One Amazon Copyright Complaint Costs Torrent Site its Domain

One Amazon Copyright Complaint Costs Torrent Site its Domain

There are thousands of torrent and streaming sites on the Internet today. They come in all shapes and sizes but most have one thing in common – they need a domain name for people to access them.

It’s not unheard of for such sites to lose their domains after dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of copyright complaints. But to lose control over a domain after just one is pretty bad luck but, as it turns out, not exactly straightforward.

The site in question is TheRedBear.cc, a lesser-known but perfectly functional torrent indexer. In conversations with the site’s operator last month it became clear to us that he was having issues with his domain registrar, EuroDNS. Those issues were the result of a copyright complaint filed by Amazon.

According to information provided by the site owner, he’s always eager to process DMCA takedown notices when they arrive. He uses scripts to automate takedowns and he says he has a good relationship with anti-piracy companies. However, the complaint from Amazon apparently ended up in a spam folder and wasn’t processed as quickly as it should’ve been.

This led Amazon to file a complaint with EuroDNS, which references a single URL and reads as follows (edited for clarity):

“Amazon has learned that the website located at theredbear.cc…for which you are the hosting provider, is distributing unauthorized copies of Amazon Properties via the distribution of Amazon Properties video files. This constitutes copyright infringement in violation of federal copyright law section 17 U.S.C. 501, as well as similar laws around the world,” the complaint reads.

“Amazon has already notified the Website of infringement through its vendor Digimarc. However, the Website has failed to comply expeditiously with this takedown request and continues to cause, enable, induce, facilitate and materially contribute to the infringement by continuing to provide its users with the means to unlawfully distribute, reproduce and otherwise exploit the property.”

While the complaint sounds serious, this wasn’t enough on its own for TheRedBear to lose its domain. What it did trigger, however, was a detailed review by EuroDNS of the account through which it was registered.

According to the site operator, EuroDNS then began demanding copies of his passport and a personal telephone call from his country of origin (rather than the virtual line he usually uses) to confirm various details.

The operator told us he provided information when he signed up in 2018 and that in his opinion, a review wasn’t necessary. Nevertheless, EuroDNS appears to have determined otherwise and suspended his account.

TorrentFreak spoke with EuroDNS about the issues. The company’s legal department spoke generally but confirmed that as long as they don’t host a website to which a domain points, they don’t suspend domains following a copyright complaint, as they do with domains that are clearly involved in illegal activity such as “phishing, social hatred etc.”

However, without the registry prejudging anything that has been alleged, copyright complaints do get forwarded to domain owners. In this case, two key complications then arose, both seemingly related to having verifiably accurate registration details.

“EuroDNS shall be entitled to charge the Customer for any action performed on the Customer’s behalf in connection with a third party claim, insofar as the Customer fails to acknowledge receipt of the EuroDNS notification in regard to such a claim, or if EuroDNS finds it necessary to take action in regard to such a claim such as sending a registered letter and making phone calls on behalf of the Customer and the complaining third party,” the company said.

“Nevertheless, such notification will automatically trigger a swift review of the concerned account to make sure that our customer complies with our Terms and Conditions. In case of a clear breach of our Terms and Conditions, unrelated to the original complaint, we might suspend our services to the concerned customer if the latter failed to take proper action.”

So, given the above, what appears to have happened in this case is that the copyright complaint triggered a review, the review criteria weren’t met, and EuroDNS suspended the account, which prevented changes to the domain.

While the domain is currently up it will shortly expire, meaning one domain gone, triggered by a copyright complaint but actioned on the basis of the registry’s own terms and conditions.

It’s unclear whether TheRedBear will continue with a similar domain registered elsewhere (news will reportedly be delivered via the site’s blog), but it seems unlikely that EuroDNS will be involved.

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TVAddons Boast Over 14 Million Active Users Per Month

TVAddons Boast Over 14 Million Active Users Per Month

Dedicated streaming set-top boxes, many of which are running on Kodi, have become increasingly popular over the past several years.

The Kodi software itself is perfectly legal, but many third-party add-ons complement it to offer access to pirated movies, TV-shows, and live-streaming.

These ‘pirate’ add-ons can be found on a variety of sites and resources. Some are blatantly offering infringing content, but it’s not always clear what’s permitted and what’s not.

TVAddons, a popular repository of third-party Kodi add-ons, learned this the hard way. Previously the site used to offer many problematic add-ons. This lead to lawsuits in both the US and Canada, after which the company cleaned up its site and tightened its policies.

When the site returned, during the summer of 2017, it had to start from scratch. Since some of the most popular add-ons were removed, many people thought, or even hoped, that the comeback would be destined to fail.

However, this is not the case. New statistics released by TVAddons show that its repository is still widely used.

“There are many groups that wish to see TV ADDONS die. They include Hollywood, copyright bullies, preloaded box sellers, paid IPTV sellers, Kodi ‘blogs,’ and probably cyber-lockers too. They’d be free to continue their profit-seeking, without us getting in the way,” TVAddons says.

“Unfortunately for the haters, we aren’t going anywhere. We continue to grow, maintaining a healthy number of daily active users.”

The site revealed its most recent ‘visitor’ statistics for May. These are not site visits, but the number of connections that ping TVAddons servers by using its add-ons.

Last month, TVAddons received up to 1.76 million unique calls to its update server per day, and over 14 million for the entire month. This means that every 24 hours, roughly one-and-a-half million ‘Kodi boxes’ with their add-ons are online, checking for updates.

TVAddons repo stats for May 2019

These numbers are indeed quite significant. However, what TVAddons doesn’t mention is that they are down quite a bit compared to a few years ago, before the legal trouble started. 

During September 2016, TVAddons had roughly 24.7 million users a month and a rough average of 5.6 million per day. This shows that daily usage has dropped significantly.

The number of website visits also shows a downward trend, although that’s never been very high. According to the TVAddons team, this is in part due to the removal of the old add-on library.

“We lost website ranking when we upgraded our site, because our old add-on library is down which had over 800 pages in it. We have the new and hugely upgraded version almost ready to go public,” TVAddons informs TorrentFreak.

It is clear, however, that TVAddons isn’t done yet. Since the legal trouble started it has settled its U.S. lawsuit with Dish. However, the Canadian lawsuit through which the repository lost its old domain, remains ongoing.

That lawsuit is not a threat to the current site, according to TVAddons. The suit in question targets TVAddons’ founder Adam Lackman who has since distanced himself from the Kodi-addon repository.

“There’s no update on the Canadian lawsuit yet, but it’s really Adam Lackman’s personal problem at this point. We continue to support him as much as we possibly can, but his lawsuit has no bearing on our community,” TVAddons says.

While there are no official figures available, the interest in Kodi, in general, appears to be waning. Traffic to the official Kodi site is dropping and the number of Kodi searches on Google is on a downward spiral too. 

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DMCA Takedowns Try to Delist Dozens of Adult Homepages from Google

DMCA Takedowns Try to Delist Dozens of Adult Homepages from Google

Google receives millions of notices requesting the removal of allegedly-infringing links from its search results every month.

The load is truly huge, as is the flood of pirated content the DMCA notices attempt to address. It’s a huge task on all sides, so it’s not a surprise some dubious takedowns slip through the net. Over the past couple of weeks, more than usual appear to have done just that.

Without going into too much detail and annoying the purists, hentai can loosely be defined as adult-focused comics and cartoons. Hailing from Japan, hentai has a huge following worldwide and, of course, is widely pirated.

Several companies and organizations attempt to take infringing content down but this week a new one stepped up to cause waves across hundreds of sites.

It isn’t clear who is behind ‘Copyright Legal Services INC’ (CLS). A specific Google search yields nothing and its takedown notices offer no additional information either. However, several of its DMCA notices indicate that the original works it tries to protect can be bought from DLSite.com, a platform operated by Japan’s EYSIS, Inc.

At first view, the notices filed by CLS seem unremarkable. They list original works and then allegedly-infringing URLs. However, what these notices then try to do is purge from Google entire adult-site homepages, full sections, plus pages that clearly aren’t infringing.

Due to their inherent NSFW nature, we won’t quote them directly here but anyone interested can click the links provided.

For instance, this notice attempts to remove ‘xhamster.com/hd’ and the ‘subbed’ and ‘english’ tag archives on YouPorn.com.. Many other sites are listed too, with the notice even trying to take down their contact pages. Around two dozen homepages are among the 331 targeted URLs.

Another notice targets 198 URLs, six of them site homepages. In common with the other notices, some have been removed from Google search, others have not. It’s hard to make a clear determination but Google seems to delist some smaller sites while giving sites like YouPorn and xHamster a pass.

The list of notices goes on, and on, and on, and on, with the same general theme of some accurate reports, many massively overbroad ones, and notices that nearly always target some sites’ homepages, some of which were acted upon by Google.

A site operator affected by the wave of takedowns sent TorrentFreak a list of the homepages that were requested for removal from Google. They numbered 294, which is a lot by any measurement.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that also need to be highlighted.

While it’s impractical to check them all, a cursory view of a few dozen domain URLs shows that most of the sites are probably infringing someone’s copyrights, so these types of notices (when accurate) shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s also possible that some of the sites carried the content in question on their homepages when the notices were sent to Google. However, given the volume of sites and the limited range of content, it seems likely this would be the exception and not the rule.

The operator of one site – Gelbooru.com – which had its homepage delisted from Google despite containing no infringing content, told TorrentFreak that complaining to Google proved fruitless.

Homepage delisted

“Thanks for reaching out to us,” Google responded.

“At this time, Google has decided not to take action. We encourage you to review https://library.educause.edu/topics/policy-and-law/digital-millennium-copyright-act-dmca for more information about the DMCA. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.”

The full list of notices referenced above can be found here but may require registration to view in detail, as reported here.

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Piracy is Ethically Acceptable For Many Harvard Lawyers, Research Finds

Piracy is Ethically Acceptable For Many Harvard Lawyers, Research Finds

Most people know all too well that it’s against the law to share a pirated copy of a movie or TV-show.

However, law and ethics are not always in sync. Not even among those who are schooled as lawyers.

This is the conclusion of an intriguing new study conducted among Harvard lawyers by Prof. Dariusz Jemielniak and Dr. Jérôme Hergueux. The research, published in The Information Society journal, found that many lawyers believe that casual piracy is ethically acceptable.

The researchers polled the perceptions of more than 100 international Masters of Law (LL.M.) students at Harvard, who all have a law degree. They were asked to evaluate how acceptable various piracy scenarios are, on a five-point scale going from very unacceptable to very acceptable. 

The piracy scenarios ranged from downloading a TV-show or movie which isn’t legally available, through pirating music to simply save money, to downloading content for educational or even commercial purposes. In total, 19 different alternatives were presented.

While the researchers expected that lawyers would have conservative ethical positions when it comes to piracy, the opposite was true. The average of all answers was 3.23, which means that it leans toward the “acceptable” point of the scale.

“We find that digital file sharing ranks relatively high in terms of ethical acceptability among our population of lawyers—with the only notable exception being infringing copyright with a commercial purpose,” the researchers conclude.

Not all forms of piracy were considered equally ethical. Pirating content because there’s no legal way to access it is seen as most acceptable (3.36 out of 5). This is followed by pirating due to a lack of financial resources (3.32) and pirating for educational purposes (3.28).

Downloading copyrighted material for commercial purposes is seen as the least ethical, with an average rating of 1.76. Pirating to avoid payment is also at the unacceptable end of the scale, with an average of 2.73.

These reported results clearly show that some forms of piracy are ok, according to these lawyers. However, the reported results are all averages and there obviously is no scenario that’s seen as acceptable by all lawyers.

To give an illustration, when the respondents were asked to evaluate the example where someone streamed a TV-show because it’s not legally available, 58% believed it to be (very) acceptable, 21% viewed it as neither acceptable nor unacceptable, while the remaining 21% saw it as (very) unacceptable.

On the other hand, when presented with a scenario where someone downloads cracked software for commercial purposes, only 7% saw it as (very) acceptable, 71% viewed it as (very) unacceptable, with the remaining 22% ending up in the middle.

While not reported in the paper, it’s worth noting that nearly all of the lawyers have friends who download TV-shows from the Internet. When asked about it, roughly 95% answered positively, with one lawyer noting that “all students do it for personal use.”

The paper further shows that there are differences between lawyers as well. Those who work in the public sector, or plan to work there, are even more tolerant of online copyright infringement than those in the private sector. That makes sense, as the former have a duty to acknowledge the public interest.

The lawyers who participated in the survey are not all experts in copyright law. Still, the findings confirm that there’s a clear mismatch between the law and what is seen as ethically acceptable, even among legal scholars.

This matches the conclusion drawn by the researchers.

“[T]he fact that even the international elite lawyers perceive digital file sharing as generally acceptable signals that policies are increasingly misaligned with social practices,” the researchers write.

The line is clearly drawn at “commercial” copyright infringement. This is also a criterion that was put forward by some scholars, activists, and politicians, including those of the Pirate Party. In fact, many self-proclaimed pirates are against commercial copyright infringement.

The fact that this is not reflected in law may be due to the finding that ‘private sector’ lawyers are more conservative. They are the ones who work on behalf of rightsholders.

According to the researchers, it might be good to reconsider whether that’s a good idea. They suggest that, as it is now, copyright is mostly used to advanced informational capitalism, while ignoring the ethical reality.

“When lawyers and pirates concur in terms of their ethical assessment of file sharing practices, the legal status quo appears to be more of a tool for advancing informational capitalism than reflecting everyday practices of common sense and fairness perception.

“These findings support the calls for further de-criminalization of copyright legislation,” the researchers conclude.

A copy of the full paper titled “Should digital files be considered a commons? Copyright infringement in the eyes of lawyers” is available here, for free. 

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Russia Says it Will Soon Begin Blocking Major VPNs

Russia Says it Will Soon Begin Blocking Major VPNs

When it comes to site-blocking, Russia is one of the most aggressive countries in the world.

Thousands of pirate sites are blocked on copyright grounds while others are restricted for containing various types of “banned information”, such as extremist material.

The domains of these platforms are contained in a national blacklist. Service providers of many types are required to interface with this database, in order to block sites from being accessible via their systems. This includes VPN providers, particular those that ordinarily provide censorship workarounds.

Back in March, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor wrote to ten major VPN providers – NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN, Kaspersky Secure Connection, HideMyAss!, Hola VPN, and OpenVPN – ordering them to connect to the database. Many did not want to play ball.

NordVPN, for example, flat-out refused to comply, stating that doing so would violate service agreements made with its customers. IPVanish also rejected any censorship, as did VPN Unlimited, VyprVPN and OpenVPN.

The VPN services in question were given a limited time to respond (30 days) but according to Roscomnadzor, most are digging in their heels. In fact, of the companies contacted with the demands, only one has agreed to the watchdog’s terms.

“We sent out ten notifications to VPNs. Only one of them – Kaspersky Secure Connection – connected to the registry,” Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov informs Interfax.

“All the others did not answer, moreover, they wrote on their websites that they would not comply with Russian law. And the law says unequivocally if the company refuses to comply with the law – it should be blocked.”

And it appears that Roscomnadzor is prepared to carry through with its threat. When questioned on the timeline for blocking, Zharov said that the matter could be closed within a month.

If that happens, the non-compliant providers will themselves be placed on the country’s blacklist (known locally as FGIS), meaning that local ISPs will have to prevent their users from accessing them. It is not yet clear whether that means their web presences, their VPN servers, or both.

In the case of the latter, it’s currently unclear whether there will be a battle or not. TorGuard has already pulled its servers out of Russia and ExpressVPN currently lists no servers in the country. The same is true for OpenVPN although VyprVPN still lists servers in Moscow, as does HideMyAss.

Even if Roscomnadzor is successful in blocking any or all of the non-compliant services, there are still dozens more to choose from, a fact acknowledged by Zharov.

“These ten VPNs do not exhaust the entire list of proxy programs available to our citizens. I don’t think there will be a tragedy if they are blocked, although I feel very sorry about it,” Zharov concludes.

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RIAA Targets 14 New Sites in Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers & Piracy

RIAA Targets 14 New Sites in Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers & Piracy

For some time, the world’s leading record labels have complained that YouTube doesn’t pay the going rate for musical content streamed to its users.

However, when consumers use so-called YouTube-ripping sites to obtain content, it’s claimed that the position worsens. By obtaining music in this fashion, users are able to keep local libraries which further deplete YouTube hits and by extension, revenue generated by the labels.

To plug this hole, the RIAA is working to identify the operators of leading YouTube-ripping platforms. Via DMCA subpoenas, the industry group has been forcing CDN service Cloudflare and domain registries such as NameCheap to hand over the personal details of the people behind these tools.

Two new DMCA subpoenas, obtained by the RIAA in recent days, reveal an apparent escalation in this activity. Mainly targeting Cloudflare but in one instance also NameCheap, the RIAA demands private information relating to several sites.

10Convert.com

With around two million visitors per month (SimilarWeb stats), this platform has a prime focus on YouTube-ripping. The majority of its traffic comes from Brazil (69%), with the United States accounting for a little over 2% of its users.

Amoyshare.com

Enjoying around 4.6m visits per month with most of its visitors coming from the United States (15%), this platform’s focus is offering downloadable tools that enable users to grab videos and music from a wide range of platforms.

However, Amoyshare also offers “AnyUTube”, an online converter which is the element the RIAA is complaining about.

Anything2MP3.cc

This site, which enjoys a relatively low 300,000 visits per month, appears to be dual-use. While it is possible to download content from YouTube, Anything2MP3 also offers users the ability to convert their own audio files in the browser.

IMP3Juices.com

With around six million visits per month, this platform is one of the more popular ones targeted by the RIAA. Around 12.5% of the site’s traffic comes from Italy, with the US following behind with just under 10%.

The site functions like a ‘pirate’ download portal, with users able to search for artists and download tracks. However, the RIAA provides a URL which reveals that the site also has a YouTube to MP4 conversion feature. Indeed, it seems possible that much of the site’s content is obtained from YouTube.

BigConverter.com

Down at the time of writing, possibly as a result of the subpoena, this site offered downloading functionality for a range of sites, from YouTube and Facebook through to Twitter, Vimeo, Vevo, Instagram, Dailymotion, Metacafe, VK, AOL, GoogleDrive and Soundcloud.

YouTubeMP4.to

Enjoying around 7.7 million visits per month, YouTubeMP4.to is a straightforward YouTube video downloader. Almost 23% of its traffic comes from the United States with the UK just behind at close to 11%.

QDownloader.net

This platform has perhaps the most comprehensive offering of those targeted. It claims to be able to download content from 800 sites, of which YouTube is just one. With more than 12 million visits per month, it’s not difficult to see why QDownloader has made it onto the RIAA’s hit list.

GenYouTube.net

Another big one, this multi-site downloader platform attracts around seven million visits per month. The majority of its traffic comes from India (14%), with the United States following behind with around 12%.

Break.TV

For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, YouTube and SoundCloud downloader Break.TV has lost a lot of its monthly traffic since late 2018. From a high edging towards three million visits per month, it now enjoys just over 1.6 million. Interestingly the site says it must only be used to obtain Creative Commons licensed material.

MP3XD.com

In common with IMP3Juices.com, MP3XD.com appears to be focused on offering pirate MP3 downloads rather than straightforward ripping services. However, its content does appear to have been culled from YouTube.

Given that it defaults to Spanish, it seems to target Latin America. Indeed, with close to 10 million visits per month, almost a third hail from Mexico, with Venezuela and Argentina following behind.

DL-YouTube-MP3.net

This platform is a straightforward YouTube-ripping site, offering downloads of both video and audio content. It is one of the lower-trafficked sites on the list, with around 870,000 visits per month with most of its traffic (38%) coming from France.

ConvertBox.net

With around 150,000 visits, ConvertBox is the smallest platform targeted by the RIAA in this batch. It offers conversion features for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, and SoundCloud via its website and mobile apps. Around a fifth of its traffic comes from France.

Downloaders.io

Another multi-downloader, Downloaders.io offers tools to rip content from a number of platforms, YouTube included. It’s traffic has been up and down since the start of the year but has averaged around 200K visits per month. Close to 30% of traffic hails from the United States.

Hexupload.net

A relative newcomer, this site doesn’t appear to fit into the ripping or general pirate site niche. Down at the time of writing, this 270,000 visit per month platform appears to have acted as a file upload site, from which users could generate revenue per download.

Cloudflare and NameCheap will now be required to hand over the personal details they have on the users behind all of these sites. As usual, that will include names, addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, and more.

It isn’t clear what the RIAA has planned for these platforms but since the request was made by the group’s Vice-President Online Piracy, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with a few ideas.

This latest move by the RIAA follows similar action against several other sites detailed in our earlier reports (1,2,3).

The RIAA’s letters to Cloudflare and NameCheap can be found here and here.

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’12 Million Watched a Pirate Stream of Joshua vs. Ruiz on YouTube’

’12 Million Watched a Pirate Stream of Joshua vs. Ruiz on YouTube’

The fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr last weekend was highly anticipated by boxing fans.

Events like this draw an audience of millions. Unfortunately for the rightsholders, not all fans go through legal channels.

Before the fight, Kieron Sharp of anti-piracy group FACT issued a public announcement, urging the public to do the right thing. “More and more people are becoming aware that piracy is illegal – don’t find yourself in the criminals’ corner this weekend,” he said.

Whether these words had any impact is hard to measure, but new statistics released by piracy monitoring firm MUSO reveal that millions of people watched the fight through unlicensed channels.

MUSO estimates that 13 million people turned to unauthorized sources. The vast majority of these, 93% or over 12 million views, are traced back to YouTube. These numbers surpass those for the Fury vs Wilder fight last year, which came in at nearly 10 million views.

YouTube usually responds rapidly when any infringing content is spotted, but with live events like this, many takedown notices come too late it appears.

The geographical location data for the unauthorized viewers show that most came from Nigeria, 2,351,496 to be precise. This may in part be due to the Nigerian background of the British boxer Anthony Joshua, who lost the fight in the seventh round.

Kenya follows at a respectable distance with 998,027 viewers, followed by the United Kingdom with 921,994, the United States with 600,501, and Mexico with 587,028 viewers.

Commenting on the findings Andy Chatterley, CEO at MUSO, says that this is the largest unauthorized streaming audience his company has ever tracked.

“The Joshua vs. Ruiz fight has been the largest unauthorized audience that we’ve ever tracked across boxing and it’s staggering to see that 93% of the audience watched via YouTube,” Chatterley says.

The numbers are definitely impressive, which may be in part driven by the high cost of the pay-per-view broadcasts.

As for the fight, the latest reports note that Joshua is looking for a rematch against Ruiz. If it gets that far, it will be interesting to compare the unauthorized streaming numbers, although it may be hard to beat the 13 million.

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Pirate Bay Registrations are Closed Due to Spam Flood

Pirate Bay Registrations are Closed Due to Spam Flood

It’s been relatively smooth sailing for The Pirate Bay in recent months. 

After a tough 2018 with several days of downtime, the popular torrent site hasn’t had any major outages in a while. 

However, for prospective users who want to upload new torrents, all is not well. For more than two weeks now, The Pirate Bay has closed the site to new users. 

People who try to register an account are out of luck. While the registration page is still up, it persistently returns the following error message: “Wrong code x. The username and/or e-mail address is already in use.

Error…

While this may appear to be some kind of coding mistake, it is in fact intentional. TPB admin ‘Winston’ closed registrations following a request from the crew, staff member Spud17 informs TorrentFreak.

“Registrations are closed at the request of one of the crew members, as TPB was being battered by floods of malware torrents,” Spud17 says.

“We’ve asked Winston to make it so that new uploaders cannot upload 1000 fakes in 2 seconds.” 

Closing registrations does indeed fix this, but it’s a pretty drastic measure. The crew hopes that a more permanent spam control feature will be introduced and that registrations will then open up again. 

At the time of writing the crew doesn’t know when this issue will be dealt with. It could be a matter of days, but a few more weeks is also possible. Patience is the only advice they can give. 

The people who already had an account can still upload torrents, of course, so most regular users won’t even notice that there’s an issue. If they do, it’s probably because there is less spam than usual. 

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Terminating Subscribers Doesn’t Stop Pirates, Charter Argues

Terminating Subscribers Doesn’t Stop Pirates, Charter Argues

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 on the heels of this case, several major record labels including Capitol Records, Warner Bros, and Sony Music, hopped onto the bandwagon. Helped by the RIAA, they went after ISP Grande Communications and, more recently, Charter Communications.

The labels accuse Charter of deliberately turning a blind eye to its pirating subscribers. They argue that the ISP failed to terminate or otherwise take meaningful action against the accounts of repeat infringers, even though it was well aware of them.

A few days ago Charter responded to these allegations. The company denies that it plays an active role in any infringing activities and believes the labels’ arguments are flawed.

“This suit is the latest effort in the music industry’s campaign to hold Internet Service Providers (‘ISPs’) liable for copyright infringement, allegedly carried out by internet subscribers, for merely providing internet access,” Charter states. 

The labels sued the ISP for two types of secondary liability for copyright infringement; contributory infringement and vicarious liability. While Charter believes that both claims will fail, it has submitted a motion to dismiss only the latter.

In its motion Charter notes that, in order for a vicarious liability claim to succeed, the labels must show that the ISP profited directly from copyright infringements that it had both a right and ability to control. This is not the case, the ISP notes. 

“Plaintiffs fail to allege a plausible causal connection between any alleged
direct infringement and the subscription fees received by Charter,” the motion reads

“For example, Plaintiffs do not allege that infringers specifically chose Charter over other providers so they could infringe Plaintiffs’ copyrights, or that other ISPs were terminating subscribers, leading them to seek out Charter as a safe haven.”

In addition, the ISP points out that it doesn’t operate a file-sharing service, nor does it promote BitTorrent, or receive compensation for any file-sharing services. Instead, it merely charges a flat fee from its subscribers for which it provides Internet access.

The labels argued that the ISP offers a tiered pricing structure, charging higher fees for higher downloading speeds. However, Charter notes that this isn’t in any way catered to pirates. People who consume legal media also benefit from higher speeds, after all.

“Plaintiffs do not, and cannot, allege that those who illegally download music want faster speeds than those who do so legally, much less than those who download considerably larger movie or other files,” Charter writes.

“Such allegations would be implausible, as subscribers paying for higher tiers of service for lawful uses want to download content just as fast as those doing so illegally.”

Charter stresses that there is no evidence that it directly profits from copyright infringement. In addition, it doesn’t have a right and ability to control any infringements either, which negates another element of vicarious liability.

The labels argued that the ISP has control over the infringements, as it can terminate the Internet accounts of repeat infringers. However, Charter counters that this doesn’t prevent subscribers from continuing to pirate elsewhere.

“Charter cannot monitor and control its subscribers’ use of the internet, and its ability to terminate subscribers altogether does not prevent them from committing acts of infringement from other connections,” Charter notes.

Charter adds that it can’t monitor and control its subscribers’ use of the Internet, while adding that peer-to-peer file sharing protocols can be used for both infringing and non-infringing purposes.

All in all the ISP sees terminations as an overbroad and imprecise measure.

“Plaintiffs’ termination remedy suffers from ‘imprecision and overbreadth’ based on the inability to confirm allegations in a notice, the extremity of the measure, and the failure to halt infringing activity from another source,” Charter adds.

Based on these and other arguments Charter asks the court to dismiss the vicarious liability claim. That would still leave the contributory infringement claim intact, but the ISP is confident that it can deal with this at a later stage.

In addition to the suit against Charter, the record labels also sued its subsidiary Bright House for the same alleged offenses in a Florida court. Bright House responded to this lawsuit with a near identical motion to dismiss.

Both motions are now with the respective courts, which will at a later stage decide whether to dismiss the claims or not.

A copy of Charter Communications’ motion to dismiss the claim for vicarious liability is available here (pdf).

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Steal This Show S04E17: The Future of Power, with Cory Doctorow

Steal This Show S04E17: The Future of Power, with Cory Doctorow

In this episode author Cory Doctorow discusses three stories from his new collection, Radicalized. We discuss:

– The perils of DRM, and becoming dependent on manufacturers — from printers, to toasters and beyond — and how (or if) we can force control of our technological future.

– What lengths it’s permissible to go to when we’re trying to effect change against the systems which might very well end the world as we know it;

– If all of this fails, the ethical, philosophical and practical problems involved in waiting out the apocalypse in a high-tech, high-security bunker.

Grab Cory’s new book Radicalized — DRM and EULA free – at Craphound.com, or all the traditional online retailers.

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing crypto, privacy, copyright and file-sharing developments. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: Cory Doctorow

If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Lucas Marston
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Eric Barch

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