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  1. Following a request from a local anti-piracy group, Greek ISPs are required to block access to block over 200 new domain names. Most of the targeted domains are proxies for The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and YTS. The order, issued by a special Government-affiliated commission, also denied one blocking request because the targeted domain is not similar to a previously blocked site. ISP blocking has become a prime measure for the entertainment industry to target pirate sites on the Internet. The practice has been around for over a decade and has gradually expanded to dozens of countries around the world. This is also the case in Greece, where the first blockades were issued in 2018. The Greek blocks are overseen by the IPPC, a special commission at the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports that acts following complaints from rightsholders. The Greek system is different from that of many other countries because it doesn’t involve a court. It’s an administrative procedure which allows copyright holders to swiftly request pirate site blockades, without the need for lengthy and costly legal proceedings. The most recent blocking request was filed by the Society for the Protection of Audiovisual Works (EPOE), a local anti-piracy group that represents the interests of major Greek copyright holders. The company previously obtained a blocking order against The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and YTS, but requested to expand it. Blocking Pirate Proxies and Alternatives While the original order does its job, Greek pirates swiftly moved to alternative proxy sites. The anti-piracy group, therefore, asked more than 200 of these Pirate Bay, 1337x, and YTS proxies to be blocked as well. Following careful deliberation, the IPPC decided to expand the Greek pirate site blockade. The Government organization concluded that, for the vast majority of the domains, the database, structure, graphics, and user-interface were substantially similar to the sites that were blocked originally. In addition to The Pirate Bay, 1337x, and YTS, several subtitle domains, and local pirate sites including GamaTV were targeted as well. One Request Denied Before issuing a new order, the owners of the domains were given the option to object to the request. This includes the administrator of subtitle site subs4series.com, who claimed that his site was wrongfully targeted. The blocking application claimed that subs4series.com was similar to the previously blocked subs4free.info, which the site’s administrator denied. The Government organization agreed and rejected the requested blockade. “After the relevant research, it appears that the site with the domain name subs4series.com does not redirect to the site with the domain name subs4free.info. Therefore, according to the relevant allegation of the applicant, there is no violation, as it concerns the no. 3/2018 decision of the Commission for the Internet Infringement of Intellectual Property,” IPPC writes. The blocking order is valid for three years and applies to all Greek Internet providers. They’re given 48 hours to add the 264 new domains to their blocklists, including more than 120 Pirate Bay proxies. If the companies fail to comply they risk a fine of €850 per day. —- A copy of the most recent blocking order, issued by IPPC, is available here (pdf) This also includes a list of all targeted domains Source: TorrentFreak
  2. The largest university in Denmark has signed a code of conduct with local anti-piracy outfit Rights Alliance to block access to pirate sites. Aarhus University will voluntarily prevent its 38,000 students from accessing sites that have previously been ruled illegal by a court, but without being served with a court order itself. Today’s site-blocking measures to counter online copyright infringement may seem relatively new but Denmark has been engaged in the practice for almost 15 years. Pirate Site Blocking in Denmark After initial target AllofMP3 was first ordered to be blocked by local ISP Tele2 back in 2006 following action by the IFPI, anti-piracy group Rights Alliance picked up the baton. As a result, almost 500 sites are now blocked by ISPs in the country but not all are legally required to do so. This is the result of a Code of Conduct agreed with local Internet providers, which voluntarily block pirate sites once a court has ruled them to be illegal. This agreement was renewed in the summer and now helps to quickly block torrent, streaming and similar platforms that switch domains or deploy proxies to circumvent blocking orders. Interestingly, it now transpires that Rights Alliance has managed to expand this voluntary scheme beyond consumer ISPs to encompass the country’s largest university. University Will Block Pirate Site Access Based in the second-largest city in Denmark, Aarhus University currently plays host to 38,000 students, 1,800 PhD students, and 8,000 employees. After being established in 1928, it’s now the country’s largest university and probably has its fair share of students choosing to scoop up movies, TV shows and music from pirate sites. That, however, will be more difficult moving forward. On August 20, 2020, Rights Alliance and Aarhus University entered into a Code of Conduct Agreement that requires the education facility to prevent users of its network from accessing pirate sites. Whether a site is given this label will be down to the courts, which will have to rule that a site is seriously infringing before it gets blocked under the agreement. According to Rights Alliance, which reported the news Monday, the agreement will put the university on an equal footing with the country’s Internet service providers when it comes to voluntary action against pirate sites. Progress Welcomed by Rights Alliance, Expansion Sought “The illegal services are run by criminals and undermine the livelihoods of creative producers. It is therefore crucial that the blocking of the services is as effective as possible, and that public institutions and the like that offer Internet access participate in the blocking effort,” a statement from the anti-piracy group reads. “The fact that an institution as large and significant as Aarhus University engages and participates in the efforts against illegal services helps to ensure the effectiveness of the Rights Alliance’s blocking efforts against the illegal market, thereby strengthening the strength of Danish cooperation between rights holders, Internet providers and authorities.” As the founder of pirate site blocking as we know it today, Denmark is keen to expand its efforts in this arena. Rights Alliance is now looking for other “significant network providers and institutions” to join its voluntary scheme in order to put further pressure on the pirate market. Source: TorrentFreak
  3. Canada's Federal Court of Appeal has to decide whether the country's first pirate site blocking order can stay in place. Internet provider Teksavvy objected to the far-reaching measures but, according to a new filing from media companies Bell, Rogers, and TVA, website blocking is lawful and much-needed. Last year Canada’s Federal Court approved the first pirate site blocking order in the country. Following a complaint from major media companies Rogers, Bell and TVA, the Court ordered several major ISPs to block access to domains and IP-addresses of the pirate IPTV service GoldTV. There was little opposition from Internet providers, except for TekSavvy, which quickly announced that it would appeal the ruling. The blocking injunction threatens the open Internet and is not permitted under Canadian law, the company argued. Landmark Case What started out as a small copyright case against a relatively unknown IPTV provider transformed into a landmark court battle. If upheld, the order would open the door to dozens, if not hundreds, of similar blocking requests. As such, the appeal attracted widespread interest. Over the past months, various stakeholders had their say in court, to oppose or support the site-blocking measures. Last week, respondents Rogers, Bell and TVA filed their memorandum of facts at the Federal Court of Appeal, to argue in favor of the blocking order. The three companies are copyright holders but Bell and Rogers are also Internet providers, which means that they themselves have to implement site blocking as well. They will gladly do so of course, as they see no other option to bring online piracy to a halt. Pirates Continue to Evolve According to Rogers, Bell and TVA, pirates continue to evolve. Over time, this has made it harder to stop them, especially when the operators of pirate sites and services are anonymous. “Over the years, the tools used to distribute infringing content have moved from physical media, to satellite signal piracy, to peer-to peer Internet systems, to online streaming. Each new technological advance brings infringing content closer to users, while at the same time allowing infringers to move away from the spotlight and remain anonymous,” the companies write. The companies started this legal battle by filing a lawsuit against the pirate IPTV service GoldTV. This resulted in a court order that required the operators to halt their activities. However, the order was simply ignored. With few other options left, the rightsholders asked for a site-blocking injunction, which was granted. According to TekSavvy, this order violates Canadian law and regulation, which is now the focus of the appeal. Site Blocking Not Mentioned in Copyright Act One of the main contested issues is whether courts can grant site-blocking injunctions under Canada’s Copyright Act. According to TekSavvy, they can’t, as this enforcement effort isn’t specifically mentioned in the law. This is where Canada differs from many other countries where site-blocking injunctions were issued. In the EU, for example, the availability of site-blocking measure injunctions is codified in the European Parliament’s Copyright Directive. TekSavvy argued that without a specific or explicit mention in the law, blocking injunctions shouldn’t be granted. However, in their memorandum, the copyright holders disagree. They argue that courts should have “unfettered discretion” to issue any type of injunction if a party’s copyrights are at stake. “In order to argue that a type of injunction is unavailable, it is therefore not sufficient to demonstrate that the Copyright Act does not explicitly grant that power. Rather, a clear statutory restriction of the Court’s inherent injunctive powers must be identified,” they write. Net Neutrality? Another argument that was brought up in the appeal deals with net neutrality. TekSavvy mentioned that the Canadian telecoms regulator CRTC is the proper authority to decide on blocking orders. After all, ISPs are not allowed to meddle with traffic without CRTC’s approval. Bell and the other rightsholders disagree. They note that, in this case, the ISPs don’t decide unilaterally to block content. They do so following a court order, which should be allowed. “The present case does not involve a common carrier unilaterally controlling or influencing the content it carries at its own discretion,” they write. “Rather, it involves the Court concluding that a communication is illegal on a strong and uncontested prima facie basis and, as a result, enjoining common carriers to block access to that content” Bookstore Analogy The copyright holders go into detail on a variety of other issues and also touch on the possible freedom of expression concerns. To illustrate this, TekSavvy used a bookstore analogy where ISPs were ordered to remove “books” from “virtual shelves”. This is not disputed by Bell, Rogers and TVA. They follow the analogy but stress that, in this case, the books are clearly illegal and that the “authors” and “publishers” (the pirate IPTV service) can’t be reached. “While the injunction under appeal ‘removes books from the virtual shelves’ of ISPs serving the majority of Canadian Internet users, these ‘books’ do not contain expression that could attract Charter protection, and they are clearly illegal,” they note. As with every appeal, it will ultimately be up to the court to decide the outcome. Depending on one’s own conviction, there is something to say for both sides. However, it will ultimately depend on how the Federal Court of Appeal interprets the law. — A copy of the memorandum of fact and law, submitted by Bell, Rogers and TVA, is available here (pdf) Source: TorrentFreak
  4. In other countries, the UK is often used as a prime example of how pirate site-blocking injunctions can function effectively. However, over the past several years, movie and music companies haven't requested any new blocks. As a result, new pirate sites can flourish, for now. Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries. The UK has been a leader on this front. Since 2011, the High Court has ordered ISPs to block access to many popular pirate sites. While official numbers are lacking, it’s believed that thousands of URLs are currently blocked, targeting sites such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG, Fmovies, NewAlbumReleases, and Team-Xecuter. UK Site Blocking Set an Example The UK approach has set an example for many other countries and has been used to argue in favor of site blocking measures in other regions including Australia and Canada. More recently, the UK example was highlighted in a US Senate hearing, with Hollywood’s MPA praising its effectiveness. “Studies in the UK and Australia have shown that this can lead to statistically significant and meaningful increases in legal online consumption. In that respect, the injunctive remedy in the European Union, the UK, Australia, and elsewhere has been decidedly more effective than the endless cycle of DMCA notice sending,” MPA’s Stan McCoy said. The comment was made to support a new push for ‘no-fault’ site-blocking injunctions in the US. The MPA speaks from personal experience here, as it was the driving force behind several UK court orders. That said, McCoy’s testimony leaves out some important context. Pirate Sites Flourish While the MPA is pushing site blocking in the US, the UK efforts have completely died down. The last blocking request from Hollywood studios dates back roughly years ago. Similarly, there hasn’t been any request from record labels since 2013. As a result, new pirate sites, and those that haven’t been blocked, were able to grow their audiences without much trouble. And indeed, if we take a look at the 500 most visited sites in the UK, names including Magnetdl, Filmix, Lookmovie, Rutor, and 9anime show up. For a site such as Magnetdl, roughly a quarter of all traffic comes from the UK, where the site isn’t blocked. Why No New Requests? This begs the question; if site blocking is so extremely effective in curbing piracy, why aren’t there any new requests? We reached out to the MPA’s EMEA office, which was kind enough to comment on the matter but didn’t offer any answers. “The MPA EMEA is continuing with site blocking across Europe. Site blocking is a legitimate and effective way of halting the spread of online piracy. Piracy affects everyone involved in the creative process – from the songwriters to authors and the makeup artists, a spokesperson informed us “Site blocking builds on years of work, and forms just one pillar of the MPA EMEA’s overall enforcement strategy. Online infringement is complex, and there is no single answer to addressing it.” Costs Play a Role Reading between the lines it appears that the MPA prefers to focus on other anti-piracy efforts, at least in the UK. This is likely the result of a cost-benefit analysis. Although it wouldn’t be hard to apply for new pirate site blockades, these anti-piracy measures come at a cost. Previously, it was estimated that an unopposed application for a section 97A blocking order costs roughly £14,000 per site, while maintaining it costs an additional £3,600 per year. With hundreds of blocked sites, the costs are quite significant, to say the least. BPI Will Request Stream Ripper Blocks in 2021 The music industry may have similar reasons. In recent years they have complained repeatedly about the copyright-infringing nature of YouTube rippers, but there haven’t been any attempts to have these sites blocked. That will change though. We reached out to the UK music group BPI which says that it still sees site blocking as a valuable tool. The group hasn’t requested any new blocks in years but it will soon request blocks against stream rippers. “There are a range of tools that we use to reduce stream ripping and music piracy in all its forms in the UK. We also expect others who are in positions of responsibility within the digital economy to do more.” “Website blocking is an important and very effective part of our tool kit and is used in a proportionate way. BPI intends to seek the High Court’s judgment in relation to stream rippers in 2021,” a BPI spokesperson added. While the movie and music industries have other priorities, site-blocking powers are not completely unused. In recent years various sports organizations, including UEFA and the Premier League, have repeatedly requested and renewed IP-address blocks of illegal IPTV services. Source: TorrentFreak
  5. In the summer a group of major Hollywood studios, Netflix, and other movie companies filed a new pirate site blocking application in Australia. The list contained plenty of obviously infringing sites but also the domains of Iran's 'YouTube' and an Israeli newspaper. The Federal Court has now awarded the injunction but following our initial report, both contentious domains have been removed. For the past several years, entertainment industry companies have been utilizing legislation in Australia that allows for the blocking of ‘pirate’ sites. Movie studios, TV companies and record labels have all taking advantage of the process, filing applications with the Federal Court to have obviously infringing sites blocked by ISPs, to reduce the number of subscribers accessing the platforms from within Australia. The overwhelming majority of applications have contained no obvious major issues, with rightsholders demanding that popular torrent, streaming and similar platforms should be rendered inaccessible by direct means. However, an application filed in the summer raised questions over a pair of domains that at best seemed outliers in the original 78-site list. Application for Injunction Filed in July 2020 The application, filed by companies including Disney, Netflix, Village Roadshow, and Warner Bros., requested an injunction that would compel around 50 ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG and Vodafone to block access to more than 100 domains. Many well-known platforms including 0gomovies.org, 1377x.to, best-series.me, pirateproxy.wtf, warez-bb.org, kissasian.sh, and bs.to, were included in the list but two in particular caught our eye. Aparat is often referred to as Iran’s YouTube. It is one of the most-visited sites in the world and the second most-visited site in Iran, where only Google.com gets more traffic. Like many user-uploaded content sites (YouTube included), it has its fair share of copyright infringement issues but the claim from the applicants, that the site’s “primary purpose or effect” is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright, seemed a bit of a stretch. At the time, TorrentFreak reached out to Aparat for a comment on the inclusion of its domain on the list. We also approached the attorney for the movie companies but neither responded. Interestingly, however, at some Aparat was removed from the application but given the lack of documentation at the courts, the precise reason remains unknown. Another unusual entry in the original application was the domain of Israeli newspaper Kul al-Arab. Founded in 1987 and published on a weekly basis, the paper is said to be Israel’s most influential and widely read Arabic-language periodical. While that may be its main area of business, however, the site also has a VOD section, something which may have triggered the complaint process. Nevertheless, like Aparat, Kul al-Arab was also removed from the application at some point. Injunction Handed Down By The Federal Court After adjustments (two other platforms have also been removed, possibly due to inactivity), the final injunction handed down by Justice Steven Rares now targets 74 allegedly infringing platforms (four less than the original application) accessible via 112 domains, all of which must be blocked by the respondent ISPs which together cover most of the Australian market. Notable inclusions are domains operated by torrent site variants 1337x and 1377x, torrent index TorrentGalaxy, various Pirate Bay proxy sites, domains connected to infamous Indian torrent site Tamilrockers, warez portal Warez-bb, YouTube-ripping platform Y2Mate, TV show platforms BS.to and S.to, plus several rising anime sites. (Full list below) “I am satisfied that the owners have taken all reasonable steps to notify each person who operates the targeted sites,” writes Justice Rares in the order. “The owners’ solicitors sought to provide the respective site operators with notice of this proceeding and the relief sought against the site operators through communication to email address, postal address (where it could be found), or the online ‘contact us’ facility offered by the sites. Some of the targeted sites do not appear to offer any facility for receiving such contact. Others gave perfunctory acknowledgments.” The Judge notes that, in his opinion, an order requiring the ISPs to block the sites represents a “proportionate response to the scale and flagrancy of infringing conduct in the circumstances.” Acknowledging that the blocking will negatively affect the pirate sites’ business models, Justice Rares adds that the interference the judgment will cause is necessary to protect the applicants’ rights. “Moreover, I consider that it is in the public interest to disable access to each targeted site. That is because the sites seek to undermine the lawful rights of the owners and others to the protection of their intellectual property,” he concludes. The full judgment published October 15, 2020 can be found here Full list of blocked sites/domains: 1. 0goMovies (0gomovies.org / 2gomovies.net) 2. 123putlocker (123putlocker.to / 123putlocker.is) 3. 1337x torrent (1337xtorrent.net / 1337x.am) 4. 1337x.am (1337x.am) 5. 1377x.to (1337xto.to / 1377x.is / 1377x.to) 6. 91mjw (91mjw.com) 7. alarab.com (not blocked, removed from application/injunction) 8. aparat.com (not blocked, removed from application/injunction) 9. azm (azm.to) 10. best-series (best-series.me) 11. Cmovies (cmovies.ws / c-movies.cc) 12. europix.pro (europix.biz / europix.pro) 13. europixhd (europixhd.io / europixhd.net / europixhd.pro) 14. Fshare TV (fsharetv.co) 15. halimthemes (123moviesoknow.com / all123movies.com / ww2.123moviesoknow.com) 16. iyingshi6 (iyingshi6.tv) 17. limetorrents2020 (limetorrents.buzz / limetorrents2020.xyz) 18. mlcboard (mlcboard.com) 19. Movie INDOXXI (movieindoxxi.me / ligaxxi.me) 20. movies123 (movies123.ag / movies123.sc) 21. movies123.design (movies123.design) 22. movies123.email (movies123.email) 23. movies123.pics (movies123.pics) 24. movies123.sh (movies123.sh) 25. movies123.work (movies123.work) 26. mybinoo (imybinoo.org) 27. Myflixer (myflixer.com / myflixer.to) 28. Noxx (noxx.to) 29. ololo (ololo.to) 30. piratebay-proxylist (piratebay-proxylist.net / piratebay-proxylist.se) 31. pirateproxy (pirateproxy.wtf) 32. poku.tv (not blocked, removed from application/injunction) 33. Project Free TV (projectfreetv.fun) 34. putlockers.bz (putlockers.bz) 35. putlockers.date (putlockers.date) 36. rezka (rezka.ag) 37. soap2day (soap2day.com, .im, .is, .se, .to, .org) 38. sockshare.ag (sockshare.ag) 39. tamilrockers.ws (tamilrockers.com / tamilrockers.ws) 40. Tinyzone (tinyzone.tv / tinyzonetv.to) 41. torrentgalaxy (torrentgalaxy.to) 42. tvhay (tvhay.org) 43. unblockit (unblockit.top, .bid, .biz, .one, .red) 44. Vidcloud (vidcloud9.com) 45. warez-bb (warez-bb.org) 46. Watch Series (mywatchseries.stream) 47. watchonlinemovies (moviesonline.com.pk / moviesonlinewatch.com.pk / movieswatch.com.pk / watchmovies7.com.pk) 48. watchseries.net (watchseries.net) 49. watchseriesHD (watchserieshd.co) 50. watch-seriesHD (watch-serieshd.cc) 51. watchserieshd.tv (watchserieshd.tv) 52. world4ufree (world4ufree.top, .work, .blue, .casa, .host, .icu, .life, .surf) 53. x1337x.eu (x1337x.eu) 54. Y2mate.com (Y2mate.com) 55. Y80s.com (Y80s.com) 56. yifytorrent.pro (yifytorrent.pro) 57. Bs (bs.to) 58. S (s.to) 59. AnimeKisa (animekisa.tv) 60. Anime4You (anime4you.one) 61. Animeram (animeram.cc) 62. 123anime (123anime.cc) 63. Animeflix (Animeflix.to) 64. 4anime (4anime.to) 65. Darkanime Stream (app.darkanime.stream) 66. AnimePill (animepill.com) 67. Anime Simple (animesimple.com) 68. AnimeSim (not blocked, removed from application/injunction) 69. AniMixPlay (animixplay.com) 70. 14tv (14tv.com) 71. Bestdrama (destdrama.net) 72. Dramanice (dramanice.movie / dramanice.site) 73. haitum.com (haitum.com) 74. Have8 (have8.tv) 75. Hktvdrama (Hktvdrama.com) 76. Kissasian (kissasian.sh, .ch) 77. loldytt (loldytt.com) 78. newasiantv (newasiantv.tv) Source: TorrentFreak
  6. Google has reached a new voluntary agreement with copyright holders in Australia. The search engine promises to block proxies and mirrors of pirate sites without a court order. The new agreement aims to fix a loophole that made alternative addresses of blocked pirate sites easy to find. Years ago, Australia was often described as a hotbed for piracy. This was a thorn in the side of copyright holders, who repeatedly asked the Government to help out. On the top of their list was new legislation that would make it possible to compel ISPs to block pirate sites. In 2015 this wish became reality with the passing of Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act. Soon after the amendments became law, the first blocking requests were submitted and since then ISPs have been ordered to block hundreds of sites. The entertainment industry was happy with this new enforcement tool. However, they also felt that it wasn’t enough. Village Roadshow’s Graham Burke, in particular, took aim at Google and other search engines, which still indexed these pirate sites and many alternatives. The Proxy and Mirror Loophole To address these and other loopholes, new legislation was passed in 2018 which made it easier for proxies and mirrors to be blocked. In addition, it also opened the door to a new type of measure that required search engines to block pirate sites. Initially, Google fiercely opposed the new plans but in a surprise move last year, the search engine voluntarily agreed to remove hundreds of sites from its Australian search results. This agreement was made without a court order. Instead, Google chose to remove sites that the ISPs were already blocking. This was a step forward in the eyes of the rightsholders, but it was far from perfect. After being blocked, pirate sites would simply switch to new domains which are easy to find through search engines. While these are eventually covered through updated court orders, the process can take weeks. “The pirates are taking advantage of the lag time between their criminal mirror site going up by changing one letter and us taking three or four weeks to go back through the court system,” Burke, who’s also the Chair of Creative Content Australia, told SMH. Google Steps Up its Anti-Piracy Game, Again To fix this ‘loophole’ Google has now agreed to a new arrangement that goes even further. In an agreement with copyright holders, Google promises to de-index mirrors and proxies as soon as they are reported. This will happen before a court order is issued, without any judicial oversight. That said, it only applies to (presumed) alternative locations of domains that have previously been targeted by a blocking injunction. This effectively addresses the mirror and proxy problem while the rightsholders are still in the process of getting an updated court order. By doing so, it will be harder for pirates to find alternative domain names. “This is shutting down that loophole and it’s massive,” Burke said. Did Google Have a Change of Heart? Google’s cooperative stance runs counter to comments that were made earlier by the search engine. The company repeatedly argued that removing full domains from its search results is dangerous. In addition, it actively protested Australia’s blocking plans when they were announced. TorrentFreak asked Google for a comment on the new voluntary agreement and how it differs from its previous statements, but the company didn’t immediately respond. Speaking with SMH, the search engine said that it hopes this measure will help address the piracy problem. “We are hopeful these measures will be a welcome step towards protecting copyright and will provide a faster solution for rightsholders,” Lucinda Longcroft, director of public policy at Google Australia said. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. As a former Member of the European Parliament for the Pirate Party, Julia Reda has a wealth of experience with copyright legislation. This is recognized by the U.S. Senate, which invited Reda to share her knowledge with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. Answering follow-up questions from several senators, she stresses that affordable legal options are the best anti-piracy tool. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is currently in the process of finding ways through which the U.S. can better address online piracy. The initiative, launched by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, aims to hear experts from various sides, to get a balanced view of the challenges and opportunities. During a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee earlier this month, key movie industry players argued that pirate site blocking and upload filtering are viable and effective options. However, not everyone agreed with this conclusion. The senators also heard Julia Reda, former MEP for the Pirate Party, who currently works as a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. In her initial testimony, Reda pointed out that the EU’s ‘indirect’ upload filter requirements, which are part of last year’s copyright reform, are problematic. Reda’s comments and presentation triggered several follow up questions from senators, who asked her to address some issues in more detail. These answers, which came in a few days ago, caution against stringent measures such as site blocking and upload filters. Responding to a question from Committee Chairman Tillis, Reda stresses that instead of focusing on restrictions and legislation, the best answer to piracy lies in the hands of copyright holders and the broader entertainment industry. “When it comes to reducing copyright infringement online, I am convinced that the availability of affordable, attractive legal streaming services is paramount,” Reda writes, adding that legal options have made music piracy less relevant. The former MEP acknowledges that piracy continues to be a major challenge in the TV and movie industries. However, she attributes this in large part to increased fragmentation and the lack of an affordable all-in-one video platform. “While legal video streaming services have grown rapidly in popularity and revenue over the recent years, there is still a lack of comprehensive video streaming services that give users access to all the content they want to see in one place,” Reda writes. “Exclusive deals between rightsholders and streaming services are much more common than in the music industry, therefore users have to choose between a large number of different streaming services with distinct offerings. Subscribing to all major streaming services is not affordable to the average consumer,” she adds. Next up is the response to Senator Chris Coons, who asked Reda specifically about her views on website blocking and upload filtering. These measures were presented as effective anti-piracy tools by copyright holders. Reda, however, sees things differently. While she mentions that legal scholars are best placed to evaluate the applicability in the US context, caution against site-blocking measures is warranted. For example, it can raise free speech concerns when there is overblocking, which has happened in the EU on a few occasions. “From a free speech perspective, it is very difficult to implement site blocking that only blocks illegal content without adversely affecting users’ rights to access legal content,” Reda writes. In addition, blocking can make security measures more difficult. This includes the use of DNSSEC, which can be used against phishing attacks but uses the same re-routing techniques as website blockades. Free speech is also a problem with upload filters, Reda warns. She points out that automated filters can’t check for factors such as fair use, something even the providers of filtering tools themselves openly admit. “I don’t think there is any possibility, neither today nor in the near to medium-term future, to automate these decisions,” Reda writes. “Therefore, upload filters for copyrighted content will always lead to many instances of overblocking of legal speech, as many examples of automated notices sent under the current notice-and-takedown regime illustrate.” Instead, Reda again points out that facilitating the development of affordable legal sources is a more reliable strategy. This is also the message in response to questions from Senator Richard Blumenthal, who asked whether there are any examples of statutes or technological tools that have proven to curb online piracy. Instead of focusing on enforcements or restrictions, Reda once again turns the tables, highlighting that the entertainment industry holds the key. “When tracking the history of online copyright infringement over the course of the last 25 years, the single most successful intervention to increase industry revenues and reduce copyright infringement has been the introduction of affordable, convenient legal alternatives. “I believe that rather than a legislative intervention, the support of better legal offers for online content is the more successful strategy to curb online copyright infringement and produce new revenue streams,” Reda adds. These views are obviously one side of the debate. As we previously highlighted, copyright holders see things quite differently. It will be interesting to see if and how the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property can find some common ground. Julia Reda’s full answers to the senators’ questions are available here (pdf). Source
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