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  1. DHT, the much misunderstood, frequently maligned, yet somewhat critical aspect of Bittorrent turned ten recently. Launched initially by the Azureus client (now Vuze), BitTorrent Inc.’s version joined its mainline client a few weeks later. Now, a decade on, DHT underpins much of the BitTorrent world. This is its history. The Birth of DHT, May 2005 When BitTorrent started in 2002, decentralization was one of its main innovations. The central structure of services like Napster ultimately led to their downfall, and while decentralized systems such as eDonkey/eMule and Gnutella existed, they were often cumbersome and filled with fakes and spam. BitTorrent was also somewhat individualized. Clients only dealt with clients on the swarms they were interested in, and all conducted business through a tracker. This led to problems though, when trackers went down, as the trackers were the only way for peers to get information about others in the swarm. There was no fallback, except trying to add more trackers and hope everyone else adds the same. However, with the launch of Distributed Hash Tables (DHT) these problems were all but over. That two similar but incompatible DHT systems were launched within weeks of each other is quite surprising, given the history behind both. To this day, in fact, the systems are still incompatible, although there are plug-ins that allow the use of both to act as a bridge between the two swarms (one Vuze, one Mainline). When you factor in that both were released just months after eXeem had tried and failed to do a similar thing (earning significant criticism while doing so) the success and longevity of both look even more impressive. But how did they come about? The Vuze DHT debuted first, with version 2.3.0 of the Azureus client on May 2, 2005. In its announcements back then, they were keen to stress the difference from eXeem, stating it was a decentralized layer on top of BitTorrent, rather than a decentralised BitTorrent system itself. Within 24 hours there were more than 200,000 peers, and there are currently around 1.1 million peers on the network. According to Paul Gardener, the main developer of the Azureus DHT system, tracker redundancy wasn’t the main reason behind its development. Instead, decentralization for search was driving it. “That was one of my pet aims when I joined the Azureus development team,†Gardener told TF earlier this month. “But the others in the team weren’t sure if search was a priority, so I found a way of working on some decentralization that perhaps one day could evolve into/be adapted for search. Of course decentralized tracking was a good aim in itself.†“I started from scratch,†Gardener recalls, “there weren’t any libraries out there I could use, so had to figure out which kind of DHT to use (Kademlia) etc. [it took] a few months I guess.†Three weeks later, Bittorrent Inc. released their own version of DHT with the release of version 4.1. This was then adopted by the then popular client BitComet in early June, and by other clients soon after. While the timing may suggest otherwise, BitTorrent’s DHT wasn’t a response to Vuze’s release at all, as the person responsible – Drue Loewenstern – had been working on it since 2002. “I started working on the DHT in the summer of 2002 after making the first Mac BitTorrent clients, a year before Azureus was established on Sourceforge. Finishing it off and integration into BitTorrent started in 05 when BT became a company. I was in testing and about to release it when Azureus launched theirs,†Loewenstern says. The inspiration for the BitTorrent mainline DHT came from an unlikely and famous source: Aaron Swartz. “Distributed hash tables were an inspiring area of research. I was really into P2P, having just worked on MojoNation and BitTorrent, and wanted to do all sorts of cool decentralized things like trust metrics. Aaron Swartz, 15 at the time, circulated a one page implementation of the Chord algorithm and I was struck by its simplicity, Loewenstern notes. “I started looking into DHTs specifically and Kademlia was the first DHT paper that really clicked with me and seemed like it might work in the real world So I decided to start implementing it without really knowing what I was going to do with it.†Contrary to Vuze, redundancy was one of the main motivations driving the development of the mainline DHT. In the case of BitTorrent, the goal of the DHT has always been to make BT more robust, to improve performance by finding more peers, and to simplify publishing by making a tracker optional,†Loewenstern says. DHT ‘Haters’ Of course, not everyone was thrilled to see the introduction of DHT. Private trackers were opposed to DHT as it enabled people to use the site’s torrents without being under the strict control of the tracker admins. The solution to this was a form of access control called the private flag, which disabled DHT, along with Peer Exchange (PEX) and restricted peer access to trackers – locking things into the way of 2005. The flag works by being inside the data used to generate the hash, so if disabled, it would change the overall torrent hash, meaning a torrent with the flag enabled would be a completely separate swarm from one with the flag disabled. It also gave these sites a new way to market themselves, by taking the term “private flagged torrent trackers†and condensing it to “private trackers,†implying some form of privacy. This move though, was not by choice. “There’s always been tensions between clients and private trackers,†Vuze’s Gardener says. “In particular they like to ban Vuze because it is ‘open source and people have hacked it to report incorrect stats’ or other such ‘reasons’. I’ve never been a fan of [the private flag] as a solution.†Loewenstern agrees “It came to be because some index site operators enforce upload/download ratios in an effort to keep seeders around for torrents that nobody wants to be left holding the bag for by seeding. They thought DHT (and PEX) might let users bypass the ratio system so they made a lot of noise about banning clients that implemented DHT,†he says. “Azureus didn’t want to get banned so they came up with the private flag and added it to their client. It wasn’t my decision to add it to BitTorrent. Without PEX, torrents take longer to ramp up so it annoys me when people upload private torrents to public index sites.†NEXT, The BitComet Incident The BitComet Incident, December 2005 BitComet, one of the dominant BitTorrent clients at the time, came out in support of the mainline DHT standard in early June of 2005. It set the tempo for other clients and showed that DHT in general was a really good idea. Yet BitComet was also going to provide the first major client dispute later that year with the release of v0.60. At the core, the same old argument of wanting absolute control over peers (and thus the private flag) made into a big deal by those desperate to prevent any loss of control. In short, BitComet decided to implement a system where if the tracker on a private-flagged torrent went offline for a certain period of time, the client would enable DHT, and when the tracker came back up, DHT would be disabled again. This common sense approach provoked outrage based on deliberate misrepresentations, but it generated enough noise that BitComet withdrew the 0.60 client, eventually replacing it with v0.61 and the now ‘standard’ DHT functionality. More DHT Push-back This was only the first major push-back against DHT by those desperate to remain in control, and perhaps the most overt. It’s become common for private trackers to ‘demand’ that DHT be disabled in the client and for people to become disorientated as a result, when often those making the claims were the most confused. There have even been claims made that certain clients leak peer info to DHT, a myth we debunked back in 2009. There is one thing that does ‘encourage’ people to disable DHT though. Especially in 2005 (but still occasionally now) network hardware had problems with DHT. The problem was caused by the significant use of UDP, rather than the more traditional TCP. Routers with limited ram would have it filled by the UDP traffic and lock up or go very slowly. Thanks to Gigabit LAN and Wireless-N and AC, however, this is less of an issue now than it once was, even with multiple computers running DHT connected. It’s now mostly the province of ISP-provided hardware, which tends to hover on the low-end of the equipment spectrum for cost purposes. The Pirate Bay Boost, September 2009 Despite all its benefits, DHT adoption was slow until 2009 when it got a huge boost from one of the biggest torrent sites around, The Pirate Bay. In November 2009, they announced they were going to be closing their tracker, and moving towards magnet links, to make the site lighter and quicker. Magnets were not new, they were part of the DHT spec, but hadn’t gained much use until TPB’s change. Suddenly, lots of users were trying to work out how to get magnets to work, both with clients and browsers, and because of the requirement for DHT in order to make magnets work, DHT itself started becoming more popular. Of course, that meant that a lot of the old rumours about DHT also resurfaced, some of which still persist to this day. Search at last, March 2011 As mentioned earlier, search was one of Gardner’s main motivations for creating DHT, but it wasn’t until 2011 that a DHT search engine emerged. BTDigg started at the end of March 2011, and was an invaluable resource for many. The ability to tap into the DHT network as a whole with a decent interface meant it was not only the biggest search engine (since it had pretty much any torrent that ran on a DHT-enabled client without the private flag set) but also the most like mainstream search engines, in that it actively searched and indexed entries, rather than waiting for them to be manually added like traditional indexes. “The main reason to make BTDigg,†their spokesperson ‘NE’ told TorrentFreak, “was an absence of independent search engines in the BitTorrent network. It was the same situation as the Web in pre-Google era, the era of Web Catalogues.†Alas, the site closed its web front end earlier this year, remaining available via both TOR and I2P, a situation they put down to their host withdrawing one of their servers, with no reason given. In the meantime, successors like Strike carry on their work DHT today, 2015 Which brings us to now, ten years after DHT provided the last functional change to the BitTorrent protocol (utp was more of a technological one). DHT has enabled Bittorrent to remain the top dog, and while a dozen-or-so competing P2P systems jockeyed for dominance in the six years after Napster’s launch, nothing has even come close to challenging BitTorrent. “I researched the question ‘Why is BitTorrent still popular?’ and concluded that the main reason is because the BitTorrent protocol inherits good features from previous protocols (like eMule & Kazaa) and eliminates their weak sides. So the appearance of BitTorrent was logical evolution of previous people’s efforts in file sharing,†NE told us earlier this year. DHT was clearly the last step, enabling an underlying central mesh network to support the decentralized nature of the individual torrent swarms. It gave it the resilience and longevity to last. Ten years on though, is there anything that the two architects of DHT would do differently if they could go back to 2005? Loewenstern doesn’t seem to think so. “It’s quite humbling to have academics who really know their stuff go over your work with a fine toothed comb and find all the problems. There are a couple of BEPs (Bittorrent Enhancement Proposal) for addressing some design decisions but as [bitTorrent creator] Bram Cohen says, ‘the DHT works,’ so I’d rather go make something else cool.†Gardner agrees saying, “Nothing major to be honest, after 10 years most things have been ironed out. I mean everything needs rewriting once it is complete, that’s the way software works.†Ten years on and going strong, DHT is clearly ready for the next ten. With over 25 Million users between the two networks, it’s not going anywhere.
  2. You're never too old to learn something new and that certainly applies to a woman currently in hot water with European authorities. In what could be the arrest of the oldest file-sharer anywhere on the planet, a 63-year-old has just been prosecuted by Romanian police for the crime of making available copyrighted content using BitTorrent. Even as new services like Spotify and Netflix gain traction, people are still flocking to file-sharing networks in their millions. These days people are increasingly likely to get a warning letter in the post advising them to mend their ways or face bigger trouble, but tougher approaches still exist. While being targeted by a copyright troll must be a pretty miserable experience, being arrested has to be a lot worse. It only happens rarely and when it does it tends to affect the tech savvy 18-to-35s who grew up with the social norm of sharing files online. On occasion, however, it happens to those much older. In 2011, a 58-year-old grandmother from Scotland was arrested and eventually sentenced to three years probation for sharing files online. However a new case in Europe has cast that earlier one into the shadows. According to police in Romania, a 63-year-old woman has just been arrested for sharing files using BitTorrent. The raid took place in Cluj-Napoca (commonly known as Cluj), the second most populous city in Romania after the capital Bucharest. “Following investigations by the economic crime investigation, police in Cluj…prosecuted a 63-year-old woman,†a police statement reads. “This investigation was about the offense of making content available to the public, including via the Internet or other computer networks so that the public can access it anywhere and at any time individually chosen.†Local police say their research revealed that the woman had been making available significant quantities of movies, music and other content without the necessary permission from rights holders. While that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, the country doesn’t have much of a record for this kind of action. In fact, many torrent sites themselves operate out of Romania trouble free. A source familiar with the copyright and enforcement scene in Romania told TorrentFreak that while it is indeed unusual for someone so old to be prosecuted for file-sharing, in Romania the prosecution of file-sharers of any age is “very very rare.†“The police are doing this on their own? Never,†he said. “They only follow [pressure from] companies.†The suggestion that complaints from rightsholders prompted the arrest is not an unusual one and Romanian media notes that entertainment company involvement in the case will continue as potential damages claims are assessed. The lady at the center of this Romanian case is quite possibly the oldest file-sharer to be prosecuted anywhere in the world. The case that featured the youngest alleged pirate – just 9-years-old – became infamous following the confiscation of a Winnie-the-Pooh laptop.
  3. 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.
  4. After being chased down by a coalition of mainstream entertainment companies, a French court has just handed a former torrent site operator a six month suspended sentence. 'Boris P' must also pay two million euros in damages, an amount he predicts could be cleared in approximately 227 years. After opening its doors in 2010, in 2014 a private tracker known as GKS announced it would be closing for good. As is so often the case, the site was suffering legal problems. An investigation, carried out on behalf of U.S.-based mainstream entertainment companies via local outfits SACEM, SCPP and others, showed that between January 2012 and April 2014, three million unauthorized downloads were made from the site. They included 242,000 movies, 240 concerts and 2,240 music albums. The case concluded in the Criminal Court of La Rochelle last week. The 28-year-old former admin of the site was handed a six month suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay two million euros in damages. Major Hollywood studios were awarded the lion’s share, as follows: Warner Bros. (470K euros), Disney (242.7K euros), 20th Century Fox (228.7K euros), Paramount Pictures (221.5K euros), Universal Pictures (172.5K euros) Columbia Pictures (158K euros) and Tristar Pictures (11k euros). Music groups through the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers (SACEM) were awarded 564,762 euros in damages, with two smaller awards of 5,000 euros each going to a pair of film distribution groups. Interestingly the case was heard in the absence of site operator ‘Boris P’. The site was hosted in Hungary and the Czech Republic but Boris P left France for Budapest in 2013 and never returned. In an interview with French publication NextImpact, Boris P denies that he fled to Hungary. “The city of Budapest is so good, I ended up staying. Also with my [low] income, I better live here where a pint usually costs 1 or 2 euros,†he explains. There were early signs, however, that all was not well with the site. Boris P said he hoped to be considered a host and enjoy the legal protections that provides (he never hid his identity) but there were issues on the financial front. While users were donating enough to keep the site running every month, PayPal blocked his accounts several times. He denies making much money from the site, however. “Maybe 100 to 200 euros a month, sometimes I also paid out of my pocket,†he notes. Then, in the summer of 2014 he got word that French police were looking for him. “They wanted me to return to France to go into police custody,†he reveals. “I did not particularly have the means to return to see my family, let alone go to the police! I offered them a Skype call but [the police] laughed at that. Then, I received no more news – not a single call, nothing?†Boris P says the case has taken a toll on his health. “I have not been able to sleep for a month, I’ve lost 10 kg. I have to live on 300 euros per month, which in Hungary is fine. In fact, I absolutely do not know what to do now and for the future,†he says. “[The fine] is so huge that whether it’s 1 or 2 million [euros] it makes no difference to me. My gross income in 2014 was 8,800 euros and in 2013, 11,546 euros,†Boris notes. “I did a little calculation: by giving them all the gross income of my business, I would need 227 years to pay off the fine.†
  5. With the start of a new year comes the promise of what could be. Major upcoming titles and huge industry events are just two of the things people think of when it comes to a new year. For the Wii U, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, 2014 was a phenomenal year from a hardware and software standpoint. There were so many great stories and trying moments for thousands in the gaming industry, but it's time to start looking forward. 2015 looks to be one of the biggest in gaming, as was 2014, and to help prepare you for what is coming next, here's a look at what some of the industry's biggest publishers need to do in order to ensure success over the next 12 months. Microsoft Microsoft Permission given to use photo by Microsoft Microsoft If you have been paying clear attention to gaming this past year, then you have to admit that Microsoft had one of the best years of the three hardware firms. Yes, Nintendo had an exceptional one as well, but 2014 was crucial for Microsoft and the Xbox One. After a rocky launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft rebounded phenomenally with outstanding game releases and exceptional console bundles. This holiday saw Microsoft release three outstanding Xbox One exclusives: Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Among others that have launched on the system, these three have helped bring in new Xbox One gamers and foreshadow some incredibly promising things for the future. Looking at the console itself, a price drop was needed so Microsoft dropped the Kinect and slapped a $399 price tag on the device. This, in addition to the remarkable $349 holiday price cut, has boosted sales for a console that struggled to sell a year ago. For 2015, continuing to publish quality games is going to be crucial for Microsoft. Games like Halo 5: Guardians, Fable Legends, Rise of the Tomb Raide, among others, will be important in Microsoft continuing its success. Sales of the system have skyrocketed and that will most likely continue, so long as messaging stays consistent and games remain exceptional. 2014 was a massive year for Xbox and should Microsoft produce another year like this past one, look out Sony and Nintendo. Nintendo Nintendo Permission given to use photo by Nintendo Nintendo Nintendo is a company that so many people want to love and support, but many need further justification before doing so. It's a matter of fact that the Wii U has some of the best exclusives of any other platform. Just about every exclusive Nintendo publishes for the Wii U is a critical hit, but that hasn't been good enough to bring sales up to par with competing systems. The firm has done so much right with the 3DS and for 2015, they only need to continue making great games for it. The outstanding Wii U exclusives will continue to bring in more gamers to the console, and that is something Nintendo must not stop doing. That said though, the company needs to find ways to bring in more third party support because it just isn't there. The lack of support is a turn off for many prospective buyers. It's true that most third party publishers aren't sure what to do with the Wii U and creating a game specifically for the system is a legitimate financial risk. Nintendo needs to change that and get third party games back on their platform. Continuing to sell more Wii U systems is a way to do that, but so is convincing third party companies that bringing a major AAA release to the Wii U isn't going to damage their bottom line. Accomplishing that may be done by de-emphasizing the Gamepad or by focusing on the Wii U Pro controller, but one thing is for sure, they need to have a larger presence from third party publishers if they hope to revive the Wii U in 2015. Sony Sony Permission given to use photo by Sony Sony The PlayStation 4 has had the best start of any of the three new-generation consoles on the market today, that is a fact. What's puzzling is how Sony hasn't been able to capitalize on that further with great games. 2014 did see some decent releases like inFamous: Second Son, The Last of Us: Remastered, LittleBigPlanet 3 and DRIVECLUB, but it was a less than stellar year for the publisher. inFamous: Second Son and LittleBigPlanet 3 were good, but not great. The Last of Us was a remaster and DRIVECLUB was released two months too early. The firm undeniably won the mind-share war with Microsoft and Nintendo by providing brilliant messaging and offerings surrounding the PS4, but that is not enough to ensure console sales for an entire generation. That is done through publishing great games. In 2015, Sony needs to have a better year from a publishing standpoint. Game delays thinned 2014's offerings a bit, so when you look forward into 2015, Sony has a major opportunity to reestablish dominance in the first party software space. Games like Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Uncharted 4 and more are scheduled to launch in 2015. It goes without saying that these games need to deliver top-of-the-line experiences because gamers will eventually turn to other platforms if not. Messaging can't makeup for sub-par games. Should Sony return to publishing some of the best games this industry has to offer, the PS4 will continue to enjoy top-notch console sales. EA EA Permission given to use photo by EA EA The launch of Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but since then, EA has made some major changes to their philosophy. Games are no longer being pushed out before they are ready. The delays we have seen have been for the sake of quality and it shows. Proof of this philosophy and proof of it working is Dragon Age: Inquisition. The game was originally scheduled to launch this past October, but the firm push its launch back about a month. We don't know what would've been different had it been launched in October, but we do know the Dragon Age: Inquisition that launched in November was excellent. It in fact won one of our Game of the Year awards. Being more open about the games they are working on has been a breath of fresh air in an industry that prides itself on surprises and secrecy. EA's new commitment to quality and transparency is something that resonates with consumers. Should EA continue their string of quality games with the upcoming release of Battlefield: Hardline and others, 2015 could be a huge year for the publisher. We fully expect Hardline to perform well, and if Star Wars: Battlefront ends up doing the same, should it release in 2015, it'll be just what the doctor ordered for EA. There's a lot we don't know about for what's coming from EA in 2015, but we do know if they don't break their commitment to quality, the new year will be a great one. Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Permission given to use photo by Warner Bros. Warner Bros. Warner Bros. had a humble, yet exceptional year in 2014. Their biggest release was Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and it was a critical, commercial success. This upcoming year has a lot of bright spots on the horizon for the publisher. The publisher has the right scent of what most gamers want these days, open-worlds. If you don't think this is the case, just look at their upcoming slate of titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Dying Light, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (North America publisher) and Mad Max. Open-world games are experiences players want the most and the market proved that this past holiday season. The three games that won our Game of the Year honors were all open-worlds (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Shadow of Mordor and Sunset Overdrive). Knowing what consumers do and do not want is important in this industry, as is producing quality games. Warner Bros. has their hand on what gamers want and if they can continue to publish high quality open-world experiences in 2015, success with continue to be at its grasp. Square Enix Square Enix Permission given to use photo by Square Enix Square Enix In 2014, Square Enix was just getting its feet under itself in the new-gen space. Remasters were a major theme for the firm with games like Tomb Raider and Sleeping Dogs coming to the PS4 and Xbox One. They did bring Thief, Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and Murdered: Soul Suspect to the new-generation of gaming, but fans want to see more from their biggest franchises. With 2014 being the year of remasters for Square, 2015 will need to be a year for launching new games. Titles like Just Cause 3, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Life is Strange are all scheduled to arrive in 2015, with Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III possibly coming as well. We know a new Hitman game is in development, but we'll most likely not see that launch this year. This coming year will mark a coming out party for the biggest brands the firm has to offer. Successful and timely launches will be important, but only when they are ready for launch. Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV are going to be marquee launches and they cannot afford any slip ups with these adored brands. Square Enix has positioned itself to release some of the year's most unique, influential and fun games in the industry. The firm has a strong lineup coming next year, and if they all measure up to the hype, 2015 will be a major stepping-stone. Activision Activision Permission given to use photo by Activision Activision Activision had an interesting year with the launches of Skylanders Trap Team, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and of course, Destiny. These three titles have seen phenomenal commercial success, but not all of them were critical hits. Skylanders was more of what fans wanted in a great way, and Advanced Warfare is perhaps the most accessible Call of Duty yet. The brilliant matchmaking system and introduction of exo-jump suits have made this year's iteration one of the best. Then there is the launch of Destiny. Greeted with mixed reviews and reactions from fans, Destiny was by far the most polarizing game we saw release in 2014. Bungie has established the game as a major franchise and managed to gain a major base of players, but it was not an overwhelming hit. There is still work to be done for the game to reach its full potential. In 2015, Activision needs to resist complacency and maintain an eye of the tiger mentality. Yes, Destiny was a commercial success, but the game needs to improve to make it as memorable as Bungie's past games have been. Call of Duty and Skylanders need to both continue to evolve as well. Having only three major brands means that there is no room for error. If one of these games stumbles, perilous outcomes will appear. Activision has three of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry today, and if they can continue to find tangible ways to improve those games, they will remain atop. Ubisoft Ubisoft Permission given to use photo by Ubisoft Ubisoft Ubisoft was perhaps one of the busiest publishers in the year 2014. Publishing AAA games the likes of Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed Unity, Far Cry 4 and The Crew showed the company's commitment to the PS4 and Xbox One. Over the past few years, one of the traits we've associated with Ubisoft games is quality. While 2014 didn't completely sully that reputation, it was a reminder of what the company needs to continue to do; release games when they are ready. Assassin's Creed Unity is a great game, without the bugs that is. Had Ubisoft decided to hold off on launching this game for a few more months, people would look at it in an entirely different way. This is a great game, but the bugs and issues with it proved that it just wasn't ready to be released. This is part of the danger of letting finances and market expectations drive business decisions. Maybe Unity had no other option but to launch in November due to what may be coming in 2015, but we do know it shouldn't have. 2015 is a major year for Ubisoft and we'll probably see another three or four games launch from them. Games like The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege are so important for Ubisoft to get right. Releasing them before they are truly ready could be damaging from a long-term standpoint. Assassin's Creed Unity was a slip-up, but The Division and Siege would be a de-railer should they stumble too. This would be highly uncharacteristic of the publisher and that is why many are giving the firm a pass on Unity. 2015 is a chance for Ubisoft to redeem itself and show the consumers why they have the reputation of creating some of the best games around.
  6. Halo's Pillar of Autumn, a massive UNSC spaceship, has been recreated in Lego form. Fan Lee Jones writes on this Lego fan creation community site that he spent 3.5 years and $7,000 to build the impressive brick ship. The ship is over six feet long and weighs more than 200 pounds. It's quite an impressive feat overall, though the most impressive part is probably the epic-looking engines, which you can see in the image at left. More images of Jones' Lego Halo ship are available at the Lego fansite. Lego does not make official Halo toy sets, though competitor Mega Bloks offers a range of similar toys for children based on the series. The next core Halo game is 2015's Halo 5: Guardians, which launches next fall on Xbox One. Everyone who bought Halo: The Master Chief Collection can play the game's beta beginning next week or today if you're an Xbox One Preview member. Thanks, Kotaku
  7. Admins and uploaders know the risks, but when otherwise good citizens go to jail for sharing files it's a horrible moment for all involved. This week two young men from the UK were locked up for years, one for his acts as a teenager several years ago. What a complete and utter waste of life. Monday this week, Kane Robinson and Richard Graham, an admin and uploader of now-defunct file-sharing forum Dancing Jesus, had their lives turned upside down when they were handed jail sentences of 32 and 21 months respectively. The pair had got involved in Dancing Jesus years ago, when they were teenagers. The site dealt in leaked music, no one disputes that, but if you knew of Dancing Jesus before the site got raided you were in the minority. It was a niche site, to say the least. Still, the UK record labels claimed the duo had cost them around £240m ($378m) in losses. It appears the court believed them and as a result the pair are locked away at this very moment for a very long time indeed. Sadly that estimate can only be a dramatic exaggeration. If we are to believe claims from the other side of the Atlantic, the behemoth that was Megaupload – the subject of the world’s largest copyright case – ‘only’ managed to cost the entertainment industry an alleged $500m, and that’s the estimate of a notoriously aggressive US Government. Also, Megaupload hosted 12 billion unique files and had 100 million users. Dancing Jesus had 12,000 registered users and carried 22,500 allegedly infringing links. Robinson and Kane made no money from their activities, that much was accepted in court. Megaupload made an alleged $175m. The sums don’t add up, anyone can see that, but at this point, today, none of that means much to the pair staring at four gray walls with devastated families at home and ruined lives behind them. Ok, they knew what they were doing and many will argue that there needs to be some kind of punishment for distributing content to the public without permission, but this week’s sentences go way too far by most sensible standards. Before his incarceration, Graham told TF that he’d been taking school exams when the music industry first homed in on him, and since being arrested he’d gone on to university and obtained a degree. And leading up to Dancing Jesus, Kane Robinson was headhunted to run the official Arctic Monkeys website by the band’s manager. “Kane’s fansite (which ironically shared their tracks for free and gained the band a lot of exposure) was receiving a lot more traffic than theirs. He ran that for several months,†Kane brother Kyle informs TF. After the closure of Dancing Jesus, both men had put file-sharing behind them and were working in legitimate jobs. Dangerous? No. Violent? No. Dancing Jesus years behind them? No doubt. Compassion then? Not a chance. To underline the harshness of this week’s sentences we could compare them with cases recently before the UK courts. Consider the pilot who admitted to flying a plane whilst three times over the drink limit yet faces a maximum two years in jail? Or what about the sex offender caught file-sharing Category A-rated child abuse images on file-sharing networks? He got a 15 month suspended sentence just days after Robinson and Graham were given 32 and 21 months each. Instead, however, let’s take a look at a file-sharing case that concluded last week in Finland. It involved a 40-year-old man also accused of making copyrighted content available to the public – 964 video files, 49,951 music tracks and 573 other sundry files to be precise. Last week the court found the man guilty of copyright infringement, fined him 1,000 euros with 2,000 euros in legal costs. He was also ordered to pay damages to local music rights group Teosto to the tune of 1,500 euros plus 3,000 euros to IFPI. Jail wasn’t on the agenda. Whether this is a fair punishment for the offenses in hand is for others to decide. However, it seems unlikely that those with the ability to look beyond this week’s “£240 million losses†headlines will feel that it’s proportionate for two non-violent men to spend the next few Christmas Days behind bars. That said, in today’s legal climate it’s unrealistic to expect UK-based file-sharing site operators to simply walk away from a court without some kind of punishment, even if they did only operate a linking forum. But even then, several years in jail makes little to no sense for non-commercial operators, especially when supposed financial losses are either plucked from thin air or a product of highly speculative accounting. The lesson here is simple. The ground rules, at least in the UK, have changed. The last three big cases in the UK (SurftheChannel, Fast and Furious ‘cammer’, Dancing Jesus) were all private prosecutions by the entertainment industries and have all ended in prison time for the defendants. There is no reason to think things are about to change. In the meantime, people like Kane’s family are left trying to rally support on Facebook in an attempt to scrape together £5,000 in a GoFundMe fundraiser to finance an appeal aimed at achieving a more realistic sentence. In conclusion it now appears that anyone other than low-level UK file-sharers need to consider whether their “fun†hobby is really worth losing years of their freedom over. And of course, shameful as it might be, that’s the message the industry wanted to send all along.
  8. NBA Live 16 and 17 will happen, despite EA Sports' recent struggles and this year's delay of NBA Live 15. More than a week before NBA Live 15 lands in stores, series executive producer Sean O'Brien has reassured fans that this will not be the last entry in the two decade-old franchise. In an interview with Polygon, O'Brien promised that next year's game (the unannounced NBA Live 16) will be better than this year's game. Asked if that means there is sure to be a new Live next year, O'Brien said, "Guaranteed." Not only that, but work on it has already begun. "We've already started development on 16," he said. "We're staffing up. We're actually increasing investment on what 16--and 17--look like." That comes as somewhat of a surprise for a number of reasons. Despite being the preeminent NBA simulation series in the '90s, the NBA 2K franchise has firmly taken hold of that position from Live and has not let go. Things have gotten especially bad for EA Sports on the basketball front in recent years, and not just because the 2K games have routinely sold better and been better received. The Live brand was dropped in favor of the NBA Elite name in 2010, only for that game to be canceled. EA didn't attempt to release a game in 2011, only to then cancel NBA Live 13 due to it being a downright mess. And while it was able to release NBA Live 14 last year, there was no question about what the best basketball game on the market was. With the NBA license not being cheap and Polygon reporting that EA's deal with the league has only a year left, it wouldn't have been a tremendous surprise to see EA Sports bow out to the basketball space. But basketball is as big a sport worldwide as anything outside of soccer, and O'Brien says there is a $350 million market for NBA games. That's not the sort of thing you'd want to walk away from, and is presumably why O'Brien can so confidently say we'll be seeing the series continue beyond this year. NBA Live 15 was originally scheduled to release earlier this month alongside NBA 2K15. In September, the game was delayed by three weeks; it'll now be available on October 28, exclusively for Xbox One and PS4. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  9. Tougher new laws outlined by Justice Secretary; "These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life." Feminist essayist Anita Sarkeesian has been subjected to online abuse for monthsPeople who abuse and harass others online could face up to two years in prison, if tough new measures are introduced in the UK. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling proposed the new laws in a Mail on Sunday article, claiming he would "take a stand against a baying cyber-mob." If enacted, the changes would allow sentencing of internet trolls to be taken to crown court, where the maximum penalty would be two years imprisonment. Under existing law, the maximum sentence for internet trolling is six months. The proposals were outlined amid regular attacks on celebrities and public figures via social media. Though Mr Grayling was speaking generally about online abuse, his comments also come in the wake of a protracted two-month abuse campaign against female game critics and developers. "These internet trolls are cowards who are poisoning our national life," Mr Grayling wrote. "No-one would permit such venom in person, so there should be no place for it on social media. That is why we are determined to quadruple the current six-month sentence." Rape threats were made against the model Chloe Madeley last week, apparently in response to comments by her mother, Judy Finnigan, who spoke out against about the convicted rapist Ched Evans. "As the terrible case of Chloe Madeley showed last week, people are being abused online in the most crude and degrading fashion," Grayling added. ‘This is a law to combat cruelty – and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob. We must send out a clear message: if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years." Within the games community, the feminist essayist Anita Sarkeesian has been subject of sustained abusefrom her detractors. She has previously had to vacate her home following death threats, and on at least two occasions there have been threats of bombings and massacres made against event organisers who have advertised her attendance. Other female games industry figures, such as Brianna Wu and Zoe Quinn, have also been subjected to death threats. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  10. Minecraft players are always building awe-inspiring things. The latest example of this is one player who, over the course of two years, constructed a huge city filled with roads, a rail system, skyscrapers, and more. Titan City is the work of YouTube user Colonial Puppet, who hand-placed an estimated 4.5 million blocks to create this map in the Xbox 360 version of Minecraft. It's a remarkable achievement, and in a thread onReddit, Colonial Puppet says the city is nearly complete. At some point, the city will be moved to PC, where a number of new buildings have already been built so that they can be added. What's most impressive about the buildings is that, while they look nice from the outside, all of them have floors. "Some are furnished," but every one of them has a "basic interior," and "a good amount have elevators and stairs." In addition, "some roads have underground rail and a large, aboveground rail system runs throughout the city." You can see an overview in the city in the pictures and video below. You can also download the latest version of the map so you can check it out for yourself on Xbox 360 (here) and PC (here). Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  11. A cold case comes back to life after facial recognition software recognizes an alleged US outlaw who'd been hiding out in Nepal. Facial recognition technology used on the photo in the Neil Stammer wanted poster led to his arrest.FBIIn 2000, after being accused of child sex abuse and kidnapping in New Mexico, Neil Stammer skipped town and went underground. Fourteen years later he was arrested in Nepal. How did the authorities catch this fugitive? Facial recognition technology. Stammer was first arrested in 1999 on multiple state charges, but after being released on bond, he never showed up for his arraignment. He was said to be a talented juggler who spoke a dozen languages and traveled the world as a street performer. The FBI thought he could be anywhere. After years of trying to locate Stammer, with no luck, the feds decided to shelve the case. Then, earlier this year, FBI Special Agent Russ Wilson was assigned to be a fugitive coordinator in New Mexico. "In addition to the current fugitives, I had a stack of old cases," Wilson said in a statement, "and Stammer's stood out." So, Wilson reissued Stammer's "Wanted" poster. At the same time, the Diplomatic Security Service, which cracks down on bogus US passports, had just begun testing facial recognition software designed to expose passport fraud. An agent from the Diplomatic Security Service ran the software on Stammer's poster and came up with something interesting -- a match with a passport photo of someone named Kevin Hodges. The agent contacted Wilson who quickly tracked down Stammer in Nepal. Stammer had been living under the alias of Kevin Hodges and was teaching English to Nepalese students. "He was very comfortable in Nepal," Wilson said. "My impression was that he never thought he would be discovered." Although facial recognition technology has attracted growing attention in recent years from law enforcement and commercial interests, its reception has been rocky. Privacy advocates raised concerns in April over a facial-recognition database being developed by the FBI that could hold 52 million images by next year. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has also questioned the FBI's use of facial recognition software, saying it could infringe on people's privacy. According to a report from July 2011, it's not just the FBI employing facial recognition software -- around40 law enforcement agencies across the US are attempting to use mobile facial recognition technology to identify individuals.
  12. "It’s been a long time, yeah," Billy Joe Shaver muses about his new album, Long in the Tooth, his first studio record of all-original material in nearly seven years, out today. "I did a live one at Billy Bob's there at Fort Worth and it got so many reviews, and I talked to so many critics and they were all so good and kind about it. So I promised each one of them that if I came out with a new record it would be all new songs. I had to keep my promise." The result is the 10-track Tooth, which features the Texas proto-outlaw singing about class inequality in "Checkers and Chess," the folly of man in "The Git Go" and the tried-and-true subject of booze in "Last Call for Alcohol." "I used to be a real good drunk. I did that to the hilt too," says Shaver, who pledges truthfulness not just in conversation but in his lyrics. "Most of the things I write are things that are personal to me. I realized that that's the only way to really be honest. If you go writing about someone else you're just guessing at it." Shaver doesn't even care much for writing with a partner, the preferred way to create on today's Music Row. "I have a hard enough time dancing with a girl much less writing with some hairy-legged boy," he quips. Still, Shaver does collaborate with some friends on Long in the Tooth. Leon Russell adds piano to "Last Call for Alcohol," Tony Joe White plays electric guitar on the title track and longtime Willie Nelson sideman Mickey Raphael weaves harmonica throughout. Nelson himself also appears, duetting with Shaver on "Hard to Be an Outlaw," a rumination on where country's veterans fit in today. "Willie is a real good friend of mine. He recorded two of the songs off this album, 'The Git Go' and 'Outlaw' [for his own Band of Brothers]," Shaver says. "He called me after his album had been out a week and a half and it [went] Number One. I said, 'Well, thank God in his heaven, all is right with the world. We're right back in the saddle again." Shaver is currently on a West Coast tour. He's set to perform in Nashville as part of AmericanaFest, which runs September 17 through 21st.
  13. 6 years and running As this site races towards its 6th birthday, I can't help but smile to myself. I started this site along with ckpro 6 years ago, and we are still running. 6 years ago offered the gazelle source to a sellect few before public release, we took advatage of that kindness, and hit the ground running. We wanted to offer a site that you are never less than one click away from discovering more content to your taste, never more than one click away from discovering new content relative to your taste, and never more than one click away from content you don't even know you like yet. Discovery was the key, and through our modifications built on top of an already solid source, and our own customizations and innovations, I think we have achieved that. I already know, those who value this site for what it is already appreciate that. We the creators, and the staff, love you and are eternally grateful for that. Our commitment from day one has never and will never change. We want to offer quality, moderated, adult content to a select few who truly appreciate it. Those who have been with us and have supported us from that day until this, we see you, and we thank you. This has never been a site geared towards making money. This isn't a criminal empire. This isn't a business. There are no inflated, unrealistic, running costs added to our donation bar. Nobody here makes a profit. The cost of running a site this size is displayed realistically in the right hand corner. We have never and will never pocket a single penny from this site when donations overflow, and we will never let this site go down when donations fall short. We love what we do, and we love you love what we do. That to us, is enough. Thank you, to each and every one of you. You are what makes this place great!
  14. Perhaps it's not much of a surprise, but the day after the Oscar award ceremony the winning films are in high demand among pirates. The number of people sharing "12 Years A Slave" via BitTorrent tripled, and the number of "Gravity" downloads more than doubled. With 7 Oscars Gravity was the big winner at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday evening. However, the Oscar for the best motion picture went to 12 years a Slave. While the makers of both films couldn’t be happier, there’s also a dark side to this success. Soon after the Hollywood festivities ended, the number of downloads for both films gradually increased. For example, the number of 12 Years a Slave pirates downloading the film via BitTorrent tripled, resulting in more than 100,000 extra downloads on Monday. The interest in 7-time Oscar winner Gravity increased as well, as the number of active downloaders on the most popular torrent more than doubled. The temporary boost in piracy is a recurring phenomenon for Oscar winners. The same happened to The Hurt Locker, which prompted movie studio Voltage Pictures to sue tens of thousands of downloaders. Whether the makers of Gravity and 12 Years a Slave have similar plans has yet to be seen.
  15. Hello Paters, We're absolutely proud to announce our 9th birthday! Starting in 2005, we are committed to deliver the finest Scene Audio Torrents and we’re still going strong. To celebrate our 9th year, we are also giving away 5gbs of uploaded credits to all users regardless of their user classes or account stats. Thank you all for your help to keep this site at it's best. We as the Proaudiotorrents Staff like to thank all the people who made this possible. Thanks to the staff , the donors and most off all the members who we work hard for. Kind regards, Ozziiee (on behalf of Pro Audio Staff)