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  1. Earlier this year the UK Government promised to legalize the copying of MP3s, CDs and DVDs for personal use, but the changes have yet to pass. The entertainment industry and some lawmakers have voiced concerns over the plan, but the majority appears to be in favor of decriminalizing format shifting. To most consumers it’s common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this is currently illegal. Earlier this year the UK Intellectual Property Office proudly announced that these restrictions would be lifted this summer. After consulting various stakeholders the Government decided that it would be in the best interests of consumers to legalize copying for personal use. “Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup,” the UK’s Intellectual Property Office writes. “The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.” To communicate the changes to the public the Government released a consumer guide which stated the change would go into effect in June. However, when June came the most crucial changes were still pending Parliamentary approval. What exactly delayed the process remains a mystery. Copyright lobbyists are likely to have become involved and late last month lawmakers were casting doubt over the entire plan. According to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (JCSI) it is not clear whether the private copying exceptions are allowed under EU law if there’s no “fair compensation” for copyright holders. “Only a court, and ultimately the CJEU, can give an authoritative ruling on whether the [EU Copyright] Directive precludes the private copying exception provided for in [the copying for personal use draft legislation] without the inclusion of a compensation scheme for rightholders adversely affected by the exception,” JCSI notes. The Government previously concluded that compensation wasn’t needed since the changes would not result in any significant harm to copyright holders. However, the JCSI mentions that there are several stakeholders who disagree with this assessment. Yesterday the new copying exceptions were discussed during a general committee debate. The overall consensus was that the current copyright regulations are too restrictive as they run counter to what millions of people are already doing. “By criminalizing format shifting, we are potentially criminalizing 20 million people around the country who probably think they can do that already,” said Mike Weatherley MP, who’s also the Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor. This opinion was shared by John Whittingdale MP who told the debate about his personal experiences with the issue. “A long time ago I started transferring music that I purchased on one antiquated format — vinyl records — on to another antiquated format — cassette tapes — which I then played in my car. I was technically in breach of copyright law. Subsequently, I moved into the new age and transferred CDs that I had bought on to my iPod. I was still in breach of copyright law,” Whittingdale said. This admission of criminality was met with laughter from the other lawmakers, which was telling for the issue at hand. None of the lawmakers appeared to view the criminal wrongdoing as a problem, yet it is under current law. This mismatch between what’s morally accepted and what the law prescribes should be fixed according to Whittingdale. “It is not good for the respect of law to give a message to consumers that it is fine to break some laws and not others. If the law is outdated and being widely ignored then it needs to change. That is why I welcome the private copying exception,” he said. Minister David Willetts also responded to the doubts raised by JCSI. He confirmed that the European Court of Justice is the relevant legal authority in this case, but according to the legal experts that were consulted copyright holders don’t have to be compensated under the current regulations. Willetts also waved away concerns about the potential losses the new regulations could cause to copyright holders. According to the Minister these concerns are unwarranted as the new rules clearly state that copies can only be made for personal use, so sharing with third parties remains illegal. At the end of the hearing the current draft of the Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations were passed, meaning that they are a step closer to becoming law. Source: TorrentFreak
  2. A new tool released by the Open Rights Group today reveals that 20% of the 100,000 most-visited websites on the Internet are blocked by the parental filters of UK ISPs. With the newly launched website the group makes it easier to expose false positives and show that the blocking efforts ban many legitimate sites, TorrentFreak included. Internet filters are now on the political agenda in many countries around the world. While China and Iran are frontrunners for political censorship, the UK is leading the way when it comes to porn and other content deemed unsuitable for children. In addition to the mobile restrictions that have been in place for years already, last summer Prime Minister David Cameron announced a default filter for all Internet connections. This means that UK Internet subscribers are now required to opt-in if they want to view ‘adult’ content online. These default filters have led to many instances in which perfectly legitimate sites can no longer be accessed. This very website, for example, was inaccessible on Sky Broadband after it was categorized as a “file-sharing” site. The false positive was eventually corrected after the BBC started asking questions, but that didn’t solve the underlying problem. In an attempt to make it easier to spot overblocking the Open Rights Group (ORG) has today launched a new site. The embedded tool runs probes on all the major broadband and mobile filters of UK ISPs, and allows people to check which sites are blocked and where. The first results are quite scary. A review of the 100,000 most-popular sites on the Internet reveals that 20% are blocked by at least one of the filtering systems. “We’ve been surprised to find the default filtering settings are blocking around a fifth of the Alexa top 100k websites. That’s a lot more than porn, which accounts for around 4% of that list,” ORG’s Executive Director Jim Killock informs TorrentFreak. The list of blocked domains includes many legitimate sites that aren’t necessarily harmful to children. TalkTalk, for example, blocks all file-sharing related websites including bittorrent.com and utorrent.com. TorrentFreak also appears to be listed in this category and is blocked as well. Linuxtracker, which offers free downloads of perfectly legitimate software, is blocked by Sky, TalkTalk and Three’s filters, while the blocked.org.uk tool itself is off-limits on BT, EE and Virgin Media. Perhaps even worse, the BT and TalkTalk filters also categorize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as potentially dangerous to children, and the same applies to Reddit. Reddit is blocked as well With the new tool ORG hopes to provide more insight into what these filters do and how many sites they block. The ISPs themselves have thus far failed to reveal the scope of their filters. “People need to know what filters are, and what they block. They need to know they are inaccurate, and also disrupt people’s businesses and speech,” Killock tells TF. “If people feel they need them, that is their right, but they should at least know they’re very flawed technology that won’t protect them very much, but will also be likely to cause them problems. In short, they are a bit rubbish,” he adds. The current results of the tool are based on various filtering levels. This means that the list of blocked sites will be even longer when the strongest settings are used. It’s worth noting that all ISPs allow account holders to turn filters off or allow certain sites to be unblocked. However, many people may not even be aware that this option exists, or won’t want to unblock porn just to get access to file-sharing software. The results of ORG’s new tool show that what started as a “porn filter” has turned into something much bigger. Under the guise of “protecting the children” tens of thousands of sites are now caught up in overbroad filters, which is a worrying development to say the least. Source
  3. The UK Prime Minister's Intellectual Property Advisor is to step down at the next general election. Mike Weatherley has been front and center in promoting entertainment industry action against online piracy but will not stand for re-election in 2015. The former movie industry worker is already being touted for a return to the creative sector. In September 2013, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the appointment of Mike Weatherley MP as his brand new advisor on intellectual property matters. As the founder of Parliament’s Rock the House competition and member of the All-Party Parliamentary Intellectual Property Group launched in 2003 to raise awareness and rally against copyright and related infringement, Weatherley seemed like the ideal candidate. The then 56-year-old quickly offered his support to the recently formed Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and promised to assist the government to focus on anti-piracy enforcement issues aimed at protecting the creative industries. By December of 2013, Weatherley was making it clear that ISPs should be held responsible for their customers’ infringing downloads and just weeks later suggested jail sentences for persistent file-sharers. Greater accountability for companies such as Google became a recurring theme in the MP’s work. But while Weatherley has made quite an impact in his unpaid position, his role as a Conservative Member of Parliament will come to an end in the first quarter of 2015. In an announcement today Weatherley confirmed that he will not be standing at next year’s General Election. Noting the enjoyment he’s had serving the people of his constituency in the south of England, Weatherley also touched on his role as Cameron’s IP advisor. “Over the past year, I have taken immense pride in serving as your Intellectual Property Adviser. I am sure that you will agree that we have made huge steps towards really getting politicians and industry talking – which is key to making the most of our country’s wealth of creative talent,” the MP told the Prime Minister. If Weatherley keeps to his own predictions then he will step down as an MP before May 2015 but he also hints that he would like to remain involved in government IP matters. “It would be a privilege to continue offering my assistance in this regard,” he told David Cameron. Interestingly, local media is reporting that Weatherley is believed to be returning to the creative industries. The 57-year-old was formerly the European vice-president of the Motion Picture Licensing Company and also worked as the finance director of record producer Pete Waterman’s empire. A revolving door situation, where Weatherley heads out of government into a position with a large entertainment group, hardly seems out of the question given his history, but for solid information the world will have to wait. In the meantime his work in government will continue, with some of his time devoted to the industry he’ll soon be re-joining. Source
  4. Britain's electronic eavesdropping center GCHQ faces legal action from seven internet service providers who accuse it of illegally accessing "potentially millions of people's private communications," campaigners said Wednesday. The claim threatens fresh embarrassment for the British authorities after leaks by fugitive NSA worker Edward Snowden showed GCHQ was a key player in covert US surveillance operations globally. The complaint has been filed at a London court by ISPs Riseup and May First/People Link of the US, GreenNet of Britain, Greenhost of the Netherlands, Mango of Zimbabwe, Jinbonet of South Korea and the Chaos Computer Club of Germany, plus campaigners Privacy International. They claim that GCHQ carried out "targeted operations against internet service providers to conduct mass and intrusive surveillance." The move follows a series of reports by German magazine Der Spiegel which claimed to detail GCHQ's illicit activities. These reportedly included targeting a Belgian telecommunications company, Belgacom, where staff computers were infected with malware in a "quantum insert" attack to secure access to customers. The legal complaint says this was "not an isolated attack" and alleges violations of Britain's Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights. "These widespread attacks on providers and collectives undermine the trust we all place on the internet and greatly endangers the world's most powerful tool for democracy and free expression," said Eric King, Privacy International's deputy director. Britain's Foreign Office did not immediately comment. GCHQ, which stands for Government Communications Headquarters, employs around 5,500 people and is housed in a giant doughnut-shaped building in the sleepy town of Cheltenham, southwest England. Snowden's leaks claimed that the NSA had been secretly funding GCHQ to the tune of £100 million ($160 million, 120 million euros) over the last three years. Source
  5. Just a few days after the first Google Glasses went over the counter in the UK, the gadget is already being banned from local cinemas. Fearing that pirates will use the technology to illegally record the latest Hollywood blockbusters, Google Glass wearers will now be asked to take them off. The movie industry sees the illegal recording of movies as one of the biggest piracy threats and for years has gone to extremes to stop it. It started well over a decade ago when visitors began sneaking handheld camcorders into theaters. These big clunkers were relatively easy to spot, but as time passed the recording devices grew smaller and easier to obfuscate. Google Glass is one of the newest threats on the block. Earlier this year the FBI dragged a man from a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, after theater staff presumed he was using Google Glass to illegally record a film. While the man wasn’t recording anything at all, the response from the cinema employees was telling. This month Google Glass went on sale in the UK, and unlike their American counterparts, British cinemas have been quick to announce a blanket ban on the new gadget. “Customers will be requested not to wear these into cinema auditoriums, whether the film is playing or not,” Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association told the Independent. The first Glass wearer at a Leicester Square cinema has already been instructed to stow his device, and more are expected to follow. Google Glass wearers with prescription lenses would be wise to take a pair of traditional glasses along if they want to enjoy a movie on the big screen. Movie industry group FACT sees Google Glass and other new recording devices as significant threats and works in tandem with local cinemas to prevent film from being recorded. “Developments in technology have led to smaller, more compact devices which have the capability to record sound and vision, including most mobile phones. FACT works closely with cinema operators and distributors to ensure that best practice is carried out to prevent and detect illegal recordings taking place,” the group says. In recent years the UK movie industry has intensified its efforts to stop camcording and not without success. In 2012 none of the illegally recorded movies that appeared online originated from a UK cinema while several attempts were successfully thwarted. Last year, cinema staff helped UK police to arrest five people and another nine were sent home with cautions. As a thank you for these vigilant actions, the Film Distributors’ Association awarded 13 cinema employees with cash rewards of up to £500. Source
  6. UK ISPs have agreed to send their customers warning letters when they pirate movies, music and TV shows, but before the scheme starts thoughts are turning to its potential failure. The Prime Minister's IP advisor says 'VCAP' needs to be followed by something more enforceable, including disconnections, fines and jail sentences. Proponents of the Digital Economy Act 2010 believed it had the solutions to deter consumer file-sharing, but four years on and the relevant measures remain dormant. This inactivity led to a new and recently announced solution, the so-called Voluntary Copyright Alerts Program. VCAP is an agreement between the music and movie industries and several of the UK’s leading ISPs. The idea is that the entertainment companies monitor P2P networks (such as BitTorrent) and identify IP addresses connected to the illegal sharing of infringing content. That data is passed to the ISPs, the IP addresses are linked to customer accounts, and errant subscribers are sent a warning. The idea behind VCAP is to educate the casual file-sharer about legal alternatives in the hope he will change his ways, but the softly-softly approach has its limitations. A reliable source close to the program told TorrentFreak that the focus of VCAP is the repeat infringer. However, after a customer receives four warnings he will receive no more. On some level there appears to be some kind of acceptance that little can be done about hardcore file-sharers, an approach mirrored in the U.S. with its Copyright Alerts Scheme. But while there are suggestions that the worst-of-the-worst can simply do whatever they like under the UK program, consideration is already being given to what happens should VCAP fail following its 2015 introduction. Aside from the Digital Economy Act sitting in the wings, Prime Minister David Cameron’s IP advisor believes that the carrot needs to be backed up by a stick. In a report published yesterday largely detailing the “Follow the Money” approach to dealing with pirate sites, Mike Weatherley MP says now is the time to think about VCAP’s potential failure. “The Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) is welcomed and will be a good step forward once it is hopefully in operation in 2015, although it is primarily an education tool,” Weatherley says. “However, we need to start thinking now what to do if these notices are ignored by infringers – will VCAP be followed by something more enforceable?” Weatherley says that while the IP enforcement “stick” is a “last resort option”, being able to show “teeth” is important. Unsurprisingly, those measures involve hitting persistent pirates harder and harder each time they show defiance. “It should be a graduated enforcement response,” Weatherley explains. “Warnings and fines are obvious first steps, with internet access blocking and custodial sentencing for persistent and damaging infringers not to be ruled out in my opinion.” These suggestions aren’t new, but this is the second time in a matter of months that the Prime Minister’s closest advisor on IP matters has spoken publicly about the possibility of putting persistent file-sharers in jail. Earlier this year we reported on comments Weatherley made in the House of Commons on the prison option. Although he never denied using those words, the MP did attempt to dismiss the tone of the ensuing debate as containing “misinformation”. Not to say though, that jail will be immediately on the cards for pirates. Weatherley says that education has to come first, with an emphasis placed on informing consumers that “piracy and similar illegal activities are not in their best long-term interests and are not socially acceptable.” The second phase will see the onus placed on industry “to get their product right and attractive” to consumers. “[The third stage] once we have won the ‘hearts and minds’ of consumers and provided suitable content, keeps the option of enforcement of copyright law on the table when all else has been exhausted,” the MP says. Given Weatherley’s suggested plan for preparing now for VCAP’s failure, the ISPs involved in the scheme (BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media) must be considering the kind of road they’re being led down. While sending out warnings with no mitigation measures sounds reasonable enough today, if that transforms into a cash fine, disconnections and jail sentence model in future, the whole thing could turn into a PR disaster. Update: Prime Minister David Cameron says he will “closely consider” Weatherley’s report. Source: TorrentFreak
  7. Several UK Internet providers have quietly added a list of new domains to their secretive anti-piracy blocklists. TorrentFreak was able to confirm that several popular torrent site proxies were added over the past weekend. However, the blocked domains have been quickly replaced by new ones, continuing the cat-and-mouse game that never seems to end. Following a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are required to block subscriber access to several of the world’s largest torrent sites. The blocks are somewhat effective, at least in preventing subscribers from accessing the domains directly. However, that doesn’t mean that the sites are completely inaccessible. With every site that is added to the blocklist several reverse proxies are launched. These proxy sites give people access to the blocked sites and effectively bypass the restrictions put in place by the court. The copyright holders who demanded the blockades are well aware of these workarounds and continue to ask ISPs to expand their blocking efforts. This weekend the ISPs quietly added several torrent site proxies to their blocklists. TorrentFreak was able to confirm that Virgin Media and Sky are now blocking access to YTS proxy ytsre.come.in as well as the EZTV equivalent on come.in. Interestingly, the other torrent site proxies, including ones for the Pirate Bay and Kickass, are still accessible. YTS proxy blocked Whether these measures will be effective has yet to be seen. The Come.in homepage is still accessible and the team behind the site has already replaced the blocked domains with new ones. “We just set up new proxies and will be watching for any upcoming measures from ISPs,” Come.in’s Nick tells TorrentFreak. “We monitor such issues on a regular basis. Most of the time we can create new proxies only after current ones are blocked. Come.in visitors should know that we always publish fresh proxy addresses on our homepage,” he adds. And so the whack-a-mole continues, with copyright holders adding new domains to the blocklists, and site owners hopping from domain to domain. As with previous additions the newly blocked domains are covered by the High Court order, which provides the movie studios with the option to continually update the list of infringing domains. A Virgin Media spokesperson clarified that no additions are made by the ISP itself. “We are only blocking those sites we are required to block by the court order,” we were told. “As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media supports the clear, legal framework put in place to protect against copyright infringement and we continue to comply with court orders specifically addressed to the company.” While the recent additions are permitted under the High Court order, these changes are being made in secret without any form of public oversight, which means that we don’t know precisely how many proxies were added. The full list of blocked domains also remains unknown. TorrentFreak reached out to both copyright holders and ISPs, but thus far they have refused to make the full scope of their blocking efforts public. It’s unlikely that this will change in the near future. — The full list of domains (that we know of) currently blocked in the UK is as follows: Main sites: Megashare, Viooz, Watch32, Zmovie, Solarmovie, Tubeplus, Primewire, Vodly, Watchfreemovies, Project-Free TV, Yify-Torrents, 1337x, Bitsnoop, Extratorrent, Monova, Torrentcrazy, Torrentdownloads, Torrentreactor, Torrentz, Ambp3, Beemp3, Bomb-mp3, Eemp3world, Filecrop, Filestube, Mp3juices, Mp3lemon, Mp3raid, Mp3skull, Newalbumreleases, Rapidlibrary, EZTV, FirstRowSports, Download4all, Movie2K, KickAssTorrents, Fenopy, H33T and The Pirate Bay. Proxies: Ytsre.come.in, Eztv.come.in, Fp.kleisauke.nl, Fenopy.5gg.biz, H33tunblock.info, H33t.uk.to, H33tproxy.co, H33tmirror.co, Katunblock.com, Katproxy.com, Kat.dashitz.com, Kat.kleisauke.nl, Katmirror.com, Kat.5gg.biz, Kickassunblock.info, Kickassproxy.info, Pirateproxy.net, Proxybay.net, Malaysiabay.org, Piratereverse.info, Pirateproxy.net, Campeche.zapto.org, Tpb.rubenstadman.com, Piratebay.interflective.com, Dashitz.com, Tpb.evrl.com Source: TorrentFreak
  8. A new survey of young children and adults has found consensus on what should be charged for content online. In both groups, 49% said that people should be able to download content they want for free, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds stating that file-sharing was the only way they could afford to obtain it. The results of a new survey commissioned by YouGov SixthSense on the file-sharing and content consumption habits of citizens in the UK have just been published. Among broader issues, the study, which draws on a sample of 1,907 adults over 16 years old and 614 children aged between 8 and 15, looked at reasons why people use file-sharing sites, plus attitudes towards piracy and paying for content. Online content should be free The headline finding presented YouGov suggests that half of the up-and-coming generation believes that the Internet should be a content free-for-all. A total of 49% of the 8 to 15-year-olds questioned said that they believe that people should be able to download the content they want from the Internet for nothing. Drilling down specifically into attitudes towards file-sharing sites, 6% of children said that using them is easy, with 7% agreeing that it had become the normal thing to do. Interestingly, YouGov found that when questioning the 16-year-old and above group, the attitudes towards free content were the same, with an identical 49% stating that online content should be free to download. Motivations to share files The survey found that the major driver for use of file-sharing sites is cost. While adults tend to have the most disposable income, 51% said that they use file-sharing sites to save money. Among the children, whose resources are often more limited, 44% said their motivation was financial, with a quarter of 16-24 year olds reporting that file-sharing is the only way they can afford to access content online. Unsurprisingly, the issue of accessibility came in at a close second place for both groups. The speed and convenience of file-sharing was cited as a key motivator for use by 41% of adults and 38% of the children. Attitudes towards piracy and sanctions The mainstream entertainment companies invariably insist that downloading movies and music without permission is tantamount to stealing. However, when it comes to the UK’s children the survey suggests that Big Entertainment has a mountain to climb to have that notion widely adopted. While 16% of children accept that it’s wrong to obtain content for free without the creator’s permission, just 7% believe that file-sharing is a form of stealing. When it comes to punishing someone, somewhere, for the piracy problem, it comes as little surprise that most of the adults feel that the blame should be placed elsewhere. Rather than being punished for illegal downloading themselves, 60% of the 16-24 year-olds said that the companies and websites providing the content should be punished instead. The future Despite the favorable cost and convenience of using unauthorized sources, YouGov notes that opportunities exist for content providers to address those issues. Legal alternatives, such as the free ad-supported model offered by Spotify, are being utilized more, and there are signs that people are happy to pay for exclusive content. Among the children, for example, 13% said they would spend their money if that meant supporting an up-and-coming artist. “Children in this generation have grown up with digital material and are used to having access to what they want, when they want it and for some of the time not paying for it,” says YouGov Research Director James McCoy. “Whilst they appreciate the issues surrounding piracy and illegal downloads, if they can get away with it, then they will. Why change the habit of a lifetime?” McCoy says that the challenge for industry moving forward is to find ways to engage and educate this group “in a relevant and non-condescending way.” That can probably be done, it just might take a little while yet. The Future of Digital Consumption 2014 can be purchased from YouGov. Source: TorrentFreak
  9. The Commissioner of City of London Police admitted this week that just 4% to 10% of sites shut down when contacted by the new Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Alongside odd comments about the threat of "BitNet" and Tor making up "90% of the Internet", Leppard noted that enforcement will not provide a way out of the piracy problem. This week’s IP Enforcement Summit in London brought together experts and stakeholders from all over the world to discuss intellectual property issues. In attendance were representatives from Hollywood, the music industry, and a whole swathe of companies reliant on the exploitation of IP rights. One of the speakers at the event was Commissioner Adrian Leppard of City of London Police, who spoke about police are contributing to the ongoing fight against piracy. Losses to counterfeiting and pirated goods will amount to a trillion next year, Leppard began. “It’s high yield, low risk,” he noted. “We need to focus on [the problem] in the UK. We know that UK ISP addresses are visiting websites that are downloading illegal content, up to 7 million of those hits on a monthly basis,” Leppard said. Technology problems “The Internet pushes through every border control legislation we have and it is carrying a huge amount of harm to our society, as well as offering creative opportunity for business. At some point there has to be a debate and a challenge about the harm the Internet brings,” the Commissioner told the audience. While Leppard undoubtedly has a very good grasp of his core topics and has well-deserved reputation as a professional crime fighter, elements of the next section of his speech raise a concern or two. Speaking of the need to consider how pirated content is shifted around online when making new laws, the police chief only sowed confusion. New legislation required “The new legislation that’s necessary is not just about prosecuting people and protecting people, we’ve got to think about some of the enabling functions that allow this to happen that we just take for granted,” he began. “Whether it’s Bitnet, The Tor – which is 90% of the Internet – peer-to-peer sharing, or the streaming capability worldwide. At what point does civil society say that as well as the benefits that brings, this enables huge risk and threat to our society that we need to take action against?” Perhaps technology isn’t Leppard’s strong point. Enforcement won’t work against a piracy tsunami Noting how difficult it is for law enforcement to work across borders, Leppard went on to admit something with which most people agree. “I don’t think enforcement is ever going to find a way out of this problem. When you’re in a tsunami you can’t push back the water and you have to start thinking very differently about how we protect society,” he said. “The only way is to work with industry to prevent and to think about the enabling functions of this crime. Enforcement will only ever be a limited capability in this space.” Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit Speaking of the unit set up last year to deal with the piracy issue, Leppard said that the inspiration had arrived from across the Atlantic. PIPCU tries to mirror the Department of Homeland Security’s ICE unit, by working as a single point of communication between all interested parties. Operation Creative Operation Creative, PIPCU’s ongoing anti-piracy initiative, is designed to find a way around the ineffectiveness of enforcement, Leppard said. “We’ll never enforce our way out of this problem so we have to think differently about how we tackle it and target it. Organized crime is motivated purely by money and the way to start dealing with this is to target the money flows and how people make money out of this crime,” he said. Working with the entertainment industries, advertisers and credit card companies, PIPCU is provided with “a court-ready and very bespoke evidentiary package” against pirate sites. “Once we’ve got that court package we know we can defend ourselves in a civil court or a criminal court and we take action,” he said. What happens next is a phenomenon we’ve been documenting on TorrentFreak for nearly a year now – the official police letters to piracy sites that effectively ask them to close down. However, as Leppard reveals, the technique is not particularly effective. “The first thing we do is make an overt approach to the owners of the websites and between 4% and 10% of those websites will close down just by having overt engagement. These are global websites, of course they may move to another ISP address, we know that, and we’ll target them there as well.” Unresponsive sites then see their advertising hit, closely followed by the hindering of their payment processing options. When all else fails PIPCU will move onto the final step…. Disruption and enforcement “We’re new into this although we’ve been piloting it for the best part of two years and we know it works. We’re in the first phases of that and it will be interesting to see as we move through the next year or so how successful that approach is and how much we get challenged. I expect us to get challenged as well but we have a lot of legal advice behind us,” Leppard said. “But my point is whether this is successful or not it is this area that we all need to start thinking about if we’re going to combat this problem, not simply ‘how do we enforce, how do we prosecute, how do we target these organized crime groups’, but actually how do we start to disable the very factor that the crime exists – how people make money.” The future Looking forward, Leppard admitted that on their own the police can’t don’t much to solve the problem so collaborating with the private sector is the only way. The music and movie industries presumably won’t have much of a problem with that, but whether the approach will prove effective overall is another matter. Source: TorrentFreak
  10. This week, MPAA chief and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd praised pirate site blockades as an important anti-piracy measure. Speaking at the IP Summit in London, Dodd said that ISP blockades are one of the most effective tools available. Does this mean that Hollywood will try to get these blacklists in place on its home turf? This week many key figures in the copyright protection and enforcement industries gathered for the International IP Enforcement Summit, organized by the UK Government. One of the main topics of discussion was Internet piracy, and how to prevent people from accessing and sharing copyrighted works without permission. Website blocking is one of the anti-piracy tools that was mentioned frequently . In recent years the UK has become a leader on this front, with the High Court ordering local ISPs to block access to dozens of popular file-sharing sites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents. MPAA chief Chris Dodd, who delivered a speech at the Summit, applauded the UK approach. The former U.S. Senator believes that these restrictions are helping to decrease the piracy problem. “Here in the United Kingdom, the balanced and proportionate use of civil procedures has made tremendous progress in tackling infringing websites. To date, access to over 40 pirate sites focused on infringing copyright for commercial gain, have been blocked,” Dodd said. According to Dodd these blockades have proven to be one of the most effective anti-piracy measures in the world, made possible by a provision in local copyright law. “In particular, Section 97A of the Copyright Act allowing courts to issue injunctions against service providers who know their services are being utilized for infringing purposes, has been one of the most effective tools anywhere in the world,” Dodd says. Despite the MPAA’s faith in website blockades, which is not shared by everyone, the movie group has never attempted to ask a U.S. court for a similar injunction. This is surprising since nearly all the sites that are blocked in the UK have far more users from the United States. TorrentFreak asked the MPAA to explain this lack of action, but we have yet to hear back from them. Previously we spoke to an insider who admitted that these type of ISP blockades are harder to get in place under United States law, which is one of the reasons why the copyright holders haven’t tried this yet. The issue became even more complicated after the copyright holders’ push for SOPA failed early 2012. In part, SOPA was designed to give copyright holders a shortcut to request injunctions against pirate sites. Putting the law aside, the MPAA has made it clear that it’s keen on maintaining good relationships with the Internet providers. ISPs and copyright holders are taking part in a voluntary agreement to “alert” pirates, which will undoubtedly be harmed if additional blocking demands appear on the table. For now, it seems that the MPAA and other industry groups will continue to press for more voluntary deals in the U.S. Interestingly, Dodd specifically calls for a cooperation with search engines to indirectly block pirate sites, instead of asking for a more direct blockade from ISPs. “If we convince these search engines to join our efforts to shut down illegal sites, it would be a significant step forward in our ongoing efforts to protect creators,” he said. Thus far Google and other search engines have refused to remove pirate sites from their search indexes. Also, one has to wonder how effective that would be. Thus far Google has removed more than two million pages from The Pirate Bay, but the site’s traffic continues to expand regardless. But then again, even an ISP blockade is easy to circumvent, and perhaps not as effective as the MPAA claims. Source: TorrentFreak
  11. City of London Police and Hollywood's Federation Against Copyright Theft are claiming big results in a new government IP crime report. PIPCU say they have suspended 2,359 UK domains and cut off payment to 19 sites, with FACT claiming the closure of 117 pirate sites and the arrest of seven release group members in the past 12 months. In recent times the UK has become one of the most unfriendly countries in the world when it comes to operating a file-sharing site. Efforts by the movie industry and their local proxies have restricted opportunities, and the addition of government assistance since the summer of 2013 has only made things more claustrophobic. The two main players on this front are FACT, the Hollywood-affiliated Federation Against Copyright Theft and PIPCU, the City of London’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Both have been very active recently, with the latter doing most of its work in the past 10 months or so. While there are few big announcements from either group, a new UK government report now provides updated statistics from both. The numbers in the just-published IP Crime Highlight Report 2013/2014 show considerable activity, for FACT over the past 12 months and for PIPCU since September last year. PIPCU The headline figure from PIPCU indicates that the unit is currently investigating ‘IP Crime’ to the value of £28,869,991, which in the overall scheme of things doesn’t seem big by industry standards. Music sales alone were worth more than £1 billion in the UK during 2013 and it’s not unusual for the industry to claim piracy rates in excess of 90%. Still, the police unit is not only about investigation, but also about disruption, and their aim to have the domains of infringing sites suspended has reportedly enjoyed some success. According to the new stats, since September 2013 PIPCU have had a hand in the suspension of 2,359 .co.uk domain names. It’s a significant number, no doubt, but the disruption one might expect from such broad action has certainly not been reflected in the press. Other figures presented by the government relate to the execution of 15 search warrants. No further details have been provided but the action against a local streaming link site accounted for at least one of them. The final piece of information from PIPCU relates to the current “follow the money” approach employed by anti-piracy groups worldwide. The unit claims to have suspended the ability of 19 websites to process payments, although no detail is given on the nature of the sites from where the processors backed out. PIPCU do work with PayPal, MasterCard and VISA, so it’s likely they’ll be somewhere in the chain. FACT Without doubt, FACT are the busiest ‘boots on the ground’ anti-piracy group in the UK and the most likely to trouble UK-based file-sharing site operators. According to the report, in the past 12 months alone FACT has managed to close down 117 ‘pirate’ websites. No further details are provided but the group works on a number of levels, from scaring operators via email to physically arriving at their home addresses. When site operators have been brave enough to talk we have reported on a few instances here at TF, but in nothing like the numbers suggested in the report. FACT also claim to have targeted people higher up the food chain in the past 12 months, after having a hand in the arrest of seven “alleged” release group members. The inclusion of the word ‘alleged’ suggests ongoing cases, but it’s certainly possible that FACT are referring to individuals arrested in the West Midlands last year. In addition to having another 10 websites blocked by UK ISPs following action in the High Court, FACT secured the first ever UK conviction of an individual streaming live football matches over the Internet. The case involved the operators of a website called FreeLiveFooty, both of which were arrested in 2010 following complaints from the Premier League. “FACT’s successes in the past year show the benefits of intelligence led, targeted actions against criminal websites and the people behind them,” FACT’s Eddy Leviten told TorrentFreak. “We also help to guide consumers to legitimate entertainment sources online, in cinemas and on TV.” News-shy While both PIPCU and FACT do make the occasional announcement on achievements, there is a tendency for them to work under the radar. For example, while FACT has on occasion pressed the big publicity button, such as when they took the BBC along to the home of a file-sharing site operator, often the only reports to surface are the ones published here on TF with the assistance of FACT targets (for example 1,2,3,4,5) PIPCU also tend not to shout too loudly or too often about their achievements, action against counterfeit domain names and other sundries aside. Again, word often reaches TF of attempted domain seizures or threatening letters way before the police make any announcement, if they ever do. Why they take this approach isn’t clear, but the fact that some attempts fail, such as recently with torrent index Torrentz, is certainly a motivator to keep things low-key. Source: TorrentFreak
  12. Soon, UK citizens are free to copy MP3s, CDs and DVDs for personal use. The copyright law revisions, which partially went into effect this month, legalizes this common form of copying. The changes, which will also broaden fair use rights, aim to close the gap between the law and public norms. Most people in the UK may not have realized it, but every time they backed up an MP3 or made a copy of a CD or DVD for personal use, they were breaking the law. Starting today this is no longer the case for the disabled, thanks to a revision of copyright law that just went into effect. Previously the Government also announced that all private copying for personal use would be legal starting in June, but this has apparently been delayed pending Parliament approval. Following a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation, the UK Government decided to change current laws in favor of consumers. The changes have been in the planning stage for a few years, but have finally be implemented. “Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup,” the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) previously announced. “The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.” In other words, people will be free to rip CDs and DVDs or backup their MP3s to an online storage provider, without risking legal trouble. The Government emphasizes, however, that it is still not allowed to share these personal copies with the rest of the world. “You will be permitted to make personal copies to any device that you own, or a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud. However, it will be illegal to give other people access to the copies you have made,” the IPO explains. It is no secret that several entertainment industry groups are wary of the new copying regulation. However, before implementing the changes the Government carefully researched the economic impact for copyright holders, concluding it to be minimal. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s expected that the technology sector will greatly benefit from the newly gained freedom. The revised copying rules are expected to generate an additional £31 million in revenue per year. This money will come from consumers who use services and products to assist their copying needs. “This measure will benefit technology firms by removing barriers and costs and improving entry to technology markets which rely on consumers being able to make private copies,” the IPO predicts. Besides new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized. A complete overview of the changes, and how they apply to the public, are summarized in a handy guide published by the UK Intellectual Property Office. Update: This article initially stated that the general private copying restrictions were also lifted, as announced previously. However, these still have to be approved by Parliament. The article has been updated accordingly. TorrentFreak asked IPO to clarify the confusion and we will post the response here when it comes in. Source: TorrentFreak
  13. The UK's top IP advisor has published recommendations on how search engines should deal with online piracy. The document envisions demoting sites based on numbers of copyright notices received, removal of others entirely after acknowledging ISP blocking orders, and warning consumers away from sites without industry certification. Mike Weatherley, a Conservative MP and Intellectual Property Adviser to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, has become increasingly involved in the online piracy debate in recent months. Weatherley’s current focus is on the role search engines can play in reducing infringement. In contrast to the approach taken by the entertainment industries, the MP has taken a much more positive stance when speaking of Google’s efforts thus far. In a new report, however, Weatherley lays out often far-reaching recommendations that puts him almost completely in sync with industry demands. The report, which Weatherley says is intended to stimulate debate, begins with praise for Google for “engaging positively” during its creation. Its recommendations are directed at all search engines, but as the market leader Google is called on to show leadership. Where Google goes, others will follow, Weatherley believes. Search results – demoting illegal sites The music and movie industries have long complained that illegal content is too easy to find and for a long time they’ve been putting Google under pressure to do something about that. Weatherley believes that by working with two existing sources of information – Google’s Transparency Report and the recently formed Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit’s infringing site “blacklist” – Google has a ready formula at hand. The BPI’s input suggests that when a search engine has received 10,000 infringement notices for a site, that site should no longer appear on the first page of search results. Any that receive 100,000 notices should no longer appear in the first 10 pages. However, it’s envisioned that “certificates” could be handed out to some sites to help them avoid being relegated – more on that later. Voluntarily complying with site-blocking court orders In the UK around 30 ‘pirate’ sites are now blocked via the UK’s major ISPs after both the BPI and MPA went to court to obtain injunctions. While these injunctions only legally apply to their formal targets (the ISPs), in future Weatherley would like Google to acknowledge the existence of injunctions by immediately removing the affected sites from all search results. The MP acknowledges that this may require a change in the law. Accepting takedown notices for AutoComplete terms For some time Google has been accepting applications from rightsholders to remove “infringing” terms from its AutoComplete service. Weatherley now wants to see this process formalized. “Given that Google has accepted that Autocomplete for pirate sites should not occur, it seems uncontroversial to recommend that steps are taken to continue to ensure this does not happen,” he writes. AutoComplete takedown notices should be included in Google’s Transparency Report, the MP says. Incorporating “Trust Marks” and “Warnings” to inform consumers The idea here is that somehow Google will consider the reputation of a site when formulating its algorithms and when it presents its search results. “Trust Marks” would be used to denote a legal and licensed resource while “Warnings” would be used to highlight an illegal site. The exact process through which a site could become trusted is unclear, but suggestions from the BPI indicate that a “certificate” could be obtained from its own Music Matters project to indicate that a resource is “clean”. Similar certificates could be obtained by sites that receive a lot of takedown notices but operate legally (YouTube for example) so that they are whitelisted by Google and not downgraded in search results. In terms of warning against unlicensed sites, rightsholders suggest that Google takes note of PIPCU’s “pirate” site blacklist by either negatively marking affected sites in search results or removing them completely. Referencing a TorrentFreak article published last month reporting how Google had signaled that Demonoid was a potentially dangerous site, Weatherley said Google can do more to protect consumers. “Google has not only proven in relation to malware on certain torrent sites that it has the technical capability within its systems to deliver consumer messaging in search listings, but that such messages can be an effective deterrent to consumers,” the MP explains. Licensed services should do more to help themselves in search results While the music and movie industries complain endlessly about “pirate” results appearing above their own licensed content, not much time is given to explaining why that’s the case. Weatherley reveals that Google has made a request for movie and music streaming services behind a paywall to allow Google to crawl their sites in order for consumers to be able to see them in results. For some services, apparently that’s not currently allowed. “Google maintains that it is perfectly possible to create crawlable pages for each movie or album title in a security-friendly way. I am told by rights holders that there are potential security issues around making licensed services crawlable and they have concerns with this proposal,” Weatherley notes. Conclusion While Weatherley is currently praising Google in order to keep the tone positive and the discussion flowing, the IP advisor clearly believes that the search engine is capable of assisting rightsholders much more but is failing to do so. The MP’s report has no official standing in respect of government policy but it addresses most if not all of the movie and music industries’ main problems with Google. Expect this document to become a point of reference in the months to come. Source: TorrentFreak
  14. Torrentz.eu, the largest torrent search engine on the Internet, has had its domain name suspended following a request from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit in the UK. The site continues to operate under two alternative domains, and is hoping to move the .eu domain to a new registrar. Over the past few months City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide or link to pirated content. The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites. A few days ago police sent out another round of requests to various domain name registrars, asking them to suspend the domains of several allegedly infringing sites. Before the weekend we reported that the cyberlocker search engine FileCrop was targeted, and today the same happened to Torrentz.eu. Starting a few hours ago the popular search engine became unreachable after its DNS entries were pointed at ns1.blocked.netart.pl and ns2.blocked.netart.pl. The operator of Torrentz informs TorrentFreak that the site’s main domain name was suspended by its registrar following a request from police in the UK. The site is still registered to the Torrentz team, who hope that they will be able to lift the suspension or move the domain name elsewhere. Several other Torrentz domains remain unaffected, and the site can still be accessed via the Torrentz.ch and Torrentz.me domains. Torrentz is the most prominent site thus far to lose control of its domain following action by UK police. With millions of visitors a day it’s one of the largest torrent sites on the Internet. The site is also an unusual target since it is a pure meta-search engine, showing nothing more than a search box on the homepage. The actions of the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit are not without controversy. While some registrars are willing to cooperate, Canada-based easyDNS previously refused to comply and successfully defended its customers. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I always thought it was something that gets decided in a court of law, as opposed to ‘some guy on the internet’ sending emails. While that’s plenty reason enough for some registrars to take down domain names, it doesn’t fly here,” easyDNS’ CEO Mark Jeftovic said at the time. In Torrentz’s case, however, it appears that an email from the UK Police was good enough to have their domain suspended. However, the site’s owner should still be able to regain full control over the domain name. Previously, ICANN’s Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy panel ruled that registrars can’t hold domain names hostage simply because a law enforcement agency believes it may be infringing. “Although there are compelling reasons why the request from a recognized law enforcement agency such as the City of London Police should be honored, the Transfer Policy is unambiguous in requiring a court order before a Registrar of Record may deny a request to transfer a domain name,” the panel wrote in its decision. “To permit a registrar of record to withhold the transfer of a domain based on the suspicion of a law enforcement agency, without the intervention of a judicial body, opens the possibility for abuse by agencies far less reputable than the City of London Police,” it added. The above means that there’s a good chance that Torrentz will be able to get its domain unsuspended, or transferred to a new registrar at least. Time will tell if this is indeed the case. TorrentFreak has asked the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit for a comment on the renewed suspension requests, but we haven’t heard back from them thus far – today is a national holiday in the UK. Source: TorrentFreak
  15. Continuing its attacks on file-sharing-related domains, the UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has shut down its very first search engine. Following an earlier BPI request for it to be blocked by the country's ISPs, in the past few hours file-host search site FileCrop was shuttered as part of a PIPCU investigation. Following its launch in the last quarter of 2013, City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been working hard to disrupt the activities of sites in the file-sharing arena. The Unit works on the recommendations of international music, movie and TV companies but is financed by the UK taxpayer, funding set to continue if Prime Minister David Cameron’s IP advisor has his way. PIPCU’s activities began with the sending of warning emails to many domains around the world, warning them that non-compliance with police requests would result in further action. That action has taken several forms, including the attempted seizure of domains, reported disruption of advertising revenue, through to physical raids such as the one carried out on Boxing Guru earlier this year. Today there are clear signs of further action by PIPCU. During the past few hours, file-sharing site FileCrop disappeared from the Internet, to be replaced by the PIPCU notice shown below. While it’s not particularly unusual for PIPCU to target file-sharing related sites, what is special in this case is the nature of the FileCrop operation. FileCrop wasn’t a non-responsive Pirate Bay style torrent site, nor was it a file-hosting site operating on the boundaries of the law. As illustrated by the image below, FileCrop was a search engine that allowed its users to seek content hosted on various file-lockers around the world including RapidShare, Mediafire and Mega, sites that all have strict notice-and-takedown procedures. While the police making a search engine a priority target seems somewhat unusual (FileCrop also responded to takedowns), the targeting of FileCrop doesn’t come as a complete surprise. In mid 2013 the BPI began preparations to have another batch of domains blocked by local ISPs. FileCrop.com was included in that list and before the year it was mostly inaccessible in the UK. The Alexa chart below suggests that the blockade had quite an effect on FileCrop’s popularity. While there has been no announcement from City of London Police, previous actions resulting in the displaying of the “under investigation” banner shown above have always followed boots-on-the-ground efforts by the authorities. This suggests a UK presence for FileCrop’s owners or operators, although examination of the site’s WHOIS entries suggests that the domain owner is located in Ukraine. Another unusual aspect to the case is why police would prioritize a site that apparently causes relatively few problems for rightsholders. While Google received more than 659,000 complaints last month against Fileshut.biz, a functionally similar site, the search engine has been receiving an average of just 37 complaints a week against FileCrop. TorrentFreak’s requests for information from the police have gone unanswered this morning, suggesting that it will be next week before more is known about this case. Update: The sports streaming site Cricfree.tv appears to have been shutdown as well. Source: TorrentFreak
  16. This morning movie streaming portal Cricfree.tv had its domain name "seized" by UK Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Whether the intervention will prove to be very effective has yet to be seen, as the site is already back online using a new domain name. A few hours ago we reported that City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) managed to shutter FileCrop, a popular file-hosting search engine. FileCrop wasn’t the only site that disappeared. The same happened to the sports streaming portal Cricfree.tv, which is a fairly popular site with millions of visitors a month. However, Cricfree didn’t stay down for long. The owner of the site quickly put up a new domain, Cricfree.eu, and after a few hours the site was up and running again. TorrentFreak talked to the Cricfree owner who told us that the police nor his registrar reached out to him about the issue. “They never alerted me that they were going to suspend the domain. I only received a few emails from the anti-piracy outfit FACT, but I didn’t think these were serious,” he says. It remains unclear how the police was able to seize the domain. Previously they’ve contacted several registrars with a request to suspend several piracy related domain names, and it is likely that this happened here as well. Cricfree’s domain name registrar is Internet.bs and the owner is hoping to get the domain name back, since the domain name was “seized” without a proper court order. For now, however, the site will continue to operate on cricfree.eu and skysport.tv, where traffic is picking up again according to the owner. Source: TorrentFreak
  17. Last week news broke that UK ISPs are teaming up with copyright holders to notify Internet subscribers caught sharing pirated material. The plan has been widely covered in the media, but unfortunately fact and fiction are often intertwined. So how scary are these piracy warnings really? Let's find out. In an effort to curb online piracy, the movie and music industries have reached an agreement with the UK’s leading ISPs to send warnings to alleged copyright infringers. Thus far details on the proposed system have been scarce, leading to the wildest assumptions and in some cases a core misunderstanding of how the process will work. Earlier this week, for example, the CEO of a smaller UK Internet provider said that he will refuse to join the program as ISPs shouldn’t be compelled to monitor everything their customers do. Others fear that they may receive a warning for downloading an MP3 from a file-hosting site, or for streaming a copyrighted YouTube video. All of the above have nothing to do with the proposed measures. To clear up some of the confusion TorrentFreak spoke to a source closely involved in the Vcap system. We were informed that Vcap will be part of a larger campaign to inform the public about copyright issues. For this reason, the warnings, or alerts rather, will focus on educating people about how they can access content legally, much like the scheme currently operating in the U.S. The four ISPs who are confirmed to be involved in Vcap are BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, but other providers could join in at a later stage. Below we have summarized how the Vcap program is expected to work, including several new details. What will be monitored? According to information obtained by TorrentFreak the Vcap system will only apply to P2P file-sharing. In theory this means that the focus will be almost exclusively on BitTorrent, as other P2P networks have relatively low user bases. Consequently, those who use Usenet providers or file-hosting services such as 4Shared, RapidShare and Hotfile are not at risk. The same is true for those who use streaming sites. In other words, the Vcap program only covers part of all online piracy. Will all P2P file-sharers receive a warning? TorrentFreak has learned that not all P2P file-sharers will receive a warning. The system will focus on people whose Internet accounts have been used to share copyrighted material more than once. This is different from the U.S. model where people get an alert after the first offense. The focus on repeat infringers is a logical choice since there are millions of file-sharers in the UK and the copyright holders and ISPs have agreed to cap the warnings at 2.5 million over three years. Who will be monitoring these copyright infringements? While ISPs take part in the scheme, they will not monitor subscribers’ file-sharing activities. The tracking will be done by a third party company. The most likely candidate is MarkMonitor (Dtecnet) who are also the technology partner for the U.S. Copyright Alert System. This tracking company collects IP-addresses from BitTorrent swarms and sends its findings directly to the Internet providers. The lists with infringing IP-addresses are not shared with the record labels, movie studios or other third parties. Each ISP will keep a database of the alleged infringers and send them appropriate warnings. If the ISPs get approval from the Information Commissioner’s Office, recorded infringements will be stored for a year after which they will be deleted. Will any Internet accounts be disconnected? There are no disconnections or mitigation measures for repeat infringers under the Vcap program. Alleged file-sharers will get up to four warnings and all subsequent offenses will be ignored. The source we spoke with clarified that it’s not the intention of Vcap to stop the most hardcore file-sharers. The program is mostly focused on educating casual infringers about the legal alternatives to piracy. Can the monitoring be circumvented? The answer to the previous questions already shows that users have plenty of options to bypass the program. They can simply switch to other means of downloading, but there are more alternatives. BitTorrent users could hide their IP-addresses through proxy services and VPNs for example. After the U.S. Copyright Alert Program launched last year there was a huge increase in demand for these kind of anonymity services. So how scary is the Vcap anti-piracy plan? While we can’t say anything too conclusive, it appears that the main purpose is to inform casual infringers about their inappropriate behavior. The focus lies on education, although the warnings also serve as a deterrent by pointing out that people are not anonymous. For some this may be enough to switch to legal alternatives. All in all the proposed measures are fairly reasonable, especially compared to other countries where fines and internet connections are on the table. Whether it will be successful is an entirely different question of course, and one which will only be answered when the first results come in. Finally, it’s worth noting that if Vcap fails it’s not automatically a win for the pirates. A few months ago the Government promised to “bring the Digital Economy Act into force as soon as practicable,” which will result in more stringent anti-piracy measures. Source: TorrentFreak
  18. Approximately 26 percent of the desktop computers worldwide are still running Windows XP right now, but the United Kingdom is really keen on cutting down its market share by forcing companies in the country to upgrade as soon as possible. In a notification posted on its website, the UK's privacy watchdog warned that out-of-date software is currently one of the eight most common security vulnerabilities leading to data leaks, so companies that are failing to secure their PCs due to this reason could get fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($844,000 / 613,000 euros). “In just the past couple of months we have already seen widespread concern over the expiry of support for Microsoft XP and the uncovering of the security flaw known as Heartbleed. While these security issues may seem complex, it is important that organisations of all sizes have a basic understanding of these types of threats and know what action they need to take to make sure their computer systems are keeping customers’ information secure,” ICO’s Group Manager for Technology, Simon Rice,said. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and British Pregnancy Advice Service have already received hefty fines for failing to keep user data secure, so the Information Commissioner's Office warns that all companies that are aren't upgrading their computers to run newer software and protect consumer details could get financial penalties as well. Source
  19. The music and movie industries and several of the UK's leading ISPs have reached terms on a deal to tackle Internet piracy. The arrangement will see the BPI and MPA monitoring people sharing files illegally and the ISPs sending them "escalating" warning letters. The introduction of the controversial Digital Economy Act in 2010 was supposed to significantly reduce online piracy but four years on just about nothing has changed. The legislation envisioned repeat infringers being cut off from the Internet, but that deterrent has never come to pass. Instead, frustrated rightsholders – who believe that doing nothing against unauthorized file-sharing just isn’t an option – have been channeled into talks with ISPs to try and find a voluntary solution to the problem. Today, and after years of wrangling, it now appears the sides have agreed terms on what will be known as Vcap – the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme. The system will see the music and movie industries monitor BitTorrent file-sharing networks for infringement, logging pirates’ IP addresses as they go. These will be tracked back to ISPs who will send out a warning letter to the subscriber account associated with the alleged deed. According to the BBC, only four ISPs – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – are currently signed up to the BPI and MPA scheme. Users of other ISPs won’t receive any letters for now but that could change in the future. Unlike other “graduated response” schemes elsewhere in the world, the UK’s Vcap has no real “teeth”. Even though the language used in the letters will reportedly increase in tone, there will be no punishments, and after receipt of a fourth warning no account will receive a fifth. On the privacy front subscribers will be pleased to know that within Vcap, ISPs won’t be handing their identities over to the music and movie companies. Rightsholder access to Vcap data will be limited to how many alerts have been sent out but since they are the ones generating the data for the warnings, the IP addresses of the alleged infringers will already be known to them. The BPI and MPA will be pleased that a deal has been reached, but it has come at a cost. While the language used in the warnings will increase, threats or suggestions of consequences for continued infringement have been replaced by messages designed to educate. Also, warnings sent will be capped at 2.5 million over three years. It will also come at a financial cost. The BBC reports that rightsholders will pay each ISP £750,000 to set up the system, or 75% of the costs, whichever is smaller. On top of this initial outlay the BPI and MPA will pay each ISP an additional annual sum of £75,000 to cover administration costs. While the ISPs and industry groups have agreed terms, Vcap is not quite a done deal yet. As part of the scheme, ISPs hope to keep records for up to a year detailing which subscribers have received warning letters and how many each has received. On this issue they are awaiting approval from the Information Commissioner’s Office. In the right circumstances and armed with a court order its certainly conceivable that not only the BPI and MPA could gain access to this data, but also outside companies with similar interests. Finally, and despite the ‘gentle’ tone of Vcap, there is a sting in the tail. In the agreement seen by the BBC, rightsholders say that if Vcap doesn’t achieve results, they will call for the “rapid implementation” of the harsh measures promised by the Digital Economy Act. Source: TorrentFreak
  20. City of London Police continues its crackdown on websites that facilitate piracy and sales of counterfeit products. In celebration of World Intellectual Property Day, the police announced that to date they have suspended 2,500 domain names linked to counterfeit material. So far, the efforts to shut down pirate sites have been less successful, but this may change in the near future. Over the past few months City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide pirated or counterfeit content. The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal” sites. In celebration of World Intellectual Property Day, the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has today announced the first results of their anti-counterfeiting campaign. According to PIPCU more than 2,500 domains names have been suspended thus far. The domain names are not listed, but all offered counterfeit products of major brands such as UGG boots, Abercrombie, Hollister, and Gucci. “The fact PIPCU can announce on World IP Day that in the eight months since launching we have suspended more than 2,500 infringing websites is further evidence of the expertise of our officers and the level of their commitment to clamp down on IP crime,” Andy Fyfe commented on today’s news. “Consumers also need to be aware that by accessing websites like this they are running the risk of their personal details being compromised and being used for other fraudulent scams, as well as the exposing their computer to malicious malware,” Fyfe adds There’s little doubt that 2,500 domain names is a significant number. Interestingly however, the Police have had less success with domains names linked to “pirate” websites. When TorrentFreak asked the police about the suspension of pirate domains, we were told that this is still work in progress. “With regards to digital piracy, that falls under Operation Creative which is still an ongoing investigation in its early days. Therefore at this moment in time we cannot release any figures,” a PIPCU spokeswoman said. Previously PIPCU managed to suspend the domain name of ExtraTorrent and a handful of other sites, which continued operating under a new domain. Source: TorrentFreak
  21. The City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit has forced the shutdown of a popular, if not the largest, sports-focused torrent site. A staff member at The Sports Torrent Network, a tracker popular with fans on both sides of the Atlantic, informs TF that in the face of threats closure was the only option. After obtaining government funding to protect the rights of mainstream music and movie companies, last year UK police began a campaign aimed at closing dozens of torrent and other file-sharing sites. Many sites subsequently reported receiving letters from PIPCU, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit, warning that their operations had been scouted and deemed to be infringing. While most site ignored the warnings, some inevitably felt the pressure and decided to quit while they were ahead. In the months that followed direct pressure on sites reduced when police began to concentrate on indirect measures, such as pressuring registrars to retract domains and advertisers to stop supporting sharing sites. However, earlier this month police restarted their direct approach, sending threat letters out to the operators of torrent sites in an attempt to close them down directly. In at least one case the police have been successful. Due to its coverage of sports including the NHL, NBA, soccer and Formula 1, The Sports Torrent Network (TSTN) was a site popular with fans on both sides of the Atlantic. With an estimated 20,000 userbase and its own ‘capping’ team, the site was certainly a fan favorite and possibly the largest site of its type. But now, after an unwelcome warning, the party is over. Along with other sites, a little under two weeks ago TSTN received communications from the police which stated that the site’s operators could be committing crimes with serious penalties attached. “Such activity is an indictable offense under the Serious Crime Act 2007 and is punishable by up to ten years’ imprisonment (two years for encouraging/assisting communication to the public; and ten years for encouraging/assisting distribution to the public),” the police explained. “PIPCU has the lawful right to pursue action against you and against the thesportstorrentnetwork.co.uk website in order to prevent, detect and disrupt criminal activity.” While the threats looked official enough, a more detailed examination of the correspondence sent to TSTN raised questions over its authenticity. As can be seen from the screenshot below, a clear spelling error was present in the title of the mail, which lead to concerns this may have been some kind of fake. However, an additional error later in the email suggested that it was probably genuine. As can be seen under the highlight, it appears that police neglected to fill in a precise date instead of the placeholder text. But errors aside, the TSTN decided that while it had been a good run, now was the time to thrown in the towel. The site is now permanently closed. “We are sad the site had to go but feel it was the only option,” a staff member told TF. As is often the case with premature site closures, TSTN’s members have nowhere to call home. It’s often overlooked that torrent sites double up as community sites so the loss of content is often secondary to losing contact with friends. With that in mind two locations have been set up for former TSTN members to stay in touch – over at Reddit and a dedicated discussion forum. With calls from the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor to permanently fund the Intellectual Property Crime Unit, the shutdown of TSTN will certainly not be the last. Source: TorrentFreak
  22. BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk have been quizzed over how they gather and store customers' data in light of a recent EU ruling declaring such practices unlawful. On Tuesday the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that the Data Retention Directive, which requires internet service providers (ISPs) to retain “traffic and location data” for at least two years, was unlawful. Privacy campaigners in Austria and human rights advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland had challenged the Directive by arguing it abused individuals' rights to privacy. The cases were referred to the CJEU. In its ruling the CJEU said that, despite being introduced for national security purposes, the requirements “may provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained” such as where they live, social relationships and daily activities. As such it said they were incompatible with wider EU law. “The Court takes the view that, by requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data,” it said. The decision does not mean the law has changed immediately, but member states will be required to ensure their legislation comes into line with the judgment. "National legislation needs to be amended only with regard to aspects that become contrary to EU law after a judgment by the European Court of Justice," the European Commission explained. In light of this fact, industry body the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has called on the government to outline its response to the decision. “The CJEU ruling has the potential for major changes to the data-retention regime, however we believe that for the time being that obligations remain in place," said Nicholas Lansman, ISPA secretary general. "It is crucial that the European Commission and Home Office provide guidance and clarity to industry." In response, the Home Office made a statement saying the department was reviewing the judgment and added that it believes the law is a vital part of national security. "The retention of communications data is absolutely fundamental to ensure law enforcement have the powers they need to investigate crime, protect the public and ensure national security.” Pressure on ISPs Nevertheless, the UK's biggest ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk – are already being asked how they intend to abide by the ruling, with the Open Rights Group (ORG) writing a letter asking how they will ensure they are not collecting data any more. "These regulations no longer have a valid basis in UK law. It is our understanding that ISPs therefore should not be retaining user data unless there is some other legal basis for doing so,” wrote ORG executive director Jim Killock. He asked the firms to clarify that they are not abiding by the Data Retention Directive any more, as well as what data they are still collecting for their own purposes, why they are doing so, and for how long the data is stored. V3 contacted BT, Sky and TalkTalk for response to the judgment but no response had been received at the time of publication. Gareth Mead, a spokesperson for Virgin Media, said: "We are seeking clarification on what this means for us under UK law." Killock from the ORG told V3 that TalkTalk confirmed to him that they have written to the government to ask for their position, but have not changed their setup as yet. PRISM backlash The judgement by the CJEU comes amid ongoing revelations into the spying carried out by agencies such as the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the US National Security Agency (NSA). The professor of EU and Human Rights Law at the University of Essex Steve Peers wrote in a blog post on the ruling that the CJEU had "seized the chance to give an 'iconic' judgment on the protection of human rights in the EU" amid these concerns. "The Court’s judgment can be seen in the broader context of continued revelations about mass surveillance," he wrote. "Its reference to the retention of data by third states is a thinly disguised allusion to the spying scandals emanating from the United States." Bridget Treacy, head of the UK Privacy and Cybersecurity practice at law firm Hunton & Williams, agreed. “These criticisms [by the CJEU] are consistent with European concerns voiced in the wake of last summer’s revelations of the NSA’s covert surveillance activities," she wrote. Source
  23. City of London Police is continuing its crackdown on piracy with the launch of an official blacklist that advertising agencies can use to disrupt cash flow to allegedly infringing sites. The "Infringing Website List" is maintained by the the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit in collaboration with entertainment industry groups. Over the past few months City of London Police have been working together with the music and movie industries to tackle sites that provide unauthorized access to copyrighted content. Initially the police only sent warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several so-called pirate sites. Today sees the launch of the next initiative in “Operation Creative,” an official URL blacklist of “pirate sites”. The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) just launched their “Infringing Website List” (IWL) and are encouraging advertising agencies to embrace it. The main goal of the blacklist is to disrupt the revenues of infringing websites worldwide. Together with the movie and music industries the police carried out a three-month pilot which resulted in a 12% reduction of ads from major brands appearing on these sites. To what extent the blocklist will hurt total revenues is unclear though, as there are dozens of ad firms who focus on file-sharing sites, and these are unlikely to join the program. The police and their partners, however, are convinced that the blacklist will have a positive effect, not only in terms of cutting off revenue to pirate sites, but also as a tool to prevent advertisers being associated with rogue websites. “If an advert from an established brand appears on an infringing website not only does it lend the site a look of legitimacy, but inadvertently the brand and advertiser are funding online crime,” PIPCU Chief Andy Fyfe says. From the information that was made available to TF, it appears that the blacklist will not be open to the public. This is worrying, since there is a serious threat of overblocking without any public oversight. For example, in their announcement the police cite a recent report on the profitability of pirate sites. However, that report included many sites with perfectly legitimate uses, and even a purely informational website that doesn’t host or link to infringing content at all. Concerns aside, music industry group BPI is confident that the “Infringing Website List” will turn out to be another successful voluntary agreement focused on tackling online piracy. “The early results from Operation Creative show that through working with the police and the online advertising industry, we can begin to disrupt the funding that sustains illegal websites and the advertising that lends them a false air of legitimacy,” BPI’s Chief Executive Geoff Taylor says. Similarly, the Hollywood backed group FACT is also positive about the new initiative. “FACT is delighted to be working with PIPCU to deliver a unique initiative that puts the UK at the forefront of brand protection by allowing everyone in the advertising value chain to prevent misplacement of ads,” Kieron Sharp, Director General at FACT says. “For those rogue sites that continue to provide access to illegally obtained films and TV programmes there will now be affirmative action taken by PIPCU to ask them to change their operation or shut up shop,” he adds. Whether the “Infringing Website List” will indeed have a significant impact on the business of the affected sites has yet to be seen. In any case, City of London Police and the entertainment industries are determined to keep the pressure on. Update: The City of London Police confirmed to to us that the blacklist will not be made public. “All sites on IWL are identified and evidenced as infringing by rights holders and then verified by PIPCU. We are not making the IWL public. The List will be ever changing as new sites appear and older sites comply,” a City of London Police spokesperson told TF. Source: TorrentFreak
  24. The UK Government has published a guide informing consumers about an upcoming revision of copyright law which will legalize CD and DVD copying for personal use. The changes go into effect in June, and will also broaden other forms of fair use, including parody and quotation rights. To most consumers it is common sense that they can make a backup copy of media they own, but in the UK this is currently illegal. After a public consultation and a thorough inspection of local copyright legislation, the UK Government decided to change current laws in favor of consumers. The changes have been in the planning stage for a few years, but this summer they will finally be implemented. Starting in July people are free to make copies of DVDs, CDs and other types of media, as long as it’s for personal use. To inform the public about these upcoming changes the Government has just released a consumer guide, summing up citizens’ new rights. “Copyright law is being changed to allow you to make personal copies of media you have bought, for private purposes such as format shifting or backup,” the UK’s Intellectual Property Office writes. “The changes will mean that you will be able to copy a book or film you have purchased for one device onto another without infringing copyright.” The UK Government stresses that the changes will make current copyright law more reasonable, and doesn’t expect that copyright holders will suffer any significant harm. However, the changes could generate extra revenue for the technology sector, increasing revenue by £31 million per year. “This measure will benefit technology firms by removing barriers and costs and improving entry to technology markets which rely on consumers being able to make private copies,” the government concluded previously. Under the updated law people will also be able to legally store copies of their music and movies in the cloud. However, the Government stresses that giving others access to your files will remain illegal. “You will be permitted to make personal copies to any device that you own, or a personal online storage medium, such as a private cloud. However, it will be illegal to give other people access to the copies you have made, including, for example, by allowing a friend to access your personal cloud storage,” the guide explains. Similarly, people are free to sell any media they purchase, but all backup copies will have to be destroyed. The mismatch between the law and public opinion became apparent through a Government-commissioned survey, which found that 85% of consumers already thought that DVD and CD ripping was legal. More than one-third of all consumers admitted that they’d already made copies of media they purchased. Besides the new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized. From a public point of view the amendments are certainly a welcome change to the restrictive copyright laws that are in place currently, but they are also fashionably late. For those who are interested, a full overview of the upcoming changes is available here. Source: TorrentFreak
  25. Europol has arrested two people believed to be the masterminds of a cyber scam responsible for defrauding tens of thousands of euros from hundreds of victims by running fake auctions on eBay offering Apple Mac laptops. The criminals' fraud campaign targeted at least 15 countries including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Canada and India. Once the auctions were finished and payment received the criminals would either not send the item listed for sale, or, adding insult to injury, send things such as bricks, fruit and vegetables. The criminals are believed to have mounted the scams since 2013 and managed to mask their movements by transferring their ill-gotten gains to unregistered pre-paid cards and then immediately withdrawing the cash from an ATM. Europol said it was able to track the two suspects by collaborating with eBay representatives and Polish police. Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) at Europol, listed the arrests as a key victory, citing them as proof of the need for increased collaboration between law enforcement agencies and businesses. "This successful case is a perfect example of very effective co-operation between eBay, the Polish National Police and the EC3 in a crime that affected victims from more than 15 countries on three continents," he said. "By working together, sharing information and co-ordinating this investigation in multiple jurisdictions we have proven that the criminals might be able to run but they can't hide. "Together with eBay and other companies operating online, and the hard-working cybercrime experts in the EU member states and abroad, we will continue to optimise our investigative methods and put more criminals behind bars." Increasing collaboration when combating cyber threats has been an ongoing goal of the European Commission and the UK government. The UK government has set up numerous initiatives to increase information-sharing between the public and private sector, including the creation of the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) in March 2013. Source
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