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  1. Developer on Twitch Creates Neat Tool to Prevent DMCA Notices Twitch users who play copyrighted music in the background leave themselves open to DMCA notices that can result in a ban. Other than expensive licensing there has been no obvious solution to this problem but thanks to developer Peter Frydenlund Madsen, Twitch streamers can now play copyrighted music to their fans, without risking infringement complaints. Last summer, chaos urupted on Twitch when users were suddenly bombarded with copyright infringement notices for content uploaded during 2017 and 2019. That initial batch was the work of the RIAA and in October 2020 the problems were back again when the music industry group fired off a second wave of complaints. In May, Twitch sent out an email noting that it had received another batch of DMCA takedown notices from music publishers, noting that the majority targeted streamers listening to background music while playing video games. But what if it was possible to stream copyrighted background music to users on Twitch, without receiving DMCA notices. And ensuring artists also get paid? Achieving the Impossible, Simply Unless users (or indeed Twitch) obtain licenses to stream mainstream music to the public, DMCA notices are always going to be a problem. However, with some lateral thinking, developer Peter Frydenlund Madsen, known on Twitch as Pequeno0, has come up with an elegant solution that will be useful to millions of users. Pequeno0’s solution is SpotifySynchronizer, a Twitch extension that synchronizes the streamer’s Spotify with the viewer’s Spotify, so that stream viewers can listen to the same music as the streamer, at exactly the same time. The beauty here is that no copyrighted tracks are distributed or recorded with or even without permission. The user simply connects to the streamer’s Spotify using the extension, executes a ‘force sync’ if necessary, and then listens to exactly the same music as the streamer, at exactly the same time, on their own machine. And because the music is being played on Spotify, the artists get paid. SpotifySynchronizer, GTA V RP and Twitch “I’ve watched a lot of GTA V RP on Twitch, and they used to play a lot of music, which fit the RP,” Pequeno0 informs TorrentFreak. “When the DMCA strikes hit, they were hit hard. So it was actually with them in mind that I started the project. So I talked to a friend of mine, and we came up with this idea of synchronizing music in a way that would still pay the artists.” Pequeno0 says he uses Spotify himself and since it’s a widely used service and accessible to millions – not to mention having a public API that is easy to use – the decision to integrate the platform was obvious. It was not without technical issues, however. Twitch and Spotify – Please Play Nicely “Getting to understand the Twitch API together with the Spotify API was problematic to start with. For example, it’s not possible to embed an iFrame in the Twitch extension. But usually logging in with Spotify happens in an iframe with OAuth,” Pequeno0 says. “I had to make a popup, and figure out how to send back the results of this popup to the extension to get the token to use for Spotify. This might be changed in the future to a better system to support more platforms.” Furthermore, Pequeno0 says that Spotify doesn’t provide any notification service when a song is changed. This means he has to ask Spotify which song is currently playing if the streamer changes tracks mid-song. “I could have made a check every few seconds, but the Spotify API also has rate limitation, so I decided against it. To overcome these issues, I had to make the ‘Force Sync’ button. It basically asks Spotify what the streamer is currently playing, and updates it with the server.” The developer says he doesn’t know how much time he’s spent on the project but does spend some money on a server to store a minimal amount of data. This is to make sure that viewers who log in when a track is already being played can discover the name of that track without having to communicate with the streamer’s part of the extension. The Future: Maybe More Music Services While Pequeno0 has been working on SpotifySynchronizer for some months now as a side project, he’s not ruling out more development. This will largely depend on how many people use the extension but he does have some early plans. “If the extension gets very popular, it could be extended to use even more services, and maybe even lookup songs on different music services, so the viewer/streamer could use different services but listen to the same songs,” Pequeno0 explains. In the meantime, the developer is providing instructions for those interested in testing SpotifySynchronizer on both the streaming and receiving ends. He promises there will be no DMCA notices for either. 1. The streamer installs the Extension and adds the panel to the channel. 2. Streamer starts Spotify, then starts the Live-Config panel found in the Creator Dashboard -> Stream Manager -> SpotifySynchronizer, then logs in with Spotify through the popup. The streamer then keeps this Live-Config panel open, as this is what does the synchronization. 3. If the streamer changes music mid-song, the “Force Sync” button has to be pressed to update it for the viewers. 4. Viewer opens Spotify and starts any song. This is a requirement, as the Spotify API can’t start playing if it doesn’t know which device is playing music. 5. Viewer logs in with SpotifySynchronizer below the stream on the streamer’s channel. If the viewer’s Spotify does not change to the song being played by the Streamer, the ‘Force Sync’ button can be used on the viewer’s side to get the currently playing song. Developer on Twitch Creates Neat Tool to Prevent DMCA Notices
  2. Microsoft is issuing DMCA complaints to take down leaked "Windows 11 ISO" links Earlier this week, a Windows 11 ISO for build 21996.1 leaked to the web, letting users try out the yet-to-be-announced offering from Microsoft. The build that seems to have been compiled late in May provides a first look at what the Redmond giant is teasing to be the “next generation of Windows”. As the leaked build does not paint the complete picture of the OS update owing to it being a pre-release version – one that hasn’t even been released to Insiders –, Microsoft seems to want to restrict users from downloading it, which is why it is issuing DMCA complaints to Google (spotted by Fossbytes) in some regions asking the search giant to take down results containing articles from publications with links to the ISO files. Interestingly, in the linked Microsoft Japan complaint, the firm does confirm the Windows 11 name as it is requesting for the removal of “Windows 11” ISOs, claiming that those are leaked copies of “the unreleased Windows 11” OS. The company is slated to hold a dedicated event to show off Windows 11 on June 24, and it probably (and understandably) wants users and enthusiasts to reserve their judgement about the upcoming update till it is officially unveiled. Components such as the Microsoft Store, which is said to be receiving a major refresh, are yet to be shown off or talked about. Additionally, the leaked version lacks other improvements that will likely be served through the way of Feature Experience Packs that can be delivered without the need for an OS update, something that is currently being targeted only to internal employees. There is also a lot that is unknown, such as whether there will be a separate update to Windows 10 this fall (version 21H2) and what the update and support lifecycles look like for Windows 11. What seems to be increasingly certain is the ‘Windows 11’ branding, which is present in the About Windows (winver) pop-up, setup process, and even in the DMCA notices. Microsoft is issuing DMCA complaints to take down leaked "Windows 11 ISO" links
  3. Anti-Piracy Outfits Target Anti-Piracy Company With Questionable DMCA Takedowns The CoPeerRight Agency is a French anti-piracy company that's been around for nearly two decades. Aside from targeting pirated content on P2P networks and video hosting services, the company shares promotional trailers for clients as well. Ironically, many of these authorized videos are taken offline by fellow anti-piracy groups. To stop this abuse, the CoPeerRight Agency calls for more manual verification. As a veteran in the anti-piracy business, the CoPeerRight Agency has witnessed many online piracy threats come and go. When the company first started, LimeWire was the largest threat. This was later replaced by torrent sites, and today, pirate streaming and IPTV services are flourishing. All these years, CoPeerRight has offered its clients a variety of anti-piracy tools. The company sends standard takedown notices to sites and platforms, but it also uploads trailers to steer people away from pirated content. These promotional trailers can be seeded on torrent sites to sow confusion. However, the anti-piracy outfit also publishes trailers on legitimate streaming platforms such as Vimeo and YouTube. This helps to raise the profile of local film releases and can generate additional revenue. The videos are all published with authorization from local distributors or rightsholders, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any issues. RIAA Targets Movie Trailer Just a few days ago we noticed that the RIAA sent a takedown notice that targeted one of these ‘authorized’ movie trailers. Specifically, the Italian trailer for “The Dressmaker” movie. This RIAA represents music companies, so that alone makes it an odd takedown notice. In addition, CoPeerRight informed us that they have the right to distribute this video internationally. As such, the company believes that it should have never been removed from Vimeo. “We were surprised to receive a strike for a trailer that we posted for marketing purposes with authorization of the rightsholder,” a CoPeerRight spokesperson informed us, adding that “this happens from time to time.” With movie trailers, there are often dozens of rightsholders involved. This includes distributors around the world and the accompanying music may complicate matters even further. “The Dressmaker” trailer included music from Universal Music, which is indeed an RIAA member. However, according to CoPeerRight, all the rights were properly cleared. The company swiftly sent a DMCA counternotice to Vimeo hoping to get it restored. While one would expect that this matter would be resolved fairly quickly, the RIAA wasn’t eager to restore it immediately. The music group instead referred CoPeerRight to a representative from Universal Music, who never replied, and the trailer remained offline. Earlier this week, it was finally restored. Under the DMCA, Vimeo is required to do so within 10 working days, unless the claiming party files a lawsuit. That didn’t happen. In fact, CoPeerRight heard nothing from Universal Music or the RIAA. Not an Isolated Incident At first, we assumed that this must be an isolated incident or a mere oversight. However, CoPeerRight says that, while RIAA mistakes are rare, takedowns from other anti-piracy groups are actually pretty common. “Our clients’ promotional content is regularly deleted by anti-piracy companies. The main issue is a lack of manual verification,” the company explains. To back up these claims, CoPeerRight shared a long list of videos that were flagged over the past several years. This put the company at risk of losing profitable promotion Vimeo and YouTube channels, some of which have over 100,000 subscribers. And that’s not all. The problem is even worse on torrent sites, where CoPeerRight also releases trailers. This is a tactic to steer people away from pirate releases but it’s also a magnet for takedown notices from rightsholders, which assume that it’s pirated content. Takedowns Target Legal Torrents Over the years, other anti-piracy groups have removed numerous promotional torrents from Google’s search results. “We stopped counting the notices from anti-piracy companies that remove Google search results. However, these takedown notices undermine our promotional campaigns on torrent trackers,” CoPeerRight informs us. Mixed Responses The French anti-piracy outfit regularly reaches out to colleagues to discuss these issues. This doesn’t always help but on occasion, it can bear fruit. For example, some anti-piracy companies are relatively quick to retract inaccurate takedowns. In one email we’ve seen, one even offered to add the affected channel to a whitelist. An email conversation with another anti-piracy company, which we shall leave unnamed, was less friendly. When CoPeerRight described that company’s notices as “fraudulent” it quickly escalated into a legal threat. All in all, it is no surprise that mistakes happen. And when the volume is massive they will be more noticeable. Still, we didn’t expect that anti-piracy companies would regularly target each other’s content. CoPeerRight stresses that RIAA’s takedown notice is quite rare. However, there are other anti-piracy vendors who are known to make the same mistakes over and over again. Ideally, the anti-piracy company would like platforms such as Vimeo and YouTube to publish DMCA counternotices in the Lumen Database, similar to what they do with regular DMCA notices. That would make the process much more transparent. “We take pride in carrying out legitimate copyright protection on the video platforms, but other vendors, under the guise of anti-piracy, have questionable practices. But I am sure you are already aware of that,” CoPeerRight concludes. Anti-Piracy Outfits Target Anti-Piracy Company With Questionable DMCA Takedowns
  4. DMCA Notice Targets TorrentFreak, Netflix, and Reddit’s Wikipedia Pages Adult entertainment company The Score Group has asked Google to remove dozens of Wikipedia entries from its search results. Some of these pages document the history of popular pirate sites. However, the DMCA notice also targets Wikipedia's own Wikipedia entry, as well as those of TorrentFreak, Netflix, Reddit, The Gutenberg Project, and many others. Over the past several years, copyright holders have asked Google to remove billions of links to allegedly pirated content. Most of these DMCA notices are pretty accurate. However, we keep stumbling on glaring errors, which are often hard to explain. The Score Group Misses Today we have another example. Late last month, adult entertainment distributor The Score Group sent Google a takedown notice identifying more than 300 copyright infringing URLs. A quick glance at the request indeed shows that the notice includes several problematic links. However, it also lists more than two dozen Wikipedia pages. This includes the Wikipedia entries of well-known pirate brands such as YIFY, BTDigg, and KickassTorrents. These Wikipedia pages don’t list or link to any infringing material. They clearly shouldn’t be removed but, in a way, it’s understandable since these URLs were probably caught up in an automated keyword filter. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t stop there. For reasons unknown, the list of ‘copyright infringing’ Wikipedia entries also includes TorrentFreak and other news sites such as The Verge and The Financial Times. The same is true for the movie review sites IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Targeting Wikipedia’s Wikipedia Entry… And it goes on. The Wikipedia entries for Domino’s Pizza and Project Gutenberg were also marked, and just when we thought we’d seen it all, we spotted the Wikipedia entry for Wikipedia itself. It remains a mystery how these links ended up in the takedown notice. None of these sites or their Wikipedia entries have a clear connection to the adult entertainment company and they are perfectly legal. Good and Bad News The good news is that Google spotted all of these errors. This means that the links haven’t been removed from its search results. The same is true for the IMDb pages for “Iron Man 2,” “Elmo’s World: Reach for the Sky,” and “Ernest Scared Stupid” which The Score Group tried to take offline with a separate DMCA notice. The company even went after the American Bar Association, which should be able to confirm that this isn’t how the DMCA law is supposed to work. It is worth keeping an eye on these types of mistakes. While Google is great at spotting overbroad takedown notices, it occasionally misses some as well, which results in perfectly legal URLs being removed. DMCA Notice Targets TorrentFreak, Netflix, and Reddit’s Wikipedia Pages
  5. WordPress Rejected 83% of all DMCA Takedown Notices Last Year WordPress parent company Automattic reports that the number of DMCA takedown notices it received increased by more than 50% last year. What stands out most, however, is the fact that 83% of all notices were rejected, often as a result of inaccurate automated takedown processes. Automattic, the company behind the popular blogging platform WordPress.com, receives thousands of takedown requests from copyright holders. Compared to other online services such as Google and Reddit, the numbers are relatively low. That said, there are some figures that clearly stand out. 50% Increase This week Automattic published its latest transparency report, revealing that it had processed 18,594 DMCA takedown notices during 2020. That is more than a 50% increase compared to last year. Unlike other services, the company doesn’t report how many URLs are targeted. A single notice can include dozens or hundreds of links, which means that the number of targeted WordPress pages is much higher. 83% Rejected That said, there is one figure that immediately caught our eye – the rejection rate. Last year, Automattic rejected 83% of all DMCA notices in their entirety. This rejection rate clearly stands out, when compared to other online services. For example, last year Reddit rejected 27% of all takedown requests, for Google this number is roughly 10%, while Bing rejects less than 0.5% of all requests. Commenting on the data, Stephen Blythe, Community Guardian at Automattic, informs TorrentFreak that they have seen a significant bump in rejections last year. This is mainly due to an increase in automated takedown notices. “Many of these are duplicates, target content which has already been removed, content which we do not host, or content which the notices haven’t accurately identified,” Blythe says. Manual Reviews of Automated Notices Unlike the name of the company suggests, Automattic doesn’t process these requests automatically. In fact, all DMCA notices are reviewed by humans, who spot plenty of errors. This leads to a relatively high rejection rate. “Our team manually scrutinizes takedown reports and rejects any which we identify as failing to meet the requirements of the DMCA – rather than simply processing takedowns automatically. By its nature, that will result in a higher rate of rejection,” Blythe confirms. Automattic is trying to get a number of prolific takedown senders to change their practices to reduce these kinds of notices. They have booked some success on this front. For example, the Spanish anti-piracy company ‘3ants’ adjusted its takedown process, which benefited both parties. Not All Senders are Open to Change However, other companies are not as open to change and continue to send automated takedown notices in bulk. “Unfortunately not every complainant is as cooperative as 3ants. For years we’ve been speaking out against abuses of the DMCA such as the use of automated systems which flood platforms with takedown notices regardless of context,” Automattic previously noted. “These methods are often prone to error and make it difficult for platforms to prioritize valid notices submitted by individual rights holders.” In 2021 Automattic is expected to reach the 100,000 takedown notice milestone. Since the company began counting complaints in 2014, it has processed 93,430 DMCA takedown requests, of which 70% were rejected. WordPress Rejected 83% of all DMCA Takedown Notices Last Year
  6. Github Restores Reverse-Engineered GTA Code Following DMCA Counter Notice GitHub has restored a fork of the fan-made “Re3” project that published reverse-engineered code of the popular GTA 3 and Vice City games. The action follows a counter-notice sent by a third-party developer in response to Take-Two Interactive's takedown. Github followed the DMCA procedure and isn't publicly taking sides. In February, a group of developers released a project that had many passionate GTA fans excited. After years of work, they published “Re3” and “reVC,” two fully reverse-engineered releases of the GTA III and Vice City games, which were originally released two decades ago. The reverse-engineered code opens the door to many tweaks and modifications that make the old games much more playable on modern computers. Importantly, however, an official copy of the games was still required for the code to work properly since game assets are not included. Take-Two Takes Down Reverse-Engineered GTA Code GTA fans welcomed the releases with open arms but the same can’t be said for Take-Two Interactive. A few days after “Re3” and “reVC” were posted on GitHub, the game publisher took them offline, claiming copyright infringement. “The content in the links below consists of copyrighted materials owned by Take-Two. The use of our copyrighted content in these links are unauthorized and it should be removed immediately,” Take-Two Interactive wrote. When the news first broke, project leader “aap” said that the team was considering possible options to restore the code. That is not without risk. Under US law, reverse-engineering can be seen as fair use, but this area is a bit of a minefield that could open the door to an expensive legal battle. The DMCA takedown notice didn’t just target the official GitHub repository. There were more than 200 forks that were pulled offline too. One of these forks was created by a New Zealand-based developer named Theo, who, unlike the main developers, decided to take a stand. Fork Owner Sends Counter-Notice Last month, Theo submitted a counter-notice, arguing that his fork was taken down without a proper reason. “This should not have happened,” he informed GitHub. Speaking with TorrentFreak, the developer says that the reverse-engineered code is not completely identical to Take-Two’s original. Since it’s not copied verbatim, he believes that the game publisher can’t claim it as theirs. “It would appear that the code in the re3 repo is reverse engineered, not a straight decompilation. I believe Take-Two’s claim to be wholly incorrect if this is the case, since the code may be functionally identical, but not exactly identical, they hold no claim to the code. “I do not agree with how Take-Two handles events like this,” Theo adds, referencing an earlier debacle when Take-Two targeted the OpenIV modding tool. “Taking down code that does not belong to them is abhorrent.” Github Restores Forked Repository While this may seem like a David vs. Goliath battle, the developer’s counter-notice was successful. After two weeks, GitHub restored the fork, which is now accessible to the public again. This doesn’t mean that GitHub has taken sides. The DMCA rules simply dictate that disputed content has to be restored between 10 and 14 business days, unless the rightsholder takes legal action. Theo tells us that he hasn’t heard from Take-Two in response to his takedown notice. While he’s aware of the legal risk that he faces, the developer doesn’t expect the game publisher to pursue this any further. This would mean that the reverse-engineered code remains online. Github Restores Reverse-Engineered GTA Code Following DMCA Counter Notice
  7. YouTube Won’t Let “Bogus DMCA” Plaintiff Pirate Monitor Off The Hook Last month, Pirate Monitor withdrew from a class action copyright lawsuit against YouTube after the video platform discovered the entity had uploaded its own content in order to allege infringement. However, YouTube insists there is unfinished business and is demanding that Pirate Monitor and its film director operator stop their shenanigans and hand over evidence. Last year, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider teamed up with an unknown entity called Pirate Monitor to file a class action lawsuit against YouTube. Both alleged mass infringement of their copyright works and serious deficiencies in YouTube’s copyright enforcement measures. As reported earlier this week, YouTube is insisting that Schneider positively identify actual infringements on the platform so it can mount a defense. However, the musician’s lawyers say that to identify the full scale of infringement on the platform, Schneider would need access to YouTube’s Content ID system – something YouTube refuses to grant, a matter that lies at the core of Schneider’s complaint. The Shadowy Pirate Monitor From the very first day the class action lawsuit was filed, questions were raised – not about Schneider herself – but the decision to team up with an entity known only as Pirate Monitor. In-depth searches online revealed nothing to explain who or what lay behind this ‘company’ but as the lawsuit progressed, information came to light that suggested something was amiss. And in September 2020, via a counterclaim, YouTube dropped the bombshell. According to YouTube’s research, the only ‘piracy’ being suffered by Pirate Monitor on the video platform was entirely of its own making. YouTube said that while Pirate Monitor’s lawsuit claimed that YouTube users were infringing its copyrights by uploading and sharing its content, Pirate Monitor and its proxies had uploaded their own movie clips to YouTube and then filed takedown notices to have that content removed. “Through agents using pseudonyms to hide their identities, Pirate Monitor uploaded some two thousand videos to YouTube, each time representing that the content did not infringe anyone’s copyright. Shortly thereafter, Pirate Monitor invoked the notice-and-takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to demand that YouTube remove the same videos its agents had just uploaded,” YouTube explained. With seemingly devastating evidence in hand, YouTube went further still in February this year, naming Hungarian film director and California resident Gábor Csupó (who previously worked on The Simpsons, Rugrats, Duckman, Stressed Eric, and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters) as the person presiding over Pirate Monitor. Or, as YouTube described it, an “inadequately capitalized shell corporation” that “disregards corporate formalities”. With Csupó having been identified and then held personally liable by YouTube for the DMCA “fraud” being committed against the Google-owned platform, Pirate Monitor decided to voluntarily dismiss its case against YouTube last month, leaving Schneider to go it alone. Perhaps unfortunately for Csupó, YouTube is nowhere near finished and doesn’t intend to let this lie. Court Should Address Pirate Monitor’s Discovery Obligations In a motion to compel filed this week, YouTube informed the court that the parties had met by telephone five times and conferred through a dozen letters between November 2020 and February 2021 regarding Pirate Monitor’s objections and responses to YouTube’s counterclaim discovery requests. To date, however, Pirate Monitor has not produced a single document. “Pirate Monitor filed this copyright infringement case together with Maria Schneider on behalf of a putative class in July 2020. After admitting that it did not actually own at least one of the three copyrights that it had asserted in the case, and after YouTube showed that Pirate Monitor had engineered a wide-ranging fraud, Pirate Monitor dismissed its affirmative case with prejudice on March 8, 2021,” YouTube’s motion reads. “YouTube, however, still has counterclaims against Pirate Monitor and its sole stockholder, Gábor Csupó. YouTube charges them with the mass transmission of bogus DMCA takedown notices as part of a scheme to obtain access to YouTube’s proprietary copyright management tools.” YouTube says it is seeking in excess of $20,000 in investigative and remediation expenses, mandatory costs and attorney’s fees, punitive damages, and an injunction to prevent further abuse by Pirate Monitor. However, in order to compile those claims, it needs Pirate Monitor to comply with its discovery demands. They require Pirate Monitor to provide information on Csupó and his alter egos including Pirate Monitor LLC, a supposed corporate entity that YouTube says simply does not exist. Homing in On Pirate Monitor’s Agents and Upload Authority In earlier filings, YouTube alleged that Csupó had hired foreign nationals in Pakistan to upload content to YouTube (content that was later taken down using the DMCA), thereby masking his own involvement in the scheme. YouTube wants Pirate Monitor and Csupó to provide documents that reveal their employees and agents, and the communications that were carried out between them. Thus far, nothing has been handed over. YouTube also demands access to documents relating to Pirate Monitor’s authority to upload videos to YouTube, since this is key to determining whether Pirate Monitor’s videos infringed copyright. According to YouTube, Pirate Monitor can’t make up its mind, stating at various points that they did and then did not infringe copyright. Pirate Monitor’s Discovery Shenanigans YouTube notes that despite filing the original lawsuit, Pirate Monitor is yet to produce a single document in support of it. After YouTube notified the entity that it intended to file this motion, Pirate Monitor said that some sort of production would begin this week but according to YouTube, even that is subject to “all manner of impenetrable caveats and limitations.” For example, Pirate Monitor says it is only obliged to hand over documents that were created while Csupó was acting as its agent but that covers the period post-January 2020 and the conduct underlying YouTube’s counterclaims took place before that. Even then, Pirate Monitor says that it will only hand over information that pre-dates Csupó’s interest in the entity provided it exists “in the documents we collected.” Further muddying the waters is the claim from Pirate Monitor that while there may be documents to hand over in period before Csupó’s custody, the entity doesn’t know of any other “potential custodians” beyond Csupó and one other agent that worked for the ‘company’ in a limited capacity, “Because of statements like these, even after six months and a dozen calls and letters, YouTube has no idea what Pirate Monitor will be producing, assuming its production ever commences,” YouTube informs the court. Pirate Monitor: Discovery Would Incur Disproportionate Costs In an effort to stave off the discovery demands, Pirate Monitor reportedly informed YouTube that the costs would be disproportionate, between $100,000 and $500,000 based on the collection of evidence from ten ‘custodians’. YouTube says that this cannot be the case, since Pirate Monitor itself has stated that it only has one, possibly two custodians. After YouTube pointed this out, Pirate Monitor put forth a revised amount of $55,900 but did not address the clear discrepancies in its accounts. “YouTube has no idea where or how Pirate Monitor keeps its documents, but a targeted and reasonable collection of the categories of documents YouTube seeks should not cost close to what Pirate Monitor imagines,” the company writes. It’s perhaps worth highlighting at this juncture that as part of the same lawsuit, Maria Schneider is currently demanding that YouTube identifies every single YouTube user that has had an infringement notice filed against their accounts since 2015. Reiterating its calls to receive substantial punitive damages for Pirate Monitor’s fraud and litigation conduct, YouTube is asking the court to compel the entity to hand over the documents requested within ten calendar days. YouTube’s discovery letter brief can be found here (pdf) YouTube Won’t Let “Bogus DMCA” Plaintiff Pirate Monitor Off The Hook
  8. Reckless DMCA Takedown Purges Legitimate Websites from Google Search The homepages of several legitimate organizations, including Live Nation Asia and Living Map, have been removed from Google search results. This is the result of an extremely reckless DMCA takedown notice that also targeted NASA, the BBC, and the UK Government. Over the past few years, copyright holders have asked Google to remove billions of links to allegedly pirated content. Most of these DMCA notices are pretty accurate but occasionally mistakes are made as well, which can do serious harm. This week our eye was drawn to a request that RightsHero filed on behalf of the company Vuclip Middle East, which offers on-demand entertainment to emerging markets. The DMCA notice identifies more than 7,000 URLs that allegedly infringe the copyrights of several movies, including the United Arab Emirates series عود حي, which translates to “Live Oud.” Error After Error When we took a closer look, we soon noticed that the takedown notice is nothing short of a trainwreck that involves some high-profile names. For example, NASA’s live streaming and multimedia pages are targeted. The same is true for Al Jazeera’s live streaming site, as well as the BBC’s page that allows people to stream Radio One. None of these pages are infringing. In fact, the only thing that ties them to the “Live Oud” series is the word ‘live’, which comes back in other reported URLs as well. In fact, the takedown notice is filled with these ‘live’ errors. It lists a page from the UK Government which gives advice on living in Austria, a page where Apple provides information on Live Photos, and the ‘Live’ entry in the Cambridge dictionary. We can go on for a while but the point is clear. This DMCA notice should have never been sent. The good news is that Google caught all the errors we pointed out above. This means that these were not removed from search results. Homepages Removed Unfortunately, not all targeted sites were that lucky. We spotted several legitimate websites that had their homepages removed from Google simply because they somehow reference the word “live” or “living.” This includes the homepage of Live Nation Asia, the Living Architecture website, as well as the homepage of the UK technology company Living Map. All have been purged from Google, which shows the following message at the bottom of the search results. “In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 12 result(s) from this page.” Needless to say, these are all obvious errors that should have been avoided if there was some human oversight. It also shows how risky relying on ‘automated filters’ and ‘takedown bots’ can be. Reckless DMCA Takedown Purges Legitimate Websites from Google Search
  9. Cloudflare Doubts DMCA Takedown Company’s Fake Employee and Special Bots Cloudflare has faced quite a few copyright challenges in courts already, but a case filed by two wedding dress manufacturers is taking an unforeseen turn. At a Pennsylvania federal court, the CDN provider filed a motion to demand evidence from the companies' DMCA takedown partner, to find out more about a fake employee profile and its speedy takedown bots. Popular CDN and DDoS protection service Cloudflare has come under a lot of pressure from copyright holders in recent years. The company offers its services to millions of sites, some of which offer access to copyright-infringing material. Cloudflare prefers to remain a neutral service provider and doesn’t terminate clients based on DMCA notices. Instead, it forwards these to its customers, only taking action when it receives a court order. Repeat Infringer Lawsuit This stance is not appreciated by all rightsholders and in 2018 the service was taken to court over the issue. The case wasn’t filed by major entertainment companies, but by two manufacturers and wholesalers of wedding dresses. Not a typical “piracy” lawsuit, but it’s a copyright case that could have broad implications. In a complaint filed at a federal court in California, Mon Cheri Bridals and Maggie Sottero Designs argued that even after multiple warnings, Cloudflare fails to terminate sites operated by counterfeit vendors. This makes Cloudflare liable for the associated copyright infringements, they said. Cloudflare disagreed and both sides are now conducting discovery to collect evidence for an eventual trial. Among other things, the wedding dress manufacturers were asked to hand over detailed sales records. In addition, the CDN provider is also interested in the companies’ DMCA takedown partner XMLShop LLC. Cloudflare Wants DMCA Takedown Evidence Over the past few months, Cloudflare has tried to get further information on how XMLShop, which is also known as Counterfeit Technology, collects evidence for its takedown notices. These takedowns play a central role in the lawsuit and XMLShop and its employees could provide crucial information. Thus far, however, Cloudflare hasn’t been able to get what it wants. To resolve this issue, Cloudflare submitted a motion asking the court to compel the DMCA takedown company to comply with its requests for information. According to their filing, the company may be holding back important evidence. “Plaintiffs and XMLShop, who use the same counsel, appear to be using XMLShop’s status strategically as a ‘non-party’ to conceal relevant documents from Cloudflare. The Court should reject their gamesmanship,” Cloudflare informed the court. After serving two subpoenas, the takedown company only produced one document, Cloudflare notes. Meanwhile, the publicly available information on the company is highly confusing or even misleading. Who Works at XMLShop? For example, Cloudflare would like to question XMLShop’s employees, but the company hasn’t handed over an employee directory or payroll log that would reveal who works at the company. “XMLShop has not been forthright about its operations, leaving Cloudflare in the dark as to who else may be a witness with relevant knowledge,” Cloudflare writes. According to XMLShop’s attorney, the company only has one employee named Suren Ter-Saakov, but this claim is contradicted by its own website and Linkedin. “XMLShop’s own public statements contradict its counsel’s statement. Its website boasts ‘a big team of professionals working in three offices, located in Ukraine, the United States, and Dominican Republic. “And a LinkedIn profile for an individual named Blair Hearnsberger represents that she or he is the CEO at Counterfeit Technology,” Cloudflare adds. Fake Profile According to the takedown company’s attorney, this profile is fake and Blair Hearnsberger does not actually exist, but Cloudflare is not convinced. Therefore, it hopes that the court will compel XMLShop to verify who works at the company and in what roles. In addition to finding information on possible employees, Cloudflare also requests further information on the software that Counterfeit Technology used to find infringing content. Special Takedown Bots? The wedding dress manufacturers claimed that their takedown partner “scours the internet with special bots designed to locate and identify the unauthorized use” but it’s unclear how this technology works. Cloudflare would like to assess the software to see how accurate it is, especially since the company states that it spends only 10 seconds sending notifications of claimed infringement to all traffic sources. “Its use — and the reliability — of that technology is at least relevant to the predicate allegations of direct infringement it asserts. It is also relevant to Cloudflare’s contention that it never received any notifications of claimed infringement from Counterfeit Technology that were valid,” Cloudflare writes. The CDN provider asked the court to compel XMLShop to produce the subpoenaed documents. In addition, XMLShop should be held in contempt for failing to obey the subpoena and ordered to pay the legal costs Cloudflare incurred to submit the motion. This week, XMLShop responded to the request stating that it has already produced everything it could. It views the remaining requests as incredibly broad, since these ask for “sensitive” trade secret information. It is now up to the court to make a final decision. — A copy of Cloudflare’s memorandum in support of its motion to compel XLMshop to comply with the subpoena is available here (pdf).. XMLShop’s response can be found here (pdf). Cloudflare Doubts DMCA Takedown Company’s Fake Employee and Special Bots
  10. Sending Bogus DMCA Notices Ensures That The Internet Never Forgets In 2019, a video of a man headbutting a restaurant worker in the face went viral. Months later the incident reentered the public consciousness when a wave of DMCA notices targeted sites that reported on the news. It's now close to two years after the initial incident and some people still aren't getting the message. Sending bogus DMCA notices to erase the past is not an effective solution. There’s a very good chance that thousands of readers will already be familiar with the antics of one Mr. Joel Singer and his nemesis, Steve Heflin. Thousands will have forgotten. Thousands more will be hearing about this debacle for the first time. The short story is easy to tell. In 2019, Steve Heflin was on business in Fort Lauderdale to interview a prospective employee with a view to hiring him as a new salesman for his Internet infrastructure company. During a visit to a local bar, Steve observed “two guys in suits” sitting at the bar, one of whom was Joel Singer. Violence Meets The DMCA According to Steve, Singer was drunk, and when the valet refused to return Mr. Singer’s keys, advising him to get an Uber instead, an altercation broke out. In short, Mr. Singer headbutted a restaurant worker in the face, Heflin took the assailant to the ground, and the whole thing was filmed by a third-party and ended up on YouTube. So why would we be interested in this event? Well, someone later decided that this negative publicity needed to be erased from the Internet, from every nook and cranny, using copyright law. As previously reported, DMCA notices were liberally filed in an effort to remove every video, news article, report, and search result that referenced the event. Of course, this campaign was totally counterproductive. After most people had consigned the event to their mental history books, here it was back in the news again, prompting yet more people to repost the video, start more social media threads about Mr. Singer, and relive the Internet drama all over again. And again…and again. As per usual, the whole thing fizzled out but some people cannot let things rest. Here We Go Again… We didn’t mention it at the time because the story was effectively done and Mr. Singer and his adventures were yesterday’s news. However, in July 2020, a number of sites – Reddit and TorrentFreak included – were targeted in another wave of DMCA notices and other copyright complaints (examples here) These sought the removal of our article and various Reddit threads from Google but whoever sent them didn’t want to be identified, since they were sent under the name “.TEC.LAW.“, an entity that doesn’t appear to exist. Since Google appeared to be rejecting most of the notices, we let things slide and got on with more important things. Sadly, someone had other ideas. Yet More DMCA Notices Filed in December 2020 As can be seen from this page on the Lumen Database, an entity identifying itself as “TECH LAW” began sending another wave of notices targeted hundreds upon hundreds of URLs that allegedly referenced the infamous attack back in the summer of 2019. According to many of the takedown requests, the reason for deletion is as follows (no errors corrected): The photographs of the video of Joel Micheal Singer in restaurant URL below or “JoelMichaelSinger” is infringed by the text excerpted on the site, beginning with the text Joel Michael Singer assaults two innocent people at a store .” “Who is Joel Michael Singer? To be clear, we have not checked every single URL for infringement. However, what we can confirm is that many of these URLs contain a photograph of Mr. Singer that someone, somewhere, holds the copyright to. The argument over whether other sites can or cannot repost that image in various contexts is a battle they can have with the copyright holder. However, many of the links also lead to the video of the attack and it is yet to be established who owns the rights to that recording. Steve Heflin says that Mr. Singer could not have filmed it himself, since he had his face pressed into the floor. It is possible, of course, that Mr. Singer has since obtained exclusive rights to it. Maybe we’ll never know. That being said, some things are much more clean-cut. TorrentFreak is NOT Infringing Your Copyrights This week, the Lumen Database published a new DMCA notice filed by a mysterious entity called TEKKLAWWZ.Z on behalf of the previously mentioned TECH LAW. It targets more than 70 URLs that allegedly contain a copyrighted image of Mr. Singer. “Digital image. Property of TEKKLAWW not authorized for reuse or pecuniary gain. Headshot not authorized to be used by any third party,” the notice begins. Again, some of the pages do indeed carry the image of Mr. Singer, potentially in breach of copyright. However, many do not, such as these negative ‘reviews‘ on BirdEye.com or this page on Urban Dictionary. Image credit: Urban Dictionary But of course, the takedown attempt we were most disappointed to learn of targeted the article published by TorrentFreak last summer. We have been targeted before so perhaps at this point, it’s best to put our cards on the table for absolute clarity. Our article does not carry the ‘headshot’ of Mr. Singer and never did. The video of the altercation appears as a link to YouTube, which is required to support the text of the article. And, to be very specific, our original reporting did not even mention Mr. Singer by name. So, in the likely event the notice senders still haven’t managed to connect the dots, perhaps we should spell it out: There is no copyright infringement here and there never has been. This is what is known as an abuse of the DMCA and if there is something we are interested in reporting here at TF, it’s abuses of the DMCA. We sincerely hope we don’t have to do a follow-up, the Streisand Effect has had more than enough fuel on this topic. Sending Bogus DMCA Notices Ensures That The Internet Never Forgets
  11. The Dissident: Uploaded to Torrent Sites For Exposure, Delisted Via DMCA The incredible story behind the alleged state-sponsored killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is told by director Bryan Fogel in his new movie 'The Dissident'. Unusually, people connected to the documentary are reportedly uploading copies to torrent sites, to give it exposure in the Arab world. At the same time, however, an anti-piracy campaign is making copies harder to find. In 2018, the brutal killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi shocked the world. Born in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi became an advocate for human rights and free speech within his home country, something that caused a breakdown in his relationship with the ruling family. In an ominous sign of things to come, that included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir-designate to the kingdom’s throne. After walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage, a team of Saudi operatives first strangled and then dismembered the journalist while his fiancée waited for him outside. Turkish officials later released an audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing, claiming that the murder had been carried out on the orders of Mohammed bin Salman. The Dissident The horrific story caught the attention of director Bryan Fogel, who in response began working on his tell-all documentary ‘The Dissident’. It received critical appraise at the 2020 Sundance Festival but finding a distributor for the film would prove less than straightforward. Netflix, which had previously released Fogel’s hit documentary “Icarus”, showed little interest. The same was true for Amazon and Apple who, in Fogel’s view, found his documentary too explosive. The Dissident finally found a distributor in Briarcliff Entertainment, which gave the documentary a limited release late 2020 and more broadly via VOD platforms in January 2021. However, according to director Bryan Fogel, some people connected to the documentary have been attempting distribution via more controversial platforms too. Distribution Via BitTorrent Sites In a January interview with Variety, Fogel spoke of the difficulties he faced getting the movie seen on a broad scale. He had hoped to secure a distribution deal with a major platform, to create global awareness of this extraordinary event and the politics surrounding it. But with the major players stepping aside, that wasn’t to be the case. “[W]hat I wanted was for this film to be streaming into 200 million households around the world. I wanted people to have easy access to it. Instead we pieced together global distribution here and there,” he said. “The decision [by the major streaming platforms] not to acquire ‘The Dissident’ had nothing to do with its critical reviews, had nothing to do with a global audience’s appetite to watch a docu-thriller, but had everything to do with business interests and politics and, who knows, perhaps pressure from the Saudi government.” But while these distribution deals have played their part in raising awareness, something else has been playing out behind the scenes. In an interview with GQ published Wednesday, Fogel revealed that Omar Abdulaziz, an exiled Saudi Arabian dissident video blogger and former friend of Khashoggi, who also featured in The Dissident, has been involved in unconventional distribution in the Arab world. “Omar’s told me that [the movie] really had an impact, and that they’ve put it up on all the BitTorrent sites or whatever. There are platforms in the Arab world for the people who really need to see this film. And that he’s had thousands if not tens of thousands of responses. That’s really good,” Fogel revealed. This strategy appears to have worked. Statistics gathered by TorrentFreak show that the movie is shared relatively often from Saudi Arabia. On several days, it was the second country in terms of popularity, just behind the United States. BitTorrent: Distribution Without Borders Even before BitTorrent’s mainstream rise to fame, the protocol was generating excitement among those who believed that access to information should be universal. Not only was BitTorrent proven to be extremely good at shifting large files, but it also placed the publication and distribution of content into the hands of ordinary people, no official middlemen required. Of course, this caused huge disruption but even now, coming up to two decades later, the copyright industries and indeed government entities only have limited ability to stop the dissemination of information – whatever that may be – on a global scale. This makes BitTorrent an ideal choice for spreading the message contained in The Dissident, especially in countries like Saudi Arabia, where a licensing deal would be all but impossible. That being said, there now appears to be a huge conflict of ideals. Should The Dissident flow freely across borders for the greater good at zero cost to consumers? Or should Briarcliff Entertainment be financially rewarded for taking a substantial risk on the movie when Netflix, Apple and Amazon decided it was too controversial? Global Awareness Versus DMCA Takedown Campaign After learning of the BitTorrent distribution efforts of Omar and his associates, TorrentFreak’s interest was piqued. While torrent sites are ideal for spreading an important documentary into regions where it could be banned, censored, or simply unavailable, torrent sites themselves are already targets for silencing under the DMCA. Indeed, it appears that Briarcliff Entertainment and Omar and his associates are heading in different directions. Since the start of 2021, the distributor has been sending large volumes of DMCA takedown notices in order to have links to pirated copies of The Dissident removed from Google’s indexes. (Samples here: 1,2,3,4,5) Not all of the notices sent by Briarcliff target The Dissident (many target links to the Liam Neeson film The Marksman) but there can be no question that countless URLs linking to Fogel’s movie are being delisted from Google’s search results. If copyright holders are to be believed, Google is a prime place for people to find ‘pirated’ content and, in this case, The Dissident. In Saudia Arabia, for example, this is of particular significance. According to Alexa, Google.com is the kingdom’s most visited site, making it a key platform to find links to torrent sites offering the film for download. The delisting campaign is making this much more difficult, running counter to Omar’s work. A Clash of Ideals? Given these apparently conflicting interests, between preventing piracy and trying to distribute the message of The Dissident to the largest audience, particularly people in more restricted territories, TorrentFreak contacted Briarcliff Entertainment for comment. We also contacted MUSO, one of the anti-piracy companies carrying out the Google delisting campaign. At the time of writing neither has responded. The lack of response is perhaps understandable – this is an extremely emotive situation. On the one hand, Briarcliff has every right to take action to protect its rights and in the company’s opinion, probably its profits too. On the other, people like Omar and Fogel will no doubt feel a duty to do whatever they can to inform the world and protect people like Khashoggi from a similar fate. That will require intense pressure, not to mention change. Of course, none of that comes without cost implications – in more ways than one. The Dissident: Uploaded to Torrent Sites For Exposure, Delisted Via DMCA
  12. RIAA Takedown Notices Target Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music The RIAA is known to use DMCA notices to remove pirated content from the Internet. These takedown requests are generally aimed at pirate sites and stream-rippers, but in recent weeks the organization went after legitimate streaming services as well. Apparently, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon, Tidal and Apple Music host 'copyright infringing' content too. Despite the increased availability of legal options, millions of people still stream, rip, or download MP3s from unofficial sources. These sites are a thorn in the side of the RIAA, which combats this in part by sending DMCA notices. Since some sites are not responsive to these takedown requests, the music industry group also involves third-party services such as Google. In recent years, the RIAA has reported nearly 100 million ‘pirate’ links to the popular search engine, with no end in sight. RIAA Finds Infirnging Music on Legitimate Streaming Services The majority of these reported URLs relate to torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay or file-hosting platforms like Dbree. However, this week we spotted a new trend. In addition to classic pirate sites, the RIAA is reporting links on legal streaming services as well. This month alone, we have spotted multiple takedown notices on Lumen with URLs from Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal. According to the RIAA’s notices, these services all host infringing content. While we initially assumed that the RIAA’s takedown filters were going haywire, there is more going on here. For example, a few days ago the RIAA sent a takedown request to Google asking it to remove 50 Spotify URLs. According to the notice, these URLs infringe the copyright of Boza’s track ‘Hecha Pa’ Mi.’ Remixes, Karaoke, and Copies? When we look at the URLs, these indeed all link to ‘Hecha Pa’ Mi’ tracks. Some are remixes or karaoke versions and others could have simply been copied. Interestingly, many of these are published by ‘verified‘ artists, including some with more than a million monthly listeners. We don’t know whether these tracks are licensed, but the RIAA clearly doesn’t think so. This is not the only problem as the RIAA has identified many other problematic Spotify links over the past month too. Some of the links point to podcasts, which have since been removed. However, there are plenty of other ‘infringing’ tracks as well. Deezer, Amazon, Tidal and Apple Music This issue isn’t limited to Spotify either. When we took a closer look at the RIAA’s recent takedown notices sent to Google, hundreds of links to legitimate streaming services popped up. There are notices linking to ‘infringing’ music on Deezer for example. And the same applies to Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon. The list goes on and on. We asked the RIAA to explain what the precise problem is with these URLs, but the organization did not respond to our request for comment. That leaves us no other option than to speculate. Since the reported links don’t identify the official artists and tracks, we assume that there is indeed a copyright issue. Interestingly, however, Google has decided not to take any action, keeping these URLs in its search engine. Why Ask Google to Take Action? Google likely believes that these music streaming platforms are better equipped to determine whether the content is infringing. That would make sense indeed and it’s strange that Google is being involved. After all, the RIAA’s members, which includes the major labels, should have pretty decent contacts at these streaming services. In fact, the labels are part owners of some of the streaming services. So why not reach out to these streaming platforms directly? Or perhaps the RIAA did both? When we tried to load the “infringing” URLs on the streaming services, most now point to removed content. Others still show the problematic tracks but can no longer be played. Whatever the RIAA’s motivation, it’s safe to say that copyright issues are not limited to pirate sites or platforms such as Google and Twitter. the RIAA is known to criticize the latter, but it looks like there are internal music industry challenges as well. RIAA Takedown Notices Target Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music
  13. GitHub Wants to Get Rid Of the DMCA’s Anti-Circumvention FUD GitHub is urging the US Copyright Office to expand the DMCA anti-circumvention exemptions to eliminate FUD. The developer platform backs a proposal from Professor Halderman which opts to broaden exemptions for security researchers. GitHub is not the only party that backs elements of this proposal, the US Department of Justice does too. US copyright law places broad restrictions on what people are allowed do with copyrighted content. The U.S. Copyright Office regularly reviews these exemptions to Section 1201 of the DMCA, which generally prevents the public from ‘tinkering’ with DRM-protected software and devices. These provisions are renewed every three years after the Office hears input from stakeholders and the general public. This process also allows interested parties to suggest new exemptions. Exemptions For Good Faith Security Research In recent years we have covered exemptions for game archivists but there are many more on the table. This includes the ability for experts to bypass copyright restrictions to conduct good-faith security research. This exemption already exists but many people believe that it’s rather limited in its current form, which reads as follows: Computer programs, where the circumvention is undertaken on a lawfully acquired device or machine on which the computer program operates, or is undertaken on a computer, computer system, or computer network on which the computer program operates with the authorization of the owner or operator of such computer, computer system, or computer network, solely for the purpose of good-faith security research and does not violate any applicable law, including without limitation the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986. This text used to be more restrictive and was adjusted three years ago, following a proposal from Computer Science & Engineering Professor Alex Halderman. This year, Halderman submitted a new proposal, trying to expand this exemption further and reduce the risk for security researchers. Among other things, the professor would like the word “solely” removed from the text, as well as the requirement that a device has to be “lawfully acquired” and that circumvention does “not violate any applicable law.” GitHub Backs Halderman Proposal This proposal is currently being considered and this week various parties offered their support in letters submitted to the US Copyright Office. This includes developer platform GitHub which, following the RIAA/youtube-dl debacle, said it would get more involved in this process. According to GitHub, developers are often facing fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) with regard to legal issues. This may lead them not to start a project that could have benefited society as a whole. Source of FUD “Section 1201 is a source of FUD as applied to good faith security research. It can be asserted even when a court has decided that there is no copyright infringement of the underlying work,” GitHub writes. “It’s a reason why a developer can’t be confident that there won’t be repercussions for engaging in legitimate, non-infringing security research and related development activities. It’s a reason why they might decide to do a different project, with less impact, that doesn’t help make us all safer to the same extent.” GitHub urges the US Copyright Office to focus the exemptions on eliminating FUD. Removing the requirement that all actions are “solely” for the purpose of good-faith security research is crucial. GitHub argues that as long as an activity is consistent with conducting good-faith security research, it should not matter if all steps are “solely” focused on security. “The Halderman et al. proposal draws clearer lines out of fuzzy lines in the current exemption, giving more certainty to researchers, academics, and enterprises conducting security research. It should be taken seriously,” Github adds. Department of Justice Support The Halderman proposal is widely supported by developers and researchers, but there’s also backing from less expected parties, such as the US Department of Justice. In a comment to the Copyright Office, the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section agrees that it’s a good idea to drop the requirement that circumvention does “not violate any applicable law”. The DoJ argued against this three years ago, but it now agrees that this language is troublesome. “[W]e are now persuaded that replacing the existing requirement that research not violate ‘any applicable law’ with alternative explanatory language would provide equally sufficient notice of the need to comply with applicable law. “This change would also reduce the chance that potentially valuable research projects may be discouraged by fears by fears that inadvertent or minor violations of an unrelated law could result in substantial liability under the DMCA,” the DoJ writes. Not a Free Pass to Violate Laws The DoJ still believes that researchers who intentionally violate the law should be held accountable. However, the current language is too broad and subjects researchers to all sorts of liabilities. “It thus may discourage valuable research projects that would otherwise be undertaken if researchers could be more certain the exemption would apply,” the DoJ writes. These are strong words coming from the Department of Justice which will likely weigh strongly. However, the DoJ doesn’t support the Halderman proposal in full. For example, the DoJ doesn’t agree that the word “solely” should be removed from the exemption, nor does it see the need to strip the condition that a device has to be “lawfully acquired.” — GitHub’s comments to the Copyright Office can be found here (pdf) and the comments from the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) are available here (pdf) GitHub Wants to Get Rid Of the DMCA’s Anti-Circumvention FUD
  14. Twitch’s DMCA Takedowns Threaten to Drive Musicians Away Twitch once looked like a lifeline for DJs and singers during the pandemic. The platform’s copyright issues tarnish that promise. PHOTOGRAPH: SCIENCE & SOCIETY PICTURE LIBRARY/GETTY IMAGES AS A FAN of underground electronic music, the music producer, Twitch streamer, and label owner Chris Reed, who goes by the stage name Plastician, was used to going the extra mile to catch a show. “I literally used to have to climb through tower block building windows and hide from the police.” Today, he’s a DJ and runs a music label called Terrorhythm. He goes on, “This is like nothing compared to the shit we've had to put up with before. A lot of us have been through shit like this in the past.” The shit in question is his and other DJs’ ongoing struggle with the DMCA. While Plastician no longer finds himself climbing through windows or ducking the police, he navigates a more abstract, virtual obstacle course: Twitch. As Twitch grew, so did the diversity of content. Initially a site dominated by video game streamers, in 2015, the website created a new category of content called Creative and IRL. Then, by 2018, the company announced that this category had “exploded in growth,” and as a result, it created a new category for music. For Dave Eckbald and many other DJs, Twitch became a way to maintain their local music scene during the coronavirus pandemic. Before the pandemic, he worked in music promotion and co-owned a record store. Now, he produces the Twitch stream for the Minneapolis-based music collective Intellephunk. "After lockdown we had nowhere to do what we do.” Eckbald says He explains that one of the members of his collective “had to pivot and figure out some new stuff to do. And I was able to help him get that going quick. I had already been doing stuff on Twitch, on and off, so we worked to put a show together.” It wasn’t as much money as a live event, but the stream allowed Eckbald and Intellephunk to continue to engage their community and make some money off of tips from viewers watching the stream. Intellephunk wasn’t the only music group to take its music to Twitch. At the outset of the pandemic, musicians flooded the platform with content to make up for canceled live events. Entire concerts and music festivals went completely online to Twitch and streaming platforms like it. A report from StreamElements noted that the number of hours users spent watching music and performing arts rose from 3.6 million to 17.6 million hours over the course of one year. But that rosiness and excitement soon started to dissolve. Last October, Twitch sent a letter to streamers regarding Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) violations. Any channel that had video content with copyrighted music must take it down or risk having their channel deleted. The public backlash was so strong that Twitch issued an apology within 24 hours. The company stated that the frustration of streamers was “completely justified,” and that it was just as surprised as content creators were by the volume of DMCA requests it had received. But Twitch maintained its warning: “If you play recorded music on your stream, you need to stop.” The Threat of the DMCA DJs already know the threat of copyright abuse. Twitch’s DMCA takedowns represent another setback in a long history of push and pull between creators and copyright enforcement. What is new, however, is how these stories illustrate the larger issue of uneven and confusing copyright enforcement on the internet. As Twitch doubles down, DJs cast doubt on the platform’s future with music. Sarvesh Ramprakash, also known as Icarus Redux, started in Los Angeles’ electronic music scene in 2014. Today he spins at shows across the midwest and organizes music communities for artists of color. He told me he hasn’t performed recently on Twitch, specifically because of the DMCA issue. “Intellectual property has always been a dicey subject in dance music production and performance, but with streaming in general—not just livestreaming—we're in a new era of being slapped hard by intellectual property laws.” Even as some performers continue livestreaming on Twitch, Ramprakash still avoids the website today. “DMCA takedowns are perhaps something that one can take in stride, because audio isn't muted while the stream is going. But it's not a good long-term solution if you're trying to build up some kind of brand via a specific channel,” he says. It’s also risky. Twitch uses a three-strike policy for its users. If a creator gets more than three strikes, Twitch could ban them entirely. The Uneven Impact of Copyright Enforcement Identifying copyrighted music on services like Twitch is entirely automatic, with very little human intervention, even at the appeals stage. This means that platforms like Twitch will more likely catch popular, well-known music than obscure, underground sounds. This created a unique problem for streamers who wanted to play Harmonix’s rhythm game, Fuser. In the game, you play as a DJ and mix sets for a roaring virtual crowd. “When I first decided I wanted to stream Fuser, the question of DMCA was absolutely the first thing on my mind” says composer and streamer Ryan Mitchum, who goes by the name Chongo online. He went and looked up the rules for streaming the game. Although he felt apprehensive about it, he ended up streaming it on a whim. He says , “As someone who's made mashups and other types of derivative content on Youtube for a pretty good chunk of time, I think that I've honestly just been desensitized to getting my work taken down by copyright blocks.” Even those that play original music aren’t exempt from issues. Plastician says, “A lot of the music I play personally is often unreleased. A lot of it is my own and music that's been sent to me from the people who produced it. So in many cases, not a lot of the music I play gets picked up by DMCA, because it doesn't exist in the system anywhere.” However, when he first started out, he faced a unique problem. “At the beginning, a lot of the music that received DMCAs was music by my label. So I'm seeing DMCAs for stuff that I owned,” he says. He wanted himself and others to be able to use his music without fear of a DMCA strike. “I had to speak to my distributor and ask, ‘What is causing these strikes?’ Because my personal stance is, I don't mind people streaming my music on their streams. I am quite happy for them to do it.” His distributor said that one vendor was the cause of all the takedowns, a database called Audible Magic. Once he removed it from the database, the DMCA notices stopped. I asked Plastician if he had any luck working with Twitch to resolve previous strikes. He tells me, “I sent in a few requests to reverse some of them in the past. I didn’t notice any email to open up the dispute, so I can’t really comment on that, since I personally haven’t had any contact from Twitch. Not yet anyways.” Moving to Greener Pastures Some DJs have a different, new approach: Bypass Twitch altogether and they don’t have to worry about copyright abuse and DMCA takedowns. Besides, many DJs aren’t anchored to Twitch the same way that game streamers are, and they’re willing to build their own alternatives, assuming their audiences will come with them. Eckbald says he is "definitely working towards a custom self-host solution." His streams never used Twitch’s tipping system, so he’s not worried about losing monetization features unique to the platform. He says it was nice to use something already built, but “we're not going to lose anything from going away." Other organizations like the Lot Radio in New York are supporting DJs in finding or building alternatives to Twitch for music streaming. The Lot Radio uses a service from Vimeo and then shares it with DJs. A record label and booking agency with a long history in the New York music scene called the Bunker New York worked with the Lot Radio to make a personalized streaming experience. Bryan Kasenic, founder of the Bunker New York, had one of his resident DJs on Twitch at one point, and he thinks the new platform is a huge improvement in both design and audio quality, whereas, the stream on Bunker, “looks like Bunker. From a branding and feel perspective, it’s a lot better.” Kasenic voices a larger distrust of big social media platforms like Twitch. He says platforms “get us to move all our followers there, and then they stop delivering our content to our followers unless we pay money. After that happened a few times, I didn’t want to give any other site that power.” So far, neither Kasenic nor the Bunker have run into serious issues with DMCA takedowns while using Vimeo. In the face of DMCA takedowns and copyright abuse, unpredictable social platforms, and a global pandemic that demolished live events, the DJs I spoke to remained collected. While all of these factors hit DJs the hardest, facing these circumstances on a regular basis also taught them how to be scrappy. As Plastician puts it, “We'll keep doing what we're doing until someone kicks us out.” Source: Twitch’s DMCA Takedowns Threaten to Drive Musicians Away
  15. A pair of companies behind two of the most popular online multiplayer games have sued a cheat maker in the United States for copyright infringement offenses. Riot Games and Bungie claim that through the provision of its tools designed for Valorant and Destiny 2, GatorCheats trafficked in malicious software contrary to the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. While the vast majority of videogames players are happy to enjoy games within the parameters set by their developers, there are millions who prefer to cheat their way to victory. As a result, an industry has appeared ready to service people looking to gain an unfair advantage, offering cheating products often at a premium price. This disruption is frowned upon by developers and regular players alike, who argue that when the gaming experience becomes unfair, the fun associated with playing collapses. In an effort to reduce the number of players cheating online, various videogame companies have filed lawsuits in the United States. Yesterday another one was added to the growing list when Riot Games and Bungie filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against GatorCheats for offering tools enabling cheating in Valorant, Destiny 2, and other titles. “Malicious” Software Products “Destroy” plaintiffs’ Games Filed in a California district court, the lawsuit targets Albuquerque, New Mexico resident Cameron Santos (the alleged operator of GatorCheats), plus an additional 10 ‘Doe’ defendants, some of whom (“Hal,” “Matt” and “Megan”) are alleged to provide customer support to cheat users. “By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to put a stop to the unlawful, for-profit sale and distribution of malicious software products designed to enable members of the public to gain unfair competitive advantages (i.e., to cheat) in the Games, and, thereby, to impair and destroy Plaintiffs’ Games, Plaintiffs’ overall business, and the experience of Plaintiffs’ player community,” the complaint reads. According to Riot and Bungie, Santos owns several online ventures engaged in the development and sale of “malicious cheats” targeting the companies’ games. “Honeyhacks” and “Voidcheaters” get a mention but GatorCheats is the largest, selling a cheat known as “Gatorant” and several tools for Destiny 2. “The Cheating Software enables players to manipulate Valorant and Destiny 2 to their personal advantage, such as by automatically aiming weapons, revealing the locations of opponents, and allowing the player to see a vast array of information that otherwise would be obscured,” the companies note. Cheat Makers Undermine Business Models This undermining of the gaming experience for ordinary players comes at an enormous reputational and financial cost according to the complaint. As gamers leave their respective arenas in the face of cheating opponents, Riot and Bungie are reportedly losing goodwill along with millions of dollars in revenue. The key issue is that the popularity of both Valorant and Destiny 2 lies not only in their gaming experiences but also in the business models selected by the plaintiffs. Since both games are available to play for free, the companies rely on gamers staying online for as long as possible while buying virtual goods such as characters, weapons, skins and clothing. When the experience is diminished by cheaters, the whole plan begins to come apart at the seams. “If players perceive that others are cheating or have an unfair advantage, they will grow frustrated with the Games and stop playing. That, in turn, could disrupt and/or destroy the Games’ player communities and severely harm Plaintiffs’ ability to generate revenue and to maintain, improve, and expand the Games,” the complaint reads. Bungie Issued Cease-and-Desist Notice in 2020 In an effort to protect their game, in November 2020 legal counsel for Bungie served GatorCheats with a cease-and-desist notice. GatorCheats subsequently informed users that the Destiny 2 cheats would be removed from sale but Santos reportedly assured those who had purchased a lifetime license they would continue to receive customer support. However, the plaintiffs aren’t convinced that GatorCheats will discontinue the Destiny 2 cheats, alleging that the cheat maker will probably sell the software to users in a more discreet manner, including via a private section of the GatorCheats site. The uncertainty surrounding compliance with the cease-and-desist notice appears to have triggered the lawsuit, which majors on breaches of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions plus violations of contract and unfair competition laws. Trafficking in Circumvention Devices The plaintiffs state that their games are protected by anti-cheat technologies designed to detect and thwart cheating tools. These technologies must be installed on users’ machines if they want to play the games. This means that if a cheat maker is to have a successful product, it must either conceal its existence from the developers’ anti-cheat technologies or disable them altogether. This is illegal under the DMCA, the plaintiffs claim. “The Cheating Software is comprised of or contains technologies, products, services, devices, components, or parts thereof that primarily are designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing technological measures that effectively control access to the Games,” the complaint reads, noting that the cheats have no commercially significant purpose other than to circumvent technological measures. “As a result of the foregoing, Defendants are offering to the public, providing, importing, or otherwise trafficking in technology that violates 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2).” As a result of these alleged infringements, the plaintiffs are demanding either the profits attributable to the sales of the cheats or the maximum statutory damages of $2,500 per violation of the DMCA. In respect of the former, the complaint estimates sales in the “tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars” for both sets of cheats. In the case of the latter, both cheats are said to have been downloaded “thousands of times” which easily supports a claim in the millions of dollars. Interference With Contractual Relations, Unfair Competition In addition to the claims under the DMCA, Riot and Bungie allege that though the provision of the cheats, GatorCheats intentionally encouraged its customers to breach the licensing contracts they had agreed with the companies when they installed the games. As a result, the cheat maker is guilty of “oppression, fraud, or malice” allowing the plaintiffs to recover exemplary and punitive damages. In their final claim, Riot and Bungie state that GatorCheats engaged in unfair competition under California law, an act that again requires the cheat maker to pay compensation for damages caused to their businesses. In the interim, the plaintiffs request injunctions to prevent GatorCheats from continuing to violate their rights, demanding that the cheat maker shuts down its software and removes it from the Internet. The gaming companies are also seeking access to financial records showing GatorCheats’ sales and how much money was made. That amount could be substantial. According to the videogame companies, the Valorant cheat costs users $90 per month, $350 for three months, and $500 for lifetime access. The Destiny 2 cheats are slightly less pricey at $100 per month or $200 for a lifetime license. The complaint can be found here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  16. Hundreds of non-commercial Nintendo fangames have been removed from the popular game publishing community Game Jolt after the platform complied with several DMCA takedown requests. Many of the affected games have dedicated fanbases including many die-hard Nintendo fans, some of whom now seem eager to revolt. As one of the most iconic gaming manufacturers in the world, Nintendo has been fighting piracy for decades. The company has an in-house anti-piracy division that signals the latest threats to steer enforcement actions in the right direction. In recent years it’s gone after sites and stores that offer pirated games and has assisted in the criminal prosecution against alleged members of the hacking group Team-Xecutuer. However, the smaller fish are not being ignored either. Nintendo Targets Non-profit Fangames A few days ago, Nintendo’s legal department sent DMCA notices to the game publishing community Game Jolt. The site, where hobbyists and indie developers share their creations for free, was notified that hundreds of fangames infringed Nintendo’s trademarks. The takedown spree, which was published publicly by Game Jolt co-founder and CEO Yaprak DeCarmine, notes that the games in question use copies of Nintendo’s intellectual property without permission. Game Jolt allegedly profits from this. “These web pages display images of Nintendo’s video game characters in connection with unauthorized online games that copy the characters, music, and other features of Nintendo’s video games. “The web site at gamejolt.com generates revenue from advertising banners displayed on the site and advertisements played while users wait for the games to load,” the takedown notices add. 379 Games This certainly isn’t the first time that Nintendo has targeted fangames, but the scope of this recent effort is massive. In total, the two notices posted by Game Jolt target 379 game URLs, which were all taken down. Game over. The developers of the games and many of their fans were taken by surprise. Players were suddenly greeted with a 404 error message like this one and developers received an alert notifying them that their game had been targeted. The mass removal is a hot topic in the Game Jolt community. Many people don’t understand why Nintendo would target some of its most dedicated fans. That includes the indie developers who spent weeks or months on their projects. Game developer ‘Eeveeloverdoesgaming,’ who publishes several Nintendo-inspired games, wasn’t targeted but summarizes the general feeling towards Nintendo quite well. No Sympathy for Nintendo “They’ll get no sympathy from me, this isn’t the first time they’ve pulled a stunt like this. They’ve made it clear they hate their fans and repeat it time and time again never learning from it.” The developer will continue to work on his “Five Nights At Team HQ series” but fears that it will be targeted eventually. That doesn’t stop the developer though, and he encourages others to simply flood the Internet with copies. “Nintendo if you think taking down everyone’s games will help your image and get people to buy more of your games then you’re sorely mistaken! I’ll keep making and reuploading fan games even if you try to take them down, so DEAL WITH IT! “All people who have copies of the fangames that were taken down take them and reupload them all over the internet so they stay up no matter what!” Reuploaded Although some developers prefer to lie low and stay out of Nintendo’s hairs for the foreseeable future, some have indeed brought their games back to life. For example, ‘Jeb Yoshi’, the developer of “Five Nights at Yoshi’s,” re-uploaded it with ads disabled. “After looking into it, I believe the fact there was profit being earned from advertisements on the game page was the reason for the takedown of this game among countless others,” the dev writes. ‘Jeb Yoshi’ refers to Nintendo’s mention of the advertising element in the DMCA takedown request, which is mentioned by other people as well. They are not sure whether that’s indeed the case though. “Let’s hope this goes well,” the dev wrote on Discord. In pursuit of more clarity TorrentFreak reached out to Nintendo for a comment but, at the time of writing, we have yet to receive a response. We also reached out to Game Jolt to hear their thoughts on Nintendo’s DMCA requests but the company didn’t immediately reply. We will update this article if more information becomes available. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. President Trump has received many copyright complaints on Twitter, a tally that has just increased due to yet another DMCA takedown notice. However, a policy decision by Twitter means he's been able to circumvent the platform's repeat infringer rules. The big question is whether he'll continue getting special treatment moving forward or will Twitter eventually have to nuke his account? Every year billions of citizens help to develop the Internet by adding their own content, whether that’s substantial works such as videos, music or articles, or smaller but nevertheless important comments or snippets of information. Inevitably, however, some of these postings can infringe other people’s copyrights, resulting in rightsholders and anti-piracy companies issuing DMCA takedown notices to have them removed. The sting in the tail for many users, however, is that if they continually receive DMCA notices against their accounts on sites like YouTube, Twitch or Twitter, their accounts can be put in peril. Repeat Infringer Policies Can Be Selective Indeed, large numbers of users of these platforms alone have been permanently banned under so-called repeat infringer policies, where they are essentially told they’re no longer a responsible member of the community and must be banned. The reason, of course, is that the platforms themselves don’t want to be held liable should rightsholders decide to file what could be a massive copyright lawsuit. Interestingly, however, the old adage of “there’s one rule for them and another for us” is alive and well, particularly on Twitter and especially in respect of President Trump, who – despite receiving a stream of copyright complaints against his account – has managed to avoid a ban from Twitter. But after receiving yet another DMCA complaint this week, an interesting question raises its head. President Trump Receives Yet Another DMCA Complaint It is not uncommon for Donald Trump’s tweets to be either hidden by Twitter (when the platform believes the tweet carries an untruth, for example) or completely removed due to a copyright complaint. It has happened on many occasions in the past, largely due to allegations of him or his staff posting music in breach of copyright. And on December 28, it happened yet again. The content in question was a campaign-style video that celebrated the claimed accomplishments of the Trump administration. However, like many similar videos posted to Twitter in the past by Trump, it contained copyrighted music. In this case the track Hoedown by the late composer Aaron Copland. A few hours ago the DMCA notice in question was submitted by Twitter to the Lumen Database, which published the details in its archives. Three separate notices were filed targeting the same content but the one shown below carries the most detail. President Trump Receives Twitter’s ‘World Leader’ Treatment Of course, had this been the umpteenth time that a regular user had received a DMCA complaint, their Twitter account would’ve been toast. Instead, however, it appears that Twitter has once again invoked its ‘world leader policy‘ which allows people like Trump to do things that would end in mere mortals being banned from the platform. There are limits to what even ‘world leaders’ can do to avoid getting nuked from Twitter but thus far, Trump has managed to avoid the banhammer. The big question now is for how long. President Trump: Soon To Be Plain Old Donald At noon on January 20, 2021, the presidency of Donald Trump will come to an end. No one will ever be able to remove his historic status as the 45th President of the United States but he will no longer be a world leader. As a result, on the same day (and as long as the company sticks to its own policies) Twitter will have to start treating the former president as plain old Donald Trump. This raises many questions, some of them of great significance. Strictly in terms of DMCA notices, President Trump already has way more than it would take for an ordinary citizen to get themselves banned from Twitter. On January 20, when he becomes ‘ordinary’ again, will those ‘strikes’ be consigned to the history books with no further action? That not only seems the most likely outcome but perhaps the most sensible too. Whatever one thinks of Trump’s presidency, records of his actions while in power are significant moments in time that simply do not warrant being erased from history. However, there are complications here too. Personal and Presidential Account Combined When Trump became president, he refused to give up his personal account, so @realdonaldtrump effectively became the presidential account. On January 20, however, that account will no longer be in the hands of a world leader, meaning that no more free passes should be available from Twitter. This means that starting then, if Twitter levels the playing field as it should, three more strikes and Donald Trump’s account should be done, just like anyone else’s would be. So Twitter is going to be left with a dilemma, should Donald Trump decide to continue posting stuff that results in DMCA notices. If the company keeps giving Trump the ability to sidestep copyright law, it could be held responsible for not terminating the account of a known repeat infringer. However, if it bans his account, all of the tweets from his presidency will disappear with it. Clearly and for the sake of history, that can’t happen. However, the law is the law so if any copyright holders decide to get fired up, Twitter could find potentially itself in an interesting legal position. Of course, there’s always the chance that no more infringements or alleged infringements will occur, effectively solving the problem for them. Only time will tell which way things go but at the very least, popcorn should be kept on standby in the new year. If only to see how many more notices will come in before the protective shield is taken away. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. Senator Thom Tillis has released a discussion draft of the “Digital Copyright Act of 2021," a potential successor to the current DMCA. The draft proposes a takedown-and-stay down requirement for online service providers, which indirectly suggests the use of piracy filters. That's just one of the many elements that will be fiercely debated in the coming months. It is a busy week for copyright proposals in the United States, one that will resound far into the year ahead. A few hours after the ‘CASE Act’ and the ‘Protecting Lawful Streaming Act’ were approved as part of the spending bill, a discussion draft for a new and improved version of the DMCA was revealed. The draft (pdf) was published by Senator Thom Tillis, who started a thorough review of the copyright law last year. After hearing dozens of experts and stakeholders, the Senator released what he considers to be a more modern version of the 20-year old DMCA. “The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in 1998, and while it was revolutionary at the time, the law simply hasn’t kept pace with changes in technology. The DMCA is now antiquated and is past-due for modernization,” Senator Tillis said. “This discussion draft is the result of a year-long series of hearings and months of feedback from creators, user groups, and technology companies.” Titled the “Digital Copyright Act of 2021,” the proposal suggests various updates and changes that have ignited instant opposition from digital rights groups. We will provide a summary of some key proposals but there will be more to unpack in the future. Notice and Staydown The current DMCA requires online services to remove copyright-infringing links or files when they are alerted by copyright holders. This won’t change in the new proposal but simply taking down content is no longer sufficient. When copyright holders inform services that ‘complete or near complete’ copies of their works are being shared online without permission, these platforms have to ensure that this content stays offline. While the draft doesn’t mention filters specifically, the ‘staydown’ language indirectly requires online sites and services to monitor and filter uploaded content. This would be similar to Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive. Copyright holders have argued in favor of a staydown requirement for years. They argue that this is essential to end the piracy ‘whack-a-mole’ where they have to send hundreds of takedown requests for the same content. Disconnecting Repeat Infringers? The existing DMCA already requires ISPs to disconnect repeat infringers, but it’s not clear when this should happen, and if notifications from rightsholders are sufficient as evidence. This ambiguity has led to a series of lawsuits where ISPs are accused of failing to adhere to the DMCA. The new Digital Copyright Act should bring an end to this uncertainty. The discussion draft proposes to get rid of the “repeat infringer” and replace it with “persons that, on multiple occasions, were the subject of notifications (…) that were not successfully challenged.” More importantly, it requires the Copyright Office, together with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to develop a policy model that specifies what a frequent offender is and how these persons should be handled. This suggestion is in line with the Copyright Office’s own assessment from earlier this year, which called on Congress to clarify when a user’s account should be terminated. Small Claims, Copyright Abuse, and More The discussion draft also proposes using a small claims tribunal for smaller copyright offenses. This pretty much means incorporating the CASE Act in the new law but that seems unnecessary now that the proposal has already been passed. A more novel suggestion in the ‘DMCA 2.0’ is to keep a list of companies and copyright holders that repeatedly send false takedown notices. These ‘flagged’ abusers are placed on a list maintained by the Copyright Office. When online services receive takedown notices from blacklisted senders they are not required to act. In other words, they can ignore these takedowns without losing their safe harbor. Praise and Outrage As mentioned earlier, the above is just an initial rundown of the proposal, which by itself is merely a discussion draft. And based on the early responses, there is plenty to discuss, or not. “There’s nothing to discuss,” The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes in an early response adding that “the bill, if passed, would absolutely devastate the Internet.” Re:Create is equally offended by the draft stating that the proposed Digital Copyright Act “would fundamentally end online creativity as we know it.” Public Knowledge, meanwhile, notes that the draft text “would significantly curtail online speech, subjecting every upload to mandatory content filtering while effectively eliminating fair use on the internet.” As is often the case with copyright law proposals, the responses are mixed. Rightsholders are pleased with most of the suggestions, which is reflected in an early response from 22 music groups. “Through a thoughtful, deliberative process, Senator Tillis has developed an important proposal. By digging deep into the substance, engaging a broad universe of stakeholders and experts, and confronting the issues, Senator Tillis and his team have started an important discussion about how best to provide incentives for success,” they say. Source: TorrentFreak
  19. The creator of popular TV show Cheaters is now engaged in legal action to prevent the series from being viewed on YouTube illegally. Targeting more than two dozen channels that uploaded episodes, lawyers for Bobby Goldstein Productions wants YouTube to hand over their identities and an account of the profits generated. With millions of users uploading huge quantities of content every day, YouTube is the largest video platform on the planet. Of course, not all of this content is licensed for upload and as a result, YouTube regularly finds itself at the center of copyright holder disputes. Usually, complaints are handled with a Content ID match or a straightforward takedown process but some content creators prefer to take things a little further. Creator of TV Show Cheaters Takes Legal Action Controversial reality TV show Cheaters deploys its own ‘Cheaters Detective Agency’ to carry out investigations on behalf of individuals who suspect their partners are committing adultery and similar infidelities. Created by writer Bobby Goldstein, Cheaters launched in 2000 and has reached season 19, airing on various legal TV outlets around the world. However, there are many hundreds of Cheaters episodes available on YouTube too, uploaded by users in breach of copyright. Collectively these videos have been viewed millions of times and for Bobby Goldstein Productions (BGP), the owner and rightsholder of more than 227 Cheaters episodes, enough is enough. In an application for a DMCA subpoena filed against YouTube in a Texas court, BGP attorney Jeffrey R. Bragalone is now seeking to obtain the identities of more than two dozen YouTube account holders who uploaded Cheaters episodes to the video platform, so that the company may enforce its rights. DMCA Takedown Notice The application begins by reminding YouTube of its legal position, noting that since it displayed and reproduced infringing episodes, it may be liable to hand over all of the profits it generated from them. Alternatively, under 17 U.S.C. § 504(c), YouTube may be liable for statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringing work. BGP’s attorney then issues a formal demand to YouTube, demanding that it immediately cease-and-desists from hosting and displaying the episodes in question, noting that failure to comply will be considered as evidence of willful intent in the event of a lawsuit. At the time of writing and after testing a sample of the URLs listed by the company, the allegedly infringing videos (including the small selection in the image above) appear to remain live on YouTube but given the official nature of the complaint, that position is likely to change in the coming days. Nevertheless, a simple takedown won’t be enough to fulfill the requirements of the subpoena. Disclose User Identities and Preserve Evidence In the first instance, BGP is seeking to find out the identities behind the YouTube user accounts that uploaded the infringing videos. There are more than two dozen in total, some of which are dedicated to the show, some that offer various TV shows and movies, and others that appear to have uploaded episodes in a less organized fashion. Regardless of type, BGP is demanding that YouTube provides documentation to show “all registration information, account information, billing information, payment information, or other identifying information associated with the YouTube accounts” including their “name(s), address(es), telephone number(s), email address(es), and account number(s) associated with each account, and the Internet Protocol addresses (including time stamps) used to create each account, access each account, or upload the material” for each of the supplied URLs. In addition to user information, BGP is also seeking information that could be helpful should it file lawsuits against the listed YouTube users and potentially the platform itself in the unlikely event content isn’t taken down. The requested evidence includes the total page views and/or downloads of the infringing URLs/videos, plus an account of total revenues and gross profits relating to the display of the offending material, including all advertising and/or affiliate revenue. “This information must be provided with accompanying documentation, including financial and other business records, supporting the responses given to these questions,” the DMCA subpoena application reads. In addition, BGP is demanding that YouTube preserves all communications relating to the videos, including emails, voicemails and instant messaging, any and all related documents, network access and server activity logs, plus any other relevant information. “Should you fail or refuse to take down the Subject Videos, our client will have no choice but to file a complaint against your company seeking immediate injunctive relief, as well as compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and costs,” BGP concludes. After being filed earlier this week, the case was reviewed by Judge Rodney Gilstrap. In his order, he noted that BGP had complied with all of the components required to obtain a subpoena. So, in an order issued Wednesday, the Judge ordered YouTube to comply by supplying the information sought. The related documents can be found here (1,2,3. Judge’s order here) Source: TorrentFreak
  20. Major online course provider Udemy has used the DMCA to delete a video on YouTube that showed students how to legally access 6,000 courses for free via a schools and public libraries partnership. According to the course provider, using screenshots containing the Udemy logo amounts to an infringement of the company's copyrights. With more than 35 million students, 57,000 instructors, and 400 million course enrollments, Udemy is a huge player in the online learning space. Accessing the company’s content obviously comes at a price too so when online learning group ShareLearn spotted an opportunity for students to access thousands of Udemy courses legally and for free, they decided to share the information with the world. Tutorial Uploaded to YouTube To Help Students ShareLearn’s four-minute video, which TorrentFreak was able to review on another platform, begins with a splash screen indicating that by using the techniques shown in the videos, thousands of courses can be accessed by students with the right credentials. While it does display the Udemy logo, a disclaimer at the start of the video states that the tutorial is “not affiliated with Udemy”. The purpose of the video was to spread the word that Udemy has a partnership with Gale to provide “more than 6,000 high-quality, on-demand video courses taught by world-class instructors across 75 categories for upskilling in the areas of business, technology, and design.” As part of this arrangement, free courses are available under some library systems. The System to Access Courses is Hosted By Gale The video reveals that if students from certain cities in the United States visit gale.udemy.com, they are presented with a portal that operates in partnership with their libraries, universities, colleges and schools. With the library option selected, a list of participating libraries appears. In the tutorial video, San Francisco library is used as an example. For authentication purposes, users are required to enter their library account credentials and from there they are passed to Udemy, which requires a Google or Microsoft account to proceed. The people at ShareLearn showed a screenshot of this page to make their tutorial easier to understand, as we have done with the screenshot of the video below. Udemy Files Copyright Complaint With YouTube Given the obviously useful nature of the video, it’s perhaps reasonable to conclude that at least some students would’ve learned something from it. However, not too long after it was uploaded to YouTube, it was targeted by a Udemy copyright complaint which resulted in it being taken down. “[Udemy] has claimed copyright infringement for use of their logo,” ShareLearn informs TorrentFreak. “We believe it is covered under fair use and they want to hold us from promoting this option to avoid people from using this library service paid by taxpayers. I have sent them a few emails, but they have given a standard reply that we violated their copyright,” ShareLearn add. Udemy’s Legal Department Refuses to Reconsider From correspondence reviewed by TF, ShareLearn told Udemy that they “appreciate what Udemy is doing for society” and were excited to see the Udemy/Gale/libraries partnership, noting that the project seemed like a good use of taxpayers’ money. “In this video, we have used udemy logo as a reference to udemy, which is covered under fair use. We used screenshots from gale.udemy.com website to help library patterns sign up for your service via public library, which is covered under fair use [sic],” the correspondence reads. ShareLearn then presented Udemy’s legal team with a list of questions requesting additional information on why the inclusion of screenshots bearing Udemy’s logo can’t be considered fair use. The group also asked where Udemy itself advertises the availability of the free service to students. In its response, Udemy ignored the questions and reiterated its key objection. “When material posted on other platforms infringes Udemy’s intellectual property rights, or on the rights of our instructors, we have an obligation to protect those works,” the company said. “We have reviewed the takedown notice in question, and confirmed the infringement therein. If you have questions about intellectual property matters such as trademark, copyright, fair use, etc. you may wish to consult an attorney. Udemy cannot provide you with any legal advice on these matters.” ShareLearn Files YouTube Counternotice ShareLearn has filed a counternotice with YouTube in an effort to have the video restored but at the time of writing, that is still pending and the content remains down. What will happen next is unclear. The takedown from YouTube was filed under copyright law, clearly referencing Udemy’s “copyrighted logo”. Whether any fair use defense is applicable in this case will be for lawyers to argue over but aside from the 20-second intro page (shown in the screenshot above, which includes a disclaimer), the only use of the Udemy logo thereafter is when screenshots/screen recordings of the Udemy/Gale website/system are displayed. Given that the idea of the video was to promote Udemy products and services developed alongside Gale and libraries for the benefit of students, the copyright complaint and subsequent removal seem somewhat overzealous, if not counterproductive too. Update Dec 8: YouTube has restored the video Source: TorrentFreak
  21. US Senator Thom Tillis has asked various stakeholders to shed light on possible DMCA reforms, including easier website blocking options and a notice-and-staydown regime. These potential changes will be welcomed by major copyright holders but groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Re:Create, and Public Knowledge are fiercely against. When the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was introduced in 1998, file-sharing was a fringe activity, and online streaming a futuristic idea. The developments over the past two decades have transformed the way people consume media, both legally and illegally. Calls for DMCA Reform Despite these drastic changes, the DMCA still dictates how many online services respond to copyright-infringing content. While most service providers are relatively happy with it, copyright holders demand change. These discussions have been ongoing for a few years now. The US Copyright Office has heard many stakeholders and recently summarized its recommendations in an advisory report, which suggests several ‘tweaks’ to the current law. In addition to this effort, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis launched a separate DMCA review process through the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In several hearings, it heard input from key players including copyright holders, legal experts, service providers, and digital rights groups. Senator Tillis Questions Stakeholders As the review process nears its conclusion, Senator Tillis also asked various parties to submit written submissions. These are not posted publicly, as far as we know, but Re:Create published its response and those of several members, including digital rights groups EFF and Public Knowledge. These submissions provide a clear counterweight to the ‘stricter’ rules and enhanced enforcement options the major copyright holder groups have called for. This includes website blocking and a proposed notice-and-staydown regime. The site-blocking push came as a surprise as it’s been a no-go topic in the US after the SOPA and PIPA bills were rejected in 2012. Technically speaking, site-blocking injunctions are already possible under the DMCA. However, so-called ‘no fault’ injunctions, issued against ISPs, are not. Site Blocking Questions Senator Tillis questions whether the DMCA should be updated to make these site-blocking injunctions more accessible for copyright holders. And if so, if these should be issued by federal courts or a special tribunal. EFF answered this question negatively, warning against overblocking, which will ultimately chill free speech. “Injunctions to restrain the forums and conduits of speech are treated with extreme skepticism in the U.S. free speech tradition,” the digitals right group writes, adding that “website blocking is a blunt instrument that inevitably risks over-blocking of lawful and non-infringing speech.” Site blocking will require technological and organizational censorship systems, much like the ones Chinese companies are required to use. The risk is that once these are in place, more and more content will be censored. “Once created, the use of these systems is unlikely to be confined to copyright enforcement, nor to U.S. court orders. They risk being used to censor all manner of speech that violates foreign laws or offends powerful interests,” EFF adds. SOPA/PIPA EFF also references the SOPA and PIPA bills, which is a common theme in the answers from all opponents including Public Knowledge. The non-profit organization points out that technology experts warned that site blocking interferes with the domain name system, which carries security and privacy risks. In addition, civil libertarians cautioned that it can be abused to increase censorship. “SOPA/PIPA was roundly condemned by people from different political backgrounds for a reason, and accomplishing the same objective of site-blocking through injunctions against third parties is subject to the same critiques,” Public Knowledge writes. These potential threats are not worth the risk, especially because site blocking isn’t effective, the group adds. Targeted sites can simply move to new domains as their servers remain online. “It is ineffective because it is trivially easy for sites dedicated to infringement to simply switch to alternate domains. It’s misdirected because ISP- and DNS-level blocking fails to actually take sites offline,” Public Knowledge writes. This sentiment is shared by Re:Create, which stresses that if such a far-reaching measure is ever handed down, it should be done by a jury. “Website blocking is not only a technological nightmare to implement (if it can even be implemented), but widely unpopular. Copyright infringement does not rise to the level of relief that should be ordered without a trial by jury under the 7th Amendment protections of the Constitution for copyright infringement,” Re:Create notes. Notice-and-Staydown Questions The three groups are clearly against the site blocking proposal and they have similar thoughts on the notice-and-staydown proposal as well. Senator Tillis asked whether it’s a good idea to ease the burden on copyright holders by requiring service providers to ensure that infringing content stays offline. This is similar to the EU proposal, which opened the door to automated filtering of uploaded content. This ‘staydown’ requirement would end the current takedown whack-a-mole where copyright holders have to ask services over and over again to remove the same files. However, the three groups warn that this is a horrible idea. One obvious problem, according to Re:Create, is that automated systems don’t know whether a person has the right to post something. Similarly, it can’t see whether an upload is a fair use. “Notice-and-staydown by its very nature would presume copyrighted material is automatically infringed, without considering cases where the use of this content is permissible,” Re:Create writes. The group adds that there are already enough problems with the current takedown system, where fair use or legal content is incorrectly taken down. A staydown requirement would only make this problem worse. “A notice-and-staydown regime would further impair legal uses and reshape copyright policy and law as it has been understood for centuries – chilling expression and creativity. This is because there is no way to design such a system without filtering technology.” Copyright Office Rejected Staydown Proposal Public Knowledge shares this concern and points out that even the Copyright Office advised against implementing such a scheme in its recent recommendations. Instead, the Office advised Congress to evaluate how this will work in the EU. “Notice-and-staydown is an idea so far removed from feasibility that even the Copyright Office, after years of study, declined to endorse it,” Public Knowledge notes. “[T]he European Union provides a historically rare opportunity for lawmakers to study, in real time, the effects of such a system on the online ecosystem and its 447 million European users. Attempting to leapfrog this transition before it’s even returned initial results would be policy malpractice.” The EFF also opposes a staydown requirement. The group highlights that the current system was carefully drafted to balance the interests of copyright holders on the one hand, while preserving free expression and innovation. Requiring online services to police their users and filter content will lead to overblocking, it warns. “Conditioning liability limitations on a service provider’s ability to actively police potential infringement would likely lead to over-blocking and/or aggressive filtering of user-generated content. That would make the Internet a much less hospitable place for free speech and innovation,” EFF warns. Disagreement Remains The full answers from all three groups, as well as several others, are available on Re:Create’s website. The group encourages all stakeholders to make their responses public, but thus far we haven’t seen any from the major copyright holder groups. We did spot a copy of the answers from the Artists Rights Alliance which, as expected, supports broad DMCA reform. Ideally, it would like to limit the current safe harbor system and require infringing content to stay offline once it’s reported. “At a minimum, where an artist does identify unlicensed uses of their music on these new platforms, they should not be further burdened with mapping unfamiliar networks and finding every other instance of such unlicensed use,” ARA writes. These responses show that Senator Tillis and his colleagues will have a really hard time coming up with a proposal that will keep both sides happy. But after several years of DMCA reviews, that doesn’t really come as a surprise. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. Under the banner of the MPA, the major Hollywood studios plus Netflix have filed a complaint with Github resulting in the removal of popular streaming app MediaBox HD. The takedown is the latest in a series setbacks for the Android-based movie and TV show piracy app which was previously mentioned in legal action unrelated to the MPA. Preventing the general public from accessing movies and TV shows without paying for them is a monumental task that, if anything, feels even more difficult than it was 15 years ago. In addition to hundreds, perhaps thousands of torrent and streaming sites, copyright holders also have to deal with the growing threat of premium IPTV, which grants access to every type of live TV under the sun for comparatively low prices. Somewhere in the middle of this organized chaos, movie and TV show companies are trying to tackle pirate apps. Mostly Android and iOS-based, these consumer-friendly tools present content in easy-to-navigate interfaces, pulling content from not just their own sources but in many cases third-party file-hosting and IPTV/streaming suppliers, much as other pirate sites do too. MediaBox HD Targeted By The MPA One of the more popular tools in this growing niche is MediaBox HD. Available for both Android and iOS, the app is in demand by those looking to access premium content on their phones or, as is increasingly the case, a tablet or Android-based set-top box. MediaBox HD’s popularity lies in its many features. Aside from a large free library of movies and TV shows, it supports services such as Real-Debrid for more reliable streaming, has Chromecast support, can offer subtitles and even allows for offline viewing. For groups like the MPA, however, these are all reasons to take the app down. MPA Sends Copyright Complaint to Github While MediaBox HD has its own site, at the time of writing it’s impossible to access the Android variant of its app from there. Rather than hosting the APK in the same location, the app’s developers chose to host the software on Github instead, meaning it was vulnerable to an easy takedown. Teaming up under the banner of the Motion Picture Association (MPA), Paramount, Sony, Universal, Warner, Disney and Netflix, sent a copyright complaint to Github, calling on the platform to remove the piracy-facilitating software. “We are writing to notify you of, and request your assistance in addressing, the extensive copyright infringement of motion pictures and television shows that is occurring by virtue of the operation of the APK software Mediabox HD, which is hosted on and available for download from your repository Github.com,” it reads. “Specifically, at the URL, the Repository hosts and offers for download the APK, which in turn is used to engage in massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows.” MPA Demands Removal of MediaBox HD Under the DMCA Attached to the MPA’s complaint but unpublished by Github, the movie and TV show group provides screenshots that claim to show that MedaBox HD streams copyrighted content to the masses resulting in “massive infringement.” While providing various examples of alleged infringement, the MPA says that these are just the tip of the iceberg since the software goes much further by blatantly infringing other content owned by its members and copyrights held by others. On this basis, the MPA states that infringement is “plainly is its predominant use and purpose”, citing case law including the MGM v Grokster litigation (2005), the Arista Records v Usenet dispute from 2005, and the 2009 lawsuit between Columbia Pictures and former isoHunt operator Gary Fung. The MPA suggests that it doesn’t really mind on which basis Github removes the app, whether that’s under the DMCA’s takedown provisions, repeat infringer rules, or Github’s acceptable use policy. Interestingly, however, it does note that it is not trying to claim that the app’s code is copyright-infringing, merely that its sole purpose is to infringe. “Please note that, by this notice, the MPA Members are not addressing copyright ownership of the APK’s specific lines of code; rather, they are addressing the use of the APK as a whole to provide unauthorized, infringing access to streaming video content, and requesting that you remove or disable access to the APK as a whole on your Repository,” the notice adds. Github Complied With the Request Unlike the dispute currently engulfing youtube-dl, which has put Github at odds with the RIAA, there appears to be no such confusion here. Following the request from the MPA, Github removed the MediaBox HD app and, as a result, the software is no longer available from official sources. While MediaBox HD will likely solve this problem in due course, the attention from the MPA comes after the streaming software was featured in two earlier legal matters. In September 2019, following a subpoena from the makers of the movie Hellboy, third-party app-store TweakBox took the decision to remove MediaBox HD (plus Popcorn Time and CotoMovies) from its platform. A month earlier, a Pakistani man who operated a site that offered MediaBox HD, Showbox, Popcorn Time and similar software, agreed to pay a settlement of $150,000 to companies behind the movies The Hitman’s Bodyguard, London Has Fallen and Hunter Killer. His site, the now-defunct latestshowboxapp.com, was forced to remove MediaBox HD and similar tools, despite not being their developer. The MPA hasn’t yet shown any public signs of seeking a settlement from the developers of MediaBox HD but given past history, that might only be a matter of time. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. Google has reached a new milestone. Over the past several years, copyright holders have asked the search engine to remove URLs from three million unique domains. These include blatant pirate sites such as YTS.mx and Fmovies.to, but also several unusual and innocent targets including Netflix, the BBC, and even the official White House website. Over the past few years, copyright holders have asked Google to remove billions of links to allegedly pirated content. At one point, the search engine processed close to three million links per day. A dazzling number to say the least. In recent years this number has slowly declined. This is in part due to Google’s active policy to make pirate sites less visible in its search results. After years of complaining, these efforts were well received by copyright holders. Three Million Reported Domains Despite the slowdown in absolute numbers, Google continues to process plenty of takedown notices. This week, the search engine reached a new milestone. Since it started counting, it has now received takedown notices for three million unique domains. This ‘achievement’ prompted us to take a close look at what this number is made up of. Where are all these alleged pirate sites coming from? Who are the main offenders, and which domains shouldn’t be in this list? We start with the most targeted domain name, which is 4shared.com. The file-hosting service was once one of the largest websites on the Internet. While its popularity has diminished in recent years, its track record remains clearly visible in Google’s transparency report. Since 2011, more than 5,400 copyright holders have flagged 68,348,390 ‘infringing’ 4shared.com links to Google. The vast majority of these, 91 percent, were indeed removed from search results. This makes 4shared the absolute takedown king. The site is followed at a distance by mp3toys.xyz, rapidgator.net, chomikuj.pl, uploaded.net, which were flagged between 27 million and 52 million times. Those are still ‘respectable’ numbers of course. 0.001% of the Domains Recieve 10% of the Notices While looking through the list of targeted domains it becomes apparent that it’s top-heavy. The 30 domains that were called out the most have nearly 500 million flagged URLs. This means that 0.001% of all targeted domains received more than 10% of all notices. At the same time, we can say that the majority of the reported domains are only flagged incidentally. These may be smaller pirate sites or sites exploited by scammers to post incidental spam links. However, it’s also very common for legitimate sites to be targeted, often by mistake. IMDb and Discogs Two of the most frequently targeted legitimate sites are IMDb and Discogs. Both sites have an elaborate information database of entertainment content, either video or audio. This appears to be quite confusing to some copyright holders. Over the past years, Google was asked to remove 5,077 IMDB links and 8,198 URLs from Discogs. All of these requests were rightfully denied. Copyright Holders Target Themselves Intriguingly, copyright holders have also flagged their own websites as piracy portals. HBO famously sent a takedown notice for HBO.com, which was targeted 28 times in total. Pretty much all major copyright holders have had their sites targeted, including Disney.com, Netflix.com, Warnerbros.com, and many others. The most bizarre mistakes we’ve seen actually don’t involve a domain but an IP-address. Over the past years, several companies reported, which points to localhost, meaning that the reporter is flagging its own network. News Publishers News sites are frequently labeled as copyright infringers as well. We can look up any random news site and there’s a good chance that it’s been reported. This includes the BBC, which was wrongfully flagged by Warner Bros. The BBC, for its part, mistakenly accused TorrentFreak of being a pirate site as well. These takedowns are relatively rare but, over time, the numbers add up. The Daily Mail, for example, had 1,991 URLs flagged, The New York Times 803 URLs, The Guardian 785 URLs, and CNN had 727 URLs reported as ‘infringing’. Millions of Mistakes Government organizations are not immune to takedown requests either. If we zoom in on the US we see that the sites of the FBI, the Justice Department, and the Senate have all been targeted. Even the White House isn’t safe, as it was called out more than a dozen times. Although many mistakes come from rightsholders, we should mention that the takedown system is regularly abused by imposters as well. These tend to report many URLs from legitimate domains too. All in all, it is safe to say that, on the surface, the milestone of three million flagged domains only shows part of the picture. On the one hand, it consists of a small group of notorious pirate sites. However, there are many more sites that don’t really deserve to be reported. Source: TorrentFreak
  24. Several organizations have asked the Copyright Office to renew the exemption to the DMCA's DRM circumvention restrictions. This allows abandoned online games to be preserved for future generations. In addition, the Software Preservation Network and the Library Copyright Alliance ask for an expansion, to allow these games to be made available more broadly. There are a lot of things people are not allowed to do under US copyright law, but perhaps just as importantly there are exemptions too. The U.S. Copyright Office regularly reviews these exemptions to Section 1201 of the DMCA, which prevents the public from ‘tinkering’ with DRM-protected content and devices. These provisions are renewed every three years after the Office hears various arguments from stakeholders and the general public. This also allows interested parties to suggest new exemptions. During the last update in 2018, there was a small but significant win for nostalgic gamers. To preserve ‘abandoned’ games for future generations, the Copyright Office expanded the game preservation exemptions to games that require an online component. This was a crucial addition, as most games nowadays have an online aspect. With the new exemption, preservation institutions that legally possess a copy of a video game’s server code and the game’s local code were allowed to break DRM and other technological restrictions to make these playable. This type of “tinkering” is now seen as fair use by the Government, which rejected critique from the major game companies who feared that libraries and museums might exploit this right for commercial purposes, which would hurt their sales. A few weeks ago the Copyright Office started its latest review of the DMCA exemptions which will be updated next year. Since then, several submissions from archivists, digital rights, and consumer organizations have come in. Several of these ask the Office to renew the current exemptions for abandoned online games. The Software Preservation Network (SPN) and the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) note that this new exemption ensures that classic games will be preserved. This allows nostalgic gamers and younger generations to play older games that are no longer officially supported. This has already led to some success stories. “For instance, Georgia Tech Library’s Computing Lab, retroTECH, has a significant collection of recovered video game consoles, many of which are made accessible for research and teaching uses by the §1201 exemption. Dozens of Gameboy Advance, console and PC games can now be preserved, with lower risks of copyright infringement claims or legal action,” SPN and LCS write. The call to renew the exemption is supported by the nonprofit group Consumer Reports, which notes that the exemption “has proven very beneficial to consumers in removing this obstacle to preserving the functionality of video games they enjoy.” In addition to renewing the current rules, SPN and LCS have also requested an expansion. At the moment, they are allowed to break DRM, if needed, but these games can only be made available inside the premises of ‘eligible’ institutions such as libraries and museums. In a new submission, both groups ask the Copyright Office to drop this restriction. “SPN and the LCA request expansion of the video game preservation exemption […] to eliminate the requirement that the program not be distributed or made available outside of the physical premises of an eligible institution,” they write. As always, the current DMCA review will take a few months to be completed. While the request will certainly be considered, it’s possible that games companies will object to the new suggestion, as they have done repeatedly in the past. Much of the credit for getting the Copyright Office to adopt the present exemption goes to San Francisco’s Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE), which filed its petition three years ago. The Museum, which is loved by many gaming fans, recently had to close its doors and put its collection into storage. However, like many abandoned games, it’s not gone forever. The MADE is currently raising money to respawn elsewhere. Source: TorrentFreak
  25. Anti-piracy groups have a long memory, it appears. They don't easily forget about their former adversaries, even those that shut down many years ago. A variety of rightsholders and reporters still flag sites such as Openload, KickassTorrents, isoHunt, Hotfile, and even Rapidshare. Perhaps they're being sentimental but it's high time to move along. Many ‘pirate’ sites – we use that term very loosely here – have come and gone over the years. Older readers may recall that Suprnova was once the leading torrent site, a brief reign that came to an end in 2004. The same can be said for other torrent juggernauts, such as Mininova, isoHunt and KickassTorrents. In the file-hosting arena, the same process unfolded. Rapidshare was once the site to beat, a spot that was later taken over by Megaupload. Today, both sites and many others no longer exist. While these names may occasionally cross the minds of melancholic file-sharers, the masses have moved on. However, when we browsed through Lumen’s database of Google takedown notices this week, some old giants were brought back to life. Apparently, several anti-piracy organizations still believe the dead sites to be a threat. Below is an overview of some random findings. We will start with Openload, which disappeared just a few months ago, and work our way back from there. Openload Openload should still be a familiar name to most. The file-hosting service was shut down by the anti-piracy group ACE last October. The site handed over its domain names to the group and reportedly paid “significant damages”. Today, all former Openload URLs point to a page on the ACE website where people can find out how to watch content legally. However, that doesn’t stop the DMCA notices from coming in. In recent months, tens of thousands of Openload.co URLs were reported to Google by reporting companies. These are sent on behalf of a variety of copyright holders, including ACE members Amazon and Disney. We totally understand that it may take reporting companies some time to adapt to the new reality, but you’d expect that it would have sunk in by now. However, things can get worse, much worse. KickassTorrents Let’s take a leap back to 2016 when KickassTorrents was shut down by the US Government. This came as a surprise to millions of users. However, it appears that some anti-piracy groups still can’t believe that it’s gone. Today, more than four years later, several reporters continue to flag KAT.ph links. The majority of the recent notices are sent by MUSO, who have flagged hundreds of KAT.ph links this year alone. When we checked the Kat.ph domain it was throwing up all sorts of security warnings, but there were no torrents in sight. Rapidshare We can go even further back though. Half a decade ago, Rapidshare closed its doors. At that time the site’s traffic had already plunged as the result of various voluntary anti-piracy measures. After five years one would think that anti-piracy outfits have all moved on, but that’s certainly not the case. Reporting companies including Marketly, Digimarc, Link-Busters, and WebSheriff, continue to report Rapidshare links. isoHunt and Hotfile 2013 was a big year for the Motion Picture Association (MPA) as it booked legal victories against torrent site isoHunt and the filehoster Hotfile. In the years that followed both domains remained online, linking to the MPA website. We are pretty sure that the MPA wouldn’t host any infringing content. However, the takedown notices for both domains continue to trickle in 2020. Some are even sent on behalf of MPA member Disney. Megaupload The further we go back in time, the number of takedown notices is generally lower. But Megaupload.com was still being flagged last December, after nearly eight years of downtime. This suggests that some reporting organizations may want to dust off their databases. 2012 is also where our quest stops, but not without leaving you with a head-scratcher. If we look at Megaupload, we see that Google received requests to take down 14,505 URLs. That number is not very impressive, but the fact that more than half of these URLs were reported AFTER the site was taken down certainly is. All in all, it’s safe to say that reporting agencies are sending tens of thousands of pointless notices, if not more. We don’t know if they all charge based on volume, but regardless, it’s a waste of resources. Source: TorrentFreak
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