Tag Archives: takedown notices

Cloudflare Kicks Out Torrent Site For Abuse Reporting Interference

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-kicks-out-torrent-site-for-abuse-reporting-interference-180420/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

The company’s clients include billion dollar companies and national governments, but also personal blogs, and even pirate sites.

Copyright holders are not happy with the latter category and are pressuring Cloudflare to cut their ties with sites like The Pirate Bay, both in and out of court.

Cloudflare, however, maintains that it’s a neutral service provider. They forward copyright infringement notices to their customers, for example, but deny any liability for these sites.

Generally speaking, the company only disconnects a customer in response to a court order, as it did with Sci-Hub earlier this year. That’s why it came as a surprise when the anime torrent site NYAA.si was disconnected this week.

The site, which is a replacement for the original NYAA, has millions of users and is particularly popular in Japan. Without prior warning, it became unavailable for several hours this week, after Cloudflare removed it from its services. So what happened?

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator who said that the exact reason for the termination remains a mystery to him. He reached out to Cloudflare looking for answers, but the comany simply stated that it’s about “avoiding measures taken to avoid abuse complaints,” as can be seen below.

One of Cloudflare’s messages

The operator says he hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary and showed his willingness to resolve any possible issues. However, that hasn’t changed Cloudflare’s stance.

“We asked multiple times for clarification. We also expressed that we were willing to attempt to work with them on whatever the problem actually was, if they would explain what they even mean.

“Naturally, I have been stonewalled by them at every stage. I’ve contacted numerous persons at Cloudflare and nobody will talk about this,” NYAA’s operator adds.

TorrentFreak asked Cloudflare for more details and the company confirmed that the matter was related to interference with its abuse reporting systems, without providing further detail.

“We determined that the customer had taken steps specifically intended to interfere with and thwart the operation of our abuse reporting systems,” Cloudflare’s General Counsel Doug Kramer informed us.

Cloudflare’s statement suggests that the site took active steps to interfere with the abuse process. The company added that it can’t go into detail, but says that the reason for the termination was shared with the website owner.

The website owner, on the other hand, informs us that he has no clue what the exact problem is. NYAA.si occasionally swaps IP addresses and have recently set up some mirror domains, but these were all under the same account. So, he has no idea why that would interfere with any abuse reports.

“I’m honestly unsure of what we could have done that ‘circumvents” their abuse system,” NYAA’s operator says, adding that the only abuse reports received were copyright related.

It’s unlikely, however, that copyright takedown notices alone would warrant account termination, as most of the largest torrent sites use Cloudflare.

NYAA’s operator says he can do little more than speculate at the point. Some have hinted at a secret court order while Japan’s recent crackdown on manga and anime piracy also came to mind, all without a grain of evidence of course.

Whatever the reason, NYAA.si now has to move on without Cloudflare, while the mystery remains.

“Frankly, this whole thing is a joke. I don’t understand why they would willingly host much bigger sites like ThePirateBay without any issue, or even ISIS, or the various hacking groups that have used them over time,” the operator says.

If more information about the abuse process interfere becomes available, we’ll definitely follow it up.

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

Google Search Receives Fewer Takedown Notices Than Before

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-search-receives-fewer-takedown-notices-than-before-180414/

In recent years Google has had to cope with a continuous increase in takedown requests from copyright holders, which target pirate sites in search results.

Just a few years ago the search engine removed ‘only’ a few thousand URLs per day. This has since grown to millions and has kept growing, until recently.

Around a year ago Google received a billion takedown requests a year, and for a while, it stabilized at roughly 20 million requests per week. By October last year, Google search had processed over three billion DMCA requests since it started counting.

After that, it appears that things calmed down a little. Where Google’s weekly takedown chart went up year after year, it’s now trending in a downward direction.

During the past half year, Google received ‘only’ 375 million takedown requests. That translates to roughly 15 million per week or 750 million per year. This is a 25% decrease compared the average in 2016.

Does this mean that copyright holders can no longer find enough pirated content via the search engine? We doubt it. But it’s clear that some of the big reporting agencies are sending in less complaints.

Degban, for example, which was at one point good for more than 10% of the weekly number of DMCA requests, has disappeared completely. Other big players, such as the Mexican anti-piracy outfit APDIF and Remove Your Media, have clearly lowered their volumes.

APDIF’s weekly DMCA volume

Of all the big players, UK Music Group BPI has been most consistent. Their average hasn’t dropped much in recent years, but is certainly not rising either.

It’s too early to tell whether this trend will hold, but according to the numbers we see now, Google will for the first time have a significant decrease in the number of takedown requests this year.

Despite the decrease, Google is under quite a bit of pressure from copyright holders to improve its takedown efforts. Most would like Google to delist pirate site domains entirely.

While the search engine isn’t willing to go that far, it does give a lower ranking to sites for which it receives a large volume of takedown requests. In addition, the company recently started accepting ‘prophylactic’ DMCA requests, for content that is not indexed yet.

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

Reddit Copyright Complaints Jump 138% But Almost Half Get Rejected

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-copyright-complaints-jump-138-but-almost-half-get-rejected-180411/

So-called ‘transparency reports’ are becoming increasingly popular with Internet-based platforms and their users. Among other things, they provide much-needed insight into how outsiders attempt to censor content published online and what actions are taken in response.

Google first started publishing its report in 2010, Twitter followed in 2012, and they’ve now been joined by a multitude of major companies including Microsoft, Facebook and Cloudflare.

As one of the world’s most recognized sites, Reddit joined the transparency party fairly late, publishing its first report in early 2015. While light on detail, it revealed that in the previous year the site received just 218 requests to remove content, 81% of which were DMCA-style copyright notices. A significant 62% of those copyright-related requests were rejected.

Over time, Reddit’s reporting has become a little more detailed. Last April it revealed that in 2016, the platform received ‘just’ 3,294 copyright removal requests for the entire year. However, what really caught the eye is how many notices were rejected. In just 610 instances, Reddit was required to remove content from the site, a rejection rate of 81%.

Having been a year since Reddit’s last report, the company has just published its latest edition, covering the period January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017.

“Reddit publishes this transparency report every year as part of our ongoing commitment to keep you aware of the trends on the various requests regarding private Reddit user account information or removal of content posted to Reddit,” the company said in a statement.

“Reddit believes that maintaining this transparency is extremely important. We want you to be aware of this information, consider it carefully, and ask questions to keep us accountable.”

The detailed report covers a wide range of topics, including government requests for the preservation or production of user information (there were 310) and even an instruction to monitor one Reddit user’s activities in real time via a so-called ‘Trap and Trace’ order.

In copyright terms, there has been significant movement. In 2017, Reddit received 7,825 notifications of alleged copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, that’s up roughly 138% over the 3,294 notifications received in 2016.

For a platform of Reddit’s unquestionable size, these volumes are not big. While the massive percentage increase is notable, the site still receives less than 10 complaints each day. For comparison, Google receives millions every week.

But perhaps most telling is that despite receiving more than 7,800 DMCA-style takedown notices, these resulted in Reddit carrying out just 4,352 removals. This means that for whatever reasons (Reddit doesn’t specify), 3,473 requests were denied, a rejection rate of 44.38%. Google, on the other hand, removes around 90% of content reported.

DMCA notices can be declared invalid for a number of reasons, from incorrect formatting through to flat-out abuse. In many cases, copyright law is incorrectly applied and it’s not unknown for complainants to attempt a DMCA takedown to stifle speech or perceived competition.

Reddit says it tries to take all things into consideration before removing content.

“Reddit reviews each DMCA takedown notice carefully, and removes content where a valid report is received, as required by the law,” the company says.

“Reddit considers whether the reported content may fall under an exception listed in the DMCA, such as ‘fair use,’ and may ask for clarification that will assist in the review of the removal request.”

Considering the numbers of community-focused “subreddits” dedicated to piracy (not just general discussion, but actual links to content), the low numbers of copyright notices received by Reddit continues to baffle.

There are sections in existence right now offering many links to movies and TV shows hosted on various file-hosting sites. They’re the type of links that are targeted all the time whenever they appear in Google search but copyright owners don’t appear to notice or care about them on Reddit.

Finally, it would be nice if Reddit could provide more information in next year’s report, including detail on why so many requests are rejected. Perhaps regular submission of notices to the Lumen Database would be something Reddit would consider for the future.

Reddit’s Transparency Report for 2017 can be found here.

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

ISP Books Partial Victory Against RIAA in Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-books-partial-victory-against-riaa-in-piracy-lawsuit-180405/

Last year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit against ISP Grande Communications accusing it of turning a blind eye to pirating subscribers.

According to the RIAA, the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, but failed to take any meaningful action in response.

Grande refuted the accusations and filed a motion to dismiss the case. Among other things, the ISP argued that it didn’t disconnect users based on mere allegations, doubting the accuracy of piracy tracking company Rightscorp.

Last week Texas District Court Judge Lee Yeakel decided to dismiss the vicarious copyright infringement claim against Grande. The request to dismiss the contributory copyright infringement claim was denied, however.

With this decision, Judge Yeakel follows the recommendation of Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin. This, despite detailed objections from both the RIAA and the Internet provider.

The RIAA contested the recommendation by arguing that Grande can be held liable for vicarious infringement, as they have a direct financial interest in keeping pirating subscribers on board.

“[C]ase law is clear that direct financial benefit exists where the availability of the infringing material acts as a draw. Grande’s refusal to police its system speaks to the right and ability to control element of vicarious infringement,” the RIAA wrote.

In addition, the RIAA protested the recommended dismissal of the claims against Grande’s management company Patriot Media Consulting, arguing that it played a central role in formulating infringement related policies.

Judge Yeakel was not convinced, however, and concluded that the vicarious infringement claim should be dismissed, as are all copyright infringement claims against Patriot Media Consulting.

For its part, the ISP contested the Magistrate Judge’s conclusion that Rightscorp’s takedown notices may serve as evidence for contributory infringement, noting that they are nothing more than allegations.

“[P]laintiffs do not allege that Grande was willfully blind to any actual evidence of infringement, only to unverifiable allegations of copyright infringement.”

In addition, the Internet provider also stressed that the RIAA sued the company solely on the premise that it failed to police its customers, not because it promoted or encouraged copyright infringement.

Again, Judge Yeakel waived the objections and sided with the recommendation from the Magistrate Judge. As such, the motion to dismiss the contributory infringement claim is denied.

This means that the case between the RIAA and Grande Communication is still heading to trial, albeit on the contributory copyright infringement claim alone.

More details on the report and recommendation are available in our earlier article. US District Court Judge Yeakel’s order is available here (pdf).

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

Google Adds ‘Kodi’ to Autocomplete Piracy Filter

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-adds-kodi-to-autocomplete-piracy-filter-180328/

In recent years entertainment industry groups have repeatedly urged Google to ramp up its anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has made several changes to its search algorithms to make copyright-infringing material less visible.

The company demotes results from domain names for which it receives many DMCA takedown notices, for example, and it has also removed several piracy-related terms from its autocomplete feature.

The latter means that when one types “pirate ba” it won’t suggest pirate bay. Instead, people see “pirate bays” or “pirate books” as suggestions. Whether that’s very effective is up for debate, but it’s intentional.

“Google has taken steps to prevent terms closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete and Related Search,” the company previously explained.

“This is similar to the approach we have taken for a narrow class of terms related to pornography, violence, and hate speech.”

When the piracy filter was first implemented, several seemingly neutral terms such as BitTorrent and uTorrent were also targeted. While these were later reinstated, we recently noticed another autocomplete ban that’s rather broad.

It turns out that Google has recently removed the term “Kodi” from its autocomplete results. While Kodi can be abused through pirate add-ons, the media player software itself is perfectly legal, which makes it an odd decision.

Users who type in “Kod” get a list of suggestions including “Kodak” and “Kodiak,” but not the much more popular search term Kodi.

Kodiak?

Similarly, when typing “addons for k” Google suggests addons for Kokotime and Krypton 17.6. While the latter is a Kodi version, the name of the media player itself doesn’t come up as a suggestion.

Once users type the full Kodi term and add a space, plenty of suggestions suddenly appear, which is similar to other banned terms.

Kokotime

Ironically enough, the Kokotime app is frequently used by pirates as well. Also, the names of all of the pirate Kodi addons we checked still show up fine in the autosuggest feature.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t document its autocomplete removal decisions, nor does it publish the full list of banned words. However, the search engine confirms that Kodi’s piracy stigma is to blame here.

“Since 2011, we have been filtering certain terms closely associated with copyright infringement from Google Autocomplete. This action is consistent with that long-standing strategy,” a spokesperson told us.

The Kodi team, operated by the XBMC Foundation, is disappointed with the decision and points out that their software does not cross any lines.

“We are surprised and disappointed to discover Kodi has been removed from autocomplete, as Kodi is perfectly legal open source software,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen told us.

The Kodi team has been actively trying to distance itself from pirate elements. They enforce their trademark against sellers of pirate boxes and are in good contact with Hollywood’s industry group, the MPAA.

“We have a professional relationship with the MPAA, who have specifically made clear in the past their own position that Kodi is legal software,” Betzen notes.

“We hope Google will reconsider this decision in the future, or at a minimum limit their removal to search terms where the legality is actually in dispute.”

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

Rapidgator Plans to Launch Blockchain Powered File-Storage Platform

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rapidgator-plans-to-launch-blockchain-powered-file-storage-platform-180325/

For several years, Rapidgator has been one of the leading file-sharing sites on the Internet.

While Rapidgator’s functionality hasn’t drastically changed in recent years, the site’s CEO has been working on an ambitious new project. This month, he’s introducing their blockchain powered file-sharing and distribution platform Market.space to the world.

Generally speaking, we’re not too eager to cover ICOs and new cryptocurrencies but with a major file-sharing player getting involved, we decided to take a closer look.

Simply speaking, the new platform will act as a hosting aggregator. Professional hosting services can offer their unused capacity, creating a market where consumers can pick the option that’s best for them, with bulletproof anonymity.

Decentralized file-storage services are not new by any means. Platforms such as Filecoin and Storj.io have been around for a while, so how does Market.space differentiate itself?

According to Rapidgator’s operator and CEO, Alex Rakhmanov, Market.space will focus on partnerships with large professional hosting companies. This as opposed to storing content on computers of the public.

“Market.space will be booking.com for storage where the customer can select the best location for his storage and the lowest price,” Rakhmanov says.

On the demand side, the audience can be quite diverse, ranging from companies who need a file-storage solution to artists or scientists who want to share their data.

The technical details and fine print of the plan are spelled out in the whitepaper, although it’s hard to judge a project without being able to try a working version. The most interesting part to us, at this point, is the link to Rapidgator, which is publicly promoted.

The Market.space website highlights the CEO and mentions Rapidgator as an established file-sharing platform with a storage capacity of more than 20 Petabytes and 40 million visitors per month.

Although that’s a testament to its file-sharing expertise, critics are likely to point out the piracy label copyright holders have applied to the site over the years.

Market.space’s Background

While the site can be used to share any type of file, it has often been criticized as a piracy haven. Earlier this year, the site was also featured on the US Trade Representative’s list of notorious markets.

These characterizations are not new, but Rapidgator’s CEO categorically refutes the claims.

“Rapidgator is a highly acclaimed file-sharing website, with an established technology behind it. We comply with the DMCA and remove files when they are reported,” Rakhmanov tells TorrentFreak.

He stresses that Rapidgator currently works with major industry players such as IFPI, who have direct access to their takedown tools. Market.space will also comply with DMCA takedown notices, although this isn’t expected to be a major issue.

“As for market.space it is more a business to business model. I don’t think there will be any copyright issues,” Rakhmanov says.

“Still, we’ll have to register the new project for DMCA purposes and remove files if they are reported. If a report is false, the user can send a counternotice and restore it,” he adds.

Market.space’s token sale, which will various tokens including SIA and Storj, starts on April 16. The ICO has a hard cap of $50 million, and a minimum of $15 million is required to get the project off the ground.

Market.space

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

Owner of ShareBeast and AlbumJams Sentenced To Five Years in Prison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deezer Piles Pressure on Pirates, Deezloader Reborn Throws in the Towel

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/deezer-piles-pressure-on-pirates-deezloader-reborn-throws-in-the-towel-180315/

Spotify might grab most of the headlines in the world of music streaming but French firm Deezer is also growing in popularity.

Focused more on non-English speaking regions, the music service still has a massive selection of tens of millions of tracks. More importantly for pirates, it also has a loophole or two that allows users to permanently download songs from the service, a huge ‘selling’ point for the compulsive archiver.

One of the most popular third-party tools for achieving this was Deezloader but last year Deezer put pressure on its operators to cease-and-desist.

“On April 27, 2017 we received takedowns and threatened legal action from Deezer if we don’t shut down by April 29. So we decided to shut down Deezloader permanently,” the team announced.

Rather than kill the scene, the attack on Deezloader only seemed to spur things on. Many other apps underwent development in the months that followed but last December it became evident that Deezer (and probably the record labels supplying its content) were growing increasingly tired of these kinds of applications.

The company sent a wave of DMCA notices to developer platform GitHub, targeting several tools, claiming that they are “in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors.”

GitHub responded quickly by removing access to repositories referencing Deezloader, DeezerDownload, Deeze, Deezerio, Deezit, Deedown, and their associated forks. Deezer also reportedly modified its API, in order to stop or hinder apps already in existence.

However, pirates are a determined bunch and behind the scenes many sought to breathe new life into their projects, to maintain the flow of free music from Deezer. One of those that gained traction was the obviously-titled ‘Deezloader Reborn’ which enjoyed a new lease of life on both Github and Reddit after taking over from DeezLoader V2.3.1.

But in January 2018, Deezer turned up the pressure again, hitting Github with a wave (1,2) of takedown notices targeting various projects. On January 23, Deezer hit Deezloader Reborn itself with the notice detailed below.

The following project, identified in the paragraph below, makes available a hacked version of our Deezer application by describing methods to bypass Deezer’s security measures to unlawfully download its music catalogue, in total violation of our rights and of the rights of our music licensors (phonographic producers, performing artists, songwriters and composers):

https://github.com/ExtendLord/DeezLoader-Reborn

I therefore ask that you immediately take down the project corresponding to the URL above and all of the related forks by others members who have had access or even contributed to such projects.

Not only did Github comply with Deezer’s request, Reddit did too. According to a thread still listed on the site, Reddit removed a post about Deezloader Reborn following a copyright complaint from Deezer.

Two days later Deezer targeted similar projects on Github but by this time, Deezloader Reborn already had new plans. Speaking with TF, project developer ExtendLord said that he wouldn’t be shutting down but would continue on code repository Gitlab instead. Now, however, those plans have also come to an abrupt end after Gitlab took the page down.

Deezloader Reborn – gone from Gitlab

A copy of the page available on Archive.org shows Deezloader Reborn at version 3.0.5 with the ability to download music ready-tagged and in FLAC quality. Links to newer versions are being shared on Reddit but it appears there is no longer a central trusted source for the application.

There’s no official confirmation yet but it seems likely that Deezer was behind the Gitlab takedown. TorrentFreak has contacted ExtendLord who linked us to this page which states that “DeezLoader Reborn is no longer maintained due to DMCA. [Version] 3.1.0 is the last update, no more updates will be made.”

So, at least for now, it appears that Deezloader Reborn will go the way of various other Deezer-reliant applications. That won’t be the end of the story though, that’s a certainty.

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

Cloudflare’s Cache Can ‘Substantially Assist’ Copyright Infringers, Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflares-cache-can-substantially-assist-copyright-infringers-court-rules-180314/

As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe.

This includes thousands of “pirate” sites, including the likes of The Pirate Bay, which rely on the U.S.-based company to keep server loads down.

Many rightsholders have complained about Cloudflare’s involvement with these sites and in 2016 adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan took it a step further by dragging the company to court.

ALS accused the CDN service of various types of copyright infringement, noting that several customers used Cloudflare’s servers to distribute pirated content. While Cloudflare managed to have several counts dismissed, the accusation of contributory copyright infringement remains.

With the case heading to trial, both sides have submitted motions for partial summary judgment on this contributory infringement claim. This week California District Court Judge George Wu ruled on the matter, denying the CDN provider’s motion in its entirety.

One of Cloudflare’s arguments was that it did not substantially assist copyright infringements because the sites would remain online even if they were terminated from the service. It can’t end the infringements entirely on its own, the company argued.

The Court disagreed with this assessment, noting that Cloudflare’s cache can be seen as a substantial infringement by itself, which is something the company has control over.

“First of all, as to the infringements that are the cache copies, Cloudflare does appear to have the master switch,” Judge Wu writes.

“Second of all, just because the infringing images will remain online, does not mean the assistance is insubstantial. If that were true, then liability based on server space would rely on whether or not an infringing site had, or could acquire a backup server.”

Cloudflare also stressed that there are no simple measures it could take in response to alleged copyright infringements. Removing a cached copy based on a takedown notice is not an option, the company argued, as that leaves sites and their users vulnerable to malicious attacks.

Judge Wu didn’t deny that terminating service to sites such as ‘bestofsexpics.com and cumonmy.com’ could cause security issues but added that this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for Cloudflare to support illegal activity.

“[I]f Cloudflare’s logic were accepted, there would be no web content too illegal, or dangerous, to justify termination of its services. While Cloudflare may do amazing things for internet security, the Court would have a hard time accepting that Cloudflare’s security features give it license to assist in any online activity,” Judge Wu writes.

From the order

Moving on to ALS’ motion, which was also denied in part, the Court brings more bad news for Cloudflare. While the CDN provider keeps its safe harbor defense at trial, the Court ruled that the existence of cache copies can be sufficient to prove that Cloudflare assisted in the alleged copyright infringements.

“The Court would find that, as a legal matter, Cloudflare’s CDN Network, to the extent it is shown to have created, stored, and delivered cache copies of infringing images, substantially assisted in infringement,” the order reads.

“The reason is straightforward: without Cloudflare’s services those cache copies would not have been created and served to end users,’ a footnote clarifies.

The order doesn’t draw any conclusions about actual infringements. However, if ALS can prove to the jury that specific images were in Cloudflare’s cache, without permission, the “substantial assistance” element required for contributory liability is established.

If that happens, the only remaining element at trial is whether Cloudflare was aware of these infringements, which is where the takedown notices would come in.

The case will soon be in the hands of the jury and can still go in either direction. However, the order puts Cloudflare at a disadvantage as it can no longer argue that cached copies of infringing content by themselves are non-infringing. This will obviously be a concerns to other CDN providers as well, which makes this a landmark case.

A copy of Judge Wu’s ruling, obtained by TorrentFreak, is available here (pdf).

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

Judge Issues Mixed Order in RIAA’s Piracy Case Against ISP Grande

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/judge-issues-mixed-order-in-riaas-piracy-case-against-isp-grande-180306/

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Last year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of turning a blind eye on its pirating subscribers.

According to the RIAA, the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, and accused the company of failing to take any meaningful action in response.

Grande disagreed with this assertion and filed a motion to dismiss the case. The ISP argued that it doesn’t encourage any of its customers to download copyrighted works, and that it has no control over the content subscribers access.

The Internet provider admitted that it received millions of takedown notices through the piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believes that these notices are flawed and not worthy of acting upon. It was not keeping subscribers on board with a profit motive, as the RIAA suggested.

A few days ago US Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin issued his “report and recommendation” on the motions to dismiss, which brings some good and bad news for both sides.

First of all, Judge Austin recommends granting the motion to dismiss the piracy claims against Grande’s management company Patriot Media Consulting, which is also listed as a defendant.

According to the order, the RIAA failed to show that Patriot employees were involved in the decisions or actions that led to the infringements, only that they may have been involved in formulating Grande’s infringement related policies.

“This is a far cry from showing that Patriot as an entity was an active participant in the alleged secondary infringement,” Judge Austin writes.

Moving to Grande Communications itself, Judge Austin recommends dropping the vicarious infringement claim, as Grande requested. To show vicarious infringement, the RIAA would have to prove that the ISP has a direct financial interest in the infringing activity. That is not the case here.

The record labels argued that the availability of copyrighted music lures customers, but the Judge found this allegation too vague, as it would apply to all ISPs.

“There are no allegations that Grande’s actions in failing to adequately police their infringing subscribers is a draw to subscribers to purchase its services, so that they can then use those services to infringe on UMG’s (and others’) copyrights,” Judge Austin argues.

“Instead UMG only alleges that the existence of music and the BitTorrent protocol is the draw. But that would impose liability on every ISP, as the music at issue is available on the Internet generally, as is the BitTorrent protocol, and is not something exclusively available through Grande’s services.”

While the above is good news for the Internet provider, the report and recommendation opt to keep the contributory infringement claim alive. Contributory copyright infringement happens where a defendant intentionally induces or encourages direct infringement.

Grande argued that Rightcorp’s notices were not sufficient to show that copyrighted material was ever downloaded, but Judge Austin disagrees. The RIAA has made a “plausible claim” that the ISP’s subscribers are infringing the labels’ copyrights.

“It would be inappropriate to dismiss the case based on factual allegations Grande makes about the Rightscorp notices and system, without any evidence to back those up,” Judge Austin’s recommendation reads.

In addition, Grande also argued that it’s protected from a secondary copyright infringement claim under the “staple article of commerce” doctrine, as “it is beyond dispute” that ISPs have numerous non-infringing uses.

Referring to the legal case between BMG and Cox Communications, Judge Austin says that this isn’t as clear as Grande suggests.

“The Court acknowledges that this is not yet a well-defined area of the law, and that there are good arguments on both sides of this issue,” the recommendation reads.

“However, at this point in the case, the Court is persuaded that UMG has pled a plausible claim of secondary infringement based on Grande’s alleged failure to act when presented with evidence of ongoing, pervasive infringement by its subscribers.”

The recommendation, therefore, is to deny the motion to dismiss the contributory infringement claim against Grande. If the U.S. District Court Judge adopts this position, it would mean that the case is heading to trial based on this claim.

Judge Austin’s full report and recommendations filing is available here (pdf).

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Cloudflare Hit With Piracy Lawsuit After Abuse Form ‘Fails’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-hit-with-piracy-lawsuit-after-abuse-form-fails-180210/

Seattle-based artist Christopher Boffoli is no stranger when it comes to suing tech companies for aiding copyright infringement of his work.

Boffoli has filed lawsuits against Imgur, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, and others, which were dismissed and/or settled out of court under undisclosed terms.

This month he filed a new case against another intermediary, Cloudflare, which has had its fair share of piracy allegations in recent years.

In common with other companies, Cloudflare is accused of contributing to copyright infringements of Boffoli’s “Big Appetites” miniatures series. In this case, several Cloudflare customers allegedly posted these photos on their sites which were then reproduced on the servers of the CDN provider.

The lawsuit mentions that the infringing copies were posted on unique-landscape.com and baklol.com. This was also pointed out to Cloudflare by Boffoli, who sent the company DMCA takedown notices in October and November of last year.

While the photographer received an automated response, the photos in question remained online. Through the lawsuit, Boffoli hopes this will change.

“CloudFlare induced, caused, or materially contributed to the Infringing Websites’ publication,” the complaint reads. “CloudFlare had actual knowledge of the Infringing Content. Boffoli provided notice to CloudFlare in compliance with the DMCA, and CloudFlare failed to disable access to or remove the Infringing Websites.”

The photographer is asking the court to order an injunction preventing Cloudflare from making his work available. In addition, the complaint asks for actual and statutory damages for willful copyright infringement. With at least four photos in the lawsuit, the potential damages are more than half a million dollars.

While it’s not mentioned in the complaint, the email communication between Boffoli and Cloudflare goes further than just an automated response. Court records show that the photographer initially didn’t ask Cloudflare to remove the infringing photos. Instead, he asked the CDN provider to forward them to the ISP or site owner.

“I would be grateful if you would forward this DMCA takedown request to the website owner and ISP so these infringing links can immediately be removed,” it read.

Part of the email communication

From then on things escalated a bit. The emails reveal that Boffoli had trouble reporting the infringing photos through the required form.

When the photographer pointed this out in a direct email, Cloudflare urged him to try the form again as that was the only way to send the DMCA request to the designated copyright agent.

“The DMCA doesn’t require us to process reports not sent to our registered agent as per our registration with the US Copyright Office. Our registered copyright agent is the form located at cloudflare.com/abuse/form and you may proceed via that avenue,” Cloudflare wrote.

If the case moves forward, Cloudflare may use this to argue that it never received a proper DMCA takedown notice. However, Boffoli wasn’t planning on trying again and instead threatened a lawsuit, unless Cloudflare took immediate action.

“As I have said, your form did not work for me despite repeated attempts to use it. And it is insulting for you to suggest that it’s working fine when it is not. So again, this is absolutely my last attempt to get you to respond to this infringement for which you are impeding the removal,” Boffoli wrote.

“If you take no action now I will forward this to my legal team this week. It is more than enough of a burden to have to waste countless hours policing my own copyrights without organizations like Cloudflare running interference for copyright infringers. I am not averse to asking a federal judge to compel you to deal with these copyright infringements. And I will seek statutory damages for contributory infringement at that time.”

As it turns out, that was not an idle threat.

—-

A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf) and the email exhibits can be found here (pdf).

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Rightscorp Has a Massive Database of ‘Repeat Infringers’ to Pursue

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/rightscorp-has-a-massive-database-of-repeat-infringers-to-pursue-180208/

Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that ISPs are required to terminate ‘repeat infringers’ based on allegations from copyright holders alone, a topic that has been contested for years.

This means that copyright holders now have a bigger incentive to send takedown notices, as ISPs can’t easily ignore them. That’s music to the ears of the various piracy tracking companies, Rightscorp included.

The piracy monetization company always maintained that multiple complaints from copyright holders are enough to classify someone as a repeat infringer, without a court order, and the Fourth Circuit has now reached the same conclusion.

“After years of uncertainty on these issues, it is gratifying for the US Court of Appeals to proclaim the law on ISP liability for subscriber infringements to be essentially what Rightscorp has always said it is,” Rightscorp President Christopher Sabec says.

Rightscorp is pleased to see that the court shares its opinion since the verdict also provides new business opportunities. The company informs TorrentFreak that it’s ready to help copyright holders to hold ISPs responsible.

“Rightscorp has always stood with content holders who wish to protect their rights against ISPs that are not taking action against repeat infringers,” Sabec tells us.

“Now, with the law addressing ISP liability for subscriber infringements finally sharpened and clarified at the appellate level, we are ready to support all efforts by rights holders to compel ISPs to abide by their responsibilities under the DMCA.”

The piracy tracking company has a treasure trove of piracy data at its disposal to issue takedown requests or back lawsuits. Over the past five years, it amassed nearly a billion “records” of copyright infringements.

“Rightscorp’s data records include no less the 969,653,557 infringements over the last five years,” Sabec says.

This number includes a lot of repeat infringers, obviously. It’s made up of IP-addresses downloading the same file on several occasions and/or multiple files over time.

While it’s unlikely that account holders will be disconnected based on infringements that happened years ago, this type of historical data can be used in court cases. Rightscorp’s infringement notices are the basis of the legal action against Cox, and are being used as evidence in a separate RIAA case against ISP Grande communications as well.

Grande previously said that it refused to act on Rightcorp’s notices because it doubts their accuracy, but the tracking company contests this. That case is still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be reached.

For now, however, Rightcorp is marketing its hundreds of thousands of recorded copyright infringements as an opportunity for rightsholders. And for a company that can use some extra cash in hand, that’s good news.

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RIAA: Cox Ruling Shows that Grande Can Be Liable for Piracy Too

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/riaa-cox-ruling-shows-that-grande-can-be-liable-for-piracy-too-180207/

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Last year several major record labels, represented by the RIAA, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court, accusing ISP Grande Communications of turning a blind eye on its pirating subscribers.

“Despite their knowledge of repeat infringements, Defendants have permitted repeat infringers to use the Grande service to continue to infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights without consequence,” the RIAA’s complaint read.

Grande disagreed with this assertion and filed a motion to dismiss the case. The ISP argued that it doesn’t encourage any of its customers to download copyrighted works, and that it has no control over the content subscribers access.

The Internet provider didn’t deny that it received millions of takedown notices through the piracy tracking company Rightscorp. However, it believed that these notices are flawed and not worthy of acting upon.

The case shows a lot of similarities with the legal battle between BMG and Cox Communications, in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important verdict last week.

The appeals court overturned the $25 million piracy damages verdict against Cox due to an erroneous jury instruction but held that the ISP lost its safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

This week, the RIAA used the Fourth Circuit ruling as further evidence that Grande’s motion to dismiss should be denied.

The RIAA points out that both Cox and Grande used similar arguments in their defense, some of which were denied by the appeals court. The Fourth Circuit held, for example, that an ISP’s substantial non-infringing uses does not immunize it from liability for contributory copyright infringement.

In addition, the appeals court also clarified that if an ISP wilfully blinds itself to copyright infringements, that is sufficient to satisfy the knowledge requirement for contributory copyright infringement.

According to the RIAA’s filing at a Texas District Court this week, Grande has already admitted that it willingly ‘ignored’ takedown notices that were submitted on behalf of third-party copyright holders.

“Grande has already admitted that it received notices from Rightscorp and, to use Grande’s own phrase, did not ‘meaningfully investigate’ them,” the RIAA writes.

“Thus, even if this Court were to apply the Fourth Circuit’s ‘willful blindness’ standard, the level of knowledge that Grande has effectively admitted exceeds the level of knowledge that the Fourth Circuit held was ‘powerful evidence’ sufficient to establish liability for contributory infringement.”

As such, the motion to dismiss the case should be denied, the RIAA argues.

What’s not mentioned in the RIAA’s filing, however, is why Grande chose not to act upon these takedown notices. In its defense, the ISP previously explained that Rightcorp’s notices lacked specificity and were incapable of detecting actual infringements.

Grande argued that if they acted on these notices without additional proof, its subscribers could lose their Internet access even though they are using it for legal purposes. The ISP may, therefore, counter that it wasn’t willfully blind, as it saw no solid proof for the alleged infringements to begin with.

“To merely treat these allegations as true without investigation would be a disservice to Grande’s subscribers, who would run the risk of having their Internet service permanently terminated despite using Grande’s services for completely legitimate purposes,” Grande previously wrote.

This brings up a tricky issue. The Fourth Circuit made it clear last week that ISPs require a meaningful policy against repeat infringers in respond to takedown notices from copyright holders. But what are the requirements for a proper takedown notice? Do any and all notices count?

Grande clearly has no faith in the accuracy of Rightscorp’s technology but if their case goes in the same direction as Cox’s, that might not make much of a difference.

A copy of the RIAA’s summary of supplemental authority is available here (pdf).

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Appeals Court Throws Out $25 Million Piracy Verdict Against Cox, Doesn’t Reinstate “Safe Harbor”

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/appeals-court-throws-out-25-million-piracy-verdict-against-cox-doesnt-reinstate-safe-harbor-180201/

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

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

Cox swiftly filed its appeal arguing that the District Court made several errors in the jury instructions. In addition, it asked for a clarification of the term “repeat infringer” in its favor.

Today the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled on the matter in a mixed decision which could have great consequences.

The Court ruled that the District Court indeed made a mistake in its jury instruction. Specifically, it said that the ISP could be found liable for contributory infringement if it “knew or should have known of such infringing activity.” The Court of Appeals agrees that based on the law, the “should have known” standard is too low.

When this is the case the appeals court can call for a new trial, and that is exactly what it did. This means that the $25 million verdict is off the table, and the same is true for the millions in attorney’s fees and costs BMG was previously granted.

It’s not all good news for Cox though. The most crucial matter in the case is whether Cox has safe harbor protection under the DMCA. In order to qualify, the company is required to terminate accounts of repeat infringers, when appropriate.

Cox argued that subscribers can only be seen as repeat infringers if they’ve been previously adjudicated in court, not if they merely received several takedown notices. This was still an open question, as the term repeat infringer is not clearly defined in the DMCA.

Today, however, the appeals court is pretty clear on the matter. According to Judge Motz’s opinion, shared by HWR, the language of the DMCA suggests that the term “infringer” is not limited to adjudicated infringers.

This is supported by legislative history as the House Commerce and Senate Judiciary Committee Reports both explained that “those who repeatedly or flagrantly abuse their access to the Internet through disrespect for the intellectual property rights of others should know that there is a realistic threat of losing that access.”

“The passage does not suggest that they should risk losing Internet access only once they have been sued in court and found liable for multiple instances of infringement,” Judge Motz writes in her opinion.

Losing Internet access would hardly be a “realistic threat” that would stop someone from pirating if he or she has already been punished several times in court, the argument goes.

This leads the Court of Appeals to conclude that the District Court was right: Cox is not entitled to safe harbor protection because it failed to implement a meaningful repeat infringer policy.

“Cox failed to qualify for the DMCA safe harbor because it failed to implement its policy in any consistent or meaningful way — leaving it essentially with no policy,” Judge Motz writes.

This means that, while Cox gets a new trial, it is still at a severe disadvantage. Not only that, the Court of Appeals interpretation of the repeat infringer question is also a clear signal to other Internet service providers to disconnect pirates based on repeated copyright holder complaints.

Judge Motz’s full opinion is available here (pdf).

Pirate Bay Founder’s Domain Service “Mocks” NY Times Legal Threats

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-founders-domain-service-mocks-ny-times-legal-threats-180125/

Back in the day, The Pirate Bay was famous for its amusing responses to legal threats. Instead of complying with takedown notices, it sent witty responses to embarrass the senders.

Today the notorious torrent site gives copyright holders the silent treatment, but the good-old Pirate Bay spirit still lives on elsewhere.

Earlier today the anonymous domain registration service Njalla, which happens to be a venture of TPB co-founder Peter Sunde, posted a series of noteworthy responses it sent to The New York Times’ (NYT) legal department.

The newspaper warned the registration service about one of its customers, paywallnews.com, which offers the news service’s content without permission. Since this is a violation of The Times’ copyrights, according to the paper, Njalla should take action or face legal consequences.

NYT: Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately provide us with contact information — including email addresses — for both the actual owner of the paywallnew.com website, and for the hosting provider on which the paywallnew.com website is located.

If we have not heard from you within three (3) business days of receipt of this letter, we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies.

Njalla is no stranger to threats of this kind but were somewhat offended by the harsh language, it seems. The company, therefore, decided to inform the NYT that there are more friendly ways to reach out.

Njalla: Thanks for that lovely e-mail. It’s always good to communicate with people that in their first e-mail use words as “we demand”, “pursue all available legal remedies” and so forth. I’d like to start out with some free (as in no cost) advice: please update your boiler threat letters to actually try what most people try first: being nice. It’s not expensive (actually the opposite) and actually it works much better than your method (source: a few tens of thousands years of human development that would not have been as efficient with threats as it would have been with cooperation).

In addition, Njalla also included a request of its own. They kindly asked (no demand) the newspaper’s legal department for proof that they are who they say they are. You can never be too cautious, after all.

Njalla: Now, back to the questions you sent us. We’re not sure who you are, so in order to move further we’d like to see a copy of your ID card, as well as a notarised power of attorney showing that you are actually representing the people you’re claiming to do.

This had the desired effect, for Njalla at least. The NYT replied with an apology for the tough language that was used, noting that they usually deal with companies that employ people who are used to reading legal documents.

The newspaper did, however, submit a notarized letter signed by the company’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, and once again asked for details on the Njalla customer.

NYT: Once again, as I mention above, the referenced website is stealing large amounts of New York Times content. If you click on this link: http://www.paywallnews.com/sites/nytimes

As this abuse — aside from being an egregious infringement of The Times’s copyright — breaches your own Terms of Service, I hope you will be able to see your way to helping me to put a stop to this practice by providing me with the name and contact information for the owner of paywallnews.com and for the ISP on which it is hosted.

This is when things started to get really interesting. Founded by someone with an extensive background in “sharing,” Njalla clearly has a different definition of stealing than the NYT’s legal department.

The reply, which is worth reading in full along with the rest of the communication, makes this quite clear.

Njalla: Stealing content seem quite harsh of this website though, didn’t know that they did that! Is there anyway you can get the stolen items back though? You should either go to the police and request them to help you get the stolen items back. Or maybe talk to your insurance company, they might help to compensate you for the loss. But a helpful idea; if they’ve stolen something and then put copies of that on a website that you can freely access, I would suggest just copying it, so that both of you have the same things. That’s a great thing with the digital world, everyone can have copies of things. I am surprised they stole something when they could just have copied it. I’m guessing it’s some older individuals that don’t know the possibilities of modern day technology to make copies.

It’s obvious that the domain registration service makes a clear distinction between copying and stealing.

Piracy vs. Theft

In addition, Njalla contests that the site is problematic at all, noting that this might be a “cultural difference.”

Njalla spotted something even more worrying though. The NYT claims that the site in question violates its terms of service. Specifically, they reference the section that prohibits sites from spreading content that is illegal according to local law.

Is the NYT perhaps spreading illegal content itself, Njalla questions?

Njalla: Deborah, I was quite shocked and appalled that you referred to this part of our ToS. It made me actually not visit the website in question even though you’ve linked it now a few times. You’re admitting to spreading illegal content at your newspaper, for profit, is that correct?

We’re quite big proponents of freedom of speech, let me assure you of that, but we also have limits. If you spread illegal content, and our customers stole that illegal content and are now handing out free copies of that, that’s a huge issue for us. Since it would be illegal for us to get those copies if they’re illegal, I’m asking you what type of content it is?

As an attachment to the reply, Njalla also sent back a “notarized” letter of their own, by simply copying the NYT letter and sticking their own logo on it, to show how easily these can be fabricated.

TorrentFreak reached out to Sunde who informed us that they never heard from The New York Times after the last reply. As a domain registrant, Njalla is not obliged to comply with takedown requests, he explains.

“If they need help from us on copyright issues, they’re totally missing what we’re doing, and that they should look somewhere else anyhow. But I think most domain services gets tons of these threat emails, and a lot of them think they’re responsible because they don’t have access to legal help and just shut customers down.

“That’s what a lot of our customers say at least, since they migrated from a shitty service which doesn’t know their own business,” Sunde adds.

The NYT is not completely without options though. If they take the case to court in Sweden and win an injunction against paywallnews.com, Njalla will comply. The same is true if a customer really violates the terms of service.

Meanwhile, paywallnews.com remains online.

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NAFTA Negotiations Heat Up Copyright “Safe Harbor” Clash

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/nafta-negotiations-heat-up-copyright-safe-harbor-clash-180123/

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was negotiated more than 25 years ago.

Over the past quarter-century trade has changed drastically, especially online, so the United States is now planning to modernize the international deal.

One of the topics that has received a lot of interest from various experts and stakeholders are safe harbors. In the US, Internet services are shielded from copyright infringement liability under the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, but in Mexico and Canada, that’s not the case.

The latest round of NAFTA renegotiations are currently taking place in Montreal and this is heating up the debate once again. Several legal scholars and advocacy groups believe that such US-style safe harbor provisions are essential for Internet services to operate freely on the Internet.

A group of more than fifty Internet law experts and organizations made this clear in a letter sent to the negotiators this week, urging them to make safe harbors part of the new deal.

“When NAFTA was negotiated, the Internet was an obscure electronic network. Since then, the Internet has become a significant — and essential — part of our societies and our economies,” the letter reads.

“To acknowledge this, if a modernized NAFTA contains a digital trade chapter, it should contain protections for online intermediaries from liability for third party online content, similar to the United States’ ‘Section 230’.”

The safe harbors in the Communications Decency Act and the DMCA ensure that services which deal with user-generated content, including Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, are shielded from liability.

This immunity makes it easier for new user-generated services to launch, without the fear of expensive lawsuits, the argument goes.

However, not everyone sees it this way. In a letter cited by Variety, a group of 37 industry groups urges U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate ‘strong’ safe harbor protections. Strong, in this case, means that simply responding to takedown notices is not always enough.

“If these anti-IP voices succeed, they will turn long-standing trade policy, with creativity and innovation at its core, on its head by transforming our trade agreements into blueprints for how to evade liability for IP theft,” they write.

The MPAA and RIAA, which also signed the letter, previously stressed that the current US safe harbors are not working. These industry groups believe that services such as YouTube exploit their safe harbor immunity and profit from it.

The RIAA, therefore, wants any negotiated safe harbor provisions in NAFTA to be flexible in the event that the DMCA is tightened up in response to the ongoing safe harbor rules study.

So, what should a content industry-approved safe harbor look like then?

The music industry group says that these should only be available to passive platforms that are not actively engaged in communicating and do not generate any revenue from pirated content. This would exclude YouTube and many other Internet services.

While it’s clear that the ideas of both camps are hard to unite, there’s still the question of whether there will be a new and improved NAFTA version at all. President Trump has previously threatened to terminate the agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torrent Sites

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

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

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

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

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

Streaming & Cyberlockers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unauthorized music / research papers

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

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

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

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

Service providers

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

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

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

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

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

Social networking and e-commerce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Torrent Sites Using DMCA Notices to Quash Their Competition?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/are-torrent-sites-using-dmca-notices-to-quash-their-competition-180114/

Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.

While most of these requests are legitimate, the process is also being abused. Google prominently features examples of such dubious DMCA requests in its transparency report.

This week we were contacted by the owner of YTS.me after he noticed some unusual activity. In recent weeks his domain name has been targeted with a series of takedown notices from rather unusual people.

Senders with names such as Niklas Glockner, Michelle Williams, Maria Baader, Stefan Kuefer, Anja Herzog, and Markus Ostermann asked Google to remove thousands of YTS.me URLs.

Every notice lists just one movie title, but hundreds of links, most of which have nothing to do with the movie in question.

A few URLs from a single notice

These submitters are all relatively new and there is no sign that they are authorized by the applicable copyright holder. This, and the long list of irrelevant URLs suggest that these DMCA notices are abusive.

The owner of YTS.me believes that the senders have a clear motive. The purpose of the notices is to remove well-ranked pages and push the targeted sites down in Google’s search results.

“These all are fake people names submitting fake DMCA complaints and are not authorized to submit complaints,” the YTS.me operator notes.

“Even if they are real people they would have submitted, or are authorized to submit, complaints for only a few titles. Instead, they submit fake complaints and submit all the URLs possible on our website to degrade its ranking.”

The question that remains is, who is responsible for these notices? Looking at the list of sites that are targeted by these abusive senders we see a pattern emerge. They all target copycats of defunct sites such as YTS and ExtraTorrent.

Markus Osterman’s activity

This leads the YTS.me operator to the conclusion that one of its main competitors is sending these notices. While there is no hard evidence, it seems plausible that another YTS copycat is attempting to take the competition out of Google’s search results to gain more exposure itself.

YTS.me has a good idea of who the perpetrator(s) are – a person or group that also operates several other copycat sites. Thus far there’s no bulletproof evidence though, but it’s a likely explanation.

In any case, the DMCA takedown requests are definitely out of order and warrant further investigation by Google.

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

Dish Network Files Two Lawsuits Against Pirate IPTV Providers

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dish-network-files-two-lawsuits-against-pirate-iptv-providers-180103/

In broad terms, there are two types of unauthorized online streaming of live TV. The first is via open-access websites where users can view for free. The second features premium services to which viewers are required to subscribe.

Usually available for a few dollars, euros, or pounds per month, the latter are gaining traction all around the world. Service levels are relatively high and the majority of illicit packages offer a dazzling array of programming, often putting official providers in the shade.

For this reason, commercial IPTV providers are considered a huge threat to broadcasters’ business models, since they offer a broadly comparable and accessible service at a much cheaper price. This is forcing companies such as US giant Dish Networks to court, seeking relief.

Following on from a lawsuit filed last year against Kodi add-on ZemTV and TVAddons.ag, Dish has just filed two more lawsuits targeting a pair of unauthorized pirate IPTV services.

Filed in Maryland and Texas respectively, the actions are broadly similar, with the former targeting a provider known as Spider-TV.

The suit, filed against Dima Furniture Inc. and Mohammad Yusif (individually and collectively doing business as Spider-TV), claims that the defendants are “capturing
broadcasts of television channels exclusively licensed to DISH and are unlawfully retransmitting these channels over the Internet to their customers throughout the United States, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.”

Dish claim that the defendants profit from the scheme by selling set-top boxes along with subscriptions, charging around $199 per device loaded with 13 months of service.

Dima Furniture is a Maryland corporation, registered at Takoma Park, Maryland 20912, an address that is listed on the Spider-TV website. The connection between the defendants is further supported by FCC references which identify Spider devices in the market. Mohammad Yusif is claimed to be the president, executive director, general manager, and sole shareholder of Dima Furniture.

Dish describes itself as the fourth largest pay-television provider in the United States, delivering copyrighted programming to millions of subscribers nationwide by means of satellite delivery and over-the-top services. Dish has acquired the rights to do this, the defendants have not, the broadcaster states.

“Defendants capture live broadcast signals of the Protected Channels, transcode these signals into a format useful for streaming over the Internet, transfer the transcoded content to one or more servers provided, controlled, and maintained by Defendants, and then transmit the Protected Channels to users of the Service through
OTT delivery, including users in the United States,” the lawsuit reads.

It’s claimed that in July 2015, Yusif registered Spider-TV as a trade name of Dima Furniture with the Department of Assessments and Taxation Charter Division, describing the business as “Television Channel Installation”. Since then, the defendants have been illegally retransmitting Dish channels to customers in the United States.

The overall offer from Spider-TV appears to be considerable, with a claimed 1,300 channels from major regions including the US, Canada, UK, Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

Importantly, Dish state that the defendants know that their activities are illegal, since the provider sent at least 32 infringement notices since January 20, 2017 demanding an end to the unauthorized retransmission of its channels. It went on to send even more to the defendants’ ISPs.

“DISH and Networks sent at least thirty-three additional notices requesting the
removal of infringing content to Internet service providers associated with the Service from February 16, 2017 to the filing of this Complaint. Upon information and belief, at least some of these notices were forwarded to Defendants,” the lawsuit reads.

But while Dish says that the takedowns responded to by the ISPs were initially successful, the defendants took evasive action by transmitting the targeted channels from other locations.

Describing the defendants’ actions as “willful, malicious, intentional [and] purposeful”, Dish is suing for Direct Copyright Infringement, demanding a permanent injunction preventing the promotion and provision of the service plus statutory damages of $150,000 per registered work. The final amount isn’t specified but the numbers are potentially enormous. In addition, Dish demands attorneys’ fees, costs, and the seizure of all infringing articles.

The second lawsuit, filed in Texas, is broadly similar. It targets Mo’ Ayad Al
Zayed Trading Est., and Mo’ Ayad Fawzi Al Zayed (individually and collectively doing business as Tiger International Company), and Shenzhen Tiger Star Electronical Co., Ltd, otherwise known as Shenzhen Tiger Star.

Dish claims that these defendants also illegally capture and retransmit channels to customers in the United States. IPTV boxes costing up to $179 including one year’s service are the method of delivery.

In common with the Maryland case, Dish says it sent almost two dozen takedown notices to ISPs utilized by the defendants. These were also countered by the unauthorized service retransmitting Dish channels from other servers.

The biggest difference between the Maryland and Texas cases is that while Yusif/Spider/Dima Furniture are said to be in the US, Zayed is said to reside in Amman, Jordan, and Tiger Star is registered in Shenzhen, China. However, since the unauthorized service is targeted at customers in Texas, Dish states that the Texas court has jurisdiction.

Again, Dish is suing for Direct Infringement, demanding damages, costs, and a permanent injunction.

The complaints can be found here and here.

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