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Movies

Free TV-Show Streaming Hurts Online Sales, Research Finds (torrentfreak.com) 63

New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that online piracy is not the only worry for TV distributors. Based on Downton Abbey streaming and sales data provided by PBS, as reported by TorrentFreak, the researchers find that free legal streams can significantly reduce download sales. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that free streaming options should be banned. From the report: The researchers were able to estimate the impact in a natural experiment, since PBS was required to pull the free streams for all episodes at the same time. This means that some were streamable for more than a month, while others only for a week, or two. In addition, they had sales data for several seasons, allowing them to make an alternative comparison between years, where the streaming windows varied. In both cases, they show that free streaming cannibalizes download sales. "Our analysis in our primary specification indicates that availability in the free streaming window reduces EST sales by 8.4%. Using an alternative specification we find that free availability reduces EST sales by 9.9%," they write. The negative effect is not unexpected. However, it doesn't mean that it is wrong to offer free streaming in the long run, as there are several positive side-effects. That's where the puzzle starts to get complicated.
Piracy

UK ISPs To Start Sending 'Piracy Alerts' Soon (torrentfreak.com) 67

Beginning next year, internet service providers in the UK will send email notifications to subscribers whose connections have been allegedly used to download copyright infringing content. In what is an attempt to curtail piracy rates, these alerts would try to educate those who pirate about legal alternates. TorrentFreak adds: Mimicking its American counterpart, the copyright alert program will monitor the illegal file-sharing habits of UK citizens with a strong focus on repeat infringers. The piracy alerts program is part of the larger Creative Content UK (CCUK) initiative which already introduced several anti-piracy PR campaigns, targeted at the general public as well as the classroom. The plan to send out email alerts was first announced several years ago when we discussed it in detail, but it took some time to get everything ready. This week, a spokesperson from CCUK's "Get it Right From a Genuine Site" campaign informed us that it will go live in first few months of 2017. It's likely that ISPs and copyright holders needed to fine-tune their systems to get going, but the general purpose of the campaign remains the same.
Google

Google Asked to Remove a Billion 'Pirate' Search Results in a Year (torrentfreak.com) 68

Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 1,000,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine over the past twelve months, TorrentFreak reports. According to stats provided in Google's Transparency Report for the past one year, Google was asked to remove over one billion links -- or 1,007,741,143 links. From the article: More than 90 percent of the links, 908,237,861 were in fact removed. The rest of the reported links were rejected because they were invalid, not infringing, or duplicates of earlier requests. In total, Google has now processed just over two billion allegedly infringing URLs from 945,000 different domains. That the second billion took only a year, compared to several years for the first, shows how rapidly the volume of takedown requests is expanding. At the current rate, another billion will be added by the end of next summer. Most requests, over 50 million, were sent in for the website 4shared.com. However, according to the site's operators many of the reported URLs point to the same files, inflating the actual volume of infringing content.
Piracy

$1 Billion Getty Images Public Domain Photograph Dispute is Over (torrentfreak.com) 99

Earlier this year, photographer Carol Highsmith received a $120 settlement demand from Getty Images after she used one of her own public domain images on her website (which is she had donated to the Library of Congress and made available to the public to reproduce and display for free). Highsmith responded with a $1bn lawsuit but after a few short months, as TorrentFreak reports, the case is all over, with neither side a clear winner. From the report: To begin, on October 28, US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff dismissed each of Carol Highsmith's federal copyright claims. "Defendants Getty Images (US), Inc., License Compliance Services, Inc., Alamy, including that Inc., and Alamy Ltd. collectively moved to dismiss all claims of plaintiffs Carol Highsmith and This is America!, Inc. under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act,... the Lanham Act,... New York General Business Law,... and New York common law of unfair competition," the Judge wrote. "Upon consideration, the Court grants defendants' motions,â he added. With the federal claims gone, three state law claims were including that Getty charged licensing fees for images when it shouldn't have and collected settlements from alleged infringers when it had no right. However, these claims have now also been dismissed, along with the rest of the case. "It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and among the parties, that this action shall be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to Rule 41(a)(l)(A)(ii) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, each party to bear its own costs and fees," the Judge wrote in his dismissal. Since the case was dismissed with prejudice, it is done and cannot be brought back to court.
Opera

Opera Browser Asked to Blacklist Pirate Sites in 'Turbo Mode' (torrentfreak.com) 39

Opera web browser's 'Turbo Mode' is designed to speed up browsing. As a side effect, it also bypasses website blocks, something popular with pirates. However, it appears that the company has been in talks to integrate a blacklist which could stop access to blocked domains. From a report on TorrentFreak: It transpires that earlier this year, Opera's owners were approached by Russian telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor who aired concerns about the browser's ability to unblock banned sites. It was suggested that Opera should introduce some kind of filtering/blacklist mechanism to disallow blocked sites from accessing 'Turbo Mode.' Russian publication Kommersant says that it was able to confirm the nature of the discussions with sources within Opera. And according to Roskomnadzor's Vadim Ampelonsky, a meeting took place between the parties early in the fall. Ampelonsky says that discussion surrounded the technical issues of keeping blocked sites inaccessible when 'Turbo Mode' is activated. Representatives from Opera reportedly confirmed that this kind of filtering is possible. "We are ready to periodically send a list of sites to enter into such a filter at the conclusion of a bilateral agreement [with Opera]," Ampelonsky says, adding that discussions continue.
Piracy

Aussie Internet Pirates Are The Best Customers (torrentfreak.com) 48

A report commissioned by the Australian government has found a drop in piracy rates for 2016. The fall is being attributed to improved availability of legal streaming alternatives, but as TorrentFreak points out, the report also reveals that the much reviled Aussie pirate is often the industry's best customer. From the report: Streaming, on the other hand, increased from 54% to 57% year on year, with TV shows and movies making the biggest gains. "The proportion of internet users who streamed TV programs increased from 34% to 38% (making TV the most commonly accessed content type via online streaming) and the proportion of internet users who streamed movies increased from 25% to 29%," the report reads. This year the most-consumed content were TV shows (41%, up from 38% in 2015), music (39%, down from 42% in 2015) and movies (33%) and video games (15%). When all four content types were considered, the survey found that consumers streaming content on a weekly basis increased significantly, with 71% doing so for music and videos games, 55% for TV programs and 51% for movies. [...] However, in yet another blow to those who believe that genuine consumers and pirates are completely different and separate animals, the survey also reveals that millions of pirates are also consumers of legitimate content. In 2016, just 6% of Internet users exclusively obtained content from pirate sources. And there was an improvement in other areas too. When the survey presents figures from internet users who consumed content in the period (instead of just 'all Internet users 12+'), 37% consumed at least one unlawful file, down from 43% in the same period in 2015. Using the same parameters, 9% consumed all of their files unlawfully, down from 12% in 2015. But while there have been improvements in a number of areas, the volume of content being consumed illegally is not coming down across the board. According to the report, an estimated 279m music tracks, 56m TV shows, 34m movies, and 5m video games were consumed in the three month period.
Microsoft

4K Netflix Arrives On Windows 10, But Only Via Microsoft's Edge Browser (theverge.com) 126

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Netflix 4K streaming is finally heading to Windows PCs this week. While a number of TVs and set-top-boxes already support 4K Netflix streams, the PC has largely been left out of the high-quality streams due to piracy fears. Netflix is now supporting 4K streaming through Microsoft's Edge browser, but you'll need a new PC to actually make use of it. Netflix is only supporting 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel Core processors, and there aren't many laptops that actually support both the 4K display required and the new Intel processors. As a result, Microsoft is using the 4K Netflix support as a marketing effort for its Edge browser and to encourage people to upgrade their hardware to watch new episodes of the Gilmore Girls. It all might seem like a bit of a con, but it's largely the fault of DRM requirements from Hollywood studios and TV networks. Content providers have strict controls for 4K playback, so that streams can't be captured and redistributed illegally. The latest hardware decryption features simply aren't available on older Intel processors, and the new Kaby Lake chips now support 10-bit HEVC, a popular 4K video codec.
Piracy

Major Cyberlocker EX.UA To Shut Down Amid Police Crackdown (torrentfreak.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this week, news broke that following a complaint from the MPAA, local piracy giant FS.to was raided by police, with more than 60 servers seized and 19 people arrested. That investigation is still ongoing but now an even bigger target has folded in its wake. Founded in 2009, EX.UA is Ukraine's largest cyberlocker and one of the largest sites in the country, period. With millions of visitors each day the site is a much-loved resource but very shortly the platform will close its doors for good. In an announcement to users, EX.UA's owners said that it was time to throw in the towel after 12 months of trouble for the site and potential legal trouble ahead. "Over the past year EX.UA has had a chance to feel the direct threats, blackmail (including at the international level), and DDOS attacks. These actions jeopardize the personal information and personal files stored by users on the service," the site announced. EX.UA's operators say they have always tried to operate with respect for the laws of Ukraine, including dealing with takedowns quickly. However, the site does not approve of the system of distribution and rights management in place in the country and says it was one of the site's goals to raise this issue in Ukrainian society. Just recently, Ukraine passed a law which will allow copyright holders to block allegedly infringing sites without obtaining a court order. This, EX.UA says, is a sign of "uncivilized lobbying" and will only result in less respect for copyright. Faced with a change in the law and a desire to respect it, EX.UA's operators say that they will shut down the site. Users have just under two weeks to save their files.
United States

US Navy Denies Pirating Software on 550K Computers, Says It Had Bought Licenses For 38 Machines (arstechnica.com) 170

Earlier this year, the U.S. Navy was accused of pirating 3D software after testing a software package offered by Germany company Bitmanagement Software GmbH. The company had sued the United States of America for nearly $600 million. The U.S. Navy has now responded to the accusations, saying that though it did install the aforementioned software on "hundreds of thousands of computers within its network" without paying the German software maker for it, it did so with the consent of the software producer. Many might disagree, however. From a report on ArsTechnica: The Navy says that it could use the software on hundreds of thousands of computers with licenses for 38 machines. The Navy denied that a procurement official "acknowledged that additional licenses were necessary for it to distribute BS Contact Geo to its users." The government admitted that it had purchased 38 licenses, but "denies that the software licenses were 'limited,' as alleged by Plaintiff."
Piracy

University Bans BitTorrent To Stop Flood of Infringement Notices (torrentfreak.com) 123

A university in Canada has taken sweeping action in an effort to stem the tide of piracy notices. Following changes to Canada's copyright law in early 2015, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers. Over the past years, copyright owners have aggressively targeted users and ISPs with volumes of notices to generate more revenue. TorrentFreak adds:The phenomenon has also been felt at the University of Calgary, which acts as a service provider to thousands of students. Inevitably, some of those students have been using their connections to obtain music and movies for free, which has led to the university receiving large numbers of notices. So, in an effort to reduce the instances of alleged infringement, the university has recently banned BitTorrent usage on several Wi-Fi networks. Speaking to student newspaper The Gauntlet, vice-president finance and services Linda Dalgetty said that the effect was felt immediately. During the first eight days of the ban, the university received 90% fewer notices than usual. "I think what we're finding is it has definitely made a difference. But we have to monitor that, because statistically, we have to go through a longer time frame than eight days," Dalgetty said.According to Dalgetty, reducing the number of infringement notices wasn't the only consideration. The volume of traffic and other threats were also on the agenda. "The more streaming we have on the campus, the more it impacts network performance and that takes away the user experience for other pursuits," she said. "The third [reason] is security. The more streaming we have, the [higher chance] of inadvertently downloading something that would create issues."
Movies

Cloudflare Slams MPAA and RIAA's 'Distorted' Piracy Claims (torrentfreak.com) 16

Cloudflare has hit back at the entertainment industry's anti-piracy groups, RIAA and MPAA, which accused the service of helping pirate sites to hide. From a TorrentFreak report:Cloudflare was not pleased with this description, to say the least, and has now sent a rebuttal to the U.S. Trade Representative. The company highlights that it's a legitimate business and scolds the MPAA and RIAA for their misleading descriptions. "The submissions by the RIAA and MPAA present distorted descriptions of services that companies like Cloudflare provide. These descriptions fail to provide the USTR with an accurate description of the true intent, purpose, and value of Cloudflare's services," Cloudflare's General Counsel Doug Kramer writes. The company is disappointed in the industry groups, which fail to mention the efforts they have taken so far to address abuse. "Potentially even more troubling than the RIAA and MPAA's descriptions of Cloudflare's services is their complete omission of Cloudflare's efforts to address the small minority of users about which they complain."
Facebook

Facebook Deletes Music Piracy Groups Following Complaints (torrentfreak.com) 26

Back in the early days of the internet, users would post links to pirated content on dedicated file-sharing sites. But that trend has died down significantly over the past several years in favor of social media and sites like Reddit. Facebook is one of the sites that has been under pressure from the entertainment industry about taking action against piracy, and they are complying. According to anti-piracy outfit BREIN, the company responded by deleting nine "pirate" groups complained about by the entertainment industry. TorrentFreak reports: "Links to infringing files hosted on cloud services were indexed on the pages. Knowingly posting links to infringing files is itself a violation," BREIN says. After being contacted by BREIN, Facebook responded by deleting all nine 'pirate' groups. However, this wasn't the first time the social network has taken this kind of action. BREIN says that earlier this year Facebook removed a number of similar groups following complaints of infringement. But while shutting down 'pirate' groups will have some short-term effect, the people that were participating in them are likely to regroup and set up elsewhere. Of course, BREIN can follow them to their new homes but it's also aware of the value of targeting individuals. "The posters of the infringing links are also often the illegal uploader of unauthorized files [on cyberlocker sites]," BREIN says, adding that in some circumstances it will seek to hold those people responsible for their actions.
Education

CloudFlare Can Be Ordered To Disclose Science Piracy Website Owner Details (thestack.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes: A New York judge has ruled that CDN provider Cloudflare can be compelled to disclose customer details for the domains libgen.io and bookfi.org, both of which are alleged to provide pirated access to scientific and technical papers, infringing the rights of controversial academic publisher Elsevier. Judge Robert Sweet ruled 'The evidence set forth...demonstrates that Elsevier (publisher who filed the lawsuit) is unable to identify the operators of libgen.org or bookfi.org, or the true location of the computer servers upon which those websites are hosted, absent the ability to take discovery from Cloudflare.' Sweet's ruling refers to 'absent identifying information' necessitating an injunction for Cloudflare to surrender details intended to begin an investigative financial trail to the domain registrants. This information could have been provided by British company TLD Registrar Solutions, who registered libgen.org in 2012 -- and hardly seems likely to retrench under pressure, given the oft-criticised transparency of legal process between the U.S. and the United Kingdom. ICANN and WHOIS also seem like obvious first points of enquiry (however ICANN's secession from control by the United States government at the end of September may have complicated using it as a legal resource), but apparently, neither can help.
Canada

86-Year Old Grandma Accused of Pirating a Zombie Game (torrentfreak.com) 122

An 86-year-old woman named Christine McMillan from Ontario, Canada has been accused of downloading a zombie game she's never heard of. She faces $5,000 in potential damages. From a report on TorrentFreak (condensed): McMillan is one of the hundreds of thousands of people who've been accused of copyright infringement under Canada's "notice and notice" regime. Due to a change to Canada's copyright law early last year, ISPs are now required to forward copyright infringement notices to their customers. In the letter received from anti-piracy group Canipre, she's threatened with thousands of dollars in damages, if she doesn't comply. "They didn't tell me how much I owed, they only told me that if I didn't comply, I would be liable for a fine of up to $5,000 and I could pay immediately by entering my credit card number," McMillan told Go Public. At first, McMillan thought she was dealing with spammers but Cogeco, her Internet provider, confirmed that the email with the settlement offer was legitimate. The power of the settlement scheme lies in the uncertainty people face. McMillan is obviously not happy with the notice-and-notice legislation which she brands as "foolish."
Government

Pirate Party Gains Seats In Iceland's Election (bbc.com) 105

The BBC reports that Iceland's Pirate Party "has tripled its seats in the 63-seat parliament, election results show. It is in joint second place with the Left-Greens -- with 10 seats each." An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: Iceland's hacker-led, upstart Pirate Party failed to make the nation's powerful Independence Party walk the plank after all. The Pirate Party -- led by a former WikiLeaks collaborator -- rode the populist movement sweeping Europe to make big gains in Saturday's election, but returns on Sunday gave the largest bloc of seats to the center-right Independence Party...

Pirate Party co-founder Birgitta Jonsdottir, who became involved with WikiLeaks in 2010 after its leader Julian Assange visited Iceland, said she was satisfied with the Pirate plunder at the polls. "Our internal predictions showed 10 to 15%, so this is at the top of the range."

Iceland's prime minister was forced to resign in April after the Panama Papers suggested his family had sheltered its personal wealth outside the country.
Piracy

Repeat Infringers Can Be Mere Downloaders, Court Rules (torrentfreak.com) 121

A 10-year-old copyright case has prompted an interesting opinion from a US appeals court. In determining the nature of a "repeat infringer" (which service providers must terminate to retain safe harbor), the court found these could be people who simply download infringing content for personal use. The case was filed by recording labels EMI and Capitol against the since long defunct music service MP3Tunes nearly a decade ago. The site allowed, among other things, the ability to store MP3 files and then play it remotely on other devices. The site also allowed users to search for MP3 files online and add them to MP3Tunes service. This is what the recording labels had a problem with, and they sued the site and the owner. TorrentFreak adds: The case went to appeal and yesterday the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals handed down an opinion that should attract the attention of service providers and Internet users alike. The most interesting points from a wider perspective cover the parameters which define so-called 'repeat infringers.' [...] Noting that the District Court in the MP3Tunes case had also defined a 'repeat infringer' as a user who posts or uploads infringing content "to the Internet for the world to experience or copy", the Court of Appeals adds that the same court determined that a mere downloader of infringing content could not be defined as a repeat infringer "that internet services providers are obligated to ban from their websites." According to the Court of Appeal, that definition was too narrow. "We reject this definition of a 'repeat infringer,' which finds no support in the text, structure, or legislative history of the DMCA. Starting with the text, we note that the DMCA does not itself define 'repeat infringers'," the opinion reads. Noting that 'repeat' means to do something "again or repeatedly" while an 'infringer' is "[s]omeone who interferes with one of the exclusive rights of a copyright," the Court of Appeals goes on to broaden the scope significantly. [...] The notion that the term 'repeat infringer' can now be applied to anyone who knowingly (or unknowingly) downloads infringing content on multiple occasions is likely to set pulses racing. How it will play out in practical real-world scenarios will remain to be seen, but it's certainly food for thought.
Piracy

Warner Bros Claims Agency Ran Its Own Pirate Movie Site (torrentfreak.com) 24

Warner Bros Entertainment has sued talent agency Innovative Artists, claiming that the agency ran its own pirate site when it ripped DVD screeners and streamed them to associates via Google servers. TorrentFreak adds: In a lawsuit filed in a California federal court, Warner accuses the agency of effectively setting up its own pirate site, stocked with rips of DVD screeners that should have been kept secure. "Beginning in late 2015, Innovative Artists set up and operated an illegal digital distribution platform that copied movies and then distributed copies and streamed public performances of those movies to numerous people inside and outside of the agency," the complaint reads. "Innovative Artists stocked its platform with copies of Plaintiff's works, including copies that Innovative Artists made by ripping awards consideration 'screener' DVDs that Plaintiff sent to the agency to deliver to one of its clients." Given its position in the industry, Innovative Artists should have known better than to upload content, Warner's lawyers write.
Media

Cisco Develops System To Automatically Cut-Off Pirate Video Streams (torrentfreak.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Pirate services obtain content by capturing and restreaming feeds obtained from official sources, often from something as humble as a regular subscriber account. These streams can then be redistributed by thousands of other sites and services, many of which are easily found using a simple search. Dedicated anti-piracy companies track down these streams and send takedown notices to the hosts carrying them. Sometimes this means that streams go down quickly but in other cases hosts can take a while to respond or may not comply at all. Networking company Cisco thinks it has found a solution to these problems. The company's claims center around its Streaming Piracy Prevention (SPP) platform, a system that aims to take down illicit streams in real-time. Perhaps most interestingly, Cisco says SPP functions without needing to send takedown notices to companies hosting illicit streams. "Traditional takedown mechanisms such as sending legal notices (commonly referred to as 'DMCA notices') are ineffective where pirate services have put in place infrastructure capable of delivering video at tens and even hundreds of gigabits per second, as in essence there is nobody to send a notice to," the company explains. "Escalation to infrastructure providers works to an extent, but the process is often slow as the pirate services will likely provide the largest revenue source for many of the platform providers in question." To overcome these problems Cisco says it has partnered with Friend MTS (FMTS), a UK-based company specializing in content-protection. Among its services, FMTS offers Distribution iD, which allows content providers to pinpoint which of their downstream distributors' platforms are a current source of content leaks. "Robust and unique watermarks are embedded into each distributor feed for identification. The code is invisible to the viewer but can be recovered by our specialist detector software," FMTS explains. "Once infringing content has been located, the service automatically extracts the watermark for accurate distributor identification." According to Cisco, FMTS feeds the SPP service with pirate video streams it finds online. These are tracked back to the source of the leak (such as a particular distributor or specific pay TV subscriber account) which can then be shut-down in real time.
Piracy

More Performers Are Demanding Audiences Lock Up Their Phones (nytimes.com) 552

More performers -- and other venues -- are discovering a new anti-piracy technology called Yondr -- including comedian Dave Chappelle. Slashdot reader HughPickens.com quotes the New York Times: Fans are required to place their cellphones into Yondr's form-fitting lockable pouch when entering the show, and a disk mechanism unlocks it on the way out. Fans keep the pouch with them, but it is impossible to snap pictures, shoot videos or send text messages during the performance while the pouch is locked.

'I know my show is protected, and it empowers me to be more honest and open with the audience,' says Dave Chappelle...But some fans object to not being able to disseminate and see live shows via videotape...

"In this day and age, my phone is how I keep my memory," one live-music fan told the Washington Post, adding "If you don't want your music heard, then don't perform it." But the device is becoming more common, and according to the Times it's now also being used at weddings, restaurants, schools, and when movies are being prescreened.
DRM

Shadow Warrior 2 Developers Say DRM Is a Waste of Time (arstechnica.com) 99

zarmanto writes: Ars Technica reports that one particular game studio might finally get it, when it comes to DRM'ed game content. They're publishing their latest game, Shadow Warrior 2, with no DRM protection at all. From the article: "We don't support piracy, but currently there isn't a good way to stop it without hurting our customers," Flying Wild Hog developer Krzysztof "KriS" Narkowicz wrote on the game's Steam forum (in response to a question about trying to force potential pirates to purchase the game instead). "Denuvo means we would have to spend money for making a worse version for our legit customers. It's like the FBI warning screen on legit movies." Expanding on those thoughts in a recent intervew with Kotaku, Narkowicz explained why he felt the DRM value proposition wasn't worth it. "Any DRM we would have needs to be implemented and tested," he told Kotaku. "We prefer to spend resources on making our game the best possible in terms of quality, rather than spending time and money on putting some protection that will not work anyway." "The trade-off is clear," Flying Wild Hog colleagues Artur Maksara and Tadeusz Zielinksi added. "We might sell a little less, but hey, that's the way the cookie crumbles! We hope that our fans, who were always very supportive, will support us this time as well," Zielinski told Kotaku. "...In our imperfect world, the best anti-pirate protection is when the games are good, highly polished, easily accessible and inexpensive," Maksara added.

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