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Found 3 results

  1. Demonoid, once one of the Internet's most popular torrent sites, is now barring users who try to visit the site with advert blocking software Adblock installed. The move raises some interesting questions, not least the value of revenue to torrent sites and the intricacies of whether or not content really should be 'free'. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, or the so the saying goes. Nevertheless, every day millions of people use online services such as Google without paying a penny. It’s a situation the Internet generation has become very accustomed to. For millions of BitTorrent users, things move to the next level. After using any of the thousands of available torrent sites for free, content such as music, movies, TV shows, software and games flood into homes around the world, without cash directly forming part of any transaction. Of course, none of these mechanisms are truly free and for most public torrent sites it is advertising that provides the fuel to keep things running smoothly. While torrent site users don’t usually pay for access directly, by being a viewer of torrent site advertising and therefore a potential consumer, a convenient business arrangement allows ‘free’ access to ‘free’ content. Unless you’re a user of the semi-private tracker Demonoid, that is. In recent days Demonoid, once one of the most popular sites on the Internet, implemented new terms of access. If users don’t wish to contribute to revenue streams by viewing embedded advertising, they are now completely barred from the site. Disabling the popular Ad-Block browser plug-in does re-enable access to Demonoid but of course with that comes the reappearance of sometimes intrusive advertising, something which users of Ad-Block wish to avoid. Aside from familiar ‘fake’ buttons emblazoned with the words “Play†and “Downloadâ€, a strip of gaming focused ads adorn the site’s main page. While these aren’t too bad, annoying and rotating full-screen pop-under ads also make an appearance. For Demonoid and the majority of other similar sites, having users view ads is a vital part of site operations. Even if there is no intention to turn a profit, servers and other infrastructure still has to paid for and advertising is the number one way to make that happen. Just lately, however, even that hasn’t been as easy as it once was. There is a concerted effort around the world to stop major brands from advertising on so-called ‘pirate’ sites, so the pool of agencies willing to place ads on sites like Demonoid is dwindling. Solutions are still being found (Demonoid ads include well-known gaming outfits and large betting companies) but with site blocking around Europe and measures by Google to downrank sites, overall traffic is dwindling. With reduced traffic comes reduced revenue, a situation that may have prompted Demonoid to introduce its “No Ad-Block†policy in order to maximize returns, but even that has its unintended side effects. One of the pages that doesn’t carry ads is the “upload page†where Demonoid users can upload content to the site – content that arguably keeps the site going more than the ads do. Whether that’s intentional is unknown, but at least one user with 500 plus torrents to his name tells TF that he won’t be using the site or seeding while the Ad-Block policy is in place. “Some of us support the site by uploading content. Now I haven’t uploaded in a while, but I still support some 535 of my past Demonoid lossless torrents with a fast connection. Torrents I uploaded some three to six years ago,†the user says. “For now I think I will boycott the site. The few lossless people that post only on Demonoid aren’t posting right now. So I can get content from KickAss.†Of course, there is another large can of worms to be opened. By blocking non-contributing users because they aren’t ‘paying’ for content, some might argue that Demonoid is submitting to similar methods currently employed by the studios and labels when they apply for ISP site blocking injunctions. In both cases perceived content free-loaders are being barred from the system. Granted, both can overcome blocks relatively easily, but it’s nevertheless interesting how torrent sites and their arch enemies feel compelled to take similar steps to protect revenues when the going gets tough. Update: Demonoid informs TF that ad revenue has decreased a lot plus the site has had difficulty collecting money from affiliates. The site can accept donations via Bitcoin but Demonoid says that users are reluctant to use it. “We need to implement some measures, or we face closure,†the site concludes.
  2. The MPAA and RIAA are backing a new copyright curriculum showing kids how to become "Ethical Digital Citizens." After public pressure the curriculum was edited to include fair use principles, but a leaked MPAA email shows that there's more fair use in the lesson plans than Hollywood wanted. During the summer of 2013 we voiced our doubts about an initiative from the Center for Copyright Information (CCI). The group, which has the MPAA and RIAA as key members, had just started piloting a kindergarten through sixth grade curriculum on copyright in California schools. The curriculum was drafted in collaboration with iKeepSafe and aims to teach kids the basics of copyright. Unfortunately, the lesson materials were rather one-sided and mostly ignored fair use and the more flexible copyright licences Creative Commons provides. These concerns were picked up by the mainstream press, creating a massive backlash. The CCI and other partners emphasized that the pilot was tested with an early draft and promised that the final curriculum would be more balanced. In the months that followed the lesson plans indeed got a major overhaul and last summer the “Copyright and Creativity for Ethical Digital Citizens†curriculum was finalized. As reported previously, the new and improved version was indeed expanded to discuss fair use principles and Creative Commons licenses. However, as far as Hollywood is concerned it now includes too much discussion on fair use. TorrentFreak received a copy of a leaked email the MPAA’s Howard Gantman sent to various insiders last summer, explaining what happened. It starts off by mentioning the negative response to the leak and states that the MPAA and RIAA will try to keep a low profile in future, probably to prevent another wave of critique. “After there was serious negative commentary on twitter, blogs and by news columnists who are not strong supporters of copyright last fall when a draft version of the curriculum was leaked accidentally by iKeepSafe – a determination was made to try to release this in a way that would keep a low profile for any MPAA or RIAA involvement,†Gantman writes. The copyright holder groups and CCI decided to let iKeepSafe and its PR firm handle the media, something which eventually came to pass. Continuing the conversation Gantman explains that the lesson materials were heavily edited to include a broader and more diverse perspective on copyright. “The curriculum that has been produced also went through numerous rounds of edits and debate involving a wide range of organizations with differing views on copyright,†Gantman writes. According to the MPAA, the end result is a compromise that includes more fair use than they had wanted, but still good enough to teach kids how to behave ethically on the Internet. “So the end result contains sections on fair use that are more extensive than we would use if we drafted the curriculum ourselves. But overall, the effort will hopefully lead to an active program within our schools to help get kids to understand what it means to behave ethically on the Internet,†Gantman adds. By comparing the first pilot materials with the final curriculum it becomes clear that nearly all additions are about fair use. Grade 4 lesson handout For example, where children were initially warned against using copyrighted images and music from the Internet in Powerpoint presentations, they are now told that this is totally fine, as long as the material is only shown in class. Similar changes have been made throughout the entire curriculum, as we documented in our earlier coverage. The question that remains is whether these extensive changes would have been made if the pilot materials hadn’t leaked in advance. That will probably remain a secret, but at least it’s clear that Hollywood got more fair use than they hoped for.
  3. Content owners need to up their game if they want to be taken seriously in the battle to reduce online piracy, a leading Australian minister said this morning. Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said making content universally and at a fair price is a key "obligation" if copyright owners are to be taken seriously in their piracy fight. For close to a decade Australia has been struggling with what the content industries see as a serious online piracy problem but today the country seems closer than ever to a legislative tipping point. A paper leaked last week revealed that the government is looking towards a range of piracy mitigation measures, from holding ISPs more responsible for their users’ actions to the ISP-level blocking of so-called ‘pirate’ sites. To coincide with the paper’s official release yesterday, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), the trade body representing subscription television platforms, published (PDF) the results of a survey in which 60% of respondents agreed that people who facilitate piracy should face prosecution. Whether the respondents understood that those “facilitators†include those who download TV shows and movies using BitTorrent isn’t clear, but the reality on the ground is that a large section of the Australian public has grown weary of being treated as second class consumers. Content not only arrives months adrift on a slow boat from the United States, but also at vastly elevated rates that defy reasonable explanation. This has led many to download TV shows instead, something which has led into today’s debate. But while some of the Government’s proposals are causing unease due to a perceived reliance on a Big Media “wishlistâ€, there are signs that ministers understand that the piracy problem doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In an interview with ABC’s Chris Uhlmann, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnball was put on the spot over what some view as the exploitation of Australian consumers by international entertainment companies. So why do Aussies pay 40% more than those in the US to download movies from iTunes? “That is, that is a very powerful argument,†Turnball conceded. “If I can just say so, there is an obligation on the content owners, if their concerns are to be taken seriously and they are by government, and if governments are to take action to help them prevent piracy, then they’ve got to play their part which is to make their content available universally and affordably.†The argument that content has to be made widely available at a fair price before progress can be made cannot be understated and it will be extremely interesting to see whether the Minister’s acknowledgment of the problem will become a sticking point in negotiations as potential legislation draws closer. But in the meantime, why are content producers “ripping off†Aussies with inflated prices? Profit, apparently. “Well, I assume it’s because they feel they can make money out of it,†Turnball said. Of course, commercial decisions like this get made every day, but as Uhlmann pointed out to the Minister, for Internet content the justification isn’t strong – from a technical standpoint it doesn’t cost any more to make content available for download in Australia than in the United States. The entertainment companies’ “right†to charge whatever they like is their business, Turnball reiterated, but that approach may come at a price. “If you want to discourage piracy, the best thing you can do, and the music industry is a very good example of this, the way they’ve responded, the best thing you can do is to make your content available globally, universally and affordably. In other words, you just keep on reducing and reducing and reducing the incentive for people to do the wrong thing,†he said. Turnball also noted that following the publication of the discussion paper, content owners are going to have to justify why they are charging Australians more than overseas counterparts. That might prove a very interesting discussion. Finally, the government is now inviting submissions from the public on the issue of online copyright infringement. There is no specific mention of offering content widely at a fair price, however, something which has drawn the ire of the Pirate Party. “Instead of addressing the reality that Australians are paying more money for less content than other countries, the Discussion Paper is biased towards turning Internet service providers into ‘Internet police’ and censorship in the form of website blocking, neither of which have proven effective overseas,†Pirate Party President-elect Brendan Molloy said in a statement. Those interested have until September 1 to make their opinions heard – question 9 might prove an opportunity to talk about a fair deal for Australians.