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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

Cloudflare Bans Sites For Using Cryptocurrency Miners

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-bans-sites-for-using-cryptocurrency-miners-171004/

After years of accepting donations via Bitcoin, last month various ‘pirate’ sites began to generate digital currency revenues in a brand new way.

It all began with The Pirate Bay, which quietly added a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to its main site, something that first manifested itself as a large spike in CPU utilization on the machines of visitors.

The stealth addition to the platform, which its operators later described as a test, was extremely controversial. While many thought of the miner as a cool and innovative way to generate revenue in a secure fashion, a vocal majority expressed a preference for permission being requested first, in case they didn’t want to participate in the program.

Over the past couple of weeks, several other sites have added similar miners, some which ask permission to run and others that do not. While the former probably aren’t considered problematic, the latter are now being viewed as a serious problem by an unexpected player in the ecosystem.

TorrentFreak has learned that popular CDN service Cloudflare, which is often criticized for not being harsh enough on ‘pirate’ sites, is actively suspending the accounts of sites that deploy cryptocurrency miners on their platforms.

“Cloudflare kicked us from their service for using a Coinhive miner,” the operator of ProxyBunker.online informed TF this morning.

ProxyBunker is a site that that links to several other domains that offer unofficial proxy services for the likes of The Pirate Bay, RARBG, KickassTorrents, Torrentz2, and dozens of other sites. It first tested a miner for four days starting September 23. Official implementation began October 1 but was ended last evening, abruptly.

“Late last night, all our domains got deleted off Cloudflare without warning so I emailed Cloudflare to ask what was going on,” the operator explained.

Bye bye

As the email above shows, Cloudflare cited only a “possible” terms of service violation. Further clarification was needed to get to the root of the problem.

So, just a few minutes later, the site operator contacted Cloudflare, acknowledging the suspension but pointing out that the notification email was somewhat vague and didn’t give a reason for the violation. A follow-up email from Cloudflare certainly put some meat on the bones.

“Multiple domains in your account were injecting Coinhive mining code without
notifying users and without any option to disabling [sic] the mining,” wrote Justin Paine, Head of Trust & Safety at Cloudflare.

“We consider this to be malware, and as such the account was suspended, and all domains removed from Cloudflare.”

Cloudflare: Unannounced miners are malware

ProxyBunker’s operator wrote back to Cloudflare explaining that the Coinhive miner had been running on his domains but that his main domain had a way of disabling mining, as per new code made available from Coinhive.

“We were running the miner on our proxybunker.online domain using Coinhive’s new Javacode Simple Miner UI that lets the user stop the miner at anytime and set the CPU speed it mines at,” he told TF.

Nevertheless, some element of the configuration appears to have fallen short of Cloudflare’s standards. So, shortly after Cloudflare’s explanation, the site operator asked if he could be reinstated if he completely removed the miner from his site. The response was a ‘yes’ but with a stern caveat attached.

“We will remove the account suspension, however do note you’ll need to re-sign up the domains as they were removed as a result of the account suspension. Please note — if we discover similar activity again the domains and account will be permanently blocked,” Cloudflare’s Justin warned.

ProxyBunker’s operator says that while he sees the value in cryptocurrency miners, he can understand why people might be opposed to them too. That being said, he would appreciate it if services like Cloudflare published clear guidelines on what is and is not acceptable.

“We do understand that most users will not like the miner using up a bit of their CPU but we do see the full potential as a new revenue stream,” he explains.

“I think third-party services need to post clear information that they’re not allowed on their services, if that’s the case.”

At time of publication, Cloudflare had not responded to TorrentFreak’s requests for comment.

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

HDClub, Russia’s Leading HD-Only Torrent Site, Permanently Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hdclub-russias-leading-hd-torrent-site-permanently-shuts-down-170830/

While millions of users frequent popular public torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG every day, there’s a thriving scene that’s hidden from the wider public eye.

Every week, private torrent trackers cater to dozens of millions of BitTorrent users who have taken the time and effort to gain access to these more secretive communities. Often labeled as elitist and running counter to the broad sharing ethos that made file-sharing the beast it is today, private sites pride themselves on quality, order and speed, something public sites typically struggle to match.

In addition to these notable qualities, many private sites choose to focus on a particular niche. There are sites dedicated to obscure electronic music, comedy, and even magic, but HDClub’s focus was given away by its name.

Dubbing itself “The HighDefinition BitTorrent Community”, HDClub specialized in HD productions including Blu-ray and 3D content, covering movies, TV shows, music videos, and animation.

Born in 2007, HDClub celebrated its ninth birthday on March 9 last year, with 2017 heralding a full decade online for the site. Catering mainly to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, the site’s releases often preserved an English audio option, ideal for those looking for high-quality releases from an unorthodox source at decent speeds.

Of course, HDClub releases often leaked out of the site, meaning that thousands are still available on regular public trackers, as a search on any Western torrent engine reveals.

A sample of HDClub releases listed on Torrentz2

Importantly, the site offered thousands of releases completely unavailable in Russia from licensed sources, meaning it filled a niche in which official outlets either wouldn’t or couldn’t compete. This earned itself a place in Russia’s Top 1000 sites list, despite being a closed membership platform.

The site’s attention to detail and focus earned it a considerable following. For the past few years the site capped membership at 190,000 people but in practice, attendance floated around the 170,000 mark. Seeders peaked at approximately 400,000 with leechers considerably less, making seeding as difficult as one might expect on a ratio-based tracker.

Now, however, the decade-long run of HDClub has come to an abrupt end. Early this week the tracker went dark, reportedly without advance notice. A Russian language announcement now present on its main page explains the reasons for the site’s demise.

“Recently, we received several dozens of complaints from rightsholders weekly, and our community is subjected to attacks and espionage,” the announcement reads.

While public torrent sites are always bombarded with DMCA-style notices, private sites tend to avoid large numbers of complaints. In this case, however, HDClub were clearly feeling the pressure. The site’s main page was open to the public while featuring popular releases, so this probably didn’t help with the load.

It’s not clear what is meant by “attacks and espionage” but it’s possibly a reference to DDoS assaults and third-parties attempting to monitor the site. Nevertheless, as HDClub points out, the climate for torrent, streaming, and similar sites has become increasingly hostile in the region recently.

“In parallel, there is a tightening of Internet legislation in Russia, Ukraine and EU countries,” the site says.

Interestingly, the site’s operators also suggest that interest from some quarters had waned, noting that “the time of enthusiasts irretrievably goes away.” It’s unclear whether that’s a reference to site users, the site’s operators, or indeed both. But in any event, any significant decline in any area can prove fatal, particularly when other pressures are at play.

“In the circumstances, we can no longer support the work of the club in the originally conceived format. The project is closed, but we ask you to refrain from long farewells. Thank you all and goodbye!” the message concludes.

Interestingly, the site ends with a little teaser, which may indicate some hope for the future.

“There are talks on preserving the heritage of the club,” it reads, without adding further details.

Possibly stay tuned…..

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