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  1. Copyright law is rarely straightforward, something which leaves some situations open to interpretation. Today we take a look at some activities people believe they may be able to partake in legally but in most circumstances almost certainly can't. Two decades ago, when obtaining and consuming digital content via the Internet was a mere twinkle in most people’s eyes, knowledge of copyright law was strictly the domain of the experts. Today the landscape has been transformed. With file-sharing, streaming and downloading now something carried out by millions of Internet users, not to mention the masses who upload content to YouTube and social media every day, most people now have at least a rudimentary grip on what behavior could lead them into trouble. On the fringes, however, are activities that at first view may seem borderline acceptable, often because they seem relatively reasonable, even if some require a little creative thinking. The questions/statements below regularly appear on discussion forums when people are trying to carve themselves a safe niche under the law. As we will see, solid ground can be difficult to come by. Movies and TV Shows Is it legal to stream pirated movies and TV shows as long as I’m not sharing them using torrents? The confusion here seems to have its roots in differing mechanisms of delivery and distribution. When it comes to streaming, a permanent copy of a movie or TV show isn’t stored on the users’ machine, neither is it uploaded to other users. With torrents, on the other hand, a permanent copy is stored and also distributed to people sharing the same content. What we know, particularly given the thousands of copyright troll lawsuits around the world, is that downloading and sharing copyrighted content using BitTorrent is definitely illegal. What we also know is that in the EU, following a ruling from the area’s highest court, is that it is categorically illegal to stream unlicensed content from an unlicensed source. While some may choose to split hairs and try to predict what may or may not happen in courts elsewhere in the future, it seems extremely unlikely that streaming pirated content from a source that is unlicensed by rightsholders could ever be seen as legal. That said, tracking people who only stream movies and TV shows from third-party sources is fraught with difficulty so while it is probably illegal in any country with robust copyright laws, doing so anywhere is far less risky than using torrents. I subscribe to Netflix and can download a copy of a movie/TV show from there. Can I legally download a copy from the Internet to keep? Having a subscription to Netflix allows the user to do all the things that Netflix allows under the terms of the subscription. This includes watching movies and TV shows on the Netflix platform for the duration of the customer’s contract. It does not extend to any other activity, including obtaining the content from anywhere else via streaming, torrents or downloads. Videogames and Software I buy videogames legally but hate DRM including Denuvo. If I own the original, can I legally download a cracked copy from the Internet as well? While there can always be exceptions depending on the terms of the purchase, in most instances ‘owning’ a copy of a game does not necessarily mean that people actually own it. What they have obtained is a license to use and play that game within the specific terms of that license. Those terms never state that it’s permissible to download a DRM-free version from a pirate site. I own a game on Xbox, can I legally download a copy for Playstation and/or PC too? This is again covered by the licensing issue detailed above. When people obtain a copy of a game for Xbox or any other platform, the license that comes with the title governing how it can be used is unlikely to allow people to download a pirate copy for another system. If in an exceptional circumstance it did, that would be made very clear and in that case only, obtaining a secondary copy would be entirely legal. However, it would be extremely unlikely for a games company to instruct people to obtain that copy from a pirate source which in itself would be unlicensed to distribute. In any event, that would probably involve torrents or file-hosting sites offering cracked, aka illegal copies, something that companies never openly tolerate. As I already bought Windows 10 for another computer, is it ok to download a cracked copy for use on another computer? Yet again, this is an issue of licensing. When using Windows 10 or indeed any other software, people need a license to use that software. In the event that the license covers usage of the software on a single machine, obtaining another copy from elsewhere and using it on another machine would not be covered. Regardless of where the copy was obtained, a second or in some cases enhanced license is generally required. I want to test a piece of software before buying it. Is it legal to obtain a cracked copy as long as I delete it after seven days if it doesn’t suit me? This is one of those urban myths that has persisted since the early days of ‘warez’ (pirate software), where piracy groups provided cracked copies on the basis they should be used for a limited period and then deleted if unsuitable. While in some instances people are allowed to make backups of software they have legitimately acquired, copyright law doesn’t have a ‘trial’ clause which permits people to break the law for a limited period and then get off the hook later providing they do the ‘right thing’. While many downloaders still obtain cracked software on this ‘for-testing’ basis, they would be much better off checking out the legitimate provider to see if they already offer this thing of service – many do. Conclusion: If it Sounds Piratey, It Probably Is By their very nature, laws are usually complex and limited to geographical areas. As a result, someone, somewhere will probably dig out their interpretation of local law in order to justify why some or indeed all of the above points are entirely legal or in a ‘gray area’ where they live. That being said, most questions usually have clues in their titles. So, if someone is asking if it’s legal to download a pirated and cracked game from a pirate site without paying the people who made it, they probably haven’t thought it through. Or, more commonly, are just trying to see if they can get the necessary wiggle-room and authorization to go ahead and do it anyway. Source
  2. Actor Vijay's 'Bigil' which hit the screens today is one of the most anticipated film of this year. Even while the fans are enjoying the film on the big screens, the film is now available for download online. 'Bigil' has become the latest victim of online piracy as illegal piracy website Tamilrockers has leaked the film online within a few hours of its release. Bigil is said to be a sports drama with a high-octane action flavour added to it as actor Vijay is playing the role of a football coach in the film. This is the third time the Atlee is joining hands with Thalapathy Vijay. The film also has Nayanthara playing the female lead and a strong supporting cast which includes Pariyerum Perumal fame Kathir, senior and versatile actor Jackie Shoff who is said to play the antagonist, Yogi Babu and senior Comedian Vivek who is sharing screen space with Vijay after a long time. Earlier films like Petta, Viswasam and 2.0 were leaked online by the notorious piracy website. Tamilrockers continues to work through proxy servers and keeps changing its domain even after a direct order against them by the Madras High Court. Source: Vijay's 'Bigil' movie leaked online by Tamilrockers (via Times Of India)
  3. Anyone who pirates content has motivations for doing so from the basic "I can't afford it" through a rainbow of other explanations. Some call these reasons, others believe they're dressed-up excuses. But when people feel piracy is justified, a reasonable response to a set of unfair circumstances, it becomes much more difficult to have then change their habits. There are hundreds of places around the Internet inhabited by content pirates. From dedicated forums and chat channels attached to file-sharing sites to more public entities like Reddit, discussion about piracy isn’t difficult to find. Reddit’s /r/piracy sub-Reddit, for example, is both huge, public, and intriguing. To outsiders, its 534,000+ members are hardcore content pirates who will copy anything digital, in any way humanly possible. But that only describes a sub-set of the population. For those who stick around long enough, a more diverse mix can be discerned. While the place is clearly inhabited by some who flat-out refuse to buy anything, there are also plenty of contributors who appear to buy content but pirate on the odd occasion, to supplement an already expensive monthly outlay. Reasons to pirate can be seen everywhere and are often expressed by posters. Some of the most common and recurring posts are now titled/flaired “dAtS wHy I pIrAtE!!!” These can range from a picture of an empty wallet to memes bemoaning security systems such as Denuvo. Dozens of variants can be found, such as the timeless classic of depriving increasingly ‘greedy’ corporate entities of cash to ensure they don’t “take over the world”. When put under the microscope, however, do they stand up to scrutiny? As personal reasons to pirate, they are all legitimate, as legitimate as something can be when it’s illegal, of course. But as strict justification, as a solid argument that piracy is actually a reasonable response to a complicated set of negative circumstances and perceptions, things begin to get interesting. This week one Reddit user attempted to put every reason why someone might pirate into a single post and while the list seems pretty comprehensive, it fails – as this article will too – to cover every possible angle. That is because everyone is different or, as some will argue, the reasons aren’t reasons at all but merely excuses to pirate. It will come as no surprise that not being able to afford content comes at the top of the list. It is the most enduring reason for piracy since piracy began but one that can be viewed from another angle too. Is it always about not having the money, period, or is it often about saving that money so it can be spent elsewhere on things that can’t be obtained for free? This leads to another infamous theory, the one regarding the so-called ‘lost sale’. If people genuinely have no money, then there isn’t a lost sale. If they do have money but choose not to spend it, that raises questions of whether something was lost as a result of that instance of piracy and why another business sector, one selling alcohol or sneakers, for example, has more right to that revenue than content creators. Ah, content creators…and distributors. Now there’s an interesting bunch. There can be little doubt that video services like Netflix and Disney+ and gaming platforms like Steam are smash-hits with consumers. They appear to offer content not only at a fair price but also surrounded by a user-friendly experience. At least to some extent they are solving the piracy puzzle by hitting that sweet spot of being pocket-friendly and a pleasure to use. Until they aren’t. While Netflix aims to release its own content around the world simultaneously, its country-specific libraries are a constant pain in the neck for consumers. How many times have Netflix customers read online that a show is available to stream and yet when they try to find it, it’s unavailable in their region? These geo-restrictions seem absolutely ridiculous to Joe Public and while they don’t provide a cast-iron reason to pirate, some people – arguably quite rightly – feel justified in obtaining that content for free. After all, they’re being short-changed, aren’t they? The problem here is that while there are genuine business reasons for geo-blocking due to licensing issues, people with access to piracy sources have very little time or sympathy for them. The same is true for DRM on games, which may prevent a certain amount of piracy but only affects legitimate buyers. By their very nature, pirated games come without DRM. It isn’t difficult to see why people feel aggrieved at being punished for being a loyal customer and why excuses for piracy suddenly become justifications. Justification for piracy is perhaps most keenly witnessed among people who already invest significant sums on official content and media every month but then find themselves backed into a corner on specific items they’d like to experience. With budgets only stretching so far, why would anyone be happy to subscribe to yet another service to access a single TV show ‘exclusive’ when that is all they want from the platform? Equally, why would someone happily subscribe to a massive TV package in order to access a single channel that gets watched for an hour each week, purely because the TV company insists on selling an overpriced bundle that it refuses to split? Is this a reason to pirate or is it a justification? Indeed, after spending all of their available funds on official media, does accessing this TV channel for free even represent a ‘lost sale’ now? Like all of the other questions in this niche, the answer is not straightforward. In fact, we’re dealing with a moving target here. Once we determine that this is a lost sale in the example above and then decide to shift the available funds from one company to another, the consumer loses out by paying for things he doesn’t want, loses out by losing access to things that he does, and generally walks away feeling disappointed. And disappointed customers are bad things. Disappointed customers, those who feel like they’ve been exploited or taken for granted, can turn against companies long-term. Then, as if by magic, their excuses to pirate suddenly become their personal and solid justifications to pirate, which could last for a very long time. But, not only that, it might lead them down the track of paying for even less media, media that they are now particularly militant about obtaining for free. So, do justifications for content piracy really hold up under scrutiny? Well, it’s a question of personal perspective but broadly, some do and some don’t. Others absolutely don’t, while others are borderline. The argument always remains that if someone has created something the least people can do is pay for it, or not “steal it” in industry parlance. Perhaps the real question is this: does it really make any difference why people pirate to the people who do it? Multi-billion dollar content companies and smaller players alike already know what they must do to win and maintain business while converting pirates. They have to deliver the best product they can and ensure that the offer is perceived as good value for money by customers. Perhaps most importantly of all, they must never offer a product that is inferior to piracy in any significant way and then, when they have customers on board, they shouldn’t take them for granted. Because when they do, reasons to pirate are tossed aside and people start to feel justified in not buying the real thing. That’s when the real problems begin. Source
  4. While there's little doubt that cheaper, more flexible streaming TV options are a definite step up from overpriced cable TV channel bundles, we've noted for a while how there's a problem in the sector it hasn't spent much time thinking about. As companies rush to lock down your favorite content via exclusives, users are increasingly being forced to hunt and peck among rotating catalogs to find the content they're looking for. Want to watch Star Trek? You'll need to subscribe to CBS All Access. Want to watch The Office? You'll need to subscribe to Comcast's streaming service. Friends? You'll need AT&T. The one two punch of ever shifting licensing deals and exclusives, shared among more than a dozen different services, risks over-complicating finding the content users are looking for. Push this particular idea too far in that direction, and consumers are going to simply pirate -- an ironic outcome to a decade spent trying to migrate pirates to legit streaming alternatives. Case in point: Disney has done amazing work driving new users to its Disney+ streaming service with low(ish) price point and exclusive programs like The Mandalorian. But users this week began noticing that movies that were on the service just last month are already falling out of rotation, without users being notified that they were disappearing: "...as 2020 began, some Disney Plus users noticed that a few films had gone missing from the streaming library. Dr. Dolittle, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Home Alone and Home Alone 2, and The Sandlot are no longer streamable on Disney Plus. All these titles disappeared without warning, and so far, Disney has not commented on the titles. Many fans are surprised by films dropping off the service, particularly since Disney hasn’t issued press releases about the changes. Where companies like HBO and Netflix put out monthly bulletins of everything coming to and leaving their streaming services each month, so viewers can plan their last-minute binges, Disney has only emphasized new arrivals, not departures. To be clear this isn't the end of the world, but it does create a level of consumer annoyance that, if driven at too large of a scale, could drive users back to pirating content. Eventually the industry needs to work in collaboration to make it easier to subscribe and unsubscribe from numerous services, track which services you're subscribed to, clearly notify users when content licenses expire, and make it easier to search across multiple platforms to find particularly content. Ignore the lessons of the past (that piracy is a competitor and a meaningful metric of potential customer dissatisfaction), and the sector is going to relive it. At which point you can easily see the industry blaming everything but its itself ("we gave you everything and you still pirated you ungrateful wretch") for customers who drift back to piracy. Source
  5. SAN DIEGO: No longer tucked away in the dark reaches of the Internet, the streaming of pirated television shows and films has gone mainstream. Just look at Heroes IPTV. Not satisfied with online sales alone, business partners Hisham Alshaikhli and Laith Alqaraghuli opened a storefront in El Cajon to sell the latest craze in pirated media: set-top boxes similar to a Roku, but preloaded with illicit streaming apps. For a one-time price – US$150 (RM623) to US$350 (RM1453) – viewers could gain access to thousands of pirated films and shows, no subscription necessary. The brick-and-mortar shop gave customers a rare in-person shopping experience and lent the business the luster of legitimacy. But despite the openness with which the company operated, it was illegal. The black-market entrepreneurs are the first in the US to be successfully criminally prosecuted for selling such illicit streaming devices, according to Homeland Security Investigations. Many more cases are in the pipeline. Criminal investigations into streaming piracy devices at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre – a clearinghouse partnering US law enforcement agencies with foreign allies – have more than doubled over the past two years, according to an estimate by the FBI. Pirated movies and shows in the digital age have long been available on massive online servers, called cyberlockers, as well as shared on peer-to-peer networks. But the online portals haven't always been that simple for novices to access or navigate. It wasn't until the advent of illicit streaming devices, paired with user-friendly interfaces, that the trend truly opened up to the mass market. The set-top boxes, which can be plugged into a TV, come preloaded with legitimate-looking streaming apps that open the door to massive unauthorised media collections. The growing popularity has content creators terrified. "We have been devalued because piracy has become rampant," said Ruth Vitale, a veteran Hollywood producer and CEO of CreativeFuture, a nonprofit coalition of more than 550 companies and organisations working to protect creative rights. "Audiences don't understand that over 85% of the businesses in film and television are small businesses employing under 10 people," she added, noting the 2.2 million people who work in the US film and TV industry. "Red carpets telegraph that we are all wealthy; we are working people." The Global Innovation Policy Center, an affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce, estimates that global online piracy costs the US economy at least US$29.2bil (RM121.25bil) in lost revenue each year, according to a study released in June. But the law protecting copyrighted works hasn't evolved as fast as the technology. Downloading and distributing unauthorised content is a felony, a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years. Streaming that same content without permission, on the other hand, is considered infringing on a public performance and treated as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison. In other words, the law is more Napster era than Netflix. The criminal copyright code hasn't been revised since 2008 – when streaming wasn't considered a viable option. "Now 80% of all piracy happens through streaming," Vitale said. "Things are going to have to change." The so-called "streaming loophole" has been briefed in front of the Senate Subcommittee on Intellectual Property earlier this year, and the US Copyright Office has put its support behind felony-level penalties in illicit streaming cases, noting in a letter to the subcommittee "the failure of the current law to effectively address unauthorised streaming". Much of the battle against digital piracy, especially when it comes to streaming, has been waged in civil litigation, with major studios going after illicit services after cease-and-desist letters go ignored. Criminal prosecutions involving streaming devices have been particularly rare. The Motion Pictures Association, a trade group that represents major studios from Disney to Sony to Netflix, has been one of the loudest voices calling on the US federal government to go after violators criminally. In recent testimony to Congress, the association has also urged US Customs and Border Enforcement to aggressively interdict illicit streaming devices coming into the US from other countries. "The industry has a role to play to fight for their rights, but we need the support of law enforcement badly to get the message out that this is illegal and this should not happen," said Jan van Voorn, chief of global content protection for the Motion Pictures Association. But investigating such cases can be challenging, according to the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations. The identities of streaming service operators or illicit device sellers are often cloaked in sham business and fake addresses, with many based overseas. The US works closely with law enforcement on intellectual property issues in Europe, Canada and Mexico, but many other countries that shelter violators don't have similar copyright laws, making diplomatic cooperation difficult at times, said Anthony Frazier, an FBI special agent at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center. Often, an illicit streaming device is just one part of a global ecosystem, said Nathan Loehr, an intelligence analyst at the coordination center. "Hypothetically, you could have a California reseller obtaining a device built and shipped from China using software from India that's allowing the streaming of content from South-East Asia that's being hosted on servers from the Netherlands," said Loehr. And similar to other forms of organised crime, the players structure the operation in a way that limits interaction with each other. "That becomes really, really difficult to work our way up to develop that chain, but not impossible," Loehr said. The El Cajon case was different, though. The operators of Heroes IPTV – a California corporation launched in 2015 – actually sold face-to-face out of its store, located in an office complex on Main Street at Jamacha Road. Undercover agents visited multiple times in 2017 and heard the sales pitch that blatantly described the product's illegal purpose, according to Homeland Security Investigations, which handled the case. The set-top boxes were sourced from China and, once in the US, loaded with the illicit apps, including Show Box, according to HSI. Alshaikhli and Alqaraghuli pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the infringement of a public performance of a copyrighted work. While they faced up to a year in custody, a San Diego federal judge last month sentenced both to a year of unsupervised probation and US$1,000 (RM4,152) restitution each. The two are the first in the nation to plead guilty to selling such devices, according to HSI. While the El Cajon case has been quietly wrapping up in the courts, the streaming industry has been closely watching a new major prosecution unfold. In August, the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Virginia charged eight people linked to Jetflicks, a Las Vegas-based subscription streaming service designed to work on many different types of devices, from computers to set-top boxes to smartphones, according to the FBI. Jetflicks allegedly used sophisticated computer code to scour pirate websites around the world to pull in new content, according to the indictment. At one point, Jetflicks claimed to have more than 183,200 different television episodes, and the company distributed them to tens of thousands of paid subscribers around the US, the FBI said. One of the defendants left Jetflicks to launch his own service, iStreamItAll, the indictment alleges. The two lead defendants are facing US felony charges, including reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material and money laundering. Law enforcement efforts to stamp out streaming piracy have focused on the supply chain, not individual viewers. Still, authorities and industry officials continue to search for ways to grab the attention of consumers. If the ethical argument isn't enough to dissuade consumers, there's something else they should consider: the possibility that these illicit streaming device are also preloaded with malware. By plugging a set-top device into a home's Internet network to stream, users have willingly bypassed router firewall protection and have invited potential intruders inside, making any other device on the network also vulnerable, experts say. Research by Digital Citizens Alliance and cybersecurity company Dark Wolfe Consulting found malware on piracy apps that stole user names and passwords, uploaded data without consent and probed user networks for weak spots, according to the findings released in April. "You're supporting illegal activity by stealing creative content," Voorn of the Motion Pictures Association said. "You don't know who you're doing business with." And with the recent crackdowns against such streaming services and devices, there is also the real possibility of suddenly losing access. "You see a blank screen and nothing works anymore," Voorn said. "Obviously that's not a great consumer experience." Source: Illicit streaming devices bring piracy to the mass market – and it's terrifying Hollywood (via The Star Online)
  6. TV is exhausting now. Where once the future of streaming promised to cut down bloated cable bills and create a more efficient customer-provider service—“Imagine a future where you only pay for the 10 channels you actually watch,” I remember excitedly telling my parents earlier in the decade—the reality is that now, there are simply more channels that you need to pay for. Aside from traditional cable, which remains a must for any sports fan at the absolute least, there now exist more than a half-dozen prominent streaming services (and lots more small ones), all filled with a couple of buzzy shows, some old favorites, and endless filler crap that makes the library of content seem more valuable than it is. And if keeping up with the Emmy-nominated offerings of services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime didn’t already feel like a financial strain, the launch of Apple TV+ and the fawned-over premiere of Disney+ might have done it. By my count, if you want to watch shows on HBO, Apple TV+, Disney+, CBS All-Access, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, it’d run you $60.93 a month or $731.16 a year, and that’s before factoring in a standard cable package for live events and other shows, or the other streaming services sure to launch in the near future. (NBC’s got one coming down the pike.) Of course, nobody has to pay for all these things, but the problem here is that, with the arguable exception of CBS, all of these services have at least something resembling a buzzy hit show. If you want to watch, for example, Euphoria, Dickinson, The Mandalorian, Fleabag, Killing Eve, and Stranger Things, you’re going to need a lot of accounts. With two of the largest companies in the world joining the game this month, adding their own movie stars and iconic IP to the slush pile, it’s worth wondering if the streaming revolution has officially failed TV and movie fans with its endless mitosis and fragmentation. Instead of letting viewers just pay for the stuff they watch, they’re forced, instead, to choose between equally flawed packages where the fun and/or high-quality shows get bundled with pointless crap that jacks up the price. Unlike Spotify and its clones, which include essentially all the music a person could want, one relatively cheap subscription to any Movie/TV streaming service doesn’t give you access to more-or-less the entire history of moving pictures. And unlike Spotify and its clones, which have caused a massive downturn in music piracy, the shows on all these platforms are ripe for stealing. Piracy has never truly died, whether it occurs when users torrent files through thepiratebay.org or 1337x.to, or download shows through Usenet, a site like MegaUpload or Rapidshare, or find cleverly hidden files on Google Docs, Facebook, or even Wikipedia. Hell, there’s even a thriving network of USB drive-based piracy in some countries. But in the era of Netflix’s dominance as a legit streaming service, piracy’s prevalence fell greatly. Between 2011 and 2015, Bittorrent’s share of upstream traffic on North American broadband networks dropped from 52.01 percent to 26.83 percent. More recently, an EU study found that the number of young people (age 15-24) who intentionally accessed illegal content dropped from 25 percent to 21 percent from 2016 to 2019. And visits to piracy websites dropped from 206 billion in 2017 to 190 billion in 2018. But now, more paywalled content means that viewers either can’t afford to pay for everything they might want to watch or don’t feel like dealing with a bunch of different services. There’s already evidence people are turning back to piracy: Bittorrent’s traffic freefall has stopped, and has seen a recent small bounceback. “If people have to spend more money to satisfy their movie and TV consumption needs, a large group will either consume less or look for alternatives,” Ernesto van der Sar, owner of piracy trend website TorrentFreak recently told Motherboard. “A likely result is that more people will pirate on the side.” A simple glance at torrent websites shows that plenty of people are stealing from the brand new steaming services—episodes of The Mandalorian and Dickinson all have hundreds or thousands of seeders and are among the most popular shows on torrent sites. I reached out specifically to Disney, Apple, and Netflix to ask what their policy was on going after pirated content, and haven’t heard back, but it’s obvious that these companies assume that at least some of their viewers aren’t paying the full price for their services. Given that you can watch as many as six simultaneous streams with Apple TV+, and four with Disney+ and the top Netflix package, the more common form of piracy—password sharing—is built into the system. But for pirates who don’t have any access to the legit services, what makes stealing content particularly appealing in this age is that there are few if any people who face consequences for the crime. Since the discontinuation of the “six strikes” copyright policy in 2017, there’s been lax enforcement of copyright laws. Rather than going after individuals for exorbitant fines for downloading a handful of songs like copyright holders did a decade ago, enforcement these days has focused on the providers of pirated content, with the much more efficient goal of taking down entire streaming sites rather than just a few of their visitors. Of course, as the continued resilience of The Pirate Bay shows, the current strategy isn’t particularly effective at stopping piracy, either. But it does mean that those who only download already-stolen content are safer than they’ve ever been. And the widespread use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and the less common but more secure use of services like Tor means that people are getting better at pirating, too. Even if you’re not breaking the law, you should pay for a VPN, because there’s reason to suspect ISPs are monetizing your browsing data. But having some form of VPN is non-negotiable if you’re downloading content illegally. Typically, if a pirate is using a torrent program to download files peer to peer, their IP address is visible to anyone using the program. (That’s how copyright holders could track down pirates and take them to court.) But with a VPN, a pirate’s data gets laundered through the location of the private network—meaning someone in New York could have a public IP address showing Chicago, Toronto, or anywhere in the world. If a pirate is careful, it’s much harder to know who they are. None of this is to say you should steal—it’s illegal! But whether you’re on the business side spending millions of dollars on new shows, or you’re just a girl who likes to watch hot people punch each other for a few hours every week, it’s clear that companies are overwhelming customers with products, and a breaking point is coming where people won’t be able to pay for all of it. As more and more streaming services launch, each with their own content walled off from the others, it’d be ignorant and naive to think that piracy won’t increase with it. Source
  7. Piracy will be Disney Plus's worst enemy at launch FOMO likely comes at a price (Image credit: Lucasfilm) The way we consume TV has changed so much in the last few years that we almost can't imagine a world without simulcasting. Imagine waiting a week, or a month, to find out who died last week in Game of Thrones, while having to navigate the nightmarish realm of Twitter spoilers and opinion pieces. It's a better age for TV viewers as a result: shows like Star Trek spin-off Picard launch on multiple platforms at once globally by companies that would otherwise compete domestically in the US, because some studios don't have a streaming presence in certain territories and rightly want people to see their shows on legal platforms. Disney Plus is a more complicated beast. It has no release date in most of Europe, but the first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, is locked to that platform. Outside of the US, Canada, and the Netherlands (Australia and New Zealand get the service a week later on November 19) there's no legal way to watch this ten-episode weekly show until Disney decides to release it. That is its prerogative, of course, and we'd speculate there are probably logistical and content-based reasons behind Disney Plus's delays in some territories, rather than this being a deliberate move to annoy hungry Star Wars fans. But it does make The Mandalorian a prime target for piracy, as well as the other Disney Plus big hitters arriving on November 12, like the live-action Lady and the Tramp movie. The fear of missing out is almost certainly going to be a huge motivator for people to steal this content, since they're being given no legal option to buy it. This is the sort of behavior that streaming services are designed to combat, rather than cause. Yet the regional restrictions won't stop everyone from talking about it next week - the demand will be too strong, and people will find a way. What else could Disney have actually done? (Image credit: Lucasfilm) There were other potential ways that Disney could've got The Mandalorian and its other exclusive content to people who have to wait for the service to launch. In the UK, at least, Disney already has a streaming service - DisneyLife, which hosts an array of Disney movies and Star Wars-related content for a reasonable £5 a month. It feels like a half-measure, without the breadth, promise and Simpsons episodes of Disney Plus, but it is somewhere that could've hosted The Mandalorian while the other service is being prepared (responses to customer queries have ruled that out). Likewise, Disney could've sold the show to local broadcasters, but then it would've lost the appeal of having a major exclusive when the service actually reached a point where it's ready to launch. It also could have soft-launched Disney Plus in Europe without the full breadth of things to come - but then it could've risked making a bad first impression with a potentially anemic library, when this is a fundamental piece of Disney's future that needs to succeed. It's a tricky scenario with no straightforward solution, then, but from the outside looking in, it's just kind of annoying. This is the age of the global launch, of midnight screenings, of digital pre-loading. Something as major as new Star Wars content having no release date in loads of countries is a weird anomaly in 2019. And the way this is going to play out isn't ideal for anyone, really: customers who want to spend money and watch The Mandalorian cannot do so, and Disney for its part can't take their money and satisfy demand. Does anyone actually win out of how this launch has been staggered? This feels like a situation that'll inevitably attract piracy. Excessive paid choices are likely to encourage piracy Staggered regional releases are one thing, but the longer term issue Disney faces is one that all streaming service providers will have to confront in the next few years. We've reported before on how a fragmented streaming market may lead to more illegal downloads, and now it's coming into focus how much US consumers will potentially need to pay to get the shows they want. HBO Max will cost $15 a month, the same as the existing HBO Now service. And even though Disney Plus is a very reasonable $7 a month, when you start totalling it with Netflix, Amazon, CBS All Access, Hulu, and more specialist streamers, the price escalates. Being able to see everything will be out of some users' price range. That's the reality we're entering. The market is unlikely to support all of those competitors, and eventually it'll likely even out to a more sensible number for US consumers to think about. Even the slightly disappointing launch of Apple TV Plus suggests you need more than a war chest of cash, big stars and a massive hardware user base to make a big cultural impact in this competitive era of TV. Disney Plus is a great bet to succeed in all of that - it's just a shame it couldn't make the maximum possible impact by launching everywhere in the world at once. But then again, The Mandalorian is just day one of Disney Plus. Loads of curious people will bite at launch, just to browse the library and see if this prized Star Wars series is worth the wait, or to watch a documentary series about Jeff Goldblum – check out the trailer above for that gem. By the time Disney Plus launches everywhere, though, we'll have a better idea of where it fits into the existing streaming landscape, and its original content will really be put to the test. It's just a shame that some of us have to wait, and that piracy is the inevitable result of that. Source: Piracy will be Disney Plus's worst enemy at launch (TechRadar)
  8. from the history-repeats-itself dept As you probably have noticed, there's a growing tide of streaming video services popping up to feed users who want a cheaper, more flexible alternative to traditional cable. By and large this has been a very good thing. It's finally driving some competition for bumbling apathetic giants like Comcast, forcing them to at least make a feeble effort to improve customer service. It also reflects a belated admission by the broadcast industry that you need to compete with piracy (instead of say, suing the entire planet and hoping it goes away) by offering users access to cheaper, flexible viewing options. But the gold rush into streaming has come with a few downsides. Studies have suggested that every broadcaster on the planet will likely have their own streaming service by 2022. In a bid to drive more subscribers to their service, said broadcasters are increasingly developing their own content, or striking their own content exclusivity deals, and then locking that content in an exclusivity silo. For example, if you want to watch Star Trek: Discovery, you need to shell out $6 a month for CBS All Access. Can't miss House of Cards? You'll need Netflix. Bosch? Amazon Prime. The Handmaid's Tale? Hulu. Again, on its face this impulse makes perfect sense: you want the kind of content that drives users to your platform. And at first it wasn't all that noticeable, because there were only a handful of services. Even if you subscribed to four of them, you still probably were saving money over your traditional cable bill. The problem is, as more and more companies jump into the streaming market, users are being forced to subscribe to an ocean of discordant services to get access for the content they're looking for. As users are forced to pony up more and more cash for more and more services, it's going to start defeating the purpose of ditching over-priced, traditional cable. But instead of going back to cable, back in March we noted how users are just as likely to consider piracy. And of course that's already starting to happen, with BitTorrent usage seeing some modest but notable bumps, especially overseas. It's minor now, but if you've paid attention to several decades of piracy precedent, it's not hard to predict the outcome of this rush to cordon off everything into far too many exclusivity silos. Disney, for example, is preparing to pull all of its best content off of Netflix (Star Wars, Pixar, Marvel) and make it exclusive to its own streaming platform. In the wake of its acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T is contemplating doing the same thing with old episodes of shows like Friends. You may have noticed a trend: "Before Netflix got into the Original series game, it made a name for itself by licensing content from other distributors like Warner Bros. TV, Paramount Television, and NBC Universal Television. Licensing deals are great for fans who don’t have cable or are looking to discover new series in full, but now that streaming is king, distributors and production companies have realized that they can make more money by consolidating their content on a single streaming service — hence why Disney, WarnerMedia, DC, and other media companies are creating their own platforms with original content." You'd be pretty hard pressed to find many people in the streaming or broadcast sector who realize the pitfalls of this gold rush toward streaming exclusivity, even after all of the painful piracy and gatekeeper lessons learned thus far. After all, most industry executives are right that having must-watch exclusive content is necessary to drive subscriber adoption, and that developing original content in house is a better financial proposition than skyrocketing broadcast licensing costs. But few have paused, taken a step back, and considered how the rush to exclusivity at scale could come back to bite the sector at large. That's thanks, in part, to the weird aversion among most journalists and analysts to even mention piracy in their reports or stories. Most reporters and analysts see even mentioning piracy as some kind of bizarre cardinal sin that implies they somehow advocate for the behavior. This tendency to ignore the elephant in the room is a major reason the industry has such a hard time learning that you have to compete with piracy, not engage in idiotic, counter-productive and often harmful attempts to "cure" it with legislation, lawyers, or an endless parade of terrible ideas. The old adage that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it will likely hold true here. If the current trend holds, by 2022 consumers will be forced to subscribe to an absolute universe of $10 to $15 per month services just to get all the content they're looking for, on the presumption the average household has an unlimited amount of disposable income. If history is any indication, it will take another year or two for the industry to identify and admit this exclusivity parade is driving users back to piracy. At that point, they'll probably burn through a rotating crop of "solutions" (like waging war on password sharing), before coming to this central conclusion: that licensing your content to a sensible but not overwhelming crop of companies actually good at the technical and customer service aspects of streaming (like, Netflix) -- instead of everybody and their mother launching their own streaming product -- wasn't such a terrible idea after all. Source
  9. One of the prerequisites of beating piracy is that content is available legally for a fair price. In recent years, however, movies and music are increasingly becoming fragmented over a variety of paid subscription services. According to a UK Government report, this may be the reason why piracy is making a comeback. Last week the UK Government’s Intellectual Property Office published its annual IP Crime and Enforcement Report. The report provides an overview of the latest anti-piracy achievements of copyright holders and also signals some emerging threats. It seems to be written mostly based on input from large rightsholders, which can make it a bit one-sided. The overall theme is that piracy and counterfeiting remain a major problem and that, as a “world class IP enforcement regime,” the UK takes a leading role in the world to tackle it going forward. A few days ago we reported on an exemplary section from the report where the Premier League highlighted its key successes. The full document is filled with similar examples and is worth a read, but there is one issue that stood out which we would like to highlight separately. In the section where the results of PRS for Music, the UK’s leading collection society, are summarized there is a hint of self-reflection. As reported in the past, there were signs that BitTorrent piracy is increasing again, and according to the UK Government’s report, the industry may be to blame. Apparently, piracy traffic may be rising again because the content that’s being offered on legal platforms is becoming more and more fragmented. In other words, as more legal services have exclusive releases, it’s harder for people to get everything they want in one place. Instead of signing up for paid subscriptions at a handful of services, these people could then turn back to piracy. Or as the Annual IP crime and enforcement report puts it: “There also appears to be a resurgence in torrent traffic, notwithstanding the apparent demise of peer-to-peer file sharing a few years ago. A likely reason for this is the fact that more legitimate platforms are hosting exclusive content and subscribers may not necessarily have access to all the content they want to consume.” The paragraph above is listed in the PRS section of the report which leads us to believe that it comes directly from the music group. We reached out to PRS to find out more but the organization said that it couldn’t comment on it. A subsequent request to clarify whether this is PRS’s position returned a “no comment” as well. Again, we should stress that the fragmentation comment is just a tiny quote from a 132-page report. It doesn’t reflect the general theme that piracy needs to be addressed through comprehensive and multi-faceted enforcement strategies. However, at least there appears to be some room for self-reflection. This isn’t the first time that increased fragmentation has been mentioned as a potential problem, but these type of comments generally don’t originate from governments or rightsholders. Exclusive releases are particularly prevalent in the video industry today, where there’s a myriad of exclusive streaming services. How this will affect overall piracy rates in the years to come remains to be seen, but it’s certainly not something that can be easily ignored. VIEW: Original Article.
  10. It’s become costlier for retailers and manufacturers to combat piracy in the digital age. But in moderation, it’s not all bad. This spring, HBO’s television series Game of Thrones concluded after eight seasons. Throughout its tenure, the show was incredibly popular while also earning the dubious distinction of the most pirated television program. The severity of piracy is duly illustrated by the show’s season four finale, which, within 12 hours of its original broadcast in June 2014, was illegally downloaded 1.5 million times, amounting to 2 petabytes transferred in just half a day. While an upsurge in piracy around the time of the original broadcast may be natural, a steady level of interest for pirated copies of older episodes has continued unabated, well after the episodes became available at retailers online. Despite ongoing issues with illegal downloads — there were 1 billion of the show’s seventh season — HBO seems to have no real plans to counter the illegal streaming services and lets off perpetrators with only a slap on the wrist. This inaction on HBO’s part may have some economic merit: Our research shows that a moderate level of piracy — not too much, not too little — can actually benefit the manufacturer, the retailer, and consumers, all at the same time. Can Two Wrongs Make a Right? The manufacturer does not usually set the retail price in a supply chain; the downstream retailer does. In this case, HBO charges cable operators, such as Comcast, a monthly per-subscriber fee, corresponding to the wholesale price, and each cable operator decides on its own margin, which determines the final retail price. A wide variety of information goods (music, movies, TV shows, video games, e-books, and software) in formats ranging from shrink-wrapped discs to streaming content is brought to the market through this wholesale model. In this setup, the supply chain faces a situation known as double marginalization: Both the manufacturer and the retailer decide on independent margins, each of which gets assigned to the price of the good. Double marginalization manifests itself in a higher retail price and reduced consumption compared with when the manufacturer and retailer are owned by the same company. Hence, an information-goods supply chain faces two strategic challenges to pricing — piracy and double marginalization. That’s why manufacturers and retailers may be better off with a moderate dose of piracy — two wrongs can actually make a right. When Comcast loses a Game of Thrones viewer to piracy, so does HBO, which limits the pricing power of each. Even though a limitation on its own pricing power is not good for the manufacturer, the limitation on the retailer’s power surely is, and vice versa. A moderate level of piracy thus can limit the negative impact of double marginalization on both sides, benefiting all parties in the supply chain. Meanwhile, consumers welcome the lower price. ‘Shadow’ Competition Can Benefit Everyone Piracy injects a degree of “shadow” competition into a supply chain — that is, competition that comes from reproduced versions of the authentic original, as opposed to new offerings being developed and produced by an external company. In traditional upstream and downstream competition, more competition is good for some parties but bad for others. By contrast, piracy competes with the manufacturer and the retailer simultaneously, limiting each just enough so that both are better off. Conventional wisdom holds that the inefficiencies in the supply chain, which manifest as double marginalization, could hurt consumer consumption and aggravate the situation for both parties. Reports from both academia and industry have illustrated that piracy reduces companies’ pricing power and hurts profits. But our findings challenge these ideas within the context of an information-goods supply chain, in which a manufacturer not only faces competitive pressure from piracy but also lacks direct control over the final price. When facing both of these hurdles, the manufacturer comes out further ahead in a moderate piracy situation than it would if it were dealing with just one of these supply chain challenges. Moderate levels of piracy may benefit information-goods companies in other ways as well. For instance, companies and platforms can make gains through a positive network effect (the more people use the product, the more valuable it becomes) and consumer learning (pirate users may learn about the product and buy the legal version later on). Although prior studies point out positive primary effects of piracy, the primary effect in our context is negative: It suppresses companies’ pricing power. However, the secondary effect of this is positive. When HBO reduces its margin, Comcast’s revenues rise accordingly; when Comcast in turn reduces its price, it gains more customers, benefiting HBO. Consumers, for their part, benefit from lower prices for the authentic product. This surprising “win-win-win” situation reminds us of Adam Smith’s invisible hand: Even when all players act in their own self-interest — the manufacturer and retailer maximizing their profits and consumers maximizing their utility — somehow, every actor becomes richer in the process. Of course, the benevolent effects of moderate piracy that we identify here should not be construed as an endorsement of piracy. When piracy is rampant, its negative impact dominates, making both companies worse off, much as one might expect. Nevertheless, antipiracy measures are often expensive, so before going full force against piracy, organizations should pause to ponder whether, and to what extent, doing so would be a worthwhile investment. Feeling Your Way Toward ‘Just Enough’ What do moderate levels of piracy look like? “Just enough” is hard to define because it can depend on a number of factors, including size of the market, production costs, and details of supply chain contracts. It’s less difficult to identify instances where the levels of piracy or the levels of anti-piracy efforts are clearly immoderate. The implication is that companies should engage in common-sense efforts to combat piracy, focusing on the most egregious and high-profile offenders and simply monitoring the more moderate pirates to ensure they do not get out of control. In the end, the smaller players may be too difficult and costly to combat — and they could play a valuable role in the information-goods supply chain ecosystem. Source
  11. Scammers Abuse Steam to Attract Would-Be Movie Pirates A number of scammers are abusing the Steam platform to lure would-be pirates to questionable download sites. After clicking images and links listing popular movies, many visitors are redirected to subscription portals where - despite payment - none of the promised movies are offered for viewing. According to an October 2018 report, Steam has around 90 million active monthly users, making it the largest digital distribution platform for PC games. Steam user accounts overall are many times more numerous. In April, PCGamesN indicated that the platform had attracted its billionth account, noting that “a significant number of these are undoubtedly spam, scam, alt, and bot accounts.” Indeed, an activity that appears to have taken root on the platform over the past few months shows that accounts don’t have to be limited to just one type of the above suspicious activity. Steam is the last place one might expect to find links to pirate movies, but that’s part of the trap. As the image below shows, this Steam page is supposedly offering the movie Escape Room “for FREE online” but that certainly isn’t the case. Beware Users who scroll down to the bottom find extremely lengthy hyperlinks hidden under a pair of “Watch Now” and “Download” buttons. Since this is clearly some kind of dodgy activity, we truncated those links in order to visit only their final destination. That led us to another site called “Daily Movie” which appeared to begin playing not Escape Room, but Avengers: Infinity War. After viewing what seemed to be a real movie intro (the lion of MGM in this case), neither movie was presented. Instead, we got the following; Don’t give them a penny Needless to say, in the context of the offer on Steam (recent Hollywood movies) most of the claims in the above statement are a lie. The ‘continue’ link goes to a subscription content service (Dontra) that has none of the movies previously promised and will only leave users disappointed – after earning the Steam spammer some commission, of course. Another page, which claims to offer Aquaman for download, contains hyperlinks to what appears to be a full ‘pirate’ streaming site called Cinemago. While the links are not directly functional (and Steam helpfully warns that these go to an external site), it does send users to the Cinemago platform, as shown below. CinemaNO This site, unsurprisingly, does not offer pirate movies. Instead, when users click any of the film covers they are introduced to a similar “sign up” window and are then re-directed to a site called Funwraith. It is absolutely identical to Dontra and as such has none of the movies offered. This bait-and-switch subscription trap is repeated on dozens of Steam pages too numerous to outline here. However, if readers want to see more of them (not recommended), typing site:steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/ “full movie” into Google will bring up pages and pages of results. While unusual, legitimate platforms have been abused for piracy and scam schemes in the past. Facebook, Google, Google Mapsand even Change.org have all been repurposed in similar fashion. Source
  12. Video Piracy Study Estimates Billions in Lost Revenue, But Misses Crucial Data A new study published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center and NERA Economic Consulting, estimates the effect of video piracy on the U.S. economy. With a revenue loss of at least $29.2 billion the impact is significant, but this could have been worse, as a major source of video piracy isn't covered. Despite the growing availability of legal options, online piracy remains rampant. Every day pirate sites and services are used by millions of people worldwide. This is a serious problem for major content producers, Hollywood included. At the same time, it’s also seen a threat to the wider U.S. economy, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars from video entertainment. How copyright infringement affects the economy in actual numbers is hard to measure, especially since the piracy landscape changes rapidly. That said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center, in partnership with NERA Economic Consulting, attempted an estimate. In a report titled “Impacts of Digital Piracy on the U.S. Economy” they combine multiple data sources, paired with a broad range of assumptions, to estimate how much revenue video piracy is costing the U.S. economy. In order to calculate how much piracy costs, the researchers first had to determine the global piracy volume. They did so by combining data from two known piracy tracking firms. Specifically, the number of pirated movies and TV-shows are estimated using data from the German BitTorrent tracking outfit Tecxipo. These are then extrapolated to estimate the volume of other piracy sources, such as streaming and direct downloads, based on data from the UK outfit MUSO. In addition, the researchers use academic studies to approximate the displacement rate. This is a crucial variable, as it estimates the percentage of pirated files that can be counted as a lost sale. The report settled on a lower bound of 14%, which means that roughly one in seven pirate downloads or streams are seen as lost revenue. All this information, paired with location data, the average price per source, and a variety of other variables, ultimately leads the researchers to conclude that in 2017 online video piracy resulted in a revenue loss of at least $29.2 billion. “The study shows that all of the benefits that streaming brings to our economy have been artificially capped by digital piracy. Using macroeconomic modeling of digital piracy, the study estimates that global online piracy costs the U.S. economy at least $29.2 billion in lost revenue each year,” the report reads. In raw numbers, the researchers put the number of pirated U.S.-produced movies at $26.6 billion, while they estimate that roughly 126.7 billion U.S.-produced TV episodes are pirated digitally each year. This piracy takes place mostly from outside the United States. The impact on the broader economy is even larger. According to the researchers, online video piracy costs the U.S. economy between 230,000 and 560,000 jobs and between $47.5 billion and $115.3 billion in reduced gross domestic product (GDP) each year. Jobs ‘lost’ Not all types of piracy are the same of course. A pirated Netflix movie results in lower losses than a Hollywood blockbuster. Similarly, a pirated Bollywood film doesn’t impact the U.S. economy much. Interestingly, the report notes that piracy by U.S. citizens doesn’t necessarily have to be detrimental to the economy. The money these people ‘save’ by pirating is likely spent locally, which, depending on various factors, could even be beneficial to the economy as a whole. Or as the researchers put it: “Consumers spend the income gained from displaced legal consumption on other goods and services, many of which are produced in the U.S. Therefore, the net effect on the U.S. economy of this component of piracy could be either positive or negative, depending on the relative magnitudes of the multipliers for the revenue losses and the revenue gains.” The most significant impact comes from foreigners who pirate U.S. content, as the money they save is likely not being spent in America. Overall the report provides a detailed overview of the potential revenue losses. Displacement rates are complex, of course, as there are probably hundreds of other variables that could have been taken into account, but it looks like the researchers did a good job at factoring in the most crucial elements. Unfortunately, however, there is a glaring error that can’t easily be ignored. The report specifically set out to provide an up-to-date overview of the new piracy ecosystem, one that includes apps and illicit streaming devices. No surprise, as dedicated streaming boxes are generally seen as the biggest threat to Hollywood. “These rapid changes necessitate up-to-date estimates of the impact of digital piracy,” the report notes. The problem, however, is that most app and streaming device piracy isn’t covered by the study. The report relies on category data from MUSO, which only covers regular browser visits to pirate sites. This typically excludes most apps and pirate set-top boxes. Also, the boom in IPTV piracy isn’t covered by these data either. TorrentFreak reached out to the researchers, who informed us that they weren’t aware of this. This means that their overall estimate of the impact of video piracy is even more reserved than they initially assumed. Needless to say, that has not been left out intentionally. Whether it’s complete or not, these types of studies are generally welcomed by rightsholders. As such, the report will likely be mentioned frequently in future lobbying campaigns. Source
  13. Senators Aim to Help Students, Might Even Reduce Textbook Piracy Too Textbooks are essential tools for students hoping to build a better life through education, but their sheer expense can be prohibitive. Taking on extra work is one option, going into debt is another. Piracy, of course, is extremely attractive too. However, if four US senators have their way, there could be more accessible options moving forward. Free access to information is a very hot topic, particularly in the academic field where many believe that putting studies behind a paywall is unethical. This has led to the rise of ‘pirate’ sites like Sci-Hub, that aim to provide free access to information and education, for the betterment of the world. But, when one considers how these sites operate, even this noble aim can prove controversial. Much of the content offered by these types of platforms infringes copyright. That’s often publishing giants such as Elsevier, who in return have waged war on Sci-Hub in particular. Just this week, yet another blocking order against the site was handed down in France, with operator Alexandra Elbakyan pledging to continue as usual. But what if there was another way to access academic content, studies, and textbooks without having to resort to piracy? In 2018, several prestigious European research councils announced a major push for Open Access publishing, with a plan to limit the power of major copyright holders and ‘tear down academia’s paywalls.’ And, just this week, there was more news for academics and students to become cautiously excited about – the reintroduction of the Affordable College Textbook Act. On Thursday, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), along with U.S. Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO-02), introduced bicameral legislation with the aim of making high-quality textbooks available to students, professors, and the public, for free. “One of the most basic higher education costs to students is often overlooked: textbooks,” Durbin said, citing figures from The College Board estimating costs of $1,240 per student, per year. “In Illinois, we know federal support for open textbooks can be successful. Expanding this program to more states will mean lower costs for students to incur. This bill will help prevent the high cost of textbooks from putting students’ academic success at risk.” Senator Smith said that when meeting with college students, they often talk about the cost of textbooks and how difficult it is to afford them. “Sometimes textbooks are so expensive that students take the chance and don’t purchase them at all, and try to make it work without the needed material,” she said. According to U.S. PRIG, 65% of students choose to go without textbooks. Of course, others resort to piracy too. Over the years we’ve reported on several initiatives to provide free or cheap textbooks to students, but many have either faded away or ended in criminal convictionsfor their operators. There are even patents out there that attempt to prevent students from sharing their own books with others. Clearly, open alternatives are preferable to all of the above. As per information released Thursday, the Affordable College Textbook Act, among other things, has these ambitions, should it eventually pass: Authorizes a grant program, similar to the Open Textbooks Pilot, to support projects at colleges and universities to create and expand the use of open textbooks with priority for projects that will achieve the highest savings for students; Ensures that any open textbooks or educational materials created using grant funds will be freely and easily accessible to the public, including individuals with disabilities; Strengthens existing price transparency so students can easily identify classes that use open textbooks when they register; While the passing of the Act certainly won’t end piracy overnight, giving students options that don’t involve compromising their already limited finances or forcing them towards popular search engines such as Library Genesis has to be considered a step forward. Source
  14. Music Companies Sue Charter For Turning a Blind Eye to Piracy A group of major music publishing companies has sued Charter Communications for failing to take action against its pirating subscribers. The music companies state that the Internet provider deliberately turned a blind eye to pirating subscribers, while at the same time profiting from their activities. Yesterday, we reported that a group of music industry giants, including Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros, have sued Internet provider Bright House Networks for failing to disconnect pirating subscribers. While that lawsuit was filed in Florida, the same companies also filed a complaint against Charter Communications in a Colorado District Court. The cases and the underlying accusations are very similar, which is no surprise as Charter acquired Bright House in 2016. Under US law, providers must terminate the accounts of repeat infringers “in appropriate circumstances” and Charter failed to do so, according to the music publishers. Specifically, the ISP is accused of ignoring repeat infringers on its network, which it continued to serve as customers. “It is well-established law that a party may not assist someone it knows is engaging in copyright infringement. Further, when a party has a direct financial interest in the infringing activity, and the right and practical ability to stop or limit it, that party must act,” the complaint reads. “Ignoring and flouting those basic responsibilities, Charter deliberately turned a blind eye to its subscribers’ infringement. Charter failed to terminate or otherwise take meaningful action against the accounts of repeat infringers of which it was aware.” As highlighted by Ars Technica, the music companies allege that the ISP’s high-speed Internet service was used to lure customers who could use it to facilitate their infringing activities. Specifically, the complaint states that Charter was “advertising its high-speed Internet services in Colorado to serve as a draw for subscribers who sought faster download speeds to facilitate their direct and repeated infringements.” These allegations are not new and have been made against other ISPs in the past, including the aforementioned Bright House, but also Grande Communications and Cox Communications. These ISPs provide an “attractive tool” and “safe haven” for pirates, according to the music companies. As such, they should not be entitled to “safe harbor” protection under the DMCA, it is argued. This was also the conclusion of the Texas District Court earlier this month, which ruledthat Grande Communications failed to adopt and reasonably implement a repeat infringer policy. Charter will likely face similar allegations going forward. The complaint that was just filed provides several examples of “repeat infringers,” including some subscribers for which the ISP received hundreds of infringement notices. According to the music companies, it is clear that Charter intentionally ignored these repeated copyright infringements. As such, they believe that the ISP is liable for both contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. As compensation for the claimed losses, the companies demand statutory or actual damages, as well as coverage for their attorney fees and other costs. This could potentially run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Source
  15. Netflix may be losing $192M per month from piracy, cord cutting study claims As many as 1 in 5 people today are mooching off of someone else’s account when streaming video from Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video, according to a new study from CordCutting.com. Of these, Netflix tends to be pirated for the longest period — 26 months, compared with 16 months for Amazon Prime Video or 11 months for Hulu. That could be because Netflix freeloaders often mooch off their family instead of a friend — 48 percent use their parents’ login, while another 14 percent use their sister or brother’s credentials, the firm found. At a base price of $7.99 per month (the study was performed before Netflix’s January 2019 price increase), freeloading users could save $207.74 over a 26-month period. At scale, these losses can add up, the study claims. The report estimates Netflix could be losing $192 million in monthly revenue from piracy — more than either Amazon or Hulu, at $45 million per month and $40 million per month, respectively. Millennials, not surprisingly, account for much of the freeloading. They’re the largest demographic pirating Netflix (18 percent) and Hulu’s service (20 percent). But oddly, it was Baby Boomers who were more likely to borrow someone else’s account to access Amazon Prime Video. There’s an argument that those who pirate would never be paying customers, so these aren’t true losses. It’s the same sort of thing that was said about Napster mp3 downloads back in the day, or about those pirating movies through The Pirate Bay. But there is some portion of the freeloading population that claims they would pay, if they lost access. According to the study, 59.3 percent said they would pay for Netflix (or around 14 million people), contributing at least $112 million in monthly revenue, if they lost access. And 37.8 percent, or 2 million, said they’d pay for Hulu; 27.6 percent, or 1 million people, said they’d pay for Prime Video. Of course, there can be discrepancies between what consumers say they will do versus what they actually end up doing. So such claims that “I’d definitely pay,” have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. It’s worth noting, too, this study calculated figures by looking at Netflix’s single-screen-at-a-time account — in theory, the one meant to be used by a single individual and not shared as a family plan, in order to keep the estimates conservative. The consumer survey defined mooching by asking users if they use a service they don’t pay for, then asked what they would or would not pay for themselves, if that access fell through. Hulu, at least, has more recently tried to make its service more appealing to penny-pinchers. At its new price — $5.99 per month, rolled out this week — it’s making it harder to justify freeloading. Netflix, on the other hand, seems to know its value, and raised prices this year so its base plan is a dollar more at $8.99 per month, and its most popular plan has climbed to $12.99 per month. The full study offers other details on cord-cutting trends, including breakdowns by gender and details on who accounts are mooched from, among other things. Source
  16. Since 2011, Netflix has become one of the most powerful companies in the world, boasting a worldwide user base of nearly 150 million. Between 2011 and 2015, Netflix and other streaming services penetrated the global market so effectively that piracy plummeted roughly 50%. However, for the first time in years, that trend line is changing. In 2018, global piracy went up. Global piracy rate is a useful indicator for the health of the streaming market because it highlights a key value of streaming providers: convenience. Netflix proved that even in a world where piracy is accessible and relatively low-risk, users are willing to pay for convenience. No one wants to search dodgy corners of the internet to stream The Office if they don't have to. The migration of users from streaming services back to piracy indicates that streaming services are no longer offering the same level of convenience they used to. There are two major reasons for this. The first is market segmentation. If you want to watch Westworld, Atlanta, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you'll need to subscribe to some combination of HBO, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. As major streaming services invest in exclusive content (Netflix budgeted $13 billion for original content in 2018), users are forced to sign up for multiple services or miss out. As producers like Disney launch their own exclusive streaming services, the problem only grows. The second is international licensing. International licensing for media is a nightmare, and for streaming services, it presents a massive bottleneck. While Netflix users in the U.S. enjoy thousands of streamable movies, users in Portugal get by with a couple hundred. In countries with strict censorship laws like Saudi Arabia, numbers become even smaller. These forces converge to make individual streaming services less convenient—and therefore less valuable—to users, making the trade-offs of piracy more worthwhile. And while that may not spell the end for streaming services, it does signal that we may be seeing the end of streaming's golden age. Source: ;AngelList Newsletter via Email
  17. A group of 34 organizations and institutions have signed the 'Warsaw Declaration', hoping to increase international cooperation in the fight against online piracy. The signees, including prominent names such as the BBC, HBO, and NBCUniversal, believe that effective global collaboration is key to address the ongoing problem. Last month, many key players in the entertainment industries took part in the International Content Protection Summit in Warsaw, Poland. The summit was organized by the Sygnał Association, supported by the EU’s Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), with an agenda featuring the latest threats and developments in anti-piracy enforcement. While these type of gatherings are not new, several of the participants used the opportunity to strengthen their ties. International cooperation, they believe, is a key component for successful anti-piracy enforcement efforts. To stress their commitment to this goal, 34 participants signed a new memorandum of cooperation titled the Warsaw Declaration. The signees, including BBC Studios, BREIN, Discovery, FACT, HBO Europe, LaLiga, MPA, NBCUniversal, Sky Deutschland, and the Spanish National Police, state that they “acknowledge and understand the need for regular international involvement of major stakeholders.” According to the summit’s organizers, the “Warsaw Declaration” can help to target the major piracy threats more effectively. This includes the increasingly global reach of cybercrime, new distribution methods, and the use of cryptocurrencies as payment methods. “Piracy is currently a highly profitable undertaking with a complicated network of relations. There is proof of its connections to other types of crime. said Teresa Wierzbowska, President the Sygnał Association’s board. “The alarming figures concerning the scale of theft and illegal trade of audiovisual content are a motivating factor to take action,” she adds. The declaration itself doesn’t include a concrete plan of action. Apart from acknowledging and understanding the need for more collaboration, there’s not much more to it. What it does say is that the signees hope to increase “awareness” of the “negative impact of piracy on the global economy” among “decision-makers, opinion leaders, media and society,” and persuade them to counteract this. Speaking with TorrentFreak, Sygnał Association’s Anna Słoboda notes that the declaration is just the first step. The next stage is to turn it into action. “For us, it was very important to let people from western and eastern Europe meet each other in one place to exchange experiences and contacts. I am sure that it will soon bring results,” she says. A copy of the Warsaw declaration is available here (pdf) and a full list of the signees can be found below as well. -A+E Networks -Anti-Piracy Protection -Association “For Legal Content!” -Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT) -Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance (AAPA) -BBC Studios -BREIN Foundation -CANAL + Group -NDS -Clear Sky Initiative -Cyfrowy Polsat -Discovery -Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) -Federazione per la Tutela dei Contenuti Audiovisivi e Multimediali (FAPAV) -Group-IB -Guardia di Finanza -HBO Europe -International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) -ITI Neovision -Kreatywna Polska -LaLiga -Motion Picture Association EMEA -NAGRA/Kudelski Group -NBCUniversal International -OSN -RettighedsAlliancen -Sky Deutschland -Sky Italia -Sygnał Association -TeRaPro -The Spanish National Police -TVN -United Media -Warner Bros. Entertainment Source
  18. And the evidence “proving” your guilt could be little more than fluff and nonsense. The entertainment industry is waging a major legal campaign to turn ISPs into copyright cops authorized to kick broadband users offline—based on what’s often flimsy to nonexistent evidence of wrongdoing. As it currently stands, if you download a copyrighted file via BitTorrent or another platform, you’re risking a copyright violation warning from your ISP. These warnings are generated by investigators hired by the entertainment industry to track and combat online piracy, often by monitoring BitTorrent swarms. Unfortunately, the warnings are often based on flimsy evidence, and the presumption that if a downloaded file is traced to your IP address, you’re automatically guilty. Of course that’s not always the case, the most common example being if someone decided to download the latest episode of Game of Thrones while sitting in your driveway using your WiFi hotspot. ISPs are required to pass these copyright infringement notices on to end users under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). But since users frequently ignore these warnings, and there’s no real penalty for repeat offenses, the entertainment industry has spent years trying to dramatically up the ante, often to a ridiculous degree. For example, the music industry has attempted to turn copyright infringement into a revenue model by hiring companies tasked with scaring potential pirates into paying up to avoid a trial. Industry organizations like Rightscorp send “pre-settlement” letters to pirates informing them they can avoid any prolonged, nasty legal headaches simply by paying a fine. But the practice is legally sketchy, and as this Reddit thread illustrates, paying up is often a bottomless rabbit hole of ever-steeper penalties. Rightscorp, routinely accused of being a “copyright troll,” has subsequently been forced to ease off the practice in recent years in the wake of terrible publicity. But using Rightscorp as an intermediary, the entertainment industry has also taken to suing ISPs it claims aren’t doing enough to thwart piracy. The entertainment industry has long misrepresented an integral part of the DMCA to mean that ISPs should be forced to kick pirates offline permanently. Supreme Court precedent ( Packingham v North Carolina ) has been interpreted by copyright experts to indicate that booting users offline for piracy is a violation of the First Amendment. But the entertainment industry has taken sustained legal action against smaller ISPs that disagree. One of the industry’s targets has been a small Texas ISP called Grande Communications. Grande was sued in 2017 by a collection of 18 different music and film labels for failing to stop subscribers from engaging "in more than one million infringements of copyrighted works over BitTorrent systems." In its latest filing in the ongoing case, the ISP pulled no punches calling the entertainment industry’s lawsuit against it an “absurd” gambit to force ISPs into the role of “de facto copyright enforcement agents.” Often, the ISP warned, using nonexistent or incomplete evidence as the basis of “misleading” infringement warnings and threats. "Having given up on actually pursuing direct infringers due to bad publicity, and having decided not to target the software and websites that make online file-sharing possible, the recording industry has shifted its focus to fashioning new forms of copyright liability that would require ISPs to act as the copyright police,” the ISP wrote in its lawsuit. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent music industry legal victory against Cox Communications. It’s a victory that copyright experts say was based on a notable misrepresentation of the law by the courts, and could pave the way toward the erosion of ISP “safe harbor” protections under the DMCA protecting them from liability. That could be a huge problem for ISPs and users alike, Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at consumer group Public Knowledge told me in an email. “If ISPs lost their safe harbor protections, the incentive would be for ISPs to boot customers proactively, before they ran into any liability,” Rose said. “Proactive enforcement would necessitate pervasive monitoring of user behavior online, which, again, would chill speech—to put it mildly.” Critics charge that kicking and keeping users offline for alleged copyright infringement isn’t just a draconian over reach and a potential First Amendment violation, it’s a technical nightmare. Tracking booted users and preventing them from simply signing up with other ISPs—under say a spouse's name—would be largely impossible. But the daunting technical logistics, the resulting legal mess, and the potential stifling of online speech doesn’t seem to worry the music industry, which has argued that a good faith accusation of piracy is enough to warrant kicking a user offline permanently. “If they won that argument, it creates a perfect storm for consumer extortion, without a much in the way of legal safeguards,” Rose said. Mitch Stoltz, Senior Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed. Stoltz told me in a email that the erosion of ISP safe harbor protections “would mean a huge expansion of surveillance over our online lives.” “It also means that people could be kicked off of their home Internet service because of the actions of roommates, houseguests, children, or strangers,” he said. “In today's world, that means losing access to schoolwork, medical services, political participation, and other vital information—especially because many Americans have only one option for home broadband service.” For its part, Grande Communications’ latest filing states that the music industry’s lawsuit places it in an “impossible position: either terminate subscribers based on unverified allegations of infringement, or face litigation for the secondary infringement of thousands of copyrighted works." So far, the music industry has yet to challenge bigger players with deeper pockets like AT&T, Comcast or Verizon, though these giants are likely watching the case with great interest for liability reasons. Consumers eager to avoid being kicked offline based on nebulous allegations of guilt should probably keep a close eye on the ongoing case. Source
  19. MPAA chief Charles Rivkin is sounding the alarm bell. The healthy and vibrant Internet many people want is in serious jeopardy. Whether it's in response to fake news, hate speech, or piracy, Rivkin calls on Internet platforms to take responsibility and fix the web's "broken windows." The entertainment industries are growing increasingly frustrated with major Internet platforms that, in their view, are not doing enough to tackle online piracy. This was also the topic of a speech given by MPAA chief Charles Rivkin, during the TPI Aspen Forum yesterday. The title of the speech is telling. Rivkin’s “Declaration of Accountability for Cyberspace” is a play on John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which was written 22 years ago. Barlow, who passed away earlier this year, was an artist, an Internet activist, and one of the founding members of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. As an Internet pioneer, he repeatedly warned against stifling Internet restrictions, to keep cyberspace free and open. According to the MPAA, however, Barlow’s vision of a cyberspace where inhabitants right any wrongs themselves has failed. Its chief instead argues that the future of the “healthy” Internet is in danger. “I want to address one of the most vibrant and interconnected ecosystems in human history. That, of course, is the internet. And as we meet, the healthy and vibrant internet that we all want is in serious jeopardy,” Rivkin says. “The title of this speech is ‘a declaration of accountability for cyberspace’ — a reference I’m sure is not lost on this audience,” he adds. While the complaints about Internet piracy are not new, the MPAA ties piracy in with more recent debates about fake news, election meddling, and hate speech. From Cambridge Analytica to Infowars. Rivkin calls for a national conversation on how to return the Internet to a place of vibrant but civil discourse. A place where fake news, hate speech, and piracy are properly dealt with. Eventually, this leads the MPAA’s boss to Silicon Valley. Rivkin sees a major role for Internet platforms to do more to stop piracy and other types of abuse. If that doesn’t happen voluntarily, the US Government could step in, he suggests. “The crescendo is rising within our ecosystem. The message is getting louder by the day: Internet platforms must bear responsibility. And they must do more to address the harms that, wittingly or not, they facilitate. “Online platforms could increase their voluntary efforts to work with those affected to curb abuse of their services. Or perhaps Congress could recalibrate the online immunities to more explicitly require proactive steps as a condition of those protections,” Rivkin adds. The widespread problem of online piracy is a sign of worse to come, the MPAA chief suggests. “Online piracy is also the proverbial canary in a coal mine. The same pervasive theft that my industry faces is part of a continuum of toxic developments that harm all of us in this ecosystem – consumers, creators, and commercial operators alike,” he says. In his speech, Rivkin refers to the “broken windows” theory to illustrate his point. This theory suggests that an atmosphere of lawlessness is created when small crimes are left unpunished. Seeing broken windows in the streets makes it more likely that others will start vandalizing as well. This is also happening on the Internet today, according to Rivkin. When people continuously cross legal boundaries, by pirating, for example, others are more likely to follow suit. To fix this problem, the MPAA has already started working with advertising companies, payment processors and other intermediaries. These companies have adopted a strict anti-piracy stance, and it is now time for the Twitters, YouTubes, and Facebooks to follow suit. “If we want to bring back the internet we all want, it’s better to work together than cut each other off at the knees,” Rivkin says. “There are too many online windows broken and left unfixed for us to do anything but take collective action – and take it now.” One of the major gripes of the MPAA and other rightsholder organizations is the fact that current laws shield Internet platforms from direct liability. This should be changed, if these platforms don’t work along, they argue. Not everyone agrees that this is the case. Internet Association spokesman Noah Theran told Variety that the protections provided by laws such as the Communications Decency Act are a good thing. “Without intermediary liability protections it would be harder, not easier, for online platforms to keep bad actors off the internet,” Theran notes, and many Internet platforms will share this view. Source
  20. There have long been warnings that tough anti-piracy measures will eventually 'break the Internet'. While that catastrophe is yet to happen, meddling in any piece of complex machinery is likely to lead to unexpected consequences. Like the hobbyist tuner trying to squeeze the last bit of performance out of an already perfectly good car, exhilaration - or catching fire - is always around the corner. Back in the 80s, I fancied myself as a half-decent 8-bit coder but of course, there was always someone who did it outrageously better. Like my idols in the C64 demo scene, for example, whom I eventually rubbed shoulders with. They made computers do things they weren’t supposed to, like displaying graphics in places the machine didn’t natively allow or playing music on the heads of disc drives. The aim, at least in part, was to push software and hardware to breaking point. What they didn’t need, however, was help from self-professed experts. Unfortunately for them, my clearly superior teenage coding knowledge (and access to their machines) allowed me to quietly ‘improve’ some of their work in progress, ‘fixing’ it here and there without needing to ask permission or mention what I’d done. Luckily for the shape of my face, nothing broke down immediately and development on the ‘improved’ software mostly continued as if nothing had happened. And then people began swearing. A lot. I’m still sorry for that. I imagine the cursing that went on back then, in the wake of my efforts to ‘fix’ problems that were none of my business, was similar to that recently uttered by Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, in response to the Article 13 controversy. These men, who were there at the very beginning, also had a vision for their creations that didn’t involve smart-asses interfering with their work. Just like my unwanted efforts to ‘improve’ perfectly good parallax scrolling, web-blocking and content filtering are added complications that don’t easily fit with the original vision for an open web. No one wants complications. Most people – the vast majority of people – go on, 99% of people – do not want web-blocking, they don’t want filtering, and they don’t want expanded liabilities for intermediaries. But they’re mainly not being obtuse or pro-piracy, it’s just that their Internet (like a certain group’s scrolling) doesn’t need fixing because it’s just fine as it is. Of course, this call for the status quo is easily countered by the pro-blocking and pro-filtering movement who claim that the measures they want implementing globally have shown to work thus far, without any serious collateral damage. On this basis alone, why should anyone object to more of the same? Well, why shouldn’t they? None of these restrictions improve Internet users’ lives and there’s a dramatically reduced chance that the “Internet will break” if it’s left alone. So why not leave it? It’s not as if the public is being offered an incentive to welcome restrictions with open arms – price reductions on movies and music alongside a promise to increase quality if restrictions are put in place perhaps? Hardly. The point is this: it’s easy to frame this argument as one between those in favor of protecting copyright and those who want to pirate everything. In truth, it’s actually more fundamental. This is a clash between people who believe the Internet shouldn’t be tampered with – period – and those who believe that, because they’re potentially losing money, they should be allowed to tinker under everyone’s hood. People should, of course, be allowed to protect their rights but not at any cost. In the same way the Internet has grown and developed beyond all expectations, we should expect that the movement to block, filter, delete, divert and otherwise meddle in the net’s inner workings will grow too, probably in ways we’d never envisioned 10 years ago. That being said, it’s unlikely that any single filtering, blocking or liability-increasing effort will “break the Internet” and even a couple combined won’t herald the online apocalypse. After all, censorship machines are attacking as we speak, and most of us are still online with decent amounts of freedom. But in the same way that the famous Doomsday Clock ticks and tocks inexorably towards midnight, it’s not one event under consideration here, but the interplay between many. A restriction or web-block here, a content filter or a long-forgotten scrolling adjustment there. None of it really matters until that moment when history catches up with us and we wished we’d have been more careful over who was given control. Should we really be letting people who don’t know what they’re doing mess around with something so important, even when they’re doing it for reasons they genuinely believe in? If something really is properly broken, then perhaps we should consider sensible ways to fix it. However, when all the fixes become the very reason everything breaks down, we will have clearly gotten our priorities wrong and it will be too late. The big question is how long we’ll have to wait to find out. Will it be ‘never’ as we’re reliably informed by the entertainment industries or ‘sooner or later’ as the technologists suggest? The truth is, none of us really knows. The Internet experts don’t know there will be a meltdown next decade and copyright holders can’t promise that everything will be just fine in 20 years’ time. What we can say, however, is that our beloved Internet has served us pretty well up to now and despite much complaining and the existence of piracy, most people are doing very well out of it. No matter what happens it’s unlikely to break completely but there is a chance, at some point in the future, it will find itself being suffocated into submission. So, the simple challenge for us today is to find ways to protect rightsholders without affecting the vision for the open Internet. Answers on a postcard, please. Written by Andy at TF
  21. Cloudflare has settled its piracy liability lawsuit with adult publisher ALS Scan. The case in question was scheduled to go to trial with the CDN provider standing accused of contributory copyright infringement. Details of the settlement agreement have not been made public, but Cloudflare must be happy to move on. As one of the leading CDN and DDoS protection services, Cloudflare is used by millions of websites across the globe. This includes many pirate sites. In recent years many copyright holders have complained about Cloudflare’s involvement with these platforms, and in 2016 adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan took it a step further by dragging the company to court. ALS accused Cloudflare of various types of copyright infringement, noting that several of its customers used the company’s servers to distribute pirated content to the public. During the legal battle that followed, the CDN provider managed to have several counts dismissed. However, the accusation of contributory copyright infringement remained. Earlier this year California District Court Judge George Wu ruled that Cloudflare can substantially assist copyright infringements by hosting cached copies of files. Whether Cloudflare did this and could be held liable was something to be decided at trial. However, according to a recent filing, there will be no trial. This week both parties filed a joint stipulation asking the court to dismiss all claims against Cloudflare. “ALS Scan, Inc. and Cloudflare, Inc. hereby stipulate to dismissal without prejudice of the claims and action against Cloudflare, Inc., with each side bearing its own attorney’s fees, costs, and expenses,” they write. ALS Scan and Cloudflare have signed a settlement agreement behind closed doors. The terms of the deal have not been made public, but each party will attorney’s fees, costs, and other expenses. While the court retains jurisdiction over the matter in case any settlement disputes arise, the lawsuit is essentially over. Whether Cloudflare agreed to pay a settlement fee is unknown, but the agreement takes away a lot of uncertainty for the CDN provider. If they had gone to trial, where the controversial “Daily Stormer” issue could be used as evidence, the company’s fate would be in the hands of a jury. A negative decision there could have severely impacted its future. TorrentFreak requested a comment from a Cloudflare spokesperson and ALS Scan’s attorneys on the matter, but neither has responded at the time of publication. — A copy of Cloudflare and ALS Scan’s stipulation of dismissal can be found here (pdf). Source
  22. Swedish Internet service provider Bahnhof is continuing its crusade against copyright holders that target alleged file-sharers. The company has published an article which shows that these copyright cases have little to do with the Government's intention of protecting individual copyright holders with limited financial means. In recent years file-sharers around the world have been threatened with lawsuits, if they don’t pay a significant settlement fee. These so-called “copyright trolling” efforts have been a common occurrence in countries such as Germany and the United States, and in recent years they have conquered Sweden as well. Where Internet providers remain on the sidelines in most countries, Swedish ISP Bahnhof has shown to be a fierce opponent of the copyright enforcement efforts. The company uses all possible means to protect its subscribers, both in an outside of court. In an article published a few days ago, Bahnhof Communicator Carolina Lindahl takes a closer look at the legal basis underlying the threatening letters. Lindahl notes that the Swedish Government sees a need for strict copyright infringement penalties while keeping the barriers for creators to go to court low because they often have limited resources. “In copyright litigation […], it is often the author himself who is a party, and usually the author has limited financial resources,” the Government’s code for Penalties for Certain Serious IP violations reads. However, according to Bahnhof, this is far removed from reality. Lindahl sifted through the legal paperwork related to copyright infringement cases filed at the Criminal Court, to see which companies are behind them. The research uncovered 76 cases, the majority of which formed the basis for the tens of thousands of piracy settlement letters that were sent out. Only five of these cases were filed by the creator of the work, Lindahl notes. In other instances, the creators were represented by intermediaries or licensees, such as Copyright Management Services and Crystalis Entertainment. While these companies may have the legal right to pursue these cases, they are not the original creators of the films they sue over. “The government’s claim – that it is often the author himself who is a party – does not seem to be correct at all,” Lindahl writes. In addition, the ISP rejects the notion that copyright holders have “limited financial resources.” Using public sources, Lindahl shows that several of the companies involved have millions of dollars in revenues. So, instead of protecting individual creators with limited means, the ISP says that the Government’s policy allows major companies to “extort” money from individuals, including those with limited financial resources. “Our legislation rests on assumptions that are badly rooted in reality,” Lindahl writes, noting that government policy only makes rich film companies richer. “The result is an extortion operation that is profitable for already profitable media companies and costly for young people, retirees, and other individuals on the margin, without the capability to tackle sudden costs of thousands of kronor. “The lone and economically limited authors are in fact groups of authors with great wealth. Without pure greed, they probably don’t need to send out extortion letters,” the article adds. Lindahl tells TF that she does see a few options to deal with the issue at hand. Sweden could follow the example of its neighbor Denmark, for example, where copyright trolling is ‘outlawed.’ Alternatively, courts could call the IP-monitoring evidence into question, which isn’t always as solid as it seems. That said, she’s not very hopeful that anything will change soon. “I don’t trust our government or authorities to do anything about this. I’m sure they enjoy things just as they are,” Lindahl notes. “Either because they are stupid and really believe they’re helping the poor, because they have private engagements with copyright organizations, or because they like to chase and punish pirates every way they can. Or all of the above.” Source
  23. With a record international box office of over $40 billion behind him, MPAA chief Charles Rivkin has told movie exhibitors at CinemaCon that keeping a lid on unauthorized sites is one of his group's main goals. Describing the tackling of piracy as a "top priority", Rivkin framed the ACE anti-piracy coalition as a powerful group ensuring that movie makers maintain control and reap the rewards for their hard work. After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA. The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight. Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. “Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said. “But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.” Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free. “Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said. “I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.” That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years. With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media. “One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said. “This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.” Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few. The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms. From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers. The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV. With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases. “I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said. “Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have. Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon. torrentfreak
  24. Sending out warnings is supposed to reduce the numbers of people using BitTorrent to obtain movies, TV shows and music without paying. It's far from clear how much difference they make but receiving one can't be the best of experiences for recipients. Some people, however, are receiving plenty of them yet still not changing their behavior. So just how many is enough? For the past several years, copyright holders in the US and Europe have been trying to reach out to file-sharers in an effort to change their habits. Whether via high-profile publicity lawsuits or a simple email, it’s hoped that by letting people know they aren’t anonymous, they’ll stop pirating and buy more content instead. Traditionally, most ISPs haven’t been that keen on passing infringement notices on. However, the BMG v Cox lawsuit seems to have made a big difference, with a growing number of ISPs now visibly warning their users that they operate a repeat infringer policy. But perhaps the big question is how seriously users take these warnings because – let’s face it – that’s the entire point of their existence. There can be little doubt that a few recipients will be scurrying away at the slightest hint of trouble, intimidated by the mere suggestion that they’re being watched. Indeed, a father in the UK – who received a warning last year as part of the Get it Right From a Genuine Site campaign – confidently and forcefully assured TF that there would be no more illegal file-sharing taking place on his ten-year-old son’s computer again – ever. In France, where the HADOPI anti-piracy scheme received much publicity, people receiving an initial notice are most unlikely to receive additional ones in future. A December 2017 report indicated that of nine million first warning notices sent to alleged pirates since 2012, ‘just’ 800,000 received a follow-up warning on top. The suggestion is that people either stop their piracy after getting a notice or two, or choose to “go dark” instead, using streaming sites for example or perhaps torrenting behind a decent VPN. But for some people, the message simply doesn’t sink in early on. A post on Reddit this week by a TWC Spectrum customer revealed that despite a wealth of readily available information (including masses in the specialist subreddit where the post was made), even several warnings fail to have an effect. “Was just hit with my 5th copyright violation. They halted my internet and all,” the self-confessed pirate wrote. There are at least three important things to note from this opening sentence. Firstly, the first four warnings did nothing to change the user’s piracy habits. Secondly, Spectrum presumably had enough at five warnings and kicked in a repeat-infringer suspension, presumably to avoid the same fate as Cox in the BMG case. Third, the account suspension seems to have changed the game. Notably, rather than some huge blockbuster movie, that fifth warning came due to something rather less prominent. “Thought I could sneak in a random episode of Rosanne. The new one that aired LOL. That fast. Under 24 hours I got shut off. Which makes me feel like [ISPs] do monitor your traffic and its not just the people sending them notices,” the post read. Again, some interesting points here. Any content can be monitored by rightsholders but if it’s popular in the US then a warning delivered via an ISP seems to be more likely than elsewhere. However, the misconception that the monitoring is done by ISPs persists, despite that not being the case. ISPs do not monitor users’ file-sharing activity, anti-piracy companies do. They can grab an IP address the second someone enters a torrent swarm, or even connects to a tracker. It happens in an instant, at a time of their choosing. Quickly jumping in and out of a torrent is no guarantee and the fallacy of not getting caught due to a failure to seed is just that – a fallacy. But perhaps the most important thing is that after five warnings and a disconnection, the Reddit user decided to take action. Sadly for the people behind Rosanne, it’s not exactly the reaction they’d have hoped for. “I do not want to push it but I am curious to what happens 6th time, and if I would even be safe behind a VPN,” he wrote. “Just want to learn how to use a VPN and Sonarr and have a guilt free stress free torrent watching.” Of course, there was no shortage of advice. “If you have gotten 5 notices, you really should of learnt [sic] how to use a VPN before now,” one poster noted, perhaps inevitably. But curiously, or perhaps obviously given the number of previous warnings, the fifth warning didn’t come as a surprise to the user. “I knew they were going to hit me for it. I just didn’t think a 195mb file would do it. They were getting me for Disney movies in the past,” he added. So how do you grab the attention of a persistent infringer like this? Five warnings and a suspension apparently. But clearly, not even that is a guarantee of success. Perhaps this is why most ‘strike’ schemes tend to give up on people who can’t be rehabilitated. torrentfreak
  25. Several major Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix have filed a lawsuit against Set Broadcast, LLC, which sells the popular IPTV service SET TV. The companies accuse the service and its operators of facilitating mass copyright infringement. In addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, the movie studios request an injunction to stop the infringing activity. In recent years, piracy streaming tools and services have become a prime target for copyright enforcers. This is particularly true for the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership forged between Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies. After taking action against Kodi-powered devices Tickbox and Dragonbox, key ACE members have now filed a similar lawsuit against the Florida-based company Set Broadcast, LLC, which sells the popular IPTV service SET TV. The complaint, filed at a California federal court on Friday, further lists company owner Jason Labbosiere and employee Nelson Johnson among the defendants. According to the movie companies, the Set TV software is little more than a pirate tool, allowing buyers to stream copyright infringing content. “Defendants market and sell subscriptions to ‘Setvnow,’ a software application that Defendants urge their customers to use as a tool for the mass infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows,” the complaint reads. In addition to the software, the company also offers a preloaded box. Both allow users to connect to live streams of TV channels and ‘on demand’ content. The latter includes movies that are still in theaters, which SET TV allegedly streams through third-party sources. “For its on-demand options, Setvnow relies on third-party sources that illicitly reproduce copyrighted works and then provide streams of popular content such as movies still exclusively in theaters and television shows.” The intended use of SET TV is clear, according to the movie companies. They frame it as a pirate service and believe that this is the main draw for consumers. “Defendants promote the use of Setvnow for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how their customers use Setvnow,” the complaint reads. Interestingly, the complaint also states that SET TV pays for sponsored reviews to reach a broader audience. The videos, posted by popular YouTubers such as Solo Man, who is quoted in the complaint, advertise the IPTV service. “[The] sponsored reviewer promotes Setvnow as a quick and easy way to access on demand movies: ‘You have new releases right there and you simply click on the movie … you click it and click on play again and here you have the movie just like that in 1 2 3 in beautiful HD quality’.” The lawsuit aims to bring an end to this. The movie companies ask the California District for an injunction to shut down the infringing service and impound all pre-loaded devices. In addition, they’re requesting statutory damages which could go up to several million dollars. At the time of writing the SET TV website is still in the air, selling subscriptions. The company itself has yet to comment on the allegations. — A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf), courtesy of GeekWire. torrentfreak
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