Piracy Fight Needs Content Available at a Fair Price, Minister Says

July 31st, 2014

pirate-runningFor close to a decade Australia has been struggling with what the content industries see as a serious online piracy problem but today the country seems closer than ever to a legislative tipping point.

A paper leaked last week revealed that the government is looking towards a range of piracy mitigation measures, from holding ISPs more responsible for their users’ actions to the ISP-level blocking of so-called ‘pirate’ sites.

To coincide with the paper’s official release yesterday, the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA), the trade body representing subscription
television platforms, published (PDF) the results of a survey in which 60% of respondents agreed that people who facilitate piracy should face prosecution.

Whether the respondents understood that those “facilitators” include those who download TV shows and movies using BitTorrent isn’t clear, but the reality on the ground is that a large section of the Australian public has grown weary of being treated as second class consumers. Content not only arrives months adrift on a slow boat from the United States, but also at vastly elevated rates that defy reasonable explanation. This has led many to download TV shows instead, something which has led into today’s debate.

But while some of the Government’s proposals are causing unease due to a perceived reliance on a Big Media “wishlist”, there are signs that ministers understand that the piracy problem doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

In an interview with ABC’s Chris Uhlmann, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnball was put on the spot over what some view as the exploitation of Australian consumers by international entertainment companies. So why do Aussies pay 40% more than those in the US to download movies from iTunes?

“That is, that is a very powerful argument,” Turnball conceded.

“If I can just say so, there is an obligation on the content owners, if their concerns are to be taken seriously and they are by government, and if governments are to take action to help them prevent piracy, then they’ve got to play their part which is to make their content available universally and affordably.”

The argument that content has to be made widely available at a fair price before progress can be made cannot be understated and it will be extremely interesting to see whether the Minister’s acknowledgment of the problem will become a sticking point in negotiations as potential legislation draws closer.

But in the meantime, why are content producers “ripping off” Aussies with inflated prices? Profit, apparently.

“Well, I assume it’s because they feel they can make money out of it,” Turnball said.

Of course, commercial decisions like this get made every day, but as Uhlmann pointed out to the Minister, for Internet content the justification isn’t strong – from a technical standpoint it doesn’t cost any more to make content available for download in Australia than in the United States.

The entertainment companies’ “right” to charge whatever they like is their business, Turnball reiterated, but that approach may come at a price.

“If you want to discourage piracy, the best thing you can do, and the music industry is a very good example of this, the way they’ve responded, the best thing you can do is to make your content available globally, universally and affordably. In other words, you just keep on reducing and reducing and reducing the incentive for people to do the wrong thing,” he said.

Turnball also noted that following the publication of the discussion paper, content owners are going to have to justify why they are charging Australians more than overseas counterparts. That might prove a very interesting discussion.

Finally, the government is now inviting submissions from the public on the issue of online copyright infringement. There is no specific mention of offering content widely at a fair price, however, something which has drawn the ire of the Pirate Party.

“Instead of addressing the reality that Australians are paying more money for less content than other countries, the Discussion Paper is biased towards turning Internet service providers into ‘Internet police’ and censorship in the form of website blocking, neither of which have proven effective overseas,” Pirate Party President-elect Brendan Molloy said in a statement.

Those interested have until September 1 to make their opinions heard – question 9 might prove an opportunity to talk about a fair deal for Australians.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Bleep… BitTorrent Unveils Serverless & Encrypted Chat Client

July 30th, 2014

bleepEncrypted Internet traffic surged worldwide after the Snowden revelations, with several developers releasing new tools to enable people to better protect their privacy.

Today BitTorrent Inc. contributes with the release of BitTorrent Bleep, a communication tool that allows people to exchange information without the need for any central servers. Combined with state of the art end-to-end encryption, the company sees Bleep as the ideal tool to evade government snooping.

Bleep’s main advantage over some other encrypted messaging applications is the absence of central servers. This means that there are no logs stored, all metadata goes through other peers in the network.

“Many messaging apps are advertising privacy and security by offering end-to-end encryption for messages. But when it comes to handling metadata, they are still leaving their users exposed,” BitTorrent’s Farid Fadaie explains.

“We reimagined how modern messaging should work. Our platform enables us to offer features in Bleep that are unique and meaningfully different from what is currently available.”

Bleep Bleep


The application’s development is still in the early stages and the current release only works on Windows 7 and 8. Support for other operating systems including popular mobile platforms will follow in the future.

Aspiring Bleep users can create an account via an email or mobile phone number, but an incognito mode without the need to provide any personal details is also supported.

The new messaging app is not the only ‘breach safe’ tool the company is currently working on. Last year BitTorrent launched its Sync application which provides a secure alternative to centralized cloud backup solutions such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

BitTorrent Inc. is inviting people to test the new Bleep application, but warns there are still some bugs.

Those who want to give BitTorrent Bleep a try can head over to BitTorrent’s experiments section to sign up for the pre-Alpha release.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Kim Dotcom’s Assets Attacked From Multiple Directions

July 30th, 2014

dotcom-laptopWhile there are plenty of people who would like to portray Kim Dotcom as the biggest copyright offender the world has ever seen, there are many who look beyond that towards his larger than life persona and playboy-style riches.

His lifestyle, one in which he inhabits a huge and luxurious mansion while traveling the country in helicopters, is made all the more interesting by the fact that authorities in the United States, New Zealand and Hong Kong attempted to seize all of Dotcom’s assets back in 2012.

While they succeeded in locking up millions, it’s evident that Dotcom has assets elsewhere and is currently disposing of them.

That’s the argument being put forth by Dotcom foes 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount, Universal, Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros who have not only initiated legal action in the United States, but have also done so in New Zealand. They’re keeping an eye on Dotcom’s spending to ensure there’s something left for them should they prevail in their legal action.

In a new judgment out today, Justice Patricia Courtney said there is indeed evidence to suggest that Dotcom had been giving “very substantial payments” to
his fledgling “Internet Party” political party. His offer to pay a $5m bounty to a whistle-blower was also noted.

As a result, Judge Courtney concluded that there is “a danger that any judgment obtained by the applicants will go unsatisfied, partly or wholly, as a result of Mr Dotcom disposing of assets.”

In an effort to put the brakes on that possibility, the Judge gave Dotcom until August 20 to reveal all of his assets “wherever they are located” and to identify “the nature of his interest in them.”

However, speaking with RadioNZ, Dotcom said any money he’s spending now has been made since the mansion raids of 2012.

“The assets that they are talking about now are new assets that were created because of my entrepreneurial skill after the raid. So they’re trying to attack assets that have nothing to do with MegaUpload or anything that I have run previously as business operations,” Dotcom said.

However, the $11.8 million in assets already subjected to a criminal restraining order following the raid in New Zealand are also under attack. In April the High Court said Dotcom could have his assets returned. That decision was quickly appealed by the Crown and the case was heard at the Court of Appeal today.

A lawyer for the police told the Court that although the assets are being held under a criminal restraining order in New Zealand, the Court did not need to take into account whether the cases being pursued in the United States against Dotcom were criminal or civil in nature.

The judges reserved their decision on whether the freeze on Dotcom’s assets should continue for another year in addition to the two years plus that have already passed.

Meanwhile, over in the United States, Dotcom lawyer Ira Rothken announced that the US Federal Court had granted a motion to stay all civil copyright litigation against his client until April 1, 2015.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Popcorn Time Adds Apple TV Support, iOS App Coming Soon

July 30th, 2014

popcornThe Popcorn Time phenomenon is one of the biggest piracy stories of the year thus far.

The software became an instant hit by offering BitTorrent-powered streaming in an easy-to-use Netflix-style interface.

While the original app was shut down by the developers after a few weeks, the project was quickly picked up by others. This resulted in several popular forks that have gained millions of users in recent months.

Today one of the most popular Popcorn Time forks releases a highly anticipated feature. The developers inform TorrentFreak that the latest version now has Airplay support, making it possible to stream movies directly to Apple TVs and other supported devices.

Ironically, Airplay support is currently limited to the Windows release, but a Mac version is due early next week and the Linux release will follow shortly after.

The latest feature follows the addition of Chromecast support a few weeks ago, but this is by no means the last planned development.

Popcorn Time adds Airplay support


Looking ahead the developers hope to bring the Popcorn Time experience to as many operating systems and devices as possible.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring Popcorn Time to every platform, operating system and device that can play videos, so Airplay is one particle of a huge revolution we’re making to the torrents and movies world online,” the time4popcorn.eu team told us.

“This is only the beginning… You know us, we have many more surprises coming your way,” they add.

One of the “surprises” is a native iOS app. Although it probably won’t be featured in Apple’s App Store anytime soon, Popcorn Time will be available on jailbroken iPhones and iPads in the near future.

“Support for iOS devices will be ready in August. It’s already working in our development environment and it’s looking beautiful,” the team notes.

Popcorn Time’s popularity hasn’t gone unnoticed by Hollywood. A few weeks ago the MPAA pushed back and managed to get two popular forks removed from Github claiming that the apps are hurting the major movie studios.

While this was a setback, it doesn’t seem to have hindered development much. Both Popcorn Time forks are still around and new features are being rolled out faster than ever.

Update Due to a last minute bug the release has been postponed. It will arrive later today.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

“Six Strikes” Anti-Piracy Scheme Costs 3 Million Per Year

July 29th, 2014

pirate-runningFebruary last year, the MPAA, RIAA and five major U.S. Internet providers started sending copyright alerts to customers who pirate movies, TV-shows and music.

Through a series of warnings suspected pirates are informed that their connections are being used to share copyrighted material without permission, and told where they can find legal alternatives.

These efforts are part of the Copyright Alert System which is headed by the Center for Copyright Information (CCI). The goal of this voluntary partnership is to educate the public and point alleged pirates to legal alternatives.

While it’s known that the costs of the program are split between the copyright holders and Internet providers, CCI has been reluctant to share any financial details. Luckily the IRS provides some insight on this front.

TorrentFreak obtained the most recent tax filing of the six-strikes outfit which covers the company’s operations between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013. The document reveals that the program cost nearly $3 million during that period.

To put this figure in perspective, the CCI previously reported that 1.3 million notices were sent out during the first 10 months. This means that the cost per notice translates to roughly $2, which is rather high.

Center for Copyright Information’s Form 990


Looking at how the money is spent we see that the only paid employee, CCI Executive Director Jill Lesser, received $320,000 in compensation. Another $350,000 went to Lesser’s consulting firm, JAL Consulting, which was hired as an independent contractor.

The RIAA’s former lobbying firm Stroz Friedberg received $420,000 for the independent expert analysis of the evidence gathering technology behind the project. After we uncovered the RIAA ties CCI later hired a second independent expert, but the results of this do-over have yet to be published.

The largest independent contractor is the Glover Park Group, who handle CCI’s communication. They received more than $680,000 over the reported period. American Arbitration, who handle the appeals of people who claim to be wrongly accused, was paid $245,000 for its services.

It’s worth noting that the costs for the Internet providers are higher than the amount they pay to the CCI. The ISPs also spend money on the technical setup that’s required to handle the Copyright Alerts as well as extra customer support.

It will be interesting to see how these costs develop over the years. CCI previously announced that more Copyright Alerts would be sent out this year, so it’s expected that the average of $2 per warning will eventually reduce.

Whether the copyright holders will ever be able to recoup their investments remains to be seen.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Block The Pirate Bay Within 3 Days, Austrian ISPs Told

July 29th, 2014

pirate bayKino.to, one of Germany’s largest illegal streaming portals, was shut down during 2011 following the largest law enforcement action against of its type in Europe. But even with the site long gone the disruption it caused is about to affect The Pirate Bay and two other major sites.

Just a month before Kino.to was dismantled in June 2011, Austrian ISP ‘UPC’ was served with a preliminary injunction ordering it to block subscriber access to the site. Verein für Anti-Piraterie der österreichischen Film und Videobranche (VAP) – the anti-piracy association of the Austrian film and video industry – had been on the warpath since 2010 and had finally got their way after UPC refused to comply voluntarily.

But would blocking the site be legal? UPC insisted that it couldn’t be held responsible for a site it had nothing to do with. The ISP also maintained that there had been no court ruling determining that UPC customers who accessed Kino.to were breaking the law.

To settle the matter once and for all the Austrian Supreme Court asked the European Court of Justice to clarify whether a company that provides Internet access to people using an illegal website could be required to block that site. On March 27, 2014, the ECJ handed down its decision.

On UPC’s first point the Court said that EU law does not require a specific relationship between the person infringing copyright and the intermediary against whom any injunction had been issued. On the second point the Court said that proof of illegality was not necessary as the law exists not only to bring an end to infringement, but also to prevent it.

The key point of the ruling was that ISPs can indeed be required to block access to infringing sites provided that injunctions are both balanced and proportional. As a result, earlier this month Austria’s Supreme Court found that the blockade against Kino.to, even though the site is long dead, was correctly applied.

On the back of this ruling, this week VAP wrote to several local ISPs, UPC included, demanding a new blockade of three domains – ThePirateBay.se, Movie4K.to and Kinox.to, a site that took over from Kino.to.

“Letters dated yesterday have been sent to four large ISPs containing a request to block a small number of websites,” VAP Managing Director Werner Müller told Future Zone.

On behalf of three local movie companies (Allegro Film, Wega Film and Epo Film) VAP has requested IP address and DNS blocks of the three sites but has given the ISPs very little time in which to carry them out, by this Friday August 1, to be exact.

The Association of Internet Service Providers Austria (ISPA) feels the deadline is far too restrictive.

“The period given to the providers to act is ludicrously short. We see this as very problematic. Extreme pressure is being exerted,” Secretary General Maximilian Schubert said.

“Two working days during the holiday season is just too little. To implement this by Friday we deem too difficult.”

Interestingly, Schubert also sees differences between The Pirate Bay and the pair of streaming portals listed in VAP’s blocking request.

“There is also legal content on The Pirate Bay,” Schubert said.

Discussions between VAP and the ISPs are scheduled for later in the week, so whether the anti-piracy group will get its way immediately will remain to be seen. They’ve waited years already, another few days shouldn’t make much difference.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Police Begin Placing Warning Adverts on ‘Pirate’ Sites

July 29th, 2014

cityoflondonpoliceFor a year, City of London Police have been working with the music and movie industries on initiatives to cut down on the consumption of pirated content online.

Operation Creative employs a multi-pronged approach, seeking to educate consumers while making life difficult for sites that operate unlicensed services.

Many unauthorized sites generate revenue from advertising, so the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) informs potential advertisers on how to keep their promotions away, thus depriving sites of cash. Another key aim is to stop users from getting the impression that pirate sites have “big brand” support when household names are seen advertising.

Today, PIPCU officially announced the launch of another angle to their ad strategy. As reported by TF in April, police are now placing their own ads on pirate sites to warn users that the site they’re using has been reported.

“This new initiative is another step forward for the unit in tackling IP crime and disrupting criminal profits,” said Head of PIPCU, DCI Andy Fyfe.

“Copyright infringing websites are making huge sums of money though advert placement, therefore disrupting advertising on these sites is crucial and this is why it is an integral part of Operation Creative.”

Sample police ad

As shown below, the BBC has published a PIPCU-supplied screenshot of how the ads look on an unauthorized MP3 site known as Full-Albums.net.


In our tests we couldn’t replicate the banners, despite dozens of refreshes, so it’s possible the site took action to remove them. Needless to say, we did see other advertising, and very interesting it was too.

Ironically, by clicking album links on Full-Albums we were presented with ads from BearShare, a music service that struck deals with the RIAA in the last decade. As can be seen from the screenshot below, the service places the major labels’ logos prominently to attract customers, even when accessed from a UK IP address.


TF checked with the BPI on the licensing status of the service in the UK and will update this article when their statement arrives, but as can be seen from this quote from the BearShare site, they claim to be legal.

“Using BearShare is 100% legal. The service employs state of the art filtering technology, and is approved by the major record labels and RIAA. Downloading from BearShare is entirely legal, and will not get you in any kind of trouble whatsoever,” the service says.

If Bearshare is licensed, this raises the possibility that the labels are indirectly financing ads on pirate sites themselves, something they’ll want to quickly remedy.

Ads on other sites

PIPCU, who have partnered with content verification technology provider ‘Project Sunblock’ to place the warning ads, say their banners are “now replacing a wide range of legitimate brand adverts on infringing websites.”

So, determined to find examples of the police advertising, we began moving through sites with the most copyright complaints as per Google’s Transparency Report.

Unfortunately we were unable to view a single PIPCU banner. However, as shown in the screenshot below, we did get some interesting results on MP3Juices, a site for which the BPI has sent 1,206,000+ takedowns to Google.


Skybet is not only a subsidiary of broadcasting giant BSkyB, but the company is also a leading member of the Federation Against Copyright Theft. In turn, FACT is a key Operation Creative partner. While Sky Bet wasn’t the only gambling advertiser on the site, this ad placement means that BSkyB are currently helping to finance the very sites that PIPCU are trying to close down.

There’s absolutely no suggestion that Sky or the major labels via Bearshare are deliberately trying to finance pirate sites, but the above examples show just how difficult it’s going to be to keep major brand’s advertising off these sites, even when they are acutely aware of the problems.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Ford and General Motors Sued Over ‘CD Ripping Cars’

July 28th, 2014

ford-jukeA quarter century ago the music industry was confronted with a new threat – cassette tape recorders.

These devices were able to make “near perfect” copies of any audio recording and the RIAA and others feared this would be the end of the recorded music industry.

The record labels took their fears to Congress, which eventually resulted in the Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA) of 1992. Under this law importers and manufacturers have to pay royalties on “digital audio recording devices,” among other things.

The legislation also applies to some newer recording devices common today, which is now causing trouble for Ford and General Motors. Both companies ship cars with the ability to rip CDs onto internal hard drives and according to a coalition of artists and record companies this violates copyright law.

The Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies (AARC), which lists major record labels and 300,000 artists among its members, filed a class action lawsuit on Friday in which they demand millions of dollars in compensation.

TorrentFreak obtained a copy of the complaint (pdf) which states that Ford’s “Jukebox” device and General Motor’s “Hard Drive Device” allow consumers to rip CDs onto an internal hard drive. According to the music group these devices fall under the Audio Home Recording Act and the car companies are therefore required to pay royalties.

Thus far, neither Ford nor General Motors has complied with any requirements of the Act. Both companies have sold cars with these devices for several years on a variety of models including the Lincoln MKS, Ford Taurus, Ford Explorer, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Volt, and GMC Terrain.

In addition to the two car companies, the lawsuit also targets their technology partners Denso and Clarion. Commenting on the dispute the AARC notes that a class action lawsuit was unavoidable.

“Twenty-two years ago, cooperation between music creators and device manufacturers resulted in legislation that led to a digital electronics revolution. But having reaped the benefits of this bargain, Ford, GM, Denso, and Clarion have now decided to ignore their obligations to music creators and declare themselves above the law,” AARC Executive Director Linda Bocchi comments

“While no one likes litigation, Ford, GM, Denso, and Clarion have stonewalled long enough, and we are determined to collect the royalties our members – and all artists and music creators with rights under the AHRA – are owed,” Bocchi adds.

The artists and record labels are looking for both actual and statutory damages, which could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars. In addition, they want to prevent the manufacturers from selling these unauthorized devices in their cars.

The case will prove to be an interesting test of the legality of “recording” devices in car entertainment systems. As is usually true, the law is not as black and white as AARC’s complaint states.

For example, the lawsuit doesn’t mention that the Audio Home Recording Act includes various exemptions for personal use and for recording equipment that’s part of a larger device, such as CD-burners in computers.

It’s now up to the court to decide how cars fit into this picture.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

“Scared” Pirates Delayed Release of Expendables 3

July 28th, 2014

Last week saw the leak online of the brand new Expendables movie.

Earmarked for an August 15 U.S. release, Expendables 3 leaked in near DVD quality a full two weeks ahead. The timing and quality combined to make the leak one of the most prominent in recent years.

While the original sources of these leaks are nearly always shrouded in mystery, once made publicly available on sites like The Pirate Bay they are anyone’s for download.

Originally it was believed that Pirate Bay releaser Drarbg uploaded the first public torrent, but that was not the case. Flying under the radar a hugely less popular torrent (still only with a handful of seeds) actually preceded it by almost 20 minutes.


It’s certainly feasible that another release preceded even this one, but with torrents on sites other than Pirate Bay regularly deleted due to copyright complaints, it’s now too late for any certainty.

It’s also impossible to say how many people were in the chain after the leak and before the first public torrent upload, but numerous public sources (including RARBG themselves) are now pointing to postings on 4chan as indicating the start of events.

The thread is right here and obviously everything happened in public. The postings don’t specifically mention the title of the movie but a source close to the situation assures TF that the chat does indeed refer to The Expendables 3.


Less than two hours after his initial posting on July 15, ‘Anonymous’ was back on 4chan with an update.

“I am in contact with a release group that works with private trackers. They asked me for proof of what I had and I took pictures with a written timestamp of the disc in and out of the box,” he wrote.

“I dumped them into some special submission link they had and they will get back to me. I’m just waiting in a secured IRC room for them to get back to me once the staff takes a look.”

Precisely what happened after then is a mystery (as is the leaker’s apparent disregard for security by posting in public) but a source informs TF that whoever obtained the copy knew they had something hot – perhaps too hot.

“We know that the leak was back then, around July 15, but everyone was scared to leak it. Most private groups had it for more than 10 days, but again they were scared to leak it,” TF was told.

After the leaked copy was allegedly handed over July 15, the comments of ‘Anonymous’ as he returned to 4chan predicted the events of last Thursday.

“Keep an eye out for the leak. No telling how long this will take, but I’m sure it will make its way to public trackers due to the demand for it,” he wrote.

Interestingly, although initial demand for The Expendables 3 was brisk, downloads now sit at an estimated 500,000, and it’s currently less popular on file-sharing networks than “Divergent” which was released on the same day.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.

Japan to Crack Down on Anime and Manga Piracy

July 28th, 2014

japanIn an effort to crackdown on Internet piracy, during October 2012 the Japanese government introduced new legislation targeted at file-sharers.

To support existing punishments of up to 10 years in prison for uploaders, knowingly downloading copyright-infringing material became an offense carrying a potential two years in jail. While it was hoped that these measures would encourage consumers to do the right thing, today the problems persist.

As a result, this week the Japanese government will act in order to preserve what it sees as one of its greatest cultural exports.

Anime and manga are now consumed in countries right around the world and Japan sees this interest in Japanese culture as useful to its relationships abroad. However, with that popularity comes piracy, much of it facilitated by unlicensed overseas sites.

In the hope of remedying the situation overseas, this Friday will see the launch of a massive anti-piracy campaign aimed at making a huge dent in anime and manga piracy.

The government and 15 leading producers and distributors will begin contacting an estimated 580 “overseas pirate sites” with demands that they mass-delete infringing content. The sites are located in various regions, but there will be a particular focus on China.

Whether those sites will comply will remain to be seen, but should pirate content become harder to find the campaign wants to be able to capitalize on that opportunity. According to NHK, a new site will direct fans to legal copies of the 250 affected works at a flat price of a few hundred yen.

“We want to create a project so that anime fans overseas can enjoy Japanese content legally and without infringement worries while the profits are paid to anime production companies and publishers,” a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry spokesman said.

It seems highly unlikely that overseas sites will comply fully with the requests of the Japanese. However, by attempting to serve the overseas markets with legal content it will at least make it easier for foreigners to open their wallets, should they feel inclined to do so.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing and anonymous VPN services.