Piracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollywood Sees Illegal Streaming Devices as 'Piracy 3.0' (torrentfreak.com) 178

After hunting down torrent sites for more than a decade, Hollywood now has a more complex piracy threat to deal with. From a report: Piracy remains a major threat for the movie industry, MPA Stan McCoy said yesterday during a panel session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Much like Hollywood, copyright infringers are innovators who constantly change their "business models" and means of obtaining content. Where torrents were dominant a few years ago, illegal streaming devices are now the main threat, with McCoy describing their rise as Piracy 3.0. "Piracy is not a static challenge. The pirates are great innovators in their own right. So even as we innovate in trying to pursue these issues, and pursue novel ways of fighting piracy, the pirates are out there coming up with new business models of their own," McCoy said. "If you think of old-fashioned peer-to-peer piracy as 1.0, and then online illegal streaming websites as 2.0, in the audio-visual sector, in particular, we now face challenge number 3.0, which is what I'll call the challenge of illegal streaming devices."
Businesses

Hollywood Is Fighting Billionaire Sean Parker's Plan To Let You Rent Movies Still in Theaters For $50 (businessinsider.com) 139

Billionaire Sean Parker's plans to bring movies to your home as soon as they release in theatres has hit new roadblocks. After receiving praises for "Screening Room" from directors and producers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, and Peter Jackson, as well as Hollywood studios, the buzz for the startup has started to wane. From a report: Though Parker and cofounder Prem Akkaraju have promoted the company in the last two years at CinemaCon, it's gotten little traction due to a naivete of the industry, competitors, and studios' and theater chains' decade-long discussion about how to move forward on Premium VOD (PVOD) (alternative source), Business Insider has learned. "Everything you've heard in the press about studios and theaters wanting to explore a PVOD window, nothing about that revolves around Screening Room," a source close to the talks told Business Insider. Screening Room's main pitch to studios and exhibitors has been that it can bring added revenue to all sides of the equation. Out of the proposed $50 rental fee, 20% would go to the movie's distributor, and a participating theater chain would get up to $20 of the fee, plus each customer receives two tickets to see that rented title at their local theater. Screening Room would take 10% of each fee. Sources told Business Insider that all of the bells and whistles Screening Room is selling don't matter until the studios and theaters can agree on a Premium VOD (or PVOD) window. Industry players don't want movies to be available on PVOD simultaneously with theatrical release dates because the first two weeks of a theatrical run are still when studios and exhibitors get a majority of a movie's income. Also read: Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal.
The Courts

The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred (engadget.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader lactose99 writes: One of the original copyright trolls finally got their comeuppance. From TFA: "John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged 'honeypot' schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court." John L. Steele, as you may know, is one of the principals of Prenda Law, a notorious copyright troll who has been featured on /. several times. The article goes on to describe how the Prenda lawyers used honeypot-like tactics to trick people into downloads and then subsequently scammed them for copyright violations.
Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding "While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders."
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 61

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 141

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
Movies

Movie Piracy Blackmail Plot Fails In India, Six Arrested (torrentfreak.com) 47

An anonymous reader quote's TorrentFreak's report about "a plot against Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, a record-breaking movie taking India by storm." Someone posing as a "film anti-piracy activist" told the company that a pirated copy of the movie had been obtained and if a ransom wasn't paid, a leak onto the Internet would be inevitable... Following the call Arka Mediaworks immediately involved the police, who advised the company to engage the 'kidnappers' in dialog to obtain proof that they had the movie in question. That was delivered in the form of a high-definition sample of the movie, a move that was to mark the beginning of the end for those attempting to extort Arka Mediaworks. It's unclear whether those who sent the sample were aware, but the movie was forensically or otherwise marked, something which allowed police and investigators to track the copy back to a specific theater... shortly after the owner of the theater was arrested by police. This was followed by the arrest of the person who allegedly called Arka Mediaworks with the ransom demand. From there, police were led to other co-conspirators. In total, six arrests were made, with two of the men already known to police.
TorrentFreak calls the ransoming of movies "a worrying trend in 2017" that's "damaging the image of piracy further, if that was even possible."
EU

EU Passes 'Content Portability' Rules Banning Geofencing (torrentfreak.com) 119

Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo writes: The European Parliament has passed draft rules mandating 'content portability', i.e. the ability to take your purchased content and services across borders within the EU. Freedom of movement rules, which allow EU citizens to live and work anywhere in the EU, require that the individual is able to take their life with them -- family, property, and services. Under the new rules, someone who pays for Netflix or BBC iPlayer and then moves to another EU country will retain access to those services and the same content they had previously. Separately, rules to prevent geofencing of content within the EU entirely are also moving forward.
Education

Elsevier Wants $15 Million In 'Piracy' Damages From Sci-Hub and Libgen (torrentfreak.com) 158

lbalbalba writes: Elsevier, one of the largest academic publishers, is demanding $15 million in damages from Sci-Hub and LibGen, who make paywalled scientific research papers freely available to the public [without permission]. A good chunk of these papers are copyrighted, many by Elsevier. Elsevier has requested a default judgment of $15 million against the defendants for their "truly egregious conduct" and "staggering" infringement. Sci-Hub's efforts are backed by many prominent scholars, who argue that tax-funded research should be accessible to everyone. Others counter that the site doesn't necessarily help the "open access" movement move forward. Sci-Hub's founder Alexandra Elbakyan defends her position and believes that what she does is helping millions of less privileged researchers to do their work properly by providing free access to research results.
Piracy

Popular Torrent Site ExtraTorrent Permanently Shuts Down (torrentfreak.com) 169

ExtraTorrent, the world's second largest torrent index, on Wednesday said it is permanently shutting its doors. The site, which launched in 2006, had steadily climbed the ranks in the piracy world to become the second most popular torrent site, observing millions of daily views. TorrentFreak adds: "ExtraTorrent with all mirrors goes offline.. We permanently erase all data. Stay away from fake ExtraTorrent websites and clones. Thx to all ET supporters and torrent community. ET was a place to beâ¦." TorrentFreak reached out to ExtraTorrent operator SaM who confirmed that this is indeed the end of the road for the site. "It's time we say goodbye," he said, without providing more details. [...] ExtraTorrent is the latest in a series of BitTorrent giants to fall in recent months. Previously, sites including KickassTorrents, Torrentz.eu, TorrentHound and What.cd went offline.
Movies

Disney Chief Bob Iger Says Hackers Claim To Have Stolen Upcoming Movie (hollywoodreporter.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed Monday that hackers claiming to have access to a Disney movie threatened to release it unless the studio paid a ransom. Iger didn't disclose the name of the film, but said Disney is refusing to pay. The studio is working with federal investigators. Iger's comments came during a town hall meeting with ABC employees in New York City, according to multiple sources. The Disney chief said the hackers demanded that a huge sum be paid in Bitcoin. They said they would release five minutes of the film at first, and then in 20-minute chunks until their financial demands are met. While movie piracy has long been a scourge, ransoms appear to be a new twist. UPDATE: According to Deadline, the movie in question appears to be the upcoming film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Disney appears to be working with the FBI and will not pay the ransom.
Businesses

Google Releases Study Defending YouTube's Value To Music Biz; Trade Bodies Hit Back (billboard.com) 80

The ongoing tussle between YouTube and the music industry took a new turn this week when Google assured everyone that its video platform doesn't have any negative impact on the other streaming music services -- despite all the free music it offers. From a report: A Google-commissioned report into how YouTube impacts on the wider music economy has -- somewhat unsurprisingly -- found that the hugely popular, yet much-maligned platform significantly drives sales and stops users from visiting pirate music services. According to a European study carried out by RBB Economics, if music content was removed from YouTube around 85 percent of the time that users spend on the platform would switch to lower value channels, such as TV, radio or internet radio. RBB claimed there would also be a significant increase in time spent listening to pirated content (up 29 percent), while only 15 percent of heavy users, defined as someone who watches more than 20 hours of music videos per month, would switch to higher value offerings like subscription streaming services. In the U.K., that number increases to 19 percent; in France it's 12 percent. [...] In response, music trade bodies poured scorn on the paper's findings. "Google's latest publicity push once again seeks to distract from the fact that YouTube, essentially the world's largest on-demand music service, is failing to license music on a fair basis and compensate artists and producers properly by claiming it is not liable for the music it is making available," reads a statement from IFPI. "Services like YouTube, that are not licensing music on fair terms, hinder the development of a sustainably healthy digital music market," claimed the international trade body, repeating its regular call for tighter regulation around safe harbour licensing.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents Flagging Technology For 'Repeat Offenders' Of Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes TorrentFreak's report on Microsoft's newest patent: Titled: "Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems," the patent describes a system where copyright infringers, and those who publish other objectionable content, are flagged so that frequent offenders can be singled out... "The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users," the patent reads. [PDF] The "repeat infringer" is a hot topic at the moment, after ISP Cox Communications was ordered to pay $25 million for its failure to disconnect repeat offenders...

As far a we know, this is the first patent that specifically deals with the repeat infringer situation in these hosting situations, but it's not uncommon for cloud hosting services to prevent users from sharing infringing content. We previously uncovered that Google Drive uses hash matching to prevent people from sharing "flagged" files in public, and Dropbox does the same.

Encryption

'First Pirated Ultra HD Blu-Ray Disk' Appears Online (torrentfreak.com) 260

Has AACS 2.0 encryption used to protect UHD Blu-ray discs been cracked? While the details are scarce, a cracked copy of a UHD Blu-ray disc surfaced on the HD-focused BitTorrent tracker UltraHDclub. TorrentFreak reports: The torrent in question is a copy of the Smurfs 2 film and is tagged "The Smurfs 2 (2013) 2160p UHD Blu-ray HEVC Atmos 7.1-THRONE." This suggests that AACS 2.0 may have been "cracked" although there are no further technical details provided at this point. UltraHDclub is proud of the release, though, and boasts of having the "First Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc in the NET!" Those who want to get their hands on a copy of the file have to be patient though. Provided that they have access to the private tracker, it will take a while to download the entire 53.30 GB disk. TorrentFreak reached out to both the uploader of the torrent and an admin at the site hoping to find out more, but thus far we have yet to hear back. From the details provided, the copy appears to be the real deal although not everyone agrees.

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