and “satisfies both law enforcement and privacy purists,” when (1) it’s barely a proposal, and (2) it’s essentially the same key escrow scheme we’ve been hearing about for decades.

Basically, each device has a unique public/private key pair and a secure processor. The public key goes into the processor and the device, and is used to encrypt whatever user key encrypts the data. The private key is stored in a secure database, available to law enforcement on demand. The only other trick is that for law enforcement to use that key, they have to put the device in some sort of irreversible recovery mode, which means it can never be used again. That’s basically it.

I have no idea why anyone is talking as if this were anything new. Several cryptographers have already explained why this key escrow scheme is no better than any other key escrow scheme. The short answer is (1) we won’t be able to secure that database of backdoor keys, (2) we don’t know how to build the secure coprocessor the scheme requires, and (3) it solves none of the policy problems around the whole system. This is the typical mistake non-cryptographers make when they approach this problem: they think that the hard part is the cryptography to create the backdoor. That’s actually the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that it’s only used by the good guys, and there’s nothing in Ozzie’s proposal that addresses any of that.

I worry that this kind of thing is damaging in the long run. There should be some rule that any backdoor or key escrow proposal be a fully specified proposal, not just some cryptography and hand-waving notions about how it will be used in practice. And before it is analyzed and debated, it should have to satisfy some sort of basic security analysis. Otherwise, we’ll be swatting pseudo-proposals like this one, while those on the other side of this debate become increasingly convinced that it’s possible to design one of these things securely.

Already people are using the National Academies report on backdoors for law enforcement as evidence that engineers are developing workable and secure backdoors. Writing in Lawfare, Alan Z. Rozenshtein claims that the report — and a related New York Times story — “undermine the argument that secure third-party access systems are so implausible that it’s not even worth trying to develop them.” Susan Landau effectively corrects this misconception, but the damage is done.

Here’s the thing: it’s not hard to design and build a backdoor. What’s hard is building the systems — both technical and procedural — around them. Here’s Rob Graham:

He’s only solving the part we already know how to solve. He’s deliberately ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. We know how to make backdoors, we just don’t know how to secure them.

A bunch of us cryptographers have already explained why we don’t think this sort of thing will work in the foreseeable future. We write:

Exceptional access would force Internet system developers to reverse “forward secrecy” design practices that seek to minimize the impact on user privacy when systems are breached. The complexity of today’s Internet environment, with millions of apps and globally connected services, means that new law enforcement requirements are likely to introduce unanticipated, hard to detect security flaws. Beyond these and other technical vulnerabilities, the prospect of globally deployed exceptional access systems raises difficult problems about how such an environment would be governed and how to ensure that such systems would respect human rights and the rule of law.

Finally, Matthew Green:

The reason so few of us are willing to bet on massive-scale key escrow systems is that we’ve thought about it and we don’t think it will work. We’ve looked at the threat model, the usage model, and the quality of hardware and software that exists today. Our informed opinion is that there’s no detection system for key theft, there’s no renewability system, HSMs are terrifically vulnerable (and the companies largely staffed with ex-intelligence employees), and insiders can be suborned. We’re not going to put the data of a few billion people on the line an environment where we believe with high probability that the system will fail.

EDITED TO ADD (5/14): An analysis of the proposal.

YouTube Won’t Put Up With Blatant Piracy Tutorials Forever

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-wont-put-up-with-blatant-piracy-tutorials-forever-180506/

Once upon a time, Internet users’ voices would be heard in limited circles, on platforms such as Usenet or other niche platforms.

Then, with the rise of forum platforms such as phpBB in 2000 and Invision Power Board in 2002, thriving communities could gather in public to discuss endless specialist topics, including file-sharing of course.

When dedicated piracy forums began to gain traction, it was pretty much a free-for-all. People discussed obtaining free content absolutely openly. Nothing was taboo and no one considered that there would be any repercussions. As such, moderation was limited to keeping troublemakers in check.

As the years progressed and lawsuits against both sites and services became more commonplace, most sites that weren’t actually serving illegal content began to consider their positions. Run by hobbyists, most didn’t want the hassle of a multi-million dollar lawsuit, so links to pirate content began to diminish and the more overt piracy tutorials began to disappear underground.

Those that remained in plain sight became much more considered. Tutorials on how to pirate specific Hollywood blockbusters were no longer needed, a plain general tutorial would suffice. And, as communities matured and took time to understand the implications of their actions, those without political motivations realized that drawing attention to potential criminality was neither required nor necessary.

Then YouTube and social media happened and almost overnight, no one was in charge and anyone could say whatever they liked.

In this new reality, there were no irritating moderator-type figures removing links to this and that, and nobody warning people against breaking rules that suddenly didn’t exist anymore. In essence, previously tight-knit and street-wise file-sharing and piracy communities not only became fragmented, but also chaotic.

This meant that anyone could become a leader and in some cases, this was the utopia that many had hoped for. Not only couldn’t the record labels or Hollywood tell people what to do anymore, discussion site operators couldn’t either. For those who didn’t abuse the power and for those who knew no better, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air. But, like all good things, it was unlikely to last forever.

Where most file-sharing of yesterday was carried out by hobbyist enthusiasts, many of today’s pirates are far more casual. They’re just as thirsty for content, but they don’t want to spend hours hunting for it. They want it all on a plate, at the flick of a switch, delivered to their TV with a minimum of hassle.

With online discussions increasingly seen as laborious and old-fashioned, many mainstream pirates have turned to easy-to-consume videos. In support of their Kodi media player habits, YouTube has become the educational platform of choice for millions.

As a result, there is now a long line of self-declared Kodi piracy specialists scooping up millions of views on YouTube. Their videos – which in many cases are thinly veiled advertisements for third party addons, Kodi ‘builds’, illegal IPTV services, and obscure Android APKs – are now the main way for a new generation to obtain direct advice on pirating.

Many of the videos are incredibly blatant, like the past 15 years of litigation never happened. All the lessons learned by the phpBB board operators of yesteryear, of how to achieve their goals of sharing information without getting shut down, have been long forgotten. In their place, a barrage of daily videos designed to generate clicks and affiliate revenue, no matter what the cost, no matter what the risk.

It’s pretty clear that these videos are at least partly responsible for the phenomenal uptick in Kodi and Android-based piracy over the past few years. In that respect, many lovers of free content will be eternally grateful for the service they’ve provided. But like many piracy movements over the years, people shouldn’t get too attached to them, at least in their current form.

Thanks to the devil-may-care approach of many influential YouTubers, it won’t be long before a whole new set of moderators begin flexing their muscles. While your average phpBB moderator could be reasoned with in order to get a second chance, a determined and largely faceless YouTube will eject offenders without so much as a clear explanation.

When this happens (and it’s only a question of time given the growing blatancy of many tutorials) YouTubers will not only lose their voices but their revenue streams too. While YouTube’s partner programs bring in some welcome cash, the profitable affiliate schemes touted on these channels for external products will also be under threat.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in this drama-waiting-to-happen is that many of the most popular YouTubers can hardly be considered young and naive. While some are of more tender years, most – with their undoubted skill, knowledge and work ethic – should know better for their 30 or 40 years on this planet. Yet not only do they make their names public, they feature their faces heavily in their videos too.

Still, it’s likely that it will take some big YouTube accounts to fall before YouTubers respond by shaving the sharp edges off their blatant promotion of illegal activity. And there’s little doubt that those advertising products (which is most of them) will have to do so sooner rather than later.

Just this week, YouTube made it clear that it won’t tolerate people making money from the promotion of illegal activities.

“YouTube creators may include paid endorsements as part of their content only if the product or service they are endorsing complies with our advertising policies,” YouTube told the BBC.

“We will be working with creators going forward so they better understand that in video promotions [they] must not promote dishonest activity.”

That being said, like many other players in the piracy and file-sharing space over the past 18 years, YouTubers will eventually begin to learn that not only can the smart survive, they can flourish too.

Sure, there will be people out there who’ll protest that free speech allows citizens to express themselves in a manner of their choosing. But try PM’ing that to YouTube in response to a strike, and see how that fares.

When they say you’re done, the road back is a long one.

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