This morning, the Asia Video Industry Association’s (AVIA) Coalition Against Piracy (CAP), which represents the interests of groups including the MPA and other major companies, revealed the results of a commissioned YouGov survey.

“In a recent study of the content viewing behavior of Thai consumers, it was revealed that 45% of consumers use a TV box which can be used to stream pirated television and video content,” CAP writes.

“These TV boxes, also known as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs), allow users to access hundreds of pirated television channels and video-on-demand content, usually with a low annual fee.”

In the above paragraph, the precise definition of “consumer” isn’t particularly clear. Also, the use of the phrase “can be used” is open to ambiguity. TorrentFreak spoke with Neil Gane, General Manager of CAP, who was happy to clarify on both fronts.

“The survey focused on Internet-connected/online consumers. [T]he survey also included consumers who are online and yet don’t view video content, as all respondents were given the option to select ‘Not applicable – I don’t watch television and video content’,” Gain explained.

Gane further clarified that the 45% of consumers does not include users who use general “piracy-capable” devices such as computers, laptops, mobile phones, or Firestick/Chromecast dongles etc.

CAP’s General Manager added that while most devices “can be used” to stream pirated content, the survey was “solely focused on TV boxes pre-loaded with infringing app(s), which by definition would make them illicit streaming devices (ISDs).”

Examples of ‘pirate applications’ found on such devices include Mango TV, HD Playbox, and U Play, which provide access to streaming movies and TV shows, mainly on Android.

With the details established, the claims of the effects of piracy-enabled devices are more easily digested. CAP says that of the 45% of consumers who bought such a device, “more than two in three (69%) stated that they canceled all or some of their subscriptions to legal pay TV services.”

The YouGov research also established that younger people are attracted to piracy-configured devices. They are particularly popular among 18 to 24-year-olds, “with more than three in four (77%) canceling legitimate subscription services as a result of owning ISDs, especially international online subscriptions (40%).”

Of course, no recent anti-piracy announcement would be complete without claims about malware running riot.

“The damage that piracy does to the creative industries is without dispute,” Gane explains.

“However, the damage done to consumers themselves, because of the nexus between content piracy and malware, is only beginning to be recognized. Piracy websites and applications typically have a ‘click happy’ user base, and, as such, are being used more and more as clickbait to distribute malware.”

There is little doubt that many users of pirate websites are indeed “click happy” in their quest for free content and that can lead them into trouble. However, we’ve covered malware issues before (specifically in respect of so-called “Kodi Boxes”) and found nothing to suggest that there is a significant risk to consumers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a risk with other software pre-installed on set-top boxes – it’s a computer after all, and all such devices are vulnerable to infection. That means that as a minimum, all users should consider running anti-virus software on all devices capable of doing so.

That being said, set-top boxes are isolated machines that rarely carry much of value to malware distributors. Most people don’t browse on these machines, send email, or enter any personal or banking information. There is always some risk involved, but in the set-top box environment, it’s almost certainly minimized.

Speaking with TF, Neil Gane said that the study wasn’t related to malware but he stands by his references to the “piracy/malware nexus”. He also pointed us to a September 2018 EU report that found that trojans and malware can be found on pirate sites, leading to “not only financial losses, but also theft of personal data and other risks of unwanted access and control.”

While that’s true, the same report also stated that copyright-infringing websites and streaming services are not normally considered to be dominant sources of malware.

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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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 fairly 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.

In recent years, several news reports have appeared on these cases in the US, Canada, Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere. In Finland, they have been a common sight since 2013.

Adultia is one of the companies that’s active in the Nordic country which, as its name suggests, deals with adult content. Helped by the Cyprus-based company M.I.C.M, it obtained personal details of thousands of Finnish subscribers, asking them to pay up, or face legal action.

At the start of this year, the company appeared to have halted its practices. No new letters were being reported, which was carefully celebrated as a win by copyright troll opponents, many of whom are active in the local MuroBBS community.

However, the excitement didn’t last as the letters returned after a few months, albeit in a different form.

At the end of September, several people who were previously targeted by Adultia started to receive new letters. While the accusations and details were the same as before, they were sent by KTC Finland Oy this time, which is a local debt collection agency.

Example of a new letter

The letters were reported in the MuroBBS forum where they raised eyebrows. According to several activists, these “debt collection bills” were not lawful, as the earlier letters from Adultia were not official debts, but accusations.

In response, several opponents helped to draft template response letters, accusing the debt collecting company of breaking the rules. These were sent to the debt collection outfit, as well as government officials.

After a few weeks, this had the desired effect. Late last month, Timo Korhonen, chief investigator of Finland’s Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVI) in Finland, wrote a post on MuroBBS stating that KTC’s actions were now under investigation.

AVI’s involvement has weight as it ensures that companies, including debt collectors, follow local rules and regulations. In case of severe violations, it also has the power to revoke licenses of debt collectors.

The pressure was building, as AVI’s involvement was also picked up by the local news site Tivi and Ilta-Sanomat. Last week, KTC announced that it will withdraw from the copyright debt collection business.

“Because of the widespread attention, we have decided to stop collecting these debts. Because of our high standards, we are now concentrating on serving our other customers and thus we leave control over these copyright matters to companies that are specialized in it,” KTC writes on its website.

KTC maintains that its practices are in accordance with the law and encourages people who received a legitimate demand to pay. However, no new letters will go out.

While the anti-trolling activists at MuroBBS see this decision as a clear win, they hope that AVI’s investigation will pay off, noting that copyright trolling remains a problem. Law firm Hedman Partners is reportedly still active, for example, using the court to go after alleged pirates.

TorrentFreak spoke to activist ‘Don MC’ who notes that details behind 200,000 IP-addresses have already been handed out. While there are signs the court is more reserved now when it comes to these cases, copyright trolling remains a problem.

“Lately, and perhaps even by the influence of the civil activists on the MuroBBS board, the Market Court has tightened its criteria and no longer hands out these addresses en masse,” Don MC explains.

“The MuroBBS community is working hard to end copyright trolling in Finland once and for all. The fight against the trolls will hopefully go on until the last single troll is weeded out.”

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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The LibreELEC 9.0 Alpha cycle has continued and releases for Amlogic and Slice hardware have been added additionally to the test cycle. We official support now Khadas VIM (AML S905X) and the LePotato (AML S905X) too. Since the 8.90.006 release we support a wide range of Rockchip devices. There are no plans to release LibreELEC 9.0 images for NXP/iMX6 hardware as support was removed from Kodi some months ago. Support will be reinstated in a future LibreELEC, we wrote an dedicated article about the future of LibreELEC.

Alpha releases are important to the team because we cannot test every scenario and sometimes sidestep issues without realising. The project needs a body of regular testers to go find the problems we miss. Testing will be particularly important for LibreELEC 9.0 as Kodi v18 includes substantial internal changes to VideoPlayer and introduces new retro-gaming capabilities.


We added several Rockchip devices at this release. Please consider it as alpha quality and not yet as perfect. All kind of flavors of HDR, 4k and audio are supported already. These images are rather new and it is likely that you hit an problem sooner or later. Please report them at our issue tracker or at the dedicated Rockchip forum that they could get fixed. Within the LE9 release cycle we are likely not able to finish the Rockchip devices to reach an perfect stable state – they stay in alpha status as long it is needed.


Our current focus is the OS core and we are more interested in hardware and driver bugs than Kodi problems. Please report the issues you find by starting a thread in the forums or use our bug tracker. Raspberry Pi users are reminded that dtoverlay=lirc-rpi has now been deprecated. Please read the infrared remotes wiki page  before updating.


Alpha builds exist for hands-on testing not a hands-off experience. If you run Alpha builds you must be willing to report issues and engage the LibreELEC and Kodi developers in hunting bugs. If you have no idea what a debug log is or “wife acceptance factor” is critical, these builds are not for you. If you want to run Alpha builds please make a backup and store it somewhere off-box first. Your failure to make a backup is not our problem.

Updates since v8.90.006 ALPHA:

– updated to Kodi 18 Beta 5
– Kernel updated to 4.19 for Generic, RPi and Slice
– added updated DVB drivers to all S905 devices
– fixed Odroid_C2 update problems
– removed: systemctl mask eventlircd can no longer be used to get long-press support on remotes
– a lot more updates and fixes, have a look at the full changelog

LibreELEC 9.0 Alpha 007 (Kodi 18 Beta 5)

To update an existing installation from within the Kodi GUI select manual update in the LibreELEC settings add-on and then check for updates; select the LibreELEC 9.0 channel and then the 8.90.007 release. To create new install media please use our simple USB/SD Creator App. The following .img.gz files can also be used to create install media or update the old fashioned way:

RPi 2/3 LibreELEC-RPi2.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

RPi 0/1 LibreELEC-RPi.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

Generic LibreELEC-Generic.x86_64-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

Odroid_C2 LibreELEC-Odroid_C2.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

KVIM LibreELEC-KVIM.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

LePotato LibreELEC-LePotato.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Core LibreELEC-WeTek_Core.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Hub LibreELEC-WeTek_Hub.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Play LibreELEC-WeTek_Play.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Play_2 LibreELEC-WeTek_Play_2.arm-8.90.007.img.gz (info)


Firefly ROC-RK3328-CC LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-roc-cc.img.gz (info)

Generic Rockchip Box LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-box.img.gz (info)

PINE64 ROCK64 / Popcorn Hour Transformer LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-rock64.img.gz (info)

Popcorn Hour RockBox LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-rockbox.img.gz (info)

MVR9 LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-box-trn9.img.gz (info)

Z28 LibreELEC-RK3328.arm-8.90.007-box-z28.img.gz (info)


96rocks ROCK960 LibreELEC-RK3399.arm-8.90.007-rock960.img.gz (info)

PINE64 RockPro64 LibreELEC-RK3399.arm-8.90.007-rockpro64.img.gz (info)

Rockchip Sapphire Board LibreELEC-RK3399.arm-8.90.007-sapphire.img.gz (info)


ASUS Tinker Board LibreELEC-TinkerBoard.arm-8.90.007-rk3288.img.gz (info)

mqmaker MiQi LibreELEC-MiQi.arm-8.90.007-rk3288.img.gz (info)

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This summer, Nintendo made it totally clear that websites offering access to its retro-games and ROMs will not be tolerated.

The Japanese game developer filed a complaint at a federal court in Arizona, accusing and of massive copyright and trademark infringement.

Faced with millions of dollars in potential damages, the operator of the sites, Jacob Mathias, swiftly took the platforms offline. The legal action also led to the shutdown several other ROM sites, who feared they could be next.

It quickly became clear that the Mathias and his wife, who was later added to the complaint, were not looking forward to a drawn-out legal battle. Instead, they engaged in settlement discussions with Nintendo, hoping to resolve the matter without too much bloodshed.

Today we can report that both sides have indeed reached a deal. They agreed to a consent judgment and a permanent injunction that will resolve all outstanding disputes.

Paperwork obtained by TorrentFreak shows that Mathias and his wife admit that their involvement with the websites constituted direct and indirect copyright and trademark infringement, which caused Nintendo irreparable injury.

However, on paper, the married couple won’t be getting off cheaply. On the contrary, they actually agreed to a judgment that exceeds $12 million.

“Plaintiff is hereby awarded judgment against all Defendants, jointly and severally, in the amount of $12,230,000,” the proposed language reads.

Unsigned final judgment

It seems unlikely that the couple has this kind of money in the bank, or that a jury would have reached a similar figure. So why the high amount?

We can only speculate but it’s possible that Nintendo negotiated such a high number, on paper, to act as a deterrent for other site operators. In practice, the defendants could end up paying much less.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a judgment in court is more than what the parties agreed to privately. This happened before in the MPAA’s lawsuit against Hotfile, where a $80 million judgment in court translated to $4 million behind the scenes settlement.

In addition to the monetary judgment, both parties also agreed on a permanent injunction. This will prevent the couple from infringing Nintendo’s copyrights going forward.

They further have to hand over all Nintendo games and emulators they have, at their own expense. On top of that, the permanent injunction requires them to sign over and to the Japanese company.

The documents have yet to be signed off by a judge but considering that both parties agree with it, that should be a formality. After that, it’s game over.

Here are copies of the yet-to-be-signed permanent injunction (pdf) and final judgment (pdf).


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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Two years ago the European Commission announced plans to modernize EU copyright law.

Some of the proposals were hugely controversial. Article 13, for example, would see the liability for infringing content switched from users of sites like YouTube to the platform itself.

But, despite warnings, in September the European Parliament voted in favor of proposals put forward by Axel Voss’ EPP group.

This is a revised version of the original proposal, but one that would still pave the way for upload filters, to prevent infringing content from reaching sites like YouTube in the first place. However, speaking today in Financial Times (paywall), YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says that blocking videos may be the platform’s only option.

“While we support the goals of article 13, the European Parliament’s current proposal will create unintended consequences that will have a profound impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people,” Wojcicki writes.

“The parliament’s approach is unrealistic in many cases because copyright owners often disagree over who owns what rights. If the owners cannot agree, it is impossible to expect the open platforms that host this content to make the correct rights decisions.”

Using the hit “Despacito” as an example, Wojcicki says that the track contains multiple copyrights including sound recording and publishing rights. YouTube has agreements with several parties to license the video but other rightsholders remain unknown. This could present a situation so complex that YouTube might have to stop hosting the video altogether.

“That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13. Multiply that risk with the scale of YouTube, where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and the potential liabilities could be so large that no company could take on such a financial risk,” she adds.

While the rest of the world appears to be safe from such blocking, YouTube’s CEO warns that it is EU residents that will be affected. During the last month alone, videos were viewed by citizens more than 90 billion times.

Wojcicki says her company wants to work with policymakers and the industry to develop Article 13 in a way that protects rightsholders but without stifling the creative economy. That might including broader licensing agreements, improved collaboration with rightsholders, and technical solutions, similar to Content ID.

“Platforms that follow these rules, and make a good effort to help rights holders identify their content, shouldn’t be held directly liable for every single piece of content that a user uploads,” Wojcicki writes.

“We ask policymakers to find a solution that protects rights holders and creators alike, and listen to the growing number of EU voices, including some member countries, who agree there’s a better way forward.”

In a report last week detailing how Google fights piracy, the company noted that between October 2017 to September 2018, YouTube had paid more than $1.8 billion to the music industry from in advertising revenue alone.

Last Friday, however, that figure was challenged by IFPI Chief Executive, Frances Moore.

“We welcome Google’s recognition that it and Google’s YouTube need to operate responsibly and properly value creators and their work. However, the figures in Google’s anti-piracy paper don’t match our own,” Moore said.

“It is difficult to get any clarity on Google’s claims as it doesn’t explain its methodology, but IFPI data shows that revenue returning to the record industry through video streaming services (including but not limited to YouTube) with 1.3 billion users amounted to US $856 million in 2017 – less than half of Google’s claim and less than US $1 per user per year.”

It seems clear that YouTube and the music industry are yet to see eye to eye on this problem but with the platform suggesting that blocking might be the only option, as we envisioned earlier, the pressure is increasing on supporters of Article 13 to avoid this worst-case scenario.

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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In 2007, the movie The Man From Earth leaked on file-sharing networks, with unexpected results. Instead of proving nothing but damaging, the title gained almost universal praise, rocketing the sci-fi flick to stardom via word-of-mouth advertising.

Director Richard Schenkman and producer Eric Wilkinson embraced the development and enthused over the attention their work was receiving online. Given the positive experience, during January 2018 the team deliberately ‘leaked’ the sequel – The Man from Earth: Holocene – on The Pirate Bay.

Given that filmmakers tend to view piracy as the enemy, TorrentFreak enthusiastically reported both events. Sadly, we had less positive news to convey this week when, out of the blue, Schenkman published an article on the site of pro-industry, anti-piracy alliance CreativeFuture, in which he heavily criticized piracy.

There can be little doubt that the piece was a gift to CreativeFuture and everyone who viewed Schenkman and Wilkinson’s place in the piracy debate as something positive for unauthorized sharing. The movie’s story had become a ray of light and here it was being shredded, a disastrous episode from which nothing good had come.

At TorrentFreak, however, we had our doubts about the tone of the piece. Never before had we seen such a turnaround, particularly when reviewing all previous correspondence with Schenkman. Something didn’t add up.

Mainly due to timezone differences, Schenkman responded to our questions after our article was published. However, his responses only served to increase our suspicions that what had been published on CreativeFuture wasn’t representative of his overall position on piracy.

First of all, Schenkman was rightfully furious about his movie being distributed in Russia after being professionally dubbed, with his donation requests removed from the resulting copy. That, most people will agree, is a flat-out insult to someone who has bent over backward to accommodate piracy.

He had every right to be annoyed but it’s worth noting that his anger was directed at one site, not necessarily pirates in general. In fact, Schenkman told us that plenty of positives have come out of the releases of both movies.

“The only reason that people all over the world knew and loved the original ‘Man from Earth’ was because of piracy, so while I’m disappointed that we’ve (still) made so little money from the first film, I’m deeply grateful that so many people have been able to see my movie,” he told TF this week.

“I’m still quite enthusiastic about, and deeply grateful for, the thousands of people who have written to us with kind words about the films, and who have made donations, large or small,” he added.

“I well understand that once we released the movie into the pirate ecosystem, nobody was under any obligation whatsoever to send us one penny, so the fact that so many have made donations is stunning to me, and I’ll never cease to be appreciative and impressed by the number of people who embraced the honor system. And luckily, donations continue to come in every day.”

For those wondering whether Schenkman’s piece in CreativeFuture and his comments to us might’ve been penned by a different author, assumption forgiven. From our contacts with him in 2007 right through to the present day, we have found Schenkman to be an honest man and a pleasure to deal with. He has never said anything to suggest that piracy is an “existential threat” to creators as mentioned in his piece. So why the sudden negativity?

We all know that life events can shape perceptions, so when the movie’s website and donation portal were hacked around six weeks ago, things began to take a turn for the worse. No revenue for weeks (and thousands in costs to bring it back) appear to have negatively affected the experience for the director. Then other types of piracy happened, ones that ensured that donations would be reduced.

“I learned that there were other people who ignored our requests to share only the version we uploaded, and ripped the movie from BluRay, so that there are versions floating around without my donation preface, even though we DID upload a full HD (BD quality) version of the picture,” Schenkman told TorrentFreak.

Even given the above events, however, the piece in CreativeFuture appears unnecessarily one-sided for a man who still had confidence in the piracy ecosystem a few months ago. Indeed, Schenkman told us this week that his team planned hard for the ‘pirate’ release of Holocene.

“In the case of the new film, we worked for months to promote awareness, so that there would be a groundswell of interest from fans of the original film. I would say that this effort at least partially worked,” he explained.

“In the first week of the pirate release, many thousands of people a day downloaded it, so there was a clear pent-up demand. And we’ve seen more donations come from the ‘Holocene’ release than we ever did from [Man From Earth] alone. So yes, in that sense, the ‘authorized leak’ of the new film has definitely helped spread awareness.

“The movie would have been pirated regardless; by doing it ourselves, we were, to some degree, able to control the narrative, and indeed it became more of a ‘story’, just the same way that ‘producers thank pirates’ became a story at the time of the original film’s release,” he added.

In a long email exchange, Schenkman told us that plenty of fans who didn’t even particularly like his sequel contacted him to congratulate him on choosing the honor system, while donating $5 as a ‘thank you’.

“You’d be surprised at how many of those messages I’ve gotten,” he told us.

But while Schenkman might be surprised at this generosity, we certainly aren’t surprised that none of this came out in the CreativeFuture piece.

It’s understandable that CreativeFuture want to fight their corner with a flawless, polished, and invulnerable anti-piracy narrative, but thankfully we aren’t afraid of calling out both sides of this war, when it’s called for. People deserve that honesty.

For example, Schenkman wanted to speak about some of his frustrations with movie distribution in his article. He believes that the international distribution system is flawed because there isn’t an efficient and fair commercial way to make an indie movie available everywhere, on the same day, unless Netflix buys it.

Those sentiments didn’t make the CreativeFuture piece but we’re happy to let him have a voice here.

“Even now, there isn’t a fair, equitable way for an indie filmmaker like me to make their movie available everywhere around the world at once. Even Amazon, which is in virtually every country, doesn’t allow you to simply upload your movie and with the click of a button make it available everywhere,” he says.

“I think they’ll eventually get there, but not anytime soon. If Netflix buys your movie, great — but if they don’t, you’re back to the antiquated system of going to international film markets and trying to sell you film country by country, a costly, inefficient, and time-consuming process (and again, you’re totally at the mercy of the ‘gatekeepers’).

“When we first released ‘Holocene’ we also made it available at Vimeo and MovieSaints, two platforms which allow access to viewers from most countries. Moviesaints has a unique system allowing both for a partial refund if you don’t like the movie, as well as a ‘tip the filmmaker’ function if you want to provide more support,” he adds.

And then comes an even stronger hint as to why Schenkman’s important comments didn’t make his own article.

“While we’ve seen revenue from both of these platforms, it doesn’t approach the total we’ve earned from donations. So the good news is that thousands of people who watched ‘Holocene’ via the pirate ecosystem have kindly, generously made donations to help support independent film,” he says.

Of course, in the interests of fair reporting we’re absolutely unafraid of publishing the not-so-good news too, so here it is – warts and all.

“The bad news is that hundreds of thousands (or millions) more have not, and thus we are still a long way from breaking even on this very low-budget movie. I really don’t see a sustainable business model for a truly independent filmmaker creating these kinds of thoughtful, serious movies, although I remain open to ideas!” Schenkman concludes.

While CreativeFuture are absolutely entitled to publish whatever they see fit on their own site, it seems clear from Schenkman’s article (and his comments to us spanning more than a decade) that they are only interested in a tightly-controlled narrative that leaves room for criticism of piracy, but none to detail some of the self-inflicted reasons behind much of it.

Piracy is certainly controversial and it can be bad, we’ve acknowledged as much in this piece. But hiding important parts of the full story – especially when they highlight flaws in the distribution system that contributes to piracy’s existence – is just as corrosive.

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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While the majority of computing devices come with sophisticated operating systems installed, users will almost certainly need to buy additional software to meet their needs.

Open Source software can usually be obtained for free but millions of users opt for paid products that need to be licensed by the companies offering them.

Of course, piracy is a significant problem for the developers behind the majority of premium products. Most are available from torrent sites or file-hosting platforms, often arriving with a ‘crack’ that allows users to enjoy without paying.

Companies often have sophisticated systems to detect unlicensed products, sometimes with the reasonable aim of attempting to convert pirates into paying consumers. Earlier this year we reported on Corel’s efforts in this space after the company obtained a patent for a system which is able to offer an amnesty to illegal users via a popup.

“The amnesty offer may, for example, agree not to bring criminal charges in exchange for the user purchasing a legitimate copy of the product,” Corel’s patent reads.

“In this manner, the user of the pirated version is given the opportunity to purchase a legitimate copy which, if acted on, increases revenue for the manufacturer.”

While this is fair enough, what happens when it all goes wrong? Earlier this week, TorrentFreak was contacted by an angry Corel customer who was witnessing first hand what can happen when a piracy detection system blows a fuse.

“I am a valid and licensed user and Corel support has records of my license key and right to use this software on my work PC,” he told us.

Despite paying the company as required, he received the following popup instead.

Scary message from Corel

The message couldn’t be more clear. Corel states that the copy in use is illegal and as a result, its functionality has been severely limited. “All save, export and print features will be permanently disabled,” it warns.

According to Corel, all of these problems can be solved with a click of the blue “BUY A LEGAL COPY NOW” button, something that made our contact extremely angry.

“I get this extortion popup and threat to my means to make a living. I feel like Corel has hijacked my computer, my artwork and images and is preventing me from making a living just to sell another upgrade. This is wrong, and something needs to be done about his practice,” he told us.

It’s not surprising that the user was upset at Corel remotely disabling his software. Aside from having a valid license, his work ground to a halt. Initial emails back and forth had him messing around in his computer’s registry in an effort to fix the problem but all the time he was unable to carry on with his job.

“I have owned a licensed copy of Corel PrintShop Pro since 9/2016 and use it multiple times each day for work. I use it for editing and creating graphics and logos for customers that host events and in the medical field for patient wristbands at hospitals and clinics,” he told TF.

“These images are used to identify and even categorize different types of patients and attendees at events. At this time, I’m unable to meet the needs of my customers because I can’t save any new artwork for them. This has now gone on for more than 24 hours.”

Eventually, after lengthy email exchanges, the problem got fixed, albeit after Corel’s customer had been unable to use his software for an extended period. He says that the problem has left a bad taste in his mouth and wonders how many other people are getting the message and, crucially, whether less technical users are paying to have the anti-piracy message removed.

“I’m not sure how [the steps Corel took] corrected my license issue or if it just took me off the ‘hit list’ of victims of what I still feel was some kind of scam. Still no apology from Corel for the problems caused or the delays it forced on me,” he added.

TorrentFreak contacted Corel requesting information and received a response from Gerard Metrailler, EVP of Global Products, whose name is on the patent issued earlier this year.

“Our anti-piracy measures are designed specifically to protect our IP. And as part of this process, we offer an amnesty program on many of our products that gives users an easy way to purchase a legitimate version of our software at an affordable price,” Metrailler explained.

“Unfortunately, some users who believe they are running legitimate versions of our software are surprised to receive a notification that their license is invalid. In many of these cases, the products were purchased from online marketplaces, often at very low prices, and the users were not aware they were buying illegitimate software.

“It’s critical to note that customers should always purchase our software from authorized resellers or Corel directly,” he added.

Given comments on Corel’s forums about unlicensed resellers, early in the week TF checked with the user where he’d obtained his license. According to an original purchase receipt reviewed by TF, it was obtained from the company’s own online store and everything was in order.

Corel did, however, suggest that a customer could receive the anti-piracy warning in error and said any customers who believe they are affected should contact the company right away.

“[I]n the very rare event of a mis-identification, I can assure you that we will work quickly to get the issue corrected. We agree that even one customer affected by a mistake like this is one customer too many,” Metrailler said.

We asked Corel how many customers take them up on their offer of reduced price software as part of an amnesty but the company provided no details. We asked if there were any safeguards to prevent licensed users paying up in error but received no response.

Corel did, however, give TF a contact email address so that their customer can get directly in touch, and we’ve forwarded that to him. In the meantime, directly with the customer and independently of our discussions with him and the company, Corel support offered him a 5% discount on future purchases.

“I want to ask them if that 5% is good for Photoshop,” the customer commented dryly.

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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Academia certainly isn’t our prime focus here at TorrentFreak, but we have mentioned Elsevier repeatedly throughout the years.

With a net income of roughly $3 billion and operating profits exceeding $1 billion, Elsevier is one of the largest academic publishers in the world. One that protects its business with vigor.

The company has sued ‘pirate’ sites “Sci-Hub and “LibGen” for the unauthorized distribution of millions of scientific papers, for example.

This resulted in a million dollar verdict in favor of the publisher, which was also able to seize several domain names. While Sci-Hub and LibGen are still around, Elsevier recently stepped up its game by obtaining an ISP blocking order against the sites in question.

So far, these efforts run parallel to what we see in the media piracy world. Torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay have been sued as well, and are now blocked in countries all over the world.

There is a significant difference though. The major movie studios who sue pirates sites have a good reputation in the industry, while Elsevier is heavily criticized by universities and researchers.

This criticism is far from new, but where the battle was previously fought in op-eds and on social media, it’s now on the agenda of the European Union as well. Pressure is mounting.

The first complaint comes from researchers Dr. Jonathan Tennant and Prof. Dr. Björn Brembs, who referred Elsevier’s parent company RELX Group to the EU Anti-Competition Authority late last month.

A serious allegation, but it turned out to be just the start.

This week, it was followed by a similar call from the European University Association (EUA), which represents over 800 higher education institutions in 47 countries throughout Europe.

In a letter (pdf) to the European Commission, the organization shares its concern about the lack of transparency and competition in Europe’s academic publishing sector, mentioning Elsevier and similar publishers.

One of the main frustrations is that researchers and universities provide the manpower and articles for these publishers, work that’s often funded with public money. This is then sold back to them by the publishers at high prices.

Or as EUA puts it:

“As a well-known allegory says: ‘Imagine a farmer who owns, feeds and milks his cow in order to give away the milk for free to a dairy company – and then finally buys it back in a milk carton at a very high price’. This is the business model of big research publishers.”

While publishers such as Elsevier use copyrights to protect and exploit their work, the nature of the “competition” issue is more complex.

Jonathan Tennant, who filed the first complaint with the EU Anti-Competition Authority, tells TorrentFreak that competition is hard to achieve when every academic article is unique and valuable. The articles are not substitutable, you either have access to it or you don’t.

The second problem is that Elsevier and others keep their pricing agreements secret, often through non-disclosure agreements, which is widely seen as an anti-competitive practice.

“Both of these things together, as well as issues to do with copyright, ‘marketplace’ concentration, obscenely high profits, and vendor lock-in all create an unsuitable ‘market’ around scholarly publishing, which has a negative impact across the entire research sector,” Tennant tells us.

Tennant and Brembs don’t provide any recommendations in their report. They’re leaving it up to the European Commission to decide what’s appropriate, but they believe that banning non-disclosure clauses and providing more transparency are two possible steps.

In an ideal world, one could argue that all academic research should be available for free. In the current system, many researchers don’t have access to some of the research in their field due to financial reasons, which hinders the progress of science.

This is also the main reason why Alexandra Elbakyan started the pirate research library Sci-Hub several years ago. Many researchers rely on it as a source, but Tennant says that he has some sort of love-hate relationship with the controversial pirate library.

“I think what Alexandra and Sci-Hub have done is phenomenal in emphasing the incredible dysfunction in research access from a greedy corporate publishing sector. It has demonstrated that access to knowledge is simple to provide.

“I think it also helps to level the playing field, from an industry whose business model is based on knowledge discrimination based on elite/financial status. For these things, and for being a symptom of a broken industry, I think it is wonderful,” he adds.

However, Tennant argues that it has also had some negative consequences. As founder of Open Science MOOC, he is a strong supporter of Open Access research, where papers are published without paywalls, and believes Sci-Hub may hinder the progress of this movement.

“Because Sci-Hub provides a simple, easy shortcut to free access (not Open Access), it removes some of the incentives for researchers to engage with Open Access in a more sustainable manner. For example, by self-archiving their work for free,” he notes.

That said, Tennant doesn’t think that terms such as ‘piracy’ and ‘theft’ necessarily apply to Sci-Hub. At least, not any more than it could apply to some of the major publishers themselves.

“Sometimes I think that it is the scholarly publishing industry themselves who are the thieves, blackmailing content/copyright from researchers and then preventing access to it as their business model.

“Depends which side of the ethical fence you fall on – private or public gain,” he adds.

Tennant hopes that the European Commission will pick up the ball to end to what he sees as an abuse of power and copyright. Where Sci-Hub tries to “tear down the paywalls” through force, ultimately he believes that it’s more sustainable to change the publishing system itself.

Tennant, who was at a blockchain for science conference this week, has some ideas of his own. Ideally, the future of academic publishing should be open, flexible, and relying on modern technologies.

“My ideal scenario would be a much more granular and lightweight system of continuous editing and review – something like GitHub combined with Stack Exchange combined with Wikipedia,” he says.

“Community-owned, low cost, open source, open everything, sustainable, inherently reproducible, less biased, non-profit, collaborative, instantaneous, fair, and equitable.

“Something like that would be inherently easy to create, should we start again from scratch today,” Tennant concludes.

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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The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has protected Hollywood’s interest for nearly a century now.

In recent years the organization’s anti-piracy efforts have made the headlines repeatedly. Not just domestically, but around the world, through its site-blocking efforts for example.

Traditionally, the MPAA obtains most of its revenue from the six major Hollywood studios. The latest public filings show that these membership dues totaled nearly $50 million.

This number is significantly less than before, as we reported earlier, but new information suggests that it may drop even further.

As a result of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the MPAA stands to lose one-sixth of its membership dues. Disney promised to pay Fox’s share for another year after the deal is finalized, but what happens next is uncertain.

According to a report from The Information, the MPAA is now discussing a makeover of the organization.

While no crystalized plans have been released, several insiders said that the group is considering accepting new members, including streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. This would add more revenue, but also broaden the organization’s mandate.

It is unknown how concrete these plans are or whether the MPAA approached potential new members already. Whatever the eventual direction may be, it won’t be an easy task.

“This can’t just be an economic exercise,” one of the people familiar with the discussions told The Information. “It has to be a come-to-Jesus moment.”

Although Amazon and Netflix have a shared interest with Hollywood on some fronts, both have their differences as well. The MPAA has been at odds with major tech companies over the years, companies that are closely aligned with the streaming giants.

That said, Amazon, Netflix, and the MPAA already work together in another anti-piracy initiative. They are all part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which counts 30 companies in total.

The ACE coalition is, in fact, running on the MPAA’s anti-piracy resources, including personnel. That brings up the next makeover option.

If the MPAA can’t continue in its current form and is unable to add more members, whether those are traditional movie studios or streaming providers, some people suggested that it could fold into ACE.

That’s an even more complex path, perhaps, since the MPAA does more than fighting piracy. But in theory, the MPAA could continue as is in a slimmed down version, while its anti-piracy efforts move to ACE.

For now, it’s all just speculation. But it’s clear that the MPAA has more on its mind than fighting pirates.

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