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Found 53 results

  1. The company behind the Oscar-winning movie Dallas Buyers Club wants to interrogate alleged BitTorrent pirates over the phone. In order to assess how much to 'fine' individuals, Voltage Pictures wants people to reveal how much they earn and how much illegal downloading they've done in the past. ISP iiNet says the questions go way too far. Following prolonged legal action in Australia, the company behind the hit movie Dallas Buyers Club was given permission to chase down individuals said to have downloaded the movie illegally. An estimated 4,726 internet account holders will be targeted under the legal action and all will come under considerable pressure to pay Voltage Pictures a cash settlement to make a supposed lawsuit go away. Somewhat surprisingly, it has now emerged that the movie company will not only target people via letter, but will also phone account holders to interrogate them in person. During a Federal Court hearing today it was revealed that Dallas Buyers Club (DBC) have prepared a script which details several questions the company intends to ask its targets. Shockingly they include requests for individuals to reveal how much they earn each year and how many movies they have previously shared using BitTorrent. ISP iiNet, whose customers are targeted in the action, say that ‘fines’ should be as little as $5, but DBC wants to charge individuals variable amounts based on their income, how damaging their sharing of Dallas Buyers Club was, and how much infringement they have been involved in during the past. Richard Lancaster SC, representing iiNet, said the script “comes on too strong†and is too broad in scope. “There’s no justification for getting into a royal commission into end users’ use of the BitTorrent network,†Mr Lancaster said. “It’s about the film.†Lancaster also complained that the texts of both the script and letter imply that guilt of copyright infringement had already been established when in fact that is not the case. “The people on the phone aren’t told, ‘We’ve been given your details in respect to a court order,†he said. “They are being told much more firmly, ‘You have infringed and we are going to sue if you don’t settle’.†How much DBC will demand from alleged infringers is unknown, but it seems inevitable that anything said on the telephone by an account holder will be used against them in a bid to boost the amount. Counsel for DBC, Ian Pike SC, said that it will be up to the individual whether they choose to answer the company’s questions. While most lawyers will advise anyone getting a call from DBC to tell the company absolutely nothing, the movie company is keen for its targets to be unprepared. Firstly, DBC is refusing to reveal how it will calculate the amount each person will be asked to pay. However, it is believed the company will seek some kind of licensing fee and/or damages based on how many times the content was shared online, plus relevant court costs. Alternatively, DBC might simply arrive at the highest figure it can reasonably expect to retrieve from the alleged infringer based on what the company is told on the telephone. However, people being targeted by the company won’t be going into their ‘negotiations’ completely blind. Despite expressing concern that people will read their contents and learn how to reduce the claim against them, on the orders of Judge Nye Perram, DBC will be required to submit the texts of both their telephone script and settlement demand letters to the court. A final judgment on the case is expected between July 10 and 15.
  2. The iconic sitcom Friends aired its last episode more than a decade ago, but that doesn't mean Warner Bros. is letting people pirate the show without consequences. Over the past several weeks the movie studio has sent automated fines to alleged pirates, demanding $20 for the downloading of episodes from various torrent sites. Like many other Hollywood studios, Warner Bros. sees online piracy as a major threat to its revenues. Torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay represent a thorn in the side and the company is doing everything in its power to limit the damage. For Warner Bros. this includes targeting individual users of these sites. Not just to warn them that they are breaking the law, but also by demanding money from alleged pirates. Just recently the Hollywood studio started sending settlement demands to Internet subscribers whose accounts were used to download and share an episode of the popular sitcom Friends. While the series ended well over a decade ago, Warner Bros. is still keeping a close eye on possible infringements. In one notice, seen by TF, the recipient is accused of sharing an episode from season 2, which originally aired in 1995. The Hollywood studio says it “appreciates†that the alleged pirate is a fan of Friends, but notes that sharing copyrighted material is a serious offense. “Although WB understands and appreciates that you are a fan of its content, the unauthorized uploading and downloading of its copyrighted content is a serious matter,†the notice reads. “Your ISP service could be suspended if this matter is not resolved. You could also be liable for substantial civil penalties for copyright infringement.†To resolve the matter Warner Bros. offers the account holder an opportunity to settle the case, linking to the page below where the recipient can submit a payment of $20 to avoid further trouble. Settlement offer While $20 is relatively cheap, Warner Bros. writes that the real damage resulting from the unauthorized sharing is much higher. “The damage to WB from your conduct substantially exceeds $20, but in the interest of having you stop your infringement of WB content permanently, WB is prepared to make you this settlement offer,†the notice explains. Warner Bros. first started sending ‘fines’ to U.S. Internet subscribers two years ago. At the time the Hollywood studio informed us that it was meant as a “discouragement of future unauthorized activity.†However, the automated settlement offers haven’t been without controversy. Warner Bros. and Rightscorp, the company behind the scheme, have been sued for abuse and harassment by several accused downloaders. This is the first time that we’ve seen people being targeted for downloading video content that’s more than 20-years-old. Friends’ age makes it a rather unusual target, but also suggests that Warner Bros. is still generating decent revenue from the series.
  3. Cox Communications, one of the largest telecoms companies in the U.S., has been ordered to expose the identities of 250 of its subscribers whose accounts were frequently used to pirate music. The names, addresses and other personal details were requested in an ongoing lawsuit where the ISP is accused of failing to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. Last year BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music sued Cox Communications, arguing that the ISP fails to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers. The companies, which control the publishing rights to songs by Katy Perry, The Beatles and David Bowie among others, claim that Cox has given up its DMCA safe harbor protections due to this inaction. The case revolves around the “repeat infringer†clause of the DMCA, which prescribes that Internet providers must terminate the accounts of persistent pirates. As part of the discovery process the music outfits requested details on the accounts which they caught downloading their content. In total there are 150,000 alleged pirates, but as a compromise BMG and Round Hill limited their initial request to 500 IP-addresses. Cox refused to hand over the requested information arguing that the Cable Privacy Act prevents the company from disclosing this information. The matter was discussed during a court hearing late last week. After a brief deliberation Judge John Anderson ruled that the ISP must hand over the personal details of 250 subscribers. “Defendants shall produce customer information associated with the Top 250 IP Addresses recorded to have infringed in the six months prior to filing the Complaint,†Judge Anderson writes. “This production shall include the information as requested in Interrogatory No.13, specifically: name, address, account number, the bandwidth speed associated with each account, and associated IP address of each customer.†The order The music companies also asked for the account information of the top 250 IP-addresses connected to the piracy of their files after the complaint was filed, but this request was denied. Similarly, if the copyright holders want information on any of the 149,500 other Cox customers they need a separate order. The music companies previously informed the court that the personal details are crucial to proof their direct infringement claims, but it’s unclear how they plan to use the data. While none of the Cox customers are facing any direct claims as of yet, it’s not unthinkable that some may be named in the suit to increase pressure on the ISP. The full list of IP-addresses is available for download here (PDF).
  4. BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music want Cox to reveal the identities of hundreds of subscribers whose accounts were frequently used to pirate music. The request is part of an ongoing lawsuit where the ISP is accused of failing to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. In the United States most large Internet providers forward DMCA notices to subscribers who’re accused of downloading copyrighted material. Cox Communications is one of the ISPs that does this. In addition, the ISP also implemented a strict set of rules of its own accord to ensure that its customers understand the severity of the allegations. According to some copyright holders, however, Cox’s efforts are falling short. Last year BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music sued the ISP because it fails to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers. The companies, which control the publishing rights to songs by Katy Perry, The Beatles and David Bowie among others, claimed that Cox has given up its DMCA safe harbor protections due to this inaction. The case revolves around the “repeat infringer†clause of the DMCA, which prescribes that Internet providers must terminate the accounts of persistent pirates. Both parties are currently conducting discovery. In order to make their case the copyright holders have sent a long list of demands to Cox, but court records show the ISP is reserved in the information it’s willing to hand over. The company refused, for example, to reveal the identities of roughly 150,000 subscribers who allegedly downloaded infringing works from BMG and Round Hill Music. According to the ISP, the Cable Privacy Act prevents the company from disclosing this information. The music groups, however, aren’t taking no for an answer and are now asking the court to compel Cox to hand over their personal details. According to them, this information is crucial to proof the direct infringement claims. The copyright holders are willing to accept a more limited number of accounts to begin with. In a motion to compel, they ask for the personal details of 500 account holders whose accounts were repeatedly used to share pirated material. “In an effort to narrow the dispute, Copyright Holders only request the identity of and contact information associated with 500 of what appear to be the most egregious infringers,†they write. “Specifically, Copyright Holders seek the identity of subscribers associated with 250 IP addresses that have infringed the copyrights at issue since the complaint was filed in this case, and the identity of subscribers associated with 250 IP addresses that have infringed in the six months prior to the Complaint being filed,†the companies add. While the current request is limited to 500 IP-addresses, the music groups reserve the right to request more at a later stage and ask the court to grant permission to do so. “Copyright Holders also request that the Court issue an open Order requiring Cox to produce the contact information for additional direct infringers of the copyrights at issue in this case, if the need arises,†they write. There is a hearing scheduled for later this week when the copyright holders will further detail their request, if needed. Cox has yet to respond but it’s unlikely that the company will hand to hand over the requested information without putting up a fight.
  5. Anti-piracy monetization firm Rightscorp has failed in its bid to unmask alleged Internet pirates. The company attempted to use the DMCA to force ISP Birch Communications to expose its customers' identities but the company stood strong. A federal judge in Atlanta has now ruled in favor of the ISP by quashing Rightscorp's subpoena. Working on behalf of various copyright owners including Warner Bros. and BMG, last year anti-piracy company Rightscorp began sending subpoenas to dozens of smaller ISPs in the United States. The aim, as usual, was to unmask alleged file-sharers so that they could be pursued for cash settlement. While many ISPs complied with the requests, the practice was controversial. Such subpoenas aren’t considered applicable in file-sharing cases and largely avoid scrutiny since they can by signed by a court clerk and are not reviewed by a judge. In 2014, telecoms company Birch Communications kicked back by refusing to hand over customer details of subsidiary ISP, CBeyond. The company filed a motion to quash Rightscorp’s subpoena arguing that the anti-piracy outfit had embarked on a fishing exercise with no legal basis. “CBeyond contends that the section does not apply to service providers that act only as a conduit for data transferred between other parties and that do not store data. The court agrees,†Magistrate Judge Janet King said. Faced with this setback Rightscorp filed objections to the ruling and sought to have it overturned. The company has now failed in that effort. Last week the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia adopted the earlier ruling and quashed Rightscorp’s subpoena. “We safeguard our customer information and take privacy issues seriously,†Birch President and Chief Executive Officer Vincent Oddo said in a statement. “The U.S. District Court did the right thing by backing our view, and we’re very pleased to see that this case will serve to help protect our customers’ private information.†Birch Senior Vice President and General Counsel Christopher Bunce says the company’s first response is to always protect subscriber privacy. “Our first order of business when anyone requests access to a customer’s private information is to refuse, absent a valid subpoena or court order, which we then scrutinize as we did with Rightscorp’s illegal subpoena in this matter,†Bunce says. According to Gardiner Davis who acted as lead litigation counsel for Birch, Rightscorp’s interpretation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was far too liberal. “They had not even filed a copyright infringement lawsuit,†Davis said. “So this attempt was essentially a fishing expedition and I think this ruling was correctly and wisely decided. The court interpreted the statute as Congress intended.†The defeat represents another blow to an embattled Rightscorp. The company’s latest financial report reveals a company hemorrhaging cash, despite substantial year-on-year growth.
  6. A presumed pirate with an unusually large appetite for activating Windows 7 has incurred the wrath of Microsoft. In a lawsuit filed at a Washington court, the Seattle-based company said that it logged hundreds of suspicious product activations from a Verizon IP address and is now seeking damages. Due to the fact that one needs to be present on most computers in order for them to work at all, operating systems are among the most pirated types of software around. There can be little doubt that across its range in its 29 year history, Microsoft’s Windows operating systems have been pirated countless millions of times. It’s a practice that on some levels Microsoft has come to accept, with regular consumers largely avoiding the company’s aggression. However, as one or perhaps more pirates are about to find out, the same cannot be said of those pirating the company’s products on a commercial scale. In a lawsuit filed this week at a district court in Seattle, Microsoft targets individuals behind a single Verizon IP address – Who he, she or they are is unknown at this point, but according to Microsoft they’re responsible for some serious Windows pirating. “As part of its cyberforensic methods, Microsoft analyzes product key activation data voluntarily provided by users when they activate Microsoft software, including the IP address from which a given product key is activated,†the lawsuit reads. Microsoft says that its forensic tools allow the company to analyze billions of activations of Microsoft software and identify patterns “that make it more likely than not†that an IP address associated with activations is one through which pirated software is being activated. “Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified hundreds of product key activations originating from IP address…which is presently assigned to Verizon Online LLC. These activations have characteristics that on information and belief, establish that Defendants are using the IP address to activate pirated software.†Microsoft says that the defendant(s) have activated hundreds of copies of Windows 7 using product keys that have been “stolen†from the company’s supply chain or have never been issued with a valid license, or keys used more times than their license allows. In addition to immediate injunctive relief and the impounding of all infringing materials, the company demands profits attributable to the infringements, treble damages and attorney fees or, alternatively, statutory damages. This week’s lawsuit (pdf) follows similar action in December 2014 in which Microsoft targeted the user behind an AT&T account.
  7. U.S. TV series 'Empire' premiered in the UK last night but early fans of the show had been watching the show illegally for months. While that is viewed as a problem by 20th Century Fox, Empire star Taraji P Henson says when people downloaded the first series from unofficial sources, that got the show noticed in the UK. "Thank you. Thank you everybody," she says. Following its debut in the United States in January, TV show Empire certainly made its mark on its home audience. Pulling in close to a season average of 13 million viewers, the hip-hop focused drama exceeded expectations. Indeed, by the time the first season finished on Fox mid March, 23 million were tuning in, with the New York Times describing the show as both “sizzling†and “pretty perfect.†Of course, like the vast majority of U.S. productions, home audiences were always going to get the opportunity to enjoy Empire first. However, thanks to the Internet and a network of unofficial online distributors, Empire was soon being exposed to a much wider audience. Within hours of its premiere January 7, 2015, Empire S01E01 was circulating on torrent and streaming sites, an attractive proposition for potential viewers elsewhere who had heard about the show’s popularity in the United States yet had no legitimate way to get in on the action. According to stats gathered by TorrentFreak, on average the show was being downloaded more than 250,000 times per episode via BitTorrent, a number that doesn’t include many thousands of additional views on various streaming sites worldwide. But while distributor 20th Century Fox wasn’t particularly keen on Empire being seen outside the United States (the company sent dozens of complaints to Google for the show to be delisted from search results), Empire star Taraji P Henson sees things quite differently. “The only way that it [Empire] got over to the UK is because people were streaming it [illegally]. They [uK television companies] wouldn’t have known the show was that important, or that people wanted to see it, if they weren’t streaming it,†Henson told the BBC. The actress, who plays the role of ‘Cookie’ in the show, echoes the position of Netflix, which notes the popularity of content with pirates and uses that as an indicator of whether it should invest in shows. “You guys were streaming, and I know it’s a bad thing, but when the material is good people will find it. Thank you. Thank you everybody. People didn’t think it would do well over here,†Henson added. After its success in the U.S., Empire was picked up by UK TV channel E4. Nick Lee, a buyer for the channel, didn’t reveal whether the show’s piracy ‘successes’ were a factor in snapping up the drama but did note that there was plenty of interest. “We just think it fits so well on the channel,†he said. “There was huge competition. I think most channels in the UK wanted it. And after Empire enjoyed its premiere in the UK last night, it became clear why. The show was well received by critics and fans alike. Downloads of Empire are now at much more modest levels than they were in January but that situation should change when the show’s second season premieres in the United States during the fall. A US-UK simultaneous release will almost certainly be too much to ask.
  8. HBO has started to crack down on paying customers who access the HBO Now service from outside the United States. Subscribers from countries including Canada, the UK, Germany and Australia who use VPNs and other unblocking tools are now being threatened with account terminations. In an effort to gain more subscribers HBOlaunched its standalone “HBO Now†service earlier this year. The subscription allows Americans to access HBO’s content, including Game of Thrones, without the need to have a television subscription. With the offer HBO hopes to drive people away from pirate sites, but it also created a new form of unauthorized use. As with Netflix and Hulu, many people outside the U.S. signed up for the service through VPNs and other geo-unblocking tools. Although they are paying customers, using HBO Now from outside the U.S. is not permitted under the company’s terms of use. While Netflix is still fairly lax about geo-unblocking, HBO is now cracking down on the practice. A few days ago thousands of VPN and proxy “pirates†started to receive worrying email warnings. “It has come to our attention that you may have signed up for and viewed video content on the HBO NOW streaming service from outside of the authorized service area (the United States, including D.C. and certain US territories),†HBO writes. “We would like to take this opportunity to remind you that the HBO NOW streaming service is only available to residents of the United States, for use within the United States. Any other access is prohibited by our Terms of Use.†HBO Now warning The emails in question target users all over the world, including Canada, the UK,Germany and Australia. Unless they were flagged by mistake, HBO will terminate the accounts of affected subscribers within days and without the option of a refund. HBO is cracking down on VPN and proxy pirates to protect the value of their licensing deals. If millions of foreigners use the U.S. version, local partners in these countries are going to complain. However, since legal options are often lacking there’s little doubt that many ‘unauthorized’ viewers will find less official ways to access the shows they love to watch. This time, however, HBO will not get a dime.
  9. The superb Grand Theft Auto V was finally released this week on PC, setting off a wave of desperation in those looking to obtain the game for free. After the first cracks appeared downloads mounted quickly, with GTA V pirates gobbling up more bandwidth in the first few hours than last weekend's initial wave of Game of Thrones pirates. Grand Theft Auto V is one of the most eagerly anticipated PC game releases of 2015 and this week the tension was finally over. For most the wait for desktop version of the 2013/2014 smash hit was totally worth it, with overwhelmingly positive reviews circulating online. For others, however, the week has been one of tooth-gnashing, nail-biting tension, largely spent worrying over whether the mighty DRM-defeating piracy overlords would find it in their hearts to throw a cracked version to the masses. And in parts it was a pretty ugly thing to behold. Endless warez and torrent forums (and more public affairs such as Reddit) were flooded with requests for a cracked version of the iconic game, leading to anger over the umpteenth duplicate thread among those who’d answered the same questions dozens of times already. But the real desperation was to be found in numerous chat channels occupied by people hoping to get an early heads-up on where to find the first free (and functioning) online copies. On the day of the game’s release TF spent time in a few of them and for the most part it was an absolute car crash, largely due to people posting links to all manner of bogus content. While the pictures of crack (cocaine) and the odd meme weren’t particularly hostile, the links to renamed .exe files and people running them there and then, with no apparent concern for the well being of their computers, was something to behold. “Don’t forget to disable your anti-virus before running,†was the sterling advice given on a number of occasions. At least twice people claimed to have received errors on their screen after running what they thought was a genuine crack, only to immediately disappear from chat, never to return. With the air thick with schadenfreude, much dark hilarity ensued among the link spammers. By Wednesday it became clear that Chinese group 3DM would probably be the first to put out a crack for the popular title and sure enough a few hours later the much-anticipated code began to propagate. Suitable only for Windows 7 machines in the first instance, a later version claimed to cater for Windows 8 installations too. But for some the few hours wait between official GTA V launch and the subsequent crack release had been too much. With a level of impatience not often seen in the gaming world, countless users publicly declared “enough is enough†and reported buying the game on Steam instead. They’re probably still stuck in Los Santos now, robbing and killing their way to infamy. Nevertheless, many thousands more with either more patience, less disposable income, or both, proceeded to obtain the game and its crack through less official channels. By very early Thursday at least 20,000 people had obtained the game using BitTorrent, a not inconsiderable feat considering the huge size of the files involved. While the updates and cracks weighed in at less than 400mb, the game files themselves were changing hands in archives ranging from 40GB to 60GB, with warnings that the compressed version could take four hours or more to decompress and install, even after the mammoth download. But despite the waiting and hoop jumping, by early Thursday a staggering one petabyte of data had been exchanged on the most popular GTA V torrents, an amount equal to all U.S. Internet traffic during a single day in 2000. Or, to put it another way, more data than was consumed by the million Game of Thrones pirates who downloaded the first leaked episode in the hours following last week’s surprise release. Nevertheless, even after all the head-scratching, waiting, downloading, decompressing and other shenanigans, many users are still having problems running the cracked version of the game. Others, on the other hand, report no problems at all and have heaped praise on 3DM for their amazing work. “I love this game! Is there any way to donate to 3DM?†a user on one site asked. “How about sending money to the Rockstar devs instead?†came a dry response. And indeed, some pirates intend to do just that. “It’s definitely impressive [to have cracked the game] in such a short time. I appreciate the efforts a lot,†wrote one. “My only real goal was to gauge how well it runs on my PC before I plunk down $60 for it. Now that I know it runs fine I’ll be buying it after work today.†
  10. The Motion Picture Association has written to Brazil's Justice Minister seeking exceptions to the country's fledgling “Internet Constitution". In a submission to the government the MPA says that the Marco Civil's current wording on net neutrality deprives courts of the opportunity to order the blocking of 'pirate' sites. The Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet (Marco Civil da Internet) is legislation that governs the use of the Internet in Brazil. Under development since 2009, among other key issues the Marco Civil is aimed at protecting online privacy rights and net neutrality principles. The law, which passed last April, was fast-tracked in the wake of revelations from Edward Snowden indicating that the U.S. had been spying on President Dilma Rousseff’s emails and phone calls, those of Brazil’s biggest oil company, and the communications of millions of citizens. After being in place for a year, Brazil is now rolling out the Marco Civil’s secondary legislation, with the Ministry of Justice announcing a public consultation process allowing stakeholders to contribute to the development of the law. One of the organizations getting involved is the Motion Picture Association, the international big brother to the United States’ MPAA. According to the MPA, which counts all the big movie studios among its members, the Marco Civil’s net neutrality provisions present an obstacle to rightsholders seeking to protect their content online. In a submission to Justice Minister José Eduardo Cardozo, the Motion Picture Association expresses concern that the legislation’s current wording is too tight and that exceptions need to be introduced in order to deal with online piracy. “[Our] position is that the regulation should contain cases of exception to the general rule of net neutrality, enabling the judiciary to determine that traffic to a given illegal repository can be blocked,†the MPA writes. “The aforementioned suggestion is based on the premise that an adequate service must be in harmony with the possibility of allowing the judiciary to block access to content that, based on judicial scrutiny, is illegal for any reason, from a case of child pornography and trafficking of illegal substances, to the case of systematic disregard for the consumer and violation of intellectual property rights.†The MPA notes that due to the borderless nature of the Internet anyone can access content from any location. This presents challenges on a national level when undesirable content is made available from other parts of the world, the group says. “For content hosted within a national territory a judge may issue a removal order, or in the case of breaches in the copyright field, the rightsholder can send a takedown notice to the ISP, requesting that the content is rendered unavailable,†the MPA states. “However, when the content is hosted in a foreign nation, the Brazilian court order may [not have jurisdiction] or produce the expected results for months, perhaps years, after the court order has been issued.†According to the MPA there is only one way to remedy this kind of impotence but the way the law is currently worded, the solution remains elusive. “In these cases the Brazilian courts only have only one option: to order service providers to implement technical measures to block Internet traffic when it has been established that services are illegal,†the MPA notes. “Without a clear provision for these techniques, in the midst of regulations, the current wording of the Marco Civil deprives courts of this possibility, leaving them unable to address such threats.†The net neutrality debate is a sensitive one and one that has the potential to seriously affect Hollywood’s interests. With that in mind the MPA and MPAA will be keen to ensure that any new legislation, whether overseas or on home turf, won’t hinder the pursuit and monitoring of online pirates.
  11. AMC has obtained a subpoena ordering Vimeo to hand over the personal details of "The Spoiling Dead Fans" account, which posted a leaked clip of The Walking Dead a few weeks ago. Through the legal action AMC likely wants to prevent similar leaks in the future. With dozens of millions of viewers around the world The Walking Dead is one of the most popular TV-series around. The series just ended its fifth season and is scheduled to return next fall. In common with most popular shows, The Walking Dead has a dedicated group of followers who’re constantly on the lookout for spoilers and possible directions the series may take. One of the sources that has done well on this front is “The Spoiling Dead Fans.†The people behind the site have posted inside information and many spoiler videos in recent weeks, helped by unnamed sources. “There is no amount of ‘thanks’ that we could ever give to our sources for everything they have done. We truly appreciate every bit of info they have shared with us throughout the seasons,†the group wrote on Facebook this week. While the fan community does generate plenty of buzz for The Walking Dead, AMC is not happy with all material they publish. In February the spoiler group published a 32 second sneak peek of the episode “From A Friend,†which was uploaded to Vimeo. As it contained video that had yet to air on TV it was quickly pulled offline by AMC. “AMC diligently enforces its rights in and to The Walking Dead in all forms of media and rightfully takes its responsibility for the protection of The Walking Dead very seriously,†the company informed Vimeo. And AMC didn’t stop at a takedown notice. A few days later it went to court demanding a subpoena to obtain the personal details of the alleged infringer from Vimeo, which was granted (pdf). When presented with the subpoena, Vimeo has few other options than to hand over all the information they have on the account holder. This includes the associated email and IP-addresses. Whether the information will be sufficient to pinpoint an actual person is unknown. AMC states that it wants to protect its rights, but whether that will be achieved via legal action remains to be seen. AMC is probably most interested in finding out who the sources for the actual leaked footage and spoilers are. For now, The Spoiling Dead Fans remain active through their own website and social media accounts, spoiling their way to the next season.
  12. Countering the drastic growth of Popcorn Time in Denmark, local filmmakers are planning to go after the application's users. This means that all those sharing copyrighted movies via BitTorrent are risking hefty fines, or worse. After suing hundreds of alleged downloaders in the United States, the makers of Dallas Buyers Club expanded their legal campaign to Europe late last year. The first cases were brought in Denmark, with anti-piracy lawfirm Maqs demanding fines of roughly 250 euros per infringement. After collecting several successful payments the scheme is now getting traction locally, especially following reports that Popcorn Time has become more popular than Netflix. “You could say that the ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ letters have been a success in the number of inquiries that have come in,†Maqs’ lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen told DR, noting that new letters are still being sent out for Dallas Buyers Club. One of the filmmakers interested in the “speculative invoicing†scheme is Danish producer Ronnie Fridthjof. Together with other industry players he’s determined to go after Popcorn Time users. “I had hoped that politicians and the police would take care of such matters, but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. When my business is threatened, I am more or less forced to do something,†Fridthjof tells TV2. While Popcorn Time is specifically mentioned as a target, the action will affect regular BitTorrent users as well. After all, Popcorn Time streams films by connecting to regular torrent swarms. The new fines are expected to be sent out this summer. The first ones will be around 1,000 to 2,000 Danish krone ($150 to $300), and will increase if recipients fail to respond. As a last resort the filmmakers are considering whether to take alleged pirates to court. According to some users streaming films via Popcorn Time is seen as something in a legal gray area. Fridthjof, however, has no doubt that it’s against the law. “It is absolutely crazy that people believe it is legal. It is in no way! It is comparable buying and selling counterfeit goods right next to an official store,†he says. Similarly, the filmmaker doesn’t buy the excuse that people use Popcorn Time because the legal services don’t have the latest films. That doesn’t justify grabbing something for free, he says. “We must be able to choose which business model we want, and it must not be guided by unlawful acts. We will not make a business model that competes with free content,†he says. Legal threats against Popcorn Time users are not new. In the U.S. lawsuits against BitTorrent pirates are quite common, and in Germany Popcorn Time related ‘fines’ have also been issued. Responding to these developments, various Popcorn Time variants have warned their users over possible legal repercussions and have started offering anonymizing options. Both and now have built-in VPN support. For now there are still many people using Popcorn Time without anonymizing services, so there will still be plenty of people to fine.
  13. 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.
  14. Voltage Pictures, the company behind the Oscar-winning Hurt Locker movie, must pay $21,557 to expose 2,000 alleged pirates. Canada's Federal Court ruled on the long running dispute between the movie studio and Internet provider Teksavvy this week, a decision that's crucial for future 'copyright trolling' efforts. More than two years ago movie studio Voltage Pictures took its legal crusade against pirating BitTorrent users to Canada. After targeting tens of thousands of people in the US, the company hoped to expose 2,000 Internet subscribers of Canadian ISP TekSavvy. The studio behind “The Hurt Locker†argued that they have a solid case under the Copyright Act. The efforts led to objections from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) who demanded safeguards so Voltage wouldn’t demand hefty fines from subscribers without oversight. The court agreed on this, but allowed the customers to be exposed. The only matter that remained were the costs associated with identifying the alleged pirates. According to Voltage these would only be a few hundred Canadian dollars, but Teksavvy claimed more that $350,000. This week the Federal Court ruled on the matter (pdf), settling the costs at $21,557. This includes $17,057 in technical administrative costs and $4,500 in legal fees associated with the IP-address lookups. The total sum translates to roughly $11 per IP-address, which is a tiny fraction of the thousands of dollars in settlements Voltage usually requests. The Court decided not to award any assessment costs, noting that both parties are intent on disparaging each other’s business practices. Taking claims from both sides into account it concluded that neither party should be rewarded for its conduct. “TekSavvy, without justification, has greatly exaggerated its claim, while Voltage has unreasonably sought to trivialize it based on unreliable and largely irrelevant evidence,†Judge Aronovitch writes. In the future it would be wise to agree on a fixed rate for linking IP-addresses to the personal details of subscribers before taking the matter to court, the Judge further notes. “The best practice, in my view, would be for the rights holder to ascertain, in advance, with clarity and precision, the method of correlation used by the ISP, as well as the time and costs attendant on the execution of the work based, to begin, on a hypothetical number of IP addresses.†The verdict opens the door for more of these cases in Canada. The question is, however, whether the costs and the restrictions still make it worthwhile. University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist, who followed the case closely, believes this troll-type activity may not be as financially viable as Voltage has hoped. “With the cap on liability for non-commercial infringement, the further costs of litigating against individuals, the actual value of the works, and the need to obtain court approval on demand letters, it is hard to see how this is a business model that works,†Geist notes. Voltage, however, appears to be determined to continue its actions against the subscribers. The studio’s lawyer is happy with the verdict and says the decision “confirms the court’s commitment to facilitate anti-piracy and allow companies like Voltage to pursue pirates.†
  15. Are you located in China, running a pirate version of Windows 7 or Windows 8 but fancy a shiny new version of Windows 10 instead? Well, your luck is in as Microsoft says it will give even the most piratical of Chinese users an upgrade copy of its next operating system for the bargain price of absolutely free. The Chinese are known for duplicating just about anything, from entire Apple stores to some of the world’s most famous cars. Nevertheless and seemingly against the odds, easily copied items are doing well through official channels. China reportedly fueled record global box-office revenues in 2014 and even has official Hollywood movies available online before they air in the United States, ostensibly to beat piracy. And today brings yet more good news for Chinese citizens who prefer not to pay for their content. When it arrives later in the year, Microsoft are going to gift free upgrades of Windows 10 not only to those who purchased Windows 7 and Windows 8, but also to those who pirated them. Speaking from the WinHEC technology conference in Shenzhen, China, Terry Myerson, who runs Microsoft’s operating systems unit, said the plan was aimed at bringing the currently non-paying back on board. “We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,†Myerson told Reuters. “The plan is to ‘re-engage’ with the hundreds of millions of users of Windows in China,†he said. In January this year Microsoft said it would offer free upgrades of Windows 10 to legitimate users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 but this is the first time that pirates will be given an official free pass. The big question now is how this news will be received in the West. In the United States, for example, pirate users of Windows 7 and 8 will be expected to pay top dollar for Microsoft’s newest OS if they too want to jump aboard the legit train. That may raise hackles. However, the fact that Chinese pirate users will get a free upgrade of Windows 10 could open up avenues for Western pirates to masquerade as their Eastern counterparts in order to avoid paying. Exactly how that will play out will remain to be seen, but it’s more than likely that a ‘pirate’ solution will be found, one way or another. In the meantime many pirates will remain with their current operating system until a stable version of Windows 10 becomes available, whether that hails from China or elsewhere.
  16. This past weekend was evidently not the greatest one for the production of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. As we reported earlier today, the film was first interrupted when a man wearing pirate regalia came on to the set waving a knife around, and now reports are coming in saying that Johnny Depp has injured his hand to the extent that it will require surgery. Unfortunately, we not only are lacking any details regarding exactly what happened to the star, but there is also conflicting information out on the web as to exactly where the injury occurred. Variety's article about the matter says that Johnny Depp was not working at the time of the incident, but The Hollywood Reporter says that he was on set at the time. The movie is currently filming on Australia's Gold Coast, and has been doing so for the last few weeks. The good news in all of this is that it doesn't look like Johnny Depp's injury is going to throw the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales off of its schedule. The actor will be flying back to the United States to get surgery on his hand, but the production will continue to shoot and work around Depp's absence by working on other material. Disney has no plans to change the feature's release date, which isn't too surprising given that the film is still more than two years away from hitting theaters. Obviously, things could be a lot worse. Many of you will remember the long stretch of time last summer when Harrison Ford's on-set injury caused the production of Star Wars: The Force Awakens to not only morph its schedule, but actually go on hiatus for a couple of weeks. Of course, even that much more severe case didn't cause the studio to react and change plans, and that particular film is still on schedule to come out on December 17th. In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, directed by Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning, Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow, though this new sequel once again finds him facing off against a brand new antagonist. Javier Bardem will be playing the role of Captain Salazar, an old nemesis of Captain Jack's who wants to see the death of every single pirate at sea. In order to survive a terrible on-slaught, the only option Captain Jack has is to try and find the legendary Trident of Poseidon, which would allow him full power over the seas. In addition to Depp, the feature will also see the return of Geoffrey Rush, Kevin R. McNally, and Stephen Graham, and feature franchise newcomers Kaya Scodelario, Brenton Thwaites, and Golshifteh Farahani. Look for the film in theaters on July 7, 2017. -
  17. Physical counterfeiters can receive up to 10 years in jail under UK copyright law but should online pirates receive the same maximum punishment? A new report commissioned by the government reveals that many major rightsholders believe they should, but will that have the desired effect? A new study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) examines whether the criminal sanctions for copyright infringement available under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) are currently proportionate and correct, or whether they should be amended. While the Digital Economy Act 2010 increased financial penalties up to a maximum of £50,000, in broad terms the main ‘offline’ copyright offenses carry sentences of up to 10 years in jail while those carried out online carry a maximum of ‘just’ two. In 2014, Mike Weatherley MP, then IP advisor to the Prime Minister, said that this disparity “sends all the wrong messagesâ€, a position that was supported by many major rightsholders. The current report examines data from 2006 to 2013 alongside stakeholder submissions, both for and against a change in the law. “Many industry bodies argue that higher penalties are necessary and desirable and that there is no justification for treating physical and online crime differently. Other stakeholders suggest that these offenses are in fact different, and raise concerns about a possible ‘chilling effect’ on innovation,†the report reads. One key finding is that court data from 2006-2013 reveals that prosecutions under the CDPA have actually been going down and that online offenses actually constitute “a small, and apparently decreasing, fraction of copyright prosecution activity as a whole.†In fact, the Crown Prosecution Service didn’t bring a single case under the online provisions of the CDPA 1988 during the period examined. “While there have been prosecutions during recent years, these have either used alternative legislation (such as common law conspiracy to defraud) or been directed at clarifying the civil law position in the European Court,†the report notes. “It is not clear that alternative legislation provides a satisfactory solution. By definition it does nothing to improve case law or understanding of the copyright issues.†This lack of case law is seen as problematic by the Federation Against Copyright Theft. In recent years FACT has stepped away from public prosecutions under copyright law in order to pursue private prosecutions under other legislation such as the Fraud Act. “Public prosecutors have been reluctant for years to take online cases, not wishing to be the first to attempt what might end in failure I guess. As a result there is no case law,†says FACT Director-General Kieron Sharp. “We need to still prosecute these cases so we often take them forward as private criminal prosecutions. However, these are serious cases and the two-year maximum sentence available downgrades the case in the eyes of the court who in any event cannot impose a sentence reflective of the crime. “We therefore follow other legislation and thus ourselves do not establish case law, which leads the prosecutor in the next case to again dismiss the chances of success.†For its part the Open Rights Group’s submission cautions against overly aggressive punishments that not only have the potential to affect those operating on the boundaries, but also those seeking to innovate. “The proposals could have a larger effect on specific groups that operate at the limits of current copyright legislation, but are not mass infringers and would not be prosecuted under fraud,†ORG explains. “Many internet innovators, prosumers, online creative communities that create non-profit derivative works, fandom producers, etc. All these people – many of whom technically breach copyright in their activities – could find themselves facing prison sentences if making available carried a maximum sentence of ten years.†So should the law be changed? As usual, the answer is far from straightforward. “The argument put forward by the Open Rights Group and others, that physical and online offenses are not the same, is persuasive. However, the fact remains that these two offenses end up having a very similar detrimental effect on the rights holders, and the question remains whether the maximum penalties are set at an appropriate level,†the report notes. “Whilst it is true to say that a consumer (or ‘prosumer’) can rapidly distribute content internationally without any criminal intent, it is also true that the logistical barriers to criminal activity are much lower online; the amount of investment a criminally-minded person needs to make in order to generate a serious level of disruption and harm is far lower. “The absence of a suitable penalty for serious cases of online infringement (which are likely to be very much in the minority) is currently creating a distortion because it results in alternative legislation being used. Alternatives may be justifiable under the circumstances, but appear less well suited to the crime.†Another question addressed by the report is whether a 10 year sentence would act as a deterrent. Awkwardly for the government it points out that following the increase to a maximum 10 year sentence for physical piracy in 2002, prosecutions actually rose before falling away in 2008. “[The] data available on recent online offending is at such a low level that there is no deterrent case that can be made from it,†the report adds. But while a change in the law is certainly preferred by some, there are alternatives. The report points to the takedown initiatives currently being employed by major rightsholders, including website blockades via local ISPs. Also upcoming is the Creative Content UK program which will see the public warned and educated when they’re spotted infringing copyright online. Only time will tell whether a 10 year sentence will be seen as appropriate, but safeguards that only the most serious of crimes are viewed as worthy of a maximum sentence will have to be put in place, and that will certainly be more easily said than done. Penalty Fair? Study of criminal sanctions for copyright infringement available under the CDPA 1988 – is available here (pdf). It’s a long read but definitely worth the effort.
  18. Viacom has decided to get tough with a website streaming its content online without permission. In a lawsuit filed at a California court the media giant complains not only of copyright and trademark infringement but also cyber-squatting and unfair competition. Time will tell if's 'fair use' defense will prevail. Nickelodeon is perhaps one of the world’s most recognizable brands when it comes to children’s entertainment. Its shows reach all corners of the globe and with characters such as SpongeBob Squarepants its a firm fan favorite with the younger generation. A website that has clearly spotted the potential of exploiting of Nicklodeon’s content is Nick Reboot. Founded in 2012, offers 24/7 live streaming of classic Nickelodeon TV shows from the 1990s and 2000s. Once on the site viewers are immediately confronted with a random Nick show playing alongside a chatbox. “We air shows (both cartoons and live action) from the 90s and early 2000s that were shown on the United States Nickelodeon TV channel during that time (we also show some 80s content as well). This includes syndicated programming, original programming, station IDs, bumpers, and commercials,†the site explains. “Shows are aired live and in random order, meaning that you are seeing what everyone else is seeing – just like live TV. There is no schedule set for when shows will be played.†Free service aside, however, the site also offers a subscription service to those who don’t like the random order in which shows are played. “Nick Reboot On Demand lets you watch what you want, when you want. Choose from our extensive library of shows, movies, and specials and re-live your childhood on your own schedule,†the site explains. The site’s offers, both free and paid, have not gone unnoticed by Viacom. The media giant has just filed a lawsuit at United States District Court in California claiming not only copyright and trademark infringement but also cyber-squatting and unfair competition. “Viacom, which owns the copyrights and trademarks in Viacom content, including content airing on the Nickelodeon networks, never authorized Defendants’ use of Viacom’s copyrighted content or any Nickelodeon trademarks on the [] website. Viacom therefore brings this action to prevent the continued willful infringement of its copyrights and trademarks,†the complaint reads. “[] offers paid on-demand viewing to subscribers at the following price options: (a) $3.99 per month; (b) $9.99 for three months; © $19.99 for six months; and (d) $35.99 for one year. The [] website also accepts donations and offers extended site features for members who donate.†Viacom says that the NickReboot website is operated out of San Diego and is causing damage to a business which currently reaches “more than 550 million households across approximately 140 territories†with products such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Digimon, Power Rangers, Invader Zim and SpongeBob SquarePants. In its complaint Viacom concedes it does not know the names of the John Does 1-5 targeted in its lawsuit but believes that the discovery process will reveal their true identities. First, the website’s registration details are currently obscured by the Whoisguard privacy service. Second, several payment processors and service providers also deal with the site. Viacom want to compel these companies to give up the information they have on file so that action can be taken on several fronts. Copyright and trademarks “Viacom is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that Defendants are fully aware of Viacom’s exclusive rights, and have infringed Viacom’s rights willfully, maliciously and with wanton disregard,†the complaint notes, adding the company will seek the maximum statutory damages, actual damages and attorneys’ fees. Next, Viacom wants to be compensated for abuse of its trademarks since Nick Reboot demonstrates “an intentional, willful, and malicious intent†to trade on the goodwill associated with Viacom’s IP. “Defendants’ use of confusingly similar imitations of Viacom’s Nickelodeon Marks is likely to cause confusion, deception, and mistake by creating the false and misleading impression that Defendants’ pirated Viacom Works are produced, distributed, endorsed, sponsored, approved, or licensed by Viacom, or are associated or connected with Viacom,†the complaint reads. “Defendants have caused and are likely to continue causing substantial injury to the public and to Viacom, and Viacom is entitled to injunctive relief and to recover Defendants’ profits, actual damages,enhanced profits and damages, costs, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.†Cybersquatting Viacom’s legal team states that the selection of the domain name constitutes a deliberate effort to trade on the goodwill of Nickelodeon and cause confusion among the brand’s customers. “Defendants registered the [] domain name, which fully incorporates the NICK word mark and is confusingly similar to the Nickelodeon Marks, with a bad faith intent to profit from the Nickelodeon Marks and the consequent confusion of Internet users without any reasonable grounds to believe that Defendants’ use and registration of the [] domain name was fair,†the company adds. “In addition to costs and injunctive relief, Viacom is entitled to an order directing Defendants to forfeit the [] domain name and to transfer it to Viacom, and awarding Viacom statutory damages under 15U.S.C. § 1117(d).†The media giant rounds off its complaint with a wave of claims based in unfair competition law. Viacom requests a permanent injunction to stop the defendants operating the website in question and using Viacom trademarks without permission. All associated service providers, advertising agencies and financial institutions connected to the website should be added to the injunction, the media company says, and the domain name should be handed over immediately. According to a page on the Nick Reboot site, the service “operates strictly under certain provisions listed in the doctrine of ‘fair use’ as codified in section 107 of the copyright law, and monitors the status of related industry legislation such as Bill S.978 (pending) for compliance,†but whether this means much to Viacom remains to be seen. “Viacom respectfully demands a trial by jury on all claims and issues so triable,†the company concludes. At the time of publication, NickReboot had not responded to our request for comment.
  19. A few hours ago Android developer Jack Underwood revealed that his software was being pirated by 85% of users. Now, on the advice of Reddit, the UK-based dev has tweaked the app to provide pirates with some special surprises. Speaking with TF, Underwood says traditional anti-piracy measures are a waste of time. It doesn’t really matter what kind of digital media a company or individual produces, it’s a given that someone, somewhere, will attempt to pirate it. Software, which has traditionally been expensive to buy, has always been targeted by those with small budgets seeking to enjoy products often placed out of reach. But price doesn’t always provide an excuse for those obtaining software without permission. With the rise of smart phones and tablet computers, software has become cheaper than ever, with many paid apps now available for just a few dollars. One such app is Today Calendar Pro from UK developer Jack Underwood. It’s an already popular replacement calendar for Android with 4.5 stars from several thousand voters on Google Play. However, like many devs, Underwood is trying to find a way to bring down piracy rates. Just a few hours ago he revealed to Reddit users that 85% of people are using pirate versions of his app. How to reduce that volume quickly became the topic of conversation. Some Reddit users were very aggressive but Underwood eventually settled on a more gentle approach. “Today Calendar Pro has a 85% piracy rate, so the way we’ve chosen to combat that is to have the app randomly insert pirate-themed events if the app decides the install is pirated,†Underwood told TorrentFreak. The first one, which has already been implemented, sees a graphical depiction of a plank suspended over shark-infested waters alongside a subtle reminder – “That’s what ye get fer piratin’ matey.†But despite the huge piracy rates, Underwood is surprisingly pragmatic. The developer informs TF that he actually ‘gets’ piracy and understands the mindset behind it. “I’m not against piracy, from either a consumer or developer standpoint – I can totally understand why people pirate Today Calender. They want to try it out for an extended period of time, or they can’t afford to buy it, or they don’t think it’s worth the asking price, and that’s 100% fine with me,†he says. Nevertheless, there’s no getting away from the fact that almost 9 out of 10 people using the Pro version aren’t paying the $6 price tag. Underwood feels there could be two reasons. “Maybe it’s far too convenient to pirate (for the consumer, not the cracker), and the cost of the pro version is more than the convenience of updates from the Play Store. Or perhaps it’s not actually worth $6,†he says. “Obviously I’m a little biased, but personally I think it’s worth $6 to people who use a calendar app on a daily basis. I also update the app a lot, probably three times a week.†In the meantime Underwood will stick with more unorthodox ways of tackling piracy – he has no interest in investing time in the old tried-and-failed methods. “Fighting piracy in a traditional way is a waste of time in my eyes, software will get cracked anyway. The majority of people who pirate my apps wouldn’t have bought them anyway, so it’s not as if I’m losing 85% of my revenue. In any event, I’d rather spend that time making Today more awesome.†People who do decide to pirate Today Calender Pro will find it easily using Google, but Underwood hopes that the ‘special events’ appearing in the app at surprise intervals might encourage people to spend $6 if they find the software useful long-term. “These events wont start occurring instantly, but when they do they’ll happen a lot – so the cracker (at first) won’t see the event coming, but once they start, they might get annoying quite quickly. “The plan is that people will get so bored of being invited to ‘pirate parties’ and being told to walk the plank that they’ll give up and just buy the thing,†Underwood concludes. Those who do want to spend $6 can do so here, but for everyone else there’s a free ad-supported version. Those choosing to use unauthorized sources can do so, but expect to be invited to pirate-themed parties – every Tharrrrrsday.
  20. This week the MPA's Stan McCoy said it's a myth that legal content is not available, hinting at an excuse often used by movie pirates. But is that really the case? A quick survey shows that Hollywood still has a long way to go before availability becomes a non-issue. Currently, only one of the ten most-pirated movies can be bought or rented online. Hollywood has a message to all those pirates who keep making excuses to download and stream films illegally. “You have no excuse.†The major movie studios have done enough to make their content legally available, launching thousands of convenient movie services worldwide, they claim. “We need to bust the myth that legal content is unavailable. Creative industries are tirelessly experimenting with new business models that deliver films, books, music, TV programs, newspapers, games and other creative works to consumers,†Stan McCoy noted on the MPAA blog this week. “In Europe, there are over 3,000 on-demand audio-visual services available to European citizens,†he adds. So is the MPA right? Is “availability†an imaginary problem that pirates use as an excuse not to pay? We decided to investigate the issue by looking at the online availability of the ten most downloaded films of last week. Since the MPAA’s blog post talked about Europe and the UK we decided to use which focuses on UK content. The results of our small survey speak for themselves. Of the ten most pirated movies only Gone Girl is available to buy or rent online. A pretty weak result, especially since it’s still missing from the most popular video subscription service Netflix. Ranking Movie Available Online? Buy / Rent 1 Interstellar NO 2 American Sniper NO 3 Taken 3 NO 4 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies NO 5 John Wick NO 6 Into The Woods NO 7 Fury NO 8 Gone Girl Rent/Buy 9 American Heist NO 10 The Judge NO Yes, the results above are heavily skewed because they only include movies that were released recently. Looking up films from 2011 will result in a much more favorable outcome in terms of availability. But isn’t that the problem exactly? Most film fans are not interested in last year’s blockbusters, they want to able to see the new stuff in their home too. And since the movie industry prefers to keep its windowing business model intact, piracy is often the only option to watch recent movies online. So when the MPA’s Stan McCoy says that lacking availability is a myth, he’s ignoring the elephant in the room. For as long as the film industry keeps its windowing business model intact, releasing films online months after their theatrical release, people will search for other ways to access content, keeping their piracy habit alive. Admittedly, changing a business that has relied on complex licensing schemes and windowing strategies for decades isn’t easy. But completely ignoring that these issues play a role is a bit shortsighted. There’s no doubt that the movie studios are making progress. It’s also true that many people choose to pirate content that is legally available, simply because it’s free. There is no good excuse for these freeriders, but it’s also a myth that Hollywood has done all it can to eradicate piracy. Even its own research proves them wrong. Earlier this year a KPMG report, commissioned by NBC Universal, showed that only 16% of the most popular and critically acclaimed films are available via Netflix and other on-demand subscription services. The missing 84% includes recent titles but also older ones that are held back due to rights issues. Clearly, availability is still an issue. So if Hollywood accuses Google of breeding pirates, then it’s safe to say the same about Hollywood.
  21. Last Thursday file-sharers flocked to an HD copy of the movie Taken 3 after it was uploaded to torrent sites. Several days earlier TF was informed it was coming and even shown where it would be obtained from. Let's take a dusty trip to the Middle East to find out more. Soon after its U.S. premiere on January 9, pirate copies of the new Liam Neeson movie Taken 3 began appearing online. While quality was decent for a ‘cam’ recording, it was nothing to get really excited about. As it happened that didn’t matter too much since most downloaders were already preoccupied with the recent flood of high quality Oscar screeners. Nevertheless, those who ventured into a cinema to record Taken 3 are likely to have exposed themselves to considerable risk. In many countries one can end up in jail for such activities, especially when recording is followed by uploading to the Internet. But just a week later new events meant that the Taken 3 pirates’ dance with danger would largely be forgotten. Last Thursday an HD copy of Taken 3 appeared on all major torrent sites but thanks to an earlier tipoff, that came as no surprise to us. Several days earlier a source already told TF that a “pristine†copy of Taken 3 would become available on January 22. So how did he know? The answer lies thousands of miles away in the Middle East. OSN is a pay TV network with its headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The network offers international entertainment content such as movies, TV shows and sporting events. Perhaps surprisingly to readers in the West, it also provides access to movies still running in U.S. theaters. As can be seen from the image of an OSN TV screen below, Taken 3 was due to air on the PPV network on January 22. TF was assured that a copy would quickly by pirated using OSN as several other popular movies had also been ‘capped’ from the same source in recent times. Sure enough, the first copies to appear online last Thursday all appeared with tell-tale Arabic subtitles or a suspiciously narrow image window where they’d been cropped out. While it’s not easy to say whether all ‘subbed’ copies now online originate from the first original ‘capping’ of Taken 3, we know that the first ‘big’ copy on Western sites (uploaded by a group called CPG) was not the first overall. Those honors fell to a group called “weleef†who uploaded this “exclusive†to Arabic forum ArabScene shortly after the first showings on OSN. Of course, thanks to this source people from all around the globe were able to watch a good copy of the movie, despite it still playing in cinemas in the United States and elsewhere. Sadly, even those wanting to pay for the movie in the U.S. will have to wait until April 2015 for a VOD release. Why Hollywood treats citizens in the Middle East and Asia better than its home audience is anyone’s guess, but if defeating piracy is the goal the practice might be backfiring. Our source says that a Chinese VOD site already has 50 Shades of Grey listed for an end of February release, two weeks after its Valentine’s Day premiere in the U.S. Only a month to find out if that leaks too. Update: A new and non-subtitled copy of Taken 3 is now flourishing online. The source? An OSN set-top box…
  22. A long running legal battle between the world's largest record labels and an Irish-based ISP has resumed today. Sony, Universal and Warner want UPC to warn and disconnect subscribers found sharing infringing content online but the ISP doesn't want to foot the bill. Half a decade ago the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) ended its legal action against local ISP Eircom when the ISP agreed to implement a new anti-piracy policy against its own subscribers. The agreement saw IRMA-affiliated labels including Sony, Universal and Warner tracking Eircom subscribers online. Eircom then forwarded warning notices to customers found to be sharing content without permission and agreed to disconnect those who were caught three times. In a follow-up move IRMA tried to force another ISP, UPC, to implement the same measures. UPC fought back and a 2010 High Court ruling went in the ISP’s favor. However, a 2012 change in the law emboldened IRMA to have a second bite and now the music group’s case is being heard by the Commercial Court. As before, IRMA wants an injunction issued against UPC forcing it to implement a “three strikes†or similar regime against its customers. According to the Irish Times, Michael McDowell SC representing the labels said that UPC could come up with its own graduated response, whether it be “two strikes†or “five strikesâ€. For its part, UPC appears to be more concerned about the cost of operating such a system rather than the actual introduction of one. UPC has provided estimates for doing so but the labels view the amounts involved as excessive. Surprisingly, Cian Ferriter SC, for UPC, said the ISP has “no difficulty in handing over information†(on pirates) for the labels to pursue but the company has issues with setting up an “entire system†to deal with the problem. The stance of UPC seems markedly different from its position during February 2014. At the time the company said that subjecting customers to a graduated response scheme would raise a “serious question of freedom of expression and public policy†and would “demand fair and impartial procedures in the appropriate balancing of rights.†In the event, however, Mr McDowell said that UPC’s offer was not only a new but one that raises concern over privacy and data protection issues. IRMA chairman Willie Kavanagh previously said that the Eircom three-strikes scheme had been “remarkably effective,†since only 0.2% of warned users have proceeded to the disconnection stage. Perhaps even more remarkable is that even after four years of the program, Eircom hadn’t disconnected a single customer. “We are continuing to implement the graduated response process,†a spokesman said last March. “We haven’t, as yet, disconnected anyone.†IRMA is contractually bound by its agreement with Eircom to pursue UPC and/or other ISPs to implement a graduated response scheme, so expect this one to run either until the bitter end – or when UPC cave in. For now the case is scheduled to run for eight days.
  23. Strangely unreported by mainstream media, there is a major revision of the copyright monopoly underway in the European Union. And the person in charge, Julia Reda, is a Pirate Party representative. The tide is turning. For years – nay, for decades – net activists and freedom-of-speech activists have been fighting against the copyright industry’s corrupt initiatives. In country after country, the copyright industry was practically calling out for mail-order legislation, and receiving it every time. The collateral damage to liberties has been immense, and has spilled far outside the net. In the US, people are complaining that copyright monopoly law is now unintentionally preventing them to modify items they legally own, such as cars or games consoles. They’re absolutely wrong: that was the exact intention with the most recent round of revisions to copyright monopoly law – to limit property rights and to lock people out of their own possessions. (The copyright monopoly is, and has always been, a limitation on property rights.) Further, that collateral damage includes making messengers (“intermediariesâ€) liable for any damages caused by a message they carry, unless they immediately take sites offline – which they would of course rather do, rather than risking immense lawsuits. The messenger immunity was gutted around the turn of the century, by the EUCD and the DMCA alike. “Notice-and-takedown†has been abused by everybody and their corporate brother, up to and including the oil company Neste Oil who attacked a Greenpeace protest site by threatening the Internet provider of Greenpeace, thereby killing the protest site. As activists fought – and won! – against software patent monopolies in Europe in 2005, it became clear that we couldn’t fight one bad thing after another, never having the initiative, always being on the defense against onslaught from corporate mail-order legislation. For every exhausting victory, there were nine bad laws being passed in the shadows. We had to go on the offense. We had to aspire to write the law ourselves, keeping corporate lobbyists firmly out of any corrupt influence. On January 1, 2006, I founded the Swedish and first Pirate Party. It’s now on its tenth year, and on its second term in the European Parliament. This term, that European Parliament is revising the copyright monopoly – definitely once, possibly twice. It starts out by evaluating what works and what doesn’t with the current set of laws on the matter. And the rapporteur for that dossier – meaning “the person writing the actual legislative document†– is Julia Reda, representative for the Pirate Party from Germany. Let’s take that again: a Pirate Party representative is writing the European Union’s official evaluation of the copyright monopoly, and listing a set of necessary changes. In 2006, did I imagine that a pirate would be writing the European Parliament’s official evaluation of how well the copyright monopoly has worked – and what needs to be changed – in the European Union, the world’s largest economy? No, I didn’t, to be honest. But neither did I expect that the Pirate Party representatives would manage to get “three strikes†schemes outlawed across all of Europe in 2009, or take a radical reform proposal (allowing file-sharing and more) into the political mainstream in 2012. When you open the floodgates of the unrepresented, things can apparently happen fast. Now, just because it’s a pirate writing the legislative document, that doesn’t mean that document is going to pass a vote in the European Parliament no matter what it contains. It needs to be negotiated to get majority support, as usual and as appropriate in a parliamentary democracy. The first of those votes is in the Legal Affairs committee on April 16, and the vote in the European Parliament as a whole is on May 20. So pirates aren’t “in chargeâ€; democracy is, as it should be. But the initiative has shifted. It is no longer solely initiated by mail-order lobbyists for corrupt incumbents who gladly sacrifice civil liberties and the entire Internet to preserve an unjust and immoral lucrative monopoly. For the first time, legislation on the matter is initiated by net liberty activists. This shift of the initiative was what we set out to accomplish ten years ago. I think it went faster than most people had expected. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at focuses on information policy.
  24. The Pirate Bay had only been down for a matter of hours following a police raid when replacements and clones started appearing online. But while having dozens of copies of the site might sound like a good idea to some, this represents a dilution of the site and its image which won't help pirates long term. The Pirate Bay was quite possibly the world’s most-loved torrent site before it was taken offline in a police raid. Through thick and thin fans supported the site but now, in a somewhat unbelievable bad dream, the site has gone – possibly for good. Of course at this point there will be some shouting at the screen while furiously pointing towards various domains where the site has been supposedly resurrected. To be clear, TPB hasn’t been brought back to life yet, on any domain. All these other sites are clones. But aren’t 30 Pirate Bays better than one? Isn’t it now 30 times more difficult for law enforcement to disappear the site? Hasn’t that single point of failure been taken away? There are many arguments in favor of having multiple Pirate Bays but when examining the situation from a user perspective, they don’t really add up. In fact, by having so many clones everything that made The Pirate Bay such a success has been critically watered down. A pirate Pirate Bay is not as good as the original It’s a truly great irony that The Pirate Bay cannot be successfully copied by outsiders. Sure, millions of torrents and magnet links can be put into a searchable database and most will probably work as advertised, but clones are missing several key components. No community While basic torrent indexes are undoubtedly useful, one of Pirate Bay’s strengths was its community. It’s true that not many of the site’s users took the time to participate on its Suprbay discussion forum, but the comments section attached to every torrent was an unrivaled source of information. At any point, one could jump into a pool of torrents dating back 10 years, pick one, and get an idea of what it was about and how it had been received by the community. Were better versions available? The comments would have link. Was the download poorly seeded? Potential peers could be found. Anything interesting or topical about the torrent would also be noted. No cloned Pirate Bay has yet managed to fully recreate the comments section of the site (although one is trying). And since no clone has access to the genuine TPB database, every user account has disappeared. In some cases names exist, but logins are impossible. That’s bad because…… Sharing is caring (and getting thanked is awesome too) To dismiss the importance of genuine, active, verifiable user accounts is to misunderstand the mindset of uploaders and those who appreciate their work. Despite the claims of some anti-piracy companies, many uploaders do what they do not for money, but for recognition – and fun. With the disappearance of The Pirate Bay, thousands of recognizable uploader accounts (many of them verified ‘VIP’) have simply gone. Worse than that, the pages of historical uploads regular users see when they click on these names has gone too. The work of these ‘famous’ uploaders has been wiped from history – and much of their kudos with it. Another issue relates to those same valuable uploaders. Where are they now? Some are indeed present on torrent sites such as and a number of others, but bringing them all back together under one Pirate Bay-branded roof that’s not the real thing could prove impossible. It’s unlikely that any of the current clones has the standing to assure uploaders that they’re the single site worth supporting, which leaves the prospect of a release force scattered in dozens of locations. As a result, the largely single-location competition between these players could easily wither away. Quality control What The Pirate Bay offered that it’s clones largely do not is a team of human beings prepared to wade through every single uploaded torrent in order to check it for authenticity. Fakes, virus and malware-laden files had short lives on the real Pirate Bay and as a result the site gained a reputation among users. The little colored skulls on Pirate Bay uploads meant that users could click and forget, safe in the knowledge that their chosen torrents will perform as expected. That entire system was destroyed when the site was raided early this month and any ‘clone’ site will struggle to emulate it. Reputation and trust While they may not have stayed with the site until the end, in the eyes of millions the three most recognizable names behind The Pirate Bay have remained associated with the site. In fact, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Fredrick Neij are the only world-famous torrent site celebrities around today. Through years of news, Pirate Bay users have built up a trust with not only these guys, but by proxy whoever they handed the site over to. With that level of respect gone, copy Pirate Bays will struggle to relive the dream. Sure, Pirate Bay’s advertising ethics got a little bent up in recent years, with soft and even hardcore porn appearing when it should not, but the feeling remained that the site would never completely sell users down the river to the highest bidder. One can never be so certain about many of the faceless clones popping up today. Fragmentation is not the same as decentralization Finally, an anecdote. One night more than 20 years ago, a nightclub frequented every Saturday by myself and by association hundreds of friends, unceremoniously burnt to the ground. For the previous five years it had been not only our dance music mecca, but also our home. We were devastated. Several other clubs stepped in to recreate the experience – one even took the name of the now-destroyed venue. Homeless and desperate, a group of us went around testing the ‘clone’ clubs. Some were OK, but didn’t have all the DJs we’d been used to. Others had the music right, but lacked half our friends who had chosen to go elsewhere. Before the fire we’d been a powerful, well-developed community in a venue we knew and trusted, coming to the same place at the same time every week to do what we loved. The fire hadn’t just destroyed the place where we met, but also the unfathomable something that had been holding us all together. Sure, our club was a dump with badly functioning bathrooms and carpet your feet stuck to. But it was our club with a community we’d built. Without it we drifted apart. Conclusion Dozens of Pirate Bays might look like defiance, but the long-term outcome will be a lot less glamorous unless something can be done to play to uploaders’ sense of pride and achievement. From a technological standpoint, decentralization or a multi-location clone setup is clearly much more difficult for authorities to deal with, but fragmenting the community and key uploaders is perhaps an even bigger problem waiting for a solution. Make no mistake, a solution will be found. But dozens of sites that look the same and offer a watered down version of something already in need of repair probably won’t be it. See everyone back here, February 1.
  25. Wiziwig, one of the world's largest streaming sports portals, shut down this week to the dismay of millions of fans. TorrentFreak caught up with the site's operators who told us a now familiar story. If only sports companies and broadcasters got their act together and fulfilled consumer demand, sites such as Wiziwig would never exist. Until our report yesterday it’s likely that Wiziwig, a streaming portal covering just about every spectator sport around, had flown under the radars of many readers. And that’s surprising. The site is ranked #1,546 worlwide by Alexa and is the 239th most-popular site in the UK. On Thursday the term ‘wiziwig’ was the 8th most popular search on, ahead of official sports broadcaster BT Sport. But the popularity wasn’t based on good news. Citing changes in Spanish law, Wiziwig had been forced to close just hours earlier. In the wake of the closure TorrentFreak caught up with the operators of this hugely popular site to find out about events leading up to its shutdown. Interestingly it’s what didn’t happen on the site’s first day offline that topped the discussion. Among dozens of other sports, Wiziwig carried links to live soccer games and as a result became somewhat of a magnet for companies such as the UK’s Premier League. New Year’s Day is a traditionally big date for UK soccer so coinciding with the first day of Wiziwig downtime, the site’s operators stood back and watched what happened. “What we noticed Thursday, and that’s what we’ve always been thinking, is that the Premier League has only been focusing on Wiziwig lately to take down streams, like those from [P2P streaming service] Sopcast for example,†Wiziwig told us. “If we added a Sopcast link for a game in the Premier League, then quickly that link was made inaccessible. On Thursday all Sopcast channels kept working all day, without any been taking down during the early kickoff, 3pm game and late game. Coincidence?†The idea that the soccer league had been using Wiziwig to find streams and have them taken down at source was confirmed when matches streamed from other sources also remained up. “Same applied with Veetle links, as when those previously appeared on Wiziwig they were quickly taken down. If we didn’t add them they were working all game long, while people could find them easily in Veetle. That also applied to several other links.†Aside from changes in Spanish law where the site was based, Wiziwig also reminded us of two serious events in the UK earlier in the year. In April the operator of sports streaming site was arrested by officers from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. That was followed by a September raid on the operator of the Coolsport streaming service. When all things were considered (Wiziwig’s Twitter account was shutdown by a complaint in December) the team felt that the timing was right to call it a day. But even though Wiziwig is no more, other sites are bound to try and fill the gap the portal has left in the market. These, Wiziwig’s operators say, wouldn’t even exist if more effort was put into getting official services to consumers. “We’ve seen in the past several years that people don’t get the right options to watch the sports and games they want to watch. Many sports events, and many games, aren’t available worldwide. The Leagues or competitions often don’t provide the right options for people to watch games in a legal way, which is also what we’ve seen from many replies on Twitter and Facebook,†Wiziwig explain. “People want to subscribe to some games, some PPV events, and don’t want long contracts. In many countries there are no options to watch specific sports events and competitions. So not just the big sports/leagues, but also for smaller events. “Then people decide to watch the online streams. A good example is the 3pm soccer games in England which aren’t shown on UK TV due to an old law designed to keep stadiums full. If the leagues fail to provide such options then websites like Wiziwig and [illicit] streams will always exist,†Wiziwig adds. With the site closed the team are now turning their attention to GetYourFixtures, a TV guide for sports with links to only official streams. “GetYourFixtures’ aim is to provide people with the correct TV info for all sports events, and if there isn’t a TV channel showing it then they want to give people the options to watch it officially online. “Maybe leagues and competitions will wake up and start working on providing decent PPV options, letting people pay for just a single game, a flexible way of watching sports. On TV, mobile or tablet: wherever they are, either free and supported with advertisements when there isn’t any TV coverage/legal pay option, or just for small fees. They should work together,†Wiziwig concludes.