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  1. #481
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    Flood of 4K James Bond Leaks Further Point to iTunes Breach

    All 24 movies from the iTunes exclusive 4K "James Bond Collection" have leaked online. This is further evidence to suggest that pirates have found a way to decrypt 4K source files from the iTunes store. How, exactly, remains a mystery.

    The ongoing battle between copyright holders and pirates is often described as a cat and mouse game, especially when it comes to content protection.

    While most regular releases can be ripped or decrypted nowadays, 4K content remains a challenge to breach.

    Up until a few days ago, pirate sites had never seen a decrypted 4K download from Apple’s video platform. However, a flurry of recent leaks, including many titles from the iTunes-exclusive “James Bond Collection,” suggests that the flood gates are now open.

    It all started earlier this month ago when a pirated 4K copy of Aquaman surfaced online. The file is a so-called “Web” release, also known as WEB-DL in P2P circles. This means that it’s a decrypted copy of the original source file. These were never seen before for 4K releases.

    Because the Aquaman release was only available on iTunes in this quality at the time, the most likely conclusion was that Apple’s platform was the source. However, based on just one single leak, it was tricky to draw strong conclusions.

    The news quickly spread among pirate videophiles though, with some hoping that this would lead to the release of more exclusive titles. The iTunes exclusive James Bond 4K collection, for example.

    “Maybe we will be able to get the 007 catalogue off iTunes? In any way, exciting times!” a commenter on Reddit noted. This is exactly what happened.

    In less than a week, all 24 films from iTunes’ “James Bond Collection” surfaced online as 2160p WEB-DLs . It started with a copy of the latest Bond movie “Spectre”, all the way to the earliest titles, including “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love”.

    The leaked movies originate from the DEFLATE release group and are marked as ‘INTERNAL’ releases.

    These 4K releases are exclusive to iTunes, which means that the release group likely has access to some kind of vulnerability or breach at the video platform and/or Apple TV hardware, which allows it to decrypt the videos’ source files.

    In theory, it’s also possible that there’s an ‘inside’ leak with access to unencrypted source files, but that seems less likely.

    The James Bond WEB-DL leaks are not the only iTunes-linked 4K titles that have appeared online either. We already mentioned Aquaman and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse previously, and this week pirated 4K copies of Bumblebee and The Mule came out as well.

    Interestingly, DEFLATE also released 4K WEB-DL copies of the first two episodes of the new TV-series “Now Apocalypse.” This title, combined with the release timing, are linked to Starzplay via Amazon. Since this is just one title, it is harder to confirm the source with certainty.

    In the past, we have seen other 4K leaks from streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, but these were WEBRips, which are captured and encoded, instead of directly downloaded from the source file.

    How the release group pulled this off remains a mystery for now. We contacted Apple to find out whether the company has any further details, but at the time of publication, we have yet to hear back.

    TorrentFreak

  2. #482
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    Privacy-Focused Search Engine Wants Copyright Directive to Pass

    Rising privacy-focused search engine Qwant is calling for the Copyright Directive to be passed by the EU Parliament. Founder Eric Léandri says his platform is ready to pay creators for use of their works but is calling for an external database of copyrighted works as a reference point. Last year, however, the company said that Article 13 presented a "risk for fundamental rights and freedoms."

    Launched in 2013, French-based search engine Qwant markets itself as a privacy-friendly service.

    Currently one of the top 50 most-visited sites in France, the service claims not track its users, unlike competitors such as Google.

    It also differs from the world’s leading search engine in other ways too, most notably in its support of one of Europe’s most controversial legislative proposals in recent times.

    In an interview published in French publication Les Echos (paywall), Qwant founder and boss Éric Leandri says his company is actually in favor of the EU’s Copyright Directive passing next week.

    On Article 11 (which opponents refer to as the ‘link tax’), Leandri told the publication that the current text is “the only chance” for press publishers to receive remuneration from US giants, including Google, who use such content without paying publishers “a cent”.

    On Article 13 (‘censorship machines’ / ‘upload filters’), Leandri acknowledges that the text “is not perfect” but still wants it to pass, since he believes there is a way to make it compatible with the values of an open Internet.

    “We consider, that besides the editors of press and journalists, the world of culture and creation must be justly paid,” Leandri says.

    “But this article scares the advocates of a free Internet, which we are, because it requires all platforms, except the very small, to identify protected content that would be indexed illegally, which they have always refused so far, believing that it is unmanageable.”

    Leandri also highlights problems with not only the expense of creating a system similar to YouTube’s Content ID, but also the fear that smaller platforms will be driven to companies like Google and Facebook for their filtering solutions. This would allow the giants to collect even more data on Internet users and monitor the business activities of rivals.

    So why the surprising support for the Copyright Directive?

    “The modalities of application of this article are to be discussed and transposed in each country. We propose, at this stage, to condition the directive with the setting up of a free and open public platform in which the authors, the photographers, in short all the players, would deposit their photographs, videos and texts,” Leandri explains.

    “The idea would be that companies on the Web can [query this database] to see if the content they use is free of copyrights, or not. Clearly, you send the photo that you want to use and [the database] answers you, yes, or no, depending on the footprint that has been associated with it. It’s much simpler technically than you think. And more right.”

    While this kind of system could perhaps go some way to calming fears over the creation of an “upload filter oligopoly” as described recently by Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, Leandri’s plan doesn’t appear to address a key and fundamental issue.

    A database of content – whether it’s stored within YouTube’s systems or elsewhere – does not have the ability to differentiate when copyrighted content is used legally, for “parody, satire, reporting or criticism purposes”, for example.

    And the quote above is indeed just that – and it came from Qwant itself – dug up by TF on the company’s blog.

    In a commentary published last year warning against Article 13 and titled “Putting our freedom of speech into the hands of robots”, the piece warns that automated systems can indeed hinder freedom of expression.

    “We believe that when they rely on platforms to express themselves, citizens should be free to use content that they feel is needed to support their point of view, provided that this use is proportionate,” the article reads.

    “This puts a heavy burden on robots that can’t determine when a human being is making a proportionate and legal use of a third-party content, for instance for parody, satire, reporting or criticism purposes.

    “Putting our freedom of speech into the hands of robots that will look into what human beings share and assess the legality of what they say is not the Internet we want for our children. So while we understand the need for efficient protection of copyright, we believe the proposed path is not one to follow,” the company added.

    While the idea of an external database is novel, Leandri’s solution doesn’t address the company’s own fears over Article 13, let alone those of the public. TF asked Qwant how these seemingly opposing views can be consolidated but at the time of publication, we were yet to hear back.

    However, Leandri is also proposing something else. He says his company will lead the way by committing right now to paying creators a fair price for any works utilized by his company, whether the Directive passes or not.

    “[T]o prove to you how much I support this directive, I announce to you that, without even waiting for its vote, Qwant will start to pay the editors of content, so the newspapers for the texts, the photographers for the photos, and the video and music publishers that our search engine indexes,” Leandri concludes.

    Proponents of Article 13 are already praising Qwant on social media for its support of the Copyright Directive but the apparent conflict may yet prove an irritant to users of its service, who value its stated open Internet stance.

    TorrentFreak

  3. #483
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    Anti Article 13 Petition Signed by Five Million People

    The popular "Save The Internet!" petition, which urges lawmakers to vote against Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive, reached a new milestone of five million signatories today. The petition is part of an intensifying campaign which also features offline demonstrations and Wikipedia blackouts. Meanwhile, supporters of Article 13 are not sitting still either.

    With the final vote on Europe’s Copyright Directive coming up next week, campaigning efforts from both supporters and opponents are reaching new heights.

    Earlier this month hundreds of organizations from the creative industries called on the European Parliament to quickly adopt the proposals. These organizations were later followed by many individual creators.

    These supporters stress that the planned Copyright Directive will help them to protect their rights and get fair compensation for the use of their works on the Internet. This is also the message that EU copyright rapporteur Axel Voss is trying to convince the public with.

    On the opposing side, there hasn’t been any shortage of action either. Today the “Stop the censorship-machinery! Save the Internet!” petition passed five million signatures, making it one of the largest to be hosted on the platform.

    The petition is part of a broader campaign. It has been up for months, but this latest milestone will undoubtedly be used to convince members of the EU Parliament to reject Article 13 and Article 11 in the upcoming vote next Tuesday.

    Several well-known digital rights groups have also launched the Pledge2019 campaign, encouraging people to contact their representatives in the EU Parliament. According to the latest stats, 121 MEPs have thus far pledged to vote against the Copyright Directive.

    There are anti Article 13 website blackouts scheduled as well, which we also saw with the anti-SOPA protests several years ago. The German version of Wikipedia is going dark for 24 hours today, for example, and it is joined by the Slovak edition.

    Offline there are also several demonstrations planned around Europe, from Portugal all the way to Finland. However, much of the protest is centered in and around Germany where the public has been very vocal about the Copyright Directive plans.

    The Copyright Directive is a hot topic in German politics at the moment. Last Friday, Germany’s largest political party, CDU, announced a plan to prevent “upload filters” in the country. Instead, large Internet platforms should pay flat-rate licensing payments to copyright holders.

    This proposal, which assumes the Copyright Directive will pass, has been widely criticized too.

    As the vote nears, the atmosphere is becoming more grim. Last weekend, German police investigated a bomb threat directed towards the office of Axel Voss. Meanwhile, some press publishers reportedly threatened Parliament Members with bad press if they vote against the Copyright Directive.

    With less than a week to go, the campaigns from opponents and supporters will soon reach their climax. Then, it’s up to the Members of the European Parliament to have their final say.

    TorrentFreak

  4. #484
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    Hollywood Fears that Stream-Ripper Verdict Will Serve as Roadmap for Foreign Pirates

    Hollywood's MPAA has submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of several major record labels, hoping to overturn a verdict in favor of the stream ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2Conv.com. The group fears that the verdict will serve as a roadmap for foreign pirates who want to evade US Courts. Unlike the District Court concluded, the MPAA says the sites are "quintessentially commercial."

    Last year, a group of prominent record labels filed a piracy lawsuit against the Russian operator of YouTube-ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com.

    The labels hoped to shut the sites down, but this effort backfired.

    In January, US District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed the case due to a lack of jurisdiction. The Court carefully reviewed how the sites operate and found no evidence that they purposefully targeted either Virginia or the United States.

    The sites are not seen as highly interactive and their interaction with users could not be classified as commercial, the Court concluded.

    “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 RIAA labels were disappointed and last week they submitted their opening brief at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The labels are not the only organizations that have an interest in this case though. A few days ago, Hollywood’s MPAA and others chimed in as well.

    The MPAA filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the record labels. The industry group notes that it has a vested interest in the matter, as the district court verdict hurts its ability to go after site operators who are located outside of the US.

    The MPAA argues that it was a mistake by the district court to grant the dismissal. That ‘error’ could cause significant damage to copyright holders, it says, describing the Russian owner of the site as a brazen pirate.

    “Kurbanov is a brazen digital pirate. His highly interactive, commercial,
    stream-ripping websites are, in essence, piracy valets that deliver stolen works to the websites’ users,” MPAA writes in its brief.

    While movie studios are not directly harmed by stream ripping, at least not to the extent that the record labels are, they fear that, if the current verdict is upheld, it will become harder to bring foreign site owners to justice.

    “If affirmed and widely adopted, the district court’s erroneous holding could serve as a roadmap for foreign pirates, teaching them how to exploit the U.S. market and American intellectual property while evading jurisdiction in the United States, thus depriving aggrieved American copyright owners of a legitimate—and often the only—forum in which to enforce their rights.”

    The MPAA has quite a bit of experience with these types of lawsuits. It previously brought cases against the Canadian operator of torrent site isoHunt, for example, and targeted a Panamanian defendant in the Hotfile case.

    In the current brief, the movie industry group focuses in great detail on the supposed commercial nature of the stream-ripping sites. The Court concluded that the advertisements could not be seen as commercial interactions, but the MPAA disagrees.

    “The district court’s holding failed to appreciate how the internet-advertising and digital-piracy ecosystems work,” the MPAA writes.

    “In fact, Kurbanov’s websites are quintessentially commercial. Kurbanov attracts users, in part, because the only cost of accessing the infringing websites is exposure to advertisements—no money changes hands between the users and Kurbanov.”

    The advertising networks the sites rely on are seen as a cornerstone of digital piracy, the MPAA notes. Pirate sites can’t easily sell advertisements directly and therefore use third-party companies to generate revenue.

    The Hollywood group argues that Kurbanov’s decision to use ad-networks, as opposed to direct sales, illustrates his commercial intent. These advertisements target US users, which is one of the reasons why the court should have jurisdiction over the site owner.

    This would also be in line with previous orders issued by US federal courts, the movie studios conclude.

    “Kurbanov, by engaging in this unlawful scheme, rendered himself subject to the jurisdiction of our federal courts. Courts have confronted the ad-based model of piracy in numerous prior cases, and have routinely held that such sites are commercial in nature,” MPAA writes.

    The MPAA is not the only outside party to take an interest in this case.

    The Association of American Publishers also submitted a brief in support of the record labels, and the Copyright Alliance and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition has done the same.

    All amici argue that the district court verdict should be overturned to protect the interests of copyright holders. Thus far, the Court of Appeal granted the filing of the latter two briefs. The MPAA brief has yet to be accepted.


    TorrentFreak

  5. #485
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    Pirate IPTV: Police Across Europe Carry Out ‘Largest Ever’ Operation

    In conjunction with Europol, police forces in Spain, UK, and Denmark, have carried out what is being described as the "largest ever" operation against a pirate IPTV network. Five people have been arrested, accused of crimes including IP violations, fraud, and money laundering.

    Over the past several years, consumers have been increasingly turning to ‘pirate’ IPTV providers with the key aims of cutting bills and gaining convenient access to vast swathes of live TV and on-demand video.

    But for rightsholders and broadcasters, these unlicensed platforms present a growing threat as they undermine existing business models with what are increasingly high-quality services.

    The latest effort to stem the tide appears to be a significant one. Spain’s National Police says that in cooperation with police forces from the UK, Denmark, and Europol, it has conducted “the largest operation in Europe” against the illegal distribution of content via IPTV.

    Police carried out 14 simultaneous raids, eight of them in Spain (in Malaga, Madrid and Alicante), four in Denmark, and two in the UK. Five people were arrested and now stand accused of a variety of crimes, from IP offenses to fraud and money laundering. Ten others gave statements to police.


    Image: Spain National Police
    The investigation began in late 2015 following a complaint filed by the UK’s Premier League against a Malaga-based website offering IPTV subscription packages providing “a multitude of international conditional access channels”, i.e, otherwise premium subscription-based content.

    Following the complaint, police in Spain made efforts to verify the illegal activity, which included the provision of more than 800 television channels, on demand content, and radio stations. The packages offered by the unlicensed provider cost 40 euros per month and could go up to 460 euros, depending on duration.

    The investigation revealed various social network accounts through which the service attracted more customers, plus a network of 20 additional websites offering the same product.

    “The strategy used by those investigated was to use a multitude of servers and change them periodically, gradually creating new web pages to form a framework that, in principle, had no relationship. In this way they aimed not to be detected by the National Police and continue profiting from the crime,” a statement from the National Police reads.

    Officers in Spain determined that the business was being operated through Spanish companies but subscription payments from customers in more than 30 countries were made to a company in Gibraltar.

    Investigations led the police to conclude they were dealing with a “specialized international criminal organization” with connections to Spain, Denmark, the UK, Latvia, Netherlands, and Cyprus.

    “After a detailed investigation, the police discovered a link between the holding companies and the beneficiary bank accounts of the subscriptions, always belonging to the members of the organization,” Spanish police note.

    “The research found that, to make the trail more difficult, they increasingly displayed less content and, in addition, they were using anonymization systems. They had evolved technologically in a way that was allowing them to increase the volume of customers, since they offered different ways of accessing the viewing of increasingly innovative channels.”

    During the operation, police say they “disconnected” 66 servers involved in the crime while further identifying the locations of other servers that were part of the network. Police says they identified 11 server ‘farms’, with some comprising more than 44 servers.

    Current police estimates suggest that the people behind the operation “obtained an economic benefit” of around 8 million euros with 1.6 million euros diverted to companies abroad since 2013. It’s alleged that the money was laundered through businesses that appeared respectable.

    “To give the illicit business the appearance of legality and to launder the profits, they created companies with lawful activity and a stated objective related to the provision of telecommunications services, internet and hardware,” Spanish police explain.

    “On the one hand, they had the technical and technological infrastructure necessary to carry out their legal business (fiber operators) and also the illicit business (illegal IPTV subscriptions). On the other, they were authorized operators for fiber. It served as an argument for customers to believe that they were also in the business of distributing foreign channels.”

    The operators, therefore, allegedly mixed legal revenue with illegal, in order to raise as little suspicion as possible. However, that didn’t stop the police from noticing their luxury lifestyles.

    “Those arrested resided in luxury urbanizations on the Malaga coast, using high-end vehicles that were continually being renewed. In fact, the operation involved 12 high-end vehicles, in addition to bank accounts and real estate,” Spain’s National Police conclude.


    TorrentFreak






  6. #486
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    The U.S. Remains Top Traffic Source For Pirate Sites, Research Shows

    A new report from piracy tracking outfit MUSO shows that visits to pirate sites dipped slightly last year. The company recorded a total of 190 billion visits in 2018. TV and movie streaming portals are by far the most popular, while the United States remains the top source for these sites.

    U.S music and movie industry companies have exported their pirate site blocking scheme to countries all over the globe.

    These efforts have been quite successful and decreased the number of visits to pirate sites, according to the MPAA.

    On Hollywood’s home turf, however, pirate sites remain freely accessible. This is peculiar, not least because the United States remains the prime traffic source for many of these sites.

    New research released by piracy tracking outfit MUSO confirms this once again. Drawing on data from tens of thousands of the largest global piracy sites, the company found that the United States is the country that sends most visitors to pirate sites.

    With well over 17 billion ‘visits’ the U.S. takes the lead ahead of Russia, Brazil, India, France, and Turkey. The top ten is completed by Ukraine, Indonesia, the UK, and Germany.



    That the U.S. is the top source doesn’t come as a surprise. The country has one of the largest populations in the world and is relatively well-connected. Based on the number of visits per Internet user, the list would obviously be different.

    Looking at the broader picture MUSO reveals that visits to pirate sites have dipped slightly, from over 206 billion in 2017 to less than 190 billion a year later. This downward trend applies across the board and affects torrent, streaming, download, and stream-ripping sites.


    Streaming sites remain by far the most popular. More than half of all pirate site visits went to streaming platforms. Direct download sites come in second place with 22% and public torrent sites are in third, with around 13% of all visits.

    Stream-ripping portals, which are generally seen as the most severe threat to the music industry, make up ‘only’ 4% of the total volume of pirate site traffic, which equates to 7.7 billion visits. It has to be noted though, that stream rippers, as well as the other sites, can have legal uses as well.

    Looking at the various types of pirated content, TV remains the most popular. Close to half of all pirate site visits were related to TV content, followed at a distance by movies, music, publishing, and software respectively.

    According to Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO and co-founder, the fragmentation in the TV industry is one of the reasons why piracy remains relevant. People often need a variety of subscriptions to see all the shows they want.

    “Digital piracy is still prevalent globally. Television is the most popular content for piracy and given the fragmentation of content across multiple streaming services perhaps this isn’t surprising,” Chatterley says.

    MUSO sees the massive pirate audience as an opportunity for rightsholders, instead of it being just a threat. Understanding when and what people pirate can help the entertainment industry to convert pirates into paying customers.

    “Whilst it’s important to restrict the distribution of unlicensed content, there is a wealth of insight to be garnered from piracy audience data that gives a comprehensive view of global content consumption.”

    One final data point that’s worth mentioning relates to search engines. MUSO notes that, compared to the year before, more people bypass search engines and visited pirate sites directly in 2018.

    Fewer search engine referrals may be a sign that takedown notices are working, perhaps in combination with Google’s downranking strategy. However, people can still find their way to pirate sites.

    “Simply focussing on take-downs is clearly a whack-a-mole approach and, while an essential part of any content protection strategy, it needs to be paired with more progressive thinking. With the right mindsight, piracy audiences can offer huge value to rights holders,” Chatterley notes.

    While the data offers an intriguing insight into the piracy landscape, it only covers part of it. Many people use streaming boxes or mobile apps nowadays. These are not included in MUSO’s dataset, which relies on data provided by SimilarWeb, among other sources.

    MUSO’s dataset covers visits to pirate sites only, which isn’t an exact science it appears.

    Last year the company reported that there were roughly 300 billion pirate site visits in 2017. This number has now been readjusted to 206 billion. According to MUSO, this is because one of their data providers significantly scaled down mobile visit estimations.

    In any case, the relative comparisons and broader trends remain the same, and the United States still has more pirate site visits than any other country in the world.


    TorrentFreak

  7. #487
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    Google Unlocked Aims to ‘Uncensor’ Google Search Results

    Google Unlocked is a new extension for Chrome and Opera that attempts to 'uncensor' Google search results affected by DMCA notices. While it tends to work as advertised overall, it suffers from - surprise, surprise - an inability to distinguish between infringing and non-infringing URLs.

    For many years, Google has been bombarded with requests from copyright holders to remove allegedly-infringing content from its indexes.

    As reported here on TF last week, those requests have now reached astronomic levels – four billion links reported by 168,180 copyright holders against 2,283,811 separate domains.

    Google honors most of the requests but rejects a fair few too, often due to the reported activity not actually being copyright infringement. However, when links are removed, users are informed of the fact via a note at the bottom of Google’s search results.



    As the image above shows, when results are removed the associated DMCA notice which caused the removal can be found on the LumenDatabase, the online repository where some Internet companies file complaints for transparency purposes.

    Anyone can click through and view the notices for themselves but this can be time-consuming, especially when researching a large number of links. It’s a problem the folks at ibit tried to solve this week with the release of a new browser extension.

    Compatible with Chrome and Opera, Google Unlocked is open source and available via its Github repo. Its developer offers this simple introduction.

    “The extension scans hidden links that were censored on Google search results due to complaints. The tool scans those complaints and extracts the links from them, puts the links back into Google results, all in matter of seconds,” he writes.

    TF tested the extension (which isn’t available on the Chrome store) with a clean Opera install and found that it only asks for minimal permission to access Google domains, something confirmed by its developer.

    “Please take a look at the code on Github, it is just a few lines of Javascript code. The extension is completely open source and you install it after unpacking the zip file so no hidden secrets there,” he told TF.

    “It only needs permission to access
    www.google.* domains so that it can inject the missing links back in the page. Under the hood, the extension checks the Google results for the word “complaint” and fetches the URL behind it with a simple XMLHttpRequest. It then parses those URLs and puts them back on the same page.”

    Since by its very nature the tool searches for allegedly infringing links, we aren’t going to demonstrate those here. Safe to say, however, the tool does scan LumenDatabase as advertised and all the removed links do get embedded in the search result page itself, very large numbers of links in some instances.

    However, we also discovered that Google Unlocked is helpful when researching invalid DMCA notices too, but that (and indeed its ability to concisely display URLs from legitimate takedown complaints) then uncovers a flaw in the system, one that cannot be solved easily – if at all.

    Readers will perhaps recall that a poet by the name of Shaun Shane issued a heap of false DMCA notices against sites (this one included) that legitimately reported on his efforts to stop people writing about his poem. So, for fun, we typed the phrase “If only our tongues were made of glass” into Google, which informed us that a single result had been removed.

    However, after pressing the Google Unlocked button, we were confronted with eight URLs injected by the extension, as shown below.


    While these are indeed all of the URLs present in the notice advised by Google under the “read the DMCA complaint” link provided, most of them were either rejected by Google or are actually legitimate links provided by Shaun Shane himself.

    Most DMCA notices filed with the company also include locations where the original source material can be found, so these are also parsed by Google Unlocked and presented as removed content, as the image below illustrates.


    So, while Google Unlocked is very capable when it comes to ‘reinstating’ links removed by Google following a copyright complaint, it has some of the same issues suffered by many anti-piracy crawlers – it simply cannot differentiate between infringing and non-infringing content.

    Given the simplicity of the extension and the complexity of the situation, this is not a problem Google Unlocked will ever be able to completely solve. So, while it does work as advertised in many scenarios, the reinstated URLs will nearly always contain links pointing to legitimate sources or links that Google has thrown out due to them being non-infringing.

    That being said, Google Unlocked’s developer is inviting others to contribute to this interesting project, which may improve its performance over time.

    “I put the source on Github and I hope to get more programmers to do pull requests to keep the extension up to date, since I know a lot of geeks will love this extension,” he concludes.


    TorrentFreak




  8. #488
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    Hollywood Fears that Stream-Ripper Verdict Will Serve as Roadmap for Foreign Pirates

    Hollywood's MPAA has submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of several major record labels, hoping to overturn a verdict in favor of the stream ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2Conv.com. The group fears that the verdict will serve as a roadmap for foreign pirates who want to evade US Courts. Unlike the District Court concluded, the MPAA says the sites are "quintessentially commercial."

    Last year, a group of prominent record labels filed a piracy lawsuit against the Russian operator of YouTube-ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com.

    The labels hoped to shut the sites down, but this effort backfired.

    In January, US District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed the case due to a lack of jurisdiction. The Court carefully reviewed how the sites operate and found no evidence that they purposefully targeted either Virginia or the United States.

    The sites are not seen as highly interactive and their interaction with users could not be classified as commercial, the Court concluded.

    “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 RIAA labels were disappointed and last week they submitted their opening brief at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The labels are not the only organizations that have an interest in this case though. A few days ago, Hollywood’s MPAA and others chimed in as well.

    The MPAA filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the record labels. The industry group notes that it has a vested interest in the matter, as the district court verdict hurts its ability to go after site operators who are located outside of the US.

    The MPAA argues that it was a mistake by the district court to grant the dismissal. That ‘error’ could cause significant damage to copyright holders, it says, describing the Russian owner of the site as a brazen pirate.

    “Kurbanov is a brazen digital pirate. His highly interactive, commercial,
    stream-ripping websites are, in essence, piracy valets that deliver stolen works to the websites’ users,” MPAA writes in its brief.

    While movie studios are not directly harmed by stream ripping, at least not to the extent that the record labels are, they fear that, if the current verdict is upheld, it will become harder to bring foreign site owners to justice.

    “If affirmed and widely adopted, the district court’s erroneous holding could serve as a roadmap for foreign pirates, teaching them how to exploit the U.S. market and American intellectual property while evading jurisdiction in the United States, thus depriving aggrieved American copyright owners of a legitimate—and often the only—forum in which to enforce their rights.”

    The MPAA has quite a bit of experience with these types of lawsuits. It previously brought cases against the Canadian operator of torrent site isoHunt, for example, and targeted a Panamanian defendant in the Hotfile case.

    In the current brief, the movie industry group focuses in great detail on the supposed commercial nature of the stream-ripping sites. The Court concluded that the advertisements could not be seen as commercial interactions, but the MPAA disagrees.

    “The district court’s holding failed to appreciate how the internet-advertising and digital-piracy ecosystems work,” the MPAA writes.

    “In fact, Kurbanov’s websites are quintessentially commercial. Kurbanov attracts users, in part, because the only cost of accessing the infringing websites is exposure to advertisements—no money changes hands between the users and Kurbanov.”

    The advertising networks the sites rely on are seen as a cornerstone of digital piracy, the MPAA notes. Pirate sites can’t easily sell advertisements directly and therefore use third-party companies to generate revenue.

    The Hollywood group argues that Kurbanov’s decision to use ad-networks, as opposed to direct sales, illustrates his commercial intent. These advertisements target US users, which is one of the reasons why the court should have jurisdiction over the site owner.

    This would also be in line with previous orders issued by US federal courts, the movie studios conclude.

    “Kurbanov, by engaging in this unlawful scheme, rendered himself subject to the jurisdiction of our federal courts. Courts have confronted the ad-based model of piracy in numerous prior cases, and have routinely held that such sites are commercial in nature,” MPAA writes.

    The MPAA is not the only outside party to take an interest in this case.

    The Association of American Publishers also submitted a brief in support of the record labels, and the Copyright Alliance and the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition has done the same.

    All amici argue that the district court verdict should be overturned to protect the interests of copyright holders. Thus far, the Court of Appeal granted the filing of the latter two briefs. The MPAA brief has yet to be accepted.

    TorrentFreak

  9. #489
    Amias's Avatar
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    ISPs: We’re Definitely Not the Internet Police, Until We Decide We Should Be

    For mainly legal reasons, it's prudent for ISPs to describe themselves as dumb pipes, with no control over or responsibility for the content that traverses their networks. The reality is, however, that is not only an untruth but a stance that can be undone in an instant, should emotions run high enough. Trouble is, no important actions exist in a bubble.

    On several occasions over the years, TorrentFreak has reported on file-sharing platforms being blocked by ISPs, apparently for no reason at all.

    On later examination, however, we’ve discovered that organizations such as the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation charity have sometimes collaborated with ISPs to implement blocks, after child exploitation material was found on online platforms.

    Blocking whole platforms is unquestionably overkill, a point I raised with the IWF some years ago. However, when you begin to talk with these people – the people who have to view sickening content on a daily basis to prevent child abusers from sharing their filth online – sympathy is very, very easy to find.

    They look at this stuff so we don’t have to, and they deserve a medal for doing so. The Internet is undoubtedly a better place thanks to them.

    But that brings us to censorship, a topic that everyone has a view on, including whether a certain level of censorship is acceptable, and whether or not it’s good for society. Statistically, few people argue that kids being abused on film is unworthy of censorship, not least because in most regions it’s criminally illegal.

    But what about a video of innocent men, women and children being massacred in New Zealand? Should that be censored too? The Mirror newspaper in the UK didn’t think so, and actually put some of the footage on its front page. It was widely condemned for doing so.

    That said, the decision whether to censor was a question that Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and dozens of other platforms answered quickly. According to their Terms of Service, such content is disallowed and that conversation – like it or not – is now all but over; their platform, their rules.

    One of the big questions that has emerged, however, is whether the powers that be should prevent us from seeing such horrific acts for ourselves, perhaps in order to fully appreciate what we are up against in this so-called civilization of ours.

    Did most of us need to witness thousands of people die live on international TV to fully appreciate the horrors of 9/11? Did we really need to see those poor souls throwing themselves out of those burning buildings? Because if we didn’t, it’s now too late. That distressing footage remains on YouTube today.

    Never forget 9/11, we all agree, but you can’t forget something you didn’t see for yourself.

    So did we really need to witness a lone-gunman massacre innocents live on Facebook to appreciate just how deluded some people can become? Or should we be protected from ourselves, based on the notion that it will deprive extremists of publicity, by those in power who claim to know better?

    If those powers include ISPs, the answer is already with us. As widely reported, in the wake of the attack ISPs in both Australia and New Zealand took it upon themselves to begin blocking the terrorist’s video, wherever it could be found online but couldn’t be immediately taken down.

    That meant that Spark NZ, Vodafone NZ, and Vocus NZ all implemented a voluntary blockade of entire sites including MEGA, Liveleak, and a list of other platforms, no court order required.

    “My cyber security team at Spark has done its best overnight to stay on top of the sites distributing the horrific material from the terrorists. Where they find it, they apply temporary blocks and notify the site, requesting they remove the material,” said Simon Moutter, Managing Director of Spark NZ.

    Moutter also took the time to apologize to “legitimate internet users inconvenienced” by the site blockades, an acknowledgment to obvious collateral damage but perhaps understandably pragmatic in the larger scheme of the crisis.

    It’s impossible to speak for all of those people negatively affected by the blocks but it’s likely there would’ve been quite a bit of understanding based on the good intentions of Spark, Vodafone, and Vocus, in the much the same way that IWF-ordered blockades are seen as necessary elsewhere, when they occur.

    The trouble is, New Zealand’s ISPs may now have backed themselves into a corner in life after the Christchurch massacre. In the blink of an eye they have effectively declared that if they want to become the Internet Police, they will deputize themselves to become the Internet Police.

    Vocus, in particular, now appears to have contradicted its former stance.

    “SKY’s call that sites be blacklisted on their say so is dinosaur behavior, something you would expect in North Korea, not in New Zealand,” said Vocus last year in response to a request to block The Pirate Bay.

    “It isn’t our job to police the Internet and it sure as hell isn’t SKY’s either, all sites should be equal and open,” the company’s uniquivocal statement read at the time.

    Of course, no one wishes to trivialize mass murder by comparing it to copyright infringement, it’s obvious to any fool what the priority is here when people are under attack. But important actions over access to information don’t exist in a bubble.

    Either ISPs are the Internet Police whenever they deem fit or they are not, and in the absence of legislation stating otherwise, all of these ISPs may have just opened up Pandora’s box.

    To be clear, the awful video at the center of this controversy was potentially illegal in New Zealand at the moment it was put online, but even the government there initially declined to definitively declare its status beyond it is “likely to be objectionable content under New Zealand law.”

    That position changed Monday when it fell to New Zealand Chief Censor David Shanks to announce that under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993, the video is deemed “objectionable” and therefore illegal.

    In hindsight, it is not hard to see why the ISPs took the action they did. New Zealand is a peaceful country and the families of its lost citizens (and those from other nations that were also cruelly gunned down) deserve to have their dignities preserved, to the extent possible, in what must have been desperate times.

    To that end, the ISPs in question clearly felt that since they were in a position to contribute positively, that’s what they must do. After all, they are all serving the affected communities and, in times of crisis, everyone making a small contribution can make a huge difference. That kind of team effort in response to a disaster is arguably the best of human nature.

    However, the barrier to entry – to wider Internet censorship – has now been arguably lowered and there will be plenty of groups standing by with their own sets of demands. Insisting that ISPs aren’t the Internet Police won’t be a position the companies above will be able to hold so easily anymore.

    On a personal level, I would’ve been much happier if the two people in my Whatsapp contacts list who sent me the video had been prevented from doing so by owners Facebook. However, that would mean a company interfering with my communications, something that few people want, myself included. Clearly, we have tough choices.

    But, ultimately, it didn’t matter, because as an adult, I took control of my own destiny.

    I personally chose not to watch the video (explicit text descriptions online were harrowing enough) and I’m hoping that my response to the senders will mean I’ll never receive anything like it again. Not to say I can’t find the video online – anyone can inside 10 mins – but it’s the educated choice of the individual that counts here, not the power of ISPs.

    ISPs do not have the power to change human nature – only our life experiences, education, and values can. The monster who perpetrated the crimes last week clearly has severe problems in that area. That being said, seeing such horrors for oneself can sometimes have a positive effect.

    A video I viewed on Kazaa (if I recall correctly) in the early 2000s, of what was claimed to be a soldier getting his throat cut, was the best aversion therapy against senseless violence that I have ever experienced. The guy lost his life in the most awful way but if only one good thing came of that, it is the persistent belief that violence and brutality should be avoided at all costs.

    We can only hope that most of the people who viewed the video this week experienced a similar epiphany and positive effect – perhaps not fully today, but one that matures with time. But make no mistake, censorship – via blocking or other means – will not change the minds of the twisted, nor those reveling in obstruction while rubbing salt in the wounds.

    ISP blockades of any content will always be ineffective against the determined. In the case of pirated content, we already know the only thing that can provide serious momentum to long-term change in New Zealand. But when it comes to the horrors of what transpired last week, change has to come from within.

    It is the choice of the individual alone that can help us progress and it’s the only real way to produce any long-term meaningful change. While we dissect the motivations of the killer, we should also consider why no one – not a single person – reported the massacre to Facebook as it was live-streamed.

    Censorship will always prove controversial, no matter how well-meaning, but for the ISPs of New Zealand the battle to claim they aren’t the Internet Police may now prove more difficult.

    Plenty of groups are queuing up to have them censor content they find objectionable but there’s still a decent chance they won’t exploit that for their own ends. For now, we can only hope that a sense of perspective prevails and that education and compassion will prevent more of these atrocities happening in the future.


    TorrentFreak

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