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  1. According to insiders The Pirate Bay will slim down its operations for the planned comeback. The new version of the site is expected to operate without former admins and moderators, who have responded furiously to the decision. Many key staffers have left the ship to launch their own TPB. Judging from all the teasers on the Pirate Bay homepage the notorious torrent site is preparing to relaunch this weekend. Those in control of the domain have yet to make an official announcement but several sources inform TF that the site won’t make a full comeback. Instead, The Pirate Bay is expected to launch a trimmed down version without room for the dozens of moderators and admins who looked after the site over the past decade. This lighter version of The Pirate Bay will be easier to operate but the plan has also upset many former staffers. This includes people who have been with the site for over a decade, removing fake torrents and other types of spam. Several admins and moderators have responded to the news with anger and are now openly distancing themselves from the site that was their home for years. “I wish I had better news to come with. The launch that is about to take place on February 1 is not us,†says WTC-SWE, one of the lead admins of The Pirate Bay. “It was until some dickhead decided to take TPB crew out of the picture. He thinks a site can be run without any staff at all and at the same time keeping up with fakes, internal issues etc,†he adds. What stings them the most is that many dedicated individuals, who put countless hours into keeping the site functioning, now appear to be being pushed aside on a whim. “Personally I won’t accept this neither will any of the crew that’s been active for almost 10-11 years. As an admin and human, I won’t stand aside and accept this kind of behavior. This is the worst scenario that could happen,†WTC-SWE says. “You don’t treat people like horseshit,†he adds. The staff, now in open revolt, have closed the official #thepiratebay IRC channel on EFnet to the public. They won’t offer support anymore for a site that they have no ‘control’ over, but warn people who do want to visit it to be cautious of malware. Instead, the TPB former crew members are now preparing to launch their own version of the site. This spin-off will be operated from a new domain and will have several long-time mods and admins on board. WTC-SWE says that they are in possession of a TPB backup which will be used to revive the old site in full. The full staff of moderators and admins remains under his wings and will start over at a home. “It’s only a matter of time. I will need to blast the whole coding and clean up all the mess. The real TPB will be back with proper staff and all,†WTC-SWE says. Thus far, the people running the official domain have remained quiet. In a few days, when the count-down completes, we are likely to know more about their vision for the site’s future. To be continued…
  2. Amazon Amazon introduced a new file storage and collaboration service calledZocalo that—on first blush, at least, looks like it might be a Dropbox killer. Much like Dropbox and other cloud storage services, Zocalo lets you sync files between the Amazon cloud and your phone or PC. It has a business twist too, helping IT staffers control who gets access to which files. The product must be making some Dropbox executives uneasy, because unlike its other big competitors—Google and Microsoft— Dropbox itself is a pretty big Amazon customer. The startup uses Amazon’s S3 storage service to store the more than 500 million files that get uploaded to Dropbox each day. That’s going to make it pretty much impossible for Dropbox to undercut Amazon’s pricing. Zocalo starts at $5 per user per month for 200GB of storage. Dropbox charges twice that for half as much storage. But price isn’t everything, and Dropbox still has a several advantages that Amazon will be hard-pressed to overcome. 1. Sync is incredibly hard to get right Dropbox’s greatest strength is that it makes syncing files with the cloud and sharing them with other users seem so easy. But it’s not. Behind the scenes, Dropbox has a vast system of software keeping track of which files have been edited when, and who has access to what. Sync is a particularly difficult problem, and one small bug can lay waste to years of important user data. Err the other way, and you’re constantly resurrecting long-deleted files. Amazon has the technical chops to build a reliable storage and synchronization system, but making it as invisible to the end-user as Dropbox is no easy task. Dropbox has a seven-year head start here. And customers have shown, again and again, that they’re actually happy to pay more money for a tool with fewer features as long as it’s easy to use. 2. Dropbox’s “users first†strategy Dropbox’s strategy has always been to win end-users over first, then sell to the business side. Amazon is taking the opposite approach, by appealing directly to businesses. The problem with this approach is that even if Amazon is successful in selling its service to a business, the managers of that business still have to convince their employees to use it. Employees who are already Dropbox might not want to make the switch — especially if Zocalo ends up being even slightly harder to use than Dropbox. Could Amazon appeal directly to end users in this space? It already tried that with Amazon Cloud Drive, which is still around, but has been largely forgotten since its 2011 launch. 3. Branding Amazon already has a dizzying number of services and features under the Amazon Web Services umbrella, and it can be hard to keep track of them all. And the company is always adding more. That means it could be easy for the product to be overlooked, much as Cloud Drive has. That’s made all the worse by the name Zocalo. In Spanish, Zócalo means “plinth,†which is a platform for pillars or statues. It can also refer to the Plaza de la Constitución, the public square in the center of Mexico City. Unfortunately, it’s not a word that means much to non-Spanish speakers, and it’s particularly hard to remember. Bu now, just about everybody knows about Dropbox. Independence Ahead? Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for Dropbox and other competitors. This move will put pricing pressure on Dropbox, and it may need to spend some of $1.1 billion it’s raised on gaining more independence from Amazon. Startups are always in danger of being squashed by larger companies and bigger marketing budgets and the ability to undercut them on cost. But that problem is magnified when you’re running your service on infrastructure owned and operated by the same big companies you have to compete with. We’ve already seen this with Amazon Prime, which competes with Netflix, another major Amazon Web Services customer. But Amazon is still a long way from killing Netflix, and that’s good news for Dropbox.
  3. The UK Prime Minister's Intellectual Property Advisor is to step down at the next general election. Mike Weatherley has been front and center in promoting entertainment industry action against online piracy but will not stand for re-election in 2015. The former movie industry worker is already being touted for a return to the creative sector. In September 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the appointment of Mike Weatherley MP as his brand new advisor on intellectual property matters. As the founder of Parliament’s Rock the House competition and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group launched in 2003 to raise awareness and rally against copyright and related infringement, Weatherley seemed like the ideal candidate. The then 56-year-old quickly offered his support to the recently formed Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and promised to assist the government to focus on anti-piracy enforcement issues aimed at protecting the creative industries. By December of 2013, Weatherley was making it clear that ISPs should be held responsible for their customers’ infringing downloads and just weeks later suggested jail sentences for persistent file-sharers. Greater accountability for companies such as Google became a recurring theme in the MP’s work. But while Weatherley has made quite an impact in his unpaid position, his role as a Conservative Member of Parliament will come to an end in the first quarter of 2015. In an announcement today Weatherley confirmed that he will not be standing at next year’s General Election. Noting the enjoyment he’s had serving the people of his constituency in the south of England, Weatherley also touched on his role as Cameron’s IP advisor. “Over the past year, I have taken immense pride in serving as your Intellectual Property Adviser. I am sure that you will agree that we have made huge steps towards really getting politicians and industry talking – which is key to making the most of our country’s wealth of creative talent,†the MP told the Prime Minister. If Weatherley keeps to his own predictions then he will step down as an MP before May 2015 but he also hints that he would like to remain involved in government IP matters. “It would be a privilege to continue offering my assistance in this regard,†he told David Cameron. Interestingly, local media is reporting that Weatherley is believed to be returning to the creative industries. The 57-year-old was formerly the European vice-president of the Motion Picture Licensing Company and also worked as the finance director of record producer Pete Waterman’s empire. A revolving door situation, where Weatherley heads out of government into a position with a large entertainment group, hardly seems out of the question given his history, but for solid information the world will have to wait. In the meantime his work in government will continue, with some of his time devoted to the industry he’ll soon be re-joining.
  4. A draft bill for the modernization of Swiss copyright law will be presented for public consultation in the coming months. While downloading for personal use will remain legal, uploading infringing content via BitTorrent will not. In addition to infringement warnings for Internet subscribers, the blocking of "obviously illegal" sites is also on the table. The MPAA, RIAA and associated groups such as the International Intellectual Property Alliance, rarely have positive things to say about Switzerland. “The country has become an attractive haven for services heavily engaged in infringing activity,†the IIPA said in its 2013 USTR submission, while referring to the land-locked nation as “a major exporter of pirated content.†In addition to legislation tipped in favor of service providers, the Swiss also present a fairly unique problem. Thanks to the so-called ‘Logistep Decision’, which wasbemoaned in a recent International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus report, the monitoring of file-sharers is effectively outlawed. As a result it’s estimated that more than a third of Swiss Internet users access unlicensed services each month. With international pressure building the Swiss promised to address the situation and have been doing so via AGUR12, a working group responsible for identifying opportunities to adapt copyright law. In parallel, another working group has been looking at service provider liability. This month the Federal Council took the groups’ recommendations and mandated the Federal Department of Justice and Police to prepare a draft bill for public consultation by the end of 2015. What’s on the table The Federal Council says its aim is to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers, so there is an element of give-and-take in the proposals for file-sharing, with a focus on balance and “careful consideration†given to data protection issues. Personal file-sharing Current download-and-share-with-impunity will be replaced with an acceptance of downloading for personal use, but with uploading specifically outlawed. This means that while downloading a pirated album from a cyberlocker would be legal, doing so using BitTorrent would be illegal due to inherent uploading. Warnings and notifications While commercial level infringers can already be dealt with under Swiss law, the proposals seek to lower the bar so that those who flout an upload ban on a smaller but persistent scale can be dealt with. AGUR12 has recommended that this should be achieved by sending warning notices to infringers via their ISPs. Only when a user fails to get the message should his or her details be handed over to rightsholders for use in civil proceedings. The Federal Council says it likes the idea, but first wants to investigate how the notification process will work, where the thresholds on persistent infringement lie, and under what process identities can be revealed to rightsholders. Provider liability Under AGUR12′s recommendations, Internet providers will not only be required to remove infringing content from their platforms, but also prevent that same content from reappearing, a standard that U.S. rightsholders are currently pressuring Google to adopt. Additionally, in serious cases authorities should be able to order the blocking of “obviously illegal content or sourcesâ€. Any new obligations on service providers would be balanced by granting them with exemption from liability. Conclusion While Switzerland does not wish to render mere downloading illegal, its effective outlawing of BitTorrent for unlicensed content transfers will put it on a par with most Western countries. Furthermore, if service providers are forced to take copyrighted content down and keep it down, Switzerland could become the model that the United States has to live up to.
  5. The Commissioner of City of London Police admitted this week that just 4% to 10% of sites shut down when contacted by the new Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Alongside odd comments about the threat of "BitNet" and Tor making up "90% of the Internet", Leppard noted that enforcement will not provide a way out of the piracy problem. This week’s IP Enforcement Summit in London brought together experts and stakeholders from all over the world to discuss intellectual property issues. In attendance were representatives from Hollywood, the music industry, and a whole swathe of companies reliant on the exploitation of IP rights. One of the speakers at the event was Commissioner Adrian Leppard of City of London Police, who spoke about police are contributing to the ongoing fight against piracy. Losses to counterfeiting and pirated goods will amount to a trillion next year, Leppard began. “It’s high yield, low risk,†he noted. “We need to focus on [the problem] in the UK. We know that UK ISP addresses are visiting websites that are downloading illegal content, up to 7 million of those hits on a monthly basis,†Leppard said. Technology problems “The Internet pushes through every border control legislation we have and it is carrying a huge amount of harm to our society, as well as offering creative opportunity for business. At some point there has to be a debate and a challenge about the harm the Internet brings,†the Commissioner told the audience. While Leppard undoubtedly has a very good grasp of his core topics and has well-deserved reputation as a professional crime fighter, elements of the next section of his speech raise a concern or two. Speaking of the need to consider how pirated content is shifted around online when making new laws, the police chief only sowed confusion. New legislation required “The new legislation that’s necessary is not just about prosecuting people and protecting people, we’ve got to think about some of the enabling functions that allow this to happen that we just take for granted,†he began. “Whether it’s Bitnet, The Tor – which is 90% of the Internet – peer-to-peer sharing, or the streaming capability worldwide. At what point does civil society say that as well as the benefits that brings, this enables huge risk and threat to our society that we need to take action against?†Perhaps technology isn’t Leppard’s strong point. Enforcement won’t work against a piracy tsunami Noting how difficult it is for law enforcement to work across borders, Leppard went on to admit something with which most people agree. “I don’t think enforcement is ever going to find a way out of this problem. When you’re in a tsunami you can’t push back the water and you have to start thinking very differently about how we protect society,†he said. “The only way is to work with industry to prevent and to think about the enabling functions of this crime. Enforcement will only ever be a limited capability in this space.†Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit Speaking of the unit set up last year to deal with the piracy issue, Leppard said that the inspiration had arrived from across the Atlantic. PIPCU tries to mirror the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE unit, by working as a single point of communication between all interested parties. Operation Creative Operation Creative, PIPCU’s ongoing anti-piracy initiative, is designed to find a way around the ineffectiveness of enforcement, Leppard said. “We’ll never enforce our way out of this problem so we have to think differently about how we tackle it and target it. Organized crime is motivated purely by money and the way to start dealing with this is to target the money flows and how people make money out of this crime,†he said. Working with the entertainment industries, advertisers and credit card companies, PIPCU is provided with “a court-ready and very bespoke evidentiary package†against pirate sites. “Once we’ve got that court package we know we can defend ourselves in a civil court or a criminal court and we take action,†he said. What happens next is a phenomenon we’ve been documenting on TorrentFreak for nearly a year now – the official police letters to piracy sites that effectively ask them to close down. However, as Leppard reveals, the technique is not particularly effective. “The first thing we do is make an overt approach to the owners of the websites and between 4% and 10% of those websites will close down just by having overt engagement. These are global websites, of course they may move to another ISP address, we know that, and we’ll target them there as well.†Unresponsive sites then see their advertising hit, closely followed by the hindering of their payment processing options. When all else fails PIPCU will move onto the final step…. Disruption and enforcement “We’re new into this although we’ve been piloting it for the best part of two years and we know it works. We’re in the first phases of that and it will be interesting to see as we move through the next year or so how successful that approach is and how much we get challenged. I expect us to get challenged as well but we have a lot of legal advice behind us,†Leppard said. “But my point is whether this is successful or not it is this area that we all need to start thinking about if we’re going to combat this problem, not simply ‘how do we enforce, how do we prosecute, how do we target these organized crime groups’, but actually how do we start to disable the very factor that the crime exists – how people make money.†The future Looking forward, Leppard admitted that on their own the police can’t don’t much to solve the problem so collaborating with the private sector is the only way. The music and movie industries presumably won’t have much of a problem with that, but whether the approach will prove effective overall is another matter.