XBMC/Kodi Targets Piracy-Promoting eBay Sellers

November 1st, 2014

xbmc-logoAnyone typing the simple phrase “free movies” into eBay will be overloaded with many thousands of results. A large proportion offer hardware that has been customized to receive unauthorized online video.

The software these devices run is very often XBMC, or Kodi as its now known. The software in its basic form is an entirely legal media player, around since the days of the original Xbox (XBox Media Center).

However, XBMC/Kodi is compatible with third-party addons that can turn the player into a piracy powerhouse providing free access to movies, TV shows and live sports. With the advent of XBMC/Kodi for Android, eBay is now flooded with ready-built and configured ‘pirate’ boxes that anyone can operate.


A typical ‘pirate’ XBMC Android Box Listing

ad-listing

This week TF received information that eBay has been taking down listings for these devices, apparently at the behest of the XBMC Foundation, the organization behind the XBMC/Kodi software.

“The rights owner or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the rights owner, XBMC Foundation, notified eBay that this listing violates intellectual property rights. When eBay receives a report of this type of violation, we remove the listing to comply with the law,” eBay told a disappointed seller.

When emailed about the takedown, XBMC Foundation responded: “Your listing was removed because it violates our brand policy by altering the XBMC(tm) / Kodi ™ installation by including extra add-ons which are against our general brand policy or piracy general piracy policy.”

To discover more about these developments, TorrentFreak spoke with Kodi Project Manager Nathan Betzen.

“First, let me say that we have no copyright claims or interests in addons developed by third parties. The form provided by eBay is unfortunately over broad and says quite a bit more than we want it to say, but we work with the tools we’re given,” Betzen told TF.

“The requested takedowns are based entirely on trademark issues. All of the listings targeted so far have explicitly connected XBMC/Kodi with addons that enable piracy, resulting in eBay listings with phrases like, ‘XBMC lets you watch all the free movies you want!’”

Betzen informs TF that the Foundation not only controls the XBMC trademark in the US (and wherever else common law trademarks are recognized), but is also in the process of registering the name ‘Kodi’ with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once obtained, that trademark will be extended internationally using the Madrid Trademark Protocol.

ebay“We believe that these [eBay] sales are causing confusion for our users about what XBMC/Kodi does as a vanilla program. The clearest evidence of this may be found among several of the sellers themselves who are surprised and unaware of the fact that XBMC has absolutely nothing to do with the development of the piracy-related addons included in their sales pitch,” Betzen says.

“Upon being contacted by the sellers, we only request that they not associate the XBMC/Kodi name with the act of piracy described in their listings. This is possible by rebranding the software, which is permissible under the GPL.”

Betzen notes that simply refraining from mentioning piracy features is also enough to avoid an eBay takedown.

“Either way, they are welcome to post the sale again the moment they follow either of these paths or otherwise creatively solve the issue of associating the name XBMC/Kodi with piracy,” Betzen says.

Despite the takedowns, the XBMC Foundation told TF it takes no stance on piracy. Users are free to use their software how they like within the constraints of the GPL v2. However, that freedom ends when people indicate to the public that the Foundation is taking sides in the piracy debate when its goal is to remain out of the argument entirely.

“To put it simply: We are happy to remain software developers. And we are happy to let other groups stand for and against piracy,” Betzen concludes.

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

Joker Goes Offline After Pressure From Copyright Holders

October 31st, 2014

While most people use standalone torrent clients to download files, there are also several services that allow people to stream videos in a web-browser via the popular file-sharing protocol.

One of the best implementations of BitTorrent ‘powered’ streaming is Joker.org. Although the actual streaming is not fully peer-to-peer, as the transfers first go through central servers, its ease of use is certainly appealing.

This week hundreds of news sites wrote about the service which became overloaded with new users as a result. A success story, but one with a downside, as copyright holders were immediately on high alert.

Just a few days after the service first gathered serious online momentum, it is already gone. The Joker.org website currently shows a placeholder mentioning that it’s looking for a new home.

TorrentFreak contacted the Joker team who explained to us that the service was shut down by hosting company Redstation following “pressure” from various copyright holder representatives.

jokerorg

One of the notices Redstation received was sent by Entura International on behalf of Sony Pictures Entertainment. This notice alleged that Joker facilitates copyright infringement at 3 levels.

1. The initial download of content via BitTorrent without permission. At no point has Rights Holder authorized transmission of its content via this medium.
2. The storage and/or caching of BitTorrent chunks of the content.
3. The conversion and re-transmission of stored/cached content in streaming video format to users via web browser.

Entura International asked the hosting provider to stop the alleged unlawful activities by suspending Joker’s account or null-routing the associated IP-address. Redstation chose the latter option and the Joker service has been unavailable since.

Joker is disappointed at being labeled a “pirate site”. The developers believe they offer a neutral and useful service that is piracy agnostic. Potential infringing data is stored only temporarily, without their knowledge.

“Which is the worst? Google, where you can find thousands of torrents with a single “X .torrent” search, torrent sites, where you can get access to millions of .torrent files, or joker.org?” the Joker team asks.

“Using torrents is not illegal, we are just a service that converts video torrent files to streamable mp4s. We don’t link or enable search for any content,” they add.

Despite the current problems Joker doesn’t intend to throw in the towel. They are currently looking for a new hosting solution for their service and will return.

“Hell yeah we will come back,” the Joker team concludes.

Before they return Joker intends to improve their services and address potential issues, to prevent the risk of another shutdown.

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

Disney Patents a Piracy Free Search Engine

October 31st, 2014

disney-pirateDisney and other rightsholders are not happy with today’s search engines after repeatedly asking Google and Co. to promote legal content and remove pirate sites from search results.

While Google implemented several changes to satisfy these requests, Disney has also taken matters into its own hands.

A new patent awarded to Disney Enterprises this week describes a search engine through which pirated content is hard to find.

Titled “Online content ranking system based on authenticity metric values for web elements,” one of the patent’s main goals is to prevent pirated movies and other illicit content from ranking well in the search results.

According to Disney their patent makes it possible to “enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites.”

Disney believes that current search engines are using the wrong approach as they rely on a website’s “popularity.” This allows site owners to game the system in order to rank higher.

“For example, a manipulated page for unauthorized sales of drugs, movies, etc. might be able to obtain a high popularity rating, but what the typical user will want to see is a more authentic page,” they explain.

While this is a rather simplified description of the complex algorithms most search engines use, Disney believes it can do a better job.

In their patent they describe a system that re-ranks search results based on an “authenticity index”. This works twofold, by promoting sites that are more “authoritative” and filtering out undesirable content.

disneypirate

“In particular, embodiments enable more authoritative search results … to be ranked higher and be more visible to a user. Embodiments furthermore enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites, child pornography websites, and/or the like,” Disney writes.

While Disney’s idea of a search engine may sound appealing to some, deciding what counts as “authoritative” is still rather subjective. Google, for example, uses PageRank which is in part based on the number of quality links to websites.

Disney, however, suggests giving “official” sites priority when certain terms relate to a property of a company. These “authority” weights can include trademarks, copyrighted material, and domain name information.

This doesn’t only affect pirated content, Disney explains, it also means that a Wikipedia entry or IMDb listing for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” will rank lower than the official Disney page of the film.

“The Disney.go.com web page may be associated with an authenticity weight that is greater than the authenticity weight associated with the encyclopedia web page because Disney.go.com is the official domain for The Walt Disney Company. As such, with respect to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs™ film, the Disney.go.com web page may be considered more authoritative (and thus more authentic) than the encyclopedia web page,” Disney writes.

In other words, official sites should be the top result for “brand” related searches, even if people are looking for background info or more balanced (re)views. For pirate sites there’s no place at all in the top results, even though Disney’s definition of a pirate site may also be rather subjective.

It’s unclear whether Disney has any plans to implement the patent in the wild. The company currently has a search engine but this only includes links to its own properties.

Disney search
disneysearchengine

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

Manhunt Underway For “Possibly Armed” Kinox Pirate Site Operators

October 31st, 2014

Just a few days ago news broke that police in Germany had carried out raids in several areas of the country.

They were looking for four suspects believed to be the key individuals behind a range of sites including Kino.to replacement Kinox.to, a pair of file-hosting sites, plus two linking forums. Even streaming giant Movie4K was thrown into the mix.

While two people were arrested in Neuss and Dusseldorf, two brothers from a village near to the northern city of Lübeck evaded police and are said to be on the run. It is those two men who are now grabbing the headlines.

Police have just taken the somewhat unusual step of announcing a public manhunt for the brothers, publishing mugshots and their full names alongside details of their alleged crimes. This is something only usually carried out in exceptional and serious cases.

kinox-susp1Pictured right is Kastriot Selimi. Born in 1989, the 25-year-old was born in Kosovo and later became a German citizen.

According to police he is one of the founders of the “criminal organization” behind Kinox, FreakShare and BitShare (In respect of BitShare, please see update at bottom of article).

Kastriot also has alleged connections to a range of other sites including stream4k.to, shared.sx, mygully.com and boerse.sx.

Kastriot Selimi’s alleged crimes include predatory blackmail, armed robbery, extortion, arson, copyright infringement and tax evasion. Police warn that he should be considered violent and could be armed.

kinox-susp2Pictured right is Kreshnik Selimi. Born in 1992, the 21-year-old was born in Sweden and later became a German citizen. He is the younger brother of Kastriot.

Kreshnik is accused of founding and operating the same sites as his sibling and is covered by the same international arrest warrant. He is being classified as violent and police are warning the public that he too could be armed.

Kreshnik Selimi’s alleged crimes include predatory blackmail, armed robbery, extortion, arson, copyright infringement and tax evasion.

According to information received by German publication Spiegel, the arson and extortion charges relate to alleged crimes carried out by the brothers against one of their former or even current business partners.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office earlier revealed that the brothers had “made great efforts” to get rid of their competitors in the piracy market. “Sometimes even a car burst into flames,” he said.

According to the Attorney General’s office the brothers have evaded 1.3 million euros in taxes, which suggests that overall revenues were in excess of 6.5 million euros. Even if that amount is overblown, it seems likely that the pair have considerable resources at their disposal.

The brothers’ whereabouts aside, the big mystery is why the sites named above are still in operation. All remain online, despite their alleged operators being subjected to an international manhunt.

Update: The CEO of BitShare has contacted TorrentFreak stating that his site is being wrongly linked to this investigation and its reputation damaged with zero evidence being produced against it.

“Our company has not even been contacted by ANYONE and still they are accusing us of being connected to these two guys or other websites,” he explained.

TF has asked the BitShare CEO for a full statement which we will publish in due course.

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

Pirate Site Operator Slapped With $10 Million in Damages

October 30th, 2014

piracy-crimeIn August we reported how ABS-CBN was going after several website owners who link to pirated streams of its programming.

The Philippines-based company filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Oregon looking for millions of dollars in damages from two local residents, husband and wife.

The five sites they operated, including Pinoymoviefan.com and Watchfilipinotv.com, barely had any visitors. According to the main suspect, Jeff Ashby, he created them for his wife so she could enjoy entertainment from her home country.

‘I created these websites for my wife who is from the Philippines, so she and others who are far from the Philippines could enjoy materials from their culture that are otherwise unavailable to them, Jeff Ashby wrote to the court.

The sites in question didn’t store copies of the infringing media but merely provided links to other websites, and Ashby shut them down voluntarily as soon as he heard about the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, ABS-CBN branded Ashby a hardcore criminal. In one of their own news report they managed to get the L.A. police to agree with them.

“[Piracy is] supporting their ability to buy drugs and guns and engage in violence. And then, the support of global terrorism, which is a threat to everybody,” LA County Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers told an ABS-CBN news outlet.

Now, just a few weeks later the case is over. The Oregon District Court ‘ruled’ in favor of ABS-CBN and ordered Jeff Ashby to pay a mind-blowing $10 million in damages.

The company nevertheless praises the ‘unprecedented’ victory in its own news coverage and warns that they will continue to pursue action against pirate sites.

“Jeff Ashby is the first of many pirates that we are pursuing,” says Elisha Lawrence, ABS-CBN’s Associate Vice President of Global Anti-Piracy.

“We have begun a relentless campaign to enforce against all pirate websites due to the numerous reports that these sites contain dangerous malware which cause substantial harm including identify theft of financial information and phishing attacks.”

While the $10 million may do well for PR purposes, the media conglomerate fails to mention that this isn’t a regular verdict. Instead, it’s a consent judgment (pdf) between ABS-CBN and Ashby which the court signed off on.

In other words, the $10 million in damages reported in public is a figure both parties agreed on, without putting up a fight. Needless to say, it’s likely that a separate deal was made behind the scenes.

In fact, a month before the consent judgment the court had already been informed that both parties had settled the case.

Most telling, perhaps, is the response of Jeff Ashby after he was ‘hit’ by the $10 million judgment. Instead of characterizing the damages as unfair and overblown, he now warns others not to mess with ABS-CBN.

“I wish to warn anyone who may be copying and/or publishing content owned by ABS-CBN without their permission, to stop immediately. Continuing without authorization can and will lead to very serious consequences,” Ashby comments.

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

Gottfrid Svartholm Found Guilty in Hacking Trial

October 30th, 2014

After being arrested in his Cambodian apartment in September 2012 it took two years before Gottfrid Svartholm went on trial in Denmark.

The Swede and his 21-year-old co-defendant stood accused of hacking computer mainframes operated by US IT giant CSC. It developed into the largest case of its kind ever seen in the Scandinavian country.

The case broadly took shape along two lines. The prosecution insisted that Gottfrid and his Danish accomplice, both experts in computer security, had launched hacker attacks against CSC back in April 2012 and maintained access to those systems until August that same year.

The defense claimed it was a case of mistaken identity and that others had carried out the crimes, remotely accessing Gottfrid’s computer after comprising its security.

Evidence was produced by the prosecution which showed discussion taking place between hackers with the names “Advanced Persistent Terrorist Threat” and “My Evil Twin”. The topic in hand was the security and setup of CSC’s databases and systems. These people were Gottfrid and his IT consultant co-defendant, the prosecution said.

From the beginning, Gottfrid’s position was that his computer, from where the attacks had taken place, had been compromised. This version of events was supported by respected security expert Jacob Appelbaum who gave evidence for the defense not only in this case, but also in Gottfrid’s Swedish trial, a case in which he was partly acquitted.

Speaking with Denmark’s TV2 earlier today, Gottfrid’s lawyer Luise Høj said that her client should be found not guilty since it had been established that third parties had carried out the crimes.

“My recommendation has always been that the investigation has focused on finding clues that point to my client, even though the tracks have also pointed in another direction,” Høj said.

“I have recommended that the court dismiss the case based on the remote access argument. It is clear that my client’s computer has been the subject of remote control, and therefore he is not responsible.”

But it wasn’t to be. This morning the Court of Frederiksberg found both Gottfrid and his accomplice guilty of hacking into the systems of CSC. Both unlawfully accessed confidential information including police drivers’ license records, social security information plus criminal records.

Following his extradition from Sweden, Gottfrid has spent 11 months behind bars in Denmark. His Danish accomplice, who refused to give evidence to the police and maintained silence right up until his trial in September, has spent 17 months in jail.

Breaking news, article will be updated.

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

Google Glass Now Banned in US Movie Theaters Over Piracy Fears

October 29th, 2014

Google Glass poses a significant threat to the movie industry, Hollywood believes. The advent of the wearable technology has sparked fears that it could be used for piracy.

This January the FBI dragged a man from a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, after theater staff presumed his wearing of Google Glass was a sign that he was engaged in camcorder piracy.

At the time the MPAA shrugged off the incident as an unfortunate mistake, claiming that it had seen “no proof that it is currently a significant threat that could result in content theft.” This has now changed.

Starting today Google Glass is no longer welcome in movie theaters. The new ban applies to all US movie theaters and doesn’t include an exception for prescription glasses.

The MPAA and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) stress that they welcome technological innovations and recognize the importance of wearables for consumers. However, the piracy enabling capabilities of these devices can’t be ignored.

“As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown,” MPAA and NATO state.

“As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time. Individuals who fail or refuse to put the recording devices away may be asked to leave,” they add.

Cautioning potential pirates, the movie groups emphasize that theater employees will take immediate action when they spot someone with wearable recording devices. Even when in doubt, the local police will be swiftly notified.

“If theater managers have indications that illegal recording activity is taking place, they will alert law enforcement authorities when appropriate, who will determine what further action should be taken.”

The wearable ban is now part of the MPAA’s strict set of anti-piracy practices. These instruct movie theater owners to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals who may have bad intentions.

Aside from the wearables threat, the best practices note that all possible hidden camera locations in the theater should be considered, including cup holders. In addition, employees should be alert for possible concealed recording equipment, as often seen in the movies.

“Movie thieves are very ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as placing a coat or hat over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device,” it warns.

To increase vigilance among movie theater employees, a $500 bounty is being placed on the heads of those who illegally camcord a movie.

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

Joker is Cool But Not the New Popcorn Time

October 29th, 2014

While BitTorrent’s underlying technology has remained mostly unchanged over the past decade, innovators have found new ways to make it more presentable. Torrent clients have developed greatly and private tracker systems such as What.cd’s Gazelle have shown that content can be enhanced with superior cataloging and indexing tools.

This is where Popcorn Time excelled when it debuted earlier this year. While it was the same old torrent content underneath, the presentation was streets ahead of anything seen before. With appetites whetted, enthused BitTorrent fans have been waiting for the next big thing ever since.

Recently news circulated of a new service which in several headlines yesterday was heralded as the new Popcorn Time. Joker.org is a web-based video service with super-clean presentation. It’s premise is straightforward – paste in a magnet link or upload a torrent file from your computer then sit back and enjoy the show.

joker-1

Not only does Joker work, it does so with elegance. The interface is uncluttered and intuitive and the in-browser window can be expanded to full screen. Joker also provides options for automatically downloading subtitles or uploading your own, plus options for skipping around the video at will.

While these features are enough to please many visitors to the site, the big questions relate to what is going on under the hood.

Popcorn Time, if we’re forced to conduct a comparison, pulls its content from BitTorrent swarms in a way that any torrent client does. This means that the user’s IP address is visible both to the tracker and all related peers. So, has Joker successfully incorporated a torrent client into a web browser to enable live video streaming?

Last evening TF put that question to the people behind Joker who said they would answer “soon”. Hours later though and we’re still waiting so we’ll venture that the short answer is “no”.

Decentralized or centralized? That is the question..

The most obvious clues become evident when comparing the performance of popular and less popular torrents after they’ve been added to the Joker interface. The best seeded torrents not only tend to start immediately but also allow the user to quickly skip to later or earlier parts of the video. This suggests that the video content has been cached already and isn’t being pulled live and direct from peers in a torrent swarm.

Secondly, torrents with less seeds do not start instantly. We selected a relatively poorly seeded torrent of TPB AFK and had to wait for the Joker progress bar to wind its way to 100% before we could view the video. That took several minutes but then played super-smoothly, another indication that content is probably being cached.

joker-2

To be absolutely sure we’d already hooked up Wireshark to our test PC in advance of initiating the TPB AFK download. If we were pulling content from a swarm we might expect to see the IP addresses of our fellow peers sending us data. However, in their place were recurring IP addresses from blocks operated by the same UK ISP hosting the Joker website.

Conclusion

Joker is a nice website that does what it promises extremely well and to be fair to its creators they weren’t the ones making the Popcorn Time analogies. However, as a free service Joker faces a dilemma.

By caching video itself the site is bound by the usual bandwidth costs associated with functionally similar sites such as YouTube. While Joker provides greater flexibility (users can order it to fetch whichever content they like) it still has to pump video directly to users after grabbing it from torrent swarms. This costs money and at some point someone is going to have to pay.

In contrast, other than running the software download portal and operating the APIs, Popcorn Time has no direct video-related bandwidth costs since the user’s connection is being utilized for transfers. The downside is that users’ IP addresses are visible to the outside world, a problem Joker users do not have.

Finally and to address the excited headlines, comparing Joker to Popcorn Time is premature. The site carries no colorful and easy to access indexes of movies which definitely makes it a lot less attractive to newcomers. That being said, this lack of content curation enhances Joker’s legal footing.

Overall, demand is reportedly high. The developers told TF last evening that they were “overloaded” and were working hard to fix issues. Currently the service appears stable. Only time will tell how that situation develops.

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

Dotcom Tries To Reclaim Millions Seized in Hong Kong

October 29th, 2014

For many months the New Zealand courts have been dealing with the thorny issue of Kim Dotcom. The entrepreneur’s case has traversed the legal system, with claim and counterclaim, decision followed by appeal.

The key topic of Dotcom’s possible extradition to the United States aside, much of the courtroom action has centered around the Megaupload founder’s assets. On the one hand Dotcom has been trying to reclaim his property, and on the other United States-based entertainment companies have been trying to lock it down in preparation for any future damages payout.

But as the fight simmers in New Zealand and largely stalls in the U.S., Dotcom’s legal representatives are fighting to reestablish control of his wealth in a third territory.

Over in Hong Kong, lawyers for Dotcom are attempting to take back HK$330 million (US$42.55m) in assets that were seized by local authorities when Megaupload was shut down in January 2012.

While Dotcom’s servers were being sealed off in the United States and his mansion raided in New Zealand, the Megaupload chief’s Hong Kong offices were being raided by 100 customs officers following allegations of copyright infringement and money laundering.

The seized assets are being held under a restraining order but Dotcom’s legal team are arguing that it should be set aside. In April 2014, Megaupload initiated legal action against the government and now its legal team is accusing the secretary for justice of failing to provide a “full and frank disclosure” of the facts when the application for seizure was made.

“We are applying for [the order] to be set aside because the court has misrepresented the true position,” Dotcom lawyer Gerard McCoy SC told SCMP yesterday.

In a feature that has become a hallmark of the pre-shutdown activity surrounding Megaupload, the Hong Kong restraining order was made ex parte, meaning that the defendants in the case were not allowed to put their side of the story. Dotcom’s lawyers say that in such circumstances the prosecution is under obligation to exercise additional caution

“Did the secretary for justice put his cards on the table face up? This application is a clear example of the duty either being ignored or simply misunderstood,” McCoy said.

According to the lawyer the prosecution deliberately withheld crucial information from the court when applying for the restraining order, not least the fact that Megaupload could not be served with a criminal complaint in the United States as it did not have a US mailing address.

“None of this was ever brought to the attention of the judge. It was all put to one side and never raised,” McCoy said.

In an interview with TorrentFreak in December 2011 before the raid, Dotcom spoke warmly of Hong Kong. “I should write a book about doing business in Hong Kong, that’s how good it is,” he said. “People there leave you alone and they are happy for your success.”

But according to McCoy, one month later the fate of Dotcom, his co-defendants, and his Megaupload empire was sealed in a matter of minutes.

“In about six or seven minutes, the applicant has dealt with the position of nine defendants and managed to freeze a massive amount of money. There is not one word about Megaupload, not a jot, not a tittle,” he told the court.

If the case goes in Dotcom’s favor there could be big implications for the entrepreneur. Not only could he regain tens of millions of dollars in wealth, but he could also be in a position to file a multi-billion dollar civil claim for damages. Before its shutdown, Megaupload was valued at a cool two billion dollars.

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

RIAA: The Pirate Bay Assaults Fundamental Human Rights

October 28th, 2014

tpbfistFollowing in the footsteps of Hollywood’s MPAA, the RIAA has now submitted its overview of “notorious markets” to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

These submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position toward foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement. The RIAA’s report (odt) includes more than 50 alleged pirate sites, but it is the introduction that draws most attention.

Neil Turkewitz, RIAA Executive Vice President, informs the Government that some of the rogue websites, and their supporters, falsely argue that they aid freedom of speech and counter censorship.

Specifically, the RIAA describes The Pirate Bay and other pirate sites as an assault on our humanity, suggesting that the right to protect one’s copyrights trumps freedom of expression.

“Some observers continue to suggest that the protection of expression is a form of censorship or restriction on fundamental freedoms, and some pirate sites cloak themselves in the language of freedom to justify themselves—sites like The Pirate Bay…” Turkewitz writes.

“We must end this assault on our humanity and the misappropriation of fundamental human rights. If the protection of expression is itself a restriction on freedom of expression, then we have entered a metaphysical Wonderland that stands logic on its head, and undermines core, shared global values about personhood,” he adds.

The RIAA says it’s hopeful that the piracy threat can be addressed if society and legitimate companies stop doing business with these sites. To do so, the public must stop conflating anti-piracy measures with censorship.

“We may not be able to eradicate piracy—there will always be an isolated number of individuals or enterprises who are prepared to steal whatever they can, but we can—and must—stop providing moral cover by conflating copyright enforcement with censorship, or by misapplying notions of Internet freedom or permissionless innovation so that they extend to an embrace of lawlessness.”

In recent months copyright holders have often hammered on payment processors and advertising networks to stop doing business with pirate sites. The RIAA reiterates this in their USTR submission, but also points a finger at the ISPs, at least indirectly.

According to the RIAA, BitTorrent indexing sites make deals with hosting providers to pay lower fees if they have more traffic. While this is standard business for most ISPs, the industry group frames it as an indirect source of revenue for the pirate sites.

“Indexing services can, and usually do, generate revenue from one or more of the following: advertising, user donations and suspected arrangements with ISPs whereby reduced fees are offered in return for increased traffic on the sites. The particular financial model, structure and approach vary from site to site,” Turkewitz notes.

Finally, the RIAA admits that some torrent sites process DMCA takedown notices, but believes that this is only an attempt to “appear” legitimate. In reality the infringing content is re-uploaded almost instantly, so the problem remains.

“As a result, copyright owners are forced into an endless ‘cat and mouse’ game, which requires considerable resources to be devoted to chasing infringing content, only for that same infringing content to continually reappear,” the report reads.

Without specifying what, Turkewitz notes that torrent site owners have to do more if they really want to become legitimate services.

“It is imperative that BitTorrent site operators take reasonable measures to prevent the distribution of infringing torrents or links and to implement measures that would prevent the indexing of infringing torrents,” he writes.

In addition to torrent sites the submission also lists various cyberlockers, blogs and linking sites which allegedly deserve the label “notorious market.”

Below is the RIAA’s full list as it was reported to the USTR. These, and the other submissions will form the basis of the U.S. Government’s Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, which is expected to come out later this year.

- vKontakte
- EX.UA
- The Pirate Bay
- KickAss.to
- Torrentz.eu
- Bitsnoop.com
- ExtraTorrent.cc
- Isohunt.to
- Zamunda
- Arena.bg
- Torrenthound.com
- Fenopy.se
- Monova.org
- Torrentreactor.net
- Sumotorrent.sx
- Seedpeer.me
- Torrentdownloads.me
- 4shared.com
- Uploaded.net
- Oboom.com
- Zippyshare.com
- Rapidgator.net
- Turbobit.net
- Ulozto.cz
- Sdílej.cz
- Hell Spy
- HellShare
- Warez-dk.org
- Freakshare.com
- Bitshare.com
- Letitbit.net
- 1fichier.com
- Filestube.to
- Music.so.com
- Verycd.com
- Gudanglagu.com
- Thedigitalpinoy.org
- Todaybit.com
- Chacha.vn
- Zing.vn
- Songs.to
- Boerse.to
- Mygully.com
- Wawa-mania.ec
- Bajui.com
- Goear.com
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