Tolerating Piracy Can Benefit Consumers, Creators and Retailers, Research Finds

Tolerating Piracy Can Benefit Consumers, Creators and Retailers, Research Finds

Over the past decade, various entertainment industry groups have lobbied hard for tougher anti-piracy measures.

The harder it is for people to download something through unofficial channels, the more revenue will flow to the creators, the argument goes.

However, a new study by Indiana University researcher Antino Kim conducted together with colleagues from the University of Texas-Dallas and the University of Washington, suggests that this is not always the case.

The findings from their economic impact model are published in the latest edition of the MIS Quarterly Journal, in an article titled  “The ‘Invisible Hand’ of Piracy: An Economic Analysis of the Information-Goods Supply Chain.”

According to their analysis, piracy limits the pricing power of both the creator and the retailer. This reduces the impact of double marginalization, which occurs when creators and retailers both add significantly to the price of a product.

Because piracy is seen as a form of “shadow competition” the price of a product, such as an HBO cable subscription, is pushed closer to the economic optimum. At that optimal price point, everyone is better off, including the broader economy.

“When information goods are sold to consumers via a retailer, in certain situations, a moderate level of piracy seems to have a surprisingly positive impact on the profits of the manufacturer and the retailer while, at the same time, enhancing consumer welfare,” Kim and his co-authors write.

“Such a win-win-win situation is not only good for the supply chain but is also beneficial for the overall economy,” they add.

The researchers mention Game of Thrones piracy as an example. The TV-show is widely known to be the most pirated series in history but HBO is not going to extremes to stop the public from sharing these episodes, which may be a good thing.

Following the logic of the paper, the threat of piracy keeps the price of HBO cable subscriptions down. Neither HBO (creator) nor the cable and satellite TV operators (retailer) are overcharging, despite their relative monopolies. This means a better price point and more legitimate consumers.

The authors of the article note that creators and retailers don’t have to encourage piracy all of a sudden. However, turning a blind eye to it may be in their own best interests in some cases.

“The implication is simply that, situated in a real-world context, our manufacturer and retailer should recognize that a certain level of piracy or its threat might actually be beneficial and should, therefore, exercise some moderation in their anti-piracy efforts,” the researchers write.

“This could manifest itself in them tolerating piracy to a certain level, perhaps by turning a blind eye to it. Such a strategy would indeed be consistent with how others have described HBO’s attitude toward piracy of its products,” they add.

The findings are based on an economic model which is limited to retailer sold information goods. Piracy doesn’t always have a positive effect but this research shows that it can help keep market prices balanced, which is an intriguing conclusion.

It highlights a positive aspect of piracy that has been overlooked before are certainly something for companies and governments to be aware of then they consider future anti-piracy measures.

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Russia Sees Huge Increase in Pirate Sites & Blocking Could Be to Blame

Russia Sees Huge Increase in Pirate Sites & Blocking Could Be to Blame

Russia has firmly established itself as one of the leading countries utilizing site-blocking to counter content considered unfavorable by the state or corporate interests.

Many tens of thousands of platforms are blocked for many reasons, from the promotion of terrorism to copyright infringement. Every week new sites are added to the country’s national blacklist which local ISPs are required to frequently check in order to prevent their subscribers from accessing forbidden platforms.

Given that blocking is supposed to reduce piracy, new research from Russian anti-piracy company WebKontrol throws up a few interesting angles on this online war.

For example, the company says that in 2017, the number of torrent sites offering content to the Russian market sat at around 1,300. However, last year – in the face of overwhelming blocking measures – that number grew to around 2,000.

In 2018, torrent sites accounted for just over a fifth of the ‘pirate’ market (streaming platforms dominate with more than 70%) but due to multiple links to the same content appearing on most platforms, torrent links accounted for around 40% of the available links to pirated material.

Further underlining the importance of torrents, despite a smaller share of the market, the company reports that in 87% of cases, the first public copies of premiere titles appeared on torrent sites first, before spreading out to other platforms such as streaming and hosting sites.

“According to WebKontrol’s, data, out of various website types, the number of streaming resources had increased by 2% – from 69% to 71% [2017 v 2018] – which placed the streaming websites in the leading position,” the company told TF.

“The share of torrent-trackers has also increased by 3% – from 19% to 22%. At the same time, the analysts have noted that the number of link sites and cyberlockers went down from 5% to 3%, and from 6% to 3% respectively.”

In 2017, the number of pirate sites offering content to Russian audiences dropped by 10% but in 2018, WebKontrol detected a 43% increase, amounting to an additional 9,500 sites. But despite this bad news, overall piracy appears to have dipped slightly, with the huge increase in sites put down to site owners’ responses to Russia’s aggressive blocking system.

“The overall traffic of pirate sites is decreasing notwithstanding the fact that the number of such sites is growing rapidly. Presumably, the main reason for this is the newly created mirror sites,” WebKontrol CEO Olga Valigourskaia informs TorrentFreak.

“Administrators of the pirate resources tend to create mirror sites as quickly as possible after their original domains are blocked. Rights holders, on the other hand, instantly block these mirrors using an administrative procedure, so there is no chance for these sites to gain any significant traffic. Some pirates simply stop creating new mirrors after a few blocking procedures.”

Meanwhile, Russia is further investing in site-blocking with the introduction of a new system. Telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor reports that to date, 660 large telecoms operators have switched to a new mechanism which allows sites to be blocked more efficiently.

“The new mechanism allows service providers to receive data from the Unified Registry [national blacklist] for only updated or changed entries instead of downloading the entire data set,” Roscomnadzor reports.

“Earlier tests have shown that the time taken by operators to reduce access to prohibited resources is reduced from 30–40 minutes to 4–6 minutes.”

Adoption of the new system is not mandatory but given the importance of site-blocking to the Russian government, ISPs are being encouraged to make use of it in order to “increase the effectiveness of measures taken to limit access to illegal resources.”

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Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 01/21/19

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week on BitTorrent – 01/21/19

This week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Bohemian Rhapsody is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (10) Bohemian Rhapsody 8.3 / trailer
2 (1) A Star is Born 8.0 / trailer
3 (5) Aquaman (Subbed HDRip) 7.7 / trailer
4 (…) The Grinch 6.3 / trailer
5 (2) Hunter Killer 6.7 / trailer
6 (4) The Girl in The Spider’s Web 6.1 / trailer
7 (8) Bumblebee (Subbed HDRip) 7.2 / trailer
8 (3) First Man 7.5 / trailer
9 (6) Venom 7.0 / trailer
10 (…) Widows 7.2 / trailer

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Replacing DVDs With Online Screeners Won’t Stop Pirates

Replacing DVDs With Online Screeners Won’t Stop Pirates

Last week the news broke that the Emmys will make the switch from physical DVD-screeners to online streaming screeners in 2020.

This transition comes with a lot of benefits. For one, it’s much cheaper for companies to put movies on an online screening platform than to manufacture and ship hundreds of thousands of DVDs.

Another advantage, according to some industry insiders, is that it’s easier to keep online screeners out of the hands of pirates.

In recent years there haven’t been many TV-screener leaks. However, if DVD screeners are eventually phased out by other awards shows, such as the Oscars, could that be the end of the screener season madness among pirates?

That’s highly doubtful. While it’s certainly true that online copies can’t get lost in the mail, there are other vulnerabilities. A login and password are easily shared and, once in, pirates can usually find a way to rip of capture a movie of TV-show. That’s what they’re good at, after all.

This is corroborated by pirate release group EVO. Short for EVOLUTiON, EVO has been around for years. The group has standing when it comes to screeners. Just a few weeks ago it leaked “Ralph Breaks The Internet,” one of the first DVD screeners this year.

According to EVO, online screeners are not necessarily more secure and the opposite may be true in some cases. The group mentions that it had access to a digital screener account last year which provided surprisingly little protection.

“We had access to digital screeners and they are indeed easy to leak. The DRM on it is a joke. We had an account last year with three screeners on it and they were pretty much MP4 ready to encode,” the EVO team informs TorrentFreak.

The group adds that online screeners have already leaked in the past, mentioning last year’s release of “Call Me By Your Name” as an example.

The Academy Awards have experimented with online streaming, but there is no sign of a switch yet.  The release group noticed, however, that DVD screener security has been increased. At least, for the disc they worked on.

“From what I’ve seen, doing Ralph, the DVD protection on it was increased, since it was a nightmare to crack,” EVO’s team member tells us.

The group believes that the current security measures around DVD screeners releases work fairly well. After all, there haven’t been too many DVD screener leaks this year. It further notes that the quality of screeners is intentionally kept low to decrease their value, in case they leak.

Legitimate screeners (for the SAG awards)

Whether online or physical screeners are more secure ultimately depends on the type of protection measures that are implemented for each.

A highly secure DVD with watermarks is more secure than an online stream that’s only protected with a login, and a highly secure online streaming platform is more secure than an unprotected DVD. But none of these are 100% leak-resistant.

The safest conclusion is that piracy will likely remain a problem, no matter what the distribution platform is.

To get more perspectives we reached out to a variety of movie industry insiders, including those who offer secure online screening platforms. Unfortunately, none of them answered, suggesting that it’s a sensitive issue.

Based on previous coverage on the matter, we found that the movie industry hasn’t made its mind up on the security issue either.

Anthony Anderson, director of film security for Universal Pictures, previously told Variety that digital screeners will present new threats, which could make them less secure.

“Before, if you shipped a DVD to the home, you had to steal it from the doorstep. Now you can sit at home and attack the site, which presents a host of issues,” Anderson said.

The Television Academy’s decision to make Emmy screeners streaming only doesn’t come as a surprise though. In recent years many insiders have called for a transition and the major studios, including Warner Bros., have online “FYC” platforms in place already.

As far as we know, security concerns are not the main driver behind the switch. Variety’s coverage shows that streaming is simply seen as more practical, modern, and much cheaper by many. The downside is that not everyone likes streaming and that it’s harder to make titles stand out.

As for EVO, they don’t believe that the Academy Awards will follow the Emmys’ example anytime soon.  That said, the group prefers not to get involved with these type of releases too often, as it’s a security threat for them as well.

“Usually, we choose to stay out of the DVDSCR because it’s something that draws to much heat, and the studios are not happy about it. Every year people who actually leak them are arrested. No matter how good you are to erase the watermarks. There is always a trace,” EVO notes.

That’s true for both DVD and online screeners…

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Copyright Trolling in Sweden Grows Massively Putting US Efforts in the Shade

Copyright Trolling in Sweden Grows Massively Putting US Efforts in the Shade

With millions of Internet users sharing copyrighted content every day, some entertainment companies have embarked on campaigns to shakedown alleged infringers with settlement demands.

The process is broadly the same wherever it takes place in the world, with anti-piracy outfits sitting in BitTorrent swarms and logging the IP addresses of connections alleged to have downloaded and/or shared content without permission. This evidence is then presented to local courts which invariably order ISPs to hand over the personal details of alleged infringers.

Despite The Pirate Bay being founded in Sweden where it amassed millions of followers, the country was not an early target for so-called copyright trolls. However, emboldened companies now see the Scandinavian country as a place to hit hard.

ISP Bahnhof is the world’s most outspoken service providers when it comes criticism of copyright trolls and a new report by the company reveals that Sweden is now being systematically targeted.

Covering 2016, 2017, and 2018, the study of applications to Swedish courts (now exclusively the Patent and Market Court) reveals a shocking growth.

In 2016, copyright trolls obtained the personal details of individuals behind 5,673 IP addresses but by 2017, that had escalated almost fivefold to 25,850 IP addresses. In 2018, the figure skyrocketed to 52,341 IP addresses, more than double the previous year.

Bahnhof: Copyright troll cases exploding in Sweden

To compile this data, Bahnhof obtained copies of all disclosure applications and subsequent court decisions from the Patent and Market Court. Unlike the current position in the US, each application can cover huge numbers of IP addresses.

In 2016, there were 13 applications for personal data, i.e the names and addresses of alleged infringers. In 2017, that figure had grown to 27 but in 2018 there were 72, a clear sign that copyright trolls now view Sweden as a favorable country to conduct their business.

This is underlined when more closely comparing the trolling activity in Sweden with that of the United States.

As detailed in an earlier TorrentFreak report, more than 3,300 new cases were filed against alleged BitTorrent users in the US during 2018, with most targeting a single user per case. The United States has a population of more than 328 million while Sweden has ‘just’ 10 million.

In the US, most of this activity can be attributed to two adult industry companies – Malibu Media and Strike 3 Holdings. In Sweden there are various rightsholders with three law firms carrying out the threats – Njord Law (32 cases), Ramberg Advokater (28), and Engström & Hellman Advokatbyrå (2).

Interestingly, the trolls and their associated law firms in Sweden appear to favor four Internet service providers when making their applications.

Statistically, customers of telecoms giant Telia are the most likely to receive a settlement demand, with the court ordering the ISP to reveal the identities of subscribers behind 37,035 IP addresses in 2018.

Customers of Com Hem fall in second place with 7,889 IP addresses, with Telenor closely following with 6,762. Rätt Internet Kapacitet i Sverige was placed in fourth with orders to disclose the identities of subscribers behind 571 IP addresses.

Perhaps most notably, the court ordered Bahnhof to reveal the identities of exactly zero subscribers in 2018, but this is no accident.

Bahnhof refuses to log the activities of its subscribers which means that when the trolls come calling, there is no useful information to hand over. Bahnhof CEO Jon Karlung says this is the model other ISPs in Sweden should also be operating.

“The solution is simple. DONT STORE DATA about your customers! If you do not store any data, there is nothing to hand out,” he informs TorrentFreak.

“I have read the fine prints from the bigger telcos – and they all say that they store data basically forever. They argue that this is because they need it for support issues. Well? Really, for years?

“No, it is often mentioned that they store data for ‘Enhancing the customer experience’. I assume that most people don’t think that blackmail by copyright trolls is a nice ‘enhancement’. Bahnhof does not store data. We have handed out in zero cases,” he adds.

While statistics like those collected by Bahnhof and TF make for interesting reading, the personal stories of those affected by aggressive tactics of copyright trolls often go unreported. Karlung says he has personally spoken to many people targeted for cash settlements.

“Some of them are elderly people saying that they have no knowledge at all about a specific movie. They seem genuine enough but since there have been no tests in court, it’s hard to say,” he says.

“But a gut feeling is that this is an imperfect trolling machine that points out innocent people. They ask me for advice and well, I say that it’s hard to give. But often the best strategy is not to respond at all to the trolls. Another piece of advice, of course, is not to choose an ISP or telco that stores data.”

The number of people who choose to settle following a threat is impossible to report accurately, since many who do so also agree not to speak about their agreements in public. In the UK it was previously estimated that somewhere between 10% and 20% pay up but Karlung believes that the number could be higher in Sweden.

“Swedes tends to be trusting of the legal system. This is now being exploited by the trolls. They basically use blackmail as a modus operandi and there is no way the individual can protect themselves. Therefore I believe the payments are much higher here,” he concludes.

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Waterworld ‘Fan-Edit’ Gets Official Blu-ray Release, a Decade After Pirate Bay Premiere

Waterworld ‘Fan-Edit’ Gets Official Blu-ray Release, a Decade After Pirate Bay Premiere

While it’s not one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the recent decades, Waterworld has reached cult status among a subgroup of film fans.

The post-apocalyptic film, featuring Kevin Costner in a lead role, first premiered in 1995. Since then, it’s been shown on TV repeatedly and released on various other media including VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.

The latest Blu-ray version, created by Arrow Films, was actually sent out just this week. Despite Waterworld being more than two decades old, many fans were eager to get their hands on the copy.

The release includes three Waterworld cuts which were newly restored from the original material. That by itself would be enough to get proper fans excited, but it’s the inclusion of the infamous “Ulysses Cut” that was most anticipated.

Waterworld is known for its many different versions, but this one never officially aired anywhere. It was created by a fan who, together with others, set out to make the longest uncensored edit of Waterworld possible.

The origin of this fan-edit, well documented by the Unheard Nerd,  started in 2005.

At the time, a user of the Original Trilogy forum asked if anyone had access to the 40 minutes of Waterworld material that appeared in an ABC broadcast. This generated a long thread where users shared and compared different versions of the film.

In 2006, a user named “Mcfly89,” showed his interest in the project.

“This project sounds great! Is this from a VHS or better? Could anyone post some screenshots? I can’t wait to see this on myspleen or another torrent site,” he wrote.

Mcfly89 later took the lead and after crowdsourcing copies of different broadcasts, he set out to combine these into a long uncensored edit of Waterworld.

The project progressed slowly and by November 2007 the name “Ulysses was first mentioned.

“Ulysses”

This title refers to the unnamed mariner played by Kevin Costner. He’s given this name toward the end of the film in a scene that was taken out of the theatrical version.

With a name for the project, Mcfly89 continued his work. Helped by other members, who also assisted with an appropriate DVD-cover, the fan-made DVD was ready by the summer of 2008.

The Ulysses Cut cover

Despite a temporary outage on The Pirate Bay, Mcfly89 managed to upload a torrent for the “Ulysses” cut to the site on July 28th, exactly thirteen years after the original premiere.

Today, ten years on, it’s still available on TPB, albeit with no seeders on the official torrent. In the description, Mcfly89 explains the project while thanking the many others who contributed.

“Waterworld: The Ulysses Cut is a fan-made preservation of the extended cut of Waterworld which has been aired on television but never released on home video,” it reads.

“Waterworld is a film notoriously re-cut by the studio after locking the director out of the editing room, and this preservation is an attempt to show some 40 minutes worth of material that was exised.”

The Ulysses Cut on TPB

Many Waterworld fans welcomed the “Ulysses” release and it was even extended by ‘Zaaacharias’ a few years later. It’s not clear whether the original makers were happy with it. Film fans generally see fan-edits as important preservation projects, but copyright holders have gone after such releases as well.

Fast forward another decade and now the Ulysses cut has been released legitimately on a Blu-Ray disc put together by Arrow Films. The movie company used the name of the cut, but it was obviously reconstructed from original footage, not the broadcasts that were used in the fan-edit.

We reached out to Arrow Films to ask what its motivation was and whether it consulted Mcfly89, but the company didn’t respond. We had no luck tracking down Mcfly89 either, who is not mentioned in any of the official Blu-ray release details.

“High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended European Ulysses cut, which include previously censored shots and dialogue,” is how Arrow Films describes the version.

Waterworld fans surely haven’t forgotten about the cut’s origins. Mcfly89 is mentioned in several reviews, including this on Amazon, from “Lego Trooper” who’s eager to know more about how this official release came about.

“On this lovely 3 disc edition is finally the Ulysses cut which was fan made from a number of different recordings from different cuts of the film shown on TV. The fan in question ‘Mcfly89’ surely deserves a shout out for his efforts.

“It would probably be an interesting read or feature to know how between Universal, Arrow and Mcfly89 The Ulysses Cut has eventually arrived as a 1080p edition,” Lego Trooper adds.

The story is quite remarkable already but we believe that Arrow Films missed a major opportunity here. But perhaps the full story will come out one day, in another decade or so.

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RARBG Adds .EXE Files to Torrents, But No Need to Panic

RARBG Adds .EXE Files to Torrents, But No Need to Panic

After more than ten years in the game, RARBG is one of the most popular and resilient torrent sites on the Internet today.

The site took fourth spot in our 2019 list of most popular torrent sites, a position that has been earned through regular high-quality releases of everything from movies and TV shows through to music, games and adult content.

During the past few days, however, the site took a somewhat unusual step that has had some users scratching their heads. A quick look inside some new video torrents released by the site reveals not only the content itself, but also an initially mysterious file called ‘ RARBG_DO_NOT_MIRROR.exe’.

The presence of an .exe file often raises alarm bells

As a general rule, when video torrents contain an .exe file there is a need for caution. These executables can contain anything and in some cases may be malicious, such as a virus or malware. As a result, experienced torrent users never click them but the same can’t be said about novices.

In this instance, however, there is nothing for regular users to be worried about. Renaming the file to give it a .txt extension reveals that this is just a text file that displays the following information:

“This is not an .exe file. This is just a placeholder to prevent mirroring over other public sites.”

So if it’s just a text file, why would RARBG include it in their torrents? The explanation, it turns out, is pretty straightforward and not directed at users at all.

While the site makes thousands of releases every week, these are easily mirrored on other platforms. Since .exe files are viewed with suspicion by tools used to automate the crawling of the site (most sites don’t allow .exe files to be uploaded in video categories), their inclusion means less diffusion of RARBG torrents to other platforms.

“[The .exe file] is included in torrent files to stop distribution to other public sites,” RARBG confirms in a new addition to its FAQ.

Interestingly, the “.exe” experiment is also having a positive effect on the health of torrents tracked by RARBG. According to the site’s operator, the inclusion of the .exe file in torrents “reduces the average hit&run [people who grab a torrent and then fail to seed] by 35% !”

As mentioned earlier, there is nothing malicious with the .exe file as far as users are concerned and, as the site points out, people can easily ‘untick’ the file in their torrent client and it won’t even be downloaded.

That being said, their presence won’t be welcomed by people looking to mirror RARBG torrents elsewhere. Since the traffic to such platforms could be negatively affected following the rejection of torrents containing an .exe, the job of their operators becomes much more difficult.

Finally, it’s worth reiterating that real .exe files in any torrent – or indeed anywhere on the Internet – should always be approached with caution.

Running these kinds of files without due diligence can be a risky proposition so the default actions should always be to run up-to-date anti-virus/anti-malware software and/or ignore and delete unexpected content, just to be on the safe side.

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Record Labels and Rightscorp Destroyed Vital Piracy Evidence, ISP Says

Record Labels and Rightscorp Destroyed Vital Piracy Evidence, ISP Says

Regular Internet providers are being put under increasing pressure for not doing enough to curb copyright infringement.

Music rights company BMG got the ball rolling a few years ago when it won its piracy liability lawsuit against Cox.

Following this defeat, several major record labels including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music filed a lawsuit in a Texas District Court. With help from the RIAA, they sued ISP Grande Communications for allegedly turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers.

According to the labels, the Internet provider knew that some of its subscribers were frequently distributing copyrighted material, and accused the company of failing to take any meaningful action in response.

The case is now heading to trial, where the ISP might not have a safe harbor defense. However, if it’s up to Grande, the record labels should start the trial without their most important evidence; the “infringement notices” of Rightscorp.

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp has a database of close to a billion copyright infringements. While the company’s original business model of automated settlements hasn’t been very lucrative, the notices are gladly used by copyright holders in court.

They were the basis of the BMG v.s Cox lawsuit and in the record labels’ case against Grande they are also front and center.

According to Grande, however, this evidence is unusable. Its attorneys have previously branded it as inaccurate but this month they added an even more damaging claim. The ISP accuses the labels and Rightscorp of destroying vital evidence.

While the notices are all intact, much of the underlying information has been removed. The ISP argues that this makes it impossible to determine precisely how Rightscorp’s system functioned and what information about Grande’s subscribers was collected in each case.

Grande’s attorneys presented their findings to the Texas federal court. They submitted a motion for evidentiary sanctions based on the reported “spoliation” of evidence.

“Plaintiffs and Rightscorp have destroyed all of the evidence necessary to determine how the Rightscorp system operated at any given time relevant to this lawsuit,” Grande’s motion reads.

Recent depositions establish that Rightscorp, the RIAA, Plaintiffs, and their retained experts are all incapable of providing a cogent and detailed explanation of how the Rightscorp system actually functioned at any point during the relevant time period.”

The missing information includes communications with torrent trackers,
data that show if customers were actively sharing certain files, and data that was used to match downloads to copyrighted works. In addition, Rightscorp is also accused of deleting nearly all records from its call-center.

The ISP is convinced that it’s severely disadvantaged by the destruction of evidence. They risk more than a billion dollars in theoretical damages based on notices of which most of the underlying data is gone.

“Plaintiffs intend to rely heavily on Rightscorp’s notices to prove their infringement case. Yet, the destruction of the evidence underlying those notices seriously compromises Grande’s ability to independently evaluate the accuracy of the process, notices and downloads,” the company writes.

Interestingly, this is not the first time that Rightscorp is accused of spoiling evidence. In the Cox case, the anti-piracy outfit was found to have destroyed source code, which resulted in a monetary sanction.

Grande highlights this history and adds that the current issues are even more significant.

As such, Grande sees no other option than to sanction the record labels. They don’t want any monetary punishments. Instead, they request that the court excludes all Rightscorp evidence from trial, which will make it much harder for the labels to make their case.

“Given Plaintiffs’ and Rightscorp’s destruction of virtually all evidence underlying Rightscorp’s allegations, the only just remedy is the exclusion of the Rightscorp evidence. Because Rightscorp destroyed all of the related and underlying evidence, the Rightscorp notices and downloads have effectively been ‘spoiled’,” they conclude.

The record labels have yet to respond to the allegations, after which the court will rule on the matter.

A copy of Grande Communications’ motion for evidentiary sanctions is available here (pdf).

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‘Operation Pirate’ Targets ‘iNCOMiNG’ Release Group

‘Operation Pirate’ Targets ‘iNCOMiNG’ Release Group

Preventing or at least reducing the flood of pirated copies of movies and TV shows online remains a priority for entertainment industry companies everywhere.

In the current environment, most public activity is aimed at distributors, such as torrent and streaming platforms. However, hitting those who supply content from higher up the chain is a long-standing but lesser-publicized strategy.

News coming in from Italy indicates that the authorities there have been looking closely at players who they consider to be particularly big fish.

The Guardia di Finanza of Pesaro, a department under Italy’s Minister of Economy, reports a long and complex investigation to target the individuals behind a release group they name as ‘FREE / iNCOMiNG’.

Operating between 2010 to 2016, the group is identified as “one of the main groups operating on the Italian and international scenes.” According to the GdF, ‘FREE / iNCOMiNG’ collaborated with foreign groups to which it supplied copies of movies recorded in Italian cinemas, reportedly accounting for 66% of copies of such movies made available online.

The investigation sought to link camcorded copies of movies with players in the group, an effort that was carried out by the Public Prosecutor of Pesaro in coordination with investigators at the Federation for the Protection of Audiovisual and Multimedia Content (FAPAV).

This led to the identification of four suspects with house searches subsequently executed in four regions of Italy (Marche, Piedmont, Lombardy and Puglia) and the seizure of equipment including PCs, smartphones, and media containing an estimated 800,000 files.

“The subsequent analysis of what was seized allowed us to discover that the group members, after the acquisition of the successful films and the major television series broadcast on pay-per-view channels, took care of the assembly and coding for upload on powerful servers,” the investigators reveal.

“The modified files were advertised on websites that, upon payment, facilitated illegal downloading. The group in question also established significant contacts and collaborations with other foreign release groups, thus succeeding in diversifying the sources of income connected to the illicit copies.”

Anti-piracy group FAPAV welcomed the results of the investigation, particularly in respect of the disruption to the supply of movies illegally recorded in theaters.

“According to our estimates, as far as the first cinematographic releases are concerned, in nine cases out of ten the audio and video source of the pirated files is represented by the unauthorized recordings that take place by ‘release groups’ in cinemas,” said Federico Bagnoli Rossi, General Secretary FAPAV.

“Camcording is, therefore, the primary source of piracy, a phenomenon that should not be underestimated considering the huge damage it causes the entire sector. Such recordings, in fact, are usually realized in the very first days following the release of films in theaters or when the works are in their initial phase of exploitation.”

The cases of the four men, whose identities have not been revealed, are said to have been handed to the authorities for action under relevant laws. At least as far as public piracy release databases reveal, iNCOMiNG ceased releases under that specific name around 16 months ago.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

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Game Developer Uses DMCA Notice to ‘Free’ Its Game from Steam Publisher

Game Developer Uses DMCA Notice to ‘Free’ Its Game from Steam Publisher

Generally speaking, DMCA notices are sent by rightsholders to prevent third-parties from sharing their work without permission.

These are often pirated copies of movies, music, or games. However, a takedown notice game developer Ammobox Studios sent to Steam recently is far from typical.

The company asked the game platform to remove their own game “Eximius: Seize the Frontline” after it ran into trouble with its publisher. According to the game developer, the publishing partner, TheGameWallStudios, went dark and stopped making payments.

“Long story short, we had to file a DMCA against our very own game on Steam to wrest it off the Publisher. The DMCA has just kicked in resulting in the game being taken off the Steam Store Page,” Ammobox explained.

Both companies had a publishing agreement, but this was breached according to Ammobox, which notes that no payments were made for the sales of their game on Steam.

Without a publishing agreement, the publisher would indeed violate the DMCA, transforming the previously legal copy on Steam into a pirate version. While this isn’t a typical takedown notice, it certainly had the desired effect.

The game was removed from the store for over a week. While it was no longer for sale, people who previously bought it could still pay it. Then, after nearly two weeks, the developers regained control of their own game, with help from Steam.

“The fraudulent publisher Thegamewall has been removed as publisher in our Steam store page. We would like to thank Steam for assisting us during this terrible ordeal,” Ammobox announced this week.

Back in store

The game developer is pleased with the outcome but the dispute with the publisher is not over yet. There are still payments pending and legal action may follow, the company says.

“We will be working on the possibility of further legal proceeding to recover the money that was and is still currently being withhold for no reason given.

“It’s not over yet until we recover all our stolen money. We won’t go down easy. We will fight the unjust,” Ammobox adds.

TorrentFreak reached out to the publisher to hear their side of the story but at the time of publication, we hadn’t heard back.

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