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CrimeStoppers Campaign Targets Pirate Set-Top Boxes & Their Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/crimestoppers-campaign-targets-pirate-set-top-boxes-their-users-171209/

While many people might believe CrimeStoppers to be an official extension of the police in the UK, the truth is a little more subtle.

CrimeStoppers is a charity that operates a service through which members of the public can report crime anonymously, either using a dedicated phone line or via a website. Callers are not required to give their name, meaning that for those concerned about reprisals or becoming involved in a case for other sensitive reasons, it’s the perfect buffer between them and the authorities.

The people at CrimeStoppers deal with all kinds of crime but perhaps a little surprisingly, they’ve just got involved in the set-top box controversy in the UK.

“Advances in technology have allowed us to enjoy on-screen entertainment in more ways than ever before, with ever increasing amounts of exciting and original content,” the CrimeStoppers campaign begins.

“However, some people are avoiding paying for this content by using modified streaming hardware devices, like a set-top box or stick, in conjunction with software such as illegal apps or add-ons, or illegal mobile apps which allow them to watch new movie releases, TV that hasn’t yet aired, and subscription sports channels for free.”

The campaign has been launched in partnership with the Intellectual Property Office and unnamed “industry partners”. Who these companies are isn’t revealed but given the standard messages being portrayed by the likes of ACE, Premier League and Federation Against Copyright Theft lately, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some or all of them were involved.

Those messages are revealed in a series of four video ads, each taking a different approach towards discouraging the public from using devices loaded with pirate software.

The first video clearly targets the consumer, dispelling the myth that watching pirate video isn’t against the law. It is, that’s not in any doubt, but from the constant tone of the video, one could be forgiven that it’s an extremely serious crime rather than something which is likely to be a civil matter, if anything at all.

It also warns people who are configuring and selling pirate devices that they are breaking the law. Again, this is absolutely true but this activity is clearly several magnitudes more serious than simply viewing. The video blurs the boundaries for what appears to be dramatic effect, however.

Selling and watching is illegal

The second video is all about demonizing the people and groups who may offer set-top boxes to the public.

Instead of portraying the hundreds of “cottage industry” suppliers behind many set-top box sales in the UK, the CrimeStoppers video paints a picture of dark organized crime being the main driver. By buying from these people, the charity warns, criminals are being welcomed in.

“It is illegal. You could also be helping to fund organized crime and bringing it into your community,” the video warns.

Are you funding organized crime?

The third video takes another approach, warning that set-top boxes have few if any parental controls. This could lead to children being exposed to inappropriate content, the charity warns.

“What are your children watching. Does it worry you?” the video asks.

Of course, the same can be said about the Internet, period. Web browsers don’t filter what content children have access to unless parents take pro-active steps to configure special services or software for the purpose.

There’s always the option to supervise children, of course, but Netflix is probably a safer option for those with a preference to stand off. It’s also considerably more expensive, a fact that won’t have escaped users of these devices.

Got kids? Take care….

Finally, video four picks up a theme that’s becoming increasingly common in anti-piracy campaigns – malware and identity theft.

“Why risk having your identity stolen or your bank account or home network hacked. If you access entertainment or sports using dodgy streaming devices or apps, or illegal addons for Kodi, you are increasing the risks,” the ad warns.

Danger….Danger….

Perhaps of most interest is that this entire campaign, which almost certainly has Big Media behind the scenes in advisory and financial capacities, barely mentions the entertainment industries at all.

Indeed, the success of the whole campaign hinges on people worrying about the supposed ill effects of illicit streaming on them personally and then feeling persuaded to inform on suppliers and others involved in the chain.

“Know of someone supplying or promoting these dodgy devices or software? It is illegal. Call us now and help stop crime in your community,” the videos warn.

That CrimeStoppers has taken on this campaign at all is a bit of a head-scratcher, given the bigger crime picture. Struggling with severe budget cuts, police in the UK are already de-prioritizing a number of crimes, leading to something called “screening out”, a process through which victims are given a crime number but no investigation is carried out.

This means that in 2016, 45% of all reported crimes in Greater Manchester weren’t investigated and a staggering 57% of all recorded domestic burglaries weren’t followed up by the police. But it gets worse.

“More than 62pc of criminal damage and arson offenses were not investigated, along with one in three reported shoplifting incidents,” MEN reports.

Given this backdrop, how will police suddenly find the resources to follow up lots of leads from the public and then subsequently prosecute people who sell pirate boxes? Even if they do, will that be at the expense of yet more “screening out” of other public-focused offenses?

No one is saying that selling pirate devices isn’t a crime or at least worthy of being followed up, but is this niche likely to be important to the public when they’re being told that nothing will be done when their homes are emptied by intruders? “NO” says a comment on one of the CrimeStoppers videos on YouTube.

“This crime affects multi-million dollar corporations, I’d rather see tax payers money invested on videos raising awareness of crimes committed against the people rather than the 0.001%,” it concludes.

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

Apple CEO is Optimistic VPN Apps Will Return to China App Store

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-ceo-is-optimistic-vpn-apps-will-return-to-china-app-store-171206/

As part of an emerging crackdown on tools and systems with the ability to bypass China’s ‘Great Firewall’, during the summer Chinese government pressure began to affect Apple.

During the final days of July, Apple was forced to remove many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese App Store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers and software developers were told that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

While the position on the ground doesn’t appear to have changed in the interim, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook today expressed optimism that the VPN apps would eventually be restored to their former positions on China’s version of the App Store.

“My hope over time is that some of the things, the couple of things that’s been pulled, come back,” Cook said. “I have great hope on that and great optimism on that.”

According to Reuters, Cook said that he always tries to find ways to work together to settle differences and if he gets criticized for that “so be it.”

Speaking at the Fortune Forum in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, Cook said that he believes strongly in freedoms. But back home in the US, Apple has been strongly criticized for not doing enough to uphold freedom of speech and communication in China.

Back in October, two US senators wrote to Cook asking why the company had removed the VPN apps from the company’s store in China.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet,” senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy wrote.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’.”

They were comments Senator Leahy underlined again yesterday.

“American tech companies have become leading champions of free expression. But that commitment should not end at our borders,” Leahy told CNBC.

“Global leaders in innovation, like Apple, have both an opportunity and a moral obligation to promote free expression and other basic human rights in countries that routinely deny these rights.”

Whether the optimism expressed by Cook today is based on discussions with the Chinese government is unknown. However, it seems unlikely that authorities would be willing to significantly compromise on their dedication to maintaining the Great Firewall, which not only controls access to locally controversial content but also seeks to boost the success of Chinese companies.

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

European Commission Steps Up Fight Against Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/european-commission-steps-up-fight-against-online-piracy-171130/

The European Commission has had copyright issues at the top of its agenda for a while, resulting in several controversial proposals.

This week it presented a series of new measures to ensure that copyright holders are well protected, targeting both online piracy and counterfeit goods.

“Today we boost our collective ability to catch the ‘big fish’ behind fake goods and pirated content which harm our companies and our jobs – as well as our health and safety in areas such as medicines or toys,” Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska announced.

The Commission notes that it’s stepping up the fight against counterfeiting and piracy. However, many of the proposals are not entirely new for those who follow anti-piracy issues around the globe.

One of the main goals is to focus on the people who facilitate copyright infringement, such as pirate site operators, and try to cut their revenue streams.

“The Commission seeks to deprive commercial-scale IP infringers of the revenue flows that make their criminal activity lucrative – this is the so-called ‘follow the money’ approach which focuses on the ‘big fish’ rather than individuals,” they write.

Instead of using legislation to reach this goal, the Commission prefers to continue its support for voluntary agreements between copyright holders and third-party services. This includes deals with advertising and payment services to cut their ties with pirate sites.

“Such agreements can lead to faster action against counterfeiting and piracy than court actions,” the Commission writes.

Another tool to fight piracy appears on the agenda for the first time. The European Commission notes that it will also support the quest for new anti-piracy initiatives, including the use of blockchain technology.

“Supporting industry-led initiatives to combat IP infringements, including work on Memoranda of Understanding and exploring the potential of new technologies such as blockchain to combat IP infringements in supply chains,” the suggestion reads.

No concrete examples were given but earlier this week, European Parliament member Brando Benifei wrote an article on the issue in Euractiv.

Benifei mentions that blockchain technology can help independent artists collect royalty payments without the need for middlemen. In a similar vein, blockchains can also be used to track the unauthorized distribution of works.

In addition to broadening the anti-piracy horizon, the European Commission also released a new guidance on how the current IPR Enforcement Directive (IPRED) should be interpreted, taking into account various recent developments, including landmark EU Court of Justice rulings.

The guidance explains how and when it’s appropriate to issue website blocking orders, for example. In general, blocking injunctions are warranted when they are proportional and aimed at preventing concrete infringements.

The comprehensive guidance also covers the issue of filtering. Interestingly, the Commission clarifies that third-party services can’t be required to “install and operate excessively broad, unspecific and expensive filtering systems.”

This appears to run counter to the mandatory piracy filters that were suggested as part of the copyright reform proposal.

However, the Commission notes that in some specific cases, hosting providers (e.g. YouTube) can be ordered to monitor uploads. This is in line with a recent communication which recommended that online services should implement measures to automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

While the new plans continue down the path of stronger copyright protections, not all rightsholders are happy. IFPI is glad that the main problems are highlighted, but would have liked to have seen more concrete plans.

“We are disappointed that despite the European Commission recognizing the need to modernize IPRED and years of evidence gathering, today’s result is merely guidance to EU Member State governments. Soft law does not give right holders the tools they need to take effective action against pirate services,” IFPI writes.

On the other side of the divide, opposition to the previously announced EU copyright reform plans continues as well. Earlier today a group of over 80 organizations urged EU member states to speak out against several controversial copyright proposals, including the upload filter.

“The signatories warn the Member states that the discussion around the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture,” they say.

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

Supreme Court Will Decide if ISP Can Charge Money to Expose Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/supreme-court-to-decide-if-isp-can-charge-money-to-expose-pirates-171124/

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to an ISP using an IP-database.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to direct Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, in order to go after the alleged pirates.

In Canada, this so-called copyright trolling practice hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year Voltage Pictures launched a “reverse class action” to demand damages from an unspecified number of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case was unprecedented in itself. In a single swoop, many of Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely.

Instead, Rogers demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts.

The Federal Court agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. The Appeals Court noted that there’s currently no fixed maximum charge defined by law. As long as this is the case, ISPs can charge no fees at all, the argument was.

In addition, the court stressed that it’s important for copyright holders to be able to protect their rights in the digital era.

“The internet must not become a collection of safe houses from which pirates, with impunity, can pilfer the products of others’ dedication, creativity and industry,” the appeal court Justice David Stratas wrote.

Not happy with the decision, Rogers decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which just decided that it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court hasn’t given an explanation for its decision to take the case. For the accused BitTorrent pirates in Canada, it’s certainly one to watch though.

The case will in large part determine how profitable the copyright trolling scheme is in Canada. When ISPs can charge a substantial fee for the IP-address lookups the efforts might not bring in enough money through settlements, making them less likely to continue.

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

A Thanksgiving Carol: How Those Smart Engineers at Twitter Screwed Me

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/a-thanksgiving-carol-how-those-smart.html

Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for family and cheer. Well, a time for family. It’s the holiday where we ask our doctor relatives to look at that weird skin growth, and for our geek relatives to fix our computers. This tale is of such computer support, and how the “smart” engineers at Twitter have ruined this for life.

My mom is smart, but not a good computer user. I get my enthusiasm for science and math from my mother, and she has no problem understanding the science of computers. She keeps up when I explain Bitcoin. But she has difficulty using computers. She has this emotional, irrational belief that computers are out to get her.

This makes helping her difficult. Every problem is described in terms of what the computer did to her, not what she did to her computer. It’s the computer that needs to be fixed, instead of the user. When I showed her the “haveibeenpwned.com” website (part of my tips for securing computers), it showed her Tumblr password had been hacked. She swore she never created a Tumblr account — that somebody or something must have done it for her. Except, I was there five years ago and watched her create it.

Another example is how GMail is deleting her emails for no reason, corrupting them, and changing the spelling of her words. She emails the way an impatient teenager texts — all of us in the family know the misspellings are not GMail’s fault. But I can’t help her with this because she keeps her GMail inbox clean, deleting all her messages, leaving no evidence behind. She has only a vague description of the problem that I can’t make sense of.

This last March, I tried something to resolve this. I configured her GMail to send a copy of all incoming messages to a new, duplicate account on my own email server. With evidence in hand, I would then be able solve what’s going on with her GMail. I’d be able to show her which steps she took, which buttons she clicked on, and what caused the weirdness she’s seeing.

Today, while the family was in a state of turkey-induced torpor, my mom brought up a problem with Twitter. She doesn’t use Twitter, she doesn’t have an account, but they keep sending tweets to her phone, about topics like Denzel Washington. And she said something about “peaches” I didn’t understand.

This is how the problem descriptions always start, chaotic, with mutually exclusive possibilities. If you don’t use Twitter, you don’t have the Twitter app installed, so how are you getting Tweets? Over much gnashing of teeth, it comes out that she’s getting emails from Twitter, not tweets, about Denzel Washington — to someone named “Peaches Graham”. Naturally, she can only describe these emails, because she’s already deleted them.

“Ah ha!”, I think. I’ve got the evidence! I’ll just log onto my duplicate email server, and grab the copies to prove to her it was something she did.

I find she is indeed receiving such emails, called “Moments”, about topics trending on Twitter. They are signed with “DKIM”, proving they are legitimate rather than from a hacker or spammer. The only way that can happen is if my mother signed up for Twitter, despite her protestations that she didn’t.

I look further back and find that there were also confirmation messages involved. Back in August, she got a typical Twitter account signup message. I am now seeing a little bit more of the story unfold with this “Peaches Graham” name on the account. It wasn’t my mother who initially signed up for Twitter, but Peaches, who misspelled the email address. It’s one of the reasons why the confirmation process exists, to make sure you spelled your email address correctly.

It’s now obvious my mom accidentally clicked on the [Confirm] button. I don’t have any proof she did, but it’s the only reasonable explanation. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten the “Moments” messages. My mom disputed this, emphatically insisting she never clicked on the emails.

It’s at this point that I made a great mistake, saying:

“This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Twitter has very smart engineers. What’s the chance they made the mistake here, or…”.

I recognized condescension of words as they came out of my mouth, but dug myself deeper with:

“…or that the user made the error?”

This was wrong to say even if I were right. I have no excuse. I mean, maybe I could argue that it’s really her fault, for not raising me right, but no, this is only on me.

Regardless of what caused the Twitter emails, the problem needs to be fixed. The solution is to take control of the Twitter account by using the password reset feature. I went to the Twitter login page, clicked on “Lost Password”, got the password reset message, and reset the password. I then reconfigured the account to never send anything to my mom again.

But when I logged in I got an error saying the account had not yet been confirmed. I paused. The family dog eyed me in wise silence. My mom hadn’t clicked on the [Confirm] button — the proof was right there. Moreover, it hadn’t been confirmed for a long time, since the account was created in 2011.

I interrogated my mother some more. It appears that this has been going on for years. She’s just been deleting the emails without opening them, both the “Confirmations” and the “Moments”. She made it clear she does it this way because her son (that would be me) instructs her to never open emails she knows are bad. That’s how she could be so certain she never clicked on the [Confirm] button — she never even opens the emails to see the contents.

My mom is a prolific email user. In the last eight months, I’ve received over 10,000 emails in the duplicate mailbox on my server. That’s a lot. She’s technically retired, but she volunteers for several charities, goes to community college classes, and is joining an anti-Trump protest group. She has a daily routine for triaging and processing all the emails that flow through her inbox.

So here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it: my mom was right, on all particulars. She had done nothing, the computer had done it to her. It’s Twitter who is at fault, having continued to resend that confirmation email every couple months for six years. When Twitter added their controversial “Moments” feature a couple years back, somehow they turned on Notifications for accounts that technically didn’t fully exist yet.

Being right this time means she might be right the next time the computer does something to her without her touching anything. My attempts at making computers seem rational has failed. That they are driven by untrustworthy spirits is now a reasonable alternative.

Those “smart” engineers at Twitter screwed me. Continuing to send confirmation emails for six years is stupid. Sending Notifications to unconfirmed accounts is stupid. Yes, I know at the bottom of the message it gives a “Not my account” selection that she could have clicked on, but it’s small and easily missed. In any case, my mom never saw that option, because she’s been deleting the messages without opening them — for six years.

Twitter can fix their problem, but it’s not going to help mine. Forever more, I’ll be unable to convince my mom that the majority of her problems are because of user error, and not because the computer people are out to get her.

NetNeutrality vs. Verizon censoring Naral

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-verizon-censoring-naral.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in support of net neutrality. It’s wrong. In this post, I debunk the second item. I debunk other items in other posts [1] [4].

Firstly, it’s not a NetNeutrality issue (which applies only to the Internet), but an issue with text-messages. In other words, it’s something that will continue to happen even with NetNeutrality rules. People relate this to NetNeutrality as an analogy, not because it actually is such an issue.

Secondly, it’s an edge/content issue, not a transit issue. The details in this case is that Verizon provides a program for sending bulk messages to its customers from the edge of the network. Verizon isn’t censoring text messages in transit, but from the edge. You can send a text message to your friend on the Verizon network, and it won’t be censored. Thus the analogy is incorrect — the correct analogy would be with content providers like Twitter and Facebook, not ISPs like Comcast.

Like all cell phone vendors, Verizon polices this content, canceling accounts that abuse the system, like spammers. We all agree such censorship is a good thing, and that such censorship of content providers is not remotely a NetNeutrality issue. Content providers do this not because they disapprove of the content of spam such much as the distaste their customers have for spam.
Content providers that are political, rather than neutral to politics is indeed worrisome. It’s not a NetNeutrality issue per se, but it is a general “neutrality” issue. We free-speech activists want all content providers (Twitter, Facebook, Verizon mass-texting programs) to be free of political censorship — though we don’t want government to mandate such neutrality.
But even here, Verizon may be off the hook. They appear not be to be censoring one political view over another, but the controversial/unsavory way Naral expresses its views. Presumably, Verizon would be okay with less controversial political content.

In other words, as Verizon expresses it’s principles, it wants to block content that drivers away customers, but is otherwise neutral to the content. While this may unfairly target controversial political content, it’s at least basically neutral.

So in conclusion, while activists portray this as a NetNeutrality issue, it isn’t. It’s not even close.

Google Wipes 786 Pirate Sites From Search Results

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-wipes-786-pirate-sites-from-search-results-171121/

Late July, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law which requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to maintain a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them.

Rozcomnadzor is required to contact the operators of such services with a request for them to block banned resources. If they do not, then they themselves will become blocked. In addition, search engines are also required to remove blocked resources from their search results, in order to discourage people from accessing them.

Removing entire domains from search results is a controversial practice and something which search providers have long protested against. They argue that it’s not their job to act as censors and in any event, content remains online, whether it’s indexed by search or not.

Nevertheless, on October 1 the new law (“On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection”) came into effect and it appears that Russia’s major search engines have been very busy in its wake.

According to a report from Rozcomnadzor, search providers Google, Yandex, Mail.ru, Rambler, and Sputnik have stopped presenting information in results for sites that have been permanently blocked by ISPs following a decision by the Moscow City Court.

“To date, search engines have stopped access to 786 pirate sites listed in the register of Internet resources which contain content distributed in violation of intellectual property rights,” the watchdog reports.

The domains aren’t being named by Rozcomnadzor or the search engines but are almost definitely those sites that have had complaints filed against them at the City Court on multiple occasions but have failed to take remedial action. Also included will be mirror and proxy sites which either replicate or facilitate access to these blocked and apparently defiant domains.

The news comes in the wake of reports earlier this month that Russia is considering a rapid site blocking mechanism that could see domains rendered inaccessible within 24 hours, without any parties having to attend a court hearing.

While it’s now extremely clear that Russia has one of the most aggressive site-blocking regimes in the world, with both ISPs and search engines required to prevent access to infringing sites, it’s uncertain whether these measures will be enough to tackle rampant online piracy.

New research published in October by Group-IB revealed that despite thousands of domains being blocked, last year the market for pirate video in Russia more than doubled.

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

Swedish Data Authority Investigates Piracy Settlement Letters

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swedish-data-authority-investigates-piracy-settlement-letters-171115/

Companies that aim to turn piracy into profit have been in existence for more than a decade but still the controversy around their practices continues.

Most, known colloquially as ‘copyright trolls’, monitor peer-to-peer networks such as BitTorrent, collecting IP addresses and other data in order to home in on a particular Internet account. From there, ISPs are sued to hand over that particular subscriber’s personal details. Once they’re obtained, the pressure begins.

At this point, trolls are in direct contact with the public, usually by letter. Their tone is almost always semi-aggressive, warning account holders that their actions are undermining entire industries. However, as if by magic, all the harm can be undone if they pay up few hundred dollars, euros, or pounds – quickly.

That’s the case in Sweden, where law firm Njord Law is representing the well-known international copyright trolls behind the movies CELL, IT, London Has Fallen, Mechanic: Resurrection, Criminal, and September of Shiraz.

“Have you, or other people with access to the aforementioned IP address, such as children living at home, viewed or tried to watch [a pirate movie] at the specified time?” Njord Law now writes in its letters to alleged pirates.

“If so, the case can be terminated by paying 4,500 SEK [$550].”

It’s clear that the companies involved are diving directly for cash. Indeed, letter recipients are told they have just two weeks to pay up or face further issues. The big question now is whether these demands are permissible under law, not necessarily from a copyright angle but due to the way they are presented to the alleged pirates.

The Swedish Data Protection Authority (Datainspektionen) is a public authority tasked with protecting the privacy of the individual in the information society. Swedish Radio reports that it has received several complaints from Swedes who have received cash demands and as a result is investigating whether the letters are legal.

As a result, the authority now has to determine whether the letters can be regarded as a debt collection measure. If so, they will have to comply with special laws and would also require special permission.

“They have not classified this as a debt collection fee, but it is not that element that is crucial. A debt collection measure is determined by whether there is any kind of pressure on the recipient to make a payment. Then there is the question of whether such pressure can be considered a debt collection measure,” says lawyer Camilla Sparr.

Of course, the notion that the letters exist for the purposes of collecting a debt is rejected by Njord Law. Lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen says that his company has had no problems in this respect in other jurisdictions.

“We have encountered the same issue in Denmark and Finland and it was judged by the authorities that there is no talk about a debt collection letter,” Clausen told SR.

A lot hinges on the investigation of the Data Protection Authority. Njord Law has already obtained permission to find out the identities behind tens of thousands of IP addresses, including a single batch where 25,000 customers of ISP Telia were targeted.

At least 5,000 letters demanding payment have been sent out already and another 5,000 are lined up for the next few months. Clausen says their purpose is to change Swedes’ attitude towards illegal file sharing but there’s a broad belief that they’re part of a global network of companies whose aims are to generate profit from piracy.

But while the Data Protection Authority does its work, there is plenty of advice for letter recipients who don’t want to cave into demands for cash. Last month, Copyright Professor Sanna Wolk advised them to ignore the letters entirely.

“Do not pay. You do not even have to answer it,” Wolk told people receiving a letter.

“In the end, it’s the court that will decide whether you have to pay or not. We have seen this type of letter in the past, and only very few times those in charge of the claims have taken it to court.”

Of course, should copyright holders actually take a matter to court, then recipients must contest the claim since failure to do so could result in a default judgment. This means they lose the case without even having had the opportunity to mount a defense.

Importantly, one such defense could be that the individual didn’t carry out the offense, perhaps because their WiFi isn’t password protected or that they share their account with others.

“Someone who has an open network cannot be held responsible for copyright violations – such as downloading movies – if they provide others with access to their internet connection. This has been decided in a European Court ruling last year,” Wolk noted.

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Community Profile: Matthew Timmons-Brown

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/community-profile-matthew-timmons-brown/

This column is from The MagPi issue 57. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

“I first set up my YouTube channel because I noticed a massive lack of video tutorials for the Raspberry Pi,” explains Matthew Timmons-Brown, known to many as The Raspberry Pi Guy. At 18 years old, the Cambridge-based student has more than 60 000 subscribers to his channel, making his account the most successful Raspberry Pi–specific YouTube account to date.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

Matt gives a talk at the Raspberry Pi 5th Birthday weekend event

The Raspberry Pi Guy

If you’ve attended a Raspberry Pi event, there’s a good chance you’ve already met Matt. And if not, you’ll have no doubt come across one or more of his tutorials and builds online. On more than one occasion, his work has featured on the Raspberry Pi blog, with his yearly Raspberry Pi roundup videos being a staple of the birthday celebrations.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

With his website, Matt aimed to collect together “the many strands of The Raspberry Pi Guy” into one, neat, cohesive resource — and it works. From newcomers to the credit card-sized computer to hardened Pi veterans, The Raspberry Pi Guy offers aid and inspiration for many. Looking for a review of the Raspberry Pi Zero W? He’s filmed one. Looking for a step-by-step guide to building a Pi-powered Amazon Alexa? No problem, there’s one of those too.

Make your Raspberry Pi artificially intelligent! – Amazon Alexa Personal Assistant Tutorial

Artificial Intelligence. A hefty topic that has dominated the field since computers were first conceived. What if I told you that you could put an artificial intelligence service on your own $30 computer?! That’s right! In this tutorial I will show you how to create your own artificially intelligent personal assistant, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition and information service!

Raspberry Pi electric skateboard

Last summer, Matt introduced the world to his Raspberry Pi-controlled electric skateboard, soon finding himself plastered over local press as well as the BBC and tech sites like Adafruit and geek.com. And there’s no question as to why the build was so popular. With YouTubers such as Casey Neistat increasing the demand for electric skateboards on a near-daily basis, the call for a cheaper, home-brew version has quickly grown.

DIY 30KM/H ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD – RASPBERRY PI/WIIMOTE POWERED

Over the summer, I made my own electric skateboard using a £4 Raspberry Pi Zero. Controlled with a Nintendo Wiimote, capable of going 30km/h, and with a range of over 10km, this project has been pretty darn fun. In this video, you see me racing around Cambridge and I explain the ins and outs of this project.

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Nintendo Wii Remote, and a little help from members of the Cambridge Makespace community, Matt built a board capable of reaching 30km/h, with a battery range of 10km per charge. Alongside Neistat, Matt attributes the project inspiration to Australian student Tim Maier, whose build we previously covered in The MagPi.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and Eben Upton standing in a car park looking at a smartphone

LiDAR

Despite the success and the fun of the electric skateboard (including convincing Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton to have a go for local television news coverage), the project Matt is most proud of is his wireless LiDAR system for theoretical use on the Mars rovers.

Matthew Timmons-Brown's LiDAR project for scanning terrains with lasers

Using a tablet app to define the angles, Matt’s A Level coursework LiDAR build scans the surrounding area, returning the results to the touchscreen, where they can be manipulated by the user. With his passion for the cosmos and the International Space Station, it’s no wonder that this is Matt’s proudest build.

Built for his A Level Computer Science coursework, the build demonstrates Matt’s passion for space and physics. Used as a means of surveying terrain, LiDAR uses laser light to measure distance, allowing users to create 3D-scanned, high-resolution maps of a specific area. It is a perfect technology for exploring unknown worlds.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and two other young people at a reception in the Houses of Parliament

Matt was invited to St James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament as part of the Raspberry Pi community celebrations in 2016

Joining the community

In a recent interview at Hills Road Sixth Form College, where he is studying mathematics, further mathematics, physics, and computer science, Matt revealed where his love of electronics and computer science started. “I originally became interested in computer science in 2012, when I read a tiny magazine article about a computer that I would be able to buy with pocket money. This was a pretty exciting thing for a 12-year-old! Your own computer… for less than £30?!” He went on to explain how it became his mission to learn all he could on the subject and how, months later, his YouTube channel came to life, cementing him firmly into the Raspberry Pi community

The post Community Profile: Matthew Timmons-Brown appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Sci-Hub Won’t Be Blocked by US ISPs Anytime Soon

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-wont-be-blocked-by-us-isps-anytime-soon-171111/

Sci-Hub, often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” hasn’t had a particularly good run in US courts so far.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages late last week.

In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site.

The order specifically mentions domain registrars and hosting companies, but also search engines and ISPs, although only those who are in “active concert or participation” with the site. This order sparked fears that Google, Comcast, and others would be ordered to take action, but that’s not the case.

After the news broke ACS issued a press release clarifying that it would not go after search engines and ISPs when they are not in “active participation” with Sci-Hub. The problem is that this can be interpreted quite broadly, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty.

Luckily, ACS Director Glenn Ruskin was willing to provide more clarity. He stressed that search engines and ISPs won’t be targeted for simply linking users to Sci-Hub. Companies that host the content are a target though.

“The court’s affirmative ruling does not apply to search engines writ large, but only to those entities who have been in active concert or participation with Sci-Hub, such as websites that host ACS content stolen by Sci-Hub,” Ruskin said.

When we asked whether this means that ISPs such as Comcast are not likely to be targeted, the answer was affirmative.

“That is correct, unless the internet service provider has been in active concert or participation with SciHub. Simply linking to SciHub does not rise to be in active concert or participation,” Ruskin clarified.

The above suggests that ACS will go after domain name registrars, hosting companies, and perhaps Cloudflare, but not any further. Still, even if that’s the case there is cause for worry among several digital rights activists.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes that these type of orders set a dangerous precedent. The concept of “active concert or participation” should only cover close associates and co-conspirators, not everyone who provides a service to the defendant. Domain registrars and registries have often been compelled to take action in similar cases, but EFF says this goes too far.

“The courts need to limit who can be bound by orders like this one, to prevent them from being abused,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz informs TorrentFreak.

“In particular, domain name registrars and registries shouldn’t be ordered to help take down a website because of a dispute over the site’s contents. That invites others to use the domain name system as a tool for censorship.”

News of the Sci-Hub injunction has sparked controversy and confusion in recent days, not least because Sci-hub.cc became unavailable soon after. Instead of showing the usual search box, visitors now see a “403 Forbidden” error message. On top of that, the bulletproof Tor version of the site also went offline.

The error message indicates that there’s a hosting issue. While it’s easy to conclude that the court’s injunction has something to do with this, that might not necessarily be the case. Sci-Hub’s hosting company isn’t tied to the US and has a history of protecting sites from takedown efforts.

We reached out to Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for comment but we’re yet to receive a response. The site hasn’t posted any relevant updates on its social media pages either.

That said, the site is far from done. In addition to the Tor domain, Sci-Hub has several other backups in place such as Sci-Hub.io and Sci-Hub.ac, which are up and running as usual.

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

Russia Plans Instant Movie Pirate Site Blockades, Without Court Order

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-plans-instant-movie-pirate-site-blockades-without-court-order-171108/

A decade ago online pirates had more or less free rein in Russia, but much has changed in recent years.

With the introduction of several new laws, the country has been very aggressive in its anti-piracy approach, outpacing the United States and other western countries in several key areas.

At the center of many of these efforts is Rozcomnadzor. The controversial Russian Government body is responsible for managing web-blockades against pirate portals and other disruptive sites, which are censored on a broad scale.

In addition to regular pirate sites, Rozcomnadzor also has the power to block their proxies and mirrors, and even VPN services which can be used to circumvent these measures. However, according to a recent proposal from the Russian government, this is not enough.

A new amendment that that was published by the Ministry of Culture proposes to allow for near-instant pirate site blockades to protect the local movie industry, Vedomosti reports.

Russian officials state that people often skip a visit to the movie theater when a pirated copy is available, depriving the makers of a crucial source of income. While filmmakers and other copyright holders can already report infringing sites, it’s a relatively slow process.

At the moment, website owners are given three days to remove infringing content before any action is taken. Under the new proposal, site blockades would be implemented less than 24 hours after Rozcomnadzor is alerted. Website owners will not get the chance to remove the infringing content and a court order isn’t required either.

Vladimir Medinsky, Russia’s Minister of Culture, has been a proponent of such pre-judicial blockades for a while, but his previous proposals didn’t receive support in the State Duma.

The new blocking plans go further than any of the previous legislation, but they will only apply to movies that have “a national film certificate” from Russian authorities, as HWR points out. This doesn’t cover any Hollywood movies, which typically top the local box office.

Hollywood’s industry group MPAA is not going to appreciate being left out, but its critique isn’t new. Despite all the new anti-piracy laws, the group is generally critical of Russia’s copyright enforcement policies.

“Russia needs to increase its enforcement activity well beyond current levels to provide adequate and effective enforcement of IPR violations, including the imposition of criminal deterrent penalties,” the MPAA wrote in its recent trade barriers report.

That said, the group was positive about the new law that allows rightsholders to have proxy sites and mirrors banned.

“The recently-enacted amendment to the Anti-Piracy law should constrain the ability of wrongdoers to simply modify their internet sites and continue to operate in violation of the law,” the MPAA added.

From a Hollywood perspective, it certainly beats blocking no sites at all, which is largely the case in the US at the moment.

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

MPAA Warns Australia Not to ‘Mess’ With Fair Use and Geo-Blocking

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-warns-australia-not-mess-with-fair-use-and-geo-blocking-171107/

Last year, the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission published a Draft Report on Intellectual Property Arrangements, recommending various amendments to local copyright law.

The Commission suggested allowing the use of VPNs and similar technologies to enable consumers to bypass restrictive geo-blocking. It also tabled proposals to introduce fair use exceptions and to expand safe harbors for online services.

Two months ago the Government responded to these proposals. It promised to expand the safe harbor protections and announced a consultation on fair use, describing the current fair dealing exceptions as restrictive. The Government also noted that circumvention of geo-blocks may be warranted, in some cases.

While the copyright reform plans have been welcomed with wide support from the public and companies such as Google and Wikipedia, there’s also plenty of opposition. From Hollywood, for example, which fears that the changes will set back Australia’s progress to combat piracy.

A few days ago, the MPAA submitted its 2018 list of foreign trade barriers to the U.S. Government. The document in question highlights key copyright challenges in the most crucial markets, Australia included. According to the movie industry group, the tabled proposals are problematic.

“If the Commission’s recommendations were adopted, they could result in legislative changes that undermine the current balance of protection in Australia. These changes could create significant market uncertainty and effectively weaken Australia’s infrastructure for intellectual property protection,” the MPAA writes.

“Of concern is a proposal to introduce a vague and undefined ‘fair use’ exception unmoored from decades of precedent in the United States. Another proposal would expand Australia’s safe harbor regime in piecemeal fashion,” the group adds.

The fair use opposition is noteworthy since the Australian proposal is largely modeled after US law. The MPAA’s comment suggests, however, that this can’t be easily applied to another country, as that would lack the legal finetuning that’s been established in dozens of court cases.

That the MPAA isn’t happy with the expansion of safe harbor protections for online service providers is no surprise. In recent years, copyright holders have often complained that these protections hinder progress on the anti-piracy front, as companies such as Google and Facebook have no incentive to proactively police copyright infringement.

Moving on, the movie industry group highlights that circumvention of geo-blocking for copyrighted content and other protection measures are also controversial topics for Hollywood.

“Still another would allow circumvention of geo-blocking and other technological protection measures. Australia has one of the most vibrant creative economies in the world and its current legal regime has helped the country become the site of major production investments.

“Local policymakers should take care to ensure that Australia’s vibrant market is not inadvertently impaired and that any proposed relaxation of copyright and related rights protection does not violate Australia’s international obligations,” the MPAA adds.

Finally, while it was not included in the commission’s recommendations, the MPAA stresses once again that Australia’s anti-camcording laws are not up to par.

Although several camming pirates have been caught in recent years, the punishments don’t meet Hollywood’s standards. For example, in 2012 a man connected to a notorious release group was convicted for illicitly recording 14 audio captures, for which he received an AUS$2,000 fine.

“Australia should adopt anticamcording legislation. While illegal copying is a violation of the Copyright Act, more meaningful deterrent penalties are required,” the MPAA writes. “Such low penalties fail to reflect the devastating impact that this crime has on the film industry.”

The last suggestion has been in the MPAA’s recommendations for several years already, but the group is persistent.

In closing, the MPAA asks the US Government to keep these and other issues in focus during future trade negotiations and policy discussions with Australia and other countries, while thanking it for the critical assistance Hollywood has received over the years.

MPAA’s full submission, which includes many of the recommendations that were made in previous years, is available here (pdf).

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Book Author Trolled Pirates With Fake Leak to Make a Point

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/book-author-trolled-pirates-with-fake-leak-to-make-a-point-171104/

When it comes to how piracy affects sales, there are thousands of different opinions. This applies to music, movies, software and many other digital products, including ebooks.

When we interviewed Paulo Coelho nearly ten years ago, he pointed out how piracy helped him to sell more books. While a lot has changed since then, he still sees the benefits of piracy today.

However, for many other authors, piracy is a menace. They cringe at the sight of their book being shared online and believe that hurts their bottom line. This includes Maggie Stiefvater, who’s known for The Raven Cycle books, among others.

This week she responded to a tweet from a self-confessed pirate, stating that piracy got the box set of the Raven Cycle canceled. As is usual on social media, it quickly turned into a mess.

Instead of debating the controversial issue indefinitely in 140 character tweets, Stiefvater did what authors do best. She put her thoughts on paper. In a Tumblr post, she countered the belief that piracy doesn’t hurt authors and that pirates wouldn’t pay for a book anyway.

The story shared by Stiefvater isn’t hypothetical, it’s real-world experience. She had noticed that the third book in the Raven Cycle wasn’t doing as well as earlier editions. While this is not uncommon for a series, the sales drop was not equal across all formats, but mostly driven by a lack of eBook sales.

While her publisher wasn’t certain that piracy was to blame, Stiefvater was convinced it played an important role. After all, the interest in her book tours was growing and there was plenty of talk about the books online as well. So when the publisher said that the print run of her new book the Raven King would be cut in half compared to a previous release, she came up with a plan.

Instead of trying to take all pirated copies down following the new release, she created her own, with help from her brother. But one with a twist.

“It was impossible to take down every illegal pdf; I’d already seen that. So we were going to do the opposite. We created a pdf of the Raven King. It was the same length as the real book, but it was just the first four chapters over and over again,” Stiefvater writes.

“I knew we wouldn’t be able to hold the fort for long — real versions would slowly get passed around by hand through forum messaging — but I told my brother: I want to hold the fort for one week. Enough to prove a point. Enough to show everyone that this is no longer 2004. This is the smart phone generation, and a pirated book sometimes is a lost sale.”

And so it happened. When the book came out April last year, customized pirated copies were planted all over the Internet by the author’s brother. People were stumbling all over them, making it near impossible to find a real pirated copy.

“He uploaded dozens and dozens and dozens of these pdfs of The Raven King. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting one of his pdfs. We sailed those epub seas with our own flag shredding the sky.”

This paid off. Many people could only find the “troll” copies and saw no other option than to buy the real deal.

“The effects were instant. The forums and sites exploded with bewildered activity. Fans asked if anyone had managed to find a link to a legit pdf. Dozens of posts appeared saying that since they hadn’t been able to find a pdf, they’d been forced to hit up Amazon and buy the book.”

As a result, the first print of the book sold out in two days. Stiefvater was on tour and at some stores she visited, the books were no longer available. The publisher had to print more and more until… the inevitable happened.

“Then the pdfs hit the forums and e-sales sagged and it was business as usual, but it didn’t matter: I’d proven the point. Piracy has consequences,” Stiefvater writes, summarizing the morale of her story.

While this is unlikely to change the minds of undeterred pirates, it might strike a chord with some people.

Of course Stiefvater’s anecdote is no better that Coelho’s, who argued the opposite in the past. Perhaps the real takeaway is that piracy doesn’t have any fixed effects and it certainly can’t be captured in oneliners either. It’s a complex puzzle of dozens of constantly changing factors, which will likely never be solved.

Maggie Stiefvater’s full Tumblr post is a recommended read and can be found here, or below.

http://maggie-stiefvater.tumblr.com/post/166952028861/ive-decided-to-tell-you-guys-a-story-about

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Trolls Want to Seize Alleged Movie Pirates’ Computers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/trolls-want-to-seize-alleged-movie-pirates-computers-171101/

Five years ago, a massive controversy swept Finland. Local anti-piracy group CIAPC (known locally as TTVK) sent a letter to a man they accused of illegal file-sharing.

The documents advised the man to pay a settlement of 600 euros and sign a non-disclosure document, to make a threatened file-sharing lawsuit disappear. He made the decision not to cave in.

Then, in November 2012, there was an 8am call at the man’s door. Police, armed with a search warrant, said they were there to find evidence of illicit file-sharing. Eventually the culprit was found. It was the man’s 9-year-old daughter who had downloaded an album by local multi-platinum-selling songstress Chisu from The Pirate Bay, a whole year earlier.

Police went on to seize the child’s Winnie the Pooh-branded laptop and Chisu was horrified, posting public apologies on the Internet to her young fans. Five years on, it seems that pro-copyright forces in Finland are treading the same path.

Turre Legal, a law firm involved in defending file-sharing matters, has issued a warning that copyright trolls have filed eight new cases at the Market Court, the venue for previous copyright battles in the country.

“According to information provided by the Market Court, Crystalis Entertainment, previously active in such cases, filed three new copyright cases and initiated five pre-trial applications in October 2017,” says lawyer Herkko Hietanen.

The involvement of Crystalis Entertainment adds further controversy into the mix. The company isn’t an official movie distributor but obtained the rights to distribute content on BitTorrent networks instead. It doesn’t do so officially, instead preferring to bring prosecutions against file-sharers’ instead.

Like the earlier ‘Chisu’ case, the trolls’ law firms have moved extremely slowly. Hietanen reports that some of the new cases reference alleged file-sharing that took place two years ago in 2015.

“It would seem that right-holders want to show that even old cases may have to face justice,” says Hietanen.

“However, applications for enforceability may be a pre-requisite for computer confiscation by a bailiff for independent investigations. It is possible that seizures of the teddy bears of the past years will make a comeback,” he added, referencing the ‘Chisu’ case.

Part of the reason behind the seizure requests is that some people defending against copyright trolls have been obtaining reports from technical experts who have verified that no file-sharing software is present on their machines. The trolls say that this is a somewhat futile exercise since any ‘clean’ machine can be presented for inspection. On this basis, seizure on site is a better option.

While the moves for seizure are somewhat aggressive, things haven’t been getting easier for copyright trolls in Finland recently.

In February 2017, an alleged file-sharer won his case when a court ruled that copyright holders lacked sufficient evidence to show that the person in question downloaded the files, in part because his Wi-Fi network was open to the public

Then, in the summer of 2017, the Market Court tightened the parameters under which Internet service providers are compelled to hand over the identities of suspected file-sharers to copyright owners.

The Court determined that this could only happen in serious cases of unlawful distribution. This, Hietanen believes, is partially the reason that the groups behind the latest cases are digging up old infringements.

“After the verdict of the summer, I assumed that rightsholders would have to operate with old information, at least for a while,” he says. “Rightsholders want to show that litigation is still possible.”

The big question, of course, is what people should do if they receive a settlement letter. In some jurisdictions, the advice is to ignore, until proper legal documentation arrives.

Hietanen says the matter in Finland is serious and should be treated as such. There’s always a possibility that after failing to receive a response, a copyright holder could go to court to obtain a default judgment, meaning the alleged file-sharer is immediately found guilty.

In the current cases, the Market Court will now have to decide whether unannounced seizures are required to preserve evidence. For cases already dating back two years, there will be plenty of discussions to be had, for and against. But in the meantime, Hedman Partners, the company representing the copyright trolls, warn that more cases are on the way.

“We have put in place new requests for information after the summer. We have a large number of complaints in preparation. More are coming,” lawyer Joni Hatanmaa says.

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

Appeals Court Grills Cox and BMG in Piracy Liability Case

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/appeals-court-grills-cox-and-bmg-in-piracy-liability-case-171027/

December 2015, a Virginia federal jury ruled that Internet provider Cox Communications was responsible for the copyright infringements of its subscribers.

The ISP was found guilty of willful contributory copyright infringement and ordered to pay music publisher BMG Rights Management $25 million in damages.

Cox swiftly filed its appeal arguing that the district court made several errors that may ultimately restrict the public’s access to Internet services.

This week the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral argument from both sides, which turned out to be an interesting exercise. The panel of judges Motz, Shedd, and Wynn grilled of both attorneys in an effort to distill the crucial arguments.

Cox attorney Michael Elkin was first up. Among other things, he stressed that Cox didn’t have actual and sufficient knowledge of the claimed infringements.

While BMG uncovered internal Cox emails discussing how frequent offenders were kept on board, these were not specifically discussing BMG infringed works, he argues. However, Judge Wynn stressed that the emails in question did discuss Cox’s policy of not disconnecting infringers.

“But they’re talking about the general abuse department in terms of, where we get these things, this is what we’re going to do with them because we don’t want to lose customers. I mean, it’s the same thing,” he said.

It’s also clear that BMG sent over a million takedown notices to Cox. However, since these were not the ones referenced in the company’s internal emails, these are irrelevant when it comes to the company’s liability for alleged contributory infringement, Cox’s attorney noted.

The back and forth over various issues became rather lively up to a point where Elkin was asked to stop interrupting. “When a judge speaks, you have to be quiet,” Judge Shedd said.

BMG attorney Michael Allan was next in line to present his arguments, which were also carefully dissected by the judges. The attorney stressed that in addition to the takedown notices, BMG provided Cox with a wealth of information on the alleged infringers.

He explained that they sent 1.8 million takedown notices to Cox. When asked what the Internet provider should do with all these notices, Allan mentioned the dashboard they made available, which would help the ISP to check all claims.

“We also provided them with a dashboard. It’s a searchable website that they can search by most egregious repeat infringer, they can pull up every single piece of information we’ve ever provided to them, and they can play the actual songs that were downloaded,” BMG’s attorney said.

Judge Wynn, however, questioned whether the ISP’s abuse department would listen to thousands of infringing songs.

“An internet service provider is going to receive 20,000 of these things per day, 1.8 million a year, or whatever, I don’t care. And they’re going to start playing songs and things like that to see if it’s going on?

“You think that’s where this case is going to go?” Wynn added.

The judges then moved on to the repeat infringer question. An important question asked, was what a ‘repeat infringer’ actually is. BMG’s attorney described this as “someone who repeatedly infringes copyright,” but that wasn’t enough.

“How does somebody know a third party is an infringer? ‘Cause you say so?” Judge Shedd asked.

Cox, for example, sees a repeat infringer as someone who has been previously adjudicated, not someone who has received several takedown notices. Eventually, all had to admit that a repeat infringer is not clearly defined in the DMCA.

Judge Wynn then moved on to highlight another peculiarity. While this case deals with Cox’s failure to implement a repeat infringer policy, this legal requirement by itself is rather meaningless. Even when subscribers are disconnected, they can still join another ISP or come back to Cox after a few months, which makes it pointless.

“As Judge Motz indicated it’s not a perfect solution,” BMG’s lawyer commented.

“It’s not even a good one,” Judge Wynn added.

Another controversial topic that came up is the fact that Cox refused to pass on BMG’s demands because the ISP saw the included settlement demands as extortion. While BMG’s attorney tried to downplay the money issue, Judge Shedd made it very clear what this case is actually about.

“[The DMCA notice] says: you are infringing, you can go to this website and click and pay us $20 or $30. If not, you’re looking at a $150,000 fine. It was about collecting money. We don’t dance around that do we?” Shedd said.

Both Cox and BMG ultimately wanted money from the allegedly infringing subscribers, who might now face an even bigger threat.

“You have two corporations fighting over money, which may be justified. But the net effect of this battle is going to be up against another policy, which is, I think it is the policy, that people should have access to the Internet,” Judge Shedd said.

While the case can still go either way, the oral hearing suggests that the panel of judges is not putting too much weight on the notices sent by BMG. The internal emails from Cox appear to be the key part. Still, we’ll have to wait for the full opinion to see if that’s really true.

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

Pirate-Friendly Coinhive’s DNS Hacked, User Hashes Stolen

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-friendly-coinhives-dns-hacked-user-hashes-stolen-171025/

Just over a month ago, a Javascript cryptocurrency miner was silently added to The Pirate Bay. Noticed by users who observed their CPU usage going through the roof, it later transpired the site was trialing a miner operated by Coinhive.

Many users were disappointed that The Pirate Bay had added the Javascript-based Monero coin miner without their permission. However, it didn’t take long for people to see the potential benefits, with a raft of other sites adding the miner in the hope of generating additional revenue.

Now, however, Coinhive has an unexpected and potentially serious problem to deal with. The company has just revealed that on Monday night its DNS records maintained at Cloudflare were accessed by a third-party, allowing an unnamed attacker to redirect user mining traffic to a server they controlled.

“The DNS records for coinhive.com have been manipulated to redirect requests for the coinhive.min.js to a third party server. This third party server hosted a modified version of the JavaScript file with a hardcoded site key. This essentially let the attacker ‘steal’ hashes from our users,” Coinhive said in a statement.

The company hasn’t revealed how long the unauthorized redirect stayed in place for, but it appears that all coins mined on sites hosting Coinhive’s script were ‘stolen’ during the period, instead of being credited to their accounts.

Coinhive stresses that no user account information was leaked and that its website and database servers were uncompromised. But while that’s good news, the method that the hackers used to access the company’s DNS provider lay in a basic security error.

Back in 2014, crowdfunding platform Kickstarter – which Coinhive used – fell victim to a security breach. After being advised of the fact by law enforcement officials, Kickstarter shut down unauthorized access, began strengthening its systems, while advising customers to do the same.

While Coinhive did respond to the warning to ensure that its data was safe, something slipped through the net. One piece of information – its Cloudflare account password – remained unchanged after the Kickstarter attack. It now seems the most likely culprit for this week’s DNS breach.

“The root cause for this incident was an insecure password for our Cloudflare account that was probably leaked with the Kickstarter data breach back in 2014,” Coinhive says.

“We have learned hard lessons about security and used 2FA and unique passwords with all services since, but we neglected to update our years old Cloudflare account.”

While not mentioning Coinhive explicitly, Kickstarter warned earlier this month that the 2014 incident may not be completely over. In an update posted on the site Oct 6, Kickstarter noted that some of its customers had recently been hearing more information about the breach from notification service Have I been pwned?.

In the meantime, Coinhive has issued an apology and indicated it will find ways to reimburse sites which have lost revenue as a result of the DNS hack.

“We’re deeply sorry about this severe oversight,” the company said. “Our current plan is to credit all sites with an additional 12 hours of their the daily average hashrate. Please give us a few hours to roll this out.”

Based on earlier calculations carried out by TF, The Pirate Bay (if it was mining during the breach) could be potentially owed around $200 for the lost hashes, give or take. After turning off mining in September, the site reactivated it again in October, with no opt-out. The situation appears fluid.

While the hack is obviously a disappointment, Coinhive appears to have advised its users quickly and transparently, which under the circumstances is exactly what’s required. The fact that it’s offering compensation to users will also be welcomed.

The breach is the latest controversy to hit the company. Earlier this month, Cloudflare began banning sites which implemented Coinhive mining without informing their users. The CDN company said it considered non-advised mining as malware.

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

Russian Site-Blocking Chiefs Under Investigation For Fraud

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russian-site-blocking-chiefs-under-investigation-for-fraud-171024/

Over the past several years, Rozcomnadzor has become a highly controversial government body in Russia. With responsibility for ordering web-blockades against sites the country deems disruptive, it’s effectively Russia’s online censorship engine.

In total, Rozcomnadzor has ordered the blocking of more than 82,000 sites. Within that total, at least 4,000 have been rendered inaccessible on copyright grounds, with an additional 41,000 innocent platforms blocked as collateral damage.

This massive over-blocking has been widely criticized in Russia but until now, Rozcomnadzor has appeared pretty much untouchable. However, a scandal is now engulfing the organization after at least four key officials were charged with fraud offenses.

News that something was potentially amiss began leaking out two weeks ago, when Russian publication Vedomosti reported on a court process in which the initials of the defendants appeared to coincide with officials at Rozcomnadzor.

The publication suspected that three men were involved; Roskomnadzor spokesman Vadim Ampelonsky, head of the legal department Boris Yedidin, and Alexander Veselchakov, who acts as an advisor to the head of the department monitoring radio frequencies.

The prosecution’s case indicated that the defendants were involved in “fraud committed by an organized group either on an especially large scale or entailing the deprivation of citizen’s rights.” Indeed, no further details were made available, with the head of Rozcomnadzor Alexander Zharov claiming he knew nothing about a criminal case and refusing to answer questions.

It later transpired that four employees had been charged with fraud, including Anastasiya Zvyagintseva, who acts as the general director of CRFC, an agency under the control of Rozcomnadzor.

According to Kommersant, Zvyagintseva’s involvement is at the core of the matter. She claims to have been forced to put “ghost employees” on the payroll, whose salaries were then paid to existing employees in order to increase their salaries.

The investigation into the scandal certainly runs deep. It’s reported that FSB officers have been spying on Rozcomnadzor officials for six months, listening to their phone conversations, monitoring their bank accounts, and even watching the ATM machines they used.

Local media reports indicate that the illegal salary scheme ran from 2012 until February 2017 and involved some 20 million rubles ($347,000) of illegal payments. These were allegedly used to retain ‘valuable’ employees when their regular salaries were not lucrative enough to keep them at the site-blocking body.

While Zvyagintseva has been released pending trial, Ampelonsky, Yedidin, and Veselchakov have been placed under house arrest by the Chertanovsky Court of Moscow until November 7.

Rozcomnadzor’s website is currently inaccessible.

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

PureVPN Explains How it Helped the FBI Catch a Cyberstalker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PureVPN’s blog post is available here.

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

Cloudflare CEO Has to Explain Lack of Pirate Site Terminations

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-ceo-has-to-explain-lack-of-pirate-site-terminations-171010/

In August, Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to terminate the account of controversial neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet,” he wrote.

The decision was meant as an intellectual exercise to start a conversation regarding censorship and free speech on the internet. In this respect it was a success but the discussion went much further than Prince had intended.

Cloudflare had a long-standing policy not to remove any accounts without a court order, so when this was exceeded, eyebrows were raised. In particular, copyright holders wondered why the company could terminate this account but not those of the most notorious pirate sites.

Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan raised this question in its piracy liability case against Cloudflare, asking for a 7-hour long deposition of the company’s CEO, to find out more. Cloudflare opposed this request, saying it was overbroad and unneeded, while asking the court to weigh in.

After reviewing the matter, Magistrate Judge Alexander MacKinnon decided to allow the deposition, but in a limited form.

“An initial matter, the Court finds that ALS Scan has not made a showing that would justify a 7 hour deposition of Mr. Prince covering a wide range of topics,” the order (pdf) reads.

“On the other hand, a review of the record shows that ALS Scan has identified a narrow relevant issue for which it appears Mr. Prince has unique knowledge and for which less intrusive discovery has been exhausted.”

ALS Scan will be able to interrogate Cloudflare’s CEO but only for two hours. The deposition must be specifically tailored toward his motivation (not) to use his authority to terminate the accounts of ‘pirating’ customers.

“The specific topic is the use (or non-use) of Mr. Prince’s authority to terminate customers, as specifically applied to customers for whom Cloudflare has received notices of copyright infringement,” the order specifies.

Whether this deposition will help ALS Scan argue its case has yet to be seen. Based on earlier submissions, the CEO will likely argue that the Daily Stormer case was an exception to make a point and that it’s company policy to require a court order to respond to infringement claims.

Meanwhile, more questions are being raised. Just a few days ago Cloudflare suspended the account of a customer for using a cryptocurrency miner. Apparently, Cloudflare classifies these miners as malware, triggering a punishment without a court order.

ALS Scan and other copyright holders would like to see a similar policy against notorious pirate sites, but thus far Cloudflare is having none of it.

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