Lionsgate Targets Downloaders of Expendables 3 Leak

August 26th, 2014

expendablespiracyOver the past few weeks movie studio Lionsgate has rolled out an unprecedented anti-piracy campaign to stop people from sharing leaked copies of The Expendables 3.

Aside from dragging six file-sharing sites to court, Lionsgate sent out hundreds of thousands of takedown notices to websites that linked to pirated copies of the leaked movie.

As a result all traces of the movie were completely wiped from many file-sharing sites. However, the movie studio still isn’t satisfied and is now going after individual downloaders as well.

Lionsgate has started sending takedown notices targeting people sharing the movie via BitTorrent. The notices are being sent to various ISPs who are urged to forward them to the customers whose accounts were monitored sharing the movie.

Interestingly, this also includes those who use remote servers known as BitTorrent seedboxes. While many believe that seedboxes keep them safe from the prying eyes of piracy monitoring firms, this is not always the case. Yesterday, a customer of the Canadian seedbox provider Whatbox received the following notice.

Copyright warning

expendable-seedbox

Via an email Whatbox urged the customer to delete the file in question, or face account suspension.

“A copyright complaint has been received for content existing on your account. To prevent account suspension, please delete the affected content within the next 24 hours,” the notice reads.

TorrentFreak contacted Whatbox, who explained that this takedown procedure is standard policy. As an Internet access provider it properly processes all incoming requests form copyright holders.

“When we receive a notice we check for the infohash and email the appropriate customer asking them to remove the file(s). Nothing is passed along to the copyright enforcement group except to confirm that the content was found and subsequently removed,” Anthony Ryan of Whatbox says.

“If a customer causes a large number of copyright complaints, we reserve the right terminate their service with a prorated refund and 24 hours of complimentary service to backup all their non-infringing files,” Ryan adds.

The above notice confirms that Lionsgate’s takedown efforts are now targeting individual downloaders, through their ISPs. The action appears limited to warning letters and at least for now there are no signs that Lionsgate will drag file-sharers to court.

Nu Image, another studio involved in the production of The Expendables 3, hasn’t taken any legal action either. However, they are more familiar with the topic than Lionsgate, as they sued a record breaking 23,322 U.S. Internet users for downloading a copy of the first Expendables film.

To be continued?

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

Anti-Piracy Lawyer Wants Domain Registrars to Silence Critics

August 26th, 2014

Several years ago when suing BitTorrent users was gaining in popularity, lawyers on both sides of the copyright fence saw there was good money to be made by getting involved.

On the one hand some lawyers teamed up with piracy monitoring firms to track and then file lawsuits against file-sharers in the hope of grabbing some quick and easy settlement cash. On the other were the “good guys”, lawyers who helped Joe Public defend against the corporate might of those who by now were being openly described as “trolls”.

One such “good guy” was Mike Meier, a DC attorney who previously placed on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s list of file-sharing defense lawyers.

“In my opinion, [settlement outfits] are bill collectors for the movie industry,” Meier said at the time. “They’re basically extorting money”.

Then in November 2011, SJD over at the FightCopyrightTrolls website noticed something interesting. A redesign of Meier’s website revealed that the lawyer had switched sides. No longer was he championing those wrongly accused by “trolls”, but instead the site was acting as an information portal for people Meier himself had sued.

The FightCopyrightTrolls (FCT) article on the topic has remained intact for almost three years but last Friday Meier tried to have it taken down. He went about that in a quite unusual way too, by bypassing the FCT website operators, bypassing their webhost, and going straight for their domain registrar.

Writing directly to registrar Internet.bs, Meier said that various pages on FCT were not only defamatory and libelous, but also infringed upon his copyrights.

“You are hosting a website with information that infringes on my copyrights and defames me. I am requesting that you take that information down immediately,” his letter to Internet.bs reads.

While Meier’s other allegations are focused here, his copyright complaint appears to be directed at screenshots of his website posted by FCT which provide commentary and criticism of Meier’s transformation from one side of the settlement fence to the other.


Meier’s website before the transformation


Meier’s website after the transformation

In his communication with Internet.bs, Meier goes on to warn the registrar that as a service provider the law requires it “to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice” or risk losing its immunity from having a lawsuit brought against itself.

Despite Internet.bs not “hosting a website” as Meier claims, it didn’t stop him from doubling up on his takedown efforts. The domain registrar of another site, ExtortionLetter.info, also received a DMCA notice from Meier after it partially reproduced the article originally published by FCT in 2011 and commented on the same.

To date Meier’s actions appear to have had very little effect, the effect he was hoping for at least. Neither FightCopyrightTrolls nor ExtortionLetter have been taken down in whole or in part by their domain registrars, and the articles in question have now become renewed topics of discussion after being forgotten for several years.

Add to that the method of complaint – what appear to be a pair of flawed DMCA notices sent by an apparent copyright expert – and the information that Meier hoped to suppress will now be more visible than ever before.

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

Music Group DMCA Notices Reveal Coffee Hatred

August 25th, 2014

wipedThanks to Google and the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, spotting potential abuses of the DMCA takedown process has become easier than ever. Both organizations carefully catalog the notices they receive and as a result it’s possible to bring issues to the attention of the public.

Most of the time problems arise with companies making the odd embarrassing mistake. At other times things get more serious. Today we bring news of another mess that would’ve ordinarily flown under the radar.

On its Twitter account, Total Wipes Music Group claims to work with 800 music labels and cooperates with major digital music stores such as iTunes, Beatport and Juno. Early July the company began sending DMCA notices to Google and out of more than 15,000 URLs sent so far the majority have been rejected.

In an early notice the company asked Google to remove website pages of several of its partners including BeatPortCharts, Napster (UK and Germany), Rhapsody and TraxSource. Other notices targeted both iTunes and Apple.

In this notice, which claims to protect this content, Total Wipes launched a full frontal assault on anyone daring to use any words used in the title of their clients’ track “ROCK THE BASE & BAD FORMAT”. The results are awful.

In April this year DJ E-Z Rock, best known for the track ‘It Takes Two’ with partner Rob Base, sadly passed away. MTV, Rolling Stone and a number of news outlets all wrote about the event but in their notice Total Wipes demand that Google de-list all of their reports. They also attack a wide range of other random sites, some which dared to mention “rock” climbing and others which mentioned a rock festival on a military “base”.

rockdmca

For no apparent reason, another notice targeted The School of Performance and Cultural Industries at Leeds University in the UK, stopping off to admonish music mag Pitchfork Media and the evil PC gaming bloggers over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

shotdmca

Perhaps the weirdest notice, currently being processed by Google, sees the music outfit target a wide range of sites with the word ‘coffee’ in their URLs. Cariboucoffee, cartelcoffeelab, clivecoffee, coavacoffee, coffee.org, coffeeandtealtd, coffeebean and coffeegeek are just the tip of a very large iceberg.

Quite what Ikea, Walmart, Fair Trade and Dunkin Donuts did to warrant inclusion is a mystery, but our money is on their connections to coffee. Github’s crime will be revealed in due course.

coffee

The end result is that Google has rejected what appears to be the lions’ share of more than 15,000 URLs sent by Total Wipes, even those that appear to target well-known ‘pirate’ sites.

There are far too many URLs for us to check individually but some poor soul at Google is probably going to have to do just that. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

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

Police Freeze Mega Shares in Money Laundering Investigation

August 25th, 2014

megaWhile facing an extradition to America for his role in the so-called “Megaupload Conspiracy”, Kim Dotcom launched a new cloud storage venture, Mega. Now, this new service is being indirectly linked to a crime ring by local authorities.

Today Mega announced that one of its major shareholders William Yan, also known as Bill Liu, is suspected of having connections to a large crime ring. Pending further investigation the police has put the 18.8% share held through Yan’s companies under restraining order.

Yan has not been formally charged and through his lawyer denied any wrong-doing. Mega itself is not believed to be connected to the alleged crimes.

“The Police have commented that their action does not affect any innocent third parties (such as Mega) who have had business dealings with Mr Yan,” Mega CEO Graham Gaylard says commenting on the news.

“Mega has been extremely diligent to ensure that all its operations are fully compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements. Mega does not undertake any illegal activities and does not wish to be associated with any such activity,” Gaylard adds.

Kim Dotcom says that William Yan was properly screened before he became a shareholder. The New Zealand entrepreneur, who himself is accused of money laundering by the United States, said that no alarm bells went off at the time.

“He is an investor who put money into Mega because he believed in it. I had no idea he had any problems or issues,” Dotcom told the Herald.

The news comes at an unfortunate time for Mega, which intends to go public on the New Zealand stock exchange through a backdoor listing. As a result of the restraining order the trading in shares of the backdoor listing vehicle TRS has been temporarily halted.

Despite the problems of its shareholder, Mega’s CEO doesn’t believe the company will be affected. Gaylard stresses that all funds received by Mega were paid by Yan’s lawyers through banks that operate under stringent anti money laundering policies.

“Mega has never had any reason to suspect that such funds resulted from any illegal activity, and the Restraining Order will not affect the operations of Mega,” Gaylard says.

“For us it is business as usual.”

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

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 08/25/14

August 25th, 2014

maleThis week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Maleficent is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated 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.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
torrentfreak.com
1 (1) Maleficent 7.4 / trailer
2 (9) Godzilla (Webrip) 7.1 / trailer
3 (2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier 8.1 / trailer
4 (3) Divergent 7.2 / trailer
5 (…) The Fault in Our Stars 8.3 / trailer
6 (4) X-Men: Days of Future Past (HDrip/TS) 8.4 / trailer
7 (5) 22 Jump Street (TS) 7.8 / trailer
8 (6) The Prince 4.6 / trailer
9 (…) Draft Day 6.8 / trailer
10 (6) The Amazing Spider-Man 2 7.4 / trailer

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

Witness Offered $3.50/Hr to Testify Against Pirate Bay Founder

August 24th, 2014

Alleged “super hacker” Gottfrid Svartholm is currently being held in a Danish prison on suspicion of hacking into the computers of IT company CSC.

After being extradited to Denmark from Sweden in 2013, next month he will go to trial.

In recent weeks Danish authorities have been attempting to round up witnesses to ensure they attend the Frederiksberg court during September. It’s unclear how many there are, but TorrentFreak has learned at least one won’t be attending.

John, who has asked us not to use his real name, is a former colleague of Gottfrid who lives and works in Cambodia. TorrentFreak previously confirmed his identity and the fact that he and Gottfrid did business together. In April he received a surprise telephone call which led to an unsettling series of events involving Danish police.

Several months later and John is again being put under pressure. Following suspicions he was being watched, John received an anonymous tipoff that he had been placed on the prosecution’s witness list against Gottfrid. Sure enough, on Wednesday Jens Jorgensen from the Danish police, one of the people who traveled to Cambodia to question John, telephoned John to register him as a witness.

John and Jorgensen then exchanged emails in which the former expressed bemusement at why the prosecution would want to use his evidence when it actually supports the position of Gottfrid Svartholm.

“I fail to see how anything I previously said to you could be used in this case against [Gottfrid]. As I told you, lots of people had access to [Gottfrid's] computer,” John wrote.

“Why on earth would you want me to testify against him when you know full well that I don’t believe he committed this crime based on what little information I have?”

In his early days of detention Gottfrid was kept in solitary confinement, something which enraged Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and prompted complaints from Gottfrid’s mother Kristina to Amnesty. This treatment is also a big issue with John.

“Gottfrid’s previous prolonged, extrajudicial solitary confinement in your country very clearly meets the United Nations definition of torture, and I find it utterly troubling,” John told Jorgensen.

“With that in mind, I am deeply concerned about the prospect of being a part of something that is so clearly unethical if not outright illegal. Is there some sort of legal equivalent of being a conscientious objector to trials? If so, I would consider myself a conscientious objector to this one, the whole thing disgusts me whether he committed the crime or not.”

Clearly, traveling half way around the world to assist the prosecution in a high profile trial against someone you believe is innocent is problematic enough, but John also has serious concerns about the legal issues involved.

“Will I be offered access to a lawyer at any point during all of this? he asked Jorgensen.

“So far I’ve been threatened with force by a man claiming to be a Swedish policeman, made to answer a bunch of questions, and now I’m being asked to make a decision about legal matters. I’d really like access to a lawyer so I can make informed decisions about this, but I can’t afford one as I got fired from my job the day after you came to see me.”

In addition to visiting John, Danish police also visited John’s employer when they visited Cambodia earlier this year. He was fired less than 24 hours later but was fortunate to find new employment.

In his response, Jorgensen confirmed that attending the trial is a voluntary act and no one will force John to attend. He also informed John that if he needs legal advice, he’ll have to pay for it himself. Nevertheless, the summons was issued.

The summons states that traveling expenses will be reimbursed and if necessary John will be provided with a hotel room in Denmark. He is also offered DKK 40 for every two hours he’s away from home or work – that’s roughly $3.50 per hour. If that isn’t enough the police say that more money may be available, but in John’s case that probably won’t be needed.

“I respectfully refuse your invitation and can confirm that I have no intention of appearing in court, at least until you clarify your motives for requesting me to do so, and until you provide access to appropriate legal advice so that I can make an informed decision,” John concludes.

A copy of the summons can be found below – note that while Gottfrid Svartholm is accused of only “white collar” offenses, the contact address is the Public Prosecutor’s Department of Violent Crime.

witness

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

Police: Finding Pirate Bay Documents is Too Expensive

August 24th, 2014

pirate bayThanks to the UK’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) the public is able to check what the government is up to, and hold it accountable. At least, that’s what it’s intended for.

FOIA requests are a helpful tool for journalists and at TorrentFreak we previously used this right to uncover the scope of City of London Police’s anti-piracy efforts.

There is more to reveal though. It is widely known that the police work in tandem with entertainment industry groups such as FACT and the BPI, so we also attempted to find out what’s being discussed behind closed doors.

Since asking for all information shared between City of London Police and entertainment industry groups might be a bit much, we focused our FOIA request on The Pirate Bay.

More specifically, we requested police correspondence with representatives of the creative industry “regarding the pirate bay also known as TPB, thepiratebay.se, thepiratebay.sx, thepiratebay.org, or Pirate Bay.”

On Friday we heard back from the responsible Information Access Officer, but no documents were provided. Instead, we were told that the request can’t be processed as the cost would exceed the statutory limit of £450.

“In order to establish the existence of any correspondence of this kind it would be necessary to examine all mail systems, all call logs and all files/documents held by the force,” the reply read.

“The cost of completing this work would exceed the limit prescribed by the Secretary of State in accordance with powers contained in Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act. The limit is currently set at £450 and the hourly rate is set at £25.”

Apparently the police estimate that it would take more than 18 hours to locate the information we asked for. That would make sense if none of the documents are organized, but we assume that the force has some type of archiving system.

The above response leaves us with no other option than to limit the request to electronic information only, specifying a narrow time frame. Whether this will fall within the desired cost projection has yet to be seen though. Let’s hope there’s no hard drive crash in the meantime.

To be continued…

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

Backup Service Kicks Customer Over “Infringing” Torrent Files

August 23rd, 2014

torrentsMost people who regularly use a computer know that it’s wise to have all critical data backed up. Whether it’s on a local hard drive or in the cloud, a copy can come in handy if something breaks.

Zoolz is one of the many commercial backup solutions. The company services regular customers but also business clients including Microsoft, Dell, the BBC and the Washington post.

Zoolz allows customers to backup their files in the cloud, including entire hard-drives. This is all done privately and securely, the company claims, with zero knowledge of what’s being transferred.

This zero knowledge claim has been called into doubt recently as one of Zoolz’ customers, Ryan Gallagher, had his account terminated after the company found several .torrent files in his backups. Gallagher didn’t store any infringing media, but just 1 Megabyte worth of old metadata.

Apparently, scanning for pirated filenames is standard practice at Zoolz, which is also explained in the product agreement.

“If Metadata checking (i.e. file names) reveals that an account has content relating to video piracy, software piracy or any copyrighted data with the intent to distribute (i.e. torrents) the account will be immediately terminated,” it reads.

And this is indeed what happened. Zoolz promptly notified the customer that his account would be terminated, and he was given a few days to transfer over a terabyte of data to a safer place.

“My account and all data (1.3TB) was nuked, they would not budge on deleting specific ‘prohibited file names’ saying they had no way to do it. It’s a complete waste of time and bandwidth,” former Zoolz customer Gallagher comments.

While there is nothing wrong with strict anti-piracy policies, deleting an entire account over a few small pieces of metadata goes pretty far. The .torrent files Zoolz found only reference pirated files, nothing more.

And it got even worse. When Geoff Akerlund of the Backup Review site confronted the company with its drastic actions, he was accused of supporting illegal behavior himself.

“We are sad to see you side with illegal behavior, the torrents could mean that the user has the actual media files, and downloading any media file without any proof of ownership is considered illegal,” Zoolz told him.

The backup service claims that the torrents “could” indicate that the user has a copy of the files as well, and that without proof of ownership terminating the account is warranted.

Aside from this rude behavior and terminating users accounts because they store non-infringing .torrent files, one has to wonder what business a backup provider has snooping through the computers of their customers.

In any case, Zoolz has “zero knowledge” of proper customer service.

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

Russian Govt. Plans Tougher Anti-Piracy Legislation

August 23rd, 2014

In an effort to crack down on rampant online piracy, last August Russia introduced a brand new anti-piracy law.

The legislation provides a mechanism for sites to be blocked should they not comply with rightsholder takedown requests within 72 hours.

The ultimate sanction was applied in a limited number of cases during the first year leaving rightsholders with many complaints, not least that the law only applies to movies and TV shows.

For months the authorities have been investigated ways to boost the legislation and in early July a set of amendments were passed following their second reading. They are currently being considered by the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

According to Deputy Duma Speaker Sergei Zhelezniak, it is likely they will return for a further reading during the fall, this time containing provisions for the protection of music, books and software.

“Most likely, we will table amendments at the beginning of the autumn session,” Zhelezniak told a meeting of the copyright protection working group.

Zhelezniak says that legislators have carefully studied the proposals of the executive authorities and generally agreed that there should be tightened penalties for owners of Internet sites which intentionally engage in piracy. These sites will be blocked by court order and placed in a “special register”.

Ministry of Culture State Secretary Grigory Ivliev says that the government wants to increase the level of fines levied against those who engage in the piracy of music, books and software. For businesses fines could be increased to around one million rubles ($26,600) while individuals could face fines up to 300,000 rubles ($8,300)

If all goes to plan, the new amendments could in force as early as this December.

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

BBC & FACT Shut Down Doctor Who Fansite

August 23rd, 2014

doctorwhoIn just a few hours time the brand new season of Doctor Who will premiere, kicking off with the first episode ‘Deep Breath’. There’s been a huge build up in the media, but for fans who prefer to socialize and obtain news via a dedicated community, today brings bad news.

Doctor Who Media (DWM) was a site created in 2010 and during the ensuing four and a half years it amassed around 25,000 dedicated members.

A source close to the site told TF that since nothing like it existed officially, DWM’s core focus was to provide a central location and community for everything in the “Whoniverse”, from reconstructions of missing episodes to the latest episodes, and whatever lay between.

But yesterday, following a visit by representatives from the BBC and Federation Against Copyright Theft, the site’s operator took the decision to shut down the site for good.

“I had a knock at the door and a couple of guys were there. One from FACT and one from BBCWW [BBC Worldwide]. The FACT guy basically explained what the issue was, said that he was there to give a cease and desist and wanted the domain transferred,” the site’s operator informs TorrentFreak.

With threats of executing an official search warrant and taking the matter to court if terms could not be reached, there was never any question of embarking on a losing battle. With the user database secured, an agreement was quickly reached to close down the site and transfer the domain.

Interestingly, however, the domain name will not be going to FACT as is usually the case. Doctor Who Media’s operator told TF that it will be transferred to the BBC as there are trademark issues involved.

“DWM may have been a major factor of my life for the past few years, but I wasn’t going to let it ruin me, so I agreed, signed, the guy wrote down his mobile number in case there were any issues and then they went. They were about as nice as you could expect given the situation. It’s only a job after all,” he concludes.

The tip about the site’s shutdown came from a DWM user who told TF that he’ll be sad to see its doors close for the final time.

“I can’t speak for others but having that content available really helped raise my interest level in Doctor Who. Often times, having watched stuff there led to me purchasing the exact same content on iTunes as well as all the various other content available for Doctor Who,” he explained.

And now, all eyes turn to the season premiere tonight. As of yesterday, all but the final episode of the brand new season had leaked to file-sharing sites, although it’s worth pointing out that Doctor Who Media refused to carry any of that content.

Will the leaks have a positive or negative impact on viewing figures? There’s only a few hours to find out, but it’s doubtful the BBC will be weeping following tonight’s episode.

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