MPAA and RIAA Members Uploaded Over 2,000 Gigabytes to Megaupload

April 18th, 2014

megauploadFollowing in the footsteps of the U.S. Government, this month the major record labels and Hollywood’s top movie studios filed lawsuits against Megaupload and Kim Dotcom.

While the legal action doesn’t come as a surprise, there is a double standard that has not been addressed thus far.

The entertainment industry groups have always been quick to brand Megaupload as a pirate haven, designed to profit from massive copyright infringement. The comment below from MPAA’s general counsel Steve Fabrizio is a good example.

“Megaupload was built on an incentive system that rewarded users for uploading the most popular content to the site, which was almost always stolen movies, TV shows and other commercial entertainment content,” Fabrizio commented when the MPAA filed its suit.

However, data from Megaupload’s database shared with TorrentFreak shows that employees of MPAA and RIAA member companies had hundreds of accounts at the file-storage site. This includes people working at Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal Music Group, Sony, and Warner Music.

In total, there were 490 Megaupload accounts that were connected to MPAA and RIAA members, who sent 181 premium payments in total. Together, these users uploaded 16,455 files which are good for more than 2,097 gigabytes in storage.

Remember, those are only from addresses that could be easily identified as belonging to a major movie studio or record label, so the real numbers should be much higher.

MPAA / RIAA member accounts
mega-mpaariaa

But there’s more. The same companies that are now asking for millions of dollars in damages due to massive copyright infringement were previously eager to work with Megaupload and Megavideo.

As we noted previously, Disney, Warner Brothers, Fox and others contacted Kim Dotcom’s companies to discuss advertising and distribution deals.

For example, Shelina Sayani, Digital Marketing Coordinator for Warner Bros, offered a deal to syndicate “exciting” Warner content to Megaupload’s Megavideo site.

Subject: Warner Bros. – Looking for Content Manager
Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 08:55:50 -0800
From: Sayani, Shelina
To: demand@megavideo.com

Dear Megavideo,

I’m writing from Warner Bros., offering opportunities to syndicate our exciting entertainment content (e.g. Dark Knight, Harry Potter, Sex and the City clips and trailer) for your users. Could you please pass on my information to the appropriate content manager or forward me to them? Thanks so much for your time.

Shelina Sayani
WB Advanced Digital Services
3300 W Olive Ave, Bldg 168 Room 4-023
Burbank, CA 91505
818.977.4668

Similarly, Disney attorney Gregg Pendola reached out to Megaupload, not to threaten or sue the company, but to set up a deal to have Disney content posted on the Megavideo site.

Subject: Posting on Megavideo.com
From: “Pendola, Gregg”
Date: 8/13/2008 10:06 AM
To: love@megavideo.com

My name is Gregg Pendola. I am Executive Counsel for The Walt Disney Company. Certain properties of The Walt Disney Company have content that they would like to post on your site.

However, we are uncomfortable with a couple of the provisions of your Terms of Use that we feel may jeopardize our rights in our content. We were hoping that you would be amenable to reviewing a 1-page agreement we have drafted that we would like to use in place of your Terms of Use.

Is there someone I can contact to discuss this? Or someone I can email the Agreement to for review?

Thanks. Gregg

Gregg Pendola
Executive Counsel
The Walt Disney Company

For Fox, the interest in Megaupload wasn’t necessarily aimed at spreading studio content, but to utilize Megaupload’s considerable reach by setting up an advertising deal. In this email former Senior Director Matt Barash touts FAN, the Fox Audience Network.

Subject: Fox Ad Partnership
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 2009 08:09:14 -0800
From: Matt Barash
To: sales@megaupload.com

I’m reaching out to see if you have a few minutes to discuss the recently launched Fox Audience Network.

FAN is now up and running and fully operational, utilizing best of breed optimization technology to bring cutting edge relevancy to the ad network landscape.
We are scaling rapidly and seeking the right 3rd party publishers to add as partners to our portfolio.

Please let me know if you have some time to chat this week about how we can work together to better monetize your inventory.

Best,
Matt

Matt Barash
Director, Publisher Development
Fox Audience Network

The above are just a few examples of major industry players who wanted to team up with Kim Dotcom. Now, several years later, the same companies accuse the site of being one of the largest piracy vehicles the Internet has ever seen.

If the MPAA and RIAA cases proceed, Megaupload’s defense will probably present some of these examples to highlight the apparent double standard. That will be an interesting narrative to follow, for sure.

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

Five Years Before Any New U.S. Anti-Piracy Laws, MP Predicts

April 18th, 2014

sam-pirateUnder immense pressure from powerful entertainment companies, in 2011 it looked almost inevitable that the United States would introduce powerful new legislation to massively undermine Internet piracy.

Championed by Hollywood and the world’s leading record labels, the Stop Online Piracy Act made headlines around the world for putting super-aggressive tools into the government’s arsenal. At the same time, however, proper consideration wasn’t given to their potential impact on innovation.

As a result, citizens and technology companies teamed up to stage the biggest protest the Internet has ever seen resulting in a back-down by the government – and Hollywood in particular – on an unprecedented scale.

The fallout became obvious in the months that followed. The usual anti-piracy rhetoric from the MPAA and RIAA was massively toned down, at times becoming non-existent. In its place emerged a new and softer approach, one aimed at making peace with the very technology companies that had stood in their way.

This week an intellectual property enforcement leader very familiar with the big studios and record labels revealed just how much damage the SOPA defeat is responsible for.

Speaking in Los Angeles at an event hosted by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp., UK MP and Prime Minister’s Intellectual Property Advisor Mike Weatherley said that it would be a very long time before anyone dared to push for new legislation in the United States.

weatherley“It’s going to be five years before anybody puts his head above the parapet again,” Weatherley told executives.

If Weatherley’s predictions are correct, that takes us beyond 2020 before any new legislation gets put in place, a comparative lifetime online and a timescale during which almost anything can happen.

But Hollywood and the labels aren’t sitting still in this apparent ‘quiet’ period. A new strategy has been adopted, one that seeks voluntary cooperation with technology-based companies, the “six-strikes” deal with United States ISPs being a prime example.

Cooperation has also been sought from advertising companies in an attempt to strangle the revenues of so-called pirate sites, a move that has been gathering momentum in recent months. Weatherley told the meeting that existing laws might need to be “beefed up” a little, but from his overall tone those tweaks seem unlikely to provoke any SOPA-like backlash.

Also generating interest is Weatherley’s attitude towards Google. The world’s leading search engine has been under intense pressure to do something about the infringing results that appear in its listings. At times the rhetoric, especially from the music industry, has been intense, and could’ve easily spilled over into aggression if Google had decided to bite back. However, the UK Prime Minister’s IP advisor says he sees things differently.

“I know in America [Google] are considered much more of a pariah than they are perhaps in the U.K. But I have to say they are engaging with me and they recognize that something has got to be done,” Weatherley told the meeting.

But while Weatherley talks peace and cooperation and the MPAA and RIAA keep their heads down in the States, much anti-piracy work is being conducted through their proxies FACT and the BPI in the UK. Instead of tackling the world’s leading file-sharing sites from U.S. soil, the job has been transferred to the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. Not only does it keep the controversy down at home, it also costs much less, with the British taxpayer footing much of the bill.

TorrentFreak has learned that only last week a new batch of letters went out to file-sharing related sites, with yet more demands for them to shut down or face the consequences. Things might appear quiet in the United States, but that doesn’t meant things aren’t happening.

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

Landmark Case Sees Pirate Bay User Hit With 5 Year Sentence

April 17th, 2014

pirate bayIn a blaze of publicity mid December 2013 it was revealed that South Africa had netted its very first Internet pirate. SAFACT, the Southern African Federation Against Copyright Theft, said it had caught a man uploading a high-profile movie to The Pirate Bay.

The case had unusual hallmarks from the start, not least since SAFACT admitted it had engaged the services of a “certified ethical hacker” to identify, profile and trace the uploader. Adding to the intrigue, SAFACT also refused to name the uploaded movie, although it was later revealed to be Four Corners, a local gangland film that was yet to be officially released.

Initially, the identity of the uploader was also shrouded in mystery but he was later revealed to be 29-year-old Majedien Norton. The IT engineer was reported to have uploaded the movie on November 21, 2013, although there is no sign of it now, which suggests that the father of two later deleted the file. Norton later admitted to buying a ‘screener’ copy of the movie off the streets and uploading it to Pirate Bay.

As in many countries, relatively minor and non-commercial instances of copyright infringement are dealt with via the civil courts in South Africa, but from fairly early on it was clear that this case would be different. The overall anti-piracy tone was that an example needed to be made and a precedent set for those tempted to make the same kind of mistake in future.

Today the case concluded in the Commercial Crimes Court in Cape Town and it seems that SAFACT largely achieved its aims. After being arrested under the Counterfeit Goods Act and facing a fine plus up to three years in jail, Norton came to an arrangement with the state, pleaded guilty, and was handed a five-year suspended jail sentence.

“It’s a huge relief for me and my wife,” Norton told local news outlet htxt.africa. “I’m just glad we can put this behind us now and move on.”

But while SAFACT and the rest of the anti-piracy lobby will be pleased with the harsh albeit suspended sentence, in a recent interview the director of Four Corners was philosophical over the piracy of his movie.

“I think the way people think now ­ digitally ­they don’t see piracy as piracy any more. They see it as sharing. We will definitely not get as many people to the cinemas as we would have if the film were not pirated,” Ian Gabriel said.

“At the same time, there are people who have seen the film who would never have got to the cinema. I’m pleased the film is reaching those people because there’s a message of pride and self recognition and of choice for ordinary people that the film is delivering and its important that message be heard.”

And while SAFACT clearly believe that the threat of criminal punishments will help solve the piracy problem, Gabriel sees things from a different angle. Noting that movies cannot exist without money, the director says a more considered approach to piracy is required.

“I suggest in order to continue to enhance our quality of life, creative rights of origination need to be secured on some consensual level, probably not through aggressive policing, but rather through a common sense approach to the protection of creative endeavour for the benefit of all,” the director concludes.

SAFACT are yet to comment on the conclusion of the case.

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

Pirate Video Streaming Sites Exploit Google’s Servers

April 17th, 2014

google-logoGoogle has been in the crosshairs of the entertainment industries for a while now. These companies believe that Google is not doing enough to prevent pirate sites from showing up in search results.

However, there is another less visible problem that cropped up in recent months. Increasingly, streaming portals with a focus on the latest pirated copies and TV-shows are using Google as a source.

A German anti-piracy outfit has identified more than 18,000 pirated videos that are featured on more than a dozen large sites. All these streaming sites use the same movie sources without charge, and the bandwidth bill goes to Google.

The list of sites includes Movie4k.to, hdmoviezone.net, viooc.co, viooz.be, viooz.cc, vioozmovies.me, watch32.com, putlocker.bz, putocker.to, putlocker.tw, megashare.info, megashare.sh, megashare.ca, afdah.com, yify.tv, watch32.com.

Together these streaming portals are good for several million daily visitors, which means that Google must be seeing a lot of traffic originating from these sites. The screenshot below shows a copy of The Wolf of Wall Street on YIFY.tv, available in several video qualities and with subtitles if needed.

YIFY.tv Using Google

yifytvgoogle

It’s unclear where the videos are hosted, but the URL above shows the googlevideo.com domain. In addition, it includes a “source=picasa” string, suggesting Google’s image hosting service has something to do with it.

While the site owners are benefiting from the free storage, copyright holders are less excited. A German media outfit, which remains unnamed, reportedly sent requests to Google last month hoping to take down the files, but without success.

Since the files remain online, the lawyers of the media company have now applied for an injunction against Google at a local court.

Two weeks ago Warner Bros. also asked Google to remove several of these URLs from its search engine. These requests were denied, most likely because the videos can’t be accessed directly through the link Warner provided.

In a comment to TorrentFreak, Google stresses that users are not permitted to distribute copyrighted content without permission. The company is actively trying to stop these kinds of abuses and also responds swiftly to takedown notices.

“Use of Google platforms to host infringing materials is a violation of our terms of use, and we design features into our systems to make them unattractive for this kind of abuse,” a Google spokesperson told TF.

“We also respond quickly to disable access to any materials on our platforms identified to us by copyright owners as infringing,” Google adds.

Why the thousands of Google-hosted videos on these streaming portals remain online is unclear. It could be that Google indeed removed the files in question, but that they were re-uploaded. Another possibility is that the copyright holder didn’t correctly identify the source file, as Warner Bros’ takedown notice suggests.

One of the additional problems copyright holders face is that the URLs of the videos are harder to identify. Automated takedown tools can’t easily spot where the files are coming from, which makes it more complicated to send takedown requests.

It will be interesting to see how this issue will be dealt with in the future. It’s clear that neither Google not the copyright holders are happy with the current situation. For now, the only ones benefiting are the streaming portals and their millions of users.

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

Spotify Starts Shutting Down Its Massive P2P Network

April 16th, 2014

spotify-blackWhen Spotify launched its first beta in the fall of 2008, we branded it “an alternative to music piracy.

With the option to stream millions of tracks supported by an occasional ad, or free of ads for a small subscription fee, Spotify appeared to be a serious competitor to music piracy.

In the years that followed Spotify conquered the hearts and minds of many music fans. Currently available in 61 countries, the service has amassed dozens of millions of users. A true success story, one that was in part made possible due to Spotify’s heavy reliance on P2P technology.

In fact, Spotify has long been one of the largest P2P networks on the Internet. When Spotify subscribers play a track in the desktop client, this could come from three sources: a cached file on the computer, one of Spotify’s servers, or from other subscribers through P2P.

In 2011 we reported that of all tracks that were not accessed over the Internet, roughly 80% went through the P2P network. This allowed Spotify to reduced server resources and associated costs, which is a pretty big deal for a startup.

However, the end of the road is coming soon for this massive private sharing network. TorrentFreak has learned that Spotify plans to discontinue its P2P technology altogether, to rely solely on central servers instead.

“We’re gradually phasing out the use of our desktop P2P technology which has helped our users enjoy their music both speedily and seamlessly,” Spotify’s Alison Bonny informs TF.

Where Spotify previously needed P2P to guarantee that all tracks could be played with the lowest lag possible, this is no longer needed. During the months to come Spotify will effectively shut down its P2P servers.

“We’re now at a stage where we can power music delivery through our growing number of servers and ensure our users continue to receive a best-in-class service,” Bonny says.

P2P has been central to Spotify’s success for a variety of reasons. For one, it allowed the service to scale up quickly without having to invest heavily in servers and bandwidth. This must have saved the company millions of dollars per year.

Also, one of the lead engineers since the start is none other than Ludvig Strigeus, the original creator of the BitTorrent client uTorrent. Strigeus sold uTorrent to BitTorrent Inc. in 2006, and some believe that part of this money went into the development of Spotify.

Spotify’s departure from P2P technology marks the end of an era, but to most people the change will simply go unnoticed, just like the fact that they have been sharing tracks with thousands of people from all over the world for years, with permission from the major record labels.

Spotify’s (former) distribution setup

spotify-distribution-2011

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

High Court: Kim Dotcom Can Have His Cars, Millions in Cash Returned

April 16th, 2014

When Kim Dotcom’s New Zealand mansion was raided in 2012, some of the most memorable images were of his luxury car collection being loaded onto trailers and taken away. The authorities hoped the pictures would help to symbolize Dotcom’s fall from ‘power’ but two years later he might be burning rubber in them once again.

Just two days before the raid on Dotcom’s home, foreign restraining orders were granted to enable the seizure of the entrepreneur’s assets. As they are set to run out on Friday, the Crown applied to the High Court yesterday to have them extended.

Unfortunately for United States and local authorities, the application was turned down, which means that Dotcom’s assets including his car collection, substantial quantities of cash, artwork and other equipment, could soon be returned.

Shortly after the news broke, Dotcom took to his beloved Twitter to celebrate.

CarsTwitter

Dotcom added that when his cars are returned he will be treating member of his newly formed Internet Party to a day out racing.

“I will rent the Taupo race track for a track day with #InternetParty members when my cars are returned!” he tweeted.

While Dotcom is understandably excited, the Crown has two weeks to file an appeal. That is almost certain to happen.

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

Android Pirate Agrees To Work Undercover For the Feds

April 16th, 2014

snappzIn 2012, three Android-focused websites were seized by the Department of Justice. With help from French and Dutch police, the FBI took over applanet.net, appbucket.net and snappzmarket.com, a trio of so-called ‘rogue’ app stores.

Carrying out several arrests the authorities heralded the operation as the first of its kind, alongside claims that together the sites had facilitated the piracy of more than two million apps.

Last month the Department of Justice announced that two of the three admins of Appbucket had entered guilty pleas to charges of criminal copyright infringement and would be sentenced in June.

Yesterday the DoJ reported fresh news on the third defendant. Appbucket’s Thomas Pace, 38, of Oregon City, Oregon, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and will be sentenced in July.

As reported in late March, the former operator of Applanet says he intends to fight the U.S. Government. However, the same definitely cannot be said about Kody Jon Peterson of Clermont, Florida.

The 22-year-old, who was involved in the operations of SnappzMarket, pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement. He admitted being involved in the illegal copying and distribution of more than a million pirated Android apps with a retail value of $1.7 million. His sentencing date has not been set, but even when that’s over his debt to the government may still not be paid.

As part of his guilty plea, Peterson entered into a plea agreement in which he gave up his right to be tried by a jury and any right to an appeal. He also accepted that he could be jailed for up to five years, be subjected to supervised release of up to three years, be hit with a $250,000 fine, and have to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes.

spyPeterson also agreed to cooperate with the authorities in the investigation, including producing all relevant records and attending interviews when required. However, in addition to more standard types of cooperation, the 22-year-old also agreed to go much further. A copy of his plea agreement obtained by TF reveals that Peterson has agreed to work undercover for the Government.

“Upon request by the Government, the Defendant agrees to act in an undercover investigative capacity to the best of his ability,” the agreement reads.

“The Defendant agrees that Defendant will make himself available to the law enforcement agents designated by the Government, will fully comply with all reasonable instructions given by such agents, and will allow such agents to monitor and record conversations and other interactions with persons suspected of criminal activity.”

The plea agreement also notes that in order to facilitate this work, Government attorneys and agents are allowed to contact Peterson on no notice and communicate with him without his own attorney being present. The extent of Peterson’s cooperation will eventually be detailed to the sentencing court and if it is deemed to be “substantial” then the Government will file a motion to have his sentence reduced.

But despite the agreements, Peterson has another huge problem to face. According to court documents he is an immigrant to the United States and as such a guilty plea could see him removed from the country. Whether he will be allowed to stay will be the subject of a separate proceeding but given his agreement to work undercover it seems unlikely the Government would immediately choose to eject such a valuable asset.

In the meantime, former associates and contacts of Peterson could potentially be talking online to him right now, with a FBI agent listening in over his shoulder and recording everything being said.

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

Adolf Hitler Smiley Face Women’s T-Shirt

April 15th, 2014
Adolf Hitler Smiley Face Women's T-Shirt Professionally silk-screened and the highest quality possible! Black and Gold Hitler smiley face design printed on white female fitting Gildan shirts. Available in: Small, Medium, Large, X Large, XX Large and XXX Large (XXL & XXXL are $4 extra)

Square Enix: DRM Boosts Profits and It’s Here to Stay

April 15th, 2014

squareEven in the early 1980s illegal copies of games were viewed as lost sales. In response, software producers built anti-copying mechanisms into their cassette-based content.

While these systems made copying more awkward, they did very little to stop piracy. Also, it didn’t take long for legitimate buyers to begin noticing something strange. For some reason, games with copy protection errored more often when loading than games without it.

Fast forward more than 30 years and technology is almost unrecognizable from those early 8 bit days, but perhaps surprisingly today’s copy protection – or DRM as we now know it – is still producing conundrums similar to those of three decades ago.

People who use pirate copies these days are generally unaffected by DRM since it is removed in advance, whereas legitimate buyers often have to jump through several hoops in order to get their products running as expected. This punishing of ‘honest’ customers is at the root of most DRM complaints.

Still, many of the world’s games developers see DRM as a necessary evil, claiming that without it copying would continue completely unchecked and as a result sales would decline. One such company is Square Enix, the gaming giant behind Final Fantasy and many dozens of other iconic cross-platform titles.

Adam Sullivan, Square Enix America’s Senior Manager of Business and Legal Affairs, informs TorrentFreak that the company’s choice to include DRM in its products has its roots in a simple concept – maximizing revenue.

“The primary benefit to us is the same as with any business: profit,” Sullivan explains.

So does DRM really work?

“We have a well-known reputation for being very protective of our IPs, which does deter many would-be pirates,” Sullivan adds. “However, effectiveness is notoriously difficult to measure — in short, we rely on the data available to us through our sales team and various vendors, along with consumer feedback.”

drm-noOf course, consumer feedback in the Internet space often includes fierce criticism of DRM, especially when it goes catastrophically wrong, as it has done on a number of occasions in recent years. So has Square Enix learned from these mistakes?

“The key to DRM is that it can’t interfere with the customer’s ability to play the game,” Sullivan says.

“It’s not uncommon for people to get a new computer every few years, or to have multiple computers. Sometimes they don’t have reliable internet connections. There’s no perfect solution yet.”

But while the problems persist, Sullivan says that Square Enix will pursue its anti-piracy strategy while considering the factors that are most important to the company and the game’s target audience. So is DRM here to stay?

“This depends on your definition of DRM, but generally yes — I think DRM will be essential for the foreseeable future,” Sullivan explains.

“When F2P [free-to-play] began trending, lots of people thought it would be the death of DRM. I remember talking with one F2P developer who couldn’t imagine why hackers would want to attack his game, since it was free and all. Two months later they were barraged with several hacks.

“So long as we’re concerned about things like data privacy, accounting sharing and hacking, we’ll need some form of DRM,” Square Enix America’s Head of Legal concludes.

More of Square Enix’s thoughts on anti-piracy and DRM initiatives will be heard during the Anti-Piracy and Content Protection Summit in Los Angeles this summer where Adam Sullivan will be a guest speaker.

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

Game of Thrones Sets New Torrent Swarm Record

April 15th, 2014

thrones Yesterday the second episode of Game of Thrones’ fourth season made its way onto the Internet. As expected, this generated quite a bit of activity on various torrent sites.

From all over the world people virtually gathered around the various pirated copies of the show, breaking the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm ever in the process.

A few hours after the second episode came online the Demonii tracker reported that 193,418 people where sharing one single torrent. 145,594 had a complete copy of the episode and continued to upload, while 47,824 were still downloading the file.

These are unprecedented numbers – never before have 193,418 people shared a single file simultaneously. The previous record was set last year, when the season finale of Game of Thrones had 171,572 people sharing on a single tracker.

Last week’s season opening, on the other hand, had “only” 140,000 people sharing the most active torrent. There wasn’t per se less interest in this episode, but at the time the downloaders were spread out more across different torrents.

Game of Thrones’ new file-sharing record

trackers-got-record

In addition to this record-breaking torrent, there were also several other Game of Thrones torrents out there with tens of thousands of people sharing.

Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode was downloaded roughly 1.5 million times during the first day. This makes the show the likely candidate to be crowned the most-downloaded TV-show at the end of the year.

As previously revealed, Game of Thrones downloaders come from all over the world. Data gathered during the first 12 hours after the release last week revealed that most downloaders came from Australia, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and The Netherlands.

Interestingly, Game of Thrones is available through legal channels in all countries listed above, albeit not cheaply.

The current record probably won’t last for long. The show’s ratings generally go up throughout the season, and so do the unauthorized downloads. This makes it likely that the barrier of 200,000 simultaneous file-sharers will be broken during the weeks to come.

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