Tag Archives: Opinion

FACT Threatens Users of ‘Pirate’ Kodi Add-Ons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, the “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” Anti-Piracy Ad Wasn’t ‘Pirated’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sorry-the-you-wouldnt-steal-a-car-anti-piracy-ad-wasnt-pirated-170625/

In recent years millions of people have seen the Piracy It’s a Crime anti-piracy video.

According to popular belief and reputable news sources, the music used in the “You Wouldn’t Steal a Car” clip was itself pirated.

Oh the irony…

While the case in question dates back to the beginning of the decade, the alleged “theft” is still cited regularly. People regularly mention it on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and also while commenting on various memes, as recently as a few days ago.

Amusing, for sure, but there’s one problem. It’s not true.

The sources for this remarkable story refer to the case of Dutch musician Melchior Rietveldt. In 2006 he was asked to compose a piece of music to be used in an anti-piracy advert. This was supposed to be used exclusively at a local film festival.

However, it turned out that the anti-piracy ad was recycled for various other purposes without the composer’s permission. The clip had been used on dozens of DVDs both in the Netherlands and overseas. This means that Rietveldt’s music was used without his permission, or pirated, as some would say.

Piracy. It’s a Crime

The above is true, as we reported in the past. And the composer was eventually compensated for missed royalties. However, the whole case has nothing to do with the Piracy It’s a Crime clip. It’s about an entirely different ad.

The actual Rietveldt commercial is unknown to the wider public, and there are no online copies that we know of. What we do know is that the “Piracy. It’s a Crime” clip was produced in 2004, not 2006, and also not for a Dutch film festival.

The Piracy It’s a Crime ad was part of a joint initiative by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). The original announcement is still available online.

A source close to the Dutch film industry confirmed that the Rietveldt case has nothing to do with the frequently mentioned clip, which means that it’s all a massive misunderstanding. One that is now deeply ingrained in Internet history, it seems.

It made its way into the Who Sampled database, for example, ABC Science did a feature on it, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So where does this fable originate from?

When covering the story, several news outlets used an image from the Piracy It’s a Crime video, since that’s the classic example of an anti-piracy ad. Somewhere along the line, however, other reporters started to identify that clip as Rietveldt’s work, without properly checking. Fast forward a few years and many now assume it’s an established fact.

Pirated or not, the Piracy it’s a Crime campaign remains a popular source for memes. Whether this is what the MPA and IPOS intended is doubtful, but at least they got the message out.

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

Traveling “Kodi Repair Men” Are Apparently a Thing Now

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/traveling-kodi-repair-men-are-apparently-a-thing-now-170625/

Earlier this month, third-party Kodi add-on ZemTV and the TVAddons library were sued in a federal court in Texas.

The complaint, filed by American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network, accused the pair of copyright infringement and demanded $150,000 for each offense.

With that case continuing, there has been significant fallout. Not only has the TVAddons repository disappeared but addon developers have been falling like dominos.

Of course, there are large numbers of people out there who are able to acquire and install new addons to restore performance to their faltering setups. These enthusiasts can weather the storms, with most understanding that such setbacks are all part of the piracy experience.

However, unlike most other types of Internet piracy, the world of augmented Kodi setups has a somewhat unusual characteristic.

Although numbers are impossible to come by, it’s likely that the majority of users have no idea how the software in their ‘pirate’ box actually works. This is because through convenience or lack of knowledge they bought their device already setup. So what can these people do?

Well, for some it’s a case of trawling the Internet for help and advice to learn how to reprogram the hardware themselves. It may take time, but those with the patience will be glad they did since it will help them deal with similar problems in the future.

For others, it’s taking the misguided route of trying to get the entirely legal (and probably sick-to-the-teeth) official Kodi team to solve their problems on Twitter. Pro tip: Don’t bother, they’re not interested.

Kodi.tv are not interested in piracy problems

It’s likely that the remainder will take their device back to where they bought it, complain like crazy, and then get things fixed for a small fee. But for those running out of options, never fear – there’s another innovative solution available.

In a local pub this week I overheard a discussion about “everybody’s Kodi going off” which wasn’t a big shock given recent developments. However, what did surprise me was the revelation that a local guy is now touring pubs in the area doing on-site “Kodi repairs.”

To put things back in working order using a laptop he’s charging $25/£20/€23 or, for those with an Amazon Firestick, a $50/£40 trade-in for a new, fully-loaded stick. Apparently, the whole thing takes about 15 to 20 mins and is conveniently carried out while having a drink. While obviously illegal, it’s amazing how quickly opportunists step in to make a few bucks.

That being said, the notion of ‘Kodi repair men’ appearing in the flesh is perhaps not such a surprise after all. Countless millions of these devices have been sold, and they invariably go wrong when pirate sources have issues. In reality, it would be more of a surprise if repairers didn’t exist because there’s clearly a lot of demand.

But exist they do and some are even doing home visits. One, who offers to assist people “for a small call out charge” via his Facebook page, has been receiving glowing reviews, like the one shown below.

Thanks for the help KodiMan

In many cases, these “repair men” are actually the same people selling the pre-configured boxes in the first place. Like pirate DVD sellers, PlayStation modders, and similar characters before them, they’re heroes to many people, particularly those in cash-deprived areas. They’re seen as Robin Hoods who can cut subscription TV prices by 95% and ensure sporting events keep flowing for next to nothing.

What remains to be seen though is how busy these people will be in the future. When people’s devices stop working there’s obviously a lot of bad feeling, so paying each time for “repairs” could eventually become tiresome. That’s certainly what copyright holders are hoping for, so expect further action against more addon providers in the future.

But in the meantime and despite the trouble, ‘pirate’ Kodi devices are still selling like hot cakes. Despite suggestions to the contrary, they’re easily purchased from sites like eBay, and plenty of local publications are carrying ads. But for those prepared to do the work themselves, everything is a lot cheaper and easier to fix when it goes wrong.

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

Banning VPNs and Proxies is Dangerous, IT Experts Warn

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/banning-vpns-and-proxies-is-dangerous-it-experts-warn-170623/

In April, draft legislation was developed to crack down on systems and software that allow Russian Internet users to bypass website blockades approved by telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor.

Earlier this month the draft bill was submitted to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. If passed, the law will make it illegal for services to circumvent web blockades by “routing traffic of Russian Internet users through foreign servers, anonymous proxy servers, virtual private networks and other means.”

As the plans currently stand, anonymization services that fail to restrict access to sites listed by telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor face being blocked themselves. Sites offering circumvention software for download also face potential blacklisting.

This week the State Duma discussed the proposals with experts from the local Internet industry. In addition to the head of Rozcomnadzor, representatives from service providers, search engines and even anonymization services were in attendance. Novaya Gazeta has published comments (Russian) from some of the key people at the meeting and it’s fair to say there’s not a lot of support.

VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world with more than 240 million subscribers, sent along Director for Relations with Government, Sergey Malyanov. He wondered where all this blocking will end up.

“First we banned certain information. Then this information was blocked with the responsibility placed on both owners of resources and services. Now there are blocks on top of blocks – so we already have a triple effort,” he said.

“It is now possible that there will be a fourth iteration: the block on the block to block those that were not blocked. And with that, we have significantly complicated the law and the activities of all the people affected by it.”

Malyanov said that these kinds of actions have the potential to close down the entire Internet by ruining what was once an open network running standard protocols. But amid all of this, will it even be effective?

“The question is not even about the losses that will be incurred by network operators, the owners of the resources and the search engines. The question is whether this bill addresses the goal its creators have set for themselves. In my opinion, it will not.”

Group-IB, one of the world’s leading cyber-security and threat intelligence providers, was represented CEO Ilya Sachkov. He told parliament that “ordinary respectable people” who use the Internet should always use a VPN for security. Nevertheless, he also believes that such services should be forced to filter sites deemed illegal by the state.

But in a warning about blocks in general, he warned that people who want to circumvent them will always be one step ahead.

“We have to understand that by the time the law is adopted the perpetrators will already find it very easy to circumvent,” he said.

Mobile operator giant MTS, which turns over billions of dollars and employs 50,000+ people, had their Vice-President of Corporate and Legal Affairs in attendance. Ruslan Ibragimov said that in dealing with a problem, the government should be cautious of not causing more problems, including disruption of a growing VPN market.

“We have an understanding that evil must be fought, but it’s not necessary to create a new evil, even more so – for those who are involved in this struggle,” he said.

“Broad wording of this law may pose a threat to our network, which could be affected by the new restrictive measures, as well as the VPN market, which we are currently developing, and whose potential market is estimated at 50 billion rubles a year.”

In its goal to maintain control of the Internet, it’s clear that Russia is determined to press ahead with legislative change. Unfortunately, it’s far from clear that there’s a technical solution to the problem, but if one is pursued regardless, there could be serious fallout.

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

Kim Dotcom Opposes US’s “Fugitive” Claims at Supreme Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-opposes-uss-fugitive-claims-supreme-court-170622/

megaupload-logoWhen Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were raided five years ago, the authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property.

The US government claimed the assets were obtained through copyright crimes so went after the bank accounts, cars, and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.

Kim Dotcom and his colleagues were branded as “fugitives” and the Government won its case. Dotcom’s legal team quickly appealed this verdict, but lost once more at the Fourth Circuit appeals court.

A few weeks ago Dotcom and his former colleagues petitioned the Supreme Court to take on the case.

They don’t see themselves as “fugitives” and want the assets returned. The US Government opposed the request, but according to a new reply filed by Megaupload’s legal team, the US Government ignores critical questions.

The Government has a “vested financial stake” in maintaining the current situation, they write, which allows the authorities to use their “fugitive” claims as an offensive weapon.

“Far from being directed towards persons who have fled or avoided our country while claiming assets in it, fugitive disentitlement is being used offensively to strip foreigners of their assets abroad,” the reply brief (pdf) reads.

According to Dotcom’s lawyers there are several conflicting opinions from lower courts, which should be clarified by the Supreme Court. That Dotcom and his colleagues have decided to fight their extradition in New Zealand, doesn’t warrant the seizure of their assets.

“Absent review, forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars will be a fait accompli without the merits being reached,” they write, adding that this is all the more concerning because the US Government’s criminal case may not be as strong as claimed.

“This is especially disconcerting because the Government’s criminal case is so dubious. When the Government characterizes Petitioners as ‘designing and profiting from a system that facilitated wide-scale copyright infringement,’ it continues to paint a portrait of secondary copyright infringement, which is not a crime.”

The defense team cites several issues that warrant review and urges the Supreme Court to hear the case. If not, the Government will effectively be able to use assets seizures as a pressure tool to urge foreign defendants to come to the US.

“If this stands, the Government can weaponize fugitive disentitlement in order to claim assets abroad,” the reply brief reads.

“It is time for the Court to speak to the Questions Presented. Over the past two decades it has never had a better vehicle to do so, nor is any such vehicle elsewhere in sight,” Dotcom’s lawyers add.

Whether the Supreme Court accepts or denies the case will likely be decided in the weeks to come.

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

The Dangers of Secret Law

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/the_dangers_of_.html

Last week, the Department of Justice released 18 new FISC opinions related to Section 702 as part of an EFF FOIA lawsuit. (Of course, they don’t mention EFF or the lawsuit. They make it sound as if it was their idea.)

There’s probably a lot in these opinions. In one Kafkaesque ruling, a defendant was denied access to the previous court rulings that were used by the court to decide against it:

…in 2014, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) rejected a service provider’s request to obtain other FISC opinions that government attorneys had cited and relied on in court filings seeking to compel the provider’s cooperation.

[…]

The provider’s request came up amid legal briefing by both it and the DOJ concerning its challenge to a 702 order. After the DOJ cited two earlier FISC opinions that were not public at the time — one from 2014 and another from 2008­ — the provider asked the court for access to those rulings.

The provider argued that without being able to review the previous FISC rulings, it could not fully understand the court’s earlier decisions, much less effectively respond to DOJ’s argument. The provider also argued that because attorneys with Top Secret security clearances represented it, they could review the rulings without posing a risk to national security.

The court disagreed in several respects. It found that the court’s rules and Section 702 prohibited the documents release. It also rejected the provider’s claim that the Constitution’s Due Process Clause entitled it to the documents.

This kind of government secrecy is toxic to democracy. National security is important, but we will not survive if we become a country of secret court orders based on secret interpretations of secret law.

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

Disney Asks Google to Remove Its Own (Invisible) Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/disney-asks-google-to-remove-its-own-invisible-takedown-notices-170618/

Pretty much every major copyright holder regularly reports infringing links to Google, hoping to decrease the visibility of pirated files.

Over the past several years, the search engine has had to remove more than two billion links and most of these requests have been neatly archived in the Lumen database.

Walt Disney Company is no stranger to these takedown efforts. The company has sent over 20 million takedown requests to the search engine, covering a wide variety of content. All of these notices are listed in Google’s transparency report, and copies are available at Lumen.

While this is nothing new, we recently noticed that Disney doesn’t stop at reporting direct links to traditional “pirate” sites. In fact, they recently targeted one of their own takedown notices in the Lumen database, which was sent on behalf of its daughter company Lucasfilm.

In the notice below, the media giant wants Google to remove a links to a copy of its own takedown notice, claiming that it infringes the copyright of the blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Disney vs. Disney?

This is not the first time that a company has engaged in this type of meta-censorship, it appears.

However, it’s all the more relevant this week after a German court decided that Google can be ordered to stop linking to its own takedown notices. While that suggests that Disney was right to ask for its own link to be removed, the reality is a bit more complex.

When it was still known as ChillingEffects, the Lumen Database instructed Google not to index any takedown notices. And indeed, searching for copies of takedown notices yields no result. This means that Disney asked Google to remove a search result that doesn’t exist.

Perhaps things are different in a galaxy far, far away, but Disney’s takedown notice is not only self-censorship but also entirely pointless.

Disney might be better off focusing on content that Google has actually indexed, instead of going after imaginary threats. Or put in the words of Gold Five: “Stay on Target,” Disney..

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

Comodo DNS Blocks TorrentFreak Over “Hacking and Warez “

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/comodo-dns-blocks-torrentfreak-over-hacking-and-warez-170617/

Website blocking has become one of the go-to methods for reducing online copyright infringement.

In addition to court-ordered blockades, various commercial vendors also offer a broad range of blocking tools. This includes Comodo, which offers a free DNS service that keeps people away from dangerous sites.

The service labeled SecureDNS is part of the Comodo Internet Security bundle but can be used by the general public as well, without charge. Just change the DNS settings on your computer or any other device, and you’re ready to go.

“As a leading provider of computer security solutions, Comodo is keenly aware of the dangers that plague the Internet today. SecureDNS helps users keep safe online with its malware domain filtering feature,” the company explains.

Aside from malware and spyware, Comodo also blocks access to sites that offer access to pirated content. Or put differently, they try to do this. But it’s easier said than done.

This week we were alerted to the fact that Comodo blocks direct access to TorrentFreak. Those who try to access our news site get an ominous warning instead, suggesting that we might share pirated content.

“This website has been blocked temporarily because of the following reason(s): Hacking/Warez: Site may offer illegal sharing of copyrighted software or media,” the warning reads, adding that several users also reported the site to be unsafe.

TorrentFreak blocked

People can still access the site by clicking on a big red cross, although that’s something Comodo doesn’t recommend. However, it is quite clear that new readers will be pretty spooked by the alarming message.

We assume that TorrentFreak was added to Comodo’s blocklist by mistake. And while mistakes can happen everywhere, this once again show that overblocking is a serious concern.

We are lucky enough that readers alerted us to the problem, but in other cases, it could easily go unnoticed.

Interestingly, the ‘piracy’ blocklist is not as stringent as the above would suggest. While we replicated the issue, we also checked several other known ‘pirate’ sites including The Pirate Bay, RARBG, GoMovies, and Pubfilm. These could all be accessed through SecureDNS without any warning.

TorrentFreak contacted Comodo for a comment on their curious blocking efforts, but we have yet to hear back from the company. In the meantime, Comodo SecureDNS users may want to consider switching to a more open DNS provider.

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

“Kodi Boxes Are a Fire Risk”: Awful Timing or Opportunism?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-boxes-are-a-fire-risk-awful-timing-or-opportunism-170618/

Anyone who saw the pictures this week couldn’t have failed to be moved by the plight of Londoners caught up in the Grenfell Tower inferno. The apocalyptic images are likely to stay with people for years to come and the scars for those involved may never heal.

As the building continued to smolder and the death toll increased, UK tabloids provided wall-to-wall coverage of the disaster. On Thursday, however, The Sun took a short break to put out yet another sensationalized story about Kodi. Given the week’s events, it was bound to raise eyebrows.

“HOT GOODS: Kodi boxes are a fire hazard because thousands of IPTV devices nabbed by customs ‘failed UK electrical standards’,” the headline reads.

Another sensational ‘Kodi’ headline

“It’s estimated that thousands of Brits have bought so-called Kodi boxes which can be connected to telly sets to stream pay-per-view sport and films for free,” the piece continued.

“But they could be a fire hazard, according to the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which has been nabbing huge deliveries of the devices as they arrive in the UK.”

As the image below shows, “Kodi box” fire hazard claims appeared next to images from other news articles about the huge London fire. While all separate stories, the pairing is not a great look.

A ‘Kodi Box’, as depicted in The Sun

FACT chief executive Kieron Sharp told The Sun that his group had uncovered two parcels of 2,000 ‘Kodi’ boxes and found that they “failed electrical safety standards”, making them potentially dangerous. While that may well be the case, the big question is all about timing.

It’s FACT’s job to reduce copyright infringement on behalf of clients such as The Premier League so it’s no surprise that they’re making a sustained effort to deter the public from buying these devices. That being said, it can’t have escaped FACT or The Sun that fire and death are extremely sensitive topics this week.

That leaves us with a few options including unfortunate opportunism or perhaps terrible timing, but let’s give the benefit of the doubt for a moment.

There’s a good argument that FACT and The Sun brought a valid issue to the public’s attention at a time when fire safety is on everyone’s lips. So, to give credit where it’s due, providing people with a heads-up about potentially dangerous devices is something that most people would welcome.

However, it’s difficult to offer congratulations on the PSA when the story as it appears in The Sun does nothing – absolutely nothing – to help people stay safe.

If some boxes are a risk (and that’s certainly likely given the level of Far East imports coming into the UK) which ones are dangerous? Where were they manufactured? Who sold them? What are the serial numbers? Which devices do people need to get out of their houses?

Sadly, none of these questions were answered or even addressed in the article, making it little more than scaremongering. Only making matters worse, the piece notes that it isn’t even clear how many of the seized devices are indeed a fire risk and that more tests need to be done. Is this how we should tackle such an important issue during an extremely sensitive week?

Timing and lack of useful information aside, one then has to question the terminology employed in the article.

As a piece of computer software, Kodi cannot catch fire. So, what we’re actually talking about here is small computers coming into the country without passing safety checks. The presence of Kodi on the devices – if indeed Kodi was even installed pre-import – is absolutely irrelevant.

Anti-piracy groups warning people of the dangers associated with their piracy habits is nothing new. For years, Internet users have been told that their computers will become malware infested if they share files or stream infringing content. While in some cases that may be true, there’s rarely any effort by those delivering the warnings to inform people on how to stay safe.

A classic example can be found in the numerous reports put out by the Digital Citizens Alliance in the United States. The DCA has produced several and no doubt expensive reports which claim to highlight the risks Internet users are exposed to on ‘pirate’ sites.

The DCA claims to do this in the interests of consumers but the group offers no practical advice on staying safe nor does it provide consumers with risk reduction strategies. Like many high-level ‘drug prevention’ documents shuffled around government, it could be argued that on a ‘street’ level their reports are next to useless.

Demonizing piracy is a well-worn and well-understood strategy but if warnings are to be interpreted as representing genuine concern for the welfare of people, they have to be a lot more substantial than mere scaremongering.

Anyone concerned about potentially dangerous devices can check out these useful guides from Electrical Safety First (pdf) and the Electrical Safety Council (pdf)

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

Pirate Bay Ruling is Bad News For Google & YouTube, Experts Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-ruling-is-bad-news-for-google-youtube-experts-says-170615/

After years of legal wrangling, yesterday the European Court of Justice handed down a decision in the case between Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN and ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL.

BREIN had demanded that the ISPs block The Pirate Bay, but both providers dug in their heels, forcing the case through the Supreme Court and eventually the ECJ.

For BREIN, yesterday’s decision will have been worth the wait. Although The Pirate Bay does not provide the content that’s ultimately downloaded and shared by its users, the ECJ said that it plays an important role in how that content is presented.

“Whilst it accepts that the works in question are placed online by the users, the Court highlights the fact that the operators of the platform play an essential role in making those works available,” the Court said.

With that established the all-important matter is whether by providing such a platform, the operators of The Pirate Bay are effectively engaging in a “communication to the public” of copyrighted works. According to the ECJ, that’s indeed the case.

“The Court holds that the making available and management of an online sharing platform must be considered to be an act of communication for the purposes of the directive,” the ECJ said.

Add into the mix that The Pirate Bay generates profit from its activities and there’s a potent case for copyright liability.

While the case was about The Pirate Bay, ECJ rulings tend to have an effect far beyond individual cases. That’s certainly the opinion of Enzo Mazza, chief at Italian anti-piracy group FIMI.

“The ruling will have a major impact on the way that entities like Google operate, because it will expose them to a greater and more direct responsibility,” Mazza told La Repubblica.

“So far, Google has worked against piracy by eliminating illegal content after it gets reported. But that is not enough. It is a fairly ineffective intervention.”

Mazza says that platforms like Google, YouTube, and thousands of similar sites that help to organize and curate user-uploaded content are somewhat similar to The Pirate Bay. In any event, they are not neutral intermediaries, he insists.

The conclusion that the decision is bad for platforms like YouTube is shared by Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with Sarzana and Partners, a law firm specializing in Internet and copyright disputes.

“In the ruling, the Court has in fact attributed, for the first time, secondary liability to sharing platforms due to the violation of copyrights carried out by the users of a platform,” Sarzana informs TF.

“This will have consequences for video-sharing platforms and user-generated content sites like YouTube, but it excludes responsibility for platforms that play a purely passive role, without affecting users’ content. This the case with cyberlockers, for example.”

Sarzana says that “unfortunate judgments” like this should be expected, until the approval of a new European copyright law. Enzo Mazza, on the other hand, feels that the copyright reform debate should take account of this ruling when formulating legislation to stop platforms like YouTube exploiting copyright works without an appropriate license.

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

Global Entertainment Giants Form Massive Anti-Piracy Coalition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/global-entertainment-giants-form-massive-anti-piracy-coalition-170613/

It’s not unusual for companies within the same area of business to collaborate in order to combat piracy. The studios and labels that form the MPAA and RIAA, for example, have doing just that for decades.

Today, however, an unprecedented number of global content creators and distribution platforms have announced the formation of a brand new coalition to collaboratively fight Internet piracy on a global scale.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order the members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In a joint announcement today, ACE notes that there are now more than 480 services available for consumers to watch films and TV programs online. However, despite that abundance of content, piracy continues to pose a threat to creators and the economy.

“Films and television shows can often be found on pirate sites within days – and in many cases hours – of release,” ACE said in a statement.

“Last year, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. There were also an estimated 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide across both desktops and mobile devices in 2016.”

Rather than the somewhat fragmented anti-piracy approach currently employed by ACE members separately, the coalition will present a united front of all major content creators and distributors, with a mission to cooperate and expand in order to minimize the threat.

At the center of the alliance appears to be the MPAA. ACE reports that the anti-piracy resources of the Hollywood group will be used “in concert” with the existing anti-piracy departments of the member companies.

Unprecedented scale aside, ACE’s modus operandi will be a familiar one.

The coalition says it will work closely with law enforcement to shut down pirate sites and services, file civil litigation, and forge new relationships with other content protection groups. It will also strive to reach voluntary anti-piracy agreements with other interested parties across the Internet.

MPAA chief Chris Dodd, whose group will play a major role in ACE, welcomed the birth of the alliance.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,” Dodd said.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

The traditionally non-aggressive BBC described ACE as “hugely important” in the fight against “theft and illegal distribution”, with Netflix noting that even its creative strategies for dealing with piracy are in need of assistance.

“While we’re focused on providing a great consumer experience that ultimately discourages piracy, there are still bad players around the world trying to profit off the hard work of others,” said Netflix General Counsel, David Hyman.

“By joining ACE, we will work together, share knowledge, and leverage the group’s combined anti-piracy resources to address the global online piracy problem.”

It’s likely that the creation of ACE will go down as a landmark moment in the fight against piracy. Never before has such a broad coalition promised to pool resources on such a grand and global scale. That being said, with great diversity comes the potential for greatly diverging opinions, so only time will tell if this coalition can really hold together.

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

Copyright Holders Keep Targeting Dead Torrent Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-keep-targeting-dead-torrent-sites-170611/

Over the past year several major torrent sites have shut down, causing quite an uproar among file-sharers.

Interestingly, however, several copyright holders still appear to think that these sites are alive and kicking. That is, judging from the takedown notices they send to Google.

Publisher Penguin Random House is particularly forgetful. Through its anti-piracy partner Digimarc, the company has reported hundreds of ‘infringing’ KickassTorrents URLs. Not only was KAT shut down last summer, the reported URLs are no longer listed in Google’s search results either.

Penguin is not alone though. Other rightsholders such as Sony Music, Dreamroom Productions, Taylor & Francis Group, The University of Chicago Press and many others have made the same mistakes recently.

Over the past month alone Google has received 1,340 takedown notices for Kat.cr URLs and an additional 775 for the Kat.ph domain name.

The problem is not limited to KAT either. Torrentz.eu, another major torrent site that went offline last summer, is still being targeted at well.

For example, earlier this week Sony Pictures asked Google to remove a Torrentz.eu URL that linked to the series Community, even though it is no longer indexed. In just one month copyright holders sent Google 4,960 takedown requests for “dead” Torrentz URLs.

Recent takedown requests for Torrentz.eu

Apparently, the reporting outfits have failed to adjust their piracy monitoring bots for the changing torrent landscape.

The mistakes are likely due to automated keyword filters that scour sites and forums for links to hosting services. These bots don’t bother to check whether Google actually indexes the content, nor do they remove dead sites from their system.

While targeting dead KAT and Torrentz links is bad enough, things can get worse.

The iconic torrent search isoHunt.com shut down following a MPAA lawsuit in 2013, well over three years ago. Nonetheless, rightsholders still sent Google takedown notices for the site, more than a dozen a month actually.

Or what about BTJunkie. This torrent indexer closed its doors voluntarily more than half a decade ago. Dead or not, some copyright holders still manage to find infringing links in some of the darkest corners of the Internet.

Apparently, torrent users are far quicker to adapt to the changing landscape than the monitoring outfits of some copyright holders…

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

Who’s To Blame For The Kodi Crackdown?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/whos-to-blame-for-the-kodi-crackdown-170611/

Perfectly legal as standard, the Kodi media player can be easily modified to turn it into the ultimate streaming piracy machine.

Uptake by users has been nothing short of phenomenal. Millions of people are now consuming illicit media through third-party Kodi addons. With free movies, TV shows, sports, live TV and more on tap, it’s not difficult to see why the system is so popular.

As a result, barely a day goes by without Kodi making headlines and this week was no exception. On Monday, TorrentFreak broke the news that the ZEMTV addon and TV Addons, one of the most popular addon communities, were being sued by Dish Network for copyright infringement.

Within hours of the announcement and apparently as a direct result, several addons (including the massively popular Phoenix) decided to throw in the towel. Quite understandably, users of the platforms were disappointed, and that predictably resulted in people attempting to apportion blame.

The first comment to catch the eye was posted directly beneath our article. Interestingly, it placed the blame squarely on our shoulders.

“Thanks Torrentfreak, for ruining Kodi,” it read.

While shooting the messenger is an option, it’s historically problematic. Town criers were the original newsreaders, delivering important messages to the public. Killing a town crier was considered treason, but it was also pointless – it didn’t change the facts on the ground.

So if we can’t kill those who read about a lawsuit in the public PACER system and reported it, who’s left to blame? Unsurprisingly, there’s no shortage of targets, but most of them fall short.

The underlying theme is that most people voicing a negative opinion about the profile of Kodi do not appreciate their previously niche piracy system being in the spotlight. Everything was just great when just a few people knew about the marvelous hidden world of ‘secret’ XBMC/Kodi addons, many insist, but seeing it in the mainstream press is a disaster. It’s difficult to disagree.

However, the point where this all falls down is when people are asked when the discussion about Kodi should’ve stopped. We haven’t questioned them all, of course, but it’s almost guaranteed that while most with a grievance didn’t want Kodi getting too big, they absolutely appreciate the fact that someone told them about it. Piracy and piracy techniques spread by word of mouth so unfortunately, people can’t have it both ways.

Interestingly, some people placed the blame on TV Addons, the site that hosts the addons themselves. They argued that the addon scene didn’t need such a high profile target and that the popularity of the site only brought unwanted attention. However, for every critic, there are apparently thousands who love what the site does to raise the profile of Kodi. Without that, it’s clear that there would be fewer users and indeed, fewer addons.

For TV Addons’ part, they’re extremely clear who’s responsible for bringing the heat. On numerous occasions in emails to TF, the operators of the repository have blamed those who have attempted to commercialize the Kodi scene. For them, the responsibility must be placed squarely on the shoulders of people selling ‘Kodi boxes’ on places like eBay and Amazon. Once big money got involved, that attracted the authorities, they argue.

With this statement in mind, TF spoke with a box seller who previously backed down from selling on eBay due to issues over Kodi’s trademark. He didn’t want to speak on the record but admitted to selling “a couple of thousand” boxes over the past two years, noting that all he did was respond to demand with supply.

And this brings us full circle and a bit closer to apportioning blame for the Kodi crackdown.

The bottom line is that when it comes to piracy, Kodi and its third-party ‘pirate’ addons are so good at what they do, it’s no surprise they’ve been a smash hit with Internet users. All of the content that anyone could want – and more – accessible in one package, on almost any platform? That’s what consumers have been demanding for more than a decade and a half.

That brings us to the unavoidable conclusion that modified Kodi simply got too good at delivering content outside controlled channels, and that success was impossible to moderate or calm. Quite simply, every user that added to the Kodi phenomenon by installing the software with ‘pirate’ addons has to shoulder some of the blame for the crackdown.

That might sound harsh but in the piracy world it’s never been any different. Without millions of users, The Pirate Bay raid would never have happened. Without users, KickassTorrents might still be rocking today. But of course, what would be the point?

Users might break sites and services, but they also make them. That’s the piracy paradox.

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

Online Platforms Should Collaborate to Ban Piracy and Terrorism, Report Suggests

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/online-platforms-collaborate-ban-piracy-terrorism-report-suggests-170608/

With deep ties to the content industries, the Digital Citizens Alliance periodically produces reports on Internet piracy. It has published reports on cyberlockers and tried to blame Cloudflare for the spread of malware, for example.

One of the key themes pursued by DCA is that Internet piracy is inextricably linked to a whole bunch of other online evils and that tackling the former could deliver a much-needed body blow to the latter.

Its new report, titled ‘Trouble in Our Digital Midst’, takes this notion and runs with it, bundling piracy with everything from fake news to hacking, to malware and brand protection, to the sextortion of “young girls and boys” via their computer cameras.

The premise of the report is that cybercrime as a whole is undermining America’s trust in the Internet, noting that 64% of US citizens say that their trust in digital platforms has dropped in the last year. Given the topics under the spotlight, it doesn’t take long to see where this is going – Internet platforms like Google, Facebook and YouTube must tackle the problem.

“When asked, ‘In your opinion, are digital platforms doing enough to keep the Internet safe and trustworthy, or are do they need to do more?’ a staggering 75 percent responded that they need to do more to keep the Internet safe,” the report notes.

It’s abundantly clear that the report is mostly about piracy but a lot of effort has been expended to ensure that people support its general call for the Internet to be cleaned up. By drawing attention to things that even most pirates might find offensive, it’s easy to find more people in agreement.

“Nearly three-quarters of respondents see the pairing of brand name advertising with offensive online content – like ISIS/terrorism recruiting videos – as a threat to the continued trust and integrity of the Internet,” the report notes.

Of course, this is an incredibly sensitive topic. When big brand ads turned up next to terrorist recruiting videos on YouTube, there was an almighty stink, and rightly so. However, at every turn, the DCA report manages to weave the issue of piracy into the equation, noting that the problem includes the “$200 million in advertising that shows up on illegal content theft websites often unbeknownst to the brands.”

The overriding theme is that platforms like Google, Facebook, and YouTube should be able to tackle all of these problems in the same way. Filtering out a terrorist video is the same as removing a pirate movie. And making sure that ads for big brands don’t appear alongside terrorist videos will be just as easy as starving pirates of revenue, the suggestion goes.

But if terrorism doesn’t grind your gears, what about fake news?

“64 percent of Americans say that the Fake News issue has made them less likely to trust the Internet as a source of information,” the report notes.

At this juncture, Facebook gets a gentle pat on the back for dealing with fake news and employing 3,000 people to monitor for violent videos being posted to the network. This shows that the company “takes seriously” the potential harm bad actors pose to Internet safety. But in keeping with the theme running throughout the report, it’s clear DCA are carefully easing in the thin end of the wedge.

“We are at only the beginning of thinking through other kinds of illicit and illegal activity happening on digital platforms right now that we must gain or re-gain control over,” DCA writes.

Quite. In the very next sentence, the group goes on to warn about the sale of drugs and stolen credit cards, adding that the sale of illicit streaming devices (modified Kodi boxes etc) is actually an “insidious yet effective delivery mechanism to infect computers with malware such as Remote Access Trojans.”

Both Amazon and Facebook receive praise in the report for their recent banning (1,2) of augmented Kodi devices but their actions are actually framed as the companies protecting their own reputations, rather than the interests of the media groups that have been putting them under pressure.

“And though this issue underscores the challenges faced by digital platforms – not all of which act with the same level of responsibility – it also highlights the fact digital platforms can and will step up when their own brands are at stake,” the report reads.

But pirate content and Remote Access Trojans through Kodi boxes are only the beginning. Pirate sites are playing a huge part as well, DCA claims, with one in three “content theft websites” exposing people to identify theft, ransomware, and sextortion via “the computer cameras of young girls and boys.”

Worst still, if that was possible, the lack of policing by online platforms means that people are able to “showcase live sexual assaults, murders, and other illegal conduct.”

DCA says that with all this in mind, Americans are looking for online digital platforms to help them. The group claims that citizens need proactive protection from these ills and want companies like Facebook to take similar steps to those taken when warning consumers about fake news and violent content.

So what can be done to stop this tsunami of illegality? According to DCA, platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter need to up their game and tackle the problem together.

“While digital platforms collaborate on policy and technical issues, there is no evidence that they are sharing information about the bad actors themselves. That enables criminals and bad actors to move seamlessly from platform to platform,” DCA writes.

“There are numerous examples of industry working together to identify and share information about exploitive behavior. For example, casinos share information about card sharks and cheats, and for decades the retail industry has shared information about fraudulent credit cards. A similar model would enable digital platforms and law enforcement to more quickly identify and combat those seeking to leverage the platforms to harm consumers.”

How this kind of collaboration could take place in the real world is open to interpretation but the DCA has a few suggestions of its own. Again, it doesn’t shy away from pulling people on side with something extremely offensive (in this case child pornography) in order to push what is clearly an underlying anti-piracy agenda.

“With a little help from engineers, digital platforms could create fingerprints of unlawful conduct that is shared across platforms to proactively block such conduct, as is done in a limited capacity with child pornography,” DCA explains.

“If these and other newly developed measures were adopted, digital platforms would have the information to enable them to make decisions whether to de-list or demote websites offering illicit goods and services, and the ability to stop the spread of illegal behavior that victimizes its users.”

The careful framing of the DCA report means that there’s something for everyone. If you don’t agree with them on tackling piracy, then their malware, fake news, or child exploitation angles might do the trick. It’s quite a clever strategy but one that the likes of Google, Facebook, and YouTube will recognize immediately.

And they need to – because apparently, it’s their job to sort all of this out. Good luck with that.

The full report can be found here (pdf)

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

[$] Guarding personally identifiable information

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/724672/rss

There is no viable way to prevent data from being collected about us in the
current age of computing. But if institutions insist on knowing our
financial status, purchasing habits, health information,
political preferences, and so on, they have a responsibility to keep this
data—known as personally identifiable information (PII)—from leaking to
unauthorized recipients. At the 2017 Strata data
conference
in London, Steve Touw presented a session
on privacy-enhancing technologies
. In a fast-paced 40 minutes he
covered the EU regulations about privacy, the most popular technical
measures used to protect PII, and some pointed opinions about what works
and what should be thrown into the dustbin.

Surveillance Intermediaries

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/surveillance_in_2.html

Interesting law-journal article: “Surveillance Intermediaries,” by Alan Z. Rozenshtein.

Abstract:Apple’s 2016 fight against a court order commanding it to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists exemplifies how central the question of regulating government surveillance has become in American politics and law. But scholarly attempts to answer this question have suffered from a serious omission: scholars have ignored how government surveillance is checked by “surveillance intermediaries,” the companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook that dominate digital communications and data storage, and on whose cooperation government surveillance relies. This Article fills this gap in the scholarly literature, providing the first comprehensive analysis of how surveillance intermediaries constrain the surveillance executive. In so doing, it enhances our conceptual understanding of, and thus our ability to improve, the institutional design of government surveillance.

Surveillance intermediaries have the financial and ideological incentives to resist government requests for user data. Their techniques of resistance are: proceduralism and litigiousness that reject voluntary cooperation in favor of minimal compliance and aggressive litigation; technological unilateralism that designs products and services to make surveillance harder; and policy mobilization that rallies legislative and public opinion to limit surveillance. Surveillance intermediaries also enhance the “surveillance separation of powers”; they make the surveillance executive more subject to inter-branch constraints from Congress and the courts, and to intra-branch constraints from foreign-relations and economics agencies as well as the surveillance executive’s own surveillance-limiting components.

The normative implications of this descriptive account are important and cross-cutting. Surveillance intermediaries can both improve and worsen the “surveillance frontier”: the set of tradeoffs ­ between public safety, privacy, and economic growth ­ from which we choose surveillance policy. And while intermediaries enhance surveillance self-government when they mobilize public opinion and strengthen the surveillance separation of powers, they undermine it when their unilateral technological changes prevent the government from exercising its lawful surveillance authorities.

No, Netflix Hasn’t Won The War on Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/no-netflix-hasnt-won-the-war-on-piracy-170604/

Recently a hacker group, or hacker, going by the name TheDarkOverlord (TDO) published the premiere episode of the fifth season of Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, followed by nine more episodes a few hours later.

TDO obtained the videos from Larson Studios, which didn’t pay the 50 bitcoin ransom TDO had requested. The hackers then briefly turned their attention to Netflix, before releasing the shows online.

In the aftermath, a flurry of articles claimed that Netflix’s refusal to pay means that it is winning the war on piracy. Torrents are irrelevant or no longer a real threat and piracy is pointless, they concluded.

One of the main reasons cited is a decline in torrent traffic over the years, as reported by the network equipment company Sandvine.

“Last year, BitTorrent traffic reached 1.73 percent of peak period downstream traffic in North America. That’s down from the 60 percent share peer-to-peer file sharing had in 2003. Netflix was responsible for 35.15 percent of downstream traffic,” one reporter wrote.

Piracy pointless?

Even Wired, a reputable technology news site, jumped on the bandwagon.

“It’s not that torrenting is so onerous. But compared to legitimate streaming, the process of downloading a torrenting client, finding a legit file, waiting for it to download, and watching it on a laptop (or mirroring it to a television) hardly seems worth it,” the articles states.

These and many similar articles suggest that Netflix’s ease of use is superior to piracy. Netflix is winning the war on piracy, which is pretty much reduced to a fringe activity carried out by old school data hoarders, they claimed.

But is that really the case?

I wholeheartedly agree that Netflix is a great alternative to piracy, and admit that torrents are not as dominant as they were before. But, everybody who thinks that piracy is limited to torrents, need to educate themselves properly.

Piracy has evolved quite a bit over the past several years and streaming is now the main source to satisfy people’s ‘illegal’ viewing demands.

Whether it’s through pirate streaming sites, mobile apps or dedicated media players hooked to TVs; it’s not hard to argue that piracy is easier and more convenient than it has even been in the past. And arguably, more popular too.

The statistics are dazzling. According to piracy monitoring outfit MUSO there are half a billion visits to video pirate sites every day. Roughly 60% of these are to streaming sites.

While there has been a small decline in streaming visits over the past year, MUSO’s data doesn’t cover the explosion of media player piracy, which means that there is likely a significant increase in piracy overall.

TorrentFreak contacted the aforementioned network equipment company Sandvine, which said that we’re “on to something.”

Unfortunately, they currently have no data to quantify the amount of pirate streaming activity. This is, in part, because many of these streams are hosted by legitimate companies such as Google.

Torrents may not be dominant anymore, but with hundreds of millions of visits to streaming pirate sites per day, and many more via media players and other apps, piracy is still very much alive. Just ask the Motion Picture Association.

I would even argue that piracy is more of a threat to Netflix than it has ever been before.

To illustrate, here is a screenshot from one of the most visited streaming piracy sites online. The site in question receives millions of views per day and featured two Netflix shows, “13 Reasons Why” and the leaked “Orange is The New Black,” in its daily “most viewed” section recently.

Netflix shows among the “most viewed” pirate streams

If you look at a random streaming site, you’ll see that they offer an overview of thousands of popular movies and TV-shows, far more than Netflix. Pirate streaming sites have more content than Netflix, often in high quality, and it doesn’t cost a penny.

Throw in the explosive growth of piracy-capable media players that can bring this content directly to the TV-screen, and you’ll start to realize the magnitude of this threat.

In a way, the boost in streaming piracy is a bigger threat to Netflix than the traditional Hollywood studios. Hollywood still has its exclusive release windows and a superior viewing experience at the box office. All Netflix content is instantly pirated, or already available long before they add it to their catalog.

Sure, pirate sites might not appeal to the average middle-class news columnist who’s been subscribed to Netflix for years, but for tens of millions of less fortunate people, who can do without another monthly charge on their household bill, it’s an easy choice.

Not the right choice, legally speaking, but that doesn’t seem to bother them much.

That’s illustrated by tens of thousands of people from all over the world commenting with their public Facebook accounts, on movies and TV-shows that were obviously pirated.

Pirate comments on a streaming site

Of course, if piracy disappeared overnight then only a fraction of these pirates would pay for a Netflix subscription, but saying that piracy is irrelevant for the streaming giant may be a bit much.

Netflix itself is all too aware of this it seems. The company has launched its own “Global Copyright Protection Group,” an anti-piracy division that’s on par with those of many major Hollywood studios.

Netflix isn’t winning the war on piracy; it just got started….

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

When a Big Torrent Site Dies, Some Hope it Will Be Right Back

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/when-a-big-torrent-site-dies-some-hope-it-will-be-right-back-170604/

For a niche that has had millions of words written about it over the past 18 years or so, most big piracy stories have had the emotions of people at their core.

When The Pirate Bay was taken down by the police eleven years ago it was global news, but the real story was the sense of disbelief and loss felt by millions of former users. Outsiders may dismiss these feelings, but they are very common and very real.

Of course, those negative emotions soon turned to glee when the site returned days later, but full-on, genuine resurrections are something that few big sites have been able to pull off since. What we have instead today is the sudden disappearance of iconic sites and a scrambling by third-party opportunists to fill in the gaps with look-a-like platforms.

The phenomenon has affected many big sites, from The Pirate Bay itself through to KickassTorrents, YTS/YIFY, and more recently, ExtraTorrent. When sites disappear, it’s natural for former users to look for replacements. And when those replacements look just like the real deal there’s a certain amount of comfort to be had. For many users, these sites provide the perfect antidote to their feelings of loss.

That being said, the clone site phenomenon has seriously got out of hand. Pioneered by players in the streaming site scene, fake torrent sites can now be found in abundance wherever there is a brand worth copying. ExtraTorrent operator SaM knew this when he closed his site last month, and he took the time to warn people away from them personally.

“Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones,” he said.

It’s questionable how many listened.

Within days, users were flooding to fake ExtraTorrent sites, encouraged by some elements of the press. Despite having previously reported SaM’s clear warnings, some publications were still happy to report that ExtraTorrent was back, purely based on the word of the fake sites themselves. And I’ve got a bridge for sale, if you have the cash.

While misleading news reports must take some responsibility, it’s clear that when big sites go down a kind of grieving process takes place among dedicated former users, making some more likely to clutch at straws. While some simply move on, others who have grown more attached to a platform they used to call home can go into denial.

This reaction has often been seen in TF’s mailbox, when YTS/YIFY went down in particular. More recently, dozens of emails informed us that ExtraTorrent had gone, with many others asking when it was coming back. But the ones that stood out most were from people who had read SaM’s message, read TF’s article stating that ALL clones were fakes, yet still wanted to know if sites a, b and c were legitimate or not.

We approached a user on Reddit who asked similar things and been derided by other users for his apparent reluctance to accept that ExtraTorrent had gone. We didn’t find stupidity (as a few in /r/piracy had cruelly suggested) but a genuine sense of loss.

“I loved the site dude, what can I say?” he told TF. “Just kinda got used to it and hung around. Before I knew it I was logging in every day. In time it just felt like home. I miss it.”

The user hadn’t seen the articles claiming that one of the imposter ExtraTorrent sites was the real deal. He did, however, seem a bit unsettled when we told him it was a fake. But when we asked if he was going to stop using it, we received an emphatic “no”.

“Dude it looks like ET and yeah it’s not quite the same but I can get my torrents. Why does it matter what crew [runs it]?” he said.

It does matter, of course. The loss of a proper torrent site like ExtraTorrent, which had releasers and a community, can never be replaced by a custom-skinned Pirate Bay mirror. No matter how much it looks like a lost friend, it’s actually a pig in lipstick that contributes little to the ecosystem.

That being said, it’s difficult to counter the fact that some of these clones make people happy. They fill a void that other sites, for mainly cosmetic reasons, can’t fill. With this in mind, the grounds for criticism weaken a little – but not much.

For anyone who has watched the Black Mirror episode ‘Be Right Back‘, it’s clear that sudden loss can be a hard thing for humans to accept. When trying to fill the gap, what might initially seem like a good replacement is almost certainly destined to disappoint longer term, when the sub-standard copy fails to capture the heart and soul of the real deal.

It’s an issue that will occupy the piracy scene for some time to come, but interestingly, it’s also an argument that Hollywood has used against piracy itself for decades. But that’s another story.

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

The Pirate Bay Remains Resilient, 11 Years After The Raid

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-remains-on-top-11-years-after-the-raid-170531/

There are a handful of traditions we have at TorrentFreak, and remembering the first raid on The Pirate Bay is one of them.

Not only was it the first major story we covered, it also had a significant impact on how the piracy ecosystem evolved over the years, and the role TPB has taken on since then.

This is just as relevant today as it was a decade ago. Following a year in which KickassTorrents, Torrentz.eu and ExtraTorrent were all shut down, The Pirate Bay remains online.

While the site has had plenty of downtime issues in recent years, many people may not realize that without a few essential keystrokes in the site’s early years, The Pirate Bay may not have been here today.

This is what happened.

The Raid

May 31, 2006, less than three years after The Pirate Bay was founded, 65 Swedish police officers entered a datacenter in Stockholm. The policemen had instructions to shut down the Pirate Bay’s servers, which were already seen as a major threat to the entertainment industry.

At the time The Pirate Bay wasn’t the giant it is today though. And ironically, the raid only made the site bigger, stronger, and more resilient.

As the police were about to enter the datacenter, Pirate Bay founders Gottfrid and Fredrik got wind that something was up.

In the months before the raid they were already being watched by private investigators day and night, but this time something was about to happen to their trackers.

At around 10 am in the morning Gottfrid told Fredrik that there were police officers at their office, and asked him to get down to the co-location facility and get rid of the ‘incriminating evidence,’ although none of it, whatever it was, was related to The Pirate Bay.

As Fredrik was leaving, he suddenly realized that the problems might be linked to their tracker. He therefore decided to make a full backup of the site, just in case.

When he later arrived at the co-location facility, the concerns turned out to be justified. There were dozens of policemen floating around taking away dozens of servers, most of which belonged to clients unrelated to The Pirate Bay.

Footage from The Pirate Bay raid

In the days that followed, it became clear that Fredrik’s decision to create a backup of the site was probably the most pivotal moment in the site’s history. Because of this backup, Fredrik and the rest of the Pirate Bay team managed to resurrect the site within three days.

Of course, the entire situation was handled with the mockery TPB had become known for.

Unimpressed, the site’s operators renamed the site “The Police Bay”, complete with a new logo shooting cannon balls at Hollywood. A few days later this logo was replaced by a Phoenix, a reference to the site rising from its digital ashes.

Logos after the raid

tpb classic

Instead of shutting it down, the raid propelled The Pirate Bay into the mainstream press, not least due to its swift resurrection. All the publicity also triggered a huge traffic spike for TPB, exactly the opposite effect Hollywood had hoped for.

Despite a criminal investigation leading to convictions for the site’s founders, The Pirate Bay kept growing and growing in the years that followed.

The site’s assets, meanwhile, were reportedly transferred to the Seychelles-based company Reservella.

Under new ownership, several major technical changes occurred. In the fall of 2009 the infamous BitTorrent tracker was taken offline, turning The Pirate Bay into a torrent indexing site.

Early 2012 The Pirate Bay went even further when it decided to cease offering torrent files for well-seeded content. The site’s operators moved to magnet links instead, allowing them to save resources while making it easier for third-party sites to run proxies.

These proxies turned out to be much-needed, as The Pirate Bay is now the most broadly censored website on the Internet. In recent years, ISPs all around the world have been ordered by courts to block subscriber access to the torrent site.

While TPB swiftly recovered from the “original” raid, it did suffer nearly two months of downtime late 2014 when another raid took place.

Initially it was believed that some of the site’s crucial servers were taken by the police, but the TPB team later said that it was barely hit and that they took the site offline as a precaution.

While the first raid made The Pirate Bay stronger, the two-month stint of downtime was a big hit. The site initially lost a lot of traffic, but after other key torrent sites were shutdown, it is now the most dominant player once again.

Although domain problems, technical issues, and outages are a regular occurance nowadays, TPB is still here. But remember, if there hadn’t been a recent backup back in 2006, things might have turned out quite differently.

The question that remains now is how long The Pirate Bay can keep going. The site has weathered several storms, but now that most other large sites are gone the pressure is growing.

To some, TPB lost its shine in recent years and several “co-founders” would rather see it gone. For now, however, that doesn’t seem to bother the current TPB-team. They do all they can to keep the site online, just like the site’s operator did on May 31, 2006.

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