Tag Archives: takedown notices

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).

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

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.

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

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.

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

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)

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

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.

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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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Google Blocks Pirate Search Results Prophylactically

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-blocks-pirated-search-results-prophylactically-180103/

On an average day, Google processes more than three million takedown notices from copyright holders, and that’s for its search engine alone.

Under the current DMCA legislation, US-based Internet service providers are expected to remove infringing links, if a copyright holder complains.

This process shields these services from direct liability. In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of the system, but Google has always maintained that it works well.

This was also highlighted by Google’s copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson, in an article he wrote for the American Bar Association’s publication Landslide.

“The DMCA provided Google and other online service providers the legal certainty they needed to grow,” Donaldson writes.

“And the DMCA’s takedown notices help us fight piracy in other ways as well. Indeed, the Web Search notice-and-takedown process provides the cornerstone of Google’s fight against piracy.”

The search engine does indeed go beyond ‘just’ removing links. The takedown notices are also used as a signal to demote domains. Websites for which it receives a lot of takedown notices will be placed lower in search results, for example.

These measures can be expanded and complemented by artificial intelligence in the future, Google’s copyright counsel envisions.

“As we move into a world where artificial intelligence can learn from vast troves of data like these, we will only get better at using the information to better fight against piracy,” Donaldson writes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzz-term that has a pretty broad meaning nowadays. Donaldson doesn’t go into detail on how AI can fight piracy. It could help to spot erroneous notices, on the one hand, but can also be applied to filter content proactively.

The latter is something Google is slowly opening up to.

Over the past year, we’ve noticed on a few occasions that Google is processing takedown notices for non-indexed links. While we assumed that this was an ‘error’ on the sender’s part, it appears to be a new policy.

“Google has critically expanded notice and takedown in another important way: We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Donaldson writes.

In other words, Google blocks URLs before they appear in the search results, as some sort of piracy vaccine.

“We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results, and we take all the additional deterrent measures listed above.”

Some submitters are heavily relying on the new feature, Google found. In some cases, the majority of the submitted URLs in a notice are not indexed yet.

The search engine will keep a close eye on these developments. At TorrentFreak, we also found that copyright holders sometimes target links that don’t even exist. Whether Google will also accept these takedown requests in the future, is unknown.

It’s clear that artificial intelligence and proactive filtering are becoming more and more common, but Google says that the company will also keep an eye on possible abuse of the system.

“Google will push back if we suspect a notice is mistaken, fraudulent, or abusive, or if we think fair use or another defense excuses that particular use of copyrighted content,” Donaldson notes.

Artificial intelligence and prophylactic blocking surely add a new dimension to the standard DMCA takedown procedure, but whether it will be enough to convince copyright holders that it works, has yet to be seen.

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

Piracy Notices Can Mess With Your Thermostat, ISP Warns

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-notices-can-mess-with-your-thermostat-isp-warns-171224/

Since the early 2000’s copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices, to alert account holders that someone’s been using their connection to share copyrighted material.

The goal of these warnings is to deter people from sharing pirated material in the future.

Internet providers are not legally obliged to forward the notices, but many do. What ISPs are required to do is implement a policy to deal with frequent offenders.

Keeping pirates on board without taking any action can make the ISP liable, as Cox found out the hard way. While this case is currently on appeal, some ISPs have already put stringent measures in place.

Take Armstrong Zoom Internet, for example, which has roughly a million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. Like many other ISPs it reserves the right to terminate repeat infringers, a policy which it doesn’t hide.

Our attention was caught by a recent letter the company sent to one of its users. The ISP points out that it received multiple copyright infringement notices, urging the customer to stop, or else.

“…please be advised that, if Armstrong receives additional notifications of infringement connected With your Zoom Internet Service, Armstrong will remove you from your current service level and place you at the lowest service level.

“This will allow you to access email, but limit your speeds and affect your ability to upload or download material to the internet or use other file-sharing capabilities.”

Armstrong warning (via)

While reduced Internet speeds are bad enough, there’s another scary prospect. The reduced service level may also prevent subscribers from controlling their thermostat remotely. Not ideal during the winter.

“Please be advised that this may affect other services which you may have connected to your internet service, such as the ability to control your thermostat remotely or video monitoring services.”

Accused pirates who want their full service restored, and regain control over their thermostats, have to answer some copyright questions and read an educational piece about copyright infringement.

When they sign an agreement acknowledging that they have done so, full Internet access is restored. However, if more complaints come in later, the consequences will be more severe.

“…if Armstrong received additional notifications after you sign the Acknowledgement, your Zoom Internet Service will be terminated,” the provider writes.

Getting back in after that is only possible after signing an affidavit, so under penalty of perjury, and by paying a fee.

Only then they will regain full control over their thermostat again.

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

Facebook Rejects 31% of All Piracy Takedown Requests

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/facebook-rejects-31-of-all-piracy-takedown-requests-171219/

As one of the largest user-generated platforms on the Internet, Facebook has to battle a constant stream of unauthorized copyright material.

To facilitate this process, Facebook has rolled out a few anti-piracy initiatives in recent years.

The company has a “Rights Manager” tool that automatically detects infringing material and allows owners to take down or monetize this content. In addition, Facebook uses the third-party service Audible Magic to spot and remove pirated music tracks.

Thus far, little was known about the number of copyright takedown requests Facebook processes every month, but new details released in its new transparency report a few hours ago provides some context.

During the first six months of 2017, a total of 224,464 requests were received by Facebook. One request can list a single post or file, but they can contain more items. During this period, 1,818,794 items were removed from Facebook, which is roughly 10,000 per day.

“Each report submitted by a rights holder is processed by our IP Operations team, which is a global team of trained professionals who provide around-the-clock coverage in multiple languages,” Facebook writes.

“If the report is complete and valid, the team will promptly remove the reported content, typically within a day or less, and confirm that action with the rights holder that reported it.”

Another interesting statistic is that no action was taken in response to more than 31% of the 224,464 requests. This means that none of the content highlighted in these notices was removed. These rejections could be the result of an abusive, inaccurate or incomplete request, for example.

Copyright removals

In addition to takedown requests on Facebook itself, the company also shared the same data for Instagram. The numbers are roughly a third of Facebook’s, with 70,008 requests and 685,996 removed posts or items during the first half of 2017.

The social media giant stresses that it operates with the best interests of copyright holders and users in mind. For copyright holders, the takedown process is optimized and improved where possible. At the same time, the company aims to educate users who make an occasional mistake, to prevent further problems.

Facebook users who continue to post or link to pirated content repeatedly, will be dealt with eventually though. The company regularly disables accounts, removes pages, and deletes groups to stop persistent infringers.

“In addition to removing reported content, we disable the accounts of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances. Our repeat infringer policy applies to IP violations committed via Facebook profiles and Instagram accounts, including copyright, trademark and counterfeit,” the company writes.

This is likely the reason why several pages of pirate sites disappeared from the social media platform in recent years. Interestingly, there appears to be little to stop these repeat infringers from signing up again and starting over.

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

Could a Single Copyright Complaint Kill Your Domain?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/could-a-single-copyright-complaint-kill-your-domain-171203/

It goes without saying that domain names are a crucial part of any site’s infrastructure. Without domains, sites aren’t easily findable and when things go wrong, the majority of web users could be forgiven for thinking that they no longer exist.

That was the case last week when Canada-based mashup site Sowndhaus suddenly found that its domain had been rendered completely useless. As previously reported, the site’s domain was suspended by UK-based registrar DomainBox after it received a copyright complaint from the IFPI.

There are a number of elements to this story, not least that the site’s operators believe that their project is entirely legal.

“We are a few like-minded folks from the mashup community that were tired of doing the host dance – new sites welcome us with open arms until record industry pressure becomes too much and they mass delete and ban us,” a member of the Sowndhaus team informs TF.

“After every mass deletion there are a wave of producers that just retire and their music is lost forever. We decided to make a more permanent home for ourselves and Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act gave us the opportunity to do it legally.
We just want a small quiet corner of the internet where we can make music without being criminalized. It seems insane that I even have to say that.”

But while these are all valid concerns for the Sowndhaus community, there is a bigger picture here. There is absolutely no question that sites like YouTube and Soundcloud host huge libraries of mashups, yet somehow they hang on to their domains. Why would DomainBox take such drastic action? Is the site a real menace?

“The IFPI have sent a few standard DMCA takedown notices [to Sowndhaus, indirectly], each about a specific track or tracks on our server, asking us to remove them and any infringing activity. Every track complained about has been transformative, either a mashup or a remix and in a couple of cases cover versions,” the team explains.

But in all cases, it appears that IFPI and its agents didn’t take the time to complain to the site first. They instead went for the site’s infrastructure.

“[IFPI] have never contacted us directly, even though we have a ‘report copyright abuse’ feature on our site and a dedicated copyright email address. We’ve only received forwarded emails from our host and domain registrar,” the site says.

Sowndhaus believes that the event that led to the domain suspension was caused by a support ticket raised by the “RiskIQ Incident Response Team”, who appear to have been working on behalf of IFPI.

“We were told by DomainBox…’Please remove the unlawful content from your website, or the domain will be suspended. Please reply within the next 5 working days to ensure the request was actioned’,” Sowndhaus says.

But they weren’t given five days, or even one. DomainBox chose to suspend the Sowndhaus.com domain name immediately, rendering the site inaccessible and without even giving the site a chance to respond.

“They didn’t give us an option to appeal the decision. They just took the IFPI’s word that the files were unlawful and must be removed,” the site informs us.

Intrigued at why DomainBox took the nuclear option, TorrentFreak sent several emails to the company but each time they went unanswered. We also sent emails to Mesh Digital Ltd, DomainBox’s operator, but they were given the same treatment.

We wanted to know on what grounds the registrar suspended the domain but perhaps more importantly, we wanted to know if the company is as aggressive as this with its other customers.

To that end we posed a question: If DomainBox had been entrusted with the domains of YouTube or Soundcloud, would they have acted in the same manner? We can’t put words in their mouth but it seems likely that someone in the company would step in to avoid a PR disaster on that scale.

Of course, both YouTube and Soundcloud comply with the law by taking down content when it infringes someone’s rights. It’s a position held by Sowndhaus too, even though they do not operate in the United States.

“We comply fully with the Copyright Act (Canada) and have our own policy of removing any genuinely infringing content,” the site says, adding that users who infringe are banned from the platform.

While there has never been any suggestion that IFPI or its agents asked for Sowndhaus’ domain to be suspended, it’s clear that DomainBox made a decision to do just that. In some cases that might have been warranted, but registrars should definitely aim for a clear, transparent and fair process, so that the facts can be reviewed and appropriate action taken.

It’s something for people to keep in mind when they register a domain in future.

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

Appeals Court Grills Cox and BMG in Piracy Liability Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tech Giants Warn Against Kodi Scapegoating

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/tech-giants-warn-kodi-scapegoating-171022/

At the beginning of October, several entertainment industry groups shared their piracy concerns with the US Government’s Trade Representative (USTR).

Aside from pointing towards traditional websites, pirate streaming boxes were also brought up, by the MPAA among others.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA noted.

This week the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which includes members such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, notes that the USTR should be careful not to blame an open source media player such as Kodi, for the infringing actions of others.

CCIA wrote a rebuttal clarifying that Kodi and similar open source players are not the problem here.

“Another example of commenters raising concerns about generalized technology is the MPAA’s characterization of customizable, open-source set-top boxes utilizing the Kodi multimedia player application along with websites that allegedly ‘enable one-click installation of modified software onto set-top boxes or other internet-connected devices’,” CCIA writes.

While the MPAA itself also clearly mentioned that “Kodi is not itself unlawful,” CCIA stresses that any enforcement actions should be aimed at those who are breaking the law. The real targets include vendors who sell streaming boxes pre-loaded with infringing addons.

“These enforcement activities should focus on the infringers themselves, however, not a general purpose technology, such as an operating system for set-top boxes, which may be used in both lawful and unlawful ways.

“Open-source software designed for operating a home electronics device is unquestionably legitimate, and capable of substantial non-infringing uses,” CCIA adds in its cautionary letter the USTR.

While the MPAA’s submission was not trying to characterize Kodi itself as illegal, it did call out TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository.” The new incarnation of TVAddons wasn’t happy with this label and previously scolded the movie industry group for its comments, pointing out that it only received a handful of DMCA takedown notices in recent years.

“…in the entire history of TV ADDONS, XBMC HUB and OffshoreGit, we only received a total of about five DMCA notices in all; two of which were completely bogus. None of which came from a MPAA affiliate.”

While it’s obvious to most that Kodi isn’t the problem, as CCIA is highlighting, to many people it’s still unclear where the line between infringing and non-infringing is drawn. Lawsuits, including those against TVAddons and TickBox, are expected to bring more clarity.

CCIA’s full submission is available here (pdf).

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

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

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

Google Asked to Remove 3 Billion “Pirate” Search Results

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/google-asked-to-remove-3-billion-pirate-search-results-171018/

Copyright holders continue to flood Google with DMCA takedown requests, asking the company to remove “pirate links” from its search results.

In recent years the number of reported URLs has exploded, surging to unprecedented heights.

Since Google first started to report the volume of takedown requests in its Transparency Report, the company has been asked to remove more than three billion allegedly infringing search results.

The frequency at which these URLs are reported has increased over the years and at the moment roughly three million ‘pirate’ URLs are submitted per day.

The URLs are sent in by major rightsholders including members of the BPI, RIAA, and various major Hollywood studios. They target a wide variety of sites, over 1.3 million, but a few dozen ‘repeat offenders’ are causing the most trouble.

File-hosting service 4shared.com currently tops the list of most-targeted domains with 66 million URLs, followed by the now-defunct MP3 download site MP3toys.xyz and Rapidgator.net, with 51 and 28 million URLs respectively.

3 billion URLs

Interestingly, the high volume of takedown notices is used as an argument for and against the DMCA process.

While Google believes that the millions of reported URLs per day are a sign that the DMCA takedown process is working correctly, rightsholders believe the volumes are indicative of an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole.

According to some copyright holders, the takedown efforts do little to seriously combat piracy. Various industry groups have therefore asked governments and lawmakers for broad revisions.

Among other things they want advanced technologies and processes to ensure that infringing content doesn’t reappear elsewhere once it’s removed, a so-called “notice and stay down” approach. In addition, Google has often been asked to demote pirate links in search results.

UK music industry group BPI, who are responsible for more than 10% of all the takedown requests on Google, sees the new milestone as an indicator of how much effort its anti-piracy activities take.

“This 3 billion figure shows how hard the creative sector has to work to police its content online and how much time and resource this takes. The BPI is the world’s largest remover of illegal music links from Google, one third of which are on behalf of independent record labels,” Geoff Taylor, BPI’s Chief Executive, informs TF.

However, there is also some progress to report. Earlier this year BPI announced a voluntary partnership with Google and Bing to demote pirate content faster and more effectively for US visitors.

“We now have a voluntary code of practice in place in the UK, facilitated by Government, that requires Google and Bing to work together with the BPI and other creator organizations to develop lasting solutions to the problem of illegal sites gaining popularity in search listings,” Taylor notes.

According to BPI, both Google and Bing have shown that changes to their algorithms can be effective in demoting the worst pirate sites from the top search results and they hope others will follow suit.

“Other intermediaries should follow this lead and take more responsibility to work with creators to reduce the proliferation of illegal links and disrupt the ability of illegal sites to capture consumers and build black market businesses that take money away from creators.”

Agreement or not, there are still plenty of pirate links in search results, so the BPI is still sending out millions of takedown requests per month.

We asked Google for a comment on the new milestone but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. In any event, the issue is bound to remain a hot topic during the months and years to come.

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

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA notes.

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

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

EU Proposes Take Down Stay Down Approach to Combat Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-proposes-take-down-stay-down-approach-to-combat-online-piracy-170928/

In recent years, many copyright holders have grown frustrated with pirates copies of their content (re)appearing on hundreds of online platforms.

This problem is not restricted to pirate sites, but also affects other services where users can freely upload content, including Dropbox, Google, YouTube, and Facebook.

In an attempt to streamline these takedown procedures the European Commission published a detailed set of guidelines today. Their communication titled “Tackling Illegal Content Online” includes a comprehensive overview of how illegal content, including piracy, should be dealt with.

The recommendation, of which a non-final copy leaked earlier this month, is non-binding. However, future legislative measures are not ruled out if no significant progress is made.

One of the motivations to release the guidelines is to define clearly what a good takedown policy would look like. A harmonized and coherent takedown approach is currently missing in the EU, the Commission notes.

“A more aligned approach would make the fight against illegal content more effective. It would also benefit the development of the Digital Single Market and reduce the cost of compliance with a multitude of rules for online platforms, including for new entrants,” the recommendation reads.

One of the suggestions that stand out is “proactive” filtering. The Commission recommends that online services should implement measures that can automatically detect and remove suspected illegal content.

“Online platforms should do their utmost to proactively detect, identify and remove illegal content online. The Commission strongly encourages online platforms to use voluntary, proactive measures aimed at the detection and removal of illegal content and to step up cooperation and investment in, and use of, automatic detection technologies.”

This is similar to the much-discussed upload filters and raises the question whether such practice is in line with existing EU law. In the Sabam v Netlog case, the European Court of Justice previously ruled that hosting sites can’t be forced to filter copyrighted content, as this would violate the privacy of users and hinder freedom of information.

Importantly, the Commission emphasizes that when online services explicitly search for pirated material, they won’t lose the benefit of the liability exemption provided for in Article 14 of the E-Commerce Directive. In other words, copyright holders can’t hold these services accountable for content that slips through the net.

The recommendation further includes some specific suggestions to make sure that content, once removed, does not reappear. This is the notice-and-stay-down approach copyright holders are lobbying for, which can be addressed by content recognition tools including hash filtering.

“The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic technologies to prevent the re-appearance of illegal content online,” the document reads, adding that errors should not be overlooked.

“Where automatic tools are used to prevent re-appearance of illegal content a reversibility safeguard should be available for erroneous decisions, and the use and performance of this technology should be made transparent in the platforms’ terms of service.”

Hash-based and other automatic filters are not new of course. Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox already have these in place and YouTube’s Content-ID system also falls into this category.

Another measure to prevent re-uploading of content is to ban frequent offenders. The Commission notes that services should take appropriate measures against such users, which could include the suspension or termination of accounts.

Most of the suggestions come with a recommendation to have sufficient safeguards in place to repair or prevent errors. This includes a counter-notice process as well as regularly published transparency reports. In some cases where context is relevant, it is important to have a human reviewer in the loop.

Finally, the Commission encourages cooperation between online services and so-called “trusted flaggers.” The latter are known representatives of copyright holders who are trusted. As such, their takedown notices can be prioritized.

“Notices from trusted flaggers should be able to be fast-tracked by the platform. This cooperation should provide for mutual information exchange so as to evaluate and improve the removal process over time.”

The proposals go above and beyond current legal requirements. For many larger online services, it might not be too hard to comply with most of the above. But, for smaller services, it could be quite a burden.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) has highlighted some good and bad elements but remains critical.

“The document puts virtually all its focus on internet companies monitoring online communications, in order to remove content that they decide might be illegal. It presents few safeguards for free speech, and little concern for dealing with content that is actually criminal,” EDRi writes.

Google has also been critical of the notice-and-stay-down principle in the past. Copyright counsel Cédric Manara previously outlined several problems, concluding that the system “just won’t work.

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

Windstream Gives Up Preemptive Fight Over ISP’s Piracy Liability

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/windstream-gives-up-preemptive-fight-over-isps-piracy-liability-170920/

Can an Internet provider be held liable for subscribers who share pirated files? Yes, a Virginia federal jury ruled two years ago.

This verdict caused great uncertainty in the ISP industry, as several companies suddenly realized that they could become the next target.

Internet provider Windstream is among the companies that are worried about the fallout. With 1.1 million subscribers nationwide, it is one of the larger Internet providers in the United States. As such, it receives takedown notices on a regular basis.

Many of these notices come from music rights group BMG, which accused Windstream and its subscribers of various copyright infringements. These notices are issued by the monitoring outfit Rightscorp and often come with a settlement demand for the account holders.

When Windstream refused to forward these notices, as it’s not required to do so by law, BMG and Rightscorp increased the pressure. They threatened that the ISP could be liable for millions of dollars in piracy damages for failing to disconnect repeat infringers.

Faced with this threat, Windstream filed a request for declaratory judgment at a New York District Court last year, requesting a legal ruling on the matter. This preemptive lawsuit didn’t turn out as planned for the ISP.

In April the court ruled that there is no ‘actual controversy’ and that it can’t issue a hypothetical and advisory opinion without concrete facts. As such, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Windstream didn’t throw in the towel right away though and appealed the verdict. The ISP argued that the $150,000 in damages per infringement BMG claimed caused a real controversy.

“BMG’s accusations were not idle threats in light of the undisputed fact that BMG had recently obtained a $25,000,000 recovery against another conduit ISP based on similar claims,” the ISP wrote in a brief last month.

“Thus, the undisputed facts conclusively establish that an actual controversy exists to support Windstream’s request for a declaration that it is not liable for any alleged infringement of BMG’s copyrights.”

Despite Windstream’s initial persistence, something changed in recent weeks. Without any prior signs in the court docket, the company has now asked the Judge to dismiss the case entirely, with both parties paying their own costs.

“Windstream respectfully requests that this Court dismiss in full Windstream’s present appeal with prejudice against BMG and Rightscorp, with each party bearing its own costs in this appeal.”

While there is no mention of a settlement of any kind, BMG and Rightscorp do not oppose the request. This effectively means that the case is over. The same previously happened in a similar lawsuit, where Internet provider RCN demanded a declaratory judgment.

This means that all eyes are once again on the case between BMG and Cox Communications, which got this all started and is currently under appeal.

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