Tag Archives: Torrent Sites

Belgium Wants to Blacklist Pirate Sites & Hijack Their Traffic

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/belgium-wants-to-blacklist-pirate-sites-hijack-their-traffic-170924/

The thorny issue of how to deal with the online piracy phenomenon used to be focused on punishing site users. Over time, enforcement action progressed to the services themselves, until they became both too resilient and prevalent to tackle effectively.

In Europe in particular, there’s now a trend of isolating torrent, streaming, and hosting platforms from their users. This is mainly achieved by website blocking carried out by local ISPs following an appropriate court order.

While the UK is perhaps best known for this kind of action, Belgium was one of the early pioneers of the practice.

After filing a lawsuit in 2010, the Belgian Anti-Piracy Foundation (BAF) weathered an early defeat at the Antwerp Commercial Court to achieve success at the Court of Appeal. Since then, local ISPs have been forced to block The Pirate Bay.

Since then there have been several efforts (1,2) to block more sites but rightsholders have complained that the process is too costly, lengthy, and cumbersome. Now the government is stepping in to do something about it.

Local media reports that Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters has drafted new proposals to tackle online piracy. In his role as Minister of Economy and Employment, Peeters sees authorities urgently tackling pirate sites with a range of new measures.

For starters, he wants to create a new department, formed within the FPS Economy, to oversee the fight against online infringement. The department would be tasked with detecting pirate sites more quickly and rendering them inaccessible in Belgium, along with any associated mirror sites or proxies.

Peeters wants the new department to add all blocked sites to a national ‘pirate blacklist. Interestingly, when Internet users try to access any of these sites, he wants them to be automatically diverted to legal sites where a fee will have to be paid for content.

While it’s not unusual to try and direct users away from pirate sites, for the most part Internet service providers have been somewhat reluctant to divert subscribers to commercial sites. Their assistance would be needed in this respect, so it will be interesting to see how negotiations pan out.

The Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA), which was formed nine years ago to represent the music, video, software and videogame industries, welcomed Peeters’ plans.

“It’s so important to close the doors to illegal download sites and to actively lead people to legal alternatives,” said chairman Olivier Maeterlinck.

“Surfers should not forget that the motives of illegal download sites are not always obvious. These sites also regularly try to exploit personal data.”

The current narrative that pirate sites are evil places is clearly gaining momentum among anti-piracy bodies, but there’s little sign that the public intends to boycott sites as a result. With that in mind, alternative legal action will still be required.

With that in mind, Peeters wants to streamline the system so that all piracy cases go through a single court, the Commercial Court of Brussels. This should reduce costs versus the existing model and there’s also the potential for more consistent rulings.

“It’s a good idea to have a clearer legal framework on this,” says Maeterlinck from BEA.

“There are plenty of legal platforms, streaming services like Spotify, for example, which are constantly developing and reaching an ever-increasing audience. Those businesses have a business model that ensure that the creators of certain media content are properly compensated. The rotten apples must be tackled, and those procedures should be less time-consuming.”

There’s little doubt that BEA could benefit from a little government assistance. Back in February, the group filed a lawsuit at the French commercial court in Brussels, asking ISPs to block subscriber access to several ‘pirate’ sites.

“Our action aims to block nine of the most popular streaming sites which offer copyright-protected content on a massive scale and without authorization,” Maeterlinck told TF at the time.

“In accordance with the principles established by the CJEU (UPC Telekabel and GS Media), BEA seeks a court order confirming the infringement and imposing site blocking measures on the ISPs, who are content providers as well.”

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

Russia’s Largest Torrent Site Celebrates 13 Years Online in a Chinese Restaurant

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-largest-torrent-site-celebrates-13-years-online-in-a-chinese-restaurant-170923/

For most torrent fans around the world, The Pirate Bay is the big symbol of international defiance. Over the years the site has fought, avoided, and snubbed its nose at dozens of battles, yet still remains online today.

But there is another site, located somewhere in the east, that has been online for nearly as long, has millions more registered members, and has proven just as defiant.

RuTracker, for those who haven’t yet found it, is a Russian-focused treasure trove of both local and international content. For many years the site was frequented only by native speakers but with the wonders of tools like Google Translate, anyone can use the site at the flick of the switch. When people are struggling to find content, it’s likely that RuTracker has it.

This position has attracted the negative attention of a wide range of copyright holders and thanks to legislation introduced during 2013, the site is now subject to complete blocking in Russia. In fact, RuTracker has proven so stubborn to copyright holder demands, it is now permanently blocked in the region by all ISPs.

Surprisingly, especially given the enthusiasm for blockades among copyright holders, this doesn’t seem to have dampened demand for the site’s services. According to SimiliarWeb, against all the odds the site is still pulling in around 90 million visitors per month. But the impressive stats don’t stop there.

Impressive stats for a permanently blocked site

This week, RuTracker celebrates its 13th birthday, a relative lifetime for a site that has been front and center of Russia’s most significant copyright battles, trouble which doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Back in 2010, for example, RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar and web-hosting provider, pulled the plug on the site’s former Torrents.ru domain. The Director of Public Relations at RU-Center said that the domain had been blocked on the orders of the Investigative Division of the regional prosecutor’s office in Moscow. The site never got its domain back but carried on regardless, despite the setbacks.

Back then the site had around 4,000,000 members but now, seven years on, its ranks have swelled to a reported 15,382,907. According to figures published by the site this week, 778,317 of those members signed up this year during a period the site was supposed to be completely inaccessible. Needless to say, its operators remain defiant.

“Today we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our tracker, which is the largest Russian (and not only) -language media library on this planet. A tracker strangely banished in the country where most of its audience is located – in Russia,” a site announcement reads.

“But, despite the prohibitions, with all these legislative obstacles, with all these technical difficulties, we see that our tracker still exists and is successfully developing. And we still believe that the library should be open and free for all, and not be subject to censorship or a victim of legislative and executive power lobbied by the monopolists of the media industry.”

It’s interesting to note the tone of the RuTracker announcement. On any other day it could’ve been written by the crew of The Pirate Bay who, in their prime, loved to stick a finger or two up to the copyright lobby and then rub their noses in it. For the team at RuTracker, that still appears to be one of the main goals.

Like The Pirate Bay but unlike many of the basic torrent indexers that have sprung up in recent years, RuTracker relies on users to upload its content. They certainly haven’t been sitting back. RuTracker reveals that during the past year and despite all the problems, users uploaded a total of 171,819 torrents – on average, 470 torrents per day.

Interestingly, the content most uploaded to the site also points to the growing internationalization of RuTracker. During the past year, the NBA / NCAA section proved most popular, closely followed by non-Russian rock music and NHL games. Non-Russian movies accounted for almost 2,000 fresh torrents in just 12 months.

“It is thanks to you this tracker lives!” the site’s operators informed the users.

“It is thanks to you that it was, is, and, for sure, will continue to offer the most comprehensive, diverse and, most importantly, quality content in the Russian Internet. You stayed with us when the tracker lost its original name: torrents.ru. You stayed with us when access to a new name was blocked in Russia: rutracker.org. You stayed with us when [the site’s trackers] were blocked. We will stay with you as long as you need us!”

So as RuTracker plans for another year online, all that remains is to celebrate its 13th birthday in style. That will be achieved tonight when every adult member of RuTracker is invited to enjoy Chinese meal at the Tian Jin Chinese Restaurant in St. Petersburg.

Turn up early, seating is limited.

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

Roku Is Building Its Own Anti-Piracy Team

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-building-anti-piracy-team/

Online streaming piracy is on the rise and many people use dedicated media players to watch unauthorized content through their regular TV.

Although the media players themselves can be used for perfectly legal means, third-party add-ons turn them into pirate machines, providing access to movies, TV-shows and more.

The entertainment industry isn’t happy with this development and is trying to halt further growth wherever possible.

Just a few months ago, Roku was harshly confronted with this new reality when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. This legal battle is still ongoing, but it’s clear that Roku itself is now taking a more proactive role.

While Roku never permitted any infringing content, the company is taking steps to better deal with the problem. The company has already begun warning users of copyright-infringing third-party channels, but that was only the beginning.

Two new job applications posted by Roku a few days ago reveal that the company is putting together an in-house anti-piracy team to keep the problem under control.

One of the new positions is that of Director Anti-Piracy and Content Security. Roku stresses that this is a brand new position, which involves shaping the company’s anti-piracy strategy.

“The Director, Anti-Piracy and Content Security is responsible for defining the technology roadmap and overseeing implementation of anti-piracy and content security initiatives at Roku,” the application reads.

“This role requires ability to benchmark Roku against best practices (i.e. MPAA, Studio & Customer) but also requires an emphasis on maintaining deep insight into the evolving threat landscape and technical challenges of combating piracy.”

The job posting

The second job listed by Roku is that of an anti-piracy software engineer. One of the main tasks of this position is to write software for the Roku to monitor and prevent piracy.

“In this role, you will be responsible for implementing anti-piracy and content protection technology as it pertains to Roku OS,” the application explains.

“This entails developing software features, conducting forensic investigations and mining Roku’s big data platform and other threat intelligence sources for copyright infringement activities on and off platform.”

While a two-person team is relatively small, it’s possible that this will grow in the future, if there aren’t people in a similar role already. What’s clear, however, is that Roku takes piracy very seriously.

With Hollywood closely eyeing the streaming box landscape, the company is doing its best to keep copyright holders onside.

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

Block The Pirate Bay Within 10 Days, Dutch Court Tells ISPs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/block-the-pirate-bay-within-10-days-dutch-court-tells-isps-170922/

Three years ago in 2014, The Court of The Hague handed down its decision in a long-running case which had previously forced two Dutch ISPs, Ziggo and XS4ALL, to block The Pirate Bay.

Ruling against local anti-piracy outfit BREIN, which brought the case, the Court decided that a blockade would be ineffective and also restrict the ISPs’ entrepreneurial freedoms.

The Pirate Bay was unblocked while BREIN took its case to the Supreme Court, which in turn referred the matter to the EU Court of Justice for clarification. This June, the ECJ ruled that as a platform effectively communicating copyright works to the public, The Pirate Bay can indeed be blocked.

The ruling meant there were no major obstacles preventing the Dutch Supreme Court from ordering a future ISP blockade. Clearly, however, BREIN wanted a blocking decision more quickly. A decision handed down today means the anti-piracy group will achieve that in just a few days’ time.

The Hague Court of Appeal today ruled (Dutch) that the 2014 decision, which lifted the blockade against The Pirate Bay, is now largely obsolete.

“According to the Court of Appeal, the Hague Court did not give sufficient weight to the interests of the beneficiaries represented by BREIN,” BREIN said in a statement.

“The Court also wrongly looked at whether torrent traffic had been reduced by the blockade. It should have also considered whether visits to the website of The Pirate Bay itself decreased with a blockade, which speaks for itself.”

As a result, an IP address and DNS blockade of The Pirate Bay, similar to those already in place in the UK and other EU countries, will soon be put in place. BREIN says that four IP addresses will be affected along with hundreds of domain names through which the torrent platform can be reached.

The ISPs have been given just 10 days to put the blocks in place and if they fail there are fines of 2,000 euros per day, up to a maximum of one million euros.

“It is nice that obviously harmful and illegal sites like The Pirate Bay will be blocked again in the Netherlands,” says BREIN chief Tim Kuik.

“A very bad time for our culture, which was free to access via these sites, is now happily behind us.”

Today’s interim decision by the Court of Appeal will stand until the Supreme Court hands down its decision in the main case between BREIN and Ziggo / XS4ALL.

Looking forward, it seems extremely unlikely that the Supreme Court will hand down a conflicting decision, so we’re probably already looking at the beginning of the end for direct accessibility of The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands.

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

EU Piracy Report Suppression Raises Questions Over Transparency

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eu-piracy-report-suppression-raises-questions-transparency-170922/

Over the years, copyright holders have made hundreds of statements against piracy, mainly that it risks bringing industries to their knees through widespread and uncontrolled downloading from the Internet.

But while TV shows like Game of Thrones have been downloaded millions of times, the big question (one could argue the only really important question) is whether this activity actually affects sales. After all, if piracy has a massive negative effect on industry, something needs to be done. If it does not, why all the panic?

Quite clearly, the EU Commission wanted to find out the answer to this potential multi-billion dollar question when it made the decision to invest a staggering 360,000 euros in a dedicated study back in January 2014.

With a final title of ‘Estimating displacement rates of copyrighted content in the EU’, the completed study is an intimidating 307 pages deep. Shockingly, until this week, few people even knew it existed because, for reasons unknown, the EU Commission decided not to release it.

However, thanks to the sheer persistence of Member of the European Parliament Julia Reda, the public now has a copy and it contains quite a few interesting conclusions. But first, some background.

The study uses data from 2014 and covers four broad types of content: music,
audio-visual material, books and videogames. Unlike other reports, the study also considered live attendances of music and cinema visits in the key regions of Germany, UK, Spain, France, Poland and Sweden.

On average, 51% of adults and 72% of minors in the EU were found to have illegally downloaded or streamed any form of creative content, with Poland and Spain coming out as the worst offenders. However, here’s the kicker.

“In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements,” the study notes.

“That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect.”

For a study commissioned by the EU with huge sums of public money, this is a potentially damaging conclusion, not least for the countless industry bodies that lobby day in, day out, for tougher copyright law based on the “fact” that piracy is damaging to sales.

That being said, the study did find that certain sectors can be affected by piracy, notably recent top movies.

“The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally,” the study notes.

“People do not watch many recent top films a second time but if it happens, displacement is lower: two legal consumptions are displaced by every ten illegal second views. This suggests that the displacement rate for older films is lower than the 40 per cent for recent top films. All in all, the estimated loss for recent top films is 5 per cent of current sales volumes.”

But while there is some negative effect on the movie industry, others can benefit. The study found that piracy had a slightly positive effect on the videogames industry, suggesting that those who play pirate games eventually become buyers of official content.

On top of displacement rates, the study also looked at the public’s willingness to pay for content, to assess whether price influences pirate consumption. Interestingly, the industry that had the most displaced sales – the movie industry – had the greatest number of people unhappy with its pricing model.

“Overall, the analysis indicates that for films and TV-series current prices are higher than 80 per cent of the illegal downloaders and streamers are willing to pay,” the study notes.

For other industries, where sales were not found to have been displaced or were positively affected by piracy, consumer satisfaction with pricing was greatest.

“For books, music and games, prices are at a level broadly corresponding to the
willingness to pay of illegal downloaders and streamers. This suggests that a
decrease in the price level would not change piracy rates for books, music and
games but that prices can have an effect on displacement rates for films and
TV-series,” the study concludes.

So, it appears that products that are priced fairly do not suffer significant displacement from piracy. Those that are priced too high, on the other hand, can expect to lose some sales.

Now that it’s been released, the findings of the study should help to paint a more comprehensive picture of the infringement climate in the EU, while laying to rest some of the wild claims of the copyright lobby. That being said, it shouldn’t have taken the toils of Julia Reda to bring them to light.

“This study may have remained buried in a drawer for several more years to come if it weren’t for an access to documents request I filed under the European Union’s Freedom of Information law on July 27, 2017, after having become aware of the public tender for this study dating back to 2013,” Reda explains.

“I would like to invite the Commission to become a provider of more solid and timely evidence to the copyright debate. Such data that is valuable both financially and in terms of its applicability should be available to everyone when it is financed by the European Union – it should not be gathering dust on a shelf until someone actively requests it.”

The full study can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

Are Cryptocurrency Miners The Future for Pirate Sites?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/are-cryptocurrency-miners-the-future-for-pirate-sites-170921/

Last weekend The Pirate Bay surprised friend and foe by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website.

The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra revenue source.

Initially, this caused the CPUs of visitors to max out due to a configuration error, but it was later adjusted to be less demanding. Still, there was plenty of discussion on the move, with greatly varying opinions.

Some criticized the site for “hijacking” their computer resources for personal profit, without prior warning. However, there are also people who are happy to give something back to TPB, especially if it can help the site to remain online.

Aside from the configuration error, there was another major mistake everyone agreed on. The Pirate Bay team should have alerted its visitors to this change beforehand, and not after the fact, as they did last weekend.

Despite the sensitivities, The Pirate Bay’s move has inspired others to follow suit. Pirate linking site Alluc.ee is one of the first. While they use the same mining service, their implementation is more elegant.

Alluc shows how many hashes are mined and the site allows users to increase or decrease the CPU load, or turn the miner off completely.

Alluc.ee miner

Putting all the controversy aside for a minute, the idea to let visitors mine coins is a pretty ingenious idea. The Pirate Bay said it was testing the feature to see if it’s possible as a replacement for ads, which might be much needed in the future.

In recent years many pirate sites have struggled to make a decent income. Not only are more people using ad-blockers now, the ad-quality is also dropping as copyright holders actively go after this revenue source, trying to dry up the funds of pirate sites. And with Chrome planning to add a default ad-blocker to its browser, the outlook is grim.

A cryptocurrency miner might alleviate this problem. That is, as long as ad-blockers don’t start to interfere with this revenue source as well.

Interestingly, this would also counter one of the main anti-piracy talking points. Increasingly, industry groups are using the “public safety” argument as a reason to go after pirate sites. They point to malicious advertisements as a great danger, hoping that this will further their calls for tougher legislation and enforcement.

If The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites can ditch the ads, they would be less susceptible to these and other anti-piracy pushes. Of course, copyright holders could still go after the miner revenues, but this might not be easy.

TorrentFreak spoke to Coinhive, the company that provides the mining service to The Pirate Bay, and they don’t seem eager to take action without a court order.

“We don’t track where users come from. We are just providing servers and a script to submit hashes for the Monero blockchain. We don’t see it as our responsibility to determine if a website is ‘valid’ and we don’t have the technical capabilities to do so,” a Coinhive representative says.

We also contacted several site owners and thus far the response has been mixed. Some like the idea and would consider adding a miner, if it doesn’t affect visitors too much. Others are more skeptical and don’t believe that the extra revenue is worth the trouble.

The Pirate Bay itself, meanwhile, has completed its test run and has removed the miner from the site. They will now analyze the results before deciding whether or not it’s “the future” for them.

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

Google Signs Agreement to Tackle YouTube Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-signs-unprecedented-agreement-to-tackle-youtube-piracy-170921/

Once upon a time, people complaining about piracy would point to the hundreds of piracy sites around the Internet. These days, criticism is just as likely to be leveled at Google-owned services.

YouTube, in particular, has come in for intense criticism, with the music industry complaining of exploitation of the DMCA in order to obtain unfair streaming rates from record labels. Along with streaming-ripping, this so-called Value Gap is one of the industry’s hottest topics.

With rightsholders seemingly at war with Google to varying degrees, news from France suggests that progress can be made if people sit down and negotiate.

According to local reports, Google and local anti-piracy outfit ALPA (l’Association de Lutte Contre la Piraterie Audiovisuelle) under the auspices of the CNC have signed an agreement to grant rightsholders direct access to content takedown mechanisms on YouTube.

YouTube has granted access to its Content ID systems to companies elsewhere for years but the new deal will see the system utilized by French content owners for the first time. It’s hoped that the access will result in infringing content being taken down or monetized more quickly than before.

“We do not want fraudsters to use our platforms to the detriment of creators,” said Carlo D’Asaro Biondo, Google’s President of Strategic Relationships in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The agreement, overseen by the Ministry of Culture, will see Google provide ALPA with financial support and rightsholders with essential training.

ALPA president Nicolas Seydoux welcomed the deal, noting that it symbolizes the “collapse of the wall of incomprehension” that previously existed between France’s rightsholders and the Internet search giant.

The deal forms part of the French government’s “Plan of Action Against Piracy”, in which it hopes to crack down on infringement in various ways, including tackling the threat of pirate sites, better promotion of services offering legitimate content, and educating children “from an early age” on the need to respect copyright.

“The fight against piracy is the great challenge of the new century in the cultural sphere,” said France’s Minister of Culture, Françoise Nyssen.

“I hope this is just the beginning of a process. It will require other agreements with rights holders and other platforms, as well as at the European level.”

According to NextInpact, the Google agreement will eventually encompass the downgrading of infringing content in search results as part of the Trusted Copyright Removal Program. A similar system is already in place in the UK.

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.

Another Chinese Developer Arrested For Selling VPN Access

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/another-chinese-developer-arrested-for-selling-vpn-access-170920/

Early 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that due to Internet technologies and services expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, regulation would be needed to restore order.

Announcing measures to strengthen network information security management, the government said it would begin a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up.”

Months later, it became evident that authorities were taking an even more aggressive stance towards Virtual Private Networks, since these allow citizens to evade the so-called Great Firewall of China. The government said that in future, operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications license would constitute an offense.

Now, according to local news reports, a citizen who apparently failed to heed the government’s warnings has fallen foul of the new rules.

The Nanjinger reports that a software developer, named as Mr. Zhao from Nanjing, was arrested August 21 for contravening the new laws on VPN licensing.

Zhao reportedly told authorities he’d initially set up the VPN for his own use in order to access content hosted abroad, which presumably involved circumventing China’s firewall. However, once he recognized there was a demand, the developer decided to let others use the service for a small fee.

The prices he asked were indeed small – just $1.50 per month or around $18 for two years’ service. Based on reported total revenues of just $164 for the entire business, it’s possible he had around 100 customers, or indeed far fewer.

What will happen to the man isn’t clear but he’ll be keen to avoid the fate of Deng Jiewei, who previously ran a small website through which he’d sold around $2,100 worth of VPN software.

Early September it was reported that the 26-year-old had been sentenced to nine months in prison for offering tools that enable people to “visit foreign websites that cannot be accessed via a domestic (mainland) IP address.”

These cases are part of an emerging pattern in China centered around the supply and sale of VPN products and services. Back in July, Apple began banning VPN applications from its iOS store in China. The company reported that the apps contained content that is illegal locally, thereby violating the company’s policies.

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

Stream Ripping Piracy Goes From Bad to Worse, Music Industry Reports

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/stream-ripping-piracy-goes-from-bad-to-worse-music-industry-reports-170919/

Free music is easy to find nowadays. Just head over to YouTube and you can find millions of tracks including many of the most recent releases.

While the music industry profits from the advertisements on many of these videos, it’s not happy with the current state of affairs. Record labels complain about a “value gap” and go as far as accusing the video streaming platform of operating a DMCA protection racket.

YouTube doesn’t agree with this stance and points to the billions of dollars it pays copyright holders. Still, the music industry is far from impressed.

Today, IFPI has released a new music consumer insight report that highlights this issue once again, while pointing out that YouTube accounts for more than half of all music video streaming.

“User upload services, such as YouTube, are heavily used by music consumers and yet do not return fair value to those who are investing in and creating the music. The Value Gap remains the single biggest threat facing the music world today and we are campaigning for a legislative solution,” IFPI CEO Frances Moore writes.

The report also zooms in on piracy and “stream ripping” in particular, which is another YouTube and Google related issue. While this phenomenon is over a decade old, it’s now the main source of music piracy, the report states.

A survey conducted in the world’s leading music industry markets reveals that 35% of all Internet users are stream rippers, up from 30% last year. In total, 40% of all respondents admitted to obtaining unlicensed music.

35% stream ripping (source IFPI)

This means that the vast majority of all music pirates use stream ripping tools. This practice is particularly popular among those in the youngest age group, where more than half of all Internet users admit to ripping music, and it goes down as age increases.

Adding another stab at Google, the report further notes that more than half of all pirates use the popular search engine to find unlicensed music.

Stream rippers are young (source IFPI)

TorrentFreak spoke to former RIAA executive Neil Turkewitz, who has been very vocal about the stream ripping problem. He now heads his own consulting group that focuses on expanding economic cultural prosperity, particularly online.

Stream ripping is a “double whammy,” Turkewitz says, as it’s undermining both streaming and distribution markets. This affects the bottom line of labels and artists, so YouTube should do more to block stream rippers and converters from exploiting the service.

“YouTube and Alphabet talk of their commitment to expanding opportunities for creators. This is an opportunity to prove it,” Turkewitz informs TF.

“Surely the company that, as Eric Schmidt likes to say, ‘knows what people want before they know it’ has the capacity to develop tools to address problems that inhibit the development of a robust online market that sustains creators.”

While stream ripping remains rampant, there is a positive development the music industry can cling to.

Two weeks ago the major record labels managed to take down YouTube-MP3, the largest ripping site of all. While this is a notable success, there are many sites and tools like it that continue business as usual.

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

A Million ‘Pirate’ Boxes Sold in the UK During The Last Two Years

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/a-million-pirate-boxes-sold-in-the-uk-during-the-last-two-years-170919/

With the devices hitting the headlines on an almost weekly basis, it probably comes as no surprise that ‘pirate’ set-top boxes are quickly becoming public enemy number one with video rightsholders.

Typically loaded with the legal Kodi software but augmented with third-party addons, these often Android-based pieces of hardware drag piracy out of the realm of the computer savvy and into the living rooms of millions.

One of the countries reportedly most affected by this boom is the UK. The consumption of these devices among the general public is said to have reached epidemic proportions, and anecdotal evidence suggests that terms like Kodi and Showbox are now household terms.

Today we have another report to digest, this time from the Federation Against Copyright Theft, or FACT as they’re often known. Titled ‘Cracking Down on Digital Piracy,’ the report provides a general overview of the piracy scene, tackling well-worn topics such as how release groups and site operators work, among others.

The report is produced by FACT after consultation with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, Intellectual Property Office, Police Scotland, and anti-piracy outfit Entura International. It begins by noting that the vast majority of the British public aren’t involved in the consumption of infringing content.

“The most recent stats show that 75% of Brits who look at content online abide by the law and don’t download or stream it illegally – up from 70% in 2013. However, that still leaves 25% who do access material illegally,” the report reads.

The report quickly heads to the topic of ‘pirate’ set-top boxes which is unsurprising, not least due to FACT’s current focus as a business entity.

While it often positions itself alongside government bodies (which no doubt boosts its status with the general public), FACT is a private limited company serving The Premier League, another company desperate to stamp out the use of infringing devices.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to argue with some of the figures cited in the report.

“At a conservative estimate, we believe a million set-top boxes with software added
to them to facilitate illegal downloads have been sold in the UK in the last couple
of years,” the Intellectual Property Office reveals.

Interestingly, given a growing tech-savvy public, FACT’s report notes that ready-configured boxes are increasingly coming into the country.

“Historically, individuals and organized gangs have added illegal apps and add-ons onto the boxes once they have been imported, to allow illegal access to premium channels. However more recently, more boxes are coming into the UK complete with illegal access to copyrighted content via apps and add-ons already installed,” FACT notes.

“Boxes are often stored in ‘fulfillment houses’ along with other illegal electrical items and sold on social media. The boxes are either sold as one-off purchases, or with a monthly subscription to access paid-for channels.”

While FACT press releases regularly blur the lines when people are prosecuted for supplying set-top boxes in general, it’s important to note that there are essentially two kinds of products on offer to the public.

The first relies on Kodi-type devices which provide on-going free access to infringing content. The second involves premium IPTV subscriptions which are a whole different level of criminality. Separating the two when reading news reports can be extremely difficult, but it’s a hugely important to recognize the difference when assessing the kinds of sentences set-top box suppliers are receiving in the UK.

Nevertheless, FACT correctly highlights that the supply of both kinds of product are on the increase, with various parties recognizing the commercial opportunities.

“A significant number of home-grown British criminals are now involved in this type of crime. Some of them import the boxes wholesale through entirely legal channels, and modify them with illegal software at home. Others work with sophisticated criminal networks across Europe to bring the boxes into the UK.

“They then sell these boxes online, for example through eBay or Facebook, sometimes managing to sell hundreds or thousands of boxes before being caught,” the company adds.

The report notes that in some cases the sale of infringing set-top boxes occurs through cottage industry, with suppliers often working on their own or with small groups of friends and family. Invetiably, perhaps, larger scale operations are reported to be part of networks with connections to other kinds of crime, such as dealing in drugs.

“In contrast to drugs, streaming devices provide a relatively steady and predictable revenue stream for these criminals – while still being lucrative, often generating hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, they are seen as a lower risk activity with less likelihood of leading to arrest or imprisonment,” FACT reports.

While there’s certainly the potential to earn large sums from ‘pirate’ boxes and premium IPTV services, operating on the “hundreds of thousands of pounds a year” scale in the UK would attract a lot of unwanted attention. That’s not saying that it isn’t already, however.

Noting that digital piracy has evolved hugely over the past three or four years, the report says that the cases investigated so far are just the “tip of the iceberg” and that many other cases are in the early stages and will only become known to the public in the months and years ahead.

Indeed, the Intellectual Property Office hints that some kind of large-scale enforcement action may be on the horizon.

“We have identified a significant criminal business model which we have discussed and shared with key law enforcement partners. I can’t go into detail on this, but as investigations take their course, you will see the scale,” an IPO spokesperson reveals.

While details are necessarily scarce, a source familiar with this area told TF that he would be very surprised if the targets aren’t the growing handful of commercial UK-based IPTV re-sellers who offer full subscription TV services for a few pounds per month.

“They’re brazen. Watch this space,” he said.

FACT’s full report, Cracking Down on Digital Piracy, can be downloaded here (pdf)

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

TVAddons: A Law Firm is Not Spying on Our Kodi Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-a-law-firm-is-not-spying-on-our-kodi-users-170918/

A few months ago, TVAddons was without doubt the leading repository for third-party Kodi addons.

During March, the platform had 40 million unique users connected to the site’s servers, together transferring a petabyte of addons and updates.

In June, however, things started to fall apart. After news broke that the site was being sued in a federal court in Texas, TVAddons disappeared. It was assumed these events were connected but it later transpired the platform was being used in Canada as well, and that was the true reason for the downtime.

While it’s easy to be wise after the event, in hindsight it might’ve been better for the platform to go public about the Canadian matter quite a bit sooner than it did. Of course, there are always legal considerations that prevent early disclosure, but when popular sites disappear into a black hole, two plus two can quickly equal five when fed through the web’s rumor machine.

Things weren’t helped in July when it was discovered that the site’s former domains had been handed over to a Canada-based law firm. Again, no official explanation was forthcoming and again, people became concerned.

If this had been a plaintiff’s law firm, people would’ve had good reason to worry, since it would have been technically possible to spy on TVAddons’ users. However, as the truth began to filter out and court papers became available, it soon became crystal clear that simply wasn’t the case.

The bottom line, which is backed up by publicly available court papers, is that the law firm holding the old TVAddons domains is not the law firm suing TVAddons. Instead, it was appointed by the court to hold TVAddons’ property until the Canadian lawsuit is brought to a conclusion, whenever that might be.

“They have a legal obligation to protect our property at all cost, and prevent anyone (especially the law firm who is suing is) from gaining access to them,” says TVAddons.

“The law firm who is holding them is doing nothing more than protecting our property until the time that it will finally be returned after the appeal takes place.”

Unfortunately, assurances provided by TVAddons and information published by the court itself hasn’t been enough to stop some people fearing the worst. While the facts have plenty of support on Twitter and Facebook, there also appears to be an element who would like to see TVAddons fail in its efforts to re-establish itself.

Only time will tell who will win that battle but in the meantime, TVAddons has tried to cover all the bases in an update post on its blog.

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

Ukraine Faces Call for US Trade Sanctions over Online Piracy

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/ukraine-faces-call-us-trade-sanctions-over-online-piracy-170918/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is recommending that the U.S. Government should suspend Ukraine’s GSP trade benefits, claiming that the country doesn’t do enough to protect the interests of copyright holders.

Last year Ukraine enjoyed $53.7 million in unilateral duty-free benefits in the US, while US companies suffering millions of dollars in losses in Ukraine due to online piracy, they argue.

The IIPA, which includes a wide range of copyright groups including the MPAA, RIAA, BSA and ESA, characterizes the country as a safe harbor for pirate sites. While physical piracy was properly addressed ten years ago after a previous sanction, digital piracy remains rampant.

One of the main problems is that local hosting companies are offering their services to a wide variety of copyright-infringing websites. Without proper enforcement, more and more websites have moved their services there.

“By allowing these problems to fester for years, weak digital enforcement has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of illegal peer-to-peer (‘P2P’) hosting and website-based Internet piracy sites, including some of the world’s largest BitTorrent sites located in Ukraine,” IIPA writes.

“Some Internet pirates have purposefully moved their servers and operations to Ukraine in the past few years to take advantage of the current lawless situation. Many of these illegal services and sites target audiences throughout Europe and the United States.”

The copyright holders highlight the defunct ExtraTorrent site as an example but note that there are also many other torrent sites, pirate streaming sites, cyberlockers, and linking sites in Ukraine.

While pirate sites are hosted all over the world, the problem is particularly persistent in Ukraine because many local hosting companies fail to process takedown requests. This, despite repeated calls from copyright holders to work with them.

“Many of the websites offering pirated copyright materials are thriving in part because of the support of local ISPs,” IIPA writes.

“The copyright industries have, for years, sought private agreements with ISPs to establish effective mechanisms to take down illegal websites and slow illegal P2P traffic. In the absence of legislation, however, these voluntary efforts have generally not succeeded, although, some ISPs will delete links upon request.”

In order to make real progress, the copyright holders call for new legislation to hold Internet services accountable and to make it easier to come after pirate sites that are hosted in Ukraine.

“Legislation is needed to institute proper notice and takedown provisions, including a requirement that service providers terminate access to individuals (or entities) that have repeatedly engaged in infringement, and the retention of information for law enforcement, as well as to provide clear third party liability regarding ISPs.”

In addition to addressing online piracy, IIPA further points out that the collecting societies in Ukraine are not functioning properly. At the moment there are 18 active and competing organizations, creating a chaotic situation where rightsholders are not properly rewarded, they suggest.

IIPA recommends that the U.S. Government accepts its petition and suspends or withdraws Ukraine’s benefits until the country takes proper action.

Ukraine’s Government, for its part, informs the US Government that progress is being made. There are already several new laws in the works to improve intellectual property protection. The issue is one of the Government’s “key priorities,” they state, hoping to avert any sanctions.

IIPA’s full submission to the US Trade Representative is available here (pdf).

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

Inside the MPAA, Netflix & Amazon Global Anti-Piracy Alliance

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/inside-the-mpaa-netflix-amazon-global-anti-piracy-alliance-170918/

The idea of collaboration in the anti-piracy arena isn’t new but an announcement this summer heralded what is destined to become the largest project the entertainment industry has ever seen.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order its members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The aim of the project is clear. Instead of each company considering its anti-piracy operations as a distinct island, ACE will bring them all together while presenting a united front to decision and lawmakers. At the core of the Alliance will be the MPAA.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,”
outgoing MPAA chief Chris Dodd said in June.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

Since then, ACE and its members have been silent on the project. Today, however, TorrentFreak can pull back the curtain, revealing how the agreement between the companies will play out, who will be in control, and how much the scheme will cost.

Power structure: Founding Members & Executive Committee Members

Netflix, Inc., Amazon Studios LLC, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Universal City Studios LLC, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, are the ‘Founding Members’ (Governing Board) of ACE.

These companies are granted full voting rights on ACE business, including the approval of initiatives and public policy, anti-piracy strategy, budget-related matters, plus approval of legal action. Not least, they’ll have the power to admit or expel ACE members.

All actions taken by the Governing Board (never to exceed nine members) need to be approved by consensus, with each Founding Member able to vote for or against decisions. Members are also allowed to abstain but one persistent objection will be enough to stop any matter being approved.

The second tier – ‘Executive Committee Members’ – is comprised of all the other companies in the ACE project (as listed above, minus the Governing Board). These companies will not be allowed to vote on ACE initiatives but can present ideas and strategies. They’ll also be allowed to suggest targets for law enforcement action while utilizing the MPAA’s anti-piracy resources.

Rights of all members

While all members of ACE can utilize the alliance’s resources, none are barred from simultaneously ‘going it alone’ on separate anti-piracy initiatives. None of these strategies and actions need approval from the Founding Members, provided they’re carried out in a company’s own name and at its own expense.

Information obtained by TorrentFreak indicates that the MPAA also reserves the right to carry out anti-piracy actions in its own name or on behalf of its member studios. The pattern here is different, since the MPAA’s global anti-piracy resources are the same resources being made available to the ACE alliance and for which members have paid to share.

Expansion of ACE

While ACE membership is already broad, the alliance is prepared to take on additional members, providing certain criteria are met. Crucially, any prospective additions must be owners or producers of movies and/or TV shows. The Governing Board will then vet applicants to ensure that they meet the criteria for acceptance as a new Executive Committee Members.

ACE Operations

The nine Governing Board members will meet at least four times a year, with each nominating a senior executive to serve as its representative. The MPAA’s General Counsel will take up the position of non-voting member of the Governing Board and will chair its meetings.

Matters to be discussed include formulating and developing the alliance’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’ and approving and developing the budget. ACE will also form an Anti-Piracy Working Group, which is scheduled to meet at least once a month.

On a daily basis, the MPAA and its staff will attend to the business of the ACE alliance. The MPAA will carry out its own work too but when presenting to outside third parties, it will clearly state which “hat” it is currently wearing.

Much deliberation has taken place over who should be the official spokesperson for ACE. Documents obtained by TF suggest that the MPAA planned to hire a consulting firm to find a person for the role, seeking a professional with international experience who had never been previously been connected with the MPAA.

They appear to have settled on Zoe Thorogood, who previously worked for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Money, money, money

Of course, the ACE program isn’t going to fund itself, so all members are required to contribute to the operation. The MPAA has opened a dedicated bank account under its control specifically for the purpose, with members contributing depending on status.

Founding/Governing Board Members will be required to commit $5m each annually. However, none of the studios that are MPAA members will have to hand over any cash, since they already fund the MPAA, whose anti-piracy resources ACE is built.

“Each Governing Board Member will contribute annual dues in an amount equal to $5 million USD. Payment of dues shall be made bi-annually in equal shares, payable at
the beginning of each six (6) month period,” the ACE agreement reads.

“The contribution of MPAA personnel, assets and resources…will constitute and be considered as full payment of each MPAA Member Studio’s Governing Board dues.”

That leaves just Netflix and Amazon paying the full amount of $5m in cash each.

From each company’s contribution, $1m will be paid into legal trust accounts allocated to each Governing Board member. If ACE-agreed litigation and legal expenses exceed that amount for the year, members will be required to top up their accounts to cover their share of the costs.

For the remaining 21 companies on the Executive Committee, annual dues are $200,000 each, to be paid in one installment at the start of the financial year – $4.2m all in. Of all dues paid by all members from both tiers, half will be used to boost anti-piracy resources, over and above what the MPAA will spend on the same during 2017.

“Fifty percent (50%) of all dues received from Global Alliance Members other than
the MPAA Member Studios…shall, as agreed by the Governing Board, be used (a) to increase the resources spent on online antipiracy over and above….the amount of MPAA’s 2017 Content Protection Department budget for online antipiracy initiatives/operations,” an internal ACE document reads.

Intellectual property

As the project moves forward, the Alliance expects to gain certain knowledge and experience. On the back of that, the MPAA hopes to grow its intellectual property portfolio.

“Absent written agreement providing otherwise, any and all data, intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, or know-how owned and/or contributed to the Global Alliance by MPAA, or developed or created by the MPAA or the Global Alliance during the Term of this Charter, shall remain and/or become the exclusive property of the MPAA,” the ACE agreement reads.

That being said, all Governing Board Members will also be granted “perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive licenses” to use the same under certain rules, even in the event they leave the ACE initiative.

Terms and extensions

Any member may withdraw from the Alliance at any point, but there will be no refunds. Additionally, any financial commitment previously made to litigation will have to be honored by the member.

The ACE agreement has an initial term of two years but Governing Board Members will meet not less than three months before it is due to expire to vote on any extension.

To be continued……

With the internal structure of ACE now revealed, all that remains is to discover the contents of the initiative’s ‘Global Anti-Piracy Action Plan’. To date, that document has proven elusive but with an operation of such magnitude, future leaks are a distinct possibility.

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

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 09/18/17

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-pirated-movies-week-bittorrent-091817/

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (1) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales 6.9 / trailer
2 (…) Transformers: The Last Knight 5.2 / trailer
3 (…) Transformers: Baby Driver 8.0 / trailer
4 (3) Wonder Woman 8.2 / trailer
5 (2) Hitman’s Bodyguard 7.2 / trailer
6 (4) The Mummy 2017 5.8 / trailer
7 (…) It 8.0 / trailer
8 (5) The Big Sick 6.9 / trailer
9 (6) Despicable Me 3 6.4 / trailer
10 (9) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 8.0 / trailer

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

Can an Army of Bitcoin “Bounty Hunters” Deter Pirates?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/can-an-army-of-bitcoin-bounty-hunters-deter-pirates-170917/

When we first heard of the idea to use Bitcoin bounties to track down pirated content online, we scratched our heads.

Snitching on copyright infringers is not a new concept, but the idea of instant cash rewards though cryptocurrency was quite novel.

In theory, it’s pretty straightforward. Content producers can add a unique identifying watermark into movies, eBooks, or other digital files before they’re circulated. When these somehow leak to the public, the bounty hunters use the watermark to claim their Bitcoin, alerting the owner in the process.

This helps to spot leaks early on, even on networks where automated tools don’t have access, and identify the source at the same time.

Two years have passed and it looks like the idea was no fluke. Custos, the South African company that owns the technology, has various copyright holders on board and recently announced a new partnership with book publisher Erudition Digital.

With help from anti-piracy outfit Digimarc, the companies will add identifying watermarks to eBook releases, counting on the bounty hunters to keep an eye out for leaks. These bounty hunters don’t have to be anti-piracy experts. On the contrary, pirates are more than welcome to help out.

“The Custos approach is revolutionary in that it attacks the economy of piracy by targeting uploaders rather than downloaders, turning downloaders into an early detection network,” the companies announced a few days ago.

“The result is pirates turn on one another, sowing seeds of distrust amongst their communities. As a result, the Custos system is capable of penetrating hard-to-reach places such as the dark web, peer-to-peer networks, and even email.”



Devon Weston, Director of Market Development for Digimarc Guardian, believes that this approach is the next level in anti-piracy efforts. It complements the automated detection tools that have been available in the past by providing access to hard-to-reach places.

“Together, this suite of products represents the next generation in technical measures against eBook piracy,” Weston commented on the partnership.

TorrentFreak reached out to Custos COO Fred Lutz to find out what progress the company has made in recent years. We were informed that they have been protecting thousands of copies every month, ranging from pre-release movie content to eBooks.

At the moment the company works with a selected group of “bounty hunters,” but they plan to open the extraction tool to the public in the near future, so everyone can join in.

“So far we have carefully seeded the free bounty extractor tool in relevant communities with great success. However, in the next phase, we will open the bounty hunting to the general public. We are just careful not to grow the bounty hunting community faster than the number of bounties in the wild require,” Lutz tells us.

The Bitcoin bounties themselves vary in size based on the specific use case. For a movie screener, they are typically anything between $10 and $50. However, for the most sensitive content, they can be $100 or more.

“We can also adjust the bounty over time based on the customer’s needs. A low-quality screener that was very sensitive prior to cinematic release does not require as large a bounty after cam-rips becomes available,” Lutz notes.

Thus far, roughly 50 Bitcoin bounties have been claimed. Some of these were planted by Custos themselves, as an incentive for the bounty hunters. Not a very high number, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not working.

“While this number might seem a bit small compared to the number of copies we protect, our aim is first and foremost not to detect leaks, but to pose a credible threat of quick detection and being caught.”

People who receive content protected by Custos are made aware of the watermarks, which may make them think twice about sharing it. If that’s the case, then it’s having effect without any bounties being claimed.

The question remains how many people will actively help to spot bounties. The success of the system largely depends on volunteers, and not all pirates are eager to rat on the people that provide free content.

On the other hand, there’s also room to abuse the system. In theory, people could claim the bounties on their own eBooks and claim that they’ve lost their e-reader. That would be fraud, of course, but since the bounties are in Bitcoin this isn’t easy to prove.

That brings us to the final question. What happens of a claimed bounty identifies a leaker? Custos admits that this alone isn’t enough evidence to pursue a legal case, but the measures that are taken in response are up to the copyright holders.

“A claim of a bounty is never a sufficient legal proof of piracy, instead, it is an invaluable first piece of evidence on which a legal case could be built if the client so requires. Legal prosecution is definitely not always the best approach to dealing with leaks,” Lutz says.

Time will tell if the Bitcoin bounty approach works…

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

Kodi ‘Trademark Troll’ Has Interesting Views on Co-Opting Other People’s Work

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kodi-trademark-troll-has-interesting-views-on-co-opting-other-peoples-work-170917/

The Kodi team, operating under the XBMC Foundation, announced last week that a third-party had registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and was using it for their own purposes.

That person was Geoff Gavora, who had previously been in communication with the Kodi team, expressing how important the software was to his sales.

“We had hoped, given the positive nature of his past emails, that perhaps he was doing this for the benefit of the Foundation. We learned, unfortunately, that this was not the case,” XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen said.

According to the Kodi team, Gavora began delisting Amazon ads placed by companies selling Kodi-enabled products, based on infringement of Gavora’s trademark rights.

“[O]nly Gavora’s hardware can be sold, unless those companies pay him a fee to stay on the store,” Betzen explained.

Predictably, Gavora’s move is being viewed as highly controversial, not least since he’s effectively claiming licensing rights in Canada over what should be a free and open source piece of software. TF obtained one of the notices Amazon sent to a seller of a Kodi-enabled device in Canada, following a complaint from Gavora.

Take down Kodi from Amazon, or pay Gavora

So who is Geoff Gavora and what makes him tick? Thanks to a 2016 interview with Ali Salman of the Rapid Growth Podcast, we have a lot of information from the horse’s mouth.

It all began in 2011, when Gavora began jailbreaking Apple TVs, loading them with XBMC, and selling them to friends.

“I did it as a joke, for beer money from my friends,” Gavora told Salman.

“I’d do it for $25 to $50 and word of mouth spread that I was doing this so we could load on this media center to watch content and online streams from it.”

Intro to the interview with Ali Salman

Soon, however, word of mouth caused the business to grow wings, Gavora claims.

“So they started telling people and I start telling people it’s $50, and then I got so busy so I start telling people it’s $75. I’m getting too busy with my work and with this. And it got to the point where I was making more jailbreaking these Apple TVs than I was at my career, and I wasn’t very happy at my career at that time.”

Jailbreaking was supposed to be a side thing to tide Gavora over until another job came along, but he had a problem – he didn’t come from a technical background. Nevertheless, what Gavora did have was a background in marketing and with a decent knowledge of how to succeed in customer service, he majored on that front.

Gavora had come to learn that while people wanted his devices, they weren’t very good at operating XBMC (Kodi’s former name) which he’d loaded onto them. With this in mind, he began offering web support and phone support via a toll-free line.

“I started receiving calls from New York, Dallas, and then Australia, Hong Kong. Everyone around the world was calling me and saying ‘we hear there’s some kid in Calgary, some young child, who’s offering tech support for the Apple TV’,” Gavora said.

But with things apparently going well, a wrench was soon thrown into the works when Apple released the third variant of its Apple TV and Gavorra was unable to jailbreak it. This prompted him to market his own Linux-based set-top device and his business, Raw-Media, grew from there.

While it seems likely that so-called ‘Raw Boxes’ were doing reasonably well with consumers, what was the secret of their success? Podcast host Salman asked Gavora for his ‘networking party 10-second pitch’, and the Canadian was happy to oblige.

“I get this all the time actually. I basically tell people that I sell a box that gives them free TV and movies,” he said.

This was met with laughter from the host, to which Gavora added, “That’s sort of the three-second pitch and everyone’s like ‘Oh, tell me more’.”

“Who doesn’t like free TV, come on?” Salman responded. “Yeah exactly,” Gavora said.

The image below, taken from a January 2016 YouTube unboxing video, shows one of the products sold by Gavora’s company.

Raw-Media Kodi Box packaging (note Kodi logo)

Bearing in mind the offer of free movies and TV, the tagline on the box, “Stop paying for things you don’t want to watch, watch more free tv!” initially looks quite provocative. That being said, both the device and Kodi are perfectly capable of playing plenty of legal content from free sources, so there’s no problem there.

What is surprising, however, is that the unboxing video shows the device being booted up, apparently already loaded with infamous third-party Kodi addons including PrimeWire, Genesis, Icefilms, and Navi-X.

The unboxing video showing the Kodi setup

Given that Gavora has registered the Kodi trademark in Canada and prints the official logo on his packaging, this runs counter to the official Kodi team’s aggressive stance towards boxes ready-configured with what they categorize as banned addons. Matters are compounded when one visits the product support site.

As seen in the image below, Raw-Media devices are delivered with a printed card in the packaging informing people where to get the after-sales services Gavora says he built his business upon. The cards advise people to visit No-Issue.ca, a site setup to offer text and video-based support to set-top box buyers.

No-Issue.ca (which is hosted on the same server as raw-media.ca and claimed officially as a sister site here) now redirects to No-Issue.is, as per a 2016 announcement. It has a fairly bland forum but the connected tutorial videos, found on No Issue’s YouTube channel, offer a lot more spice.

Registered under Gavora’s online nickname Gombeek (which is also used on the official Kodi forums), the channel is full of videos detailing how to install and use a wide range of addons.

The No-issue YouTube Channel tutorials

But while supplying tutorial videos is one thing, providing the actual software addons is another. Surprisingly, No-Issue does that too. Filed away under the URL http://solved.no-issue.is/ is a Kodi repository which distributes a wide range of addons, including many that specialize in infringing content, according to the Kodi team.

The No-Issue repository

A source familiar with Raw-Media’s devices informs TF that they’re no longer delivered with addons installed. However, tools hosted on No-Issue.is automate the installation process for the customer, with unlisted YouTube Videos (1,2) providing the instructions.

XBMC Foundation President Nathan Betzen says that situation isn’t ideal.

“If that really is his repo it is disappointing to see that Gavora is charging a fee or outright preventing the sale of boxes with Kodi installed that do not include infringing add-ons, while at the same time he is distributing boxes himself that do include the infringing add-ons like this,” Betzen told TF.

While the legality of this type of service is yet to be properly tested in Canada and may yet emerge as entirely permissible under local law, Gavora himself previously described his business as operating in a gray area.

“If I could go back in time four years, I would’ve been more aggressive in the beginning because there was a lot of uncertainty being in a gray market business about how far I could push it,” he said.

“I really shouldn’t say it’s a gray market because everything I do is completely above board, I just felt it was more gray market so I was a bit scared,” he added.

But, legality aside (which will be determined in due course through various cases 1,2), the situation is still problematic when it comes to the Kodi trademark.

The official Kodi team indicate they don’t want to be associated with any kind of questionable addon or even tutorials for the same. Nevertheless, several of the addons installed by No-Issue (including PrimeWire, cCloud TV, Genesis, Icefilms, MoviesHD, MuchMovies and Navi-X, to name a few), are present on the Kodi team’s official ban list.

The fact remains, however, that Gavora successfully registered the trademark in Canada (one month later it was transferred to a brand new company at the same address), and Kodi now have no control over the situation in the country, short of a settlement or some kind of legal action.

Kodi matters aside, though, we get more insight into Gavora’s attitudes towards intellectual property after learning that he studied gemology and jewelry at school. He’s a long-standing member of jewelry discussion forum Ganoskin.com (his profile links to Gavora.com, a domain Gavora owns, as per information supplied by Amazon).

Things get particularly topical in a 2006 thread titled “When your work gets ripped“. The original poster asked how people feel when their jewelry work gets copied and Gavora made his opinions known.

“I think that what most people forget to remember is that when a piece from Tiffany’s or Cartier is ripped off or copied they don’t usually just copy the work, they will stamp it with their name as well,” Gavora said.

“This is, in fact, fraud and they are deceiving clients into believing they are purchasing genuine Tiffany’s or Cartier pieces. The client is in fact more interested in purchasing from an artist than they are the piece. Laying claim to designs (unless a symbol or name is involved) is outrageous.”

Unless that ‘design’ is called Kodi, of course, then it’s possible to claim it as your own through an administrative process and begin demanding licensing fees from the public. That being said, Gavora does seem to flip back and forth a little, later suggesting that being copied is sometimes ok.

“If someone copies your design and produces it under their own name, I think one should be honored and revel in the fact that your design is successful and has caused others to imitate it and grow from it,” he wrote.

“I look forward to the day I see one of my original designs copied, that is the day I will know my design is a success.”

From their public statements, this opinion isn’t shared by the Kodi team in respect of their product. Despite the Kodi name, software and logo being all their own work, they now find themselves having to claw back rights in Canada, in order to keep the product free in the region. For now, however, that seems like a difficult task.

TorrentFreak wrote to Gavora and asked him why he felt the need to register the Kodi trademark, but we received no response. That means we didn’t get the chance to ask him why he’s taking down Amazon listings for other people’s devices, or about something else that came up in the podcast.

“My biggest weakness, I guess, is that I’m too ethical about how I do my business,” he said, referring to how he deals with customers.

Only time will tell how that philosophy will affect Gavora’s attitudes to trademarks and people’s desire not to be charged for using free, open source software.

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

UK Copyright Trolls Cite Hopeless Case to Make People Pay Up

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-copyright-trolls-cite-hopeless-case-to-make-people-pay-up-170916/

Our coverage of Golden Eye International dates back more than five years. Much like similar companies in the copyright troll niche, the outfit monitors BitTorrent swarms, collects IP addresses, and then heads off to court to obtain alleged pirates’ identities.

From there it sends letters threatening legal action, unless recipients pay a ‘fine’ of hundreds of pounds to settle an alleged porn piracy case. While some people pay up, others refuse to do so on the basis they are innocent, the ISP bill payer, or simply to have their day in court. Needless to say, a full-on court battle on the merits is never on the agenda.

Having gone quiet for an extended period of time, it was assumed that Golden Eye had outrun its usefulness as a ‘fine’ collection outfit. Just lately, however, there are signs that the company is having another go at reviving old cases against people who previously refused to pay.

A post on Slyck forums, which runs a support thread for people targeted by trolls, reveals the strategy.

“I dealt with these Monkeys last year. I spent 5 weeks practically arguing with them. They claim they have to prove it based on the balance of probability’s [sic]. I argue that they actually have to prove it was me,” ‘Matt’ wrote in August.

“It wasn’t me, and despite giving them reasonable doubt it wasn’t me. (I’m Gay… why would I be downloading straight porn?) They still persuaded it, trying to dismiss anything that cast any doubt on their claim. The emails finished how I figured they would…. They were going to send court documentation. It never arrived.”

After months of silence, at the end of August this year ‘Matt’ says GoldenEye got in touch again, suggesting that a conclusion to another copyright case might encourage him to cough up. He says that Golden Eye contacted him saying that someone settled out of court with TCYK, another copyright troll, for £1,000.

“My thoughts…Idiots and doubt it,” ‘Matt’ said. “Honestly, I almost cried I thought I had got rid of these trolls and they are back for round two.”

This wasn’t an isolated case. Another recipient of a Golden Eye threat also revealed getting contacted by the company, also with fresh pressure to pay.

“You may be interested to know that a solicitor, acting on behalf of Robert Kemble in a claim similar to ours but brought by TCYK LLC, entered into an agreement to settle the court case by paying £1,000,” Golden Eye told the individual.

“In view of the agreement reached in the Kemble case, we would invite you to reconsider your position as to whether you would like to reach settlement with us. We would point out, that, despite the terms of settlement in the Kemble case, we remain prepared to stand by our original offer of settlement with you, that is payment of £500.00.”

After last corresponding with the Golden Eye in January after repeated denials, new contact from the company would be worrying for anyone. It certainly affected this person negatively.

“I am now at a loss and don’t know what more I can do. I do not want to settle this, but also I cannot afford a solicitor. Any further advice would be gratefully appreciated as [i’m] now having panic attacks,” the person wrote.

After citing the Robert Kemble case, one might think that Golden Eye would be good enough to explain the full situation. They didn’t – so let’s help them a little bit in that respect, to help their targets make an informed decision.

Robert Kemble was a customer of Sky Broadband. TCYK, in conjunction with UK-based Hatton and Berkeley, sent a letter to Kemble in July 2015 asking him to pay a ‘fine’ for alleged Internet piracy of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep, way back in April 2013.

So far, so ordinary – but here’s the big deal.

Unlike the people being re-targeted by Golden Eye this time around, Kemble admitted in writing that infringement had been going on via his account.

In a response, Kemble told TCYK that he was shocked to receive their letter but after speaking to people in his household, had discovered that a child had been downloading films. He didn’t say that the Redford film was among them but he apologized to the companies all the same. Clearly, that wasn’t going to be enough.

In August 2015, TCYK wrote back to Kemble, effectively holding him responsible for other people’s actions while demanding a settlement of £600 to be paid to third-party company, Ranger Bay Limited.

“The child who is responsible for the infringement should sign the undertakings in our letter to you. Please when replying specify clearly on the undertakings the child’s full name and age,” the company later wrote. Nice.

What took place next was a round of letter tennis between Kemble’s solicitor and those acting for TCYK, with the latter insisting that Kemble had already admitted infringement (or authorizing the same) and demanding around £2000 to settle the case at this later stage.

With no settlement forthcoming, TCYK demanded £5,000 in the small claims court.

“The Defendant has admitted that his internet address has been used to infringe the Claimant’s copyright whereby, through the Defendant’s licencees’ use of the Defendant’s internet address, he acquired the Work and then communicated the Work in a digital form via the internet to the public without the license or consent of the Claimant,” the TCYK claim form reads.

TorrentFreak understands that the court process that followed didn’t center on the merits of the infringement case, but procedural matters over how the case was handled. On this front, Kemble failed in his efforts to have the case – which was heard almost a year ago – decided in his favor.

Now, according to Golden Eye at least, Kemble has settled with TCYK for £1000, which is just £300 more than their final pre-court offer. Hardly sounds like good value for money.

The main point, though, is that this case wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near a court if Kemble hadn’t admitted liability of sorts in the early stages. This is a freak case in all respects and has no bearing on anyone’s individual case, especially those who haven’t admitted liability.

So, for people getting re-hounded by Golden Eye now, remember the Golden Rule. If you’re innocent, by all means tell them, and stick to your guns. But, at your peril tell them anything else on top, or risk having it used against you.

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

Steal This Show S03E08: P2P Money: Trouble For Governments?

Post Syndicated from J.J. King original https://torrentfreak.com/steal-show-s03e08-p2p-money-trouble-governments/

stslogo180If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

In this episode, we look at how the first P2P revolution in filesharing is segueing into a new P2P money revolution – even bringing along some of the same developers like Zooko and Bram Cohen.

The big question is, given the devastating effect filesharing had on the entertainment industries, how will decentralizing money effect banks and, even more critically, governments?

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing copyright and file-sharing news. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

The guests for our news discussions will vary, and we’ll aim to introduce voices from different backgrounds and persuasions. In addition to news, STS will also produce features interviewing some of the great innovators and minds.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Paige Peterson

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Riley Byrne
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Siraje Amarniss

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

The Pirate Bay Website Runs a Cryptocurrency Miner

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-website-runs-a-cryptocurrency-miner-170916/

Four years ago many popular torrent sites added an option to donate via Bitcoin. The Pirate Bay was one of the first to jump on board and still lists its address on the website.

While there’s nothing wrong with using Bitcoin as a donation tool, adding a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to a site is of a totally different order.

A few hours ago many Pirate Bay users began noticing that their CPU usage increased dramatically when they browsed certain Pirate Bay pages. Upon closer inspection, this spike appears to have been caused by a Bitcoin miner embedded on the site.

The code in question is tucked away in the site’s footer and uses a miner provided by Coinhive. This service offers site owners the option to convert the CPU power of users into Monero coins.

The miner does indeed appear to increase CPU usage quite a bit. It is throttled at different rates (we’ve seen both 0.6 and 0.8) but the increase in resources is immediately noticeable.

The miner is not enabled site-wide. When we checked, it appeared in the search results and category listings, but not on the homepage or individual torrent pages.

There has been no official comment from the site operators on the issue (update, see below), but many users have complained about it. In the official site forums, TPB supermoderator Sid is clearly not in agreement with the site’s latest addition.

“That really is serious, so hopefully we can get some action on it quickly. And perhaps get some attention for the uploading and commenting bugs while they’re at it,” Sid writes.

Like many others, he also points out that blocking or disabling Javascript can stop the automatic mining. This can be done via browser settings or through script blocker addons such as NoScript and ScriptBlock. Alternatively, people can block the miner URL with an ad-blocker.

Whether the miner is a new and permanent tool, or perhaps triggered by an advertiser, is unknown at the point. When we hear more this article will be updated accordingly.

Update: We were told that the miner is being tested for a short period as a new way to generate revenue. This could eventually replace the ads on the site. More info may be revealed later.

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