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  1. A key strategy of the entertainment industries is to repeatedly warn pirating Internet users of their illegal behavior in the belief they will change their ways. However, co-chief of movie company Village Roadshow has just admitted that he's been caught breaking the law numerous times - and he still hasn't learned. As 2015 hits its mid-point, a handful of key strategies are clearly favored by the world’s largest entertainment companies. Perhaps the most prominent this year thus far have been efforts to have sites blocked at the ISP level. Most recently Australia went through the months long process of introducing the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 and last week the Bill passed the Senate. Earlier today the legislation received Royal Assent, meaning it is now firmly cast into local law. With attention now turning to which copyright holders will bring the first site-blocking action (hint: movie industry, within six months), another anti-piracy strategy is almost ready to fly. After the introduction of the United States’ “six strikes†program, in the coming months Aussie citizens are likely to be subjected to a similar “three strikes†regime. The idea is that after receiving an “educational†notice and then a “warning†notice, local Internet pirates will finally comply with the law before receiving a scary “final noticeâ€. This type of regime has the backing of some of the world’s largest entertainment companies, including the co-chief of Aussie movie giant Village Roadshow. However, despite giving the scheme his backing, Graham Burke has revealed that even people of his stature can be completely immune to government-backed educational efforts. In an interview published by SMH this morning in which he again calls for action against piracy, Burke notes that society wouldn’t say “Hey we’re not going to have legislation against drunken driving or high-speed driving or legislation against stealing.†Indeed, for driving offenses, Australia runs a demerit system, whereby each logged offense accumulates a set number of points. Get to 12 points and you’re at risk of getting your license suspended. But of course, the idea is that people will wise up before then and, more importantly, before they end up killing someone. At its educational core the demerit program is similar to the “three strikes†system, albeit with much higher stakes. Trouble is, it doesn’t work on Burke. In fact, he appears completely immune to the numerous opportunities granted to him by the government. “I got a note last night saying I’d been photographed by a camera in my car exceeding the speed limit and I’ve lost three points,†he told tech editor Ben Grubb. “As I’ve already lost nine points it’s rather worrying.†While Burke faces having his license suspended for failing to heed the warnings, three-time piracy offenders face having their details handed over to copyright holders who may decide to sue. Of course, Village Roadshow are the major Hollywood-affiliated movie company in Australia, so Burke himself will almost certainly have a hand in who gets sued and when. Fortunately, it seems that his company won’t make a habit of taking legal action. Burke says that they won’t be afraid to sue people “that act in a criminal way†but hopefully Village Roadshow “won’t have to sue too many peopleâ€. Indeed, Burke will hope that ‘pirates’ take their warnings more seriously than he has done, even though he will have faced fines for his transgressions and they will not. He would’ve preferred some punishment, he reveals, but is satisfied with the direction of the scheme. “A good agreement is when both sides are not deliriously happy but both sides are happy,†Burke says. “Am I thrilled? No. Do I think it’s a good code? Yes.†So now all eyes turn to September 1, when the new “strikes†code is set to begin. Will the public respond to the warning notices? Or will they bury their heads in the sand like Burke has done until it’s too late?
  2. Shuhei Yoshida adds that many of the components used in Project Morpheus are from smartphones, which should keep pricing down. Sony has completed 85 percent of the work necessary to release the consumer model of its PlayStation 4virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. PlayStation executive Shuhei Yoshida revealed the estimate toThe Wall Street Journal at the Tokyo Game Show this week. He wouldn't say when Morpheus will launch or what it will cost, but he did add that many of the device's components are also used in smartphones. This should help keep the product's cost down, which is something we already know Sony is intent on doing. Yoshida did not say what the remaining 15 percent of Morpheus development will require. However, just last month, Yoshida said about the hardware itself, "there are many areas we can improve on to bring it to an even higher level." He also said previously that Sony will not release Morpheus--still a working title for the headset--until there is a sufficient software lineup in place. The Oculus Rift device currently sells for $350, though that is for a version of the product for developers, not consumers. For its part, Oculus VR has said previously that it wants to ship the consumer version of Oculus Rift by the end of the next year, with final pricing coming in between $200 and $400. It's even possible that a beta for the consumer model could be released as early as next summer. Going back to Morpheus, Yoshida mentioned that while the "initial target" for Morpheus will be PS4 owners, Sony sees VR overall as a technology that could have broad applications, in markets outside of games. This broad appeal could in turn lead to a rise in PS4 sales. "We are hoping that once we introduce Project Morpheus to the market, the attractiveness of PS4 will increase and the PS4 could be received by many more people who are not necessarily core gamers," Yoshida said. VR has the potential to impact major markets such as education. As Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey says, VR devices could help schools with limited budgets take their students on virtual field trips to faraway places, or even places locked in time. VR could also let you virtually attend a concert or sports game, or even help surgeons prepare for an operation. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post Don't forget to press the Thanks button
  3. A diversity report from Apple shows its employee base is similar to Google, Facebook, and Twitter, with men comprising about 70 percent of their work forces. Apple CEO Tim Cook, holding a Mac Pro computer alongside employees in Austin, Texas, says he's "not satisfied" with employment diversity at the company. Apple's just about as white and as male as the other major tech companies in Silicon Valley, the company disclosed Tuesday in a diversity report. Of Apple's 98,000 employees around the globe, including those in non-technical positions and those working at Apple Stores, 70 percent are male, the company said. Only 28 percent of Apple's global leadership team is female, and when it comes to tech positions, only 20 percent of Apple's worldwide workers are female. Tech positions mostly refer to engineers while non-tech jobs refer to marketing and public relations, human resources, sales, and other roles not requiring traditional computer science skills or programming chops. "As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. "They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we're committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products."Apple didn't break down race globally but said 55 percent of all US employees are white. The second highest race/ethnicity for overall employees in the US is Asian at 15 percent. The percentage of white employees is similar for both tech and non-tech positions in the US but jumps to 64 percent for Apple's leadership team. Cook has tried to inject more diversity in Apple's management during his time as CEO. He promoted Eddy Cue, a Cuban, to his role as senior vice president of Internet software and services in October 2012. Cook also named Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO, as Apple's head of online and in-store retail. In addition, he appointed Susan Wagner, a director at BlackRock, to Apple's board in place of long-running director Bill Campbell. Apple declined to provide historical diversity information for comparison. Apple's senior management team includes only one woman, Angela Ahrendts. Still, Ahrendts is the only woman on Cook's executive leadership team, and Wagner and Grameen America CEO Andrea Jung are the only women on the eight-member board. All other directors, as well as executive team members, are white men. Apple's disclosure Tuesday follows similar reports from other tech heavyweights including Google,Facebook, and Twitter. At all four of the companies, about 7 out of 10 employees are male. Tech companies are increasingly being pressured to add more females and people of color to their oftentimes mainly white male staffs. Apple has been under fire for having little diversity on its board, and Twitter also faced criticism for having no female board members right before it went public late last year. The companies have pledged funding and education support to get women and minorities interested in technology. Apple, for instance, has pledged $100 million to President Barack Obama's ConnectED initiative to bring cutting-edge technologies to economically disadvantaged schools. The majority of Apple employees are men. Many tech executives have publicly pushed for more diversity. Perhaps the most vocal has been Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. She has called for better education for women and minorities and has said the lack of diversity in the industry is "pretty depressing. However, Facebook's current diversity levels are just as bad as those at the other companies in Silicon Valley -- something Sandberg hopes to change. "At the broadest level, we are not going to fix the numbers for under-representation in technology or any industry until we fix our education system and until we fix the stereotypes about women and minorities in math and science," Sandberg told USA Today for an article published Tuesday. By law, tech companies are required to file diversity statistics with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Only recently, as pressure mounts on Silicon Valley to do more, have tech companies started to highlight the figures in public. While more women have been hired at tech firms in the past few years, their roles are not usually at the executive level. A study by CNN Money last year showed that women in tech dominated the "Administrative" category (which combined clerical workers, as well as skilled and unskilled laborers) but were significantly less represented as officers or managers. Comparatively, according to the latest US Census data, non-Hispanic whites account for 63 percent of the total population, Hispanic or Latino people make up 17 percent, black or African-American people account for 13 percent, and Asians make up 5 percent. Updated at 11:45 a.m. PT with additional background information and Apple declining to provide more information.
  4. The American Bar Association has released a detailed white paper advising the Government on how to tackle online piracy. The lawyers recommend several SOPA-like anti-piracy measures including injunctions against companies hosting pirate sites. At the same time, however, they advise against suing file-sharers as that would be ineffective or even counterproductive. For more than a decade copyright holders and the U.S. Government have been trying to find the silver bullet to beat piracy. This week the American Bar Association joined the discussion with a 113-page white paper. With their “call for action†the lawyers encourage Congress to draft new anti-piracy legislation and promote voluntary agreements between stakeholders. Among the options on the table is the filing of lawsuits against individual file-sharers, something the RIAA did extensively in the past. Interestingly, the lawyers advise against this option as it’s unlikely to have an impact on current piracy rates. According to the lawyers these type of lawsuits are also financially ineffective, oftentimes costing more than they bring in. In addition, they can create bad PR for the copyright holders involved. “While it is technically possible for trademark and copyright owners to proceed with civil litigation against the consuming public who [...] engage in illegal file sharing, campaigns like this have been expensive, do not yield significant financial returns, and can cause a public relations problem for the plaintiff in addressing its consuming public,†the lawyers write. “The [American Bar Association] does not believe that legislative action directly targeting consumers would prove effective in reducing piracy or counterfeiting at this time,†the white paper adds. While the above may be true for any of the cases that go to trial, various copyright trolls might tend to disagree as they have shown that targeting file-sharers can be quite lucrative. Pirates shouldn’t be too quick to cheer on the lawyers though, as the white paper also contains some pretty draconian suggestions. The American Bar Association says that future legislation should target infringing websites, and it names The Pirate Bay as an example. Since site owners are often unknown and therefore hard to prosecute in America, they advise a series of more indirect tactics. The lawyers are in favor of a “follow the money†principle where anti-piracy measures are targeted at strangling the finances of pirate sites. They call for legislation that makes it easier to cut off advertising, and to seize funds through banks or payment processors. In addition, the white paper calls for new legislation that would allow copyright holders to obtain injunctions against the hosting companies of pirate sites. The American Bar Association also considered similar injunctions against domain registrars and search engines, but it couldn’t reach agreement on these issues. Overall copyright holders will be pleased to see the recommendations put forward in the white paper, but it’s doubtful whether lawmakers will be quick pick them up. Several of the suggestions were previously listed in the SOPA and PIPA bills, so if these are ever drafted into legislation Congress can expect a lot of public backlash.
  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.
  6. Kim Dotcom is pulling out all the stops in his fight against the U.S. government and his adversaries in Hollywood. On the table now sits a $5 million bounty for anyone prepared to reveal behind-the-scenes wrongdoing and corruption. Dotcom told TorrentFreak how it will work. dotcom-laptopWhichever way you look at it, Kim Dotcom has a series of huge battles in front of him. Up soon is his fight to avoid extradition to the United States where he is wanted in the biggest copyright infringement case ever. Running in parallel to that criminal case are a pair of civil actions brought by the MPAA and RIAA, with both entities currently attempting to put a lock on his currently frozen assets, should the entrepreneur get his hands on them again. As those battles continue in the background, Dotcom is preparing his next steps, and he’s calling on supporters to help him. On the table today sits a cool $5 million bounty payable to anyone who provides substantial information that will allow the Megaupload founder to win his case. It’s a large amount by any standards but of course Dotcom rarely does anything in half measures. So what exactly is Dotcom looking for and how will the project play out? “Let me be clear, we are asking for information that proves unlawful or corrupt conduct by the US government, the New Zealand government, spy agencies, law enforcement and Hollywood,†Dotcom told TorrentFreak. “It is the opinion of my legal team that disclosure of such information would be lawful. I would also guarantee that any whistleblower coming forward would have the best legal representation at zero cost.†Dotcom goes on to reiterate a long-standing claim, that the action against him and Megaupload was a “corrupt contract prosecution†carried out by the White House in order to get Hollywood’s support for Obama’s re-election campaign. He’s interested in evidence that supports that assertion. “Former Senator and now MPAA chairman Chris Dodd and Vice President Joe Biden in particular have abused their political power to make the pre-trial destruction of Megaupload possible,†he explains. “Joe Biden’s personal counsel (while Biden was still a Senator) Neil MacBride was promoted to a top position at the DOJ and oversaw the Megaupload destruction. We have already exposed a whole range of unlawful government conduct in the Megaupload case, backed by court rulings.†So presuming people have information, what should they do with it? Dotcom suggests going to a well-known newspaper with a proven track-record in handling leaks. “I have been in touch with the Guardian editor and he has kindly retweeted my offer and told me that he hopes that someone will reply to that offer,†Dotcom says. Dotcom notes that potential leakers can utilize the new whistleblower tool released by The Guardian this week. But for those who really need to cover their backs, more drastic additional steps could be taken. “In order to be completely safe I would advise any Whistleblower not to use this tool from home or work. Go to an Internet cafe with a memory stick. Don’t use your own computer or phone. You can also buy a cheap laptop or netbook just for the purpose of leaking and destroy it after you’re done.†The big attraction of course is the $5 million Dotcom has put on the table. What assurances can Dotcom provide concerning the cash? “I’m currently in talks with my legal team about how to formalize the bounty. We will probably setup a trust account to deposit the bounty and provide terms and conditions for anyone who will provide information. I will not just offer a bounty for the piece of ‘case winning’ information but for anything useful,†he explains. “We know that there are people out there with information. I’m willing to pay for that information. I’m determined to fight a grave injustice that has been done to a legitimate cloud storage business, its 220 employees and over 100 million users. This struggle has just begun and it will take time. But in the end we shall be victorious and we shall expose those who have abused their power,†he concludes. There’s little doubt that $5 million is potentially a life-changing sum for the right person.. Will someone step forward into that new life? Time will tell.
  7. This Is How The UK Piracy Warnings Will Work Last week news broke that UK ISPs are teaming up with copyright holders to notify Internet subscribers caught sharing pirated material. The plan has been widely covered in the media, but unfortunately fact and fiction are often intertwined. So how scary are these piracy warnings really? Let's find out. In an effort to curb online piracy, the movie and music industries have reached an agreement with the UK’s leading ISPs to send warnings to alleged copyright infringers. Thus far details on the proposed system have been scarce, leading to the wildest assumptions and in some cases a core misunderstanding of how the process will work. Earlier this week, for example, the CEO of a smaller UK Internet provider said that he will refuse to join the program as ISPs shouldn’t be compelled to monitor everything their customers do. Others fear that they may receive a warning for downloading an MP3 from a file-hosting site, or for streaming a copyrighted YouTube video. All of the above have nothing to do with the proposed measures. To clear up some of the confusion TorrentFreak spoke to a source closely involved in the Vcap system. We were informed that Vcap will be part of a larger campaign to inform the public about copyright issues. For this reason, the warnings, or alerts rather, will focus on educating people about how they can access content legally, much like the scheme currently operating in the U.S. The four ISPs who are confirmed to be involved in Vcap are BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, but other providers could join in at a later stage. Below we have summarized how the Vcap program is expected to work, including several new details. What will be monitored? According to information obtained by TorrentFreak the Vcap system will only apply to P2P file-sharing. In theory this means that the focus will be almost exclusively on BitTorrent, as other P2P networks have relatively low user bases. Consequently, those who use Usenet providers or file-hosting services such as 4Shared, RapidShare and Hotfile are not at risk. The same is true for those who use streaming sites. In other words, the Vcap program only covers part of all online piracy. Will all P2P file-sharers receive a warning? TorrentFreak has learned that not all P2P file-sharers will receive a warning. The system will focus on people whose Internet accounts have been used to share copyrighted material more than once. This is different from the U.S. model where people get an alert after the first offense. The focus on repeat infringers is a logical choice since there are millions of file-sharers in the UK and the copyright holders and ISPs have agreed to cap the warnings at 2.5 million over three years. Who will be monitoring these copyright infringements? While ISPs take part in the scheme, they will not monitor subscribers’ file-sharing activities. The tracking will be done by a third party company. The most likely candidate is MarkMonitor (Dtecnet) who are also the technology partner for the U.S. Copyright Alert System. This tracking company collects IP-addresses from BitTorrent swarms and sends its findings directly to the Internet providers. The lists with infringing IP-addresses are not shared with the record labels, movie studios or other third parties. Each ISP will keep a database of the alleged infringers and send them appropriate warnings. If the ISPs get approval from the Information Commissioner’s Office, recorded infringements will be stored for a year after which they will be deleted. Will any Internet accounts be disconnected? There are no disconnections or mitigation measures for repeat infringers under the Vcap program. Alleged file-sharers will get up to four warnings and all subsequent offenses will be ignored. The source we spoke with clarified that it’s not the intention of Vcap to stop the most hardcore file-sharers. The program is mostly focused on educating casual infringers about the legal alternatives to piracy. Can the monitoring be circumvented? The answer to the previous questions already shows that users have plenty of options to bypass the program. They can simply switch to other means of downloading, but there are more alternatives. BitTorrent users could hide their IP-addresses through proxy services and VPNs for example. After the U.S. Copyright Alert Program launched last year there was a huge increase in demand for these kind of anonymity services. So how scary is the Vcap anti-piracy plan? While we can’t say anything too conclusive, it appears that the main purpose is to inform casual infringers about their inappropriate behavior. The focus lies on education, although the warnings also serve as a deterrent by pointing out that people are not anonymous. For some this may be enough to switch to legal alternatives. All in all the proposed measures are fairly reasonable, especially compared to other countries where fines and internet connections are on the table. Whether it will be successful is an entirely different question of course, and one which will only be answered when the first results come in. Finally, it’s worth noting that if Vcap fails it’s not automatically a win for the pirates. A few months ago the Government promised to “bring the Digital Economy Act into force as soon as practicable,†which will result in more stringent anti-piracy measures.