Tag Archives: sopa

SOPA Ghosts Hinder U.S. Pirate Site Blocking Efforts

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sopa-ghosts-hinder-u-s-pirate-site-blocking-efforts-171008/

Website blocking has become one of the entertainment industries’ favorite anti-piracy tools.

All over the world, major movie and music industry players have gone to court demanding that ISPs take action, often with great success.

Internal MPAA research showed that website blockades help to deter piracy and former boss Chris Dodd said that they are one of the most effective anti-tools available.

While not everyone is in agreement on this, the numbers are used to lobby politicians and convince courts. Interestingly, however, nothing is happening in the United States, which is where most pirate site visitors come from.

This is baffling to many people. Why would US-based companies go out of their way to demand ISP blocking in the most exotic locations, but fail to do the same at home?

We posed this question to Neil Turkewitz, RIAA’s former Executive Vice President International, who currently runs his own consulting group.

The main reason why pirate site blocking requests have not yet been made in the United States is down to SOPA. When the proposed SOPA legislation made headlines five years ago there was a massive backlash against website blocking, which isn’t something copyright groups want to reignite.

“The legacy of SOPA is that copyright industries want to avoid resurrecting the ghosts of SOPA past, and principally focus on ways to creatively encourage cooperation with platforms, and to use existing remedies,” Turkewitz tells us.

Instead of taking the likes of Comcast and Verizon to court, the entertainment industries focused on voluntary agreements, such as the now-defunct Copyright Alerts System. However, that doesn’t mean that website blocking and domain seizures are not an option.

“SOPA made ‘website blocking’ as such a four-letter word. But this is actually fairly misleading,” Turkewitz says.

“There have been a variety of civil and criminal actions addressing the conduct of entities subject to US jurisdiction facilitating piracy, regardless of the source, including hundreds of domain seizures by DHS/ICE.”

Indeed, there are plenty of legal options already available to do much of what SOPA promised. ABS-CBN has taken over dozens of pirate site domain names through the US court system. Most recently even through an ex-parte order, meaning that the site owners had no option to defend themselves before they lost their domains.

ISP and search engine blocking is also around the corner. As we reported earlier this week, a Virginia magistrate judge recently recommended an injunction which would require search engines and Internet providers to prevent users from accessing Sci-Hub.

Still, the major movie and music companies are not yet using these tools to take on The Pirate Bay or other major pirate sites. If it’s so easy, then why not? Apparently, SOPA may still be in the back of their minds.

Interestingly, the RIAA’s former top executive wasn’t a fan of SOPA when it was first announced, as it wouldn’t do much to extend the legal remedies that were already available.

“I actually didn’t like SOPA very much since it mostly reflected existing law and maintained a paradigm that didn’t involve ISP’s in creative interdiction, and simply preserved passivity. To see it characterized as ‘copyright gone wild’ was certainly jarring and incongruous,” Turkewitz says.

Ironically, it looks like a bill that failed to pass, and didn’t impress some copyright holders to begin with, is still holding them back after five years. They’re certainly not using all the legal options available to avoid SOPA comparison. The question is, for how long?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hackers Use Pirate Sites to Ruin Your Life, State Attorneys General Warn

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hackers-use-pirate-sites-to-ruin-your-life-state-attorneys-general-warn-170727/

In recent years copyright holders have tried many things to dissuade the public from visiting pirate websites.

They often claim that piracy costs the entertainment industry thousands of jobs, for example. Another strategy to is to scare the public at large directly, by pointing out all the ills people may encounter on pirate sites.

The Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA), which has deep ties to the content industries, is a proponent of the latter strategy. The group has released a variety of reports pointing out that pirate sites are a hotbed for malware, identity theft, hacking and other evils.

To add some political weight to this message, the DCA recently helped to launch a new series of public service announcements where a group of 15 State Attorneys General warn the public about these threats.

The participating Attorneys General include Arizona’s Mark Brnovich, Kentucky’s Andy Bashear, Washington DC’s Karl Racine, and Wisconsin’s Brad Schimel, who all repeat the exact same words in their PSAs.

“Nowadays we all have to worry about cybersecurity. Hackers are always looking for new ways to break into our computers. Something as simple as visiting pirate websites can put your computer at risk.”

“Hackers use pirate websites to infect your computer and steal your ID and financial information, or even take over your computer’s camera without you knowing it,” the Attorneys General add.

Organized by the Digital Citizens Alliance, the campaign in question runs on TV and radio in several states and also appears on social media during the summer.

The warnings, while over dramatized, do raise a real concern. There are a lot of pirate sites that have lower-tier advertising, where malware regularly slips through. And some ads lead users to fake websites where people should probably not leave their credit card information.

Variety points out that the Attorneys General are tasked with the goal to keep their citizens safe, so the PSA’s message is certainly fitting.

Still, one has to wonder whether the main driver of these ads is online safety. Could perhaps the interests of the entertainment industry play a role too? It certainly won’t be the first time that State Attorneys General have helped out Hollywood.

Just a few years ago the MPAA secretly pushed Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like anti-piracy efforts in the United States. That was part of the MPAA’s “Project Goliath,” which was aimed at “convincing state prosecutors to take up the fight” against Google, under an anti-piracy umbrella.

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

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates’ Fight Anymore

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/net-neutrality-is-not-a-pirates-fight-anymore-170712/

Today, millions of people are protesting the FCC’s plan to repeal the net neutrality rules that were put in place by the former Obama administration.

In this “Battle for the Net,” they are joined by many prominent groups and companies, including Amazon, BitTorrent, Dropbox, Netflix, and even Pornhub.

Under the present net neutrality rules, there’s a clear standard that prevents ISPs from blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of “lawful” traffic. In addition, they allow Internet providers to be regulated as carriers under Title II.

If the current net neutrality rules disappear, some fear that throttling and ‘fast lanes’ for some services will become commonplace.

Historically, there is a strong link to between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network.

When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC’s Open Internet Order which was released three years later.

For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II.

While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they’re no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content.

In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule:

“Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity.”

The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for.

“For example, the no-blocking rule should not be invoked to protect copyright infringement, which has adverse consequences for the economy, nor should it protect child pornography. We reiterate that our rules do not alter the copyright laws and are not intended to prohibit or discourage voluntary practices undertaken to address or mitigate the occurrence of copyright infringement,” the FCC explains.

That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it’s framed as reasonable network management.

The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.

This glaring “copyright loophole” doesn’t mean that the net neutrality rules are irrelevant. They’re certainly not perfect, but there are many aspects that benefit the public and companies alike.

What should be clear though clear though, is that the fight for net neutrality is no longer a pirate’s fight.

While the current protest is reminiscent of the massive “Internet blackout” revolt against the SOPA anti-piracy law five years ago, where many pirate sites joined in as well, you won’t see many of these sites calling for net neutrality today. Not out of personal interest, at least.

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

The Quick vs. the Strong: Commentary on Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/05/the_quick_vs_th.html

Technological advances change the world. That’s partly because of what they are, but even more because of the social changes they enable. New technologies upend power balances. They give groups new capabilities, increased effectiveness, and new defenses. The Internet decades have been a never-ending series of these upendings. We’ve seen existing industries fall and new industries rise. We’ve seen governments become more powerful in some areas and less in others. We’ve seen the rise of a new form of governance: a multi-stakeholder model where skilled individuals can have more power than multinational corporations or major governments.

Among the many power struggles, there is one type I want to particularly highlight: the battles between the nimble individuals who start using a new technology first, and the slower organizations that come along later.

In general, the unempowered are the first to benefit from new technologies: hackers, dissidents, marginalized groups, criminals, and so on. When they first encountered the Internet, it was transformative. Suddenly, they had access to technologies for dissemination, coordination, organization, and action — things that were impossibly hard before. This can be incredibly empowering. In the early decades of the Internet, we saw it in the rise of Usenet discussion forums and special-interest mailing lists, in how the Internet routed around censorship, and how Internet governance bypassed traditional government and corporate models. More recently, we saw it in the SOPA/PIPA debate of 2011-12, the Gezi protests in Turkey and the various “color” revolutions, and the rising use of crowdfunding. These technologies can invert power dynamics, even in the presence of government surveillance and censorship.

But that’s just half the story. Technology magnifies power in general, but the rates of adoption are different. Criminals, dissidents, the unorganized — all outliers — are more agile. They can make use of new technologies faster, and can magnify their collective power because of it. But when the already-powerful big institutions finally figured out how to use the Internet, they had more raw power to magnify.

This is true for both governments and corporations. We now know that governments all over the world are militarizing the Internet, using it for surveillance, censorship, and propaganda. Large corporations are using it to control what we can do and see, and the rise of winner-take-all distribution systems only exacerbates this.

This is the fundamental tension at the heart of the Internet, and information-based technology in general. The unempowered are more efficient at leveraging new technology, while the powerful have more raw power to leverage. These two trends lead to a battle between the quick and the strong: the quick who can make use of new power faster, and the strong who can make use of that same power more effectively.

This battle is playing out today in many different areas of information technology. You can see it in the security vs. surveillance battles between criminals and the FBI, or dissidents and the Chinese government. You can see it in the battles between content pirates and various media organizations. You can see it where social-media giants and Internet-commerce giants battle against new upstarts. You can see it in politics, where the newer Internet-aware organizations fight with the older, more established, political organizations. You can even see it in warfare, where a small cadre of military can keep a country under perpetual bombardment — using drones — with no risk to the attackers.

This battle is fundamental to Cory Doctorow’s new novel Walkaway. Our heroes represent the quick: those who have checked out of traditional society, and thrive because easy access to 3D printers enables them to eschew traditional notions of property. Their enemy is the strong: the traditional government institutions that exert their power mostly because they can. This battle rages through most of the book, as the quick embrace ever-new technologies and the strong struggle to catch up.

It’s easy to root for the quick, both in Doctorow’s book and in the real world. And while I’m not going to give away Doctorow’s ending — and I don’t know enough to predict how it will play out in the real world — right now, trends favor the strong.

Centralized infrastructure favors traditional power, and the Internet is becoming more centralized. This is true both at the endpoints, where companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon control much of how we interact with information. It’s also true in the middle, where companies like Comcast increasingly control how information gets to us. It’s true in countries like Russia and China that increasingly legislate their own national agenda onto their pieces of the Internet. And it’s even true in countries like the US and the UK, that increasingly legislate more government surveillance capabilities.

At the 1996 World Economic Forum, cyber-libertarian John Perry Barlow issued his “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” telling the assembled world leaders and titans of Industry: “You have no moral right to rule us, nor do you possess any methods of enforcement that we have true reason to fear.” Many of us believed him a scant 20 years ago, but today those words ring hollow.

But if history is any guide, these things are cyclic. In another 20 years, even newer technologies — both the ones Doctorow focuses on and the ones no one can predict — could easily tip the balance back in favor of the quick. Whether that will result in more of a utopia or a dystopia depends partly on these technologies, but even more on the social changes resulting from these technologies. I’m short-term pessimistic but long-term optimistic.

This essay previously appeared on Crooked Timber.

MPAA’s Anti-Piracy Injunction Targets Wrong IP-Address Due to a Typo….

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaas-anti-piracy-injunction-targets-wrong-ip-address-due-to-a-typo-170317/

A few days ago news broke that the MPAA was granted a broad injunction, allowing them to shut down the domain names of Pubfilm’s alleged pirate site ring.

In addition to targeting domain registrars, the injunction also references third-party service providers that host or link to Pubfilm, preventing companies from doing business with these sites.

With the legal paperwork in hand the MPAA successfully shut down several domains. In addition, the Hollywood group also reached out to the associated hosting companies, DigitalOcean and Vultr, requesting them to take appropriate action.

Initially, the case was kept from public view, but this week the court lifted the veil. This allowed us to take a closer look at the injunction, and how it came to be. What caught our eye immediately, is that the court’s preliminary injunction lists an incorrect IP-address.

As it turns out, the MPAA’s private investigator Bob Brasich made a typo in his testimony, and it took several weeks before he spotted the mistake.

“I discovered yesterday, March 5, 2017, that the IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server as stated in paragraph 8 of the Second Supplemental Brasich Declaration contained a typographical error,” Brasich informed (pdf) the court last week.

“The Second Supplemental Brasich Declaration stated that the IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server was 108.61.191.ll4. However, the correct IP address for the Vultr/Choopa server in question is in fact 108.61.191.141, a transposition of the final two digits.”

As far as we can see, the preliminary injunction hasn’t been updated through a corrected order yet, but that’s besides the point really. What’s most concerning is that a simple typo can lead to the wrong server being disconnected.

In this example, the hosting companies also have a domain name as additional proof, but it’s not hard to see how small mistakes can potentially lead to large consequences, especially when these orders become broader and more common.

After the private investigator discovered the error, the MPAA immediately asked the court for a new order correcting the mistake. Ironically, however, that request ends with an apology that also contains a rather embarrassing error.

“Counsel apologies for any inconvenience,” the correction letter states (pdf), complete with glaring mistake.

Anothre Tyop

The typo mistake should act as a warning to illustrate how important oversight is in these cases. And there are more issues regarding the preliminary injunction that are worth keeping a close eye on too.

To a certain degree, it is reminiscent of the blocking provisions that were listed in the controversial SOPA bill, which aimed to increase liability for third party service providers. The application was also filed under seal and without alerting the defendant beforehand, which means that there was minimal oversight.

While it has only been used against registrars and hosting companies thus far, the language in the injunction is quite broad and the MPAA could try to apply it more broadly in the future.

This wouldn’t be a total surprise either. The testimony of the MPAA’s private investigator submitted against the Pubfilm sites is already rife with mentions of third-parties that provide services to the pirate sites.

Google Drive, for example, is named as a video host of the streaming sites. Doubleclick and Propeller Ads are mentioned as advertising partners, and other services such as Imgur, Facebook and Sucuri are listed as well.

If these type of injunctions indeed become more common, it will be interesting to see how other stakeholders will respond. As for the MPAA, they might want to double check their filings in the future, just to be sure.

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

Powerful Copyright Alliance Mulls its Own Anti-Piracy Service

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/powerful-copyright-alliance-mulls-its-own-anti-piracy-service-170121/

copyrightallianceThis week marked the five year anniversary of the SOPA/PIPA blackouts, an important occasion for free Internet advocates everywhere.

The event was less well-received by those on the ‘losing’ side, with copyright advocate David Newhoff describing the anti-SOPA campaign as “one of the most effective fake news stories of all time.”

Newhoff is one of the many thousands of members that make up the powerful and growing Copyright Alliance. Formed in 2007 in direct opposition to the EFF, Public Knowledge and Consumer Electronics Association, this anti-piracy group claims to represent the interests of more than 1.8 million creators and 13,000 organizations in the United States.

They include 350 record labels (RIAA), six movie studios (MPAA), two sports leagues including the NBA, not to mention 3,000 music publishers. It is an anti-piracy juggernaut that demands attention.

Interestingly, what happened after the SOPA protests is that rather than hearing fierce anti-piracy rhetoric directly from the likes of the MPAA and RIAA, one was more likely to hear it from Copyright Alliance members, Newhoff in particular.

In many respects, people like Newhoff have become a more common conduit for major copyright holder complaints. Meanwhile, the websites of the MPAA and RIAA have remained largely conflict-free, with the battle at least partially transferred to the Copyright Alliance.

This week the Alliance asked supporters to participate in a survey. The group provided little detail but with a title of “512 Study” it was clearly targeted at section 512 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act which covers copyright takedown notices and service provider liability.

Reform of the DMCA is a hot topic but it appears that the Copyright Alliance expects copyright holders to be taking down content from the Internet for some time to come. Questions included:

– Have you ever monitored the internet for copyright infringement of your work?
– Have you ever found infringing copies of your work online?
– Which websites have you found infringing copies of your work on?
– How do you monitor infringement of your work online?
– How often do you monitor for infringement of your work online?
– On average, how many hours weekly do you spend monitoring for infringement of your work online?

At this point in the survey, it became clear that the Copyright Alliance was guiding respondents towards the notion that the DMCA takedown process can be somewhat laborious, which indeed it may well be. With that in mind, it was no surprise when question 14 asked the following:

alliance-dmca

If the Copyright Alliance does create its own anti-piracy service, it will join dozens, perhaps hundreds of others, operating in the same space. Currently it’s a flourishing business but ironically, if the Copyright Alliance gets its way, takedowns could become less prevalent in the future.

The U.S. Government’s Copyright Office is in the middle of a consultation which seeks guidance on the future of the DMCA’s takedown process and safe harbor for service providers.

Groups like the Copyright Alliance want a “takedown, staydown” regime, to ensure that, once deleted, content doesn’t pop up elsewhere. Opponents believe such a mechanism would be impractical and could stifle free speech.

Whatever the outcome, there will still be significant demand for a takedown service, should the Copyright Alliance choose to form one. And, with potentially close to a couple of million creators to represent, it could be very busy indeed.

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.

Music Industry Pressures Trump on Piracy Ahead of Silicon Valley Meeting

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/music-industry-pressures-trump-on-piracy-ahead-of-silicon-valley-meeting-161214/

trumpIn a matter of weeks the United States will have a brand new president, so it’s now time to resign a bitter election battle to history and make plans for the future.

This afternoon, representatives of some of the most significant technology companies on the planet will meet with President-elect Donald Trump for a round-table discussion in New York.

Heading to Trump Tower will be Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google parent Alphabet, Tim Cook of Apple, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Satya Nadella of Microsoft. According to the New York Times, the companies are keeping a low profile about the event, but with giants like IBM, Intel and Cisco also in attendance, flying under the radar just isn’t possible.

The meeting today clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by America’s music industry either. Despite some attempts at building bridges with companies such as Google, there is a gaping chasm of understanding due to the manner in which platforms like YouTube are said to utilize music without properly compensating artists. The industry feels that Trump has a role to play in solving this problem.

In an open letter to president-elect Trump congratulating him on his election, the RIAA and an A to Z of music groups make it clear that he should keep them in mind when he meets with the technology giants this afternoon. Protection of their intellectual property is paramount, they argue.

“Congratulations on your election to serve as the 45th President of the United States. We look forward to working with you and your Administration on behalf of American music – one of our nation’s most valuable forms of art and intellectual property, and a powerful driver of high – quality U.S. jobs and exports,” they begin.

Pointing to a statement Trump issued earlier this year when he described intellectual property as “a driving force in today’s global economy of constant innovation” while calling for its protection, the groups paint themselves as sharing the president-elect’s goals.

“So much of what you wrote in your platform this summer about intellectual property and private property rights resonated with many of us,” they write, adding that they share the desire to take strong action to enforce intellectual property laws against infringers.

Noting that they’re aware of the meeting today, the music groups lay out the significance of their industry, claiming a $1.2m trillion contribution to the economy while supporting the jobs of 5.5 million Americans. However, they also remind America’s forthcoming new leader that some of the companies he will meet with today owe a great debt to the music industry.

“Indeed, many of today’s popular technology platforms owe much of their growth and success to music. Music is responsible for the most-followed accounts on Facebook and Twitter, the most-watched videos on YouTube, and is one of the most popular draws for phones and other personal devices,” they note.

The music groups say that such platforms thrive by delivering the work created by artists and many deserve to be commended for valuing and protecting the music industry. But while some have developed systems to “deter theft”, much more needs to be done.

“Search engines, user upload content platforms, hosting companies, and domain name registrars and registries should follow others’ example to effectively stop theft and assure fair payment,” they say.

“Further, there is a massive ‘value grab’ as some of these corporations weaken intellectual property rights for America’s creators by exploiting legal loopholes never intended for them – perversely abusing U.S. law to underpay music creators, thus harming one of America’s economic and job engines.

“Surely the world’s most sophisticated technology corporations can do better – by helping to prevent illegal access and paying fair market value for music with prices set by or based on the free market.”

All of these issues were covered by the Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement released by the Obama administration this week. At this point (and despite political differences) it seems unlikely that Trump will deviate far from its key goal of protecting American interests both domestically and overseas.

However, as the SOPA debate of almost five years ago brought sharply into focus, technology companies and the content industries might need each other to progress, but agreement on IP issues are usually tough to come by, especially when that involves holding tech companies responsible for the infringements of others. Trump certainly has a balancing act up ahead, but the music groups know which way they want him to go.

“Strong protection for intellectual property rights will assure growth in both creativity and technology, benefiting the American economy as a whole. We hope you will lead the effort to assure American creativity is encouraged, invested in, protected and fairly compensated in a manner that carries out the exclusive rights guaranteed in the Constitution to those who, with the genius of their mind, form the cultural identity of our great nation,” they conclude.

The original letter can be found here (pdf)

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

Will President Trump Be Tough on Online Piracy?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/will-president-trump-be-tough-on-online-piracy-161112/

trump2At TorrentFreak we have no interest in reporting on politics, except when it’s relevant to copyright issues.

After the surprising victory of Donald Trump earlier this week, several people asked what this would mean for the country’s stance on piracy and copyright enforcement in general.

While we would love to dissect the issue in detail, there are no concrete policy proposals yet. Neither Trump nor Clinton have gone into detail over the past few months.

So what do we know?

It’s not a secret that Donald Trump made some rather dubious remarks during his election campaign. For example, he suggested that it might be worth considering whether to “close up” the Internet over terrorist threats.

Extreme or not, we believe that extrapolating these kinds of one-liners into copyright policy proposals goes a bit far, to say the least.

A concrete promise Trump has made on copyright issues came a few hours after his election victory. The president-elect vowed to end foreign trade abuses with help from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which keeps a close eye on pirate sites.

“I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately,” Trump said.

This is tough language. Still, the promise is hardly any different from the general policy that’s been in place over the past several years. After all, identifying and addressing foreign trade abuses is one of the key goals of the USTR.

Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that Trump is not on his own. He needs Congress to steer the country in a new direction, and it may not always be easy to reach consensus.

Trump may very well have a pro-copyright agenda. But would that really change anything? Let’s review some of the copyright-related developments that took place under President Obama’s reign.

– The Department of Homeland Security seized dozens of domain names of alleged copyright infringing websites, leading to various constitutional complaints.

– The Government had to give back some of the seized domains and accidentally took down 84,000 websites.

– President Obama’s IP-Czar laid the groundwork for the controversial SOPA and PIPA bills, which were close to becoming law.

– The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to keep high staturory damages for copyright infringement intact to deter pirates.

– The U.S. Government tried to have UK student Richard O’Dwyer extradited for operating a linking site.

– The Department of Justice started major criminal prosecutions against the operators of Megaupload and KickassTorrents.

– Several U.S. site owners and other pirates were sent to jail, serving multiple years for copyright infringements.

And the list goes on and on.

Of course things can easily get more extreme, but thus far there haven’t been any concrete signs of that happening.

Ironically, one of Trump’s main promises is to end the TPP trade agreement, which digital rights activists widely condemned for its draconian copyright plans. So that’s definitely not a pro-copyright move.

This article is not an attempt to defend or critisize Trump. However, we do try to break away from all the one-sided and sensationalist analyses by trying to put things in perspective.

Perhaps it’s a good idea to take a step back and just wait and see. There will be plenty of policy proposals during the coming years, just as we’ve seen under Obama. If the Trump administration goes after The Pirate Bay, that would not be a change of course…

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

Anti-Piracy Groups Petition Clinton & Trump for Tough Copyright Laws

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/anti-piracy-groups-petition-clinton-trump-for-tough-copyright-laws-160907/

trump-clintonAs the presidential election moves towards the home straight, millions of individuals and businesses in the United States are considering how the outcome might affect them.

Unsurprisingly, powerful groups in the entertainment industry are also weighing the implications and with billions at stake, who could blame them.

Of course, just like the rest of the population, neither Hollywood nor the major recording labels have a crystal ball, so in recent months their public lobbying efforts have been mindful of the possibility that either Clinton or Trump could get into power.

This week that trend continued, with the publication of a new open letter and the launch of a petition by two influential anti-piracy groups, the Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture.

The Copyright Alliance is a true powerhouse which counts the MPAA, RIAA, Viacom, Oracle, Getty Images and many other corporations among its members. CreativeFuture is a huge coalition of some 450 companies in the film, television, music, and book publishing sectors.

In their letter addressed to “2016 Political Candidates”, the groups describe themselves as members of the creative community, who despite political differences are united in their goal of reducing piracy.

“While our political views are diverse, as creators, there are core principles on which we can all agree. And we appreciate the opportunity to share our views with our country’s current and future leaders,” the groups write.

What immediately becomes apparent in the letter are the glowing references to the Internet. With lessons learned from the SOPA debacle which was perceived by many as an attack on the world’s most important network, Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture begin by cheerfully praising its positives.

“We embrace the internet as a powerful democratizing force for our world and for creative industries. We recognize its ability to inspire positive change and improve lives,” they write.

“In our creative industries, the internet has helped to advance creativity by removing barriers to entry for newcomers, fostering a dialogue with fans, audiences, and consumers, and providing numerous additional ways to reach them. The internet holds great potential to expand creativity and free expression.”

While one might have strongly expected a ‘but’ at this juncture, the groups are careful not to set up a clash of ideals. It’s not difficult to see that their aim is to quietly assure that the successful protection of copyrighted content does not have to come at the expense of the Internet.

“We embrace a strong copyright system that rewards creativity and promotes a healthy creative economy. The incredible cultural and economic value that the internet delivers to billions of users is based in very large part on the efforts of creative content makers whose livelihoods depend on being compensated for their efforts,” they add.

“Copyright should protect creators from those who would use the internet to undermine creativity. The internet can be a great tool for creators just as it can be a tool for science, education, health care, and many other disciplines. However, when misused, it can harm creativity and stifle freedom of expression.”

And if anyone missed the hints that Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture are supporters of both creative content and the interests of the Internet, the groups quickly take the opportunity to underline that again. However, one gets the impression that their definition of online freedom might not be the same as that championed by Internet activists.

“Our current and future leaders recognize that a safe and secure internet benefits us all. And all parties recognize the importance of strong copyright protections in their technology policy platforms because protecting copyright and internet freedom are both critically important and complementary — they are not mutually exclusive,” they write.

“A truly free internet, like any truly free community, is one where people respect the rights of others and can engage in legitimate activities safely — and where those who do not are held accountable under law by their peers.”

Interestingly, the letter also warns 2016’s political candidates against “organizations and advocates” funded by “online platforms” that claim to be “pro-creators and pro-audience to mask their own self-serving agenda.”

These groups are not mentioned by name but the likes of EFF and Fight for the Future have been spoken of in similar terms and have appeared in negative articles published by the Copyright Alliance earlier this year.

“[The nameless groups] denigrate or block effective efforts to preserve and promote creative content, including enforcement of existing laws and voluntary industry initiatives,” Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture warn, adding:

“The creative community is rightfully wary of any company or organization that claims to be ‘against piracy’ when their actions do not match their words.”

And of course, even if not mentioned by name, no appeal would be complete without a subtle reference to Google and/or YouTube. Trump and Clinton are left to fill in the gaps and asked to do the right thing.

“Internet platforms are making massive profits from creative contributions to the internet’s growth. It is not too much to ask that content creators should be able to share in the value they provide,” the groups write.

With the election likely to go to the wire, Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture are keen to ensure that anti-piracy measures are seen as a universal concern, no matter where people reside on the political spectrum.

“There is no ‘left’ or ‘right’ when it comes to respecting copyright. The creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that will continue to make the United States the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression,” they note.

“Our copyright system is not perfect but, like democracy, it is better than the alternatives. It works. We urge our leaders to maintain America’s commitment to the right of creators to determine when and how they share their works in the global marketplace.”

In support of their open letter, Copyright Alliance and CreativeFuture have also launched a Change.org petition in an attempt to get 5,000 signatures supporting their cause.

“Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative or libertarian, strong and effective copyright is not a partisan issue but rather one that benefits our entire country. We ask that you stand with us by adding your name to this letter – to show political candidates that we stand united, we stand creative,” they conclude.

Open Letter to 2016 Political Candidates

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

Google Senior Counsel Defends Company’s Anti-Piracy Measures

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-senior-counsel-defends-companys-anti-piracy-measures-160701/

google-waterWhile threats against The Pirate Bay were once in vogue, entertainment industry outfits have already decided that attacking ancillary legitimate companies might be the way forward.

As a result (and despite going way beyond its obligations under current copyright law) Google is increasingly being made the scapegoat for the world’s piracy problems.

Someone uploads illegal content to YouTube? That must be Google’s fault. Google indexes an allegedly infringing site among the millions of others it indexes? Google’s fault too, even though it’s prepared to deindex any number of pages on request.

In short, whatever the company does, it’s never enough, and the pressure is being ramped up from all angles from those who expect Google to become the Internet police.

Last evening TF published an article detailing how the MPAA’s deal with the Donuts registry had resulted in the disabling of the Primewire.guru domain.

The piece was retweeted by Google Senior Counsel Fred von Lohmann but soon others were weighing in. Lawyer Devlin Hartline from the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property immediately accused Google of being part of the problem.

Von Lohmann quickly fired back, noting that all Google had done was index the site like any other among the billion online today. It also received less than 500 URL complaints against the site and had removed them all.

But by now Hartline had the bit between his teeth

“It was an obvious pirate site, which @DonutsInc thankfully did something about rather than index it for the world. #FixTheNet,” he wrote.

But Hartline wasn’t done yet. Since Primewire.guru is clearly a very small player, the lawyer upped the ante by changing the argument to encompass a much bigger site.

4Shared.com is a world leader when it comes to copyright complaints so Hartline asked von Lohmann why that site still appears in search results, throwing in a #lame for good measure.

Noting that Hartline had switched the argument, von Lohmann turned his attention to the Google search parameters his sparring partner had included in his Tweet. Rather than searching for specific and perhaps pirate content, Hartline’s search was formulated to show all of 4shared’s pages. As a result, that’s what he got.

“Can you get 4shared to appear [in Google’s search results] with a query that doesn’t include their name?” von Lohmann responded. Hartline quickly fired back.

“If you think that 4shared is so obviously pirate that you demote it in the search results, why not just remove it altogether?” he said. Old ground, von Lohmann said.

In response, Hartline said he was “well aware” of the debate but still he persisted. If Donuts is prepared to pull the trigger, why doesn’t Google simply do “more”?

Of course, no matter what anti-piracy measures Google puts in place, rightsholders always want “more”. For its part, Google feels that it’s doing enough but in the meantime von Lohmann had some pretty sound advice for Hartline. If you don’t want infringing results, stop searching for them.

This is a pretty important statement from von Lohmann. What he’s reiterating is that unless people go specifically hunting for content on sites that have received the most DMCA notices, those sites won’t appear in search results.

This means that users who are casually searching for music, movies or TV shows (legal or illegal) won’t be handed results from 4shared or other popular ‘pirate’ sites unless they form their searches to do so.

Of course, ‘pirate’ results still appear but these days the quality of those results is much lower than it used to be. Rightsholders won’t be happy until they’ve gone completely though, so arguments like these will continue, ad infinitum.

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

MPAA Lobbyist / SOPA Sponsor to Draft Democratic Party Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-lobbyist-sopa-sponsor-to-draft-democratic-party-platform-160531/

berman-smallLast week Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz chose a panel of individuals to draft the party’s platform.

As previously reported, 15 were selected, with six chosen by Clinton, five chosen by Bernie Sanders and four chosen by Wasserman Schultz. While other publications will certainly pick over the bones of the rest of the committee, one in particular stands out as interesting to TF readers.

Howard L Berman is an attorney and former U.S. Representative. He’s employed at Covington & Burling as a lobbyist and represents the MPAA on matters including “Intellectual property issues in trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties, copyright, and related legislation.”

It will come as no surprise then that the major studios have been donors throughout Berman’s political career. As shown in the image below, the top five contributors are all major movie companies.

hberman1

Born in 1941, Berman’s work with the film industry earned him the nickname “the congressman from Hollywood” and over the years he’s been at the root of some of the most heated debates over the protection of intellectual property.

In 2007 and as later confirmed by Wikileaks, Berman was one of the main proponents of ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.

Just five short years later Berman was at the heart of perhaps the biggest copyright controversy the world has ever seen when he became a co-sponsor of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

“The theft of American Intellectual Property not only robs those in the creative chain of adequate compensation, but it also stunts potential for economic growth, cheats our communities out of good paying jobs, and threatens future American innovation,” Berman said in the run-up to SOPA.

While these kinds of soundbites are somewhat common, it’s interesting to note that Berman showed particular aggression towards Google during hearings focusing on SOPA. On November 16, 2011, Berman challenged the search giant over its indexing of The Pirate Bay.

google-bayInsisting that there “is no contradiction between intellectual property rights protection and enforcement ensuring freedom of expression on the Internet,” Berman said that Google’s refusal to delist the entire site was unacceptable.

“All right. Well, explain to me this one,” Berman demanded of Google policy counsel Katherine Oyama.

“The Pirate Bay is a notorious pirate site, a fact that its founders proudly proclaim in the name of the site itself. In fact, the site’s operators have been criminally convicted in Europe. And yet…..U.S.-Google continues to send U.S. consumers to the site by linking to the site in your search results. Why does Google refuse to de-index the site in your search results?” he said.

Oyama tried to answer, noting that Google invests tens of millions of dollars into the problem. “We have hundreds of people around the world that work on it,” she said. “When it comes to copyright….”

Berman didn’t allow her to finish, repeating his question about delisting the whole site, again and again. Before Berman’s time ran out, Oyama was interrupted several more times while trying to explain that the DMCA requires takedowns of specific links, not entire domains. Instead, Berman suggested that Oyama should “infuse herself” with the notion that Google wanted to stop “digital theft.”

“[T]he DMCA is not doing the job. That is so obvious,” he said. “[Y]ou cannot look at what is going on since the passage of the DMCA and say Congress got it just right. Maintain the status quo.”

These arguments continue today in the “takedown, staydown” debate surrounding the ongoing review of the DMCA, with Hollywood lining up on one side and Google being held responsible for the actions of others on the other. But simply complaining about the DMCA is a little moderate for Berman.

Almost one and a half decades ago in the wake of Napster and before the rise of BitTorrent, Berman had a dream of dealing with peer-to-peer file-sharing by force. In 2002 he proposed the Peer To Peer Piracy Prevention Act, which would have allowed copyright holders to take extraordinary technical measures against file-sharers in order to stop the unauthorized distribution of their content.

H.R.5211 sought to amend Federal copyright law to protect a copyright owner from liability in any criminal or civil action “for impairing, with appropriate technology, the unauthorized distribution, display, performance, or reproduction of his or her copyrighted work on a publicly accessible peer-to-peer file trading network.”

The bill didn’t deal in specifics, but “impairing” was widely believed to be a euphemism for DDoS and poisoning attacks on individual file-sharers in order to make sharing impossible from their computers.

At the time “shared-folder” type sharing apps were still popular so bombarding networks with fake and badly named files would also have been fair game, although distributing viruses and malware were not on the table. Eventually, however, the bill died.

Berman, on the other hand, appears to be very much alive and will be soon helping to draft the Democratic Party platform. On past experience his input might not be too difficult to spot.

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