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  1. Piracy remains the single greatest threat to the audiovisual community, MPA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin said at CineEurope. The organization, which is the driving force behind the ACE anti-piracy coalition, has booked several anti-piracy successes and praises European law enforcement efforts. Site blocking, which is common in several European countries, has made a difference too. Over the past two decades, online piracy has proven a massive challenge for the entertainment industries. It’s a global issue that’s hard to contain, but various anti-piracy group are doing their best to fight back. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) has been at the forefront of this battle. The coalition is led by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) which represents the major Hollywood studios and Netflix. Piracy = Single Greatest Threat In a speech at CineEurope in Barcelona this week, MPA CEO and Chairman Charles Rivkin told the audience that piracy remains a massive threat to the film industry. “[Piracy] is the single greatest threat to the global audiovisual community. It harms local and foreign films and businesses. It threatens jobs. It undermines investment. It reduces tax contributions to governments. And it stifles the very creativity that is the lifeblood of our industry,” Rivkin said. While the piracy threat hasn’t gone away over the past decade, rightsholders have significantly stepped up their efforts to combat the problem. The ACE coalition played an important part in this. Anti-Piracy Successes In recent years ACE has had a hand in several high-profile anti-piracy initiatives throughout the world, and Rivkin noted that law enforcement in Europe has been a crucial partner. “We have enjoyed great success everywhere,” Rivkin said, recalling several success stories, including the shutdown of the piracy app Mobdro, in which the Spanish police played a central role. Spanish law enforcement has also been instrumental in dismantling several illegal IPTV services. The MPA’s boss said that he will personally thank the police for their efforts today. “I am going to Madrid to meet with the leadership of the Spanish National Police to thank them for their outstanding cooperation and teamwork in this critical effort,” Rivkin added. Update: The Spanish National Police is also pleased with the MPA’s efforts. After the publication of this article, the Police awarded the MPA with a Merit Cross with Distinction for its anti-piracy efforts. Site Blocking Works There are other ‘helpful’ developments in Europe as well, from a rightsholder’s perspective. This includes pirate site blocking. Countries including Spain, Italy, France, Denmark, Greece, and the Netherlands all have measures in place to prevent access to infringing sites. “Europe also leads the world in blocking illegal websites – which makes an enormous difference,” Rivkin told the audience. It is no secret that the MPA is also pushing for similar powers in the United States but, thus far, not much progress was made on that front. Tackling Camcording Piracy CineEurope is a trade show for the cinema industry. According to Rivkin, movie theaters can and have helped to combat online piracy as well by tracking down and reporting people who illegally ‘camcord’ films. These anti-camcording measures help to decrease piracy and some successes were booked recently, also in Spain. “Our work together, along with the Spanish National Police, resulted in the successful arrest of individuals in Madrid and Pamplona who were illegally filming premieres and uploading them to specialized, illegal sites,” Rivkin noted. MPA’s boss is positive about the anti-piracy cooperation in Europe. Just recently, this led to the shutdown of Iconic Streams and Filelinked in Germany. These enforcement actions ultimately benefit theater owners as well. There is little doubt that these anti-piracy sentiments will be broadly shared among the CineEurope audience. After all, piracy is a threat for everyone involved. A Threat From Within? Most recently, however, there has been some uproar within the movie industry as well. Many theater owners are not happy that some movies premiere on streaming services and at the box office simultaneously. Rivkin acknowledged the concerns and the daunting and uncertain challenges ahead while adding that he can’t predict the future. However, he believes that the movie theater experience can’t easily be replaced. “As I have said before, we are living in the golden age of content – for all of us to enjoy – wherever we choose to find it. But there is no substitute for going to the movies.” These comments apply to the potential competition between legal streaming and the box office, but perhaps that can be expanded to piracy as well. If legal streaming is no replacement for the movie theatre experience, we doubt that piracy is. But that’s another discussion. MPA: Piracy is Hollywood’s Greatest Threat But Site Blocking Helps
  2. Virgin Media subscribers receiving letters accusing them of movie piracy may find that settling their cases will be a costly affair. TorrentFreak understands that settlement demands run to several thousand pounds, a massive uplift on the several hundred usually requested in similar cases. Interestingly, however, some subscribers could be immune from being sued. Last week TorrentFreak broke the news that Voltage Holdings LLC, a company well known for tracking down pirates worldwide, has obtained a High Court order compelling Virgin Media to hand over subscriber data. As a result, some of the ISP’s subscribers have begun receiving letters accusing them of pirating the movie ‘Ava’ with the advice that if the matter goes to court, they could be found liable for copyright infringement. Of course, this is something Voltage and its partners would prefer to avoid and to that end, are offering recipients the option to admit liability and pay a settlement fee. In line with earlier High Court guidance, initial letters to subscribers don’t provide any idea of what that settlement amount might be. In the past the sums requested have tended to drift around the several hundred pounds mark but early indications suggest that Voltage and its partners are now aiming much, much higher. Multiple Thousands of Pounds Requested According to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with TorrentFreak on condition of anonymity, attempting to settle a case with Voltage’s law firm Lewis Silkin LLP will not be cheap. Early indications suggest that the amounts requested run to several thousand pounds and are likely to vary in scale depending on the specific defendant. At this stage it’s too early to definitively say what factors are being considered when assessing the settlement amount. However, if earlier methodology is deployed it’s possible that Voltage’s anti-piracy monitoring company (believed to be MaverickEye) will take the BitTorrent swarm size (the number of people sharing the movie at the same time) and multiply that by the price of the Ava movie. As previously reported, this system has serious flaws. However, for people who simply want to settle and move on, paying Voltage a few thousand pounds should make the whole thing go away – at least in respect of this particular accusation. But what about those who wish to contest the claims being made? Options For Accused Subscribers At the core of the letters is the assumption that the person who pays the Virgin Media bill is the person who downloaded and shared the movie ‘Ava’ without permission. ‘Assumption’ is key here since Voltage acknowledges that may not be the case and someone else in a household could be liable. If the bill payer did not carry out the infringement and did not authorize/allow someone else to do so, under the Copyright Designs and Patent Act they are not liable. This means that they can issue a direct denial to Voltage but that would not prevent the company from filing a claim if it believes it has a case. At this point it’s important to note that any claim by Voltage would be actioned in a civil court where cases are decided on the balance of probabilities – 51% confidence of infringement could tip a case in the company’s favor, resulting in a damages award. That’s in addition to the associated legal costs of a failed defense. Given that Voltage is setting the bar so high with demands for multi-thousand-pound settlements, it seems likely that defendants who can afford to mount a defense will do so. Michael Coyle of Lawdit Solicitors is currently taking on defendants’ cases for £300 (plus VAT) but for those with fewer resources, it’s difficult to know where they can turn other than Citizens Advice. However, there are some other interesting facts buried in the High Court order that could render some cases dead in the water before they begin. Safeguarding Measures Are Built Into the High Court Order While the letter from Lewis Silkin LLP ticks all the boxes and conforms to the standards laid down by the High Court, there are some interesting details in the actual order that the law firm’s letter does not directly address. For example, the High Court states that Voltage may not initiate legal proceedings against a minor, which means anyone under the age of 18 in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. This means that if a parent pays the bill and a 17-year-old illegally downloaded and shared the movie, Voltage cannot bring a case against them. Furthermore, the High Court says that Voltage cannot pursue cases against an infringer who is a pensioner. The retirement age in the UK is currently 66 and according to the High Court’s instructions, “anyone over the age of 65” can not have proceedings brought against them. In addition, anyone who is considered ‘vulnerable‘ will not have to face proceedings either. General Observations and Opinion In many respects, this new anti-piracy program is the same as those that have come and gone in the past. The allegations are the same and the aims are the same – to have people pay large sums of money to avoid having to fight a copyright infringement lawsuit in court. That being said, this campaign has clearly learned many of the lessons that have dogged similar efforts in the past and is therefore much less likely to run off the rails due to incompetence and inexperience. While arguably still objectionable given the ratio between the cost of the movie and what appear to be extortionate settlement demands, the project appears to have been planned in fine detail and has some major players on board. Also, given the history of Voltage and its partners, the claimants may yet have some surprise sources of additional evidence up their collective sleeves, rather than just IP addresses alone. Where possible, all letter recipients should proceed with caution, preferably backed up by a legal professional. Voltage can’t sue everyone but it should be assumed that hand-picking one or two defendants to be made an example of is probably part of the plan. Virgin Media Subscribers Told to Pay “Thousands of Pounds” to Settle Piracy Lawsuits
  3. A federal court in Texas has ordered a former employee of a local phone store to pay $6,250 in piracy damages. The woman, who was fired, promoted the piracy app Popcorn Time to customers and also downloaded pirated content herself. The damages award is substantially lower than the $162,500 that was claimed by several movie studios. Millions of people around the world use pirate apps on their mobile devices to stream TV-shows and movies. This is a problem for copyright holders, which have tried to tackle the problem in recent years, both in and outside of court. Hawaiian attorney Kerry Culpepper has been particularly active on the legal front. Representing a variety of movie companies, he has gone after users, site operators, and developers connected to Popcorn Time, Showbox, and other apps. These legal efforts have also spilled over to more indirect targets such as Internet providers and VPN services. Even offline targets aren’t safe it seems. Last December, a former employee of a VICTRA store was sue for promoting the piracy app Popcorn Time to customers. VICTRA Employee Promoted Popcorn Time The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the makers of the film ‘Hunter Killer’, which was later joined by four other movie companies. The filmmakers accused Ms. Boylan of downloading several films. More unusually, the rightsholders also accused her of promoting Popcorn Time to customers at the VICTRA store “Defendant promoted the movie piracy applications to her customers to entice them to purchase particular products and thereby increase her own compensation,” the amended complaint read. The claim was backed up by testimony from a VICTRA customer who stated that Ms. Boylan recommended and helped him to install Popcorn Time to watch free movies. This customer was sued in an earlier lawsuit and likely provided the information as part of a settlement. After the customer pointed out Ms. Boylan the filmmakers did some further research which showed that the IP-address connected to her Verizon subscription had been repeatedly used to download pirated movies. Filmmakers Demand $162,500 When VICTRA found out about the allegations, Ms. Boylan was terminated as an employee. However, the movie studios were not done yet and also demanded a large sum in piracy damages. After Ms. Boylan failed to respond in court, the filmmakers requested a default judgment asking for $150,000 in copyright infringement damages and another $12,550 for violations of the DMCA. In a recent order, U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo agrees that the copyright holders are entitled to damages. However, the demands are too high and the final verdict is substantially lower. “Several factors suggest a somewhat lower award of statutory damages,” Judge Montalvo writes, adding that “the facts do not establish Defendant’s direct infringement extended beyond personal consumption.” Ms. Boylan’s downloads for personal use are not the biggest issue, according to the court. What weighs stronger is that the defendant promoted Popcorn Time in a sales pitch, for her own benefit. $6,250 Will Suffice All in all, however, the court doesn’t believe that the movie companies were substantially harmed by any of these activities. “Defendant’s contributory infringement is somewhat more serious as it likely caused more lost revenue than her direct infringement and was done for her own profit. Even so, the total harm to Plaintiffs is unlikely to be substantial,” the order reads. Instead of the requested $162,500 in damages, the court rules that $6,250 is sufficient in this matter. An additional award of $10,680 in attorney’s fees and costs brings the total due to $16,930. The significantly reduced damages amount saves the defendant from potential lifelong debt. However, Judge Montalvo stresses that the amount is probably high enough for her to learn a lesson. — A copy of the order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Frank Montalvo is available here (pdf) Promoting Popcorn Time Piracy Costs Phone Store Employee Her Job and $6,250
  4. Charter Communications has filed a patent application for a technology that can detect and ban rogue devices on its network. This can help to block orphan and cloned modems, which connect without permission. However, the ISP notes that the same technology can also be used to ban piracy-linked devices, such as illicit streaming boxes. With dozens of millions of subscribers, Charter is one of the largest Internet providers in the United States. Most people use their Internet connections for legitimate activities. However, similar to other ISPs, there are pirating subscribers as well. These pirates are causing quite a bit of trouble for Charter. The company is involved in two lawsuits where prominent music outfits accuse it of failing to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. The ISP previously defended itself by arguing that it can’t monitor or control how subscribers use the Internet. However, a new patent application suggests that this could change in the future. Patent Detects Theft The proposed patent titled “System And Method For Detecting And Responding To Theft Of Service Devices” describes a technology to ban rogue devices. The legitimacy of devices is ‘predicted’ based on information from DHCP logs, which can point to rogue activity. This technology can be used for a wide range of purposes. It can help to ban cloned, rogue or orphan modems. These connect to Charter’s network without paying and are increasingly used by malicious actors. “[T]hese unauthorized or illegitimate devices are being increasingly used by hackers, thieves, organized fraud rings, and other nefarious actors to launch cyber-attacks, gain remote control of devices, steal private or sensitive information, hide their true identities, or engage in other malicious activities,” Charter writes. Banning Pirate Devices Stopping this type of activity is in the best interest of Charter as well as the public at large. However, the patent also comes with some good news for copyright holders, as it can be used to ban piracy-related devices as well. In recent years pirate streaming boxes and illegal IPTV devices have been selling like hotcakes. This is a problem for rightsholders, especially because these pirates can’t be tracked down easily, as opposed to torrent-based piracy. The patent application notes that a specific set of rules could be set up to target a wide variety of illegal devices, including those that are likely linked to piracy. “For instance, devices that associate with other perceived threats, such as video piracy, may be marked in a database for further monitoring and behavior surveillance,” the patent application reads. “These operations may be performed in real-time or near-real time so that model scoring runs before a lease is granted by the DHCP server. These operations are also effective for devices that have already been granted a prior lease.” Blacklisting MAC Addresses When a device is flagged as problematic it can easily be banned from the network by putting its MAC address on a blacklist. This list is connected to the cable modem termination system, which will then ignore all flagged devices. The patent has yet to be granted and whether Charter has concrete plans to use the system as an anti-piracy tool is unknown. That said, it’s interesting to see that Charter is considering monitoring and blocking piracy at the network level. In theory, that could come in handy as a bargaining chip in the ongoing piracy lawsuits the company is involved in. Below is a technical drawing of a potential implementation of the detection and blocking system. A full copy of the patent application from Charter Communications Operating is available here. Charter Patents Technology That Can Ban Piracy Devices on Its Network
  5. A new paper published by Microsoft's research department proposes to tackle piracy with a blockchain-based bounty system titled "Argus." The system allows volunteers to report piracy in exchange for a reward. It uses the Ethereum blockchain and is transparent, practical, and secure, while limiting abusive reports and errors. Microsoft is one of the world’s most prominent copyright holders with a vast experience in fighting piracy. The company is part of the Software Alliance (BSA), for example, which is known to track copyright infringements both off- and online. The BSA is also known for its piracy bounties, where it promises whistleblowers cash rewards in return for fruitful tips. This is a controversial strategy which Microsoft’s own research team hopes to improve upon. Argus A few days ago Microsoft’s research department published an article titled: Argus: A Fully Transparent Incentive System for Anti-Piracy Campaigns, which lays out the details of its plan. The paper, which also received input from researchers at Alibaba and Carnegie Mellon University, suggests that an open and transparent blockchain is part of the solution. This openness is currently missing from BSA-style reporting mechanisms. “Industrial alliances and companies are running anti-piracy incentive campaigns, but their effectiveness is publicly questioned due to the lack of transparency. We believe that full transparency of a campaign is necessary to truly incentivize people,” the paper reads. Piracy Bounty Hunting The article is full of technical details. We don’t strive to provide a full summary but, simply put, Argus is a transparent system built on the Ethereum blockchain that allows people to anonymously report piracy in exchange for a bounty. Pirated content is traced back to the source through a unique watermark that corresponds with a secret code. When a pirated copy is reported, the status of the source (licensee) is changed to “accused.” The system provides an appeal option, but if that fails, the accused status changes to “guilty.” Argus is an open system but there are various safeguards to prevent abuse. Reporting the same pirated work multiple times under different aliases is useless, for example, as that will only reduce the reward. Low Blockchain Costs The system relies on several checks to ensure that the system is open, while avoiding false accusations at the same time. And according to the researchers, the costs of utilizing the blockchain are relatively low. “We effectively optimize several cryptographic operations so that the cost for a piracy reporting is reduced to an equivalent cost of sending about 14 ETH-transfer transactions to run on the public Ethereum network, which would otherwise correspond to thousands of transactions. “With the security and practicality of Argus, we hope real-world anti-piracy campaigns will be truly effective by shifting to a fully transparent incentive mechanism,” the researchers add. Real-World Use? Whether Microsoft has any plans to test the system in the wild is unknown. It theoretically works with various media types including images, audio and software. That said, it’s unclear how effective it will be. The researchers “assume” that the watermarking technology deployed is tamper-free, which isn’t always the case today. All in all, it’s intriguing to see blockchain technology used to improve the rather old-fashioned piracy reporting campaigns. This idea isn’t completely new, however, as the South African company Custos came up with a similar idea years ago. Microsoft’s research notes that Argus is superior to Custos’ solution as it can assess the severity of piracy and the strength of accusations. At the same time, they believe Argus is better than BSA’s campaigns because the reward payments are transparent. The paper and the Argus system will be presented at the upcoming 40th International Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems, which will be held virtually at the end of September. Microsoft Envisions a Blockchain-Based Bounty System to Catch Pirates
  6. WhatsApp Does Not Have To Immediately Suspend Accounts Reported For Piracy Last month the High Court in Delhi ordered WhatsApp to suspend accounts that allegedly shared a pirated movie. The Court also told WhatsApp to take similar action against other accounts following demands from a copyright holder. While WhatsApp did suspend accounts, the company has now convinced the Court that due to end-to-end encryption, copyright holders shouldn't have "unfettered discretion" over account suspensions. Following the release of the movie ‘Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ in India, rightsholder Zee Entertainment Enterprises said that it had found pirated copies being circulated via WhatsApp and Telegram. Zee filed official complaints with cybercrime police and took its battle to the Delhi High Court, filing an application for interim relief against a number of defendants who either distributed the movie online or helped to facilitate such transfers. One of the defendants in the case is WhatsApp, which informed the Court that it has policies in place to deal with copyright infringement, including by suspending or terminating user accounts. In an order handed down May 20, Justice Sanjeev Narula awarded an ex-parte injunction against eight alleged pirates and ordered WhatsApp to suspend the accounts of two yet-to-be personally identified users. He also informed WhatsApp that when instructed by Zee, it must suspend the accounts of any other user alleged to have pirated the movie within 24 hours. WhatsApp Suspends Users But Objects To Future Suspensions At a video conference hearing on June 1, it was revealed that service providers for eight defendants had handed over their personal details to the plaintiffs. Counsel for four of the alleged pirates indicated that they wish to “amicably settle the matter” with Zee but whether the media company is open to settlement is not yet clear. In respect of WhatsApp, counsel Mukul Rohatgi told the Court that his client had suspended two accounts per its May order but raised concerns over the instruction to suspend future accounts based simply on the allegations of Zee. Rohatgi argued that as an “intermediary” under the Information Technology Act, 2000, WhatsApp is immune from liability for making available or hosting content circulated on the WhatsApp Service. The only situation where it could be held liable is if the company obtains “actual knowledge” that specific content is unlawful yet refuses to take down or disable that content. According to Rohatgi, mere receipt of allegations of copyright infringement from Zee does not constitute “actual knowledge” of unlawful content. Furthermore, since communications between WhatsApp accounts are encrypted end-to-end, WhatsApp cannot see what the messages contain. This means that it cannot validate the claims from Zee which effectively gives the broadcaster “unfettered discretion” to remove WhatsApp accounts as and when it chooses. Zee Entertainment Argues in Favor of Account Suspensions Representing Zee, counsel Amit Sibal said that the directions for WhatsApp to suspend accounts were “just and proper” since Zee is a responsible company and can be trusted not to misuse the order. In any event, any request by Zee can be subjected to judicial scrutiny. Sibal also welcomed additional safeguards if that would mean the injunction could remain in place. In his order, Justice Narula told the companies that the issue would require additional consideration but in the meantime, WhatsApp will not have to suspend accounts based on mere allegations of copyright infringement. The Court will make that decision instead. “This Court has been issuing such directions in relation to infringement of copyright, especially in matters where the content is published on the websites which are also referred to as ‘rogue websites’,” the Judge writes. “However, the Court prima facie finds merit in the contention of Mr. Rohatgi that since the messages between WhatsApp users are protected with an end-to-end encryption protocol, [WhatsApp] would not be in a position to review any accounts reported by the Plaintiff in the future to confirm that they are in fact selling pirated copies of the film in question. “Thus, it would be appropriate that any further direction for suspension of WhatsApp accounts be issued by the Court. Accordingly, the direction contained in the order dated 20th May, 2021 insofar as it directs [WhatsApp] to suspend the accounts, on the request of the Plaintiff, is kept in abeyance till the next date of hearing.” Justice Narula’s order can be found here (pdf) WhatsApp Does Not Have To Immediately Suspend Accounts Reported For Piracy
  7. Nintendo Wins $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pirate Site Operator Nintendo has won a $2.1 million summary judgment against the owner and operator of the now-defunct pirate site RomUniverse. A California federal court ruled that the man, a Los Angeles resident, uploaded and distributed pirated Nintendo games. In addition, he profited from mass-scale copyright infringement by charging paid subscriptions. In September 2019, gaming giant Nintendo filed a lawsuit against the game download portal RomUniverse. The website facilitated massive online copyright infringement of many popular Nintendo titles, according to the complaint filed at a California district court. Nintendo said that RomUniverse made things worse by profiting from these copyright infringements by selling paid premium accounts that allowed users to download as many games as they wanted. RomUniverse Fought Back The site’s operator, Los Angeles resident Matthew Storman, clearly disagreed with these allegations. Without an attorney, he decided to defend himself in court. In his view, the site wasn’t breaking any laws and he asked the court to dismiss the case. Nintendo picked this defense apart and found the court on its side. This meant that Storman had to face the charges, as well as millions of dollars in potential damages. The RomUniverse site also remained online initially but last summer, after discussions with Nintendo’s legal team, the operator agreed to shut it down. However, that didn’t end the case. Nintendo Requests Summary Judgment After investing a substantial amount in legal fees, the gaming giant moved for a summary judgment and $15 million in damages. “This is a straightforward video game piracy case, and the material facts are undisputed,” Nintendo informed the court. “For over a decade, defendant Matthew Storman owned and operated the website RomUniverse.com. He populated the website with pirated copies of thousands of different Nintendo games and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies of those pirated games.” Storman, who continued in court without a lawyer, clearly disagreed. In his opposition brief, he denied that RomUniverse offered for download and distributed pirated ROMs of thousands of Nintendo games. Storman also argued that he never uploaded any games himself. Earlier this week, US District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall ruled on the matter, largely siding with Nintendo. Court Sides With Nintendo According to the court, Nintendo provided sufficient evidence to show that Storman is liable for direct, contributory, and vicarious copyright infringement. In addition, trademark infringement claims were also accepted. Storman’s denials failed to convince the court as he admitted to uploading content to the site in a previous deposition. “Defendant filed a declaration in opposition to the Motion wherein he declares that he ‘denies and disputes that he uploaded any files to said website and at no time did he verify the content of said ROM file’, which is directly contradictory to his sworn deposition testimony wherein he testified that he uploaded the ROM files onto his website,” Judge Marshall notes. “Furthermore, Defendant testified at his deposition that his website ‘indicated’ that copies of Nintendo’s copyrighted video games were available for download on the website.” Storman also profited from the infringements of users by charging for premium access to the site. He testified that, during 2019, the site generated between $30,000-36,000 in revenue, which was his main source of income at the time. Substantially Lower Damages Nintendo requested more than $15 million in copyright and trademark infringement damages, but the court doesn’t want to go this far. Judge Marshall believes that $35,000 statutory damages for each of the 49 copyrighted works is sufficient. This adds up to $1.7 million, which is substantially lower than the $90,000 per work requested by Nintendo. “Considering Defendant’s willful infringement, the Court finds $35,000 statutory damages for each infringed copyright […] would compensate Plaintiff for its lost revenue and deter Defendant who is currently unemployed and has already shut down the website,” Judge Marshall writes. The trademark damages are also much lower than requested. Nintendo’s original motion asks for $400,000 for each of the 29 trademarks, but the court awarded $400,000 for all combined, which could be an oversight. “The Court finds the requested $400,000 in statutory damages, which equals approximately $14,286 in statutory damages for each of the 28 counterfeit marks, is appropriate,” the order reads. Finally, Judge Marshall decided not to issue a permanent injunction against Storman. Nintendo failed to show that it suffered irreparable harm, and the fact that Storman already shut down the site shows that there’s no imminent threat of further infringements. All in all, the court orders (pdf) the former RomUniverse operator to pay a total of $2,115,000 in damages. “The Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff’s copyright infringement, unfair competition and Lanham Act claims, and awards Plaintiff $1,715,000 in statutory damages under the Copyright Act and $400,000 in statutory damages under the Lanham Act for a total of $2,115,000 in statutory damages.” Nintendo Wins $2.1 Million Judgment Against Pirate Site Operator
  8. Court Orders WhatsApp to Suspend Users Sharing Pirated Movie The High Court in Delhi has handed down an interesting order aimed at preventing piracy of the new action movie 'Radhe'. Following an application from Zee Entertainment and parallel criminal referrals, a judge has ordered WhatsApp to suspend allegedly infringing user accounts and take similar action against all other accounts subsequently reported for piracy. Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai’ is a new action film directed by Prabhu Deva. Originally scheduled for a May 2020 release, like many others it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. With no clear end to the virus in sight, the decision was made to release ‘Radhe’ in India via premium VOD on Zee Plex and digitally through ZEE5 on May 13, 2021. It was immediately pirated. Last week, Zee Entertainment Enterprises revealed that it had found copies of the movie being circulated online, including via WhatsApp and Telegram. “Officials are actively tracking down phone numbers involved in the act of piracy and taking required legal action,” the Zee statement read. “Zee has also appealed to the public at large, seeking their support in bringing an end to piracy, not just for the film ‘Radhe’, but for any kind of content.” Zee Entertainment Files Complaints Describing piracy as bad for everyone, Zee reported that it had filed official complaints with cybercrime police in India, one with the Inspector General of Police at the Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit and another with the Additional Commissioner of Police, Central Region, Cyber Cell. ‘Radhe’ producer Salman Khan also took to Twitter, complaining that despite offering the movie at a reasonable price, it was still being distributed illegally online using various platforms. “Cyber Cell is taking action against all these illegal pirated sites,” he wrote. “Please don’t participate in piracy or the cyber cell will take action against you as well.” Zee Entertainment also took its battle to the Delhi High Court, filing an application for interim relief against a number of defendants who either distributed the movie online, including via social media platforms, or helped to facilitate such transfers by providing the means to do so. One of those defendants is WhatsApp. According to Zee, the pay-TV platform reached out to the Facebook-owned company and provided the telephone numbers of at least eight individuals who allegedly viewed, downloaded and stored the movie on the platform without permission. No response was received. Citing the terms and conditions of WhatsApp, Zee’s counsel told the court copyright infringement is expressly forbidden and the platform has policies in place to disable and/or terminate infringing accounts. On the basis that the eight users are clearly infringing, WhatsApp should take action against their accounts, Zee argued. High Court Judge Finds In Favor of Zee In an order handed down by Justice Sanjeev Narula, the Court found that Zee had established a prima facie case in its favor. The Judge awarded an ex-parte injunction against the eight defendants restraining them from storing, reproducing, communicating, disseminating, circulating, copying, selling, or offering for sale any copies of the film, via WhatsApp or any other means. Turning to WhatsApp itself, Justice Narula directed the company to suspend the accounts of two of the yet-to-be personally identified users. It also told WhatsApp that when provided with evidence showing that any other WhatsApp user is infringing Zee’s copyrights by selling copies of its film, WhatsApp must suspend the corresponding accounts within 24 hours. Furthermore, three service providers were also ordered to disclose the contact details of the eight alleged movie pirates to Zee, within 72 hours. The case is scheduled to resume on June 1, 2021. At this stage it’s unknown whether piracy will be blamed for any future commercial disappointments related to ‘Radhe’. However, with a current rating of just 1.8 following 151,000 reviews on the Internet Movie Database, it’s clear that more fundamental barriers to success are already baked into the product. Justice Narula’s order can be viewed here (pdf) Court Orders WhatsApp to Suspend Users Sharing Pirated Movie
  9. Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Movie Distribution System to Stop Pirates As a prime content producer, Disney has a vested interest in keeping pirates at bay. The entertainment company is involved in various enforcement initiatives and a few days ago, added a new anti-piracy patent to its arsenal. With a blockchain-based distribution system, Disney hopes to make it harder for pirates to intercept films being distributed to movie theaters. Disney is one of the best known brands in the world and the owner of an impressive collection of movies and TV shows. New and old releases earn the company a healthy stream of revenue, both in movie theaters and through its own movie streaming service Disney+. While there is plenty of competition from other movie studios, Disney’s single biggest threat appears to be piracy. To tackle this issue, Disney’s in-house anti-piracy team works around the clock, and the company takes part in the ACE coalition as well. Disney’s Blockchain Anti-Piracy Patent Through these anti-piracy efforts, Disney has helped to take down dozens of piracy sites and services. However, the media giant is also trying to be more proactive. A newly awarded patent proposes a blockchain-based media distribution system that aims to prevent early piracy leaks. The patent in question, titled “Blockchain configuration for secure content delivery,” focuses on the distribution of content to movie theaters. This is a vulnerable process where pirates with the right connections can make copies during or after delivery. There are already several security mechanisms in place to prevent leaks from happening. Theaters have to adhere to strict rules, for example, and movies are all watermarked. Nevertheless, Disney believes that this isn’t sufficient to stop pirates. “(s)uch security mechanisms are often reactive rather than preventative. For example, watermarking configurations insert a watermark into content to track piracy after the piracy has already occurred. As a result, current configurations do not adequately prevent piracy,” the company explains. Verifying Rights Disney argues that by implementing a secure blockchain-based system, the distribution process can be more tightly controlled. Among other things, it will make it impossible for a movie to be played before it arrives at the intended location. “In contrast with previous configurations, the blockchain configuration verifies that the content is received at the intended destination prior to allowing playback of the content at that destination,” the patent reads. The system can also be configured with other anti-piracy features. For example, it can track the number of times a movie is played to prevent bad actors from showing it more often than they should. “Further, the blockchain configuration has an automated auditing mechanism that tracks playback of the content at the destination to ensure that the quantity of playbacks is accurately recorded. Therefore, piracy by the intended recipient, in the form of a greater quantity of actual playbacks than reported playbacks, is prevented.’ Other Playback Environments While Disney regularly refers to movie theaters and projectors, it specifically states that the patent also applies to other ‘playback environments.’ For example, when Disney content is sent to other streaming providers, which will need the proper credentials to play the content. There are several possible practical implementations but whether Disney has concrete plans to use these in the real world is unknown. That said, it’s certainly intriguing to see that the company is seriously considering the blockchain. It is worth noting that this anti-piracy system is focused on the content distribution and delivery process. This will, in theory, help to prevent pre-release leaks. However, it won’t stop pirates from ripping movies and TV shows directly from Disney+. Disney is not the only media company that has an interest in blockchain technology. Earlier this year, DISH Network secured a patent for a system that online services can use to check if an uploader has the proper rights to share something. — A copy of the “Blockchain configuration for secure content delivery” patent, awarded late last month, is available here (pdf) Disney Patents Blockchain-Based Movie Distribution System to Stop Pirates
  10. Movie Tycoon Sues YouTube over Piracy and Exposes Content-ID ‘Caveat’ Movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo is suing YouTube for widespread copyright infringement. Despite sending over 10,000 takedown notices, pirated copies of his movies continue to appear. YouTube did offer access to its Content-ID system but the movie magnate refused, as that would require him to release the video platform from all possible piracy claims that took place in the past. To protect copyright holders, YouTube uses an advanced piracy recognition system that flags and disables videos that are uploaded without permission. This copyright filter, known as Content-ID, works reasonably well but its use is limited to a select group of major copyright holders. The Spanish-born movie tycoon Carlos Vasallo should fall into this category. Through several companies, the actor and producer owns the rights to the world’s largest collection of Mexican and Latin American movies. Unfortunately, many of these are illegally shared on YouTube. In 2015, Vasallo reached out to YouTube, hoping to fix this piracy problem. The video platform was open to explore several options and Mr. Juanjo Duran, Google’s Director of Latin Media and Entertainment, suggested the “Content-ID” system as an ideal solution. This sounds like a typical approach YouTube would have when dealing with major copyright holders. However, unlike others, Vasallo refused to use Content-ID system because it came with a major caveat. Mr. Vasallo had to release YouTube from all possible piracy claims that took place in the past. Movie Tycoon Sues YouTube in Florida Instead, the movie tycoon opted to send old-fashioned DMCA takedown notices. However, according to a lawsuit filed in a Florida federal court this week, that did little to stop people from pirating his films. Vasallo hired a New York law firm to police YouTube and send takedown notices when pirated copies appeared. While the takedown process worked, new copies were added constantly. Even banned users reportedly returned using new names. “Once a pirated movie was found, Mr. Vasallo and Plaintiff would send YouTube a takedown notice. YouTube would then remove the pirated video movie in its entirety. However, YouTube would not remove all matching videos, as YouTube would specifically only remove the one video from the one infringer related to the single infringing upload identified in the takedown notice. “The same infringer would be free to upload the video again until three takedown notices were filed against him within a ninety-day period. Then and only then, would YouTube cancel the infringer’s username. The same infringer could then create a new username and begin the process of posting the pirated videos all over again,” the complaint notes. Over the past several years, the law firm sent over 10,000 takedown notices for pirated films that were viewed more than 500 million times on YouTube. The video service maintains that this is how the DMCA works, but the movie tycoon argued that the company should do more. Content-ID Comes With a Caveat The complaint mentions the earlier discussions with YouTube about joining the Content-ID platform. At the time, YouTube said that it could “very easily” detect and block infringing content. However, in order to join, the movie tycoon had to sign a release. Under U.S. law, YouTube is not obliged to actively monitor for pirated content. The company told the movie tycoon that it’s protected by the DMCA. But what is the purpose of the release then, Vasallo wonders. “(i)f Defendants confidently rely on the protections afforded to them by the DMCA, then why did Defendants adamantly insist that Mr. Vasallo, as well as Plaintiff, release Defendants from all claims associated with Defendants’ prior acts of piracy? “The clear answer to this question is the following: Defendants consistently use the DMCA as both a shield and sword against the average copyright owner, such as Plaintiff in this case,” the complaint adds. ‘YouTube Should Proactively Monitor Piracy’ The lawsuit argues that YouTube should be required to take reasonable steps to anticipate and filter potential copyright infringements. This effectively means opening up the Content-ID system to all rightsholders without caveats. According to the movie mogul, YouTube has intentionally decided not to use the Content-ID process for all rightsholders. By doing so, it can monetize the billions of views these videos generate. “Accordingly, Defendants knowingly and willingly induced, facilitated, engaged, and promoted the infringement of Plaintiff’s copyrighted materials for their own financial benefit,” the complaint reads. Through the lawsuit, Vasallo requests damages for YouTube’s alleged copyright infringing activity. With over 700 copyrighted titles, the potential statutory damages add up to more than $100 million. In addition to ruling that YouTube willfully infringed copyrights, the movie tycoon also requests a permanent injunction to require the video platform to implement reasonable technologies to prevent or limit copyright infringement going forward. That sounds a lot like the EU’s ‘upload filter’ requirement. — A copy of the complaint Mr. Vasallo’s company Athos Overseas filed against YouTube at the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida is available here (pdf) Movie Tycoon Sues YouTube over Piracy and Exposes Content-ID ‘Caveat’
  11. Court Orders Paypal to Freeze VPN Company’s Funds in Piracy Case A federal court in Virginia has signed a temporary restraining order that requires PayPal to freeze the assets of VPN provider VPN.ht. The company is being sued by several movie studios and stands accused of facilitating piracy. The court also signed off on a request to lock the domain name of a Popcorn Time fork, which already appears to have thrown the towel. Hawaiian attorney Kerry Culpepper has made a habit of putting pressure on key players in the piracy ecosystem. Representing the makers of films such as “Hunter Killer,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and “London Has Fallen,” he’s gone after individual file-sharers, apps such as Popcorn Time and Showbox, and pirate sites including YTS. Most recently, Culpepper and his clients expanded their reach to VPN services. Last month, they filed lawsuits against LiquidVPN and VPN.ht, accusing the companies of promoting and facilitating online piracy. VPN.ht and Popcorn Time Lawsuit Generally speaking, VPN providers are neutral services. However, these VPNs allegedly crossed a line by explicitly encouraging people to use the service for unauthorized activity. VPN.ht, for example, advised people to use the piracy app Popcorn Time with a VPN “to avoid getting in trouble.” These allegations have yet to be backed up in court but, before VPN.ht responded to the complaint, the movie studios moved for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to freeze the company’s PayPal funds. The rightsholders believe that this measure is warranted as VPN.ht’s alleged operator, Mohamed Amine Faouani, previously dissolved another company after it came under fire in a Canadian Popcorn Time lawsuit. They believe that the same could happen with “Wicked Technology,” which currently owns the VPN service. Freezing PayPal Funds In an order released late last week, Virginia District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. agrees that this is indeed likely. As such, he granted the motion to freeze VPN.ht’s PayPal funds. The court concludes that jurisdiction is appropriate and mentions that Popcorn Time poses a significant threat to the copyright holders. And without a restraining order, VPN.ht could indeed move its PayPal funds outside of the court’s reach. “Plaintiffs would be irreparably harmed absent a TRO because Defendants would have the incentive and capacity to transfer their assets from any account within the United States, depriving Plaintiffs of the ability to obtain monetary relief,” Judge Alston Jr. writes. No Harm? According to the court, there is a strong likelihood that the movie companies will win this case anyway, which weighs in favor of granting the request. At the same time, the VPN provider isn’t really harmed by this decision, the order notes. “Defendants are unlikely to suffer any cognizable harm from the TRO as they will merely be prevented from profiting from past infringement and moving their funds beyond the reach of the Court.” While the court suggests otherwise, seizing the assets of a company can seriously impede its operation. That said, PayPal is just one of the payment options used by the VPN and several other alternatives remain available. Discovery and Locked Domain Name In addition to freezing the PayPal funds, the court also allows the movie companies to request further information from PayPal, Cloudfare and GitHub. This could help to find out more about VPN.ht’s operation as well as the Popcorntime.app software, which is part of the same lawsuit. Finally, the court also signed off on a request to order Google or its reseller to lock the Popcorntime.app domain name, so that it can’t be transferred outside of the court’s reach. At the time of writing VPN.ht remains online and the operator has yet to respond in court. The pressure on Popcorntime.app appears to have paid off, however, as the domain now redirects to a “goodbye” message on Medium. Meanwhile, the movie companies have just requested yet another temporary restraining order, this time keeping it away from public view. However, it is likely that the copyright holders want to freeze additional funds or assets. — A copy of the order issued by Virginia District Court Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. is available here (pdf) Court Orders Paypal to Freeze VPN Company’s Funds in Piracy Case
  12. YouTube Class Action: Plaintiff Can’t Identify Piracy Without Access to Content ID Maria Schneider's class action lawsuit against YouTube has taken another unusual turn. The complaint alleges massive infringement but thus far identifies no infringing videos. YouTube wants to know exactly what it's dealing with but Schneider says that since she has no access to Content ID - a big part of why the complaint was originally filed - she can't easily provide that information. In 2020, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube, claiming massive infringement on the platform and serious deficiencies in copyright enforcement measures. Schneider’s grievances are numerous, including that YouTube restricts access to its takedown tools, profits from infringement, and fails to terminate repeat infringers. Furthermore, since 98% of YouTube copyright issues are reportedly resolved with Content ID, Schneider says that YouTube has “entirely insulated” huge numbers of users from its repeat infringer policies. The case thus far is notable for its oddities, including that co-plaintiff Pirate Monitor claimed that many of its copyrighted works had appeared on YouTube in breach of copyright but was later said to have uploaded those works itself before sending corresponding takedown notices. Earlier this month the matter took another unusual turn when Schneider asked the court to order YouTube to hand over masses of information that would allow her to identify every user that had had a takedown notice filed against their account since 2015, to determine whether YouTube’s repeat infringer policies come up to scratch. YouTube: Schneider Needs to Clarify Her Claims While Schneider alleges massive infringement on YouTube, the Google-owned platform is now complaining that Schneider’s claims are unspecific. YouTube insists that Schneider should identify the copyrighted works she is complaining about and where infringements have taken place on YouTube, so that it has a “fair opportunity” to look into every single claim. However, YouTube says that since Schneider is refusing to agree to a deadline or even acknowledge this dispute, it is now seeking relief from the court. “Schneider’s Complaint alleges she owns three copyrighted works that were infringed on YouTube. It does not identify a single YouTube video that she claims is infringing. Instead, Schneider contends that her potential copyright claims against YouTube are boundless. She insists that she is allowed to put at issue dozens of unpleaded works and allegedly infringing videos, and that she can do so whenever she wants,” YouTube informs the court. “Plaintiff’s approach is misguided. Defendants need to know, sufficiently before the end of discovery, the full universe of copyrighted works and alleged infringements at issue. Without that information, Defendants will be unable to take discovery to support their defenses, most of which are necessarily work- or video-specific.” As background, YouTube says that in interrogatory response, Schneider has thus far purported to add 75 more works to the case, but hasn’t amended her complaint. The musician also agreed to identify all currently known infringements. These reportedly amounted to 51 videos but they only involved 24 works – a “moving target” according to YouTube. “For most of the works that Schneider has not pleaded but contends are at issue, no infringement has been identified,” the video platform adds. With that, YouTube demands that Schneider amends her complaint to identify the copyrighted works and all instances of infringement of those works on YouTube. Schneider, it appears, does not want to play ball. Schneider: No Obligation to Detail Infringed All Infringed Works In a response to YouTube’s motion, Schneider states that YouTube is wrong to say that the allegedly infringed works must be identified. “A plaintiff in a copyright infringement action has no obligation to include in the complaint a complete listing of all of the works at issue,” her response to the motion reads, noting that since 75 such works were supplied to YouTube back in March, “there can be no debate that Defendants are on notice about what works are involved in the dispute.” But Schneider goes further still, arguing that case law shows that “plaintiffs are not required to specify each and every instance of infringement” including the “who, what, where, when and why.” Describing YouTube’s deadline to detail instances of infringement as “invented” and lacking in legal support, Schneider says that an issue at the very core of her complaint (YouTube’s refusal to grant her with access to Content ID) renders any deadline both “unfair and impractical”. “To even attempt to identify every infringement, Plaintiff would have to constantly search for infringing videos using manual keyword searches that hit upon the specific words chosen by the uploading infringer. Such an endeavor would be futile and unduly burdensome,” her response reads. “Absent access to Content ID, Defendants’ digital fingerprinting tool which automatically scans for infringing videos prior to upload, Plaintiff cannot meaningfully search for or identify the infringing videos. But Defendants easily can. “Defendants’ position that Plaintiff must identify the URL of all infringing videos is thus the height of irony — the impossibility of manually locating all instances of infringement of her works without access to Content ID motivated this lawsuit.” While Schneider does not directly demand access to Content ID to comply with YouTube’s deadline, her motion strongly suggests that the task could easily be achieved by YouTube, since it has access to Content ID. To force her to identify all of the infringing videos manually prior to the close of discovery “would be patently unfair” she argues, adding that the court should deny YouTube’s motion in its entirety. YouTube’s motion to set a case schedule and Schneider’s response can be found here and here (pdf) YouTube Class Action: Plaintiff Can’t Identify Piracy Without Access to Content ID
  13. UK Pirates Remain Driven by Convenience, Availability and Cost A report published by the UK Intellectual Property Office shows that a quarter of all online entertainment consumers downloaded or streamed content illegally last year. Many pirates pay for content but turn to illegal sources when availability is lacking or when the costs become too high. Every year the UK Government publishes a new edition of its Online Copyright Infringement Tracker. This report is the result of an annual survey that polls the piracy habits of people twelve years old and above. Earlier this week the UK Intellectual Property Office published the tenth wave of the report. As always, there are some positive changes compared to earlier years, as well as some negative ones. Fewer Pirates Starting with the good news, the study finds that the overall level of copyright infringement across all content categories has dropped. In previous years this number was stuck at 25% but has now reduced to 23%. This means that nearly a quarter of the people who consumed online content have used illegal sources. While this is a big number, the survey also shows that many of these pirates consume content legally as well. For example, 20% of all film fans occasionally pirate content, but only 3% use piracy services exclusively. The same effect can be found in other content categories, including music consumers of which 18% used unauthorized sources last year, but only 2% did so exclusively. For games, these numbers are 10% and 2% respectively. For the above categories, a relatively small percentage of the pirating public used illegal sources exclusively. However, that picture is the other way around for software and digital magazines, where the majority of all pirates never purchased anything legally. Sports Piracy is Booming Similar to last year, the highest percentage of pirates can be found among the live sports streamers. Of all the people who consumed sports streaming content last year, 37% used illegal channels. That is up from 34% last year. Roughly a third of the sports streaming pirates never used legal services. This brings us to the motivation people have to pirate content. Here we see a familiar picture emerge as well. People pirate because something is not available or because they can’t or don’t want to pay additional costs. Movie fans, for example, may not want to pay for yet another monthly streaming subscription to see a film. Or, the content they desire may not be legally available at all, as we have seen with some of this year’s Oscar contenders. COVID Had a Limited Impact Despite some small shifts in piracy levels not much has changed. There is a small decline in music, movie and TV piracy, while the proportion of sports, gaming and software pirates increased a bit. Interestingly, the COVID pandemic doesn’t appear to have a strong or lasting effect. Some people reported that their piracy activity increased, but there aren’t necessarily more people who pirate. “In terms of levels of infringement, the findings from the qualitative phase showed that while many reported no change in their use of illegal sources, some noted that owing to their general consumption in entertainment increasing, so too did their use of illegal sources,” the report notes. How to Stop Pirates? While the yearly reports help to track how piracy trends develop over time, it does little to address the problem. However, the latest report does give some advice on how to motivate pirates to ‘go legal.’ The study tested a variety of messages focused on the negative consequences of piracy, to see what would make pirates change their behavior. This leads to some interesting insights. For example, mentioning the financial losses of big corporations or the broader economy has virtually no impact. People don’t seem to care that the revenue of major movie studios or sports organizations is impacted. A more effective approach, according to the study, would be to focus on the financial impact piracy has on individual artists and employees who work in the creative industries. Those messages even impacted hardcore pirates, who also showed concern about their own risks, including malware and viruses. Finally, hasher punishment could work as well, according to one of the report’s conclusions. “There is potential to explore messages around risk of greater legal action and consequences for those who infringe – this is not currently seen as a viable threat but was mentioned by a few as a potential deterrent if enforced more widely.” A summary of the tenth copyright infringement tracker survey is available on the UK Intellectual Property Office website. While not mentioned, it may also make sense for the entertainment industries to change something themselves. After all, harsher publishment is not going to improve the convenience, availability, and cost of legal alternatives. UK Pirates Remain Driven by Convenience, Availability and Cost
  14. RIAA: Twitter Must License Music & Fight Piracy Without Charge The RIAA and NMPA are putting Twitter under pressure to do something about the platform's piracy problem. Slamming the company for allowing pre-release music to be distributed to the public, the industry groups say that Twitter is failing to meet its legal obligations when responding to takedown notices. Licensing is the answer, they suggest, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, a number of music industry players have taken on some of the largest content distribution platforms on the Internet over alleged copyright infringement, with varying success. Services such as Napster and LimeWire were effectively destroyed through litigation but more recent problems aren’t easily solvable in the same way. YouTube and Facebook, for example, have very deep pockets and an abundance of lawyers but perhaps more importantly, they also have the potential to become formidable long-term music distribution partners. A similar case can be made for Twitter but it is becoming increasingly clear that while the music industry would like to partner with the social platform, it’s currently disappointed with Twitter’s attitude towards copyright infringement. Last December, RIAA chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier said that while YouTube and Facebook had developed anti-piracy tools, Twitter had done nothing and things needed to change. It appears that a few months on, little has. RIAA and NMPA Chiefs Slam Twitter In an op-ed just published in Billboard, Mitch Glazier and National Music Publishers Association president David Israelite lay into Twitter again, stating that music creators and music fans deserve better from the social networking service. Noting that Twitter can be innovative when it wants to be, Glazier and Israelite say that when it comes to piracy, it’s a whole different game. “(i)n one important respect Twitter remains ‘old school’ and stubbornly refuses to use even the most basic tools when it comes to combating piracy or helping music creators prevent theft of their works on its platform. Unfortunately, the company’s efforts to innovate only seem to go so far,” they begin. With the basics out of the way, the pair swiftly turn to Twitter’s business model, implying that without music and music fans, Twitter wouldn’t be where it is today. The authors say that record companies and music publishers want the “partnership” with Twitter to work, even going as far as expressing pride in powering Twitter’s success. But unfortunately, that’s when the pleasantries end. “[T]he viral immediacy and global reach of the Twitter platform presents a double-edged sword – one that cuts especially deep for artists, songwriters, and music rightsholders who see their work leaked, copied, distributed, and monetized on the platform with almost no recourse,” they write, sounding the alarm. “Last year music creators sent more than 2 million notices to Twitter of unlicensed and infringing appearances of copyrighted music on the platform – more than 200,000 of which dealt with the especially harmful presence of not yet released stolen songs.” Twitter’s Response is “Totally Inadequate” While many platforms have been criticized by the music industry for not doing enough to combat piracy, in Twitter’s case there appears to be more under the hood. Complaining that Twitter can take “days or longer” to respond to a complaint, the industry leaders flat-out accuse Twitter of failing to meet its legal obligations – strong words when that could theoretically form the basis of a lawsuit. There is no clear suggestion of legal action at this stage but Glazier and Israelite imply that a compromise of sorts could be reached with Twitter. Interestingly the parameters being suggested seem to push Twitter much further than its legal obligations require. For example, in respect of pre-release music leaks, the music bosses want takedowns actioned almost immediately. “With pre-release leaks, takedowns must come in seconds or minutes, not days,” they write. Building upon the requirement for a real-time response, the RIAA and NMPA want Twitter to proactively find pirated music on its platform, without first having to be notified that infringement has taken place. “While Twitter’s response to takedown notices fails to meet its legal obligations, even worse is the company’s refusal to take affirmative steps to more effectively police its own platform and find unlicensed music before it is widely circulated and without waiting for a rightsholder to do the work and notice the infringement for them,” they note. “No one can see better than Twitter what happens on its system or has the access and technical capacity to address problems at the speed and scale of the network. There is much Twitter could do to address this problem.” So What Should Twitter Do? Given that the RIAA and NMPA strongly suggest they would like Twitter to be a partner, it will come as no surprise that they would like Twitter to buy its way out of its current predicament. “Most fundamentally, [Twitter] could license music and pay creators for the songs and recordings that it distributes. This is what many other services have done and it is the single most important thing the company could do to meet its obligations to artists and songwriters,” the RIAA and NMPA chiefs write. On the anti-piracy front, the industry bosses would like Twitter to be more like YouTube and Facebook by introducing automated tools and content protection technologies. These should be able to take down unlicensed copies of works before they even appear on Twitter, negating the need for “artists, songwriters, and their representatives to scour the five hundred million tweets that are posted to the platform every day.” An interesting element of the RIAA and NMPA criticism is that Twitter does have the ability to help right now but will only do so for a price. They accuse the platform of demanding “massive payments” from music creators in return for access to the company’s data flow and with that the ability to spot pirated content. “Twitter could easily provide an API with sufficient capacity and speed to allow for monitoring at scale, just as it provides to other users like researchers who it hopes will help publicize and vouch for the company’s operations and to third party vendors who sell Twitter analytics. Incredibly, despite many requests it has refused to provide it to music creators without charge,” the groups write. “Charging music creators for access to the data they need to find infringement of their own work is just another Silicon Valley shakedown – moving fast and breaking music.” In summary, the RIAA and NMPA are demanding “serious and immediate changes” to Twitter’s response to unlicensed music appearing on the platform. There are currently no indications of what might happen if those changes aren’t delivered as requested. RIAA: Twitter Must License Music & Fight Piracy Without Charge
  15. YouTube Class Action Lawsuit Wants to Identify Every ‘Pirate’ Uploader Since 2015 Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider wants a court to order YouTube to hand over huge amounts of data relating to copyright infringement on the platform. In summary, Schneider wants to identify all users who had a takedown notice filed against their account since 2015 to determine whether YouTube's repeat infringer policies come up to scratch. Last summer, Grammy award-winning musician Maria Schneider filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube, claiming massive deficiencies in its copyright enforcement measures. Schneider claims that YouTube restricts access to its takedown tools, profits from infringement, and fails to terminate repeat infringers. Noting that 98% of YouTube copyright issues are resolved with Content ID, Schneider says that YouTube has “entirely insulated” huge numbers of users from its repeat infringer policies. “This two-tiered system essentially trains YouTube’s billions of uploading users that there is essentially minimal risk to uploading to their hearts’ content,” the complaint reads. As previously reported, Schneider was joined in the class action by a company called Pirate Monitor, which alleged that many of its copyrighted works appeared on YouTube in breach of copyright. YouTube, however, claims that the company itself uploaded those works before sending its own takedown notices. Lawsuit Claims That Content ID Should Not Shield Repeat Infringers Determined to show that YouTube’s approach to copyright enforcement is lacking, Schneider’s legal team is demanding that the video platform hands over information about infringement on the platform. This should include information about actions carried out under Content ID and following regular takedown notices. “Both elements of this two-tiered system are relevant to the claims here including because of their role in establishing whether Defendants should be prohibited from taking advantage of safe harbors against copyright liability granted by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, 17 U.S.C. § 512 (‘DMCA’),” a new filing from Schneider reads. “Those safe harbors are not available absent ‘a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of’ uploaders ‘who are repeat infringers’.” The issue of how Internet services deal with repeat infringers is a thorny one that can lead to huge damages awards, as illustrated by the $1 billion award in the RIAA’s lawsuit against Cox Communications. Schneider’s lawsuit aims to show that YouTube is negligent too, since infringements dealt with under Content ID do not result in action against uploaders’ accounts. “Infringement caught by Content ID is excluded entirely. Defendants’ failure to assess penalties, including copyright strikes and termination for these repeat infringers: (i) fails to satisfy the reasonableness requirement to track and terminate repeat infringers as required for the safe harbors; (ii) encourages and incentivizes users to continue posting infringing content; and (iii) creates the constructive (if not actual) knowledge of infringement that is an independent basis to deny access to the DMCA safe harbors,” the filing reads. Lawsuit Demands Massive Access to YouTube Infringement Records To show the scale of infringement on YouTube (and YouTube’s alleged failure to properly deal with repeat infringers), Schneider is demanding that YouTube hands over large amounts of data. Precisely how large remains to be seen but describing the request as ‘broad’ is likely to underestimate the request. In summary, Schneider initially asked YouTube to provide copies of every single takedown notice filed with the platform. That request was rejected, with YouTube instead agreeing to only hand over notices filed by the plaintiffs, claiming that beyond that would amount to a huge burden, even if it had the information in a deliverable format. In what appears to be a counteroffer, Schneider narrowed her demands – but not by much. She now wants YouTube to identify EVERY person that has filed a copyright takedown notice since January 1, 2015. That information should include information such as dates, the works allegedly infringed, and the URL of the targeted content. Schneider also wants the details of EVERY YouTube user targeted by these takedown notices including their account names, email addresses, and IP addresses used to upload the content targeted by the notices. Schneider further demands a full accounting by YouTube detailing all steps taken to resolve every takedown notice, any evidence the platform holds on registrations of copyright works listed in notices, the outcome in every case, and whether YouTube still holds copies of the works listed in notices. YouTube Refuses to Play Ball YouTube appears to be less than impressed with Schneider’s demands. Indeed, according to Friday’s filing, the Google-owned platform is only prepared to hand over one month’s worth of takedown notices but according to Schneider, that “ignores the purpose and need of this discovery and thus is not a meaningful compromise.” Indeed, in its responses to Schneider’s requests for information, YouTube describes the demands as “overly broad” and “unduly burdensome” almost three dozen times. Whether the judge will agree with that position remains to be seen. The discovery brief can be found here (pdf) YouTube Class Action Lawsuit Wants to Identify Every ‘Pirate’ Uploader Since 2015
  16. The Oscars Will Boost Piracy, Especially Without Legal Options The Academy Awards ceremony is just a few weeks away but several of the top movie contenders are not available in many countries around the world. These release delays indirectly drive people to pirate sites. UK piracy tracking firm MUSO warns Hollywood that this may trigger a costly piracy boom that could have been avoided. The Oscars is the most watched award show of the year, closely followed by hundreds of millions of movie fans around the world. The 93rd Academy Awards ceremony was originally scheduled to take place on February 28, but due to the Covid pandemic, it was postponed to late April. After the nominations were announced earlier this month to movie press has been buzzing. There’s a clear absence of blockbuster titles in the best picture category, so various options are considered. The bookies currently have “Nomadland” and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” as the top favorites. Legal Availability of Oscar Contenders Unfortunately, however, not all movie fans are able to join this discussion. While all contenders have premiered in the United States, not all countries are that lucky. For example, Nomadland has yet to premiere in the UK, Canada, France, and many other countries. This is a problem for fans who are eager to watch the film. They have no other option than to wait or resort to unauthorized sources. This is what the UK piracy tracking firm MUSO noted as well this week. “When a title is not available in a country or region, the audience will find it via piracy because piracy is often driven by access; this is evident in social-media commentary,” MUSO writes, sharing various examples. MUSO looked at the popularity of all best picture nominees on pirate sites until mid-February. It found that, until then, “Promising Young Woman” was pirated the most while “Judas and the Black Messiah” had the highest peak on a single day. Needless to say, these numbers are in part boosted by lacking legal availability. Piracy Peak Has Yet to Come While piracy is already widespread, history tells us that the real piracy boom has yet to come. Looking at last year’s best picture winner “Parasite,” we see that the demand on pirate sites skyrocketed right after it won an Oscar on February 10th. Last Year’s Parasite Piracy Peak (Data from MUSO.com) This isn’t a new phenomenon as we have previously shown how Oscar winners see rising interest from pirates. That said, this massive peak could have been much lower if people from all over the world were able to watch the film legally. With this in mind, the piracy interest for this year’s winner is expected to be significant as well, MUSO predicts. “If Parasite, which was widely released prior to the Oscar ceremony on February 10th, experienced significant piracy after its nomination, MUSO data suggests that 2021’s nominees will experience similar piracy demand. This demand will be magnified by the lack of availability in some countries.” Window of Missed Revenue Opportunity Overall, the lacking availability may lead to dozens of millions of extra downloads and streams on pirate sites. While these don’t translate to direct losses, it’s easy to see how release delays can cost many millions of dollars. “This is a lot of lost revenue due to a windowing decision,” MUSO notes. Based on its own data, MUSO predicts that the best picture Oscar will go to either “Judas and the Black Messiah” or “Promising Young Women.” However, that’s purely based on the demand from pirates, which is far from an ideal predictor. The overall takeaway message from the data is that Hollywood may seriously want to consider whether release delays do more harm than good. The Oscars Will Boost Piracy, Especially Without Legal Options
  17. Reddit Users Targeted For Pirating OnlyFans and Other Subscription Model Images Platforms such as OnlyFans allow content creators, including those working in the adult space, to post content and earn money from fans. Others prefer to go it alone with their own subscription-based services but inevitably some consumers prefer to get that content for free, via illegal uploads to sites like Reddit. That, however, is not without legal risk. The growth of the Internet has enabled millions of content creators to more directly address their fans. Platforms such as YouTube, for example, create a more personal fan experience but content of a more risqué nature is better placed elsewhere. Founded in 2012, OnlyFans is a subscription content platform based in the UK. Content creators using the service can earn money from subscribing fans, who pay for content on an ongoing basis and may also contribute valuable additional tips. Importantly (and unlike YouTube), OnlyFans doesn’t shy away from adult-orientated content such as more explicit photographs and videos. Of course, any content that can be uploaded to OnlyFans can be re-uploaded elsewhere without the creator’s permission. It’s the same type of piracy experienced by almost every player in the multimedia space but due to the small filesizes in content such as pictures, pirated content is very easily spread. The question is what to do about that, if anything. Uploading to Social Media Since many people sharing OnlyFans content do so fairly casually, social media platforms such as Reddit are an easy option. The site accepts image uploads and there are large quantities of sub-Reddits dedicated to specific content creators, who are also trying to sell their work on OnlyFans. While this exposure may help sales in some instances, when dozens of photographs are uploaded for free, there’s less of an incentive for people to subscribe. Also, since legal action against unlicensed uploaders is not commonplace, there’s little incentive for people to stop pirating either. This week, however, TF spotted a couple of actions filed in a US court that may give some pirates pause for thought. DMCA Subpoena Filed in California Against Reddit On March 9, 2020, lawyer Jason Fischer sent a DMCA takedown notice to Reddit, informing the platform that his client, adult performer Natasha Noel (NSFW), is the copyright owner of various photographs and video content published through her OnlyFans account and other social media platforms. According to the notice, dozens of these items were uploaded to Reddit illegally and as a result, Reddit should take the content down. While that is nothing out of the ordinary, it appears that Noel and her lawyer want to take things further. On March 23, 2020, Fischer filed a DMCA subpoena application on Noel’s behalf in a California district court, listing the same set of URLs detailed in the Reddit DMCA takedown notice. This time around, however, the lawyer was seeking more than just content removal. “This law firm has the privilege of representing Natasha Noel, owner of the copyrights in and to certain materials that been infringed through use of the online services provided by Reddit, INC,” the document reads. “Pursuant to the DMCA, we respectfully request that you execute the enclosed subpoena directing Reddit’s records custodian to disclose users’ identities.” The information requested is described as “any and all information” in Reddit’s possession pertaining to the identity of the “individuals who posted the images and content previously appearing [at the URLs in the DMCA takedown notice].” For the sake of clarity, Fischer then lists everything he expects Reddit to hand over, including usernames, account names, users’ actual names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses (including dates and times of access), and all billing information. What Fischer and Noel intend to do with this information isn’t clear but having gone this far, it seems likely that some kind of legal action or pressure will follow. Identifying a leaker will be useful in its own right but deterring further leaks among Noel’s community of fans might prove more valuable. Second DMCA Subpoena Filed Against Reddit On the same day, Fischer filed another DMCA subpoena application, again against Reddit, this time on behalf of model and MMA fighter Valerie Loureda. Unlike Noel, Loureda does not sell her content on OnlyFans but goes direct to her audience via her new website loveloureda.com. Ordinarily, fans would need to pay $9.99 to see Loureda’s glamour shots but visitors to Reddit’s /r/Valoureda have been getting that content for free – until the sub-Reddit was banned for generating “excessive copyright removals.” Precisely when the sub-Reddit was banned isn’t clear but Fischer sent DMCA notices containing dozens of infringing URLs on March 20 and March 22. In common with the DMCA subpoena filed on behalf of Noel, he is now seeking to identify in detail the Reddit users who uploaded the content, including their email and IP addresses. Again, it’s unclear what Fischer and his client intend to do with the information but having put in some effort, it’s unlikely to end particularly well for any uploaders who Reddit is available to identify. TorrentFreak contacted Jason Fischer for additional information, including whether he’s representing other independent content creators and details of his plan for the uploaders, but at the time of writing we were yet to receive a response. The DMCA subpoena applications and supporting documents can be found here (1,2,3) Reddit Users Targeted For Pirating OnlyFans and Other Subscription Model Images
  18. Search Engines Won’t Face Monopoly Investigation Over Pirated Content Pirated eBooks and similar content will remain in search results after Russia's Federal Antimonopoly Service declined to take action following a complaint from an anti-piracy group. According to FAS, Yandex and Mail.ru did not abuse their dominant positions by denying access to takedown tools because unfair competition can only take place when the parties operate in the same market. Sending DMCA takedown notices for infringing content is something that happens millions of times every week in the West and while copyright holders feel the process is labored, huge quantities of content are quickly removed from search results. In Russia the process has been streamlined following the signing of an anti-piracy memorandum and the introduction of a centralized takedown system. The signatories, which include the country’s largest tech and media companies, agreed to the creation of a database of infringing content, with the tech companies querying it and taking content down automatically. While this system appears to be working as planned, publishers are currently excluded from the scheme, something which prompted them to file an unusual complaint in 2020. Publishers File Complaints With Federal Antimonopoly Service Under the umbrella of the Association for the Protection of Copyright in the Internet (AZAPI), last year major publishers Eksmo and AST (which together control 30% of the market), Alpina Publisher, Hachette subsidiary Azbuka Atticus, Mann, plus Ivanov and Ferber, filed complaints with the Federal Antimonopoly Service, claiming anti-competitive behavior by Yandex and Mail.ru. Signed by AZAPI chief Maxim Ryabyko, the complaints alleged that Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine, was “abusing its dominant position” by not removing pirating eBooks from search results. This encouraged “unfair competition” from pirated content to flourish in its indexes. The publishers said that while they have a site-blocking initiative underway with the assistance of the Moscow Court, pirate sites keep deploying mirrors to counter blocking. These quickly appear in Yandex’s indexes, undermining their work. Mail.ru was accused of similar failings. As the owner of social media giants vKontakte, Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and Moi Mir, the company implements anti-piracy fingerprinting technology on vKontakte but AZAPI wants that to be expanded to other services and Mail.ru is currently not complying. According to AZAPI, this creates discriminatory conditions for copyright holders. Federal Antimonopoly Service Rejects AZAPI’s Complaints The recently published decision by FAS, as reviewed by Kommersant, states that while the publishers are not allowed to participate in the anti-piracy memorandum (and therefore have access to the expedited takedown program) that does not amount to discrimination on the part of Yandex. The publishers are still able to file takedown notices with Yandex against pirated content via the company’s regular complaints system, FAS notes, which means that the companies aren’t left without an option to tackle infringing content. More fundamentally, the Federal Antimonopoly Service found that since Yandex and Mail.ru operate in completely different markets to the publishers, there are no reasons to initiate proceedings against either for acting in an anti-competitive manner. Yandex and Mail.ru Welcome The Decision As expected, both companies welcome the decision by FAS not to open cases against them, arguing that the conclusion drawn by the anti-monopoly service makes perfect sense. “We support the FAS decision and are confident that AZAPI’s accusations of unfair competition are groundless. Yandex is not a participant in the book market and does not distribute electronic or audio books,” Yandex’s press office said in a statement. The search giant added that while it takes down copyrighted content as part of the memorandum, all other copyright holders can make use of its regular takedown system. Mail.ru noted that the monopoly service is not the correct platform for this type of dispute. “In our opinion, the FAS decision is obvious: we said earlier that AZAPI’s requirements are not subject to antimonopoly regulation. We always strictly comply with copyright protection legislation,” Mail.ru’s statement reads. Publishers Demand Inclusion Predictably, AZAPI is not happy with the FAS decision and has already indicated it will file an appeal. However, the problem from an enforcement perspective appears to lie with the exclusion of the publishers from participation in the memorandum, the terms of which are being written into law. On that front, progress is on the horizon. During a meeting last December, Maksut Shadayev of the Ministry of Digital Development received a request for publishers to be included in the memorandum and the draft legislation based on it, when it is eventually passed into law. In January 2021, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor confirmed that when the bill is eventually passed, it will enable copyright holders who were previously excluded – including publishers – to take part. “With the adoption of the bill, the mechanisms of combating pirated content worked out during the Memorandum’s validity will be extended to companies that have not signed this document,” the watchdog said. Search Engines Won’t Face Monopoly Investigation Over Pirated Content
  19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMxhIfG0MpY VICE did a short but great documentary on KimDotCom.. i was expecting a little geek w/glasses.. i must admit.. i am rather envious ! PS. i can't figure out how to embed YouTube vids :(
  20. Over the past year or so BitTorrent Inc. has actively distanced itself from piracy on numerous occasions. The San Francisco company emphasize that they are a technology outfit, and stress that they don’t endorse or encourage piracy. While this may be true, the company’s flagship software uTorrent specifically mentions “pirate” terminology such as DVDScr, DVDRip, Satrip and Webrip. Invented more than a decade ago by Bram Cohen, BitTorrent has become the protocol of choice for file-sharers. This includes those who download copyrighted material. While BitTorrent is used by many pirates, the technology itself is neutral and does a lot of good for content creators as well. This is also the message BitTorrent Inc, the parent company of the popular uTorrent client, has tried to communicate over the past year. On numerous occasions the company has distanced itself from those who download infringing content, including the majority of their 150+ million users. “We do not endorse piracy. We do not encourage it. We don’t point to piracy sites. We don’t host any infringing content,” BitTorrent’s CEO said previously. In addition, the company launched a website to show the public that BitTorrent does not equal piracy. BitTorrent is right to stress the legal use of its software, but whether that’s successful is another question. It only draws attention to a connection that they want people to believe is not there, which is the opposite of what they want to achieve. For example, when we tried to setup uTorrent’s RSS downloader at TorrentFreak headquarters the other day we couldn’t help but notice a list of “pirate” terms that were included. The RSS feature allows users to add RSS feeds for various torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, and filter downloads based on search phrases, episode numbers and video quality. This last option includes a dropdown box with several quality options, including DSRip, DVBRip, DVDScr, DVDRip, PDTV, Satrip and WebRip. Most of these terms originate from piracy release groups and have little or no legal use. DVDScr, for example, identifies a ripped copy of DVD screeners that are sent out to reviewers and are not intended for public viewing. Likewise, the terms DVBRip/PDTV are used exclusively by TV-piracy groups to identify the source of a recording. Piracy references in uTorrent / BitTorrent Given BitTorrent’s efforts to distance itself from all things piracy, it was quite a surprise for us to see these references in their most popular software. We can’t think of any RSS feeds with legal content where these filters would come in handy. To find out why these terms were included TorrentFreak asked the company for clarification a couple of weeks ago, but we have yet to receive a response. The listing of these “pirate” terms in uTorrent’s RSS downloader is of course not a crime by itself. However, should the company ever run into legal trouble it won’t be hard for outfits such as the MPAA and RIAA to argue that the feature is facilitating illegal downloading. And that’s exactly what BitTorrent Inc has been trying to avoid with their recent marketing campaigns. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. It was supposed to be the world's toughest anti-piracy regime but Russia's site blocking legislation just isn't working. That's not just the opinion of irate movie and music companies either, but comments from Vladimir Putin himself. In the early days of 2013 it became clear that after years of wavering, Russia was finally going to get tough on Internet piracy. Despite outcry from Internet giants such as Google, and Yandex, the country’s largest search engine, the government pressed ahead with its plans. On August 1, 2013, a new law was passed which would allow sites to be blocked at the ISP level if they failed to respond to copyright infringement complaints in a timely fashion. But despite the legislative teeth, file-sharing sites were not blocked, with many simply complying with takedown demands as required by law. In January 2014, however, the government said that the law was actually having the required effect, with the number of Internet users purchasing legal content going up by 30%. But at the same time there were complaints. The founder of IVI.ru, the country’s leading source of Hollywood-licensed video, said that his company had not benefited from the law. And now it seems that the law’s lack of success is being admitted be people right at the top – the very, very top. During a meeting with members of the House of the Federation Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the legislation introduced in August 2013 had failed to meet its objectives. “This is an extremely important area, and we still have very much to do here,” he told the meeting. “Even after we have adopted these solutions for intellectual property protection in the field of cinema, recent analysis has shown that it does not work as effectively as we expected.” Putin added that despite the new law, pirate movies can appear on websites anywhere and completely undermine the framework. “The effect is that all of our protection is reduced to zero,” the President said. But even though things aren’t working, there are no signs of any retreat. Instead the Russian government is looking to get even more aggressive. “It is necessary to consider additional steps to protect intellectual property rights,” Putin concluded. Work is already underway to expand the current legislation to encompass all content since right now only video is protected. The government is also looking at introducing fines for errant hosting providers and wants to find a way to permanently close sites persistently engaging in piracy. “Sites engaging in piracy professionally (it’s their business) should be closed,” said Vladimir Medina of the Ministry of Culture. But the idea that closing sites will solve the problem was dismissed by a representative from the body in control of .ru domains. Noting that she is reminded of the “Streisand Effect”, where suppressed information only leads to wider dissemination, Olga Alexandrova-Massine said people will find a way to access blocked content. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. Vuze, one of the most-used BitTorrent clients with millions of active users, is speaking out against piracy. The team behind the popular file-sharing software is urging their users not to "steal" from rightsholders. In addition, they encourage people to consider reporting illegal behavior. Following in the footsteps of the makers of uTorrent, the Vuze team is now taking a stand against piracy. The California-based company says it will focus more on highlighting legal content through social media and other outlets. Vuze emphasizes that its technology is completely legal, but wants its users to understand that sharing files without permission of copyright holders isn’t. “Although torrents themselves are a legitimate way to share files, understanding the rights of copyright holders and what content they have or have not authorized for free distribution is the core to understanding the difference between it being legal or illegal to share or distribute content using Vuze,” the company notes. “Remember, if you use Vuze torrent client software for P2P file sharing then use it responsibly. Be aware of illegal torrents and avoid downloading them. Don’t infringe copyright,” Vuze adds. This position is sensible for a technology company to take. Also, Vuze does highlight that copyright is a complex issue, and that there are ongoing discussions with varying positions. The bottom-line according to Vuze, however, is that downloading something without the permission of the owners is stealing. “Now we can get into all sorts of political, social and even religious discussions on this topic, but right now as the laws exist in most places downloading and sharing content without the authorization of the rights-holder is stealing, and even if one copy was purchased, passing digital copies around via P2P is still illegal, sometimes criminally so.” “Sharing and downloading infringing MP3s and MPEGs is virtually the same as swiping from a brick-and-mortar,” Vuze adds. The “stealing” mention is a touchy subject. Many people, including scholars and a U.S. federal court, believe that this term should be avoided when talking about piracy. Even the MPAA’s Chris Dodd agreed on this. “We’re on the wrong track if we describe this as thievery,” Dodd said two years ago, although the MPAA still uses the term today. Vuze, however, doesn’t avoid this type of strong language. The company wants to make it clear that piracy is not allowed. In fact, the company encourages its users to follow suit, and “consider reporting illegal content infractions.” Aside from the promise to highlight legal content on its blog, they also provide some tips for users to spot infringing content. Vuze hopes that with these guidelines, users will be able to steer away from any illegal behavior. “We want to again stress that we respect the rights of copyright holders, and hope and expect that you do too,” Vuze concludes. Whether that’s going to happen remains to be seen. Several studies have shown that more than 90% of all public transfers via BitTorrent are copyright infringing, and it will be hard to flip these numbers around. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. A new study on the effects of the IPRED anti-piracy law in Sweden shows that the legislation increased music sales by 36 percent. At the same time, Internet traffic in the country dropped significantly. The results suggest that the law initially had the desired effect, but the researchers also note this didn't last long. It’s been five years since Sweden implemented the controversial anti-piracy legislation, IPRED. The law, which gives rights holders the authority to request the personal details of alleged copyright infringers, was met with fierce resistance from ISPs and the public at large. At the same time, however, there were plenty of signs that the law stopped people from pirating. A day after it went into effect, Netnod Internet Exchange reported a significant drop in Swedish Internet traffic. Inspired by the anecdote, the effectiveness of IPRED has become a topic of interest for economists at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a new paper they report their findings on the effect of the anti-piracy law on Internet traffic and music sales. The main goal of the research is to examine whether the anti-piracy law did indeed have an effect, and to what extent. To make sure that the effect is unique to Sweden, both Norway and Finland were chosen as control groups. The results, which will be published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, confirm that Internet traffic decreased quite a bit after IPRED went into effect, beginning abruptly the very same day. IPRED’s apparent effect on Internet traffic Perhaps even more surprisingly, music sales also skyrocketed compared to the other two Scandinavian countries. “We find that the reform decreased Internet traffic by 16% and increased music sales by 36% during the first six months. Pirated music therefore seems to be a strong substitute to legal music,” the researchers write, summarizing the results. IPRED’s apparent effect on digital music sales Interestingly, however, the overall effect on Internet traffic and music sales vanished after half a year. The only effect that remained was the increase in digital sales. Internet traffic and physical music sales returned to normal, in part because the chance of getting caught is quite low. “The deterrent effect decreased quickly, possibly because of the few and slow legal processes. Law enforcement through convictions therefore seems to be a necessary ingredient for the long-run success of a copyright protection law,” the researchers note. The researchers suggest that if more people are convicted, the effects may last longer. During the first few years only a handful of file-sharers were brought to justice, while hundreds of thousands took steps to circumvent the law. “As the first court cases were only settled recently, it is still possible that further convictions would restore an effect that is more long-lasting,” they write in their conclusion. The question remains, however, whether bankrupting people or throwing them in jail is the ideal strategy in the long run… Source: TorrentFreak
  24. A lawsuit hitting the Moscow City Court next month is aiming to deal with TV show piracy on a much broader basis than case-by-case takedowns. Brought by the local distributor of 15 shows including Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, the suit will aim to purge a wide range of unauthorized TV content from more than a dozen sites. Since August 2013, rightsholders in Russia have enjoyed greater powers to help them deal with websites carrying or linking to pirated movies and TV shows. The pre-trial mechanism allows for the imposition of so-called “preliminary interim measures” should the sites in question fail to remove or block infringing content in a timely fashion. These can include a court ordered service provider blockade of specific URLs. The process has been used dozens of times during the past ten months or so. Earlier this month the Moscow City Court took action to restrict the availability of 15 TV shows illegally posted online including Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, True Blood and American Horror Story. Several torrent site URLs were ordered to be blocked by ISPs, including those on the popular RuTor.org. Now, just a week later, the local exclusive rightsholder of the above shows plus others including Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, Homeland, Girls and True Blood, wants to have its content completely blocked on a wide range of sites. The case is being brought by “A Series” and will begin in the Moscow City Court next month. According to Rapsinews, July 10 has been set aside for pre-trial preparations and to clarify the requirements of the parties, including a call for evidence and addressing other issues relevant to the forthcoming trial. The lawsuit will target more than a dozen sites and BitTorrent trackers including rutor.org, lostfilm.tv, bigcinema.tv and gamethrones.ru, most of which have been targeted in previous actions. News of the lawsuit arrives following the announcement of an agreement between the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Culture to beef up the law introduced last year. A source inside the government told Izvestia that the text of a new anti-piracy bill has been finalized and will be submitted to the Duma in the near future. While the law’s new stricter provisions will be welcomed by rightsholders, the music industry will again be disappointed. Movies and TV shows are covered by current law, but music is not, and the package of amendments about to be presented will not see the introduction of music protection until 2016. Source: TorrentFreak
  25. There are many ways to tackle the issue of online piracy and Louisiana State University has decided on its approach. At the bottom end, offenders will experience a temporary Internet disconnection, with repeat offenders receiving fines and potentially career-damaging notes on their education records. Anyone providing an Internet-access infrastructure to third parties needs to be aware of the online piracy issue. For service providers, whether that’s a regular ISP, web host, or the operator of a free open WiFi in a local coffee shop, knowledge of how other people’s actions can affect them is a useful asset. For universities in the United States, awareness of how Internet piracy can affect their establishment is especially crucial. On top of the requirements of the DMCA, in July 2010, exactly four years ago, the U.S. put in place a new requirement for colleges and universities to curtail illegal file-sharing on their networks. Failure to do so can result in the loss of federal funding so needless to say, campuses view the issue seriously. Yesterday the The Daily Reveille, the official news resource of the Louisiana State University, revealed that LSU’s IT Services receive between 15 and 20 complaints a month from copyright holders, an excellent result for around 30,000 students. At the start of the last decade it was music companies doing most of the complaining, but Security and policy officer Craig Callender says that with the advent of services such as Spotify being made available, reports from TV companies are more common. But no matter where they originate, LSU acts on these allegations of infringement. A first complaint sees a student kicked offline, with Internet access only restored after the completion of an educational course covering illegal file-sharing. Those who breach the rules again have worse to look forward to, starting with a fine. “LSU is effectively combating unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material by fining students implicated in a verified DMCA copyright violation,” the university’s official policy document reads. “The $50 fine provides a mechanism for recovering costs incurred in reviewing and processing DMCA notifications, and funding programs for awareness (e.g., education and ad campaign costs).” Educational campaigns include the promotion of legal services, such as those outlined on the university’s chosen official resource list. Interestingly, while the links for music and books work, the MPAA page for legal TV shows and movies (for which the university receives the most notices) no longer exists. But while the $50 fine might be harsh enough for a student on a limited budget, LSU warns of even tougher sanctions. Allegations of illegal file-sharing are noted on the student’s academic record which can have implications for his or her career prospects. In addition, complaints can result in a referral to the Dean of Students’ office for violation of the LSU Code of Student Conduct. According to official documentation, the Student Conduct Office keeps Student Conduct files for seven years after the date of the incident, or longer if deemed necessary. It’s clear that the work of the RIAA and MPAA in the last decade seriously unnerved universities who have been forced to implement strict measures to curtail unauthorized sharing. LSU says it employs filtering technology to eliminate most P2P traffic but it’s clear that some users are getting through. Almost certainly others will be using VPN-like solutions to evade not only the P2P ban, but also potential complaints. Still, universities will probably care much less about these users, since they don’t generate DMCA notices and have no impact on their ability to receive federal funding. Source: TorrentFreak
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