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  1. #461
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    Upload Filters “Disproportionate Response” to Copyright Infringement

    David Kaye, the UN's Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has raised the alarm over the EU's proposals for Article 13 and its de facto filtering requirements. "Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online," Kaye warns.

    Later this month, Members of the European Parliament are set to cast their final votes on the EU Copyright Directive.

    Given the almost continuous outrage online, it’s clear that both Article 11 and Article 13 remain highly controversial.

    While there is some dissent, the latter is generally supported by rightsholder groups and artists. Opponents, however, fear that the proposals will lead to de facto upload filtering, the potential for abuse, and serious unintended consequences. The latest heavyweight to add an opinion in support of this stance is UN human rights experts David Kaye.

    Speaking in his role as UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Kaye is now warning the European Union that the proposed amendments to the Copyright Directive will fall short of international standards on freedom of expression.

    “Europe has a responsibility to modernize its copyright law to address the challenges of the digital age but this should not be done at the expense of the freedom of expression that Europeans enjoy today,” Kaye said in a statement Monday.

    “Article 13 of the proposed Directive appears destined to drive internet platforms toward monitoring and restriction of user-generated content even at the point of upload. Such sweeping pressure for pre-publication filtering is neither a necessary nor proportionate response to copyright infringement online.”

    Proponents of Article 13 continue to insist that the proposed amendments create no obligation to filter. But, despite outcry from online platforms and activists, no one has yet put forward any explanation as to how such filters can be avoided. Platforms that fit the criteria could be held liable, if they host content for which they hold no license.

    Indeed, less than two weeks ago, Ulrich Kelber, Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, issued a similarly stark warning over the potential for an “oligopoly” of third-party filtering vendors having significantly increased access to huge volumes of user data.

    Kelber suggested that the EU should explain how its Article 13 aims can be achieved without filtering of uploaded content but thus far, silence appears to have been the response.

    While some platforms would be exempt from the requirements of Article 13 under the current proposals (platforms less than three years old, with fewer than five million unique visitors per month, and an annual turnover of less than €10 million), the limits are still too tight, the UN expert added.

    “Most platforms would not qualify for the exemption and would face legal pressure to install and maintain expensive content filtering infrastructure to comply with the proposed Directive.

    “In the long run, this would imperil the future of information diversity and media pluralism in Europe, since only the biggest players will be able to afford these technologies,” Kaye said.

    Kaye also foresees problems with upload filtering systems’ inability to differentiate between infringing works and those that are uploaded within the parameters of existing law – when exercising the freedom to quote, criticize, review, caricature, parody, and pastiche, for example.

    Computers cannot do that today and even proficient humans have difficulty, Kaye explained.

    “Even the most experienced lawyers struggle to distinguish violations of copyright rules from exceptions to these rules, which vary across Member States. The lack of clear and precise language in the Directive would create even more legal uncertainty,” the UN expert warned.

    But while content companies state that their support of Article 13 is based on an urgent need to protect artists and creators, Kaye believes that those individuals will be the first people to suffer, if the law is passed in its current form.

    “Misplaced confidence in filtering technologies to make nuanced distinctions between copyright violations and legitimate uses of protected material would escalate the risk of error and censorship. Who would bear the brunt of this practice?

    “Typically it would be creators and artists, who lack the resources to litigate such claims,” he warned.

    Kaye’s opposition comes on the heels of a series of PR disasters (1,2,3) for supporters of Article 13 within the corridors of power at the EU itself. Even impartiality appears to be a problem, opponents argue.

    Simultaneously, opposition among the public is continuing to build, via a record-breaking petition on Change.org (now visibly being signed every second) which is set to culminate in a series of physical protests throughout Europe later this month.

  2. #462
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    GTA V ‘Cheat’ Developer Settles Copyright Infringement Case

    Rockstar Games' parent company Take-Two Interactive has 'won' a consent judgment against the developer of the GTA V cheat "Infamous". A New York federal court signed off on the judgment in which defendant Erik Cameron admits copyright infringement and agrees to pay an undisclosed settlement amount.

    In recent years, there has been a wave of copyright infringement lawsuits against alleged cheaters or cheat makers.

    Two of the driving forces behind these cases are GTA V developer Rockstar Games and its parent company Take-Two Interactive.

    In Australia, the companies filed a complaint last September, targeting several people believed to be linked to the popular ‘Infamous’ cheat.

    A few months earlier, Take-Two launched a lawsuit against two men in the United States, accusing both of copyright infringement and breach of contract, among other things. They too were linked to the ‘Infamous’ cheat.

    The first defendant, Christopher Pei, admitted his wrongdoing and swiftly settled the case last summer. This week, his co-defendant, Erik Cameron followed suit.

    In a signed consent judgment, Cameron admits that he worked on the ‘Infamous’ cheat with a group of people, including Pei and unnamed persons from Europe and Australia.

    The legal paperwork, filed last week, also makes it clear that this constituted copyright infringement as well as a breach of the user agreement. As a result, GTA V’s Take-Two suffered damage, while the cheat developer reaped profits.

    “Mr. Cameron’s violations of the Copyright Act and New York law have caused, and continue to cause, Take-Two great and irreparable injury that cannot be fully compensated or measured in money,” the judgment reads.

    While the cheat developer takes the blame, it is unclear at what cost. The judgment merely mentions that there’s a “confidential settlement for an undisclosed amount of money.”

    The judgment also comes with a permanent injunction which prohibits Cameron from developing or promoting any software that alters Take-Two’s software. All Infamous copies or any similar cheat tools that remain in his possession, must be destroyed.

    Although the scale of the settlement remains unknown, it is likely less than the $150,000 a fellow GTA V cheat developer was ordered to pay in a default judgment last month.

    The order brings an end to these two US cases that were related to the ‘Infamous’ cheat. The Australian case against another alleged developer of the same software remains ongoing.

  3. #463
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    100s of Rightsholder Groups Urge EU Parliament to Adopt the Copyright Directive Quick

    A coalition of 243 organizations representing a wide range of creative industries is calling on the European Parliament to quickly adopt the proposed Copyright Directive. The planned changes, including Article 11 and Article 13, will help to create a fair and sustainable Internet, they say.

    Last month the European Parliament and Council agreed on the final text of the EU Copyright Directive.

    This includes the controversial Article 13 and Article 11, which opponents condemn as “upload filters” and “link tax” proposals respectively.

    Many organizations in the creative and publishing sectors are of a different opinion. They see the copyright reform plans as a much-needed step in the right direction of an Internet that treats creators more fairly.

    With the final vote just two weeks away, a massive coalition of 243 organizations representing a wide variety of rightsholders is calling on the European Parliament to adopt the plans.

    “We, the undersigned organisations, representing authors, composers, writers, journalists, performers and others working in all artistic fields, news agencies, book, press, scientific and music publishers, audiovisual and independent music producers call on the European Parliament to adopt the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market,” the letter reads.

    The full list of supporters includes popular names such as Thomson Reuters, The Independent, the Association of Independent Music, Getty Images, PRS for Music, SACEM, Eurocinema, and many, many others.

    The different groups have a shared goal of better copyright protection but some elements of the Copyright Directive may apply more to some than others.

    The music groups, for example, are likely to be the most focused on Article 13. This requires for-profit Internet platforms to license content from copyright holders or, if that is not possible, ensure that infringing content is taken down and not re-uploaded to their services.

    For their part, news publishers will be more interested in Article 11. This allows these organizations to charge Internet platforms, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, for displaying snippets of their content to the public at large.

    The joint letter the groups released this week mentions neither article, only the Copyright Directive in general. However, they make it very clear that the proposed changes are needed to create a fair and sustainable Internet.

    “This Directive has been long sought to create a much-needed level playing field for all actors of the creative sector in the European Digital Single Market, whilst giving citizens better access to a wider array of content,” the letter reads.

    “This is an historic opportunity. We need an internet that is fair and sustainable for all. This is why we urge policymakers to adopt the Directive quickly, as agreed in trilogue negotiations,” it adds.

    The sheer number of organizations show that there is broad support for the Copyright Directive in the creative community.

    But there is plenty of opposition as well. Earlier today we mentioned that the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has raised the alarm over Article 13 and its de facto filtering requirements.

    In the days to come, we will likely see more calls for support while protests look set to escalate.

  4. #464
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    YouTube is Not Liable for Copyright Infringing Videos, Appeal Court Rules

    The Higher Regional Court of Vienna, Austria, has ruled that YouTube can't be held liable for infringing videos uploaded by users. The Court overturned a previous verdict which held that YouTube takes an "active role," which disqualifies it from safe harbor protection. Rightsholder Puls 4 is disappointed with the outcome and will take the case to the Supreme Court.

    On an average day, roughly half a million hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. As with any user-generated content site, this also includes copyright-infringing content.

    YouTube processes takedown notices and uses its Content-ID system to automatically remove allegedly infringing content to address this.

    However, major copyright holders are not all happy with the platform’s efforts. Record labels want to see more compensation, for example, and others want YouTube to do more to prevent pirated videos from appearing on the site.

    In Austria, this led to a lawsuit between the local television channel Puls 4 and YouTube. In an initial order last summer, the court ruled that the video platform can be held directly liable for users’ copyright infringements. YouTube was not seen as a neutral intermediary and should do more to prevent infringing uploads.

    The court noted that YouTube takes several motivated actions to actively organize and optimize how videos are displayed. By doing so, it becomes more than a neutral hosting provider. Therefore, it can’t rely on a safe harbor defense.

    “Through the connections, sorting, filtering and linking, in particular by creating tables of contents according to predefined categories, determining the surfing behavior of users and creating a tailor-made surfing proposal, offering help etc, YouTube leaves on the role of a neutral intermediary and therefore cannot claim the host provider privilege,” the court wrote.

    YouTube disagreed with the ruling and appealed the matter at the Higher Regional Court of Vienna. The video service maintained that, as a neutral hosting provider, it’s protected under the safe harbor provisions of the Austrian E-Commerce Act.

    After a careful review of the case, the Higher Regional Court of Vienna agreed with YouTube, overturning the previous order. According to the appeal court, YouTube doesn’t have an “active role” and is therefore shielded from liability through its safe harbor defense.

    The Court doesn’t dispute that YouTube provides search, categorization, and advertising services. However, these are seen as part of the normal business model of hosting platforms, which do not make the company liable.

    “If it had to forgo structuring and search options in order to avoid a damaging ‘appropriation’ of video content, its video platform would lose all user-friendliness,” the Court writes in its decision.

    “The less users are able to find videos of interest to them amid the vast multitude of uploaded videos (several hundred million in this case), the less it would make sense even to visit such a video platform,” it adds.

    Puls 4 cited the GS Media/Sanoma case, where the European Court of Justice ruled that posting infringing hyperlinks, during the course of business, can lead to liability. However, that doesn’t apply in this case, the Court notes, as YouTube wasn’t aware of the infringing nature of the videos.

    In summary, the Higher Regional Court of Vienna concludes that, as a hosting platform, YouTube benefits from the safe harbor privilege. This means that it’s not liable for uploads of users and Puls 4’s complaint is dismissed as a result.

    The outcome is good news for YouTube, as the order from the lower court severely threatened the operation of the video platform. However, it is not the end of the road yet.

    Higher Regional Court of Vienna allows the case to be appealed at the Supreme Court and Puls 4 informs TorrentFreak that it will use this opportunity.

    Puls 4 stresses that the current decision does not take into account relevant decisions of the CJEU, including the case regarding the infringing nature of The Pirate Bay. Nor does it reference the recent developments regarding liability under the proposed Article 13 of the EU copyright directive.

    “Puls4 will therefore definitely file an appeal to the Supreme Court,” a company spokesperson informs TorrentFreak.

    A German court referred various copyright infringement related questions to the European Court of Justice a few months ago. Since this involves YouTube directly, the Austrian Supreme Court will likely consider the pending outcome in this case too.


  5. #465
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    Japan Abandons Tough Anti-Downloading Copyright Law

    Japan's government has decided to not to proceed with its controversial anti-piracy law. The proposals would have rendered the downloading of all copyrighted content illegal while criminalizing offenders with jail sentences of up to two years. The reforms will now go back to the drawing board.

    Distribution and uploading of copyrighted content without an appropriate license is illegal in most countries of the world.

    It is seen as the most damaging form of infringement, largely on the basis that this fuels illicit downloading.

    Straightforward downloading of movies, TV shows and other unlicensed content is rarely, if ever, policed, even when such activity is proscribed under law, as is the case in the EU following rulings from the European Court of Justice.

    In Japan, however, new legislation under consideration by the government would’ve taken things to a whole new level. Criminalizing the unlicensed downloading of all content – including the pasting of lyrics or taking of screenshots – struck fear into Internet users and experts alike.

    With serious punishments under consideration (up to two years in prison and fines of two million yen – US$18,000), serious alarm bells were sounded, with academics coming out strongly in opposition. Now, however, the government has become sufficiently unsettled and has shelved the proposals altogether.

    The planned copyright amendments were set to be submitted to the Diet on March 8, 2019 but Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP or Jimintō) put the brakes on the proposals the day before they were due to be submitted.

    Early this morning the Japanese government took the decision not to submit the bill to the Diet at all, after executives failed to approve it.

    “We have yet to eliminate the worries of both copyright holders and [internet] users,” said House of Councillors lawmaker Masaaki Akaike, as cited by Mainichi. “We should work on it anew.”

    The proposals also contained measures to deal with ‘pirate’ indexing sites (known locally as “leech sites”) which don’t host any infringing content themselves but provide hyperlinks to content hosted elsewhere. Estimates suggest that around 200 such sites exist in Japan.

    The aim was to criminalize the act of knowingly linking to copyrighted content, or linking to the same when site operators should “reasonably be expected” to know that the content is infringing. Unlike the anti-downloading provisions, plans to criminalize site operators with sentences of up to five years in prison were met with little opposition.

    If approved, the revisions to Japan’s copyright law were set to take effect on January 1, 2020, but it’s now unclear whether that target will be met.


  6. #466
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    Supreme Court Denies Kim Dotcom Permission to Appeal

    In 2016, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom filed an eight-point statement of claim for judicial review in an effort to attack the underpinnings of the extradition process. A year later, the High Court struck out the first seven and a subsequent appeal by Dotcom failed. In a judgment handed down today, Dotcom was denied permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

    In 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and several associates were arrested in New Zealand.

    For the past seven years, the US government has been engaged in a battle to extradite Dotcom, so that he can face trial in the US on several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering.

    Dotcom has fought back every step of the way and in 2016, filed an eight-point statement of claim for judicial review, aimed at “attacking the underpinnings of the extradition process” by filing an eight-point statement of claim for judicial review.

    In a 22-page High Court ruling (pdf) handed down in December 2017, Justice Timothy Brewer sided with the US and rejected seven out of the eight causes of action, stating they were either not reasonably arguable or were abuses of process.

    The eighth point, which wasn’t challenged by the US, concerns the decision by the Deputy Solicitor-General in June 2017 to direct that clones be made of the electronic devices seized from Mr Dotcom’s homes so they could be sent to the US.

    Dotcom appealed but the Court of Appeal dismissed the action. Dotcom then sought permission to appeal that decision at the Supreme Court. In a judgment handed down this morning by Justices William Young, O’Regan and Ellen France JJ, the Supreme Court denied leave to appeal.

    “The applicant [Dotcom] argues that the criteria for the grant of leave to appeal in s 74 of the Senior Courts Act 2016 are met in relation to the present application either because the application raises matters of general and public importance or because a substantial miscarriage of justice may occur if leave is not granted,” the judgment reads.

    “We are not persuaded that the proposed appeal raises matters of general and public importance.”

    Dotcom argued that a miscarriage of justice would take place if he was denied permission to appeal. However, the Supreme Court said that was not correct.

    “The applicant is seeking to challenge concurrent findings in the Courts below on almost every point that would be in issue if leave were granted. We do not see the arguments foreshadowed by the applicant in his application for leave and the submissions in support of that application as having sufficient prospects of success to justify the grant of leave,” the judgment adds.

    After dismissing Dotcom’s application for a hearing at the Supreme Court on the matter, the Court then ordered him to pay $2,500 to the US Government to cover its costs.

    Thus far, Dotcom hasn’t commented publicly on the judgment but did find a report published here on TF yesterday darkly amusing. Safe harbor for YouTube, but not him, apparently.

  7. #467
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    Stream Ripper Verdict Gives Carte Blanche to Internet Pirates, Record Labels Say

    Several major labels including Universal, Warner Bros, and Sony, have filed their opening brief in the appeal against the Russian operator of stream-ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com. The companies argue that the District Court mistakenly dismissed the case, a decision that gives Internet pirates carte blanche, keeping them out of US courts' reach.

    YouTube downloaders, often called stream rippers, are seen as the largest piracy threat to the music industry. As such, record labels are doing their best to shut them down.

    In 2017, YouTube-MP3, the world’s largest ripping site at the time, went offline after being sued, and several others folded in response to increased legal uncertainty.

    Last summer, a group of major record labels, helped by the RIAA, targeted two of the larger stream-rippers that remained online. FLVTO.biz, 2conv.com, and their owner Tofig Kurbanov were sued for copyright infringement at a Virginia District Court.

    While the record labels hoped for an easy win, their lawsuit didn’t go as planned. Kurbanov, who resides in Russia, fought back with a motion to dismiss. He argued that the Virginia federal court lacked jurisdiction over a site that’s managed from abroad.

    The Court agreed with this assessment. In a verdict released this January, US District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed the case. The Court carefully reviewed how the sites operate and found no evidence that they purposefully targeted either Virginia or the United States.

    “As the Websites are semi-interactive, the interactions with the users are non-commercial, and there were no other acts by the Defendant that would demonstrate purposeful targeting, the Court finds that Defendant did not purposefully avail himself of the benefits and protections of either Virginia or the United States,” the verdict read.

    The record labels and the RIAA were disappointed with the outcome and swiftly announced they would appeal. This week they submitted their opening brief which argues that the District Court came to the wrong conclusion.

    The record labels state that the site owner’s contacts with Virginia or with the United States are well established. The stream ripping sites transmit hundreds of millions of infringing files to U.S. devices and are monetized by ads which are partly targeted at U.S visitors.

    If the current verdict stands, the companies fear that Internet pirates will have “carte blanche” to facilitate copyright infringement, as they will remain out of the reach of U.S. courts.

    “The result of the district court’s ruling is that the only court in which U.S. record companies can bring suit to challenge millions of instances of U.S.-based online piracy is in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, where Kurbanov purportedly resides,” the labels write.

    “The district court’s decision thus gives carte blanche to Internet pirates to set up shop outside of the United States, safe in the knowledge that they are effectively immune from the reach of U.S. courts seeking to vindicate the rights of U.S. plaintiffs for violations of U.S. copyright law, even as they cater to U.S. users.”

    In their opening brief the labels reiterate that FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com have millions of US-based users, including hundreds of thousands in Virginia. The interactions with these users are repeated and interactive, they say.

    The District Court previously ruled that the number of U.S. users is irrelevant, as the sites’ contacts with these people are “unilateral” and “non-commercial. The site does generate income from US users through ads, but that was not enough to be seen as a commercial contract.

    The labels clearly disagree with this conclusion, calling it absurd.

    “To isolate the content from the revenue generating advertisements as the district court did here would be to say that Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and countless other Internet companies’ relationships with their users is non-commercial. That position is absurd,” they counter.

    The labels further point out that the sites used a U.S.-based advertising firm, U.S.-based domain registrars and, until recently, U.S.-based servers. In addition, the site owner registered a DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright Office, which isn’t typical for a site that doesn’t target the U.S.

    “Appellee has, for example, registered a DMCA agent with the U.S. Copyright Office—the only purpose of which is to seek to qualify for the DMCA’s safe harbor defense to claims of copyright infringement in U.S. courts,” the brief reads.

    Based on these arguments the labels ask the appeals court to overturn the District Court’s verdict. Or, as an alternative, vacate it to allow for jurisdictional discovery.

    Tofig Kurbanov and his legal team have yet to respond to the accusations. They don’t believe that U.S. courts have jurisdiction over the sites and its owner, and will likely make that clear during the weeks to come.

  8. #468
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    Scammers Use Fake Copyright Notices to Steal Instagram Accounts

    Scammers are using fake copyright notices to obtain login credentials from Instagram users, cybersecurity firm Kaspersky reveals. The recipients are told that their account will be suspended for copyright infringement within 24 hours. They can, however, "verify" their account if they believe it's a mistake.

    There is no denying that many people spend several hours per day on their social media accounts.

    Those who gain enough status on sites such as Instagram can even make a living out of it.

    When this livelihood is threatened, panic and fear can ensue. This is something scammers are well aware of and some are gladly exploiting it for their benefit.

    According to cybersecurity company and anti-virus provider Kaspersky, a new phishing scheme that uses fake copyright notices is “gaining momentum.” The email campaign uses an Instagram letterhead and warns recipients that their accounts will be suspended.

    “We regret to inform you that your account will be suspending because you have violated the copyright laws. Your account will be deleted within 24 hours. If you think we make a mistake please verify, to secure your account,” the email reads.

    Most native speakers will spot the grammatical errors, which should sound the alarms bells. On the other hand, people who are less fluent in English, or don’t read closely, might easily be drawn to the “verify account” button which leads to a heap of trouble.

    “If you click it, you end up on a convincing phishing page, where fraudsters put an image saying they care very much about copyright protection and offer you a link to ‘Appeal’,” Kaspersky writes.

    People who click the appeal link will be asked to enter their Instagram credentials, which will obviously be stolen. And while the scammers are at it, victims are also asked to verify their email addresses.

    “We need to verify your feedback and check if your e-mail account matches the Instagram account,” the fake notice reads. Those who proceed will be asked to choose their email provider and submit their address and password, which undoubtedly be stolen as well.

    None of these phishing tricks are new and it appears that this scam has been running for a few months already. What’s interesting, however, is that copyright infringement is used as a threat to spur people into action.

    With all the recent talk about upload filters and disappearing memes, people are likely to be more susceptible to fall for this scheme than an ordinary “verify your account” email. Especially if their precious social media accounts are supposedly at risk.


  9. #469
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    Russia Plans to Block Pirate Sites Without Trial & De-Anonymize Their Operators

    Russia's Ministry of Culture has tabled new amendments to copyright law that will allow rightsholders to order web hosts to block pirate sites without trial, if they are unresponsive to takedown demands. Site owners will also be forced to publish their names and addresses on their platforms but it's not yet clear how this can be enforced.

    Like most regions in the world, Russia has an online piracy problem, with millions of citizens regularly using pirate sites to access free movies, music, TV shows, and other content.

    Russia is already a world-leader when it comes to site-blocking but if new proposals are written into law, life for pirate site owners could become much more difficult.

    Back in 2018 the Ministry of Culture began mulling amendments to copyright law and this week it became clear that it has a tightened site-blocking regime in mind, along with other significant changes.

    Local publication RBC had the opportunity to review the draft, which includes measures for the blocking of sites where pirated content is made available, without rightsholders having to go to court as they do now.

    Instead, they will be able to go directly to the web hosts of sites making content available without a license, with instructions to block platforms, if they are unresponsive to takedown demands.

    Furthermore, if the amendments are approved, owners of platforms where pirated content is made available will be compelled to sacrifice their anonymity. All such sites will be required to publish the names, addresses, and other contact details of their owners.

    It isn’t yet clear how this requirement will be enforced, or how contact details will be checked for authenticity. However, it seems unlikely that company names and/or home addresses (in the case of individuals) will be willingly given up, particularly when site operators are already breaking the law by knowingly hosting or linking to infringing content.

    The draft amendments were agreed by the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor, and the Ministry of Economic Development, after consultation with entertainment industry companies, RBC reports.

    News of the amendments arrives just days after authorities held talks with major rightsholders, hosting platforms, and search providers, with the aim of writing the terms of an anti-piracy memorandum into law.

    The currently voluntary agreement aims to create an ever-growing centralized database of infringing content to enable hosting platforms and search engines to take down media and links both quickly and efficiently.

    According to comments made this week by Sergey Selyanov, head of the Association of Film and Television Producers, the memorandum is working as planned.

    Finally, local search giant Yandex has reportedly developed and launched its own set of tools for detecting pirated content online. Using information being made available in the recently-established piracy database, Yandex is using machine learning to “clean up” its own search results. The company is currently declining to offer any additional details.


  10. #470
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    Zippyshare is Blocked for UK Visitors, But Why?

    Popular file-hosting service Zippyshare is unavailable throughout the UK. Contrary to widespread rumors, ISPs are not responsible for the 'blockade.' Instead, it appears that Zippyshare itself is actively blocking UK visitors, intentionally or not. Without any official word from the operators, the question remains; why?

    Founded in 2006, Zippyshare has gathered an impressive userbase over the years.

    While early competitors such as Rapidshare, Hotfile, and Megaupload, are now long gone, the free file-hosting service continued to thrive.

    The site currently has millions of visitors per day from all over the world. There are also significant numbers hailing from the UK, where it is one of the most-used download portals not currently blocked by a High Court order.

    However, starting a few days ago, UK visitors are no longer able to access the site. Instead of the usual download page, they are welcomed by a “403 forbidden” error message in their browsers. This remains the case today.

    The site serves as a popular hosting location for both third-party ‘linking’ sites and individual users. Some people have used it for over a decade, but that recently came to an abrupt end. For now at least.

    This mysterious blockade led to numerous complaints and unanswered questions all over the Internet.

    Even several anti-piracy outfits were puzzled by the issue. VideoLock and Digital Copyright both mentioned the issue on Twitter. The latter initially suspected an ISP block, it seems, which would be a surprise as Zippyshare has always been extremely cooperative.

    Since court-ordered site blockades are fairly common, several people reached the conclusion that Zippyshare had become the latest target. This suspicion even made it into the Wikipedia entry, as Bob spotted, although it was deleted soon after, probably for good reason.

    It is true that some UK ISPs may block Zippyshare under their parental control filters, but court-ordered blockades don’t result in “403” errors. And since users of UK based VPN IP-addresses see the same error message, there’s clearly something else going on. But what?

    The error message in question suggests that Zippyshare is blocking UK visitors. This could be intentional or due to some misconfiguration. To find out more, TorrentFreak reached out to Zippyshare at the beginning of this week but, thus far, we haven’t heard back.

    This leaves us with little other option than to speculate. One possibility is that Zippyshare took this step after some kind of legal pressure. It wouldn’t be the first time that a website does this. Two years ago, several stream-rippers also blocked UK traffic, presumably over legal concerns.

    Without jumping to too many conclusions, it is evident that Zippyshare has been under quite a bit pressure. A few months ago the RIAA reported it as a notorious pirate site to the US Trade Representative, which already called out the site in the past.

    Without an official explanation from Zippyshare, we can only guess what the real reason for the UK visitor blockade is. In any case, no matter who’s initiating the blockade, there’s always a way around it. UK visitors can still access the site from a non-UK VPN server.


  11. #471
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    Travis McRae: Sue Me Over EBook Site, I Want the BS Over & Done With

    Travis McRea, the former leader of the Pirate Party of Canada, is making international headlines over his controversial eBook download platform. Speaking with TorrentFreak, an unrepentant McRea says he actually wants someone to sue him so he can win the case and set a legal precedent.

    Most entities behind user-generated upload platforms know that lawsuits are always a possibility and accept them as a risk of doing business.

    YouTube, for example, knows that it can be sued but since the company follows applicable law to the letter, it’s not a straightforward prospect for opponents. It also has the deepest of deep pockets.

    Then there’s Travis McRea, the former leader of the Pirate Party of Canada and the brains behind what is now becoming one of the world’s most controversial eBook platforms, Ebook.bike.

    McRea also understands he could be sued for his activities but informs TorrentFreak he is actually looking forward to the day. It seems clear; McRea is on a mission.

    After launching a movie torrent site in 2011, the keen pilot is now in the eBook market. His site is simple and free to use but authors and publishers are furious that he appears to hold no licenses for the content on his platform. Not unlike YouTube, however, McRea says he’s DMCA compliant, so doesn’t need any.

    Earlier this week, McRea appeared on BBC Radio’s You and Yours show, facing off against Joanne Harris (MBE), the author of the award-winning novel Chocolat.

    McRea told the show that his website isn’t based around the idea of copyright infringement but was actually designed “by authors, for authors” and is a group effort to share books. He also insisted that he isn’t hiding behind the DMCA, stating that it’s not a “cover my butt answer” and authors he knows are actually uploading content to his platform.

    Joanne Harris, whose books also appeared on EBook.bike without permission, countered by saying she has never encountered any author who uploads content to McRea’s site.

    “It is copyright theft, it’s not sharing. Sharing is when an author decides to put their own book online for purposes of their own,” she said.

    “I’ve been involved in a three-day Twitter conversation with many, many hundreds of people who are very annoyed that their books are there. I haven’t yet met one defending the site.”

    The conversation then moved to McCrea’s claim that content is taken down quickly. Harris said her publisher doesn’t believe the system is good enough and it had been trying to take down content “over several weeks”, while insisting that McRea hasn’t been “consistent in taking things down.”

    McCrea disagreed and reiterated that the website isn’t dedicated to copyright infringement, it’s there to help authors. He also said that personal attacks on Twitter against his family mean that authors are unlikely to step forward to support him.

    “My mother, my girlfriend – notably not my father – all had their public information shared on Twitter, doxxing the people who come to my aid. These are the people who are around me. So why would anyone willingly want to come up and defend me against these baseless attacks if this is what they’re going to be met with?” McRea complained.

    Having listened to the show, TorrentFreak spoke with McRea who told us that he wasn’t happy with the final broadcast.

    “I didn’t hear the final interview, I didn’t like the way the interview went. There were technical issues and all my questions were worded with a bias,” he said.

    “I get that I’m going to have an uphill battle but at least from the sound booth the interview sounded like a hit piece.”

    That being said, an uphill battle appears to be exactly what McRea is gunning for.

    “My statement remains what it always was. I want someone to sue me. I want to win that case and then have legal precedent which should let me start finding ad partners, not having to deal with as much BS,” he told TF.

    Wanting to be sued is usually at the bottom of most people’s bucket list, but McCrea is clearly no ordinary player. He told us that living Canada means that he’s not compelled to follow the terms of the DMCA but does so out of choice. For those still unhappy, he’s throwing down the gauntlet.

    “While we stay committed to following all US copyright laws and ensuring we maintain our DMCA compliance, I would like to reiterate that I am a Canadian and my focus is on upholding the laws of my country. It just has always been that the DMCA provides the best framework for how to handle copyright complaints,” he said.

    “I use the DMCA because it offers the best framework, not because I feel I’m obligated to. If they feel I’m liable, come sue me.”

    While McRea is certainly taking a tough stance, in a follow up he told us that he’s also developing policies and tools to help both authors and users to better understand their rights while using his website.

    “I’m also working on a copyright tool that can be built into ebooks like a robots.txt file which allow authors to specify what platforms their book can be uploaded to. Ebook Bike will search for that file and honor it if it exists,” he concludes.

    Whether publishers will now take McCrea up on his offer to battle this out in court will remain to be seen. Public standoffs like this are very rare indeed, particularly when legal precedents are there for the taking.

    It’s unclear whether the former Pirate Party leader has the resources to take on a giant like Harper Collins, for example, but his confidence suggests he may have a plan. We’ll have to wait to find out the details.


  12. #472
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    Rightholders Have Asked Google to ‘Remove’ 4 Billion Pirate Links

    Copyright holders have asked Google to remove four billion links to 'pirate' search results over the years. The vast majority of these requests were honored. This includes hundreds of millions of URLs which are not yet indexed. These end up on a preemptive blacklist instead.

    For most people, search engines such as Google are an essential tool to enjoy the web in all its glory.

    With clever algorithms, the company offers a gateway to billions of sites, many of which would otherwise remain undiscovered.

    This also includes many ‘pirate’ sites. While there are plenty of people who don’t mind seeing these show up in search results, their presence is a thorn in the side of copyright holders.

    At the beginning of this decade, this problem was hardly recognized. When Google published its first transparency report, it received just a few thousand requests per day. Today, that number has grown to well over two million.

    For years this number kept going up and up. While that trend was broken recently, the total now adds up to an impressive figure.

    Google’s transparency report shows that copyright holders have asked the company to remove four billion links to alleged copyright-infringing content. The majority or these requests, more than 90%, were indeed removed or put on a preemptive blacklist.

    The four billion links were reported by 168,180 copyright holders who identified 2,283,811 separate domains. These domains also include false positives, including websites of The White House, the FBI, Disney, Netflix, the New York Times, and even TorrentFreak.

    Most reported links do indeed point to copyrighted material, however. Google typically takes these out of their search engine softly after a request comes in. This means that the takedown process works as intended. However, it remains controversial.

    Several major copyright groups see the huge number of reported links as evidence that their efforts are futile. No matter how many links they submit, there are always new ones to find the next day.

    “Every day we have to send new notices to take down the very same links to illegal content we took down the day before. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ for takedowns,” RIAA CEO Cary Sherman described the situation previously.

    Ideally, the major copyright groups would like Google to remove all results from known pirate sites. However, the search engine believes that this goes a step too far, warning that it could lead to overbroad censorship.

    “When it comes to entire websites, Google may demote a site in our search results if we receive enough copyright removal notices for it, but we do
    not remove full sites from search results for copyright infringement.”

    “Although this would reduce our operational burden, whole-site removal is ineffective and can easily result in the censorship of lawful material,” Google wrote in its latest overview of anti-piracy measures, published late last year.

    Google itself is not completely apathetic to the piracy issue. It does ‘demote’ sites for which it has received a substantial number of takedown notices. These will then appear lower in search results. The demotion ‘signal’ can weigh even stronger for specific keywords, such as recently released films.

    This demotion strategy gives copyright holders a “powerful tool against rogue sites,” Google notes. When new pirates sites appear, copyright holders can target these with takedown notices, after which Google will demote them.

    As such, the four billion reported links will likely be five billion by the end of next year.


  13. #473
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    How an Anti-Piracy Crusading Movie Studio is Keeping Piracy ‘Alive’

    Aussie movie studio Village Roadshow has a reputation of being a staunch anti-piracy advocate. However, the company is also known for delaying local movie releases for weeks, knowing that this may trigger pirates. That may also be the case with the "The LEGO Movie 2" as a high-quality copy leaked onto various pirate sites before the Australian theatrical release.

    Australian entertainment company Village Roadshow has been on the anti-piracy frontlines for several years.

    Where most Hollywood studios hide behind the MPAA, Village Roadshow, and its CEO Graham Burke in particular, have lashed out against pirates and their facilitators on numerous occasions.

    The company has repeatedly lobbied for tougher copyright legislation down under, for example. And it’s one of the driving forces behind the recent wave of blocking orders against Australian ISPs.

    As CEO, Burke is known for his frontal attacks on Google, accusing the search engine of “facilitating crime” and using “stolen movies” to lure visitors. Pirate site operators are no better off, as they were compared to heroin dealers by the outspoken movie boss.

    “We are sending our kids to very dangerous online neighborhoods — the pirates are not good guys,” Burke said previously. “These aren’t roguish, basement-dwelling computer geeks — these are the same type of people that sell heroin.”

    This ‘passion’ is understandable for a man who’s been linked to the company for more than 60 years. It’s his life’s work, to a certain degree, and the sight of people sharing ‘his’ movies without paying is clearly something that frustrates and angers Burke.

    Even some of the most hardcore pirates may be able to sympathize with this stance but while Burke condemns pirates, site owners, search engines, ISPs, and various other players, the role of his own company shouldn’t be ignored.

    Research has shown time and again that, when people can’t see a movie or TV-show legally, they turn to illegal sources. Just last month a New Zealand study found that people don’t want to break the law, pointing out that “availability” of legal content is a crucial factor.

    Even Burke himself realized this years ago. In 2014 his company released The LEGO Movie weeks after it premiered in other countries because it wanted to premiere the film close to the holiday season. That decision backfired badly.

    “It was a disaster,” Burke later said at a Government initiated panel discussion about copyright issues. The CEO admitted that the company’s decision facilitated piracy, and he promised to not significantly delay future releases.

    “It caused it to be pirated very widely. As a consequence – no more – our policy going forward is that all our movies will be released within the time and date of the United States,” Burke added.

    The humbling comments suggested that Village Roadshow had learned from its mistake.

    However, two years later, when the LEGO: Batman movie came out, Burke’s wise words rang hollow. Again, Australians had to wait more than six weeks longer than people in the US and other countries. Needless to say, Australians were not happy.

    Perhaps Burke forgot about his earlier statements. Surely, when The LEGO Movie 2 was released, things would go better, not least due to the film, like the first one, being created partly in Australia.

    That was idle hope.

    The LEGO Movie 2 premiered in the US and various other countries early February, but in Australia, it has yet to appear in theaters. The official release date is set for March 21, again more than six weeks after the US release.

    Burke previously admitted that such a delay was “a disaster” which causes movies to be “pirated very widely,” so it’s a mystery why this scenario keeps repeating itself.

    This week the situation got even worse for the company as a high-quality release of The LEGO Movie 2 appeared on pirate sites. This pirated copy doesn’t come with any artificial delays or restriction for Australians.

    Let it be clear that a release delay doesn’t entitle anyone to pirate a film. Village Roadshow is the rightsholder and it’s entirely up to them when they want a film to premiere.

    That said, delays certainly don’t help to keep people away from pirate sites. Burke himself previously admitted that holding back a movie release can lead to more piracy.

    Availability is an important determinant for piracy, after all.

    However, Village Roadshow apparently believes that their release schedule will increase revenue. The March 21 date is closer to the Australian holidays, which is likely the main reason.

    But, if Village Roadshow demands far-reaching anti-piracy measures from lawmakers, while asking Google to do everything in its power to stop pirates, shouldn’t we expect the same from Village Roadshow? Right now, they’re keeping piracy ‘alive.’


  14. #474
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    Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 03/18/19

    The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent are in again. 'Aquaman' tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Mary Poppins Returns'. 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' completes the top three.

    This week we have four newcomers in our chart.

    Aquaman is the most downloaded movie.

    The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

    RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.


    1 Aquaman
    2 The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
    3 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
    4 Mary Poppins Returns
    5 Triple Frontier
    6 Captain Marvel (HDCam)
    7 Holmes and Watson
    8 Vice 7.2 / trailer
    9 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
    10 Stan and Ollie


  15. #475
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    Reddit’s /r/Piracy Mods Get Tough on Reckless Pirates

    Reddit's /r/piracy sub is a thriving community of almost 350,000 subscribers, some of whom are terrified it's going to be shut down. However, a key moderator there has recently revealed a zero tolerance approach for copyright infringement, with a one-strike suspension policy for offenders.

    As one of the most-visited sites on the entire Internet, Reddit needs little introduction.

    The site has millions of daily visitors who read and contribute to countless discussions on every conceivable (and often inconceivable) topic.

    In the piracy space, Reddit’s /r/piracy sub-Reddit is an invaluable source of information. It has close to 350,000 subscribers, making it one of the largest piracy-focused discussion platforms on the Internet. As such, many users feel the section is precariously placed.

    As detailed previously, this often controversial forum is regularly subject to conjecture about its future, with many worrying that it may be shut down for breaching Reddit’s global rules, mainly after receiving too many copyright complaints.

    The truth, however, is that /r/piracy is run by pragmatic individuals who work extremely hard to ensure that their baby is run not only in compliance with the law, but actually in excess of its requirements.

    It’s important to know that /r/piracy is NOT the Wild West. It has a strict set of rules in place, including that people do not request or link to pirated or copyrighted content. Having this in place is important, since that’s what keeps the section in line with the law and out of trouble.

    However, what’s most important is how the sub-Reddit deals with repeat offenders. Most ISPs and service providers now have such policies in place to keep the law from the door but most people won’t appreciate just how tough /r/piracy itself is now being policed.

    In a recent discussion, moderator ‘dysgraphical’ revealed that he now effectively operates a zero-tolerance policy, not only for people posting links to infringing content but also people who request the same.

    “I’m very proactive in temporarily banning first time offenders of rule 3 [posting or requesting infringing content), and permanently banning any spam or intent to sell/distribute personal information. As long as the community keeps reporting rule breaking posts, we’re fine,” he wrote.

    That’s worth highlighting again. Most online platforms will tolerate three, four, or more actual infringements of copyright before taking firm action, while ISPs tend to err on the side of caution by only taking action against subscribers who’ve had multiple infringement allegations made against them.

    While this may sound harsh to those who feel all content should be free (and they should have the freedom to both request and obtain it), they aren’t running Reddit, they aren’t in charge of any sub-Reddits, or the ones that will suffer if a section is shut down for repeat infringements.

    In addition, /r/piracy has automated tools in place that aim to catch people breaking the rules (which go beyond the requirements of the law) and the law itself. These so-called ‘automoderators‘ aim to catch infringing posts immediately while making the mods’ life that little bit easier.

    “Automod catches a ton of request posts and automatically deletes them everyday. All together with manual mod and automod removals, about ~25 posts are removed daily for breaking the rules,” dysgraphical explains.

    “The issue is that there will always be people attempting to circumvent the rules by oddly rewording their titles. For what it’s worth, they get the banhammer whenever I catch them.”

    Again, this is worth repeating. Those who simply have no respect for the rules of /r/piracy not only face suspension for a first offense, but also face a permanent ban if they attempt to outwit the system that protect the sub-Reddit’s future.

    TF has a system in place that’s able to monitor requests and other rule-breaking posts and capture copies of them before they are automatically deleted. It isn’t perfect, but we can confirm that /r/piracy and its mods (both human and machine) are very diligent.

    To some, it may seem counter-intuitive for /r/piracy to be so tough on piracy itself, but the entire future of the discussion platform is reliant on strictly policing the platform. If those in charge loosened their grip, there’s little doubt that a minority of people who simply refuse to read the rules would be responsible for the forum being banned by Reddit.

    However, it’s clear that since the opposite is true, the reality of the situation is much less precarious than some might assume.

    “Contrary to the fearmongering that Redditors love contriving, we have never been contacted by the Admins for any copyright infringement or sitewide rule violation,” dysgraphical adds.

    “They have deleted a few posts here and there at their own discretion and have notified the OPs but we (mod team) have never received any complaints or notices for that matter.”

    For a community of almost 350,000 subscribers that is some record (especially given the topic), and one the moderators of /r/piracy should be proud of. There are thousands of dedicated platforms to choose from if people want to engage in actual piracy but sacrificing /r/piracy to the gods would only serve to stifle entirely legal discussion.


  16. #476
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    ISP Grande Loses Safe Harbor Over ‘Utter Failure’ to Terminate Pirating Customers

    Texas-based Internet provider Grande Communications has no right to a safe harbor defense in its case against several RIAA backed record labels. The ruling from the Texan federal court puts the ISP at a severe disadvantage for the upcoming trial, where it's accused of being liable for copyright infringements allegedly committed by its users.

    Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

    Music rights company BMG got the ball rolling a few years ago when it won its piracy liability lawsuit against Cox.

    Following on the heels of this case, several major record labels including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music, filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court. Helped by the RIAA, they sued ISP Grande Communications for allegedly turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.

    The labels argued that the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, but failed to take any meaningful action in response. For example, it didn’t have a proper policy in place to deal with persistent pirates.

    In order to enjoy safe harbor protection, the DMCA requires ISPs to adopt and reasonably implement a policy for terminating the accounts of repeat copyright infringers. According to the labels, it is clear that Grande failed to do so.

    Last year, the record labels moved for summary judgment on this safe harbor protection defense, ahead of the trial. This is a crucial issue, as the ISP can be held directly liable without a safe harbor defense.

    A few days ago, Senior US District Court Judge David Ezra ruled on the request, siding with the record labels. The decision follows the report and recommendations from US Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin, but Judge Ezra conducted a fresh review of several contested issues.

    According to Judge Ezra, it is clear that Grande Communications is not entitled to a safe harbor defense. The evidence, including comments from the ISP’s own employees, clearly shows that it hasn’t adopted and reasonably implemented a repeat infringer policy.

    “In this case, the evidence is clear that from at least 2011 until 2016 Grande had no internal policy or procedures whatsoever to enforce their forward-facing statement that they would terminate customers for repeat infringements,” the order reads.

    Grande terminated subscribers before October 2010 but stopped doing so for the six-and-a-half year period that followed. The ISP argued that it had a public-facing policy under which it could take action, but this wasn’t actively enforced, evidence shows.

    “In internal emails, one Grande employee even stated that ‘we have users who are racking up DMCA take down requests and no process for remedy in place’,” the order reads.

    “Moreover, to be eligible for the DMCA safe harbor, an ISP must ‘reasonably implement’ a termination policy, not just adopt one,” Judge Ezra adds.

    Grande didn’t terminate any subscribers between October 2010 and May 2017. This, despite receiving over a million copyright infringement notices, and tracking over 9,000 customers in its DMCA “Excessive Violations Report.”

    The court states that this “utter failure to terminate any customers at all over a six-and-a-half-year period,” shows that the ISP made every effort to “avoid reasonably implementing” a repeat infringer policy.

    Terminations eventually started again in 2017, two months after this lawsuit was filed.

    The record labels made several comparisons between Grande and the ISP Cox Communications, which also lost its safe harbor defense in a similar case. Grande contested that this argument doesn’t hold, as Cox actually failed to enforce its specific policy.

    However, Judge Ezra counters that Cox at least had internal procedures that in theory could lead to the termination of a customer. Grande failed to implement a proper policy to begin with.

    “Grande thus did even less than Cox to ‘reasonably implement’ the kind of policy required for the protections of DMCA’s safe harbor,” Judge Ezra writes.

    “If lax enforcement and frequent circumvention of existent procedures disqualifies a defendant from the safe harbor’s protections, the complete nonexistence of such procedures surely must do likewise,” the order adds.

    In its defense, the ISP also raised serious concerns about the reliability of Rightscorp’s piracy notices. Grande said that there are critical flaws in the Rightscorp system based. As such, terminating the Internet access of any subscriber based on this info may not have been right.

    Judge Ezra waved away this argument as well, highlighting that there were hundreds of thousands of notices from other companies, which the company didn’t act on either.

    “Even if the Court were to accept Grande’s arguments related to the Rightscorp notices, the summary judgment evidence shows that Grande failed to terminate a single customer despite the receipt of several hundred thousand other copyright infringement notices,” Judge Ezra writes.

    The result is that the court has adopted the recommendations from the Magistrate Judge, granting summary judgment in favor of the record labels. As a result, Grande will go to trial without a safe harbor defense. This means that it can be held directly liable for the pirating activity of its users.

    This is a major setback, and there is more bad news for the ISP.

    Grande requested summary judgment in its favor on a variety of liability issues, including direct infringement, willfulness, damages, and ownership of copyright. These were all denied, as recommended, except for two limited issues regarding the alleged violation of reproduction or public performance rights.

    The RIAA labels also submitted a cross-motion on these liability issues, requesting a ruling in their favor, but that was denied as well. This means that those matters will be decided at trial.


  17. #477
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    Reddit Admins Issue Formal Warning to /r/piracy, Totally Out of the Blue

    After never directing a single complaint to the popular /r/piracy discussion forum, Reddit Legal has now issued its moderators with an official warning concerning its future. Almost no evidence has been provided but apparently 74 complaints in recent months triggered the warning. Reddit has a quarter of a billion monthly users.

    On March 17, 2019, TorrentFreak published an article about Reddit’s /r/piracy discussion forum.

    It was actually prepared six days earlier, a point of importance that will become clear later on.

    We noted how some in the thriving community of around 350,000 subscribers were concerned that it could be shut down for talking about piracy. In general, we highlighted what should be apparent – discussing piracy is a whole different animal than actually engaging in it.

    Perhaps even more importantly, we reported on statements issued earlier this month by a key moderator of /r/piracy. The person in question, ‘dysgraphical’, reported that the section effectively has a zero-tolerance stance against infringement.

    Not only do posters of any offending links to allegedly infringing content face an immediate suspension, but also anyone who even asks for them. This, quite clearly, goes way beyond the requirements of the DMCA.

    Furthermore, /r/piracy – just like any other service provider – lists rules (effectively Terms of Service) that expressly forbid any kind of copyright infringement. Any posts breaking these rules are deleted, either with automated tools or manual intervention.

    It’s a classic situation of technology and humans policing a platform as the law requires, but exceeding its requirements. Indeed, anyone looking for actual links to pirated content will find /r/piracy one of the least useful resources on the Internet, thanks to the work of the mods and the 99.9% of users who respect the rules.

    Yesterday, however, not long after our piece was published, the moderators of /r/piracy made it known that they had just received a formal notice from Reddit Legal, dated March 14, regarding copyright infringement. While that pre-dated our article’s publication date, the complaint was sent after it was drafted.

    “This is an official warning from Reddit that we are receiving too many copyright infringement notices about material posted to your community. We will be required to ban this community if you can’t adequately address the problem,” the notice reads.

    “Over the past months we’ve had to remove material from the community in response to copyright notices 74 times. That’s an unusually high number taking into account the community’s size.”

    This communication from Reddit Legal came as a complete surprise. The moderators of /r/piracy have never had any contact with the admins on this topic previously, as dysgraphical explains.

    “Reddit Legal states that they have acted 74 times on these copyright notices through removals, but it is the first time we have been officially contacted regarding any infringement where it be through modmail or PMs.”

    This claim deserves some analysis. Firstly, “past months” is pretty vague (Reddit Legal hasn’t responded to a request for more information) so given that the claim is 74, let’s make the assumption that it’s three months, or 90 days.

    That’s less than one infringement notice per day. If it’s six months, it’s just three every week. The Pirate Bay this certainly isn’t.

    The sub-Reddit has 350,000 subscribers but anyone on Reddit (getting close to a quarter of a billion unique monthly users) can post on /r/piracy. Less than one infringement notice per day doesn’t seem like a lot (Google just processed its four-billionth) but even that needs to be viewed while considering something of even more importance.

    FACT: These are not notices of actual infringement being received by Reddit, but claimed notices of infringement.

    We know from our own experience that Google has received many copyright infringement complaints against TorrentFreak.com (see here) but every single one is false. Indeed, one of the companies who filed these notices actually apologized to us recently for their errors. But then, of course, it’s too late, and the damage has been done.

    “Considering our stringent rules against distributing pirated content through this platform, it is unclear what constitutes copyright infringement to Reddit or whether the simple mention of a release name falls under their broad interpretation,” dysgraphical notes.

    This is an extremely good point.

    Earlier this year we reported on several sites that report on the mere availability of pirate releases yet are systematically reported to Google for infringement, despite committing no infringement. Reddit’s /r/piracy sub allows release names (as is its right) to be published for discussion, so are these being flagged by over-enthusiastic copyright bots?

    We truth is, we don’t know and neither do /r/piracy’s moderators, because Reddit doesn’t make the notices available to them. All the legal team would reveal is that the latest claim came from Warner Bros, which is hardly the basis for a meaningful investigation.

    “We replied immediately requesting a list of offending material that was removed and have not received a reply yet,” dysgraphical explains.

    While Reddit does publish a token “transparency report“, unlike other ‘rivals for eyeballs’ such as Google, Twitter, etc, it does not publish received notices. As such, there is no real transparency as to what is going on here.

    That only adds fuel to a particular theory – that Reddit is actively trying to get rid of sub-Reddits that are unpalatable to its sponsors or those that are out of line with its corporate aims.

    “It has become abundantly clear in the past months and years that Reddit has never been the bastion of freedom that many people see it as,” dysgraphical writes.

    “Reddit’s passivity in enforcing its own rules is continuously tested whenever one of its subreddits are thrusted into the limelight by the media. As we wait for more information from Reddit Legal, there is one certainty that comes from all of this, r/Piracy will be banned.”

    While there’s hope that this doomsday scenario can be avoided, it’s almost impossible to play by the rules when the state of play isn’t transparent. Reddit itself executed 26,234 content removals in 2018 due to copyright but no one is suggesting that Reddit’s host should ban Reddit.

    Why? Because when it’s informed of the existence of allegedly infringing content Reddit removes it, as the law dictates. Reddit’s /r/piracy goes beyond those requirements.

    It removes any infringing content not only pro-actively in advance of receiving any complaints but also removes it faster than Reddit itself. We’re not talking a couple of hours here, we’re talking minutes or even seconds.

    The mods on /r/piracy will clearly be having some discussions about how to save their community in the face of this out-of-the-blue warning but in the short-term, it’s clear they’ll be held to a higher standard than almost any other sub-Reddit around – even the dozens of image-based sub-Reddits that breach photographers’ copyrights every minute of every day.

    That will probably have to mean immediate bans (not just suspensions) of rule breakers while making this fact known in the sidebar, and doing what they’ve always done really effectively – take out the trash. Unfortunately, there’s clearly a feeling that no matter what gets done, it won’t make any difference.

    Meanwhile, Reddit should consider giving the moderators the information they have requested. That will go some way to restoring trust that this isn’t a witchhunt but is a genuine complaint in need of attention and/or rectification.


  18. #478
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    YouTuber “Golden Modz” Settles Lawsuit Over Fortnite Cheats

    The popular game YouTuber “Golden Modz” has admitted to posting copyright-infringing videos that displayed Fortnite cheats and hacks. Brandon Lucas, owner of the channel, agreed to an undisclosed settlement and a permanent injunction that prevents him from promoting Fortnite cheats going forward. The “Golden Modz” channel remains online and appears to have switched focus to GTA V.

    With more than 1.8 million subscribers, ‘Golden Modz‘ ranks among the more popular game YouTubers.

    The channel is linked to Florida resident Brandon Lucas, who uses it to share gameplay videos which regularly feature cheats and hacks.

    Game publishers are not always happy to see this type of activity. When Golden Modz uploaded several Fortnite cheat videos last summer, Fortnite creator Epic Games took action.

    Initially, the company just sent takedown notices to YouTube. However, when these were appealed by the channel operator, the game company saw no other option than to go to court.

    In the complaint, filed at a North Carolina Federal Court, Epic Games accused Brandon Lucas a.k.a. Golden Modz of copyright infringement. The lawsuit also named fellow YouTuber Colton Conter, a.k.a. ‘Exentric’, as a second defendant.

    “Exentric” made occasional appearances in the videos that were posted on the YouTube channel. In the videos, the two referred to their cheats as “magical powers,” informing viewers where to buy these, while hosting giveaways as well.

    Initially, Lucas denied that the videos posted on the channel were his. In an unsworn affidavit, he said that no videos using cheats were posted by him, nor did he own the websites where the cheats were sold. As such, he filed a request with the court to dismiss the case.

    Epic Games wasn’t convinced of Lucas’ innocence. The company filed a response to the motion to dismiss stating that, among other things, Lucas previously stated that the videos and channel were his. These claims were made in response to an earlier YouTube takedown request.

    The court sided with Epic Games and denied the motion to dismiss the case. This prompted both parties to get together to see if the case could be resolved without going to trial. Fast forward four months, and Lucas and Epic Games have now agreed on a settlement and a permanent injunction.

    A stipulated order filed at the North Carolina District Court, signed by both parties, clarifies that Lucas did use cheating software in his videos, which he profited from.

    “Lucas publicly displayed the use of cheat software (‘cheats’ or ‘hacks’) to third parties for personal gain via his YouTube channel, ‘Golden Modz’, by playing in squads with players who were using cheats while playing Fortnite in at least nine videos posted on his YouTube channel.

    “Lucas infringed Epic’s copyrights in Fortnite by creating and publicly
    displaying unauthorized derivative works of Epic’s copyright protected Fortnite code in videos of himself and/or others on Lucas’ YouTube channel,” the stipulated order reads.

    Both Lucas and Epic Games agree that the violations of the Copyright Act caused great and irreparable harm to Epic which can’t be fully compensated or measured in money.

    Despite this claim, there is no damages or settlement amount mentioned in the paperwork. It is possible that Lucas agreed to compensate Epic Games outside of court, but the details of the settlement are not public.

    The stipulated permanent injunction is published in full. This prevents Lucas from engaging in any infringing activity of Epic Games works in the future. In addition, he is not allowed to develop, promote, or link to, any cheating tools for Epic’s games.

    The operator of the Golden Modz waived his right to appeal and faces $5,000 in damages in the event that any terms of the agreed injunction are violated.

    The co-defendant in this case, Colton Conter, also agreed to a similar settlement and injunction earlier this year.

    Injunction or not, the popular Golden Modz channel remains online. It still features several ‘cheat’ related videos.

    Golden Modz wisely refrained from posting any videos with Fortnite cheats, but the same can’t be said for GTA V.

    “USING AIMBOT in GTA Online to make kids rage on the mic! 5,000 likes for part 2!!! Buy Modded accounts and GTA 5 services here –
    https://gatorcheats.com/,” the description of a recent video reads.

    While the injunction doesn’t prevent Lucas from using GTA V cheats, these videos are not without risk either. GTA V’s Take-Two Interactive has also filed several lawsuits against alleged cheaters.

    In fact, the company just filed a new case against several John Doe defendants who are believed to be involved with the cheating and ‘griefing’ software Evolve. As such, the company may not be happy with Golden Modz activities either.


  19. #479
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    Four Men Sentenced For Running Torrent Site That Leaked The Expendables 3

    Four men in the UK have received sentences of up to four-and-half years for running a torrent site that leaked movies online, sometimes in advance of their theatrical release. Most notably, the quartet shared The Expendables 3. All four pleaded guilty to defrauding Lionsgate Films and members of the MPAA to the tune of $11.2m.

    Running a torrent site anywhere in the Western world was once an extremely risky endeavor, with prosecutions regularly hitting the headlines.

    These days there appears to be less law enforcement and civil action than there once was but for four men in the UK, their actions several years ago have now caught up with them.

    Steven Pegram, 40, Mark Rollin, 37, Paul Taylor, 54, and Alan Stephenson, 42, were part of a group which uploaded movies to their relatively low-profile torrent site, TheFoundry.name. Importantly they also made movies available before their theatrical release, notably The Expendables 3.

    The movie leaked in so-called ‘DVD Screener’ format during July 2014 and was downloaded millions of times before its official release August 15, 2014.

    In November that same year, the UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit revealed that two arrests had been made in connection with the leak. The men were aged 33 and 36, the same ages as Pegram and Stephenson would’ve been at the time of the arrests.

    Information now provided by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service states that Pegram, Rollin, Taylor and Stephenson shared the movie on their platform, causing producer Lionsgate Films an estimated £1.5 million ($2 million) in losses.

    Other movies made available on the site affected members of the MPAA, including Sony, Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers. Their losses were calculated at £7 million ($9.26 million), with Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past accounting for almost £4 million ($5.29 million) of that total.

    According to the prosecution, Pegram owned the site and along with Taylor, paid for its servers. Both men uploaded content to the platform.

    Rollin acted as an encoder and uploader and was found to have 47 “high quality” movies on his computer, including the titles Are You Here and Third Person, in advance of their theatrical releases. Stephenson was responsible for setting up and maintaining the torrent site.

    Rollin and Stephenson earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the copyright owners. At the first day of their trial on December 3, 2018, Pelgram and Taylor pleaded guilty to the same charge.

    The quartet were all sentenced yesterday, with Pegram receiving a prison sentence of four-and-a-half years and Rollin a sentence of three years. Taylor and Stephenson were each sentenced to two years imprisonment, suspended for 24 months.

    “These defendants set up and ran a site which allowed users to download films for free via BitTorrent, including the Expendables 3 before its release in the cinema,” said Leigh Webber, a Specialist Prosecutor in the Specialist Fraud Division at the Crown Prosecution Service.

    “All of them had clear knowledge of what the site was used for and were well aware they were breaching the copyright of the production companies.”

    The saga surrounding the leak of The Expendables 3 has now been running for almost five years, with several individuals, groups, and platforms being held responsible for its distribution.

    In August 2014, file-hosting site Hulkfile threw in the towel in the US after being targeted by Lionsgate after a user stored the movie on its servers. Almost a year later, file-hosting site Played.to reached a settlement with the movie company after users streamed the movie illegally.

    In March 2016, United States District Judge Otis Wright granted a default judgment which ordered Muhammed Ashraf (LimeTorrents), Tom Messchendorp (Dotsemper), and Lucas Lim (Swankshare) to pay the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 each, again for offering The Expendables 3.

    Then last December, a federal grand jury in California indicted five men for allegedly offering pre-release copies of hundreds of movies and TV shows via the Internet, The Expendables 3 included.

    The indictment revealed that at least one of the men stands accused of accessing the California-based servers of a content-management services company which was used to store and distribute motion picture assets.

    In 2013, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) informed TorrentFreak that The Expendables 3 had been “stolen” from a “cloud-based system”, something which supports the information released in the indictment.

    The unit later revealed they’d arrested a then 26-year-old man in the UK during April 2015 under suspicion of leaking The Expendables 3.

    While it is still to be officially confirmed if it is indeed the same person, Malik Luqman Farooq (placed at 30-years-old in December’s indictment and said to be resident in the UK), is mentioned prominently by the Department of Justice in the US.

    The indictment claims the unreleased copy of The Expendables 3 was obtained from a content-management services company and downloaded via TOR. The copy was then stored on an OVH server with Farooq later selling it to an undercover anti-piracy investigator working for the MPAA.


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