Tag Archives: seizure

Kim Dotcom Opposes US’s “Fugitive” Claims at Supreme Court

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-opposes-uss-fugitive-claims-supreme-court-170622/

megaupload-logoWhen Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were raided five years ago, the authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property.

The US government claimed the assets were obtained through copyright crimes so went after the bank accounts, cars, and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.

Kim Dotcom and his colleagues were branded as “fugitives” and the Government won its case. Dotcom’s legal team quickly appealed this verdict, but lost once more at the Fourth Circuit appeals court.

A few weeks ago Dotcom and his former colleagues petitioned the Supreme Court to take on the case.

They don’t see themselves as “fugitives” and want the assets returned. The US Government opposed the request, but according to a new reply filed by Megaupload’s legal team, the US Government ignores critical questions.

The Government has a “vested financial stake” in maintaining the current situation, they write, which allows the authorities to use their “fugitive” claims as an offensive weapon.

“Far from being directed towards persons who have fled or avoided our country while claiming assets in it, fugitive disentitlement is being used offensively to strip foreigners of their assets abroad,” the reply brief (pdf) reads.

According to Dotcom’s lawyers there are several conflicting opinions from lower courts, which should be clarified by the Supreme Court. That Dotcom and his colleagues have decided to fight their extradition in New Zealand, doesn’t warrant the seizure of their assets.

“Absent review, forfeiture of tens of millions of dollars will be a fait accompli without the merits being reached,” they write, adding that this is all the more concerning because the US Government’s criminal case may not be as strong as claimed.

“This is especially disconcerting because the Government’s criminal case is so dubious. When the Government characterizes Petitioners as ‘designing and profiting from a system that facilitated wide-scale copyright infringement,’ it continues to paint a portrait of secondary copyright infringement, which is not a crime.”

The defense team cites several issues that warrant review and urges the Supreme Court to hear the case. If not, the Government will effectively be able to use assets seizures as a pressure tool to urge foreign defendants to come to the US.

“If this stands, the Government can weaponize fugitive disentitlement in order to claim assets abroad,” the reply brief reads.

“It is time for the Court to speak to the Questions Presented. Over the past two decades it has never had a better vehicle to do so, nor is any such vehicle elsewhere in sight,” Dotcom’s lawyers add.

Whether the Supreme Court accepts or denies the case will likely be decided in the weeks to come.

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

The Pirate Bay Isn’t Affected By Adverse Court Rulings – Everyone Else Is

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-isnt-affected-by-adverse-court-rulings-everyone-else-is-170618/

For more than a decade The Pirate Bay has been the world’s most controversial site. Delivering huge quantities of copyrighted content to the masses, the platform is revered and reviled across the copyright spectrum.

Its reputation is one of a defiant Internet swashbuckler, but due to changes in how the site has been run in more recent times, its current philosophy is more difficult to gauge. What has never been in doubt, however, is the site’s original intent to be as provocative as possible.

Through endless publicity stunts, some real, some just for the ‘lulz’, The Pirate Bay managed to attract a massive audience, all while incurring the wrath of every major copyright holder in the world.

Make no mistake, they all queued up to strike back, but every subsequent rightsholder action was met by a Pirate Bay middle finger, two fingers, or chin flick, depending on the mood of the day. This only served to further delight the masses, who happily spread the word while keeping their torrents flowing.

This vicious circle of being targeted by the entertainment industries, mocking them, and then reaping the traffic benefits, developed into the cheapest long-term marketing campaign the Internet had ever seen. But nothing is ever truly for free and there have been consequences.

After taunting Hollywood and the music industry with its refusals to capitulate, endless legal action that the site would have ordinarily been forced to participate in largely took place without The Pirate Bay being present. It doesn’t take a law degree to work out what happened in each and every one of those cases, whatever complex route they took through the legal system. No defense, no win.

For example, the web-blocking phenomenon across the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia was driven by the site’s absolute resilience and although there would clearly have been other scapegoats had The Pirate Bay disappeared, the site was the ideal bogeyman the copyright lobby required to move forward.

Filing blocking lawsuits while bringing hosts, advertisers, and ISPs on board for anti-piracy initiatives were also made easier with the ‘evil’ Pirate Bay still online. Immune from every anti-piracy technique under the sun, the existence of the platform in the face of all onslaughts only strengthened the cases of those arguing for even more drastic measures.

Over a decade, this has meant a significant tightening of the sharing and streaming climate. Without any big legislative changes but plenty of case law against The Pirate Bay, web-blocking is now a walk in the park, ad hoc domain seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, and few companies want to host sharing sites. Advertisers and brands are also hesitant over where they place their ads. It’s a very different world to the one of 10 years ago.

While it would be wrong to attribute every tightening of the noose to the actions of The Pirate Bay, there’s little doubt that the site and its chaotic image played a huge role in where copyright enforcement is today. The platform set out to provoke and succeeded in every way possible, gaining supporters in their millions. It could also be argued it kicked a hole in a hornets’ nest, releasing the hell inside.

But perhaps the site’s most amazing achievement is the way it has managed to stay online, despite all the turmoil.

This week yet another ruling, this time from the powerful European Court of Justice, found that by offering links in the manner it does, The Pirate Bay and other sites are liable for communicating copyright works to the public. Of course, this prompted the usual swathe of articles claiming that this could be the final nail in the site’s coffin.

Wrong.

In common with every ruling, legal defeat, and legislative restriction put in place due to the site’s activities, this week’s decision from the ECJ will have zero effect on the Pirate Bay’s availability. For right or wrong, the site was breaking the law long before this ruling and will continue to do so until it decides otherwise.

What we have instead is a further tightened legal landscape that will have a lasting effect on everything BUT the site, including weaker torrent sites, Internet users, and user-uploaded content sites such as YouTube.

With The Pirate Bay carrying on regardless, that is nothing short of remarkable.

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

So You Want To Be An Internet Piracy Investigator?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/so-you-want-to-be-an-internet-piracy-investigator-170528/

While the authorities would like to paint a picture of Internet pirates as thoughtless thieves only interested in the theft of intellectual property, the truth is more nuanced.

Like every other online and indeed offline location, pirate sites are filled with people from all corners of society, from rich to poor, and from the basically educated to the borderline genius.

What is especially interesting is the extremely thin line between poacher and gamekeeper, between those who want to exploit intellectual property and those who want to protect it. Indeed, it is far from uncommon to find former pirates and renegade coders “going straight” by working for their former enemies.

While a repellent thought to some, it makes perfect sense. Anyone who knows the piracy scene back to front could be a valuable asset to the other side, under the right circumstances. But what does it really take to be an anti-piracy investigator?

As it happens, the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft is currently trying to fill exactly such a position. The job of “Internet Investigator” is based in the UK and the successful applicant will report to a manager. While that tends to suggest a lower pay grade, FACT are insistent that applicants meet stringent criteria.

“Working as a proactive member of the investigatory team to support the strategic objectives of FACT. Responsible for the detection, investigation, and protection of clients Intellectual Property whether physical or digital as directed by the Investigations Manager,” the listing reads.

More specifically, FACT is looking for someone with a “strong aptitude for investigation” who is capable of working under minimal supervision. The candidate is also required to have a proven record of liaising with “industry and enforcement organizations”, presumably including entertainment companies and the police.

At this point, things get pretty interesting. FACT says that the job involves assessing and investigating “individuals and entities” responsible for “illegal or infringing activity related to Intellectual Property.” Think torrent, streaming and IPTV site operators and staff, release group members, ‘Kodi Box’ sellers, infringing addon developers, even people flogging dodgy DVDs down the market.

When these investigations are being carried out, FACT expects evidence and intelligence to be gathered “ethically and in accordance with criminal procedure rules”, presumably so that cases don’t collapse when they end up in court. Which they often do.

Also of interest is how closely FACT appears to align its practices with those of the police. While the candidate is expected to liaise with law enforcement, they will also be expected to take part in briefings, seizure of evidence and prosecution support, all while “managing risks” and acting in accordance with UK legislation.

Another aspect of the job is a little cryptic, in that it requires the candidate to “locate offenders” and then undertake action “with an alternative approach to a proportionate solution.” That’s open to interpretation but it sounds very much like the home visits FACT has been known to make to site operators, who are asked to cease and desist while handing over their domains.

Unsurprisingly, FACT are looking for someone with a computer science degree or similar, and good organizational skills. Above that, it’s fairly obvious they’re seeking someone with a legal background, perhaps a law graduate or even a former police officer.

In addition to familiarity with the rules laid down in the Management of Police Information (MOPI) 2010, the candidate will be required to attend court hearings to give evidence. They’ll also need to conduct “intrusive surveillance” in accordance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and have knowledge of:

– European Convention on Human Rights Act 2000
– Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
– Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
– Data Protection Act 1998
– Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
– Fraud Act 2006
– Serious Crime Act 2007
– Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 and Trade Marks Act 1994
– Computer Misuse Act 1990
– Other applicable legislation

The window to apply has almost run out but given the laundry list of qualities above, it seems unlikely that FACT will be swamped with perfectly suitable candidates right off the bat.

Finally, it’s probably worth mentioning that former torrent site operators and release group members keen to branch out are not specifically mentioned as primary candidates, so the poacher-turned-gamekeeper applicant might want to keep that part under their hat, at least until later.

Otherwise, FACT might just slap the cuffs on there and then, in line with UK legislation and procedure, of course.

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

Texas Court Orders Temporary ‘Pre-Piracy’ Shutdown of Sports Streaming Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/texas-court-orders-temporary-pre-piracy-shutdown-of-sports-streaming-sites-170513/

Copyright holders often complain that they have virtually no means to target pirate sites, especially those run from overseas.

Interestingly, however, in recent months it has become apparent that the US Federal Court system can be used as a prime enforcement tool to shut down pirate domain names.

This is also the path Indian media outfit Times Content Limited (TCL) decided to go down. The company operates the cricket channel Willow TV and owns the US broadcasting rights to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament, which is currently ongoing.

Two weeks ago the company sued several sports streaming sites including smartcric.com and crickethdlive.com. These sites allow users to watch cricket games for free over the Internet, without permission.

To stop this from taking place, the Indian company requested a broad injunction, which the court granted last week.

The preliminary injunction (pdf) orders various third party providers to stop working with these sites effective immediately to prevent future copyright infringements. This also applies to any new domain names or websites the operators may launch.

“…all service providers whose services will enable or facilitate Defendants’ anticipated infringement are ordered to suspend all services with respect to smartcric.com, smartcric.eu, crickethdlive.com, and crickethdlive.pw, or any other website or domain that is redirected from the Websites and continues to distribute and publicly perform the 2017 IPL,” it reads.

Domain registries and registrars are not the only parties that are compelled to comply. It also lists a broad range of intermediaries including hosting companies, CDN services, advertising outfits, and streaming providers.

Where this order clearly differs from similar injunctions in the US is that it specifically targets “anticipated infringement.” Or put differently, it aims to prevent piracy before it takes place.

From the injunction

What stands out further is that the injunction is temporary in nature. It only applies while the Cricket tournament is active. This ends on May 22, after which the parties involved are free to lift or reverse the actions they took.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court’s intent is to ensure that Defendants’ Websites be rendered offline, inaccessible and incapable of receiving or displaying audio or video signals between the date of this order and 6:00 am. CDT on May 22, 2017,” the injunction reads.

Over the past few days several of the seized domain names have been placed in a Godaddy holding account belonging to the law firm that represents TCL. And per court order, they will stay there until said date.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the case is over after the tournament ends. In the complaint, TCL also requests damages and other punitive measures, which is something that has to be decided over at a later date.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of the streaming sites in question, who says that the lawsuit took him by surprise. After losing his initial domain names he registered several new ones, but these were swiftly taken down as well.

“I moved Smartcric.com to Smartcric.be and Crickethdlive.com to Crickethdlive.pw. However, both domains were suspended as well within a day. Later, I moved Crickethdlive content to Crickethdlive.to however that was suspended yesterday as well,” the operator says.

“It was shocking to see that non-US registries were following the order issued by a US court. It was unfair and unjust to comply with orders of a non-competent court by these registries.”

Interestingly, one of the domain names was registered through the domain name service Njalla, which Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde recently launched. Sunde stresses that the domain was seized beyond their control and that no personal information was shared.

“We’re looking into the case at the moment, but the court took the domain and sent it to a legal firm. We have no way of going above the court and ICANN on this. However, we have of course not sent any information about the customer to anyone,” Sunde says.

The streaming site operator still doubts that he will get his domain names back after the injunction expires. Instead, he’s decided to focus his effort on finding a domain name that falls outside of the scope of the US courts.

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

Original KickassTorrents Domain Goes Up For Sale

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/original-kickasstorrents-domain-goes-up-for-sale-170507/

Last summer a criminal investigation by the U.S. Government brought down KickassTorrents, the largest torrent site at the time.

Upon request from the United States, law enforcement in Poland arrested Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, who’s been held in a local prison ever since.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) also went after six domain names that were tied to the site, including KickassTorrents.com, Kat.cr, Kickass.to and Kat.ph. However, it appears that not everything went as planned.

While seizing U.S. linked domains including the .com was relatively easy, the Philippine .ph domain was never seized.

KAT domains, listed by the DoJ

In the legal paperwork, the DoJ mentions that the foreign registries would be approached through a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, and asked to point the domains to servers controlled by Homeland Security Investigations.

“The seizure warrants for the remaining Subject Domains will be sent through Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty requests to Costa Rica, Tonga, and the Philippines to seize and redirect the name server to an HSI-owned server.”

This did indeed happen for Kickass.to but KAT.ph was never properly seized. On the contrary, the owners let it expire after which the registrar Dynadot auctioned it off. This allowed a third-party company to pick it up without trouble.

TorrentFreak spoke to the new owner of Kat.ph, who bought the domain name for a little over $9,000.

He explains that his company Marshall Domains LTD specializes in buying domains names that are expected to generate a decent amount of traffic. They buy all sorts of domains, which they monetize through Google advertising feeds.

The KAT.ph domain wasn’t a great investment though. In terms of traffic, it’s a winner. The domain had more than 700,000 unique visitors over the past month, mostly people looking for the old KickassTorrent site. However, it is banned from Google’s ad services.

There are other advertising options, but those are pretty scammy and not an option for the new owner.

“I’m not really happy with sending my traffic to these feeds. They get good results, but it’s all spammy, malware installing crap. I don’t want to be associated with this form of monetization,” Mr. Marshall informs TorrentFreak.

Instead, he has decided to put the domain up for sale, and it’s currently availble for at least $7,000. This means taking a loss, but at the moment the domain isn’t generating any income.

Kat.ph for sale

Thus far there hasn’t been many offers from potential buyers. Funnily enough, most inquiries come from former KickassTorrents users who missed the shutdown and are wondering where the site went.

“I’ve had some interest, but mainly from people asking to download things or where KickassTorrents has gone, but I just ignore these,” Mr. Marshall says.

Perhaps the Department of Justice might want to buy it after the failed seizure? If only to prevent it from being used by KAT knockoffs in the future…

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

Megaupload User Asks Appeals Court to Help Get His Files Back

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-user-asks-appeals-court-to-help-get-his-files-back-170426/

megauploadSoon after Megaupload’s shutdown more than five years ago, many of the site’s users complained that their personal files had been lost as collateral damage.

One of these users is Kyle Goodwin, who operates a sports video company in Ohio. He used Megaupload as part of his business, to safely store large videos he created himself.

But, after Megaupload’s servers were raided Mr. Goodwin could no longer access the files. Hoping to resolve the issue, he asked the court to assist him and others to retrieve their personal property.

Helped by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Williams Mullen law firm, and Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Mr. Goodwin filed over half a dozen requests since 2012 asking the court to find a workable solution for the return of his data. Thus far, however, this has been without success.

This week, his legal team brought the issue before the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, pointing out that the Government’s seizure of Megaupload and its apparent disregard for the rights of former users of the service continue to affect innocent bystanders.

After more than five years, they hope that the court will help to break the case open, so former users will be able to retrieve their personal files.

“Mr. Goodwin, and many others, used Megaupload to store legal files, and we’ve been asking the court for help since 2012. It’s deeply unfair for him to still be in limbo after all this time,” EFF’s Senior Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz says.

“The legal system must step in and create a pathway for law-abiding users to get their data back.”

Mr. Goodwin’s lawyers asked the court to issue a ‘writ of mandamus‘ to the trial court, requesting it to act on their client’s behalf and create a process for Megaupload users to regain access their data.

The longer it takes the higher the risk is that data will be permanently lost, the legal team stresses. And at this moment it could still take many years before the criminal case reaches its conclusion.

“The seizure and continued denial of access also violates Mr. Goodwin’s constitutional rights. Under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the government was obligated to execute the searches and seizures in a manner that reasonably protected the rights of third parties to access and retrieval,” the petition reads.

While the sports videographer is the only Megaupload user who’s fighting for his rights in court, there are many others who still hope to be reunited with their lost data. Last year a former Megaupload user contacted TorrentFreak in desperation, hoping to recover a personal photo that is very dear to him.

According to EFF, the Government can’t stand idly by in these cases. More and more users are hosting their personal data in the cloud and it’s important that their rights are taken into account.

“We’re likely to see even more cases like this as cloud computing becomes increasingly popular,” EFF’s Legal Director Corynne McSherry comments.

“If the government takes over your bank, it doesn’t get to keep the family jewels you stored in the vault. There’s a process for you to get your stuff back, and you have a right to the same protection for your data,” she adds.

In a few weeks we will know if the Appeals Court agrees, or if the waiting continues.

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

Kodi Wants to Beat Piracy With Legal Content and DRM

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-wants-to-beat-piracy-with-legal-content-and-drm-170409/

Millions of people use Kodi as their main source of entertainment, often with help from add-ons that allow them to access pirated movies and TV-shows.

As Kodi’s popularity has increased drastically over the past two years, so have complaints from copyright holders.

While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, unauthorized add-ons give it a bad name. This is one of the reasons why the Kodi team is actively going after vendors who sell “fully loaded” pirate boxes and YouTubers who misuse their name to promote copyright infringement.

Interestingly, the Kodi team itself didn’t help its case by putting up an FBI seizure notice last week, as an April Fools gag.

The banner suggested that the site had been taken down by the US Department of Justice for copyright infringement. Downloads of the latest builds of the software were also blocked.

Kodi’s April Fools gag

This week TorrentFreak spoke with several members of the Kodi team, operating under the XBMC Foundation, who made it clear that they want to cooperate with rightsholders instead of being accused of facilitating piracy.

The team told us that copyright holders regularly approach them. Some are well informed and know that Kodi itself isn’t actively involved in anything piracy related. However, according to XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen, there are also those who are fooled by misleading media reports or YouTube videos.

“There are rightsholders that know who we are and realize we are distinct from the 3rd party add-on crowd,” Betzen says.

“And then there are the rights holders who have been successfully taken in by the propaganda, who write us very legal sounding letters because some random YouTuber or ‘news’ website described the author of a piracy add-on as a ‘Kodi developer’.”

The Kodi team doesn’t mind being approached by people who are misinformed, as it gives them an opportunity to set the record straight. It has proven to be more challenging to find a way forward with movie studios and other content creators that are aware of Kodi’s position.

These movie industry representatives sometimes ask Kodi to remove third-party repo installs and block certain pirate add-ons. However, according to XBMC Foundation’s Project lead Martijn Kaijser, this isn’t the direction Kodi wants to go in.

“Our view on this is that [removing code] would not help a bit, because the code is open-source and others can easily revert it. Blocking add-ons won’t help since they would instantly change the addon and the block would be in vain,” Kaijser tells us.

The Kodi team feels that pirates are leeching off their infrastructure and put the entire community at risk. But, instead of taking a repressive approach they would like to see more legal content providers join their platform. With an audience of millions of users, there is a lot of untapped potential on a platform that’s rapidly growing.

To facilitate this process, the media player is currently considering whether to add support for DRM so that content providers can offer their videos in a protected environment. While some users may cringe at the thought, Kodi believes it’ll help to get rightsholders on board.

“Our platform has a lot of potential and we are looking into attracting more legal and official content providers. Additionally, we’re looking into adding low-level DRM that would at least make it more feasible to gain trust from certain providers,” Kaijser tells TorrentFreak.

Kodi addons

Although Kodi does go after sellers of pirate boxes, Betzen personally doesn’t believe that this is the answer. The best way to deal with the piracy issue is to offer more legal content through official add-ons.

“We’d like to actually work with content providers to have official add-ons in our network. That’s much easier to do when we are proactively attempting to help them to fight copyright infringement,” Betzen says.

There are already plenty of legal uses for Kodi, including the DVR system, support for legal sports streaming, and a variety of add-ons such as Crunchyroll, HDHomeRun, Plex and Twitch. However, getting some major content providers on board has proven to be quite a challenge thus far.

Kaijser notes that rightsholders have been very reserved thus far. He tried to convince content providers to offer official add-ons, or even turn some community made ones into official ones, but hasn’t had much success.

In a way, the repeated piracy discussions and news items are both a blessing and a curse for Kodi. They help to grow the platform at a rate most competitors could only dream of, while at the same time keeping rightsholders at bay. Time will tell if Kodi can turn this around.

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

The Pirate Bay’s Swedish Domain is Listed For Sale

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bays-swedish-domain-is-listed-for-sale-170407/

In 2003, when The Pirate Bay was in its infancy, its main domain was ThePirateBay.org. The site still uses that domain today but it has burned through many others over the years.

One that has stood the test of the time is the site’s iconic ThePirateBay.se domain. It’s been in use for many years, often relied upon as a fall-back measure when other domains have been seized or suspended.

Notably, in 2012 the site switched from its .org domain to .se, a move which triggered a domain-hopping exercise which lasted until 2015 when the site moved back again.

While several other Pirate Bay domains have been consigned to Davy Jones’s Locker, ThePirateBay.se has always weathered the storms of the high seas. Now, however, all that might be coming to an end.

During Thursday, ThePirateBay.se temporarily stopped redirecting to ThePirateBay.org, at least for some users. Intrigued as to why this might be the case, TF carried out some routine checks and was confronted with what appears to be an unconnected surprise. According to its WHOIS entry, the domain has been put up for sale.

Clicking through reveals a sale underway on domain auction site Sedo. Probably due to the short time it’s been on offer, there has been little to no interest thus far. At the time of writing, bidders are able to offer as little as $90 (plus VAT) to the seller of the domain, who according to Sedo is located in Barbados.

Of course, it’s unlikely the domain will sell for such a low amount but perhaps more importantly, it’s debatable whether it’s worth anything at all.

In 2013, anti-piracy prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad filed a motion targeting ThePirateBay.se and lesser-used alternative PirateBay.se. He argued that Punkt SE (IIS), the organization responsible for Sweden’s top-level .SE domain, should be held liable for Pirate Bay’s copyright infringements unless it suspended the domain.

The case was heard in April 2015 and a month later the Stockholm District Court ruled that The Pirate Bay should forfeit both ThePirateBay.se and PirateBay.se to the Swedish state. The case later went to the Svea Court of Appeal, which upheld the decision of the District Court, but things weren’t over yet.

While the Court agreed that Pirate Bay co-founder Fredrik Neij had transferred the domains to a third party in 2012, it determined the transaction to be mere ‘paperwork’ and held that Neij had effectively retained control of the domains.

What followed was a June 2016 appeal by Neij to the Supreme Court, which challenged the Court of Appeal’s opinion that a domain name is a type of intellectual property that can be seized under copyright law.

Whether the Supreme Court will take the case remains to be seen. It’s clear, however, that whatever happens ThePirateBay.se is up to its neck in legal disputes and is already prone to seizure, something that casts doubt over its future potential.

TorrentFreak spoke to Sweden’s IIS to find out how any potential sale might affect the ongoing Pirate Bay domain legal dispute but the organization declined to comment. The operators of The Pirate Bay have not confirmed the sale, which appears to have been running for a few weeks.

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

FBI Cannot Examine Megaupload Servers, Canada Appeal Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fbi-cannot-examine-megaupload-servers-canada-appeal-court-rules-170403/

It’s incredible to think that more than five years after the raids on Megaupload, in some respects the case has made virtually no progress. This is particularly true of the defunct company’s servers in Canada.

Canada became quietly involved in the Megaupload investigation in December 2011, around a month before the raids in New Zealand, United States, and elsewhere. The U.S. Department of Justice asked the Minister of Justice to grant to obtain a search warrant authorizing the seizure of 32 leased computer servers located in Toronto.

On January 18, 2012, a Superior Court judge in Ontario issued the warrant which targeted the servers located in an Equinix datacenter. As the case continued to build against Megaupload, Kim Dotcom and his associates, the U.S. government asked Canadian authorities to hand the hardware over, claiming that an internal Megaupload email revealed them to be “database / number crunching machines.”

With the servers in the possession of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, during January 2013 the Minister of Justice applied for an order for the servers to be sent to the United States. Megaupload protested on the basis that the servers contain a lot of information irrelevant to the case, but agreed that an independent forensic examiner could examine them before any handover.

An Ontario court sided with Megaupload and refused to send the servers’ data to the United States. In 2015, both sides were ordered to find a way to filter out irrelevant content, perhaps with the aid of a “clean team” of FBI investigators who had no connection with the case.

While this path was approved by a judge, both Megaupload and Equinix objected to the proposal, complaining that the FBI shouldn’t be involved at all and any examination should be carried out independently. In common with almost every decision in various Megaupload cases, this one also went to appeal.

The Ontario Court of Appeal handed down its decision on Friday, this time in favor of Megaupload.

“The judge had to decide what material, if any, should be ordered sent to the United States. The appellant and the American investigators, the FBI, stood in a strongly adversarial position with respect to the order that should be made,” the Court of Appeal wrote in its decision.

“The judge, because of the nature of the seized material, needed help in determining what order should be made. The judge needed someone who could prepare a report outlining the nature of the material so that the judge could decide what part of the material, if any, should be sent to the United States.”

Noting that the report would “significantly influence” the nature and scope of any order made by the judge, the appeal court said that while the FBI may indeed carry out their task as asked, having them involved at all would be entirely inappropriate.

“In my view, it is offensive to the appearance of fairness, and specifically the appearance of judicial impartiality, to have an entity closely associated with one of the adversaries provide the judge with the necessary report,” the decision reads.

“In coming to that conclusion, I make no assumption that the FBI ‘clean team’ would not comply with whatever conditions the court imposed. My concern is with the appearance of fairness and impartiality.”

The appeal court said that when a judge is asked to appoint an investigator, the starting point should always be with people unconnected with the case. Consideration should also be given to the issue of costs (the FBI option in the Megaupload case was cheaper) but they would have to be prohibitively excessive to chose an affiliated entity over an independent party.

With the earlier decision now overruled, the servers will continue to gather dust in the hands of the RCMP, where they have been since their seizure in 2012. No doubt the legal wrangling will continue, as it has done in the United States concerning the servers there.

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

Private Anti-Piracy Deals With Domain Registries are Dangerous, Professor Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/private-anti-piracy-deals-with-domain-registries-are-dangerous-professor-warns-170302/

In recent years various entertainment industry groups have switched their efforts away from legislation, towards voluntary cooperation with various stakeholders.

This has resulted in several agreements with Internet providers, advertising agencies and payment processors, which are all designed to help prevent piracy.

In 2016, this strategy was expanded to cover key players in the domain name industry. Last February, the MPAA and the Donuts registry signed a landmark agreement under which the movie industry group acts as a “trusted notifier” of “pirate” domains. A similar deal was later announced with Radix.

Traditionally, it has been very hard for rightsholders to get domain names suspended without a court order but through voluntary agreements, this process is simplified. Without a court order, the registries in question are now able to take pirate sites offline, if the evidence is sufficient.

Such agreements are praised by Hollywood and even have ICANN’s blessing. However, there are also concerns. In a recent article, University of Idaho Law Professor Annemarie Bridy expresses concern over these developments.

It is the first voluntary deal that touches on the Internet’s core technical functions, assigning private copyright enforcers as some sort of online police. The current agreements are fairly limited and Professor Bridy warns that it could be just the beginning.

“For now, non-judicial notice and takedown practices in the DNS are limited; however, demands on intermediaries for stronger online content regulation across the board are only growing,” Bridy writes.

With a lack of transparency and due process, the MPAA’s programs could easily expand to a broader range of controversial content such as fake news, hate speech, and terrorist propaganda, she warns.

“Lack of transparency and due process in such programs will make them inherently vulnerable to inconsistency, mistake, and abuse and could transform the DNS into a potent tool for suppressing disfavored speech.”

In copyright cases there are worrying consequences as well. Recent history has shown that over-blocking is a legitimate threat. Professor Bridy highlights the FBI’s seizure of the domain name MOOO.COM as an example, which took down 84,000 subdomains even though only ten were problematic.

ICANN, the non-profit body responsible for the smooth-running of the Internet’s Doman Name System, has always insisted that copyright disputes are beyond their mission. As such, it was happy to see registries and rightsholders coming to an agreement.

According to Bridy, however, ICANN is now giving the green light to private agreements that allow corporate and government parties to interfere with DNS without central oversight. That’s a very worrying development, in her book.

“[I]n creating that architecture, ICANN did nothing to secure any procedural protections or uniform substantive standards for domain name registrants who find themselves subject to this new form of DNS regulation,” Bridy writes.

“That omission should be a red flag for those who worry that ICANN’s newly minted independence from the U.S. government will make its internal governance more susceptible to capture by powerful commercial and governmental interests.”

It will be interesting to see where the private deals go from here and if they indeed move beyond copyright enforcement.

Last week the Donuts registry said that fears about a “slippery slope” toward inappropriate content control is unwarranted. Thus far they are correct by stressing that only a few domain names have been suspended under their deal, but that offers no guarantees for the future.

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

Pirate Bay Prosecution In Trouble, Time Runs Out For Investigators

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-prosecution-trouble-time-runs-investigators-170227/

pirate bayDecember 2014, The Pirate Bay went dark after police raided the Nacka station, a nuclear-proof datacenter built into a mountain complex near Stockholm.

The hosting facility reportedly offered services to The Pirate Bay, EZTV and several other torrent related sites, which were pulled offline as a result.

The authorities later announced that 50 servers were seized during the raid. And not without success, it seemed. The raid resulted in the longest ever period of downtime for The Pirate Bay, nearly two months, and led to chaos and a revolt among the site’s staffers.

However, despite a new criminal investigation into The Pirate Bay, the site has been operating as usual for a while now. As it now transpires, the raid may not result in any future prosecutions.

According to prosecutor Henrik Rasmusson, who took over the case from Fredrik Ingblad last year, time is running out. Some of the alleged crimes date back more than five years, which is outside the statute of limitations.

“Some of the suspected crimes are from 2011, although the seizures are from 2014. And the statute of limitations on them are five years,” prosecutor Henrik Rasmusson told IDG.

While several years have passed, there’s not much progress to report. The police provided the prosecutor with some updates along the way, but it’s not clear when the investigation will be completed.

“I have over time received new information from the police, but I have not received any clear indication of when the investigation will be completed,” the prosecutor said.

Even if the investigation is finalized, there are still a lot of steps to take before any indictments are ready. Meanwhile, the quality of the evidence isn’t getting any better. Based on his comments, the prosecutor isn’t very optimistic in this regard.

“The oral evidence could get worse because people forget. There may be difficulties with other monitoring data that may have changed or disappeared, such as registers and data restorations,” he said.

This isn’t the first setback for the authorities. Previously, they had to drop one of the main suspects from the case as they lacked sufficient resources to analyze the data that were seized during the raid.

On top of that, people from the Pirate Bay team itself said that if they were indeed the target, the police didn’t have much on them.

According to the TPB team, only one of their servers was confiscated in 2014, and this one was hosted at a different location. The server in question was operated by the moderators and used as a communication channel for TPB matters.

The team said that it chose to pull their actual site offline as a precaution but that relocating to a new home proved to be harder than expected, hence the prolonged downtime.

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

Police Seize Domains of Fifty ‘Pirate’ Newspaper and Magazine Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-seize-domains-fifty-pirate-newspaper-magazine-sites-170201/

guardiaAnti-piracy operations come in all shapes and sizes but it’s movies, music and TV shows that grab the majority of the headlines. Games, software, and eBooks trail closely behind, but it’s rare that other types of digital print see enforcement action.

Italy, one of the most aggressive countries when it comes to sweeping anti-piracy actions, has just changed all that with one of the largest enforcement operations ever seen in the publishing niche.

Following an investigation carried by rightsholders and the Public Prosecutor of Rome, a total of 50 domains involved in the unlawful distribution of news and magazine content have been seized by the country’s Special Unit for Broadcasting and Publishing.

According to an announcement by the authorities, all of the sites have now gone dark after offering “vast quantities” of material originally published by major newspapers and periodicals including Cosmopolitan, Fashion Magazine, and Vanity Fair.

The operation, dubbed “Odyssey 2”, was carried out under the directives of the Special Command Units of the Guardia di Finanza, a militarized police force under the authority of the Minister of Economy and Finance.

Fulvio Sarzana, a lawyer with the Sarzana and Partners who specializes in Internet and copyright disputes, says that the sites were probably under the control of separate entities.

“The variety of sites and the diversity of hosting and domain registrations leads me to think that these are different cases,” Sarzana informs TorrentFreak.

“The methods vary but generally the digital kiosks work this way; someone buys the paper or digital versions of newspapers through a duly registered account and then makes them available on the website.”

Until now, Italy has employed the same “follow-the-money” approach used by authorities in other jurisdictions, whereby site owners are identified via payments made by advertisers and similar business partners. Now, however, it claims to have developed a ‘new’ “follow-the-hosting” approach, which allows it to identify site operators, even when they use Cloudflare to hide the location of their servers.

While details on the techniques used by the authorities are thin, uncloaking server locations in this way is nothing new and can be achieved when Cloudflare is ordered to do so by a competent court.

The sites in question, which were not named by the authorities, are said to have served millions of users with pirated content. This, to a background of national media groups losing a third of their turnover over the past five years.

Big anti-piracy operations to protect publishers are extremely rare but with their market closing in and ad revenues falling, more could certainly follow in the future.

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

Swedish Govt. Mulls Tougher Punishments to Tackle Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swedish-govt-mulls-tougher-punishments-to-tackle-pirate-sites-170131/

law-hammerWhen most country’s copyright laws were first laid down, the Internet simply did not exist. So, when the world-changing network began to develop, the law was often left playing catch-up.

Through various amendments and interpretations, many developed countries have found a way to shoehorn existing legislation to apply to the Internet era. But the fit is rarely perfect and for copyright holders keen to protect their interests, not nearly tight enough to deal with the rise of pirate sites.

Among others, Sweden is now considering its options when it comes to its future prosecutions of large-scale copyright infringement cases. As part of a review now underway, the government is accessing the powers it needs to deal with more serious cases of copyright infringement.

Police national coordinator for intellectual property crimes Paul Pintér hopes that any changes will enable police to operate more efficiently in the future.

“If you have a felony, you can get access to a whole new toolkit. In the terms of reference for the inquiry, the government mentions almost all of the points that we have previously proposed,” he told IDG.

Considering the way anti-piracy enforcement has developed over the past several years, few of the suggestions from the police come as a surprise.

At the top of the tree is treating pirate site operators as more than just large-scale copyright infringers. The Justice Department says that due to the manner in which sites are organized and the subsequent development of revenue, treating them as self-contained crime operations may be appropriate.

“With the help of well-organized sites, infringement is made fast, easy, and both openly and more or less anonymous,” says Anna Enbert, legal adviser at the Department of Justice.

“Not infrequently, there is a business motive for the major players, which is roughly comparable to organized crime. This has made infringement more extensive, difficult to investigate, and harmful in relation to both rights holders, consumers, and society at large.”

Like the UK, the current maximum sentence for online copyright infringement in Sweden is two years in prison. The UK is about to boost this to ten years via the Digital Economy Act but in recent years has seen many prosecutions carried out under fraud legislation.

This kind of amendment has caught the eyes of Sweden. By viewing ‘pirate’ sites as platforms for commercial and organized crime, harsher sentences may also become available. Currently, punishments are often limited to fines and suspended sentences.

Also on the table for discussion are domain seizures and site-blocking. In a memorandum submitted to the government last year, Pintér said that websites that violate copyright or trademark law should be blocked by ISPs. Furthermore, while preliminary investigations are underway, domain names should be seized by the authorities.

While specific provisions in law for both blockades and seizures would undoubtedly be welcomed by both police and rightsholders, current law may yet be up to the job. Attempts to seize The Pirate Bay’s domains are still ongoing and ISPs are digging in over demands to block the site. Nevertheless, both could still succeed.

In the meantime, however, the review will press ahead, although not at a speed that pleases the police. IDG notes that the investigation is to presented in February 2018, a time-scale that Paul Pintér finds unacceptable.

“The only thing is, is that the review will take far too long. It should be completed faster than a year,” he concludes.

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

Internet Freedom Day: How Massive ‘Blackout’ Protests Killed Two Anti-Piracy Bills

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-freedom-day-how-blackout-protests-killed-two-anti-piracy-bills-170118/

internetfreedomsopaAt the start of the decade several new bills were introduced in the United States, aiming to make it easier for copyright holders to enforce their rights online.

The proposals, including SOPA and PIPA, would’ve streamlined the shutting down of allegedly infringing domain names and threatened to increase liability for third party services, among other things.

Fearing broad Internet censorship, the proposals ignited a wave of protests led by various activist groups. But, what started as a small protest movement was swiftly elevated to mainstream news, when tech giants such as Google and Wikipedia joined in.

Exactly five years ago, following months of scattered protests, the opposition peaked into a massive Internet blackout campaign.

As a result, the balance of power tipped and Hollywood and the music industry were forced into retreat. Soon after the blackout, both bills were declared dead, a victory which is still frequently referenced today.

A year after the succesfull blackout campaign, January 18 was declared Internet Freedom Day. While the first celebration attracted international news headlines, it’s now become a relatively small event.

Still, many of the concerns that were brought up half a decade ago remain relevant today. Site blocking efforts and domain name seizures are still high on the agenda, and the same is true for search engine ‘censorship’ and liability for ISPs and other third party services.

What has changed is that, instead of tackling these issues through legislation, rightsholders are now focusing on individual lawsuits and voluntary agreements.

This means that for activists, Internet Freedom Day could still be relevant now, both as a remembrance and as a call to action. In any case, it’s worth noting that without the protests things could have been very different today.

Below are a few of the many ‘blackout’ pages that were up (or down) five years ago.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia was completely inaccessible for 24 hours, except the pages about censorship, PIPA and SOPA, of course.

Google

Google blacked out its logo to protest PIPA/SOPA and added a link to a resource page where people could take action.

google strike

Reddit

Reddit directed its users to a resource site where they could take action.

reddit

Imgur

The image sharing site Imgur offered information on the protests as well as steps to take action.

imgurprotest

Demonoid

Demonoid, one of the largest BitTorrent communities at the time, went dark completely, with a nice spotlight effect.

demonid

Firefox

Firefox users were welcomed with a dark themed default homepage, alerting people about the looming PIPA/SOPA threats.

Craigslist

The online classified advertisements portal Craigslist directed the public to a resource site where they could take action.

craigslist-blackout

WordPress

WordPress joined the protest too, and decided to censor itself for the day.

wordpress

Minecraft

Minecraft protested as well, but in red with the tagline “PIPA & SOPA, How About NOPA.”

pipa

TorrentFreak

Yes, we also took part, giving readers the option to save the Internet, or… Meh…

torrentfreak-blackout

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

A Bunch of Weak Anti-Piracy Measures Are Still a Pest to Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/a-bunch-of-weak-anti-piracy-measures-are-still-a-pest-to-pirates-170107/

crypirateJust before Christmas, the Federal Court in Australia ordered The Pirate Bay and several other sites to be blocked by ISPs. Completely unsurprisingly, the first iteration of the block was defeated within minutes, much to the joy of anti-censorship advocates.

It’s often said that the Internet views censorship as damage, so it routes around it. But, branding site-blocking as an ineffective anti-piracy tool is probably missing the point.

Whatever reputation they may have built online, rightsholders and their anti-piracy partners are rarely naive, and few think that site-blocking alone will solve their problems. Indeed, most of them know that blocking is just one small weapon in their increasingly diverse anti-piracy arsenal.

While never is a long time, piracy is not going away anytime soon. However, making the practice frustrating is achievable, particularly when targeting inexperienced “new recruits” to the pastime. Even when armed with a VPN, merely visiting an established site is not as easy as it once was.

For example, thanks to seizures, sites are now more prone to jumping to new domains. If that happens abruptly, even long-standing users of those sites may not immediately know where the new site can be found. And then, even when word begins to spread, questions are raised over the authenticity of the site at the new domain. Is it real? Is it an imposter? Is it some kind of trap? While experienced users will tend to find out the truth, casual users can have their confidence undermined.

At the same time, not all domain changes are involuntary. Thanks to Google’s downranking of domains for which it receives lots of DMCA takedown notices, pirate sites often choose to migrate to a fresh domain name of their own accord, to one that is yet to feel the effects of Google’s efforts. Even when controlled, these domain switches have a destabilizing effect among users, especially those sensitive to change.

So, like domain blocking, DMCA notices are often seen as merely a drop in the ocean when it comes to tackling rapidly reappearing “whac-a-mole” content. But as the need to domain-hop illustrates, they are all part of the frustration effort.

Equally, simply visiting pirate sites used to be a relatively painless experience but lately, things have been going a little downhill. Sure, the quality of advertising has often left plenty of room for improvement, but these days the situation with junk ads is getting worse. On some sites it has become absolutely unbearable.

While some might blame site operators for this decline (and some are indeed guilty), the problem is largely down to rightsholders tightening the noose on companies prepared to advertise on pirate sites. Continuous pressure means that sites have fewer options, resulting in a decline in quality and an increase in the annoyance factor.

Of course, any visitor can use a decent adblocker to make their experience a bit better, but that deprives sites of revenue. Make no mistake, with their “follow the money” approach, that’s what rightsholders want. It’s just another way of chipping away at the ecosystem.

So, while site-blocking can be neutralized with VPNs and DNS tweaks, there’s no mechanism to stop sites having their brands undermined by domain-hopping, whether caused by seizures, unofficial clones, or efforts to get better search rankings. Equally, junk ads can be eliminated with something like uBlock Origin, but that deprives sites of revenue.

Clearly, none of these measures are good enough to hit piracy hard enough to kill it, but the barriers to entry are being raised. In addition to a fast broadband service, a decent VPN provider is now almost essential for many file-sharers, whether that’s for circumventing blockades or avoiding those pesky sharing warnings.

Equally, keeping on top of the latest news, changes, developments, and domain switches can be a time-consumer in itself. That certainly wasn’t the case ten years ago. And if that isn’t enough, running the junk ad gauntlet requires a skill set all of its own, one that can potentially affect all sites running in a browser, whether they’re guilty of bad behavior or not.

Somewhat inevitably, all this can lead to frustration if not sheer confusion. Is a site failing to load because it’s been raided? Because it’s been blocked? Because my VPN isn’t working? Because I’ve accidentally flicked the wrong ad-blocker? Or maybe a combination of them all – where do I start?

Experienced file-sharers probably won’t have a major problem overcoming these issues but for new-comers, the situation is less straightforward. In any event, for many people mainstream web-based piracy definitely isn’t as convenient as it once was. No wonder modded-Kodi setups and other IPTV solutions are gaining in popularity.

And so the cycle continues……..

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

Pirate Bay & KickassTorrents Music Uploader Jailed For a Year

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-kickasstorrents-music-uploader-jailed-for-a-year-161216/

Following a joint investigation with licensing outfit PRS for Music, last September officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and Merseyside police raided an address in Everton, Liverpool.

They were looking for Wayne Evans, a local DJ who they believed was involved in the unlawful distribution of music online.

Known online as OldSkoolScouse, Evans uploaded packs of the UK’s current Top 40 Singles to torrent sites each week. They included at least 200 uploaded to KickassTorrents, which proved particularly popular with fans.

In addition, Evans ran DeeJayPortal.co.uk, a website with a membership of more than 160,000 users which specialized in unlicensed a capella versions of famous tracks. Along with OldSkoolScouse.co.uk, another of Evans’ domains, it currently displays a PIPCU seizure notice.

In October 2016, the 39-year-old appeared before Liverpool Crown Court, pleading guilty to two counts of distributing an article infringing copyright and one of possessing or controlling an article for use in fraud.

Since cases in the UK tend to be cherry-picked for their PR value, it was no surprise to learn that Evans was painted by the prosecution as a serious criminal.

According to Liverpool Echo, the Top 40 packs were downloaded more than 523,000 times. There were almost 136,000 downloads of a capella tracks from DJPortal.

As a result, the Performing Rights Society for Music (PRS), which collects and distributes royalties on behalf of artists, estimated their losses at £1.054m for a single year period.

David Watson, defending, told the court that Evans hadn’t made much money from his file-sharing activities and that the estimates of PRS were just that, an estimate.

“These losses are necessarily speculative and difficult to quantify in this case, because not every illegal download leads to the loss of a legitimate sale,” Watson said.

The court heard how Evans had failed to obtain licenses from PRS for his online distribution. Of course, none would have been granted even if he’d asked, but that was beside the point.

Judge Robert Trevor-Jones accepted that Evans hadn’t been motivated by personal gain but said that the DJ knew what he was doing and the losses to PRS from his actions were significant.

“Given your intimate knowledge of the music industry I have no doubt that you would have been aware that what you were doing here was illegal,” he said.

Despite having no previous convictions, Evans was jailed for 12 months yesterday, a sentence the Judge believed would act as a “deterrent” to others.

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

US Government Publishes New Plan to Target Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-government-publishes-new-plan-to-target-pirate-sites-161213/

whitehouse-logoThe Office of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) has just released its Joint Strategic Plan (JSP) for Intellectual Property Enforcement, titled Supporting Innovation, Creativity & Enterprise: Charting a Path Ahead.

“The Plan – which incorporates views from a variety of individual stakeholders across government, industry, educational institutions, trade organizations and public interest groups — offers a blueprint for the work to be carried out over the next three years by the Federal Government in support of a healthy and robust intellectual property enforcement policy environment,” a White House statement reads.

The plan has four stated goals:

– Enhance National understanding of the economic and social impacts flowing from misappropriation of trade secrets and the infringement of intellectual property rights

– Promote a safe and secure Internet by minimizing counterfeiting and IP-infringing activity online

– Secure and facilitate lawful trade

– Enhance domestic strategies and global collaboration in support of effective IP enforcement.

The 163-page report leaves few stones unturned, with Section 2 homing in on Internet piracy.

Follow The Money

While shutting down websites is often seen as the ultimate anti-piracy tool, more commonly authorities are targeting what they believe fuels online piracy – money. The report says that while original content is expensive to create, copies cost almost nothing, leading to large profits for pirates.

“An effective enforcement strategy against commercial-scale piracy and counterfeiting therefore, must target and dry up the illicit revenue flow of the actors engaged in commercial piracy online. That requires an examination of the revenue sources for commercial-scale pirates,” the report says.

“The operators of direct illicit download and streaming sites enjoy revenue through membership subscriptions serviced by way of credit card and similar payment-based transactions, as is the case with the sale and purchase of counterfeit goods, while the operators of torrent sites may rely more heavily on advertising revenue as the primary source of income.”

To cut-off this revenue, the government foresees voluntary collaboration between payment processor networks, online advertisers, and the banking sector.

Payment processors

“All legitimate payment processors prohibit the use of their services and platforms for unlawful conduct, including IP-infringing activities. They do so by way of policy and contract through terms of use and other agreements applicable to their users,” the JSP says.

“Yet, notwithstanding these prohibitions, payment processor platforms continue to be exploited by illicit merchants of counterfeit products and infringing content.”

The government says that pirates and counterfeiters use a number of techniques to exploit payment processors and have deployed systems that can thwart “test” transactions conducted by rightsholders and other investigators. Furthermore, the fact that some credit card companies do not have direct contractual relationships with merchants, enables websites to continue doing business after payment processing rights have been terminated.

The JSP calls for more coordination between companies in the ecosystem, increased transparency, greater geographic scope, and bi-lateral engagements with other governments.

“IPEC and USPTO, with private sector input, will facilitate benchmarking studies of current voluntary initiatives designed to combat revenue flow to rogue sites to determine whether existing voluntary initiatives are functioning effectively, and thereby promote a robust, datadriven voluntary initiative environment,” the report adds.

Advertising

The JSP begins with the comment that “Ad revenue is the oxygen that content theft to breathe” and it’s clear that the government wants to asphyxiate pirate sites. It believes that up to 86% of download and streaming platforms rely on advertising for revenue and the sector needs to be cleaned up.

In common with payment processors, the report notes that legitimate ad networks also have policies in place to stop their services appearing on pirate sites. However, “sophisticated entities” dedicated to infringement can exploit loopholes, with some doing so to display “high-risk” ads that include malware, pop-unders and pixel stuffing.

Collaboration is already underway among industry players but the government wants to see more integration and cooperation, to stay ahead of the tactics allegedly employed by sites such as the defunct KickassTorrents, which is highlighted in the report.

kat-ad

“IPEC and the IPR Center (with its constituent law enforcement partners), along with other relevant Federal agencies, will convene the advertising industry to hear further about their voluntary efforts. The U.S. Interagency Strategic Planning Committees on IP Enforcement will assess opportunities to support efforts to combat the flow of ad revenue to criminals,” the JSP reads.

“As part of best practices and initiatives, advertising networks are encouraged
to make appropriately generalized and anonymized data publicly available to permit study and analysis of illicit activity intercepted on their platforms and networks. Such data will allow study by public and private actors alike to identify patterns of behavior or tactics associated with illicit actors who seek to profit from ad revenue from content theft websites.”

Domain hopping

When pirate sites come under pressure from copyright holders, their domain names are often at risk of suspension or even seizure. This triggers a phenomenon known as domain hopping, a tactic most visibly employed by The Pirate Bay when it skipped all around the world with domains registered in several different countries.

tpb-hop

“To evade law enforcement, bad actors will register the same or different domain name with different registrars. They then attempt to evade law enforcement by moving from one registrar to another, thus prolonging the so-called ‘whack-a-mole’ pursuit. The result of this behavior is to drive up costs of time and resources spent on protecting intellectual property right,” the JSP notes.

The report adds that pirate sites are more likely to use ccTLDs (country code Top-Level Domains) than gTLDs (Generic Top-Level Domains) due to the way the former are administrated.

“The relationship between any given ccTLD administrator and its government will differ from case to case and may depend on complex and sensitive arrangements particular to the local political climate. Different ccTLD policies will reflect different approaches with respect to process for the suspension, transfer, or cancellation of a domain name registration,” it reads.

“Based on the most recent Notorious Markets lists available prior to issuance of this plan, ccTLDs comprise roughly half of all named ‘notorious’ top-level domains. Considering that ccTLDs are outnumbered by gTLDs in the domain name base by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, the frequency of bad faith ccTLD sites appear to be disproportionate in nature and worthy of further research and analysis.”

Once again, the US government calls for more cooperation alongside an investigation to assess the scope of “abusive domain name registration tactics and trend.”

Policies to improve DMCA takedown processes

As widely documented, rightsholders are generally very unhappy with the current DMCA regime as they are forced to send millions of notices every week to contain the flow of pirate content. Equally, service providers are also being placed under significant stress due to the processing of those same notices.

In its report, the government acknowledges the problems faced by both sides but indicates that the right discussions are already underway to address the issues.

“The continued development of private sector best practices, led through a multistakeholder process, may ease the burdens involved with the DMCA process for rights holders, Internet intermediaries, and users while decreasing infringing activity,” the report says.

“These best practices may focus on enhanced methods for identifying actionable infringement, preventing abuse of the system, establishing efficient takedown procedures, preventing the reappearance of previously removed infringing content, and providing opportunity for creators to assert their fair use rights.”

In summary, the government champions the Copyright Office’s current evaluation of Section 512 of the DMCA while calling for cooperation between stakeholders.

Social Media

The Joint Strategic Plan highlights the growing part social media has to play in the dissemination of infringing content, from driving traffic to websites selling illegal products, unlawful exploitation of third-party content, to suspect product reviews. Again, the solution can be found in collaboration, including with the public.

“[The government will] encourage the development of industry standards and best
practices, through a multistakeholder process, to curb abuses of social media channels for illicit purposes, while protecting the rights of users to use those channels for non-infringing and other lawful activities,” it notes.

“One underutilized resource may be the users themselves, who may be in a
position to report suspicious product offerings or other illicit activity, if provided a streamlined opportunity to do so, as some social media companies are beginning to explore.”

And finally – education

The government believes that greater knowledge among the public of where it can obtain content legally will assist in reducing instances of online piracy.

“The U.S. Interagency Strategic Planning Committees on IP Enforcement, and other relevant Federal agencies, as appropriate, will assess opportunities to support public-private collaborative efforts aimed at increasing awareness of legal sources of copyrighted material online and educating users about the harmful impacts of digital piracy,” it concludes.

The full report is available here (163 pages, PDF)

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

SACEM Provides Details on Recent Torrent Site Raids in France

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sacem-provides-details-on-recent-torrent-site-raids-in-france-161203/

Two weeks ago and seemingly out of the blue, popular private music tracker What.cd went offline. French military police targeted some of the site’s infrastructure at hosting provider OVH and the site responded by deleting itself.

The news came as a huge disappointment to the site’s users and the wider torrent community as a whole, but French police weren’t done yet.

In a follow-up action, French Gendarmerie targeted Zone-Telechargement (Download Zone), the country’s largest pirate site and 11th most-visited website in the region overall. That site went down too, closely followed by affiliated DDL site, DL-Protect.

Behind all of these actions is SACEM, the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music. This industry group has a mandate to collect and distribute royalties while protecting the copyrights of its members. And according to its general secretary, they’re only just getting started.

In an interview with French news site Le Monde, David El Sayegh said that SACEM and the police hadn’t “just woken up” to pirate sites operating in France. The actions against both What.cd and Zone-Telechargement were the result of a “long process and meticulous work.”

The SACEM chief said the investigation into the two million direct download link Zone-Telechargement began two years ago in partnership with another local anti-piracy outfit. It turned up a lot of useful information.

“We filed a complaint in 2014, joined by ALPA (French Association for the Fight against Piracy). This process was to identify accounts, assets, servers and advertising agencies. It’s always quite a complex and sophisticated system, they are large investigations,” he said.

“There were many advertisements on the site, often pornographic. [Zone-Telechargement] generated at least 1.5 million euros in sales per year, with offshore accounts located in Malta, Cyprus and Belize.”

David El Sayegh said that rightsholders were looking at damages of more than
75 million euros but the operators of the site were no longer resident in France. That didn’t stop their arrests, however. Seven people were arrested on Monday in France and Andorra, with police there calling the action ‘Operation Gervais‘.

“The two administrators, arrested by international mandates, had left France to settle in Andorra. Large seizures of assets were carried out: luxury cars, real estate, and savings accounts,” he said.

The Gendarmerie confirmed the seizure of 450,000 euros and two cars and said that the men, both aged 24, were “repeat offenders.” Authorities in Andorra confirmed that 250,000 euros across several accounts had been frozen.

“We are looking at a case of counterfeiting for profit, on a large scale,” El Sayegh continued. “These people do not pay taxes, they do not pay the rightful rightsholders, they do not respect anything. They have developed a very organized and sophisticated mechanism to voluntarily operate outside the law.”

With the site targeted in France and its operators arrested in Andorra, the operation spread further afield. SACEM says that servers were also seized in Germany and as far away as Iceland, a country often associated with high levels of privacy.

Of course, the recent shutdowns were very unpopular with users, but El Sayegh said that the law is on SACEM’s side.

“These are counterfeit business activities, these are people who have grown rich on the backs of creators. They make millions without paying one euro to creators. They are thugs who should not have the compassion of one person, and who will answer for their acts before justice.”

But while harshly criticizing site operators, El Sayegh tone was a little more moderate when speaking of their users. He asked them to consider how creators are to earn a living in the face of piracy but suggested that they’re only chasing the bigger fish.

“The challenge is mainly to stop those who trade works. But the objective above all is to attack the evil at its source, and the administrators of the pirate sites,” he said.

Other unnamed targets are also in SACEM’s sights. However, it seems unlikely that many sites will continue their stay in France following the events of the past couple of weeks.

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

Dreamhack Organizer Arrested in Torrent Site Crackdown

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/dreamhack-organizer-arrested-in-torrent-site-crackdown-161121/

raratWhile Rarat.org is relatively unknown in most countries, it gained local fame in Sweden as one of the top private trackers.

This ended abruptly a few weeks ago when the site’s homepage was replaced with a worrying message, indicating the site’s operators were in trouble.

“The week Rarat was subject to a search, seizure, and arrest. This follows a 2013 complaint from a film company that tracked down our PayPal payments. Damages in the millions of krona are feared. The site will now be closed.”

This weekend, Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén, who represents several copyright holders, informed DN that Nordisk Film, SF, and Disney filed a criminal complaint back in 2013.

Initially, there wasn’t much progress in the case. However, a breakthrough came when PayPal, with help from Rights Alliance, identified the person who received Rarat’s donations.

With this information in hand a special unit of Sweden’s Department of National Police Operations, NOA, managed track down one of the alleged operators of the torrent site.

Interestingly, this prime suspect is also one of the organizers of the winter edition of Dreamhack, the largest computer festival in the world. The upcoming Dreamhack event, which takes place in Jönköping, is expected to draw 50,000 computer and gaming fanatics.

Earlier this month the Dreamhack organizer was arrested and taken in for questioning on suspicion of copyright infringement. In addition, several computers were seized as evidence during a house search.

“The investigation is still at an early stage, and there could be more people involved. We will now carry out a cyber forensic investigation. The suspect has been released pending a possible prosecution,” a representative of Stockholm’s Public Prosecution Office told DN.

The alleged torrent site operator denies his involvement with the site but has been put on leave from work by Dreamhack, pending the investigation.

“I’m not worried. The police have the wrong person,” the man commented, noting that the Rarat site shut down while the police were interrogating him.

Rights Alliance lawyer Henrik Pontén says that the complaint lists five films. As a result, the total scale of the damages could reach 10 million Swedish krona, which is well over a million dollars.

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Header photo via Dreamhack.

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