EU

EU Paid For Report That Said Piracy Isn't Harmful -- And Tried To Hide Findings (thenextweb.com) 161

According to Julia Reda's blog, the only Pirate in the EU Parliament, the European Commission in 2014 paid the Dutch consulting firm Ecorys 360,000 euros (about $428,000) to research the effect piracy had on sales of copyrighted content. The final report was finished in May 2015, but was never published because the report concluded that piracy isn't harmful. The Next Web reports: The 300-page report seems to suggest that there's no evidence that supports the idea that piracy has a negative effect on sales of copyrighted content (with some exceptions for recently released blockbusters). The report states: "In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally."

On her blog, Julia Reda says that a report like this is fundamental to discussions about copyright policies -- where the general assumption is usually that piracy has a negative effect on rightsholders' revenues. She also criticizes the Commissions reluctance to publish the report and says it probably wouldn't have released it for several more years if it wasn't for the access to documents request she filed in July.
As for why the Commission hadn't published the report earlier, Reda says: "all available evidence suggests that the Commission actively chose to ignore the study except for the part that suited their agenda: In an academic article published in 2016, two European Commission officials reported a link between lost sales for blockbusters and illegal downloads of those films. They failed to disclose, however, that the study this was based on also looked at music, ebooks and games, where it found no such connection. On the contrary, in the case of video games, the study found the opposite link, indicating a positive influence of illegal game downloads on legal sales. That demonstrates that the study wasn't forgotten by the Commission altogether..."
DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 248

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Piracy

Sci-Hub Faces $4.8 Million Piracy Damages and ISP Blocking (torrentfreak.com) 142

The American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, accused Sci-Hub of mass copyright infringement and is demanding $4.8 million in piracy damages. "Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court," reports Torrent Freak. "As a result, a default was entered against the site, and a few days ago ACS specified its demands, which include $4.8 million in piracy damages." The complaint comes soon after the pirate site was ordered to pay $15 million in piracy damages to academic publisher Elsevier. From the report: "Here, ACS seeks a judgment against Sci-Hub in the amount of $4,800,000 -- which is based on infringement of a representative sample of publications containing the ACS Copyrighted Works multiplied by the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each publication," they write. "Sci-Hub's unabashed flouting of U.S. Copyright laws merits a strong deterrent. This Court has awarded a copyright holder maximum statutory damages where the defendant's actions were "clearly willful' and maximum damages were necessary to 'deter similar actors in the future.'" The publisher notes that the maximum statutory damages are only requested for 32 of its 9,000 registered works. This still adds up to a significant sum of money, of course, but that is needed as a deterrent, ACS claims.

Although the deterrent effect may sound plausible in most cases, another $4.8 million in debt is unlikely to worry Sci-Hub's owner, as she can't pay it off anyway. However, there's also a broad injunction on the table that may be more of a concern. The requested injunction prohibits Sci-Hub's owner to continue her work on the site. In addition, it also bars a wide range of other service providers from assisting others to access it. Specifically, it restrains "any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, to cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Defendant Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to [ACS's works]."

Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 98

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Piracy

Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users (torrentfreak.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

"By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

Movies

Disney Ditching Netflix Keeps Piracy Relevant (torrentfreak.com) 263

Yesterday, Disney announced its intent to pull its movies from Netflix and start its own streaming service. This upset many users across the web as the whole appeal of the streaming model becomes diluted when there are too many "Netflixes." TorrentFreak argues that "while Disney expects to profit from the strategy, more fragmentation is not ideal for the public" and that the move "keeps piracy relevant." From the report: Although Disney's decision may be good for Disney, a lot of Netflix users are not going to be happy. It likely means that they need another streaming platform subscription to get what they want, which isn't a very positive prospect. In piracy discussions, Hollywood insiders often stress that people have no reason to pirate, as pretty much all titles are available online legally. What they don't mention, however, is that users need access to a few dozen paid services, to access them all. In a way, this fragmentation is keeping the pirate ecosystems intact. While legal streaming services work just fine, having dozens of subscriptions is expensive, and not very practical. Especially not compared to pirate streaming sites, where everything can be accessed on the same site.
Software

Cable Giants Step Up Piracy Battle By Interrogating Montreal Software Developer (www.cbc.ca) 185

New submitter wierzpio writes: In more news about TVAddons, Canadian cable companies used a civil search warrant to visit the owner and developer of TVAddons, a library of hundreds of apps known as add-ons that allow people easy access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live TV. According to Adam Lackman, founder of TVAddons and defendant in the copyright lawsuit launched by the television giants, "The whole experience was horrifying. It felt like the kind of thing you would have expected to have happened in the Soviet Union." During the 16 hour-long visit, he was interrogated, denied the right not to answer the questions, and denied the right to consult his answers with his lawyer, who was present. His personal possessions were seized. Adam is fighting back (link to Indiegogo fundraising page) and already the judge declared the search warrant "null and void." "I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him," the judge wrote. "The defendant has demonstrated that he has an arguable case that he is not violating the [Copyright] Act," the judge continued, adding that by the plaintiffs' own estimate, only about one per cent of Lackman's add-ons were allegedly used to pirate content. Lackman's belongings still haven't been returned, and he can't acess the TVAddons website or its social media accounts, which were also seized. "Bell, Rogers and Videotron has appealed the court decision and a Federal Court of Appeal judge has ruled that until the appeal can be hard, Lackman will get nothing back," reports cbc.ca.
Businesses

Cloudflare Wants to Eliminate 'Moot' Pirate Site Blocking Threat (torrentfreak.com) 23

Cloudflare is not happy with the RIAA's efforts to hold the company liable for pirate websites on its network. From a report: Representing various major record labels, the RIAA filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull in 2015. Last year a Florida federal court sided with the RIAA, awarding the labels more than $22 million in damages. In addition, it issued a permanent injunction which allowed the RIAA to take over the site's domain names. Despite the multi-million dollar verdict, MP3Skull continued to operate using a variety of new domain names, which were subsequently targeted by the RIAA's legal team. As the site refused to shut down, the RIAA eventually moved up the chain targeting CDN provider Cloudflare with the permanent injunction. The RIAA argued that Cloudflare was operating "in active concert or participation" with the pirates. Cloudflare objected and argued that the DMCA shielded the company from the broad blocking requirements. However, the court ruled that the DMCA doesn't apply in this case, opening the door to widespread anti-piracy filtering. The court stressed that, before issuing an injunction against Cloudflare, it still had to be determined whether the CDN provider is "in active concert or participation" with the pirate site. [...] Cloudflare now wants the dangerous anti-piracy filtering order to be thrown out. The company submitted a motion to vacate the order late last week, arguing that the issue is moot. In fact, it has been for a while for some of the contended domain names. The CDN provider says it researched the domain names listed in the injunction and found that only three of the twenty domains used Cloudflare's services at the time the RIAA asked the court to clarify its order. Some had never used CloudFlare's services at all, they say.
Piracy

Kodi Magazine 'Directs Readers To Pirate Content' (bbc.com) 48

An anonymous reader writes: A British magazine is directing readers to copyright-infringing software, the Federation Against Copyright Theft (Fact) has said. Kodi is a free, legal media player for computers -- but software add-ons can make it possible to download pirated content. The Complete Guide to Kodi magazine instructs readers on how to download such add-ons. Dennis Publishing has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment. The magazine is available at a number of retailers including WH Smith, Waterstones and Amazon. It was spotted on sale by cyber-security researcher Kevin Beaumont. It repeatedly warns readers of the dangers of accessing pirated content online, but one article lists a series of software packages alongside screenshots promoting "free TV", "popular albums" and "world sport". "Check before you stream and use them at your own risk," the guide says, before adding that readers should stay "on the right side of the law."
Piracy

Game of Thrones Pirates Being Monitored By HBO, Warnings On The Way (torrentfreak.com) 282

HBO is leaving no stones unturned in keeping Game of Thrones' piracy under control. The company is monitoring various popular torrent swarms and sending thousands of warnings targeted at internet subscribers whose connections are used to share the season 7 premiere of the popular TV series, reports TorrentFreak: Soon after the first episode of the new season appeared online Sunday evening, the company's anti-piracy partner IP Echelon started sending warnings targeted at torrenting pirates. The warnings in question include the IP-addresses of alleged BitTorrent users and ask the associated ISPs to alert their subscribers, in order to prevent further infringements. "We have information leading us to believe that the IP address xx.xxx.xxx.xx was used to download or share Game of Thrones without authorization," the notification begins. "HBO owns the copyright or exclusive rights to Game of Thrones, and the unauthorized download or distribution constitutes copyright infringement. Downloading unauthorized or unknown content is also a security risk for computers, devices, and networks." Under US copyright law, ISPs are not obligated to forward these emails, which are sent as a DMCA notification. However, many do as a courtesy to the affected rightsholders. The warnings are not targeted at a single swarm but cover a wide variety of torrents. TorrentFreak has already seen takedown notices for the following files, but it's likely that many more are being tracked.
Piracy

Net Neutrality is Not a Pirates' Fight Anymore (torrentfreak.com) 89

Today millions of people are standing up for net neutrality and an open internet. The "Battle for the Net," backed by companies including Amazon, Google, and Netflix, hopes to stop a looming repeal of current net neutrality rules. While the whole debate was kickstarted ten years ago when torrent users couldn't download their favorite TV-shows, it's no longer a pirate's fight today, writes TorrentFreak: Historically, there is a strong link between net neutrality and online piracy. The throttling concerns were first brought to the forefront in 2007 when Comcast started to slow down both legal and unauthorized BitTorrent traffic, in an affort to ease the load on its network. When we uncovered this atypical practice, it ignited the first broad discussion on net neutrality. This became the setup for the FCC's Open Internet Order which was released three years later. For its part, the Open Internet Order formed the foundation of the net neutrality rules the FCC adopted in 2015. The big change compared to the earlier rules was that ISPs can be regulated as carriers under Title II. While pirates may have helped to get the ball rolling, they're no longer a player in the current net neutrality debate. Under the current rules, ISPs are allowed to block any unlawful traffic, including copyright infringing content. In fact, in the net neutrality order the FCC has listed the following rule: "Nothing in this part prohibits reasonable efforts by a provider of broadband Internet access service to address copyright infringement or other unlawful activity." The FCC reasons that copyright infringement hurts the US economy, so Internet providers are free to take appropriate measures against this type of traffic. This includes the voluntary censoring of pirate sites, something the MPAA and RIAA are currently lobbying for. That gives ISPs plenty of leeway. ISPs could still block access to The Pirate Bay and other alleged pirate sites as a voluntary anti-piracy measure, for example. And throttling BitTorrent traffic across the board is also an option, as long as it's framed as reasonable network management. The worrying part is that ISPs themselves can decide what traffic or sites are unlawful. This could potentially lead to overblocking. Currently, there is no indication that any will, but the net neutrality rules do not preventing these companies from doing so.
Businesses

Stream-ripping Is 'Fastest Growing' Music Piracy (bbc.com) 254

Stream-ripping is now the fastest-growing form of music piracy in the UK, new research has suggested. From a report: Several sites and apps allow users to turn Spotify songs, YouTube videos and other streaming content into permanent files to store on phones and computers. Record labels claim that "tens, or even hundreds of millions of tracks are illegally copied and distributed by stream-ripping services each month." One service alone is thought to have more than 60 million monthly users. According to research by the Intellectual Property Office and PRS For Music, 15 percent of adults in the UK regularly use these services, with 33 percent of them coming from the 16-24 age bracket. Overall usage of stream-ripping sites increased by 141.3 percent between 2014 and 2016, overshadowing all other illegal music services.
Education

Sci-Hub 'Pirate Bay For Scientists' Sued by American Chemical Society Over Cloned Site (ibtimes.co.uk) 132

The American Chemistry Society (ACS) is now suing Sci-Hub, the so-called "Pirate Bay for Scientists," over copyright infringement and counterfeiting, and is asking the courts to grant an injunction against the website in the US. From a report: Following the news that academic publisher Elsevier won a legal judgement of $15m in damages against Sci-Hub for allowing people to illegally download peer-reviewed academic papers for free, the world's largest scientific society ACS has filed its own lawsuit in the state of Virginia against the website. ACS is complaining that in addition to making hundreds of thousands of research papers owned by the society freely available, Sci-Hub has also cloned its website and is infringing its trademarks by operating two almost-identical replicas of the ACS website at pubs.acs.org.sci-hub.cc and acs.org.secure.sci-hub.cc.
Piracy

Indie Game Developer Shares Free Keys on The Pirate Bay (torrentfreak.com) 130

Jacob Janerka, developer of the popular indie adventure game 'Paradigm,' recently spotted a cracked copy of his title on The Pirate Bay. But, instead of being filled with anger and rage while running to the nearest anti-piracy outfit, Janerka decided to reach out to the pirates. Not to school or scold them, but to offer a few free keys. From a report: "Hey everyone, I'm Jacob, the creator of Paradigm. I know some of you legitimately can't afford the game and I'm glad you get to still play it :D," Janerka's comment on TPB reads. Having downloaded many pirated games himself in the past, Janerka knows that some people simply don't have the means to buy all the games they want to play. So he's certainly not going to condemn others for doing the same now, although it would be nice if some bought it later. "If you like the game, please tell your friends and maybe even consider buying it later," he added.
Piracy

Sci-Hub Ordered To Pay $15 Million In Piracy Damages (torrentfreak.com) 167

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two years ago, academic publisher Elsevier filed a complaint (PDF) against Sci-Hub and several related "pirate" sites. It accused the websites of making academic papers widely available to the public, without permission. While Sci-Hub is nothing like the average pirate site, it is just as illegal according to Elsevier's legal team, who obtained a preliminary injunction from a New York District Court last fall. The injunction ordered Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan to quit offering access to any Elsevier content. However, this didn't happen. Instead of taking Sci-Hub down, the lawsuit achieved the opposite. Sci-Hub grew bigger and bigger up to a point where its users were downloading hundreds of thousands of papers per day. Although Elbakyan sent a letter to the court earlier, she opted not engage in the U.S. lawsuit any further. The same is true for her fellow defendants, associated with Libgen. As a result, Elsevier asked the court for a default judgment and a permanent injunction which were issued this week. Following a hearing on Wednesday, the Court awarded Elsevier $15,000,000 in damages, the maximum statutory amount for the 100 copyrighted works that were listed in the complaint. In addition, the injunction, through which Sci-Hub and LibGen lost several domain names, was made permanent.
Piracy

Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers 'Voluntary Surrender' To the US (torrentfreak.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States. The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal. Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the U.S. Government. While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can "resolve" the pending charges. This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.
Australia

Movie Piracy Cost Australian Network 'Hundreds of Millions of Dollars' (theaustralian.com.au) 119

Film television piracy and illegal downloads are partly to blame for Australian broadcaster Ten Network's woes, according to Village Roadshow co-chief executive Graham Burke. From a report: He said piracy had cost Ten "hundreds of millions of dollars" in potential advertising revenue because of lower ratings resulting from pirated versions of films supplied by 21st Century Fox under an onerous output deal with the Hollywood studio. He said copies of Fox's Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were stolen last year and shared illegally via a piracy website. "Piracy is a much bigger channel and an illicit economy than the three main commercial networks combined. It is ripping off viewers from legitimate, taxpaying enterprises," Mr Burke said. "The product that Ten is buying from 21st Century Fox and is now arriving have been pirated out of sight."
EU

Pirate Bay Is Infringing Copyright, European Court of Justice Rules (theguardian.com) 108

The European court of justice (ECJ) has ruled that BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay is directly infringing copyright, in a move that could lead to ISPs and governments blocking access to other torrent sites across Europe. From a report: The ruling comes after a seven-year legal battle, which has seen the site, founded in Sweden in 2003, blocked and seized, its offices raided, and its three founders fined and jailed. At the heart of the case is the Pirate Bay's argument that, unlike the previous generation piracy sites like Napster, it doesn't host infringing files, nor link to them. Instead, it hosts "trackers," files which tell users of individual BitTorrent apps which other BitTorrent users to link to in order to download large files -- in the Pirate Bay's case, usually, but not exclusively, copyrighted material.
Piracy

HBO, Netflix, Other Hollywood Companies Join Forces To Fight Piracy (theverge.com) 195

New submitter stikves writes: It looks like media and technology companies are forming a group to "fight piracy." The Verge reports: "A group of 30 entertainment companies, including power players like Netflix, HBO, and NBCUniversal, have joined forces today in an effort to fight online piracy. The new group is called the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), and the partnership, while somewhat thin on specifics, will allow the content creators involved to pool resources to conduct research and work closely with law enforcement to find and stop pirates from stealing movies and TV shows. The first-of-its-kind alliance is composed of digital media players, networks, and Hollywood outfits, and all recognize how the internet has paved the way to an explosion in quality online content. However, piracy has boomed as a result: ACE says that last year saw 5.4 billion downloads of pirated films and TV shows." I'm not sure how these statistics hold against real revenue loss (or the imaginary one), however this might be a development to watch for.
The Almighty Buck

Kim Dotcom Loses Latest Battle To Recover Seized Assets (cnet.com) 58

The Justice Department wants to keep Kim Dotcom's millions of dollars worth of seized assets, citing the Megaupload founder's fugitive status. The department filed a brief on Friday, which cited his fugitive status as well as a lack of evidence supporting claims that poor health was preventing him from entering the U.S. CNET reports: Dotcom has been in the news since 2012, when the FBI and the US Department of Justice shut down file-sharing site Megaupload and charged the site's operators with the piracy-related offenses. The U.S. government also seized $42 million in assets. Dotcom, alongside Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato, are wanted for trial in the U.S. on 13 counts, including copyright infringement, conspiracy to commit racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud. In February, the New Zealand High Court found that Dotcom, a New Zealand resident, and his co-accused were eligible for extradition to the United States.

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