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    [h=2]Judge in eBook.bike Piracy Case Asks Author to Consider a Reduced Damages Claim[/h]

    Judge in eBook.bike Piracy Case Asks Author to Consider a Massively Reduced Damages Claim


    The copyright infringement lawsuit filed by author John van Stry against former Pirate Party leader Travis McCrea may be edging closer to financial discomfort. A motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff demanded $15,000 in damages for each title infringed, to a total of $180,000 plus costs. The presiding judge has now asked Van Stry to consider accepting just $750 per work to keep things simple.


    Just over a year ago, author John Van Stry filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in a Texas court against former Pirate Party Canada leader Travis McCrea, the operator of eBook download platform eBook.bike.


    The complaint alleged that McCrea infringed the copyrights of Van Stry by making at least a dozen of his books available for download without a license, along with other titles by prominent authors including Stephen King and J.K. Rowling.


    Following the case has been testing, to say the least. The discovery process was labored, disorganized, and at times not much short of chaotic. The parties, when they communicated at all, were beset by problems that were agonizingly detailed in pages of court filings. McCrea cited various defenses, including under the DMCA and on religious grounds, and was flat-out accused of frustrating the entire process by Van Stry’s legal team.


    Behind that briefest summary of events, the case has been rumbling on the background, consuming large sums of time and money as it has done so. Given McCrea’s earlier claim that he would never be able to pay should he lose the case and Van Stry’s obvious financial investment in the matter, it was always going to be hard to pick a ‘winner’.


    That being said, Van Stry seems determined to make a point about piracy, not only for him but for all authors. It might prove difficult to put a price tag on that but it is the court’s job to try. That leads us to a proposed motion for final summary judgment filed by Van Stry’s legal team that has just been dealt with by the judge.


    The proposed summary judgment asks the court to find that McCrea “knowingly and intentionally” committed direct infringement in respect of 12 of Van Stry’s books and is “contributorily and vicariously responsible” for copyright infringements carried by Ebook.bike’s users in respect of the same works.


    Demanding a broad injunction to prevent McCrea and his “agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert and participation with him” from infringing, causing, enabling, facilitating, encouraging, contributing to, or participation in infringement of the works in future, it further proposes significant damages.


    “Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §504©(1), the Court awards Mr. Van Stry $15,000 per each of the twelve works-at-issue, consisting of $3,800 in compensatory damages and, due to Mr. McCrea’s willful infringement, $11,200 in punitive damages, for a total of $180,000,” the proposal reads.


    On top, of course, Van Stry is demanding full costs, including attorneys’ fees, to ensure he isn’t left out of pocket.


    In a memorandum and opinion issued this week, District Court Judge William Bryson notes that under the Copyright Act, Van Stry could’ve demanded a whole lot more in statutory damages – $150,000 per work, to be precise. The Judge then goes on to address several documents filed by McCrea in which he denied any wrongdoing because there was no evidence “that there had been any downloads of copyrighted material.”


    “At the same time, Mr. McCrea said that he was ‘practising [his] religion by helping authors connect with their readers’,” the Judge writes. “McCrea also claimed that his actions were protected by the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And, in the event of liability, Mr. McCrea disputed Mr. Van Stry’s contention as to the appropriate amount to be awarded in damages.”


    On the DMCA issue, the Judge goes into some detail but ultimately notes that McCrea is not entitled to claim safe harbor due to his failure to register an agent at the Copyright Office.


    In respect of some kind of defense under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act 1993 (RFRA), the Judge states that the RFRA doesn’t apply because the case is a dispute between private parties.


    “Even assuming the sincerity of Mr. McCrea’s beliefs and even if RFRA were applicable to this case, Mr. McCrea’s affirmative defense would still fail because he has provided no evidence that the government, or any entity, has substantially burdened his practicing of his religion,” the Judge notes.


    “The only religious practices Mr. McCrea identifies is ‘helping authors connect with their readers’ and copying and sharing information. I fail to see the suggested conflict between those practices and abiding by the Copyright Act. Mr. McCrea certainly could have approached Mr. Van Stry to obtain a license to copy, make available, and distribute Mr. Van Stry’s copyrighted works, if that was how Mr. McCrea chose to help connect Mr. Van Stry with his readers.”


    At this stage, the motion appears to be going nowhere good for McCrea but the Judge then reveals he won’t be rubber-stamping Van Stry’s request for damages as outlined in his proposed motion. The Supreme Court provides a right to a trial and the scale of statutory damages is a question for the jury, unless both sides agree to a decision being made by the court.


    Given submissions from the parties, Judge Bryson says he believes Van Stry and McCrea want him to decide the appropriate amount of statutory damages. However, what Van Stry is demanding ($15,000 per work) conflicts with the statutory minimum suggested by McCrea ($750 per work).


    As a result, the Judge wants both sides to write to the court to confirm that they want him to decide the amount, rather than a jury. This, however, raises other issues.


    note that the right to a jury trial on the issue of statutory damages does not apply when the plaintiff seeks an award limited to the statutorily guaranteed minimum amount,” the Judge notes.


    “In light of Mr. Van Stry’s acknowledgement that damages in this case are likely to be illusory, he may wish to limit his request for statutory damages to the statutory minimum award of $750 per work —an amount that Mr. McCrea has already agreed would be appropriate. In that event, a jury trial on damages would not be necessary.


    “Mr. Van Stry may, if he chooses, make the request to limit the award of statutory damages in the alternative. The request, that is, would only control in the event that Mr. McCrea does not waive his right to a jury trial,” Judge Bryson adds.


    The parties have been given seven days to advise the Court whether they wish to have the Court “resolve all issues pertinent to an award of statutory damages” in excess of the statutory limit of $750 per work. We know that $750 is acceptable to McCrea but seems unlikely to be acceptable to Van Stry – 12 x $750 sounds like $9,000, a lot less than the $180,000 previously mentioned.


    Should the author win the case he will, however, be entitled to recover his costs. Earlier this year, Van Stry indicated he was already in the hole for
    $60,000 in legal fees
    , only half of which was covered by donations from fellow authors and other well-wishers.


    But even that figure must’ve been surpassed by now, especially if the associated GoFundMe campaign’s
    target of $90,000
    is anything to go by. That still leaves the question of whether he can recover anything at all – damages or costs – from McCrea, who doesn’t even live in the United States.


    Either way, eBook.bike shut down many months ago.



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    [h=2]‘Copyright Troll’s Request for a Temporary Prison Release Due to COVID19 Threat Fails[/h]

    ‘Copyright Troll’ Lawyer’s Request for a Temporary Prison Release Due to COVID-19 Threat Fails


    Paul Hansmeier, one of the lead attorneys behind the controversial Prenda law firm, has asked the court for a temporary release from prison while he appeals his 14-year sentence. The disbarred lawyer says that he faces a substantial risk of catching the coronavirus in prison. The US Government protested the request, however, after which the court declined to consider it at all.


    Last summer, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota sentenced Paul Hansmeier to
    14 years in prison
    , followed by two years of supervised release.


    Hansmeier was a key player in the Prenda Law firm, which pursued cases against people who were suspected of downloading pirated porn videos via BitTorrent.


    This practice by itself is not illegal, but Hansmeier and his associate John Steele entered the criminal realm when they lied to the courts, committed identity theft, and created a honeypot by
    uploading self-produced
    porn torrents to The Pirate Bay as bait.


    Both lawyers were sentenced to long prison sentences, with the first receiving the
    longest sentence
    due to his lack of cooperation. Hansmeier
    appealed his sentence
    and previously asked the court if he could await this decision out of jail.


    That effort failed initially, but with the Coronavirus spreading in the US, he’s now asking the court to reconsider.


    A few days ago, Hansmeier sent a handwritten letter from the
    Sandstone prison
    in Minnesota to the U.S. District Court, which included his motion for a release pending appeal.



    In the letter, the disbarred lawyer explains that he is better off outside, as the risk of being infected by the Coronavirus is much greater in prison.


    “If released pending appeal, Hansmeier would self-quarantine at his house for 14 days, and then continue to shelter in place per the Minnesota Governor’s executive order,” Hansmeier writes, adding that he would use the time to care for his children.


    According to Hansmeier, there is no need to stay in prison pending the appeal. It is not likely that he will flee or pose a danger to the community, for example, and his appeal raises a substantial issue, as the U.S. code requires.


    The main reason for the request, however, is the COVID-19 pandemic. The former Prenda lawyer cites several media reports that describe the challenges and risks prisons face, quoting one insider stating that it’s “chaos” and that things will “get worse.” These descriptions also apply to Sandstone, he notes.


    “Inmates at Sandstone share tight quarters in dormitory-style housing and spend much of their time together,” Hansmeier writes, adding that “…there is nothing that officials can do, short of releasing prisoners en masse, to even approach the recommendations of the CDC and the President’s Coronavirus Task Force.”


    Hansmeier fears that the virus will rip through the entire prison population if it arrives, wreaking havoc, and potentially killing dozens of people. By allowing the release pending appeal, he would avoid this risk.


    “[A]pplication of the current death rate associated with COVID-19, suggests that 25 inmates at Sandstone can expect to die,” Hansmeier warns.


    While the disbarred lawyer argues that there is no reason for him to be exposed to unnecessary health risks, the prosecution sees things differently. In a reply motion, United States Attorney Erica MacDonald cast doubt over the request.


    MacDonald refers to Hansmeier as “a healthy 38-year old man,” who “is thriving at Sandstone.” That he, because of the pandemic, now wants to be released to care for his children seems illogical.


    MacDonald stresses that the only case cited to support the motion is one where a court agreed to delay the surrender date of a convict. The reason for this was to not add any people to the prison population. However, Hansmeier is in prison already.


    “Hansmeier, in contrast, cannot be added to the prison population because he is already part of the prison population, and has been since July 2019, before the pandemic even began,” MacDonald writes.


    Instead of helping the situation, the disbarred lawyer may actually make things worse, she adds.


    “Hansmeier’s request to be released, to care for his children, and then to return to BOP custody if he loses his appeal, would expose the prison community at Sandstone to a greater threat from COVID-19 than simply keeping the uninfected Hansmeier in custody as the pandemic runs its course,” the Attorney General adds.


    Based on these and a variety of other arguments, including the Government’s position that there is no substantial issue raised in the appeal, MacDonald urgest the court to keep the convicted Prenda lawyer in prison.


    After reviewing the details, US District Judge Joan Ericksen issued a brief but clear order on Friday. Instead of going into any of the COVID-19 arguments, she denied to consider the request for a temporary release because of Hansmeier argued it himself, even though he is represented by an attorney.




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    [h=2]Russia Preparing New Law to Ban All Video Recording in Movie Theaters[/h]

    Russia's Ministry of Culture says it has drafted new legislation to combat the unauthorized recording of movies in cinemas. The development will be greeted with cautious optimism by movie companies in the United States who, over the past several years, have complained about the dozens of video and audio recordings hitting the black market after being recorded in Russian cinemas.


    With movie piracy becoming more sophisticated with each passing year and bandwidth cheaper than ever, the quality of copies appearing online has gradually increased.


    Pirates are now very comfortable with downloading high-quality multi-gigabyte rips sourced from physical discs and VOD sources but many can’t wait, preferring to view movies early in their theatrical windows. The go-to sources in these cases are so-called ‘cam’ copies, i.e movies obtained by pointing a recording device directly at a cinema screen.


    “Illicit camcording is the primary source of unauthorized copies of newly released movies found online,” the Office of the United States Trade Representative wrote in its latest Special 301 Report.


    “The recordings made in movie theaters today are very different from those by a single person sitting in a theater with a bulky videotape recorder. The results are not shaky, inaudible recordings. It is now easy for a surreptitious recording in a movie theater to result in a clean digital copy of a movie with perfect audio that can be quickly distributed online.”


    While this may be overstating the quality of the average ‘cam’ recording found online today, the United States views the availability of these copies as a “significant trade problem.” In particular, fingers are regularly pointed at Russia as a primary source of ‘cams’ but, to date, local authorities haven’t been able to prevent dozens appearing online every year. Now, however, Russia seems ready to take action.


    According to the
    news agency, the Ministry of Culture has prepared a new bill that aims to address apparent shortcomings in Russian legislation. Right now, punishment for recording in cinemas is moderated according to intent, meaning that someone who isn’t acting for financial gain can escape prosecution. The government now wishes to tighten up the loopholes to ensure that no one falls through the gaps.


    “The Ministry of Culture of Russia has prepared a draft federal law prohibiting the recording of films in cinemas regardless of the purpose of such recordings,” says Minister of Culture Olga Lyubimova.


    “In other words, to hold the violator accountable it will no longer be necessary to prove that he was shooting specifically for profit.”


    Lyubimova says that the changes will support other anti-piracy measures as part of a government strategy to not only introduce new legislation but to also sharpen up laws already in place. Whether fresh anti-camming penalties will reduce the high number of copies appearing online from Russia will remain to be seen but US rightsholders will be hoping for a good set of results.


    According to the USTR, 26 illegally camcorded movies were traced back to Russian cinemas in 2015. In 2016, this had jumped to 63 cammed copies and the following year the figure rose again to 78 movies, a 300% increase over the number reported in 2015.


    For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, however, the USTR’s latest Special 301 Report
    a significant drop for movies ‘cammed’ in Russia, with ‘just’ 48 titles appearing online in 2018.


    The threat from Russia-sourced recordings isn’t just limited to video though. When ‘cammed’ copies appear online it is not uncommon for their components to be sourced from different places, i.e the video could be recorded in one country and the audio in another. According to the USTR, a total of 34 movie audio tracks were traced back to Russian cinemas in 2018.


    Traditionally, illicit ‘cam’ copies were blamed for undermining the theatrical market but with the rise of licensed VOD platforms, authorities say that they are being affected too.


    “In addition to theater owners who lose revenue, legitimate digital platforms, who often negotiate for a certain period of exclusivity after the theatrical run, cannot fairly compete in the market,” the USTR states.


    While Russia is viewed as the primary supplier of first-run movie ‘cams’, other countries receive their share of criticism too. In 2018, Mexico was claimed to be the second-largest foreign source of illegally recorded films, with India and China earning mentions for not doing enough to curtail supply.



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    [h=2]COVID-19 ‘Lockdowns’ Directly Impacted Torrent Download Numbers in Several Countries[/h]

    The new coronavirus continues to spread around the world, with many governments responding with social distancing measures and lockdowns. These restrictions have far-reaching consequences and have also boosted piracy and BitTorrent traffic worldwide. Today, we show how these increases closely follow the measures taken by various countries.


    The coronavirus pandemic has massively increased Internet traffic. This applies to work usage, legal entertainment, but also file-sharing.


    Last week we showed how downloads, including content from popular sites such as The Pirate Bay, YTS, and RARBG, have increased in recent weeks.


    While this upward trend is clearly visible in the global numbers, zooming in at the country level adds a more detailed perspective. That is exactly what we did over the past several days, resulting in some rather intriguing findings.


    To begin, we take a look at Italy, which was the first European country to be severely impacted by COVID-19. Responding to the increasing threat, the local government implemented a lockdown on March 9th, instructing people to stay indoors.


    Using data provided by
    , we analyzed the number of Italian IP-addresses that were found sharing torrents from the start of the year, as well as the tracked number of downloads.


    The graph below shows that both the number of downloads and the unique IP-addresses reached new highs on March 9, after which they continued to go up for a few days, to then stabilize.


    On March 8, there were 592K downloads and 213K IP-addresses. A week later these numbers were up to 810K and 304K respectively.




    In Spain, there is a similar trend that started a few days later, again coinciding with the lockdown measures. The Spanish Government ordered its lockdown on March 14, with both the number of downloads and unique IP-addresses reaching new highs on that exact date.


    Similar to the Italian situation, both numbers continued to go up for a while. A week after the lockdown started, reported downloads and IP-addresses were up by roughly a third.




    In France, the effect of the countrywide measures is also clearly visible. Again, both numbers reached a yearly high on the day the lockdown went into effect, growing even further in the following days.




    There is also an upward trend in the UK, as can be seen in the graph below. This effect is less pronounced than elsewhere, likely because people are still allowed to move relatively freely, which is a clear difference compared to the previously mentioned countries.




    There are also some clear outliers in Europe.
    In the Netherlands
    , for example, there is no significant uptick in torrent downloads or IP-addresses. This, despite the
    intelligent-lockdown that’s been ordered locally.


    There is not much change in Sweden either. That was more or less expected, however, as the Scandinavian country hasn’t taken any extreme measures to curb the spread of the virus.




    Moving over to the United States we see that there appears to be a
    small increase
    in downloads over the past few weeks, but nothing that really stands out. This is likely because most of the restrictive measures are limited to a few affected regions.


    In South America, however, the effects are very clear in some countries. In Argentina, for example, which issued a lockdown on March 19, reported download numbers and IP-addresses shot up in the following days.


    On March 17, there were 508K downloads and 179K IP-addresses, and by the 25th these numbers had gone up to 706K and 254K respectively.




    Moving around the world, we see similar boosts taking place. South Africa issued a three-week lockdown order starting on March 26, with torrent downloads and reported IP-addresses
    going up around the same time


    A similar spike was also evident in Saudi Arabia at the time more stringent measures were announced in some regions. On March 9 the first restrictions went into effect in Qatif, with measures following in Riyadh, Mecca, and Medina later in the month.




    In Asia, the findings are not always as expected. While we previously reported on other data that showed that visits to file-sharing sites surged in China, the same pattern doesn’t appear in the downloads and IP-address data. This is also true for South Korea.


    We did find a notable increase in some other Asian countries. In Singapore, for example, although the increase there had already started before the most far-reaching measures were made public.




    On the whole, however, it is striking to see how many of these charts follow the COVID-19 measures locally. The overall trend appears to be that the more strict the lockdown measures are, the greater effect they have on BitTorrent activity.


    It will be interesting to see how these graphs develop over time. Will they eventually return to the pre-corona numbers or remain at a higher level?



    The data used for the graphs presented here were provided by
    . While this is not a full record of all BitTorrent traffic, it is certainly helpful to reveal trends within countries. For full transparency, we make the underlying data
    available here
    (January 1, 2020 – April 6, 2020). This also includes other countries.



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    [h=2]Internet Archive to Senator: No “Emergency Copyright Act” Required[/h]

    Internet Archive to Senator: No “Emergency Copyright Act” Required, Fair Use Has Library Covered


    The row over the Internet Archive's National Emergency Library, which aims to fill the learning gap in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, has now reached government. In response to a letter sent by Senator Thom Tillis, which accuses IA founder Brewster Kahle of creating an "emergency Copyright Act", Kahle says that such a thing isn't needed, as fair use has the project covered.


    On first view, making books, learning and other research materials available online during a nationwide library shutdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic seems like a positive step. However, the National Emergency Library recently launched by the Internet Archive now finds itself in the middle of a controvery.


    The National Emergency Library, which contains around 1.4 million scanned books, is free for everyone to access. Available until at least the end of June 2020, the library has effectively suspended wait-lists, which allows lenders to obtain books on a temporary basis but without having to wait until other readers have finished reading their copies.


    However, copyright holders, authors groups and publishers have criticized the move, claiming that without remuneration for creators, the library acts as a glorified pirate site.


    The Authors Guild, for example, described the move as “appalling”, slamming the initiative as pushing the boundaries of copyright law while trampling on the rights of struggling authors. The Copyright Alliance went further still, describing the project as “
    particularly vile


    With pressure mounting, the government has now become involved. In a letter to Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Senator Thom Tillis – whose Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Intellectual Property is currently
    conducting a review
    of the Copyright Act – says he recognizes the essential nature of books and the problems being encountered as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.


    Citing various measures taken by copyright holders to “ease the struggles”, he highlights that these, however, do not break the law.


    “These voluntary efforts should be commended, not only because they are expanding access to copyrighted works, but also because they do not violate copyright law or harm creators. On the contrary, these times have shown the critical value of copyrighted works to the public interest,” Senator Tillis writes.


    Noting that he “deeply values access to copyrighted works,” the Senator insists that such access should be provided within the law. He stops short of citing any specific laws that the Internet Archive is supposedly breaking but suggests that the National Emergency Library is illegal nonetheless.


    “I am not aware of any measure under copyright law that permits a user of copyrighted works to unilaterally create an emergency copyright act. Indeed, I am deeply concerned that your ‘library’ is operating outside the boundaries of the copyright law that Congress has enacted and alone has jurisdiction to amend,” he adds.


    There are no overt threats in the letter, which may suggest that the Senator is hoping for an amicable agreement, perhaps by reverting the library to its original status with lending limits returned to normal and other copyright matters solved. However, Kahle doesn’t seem particularly interested in a compromise.


    He insists that the National Emergency Library is not only essential in a time of national crisis, but is also acting well within the confines of existing copyright legislation.


    “The National Emergency Library was developed to address a temporary and significant need to our communities – for the first time in our nation’s history, the entire physical library system is offline and unavailable,” Kahle informs the Senator.


    “Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access. According to National Public Library survey data from 2018-2019, North Carolina’s public libraries house more than fifteen million print book volumes in their hundred twenty-three branches across the State. Because those branches are now closed and their books are unavailable, the massive public investment paid by tax-paying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it.”


    This specific example, Kahle notes, is echoed around the nation, affecting public, school, college and academic libraries alike. The National Emergency Library, he contends, aims to provide a solution by enabling teachers, students and communities to access the learning material currently out of reach.


    Kahle also provides some lending statistics, indicating that 90% of the books borrowed thus far were published more than 10 years ago and two-thirds were published last century. Overall, he states, the volume of lending to date is comparable “to that of a town with 30,000 people”, with 90% returning books after reading them for just 30 mins.


    “These usage patterns suggest that perhaps that patrons may be using the checked-out books for fact checking or research, but we suspect a large number of people are browsing the book in a way similar to browsing library shelves,” he adds.


    Kahle insists that the library isn’t offering any recently published books and any authors who prefer not to have their books made available can ask the library to have them removed. This, he stresses, does not have to be via a formal DMCA notice but a plain request not to have their works included. He then addresses the issue of legality, in particular the Senator’s claim that the library has somehow enacted its own emergency legislation.


    “You raise the question of how this comports with copyright law,” Kahle writes. “Fortunately, we do not need an ’emergency Copyright Act’ because the fair use doctrine, codified in the Copyright Act, provides flexibility to libraries and others to adjust to changing circumstances. As a result, libraries can and are meeting the needs of their patrons during this crisis in a number of ways.”


    Kahle concludes by acknowledging that in their “haste” to respond to the urgent needs of teachers, students, and librarians, the project did not do enough to engage with authors, publishers and policymakers. However, he claims that those conversations are now underway and invites the Senator to contribute by addressing the urgent access needs of the country.



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    [h=2]Charter Can’t Sue Over False DMCA Notices, Record Labels Argue[/h]

    Last year Internet provider Charter Communications was sued by several record labels for not doing enough to curb piracy. A few weeks ago, the ISP hit back, suing the music companies for sending inaccurate takedown notices. The retaliatory move could promise fireworks but not according to the labels, who argue that Charter's claims fall flat.


    Legal battles between copyright holders and Internet providers are not new. In most countries these disputes revolve around site blocking but, in the US, a different trend has emerged.


    Over the past years, several major ISPs have been sued for failing to terminate accounts of alleged repeat infringers.


    These lawsuits are serious business. Late last year, for example, Cox was found guilty by a jury that awarded a billion dollars in damages. While the judgment is being appealed, other ISPs are on high alert.


    This is also true for Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US. The company was sued last year by several major music companies, including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music, which argued that the ISP is liable for pirating subscribers.


    Last month Charter replied to the record labels’ complaint. In addition to denying many of the allegations, the ISP also went on the offensive. Charter submitted a
    accusing the labels of sending inaccurate DMCA takedown notices.


    The claim comes after the music companies removed 272 sound recordings and 183 music compositions from their initial complaint. These were dropped after the record labels were ordered to produce further evidence that they indeed owned the rights.


    Charter believes that the companies have sent many inaccurate takedown notices in the past. These notices reportedly cause damage to the ISP, which says it incurred costs and reputational damage by forwarding the “false accusations.”


    “Charter is injured when it processes inaccurate notices, causing it to forward false accusations to its subscribers, to the extent this creates tension with the impacted subscribers, negatively affects goodwill, and causes reputational harm to Charter,” the counterclaim reads.


    This could be a serious problem, especially since some of the claimed works were also used to calculate the damages in the Cox trial. However, the music companies now argue that the allegations don’t hold water and they, therefore, ask the court to dismiss the counterclaim.


    In a reply, received last week by the US District Court in Denver, Colorado, the music companies point out that under the DMCA, misrepresentation claims only hold up if the receiving party removed or disabled access to the infringing content.


    In this case, Charter didn’t. The ISP went on the record stating that it could not remove any content, or stop users from sharing any files.


    “Here, Charter does not allege that it removed or disabled access to any infringing material or activity identified in Plaintiffs’ notices. In fact, Charter concedes that it cannot remove infringing content, nor restrict its users’ access to it. Thus, no amendment could cure the deficiency, and the claim should be dismissed with prejudice,” the labels write.


    In addition, the labels point out that the ISP failed to state a claim. While mistakes may have happened while sending takedown notices, Charter has no evidence showing that the labels had “actual knowledge” of any misrepresentations, they counter.


    “Charter’s claim is based entirely on speculation arising from Plaintiffs’ decision in February 2020 to drop from this suit a few hundred of more than 11,400 copyrighted works included in their original complaint.


    “Charter also has not identified any material misrepresentation or a single infringement notice that it claims was inaccurate, as required,” the labels add.


    Finally, the music companies point out that the DMCA’s three-year statute of limitations has expired for Charter’s claims. The notices at issue were sent nearly four years ago, they point out.


    Based on these arguments, the labels ask the court to dismiss the ISP’s counterclaim. On top of that, they also want Charter’s request for a declaratory judgment on contributory liability dismissed.


    Both requests are now with the court which, in due course, will decide if Charter can move ahead with its case or if it will be tossed out.




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    [h=2]Huge Games Piracy Forum CS.RIN.RU Says Cash is Needed to Stay Online[/h]

    CS.RIN.RU is probably the largest forum dedicated to video games piracy on the planet. However, after a reported 17 years in operation, the site's sponsor has reportedly decided to stop funding the site. As a result, the gaming pirates' paradise will have to rely on user donations to keep going.


    People who regularly download movies and TV shows can do so with relative ease. Content is ripped at source by release groups and placed online with all protections removed. For video games pirates, things are more complex.


    Setting aside the often massive downloads and hours of unpacking, games then need to be ‘cracked’ which for the absolute novice user can be daunting, even when the necessary tools are provided. As a result, communities of video games pirates have thrived over the years, helping people to gain the knowledge required and, of course, share the latest games.


    Probably the largest in existence anywhere is Russia-based CS.RIN.RU, otherwise known as the Steam Underground Community. Somewhat counter-intuitively, the site isn’t really underground and can be viewed by anyone with a web browser. However, to gain access to the juicy stuff (links to many thousands of pirated games and the necessary cracks), users need to sign up. Huge numbers have.


    How many sign-in on a regular basis is unclear but the forum has in excess of 560,000 registered users and is the go-to platform for the latest releases. The site is hard moderated with staff mostly intolerant of anyone not sticking to the rules. As a result, however, it’s a valued source of titles sporting some of the most knowledgable video game pirates around.


    According to an announcement this morning, however, CS.RIN.RU is now entering unchartered waters. An administrator has revealed that after being sponsored for the last 17 years by the owner of
    Russian Information Network
    (RIN), a site dedicated to news and events in Russia, he can no longer afford to financially support the world’s largest games piracy forum.


    “Around this time last year, we moved to a new server so that the RIN owner could continue to afford hosting us and for various technical improvements. I have recently learned that he can no longer afford to renew our server’s subscription. Unfortunately, this was bound to happen sooner or later,” the announcement reads.


    “Due to our performance and security requirements, it is not possible to host this forum at just any provider or on anything less than a full dedicated server. In fact, our current dedicated server that was rented on a tight budget is already at its limits and significant efforts were put in to make it work. We will be moving to a new server at the beginning of May.”


    While the move to new hardware appears certain, things will have to change moving forward. CS.RIN.RU’s operators say that if the users want to keep the site online, they will have to cough up the money.


    “We, the staff, have put great thought into figuring out how to keep this forum online. Sadly, we have determined that we will not be able to finance the kind of hosting this forum requires by ourselves, even with the crappiest, bare-minimum server we could find. This means that come June, we have to rely on donations from you, the community,” the statement continues.


    “This is a significant announcement and we know that some of you will not agree with this step and truth be told, we don’t want to have ask this either, but we see no other way.”


    The operators of CS.RIN.RU aren’t asking for much. In fact, they estimate the overall costs to be around 1,200 euros per year to keep the community intact. However, like many piracy-focused sites that rely on donations, the big issue is how to receive that money from members without compromising the security of the people accepting the funds. As a result, cryptocurrency is the only available option.


    It’s doubtful that this will cause too many problems for the site but it will almost certainly reduce the number of donations from willing parties. Despite being able to successfully download games and cracks, some users seem reluctant to learn about cryptocurrency, even though they have the money to donate. However, world-famous repacker FitGirl thinks that it shouldn’t be a problem and is preparing to contribute.


    “People who still relies [sic] on fiat seem very strange to me. I’m using crypto for all my warez needs for YEARS. Not a single cent from my banks ever touched my hoster, my seedbox, my VPN. All is paid in crypto,” the piracy star wrote this morning.


    “It’s just as complex as PayPal in 2020. Once you setup it, it’s sooooooo easy to make payments and accept donations (in my case). Hope we will gather needed amount, will chip my part later today.”



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    [h=2]YouTube Fights Off Lawsuit Over ‘Retaliatory’ Copyright Strikes[/h]

    A California federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against YouTube over 'retaliatory' copyright strikes. DJ Short-E accused YouTube of failing to process DMCA counternotices after he threatened legal action. The court, however, concluded that YouTube rightfully terminated the DJ's account as it is not required to process counter-notices under the agreed terms of service.


    For many content creators of YouTube, copyright strikes are a major problem.


    When users receive three ‘strikes’, YouTube can remove all videos, take down the channel permanently, and prevent the creator from making any new ones.


    This is a significant threat for those who make a decent living off the video platform including Erik Mishiyev, aka
    DJ Short-E
    , who ran two popular YouTube channels totaling over 250,000 subscribers.


    This achievement earned him a “Silver Creator Award” and generated $310,000 in revenue over a period of five years. However, Mishiyev’s relationship with the video platform was far from rosy.


    Despite having over a quarter million subscribers, the DJ felt that the views of his videos were low when compared to similar channels. When some subscribers informed him that they received no alerts for new uploads, Mishiyev contacted YouTube support.


    This inquiry didn’t go well and ultimately resulted in the creator supposedly threatening to take legal action against the video giant. Soon after that happened, he reported being bombarded by copyright takedowns and strikes, which effectively shut down his channels.


    Mishiyev believes that these takedowns were retaliation for his legal threats. And when YouTube chose not to accept his DMCA counter-notices – which he sent in an attempt to get rid of the strikes –
    he took YouTube to court


    In a complaint filed at a federal court in California last summer, the YouTuber demanded $720,000 in compensation for lost income, among other things. In addition, he wanted to prevent YouTube from ever banning him again.


    At the center of the lawsuit is a breach of contract claim. Mishiyev argued that YouTube failed to live up to its duties as it failed to process his DMCA counter-notices, a point contested by the video giant.


    In a response filed a few weeks ago, YouTube noted that its Terms of Service allows the company to remove any content “without prior notice” and “in its sole discretion.” This agreement allows the company not to restore a video following a copyright claim, even when it is challenged.


    “YouTube has no obligation to ever restore that material to its service, even when a user protests, and the agreement expressly highlights its discretion not to do so,” YouTube informed the court.


    In other words, YouTube doesn’t have to restore content after it receives a counter-notice. It can simply ignore it, based on the agreed terms of service.


    This is also the conclusion reached by the court. In an order released last month, US District Court Judge William Alsup notes that users are given the opportunity to submit counter-notifications but Google is not required to act on them.


    “[O]nce a user submitted a counter-notice, the agreement reserved to YouTube’s sole discretion the decision to take any further action, including whether to restore the videos or even to send the counternotice to the purported copyright owner,” Judge Alsup wrote.


    “Thus, YouTube did not agree to act as a neutral processor of notices and counter-notices. YouTube retained control to evaluate counter-notices and infringement on its own.”


    Mishiyev didn’t go into detail on what grounds the notices were inaccurate. The main claim was that the videos were ‘struck’ by YouTube as retaliation. However, even if that’s true, YouTube is still not in the wrong for terminating the account.


    “Even taking the retaliation allegations as true, however, the complaint fails to overcome YouTube’s express right to terminate plaintiff’s account for repeat copyright infringement,” Judge Alsup notes.


    Based on these and several other arguments, the Judge granted YouTube’s request to dismiss the complaint. While that’s good news for the video service, the legal battle isn’t completely over yet.


    by Reclaim The Net, Mishiyev, aka DJ Short-E, has appealed the decision at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals




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    [h=2]MPA and BREIN Sue Hosting Providers Over Pirate Streaming Service[/h]

    The MPA and anti-piracy group BREIN are suing three Dutch hosting providers who offered services to the large streaming piracy CDN Moonwalk. Through this legal action the groups want to compel Serverius, Worldstream, and YISP to keep the CDN offline and hand over crucial evidence associated with the alleged piracy activity.


    Moonwalk was a massive pirate streaming operation that offered tens of thousands of pirated movies and TV-shows to more than 100 million end-users.


    Despite its size, it was largely unknown to the public at large. It wasn’t a classic streaming piracy site. Instead, it operated as a middleman, offering a library of pirated content to hundreds of pirate sites that could embed their videos for free.


    This activity wasn’t apparent to the casual pirate site user, but anti-piracy groups were well aware of it. After carefully researching the operation, the Motion Picture Association, together with Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN,
    took action last fall


    The two industry groups did so by going after the hosting companies. In October, BREIN and MPA obtained
    ex-parte orders from a Dutch Court ordering three local hosting providers to disconnect Moonwalk’s servers while preserving essential evidence.


    This did indeed happen, and from one day to the next, hundreds of pirate sites lost access to their video host. While several of these eventually returned, BREIN and the MPA believe that 25 streaming sites ceased operating permanently.


    Despite this success, the
    have yet to identify the operators. In addition, they also want access to any evidence that can help them to investigate the case further, including information on the 283 streaming sites that used Moonwalk.


    The two groups tried to get this information from the hosting providers in question:
    , and
    . While the hosts helped to take Moonwalk offline in response to the ex-parte court order, further cooperation was reportedly lacking.


    “[T]he providers have not or not fully complied with the requested delivery of identifying company data. In cases where data were provided, these were found to be false or not traceable,” BREIN notes.


    In an attempt to legally oblige the three hosting companies to share more evidence and act more diligently going forward, BREIN and the MPA are taking them to court in the Netherlands.


    “BREIN is now progressing in a collective action, including the continuation of the closure and inspection of the seized documents with company data,” the group writes.


    legal paperwork
    provides a detailed overview of the case including Moonwalk’s infrastructure. Among other things, BREIN and the MPA retained the forensic anti-piracy services of
    , to see how and where it operated from.


    This led to a list of IP-addresses, which were connected to the three hosting companies. The majority were linked to Worldstream and YISP, while ten IP-addresses were hosted at Serverius, through two resellers.


    Serverius has handed over some data but doesn’t want to press their resellers for further information. YISP has also shared some details but is generally reluctant to share more evidence. Worldstream, for its part, categorically refuses to hand over customer details over privacy concerns.


    Through their legal action, BREIN and the MPA are requesting an order to compel Worldstream and YISP to share all seized material and information relating to Moonwalk and its customers. In addition, the anti-piracy groups seek an order requiring the hosting companies to keep Moonwalk offline.


    The copyright holder groups also want to confirm what the obligations of third-party services are when it comes to alleged copyright infringements. Among other things, to clarify what information they have to share.


    “BREIN also requests a declaration of justice with regard to a number of obligations with regard to the enforcement of intellectual property law. On the one hand because of the refusal of the defendants to voluntarily provide relevant company data and on the other hand because of their structural failure to take adequate measures to have reliable data,” the request reads.


    The need for accurate information is exemplified in the Moonwalk case. For example, YISP did share some personal details of Russian residents who were supposedly linked to Moonwalk, but these turned out to be false.


    BREIN sent investigators to Russia and found that one address pointed to a jobless man in an apartment complex. This man was not technically skilled and the sole computer he owns is only used by his wife. Another lead identified a woman in Kyiv, who had no clue about Moonwalk either.


    In the grander scheme, the present legal action aims to set clear guidelines on what type of information hosting companies should collect and share. Ideally, hosting companies should make sure that their customers are all verified.


    “BREIN intends to encourage defendants and comparable hosting providers to provide BREIN exclusively with verified company data of their customers and to set up their administration, general terms and conditions and company policy accordingly,” the anti-piracy outfit writes.


    The current case is expected to have a broader impact on other Dutch and European hosting companies. BREIN and the MPA aren’t shying away from a thorough legal battle that could go all the way up to the Supreme Court, and they also note that the EU Court of Justice may have to weigh in on some issues.


    As such, this lawsuit is about much more than Moonwalk alone. While the pirate CDN is an immediate target, future rulings could set the tone for copyright enforcement measures in the years to come.



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    [h=2]Photographer Sues NBCUniversal Demanding Millions For Copyright Infringement[/h]

    New York-based photographer Mark Seliger has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against NBCUniversal demanding millions of dollars in damages. Seliger is known for his high-quality portraits, many of which, according to his complaint, were reproduced by NBCUniversal-owned celebrity gossip site E! without the necessary permission.


    When reviewing the many lawsuits filed against pirate site operators over the years, it’s not unusual to see damages claims running into the tens of millions of dollars. This is largely due to the scale of the alleged infringement and the number of copyrighted works involved.


    In recent years many photographers have also sought to enforce their rights, sometimes filing lawsuits for a single image or video, such as in the recent case against Kendall Jenner. However, a case just filed against Comcast-owned NBCUniversal could run to pirate site-levels of damages.


    Filed in a New York district court this week by
    Mark Seliger
    , the complaint (and subsequent amended complaint) alleges that NBCUniversal Media-owned gossip portal Eonline.com (E!) reproduced the photographer’s famous portraits without permission.


    “Seliger is an accomplished and critically acclaimed photographer. His works have appeared in Rolling Stone, GQ, Vogue, and Vanity Fair and he has authored numerous album covers, books, and short films,” the complaint begins.


    “He has also created photography in collaboration with global brands like Netflix, Levi’s, and Ralph Lauren. He has won numerous awards, including the Clio Grand Prix and the Cannes Lions Grand Prix, and his works are part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the National Portrait Gallery in London.”


    Presenting dozens of iconic celebrity portraits owned by the photographer, the complaint lists page after page of URLs on Eonline.com which allegedly carry these copyrighted works, including those depicting Miley Cyrus, Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Nicky Minaj, Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lopez, Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan, Amy Schumer, Bradley Cooper, Katie Holmes, to name just a few.




    “Defendants, and each of them, have willfully copied, reproduced, displayed, and distributed the Subject Photography for financial benefit and without Plaintiff’s consent, at and on websites bearing the URLs depicted in Exhibit B hereto,” the complaint notes, adding: “Plaintiff did not consent to said use of the Subject Photography.”


    Seliger alleges that the NBCUniversal-owned publication (plus Does 1-10) accessed the copyrighted works from locations such as his website and social media, copied and then reproduced them at the dozens of Eonline.com URLs listed in the complaint. There are many, which means that this lawsuit has the potential, at least on paper, to become extremely expensive for NBCUniversal should the court rule in the photographer’s favor.


    Alleging “willful, intentional and malicious” direct copyright infringement, Seliger demands statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement. A second claim for relief, alleging vicarious and/or contributory copyright infringement, demands the same amount per individual breach of US copyright law.


    A third claim states that Seliger’s works are “routinely published with attribution, credit, and other copyright management information” which identify him as the creator. According to the lawsuit, the defendants removed this information and/or added false information before distributing online the photographs online. Citing violations of
    17 U.S.C. § 1202(a)
    , the photographer demands unspecified additional damages.


    As per the standard in these cases, Seliger further demands an injunction preventing the defendants from continuing to infringe his rights plus costs, attorneys’ fees, and a trial by jury.





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    [h=2]The Pirate Bay Blocked By MalwareBytes But Normal Service Will Be Resumed[/h]

    The Pirate Bay returned to the clear web this week after a month-long hiatus. However, the structure of the infamous torrent index presented an access problem to users of the popular anti-malware software MalwareBytes, which persistently blocked an essential element of the platform due to the presence of "a few" cryptocurrency miners on a secondary domain.


    Once upon a time, prolonged downtime at The Pirate Bay was greeted by wails of concern. Many of the site’s users would naturally presume the worst, that the site had been raided and shut down once again.


    In recent years, however, persistent downtime has been a common occurrence that has gradually become the norm. That’s quite possibly a result of the pressure the site finds itself under on a daily basis, i.e constantly ensuring that it doesn’t succumb to the kinds of raids and anti-piracy actions that have hindered it in the past.


    That being said, over the last several weeks downtime for regular users has been considerable. While mainly accessible via its .onion address via the Tor network, the clear web variant of the site only returned this week after
    roughly a month
    of downtime.


    Nevertheless, the return wasn’t straightforward. While anyone with a basic browser setup could access the site as normal, some with a less basic setup – especially in respect of security measures – still had problems accessing the site. Users of the security software MalwareBytes were prevented from accessing any torrents whatsoever, for example.


    The problem lay in The Pirate Bay’s setup. Aside from cosmetic changes to some pages, the site sends requests to another domain (apibay.org) in order to present torrents to the user on thepiratebay.org. However, those accessing the main domain with Malwarebytes installed were greeted with blank torrent pages after the security software blocked apibay.org.




    Any warning of this type, especially concerning trojans, should be of concern to users of any site. However, dumping trojans on users hasn’t been the modus operandi of The Pirate Bay thus far, so TorrentFreak contacted Malwarebytes to find out what was causing the alert.


    Manager of WebProtection Labs at MalwareBytes Andres Ortiz informs TorrentFreak that the issue was caused by the presence of “a few” cryptocurrency miners, not on thepiratebay.org, but on a sub-directory of apibay.org, the domain from where TPB appears to present its torrent results. The
    for just one example miner is shown below.




    After examining the apibay.org domain once again, MalwareBytes has now confirmed that the miners have been removed so in response, they will push an update to their users to stop TPB’s indexes from being blocked moving forward. However, if any party reintroduces the miners, it’s certainly possible that the site will be rendered inaccessible once again.


    The Pirate Bay first introduced a coin miner
    back in 2017
    as a way to generate additional revenue. At the time it was
    it could potentially generate around $12,000 per month from users’ CPU cycles.



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    [h=2]Charter’s Request to Dismiss Piracy Liability Allegations Fails[/h]

    Charter's request to dismiss the vicarious piracy liability claims of several major music companies has failed. The ISP argued that it doesn't directly profit from copyright-infringing subscribers and that it has no ability to control them. However, these arguments didn't convince the court, which denied the motion, noting that Charter could certainly have done more.


    Charter Communications, one of the largest Internet providers in the US, stands accused of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.


    Several music companies including Capitol Records, Warner Bros. and Sony Music
    filed a lawsuit
    last year arguing that the ISP failed to terminate or otherwise take meaningful action against the accounts of repeat infringers.


    The ISP objected and filed a motion at a Colorado federal court, asking it to
    dismiss the claim of vicarious copyright infringement
    . Charter argued that it doesn’t directly profit from pirating subscribers, nor does it have the ability to control them.


    Previously, other Internet providers have been successful in getting vicarious infringement claims dropped, but Charter’s attempt failed. In an order released this week, US District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson denied the motion to dismiss.


    Judge Jackson follows an earlier
    from Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty. Charter objected to this recommendation and was backed by an amicus curiae brief from
    23 law professors
    . However, their arguments failed to convince the cour.


    Among other things, Charter argued that it didn’t profit more from pirating subscribers than from non-pirates. Judge Jackson doesn’t dispute this, but stresses that it’s enough to show that there’s a financial benefit.


    “I find no case, and Charter has provided no case, suggesting that Charter must have benefited more from infringing subscribers than from non-infringing subscribers, or that the infringing subscribers paid more than non-infringing subscribers,” Judge Jackson writes.


    The ISP also countered that the option that its services can be used for piracy wasn’t the primary “draw” for prospective subscribers. Again, the Judge waves this argument noting that, at this stage, it’s enough to show that piracy was a draw.


    “Plaintiffs must only allege that the ability to download their infringing content served as a draw, not necessarily the only draw to subscribers. I find that plaintiffs’ allegations are sufficient to show that the ability to download infringing content served as a draw.”


    In addition to the ‘profit’ and ‘draw’ elements, the music companies also argued that Charter has the ability to supervise and control the activity of pirating subscribers. This is another requirement to prove vicarious infringement.


    The ISP disagreed and pointed out that it can’t identify and police pirating subscribers. Even if it would terminate users based on third-party allegations, these people could simply move to another provider and continue, it argued.


    Again, Judge Jackson wasn’t convinced. He stresses that it’s irrelevant what users would do at other ISPs and believes that Charter could certainly take action against some infringing subscribers.


    “Plaintiffs only seek to hold Charter liable for infringement that occurs through the use of Charter’s services, not all infringement that occurs on the internet,” Judge Jackson writes.


    “Charter can certainly limit its subscribers’ ability to infringe by blocking their access to the internet through Charter. I find that this is sufficient to allege that Charter has the ability to control infringement,” he adds


    All in all, the Judge sides with the earlier recommendation to deny Charter’s motion to dismiss. This means that the ISP will have to face the vicarious infringement charges. The claim for contributory copyright infringement also remains, as that wasn’t part of the motion to dismiss.


    A few weeks ago Charter countersued the music companies
    for sending inaccurate takedown notices
    . This matter is still on the Judge’s desk and will be decided in due course.




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    [h=2]Vicious Headbutt Video Meets Bogus DMCA Notices and the Streisand Effect[/h]

    A man from the US became a hero last year when a video of him subduing a man who had headbutted someone in the face went viral. The video has been reposted numerous times since but is regularly taken down following bogus copyright complaints. However, the censorship efforts massively backfired this week when someone tried to delete a Reddit thread using a DMCA anti-circumvention notice. Duh...


    For as long as people have been able to share decent-sized videos online, there have been clips of people willingly punching each other in the face. This is commonly known as a ‘fight’ and they can be quite entertaining, under the right circumstances.


    Some people, however, like to violently attack seemingly innocent parties over the most trivial of things. This is known as ‘assault’ and is never acceptable under any circumstances. That brings us to the horrible yet remarkable events surrounding an incident in 2019 that began awfully, was dealt with heroically and, by some twists of fate, ended up here on TF in a copyright shitstorm.


    Last summer, Steve Heflin was on business in Fort Lauderdale to interview prospective employee Mark with a view to hiring him as a new salesman for his Internet infrastructure company. Things went well over dinner and the pair decided to go to a local bar where they first encountered “two guys in suits” sitting at the bar. Steve tells us that after one left the other was involved in a dispute and was asked by the management to leave. Things didn’t go well.


    Due to the apparent level of intoxication, the valet wouldn’t return “drunk guy’s” keys, informing him that his car would be safe where it was parked and he should get an Uber home instead. There was an altercation and the valet ended up hiding behind the manager. The confrontation escalated and as can be seen in the video embedded below, something pretty awful happened to the first person in line.


    Those who can’t stomach violence probably shouldn’t click. For those that do, Steve is the guy that deals with the assailant to ensure he can’t hurt anyone else – including himself. Mark is the guy who steps in to help later on.


    “Not gonna lie – it was surreal,” Steve told TorrentFreak this week. “If I didn’t see the video myself, I would never be able to tell you how I took him down. It was all so fast. I told him to calm down, he swung and next thing you know, we are on the ground. I really was shocked to see it all! Still strange to this day.”


    In various edits, this video has been seen by countless thousands of people since last year. Steve has been hailed a hero for the way he handled the situation, receiving positive comments from people who watched the video on platforms including YouTube, Reddit, Vimeo, Facebook, and more.


    However, those looking
    for the video
    today (Steve provided this copy on a private YouTube link) won’t find it so easily. That’s because (surprise, surprise) someone has been abusing the DMCA to have the content removed.


    “I started getting messages from Reddit about me violating copyright laws and using copyrighted content. YouTube – same thing. Viral content advertisers were pinging me asking me for the rights to the video to make it more viral and split the money. I declined them all,” Steve explained.




    As the image above shows, the video – that was
    himself eight months ago (he earned various awards and a custom flair for his trouble) – was removed by Reddit’s legal team because they received a copyright complaint.


    Another thread on Reddit, created by someone else but referencing the same video, received a further round of attention after being reposted on the platform. As can be
    seen here
    , however, that was also subjected to a copyright complaint. Any other subs that linked to the content (
    such as /r/bjj
    ) were also denied access following the takedowns.


    This pattern continued wherever the video was posted but due to the lack of transparency in respect of who claimed the video as their own, it’s not easy to see who filed the copyright complaints on sites like Reddit, for example. However,
    DMCA complaints
    filed with Vimeo
    published on the Lumen Database
    actually lists the name of the sender.


    According to Steve, it matches the name of the guy he took down in the video.




    This raises a number of issues, which need to be looked at closely. Could this be someone impersonating “drunk guy”, taking down videos in his name in order to ‘help’ in some way? Perhaps. Could this be the guy himself filing these notices? Also possible but he would need to obtain the copyrights first. Steve says that’s unlikely.


    As the video clearly shows, the assailant did not record the video himself since at the time he was either headbutting someone in the face or having his face ground into the floor. In fact, the video was taken by someone else – a woman – who happily handed over a copy to Steve upon request.


    A crucial point here is that the existence of the video – which someone is now trying to erase from history – was potentially an absolute life-saver for Steve because after the police took the assailant away, they returned with some pretty serious allegations.


    “So by now someone had bought me a beer (my third of the night so I am very sober) and the cops come back inside and want to talk to me. I figure it is a normal Q&A about the incident. Nope. They are asking me who I am with and where my friends are and why I sucker-punched [the assailant],” Steve explained.


    “I was like – what? The cop says well, [the assailant] said you and TEN of your friends jumped him and then I sucker-punched him when he wasn’t looking. So now I am on the defense because they want to take me in! Everyone starts chiming in at the same time about what really happened and it is overload with so many people talking.


    “Then this one woman plainly says ‘Do you want to see the video?’ I turned and looked at her and said, ‘You took a video?'”


    The unavoidable conclusion here is that witness accounts aside, the video proved who was in the wrong and Steve was allowed to go on his way. It’s a piece of evidence recorded by an accidental citizen journalist, evidence that is now being subjected to DMCA complaint after DMCA complaint in an effort to disappear what happened that day.


    That, conveniently, leads us to the headline of this article, which wouldn’t have even been written if it hadn’t been for this icing on the cake. On April 9, 2020, an entity describing itself as ‘
    ‘ filed DMCA complaints with Google (
    ) in an effort to have a new thread, referencing a new posting of the video on Reddit, deleted from its indexes.


    One was a standard DMCA takedown notice. The other was a highly dubious effort to have another URL removed on the basis that it breaches the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.




    The massive irony here is that if this latest misguided effort to remove the video hadn’t been filed with Google this week, this entire episode would’ve flown under the radar without piquing our interest. Instead, the anti-circumvention notice stuck out like a sore thumb and led us down this inglorious Streisand-Effect rabbit hole.


    The big question now is whether the notice-sender, whoever they may be, will continue in their quest to remove the video – a video they have no right to remove and is only likely to get posted in more and more places in response to the notices.


    Whatever happens, Steve isn’t bitter about the events of that night, or the person he had to deal with.


    “I truly have nothing against him,” he told us. “I mean, he thought my name was really Denarius…duh. I’m sure we would not get along if we knew each other….that’s no big deal. But what if I saved a life or him from a bad accident, if not that night then another? If no one humbled him and he continued to be a drunk douche? I think of those things.”



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    [h=2]Copyright Holders Have to ‘Resend’ Millions of Pirate Bay Takedown Notices[/h]

    The Pirate Bay's main domain returned with a new look last week. While the changes are relatively small, they are a source of frustration for some users. Copyright holders are perhaps even less pleased with the makeover. They now have to resend millions of takedown notices as the notorious pirate site has a new URL structure.


    After several weeks of absence,
    The Pirate Bay became accessible again
    through its main .org domain last weekend.


    At first sight the site looked more or less the same but there are some significant changes, both under the hood and in appearance.


    Many users immediately noticed that the site doesn’t work well with several ad blockers. Whether this is a bug or a feature is the question, but it was both frustrating and annoying for some.


    “Your adblock may block important javascript components, check that main.js is loaded or the webpage won’t work,” a message on The Pirate Bay warns. And indeed, whilelisting this file appears to resolve the problem.




    The Pirate Bay’s search results are also presented differently. While it’s still possible to order by date, size, seeders, and leechers, that’s
    not immediately obvious to everyone
    . Again, this was cause for some confusion.


    It’s safe to say that every new design comes with drawbacks and other changes people have to get used to. However, there’s also a structural change that will be harder to overcome, one that mostly affects copyright holders.


    With the new Pirate Bay design also comes a new URL structure. Instead of the old torrent pages that were accessible through
    thepiratebay.org/torrent/12345, the format has now changed to


    Other URLs, including categories, the top lists, and user pages, all updated as well. To give another example, the 100 most-active torrents on the site can now be accessed from
    thepiratebay.org/search.php?q=top100:all, instead of the old


    For users, this isn’t a problem. All old links simply redirect to new ones. However, for copyright holders, it’s an outright disaster as it means that they will have to resend all their takedown notices. And we’re not talking about a few thousand here, but many millions.


    Looking at Google’s transparency report we see that copyright holders have asked the search engine to remove more than
    five million URLs
    . Pretty much all of these notices have been rendered useless.


    For example, this
    2012 takedown notice
    from Paramount Pictures removed the link to The Pirate Bay’s top 100 video torrents. However, after the update, the same page reappeared under a new URL. Another consideration is that Google is just one search engine, so the same applies to other search engines too.




    While that’s already quite bad, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the millions of URLs of thepiratebay.org, there are also hundreds of millions of Pirate Bay proxy URLs that have changed. All the notices for these sites have to be resent as well.




    While search engines need time to pick up all the new links, the first takedown notices are already trickling in. As shown above, this also includes proxy sites.


    It is safe to say that The Pirate Bay’s updates are having a more significant impact than it may seem at first sight. While it’s not entirely clear what motivated the changes, they are likely intended to make the site operate more smoothly.


    At the time of writing, however, there are still some issues. Comments are not working, for example, and the Tor site is also offline. We tried to get more info from the Pirate Bay team, but thus far we have yet to hear back.


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    Book Piracy Scandal at Australian Govt. Could Trigger Police Referral

    Today, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull published his memoir 'A Bigger Picture'. Interestingly, many of his former political rivals and allies have already received a pirated copy of the book over the past few days. This massive unauthorized sharing infuriated the book's publisher, which will refer the matter to the police.

    Music and video piracy grab most headlines, but there’s also a thriving market for pirated copies of books.

    Due to their small size, ebooks can be passed around without much trouble. With a file size of just a few megabytes, at most, they can easily be attached to an email.

    This is also what happened with the memoir of former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Although the official release is today, the book was being sent round en masse over the weekend, reaching the highest levels of Australian politics.

    While it’s understandable that Turnbull’s former colleagues want to read all the juicy details first, they are not allowed to. Passing around copies of the book without permission is considered piracy, that’s something lawmakers should be well aware of.

    After discovering the unauthorized sharing, Turnbull and his publisher Hardie Grant, decided to take action. They identified a top adviser of Scott Morrison, the current prime minister, as one of the senders.

    The publisher reportedly alerted its law firm which sent the advisor a cease and desist notice accusing him of sending pirated copies of the book to dozens of people over email.

    “It has occurred on a massive scale. Further, that you are encouraging others to also distribute it. Such an act is calculated to cause irreparable harm and damage to my clients,” the notice, reported by The Age, reads.

    The law firm urged the advisor to immediately stop this infringing activity and save all related communication for future investigation. This includes potential legal action.

    “My clients will be proceeding against this malicious conduct and infringement of copyright immediately,” the publisher’s law firm wrote.

    The strong language caused shockwaves across the highest echelons of Australian politics, with even the prime minister himself being asked to comment on the unusual piracy allegations.

    While the current prime minister hasn’t personally commented, his advisor, identified by the Guardian as Nico Louw, did respond. Louw reportedly apologized for sharing a pirated copy of the memoir to 59 people.

    The pirated book also became a hot topic at ABC’s political discussion program Insiders. There, Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne said she “received and deleted” a copy herself, encouraging others “to do the same thing.”

    This comment piqued the interest of the book’s publisher, especially because the minister refuses to say who sent her the book. Sandy Grant, a chief executive at the publisher, suggested they might even subpoena politicians to get more details.

    The publisher wants to get to the bottom of the matter and Grant said they plan to make a referral to the Australian Federal Police.

    “When I watch a senior government minister saying they received stolen goods but can’t help us know where they came from, you despair,” Grant said, quoted by SMH.

    “The bookshops in their electorates are closed or struggling, our staff are working reduced hours or being stood down and they seem to see that theft as something they can ignore. Would they ignore someone stealing from the local servo?” he added.

    It’s clear that many details are still missing from this story, but perhaps the subpoenas and a police investigation could fill in some gaps.

    The publisher of the memoir sees itself as a victim here, which is understandable. However, it’s not all bad news. The piracy scandal is being picked up in mainstream media outlets throughout Australia, which is priceless free advertising.

    Source: Torrentfreak.com

    Edited by Amias
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    MPA Doesn’t Want Kenya to Simply Copy the DMCA, It Should Do Better

    The Motion Picture Association sees a potential trade deal between the US and Kenya as a good opportunity to introduce more innovative and effective anti-piracy measures. Instead of simply copying the DMCA, Kenya could do better, perhaps by implementing a staydown policy and limiting safe harbors for online services.

    For more than a decade, countries around the world have mimicked United States policies regarding copyright infringement.

    The DMCA, which refers to the 1999 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, has become the standard for how rightsholders and online services deal with pirated content.

    While many believe that this is still sufficient, in recent years criticism has swelled. Many prominent copyright holders believe that the DMCA is ineffective, as removed content can reappear a day later. In addition, they feel that online services use the law as a shield to profit from copyright infringements.

    This critique of the DMCA has now led to a situation where some of the largest media companies advise foreign governments not to copy US copyright law. This is also the message the Motion Picture wants to send to Kenya.

    In a letter, addressed to the US Trade Representative (USTR), which is currently considering a new trade deal with the African country, the movie industry group notes that exporting US copyright law might not always be a good thing.

    Anissa Brennan, who’s the Senior Vice President International Affairs and Trade Policy at the MPA, stresses that simply copying the DMCA isn’t going to cut it. Instead, a trade deal should include more effective anti-piracy measures.

    “With regard to online enforcement, a U.S.-Kenya agreement should include disciplines that can effectively address online piracy. This means moving away from a rote recitation of Section 512 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” Brennan writes (pdf).

    “Rather, we recommend moving to highlevel language that reflects the fundamental principles of the DMCA. Such an approach would be fully consistent with U.S. law and create some policy space for Kenya to be innovative in its approach to online piracy.”

    Or put differently, the MPA wants Kenya to implement copyright legislation that’s more strict or effective than the US has in place.

    What the more ‘innovative’ approach looks like isn’t explained in detail. However, the Hollywood group previously advocated in favor of “staydown” policies, where online services have to make sure that infringing content or links don’t resurface.

    In addition, the MPA also argued in favor of ‘proactive’ measures against infringing content, which hints at upload filters. At the same time, legislation should make it easier to hold online services liable for infringing users, instead of offering the DMCA’s broad ‘safe harbor’ protections.

    The MPA has lobbied US lawmakers for similar changes. While Congress is currently reviewing the DMCA, no concrete changes have been suggested yet. With their letter, the MPA suggests that Kenya could be a pioneer in this area.

    While the DMCA is no longer seen as sufficient, the MPA does urge the African country to implement another US copyright policy that has become a global standard. That is, a copyright term of the author’s life plus 70 years, which is substantially longer than the current 50-year term.

    “A U.S.-Kenya agreement should reflect the global consensus on term of protection for copyrighted works which is life of the author plus 70 years and a comparable term for works measured by date of publication,” the MPA writes.

    In addition, there are various other proposed changes, including statutory damages for copyright infringement, as well as the option to issue injunctions against third-party services in copyright lawsuits.

    Whether any of these changes will make their way into potential new trade agreements remains to be seen. During the negotiation phase of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement there were also repeated calls not to copy the DMCA language, but those proved to be unsuccessful.


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    Russia Plans to Block Access to ‘Pirate’ Apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store

    Russia is planning action against apps that facilitate access to pirated content. If app developers don't quickly respond to a request from authorities to cease distribution of their software, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor will demand action against platforms such as Google Play and Apple's App Store. Failure to respond could result in ISP blockades.

    Site-blocking is one of the entertainment industries’ preferred tools for dealing with the spread of unlicensed content.

    Operated in dozens of countries around the world and currently being championed as an effective anti-piracy solution for the United States, site-blocking is not only controversial but also struggles to keep up with piracy innovations.

    When file-sharing hit the mainstream, it was via software clients such as Napster, Kazaa and LimeWire. After traversing through torrent clients it then hit the web, with people more likely to stream or download from a site using a browser. Over the past few years, however, part of the market came full circle, with dedicated piracy apps gaining in popularity once again.

    While these pieces of software are usually downloaded from websites, they are effectively aggregators pulling content from a wide range of third-party platforms. It is technically possible to block all of those platforms to prevent apps from working but Russia now wants to deny access to the apps themselves.

    According to draft amendments to copyright law reviewed by Kommersant, the plan is for telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor to contact app developers/owners with a request for them to cease distribution of their infringing tools. They will be expected to respond positively and quickly, within a day.

    In the event that fails, Roscomnadzor will then turn to the entity that “ensures the placement of the application”, i.e websites, distribution platforms etc. If no action is taken there, they could find themselves subjected to ISP blocking instead.

    According to Karen Ghazaryan, leading analyst at the Russian Association for Electronic Communications (RAEC), services such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store will be covered by the legislation.

    While some will view blocking of legitimate platforms as draconian, there doesn’t appear to be any desire to block entire sites after a failure to restrict access to infringing apps. Instead, the proposed blocking is at least intended to be precise, targeting the specific locations where the apps can be found.

    Whether that will be possible or whether over-blocking will raise its head again is unclear but Ghazaryn is concerned by the development and questions whether it is needed at all. Faced with copyright or trademark complaints, official platforms already remove applications from their stores.

    Nevertheless, Alexei Byrdin of anti-piracy group Internet Video Association suggests that such distributors should also face sanctions for failing to respond.

    “It’s worth expanding the ways of influencing aggregators so that they really respond, for example, provide for significant fines – such as those in place for search engines for not deleting links to pirated resources,” he told Kommersant.

    It’s certainly possible the government is hoping to tackle a broader range of distribution mechanisms other than Google Play or the App Store, however. When applications are denied distribution on the larger services, they tend to get pushed out to file-hosting platforms and third-party websites, which can also be blocked.

    That being said, pirate apps are typically quite small so they can also be distributed via email or chat applications. Those mechanisms are hard or even impossible to block but restricting access to the masses is probably the pragmatic goal of the legislation, not eradicating the apps completely.


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    Streaming Site Nites.TV Gets ‘Seized’ After Going Viral, But Questions Remain

    Movie and TV show streaming site Nites.tv hit the mainstream during the past few weeks, with news sites on several continents reporting on the platform seemingly out of nowhere. Now, however, the site is redirecting to the anti-piracy portal of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment after an apparent seizure. Strangely, a number of things don't add up.

    Every month new pirate sites appear online, hoping to be the next big thing. Many fall by the wayside, having fizzled out in what is already an extremely crowded marketplace.

    To gain traction, sites need to offer something different, either through innovation or by polishing existing experiences to stand out as a desirable alternative. Seemingly out of nowhere, movie and TV show streaming platform Nites.tv seemed to hit the bullseye recently by offering high-quality content with little fuss.

    After registering its domain in the summer of 2019, Nites.tv was slow to get off the mark but starting October its traffic began loosely doubling every few weeks and by January 2020, according to SimilarWeb stats, was receiving around 350,000 visitors per month.

    In overall terms, this isn’t huge amounts of traffic for a pirate streaming platform but there can be no doubt that, among its users, Nites.tv was considered a desirable platform. With a clean interface and large library of content, given more time it could have grown into something particularly notable. But then things began to get a little unusual.

    Around a week ago, a number of news sites around the world began publishing stories about Nites.tv. In the UK, for example, The Sun ran a feature on the platform, explaining what it offers and questioning whether it was legal or not.

    While Nites.tv is clearly not legal, the fact that The Sun wrote about a relatively obscure site with no news angle whatsoever was unusual in itself but the publication did point to a large number of recommendations on social media in its opening paragraphs.

    Over in Asia, an Indonesian news site also mentioned increased discussion about the site online and felt sufficiently curious to refer the matter to the country’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology for comment.

    The existence of Nites.tv also came to the attention of Israeli news publication Ynet, which reported that the streaming platform was being heavily promoted on social networks including Twitter and Whatsapp messages. According to the publication, the messages on Whatsapp were noticed by security company ESET, which issued a warning about not clicking random links in messages in case they carry something nefarious.

    Ynet speculated that the interest in Nites.tv may have been boosted as a result of people sitting home bored due to the coronavirus and looking for something to watch. Supporting this theory, a Reddit user reported that a Facebook campaign promoting the site stated that “USA has made all this content free during lockdown”, which of course is absolute nonsense.

    Then yesterday, completely out of the blue, visitors to Nites.tv were greeted with an unpleasant surprise. Instead of all the latest movies and TV shows available for immediate streaming in high-quality, they were presented with the familiar ‘seizure’ notice of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), the global anti-piracy coalition that has taken down similar sites for breaches of copyright infringement.

    This, of course, piqued our interest. We have covered dozens of these actions in the past and have become fairly familiar with how these things play out. Following a credible threat from ACE, sites tend to go dark for a while and then later, when some type of agreement has been reached with site operators, their domains are handed over to the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

    Seized domains are subsequently redirected to the ACE anti-piracy portal but that traditional pattern doesn’t appear to have been replicated here.

    We can’t rule out that ACE has filed a complaint against the site and it remains possible that the site owner responded immediately by voluntarily redirecting his domains (nites.tv, nites.cz, nites.ac) to the ACE portal. However, the owners of the domains aren’t currently listed as the MPA (as they mostly are) and their nameservers remain with Cloudflare, not the nameservers operated by the MPA that usually serve seized domains.

    That leads us to another piece of the puzzle. Yesterday, around the time the Nites domains began redirecting to ACE, the official Nites Twitter account put up a poll, requesting feedback from site users as to how the platform should operate moving forward.

    As things stand, very little of the above seems normal. The media attention isn’t in proportion to the size of the site and a pirate site campaign on WhatsApp is almost unheard of. Furthermore, the ‘seizure’ indicators don’t add up either, especially when combined with an immediate user outreach to determine where the site goes next.

    One to watch from a distance perhaps, at least for now.


    Edited by Amias
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    Linkvertise Threatens to Sue Universal Bypass over Copyright Infringement

    Universal Bypass is a popular browser extension that circumvents annoying URL shorteners and trackers. While this is a blessing for the public at large, the outfits behind URL shorteners and the people who use them to make money are not happy. Linkvertise made this very clear to the Universal Bypass developer, threatening him with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

    The Internet offers a wealth of free information and entertainment, often monetized by advertisements.

    Ads come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from classy commercials, through annoying banners, all the way to malicious ads.

    In recent years, URL shorteners with built-in monetization tools have been added to the mix. Services such as AdFly, Adshrink, Linkvertise, and Shrinkearn pay hard cash for directing links through their ads.

    The services allow people to make easy money, which sounds great, but it’s also a major annoyance for everyone else. This is why developer Tim Speckhals, aka ‘Sainan‘, came up with an easy tool to circumvent these redirects: Universal Bypass.

    “I was annoyed by those sorts of sites and hadn’t seen an extension of that type, so I thought I’d fill that niché,” Speckhals tells TorrentFreak. Fast forward two years and this idea turned into one of the most-loved browser extensions.

    Universal Bypass is now used by hundreds of thousands of people. It’s available for several browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, and doesn’t cost a penny. Up until recently, everything had gone smoothly. However, that changed when an outfit behind a URL shortener sent its lawyers after the developer.

    Earlier this month, Linkvertise’s lawyer informed the Universal Bypass developer that his addon has a significant impact on the company’s business model. According to the letter, it violates copyright law by circumventing Linkverse’s technical protection measures.

    “[This activity] is prohibited under 595a Copyright Act and triggers various counterclaims under copyright law. You are also aware that the addon you have programmed is used to circumvent monetization by my client,” the letter reads, translated from German.

    Linkvertise has reached out to Universal Bypass before, asking it to stop its activities, but that didn’t work out. The most recent request is more strongly worded, however, and comes with a legal threat.

    The letter demands that Universal Bypass stops interfering with Linkvertise URLs. Also, users should not be allowed to manually add a Linkvertise bypass script to the addon. On top of that, the entire GitHub repository should be removed as well.

    If the developers comply, Linkvertise is willing to pay its own legal bills. If not, it will take legal action to enforce their demands and request compensation for all legal fees.

    “You should appreciate this courtesy from my client, who gives you the opportunity to get out of this situation without prejudice, even though you recently let the first chance go untapped. He won’t give you another chance,” Linkvertise’s lawyer warns.

    The deadline that was initially offered has already expired, but the developer didn’t budge. After all, Speckhals believes that his open-source software doesn’t violate any law.

    “I don’t think I violated their copyright in any way, but I’m also not a lawyer,” Speckhals informs us, adding that he hired an attorney to help fight off the legal pressure.

    After the deadline expired Speckhals was given a new one, but the issue has already escalated. It is likely that Linkvertise will request an injunction, which the developer hopes to contest in court. To help pay his legal bill, he has begun collecting donations through Twitter.

    The entire saga is reminiscent of another legal battle in Germany. Last year, German publisher Alex Springer sued Adblock Plus for copyright infringement claiming that adblockers endanger digital journalism.

    With ad blocking being extremely prevalent, these cases could potentially have a much wider impact. The Universal Bypass developer is well aware of this and is not planning to back down anytime soon.

    “I am planning to fight this until I get a favorable result,” Speckhals says.


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    Author Wins EBook.bike Piracy Case After Accepting Just $9,000 in Damages

    Author John Van Stry has won his copyright infringement lawsuit against former Pirate Party of Canada leader Travis McCrea and his long-defunct eBook download platform eBook.bike. After a year of stressful litigation, the court asked the author to consider reducing his $180,000 damages claim to $9,000 to avoid a full trial. Van Stry accepted but with McCrea now claiming to be broke, it remains to be seen whether the amount will ever be recovered.

    More than a year ago, author John Van Stry embarked on a mission to take down former Pirate Party Canada leader Travis McCrea.

    McCrea was the operator of eBook.bike, a free-to-use eBook download platform that ostensibly accepted user uploads of books and presented them to the public. The site became hugely controversial after authors complained that they had never given the platform permission to distribute their content.

    McCrea, on the other hand, insisted that his platform was legal and was protected by the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, noting that if people sent valid takedown notices, content would be removed. Nevertheless, opposition against the site continued to build and McCrea himself ran out of patience, asking someone to sue him to get the “BS over and done with.”

    Shortly after, author John Van Stry accepted the challenge by suing McCrea in a Texas court. While Van Stry employed a team of professional lawyers to handle the matter, McCrea decided to defend the case himself.

    As legal battles go, this one was particularly lopsided. With Van Stry’s team laying out its case in detail, McCrea – when he participated at all – seemed either overwhelmed (or potentially underwhelmed) by the importance of the case against him.

    While frustrations were clearly building on Van Stry’s side from having to commit time and financial resources to the case, it became clear early on that McCrea would be unlikely to prevail.

    McCrea hoped to lean on the safe harbor provisions of the DMCA, arguing that as long as he took allegedly infringing content down, he could not be held liable under the law. That failed, at least in part due to McCrea’s failure to register an agent at the US Copyright Office. Claims that his acts were covered under laws designed to protect religious freedoms were also dismissed.

    Earlier this month it became clear that the case hadn’t got long to run. A motion for summary judgment filed by Van Stry demanded $15,000 in damages each for 12 of his books, to a total of $180,000 plus costs. However, to obtain this amount the case would’ve had to go to a full trial, with all the additional costs that would’ve entailed.

    In the event, the presiding judge suggested an alternative route. Based on the assertion that Van Stry’s damages claim was “like to be illusory”, the judge said that if Van Stry limited his request for statutory damages to the statutory minimum award of $750 per work — an amount already agreed by McCrea – a trial would not be needed. That opportunity was accepted by Van Stry.

    “Mr. McCrea has been found to have willfully infringed the following of Mr. Van Stry’s copyrighted works: Portals of Infinity: Book One: Champion for Hire; Perfect Strangers; Portals of Infinity: Kaiju; Portals of Infinity: Book Two: The God Game; Portals of Infinity: Book Three: Of Temples and Trials; Portals of Infinity: Book Four: The Sea of Grass; Portals of Infinity: Book Five: Demigods and Deities; Portals of Infinity: Reprisal; When It Falls; Stand On It; Black Friday; and Over Our Heads,” Judge William Bryson
    wrote in a final judgment handed down yesterday.

    “[P]ursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c) and the Court’s April 20, 2020, order, Plaintiff is awarded statutory damages from the Defendant in the amount of $9,000.”

    The Judge also handed down an injunction, preventing McCrea from copying, reproducing, and/or distributing Van Stry’s books, “whether now in existence or hereafter created.”

    Furthermore, due to his failure to comply with his discovery obligations during the case, McCrea was further ordered to pay Van Stry $3,605 in sanctions.

    While the total damages awarded are considerably lower than initially demanded by Van Stry, the author has also run up significant legal bills pursuing the case against McCrea. These costs will also have to be covered by McCrea, with the amount to be advised to the court within 14 days of the order.

    In a posting to his GoFundMe campaign launched last year to assist with the costs of his litigation, last evening Van Stry declared victory, explaining that his goals have now been achieved.

    Van Stry said that he took umbrage at McCrea’s bragging that he was making money from authors’ work and that by offering ebooks on his site, he was “helping” authors in some way. He also slammed McCrea for “destroying the retirement of many authors, who rely on the royalties they get from their backlogs to pay their bills.”

    “The primary goal of this lawsuit was always to get an injunction and stop him from stealing my works and the works of other authors. I didn’t even know his site existed until I was told my works were on it by some fans and other authors,” he wrote.

    “[McCrea] was destroying the ability of new authors to enter the market. If your book only sells a few copies on Amazon, but it’s the ‘book of the week’ on his website, with people downloading thousands of copies. Do you think that author is ever going to write again? It takes thousands of hours to write a book. It takes money to get cover art and editing services. If you don’t get paid for your hard work, you find another job.”

    Van Stry said he felt a responsibility to tackle McCrea not just for himself, but for other authors too. However, he says he didn’t want to sue McCrea and it came with considerable costs.

    “Sometimes, you just have to stand up for what is right. This lawsuit hurt me, considerably, and not just because of the money that came out of my pocket. Rarely did a day go by that I wasn’t thinking about it, and rarely did a week go by when I wasn’t having to deal with my attorneys. But it wasn’t just about me, it never was,” he said.

    Whether McCrea will ever pay a penny will remain to be seen. McCrea lives in Canada and according to Van Stry, may not have a permanent place of residence.

    “He now claims that he’s broke and living out of a conversion van (aren’t those expensive?). I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I don’t care,” the author wrote.

    The final judgment and permanent injunction can be found here (pdf)


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    Linkvertise Threatens to Sue Universal Bypass over Copyright Infringement

    Universal Bypass is a popular browser extension that circumvents annoying URL shorteners and trackers. While this is a blessing for the public at large, the outfits behind URL shorteners and the people who use them to make money are not happy. Linkvertise made this very clear to the Universal Bypass developer, threatening him with a copyright infringement lawsuit.

    The Internet offers a wealth of free information and entertainment, often monetized by advertisements.

    Ads come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from classy commercials, through annoying banners, all the way to malicious ads.

    In recent years, URL shorteners with built-in monetization tools have been added to the mix. Services such as AdFly, Adshrink, Linkvertise, and Shrinkearn pay hard cash for directing links through their ads.

    The services allow people to make easy money, which sounds great, but it’s also a major annoyance for everyone else. This is why developer Tim Speckhals, aka ‘Sainan‘, came up with an easy tool to circumvent these redirects: Universal Bypass.

    “I was annoyed by those sorts of sites and hadn’t seen an extension of that type, so I thought I’d fill that niché,” Speckhals tells TorrentFreak. Fast forward two years and this idea turned into one of the most-loved browser extensions.

    Universal Bypass is now used by hundreds of thousands of people. It’s available for several browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, and doesn’t cost a penny. Up until recently, everything had gone smoothly. However, that changed when an outfit behind a URL shortener sent its lawyers after the developer.

    Earlier this month, Linkvertise’s lawyer informed the Universal Bypass developer that his addon has a significant impact on the company’s business model. According to the letter, it violates copyright law by circumventing Linkverse’s technical protection measures.

    “[This activity] is prohibited under 595a Copyright Act and triggers various counterclaims under copyright law. You are also aware that the addon you have programmed is used to circumvent monetization by my client,” the letter reads, translated from German.

    Linkvertise has reached out to Universal Bypass before, asking it to stop its activities, but that didn’t work out. The most recent request is more strongly worded, however, and comes with a legal threat.

    The letter demands that Universal Bypass stops interfering with Linkvertise URLs. Also, users should not be allowed to manually add a Linkvertise bypass script to the addon. On top of that, the entire GitHub repository should be removed as well.

    If the developers comply, Linkvertise is willing to pay its own legal bills. If not, it will take legal action to enforce their demands and request compensation for all legal fees.

    “You should appreciate this courtesy from my client, who gives you the opportunity to get out of this situation without prejudice, even though you recently let the first chance go untapped. He won’t give you another chance,” Linkvertise’s lawyer warns.

    The deadline that was initially offered has already expired, but the developer didn’t budge. After all, Speckhals believes that his open-source software doesn’t violate any law.

    “I don’t think I violated their copyright in any way, but I’m also not a lawyer,” Speckhals informs us, adding that he hired an attorney to help fight off the legal pressure.

    After the deadline expired Speckhals was given a new one, but the issue has already escalated. It is likely that Linkvertise will request an injunction, which the developer hopes to contest in court. To help pay his legal bill, he has begun collecting donations through Twitter.

    The entire saga is reminiscent of another legal battle in Germany. Last year, German publisher Alex Springer sued Adblock Plus for copyright infringement claiming that adblockers endanger digital journalism.

    With ad blocking being extremely prevalent, these cases could potentially have a much wider impact. The Universal Bypass developer is well aware of this and is not planning to back down anytime soon.

    “I am planning to fight this until I get a favorable result,” Speckhals says.


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    Major Movie Studios Obtain Blocking Injunction Against 115 ‘Pirate’ Domains

    A judge at the Federal Court of Australia has handed down a site-blocking injunction against 86 piracy-related sites accessible from 115 domains. The application, filed by the MPA including Netflix, plus Roadshow Films and several other studios, targets torrent sites, streaming portals, subtitle sites, and various related unblocking/proxy platforms. All must be rendered inaccessible by 50 local ISPs.

    For several years, entertainment industry companies have been applying for blocking injunctions under Australian copyright law. According to them, having sites rendered inaccessible by consumer ISPs is an effective response to large-scale piracy.

    This week yet another injunction process, involving a range of movie and TV show companies, came to its conclusion in the Federal Court.

    Roadshow Films, Village Roadshow Films, Disney, Paramount Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., and Netflix (the ‘MPA/Roadshow applicants’) previously claimed that their copyrights, related to content including The Lego Movie, Toy Story, Spider-Man, Dunkirk, and Stranger Things, were being infringed on a wide range of unlicensed platforms.

    Television Broadcasts Limited and TVBO Production Limited (the ‘TVB applicants’) alleged the same in respect of their Chinese television programs including Dead Wrong and Provocateur. Madman Anime (Madman) made similar claims over their film Tokyo Ghoul.

    Together, they demanded that 86 “target online locations” should be blocked by 50 ISPs operated by Telstra, Optus, Vocus, TPG, and Vodafone under s115A of the Copyright Act 1968.

    Under that legislation, the Federal Court is able to grant an injunction to prevent access to an “online location” based outside Australia when it infringes or facilitates an infringement of copyright and has the same “primary purpose or primary effect.”

    The Court found that the MPA/Roadshow and TVB applicants had standing to bring the action as owners and/or exclusive licensees of content. In respect of Madman, the Court found that despite no copyright owner being joined in the action, its status as an exclusive licensee was sufficient.

    The range of sites targeted is broad, including streaming and download platforms, linking sites (including torrent sites), sites that offer software that allows streaming or downloads, subtitle archives, plus sites that offer proxy access to pirate sites.

    Some notable inclusions are the community-resurrected KickassTorrents site operating from Katcr.co, plus some less authentic Kickass clones. Others, trading on familiar brands but unconnected to their namesakes, include 123movies, Primewire, CouchTuner, Putlocker, WatchFree, ProjectFreeTV, and YesMovies-style domains.

    Further additions are getpopcorntime.is (a site offering a Popcorn Time software variant), subtitle download sites TVSubtitles.net and MSubs.net, plus Russian torrent giant Rutor.info and the China-focused btbtdy.me.

    Efforts were made by the applicants to contact the operators of these platforms but according to the Court, just one responded. Sarah Florian, the supposed operator of Animelon.com, claimed to control a “non-profit educational entity that uses animated videos to provide a novel and funway for users to learn the Japanese language.” The Court concluded, however, that Animelon.com “flagrantly facilitates the infringement of copyright.”

    The nature of the other sites in the applications warranted discussion but were all determined to breach copyright law. According to the Court, in various ways they provide direct access or facilitate access to copyright works, including movies, TV shows, and subtitle files. This applies to the proxy and Popcorn Time sites too.

    Noting that many of the sites are already blocked in other regions as a result of similar copyright injunctions, Justice Burley declared the platforms to be “flagrant” copyright infringers.

    “I am satisfied, having regard to the content made available at the target online locations, that each either makes copyright works available online for transmission to users, or facilitates the infringement of copyright by making it easier for users to ascertain the existence or whereabouts of other online locations that themselves infringe or facilitate the infringement of copyright within section 115A(1)(a),” his order reads.

    “I am also satisfied that the primary purpose or primary effect of the target online locations is to infringe, or facilitate the infringement of, copyright: s 115A(1)(b).”

    The injunction granted by the Judge allows the applicants to make additions to the domain names, URLs and IP addresses listed in the original order, after the order has been made. This is to tackle countermeasures often implemented by target sites to evade blocking.

    The process for this application has been adjusted in order for new instructions to be processed quickly, to reduce costs, and to ensure the objective of Australia’s blocking process isn’t frustrated, the Court adds.

    “It is apparent that the legislative intention is to facilitate, in appropriate cases, a more expeditious and less expensive means by which orders may be amended. Importantly, parliament did not intend, and the orders I propose to make do not permit, the applicants to bring new target online locations within the scope of the orders,” Justice Burley notes.

    “Rather, the applicants may only seek to bring within the scope of the orders new domain names, IP Addresses or URLs for the 86 target online locations which are in issue in these proceedings. Should the applicants wish to block access to a new target online location, a separate application will need to be brought.”

    The injunction (Roadshow Films Pty Limited v Telstra Corporation Limited [2020] FCA 507) can be obtained here.

    The full list of domains to be blocked by the 50 ISP respondents reads as follows:



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    Football League’s Piracy Tracking Computer Now Helping to Beat COVID-19

    Spanish football league La Liga is using its piracy tracking 'supercomputer' to help fight the coronavirus. Since there are no football matches during the current lockdown, the anti-piracy machine is mostly serving the [email protected] project now. Unfortunately, however, not all copyright holders are equally supportive.

    With millions of fans all over the world, Spain’s football league ‘La Liga’ is one of the most popular in the game.

    Like other sports organizations, the organization has a dedicated anti-piracy team that actively tracks and reports unauthorized live streams.

    In recent weeks, however, there haven’t been any live football games to protect. As in many other parts of the world, all La Liga matches have been put on hold to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

    This means that many of La Liga’s antipiracy resources are unused. Not just personnel, but also a supercomputer with the nickname ‘Demogorgonin’, which is located at the League’s headquarters in Madrid.

    The supercomputer in question is reported to be 4,232 times as powerful as regular desktop machines. Normally, it is used to track pirate live streams, but now it is mostly fighting COVID-19.

    La Liga’s engineers and IT experts previously came up with the idea to lend out processing capacity to [email protected], a distributed computing project that has been going for nearly two decades. With donated computer resources from all over the world, the project aids important medical research.

    “We have engineers, IT experts, people who know the systems so well and they thought: ‘Look, we can hand this over, we haven’t got games every day — Barcelona aren’t on every day,'” La Liga technician Emilio told ESPN.

    Initially, La Liga’s spare computer resources were used for cancer research, but this has now been switched to COVID-19.

    “We were helping investigations into cancer. But then when all this happened, attention shifted and we handed it over to fight against coronavirus,” Emilio explained.

    La Liga is not alone in this. At the start of the year there were 30,000 computers connected to the [email protected] network. This has now grown to more than a million, according to an NVIDIA report.

    With all this computing power the researchers aim to better understand how COVID-19 virus proteins contribute to the disease, to hopefully help find useful remedies. This process has previously led to success with other diseases.

    La Liga and all other participants should of course be applauded for their work. That also includes the German Pirate Party, The Pirate Society, Torrent Invites, and many others.

    In this case, copyright resources are usefully being redirected to help medical specialists. Unfortunately, however, the same can’t be said for all rightsholders.

    Last week Reason reported that biomedical technicians are actively ignoring copyright law to fix medical devices.

    Manufacturers often don’t allow third parties to tinker with their products, which ignited all sorts of DIY crowdsourcing initiatives. A prime example is Franks’s Hospital Workshop, which is operated by a technician from Tanzania. In recent weeks, his site has been overwhelmed with traffic.

    To lift this pressure, iFixit started a new initiative to help gather manuals and other technical information about medical devices, which can save lives, especially now.


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    YouTube Ripper ‘Yout.com’ Loses Site Blocking Case, Despite Putting Up a Defense

    Website blocking orders are relatively common now. What's rare, however, is that a targeted site protests such a request in court. This is what the popular YouTube ripper Yout.com did in Denmark. After various experts, including a YouTube representative, weighed in, the Danish court decided in favor of the copyright holders.

    In recent years website blocking has become one of the most widely-used anti-piracy enforcement mechanisms in the world.

    The process was pioneered in Denmark over a decade ago and was optimized and expanded in the following years.

    For example, all major ISPs signed a voluntary agreement to block a site when there’s a court order against one provider. Also, in 2018 the Scandinavian country became the first country to block so-called YouTube rippers.

    Last summer a new court order was issued following a complaint from the anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. This order targeted a new set of YouTube rippers, including Converto and MP3-YouTube. Interestingly, however, the court deferred the judgment against Yout.com, which decided to intervene in the case.

    This type of intervention is quite unusual. Blocking cases are generally between copyright holders and ISPs. Although the affected sites are notified, they generally don’t get involved.

    Yout operator John Nader chose a different path, one that was already forecasted four years ago in an interview on Reddit. Responding to potential copyright issues, Nader said the following.

    “You may be right, and I may not see the gravity of the situation I am in. But if I get to the point where this becomes an issue, I will fight for a cause I believe in, and I’m content with that.”


    A few years later, Nader boarded a plane to Denmark, to defend his site, without a lawyer. This trip turned out to be in vain, as Rights Alliance provided Nader with the wrong date for the hearing, but the case went on.


    The Yout operator eventually hired a lawyer and defended his site in court. Among other things, he argued that Yout never stores any copyright-infringing content on its servers. It merely offers a ‘pipeline’ to enable users to grab YouTube audio or video.

    This stance was backed up by an extensive expert testimony from Luis Peter Wahl Knudsen, who works as a technical manager at the Danish software company Minuba.

    “From the analysis of the source code for Yout.com’s recording function, it can be concluded that Yout.com does not contain any functionality which stores/saves content from media sources on Yout.com’s servers,” he informed the court last November.

    Rights Alliance responded by presenting testimony from Georg Nolte, Google Germany’s Senior Legal Counsel. He stressed that downloading copies is prohibited in YouTube’s Terms of Service.

    “In order to prevent unauthorized downloads on a technical level, YouTube implements so-called ‘cipher’ technology to mitigate unauthorized access to YouTube content,” Nolte wrote, adding that this encryption was implemented to protect copyright holders.

    Yout’s witness didn’t deny this but stressed that the technical protections are rather weak, reiterating once again that Yout doesn’t store any files. Rights Alliance, for its part, said that Nader was well aware of the potential copyright complications while pointing to the Reddit interview we mentioned earlier.

    After reviewing the positions from both sides, the court agreed with Rights Alliance. In an order issued last month, Judge Kinna Eidem orders Internet provider Fibia to block Yout.com.

    “The Court finds that Yout.com, by means of the method described, in breach of the exclusive rights held by the holder, is making protected works available to a new public by means of a new technical method whereby they are communicated to the public.

    “The Court also finds that Yout.com, via its mode of operation, plays an essential role in the communication of protected works,” the order adds.


    According to Judge Eidem, Yout.com helps users to retrieve files from YouTube and store these on their computers. As such, it is classified as a “stream ripping service.” The defense argued that Yout.com should be seen as a recording tool, similar to Xbox Game Bar, but the court disagreed.

    “This facilitation is not comparable to the recording functions found in e.g. Xbox Game Bar, whereby the users, in real-time, can record what is being played locally on the users’ own computer,” the order reads.

    Judge Eidem also highlighted Google’s testimony, which makes it clear that users are not allowed to access protected YouTube videos. Yout.com, however, offers a tool to do just that, by circumvention the technical protection measures.

    In addition to granting the blockade, Yout.com is also ordered to pay the legal feeds of Rights Alliance, which total roughly $4,350 (30,000 DKR). Nader’s request to be compensated for his pointless trip to Denmark was denied, however, as the defense failed to provide more details on the incurred costs.

    TorrentFreak reached out to Nader, who is disappointed with the verdict but prefers not to comment on the matter at this time. Yout.com, meanwhile, is blocked by all major Danish ISPs now.


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