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  1. Should you keep your last name after getting married or change it? The question is more complicated than you think especially when considering all the possibilities keeping your maiden name, taking your spouse's last name, using your maiden name as a middle name, taking two last names, hyphenating the two names to create a joint surname and others. Please Share your thoughts
  2. Providers who defied TV company demands to switch off their VPN services have caved in following legal threats. CallPlus and Bypass Network Services faced action from media giants including Sky and TVNZ for allowing their customers to access geo-restricted content. Their 'Global Mode' services will be terminated by September 1. Unlocking geo-restricted digital content is an activity carried out by millions every day, but the practice is frowned upon by entertainment industry companies. The large amounts of time, effort and financial planning that go into complex licensing agreements can be undone in an instant by a user of a VPN or ‘smart’ DNS service, opening up services like Netflix and breaking down barriers to U.S-based products such as Hulu. In April, media companies SKY, TVNZ, Lightbox and MediaWorks told several Kiwi ISPs that if they didn’t stop providing geo-unblocking services to their subscribers, legal action wouldn’t be far ahead. Within days and following claims of breaches of the Copyright Act, Unlimited Internet pulled its VPN service. However, CallPlus and Bypass Network Services stood firm and stated that they weren’t going to be bullied. Now, just two months later, both providers have caved in to the demands of the media companies. The news was revealed in the briefest of announcements posted to the NZX by Sky TV this morning. “The legal proceedings against ‘Global Mode’ service providers have been settled. As a result, from 1 September 2015, the ‘Global Mode’ service will not be available to any person for use in New Zealand,†the statement reads. The news will come as a blow to users of the ‘Global Mode’ service who will now have to find alternatives if they wish to continue accessing geo-locked content. While that will be extremely easy, Global Mode was a free product so it’s likely that additional costs could be on the horizon. InternetNZ, the non-profit group that oversees the Internet in New Zealand, says it is “deeply disappointed†by the news. “Global Mode was a great example of Internet-based innovation that challenged traditional content distribution models. It was by no means clear that the service was illegal, and we were keen to see the matter go before the courts to provide users and the industry with clarity,†said InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter. “Withdrawing the service and settling before court seems a worse outcome for all concerned. The media companies have said that they wanted to clarify their own legal rights over content – a settlement doesn’t achieve this, and leaves us all none the wiser.†Noting that both Internet users and innovation have “taken a back seat to entrenched old media interestsâ€, the InternetNZ chief called for a revised look at local copyright legislation. “This outcome makes it ever more important that we review New Zealand copyright law, to ensure that the interests of consumers and creators are appropriately balanced.†Those looking for the all-important details on why the companies backed down will be disappointed. The details of the settlement between the providers and entertainment companies are confidential. Submissions will be made to the court but they will not be for public consumption.
  3. This month witnessed the debut of Porn Time, a variant of Popcorn Time specializing in adult videos. In less than a week the software clocked almost 450,000 downloads but it's not stopping there. Ensuring that mobile users aren't left empty handed, Porn Time has just made its Android debut. After becoming a smash hit with viewers of mainstream movies for more than a year, earlier this month a new version of Popcorn Time thrust onto the scene. Titled Porn Time, this hot variant allows users to access a wide range of adult content pulled from Pornleech, the largest public adult oriented BitTorrent tracker. With the ability to cast directly to big screens using Chromecast, Airplay or DLNA, Porn Time was always destined for success, but new figures reveal that the software has exceeded all expectations. According to the people behind the project, in the week following its release the software was downloaded an impressive 450,000 times. “We’re pretty shocked and find it a little hard to believe and amusing in a way. But Porn Time, the Popcorn Time for Porn, became an Internet phenomenon just one week after it went live!†the team informs TF. But it didn’t stop there. Figures complete up until this Wednesday reveal that the software now has 598,580 active users, an impressive feat for software with zero marketing budget and no app store to rely upon. However, this growth wasn’t achieved entirely smoothly. “We weren’t prepared for such an eruption of people coming to get Porn Time and our servers crashed. Twice,†the team reveal. “Pornleech also crashed!! They just couldn’t handle the heat. It took them a few days to get their act back together and got back online just recently. In the meantime we went and fetched some more sources of content, The Pirate Bay for example, which made our users happier and more addicted.†With 58.6% of installs the Windows edition of Porn Time proved most exciting, with Mac users holding their own with 32.71% of the total. That left Linux users to bring up the rear with 8.69%. Keen to keep pressing forward, a few hours ago the Porn Time team debuted a brand new Android edition. They expect that it too will become a roaring success. “Anyone can understand why an app like this on your personal mobile device is the best thing that has happened to humanity since bread came sliced,†the team told TF. “Creating the first Android app was pretty easy because of Popcorn Time’s awesome Android app. We just took their app, made some cosmetic changes, and voila! Now you can see content that puts a smile on your face.†And if Apple users are feeling left out, that sensation shouldn’t last for long. The team inform us that an iOS edition is just around the corner. “I think we will release it in three weeks. We are in an advanced development stage, but the truth is that this is the first time we are programming in Objective C and it’s taking us some time,†the team concludes. More information on Porn Time for Android can be found here.
  4. Despite being run by 'scammers' the EZTV website is still drawing millions of visitors per week. However, the site is getting little love from Google. The search engine has completely wiped the domain from its top search results, pointing out the hostile takeover instead. After months of trouble with a hostile takeover as the climax, popular TV-torrent distribution group EZTV called it quits last month. In the ten years since its founding the group had built up a reputation of quality and consistency, but today it is no longer active. Instead, EZTV’s domain is now run by an outsider who pretends that nothing has changed. On the site’s homepage people still see the latest TV-torrents. Initially these torrents were imported from other groups, but recently a person pretending to be EZTV’s Novaking announced that they had started releasing their own torrents again. “We have a great news for you. [eztv] has started releasing torrents again. No more nested/unneeded files/folders you have complained about. The same quality like before.†While unsuspecting users might fall for the impersonation, people in the know have cut their ties with the site. The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, for example, are warning their users to look our for fake files and have disabled or suspended the official EZTV account. But it’s not only the torrent experts who have seen through the facade, Google has too. For many years the domain (later was the top listed result when searching for the term EZTV using Google. This is no surprise, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of backlinks to the site. Interestingly, however, the “official†domain has now been completely stripped from the top results. Even several pages down the domain doesn’t appear. It’s worth noting that the main domain was removed following a takedown notice from Lionsgate. However, usually other pages on the same domain quickly take its place, as happened to ExtraTorrent and others. The absence of the EZTV domain is remarkable and stands out when comparing it to other search engines. For example, roughly a week ago both Bing and DuckDuckGo continued to place on top. Today, both search engines still show the domain among the top results, although no longer in first place. With the site no longer being the top result in Google and elsewhere, search traffic to EZTV is minimal. Whether the site’s total traffic will also go down in the long run has yet to be seen. For now the site is still among the most popular torrent sites on the Internet, and many users either don’t know or don’t care who runs the show.
  5. Without any prior warning, Facebook has removed the official page of popular torrent site RARBG after a complaint from a copyright holder. The operator of the site scolds Facebook for the takedown, noting that they never posted any copyright infringing content on the social network. With millions of regular visitors RARBG is one of the most popular torrent sites on the Internet. Like most sites of its size, RARBG also has a Facebook presence where it keeps its users informed about the latest developments, including new features and the occasional outage. However, a few hours ago RARBG’s official Facebook page suddenly disappeared. Initially, the operator assumed that there was some kind of error, but after logging into Facebook he was presented with the following message. “We have disabled or removed access to the following content you posted on Facebook because we received a report from a third party that the content infringes their copyright(s).†TF spoke with the operator of the torrent site who informed us that they were careful not to link to any infringing material. In fact, until now they have never received any copyright complaints from Facebook. According to RARBG, Facebook simply took a copyright holder complaint for granted without any further investigation. “Once again Facebook proved that they are not fighting for freedom of speech and they will bend over to any company that makes any copyright complaint without even taking the time to send a warning or properly investigate the issue,†RARBG’s admin says. This isn’t the first time that Facebook has shut down a torrent site fanpage. Previously, the same happened to The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and ExtraTorrent. For RARBG the removal was the last straw. The torrent site doesn’t plan to make a new Facebook page just to risk starting all over again a few months from now, so will simply be a little less social instead.
  6. I have heard there will be a few bonus invites given out very soon for there birthday treat so if you have a spare one get in touch. I have 1 GazellaGames invite to swap which are very rare nowadays. I have 1 Torrentshack invite available which are very rare nowadays Also have Tehconnection or Cinemeggddon, Waffles, Pretome, Please get in touch if you have a spare one going I would appreciate the favour. Thanks.
  7. Popular TV-torrent release group EZTV is no more. After losing key domain names and data in a hostile takeover, EZTV founder NovaKing has called it quits. The group's retirement marks the end of an era in which the EZTV brand became synonymous with TV-torrents. During the spring of 2005 several large TV-torrent sites were knocked offline, leaving a gaping void that was soon filled by a new torrent distribution group, EZTV. For a decade EZTV has been one of the leading TV distribution groups. It turned into one of the most visited torrent sites, but today this run comes to an end. Facing a hostile takeover the group’s founder and main operator NovaKing has called it quits. Initially it remained vague how EZTV’s demise came to be, not least because NovaKing could not be reached. However, with help from several EZTV staffers including sladinki007 we can now explain what happened. The group’s troubles started earlier this year when the .IT registry suspended EZTV’s domain name because of inaccurate Whois information. A few weeks later the .IT registry put the domain back on the market and it was snapped up by scammers. The people who took over the domain name came in well-prepared. They registered the UK company EZCloud LIMITED, which is the same company name as EZTV used. Initially the takeover wasn’t much of a problem, as EZTV had already moved to a new domain name at, but things quickly turned from bad to worse. Using the EZCloud company details and by faking the director’s name, the scammers also managed to take over the domain through the EuroDNS registrar. NovaKing tried to prevent this from happening by alerting the registrar, but according to an EZTV staffer he was told to get a court order if he wanted his domain back. The .se domain was linked to the mailbox of EZTV founder NovaKing, which allowed them to access the domain registrar account and various other services for which they quickly reset all passwords. As a result, NovaKing was locked out, losing control of virtually all of his domain names. Initially, there was also the possibility that the servers were compromised as well. This prompted a thorough security audit and a site lockdown last month. Eventually, even the new domain fell into the hands of the scammers, completing the hostile takeover. Sladinki007 says that NovaKing must have been devastated by what happened. A life’s work was completely ruined in a few days and access to personal domain names was gone as well. While EZTV could technically start over using a new name the group’s founder decided to throw in the towel. Too much had already been lost. The group had always been a “fun†non-profit project, and the recent troubles took the fun away. The scammers, meanwhile, continue to operate both the .it and .ch domain names and are now distributing their own torrents (sourced elsewhere) with the hijacked EZTV brand. They pretend to be the real deal, sending out misleading and false status updates, but they’re not. Having control over NovaKing’s email address the scammers even reached out to other torrent site operators, claiming that EZTV was back in business. However, most knew better not to fall for it and have retired official EZTV uploader accounts. A Pirate Bay moderator informs TF that they have suspended the EZTV user account. Many of the older torrents are still on the site, but TPB has added a warning urging people to stay away from the compromised domain. TPB’s EZTV warning Other torrent sites such as KickassTorrents, BT-chat and Rarbg have also disabled or suspended the official EZTV accounts after hearing about the takeover. In addition, KickassTorrents and BT-chat have added the same warning as TPB. This way they hope to keep people away from the compromised EZTV site, which is now serving various ads including pop-unders. Former EZTV staffers also urge people to stay away from all EZTV sites and to inform others to do the same. The real EZTV is no longer active. EZTV’s forced retirement marks the and of an era. While there are still plenty of TV-torrents around, the group will be dearly missed by millions.
  8. Ignoring copyright infringement warnings is something thousands of Internet users do every month but for two alleged music pirates things are about to get heavy. After ignoring hundreds of notices from anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp, both are being sued by a record label over a pair of 20+ year-old albums. Through various programs, such as the “six strikes†scheme in the United States and the fledgling Canadian program launched earlier this year, warning notices are delivered to BitTorrent users suspected of distributing content online. While most are relatively benign, other warning notices come with a price tag attached. The most common are sent by anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp which routinely adds $20 settlement demands to ISP-delivered infringement notices. The key with these notices is that Rightscorp and its clients don’t know the identities of the people they’re targeting so in the vast majority of cases these cash demands can be ignored. However, it now transpires that’s not always the best strategy. In a lawsuit filed at the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Rightscorp client Rotten Records is suing a Comcast user who allegedly downloaded and shared When the Kite String Pops, the 1994 debut album from sludge metal band Acid Bath. In a second filed at the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Rotten Records is suing another Comcast user who allegedly downloaded and shared Definition, the sixth album from crossover thrash band D.R.I. According to both lawsuits, Rotten Records hired Rightscorp to monitor BitTorrent networks for infringement. The company connected to the defendants’ BitTorrent clients and downloaded a full copy of each of the albums, later verifying that they were identical to the original copyright works. Distancing themselves from any accusations of wrongdoing, the lawsuits state that neither Rotten Records nor Rightscorp were the original ‘seeders’ of the album and at no point did Rightscorp upload the albums to any other BitTorrent users. However, the company did send warnings to the Comcast users with demands for them to stop sharing the album. “Rightscorp sent Defendant 11 notices via Defendant’s ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from March 26, 2015 to April 4, 2015 demanding that Defendant stop illegally distributing Plaintiff’s work. Defendant ignored each and every notice and continued to illegally distribute Plaintiff’s work,†the Acid Bath lawsuit reads. While eleven notices is significant, that number pales into insignificance when compared to the D.R.I case. “Rightscorp sent Defendant 288 notices via their ISP Comcast Cable Communications, Inc. from December 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015 demanding that Defendant stop illegally distributing Plaintiff’s work. Defendant ignored each and every notice and continued to illegally distribute Plaintiff’s work,†the complaint reads. In closing, Rotten Records demands an injunction forbidding further online infringement in both cases in addition to the deletion of both albums from each Comcast user’s computer. Unsurprisingly the record label also wants statutory damages (potentially $150K per work if any infringement is deemed willful) plus attorneys’ fees. The cases are interesting ones for a number of reasons, not least the decision to target Comcast customers. The ISP routinely strips settlement demands from notices sent by Rightscorp, so it’s possible a message is being sent here. The other angle is money. Sure, Rotten Records can probably come away with a few thousand dollars by way of settlement, but for Rightscorp the cases could prove much more valuable. Despite warning that not settling for $20 could have a much worse outcome for an alleged pirate, it’s become relatively common knowledge that the company hardly ever shows its teeth. Victory in a case like this could be just what it needs to force settlements from greater numbers of notice recipients. Keep an eye out for forthcoming (and noisily high-value) settlement announcements. They could make $20 sound like a bargain and boost Rightscorp’s failing bottom line.
  9. Without prior warning the popular file-hosting service disappeared about a week ago. The sudden shutdown came after a German court issued an injunction against the site's operators. While this appeared to be a victory for the copyright holders, Netload has now made a comeback under a new domain name. For several years copyright holder have branded Netload a piracy haven. A few months ago the MPAA reported the site to the U.S. Government as a “notorious market†and in Germany several music groups have taken the site to court. Back in 2011 record labels started legal proceedings against the site’s operator, demanding the names and addresses of uploaders. The site owner initially refused to do so, but eventually caved in when faced with a prison sentence. Now, three years later, trouble continues for Netload. Music industry lawfirm Rasch recently obtained an injunction from a Hamburg Court ordering Netload to stop the distribution of a pirated music album. “The District Court of Hamburg decided on Netload’s obligation to cease and desist from aiding their users to make a certain album available to the public,†Rasch lawyer Mirko Brüß informs TF, adding that he couldn’t name the album in question. Under German jurisprudence this means that Netload will have to monitor external forums and search engines to make sure that these are not linking to the infringing work. If the site fails to do so the service faces a fine of hundreds of thousands of euros. “If we find another (working) link to the album, Netload faces punitive fines of up to 250,000 euro per infringement,†Brüß notes. The lawfirm served the operator of Netload with this injunction last week, and soon after the site vanished. Initially the lawyers and their clients believed that the site had shut down, but the assessment came too quickly. While is still offline a copy of the site has reappeared at This site is allegedly operated by the same people and the old logins are functional. “It appears Netload is going to relaunch using the .me-domain. It’s the same company in the imprint and the old user logins are working. Uploads are not working so far,†Brüß tells TF. Despite the change of address the injunction still stands, so the music industry lawyers will keep a close eye on the site to see if the infringing album appears. Netload was contacted for a comment on the recent troubles but the company has yet to respond to our inquiry.
  10. Demonii, the most important public BitTorrent tracker on the Internet today, is dealing with unprecedented demand. Currently running in maintenance mode, the popular tracker recently smashed its own record by tracking in excess of 36 million simultaneous peers while managing 4.8 million torrents. In order to operate at their peak the majority of public torrent indexes need the invaluable assistance of so-called tracker sites. Trackers use the IP addresses in their databases to direct users’ torrent clients to where content can be found. In recent years OpenBitTorrent, PublicBT and became three of the most important trackers in the BitTorrent ecosystem but have largely remained offline since January. As reported last Wednesday, all had legal issues in Germany. Nevertheless, the BitTorrent system hasn’t collapsed. Aside from the wonders of DHT and PEX, a rising star in the tracking scene has been shouldering much of the load. Founded less than two years ago, Demonii has become the largest and most reliable tracker on the Internet today. In February the tracker broke records by smashing through the 30 million simultaneous peer barrier, a landmark achievement representing a staggering two billion connections every day. But the site wasn’t finished producing big numbers. As can be seen in the image below, during periods last month the site was serving more than 36 million peers, a new record for the increasingly popular tracker. Given the increase in number of peers, it perhaps comes as no surprise that the number of torrents being tracked by Demonii has also increased. Back in February when the tracker broke the previous record, Demonii was tracking in excess of 4.2 million torrents, more than the top three trackers were serving in 2013, combined. As can be seen from the image below, 4.2 million torrents is now history, with Demonii already having reached the 4.8 million torrent milestone. Today, however, Demonii is not running on all cylinders. Speaking with TorrentFreak the site’s operator confirms that the service is currently running in maintenance mode. “Nothing too dramatic is happening, we just turned some things off while we try to sort out internal issues/maintenance,†he reports. While the downtime could last another 12 to 24 hours (or more) the site is definitely coming back. “The downtime is always lame, but rest assured all is being done so that the Demonii tracker will be online for long term,†TF is informed. While that will be welcome news to the site’s supporters, breaking more records with the current setup probably won’t be possible until changes have been made. Noting that bandwidth costs are high “but worth every cent for the torrent communityâ€, Demonii’s operator says growth is being limited by software. “The tracker software has been starting to reach its limits in terms of connections. We have been working with different groups of developers who have created their own implementation of a torrent tracker software. But we are not there just yet unfortunately,†he notes. Nevertheless, the records achieved recently were well received, particularly those connected to newer technology. Although tiny in comparison to IPv4, Demonii’s IPv6 stats have increased 100% in just six months. “The growth I am most impressed with is the IPv6 stats. Doubling in less than half a year. Shows where the residential internet is headed. An IPv6 world will be a great world,†Demonii’s operator concludes.
  11. For the first time since the raid late last year, The Pirate Bay is allowing users to open new accounts again. Registrations have been closed for months due to security issues and to avoid the site from being flooded with fakes and spam. Slowly but surely things are returning back to normal at the beleaguered Pirate Bay. After weeks of downtime the site came back online late January, recovering from a raid that hit the site hard. The notorious torrent site has burned through several hosting companies since its return but the site is now relatively stable. With many of the old moderators back on board the spam problems are under control as well. All this time, however, there was still one major feature missing from the site. Users were not able to register an account so they can publish content. This last barrier was removed a few hours ago when TPB formally reopened user registrations. “The registrations remained closed as a security precaution. But now that the mods are back and stable, new accounts won’t flood the site with fakes,†Pirate Bay’s Winston tells TF Registrations are open Over the past couple of months the moderator team undertook a thorough cleanup of all suspicious user accounts. Pretty much all fakers and scammers were removed, a number that ran into the thousands. “A lot of the dormant accounts have been used up now,†long time TPB moderator Agricola tells TF, noting that fakers and scammers are more prevalent than most people believe. “In my time on The Pirate Bay I have 30,000+ kills on my name, which is how we refer to deleted accounts. You are talking hundreds of accounts a day.†So while the reopened registration feature is good news for users who want to join the six million strong army of Pirate Bay users, it means all hands on deck for the moderator team. According to Agricola this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, that’s what they have been doing all along. “We’re pretty much going back to the way it was before the raid,†Agricola says. Looking back at the past few months we can conclude that things have pretty much returned to normal at TPB. The site took a hit in terms of traffic and is no longer themost used torrent site, but the ship is still afloat.
  12. BitTorrent Inc. released a new version the popular BitTorrent client uTorrent this week. The release aims to make it easier for users to avoid a highly criticized Bitcoin miner which was bundled with the previous 3.4.2 version. The company understands that the controversy "eroded" the trust of some users, but hopes to keep them on board. Last month many uTorrent users were surprised to see that their favorite BitTorrent client came bundled with the “Epic Scale†Bitcoin miner. What made things worse was that, according to some, the application was installed silently without asking for explicit permission. uTorrent’s parent company BitTorrent Inc. denied these allegations but took the complaints seriously. The Bitcoin miner was quickly suspended until further notice. Based on the negative backlash from users it was recently announced that the “offer†would not be reinstated. The uTorrent team offered a public apology and said it misjudged how users would respond. “We acknowledge again that we misjudged how this offer would be received, and we apologize to users who have objected to it or who had trouble uninstalling that software. We understand this has already eroded some users’ trust in μTorrent,†BitTorrent Inc. Jory Berson said. To further clarify the situation the uTorrent development team decided to release a new version this week. The bump from 3.4.2 to 3.4.3 should help to steer people away from the tainted version. “This new release is in part to make it easy for our users to identify which version of μTorrent to pursue,†Berson notes. While the official site no longer offers downloads that include the bundled Epic Scale Bitcoin miner, BitTorrent Inc. warns that third-party sites may still include it with the older release. “It is important to note that if you are not downloading μTorrent software directly from us, that some third party distributors may have the older version with the Epic Scale offer, Berson says. “This would only be a very small number, but to be sure you are installing the version you want, look for 3.4.3 or download directly from us,†he adds. The BitTorrent mainline client, which included the same Bitcoin miner, has been updated from version 7.9.2 to version 7.9.3. The latest releases of both uTorrent and BitTorrent can be downloaded through the official sites.
  13. Major labels including Sony, Warner and Universal are suing a man after he allegedly obtained unreleased music created by some of their biggest stars. Following an FBI investigation the man was traced to Sweden, where he will stand trial next month for leaks related to artists including Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Mary J Blige. If there is one issue guaranteed to incense recording labels and artists alike it’s the premature public availability of pre-release music. Over the years leaks from popular artists have featured in countless online piracy cases, painted by the labels as some of the most damaging forms of unauthorized distribution. While some believe that leaks are useful for creating buzz, labels often argue that availability amounts to unfair competition and the undermining of an artist’s decision as to when and where content should be heard. Pre-release leaks can happen anywhere in the supply chain, usually towards the retail environment, but a case set to be heard next month is unusual in several respects, not least the point at which the music was obtained. Between 2010 and 2013 it’s alleged that unreleased music began leaking from industry-affiliated email accounts based in the United States. Tracks from some of the world’s biggest stars was targeted, including those from Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown and Mary J Blige. It’s claimed that the music began turning up in public after being sold to DJs worldwide, events which heralded the involvement of the FBI and a trail to Sweden. “In the United States an investigation was launched into the stolen songs. The tracks led to Sweden through bank accounts and IP addresses. Therefore, we were contacted,†says prosecutor Fredrik Ingblad. Further investigation led Swedish authorities to a 25-year-old local man who is said to have hacked the email accounts, obtained the music, and sold it on for a profit. “He hacked into the email accounts and got hold of unreleased songs, and songs that might have never been released. That makes this case unusual,†Ingblad adds. The prosecution claims that the man, who denies the charges, made around $12,000 from sales of the tracks. He will go on trial in Sweden next month and will face fines and up to two years in prison. Labels including Sony, Warner and Universal are suing the man and will be seeking damages.
  14. Following copyright threats from large media companies a Kiwi ISP has taken down its VPN service. Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ had threatened legal action against services that bypass geo-restrictions on sites such as Netflix and Hulu. Other ISPs offering similar products are currently standing firm. While VPN services have always been associated with privacy, in recent years they have bloomed into tools providing much more than a simple way to stay cloaked online. For a relatively small fee, users of the most popular VPN services can tunnel out of their country of origin and reappear in any one of dozens of countries around the world. This opens up a whole new world of media consumption opportunities. Citizens of the United States, for example, can access BBC iPlayer just like any other Brit might, while those in the UK looking to sample the widest possible Netflix offering can easily tunnel right back into the U.S. This cross-border content consumption is not popular with entertainment companies and distributors. It not only undermines their ability to set prices on a per-region basis, but also drives a truck through hard-negotiated licensing agreements. Tired of dealing with ISPs including Slingshot who offer a dedicated ‘global mode‘ VPN service for customers, last week media companies in New Zealand ran out of patience. “We pay considerable amounts of money for content rights, particularly exclusive content rights. These rights are being knowingly and illegally impinged, which is a significant issue that may ultimately need to be resolved in court in order to provide future clarity for all parties involved,†Lightbox, MediaWorks, SKY, and TVNZ said in a joint statement. “This is not about taking action against consumers; this is a business-to-business issue and is about creating a fair playing field.†Before being granted limited local access to Netflix just last month, Kiwis were required to level their own playing fields by paying for a VPN service and an account at an overseas supplier in order to legally obtain a decent range of premium content. However, the media companies now want to bring an end to that free choice via legal action. Today they claimed their first scalp. This morning Unlimited Internet became the first ISP to respond to media company pressure by pulling its geo-unblocking service known as “TV VPN†after receiving a warning letter from a lawfirm. The letter, which has been sent out to several local ISPs, informs Unlimited Internet that its VPN service infringes the Copyright Act of 1994. Unlimited Internet director Ben Simpson says that while his company doesn’t necessarily agree with that assertion, it has taken down the service nonetheless. “Geo-unblocking services are a direct result of consumer demand for access to content that is not made available to the New Zealand market,†Simpson says. “To be on the safe side, we have taken legal advice on this matter and I have made a firm call that we will sit on the sideline until a legal precedent has been set.†Currently there are no signs that other ISPs intend to cave in to the media companies’ demands but even if all Kiwi companies cease their VPN activities, the problem will persist. International VPN providers, such as those listed here, will be more than happy to provide services to New Zealanders enabling them to tunnel into any country they choose. The other possibility is that consumers will shun paying for content and turn back to file-sharing networks instead. If they do those VPNs will still come in handy but for entirely different reasons, ones that will see entertainment companies missing out on the spoils altogether.
  15. AMC has obtained a subpoena ordering Vimeo to hand over the personal details of "The Spoiling Dead Fans" account, which posted a leaked clip of The Walking Dead a few weeks ago. Through the legal action AMC likely wants to prevent similar leaks in the future. With dozens of millions of viewers around the world The Walking Dead is one of the most popular TV-series around. The series just ended its fifth season and is scheduled to return next fall. In common with most popular shows, The Walking Dead has a dedicated group of followers who’re constantly on the lookout for spoilers and possible directions the series may take. One of the sources that has done well on this front is “The Spoiling Dead Fans.†The people behind the site have posted inside information and many spoiler videos in recent weeks, helped by unnamed sources. “There is no amount of ‘thanks’ that we could ever give to our sources for everything they have done. We truly appreciate every bit of info they have shared with us throughout the seasons,†the group wrote on Facebook this week. While the fan community does generate plenty of buzz for The Walking Dead, AMC is not happy with all material they publish. In February the spoiler group published a 32 second sneak peek of the episode “From A Friend,†which was uploaded to Vimeo. As it contained video that had yet to air on TV it was quickly pulled offline by AMC. “AMC diligently enforces its rights in and to The Walking Dead in all forms of media and rightfully takes its responsibility for the protection of The Walking Dead very seriously,†the company informed Vimeo. And AMC didn’t stop at a takedown notice. A few days later it went to court demanding a subpoena to obtain the personal details of the alleged infringer from Vimeo, which was granted (pdf). When presented with the subpoena, Vimeo has few other options than to hand over all the information they have on the account holder. This includes the associated email and IP-addresses. Whether the information will be sufficient to pinpoint an actual person is unknown. AMC states that it wants to protect its rights, but whether that will be achieved via legal action remains to be seen. AMC is probably most interested in finding out who the sources for the actual leaked footage and spoilers are. For now, The Spoiling Dead Fans remain active through their own website and social media accounts, spoiling their way to the next season.
  16. California-based Netflix is preparing a bold step by absorbing a former arch rival into its service. In a deal reported to be worth $11.5 million, Netflix and Popcorn Time talent will combine to re-market the latter as a Spotify-like 'free tier' enhancement to the full premium Netflix service. Over the past year the rise to fame of Popcorn Time has become one of the video entertainment industry’s hottest topics, with various iterations of the project becoming huge successes in their own right. Of course, this fame has put the Popcorn Time brand on a collision course with content creators and distributors, with numerous threats of legal action regularly making the headlines. However, behind the scenes a different end game has been in the planning for some time. Popcorn Time has become almost universally known as the ‘Netflix for Pirates’, a moniker that eventually led the California-based streaming service to refer to Popcorn Time as a competitor earlier this year. The admission was the first time that the company had noted synergies with its pirate counterpart and one that signaled the arrival of today’s announcement. TorrentFreak can now reveal that Netflix has struck a surprise deal with the people behind, one of the leading Popcorn Time forks. It marks the end of litigation threats and a move towards cooperative development. While the price tag is relatively modest at just $11.5m, Netflix has big plans for Popcorn Time that have already been tried and tested in the music industry. Noting that Spotify now has 60 million users operating on its free tier and more and more choosing to upgrade every month, Netflix intends to leverage the ‘cool’ reputation enjoyed by Popcorn Time to attract paying users to its premium service. popcorn“Today we’re here to announce that Popcorn Time has been acquired by Netflix for $11.5 million. While to many of you that may come as a surprise, and worry that Popcorn Time will change because of this, you don’t need to worry,†the Popcorn Time team said in a statement. “Popcorn Time itself won’t change to the users, it will still be the same app you’ve all come to love over the last year. However, working with Netflix means we can develop updates and fixes faster and bring you new features more regularly.†While its understood that Netflix designers and engineers will have both creative and technical input into the development of Popcorn Time moving forward, the current team will continue to work on the project to ensure users’ needs are met. “The current team will continue to work on Popcorn Time as always. Our goal has always been about bringing you the latest content at home as quickly as possible with all the great features you’ve come to love,†the team say. While the deal appears to have been sealed in the past few days, TF sources say that the whole thing was close to collapse only last month. In an eleventh hour move, Netflix negotiators demanded that the open source project become closed source in all future releases. An outraged team reportedly threatened to pull out, rejecting the $50m offer that had originally been on the table. Eventually a compromise was reached but it resulted in a near $40m reduction in Netflix’s offer, “a price worth paying†according to the team who insist that open source principles come first. All money received from Netflix will be returned to the project over the next several years. Various new names have been tabled for the project including current front-runner Popflix, but it’s understood that Popcorn Time will be maintained as a separate brand for the foreseeable future.
  17. Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen says that his anti-piracy group has shut down its first Norway-based movie piracy site. Police raided the operator of the Norskfilm portal and the man subsequently confessed, but with music piracy all but eliminated in the country, isn't this just a return to force over finesse? Due to the borderless nature of the Internet, online piracy is very much an international affair. The world’s most popular torrent and streaming sites attract audiences from all around the globe. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of smaller sites that have a much more geographically restricted aims in mind as they cater to mainly local audiences. Norway’s was one such site. The site appeared on the radar of anti-piracy group Rights Alliance (Rettighetsalliansen) during the past year although at one point appears to be have been hosted in the United States. Offering international movies and TV shows on top of local content and subtitles, Norskfilm soon became the subject of a criminal investigation. Following hundreds of tweets announcing the latest movies, last month the site’s Twitter account fell silent and soon after the site itself disappeared. Rights Alliance chief Willy Johansen now says that was due to his organization closing down its very first ‘pirate’ website. “This is the first time we have succeeded in halting a page operated from Norway,†Johansen told local media Friday. Lawyer Torje Arneson confirmed that Vestfold Police had raided the home of a 20-year-old man and seized computer and telecommunications equipment. After questioning the man confessed and was subsequently charged with copyright infringement offenses. While Norwegian police have previously investigated ‘scene’ groups and anti-piracy companies have chased down key individuals in special file-sharing cases, in recent years raids against websites have been pretty much non-existent. Instead, groups like Rights Alliance have focused on pushing for fresh legislation enabling them to monitor file-sharing networks and have ISPs block sites at the subscriber level. But according to Johansen it’s still not enough. As it stands today the flow of pirate movies simply cannot be stopped and with the advent of services such as Popcorn Time and their increasing popularity in Scandinavia, there can only be one solution. “I think we need a change of legislation,†Johansen says. But is that really needed? According to figures from the music industry, almost certainly not. During December 2014 music industry group IFPI conducted a nationwide survey among under 30-year-olds and discovered that just 4% of respondents were using illegal file-sharing platforms to obtain music. A similar 2009 IFPI survey returned a figure of 70%. The reason for the drop? Improved legal music platforms. “We are now offering services that are both better and more user-friendly than illegal platforms. In [the past] five years, we have virtually eliminated illegal file sharing in the music industry,†said IFPI Norway chief Marte Thorsby. But as highlighted again last month, the movie industry is still painting itself into a corner. Instead of making content freely available from the start, its windowing business model ensures that the public is kept waiting for months to be granted access to content. This only fuels piracy. Fix that and there will not only be no need for new laws in Norway, but also less need for Rights Alliance to shut down its second pirate movie site.
  18. Google has claimed its first victory against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, who called for SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. After the court put Hood's subpoena on hold, Google called out the MPAA who they see as the main instigator behind the censorship efforts. With help from the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned†about the developments. To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This week Google scored its first victory in the case (pdf) as U.S. District Judge Wingate granted a preliminary injunction to put the subpoena on hold. This means that Hood can’t yet use the investigative powers that were granted in the subpoena. In addition, the injunction also prohibits Hood from filing civil or criminal charges, at least for the time being. While the Court still has to rule on the merits of the case Google is happy with the first “win.†What stands out most, however, is Google slamming the MPAA’s efforts to censor the Internet. “We’re pleased with the court’s ruling, which recognizes that the MPAA’s long-running campaign to censor the Web — which started with SOPA — is contrary to federal law,†Google’s general counsel Kent Walker notes. While the MPAA wasn’t mentioned in the court’s decision, Google wants to make it clear that they see the Hollywood group as the driving force behind Hood’s “censorship†campaign. Google’s harsh words are illustrative of the worsening relationship between the search giant and the Hollywood lobby group. After a previous clash, a top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business†with the movie group. Thus far, the MPAA has remained relatively silent on the court case, at least in public. But given the stakes at hand it’s probably all hands on deck behind the scenes.
  19. Google Play has removed a few dozen "Launchpad" apps from its store as they allegedly infringe the similarly named trademark. The broad takedown request was submitted by Focusrite, a UK audio equipment manufacturer who trademarked the term. The word “launchpad†has many meanings, but in the world of mobile apps it has become an established term to describe apps that allow people to create music simply by clicking on the screen. Over the years hundreds of “launchpad†apps have populated various app stores, often using the popular keyword as part of the software’s description or title. Most recently, however, dozens of Android developers were notified that use of the word was not authorized after UK-based audio equipment manufacturer Focusrite sent Google Play a takedown notice listing several dozen launchpad apps as trademark infringers. One of the apps covered in the complaint is Alexander Nowak’s “Dubstep DubPad Buttons†app. Novak released the app a few weeks ago after he turned 18 and it generated hundreds of thousands of downloads since. According to Focusrite, however, the app infringes on their trademark for using the word “launchpad†in the description. Google encouraged the developer to resolve the issue, which Novak did by removing the challenged word, after which his downloads plunged. “I removed the keyword in my description, resulting in having way less downloads since a couple of hours,†Nowak tells TF. For other developers referenced by the takedown notice the effects are much worse. It appears that all apps using the word “launchpad†have been removed from Google Play. This includes popular apps such as “Great Launchpad,†“Super Launchpad,†“Free Launchpad,†“Launchpad Mix,†“Launchpad Mashup,†“Launchpad Play,†Techno Launch Pad and dozens more. The trademark underlying the request is brand new and was published for opposition early January. As with many trademarks its description is quite broad, including many possible uses. “Apparatus, instruments and software for recording, transmission, reproduction or amplification of sound; sound-recording and processing apparatus and software; sound equalizers; musical instrument digital interface controllers, converters and software; downloadable music files; music-composition software; digital music downloadable provided from a computer database or the internet; structural parts and fittings for all the aforesaid apparatus.†According to Novak this trademark definition is too broad, covering many aspects that have nothing to do with how his and other launchpad apps operate. “I don’t know how a Launchpad could even indirectly ever make a ‘transmission of sound’, I have never seen anyone running a ‘parametric, semi-parametric, graphic, peak and program equalizer’ on it and I really doubt that it has anything to do with ‘downloadable music files’,†the developer says. “I think Focusrite’s claim on that is ridiculous. I can understand when they want to fight piracy, industrial espionage or anything that actually harms them. But with that stupid complaint they are literally just aiming to destroy some indie dev’s businesses, which I think makes them the cockiest enterprise ever,†he adds. The developers who lost their apps will be able to resubmit them under new names. However, they will have to drop their existing branding and will probably miss out on many customers. Focusrite currently only has an app for iOS devices, but considering the recent Google Play purge, it’s likely that they will have an Android one out soon.
  20. The popular private BitTorrent tracker TorrentShack has lost its .eu domain. The EURid registry suspended the domain following a complaint from a third-party over invalid WHOIS details. The complainnt most likely came from an entertainment industry group, but this hasn't yet been officially confirmed. Targeting the domain names of “pirate†sites and services has become one of the main priorities for copyright holders. Previously, City of London Police managed to convinceseveral registrars to suspend sites that allegedly infringe copyright and earlier this week Swedish authoritiescommented on their efforts to seize two of Pirate Bay’s domains. Since it’s not always easy to convince registrars or registries that these sites are acting against the law, rightsholders are also exploring another route, pointing out administrative issues for example. This is how EZTV lost its .IT domain. Private BitTorrent tracker TorrentShack also ran into administrative problems this week, and on Monday the site’s .EU domain became unreachable. “As you can see there is a problem with the Whois/Domain at the moment, the problem is not with our setup and is being reported by the domain hosts as fully live (not suspended),†TorrentShack staff said. “If necessary we have backup solutions in place and we are not going anywhere while the problem is being tracked down,†they added. While the site’s registrar may not report a suspension, the EURid registry certainly does, as shown below. This issue is reminiscent of the trouble a popular Popcorn Time fork faced a few months ago. They also lost control of their .EU domain, which is now listed as withdrawn. To find out more about the reason for these suspensions TorrentFreak contacted the EURid registry. We were informed that a “third-party†alerted them to the fact that both domain names were registered with inaccurate details. “We have initiated our verification procedure based upon complaints from third parties and we have suspended/withdrawn the respective domain names based on inaccurate holder’s address details,†an EURid spokesperson told us. “As you know, the .eu terms and conditions, as well as the registration policy, require the domain holder to keep his/her contact information as shown in WHOIS complete and accurate at all times. Based on our verification, we can confirm that for both .eu domain names that was not the case.†The above means that TorrentShack probably won’t return on their .eu domain name and they have switched to for now. This switch is not without problems, as many torrents still use the old .eu domain as an announce URL. There seems to be an easy fix for this issue, as several users report that the torrents will become active again by manually pointing the .eu domain name to the tracker IP-addresses in the hosts file. The identity of the mysterious “third-party†behind the complaints is likely to remain a mystery. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that they’re most likely from a copyright holder group.
  21. Following news last week that streaming portal DreamFilm had been shut down, Swedish police have confirmed several file-sharing related arrests. Noting that there had been "significant seizures", police say that two well-known torrent sites have been shut down and five arrested under suspicion of copyright-related offenses. It’s been just over two months since Swedish police carried out a dramatic raid that took the infamous Pirate Bay offline. While the action certainly had an impact on its raid-proof reputation, the torrent site rose from the ashes two weeks ago with its databases largely intact. While that resurrection must’ve been a blow to Swedish authorities, action against torrent sites is far from over. As the investigation into The Pirate Bay and former operator Fredrik Neij continues, police have struck again in the notorious torrent site’s backyard. In common with December’s raid, local authorities are providing a bare minimum of details. “We have made ​​significant seizures, but I will not say more than that,†said prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist. It is known that five people are in police custody under suspicion of being involved in the unlawful distribution of copyrighted movies. While it’s yet to be confirmed, the investigation will almost certainly have been launched at the behest of the major Hollywood studios and local anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. One of the sites targeted is Tankafetast, Sweden’s second largest torrent site. It’s been hit before, at least a couple of times, but has always managed to reappear. This time the situation seems more serious. Also down is torrent site PirateHub and streaming portal Tankefetast Play. The latter is currently redirecting to the same political site as its namesake. PROMOTIONAL IMAGE PREVIOUSLY RELEASED BY TANKAFETAST While confirming that an investigation into PirateHub had been ongoing for some time, Ljungqvist did not reveal whether equipment such as servers had been seized in the latest operation. When quizzed about the downtime of the sites listed above, however, the prosecutor said that they’d been disabled by their operators. “It is not us who have taken down the sites, it is they themselves who did so in order to prevent further crime,†Ljungqvist said. dreamfilmIf that is indeed the case, the development has clear parallels with the news last week concerning streaming portal The operators of that site reported that after one of their admins was arrested the site did a deal with police to close down voluntarily. While that didn’t go quite to plan, with some admins leaving to start a new venture with a similar name, it’s possible that the replacement URL won’t be reported on the old homepage for long. According to IDG, the prosecution in the case has now filed a motion at the district court in Linköping for that domain name to be forfeited. As reported earlier this week, two Pirate Bay domain names are also under threat, with authorities targeting the Punkt SE registry with pioneering legal action to have the domains revoked and/or seized by the state.
  22. Six men went on trial this week accused of blackmail and extortion after thousands were sent threats demanding cash payments for alleged adult video downloads. Former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde hopes for a conviction, but wonders if Hollywood content would've been handled differently. For more than a decade copyright holders around the world have been doing their best to extract money from those who download content without permission. The RIAA were probably the pioneers but today it’s the adult industry making the most noise. Porn is a convenient weapon in this landscape. Few people want their adult content viewing habits to be made public so the chances of targets paying up following an unauthorized download are anecdotally higher than for regular entertainment content. Out to make as much money as possible, this assumption wasn’t lost on a group of adult business ‘entrepreneurs’ based in Sweden. Operating out of the region of Skåne, two years ago the individuals began sending threatening communications to people they claimed had downloaded pornographic content from sites without permission. The websites in question were all operated by the men. In total around 4,000 people all over Sweden received ‘invoices’ for alleged illegal downloads. Each were warned that if they failed to pay the amounts stipulated they would be reported to the police and their activities made public. While some people paid, others decided to take action. According to, police received 1,000 complaints from members of the public ranging from 10-year-old children to pensioners. After an investigation the police began to view the case as criminally motivated. As a result this week six men went on trial in the Malmö district court accused of generating around $240,000 via extortion and blackmail. During a break in proceedings one of the accused defended his actions. “If people are stealing and taking things that do not belong to them they must face the consequences. It also applies to porn,†said Dennies Pettersson, one of the main defendants in the case. In an article published in Nyheter24 this week, former Pirate Bay spokesman Peter Sunde said he hopes the men get convicted but wonders if the type of content involved affected the way the case was being handled. “What I think is interesting and worth a little thought is how the situation would be if it were not porn but possibly pop music or Hollywood movies that had been downloaded? Who would’ve been the deceiver in the state’s eyes in that situation?†Sunde asks. Due to the numbers of victims to be heard and its complexity (the investigation documents run to 20,000 pages) the Malmö district court has set aside a whole month to handle the case.
  23. ExtraTorrent, one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet, remains down following a huge DDoS attack. The site's operators are working hard to mitigate the assault and hope to have the site back online soon. With The Pirate Bay down and possibly out, millions of file-sharers around the world are turning to alternative sources for their content. The current top 10 torrent sites in the world are the largest beneficiaries in terms of traffic but with that comes additional attention. One of those sites is ExtraTorrent, an index that has moved up the rankings in recent years to become a torrent scene front runner. Last year the site took the #4 position overall and with an impressive Alexa rank of 356, now sits at #3. But despite the achievements, progress has now temporarily ground to a halt. On January 10 the site went down unexpectedly, with an all-too-familiar announcement delivered shortly after. “Extratorrent is under DDoS attack by hackers right now. Please, keep your patience. We’ll try to fix the issues. We’ll be back shortly!†the site announced on Twitter. Indeed, that very same day the site did return but the comeback was brief, with the admins reporting “issues†getting the index functioning again. Early Monday the site’s operators announced that while server problems could continue, everything was on course to be fixed before January 13. But with less than a day to go, attacks against the site persist. “ExtraTorrent still is under DDoS attack. It’s very powerful DDoS attack,†the site reported a few minutes ago. “Our hosting provider tries to solve the issues. We hope to back soon!†At the time of writing ExtraTorrent is available in some regions intermittently.
  24. It's only temporary." It's what all PlayStation fans have been saying ever since Microsoft announced they'd be dropping the price of the Xbox One by $50 for the holiday rush. And it's true; the price cut is indeed only temporary, as Microsoft plans to bring their new system back to the original $399 price point on January 4, 2015. The big question is this: Will the move result in a fresh upswing in sales for Sony's console? The PlayStation 4 dominated all the way up until that Xbox One price drop, so perhaps it stands to reason that this domination will return to force. On the other hand, recent PSN issues and the lack of AAA PS4 exclusives this holiday season have had an impact. On the flip side, at least Xbox One had games like Sunset Overdrive and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which definitely sweetened the deal for gamers. Having a bunch of cool holiday bundles helped as well. Going into 2015, one could easily argue that Microsoft has the momentum and despite the return to $399, that momentum will continue. But will it...? Perhaps Microsoft should consider leaving Xbox One at the $349 price point, although we know it'd cost them an arm and a leg to do so. At the very least, it makes the console war that much more exciting. I also wonder what Sony thinks. Are they hoping Xbox One goes back to $399 so PS4 can reclaim its momentum? Price is a hugely important factor, a lesson we learn and relearn every time we see a price cut on new gaming hardware.
  25. After The Pirate Bay started showing signs of life yesterday, EZTV made a full recovery today. The site of the popular TV-torrent distribution group is accessible again from its original domain name, complete with freshly updated content. Nearly two weeks ago Swedish police raided a center in the city of Nacka, close to Stockholm. The Pirate Bay was the main target of the raid, but collateral damage caused several other torrent sites to go down as well. These included EZTV, the go-to place for many torrenting TV fans. Shortly after the raid TF spoke with the EZTV crew, who quickly managed to recover several servers so proxies could serve the latest torrents again. Getting the entire site up and running proved to be more challenging, but today it appears to have fully recovered. This means that EZTV is accessible from its original domain once again. The site is loading intermittently at the time of writing, but if it doesn’t pop up right away it should be visible after a few refreshes. While the EZTV website was down for 13 days, the TV-torrent distribution group only stopped releasing torrents for a day or so. During the downtime fresh content was still shared on other torrent sites, such as and Curiously, coinciding with the comeback some proxies including have stopped working, most likely because they have to change a few settings to connect to EZTV’s backend. While EZTV may have fully recovered, many other sites hit by the raid are still experiencing problems. The Pirate Bay has put up a pirate flag and a counter, but no index or torrents. The torrent cache and the popular tracker previously returned, but are currently offline again. For now, however, it appears that EZTV is here to stay.