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Piracy

Google and Apple Order Telegram To Nuke Channel Over Taylor Swift Piracy (torrentfreak.com) 26

An anonymous reader writes: Instant messaging client Telegram has for the first time blocked access to an entire channel following pressure from Google and Apple. A channel, called Any Suitable Pop, was found distributing copyright infringed copies of songs from Taylor Swift's new album 'Reputation'. It's understood that following complaints from Universal Music, Google and Apple ordered Telegram to take action.
Piracy

Hollywood Strikes Back Against Illegal Streaming Kodi Add-ons (engadget.com) 77

An anonymous reader shares a report: An anti-piracy alliance supported by many major US and UK movie studios, broadcasters and content providers has dealt a blow to the third-party Kodi add-on scene after it successfully forced a number of popular piracy-linked streaming tools offline. In what appears to be a coordinated crackdown, developers including jsergio123 and The_Alpha, who are responsible for the development and hosting of add-ons like urlresolver, metahandler, Bennu, DeathStreams and Sportie, confirmed that they will no longer maintain their Kodi creations and have immediately shut them down.
Piracy

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub (torrentfreak.com) 165

Sci-Hub, a scientific research piracy site home to thousands of research papers, has suffered another blow in a U.S. federal court. According to TorrentFreak, "The American Chemical Society has won a default judgment of $4.8 million for alleged copyright infringement against the site. In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction which requires search engines and ISPs to block the platform." This comes after a $15 million fine was imposed on Sci-Hub by a New York federal judge earlier this year. From the report: Just before the weekend, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a final decision which is a clear win for ACS. The publisher was awarded the maximum statutory damages of $4.8 million for 32 infringing works, as well as a permanent injunction. The injunction is not limited to domain name registrars and hosting companies, but expands to search engines, ISPs and hosting companies too, who can be ordered to stop linking to or offering services to Sci-Hub. The injunction means that Internet providers, such as Comcast, can be requested to block users from accessing Sci-Hub. That's a big deal since pirate site blockades are not common in the United States. The same is true for search engine blocking of copyright-infringing sites.

"Ordered that any person or entity in active concert or participation with Defendant Sci-Hub and with notice of the injunction, including any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to, use, reproduction, and distribution of ACS's trademarks or copyrighted works," the injunction reads.

Piracy

Pirate TV Services Are Taking a Bite Out of Cable Company Revenue (arstechnica.co.uk) 132

TV piracy services are being used by about 6.5 percent of North American households with broadband access, potentially costing legitimate TV providers billions of dollars a year, a new analysis found. From a report: Pirate services that offer live TV channels are apparently responsible for more downstream traffic each night than torrent downloads. Based on these figures, there may be 7 million US and Canadian subscribers to pirate TV services that generally cost about $10 a month, the report by Sandvine said. That amounts to $840 million of revenue a year. We don't know how many people using pirate services would purchase a traditional cable or satellite TV package if the piracy option didn't exist. But if all of those people instead purchased a legal TV package for $50 per month, that would amount to another $4.2 billion revenue a year for North American pay-TV providers, the report said.
Movies

How Kodi Took Over Piracy (wired.com) 143

A reader shares a report: For years, piracy persisted mainly in the realm of torrents, with sites like The Pirate Bay and Demonoid connecting internet denizens to premium content gratis. But a confluence of factors have sent torrent usage plummeting from 23 percent of all North American daily internet traffic in 2011 to under 5 percent last year. Legal crackdowns shuttered prominent torrent sites. Paid alternatives like Netflix and Hulu made it easier just to pay up. And then there were the "fully loaded" Kodi boxes -- otherwise vanilla streaming devices that come with, or make easily accessible, so-called addons that seek out unlicensed content -- that deliver pirated movies and TV shows with push-button ease. "Kodi and the plugin system and the people who made these plugins have just dumbed down the process," says Dan Deeth, spokesperson for network-equipment company Sandvine. "It's easy for anyone to use. It's kind of set it and forget it. Like the Ron Popeil turkey roaster." Kodi itself is just a media player; the majority of addons aren't piracy focused, and lots of Kodi devices without illicit software plug-ins are utterly uncontroversial. Still, that Kodi has swallowed piracy may not surprise some of you; a full six percent of North American households have a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content, according to a recent Sandvine study. But the story of how a popular, open-source media player called XBMC became a pirate's paradise might. And with a legal crackdown looming, the Kodi ecosystem's present may matter less than its uncertain future.
Google

Google Denies Demoting the Pirate Bay In Some Countries (venturebeat.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: Google and The Pirate Bay have had an interesting relationship over the years, to say the least. This week, users pointed out that The Pirate Bay can appear significantly lower down in search results (and definitely not on the first page), depending on which country you are searching in. We reached out to Google, and it denied the allegations that it was demoting the site. TorrentFreak first spotted the odd behavior. The publication used Chrome in incognito mode to search for "The Pirate Bay" in Google with different IP addresses to see where the site's thepiratebay.org domain showed up. An IP address in the U.K., for example, would result in The Pirate Bay showing up on the fifth or sixth page, while an IP address in the U.S. would bring back The Pirate Bay as the top result.
DRM

Denuvo's DRM Now Being Cracked Within Hours of Release (arstechnica.com) 113

Denuvo, an anti-tamper technology and digital rights management scheme, isn't doing a very good job preventing PC games from being copied. According to Ars Technica, Denuvo releases are being publicly cracked within a day of their launch. From the report: This week's release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the latest to see its protections broken less than 24 hours after its release, but it's not alone. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was broken within a day last week, and last month saw cracks for Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18 the very same day as their public release. Then there's The Evil Within 2, which reportedly used Denuvo in prerelease review copies but then launched without that protection last week, effectively ceding the game to immediate potential piracy. Those nearly instant Denuvo cracks follow summer releases like Sonic Mania, Tekken 7, and Prey, all of which saw DRM protection cracked within four to nine days of release. But even that small difference in the "uncracked" protection window can be important for game publishers, who usually see a large proportion of their legitimate sales in those first few days of availability. The presence of an easy-to-find cracked version in that launch window (or lack thereof) could have a significant effect on the initial sales momentum for a big release. If Denuvo can no longer provide even a single full day of protection from cracks, though, that protection is going to look a lot less valuable to publishers.
Piracy

Netflix, Amazon, Movie Studios Sue Over TickBox Streaming Device (arstechnica.com) 135

Movies studios, Netflix, and Amazon have teamed up to file a lawsuit against a streaming media player called TickBox TV. The device in question runs Kodi on top of Android 6.0, and searches the internet for streams that it can make available to users without actually hosting any of the content itself. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The complaint (PDF), filed Friday, says the TickBox devices are nothing more than "tool[s] for mass infringement," which operate by grabbing pirated video streams from the Internet. The lawsuit was filed by Amazon and Netflix Studios, along with six big movie studios that make up the Motion Picture Association of America: Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.

"What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs' copyrighted content," write the plaintiffs' lawyers. "TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox's customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works without authorization." The device's marketing materials let users know the box is meant to replace paid-for content, with "a wink and a nod," by predicting that prospective customers who currently pay for Amazon Video, Netflix, or Hulu will find that "you no longer need those subscriptions." The lawsuit shows that Amazon and Netflix, two Internet companies that are relatively new to the entertainment business, are more than willing to join together with movie studios to go after businesses that grab their content.

Piracy

Pirate Bay is Mining Cryptocurrency Again, No Opt Out (torrentfreak.com) 184

The Pirate Bay is mining cryptocurrency again, causing a spike in CPU usage among many visitors. From a report: For now, the notorious torrent site provides no option to disable it. The new mining expedition is not without risk. CDN provider Cloudflare previously suspended the account of a site that used a similar miner, which means that The Pirate Bay could be next. Last month The Pirate Bay caused some uproar by adding a Javascript-based cryptocurrency miner to its website. The miner utilizes CPU power from visitors to generate Monero coins for the site, providing an extra source of revenue. [...] The Pirate Bay currently has no opt-out option, nor has it informed users about the latest mining efforts. This could lead to another problem since Coinhive said it would crack down on customers who failed to keep users in the loop.
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
Communications

Judge Recommends ISP and Search Engine Blocking of Sci-Hub in the US (torrentfreak.com) 196

Sci-Hub, which is regularly referred to as the "Pirate Bay of Science," faces one of the strongest anti-piracy injunctions we have seen in the US to date, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan. Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site. In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site. While the request is rather unprecedented for the US, as it includes search engine and ISP blocking, Magistrate Judge John Anderson has included these measures in his recommendations. Judge Anderson agrees that Sci-Hub is guilty of copyright and trademark infringement. In addition to $4,800,000 in statutory damages, he recommends a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs, domain registrars and other services to block Sci-Hub's domain names. If the U.S. District Court Judge adopts this recommendation, it would mean that Internet providers such as Comcast could be ordered to block users from accessing Sci-Hub.
DRM

Hollywood's International War on Kodi Plugins And Video-Streaming Boxes (eff.org) 57

An anonymous reader quotes the EFF: In the past few years, the sale of pre-configured Kodi boxes, and the availability of a range of plugins providing access to streaming media, has seen the software's popularity balloon -- and made it the latest target of Hollywood's copyright enforcement juggernaut. We've seen this in the appearance of streaming media boxes as an enforcement priority in the U.S. Trade Representative's Special 301 Report, in proposals for new legislation targeting the sale of "illicit" media boxes, and in lawsuits that have been brought on both sides of the Atlantic to address the "problem" that media boxes running Kodi, like any Web browser, can be used to access media streams that were not authorized by the copyright holder...

The difficulty facing the titans of TV is that since neither those who sell Kodi boxes, nor those who write or host add-ons for the software, are engaging in any unauthorized copying by doing so, cases targeting these parties have to rely on other legal theories. So far several legal theories have been used; one in Europe against sellers of Kodi boxes, one in Canada against the owner of the popular Kodi add-on repository TVAddons, and two in the United States against TVAddons and a plugin developer... These lawsuits by big TV incumbents seem to have a few goals: to expand the scope of secondary copyright infringement yet again, to force major Kodi add-on distributors off of the Internet, and to smear and discourage open source, freely configurable media players by focusing on the few bad actors in that ecosystem.

The EFF details the specific lawsuits in each region, and concludes that their courts "should reject these expansions of copyright liability, and TV networks should not target neutral platforms and technologies for abusive lawsuits."
Canada

Bell Canada Wants Pirate Websites Blocked For Canadians (www.cbc.ca) 136

New submitter wierzpio writes: According to Rob Malcolmson, Bell Canada's VP of regulatory affairs, Canada is a safe haven to internet pirates and the only solution is to create a federally mandated blacklist of pirate websites. Unlike the existing blacklist in the U.K., Bell's plan appears to involve no judicial oversight. "Engaging in extrajudicial attempts to block access to sites, I think, raises all kinds of Charter of Rights and Freedoms issues," argues Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor and internet law expert. Quebec also wants to block sites. The province recently introduced a provincial law that would force internet providers to block users' access to online gambling sites not approved by the government. It argues the legislation is necessary to ensure internet gambling companies maintain responsible gaming rules.
EU

EU Paid For Report That Said Piracy Isn't Harmful -- And Tried To Hide Findings (thenextweb.com) 169

According to Julia Reda's blog, the only Pirate in the EU Parliament, the European Commission in 2014 paid the Dutch consulting firm Ecorys 360,000 euros (about $428,000) to research the effect piracy had on sales of copyrighted content. The final report was finished in May 2015, but was never published because the report concluded that piracy isn't harmful. The Next Web reports: The 300-page report seems to suggest that there's no evidence that supports the idea that piracy has a negative effect on sales of copyrighted content (with some exceptions for recently released blockbusters). The report states: "In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40 per cent which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally."

On her blog, Julia Reda says that a report like this is fundamental to discussions about copyright policies -- where the general assumption is usually that piracy has a negative effect on rightsholders' revenues. She also criticizes the Commissions reluctance to publish the report and says it probably wouldn't have released it for several more years if it wasn't for the access to documents request she filed in July.
As for why the Commission hadn't published the report earlier, Reda says: "all available evidence suggests that the Commission actively chose to ignore the study except for the part that suited their agenda: In an academic article published in 2016, two European Commission officials reported a link between lost sales for blockbusters and illegal downloads of those films. They failed to disclose, however, that the study this was based on also looked at music, ebooks and games, where it found no such connection. On the contrary, in the case of video games, the study found the opposite link, indicating a positive influence of illegal game downloads on legal sales. That demonstrates that the study wasn't forgotten by the Commission altogether..."
DRM

Corporations Just Quietly Changed How the Web Works (theoutline.com) 248

Adrianne Jeffries, a reporter at The Outline, writes on W3C's announcement from earlier this week: The trouble with DRM is that it's sort of ineffective. It tends to make things inconvenient for people who legitimately bought a song or movie while failing to stop piracy. Some rights holders, like Ubisoft, have come around to the idea that DRM is counterproductive. Steve Jobs famously wrote about the inanity of DRM in 2007. But other rights holders, like Netflix, are doubling down. The prevailing winds at the consortium concluded that DRM is now a fact of life, and so it would be be better to at least make the experience a bit smoother for users. If the consortium didn't work with companies like Netflix, Berners-Lee wrote in a blog post, those companies would just stop delivering video over the web and force people into their own proprietary apps. The idea that the best stuff on the internet will be hidden behind walls in apps rather than accessible through any browser is the mortal fear for open web lovers; it's like replacing one library with many stores that each only carry books for one publisher. "It is important to support EME as providing a relatively safe online environment in which to watch a movie, as well as the most convenient," Berners-Lee wrote, "and one which makes it a part of the interconnected discourse of humanity." Mozilla, the nonprofit that makes the browser Firefox, similarly held its nose and cooperated on the EME standard. "It doesn't strike the correct balance between protecting individual people and protecting digital content," it said in a blog post. "The content providers require that a key part of the system be closed source, something that goes against Mozilla's fundamental approach. We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point."
Piracy

Sci-Hub Faces $4.8 Million Piracy Damages and ISP Blocking (torrentfreak.com) 142

The American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, accused Sci-Hub of mass copyright infringement and is demanding $4.8 million in piracy damages. "Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court," reports Torrent Freak. "As a result, a default was entered against the site, and a few days ago ACS specified its demands, which include $4.8 million in piracy damages." The complaint comes soon after the pirate site was ordered to pay $15 million in piracy damages to academic publisher Elsevier. From the report: "Here, ACS seeks a judgment against Sci-Hub in the amount of $4,800,000 -- which is based on infringement of a representative sample of publications containing the ACS Copyrighted Works multiplied by the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 for each publication," they write. "Sci-Hub's unabashed flouting of U.S. Copyright laws merits a strong deterrent. This Court has awarded a copyright holder maximum statutory damages where the defendant's actions were "clearly willful' and maximum damages were necessary to 'deter similar actors in the future.'" The publisher notes that the maximum statutory damages are only requested for 32 of its 9,000 registered works. This still adds up to a significant sum of money, of course, but that is needed as a deterrent, ACS claims.

Although the deterrent effect may sound plausible in most cases, another $4.8 million in debt is unlikely to worry Sci-Hub's owner, as she can't pay it off anyway. However, there's also a broad injunction on the table that may be more of a concern. The requested injunction prohibits Sci-Hub's owner to continue her work on the site. In addition, it also bars a wide range of other service providers from assisting others to access it. Specifically, it restrains "any Internet search engines, web hosting and Internet service providers, domain name registrars, and domain name registries, to cease facilitating access to any or all domain names and websites through which Defendant Sci-Hub engages in unlawful access to [ACS's works]."

Businesses

The Windows App Store is Full of Pirate Streaming Apps (torrentfreak.com) 98

Ernesto Van der Sar, reporting for TorrentFreak: When we were browsing through the "top free" apps in the Windows Store, our attention was drawn to several applications that promoted "free movies" including various Hollywood blockbusters such as "Wonder Woman," "Spider-Man: Homecoming," and "The Mummy." Initially, we assumed that a pirate app may have slipped past Microsoft's screening process. However, the 'problem' doesn't appear to be isolated. There are dozens of similar apps in the official store that promise potential users free movies, most with rave reviews. Most of the applications work on multiple platforms including PC, mobile, and the Xbox. They are pretty easy to use and rely on the familiar grid-based streaming interface most sites and services use. Pick a movie or TV-show, click the play button, and off you go. The sheer number of piracy apps in the Windows Store, using names such as "Free Movies HD," "Free Movies Online 2020," and "FreeFlix HQ," came as a surprise to us. In particular, because the developers make no attempt to hide their activities, quite the opposite.
Piracy

Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users (torrentfreak.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content.

"By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

Movies

Disney Ditching Netflix Keeps Piracy Relevant (torrentfreak.com) 263

Yesterday, Disney announced its intent to pull its movies from Netflix and start its own streaming service. This upset many users across the web as the whole appeal of the streaming model becomes diluted when there are too many "Netflixes." TorrentFreak argues that "while Disney expects to profit from the strategy, more fragmentation is not ideal for the public" and that the move "keeps piracy relevant." From the report: Although Disney's decision may be good for Disney, a lot of Netflix users are not going to be happy. It likely means that they need another streaming platform subscription to get what they want, which isn't a very positive prospect. In piracy discussions, Hollywood insiders often stress that people have no reason to pirate, as pretty much all titles are available online legally. What they don't mention, however, is that users need access to a few dozen paid services, to access them all. In a way, this fragmentation is keeping the pirate ecosystems intact. While legal streaming services work just fine, having dozens of subscriptions is expensive, and not very practical. Especially not compared to pirate streaming sites, where everything can be accessed on the same site.
Software

Cable Giants Step Up Piracy Battle By Interrogating Montreal Software Developer (www.cbc.ca) 185

New submitter wierzpio writes: In more news about TVAddons, Canadian cable companies used a civil search warrant to visit the owner and developer of TVAddons, a library of hundreds of apps known as add-ons that allow people easy access to pirated movies, TV shows, and live TV. According to Adam Lackman, founder of TVAddons and defendant in the copyright lawsuit launched by the television giants, "The whole experience was horrifying. It felt like the kind of thing you would have expected to have happened in the Soviet Union." During the 16 hour-long visit, he was interrogated, denied the right not to answer the questions, and denied the right to consult his answers with his lawyer, who was present. His personal possessions were seized. Adam is fighting back (link to Indiegogo fundraising page) and already the judge declared the search warrant "null and void." "I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defense to the claim made against him," the judge wrote. "The defendant has demonstrated that he has an arguable case that he is not violating the [Copyright] Act," the judge continued, adding that by the plaintiffs' own estimate, only about one per cent of Lackman's add-ons were allegedly used to pirate content. Lackman's belongings still haven't been returned, and he can't acess the TVAddons website or its social media accounts, which were also seized. "Bell, Rogers and Videotron has appealed the court decision and a Federal Court of Appeal judge has ruled that until the appeal can be hard, Lackman will get nothing back," reports cbc.ca.

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