Tag Archives: pressure

Google on Collision Course With Movie Biz Over Piracy & Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-on-collision-course-with-movie-biz-over-piracy-safe-harbor-180219/

Wherever Google has a presence, rightsholders are around to accuse the search giant of not doing enough to deal with piracy.

Over the past several years, the company has been attacked by both the music and movie industries but despite overtures from Google, criticism still floods in.

In Australia, things are definitely heating up. Village Roadshow, one of the nation’s foremost movie companies, has been an extremely vocal Google critic since 2015 but now its co-chief, the outspoken Graham Burke, seems to want to take things to the next level.

As part of yet another broadside against Google, Burke has for the second time in a month accused Google of playing a large part in online digital crime.

“My view is they are complicit and they are facilitating crime,” Burke said, adding that if Google wants to sue him over his comments, they’re very welcome to do so.

It’s highly unlikely that Google will take the bait. Burke’s attempt at pushing the issue further into the spotlight will have been spotted a mile off but in any event, legal battles with Google aren’t really something that Burke wants to get involved in.

Australia is currently in the midst of a consultation process for the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 which would extend the country’s safe harbor provisions to a broader range of service providers including educational institutions, libraries, archives, key cultural institutions and organizations assisting people with disabilities.

For its part, Village Roadshow is extremely concerned that these provisions may be extended to other providers – specifically Google – who might then use expanded safe harbor to deflect more liability in respect of piracy.

“Village Roadshow….urges that there be no further amendments to safe harbor and in particular there is no advantage to Australia in extending safe harbor to Google,” Burke wrote in his company’s recent submission to the government.

“It is very unlikely given their size and power that as content owners we would ever sue them but if we don’t have that right then we stand naked. Most importantly if Google do the right thing by Australia on the question of piracy then there will be no issues. However, they are very far from this position and demonstrably are facilitating crime.”

Accusations of crime facilitation are nothing new for Google, with rightsholders in the US and Europe having accused the company of the same a number of times over the years. In response, Google always insists that it abides by relevant laws and actually goes much further in tackling piracy than legislation currently requires.

On the safe harbor front, Google begins by saying that not expanding provisions to service providers will have a seriously detrimental effect on business development in the region.

“[Excluding] online service providers falls far short of a balanced, pro-innovation environment for Australia. Further, it takes Australia out of step with other digital economies by creating regulatory uncertainty for [venture capital] investment and startup/entrepreneurial success,” Google’s submission reads.

“[T]he Draft Bill’s narrow safe harbor scheme places Australian-based startups and online service providers — including individual bloggers, websites, small startups, video-hosting services, enterprise cloud companies, auction sites, online marketplaces, hosting providers for real-estate listings, photo hosting services, search engines, review sites, and online platforms —in a disadvantaged position compared with global startups in countries that have strong safe harbor frameworks, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and other EU countries.

“Under the new scheme, Australian-based startups and service providers, unlike their international counterparts, will not receive clear and consistent legal protection when they respond to complaints from rightsholders about alleged instances of online infringement by third-party users on their services,” Google notes.

Interestingly, Google then delivers what appears to be a loosely veiled threat.

One of the key anti-piracy strategies touted by the mainstream entertainment companies is collaboration between rightsholders and service providers, including the latter providing voluntary tools to police infringement online. Google says that if service providers are given a raw deal on safe harbor, the extent of future cooperation may be at risk.

“If Australian-based service providers are carved out of the new safe harbor regime post-reform, they will operate from a lower incentive to build and test new voluntary tools to combat online piracy, potentially reducing their contributions to innovation in best practices in both Australia and international markets,” the company warns.

But while Village Roadshow argue against safe harbors and warn that piracy could kill the movie industry, it is quietly optimistic that the tide is turning.

In a presentation to investors last week, the company said that reducing piracy would have “only an upside” for its business but also added that new research indicates that “piracy growth [is] getting arrested.” As a result, the company says that it will build on the notion that “74% of people see piracy as ‘wrong/theft’” and will call on Australians to do the right thing.

In the meantime, the pressure on Google will continue but lawsuits – in either direction – won’t provide an answer.

Village Roadshow’s submission can be found here, Google’s here (pdf).

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

Subtitle Heroes: Fansubbing Movie Criticized For Piracy Promotion

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/subtitle-heroes-fansubbing-movie-criticized-for-piracy-promotion-180217/

With many thousands of movies and TV shows being made available illegally online every year, a significant number will be enjoyed by speakers of languages other than that presented in the original production.

When Hollywood blockbusters appear online, small armies of individuals around the world spring into action, translating the dialog into Chinese and Czech, Dutch and Danish, French and Farsi, Russian and Romanian, plus a dozen languages in between. TV shows, particularly those produced in the US, get the same immediate treatment.

For many years, subtitling (‘fansubbing’) communities have provided an incredible service to citizens around the globe, from those seeking to experience new culture and languages to the hard of hearing and profoundly deaf. Now, following in the footsteps of movies like TPB:AFK and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, a new movie has premiered in Italy which celebrates this extraordinary movement.

Subs Heroes from writer and director Franco Dipietro hit cinemas at the end of January. It documents the contribution fansubbing has made to Italian culture in a country that under fascism in 1934 banned the use of foreign languages in films, books, newspapers and everyday speech.

The movie centers on the large subtitle site ItalianSubs.net. Founded by a group of teenagers in 2006, it is now run by a team of men and women who maintain their identities as regular citizens during the day but transform into “superheroes of fansubbing” at night.

Needless to say, not everyone is pleased with this depiction of the people behind the now-infamous 500,000 member site.

For many years, fansubbing attracted very little heat but over time anti-piracy groups have been turning up the pressure, accusing subtitling teams of fueling piracy. This notion is shared by local anti-piracy outfit FAPAV (Federation for the Protection of Audiovisual and Multimedia Content), which has accused Dipietro’s movie of glamorizing criminal activity.

In a statement following the release of Subs Heroes, FAPAV made its position crystal clear: sites like ItalianSubs do not contribute to the development of the audiovisual market in Italy.

“It is necessary to clarify: when a protected work is subtitled and there is no right to do so, a crime is committed,” the anti-piracy group says.

“[Italiansubs] translates and makes available subtitles of audiovisual works (films and television series) in many cases not yet distributed on the Italian market. All this without having requested the consent of the rights holders. Ergo the Italiansubs community is illegal.”

Italiansubs (note ad for movie, top right)

FAPAV General Secretary Federico Bagnoli Rossi says that the impact that fansubbers have on the market is significant, causing damage not only to companies distributing the content but also to those who invest in official translations.

The fact that fansubbers often translate content that is not yet available in the region only compounds matters, Rossi says, noting that unofficial translations can also have “direct consequences” on those who have language dubbing as an occupation.

“The audiovisual market today needs to be supported and the protection and fight against illicit behaviors are as fundamental as investments and creative ideas,” Rossi notes.

“Everyone must do their part, respecting the rules and with a competitive and global cultural vision. There are no ‘superheroes’ or noble goals behind piracy, but only great damage to the audiovisual sector and all its workers.”

Also piling on the criticism is the chief of the National Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, who wrote to all of the companies involved to remind them that unauthorized subtitling is a crime. According to local reports, there seems to be an underlying tone that people should avoid becoming associated with the movie.

This did not please director Franco Dipietro who is defending his right to document the fansubbing movement, whether the industry likes it or not.

“We invite those who perhaps think differently to deepen the discussion and maybe organize an event to talk about it together. The film is made to confront and talk about a phenomenon that, whether we like it or not, exists and we can not pretend that it is not there,” Dipietro concludes.



Subs Heroes Trailer 1 from Duel: on Vimeo.



Subs Heroes Trailer 2 from Duel: on Vimeo.

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

Australian Government Launches Pirate Site-Blocking Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-launches-pirate-site-blocking-review-180214/

Following intense pressure from entertainment industry groups, in 2014 Australia began developing legislation which would allow ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.

In March 2015 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf) was introduced to parliament and after just three months of consideration, the Australian Senate passed the legislation into law.

Soon after, copyright holders began preparing their first cases and in December 2016, the Australian Federal Court ordered dozens of local Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, plus many proxy and mirror services.

Since then, more processes have been launched establishing site-blocking as a permanent fixture on the Aussie anti-piracy agenda. But with yet more applications for injunction looming on the horizon, how is the mechanism performing and does anything else need to be done to improve or amend it?

Those are the questions now being asked by the responsible department of the Australian Government via a consultation titled Review of Copyright Online Infringement Amendment. The review should’ve been carried out 18 months after the law’s introduction in 2015 but the department says that it delayed the consultation to let more evidence emerge.

“The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking views from stakeholders on the questions put forward in this paper. The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment),” the consultation paper begins.

The three key questions for response are as follows:

– How effective and efficient is the mechanism introduced by the Online Infringement Amendment?

– Is the application process working well for parties and are injunctions operating well, once granted?

– Are any amendments required to improve the operation of the Online Infringement Amendment?

Given the tendency for copyright holders to continuously demand more bang for their buck, it will perhaps come as a surprise that at least for now there is a level of consensus that the system is working as planned.

“Case law and survey data suggests the Online Infringement Amendment has enabled copyright owners to work with [Internet service providers] to reduce large-scale online copyright infringement. So far, it appears that copyright owners and [ISPs] find the current arrangement acceptable, clear and effective,” the paper reads.

Thus far under the legislation there have been four applications for injunctions through the Federal Court, notably against leading torrent indexes and browser-based streaming sites, which were both granted.

The other two processes, which began separately but will be heard together, at least in part, involve the recent trend of set-top box based streaming.

Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount are currently presenting their case to the Federal Court. Along with Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which has a separate application, the companies have been told to put together quality evidence for an April 2018 hearing.

With these applications already in the pipeline, yet more are on the horizon. The paper notes that more applications are expected to reach the Federal Court shortly, with the Department of Communications monitoring to assess whether current arrangements are refined as additional applications are filed.

Thus far, however, steady progress appears to have been made. The paper cites various precedents established as a result of the blocking process including the use of landing pages to inform Internet users why sites are blocked and who is paying.

“Either a copyright owner or [ISP] can establish a landing page. If an [ISP] wishes to avoid the cost of its own landing page, it can redirect customers to one that the copyright owner would provide. Another precedent allocates responsibility for compliance costs. Cases to date have required copyright owners to pay all or a significant proportion of compliance costs,” the paper notes.

But perhaps the issue of most importance is whether site-blocking as a whole has had any effect on the levels of copyright infringement in Australia.

The Government says that research carried out by Kantar shows that downloading “fell slightly from 2015 to 2017” with a 5-10% decrease in individuals consuming unlicensed content across movies, music and television. It’s worth noting, however, that Netflix didn’t arrive on Australian shores until May 2015, just a month before the new legislation was passed.

Research commissioned by the Department of Communications and published a year later in 2016 (pdf) found that improved availability of legal streaming alternatives was the main contributor to falling infringement rates. In a juicy twist, the report also revealed that Aussie pirates were the entertainment industries’ best customers.

“The Department is aware that other factors — such as the increasing availability of television, music and film streaming services and of subscription gaming services — may also contribute to falling levels of copyright infringement,” the paper notes.

Submissions to the consultation (pdf) are invited by 5.00 pm AEST on Friday 16 March 2018 via the government’s website.

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

EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive ‘Piracy’ Filters

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-urges-us-copyright-office-to-reject-proactive-piracy-filters-180213/

Faced with millions of individuals consuming unlicensed audiovisual content from a variety of sources, entertainment industry groups have been seeking solutions closer to the roots of the problem.

As widespread site-blocking attempts to tackle ‘pirate’ sites in the background, greater attention has turned to legal platforms that host both licensed and unlicensed content.

Under current legislation, these sites and services can do business relatively comfortably due to the so-called safe harbor provisions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD).

Both sets of legislation ensure that Internet platforms can avoid being held liable for the actions of others provided they themselves address infringement when they are made aware of specific problems. If a video hosting site has a copy of an unlicensed movie uploaded by a user, for example, it must be removed within a reasonable timeframe upon request from the copyright holder.

However, in both the US and EU there is mounting pressure to make it more difficult for online services to achieve ‘safe harbor’ protections.

Entertainment industry groups believe that platforms use the law to turn a blind eye to infringing content uploaded by users, content that is often monetized before being taken down. With this in mind, copyright holders on both sides of the Atlantic are pressing for more proactive regimes, ones that will see Internet platforms install filtering mechanisms to spot and discard infringing content before it can reach the public.

While such a system would be welcomed by rightsholders, Internet companies are fearful of a future in which they could be held more liable for the infringements of others. They’re supported by the EFF, who yesterday presented a petition to the US Copyright Office urging caution over potential changes to the DMCA.

“As Internet users, website owners, and online entrepreneurs, we urge you to preserve and strengthen the Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbors for Internet service providers,” the EFF writes.

“The DMCA safe harbors are key to keeping the Internet open to all. They allow anyone to launch a website, app, or other service without fear of crippling liability for copyright infringement by users.”

It is clear that pressure to introduce mandatory filtering is a concern to the EFF. Filters are blunt instruments that cannot fathom the intricacies of fair use and are liable to stifle free speech and stymie innovation, they argue.

“Major media and entertainment companies and their surrogates want Congress to replace today’s DMCA with a new law that would require websites and Internet services to use automated filtering to enforce copyrights.

“Systems like these, no matter how sophisticated, cannot accurately determine the copyright status of a work, nor whether a use is licensed, a fair use, or otherwise non-infringing. Simply put, automated filters censor lawful and important speech,” the EFF warns.

While its introduction was voluntary and doesn’t affect the company’s safe harbor protections, YouTube already has its own content filtering system in place.

ContentID is able to detect the nature of some content uploaded by users and give copyright holders a chance to remove or monetize it. The company says that the majority of copyright disputes are now handled by ContentID but the system is not perfect and mistakes are regularly flagged by users and mentioned in the media.

However, ContentID was also very expensive to implement so expecting smaller companies to deploy something similar on much more limited budgets could be a burden too far, the EFF warns.

“What’s more, even deeply flawed filters are prohibitively expensive for all but the largest Internet services. Requiring all websites to implement filtering would reinforce the market power wielded by today’s large Internet services and allow them to stifle competition. We urge you to preserve effective, usable DMCA safe harbors, and encourage Congress to do the same,” the EFF notes.

The same arguments, for and against, are currently raging in Europe where the EU Commission proposed mandatory upload filtering in 2016. Since then, opposition to the proposals has been fierce, with warnings of potential human rights breaches and conflicts with existing copyright law.

Back in the US, there are additional requirements for a provider to qualify for safe harbor, including having a named designated agent tasked with receiving copyright infringement notifications. This person’s name must be listed on a platform’s website and submitted to the US Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agents’ contact information.

Under new rules, agents must be re-registered with the Copyright Office every three years, despite that not being a requirement under the DMCA. The EFF is concerned that by simply failing to re-register an agent, an otherwise responsible website could lose its safe harbor protections, even if the agent’s details have remained the same.

“We’re concerned that the new requirement will particularly disadvantage small and nonprofit websites. We ask you to reconsider this rule,” the EFF concludes.

The EFF’s letter to the Copyright Office can be found here.

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

RIAA: Cox Ruling Shows that Grande Can Be Liable for Piracy Too

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-cox-ruling-shows-that-grande-can-be-liable-for-piracy-too-180207/

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Last year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of turning a blind eye on its pirating subscribers.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence,” the RIAA’s complaint read.

Grande disagreed with this assertion and filed a motion to dismiss the case. The ISP argued that it doesn’t encourage any of its customers to download copyrighted works, and that it has no control over the content subscribers access.

The Internet provider didn’t deny that it received millions of takedown notices through the piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believed that these notices are flawed and not worthy of acting upon.

The case shows a lot of similarities with the legal battle between BMG and Cox Communications, in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important verdict last week.

The appeals court overturned the $25 million piracy damages verdict against Cox due to an erroneous jury instruction but held that the ISP lost its safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

This week, the RIAA used the Fourth Circuit ruling as further evidence that Grande’s motion to dismiss should be denied.

The RIAA points out that both Cox and Grande used similar arguments in their defense, some of which were denied by the appeals court. The Fourth Circuit held, for example, that an ISP’s substantial non-infringing uses does not immunize it from liability for contributory copyright infringement.

In addition, the appeals court also clarified that if an ISP wilfully blinds itself to copyright infringements, that is sufficient to satisfy the knowledge requirement for contributory copyright infringement.

According to the RIAA’s filing at a Texas District Court this week, Grande has already admitted that it willingly ‘ignored’ takedown notices that were submitted on behalf of third-party copyright holders.

“Grande has already admitted that it received notices from Rightscorp and, to use Grande’s own phrase, did not ‘meaningfully investigate’ them,” the RIAA writes.

“Thus, even if this Court were to apply the Fourth Circuit’s ‘willful blindness’ standard, the level of knowledge that Grande has effectively admitted exceeds the level of knowledge that the Fourth Circuit held was ‘powerful evidence’ sufficient to establish liability for contributory infringement.”

As such, the motion to dismiss the case should be denied, the RIAA argues.

What’s not mentioned in the RIAA’s filing, however, is why Grande chose not to act upon these takedown notices. In its defense, the ISP previously explained that Rightcorp’s notices lacked specificity and were incapable of detecting actual infringements.

Grande argued that if they acted on these notices without additional proof, its subscribers could lose their Internet access even though they are using it for legal purposes. The ISP may, therefore, counter that it wasn’t willfully blind, as it saw no solid proof for the alleged infringements to begin with.

“To merely treat these allegations as true without investigation would be a disservice to Grande’s subscribers, who would run the risk of having their Internet service permanently terminated despite using Grande’s services for completely legitimate purposes,” Grande previously wrote.

This brings up a tricky issue. The Fourth Circuit made it clear last week that ISPs require a meaningful policy against repeat infringers in respond to takedown notices from copyright holders. But what are the requirements for a proper takedown notice? Do any and all notices count?

Grande clearly has no faith in the accuracy of Rightscorp’s technology but if their case goes in the same direction as Cox’s, that might not make much of a difference.

A copy of the RIAA’s summary of supplemental authority is available here (pdf).

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

EU Anti-Piracy Agreement Has Little Effect on Advertising, Research Finds

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-anti-piracy-agreement-has-little-effect-on-advertising-research-finds-180204/

In recent years various copyright holder groups have adopted a “follow-the-money” approach in the hope of cutting off funding to so-called pirate sites.

Thus far this has resulted in some notable developments. In the UK, hundreds of advertising agencies began banning pirate sites in 2014 and similar initiatives have popped up elsewhere too.

One of the more prominent plans was orchestrated by the European Commission. In October 2016, this resulted in a voluntary self-regulation agreement signed by leading EU advertising organizations, which promised to reduce ad placement on pirate sites. The question is, how effective is this agreement?

To find out, researchers from European universities in Munich, Copenhagen, and Lisbon, conducted an extensive study. They collected data on the prevalence of ads from various advertisers on hundreds of pirate sites. The data were collected on several occasions, both before and after the agreement.

The findings are published in the article “Follow The Money: Online Piracy and Self-Regulation in the Advertising Industry.” Christian Peukert, one of the authors, informs TF that the latest version of the working paper was published last month and is currently under review at an academic journal.

The results show that the effects of the anti-piracy agreement are fairly minimal. On a whole, there is no significant change in the volume of piracy sites that ad agencies serve. Only when looking at the larger ad-networks in isolation, a downward trend is visible.

“Our results suggests that the presence of advertising services on piracy websites does not change significantly, at least not on average,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Once we allow for heterogeneity in terms of size, we show that more popular advertising services, i.e. those that are overall more diffused on the Internet, reduce their presence on piracy websites significantly more.”

When larger advertising companies are given more weight in the analysis, the average effect equates to a 17% drop in pirate site connections.

That larger companies are more likely to comply with the agreement can be explained by a variety of reasons. They could simply be more aware of the agreement, or they feel more pressure to take appropriate steps in response.

Interestingly, there are also advertising companies that began advertising on pirate sites after the agreement was signed.

“We further provide some evidence that ad services that were not active in the piracy market before the self-regulation agreement increase their presence on piracy websites afterwards,” the researchers write.

This may have been partly triggered by site owners looking for alternatives, or advertising companies looking for new opportunities. However, the effect is not statistically significant, which means that people shouldn’t read into it too much.

Overall, however, the researchers conclude that the voluntary agreement only had a relatively small impact on the EU advertising as a whole, and that there’s room for improvement.

“These results raise concerns about the overall effectiveness of the self-regulation effort with respect to reducing incentives for publishers to supply unlicensed content,” they write.

The EU agreement coincided with a series of similar agreements which, according to this data, had little effect on EU advertisers either over the researched timespan. And by looking at the average pirate site today, it becomes instantly clear that there are still plenty advertisers who are willing to work with these sites.

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

After Section 702 Reauthorization

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/after_section_7.html

For over a decade, civil libertarians have been fighting government mass surveillance of innocent Americans over the Internet. We’ve just lost an important battle. On January 18, President Trump signed the renewal of Section 702, domestic mass surveillance became effectively a permanent part of US law.

Section 702 was initially passed in 2008, as an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. As the title of that law says, it was billed as a way for the NSA to spy on non-Americans located outside the United States. It was supposed to be an efficiency and cost-saving measure: the NSA was already permitted to tap communications cables located outside the country, and it was already permitted to tap communications cables from one foreign country to another that passed through the United States. Section 702 allowed it to tap those cables from inside the United States, where it was easier. It also allowed the NSA to request surveillance data directly from Internet companies under a program called PRISM.

The problem is that this authority also gave the NSA the ability to collect foreign communications and data in a way that inherently and intentionally also swept up Americans’ communications as well, without a warrant. Other law enforcement agencies are allowed to ask the NSA to search those communications, give their contents to the FBI and other agencies and then lie about their origins in court.

In 1978, after Watergate had revealed the Nixon administration’s abuses of power, we erected a wall between intelligence and law enforcement that prevented precisely this kind of sharing of surveillance data under any authority less restrictive than the Fourth Amendment. Weakening that wall is incredibly dangerous, and the NSA should never have been given this authority in the first place.

Arguably, it never was. The NSA had been doing this type of surveillance illegally for years, something that was first made public in 2006. Section 702 was secretly used as a way to paper over that illegal collection, but nothing in the text of the later amendment gives the NSA this authority. We didn’t know that the NSA was using this law as the statutory basis for this surveillance until Edward Snowden showed us in 2013.

Civil libertarians have been battling this law in both Congress and the courts ever since it was proposed, and the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities even longer. What this most recent vote tells me is that we’ve lost that fight.

Section 702 was passed under George W. Bush in 2008, reauthorized under Barack Obama in 2012, and now reauthorized again under Trump. In all three cases, congressional support was bipartisan. It has survived multiple lawsuits by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and others. It has survived the revelations by Snowden that it was being used far more extensively than Congress or the public believed, and numerous public reports of violations of the law. It has even survived Trump’s belief that he was being personally spied on by the intelligence community, as well as any congressional fears that Trump could abuse the authority in the coming years. And though this extension lasts only six years, it’s inconceivable to me that it will ever be repealed at this point.

So what do we do? If we can’t fight this particular statutory authority, where’s the new front on surveillance? There are, it turns out, reasonable modifications that target surveillance more generally, and not in terms of any particular statutory authority. We need to look at US surveillance law more generally.

First, we need to strengthen the minimization procedures to limit incidental collection. Since the Internet was developed, all the world’s communications travel around in a single global network. It’s impossible to collect only foreign communications, because they’re invariably mixed in with domestic communications. This is called “incidental” collection, but that’s a misleading name. It’s collected knowingly, and searched regularly. The intelligence community needs much stronger restrictions on which American communications channels it can access without a court order, and rules that require they delete the data if they inadvertently collect it. More importantly, “collection” is defined as the point the NSA takes a copy of the communications, and not later when they search their databases.

Second, we need to limit how other law enforcement agencies can use incidentally collected information. Today, those agencies can query a database of incidental collection on Americans. The NSA can legally pass information to those other agencies. This has to stop. Data collected by the NSA under its foreign surveillance authority should not be used as a vehicle for domestic surveillance.

The most recent reauthorization modified this lightly, forcing the FBI to obtain a court order when querying the 702 data for a criminal investigation. There are still exceptions and loopholes, though.

Third, we need to end what’s called “parallel construction.” Today, when a law enforcement agency uses evidence found in this NSA database to arrest someone, it doesn’t have to disclose that fact in court. It can reconstruct the evidence in some other manner once it knows about it, and then pretend it learned of it that way. This right to lie to the judge and the defense is corrosive to liberty, and it must end.

Pressure to reform the NSA will probably first come from Europe. Already, European Union courts have pointed to warrantless NSA surveillance as a reason to keep Europeans’ data out of US hands. Right now, there is a fragile agreement between the EU and the United States ­– called “Privacy Shield” — ­that requires Americans to maintain certain safeguards for international data flows. NSA surveillance goes against that, and it’s only a matter of time before EU courts start ruling this way. That’ll have significant effects on both government and corporate surveillance of Europeans and, by extension, the entire world.

Further pressure will come from the increased surveillance coming from the Internet of Things. When your home, car, and body are awash in sensors, privacy from both governments and corporations will become increasingly important. Sooner or later, society will reach a tipping point where it’s all too much. When that happens, we’re going to see significant pushback against surveillance of all kinds. That’s when we’ll get new laws that revise all government authorities in this area: a clean sweep for a new world, one with new norms and new fears.

It’s possible that a federal court will rule on Section 702. Although there have been many lawsuits challenging the legality of what the NSA is doing and the constitutionality of the 702 program, no court has ever ruled on those questions. The Bush and Obama administrations successfully argued that defendants don’t have legal standing to sue. That is, they have no right to sue because they don’t know they’re being targeted. If any of the lawsuits can get past that, things might change dramatically.

Meanwhile, much of this is the responsibility of the tech sector. This problem exists primarily because Internet companies collect and retain so much personal data and allow it to be sent across the network with minimal security. Since the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect our privacy and security, these companies need to step up: Minimize data collection. Don’t save data longer than absolutely necessary. Encrypt what has to be saved. Well-designed Internet services will safeguard users, regardless of government surveillance authority.

For the rest of us concerned about this, it’s important not to give up hope. Everything we do to keep the issue in the public eye ­– and not just when the authority comes up for reauthorization again in 2024 — hastens the day when we will reaffirm our rights to privacy in the digital age.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

T-Mobile Blocks Pirate Sites Then Reports Itself For Possible Net Neutrality Violation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/t-mobile-blocks-pirate-sites-then-reports-itself-for-possible-net-neutrality-violation-180130/

For the past eight years, Austria has been struggling with the thorny issue of pirate site blocking. Local ISPs have put up quite a fight but site blocking is now a reality, albeit with a certain amount of confusion.

After a dizzying route through the legal system, last November the Supreme Court finally ruled that The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites including 1337x.to and isohunt.to can be blocked, if rightsholders have exhausted all other options.

The Court based its decision on the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that received European Court of Justice rulings last year. However, there is now an additional complication, this time on the net neutrality front.

After being passed in October 2015 and coming into force in April 2016, the Telecom Single Market (TSM) Regulation established the principle of non-discriminatory traffic management in the EU. The regulation still allows for the blocking of copyright-infringing websites but only where supported by a clear administrative or judicial decision. This is where T-Mobile sees a problem.

In addition to blocking sites named specifically by the court, copyright holders also expect the ISP to block related platforms, such as clones and mirrors, that aren’t specified in the same manner.

So, last week, after blocking several obscure Pirate Bay clones such as proxydl.cf, the ISP reported itself to the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) for a potential net neutrality breach.

“It sounds paradoxical, but this should finally bring legal certainty in a long-standing dispute over pirate sites. T-Mobile Austria has filed with regulatory authority RTR a kind of self-report, after blocking several sites on the basis of a warning by rights holders,” T-Mobile said in a statement.

“The background to the communication to the RTR, through which T-Mobile intends to obtain an assessment by the regulator, is a very unsatisfactory legal situation in which operators have no opportunity to behave in conformity with the law.

“The service provider is forced upon notification by the copyright owner to even judge about possible copyright infringements. At the same time, the provider is violating the principle of net neutrality by setting up a ban.”

T-Mobile says the problem is complicated by rightsholders who, after obtaining a blocking order forcing named ISPs to block named pirate sites (as required under EU law), send similar demands to other ISPs that were not party to court proceedings. The rightsholders also send blocking demands when blocked sites disappear and reappear under a new name, despite those new names not being part of the original order.

According to industry body Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA), there is a real need for clarification. It’s hoped that T-Mobile reporting itself for a potential net neutrality breach will have the desired effect.

“For more than two years, we have been trying to find a solution with the involved interest groups and the responsible ministry, which on the one hand protects the rights of the artists and on the other hand does not force the providers into the role of a judge,” complains Maximilian Schubert, Secretary General of the ISPA.

“The willingness of the rights holders to compromise had remained within manageable limits. Now they are massively increasing the pressure and demanding costly measures, which the service providers see as punishment for them providing legal security for their customers for many years.”

ISPA hopes that the telecoms regulator will now help to clear up this uncertainty.

“We now hope that the regulator will give a clear answer here. Because from our point of view, the assessment of legality cannot and should not be outsourced to companies,” Schubert concludes.

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

Court Orders Hosting Provider to Stop Pirate Premier League Streams

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-hosting-provider-to-stop-pirate-premier-league-streams-180126/

In many parts of the world football, or soccer as some would call it, is the number one spectator sport.

The English Premier League, widely regarded as one the top competitions, draws hundreds of millions of viewers per year. Many of these pay for access to the matches, but there’s also a massive circuit of unauthorized streams.

The Football Association Premier League (FAPL) has been clamping down on these pirate sources for years. In the UK, for example, it obtained a unique High Court injunction last year, which requires local Internet providers to block streams as they go live.

In addition, the organization has also filed legal action against a hosting provider through which several live sports streaming sites are operating. The case in question was filed in the Netherlands where Ecatel LTD, a UK company, operated several servers.

According to the complaint, Ecatel hosted sites such as cast247.tv, streamlive.to and iguide.to, which allowed visitors to watch live Premier League streams without paying.

As the streaming platforms themselves were not responsive to takedown requests, the Premier League demanded action from their hosting provider. Specifically, they wanted the company to disconnect live streams on their end, by null-routing the servers of the offending customer.

This week the Court of The Hague issued its judgment, which is a clear win for the football association.

The Court ruled that, after the hosting company receives a takedown notice from FAPL or one of its agents, Ecatel must disconnect pirate Premier League streams within 30 minutes.

“[The Court] recommends that, after 24 hours of service of this judgment, Ecatel cease and discontinue any service used by third parties to infringe the copyright to FAPL by promptly but no later than 30 minutes after receipt of a request to that end,” the verdict reads.

The ban can be lifted after the game has ended, making it a temporary measure similar to the UK Internet provider blockades. If Ecatel fails to comply, it faces a penalty of €5,000 for each illegal stream, to a maximum of € 1,500,000.

While the order is good news for the Premier League, it will be hard to enforce, since Ecatel LTD was dissolved last year. Another hosting company called Novogara was previously linked with Ecatel and is still active, but that is not mentioned in the court order.

This means that the order will mostly be valuable as a precedent. Especially since it goes against an earlier order from 2015, which Emerce pointed out. This warrants a closer look at how the Court reached its decision.

In its defense, Ecatel had argued that an obligation to disconnect customers based on a takedown notice would be disproportionate and violate its entrepreneurial freedoms. The latter is protected by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The Court, however, highlights that there is a clash between the entrepreneurial rights of Ecatel and the copyrights of FAPL in this case. This requires the Court to weigh these rights to see which prevails over the other.

According to the verdict, the measures Ecatel would have to take to comply are not overly costly. The company already null-routed customers who failed to pay, so the technical capabilities are there.

Ecatel also argued that disconnecting a server could affect legal content that’s provided by its customers. However, according to the Court, Ecatel is partly to blame for this, as it does business with customers who seemingly don’t have a proper takedown process themselves. This is something the company could have included in their contracts.

As a result, the Court put the copyrights of FAPL above the entrepreneurial freedom rights of the hosting provider.

The second right that has to be weighed is the public’s right to freedom of expression and information. While the Court rules that this right is limited by the measures, it argues that the rights of copyright holders weigh stronger.

“Admittedly, this freedom [of expression and information] is restricted, but according to the order, this will only apply for the duration of the offending streams. Furthermore, as said, this will only take place if the stream has not already been blocked in another way,” the Court writes.

If any legal content is affected by the measures then the offending streaming platform itself will experience more pressure from users to deal with the problem, and offer a suitable takedown procedure to prevent similar problems in the future, the Court notes.

TorrentFreak reached out to FAPL and Ecatel’s lawyers for a comment on the verdict but at the time of writing we haven’t heard back.

The verdict appears to be a powerful precedent for copyright holders. Kim Kuik, director of local anti-piracy group BREIN, is pleased with the outcome. While BREIN was not involved in this lawsuit, it previously sued Ecatel in another case.

“It is a good precedent. An intermediary like Ecatel has its accountability and must have an effective notice and take down procedure,” Kuik tells TorrentFreak.

“Too bad it wasn’t also against the people behind Ecatel, who now can continue using another vehicle. The judge thinks this verdict serves a warning to them. Time will tell if that is so.”

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

Hollywood Asks New UK Culture Secretary To Fight Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-asks-new-uk-culture-secretary-to-fight-online-piracy-180119/

Following Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, Matt Hancock replaced Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Hancock, the 39-year-old MP for West Suffolk, was promoted from his role as Minister for Digital and Culture, a position he’d held since July 2016.

“Thrilled to become DCMS Secretary. Such an exciting agenda, so much to do, and great people. Can’t wait to get stuck in,” he tweeted.

Of course, the influence held by the Culture Secretary means that the entertainment industries will soon come calling, seeking help and support in a number of vital areas. No surprise then that Stan McCoy, president and managing director at the ‎Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, has just jumped in with some advice for Hancock.

In an open letter published on Screen Daily, McCoy begins by reminding Hancock that the movie industry contributes considerable sums to the UK economy.

“We are one of the country’s most valuable economic and cultural assets – worth almost £92bn, growing at twice the rate of the economy, and making a positive contribution to the UK’s balance of payments,” McCoy writes.

“Britain’s status as a center of excellence for the audiovisual sector in particular is no accident: It results from the hard work and genius of our creative workforce, complemented by the support of governments that have guided their policies toward enabling continued excellence and growth.”

McCoy goes on to put anti-piracy initiatives at the very top of his wishlist – and Hancock’s to-do list.

“A joined-up strategy to curb proliferation of illegal, often age-inappropriate and malware-laden content online must include addressing the websites, environments and apps that host and facilitate piracy,” McCoy says.

“In addition to hurting one of Britain’s most important industries, they are overwhelmingly likely to harm children and adult consumers through nasty ads, links to adult content with no age verification, scams, fraud and other unpleasantness.”

That McCoy begins with the “piracy is dangerous” approach is definitely not a surprise. This Hollywood and wider video industry strategy is now an open secret. However, it feels a little off that the UK is being asked to further tackle pirate sites.

Through earlier actions, facilitated by the UK legal system and largely sympathetic judges, many thousands of URLs and domains linking to pirate sites, mirrors and proxies, are impossible to access directly through the UK’s major ISPs. Although a few slip through the net, directly accessing the majority of pirate sites in the UK is now impossible.

That’s already a considerable overseas anti-piracy position for the MPA who, as the “international voice” of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), represents American corporations including Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros.

There’s no comparable blocking system for these companies to use in the United States and rightsholders in the UK can even have extra sites blocked without going back to court for permission. In summary, these US companies arguably get a better anti-piracy deal in the UK than they do at home in the United States.

In his next point, McCoy references last year’s deal – which was reached following considerable pressure from the UK government – between rightsholders and search engines including Google and Bing to demote ‘pirate’ results.

“Building on last year’s voluntary deal with search engines, the Government should stay at the cutting edge of ensuring that everyone in the ecosystem – including search engines, platforms and social media companies – takes a fair share of responsibility,” McCoy says.

While this progress is clearly appreciated by the MPA/MPAA, it’s difficult to ignore that the voluntary arrangement to demote infringing content is somewhat special if not entirely unique. There is definitely nothing comparable in the United States so keeping up the pressure on the UK Government feels a little like getting the good kid in class to behave, while his rowdy peers nearer the chalkboard get ignored.

The same is true for McCoy’s call for the UK to “banish dodgy streaming devices”.

“Illegal streaming devices loaded with piracy apps and malware – not to mention the occasional electrical failure – are proliferating across the UK, to the detriment of consumers and industry,” he writes.

“The sector is still waiting for the Intellectual Property Office to publish the report on its Call for Views on this subject. This will be one of several opportunities, along with the promised Digital Charter, to make clear that these devices and the apps and content they supply are unacceptable, dangerous to consumers, and harmful to the creative industry.”

Again, prompting the UK to stay on top of this game doesn’t feel entirely warranted.

With dozens of actions over the past few years, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the Federation Against Copyright Theft (which Hollywood ironically dumped in 2016) have done more to tackle the pirate set-top box problem than any group on the other side of the Atlantic.

Admittedly the MPAA is now trying to catch up, with recent prosecutions of two ‘pirate’ box vendors (1,2), but largely the work by the studios on their home turf has been outpaced by that of their counterparts in the UK.

Maybe Hancock will mention that to Hollywood at some point in the future.

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

Eevee gained 2791 experience points

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/01/15/eevee-gained-2791-experience-points/

Eevee grew to level 31!

A year strongly defined by mixed success! Also, a lot of video games.

I ran three game jams, resulting in a total of 157 games existing that may not have otherwise, which is totally mindblowing?!

For GAMES MADE QUICK???, glip and I made NEON PHASE, a short little exploratory platformer. Honestly, I should give myself more credit for this and the rest of the LÖVE games I’ve based on the same codebase — I wove a physics engine (and everything else!) from scratch and it has held up remarkably well for a variety of different uses.

I successfully finished an HD version of Isaac’s Descent using my LÖVE engine, though it doesn’t have anything new over the original and I’ve only released it as a tech demo on Patreon.

For Strawberry Jam (NSFW!) we made fox flux (slightly NSFW!), which felt like a huge milestone: the first game where I made all the art! I mean, not counting Isaac’s Descent, which was for a very limited platform. It’s a pretty arbitrary milestone, yes, but it feels significant. I’ve been working on expanding the game into a longer and slightly less buggy experience, but the art is taking the longest by far. I must’ve spent weeks on player sprites alone.

We then set about working on Bolthaven, a sequel of sorts to NEON PHASE, and got decently far, and then abandond it. Oops.

We then started a cute little PICO-8 game, and forgot about it. Oops.

I was recruited to help with Chaos Composer, a more ambitious game glip started with someone else in Unity. I had to get used to Unity, and we squabbled a bit, but the game is finally about at the point where it’s “playable” and “maps” can be designed? It’s slightly on hold at the moment while we all finish up some other stuff, though.

We made a birthday game for two of our friends whose birthdays were very close together! Only they got to see it.

For Ludum Dare 38, we made Lunar Depot 38, a little “wave shooter” or whatever you call those? The AI is pretty rough, seeing as this was the first time I’d really made enemies and I had 72 hours to figure out how to do it, but I still think it’s pretty fun to play and I love the circular world.

I made Roguelike Simulator as an experiment with making something small and quick with a simple tool, and I had a lot of fun! I definitely want to do more stuff like this in the future.

And now we’re working on a game about Star Anise, my cat’s self-insert, which is looking to have more polish and depth than anything we’ve done so far! We’ve definitely come a long way in a year.

Somewhere along the line, I put out a call for a “potluck” project, where everyone would give me sprites of a given size without knowing what anyone else had contributed, and I would then make a game using only those sprites. Unfortunately, that stalled a few times: I tried using the Phaser JS library, but we didn’t get along; I tried LÖVE, but didn’t know where to go with the game; and then I decided to use this as an experiment with procedural generation, and didn’t get around to it. I still feel bad that everyone did work for me and I didn’t follow through, but I don’t know whether this will ever become a game.

veekun, alas, consumed months of my life. I finally got Sun and Moon loaded, but it took weeks of work since I was basically reinventing all the tooling we’d ever had from scratch, without even having most of that tooling available as a reference. It was worth it in the end, at least: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon only took a few days to get loaded. But veekun itself is still missing some obvious Sun/Moon features, and the whole site needs an overhaul, and I just don’t know if I want to dedicate that much time to it when I have so much other stuff going on that’s much more interesting to me right now.

I finally turned my blog into more of a website, giving it a neat front page that lists a bunch of stuff I’ve done. I made a release category at last, though I’m still not quite in the habit of using it.

I wrote some blog posts, of course! I think the most interesting were JavaScript got better while I wasn’t looking and Object models. I was also asked to write a couple pieces for money for a column that then promptly shut down.

On a whim, I made a set of Eevee mugshots for Doom, which I think is a decent indication of my (pixel) art progress over the year?

I started idchoppers, a Doom parsing and manipulation library written in Rust, though it didn’t get very far and I’ve spent most of the time fighting with Rust because it won’t let me implement all my extremely bad ideas. It can do a couple things, at least, like flip maps very quickly and render maps to SVG.

I did toy around with music a little, but not a lot.

I wrote two short twines for Flora. They’re okay. I’m working on another; I think it’ll be better.

I didn’t do a lot of art overall, at least compared to the two previous years; most of my art effort over the year has gone into fox flux, which requires me to learn a whole lot of things. I did dip my toes into 3D modelling, most notably producing my current Twitter banner as well as this cool Star Anise animation. I wouldn’t mind doing more of that; maybe I’ll even try to make a low-poly pixel-textured 3D game sometime.

I restarted my book with a much better concept, though so far I’ve only written about half a chapter. Argh. I see that the vast majority of the work was done within the span of a single week, which is bad since that means I only worked on it for a week, but good since that means I can actually do a pretty good amount of work in only a week. I also did a lot of squabbling with tooling, which is hopefully mostly out of the way now.

My computer broke? That was an exciting week.


A lot of stuff, but the year as a whole still feels hit or miss. All the time I spent on veekun feels like a black void in the middle of the year, which seems like a good sign that I maybe don’t want to pour even more weeks into it in the near future.

Mostly, I want to do: more games, more art, more writing, more music.

I want to try out some tiny game making tools and make some tiny games with them — partly to get exposure to different things, partly to get more little ideas out into the world regularly, and partly to get more practice at letting myself have ideas. I have a couple tools in mind and I guess I’ll aim at a microgame every two months or so? I’d also like to finish the expanded fox flux by the end of the year, of course, though at the moment I can’t even gauge how long it might take.

I seriously lapsed on drawing last year, largely because fox flux pixel art took me so much time. So I want to draw more, and I want to get much faster at pixel art. It would probably help if I had a more concrete goal for drawing, so I might try to draw some short comics and write a little visual novel or something, which would also force me to aim for consistency.

I want to work on my book more, of course, but I also want to try my hand at a bit more fiction. I’ve had a blast writing dialogue for our games! I just shy away from longer-form writing for some reason — which seems ridiculous when a large part of my audience found me through my blog. I do think I’ve had some sort of breakthrough in the last month or two; I suddenly feel a good bit more confident about writing in general and figuring out what I want to say? One recent post I know I wrote in a single afternoon, which virtually never happens because I keep rewriting and rearranging stuff. Again, a visual novel would be a good excuse to practice writing fiction without getting too bogged down in details.

And, ah, music. I shy heavily away from music, since I have no idea what I’m doing, and also I seem to spend a lot of time fighting with tools. (Surprise.) I tried out SunVox for the first time just a few days ago and have been enjoying it quite a bit for making sound effects, so I might try it for music as well. And once again, visual novel background music is a pretty low-pressure thing to compose for. Hell, visual novels are small games, too, so that checks all the boxes. I guess I’ll go make a visual novel.

Here’s to twenty gayteen!

US Govt Brands Torrent, Streaming & Cyberlocker Sites As Notorious Markets

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-govt-brands-torrent-streaming-cyberlocker-sites-as-notorious-markets-180115/

In its annual “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets” the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has listed a long list of websites said to be involved in online piracy.

The list is compiled with high-level input from various trade groups, including the MPAA and RIAA who both submitted their recommendations (1,2) during early October last year.

With the word “allegedly” used more than two dozen times in the report, the US government notes that its report does not constitute cast-iron proof of illegal activity. However, it urges the countries from where the so-called “notorious markets” operate to take action where they can, while putting owners and facilitators on notice that their activities are under the spotlight.

“A goal of the List is to motivate appropriate action by owners, operators, and service providers in the private sector of these and similar markets, as well as governments, to reduce piracy and counterfeiting,” the report reads.

“USTR highlights the following marketplaces because they exemplify global counterfeiting and piracy concerns and because the scale of infringing activity in these marketplaces can cause significant harm to U.S. intellectual property (IP) owners, consumers, legitimate online platforms, and the economy.”

The report begins with a page titled “Issue Focus: Illicit Streaming Devices”. Unsurprisingly, particularly given their place in dozens of headlines last year, the segment focus on the set-top box phenomenon. The piece doesn’t list any apps or software tools as such but highlights the general position, claiming a cost to the US entertainment industry of $4-5 billion a year.

Torrent Sites

In common with previous years, the USTR goes on to list several of the world’s top torrent sites but due to changes in circumstances, others have been delisted. ExtraTorrent, which shut down May 2017, is one such example.

As the world’s most famous torrent site, The Pirate Bay gets a prominent mention, with the USTR noting that the site is of “symbolic importance as one of the longest-running and most vocal torrent sites. The USTR underlines the site’s resilience by noting its hydra-like form while revealing an apparent secret concerning its hosting arrangements.

“The Pirate Bay has allegedly had more than a dozen domains hosted in various countries around the world, applies a reverse proxy service, and uses a hosting provider in Vietnam to evade further enforcement action,” the USTR notes.

Other torrent sites singled out for criticism include RARBG, which was nominated for the listing by the movie industry. According to the USTR, the site is hosted in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has changed hosting services to prevent shutdowns in recent years.

1337x.to and the meta-search engine Torrentz2 are also given a prime mention, with the USTR noting that they are “two of the most popular torrent sites that allegedly infringe U.S. content industry’s copyrights.” Russia’s RuTracker is also targeted for criticism, with the government noting that it’s now one of the most popular torrent sites in the world.

Streaming & Cyberlockers

While torrent sites are still important, the USTR reserves considerable space in its report for streaming portals and cyberlocker-type services.

4Shared.com, a file-hosting site that has been targeted by dozens of millions of copyright notices, is reportedly no longer able to use major US payment providers. Nevertheless, the British Virgin Islands company still collects significant sums from premium accounts, advertising, and offshore payment processors, USTR notes.

Cyberlocker Rapidgator gets another prominent mention in 2017, with the USTR noting that the Russian-hosted platform generates millions of dollars every year through premium memberships while employing rewards and affiliate schemes.

Due to its increasing popularity as a hosting and streaming operation, Openload.co (Romania) is now a big target for the USTR. “The site is used frequently in combination with add-ons in illicit streaming devices. In November 2017, users visited Openload.co a staggering 270 million times,” the USTR writes.

Owned by a Swiss company and hosted in the Netherlands, the popular site Uploaded is also criticized by the US alongside France’s 1Fichier.com, which allegedly hosts pirate games while being largely unresponsive to takedown notices. Dopefile.pk, a Pakistan-based storage outfit, is also highlighted.

On the video streaming front, it’s perhaps no surprise that the USTR focuses on sites like FMovies (Sweden), GoStream (Vietnam), Movie4K.tv (Russia) and PrimeWire. An organization collectively known as the MovShare group which encompasses Nowvideo.sx, WholeCloud.net, NowDownload.cd, MeWatchSeries.to and WatchSeries.ac, among others, is also listed.

Unauthorized music / research papers

While most of the above are either focused on video or feature it as part of their repertoire, other sites are listed for their attention to music. Convert2MP3.net is named as one of the most popular stream-ripping sites in the world and is highlighted due to the prevalence of YouTube-downloader sites and the 2017 demise of YouTube-MP3.

“Convert2MP3.net does not appear to have permission from YouTube or other sites and does not have permission from right holders for a wide variety of music represented by major U.S. labels,” the USTR notes.

Given the amount of attention the site has received in 2017 as ‘The Pirate Bay of Research’, Libgen.io and Sci-Hub.io (not to mention the endless proxy and mirror sites that facilitate access) are given a detailed mention in this year’s report.

“Together these sites make it possible to download — all without permission and without remunerating authors, publishers or researchers — millions of copyrighted books by commercial publishers and university presses; scientific, technical and medical journal articles; and publications of technological standards,” the USTR writes.

Service providers

But it’s not only sites that are being put under pressure. Following a growing list of nominations in previous years, Swiss service provider Private Layer is again singled out as a rogue player in the market for hosting 1337x.to and Torrentz2.eu, among others.

“While the exact configuration of websites changes from year to year, this is the fourth consecutive year that the List has stressed the significant international trade impact of Private Layer’s hosting services and the allegedly infringing sites it hosts,” the USTR notes.

“Other listed and nominated sites may also be hosted by Private Layer but are using
reverse proxy services to obfuscate the true host from the public and from law enforcement.”

The USTR notes Switzerland’s efforts to close a legal loophole that restricts enforcement and looks forward to a positive outcome when the draft amendment is considered by parliament.

Perhaps a little surprisingly given its recent anti-piracy efforts and overtures to the US, Russia’s leading social network VK.com again gets a place on the new list. The USTR recognizes VK’s efforts but insists that more needs to be done.

Social networking and e-commerce

“In 2016, VK reached licensing agreements with major record companies, took steps to limit third-party applications dedicated to downloading infringing content from the site, and experimented with content recognition technologies,” the USTR writes.

“Despite these positive signals, VK reportedly continues to be a hub of infringing activity and the U.S. motion picture industry reports that they find thousands of infringing files on the site each month.”

Finally, in addition to traditional pirate sites, the US also lists online marketplaces that allegedly fail to meet appropriate standards. Re-added to the list in 2016 after a brief hiatus in 2015, China’s Alibaba is listed again in 2017. The development provoked an angry response from the company.

Describing his company as a “scapegoat”, Alibaba Group President Michael Evans said that his platform had achieved a 25% drop in takedown requests and has even been removing infringing listings before they make it online.

“In light of all this, it’s clear that no matter how much action we take and progress we make, the USTR is not actually interested in seeing tangible results,” Evans said in a statement.

The full list of sites in the Notorious Markets Report 2017 (pdf) can be found below.

– 1fichier.com – (cyberlocker)
– 4shared.com – (cyberlocker)
– convert2mp3.net – (stream-ripper)
– Dhgate.com (e-commerce)
– Dopefile.pl – (cyberlocker)
– Firestorm-servers.com (pirate gaming service)
– Fmovies.is, Fmovies.se, Fmovies.to – (streaming)
– Gostream.is, Gomovies.to, 123movieshd.to (streaming)
– Indiamart.com (e-commerce)
– Kinogo.club, kinogo.co (streaming host, platform)
– Libgen.io, sci-hub.io, libgen.pw, sci-hub.cc, sci-hub.bz, libgen.info, lib.rus.ec, bookfi.org, bookzz.org, booker.org, booksc.org, book4you.org, bookos-z1.org, booksee.org, b-ok.org (research downloads)
– Movshare Group – Nowvideo.sx, wholecloud.net, auroravid.to, bitvid.sx, nowdownload.ch, cloudtime.to, mewatchseries.to, watchseries.ac (streaming)
– Movie4k.tv (streaming)
– MP3VA.com (music)
– Openload.co (cyberlocker / streaming)
– 1337x.to (torrent site)
– Primewire.ag (streaming)
– Torrentz2, Torrentz2.me, Torrentz2.is (torrent site)
– Rarbg.to (torrent site)
– Rebel (domain company)
– Repelis.tv (movie and TV linking)
– RuTracker.org (torrent site)
– Rapidgator.net (cyberlocker)
– Taobao.com (e-commerce)
– The Pirate Bay (torrent site)
– TVPlus, TVBrowser, Kuaikan (streaming apps and addons, China)
– Uploaded.net (cyberlocker)
– VK.com (social networking)

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

Fix Your Crawler

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/fix-your-crawler/

Every now and then I open the admin panel of my blog hosting and ban a few IPs (after I’ve tried messaging their abuse email, if I find one). It is always IPs that are generating tons of requests (and traffic) – most likely running some home-made crawler. In some cases the IPs belong to an actual service that captures and provides content, in other cases it’s just a scraper for unknown reasons.

I don’t want to ban IPs, especially because that same IP may be reassigned to a legitimate user (or network) in the future. But they are increasing my hosting usage, which in turn leads to the hosting provider suggesting an upgrade in the plan. And this is not about me, I’m just an example – tons of requests to millions of sites are … useless.

My advice (and plea) is this – please fix your crawlers. Or scrapers. Or whatever you prefer to call that thing that programmatically goes on websites and gets their content.

How? First, reuse an existing crawler. No need to make something new (unless there’s a very specific use-case). A good intro and comparison can be seen here.

Second, make your crawler “polite” (the “politeness” property in the article above). Here’s a good overview on how to be polite, including respect for robots.txt. Existing implementations most likely have politeness options, but you may have to configure them.

Here I’d suggest another option – set a dynamic crawl rate per website that depends on how often the content is updated. My blog updates 3 times a month – no need to crawl it more than once or twice a day. TechCrunch updates many times a day; it’s probably a good idea to crawl it way more often. I don’t have a formula, but you can come up with one that ends up crawling different sites with periods between 2 minutes and 1 day.

Third, don’t “scrape” the content if a better protocol is supported. Many content websites have RSS – use that instead of the HTML of the page. If not, make use of sitemaps. If the WebSub protocol gains traction, you can avoid the crawling/scraping entirely and get notified on new content.

Finally, make sure your crawler/scraper is identifiable by the UserAgent. You can supply your service name or web address in it to make it easier for website owners to find you and complain in case you’ve misconfigured something.

I guess it makes sense to see if using a service like import.io, ScrapingHub, WrapAPI or GetData makes sense for your usecase, instead of reinventing the wheel.

No matter what your use case or approach is, please make sure you don’t put unnecessary pressure on others’ websites.

The post Fix Your Crawler appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Judge Issues Devastating Order Against BitTorrent Copyright Troll

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-issues-devastating-order-bittorrent-copyright-troll-180110/

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

These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in the United States since the turn of the last decade.

Increasingly, however, courts are growing weary of these cases. Many districts have turned into no-go zones for copyright trolls and the people behind Prenda law were arrested and are being prosecuted in a criminal case.

In the Western District of Washington, the tide also appears to have turned. After Venice PI, a copyright holder of the film “Once Upon a Time in Venice”, sued a man who later passed away, concerns were raised over the validity of the evidence.

Venice PI responded to the concerns with a declaration explaining its data gathering technique and assuring the Court that false positives are out of the question.

That testimony didn’t help much though, as a recently filed minute order shows this week. The order applies to a dozen cases and prohibits the company from reaching out to any defendants until further notice, as there are several alarming issues that have to be resolved first.

One of the problems is that Venice PI declared that it’s owned by a company named Lost Dog Productions, which in turn is owned by Voltage Productions. Interestingly, these companies don’t appear in the usual records.

“A search of the California Secretary of State’s online database, however, reveals no registered entity with the name ‘Lost Dog’ or ‘Lost Dog Productions’,” the Court notes.

“Moreover, although ‘Voltage Pictures, LLC’ is registered with the California Secretary of State, and has the same address as Venice PI, LLC, the parent company named in plaintiff’s corporate disclosure form, ‘Voltage Productions, LLC,’ cannot be found in the California Secretary of State’s online database and does not appear to exist.”

In other words, the company that filed the lawsuit, as well as its parent company, are extremely questionable.

While the above is a reason for concern, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Court not only points out administrative errors, but it also has serious doubts about the evidence collection process. This was carried out by the German company MaverickEye, which used the tracking technology of another German company, GuardaLey.

GuardaLey CEO Benjamin Perino, who claims that he coded the tracking software, wrote a declaration explaining that the infringement detection system at issue “cannot yield a false positive.” However, the Court doubts this statement and Perino’s qualifications in general.

“Perino has been proffered as an expert, but his qualifications consist of a technical high school education and work experience unrelated to the peer-to-peer file-sharing technology known as BitTorrent,” the Court writes.

“Perino does not have the qualifications necessary to be considered an expert in the field in question, and his opinion that the surveillance program is incapable of error is both contrary to common sense and inconsistent with plaintiff’s counsel’s conduct in other matters in this district. Plaintiff has not submitted an adequate offer of proof”

It seems like the Court would prefer to see an assessment from a qualified independent expert instead of the person who wrote the software. For now, this means that the IP-address evidence, in these cases, is not good enough. That’s quite a blow for the copyright holder.

If that wasn’t enough the Court also highlights another issue that’s possibly even more problematic. When Venice PI requested the subpoenas to identify alleged pirates, they relied on declarations from Daniel Arheidt, a consultant for MaverickEye.

These declarations fail to mention, however, that MaverickEye has the proper paperwork to collect IP addresses.

“Nowhere in Arheidt’s declarations does he indicate that either he or MaverickEye is licensed in Washington to conduct private investigation work,” the order reads.

This is important, as doing private investigator work without a license is a gross misdemeanor in Washington. The copyright holder was aware of this requirement because it was brought up in related cases in the past.

“Plaintiff’s counsel has apparently been aware since October 2016, when he received a letter concerning LHF Productions, Inc. v. Collins, C16-1017 RSM, that Arheidt might be committing a crime by engaging in unlicensed surveillance of Washington citizens, but he did not disclose this fact to the Court.”

The order is very bad news for Venice PI. The company had hoped to score a few dozen easy settlements but the tables have now been turned. The Court instead asks the company to explain the deficiencies and provide additional details. In the meantime, the copyright holder is urged not to spend or transfer any of the settlement money that has been collected thus far.

The latter indicates that Venice PI might have to hand defendants their money back, which would be pretty unique.

The order suggests that the Judge is very suspicious of these trolling activities. In a footnote there’s a link to a Fight Copyright Trolls article which revealed that the same counsel dismissed several cases, allegedly to avoid having IP-address evidence scrutinized.

Even more bizarrely, in another footnote the Court also doubts if MaverickEye’s aforementioned consultant, Daniel Arheidt, actually exists.

“The Court has recently become aware that Arheidt is the latest in a series of German declarants (Darren M. Griffin, Daniel Macek, Daniel Susac, Tobias Fieser, Michael Patzer) who might be aliases or even fictitious.

“Plaintiff will not be permitted to rely on Arheidt’s declarations or underlying data without explaining to the Court’s satisfaction Arheidt’s relationship to the above-listed declarants and producing proof beyond a reasonable doubt of Arheidt’s existence,” the court adds.

These are serious allegations, to say the least.

If a copyright holder uses non-existent companies and questionable testimony from unqualified experts after obtaining evidence illegally to get a subpoena backed by a fictitious person….something’s not quite right.

A copy of the minute order, which affects a series of cases, is available here (pdf).

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

Pirate Bay Founder: Netflix and Spotify Are a Threat, No Solution

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-founder-netflix-and-spotify-are-a-threat-no-solution-180107/

Ten years ago the Internet was an entirely different place. Piracy was rampant, as it is today, but the people behind the largest torrent sites were more vocal then.

There was a battle going on for the right to freely share content online. This was very much a necessity at the time, as legal options were scarce, but for many it was also an idealistic battle.

As the spokesperson of The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde was one of the leading voices at the time. He believed, and still does, that people should be able to share anything without restrictions. Period.

For Peter and three others associated with The Pirate Bay, this eventually resulted in jail sentences. They were not the only ones to feel the consequences. Over the past decade, dozens of torrent sites were shut down under legal pressure, forcing those operators that remain to go into hiding.

Today, ten years after we spoke to Peter about the future of torrent sites and file-sharing, we reach out to him again. A lot has changed, but how does The Pirate Bay’s co-founder look at things now?

“On the personal side, all is great, and I’m working on a TV-series about activism that will air next year. On top of that of course working on Njalla, Ipredator and other known projects,” Peter says.

“In general, I think that projects for me are still about the same thing as a decade ago, but just trying different approaches!”

While Peter stays true to his activist roots, fighting for privacy and freedom on the Internet, his outlook is not as positive as it once was.

He is proud that The Pirate Bay never caved and that they fought their cases to the end. The moral struggle was won, but he also realizes that the greater battle was lost.

“I’m proud and happy to be able to look myself in the mirror every morning with a feeling of doing right. A lot of corrupt people involved in our cases probably feel quite shitty. Well, if they have feelings,” Peter says.

The Pirate Bay’s former spokesperson doesn’t have any regrets really. The one thing that comes to mind, when we ask about things that he would have done differently, is to tell fellow Pirate Bay founder Anakata to encrypt his hard drive.

Brokep (Peter) and Anakata (Gottfrid)

Looking at the current media climate, Peter doesn’t think we are better off. On the contrary. While it might be easier in some counties to access content legally online, this also means that control is now firmly in the hands of a few major companies.

The Pirate Bay and others always encouraged free sharing for creators and consumers. This certainly hasn’t improved. Instead, media today is contained in large centralized silos.

“I’m surprised that people are so short-sighted. The ‘solution’ to file sharing was never centralizing content control back to a few entities – that was the struggle we were fighting for.

“Netflix, Spotify etc are not a solution but a loss. And it surprises me that the pirate movement is not trying to talk more about that,” he adds.

The Netflixes and Spotifies of this world are often portrayed as a solution to piracy. However, Peter sees things differently. He believes that these services put more control in the hands of powerful companies.

“The same companies we fought own these platforms. Either they own the shares in the companies, or they have deals with them which makes it impossible for these companies to not follow their rules.

“Artists can’t choose to be or not to be on Spotify in reality, because there’s nothing else in the end. If Spotify doesn’t follow the rules from these companies, they are fucked as well. The dependence is higher than ever.”

The first wave of mass Internet piracy well over a decade ago was a wake-up call to the entertainment industry. The immense popularity of torrent sites showed that people demanded something they weren’t offering.

In a way, these early pirate sites are the reason why Netflix and Spotify were able to do what they do. Literally, in the case of Spotify, which used pirated music to get the service going.

Peter doesn’t see them as the answer though. The only solution in his book is to redefine and legalize piracy.

“The solution to piracy is to re-define piracy. Make things available to everyone, without that being a crime,” Peter says.

In this regard, not much has changed in ten years. However, having witnessed this battle closer than anyone else, he also realizes that the winners are likely on the other end.

Piracy will decrease over time, but not the way Peter hopes it will.

“I think we’ll have less piracy because of the problems we see today. With net neutrality being infringed upon and more laws against individual liberties and access to culture, instead of actually benefiting people.

“The media industry will be happy to know that their lobbying efforts and bribes are paying off,” he concludes.

This is the second and final post in our torrent pioneers series. The first interview with isoHunt founder Gary Fung is available here.

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

No Level of Copyright Enforcement Will Ever Be Enough For Big Media

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/no-level-of-copyright-enforcement-will-ever-be-enough-for-big-media-180107/

For more than ten years TorrentFreak has documented a continuous stream of piracy battles so it’s natural that, every now and then, we pause to consider when this war might stop. The answer is always “no time soon” and certainly not in 2018.

When swapping files over the Internet first began it wasn’t a particularly widespread activity. A reasonable amount of content was available, but it was relatively inaccessible. Then peer-to-peer came along and it sparked a revolution.

From the beginning, copyright holders felt that the law would answer their problems, whether that was by suing Napster, Kazaa, or even end users. Some industry players genuinely believed this strategy was just a few steps away from achieving its goals. Just a little bit more pressure and all would be under control.

Then, when the landmark MGM Studios v. Grokster decision was handed down in the studios’ favor during 2005, the excitement online was palpable. As copyright holders rejoiced in this body blow for the pirating masses, file-sharing communities literally shook under the weight of the ruling. For a day, maybe two.

For the majority of file-sharers, the ruling meant absolutely nothing. So what if some company could be held responsible for other people’s infringements? Another will come along, outside of the US if need be, people said. They were right not to be concerned – that’s exactly what happened.

Ever since, this cycle has continued. Eager to stem the tide of content being shared without their permission, rightsholders have advocated stronger anti-piracy enforcement and lobbied for more restrictive interpretations of copyright law. Thus far, however, literally nothing has provided a solution.

One would have thought that given the military-style raid on Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload, a huge void would’ve appeared in the sharing landscape. Instead, the file-locker business took itself apart and reinvented itself in jurisdictions outside the United States. Meanwhile, the BitTorrent scene continued in the background, somewhat obliviously.

With the SOPA debacle still fresh in relatively recent memory, copyright holders are still doggedly pursuing their aims. Site-blocking is rampant, advertisers are being pressured into compliance, and ISPs like Cox Communications now find themselves responsible for the infringements of their users. But has any of this caused any fatal damage to the sharing landscape? Not really.

Instead, we’re seeing a rise in the use of streaming sites, each far more accessible to the newcomer than their predecessors and vastly more difficult for copyright holders to police.

Systems built into Kodi are transforming these platforms into a plug-and-play piracy playground, one in which sites skirt US law and users can consume both at will and in complete privacy. Meanwhile, commercial and unauthorized IPTV offerings are gathering momentum, even as rightsholders try to pull them back.

Faced with problems like these we are now seeing calls for even tougher legislation. While groups like the RIAA dream of filtering the Internet, over in the UK a 2017 consultation had copyright holders excited that end users could be criminalized for simply consuming infringing content, let alone distributing it.

While the introduction of both or either of these measures would cause uproar (and rightly so), history tells us that each would fail in its stated aim of stopping piracy. With that eventuality all but guaranteed, calls for even tougher legislation are being readied for later down the line.

In short, there is no law that can stop piracy and therefore no law that will stop the entertainment industries coming back for harsher measures, pursuing the dream. This much we’ve established from close to two decades of litigation and little to no progress.

But really, is anyone genuinely surprised that they’re still taking this route? Draconian efforts to maintain control over the distribution of content predate the file-sharing wars by a couple of hundred years, at the very least. Why would rightsholders stop now, when the prize is even more valuable?

No one wants a minefield of copyright law. No one wants a restricted Internet. No one wants extended liability for innovators, service providers, or the public. But this is what we’ll get if this problem isn’t solved soon. Something drastic needs to happen, but who will be brave enough to admit it, let alone do something about it?

During a discussion about piracy last year on the BBC, the interviewer challenged a caller who freely admitted to pirating sports content online. The caller’s response was clear:

For far too long, broadcasters and rightsholders have abused their monopoly position, charging ever-increasing amounts for popular content, even while making billions. Piracy is a natural response to that, and effectively a chance for the little guy to get back some control, he argued.

Exactly the same happened in the music market during the late 1990s and 2000s. In response to artificial restriction of the market and the unrealistic hiking of prices, people turned to peer-to-peer networks for their fix. Thanks to this pressure but after years of turmoil, services like Spotify emerged, converting millions of former pirates in the process. Netflix, it appears, is attempting to do the same thing with video.

When people feel that they aren’t getting ripped off and that they have no further use for sub-standard piracy services in the face of stunning legal alternatives, things will change. But be under no illusion, people won’t be bullied there.

If we end up with an Internet stifled in favor of rightsholders, one in which service providers are too scared to innovate, the next generation of consumers will never forget. This will be a major problem for two key reasons. Not only will consumers become enemies but piracy will still exist. We will have come full circle, fueled only by division and hatred.

It’s a natural response to reject monopolistic behavior and it’s a natural response, for most, to be fair when treated with fairness. Destroying freedom is far from fair and will not create a better future – for anyone.

Laws have their place, no sane person will argue against that, but when the entertainment industries are making billions yet still want more, they’ll have to decide whether this will go on forever with building resentment, or if making a bit less profit now makes more sense longer term.

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

Blockchain Startup White Rabbit Calls on Pirate Sites to Do Business, Legally

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/blockchain-startup-white-rabbit-calls-on-pirate-sites-to-do-business-legally-180102/

For as long as piracy has been mainstream, people have tried to find ways to monetize the system. While many have had good intentions, only models focusing on the negative (copyright trolling, for example) have enjoyed any level of success.

Blockchain startup White Rabbit is hoping to buck that trend but it’s not going to be easy. Then again, nothing worthwhile is, so what do they have to offer?

White Rabbit begins with the assumption that while they love their pirate sites, a many as 60% of pirates would happily reward creators if it was made easy enough. The startup deals with this by inviting pirates to carry on using the kinds of unauthorized sites and services they’re using already, but with a twist.

By installing the White Rabbit browser plug-in, the company will be able to see what content the user is accessing. It will then attempt to match that download to deals it’s made with the companies behind those movies or TV shows. They’ll then get paid a set amount.

“White Rabbit is a content ecosystem accessed through a plugin that recognizes the film and series you stream. The streaming sites are P2P or open server, meaning users can choose where they want to stream,” White Rabbit CEO Alan R. Milligan informs TF.

“We already have a library of films that have won and been nominated for Oscars, Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festival best film prizes – but will continue adding more films and series as we near launch.”

It’s envisioned that this mechanism will prove popular with reluctant pirates since instead of paying Netflix, Amazon, and dozens of other services, users can pay for content through one channel. And, since White Rabbit uses blockchain technology, rights holders can be ensured complete financial transparency, with user payments going straight to them without delay, cutting out the middleman.

“Users are anonymous but can offer filmmakers, artists or other content right holders (investors, distributors, sales agents) our tokens (WRT) as good faith that they are willing to pay for the content. Should the rights holders accept, we enter into a contract with the rights holder that allows them to receive revenue – and accept P2P streaming. We find, and research shows, that most people that are forced to piracy [do so] because they are just not able to access content,” Milligan adds.

White Rabbit’s CEO, who is a filmmaker himself, also sees opportunities to bring fans and filmmakers closer together. Once users have paid for content, they continue to get access via something called the Rabbit Hole, an interface which provides extras that are normally found on a DVD, such as deleted scenes etc.

The team behind White Rabbit describe themselves as “responsible rebels” hoping to spark a revolution. While that’s clearly the goal, by any measure there is a mountain to climb, not least on the content front.

When TorrentFreak first started speaking with the startup in October last year, we were told they were “closing in on 500 films” with contracts, although they wouldn’t elaborate on who might be on board. Nevertheless, that is quite a lot of movies, especially given the mainstream studios’ hatred of pirate sites and anything they might be involved in.

However, subsequent discussion suggests that those with more niche tastes might be White Rabbit’s initial target audience.

“I believe timing is of big relevance and right now a lot of producers are scared of where they´re going to go now that Netflix is enforcing its 50/50 policy. There are also so many amazing films out there that get no or little digital distribution at all,” Milligan says.

“As a Norwegian film producer there is little chance of the film being streamed in my home country – even if we won awards in Cannes and Venice. My latest film Valley of Shadows got US digital distribution, but in Norway – nada.

“My colleagues around the world are suffering the same way, not to mention all the fans who cant watch local films and series. So the indie part of the industry – which is most of us (and still representing 20-30% of cinema sales) – are very ready for change.”

But while indie producers could benefit nicely from White Rabbit, Milligan highlights problems that the big studios have, and suggests that they might like to see the startup succeed too.

“The studios will likely want to see our business model work – but they also have a problem with Netflix which has become a studio. So they´re competitors now, but Netflix has a 100M subscriber advantage. Will they all break out and create each their streaming site for their content only? That would be terrible for fans,” he notes.

That would indeed be a huge problem and it’s an issue we’ve raised here on TF on several occasions. However, if White Rabbit is to succeed, it needs to overcome significant hurdles. We raised just a handful of these with its CEO. First up, Partner Streaming Sites (PSS).

PSS sites appear to be pirate sites that will partner with White Rabbit, so the latter can tap into the formers’ userbases. When White Rabbit users stream ‘pirate’ content from a PSS, that content will be monetized, with the creator getting paid quickly and transparently. At that point, it seems, the content will become non-infringing.

But while that sounds intriguing in theory, plenty of questions remain. White Rabbit says it will share “up to $1M” from its token sale “with the most innovative, brand conscious, film and series loving streaming sites either already out there, planned or about to launch.”

The start-up says the best projects could get $100,000 each but, since its goal is to convert pirates, that necessarily means doing business with pirate sites.

So we asked; how will it be possible to do business with people that are regularly described as criminals? How will it then become possible to secure deals with filmmakers that will undoubtedly come under huge pressure from industry players not to participate in the White Rabbit scheme?

“What we are trying to do is to change digital distribution to everyone´s benefit. We have no interest in financing illegal content, we are interested in spurring innovation in streaming, access for fans and due payment for the rights holders,” Milligan explains.

“That´s what PSS can help us achieve using the WRT (White Rabbit Token) – that helps us find out who wants to be part of this model. No revenue exchanges hands until rights holders accept the token. What is important for rights holders is that we generate more revenue for them than current business models, and we haven´t even included the Rabbit Hole revenue yet.”

So what happens if a White Rabbit user tries to stream something that isn’t part of the program? According to Milligan, PSS sites must remove the content and let White Rabbit users know they must get the content legally elsewhere.

Clearly, the vast majority of pirate site users aren’t White Rabbit users now, nor will they be so in the future, so the removal of content is massively counter-productive for pirate sites. Indeed, it’s this reluctance to take down infringing content that causes them most of their problems.

So, hypothetically, what happens when the operators of streaming site X (that previously partnered with White Rabbit) get arrested and their site shut down for distributing Hollywood content that isn’t part of the program?

“PSS´s would never distribute illegal content, we are offering an opportunity to monetize. We are allowing a platform to those that see monetized P2P as beneficial to their income stream,” Milligan says.

“Hollywood is tricky though, I admit. The proof is in the pudding, so if we have to prove the value through indie and arthouse films first that´s OK. That is still 30% of the multi-billion dollar film market, so we are OK to start with that.”

The final issue is the price and where revenue goes. White Rabbit envisions a user paying $2 for film and $1 for a TV show, although producers are free to set their own price. That means 11 TV shows or five movies per month, given the Netflix model/budget of roughly $11.00 for the same period.

Revenue generated would then be split, with 75% going to the rightsholders, 15% to White Rabbit, and 10% to PSS sites. There’s also a provision for non-PSS sites to be a part of the program, but they would only get 5%, with the remaining 5% going to White Rabbit.

With an incredibly ambitious project like this, it’s easy to find reasons why it might not succeed or even fail to get off the ground. But the team behind the operation have lots of experience in relevant fields and from what we’ve seen are putting considerable effort into getting things moving, as their white paper (pdf) explains.

Currently, White Rabbit is seeking conversation with prospective Partner Streaming Sites, who will provide the content on which White Rabbit will survive. It will certainly be interesting to see which sites put themselves forward for consideration.

This is one of those projects that raises a dizzying volume of questions, with each living up to their billing as part of the Rabbit Hole. The big question is whether the Rabbit Hole will eventually lead to Wonderland or will render everyone who ventures inside feeling surreal and disorientated.

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

Massive Site-Blocking Measures Countered By 100K Browser Addon Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/massive-site-blocking-measures-countered-by-100k-browser-addon-users-171231/

FCT tyIn July 2015, Portugal’s Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain, and representatives from the advertising industry.

The memorandum laid out a new mechanism for blocking so-called ‘pirate’ sites. In common with similar frameworks elsewhere, the process can be triggered by a complaint from a rightsholder association. Local anti-piracy group MAPINET then collates evidence that a site is engaged in the unlawful distribution of copyright works and has failed to cease its activities.

The system was quickly utilized by rightsholders seeking to block access to their content. Within six months, 330 sites had been blocked by ISPs, but that was only the beginning. In the months and years that followed, hundreds more sites were rendered inaccessible but in common with similar programs elsewhere, no official list of blocked sites was made available. People are keeping watch, however.

SitesBloqueados (Blocked Sites) is a web portal run by Revolução dos Bytes (Bytes’ Revolution), a group of like-minded anti-censorship activists in Portugal. Created a few months after blocking began in the region, their comprehensive database now contains almost 1,400 domains, the majority of which have been blocked on copyright grounds.

“SitesBloqueados was mainly created because, although the Memorandum of Understanding contained certain requirements to make a site eligible to be blocked – such as 500 items [or links] to copyright content or one third of the site containing copyrighted material – there was no official way to validate that data and make sure that these ‘rules’ are being respected,” team member Henrique Mouta informs TF.

The manner in which the list is maintained is quite unique. As mentioned earlier, there are no official sources listing blocked domains so the people behind SitesBloqueados had to get creative. Alongside this project they also run Ahoy!, a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows users to circumvent censorship in Portugal and it’s through that tool they gather information.

“Ahoy! basically bypasses any traffic to a blocked site through our own proxies, allowing the users to navigate in a free, uncensored internet,” Henrique explains.

As this extension works on a whitelist basis, we had to create a mechanism to automatically detect and whitelist sites that have been blocked, so if a user accesses a blocked site that is not on our list yet, we get a notification so we can review the site and add it to the list. That is the list that is also powering SitesBloqueados.pt.”

When the voluntary agreement was first announced, local ISPs came under intense criticism for agreeing to work with copyright holders without need for a court process. However, Henrique says they are actually in a precarious position.

“We usually see the ISPs as the bad guys, blocking sites, throttling our internet and, more recently, going against the Internet Neutrality. But, in this particular case, all the major ISPs are forced to block any sites that have been requested in 15 days, or they might pay fines for every single day after the deadline.

“MAPiNET (MOVIMENTO CÍVICOANTI PIRATARIA NA INTERNET) is the organization, alongside with IGAC (Inspecção Geral Das Actividades Culturais), that compiles the lists of sites and sends them to the ISP. It’s usually two lists per month. Of course, I’m not excusing the ISPs, as they should stand up against censorship. But we all know that’s asking too much of them,” Henrique adds.

Interestingly, the first site blockade in Portugal wasn’t actioned on copyright grounds. It was, in fact, targeted at Uber.com.

“This happened in June 2015, after a court order to suspend all Uber activity in Portugal. This opened a huge precedent, with all these anti-piracy organizations seeing how easy is to block a site, technically speaking.

“So, at the end of August of that same year, the [anti-piracy] Memorandum was signed by all the parties and, since then, both MAPiNET and IGAC have the power to request any site block, without any court order, without any legal order,” Henrique notes.

This lit a fire under the team and two and half years later, Ahoy! is now being used by 100k people to unblock almost 1,400 sites, while feeding back information on newly blocked domains. These are then added to the blocklist database and considered for unblocking methods via the addon.

Currently, around 50 new domains are blocked every month in Portugal and Henrique and the team are determined to document every one of them. They believe that by keeping an eye on things publicly, it lets the anti-piracy groups know they are being watched and cannot act with impunity. Around 90% of all blocked domains are restricted on copyright grounds but some also fall foul of new gambling laws that forbid unlicensed sites.

From the beginning, the big question has surrounded potential abuse. So, given the lack of a court process, have any players attempted to game the system?

“So far, we haven’t seen any signs of intentional abuse. There have been a few problems with sites being wrongly blocked. The most popular case is Carbon Games site that was blocked nearly two years ago, and it was mistaken for a different site, a Gambling site, named Carbon Gaming,” Henrique says.

“A few months later, we detected another case. A Spanish journalist had a website where he was posting videoclips of the latest releases. All of these releases were originally on YouTube, uploaded by the respective owners, however that was not enough to keep the site alive.”

Under pressure from Revolução dos Bytes this block was reversed but it’s not the only instance of errors. Non-existent sites have been blocked as have sites publishing headlines and linking to the respective online newspapers.

With blocking continuing at a steady pace, dozens of new domains are restricted every month. But Henrique and the team believe it won’t achieve anything positive and only serves to harm the Internet and democracy.

“Blocking sites to prevent piracy is the same as being on a sinking submarine, trying to patch every leaking hull hole with duct tape. If they want to fight piracy, they should try to understand, in the first place, why it happens and what they can do to change it.

“It’s well known that having cheap and quality services like Netflix and Spotify helped Internet piracy levels drop to record lows, DRM issues aside, of course. And the worst of it is the timing: these organizations see the decreasing levels of piracy as a signal that their stupid censorship is actually working. I’m really afraid that this is now an unstoppable snowball. The Internet in Portugal has seen much better days,” Henrique concludes.

But while he’s pessimistic over current developments, it appears that the Ahoy! movement is only set to grow. The team say they want to bring the browser-based system to other countries that are suffering from similar blockades and that suggestions from the public are welcome.

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

IPTV Provider Stops Selling New Subscriptions Under Pressure From “UK Authorities”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/iptv-provider-stops-selling-new-subscriptions-under-pressure-from-uk-authorities-171224/

Over the past couple of decades, piracy of live TV has broadly taken two forms. That which relies on breaking broadcaster encryption (such as card sharing and hacked set-top boxes), and the more recent developments of P2P and IPTV-style transmission.

With the former under pressure and P2P systems such as Sopcast and AceTorrent moving along in the background, streaming from servers is now the next big thing, whether that’s for free via third-party Kodi plugins or for a small fee from premium IPTV providers.

Of course, copyright holders don’t like any of this usage but with their for-profit strategy, commercial IPTV providers have a big target on their backs. More evidence of this was revealed recently when UK-based IPTV service ACE TV announced they were taking action to avoid problems in the country.

In a message to prospective and existing customers, ACE TV said that potential legal issues were behind its decision to accept no new customers while locking down its service.

“It saddens me to announce this, but due to pressure from the authorities in the UK, we are no longer selling new subscriptions. This obviously includes trials,” the announcement reads.

Noting that it would take new order for just 24 hours more, ACE TV insisted that it wasn’t shutting down but would lock down the service while closing Facebook.

TF sources and unconfirmed rumors online suggest that the Federation Against Copyright Theft and partners the Premier League are involved. However, ACE TV didn’t respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment so we’re unable to confirm or deny the allegations.

That being said, even if the threats came directly from the police, it’s likely that the approach would’ve been initially prompted by companies connected to FACT, since the anti-piracy outfit often puts forward names of services for investigation on behalf of its partners.

Perhaps surprisingly, ACE TV is legally incorporated in the UK as Ace Hosting Limited, a fact it makes clear on its website. While easy to find, the company’s registered address is shared by dozens of other companies, indicating a mail forwarding operation rather than a place servers or staff can be found.

This proxy location may well be the reason the company feels emboldened to carry on some level of service rather than shutting down completely, but its legal basis for doing so is interesting at best, precarious at worst.

“This website, any content contained herein and any contract brought into being as a result of usage of this website are governed by and construed in accordance with English Law,” ACE TV’s website reads.

“The parties to any such contract agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales. All contracts are concluded in English.”

It seems likely that ACE TV has been threatened under UK law, since that’s where it’s incorporated. That would seem to explain why its concerned about UK authorities and their potential effect on the business. On the other hand, however, the service claims to operate entirely legally, but under the laws of the United States. It even has a repeat infringer policy.

“Ace Hosting operates as an intermediary to cache and deliver content hosted by others at the instruction of our subscribers. We cannot remove content hosted by others,” the company says.

“As an intermediary, we are entitled to rely upon (among other things) the DMCA safe harbor available to system caching service providers and we maintain policies and procedures to terminate subscribers that would be considered repeat infringers under the DMCA.”

Whether the notices on the site have been advised by a legal professional or are there to present an air of authenticity is unclear but it’s precarious for a service of this nature to rely solely on conduit status in order to avoid liability.

Marketing, prior conduct, and overall intent play a major role in such cases and when all of that is aired in the cold light of day, the situation can look very different to a judge, particularly in the UK, where no similar cases have been successfully defended to date.

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

AnyDVD Supports UHD Blu-Ray Ripping, While Devices Patch Security Holes

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/anydvd-supports-uhd-blu-ray-ripping-while-devices-patch-security-holes-171220/

For a long time UHD Blu-Ray discs have been the holy grail for movie rippers.

Protected by the ‘unbreakable’ AACS 2.0 encryption, pirates were left with regular HD releases. While that’s fine for most people, it didn’t sit well with the real videophiles.

This year there have been some major developments on this front. First, full copies of UHD discs started to leak online, later followed by dozens of AACS 2.0 keys. Technically speaking AACS 2.0 is not confirmed to be defeated yet, but many discs can now be ripped.

This week a popular name jumped onto the UHD Blu-Ray bandwagon. In its latest beta release, AnyDVD now supports the format, relying on the leaked keys.

“New (UHD Blu-ray): Fetch AACS keys from external file for use with ‘UHD-friendly’ drives,” the release notes read.

The involvement of AnyDVD is significant because it previously came under legal pressure from decryption licensing outfit AACS LA. This caused former parent company Slysoft to shut down last year, but the software later reappeared under new management.

Based on reports from several AnyDVD users, the UHD ripping works well for most people. Some even claim that it’s faster than the free alternative, MakeMKV.

The question is, however, how long the ripping party will last. TorrentFreak has learned that not all supported Blu-Ray disc drives will remain “UHD-friendly.”

According to one source’s information, which we were unable to independently verify, device manufacturers have recently been instructed to patch the holes through firmware updates.

This indeed appears to be what’s happening. According to several user reports, LG’s WH16NS40 is no longer able to read and rip UHD Blu-Rays after the most recent firmware change.

Ironically, LG advertises it as “Improved BD UHD disc compatibility.”

So, while ripping tools such as AnyDVD are joining in to support UHD ripping, AACS LA and disc drive manufacturers appear to be patching security holes. But whatever they do, rippers are unlikely to stop their efforts until they’ve reached the holy grail.

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