Tag Archives: rcn

PureVPN Explains How it Helped the FBI Catch a Cyberstalker

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/purevpn-explains-how-it-helped-the-fbi-catch-a-cyberstalker-171016/

Early October, Ryan S. Lin, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested on suspicion of conducting “an extensive cyberstalking campaign” against a 24-year-old Massachusetts woman, as well as her family members and friends.

The Department of Justice described Lin’s offenses as a “multi-faceted” computer hacking and cyberstalking campaign. Launched in April 2016 when he began hacking into the victim’s online accounts, Lin allegedly obtained personal photographs and sensitive information about her medical and sexual histories and distributed that information to hundreds of other people.

Details of what information the FBI compiled on Lin can be found in our earlier report but aside from his alleged crimes (which are both significant and repugnant), it was PureVPN’s involvement in the case that caused the most controversy.

In a report compiled by an FBI special agent, it was revealed that the Hong Kong-based company’s logs helped the authorities net the alleged criminal.

“Significantly, PureVPN was able to determine that their service was accessed by the same customer from two originating IP addresses: the RCN IP address from the home Lin was living in at the time, and the software company where Lin was employed at the time,” the agent’s affidavit reads.

Among many in the privacy community, this revelation was met with disappointment. On the PureVPN website the company claims to carry no logs and on a general basis, it’s expected that so-called “no-logging” VPN providers should provide people with some anonymity, at least as far as their service goes. Now, several days after the furor, the company has responded to its critics.

In a fairly lengthy statement, the company begins by confirming that it definitely doesn’t log what websites a user views or what content he or she downloads.

“PureVPN did not breach its Privacy Policy and certainly did not breach your trust. NO browsing logs, browsing habits or anything else was, or ever will be shared,” the company writes.

However, that’s only half the problem. While it doesn’t log user activity (what sites people visit or content they download), it does log the IP addresses that customers use to access the PureVPN service. These, given the right circumstances, can be matched to external activities thanks to logs carried by other web companies.

PureVPN talks about logs held by Google’s Gmail service to illustrate its point.

“A network log is automatically generated every time a user visits a website. For the sake of this example, let’s say a user logged into their Gmail account. Every time they accessed Gmail, the email provider created a network log,” the company explains.

“If you are using a VPN, Gmail’s network log would contain the IP provided by PureVPN. This is one half of the picture. Now, if someone asks Google who accessed the user’s account, Google would state that whoever was using this IP, accessed the account.

“If the user was connected to PureVPN, it would be a PureVPN IP. The inquirer [in the Lin case, the FBI] would then share timestamps and network logs acquired from Google and ask them to be compared with the network logs maintained by the VPN provider.”

Now, if PureVPN carried no logs – literally no logs – it would not be able to help with this kind of inquiry. That was the case last year when the FBI approached Private Internet Access for information and the company was unable to assist.

However, as is made pretty clear by PureVPN’s explanation, the company does log user IP addresses and timestamps which reveal when a user was logged on to the service. It doesn’t matter that PureVPN doesn’t log what the user allegedly did online, since the third-party service already knows that information to the precise second.

Following the example, GMail knows that a user sent an email at 10:22am on Monday October 16 from a PureVPN IP address. So, if PureVPN is approached by the FBI, the company can confirm that User X was using the same IP address at exactly the same time, and his home IP address was XXX.XX.XXX.XX. Effectively, the combined logs link one IP address to the other and the user is revealed. It’s that simple.

It is for this reason that in TorrentFreak’s annual summary of no-logging VPN providers, the very first question we ask every single company reads as follows:

Do you keep ANY logs which would allow you to match an IP-address and a time stamp to a user/users of your service? If so, what information do you hold and for how long?

Clearly, if a company says “yes we log incoming IP addresses and associated timestamps”, any claim to total user anonymity is ended right there and then.

While not completely useless (a logging service will still stop the prying eyes of ISPs and similar surveillance, while also defeating throttling and site-blocking), if you’re a whistle-blower with a job or even your life to protect, this level of protection is entirely inadequate.

The take-home points from this controversy are numerous, but perhaps the most important is for people to read and understand VPN provider logging policies.

Secondly, and just as importantly, VPN providers need to be extremely clear about the information they log. Not tracking browsing or downloading activities is all well and good, but if home IP addresses and timestamps are stored, this needs to be made clear to the customer.

Finally, VPN users should not be evil. There are plenty of good reasons to stay anonymous online but cyberstalking, death threats and ruining people’s lives are not included. Fortunately, the FBI have offline methods for catching this type of offender, and long may that continue.

PureVPN’s blog post is available here.

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

PureVPN Logs Helped FBI Net Alleged Cyberstalker

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/purevpn-logs-helped-fbi-net-alleged-cyberstalker-171009/

Last Thursday, Ryan S. Lin, 24, of Newton, Massachusetts, was arrested on suspicion of conducting “an extensive cyberstalking campaign” against his former roommate, a 24-year-old Massachusetts woman, as well as her family members and friends.

According to the Department of Justice, Lin’s “multi-faceted campaign of computer hacking and cyberstalking” began in April 2016 when he began hacking into the victim’s online accounts, obtaining personal photographs, sensitive information about her medical and sexual histories, and other private details.

It’s alleged that after obtaining the above material, Lin distributed it to hundreds of others. It’s claimed he created fake online profiles showing the victim’s home address while soliciting sexual activity. This caused men to show up at her home.

“Mr. Lin allegedly carried out a relentless cyber stalking campaign against a young woman in a chilling effort to violate her privacy and threaten those around her,” said Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb.

“While using anonymizing services and other online tools to avoid attribution, Mr. Lin harassed the victim, her family, friends, co-workers and roommates, and then targeted local schools and institutions in her community. Mr. Lin will now face the consequences of his crimes.”

While Lin awaits his ultimate fate (he appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston Friday), the allegation he used anonymization tools to hide himself online but still managed to get caught raises a number of questions. An affidavit submitted by Special Agent Jeffrey Williams in support of the criminal complaint against Lin provides most of the answers.

Describing Lin’s actions against the victim as “doxing”, Williams begins by noting that while Lin was the initial aggressor, the fact he made the information so widely available raises the possibility that other people got involved with malicious acts later on. Nevertheless, Lin remains the investigation’s prime suspect.

According to the affidavit, Lin is computer savvy having majored in computer science. He allegedly utilized a number of methods to hide his identity and IP address, including TOR, Virtual Private Network (VPN) services and email providers that “do not maintain logs or other records.”

But if that genuinely is the case, how was Lin caught?

First up, it’s worth noting that plenty of Lin’s aggressive and stalking behaviors towards the victim were demonstrated in a physical sense, offline. In that respect, it appears the authorities already had him as the prime suspect and worked back from there.

In one instance, the FBI examined a computer that had been used by Lin at a former workplace. Although Windows had been reinstalled, the FBI managed to find Google Chrome data which indicated Lin had viewed articles about bomb threats he allegedly made. They were also able to determine he’d accessed the victim’s Gmail account and additional data suggested that he’d used a VPN service.

“Artifacts indicated that PureVPN, a VPN service that was used repeatedly in the cyberstalking scheme, was installed on the computer,” the affidavit reads.

From here the Special Agent’s report reveals that the FBI received cooperation from Hong Kong-based PureVPN.

“Significantly, PureVPN was able to determine that their service was accessed by the same customer from two originating IP addresses: the RCN IP address from the home Lin was living in at the time, and the software company where Lin was employed at the time,” the agent’s affidavit reads.

Needless to say, while this information will prove useful to the FBI’s prosecution of Lin, it’s also likely to turn into a huge headache for the VPN provider. The company claims zero-logging, which clearly isn’t the case.

“PureVPN operates a self-managed VPN network that currently stands at 750+ Servers in 141 Countries. But is this enough to ensure complete security?” the company’s marketing statement reads.

“That’s why PureVPN has launched advanced features to add proactive, preventive and complete security. There are no third-parties involved and NO logs of your activities.”

PureVPN privacy graphic

However, if one drills down into the PureVPN privacy policy proper, one sees the following:

Our servers automatically record the time at which you connect to any of our servers. From here on forward, we do not keep any records of anything that could associate any specific activity to a specific user. The time when a successful connection is made with our servers is counted as a ‘connection’ and the total bandwidth used during this connection is called ‘bandwidth’. Connection and bandwidth are kept in record to maintain the quality of our service. This helps us understand the flow of traffic to specific servers so we could optimize them better.

This seems to match what the FBI says – almost. While it says it doesn’t log, PureVPN admits to keeping records of when a user connects to the service and for how long. The FBI clearly states that the service also captures the user’s IP address too. In fact, it appears that PureVPN also logged the IP address belonging to another VPN service (WANSecurity) that was allegedly used by Lin to connect to PureVPN.

That record also helped to complete another circle of evidence. IP addresses used by
Kansas-based WANSecurity and Secure Internet LLC (servers operated by PureVPN) were allegedly used to access Gmail accounts known to be under Lin’s control.

Somewhat ironically, this summer Lin took to Twitter to criticize VPN provider IPVanish (which is not involved in the case) over its no-logging claims.

“There is no such thing as a VPN that doesn’t keep logs,” Lin said. “If they can limit your connections or track bandwidth usage, they keep logs.”

Or, in the case of PureVPN, if they log a connection time and a source IP address, that could be enough to raise the suspicions of the FBI and boost what already appears to be a pretty strong case.

If convicted, Lin faces up to five years in prison and three years of supervised release.

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

Windstream Gives Up Preemptive Fight Over ISP’s Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/windstream-gives-up-preemptive-fight-over-isps-piracy-liability-170920/

Can an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled two years ago.

This verdict caused great uncertainty in the ISP industry, as several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider Windstream is among the companies that are worried about the fallout. With 1.1 million subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States. As such, it receives takedown notices on a regular basis.

Many of these notices come from music rights group BMG, which accused Windstream and its subscribers of various copyright infringements. These notices are issued by the monitoring outfit Rightscorp and often come with a settlement demand for the account holders.

When Windstream refused to forward these notices, as it’s not required to do so by law, BMG and Rightscorp increased the pressure. They threatened that the ISP could be liable for millions of dollars in piracy damages for failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

Faced with this threat, Windstream filed a request for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court last year, requesting a legal ruling on the matter. This preemptive lawsuit didn’t turn out as planned for the ISP.

In April the court ruled that there is no ‘actual controversy’ and that it can’t issue a hypothetical and advisory opinion without concrete facts. As such, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Windstream didn’t throw in the towel right away though and appealed the verdict. The ISP argued that the $150,000 in damages per infringement BMG claimed caused a real controversy.

“BMG’s accusations were not idle threats in light of the undisputed fact that BMG had recently obtained a $25,000,000 recovery against another conduit ISP based on similar claims,” the ISP wrote in a brief last month.

“Thus, the undisputed facts conclusively establish that an actual controversy exists to support Windstream’s request for a declaration that it is not liable for any alleged infringement of BMG’s copyrights.”

Despite Windstream’s initial persistence, something changed in recent weeks. Without any prior signs in the court docket, the company has now asked the Judge to dismiss the case entirely, with both parties paying their own costs.

“Windstream respectfully requests that this Court dismiss in full Windstream’s present appeal with prejudice against BMG and Rightscorp, with each party bearing its own costs in this appeal.”

While there is no mention of a settlement of any kind, BMG and Rightscorp do not oppose the request. This effectively means that the case is over. The same previously happened in a similar lawsuit, where Internet provider RCN demanded a declaratory judgment.

This means that all eyes are once again on the case between BMG and Cox Communications, which got this all started and is currently under appeal.

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

ISP RCN and BMG Agree to Settle Internet Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-rcn-and-bmg-agree-to-settle-internet-piracy-lawsuit-170331/

In common with many other Internet service providers in the United States, RCN receives its fair share of copyright infringement notices, including sizeable numbers from anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp.

These notices, sent on behalf of music rights group BMG, are paired with settlement demands which Rightscorp expects RCN customers to pay at around $30 per shot. On top, the anti-piracy outfit and its client previously warned the ISP that if it did not take appropriate action against its allegedly infringing subscribers, it could be held liable.

That claim lit a fire under RCN who responded with a lawsuit filed against BMG at a New York federal court last summer.

“The central question for this Court’s determination is whether an Internet service provider should be held liable for copyright infringement simply because it provides Internet connectivity to its customers,” RCN wrote.

“BMG’s repeated assertions that RCN is liable for copyright infringement lack merit. RCN therefore seeks a judgment from this Court declaring that it is not liable to BMG for copyright infringement.”

Last September, RCN submitted an amended complaint which revealed how BMG put it under pressure take action against subscribers while demanding compensation. The rights group said that RCN had failed to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers, despite receiving millions of notices.

“We are hopeful that a resolution of this ongoing and damaging infringement can be reached. To that end, we suggest the parties meet to discuss a settlement that would include a means of preventing or limiting future infringement and appropriate compensation to BMG,” the letter from BMG read.

Since then the case has continued with filings back and forth. However, two weeks ago it was revealed that progress had been made, with lawyers for both RCN and BMG informing the court that an agreement had been reached in principle to settle the matter peacefully.

“We write to inform Your Honor that the parties have reached an agreement in principle to settle this matter without Court intervention and are in the process of executing the same. We expect a dismissal with prejudice of this matter to be filed shortly,” the letter dated March 16 reads.

Then, on Wednesday this week, the previously warring factions informed the court it was all over.

Neither party has indicated what the settlement entails but since the case has been dismissed with prejudice, it cannot be revived again in the future.

With the parties paying their own legal bills there’s a suggestion that things might stop there financially, but it remains unclear whether RCN has agreed to deal with its pirating subscribers in a more aggressive manner, as originally requested by BMG.

In any event, it seems likely that the BMG v Cox Communications case has hung heavy on this dispute, at least from RCN’s perspective. That case is currently going to appeal but with a $25m ruling in BMG’s favor (not to mention $8m bill in legal costs for Cox), taking big risks along similar lines was probably not high on the agenda for RCN.

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

ISPs Don’t Have Blanket Immunity From Piracy, BMG Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isps-dont-have-blanket-immunity-from-piracy-bmg-says-170127/

bmgrightsCan an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled late last year.

This verdict caused great uncertainty in the ISP industry, as several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider RCN is among the companies that are worried about the fallout. With 400,000 subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States, and as such it regularly receives takedown notices for alleged copyright infringements on its network.

Many of these notices come from BMG and its anti-piracy partner Rightscorp, who argued that RCN can be held for the actions of its customers.

The Internet provider is not happy with these allegations and last year it took legal steps in response. The ISP filed a lawsuit against music rights group BMG at a New York federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment on the matter.

In their request, RCN argued that they are not liable for the alleged copyright infringements of subscribers. They are merely passing on traffic, which grants the company protection under the DMCA’s safe harbor provision, they claimed.

BMG clearly disagrees with this point of view and this week submitted a motion to dismiss (pdf) the request for a declaratory judgment at the New York federal court.

The music group stresses that a declaratory judgment is not proper in this situation. RCN wants the court to rule that it is not liable for any past, current, or future infringements, without providing essential details on their takedown and repeat infringer policies and procedures.

While BMG admits that the DMCA provides a “safe harbor” for Internet providers, they stress that this right is not unconditional. It doesn’t provide “blanket immunity” from copyright infringement claims.

“..this [safe harbor] defense is not absolute. Rather than provide conduit ISPs with blanket immunity, Congress required that conduit ISPs adopt and reasonably implement a policy for the termination of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances before they may claim a safe harbor defense,” BMG notes.

One of the main problems BMG signals is that the court can’t rule on something that has yet to happen. Without knowing how RCN will deal with repeat infringers in the future, liability may change over time, they say.

“Crucially, the facts on which RCN’s future liability turns cannot possibly be known in advance,” BMG writes.

“The Court cannot possibly know the content of future infringement notices, whether RCN will have knowledge of future infringements, what its future practices will be, and whether it will terminate repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances.”

As such, the music rights group asks the court to dismiss the ISP’s request for a declaratory judgment.

“These sorts of contingencies render questions of infringement far too remote to justify declaratory relief. It would be extraordinarily unfair to immunize RCN against the infringement of BMG’s copyrights without regard for the facts that would be pertinent to an infringement action,” they say.

Even if the court disagrees and decides that it has jurisdiction to rule on the issue, BMG cites several other grounds to dismiss the complaint. This includes RCN’s alleged failure to state a claim for DMCA safe harbor protection.

The court will now review the arguments from both sides to decide whether the case will go ahead.

In addition to RCN’s request for a declaratory judgment regarding liability for pirating subscribers, fellow ISP Windstream has a similar case pending in the court. At the same time, Cox Communication is appealing the $25 million judgment in their case.

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

BMG Pressed Internet Provider to Pay Piracy Compensation

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bmg-pressed-internet-provider-to-pay-piracy-compensation-160922/

piratkeybFor several years, music rights group BMG has been chasing down pirating BitTorrent users. With help from Rightscorp the company regularly sends DMCA notices to ISPs.

These notices are bundled with settlement demands, intended for Internet subscribers who allegedly shared pirated content. If the accused subscribers pay $30, they avoid further trouble.

However, BMG’s enforcement efforts are not only directed at individual subscribers. Behind the scenes, the company is also putting pressure on ISPs to cooperate with their scheme, or pay up instead.

One of their targets is US-based Internet provider RCN. A relatively small player with roughly 400,000 subscribers, but allegedly good for millions of alleged copyright infringements.

According to BMG, the ISP is liable for the infringements of its users. RCN clearly disagrees with this accusation and went to court earlier this year to ask clarification in the form of a declaratory judgment.

A few days ago the ISP submitted an amended complaint (pdf), revealing a letter that shows how the music licensing group put pressure on them by demanding preventive measures as well as compensation.

In the letter, BMG’s law firm Steptoe & Johnson informed RCN’s executive vice president Jeffrey Kramp that the ISP failed to terminate repeat infringers on its network, despite receiving millions of notices.

“The evidence shows that RCN is allowing repeat infringers to use its network to continue their infringement of BMG works even after RCN has been notified of their specific instances of infringement,” the letter reads.

“Since Rightscorp began monitoring BMG’s copyrights, it has identified millions of instances of infringement involving thousands of BMG copyrighted works using the RCN network.”

BMG’s letter to RCN (full pdf)

steptoerightsc

RCN had previously noted that BMG accused the ISP of secondary copyright infringement and the letter shared by RCN late last week shows how.

“RCN’s knowledge and allowance of unchecked infringement to occur using its network makes it liable for secondary copyright infringement and actual or statutory damages as high as $150,000 per infringed work,” BMG’s lawyer writes.

With hundreds of works at stake, the potential damages run to dozens of millions. However, just like the accusations against individual subscribers, RCN can make these go away by signing a settlement agreement and paying compensation.

“We are hopeful that a resolution of this ongoing and damaging infringement can be reached. To that end, we suggest the parties meet to discuss a settlement that would include a means of preventing or limiting future infringement and appropriate compensation to BMG,” the letter suggests.

It’s clear that with this language BMG hoped to pressure the Internet provider into cooperating. This didn’t work out though, as RCN decided to lawyer-up instead and sue them instead.

In the amended complaint, the Internet provider asks for a declaratory judgment that it’s not liable for infringing any of BMG’s copyrights or any damage resulting from alleged infringements of their subscribers.

While ISPs enjoy safe harbor protections under the DMCA, this does not guarantee a positive outcome for RCN.

In a similar liability case last year, Internet provider Cox Communications was held responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers. In that case a Virginia federal court ordered Cox to pay BMG $25 million in damages.

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

Music Group Protests ISPs Move for a Declaratory Ruling on Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/music-group-protests-isps-move-for-a-declaratory-ruling-on-piracy-liability-160901/

bmgrightsCan an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled late last year.

This verdict caused shockwaves in the ISP industry when several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider RCN is among the companies that are gravely concerned. With 400,000 subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States, and as such it regularly receives takedown notices targeting it its subscribers.

Many of these notices come from BMG and its anti-piracy partner Rightscorp, which accuse RCN of being liable for the actions of its customers.

RCN was not pleased with these allegations and took legal action a few weeks ago. The Internet provider filed a lawsuit against music rights group BMG at a New York federal court, seeking declaratory judgment on the matter.

“The central question for this Court’s determination is whether an Internet service provider should be held liable for copyright infringement simply because it provides Internet connectivity to its customers,” RCN wrote.

The Internet provider argued that it is not liable for the infringements of its subscribers because it is merely passing on traffic, which allows the company protection under the DMCA’s safe harbor provision.

RCN is not the only ISP to have taken action. Their complaint was swiftly followed by a similar case from Windstream, which relies on many of the same arguments.

BMG is not happy with these developments and has started to push back in court. In both cases, the music rights group has now asked the court for leave to file a motion to dismiss the complaints.

According to BMG, there is no concrete dispute or threat of an actual lawsuit on their part. Instead, they accuse the ISPs of trying to get broad immunity without going into specifics, such as their repeat infringer policies.

“RCN appears to seek to resolve only its liability for past instances of infringement, but declaratory judgment actions are not the proper vehicle by which to do so,” BMG’s lawyers write in the RCN case.

“Conversely, to the extent RCN seeks to immunize itself against liability for future infringement, there is no factual record on which to make such a decision. A Court cannot offer a declaratory judgment immunizing purely hypothetical future conduct from secondary liability for copyright infringement.”

As the Cox case has shown, the ISPs’ actions and policies play a crucial role in determining liability. BMG accuses RCN, and in a similar filing Windstream, of trying to escape this responsibility.

“In sum, RCN seeks a broad ruling that it does not infringe BMG’s copyrights at any time or anywhere, regardless of the factual circumstances or its actual knowledge of copyright infringement by RCN subscribers. That is not the proper subject of a declaratory judgment action and does not state a legally valid claim under the DMCA or the Copyright Act.”

RCN does not agree with the music group’s characterization of its request. In a reply, the ISP highlights that it received millions of infringement notices from BMG over the past years, in which it demanded compensation from RCN.

“They present a substantial, real, and immediate controversy in that BMG has accused RCN of specific and continuing instances of copyright infringement and has provided a definitive measure of the damages for which RCN is allegedly liable,” RCN writes in its reply.

“As a result, there is nothing abstract or hypothetical about the relief RCN is seeking in this declaratory action. RCN properly seeks a declaration that BMG’s allegations lack merit and that RCN is not liable for purported copyright infringement occurring through its network.”

As such, RCN asks the court not to allow the motion to dismiss to be filed.

Windstream has yet to reply to the allegations, but it’s expected that they will follow the same course as their colleague Internet provider, as they’ve previously done.

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

We’re Not Liable for Pirating Subscribers, Windstream Tells Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/were-not-liable-for-pirating-subscribers-windstream-tells-court-160629/

pirate-runningCan an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled late last year.

This verdict caused shockwaves in the ISP industry when several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

With 1.1 million subscribers in the United States, Windstream is one of the ‘candidates.’ The company is well aware of this risk but instead of waiting around the ISP is taking the initiative.

This week Windstream filed a complaint for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court, directed against music rights group BMG and its anti-piracy partner Rightscorp.

For several years BMG has accused Windstream and its subscribers of various copyright infringements. The notices they send are issued by the monitoring outfit Rightscorp and often come with a settlement demand for the account holders.

Windstream, however, says that it’s not in any way obligated to forward these notices to the subscribers in question. Instead, the ISP points out that it’s a mere conduit for Internet services.

“Similar to other ISPs, Windstream only provides Internet connectivity, making it a mere conduit for the transmission of Internet services,” Windstream writes in its complaint.

“As a pipeline to the Internet, Windstream does not monitor or otherwise control the manner in which its subscribers utilize their Windstream Internet connection and does not initiate, control, select or modify the material or content transmitted by Windstream subscribers over Windstream’s network.”

According to the ISP, the notices sent by Rightscorp also lack sufficient information to prove that actual copyright infringements have taken place by their customers.

“Defendants have no direct evidence that any Windstream subscriber is engaged in direct copyright infringement and Windstream, as a mere conduit for the transmission of Internet services, cannot be held liable for direct copyright infringement,” the complaint reads.

nodirwind

Windstream previously made its position clear to both BMG and Rightscorp and tried to come to a resolution, but that didn’t stop more notices being sent to the ISP.

Instead, the companies maintain that Windstream is liable for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement, and accuse it of failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

“Defendants claim that Windstream’s knowledge and allowance of unchecked infringement on its network makes Windstream liable for secondary copyright infringement and actual or statutory damages as high as $150,000 per infringed work.”

These allegations go way too far, Windstream believes. As a result, the company is seeking a judgment declaring that it’s not liable for the infringing actions of its subscribers under the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions, among other things.

“Defendants have no direct evidence that any Windstream subscriber engaged in direct copyright infringement and Windstream, as a mere conduit for the transmission of Internet services, cannot be held liable for direct copyright infringement,” they write.

In addition, the ISP says that it doesn’t authorize, direct or encourage its subscribers to pirate anything. Nor does it profit from the alleged copyright infringements that may take place on their network.

With this lawsuit Windstream hopes to obtain legal clarity on several key issues. Aside from the broader liability question, the ISP also asks the court to declare that it’s not required to comply with or respond to Rightscorp’s notices at all, under the DMCA.

Windstream’s lawsuit is similar to the one filed by RCN earlier this month, although the latter doesn’t include Rightscorp as a defendant. These are likely to be followed closely by the larger ISPs, as the outcomes will have a major impact on the industry.

The full complaint is available here (pdf).

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

Rightscorp Pressures ISPs to Hijack Pirates Browsers

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-pressures-isps-to-hijack-pirates-browsers-160625/

hijackRightscorp has made plenty of headlines in recent years, often due its aggressive attempts to obtain settlements from allegedly pirating Internet users.

Thus far these efforts haven’t been particularly successful. Rightscorp is reporting millions in losses and most major Internet providers are not forwarding their settlement demands, even when they are offered a cut of the proceeds.

In order to make their services more ‘appealing’ to ISPs the anti-piracy firm recently added a new strategy. In addition to sending in notices, it now offers ISPs a system where the browsers of subscribers are locked until they pay their ‘fine.’

We uncovered the browser hijacking plan before, but thanks to a letter made public by Internet provider RCN we can now see how Rightscorp promotes it to ISPs.

The letter detailing Rightscorp’s proposal was released by RCN this week, as part of the court case it started earlier this month. In the letter Rightscorp claims that it’s tracking tens of thousands of repeat infringers on RCN’s network, for which it sent over a million notices.

“Unfortunately, the problem on your network is massive and growing,” Rightscorp writes.

“It is our professional estimation that on an annual basis, there are still 95 million instances of songs, movies, TV shows, software applications and eBooks being distributed illegally on the RCN network annually without compensation to the owners,” they add.

The anti-piracy outfit says that in order to solve this issue and prevent further Government regulation, repeat infringements have to be properly warned. This means implementing a system where subscribers face serious consequences.

“In our opinion, the average RCN subscriber simply does not fear that there will be any consequences if they continue to engage in piracy.

“Rightscorp has a proven solution that has reduced repeat copyright infringers on ISPs that work with us. We see 374% less repeat infringement on ISPs that work with us versus ISPs that do not work with us,” the letter adds.

Instead of merely forwarding settlement demands, Rightscorp proposes a system where the ISP hijacks subscribers’ browsers. Initially, this would only affect 10% of infringers but the number would gradually increase to 90%.

The letter also contains details about the setup of the hijacking system, which works via a combination of soft and hard redirects.

Rightscorp’s proposal

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The soft redirect will suspend Internet access until the subscribers acknowledge that they’ve read the notice. After five notices this switches to a hard redirect, which requires subscribers to pay up in order to browse the web again.

“These single notices will have a button that the subscriber can click to indicate that they have read the notice, and it will disappear,” Rightscorp explains.

“Once the subscriber receives five such notices, the subscriber will receive a ‘hard redirect’ where the subscriber will have to pay the bill to remove the redirect notice,” they add.

The letter is framed as a cooperation that can benefit both parties, but also applies some mild pressure here and there. For example, it closes by mentioning the devastating effect piracy can have on copyright holders and reminds the ISP of the major impact it can have.

“Without the browser hijacking, copyright holders have no option to stop piracy,” the company claims.

“Just one RCN subscriber with a 5Mbps upload speed running BitTorrent can give away 1.5 million MBps or 12,000 movies a year for free. We are tracking thousands of RCN subscribers doing exactly that every day.”

“Do you really want to stand by and do almost nothing while every American content creator is forced to have their work distributed worldwide for free on your network?” the letter asks.

We doubt that RCN is cheering on its pirating subscribers. However, the company also doesn’t appreciate being pressured into commercial partnerships with companies that have a dubious status.

Instead, it declined the offer and filed a lawsuit against music group BMG, one of Rightscorp’s major clients, describing the company’s piracy monitoring tools as flawed. Whether any other ISPs will take the bait will become apparent in the future.

Rightscorp’s full letter can be downloaded here (pdf).

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

U.S. ISP Sues Music Group Over Piracy Allegations

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-isp-sues-music-group-over-piracy-allegations-160615/

RCN_Corporation With 400,000 subscribers nationwide, RCN is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States.

Like many other ISPs the company has been overloaded with piracy notices in recent years. One of the most prolific senders is Rightscorp, who submit DMCA notices on behalf of clients including BMG.

These notices are controversial, because they use an aggressive tone paired with settlement demands.

In addition, Rightscorp and its clients claim that ISPs could be held liable for the infringing actions of their customers if they fail to take proper action. This includes disconnecting repeat copyright infringers.

RCN is not pleased with these allegations and this week took legal action. The Internet provider filed a lawsuit against music rights group BMG at a New York federal court, seeking a legal opinion on the matter.

“The central question for this Court’s determination is whether an Internet service provider should be held liable for copyright infringement simply because it provides Internet connectivity to its customers,” RCN writes.

The Internet provider explains that BMG and its anti-piracy partner are demanding payment for the alleged wrongdoings of its customers. In the process, they are bombarding RCN’s mailservers with notices.

“Both BMG and Rightscorp are wrongly demanding payment from RCN for that alleged infringement, and have clearly expressed their intention to enforce these purported rights,” the ISP writes.

“To substantiate its allegations, BMG asserts that RCN is on notice of the alleged wrongdoing by pointing to Rightscorp’s history of inundating RCN’s email server with millions of notifications purportedly reflecting instances of subscriber infringement.”

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According to the Internet provider the notices are so numerous and so lacking in specificity, that it’s not feasible to investigate the claims. In addition, RCN points out that Rightscorp’s monitoring technology is flawed for various reasons.

Among other things, the ISP notes that Rightscorp only checks if a small portion of an alleged copyrighted work is shared, not the entire file.

RCN further says that it is not liable for the infringement of its subscribers because it is merely passing on traffic, which allows the company protection under the DMCA’s safe harbor provision.

The company is asking the court to review the matter and issue a declaratory judgment to provide more certainty.

“BMG’s repeated assertions that RCN is liable for copyright infringement lack merit. RCN therefore seeks a judgment from this Court declaring that it is not liable to BMG for copyright infringement,” RCN writes.

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This is not the first lawsuit to deal with the question of liability.

In a similar case last year, Internet provider Cox Communications was held responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers. In that case a Virginia federal court ordered Cox to pay BMG $25 million in damages.

Given the stakes at hand, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see various other ISPs and copyright holders taking an interest in RCN’s case, as it’s likely to have a wide impact.

The full complaint filed by RCN is available here (pdf).

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