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  1. Hoping to find out more about the secret Internet censorship plans Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood was pushing, Google is now taking the MPAA to court. After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered, the search giant is now asking a New York federal court to ensure that the MPAA other parties hand over the requested information. Helped by 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. In response to 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 resulted in a victory for Google with District Court Judge Henry Wingate putting the subpoena on hold. At the same time Google requested additional details from the Attorney General and various other parties involved in the scheme, including the MPAA. Thus far, however, these requests haven’t proven fruitful. In a motion to compel directed at the MPAA (pdf), Google explains that the movie industry group and other petitioned parties have yet to hand over the requested information. “To date, the subpoenaed parties have produced nothing,†Google’s lawyers inform the court. “They have inexplicably delayed producing the few documents they agreed to turn over, and have objected that many of their documents, including internal notes or summaries of meetings with AG Hood, are irrelevant or protected by some unsubstantiated privilege.†In addition to the MPAA, Google has also filed similar motions against the MPAA’s law firm Jenner & Block, Digital Citizens Alliance, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Viacom. All parties thus far have refused to hand over the requested information, which includes communication with and prepared for the Attorney General, as well as emails referencing Google. According to the MPAA this information is “irrelevant†or privileged, but Google disagrees. “The relevance objections are meritless. As Judge Wingate has already held, there is substantial evidence that the Attorney General’s actions against Google were undertaken in bad faith and for a retaliatory purpose,†the motion reads. According to Google’s legal team the documents will shine a light on how the MPAA and others encouraged and helped the Attorney General to push for Internet censorship. “Google expects the documents will show that the Attorney General, the Subpoenaed Parties, and their lobbyists understood that his actions invaded the exclusive province of federal law,†the motion reads. “More fundamentally, the documents are likely to show that the Attorney General’s investigation was intended not to uncover supposed violations of Mississippi law, but instead to coerce Google into silencing speech that Viacom, Fox, and NBC do not like…†District Court Judge James Boasberg has referred the case to a magistrate judge (pdf), who will discuss the matter in an upcoming hearing. Considering the stakes at hand, the players involved will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. https://torrentfreak.com/google-takes-mpaa-to-court-over-secret-censorship-plans-150603/
  2. 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. http://torrentfreak.com/google-mpaa-censorship-150303/
  3. Google's lawsuit against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood is a crucial case for the future of SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. This week Digital Citizens Alliance, Stop Child Predators and others voiced their support for the Attorney General, suggesting that Google Chrome should be censored as well. Helped by 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 quash a pending subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. Recognizing the importance of this case, several interested parties have written to the court to share their concerns. There’s been support for both parties with some siding with Google and others backing Hood. In a joint amicus curae brief (pdf) the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Computer & Communications Association (CCIA) and advocacy organization Engine warn that Hood’s efforts endanger free speech and innovation. “No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet. Where the public official is one of fifty state attorneys general, the danger to free speech and to innovation is even more profound,†they write. According to the tech groups it would be impossible for Internet services to screen and police the Internet for questionable content. “Internet businesses rely not only on the ability to communicate freely with their consumers, but also on the ability to give the public ways to communicate with each other. This communication, at the speed of the Internet, is impossible to pre-screen.†Not everyone agrees with this position though. On the other side of the argument we find outfits such as Stop Child Predators, Digital Citizens Alliance, Taylor Hooton Foundation and Ryan United. In their brief they point out that Google’s services are used to facilitate criminal practices such as illegal drug sales and piracy. Blocking content may also be needed to protect children from other threats. “Google’s YouTube service has been used by those seeking to sell steroids and other illegal drugs online,†they warn, adding that the video platform is also “routinely used to distribute other content that is harmful to minors, such as videos regarding ‘How to Buy Smokes Under-Age’, and ‘Best Fake ID Service Around’. Going a step further, the groups also suggest that Google should filter content in its Chrome browser. The brief mentions that Google recently removed Pirate Bay apps from its Play Store, but failed to block the site in search results or Chrome. “In December 2014, responding to the crackdown on leading filesharing website PirateBay, Google removed a file-sharing application from its mobile software store, but reports indicate that Google has continued to allow access to the same and similar sites through its search engine and Chrome browser,†they write. The Attorney General should be allowed to thoroughly investigate these threats and do something about it, the groups add. “It is simply not tenable to suggest that the top law enforcement officials of each state are powerless even to investigate whether search engines or other intermediaries such as Google are being used—knowingly or unknowingly—to facilitate the distribution of illegal content…†In addition to the examples above, several other organizations submitted amicus briefs arguing why the subpoena should or shouldn’t be allowed under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the CDA, including the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology and Public Knowledge. Considering the stakes at hand, both sides will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. In any event, this is certainly not the last time we’ll hear of the case. http://torrentfreak.com/google-chrome-dragged-internet-censorship-fight-150205/
  4. The Australian Government has proposed a wide variety of measures to deal with online piracy, including website blocking. The local Pirate Party believes that censorship is not the answer, however, and signals a range of problems with the Government's plans. This is a guest post written by Simon Frew, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. — The Australian Government recently called for submissions into its plans to introduce a range of measures that are the long-standing dreams of the copyright lobby: ISP liability, website blocking for alleged pirate sites and graduated response. The Government’s discussion paper specifically asked respondents to ignore other Government inquiries into copyright. This meant ignoring an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into copyright in the digital economy and an IT pricing inquiry. These reviews both covered important aspects of sharing culture in the 21st century, yet they were completely ignored by the Government’s paper and respondents were instructed to ignore issues covered in them. The ALRC review examined issues around the emerging remix culture, the ways the Australian copyright regime limits options for companies to take advantage of the digital environment and issues around fair dealing and fair use. It recommended a raft of changes to update Australian copyright law to modernize it for the digital age. Whilst the recommendations were modest, they were a step in the right direction, but this step has been ignored by the Australian Parliament. The IT pricing inquiry held last year, looked into why Australians pay exorbitant prices for digital content, a practice that has been dubbed the Australia Tax. Entertainment and Tech companies were dragged in front of the inquiry to explain why Australians pay much more for products than residents of other countries. The review found that, compared to other countries, Australians pay up to 84% more for games, 52% more for music and 50% more for professional software than comparable countries. The result of this review was to look at ways to end geographic segmentation and to continue to turn a blind eye to people using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the higher prices in Australia. Between the Australia Tax and the substantially delayed release dates for TV shows and movies, Australians don’t feel too bad about accessing content by other means. According to some estimates, over 200,000 people have Netflix accounts by accessing the service through VPNs. Pirate Party Australia (PPAU) responded to the latest review with a comprehensive paper, outlining the need to consider all of the evidence and what that evidence says about file-sharing. To say the Government’s discussion paper was biased understates the single-mindedness of the approach being taken by the Government. A co-author of the Pirate Party submission, Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer summed it up: The discussion paper stands out as the worst I have ever read. The Government has proposed both a graduated response scheme and website blockades without offering any evidence that either of these work. Unsurprisingly the only study the discussion paper references was commissioned by the copyright lobby and claims Australia has a high level of online copyright infringement. This calls into question the validity of the consultation process. The Government could not have arrived at these proposals if independent studies and reports had been consulted. The entire review was aimed at protecting old media empires from the Internet. This is due in part, to the massive support given to the Liberal (Conservatives) and National Party coalition in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election which saw Murdoch owned News Ltd media, comprising most major print-news outlets in Australia, actively campaign for the in-coming Government. There is also a long history of media companies donating heavily to buy influence. Village Roadshow, one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates, has donated close to four million dollarsto both major parties since 1998: in the lead up to the 2013 election alone, they donated over $300,000 to the LNP. The sort of influence being wielded by the old media is a big part of what Pirate parties worldwide were formed to counter. The Internet gives everyone a platform that can reach millions, if the content is good enough. The money required to distribute culture is rapidly approaching zero and those who built media empires on mechanical distribution models (you know, physical copies of media, DVDs, cassettes etc) want to turn the clock back, because they are losing their power to influence society. Much of the Pirate Party response centred on the need to allow non-commercial file-sharing and dealing with the wrong, bordering on fraudulent assumptions, the paper was based on. From the paper: Digital communications provide challenges and opportunities. Normal interactions, such as sharing culture via the Internet, should not be threatened. Creators should seize the new opportunities provided and embrace new forms of exposure and distribution. The Pirate Party believes the law should account for the realities of this continually emerging paradigm by reducing copyright duration, promoting the remixing and reuse of existing content, and legalising all forms of non-commercial use and distribution of copyrighted materials. The discussion paper asked, ‘What could constitute ‘reasonable steps’ for ISPs to prevent or avoid copyright infringement?’ This was of particular concern because it is aimed at legally overturning the iiNet case, which set a legal precedent that ISPs couldn’t be sued for the behavior of their users. This section was a not-so-subtle attempt to push for a graduated response (‘three strikes’) system which has beenheavily criticized in a number of countries. The agenda laid out in this discussion paper was very clear, as demonstrated by Question 6: “What matters should the Court consider when determining whether to grant an injunction to block access to a particular website?†The Pirate Party obviously disagrees with the implication that website blocking was a foregone conclusion. Censorship is not the answer to file-sharing or any other perceived problem on the Internet. Government control of the flow of information is not consistent with an open democracy. The Pirate Party submission attacked website blocking on free speech grounds and explained how measures to block websites or implement a graduated response regime would be trivial to avoid through the use of VPNs. On Tuesday September 9, a public forum was held into the proposed changes. The panel was stacked with industry lobbyists, no evidence was presented while the same tired arguments were trotted out to try to convince attendees that there was need to crack down on file-sharing. It wasn’t all bad though, with the host of the meeting, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, flagging a Government re-thinkon how to tackle piracy after the scathing responses to the review from the public. Despite signalling a re-think, the Australian Government is still intent on implementing draconian copyright laws. Consumers may have won this round, but the fight will continue. http://torrentfreak.com/censorship-answer-online-piracy-140914/
  5. The social network's Chinese website blocks objectionable content globally -- a policy the company says it is "strongly considering changing." LinkedIn is weighing a change to its censorship policy in China that could free up more content for the rest of the world, according to Bloomberg. The company currently blocks content on its Chinese website considered taboo by the government. But that content is blocked not only in China but worldwide, preventing Chinese users from sharing information outside the country. Now LinkedIn is considering a revision that would allow such content to be seen globally, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. LinkedIn spokesman Doug Madey sent this statement to CNET: "We can confirm that LinkedIn is strongly considering changing our policy so that content from our Chinese members that is not allowed in China will still be viewed globally. Beyond that, nothing to add at this time." Since launching a site in China in February, LinkedIn has run into the same challenges faced by other US companies that want to do business there. The Chinese government imposes strict censorship rules on what content can be seen by its citizens. Companies that want to take advantage of the large, lucrative Chinese market must abide by such rules. Announcing the Chinese deal in February, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner laid out the following ground rulesfor how it would handle itself there: Government restrictions on content will be implemented only when and to the extent required. LinkedIn will be transparent about how it conducts business in China and will use multiple avenues to notify members about [its] practices. The company will undertake extensive measures to protect the rights and data of [its] members. In June, LinkedIn faced its first major test when it was criticized for blocking certain content related to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Responding to a request from the news site China Real Time, LinkedIn spokesman Roger Pua said at the time that the company is "strongly in support of freedom of expression....[but] it's clear to us that in order to create value for our members in China and around the world, we will need to implement the Chinese government's restrictions on content, when and to the extent required." http://www.cnet.com/news/linkedin-may-loosen-its-chinese-censorship-policies/
  6. A lot of this week in civil liberties has been about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, USA. Police troops fired tear gas on a television crew. This mirrors the ongoing web censorship efforts. The governments around the world are reacting the exact same way today as they did when the printing press arrived 500 years ago. There isn’t really anything new under the sun. Then, as now, they were used to telling people what was true and what wasn’t, telling whatever story that fit whatever it was they wanted to do. “Cannabis is dangerous. Tobacco is not harmful at all. Oh, and there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.†When police troops in Ferguson launched tear gas grenades at a television team from Al-Jazeera, that is a symptom of the exact same thing as web censorship: governments are losing control of the story. Governments can no longer invent whatever truth that fits what they want to happen. Police firing at press is actually something very rare – even in the worst of war zones, it’s a rare occurrence that press teams are deliberately targeted, and yet, this was precisely what happened in Ferguson, USA. The reason is the exact same as for web censorship and mass surveillance: The governments and the people working for them are attacking anybody who exposes what they do, using whatever power they have to do so. Tear gas grenades against a TV crew may have been both overviolent and counterproductive, but it’s still the same thing. It’s exactly what happened when the printing press arrived, and the penalties for using a printing press – thereby circumventing the truthtellers of that time – gradually increased to the death penalty (France, 1535). Not even the death penalty worked to deter people from using the printing press to tell their version of events to the world, which more often than not contradicted the official version. The cat was out of the bag. As it is now. Governments and police still don’t understand that everybody is a broadcaster – attacking a TV crew was futile in the first place. During the initial, hopeful months of the Arab Spring, a lot of photos circulated of young people gathering for protests. What was interesting about the photos were that they were taken with mobile phones, but also that they showed a lot of other people at the protest taking photos of the same crowd at the same time with their own mobile phone. Thus, the photos of the ongoing revolution contained instructions in themselves for how to perpetuate the revolution – take pictures of crowds defying the edicts and dictums. This is why it’s so puzzling that the police even bother to give special treatment to people from television stations and newspapers. Strictly speaking, they’re not necessary to get the story out anymore, even if they still have some follower advantage for the most part. “Police are being transformed from protecting the public into protecting government from the publicâ€, as @directorblue just tweeted. That could be said about pretty much anything concerning the net, too — from oppressive applications of copyright monopoly law to strangling net innovations or giving telcos monopolies that prevent the net’s utility. The attacks on the public by police troops in Ferguson, attacks from the copyright industry against those who want a free net, and web censorship by governments are all different sides of the same story. And all of this has happened before. Last time this happened, it took 200 years of civil war to settle the dust and agree that the printing press may have been a nice invention after all. Can we please not repeat that mistake? http://torrentfreak.com/ferguson-attacks-web-censorship-parts-story-140817/
  7. Less than a week after the UK 'piracy police' shut down the proxy service Immunicity and arrested its owner, clones of the service have started to appear online. The services allow people to access The Pirate Bay and other blocked sites. Just like the original site they are completely free of charge. When Immunicity launched last year TorrentFreak spoke with the owner, who told us he created the service as a protest against increasing censorship efforts in the UK. “We are angered by the censorship that is happening in the UK and in other countries across the globe, so we got our thinking caps on and decided to do something about it,†Immunicity’s operator said. The site’s core motivation came from the famous John Gilmore quote that was prominently placed on the site’s homepage. “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.†And that was exactly what the service offered. Those who set up their browser to work with Immunicity would gain access to blocked sites, by running their traffic through its proxy server. In just a few clicks the service was able to unblock any censored site, hassle free. For more than a year Immunicity helped tens of thousands of people to unblock censored websites, but that was brought to an end last week. Tipped off by copyright holders, City of London Police labeled Immunicity a criminal operation and arrested its 20-year old owner. The idea behind the police action was to send a deterrent message and make it harder for the public to access blocked sites. However, it appears to have resulted in just the opposite. Just days after the original Immunicity site was taken offline at least two clones have appeared. Both Immunicity.co.uk and Immun.es offer the same unblocking functionality, completely free of charge. The two new services are a direct result of the Immunicity takedown, once again showing that censorship enforcement may lead to counterproductive results. TorrentFreak spoke with the operator of Immum.es who, considering recent events, has taken the necessary precautions to stay out of police sight. “When purchasing the domain and server I made steps to protect myself from potential adversaries,†the operator says. Immun.es uses a hosting service that allows proxies and has unmetered bandwidth, which should guarantee smooth sailing in the short run. The operator informs us that the backend is coded in node.js, which he may release as open source later. The end result is that the actions of City of London Police have made matters worse, from their own perspective. Instead of one Immunicity, there are now two, and possible many more to come in the future. http://torrentfreak.com/immunicity-resurrected-by-anti-censorship-supporters-140810/
  8. The CEO of the IFPI in Austria has been defending his group's attempts to have The Pirate Bay and other torrent sites blocked by local ISPs. Franz Medwenitsch says that using the word "blocking" in these situations is wrong and defending copyright by disabling access to websites does not amount to censorship. Earlier this year a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice confirmed that ISPs can be forced to block “infringing†websites, providing it’s done in a proportionate manner. The ruling was prompted by a movie distributor caseoriginating in Austria, so it comes as no surprise that local record companies are now seeking to make the most of it. Earlier this week the local branch of the IFPI wrote to local ISPs with a demands that they block The Pirate Bay, isoHunt, 1337x and H33t within days. While the development was welcomed by many pro-copyright entities, among many in the Internet community the feeling persists that site blocking amounts to censorship. Now, IFPI Austria CEO Franz Medwenitsch has countered with his opinion, explaining that the term “Internet blocking†is both misleading and controversial, and that web blockades cannot be considered a restriction of free speech. “Barring is misleading and downright polemical. No one wants to deny access to the Internet!†the IFPI chief explains. “[Our action is] therefore isolated to prevent access to specific websites that offer illegal content and massively engage in copyright infringement. This is a legitimate means of legal protection, the Austrian Supreme Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union have justified it.†In his FutureZone piece, Medwenitsch discusses critics’ perception that blocking websites interferes with fundamental rights such as freedom of information. “Blocking access to illegal sites is explicitly compatible with the Charter of Fundamental Rights,†he contends, adding that comments to the contrary cannot be equated with the those shared by “the people of Europe.†“According to a GfK survey last year, 83 percent of those surveyed in Austria alone – equivalent to more than six million people – held the opinion that artists have a right to their intellectual property and to be paid for the use of their works,†Medwenitsch notes. But just as it’s clear that the blocking of websites has many opponents on fundamental rights grounds, the notion that blockades amount to censorship is an even more thorny issue. Medwenitsch does not share those feelings. “Censorship is the suppression of free speech and everyone who lives in a democratic society categorically rejects censorship,†the IFPI chief says. “But what has freedom of expression got to do with generating advertising revenues by illegally offering tens of thousands of movies and music recordings on the Internet with disregard for creators and artists? And yet the freedom of the author to determine the use of their works themselves is trampled!†Medwenitsch says that individual freedoms have their limits and must be brought to an end when they begin to limit the freedoms of others. In other words, people can have free access to sites while those operating them aren’t infringing on the rights of the recording industry. Finally, Medwenitsch criticizes those who accuse the industry of concentrating on blocking sites like The Pirate Bay while failing to adapt their business models. The industry has indeed adapted, the IFPI chief insists, but unauthorized services inhibit growth and need to be dealt with. “The fact is the digital music services on the Internet today carry 37 million songs. There are 230 digital platforms in Europe – in Austria there are 40 – and the European user numbers have already reached 100 million,†he explains. “The development of the digital market will take a long time due to the inhibiting factors of illegal offerings. Therefore, on the one hand we will investment in new platforms, and on the other hand, take measures against illegal sites.†It remains unclear whether site blocking is having any effect on the availability of infringing content or the numbers of people consuming it. Safe to say, no group has yet put their head above the parapet and presented sales figures to clearly show that is the case. http://torrentfreak.com/blocking-pirate-bay-censorship-ifpi-chief-says-140808/
  9. Warner Bros. have removed a Greenpeace campaign video from YouTube in which the group criticizes LEGO for partnering with Shell. Greenpeace is outraged, describing the takedown request as an attack on free speech. The environmental group informs TF it will challenge the removal while encouraging its supporters to upload the video everywhere. Earlier this month Greenpeace released a new campaign in which it targets LEGO for promoting Shell on its toys. The campaign video titled “Everything is NOT Awesome†is inspired by the popular “Everything is Awesome†song, a callback to the LEGO movie. The video shows LEGO figures drowning in oil with a cover of the song playing in the background. Over the past several days more than three million people have watched the video on YouTube. However, a few hours ago the video suddenly became unavailable due to a copyright claim by Warner Bros. TorrentFreak reached out to Greenpeace who informed us that the email YouTube sent doesn’t clarify on what grounds the video was taken down. The group assumes that the use of the song is the culprit, but says it won’t let this case go without a fight. “Our film was designed as a creative way of letting people know about the threat to the Arctic from Shell and the role LEGO has in the story. It seems to have struck a nerve with some important corporate bigwigs, but this crude attempt to silence dissent won’t work,†Greenpeace’s Ian Duff says. Greenpeace will appeal the takedown request, a process that can take up to 10 days to complete. In the meantime the group has uploaded the video to Vimeo, along with a call to its millions of social media followers and mailing list subscribers to re-upload it elsewhere. “We fully intend to challenge this claim, and we’re asking supporters to upload the video wherever they can,†Duff says. In the appeal Greenpeace will argue that the video uses satire and parody and that it is in the public interest. The video should therefore be protected under the right to free speech. This is not the first time that Greenpeace has had one of its campaign videos removed from YouTube. Previously a video featuring several Star Wars characters was taken down. The video was later reinstated after Greenpeace successfully appealed the takedown request. Warner Bros’ motivation for the takedown remains unclear. It seems unlikely that it is an automated request since there are still more than 700 video on YouTube that use the same ‘Everything is Awesome’ song. Whatever the reason may be, the takedown attempt will clearly backfire. During the days to come the rift between Greenpeace and Warner Bros. will be widely covered by the media while hundreds of copies of the video will be uploaded and shared.
  10. A new tool released by the Open Rights Group today reveals that 20% of the 100,000 most-visited websites on the Internet are blocked by the parental filters of UK ISPs. With the newly launched website the group makes it easier to expose false positives and show that the blocking efforts ban many legitimate sites, TorrentFreak included. Internet filters are now on the political agenda in many countries around the world. While China and Iran are frontrunners for political censorship, the UK is leading the way when it comes to porn and other content deemed unsuitable for children. In addition to the mobile restrictions that have been in place for years already, last summer Prime Minister David Cameron announced a default filter for all Internet connections. This means that UK Internet subscribers are now required to opt-in if they want to view ‘adult’ content online. These default filters have led to many instances in which perfectly legitimate sites can no longer be accessed. This very website, for example, was inaccessible on Sky Broadband after it was categorized as a “file-sharing†site. The false positive was eventually corrected after the BBC started asking questions, but that didn’t solve the underlying problem. In an attempt to make it easier to spot overblocking the Open Rights Group (ORG) has today launched a new site. The embedded tool runs probes on all the major broadband and mobile filters of UK ISPs, and allows people to check which sites are blocked and where. The first results are quite scary. A review of the 100,000 most-popular sites on the Internet reveals that 20% are blocked by at least one of the filtering systems. “We’ve been surprised to find the default filtering settings are blocking around a fifth of the Alexa top 100k websites. That’s a lot more than porn, which accounts for around 4% of that list,†ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock informs TorrentFreak. The list of blocked domains includes many legitimate sites that aren’t necessarily harmful to children. TalkTalk, for example, blocks all file-sharing related websites including bittorrent.com and utorrent.com. TorrentFreak also appears to be listed in this category and is blocked as well. Linuxtracker, which offers free downloads of perfectly legitimate software, is blockedby Sky, TalkTalk and Three’s filters, while the blocked.org.uk tool itself is off-limits onBT, EE and Virgin Media. Perhaps even worse, the BT and TalkTalk filters also categorize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as potentially dangerous to children, and the same applies to Reddit. Reddit is blocked as well With the new tool ORG hopes to provide more insight into what these filters do and how many sites they block. The ISPs themselves have thus far failed to reveal the scope of their filters. “People need to know what filters are, and what they block. They need to know they are inaccurate, and also disrupt people’s businesses and speech,†Killock tells TF. “If people feel they need them, that is their right, but they should at least know they’re very flawed technology that won’t protect them very much, but will also be likely to cause them problems. In short, they are a bit rubbish,†he adds. The current results of the tool are based on various filtering levels. This means that the list of blocked sites will be even longer when the strongest settings are used. It’s worth noting that all ISPs allow account holders to turn filters off or allow certain sites to be unblocked. However, many people may not even be aware that this option exists, or won’t want to unblock porn just to get access to file-sharing software. The results of ORG’s new tool show that what started as a “porn filter†has turned into something much bigger. Under the guise of “protecting the children†tens of thousands of sites are now caught up in overbroad filters, which is a worrying development to say the least. http://torrentfreak.com/uk-porn-filter-triggers-widespread-internet-censorship-140702/
  11. WordPress has had it with copyright holders who abuse the DMCA takedown process to censor perfectly legal content. Through a lawsuit they demand $10,000 in compensation to cover the damage they, and one of their users suffered through a false DMCA takedown notice. Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress blogging platform, has seen a rapid increase in DMCA takedown notices in recent years. Most requests are legitimate, aimed at disabling access to copyright-infringing material. However, there are also many overbroad and abusive takedown notices which take up a lot of the company’s time and resources. Last November, WordPress decided to take a stand against these fraudulent practices. The company teamed up with student journalist Oliver Hotham who hadone of his articles censored by a false takedown notice. Hotham wrote an article about “Straight Pride UK†which included a comment he received from the organization’s press officer Nick Steiner. The latter didn’t like the article Hotham wrote, and after publication Steiner sent WordPress a takedown notice claiming it was infringing on his copyrights. Through a lawsuit filed in a California federal court, WordPress and Hotham now hope to be compensated for the damage this abuse caused them. “The information in the press release that Hotham published on his blog did not infringe any copyright because Hotham had permission to publish it. It was a press release, which by its very nature conveys the intent to ‘release’ information to the ‘press’,†WordPress’ attorney explains to the court. The company says that as an online service provider it faces overwhelming and crippling copyright liability if it fails to take down content. People such as Steiner abuse this weakness to censor critics or competitors, and they have to be stopped. “Steiner’s fraudulent takedown notice forced WordPress to take down Hotham’s post under threat of losing the protection of the DMCA safe harbor,†WordPress argues. “Steiner did not do this to protect any legitimate intellectual property interest, but in an attempt to censor Hotham’s lawful expression critical of Straight Pride UK. He forced WordPress to delete perfectly lawful content from its website.As a result, WordPress has suffered damage to its reputation,†the company adds. Since Steiner failed to respond in court WordPress and Hotham have requested a default judgment. In a recent filing they demand a total of $10,000 in damages as well as $14,520 in attorneys’ fees. If the court agrees with the request it will be mostly a symbolic win, and hopefully a signal to other copyright holders that false DMCA takedown requests are not without consequence. During a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the DMCA takedown system earlier this year, Automattic General Counsel Paul Sieminski also stressed the importance of this issue to lawmakers, “The system works so long as copyright owners use this power in good faith. But too often they don’t, and there should be clear legal consequences for those who choose to abuse the system,†Sieminski said. In a few weeks we’ll know if the court agrees.
  12. The Pirate Bay’s anti-censorship browser continues to rapidly expand its user base. The Tor-based PirateBrowser, which allows people to bypass ISP filtering and access blocked websites, has already been downloaded more than five million times since its launch In celebration of its 10th anniversary last August, The Pirate Bay presented a gift to its users – the PirateBrowser. Since The Pirate Bay is censored in countries all around the world, many users have to jump through hoops to access it. The PirateBrowser software allows people to bypass these restrictions, without having to use a proxy site or other circumvention tool. The browser is based on Firefox and utilizes the Tor network to obfuscate people’s locations. It is meant purely as a tool to circumvent censorship and unlike the Tor browser it doesn’t provide any anonymity for its users. The browser idea clearly appealed to a wide audience with the number of downloads going through the roof right from the start. Recently, PirateBrowser achieved a new milestone. The Pirate Bay team informed that more than five million people have downloaded a copy of the tool from the official website. That’s an average of more than half a million downloads per month. Since its first release there haven’t been any additions to the software, but this will change in the coming weeks. The Pirate Bay team will push out an update soon with upgraded versions of the software. In addition, the new release will have support for social media sites, to serve users in countries where these services are restricted or blocked. Another new feature will be to have lists of blocked sites per country, so users are only redirected through a proxy site when it’s needed. In a separate and even more ambitious effort the team also continues the development of a special BitTorrent-powered application, which lets users store and distribute The Pirate Bay and other websites on their own computers. Instead of bypassing external censors, the new tool will create its own P2P network through which sites can be accessed without restrictions. This “p2p browser†should be able to keep The Pirate Bay operational, even if the site itself is pulled offline. There is currently no estimated release date set for this second project, but it will take a few more months of development at minimum.
  13. The Pirate Bay’s anti-censorship browser continues to rapidly expand its user base. The Tor-based PirateBrowser, which allows people to bypass ISP filtering and access blocked websites, has already been downloaded more than five million times since its launch piratebrowserIn celebration of its 10th anniversary last August, The Pirate Bay presented a gift to its users – the PirateBrowser. Since The Pirate Bay is censored in countries all around the world, many users have to jump through hoops to access it. The PirateBrowser software allows people to bypass these restrictions, without having to use a proxy site or other circumvention tool. The browser is based on Firefox and utilizes the Tor network to obfuscate people’s locations. It is meant purely as a tool to circumvent censorship and unlike the Tor browser it doesn’t provide any anonymity for its users. The browser idea clearly appealed to a wide audience with the number of downloads going through the roof right from the start. Recently, PirateBrowser achieved a new milestone. The Pirate Bay team informs TorrentFreak that more than five million people have downloaded a copy of the tool from the official website. That’s an average of more than half a million downloads per month. Since its first release there haven’t been any additions to the software, but this will change in the coming weeks. The Pirate Bay team will push out an update soon with upgraded versions of the software. In addition, the new release will have support for social media sites, to serve users in countries where these services are restricted or blocked. Another new feature will be to have lists of blocked sites per country, so users are only redirected through a proxy site when it’s needed. In a separate and even more ambitious effort the team also continues the development of a special BitTorrent-powered application, which lets users store and distribute The Pirate Bay and other websites on their own computers. Instead of bypassing external censors, the new tool will create its own P2P network through which sites can be accessed without restrictions. This “p2p browser†should be able to keep The Pirate Bay operational, even if the site itself is pulled offline. There is currently no estimated release date set for this second project, but it will take a few more months of development at minimum. http://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bays-...orrentfreak%29