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Found 28 results

  1. The MPAA is refusing to hand over documentation discussing the legal case it helped Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood build against Google. According to the Hollywood group, Google is waging a PR war against Hollywood while facilitating and profiting from piracy. Late last year leaked documents from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi State Attorney General Hood to revive SOPA-esque censorship efforts in the United States. In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret effort. As part of these proceedings Google also demanded internal communication from the MPAA, but the Hollywood group has been hesitant to share these details. After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered Google took the MPAA to court earlier this month. The search giant asked a Columbia federal court to ensure that the MPAA and its law firm Jenner & Block hands over the requested documents. The MPAA and its law firm responded to the complaint this week, stressing that Google’s demands are overbroad. They reject the argument that internal discussions or communications with its members and law firm will reveal Attorney General Hood’s intent, not least due to the Attorney General not being part of these conversations himself. According to the Hollywood group, Google’s broad demands are part of a public relations war against the MPAA, one in which Google inaccurately positions itself as the victim. “Google portrays itself as the innocent victim of malicious efforts to abridge its First Amendment rights. In reality, Google is far from innocent,†the MPAA informs the federal court (pdf). The MPAA notes that Google is knowingly facilitating and profiting from distributing “illegal†content, including pirated material. “Google facilitates, and profits from, the distribution of third-party content that even Google concedes is ‘objectionable.’ ‘Objectionable’ is Google’s euphemism for ‘illegal’,†the MPAA writes. The opposition brief states that for a variety of reasons the subpoenaed documents are irrelevant to the original lawsuit and are far too broad in scope. The MPAA’s initial searches revealed that 100,000 documents would likely require review, many of which it believes are protected by attorney-client privilege. The MPAA says that Google is trying to leverage the information revealed in the Sony hack to expose the MPAA’s broader anti-piracy strategies in public, and that this is all part of an ongoing PR war. “The purpose of these Subpoenas is to gather information — beyond the information that was already stolen via the Sony hack on which it relies — on the MPAA’s strategies to protect its members’ copyrighted material and address violations of law on the Internet affecting its members’ copyrights and the rights of others,†they write. “Moreover, Google openly admits that it opposes any order to keep these discovery materials in confidence, revealing its goal to disseminate these documents publicly as part of its ongoing public relations war.†Positioning itself as the victim, the MPAA goes on to slam Google for going after anyone who “dares†to expose the search engine’s alleged facilitation of piracy and other unlawful acts. “…the most fundamental purpose of these Subpoenas is to send a message to anyone who dares to seek government redress for Google’s facilitation of unlawful conduct: If you and your attorneys exercise their First Amendment right to seek redress from a government official, Google will come after you.†In conclusion, the MPAA and its law firm ask the court to reject Google’s broad demands and stop the “abuse†of the litigation process. It’s now up to the judge to decide how to proceed, but based on the language used, the stakes at hand and the parties involved, this dispute isn’t going to blow over anytime soon. It’s more likely to blow up instead. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-google-assists-and-profits-from-piracy-150617/
  2. Hoping to find out more about the secret Internet censorship plans Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood was pushing, Google is now taking the MPAA to court. After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered, the search giant is now asking a New York federal court to ensure that the MPAA other parties hand over the requested information. Helped by the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. In response to the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This resulted in a victory for Google with District Court Judge Henry Wingate putting the subpoena on hold. At the same time Google requested additional details from the Attorney General and various other parties involved in the scheme, including the MPAA. Thus far, however, these requests haven’t proven fruitful. In a motion to compel directed at the MPAA (pdf), Google explains that the movie industry group and other petitioned parties have yet to hand over the requested information. “To date, the subpoenaed parties have produced nothing,†Google’s lawyers inform the court. “They have inexplicably delayed producing the few documents they agreed to turn over, and have objected that many of their documents, including internal notes or summaries of meetings with AG Hood, are irrelevant or protected by some unsubstantiated privilege.†In addition to the MPAA, Google has also filed similar motions against the MPAA’s law firm Jenner & Block, Digital Citizens Alliance, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Viacom. All parties thus far have refused to hand over the requested information, which includes communication with and prepared for the Attorney General, as well as emails referencing Google. According to the MPAA this information is “irrelevant†or privileged, but Google disagrees. “The relevance objections are meritless. As Judge Wingate has already held, there is substantial evidence that the Attorney General’s actions against Google were undertaken in bad faith and for a retaliatory purpose,†the motion reads. According to Google’s legal team the documents will shine a light on how the MPAA and others encouraged and helped the Attorney General to push for Internet censorship. “Google expects the documents will show that the Attorney General, the Subpoenaed Parties, and their lobbyists understood that his actions invaded the exclusive province of federal law,†the motion reads. “More fundamentally, the documents are likely to show that the Attorney General’s investigation was intended not to uncover supposed violations of Mississippi law, but instead to coerce Google into silencing speech that Viacom, Fox, and NBC do not like…†District Court Judge James Boasberg has referred the case to a magistrate judge (pdf), who will discuss the matter in an upcoming hearing. Considering the stakes at hand, the players involved will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. https://torrentfreak.com/google-takes-mpaa-to-court-over-secret-censorship-plans-150603/
  3. Popular torrent site BT-Chat.com has decided to throw in the towel after receiving a hand delivered letter from the MPAA. The Hollywood studios argue that the torrent index is in violation of U.S. law, and accuse its operators of contributory copyright infringement. Over several years the Canada-based torrent index BT-Chat has grown to become one of the most popular among TV and movie fans. The site was founded over a decade ago and has been running without any significant problems since. Starting a few days ago, however, the site’s fortunes turned. Without prior warning or an official explanation the site went offline. Instead of listing the latest torrents, an ominous message appeared with a broken TV signal in the background. “Error 791-the internet is shutdown due to copyright restrictions,†the mysterious message read. Initially is was unclear whether the message hinted at hosting problems or if something more serious was going on. Many of the site’s users hoped for the former but a BT-Chat insider informs TF that the site isn’t coming back anytime soon. The site’s operators have decided to pull the plug after receiving a hand delivered letter from the Canadian MPA, which acts on behalf of its American parent organization the MPAA. In the letter, shown below, Hollywood’s major movie studios demand that the site removes all infringing torrents. “We are writing to demand that you take immediate steps to address the extensive copyright infringement of television programs and motion pictures that is occurring by virtue of the operation of the Internet website www.BT-Chat.com.†The MPAA makes its case by citing U.S. copyright law, and states that linking to unauthorized movies and TV-shows constitutes contributory copyright infringement. Referencing the isoHunt case the movie studios explicitly note that it’s irrelevant whether or not a website actually hosts infringing material. “It makes no difference that your website might not have infringing content on it, or only links to infringing content,†the letter says. The threats from Hollywood have not been taken lightheartedly by the BT-Chat team. While giving up a site that they worked on for more than a decade is not easy, the alternative is even less appealing. In the end thry decided that it would be for the best to shut the site down, instead of facing potential legal action. And so another popular site bites the dust… https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-threats-shut-down-popular-torrent-site-bt-chat-150529/
  4. Developers considering adding a torrent search engine to their portfolio should proceed with caution, especially if they value their income streams. Following a complaint from the MPAA one developer is now facing a six month wait for PayPal to unfreeze thousands in funds, the vast majority related to other projects. For several years PayPal has been trying to limit how much business it does with sites involved with copyright infringement. Unsurprisingly torrent sites are high up on the payment processors “do not touch†list. For that reason it is quite rare to see PayPal offered as a donation method on the majority of public sites as these are spotted quite quickly and often shut down. It’s unclear whether PayPal does its own ‘scouting’ but the company is known to act upon complaints from copyright holders as part of the developing global “Follow the Money†anti-piracy strategy. This week Andrew Sampson, the software developer behind new torrent search engine ‘Strike‘, discovered that when you have powerful enemies, bad things can happen. With no advertising on the site, Sampson added his personal PayPal account in case anyone wanted to donate. Quickly coming to the conclusion that was probably a bad idea, Sampson removed the button and carried on as before. One month later PayPal contacted him with bad news. “We are contacting you as we have received a report that your website https://getstrike.net is currently infringing upon the intellectual property of Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.,†PayPal began. “Such infringement also violates PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy. Therefore your account has been permanently limited.†It isn’t clear why PayPal waited for a month after donations were removed from Strike to close Sampson’s six-year-old account but the coder believes that his public profile (he doesn’t hide his real identity) may have led to his issues. “It seems someone at the MPAA realized I took donations using PayPal from some of my other LEGAL open source projects (like https://github.com/Codeusa/Borderless-Gaming) and was able to get the email of my account,†the dev told TF. While Sampson had regularly been receiving donations from users of his other open source projects, he says he only received $200 from users of Strike, a small proportion of the $2,500 in his personal account when PayPal shut it down. “That money was earned through legitimate freelance work and was going to be used specifically for my rent/car payment so it kind of sucks,†he says. While it’s going to be a painful 180 day wait for Sampson to get his money back from PayPal, the lack of options for receiving donations on his other projects could prove the most damaging moving forward. Sampson does accept Bitcoin, but it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as PayPal. Of course, this is all part of the MPAA’s strategy. By making sites like Strike difficult to run, they hope that developers like Sampson will reconsider their positions and move on. And in this case they might just achieve their aims. “I’ve allowed someone else to manage the site for the time being. It will operate as it normally does but I need a bit to clear my head and don’t want anything to do with it as it’s become quite stressful,†Sampson says. “I think the MPAA is playing low ball tactics against a developer who just wanted a better search engine. I don’t condone piracy, but I sure as hell understand why it happens.†https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-complained-so-we-seized-your-funds-paypal-says-150517/
  5. Following their SOPA defeat three years ago, the MPAA, RIAA and ESA are again arguing that registrars need to take action against domains being used for infringing purposes. The groups told the House Judiciary Committee’s Internet subcommittee that dealing with anonymous domain registrations is also an urgent matter. One of the key aims of the now infamous SOPA legislation that failed to pass several years ago was the takedown of domains being used for infringing purposes. The general consensus outside of the major copyright groups was that this kind of provision should be rejected. However, within the movie and music industries the spirit of SOPA is still alive, it’s just a question of how its aims can be achieved without giving alternative mechanisms the same name. Yesterday, during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee’s Internet subcommittee, domains were firmly on the agenda. One group in attendance was the Coalition for Online Accountability. COA’s aim is to improve online transparency and to encourage “effective enforcement against online infringement of copyrights and trademarks.†No surprise then that its members consist of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). COA counsel Steve Metalitz’s testimony called for domain name registrars to deal with complaints effectively. Domains “In recent months, there have been increasing calls from many quarters for domain name registrars to recognize that, like other intermediaries in the e-commerce environment, they must play their part to help address the plague of online copyright theft that continues to blight the digital marketplace,†Metalitz said. “Under the 2013 revision of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), domain name registrars took on important new obligations to respond to complaints that domain names they sponsor are being used for copyright or trademark infringement, or other illegal activities.†However, according to Metalitz, registrars are not responding. The COA counsel said that the RAA requires registrars to “investigate and respond appropriately†to abuse reports and make “commercially reasonable efforts†to ensure that registrants don’t use their domain names “directly or indirectly†to infringe third party rights. But there has been little action. “Well-documented reports of abuse that are submitted to registrars by right-holders, clearly demonstrating pervasive infringement, are summarily rejected, in contravention of the 2013 RAA, which requires that they be investigated,†he said. As an example, Metalitz highlighted a Romanian-hosted ‘pirate’ music site using the domain Itemvn.com. “By August of last year, RIAA had notified the site of over 220,000 infringements of its members’ works (and had sent similar notices regarding 26,000 infringements to the site’s hosting providers). At that time, RIAA complained to the domain name registrar (a signatory of the 2013 RAA), which took no action, ostensibly because it does not host the site,†he explained. A complaint to ICANN was also dismissed, twice. It’s clear from Metalitz’s testimony that the MPAA, RIAA and ESA are seeking an environment in which domains will be suspended or blocked if they can be shown to be engaged in infringement. But the groups’ demands don’t end there. WHOIS WHOIS databases carry the details of individuals or companies that have registered domains and registrars are required to ensure that this information is both accurate and up to date. However, since WHOIS searches often reveal information that registrants would rather keep private, so-called proxy registrations (such as Whoisguard) have become increasingly popular. While acknowledging there is a legitimate need for such registrations (albeit in “limited circumstancesâ€), the entertainment industry groups are not happy that pirate site operators are playing the system to ensure they cannot be traced. As a result they are aiming for a situation where registrars only deal with proxy services that meet certain standards on issues including accuracy of customer data, relaying of complaints to proxy registrants, plus “ground rules for when the contact points of a proxy registrant will be revealed to a complainant in order to help address a copyright or trademark infringement.†In other words, anonymity should only be available up to a point. In a letter to the Committee, the EFF warned against the COA’s proposals. “As advocates for free speech, privacy, and liberty on the global Internet, we ask the Committee to resist calls to impose new copyright and trademark enforcement responsibilities on ICANN. In particular, the Committee should reject proposals to have ICANN require the suspension of Internet domain names based on accusations of copyright or trademark infringement by a website,†the EFF said. “This is effectively the same proposal that formed the centerpiece of the Stop Online Piracy Act of 2011 (SOPA), which this Committee set aside after millions of Americans voiced their opposition. Using the global Domain Name System to enforce copyright law remains as problematic in 2015 as it was in 2011.†https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-riaa-demand-dns-action-against-pirate-domains-150514/
  6. This week the MPAA opened applications for a new round of research grants, hoping the result will be "pro-copyright" academic papers. In an email leaked in the Sony hack the movie industry group further says it's looking for pro-copyright scholars who they can cultivate for further public advocacy. Last year the MPAA started a new grants program inviting academics to pitch their research proposals. Researchers are being offered a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics, including the impact of copyright law and the effectiveness of notice and takedown regimes. Last month marked the silent start of a new round of grant applications for the fall of 2015. There’s no public announcement but MPAA boss Chris Dodd previously said there’s a need for better and unbiased copyright related research to find out how recent developments are affecting the film industry. “We need more and better research regarding the evolving role of copyright in society. The academic community can provide unbiased observations, data analysis, historical context and important revelations about how these changes are impacting the film industry…,†Dodd noted. While Dodd’s comments about unbiased research are admirable, there also appears to be a hidden agenda which until now hasn’t seen the light of day. In an email leaked in the Sony hack MPAA General Counsel Steven Fabrizio explains to the member studios that they’re soliciting pro-copyright papers. The April 2014 email further reveals that the MPAA hopes to identify pro-copyright scholars who can be used to influence future copyright policies. “As you know, as one component of our Academic Outreach program, the MPAA is launching a global research grant program both to solicit pro-copyright academic research papers and to identify pro-copyright scholars who we can cultivate for further public advocacy,†Fabrizio writes. Needless to say, soliciting pro-copyright papers and spotting pro-copyright scholars for public advocacy doesn’t sound very unbiased. Perhaps for this reason the MPAA has decided not to publicize the initiative too much. There was no press release on the official site regarding the grants and it’s also unknown which scholars received last year’s grants. While $20,000 is relatively modest, the MPAA is also funding scholars outside of the grant program with much more. Last November we revealed that the MPAA had donated over a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University in support of its piracy research program. Thus far the Carnegie Mellon team has published a few papers. Among other things the researchers found that the Megaupload shutdown worked, that piracy mostly hurts revenues, and that censoring search engine results can diminish piracy. As expected, these results are now used by the MPAA as a lobbying tool to sway politicians and influence public policy. https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-funds-pro-copyright-scholars-to-influence-politics-150425/
  7. Emails from the Sony hack reveal that the MPAA asked its member studios to pay $165,000 each to upgrade the screening rooms of several U.S. embassies. American ambassadors could then utilize these private theaters as indirect lobbying tools by showing off Hollywood content to high level officials. Yesterday Wikileaks published a searchable database of the emails and documents that were released from the Sony hack. While a lot of ground was already covered after the initial breach, some new information is now bubbling up to the surface. One of the conversations that caught our eye mentions a request from MPAA boss and former U.S. senator Chris Dodd. In an effort to get foreign policy makers onside, the movie group asked its member studios to help fund an upgrade of the screening rooms in various U.S. embassies around the world. In an email from Sony Pictures Entertainment Head of Worldwide Government Affairs Keith Weaver to CEO Michael Lynton last March, Weaver explains that the studio had been asked for rather a sizable contribution. “I wanted to make you aware of a recent MPAA request, as Senator Dodd may contact you directly,†Weaver’s email begins. “Essentially, the request is for the member companies to consider upgrading screening rooms at U.S. Embassies in various countries (Germany, Spain, Italy, UK, and Japan)…†These rooms could then be used by the ambassadors to show off Hollywood content to invited high-level officials. “…the idea being that these upgraded screening rooms would allow American ambassadors to screen our movies to high level officials (and, thus, inculcate a stronger will to protect our interests through this quality exposure to our content),†Weaver adds. In other words, the MPAA wants to pay for an upgrade of the embassies’ private theaters, to indirectly protect the interests of U.S. movie studios abroad. It’s a rather interesting lobbying effort and one that doesn’t come cheap. The estimated cost for the project is $165,000 per studio, which means the total budget for the project is close to a million dollars. Unfortunately for the MPAA, Weaver suggested giving the project a miss and in a reply Lynton agreed. “While studios have supported efforts like this in the past, my inclination is that we pass on this financial commitment at this time (of course, applauding the idea/effort),†Weaver noted. In an email a few months later the issue was addressed again with additional details. In this conversation Weaver notes that the request is “not unusual†and that the studio supported a similar request years ago. “Apparently, donations of this kind are permissible,†Weaver writes. Again, Lynton replied that he was not inclined to support the project. It’s unclear whether any of the other members chipped in, or if the plan has been canceled due to a lack of financial support. https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wants-private-theaters-in-u-s-embassies-to-lobby-officials-150417/
  8. A federal court in Virginia has granted Megaupload's request to place the cases filed by the music and movie companies on hold for another six months. The request was made after the New Zealand extradition hearings of Kim Dotcom and his colleagues were postponed several times. Well over three years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but aside from Andrus Nomm’s plea deal there has been little progress in the criminal proceedings. Dotcom and his fellow Megaupload defendants are still waiting to hear whether they will be sent to the U.S. to stand trial. The extradition hearing is currently scheduled to start early June after a request from Dotcom’s lawyers to postpone was turned down last month. But there’s more legal trouble for the defunct file-hosting service. In addition to the criminal case, Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were sued last year by the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios. Fearing that they might influence criminal proceedings, Megaupload’s legal team previously managed to put these civil actions on hold. After being delayed for a year the proceedings were expected to continue this month. However, since the extradition hearing has yet to take place, Megaupload asked the court to freeze the MPAA and RIAA cases until October. This week District Court Judge Liam O’Grady granted the request under the same conditions as the previous order. The ruling means that both the MPAA and RIAA cases will now be delayed for another six months. The movie and music studios consented to the freezing request, which made it a relatively straightforward decision. A stay has not yet been granted in a third civil suit filed by the music group Microhits. In this separate case Megaupload’s legal team was ordered to present an oral argument in support of its motion, which will take place later this month. https://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-freezes-mpaa-and-riaa-lawsuits-for-six-months-150403/
  9. 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. https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wanted-less-fair-use-in-copyright-curriculum-150329/
  10. Google has claimed its first victory against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, who called for SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. After the court put Hood's subpoena on hold, Google called out the MPAA who they see as the main instigator behind the censorship efforts. With help from the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned†about the developments. To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This week Google scored its first victory in the case (pdf) as U.S. District Judge Wingate granted a preliminary injunction to put the subpoena on hold. This means that Hood can’t yet use the investigative powers that were granted in the subpoena. In addition, the injunction also prohibits Hood from filing civil or criminal charges, at least for the time being. While the Court still has to rule on the merits of the case Google is happy with the first “win.†What stands out most, however, is Google slamming the MPAA’s efforts to censor the Internet. “We’re pleased with the court’s ruling, which recognizes that the MPAA’s long-running campaign to censor the Web — which started with SOPA — is contrary to federal law,†Google’s general counsel Kent Walker notes. While the MPAA wasn’t mentioned in the court’s decision, Google wants to make it clear that they see the Hollywood group as the driving force behind Hood’s “censorship†campaign. Google’s harsh words are illustrative of the worsening relationship between the search giant and the Hollywood lobby group. After a previous clash, a top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business†with the movie group. Thus far, the MPAA has remained relatively silent on the court case, at least in public. But given the stakes at hand it’s probably all hands on deck behind the scenes. http://torrentfreak.com/google-mpaa-censorship-150303/
  11. The MPAA is one of the ICANN partners shaping future policy for the domain name system. With Hollywood being the driving force behind the group the MPAA is particularly interested in making it harder for pirate sites to register and keep their domains, as recent efforts show. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the main oversight body for the Internet’s global domain name system. Among other things, ICANN develops policies for accredited registrars to prevent abuse and illegal use of domain names. What not many people know, however, is that the MPAA is actively involved in shaping these policies. As a member of several ICANN stakeholder groups the lobby outfit is keeping a close eye on the movie industry’s interests. Most of these efforts are directed against pirate sites. For example, in ICANN’s most recent registrar agreements it’s clearly stated that domain names should not be used for copyright infringement. As the MPAA’s Alex Deacon explains, these agreements “contain new obligations for ICANN’s contract partners to promptly investigate and respond to use of domain names for illegal and abusive activities, including those related to IP infringement.†The MPAA hopes that “the community†will take these new obligations seriously and make sure that they are enforced. “As with any new contractual obligations, it is essential that the community as a whole be on the same page on how these obligations are interpreted and ultimately enforced,†Deacon writes. The MPAA’s involvement with ICANN’s policy making is a sensitive subject and Deacon’s comments in public are carefully worded. However, the MPAA is getting involved with ICANN for a reason. Thanks to internal documents that were made public in the Sony leak, we know that the MPAA ideally wants to adopt “procedures for broad-based termination of pirate sites.†While admitting that such a major change is “unlikely,†the MPAA notes that “seeking to make policy changes through ICANN meetings†remains an important strategy. Besides influencing future policy, the MPAA also sees an option to use the existing agreements to convince registrars to take action against domain names that are used by “pirate†sites. “The recent ICANN changes to the registrar agreement for new gTLDs apparently provide non-judicial ‘notice’ opportunities that may suggest new strategies requiring fewer resources. We need to explore these further,†the internal MPAA document reveals. Whether registrars are likely to comply with voluntary takedown requests has yet to be seen though. Previously, City of London Police didn’t have much luck with a similar strategy. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-pushes-icann-policy-changes-target-pirate-domains-150227/
  12. Sony almost withdrew from the MPAA after the movie trade group failed to support the studio as it faced an unprecedented cyber-attack last year. As disquiet continues over the way the MPAA operates while burning through huge amounts of cash, big changes now lie ahead for the Hollywood group. During November 2014, Sony Pictures was subjected to one of the most aggressive cyber-attacks in living memory. The studio’s systems were almost completely compromised, with thousands of emails leaking online alongside several major films. While the hackers clearly wanted to finish Sony for good, in the end their efforts proved unsuccessful. The studio appears to be on the path to recovery with the hack costing ‘just’ $15m so far. Nevertheless, the fallout continues. Last week it was revealed that Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal will be stepping down and now further revelations suggest that the hack will have wider implications outside Sony. According to a report, Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton became infuriated by the complete lack of support offered to his company by the MPAA as it withered under the hack last year. While MPAA chief Chris Dodd eventually admitted that he’d handled the issue poorly, the damage had been done. Alongside disquiet over the amount of cash the MPAA burns through every year, it’s now been revealed that Lynton began making plans for Sony to take the unprecedented move of leaving the movie industry group. While this immediate crisis appears to have been averted (Lynton is said to have reversed course around Oscar time), he and other studio executives are now seeking to comprehensively alter the way the MPAA operates. Several options are currently on the table, including opening up the MPAA to new members and expanding its mandate to include TV and digital content. Also under the spotlight are costs. At the moment each of the member studios – Sony, Disney, Warner, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal – pumps around $20 million into the MPAA every year (some of it going to Dodd’s salary of $3.3m) but it’s still not enough as the group is currently running at a loss. The MPAA does have assets though, such as a valuable property (mentioned on several occasions in emails leaked from the Sony hack) located in Washington near the White House. That could be sold or developed to balance the books. The New York Times managed to reach MPAA chief Chris Dodd on the telephone Thursday. When asked about the prospect for big changes at the MPAA he said: “I’m for that, completely.†Dodd was on his way to have dinner in Los Angeles with top studio executives – Sony’s Lynton included – and he confirmed that a revamp of the organization was on the menu. “He’s there. I’m glad he’s there. I think he’s handled this well,†Dodd said of Lynton, noting that some “feel more strongly†about potential changes at the MPAA than others. Part of the MPAA’s problems relate to its inability to move quickly. All member companies have to agree on a course of action before it can be taken, something highlighted only too clearly when Dodd became hamstrung when considering what to do in support of Sony. It’s questionable if that situation would improve with the addition of yet more members, but it would bring in much needed cash. The organization lost $4.4m in 2013 according to its latest tax filing. Whether the coffers can be buoyed with a cash injection from the sale of MPAA real estate seems less certain. Asked about the MPAA’s Washington building and its lobbying-friendly location, Dodd sounded a note of caution. “It’s an important spot,†he said. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-to-undergo-major-changes-following-studio-disquiet-150206/
  13. Threatened by Hollywood's MPAA, the Minneapolis beer brewery 612 Brew has decided not sell its popular "Rated R" beer anymore. The Hollywood group demanded a name change as it owns the "Rated R" trademark, so the brewery chose to brand its beer "Unrated" instead. ratedrThe MPAA is best known for its efforts to protect the rights of the major movie studios. However, the group also has some intellectual property of its own to defend. A few weeks ago the MPAA sent a cease and desist letter to Minneapolis beer brewery 612 Brew, who’re known for their tasty beers including the popular “Rated R†brand. The movie industry group pointed out that the company was using the “Rated R†trademark without permission and urged the beer maker to drop the name to avoid confusion. The MPAA registered “Rated R†at the trademark office in the eighties as a certification mark, indicating that a movie is rated unsuitable for children under 17, unless they’re accompanied by an adult. While movie ratings have nothing to do with beer, the MPAA took offense at the name after the brewery filed their own trademark application. According to 612 Brew co-founder Kasak, the MPAA didn’t want the beer makers to use any of the “Rated†variants. “[Our beer] could have been PG, PG-13 or R. It didn’t matter. As long as it contained the word ‘rated’ it would still get flagged,†Kasak told Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. An MPAA spokesperson confirmed that the group sent a cease and desist letter but further details are not available. The brewery first responded to the demands by arguing that the Rated R name can be used as they clearly operate in a different industry. The MPAA wasn’t convinced though, so 612 decided that it was easiest to change the name. The trademark specifically notes that the MPAA doesn’t have an exclusive right to the word “rated,†but 612 Brew decided to go for a different variant. Starting this year the name of “Rated R†beer was changed to “Unrated,†which isn’t trademarked by the MPAA. While the change is a setback for the brewery it’s co-founder doesn’t believe it will harm business in the long run. “It’s going to take some time for people to get used to it, but it will be OK. It’s a great beer and they’ll drink it regardless of the name,†Kasak notes. The brewery now has to hope that the “unrated†name won’t cause any headaches in the future. A quick search reveals that there’s an “unrated†trademark application in progress by a “yoga pants†outfit, so fingers crossed. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-trademark-forces-rated-r-beer-to-drop-its-name-150129/
  14. The major movie studios are considering lawsuits against hosting providers in the U.S, and abroad. The MPAA specifically mentions the Dutch hoster LeaseWeb as a potential target, claiming that it frequently does business with pirate sites. LeaseWeb is surprised to be mentioned as a potential target and is not aware of any wrongdoing. Last month a leaked document from the MPAA exposed Hollywood’s global anti-piracy priorities for the coming years. The leak revealed where the movie studios would focus their efforts, with file-hosting and streaming sites among the top targets. The same data breach also included a more in-depth overview of the anti-piracy plans which were previously unreported. This new leak comes from an email the MPAA sent to the movie studio’s top executives October last year and provides additional background. One of MPAA’s main anti-piracy priorities are file-hosting services, often referred to as cyberlockers. As part of the strategy to deal with this threat the movie studios plan to sue the site’s hosting providers. The two items below reveal Dutch hosting provider LeaseWeb is named as one of the possible targets. The MPAA also leaves the option open to go after “recalcitrant†hosters in the United States, if these choose not to cooperate. - Litigation against a significant hosting provider in the Netherlands (e.g., Leaseweb). – Outreach to hosting providers in the US, where sufficient legal precedent exists (potentially to be followed by litigation against recalcitrant US hosting providers). In a specific section describing its strategy towards hosting services the MPAA also notes that it will put a “political spotlight and pressure†on hosting providers who make a lot of revenue from pirate sites. In addition the MPAA plans to make criminal referrals against hosting companies, accusing them of money laundering and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. Interestingly, it’s unclear whether the criminal route will be successful as the document mentions that the U.S. Government may be reluctant to take these on “given difficulty with Megaupload case.†LeaseWeb is surprised to learn that they are referenced in these MPAA documents. According to the company’s Senior Regulatory Counsel Alex de Joode there is no reason why they should be considered a target. “There is no basis or ground for the MPAA to target any LeaseWeb company as part of its anti-piracy strategy,†De Joode tells TF. “LeaseWeb companies that provide services to third parties have stringent policies to which cloud storage providers and video streaming sites must adhere, and which ensure rights holders can enforce their rights effectively. All LeaseWeb companies also have efficient abuse notification procedures in place, and act quickly upon takedown requests,†he adds. LeaseWeb operates various companies, also in the United States, but the MPAA’s plan suggests that a possible lawsuit would take place in the Netherlands. Thus far, however, LeaseWeb hasn’t seen any signs of or reasons for a potential lawsuit. In fact, they maintain a good relationship with the local Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group BREIN with which they have regular meetings in the Netherlands. “Neither BREIN nor the MPAA has informed any LeaseWeb company that the MPAA may consider any of the LeaseWeb companies a target as part of its anti-piracy strategy or why such may be the case. The only reason that we can think of for ‘LeaseWeb’ to be on the list is that we are a big brand and big player in the hosting business, and as a group of companies have a vast and fast network.†LeaseWeb is indeed a major player in the hosting business. It previously provided hundreds of servers to the now defunct Megaupload, and still serves many streaming sites and file-hosting services. For now, no lawsuits against hosting providers have been filed by the MPAA. Whether or not this will happen depends in part on the level of funding the major movie studios are willing to contribute to the laid out anti-piracy proposals. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wants-to-sue-pirate-site-hosting-providers-150109/
  15. This year the entertainment industries reached agreement with the UK government to begin sending warning notices to Internet pirates. However, TorrentFreak has learned that the MPAA considered pulling out, fearful that the so-called VCAP scheme might prove ineffective. One of the cornerstones of modern online piracy schemes are so-called ‘copyright alert’ programs. The idea is simple – rightsholders monitor online file-sharing networks, capture IP addresses of alleged pirates and have ISPs send warnings to subscribers. Several countries in the world currently operate these systems. France was one of the pioneers but the largest project is handled with the cooperation of the largest ISPs in the United States. In the summer a new deal was reached between the music and movie industries and the government to bring notices to the UK. However, TorrentFreak has learned that just three months earlier Hollywood was getting cold feet over the scheme. Leaked emails reveal that the MPAA was giving consideration to the consequences of pulling out of VCAP (or delaying it by 18 months) due to the group not having enough information on the effectiveness of notice-only, no punishment schemes. Since consequences could include political fallout due to UK government involvement in VCAP, the MPAA decided to send former Senator Chris Dodd to the UK. Dodd met Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, and Tim Luke, Prime Minister David Cameron’s Senior Policy Advisor, in the first week of March 2014. Dodd returned with plenty of praise for Vaizey whose apparent efforts in paving the way for site blocking and attacking the finances of pirate sites were showing results. Nevertheless, there were sticking points. It appears that a notice-only warning system, one in which subscribers aren’t punished for their actions, was not something the MPAA aspired to. This left the MPAA wondering whether launching VCAP quickly would be a favorable thing to do. Interestingly, Dodd also made it clear to Vaizey that the MPAA was seriously considering the political implications of when VCAP should begin, a point not lost on the politicians. Both Vaizey and Luke felt that if notices only started going out in the months preceding the May 2015 general election that would be an unwelcome development. A delay on notice-sending until the fall of 2015 was preferred all round. Whatever happened in the interim period, in May news leaked that an agreement had been reached and by June the MPAA were confirming internally that a Memorandum of Understanding had indeed been signed. Despite public comments welcoming the VCAP agreement it seems clear that the MPAA would prefer a system with account suspensions and disconnections. For now, however, that is not on the agenda. At this point it appears Hollywood will give VCAP time to work, but could pull out at a later point if the public simply isn’t getting the message.
  16. The search giant has delivered a major blow to torrent websites within the last few weeks, and the MPAA was supposed to be happy with Google’s efforts. However, the Motion Picture Association of America criticized the company. This so infuriated Google's top brass that the search engine decided to break its anti-piracy cooperation with the MPAA. The company spends enormous efforts on removing millions of infringing search results at the notices of the copyright owners: last week there were over 9 million of such requests, and the company usually removes these links within hours of receiving a complaint. But this doesn’t seem to matter much for the MPAA. Whatever Google does, it is never enough – the MPAA cries that more can be done. One should admit that this October Google really did a great job to downrank pirate websites. Those with high numbers of DMCA notices now appear lower in search results. Within days it became clear that BitTorrent services had been hit hard. But instead of acknowledging Google’s efforts, the MPAA issued a press release, claiming that the company facilitates access to stolen content via search. Apparently, the company’s top management became furious after that statement and told the MPAA that it would no longer “speak or do business†with the anti-piracy group. So, now the tech giant would communicate with the movie studios directly, as those welcomed the company’s efforts, unlike the MPAA. It looks like the Motion Picture Association of America simply had no time to assess the changes introduced by Google in place, and therefore could not assess whether they would work. Perhaps, the entertainment industry doesn’t want to welcome changes that may fail to perform in future.
  17. Last December the MPAA announced one of its biggest victories to date. The Hollywood group won its case against file-hosting site Hotfile, who agreed to a $80 million settlement. However, this figure mostly served to impress and scare the pubic, as we can now reveal that Hotfile agreed to pay 'only' $4 million. It’s been nearly a year since Hotfile was defeated by the MPAA, resulting in a hefty $80 million dollar settlement. While the public agreement left room for the file-hosting service to continue its operations by implementing a filtering mechanism, the company quickly shut down after the settlement was announced. As it now turns out, this was the plan all long. And not just that, the $80 million figure that was touted by the MPAA doesn’t come close to the real settlement Hotfile agreed to pay. Buried in one of the Sony leaks is an email conversation which confirms that the real settlement payment from Hotfile was just $4 million, just a fraction of the amount widely publicized in the press. “The studios and Hotfile have reached agreement on settlement, a week before trial was to start. Hotfile has agreed to pay us $4 million, and has entered into a stipulation to have an $80 million judgment entered and the website shut down,†the email from Sony’s SVP Legal reads. Considering the time and effort that went into the case, it would be no surprise if the movie studios actually lost money on the lawsuit. The good news for the MPAA is that the money was paid in full. There were some doubts if Hotfile would indeed pay up, but during the first weeks of December last year the $4 million was sent in three separate payments. The huge difference between the public settlement figure and the amount that was negotiated also puts previous cases in a different light. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the $110 million settlement with isoHunt and the $110 deal with TorrentSpy were just paper tigers too. Whether or not the Hotfile case resulted in a net loss is probably not that important to the MPAA though. Hollywood mostly hopes that the staggering numbers will serve as a deterrent, preventing others from operating similar sites.
  18. The MPAA has long criticized Google on the issue of piracy but revelations from recently leaked emails indicate that Hollywood has embarked on an organized political campaign against the search giant. The fight has now bubbled over, with the MPAA and Google slamming each other in public. Even after running for weeks, the fallout from the Sony hacking fiasco is showing no signs of waning. In fact in some areas it appears that matters are only getting worse. Earlier this month a TF report revealed how the MPAA (with a SOPA defeat still ringing loudly in its ears) is still intent on bringing website blocking to the United States. The notion that Hollywood was intent on reintroducing something so unpopular didn’t sit well with critics, but that was only the beginning. A subsequent article in The Verge revealed a campaign by the MPAA to attack “Goliath†– a codeword for Google – by “convincing state prosecutors to take up the fight†against the search giant. The MPAA budgeted $500,000 for the project with costs potentially rising to $1.175 million. The Hollywood group subsequently called on SOPA-supporting Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood to attack Google, which he did. The New York times has a copy of the letter he sent to the search giant – worryingly it was almost entirely drafted by the MPAA’s lawfirm Jenner and Block. After a week of “no comment†from Google, the company has just broken its silence. In a statement from SVP and General Counsel Kent Walker, Google questions the MPAA’s judgment over its SOPA-like aims and apparent manipulation of an Attorney General. “Almost three years ago, millions of Americans helped stop a piece of congressional legislation—supported by the MPAA—called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If passed, SOPA would have led to censorship across the web. No wonder that 115,000 websites—including Google—participated in a protest, and over the course of a single day, Congress received more than 8 million phone calls and 4 million emails, as well as getting 10 million petition signatures,†Walker writes. “We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.†Then, in what can only be a huge embarrassment for the MPAA and the Attorney General, Walker turns to the letter AG Hood sent to him in 2013. “The MPAA did the legal legwork for the Mississippi State Attorney General. The MPAA then pitched Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, an admitted SOPA supporter, and Attorney General Hood sent Google a letter making numerous accusations about the company,†Walker explains. “The letter was signed by General Hood but was actually drafted by an attorney at Jenner & Block — the MPAA’s law firm. As the New York Times has reported, the letter was only minimally edited by the state Attorney General before he signed it.†The Google SVP ends with a shot at the MPAA and questions its self-professed position as an upholder of the right to free speech. “While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part ‘to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression.’ Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?†Walker concludes. Without delay, Google’s public comments were pounced upon by the MPAA who quickly published a statement of their own. It pulls no punches. “Google’s effort to position itself as a defender of free speech is shameful. Freedom of speech should never be used as a shield for unlawful activities and the internet is not a license to steal,†the statement begins. “Google’s blog post today is a transparent attempt to deflect focus from its own conduct and to shift attention from legitimate and important ongoing investigations by state attorneys general into the role of Google Search in enabling and facilitating illegal conduct – including illicit drug purchases, human trafficking and fraudulent documents as well as theft of intellectual property.†And, in a clear indication that the MPAA feels it acted appropriately, the Hollywood group lets Google know that nothing will change. “We will seek the assistance of any and all government agencies, whether federal, state or local, to protect the rights of all involved in creative activities,†the MPAA concludes. The statements by both Google and the MPAA indicate that in this fight the gloves are now well and truly off. Will ‘David’ slay ‘Goliath’? Who will get hurt in the crossfire?
  19. The MPAA is in discussions with the major movie studios over ways to introduce site blocking to the United States. TorrentFreak has learned that the studios will try to achieve website blockades using principles available under existing law. Avoiding another SOPA-style backlash is high on the agenda. mpaa-logoSite blocking has become one of the go-to anti-piracy techniques for the music and movie industries. Mechanisms to force ISPs to shut down subscriber access to “infringing†sites are becoming widespread in Europe but have not yet gained traction in the United States. If the Stop Online Piracy Act had been introduced, U.S. blocking regimes might already be in place but the legislation was stamped down in 2012 following a furious public and technology sector revolt. Behind closed doors, however, blocking proponents were simply waiting for the storm to die down. TorrentFreak has learned that during 2013 the MPAA and its major studio partners began to seriously consider their options for re-introducing the site blocking agenda to the United States. Throughout 2014 momentum has been building but with no real option to introduce new legislation, the MPAA has been looking at leveraging existing law to further its aims. Today we can reveal that the MPAA has been examining four key areas. DMCA According to TF sources familiar with the plan, the MPAA began by exploring the possibility of obtaining a DMCA 512(j) blocking injunction without first having to establish that an ISP is also liable for copyright infringement. To get a clearer idea the MPAA commissioned an expert report from a national lawfirm with offices in Chicago, Dallas, New York and Washington, DC. Returned in July, the opinion concluded that a U.S. court would “likely†require a copyright holder to establish an ISP as secondarily liable before granting any site-blocking injunction. This option might be “difficult†and financially costly, the law firm noted. Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 19 – ‘Required Joinder of Parties’ – is also under consideration by the MPAA as a way to obtain a blocking injunction against an ISP. In common with the DMCA option detailed above, the MPAA hopes that a blocking order might be obtained without having to find an ISP liable for any wrongdoing. The MPAA is considering a situation in which they obtain a judgment finding a foreign “rogue†site guilty of infringement but one whose terms the target rogue site has failed to abide by. Rule 19 could then be used to join an ISP in the lawsuit against the rogue site without having to a) accuse the ISP of wrongdoing or b) issue any claims against it. The same lawfirm again provided an expert opinion, concluding that the theory was “promising, but largely untested.†Using the ITC to force ISPs to block ‘pirate’ sites Among other things the United States International Trade Commission determines the impact of imports on U.S. industry. It also directs action on unfair trade practices including those involving patents, trademarks and copyright infringement. The MPAA has been examining two scenarios. The first involves site-blocking orders against “transit†ISPs, i.e those that carry data (infringing content) across U.S. borders. The second envisions site-blocking orders against regular ISPs to stop them providing access to “rogue†sites. Again, the same lawfirm was asked for its expert opinion. In summary its lawyers found that scenario one presented significant technical hurdles. Scenario two might be feasible, but first ISPs would have to be found in violation of Section 337. “Section 337 declares the infringement of certain statutory intellectual property rights and other forms of unfair competition in import trade to be unlawful practices,†the section reads (pdf). The lawfirm’s August report highlights several potential issues. One noted that an injunction against a domestic ISP would effectively stop outbound requests to “rogue†sites when it is in fact “rogue†sites’ inbound traffic that is infringing. Also at issue is sites that don’t “import†content themselves but merely offer links to such content (torrent sites, for example). Nevertheless, the general conclusion is that if a clear relationship between the linking sites and the infringing content can be established, the ITC may take the view that the end result still amounts to “unfair competition†and “unfair acts†during importation of articles. The Communications Act Details on this final MPAA option involves the Communications Act and how it is perceived by the Federal Communications Commission and the Supreme Court. The scenario balances on the MPAA’s stance that ISPs have taken the “public position†that they are not “telecommunications servicesâ€. When the position of the ISPs and opinions of the FCC and Supreme Court are combined, the MPAA wonders whether the ISPs could become vulnerable. The scenario under discussion is one in which ISPs are not eligible for safe harbor as DMCA 512(a) “conduits†since the DMCA definition of a conduit is the same as the Communications Act’s definition of “telecommunications service†provider. Major meeting two months ago TorrentFreak sources reveal that a large meeting consisting of more than two dozen studio executives took place in October to discuss all aspects of site-blocking. A senior engineer from U.S. ISP Comcast was also invited. On the agenda was a wide range of topics including bringing on board “respected†people in the technology sector to agree on technical facts and establish policy support for site blocking. Other suggestions included encouraging academics to publish research papers with a narrative that site blocking elsewhere in the world has been effective, is not a threat to DNSSEC, and has not “broken the Internetâ€. Conclusion In June, MPAA chief and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd praised pirate site blockades as one of the most important anti-piracy measures, and in August a leaked draft revealed MPAA research on the topic. The big question now is whether the studios’ achievements in Europe will be mirrored in the United States – without a SOPA-like controversy alongside. While the scale is unlikely to be the same, opposition is likely to be vigorous. torrentfreak
  20. The MPAA has informed the U.S. Government about two dozen piracy-promoting websites it would like to be gone. The list includes major torrent sites The Pirate Bay and Kickass.to, file-hosting services such as Uploaded and Rapidgator, as well as Russia’s social network VK. The popular Popcorn Time application was also welcomed with a mention. Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has sent in its annual list of rogue websites. TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the MPAA’s latest submission. The Hollywood group targets a wide variety of websites which they claim are promoting the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows, with declining incomes and lost jobs in the movie industry as a result. These sites and services not only threaten the movie industry, but according to the MPAA they also put consumers at risk through identity theft and by spreading malware. “It is important to note that websites that traffic in infringing movies, television shows, and other copyrighted content do not harm only the rights holder. Malicious software or malware, which puts Internet users at risk of identity theft, fraud, and other ills, is increasingly becoming a source of revenue for pirate sites,†MPAA writes. Below is an overview of the “notorious markets†the MPAA reported to the Government. The sites are listed in separate categories and each have a suspected location, as defined by the movie industry group. Torrent Sites BitTorrent remains the most popular P2P software as the global piracy icon, MPAA notes. The Pirate Bay poses one of the largest threats here. Based on data from Comscore, the MPAA says that TPB has about 40 million unique visitors per month, which appears to be a very low estimate. “Thepiratebay.se (TPB) claims to be the largest BitTorrent website on the Internet with a global Alexa rank of 91, and a local rank of 72 in the U.S. Available in 35 languages, this website serves a wide audience with upwards of 43.5 million peers,†MPAA writes. “TPB had 40,551,220 unique visitors in August 2014 according to comScore World Wide data. Traffic arrives on this website through multiple changing ccTLD domains and over 90 proxy websites that assist TPB to circumvent site blocking actions.†For the first time the MPAA also lists YIFY/YTS in its overview of notorious markets. The MPAA describes YTS as one of the most popular release groups, and notes that these are used by the Popcorn Time streaming application. “[Yts.re] facilitates the downloading of free copies of popular movies, and currently lists more than 5,000 high-quality movie torrents available to download for free,†MPAA writes. “Additionally, the content on Yts.re supports desktop torrent streaming application ‘Popcorn Time’ which has an install base of 1.4 million devices and more than 100,000 active users in the United States alone.†The full list of reported torrent sites is as follows: - Kickass.to (Several locations) - Thepiratebay.se (Sweden) - Torrentz.eu (Germany/Luxembourg) - Rutracker.org (Russia) - Yts.re (Several locations) -Extratorrent.cc (Ukraine) -Xunlei.com (China) The mention of Xunlei.com is interesting as the Chinese company signed an anti-piracy deal with the MPA earlier this year. However, according to the MPAA piracy is still rampant, and there is no evidence that Xunlei has fulfilled its obligations. Direct Download and Streaming Cyberlockers The second category of pirate sites reported by the MPAA are cyberlockers. The movie industry group points out that these sites generate million of dollars in revenue, citing the recently released report from Netnames. Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t include 4shared and Mega, the two services who discredited the report in question. As in previous submissions VKontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is also listed as a notorious market. - VK.com (Russia) - Uploaded.net (Netherlands) - Rapidgator.net (Russia) - Firedrive.com (New Zealand) - Nowvideo.sx and the “Movshare Group†(Panama/Switzerland/Netherlands) - Netload.in (Germany) Linking Websites The largest category in terms of reported sites represents linking websites. These sites don’t host the infringing material, but only link to it. The full list of linking sites is as follows. - Free-tv-video-online.me (Canada) - Movie4k.to (Romania) - Primewire.ag (Estonia) - Watchseries.lt (Switzerland) - Putlocker.is (Switzerland) - Solarmovie.is (Latvia) - Megafilmeshd.net (Brazil) - Filmesonlinegratis.net (Brazil) - Watch32.com (Germany) - Yyets.com (China) - Cuevana.tv (Argentina) - Viooz.ac (Estonia) - Degraçaemaisgostoso.org (Brazil) - Telona.org (Brazil) The inclusion of Cuevana.tv is noteworthy as the website stopped offering direct links to infringing content earlier this year. Instead, it now direct people to its custom “Popcorn Time†equivalent “Storm.†Finally, the MPAA lists one Usenet provider, the German based Usenext.com. This service was included because, unlike other providers, it allegedly heavily markets itself to P2P users. Later this year the US Trade Representative will use the submissions of the MPAA and other parties to make up its final list of piracy havens. The U.S. Government will then alert the countries where these sites are operating from, hoping that local authorities take action. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  21. Hollywood has helped to get The Pirate Bay blocked in many countries, but not on its home turf. There are now various signs that this may change in the near future. Among other things, the MPAA has conducted internal research to show that site blocking is rather effective. Website blocking has become one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries in recent years. The UK is a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to dozens of popular file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. Not everyone is equally excited about these measures and researchers have called their effectiveness into question. This prompted a Dutch court to lift The Pirate Bay blockade a few months ago. The MPAA, however, hopes to change the tide and prove these researchers wrong. Earlier today Hollywood’s anti-piracy wish list was revealed through a leaked draft various copyright groups plan to submit to the Australian Government. Buried deep in the report is a rather intriguing statement that refers to internal MPAA research regarding website blockades. “Recent research of the effectiveness of site blocking orders in the UK found that visits to infringing sites blocked declined by more than 90% in total during the measurement period or by 74.5% when proxy sites are included,†it reads. In other words, MPAA’s own data shows that website blockades do help to deter piracy. Without further details on the methodology it’s hard to evaluate the findings, other than to say that they conflict with previous results. But there is perhaps an even more interesting angle to the passage than the results themselves. Why would the MPAA take an interest in the UK blockades when Hollywood has its own anti-piracy outfit (FACT) there? Could it be that the MPAA is planning to push for website blockades in the United States? This is not the first sign to point in that direction. Two months ago MPAA boss Chris Dodd said that ISP blockades are one of the most effective anti-tools available. Combine the above with the fact that the United States is by far the biggest traffic source for The Pirate Bay, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. It seems only a matter of time before the MPAA makes a move towards website blocking in the United States. Whether that’s through a voluntary agreement or via the courts, something is bound to happen. http://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-research-blocking-the-pirate-bay-works-so-140828/
  22. Megaupload's legal team has asked the federal court of Virginia to place the cases filed by the music and movie companies on hold till April next year. The request comes after the extradition hearings of Kim Dotcom and his colleagues were postponed in New Zealand. Well over two years have passed since Megaupload was shutdown, but there is still little progress in the criminal proceedings against its founders. The United States want New Zealand to extradite Kim Dotcom and his colleagues but this process has been delayed several times already. Earlier this month the extradition hearing was postponed again until February next year. In addition to the U.S. Government, Megaupload and Kim Dotcom were also sued by the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios a few months ago. Fearing that these cases might influence the criminal case, Megaupload’s legal teamsuccessfully obtained a freeze on them until this summer, when the extradition hearing was originally scheduled for. Now that this has been delayed until next year, Megaupload wants to place the MPAA and RIAA cases on hold until April 2015. In a new motion for a stay, the lawyers ask the court to freeze both civil cases because the accused may otherwise be forced to implicate themselves, which would violate their rights. “The individual Defendants still face extradition, and therefore still have an interest in preserving the Fifth Amendment rights that arise from the prosecution of the Criminal Action,†the motion reads. There’s also a more practical concern. Since the U.S. Government refuses to provide access to the raided servers, it may be difficult to access evidence that’s crucial to build a proper defense. “Relevant evidence that is electronically stored on servers, which would be needed to defend the civil cases, is not reasonably accessible. As a result of the Criminal Action, the Megaupload cloud-storage servers have been taken offline and are housed in a locked third-party warehouse in Virginia,†Megaupload’s lawyers write. “The Department of Justice has opposed Megaupload’s efforts to gain access to those servers and data. Standard civil e-discovery protocols would typically include accessing and “mirroring†the original servers so that the resultant copies may used to analyze the data contained therein. At present, that cannot be done,†they add. If the court grants the request then it will take another year before there’s any progress in the civil cases against Megaupload. The movie and music studios didn’t object to the previous freezing request, but they may be running out of patience soon. http://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-wants-freeze-mpaa-riaa-lawsuits-140722/
  23. GitHub has just removed the repositories of several popular Popcorn Time applications. The action was taken in response to a takedown request sent by the MPAA. Whether this will do anything to stop people from using the "Netflix for pirates" has yet to be seen. popcorncensorThe Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far. The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy to use Netflix-style interface. Needless to say this has been a thorn in the side for Hollywood. Today the MPAA decided to deploy countermeasures by filing requests with development platform GitHub to take down several Popcorn Time related repositories. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation and further development of the GitHub projects Popcorn Time, and Time4Popcorn,†the MPAA writes in its takedown notice. GitHub swiftly complied and starting a few hours ago the repositories were absent from the website, leaving the following note. In its takedown notice the MPAA specifically targets the “popcorn-official†and the “time4popcorn†projects, but it also urges GitHub to remove all related forks. “By this notification, we are asking for your immediate assistance in stopping your users’ unauthorized activity. Specifically, we request that you remove or disable access to the infringing Projects’ repositories and all related forks,†MPAA writes. Interestingly, the MPAA doesn’t mention the original Popcorn Time repository, which remains intact. To prove the infringing nature of Popcorn Time the takedown notice was accompanied by several screenshots of the user interface, as well as several pirated copies of Hollywood movies playing. While the takedown notices may hinder the development of the software, at least temporarily, the websites of the forks remain online. This means that the applications themselves are still available for download. Earlier this week the team behind the Time4Popcorn fork informed us that they have gathered millions of users over the past several months, and that the application is being downloaded tens of thousands of times per day. Whether the MPAA also has plans to target the Popcorn Time fork websites remains to be seen.
  24. The MPAA has asked Google to remove a Reddit community from its search results over piracy concerns. The movie industry group lists the "FullLengthFilms" subreddit in a recent takedown request, alongside several notorious pirate sites. Thus far Google has refused to take the page down, and Reddit hasn't taken any action either. Every week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find. Not all copyright holders take the same approach. Where the RIAA targets millions of infringing URLs per month, the MPAA only sends out a handful of notices. Instead of using dragnet scripts to take down everything that links to infringing copies, the movie industry group specifically targets homepages of ‘rogue’ sites and other high impact targets. In the latest DMCA notice, sent last week, Reddit ended up on the list. Like many other user-generated content sites, Reddit has plenty of links to copyright infringing material. In fact, there are several sub-communities that are dedicated to finding and publishing lists to pirated material. The subreddit r/fulllengthfilms is a good example. Here, users are encouraged to post links to their favorite movies, preferably from legal sources. However, pretty much all links point to streams of pirated films including “Gravity†and “The Wolf of Wall Street.†The MPAA is not happy with this growing list of movies. In their most recent takedown notice they ask Google to remove the entire subreddit from its search engine, because it contains a link to a camcorded copy of “Edge of Tomorrow.†MPAA’s takedown request Interestingly, Google has declined to action the MPAA’s takedown request. It’s not clear why the search giant refused to take it down, but one of the reasons may be that the MPAA did not limit their request to the “Edge of Tomorrow†posting. Instead, the movie industry group targeted the entire subreddit. These broad takedown requests are not uncommon as most of the MPAA’s takedown notices contain homepages of download portals or streaming sites. In some cases the infringing work listed in the takedown request no longer appears on these homepages, and the MPAA often fails to list the internal page it’s supposed to link to. With this strategy the MPAA has managed to remove the homepages of several popular sites from Google’s search results, including KickassTorrents. But Google doesn’t always comply. For the most recent DMCA notice it refused to take downmost links, including the Reddit one. It’s still unclear whether the MPAA also sent a takedown notice to Reddit. TorrentFreak asked Reddit for a comment on the news but we have yet to receive a response. At the time of writing the FullLengthFilms subreddit and the “Edge of Tomorrow†posting remain online.
  25. The MPAA is inviting academics to pitch research proposals that aim to provide insight into the copyright challenges faced by the movie industry in the digital age. Researchers are being offered a $20,000 grant for projects that address various piracy related topics, including the impact of copyright law and the effectiveness of DMCA takedown notices. Late last year a study from European researchers revealed that the Megaupload shutdown had anegative effect on the box office revenues of smaller films. The researchers suggested that the decrease in sales may be the result of a drop in word-of-mouth promotion from pirates, which affects smaller movies more since they have less advertising budget. The MPAA wasn’t happy with the media coverage the study generated and went on the defensive citing two Carnegie Mellon University studies to show that piracy harms sales. Interestingly, it failed to disclose that those findings came from research that was supported by a $100,000 grant from the MPAA. While we trust that the research is solid, the above shows that academic research plays an important role in the MPAA’s lobbying efforts. For this reason, the Hollywood group has recently started a grants program, hoping to enlist more academics to conduct copyright-related research. The MPAA is now accepting research proposals on a series of predefined topics. They include the impact of copyright law on innovation and the effectiveness of DMCA takedown notices. The best applications will be awarded a $20,000 grant. “We want to enlist the help of academics from around the world to provide new insight on a range of issues facing the content industry in the digital age,†says MPAA CEO and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd. According to the MPAA boss, academic researchers can contribute to understanding the changes the industry faces by providing unbiased insights. “We need more and better research regarding the evolving role of copyright in society. The academic community can provide unbiased observations, data analysis, historical context and important revelations about how these changes are impacting the film industry and other IP-reliant sectors,†Dodd notes. The MPAA clearly sees academic research as an important tool in their efforts to ensure that copyright protections remain in place, or are strengthened if needed. This outreach to academics may in part be fueled by what their ‘opponents’ are doing. Google, for example, is heavily supporting academic research on copyright-related projects in part to further their own interests. Both sides clearly steer researchers by giving them precise directions on the grounds they want covered. It’s now up to the academics to make sure that they don’t become pawns in a much bigger fight, and that their research is conducted and results presented in an objective manner.