Scribd Files Complaint Against DRM Circumvention Tool

Scribd Files Complaint Against DRM Circumvention Tool

Founded in 2007, Scribd billed itself as the “world’s first open publishing platform.”

In 2013, the platform debuted “the first reading subscription service”, offering readers access to all books for a single flat fee.

The following year, Scribd added audiobooks to its service, later adding access to sheet music and magazines. By 2017, the site had established itself as a base for news articles, publishing works from The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and others under its subscription model.

With an estimated 100 million visitors per month and a place in the world’s top 200 websites, Scribd is now huge. According to the latest company information, it has 700,000 premium subscribers, but not everyone plays by the rules when obtaining content from the service.

Various tools and services enable people to download Scribd content to keep (rather than using the Netflix-like features provided by the platform) and a recent complaint filed with Github shows the company is still looking to plug the leaks.

Scribd-Downloader is a tool created by an India-based student. The 19-year-old says he began coding aged 10, working on various projects since, including YouTube and Spotify downloading tools. But while those remain active, his Scribd tool has now been targeted by the company.

Scribd-Downloader features (via Github)

“Scribd, Inc. (www.scribd.com) is an online service that hosts copyrighted material such as documents, books, and audiobooks, that are available to view or listen to on a subscription basis,” the company said in a complaint filed with Github this week.

“Scribd uses digital rights management (‘DRM’) technology to prevent users from downloading or saving copies of this copyrighted material. This takedown request concerns a script hosted on GitHub that allows a user to circumvent Scribd’s DRM technology to make a copy of and download copyrighted material from the Scribd website in violation of 17 U.S.C. 1201.”

17 U.S.C. 1201 deals with the circumvention of copyright protection systems, stating that “no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title,” adding that circumvention means “to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner.”

In that respect, Scribd-Downloader does appear to breach the DMCA, particularly since its hosted on a US-based platform that must respond to takedown requests when they are appropriately filed. However, the software does have limitations and in some cases still requires a premium account to access all its features.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that Scribd wants to control when and how access to content occurs, something made clear when it notes that “books stored on your device can only be opened through the app and we don’t permit access to a stored book’s file.” Of course, Scribd-Downloader does.

Following the complaint, Github quickly removed Scribd-Downloader from its platform but there are other services and tools around that have the same or similar functionality.

It’s a game of cat-and-mouse that will probably go on for some time, one that underlines the fact that people like to keep hold of content once they’ve paid for it, rather than let it disappear behind a walled garden when subscriptions lapse.

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NBCUniversal Repeatedly Flags BitTorrent.com as a “Pirate” Site

NBCUniversal Repeatedly Flags BitTorrent.com as a “Pirate” Site

Invented more than 15 years ago, BitTorrent has become the protocol of choice for file-sharers.

While BitTorrent is used by many pirates, the technology itself is neutral and does a lot of good for content creators as well.

This is also the message BitTorrent Inc, the parent company of the popular mainline and uTorrent clients, frequently communicated in the past. On numerous occasions, the company has distanced itself from those who download infringing content.

Last year, the company was acquired by TRON which will undoubtedly mean keeping to this course. However, the piracy stigma is persistent. That becomes clear when we look at a series of recent takedown requests issued by NBCUniversal.

The notices in question are addressed to Google. NBCUniversal has sent millions of these requests in recent years, most of which do indeed point out pirated content. However, the company also repeatedly flags BitTorrent’s official site, BitTorrent.com.

In fact, Google has received 387 reports containing BitTorrent.com URLs since it started keeping track, and more than three-quarters of these (293) came from NBCUniversal. As can be seen below, all recent requests for the domain come from the mass media conglomerate.

Recent takedown requests that include BitTorrent.com

So what exactly does the media giant see as infringing pages?

According to a request sent last week, the Spanish download page for the Mainline client infringes the rights of the thriller “Dream House.” A few days earlier the company flagged the BitTorrent Speed and BitTorrent Pro pages, accusing them of linking to a pirated copy of the movies “About Time” and “Upgrade” respectively.

Upgrade?

While the BitTorrent Pro page features a large “Upgrade Now” banner, that’s not the Upgrade NBCUniversal is after.

We have no doubts that this is an honest mistake and that NBCUniversal will correct their anti-piracy bots to prevent this from happening in the future. Still, it shows that these types of automated filters are far from perfect.

Luckily for BitTorrent, their website hasn’t been downgraded in search results, as Google caught the false positives before any real harm was done.

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Sweden Asks Advertisers to Blacklist Streaming and Torrent Sites

Sweden Asks Advertisers to Blacklist Streaming and Torrent Sites

In many regions of the world, copyright holders, anti-piracy companies, and authorities are teaming up to tackle the problem of pirate sites.

In the past, emphasis was placed on aggressive shutdowns but increasingly there is a tendency to “follow the money”, a strategy that aims to starve site operators of their income while making sites less lucrative to run.

A big part of this is restricting the amount of quality advertisers prepared to have their ads appear on pirate sites. Indeed, there are significant programs in the United States and Europe dedicated to encouraging companies to stay away from pirate sites.

Over in Sweden, one such initiative was announced in 2015 by Rights Alliance and the Association of Swedish Advertisers. The headline was that 600 advertisers had banned The Pirate Bay from their networks but there were actually an additional nine sites on the worst offenders list, most of which have now faded away.

Now, less than four years later, the partnership has published a new and updated blacklist containing ten domains, which advertisers are encouraged to boycott, especially the gambling industry which is claimed to support pirate sites more than most.

“Advertising finances the illegal services,” says Sara Lindbäck, lawyer at Rights Alliance.

“After a major survey, we can see that gaming companies are the largest advertisers. By updating the blacklist, we make it easy for all advertisers, including the gaming companies, not to place their advertising on the illegal services.”

The top 10 list of ‘worst-offending’ pirate sites to be avoided by advertisers in Sweden reads as follows:

  • ThePirateBay.org
  • FMovies.to
  • DreamfilmHD.cc
  • Nyafilmer.com
  • Nya-filmer.tv
  • Swefilmer.eu
  • Dreamfilm.pro
  • Dreamfilm.fun
  • Swesub.net
  • Streamtajm.com

Given that only a handful of these domains looked immediately familiar to us (branding aside), we checked them out, one by one. The Pirate Bay needs no explanation, of course, but others warrant further explanation.

FMovies.to is a very popular streaming site, with SimilarWeb reporting in excess of 40 million visitors per month. The site is not only significant locally in Sweden but also on an international scale. It’s certainly no surprise this site is featured prominently in the list.

At the time of writing, DreamfilmHD.cc is currently non-operational but Lindbäck informs TF that the site might only be “down temporarily” and since it has had a lot of advertising placed on it for a long time, its place on the list is justified. However, SimilarWeb reports a worldwide site-rank in excess of a million, so its importance seems limited.

Nyafilmer.com is a completely different ball game. The streaming platform is currently Sweden’s 74th most-popular site, period, so it’s absolutely clear why Rights Alliance and Swedish Advertisers have blacklisted the domain.

Both Swefilmer.eu and Streamtajm.com, on the other hand, are much less significant, with the former barely moving the traffic needle and the latter bringing in around 750,000 visitors per month. Dreamfilm.fun isn’t listed by SimilarWeb but according to Alexa, it pulls in around 200k visitors per month.

That brings us to the final three sites in the list, which we’ll bundle together since they have something in common on the advertising front.

Nyafilmer.tv, Dreamfilm.pro, and Swesub.net are all streaming platforms. The former is very tiny, with a world site-rank in excess of four million, but the others appear to be growing and derive most of their traffic from Swedish visitors. However, all three use a particularly irritating form of advertising.

As a test, we chose to search for the movie Aquaman on the sites, since it’s new and shouldn’t be available to stream legally, especially via a pirate site. After clicking the thumbnail, the user is greeted with an embedded video player at the top of the screen (the real movie is way underneath) that begins to play the familiar Universal intro reel, which is a red flag since the movie is actually a Warner/DC affair.

Needless to say, Aquaman did not play. Instead, the user is greeted with this message (translated);

Sign up? No way….

The link takes users to GamesHeaven.net (we’re not going to link) which claims that the movie is available there for ‘free‘, if only people sign up.

However, this site does not have this movie at all (or most others that users sign up to receive for that matter) and actually requires people to enter credit card details, which, as this thread and others show, often goes nowhere good. This platform, and others that are based on the same underlying system, have been the subject of large numbers of complaints.

This type of advertising is extremely misleading so pirate (and other) sites should consider not directing their customers to such platforms in this manner when they clearly don’t have the content being claimed. If people want to pay for movies, they should go to platforms like Netflix, that are simplicity itself to use and indeed cancel, when required.

Unfortunately, however, not even Sweden’s advertising ban is likely to prevent these ads from appearing on lower-tier pirate sites since we’re informed they’re based overseas and quite lucrative. Also, since the underlying services do indeed have other (albeit less popular) licensed content available, they’ve been running along trouble free for years.

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Potential Abuse Prompts US Court to ‘Re-evaluate’ Treatment of Piracy Cases

Potential Abuse Prompts US Court to ‘Re-evaluate’ Treatment of Piracy Cases

For more than a decade, alleged file-sharers around the world have been pressured to pay significant settlement fees.

These so-called ‘copyright-trolling’ efforts are pretty straightforward. Copyright holders obtain a list of ‘pirating’ IP-addresses and then request a subpoena from the court, compelling ISPs to hand over the associated customer data.

This scheme can be rather lucrative. With minimal effort, rightsholders can obtain hundreds or thousands of dollars per defendant. These cases generally don’t go to trial. On the contrary, the copyright holders often drop cases when a defendant pushes back.

This was also the case when Bodyguard Productions, known for The Hitman’s Bodyguard, sued Ernesto Mendoza. The defendant, who is in his 70s and suffering from end-stage renal disease, denied that he downloaded the film and fought back. 

The alleged pirate turned the tables with a list of counterclaims, accusing the rightsholder of running a “business model that cannot and should not be authorized by the courts.”

These type of lawsuits equate to a “sue then settle” or “cut and run,” scheme that is meant to “intimidate defendants into paying them money out of fear,” the defense argued.

In response, Bodyguard Productions appeared to “run,” as it swiftly filed for voluntary dismissal. However, Mendoza and his lawyer didn’t want to let the case go without being compensated for the legal fees they had already incurred.

This presented the court with an unusual situation where the accusing party wants to drop its case, but the defendant wants to continue. After hearing both sides, Illinois District Court Judge Robert Dow decided to dismiss the case, ordering both parties to pay their own fees.

This was a huge disappointment for the alleged file-sharer, who now has to bear the costs for a case that he isn’t allowed to fight. According to his attorney Lisa Clay, the Court should ensure that plaintiffs are ready and willing to prove their case.

“Unfortunately, the Court’s recent order does not,” Clay tells TorrentFreak.

“Granting the Plaintiff’s disingenuous motion to dismiss without penalty has the real consequence of strengthening the troll business model.

“The Order deprived Mr. Mendoza of the opportunity to prove his innocence and expose the Plaintiff’s extortion enterprise. What is worse, the Court’s denial of Mr. Mendoza’s request for reimbursement of costs and attorneys’ fees all but guarantees the continued success of the troll model.”

On a broader scale, there’s a positive note for future defendants. In the order, Judge Dow notes that the Court should re-evaluate how it handles these cases. In addition, the potential for abuse may also deserve the attention of the Rules Committee.

“[T]he points advanced by Defendant about the potential for abuse across the universe of peer-to-peer copyright infringement cases convince the Court that it should re-evaluate its own overall treatment of these cases and consider whether to suggest that the Rules Committee in this district look into the matter as well,” Judge Dow writes.

The order notes that special rules are already available in Oregon, where the number of defendants is limited to one per case, and where ISP subpoenas should alert potential defendants to the availability of pro-bono attorneys.

This is a significant statement for a Court that has generally been very ‘friendly’ towards rightsholders in these type of file-sharing lawsuits. That said, the defense isn’t celebrating.

While Clay would like to take solace in this statement, she and her client are still left with nothing. And there are no guarantees that anything will change.

“Promises of this nature do not compensate my client for the time and expense we were both forced to incur to defend a baseless lawsuit. Sadly, the Court’s ruling all-but ensures that even if such changes are implemented, there will be no pro bono attorneys left to handle this work.

“Knowing that I have no hope of being reimbursed my fees will make it that much more challenging for me (and others) to find the time and resources to do this growingly thankless work,” Clay adds.

A copy of Judge Dow’s order is available here (pdf).

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UK ISP Will Ban Two Million Kids From Accessing Pirate Sites

UK ISP Will Ban Two Million Kids From Accessing Pirate Sites

Citizens of the United Kingdom with a taste for free content are becoming more and more familiar with the idea of website blocking.

Thousands of ‘pirate’ domains are blocked by major Internet service providers such as Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk, and BT, following legal action from the movie and music industries.

These blocking efforts are all officially sanctioned by the High Court via injunction but a new pirate-blocking initiative just announced by the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) appears to be entirely voluntary.

Among other things, LGfL – a not-for-profit Charitable Trust – supplies high-speed broadband to around 3,000 schools in the UK. It also has a mission to save schools money and keep children safe. It now appears that will involve preventing them from accessing very large numbers of pirate sites whilst in school.

LGfL DigiSafe (LGfL’s ‘safeguarding arm’) has just announced that it will work with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to ensure that pirate sites are rendered inaccessible to anyone using the LGfL network.

The list of domains to be blocked will be obtained from PIPCU’s ‘Infringing Website List’ (IWL), a database of platforms deemed by the authorities to be engaged in copyright infringement. The same list is used by EU advertisers to prevent brand ads appearing on pirate sites, as detailed earlier this month.

According to LGfL DigiSafe, blocking the sites will help prevent children and teachers from accessing “risky” content while allowing schools to be more relaxed about the implications of copyright infringement taking place on site.

“LGfL DigiSafe is committed to partnering with relevant stakeholders in order to achieve our mission of saving schools money and keeping children safe,” says Mark Bentley, Online Safety and Safeguarding Manager at LGfL DigiSafe.

“By working with City of London police to block its List of Infringing Websites to our community of over two million students we not only prevent children accessing inappropriate material but also provide reassurance to senior leaders that this illegal activity cannot be committed on the school site, meaning headteachers do not need to fear liability for copyright infringements.”

Detective Constable Steve Salway of PIPCU says that his unit is pleased that LGfL will be keeping students safe by utilizing its database of infringing sites.

“The online safety of school children is of paramount importance and our IWL is able to prevent them from viewing inappropriate material. It will also put a stop to them accessing copyright infringing content, leaving London schools with extra peace of mind,” Salway notes.

LGfL literature indicates that 97% of London schools are part of its network, meaning that the capital will be the first city in the UK to face an almost complete ‘pirate blackout’ in its schools.

Still, with most kids these days spending large amounts of time on legal platforms such as YouTube and Spotify, there shouldn’t be too much of a drought of free media, should pirate sites be eliminated. However, YouTube is often restricted on LGfL’s network too, so the party may be coming to an end, at least for those who don’t have a smartphone and 4G.

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Facebook Held Liable for Copyright Infringing ‘Links’ in Italy

Facebook Held Liable for Copyright Infringing ‘Links’ in Italy

Similar to other sites that rely on user-generated content, Facebook has to battle a constant stream of unauthorized copyright material.

When it comes to targeting infringement, Facebook has rolled out a few anti-piracy initiatives in recent years. The company has a “Rights Manager” tool that detects infringing material automatically. In addition, it also processes some takedown requests manually.

Not all of these notices result in a takedown. For a variety of reasons, Facebook may choose not to intervene. In Italy, this resulted in a drawn-out legal battle which has now come to a conclusion at the Court of Rome.

The case in question was filed by Mediaset, the media conglomerate founded by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mediaset noticed that links to copyrighted clips of the cartoon “Kirarin Revolution” were posted on Facebook.

The actual content was hosted by YouTube, but Mediaset’s legal team went after Facebook instead. It asked the social network to remove the postings of a particular Facebook group, which were shared with derogatory comments about the people involved in the show.

This week the Court of Rome ruled that Facebook is indeed liable for failing to remove the copyright-infringing hyperlinks. The company was ordered to pay €9,000 in damages as a result. As Facebook is also held liable for defamation, the total damages add up to €35,000.

While the damages amount is not groundbreaking, for Mediaset this was a matter of principle.

TorrentFreak spoke to Mediaset lawyer Alessandro La Rosa, who handled the case together with colleagues at the Previti law firm. The Court of Rome’s order shows intermediaries such as Facebook can be held liable when they fail to respond in copyright infringement allegations.

“Despite Facebook’s role as a passive hosting provider, in this case, it’s obliged to take down and prevent access to illicit information uploaded on its website. The provider is expected to carry out its economic activity with the due diligence that’s reasonably expected to identify and prevent the reported illegal activities,” Mr. La Rosa tells us.

Mediaset sent the first notice regarding the infringing activity in 2010, but Facebook decided not to take any action at the time. Although the offensive group was identified, the takedown requests didn’t include a link to the infringing content, Facebook argued.

The Court considered this defense but concluded that a link to the infringing hyperlink isn’t necessary. Facebook was alerted to the group and the alleged activities and could have taken action based on this information.

“According to the Court, the identification of URL is only technical data which doesn’t coincide with the individual harmful content present on the platform, but only indicates the ‘place’ where this content is found and, therefore, isn’t an indispensable prerequisite for its identification,” Mr. La Rosa says.

It’s worth noting that Mediaset never attempted to remove the actual infringing clip from YouTube. Mediaset mostly wanted Facebook to deal with the Facebook group which posted the infringing material in a defamatory context.

Mediaset is happy with the outcome according to its legal team. Since the verdict is partly based on EU law, Mr. La Rosa believes that it will help other rightsholders to make a case against Facebook and similar platforms going forward.

Facebook is currently considering whether to file an appeal. The company can easily pay the damages, but it may be worried about the broader implications of the ruling.

“We are examining the decision of the Court of Rome,” a Facebook spokesperson told Adnkronos in response, adding that it takes the protection of copyright holders “very seriously”.

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Academics Issue ‘Emergency’ Statement Over Japan’s Proposed Download Law

Academics Issue ‘Emergency’ Statement Over Japan’s Proposed Download Law

Since 2012, downloading music and movies that have been illegally placed online has been prohibited in Japan under the country’s Copyright Act.

However, the legislation only applies to movies and music, leaving many other copyrighted works exposed.

To close this apparent loophole and to protect other content such as still images (manga publications, for example), last year the Cultural Affairs Agency mulled the expansion of Japan’s Copyright Act. Last week, a government panel adopted the policy, recommending that current anti-downloading legislation should be expanded to cover all copyrighted content.

With punishments of up to two years in prison and fines of two million yen (US$18,039) on the table, the public clearly needs to know where the line will be drawn. As it stands, however, the recommendations seem absolute. If a user believes something – anything – to be copyrighted and placed online illegally, they are breaking the law by downloading it.

Understandably, this is not only causing concern among Internet users, but also those who feel that such a broad law could prevent research, stifle creativity, and cause the public to lose faith in the true purpose of copyright.

In an ‘Emergency Statement’ signed by 87 academics, researchers, lawyers, and other experts, the government is urged to think again about the scope of the proposed legislation. Under the current proposals, the group believes that private copying could be rendered illegal, even to the extent of outlawing screenshots for private use.

“We believe that the limitation on the right of reproduction for private use purposes has the function of restricting the freedom of information gathering in the private domain. It is a legal foundation that supports the intellectual and cultural activities of individuals, and even Japanese industry,” the signatories write.

The group believes that the proposed legislation has been rushed through in a very short time (five meetings in three months), without carefully considering the consequences. They want the authorities to think again, to protect the public interest.

Citizens regularly need to take screenshots, copy and paste, and other similar acts in order to educate themselves, exchange opinions, and express themselves. Covering all copyrighted content in all circumstances will prove damaging and counter-productive, the group argues.

Importantly, those calling for the proposals to be considered more closely appear to be broadly in favor of tightening up the law to protect rightsholders. However, there are serious concerns over the potential for collateral damage when even snippets of text could be criminalized.

To that end, they suggest amendments to the proposals to mandate that it’s only a crime to reproduce copyright works when the act causes real financial damage to content owners, in the case of those who pirate whole movies, music, manga publications, books, and so on.

Keeping the proposals as they are would not only be damaging to society as a whole, it could even undermine public faith in the rights system, they add.

“Rapid reform of the law exerts an excessive atrophy effect on the freedom to gather information in the private domain. It may also cause the public to lose confidence in the validity of the copyright system,” the statement warns.

Only time will tell how the statement will be received in government but as things stand, criminalizing millions of citizens over small-scale and even private copying seems likely to cause more problems than it solves.

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Omniverse Hopes to Swiftly Resolve ACE’s Streaming Piracy Lawsuit

Omniverse Hopes to Swiftly Resolve ACE’s Streaming Piracy Lawsuit

Last week, several major Hollywood studios, Amazon, and Netflix filed a lawsuit against Omniverse One World Television.

Under the flag of anti-piracy group ACE, the companies accused Omniverse and its owner Jason DeMeo of supplying of pirate streaming channels to various IPTV services.

Omniverse doesn’t offer any streaming boxes but sells live-streaming services to third-party distributors, such as Dragon Box, HDHomerun, Flixon TV, and SkyStream TV, which in turn offer live TV streaming packages to customers.

According to ACE, Omniverse offered these channels without permission from its members. As such, the company is now branded as a pirate streaming TV supplier.

Omniverse initially didn’t respond but in a statement sent to TorrentFreak a few hours ago, the company states that, even though it doesn’t agree with the allegations, it supports ACE’s anti-piracy efforts.

“While Omniverse disagrees with the substance and the specifics of the allegations made against the company in a recent California court filing, we are highly supportive of the mission that the plaintiffs and their partners in the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) are carrying out,” the company says.

With a lawsuit from some of the most powerful entertainment industry companies hanging over its head, Omniverse says that it intends to quickly and constructively resolve the concerns of the ACE members.

“It is our belief that when this process is complete, that both sides will be satisfied with the outcome,” the company notes.

In its statement, Omniverse further suggests that there may be some misunderstanding, stating that the company is also a victim of “unlicensed” distribution.

“Omniverse believes there is no place in the industry for media pirates and, consistent with the plaintiffs, believes their legitimate business has been harmed by the unlicensed distribution of media content,” the company writes.

Although Omniverse is the legal target, many other companies are directly affected by the lawsuit. This includes Silicondust, which operates the HDHomeRun Premium service.

Theodore Head, President of SiliconDust, told Cord Cutters News that it’s aware of this risk and that it is trying to find a way to cope with the potential fallout for its customers.

“SiliconDust is not a party of the lawsuit, but we can be indirectly affected by Omniverse not able to continue their service and so we are in the process of finding out a way to best mitigate any potential interruptions to our service and will let our customers know as soon as we know if there will be any change to the current services,” Head said.

Omniverse itself will also try to address the matter and prevent any major disruptions, but it’s unknown whether it can continue with the same channels.

According to ACE, several channels were offered without permission from rightsholders, so that’s one of the key issues to be resolved. The finer details of the allegations and Omniverse’s response will likely become apparent as the case progresses.

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China to Crack Down on ‘CAM’ Piracy & Online Distribution Platforms

China to Crack Down on ‘CAM’ Piracy & Online Distribution Platforms

China has long been associated with rampant counterfeiting and copyright infringement, with the country facing criticism in the West on an almost daily basis.

Over the past couple of years, however, Chinese authorities have become increasingly vocal when these activities are perceived to have a negative effect locally. In particular, the government appears to have a new interest in curtailing movie piracy.

Last year, MPAA chairman Charles Rivkin declared that China will become the world’s top movie market “in short order”, overtaking the likes of the United States and Canada, despite the country (at least officially) capping foreign films to around three dozen per year.

At this scale, China clearly sees importance in protecting revenues in its local market and to this end has just announced fresh moves to curtail piracy in the region, declaring it a “priority” for 2019.

The National Copyright Administration (NCAC) says that it will pour resources into reducing the unauthorized recording of movies in theaters, an act known colloquially as “camming”. Given that the majority of the movies released in the region are local productions, it seems unlikely that the West will benefit greatly, but the action will be welcomed nonetheless.

The NCAC adds that with the assistance of the China Film Administration, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, it will “dig deep” into the sources of piracy and “sternly investigate” online platforms that help to distribute pirated content, such as websites, chat platforms, and smartphone apps.

In serious cases, the NCAC says platforms will be dealt with under a criminal process but at the same time, major Internet platforms will also be encouraged to strengthen their “corporate responsibility” when dealing with infringement complaints.

The NCAC suggests that sites outside the country are mainly responsible for hosting pirated movies (with links shared locally) so it intends to improve cooperation with other interested parties internationally. This is of particular interest given a piece published on the NCAC site on Monday.

While written by an outside source, the article on the copyright agency site appears to praise the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, the global anti-piracy organization headed up by the MPAA.

“[T]he Motion Picture Association of America and its member companies have joined forces with 30 companies around the world, such as Netflix and Amazon, to form a global organization,” the piece reads.

“Through the cooperation between global companies, we will make full use of the technology and experience of all parties to enhance the level of combating online piracy.”

Again, the article wasn’t written by the NCAC, but the fact that it chose to publish the piece in full tends to suggest that the agency agrees with the strategy. There are certainly strong indications that the way forward is through collaboration on a global scale, but that’s not to say there isn’t work to be done at home.

Last week, the NCAC asked the public to report discovered instances of piracy through direct messages on Weibo, WeChat, and email. 

“Please provide infringement clues and clean up the online copyright environment. Let’s work together,” the agency wrote.

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Hollywood Uses ‘False Whois’ Domain Suspensions as Anti-Piracy Tool

Hollywood Uses ‘False Whois’ Domain Suspensions as Anti-Piracy Tool

Besides website blocking, which is gradually spreading all over the world, targeting the domain names of pirate sites is considered to be a somewhat effective anti-piracy tool.

For years, copyright holders and local enforcement authorities have reached out to domain registries and registrars, asking these companies to terminate sites for alleged copyright infringements.

In addition, Hollywood’s MPAA also struck voluntary deals with companies in the domain name industry, to suspend the domain names of infringing sites. While these agreements are criticized by some outsiders, the participating parties appear to be happy with it.

Recently we learned of a relatively new voluntary agreement that also targets pirate domains, but not for copyright infringement.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance’s (IIPA) latest submission to the US Government explains that Hollywood’s MPA has a voluntary agreement with the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) and India’s Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP).

Under this agreement, which has been in place for a while, copyright holders can report “pirate” sites with an .IN domain. Not for copyright infringement, but because they used false Whois data to register the domain in question.

“In 2017, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) agreed to a voluntary arrangement with DIPP and NIXI to suspend infringing websites based on false whois information; it focused on domains in breach of statutory and contractual obligations to maintain accurate and complete whois information,” IIPA writes.

As far as we know this deal hasn’t been made public until now. However, it is seen by copyright holders as an effective anti-piracy tool in addition to site blocking.

“This [agreement] has led to disruption of dozens of websites in India and should be considered an additional enforcement tool to traditional enforcement or site blocking,” IIPA notes. 

The ‘false Whois’ suspensions are not the only domain name actions taken in India. The relatively new Maharashtra Cyber Digital Crime Unit (MCDCU) is also taking action against pirate sites, which resulted in suspensions of more than 200 domains.

The Digital Crime Unit has taken a page from the City of London Police, reporting sites that are suspected of crimes to various domain registrars.

“In addition, since 2017, the MCDCU has suspended 203 domains impacting approximately 160 million users accessing these sites per month. In conjunction with fighting to suspend these domains, convicting those involved in content theft is also under the MCDCU’s jurisdiction.”

It’s unclear how many domain registrars rejected the suspension requests from the Digital Crime Unit. A few years ago we revealed that most domain name registrars refused to suspend domains based on a mere accusation from the City of London Police.

In addition to domain suspension, the Indian unit was also involved in other enforcement actions. This includes including the arrests of four people in connection to a leaked episode of Game of Thrones last year, which was covered by news media all around the world.

IIPA notes that there is still plenty of improvement possible when it comes to copyright enforcement and anti-piracy actions in India. It is happy with the help from MCDCU and NIXI though and encourages these outfits to continue their “excellent work” suspending domain names.

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