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  1. As Netflix prepares for a long-anticipated launch into Spain this year, the company's CEO has downplayed the effect piracy could have on his service. Speaking ahead of an October debut, Reed Hastings says that after years of engaging in piracy, Spanish Internet users are better prepared for his service. For years the global entertainment industries have bemoaned the state of Spanish market. Rampant online piracy meant that the country was regularly described as a piracy haven and its Internet generation a bunch of common thieves. Struggling economy aside, part of the problem in Spain (particularly on the video front) has been the lack of decent legal alternatives. Back in August 2011, rumors spread that Netflix was about to launch in the country after successes in the U.S. and Canada, but that never came to pass. Instead, just months later Spain was told by the United States that it would end up on a trade blacklist if it didn’t reel in piracy. In the years that followed the country did what it could to comply and earlier this year ordered the blocking of The Pirate Bay. Now, four years after its first attempt at breaking into the country, Netflix has confirmed it will launch in Spain later this year. Speaking in an interview with Spanish publication El Mundo, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’s excited for the launch which he believes will be one of the company’s best so far. “I think Spain will be one of our most successful countries. There is a high rate of Internet connectivity and a population that is accustomed to the use of electronic commerce and that has shown signs of being interested in our product. We are very optimistic,†Hastings says. But of course, piracy is a big part of the puzzle. Tech-savvy Spaniards have a long history of using every conceivable file-sharing system to grab content, in some cases a full decade before official vendors turned up in their country. However, the Netflix CEO isn’t fazed by the piracy problem. In fact, the company probably has a lot to be grateful for. “Well, you can call it a problem, but the truth is that [piracy] has also created a public that is now used to viewing content on the Internet,†Hastings says. He has a point. Pirates certainly have a clearer idea of what to expect from an online service so for many the switch could be fairly seamless. However, Hastings believes that on the convenience front, Netflix could even beat the pirates at their own game. “We offer a simpler and more immediate alternative to finding a torrent,†Hastings says. “In Holland we had a similar situation. That too was a country with a high rate of piracy. And the same thing happened in Canada. In both countries we are a successful service.†Somewhat refreshingly (and in contrast to the claims of most entertainment companies) Netflix isn’t scared of competing against ‘free’ either. “We can think of this as the bottled water business. Tap water can be drunk and is free, but there is still a public that demands bottled water,†Hastings says. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the service set to launch in Spain later this year won’t be the ‘full fat’ version consumers elsewhere (in varying degrees) are accustomed to. There will be a lot of content, but Hastings says that subscribers should expect a line up similar to that offered previously during the launch of the service in France and Germany. “In each country we have to start with a smaller catalog and begin to expand gradually as the number of registered users grows. In the UK, for example, we now have a fairly extensive catalog of TV series and movies after three years of activity there,†Hastings explains. “Our offering is expansive in Latin America too, but it is much easier to negotiate and acquire rights when you buy for a large subscriber base as we now have in the United States.†Only time will tell if the arrival of Netflix will begin to turn the piracy tide in Spain. For a cash-strapped nation with high unemployment every penny counts, but at an expected eight euros per month, Netflix should be within reach of a significant number of households.
  2. Rightscorp, the piracy monetization company that works with Warner Bros. and other prominent copyright holders, goes to great lengths to reach allegedly pirating subscribers. The company offered Cox Communications a cut of the piracy settlements if they agreed to forward their notices, the ISP revealed in court. Piracy monetization firm Rightscorp has made headlines over the past year, often because of its aggressive attempts to obtain settlements from allegedly pirating Internet users. Working on behalf of various copyright owners including Warner Bros. and BMG the company sends copyright infringement notices to Internet providers in the U.S. and Canada. These notices include a settlement proposal, offering alleged downloaders an option to pay off their “debt.†Rightscorp’s practices haven’t been without controversy. The company and its clients have been sued for abuse and harassment and various large ISPs refuse to forward the settlements to their subscribers. Cox Communications, one of the larger Internet providers in the U.S. also chose not to work with Rightscorp. The ISP didn’t comment on this refusal initially, but now that Cox has been sued by several Rightscorp clients, it reveals why. In a statement that leaves little to the imagination, Cox notes that Rightscorp is “threatening†subscribers with “extortionate†letters. “Rightscorp is in the business of threatening Internet users on behalf of copyright owners. Rightscorp specifically threatens subscribers of ISPs with loss of their Internet service — a punishment that is not within Rightscorp’s control — unless the subscribers pay a settlement demand,†Cox writes (pdf). As a result, the ISP decided not to participate in the controversial scheme unless Rightscorp revised the notifications and removed the extortion-like language. “Because Rightscorp’s purported DMCA notices were, in fact, improper threats against consumers to scare them into paying settlements to Rightscorp, Cox refused to accept or forward those notices, or otherwise to participate in Rightscorp’s extortionate scheme.†“Cox expressly and repeatedly informed Rightscorp that it would not accept Rightscorp’s improper extortion threat communications, unless and until Rightscorp revised them to be proper notices.†The two parties went back and forth over the details and somewhere in this process Rightscorp came up with a controversial proposal. The company offered Cox a cut of the settlement money its subscribers would pay, so the ISP could also profit. “Rightscorp had a history of interactions with Cox in which Rightscorp offered Cox a share of the settlement revenue stream in return for Cox’s cooperation in transmitting extortionate letters to Cox’s customers. Cox rebuffed Rightscorp’s approach,†Cox informs the court. This allegation is something that was never revealed, and it shows to what great lengths Rightscorp is willing to go to get ISPs to comply. It’s not clear whether the same proposal was made to other ISPs are well, but that wouldn’t be a surprise. Cox, however, didn’t take the bait and still refused to join the scheme. Rightscorp wasn’t happy with this decision and according to the ISP, the company and its clients are now getting back at them through the “repeat infringer†lawsuit. “This lawsuit is, in effect, a bid both to punish Cox for not participating in Rightscorp’s scheme, and to gain leverage over Cox’s customers for the settlement shakedown business model that Plaintiffs and Rightscorp jointly employ,†Cox notes. Despite the strong language and extortion accusations used by Cox, the revelations didn’t prevent the Court from granting copyright holders access to the personal details of 250 accused copyright infringers. The case is just getting started though, and judging from the aggressive stance being taken by both sides we can expect a lot more dirt to come out in the months ahead.
  3. While entertainment companies and authorities believe they are necessary to stem the tide of online infringement, many current anti-piracy strategies are putting Internet users at risk. Domain suspensions, seizures, plus search engine down-rankings are all playing a part in creating a less-safe online environment. While it’s not entirely clear when the theory first appeared, the notion that cutting the head off one file-sharing site results in the creation of several others has been in circulation for many years. The analogy, regularly referred to as the file-sharing ‘hydra’, is often deployed in response to action taken by entertainment companies and local authorities. Tripping off tongues somewhat easily, the defensive reaction paints anti-piracy measures as a futile waste of time. Nevertheless, the outrage these measures often provoke suggest that they do have some impact, if only the raising of blood pressure and gnashing of teeth among site users. Whether or not they reduce overall piracy rates long-term remains to be seen, but right now these strategies are almost certainly undermining the safety of Internet users. Domain attacks – blocks Attacks against site domains come in various shapes and sizes but all are designed to limit a site’s ability to remain operational. While they are undoubtedly an annoyance to site owners, they also cause problems for site users. For example, many leading ‘pirate’ sites are blocked by ISPs in the UK. The blocks are easily circumvented using a VPN but in the case of some of the bigger sites, hundreds of proxy and mirror sites have appeared to facilitate access. The end result is that there are now dozens of Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents clones, lookalikes, mirrors and proxies. Long live the hydra, right? Well not quite. We’ve already seen the chaos and confusion these sites can cause and the situation isn’t getting any better. It is now very likely that hundreds of thousands of casual users think they are using a relatively trustworthy known site when they are not. Sadly, many clones are filled with aggressive and sometimes malicious ads not present on the original site. Domain attacks – suspensions and seizures As documented on many previous occasions, a key strategy of the entertainment industries is to put pressure on domain companies and registries to stop them providing domains to pirate sites. One of the sites hit on a number of occasions is KickassTorrents (KAT). KAT has lost several domains in recent years including (music industry action), (unconfirmed) and more recently Currently the site is operating from (Costa Rica) but ever since the last switch a steady stream of apparently confused site users have been writing to TF and posting on sites including Reddit. “I never had to sign up for KAT before, why is it asking me to now?†one asked. “Why is Kickass asking for my credit card details?†questioned another. Obviously one of these questions is more serious than the other, but both have straightforward explanations. Some users are so confused about which domain the site is operating from they are using any number of fake sites instead, some of which are asking for credit card details. It’s a horrible situation provoked entirely by action against the official site’s domains, but are so many casual users being affected? Search engine downranking For years Hollywood and the recording industry have been placing immense pressure on Google to stop presenting ‘pirate’ sites in its search results. After resisting for some time, Google began tweaking it algorithms to downrank sites that have the most copyright complaints logged against them. In October 2014, Google made its biggest changes yet which resulted in traffic to torrent and other file-sharing sites taking a nosedive. And now, thanks to decisions made by Google, a simple search for KickassTorrents presents listings that do not include the real site at all, but fake sites looking for money instead. Deliberate disruption – but at what cost? While blocks are easily circumvented, it is clear that forcing sites from domain to domain undermines their reputation with users. To those not keeping up with the news on a regular basis, disappearing sites seem unreliable due to their own incompetence. When they are ‘found’ using Google but then start asking for credit card details, users must really begin to think the worst. While this must be music to the ears of Hollywood and the music industry, one has to question how many innocent victims are getting caught up in this mess. “I registered for a free trial to obtain pdf of washing machine manual but ended up with free trial of Fat Games which is all games, so had to ring this number to cancel trial,†said a user of the dubious service running hand-in-hand with fake site Living in the ghetto The instances detailed above are just the tip of the iceberg. With every new seizure, suspension and blockade, more scammers will see opportunities to make money by tricking users to sign up to bogus services while obtaining their credit card details by deception. Of course, none of these problems can be blamed directly on the music or movie companies since they aren’t the ones running the scams. That being said, whenever concern is expressed for the well-being of Internet users supposedly exposed to malware on pirate sites, at some point that concern should be extended to those subjected to malware and identity fraud as a result of anti-piracy strategies. Yeah, don’t hold your breath.
  4. BitTorrent Inc, the company behind the popular file-sharing client uTorrent, hopes to start a new revolution with its people-powered browser Maelstrom. Now that the first Beta has been released to the public ,developers can come up with interesting use cases, such as censorship free websites. San Francisco-based BitTorrent Inc. already has a few popular applications in its catalog, including uTorrent and Sync. However, with its new “people-powered†browser it hopes to spark another revolution. Project Maelstrom, as it’s called, is still in the early stages of development but the company has decided to push a Beta out to the public so developers can start building tools and services around it. In short, Maelstrom takes Google’s Chromium framework and stuffs a powerful BitTorrent engine under the hood, meaning that torrents can be played directly from the browser. More excitingly, however, Maelstrom also supports torrent-powered websites that no longer have to rely on central servers. By simply publishing a website in a torrent format the website will be accessible if others are sharing it. This can be assisted by web-seeds but also completely peer-to-peer. For example, earlier this week Wikileaks published a controversial archive of documents and emails that leaked after the Sony hack. If the hosting provider was forced to take the files down they would disappear but with Maelstrom-supported sites, users would be able to keep it online. The same is true for torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, which suffered weeks of downtime recently after the site’s servers were raided. BitTorrent powered page At the moment there are very few websites that support Maelstrom. There is an earlyWordPress plugin and others are experimenting with it as well, but wider adoption will need some time. That said, traditional magnet links work too, so people can play video and audio from regular torrent sites directly in the browser. BitTorrent Inc. informs TF that the main goal is to provide a new and open publishing platform. It’s now up to developers to use it to their advantage. “We believe in providing an alternative means for publishing that is neutral and that gives ownership back to those publishers. But one of our biggest goals with this release is just to get it out and into the hands of developers and see what emerges,†Maelstrom’s project lead Rob Velasquez says. And in that respect momentum is building. BitTorrent Inc. says that a community of more than 10,000 developers and 3,500 publishers has already been established, with tools to bring more on board now available via Github. While Maelstrom can bypass Internet censors, it’s good to keep in mind that all shared files are visible to the public. Maelstrom is caching accessed content to keep it seeded, so using a VPN might not be a bad idea. After all, users leave a trail of their browsing history behind. On the upside, Maelstrom can be more private for publishers as they don’t have to share any personal details with hosting companies or domain registrars. “The BitTorrent protocol remains the same, but it does mean that you no longer have to hand over personal, private data to domain registrars or hosting companies to put up a simple website,†Velasquez notes. The idea for a BitTorrent-powered browser is not new. The Pirate Bay started work on a related project last year with the aim of keeping the site online even if its servers were raided. It will be interesting to see if Maelstrom can get some traction. There’s still a long way to go, but the idea of an open and censorship-free web does sound appealing. With a Mac version still under a development, Project Maelstrom (beta) can be downloaded for Windows here.
  5. The High Court in Ireland has told ISP UPC that it must introduce a "three strikes" scheme to deal with subscribers who pirate music online. The ruling is a major victory for Sony, Universal and Warner who will only be required to pay 20% of the installation and running costs, with UPC picking up 80% of the tab. Half a decade ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to force a so-called “three strikes†regime on subscribers. The agreement saw IRMA-affiliated labels including Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online and Eircom forwarding infringement notices to alleged pirates. It was envisioned that those caught three times would be disconnected from the Internet. In a follow-up move IRMA tried to force another ISP, UPC, to implement the same measures. UPC fought back and over the past several years the matter has dragged on through the Irish legal system. In January 2015 the case was again before the Commercial Court, with IRMA looking to force a so-called “graduated response†scheme onto UPC and the ISP trying to avoid one and its costs. The High Court handed down its ruling Friday and it amounts to a massive victory for the labels, a depressing defeat for UPC, and a major concern for the rest of Ireland’s ISPs. Brushing aside arguments by UPC that it’s not an ISP’s job to police its subscribers’ activities online, Justice Brian Cregan sided almost entirely with the labels. “The current generation of writers, performers and interpreters of music cannot have their livelihoods destroyed by advances in technology which allow persons to breach their constitutional rights with impunity,†he said. After ordering UPC to implement a “three strikes†system including the disconnection of repeat offenders, the Judge then informed the ISP it would be picking up most of the bill. According to the system will cost between 800,000 euros and 940,000 euros to set up. UPC offered to pay 25% of these costs but the Judge disagreed and ordered the ISP to pay 80%. But it doesn’t end there. Yearly running costs are estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000 euros or, to put it another way, close to one euro for each of UPC’s 360,000 subscribers. Then, in a move apparently aimed at keeping costs down, the Judge ordered that the number of warning notifications going out to subscribers should be capped at 2,500 per month instead of the 5,000 originally proposed. That means that even if the staggering setup costs are ignored, each notice could cost 10 euros to send out. The case was adjourned until next month to allow UPC and the labels to prepare submissions on how Justice Cregan’s order will be implemented. In the meantime the rest of Ireland’s ISPs will be nervously checking their bank balances in the event that they too are required to implement a similarly costly system.
  6. Belgian Internet providers have won their court case against music group SABAM, which had demanded a 3.4 percent cut of all subscriber fees to compensate artists. The court ruled that ISPs are a mere conduit and can't be taxed as a public broadcast medium. Over the past several years Belgian music rights group SABAM has pressured Internet providers to take responsibility for online piracy. An effort to force ISPs to monitor and filter copyrighted material found itself stranded in the European Court, but the group didn’t give up. In one of its latest attempts SABAM sued the Belgian ISPs Belgacom, Telenet and Voo, claiming a 3.4 percent cut of all Internet subscriber fees as compensation for the rampant piracy they enable through their networks. SABAM argued that authors should be paid for all “public broadcasts†of musical compositions. Pirated downloads and streams on the Internet are such public broadcasts according to the group, and therefore require proper compensation. This proposed “pirate tax†would not make it legal for consumers to download from unauthorized sources. In their defense the ISPs countered that they are not liable for pirating consumers, as they are mere conduits. ISPs simply forward information without knowing what travels through their networks. This week the Brussels Court ruled in favor of the Internet provider. According to the court ISPs should be characterized as mere conduits instead of communication tools for public broadcasts. As a result, the music right group is not allowed to demand royalties from ISPs, which means that the controversal “pirate tax†is off the table for now. SABAM is disappointed with the verdict which, according to CEO Christophe Depreter, opposes the general view of the European Court of Justice. “The European Court of Justice has frequently stressed that the economic benefit that someone has from relaying works, is often crucial for the decision if this is an act of communication to the public that falls within the exclusive right of the author,†Depreter says. The music rights group is still considering what steps to take in response. Next week SABAM will announce whether or not it will appeal the verdict.
  7. 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.
  8. Russian officials have expressed caution over proposals to introduce an Internet tax to compensate copyright holders for online piracy. The proposals, which were put forward by the Russian Union of Rightsholders, are said to be worth around $860m a year to creators. Over the years there have been many strategies put forward aimed at reducing online piracy. Rightsholders have often pushed for tough legislation in the hope that hefty fines and lengthy jail sentences will encourage the masses to buy rather than download for free. Recent proposals in Russia, however, look at the problem from another direction. During October the Russian Union of Right Holders (RUR) suggested that a fixed royalty fee should be paid to rightsholders in exchange for people receiving certain freedoms to deal with online content. “[People would] get the right to freely and lawfully use for private purposes – including to receive, distribute and share – absolutely any content that is not excluded from the system of global licensing,†RUR told Izvestia. The proposals envision Internet service providers obtaining “universal licenses†from rightsholders or their collecting societies in order to legitimize the ‘infringements’ of their subscribers. While nothing has been set in stone, figures appearing in the press suggest an annual fee of anything up to $5 per subscriber. While the ‘tax’ could inflate ISP subscriptions by as much as 5% per year, reports suggest it could also bring in $860m for rightsholders. Unsurprisingly, the proposals have a number of potential pitfalls. Every Internet subscriber would be required to pay the tax, whether they are downloading copyrighted material for free or purchasing it legitimately. Also, public sharing of content would not be licensed, a serious limitation for most file-sharers. Furthermore, royalty charges would be “per deviceâ€, including home connections and cellphones, meaning some people could end up paying multiple times, whether they ‘pirate’ or not. For their part, ISPs have also expressed concerns that by accepting the proposals the Internet piracy ‘problem’ would be placed on their shoulders as they would have to collect fees from customers Even copyright holders seem to have issues with the proposals. Some say that no suitable system for distribution of royalties exists. Others are expressing concerns that the tax would amount to the legalization of piracy and the undermining of fledgling digital services. Still, reports now coming out of Russia suggest that the whole thing won’t easily or quickly get off the ground. Late Friday reported First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov as saying that the government “won’t be rushed†into a decision on the licensing model. All stakeholders need to negotiate, Shuvalov said. torrentfreak
  9. Kim Dotcom's Internet Party has scored just over 1.2% of the vote in New Zealand's parliamentary elections. It's a disappointing result that doesn't come close to the 5% required for a seat in Parliament. Dotcom takes full responsibility for the failure which he attributes to his "poisoned brand." January this year Kim Dotcom launched his Internet Party with an ambition to enter the New Zealand Parliament a few months later. The Internet entrepreneur could not run for election himself, but as the party’s president and visionary he would gain significant political power. Today New Zealanders went out to vote and the Internet Party was listed on the ballots in an alliance with the Mana Party. Voting booths officially closed at 7 PM local time and the provisional results show that Internet Mana failed to win a seat. The party managed 1.26% of the total vote, somewhat short of the 5% required to enter the New Zealand Parliament. A disappointing result after Dotcom spent more than $2 million on the party and its election campaign. Over the past several weeks Internet Mana received a lot of attention in the press. Dotcom actively campaigned against his arch-rival Prime Minister John Key, and earlier this week the party organized the “Moment of Truth†during which Edward Snowden, Glen Greenwald and Julian Assange all criticized New Zealand’s secret spying efforts. Despite the heavy critique of the Prime Minister, Key’s National Party became the overwhelming winner of the elections with nearly half of all votes. Following the defeat Dotcom apologized to Mana leader Hone Harawira and the Maori people. Mr Harawira lost his Parliament seat and Dotcom suggests that he may be to blame for the disappointing result. “I take full responsibility,†Dotcom said in a short speech. “The brand Kim Dotcom was poisoned … and I did not see that before the last couple of weeks.†After his speech Dotcom left the building, declining interview requests from local reporters. In a tweet Dotcom later congratulated the Prime Minister and his National Party on their win. “New Zealanders have chosen National and John Key to lead. I congratulate the Prime Minister. Please do your best for all Kiwis. Good luck,†he wrote. Responding to the results Internet Party leader Laila Harre said that the party’s policy went unreported in the media, which mostly focused on scandals and the dirty games being played. Harre thanked Dotcom for the opportunity to shake up New Zealand politics. She said that Dotcom became the symbol of Internet Mana, but that the party likely underestimated the impact this would have on the campaign. “There’s been a two-year campaign of vilification of Kim and that was clearly impacted on our campaign,†Harre noted.
  10. Rightscorp, a prominent piracy monitoring firm that works with Warner Bros. and other copyright holders, wants Grande Communications to reveal the identities alleged pirates linked to 30,000 IP-addresses/timestamp combinations. Unlike other providers the Texas ISP refused to give in easily, instead deciding to fight the request in court. grande_communicationsThere are many ways copyright holders approach today’s “online piracy problem.†Some prefer to do it through innovation, while others prefer educational messages, warnings or even lawsuits. Another group is aiming to generate revenue by obtaining lots of small cash settlements. Rightscorp has chosen the latter model but unlike traditional copyright trolls it uses the DMCA to reach its goal. On behalf of copyright holders such as Warner Bros. they send DMCA notices with a settlement offer to ISPs, who then forward them to their customers. Not all ISPs are cooperating with this scheme, but for this problem Rightscorp also found a solution. In recent months the company has requested more than 100 DMCA subpoenas, asking smaller ISPs to identify hundreds or thousands of alleged pirates. These DMCA subpoenas bypass the judge and only have to be signed off by a court clerk. In other words, Rightscorp uses an uncommon shortcut to cheaply and quickly expose the alleged pirates, and nearly all of the ISPs happily complied. The Texas ISP Grande Communications also received a signed subpoena in the mailbox, listing 30,000 IP-addresses/timestamp combinations of alleged pirates. However, Grande informed the court that it refuses to identify its account holders. Among other things, it argues that Rightscorp abuses the Court’s subpoena power. “The Subpoena is part of an ongoing campaign by Rightscorp to harvest ‘settlements’ from Internet subscribers (who may or may not have been the users of their accounts at the times and dates in question) located across the nation through an abuse of the subpoena power of the federal courts in California,†Grande’s lawyer writes. The Internet provider further notes that the anti-piracy company is only issuing these subpoenas to smaller regional ISPs as these are less likely to fight back. “As can be seen from the PACER listing, Rightscorp has avoided sending subpoenas to any of the national ISPs (such as Verizon, AT&T, or Comcast), but instead has sent subpoenas to regional ISPs in various locations around the nation,†Grande writes. “Presumably, Rightscorp is hoping that the regional ISPs, with smaller in-house legal departments, will be likely to simply comply with its subpoenas, especially given that those subpoenas bear the signature of the Clerk of the Court.†Grande then goes on to state that jurisprudence has long-established that DMCA subpoenas can’t be used to identify file-sharers. Instead, Rightscorp should file a copyright infringement lawsuit as many other copyright holders have, so that a judge can properly review the evidence and arguments. The ISP believes that Rightscorp is trying to bypass the scrutiny of a judge in order to avoid due process from taking place. This should not be allowed and Grande therefore asks the court to quash the subpoena. “Rightscorp’s purpose in improperly issuing subpoenas under [the DMCA] is clear: to avoid judicial review of the litany of issues that would arise in seeking the requisite authorization from a court for the discovery of the sought-after information, including issues relating to joinder, personal jurisdiction, and venue.†“In similar contexts and in no uncertain terms, the courts have stated that bypassing procedural rights of individual subscribers in order to harvest personal information en masse from a single proceeding will not be tolerated,†Grande adds. When we covered Rightscorp’s use of DMCA subpoenas earlier this year, several legal experts indeed said that DMCA subpoenas are not allowed in file-sharing cases. This was decided in a case between Verizon and the RIAA more than a decade ago, and has been upheld in subsequent cases. Rightscorp CEO Christopher Sabec disagreed, however, and he told TorrentFreak that the court made the wrong decision in the RIAA case. According to Sabec the verdict won’t hold up at the Supreme Court, so they’re ignoring it. “The [RIAA vs. Verizon] Court case used flawed reasoning in concluding that an ISP such as Verizon is not a ‘Service Provider’ even though it clearly meets the definition laid out in the statute,†Sabec said. “The issue has actually not been addressed by the vast majority of Circuit Courts. We believe that the decision you cite will be overturned when the issue reaches the Supreme Court,†he added. Whether Rightscorp is indeed willing to fight this up to the Supreme Court has yet to be seen. For now, however, the alleged pirates are safe at Grande Communications. It’s worth noting that Grande only has 140,000 customers. The 30,000 IP-address and timestamp combinations appear to include many duplicate entries, so the total number of affected subscribers is likely to be only a fraction of that number.
  11. The US telecoms giants have called on the FCC to block the big cities’ plans to expand high-speed Internet services. Verizon, AT&T and other telecoms giants want the FCC to block expansion of high-speed internet networks – one of the victims resides in Tennessee, and the other in North Carolina. USTelecom, representing the tech giants, claimed that the success of public broadband is a mixed record, with many examples of failures. Given that state taxpayers are on the financial hook when a municipal broadband network goes under, state legislatures should be cautious in limiting or blocking that activity. For example, Chattanooga in Tennessee has the largest high-speed Internet service in the country: its customers have access to speeds of 1 gigabit per second – this is 50 times faster than the average across the United States. The municipally owned EPB offers service, which has sparked a tech boom in the area and attracted worldwide attention. The company is now petitioning the FCC to expand its territory. It is also known that Comcast and other companies have sued EPB trying to prevent it from fibre optic roll out, but lost. Wilson in North Carolina is a town of only 49,000 people. It had to launch Greenlight, its own service that offered high-speed Internet, because residents complained about the cost and quality of Time Warner cable’s service. The latter lobbied the North Carolina senate to outlaw the service and prevent similar municipal efforts. Now the tech giants claim that the FCC has no legal standing over the proposed expansions and can’t preempt the North Carolina and Tennessee statutes which would prevent them. They explain that states have adopted a wide range of legislative approaches on how much authority they provide to local governments to operate their own broadband networks. Some of them require an election or public hearings before launching a public project, others ask for competitive bids. Still, others restrict the terms of service making the public entities bear the same regulatory burdens as private ones. The coalition also claims that states are within their rights to impose such restrictions, taking into consideration the potential impact on taxpayers in the case that public projects aren’t carefully weighed against private investment. Back in January 2014, the FCC issued the so-called “Gigabit City Challengeâ€, calling on providers to offer gigabit service in at least one community in each state by next year. The move came amid intense lobbying from telecoms giants to stop municipal and other rivals including Google from building and expanding high speed networks. In response, EPB claimed that communities should be given the right to decide on their broadband futures at the local level. It pointed out that while the private sector failed to serve everyone, public power companies made sure everyone had access to that critical infrastructure.
  12. Austria’s major Internet service providers were expected to block the largest BitTorrent tracker in the world and other infringing websites a few days ago. However, the deadlines passed without action from the ISPs, and now the entertainment groups are going to sue the largest broadband providers in the country in order to force them to cooperate. In response, ISPs claim they are ready for the legal fight. Let’s see what is going on in Europe. After both the European Court of Justice and the local Supreme Court had delivered favorable rulings on Internet filtering, a number of Austrian film companies were eager to see infringing sites blocked at the ISP level. So, the local anti-piracy association of the entertainment industry sent requests to a number of local broadband providers – UPC, Drei, Tele2 and A1 to block three domains – ThePirateBay, Movie4K and Kinox. The requests, sent to 5 local broadband providers, set a deadline of less than two weeks for the ISPs to block subscriber access to a number of “pirate†portals. The anti-piracy group and the ISPs negotiated the details, but the deadline expired with no moves from the providers. The courts confirmed that sometimes service providers can be required to block errant websites, but it looks like the ISPs didn’t want to take action following the requests from copyright owners. The broadband providers claimed that the decision to block websites should lie with the courts. Although the ISPs claimed they fully support the creative industries, they didn’t have any obligation or right to choose which content is accessed by their subscribers. This is why almost all ISPs have required a court order to restrict access to any portals, and Austria was no exception. Industry experts admit that it was always unlikely that the broadband providers would act without being legally required to do so. The ISPs are ready for legal action. In response, movie industry promised to launch a lawsuit concerning blocking against and against 4 largest Austrian ISPs. It was said that the lawsuits are prepared and are waiting almost only on their delivery. On the other hand, the music industry claimed it won’t be far behind. Since the deadline was missed without any response from the broadband providers, the music groups had their attorneys begin the preparations for legal action. Industry observers point out that those web-blocking cases being brought against Austrian Internet service providers are of particular importance for the industry, because they represent the first to take place following the March 27 ruling of the European Court of Justice. In the meantime, the copyright owners across the continent will closely watch how that ruling is interpreted.
  13. Industry experts have warned that a crash disabling eBay in Europe this week won’t be the last blackout, because the decades old systems of the web can’t hold the sheer weight of innovative devices and heavy websites. The worldwide web has passed a milestone in its relentless growth this week: apparently, traffic across a key element of the Internet reached unprecedented levels and led to meltdown for the older pieces of equipment responsible for keeping data flowing. One of the Internet traffic monitors revealed that the number of routes suffering outages had doubled to 12,600, while normally outages affect only 6,000 routes. As a result, eBay auctions ground to a halt, causing many complaints from the shopaholics, while office workers found themselves locked out of Microsoft’s cloud service Office 360 and password protection service LastPass. The engineers who were trying to fix the issue explained that the Internet simply broke under its own weight. The core of the problem appeared a system known as the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). This is actually a map of the web listing hundreds of thousands of routes or pathways that connect all devices to each other and to websites and company servers all over the world. Border Gateway Protocol lists routes for the external Internet, connecting networks owned by ISPs like BT or Virgin, linking them to each other, to foreign ISPs and to destinations like Apple or Google data centers. Over the last week, the number of routes mapped by BGP passed 512,000. This is significant because older routers fail to remember more than 512,000 routes. This is why some of the older models started to slow down or simply forget routes, thus causing outages. Other Internet observers blame the rise in traffic on an apparent mistake by Verizon, a US ISP. Its problem lasted only 5 minutes, but turned out to be big enough to bring down large swaths of the Internet. At the moment, most of the larger Internet companies are somewhere around the 500,000 mark. For instance, Level 3, which joins up national Internet companies, was somewhere at 498,000 a few days ago. In the meantime, the American tech giant Cisco has been warning since May that some of its older routers would collapse under the strain unless they were given a software update. The problem is that updating or replacing te routers can be complicated. But there is even bigger, related problem – the universe is running out of Internet addresses. National ISPs don’t want to move away from the current system which assigns an Inhternet address to each device, just like phone numbers. Fortunately, the next generation, IPv6, uses more digits and combines them with letters, so it will provide more addresses than the planet is ever likely to need. Some parts of the United States have already adopted the new address system. As for the UK, its broadband providers have issued some Wi-Fi boxes to their residential customers capable of using it, and one ISP is running both systems in parallel, but none of them has entirely made the switch.
  14. With browsers Chrome, Firefox, and Safari on the rise today, some would believe that Internet Explorer (or IE as it’s called nowadays) would be on the way out. Not true, according to an “Ask Me Anything†(AMA) session on Reddit recently. Microsoft engineers made the case that they can change the public’s perception of Internet Explorer and that they feel this obligation weighing upon themselves: “Often times the decision to not use Internet Explorer is largely based on experiences from a decade ago, and a much different IE. That being said, and we know that it’s our job to change the public perception, and to win the hearts of users everywhere. Each [person] who opens IE, and downloads another browser, is another person we’ll be working even harder tomorrow to win back.†While this Microsoft engineer may have meant what he said about bad experiences from a decade ago, there are a number of IE users we meet everyday across the World Wide Web that are using IE now and still find it repulsive as compared to Mozilla’s FireFox and Google’s Chrome web browsers. This goes to show that not everyone has a 10-year-old perception of IE that’s preventing him or her from embracing Microsoft’s web browser. Some individuals still find IE to be terrible at the mobile experience. Last but not least, Google’s Chrome browser has become something that works for mobile in general, whether using a laptop PC, desktop PC, or smartphone or tablet. Chrome also syncs with your content on other devices so that you can always get back to that page you were reading from earlier, without fail. Internet Explorer has had its share of bugs and viruses (as have other web browsers), but IE seems as though it’s still stuck in the era when desktop PCs were the face of mobile. This has been one of the complaints we’ve heard from current Windows users as to why they despise Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Many a Windows user has stated that they’d rather hang on to Windows 7 than try to navigate the desktop/mobile mess that’s become Windows 8, and Internet Explorer seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution. And yet, at the same time, even if Internet Explorer does change its name from IE 12 to something else (we don’t know what they’d call it), we still don’t see this freeing Microsoft’s web browser from its past. Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and other web browsers have had their share of problems in the past, but they’ve made efforts to overcome their problems and push forward to give readers a better experience. Some aren’t willing to give IE a chance because of its past, but some aren’t willing to try IE simply because what they currently have provided as good of an option as they can get. What we’d rather see is IE get to a place where it pays attention to what customers want and improves the experience of IE. Improvement may not help the web browser reach its former glory, but it may help IE regain some respect in the eyes of current (and former) customers.
  15. Def Con presentation unveils OPSEC tool for the rest of us—some assembly required. The news over the past few years has been spattered with cases of Internet anonymity being stripped away, despite (or because) of the use of privacy tools. Tor, the anonymizing “darknet†service, has especially been in the crosshairs—and even some of its most paranoid users have made a significant operational security (OPSEC) faux pas or two. Hector “Sabu†Monsegur, for example, forgot to turn Tor on just once before using IRC, and that was all it took to de-anonymize him. (It also didn’t help that he used a stolen credit card to buy car parts sent to his home address.) If hard-core hacktivists trip up on OPSEC, how are the rest of us supposed to keep ourselves hidden from prying eyes? At Def Con, Ryan Lackey of CloudFlare and Marc Rogers of Lookout took to the stage (short their collaborator, the security researcher known as “the grugq,†who could not attend due to unspecified travel difficulties) to discuss common OPSEC fails and ways to avoid them. They also discussed their collaboration on a set of tools that promises to make OPSEC easy—or at least easier—for everyone. Called Personal Onion Router To Assure Liberty (PORTAL), the project is a pre-built software image for an inexpensive pocket-sized “travel router†to automatically protect its owner’s Internet traffic. Portal provides always-on Tor routing, as well as “pluggable†transports for Tor that can hide the service’s traffic signature from some deep packet inspection systems. Counter-surveilance for everyone There are plenty of reasons why an average person should care about OPSEC today, Lackey explained in his introduction to the session. “We're not really talking about people hiding while doing lots of bad stuff,†he said. “There are a lot of reasons why you'd want to hide. Especially post-Snowden. Part of it is to avoid global dragnets- you want to make sure if someone is monitoring everything, you don't want to get caught up in that.†Monitoring also could result in profiling based on “somebody living next door to you making a phone call," Lackey added, “which because of the way the software works could end up flagging or profiling you…but it’s also just an issue of ‘none of your damned business.’†Even encrypted connections provide metadata about an individual’s activities, as do patterns in an individual’s Internet traffic—which Ars found when we monitored the Internet traffic of NPR’s Steve Henn. But there’s a great deal of traffic that remains unencrypted, as Rogers noted during the presentation. “Before the Snowden leaks, about one percent of Internet traffic was SSL protected,†he said. “Now it’s about three percent.†The tools in PORTAL aren’t rocket science, Rogers told the Def Con audience. “The difference is that we’re packaging [tools] together and showing you how you can use these tools so you don’t have to think about it, and you can avoid the problems caused by human error.†Virtual private networks provide some privacy, Lackey and Rogers said, but they don’t provide real anonymity—some VPN providers (particularly those in the US) keep logs of traffic, and they don’t provide end-to-end protection. Tor protects traffic for much of the trip—at least until they reach the exit node used to access the website or Internet service being requested. But Tor has hazards as well—in its basic form, it alerts those doing the monitoring that Tor is being used, and can result in the user being targeted or blocked. While there are other Tor-based tools to help protect anonymity, such as the Tor Browser bundle and the TAILS “live†CD and USB-bootable operating system, these are prone to accidental errors—like not waiting for Tor to be ready for traffic, or simple misconfiguration. TAILS is restrictive, because it isolates the user within a Linux environment without access to local storage—not a great option for people who want to work with the operating system and software they use for their work. “TAILS is a great project and piece of software, but it makes security assumptions about hardware which are probably not true today,†Lackey told Ars in an email interview after Def Con. Privacy in your pocket That's where the “travel router†comes in. Lackey said that a customized, secure router that allows people to just connect with their existing device over Ethernet or Wi-Fi is the “sweet spot†for maintaining anonymity. It isolates encryption and obfuscation from the user’s computer, and eliminates the risk of the user forgetting to turn protection on. “The big advantage of something like PORTALl is being able to isolate failures to a dedicated outboard device, and with a conceptually simple UI/UX,†Lackey told Ars. “It's a physical device, and when it's present and connected in line, traffic must pass through it. It never has your sensitive information on it.†There are other low-cost routers available for privacy, such as the PogoPlug Safeplug. But Safeplug only offers basic Tor protection—making it impractical for use in countries such as China, where Internet surveillance systems watch for and shut down Tor traffic. The same goes for Onion Pi, a Raspberry Pi-based Tor appliance. Portal includes the full capabilities of Tor—including pluggable transports for Tor, which can conceal Tor traffic from many of the network monitoring tools that look for patterns in packet data. There is an ever-expanding collection of pluggable transports, including: Bananaphone, which turns Tor traffic into “natural language†streams of words. Obfs4 and Scramblesuit, which obfuscate Tor by encrypting everything in Tor Transport Layer Security packets, eliminating the plaintext headers that identify the traffic. Flashproxy, which wraps Tor traffic in WebSocket format, disguises it with an XOR cipher, and bounces it through short-lived JavaScript proxies running in other computers’ browsers. Format-Transforming Encryption (FTE), which encodes Tor traffic to look like another protocol, such as SSH—avoiding detection by “regular expression†network filtering. Meek, which disguises Tor as ordinary web traffic sent to Google, then forwards it through a third-party server. The main drawback of PORTAL is that it currently isn’t a hardware product—it’s a Github download that must be “flashed†onto a TP-Link compatible pocket router. “The whole build process, management, etc. wasn't available at Def Con,†Lackey said. “Turning this into a tool directly usable by end users, or at least "power users" or sysadmins responsible for a group of users, is important, and something we're working on. Watch this space. Being able to flash your own devices is great, but for [more than] 95 percent of users today, they don't even want to do that much (nor should they be expected to!), so we're working on a solution.â€
  16. The latest “State of the Internet†study crowned Virginia with the speediest Internet access, while Alaska was ranked the slowest in the United States. The report was conducted and published by Akamai Technologies. Surprisingly, California was not stamped as one of the state’s offering the fastest Internet services. Various factors considered, while deciding the fastest and the slowest Internet service in U.S, were the health of the computer, the broadband provider, exact location of the house where the service is being used, the programs that are running, the quantity of computer memory, add-on programs, spyware and viruses. Apparently, Akamai Technologies is the leading provider of cloud services. In administering the study, the latter pointed out the average Internet speed of every state in the U.S. Here is the list of the top ten States: Virginia – 13.7 Mbps Delaware and Massachusetts – 13.1 Mbps Rhode Island – 12.9 Mbps District of Columbia – 12.8 Mbps Washington – 12.5 Mbps New Hampshire – 12.3 Mbps Utah – 12.1 Mbps Michigan – 11.8 Mbps Connecticut – 11.7 Mbps Sadly, California, despite being the birthplace of high tech industry, ranked No. 20 in the “State of the Internet†report. Its average Internet speed was 10.9 Mbps. This was due to the many rural areas found in that state that decreased their average state speed. Landing in the bottom 10 with the slowest Internet services are Idaho, Louisiana and Missouri with 7.7 Mbps, New Mexico and Mississippi standing at 7.6 Mbps, West Virginia at 7.5 Mbps, Montana, Kentucky and Arkansas together with 7.3 Mbps and last one Alaska with 7.0 Mbps. South Korea’s whopping average Internet speed of 23.6 Mbps surely shocked the United States. It was not even close with that of Virginia’s.
  17. Coming in with an average of 13.7 megabits per second, the Southern state boasts the speediest broadband service in the country. If you're looking for the fastest Internet service in the US, you should pack your bags for Virginia. With an average of 13.7 megabits per second, Virginia tops the country for the speediest Internet access, according to Broadview Networks. What state has the slowest broadband speed? Alaska, with an average of 7 Mbps. How fast is the home of Silicon Valley -- California? It comes in No. 20 with an average of 10.9 Mbps. Broadview Networks created a map (seen above) that shows which states have the fastest Internet service and which ones lag. The cloud services provider got the data from Akamai's "State of the Internet" report (PDF) released in June. According to Akamai, if a state has an average speed higher than 10 Mbps it counts as having "high broadband." In all, 26 states achieved this status. And, no state fell into the "low broadband" category, which is an average lower than 4 Mbps. Kansas was the state that showed the most improvement over last year, with a 91 percent increase in speed. This is likely due to Google's inauguration of its super-high-speed fiber Internet service in November 2012.Looking at the map, one can see that the West Coast, Midwest, and Northeast (except for Maine) tend to have the fastest Internet, while some Southern states, like Arkansas and Kentucky, seem to have slower service. Akamai's report also looks at Internet speeds around the world. The country with the fastest service is South Korea with an average of 23.6 Mbps. In second place, and far behind South Korea, is Japan with an average of 14.6 Mbps. How does the US rank overall worldwide? It's No. 10 with an average of 10.5 Mbps.
  18. French anti-piracy authority Hadopi has revealed that in the first four years of its operations it sent initial file-sharing warnings to 9% of French Internet subscribers. Just over 10% of those subscriber accounts went on to receive a second warning, with just 0.4% getting a third. Overall, 116 individuals went on to the court stage. France was one of the first countries in the world to consider implementing a “three strikes†style regime for dealing with online piracy. The system was implemented four years ago and ever since has been under scrutiny as both rightsholders and critics assess its efficacy. Hadopi, the authority responsible for administering the scheme, has just published its latest report presenting its key figures to July 1 this year and they make interesting reading. The cornerstone of the scheme is the warning system, with great importance attached to the first notices sent to subscribers. If the anti-infringement message can be successfully delivered at this stage, fewer follow-ups will be required. Hadopi reveals that since it sent the very first warning notice in 2009, the agency has gone on to send 3,249,481 first warnings to Internet subscribers. It’s a sizable amount that represents almost 9% of all Internet users in France. The big question, however, is how many took action to avoid receiving a second warning. According to Hadopi, during the same period it sent 333,723 second phase warnings by regular mail, a re-offending rate of just over 10%. Those who receive first and second warnings but still don’t get the message go on to receive a third notice. Hadopi says that a total of 1,502 Internet subscribers received three warnings, just 0.45% of those who were sent a second. The agency’s figures state that a large proportion of this group, 1,289 overall, had their cases examined by Hadopi’s committee. Of these, 116 cases went before a judge. Most received yet another warning. Also of interest are the reactions of 31,379 subscribers who telephoned Hadopi after receiving an infringement notice. According to the agency, 35% “spontaneously agreed†the accuracy of the facts set out in their warnings, with around 25% engaging or offering to take measures to avoid content being made available from their connections in the future. Reportedly less than 1% challenged the facts as laid out. On the education front, over the past six months around 72,000 users have accessed an information video on the Hadopi website, while 49,000 sought information on what to do after receiving a warning. The figures presented by Hadopi French, (pdf) clearly show a low re-offending rate, with an impressive gap between those receiving first and second warnings. Hadopi sees this as an indicator of the system’s success, although there is always the possibility that subscribers wised-up on security and safer methods of downloading after getting the first notice. That being said, the agency counters this notion by citing figures from a small poll carried out among letter recipients which found that 73% of those who received a warning did not subsequently shift to another method of illegal downloading. However, that doesn’t mean they all jumped on the iTunes bandwagon either. “Receiving a warning does not result in a massive shift towards legal offers,†Hadopi explains. Overall, 23% of respondents who received a warning said they went on to use a legal service. That suggests that three quarters simply dropped off the media consumption radar altogether, which doesn’t sound like a realistic proposition. Next year will see half a decade of graduated response in France. Will media sales have gone through the roof as a result? Time will tell, but it seems highly unlikely.
  19. Rightscorp, a prominent piracy monitoring firm that works with Warner Bros. and other copyright holders, claims that 140 U.S. ISPs are actively disconnecting repeat copyright infringers. While these numbers sound rather impressive, there's a lot more to the story. For more than a decade copyright holders have been sending ISPs takedown notices to alert account holders that their connections are being used to share copyrighted material. These notices are traditionally nothing more than a warning, hoping to scare file-sharers into giving up their habit. However, anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has been very active in trying to make the consequences more serious. The company monitors BitTorrent networks for people who download titles owned by the copyright holders they work for, and then approaches these alleged pirates via their Internet providers. The ISPs are asked to forward Rightscorp’s settlement demands to the alleged infringer, which is usually around $20 per shared file. The settlement approach is a bigger stick than the standard warnings and according to Rightscorp it’s superior to the six-strikes scheme. And there’s more. The company also wants Internet providers to disconnect subscribers whose accounts are repeatedly found sharing copyrighted works. Christopher Sabec, CEO of Rightscorp, says that they have been in talks with various Internet providers urging them to step up their game. Thus far a total of 140 ISPs are indeed following this disconnection principle. “We push ISPs to suspend accounts of repeat copyright infringers and we currently have over 140 ISPs that are participating in our program, including suspending the accounts of repeat infringers,†Sabec says. During a presentation at the Anti-Piracy Summit in Los Angeles Rightscorp recently pitched this disconnection angle to several interested parties. Rightscorp presentation slide By introducing disconnections Rightcorp hopes to claim more settlements to increase the company’s revenue stream. They offer participating ISPs a tool to keep track of the number of warnings each customer receives, and the providers are encouraged to reconnect the subscribers if the outstanding bills have been paid. “All US ISPs have a free Rightscorp website dashboard that identifies these repeat infringers and notifies the ISPs when they have settled their cases with our clients. We encourage the ISPs to restore service once the matter has been settled and there is no longer an outstanding legal liability,†Sabec told TorrentFreak. Cutting off repeat infringers is also in the best interests of ISPs according to Rightscorp, who note that it is a requirement for all providers if they are to maintain their DMCA safe harbor. Rightscorp is indeed correct in stating that Internet providers have to act against repeat infringers. The DMCA requires ISPs to “… adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers and account holders of the service provider’s system or network who are repeat infringers.†However, legal experts and Internet providers interpret the term “repeat infringer†differently. For example, AT&T previously said that it would never terminate accounts of customers without a court order, arguing that only a court can decide what constitutes a repeat infringement. Comcast on the other hand, previously told us that they are disconnecting repeat infringers, although it’s not clear after how many warnings that is. Nevertheless, Rightscorp claims that their approach has been a great success and proudly reports that 140 ISPs are actively disconnecting subscribers. So does this mean that all U.S. Internet subscribers are at risk of receiving a settlement request or losing their Internet access? Well, not really. Most of the larger Internet providers appear to ignore Rightscorp’s settlement notices. Comcast, for example, does forward the notice but takes out the settlement offer. Verizon, AT&T and other major ISPs appear to do the same. Thus far, Charter seems to be the only major provider that forwards Rightscorp’s requests in full. The 140 ISPs Rightscorp is referring to are mostly smaller, often local ISPs, who together hold a tiny market share. Not insignificant perhaps, but it’s a nuance worth adding.
  20. 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 and 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 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.
  21. Kim Dotcom's Internet Party has proposed drastic changes to New Zealand's "outdated" copyright law. One of the key proposals is to legalize the circumvention of geo-blocking restrictions, so that Hollywood has an incentive to release content globally. In addition, the party also wants to get rid of Internet disconnections under the three-strikes law. Last January, exactly two years after the Megaupload raid, Kim Dotcom entered New Zealand’s political arena with the launch of hisInternet Party. The party is currently preparing for the general election in September. While Dotcom will not be on the voting ballot himself, he remains one of the main influencers of the party’s policy. As the name suggests, many of the party’s core issues revolve around the Internet, copyright included. Today the Internet Party released a draft of its copyright policy with several suggestions for an overhaul of current legislation. One of the key issues the Internet Party wants to change is the liability New Zealanders face for using VPN services and other circumvention tools to access legal content. At the moment, it is illegal for them to stream content from U.S-based Hulu and Netflix via proxies or VPNs. TorrentFreak spoke with Kim Dotcom who notes that consumers shouldn’t be punished for the inability of Hollywood to release its content globally. Dotcom hopes that these changes will eventually put a stop to the unnecessary release delays. “The primary goal of this policy is to force copyright holders to release their content globally, without geographical restrictions. If a TV-show is not available in New Zealand for three months after the U.S. release, there should be no enforcement during this period,†Dotcom tells us. “Content owners should be held responsible, not the public. The ‘geo blocking’ proposal forces Hollywood to change its business model and release its content worldwide without delays,†he adds. Dotcom hopes that the Internet Party proposal will serve as model for future copyright law that will eventually be adopted around the world. Hulu’s Geo Blocking Internet Party leader Laila Harré notes that the current situation is unmanageable. The Internet has made it possible to release content worldwide without any delays, but content owners refuse to give consumers what they want. “A Kiwi who wants to watch the latest season of first run TV shows like Games of Thrones, for example, shouldn’t be forced to jump through hoops to access what should be legally and easily available online. It’s a ridiculous situation in this day and age,†Harré notes. Thus far most progress has subsequently been drawn in the opposite direction. In an attempt to crack down on people who bypass geo restrictions, Hulu recently started to ban all visitors who use a VPN connection. Instead of fighting circumvention, the Internet Party believes that copyright holders should address the root of the problem themselves. Making sure that the latest TV-shows can be watched legally is a must, and although some progress has been made over the years, the legal options are still lacking. “Some excellent work has been done by some copyright owners and content providers to make good legal options available to New Zealanders. But there’s still a long way to go, especially for some types of content such as globally popular first run television shows broadcast overseas but not available in New Zealand for weeks or months, if at all,†Harré says. Aside from geo blocking issues, the Internet Party also wants to abolish the Internet disconnection sanction available under New Zealand’s “three-strikes†law, and strengthen the “safe harbor†provisions for Internet services to prevent abuse by copyright holders. The full draft of the Internet Party’s copyright and open research policy is available here.
  22. Twenty years of open access has allowed us to build the Internet into a powerful economic engine; a platform for the free exchange of information and ideas. Striking down protection of that open access is a major threat to innovation, free speech, and the Internet as we know it. A closed Internet is unproven. There is merit in being concerned. Because no matter how the DC Court of Appeals had ruled on Net Neutrality, the Internet is heading down the path of closure. It’s increasingly becoming a place where the precious few decide on our collective online future. Either way the case had gone, the outcome remains the same. Only those with pockets deep enough to fund government affairs, lobbyists, or submit the payola demanded by corporate gatekeepers will thrive. Tech has become a world of winner take all. Today’s decision only reinforces the trend. That said, for the ISPs, it’s a momentous decision. This ruling will consolidate their powerful role as arbiters of culture and speech. And we can expect this consolidation to escalate now that Big Content and Big Networks have been given an unambiguous green light. For everyone else, permission to play — the ability to even compete — will come at a cost. What is the impact on consumers? The vast majority of users on the Internet will succumb to the siren song of “free data†and “sponsored dataâ€; never quite realizing the old adage about free lunch. Millions will never care or know to care about the free and open Internet that once was, and could have been. The impact may be subtle: favored applications that work better as competitors are relegated to the slow lane. Or, it may be more pronounced, with punitive traffic throttling or blocking for competitors. But to paraphrase Larry Lessig, code is law. Technology perhaps has a role to play yet. The Internet has seen challenges before, and many smart innovators hold its future dear to heart. There can be a way to counter the inevitable market distortions that are set to come about. Our implementation of uTP for network congestion control has proven that. And we may yet deliver on the original promise of the Internet as an open, social and democratic medium for all and not just the chosen few. For technologists, this is a call for innovation. We need a new series of protocols that — regulated or not — cannot be manipulated by carriers or other forces. This is a call for a true, open internet.
  23. At BitTorrent, we’ve been a central figure in the defense of an open Internet from the earliest moments of the Net Neutrality debate. We’ve always taken a strong stance and firmly believe an open Internet is worth fighting for. We helped solve the issue for the ISPs during the first round of this argument with theimplementation of uTP, which relieved heavy bandwidth usage during peak hours. Most recently we were among the first to strongly state that leaving an open Internet unprotected would have dire consequences. With the FCC codifying the ability for ISPs to discriminate against Internet traffic and implement a pay-for-play Fast Lane, our worst fears may come true. That is why we have published an open letter to the FCC at The letter outlines our thoughts on the proposed changes to Net Neutrality. As we’ve stated in the past, these changes will harm innovation, free speech, and user-choice. To help paint a picture of what the new reality for the Internet might look like, we also created which gives a satirical peek at a future without Net Neutrality. At least we hope it’s satirical; as many have commented in the past few weeks, the proposition is all too real. This is an important moment in the history of the Internet. Collectively, we are the ones who get to decide what the next 20 years of the Internet will look like. Take a close look at and and take this opportunity to make your voices heard. We also posted a copy of our letter below: The open Internet facilitated a rapid expansion of new innovations. For over two decades it fueled unprecedented economic and creative growth. It served as a platform for the free exchange of information and ideas. It allowed companies such as ourselves to challenge the status-quo and introduce new technologies directly to the world. It served as a democratic medium that did not discriminate. It was the final frontier that provided everyone with an equal opportunity for success. Today, we face a future in which the open Internet could be shut down. The FCC’s proposed changes to Net Neutrality would create a preferential fast lane for designated traffic. Those with the deep pockets to pay for this fast lane will have the ability to access and distribute content at higher speeds. Those who lack the purchasing power will be disadvantaged. This moves us towards an Internet of discrimination. In a world where we speak in shared photos and video streams, to bias traffic is to bar free speech. In a world where Internet access is fundamental to enterprise and invention, to bias traffic is to effectively end innovation. The stakes are this high. A fast lane marks the end of consumer choice. We will no longer be able to decide how we want to use the Internet. Instead the chasm between fast and slow content will continue to grow until we are are forced towards a curated internet that is devoid of diversity. An open Internet is worth protecting. We are at a crossroads, and the decisions made in the upcoming months will set a precedent for decades to come. We want to be on the right side of history. We want our children and our grandchildren to have the same opportunities we have been afforded. Now is the time to take action. This is the generation that will decide if tomorrow’s Internet will be a platform for freedom and opportunity, or a tool for control and monetization. Check out the resources below and make your voices heard. The FCC has asked us to weigh in on the proposed changes to Net Neutrality. Write a personal note and let them know we should fight to keep an open Internet. helps walk you through the process. Contact the FCC Call or write your local Congress representative. Be polite. Tell them that the future of innovation requires an open Internet. Ask them to take a stand against any proposal that introduces a “fastlaneâ€.
  24. New research from Tennessee Tech University shows that certain forms of online piracy are linked to Internet addiction related problems. In addition, the research shows that high school students who pirate are more likely to have deviant or criminal friends. Over the past decade a lot of research has looked at the effects of online piracy, particularly on the revenues of various entertainment industries. Increasingly researchers are also examining the sociological links, causes and effects of copyright infringement. A new study conducted by Tennessee Tech University’s Jordana Navarro is a good example. With a large survey Navarro and her colleagues investigated the link between piracy, internet addiction and deviant tendencies. The results were published in an articletitled “Addicted to pillaging in cyberspace: Investigating the role of internet addiction in digital piracy,†which appears in the latest issue of the Computers and Human Behavior journal. The researchers conducted a large-scale survey among 1,617 students from 9th through 12th grade. The participants were asked a wide range of questions, covering their piracy habits, as well as scales to measure Internet addiction and association with deviant friends. The findings on the piracy side are comparable to many previous studies and show that movie piracy is most prevalent. Nearly 30% of the students admitted to pirating movies, and this percentage went down to 15% and 13% for music and software piracy respectively. One of the more interesting findings is the link between piracy and Internet addiction. Here, the researchers found that students who have more internet addiction related issues are more likely to pirate software. “Based on the results of the study, we can determine that high school students who have Internet-related problems due to addiction are more likely to commit a specific form of piracy involving the illegal downloading of software,†the researchers write. The same group of software pirates were also more likely to hang out with deviant friends. This measure includes friends who pirate, those who threaten others with violence online, those who send nude pictures, and those who have used another person’s credit card or ID without permission. “Not surprisingly, youth who committed this form of piracy were also more likely to have deviant peers. In other words, their behaviors were influenced by friends who committed similar or other deviant acts,†the researchers conclude. Interestingly, the link between Internet addiction and copyright infringement was only found for software piracy. High school students who pirated movies and music were not more likely to have these type of problems. They were, however, more likely to associate with deviant or criminal friends. “The remaining two forms of piracy for juveniles are not predicted by Internet addiction based on our findings. However, the results did support past findings that deviant peer association and piracy behaviors are significant related,†the researchers write. According to the researchers the results are a good first step in identifying how various problems and deviant behaviors are linked, which could be helpful to shape future educational efforts. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t offer any explanations for the differences in the link between Internet addiction and various types of piracy. One likely explanation is that those who show more signs of Internet addiction simply spend more time on the computer, and are therefore more interested in software piracy and software in general. For now, it appears that some more follow-up research is needed before it’s warranted to send the first batch of kids to piracy rehab.