Tag Archives: piracy

French Minister of Culture Calls For Pirate Streaming Blacklist

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/french-minister-of-culture-calls-for-pirate-streaming-blacklist-180423/

Nearly a decade ago, France was on the anti-piracy enforcement frontline.

The country was the first to introduce a graduated response system, Hadopi, where Internet subscribers risked losing their Internet connections if they were caught sharing torrents repeatedly.

Today this approach is no longer as effective as it once was. The bulk of all online piracy has moved from P2P downloading to streaming, and the latter isn’t traceable by anti-piracy watchdogs.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the French Government, Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen in particular, who highlighted the issue to reporters a few days ago.

“The Hadopi response is no longer suitable because piracy is now 80% by streaming,” she said, quoted by local media.

While Hadopi may have outgrown its usefulness, France is not giving up the piracy fight. On the contrary, the country is now pondering new measures to target the current epidemic of pirate streaming sites.

Nyssen hopes that local authorities will implement a national pirate site blocklist to address the problem. Ideally, this should be constantly updated to ensure that pirate streaming sites remain inaccessible.

The Minister told reporters that France must “act on the sites,” by implementing “a blacklist which is constantly updated to keep them offline”.

This list would be maintained by the Hadopi agency which can then circulate it among several online intermediaries. This can include Internet providers, but also search engines and advertising networks.

The tough language will be music to the ears of the film industry and the timing doesn’t appear to be a total coincidence either.

The comments from the French Minister of Culture come shortly after several film industry groups boycotted a reception at the ministry. According to the groups, France dropped the ball on enforcement against piracy, which is blamed for more than a billion euros in losses.

The renewed promise may calm the waters for a while, but for now, it’s little more than that. It will likely take time before an effective pirate site blacklist is established, if it gets that far.

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

Registrars Suspend 11 Pirate Site Domains, 89 More in the Crosshairs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/registrars-suspend-11-pirate-site-domains-89-more-in-the-crosshairs-180423/

In addition to website blocking which is running rampant across dozens of countries right now, targeting the domains of pirate sites is considered to be a somewhat effective anti-piracy tool.

The vast majority of websites are found using a recognizable name so when they become inaccessible, site operators have to work quickly to get the message out to fans. That can mean losing visitors, at least in the short term, and also contributes to the rise of copy-cat sites that may not have users’ best interests at heart.

Nevertheless, crime-fighting has always been about disrupting the ability of the enemy to do business so with this in mind, authorities in India began taking advice from the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) a couple of years ago.

After studying the model developed by PIPCU, India formed its Digital Crime Unit (DCU), which follows a multi-stage plan.

Initially, pirate sites and their partners are told to cease-and-desist. Next, complaints are filed with advertisers, who are asked to stop funding site activities. Service providers and domain registrars also receive a written complaint from the DCU, asking them to suspend services to the sites in question.

Last July, the DCU earmarked around 9,000 sites where pirated content was being made available. From there, 1,300 were placed on a shortlist for targeted action. Precisely how many have been contacted thus far is unclear but authorities are now reporting success.

According to local reports, the Maharashtra government’s Digital Crime Unit has managed to have 11 pirate site domains suspended following complaints from players in the entertainment industry.

As is often the case (and to avoid them receiving even more attention) the sites in question aren’t being named but according to Brijesh Singh, special Inspector General of Police in Maharashtra, the sites had a significant number of visitors.

Their domain registrars were sent a notice under Section 149 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, which grants police the power to take preventative action when a crime is suspected. It’s yet to be confirmed officially but it seems likely that pirate sites utilizing local registrars were targeted by the authorities.

“Responding to our notice, the domain names of all these websites, that had a collective viewership of over 80 million, were suspended,” Singh said.

Laxman Kamble, a police inspector attached to the state government’s Cyber Cell, said the pilot project was launched after the government received complaints from Viacom and Star but back in January there were reports that the MPAA had also become involved.

Using the model pioneered by London’s PIPCU, 19 parameters were applied to list of pirate sites in order to place them on the shortlist. They are reported to include the type of content being uploaded, downloaded, and the number of downloads overall.

Kamble reports that a further 89 websites, that have domains registered abroad but are very popular in India, are now being targeted. Whether overseas registrars will prove as compliant will remain to be seen. After booking initial success, even PIPCU itself experienced problems keeping up the momentum with registrars.

In 2014, information obtained by TorrentFreak following a Freedom of Information request revealed that only five out of 70 domain registrars had complied with police requests to suspend domains.

A year later, PIPCU confirmed that suspending pirate domain names was no longer a priority for them after ICANN ruled that registrars don’t have to suspend domain names without a valid court order.

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

Netflix, Amazon and Hollywood Sue “SET TV” Over IPTV Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-amazon-and-hollywood-sue-set-tv-over-iptv-piracy-180422/

In recent years, piracy streaming tools and services have become a prime target for copyright enforcers.

This is particularly true for the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership forged between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies.

After taking action against Kodi-powered devices Tickbox and Dragonbox, key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against the Florida-based company Set Broadcast, LLC, which sells the popular IPTV service SET TV.

The complaint, filed at a California federal court on Friday, further lists company owner Jason Labbosiere and employee Nelson Johnson among the defendants.

According to the movie companies, the Set TV software is little more than a pirate tool, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content.

“Defendants market and sell subscriptions to ‘Setvnow,’ a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint reads.

In addition to the software, the company also offers a preloaded box. Both allow users to connect to live streams of TV channels and ‘on demand’ content. The latter includes movies that are still in theaters, which SET TV allegedly streams through third-party sources.

“For its on-demand options, Setvnow relies on third-party sources that illicitly reproduce copyrighted works and then provide streams of popular content such as movies still exclusively in theaters and television shows.”

From the complaint

The intended use of SET TV is clear, according to the movie companies. They frame it as a pirate service and believe that this is the main draw for consumers.

“Defendants promote the use of Setvnow for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how their customers use Setvnow,” the complaint reads.

Interestingly, the complaint also states that SET TV pays for sponsored reviews to reach a broader audience. The videos, posted by popular YouTubers such as Solo Man, who is quoted in the complaint, advertise the IPTV service.

“[The] sponsored reviewer promotes Setvnow as a quick and easy way to access on demand movies: ‘You have new releases right there and you simply click on the movie … you click it and click on play again and here you have the movie just like that in 1 2 3 in beautiful HD quality’.”

The lawsuit aims to bring an end to this. The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all pre-loaded devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which could go up to several million dollars.

At the time of writing the SET TV website is still in the air, selling subscriptions. The company itself has yet to comment on the allegations.

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf), courtesy of GeekWire.

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

How Many Piracy Warnings Would Get You to Stop?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/how-many-piracy-warnings-would-get-you-to-stop-180422/

For the past several years, copyright holders in the US and Europe have been trying to reach out to file-sharers in an effort to change their habits.

Whether via high-profile publicity lawsuits or a simple email, it’s hoped that by letting people know they aren’t anonymous, they’ll stop pirating and buy more content instead.

Traditionally, most ISPs haven’t been that keen on passing infringement notices on. However, the BMG v Cox lawsuit seems to have made a big difference, with a growing number of ISPs now visibly warning their users that they operate a repeat infringer policy.

But perhaps the big question is how seriously users take these warnings because – let’s face it – that’s the entire point of their existence.

There can be little doubt that a few recipients will be scurrying away at the slightest hint of trouble, intimidated by the mere suggestion that they’re being watched.

Indeed, a father in the UK – who received a warning last year as part of the Get it Right From a Genuine Site campaign – confidently and forcefully assured TF that there would be no more illegal file-sharing taking place on his ten-year-old son’s computer again – ever.

In France, where the HADOPI anti-piracy scheme received much publicity, people receiving an initial notice are most unlikely to receive additional ones in future. A December 2017 report indicated that of nine million first warning notices sent to alleged pirates since 2012, ‘just’ 800,000 received a follow-up warning on top.

The suggestion is that people either stop their piracy after getting a notice or two, or choose to “go dark” instead, using streaming sites for example or perhaps torrenting behind a decent VPN.

But for some people, the message simply doesn’t sink in early on.

A post on Reddit this week by a TWC Spectrum customer revealed that despite a wealth of readily available information (including masses in the specialist subreddit where the post was made), even several warnings fail to have an effect.

“Was just hit with my 5th copyright violation. They halted my internet and all,” the self-confessed pirate wrote.

There are at least three important things to note from this opening sentence.

Firstly, the first four warnings did nothing to change the user’s piracy habits. Secondly, Spectrum presumably had enough at five warnings and kicked in a repeat-infringer suspension, presumably to avoid the same fate as Cox in the BMG case. Third, the account suspension seems to have changed the game.

Notably, rather than some huge blockbuster movie, that fifth warning came due to something rather less prominent.

“Thought I could sneak in a random episode of Rosanne. The new one that aired LOL. That fast. Under 24 hours I got shut off. Which makes me feel like [ISPs] do monitor your traffic and its not just the people sending them notices,” the post read.

Again, some interesting points here.

Any content can be monitored by rightsholders but if it’s popular in the US then a warning delivered via an ISP seems to be more likely than elsewhere. However, the misconception that the monitoring is done by ISPs persists, despite that not being the case.

ISPs do not monitor users’ file-sharing activity, anti-piracy companies do. They can grab an IP address the second someone enters a torrent swarm, or even connects to a tracker. It happens in an instant, at a time of their choosing. Quickly jumping in and out of a torrent is no guarantee and the fallacy of not getting caught due to a failure to seed is just that – a fallacy.

But perhaps the most important thing is that after five warnings and a disconnection, the Reddit user decided to take action. Sadly for the people behind Rosanne, it’s not exactly the reaction they’d have hoped for.

“I do not want to push it but I am curious to what happens 6th time, and if I would even be safe behind a VPN,” he wrote.

“Just want to learn how to use a VPN and Sonarr and have a guilt free stress free torrent watching.”

Of course, there was no shortage of advice.

“If you have gotten 5 notices, you really should of learnt [sic] how to use a VPN before now,” one poster noted, perhaps inevitably.

But curiously, or perhaps obviously given the number of previous warnings, the fifth warning didn’t come as a surprise to the user.

“I knew they were going to hit me for it. I just didn’t think a 195mb file would do it. They were getting me for Disney movies in the past,” he added.

So how do you grab the attention of a persistent infringer like this? Five warnings and a suspension apparently. But clearly, not even that is a guarantee of success. Perhaps this is why most ‘strike’ schemes tend to give up on people who can’t be rehabilitated.

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

Steam Censors MEGA.nz Links in Chats and Forum Posts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/steam-censors-mega-nz-links-in-chats-and-forum-posts-180421/

With more than 150 million registered accounts, Steam is much more than just a game distribution platform.

For many people, it’s also a social hangout and a communication channel.

Steam’s instant messaging tool, for example, is widely used for chats with friends. About games of course, but also to discuss lots of other stuff.

While Valve doesn’t mind people socializing on its platform, there are certain things the company doesn’t want Steam users to share. This includes links to the cloud hosting service Mega.

Users who’d like to show off some gaming footage, or even a collection of cat pictures they stored on Mega, are unable to do so. As it turns out, Steam actively censors these type of links from forum posts and chats.

In forum posts, these offending links are replaced by the text {LINK REMOVED} and private chats get the same treatment. Instead of the Mega link, people on the other end only get a mention that a link was removed.

Mega link removed from chat

While Mega operates as a regular company that offers cloud hosting services, Steam notes on their website that the website is “potentially malicious.”

“The site could contain malicious content or be known for stealing user credentials,” Steam’s link checker warns.

Potentially malicious…

It’s unclear what malicious means in this context. Mega has never been flagged by Google’s Safe Browsing program, which is regarded as one of the industry standards for malware and other unwanted software.

What’s more likely is that Mega’s piracy stigma has something to do with the censoring. As it turns out, Steam also censors 4shared.com, as well as Pirate Bay’s former .se domain name.

Other “malicious sites” which get the same treatment are more game oriented, such as cheathappens.com and the CSGO Skin Screenshot site metjm.net. While it’s understandable some game developers don’t like these, malicious is a rather broad term in this regard.

Mega clearly refutes that they are doing anything wrong. Mega Chairman Stephen Hall tells TorrentFreak that the company swiftly removes any malicious content, once it receives an abuse notice.

“It is crazy for sites to block Mega links as we respond very quickly to disable any links that are reported as malware, generally much quicker than our competitors,” Hall says.

Valve did not immediately reply to our request for clarification so the precise reason for the link censoring remains unknown.

That said, when something’s censored the public tends to work around any restrictions. Mega links are still being shared on Steam, with a slightly altered URL. In addition, Mega’s backup domain Mega.co.nz still works fine too.

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

Facebook Privacy Fiasco Sees Congress Urged on Anti-Piracy Action

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-privacy-fiasco-sees-congress-urged-on-anti-piracy-action-180420/

It has been a tumultuous few weeks for Facebook, and some would say quite rightly so. The company is a notorious harvester of personal information but last month’s Cambridge Analytica scandal really brought things to a head.

With Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in the midst of a PR nightmare, last Tuesday the entrepreneur appeared before the Senate. A day later he faced a grilling from lawmakers, answering questions concerning the social networking giant’s problems with user privacy and how it responds to breaches.

What practical measures Zuckerberg and his team will take to calm the storm are yet to unfold but the opportunity to broaden the attack on both Facebook and others in the user-generated content field is now being seized upon. Yes, privacy is the number one controversy at the moment but Facebook and others of its ilk need to step up and take responsibility for everything posted on their platforms.

That’s the argument presented by the American Federation of Musicians, the Content Creators Coalition, CreativeFuture, and the Independent Film & Television Alliance, who together represent more than 650 entertainment industry companies and 240,000 members. CreativeFuture alone represents more than 500 companies, including all the big Hollywood studios and major players in the music industry.

In letters sent to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary; the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the coalitions urge Congress to not only ensure that Facebook gets its house in order, but that Google, Twitter, and similar platforms do so too.

The letters begin with calls to protect user data and tackle the menace of fake news but given the nature of the coalitions and their entertainment industry members, it’s no surprise to see where this is heading.

“In last week’s hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg stressed several times that Facebook must ‘take a broader view of our responsibility,’ acknowledging that it is ‘responsible for the content’ that appears on its service and must ‘take a more active view in policing the ecosystem’ it created,” the letter reads.

“While most content on Facebook is not produced by Facebook, they are the publisher and distributor of immense amounts of content to billions around the world. It is worth noting that a lot of that content is posted without the consent of the people who created it, including those in the creative industries we represent.”

The letter recalls Zuckerberg as characterizing Facebook’s failure to take a broader view of its responsibilities as a “big mistake” while noting he’s also promised change.

However, the entertainment groups contend that the way the company has conducted itself – and the manner in which many Silicon Valley companies conduct themselves – is supported and encouraged by safe harbors and legal immunities that absolve internet platforms of accountability.

“We agree that change needs to happen – but we must ask ourselves whether we can expect to see real change as long as these companies are allowed to continue to operate in a policy framework that prioritizes the growth of the internet over accountability and protects those that fail to act responsibly. We believe this question must be at the center of any action Congress takes in response to the recent failures,” the groups write.

But while the Facebook fiasco has provided the opportunity for criticism, CreativeFuture and its colleagues see the problem from a much broader perspective. They suck in companies like Google, which is also criticized for shirking its responsibilities, largely because the law doesn’t compel it to act any differently.

“Google, another major global platform that has long resisted meaningful accountability, also needs to step forward and endorse the broader view of responsibility expressed by Mr. Zuckerberg – as do many others,” they continue.

“The real problem is not Facebook, or Mark Zuckerberg, regardless of how sincerely he seeks to own the ‘mistakes’ that led to the hearing last week. The problem is endemic in a system that applies a different set of rules to the internet and fails to impose ordinary norms of accountability on businesses that are built around monetizing other people’s personal information and content.”

Noting that Congress has encouraged technology companies to prosper by using a “light hand” for the past several decades, the groups say their level of success now calls for a fresh approach and a heavier touch.

“Facebook and Google are grown-ups – and it is time they behaved that way. If they will not act, then it is up to you and your colleagues in the House to take action and not let these platforms’ abuses continue to pile up,” they conclude.

But with all that said, there is an interesting conflict that develops when presenting the solution to piracy in the context of a user privacy fiasco.

In the EU, many of the companies involved in the coalitions above are calling for pre-emptive filters to prevent allegedly infringing content being uploaded to Facebook and YouTube. That means that all user uploads to such platforms will have to be opened and scanned to see what they contain before they’re allowed online.

So, user privacy or pro-active anti-piracy filters? It might not be easy or even legal to achieve both.

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

Cloudflare Kicks Out Torrent Site For Abuse Reporting Interference

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-kicks-out-torrent-site-for-abuse-reporting-interference-180420/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

The company’s clients include billion dollar companies and national governments, but also personal blogs, and even pirate sites.

Copyright holders are not happy with the latter category and are pressuring Cloudflare to cut their ties with sites like The Pirate Bay, both in and out of court.

Cloudflare, however, maintains that it’s a neutral service provider. They forward copyright infringement notices to their customers, for example, but deny any liability for these sites.

Generally speaking, the company only disconnects a customer in response to a court order, as it did with Sci-Hub earlier this year. That’s why it came as a surprise when the anime torrent site NYAA.si was disconnected this week.

The site, which is a replacement for the original NYAA, has millions of users and is particularly popular in Japan. Without prior warning, it became unavailable for several hours this week, after Cloudflare removed it from its services. So what happened?

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator who said that the exact reason for the termination remains a mystery to him. He reached out to Cloudflare looking for answers, but the comany simply stated that it’s about “avoiding measures taken to avoid abuse complaints,” as can be seen below.

One of Cloudflare’s messages

The operator says he hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary and showed his willingness to resolve any possible issues. However, that hasn’t changed Cloudflare’s stance.

“We asked multiple times for clarification. We also expressed that we were willing to attempt to work with them on whatever the problem actually was, if they would explain what they even mean.

“Naturally, I have been stonewalled by them at every stage. I’ve contacted numerous persons at Cloudflare and nobody will talk about this,” NYAA’s operator adds.

TorrentFreak asked Cloudflare for more details and the company confirmed that the matter was related to interference with its abuse reporting systems, without providing further detail.

“We determined that the customer had taken steps specifically intended to interfere with and thwart the operation of our abuse reporting systems,” Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer informed us.

Cloudflare’s statement suggests that the site took active steps to interfere with the abuse process. The company added that it can’t go into detail, but says that the reason for the termination was shared with the website owner.

The website owner, on the other hand, informs us that he has no clue what the exact problem is. NYAA.si occasionally swaps IP addresses and have recently set up some mirror domains, but these were all under the same account. So, he has no idea why that would interfere with any abuse reports.

“I’m honestly unsure of what we could have done that ‘circumvents” their abuse system,” NYAA’s operator says, adding that the only abuse reports received were copyright related.

It’s unlikely, however, that copyright takedown notices alone would warrant account termination, as most of the largest torrent sites use Cloudflare.

NYAA’s operator says he can do little more than speculate at the point. Some have hinted at a secret court order while Japan’s recent crackdown on manga and anime piracy also came to mind, all without a grain of evidence of course.

Whatever the reason, NYAA.si now has to move on without Cloudflare, while the mystery remains.

“Frankly, this whole thing is a joke. I don’t understand why they would willingly host much bigger sites like ThePirateBay without any issue, or even ISIS, or the various hacking groups that have used them over time,” the operator says.

If more information about the abuse process interfere becomes available, we’ll definitely follow it up.

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

Married Torrent Tracker Couple Settle With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/married-torrent-tracker-couple-settles-with-brein-180420/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has targeted operators and uploaders of pirate sites for more than a decade.

The group’s main goal is to shut the sites down. Instead of getting embroiled in dozens of lengthy court battles, it prefers to settle the matter with those responsible.

This week, BREIN announced another victory against a small torrent site, Snuffelland. The private tracker was targeted at a Dutch audience and the anti-piracy group managed to track down its operators.

According to BREIN, the site was run by a married couple from the town of Montfort, a 65-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman. In addition, the group also identified one of the uploaders, a 60-year-old man from Heukelum.

All three are unemployed and their financial position was taken into account in determining the scale of the settlement. The couple agreed to pay 2,500 euros and the uploader settled for 650 euros, with a threat of further penalties if they are caught again.

The private tracker itself was shut down and replaced by a message that was provided by BREIN.

“Making copyright-protected works available infringes the copyrights of the entitled rightsholder. Downloading from unauthorized sources is also prohibited in the Netherlands,” the message reads.

“For providers of legal content, snuffelland.org refers you to thecontentmap.nl and film.nl,” it adds.

These type of shutdowns are nothing new. BREIN has taken down hundreds of smaller sites in the past. However, only in recent years has the group has started to publish these settlement details.

That serves as a deterrent but also provides some more insight into how the group prefers to solve these cases, which appears to be relatively softly. In this case, it also disproves the notion that torrent sites are run by youngsters.

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

Pirates Taunt Amazon Over New “Turd Sandwich” Prime Video Quality

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-taunt-amazon-over-new-turd-sandwich-prime-video-quality-180419/

Even though they generally aren’t paying for the content they consume, don’t fall into the trap of believing that all pirates are eternally grateful for even poor quality media.

Without a doubt, some of the most quality-sensitive individuals are to be found in pirate communities and they aren’t scared to make their voices known when release groups fail to come up with the best possible goods.

This week there’s been a sustained chorus of disapproval over the quality of pirate video releases sourced from Amazon Prime. The anger is usually directed at piracy groups who fail to capture content in the correct manner but according to a number of observers, the problem is actually at Amazon’s end.

Discussions on Reddit, for example, report that episodes in a single TV series have been declining in filesize and bitrate, from 1.56 GB in 720p at a 3073 kb/s video bitrate for episode 1, down to 907 MB in 720p at just 1514 kb/s video bitrate for episode 10.

Numerous theories as to why this may be the case are being floated around, including that Amazon is trying to save on bandwidth expenses. While this is a possibility, the company hasn’t made any announcements to that end.

Indeed, one legitimate customer reported that he’d raised the quality issue with Amazon and they’d said that the problem was “probably on his end”.

“I have Amazon Prime Video and I noticed the quality was always great for their exclusive shows, so I decided to try buying the shows on Amazon instead of iTunes this year. I paid for season pass subscriptions for Legion, Billions and Homeland this year,” he wrote.

“Just this past weekend, I have noticed a significant drop in details compared to weeks before! So naturally I assumed it was an issue on my end. I started trying different devices, calling support, etc, but nothing really helped.

“Billions continued to look like a blurry mess, almost like I was watching a standard definition DVD instead of the crystal clear HD I paid for and have experienced in the past! And when I check the previous episodes, sure enough, they look fantastic again. What the heck??”

With Amazon distancing itself from the issues, piracy groups have already begun to dig in the knife. Release group DEFLATE has been particularly critical.

“Amazon, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to start fucking with the quality of their encodes. They’re now reaching Netflix’s subpar 1080p.H264 levels, and their H265 encodes aren’t even close to what Netflix produces,” the group said in a file attached to S02E07 of The Good Fight released on Sunday.

“Netflix is able to produce drastic visual improvements with their H265 encodes compared to H264 across every original. In comparison, Amazon can’t decide whether H265 or H264 is going to produce better results, and as a result we suffer for it.”

Arrr! The quality be fallin’

So what’s happening exactly?

A TorrentFreak source (who tells us he’s been working in the BluRay/DCP authoring business for the last 10 years) was kind enough to give us two opinions, one aimed at the techies and another at us mere mortals.

“In technical terms, it appears [Amazon has] increased the CRF [Constant Rate Factor] value they use when encoding for both the HEVC [H265] and H264 streams. Previously, their H264 streams were using CRF 18 and a max bitrate of 15Mbit/s, which usually resulted in file sizes of roughly 3GB, or around 10Mbit/s. Similarly with their HEVC streams, they were using CRF 20 and resulting in streams which were around the same size,” he explained.

“In the past week, the H264 streams have decreased by up to 50% for some streams. While there are no longer any x264 headers embedded in the H264 streams, the HEVC streams still retain those headers and the CRF value used has been increased, so it does appear this change has been done on purpose.”

In layman’s terms, our source believes that Amazon had previously been using an encoding profile that was “right on the edge of relatively good quality” which kept bitrates relatively low but high enough to ensure no perceivable loss of quality.

“H264 streams encoded with CRF 18 could provide an acceptable compromise between quality and file size, where the loss of detail is often negligible when watched at regular viewing distances, at a desk, or in a lounge room on a larger TV,” he explained.

“Recently, it appears these values have been intentionally changed in order to lower the bitrate and file sizes for reasons unknown. As a result, the quality of some streams has been reduced by up to 50% of their previous values. This has introduced a visual loss of quality, comparable to that of viewing something in standard definition versus high definition.”

With the situation failing to improve during the week, by the time piracy group DEFLATE released S03E14 of Supergirl on Tuesday their original criticism had transformed into flat-out insults.

“These are only being done in H265 because Amazon have shit the bed, and it’s a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche,” they wrote, offering these images as illustrative of the problem and these indicating what should be achievable.

With DEFLATE advising customers to start complaining to Amazon, the memes have already begun, with unfavorable references to now-defunct group YIFY (which was often chastized for its low quality rips) and even a spin on one of the most well known anti-piracy campaigns.

You wouldn’t download stream….

TorrentFreak contacted Amazon Prime for comment on both the recent changes and growing customer complaints but at the time of publication we were yet to receive a response.

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

Pirate Party Urges Swedish Govt to Stop ‘Copyright Troll’ Invasion

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-party-urges-swedish-govt-to-stop-copyright-troll-invasion-180418/

In recent years, millions of file-sharers around the world have been ordered to pay significant settlement fees, or face legal repercussions.

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in several countries, with Sweden one of the latest hunting grounds.

Over the past months, tens of thousands of Swedes have been targeted in this manner.

The copyright holders go to court, armed with a list of IP-addresses, and when permission is granted they ask the associated ISPs for the account details of individual subscribers.

These suspected pirates then get a settlement demand in their mailbox, urging them to pay the equivalent of a few hundred dollars, or have their day in court.

As in many other countries, these practices are not without controversy. Several experts have spoken out against them, and ISPs have raised objections too. However, according to Swedish law, the rightsholders have the right to pursue these cases.

Despite its name, the Swedish Pirate Party has been relatively silent on the issue. However, that changed this week, as the party now calls on Justice Minister Morgan Johansson to take action.

The Pirate Party describes the copyright trolling efforts as extortion. It stresses that the evidence copyright holders rely on is far from solid, something they believe the courts should take into account.

“It is a scandal that the Swedish judicial system facilitates the mafia-like methods of copyright trolls,” says Pirate Party leader Magnus Andersson.

“To condone the sending of extortion letters without reasonable ground for suspicion of criminal activity is not acceptable. We demand the Justice Minister to do something about the situation with these copyright trolls!”

The Pirate Party sees plenty of opportunities to intervene. The Government could, for example, change how the IPRED directive is interpreted and demand higher scrutiny of the provided evidence.

Another option would be to work at the EU level to repeal the IPRED-directive in its entirety.

Besides calling on the Justice Minister to take action, the Pirate Party is also backing the anti-copyright troll initiative of Internet provider Bahnhof. Through this campaign, members of the public can voice their concerns to the Swedish Government.

Through these and other efforts, the Pirate Party hopes that something will be done to protect the public from the ‘trolling’ practices.

“We cannot accept a situation where private companies use the judicial system as a weapon of fear to extort innocent people,” Andersson tells TorrentFreak.

“This creates contempt for the judiciary and supports the view that the courts only exist to serve the state’s and the big companies’ interests,” he adds.

Thus far the copyright holders have shown no sign of backing down. They refute the “trolling” characterizations and counter that they are merely enforcing their rights. And with the courts on their side, they have little to worry about for now.

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

Russia’s Encryption War: 1.8m Google & Amazon IPs Blocked to Silence Telegram

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-encryption-war-1-8m-google-amazon-ips-blocked-to-silence-telegram-180417/

The rules in Russia are clear. Entities operating an encrypted messaging service need to register with the authorities. They also need to hand over their encryption keys so that if law enforcement sees fit, users can be spied on.

Free cross-platform messaging app Telegram isn’t playing ball. An impressive 200,000,000 people used the software in March (including a growing number for piracy purposes) and founder Pavel Durov says he will not compromise their security, despite losing a lawsuit against the Federal Security Service which compels him to do so.

“Telegram doesn’t have shareholders or advertisers to report to. We don’t do deals with marketers, data miners or government agencies. Since the day we launched in August 2013 we haven’t disclosed a single byte of our users’ private data to third parties,” Durov said.

“Above all, we at Telegram believe in people. We believe that humans are inherently intelligent and benevolent beings that deserve to be trusted; trusted with freedom to share their thoughts, freedom to communicate privately, freedom to create tools. This philosophy defines everything we do.”

But by not handing over its keys, Telegram is in trouble with Russia. The FSB says it needs access to Telegram messages to combat terrorism so, in response to its non-compliance, telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor filed a lawsuit to degrade Telegram via web-blocking. Last Friday, that process ended in the state’s favor.

After an 18-minute hearing, a Moscow court gave the go-ahead for Telegram to be banned in Russia. The hearing was scheduled just the day before, giving Telegram little time to prepare. In protest, its lawyers didn’t even turn up to argue the company’s position.

Instead, Durov took to his VKontakte account to announce that Telegram would take counter-measures.

“Telegram will use built-in methods to bypass blocks, which do not require actions from users, but 100% availability of the service without a VPN is not guaranteed,” Durov wrote.

Telegram can appeal the blocking decision but Russian authorities aren’t waiting around for a response. They are clearly prepared to match Durov’s efforts, no matter what the cost.

In instructions sent out yesterday nationwide, Rozomnadzor ordered ISPs to block Telegram. The response was immediate and massive. Telegram was using both Amazon and Google to provide service to its users so, within hours, huge numbers of IP addresses belonging to both companies were targeted.

Initially, 655,352 Amazon IP addresses were placed on Russia’s nationwide blacklist. It was later reported that a further 131,000 IP addresses were added to that total. But the Russians were just getting started.

Servers.ru reports that a further 1,048,574 IP addresses belonging to Google were also targeted Monday. Rozcomnadzor said the court ruling against Telegram compelled it to take whatever action is needed to take Telegram down but with at least 1,834,996 addresses now confirmed blocked, it remains unclear what effect it’s had on the service.

Friday’s court ruling states that restrictions against Telegram can be lifted provided that the service hands over its encryption keys to the FSB. However, Durov responded by insisting that “confidentiality is not for sale, and human rights should not be compromised because of fear or greed.”

But of course, money is still part of the Telegram equation. While its business model in terms of privacy stands in stark contrast to that of Facebook, Telegram is also involved in the world’s biggest initial coin offering (ICO). According to media reports, it has raised $1.7 billion in pre-sales thus far.

This week’s action against Telegram is the latest in Russia’s war on ‘unauthorized’ encryption.

At the end of March, authorities suggested that around 15 million IP addresses (13.5 million belonging to Amazon) could be blocked to target chat software Zello. While those measures were averted, a further 500 domains belonging to Google were caught in the dragnet.

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

Microsoft Denies Piracy Extortion Claims, Returns Fire

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/microsoft-denies-piracy-extortion-claims-returns-fire-180416/

For many years, Microsoft and the Software Alliance (BSA) have carried out piracy investigations into organizations large and small.

Companies accused of using Microsoft software without permission usually get a letter asking them to pay up, or face legal consequences.

This also happened to Hanna Instruments, a Rhode Island-based company that sells analytical instruments. Last year, the company was accused of using Microsoft Office products without a proper license.

In a letter, BSA’s lawyers informed Hanna that it would face up to $4,950,000 in damages if the case went to court. Instead, however, they offered to settle the matter for $72,074.

Adding some extra pressure, BSA also warned that Microsoft could get a court order that would allow U.S. marshals to raid the company’s premises.

Where most of these cases are resolved behind closed doors, this one escalated. After being repeatedly contacted by BSA’s lawyers, Hanna decided to take the matter to court, claiming that Microsoft and BSA were trying to ‘extort’ money on ‘baseless’ accusations.

“BSA, Microsoft, and their counsel have, without supplying one scintilla of evidence, issued a series of letters for the sole purpose of extorting inflated monetary damages,” the company informed the court.

Late last week Microsoft and BSA replied to the complaint. While the two companies admit that they reached out to Hanna and offered a settlement, they deny several other allegations, including the extortion claims.

Instead, the companies submit a counterclaim, backing up their copyright infringement accusations and demanding damages.

“Hanna has engaged and continues to engage in the unauthorized installation, reproduction, and distribution and other unlawful use of Microsoft Software on computers on its premises and has used unlicensed copies of Microsoft Software to conduct its business,” they write.

According to Microsoft and BSA, the Rhode Island company still uses unauthorized product keys to activate and install unlicensed Microsoft software.

Turning Hanna’s own evidence against itself, they argue that two product keys were part of a batch of an educational program in China — not for commercial use in the United States.

Microsoft / BSA counterclaim

Another key could be traced back to what appears to be a counterfeit store which Microsoft has since shut down.

“The materials provided by Hanna also indicate that it purchased at least one copy of Microsoft Software from BuyCheapSoftware.com, a now-defunct website that was sued by Microsoft for selling stolen, abused, and otherwise unauthorized decoupled product keys,” Microsoft and BSA write.

According to Hanna, BSA previously failed to provide evidence to prove that the company was using unlicensed keys. However, the counterclaim suggests that the initial accusations had merit.

Whether BSA’s tactic of bringing up millions of dollars in damages and a possible raid by the U.S. Marshalls is the best strategy to resolve such a matter is up for debate of course.

It could very well be that Hanna was duped into buying counterfeit software, without knowing it. Perhaps this will come out as the case progresses. That said, it could also help if both sides simply have a good conversation to see if they can make peace, without threats.

Microsoft and BSA’s reply and counterclaim is available here (pdf).

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TV Broadcaster Wants App Stores Blocked to Prevent Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tv-broadcaster-wants-app-stores-blocked-to-prevent-piracy-180416/

After first targeting torrent and regular streaming platforms with blocking injunctions, last year Village Roadshow and studios including Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount began looking at a new threat.

The action targeted HDSubs+, a reasonably popular IPTV service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee. The application was filed during October 2017 and targeted Australia’s largest ISPs.

In parallel, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) launched a similar action, demanding that the same ISPs (including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries) block several ‘pirate’ IPTV services, named in court as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Due to the similarity of the cases, both applications were heard in Federal Court in Sydney on Friday. Neither case is as straightforward as blocking a torrent or basic streaming portal, so both applicants are having to deal with additional complexities.

The TVB case is of particular interest. Up to a couple of dozen URLs maintain the services, which are used to provide the content, an EPG (electronic program guide), updates and sundry other features. While most of these appear to fit the description of an “online location” designed to assist copyright infringement, where the Android-based software for the IPTV services is hosted provides an interesting dilemma.

ComputerWorld reports that the apps – which offer live broadcasts, video-on-demand, and catch-up TV – are hosted on as-yet-unnamed sites which are functionally similar to Google Play or Apple’s App Store. They’re repositories of applications that also carry non-infringing apps, such as those for Netflix and YouTube.

Nevertheless, despite clear knowledge of this dual use, TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too. Part of its argument that this action would be reasonable appears to be that legal apps – such as Netflix’s for example – can also be freely accessed elsewhere.

It will be up to Justice Nicholas to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, TVB also appears to have another problem which is directly connected to the copyright status in Australia of its China-focused live programming.

Justice Nicholas questioned whether watching a stream in Australia of TVB’s live Chinese broadcasts would amount to copyright infringement because no copy of that content is being made.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said.

One of the problems appears to be that China is not a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations. However, TVB is arguing that it should still receive protection because it airs pre-recorded content and the live broadcasts are also archived for re-transmission via catch-up services.

The question over whether unchoreographed live broadcasts receive protection has been raised in other regions but in most cases, a workaround has been found. The presence of broadcaster logos on screen (which receive copyright protection) is a factor and it’s been reported that broadcasters are able to record the ‘live’ action and transmit a copy just a couple of seconds later, thereby broadcasting an already-copyrighted work.

While TVB attempts to overcome its issues, Village Roadshow is facing some of its own in its efforts to take down HDSubs+.

It appears that at least partly in response to the Roadshow legal action, the service has undergone some modifications, including a change of brand to ‘Press Play Extra’. As reported by ZDNet, there have been structural changes too, which means that Roadshow can no longer “see under the hood”.

According to Justice Nicholas, there is no evidence that the latest version of the app infringes copyright but according to counsel for Village Roadshow, the new app is merely transitional and preparing for a possible future change.

“We submit the difference to be drawn is reactive to my clients serving on the operators a notice,” counsel for Roadshow argued, with an expert describing the new app as “almost like a placeholder.”

In short, Roadshow still wants all of the target domains in its original application blocked because the company believes there’s a good chance they’ll be reactivated in the future.

None of the ISPs involved in either case turned up to the hearings on Friday, which removes one layer of complexity in what appears thus far to be less than straightforward cases.

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

How Pirates Use New Technologies for Old Sharing Habits

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/how-pirates-use-new-technologies-for-old-sharing-habits-180415/

While piracy today is more widespread than ever, the urge to share content online has been around for several decades.

The first generation used relatively primitive tools, such as a bulletin board systems (BBS), newsgroups or IRC. Nothing too fancy, but they worked well for those who got over the initial learning curve.

When Napster came along things started to change. More content became available and with just a few clicks anyone could get an MP3 transferred from one corner of the world to another. The same was true for Kazaa and Limewire, which further popularized online piracy.

After this initial boom of piracy applications, BitTorrent came along, shaking up the sharing landscape even further. As torrent sites are web-based, pirated media became even more public and easy to find.

At the same time, BitTorrent brought back the smaller and more organized sharing culture of the early days through private trackers.

These communities often focused on a specific type of content and put strict rules and guidelines in place. They promoted sharing and avoided the spam that plagued their public counterparts.

That was fifteen years ago.

Today the piracy landscape is more diverse than ever. Private torrent trackers are still around and so are IRC and newsgroups. However, most piracy today takes place in public. Streaming sites and devices are booming, with central hosting platforms offering the majority of the underlying content.

That said, there is still an urge for some pirates to band together and some use newer technologies to do so.

This week The Outline ran an interesting piece on the use of Telegram channels to share pirated media. These groups use the encrypted communication platform to share copies of movies, TV shows, and a wide range of other material.

Telegram allows users to upload files up to 1.5GB in size, but larger ones can be split, in common with the good old newsgroups.

These type of sharing groups are not new. On social media platforms such as Facebook and VK, there are hundreds or thousands of dedicated communities that do the same. Both public and private. And Reddit has similar groups, relying on external links.

According to an administrator of a piracy-focused Telegram channel, the appeal of the platform is that the groups are not shut down so easily. While that may be the case with hyper-private groups, Telegram will still pull the plug if it receives enough complaints about a channel.

The same is true for Discord, another application that can be used to share content in ‘private’ communities. Discord is particularly popular among gamers, but pirates have also found their way to the platform.

While smaller communities are able to thrive, once the word gets out to copyright holders, the party can soon be over. This is also what the /r/piracy subreddit community found out a few days ago when its Discord server was pulled offline.

This triggered a discussion about possible alternatives. Telegram was mentioned by some, although not everyone liked the idea of connecting their phone number to a pirate group. Others mentioned Slack, Weechat, Hexchat and Riot.im.

None of these tools are revolutionary. At least, not for the intended use by this group. Some may be harder to take down than others, but they are all means to share files, directly or through external links.

What really caught our eye, however, were several mentions of an ancient application layer protocol that, apparently, hasn’t lost its use to pirates.

“I’ll make an IRC server and host that,” one user said, with others suggesting the same.

And so we have come full circle…

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-Blocking? Music Biz Wants App Blocking Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blocking-music-biz-wants-app-blocking-too-180415/

In some way, shape or form, Internet piracy has always been carried out through some kind of application. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer client utilizing BitTorrent or eD2K, or a Usenet or FTP tool taking things back to their roots, software has always played a crucial role.

Of course, the nature of the Internet beast means that software usage is unavoidable but in recent years piracy has swung more towards the regular web browser, meaning that sites and services offering pirated content are largely easy to locate, identify and block, if authorities so choose.

As revealed this week by the MPA, thousands of platforms around the world are now targeted for blocking, with 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains blocked in Europe alone.

However, as the Kodi phenomenon has shown, web-based content doesn’t always have to be accessed via a standard web browser. Clever but potentially illegal addons and third-party apps are able to scrape web-based resources and present links to content on a wide range of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to set-top boxes.

While it’s still possible to block the resources upon which these addons rely, the scattered nature of the content makes the process much more difficult. One can’t simply block a whole platform because a few movies are illegally hosted there and even Google has found itself hosting thousands of infringing titles, a situation that’s ruthlessly exploited by addon and app developers alike.

Needless to say, the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has spent the last year (1,2,3) targeting many people involved in the addon and app scene, hoping they’ll take their tools and run, rather than further develop a rapidly evolving piracy ecosystem.

Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.

The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.

“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.

“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.

And if Blinov is to be believed, music in Russia is doing particularly well at the moment. Attributing successes to efforts by parliament, the Ministry of Communications, and copyright holders, Blinov said the local music market has doubled in the past two years.

“We are now in the top three fastest growing markets in the world, behind only China and South Korea,” Blinov said.

While some apps can work in the same manner as a basic web interface, others rely on more complex mechanisms, ‘scraping’ content from diverse sources that can be easily and readily changed if mitigation measures kick in. It will be very interesting to see how Russia deals with this threat and whether it will opt for highly technical solutions or the nuclear options demonstrated recently.

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

Google Search Receives Fewer Takedown Notices Than Before

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-search-receives-fewer-takedown-notices-than-before-180414/

In recent years Google has had to cope with a continuous increase in takedown requests from copyright holders, which target pirate sites in search results.

Just a few years ago the search engine removed ‘only’ a few thousand URLs per day. This has since grown to millions and has kept growing, until recently.

Around a year ago Google received a billion takedown requests a year, and for a while, it stabilized at roughly 20 million requests per week. By October last year, Google search had processed over three billion DMCA requests since it started counting.

After that, it appears that things calmed down a little. Where Google’s weekly takedown chart went up year after year, it’s now trending in a downward direction.

During the past half year, Google received ‘only’ 375 million takedown requests. That translates to roughly 15 million per week or 750 million per year. This is a 25% decrease compared the average in 2016.

Does this mean that copyright holders can no longer find enough pirated content via the search engine? We doubt it. But it’s clear that some of the big reporting agencies are sending in less complaints.

Degban, for example, which was at one point good for more than 10% of the weekly number of DMCA requests, has disappeared completely. Other big players, such as the Mexican anti-piracy outfit APDIF and Remove Your Media, have clearly lowered their volumes.

APDIF’s weekly DMCA volume

Of all the big players, UK Music Group BPI has been most consistent. Their average hasn’t dropped much in recent years, but is certainly not rising either.

It’s too early to tell whether this trend will hold, but according to the numbers we see now, Google will for the first time have a significant decrease in the number of takedown requests this year.

Despite the decrease, Google is under quite a bit of pressure from copyright holders to improve its takedown efforts. Most would like Google to delist pirate site domains entirely.

While the search engine isn’t willing to go that far, it does give a lower ranking to sites for which it receives a large volume of takedown requests. In addition, the company recently started accepting ‘prophylactic’ DMCA requests, for content that is not indexed yet.

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

IP Address Fail: ISP Doesn’t Have to Hand ‘Pirates’ Details to Copyright Trolls

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/ip-address-fail-isp-doesnt-have-to-hand-pirates-details-to-copyright-trolls-180414/

On October 27, 2016, UK-based Copyright Management Services (CMS) filed a case against Sweden-based ISP, Tele2.

CMS, run by Patrick Achache of German-based anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye (which in turn is deeply involved with infamous copyright troll outfit Guardaley), claimed that Tele2 customers had infringed its clients’ copyrights on the movies Cell and IT by sharing them via BitTorrent.

Since Tele2 had the personal details of the customers behind those IP addresses, CMS asked the Patent and Market Court to prevent the ISP from deleting the data before it could be handed over. Once in its possession, CMS would carry out the usual process of writing to customers and demanding cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits go away.

Tele2 complained that it could not hand over the details of customers using NAT addresses since it simply doesn’t hold that information. The ISP also said it could not hand over details of customers if IP address information had previously been deleted.

Taking these objections into consideration, in November 2017 the Court approved an interim order in respect of the remaining IP addresses. But there were significant problems which led the ISP to appeal.

According to tests carried out by Tele2, many of the IP addresses in the case did not relate to Sweden or indeed Tele2. In fact, some IP addresses belonged to foreign companies or mere affiliates of the ISP.

“Tele2 thus lacks the actual ability to provide information regarding a large part of the IP addresses covered by the submission,” the Court of Appeal noted in a decision published this week.

The problem appears to lie with the way the MaverickEye monitoring system attributed monitored IP addresses to Tele2.

The Court notes that the company relied on the RIPE Database which stated that the IP addresses in question were allocated to the “geographic area of Sweden”. According to Tele2, however, that wasn’t the case and as such, it had no information to hand over.

CMS, on the other hand, maintained that according to RIPE’s records, Tele2 was indeed the controller of the IP addresses in question so must hand over the information as requested.

While the Patent and Market Court said that Tele2 didn’t object to the MaverickEye monitoring software in terms of the data it collects on file-sharers, it noted that CMS had failed to initiate an investigation in respect of the IP addresses allegedly not belonging to Tele2.

“CMS has not invoked any investigation showing how the identification of the IP addresses in question is made in this case or who at Maverickeye UG was responsible for this,” the Court writes.

“Nor did CMS use the opportunity to hear representatives of Tele2 or others with Tele2 in mind to discover if the company has access to any of the current IP addresses and, if so, which.”

Considering the above, the Court notes that Tele2’s statement, that it doesn’t have access to the data, must stand.

“In these circumstances, CMS, against Tele2’s appeal, has not shown that Tele2 holds the information requested by the disclosure order. CMS’ application for a disclosure order should therefore be rejected,” the Court concludes.

The decision cannot be appealed so Copyright Management Services won’t get its hands on the personal details of the people behind the IP addresses, at least through this process.

The decision (Swedish, pdf)

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‘Pirate’ Android App Store Operator Avoids Prison

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-android-app-store-operator-avoids-prison-180413/

Assisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet and SnappzMarket in the summer of 2012.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, and slowly but surely these cases are reaching their conclusions.

This week the Northern District Court of Georgia announced the sentencing of one of the youngest defendants. Aaron Buckley was fifteen when he started working on Applanet, and still a teenager when armed agents raided his house.

Years passed and a lot has changed since then, Buckley’s attorney informed the court before sentencing. The former pirate, who pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Copyright Infringement and Criminal Copyright Infringement, is a completely different person today.

Similar to many people who have a run-in with the law, life wasn’t always easy on him. Computers offered a welcome escape but also dragged Buckley into trouble, something he deeply regrets now.

Following the indictment, things started to change. The Applanet operator picked up his life, away from the computer, and also got involved in community work. Among other things, he plays a leading role in a popular support community for LGBT teenagers.

Given the tough circumstances of his personal life, which we won’t elaborate on, his attorney requested a downward departure from the regular sentencing guidelines, to allow for lesser punishment.

After considering all the options, District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten agreed to a lower sentence. Unlike some other pirate app stores operators, who must spend years in prison, Buckley will not be incarcerated.

Instead, the Applanet operator, who is now in his mid-twenties, will be put on probation for three years, including a year of home confinement.

The sentence (pdf)

In addition, he has to perform 20 hours of community service and work towards passing a General Educational Development (GED) exam.

It’s tough to live with the prospect of possibly spending years in jail, especially for more than a decade. Given the circumstances, this sentence must be a huge relief.

TorrentFreak contacted Buckley, who informed us that he is happy with the outcome and ready to work on a bright future.

“I really respect the government and the judge in their sentencing and am extremely grateful that they took into account all concerns of my health and life situation in regards to possible sentences,” he tells us.

“I am just glad to have another chance to use my time and skills to hopefully contribute to society in a more positive way as much as I am capable thanks to the outcome of the case.”

Time to move on.

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

WHOIS Limits Under GDPR Will Make Pirates Harder to Catch, Groups Fear

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/whois-limits-under-gdpr-will-make-pirates-harder-to-catch-groups-fear-180413/

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law covering data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union.

As more and more personal data is gathered, stored and (ab)used online, the aim of the GDPR is to protect EU citizens from breaches of privacy. The regulation applies to all companies processing the personal data of subjects residing in the Union, no matter where in the world the company is located.

Penalties for non-compliance can be severe. While there is a tiered approach according to severity, organizations can be fined up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is greater. Needless to say, the regulations will need to be taken seriously.

Among those affected are domain name registries and registrars who publish the personal details of domain name owners in the public WHOIS database. In a full entry, a person or organization’s name, address, telephone numbers and email addresses can often be found.

This raises a serious issue. While registries and registrars are instructed and contractually obliged to publish data in the WHOIS database by global domain name authority ICANN, in millions of cases this conflicts with the requirements of the GDPR, which prevents the details of private individuals being made freely available on the Internet.

As explained in detail by the EFF, ICANN has been trying to resolve this clash. Its proposed interim model for GDPR compliance (pdf) envisions registrars continuing to collect full WHOIS data but not necessarily publishing it, to “allow the existing data
to be preserved while the community discussions continue on the next generation of WHOIS.”

But the proposed changes that will inevitably restrict free access to WHOIS information has plenty of people spooked, including thousands of companies belonging to entertainment industry groups such as the MPAA, IFPI, RIAA and the Copyright Alliance.

In a letter sent to Vice President Andrus Ansip of the European Commission, these groups and dozens of others warn that restricted access to WHOIS will have a serious effect on their ability to protect their intellectual property rights from “cybercriminals” which pose a threat to their businesses.

Signed by 50 organizations involved in IP protection and other areas of online security, the letter expresses concern that in attempting to comply with the GDPR, ICANN is on a course to “over-correct” while disregarding proportionality, accountability and transparency.

A small sample of the groups calling on ICANN

“We strongly assert that this model does not properly account for the critical public and legitimate interests served by maintaining a sufficient amount of data publicly available while respecting privacy interests of registrants by instituting a tiered or layered access system for the vast majority of personal data as defined by the GDPR,” the groups write.

The letter focuses on two aspects of “over-correction”, the first being ICANN’s proposal that no personal data whatsoever of a domain name registrant will be made available “without appropriate consideration or balancing of the countervailing interests in public disclosure of a limited amount of such data.”

In response to ICANN’s proposal that only the province/state and country of a domain name registrant be made publicly available, the groups advise the organization that publishing “a natural person registrant’s e-mail address” in a publicly accessible WHOIS directory will not constitute a breach of the GDPR.

“[W]e strongly believe that the continued public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address – specifically the e-mail address that the registrant supplies to the registrar at the time the domain name is purchased and which e-mail address the registrar is required to validate – is critical for several reasons,” the groups write.

“First, it is the data element that is typically the most important to have readily available for law enforcement, consumer protection, particularly child protection, intellectual property enforcement and cybersecurity/anti-malware purposes.

“Second, the public accessibility of the registrant’s e-mail address permits a broad array of threats and illegal activities to be addressed quickly and the damage from such threats mitigated and contained in a timely manner, particularly where the abusive/illegal activity may be spawned from a variety of different domain names on different generic Top Level Domains,” they add.

The groups also argue that since making email addresses is effectively required in light of Article 5.1(c) ECD, “there is no legitimate justification to discontinue public availability of the registrant’s e-mail address in the WHOIS directory and especially not in light of other legitimate purposes.”

The EFF, on the other hand, says that being able to contact a domain owner wouldn’t necessarily require an email address to be made public.

“There are other cases in which it makes sense to allow members of the public to contact the owner of a domain, without having to obtain a court order,” EFF writes.

“But this could be achieved very simply if ICANN were simply to provide something like a CAPTCHA-protected contact form, which would deliver email to the appropriate contact point with no need to reveal the registrant’s actual email address.”

The groups’ second main concern is that ICANN reportedly makes no distinction between name registrants that are “natural persons versus those that are legal entities” and intends to treat them all as if they are subject to the GDPR, despite the fact that the regulation only applies to data associated with an “identified or identifiable natural person”.

They say it is imperative that EU Data Protection Authorities are made to understand that when registrants obtain a domain for illegal purposes, they often only register it as a “natural person” when registering as a legal person (legal entity) would be more appropriate, despite that granting them less privacy.

“Consequently, the test for differentiating between a legal and natural person should not merely be the legal status of the registrant, but also whether the registrant is, in fact, acting as a legal or natural person vis a vis the use of the domain name,” the groups note.

“We therefore urge that ICANN be given appropriate guidance as to the importance of maintaining a distinction between natural person and legal person registrants and keeping as much data about legal person domain name registrants as publicly accessible as possible,” they conclude.

What will happen with WHOIS on May 25 still isn’t clear. It wasn’t until October 2017 that ICANN finally determined that it would be affected by the GDPR, meaning that it’s been scrambling ever since to meet the compliance date. And it still is, according to the latest available documentation (pdf).

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

MPAA Quietly Shut Down Its ‘Legal’ Movie Search Engine

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-quietly-shut-down-its-legal-movie-search-engine-180411/

During the fall of 2014, Hollywood launched WhereToWatch, its very own search engine for movies and TV-shows.

The site enabled people to check if and where the latest entertainment was available, hoping to steer U.S. visitors away from pirate sites.

Aside from the usual critics, the launch received a ton of favorable press. This was soon followed up by another release highlighting some of the positive responses and praise from the press.

“The initiative marks a further attempt by the MPAA to combat rampant online piracy by reminding consumers of legal means to watch movies and TV shows,” the LA Times wrote, for example.

Over the past several years, the site hasn’t appeared in the news much, but it did help thousands of people find legal sources for the latest entertainment. However, those who try to access it today will notice that WhereToWatch has been abandoned, quietly.

The MPAA pulled the plug on the service a few months ago. And where the mainstream media covered its launch in detail, the shutdown received zero mentions. So why did the site fold?

According to MPAA Vice President of Corporate Communications, Chris Ortman, it was no longer needed as there are many similar search engines out there.

“Given the many search options commercially available today, which can be found on the MPAA website, WheretoWatch.com was discontinued at the conclusion of 2017,” Ortman informs TF.

“There are more than 140 lawful online platforms in the United States for accessing film and television content, and more than 460 around the world,” he adds.

The MPAA lists several of these alternative search engines on its new website. The old WhereToWatch domain now forwards to the MPAA’s online magazine ‘The Credits,’ which features behind-the-scenes stories and industry profiles.

While the MPAA is right that there are alternative search engines, many of these were already available when WhereToWatch launched. In fact, the site used the services of the competing service GoWatchIt for its search results.

Perhaps the lack of interest from the U.S. public played a role as well. The site never really took off and according to traffic estimates from SimilarWeb and Alexa, most of the visitors came from Iran, where the site was unusable due to a geo-block.

After searching long and hard we were able to track down a former WhereToWatch user on Reddit. This person just started to get into the service and was disappointed to see it go.

“So, does anyone know of better places or simply other places where this information lives in an easily accessible place?” he or she asked.

One person responded by recommending Icefilms.info, a pirate site. This is a response the MPAA would cringe at, but luckily, most people mentioned justwatch.com as the best alternative.

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