Tag Archives: RIAA

Despite US Criticism, Ukraine Cybercrime Chief Receives Few Piracy Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/despite-us-criticism-ukraine-cybercrime-chief-receives-few-piracy-complaints-180522/

On a large number of occasions over the past decade, Ukraine has played host to some of the world’s largest pirate sites.

At various points over the years, The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Demonoid and raft of streaming portals could be found housed in the country’s data centers, reportedly taking advantage of laws more favorable than those in the US and EU.

As a result, Ukraine has been regularly criticized for not doing enough to combat piracy but when placed under pressure, it does take action. In 2010, for example, the local government expressed concerns about the hosting of KickassTorrents in the country and in August the same year, the site was kicked out by its host.

“Kickasstorrents.com main web server was shut down by the hosting provider after it was contacted by local authorities. One way or another I’m afraid we must say goodbye to Ukraine and move the servers to other countries,” the site’s founder told TF at the time.

In the years since, Ukraine has launched sporadic action against pirate sites and has taken steps to tighten up copyright law. The Law on State Support of Cinematography came into force during April 2017 and gave copyright owners new tools to combat infringement by forcing (in theory, at least) site operators and web hosts to respond to takedown requests.

But according to the United States and Europe, not enough is being done. After the EU Commission warned that Ukraine risked damaging relations with the EU, last September US companies followed up with another scathing attack.

In a recommendation to the U.S. Government, the IIPA, which counts the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA among its members, asked U.S. authorities to suspend or withdraw Ukraine’s trade benefits until the online piracy situation improves.

“Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs,” the IIPA wrote.

But amid all the criticism, Ukraine cyber police chief Sergey Demedyuk says that while his department is committed to tackling piracy, it can only do so when complaints are filed with him.

“Yes, we are engaged in piracy very closely. The problem is that piracy is a crime of private accusation. So here we deal with them only in cases where we are contacted,” Demedyuk said in an Interfax interview published yesterday.

Surprisingly, given the number of dissenting voices, it appears that complaints about these matters aren’t exactly prevalent. So are there many at all?

“Unfortunately, no. In the media, many companies claim that their rights are being violated by pirates. But if you count the applications that come to us, they are one,” Demedyuk reveals.

“In general, we are handling Ukrainian media companies, who produce their own product and are worried about its fate. Also on foreign films, the ‘Anti-Piracy Agency’ refers to us, but not as intensively as before.”

Why complaints are going down, Demedyuk does not know, but when his unit is asked to take action it does so, he claims. Indeed, Demedyuk cites two particularly significant historical operations against a pair of large ‘pirate’ sites.

In 2012, Ukraine shut down EX.ua, a massive cyberlocker site following a six-month investigation initiated by international tech companies including Microsoft, Graphisoft and Adobe. Around 200 servers were seized, together hosting around 6,000 terabytes of data.

Then in November 2016, following a complaint from the MPAA, police raided FS.to, one of Ukraine’s most popular pirate sites. Initial reports indicated that 60 servers were seized and 19 people were arrested.

“To see the effect of combating piracy, this should not be done at the level of cyberpolicy, but at the state level,” Demedyuk advises.

“This requires constant close interaction between law enforcement agencies and rights holders. Only by using all these tools will we be able to effectively counteract copyright infringements.”

Meanwhile, the Office of the United States Trade Representative has maintained Ukraine’s position on the Priority Watchlist of its latest Special 301 Report and there a no signs it will be leaving anytime soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A small sample of the groups calling on ICANN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If YouTube-Ripping Sites Are Illegal, What About Tools That Do a Similar Job?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/if-youtube-ripping-sites-are-illegal-what-about-tools-that-do-a-similar-job-180407/

In 2016, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube.

While this might not have surprised those who regularly participate in the activity, IFPI said that volumes had become so vast that stream-ripping had overtaken pirate site music downloads. That was a big statement.

Probably not coincidentally, just two weeks later IFPI, RIAA, and BPI announced legal action against the world’s largest YouTube ripping site, YouTube-MP3.

“YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3’s users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3’s servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones,” the complaint read.

The labels sued YouTube-MP3 for direct infringement, contributory infringement, vicarious infringement, inducing others to infringe, plus circumvention of technological measures on top. The case was big and one that would’ve been intriguing to watch play out in court, but that never happened.

A year later in September 2017, YouTubeMP3 settled out of court. No details were made public but YouTube-MP3 apparently took all the blame and the court was asked to rule in favor of the labels on all counts.

This certainly gave the impression that what YouTube-MP3 did was illegal and a strong message was sent out to other companies thinking of offering a similar service. However, other onlookers clearly saw the labels’ lawsuit as something to be studied and learned from.

One of those was the operator of NotMP3downloader.com, a site that offers Free MP3 Recorder for YouTube, a tool offering similar functionality to YouTube-MP3 while supposedly avoiding the same legal pitfalls.

Part of that involves audio being processed on the user’s machine – not by stream-ripping as such – but by stream-recording. A subtle difference perhaps, but the site’s operator thinks it’s important.

“After examining the claims made by the copyright holders against youtube-mp3.org, we identified that the charges were based on the three main points. [None] of them are applicable to our product,” he told TF this week.

The first point involves YouTube-MP3’s acts of conversion, storage and distribution of content it had previously culled from YouTube. Copies of unlicensed tracks were clearly held on its own servers, a potent direct infringement risk.

“We don’t have any servers to download, convert or store a copyrighted or any other content from YouTube. Therefore, we do not violate any law or prohibition implied in this part,” NotMP3downloader’s operator explains.

Then there’s the act of “stream-ripping” itself. While YouTube-MP3 downloaded digital content from YouTube using its own software, NotMP3downloader claims to do things differently.

“Our software doesn’t download any streaming content directly, but only launches a web browser with the video specified by a user. The capturing happens from a local machine’s sound card and doesn’t deal with any content streamed through a network,” its operator notes.

This part also seems quite important. YouTube-MP3 was accused of unlawfully circumventing technological measures implemented by YouTube to prevent people downloading or copying content. By opening up YouTube’s own website and viewing content in the way the site demands, NotMP3downloader says it does not “violate the website’s integrity nor performs direct download of audio or video files.”

Like the Betamax video recorder before it that enabled recording from analog TV, NotMP3downloader enables a user to record a YouTube stream on their local machine. This, its makers claim, means the software is completely legal and defeats all the claims made by the labels in the YouTube-MP3 lawsuit.

“What YouTube does is broadcasting content through the Internet. Thus, there is nothing wrong if users are allowed to watch such content later as they may want,” the NotMP3downloader team explain.

“It is worth noting that in Sony Corp. of America v. United City Studios, Inc. (464 U.S. 417) the United States Supreme Court held that such practice, also known as time-shifting, was lawful representing fair use under the US Copyright Act and causing no substantial harm to the copyright holder.”

While software that can record video and sounds locally are nothing new, the developments in the YouTube-MP3 case and this response from NotMP3downloader raises interesting questions.

We put some of them to none other than former RIAA Executive Vice President, Neil Turkewitz, who now works as President of Turkewitz Consulting Group.

Turkewitz stressed that he doesn’t speak for the industry as a whole or indeed the RIAA but it’s clear that his passion for protecting creators persists. He told us that in this instance, reliance on the Betamax decision is “misplaced”.

“The content is different, the activity is different, and the function is different,” Turkewitz told TF.

“The Sony decision must be understood in its context — the time shifting of audiovisual programming being broadcast from point to multipoint. The making available of content by a point-to-point interactive service like YouTube isn’t broadcasting — or at a minimum, is not a form of broadcasting akin to that considered by the Supreme Court in Sony.

“More fundamentally, broadcasting (right of communication to the public) is one of only several rights implicated by the service. And of course, issues of liability will be informed by considerations of purpose, effect and perceived harm. A court’s judgment will also be affected by whether it views the ‘innovation’ as an attempt to circumvent the requirements of law. The decision of the Supreme Court in ABC v. Aereo is certainly instructive in that regard.”

And there are other issues too. While YouTube itself is yet to take any legal action to deter users from downloading rather than merely streaming content, its terms of service are quite specific and seem to cover all eventualities.

“[Y]ou agree not to access Content or any reason other than your personal, non-commercial use solely as intended through and permitted by the normal functionality of the Service, and solely for Streaming,” YouTube’s ToS reads.

“‘Streaming’ means a contemporaneous digital transmission of the material by YouTube via the Internet to a user operated Internet enabled device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), copied, stored, or redistributed by the user.

“You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.”

In this respect, it seems that a user doing anything but real-time streaming of YouTube content is breaching YouTube’s terms of service. The big question then, of course, is whether providing a tool specifically for that purpose represents an infringement of copyright.

The people behind Free MP3 Recorder believe that the “scope of application depends entirely on the end users’ intentions” which seems like a fair argument at first view. But, as usual, copyright law is incredibly complex and there are plenty of opposing views.

We asked the BPI, which took action against YouTubeMP3, for its take on this type of tool. The official response was “No comment” which doesn’t really clarify the position, at least for now.

Needless to say, the Betamax decision – relevant or not – doesn’t apply in the UK. But that only adds more parameters into the mix – and perhaps more opportunities for lawyers to make money arguing for and against tools like this in the future.

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

Owner of ShareBeast and AlbumJams Sentenced To Five Years in Prison

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/owner-of-sharebeast-and-albumjams-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison-180323/

According to the RIAA, ShareBeast.com and AlbumJams.com were responsible for the illegal distribution of “a massive library” of popular albums and tracks.

With a nod to the sensitivity of pre-release piracy, the sites were blamed for offering “thousands of songs” that hadn’t yet reached their official release dates. In September 2015, U.S. authorities shut them down, placing seizure notices on both domains.

The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States, noting that the site’s IP addresses at the time indicated that at least some hosting had taken place in Illinois.

“Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music,” RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time.

Two years later in September 2017, then 29-year-old former ShareBeast operator Artur Sargsyan pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement, admitting to the unauthorized distribution and reproduction of over one billion copies of copyrighted works.

“Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists.”

The Department of Justice reported that from 2012 to 2015, Sargsyan used ShareBeast as a pirate music repository, illegally hosting music by Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, among others. Sargsyan linked to that content from Newjams.net and Albumjams.com, and granted access to the public.

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it’s possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect.

This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the DoJ that the total monetary loss to its member companies was “a conservative” $6.3 billion “gut-punch” to music creators who were paid nothing by the service.

Given the huge numbers involved, it’s likely that Sargsyan hoped his 2017 guilty plea would result in a more forgiving sentence. Yesterday, however, the full weight of the law came crashing down.

California resident Artur Sargsyan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The now 30-year-old was also ordered to pay $458,200 restitution and ordered to forfeit $184,768.87.

“Sargsyan operated one of the most successful illegal music sharing websites on the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

“His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself. The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan’s operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft.”

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said that Sargsyan was warned several times that he was violating the law by illegally sharing copyrighted works, but chose to ignore the warnings.

“His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art,” LaValley said.

Given the music group’s lengthy statements on the Sharebeast topic in the past, thus far the RIAA has been relatively brief. Welcoming news of the sentencing via Twitter, the major labels’ figurehead congratulated the law enforcement bodies behind the successful prosecution.

“Congrats to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak + his team along with @TheJusticeDept CCIPS Division and @FBIAtlanta for their leadership on this important case,” the RIAA wrote.

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

Copyright Trolls Obtained Details of 200,000 Finnish Internet Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-trolls-obtained-details-of-200000-finnish-internet-users-180118/

Fifteen years ago, the RIAA was contacting alleged file-sharers in the United States, demanding cash payments to make supposed lawsuits go away. In the years that followed, dozens of companies followed in their footsteps – not as a deterrent – but as a way to turn piracy into profit.

The practice is now widespread, not just in the United States, but also in Europe where few major countries have avoided the clutches of trolls. Germany has been hit particularly hard, with millions of cases. The UK has also seen tens of thousands of individuals targeted since 2006 although more recently the trolls there have been in retreat. The same cannot be said about Finland, however.

From a relatively late start in 2013, trolls have been stepping up their game in leaps and bounds but the true scale of developments in this Scandinavian country will probably come as a surprise to even the most seasoned of troll-watchers.

According to data compiled by NGO activist Ritva Puolakka, the business in Finland has grown to epidemic proportions. In fact, between 2013 and 2017 the Market Court (which deals with Intellectual Property matters, among other things) has ordered local Internet service providers to hand over the details of almost 200,000 Finnish Internet subscribers.

Published on the Ministry of Education and Culture website (via mikrobitti.fi) the data (pdf) reveals hundreds of processes against major Finnish ISPs.

Notably, every single case has been directed at a core group of three providers – Elisa, TeliaSonera and DNA – while customers of other ISPs seem to have been completely overlooked. Exactly why isn’t clear but in other jurisdictions it’s proven more cost-effective to hone a process with a small number of ISPs, rather than spread out to those with fewer customers.

Only one legal process is listed for 2013 but that demanded the identities of people behind 50 IP addresses. In 2014 there was a 14-fold increase in processes and the number of IP addresses targeted grew to 1,387.

For 2015, a total of 117 processes are listed, demanding the identities of people behind 37,468 IP addresses. In 2016 the trolls really upped their game. A total of 131 processes demanded the details of individuals behind 98,966 IP addresses. For last year, 79 processes are on the books, which in total amounted to 60,681 potential defendants in settlement cases.

In total, between 2013 and 2017 the Market Court ordered the ISPs to hand over the personal details of people behind a staggering 198,552 IP addresses. While it should be noted that each might not lead to a unique individual, the number is huge when one considers the potential returns if everyone pays up hundreds of euros to make supposed court cases go away.

But despite the significant scale, it will probably come as no surprise that very few companies are involved. Troll operations tend to be fairly centralized, often using the same base services to track and collect evidence against alleged pirates.

In the order they entered the settlement business in Finland the companies involved are: LFP Video Group LLC, International Content Holding B.V., Dallas Buyers Club LLC, Crystalis Entertainment UG, Scanbox Entertainment A/S, Fairway Film Alliance LLC, Copyright Collections Ltd, Mircom International Content Management, Interallip LLP, and Oy Atlantic Film Finland Ab.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torrent Sites

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

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

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

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

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

Streaming & Cyberlockers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unauthorized music / research papers

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

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

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

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

Service providers

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

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

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

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

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

Social networking and e-commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mashup Site Hit With Domain Suspension Following IFPI Copyright Complaint

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mashup-site-hit-with-domain-suspension-following-ifpi-copyright-complaint-171127/

Mashups are musical compositions, usually made up of two or more tracks seamlessly blended together, which bring something fresh and new to the listener.

There are hundreds of stunning examples online, many created in hobbyist circles, with dedicated communities sharing their often brilliant work.

However, the majority of mashups have something in common – they’re created without any permission from the copyright holders’ of the original tracks. As such they remain controversial, as mashup platform Sowndhaus has just discovered.

This Canada-based platform allows users to upload, share and network with other like-minded mashup enthusiasts. It has an inbuilt player, somewhat like Soundcloud, through which people can play a wide range of user-created mashups. However, sometime last Tuesday, Sowndhaus’ main domain, Sowndhaus.com, became unreachable.

Sowndhaus: High-quality mashups

The site’s operators say that they initially believed there was some kind of configuration issue. Later, however, they discovered that their domain had been “purposefully de-listed” from its DNS servers by its registrar.

“DomainBox had received a DMCA notification from the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and immediately suspended our .com domain,” Sowndhaus’ operators report.

At this point it’s worth noting that while Sowndhaus is based and hosted in Canada, DomainBox is owned by UK-based Mesh Digital Limited, which is in turn owned by GoDaddy. IFPI, however, reportedly sent a US-focused DMCA notice to the registrar which noted that the music group had “a good faith belief” that activity on Sowndhaus “is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

While mashups have always proved controversial, Sowndhaus believe that they operate well within Canadian law.

“We have a good faith belief that the audio files allegedly ‘infringing copyright’ in the DMCA notification are clearly transformative works and meet all criteria for ‘Non-commercial User-generated Content’ under Section 29.21 of the Copyright Act (Canada), and as such are authorized by the law,” the site says.

“Our service, servers, and files are located in Canada which has a ‘Notice and Notice regime’ and where DMCA (a US law) has no jurisdiction. However, the jurisdiction for our .com domain is within the US/EU and thus subject to its laws.”

Despite a belief that the site operates lawfully, Sowndhaus took a decision to not only take down the files listed in IFPI’s complaint but also to ditch its .com domain completely. While this convinced DomainBox to give control of the domain back to the mashup platform, Sowndhaus has now moved to a completely new domain (sowndhaus.audio), to avoid further issues.

“We neither admit nor accept that any unlawful activity or copyright infringement with respect to the DMCA claim had taken place, or has ever been permitted on our servers, or that it was necessary to remove the files or service under Section 29.21 of the Copyright Act (Canada) with which we have always been, and continue to be, in full compliance,” the site notes.

“The use of copyright material as Non-commercial User-generated Content is authorized by law in Canada, where our service resides. We believe that the IFPI are well aware of this, are aware of the jurisdiction of our service, and therefore that their DMCA notification is a misrepresentation of copyright.”

Aside from what appears to have been a rapid suspension of Sowndhaus’ .com domain, the site says that it is being held to a higher standard of copyright protection that others operating under the DMCA.

Unlike YouTube, for example, Sowndhaus says it pro-actively removes files found to infringe copyright. It also bans users who use the site to commit piracy, as per its Terms of Service.

“This is a much stronger regime than would be required under the DMCA guidelines where users generally receive warnings and strikes before being banned, and where websites complying with the DMCA and seeking to avoid legal liability do not actively seek out cases of infringement, leading to some cases of genuine piracy remaining undetected on their services,” the site says.

However, the site remains defiant in respect of the content it hosts, noting that mashups are transformative works that use copyright content “in new and creative ways to form new works of art” and as such are legal for non-commercial purposes.

That hasn’t stopped it from being targeted by copyright holders in the past, however.

This year three music-based organizations (IFPI, RIAA, and France’s SCPP) have sent complaints to Google about the platform, targeting close to 200 URLs. However, at least for more recent complaints, Google hasn’t been removing the URLs from its indexes.

Complaints sent to Google about Sowndhaus in 2017<

Noting that corporations are using their powers “to hinder, stifle, and silence protected new forms of artistic expression with no repercussions”, Sowndhaus says that it is still prepared to work with copyright holders but wishes they would “reconsider their current policies and accept non-commercial transformative works as legitimate art forms with legal protections and/or exemptions in all jurisdictions.”

While Sowndhaus is now operating from a new domain, the switch is not without its inconveniences. All URLs with links to files on sowndhaus.com are broken but can be fixed by changing the .com to .audio.

DomainBox did not respond to TorrentFreak’s request for comment.

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

Rightscorp: Revenue From Piracy Settlements Down 48% in 2017

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-revenue-from-piracy-settlements-down-48-in-2017-171125/

For the past several years, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been trying to turn piracy into profit. The company monitors BitTorrent networks, captures IP addresses, then attempts to force ISPs to forward cash settlement demands to its subscribers.

Unlike other companies operating in the same area, Rightscorp has adopted a “speeding fine” type model, where it asks for $20 to $30 to make a supposed lawsuit go away, instead of the many hundreds demanded by its rivals. To date, this has resulted in the company closing more than 230,000 cases of infringement.

But despite the high numbers, the company doesn’t seem to be able to make it pay. Rightscorp’s latest set of financial results covering the three months ended September 30, 2017, show how bad things have got on the settlement front.

During the period in question, Rightscorp generated copyright settlement revenues of $45,848, an average of just $15,282 per month. That represents a decrease of 67% when compared to the $139,834 generated during the same period in 2016.

When looking at settlement revenues year to date, Rightscorp generated $184,362 in 2017, a decrease of 48% when compared to $354,160 generated during the same nine-month period in 2016.

But as bleak as these figures are, things get much worse. Out of these top-line revenues, Rightscorp has to deal with a whole bunch of costs before it can put anything into its own pockets. For example, in exchange for the right to pursue pirates, Rightscorp agrees to pay around 50% of everything it generates from settlements back to copyright holders.

So, for the past three months when it collected $45,848 from BitTorrent users, it must pay out $22,924 to copyright holders. Last year, in the same period, it paid them $69,143. For the year to date (nine months ended September 30, 2017), the company paid $92,181 to copyright holders, that’s versus $174,878 for the same period last year.

Whichever way you slice it, Rightscorp settlement model appears to be failing. With revenues from settlements down by almost half thus far this year, one has to question where this is all going, especially with BitTorrent piracy volumes continuing to fall in favor of other less traceable methods such as streaming.

However, Rightscorp does have a trick up its sleeve that is helping to keep the company afloat. As previously reported, the company has amassed a lot of intelligence on pirate activity which clearly has some value to copyright holders.

That data is currently being utilized by both BMG and the RIAA, who are using it as evidence in copyright liability lawsuits filed against ISPs Cox and Grande Communications, where each stand accused of failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

This selling of ‘pirate’ data is listed by Rightscorp in its financial reports as “consulting services” and thus far at least, it’s proving to be a crucial source of income.

“During the three months ended September 30, 2017, we generated revenues of $76,666 from consulting services rendered under service arrangements with prominent trade organizations,” Rightscorp reports.

“Under the agreements, the Company is providing certain data and consultation regarding copyright infringements on such organizations’ respective properties. During the three months ended September 30, 2016, we had no consulting services revenue.”

Year to date, the numbers begin to add up. In the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp generated revenues of $224,998 from this facet of their business, that’s versus zero revenue in 2016.

It’s clear that without this “consulting” revenue, Rightscorp would be in an even worse situation than it is today. In fact, it appears that these services, provided to the likes of the RIAA, are now preventing the company from falling into the abyss. All that being said, there’s no guarantee that won’t happen anyway.

To the nine months ended September 30, 2017, Rightscorp recorded a net loss of $1,448,899, which is even more than the $1,380,698 it lost during the same period last year. As a result, the company had just $3,147 left in cash at the end of September. That crisis was eased by issuing 2.5 million shares to an investor for a purchase price just $50,000. But to keep going, Rightscorp will need more money – much more.

“Management believes that the Company will need an additional $250,000 to $500,000 in 2017 to fund operations based on our current operating plans,” it reports, noting that there is “substantial doubt” whether Rightscorp can continue as a going concern.

But despite all the bad news, Rightscorp manages to survive and at least in the short-term, the piracy data it has amassed holds value, beyond basic cash settlement letters. The question is, for how long?

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

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

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

ShareBeast & AlbumJams Operator Pleads Guilty to Criminal Copyright Infringement

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sharebeast-albumjams-operator-pleads-guilty-to-criminal-copyright-infringement-170911/

In September 2015, U.S. authorities announced action against a pair of sites involved in music piracy.

ShareBeast.com and AlbumJams.com were allegedly responsible for the distribution of “a massive library” of popular albums and tracks. Both were accused of offering thousands of tracks before their official release dates.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) placed their now familiar seizure notice on both domains, with the RIAA claiming ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States. Indeed, the site’s IP addresses at the time indicated at least some hosting taking place in Illinois.

“This is a huge win for the music community and legitimate music services. Sharebeast operated with flagrant disregard for the rights of artists and labels while undermining the legal marketplace,” RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time.

“Millions of users accessed songs from Sharebeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music.”

Now, a full two years later, former Sharebeast operator Artur Sargsyan has pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement, admitting to the unauthorized distribution and reproduction of over 1 billion copies of copyrighted works.

“Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists.”

The Department of Justice says that from 2012 to 2015, 29-year-old Sargsyan used ShareBeast as a pirate music repository, infringing works produced by Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, among others. He linked to that content from Newjams.net and Albumjams.com, two other sites under his control.

The DoJ says that Sargsyan was informed at least 100 times that there was infringing content on ShareBeast but despite the warnings, the content remained available. When those warnings produced no results, the FBI – assisted by law enforcement in the UK and the Netherlands – seized servers used by Sargsyan to distribute the material.

Brad Buckles, EVP, Anti-Piracy at the RIAA, welcomed the guilty plea.

“Sharebeast and its related sites represented the most popular network of infringing music sites operated out of the United States. The network was responsible for providing millions of downloads of popular music files including unauthorized pre-release albums and tracks.This illicit activity was a gut-punch to music creators who were paid nothing by the service,” Buckles said.

“We are incredibly grateful for the government’s commitment to protecting the rights of artists and labels. We especially thank the dedicated agents of the FBI who painstakingly unraveled this criminal enterprise, and U.S. Attorney John Horn and his team for their work and diligence in seeing this case to its successful conclusion.”

Sargsyan, of Glendale, California, will be sentenced December 4 before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten.

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

Perfect 10 Takes Giganews to Supreme Court, Says It’s Worse Than Megaupload

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/perfect-10-takes-giganews-supreme-court-says-worse-megaupload-170906/

Adult publisher Perfect 10 has developed a reputation for being a serial copyright litigant.

Over the years the company targeted a number of high-profile defendants, including Google, Amazon, Mastercard, and Visa. Around two dozen of Perfect 10’s lawsuits ended in cash settlements and defaults, in the publisher’s favor.

Perhaps buoyed by this success, the company went after Usenet provider Giganews but instead of a company willing to roll over, Perfect 10 found a highly defensive and indeed aggressive opponent. The initial copyright case filed by Perfect 10 alleged that Giganews effectively sold access to Perfect 10 content but things went badly for the publisher.

In November 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California found that Giganews was not liable for the infringing activities of its users. Perfect 10 was ordered to pay Giganews $5.6m in attorney’s fees and costs. Perfect 10 lost again at the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

As a result of these failed actions, Giganews is owned millions by Perfect 10 but the publisher has thus far refused to pay up. That resulted in Giganews filing a $20m lawsuit, accusing Perfect 10 and President Dr. Norman Zada of fraud.

With all this litigation boiling around in the background and Perfect 10 already bankrupt as a result, one might think the story would be near to a conclusion. That doesn’t seem to be the case. In a fresh announcement, Perfect 10 says it has now appealed its case to the US Supreme Court.

“This is an extraordinarily important case, because for the first time, an appellate court has allowed defendants to copy and sell movies, songs, images, and other copyrighted works, without permission or payment to copyright holders,” says Zada.

“In this particular case, evidence was presented that defendants were copying and selling access to approximately 25,000 terabytes of unlicensed movies, songs, images, software, and magazines.”

Referencing an Amicus brief previously filed by the RIAA which described Giganews as “blatant copyright pirates,” Perfect 10 accuses the Ninth Circuit of allowing Giganews to copy and sell trillions of dollars of other people’s intellectual property “because their copying and selling was done in an automated fashion using a computer.”

Noting that “everything is done via computer” these days and with an undertone that the ruling encouraged others to infringe, Perfect 10 says there are now 88 companies similar to Giganews which rely on the automation defense to commit infringement – even involving content owned by people in the US Government.

“These exploiters of other people’s property are fearless. They are copying and selling access to pirated versions of pretty much every movie ever made, including films co-produced by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin,” Nada says.

“You would think the justice department would do something to protect the viability of this nation’s movie and recording studios, as unfettered piracy harms jobs and tax revenues, but they have done nothing.”

But Zada doesn’t stop at blaming Usenet services, the California District Court, the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Department of Justice for his problems – Congress is to blame too.

“Copyright holders have nowhere to turn other than the Federal courts, whose judges are ridiculously overworked. For years, Congress has failed to provide the Federal courts with adequate funding. As a result, judges can make mistakes,” he adds.

For Zada, those mistakes are particularly notable, particularly since at least one other super high-profile company was shut down in the most aggressive manner possible for allegedly being involved in less piracy than Giganews.

Pointing to the now-infamous Megaupload case, Perfect 10 notes that the Department of Justice completely shut that operation down, filing charges of criminal copyright infringement against Kim Dotcom and seizing $175 million “for selling access to movies and songs which they did not own.”

“Perfect 10 provided evidence that [Giganews] offered more than 200 times as many full length movies as did megaupload.com. But our evidence fell on deaf ears,” Zada complains.

In contrast, Perfect 10 adds, a California District Court found that Giganews had done nothing wrong, allowed it to continue copying and selling access to Perfect 10’s content, and awarded the Usenet provider $5.63m in attorneys fees.

“Prior to this case, no court had ever awarded fees to an alleged infringer, unless they were found to either own the copyrights at issue, or established a fair use defense. Neither was the case here,” Zada adds.

While Perfect 10 has filed a petition with the Supreme Court, the odds of being granted a review are particularly small. Only time will tell how this case will end, but it seems unlikely that the adult publisher will enjoy a happy ending, one in which it doesn’t have to pay Giganews millions of dollars in attorney’s fees.

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

Healthy Aussie Pirates Set To Face Cash ‘Fines’, Poor & Sick Should Be OK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/healthy-aussie-pirates-set-to-face-cash-fines-poor-sick-should-be-ok-170821/

One of the oldest methods of trying to get people to stop downloading and sharing pirated material is by hitting them with ‘fines’.

The RIAA began the practice in September 2003, tracking people sharing music on early peer-to-peer networks, finding out their identities via ISPs, and sending them cease-and-desist orders with a request to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Many thousands of people were fined and the campaign raised awareness, but it did nothing to stop millions of file-sharers who continue to this day.

That’s something that Village Roadshow co-chief Graham Burke now wants to do something about. He says his company will effectively mimic the RIAA’s campaign of 14 years ago and begin suing Internet pirates Down Under. He told AFR that his company is already setting things up, ready to begin suing later in the year.

Few details have been made available at this stage but it’s almost certain that Village Roadshow’s targets will be BitTorrent users. It’s possible that users of other peer-to-peer networks could be affected but due to their inefficiency and relative obscurity, it’s very unlikely.

That leaves users of The Pirate Bay and any other torrent site vulnerable to the company, which will jump into torrent swarms masquerading as regular users, track IP addresses, and trace them back to Internet service providers. What happens next will depend on the responses of those ISPs.

If the ISPs refuse to cooperate, they will have to be taken to court to force them to hand over the personal details of their subscribers to Village Roadshow. It’s extremely unlikely they’ll hand them over voluntarily, so it could be some time before any ISP customer hears anything from the film distributor.

The bottom line is that Village Roadshow will want money to go away and Burke is already being open over the kind of sums his company will ask for.

“We will be looking for damages commensurate with what they’ve done. We’ll be saying ‘You’ve downloaded our Mad Max: Fury Road, our Red Dog, and we want $40 for the four movies plus $200 in costs’,” he says.

While no one will relish any kind of ‘bill’ dropping through a mail box, in the scheme of things a AUS$240 settlement demand isn’t huge, especially when compared to the sums demanded by companies such as Voltage Pictures, who tried and failed to start piracy litigation in Australia two years ago.

However, there’s even better news for some, who have already been given a heads-up that they won’t have to pay anything.

“We will identify people who are stealing our product, we will ask them do they have ill health or dire circumstances, and if they do and undertake to stop, we’ll drop the case,” Burke says.

While being upfront about such a policy has its pros and cons, Burke is also reducing his range of targets, particularly if likes to be seen as a man of his word, whenever those words were delivered. In March 2016, when he restated his intention to begin suing pirates, he also excluded some other groups from legal action.

“We don’t want to sue 16-year-olds or mums and dads,” Burke said. “It takes 18 months to go through the courts and all that does is make lawyers rich and clog the court system. It’s not effective.”

It will remain to be seen what criteria Village Roadshow ultimately employs but it’s likely the company will be asked to explain its intentions to the court, when it embarks on the process to discover alleged pirates’ identities. When it’s decided who is eligible, Burke says the gloves will come off, with pirates being “pursued vigorously” and “sued for damages.”

While Village Roadshow’s list of films is considerable, any with a specifically Australian slant seem the most likely to feature in any legal action. Burke tends to push the narrative that he’s looking after local industry so something like Mad Max: Fury Road would be perfect. It would also provide easy pickings for any anti-piracy company seeking to harvest Aussie IP addresses since it’s still very popular.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Australians who use pirate streaming services will be completely immune to the company’s planned lawsuit campaign. However, Burke appears to be tackling that threat using a couple of popular tactics currently being deployed elsewhere by the movie industry.

“Google are not doing enough and could do a lot more,” he told The Australian (subscription)

Burke said that he was “shocked” at how easy it was to find streaming content using Google’s search so decided to carry out some research of his own at home. He said he found Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with no difficulty but that came with a sting in the tail.

According to the movie boss, his computer was immediately infected with malware and began asking for his credit card details. He doesn’t say whether he put them in.

As clearly the world’s most unlucky would-be movie pirate, Burke deserves much sympathy. It’s also completely coincidental that Hollywood is now pushing a “danger” narrative to keep people away from pirate sites.

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

Piracy Narrative Isn’t About Ethics Anymore, It’s About “Danger”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-narrative-isnt-about-ethics-anymore-its-about-danger-170812/

Over the years there have been almost endless attempts to stop people from accessing copyright-infringing content online. Campaigns have come and gone and almost two decades later the battle is still ongoing.

Early on, when panic enveloped the music industry, the campaigns centered around people getting sued. Grabbing music online for free could be costly, the industry warned, while parading the heads of a few victims on pikes for the world to see.

Periodically, however, the aim has been to appeal to the public’s better nature. The idea is that people essentially want to do the ‘right thing’, so once they understand that largely hard-working Americans are losing their livelihoods, people will stop downloading from The Pirate Bay. For some, this probably had the desired effect but millions of people are still getting their fixes for free, so the job isn’t finished yet.

In more recent years, notably since the MPAA and RIAA had their eyes blacked in the wake of SOPA, the tone has shifted. In addition to educating the public, torrent and streaming sites are increasingly being painted as enemies of the public they claim to serve.

Several studies, largely carried out on behalf of the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), have claimed that pirate sites are hotbeds of malware, baiting consumers in with tasty pirate booty only to offload trojans, viruses, and God-knows-what. These reports have been ostensibly published as independent public interest documents but this week an advisor to the DCA suggested a deeper interest for the industry.

Hemanshu Nigam is a former federal prosecutor, ex-Chief Security Officer for News Corp and Fox Interactive Media, and former VP Worldwide Internet Enforcement at the MPAA. In an interview with Deadline this week, he spoke about alleged links between pirate sites and malware distributors. He also indicated that warning people about the dangers of pirate sites has become Hollywood’s latest anti-piracy strategy.

“The industry narrative has changed. When I was at the MPAA, we would tell people that stealing content is wrong and young people would say, yeah, whatever, you guys make a lot of money, too bad,” he told the publication.

“It has gone from an ethical discussion to a dangerous one. Now, your parents’ bank account can be raided, your teenage daughter can be spied on in her bedroom and extorted with the footage, or your computer can be locked up along with everything in it and held for ransom.”

Nigam’s stance isn’t really a surprise since he’s currently working for the Digital Citizens Alliance as an advisor. In turn, the Alliance is at least partly financed by the MPAA. There’s no suggestion whatsoever that Nigam is involved in any propaganda effort, but recent signs suggest that the DCA’s work in malware awareness is more about directing people away from pirate sites than protecting them from the alleged dangers within.

That being said and despite the bias, it’s still worth giving experts like Nigam an opportunity to speak. Largely thanks to industry efforts with brands, pirate sites are increasingly being forced to display lower-tier ads, which can be problematic. On top, some sites’ policies mean they don’t deserve any visitors at all.

In the Deadline piece, however, Nigam alleges that hackers have previously reached out to pirate websites offering $200 to $5000 per day “depending on the size of the pirate website” to have the site infect users with malware. If true, that’s a serious situation and people who would ordinarily use ‘pirate’ sites would definitely appreciate the details.

For example, to which sites did hackers make this offer and, crucially, which sites turned down the offer and which ones accepted?

It’s important to remember that pirates are just another type of consumer and they would boycott sites in a heartbeat if they discovered they’d been paid to infect them with malware. But, as usual, the claims are extremely light in detail. Instead, there’s simply a blanket warning to stay away from all unauthorized sites, which isn’t particularly helpful.

In some cases, of course, operational security will prevent some details coming to light but without these, people who don’t get infected on a ‘pirate’ site (the vast majority) simply won’t believe the allegations. As the author of the Deadline piece pointed out, it’s a bit like Reefer Madness all over again.

The point here is that without hard independent evidence to back up these claims, with reports listing sites alongside the malware they’ve supposed to have spread and when, few people will respond to perceived scaremongering. Free content trumps a few distant worries almost every time, whether that involves malware or the threat of a lawsuit.

It’ll be up to the DCA and their MPAA paymasters to consider whether the approach is working but thus far, not even having government heavyweights on board has helped.

Earlier this year the DCA launched a video campaign, enrolling 15 attorney generals to publish their own anti-piracy PSAs on YouTube. Thus far, interest has been minimal, to say the least.

At the time of writing the 15 PSAs have 3,986 views in total, with 2,441 of those contributed by a single video contributed by Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Despite the relative success, even that got slammed with 2 upvotes and 127 downvotes.

A few of the other videos have a couple of hundred views each but more than half have less than 70. Perhaps most worryingly for the DCA, apart from the Schimel PSA, none have any upvotes at all, only down. It’s unclear who the viewers were but it seems reasonable to conclude they weren’t entertained.

The bottom line is nobody likes malware or having their banking details stolen but yet again, people who claim to have the public interest at heart aren’t actually making a difference on the ground. It could be argued that groups advocating online safety should be publishing guides on how to stay protected on the Internet period, not merely advising people to stay away from certain sites.

But of course, that wouldn’t achieve the goals of the MPAA Digital Citizens Alliance.

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

Piracy Brings a New Young Audience to Def Leppard, Guitarist Says

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-brings-a-new-young-audience-to-def-leppard-guitarist-says-170803/

For decades the debate over piracy has raged, with bands and their recording industry paymasters on one side and large swathes of the public on the other. Throughout, however, there have been those prepared to recognize that things aren’t necessarily black and white.

Over the years, many people have argued that access to free music has helped them broaden their musical horizons, dabbling in new genres and discovering new bands. This, they argue, would have been a prohibitively expensive proposition if purchases were forced on a trial and error basis.

Of course, many labels and bands believe that piracy amounts to theft, but some are prepared to put their heads above the parapet with an opinion that doesn’t necessarily tow the party line.

Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, England, rock band Def Leppard have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and have two RIAA diamond certificated albums to their name. But unlike Metallica who have sold a total of 116 million records and were famous for destroying Napster, Def Leppard’s attitude to piracy is entirely more friendly.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell has been describing why he believes piracy has its upsides, particularly for enduring bands that are still trying to broaden their horizons.

“The way the band works is quite extraordinary. In recent years, we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve seen this new surge in our popularity. For the most part, that’s fueled by younger people coming to the shows,” Campbell said.

“We’ve been seeing it for the last 10, 12 or 15 years, you’d notice younger kids in the audience, but especially in the last couple of years, it’s grown exponentially. I really do believe that this is the upside of music piracy.”

Def Leppard celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, and the fact that they’re still releasing music and attracting a new audience is a real achievement for a band whose original fans only had access to vinyl and cassette tapes. But Campbell says the band isn’t negatively affected by new technology, nor people using it to obtain their content for free.

“You know, people bemoan the fact that you can’t sell records anymore, but for a band like Def Leppard at least, there is a silver lining in the fact that our music is reaching a whole new audience, and that audience is excited to hear it, and they’re coming to the shows. It’s been fantastic,” he said.

While packing out events is every band’s dream, Campbell believes that the enthusiasm these fresh fans bring to the shows is actually helping the band to improve.

“There’s a whole new energy around Leppard, in fact. I think we’re playing better than we ever have. Which you’d like to think anyway. They always say that musicians, unlike athletes, you’re supposed to get better.

“I’m not sure that anyone other than the band really notices, but I notice it and I know that the other guys do too. When I play ‘Rock of Ages’ for the 3,000,000 time, it’s not the song that excites me, it’s the energy from the audience. That’s what really lifts our performance. When you’ve got a more youthful audience coming to your shows, it only goes in one direction,” he concludes.

The thought of hundreds or even thousands of enthusiastic young pirates energizing an aging Def Leppard to the band’s delight is a real novelty. However, with so many channels for music consumption available today, are these new followers necessarily pirates?

One only has to visit Def Leppard’s official YouTube channel to see that despite being born in the late fifties and early sixties, the band are still regularly posting new content to keep fans up to date. So, given the consumption habits of young people these days, YouTube seems a more likely driver of new fans than torrents, for example.

That being said, Def Leppard are still humming along nicely on The Pirate Bay. The site lists a couple of hundred torrents, some uploaded more recently, some many years ago, including full albums, videos, and even entire discographies.

Arrr, we be Def Leppaaaaaard

Interestingly, Campbell hasn’t changed his public opinion on piracy for more than a decade. Back in 2007 he was saying similar things, and in 2011 he admitted that there were plenty of “kids out there” with the entire Def Leppard collection on their iPods.

“I am pretty sure they didn’t all pay for it. But, maybe those same kids will buy a ticket and come to a concert,” he said.

“We do not expect to sell a lot of records, we are just thankful to have people listening to our music. That is more important than having people pay for it. It will monetize itself later down the line.”

With sites like YouTube perhaps driving more traffic to bands like Def Leppard than pure piracy these days (and even diverting people away from piracy itself), it’s interesting to note that there’s still controversy around people getting paid for music.

With torrent sites slowly dropping off the record labels’ hitlists, one is much more likely to hear them criticizing YouTube itself for not giving the industry a fair deal.

Still, bands like Def Leppard seem happy, so it’s not all bad news.

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

BREIN Takes Down 231 Pirate Sites in Six Months, But That’s Not All

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/brein-takes-down-231-pirate-sites-in-six-months-but-thats-not-all-170722/

Over the years, the MPAA and RIAA have grabbed hundreds of headlines for their anti-piracy activities but recently their work has been more subtle. The same cannot be said of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

BREIN is the most prominent outfit of its type in the Netherlands but it’s not uncommon for its work to be felt way beyond its geographical borders. The group’s report for the first six months of 2017 illustrates that in very clear terms.

In its ongoing efforts to reduce piracy on movies, music, TV shows, books and games, BREIN says it carried out 268 investigations during the first two quarters of 2017. That resulted in the takedown of 231 piracy-focused sites and services.

They included 45 cyberlocker linking sites, 30 streaming sites and 9 torrent platforms. The last eDonkey site in the Netherlands was among the haul after its operators reached a settlement with BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit reports that nearly all of the sites were operated anonymously so in many instances hosting providers were the ones to pull the plug, at BREIN’s request.

BREIN has also been actively tracking down people who make content available on file-sharing networks. These initial uploaders are considered to be a major part of the problem, so taking them out of the equation is another of BREIN’s goals.

In total, 14 major uploaders to torrent, streaming, and Usenet platforms were targeted by BREIN in the first six months of this year, with each given the opportunity to settle out of court or face legal action. Settlements typically involved a cash payment of between 250 and 7,500 euros but in several instances, uploaders were also required to take down the content they had uploaded.

In one interesting case, BREIN obtained an ex parte court order against a person running a “live cinema” on Facebook. He later settled with the anti-piracy group for 7,500 euros.

BREIN has also been active in a number of other areas. The group says it had almost 693,000 infringing results removed from Google search, pushing its total takedowns to more than 15.8 million. In addition, more than 2,170 listings for infringing content and devices were removed from online marketplaces and seven piracy-focused Facebook groups were taken down.

But while all of these actions have an effect locally, it is BREIN’s persistence in important legal cases that have influenced the copyright landscape across Europe.

Perhaps the most important case so far is BREIN v Filmspeler, which saw the anti-piracy group go all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification on the law surrounding so-called “fully loaded” set-top boxes.

In a ruling earlier this year, the ECJ not only determined that selling such devices is a breach of copyright law, but also that people streaming content from an illicit source are committing an offense. Although the case began in the Netherlands, its effects will now be felt right across Europe, and that is almost completely down to BREIN.

But despite the reach of the ruling, BREIN has already been making good use of the decision locally. Not only has the operator of the Filmspeler site settled with BREIN “for a substantial amount”, but more than 200 sellers of piracy-configured set-top boxes have ceased trading since the ECJ decision. Some of the providers are the subject of further legal action.

Finally, a notable mention must go to BREIN’s determination to have The Pirate Bay blocked in the Netherlands. The battle against ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL has been ongoing for seven years and like the Filmspeler case, required the attention of the European Court of Justice. While it’s still not over yet, it seems likely that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in BREIN’s favor.

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

Kim Dotcom Denied Access to Illegally Obtained Spy Recordings

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-denied-access-to-illegally-obtained-spy-recordings-170720/

In the months leading up to the infamous raid on Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand mansion and his now defunct cloud storage site Megaupload, the entrepreneur was under surveillance.

Not only were the MPAA and RIAA amassing information, the governments of the United States and New Zealand were neck-deep in the investigation too, using the FBI and local police to gather information. What soon became evident, however, is that the authorities in New Zealand did so while breaking the rules.

Between 16 December 2011 to 22 March 2012, New Zealand used the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) agency to spy on the private communications of Kim and Mona Dotcom, plus Megaupload co-defendant Bram van der Kolk. This was hugely problematic.

GCSB is an intelligence agency of the New Zealand government responsible for spying on external entities. It is forbidden by law from conducting surveillance on its own citizens or permanent residents in the country. His standing in the country meant that Dotcom should not have been spied on.

“Of course I apologize to Mr Dotcom, and I apologize to New Zealanders,” then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key later said.

Since it was established that New Zealand illegally spied on Dotcom, the Megaupload founder has been trying to find out what information the GCSB gathered about him, then wife Mona, and former colleague Bram van der Kolk. According to Dotcom, there was a total of 87 breaches, all of which the government wants to keep secret.

Since then, Dotcom has been fighting to gain access to the information GCSB illegally obtained, while seeking compensation for the damages caused.

In a ruling handed down this morning, the High Court details its findings in respect of a three-day hearing that took place early April 2017, during which GCSB said the raw, unredacted information should be withheld from Dotcom on national security grounds.

GCSB and the government argued that the public interest in the disclosure of the material is outweighed by the public interest in withholding it, adding that the security and defense of New Zealand would be compromised on the world stage.

For their part, the Dotcoms said that nondisclosure of the unredacted documents breaches their rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. Given that any damages award is directly linked to the extent and nature of the illegal intrusions into their private lives, access to the documents is paramount.

That being the case, they argued that the public interest in disclosure outweighs any public interest in the information being withheld.

This morning, citing a 2013 Court of Appeal verdict that ruled the GCSB didn’t have to release the raw communications, Justice Murray Gilbert insisted that the recordings will not be released.

“A number of the redactions in the discovered documents are to protect the identity or contact details of personnel who were involved in or associated with the operation or copied into email communications concerning it,” Justice Gilbert wrote.

“It is hard to see how any of this information could be relevant to the relief that should be granted in this proceeding. Again, the public interest in withholding disclosure of this information far outweighs any public interest in its disclosure.”

In a statement, Kim Dotcom expressed his frustrations, noting that the government is doing everything it can to suppress details of the illegal surveillance.

“After being caught, the GCSB has fought to keep what it did, and how, a secret from me and from you, the New Zealand public. Worse, it seeks to hide behind ‘national security’ to keep the truth from us,” Dotcom said.

“To keep this secret, the GCSB applied to the High Court. It filed secret evidence and secret submissions. The GCSB’s lawyers were heard in a ‘closed’ court with the Judge, where they made secret submissions and secret witnesses gave secret evidence.”

Dotcom said neither his lawyers nor the public was allowed to be present during the hearing. And when his legal team could be heard, they were significantly hampered in their work.

“When my lawyers were heard, after that hearing, they had to make submissions as to why information they were not allowed to see, for reasons they were not allowed to know, should be disclosed. They were effectively shooting at a moving target, in the dark, with one hand tied behind their backs,” Dotcom said.

The Megaupload founder suggests there is there is a clear double-standard when he has to be tried in public for his alleged crimes, but when it comes to offenses carried out by the government, the process takes place behind closed doors.

“I will appeal this judgment and ask the Court of Appeal to shine some cleansing sunlight on what happened here. If there is transparency, there is accountability, and we can prevent this happening again,” he concludes.

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

To Serve Users

Post Syndicated from Bradley M. Kuhn original http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2014/05/14/to-serve-users.html

(Spoiler alert: spoilers regarding a 1950s science fiction short story that you may
not have read appear in this blog post.)

Mitchell
Baker announced
today that Mozilla Corporation (or maybe Mozilla Foundation? She doesn’t
really say…) will begin implementing proprietary software by default
in Firefox at the behest of wealthy and powerful media companies
.
Baker argues this serves users: that Orwellian phrasing caught
my attention most.

image from Twilight Zone Episode, To Serve Man, showing the book with the alien title on the front and its translation.

In the old science
fiction story, To Serve Man
(which later was adapted for the
The Twilight Zone
), aliens come to earth and freely share
various technological advances, and offer free visits to the alien world.
Eventually, the narrator, who remains skeptical, begins translating one of
their books. The title is innocuous, and even well-meaning: To Serve Man. Only
too late does the narrator realize that the book isn’t about service to
mankind, but rather — a cookbook.

It’s in the same spirit that Baker seeks to serve Firefox’s users
up on a platter to the MPAA, the RIAA, and like-minded wealthy for-profit
corporations. Baker’s only defense appears to be that other browser
vendors have done the same, and cites specifically for-profit companies such as
Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

Theoretically speaking, though, the Mozilla Foundation is supposed to be a
501(c)(3)
non-profit charity which told the IRS
its charitable purpose was:
to keep the Internet a universal platform that is accessible by anyone
from anywhere, using any computer, and … develop open-source
Internet applications. Baker fails to explain how switching Firefox to
include proprietary software fits that mission. In fact, with a bit of
revisionist history, she says that open source was merely an
“approach” that Mozilla Foundation was using, not their
mission.

Of course, Mozilla Foundation is actually a thin non-profit shell wrapped
around a much larger entity called the Mozilla Corporation, which is a for-profit
company. I have always been dubious about this structure,
and actions like this that make it obvious that “Mozilla”
is focused on being a for-profit company, competing with other for-profit
companies, rather than a charity serving the public (at least, in the way
that I mean “serving”).

Meanwhile, I greatly appreciate that various Free Software communities
maintain forks and/or alternative wrappers around many web browser
technologies, which, like Firefox, succumb easily to for-profit corporate
control. This process (such as Debian’s iceweasel fork and GNOME’s
ephiphany interface to Webkit) provide an nice “canary in the
coalmine” to confirm there is enough software-freedom-respecting code
still released to make these browsers usable by those who care about
software freedom and reject the digital restrictions management that
Mozilla now embraces. OTOH, the one item that Baker is right about: given
that so few people oppose proprietary software, there soon may not be much
of a web left for those of us who stand firmly for software freedom.
Sadly, Mozilla announced today their plans to depart from curtailing that
distopia and will instead help accelerate its onset.

Related Links:

My
comment on Gerv’s blog post
, which criticizes this one.
FSF’s
condemnation of Mozilla’s support of DRM