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  1. The world's oldest active torrent file turned fifteen-years-old this week, a remarkable achievement. TorrentFreak catches up with the creator of "The Fanimatrix" torrent file, who saw BitTorrent as the only affordable option to share the Matrix fan film with the world. In 2003 the ‘world wide web’ was an entirely different place than it is today. This was especially true for streaming video. YouTube had yet to be invented, while Netflix only sent out films via the postal service. It was at this time that a group of New Zealand friends was shooting a fan film of The Matrix, appropriately titled “The Fanimatrix.” With a limited budget of just $800, of which nearly half went into a leather jacket, they managed to complete the project in nine days. There was a problem though. As video streaming services were still non-existent, distribution was a challenge. The makers managed to reduce the filesize down to 150MB, but even that was too expensive. TorrentFreak spoke to the film’s ‘IT-guy’ Sebastian Kai Frost, who also had a bit part in front of the camera, in addition to being a wire-work counterweight, gopher, and light holder. According to Frost, regular centralized hosting was not an option. “In New Zealand this would have resulted in a completely unaffordable amount of bandwidth to be used sharing the file via traditional HTTP or FTP methods. Especially given that the entire bandwidth in and out of the country at the time was less than a modern WiFi link,” Frost tells TorrentFreak. With no budget left they had to find something cheap, or free. Frost, who was working as a network administrator at the time, went looking for a solution and stumbled upon a new technology that could help. Something called “BitTorrent.” “It looked promising because it scaled such that the more popular the file became, the more the bandwidth load was shared. It seemed like the perfect solution,” Frost says, looking back. After convincing the crew that BitTorrent was the right choice, Frost created a torrent on September 28, 2003. He also compiled a tracker on his own Linux box and made sure everything was running correctly. That was fifteen years ago. Today, this torrent is still up and running with a handful of seeders. As far as we know, it’s the oldest active torrent on the Internet. A real piece of history. Fanimatrix torrent created 15 years ago In a way, Fanimatrix became one of the first showcases of what BitTorrent can do. Sure, at the time people were already sharing movies and TV-shows on sites such as Suprnova.org, Donkax.com, Bytemonsoon.com, and Torrentse.cx, but that was mostly pirated stuff. For the Fanimatrix, BitTorrent was a necessity. “It turns out that using BitTorrent was a really really good idea because the file was downloaded over tens of thousands of times in the first week and then REALLY took off based off feature news articles on both New Zealand and American TV news,” Frost recalls. In a New Zealand Herald report from 2003, the film’s director Rajneel Singh noted that the torrent had been downloaded 70,000 times is just one week. An impressive statistic, even by today’s standards. BitTorrent was not only able to handle all the downloads, but it was also a serious cost saver. The film crew did some back-of-the-napkin calculations at the time which showed that BitTorrent saved them roughly $550,000 in bandwidth bills during the first month alone. Frost and the team were blown away by the experience. And while the film is dated by today’s special effect standards, it’s good to see that people are still interested. Whatever their reason may be. “The fact that people still seed it after all these years is a good feeling. Though I suspect a lot of people are on board now because they want to be part of keeping the world’s oldest active torrent going. Which is in itself pretty cool,” Frost says. Frost plans to keep a restored version of the original site and the torrent up and running during the decade to come. It’s a piece of Internet history, after all. “At the time we had no idea how popular this ‘BitTorrent’ thing would become, but being there at the beginning, and having it still operating and seeding even now is a pretty awesome thing. “I intend to keep it going as long as I have a seed left to give,” Frost concludes. — Note: If anybody knows of any torrents that beat this record, feel free to let us know. https://torrentfreak.com/worlds-oldest-torrent-still-alive-after-15-years-180929/
  2. The head of Russian telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor met with President Vladimir Putin this week to discuss the country's anti-piracy measures. Declaring Russia as no longer a safe haven for pirates, Alexander Zharov said complaints had been filed against 17,000 pirate sites, with 6,000 eventually being blocked. As entertainment giants and governments in the West struggle to deal with the ongoing flood of pirate content hitting the Internet, Russia has emerged from the shadows as a surprise front-runner in the anti-piracy wars. The country has passed several pieces of legislation over the past few years, all designed to limit the availability of pirated content. Court processes are now swift and particularly voluminous, with large numbers of sites ordered to remove illegal content or face the proposition of temporary and indeed permanent blocking. This week, Alexander Zharov, the head of the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Communications, Information Technologies and Mass Media (better known as Roscomnadzor), met with President Vladimir Putin to provide a one-on-one update on the situation in the country. Two topics were on the agenda – the protection of personal data held by millions of Russian companies and the thorny issue of intellectual property protection. Putin & Zharov discussing piracy (Credit:Kremlin) “For three years already, the law on the protection of intellectual property rights is working. Most of the complaints from copyright holders are related to movies,” Zharov told Putin. “More than six thousand claims over three years were filed mainly by [local] companies, and a very small percentage of Western companies, that for some reason are suing at the Moscow City Court.” The Moscow City Court is tasked with receiving lawsuits from copyright holders demanding that sites with infringing content either remove it, or face blocking procedures implemented by local ISPs. Zharov said that three entities are involved in copyright action in Russia; the copyright holders who file the complaints, the Moscow City Court which decides on what course of action to take, and telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, which is tasked with executing the orders of the Court. In total, complaints have been filed against 17,000 pirate sites, Zharov told the President. “A few years ago, the Russian Internet was absolutely a safe haven for pirates. Any premiere immediately appeared on hundreds and thousands of resources, and people watched them for free, even in poor quality, but nevertheless, that’s how it was,” he said. “Now the situation has changed dramatically: six thousand resources have been blocked and 11,000 have deleted such content. And the numbers speak for themselves. “For the first time in the history of Russian cinematography, our very good film, the premiere of 2018, ‘Move Up’, raised about three billion rubles (US$45.5m). This is comparable, perhaps, with only one American blockbuster, which raised the same amount.” Zharov also updated Putin on the development of legal offerings in Russia, claiming that last year legal online streaming services earned 60% more than a year earlier, to the tune of eight billion rubles (US$121.4m). Traditional cinemas are also doing well, he added, noting that 55 million people attended premieres, 40% more than a year earlier. “We intend to continue this work with rights holders. And, in general, all the largest pirate sites are now blocked. We will continue to clean up the Internet,” he concluded. The positive messages from the meeting with Putin follow hot on the heels of a rather less optimistic report from Group-IB. The cyber-security company reported that in 2016, there were ‘only’ 33 Russian cinema leaks via illegal camcording. By 2017, that had increased more than 500% to 211 but in the first eight months of 2018, 280 movies had leaked online – despite site blocking. “Almost every film released in 2018 has been pirated and leaked to the web. In 2017, the country’s cinemas showed 477 movies, and 211 of them were pirated, which is 6 times more than a year earlier,” Group-IB reported. https://torrentfreak.com/putin-told-that-6000-pirate-sites-have-been-blocked-in-three-years-180929/
  3. Set TV, an IPTV service being sued by several Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix, went offline before the weekend with no explanation. Some linked the lawsuit to the service's apparent disappearance but a message sent to TorrentFreak by Set TV suggests that the service is coming back. However, as time runs on and other news comes to the fore, further questions are being raised. Unauthorized IPTV services that provide competition to traditional broadcasters and VOD providers are a huge thorn in the side of mainstream entertainment industry companies. As a result, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership forged between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, is now fighting on the front line, attempting to bring these competitors down. Two early targets were the Kodi-powered Tickbox and Dragonbox services, who are both been tackled in US courts. Earlier this year, ACE members launched similar action against Florida-based Set Broadcast, LLC, the company behind the popular IPTV service SET TV. The complaint, filed at a California federal court in April, claimed that Set TV was nothing but a piracy tool which offered copyright-infringing streams to a large number of subscribers. Despite the threats and a lawsuit, Set TV has continued to provide service to thousands of customers who access media via set-top boxes, laptops, tablets, phones and various other hardware devices. Just before the weekend, however, trouble appeared on the horizon. A message published on Set TV’s homepage indicated that the platform might be facing difficulties. Set TV down Given that Set TV is under intense pressure from ACE, many observers and some media reports put two and two together, concluding that Set TV had probably buckled under the pressure and thrown in the towel. While that might still transpire at a later date, no official messages appeared on Set TV’s social media accounts to confirm or deny. So, to learn more, TorrentFreak contacted Set TV who emailed back a short message Sunday. “We apologize for this inconvenience. We are working on getting our system back online,” the company said in response. A call to the company’s support line was met with a similar message. This morning Set TV’s service still appears to be down and no updates are available detailing when (or indeed if) the platform will return. The statement that efforts are underway to bring the service back suggest that technical issues may be behind the downtime but what they might be is pure guesswork at this point. As far as we can see, Set TV was still encouraging potential customers to sign up via Twitter last Thursday, with the downtime apparently coinciding with an unknown event on Friday. More than 72 hours later the service is still down with no concrete news, so it’s hardly surprising that people are jumping to conclusions. The fact that the company erased all of the posts in its Facebook timeline isn’t helping either. Only adding to the intrigue are reports from claimed Set TV customers that they were advised that a new IPTV service called Simply-TV was just Set TV under another name. That site is only partially operational but does have Android APK files on offer. However, trying to buy the service prompts the user with a newsletter option instead and users report that using their Set TV credentials with the service (which is certainly not advised at this point) doesn’t provide any kind of service. On the other hand, several others report that everything works fine with the new service but a user with a single post giving precise details should be approached with a healthy amount of caution, at least for now. In situations like these, it’s difficult to know who to trust but as one former user points out, sometimes it’s best to trust no-one if information isn’t being provided directly by the companies involved. “I am highly disappointed with the lack of response from Set TV or Simply Tv or whoever they are,” he wrote on Reddit. “I paid for 3 months and got only one. I’ve emailed them and nothing. I don’t think I’ll go with Simply TV either. I don’t trust them.”
  4. Spanish soccer league "La Liga" is using its official Android app to create an army of millions of piracy spies. The app can access microphone and location data to scan for restaurants, bars, and other establishments that broadcast their matches without a license. "Protect your team," La Liga notes, while encouraging users to enable the functionality. Even though sports streaming services are widely available in most countries, people are not always willing to pay for them. This applies to individuals, who turn to pirate sites or other unauthorized channels, but also to businesses such as bars and restaurants. The latter group is seen as a thorn in the side by many rightsholders. This includes the Spanish soccer league “La Liga,” which broadcasts some of the most viewed matches in the world. In an effort to curb this type of piracy, “La Liga” has recently started to use modern technology, and its users, to its advantage. In an unprecedented move, the soccer league has turned its official Android app into a piracy spying machine. The app in question, which has been installed by millions of users, will use the microphone and GPS readings of the devices its installed on to report possible instances of streaming piracy. With consent from the user, the app will analyze the audio in its surroundings to check if one of La Liga’s matches is being played. It then pairs that with GPS data to see if that location is an authorized broadcaster. “Protect your team,” users read when they are prompted to enable this type of data collection. Protect your team (photo: Jorge Morell Ramos) The unusual functionality is detailed in the privacy policy which mentions tackling piracy as one of the main purposes. “The purposes for which this functionality will be used are: (i) to develop statistical patterns on soccer consumption and (ii) to detect fraudulent operations of the retransmissions of LaLiga football matches (piracy).” The microphone will only be activated when La Liga is broadcasting its football matches, the policy further clarifies. The spying tool was spotted by Eldiario.es, which reached out to “La Liga” for additional information. The Spanish soccer league informed the publication that “nobody accesses the audio fragments captured by the microphone” as the audio “automatically becomes a signal, a binary code.” This happens only in Spain and “without storing any recording or content.” The organization states that it has to resort to these kinds of measures since piracy is resulting in losses of up to 150 million euros. It doesn’t mention how the data will be used, but establishments who broadcast their matches without consent, are warned. Users who’ve enabled the functionality but no longer want to operate as piracy spies can go into the settings of their phone to disable audio and location sharing. https://torrentfreak.com/soccer-league-turns-app-users-into-piracy-spies-180611/
  5. The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent are in again. 'Tomb Raider' tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising'. 'Avengers: Infinity War' completes the top three. This week we have two newcomers in our chart. Tomb Raider is the most downloaded movie. The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise. RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart. THIS WEEK’S MOST DOWNLOADED MOVIES ARE: Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer Most downloaded movies via torrents 1 (1) Tomb Raider 6.6 / trailer 2 (7) Pacific Rim: Uprising 5.8 / trailer 3 (2) Avengers: Infinity War (HDCam) 9.1 / trailer 4 (5) Love, Simon 8.0 / trailer 5 (…) 211 4.3 / trailer 6 (3) A Quiet Place 8.0 / trailer 7 (6) Black Panther 7.9 / trailer 8 (…) Sherlock Gnomes 4.8 / trailer 9 (9) Red Sparrow 6.7 / trailer 10 (4) Deadpool 2 (HDTS) 8.3 / trailer
  6. According to a new study by Rights Alliance, an anti-piracy group representing local and international rightsholders, Danish traffic to pirate sites increased 67% between 2016 and 2017. Movie and TV show consumption accounts for most of the hits but newer trends such as IPTV services and stream-ripping are growing rapidly. For close to 20 years, rightsholders have tried to stem the tide of mainstream Internet piracy. Yet despite increasingly powerful enforcement tools, infringement continues on a grand scale. While the problem is global, rightsholder groups often zoom in on their home turf, to see how the fight is progressing locally. Covering Denmark, the Rights Alliance Data Report 2017 paints a fairly pessimistic picture. Published this week, the industry study – which uses SimilarWeb and MarkMonitor data – finds that Danes visited 2,000 leading pirate sites 596 million times in 2017. That represents a 67% increase over the 356 million visits to unlicensed platforms made by citizens during 2016. The report notes that, at least in part, this explosive growth can be attributed to mobile-compatible sites and services, which make it easier than ever to consume illicit content on the move, as well as at home. In a sea of unauthorized streaming sites, Rights Alliance highlights one platform above all the others as a particularly bad influence in 2017 – 123movies (also known as GoMovies and GoStream, among others). “The popularity of this service rose sharply in 2017 from 40 million visits in 2016 to 175 million visits in 2017 – an increase of 337 percent, of which most of the traffic originates from mobile devices,” the report notes. 123movies recently announced its closure but before that the platform was subjected to web-blocking in several jurisdictions. Rights Alliance says that Denmark has one of the most effective blocking systems in the world but that still doesn’t stop huge numbers of people from consuming pirate content from sites that aren’t yet blocked. “Traffic to infringing sites is overwhelming, and therefore blocking a few sites merely takes the top of the illegal activities,” Rights Alliance chief Maria Fredenslund informs TorrentFreak. “Blocking is effective by stopping 75% of traffic to blocked sites but certainly, an upscaled effort is necessary.” Rights Alliance also views the promotion of legal services as crucial to its anti-piracy strategy so when people visit a blocked site, they’re also directed towards legitimate platforms. “That is why we are working at the moment with Denmark’s Ministry of Culture and ISPs on a campaign ‘Share With Care 2′ which promotes legal services e.g. by offering a search function for legal services which will be placed in combination with the signs that are put on blocked websites,” the anti-piracy group notes. But even with such measures in place, the thirst for unlicensed content is great. In 2017 alone, 500 of the most popular films and TV shows were downloaded from P2P networks like BitTorrent more than 15 million times from Danish IP addresses, that’s up from 11.9 million in 2016. Given the dramatic rise in visits to pirate sites overall, the suggestion is that plenty of consumers are still getting through. Rights Alliance says that the number of people being restricted is also hampered by people who don’t use their ISP’s DNS service, which is the method used to block sites in Denmark. Additionally, interest in VPNs and similar anonymization and bypass-capable technologies is on the increase. Between 3.5% and 5% of Danish Internet users currently use a VPN, a number that’s expected to go up. Furthermore, Rights Alliance reports greater interest in “closed” pirate communities. “The data is based on closed [BitTorrent] networks. We also address the challenges with private communities on Facebook and other [social media] platforms,” Fredenslund explains. “Due to the closed doors of these platforms it is not possible for us to say anything precisely about the amount of infringing activities there. However, we receive an increasing number of notices from our members who discover that their products are distributed illegally and also we do an increased monitoring of these platforms.” But while more established technologies such as torrents and regular web-streaming continue in considerable volumes, newer IPTV-style services accessible via apps and dedicated platforms are also gaining traction. “The volume of visitors to these services’ websites has been sharply rising in 2017 – an increase of 84 percent from January to December,” Rights Alliance notes. “Even though the number of visitors does not say anything about actual consumption, as users usually only visit pages one time to download the program, the number gives an indication that the interest in IPTV is increasing.” To combat this growth market, Rights Alliance says it wants to establish web-blockades against sites hosting the software applications. Also on the up are visits to platforms offering live sports illegally. In 2017, Danish IP addresses made 2.96 million visits to these services, corresponding to almost 250,000 visits per month and representing an annual increase of 28%. Rights Alliance informs TF that in future a ‘live’ blocking mechanism similar to the one used by the Premier League in the UK could be deployed in Denmark. “We already have a dynamic blocking system, and we see an increasing demand for illegal TV products, so this could be a natural next step,” Fredenslund explains. Another small but perhaps significant detail is how users are accessing pirate sites. According to the report, large volumes of people are now visiting platforms directly, with more than 50% doing so in preference to referrals from search engines such as Google. In terms of deterrence, the Rights Alliance report sticks to the tried-and-tested approaches seen so often in the anti-piracy arena. Firstly, the group notes that it’s increasingly encountering people who are paying for legal services such as Netflix and Spotify so believe that allows them to grab something extra from a pirate site. However, in common with similar organizations globally, the group counters that pirate sites can serve malware or have other nefarious business interests behind the scenes, so people should stay away. Whether significant volumes will heed this advice will remain to be seen but if a 67% increase last year is any predictor of the future, piracy is here to stay – and then some. Rights Alliance says it is ready for the challenge but will need some assistance to achieve its goals. “As it is evident from the traffic data, criminal activities are not something that we, private companies (right holders in cooperation with ISPs), can handle alone,” Fredenslund says. “Therefore, we are very pleased that DK Government recently announced that the IP taskforce which was set down as a trial period has now been made permanent. In that regard it is important and necessary that the police will also obtain the authority to handle blocking of massively infringing websites. Police do not have the authority to carry out blocking as it is today.” The full report is available here (Danish, pdf) https://torrentfreak.com/danish-traffic-to-pirate-sites-increases-67-in-just-a-year-180501/
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  8. Piracy of digital content in Spain fell 6% in 2017, according to an entertainment industry report. The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries says that the figure matches the 6% decrease achieved the previous year. Still, piracy remains at a high level, the coalition insists, noting that consumers believe site-blocking and measures against ISPs to be effective solutions. The Coalition of Creators and Content Industries, which represents Spain’s leading entertainment industry companies, is keeping a close eye on the local piracy landscape. The outfit has just published its latest Piracy Observatory and Digital Content Consumption Habits report, carried out by the independent consultant GFK, and there is good news to report on headline piracy figures. During 2017, the report estimates that people accessed unlicensed digital content just over four billion times, which equates to almost 21.9 billion euros in lost revenues. While this is a significant number, it’s a decrease of 6% compared to 2016 and an accumulated decrease of 9% compared to 2015, the coalition reports. Overall, movies are most popular with pirates, with 34% helping themselves to content without paying. “The volume of films accessed illegally during 2017 was 726 million, with a market value of 5.7 billion euros, compared to 6.9 billion in 2016. 35% of accesses happened while the film was still on screens in cinema theaters, while this percentage was 33% in 2016,” the report notes. TV shows are in a close second position with 30% of users gobbling up 945 million episodes illegally during 2017. A surprisingly high 24% of users went for eBooks, with music relegated to fourth place with ‘just’ 22%, followed by videogames (11%) and football (10%). The reasons given by pirates for their habits are both varied and familiar. 51% said that original content is too expensive while 43% said that taking the illegal route “is fast and easy”. Half of the pirates said that simply paying for an internet connection was justification for getting content for free. A quarter of all pirates believe that they aren’t doing anyone any harm, with the same number saying they get content without paying because there are no consequences for doing so. But it isn’t just pirates themselves in the firing line. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the current climate, the report heavily criticizes search engines for facilitating access to infringing content. “With 75%, search engines are the main method of accessing illegal content and Google is used for nine out of ten accesses to pirate content,” the report reads. “Regarding social networks, Facebook is the most used method of access (83%), followed by Twitter (42%) and Instagram (34%). Therefore it is most valuable that Facebook has reached agreements with different industries to become a legal source and to regulate access to content.” Once on pirate sites, some consumers reported difficulties in determining whether they’re legal or not. Around 15% said that they had “big difficulties” telling whether a site is authorized with 44% saying they had problems “sometimes”. That being said, given the amount of advertising on pirate sites, it’s no surprise that most knew a pirate site when they visited one and, according to the report, advertising placement is only on the up. Just over a quarter of advertising appearing on pirate sites features well-known brands, although this is a reduction from more than 37% in 2016. This needs to be further improved, the coalition says, via collaboration between all parties involved in the industry. A curious claim from the report is that 81% of pirate site users said they were required to register in order to use a platform. This resulted in “transferring personal data” to pirate site operators who gather it in databases that are used for profitable “e-marketing campaigns”. “Pirate sites also get much more valuable data than one could imagine which allow them to get important economic benefits, as for example, Internet surfing habits, other websites visited by consumers, preferences, likes, and purchase habits,” the report states. So what can be done to reduce consumer reliance on pirate sites? The report finds that consumers are largely in line with how the entertainment industries believe piracy should or could be tackled. “The most efficient measures against piracy would be, according to the internet users’ own view, blocking access to the website offering content (78%) and penalizing internet providers (73%),” the report reads. “Following these two, the best measure to reduce infringements would be, according to consumers, to promote social awareness campaigns against piracy (61%). This suggests that increased collaboration between the content sector and the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) could count on consumers’ support and positive assessment.” Finally, consumers in Spain are familiar with the legal options, should they wish to take that route in future. Netflix awareness in the country is at 91%, Spotify at 81%, with Movistar+ and HBO at 80% and 68% respectively. “This invalidates the reasons given by pirate users who said they did so because of the lack of an accessible legal offer at affordable prices,” the report adds. However, those who take the plunge into the legal world don’t always kick the pirate habit, with the paper stating that users of pirates sites tend to carry on pirating, although they do pirate less in some sectors, notably music. The study also departs from findings in other regions that pirates can also be avid consumers of legitimate content. Several reports, from the UK, Sweden, Australia, and even from Hollywood, have clearly indicated that pirates are the entertainment industries’ best customers. In Spain, however, the situation appears to be much more pessimistic, with only 8% of people who access illegal digital content paying for legal content too. That seems low given that Netflix alone had more than a million Spanish subscribers at the end of 2017 and six million Spanish households currently subscribe to other pay TV services. The report is available here (Spanish, pdf) https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-falls-6-in-spain-but-its-still-a-multi-billion-euro-problem-180409/
  9. In an increasingly capitalist world, people are brought up to see financial opportunities wherever they exist. The world of piracy is no different and as a result, there are always people out to make a quick buck from infringement. But what happened to "sharing is caring" and when, if ever, will pirates return to those once proud roots? Perhaps more to the point, does anyone even care anymore? Long before peer-to-peer file-sharing networks were a twinkle in developers’ eyes, piracy of software and games flourished under the radar. Cassettes, floppy discs and CDs were the physical media of choice, while the BBS became the haunt of the need-it-now generation. Sharing was the name of the game. When someone had game ‘X’ on tape, it was freely shared with friends and associates because when they got game ‘Y’, the favor had to be returned. The content itself became the currency and for most, the thought of asking for money didn’t figure into the equation. Even when P2P networks first took off, money wasn’t really a major part of the equation. Sure, the people running Kazaa and the like were generating money from advertising but for millions of users, sharing content between friends and associates was still the name of the game. Even when the torrent site scene began to gain traction, money wasn’t the driving force. Everything was so new that developers were much more concerned with getting half written/half broken tracker scripts to work than anything else. Having people care enough to simply visit the sites and share something with others was the real payoff. Ironically, it was a reward that money couldn’t buy. But as the scene began to develop, so did the influx of minor and even major businessmen. The ratio economy of the private tracker scene meant that bandwidth could essentially be converted to cash, something which gave site operators revenue streams that had never previously existed. That was both good and bad for the scene. The fact is that running a torrent site costs money and if time is factored in too, that becomes lots of money. If site admins have to fund everything themselves, a tipping point is eventually reached. If the site becomes unaffordable, it closes, meaning that everyone loses. So, by taking in some donations or offering users other perks in exchange for financial assistance, the whole thing remains viable. Counter-intuitively, the success of such a venture then becomes the problem, at least as far as maintaining the old “sharing is caring” philosophy goes. A well-run private site, with enthusiastic donors, has the potential to bring in quite a bit of cash. Initially, the excess can be saved away for that rainy day when things aren’t so good. Having a few thousand in the bank when chaos rains down is rarely a bad thing. But what happens when a site does really well and is making money hand over fist? What happens when advertisers on public sites begin to queue up, offering lots of cash to get involved? Is a site operator really expected to turn down the donations and tell the advertisers to go away? Amazingly, some do. Less amazingly, most don’t. Although there are some notable exceptions, particularly in the niche private tracker scene, these days most ‘pirate’ sites are in it for the money. In the current legal climate, some probably consider this their well-earned ‘danger money’ yet others are so far away from the sharing ethos it hurts. Quite often, these sites are incapable of taking in a new member due to alleged capacity issues yet a sizeable ‘donation’ miraculously solves the problem and gets the user in. It’s like magic. As it happens, two threads on Reddit this week sparked this little rant. Both discuss whether someone should consider paying $20 and 37 euros respectively to get invitations to a pair of torrent sites. Ask a purist and the answer is always ‘NO’, whether that’s buying an invitation from the operator of a torrent site or from someone selling invites for profit. Aside from the fact that no one on these sites has paid content owners a dime, sites that demand cash for entry are doing so for one reason and one reason only – profit. Ridiculous when it’s the users of those sites that are paying to distribute the content. On the other hand, others see no wrong in it. They argue that paying a relatively small amount to access huge libraries of content is preferable to spending hundreds of dollars on a legitimate service that doesn’t carry all the content they need. Others don’t bother making any excuses at all, spending sizable sums with pirate IPTV/VOD services that dispose of sharing morals by engaging in a different business model altogether. But the bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that money and Internet piracy have become so intertwined, so enmeshed in each other’s existence, that it’s become virtually impossible to separate them. Even those running the handful of non-profit sites still around today would be forced to reconsider if they had to start all over again in today’s climate. The risk model is entirely different and quite often, only money tips those scales. The same holds true for the people putting together the next big streaming portals. These days it’s about getting as many eyeballs on content as possible, making the money, and getting out the other end unscathed. This is not what most early pirates envisioned. This is certainly not what the early sharing masses wanted. Yet arguably, through the influx of business people and the desire to generate profit among the general population, the pirating masses have never had it so good. As revealed in a recent study, volumes of piracy are on the up and it is now possible – still possible – to access almost any item of content on pirate sites, despite the so-called “follow the money” approach championed by the authorities. While ‘Sharing is Caring’ still lives today, it’s slowly being drowned out and at this point, there’s probably no way back. The big question is whether anyone cares anymore and the answer to that is “probably not”. So, if the driving force isn’t sharing or love, it’ll probably have to be money. And that works everywhere else, doesn’t it?
  10. With millions of subscribers throughout Asia and Africa, iflix is one of the leading video streaming services in emerging markets. While the company is up against streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon, it sees piracy as its main adversary. While Netflix is without a doubt the most used paid video streaming service worldwide, there are dozens of smaller players fighting for a piece of the pie. Iflix is one of these companies. The service is available in 25 countries across Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, streaming movies and TV-shows to 6.5 million subscribers. In the coming years, the streaming service hopes to expand its reach by offering a better product than its competition. This includes the likes of Netflix and Amazon, but iflix sees piracy as its main adversary. “That is really the big player,” Sherwin dela Cruz, iflix’s country manager, says in an interview with ANC’s The Boss. “The sooner we get people to pay for our service and watch content in one of the real services, I think that’s when we can say that the market is really growing.” Dela Cruz sees the music industry as a good example, where services such as Spotify offer a relatively complete alternative to piracy. As a result, illegal downloading has decreased in countries where it became available. “That’s sort of like the aspiration for us – to get more people to have just one, two or three services and just watch what they want to watch on their mobile phones without really looking at pirated content,” dela Cruz says. Interestingly, iflix doesn’t only see piracy as a problem that needs to be quashed. At the moment, they also use it as market intelligence to find out what content local audiences are interested in. Iflix uses the German company TECXIPIO, which is known to actively monitor BitTorrent traffic, to track local piracy trends. In addition, they also buy pirated DVDs from street vendors to find out what people want. This information is used to license the content people are most interested in, so it can offer the best possible alternative to piracy. The company previously informed us that they believe that piracy is a signal from the public that they can get what they want through legal options. Going forward, Iflix hopes to grow its user base by directly competing with piracy. “We believe that people in emerging markets do not actively want to steal content, they do so because there is no better alternative,” iflix concludes. https://torrentfreak.com/iflix-sees-piracy-as-main-competitor-not-netflix-180330/
  11. With dozens of millions of visitors per month, Rapidgator is one of the most used file-sharing sites. Looking ahead, the site's CEO now has even bigger plans. The Russian entrepreneur is heading a new blockchain-powered data storage marketplace and is hoping to raise up to $50 million through a token sale. For several years, Rapidgator has been one of the leading file-sharing sites on the Internet. While Rapidgator’s functionality hasn’t drastically changed in recent years, the site’s CEO has been working on an ambitious new project. This month, he’s introducing their blockchain powered file-sharing and distribution platform Market.space to the world. Generally speaking, we’re not too eager to cover ICOs and new cryptocurrencies but with a major file-sharing player getting involved, we decided to take a closer look. Simply speaking, the new platform will act as a hosting aggregator. Professional hosting services can offer their unused capacity, creating a market where consumers can pick the option that’s best for them, with bulletproof anonymity. Decentralized file-storage services are not new by any means. Platforms such as Filecoin and Storj.io have been around for a while, so how does Market.space differentiate itself? According to Rapidgator’s operator and CEO, Alex Rakhmanov, Market.space will focus on partnerships with large professional hosting companies. This as opposed to storing content on computers of the public. “Market.space will be booking.com for storage where the customer can select the best location for his storage and the lowest price,” Rakhmanov says. On the demand side, the audience can be quite diverse, ranging from companies who need a file-storage solution to artists or scientists who want to share their data. The technical details and fine print of the plan are spelled out in the whitepaper, although it’s hard to judge a project without being able to try a working version. The most interesting part to us, at this point, is the link to Rapidgator, which is publicly promoted. The Market.space website highlights the CEO and mentions Rapidgator as an established file-sharing platform with a storage capacity of more than 20 Petabytes and 40 million visitors per month. Although that’s a testament to its file-sharing expertise, critics are likely to point out the piracy label copyright holders have applied to the site over the years. Market.space’s Background While the site can be used to share any type of file, it has often been criticized as a piracy haven. Earlier this year, the site was also featured on the US Trade Representative’s list of notorious markets. These characterizations are not new, but Rapidgator’s CEO categorically refutes the claims. “Rapidgator is a highly acclaimed file-sharing website, with an established technology behind it. We comply with the DMCA and remove files when they are reported,” Rakhmanov tells TorrentFreak. He stresses that Rapidgator currently works with major industry players such as IFPI, who have direct access to their takedown tools. Market.space will also comply with DMCA takedown notices, although this isn’t expected to be a major issue. “As for market.space it is more a business to business model. I don’t think there will be any copyright issues,” Rakhmanov says. “Still, we’ll have to register the new project for DMCA purposes and remove files if they are reported. If a report is false, the user can send a counternotice and restore it,” he adds. Market.space’s token sale, which will various tokens including SIA and Storj, starts on April 16. The ICO has a hard cap of $50 million, and a minimum of $15 million is required to get the project off the ground. Market.space https://torrentfreak.com/rapidgator-plans-to-launch-blockchain-powered-file-storage-platform-180325/
  12. TRACKERFANCLUB

    Junior Moderator + Support Team Additions

    Congrats @Len and @scavenger101
  13. New research from Carnegie Mellon University reveals that more time spent on pirate sites increases the risk of running into malware. The same effect was not found for other categories, such as social networks, shopping or gambling sites. While the results show an increased threat, it's doubtful that the absolute numbers will impress hardened pirates. In recent years copyright holders have been rather concerned with the health of pirates’ computers. They regularly highlight reports which show that pirate sites are rife with malware and even alert potential pirates-to-be about the dangers of these sites. The recent “Meet The Malwares” campaign, targeted at small children, went as far as claiming that pirate sites are the number one way through which this malicious software is spread. We debunked this claim, but it’s hard to deny that pirate sites have their downsides. While the operators of pirate sites are usually unaware, advertisers and malicious uploaders sometimes use their sites to distribute adware or malware. But does that put people at significant risk? Research from Carnegie Mellon University Professor Rahul Telang provides some further insight. For a year, Telang observed the browsing and other computer habits of 253 people who took part in the Security Behavior Observatory. The results, published in a papertitled “Does Online Piracy make Computers Insecure?” show that there is a link between pirate site visits and malware. “We find that more visits to infringing sites does lead to more number of malware files being downloaded on user machines. In particular doubling the amount of time spent on infringing sites cause a 20 percent increase in malware count,” Telang writes. This effect was only visible for pirate sites, and not for other categories such as banking, gambling, gaming, shopping, social networking, and even adult websites. Through the Security Behavior Observatory, all files on the respondents’ computers were scanned and checked against reports from Virustotal.com. This also includes adware, but even without this category, the results remain intact. “Even after we classify malware files into adware and remove them from analysis, our results still suggest that there is a 20 percent increase in malware count due to visits to infringing sites. These results are robust to various controls and specifications.” Interestingly, one would expect that people who frequently visit pirate sites are more likely to have anti-virus software installed. However, this was not the case. “We also find that users who visit infringing sites do not take any more precautions than other users. In particular, we find no evidence that such users are more likely to install anti-virus software. If anything, we find that infringing users are more risk taking,” the paper reads. A 20 percent increase in malware sounds dramatic, and while we don’t want to downplay these results or the risks involved, it’s worth highlighting the absolute numbers. The research estimates that, when someone doubles the amount of traffic spent on a pirate site, this person adds an extra 0.05 of a piece of malware per month, with the average being 0.24. So, most people encounter no malware in a typical month. This means that pirate sites are an increased a risk, but it’s not as extreme as sometimes portrayed. There is also no evidence that malware is predominantly spread through pirate sites. Looking at the total sample, the average number of malware files found on a pirate’s machine is 1.5, compared to 1.4 for those who never visit any pirate sites at all. While there’s certainly some risk involved, it’s doubtful that the results will deter many people. Previous research revealed that the majority of all pirates are fully aware of the malware risks, but that they continue nonetheless. https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-visits-lead-to-more-malware-research-finds-180318/
  14. The MPAA is visiting Vietnam to discuss with local authorities how they can properly deal with movie piracy sites. One target that was singled out is 123movies, a streaming site that is said to be operated from Vietnam. According to the movie industry group, it is "the most popular illegal site in the world." With millions of visitors per day, pirate streaming site 123movies, also known as GoMovies, is a force to be reckoned with. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is fully aware of this and previously alerted the US Trade Representative about this “notorious market.” However, since the site is not operating from the US, Hollywood’s industry group is also reaching out to 123movies’ alleged home turf, Vietnam. Following in the footsteps of the US ambassador, the MPAA seeks assistance from local authorities. The MPAA is currently in Vietnam where it’s working with the Office of the Police Investigation Agency to combat pirate sites. According to the MPAA’s Executive Vice President & Chief of Global Content Protection, Jan van Voorn, 123movies is one of the prime targets. “Right now, the most popular illegal site in the world, 123movies.to (at this point), is operated from Vietnam, and has 98 million visitors a month,” Van Voorn said, quotedby VNExpress. “There are more services like this – sites that are not helpful for local legitimate businesses,” he adds. The MPAA hopes that the Vietnamese authorities will step in to take these pirate sites offline, so that legal alternatives can grow. In addition, it stresses that the public should be properly educated, to change their views on movie piracy. While it’s clear that 123movies is a threat to Hollywood, there are bigger fish out there. The 98 million number MPAA mentions appears to come from SimilarWeb’s January estimate. While this is a lot of traffic indeed, it’s not the largest pirate site. The Pirate Bay, for example, had an estimated 282 million visitors during the same period. TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to confirm the claim but at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. Perhaps Van Voorn was referring to streaming sites specifically, which would make more sense. In any case, it’s clear that Hollywood is concerned about 123movies and similar sites and will do everything in its power to get them offline. https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-brands-123movies-as-the-worlds-most-popular-illegal-site-180316/
  15. For 15 years, Dolby supplied encoding and decoding technologies for use in Adobe products including Audition, After Effects, Lightroom and Premiere Pro. The licensing agreement between the companies allowed Adobe to self-report usage, on the condition that Dolby could carry out an audit. However, after the software company failed to comply in recent years, Dolby has rolled out the lawyers. Adobe has some of the most recognized software products on the market today, including Photoshop which has become a household name. While the company has been subjected to more than its fair share of piracy over the years, a new lawsuit accuses the software giant itself of infringement. Dolby Laboratories is best known as a company specializing in noise reduction and audio encoding and compression technologies. Its reversed double ‘D’ logo is widely recognized after appearing on millions of home hi-fi systems and film end credits. In a complaint filed this week at a federal court in California, Dolby Labs alleges that after supplying its products to Adobe for 15 years, the latter has failed to live up to its licensing obligations and is guilty of copyright infringement and breach of contract. “Between 2002 and 2017, Adobe designed and sold its audio-video content creation and editing software with Dolby’s industry-leading audio processing technologies,” Dolby’s complaint reads. “The basic terms of Adobe’s licenses for products containing Dolby technologies are clear; when Adobe granted its customer a license to any Adobe product that contained Dolby technology, Adobe was contractually obligated to report the sale to Dolby and pay the agreed-upon royalty.” Dolby says that Adobe promised it wouldn’t sell its any of its products (such as Audition, After Effects, Encore, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro) outside the scope of its licenses with Dolby. Those licenses included clauses which grant Dolby the right to inspect Adobe’s records through a third-party audit, in order to verify the accuracy of Adobe’s sales reporting and associated payment of royalties. Over the past several years, however, things didn’t go to plan. The lawsuit claims that when Dolby tried to audit Adobe’s books, Adobe refused to “engage in even basic auditing and information sharing practices,” a rather ironic situation given the demands that Adobe places on its own licensees. Dolby’s assessment is that Adobe spent years withholding this information in an effort to hide the full scale of its non-compliance. “The limited information that Dolby has reviewed to-date demonstrates that Adobe included Dolby technologies in numerous Adobe software products and collections of products, but refused to report each sale or pay the agreed-upon royalties owed to Dolby,” the lawsuit claims. Due to the lack of information in Dolby’s possession, the company says it cannot determine the full scope of Adobe’s infringement. However, Dolby accuses Adobe of multiple breaches including bundling licensed products together but only reporting one sale, selling multiple products to one customer but only paying a single license, failing to pay licenses on product upgrades, and even selling products containing Dolby technology without paying a license at all. Dolby entered into licensing agreements with Adobe in 2003, 2012 and 2013, with each agreement detailing payment of royalties by Adobe to Dolby for each product licensed to Adobe’s customers containing Dolby technology. In the early days when the relationship between the companies first began, Adobe sold either a physical product in “shrink-wrap” form or downloads from its website, a position which made reporting very easy. In late 2011, however, Adobe began its transition to offering its Creative Cloud (SaaS model) under which customers purchase a subscription to access Adobe software, some of which contains Dolby technology. Depending on how much the customer pays, users can select up to thirty Adobe products. At this point, things appear to have become much more complex. On January 15, 2015, Dolby tried to inspect Adobe’s books for the period 2012-2014 via a third-party auditing firm. But, according to Dolby, over the next three years “Adobe employed various tactics to frustrate Dolby’s right to audit Adobe’s inclusion of Dolby Technologies in Adobe’s products.” Dolby points out that under Adobe’s own licensing conditions, businesses must allow Adobe’s auditors to allow the company to inspect their records on seven days’ notice to confirm they are not in breach of Adobe licensing terms. Any discovered shortfalls in licensing must then be paid for, at a rate higher than the original license. This, Dolby says, shows that Adobe is clearly aware of why and how auditing takes place. “After more than three years of attempting to audit Adobe’s Sales of products containing Dolby Technologies, Dolby still has not received the information required to complete an audit for the full time period,” Dolby explains. But during this period, Adobe didn’t stand still. According to Dolby, Adobe tried to obtain new licensing from Dolby at a lower price. Dolby stood its ground and insisted on an audit first but despite an official demand, Adobe didn’t provide the complete set of books and records requested. Eventually, Dolby concluded that Adobe had “no intention to fully comply with its audit obligations” so called in its lawyers to deal with the matter. “Adobe’s direct and induced infringements of Dolby Licensing’s copyrights in the Asserted Dolby Works are and have been knowing, deliberate, and willful. By its unauthorized copying, use, and distribution of the Asserted Dolby Works and the Adobe Infringing Products, Adobe has violated Dolby Licensing’s exclusive rights..,” the lawsuit reads. Noting that Adobe has profited and gained a commercial advantage as a result of its alleged infringement, Dolby demands injunctive relief restraining the company from any further breaches in violation of US copyright law. “Dolby now brings this action to protect its intellectual property, maintain fairness across its licensing partnerships, and to fund the next generations of technology that empower the creative community which Dolby serves,” the company concludes. Dolby’s full complaint can be found here (pdf). https://torrentfreak.com/dolby-labs-sues-adobe-for-copyright-infringement-180314/