There can be little doubt that of the millions of file-sharers using The Pirate Bay today, only a relatively small proportion will be aware of just how public their activities are.
At any given time there are dozens of organizations monitoring torrent swarms, sucking up and storing IP addresses, file hashes and timestamps for all kinds of reasons, from genuine research and “six strikes” educational programs, to the preparation of lawsuits.
However, even those aware of surveillance may be surprised at the nature of the monitoring currently being carried out by artist Nicolas Maigret and software developer Brendan Howell. Together they have created The Pirate Cinema, a BitTorrent-watching mechanism that turns file-sharers’ activities and geographic locations into an art installation.
Currently displayed at the Sight + Sound Festival in Canada, The Pirate Cinema manifests itself as a large control room featuring an array of computers coupled to a trio of over-sized screens.
The installation is powered by The Pirate Bay’s top 100 most downloaded torrents and aims to offer a window into the global nature of P2P networks and the viral aspects of torrent distribution.
“An aspect of the concept was to reuse the surveillance systems used by corporations, ISP’s and governments, for other purposes,” Maigret told TorrentFreak.
“On the other hand, the idea was also to monitor the usages or activity of people on a large scale, and to capture the vivid activity of the communities involved in sharing practices. Lastly, I really wanted to consider this ongoing activity as a live infinite Mashup – a snapshot of global file disseminations.”
With developer Brendan Howell, the project was constructed in Python using Libtorrent.
“The idea was to use only the necessary functions – a few lines of code, and to build our tool around it,” Maigret explains. “Then we developed all the monitoring parts and later the decoding process using Gstreamer.”
The installation can operate in two modes. The first constantly downloads the most popular torrents from TPB and displays fragments of them on screen. The setup can involve as many as five computers, each monitoring the site for different kinds of files for a few minutes before gathering fresh input.
The second is a ‘live performance’ version which relies on files such as movies and music being selected by the installation’s operator or ‘performer’. The downloaded content is then played like an instrument and therefore may have cultural, political or economic context, the creators explain.
However, in addition to the playback of segments of media, each screen presents additional information, including the source and destination IP addresses of the computers sharing the content being displayed. This provides a unique visualization of activity between BitTorrent users, wherever they are in the world.
“BitTorrent was a deliberate choice for many reasons. First of all it’s really a Peer-to-Peer architecture and that’s important even symbolically – people/peers are at both sides of each action,” says Maigret.
“Also BitTorrent is not only about mainstream medias, but theoretically open to all kinds of files and content. In a way, the Pirate Cinema reveals some potentials of this peer-based technical architecture.”
The installation also uses the nature of BitTorrent sharing – pieces of fragmented video being shunted around peers in a swarm – to create corresponding visuals.
“This fragmentation loosens the exchanges between different recipients. A file can then be recomposed sample by sample until it is complete, from snippets emanating from separate users and in a disorderly manner. From a cinematic perspective this preliminary fragmentation of the media is also a fragmentation of the film material and of the narration.
“It creates many formal specificities: random editing, weaving together different films frame by frame, glitches and merging of different fragments. When watching the installation, we can’t help ourself interpreting the flows, it produces lots of connections and new narrations, from those chance combinations.”
In terms of the collage of content presented through The Pirate Cinema, Maigret has observed similarities between various TV series as they appear on screen, noting familiar framing, casting and expressions. The diverse sources of pirate content also provide interesting variety.
“At times, you can also see multiple versions of the same films, screeners captured in cinema theaters using different material and framing,” Maigret reveals.
Finally, for readers wondering about the legality of the installation, its creators have indeed considered the implications.
“We saw it as a kind of game. Ever since the beginning of the project, we anticipated the operating modes of the system so that it could be presentable regardless of different countries’ legislations. For example, an encrypted connection to Sweden (iPredator / The Pirate Bay) is used to anonymize each machine used in the project. Fragments of the files are encoded and remain on our machine only temporarily.”
The use of a VPN means that while millions of other peers run the risk of becoming a temporary fixture in The Pirate Cinema installation, its creators won’t ever be able to turn the cameras accidentally upon themselves.
Read more at ThePirateCinema.com, Flickr photostream here
Source: Pirate Bay User Downloads Visualized in Real-Time Art Installation
When BitTorrent Inc. announced its plan to make uTorrent ad-supported there was a small user revolt.
The people complaining were mostly annoyed that there would be no option to disable the ads. Luckily, BitTorrent listened to the feedback and quickly decided that users would indeed get a chance to opt-out.
However, new stats revealed by the San Francisco company show that there are plenty of users who do not disable the ads displayed in the top bar. In fact, billions of ad impressions have been served since the change was introduced late last year.
According to BitTorrent Inc. the uTorrent and BitTorrent mainline clients are currently good for six billion ad displays a month. Most of these come from uTorrent, which has by far the largest user base of the two.
Based on the stats reported by BitTorrent, the uTorrent client serves more than five billion ads every month. This is quite an impressive figure and more than most smaller advertising companies serve on their entire network.
A quick inspection of the type of ads run on the network reveals that poker software and PC performance ‘enhancing’ apps are the most advertised products. This may of course differ based on the country people download from.
Some of the advertised products are downloaded by thousands of people a day. A product called “SpeedUpMyComputer” has more than 45,000 seeders and hundreds of active downloaders at the time of writing.
Thus far we haven’t been able to spot any ads for premium brands, or plugs for entertainment industry companies. This might be the next challenge for BitTorrent, because there’s certainly an audience to cater to.
As we reported earlier not all ads are allowed on the network. For example, BitTorrent does not accept ads for torrent-friendly VPN providers as these are considered to be “high risk” for some reason.
All in all, it is safe to assume that the ads are providing a healthy new revenue stream for the company. Over the past years the bulk of the revenue came from toolbar installs but with the current numbers the ads have the potential to add a few million to that each year.
TorrentFreak asked BitTorrent to comment on the dazzling numbers and the company’s outlook for the future, but we received no response.
Source: uTorrent Serves Over 5 Billion Ads Per Month
After years of negotiating and planning the “six strikes” copyright alert system finally went live in February.
Three months have passed since, and today the overseeing Center for Copyright Information has published a status update. The group explains that everything is going according to plan and highlights one particular case where the educational nature of the program came to fruition.
In a blog post CCI’s Executive Director Jill Lesser brings up a unique situation where a copyright alert triggered a fine example of a homebrew anti-piracy intervention.
“In one specific instance, a parent who was originally convinced he had received an Alert in error, found that his teenager had engaged in the behavior that triggered the Alert and had the teen write a note of apology,” Lesser writes.
While the parent’s initiative is not part of the six-strikes plan, Lesser appears to endorse the educational effort which is in line with the program’s main goal.
Overall there appears to be a very positive vibe surrounding the Copyright Alerts.
The CCI reports, for example, that ISP customer service lines have received “calls of appreciation” from thankful subscribers who had no clue that there were pirates using their connections. In addition, Lesser explains that the alerts also helped subscribers understand the risks of open Wi-Fi.
“ISPs have been able to help consumers take the necessary steps to protect their accounts from being used for illegal behavior,” she writes.
Unfortunately the CCI is not yet ready to announce any public statistics detailing how many alerts have been sent out so far. However, Lesser does suggest that some subscribers have already reached the third stage, which means they have received more than four alerts.
“It’s still very early, but as predicted, there are many more first stage alerts than second stage alerts and – albeit based on only the limited data we have thus far – very few consumers are reaching the third, or mitigation, stage,” Lesser writes.
To us it would be a great surprise if someone has indeed reached the third stage. Thus far we have only heard from one person who received an alert and we weren’t able to find any mentions elsewhere on the Internet either.
We encourage readers who have received an alert, or know someone who has, to let us know. It is still a mystery what language is being used by most ISPs, and we would like to find out more.
Copies of apology letters are also more than welcome.
Source: Parent Punishes Kid for Triggering a “Six Strikes” Piracy Alert
During the past couple of years the UK has become the easiest country in the world to have a website blocked on copyright grounds.
Against a background of initial pessimism, Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act has proven more than capable of enabling the filtering dreams of the entertainment industries after blocking provisions in the Digital Economy Act were deemed too controversial.
While more recent blocks were actioned by the UK recording industry under the watchful eye of the BPI, it was the MPAA who pioneered site censorship in the UK. Their success against Usenet indexing site Newzbin2 has become the model through which ISPs can be forced to black out sites based on the order of a judge.
Last week we reported that the music industry are considering future action against a wide range of sites but there is a more immediate situation developing courtesy of their movie-making counterparts.
Sometime in the past two months the MPAA went to court with a copyright complaint against two sites – Movie2K and another called Download4All (DL4All). The precise details are unclear, but it seems likely that they presented similar arguments to those offered in earlier cases.
Broadly speaking the studios will explain that these sites breach their copyrights and cost them money and, since ISPs are now aware that they’re facilitating their users’ infringements, they must now block the sites to avoid becoming liable themselves.
TorrentFreak can confirm that in the last week of April several of the UK’s leading ISPs including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and almost certainly O2, EE and Sky, received a copy of a High Court order compelling them to block the sites.
BT have already begun blocking the site in the UK and Virgin Media inform us that they too will initiate a blockade today.
“Virgin Media has received an order from the Courts requiring it to prevent access to Download4All and Movie2K in order to help protect against copyright infringement,” a spokesperson told TorrentFreak.
“As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to the company, but strongly believes that changing consumer behaviour to tackle copyright infringement also needs compelling legal alternatives to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”
And in a final and somewhat amazing note, the operators of PirateReverse.info, one of the largest Pirate Bay proxy services, informs TorrentFreak that they have already deployed a proxy site to unblock Movie2K.
“We’ve just deployed movie2kproxy.com (in record time), still working on getting the images to load properly but should all be fixed shortly.”
The moles in this game now appear to be getting whacked even before they appear.
UPDATE: The operator of PirateProxy.net, the world’s largest Pirate Bay proxy, says that he too will unblock Movie2K for UK users.
Source: UK ISPs Block Huge Movie Site Movie2K, Proxy Immediately Unblocks
While the online sharing of music has been widespread for close to a decade and a half, the sharing of books has only gathered real traction in the past few years.
When it came to legal action to prevent sharing the music industry led the way but even now, book publishers – Wiley aside – seem generally unwilling to follow the example. However, there are companies prepared to make uploaders suffer, even those with no malicious or commercial intent.
Pāvels Jurs is a teacher in Latvia who operates a website where children can research history topics, see presentations and find other learning aids. Jurs created the site so that children from poor families can still have access to education. According to Latvian media, Jurs even received recognition from the Ministry of Education for his efforts.
Last Thursday, however, Jurs was leaving home to go to school and found himself confronted by four police officers from the Economic Crime Bureau. They proceeded to search Jurs’ home and confiscate the computer he uses in his teaching job. He was arrested and subjected to two hours of interrogation during which he learned he had committed a serious offense that could result in a two year jail sentence.
Jurs’ crime was to upload a scanned copy of the high school history book “Vēsture Vidusskolai” to his website, an act which drew the ire of publisher Zvaigzne ABC and an official complaint earlier this year.
The publisher currently sells the book for the princely sum of $4.00 and it appears that Jurs had previously held discussions with its author but there was a misunderstandings over what content should have been removed from his site.
Nevertheless, the episode has left Jurs questioning why such heavy handed tactics were needed when a civil action would have sufficed. The police have taken down Jurs’ website and since exams are currently underway, students no longer have access to its resources.
“Is there really such a need for punitive action against these methods of teaching, such as the maintenance of a websites from which I did not receive any benefit, but, on the contrary, cost most of my salary payments for maintenance? I understand that I have violated copyright laws, but is it really necessary to act this way?” Jurs said.
Since the raid a meeting has taken place during which some kind of a settlement was discussed. Further meetings will take place this week but it’s now believed that the publisher will not raise any “substantive claims” against the teacher.
Source: Police Raid School Teacher for Uploading History Book for Students
This week we have five newcomers in our chart.
Iron Man 3 is the most downloaded movie.
The data for our weekly download chart is collected by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.
RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.
Source: Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week
After years of anticipation, The Pirate Bay documentary TPB-AFK was finally released to the public in February.
The film, created by Simon Klose, is available for no cost and has already been watched by millions of people. The public response to this free release model has been overwhelmingly positive, but it’s now meeting resistance from Hollywood, TPB’s arch rival.
Over the past weeks several movie studios have been trying to suppress the availability of TPB-AFK by asking Google to remove links to the documentary from its search engine. The links are carefully hidden in standard DMCA takedown notices for popular movies and TV-shows.
The silent attacks come from multiple Hollywood sources including Viacom, Paramount, Fox and Lionsgate and are being sent out by multiple anti-piracy outfits.
Fox, with help from six-strikes monitoring company Dtecnet, asked Google to remove a link to TPB-AFK on Mechodownload. Paramount did the same with a link on the Warez.ag forums.
Viacom sent at least two takedown requests targeting links to the Pirate Bay documentary on Mrworldpremiere and Rapidmoviez. Finally, Lionsgate jumped in by asking Google to remove a copy of TPB-AFK from a popular Pirate Bay proxy.
While it’s entertaining to think that these takedowns are truly targeted at TBP-AFK, the more likely explanation is that they are collateral damage. Most DMCA takedown processes are fully automated and somehow the TPB-AFK links were (mistakenly) associated with infringing titles.
However, that doesn’t make it less of a problem.
The whole episode shows once again that something is seriously wrong with the current implementation of the DMCA takedown system. At the moment rightsholders get to take down whatever they want, with almost no oversight and no incentive to improve the accuracy of their systems.
Perhaps a six-strikes plan or some other form of “education” is in order for copyright holders who fail to learn from their mistakes?
Source: Hollywood Studios Censor Pirate Bay Documentary
After its launch in 2004, RapidShare’s speedy growth saw the company become one the largest file-hosting sites on the Internet.
However, like all sites of this nature, RapidShare became popular with those looking to store copyright-infringing material. It was a relationship that would prove problematic.
RapidShare fought many legal battles with entertainment companies seeking to hold the company liable for the actions of its users, but it was a big surprise three years ago that really caused it to take stock.
In 2010, the RIAA submitted their list of foreign “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative and among the usual torrent site suspects were RapidShare. In the year that followed the company spent huge amounts of cash – reports suggest around 500,000 euros – lobbying to change the site’s image and convince entertainment companies that it was serious about protecting their copyrights.
In the short-term at least the strategy appeared to pay off. RapidShare were absent from the USTR’s 2011 list, a sign that entertainment companies felt they had the file-hoster reasonably contained and on the right track. In the months that followed, particularly following the shutdown of Megaupload, RapidShare made further adjustments to its business plan, publishing a controversial “anti-piracy manifesto” and taking increasingly harsh measures to deter file-sharers. As a result, traffic plummeted.
As can be seen from the chart above, not even a temporary boost in traffic following the 2012 shutdown of Megaupload could disrupt the downward trend for long. RapidShare’s actions caused a continual reduction in traffic from its heyday in 2010 (50th most popular site in the world) but the worst was yet to come.
Late November 2012, RapidShare was still very popular, ranked 150th in the world by Alexa, but now, just six months later, the site is ranked 860th.
The effect on the company has been dramatic. According to an insider who spoke with Swiss news site 20Minuten, RapidShare has been forced to fire 45 employees – 75% of its workforce – even after assuring them late last year that their jobs were safe. Of particular concern is that only a few weeks ago the company was still hiring fresh staff from abroad. They will be told to leave in seven days, the insider reports.
“The employees themselves, no matter who you ask, do not believe in the survival of the company,” the source said.
According to the source, late last year then CEO Alexandra Zwingli announced a “strict austerity program” for the company. Zwingli was subsequently replaced by Kurt Sidler, the former head of business software company Sage.
20Minuten confirmed the departures with RapidShare.
“The situation is undeniably so that we can reduce costs and unfortunately we have to part with a number of employees,” said Sidler. “RapidShare is maintained and the operation has concrete plans for the future.”
With RapidShare having publicly turned its back on the very community that made it rich over the years, never again will the site be able to return to the business model that once elevated it to elite status on the Internet. The appointment of Sidler, who says his job is to “align RapidShare with customer needs and requirements”, suggests the company will now move in a very different direction.
Source: RapidShare Fires 75% of its Staff After “Rogue Site” Revamp Bites
Over the past months we’ve discovered ‘pirates’ in the most unusual places, from the FBI, through major record labels and the U.S. Government to the Vatican.
Inspired by these revelations the Canadian Pirate Party decided to take a look at the downloading habits of their local Government and police, against a backdrop of vigorous recent debate surrounding online piracy in Canada, and the copyright troll phenomenon in particular.
With help from the pirating anti-piracy group Canipre several movie studios are gearing up to sue thousands of Internet subscribers. Interestingly, the Pirate Party’s findings suggest that even the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Government’s Industry Canada could become potential targets.
“This discovery shows that copyrighted materials have, in fact, been downloaded via the RCMP and Industry Canada networks,” states Pirate Party leader Travis McCrea.
McCrea notes, however, that like most copyright trolls, their evidence is far from rock solid and can’t be linked to individual downloaders.
“However, we cannot be sure who is responsible for downloading the material, or even if it was downloaded by employees, contractors, or a person who was using an open wireless connection. This is why this type of intellectual property enforcement doesn’t work – there is no method of reliably telling who actually engaged in the infringement of copyrighted materials.”
Below are a few “hits” that were found with data provided by BitTorrent tracking outfit Scaneye, starting with the police IP-addresses. The pirated titles are not unusual and the list mostly includes popular TV-shows and movies.
Industry Canada IP-addresses have also been caught pirating movies TV-shows and games, including episodes of The Voice, Duck Dynasty and The Ultimate Fighter.
The IP-addresses that were found are pulled from peer lists which increases the possibility of false positives, which is exactly how many copyright trolls are believed to gather evidence.
In the months to come thousands of Internet subscribers may be dragged to court, with movie studios demanding thousands of dollars in compensation. The Pirate Party Canada speaks out fiercely against these trolling actions.
They point out that despite the crackdowns on individual citizens, the police and the Government can seemingly continue to pirate without repercussions.
The fact that the makers of Game of Thrones and other frequently pirated titles don’t seem to mind, makes it all the more confusing according to the Pirate Party.
“Between the difficulty of targeting individual pirates, the double standard of targeting individuals more harshly than organizations, and the fact that many content creators don’t see piracy as detrimental to their business, it’s clear that something is wrong with the way intellectual property rights are currently enforced,” the Party comments.
“If the goal of copyright enforcers – and the creators they represent – is to increase profits and protect creator rights, shouldn’t there be a better way to accomplish this than by harassing individuals who may or may not bear any responsibility for copyright infringement happening on their IP address?”
For the many future troll victims in Canada, we hope that the judges handling these cases will ask the same questions.
Source: Canadian Police and Government Caught Pirating Movies and TV-Shows
Tuesday morning, TorrentFreak received an email from a UK music industry source which clearly indicated that the labels. led by the BPI, still view website censorship as the way forward in the continuing piracy battle.
In the past sites such as The Pirate Bay, KickAssTorrents (KAT), H33T and Fenopy have been blocked by court action, but the list this time is particularly ambitious.
A total of 25 sites are listed including some of the world’s largest torrents sites – 1337x, Bitsnoop, ExtraTorrent, isoHunt, Monova, TorrentCrazy, TorrentDownloads, TorrentHound, TorrentReactor and Torrentz. In fact, if the current action comes to fruition, only one of the current top 10 torrent sites will remain unblocked in the UK.
However, in the torrent scene news travels very quickly indeed and if there is one thing users hate more than a badly-seeded torrent, it’s censorship, and the signs are that the proposed blocks will be met head on with potent circumvention tools.
PirateProxy.net is the world’s largest Pirate Bay proxy site whose growth has been nothing short of phenomenal. From a standing start in the second quarter of 2012 the site has achieved amazing things. According to Alexa, PirateProxy is the UK’s 137th most popular site, just ahead of its Netherlands ranking of 145th. To give an idea of scale, PirateProxy’s traffic can be compared with that currently achieved by Kim Dotcom’s Mega.co.nz.
“Once I read that TF article, I started configuring and testing new proxies sites for Torrentz, Isohunt and Extratorrent,” the admin of PirateProxy told TorrentFreak.
“I have already created proxy sites for other blocked torrent sites such as KAT, Fenopy and H33T. Katproxy.com has become really popular in the UK recently too and i’m hoping to add these proxy sites to a new section on proxybay.info.”
As noted in our previous article, the world’s second most popular Pirate Bay proxy is PirateReverse.info. An admin there say they’re also well prepared.
“At the moment we’re looking to proxy all the torrent sites that were mentioned and we’ve already acquired such domains,” TorrentFreak was informed. “We’re always willing to invest in the proxies we provide to make them as fast and accessible as possible, and we’re planning some hardware upgrades shortly.”
However, in addition to the torrent sites the BPI list also contains other domains related to file-hosting searches (FilesTube, Filecrop) and MP3 sites (Grooveshark, MP3Skull, BeeMP3 etc). Early signs suggest that these aren’t the main priority of proxy providers since they are more difficult to set up.
“It would be particularly difficult to proxy the file sharing sites however, because of all the protection they use to stop people hot-linking the downloads, same goes for Grooveshark and the MP3 services,” PirateReverse explain.
“We will be looking into it, but for the moment the torrent sites are our priority. They will all be listed on torrentproxies.com when available, which we’re working to make the number one hub for torrent site proxies.”
PirateProxy’s admin says that any non-torrent site proxies will be driven by demand.
“I set up Proxybay.info a while back to collect good working proxies for The Pirate Bay. I am planning on doing a re-design that will allow proxies of other sites to be included as well. Currently, I am only planning on unblocking popular torrent sites, however, I may move onto other types of sites if there is enough demand.”
While both sets of proxy admins work separately, they share the belief that censorship is not only ineffective but also counterproductive.
“The current censorship regime in the UK just shows how technology is always a few steps ahead of government. They will catch up eventually, but by that time, we will find other ways to circumvent these blocks,” says PirateProxy’s admin.
“We think the way to combat piracy is to offer simple to access and good value alternatives. At the moment it is genuinely easier to torrent a movie or album than to buy it DRM free and keep forever online. Censorship will never work in this case,” says PirateReverse.
“However, our concerns lie that in the future we, the proxy operators, may be targeted. It is easier for us to move around into different IP spaces but it will be a tiresome and expensive game of whack-a-mole. In the long-term though, we think it will prove that censorship doesn’t work. Perhaps we will see the ISPs put up more of a fight – it costs them money to implement the blocks.”
PirateProxy’s admin says that there is a message to be sent – and hopefully plenty of determination to send it.
“Looking at the bigger picture, I hope these proxy sites can send a message that censorship on the Internet is pointless and counter-productive. I will continue to run these proxy sites until these sites are unblocked and accessible everywhere,” he concludes.
Source: Fighting Censorship, Proxies Gear Up to Unblock More Torrent Sites
Over the years we have been following various reports on changes in Internet traffic, specifically in relation to BitTorrent.
One of the patterns that emerged with the rise of video streaming services is that BitTorrent is losing its share of total Internet traffic.
This downward spiral is confirmed by the latest Sandvine report which reveals that BitTorrent traffic is now responsible for 9.2% of all U.S. Internet traffic in North America during peak hours, compared to 11.3% last year.
However, if we look at the actual volumes of data being transferred through file-sharing networks we see that usage is still growing. Median Internet traffic increased by more than 50% since last year on fixed networks, so in terms of actual traffic BitTorrent usage is going up.
BitTorrent’s presence is most visible in upstream traffic, with 34.8% of all data transferred during peak hours going through the protocol. HTTP traffic comes in second with 7.5% and Dropbox gets a notable mention with 1.2% of all upstream traffic during peak hours.
BitTorrent usage remains high in other regions as well, and highest of all in Asia-Pacific where it’s credited for 21.6% of total Internet traffic during peak hours. In Europe and Latin America this percentage is 17.4% and 10.2% respectively.
Another trend we noticed is that SSL traffic, used for some VPN services, has increased significantly over the past months. In North America upstream traffic over SSL more than doubled its share in a year, from 2.5% to 5.4%. Again, in terms of actual traffic this increase has been even greater and similar patterns are observed in other regions.
In part this boom in SSL traffic may be explained by the increase in VPN usage among BitTorrent users. A significant percentage of users hide their IP-address behind a VPN or proxy and the numbers are expected to go up even further in the future.
This increase in VPN use also means that the actual percentage of BitTorrent traffic is even higher, since the Sandvine report puts the traffic generated by these users in the SSL category.
It will be interesting to see how the “six-strikes” crackdown in the United States and similar measures around the world will accelerate this upward trend for encrypted traffic, and whether BitTorrent traffic continues to grow in the years to come.
Source: BitTorrent Accounts for 35% of All Upload Traffic, VPNs are Booming
Earlier this week, online news sites started reporting the apparent blocking of Google’s Google+ Hangout video-chat application on Android over AT&T’s cellular network [SlashGear, Time, ArsTechnica].
Several of the articles noted the relationship to an earlier controversy concerning AT&T and Apple’s FaceTime application. Our Mobile Broadband Working Group at the FCC’s Open Internet Advisory Committee released an case study on the AT&T’s handling of FaceTime in January of this year. Our report may help inform the new debate on the handling of the Google Hangout video app on cellular networks.
Addendum (5/21/2013): AT&T announces support for FaceTime over cellular under all pricing plans over LTE by the end of the year [MacObserver, The Register].
In November 2011, Universal Music Group, the world’s largest recording label, sued music streaming service Grooveshark.
The label claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and accused the company of massive copyright infringement. The accusations included claims that bosses and other workers at the company, from the CEO down, personally uploaded many thousands of infringing tracks to the service.
Universal was later joined by Sony, Warner and several other labels who all called for the shutdown of the streaming service and fines against the named employees. In recent months activity in the case slowed down, but behind the scenes the discussions continued.
This has now resulted in a voluntary agreement between the labels and five Grooveshark employees. Nikola Arabadjiev is the only one who still works at the company. Grooveshark founder Sam Tarantino and co-founder Josh Greenberg have not signed an agreement.
The “consent judgments” obtained by TorrentFreak suggest trouble for Grooveshark, which up until now streamed millions of songs without explicit authorization from copyright holders.
Under the agreement the named Grooveshark employees are prohibited from infringing copyrights of musical works owned by the major labels. In addition, they must never again work with a business that systematically infringes upon label copyrights.
“The Defendant and all those acting in concert with the Defendant shall be immediately and permanently enjoined from infringing in any manner any copyright in any and all sound recordings, whether now in existence or later created, in which any of the Plaintiffs own or control any exclusive rights under Section 106 of the United States Copyright Act (the “Copyrighted Works”),” the agreement reads.
“This shall include, but is not limited to, copying, uploading, reproducing, distributing, transmitting or publicly performing any of the Copyrighted Works in violation of the United States Copyright Act, via the Grooveshark service or any other online streaming service, website, application, or peer-to-peer or file-trading system that operates without authority or license from the appropriate Plaintiff or any of its licensees,” it adds.
TorrentFreak approached Grooveshark and the record labels for comment on the recent developments. Grooveshark’s attorneys preferred not to comment on the developments and we have yet to hear back from the labels.
The current lawsuit is just one of many Grooveshark has been dragged into over recent years. January last year EMI sued the music service over a contractual dispute, and Grooveshark has been blocked following court orders in Germany and Denmark. This week, record labels in the UK indicated that they are preparing an ISP blockade of the site.
Over the years Grooveshark has always fiercely defended its business, arguing that it operates within the boundaries of the law and removes unauthorized content when it receives a DMCA takedown notice. At the same time, they negotiated licensing deals with the major labels.
“Laws come from Congress. Licenses come from businesses, Grooveshark is completely legal because we comply with the laws passed by Congress, but we are not licensed by every label (yet),” Grooveshark’s Paul Geller said previously.
However, it seems that the major labels probably want to quash the site entirely instead of legitimizing it through licensing deals.
At the time of writing the music service is still up and running and no settlement with Grooveshark has been entered. However, now that key defendants in the case have struck a deal it would be no surprise if parent company Escape Media follows suit.
Update: Grooveshark sent the following statement. We have yet to get a reply on out follow up questions asking what the settlements mean for the future of the site.
“We are pleased that the case between Universal Music and Escape Media has been narrowed and simplified by the removal of some individual defendants from the case upon their stipulation to simply obey the law—something Escape Media does every day through its active licensing of millions of tracks and its strict compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Escape Media Group will continue to deliver innovative new solutions and services that revolutionize music consumption for its growing audience of 30 million+ fans around the world.”
Source: Grooveshark’s Future in Doubt After Settlements With Big Music
Founded way back in 2001, FTD grew to become the largest Usenet community in the Netherlands with around half a million members. The site indexed content on Usenet – typically movies, music and TV shows – via the ‘spots’ of its members.
This activity eventually caught the attention of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN who labeled FTD a criminal operation. In February 2011 the Haarlem Court ruled that FTD provided a promotional venue for uploaders of infringing material and deemed the site to operate illegally. FTD was ordered to remove listings of copyrighted files and the operation soon disappeared.
With FTD gone and with a helpful ruling in hand, BREIN moved to positively identify the owner of another ‘spotting’ site called FTD World, a site offering similar services to the old FTD.
BREIN discovered a bank account with connections to the site and said that ING, one of the largest banks in the Netherlands, could provide the information it was looking for. Citing the Data Protection Act, ING refused to cooperate.
The case went to court and this morning a ruling was handed down. The Amsterdam Court decided that ING is not obliged to hand BREIN the personal details behind the bank account.
The Court recognized that BREIN has responsibilities to take action against those infringing the copyrights of its members but noted that ING has obligations to protect the privacy and interests of its customers. When balancing the two sets of needs, copyright enforcement versus banking privacy, the bank’s responsibilities come out on top.
“Under data protection law, you can only use personal information for proper and clearly defined legal goals. Using information for different goals requires an extraordinary interest that outweighs the privacy of the person involved,” Arnoud Engelfriet, a lawyer specializing in Internet law at the ICTRecht law firm, told TorrentFreak.
“The court says that because of the important position a bank plays in society, this is a really high bar to meet and BREIN has not met it.”
In its ruling the Court also noted that BREIN was not allowed to rely on case law which obliges ISPs and webhosts to hand over personal details in copyright cases. Since ING is a bank, it is in no position to understand the legal status of a website.
“While there is a relationship between an ISP or hosting provider and copyright infringement, there is no relationship between ING and copyright infringement,” the Court wrote.
BREIN was also informed by the Court that there were other avenues through which it could have obtained the information, but had failed to use them.
“BREIN had not contacted the Russian hosting provider, for example,” Engelfriet explains. “On the site, next to the bank account details, the name of the holder was given, but BREIN had not even called her to ask where the money went. BREIN said she was likely a ‘money mule’ so it would have been pointless to ask, but the court says you don’t know that till you try.”
Also, BREIN failed to back up its claims of criminal activity with an appropriate complaint to authorities.
“BREIN had not filed a police complaint even though it alleged the actions were a criminal offense (aiding & abetting copyright infringement). It should have done all that before starting this lawsuit,” Engelfriet concludes.
The anti-piracy group is disappointed with the ruling.
“This is not acceptable to us. Fraudsters and scammers can not trust that banks will not pass on their data,” said BREIN boss Tim Kuik.
Source: Banking Privacy More Important than Copyright Enforcement, Court Rules
Today I joined a group of twenty computer scientists in issuing a report criticizing an FBI plan to require makers of secure communication tools to redesign their systems to make wiretapping easy. We argue that the plan would endanger the security of U.S. users and the competitiveness of U.S. companies, without making it much harder for criminals to evade wiretaps.
The FBI argues that the Net is “going dark”—that they are losing their ability to carry out valid wiretap warrants. In fact, this seems to be a golden age of surveillance—more collectable communications are available than ever before, including whole new categories of information such as detailed location tracking. Regardless, the FBI wants Congress to require that voice, video, and text communication tools be (re-)designed so that lawful wiretap orders can be executed quickly and silently.
Our report focuses in particular on the drawbacks of mandating wiretappability of endpoint tools—that is, tools that reside on the user’s computer or phone. Traditional wiretaps are executed on a provider’s equipment. That approach works for the traditional phone system (wiretap in the phone company’s switching facility) or a cloud service like GMail (get data from the service provider). But for P2P technologies such as Skype, information can only be captured on the user’s computer, which means that the Skype software would have to be changed to add a virtual “wiretap port” that could be activated remotely without the user’s knowledge.
Our report argues that mandating a virtual wiretap port in endpoint systems is harmful. The port makes it easier for attackers to capture the very same data that law enforcement wants. Intruders want to capture everything that happens on a compromised computer. They will be happy to see a built-in tool for capturing and extracting large amounts of audio, video, and text traffic. Better yet (for the intruder), the capability will be stealthy by design, making it difficult for the user to tell that anything is amiss.
Beyond this, the mandate would make it harder for users to understand, monitor, and fix their own systems—which is bad for security. If a system’s design is too simple or its operation too transparent or too easy to monitor, then wiretaps will be evident. So a wiretappability mandate will push providers toward complex, obfuscated designs that are harder to secure and raise the total cost of building and operating the system.
Finally, our report argues that it will not be possible to block non-compliant implementations. Many of today’s communication tools are open source, and there is no way to hide a capability within an open source code base, nor to prevent people from simply removing or disabling an undesired feature. Even closed source systems are routinely modified by users—as with jailbreaking of phones—and users will find ways to disable features they don’t want. Criminals will want to disable these features. Ordinary users will also want to disable them, to mitigate their security risks.
Our report discusses other issues, such as the impact of a wiretappability mandate on the ability of U.S. companies to compete in international markets. The bottom line is that harms that would result from the FBI’s plan vastly outweigh any benefits. The cybersecurity problem is bad enough as it is. Let’s not make it any worse.
[Signers of the report are Ben Adida, Collin Anderson, Annie I. Anton (Georgia Institute of Technology), Matt Blaze (University of Pennsylvania), Roger Dingledine (The Tor Project), Edward W. Felten (Princeton University), Matthew D. Green (Johns Hopkins University), J. Alex Halderman (University of Michigan), David R. Jefferson (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), Cullen Jennings, Susan Landau (privacyink.org), Navroop Mitter, Peter G. Neumann (SRI International), Eric Rescorla (RTFM, Inc.), Fred B. Schneider (Cornell University), Bruce Schneier (BT Group), Hovav Shacham (University of California, San Diego), Micah Sherr (Georgetown University), David Wagner (University of California, Berkeley), and Philip Zimmermann (Silent Circle, LLC). [Affiliations for identification purposes only. CDT coordinated the creation of the report.]
In 2010, a district court ordered isoHunt to implement a filter to exclude movie and TV show-related terms from its search engine.
Despite running the filter for some time the Canada-based torrent search engine hoped to have the decision overruled on appeal, but in March this year that aim suffered a setback.
The Ninth Circuit upheld the decision of the lower court, stating that since isoHunt had previous knowledge of some infringing activity, the site loses its DMCA safe harbor protections across the entire platform.
Concerned by the ruling, early April isoHunt founder Gary Fung’s legal team filed a petition for a re-hearing before a jury, arguing that the Ninth Circuit decision will chill innovation and threaten free speech online.
Later that month the case attracted the attention of Google. The company has concerns that some of the wording in the Ninth Circuit ruling will have implications for its business too.
In a brief filed at the Appeals Court, Google explained that if the Ninth Circuit ruling is interpreted too broadly in future, all service providers could lose their DMCA safe harbor protections leading to a chilling effect on innovation.
Despite the support, for now isoHunt has to deal with another setback. Yesterday the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied Fung’s appeal for a rehearing.
“The panel has unanimously voted to deny the petition for panel rehearing. Judges Pregerson and Berzon have voted to deny the petition for rehearing en banc, and Judge Fisher has so recommended,” Wednesday’s decision reads.
Nevertheless, the battle will not end here. Isohunt’s legal team believes that clarification is required if search engines are to conduct their businesses with certainty in future, and they’re prepared to go to the highest court in the land to obtain it.
“IsoHunt is in the process of requesting review by the United States Supreme Court,” isoHunt lawyer Ira Rothken informs TorrentFreak. “The right to a jury trial is protected by the US Constitution and shouldn’t be usurped by gestalt rules which provide little guidance on how search engines should conduct themselves.”
“Here the court has left the world wondering what type of causation analysis ought to be done – if a search engine has done some alleged bad things five years ago are they still responsible today with a different interface for all user infringements under a civil inducement theory?” the California-based attorney questions.
“There needs to be guidance on legal standards and rules beyond Judges acting in a balkanized and ambiguous manner. The status quo will have a chilling effect on internet development and lead to wasteful civil litigation,” Rothken concludes.
Source: IsoHunt Will Take DMCA Safe Harbor Fight to the Supreme Court
Earlier this year, the operators of The Pirate Bay received word that Swedish authorities would try to disrupt the site’s operations by seizing its .SE domains.
Rather than wait for the day to arrive TPB switched to a Greenland-based domain, later hopping to Icelandic and then .SX domains as other problems became apparent.
Despite the rapid switches, authorities in Sweden are still intent on taking control of TPB’s .SE domains to ensure that the site’s outward Swedish connections are severed for good. However, the prosecutor’s latest actions bear all the signs of an increasingly desperate copyright enforcement mentality that in the face of an unbeatable foe will seek to hold entirely innocent parties responsible for totally detached offenses committed by others.
The Internet Infrastructure Foundation (IIS) is the body with responsibility for Sweden’s top-level .SE domain. Since it handles .SE domain registrations, IIS is the organization with control over Swedish domains operated by The Pirate Bay.
Earlier this month, IIS received news that the Swedish Prosecution Authority had filed a petition with the Stockholm District Court demanding the seizure of two Pirate Bay-related domains – thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se. The prosecutor is now treating IIS as an infringing party in the long-running fight between The Pirate Bay and copyright holders.
“The legal system has not been able to shut down the service after the previous guilty verdict against TPB,” IIS Chief of Communications Maria Ekelund told TorrentFreak.
“Therefore the prosecutor has opened a new case against both the domain holders and .SE. The prosecutor is accusing .SE of assisting TPB who are assisting others to commit copyright infringement.”
Just to be clear, in their criminal trial The Pirate Bay’s former operators were found guilty of assisting in copyright infringements carried out by the site’s users. IIS are now being accused of assisting people who were previously found guilty of assisting other people to commit copyright infringement. The users of TPB, who according to the court actually committed the offenses, have been left out of the process altogether. Not so IIS.
“In the eyes of the prosecutor, .SE’s catalogue function has become some form of accomplice to criminal activity, a perspective that is unique in Europe as far as I know,” says IIS CEO Danny Aerts.
“There are no previous cases of states suing a registry for abetting criminal activity or breaching copyright law.”
In considering what IIS may have done to deserve being taken to court, Aerts turns to IIS’s responsibility to link readable URLs – such as Google.se – to their IP address equivalent. Their part of the connectivity job is important, but they aren’t the only organization involved in the process.
“.SE translates the .se domain names to name servers, a name server operator translates this into an IP address and a resolver operator (such as Telia) helps .SE respond to the most frequent queries,” Aerts explains.
“IP addresses are subsequently allotted to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) through RIPE. And IANA grants us the right to administer the top-level .se domain. Perhaps I should also remember to mention Google, which helps you find the address if you do not know the domain name.”
What Aerts describes is a complex interconnected system designed to help the Internet function, with each organization and function playing its own crucial part.
“Where should the line be drawn for legal processes and matters of liability?” Aerts questions.
Since IIS are refusing to comply with the prosecutor’s demands, the case will now proceed to court.
“.SE will naturally respond to the prosecutor’s perspective. We have an educational task ahead of us in explaining to the District Court what a domain name is, what .SE does and the fundamentally incorrect nature behind seizing a domain name forever,” Aerts says.
Another sad consequence of this case is that IIS will be forced to divert funds away from its educational efforts in order to fight in a third-party battle between copyright holders and The Pirate Bay.
“This will be an expensive process and, although our lawyers will find it an interesting case, these are funds that we would rather spend on our investments in schools or digital inclusion,” says Aerts.
If IIS wins, and many people way outside the copyright debate hope that they will, then the status quo will remain. However, if IIS lose they could be forced to deregister the domains, remove their name servers, or watch as the domains are seized or placed on Sweden’s block list. While the outcome is uncertain, what is almost guaranteed is that The Pirate Bay will live on.
“Removing a domain name can be compared to taking down the signs hanging outside the shoe store. Although this would make it more difficult for customers to find the store, it would still be there and any customers who were able to find it would be able to continue buying shoes there,” Aerts concludes.
Source: Pirate Bay Domain Registrar Assists Copyright Infringement, Prosecutor Claims
Since early last year Kim Dotcom and the rest of the “Mega Conspiracy” have been accused by the U.S. Government of running a criminal operation.
Despite the severity of the charges, Megaupload’s legal team does not have insight into all of the relevant documents relied on by the U.S. Government when it came to that conclusion.
Through the New Zealand courts Dotcom and his fellow defendants have requested access to the withheld information. To mount a proper defense they want to see the extent to which the U.S. authorities can back up their criminal charges.
On two earlier occasions, including once in the High Court, Dotcom’s legal team were granted full access to the U.S. evidence. However, in March these rulings were overturned by the Court of Appeal, which concluded that the United States could move forward with a summary case.
After the defeat Dotcom and his legal team quickly filed for an appeal at the Supreme Court, which was granted a few hours ago. This means that Megaupload has another shot at getting insight into crucial evidence.
“I am looking forward to the NZ Supreme Court review in our case and getting the discovery needed for a fair extradition hearing,” Dotcom commented on the news.
If the Supreme Court sides with Kim Dotcom and his associates, the evidence disclosed would be hugely helpful in ongoing legal battles on multiple continents. This includes the pending extradition battle in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Megaupload’s lawyers haven’t been sitting still. In the United States they have a request pending to dismiss the case against the company, and last week two of their top lawyers released a white paper accusing the Obama administration of taking instructions from Hollywood.
Over in Europe, Germany was also added to the mix, with Megaupload lawyer Robert Amsterdam asking the Government there to intervene. Amsterdam argues that the human rights of Dotcom, a German citizen, have been violated by the U.S., and he wants the authorities to raise this issue in Washington.
Kim Dotcom’s extradition hearing in New Zealand is currently scheduled to take place in August this year, but that date could be further delayed now the Supreme Court has taken up the case.
Source: Kim Dotcom Granted Supreme Court Appeal Over U.S. Evidence
During the summer of 2011 the MPAA and RIAA teamed up with five major Internet providers in the United States, announcing their “six strikes” anti-piracy plan.
The parties founded the Center for Copyright Information (CCI) and few months later they started a non-profit company with the same name in Delaware.
After more than a year of delays the CCI finally launched its Copyright Alert System during February. But just when it appeared the group was on the right track, it met another roadblock.
According to the Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the company leading the six-strikes program has had its status revoked. This pretty much means that the company is unable to conduct any official business anywhere in the United States.
(Update: Unlike stated earlier the CCI is incorporated in Delaware, where it was voided as well. The quotes used in this article citing the DCRA apply to DC only but similar regulations apply in Delaware.)
The revocation means that CCI’s articles of organization are void, most likely because the company forgot to file the proper paperwork or pay its fees.
“If entity’s status is revoked then articles of incorporation / organization shall be void and all powers conferred upon such entity are declared inoperative, and, in the case of a foreign entity, the certificate of foreign registration shall be revoked and all powers conferred hereunder shall be inoperative,” the DCRA explains.
Unfortunately for the CCI, the DCRA doesn’t have a strike based system and the company is now facing civil penalties and fines.
It appears that company status was revoked last year which means that other businesses now have the option to take over the name. That would be quite an embarrassment, to say the least, and also presents an opportunity to scammers.
“When a Washington DC corporation is revoked by the DCRA, its name is reserved and protected until December 31st of the year the corporation is revoked. After December 31st, other business entities may use the corporations name,” the DCRA explains on its website.
Technically the CCI could have started a new corporation under a different name but this seems unlikely. TorrentFreak was able to confirm that at least one of the participants in the Copyright Alert System paid a substantial amount of money to the revoked company last year.
As with any other company, CCI will be able to have its company status reinstated after fulfilling its obligations. A source connected to the Center of Copyright Information informs TorrentFreak that the proper paperwork has been filed now. This most likely means that the DCRA will update the company’s status in the near future.
Finally, it will be interesting to see if this situation holds consequences for the anti-piracy warnings that are supposedly being sent out at the moment – the Internet seems strangely devoid of U.S. subscribers in receipt of any.
Update: The CCI filed the proper paperwork and is back in action.
Source: “Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Outfit Loses Company Status, Faces Penalties