Tag Archives: request

Bell Asks Employees to Back Pirate Site Blocking Plan

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/bell-asks-employees-to-back-pirate-site-blocking-plan-180222/

Last month, a coalition of Canadian companies called on the local telecom regulator CRTC to establish a local pirate site blocking program, which would be the first of its kind in North America.

The Canadian deal is supported by Fairplay Canada, a coalition of both copyright holders and major players in the Telco industry, such as Bell and Rogers, which also have media companies of their own.

Thus far, there’s been a fair amount of opposition to the proposal. While CTRC is reviewing FairPlay Canada’s plans, OpenMedia has launched a petition to stop the effort in its tracks, which has already been signed by tens of thousands of Canadians.

However, there are also people who are backing the blocking efforts. In some cases, with a gentle push from their employer.

Canadian law Professor Micheal Geist, who’s one of the most vocal opponents of the blocking plans, recently tweeted a note Bell sent to its employees. Through an internal message, the ISP asks its workers to “help stop online piracy and protect content creators.”

Bell’s internal message

The company clearly hopes that its employees will back the site-blocking agenda, but according to Geist, this may not be the best way to do it.

Geist points out that the internal message doesn’t encourage employees to disclose their affiliation with Bell. This raises eyebrows, in particular, because Bell agreed to a $1.25 million settlement in 2015 after it encouraged some employees to write positive reviews and ratings on Bell apps.

In this case, the message has nothing to with app ratings, but it’s clear that the company is encouraging its employees to support a regulatory effort that serves Bell’s interests.

“All Canadians can provide their views on the website blocking proposal, but corporate encouragement to employees to participate in regulatory processes on the company’s behalf may raise the kinds of concerns regarding misleading impressions that sparked the Commissioner of Competition to intervene in 2015,” Geist’s writes in a blog post.

Even if Bell’s request is ‘fair play’ and within the boundaries of what’s allowed, it may do more harm than good.

Geist’s observation was picked up by local media with iPhoneinCanada describing Bell’s effort as “disingenuous,” which might lead to even more opposition in response.

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

Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/laptop-locator-can-save-you/

Laptop locator signal

Some things don’t get the credit they deserve. For one of our engineers, Billy, the Locate My Computer feature is near and dear to his heart. It took him a while to build it, and it requires some regular updates, even after all these years. Billy loves the Locate My Computer feature, but really loves knowing how it’s helped customers over the years. One recent story made us decide to write a bit of a greatest hits post as an ode to one of our favorite features — Locate My Computer.

What is it?

Locate My Computer, as you’ll read in the stories below, came about because some of our users had their computers stolen and were trying to find a way to retrieve their devices. They realized that while some of their programs and services like Find My Mac were wiped, in some cases, Backblaze was still running in the background. That created the ability to use our software to figure out where the computer was contacting us from. After manually helping some of the individuals that wrote in, we decided to build it in as a feature. Little did we know the incredible stories it would lead to. We’ll get into that, but first, a little background on why the whole thing came about.

Identifying the Customer Need

“My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.”

Mat —
In December 2010, we saw a tweet from @DigitalRoyalty which read: “My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.” Our CEO was manning Twitter at the time and reached out for the whole story. It turns out that Mat Miller had his laptop stolen, and while he was creating some restores a few days later, he noticed a new user was created on his computer and was backing up data. He restored some of those files, saw some information that could help identify the thief, and filed a police report. Read the whole story: Digital 007 — Outwitting The Thief.

Mark —
Following Mat Miller’s story we heard from Mark Bao, an 18-year old entrepreneur and student at Bentley University who had his laptop stolen. The laptop was stolen out of Mark’s dorm room and the thief started using it in a variety of ways, including audition practice for Dancing with the Stars. Once Mark logged in to Backblaze and saw that there were new files being uploaded, including a dance practice video, he was able to reach out to campus police and got his laptop back. You can read more about the story on: 18 Year Old Catches Thief Using Backblaze.

After Mat and Mark’s story we thought we were onto something. In addition to those stories that had garnered some media attention, we would occasionally get requests from users that said something along the lines of, “Hey, my laptop was stolen, but I had Backblaze installed. Could you please let me know if it’s still running, and if so, what the IP address is so that I can go to the authorities?” We would help them where we could, but knew that there was probably a much more efficient method of helping individuals and businesses keep track of their computers.

Some of the Greatest Hits, and the Mafia Story

In May of 2011, we launched “Locate My Computer.” This was our way of adding a feature to our already-popular backup client that would allow users to see a rough representation of where their computer was located, and the IP address associated with its last known transmission. After speaking to law enforcement, we learned that those two things were usually enough for the authorities to subpoena an ISP and get the physical address of the last known place the computer phoned home from. From there, they could investigate and, if the device was still there, return it to its rightful owner.

Bridgette —
Once the feature went live the stories got even more interesting. Almost immediately after we launched Locate My Computer, we were contacted by Bridgette, who told us of a break-in at her house. Luckily no one was home at the time, but the thief was able to get away with her iMac, DSLR, and a few other prized possessions. As soon as she reported the robbery to the police, they were able to use the Locate My Computer feature to find the thief’s location and recover her missing items. We even made a case study out of Bridgette’s experience. You can read it at: Backblaze And The Stolen iMac.

“Joe” —
The crazy recovery stories didn’t end there. Shortly after Bridgette’s story, we received an email from a user (“Joe” — to protect the innocent) who was traveling to Argentina from the United States and had his laptop stolen. After he contacted the police department in Buenos Aires, and explained to them that he was using Backblaze (which the authorities thought was a computer tracking service, and in this case, we were), they were able to get the location of the computer from an ISP in Argentina. When they went to investigate, they realized that the perpetrators were foreign nationals connected to the mafia, and that in addition to a handful of stolen laptops, they were also in the possession of over $1,000,000 in counterfeit currency! Read the whole story about “Joe” and how: Backblaze Found $1 Million in Counterfeit Cash!

The Maker —
After “Joe,” we thought that our part in high-profile “busts was over, but we were wrong. About a year later we received word from a “maker” who told us that he was able to act as an “internet super-sleuth” and worked hard to find his stolen computer. After a Maker Faire in Detroit, the maker’s car was broken into while they were getting BBQ following a successful show. While some of the computers were locked and encrypted, others were in hibernation mode and wide open to prying eyes. After the police report was filed, the maker went to Backblaze to retrieve his lost files and remembered seeing the little Locate My Computer button. That’s when the story gets really interesting. The victim used a combination of ingenuity, Craigslist, Backblaze, and the local police department to get his computer back, and make a drug bust along the way. Head over to Makezine.com to read about how:How Tracking Down My Stolen Computer Triggered a Drug Bust.

Una —
While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.

And the Hits Keep on Coming

The most recent story came from “J,” and we’ll share the whole thing with you because it has a really nice conclusion:

Back in September of 2017, I brought my laptop to work to finish up some administrative work before I took off for a vacation. I work in a mall where traffic [is] plenty and more specifically I work at a kiosk in the middle of the mall. This allows for a high amount of traffic passing by every few seconds. I turned my back for about a minute to put away some paperwork. At the time I didn’t notice my laptop missing. About an hour later when I was gathering my belongings for the day I noticed it was gone. I was devastated. This was a high end MacBook Pro that I just purchased. So we are not talking about a little bit of money here. This was a major investment.

Time [went] on. When I got back from my vacation I reached out to my LP (Loss Prevention) team to get images from our security to submit to the police with some thread of hope that they would find whomever stole it. December approached and I did not hear anything. I gave up hope and assumed that the laptop was scrapped. I put an iCloud lock on it and my Find My Mac feature was saying that laptop was “offline.” I just assumed that they opened it, saw it was locked, and tried to scrap it for parts.

Towards the end of January I got an email from Backblaze saying that the computer was successfully backed up. This came as a shock to me as I thought it was wiped. But I guess however they wiped it didn’t remove Backblaze from the SSD. None the less, I was very happy. I sifted through the backup and found the person’s name via the search history. Then, using the Locate my Computer feature I saw where it came online. I reached out on social media to the person in question and updated the police. I finally got ahold of the person who stated she bought it online a few weeks backs. We made arrangements and I’m happy to say that I am typing this email on my computer right now.

J finished by writing: “Not only did I want to share this story with you but also wanted to say thanks! Apple’s find my computer system failed. The police failed to find it. But Backblaze saved the day. This has been the best $5 a month I have ever spent. Not only that but I got all my stuff back. Which made the deal even better! It was like it was never gone.”

Have a Story of Your Own?

We’re more than thrilled to have helped all of these people restore their lost data using Backblaze. Recovering the actual machine using Locate My Computer though, that’s the icing on the cake. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to build here at Backblaze, and we really enjoy hearing stories from people who have used our service to successfully get back up and running, whether that meant restoring their data or recovering their actual computer.

If you have any interesting data recovery or computer recovery stories that you’d like to share with us, please email press@backblaze.com and we’ll share it with Billy and the rest of the Backblaze team. We love hearing them!

The post Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’ appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

TVAddons Suffers Big Setback as Court Completely Overturns Earlier Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-suffers-big-setback-as-court-completely-overturns-earlier-ruling-180221/

On June 2, 2017 a group of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman.

Better known as the man behind Kodi addon repository TVAddons, Lackman was painted as a serial infringer in the complaint. The telecoms companies said that, without gaining permission from rightsholders, Lackman communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, by developing, hosting, distributing and promoting infringing Kodi add-ons.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint demanded interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

On June 9, 2017 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman ex parte, without Lackman being able to mount a defense. Bailiffs took control of TVAddons’ domains but the most controversial move was the granting of an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant which granted the plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter Lackman’s premises to secure evidence before it could be tampered with.

The order was executed June 12, 2017, with Lackman’s home subjected to a lengthy search during which the Canadian was reportedly refused his right to remain silent. Non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order can amount to a contempt of court, he was told.

With the situation seemingly spinning out of Lackman’s control, unexpected support came from the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent June 29, 2017 Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

The Judge said that Lackman had been subjected to a search “without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances” and took exception to the fact that the plaintiffs had ordered Lackman to spill the beans on other individuals in the Kodi addon community. He described this as a hunt for further evidence, not the task of preserving evidence it should’ve been.

Justice Bell concluded by ruling that while the prima facie case against Lackman may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte, the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell vacated the Anton Piller order and dismissed the application for interlocutory injunction.

While this was an early victory for Lackman and TVAddons, the plaintiffs took the decision to an appeal which was heard November 29, 2017. Determined by a three-judge panel and signed by Justice Yves de Montigny, the decision was handed down Tuesday and it effectively turns the earlier ruling upside down.

The appeal had two matters to consider: whether Justice Bell made errors when he vacated the Anton Piller order, and whether he made errors when he dismissed the application for an interlocutory injunction. In short, the panel found that he did.

In a 27-page ruling, the first key issue concerns Justice Bell’s understanding of the nature of both Lackman and TVAddons.

The telecoms companies complained that the Judge got it wrong when he characterized Lackman as a software developer who came up with add-ons that permit users to access material “that is for the most part not infringing on the rights” of the telecoms companies.

The companies also challenged the Judge’s finding that the infringing add-ons offered by the site represented “just over 1%” of all the add-ons developed by Lackman.

“I agree with the [telecoms companies] that the Judge misapprehended the evidence and made palpable and overriding errors in his assessment of the strength of the appellants’ case,” Justice Yves de Montigny writes in the ruling.

“Nowhere did the appellants actually state that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons found on the respondent’s website are infringing add-ons.”

The confusion appears to have arisen from the fact that while TVAddons offered 1,500 add-ons in total, the heavily discussed ‘featured’ addon category on the site contained just 22 add-ons, 16 of which were considered to be infringing according to the original complaint. So, it was 16 add-ons out of 22 being discussed, not 16 add-ons out of a possible 1,500.

“[Justice Bell] therefore clearly misapprehended the evidence in this regard by concluding that just over 1% of the add-ons were purportedly infringing,” the appeals Judge adds.

After gaining traction with Justice Bell in the previous hearing, Lackman’s assertion that his add-ons were akin to a “mini Google” was fiercely contested by the telecoms companies. They also fell flat before the appeal hearing.

Justice de Montigny says that Justice Bell “had been swayed” when Lackman’s expert replicated the discovery of infringing content using Google but had failed to grasp the important differences between a general search engine and a dedicated Kodi add-on.

“While Google is an indiscriminate search engine that returns results based on relevance, as determined by an algorithm, infringing add-ons target predetermined infringing content in a manner that is user-friendly and reliable,” the Judge writes.

“The fact that a search result using an add-on can be replicated with Google is of little consequence. The content will always be found using Google or any other Internet search engine because they search the entire universe of all publicly available information. Using addons, however, takes one to the infringing content much more directly, effortlessly and safely.”

With this in mind, Justice de Montigny says there is a “strong prima facie case” that Lackman, by hosting and distributing infringing add-ons, made the telecoms companies’ content available to the public “at a time of their choosing”, thereby infringing paragraph 2.4(1.1) and section 27 of the Copyright Act.

On TVAddons itself, the Judge said that the platform is “clearly designed” to facilitate access to infringing material since it targets “those who want to circumvent the legal means of watching television programs and the related costs.”

Turning to Lackman, the Judge said he could not claim to have no knowledge of the infringing content delivered by the add-ons distributed on this site, since they were purposefully curated prior to distribution.

“The respondent cannot credibly assert that his participation is content neutral and that he was not negligent in failing to investigate, since at a minimum he selects and organizes the add-ons that find their way onto his website,” the Judge notes.

In a further setback, the Judge draws clear parallels with another case before the Canadian courts involving pre-loaded ‘pirate’ set-top boxes. Justice de Montigny says that TVAddons itself bears “many similarities” with those devices that are already subjected to an interlocutory injunction in Canada.

“The service offered by the respondent through the TVAddons website is no different from the service offered through the set-top boxes. The means through which access is provided to infringing content is different (one relied on hardware while the other relied on a website), but they both provided unauthorized access to copyrighted material without authorization of the copyright owners,” the Judge finds.

Continuing, the Judge makes some pointed remarks concerning the execution of the Anton Piller order. In short, he found little wrong with the way things went ahead and also contradicted some of the claims and beliefs circulated in the earlier hearing.

Citing the affidavit of an independent solicitor who monitored the order’s execution, the Judge said that the order was explained to Lackman in plain language and he was informed of his right to remain silent. He was also told that he could refuse to answer questions other than those specified in the order.

The Judge said that Lackman was allowed to have counsel present, “with whom he consulted throughout the execution of the order.” There was nothing, the Judge said, that amounted to the “interrogation” alluded to in the earlier hearing.

Justice de Montigny also criticized Justice Bell for failing to take into account that Lackman “attempted to conceal crucial evidence and lied to the independent supervising solicitor regarding the whereabouts of that evidence.”

Much was previously made of Lackman apparently being forced to hand over personal details of third-parties associated directly or indirectly with TVAddons. The Judge clarifies what happened in his ruling.

“A list of names was put to the respondent by the plaintiffs’ solicitors, but it was apparently done to expedite the questioning process. In any event, the respondent did not provide material information on the majority of the aliases put to him,” the Judge reveals.

But while not handing over evidence on third-parties will paint Lackman in a better light with concerned elements of the add-on community, the Judge was quick to bring up the Canadian’s history and criticized Justice Bell for not taking it into account when he vacated the Anton Piller order.

“[T]he respondent admitted that he was involved in piracy of satellite television signals when he was younger, and there is evidence that he was involved in the configuration and sale of ‘jailbroken’ Apple TV set-top boxes,” Justice de Montigny writes.

“When juxtaposed to the respondent’s attempt to conceal relevant evidence during the execution of the Anton Piller order, that contextual evidence adds credence to the appellants’ concern that the evidence could disappear without a comprehensive order.”

Dismissing Justice Bell’s findings as “fatally flawed”, Justice de Montigny allowed the appeal of the telecoms companies, set aside the order of June 29, 2017, declared the Anton Piller order and interim injunctions legal, and granted an interlocutory injunction to remain valid until the conclusion of the case in Federal Court. The telecoms companies were also awarded costs of CAD$50,000.

It’s worth noting that despite all the detail provided up to now, the case hasn’t yet got to the stage where the Court has tested any of the claims put forward by the telecoms companies. Everything reported to date is pre-trial and has been taken at face value.

TorrentFreak spoke with Adam Lackman but since he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to discuss the matter with his lawyers, he declined to comment further on the record. There is a statement on the TVAddons website which gives his position on the story so far.

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

Now Available – AWS Serverless Application Repository

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/now-available-aws-serverless-application-repository/

Last year I suggested that you Get Ready for the AWS Serverless Application Repository and gave you a sneak peek. The Repository is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to discover, configure, and deploy serverless applications and components on AWS. It is also an ideal venue for AWS partners, enterprise customers, and independent developers to share their serverless creations.

Now Available
After a well-received public preview, the AWS Serverless Application Repository is now generally available and you can start using it today!

As a consumer, you will be able to tap in to a thriving ecosystem of serverless applications and components that will be a perfect complement to your machine learning, image processing, IoT, and general-purpose work. You can configure and consume them as-is, or you can take them apart, add features, and submit pull requests to the author.

As a publisher, you can publish your contribution in the Serverless Application Repository with ease. You simply enter a name and a description, choose some labels to increase discoverability, select an appropriate open source license from a menu, and supply a README to help users get started. Then you enter a link to your existing source code repo, choose a SAM template, and designate a semantic version.

Let’s take a look at both operations…

Consuming a Serverless Application
The Serverless Application Repository is accessible from the Lambda Console. I can page through the existing applications or I can initiate a search:

A search for “todo” returns some interesting results:

I simply click on an application to learn more:

I can configure the application and deploy it right away if I am already familiar with the application:

I can expand each of the sections to learn more. The Permissions section tells me which IAM policies will be used:

And the Template section displays the SAM template that will be used to deploy the application:

I can inspect the template to learn more about the AWS resources that will be created when the template is deployed. I can also use the templates as a learning resource in preparation for creating and publishing my own application.

The License section displays the application’s license:

To deploy todo, I name the application and click Deploy:

Deployment starts immediately and is done within a minute (application deployment time will vary, depending on the number and type of resources to be created):

I can see all of my deployed applications in the Lambda Console:

There’s currently no way for a SAM template to indicate that an API Gateway function returns binary media types, so I set this up by hand and then re-deploy the API:

Following the directions in the Readme, I open the API Gateway Console and find the URL for the app in the API Gateway Dashboard:

I visit the URL and enter some items into my list:

Publishing a Serverless Application
Publishing applications is a breeze! I visit the Serverless App Repository page and click on Publish application to get started:

Then I assign a name to my application, enter my own name, and so forth:

I can choose from a long list of open-source friendly SPDX licenses:

I can create an initial version of my application at this point, or I can do it later. Either way, I simply provide a version number, a URL to a public repository containing my code, and a SAM template:

Available Now
The AWS Serverless Application Repository is available now and you can start using it today, paying only for the AWS resources consumed by the serverless applications that you deploy.

You can deploy applications in the US East (Ohio), US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), Canada (Central), EU (Frankfurt), EU (Ireland), EU (London), and South America (São Paulo) Regions. You can publish from the US East (N. Virginia) or US East (Ohio) Regions for global availability.

Jeff;

 

qrocodile: the kid-friendly Sonos system

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/qrocodile-kid-friendly-sonos-system/

Chris Campbell’s qrocodile uses a Raspberry Pi, a camera, and QR codes to allow Chris’s children to take full control of the Sonos home sound system. And we love it!

qrocodile

Introducing qrocodile, a kid-friendly system for controlling your Sonos with QR codes. Source code is available at: https://github.com/chrispcampbell/qrocodile Learn more at: http://labonnesoupe.org https://twitter.com/chrscmpbll

Sonos

SONOS is SONOS backwards. It’s also SONOS upside down, and SONOS upside down and backwards. I just learnt that this means SONOS is an ambigram. Hurray for learning!

Sonos (the product, not the ambigram) is a multi-room speaker system controlled by an app. Speakers in different rooms can play different tracks or join forces to play one track for a smooth musical atmosphere throughout your home.

sonos raspberry pi

If you have a Sonos system in your home, I would highly recommend accessing to it from outside your home and set it to play the Imperial March as you walk through the front door. Why wouldn’t you?

qrocodile

One day, Chris’s young children wanted to play an album while eating dinner. By this one request, he was inspired to create qrocodile, a musical jukebox enabling his children to control the songs Sonos plays, and where it plays them, via QR codes.

It all started one night at the dinner table over winter break. The kids wanted to put an album on the turntable (hooked up to the line-in on a Sonos PLAY:5 in the dining room). They’re perfectly capable of putting vinyl on the turntable all by themselves, but using the Sonos app to switch over to play from the line-in is a different story.

The QR codes represent commands (such as Play in the living room, Use the turntable, or Build a song list) and artists (such as my current musical crush Courtney Barnett or the Ramones).

qrocodile raspberry Pi

A camera attached to a Raspberry Pi 3 feeds the Pi the QR code that’s presented, and the Pi runs a script that recognises the code and sends instructions to Sonos accordingly.


Chris used a costum version of the Sonos HTTP API created by Jimmy Shimizu to gain access to Sonos from his Raspberry Pi. To build the QR codes, he wrote a script that utilises the Spotify API via the Spotipy library.

His children are now able to present recognisable album art to the camera in order to play their desired track.

It’s been interesting seeing the kids putting the thing through its paces during their frequent “dance parties”, queuing up their favorite songs and uncovering new ones. I really like that they can use tangible objects to discover music in much the same way I did when I was their age, looking through my parents records, seeing which ones had interesting artwork or reading the song titles on the back, listening and exploring.

Chris has provided all the scripts for the project, along with a tutorial of how to set it up, on his GitHub — have a look if you want to recreate it or learn more about his code. Also check out Chris’ website for more on qrocodile and to see some of his other creations.

The post qrocodile: the kid-friendly Sonos system appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Copyright Trolls Target Up to 22,000 Norwegians for Movie Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-trolls-target-up-to-22000-norwegians-for-movie-piracy-180220/

Last January it was revealed that after things had become tricky in the US, the copyright trolls behind the action movie London Has Fallen were testing out the Norwegian market.

Reports emerged of letters being sent out to local Internet users by Danish law firm Njord Law, each demanding a cash payment of 2,700 NOK (around US$345). Failure to comply, the company claimed, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000.

The move caused outrage locally, with consumer advice groups advising people not to pay and even major anti-piracy groups distancing themselves from the action. However, in May 2017 it appeared that progress had been made in stopping the advance of the trolls when another Njord Law case running since 2015 hit the rocks.

The law firm previously sent a request to the Oslo District Court on behalf of entertainment company Scanbox asking ISP Telenor to hand over subscribers’ details. In May 2016, Scanbox won its case and Telenor was ordered to hand over the information.

On appeal, however, the tables were turned when it was decided that evidence supplied by the law firm failed to show that sharing carried out by subscribers was substantial.

Undeterred, Njord Law took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. The company lost when a panel of judges found that the evidence presented against Telenor’s customers wasn’t good enough to prove infringement beyond a certain threshold. But Njord Law still wasn’t done.

More than six months on, the ruling from the Supreme Court only seems to have provided the company with a template. If the law firm could show that the scale of sharing exceeds the threshold set by Norway’s highest court, then disclosure could be obtained. That appears to be the case now.

In a ruling handed down by the Oslo District Court in January, it’s revealed that Njord Law and its partners handed over evidence which shows 23,375 IP addresses engaged in varying amounts of infringing behavior over an extended period. The ISP they have targeted is being kept secret by the court but is believed to be Telenor.

Using information supplied by German anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye (which is involved in numerous copyright troll cases globally), Njord Law set out to show that the conduct of the alleged pirates had been exceptional for a variety of reasons, categorizing them variously (but non-exclusively) as follows:

– IP addresses involved in BitTorrent swarm sizes greater than 10,000 peers/pirates
– IP addresses that have shared at least two of the plaintiffs’ movies
– IP addresses making available the plaintiffs’ movies on at least two individual days
– IP addresses that made available at least ten movies in total
– IP addresses that made available different movies on at least ten individual days
– IP addresses that made available movies from businesses and public institutions

While rejecting some categories, the court was satisfied that 21,804 IP addresses of the 23,375 IP addresses presented by Njord Law met or exceeded the criteria for disclosure. It’s still not clear how many of these IP addresses identify unique subscribers but many thousands are expected.

“For these users, it has been established that the gravity, extent, and harm of the infringement are so great that consideration for the rights holder’s interests in accessing information identifying the [allegedly infringing] subscribers is greater than the consideration of the subscribers’,” the court writes in its ruling.

“Users’ confidence that their private use of the Internet is protected from public access is a generally important factor, but not in this case where illegal file sharing has been proven. Nor has there been any information stating that the offenders in the case are children or anything else which implies that disclosure of information about the holder of the subscriber should be problematic.”

While the ISP (Telenor) will now have to spend time and resources disclosing its subscribers’ personal details to the law firm, it will be compensated for its efforts. The Oslo District Court has ordered Njord Law to pay costs of NOK 907,414 (US$115,822) plus NOK 125 (US$16.00) for every IP address and associated details it receives.

The decision can be appealed but when contacted by Norwegian publication Nettavisen, Telenor declined to comment on the case.

There is now the question of what Njord Law will do with the identities it obtains. It seems very likely that it will ask for a sum of money to make a potential lawsuit go away but it will still need to take an individual subscriber to court in order to extract payment, if they refuse to pay.

This raises the challenge of proving that the subscriber is the actual infringer when it could be anyone in a household. But that battle will have to wait until another day.

The full decision of the Oslo District Court can be found here (Norwegian)

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Epic Games Uses Private Investigators to Locate Cheaters

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-uses-private-investigators-to-locate-cheaters-180218/

Last fall, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

This also included thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. Epic Games then went a step further by taking several cheaters to court for copyright infringement.

In the months that have passed several cases have been settled with undisclosed terms, but it appears that not all defendants are easy to track down. In at least two cases, Epic had to retain the services of private investigators to locate their targets.

In a case filed in North Carolina, the games company was unable to serve the defendant (now identified as B.B) so they called in the help of Klatt Investigations, with success.

“[A]fter having previously engaged two other process servers that were unable to locate and successfully serve B.B., Epic engaged Klatt Investigations, a Canadian firm that provides various services related to the private service of process in civil matters.

“In this case, we engaged Klatt Investigations to locate and effect service of process by personal service on Defendant,” Epic informs the court.

As Epic Games didn’t know the age of the defendant beforehand they chose to approach the person as a minor, which turned out to be a wise choice. The alleged cheater indeed appears to be a minor, so both the Defendant and Defendant’s mother were served.

Based on this new information, Epic Games asked the court to redact any court documents that reveal personal information of the defendant, which includes his or her full name.

Epic’s request to seal

This is not the first time Epic Games has used a private investigator to locate a defendant. It hired S&H Investigative Services in another widely reported case, where the defendant also turned out to be a minor.

In that case, the mother of the alleged cheater wrote a letter to the court in her son’s defense, but after that, things went quiet.

This lack of response prompted Epic Games to ask the court to enter a default in this case, which means that the defendant risks a default judgment for copyright infringement.

Epic’s declaration for the motion to seal the personal details of minor B.B. is available here (pdf). The request to enter a default in the separate C.R case can be found (here pdf).

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Game Companies Oppose DMCA Exemption for ‘Abandoned’ Online Games

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-companies-oppose-dmca-exemption-for-abandoned-online-games-180217/

There are a lot of things people are not allowed to do under US copyright law, but perhaps just as importantly there are exemptions.

The U.S. Copyright Office is currently considering whether or not to loosen the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions, which prevent the public from ‘tinkering’ with DRM-protected content and devices.

These provisions are renewed every three years after the Office hears various arguments from the public. One of the major topics on the agenda this year is the preservation of abandoned games.

The Copyright Office previously included game preservation exemptions to keep these games accessible. This means that libraries, archives, and museums can use emulators and other circumvention tools to make old classics playable.

Late last year several gaming fans including the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (the MADE), a nonprofit organization operating in California, argued for an expansion of this exemption to also cover online games. This includes games in the widely popular multiplayer genre, which require a connection to an online server.

“Although the Current Exemption does not cover it, preservation of online video games is now critical,” MADE wrote in its comment to the Copyright Office.

“Online games have become ubiquitous and are only growing in popularity. For example, an estimated fifty-three percent of gamers play multiplayer games at least once a week, and spend, on average, six hours a week playing with others online.”

This week, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which acts on behalf of prominent members including Electonic Arts, Nintendo and Ubisoft, opposed the request.

While they are fine with the current game-preservation exemption, expanding it to online games goes too far, they say. This would allow outsiders to recreate online game environments using server code that was never published in public.

It would also allow a broad category of “affiliates” to help with this which, according to the ESA, could include members of the public

“The proponents characterize these as ‘slight modifications’ to the existing exemption. However they are nothing of the sort. The proponents request permission to engage in forms of circumvention that will enable the complete recreation of a hosted video game-service environment and make the video game available for play by a public audience.”

“Worse yet, proponents seek permission to deputize a legion of ‘affiliates’ to assist in their activities,” ESA adds.

The proposed changes would enable and facilitate infringing use, the game companies warn. They fear that outsiders such as MADE will replicate the game servers and allow the public to play these abandoned games, something games companies would generally charge for. This could be seen as direct competition.

MADE, for example, already charges the public to access its museum so they can play games. This can be seen as commercial use under the DMCA, ESA points out.

“Public performance and display of online games within a museum likewise is a commercial use within the meaning of Section 107. MADE charges an admission fee – ‘$10 to play games all day’.

“Under the authority summarized above, public performance and display of copyrighted works to generate entrance fee revenue is a commercial use, even if undertaken by a nonprofit museum,” the ESA adds.

The ESA also stresses that their members already make efforts to revive older games themselves. There is a vibrant and growing market for “retro” games, which games companies are motivated to serve, they say.

The games companies, therefore, urge the Copyright Office to keep the status quo and reject any exemptions for online games.

“In sum, expansion of the video game preservation exemption as contemplated by Class 8 is not a ‘modest’ proposal. Eliminating the important limitations that the Register provided when adopting the current exemption risks the possibility of wide-scale infringement and substantial market harm,” they write.

The Copyright Office will take all arguments into consideration before it makes a final decision. It’s clear that the wishes of game preservation advocates, such as MADE, are hard to unite with the interests of the game companies, so one side will clearly be disappointed with the outcome.

A copy of ESA’s submissionavailablelble here (pdf).

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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.

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Major US Sports Leagues Report Top Piracy Nations to Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/major-us-sports-leagues-report-top-piracy-nations-to-government-180216/

While pirated Hollywood blockbusters often score the big headlines, there are several other industries that have been battling with piracy over the years. This includes sports organizations.

Many of the major US leagues including the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and the Tennis Association, are bundling their powers in the Sports Coalition, to try and curb the availability of pirated streams and videos.

A few days ago the Sports Coalition put the piracy problem on the agenda of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

“Sports organizations, including Sports Coalition members, are heavily affected by live sports telecast piracy, including the unauthorized live retransmission of sports telecasts over the Internet,” the Sports Coalition wrote.

“The Internet piracy of live sports telecasts is not only a persistent problem, but also a global one, often involving bad actors in more than one nation.”

The USTR asked the public for comments on which countries play a central role in copyright infringement issues. In its response, the Sports Coalition stresses that piracy is a global issue but singles out several nations as particularly problematic.

The coalition recommends that the USTR should put the Netherlands and Switzerland on the “Priority Watch List” of its 2018 Special 301 Report, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles and Sweden, which get a regular “Watch List” recommendation.

The main problem with these countries is that hosting providers and content distribution networks don’t do enough to curb piracy.

In the Netherlands, sawlive.tv, strikezoneme, wizlnet, AltusHost, Host Palace, Quasi Networks and SNEL pirated or provided services contributing to sports piracy, the coalition writes. In Switzerland, mlbstreamme, robinwidgetorg, strikeoutmobi, BlackHOST, Private Layer and Solar Communications are doing the same.

According to the major sports leagues, the US Government should encourage these countries to step up their anti-piracy game. This is not only important for US copyright holders, but also for licensees in other countries.

“Clearly, there is common ground – both in terms of shared economic interests and legal obligations to protect and enforce intellectual property and related rights – for the United States and the nations with which it engages in international trade to work cooperatively to stop Internet piracy of sports programming.”

Whether any of these countries will make it into the USTR’s final list has yet to be seen. For Switzerland it wouldn’t be the first time but for the Netherlands it would be new, although it has been considered before.

A document we received through a FOIA request earlier this year revealed that the US Embassy reached out to the Dutch Government in the past, to discuss similar complaints from the Sports Coalition.

The same document also revealed that local anti-piracy group BREIN consistently urged the entertainment industries it represents not to advocate placing the Netherlands on the 301 Watch List but to solve the problems behind the scenes instead.

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This IoT Pet Monitor barks back

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/iot-pet-monitor/

Jennifer Fox, founder of FoxBot Industries, uses a Raspberry Pi pet monitor to check the sound levels of her home while she is out, allowing her to keep track of when her dog Marley gets noisy or agitated, and to interact with the gorgeous furball accordingly.

Bark Back Project Demo

A quick overview and demo of the Bark Back, a project to monitor and interact with Check out the full tutorial here: https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/bark-back-interactive-pet-monitor For any licensing requests please contact [email protected]

Marley, bark!

Using a Raspberry Pi 3, speakers, SparkFun’s MEMS microphone breakout board, and an analogue-to-digital converter (ADC), the IoT Pet Monitor is fairly easy to recreate, all thanks to Jennifer’s full tutorial on the FoxBot website.

Building the pet monitor

In a nutshell, once the Raspberry Pi and the appropriate bits and pieces are set up, you’ll need to sign up at CloudMQTT — it’s free if you select the Cute Cat account. CloudMQTT will create an invisible bridge between your home and wherever you are that isn’t home, so that you can check in on your pet monitor.

Screenshot CloudMQTT account set-up — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

Image c/o FoxBot Industries

Within the project code, you’ll be able to calculate the peak-to-peak amplitude of sound the microphone picks up. Then you can decide how noisy is too noisy when it comes to the occasional whine and bark of your beloved pup.

MEMS microphone breakout board — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

The MEMS microphone breakout board collects sound data and relays it back to the Raspberry Pi via the ADC.
Image c/o FoxBot Industries

Next you can import sounds to a preset song list that will be played back when the volume rises above your predefined threshold. As Jennifer states in the tutorial, the sounds can easily be recorded via apps such as Garageband, or even on your mobile phone.

Using the pet monitor

Whenever the Bark Back IoT Pet Monitor is triggered to play back audio, this information is fed to the CloudMQTT service, allowing you to see if anything is going on back home.

A sitting dog with a doll in its mouth — IoT Pet Monitor Bark Back Raspberry Pi

*incoherent coos of affection from Alex*
Image c/o FoxBot Industries

And as Jennifer recommends, a update of the project could include a camera or sensors to feed back more information about your home environment.

If you’ve created something similar, be sure to let us know in the comments. And if you haven’t, but you’re now planning to build your own IoT pet monitor, be sure to let us know in the comments. And if you don’t have a pet but just want to say hi…that’s right, be sure to let us know in the comments.

The post This IoT Pet Monitor barks back appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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.

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Hosting Provider Steadfast Maintains DMCA Safe Harbor Defense For Trial

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hosting-provider-steadfast-maintains-dmca-safe-harbor-defense-for-trial-180212/

Two years ago, adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan dragged several third-party Internet services to court.

The company targeted several companies including CDN provider CloudFlare and the Chicago-based hosting company Steadfast, accusing them of copyright infringement because they offered services to pirate sites.

The case against Steadfast is getting close to trial and to start with an advantage, ALS Scan recently asked the court for partial summary judgment, determining that the hosting company contributed to copyright infringement and that it has no safe harbor protection.

ALS argued that Steadfast refused to shut down the servers of the image sharing platform Imagebam.com, which was operated by its client Flixya. ALS Scan described the site as a repeat offender, as it had been targeted with dozens of DMCA notices, and accused Steadfast of turning a blind eye to the situation.

Steadfast, for its part, fiercely denied the allegations. The hosting provider admitted that it leased servers to Flixya for ten years but said that it forwarded all notices to its client. The hosting company could not address individual infringements, other than shutting down the entire site, which would have been disproportionate in their view.

A few days ago California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying ALS’s motion for summary judgment.

Both sides made sensible arguments on the contributory infringement issue, but it is by no means undisputed that the hosting provider ‘contributed’ to the infringing activities. The court, therefore, left this question open for the jury to determine at trial.

“Ultimately, both sides have raised triable issues of fact with respect to material contribution. As a result, the Court would deny Plaintiff’s Motion,” Judge Wu writes.

ALS also sought summary judgment on the DMCA safe harbor protection issue, but the court denied this request as well. While it’s clear that the hosting company never terminated a customer for repeat infringements, it’s not clear whether it was ever in a situation where it needed to.

The DMCA requires Internet services to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy, but in this case, Steadfast’s client Imagebam reportedly had a takedown policy of its own, which complicates the issue.

“While the fact Steadfast has never terminated one of its own customers for infringement is potentially damaging to its ability to fit the safe harbor, Plaintiff has not established that Steadfast faced a situation requiring it to terminate one of its users,” Judge Wu writes.

“Even in the present case it is unclear that Steadfast needed to terminate Flixya’s account given Flixya itself had a policy that was arguably successful at removing infringing images from imagebam.com.”

Judge Wu adds that safe harbor defenses are generally left to the jury, and this is what he decided as well.

As a result, ALS’s entire motion for summary judgment is denied. This is good news for Steadfast, who will have their safe harbor defense available at the upcoming trial. However, they will likely celebrate this win with caution, as the jury makes its ultimate decision.

A copy of the court’s order is available here (pdf).

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How I built a data warehouse using Amazon Redshift and AWS services in record time

Post Syndicated from Stephen Borg original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/how-i-built-a-data-warehouse-using-amazon-redshift-and-aws-services-in-record-time/

This is a customer post by Stephen Borg, the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies.

Cerberus Technologies, in their own words: Cerberus is a company founded in 2017 by a team of visionary iGaming veterans. Our mission is simple – to offer the best tech solutions through a data-driven and a customer-first approach, delivering innovative solutions that go against traditional forms of working and process. This mission is based on the solid foundations of reliability, flexibility and security, and we intend to fundamentally change the way iGaming and other industries interact with technology.

Over the years, I have developed and created a number of data warehouses from scratch. Recently, I built a data warehouse for the iGaming industry single-handedly. To do it, I used the power and flexibility of Amazon Redshift and the wider AWS data management ecosystem. In this post, I explain how I was able to build a robust and scalable data warehouse without the large team of experts typically needed.

In two of my recent projects, I ran into challenges when scaling our data warehouse using on-premises infrastructure. Data was growing at many tens of gigabytes per day, and query performance was suffering. Scaling required major capital investment for hardware and software licenses, and also significant operational costs for maintenance and technical staff to keep it running and performing well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the resources needed to scale the infrastructure with data growth, and these projects were abandoned. Thanks to cloud data warehousing, the bottleneck of infrastructure resources, capital expense, and operational costs have been significantly reduced or have totally gone away. There is no more excuse for allowing obstacles of the past to delay delivering timely insights to decision makers, no matter how much data you have.

With Amazon Redshift and AWS, I delivered a cloud data warehouse to the business very quickly, and with a small team: me. I didn’t have to order hardware or software, and I no longer needed to install, configure, tune, or keep up with patches and version updates. Instead, I easily set up a robust data processing pipeline and we were quickly ingesting and analyzing data. Now, my data warehouse team can be extremely lean, and focus more time on bringing in new data and delivering insights. In this post, I show you the AWS services and the architecture that I used.

Handling data feeds

I have several different data sources that provide everything needed to run the business. The data includes activity from our iGaming platform, social media posts, clickstream data, marketing and campaign performance, and customer support engagements.

To handle the diversity of data feeds, I developed abstract integration applications using Docker that run on Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS) and feed data to Amazon Kinesis Data Streams. These data streams can be used for real time analytics. In my system, each record in Kinesis is preprocessed by an AWS Lambda function to cleanse and aggregate information. My system then routes it to be stored where I need on Amazon S3 by Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose. Suppose that you used an on-premises architecture to accomplish the same task. A team of data engineers would be required to maintain and monitor a Kafka cluster, develop applications to stream data, and maintain a Hadoop cluster and the infrastructure underneath it for data storage. With my stream processing architecture, there are no servers to manage, no disk drives to replace, and no service monitoring to write.

Setting up a Kinesis stream can be done with a few clicks, and the same for Kinesis Firehose. Firehose can be configured to automatically consume data from a Kinesis Data Stream, and then write compressed data every N minutes to Amazon S3. When I want to process a Kinesis data stream, it’s very easy to set up a Lambda function to be executed on each message received. I can just set a trigger from the AWS Lambda Management Console, as shown following.

I also monitor the duration of function execution using Amazon CloudWatch and AWS X-Ray.

Regardless of the format I receive the data from our partners, I can send it to Kinesis as JSON data using my own formatters. After Firehose writes this to Amazon S3, I have everything in nearly the same structure I received but compressed, encrypted, and optimized for reading.

This data is automatically crawled by AWS Glue and placed into the AWS Glue Data Catalog. This means that I can immediately query the data directly on S3 using Amazon Athena or through Amazon Redshift Spectrum. Previously, I used Amazon EMR and an Amazon RDS–based metastore in Apache Hive for catalog management. Now I can avoid the complexity of maintaining Hive Metastore catalogs. Glue takes care of high availability and the operations side so that I know that end users can always be productive.

Working with Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift for analysis

I found Amazon Athena extremely useful out of the box for ad hoc analysis. Our engineers (me) use Athena to understand new datasets that we receive and to understand what transformations will be needed for long-term query efficiency.

For our data analysts and data scientists, we’ve selected Amazon Redshift. Amazon Redshift has proven to be the right tool for us over and over again. It easily processes 20+ million transactions per day, regardless of the footprint of the tables and the type of analytics required by the business. Latency is low and query performance expectations have been more than met. We use Redshift Spectrum for long-term data retention, which enables me to extend the analytic power of Amazon Redshift beyond local data to anything stored in S3, and without requiring me to load any data. Redshift Spectrum gives me the freedom to store data where I want, in the format I want, and have it available for processing when I need it.

To load data directly into Amazon Redshift, I use AWS Data Pipeline to orchestrate data workflows. I create Amazon EMR clusters on an intra-day basis, which I can easily adjust to run more or less frequently as needed throughout the day. EMR clusters are used together with Amazon RDS, Apache Spark 2.0, and S3 storage. The data pipeline application loads ETL configurations from Spring RESTful services hosted on AWS Elastic Beanstalk. The application then loads data from S3 into memory, aggregates and cleans the data, and then writes the final version of the data to Amazon Redshift. This data is then ready to use for analysis. Spark on EMR also helps with recommendations and personalization use cases for various business users, and I find this easy to set up and deliver what users want. Finally, business users use Amazon QuickSight for self-service BI to slice, dice, and visualize the data depending on their requirements.

Each AWS service in this architecture plays its part in saving precious time that’s crucial for delivery and getting different departments in the business on board. I found the services easy to set up and use, and all have proven to be highly reliable for our use as our production environments. When the architecture was in place, scaling out was either completely handled by the service, or a matter of a simple API call, and crucially doesn’t require me to change one line of code. Increasing shards for Kinesis can be done in a minute by editing a stream. Increasing capacity for Lambda functions can be accomplished by editing the megabytes allocated for processing, and concurrency is handled automatically. EMR cluster capacity can easily be increased by changing the master and slave node types in Data Pipeline, or by using Auto Scaling. Lastly, RDS and Amazon Redshift can be easily upgraded without any major tasks to be performed by our team (again, me).

In the end, using AWS services including Kinesis, Lambda, Data Pipeline, and Amazon Redshift allows me to keep my team lean and highly productive. I eliminated the cost and delays of capital infrastructure, as well as the late night and weekend calls for support. I can now give maximum value to the business while keeping operational costs down. My team pushed out an agile and highly responsive data warehouse solution in record time and we can handle changing business requirements rapidly, and quickly adapt to new data and new user requests.


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Deploy a Data Warehouse Quickly with Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL and Tableau Server and Top 8 Best Practices for High-Performance ETL Processing Using Amazon Redshift.


About the Author

Stephen Borg is the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies. He has a background in platform software engineering, and first became involved in data warehousing using the typical RDBMS, SQL, ETL, and BI tools. He quickly became passionate about providing insight to help others optimize the business and add personalization to products. He is now the Head of Big Data and BI at Cerberus Technologies.