Tag Archives: piracy

Ebook Piracy Grows, Contrary to The Trend

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/ebook-piracy-grows-contrary-to-the-trend/

Piracy statistics can be tricky. Trends often go in different directions, depending on the region, the type of media, as well as the research timeframe.

One of the most elaborate datasets collected in recent years comes from the University of Amsterdam.

Among other things, it suggested that legal options are a better way to beat piracy than enforcement.

The underlying data forms the basis of a new research article where two nearly identical piracy surveys from 2012 and 2017 were compared. This allowed the researchers to look at changes in media consumption and piracy habits among the Dutch public over the years.

The respondents were asked about both legal and unauthorized consumption of music, movies and TV, games, and books. One of the overall findings was that between 2012 and 2017 the interest in physical goods plummeted.

For example, the number of people who bought physical music carriers was slashed in half to 20% and for movies/TV the decline was even more pronounced, falling from 45% to 20%. Physical books saw the smallest drop, with 60% still buying real books, down from 69%.

This trend coincides with a massive boost in digital sales. The number of people who bought digital entertainment increased across all categories, nearly tripling for movies and TV, which is likely due to Netflix. That’s a positive sign for the entertainment industries, which is also reflected in the piracy frequencies.

Results, in Dutch

The survey found that the percentage of people who still download or stream content from unauthorized sources decreased for nearly every category. This effect is most significant for music and games, while movie and TV piracy remained relatively stable.

The only category for which the piracy rate went up was Ebooks. Between 2012 and 2017 the number of Ebook pirates increased from 6.3% to 7.7%, which is marginally significant.

According to the researchers, this shows that these book pirates are missing something in the current legal offering. A good subscription service for example, where people can access an unlimited number of books for a fixed price.

“Looking at the other markets, access-based subscriptions appear to be the most promising, where a large increase in the number of transactions compensates a lower average return per transaction,” the researchers write.

While not mentioned in the article, the massive increase in Ebook consumers may also play a role in the increased piracy rate. The number of people who bought Ebooks, and thus have e-readers, increased by 80% between 2012 and 2017.

Part of this new e-reader userbase apparently showed an interest in pirated books as well, which likely impacted the piracy rate. With that in mind, the piracy increase is relatively modest.

The research also looked at various pirate demographics and how these changed over time. This shows that between 2012 and 2017, women started to pirate more books and fewer games and music. These changes are more pronounced than for men.

In addition, the data reveal that, overall, less educated people pirate less. This is the case across all categories but the biggest difference can be found in the books category.

If anything, the findings show that generic statements about piracy rates and the average pirate are relatively meaningless. It is the finer detail that helps us to understand what’s really happening.

The present survey data shows that physical media is quickly losing popularity as more people consume legal content digitally. At the same time, piracy rates are dropping significantly for music and games, at least in the Netherlands, while Ebook piracy slowly increases.

A copy of the paper (in Dutch) titled “Polderpiraten voor anker” written by Joost Poort, Martin van der Ende, and Anastasia Yagafarova is available here.

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

Back to Piracy For Adobe Users in Venezuela But Most Pirate Anyway

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/back-to-piracy-for-adobe-users-in-venezuela-but-most-pirate-anyway-191009/

This week, Adobe delivered a worrying message to legitimate users of its software and services in Venezuela.

In response to a sanctions-related executive order (pdf) handed down by the US Government, the software company said it would have to terminate business relations with subscribers in the country.

This means that legitimate users of Photoshop and other Adobe software and services will lose access to the tools they’ve paid for. With all accounts set to be terminated on October 29, 2019, many customers will be left high and dry, with only a refund to look forward to – hopefully.

“If you purchased directly from Adobe, we will refund you by the end of the month for any paid, but unused services. We are working with our partners on the same,” the company announced.

The withdrawal of Adobe from Venezuela will no doubt deliver serious inconvenience for the country’s licensed users. However, they are in the minority. Licensing software doesn’t appear to be a mainstream activity, even in the face of decreasing price tags for Adobe products, for example.

According to Giampiero Posa of Posa Studio Creativo, a certified Adobe training center in Venezuela, the annual $200 fee for Adobe suite is still a luxury given the dire economic situation in the country. Just a few years ago, the cost was $1,780, a headline figure which did nothing to help piracy rates in the country.

The most recent Global Software Survey (pdf) published in 2018 by the Software Alliance (BSA) shows that in the previous year, Venezuela had the world’s joint second-highest rate of unlicensed software installation. At 89%, the country tied with Zimbabwe and was edged out only by Libya with 90%.

Figures from the trade group show that the situation hasn’t improved at all in eight years. In 2011, unlicensed installs accounted for 88% of the Venezuelan market, a figure that remained stubbornly stable until a 1% increase in 2017 made the situation marginally worse.

Clearly, the removal of offerings from Adobe and other companies offers no hope of a decline anytime soon but of course, alternatives do exist. Open-source tools provide a legal alternative but given high piracy rates and the comfort with which unlicensed software is apparently consumed, even more piracy seems the likely outcome.

And the possibility of consequences for that, especially factoring in hostility from the United States, seem more distant than ever.

A review of Venezuelan copyright litigation, published by Manuel Rodriguez of the Antequera Parilli & Rodriguez law firm, states that to date “there have been few cases of copyright infringements being sued before the courts.”

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

‘Pirate’ IPTV Traffic “Dropped 50%” After Xtream Codes Raid

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-traffic-dropped-50-after-xtream-codes-raid-190927/

Last week the illicit IPTV market was thrown into turmoil when Italian authorities teamed up with law enforcement groups in the EU.

Their operation, dubbed ‘Black IPTV‘, targeted individuals and equipment behind at least one Italy-based IPTV provider. More importantly, however, it also targeted Xtream Codes, a management system utilized by many providers and sellers of IPTV services.

While Xtream Codes claimed to be a content-agnostic system, its popularity in the unlicensed market is hard to understate. With an estimated 5,000 providers of varying kinds on its books servicing around 50 million end-users, its closure had an immediate and dramatic impact.

In the immediate aftermath of the raids, suppliers reported an inability to sign up new customers or renew customer subscriptions. Within several hours, it became clear that anyone reliant on the system would be more seriously affected, with IPTV services going dark and paying customers seeing red.

As soon as news of the raids appeared on our radar, we contacted several previously responsive players in the IPTV market. Precisely zero responded to our requests for comment amid the chaos, which was widespread and by some estimates affected up to 90% of the market. Data from Google Trends does seem to indicate that plenty of people hit its search engine for news.

Searches for ‘Xtream Codes’ and ‘IPTV’ just after the raids

With no obvious central source for information on the impact of the operation, the day after the raids TorrentFreak contacted Sandvine, a networking equipment company that has previously provided detailed analysis on general Internet and piracy-related traffic.

An external source that requested anonymity told us that due to technical issues the full force of the raid may not be felt until Thursday or Friday, the two days directly after the raids took place. So, we asked Sandvine if the company had noticed any significant drop in illicit streaming traffic during that period – it had.

This week a spokesperson for the company told TorrentFreak that on Friday September 20, Sandvine estimated that illicit streaming traffic had decreased 50% from the levels seen on Thursday, a massive drop by any standards.

That many illicit IPTV providers had been seriously affected by Xtream Codes’ removal from the market didn’t really come as a shock. Equally, it wasn’t really a surprise when providers began to adapt to the loss either.

Slowly but surely, some providers and sellers began migrating to alternative management systems, as detailed in emails to subscribers seen by TF. By Saturday, better news for them began to filter through, with services not only returning but also with subscriber payment and subscription information intact.

Sandvine gave TF a brief list of five providers, all of which went down completely between the 19th and 21st of September. By 21st/22nd all were recovering to a greater or lesser extent, with only one failing to return at all.

That being said, the overall market is huge, so it’s almost impossible to say how many have now returned, in whole or in part. It isn’t difficult to find complaints that services are still down even today but there are also several reports of providers that weren’t affected at all by the Xtream Codes situation.

Typically, there are individuals and groups out there trying to make hay even before the storm clouds have cleared. TF has heard of a handful of hopeful end-users who believed they were paying to access a service that was still up, only to have their ‘supplier’ cut and run.

Equally, we were pointed to a service that claims to be an Xtream Codes replacement but is probably nothing more than an elaborate scam. Since the prices were so high, we didn’t feel tempted to test that theory out.

On the other hand, real Xtream Codes alternatives are out there but how vulnerable they are to similar action will remain to be seen. In particular, one service seems happy to take orders and is reportedly in use by a number of previously stranded providers and resellers.

If nothing else, most of those in the chain should now be more prepared if there’s similar action in the future. Or less surprised at least.

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

Piracy will Surge if More Legal Streaming Services Launch, Research Shows

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-will-surge-if-more-legal-streaming-services-launch-research-shows-190927/

When Disney announced that it would launch its own streaming service, two years ago, some noted that this would keep piracy relevant.

People had just become used to having access to a broad movie and TV library in one or two places, and any increased fragmentation appeared to be a step backward.

Fast forward to 2019 and Disney is about to launch its new service. At the same time, more and more streaming subscription platforms are coming up with exclusive releases. If you want to see those, you have to sign up.

While that may not be a problem for some, there is an audience of millions who don’t want to or simply can’t pay for a handful of streaming subscriptions. This means that they have to pick the ones they want the most.

That’s the hard reality for modern consumers, at least, for those who don’t want to break the law.

As it turns out, many people are willing to cross the line, and the increased fragmentation of video streaming service is indeed driving people back to pirate sites. This problem may actually be worse than some think, based on new research that was just published by Broadband Genie.

The broadband comparison/advice site conducted a survey among UK streaming users and found that 18% confessed to using pirate sites on the side. However, this number could more than double to 37% if the legal streaming subscription market continues to fragment.

Credit: Broadband Genie

The cost of these services is the driving factor behind the findings. Two thirds (67%) of the surveyed UK streamers feel that they are already paying too much. The average expenditure is roughly £15 a month, where a maximum of £10 is seen as ideal.

Interestingly, those people who consider becoming pirates are not doing so without taking precautions. More than half (60%) of the prospective pirates say they will invest in a VPN to prevent copyright holders from tracing their steps.

Alex Tofts, Broadband Expert at Broadband Genie, notes that we’re still a long way from having all video entertainment in one place. People have options to save costs, through family discounts, for example. But instead, many people prefer to pay for a VPN so they can go the pirate route.

“It’s disheartening that consumers are prepared to turn to streams and file sharing to access the content they want. The price consumers are willing to pay is the equivalent of subscribing to one service,” Tofts says.

Rightsholders, meanwhile, keep repeating that availability is no longer a problem. They are right. In most countries, people can watch pretty much everything they want, but it comes at a price which, according to the survey, they are not willing to pay.

If fragmentation increases most people will still pay for legal services, but an increasing number will additionally use pirate services to watch content that’s otherwise only available at platforms they don’t have access to.

Availability is no longer the key issue. Instead, the focus has shifted to convenience and affordability. The prospect of signing up and using four or even five different streaming service is not affordable for many people, nor is it convenient.

The solution would be to provide universal access to a multitude of services through a single interface at a decent price. That’s what people also get at pirate sites. But this is easier said than done, as it won’t bring in enough revenue, at least not at the subscription rates we have now.

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

Anti-Piracy Outfit “Works With ISPs” to Monitor Pirate Consumption

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-outfit-works-with-isps-to-monitor-pirate-consumption-190922/

For as long as peer-to-peer (P2P) networks such as BitTorrent have existed, anti-piracy companies have been monitoring the activities of those who use them.

This is to be expected. Not only do the companies have a vested interest in keeping an eye on what’s going on, by their very nature P2P networks are open and easily trackable.

The rise of streaming piracy – computer servers streaming video directly to end-users – has presented a new problem, however. Unlike P2P systems, there’s no easy way for an anti-piracy company to get in between the user and the server to see what’s going on. Only ISPs can see that data, which is why a recent interview caught our eye.

Friend MTS (FMTS) is an anti-piracy company based in Birmingham, UK. They’re perhaps best known for their live IPTV blocking work carried out on behalf of the Premier League, for which they have to partner to a greater or lesser extent with ISPs in the UK. FMTS tells them which servers to block, and the ISPs carry out it, broadly speaking.

However, in a recent interview, Simon Hanna of FMTS spoke about a different type of collaboration with ISPs, one that has the potential to raise eyebrows among privacy advocates, especially those who hoped all of their Internet traffic would remain completely their business.

Quite soon into the interview, Hanna correctly points out that broad availability of pirated content online tends to give an indication of how popular particular content is but isn’t always a great indicator of how much is actually being consumed.

“Consumption is a much more valuable indicator than pure availability of content and consumption has always been very difficult to monitor. People often throw numbers out but they are guesswork at best and we don’t really put a lot of faith in the numbers that have been made available in the past,” Hanna said.

With this in mind, FMTS say they have developed a system that allows them to work with content owners and ISPs to form a greater understanding of the consumption of media from online ‘pirate’ sources. The company does this by first tracking the servers down from where the content is being streamed and handing this information to the ISPs.

“We can see through our monitoring activities the range of servers that are available globally delivering this pirate content and we can provide that information to an ISP who are monitoring the flows of data requests in and out of the networks all day long,” Hanna explained.

“They can use these lists of IP addresses to really focus on consumption of content from those servers by the broadband subscribers within the ISP network and that will then give information around the scale of the problem.”

Image credit: FMTS

That’s probably a bit of a “wow” moment for many Internet subscribers who believed that once their traffic entered their ISP’s network it wouldn’t be closely monitored until it left to access a BitTorrent swarm, for example.

If FMTS’ statement is what it seems, some ISPs might be following their customers’ broadband usage habits a little bit more intimately than previously thought.

On the plus side, at least as far as individual subscribers are concerned, FMTS say they don’t look at or care about “the individuals themselves”. They’re not looking for any personally identifiable information and are just trying to get a handle on the volume of content being consumed.

Whether dual broadband/TV supplying companies are more interested in this data remains open to question, however.

“Because inevitably, if a large proportion of the ISP’s broadband subscribers are actually consuming content, they are not paying for the associated operator’s TV services,” Hanna added.

In many cases, of course, the broadband provider/ISP is also a supplier of TV content to the same customers – Sky, Virgin Media, and BT in the UK, for example. There’s no claim that these ISPs are indeed teaming up with FMTS in this project but any and all might be interested in the information it reportedly makes available.

“We work with content owners to basically go out and find pirate sources of the content. We can then real-time update these lists, feed this information into the ISPs and the ISPs can then use this information to generate the reporting real-time but with the flow monitoring, more in-depth reports of three-months plus worth of data, to actually get a real picture of consumption habits, both of TV channels but also specific events and pieces of content,” Hanna revealed.

FMTS says that monitoring consumption is important because it allows action previously taken to reduce availability to be measured at the end where it really matters.

“If you can then reduce the availability, then inevitably you should be able to reduce the consumption but you keep monitoring to observe that you do actually have this effect. If you can reduce the availability and reduce the consumption, chances are you would expect you would then preserve and reinforce your pay-TV revenues,” Hanna concluded.

The full interview, which covers many aspects of anti-piracy activity, from general enforcement to fingerprinting and watermarking, can be viewed here.

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

Platform Exclusives Could Boost Piracy, UK Govt Report Notes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/platform-exclusives-could-boost-piracy-uk-govt-report-notes/

Last week the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office published its annual IP Crime and Enforcement Report.

The report provides an overview of the latest anti-piracy achievements of copyright holders and also signals some emerging threats. It seems to be written mostly based on input from large rightsholders, which can make it a bit one-sided.

The overall theme is that piracy and counterfeiting remain a major problem and that, as a “world class IP enforcement regime,” the UK takes a leading role in the world to tackle it going forward.

A few days ago we reported on an exemplary section from the report where the Premier League highlighted its key successes. The full document is filled with similar examples and is worth a read, but there is one issue that stood out which we would like to highlight separately.

In the section where the results of PRS for Music, the UK’s leading collection society, are summarized there is a hint of self-reflection. As reported in the past, there were signs that BitTorrent piracy is increasing again, and according to the UK Government’s report, the industry may be to blame.

Apparently, piracy traffic may be rising again because the content that’s being offered on legal platforms is becoming more and more fragmented.

In other words, as more legal services have exclusive releases, it’s harder for people to get everything they want in one place. Instead of signing up for paid subscriptions at a handful of services, these people could then turn back to piracy.

Or as the Annual IP crime and enforcement report puts it:

“There also appears to be a resurgence in torrent traffic, notwithstanding the apparent demise of peer-to-peer file sharing a few years ago. A likely reason for this is the fact that more legitimate platforms are hosting exclusive content and subscribers may not necessarily have access to all the content they want to consume.”

The paragraph above is listed in the PRS section of the report which leads us to believe that it comes directly from the music group. We reached out to PRS to find out more but the organization said that it couldn’t comment on it. A subsequent request to clarify whether this is PRS’s position returned a “no comment” as well.

Again, we should stress that the fragmentation comment is just a tiny quote from a 132-page report. It doesn’t reflect the general theme that piracy needs to be addressed through comprehensive and multi-faceted enforcement strategies. However, at least there appears to be some room for self-reflection.

This isn’t the first time that increased fragmentation has been mentioned as a potential problem, but these type of comments generally don’t originate from governments or rightsholders.

Exclusive releases are particularly prevalent in the video industry today, where there’s a myriad of exclusive streaming services. How this will affect overall piracy rates in the years to come remains to be seen, but it’s certainly not something that can be easily ignored.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before…

….transformed into something like this:

After…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cox Attacks ‘Proof’ in Piracy Liability Case, Requests Summary Judgment

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cox-attacks-proof-in-piracy-liability-case-requests-summary-judgment-190910/

Last year Cox settled its piracy liability lawsuit with music rights company BMG.

The ink on this agreement was barely dry when the ISP faced a similar and additional complaint. This time, it was up against 53 music companies, including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music.

The rightsholders complained that Cox categorically failed to terminate repeat copyright infringers and that it substantially profited from this ongoing ‘piracy’ activity. All at the expense of the record labels and other rightsholders.

A year later, thousands of pages of legal paperwork have been processed and the case is gearing up to a trial. However, if it’s up to Cox, there is little left to discuss there because the music companies’ evidence is fatally flawed.

A few days ago, the ISP submitted a motion for summary judgment, requesting summary judgment on several key elements. Among other things, Cox argues that it’s not vicariously liable or directly liable for any copyright-infringing activity carried out by its users.

Cox’s arguments are in large part directed at the proof the music companies have. Or to be more specific, the lack thereof. The company points out that the infringement notices, which were sent on behalf of the RIAA, are far from solid. In addition, the ISP says it never received any proper notices for more of the allegedly-infringed works.

“Plaintiffs’ claims suffer from a fundamental and fatal flaw: a distinct paucity of proof. They simply cannot prove their case,” Cox writes.

“In short, Plaintiffs seek damages for works they cannot prove were infringed, based on notices that did not identify fully 80% of those works. Moreover, they have no evidence that Cox knew about the infringement, obtained any direct financial benefit from it, or had the practical ability to prevent it, such that it could be secondarily liable.”

Cox’s arguments can be quite technical at times, and some pages are completely redacted, but there are some interesting observations.

For example, the company argues that the file-sharing evidence from BitTorrent users can’t prove that any subscriber actually distributed the infringing files. The evidence, provided by BitTorrent tracking outfit MarkMonitor, only ‘shows’ the metadata of a file in possession of a subscriber, matches that of a copyrighted track.

“Here, Plaintiffs cannot prove ‘actual dissemination’ of any work to anyone—including their agent, MarkMonitor,” Cox notes.

Another issue Cox raises is that for many of the claimed infringements in the suit, Cox never received a single notice.

“Although Plaintiffs seek damages for alleged direct infringements of 7,057 sound recordings and 3,421 compositions, the RIAA Notices for recordings sent during the Claims Period contain only 1,998 unique Title and Artist combinations.”

Based on these and a variety of other arguments, the ISP requests summary judgment. This means that, if granted, these will no longer be contested at trial.

However, the pendulum, in this case, can swing the other way as well. The 53 music companies also filed a request for summary judgment. They ask the court to rule that Cox is contributory and vicariously liable for its pirating subscribers.

The companies wave away any concerns and say that Cox willingly kept pirates on board to increase its profits.

“[T]he record is clear that Cox had knowledge of its subscribers’ blatant infringement of Plaintiffs’ works and nonetheless assisted them with it. By consciously continuing to provide Internet service to known infringers, while ignoring its own copyright policies as written, Cox materially contributed to that infringing activity, and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result,” their request reads.

“Accordingly, summary judgment should be granted holding Cox liable for contributory infringement and vicarious infringement, and the Court should reject its frivolous defenses.”

Both sides’ arguments directly oppose each other and it will be up to the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to determine if it grants any of the motions. If the Court grants neither motion, it will be up to a jury to decide during trial.

A copy of Cox’s motion for summary judgment is available here (pdf) and the music companies’ motion can be found here (pdf).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Pirate’ Site Manga Rock Starts Shutdown, Will Go Legal

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-mangarock-shuts-down-and-goes-legal-190905/

Manga comics and novels are huge. Not just in Japan but all over the world.

People used to read them on paper, but digital is the standard today. While that makes these comics more accessible, they’re also easier to pirate.

For years there has been an active ‘scanlation’ community. These are fan-made translations that are shared online. Sharing can begin innocently, by posting a copy on a message board, but sometimes things get out of hand.

Enter MangaRock. Most people who are not into manga have probably never heard of the site, but it easily dwarfs the most well-established pirate sites. According to data from MUSO, it’s more popular that The Pirate Bay, or any Hollywood-blockbuster streaming site.

In addition, SimilarWeb lists it as the 2nd most popular site in the ‘books and literature‘ category, just behind Wattpad. That’s rather impressive, especially when you consider that many users don’t use the site, but its dedicated Android and iOS apps instead.

Up until a few days ago, the site had been running smoothly, but apparently the operators had a change of heart. In an interview with J-Cast News, picked up by Animenewsnetwork, Manga Rock owner “Not a Basement Studio” recently said the site and apps would shut down.

Initially, it appeared that nothing much had changed, but today people started to notice that the Manga Rock app had disappeared from the Play store. The iOS version will reportedly follow soon.

And if there was any confusion left, a new statement confirms that MangaRock.com will shut down as well. “It’s official: We’re taking Manga Rock down,” Not A Basement Studio writes.

Not utilizing this type of traffic from dedicated manga fans would be a shame, a point not lost on ‘Not A Basement Studio’. Behind the scenes, they’ve been working hard putting together a legal alternative while negotiating deals with several publishers.

The original plan was to remove all unauthorized content from the site at once and present the new and legal alternative to its users. This appeared to be the best option for all, and could even work well for the rightsholders, as it would be an excellent setup to convert ‘pirates’ into customers.

However, this plan was scrapped recently, and Manga Rock has decided to shut down now and launch its legal platform named “MR Comics” later.

“As we made contact with more publishers and creators, we realized that by keeping Manga Rock around while developing the new platform, we are still inadvertently hosting and supporting the practices of piracy,” Manga Rock explains.

“Until we can fully make the switch to become a 100% official comics platform and convert all the free readers into supporters of legitimate content, creators and publishers are being hurt by our practices & all the other scanlations sites,” they add.

While ‘Not A Basement Studio’ doesn’t mention anything specific, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the shutdown request is motivated, at least in part, by requests from rightsholders. After operating the site for years, a few more weeks can’t make that much of a difference.

Whatever the motivations are, one of the largest ‘pirate’ operations online today is now folding. According to a timeline published by Manga Rock, the apps were to be taken down during the first week of September. The site will follow next week and this will redirect to the new but unfinished “MR Comics” platform.

The aforementioned site has a detailed overview of how the Manga Rock team began and how it grew to the point where it is now. It is rather apologetic to the publishers, as its closing words make pretty clear.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years. Once again, we’re deeply sorry for everything,” they write.

The site’s users, on the other hand, are mostly shocked and disappointed. They will have to do without their favorite scanlation site. While some will be interested in trying out the new legal platform, when it arrives, others are already scouring the web for the next best thing.

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

TweakBox Removes ‘Pirate’ Movie Apps Following Legal Pressure

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tweakbox-removes-pirate-movie-apps-following-legal-pressure-190903/

Apple always carefully curates what type of apps people can download through the official iOS App Store.

Certain adult apps are actively banned, for example, and those that potentially infringe copyrights are not welcome either.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t get these apps on an iOS device at all. Whether Apple likes it or not, deviant developers have come up with various workarounds. Initially, those required a so-called Jailbreak, but today users have other options as well.

TweakBox is one of these alternatives. After some initial configurations, the third-party ‘app store’ allows anyone to put ‘unofficial’ apps on an iOS device. These include, tweaked versions of Whatsapp and Twitter, for example, but also emulators, a torrent client, and various movie streaming apps.

Apple and some official app developers are against this. They have taken some countermeasures in the past, which worked temporarily, but TweakBox remains functional. However, the same can’t be said about some of the most popular apps that were hosted in its sideload library.

A few days ago, TweakBox announced on Twitter that some movies apps “had to be removed,” from their site, later adding that this was not their choice.

The platform didn’t elaborate which apps were removed and who’s choice it was to delete them, but after some digging, we have a pretty clear picture of what went down.

Federal court documents reveal that the company behind the action movie “Hellboy” obtained a subpoena, indirectly targeting the app store. This court order requires hosting providers Digital Ocean and Hivelocity to share the personal details of the account holder connected to TweakBox.

The requested information includes all documents that show the name, address, telephone number, and email address, as well as payment records from the past three years.

TorrentFreak obtained copies of the letters Hellboy’s attorney sent to Digital Ocean and Hivelocity. The movie company argues that TweakBox induces copyright infringement by offering the “Popcorn Time,” “CotoMovies,” and “Mediabox HD” apps.

It’s not clear whether the hosting providers have handed over any information, but TweakBox certainly was alerted. Shortly after the subpoena was issued, the three movie piracy apps were removed from the site.

A closer inspection of TweakBox’s current video app listings shows that another potentially problematic app, MediaBox, was removed as well.

The legal pressure would explain why it was not TweakBox’s “choice” to remove the video apps, as mentioned previously in its (now removed) tweet. TorrentFreak reached out to the platform for further comments, but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back.

Although TweakBox managed to bypass Apple’s restrictions for a long time, these recent actions show that a relatively basic DMCA subpoena can be quite effective for copyright holders.

Needless to say, many of the platform’s users are not happy. Soon after the announcement on Twitter, there was a stream of replies from people who mourned the ‘loss,’ with some demanding an immediate reinstatement.

And since TweakBox previously confessed to being a Popcorn Time ‘aficionado’ as well, the people behind the platform may not be too happy either.

While the apps may be gone from the TweakBox site, they have not been wiped from the Internet completely. As always, there are still other sources where the same can be found.

Here’s a copy of the subpoena (pdf) and the letters to Digital Ocean (pdf) and Hivelocity (pdf).

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

“Legal Options Are a Better Way to Beat Piracy Than Enforcement”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/legal-options-are-a-better-way-to-beat-piracy-than-enforcement/

Piracy is an intriguing phenomenon. On the one hand, it is seen as an existential threat by the entertainment industries. However, pirates are often heavy consumers of legal content as well.

Over the past several years, a vast array of studies have tried to determine to what extent piracy hurts legitimate revenue streams and, equally importantly, how it can be stopped.

There are no definitive answers but each study adds a small piece of the puzzle. One recent article, published by University of Amsterdam researchers João Pedro Quintais and Joost Poort, suggests that affordability and availability are key drivers.

The researchers analyzed a wealth of data and conducted surveys among 35,000 respondents, in thirteen countries. What they found was that, between 2014 and 2017, self-reported piracy rates have dropped in all the European countries that were surveyed, except Germany.

In a 70-page paper, published in American University International Law Review, the researchers try to pinpoint the most likely explanation for this decline, starting with enforcement.

% Pirates on Internet population 2014 / 2017

In a detailed literature overview, the paper begins by discussing various enforcement activities, ranging from pirate site blockades, criminal enforcement, to civil suits against individual file-sharers. While some of these studies suggest that enforcement works, others reveal a limited effect or nothing at all.

This article doesn’t have space for a full review of all the literature, but the conclusion from the report’s authors is clear. Enforcement is not the silver bullet that will stop piracy.

“Despite the abundance of enforcement measures, their perceived effectiveness is uncertain. Therefore, it is questionable whether the answer to successfully tackling online copyright infringement lies in additional rights or enforcement measures,” the report notes.

Instead, the researchers believe that other factors are likely responsible for the decline in piracy rates. Specifically, they point to affordability and availability of legal content.

Through the extensive surveys, conducted in France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, and Thailand, they find several clues that this may indeed be the case.

Many of the data presented by the researchers have been published before. For example, they show that piracy rates are higher when the gross national income of a country is lower. This effect is particularly visible for lower incomes, as shown below.

Pirates per legal user / GNI in 2014 and 2017

The authors further observe a clear increase in spending on legal content where piracy rates dropped. In addition, they point to an earlier study that shows how music piracy declined in the Netherlands between 2008 and 2012, while piracy rates were still increasing for films and series. By 2012, Spotify had been introduced in the Netherlands (early 2010) but Nexflix not yet and HBO only just.

Based on their analysis, the researchers conclude that affordability and availability are indeed key drivers for declining piracy rates. In particular, they found no conclusive evidence that anti-piracy enforcement is effective.

“The main takeaway from our research is that online piracy is declining. The key driver for this decline is the increasing availability of affordable legal content, rather than enforcement measures,” their paper concludes.

When the conditions are right, people will eventually consume more content legally, it’s argued. This is also backed by the finding that 95% of the self-proclaimed pirates in their survey were legal consumers as well. Many of these turn to piracy due to lacking availability or high costs.

“Where the legal supply of content is affordable, convenient and diverse, there is increasing consumer demand for it. Under the right conditions, consumers are willing to pay for copyright-protected content and to
abandon piracy,” the paper reads.

This means that policymakers and copyright holders should direct their efforts more to the supply side, instead of enforcement activities.

“The crucial policy implication here is that policy makers should focus their resources and legislative efforts on improving those conditions. In particular, they ought to shift their focus from repressive approaches to tackle online infringement towards policies and measures that foster lawful remunerated access to copyright-protected content,” the researchers conclude.

This isn’t a new thought. Over the past several years, many people have hammered on the importance of appealing legal options. The new research confirms this. However, it is worth noting that the paper itself doesn’t provide any data showing that the recent drop in piracy is in fact caused by improved legal availability.

In other words, the empirical evidence doesn’t back either anti-piracy strategy conclusively.

For example, when we look at a graph of the piracy rates among legal users and the gross national income in different countries between 2014 and 2017 (shown above), we see that Sweden experienced the most pronounced piracy drop. However, there’s no clear change in legal availability compared to other countries, as far as we know.

TorrentFreak spoke to Joost Poort, one of the authors of the paper, who agreed that the lack of direct evidence is indeed a weak point. While there are several hints that the recent drop in piracy is mostly caused by better legal options, there is no hard data to back it up in this specific case.

Analyzing the effects of piracy is complicated, and there are signs that enforcement might also work in some cases. For example, just last week we reported on a study that showed how website blocking can motivate some pirates to sign up for a paid streaming service.

For many, however, it’s tempting to conclude that focusing on the carrot rather than the stick is the way forward.

That said, it’s also possible that the solution to piracy includes a little bit of both. While one may be more effective than the other, it’s safe to conclude that the puzzle isn’t solved yet.

The full paper by João Pedro Quintais and Joost Poort titled: “The Decline of Online Piracy: How Markets – Not Enforcement – Drive Down Copyright Infringement”, is available here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan: Piracy Warning Popups Could Violate Privacy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/japan-piracy-warning-popups-could-violate-privacy-190806/

In many countries around Europe and further afield, blocking pirate sites is carried out with permission from the courts.

The process is often long and expensive in the first instance but once a precedent has been set, subsequent blocking of additional sites should – at least in theory – be a much more simple affair.

Japan has been struggling to introduce a similar system for some time now but has continually come up against opposition from those who believe that monitoring Internet users’ traffic in order to block various domains amounts to a privacy breach.

The Telecommunications Business Act guarantees privacy of communications and prevents censorship, as does Article 21 of the Constitution.

Additional proposals suggested that Internet users could be confronted with popup warnings when they visit pirate sites, either as an alternative to blocking, a deterrent, or to help people differentiate them from legal offerings. However, that plan is being viewed as a potential invasion of privacy too.

A report compiled this week by an expert panel with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has concluded that such popup warnings could infringe citizens’ right to secrecy of communications.

Asahi reports that in order to make this kind of system work, Internet service providers would first need to obtain consent from their subscribers so that monitoring their attempts to access certain sites would remain legal.

The publication says that after the panel sought opinions from the public on the proposal, it was “bombarded by emails” sent by people calling for the plan to be rejected on privacy grounds.

Given that ISPs in other regions have complained that they shouldn’t bear the costs associated with blocking and similar regimes, it’s no surprise that some in Japan are taking a similar stance. Other providers indicate that they’re not ready from a technological standpoint, which of course is also closely connected with costs.

Nevertheless, some ISPs have agreed to begin trialing a popup warning system during the fall, in order to assess its effectiveness. That will mean them first having to explain to their users that they wish to monitor their online behavior and then obtain legal permission to do so.

Given a choice between being monitored by their ISP or not, it seems unlikely that many Internet users – if they actually understand the proposition – will willingly have someone watch over their communications.

And surely, visitors to pirate sites – the obvious targets of the campaign – will reject the offer immediately, if the purpose of the offer is made to clear to them in the beginning. That calls into question the entire point of the campaign, which is to assess whether warnings on pirate sites will deter their use.

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

Premier League & UEFA Obtain Court Orders to Block Piracy in 2019/20

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/premier-league-uefa-obtain-court-orders-to-block-piracy-in-2019-20-190729/

While rightsholders and anti-piracy groups often deploy multiple strategies for dealing with online copyright infringement, blocking websites, streams, and servers is now one of the most common.

The Premier League broke new ground on this front in 2017, after it obtained a pioneering injunction which enabled it to track live ‘pirate’ streams and have them blocked by leading ISPs BT, Virgin Media, EE, Sky Broadband and TalkTalk in real-time.

With backing from the High Court, the Premier League deployed its system during the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. We can now confirm that the Court recently granted permission for the efforts to continue during the 2019/20 campaign.

A High Court order signed off July 15, 2019, by Justice Arnold, but as yet unannounced by the Premier League or the Court, will be the basis for the blocking mechanism during the upcoming season. Thus far, one ISP has confirmed the existence of the order.

“A number of unidentified servers associated with infringing Premier League match footage will be blocked until the end of the 2019/20 Premier League season,” Sky notes.

Unlike other blocking orders targeting torrent sites or streaming platforms with a fixed domain, the servers streaming Premier League content are “unidentified” until its anti-piracy partners are able to locate them a few minutes before matches begin. The relevant IP addresses are then forwarded to the ISPs who block them under the authority of the Court.

TorrentFreak has been able to confirm that other ISPs are aware of the new Premier League order but are yet to make a public statement.

Late 2017, UEFA followed in the footsteps of the Premier League by obtaining a similar order covering the period February 13, 2018, to May 26, 2018, in an effort to protect European matches. A month later in July 2018, UEFA was given permission by the High Court to expand and extend its campaign until July 12, 2019.

Earlier this month, UEFA obtained permission from the High Court to continue. As yet, no associated documents have been published by the Court but both Sky and Virgin have confirmed they will be blocking ‘pirate’ servers again, with the Court’s authorization, until 2021.

“A number of unidentified servers associated with infringing UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Nations League, UEFA European Qualifiers and UEFA Friendlies match footage will be blocked until the end of the 2020/21 Champions League or Europa League competitions,” Sky notes.

Virgin states that it will block “Various Target Servers notified to Virgin Media by UEFA or its appointed agent for the duration of the UEFA 2019/2020 & 2020/2021 competition seasons.”

The technical details of the blocking systems deployed by both the Premier League and UEFA (TF understands they’re managed by different anti-piracy companies) are largely secret although some insiders have recently been prepared to talk more about what happens behind the scenes.

As the new season progresses, we expect to report more on how this digital game of cat-and-mouse is playing out.

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

Law Council of Australia Warns Data Retention Regime Could Affect Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/law-council-of-australia-warns-data-retention-regime-could-affect-pirates/

Retention of telecommunications metadata is increasingly viewed by governments as a valuable tool to fight serious crimes, including terrorism.

Communications systems, such as telephone networks and the Internet, can provide the ability to collect information revealing who contacted who and when.

However, when such sensitive data is collected on a broad scale, who can get access to that data becomes a serious concern. In Australia, a review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (TIA Act) has generated warnings that data supposedly being collected to fight serious crime is falling into broader hands.

The Communications Alliance, for example, highlights (pdf) that while there’s a perception that data will only be available to a limited number of law enforcement and security agencies, large numbers of other organizations have sought access to the data. They include a sports anti-doping authority, at least two illegal dumping groups, plus veterinary and fisheries authorities.

The availability of this data seems to be a magnet for many groups seeking to solve their own problems and according to the Law Council of Australia, that has the potential to include copyright holders in the future. While noting that some of its concerns that data will not be used by civil litigants have been addressed, there remains a concern that data collected now could be used for other purposes later on.

“[T]here is still the potential for ‘function creep’ under the regime due to the lack of prescription as to what purpose telecommunications data retained under the regime may be used for, potentially allowing for information collected for one reason to be later used for other purposes,” the Council’s submission reads (pdf).

Specifically, The Law Council says that earlier amendments to sections 280 and 281 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 may still have limitations that would allow file-sharers (typically BitTorrent users) to be scooped up, if there is a change of heart over the seriousness of their offenses.

“[T]here remains the potential for telecommunications data retained under the scheme to be used in matters of online piracy as telecommunications data may provide an irrefutable download history,” the Council warns.

“Former Attorney-General Brandis and the former AFP Commissioner have stated that the regime will not be used to tackle digital piracy, but should digital piracy offenses of individual consumers become criminalized in the future (currently piracy is only a criminal offense when at a commercial scale) it is possible that this position would be reassessed by the Government of the day.”

While a change in the law could potentially increase access to metadata in respect of pirates, copyright trolls are already on record trying to convince courts that their behavior is much more serious than it first appears. In 2017 in the United States, LHF Productions characterized five file-sharers as being part of a worldwide criminal conspiracy.

“While the actions of each individual participant may seem innocuous, their collective action amounts to one of the largest criminal enterprises ever seen on earth,” the lawsuit claimed.

“The Defendants are participants in a global piracy ring composed of one hundred fifty million members – a ring that threatens to tear down fundamental structures of intellectual property.”

Whether such a claim would ever gain credibility in Australia remains to be seen but it’s clear that tracking every action carried out by Internet users – file-sharers included – and recording them in a database for potential action is an extremely attractive proposition for copyright trolls.

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

Scammer Targets Reddit Users With Premium Account Racket

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/scammer-targets-reddit-users-with-premium-account-racket-190722/

Reddit’s /r/piracy sub-Reddit is home to more than 402,000 subscribers hoping to hear about the latest news and developments in the world of digital piracy.

By its very nature, users are likely to be interested in getting something for free, so it’s no surprise that scammers are targeting its users offering just that.

Over the weekend, users of the sub-Reddit began commenting that they’d received unsolicited direct messages offering them a great deal. All they had to do was download a free piece of software called PremiumGet and in return, they would be given free premium accounts for use on Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, NordVPN and several other services.

The direct message: Ignore

It wasn’t initially clear why some users were getting the messages and others weren’t. However, a user one particular thread noted that immediately after posting in a discussion about ‘PremiumGet’, he received a message in his inbox advertising the scam. We had that theory tested and sure enough, the same message appeared.

The message contains a link to file-hosting platform Mediafire, where the suspiciously large 51.76MB file can be downloaded. According to the uploader, who engaged in disputes with other users elsewhere on Reddit about the tool, it doesn’t trigger alerts in anti-malware software so must be safe.

Not a virus – probably

The accompanying video, if anyone cares to view it, can be found here. Those who prefer not to inflate the view count on YouTube can see a screenshot below, which shows the screen directly after the one that prompts users to enter their Google or Facebook usernames and passwords.

We have zero intentions of download, installing, or otherwise testing the software, we’ll let the security specialists do their job there. However, there is a really simple rule for those still mulling it over, and we’ve seen a few of those this morning.

Random people on the Internet offering expensive stuff for free, requiring you to install software and then asking for your existing usernames and passwords to services that may have massive control over your entire digital life, never have your best interests at heart. Ever.

Walk away. Nothing good here.

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.

Video Piracy Study Estimates Billions in Lost Revenue, But Misses Crucial Data

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/video-piracy-study-estimates-billions-in-lost-revenue-but-misses-crucial-data-190620/

Despite the growing availability of legal options, online piracy remains rampant. Every day pirate sites and services are used by millions of people worldwide.

This is a serious problem for major content producers, Hollywood included. At the same time, it’s also seen a threat to the wider U.S. economy, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars from video entertainment.

How copyright infringement affects the economy in actual numbers is hard to measure, especially since the piracy landscape changes rapidly. That said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center, in partnership with NERA Economic Consulting, attempted an estimate.

In a report titled “Impacts of Digital Piracy on the U.S. Economy” they combine multiple data sources, paired with a broad range of assumptions, to estimate how much revenue video piracy is costing the U.S. economy.

In order to calculate how much piracy costs, the researchers first had to determine the global piracy volume. They did so by combining data from two known piracy tracking firms.

Specifically, the number of pirated movies and TV-shows are estimated using data from the German BitTorrent tracking outfit Tecxipo. These are then extrapolated to estimate the volume of other piracy sources, such as streaming and direct downloads, based on data from the UK outfit MUSO.

In addition, the researchers use academic studies to approximate the displacement rate. This is a crucial variable, as it estimates the percentage of pirated files that can be counted as a lost sale. The report settled on a lower bound of 14%, which means that roughly one in seven pirate downloads or streams are seen as lost revenue.

All this information, paired with location data, the average price per source, and a variety of other variables, ultimately leads the researchers to conclude that in 2017 online video piracy resulted in a revenue loss of at least $29.2 billion.

“The study shows that all of the benefits that streaming brings to our economy have been artificially capped by digital piracy. Using macroeconomic modeling of digital piracy, the study estimates that global online piracy costs the U.S. economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year,” the report reads.

In raw numbers, the researchers put the number of pirated  U.S.-produced movies at $26.6 billion, while they estimate that roughly 126.7 billion U.S.-produced TV episodes are pirated digitally each year. This piracy takes place mostly from outside the United States. 

The impact on the broader economy is even larger. According to the researchers, online video piracy costs the U.S. economy between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs and between $47.5 billion and $115.3 billion in reduced gross domestic product (GDP) each year.

Jobs ‘lost’

Not all types of piracy are the same of course. A pirated Netflix movie results in lower losses than a Hollywood blockbuster. Similarly, a pirated Bollywood film doesn’t impact the U.S. economy much.

Interestingly, the report notes that piracy by U.S. citizens doesn’t necessarily have to be detrimental to the economy. The money these people ‘save’ by pirating is likely spent locally, which, depending on various factors, could even be beneficial to the economy as a whole.

Or as the researchers put it:

“Consumers spend the income gained from displaced legal consumption on other goods and services, many of which are produced in the U.S. Therefore, the net effect on the U.S. economy of this component of piracy could be either positive or negative, depending on the relative magnitudes of the multipliers for the revenue losses and the revenue gains.”

The most significant impact comes from foreigners who pirate U.S. content, as the money they save is likely not being spent in America.

Overall the report provides a detailed overview of the potential revenue losses. Displacement rates are complex, of course, as there are probably hundreds of other variables that could have been taken into account, but it looks like the researchers did a good job at factoring in the most crucial elements.

Unfortunately, however, there is a glaring error that can’t easily be ignored.

The report specifically set out to provide an up-to-date overview of the new piracy ecosystem, one that includes apps and illicit streaming devices. No surprise, as dedicated streaming boxes are generally seen as the biggest threat to Hollywood.

“These rapid changes necessitate up-to-date estimates of the impact of digital piracy,” the report notes. 

The problem, however, is that most app and streaming device piracy isn’t covered by the study. The report relies on category data from MUSO, which only covers regular browser visits to pirate sites.

This typically excludes most apps and pirate set-top boxes. Also, the boom in IPTV piracy isn’t covered by these data either.

TorrentFreak reached out to the researchers, who informed us that they weren’t aware of this. This means that their overall estimate of the impact of video piracy is even more reserved than they initially assumed. Needless to say, that has not been left out intentionally.

Whether it’s complete or not, these types of studies are generally welcomed by rightsholders. As such, the report will likely be mentioned frequently in future lobbying campaigns.

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VidAngel Must Pay $62.4 Million for Ripping and Streaming ‘Pirated’ Movies

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/vidangel-must-pay-62-4-million-for-ripping-and-streaming-pirated-movies-190618/

Founded in 2013, Utah-based startup VidAngel entered the video streaming market with a rather innovative business model. 

The company allowed its users to rent popular movies and TV-shows, with the option to filter out violence, sex, profanity, and other objectionable content.

While there was plenty of demand for the service, it operated without permission from the major movie studios. Instead, the company acquired DVDs, which it would then rip using AnyDVD, so they could be streamed online. 

Users interested in a movie were able to rent it for $20, and then sell it back after a day for $19. This made rentals as cheap as $1 per streamed movie, effectively beating all legal competitors.

VidAngel made sure that it would have physical DVDs in its archive for all movies and TV-shows that were rented out at any given time. This resulted in a rather extensive library of duplicate discs, as the massive collection of “The Revenant” DVDs below shows. 

“Thousands” of The Revenant DVDs (credit: VidAngel)

After operating its service for a few months, VidAngel drew the attention of several major movie studios including Disney and Warner Bros. In 2016, they teamed up to file a lawsuit against VidAngel, accusing it of copyright infringement and violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

“VidAngel does not have permission to copy Plaintiffs’ movies and television shows or to stream them to VidAngel’s users,” the studios’ complaint read.

“Instead, VidAngel appears to circumvent the technological protection measures on DVDs and Blu-ray discs to create unauthorized copies and then uses those copies to stream Plaintiffs’ works to the public without authorization.”

VidAngel was convinced, however, that its business was legal. It argued that it was protected by the Family Movie Act, which allows consumers to skip objectionable movie content without committing copyright infringement.

The movie studios disagreed and earlier this year were backed by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The Court granted summary judgment, ruling that VidAngel is liable for violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision and committing copyright infringement.

The only question that remained was the scale of the damages. This was determined yesterday, following a multi-day trial where the jury concluded that a $62.4 million damages award was appropriate.

The bulk of the damages, $61.4 million, is for copyright infringement. With 819 titles mentioned in the suit, this amounts to $75,000 per infringed work, half of the maximum statutory damages. 

The additional million in damages is for circumventing the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions by ripping the DVDs. This cost VidAngel $1,250 per title.

The movie studios are happy with the outcome. In a joint statement, they state that it sends a clear message to others who might consider operating a similar service.

“The jury today found that VidAngel acted willfully, and imposed a damages award that sends a clear message to others who would attempt to profit from unlawful infringing conduct at the expense of the creative community,” the studios note.

VidAngel, however, vows to fight on and is likely to appeal the case. 

“We find today’s ruling unfortunate, but it has not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families. VidAngel plans to appeal the District Court ruling, and explore options in the bankruptcy court.

“Our court system has checks and balances, and we are pursuing options on that front as well,” VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon adds.

As KSL’s excellent timeline shows, VidAngel filed for bankruptcy in 2017 to protect itself from the lawsuit. However, the company isn’t going anywhere just yet.

VidAngel’s original video streaming operation was shut down following a permanent injunction, but it later introduced a new service that allows users to “filter” Netflix, HBO and Amazon content for a fixed monthly subscription.

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