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  1. New research by economist Koleman Strumpf shows that there is no significant effect of movie piracy on box office revenues. This conclusion is based on data from 150 blockbuster movies that were released over a period of six years, using the popular Hollywood exchange as an indication for the revenue impact. Research into online piracy comes in all shapes and sizes, often with equally mixed results. Often the main question is whether piracy is hurting sales. A new study conducted by economist Koleman Strumpf is one of the most comprehensive on the subject so far. Drawing on data from a popular BitTorrent tracker and revenue projections from the Hollywood Stock Exchange he researches how the release of a pirated movie affects expected box office income. The research covers 150 of the most popular films that were released over a period of seven years, and the findings reveal that the release of pirated films on file-sharing sites doesn’t directly hurt box office revenue. “There is no evidence in my empirical results of file-sharing having a significant impact on theatrical revenue,” Strumpf tells TorrentFreak in a comment. “My best guess estimate is that file sharing reduced the first month box office by $200 million over 2003-2009, which is only three tenths of a percent of what movies actually earned. I am unable to reject the hypothesis that there is no impact at all of file-sharing on revenues.” So while there is a small negative effect, this is limited to three tenth of a percent and not statistically significant. Interestingly, the data also reveals that movie leaks shortly before the premiere have a small positive impact on expected revenues. This suggests that file-sharing may serve as a form of promotion. “One consistent result is that file-sharing arrivals shortly before the theatrical opening have a modest positive effect on box office revenue. One explanation is that such releases create greater awareness of the film. This is also the period of heaviest advertising,” Strumpf notes. One of the advantages of this study compared to previous research is that it measures the direct effect of a movie leak on projected box office revenues. Previous studies mostly compared early versus late leaks, which is less accurate and may be influenced by other factors. “For example, suppose studios added extra security to big budget movies which then have a delayed arrival to file-sharing networks. Then even if file-sharing has no impact at all, one would find that delayed arrival on file-sharing leads to higher revenues,” Strumpf tells us. Another upside of the research lies in the statistical precision. The data includes thousands of daily observations and relatively precise estimates, something lacking in most previous studies. The downside, on the other hand, is that the expected box office impact is estimated from the Hollywood Stock Exchange. While this has shown to be a good predictor for actual revenues, it’s not a direct measurement. In any case, the paper suggests that file-sharing might not be the biggest threat the movie industry is facing. Even if the negative effects were twice as big as the data suggests, it would still be less than the $500 million Hollywood spent on the MPAA’s anti-piracy efforts during the same period. Source: TorrentFreak
  2. With its significant entertainment business interests, media giant News Corp has been making its feelings known in the ongoing piracy debate. After targeting Google last month the company says it wants the government to tighten up the law in order to hold Australian ISPs responsible for the actions of their pirating subscribers. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation spin-off not only owns several major newspapers, but also has a stake in Foxtel, the Australian pay TV network that airs Game of Thrones. The hit TV show has become a pivotal talking point in the copyright debate, so it comes as little surprise that News Corp is now regularly throwing its own anti-piracy opinions into the mix. Last month, News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson fired shots at Google for operating sophisticated algorithms that “know ­exactly where you are and what you’re doing” yet at the same time “pleading ignorance” on piracy. “[it's an] untenable contradiction,” Thomson said. Now the media outfit is making its feelings known again in a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, regarding the Free Trade Agreement between the governments of Australia and South Korea. Specifically, News Corp doesn’t like the fact that following the failed Hollywood legal onslaught against iiNet, Aussie ISPs are able to distance themselves from the pirating habits of their subscribers. “As News Corp Australia has expressed previously, we are concerned that the amendments made to the Copyright Act 1968 in 2004 regarding secondary liability of ISPs do not operate as intended,” the company writes. “Specifically, the provisions of the Act – although intended to do so – do not provide rights holders with means to protect rights online as the provisions are technology specific and ineffective in dealing with online copyright infringement as it manifests today, nor as it may manifest in the future.” The law as it stands, News Corps adds, is not “readily suited to enforcing the rights of copyright owners in respect of widespread infringements occasioned by peer-to-peer file sharing, as occurs with the BitTorrent system.” Looking towards a solution, News Corp supports the position taken by Attorney-General George Brandis back in February when the Senator noted that Section 101 of the Copyright Act should be reformed so that an ISP which authorizes the copyright infringements of others can more effectively be held liable for those infringements. “News Corp Australia supports the Attorney-General’s approach to the issue of online copyright infringement, and looks forward to contributing to ensuring domestic copyright protection provisions function as intended, and the balance between obligation (secondary liability) and benefit (safe harbour) is re-established,” the company concludes. Whether ISPs will relish taking on more responsibility is up for debate, but it’s safe to say that one – Hollywood nemesis iiNet – definitely won’t. The company’s Chief Regulatory Officer Steve Dalby has been in the press on numerous occasions in the past few weeks taking a particularly aggressive stance against most government and entertainment industry proposals. Source: TorrentFreak
  3. Last year Adobe announced a shift away from boxed products in favor of a cloud-based subscription model. Now the U.S.-based company says that not only does it have more than 2.3 million cloud subscribers, but it has also seen a drop in piracy. Exactly how much is "hard to measure" but Adobe products still lead the way with pirates. There can be little doubt that Adobe products are a crowd pleaser among digital creatives. Designers love them, photographers and videographers do too, and Adobe’s Photoshop, Flash and Acrobat brands are recognized worldwide. But while millions of people use Adobe’s premium products, not everyone pays for that privilege. Unauthorized Photoshop releases have been appearing on computers worldwide for 25 years and other Adobe products are regularly pirated close to their launch. Over time this has led Adobe to invest substantial sums of money on anti-piracy measures including DRM and even legal action. But there are other ways to deal with the problem. In May last year and much to the disappoint of Adobe’s millions of pirate ‘customers’, the company announcemend that it would be changing the way it does business. Boxed products, a hangover from the last decade and earlier, would be phased out and replaced with a cloud-based subscription model. On the one hand, many pirates heard the word “cloud” and associated that with a lack of local machine control, something that can cause issues when trying to run unlicensed software. Adobe, on the other hand, appeared to be looking at product development and the piracy problem from a different angle. While attempts at hacking its cloud service would present another technical barrier to piracy, with its new offering the tech giant also looked towards making its product more affordable. A few dollars a month rather than $700 in one go was aimed at providing an economic reason for even the most budget-restricted not to pirate. But has the strategy worked? According to new comments from Fabio Sambugaro, VP of Enterprise Latin America at Adobe, unauthorized use of the company’s products is definitely down since the cloud switch. “Piracy has fallen,” Sambugaro says. “It’s hard to measure, but we’ve seen many companies seeking partnerships that in the past wouldn’t have done so.” According to information released to investors last month, Adobe exited quarter two this year with 2,308,000 subscribers of its Creative Cloud service, an increase of 464,000 over the first quarter of 2014. The company attributed 53% of the company’s quarter two revenue to “recurring sources” such as its Creative and Marketing Cloud services. So have the pirates given up on Adobe? In a word, no. One only has to scour the indexes of the world’s most popular torrent sites to see that Photoshop, Photoshop Lightroom, Illustrator, Premiere, Indesign, After Effects and Acrobat Pro all take prominent places in the charts of most-popular torrents. No surprise then that on The Pirate Bay, Photoshop CS6 – the last version of Photoshop before the cloud switch – is king of the software downloads by a long way. Also, and contrary to fears aired by pirates alongside Adobe’s original strategy change announcement, the cloud has not made it impossible to run unauthorized versions of Photoshop CC 2014, for example. Expected functional restrictions aside, torrent sites have plenty of working copies of Creative Cloud releases, but is this necessarily a bad thing? There are those who believe that some level of piracy is useful as a try-before-you-buy option on a traditionally expensive product such as Photoshop. But what makes this notion even more interesting today is that Adobe’s switch to the cloud – and its much lower price point for entry – may see people investing a few dollars a month for increased functionality and a simple life, instead of one spent jumping through hoops with an inferior and oftentimes awkward product. And Adobe knows it. “I do not think people who pirate our software do it because they are bad people, or because they like to steal things. I just think that they decided that they can not afford it,” said Adobe’s David Wadhwani previously. “And now, with the switch to subscriptions and with the ability to offer software at a cheaper price, we see that the situation is beginning to change and we’re excited.” Richard Atkinson, Corporate Director of Worldwide Anti-Piracy, admitted last year that the company would move away from “enforcement-led anti piracy” to a “business-focused pirate-to-pay conversion program.” If the company is to be believed, that is now paying off. Source: TorrentFreak
  4. For years Norway was pressured to do something drastic against pirates and 12 months ago this week the country introduced tough new legislation. But one year on and not a single file-sharer has been inquired about nor has a single site blocking request been filed. What's going on in Scandinavia? For many years regular file-sharers in Norway have been largely free to go about their business with little concern for the consequences. A 2011 decision disallowed the only entity licensed to collect information on P2P networks from doing so, meaning that tracking pirates without permission would breach privacy laws. In 2011 under significant rightsholder pressure, the Ministry of Culture announced amendments to the country’s Copyright Act alongside promises to give the entertainment industries the tools to go after pirates. Two years later in July 2013 the new law went into effect and as promised it gave the pirate hunters a sporting chance. Out went the days of restrictions on P2P user monitoring and in came a system whereby groups seeking to spy on pirates only needed to get permission from the country’s Data Inspectorate. The big MPAA affiliates obtained permission within the first few months and promised to target uploaders, but what followed next? Since it’s been a full 12 months since the start of the new law and seven months since the MPA obtained clearance to monitor, Hardware.no filed some questions with the Ministry of Culture to find out the state of play. It also contacted the Post and Telecommunications Authority to find out if any personal details of file-sharers had been handed over to copyright holders. “The short answer is no,” said Deputy Director Elisabeth Aarsæther. “From our point of view it looks like the word ‘share’ means go ahead and ‘steal’ among users. I cannot say for certain that nothing will happen going forward, but we have not received any requests so far.” Aarsæther said that the lack of requests might have something to do with the greater number of legal services now available online. However, there also appears to be a lack of interest from copyright holders who only need to register with the authorities in order to collect IP addresses. “We took stock moments ago, and we have not received any new messages in a long time,” senior Data Inspectorate adviser Guro Skåltveit told Hardware. “There are currently twelve entities who have advised us and can now collect data.” Eleven of that dozen registered back in the fall of 2013, and they include a successful application from the Norwegian Pirate Party. Thus far in 2014 there has only been one new application. None have sought personal details. Finally the new law allows for the blocking of sites confirmed to breach copyright law, but again there has been little visible movement on that front. The industries’ main target, the infamous Pirate Bay, remains accessible in the country despite threats to have it blocked in court. However, this process was expected to take some time, particularly since local ISPs are refusing to do anything voluntarily. After lobbying hard for new laws over many years one might have expected rightsholders to use every tool available to them as quickly as possible, but for some reason they’re gathering dust 12 months on. It may well be that chasing down individuals has become unpalatable, especially alongside efforts to woo consumers with better legal offerings. Time will tell what the strategy is going forward, but for now Norwegian file-sharers can rest easy. Their next challenge probably won’t be a letter in the post, but the puzzle of how to unblock The Pirate Bay. Source
  5. The paid informants program of the Business Software Alliance, a trade group representing Adobe, Apple and Microsoft, is a great success. The group recruits informants through Facebook and other venues, offering them hard cash in return for a successful tip. According to a BSA executive, this approach has put a dent in software piracy rates. Earlier this year we reported on a controversial anti-piracy campaign operated by the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Representing major software companies, the BSA uses Facebook ads which encourage people to report businesses that use unlicensed software. If one of these reports results in a successful court case, the pirate snitch can look forward to a cash reward. Below is one of the promoted Facebook posts that has appeared in the timelines of thousands of people, encouraging them to expose software piracy in return for hard cash. BSA’s Facebook ad While most responses on Facebook are negative, it appears that the campaign is not without results. In an interview with Radio Prague, the spokesman for the Czech branch of the BSA notes that the informant program has been a great success thus far. “[The campaign is] very successful. We did it because we wanted to catch big fish. In the past, many informants did not want to disclose who they were, and it was difficult to set up serious communication with them.” the BSA’s Jan Hlaváč says. “The only way out of this was to offer them something that would motivate them to fully cooperate. That’s why we decided to launch this programme, to reward information that leads not only to identifying illegal software but to bringing the whole case to the end,” he adds. The cash reward has increased the number of serious tips and in the Czech Republic alone the BSA receives about 30 leads per month. Similar campaigns also run in the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia, where hundreds of tips come in every week. Some of these tips lead to a follow up investigation where BSA offers the alleged infringer a settlement offer. In the Czech Republic alone there are currently several cases pending, worth roughly $500,000. If a settlement is reached, the informant will get a share, ranging from $5,000 to $200,000. Another BSA Facebook ad Earlier this week the BSA released new data (pdf) on piracy levels worldwide, with the rate of unlicensed software decreasing in most western countries. Between 2011 and 2013 the percentage of unlicensed software installed on computers dropped from 19% to 18% in the United States, and similar downward trends were observed in the UK and elsewhere. In the Czech Republic piracy rates decreased from 37% to 34%, and according to the BSA this is in part due to the snitch campaign. “Definitely. The programme has helped a great deal convince companies that the legal risks are not worth it,” Hlaváč says. Despite this success there is still plenty of work to be done. Globally the percentage of pirate software increased slightly, representing a total value of $62.7 billion, so there’s plenty of bounty left. Source: TorrentFreak
  6. The season finale of Game of Thrones has set a brand new piracy record, with a quarter million people sharing a single file at the same time. During the first 12 hours roughly 1.5 million file-sharers downloaded a pirated copy of the popular show, a number that will swell to over 7.5 million during the days to come. The fourth season of Game of Thrones has been the most-viewed so far, both through official channels and among pirates. The season finale was therefore expected to break all previous records. The official U.S. ratings that just came in show that “The Children” was the most viewed season finale thus far, with 7.1 million people tuning in. In the black market the same episode did well too, setting a mind-boggling piracy record. The latest episode resulted in the largest BitTorrent swarm ever. That is, never before have so many people gathered to share a single file on the Internet. A few hours after the first torrent of the show appeared on torrent sites, the Demonii tracker reported that 254,114 people were sharing one single torrent at the same time. 190,701 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 63,413 were still downloading. The previous record was also held by Game of Thrones, with a little over 200,000 people sharing a single file. There was also quite bit of interest in higher definition releases. The most popular 720p copy was shared by 108,539 BitTorrent users simultaneously, and the most shared 1080p release had 23,922 people connected to it. Game of Thrones’ new “simultaneous” file-sharing record Data gathered by TorrentFreak further shows that, in 12 hours, the season finale has been downloaded roughly 1.5 million times. Translated into actual data, that’s close to 2,000 terabytes transferred in half a day. The download total is expected to increase to more than 7.5 million during the weeks to come and means that unless a miracle happens, Game of Thrones will be crowned the most-pirated TV-show of the year once again. A brief inspection of the download locations shows that Game of Thrones pirates come from all over the world, as we’ve seen previously. The show is particularly popular in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Interestingly, Game of Thrones is available through legal channels in all countries listed above, albeit not cheaply. Despite the massive piracy numbers, we haven’t heard too many piracy complaints thus far, quite the contrary. Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO’s parent company Time Warner previously that piracy resulted in more subscriptions for his company, and that receiving the title of “most-pirated” was “better than an Emmy.” In any case, despite, or perhaps thanks to the massive piracy, Game of Thrones is doing better than ever. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. A lawsuit hitting the Moscow City Court next month is aiming to deal with TV show piracy on a much broader basis than case-by-case takedowns. Brought by the local distributor of 15 shows including Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, the suit will aim to purge a wide range of unauthorized TV content from more than a dozen sites. Since August 2013, rightsholders in Russia have enjoyed greater powers to help them deal with websites carrying or linking to pirated movies and TV shows. The pre-trial mechanism allows for the imposition of so-called “preliminary interim measures” should the sites in question fail to remove or block infringing content in a timely fashion. These can include a court ordered service provider blockade of specific URLs. The process has been used dozens of times during the past ten months or so. Earlier this month the Moscow City Court took action to restrict the availability of 15 TV shows illegally posted online including Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, True Blood and American Horror Story. Several torrent site URLs were ordered to be blocked by ISPs, including those on the popular RuTor.org. Now, just a week later, the local exclusive rightsholder of the above shows plus others including Boardwalk Empire, True Detective, Homeland, Girls and True Blood, wants to have its content completely blocked on a wide range of sites. The case is being brought by “A Series” and will begin in the Moscow City Court next month. According to Rapsinews, July 10 has been set aside for pre-trial preparations and to clarify the requirements of the parties, including a call for evidence and addressing other issues relevant to the forthcoming trial. The lawsuit will target more than a dozen sites and BitTorrent trackers including rutor.org, lostfilm.tv, bigcinema.tv and gamethrones.ru, most of which have been targeted in previous actions. News of the lawsuit arrives following the announcement of an agreement between the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Culture to beef up the law introduced last year. A source inside the government told Izvestia that the text of a new anti-piracy bill has been finalized and will be submitted to the Duma in the near future. While the law’s new stricter provisions will be welcomed by rightsholders, the music industry will again be disappointed. Movies and TV shows are covered by current law, but music is not, and the package of amendments about to be presented will not see the introduction of music protection until 2016. Source: TorrentFreak
  8. New data collected by piracy monitoring firm MarkMonitor shows that the latest Hollywood blockbusters are most frequently shared from Russia, with America and Italy trailing behind. Per capita the results are completely different. Here the United Arab Emirates is in the lead, followed by Israel and Estonia. It’s no secret that P2P file-sharing services are widely used to distribute pirated movies. However, less is known about the volume of these unauthorized transfers in various countries. New data published in a Dutch report detailing the impact of unauthorized P2P file-sharing on the movie industry reveals that in the Netherlands alone an estimated 78 million euros are lost due to movie piracy. The same report also provides some interesting statistics that shed some light o geographical file-sharing differences. During the first half of the year MarkMonitor, which is also the technology partner for the U.S. six strikes program, tracked 16 popular English language blockbuster movies. The list includes titles such as Frozen, The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The movies were monitored via both eDonkey and BitTorrent, with the latter having the largest audience. In total MarkMonitor found that these movies were shared 150,186,156 times without permission. Despite the focus on English language films, most pirated copies – more than 20 million – were shared from Russia. The bar chart below shows the full top 10 based on the absolute number of infringements that were detected, with the United States, Italy, Brazil and Spain completing the top five. It is of course no surprise to see these large countries on top. It gets more interesting when we look at the number of file-sharers per capita. In the United States for example, 12.5 million pirated copies were shared in a population of more than 310 million, which is roughly 4%. In Russia this percentage is much higher at 15% and in Australia it’s more than 16%. Not surprisingly, the list of countries that share the most pirated movies per capita is quite different. According to the report, the movies in the sample were relatively most shared in the United Arab Emirates, followed by Israel, Estonia, Greece and Italy. Australia, Qatar, Sweden, Singapore and the Netherlands complete the top 10. It has to be noted that the findings above are based on a sample that is biased towards Western content. This explains the absence of Chinese downloaders, who tend to share files through other channels. Similarly, the data doesn’t cover direct downloads and streaming sites which may be relatively more popular in other regions. That said, the numbers do give some more insight into the popularity of P2P movie piracy, or lack thereof, across various countries. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. The EU Commission will next week announce new strategies for dealing with online piracy and counterfeiting. These non-legislative measures will include an EU action plan aimed at fighting IP infringement, plus a strategy to protect and enforce IP rights in third countries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the aim is to "follow the money". While much of the last decade-and-a-half’s fight against piracy has taken place on the national level, the attempted introduction of ACTA and similar legislation showed that broader approaches are increasingly under consideration. In an announcement timetabled for July 1, the EU Commission will reveal the adoption of two sets of measures designed to promote “greater respect” for intellectual property rights in the European Union and beyond. Firstly, the EU will announce the adoption of an action plan to fight infringement of intellectual property rights across Europe. The second will see the adoption of a strategy for the protection and enforcement of the same in third countries. The EU action plan will comprise ten specific mechanisms which will provide new “policy enforcement tools” to counter intellectual property infringement being carried out on a commercial scale. This suggests a targeting of sites and services, rather than their users. According to the Commission, commercial activities represent a major challenge for the EU due to the harm they cause, including the undermining of both investment in innovation and the creation of jobs. Rather than going down the complex and expensive legal route to tighter enforcement, the EU says its new tools will be “non-legislative” in nature and will seek to “follow the money” in order to deprive commercial offenders of income. The announcement in respect of third countries will outline plans to strengthen cooperation between the authorities, including customs authorities in the EU and those elsewhere. Common objectives will include preventing the spread of infringing content and the stimulation of investment, growth and employment through debate and awareness. The “follow the money” approach is definitely the anti-piracy strategy that has been met with the least opposition over the last couple of years. The work with brands and their advertisers plus payment processors such as Visa and Mastercard to stop doing business with pirate sites has been well received by industry and appears to be gaining traction. Progress is being reported in the United States and more recently the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit detailed its own successes. The full details of the new action plans will be made available by the EU in a little over a week’s time. Source: TorrentFreak
  10. Vuze, one of the most-used BitTorrent clients with millions of active users, is speaking out against piracy. The team behind the popular file-sharing software is urging their users not to "steal" from rightsholders. In addition, they encourage people to consider reporting illegal behavior. Following in the footsteps of the makers of uTorrent, the Vuze team is now taking a stand against piracy. The California-based company says it will focus more on highlighting legal content through social media and other outlets. Vuze emphasizes that its technology is completely legal, but wants its users to understand that sharing files without permission of copyright holders isn’t. “Although torrents themselves are a legitimate way to share files, understanding the rights of copyright holders and what content they have or have not authorized for free distribution is the core to understanding the difference between it being legal or illegal to share or distribute content using Vuze,” the company notes. “Remember, if you use Vuze torrent client software for P2P file sharing then use it responsibly. Be aware of illegal torrents and avoid downloading them. Don’t infringe copyright,” Vuze adds. This position is sensible for a technology company to take. Also, Vuze does highlight that copyright is a complex issue, and that there are ongoing discussions with varying positions. The bottom-line according to Vuze, however, is that downloading something without the permission of the owners is stealing. “Now we can get into all sorts of political, social and even religious discussions on this topic, but right now as the laws exist in most places downloading and sharing content without the authorization of the rights-holder is stealing, and even if one copy was purchased, passing digital copies around via P2P is still illegal, sometimes criminally so.” “Sharing and downloading infringing MP3s and MPEGs is virtually the same as swiping from a brick-and-mortar,” Vuze adds. The “stealing” mention is a touchy subject. Many people, including scholars and a U.S. federal court, believe that this term should be avoided when talking about piracy. Even the MPAA’s Chris Dodd agreed on this. “We’re on the wrong track if we describe this as thievery,” Dodd said two years ago, although the MPAA still uses the term today. Vuze, however, doesn’t avoid this type of strong language. The company wants to make it clear that piracy is not allowed. In fact, the company encourages its users to follow suit, and “consider reporting illegal content infractions.” Aside from the promise to highlight legal content on its blog, they also provide some tips for users to spot infringing content. Vuze hopes that with these guidelines, users will be able to steer away from any illegal behavior. “We want to again stress that we respect the rights of copyright holders, and hope and expect that you do too,” Vuze concludes. Whether that’s going to happen remains to be seen. Several studies have shown that more than 90% of all public transfers via BitTorrent are copyright infringing, and it will be hard to flip these numbers around. Source: TorrentFreak
  11. An announcement later this week will confirm Google as a member of a new coalition to cut off "pirate" sites from their ad revenue. Following similar initiatives in the U.S. and UK, a Memorandum of Understanding between the online advertising industry and the music and movie industries in Italy will signal a creation of a central body to tackle the piracy issue. There is a theory in the entertainment industries that if running torrent, file-sharing or streaming sites makes no commercial sense to their operators, then they will soon wither and die. Every week there are often aggressive opinions published on why cutting off revenue is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the online piracy war. This crescendo has already grown into notable action in both the United States and United Kingdom. Later this week a new initiative will be presented to the public, and the fact that Google is onboard will no doubt help to promote the completeness of the effort. Continuing the European effort after the UK, this Thursday in Rome, Italy, a coalition of key advertising players plus the main anti-piracy groups of the music and movie industries will announce the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding. The announcement, taking place at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s IAB Events 2014 conference, will see the IAB, music industry anti-piracy group FPM and Fapav (the Italian MPAA) announce a new coalition to deprive revenue from pirate sites. Speaking with TorrentFreak, Enzo Mazza, chief at music industry group Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana (FIMI), explains how the initiative will work. “IAB Italia, the local branch of Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has been very active in discussing with music and movie associations a self-regulation approach to promote an effective action to prevent advertisers from posting ads on rogue sites,” Mazza explains. “IAB already educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. In our goal the agreement should promote a cooperation in order to implement effective measures to prevent ads being placed on rogue sites and to quickly remove any ads that are found to have been so placed.” Having Google on board is also a plus, Mazza says. “Google is already doing a lot of efforts in this area and the company promoted a strategy so-called ‘follow the money’ which we consider part of a general strategy based on enforcement on one side, self-regulation and legal offer on the other side.” Mazza says that a joint committee compromised of MoU signatories will be created to oversee the technical implementation of the project, with consideration given to how similar schemes are operating elsewhere. This will include the auditing of advertising companies and networks for compliance with a code of conduct respectful of intellectual property rights. On a day-to-day basis the committee will receive complaints from rights holders detailing the appearance of advertising on “rogue sites” and take action on these with brokers and the advertisers themselves. Whether they will be able to cut through the complex and labrynthine mechanisms often employed by such sites will remain to be seen. The Memorandum of Understanding has been passed to the Italian competition authority for approval and while the project is clearly in the early stages, momentum is clearly there. Source: TorrentFreak
  12. Takedown notices for pirated books can be quite effective in some cases, new research shows. The extensive study reveals that these anti-piracy measures can increase e-book sales by 15 percent. Other book formats are unaffected, and interestingly the results also indicate that lesser-known authors may benefit from piracy. In an attempt to limit the availability of pirated content, copyright holders send millions of takedown requests to online services every week. The effectiveness of these anti-piracy measures is often in doubt, since the pirated files usually reappear quickly elsewhere. But, according to new research they do have some effect. Imke Reimers, an economics researcher affiliated with NBER and Northeastern University, examined the effectiveness of these takedown notices on book sales. The results, published in the working paper “The Effect of Piracy Protection in Book Publishing,” show that e-books sales increase as a result of the takedown efforts. In her research Reimers compares sales of book titles before and after takedown notices are issued, to see the effect on book sales across different titles, genres and formats. The study is the first of its kind and reaches the conclusion that piracy protection increases e-book sales. “This paper is the first to empirically analyze the interaction of online piracy and the legal market for books. It finds that piracy protection significantly increases regular unit sales of e-books, while the effect on physical formats is not as clear,” Reimers writes. “E-books, the closest substitute for online piracy benefit from piracy protection by selling 15.4% more units, while there is no significant effect on other formats,” she adds. A 15 percent increase in e-book sales is quite significant, and translates to millions of dollars in revenue across the industry. For other book formats, including hardcovers, paperback and audiobooks, no sales increase was observed. The research controlled for a wide variety of third-party variables that could have influenced the results. Based on the current data Reimers is confident that the sales increase can indeed be attributed the takedown notices. However, she also spots differences in the impact on established and starting writers. More specifically, piracy doesn’t appear to pose a threat to the e-book sales of starting authors and could even serve as a promotional tool. “The effect varies by the title’s level of popularity. For well-known books and those by popular authors, online piracy mainly poses a threat to regular book sales, while authors who are just starting out could benefit from the additional platform. My results support this idea, at least for e-books,” Reimers writes. TorrentFreak reached out to Reimers who notes that it might be a good idea for some authors to share some of their work online. “I find no evidence that piracy protection is ‘bad’ for any books, but it seems that more obscure titles could benefit from the advertising effect of pirated versions. Some emerging authors offer their titles or excerpts of their titles for free on their websites – exactly to advertise their works. My results suggest that this might be a smart move,” she tells us. The research is based on data from Digimarc, one of the leading piracy protection firms for the book industry. Needless to say, the company is happy to hear that their efforts indeed appear to have an effect. “This new research strongly validates our position that Digimarc Guardian’s anti-piracy strategies provide a substantial return-on-investment for customers, in the form of increased legitimate sales and revenue,” Chris Shepard, Director of Product Management at Digimarc, informs us. Digimarc assured TorrentFreak that they had no hand in the academic research other than providing the piracy takedown data. The sales data used for the research comes from the leading independent e-book publisher RosettaBooks. Needless to say, they are also happy with the results. “Rightsholders feel exposed or taken advantage of by piracy. We believe that Digimarc’s services improve our overall sales and the effect of dampened piracy greatly exceeds the cost of the service,” Greg Freed, eBook Production and Distribution Director at RosettaBooks tells TorrentFreak. While the research indicates that takedown notices can have a positive effect on e-book sales, future research will have to show whether or not this can be generalized to other industries, including the movie and music business. In any case, with the above in mind it’s expected that the volume of takedown notices will only increase in the near future, a trend that has been going on for several years now. Source: TorrentFreak
  13. A survey into the movie and TV show consumption habits of Danish citizens has revealed an interesting trend. While streaming service subscriptions are up 40% over the previous year and are credited with reducing piracy by 7% in the same period, the number of people still engaging in illegal downloading has remained static. In 2012, Denmark effectively rejected entertainment industry calls to crack down hard on citizens engaged in illegal file-sharing. Instead the government announced its “Pirate Package“, an initiative focused on the development and promotion of legal offerings rather than punishing file-sharers. A YouGov study in the same year suggested this was a good move. While many people admitted engaging in piracy they also indicated a desire to obtain their movies and TV shows from legal sources – if those services were convenient and accessible. Two years on and YouGov are back with a new media consumption study of 1,180 Danes aged between 20-65. Commissioned by TDC Group, Denmark’s leading telecoms company, it reveals encouraging signs for the both the entertainment industry and the government’s strategy, but also an interesting twist. Firstly, piracy of both movies and TV shows is down. This year’s survey suggests that illegal consumption of movies sits at 5.1 million copies. That’s down from the 5.8 million reported in last year’s study and the 8.6 million from 2012. TV shows tell a similar story. In 2012, around 10 million TV shows were pirated, a figure that dropped to 8.1 million in 2013. This year’s study shows a drop again to 7.9 million copies. According to TDC Group media director Ulf Lund, the continued decrease in the consumption of infringing content is due to the development of legal offerings. “Our position has always been that the best way to combat illegal consumption is by developing good legal alternatives,” Lund says. “This is what we can see now that services like Netflix, HBO, Viaplay and YouBio have really materialized here at home.” The study’s findings show that the public is responding to this increased availability. In last year’s survey 32 percent of households with resident 20 to 65-year-olds reported subscribing to a premium streaming service. This year that figure increased to an impressive 45 percent. But while piracy of movies and TV shows continues to fall in the face of impressive take-up of streaming services, it appears that pirates aren’t prepared to kick their old habits just yet. The study found that the total of those who download or stream illegally has not significantly changed from last year, with 15 percent of respondents admitting that someone in their household had obtained content illegally in the preceding three months, up from 14 percent in 2013. “Things are certainly going in the right direction, but we are far from there yet,” Lund says. “Magnitude has decreased, but the level is still very high and there are still many who admit that they consume content illegally.” Source: TorrentFreak
  14. New research from Tennessee Tech University shows that certain forms of online piracy are linked to Internet addiction related problems. In addition, the research shows that high school students who pirate are more likely to have deviant or criminal friends. Over the past decade a lot of research has looked at the effects of online piracy, particularly on the revenues of various entertainment industries. Increasingly researchers are also examining the sociological links, causes and effects of copyright infringement. A new study conducted by Tennessee Tech University’s Jordana Navarro is a good example. With a large survey Navarro and her colleagues investigated the link between piracy, internet addiction and deviant tendencies. The results were published in an article titled “Addicted to pillaging in cyberspace: Investigating the role of internet addiction in digital piracy,” which appears in the latest issue of the Computers and Human Behavior journal. The researchers conducted a large-scale survey among 1,617 students from 9th through 12th grade. The participants were asked a wide range of questions, covering their piracy habits, as well as scales to measure Internet addiction and association with deviant friends. The findings on the piracy side are comparable to many previous studies and show that movie piracy is most prevalent. Nearly 30% of the students admitted to pirating movies, and this percentage went down to 15% and 13% for music and software piracy respectively. One of the more interesting findings is the link between piracy and Internet addiction. Here, the researchers found that students who have more internet addiction related issues are more likely to pirate software. “Based on the results of the study, we can determine that high school students who have Internet-related problems due to addiction are more likely to commit a specific form of piracy involving the illegal downloading of software,” the researchers write. The same group of software pirates were also more likely to hang out with deviant friends. This measure includes friends who pirate, those who threaten others with violence online, those who send nude pictures, and those who have used another person’s credit card or ID without permission. “Not surprisingly, youth who committed this form of piracy were also more likely to have deviant peers. In other words, their behaviors were influenced by friends who committed similar or other deviant acts,” the researchers conclude. Interestingly, the link between Internet addiction and copyright infringement was only found for software piracy. High school students who pirated movies and music were not more likely to have these type of problems. They were, however, more likely to associate with deviant or criminal friends. “The remaining two forms of piracy for juveniles are not predicted by Internet addiction based on our findings. However, the results did support past findings that deviant peer association and piracy behaviors are significant related,” the researchers write. According to the researchers the results are a good first step in identifying how various problems and deviant behaviors are linked, which could be helpful to shape future educational efforts. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t offer any explanations for the differences in the link between Internet addiction and various types of piracy. One likely explanation is that those who show more signs of Internet addiction simply spend more time on the computer, and are therefore more interested in software piracy and software in general. For now, it appears that some more follow-up research is needed before it’s warranted to send the first batch of kids to piracy rehab. Source: TorrentFreak
  15. A new study on the effects of the IPRED anti-piracy law in Sweden shows that the legislation increased music sales by 36 percent. At the same time, Internet traffic in the country dropped significantly. The results suggest that the law initially had the desired effect, but the researchers also note this didn't last long. It’s been five years since Sweden implemented the controversial anti-piracy legislation, IPRED. The law, which gives rights holders the authority to request the personal details of alleged copyright infringers, was met with fierce resistance from ISPs and the public at large. At the same time, however, there were plenty of signs that the law stopped people from pirating. A day after it went into effect, Netnod Internet Exchange reported a significant drop in Swedish Internet traffic. Inspired by the anecdote, the effectiveness of IPRED has become a topic of interest for economists at Uppsala University in Sweden. In a new paper they report their findings on the effect of the anti-piracy law on Internet traffic and music sales. The main goal of the research is to examine whether the anti-piracy law did indeed have an effect, and to what extent. To make sure that the effect is unique to Sweden, both Norway and Finland were chosen as control groups. The results, which will be published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, confirm that Internet traffic decreased quite a bit after IPRED went into effect, beginning abruptly the very same day. IPRED’s apparent effect on Internet traffic Perhaps even more surprisingly, music sales also skyrocketed compared to the other two Scandinavian countries. “We find that the reform decreased Internet traffic by 16% and increased music sales by 36% during the first six months. Pirated music therefore seems to be a strong substitute to legal music,” the researchers write, summarizing the results. IPRED’s apparent effect on digital music sales Interestingly, however, the overall effect on Internet traffic and music sales vanished after half a year. The only effect that remained was the increase in digital sales. Internet traffic and physical music sales returned to normal, in part because the chance of getting caught is quite low. “The deterrent effect decreased quickly, possibly because of the few and slow legal processes. Law enforcement through convictions therefore seems to be a necessary ingredient for the long-run success of a copyright protection law,” the researchers note. The researchers suggest that if more people are convicted, the effects may last longer. During the first few years only a handful of file-sharers were brought to justice, while hundreds of thousands took steps to circumvent the law. “As the first court cases were only settled recently, it is still possible that further convictions would restore an effect that is more long-lasting,” they write in their conclusion. The question remains, however, whether bankrupting people or throwing them in jail is the ideal strategy in the long run… Source: TorrentFreak
  16. A Belgian man risks a fine of 37,714 euros ($52,550) for sharing movies, music and games on a forum. The 39-year-old shared several Disney classics including Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians and The Lion King for his kids, and claims he saw no harm in his activities. The Belgian Anti-Piracy Foundation (BAF) is demanding tens of thousands of euros from six men who shared copyrighted material on two local file-sharing sites. The file-sharers all appeared in court this week. Among them is a 39-year old bus driver who pirated several Disney movies such as Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians and The Lion King. The man reportedly shared the films to entertain his three kids, and wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing. “I did not think I did anything wrong, because many of these children’s films are available in full on YouTube,” he said in a comment. The man’s actions weren’t limited to Disney classics alone though. According to the anti-piracy watchdog he was one of the most prolific sharers on the “Belgium-scene” forum. In total, the father is accused of sharing 253 films, 64 computer games and 22,000 music files, for which BAF demands 37,714 euros ($52,550) in damages. The amount is based on the number of files that were shared, with a music track costing 1 euro and a movie 15 euros. Another member of the same file-sharing forum shared even more files than the dad and he risks damages totaling 60,000 euros ($83,600). “I did it because it was cheaper than buying a CD or DVD,” the man said in a comment. In addition to the damages demanded by BAF, the prosecutor has also requested an additional 4,500 euro fine for each of the six members. Belgium-scene was a private forum where users could share links to a wide variety of pirated content. The site was closed last year and nine homes of people connected to the site and another forum were raided at the time. Several of the founders avoided prosecution by paying settlements of between 10,000 and 25,000 euros. The pirating dad, however, lacked the funds to pay a settlement. His case and those of the five others will be decided by the court later this year. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. At the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa this weekend, Kevin Spacey highlighted one of the core problems of media distribution in the Internet age. The star actor of the popular Netflix series House of Cards noted that the show is immensely popular in India, which is a problem since the latest episodes are not legally available. Every day millions of people download TV-shows without getting permission from rightsholders. While some do so because they find the legal alternatives too expensive, there’s a large group that simply has no legal options available to them. The latter is the case in India, where the Netflix original series “House of Cards” can’t be seen legally since the movie streaming service hasn’t rolled out there yet. As a result, Indians can only watch the popular series on demand through unauthorized channels. According to House of Card’s Kevin Spacey, the Indians are turning to these pirate sources in large numbers. During the International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa, Florida, he noted that the TV-show is suspiciously popular in India. “House of Cards is really big in India, I discovered,” Spacey said at the red carpet event on Saturday. The actor isn’t all too happy about this popularity, and accuses the Indians of thievery. Since Netflix’ streaming services aren’t available in India yet, they literally don’t have the “right” to see it. “Except isn’t it funny that Netflix doesn’t exist there yet. Which means that you’re stealing it,” Spacey added. Whether Spacey is unhappy with the show’s fans in India, or the fact that they have no legal options is not entirely clear. However, the only real solution to the problem is to ensure that Indians can watch the show too, without breaking the law. The problem that’s highlighted by the House of Cards actor remains one of the major challenges for the TV-studios. For decades, the industry has gotten used to delaying international premieres for month or years, something that fans no longer accept. Luckily, a lot of progress has been made in recent years, with most popular U.S. TV-series premiering on the same day in dozens of countries around the world. While “availability” is no silver bullet that can stop piracy altogether, it’s a crucial first step to take. Update: Perhaps Spacey was a bit too quick with his “stealing” allegations. House of Cards is available on Zee Cafe in India, although not on demand. This means that there is a legal option for those who have access to the channel via cable or satellite. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. Several large "pirate" movie streaming portals are using Google's servers to distribute copyrighted material. More than 18,000 videos are currently publicly available, and requests to Google to remove the files have reportedly gone unanswered. Google has been in the crosshairs of the entertainment industries for a while now. These companies believe that Google is not doing enough to prevent pirate sites from showing up in search results. However, there is another less visible problem that cropped up in recent months. Increasingly, streaming portals with a focus on the latest pirated copies and TV-shows are using Google as a source. A German anti-piracy outfit has identified more than 18,000 pirated videos that are featured on more than a dozen large sites. All these streaming sites use the same movie sources without charge, and the bandwidth bill goes to Google. The list of sites includes Movie4k.to, hdmoviezone.net, viooc.co, viooz.be, viooz.cc, vioozmovies.me, watch32.com, putlocker.bz, putocker.to, putlocker.tw, megashare.info, megashare.sh, megashare.ca, afdah.com, yify.tv, watch32.com. Together these streaming portals are good for several million daily visitors, which means that Google must be seeing a lot of traffic originating from these sites. The screenshot below shows a copy of The Wolf of Wall Street on YIFY.tv, available in several video qualities and with subtitles if needed. YIFY.tv Using Google It’s unclear where the videos are hosted, but the URL above shows the googlevideo.com domain. In addition, it includes a “source=picasa” string, suggesting Google’s image hosting service has something to do with it. While the site owners are benefiting from the free storage, copyright holders are less excited. A German media outfit, which remains unnamed, reportedly sent requests to Google last month hoping to take down the files, but without success. Since the files remain online, the lawyers of the media company have now applied for an injunction against Google at a local court. Two weeks ago Warner Bros. also asked Google to remove several of these URLs from its search engine. These requests were denied, most likely because the videos can’t be accessed directly through the link Warner provided. In a comment to TorrentFreak, Google stresses that users are not permitted to distribute copyrighted content without permission. The company is actively trying to stop these kinds of abuses and also responds swiftly to takedown notices. “Use of Google platforms to host infringing materials is a violation of our terms of use, and we design features into our systems to make them unattractive for this kind of abuse,” a Google spokesperson told TF. “We also respond quickly to disable access to any materials on our platforms identified to us by copyright owners as infringing,” Google adds. Why the thousands of Google-hosted videos on these streaming portals remain online is unclear. It could be that Google indeed removed the files in question, but that they were re-uploaded. Another possibility is that the copyright holder didn’t correctly identify the source file, as Warner Bros’ takedown notice suggests. One of the additional problems copyright holders face is that the URLs of the videos are harder to identify. Automated takedown tools can’t easily spot where the files are coming from, which makes it more complicated to send takedown requests. It will be interesting to see how this issue will be dealt with in the future. It’s clear that neither Google not the copyright holders are happy with the current situation. For now, the only ones benefiting are the streaming portals and their millions of users. Source: TorrentFreak
  19. Every month, reports condemn the general public for downloading movies and TV shows without permission, but perhaps those industries need to look a little closer to home. A new survey among film industry professionals suggests that almost 40% have downloaded movies and TV shows illegally. Reports, research and surveys covering piracy-related issues have been released in their dozens in recent years, with many of them painting a picture of two distinct groups of people – those who illegally download and those who pay for content. Of course, the reality is that many people who obtain content for free also cheerfully pay for content too. In fact, some studies have found that the entertainment industry’s best customers are also illegal downloaders. But what if there was evidence to suggest that some of those pirates were actually the very people helping to create movies and TV shows? That’s one of the intriguing findings of a survey carried out by Stephen Follows, a writer and producer with a keen interest in discovering what makes the industry tick. “Many of the decisions in the film business are based on gut, opinion and gossip so I find it fascinating to research the topics and see what the numbers say,” Follows informs TorrentFreak. “Piracy seemed like a ready topic to research so I added a few question into a survey I ran of 1,235 film industry professionals. The respondents were all people who had been to one of the three major films markets in the past five years – Cannes, Berlin or the American film Market.” Follows first set of questions focused on whether the film professionals felt that piracy had affected their business. The responses were then split by industry sector and budgets the professionals work to. Considering the anti-piracy rhetoric coming out of Hollywood during the past thirty years, it’s perhaps surprising that 53% of all respondents said that piracy had either no effect or a positive effect on their business. Respondents were from all sectors of the industry including development, production, post-production, sales and distribution, exhibition and marketing. When the responses from each sector are broken down, one can see that respondents in sales and distribution – arguably the role that file-sharing fulfills – say they are most worried by piracy. Turning the tables to discover how the industry professionals are themselves affecting piracy rates couldn’t be approached directly for obvious reasons, so Follows tried a different tactic. “When it came to researching how many of them actually illegally download movies I felt I needed to be a bit sneaky,” he told TF. “To one randomly assigned set of participants I presented three statements about the industry (such as ‘I prefer to watch films on DVD than in the cinema’). I then asked the respondent how many of the three statements they agreed with, but only asking for the combined total (i.e. ‘I agree with two of the three statements’).” “Then, to a different randomly assigned set I offered the same three statements with the additional statement ‘I have illegally downloaded a TV show or feature film’. By subtracting the average number of agreed-with statements from the average of the control group I was able to calculate the percentage of people who agreed with the additional statement.” As can be seen from the diagram, 39% of the industry respondents admitted to illegally downloading video content, with 61% claiming never to have done so. Interestingly, respondents working on lower budgets were more likely to have illegally downloaded than those working on big budgets. “Only 2% of people working on films over $10 million admitted to illegally downloading a film or TV show, compared with 65% of those working on films under $1 million,” Follows explains. Also of interest is how the percentage of those who admitted illegal downloading fluctuated according to industry sector, with 55% of those in marketing saying they have grabbed movies or TV shows without paying versus zero percent in exhibition (movie theaters). Sales and distribution, the sector that said they’d been most affected by piracy, accounted for the next lowest piracy ‘confession’ rate of 28%. “These are the middlemen behind the scenes of the industry who negotiate the rights between producers and cinemas/retailers. They are part of the reason why there are so many damned logos at the start of every movie,” Follows explains. “They have the largest vested interest in stopping piracy as they don¹t have many other reasons for doing what they do (unlike filmmakers who might be wanting to create art/entertainment) and no other source of income, unlike cinemas who make a fortune on Coke/popcorn etc.” Further reading on Stephen Follows’ research and methodology can be found here and here. A great video he produced for Friends of the Earth can be watched on Vimeo. Source: TorrentFreak
  20. Major brands frequently have their advertising banners displayed on pirate sites without their knowledge. In most cases this is a result of ad re-targeting and nested placements, but American Express has come out with a rather unusual finding. According to the payment processor, pirate sites are 'stealing' their ads to appear more trustworthy. Hurting the revenue streams of infringing sites has become a prime anti-piracy strategy for the entertainment industries in recent months. By cutting off revenue through deals with payment providers and advertising agencies, they hope to make it less profitable to operate these sites. This is not an easy task, as there are many advertising companies who are still eager to team up with “rogue” torrent sites and streaming portals. Likewise, site owners often implement tricks to hide the site where the ads are displayed. As a result, several major brands see their ads showing up on sites they don’t want to be associated with. A few weeks ago a report from the Digital Citizens Alliance revealed that companies such as Amazon, American Express, Dell, Ford, Lego, McDonalds, Xfinity are contributing to the problem. These problematic ad placements were also highlighted by a publication of the Australian media and entertainment group mUmBRELLA, which focused on ads appearing on streaming portals such as watchseries.lt and videoweed.es. The report shows that American Express and other brands had their ads on display, and that the companies were asked for comment. As expected, none of the major brands said it willingly promoted its products through these pirate sites. However, the explanations that were given varied, and the response from American Express was the most intriguing of all. The payment processor’s media agency Mindshare says that the ads in question weren’t real ads at all. Instead, American Express accuses the pirate sites of “photoshopping” their banners into their designs, to increase site credibility. AmEx on Videoweed Timothy Whitfield, general operations director at the responsible advertising placement outfit Xaxis, confirms this suspicion. “Now when we dug into it what happened is that in some cases they were using basic photoshopping skills to take an old creative from Amex and building it into the homepage and into the video leads and on the homepage of the website,” Whitfield said “It wasn’t a real creative it was just someone who had photoshopped it into the site. Now the reason that we think they were doing that is that they were working very hard to make themselves look like a reputable website,” he ads. While this type of banner ‘theft’ is certainly an option, TorrentFreak was unable to replicate the finding from a wide variety of locations. It is also unclear why the sites in question would give up valuable advertising placements. There is hardly any positive effect on the site’s reputation when it’s not done structurally. The insurance company Allianz was also caught advertising on pirate sites, but here the explanation was a more common one. According to Whitfield, Xaxis didn’t place the ad directly, but instead it loaded through several iframes thereby disguising the website where it appeared. Through this “nesting” technique pirate sites can trick advertising agencies and have higher paid ads. “Every man and his dog blocks these websites – Watchseries.it, Videoweed etc. – but because you’re seven layers deep you don’t know if it is one you have blocked or not,” Whitfield said in a comment. Finally, HotelsCombined came up with yet another reason why their banners appeared on infringing websites. Again, without their explicit knowledge. Kristen McKenzie, global PR and content manager of HotelsCombined, explained that it may have been the result of ad-retargeting. HotelsCombined tracks people who visit their website, and their advertising provider then displays ads on some of the sites these people visit afterwards. “Our retargeting provider does not disclose their extensive list of networks, and with millions of different sites being accessed simultaneously in real-time, it is ultimately impossible for us to police where retargeting may occur,” McKenzie said. The above shows that getting rid of banners on rogue sites is proving to be more difficult than simply compiling a blacklist. It’s a cat and mouse game, much like the efforts to go after hosting companies and payment providers. And if pirates are starting to use Photoshop to promote brands for free, it’s never-ending. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. The smartphone revolution is changing the music piracy landscape at a rapid pace. New research by market research firm NPD concludes that downloading unauthorized music via mobiles has outgrown traditional online piracy sources such as torrent sites and cyberlockers. In recent years the music industry ‘s battle against piracy mostly focused on torrent sites, cyberlockers and unauthorized MP3 indexes. However, new research from the industry analysis firm NPD Group suggests that a new, much bigger threat, has arrived. NPD’s Senior Vice President, Industry Analysis, Russ Crupnick informs us that mobile music piracy through apps has outgrown traditional P2P file-sharing and direct downloads. “In terms of the number of internet users doing a variety of music sharing activities, downloading from mobile apps is the most popular,” Crupnick tells TF. The data comes from unpublished research, which was the first to include statistics on the usage of mobile apps to download music. Quite surprisingly, mobile piracy comes out on top right away. It is estimated that in the United States 27 million people downloaded at least one music track via their mobile over the past year, mostly without permission. This trumps all other forms of online piracy. By comparison, 21 million people used traditional P2P sites such as The Pirate Bay to download music. For other media types the results are different, but the findings signal an interesting trend. According to NPD mobile apps are, as one would expect, most popular with younger consumers. There are a variety of reasons for the mobile piracy explosion, but the research firm believes that increased usage of smartphones and apps among Millennials is a major driver. “My guess is there is an underground buzz network about music apps that is fueled by teens and Millennials,” Crupnick says. NPD believes that it’s important for copyright holders and app platforms to work together to tackle this problem. While some people may know that these apps are unauthorized, the fact that they appear in iTunes or Google Play may give them an air of legitimacy. “Lots of things on the web are free or ad-supported, including some entertainment content. I’m sure some users are quite aware that there is music that is not legally distributed on these apps, but others may not be as educated,” Crupnick tells us. “If it’s on an app store, it must be ‘OK’. This is where the music industry and technology companies have an opportunity and maybe an obligation to work together to make sure consumers understand, and artists get compensated,” he adds. These last comments appear to signal a new working territory for the music industry’s anti-piracy initiatives. Until now, there hasn’t been a major campaign against “infringing” apps, but this is bound to change in the near future. Whether a crackdown on apps will be enough to counter the current mobile piracy trend has yet to be seen. In addition to pirate apps, several unauthorized MP3 indexes have also developed mobile versions, which will prove much harder to deal with. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. It was supposed to be the world's toughest anti-piracy regime but Russia's site blocking legislation just isn't working. That's not just the opinion of irate movie and music companies either, but comments from Vladimir Putin himself. In the early days of 2013 it became clear that after years of wavering, Russia was finally going to get tough on Internet piracy. Despite outcry from Internet giants such as Google, and Yandex, the country’s largest search engine, the government pressed ahead with its plans. On August 1, 2013, a new law was passed which would allow sites to be blocked at the ISP level if they failed to respond to copyright infringement complaints in a timely fashion. But despite the legislative teeth, file-sharing sites were not blocked, with many simply complying with takedown demands as required by law. In January 2014, however, the government said that the law was actually having the required effect, with the number of Internet users purchasing legal content going up by 30%. But at the same time there were complaints. The founder of IVI.ru, the country’s leading source of Hollywood-licensed video, said that his company had not benefited from the law. And now it seems that the law’s lack of success is being admitted be people right at the top – the very, very top. During a meeting with members of the House of the Federation Council, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the legislation introduced in August 2013 had failed to meet its objectives. “This is an extremely important area, and we still have very much to do here,” he told the meeting. “Even after we have adopted these solutions for intellectual property protection in the field of cinema, recent analysis has shown that it does not work as effectively as we expected.” Putin added that despite the new law, pirate movies can appear on websites anywhere and completely undermine the framework. “The effect is that all of our protection is reduced to zero,” the President said. But even though things aren’t working, there are no signs of any retreat. Instead the Russian government is looking to get even more aggressive. “It is necessary to consider additional steps to protect intellectual property rights,” Putin concluded. Work is already underway to expand the current legislation to encompass all content since right now only video is protected. The government is also looking at introducing fines for errant hosting providers and wants to find a way to permanently close sites persistently engaging in piracy. “Sites engaging in piracy professionally (it’s their business) should be closed,” said Vladimir Medina of the Ministry of Culture. But the idea that closing sites will solve the problem was dismissed by a representative from the body in control of .ru domains. Noting that she is reminded of the “Streisand Effect”, where suppressed information only leads to wider dissemination, Olga Alexandrova-Massine said people will find a way to access blocked content. Source: TorrentFreak
  23. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMxhIfG0MpY VICE did a short but great documentary on KimDotCom.. i was expecting a little geek w/glasses.. i must admit.. i am rather envious ! PS. i can't figure out how to embed YouTube vids :(
  24. A published report this weekend says that besides the NSA, local police are also spying on your cellphone calls. According to the report, local and state police are using new technologies to snoop in realtime. This allows the authorities to capture information on people even if they are not the subject of an investigation. Based on a study of 124 police agencies in 33 states, 25% of police agencies employ a method known as a "tower dump" that provides law-enforcement with information including the location, identity and activity of any cellphone that connects to a particular cell tower. The technology used by the police should be scary to those who guard their privacy. A device called the Stingray, which is the size of a suitcase, is placed inside a car that is driven around local neighborhoods. Basically a portable cell tower, Stingray tricks your cellphone into believing that it is a real tower and connects to it, giving the cops information and data. This equipment costs as much as $400,000, but is funded by the federal government thanks to anti-terror grants. "When this technology disseminates down to local government and local police, there are not the same accountability mechanisms in place. You can see incredible potential for abuses."-Catherine Crump, Attorney, ACLU While organizations like the ACLU are worried about the amount of data being collected by police without a warrant, the cops say that they need to mine this information to track criminals, terrorists and kidnappers. The fear is that in the course of sifting through data, the police will stumble on other illegal activities not listed in the court order. But most police officials say that they are interested only in the information generated by a targeted criminal or a victim. Once a tower dump reveals information, the police can refine the data by asking the courts to force the carrier's to release more information like addresses, call logs and texts. Any information that violates a person's constitutional rights will not be allowed to be used by the courts. The problem is that with the recent worry about NSA spying, most Americans are greatly concerned about what is being done with all of the data generated by their cellphone. How Stingray tracks your calls Source
  25. Over the past year or so BitTorrent Inc. has actively distanced itself from piracy on numerous occasions. The San Francisco company emphasize that they are a technology outfit, and stress that they don’t endorse or encourage piracy. While this may be true, the company’s flagship software uTorrent specifically mentions “pirate” terminology such as DVDScr, DVDRip, Satrip and Webrip. Invented more than a decade ago by Bram Cohen, BitTorrent has become the protocol of choice for file-sharers. This includes those who download copyrighted material. While BitTorrent is used by many pirates, the technology itself is neutral and does a lot of good for content creators as well. This is also the message BitTorrent Inc, the parent company of the popular uTorrent client, has tried to communicate over the past year. On numerous occasions the company has distanced itself from those who download infringing content, including the majority of their 150+ million users. “We do not endorse piracy. We do not encourage it. We don’t point to piracy sites. We don’t host any infringing content,” BitTorrent’s CEO said previously. In addition, the company launched a website to show the public that BitTorrent does not equal piracy. BitTorrent is right to stress the legal use of its software, but whether that’s successful is another question. It only draws attention to a connection that they want people to believe is not there, which is the opposite of what they want to achieve. For example, when we tried to setup uTorrent’s RSS downloader at TorrentFreak headquarters the other day we couldn’t help but notice a list of “pirate” terms that were included. The RSS feature allows users to add RSS feeds for various torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, and filter downloads based on search phrases, episode numbers and video quality. This last option includes a dropdown box with several quality options, including DSRip, DVBRip, DVDScr, DVDRip, PDTV, Satrip and WebRip. Most of these terms originate from piracy release groups and have little or no legal use. DVDScr, for example, identifies a ripped copy of DVD screeners that are sent out to reviewers and are not intended for public viewing. Likewise, the terms DVBRip/PDTV are used exclusively by TV-piracy groups to identify the source of a recording. Piracy references in uTorrent / BitTorrent Given BitTorrent’s efforts to distance itself from all things piracy, it was quite a surprise for us to see these references in their most popular software. We can’t think of any RSS feeds with legal content where these filters would come in handy. To find out why these terms were included TorrentFreak asked the company for clarification a couple of weeks ago, but we have yet to receive a response. The listing of these “pirate” terms in uTorrent’s RSS downloader is of course not a crime by itself. However, should the company ever run into legal trouble it won’t be hard for outfits such as the MPAA and RIAA to argue that the feature is facilitating illegal downloading. And that’s exactly what BitTorrent Inc has been trying to avoid with their recent marketing campaigns. Source: TorrentFreak
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