Tag Archives: US Government

MPAA and RIAA Still Can’t Go After Megaupload

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-and-riaa-still-cant-go-after-megaupload-180414/

Well over six years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but there is still little progress in the criminal proceedings against its founders.

The United States wants New Zealand to extradite the men but have thus far failed to achieve that goal. Dotcom and his former colleagues are using all legal means to prevent this eventuality and a final conclusion has yet to be reached.

While all parties await the outcome, the criminal case in the United States remains pending. The same goes for the lawsuits filed by the MPAA and RIAA in 2014.

Since the civil cases may influence the criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these cases on hold, and last week another extension was granted.

Previous extensions didn’t always go this easy. Last year there were concerns that the long delays could result in the destruction of evidence, as some of Megaupload’s hard drives were starting to fail.

However, after the parties agreed on a solution to back-up and restore the files, this is no longer an issue.

“With the preservation order in place, and there being no other objection, Defendant Megaupload hereby moves the Court to enter the attached proposed order, continuing the stay in this case for an additional six months,” Megaupload’s legal team recently informed the court.

Without any objections from the MPAA and RIAA, U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady swiftly granted Megaupload’s request to stay both lawsuits until October this year.

While the US Government hopes to have Dotcom in custody by that time, the entrepreneur has different plans. Following a win at the Human Rights Tribunal in New Zealand, he hopes to put the criminal case behind him soon.

If that indeed happens, the MPAA and RIAA might have their turn.

The latest stay order

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China’s Website and VPN Blocking Hurts Business, US Says

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/chinas-website-and-vpn-blocking-hurts-business-us-says-180407/

The Chinese government is known to keep a tight grip on the websites its citizens are allowed to see on the Internet.

The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ blocks pirate sites, but also a wide variety of other websites which the government believes could have a negative influence on society.

While the exact scope of the blocking effort is unknown, it’s certain that thousands of websites are affected.

The US Government, however, is not happy with this type of censorship. In its latest Trade Barriers report, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) notes that it has a detrimental impact on businesses around the world.

“China continues to engage in extensive blocking of legitimate websites, imposing significant costs on both suppliers and users of web-based services and products,” the report reads.

The Chinese blocking efforts are affecting billions of dollars in business according to the US. The services that are affected include app stores, news sites, as well as communication services.

While many of these are targeted intentionally, some are hit by over-blocking. This happens when a blocked site shares an IP-address with other sites, which are then censored as collateral damage.

“While becoming more sophisticated over time, the technical means of blocking, dubbed the Great Firewall, still often appears to affect sites that may not be the intended target, but that may share the same Internet Protocol address,” USTR writes.

According to industry figures, twelve of the top thirty most popular sites on the Internet are currently censored in China. And while it used to be relatively easy to bypass these measures with a VPN, that is changing too.

Starting this month, all unauthorized VPN services are banned. Companies can only operate a VPN if they lease state-approved services via the Government. This is hurting even more businesses, according to the US. Not just in their pockets, but also in terms of privacy.

“In the past, consumers and business have been able to avoid government-run filtering through the use of VPN services, but a crackdown in 2017 has all but eliminated that option, with popular VPN applications now banned,” USTR writes.

“This development has had a particularly dire effect on foreign businesses, which routinely use VPN services to connect to locations and services outside of China, and which depend on VPN technology to ensure confidentiality of communications.”

Ironically, US companies are assisting the Chinese Government to keep their Great Firewall up. For example, last year VPN applications started to disappear from Apple’s iOS store following pressure from Chinese authorities.

It’s clear that the United States is not happy with China’s censorship regime. However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a reversal anytime soon. As long as China is willing to jail its citizens for operating VPN services, there’s still a long way to go.

A copy of USTR’s 2018 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers is available here (pdf).

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U.S. Navy Under Fire in Mass Software Piracy Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/u-s-navy-under-fire-in-mass-software-piracy-lawsuit-180312/

In 2011 and 2012, the US Navy began using BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application developed by German company Bitmanagement.

The Navy reportedly agreed to purchase licenses for use on 38 computers, but things began to escalate.

While Bitmanagement was hopeful that it could sell additional licenses to the Navy, the software vendor soon discovered the US Government had already installed it on 100,000 computers without extra compensation.

In a Federal Claims Court complaint filed by Bitmanagement two years ago, that figure later increased to hundreds of thousands of computers. Because of the alleged infringement, Bitmanagement demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the months that followed both parties conducted discovery and a few days ago the software company filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule that the US Government is liable for copyright infringement.

According to the software company, it’s clear that the US Government crossed a line.

“The Navy admits that it began installing the software onto hundreds of thousands of machines in the summer of 2013, and that it ultimately installed the software onto at least 429,604 computers. When it learned of this mass installation, Bitmanagement was surprised, but confident that it would be compensated for the numerous copies the Government had made,” the motion reads.

“Over time, however, it became clear that the Navy had no intention to pay Bitmanagement for the software it had copied without authorization, as it declined to execute any license on a scale commensurate with what it took,” Bitmanagement adds.

In its defense, the US Government had argued that it bought concurrent-use licenses, which permitted the software to be installed across the Navy network. However, Bitmanagement argues that it is impossible as the reseller that sold the software was only authorized to sell PC licenses.

In addition, the software company points out that the word “concurrent” doesn’t appear in the contracts, nor was there any mention of mass installations.

The Government also argued that Bitmanagement impliedly authorized it to install the software on hundreds of thousands of computers. This defense also makes little sense, the software company counters.

The Navy licensed an earlier version of the software for $30,000, which could be used on 100 computers, so it would seem odd that it could use the later version on hundreds of thousands of computers for only $5,490, the company argues.

“To establish that it had an implied license, the Government must show that Bitmanagement — despite having licensed a less advanced copy of its software to the Government in 2008 on a PC basis that allowed for installation on a total of 100 computers in exchange for $30,000 — later authorized the Government to make an unlimited number of installations of its advanced software product for $5,490.”

The full motion brings up a wide range of other arguments as well which, according to Bitmanagement, make it clear that the US Government is liable for copyright infringement. It, therefore, asks the court for a partial summary judgment.

“Bitmanagement respectfully requests that this Court grant summary judgment as to the Government’s liability for copyright infringement and hold that the Government copied BS Contact Geo beyond the limits of its license, on a scale equal to the hundreds of thousands of unauthorized copies of BS Contact Geo that the Government either installed or made available for installation,” the company concludes.

If the Government is indeed liable the scale of the damages will be decided at a later stage. The software company previously noted that this could be as high as $600 million.

This is not the first time that the U.S. military has been ‘caught’ pirating software. A few years ago it was accused of operating unlicensed logistics software, a case the Obama administration eventually settled for $50 million.

A copy of the motion for partial summary judgment is available here (pdf).

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Camcording Piracy is Dropping, But Not In Russia

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/camcording-piracy-is-dropping-but-not-in-russia-180311/

The movie industry sees movies that are illegally recorded in theaters as one of the biggest piracy threats worldwide.

To combat this, audio and video watermarking tools are used to detect pirates and their favorite locations. In addition, night-vision goggles and other spy tech are employed to monitor moviegoers during high profile film premieres.

Despite these efforts, so-called ‘cam’ releases of hundreds of films still end up on pirate sites.

In fact, the majority of all new pirated movies that appear online can be traced to a digital recording in a movie theater. This can be the movie itself, the audio, or both. The good news for the movie industry is that the total number seems to be dropping somewhat.

According to statistics gathered by the MPAA, 447 illegal recording of its members’ movies were detected in 2017. This is down 11% compared to the year before when 503 titles were recorded. This suggests that enforcement actions and preventive measures are paying off. However, this is not visible everywhere.

This week Kevin Rosenbaum of the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), which represents various industry groups including the MPAA, informed the US International Trade Commission that camcording piracy is on the rise in Russia.

In his oral testimony, Rosenbaum signaled three key copyright issues in Russia that deserve attention from the US Government.

“First is to dramatically improve enforcement against online piracy, particularly piracy sites and services directed to users outside of Russia,” Rosenbaum said.

In addition, the country also has to address the problem with the Russian collecting societies, to effectively handle music licensing. These currently lack transparency or good governance, IIPA noted.

The third issue that needs attention is camcording piracy. According to IIPA’s statement, there has been a dramatic increase in illegally recorded movies over the past several years.

“Russia must address the problem of camcording motion pictures, which has risen dramatically over the past three years (200% since 2015) and fuels online piracy,” Rosenbaum noted.

In 2015 the movie industry traced 26 camcorded copies to Russia and by last year this number had increased to 78. These releases are linked to movie theaters around the country, from Moscow, Kazan, Tatarstan, St. Petersburg, all the way up to Siberia.

The Russian camcording piracy problem was also highlighted in IIPA’s recent Special 301 submission to the US Trade Representative.

“Russia remains the home to some of the world’s most prolific criminal release groups of motion pictures.” IIPA wrote last month. “The illicit camcords that are sourced from Russia are only of fair quality, but they remain in high demand by international criminal syndicates.”

With help from the Russian-Anti Piracy Organization over a dozen cammers were caught last year. In addition, four criminal cases were launched.

IIPA hopes that these will result in convictions, to create a deterrent effect. In addition, the group highlights that Russia could strengthen its laws, perhaps with a little push from the US.

A copy of Kevin Rosenbaum’s statement before the United States International Trade Commission is available here (pdf). In addition to Russia, it also highlights issues in other countries.

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Spanish Netflix Competitor Filmin Partnered With Leading Pirate Site

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/spanish-netflix-competitor-partnered-leading-pirate-site-180310/

In 2011 Hollywood’s MPAA highlighted SeriesYonkis as one of the most prolific pirate sites on the Internet.

“With a worldwide Alexa rank of 855, Seriesyonkis.com is one the most visited websites in the world for locating and streaming unauthorized copies of motion picture and television content,” Hollywood’s industry group informed the US Government.

While the MPAA was calling for tough enforcement actions, film industry partners in Spain came up with a different plan. They signed an unprecedented deal with the pirate site in 2011, hoping to convert its users into paying customers.

The main figures in this unusual episode are Juan Carlos Tous, the founder of the legal streaming platform Filmin, and SeriesYonkis owner Alexis Hoepfner, who operated the pirate site under his company Burn Media.

With help from lawyer Andy Ramos they negotiated a unique deal that would ‘merge’ both businesses. According to local newspaper El Confidencial, which has seen a copy of the agreement, SeriesYonkis company would get a 23% stake in Filmin, on the condition that pirate links were replaced with legal ones within a set period.

The entire agreement was kept secret by a confidentiality clause, which worked well until a few days ago.

SeriesYonkis also made two loans of 250,000 euros available, which were convertible into shares. In addition to the above, Filmin also offered compensation for every pirate it converted, up to 10 euros per user that signed up for an annual subscription.

The agreement further stipulated that SeriesYonkis had to apologize for its pirate ways. Point five stressed that SeriesYonkis and other Burn Media sites had to “carry out communication and awareness actions so that the users of the websites understand the need to legally access audiovisual content.”

Interestingly, SeriesYonkis wasn’t planning to go down and let other pirate sites take its traffic. The agreement included a clause that obligated Filmin to spend 25,000 euros to shut down or reduce traffic to other pirate sites.

The episode took place when Spain was about to implement its Sinde law, which would make it hard for local pirate sites in a country that was considered a “safe haven” at the time. However, not everything went according to plan.

The Sinde law didn’t destroy all Spanish pirate sites and six months after signing the agreement, SeriesYonkis stopped deleting pirate links. Even worse, its owner launched several new pirate sites, such as SeriesCoco and SeriesKiwi.

Filmin’s founder was outraged and sent an email demanding answers.

“I would like to hear your opinion on the progress and explanation of your plan with SeriesCoco! I do not understand anything! I thought you were going to decrease, and I see that you are opening portals!! WTF!” Tous wrote.

The deal eventually fell apart. Filmin kept its shares and stopped paying for new referrals. SeriesYonkis’ company Burn Media filed a lawsuit to get back its money, but thus far that hasn’t happened.

According to an insider close to the deal, the idea was brilliant. SeriesYonkis reportedly earned millions of euros at the time, more than Filmin, and used this money to go legal and destroy the competition ahead of a tough new anti-piracy law.

“The pirate not only abandons its weapons, but is integrated into the industry, and uses capital earned from piracy to fight against it,” a source told El Confidencial.

“It was a winning deal for everyone,” another source added, regretting that it didn’t work out. “It was a very bold agreement, something unusual in this sector, that would have changed the scenario if it had worked.”

Today, roughly seven years after the agreement was set into motion, Filmin is one of the larger streaming platforms in Spain. SeriesYonkis is also still around, but was sold by Hoefner in 2016 and no longer links to pirated content.

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Dotcom: Obama Admitted “Mistakes Were Made” in Megaupload Case

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dotcom-obama-admitted-mistakes-were-made-in-megaupload-case-180301/

When Megaupload was forcefully shut down in 2012, it initially appeared like ‘just’ another wave of copyright enforcement action by US authorities.

When additional details began to filter through, the reality of what had happened was nothing short of extraordinary.

Not only were large numbers of Megaupload servers and millions of dollars seized, but Kim Dotcom’s home in New Zealand was subjected to a military-style raid comprised of helicopters and dozens of heavily armed special tactics police. The whole thing was monitored live by the FBI.

Few people who watched the events of that now-infamous January day unfold came to the conclusion this was a routine copyright-infringement case. According to Kim Dotcom, whose life had just been turned upside down, something of this scale must’ve filtered down from the very top of the US government. It was hard to disagree.

At the time, Dotcom told TorrentFreak that then-Vice President Joe Biden directed attorney Neil MacBride to target the cloud storage site and ever since the Megaupload founder has leveled increasingly serious allegations at officials of the former government of Barack Obama.

For example, Dotcom says that since the US would have difficulty gaining access to him in his former home of Hong Kong, the government of New Zealand was persuaded to welcome him in, knowing they would eventually turn him over to the United States. More recently he’s been turning up the pressure again, such as a tweet on February 20th which cast more light on that process.

“Joe Biden had a White House meeting with an ‘extradition expert’ who worked for Hong Kong police and a handful of Hollywood executives to discuss my case. A week prior to this meeting Neil MacBride hand-delivered his action plan to Biden’s chief of staff, also at the White House,” Dotcom wrote.

But this claim is just the tip of an extremely large iceberg that’s involved illegal spying on Dotcom in New Zealand and a dizzying array of legal battles that are set to go on for years to come. But perhaps of most interest now is that rather than wilting away under the pressure, Dotcom appears to be just warming up.

A few hours ago Dotcom commented on an article published in The Hill which revealed that Barack Obama will visit New Zealand in March, possibly to celebrate the opening of Air New Zealand’s new route to the U.S.

Rather than expressing disappointment, the Megaupload founder seemed pleased that the former president would be touching down next month.

“Great. I’ll have a Court subpoena waiting for him in New Zealand,” Dotcom wrote.

But that was just a mere hors d’oeuvre, with the main course was yet to come. But come it did.

“A wealthy Asian Megaupload shareholder hired a friend of the Obamas to enquire about our case. This person was recommended by a member of the Chinese politburo ‘if you want to get to Obama directly’. We did,” Dotcom revealed.

Dotcom says he’ll release a transcript detailing what Obama told his friend on March 21 when Obama arrives in town but in the meantime, he offered another little taster.

“Mistakes were made. It hasn’t gone well,” Obama reportedly told the person reporting back to Megaupload. “It’s a problem. I’ll see to it after the election.”

Of course, Obama’s position after the election was much different to what had gone before, but that didn’t stop Dotcom’s associates infiltrating the process aimed at keeping the Democrats in power.

“Our friendly Obama contact smuggled an @EFF lawyer into a re-election fundraiser hosted by former Vice President Joe Biden,” he revealed.

“When Biden was asked about the Megaupload case he bragged that it was his case and that he ‘took care of it’,” which is what Dotcom has been claiming all along.

On March 21, when Obama lands in New Zealand, Dotcom says he’ll be waiting.

“I’m looking forward to @BarackObama providing some insight into the political dimension of the Megaupload case when he arrives in the New Zealand jurisdiction,” he teased.

Better get the popcorn ready….

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Copyright Holders Call Out Costa Rica Over ThePirateBay.cr

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-call-out-costa-rica-over-thepiratebay-cr-180224/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has submitted its latest submission for the U.S. Government’s 2018 Special 301 Review, pinpointing countries it believes should better protect the interests of the copyright industry.

The IIPA, which includes a wide range of copyright groups including the MPAA, RIAA, BSA, and ESA, has listed its complaints against a whole host of countries.

Canada is prominently discussed, of course, as are Argentina, China, India, Mexico, Switzerland and many others. The allegations are broad, ranging from border protection problems to pirate site hosting and everything in between.

What caught our eye, however, was a mention of ThePirateBay.cr. This domain name which, unlike the name suggests, sports a KickassTorrents logo, uses the Costa Rican Top Level Domain .cr.

While it’s a relatively small player in the torrent site ecosystem, it appears to be of great concern in diplomatic circles.

ThePirateBay.cr

Previously, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica threatened to have the country’s domain registry shut down unless it suspended ThePirateBay.cr. This hasn’t happened, yet, but it was a clear signal.

In the IIPA’s recent submission to the USTR, the domain is also brought into play. The copyright holders argue that Costa Rica is not living up to its obligations under the CAFTA-DR trade agreement.

“One of the key DR-CAFTA obligations that has not been implemented is introducing clear rules on copyright, liability, as well as providing meaningful legal incentives for inter-industry cooperation to deal with online infringements,” the IIPA writes.

“Instead, Costa Rica’s law offers largely unconditional liability exceptions to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and others, even allowing identified infringing activity to remain on their systems for as long as 45 days.”

Next, it puts a spotlight on the local domain registry, which it described as a safe haven for sites including ThePirateBay.cr.

“There are still many instances where the Costa Rican Top Level Domain (ccTLD) registry has provided a safe haven to notorious online enterprises dedicated to copyright infringement,” IIPA writes.

“For example, thepiratebay.cr domain is still online despite actions against it from ICANN and the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s failure to deal effectively with its obligations regarding online infringement, more than six years after these came into force under DR-CAFTA, is a serious concern.”

The latter is worth highlighting. It claims that ICANN, the main oversight body for the Internet’s global domain name system, also “took action” against the notorious domain name.

While it is true that ICANN was made aware of the tense situation between the US Embassy and the Costa Rican domain registry through a letter, we were not aware of any action it took.

Interestingly, ICANN itself also appears to be unaware of this, when we asked the organization whether it took any action in response to the domain or letter.

“The Governmental Advisory Committee and ICANN Org took note of the letter but did not provide a response as it was not warranted. While the letter was addressed to the GAC Chair, it did not contain any specific question or request for action,” an ICANN spokesperson responded.

Whether ICANN got involved or not is irrelevant in the larger scheme though. The IIPA wants the US Government to use ThePirateBay.cr domain to spur Costa Rica into action. After all, no country would like a local domain registry to serve a Pirate Bay proxy.

Meanwhile, the official Pirate Bay domain remains operational from ThePirateBay.org, which happens to be using the US-based PIR registry. But let’s not bring that up…

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

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Major US Sports Leagues Report Top Piracy Nations to Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/major-us-sports-leagues-report-top-piracy-nations-to-government-180216/

While pirated Hollywood blockbusters often score the big headlines, there are several other industries that have been battling with piracy over the years. This includes sports organizations.

Many of the major US leagues including the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and the Tennis Association, are bundling their powers in the Sports Coalition, to try and curb the availability of pirated streams and videos.

A few days ago the Sports Coalition put the piracy problem on the agenda of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

“Sports organizations, including Sports Coalition members, are heavily affected by live sports telecast piracy, including the unauthorized live retransmission of sports telecasts over the Internet,” the Sports Coalition wrote.

“The Internet piracy of live sports telecasts is not only a persistent problem, but also a global one, often involving bad actors in more than one nation.”

The USTR asked the public for comments on which countries play a central role in copyright infringement issues. In its response, the Sports Coalition stresses that piracy is a global issue but singles out several nations as particularly problematic.

The coalition recommends that the USTR should put the Netherlands and Switzerland on the “Priority Watch List” of its 2018 Special 301 Report, followed by Russia, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles and Sweden, which get a regular “Watch List” recommendation.

The main problem with these countries is that hosting providers and content distribution networks don’t do enough to curb piracy.

In the Netherlands, sawlive.tv, strikezoneme, wizlnet, AltusHost, Host Palace, Quasi Networks and SNEL pirated or provided services contributing to sports piracy, the coalition writes. In Switzerland, mlbstreamme, robinwidgetorg, strikeoutmobi, BlackHOST, Private Layer and Solar Communications are doing the same.

According to the major sports leagues, the US Government should encourage these countries to step up their anti-piracy game. This is not only important for US copyright holders, but also for licensees in other countries.

“Clearly, there is common ground – both in terms of shared economic interests and legal obligations to protect and enforce intellectual property and related rights – for the United States and the nations with which it engages in international trade to work cooperatively to stop Internet piracy of sports programming.”

Whether any of these countries will make it into the USTR’s final list has yet to be seen. For Switzerland it wouldn’t be the first time but for the Netherlands it would be new, although it has been considered before.

A document we received through a FOIA request earlier this year revealed that the US Embassy reached out to the Dutch Government in the past, to discuss similar complaints from the Sports Coalition.

The same document also revealed that local anti-piracy group BREIN consistently urged the entertainment industries it represents not to advocate placing the Netherlands on the 301 Watch List but to solve the problems behind the scenes instead.

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Kim Dotcom Begins New Fight to Avoid Extradition to United States

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-new-fight-to-avoid-extradition-to-united-states-180212/

More than six years ago in January 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

What followed was an epic legal battle to extradite Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato, and Bram van der Kolk to the United States to face several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has battled the US government every inch of the way.

The most significant matters include the validity of the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. Despite a prolonged trip through the legal system, in 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

In 2015, the District Court later ruled that Dotcom and his associates are eligible for extradition. A subsequent appeal to the High Court failed when in February 2017 – and despite a finding that communicating copyright-protected works to the public is not a criminal offense in New Zealand – a judge also ruled in favor.

Of course, Dotcom and his associates immediately filed appeals and today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington, their hearing got underway.

Lawyer Grant Illingworth, representing Van der Kolk and Ortmann, told the Court that the case had “gone off the rails” during the initial 10-week extradition hearing in 2015, arguing that the case had merited “meaningful” consideration by a judge, something which failed to happen.

“It all went wrong. It went absolutely, totally wrong,” Mr. Illingworth said. “We were not heard.”

As expected, Illingworth underlined the belief that under New Zealand law, a person may only be extradited for an offense that could be tried in a criminal court locally. His clients’ cases do not meet that standard, the lawyer argued.

Turning back the clocks more than six years, Illingworth again raised the thorny issue of the warrants used to authorize the raids on the Megaupload defendants.

It had previously been established that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service had illegally spied on Dotcom and his associates in the lead up to their arrests. However, that fact was not disclosed to the District Court judge who authorized the raids.

“We say that there was misleading conduct at this stage because there was no reference to the fact that information had been gathered illegally by the GCSB,” he said.

But according to Justice Forrest Miller, even if this defense argument holds up the High Court had already found there was a prima facie case to answer “with bells on”.

“The difficulty that you face here ultimately is whether the judicial process that has been followed in both of the courts below was meaningful, to use the Canadian standard,” Justice Miller said.

“You’re going to have to persuade us that what Justice Gilbert [in the High Court] ended up with, even assuming your interpretation of the legislation is correct, was wrong.”

Although the US seeks to extradite Dotcom and his associates on 13 charges, including racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, the Court of Appeal previously confirmed that extradition could be granted based on just some of the charges.

The stakes couldn’t be much higher. The FBI says that the “Megaupload Conspiracy” earned the quartet $175m and if extradited to the US, they could face decades in jail.

While Dotcom was not in court today, he has been active on Twitter.

“The court process went ‘off the rails’ when the only copyright expert Judge in NZ was >removed< from my case and replaced by a non-tech Judge who asked if Mega was ‘cow storage’. He then simply copy/pasted 85% of the US submissions into his judgment," Dotcom wrote.

Dotcom also appeared to question the suitability of judges at both the High Court and Court of Appeal for the task in hand.

“Justice Miller and Justice Gilbert (he wrote that High Court judgment) were business partners at the law firm Chapman Tripp which represents the Hollywood Studios in my case. Both Judges are now at the Court of Appeal. Gilbert was promoted shortly after ruling against me,” Dotcom added.

Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over the warrant which triggered his arrest and the demise of Megaupload.

The hearing is expected to last up to two-and-a-half weeks.

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The problematic Wannacry North Korea attribution

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/01/the-problematic-wannacry-north-korea.html

Last month, the US government officially “attributed” the Wannacry ransomware worm to North Korea. This attribution has three flaws, which are a good lesson for attribution in general.

It was an accident

The most important fact about Wannacry is that it was an accident. We’ve had 30 years of experience with Internet worms teaching us that worms are always accidents. While launching worms may be intentional, their effects cannot be predicted. While they appear to have targets, like Slammer against South Korea, or Witty against the Pentagon, further analysis shows this was just a random effect that was impossible to predict ahead of time. Only in hindsight are these effects explainable.
We should hold those causing accidents accountable, too, but it’s a different accountability. The U.S. has caused more civilian deaths in its War on Terror than the terrorists caused triggering that war. But we hold these to be morally different: the terrorists targeted the innocent, whereas the U.S. takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties. 
Since we are talking about blaming those responsible for accidents, we also must include the NSA in that mix. The NSA created, then allowed the release of, weaponized exploits. That’s like accidentally dropping a load of unexploded bombs near a village. When those bombs are then used, those having lost the weapons are held guilty along with those using them. Yes, while we should blame the hacker who added ETERNAL BLUE to their ransomware, we should also blame the NSA for losing control of ETERNAL BLUE.

A country and its assets are different

Was it North Korea, or hackers affilliated with North Korea? These aren’t the same.

It’s hard for North Korea to have hackers of its own. It doesn’t have citizens who grow up with computers to pick from. Moreover, an internal hacking corps would create tainted citizens exposed to dangerous outside ideas. Update: Some people have pointed out that Kim Il-sung University in the capital does have some contact with the outside world, with academics granted limited Internet access, so I guess some tainting is allowed. Still, what we know of North Korea hacking efforts largley comes from hackers they employ outside North Korea. It was the Lazurus Group, outside North Korea, that did Wannacry.
Instead, North Korea develops external hacking “assets”, supporting several external hacking groups in China, Japan, and South Korea. This is similar to how intelligence agencies develop human “assets” in foreign countries. While these assets do things for their handlers, they also have normal day jobs, and do many things that are wholly independent and even sometimes against their handler’s interests.
For example, this Muckrock FOIA dump shows how “CIA assets” independently worked for Castro and assassinated a Panamanian president. That they also worked for the CIA does not make the CIA responsible for the Panamanian assassination.
That CIA/intelligence assets work this way is well-known and uncontroversial. The fact that countries use hacker assets like this is the controversial part. These hackers do act independently, yet we refuse to consider this when we want to “attribute” attacks.

Attribution is political

We have far better attribution for the nPetya attacks. It was less accidental (they clearly desired to disrupt Ukraine), and the hackers were much closer to the Russian government (Russian citizens). Yet, the Trump administration isn’t fighting Russia, they are fighting North Korea, so they don’t officially attribute nPetya to Russia, but do attribute Wannacry to North Korea.
Trump is in conflict with North Korea. He is looking for ways to escalate the conflict. Attributing Wannacry helps achieve his political objectives.
That it was blatantly politics is demonstrated by the way it was released to the press. It wasn’t released in the normal way, where the administration can stand behind it, and get challenged on the particulars. Instead, it was pre-released through the normal system of “anonymous government officials” to the NYTimes, and then backed up with op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The government leaks information like this when it’s weak, not when its strong.

The proper way is to release the evidence upon which the decision was made, so that the public can challenge it. Among the questions the public would ask is whether it they believe it was North Korea’s intention to cause precisely this effect, such as disabling the British NHS. Or, whether it was merely hackers “affiliated” with North Korea, or hackers carrying out North Korea’s orders. We cannot challenge the government this way because the government intentionally holds itself above such accountability.

Conclusion

We believe hacking groups tied to North Korea are responsible for Wannacry. Yet, even if that’s true, we still have three attribution problems. We still don’t know if that was intentional, in pursuit of some political goal, or an accident. We still don’t know if it was at the direction of North Korea, or whether their hacker assets acted independently. We still don’t know if the government has answers to these questions, or whether it’s exploiting this doubt to achieve political support for actions against North Korea.

Hollywood Says Only Site-Blocking Left to Beat Piracy in New Zealand

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hollywood-says-only-site-blocking-left-to-beat-piracy-in-new-zealand-180123/

The Motion Picture Distributors’ Association (MPDA) is a non-profit organisation which represents major international film studios in New Zealand.

With companies including Fox, Sony, Paramount, Roadshow, Disney, and Universal on the books, the MPDA sings from the same sheet as the MPAA and MPA. It also hopes to achieve in New Zealand what its counterparts have achieved in Europe and Australia but cannot on home soil – mass pirate site blocking.

In a release heralding the New Zealand screen industry’s annual contribution of around NZ$1.05 billion to GDP and NZ$706 million to exports, MPDA Managing Director Matthew Cheetham says that despite the successes, serious challenges lie ahead.

“When we have the illegal file sharing site the Pirate Bay as New Zealand’s 19th most popular site in New Zealand, it is clear that legitimate movie and TV distribution channels face challenges,” Cheetham says.

MPDA members in New Zealand

In common with movie bosses in many regions, Cheetham is hoping that the legal system will rise to the challenge and assist distributors to tackle the piracy problem. In New Zealand, that might yet require a change in the law but given recent changes in Australia, that doesn’t seem like a distant proposition.

Last December, the New Zealand government announced an overhaul of the country’s copyright laws. A review of the Copyright Act 1994 was announced by the previous government and is now scheduled to go ahead this year. The government has already indicated a willingness to consider amendments to the Act in order to meet the objectives of New Zealand’s copyright regime.

“In New Zealand, piracy is almost an accepted thing, because no one’s really doing anything about it, because no one actually can do anything about it,” Cheetham said last month.

It’s quite unusual for Hollywood’s representatives to say nothing can be done about piracy. However, there was a small ray of hope this morning when Cheetham said that there is actually one option left.

“There’s nothing we can do in New Zealand apart from site blocking,” Cheetham said.

So, as the MPDA appears to pin its hopes on legislative change, other players in the entertainment industry are testing the legal system as it stands today.

Last September, Sky TV began a pioneering ‘pirate’ site-blocking challenge in the New Zealand High Court, applying for an injunction against several local ISPs to prevent their subscribers from accessing several pirate sites.

The boss of Vocus, one of the ISP groups targeted, responded angrily, describing Sky’s efforts as “dinosaur behavior” and something one would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand.

“It isn’t our job to police the Internet and it sure as hell isn’t SKY’s either, all sites should be equal and open,” General Manager Taryn Hamilton said.

The response from ISPs suggests that even when the matter of site-blocking is discussed as part of the Copyright Act review, introducing specific legislation may not be smooth sailing. In that respect, all eyes will turn to the Sky process, to see if some precedent can be set there.

Finally, another familiar problem continues to raise its head down under. So-called “Kodi boxes” – the now generic phrase often used to describe set-top devices configured for piracy – are also on the content industries’ radar.

There are a couple of cases still pending against sellers, including one in which a budding entrepreneur sent out marketing letters claiming that his service was better than Sky’s offering. For seller Krish Reddy, this didn’t turn out well as the company responded with a NZ$1m lawsuit.

Generally, however, both content industries and consumers are having a good time in New Zealand but the MPDA’s Cheetham says that taking on pirates is never easy.

“It’s been called the golden age of television and a lot of premium movies have been released in the last 12 or 18 months. Content providers and distributors have really upped their game in the last five or 10 years to meet what people want but it’s very difficult to compete with free,” Cheetham concludes.

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China Seriously Doubts Objectivity of US ‘Pirate Site’ List

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-seriously-doubts-objectivity-of-us-pirate-site-list-180120/

Late last week, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) released an updated version of its “Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,” identifying some of the worst IP-offenders worldwide.

The overview is largely based on input from major copyright holders and related industry groups. While the US Government admits that it doesn’t make any judgments, the list carries a lot of weight and can hurt the image of companies that are singled out.

For some of the ‘classic’ pirate sites such as The Pirate Bay, this doesn’t really matter. On the contrary, they may see it as a badge of honor. However, for billion-dollar businesses such as Alibaba and VK, it’s a different story.

They are not at risk of being the target of a criminal prosecution, as some classic pirate sites are, but the listing will make them a hot topic on the political agenda.

Interestingly, it seems that not all countries are happy with seeing some of their top companies being singled out. When China’s commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng was confronted with the fact that Alibaba and its Taobao.com site were listed, he made some noteworthy observations.

“In the report, the U.S. frequently discusses the relevant Chinese businesses with the words like ‘reportedly,’ ‘according to authoritative sources’ and the like,” Feng told the local press.

In its report, the US Government stressed that Alibaba should do more to combat counterfeiting and piracy on Taobao.com and other platforms, but China’s officials don’t seem convinced.

“It lacked conclusive evidence and had no relevant figures to back up its points. We have no choice but to express our doubts about the objectivity and reliability of the department that issued the report,” Feng added.

China’s commerce ministry has a point. The USTR report is compiled from comments that are provided by copyright holders. These are not thoroughly vetted, as far as we know, which doesn’t seem very objective.

Even more concerning, copyright holders often cite the USTR’s notorious markets list in legal and lobbying efforts, even though they are in essence their own findings in a rewritten form. While that may be very convenient, it can also be misleading.

Alibaba itself went a step further than the commerce ministry and noted that the company is being used as a “scapegoat” in a geopolitical game. In a detailed ten-page rebuttal, the marketplace responded to the allegations point by point.

“As a result of the rise of trade protectionism, Alibaba has been turned into a scapegoat by the USTR to win points in a highly-politicized environment and their actions should be recognized for what they are,” the company commented.

“The USTR’s actions made it clear that the Notorious Markets List, which only targets non-US marketplaces, is not about intellectual property protection, but just another instrument to achieve the US Government’s geopolitical objectives.”

Critique on the USTR’s Special 301 reports, which the Notorious Markets lists are part of, is not new. Earlier this year Canada’s Government described the process as flawed as it’s mainly driven by one-sided copyright industry claims.

“Canada does not recognize the validity of the Special 301 and considers the process and the Report to be flawed,” a Government memo read.

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Kim Dotcom Loses Megaupload Domain Names, Gets “Destroyed” Gaming Chair Back

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-loses-megaupload-domain-names-gets-destroyed-gaming-chair-back-180117/

Following the 2012 raid on Megaupload and Kim Dotcom, U.S. and New Zealand authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property, located around the world.

Claiming the assets were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes, the U.S. government launched separate civil cases in which it asked the court to forfeit bank accounts, servers, domain names, and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.

One of these cases was lost after the U.S. branded Dotcom and his colleagues as “fugitives”.The defense team appealed the ruling, but lost again, and a subsequent petition at the Supreme Court was denied.

Following this lost battle, the U.S. also moved to conclude a separate civil forfeiture case, which was still pending at a federal court in Virginia.

The assets listed in this case are several bank accounts, including several at PayPal, as well as 60 servers Megaupload bought at Leaseweb. What has the most symbolic value, however, are the domain names that were seized, including Megaupload.com, Megaporn.com and Megavideo.com.

Mega’s domains

This week a U.S. federal court decided that all claims of Kim Dotcom, his former colleague Mathias Ortman, and several Megaupload-related companies should be stricken. A default was entered against them on Tuesday.

The same fugitive disentitlement argument was used in this case. This essentially means that someone who’s considered to be a fugitive from justice is not allowed to get relief from the judicial system he or she evades.

“Claimants Kim Dotcom and Mathias Ortmann have deliberately avoided prosecution by declining to enter or reenter the United States,” Judge Liam O’Grady writes in his order to strike the claims.

“Because Claimant Kim Dotcom, who is himself a fugitive under Section 2466, is the Corporate Claimants’ controlling shareholder and, in particular, because he signed the claims on behalf of the corporations, a presumption of disentitlement applies to the corporations as well.”

As a result, the domain names which once served 50 million users per day, are now lost to the US Government. The court records list 18 domains in total, which were registered through Godaddy, DotRegistrar, and Fabulous.

Given the legal history, the domains and other assets are likely lost for good. However, Megaupload defense lawyer Ira Rothken is not giving up yet.

“We are still evaluating the legal options in a climate where Kim Dotcom is being labeled a fugitive in a US criminal copyright case even though he has never been to the US, is merely asserting his US-NZ extradition treaty rights, and the NZ High Court has ruled that he and his co-defendants did not commit criminal copyright infringement under NZ law,” Rothken tells TorrentFreak.

There might be a possibility that assets located outside the US could be saved. Foreign courts are more open to defense arguments, it seems, as a Hong Kong court previously ordered the US to return several assets belonging to Kim Dotcom.

The Hong Kong case also brought some good news this week. At least, something that was supposed to be positive. On Twitter, Dotcom writes that two containers with seized assets were returned, but in a “rotten and destroyed” state.

“A shipment of 2 large containers just arrived in New Zealand. This is how all my stuff looks now. Rotten & destroyed. Photo: My favorite gaming chair,” Dotcom wrote.

According to Dotcom, the US Government asked him to pay for ‘climate controlled’ storage for more than half a decade to protect the seized goods. However, judging from the look of the chair and the state of some other belongings, something clearly went wrong.

Rotten & destroyed

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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)

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New Zealand Prepares Consultation to Modernize Copyright Laws

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/new-zealand-prepares-consultation-to-modernize-copyright-laws-171218/

The Copyright Act 1994 is the key legislation governing New Zealand’s handling of intellectual property issues, covering protection, infringement, exceptions and enforcement. It last underwent a review more than a decade ago resulting in the Copyright (New Technologies) Amendment Act 2008.

Like much copyright law worldwide, New Zealand’s legislation has struggled to keep pace with technological change so, during the summer, the last government announced plans for a review with several key goals:

Assess the performance of the Copyright Act against the objectives of New Zealand’s copyright regime.

Identify barriers to achieving the objectives of New Zealand’s copyright regime, and the level of impact that these barriers have.

Formulate a preferred approach to addressing these issues – including amendments to the Copyright Act, and the commissioning of further work on any other regulatory or non-regulatory options that are identified.

The former government planned to initiate a public consultation in the second quarter of 2018, with a review being informed by the responses. According to an announcement Friday, the new government plans to go ahead with the overhaul, beginning in April as previously envisioned.

Many of the hot topics in the United States, Europe and closer to home in Australia are expected to come to the forefront, including site-blocking, service provider safe harbor provisions, and the thorny issue of fair use.

Speaking with RadioNZ, New Zealand Screen Association managing director Matthew Cheetham says that new legislation is required to keep pace with a rapidly moving landscape.

“In New Zealand, piracy is almost an accepted thing, because no one’s really doing anything about it, because no one actually can do anything about it,” Cheetham says.

“As new technologies have evolved, the law has struggled to keep pace with those new technologies and to make sure that the law is fit for purpose in the digital age.”

As the local representative for several Hollywood studios, it’s no surprise that NZSA will be seeking amendments that will force ISPs to block access to popular pirate sites, as they do already in the UK, Europe, and Australia.

“If the site is infringing [a court] can order internet service providers to block access to that site. Forty-two countries around the world have recognised that blocking access when it’s carefully defined is a perfectly legitimate avenue for rights holders to protect their rights,” Cheetham notes.

While there hasn’t been a major copyright overhaul in more than a decade, New Zealand is no stranger to prolonged exercises to try and stop piracy.

The country spent huge amounts of time and money late last decade in order to come up with the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011. It laid out a system under which pirates received escalating warnings culminating in eventual disconnection from the Internet. But, with escalating costs (between NZ$20 and NZ$25 per notice), the scheme was ultimately an expensive flop.

“We have an entire regime that allows copyright holders to seek and send notices to users that are committing piracy and actually have a process in a court-based system that allows remedies to be pursued,” Internet New Zealand deputy chief executive Andrew Cushen told RadioNZ.

“None of them are using it. Why would we now look at a wholly different solution that none of them are going to use as well?”

As someone who has been acutely affected by New Zealand’s approach to intellectual property rights enforcement, Kim Dotcom certainly has an interest in the development of local copyright law. The Megaupload founder was arrested in 2012 for alleged copyright offenses that he insists aren’t even a crime in New Zealand. So what advice does he have for the review?

According to the entrepreneur, the NZ Copyright Act is “mostly good”, noting that it protects both ISPs and consumers. Given the chance, however, he would remind judges about the purpose of the act.

“The NZ Copyright Act is a code. The Copyright Act creates a special property right. No other act applies to this special property right, including the crimes act,” Dotcom informs TF.

“This might be a helpful yardstick for Judges who don’t understand the Copyright Act and attempt to create new and unintended law from the bench. Just like in my case.”

Only time will tell how the public consultation will play out but it seems likely that tackling the “Value Gap” situation will be high up the agenda, especially if that can be achieved by eroding Internet companies’ safe harbors under copyright law. Expect that to receive significant push-back from the technology sector.

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US Government Teaches Anti-Piracy Skills Around The Globe

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/us-government-teaches-anti-piracy-skills-around-the-globe-171217/

Online piracy is a global issue. Pirate sites and services tend to operate in multiple jurisdictions and are purposefully set up to evade law enforcement.

This makes it hard for police from one country to effectively crack down on a site in another. International cooperation is often required, and the US Government is one of the leaders on this front.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has quite a bit of experience in tracking down pirates and they are actively sharing this knowledge with countries that can use some help. This goes far beyond the occasional seminar.

A diplomatic cable obtained through a Freedom of Information request provides a relatively recent example of these efforts. The document gives an overview of anti-piracy training, provided and funded by the US Government, during the fall of 2015.

“On November 24 and 25, prosecutors and investigators from Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Turkey participated in a two-day, US. Department of Justice (USDOJ)-sponsored training program on combatting online piracy.

“The program updated participants on legal issues, including data retention legislation, surrounding the investigation and prosecution of online piracy,” the cable adds.

According to the cable, piracy has become a very significant problem in Eastern Europe, costing rightsholders and governments millions of dollars in revenues. After the training, local law enforcement officers in these countries should be better equipped to deal with the problem.

Pirates Beware

The event was put together with help from various embassies and among the presenters were law enforcement professionals from around the world.

The Director of the DoJ’s CCIPS Cybercrime Laboratory was among the speakers. He gave training on computer forensics and participants were provided with various tools to put this to use.

“Participants were given copies of forensic tools at the conclusion of the program so that they could put to use some of what they saw demonstrated during the training,” the cable reads.

While catching pirates can be quite hard already, getting them convicted is a challenge as well. Increasingly we’ve seen criminal complaints using non-copyright claims to have site owners prosecuted.

By using money laundering and tax offenses, pirates can receive tougher penalties. This was one of the talking points during the training as well.

“Participants were encouraged to consider the use of statutes such as money laundering and tax evasion, in addition to those protecting copyrights and trademarks, since these offenses are often punished more severely than standalone intellectual property crimes.”

The cable, written by the US Embassy in Bucharest, provides a lot of detail about the two-day training session. It’s also clear on the overall objective. The US wants to increase the likelihood that pirate sites are brought to justice. Not only in the homeland, but around the globe.

“By focusing approximately forty investigators and prosecutors from four countries on how they can more effectively attack rogue sites, and by connecting rights holders and their investigators with law enforcement, the chances of pirates being caught and held accountable have increased.”

While it’s hard to link the training to any concrete successes, Romanian law enforcement did shut down the country’s leading pirate site a few months later. As with a previous case in Romania, which involved the FBI, money laundering and tax evasion allegations were expected.

While it’s not out of the ordinary for international law enforcers to work together, it’s notable how coordinated the US efforts are. Earlier this week we wrote about the US pressure on Sweden to raid The Pirate Bay. And these are not isolated incidents.

While the US Department of Justice doesn’t reveal all details of its operations, it is very open about its global efforts to protect Intellectual Property.

Around the world..

The DoJ’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) has relationships with law enforcement worldwide and regularly provides training to foreign officers.

A crucial part of the Department’s international enforcement activities is the Intellectual Property Law Enforcement Coordinator (IPLEC) program, which started in 2006.

Through IPLECs, the department now has Attorneys stationed in Thailand, Hong Kong, Romania, Brazil, and Nigeria. These Attorneys keep an eye on local law enforcement and provide assistance and training, to protect US copyright holders.

“Our strategically placed coordinators draw upon their subject matter expertise to help ensure that property holders’ rights are enforced across the globe, and that the American people are protected from harmful products entering the marketplace,” Attorney General John Cronan of the Criminal Division said just last Friday.

Or to end with the title of the Romanian cable: ‘Pirates beware!’

The cable cited here was made available in response to a Freedom of Information request, which was submitted by Rachael Tackett and shared with TorrentFreak. It starts at page 47 of document 2.

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Kim Dotcom’s Extradition Battle Suffers High Court Setback

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcoms-extradition-battle-suffers-high-court-setback-171215/

In 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

Ever since, the US government has sought to extradite Dotcom on several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has fought them every single step of the way.

One of the key areas of conflict has been the validity of the search warrants used to raid his Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. The fight has been meticulous and lengthy but in 2014, following appeals to lower courts, the Supreme Court finally dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

Following a three-month hearing, the District Court later found that Dotcom was eligible for extradition. Dotcom appealed again but in February 2017 the High Court ruled that the entrepreneur could indeed be transferred to the United States.

Dotcom subsequently appealed the High Court decision to the Court of Appeal, a hearing that will go ahead in February 2018. Last summer, the Megaupload founder also “attacked the underpinnings of the extradition process” by filing an eight-point statement of claim for judicial review. This morning the High Court handed down its decision and it looks like bad news for Dotcom

The causes of action presented by the Megaupload founder were varied but began by targeting the validity of the arrest warrants used in January 2012 and by extension every subsequent process, including the extradition effort itself.

“Accordingly, the relief sought includes orders that the extradition proceeding be quashed or set aside and that Mr Dotcom be discharged,” the ruling reads.

However, the Court describes this argument as an abuse of process, noting that the Supreme Court has already upheld the validity of the search warrants and a High Court ruling confirmed the District Court’s finding that Dotcom is eligible for extradition, a process that will soon head to the Court of Appeal.

But Dotcom’s arguments continued, with attacks on the validity of search warrants and a request to quash them and return all property seized under their authority. Another point asserted that a US request to seize Dotcom’s assets in New Zealand was invalid because no extraditable offense had been committed.

Unfortunately for Dotcom, none of his detailed arguments gained traction with the Hight Court. In his decision, Justice Timothy Brewer sides with the US government which previously described the efforts as “collateral attacks on previous decisions of the Courts and an attempt to pre-empt Mr Dotcom’s appeal.”

The Judge eventually rejected seven out of the eight causes of action in a 22-page ruling (pdf) published this morning.

“I have granted the USA’s application to strike out causes of action 1 to 7 of the statement of claim for judicial review dated 21 July 2017. The proceeding is now ‘live’ only in relation to the eighth cause of action,” Justice Brewer writes.

“I direct that the proceeding be listed for mention in relation to the eighth cause of action in the duty list at 10:00 am on 7 February 2018.”

The eighth point, which wasn’t challenged by the US, concerns the “decision by the Deputy Solicitor-General in June 2017 to direct that clones be made of the electronic devices seized from Mr Dotcom’s homes and that they be sent to the USA.”

A few minutes ago, Dotcom took to Twitter with an apparent upbeat reference to the ruling.

Like all things Dotcom, the show won’t be over until every last stone has been unturned. Next stop, Court of Appeal in February.

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How The US Pushed Sweden to Take Down The Pirate Bay

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/how-the-us-pushed-sweden-to-take-down-the-pirate-bay-171212/

It’s well known that the US Government is actively involved in copyright enforcement efforts around the globe.

In some countries they’ve actively helped write copyright law. Elsewhere, U.S. authorities provide concrete suggestions for improvement, including in Sweden.

After The Pirate Bay was raided for the first time, more than ten years ago, the media highlighted that the U.S. Government and Hollywood pulled strings behind the scenes. However, little was known about what this actually entailed.

Today we can provide more context, thanks to a Freedom of Information request that was sent to the U.S. Department of State. While the events happened a decade ago, they show how action against The Pirate Bay was discussed at the highest political level.

The trail starts with a cable sent from the US Embassy in Sweden to Washington in November 2005. This is roughly six months before the Pirate Bay raid, which eventually resulted in criminal convictions for four men connected to the site.

The Embassy writes that Hollywood’s MPAA and the local Anti-Piracy Bureau (APB) met with US Ambassador Bivins and, separately, with Swedish State Secretary of Justice at the time, Dan Eliasson. The Pirate Bay issue was at the top of the agenda during these meetings.

“The MPA is particularly concerned about PirateBay, the world‘s largest Torrent file-sharing tracker. According to the MPA and based on Embassy’s follow-up discussions, the Justice Ministry is very interested in a constructive dialogue with the US. on these concerns,” the cable reads.

“Embassy understands that State and Commerce officials have also met with Swedish officials in Washington on the same concern,” it adds, with the Embassy requesting further “guidance” from Washington.

The document adds that there has been some movement on the piracy enforcement front in Sweden, with two legal cases pending. However, those were not the targets Hollywood was looking for.

“We have yet to see a ‘big fish’ tried – something the MPA badly wants to see, particularly in light of the fact that Sweden hosts the largest Bit Torrent file-sharing tracker in the world, ‘Pirate-Bay’, which openly flaunts IPR,” the cable writer comments.

Interestingly, Hollywood and the authorities were aware of the fact that a case against The Pirate Bay wouldn’t be an easy one. The site never stored any infringing material directly and had proper legal backing, the cable points out.

“However, it is not clear to us what constraints Sweden and even U.S. authorities would be under in pursuing a case like this when the site is legally well advised and studiously avoids storing any copyrighted material.”

At the time there were some rumors that Sweden would be placed on the US Trade Representative’s 301 Watch List. This could possibly result in negative trade implications. However, in a cable written April 2006, the US Embassy in Sweden was informed that, while there were concerns, it would not be listed. Not yet at least.

“We understand that a specialized organization for enforcement against Internet piracy currently is under consideration,” the cable reads, while mentioning The Pirate Bay once again.

“We are encouraged by reports of ongoing efforts related to Internet piracy in Sweden; however, the increase in Pirate Bay peers, up 74 percent in just the last 7 months, demonstrates the urgent need to step up current efforts dramatically to address this issue in the near term.”

Then the ‘inevitable’ happened. On May 31, 2006, The Pirate Bay was raided by 65 Swedish police officers. They entered a datacenter in Stockholm with instructions to shut down the Pirate Bay’s servers and collect vital evidence.

A few weeks after the raid, the Embassy sent another cable to Washington informing the homefront on the apparent success of their efforts.

“Starting with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) visit to post last fall, Embassy Stockholm has engaged intensely with our Swedish interlocutors in efforts to improve IPR enforcement, in particular with regard to Internet piracy. The actions on May 31 thus mark a significant victory for our IPR efforts.”

The US clearly saw a link between their diplomatic maneuvering and the Pirate Bay raid. This link was also brought up in the media at the time, with news reports citing sources claiming that Justice Minister Bodström and his State Secretary Dan Eliasson ordered the police raid under US pressure.

Interestingly, both Bodström and Eliasson denied any direct involvement of the Justice Ministry with the work of the police and prosecutors in the Pirate Bay case.

While the cables make it very clear that the US wanted The Pirate Bay gone, the Embassy said that the raid went beyond their expectations, suggesting they were not directly involved. The pressure was clearly there though.

In future cables, the Pirate Bay case was often mentioned, with regular updates on the media backlash and progress in the criminal investigation. According to the US Embassy in Sweden, shutting down The Pirate Bay “should not be underestimated as a sign of [Sweden’s] willingness to take action and their position against illegal piracy.”

The cables also make clear that in Washington, the Pirate Bay raid was celebrated as a victory that was directly triggered by US diplomacy.

In a cable sent in April 2007, the Embassy nominated one of its employees, whose name is redacted, for the State Department’s Foreign Service National (FSN) of the year award. Again, The Pirate Bay case was brought up.

“REDACTED has spearheaded-work on Internet piracy enforcement in Sweden. The issue is particularly acute here as Sweden was home to the largest Internet piracy site (Pirate Bay) in the world. The work has involved extensive contacts with the Ministry of Justice, the Motion Picture Agency, as well as the Anti-Piracy Bureau.”

The employee is praised for her diplomatic efforts behind the scenes which directly led to the decision to raid The Pirate Bay, the Embassy writes.

“REDACTED skillful outreach directly led to a bold decision by Swedish law enforcement authorities to raid Pirate Bay and shut it down. This was recognized as a major achievement in Washington in furthering U.S. efforts to combat Internet piracy worldwide.”

Despite US officials taking credit for the Pirate Bay raid, it didn’t turn out to be the success they had hoped for. The notorious torrent site was back online after three days, “flaunting IPR” bolder and braver than ever before.

The press coverage was largely unfavorable towards the US Government and Hollywood, while the people behind the site were seen as heroes by many.

The US Embassy in Sweden was well aware of the delicate situation but kept pushing for stronger copyright measures behind the scenes. This time even further in the background than before.

“The Pirate Bay raid was portrayed as caving to USG pressure. The delicate situation made it difficult, if not counter-productive, for the Embassy to play a public role on IPR issues. Behind the scenes, the Embassy has worked well with all stakeholders,” Washington was informed February 2008.

At the time, Sweden was being considered for the 301 Watch List once again. The Embassy pointed out that, given the public suspicion, this could backfire. The other option was to keep a potential watch list entry as a “looming threat” while Sweden implements the changes they’re looking for.

“The USG [US Govt] has to carefully determine which course of action will be the most productive; (1) a Watch-Listing with potentially negative repercussions in future GOS [Swedish Govt.] cooperation and in the public eye; or (2) continuing to exercise influence behind the scenes, with a potential Watch-Listing looming in the background as a continued threat.”

As our earlier coverage has shown, Sweden then went on to implement a list of copyright changes which also happened to be proposed by US copyright holders. Needless to say, Sweden was never placed on the US Trade Representative’s 301 Watch List.

TorrentFreak spoke with Peter Sunde, one of the Pirate Bay co-founders who was indicted after the raid, and who has since served a jail sentence for his involvement with the site.

He is happy to see the new information being released. This is yet more confirmation of what he and many others have known for quite some time.

While former Swedish State Secretary of Justice Dan Eliasson, who now happens to be the national police commissioner, denied any direct orders from the Justice Ministry, it’s clear that US pressure made an impact.

“It’s been an open secret that the USG was behind the unlawful raid against The Pirate Bay, and exerting their power with threats against Sweden like this. It’s nice to see these documents coming up, interestingly enough from the most secretive of governments,” he says.

There is still a lot of information missing though. The documents mention a fifth person that was supposed to be indicted, for example, which is completely new information. Sunde hopes that Sweden will open up its secret archives as well.

“I’m hoping that Sweden will now follow up and release the 747 documents they’ve classified as secret regarding this affair. The Minister of Justice at the time, Thomas Bodström, said that he would put all the cards on the table so the public would know what happened, but then classified these 747 documents as secret.

“Sweden has a proud history of transparency, celebrating 250 years of freedom of the press this year, and it’s an open sore that these documents are being held as classified,” Sunde adds.

The relevant responses to the Freedom of Information request, which was submitted by Rachael Tackett and shared with TorrentFreak, are available here.

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