Owner of ShareBeast and AlbumJams Sentenced To Five Years in Prison

According to the RIAA, ShareBeast.com and AlbumJams.com were responsible for the illegal distribution of “a massive library” of popular albums and tracks.

With a nod to the sensitivity of pre-release piracy, the sites were blamed for offering “thousands of songs” that hadn’t yet reached their official release dates. In September 2015, U.S. authorities shut them down, placing seizure notices on both domains.

The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States, noting that the site’s IP addresses at the time indicated that at least some hosting had taken place in Illinois.

“Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music,” RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time.

Two years later in September 2017, then 29-year-old former ShareBeast operator Artur Sargsyan pleaded guilty to one felony count of criminal copyright infringement, admitting to the unauthorized distribution and reproduction of over one billion copies of copyrighted works.

“Through Sharebeast and other related sites, this defendant profited by illegally distributing copyrighted music and albums on a massive scale,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn.

“The collective work of the FBI and our international law enforcement partners have shut down the Sharebeast websites and prevented further economic losses by scores of musicians and artists.”

The Department of Justice reported that from 2012 to 2015, Sargsyan used ShareBeast as a pirate music repository, illegally hosting music by Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber, among others. Sargsyan linked to that content from Newjams.net and Albumjams.com, and granted access to the public.

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it’s possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect.

This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the DoJ that the total monetary loss to its member companies was “a conservative” $6.3 billion “gut-punch” to music creators who were paid nothing by the service.

Given the huge numbers involved, it’s likely that Sargsyan hoped his 2017 guilty plea would result in a more forgiving sentence. Yesterday, however, the full weight of the law came crashing down.

California resident Artur Sargsyan was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten, Sr., to five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The now 30-year-old was also ordered to pay $458,200 restitution and ordered to forfeit $184,768.87.

“Sargsyan operated one of the most successful illegal music sharing websites on the Internet,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.

“His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself. The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan’s operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft.”

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said that Sargsyan was warned several times that he was violating the law by illegally sharing copyrighted works, but chose to ignore the warnings.

“His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art,” LaValley said.

Given the music group’s lengthy statements on the Sharebeast topic in the past, thus far the RIAA has been relatively brief. Welcoming news of the sentencing via Twitter, the major labels’ figurehead congratulated the law enforcement bodies behind the successful prosecution.

“Congrats to U.S. Attorney BJay Pak + his team along with @TheJusticeDept CCIPS Division and @FBIAtlanta for their leadership on this important case,” the RIAA wrote.

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Release Windows of Digital Movie Downloads Are Shrinking

After a film first shows up in theaters, movie fans usually have to wait a few months before they can get a DVD or digital download, depending on the local release strategy.

This delay tactic, known as a release window, helps movie theaters to maximize their revenues. However, for many pirates, this is also a reason to turn to unauthorized sites and services.

Many of the most pirated movie titles are not yet available to buy or rent online, but they are on The Pirate Bay, Fmovies, and elsewhere. Perhaps only a fraction of these pirates would pay, if they could, but release windows are not helping.

This critique isn’t new and, according to a working paper published by Pepperdine University researchers, the tide is turning. Movie release windows are shrinking rapidly, for digital downloads at least.

In their paper titled: Popcorn or Snack? Empirical Analysis of Movie Release Windows, the researchers compared the release windows of DVDs to those of electronic sell-through movies (EST) on iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube. EST movies are also called “download to own” and have a comparable release date to rentals, in most cases.

The results show that between 2012 and 2017, the release windows for DVDs remained relatively stable at three to four months. However, for digital downloads there was a sharp decrease over the same period.

“Based on our results, the EST release date has been approaching the DVD release date at a steady and significant average rate of about 23 days per year,” the researchers write.

“Within only two years, we have seen the average EST release window shrink by more than half, from 255 days in the 2nd quarter of 2012 to 114 days in the 2nd quarter of 2014. The EST window has pretty much reached the average 113 day DVD window in our sample.”

Shrinking window

Since 2015, digital downloads actually have a slightly smaller release window than DVDs on average, making it the first release channel after movie theaters.

While this is good news for movie fans, it’s uncertain if this trend will continue. The current release windows appear to be carefully chosen to ensure that they don’t cannibalize box office revenues.

This is nicely illustrated in the figure below, which shows that 95% of all box office revenues are generated in the first two months, and 99% after four months. The optimal release window falls somewhere in the middle.

That would also explain why the DVD release window isn’t shrinking any further.

Cumulative box office revenue

The researchers see room for further improvement, however. Decreasing the video on demand release window can cost a few percents of box office revenue, at most, but it might result in a significant boost in online sales.

And with the piracy rates not showing any decline, movie studios might feel the need to experiment a little.

“Given that most of the theater revenues are captured within the first two months and given that movie piracy shows no signs of slowing down, there will be increasing pressure for studios to release movies earlier in secondary channels to increase revenues coming from these channels,” the researchers write.

The full paper, written by Dr. Nelson Granados and Dr. John Mooney, is available here.

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Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests

Despite the growing availability of legal options, online piracy remains rampant. Every day pirate sites are visited hundreds of millions of times.

Piracy tracking outfit MUSO has documented the piracy landscape with data from tens of thousands of the largest global piracy sites.

In its latest report, the company recorded more than 300 billion visits to pirate sites last year alone. This is an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2016.

More than half of all these visits (53%) are going to streaming sites, making that the most popular piracy tool. Torrent sites and direct download portals still have a significant user base, but follow at a respectable distance.

Most of the pirate visits came from the United States, followed by India and Brazil. Despite the various pirate site blockades, the UK also secured a spot in the top ten, ranked at the bottom with nine billion visits.

The top ten list favors large countries and with this in mind, there is a large player missing. China, which is often portrayed as a country where piracy is rampant, ended up in 18th place with ‘only’ 4.6 billion visits.

Visits per country

#CountryBillion visits
Data from Muso
1United States27.9
10United kingdom9.0

Muso tracks piracy trends across various media categories and has spotted some interesting trends. TV-shows remain the most popular among pirates with 106.9 billion visits last year, followed by music (73.9 billion) and film (53.2 billion).

Mobile piracy is on the rise as well. For the first time, more people were accessing pirated TV content via mobile devices (52%) where desktops used to be the favorite device. In the music category, this difference is even more pronounced, with 87% using mobile devices.

Last year desktops were still preferred among movie pirates, but MUSO expects this will change in 2018.

According to MUSO co-founder and CEO Andy Chatterley, these data show that piracy remains a sizable threat, something we also hinted at in the recent past.

“There is a belief that the rise in popularity of on-demand services – such as Netflix and Spotify – have solved piracy, but that theory simply doesn’t stack up. Our data suggest that piracy is more popular than ever,” Chatterley says.

While it’s hard to make historical comparisons without good data, it’s clear that piracy is still rampant. And with more people coming online year after year, the potential audience keeps growing.

Also, it is worth noting that the total piracy landscape is even larger than MUSO shows. In recent years many people have switched to pirate streaming boxes. These are not included in MUSO’s dataset, which relies on data provided by SimilarWeb, among other sources.

That said, the overall conclusion that the piracy audience is massive, and not to be ignored, remains the same.

“The piracy audience is huge and yet for the most part, it’s an opportunity that’s completely ignored,” Chatterley says.

“It’s important that the content industries embrace the trends emerging from this data, not only in strategic content protection, but also in understanding the profile of the piracy ‘consumer’ for better business insight and monetizing these audiences,“ MUSO’s CEO adds.

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Dotcom’s Bid to Compel Obama to Give Evidence Rejected By High Court

With former US president Barack Obama in New Zealand until Friday, the visit provided a golden opportunity for Kim Dotcom to pile on yet more pressure over the strained prosecution of both him and his defunct cloud storage site, Megaupload.

In a statement issued yesterday, Dotcom reiterated his claims that attempts to have him extradited to the United States have no basis in law, chiefly due to the fact that the online dissemination of copyright-protected works by Megaupload’s users is not an extradition offense in New Zealand.

Mainly, however, Dotcom shone yet more light on what he perceives to be the dark politics behind the case, arguing that the Obama administration was under pressure from Hollywood to do something about copyright enforcement or risk losing funding. He says they pulled out all the stops and trampled his rights to prevent that from happening.

In a lengthy affidavit, filed this week to coincide with Obama’s visit, Dotcom called on the High Court to compel the former president to give evidence in the entrepreneur’s retaliatory multi-billion dollar damages claim against the Kiwi government.

This morning, however, Chief High Court Judge, Justice Geoffrey Venning, quickly shut that effort down.

With Obama enjoying a round of golf alongside former Prime Minister and Dotcom nemesis John Key, Justice Venning declined the request to compel Obama to give evidence, whether in New Zealand during the current visit or via letter of request to judicial authorities in the United States.

In his decision, Justice Venning notes that Dotcom’s applications were filed late on March 19 and the matter was only handed to him yesterday. As a result, he convened a telephone conference this morning to “deal with the application as a matter of urgency.”

Dotcom’s legal team argued that in the absence of a Court order it’s unlikely that Obama would give evidence. Equally, given that no date has yet been set for Dotcom’s damages hearing, it will “not be practicable” to serve Obama at a later point in the United States.

Furthermore, absent an order compelling his attendance, Obama would be unlikely to be called as a witness, despite him being the most competent potential witness currently present in New Zealand.

Dotcom counsel Ron Mansfield accepted that there would be practical limitations on what could be achieved between March 21 and March 23 while Obama is in New Zealand. However, he asked that an order be granted so that it could be served while Obama is in the country, even if the examination took place at a later date.

The Judge wasn’t convinced.

“Despite Mr Mansfield’s concession, I consider the application is still premature. The current civil proceedings were only filed on 22 December 2017. The defendants have applied for an order deferring the filing of a statement of defense pending the determination of the hearing of two appeals currently before the Court of Appeal. That application is yet to be determined,” Justice Venning’s decision reads.

The Judge also questions whether evidence Obama could give would be relevant.

He notes that Dotcom’s evidence is based on the fact that Hollywood was a major benefactor of the Democratic Party in the United States and that, in his opinion, the action against Megaupload and him “met the United States’ need to appease the Hollywood lobby” and “that the United States and New Zealand’s interests were perfectly aligned.”

However, Dotcom’s transcripts of his conversations with a lobbyist, which appeared to indicate Obama’s dissatisfaction with the Megaupload prosecution, are dismissed as “hearsay evidence”. Documentation of a private lunch with Obama and the head of the MPAA is also played down.

“Mr Dotcom’s opinion that Mr Obama’s evidence will be relevant to the present claims appears at best speculative,” the Judge notes.

But even if the evidence had been stronger, Justice Venning says that Obama would need to be given time to prepare for an examination, given that it would relate to matters that occurred several years ago.

“He would need to review relevant documents and materials from the time in preparation for any examination. That confirms the current application is premature,” the Judge writes.

In support, it is noted that Dotcom knew as early as February 21 that Obama’s visit would be taking place this week, yet his application was filed just days ago.

With that, the Judge dismissed the application, allowing Obama to play golf in peace. Well, relative peace at least. Dotcom isn’t done yet.

“I am disappointed of course because I believe my affidavit contains compelling evidence of the link between the Obama administration, Hollywood, and my extradition proceeding. However, after seven years of this, I am used to fighting to get to the truth and will keep fighting. Next round!” Dotcom said in response.

“The judgment is no surprise and we’ll get the opportunity to question Obama sooner or later,” he added.

As a further indication of the international nature of Dotcom’s case, the Megaupload founder also reminded people of his former connections to Hong Kong, noting that people in power there are keeping an eye on his case.

“The Chinese Government is watching my case with interest. Expect some bold action in the Hong Kong Courts soon. Never again shall an accusation from the US DOJ be enough to destroy a Hong Kong business. That lesson will soon be learned,” he said.

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KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users to ‘Keep’ Videos

For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites.

The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows:

“KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more.”

However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice.

The old KeepVid

Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble.

“Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways,” the new KeepVid reads.

While the site already made some changes over the years, such as restricting YouTube downloads to only “shared” videos, turning the download service into a cautioning educational page is rather unexpected.

The new KeepVid

The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.

The KeepVid team isn’t commenting on the overhaul. When we asked the site about the reason for the turnaround, it confirmed that the downloading feature won’t return, but that’s about it.

“KeepVid won’t provide video/audio downloading feature from now on,” a KeepVid representative informed TorrentFreak, adding that they will focus on developing other audio and video tools going forward.

Our follow-up question asking whether the move was motivated by legal pressure remains unanswered.

As a tiny glimmer of hope, the site mentions downloading videos could become possible again if video download tools and video sharing platforms “reach an agreement” in the future.

For now, however, it’s clear that, as a download service, the site is done.

Interestingly, the paid KeepVid pro software is still available. The same is true for the video conversion software and several other tools KeepVid offers elsewhere. The KeepVid pro ‘buy’ link is no longer working though, and the team informs us that this application will also “come to its destination.”

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GearBest is celebrating it’s 4th Anniversary and on this occasion from March 20th to 26th they are offering exciting deals and offers on range of products! You can visit the 4th Anniversary Guide for a complete list of every promotion or we can try and make it easier for you.


The 4th Anniversary promotion is divided into three phases:
Preheat: 03/20 17:00 – 03/26 10:00
Formal: 03/26 10:00 – 04/02 10:00
Encore: 04/02 10:00 – 04/09 12:00

During the Preheat period(03/20-03/26 – 6 days)you can find:
1. Text Carousel: Updated every three days with 4 different products each time and 8 products in total.

2. Anniversary Flash Sale:(time limit and units limit) On the top part, two products each time and two times each day (02:00 UTC and 09:00 UTC update) will be offered starting from a super-low price. After the lowest price flash sale ended, the system will automatically appear the second lowest price. Also on the bottom part below the 2 main products, 8 products will appear each day at 9:00 UTC of each day.

3. Lucky Bags with 8 lucks bags on the page. You but for something you do not know, so I wouldn’t recommend this unless you feel very adventurous.

4. Money off special page (03/20-04/09):3 price period Coupons,for all Gearbest product (except for “flash sale”,App exclusive, E-mail only), update at 9:00 UTC (limit units)
over 50$ get 3$ off;over 100$ get 8$ off;over 200$ get 20$ off.

5. GB points lucky draw (03/20-04/02) is an addictive game like a slot machine. The rules are pretty easy:
a. 3 free chances during activity period
b. Share you post to different platform to entitle 1 chance for winning, limited to 5 share per day
c. 20 points to entitle 1 time lucky draw

6. Cool Add-ons when you spend over $60 you can get 1 add-on product for just 1.44$ and if you spend more than $100 you can get 1 add-on product for just 8.44$.

7. Giving back to Existing Most Loyal Customers (3/20 – 04/09)
MOST LOYAL CUSTOMERS ( registered at 2014~2015) 400$- 40$
ESTABLISHED CUSTOMERS ( registered at 2016) 120$-10$
RECENT CUSTOMERS ( registered at 2017) 300$-25$
For all Gearbest products (except for products already on “flash sales”) update at 9:00 UTC (limit units)

Remember we are just starting with the Gearbest’s 4th Anniversary so a lot of more offers are yet to come. But as always, you have to be fast and do not let the price change. As you, there are a lot of customers who are interested in the same products and the request is very high. For anything new, i will let you know with the upcoming article as the promotions keep changing.

Dotcom Affidavit Calls For Obama to Give Evidence in Megaupload Case

For more than six years since the raid on Megaupload, founder Kim Dotcom has insisted that the case against him, his co-defendants, and his company, was politically motivated.

The serial entrepreneur states unequivocally that former president Barack Obama’s close ties to Hollywood were the driving force.

Later today, Obama will touch down for a visit to New Zealand. In what appears to be a tightly managed affair, with heavy restrictions placed on the media and publicity, it seems clear that Obama wants to maintain control over his social and business engagements in the country.

But of course, New Zealand is home to Kim Dotcom and as someone who feels wronged by the actions of the former administration, he is determined to use this opportunity to shine more light on Obama’s role in the downfall of his company.

In a statement this morning, Dotcom reiterated his claims that attempts to have him extradited to the United States have no basis in law, chiefly due to the fact that the online dissemination of copyright-protected works by Megaupload’s users is not an extradition offense in New Zealand.

But Dotcom also attacks the politics behind his case, arguing that the Obama administration was under pressure from Hollywood to do something about copyright enforcement or risk losing financial support.

In connection with his case, Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars so while Obama is in town, Dotcom is demanding that the former president gives evidence.

Dotcom’s case is laid out in a highly-detailed sworn affidavit dated March 19, 2018. The Megaupload founder explains that Hollywood has historically been a major benefactor of the Democrats so when seeking re-election for a further term, the Democrats were under pressure from the movie companies to make an example of Megaupload and Dotcom.

Dotcom notes that while he was based in Hong Kong, extradition to the US would be challenging. So, with Dotcom seeking residence in New Zealand, a plot was hatched to allow him into the country, despite the New Zealand government knowing that a criminal prosecution lay in wait for him. Dotcom says that by doing a favor for Hollywood, it could mean that New Zealand became a favored destination for US filmmakers.

“The interests of the United States and New Zealand were therefore perfectly aligned. I provided the perfect opportunity for New Zealand to facilitate the United States’ show of force on copyright enforcement,” Dotcom writes.

Citing documents obtained from Open Secrets, Dotcom shows how the Democrats took an 81% share of more than $46m donated to political parties in the US during the 2008 election cycle. In the 2010 cycle, 76% of more than $24m went to the Democrats and in 2012, they scooped up 78% of more than $56m.

Dotcom then recalls the attempts at passing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would have shifted the enforcement of copyright onto ISPs, assisting Hollywood greatly. Ultimately, Congressional support for the proposed legislation was withdrawn and Dotcom recalls this was followed by a public threat from the MPAA to withdraw campaign contributions on which the Democrats were especially reliant.

“The message to the White House was plain: do not expect funding if you do not advance the MPAA’s legislative agenda. On 20 January 2012, the day after this statement, I was arrested,” Dotcom notes.

Describing Megaupload as a highly profitable and innovative platform that highlighted copyright owners’ failure to keep up with the way in which content is now consumed, Dotcom says it made the perfect target for the Democrats.

Convinced the party was at the root of his prosecution, he utilized his connections in Hong Kong to contact Thomas Hart, a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington, D.C. with strong connections to the Democrats and the White House.

Dotcom said a telephone call between him and Mr Hart revealed that then Vice President Joe Biden was at the center of Dotcom’s prosecution but that Obama was dissatisfied with the way things had been handled.

“Biden did admit to have… you know, kind of started it, you know, along with support from others but it was Biden’s decision…,” Hart allegedly said.

“What he [President Obama] expressed to me was a growing concern about the matter. He indicated an awareness of that it had not gone well, that it was more complicated than he thought, that he will turn his attention to it more prominently after November.”

Dotcom says that Obama was “questioning the whole thing,” a suggestion that he may not have been fully committed to the continuing prosecution.

The affidavit then lists a whole series of meetings in 2011, documented in the White House visitor logs. They include meetings with then United States Attorney Neil McBride, various representatives from Hollywood, MPAA chief Chris Dodd, Mike Ellis of the MPA (who was based in Hong Kong and had met with New Zealand’s then Minister of Justice, Simon Power) and the Obama administration.

In summary, Dotcom suggests there was a highly organized scheme against him, hatched between Hollywood and the Obama administration, that had the provision of funds to win re-election at its heart.

From there, an intertwined agreement was reached at the highest levels of both the US and New Zealand governments where the former would benefit through tax concessions to Hollywood (and a sweetening of relations between the countries) and the latter would benefit financially through investment.

All New Zealand had to do was let Dotcom in for a while and then hand him over to the United States for prosecution. And New Zealand definitely knew that Dotcom was wanted by the US. Emails obtained by Dotcom concerning his residency application show that clearly.

“Kim DOTCOM is not of security concern but is likely to soon become the subject of a joint FBI / NZ Police criminal investigation. We have passed this over to NZ Police,” one of the emails reads. Another, well over a year before the raid, also shows the level of knowledge.

Bad but wealthy, so we have plans for him…

With “political pressure” to grant Dotcom’s application in place, Immigration New Zealand finally gave the Megaupload founder the thumbs-up on November 1, 2010. Dotcom believes that New Zealand was concerned he may have walked away from his application.

“This would have been of grave concern to the Government, which, at that time, was in negotiations with Hollywood lobby,” his affidavit reads.

“The last thing they would have needed at that delicate stage of the negotiations was for me to walk away from New Zealand and return to Hong Kong, where extradition would be more difficult. I believe that this concern is what prompted the ‘political pressure’ that led to my application finally being granted despite the presence of factors that would have caused anyone else’s application to have been rejected.”

Dotcom says that after being granted residency, there were signs things weren’t going to plan for him. The entrepreneur applied to buy his now-famous former mansion for NZ$37m, an application that was initially approved. However, after being passed to Simon Power, the application was denied.

“It would appear that, although my character was apparently good enough for me to be granted residence in November 2010, in July 2011 it was not considered good enough for me to buy property in New Zealand,” Dotcom notes.

“The Honourable Mr Power clearly did not want me purchasing $37 million of real estate, presumably because he knew that the United States was going to seek forfeiture of my assets and he did not want what was then the most expensive property in New Zealand being forfeited to the United States government.”

Of course, Dotcom concludes by highlighting the unlawful spying by New Zealand’s GCSB spy agency and the disproportionate use of force displayed by the police when they raided him in 2010 using dozens of armed officers. This, combined with all of the above, means that questions about his case must now be answered at the highest levels. With Obama in town, there’s no time like the present.

“As the evidence above demonstrates, this improper purpose which was then embraced by the New Zealand authorities, originated in the White House under the Obama administration. It is therefore necessary to examine Mr Obama in this proceeding,” Dotcom concludes.

Press blackouts aside, it appears that Obama has rather a lot of golf lined up for the coming days. Whether he’ll have any time to answer Dotcom’s questions is one thing but whether he’ll even be asked to is perhaps the most important point of all.

The full affidavit and masses of supporting evidence can be found here.

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How The Pirate Bay Helped Spotify Become a Success

When Spotify launched its first beta in the fall of 2008, many people were blown away by its ease of use.

With the option to stream millions of tracks supported by an occasional ad, or free of ads for a small subscription fee, Spotify offered something that was more convenient than piracy.

In the years that followed, Spotify rolled out its music service in more than 60 countries, amassing over 160 million users. While the service is often billed as a piracy killer, ironically, it also owes its success to piracy.

As a teenager, Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek was fascinated by Napster, which triggered a piracy revolution in the late nineties. Napster made all the music in the world accessible in a few clicks, something Spotify also set out to do a few years later, legally.

“I want to replicate my first experience with piracy,” Ek told Businessweek years ago. “What eventually killed it was that it didn’t work for the people participating with the content. The challenge here is about solving both of those things.”

While the technical capabilities were certainly there, the main stumbling block was getting the required licenses. The music industry hadn’t had a lot of good experiences with the Internet a decade ago so there was plenty of hesitation.

The same was true of Sweden, where The Pirate Bay had just gained a lot of traction. There was a pro-sharing culture being cultivated by Piratbyrån, Swedish for the Piracy Bureau, which was the driving force behind the torrent site in the early days.

After the first Pirate Bay raid in 2006, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Stockholm to declare their support for the site and their right to share.

Pro-piracy protest in Stockholm (Jon Åslund, CC BY 2.5)

Interestingly, however, this pro-piracy climate turned out to be in Spotify’s favor. In a detailed feature in the Swedish newspaper Breakit Per Sundin, CEO of Sony BMG at the time, suggests that The Pirate Bay helped Spotify.

“If Pirate Bay had not existed or made such a mess in the market, I don’t think Spotify would have seen the light of the day. You wouldn’t get the licenses you wanted,” Sundin said.

With music industry revenues dropping, record labels had to fire hundreds of people. They were becoming desperate and were looking for change, something Spotify was promising.

At the time, the idea of having millions of songs readily and legally available was totally new. Many immediately saw it as an “alternative to music piracy” and even Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde was impressed.

“It was great. It was always what was missing in the pirate services, that intuitive interface,” Sunde told Breakit.

Sunde also believed that The Pirate Bay and all the buzz around piracy in Sweden was a great boon to Spotify. But while the latter turned into a billion-dollar business that’s about to go public, Sunde and the other TPB founders still owe the labels millions in damages.

“Without file-sharing, The Pirate Bay and the political work done by Piratbyrån, it was not possible to get the licensing agreements Spotify received,” Sunde said. “Sometimes I think I should have received 10, 20 or 30 percent of Spotify, as a thank you for the help.”

In addition to creating the right climate for the major record labels to get on board, The Pirate Bay also appears to have been of more practical assistance.

When Spotify first launched several people noticed that some tracks still had tags from pirate groups such as FairLight in the title. Those are not the files you expect the labels to offer, but files that were on The Pirate Bay.

Also, Spotify mysteriously offered music from a band that decided to share their music on The Pirate Bay, instead of the usual outlets. There’s only one place that could have originated from.

The Pirate Bay.

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Pirate Site Visits Lead to More Malware, Research Finds

In recent years copyright holders have been rather concerned with the health of pirates’ computers.

They regularly highlight reports which show that pirate sites are rife with malware and even alert potential pirates-to-be about the dangers of these sites.

The recent “Meet The Malwares” campaign, targeted at small children, went as far as claiming that pirate sites are the number one way through which this malicious software is spread. We debunked this claim, but it’s hard to deny that pirate sites have their downsides.

While the operators of pirate sites are usually unaware, advertisers and malicious uploaders sometimes use their sites to distribute adware or malware. But does that put people at significant risk? Research from Carnegie Mellon University Professor Rahul Telang provides some further insight.

For a year, Telang observed the browsing and other computer habits of 253 people who took part in the Security Behavior Observatory. The results, published in a paper titled “Does Online Piracy make Computers Insecure?” show that there is a link between pirate site visits and malware.

“We find that more visits to infringing sites does lead to more number of malware files being downloaded on user machines. In particular doubling the amount of time spent on infringing sites cause a 20 percent increase in malware count,” Telang writes.

This effect was only visible for pirate sites, and not for other categories such as banking, gambling, gaming, shopping, social networking, and even adult websites.

Through the Security Behavior Observatory, all files on the respondents’ computers were scanned and checked against reports from Virustotal.com. This also includes adware, but even without this category, the results remain intact.

“Even after we classify malware files into adware and remove them from analysis, our results still suggest that there is a 20 percent increase in malware count due to visits to infringing sites. These results are robust to various controls and specifications.”

Interestingly, one would expect that people who frequently visit pirate sites are more likely to have anti-virus software installed. However, this was not the case.

“We also find that users who visit infringing sites do not take any more precautions than other users. In particular, we find no evidence that such users are more likely to install anti-virus software. If anything, we find that infringing users are more risk taking,” the paper reads.

A 20 percent increase in malware sounds dramatic, and while we don’t want to downplay these results or the risks involved, it’s worth highlighting the absolute numbers.

The research estimates that, when someone doubles the amount of traffic spent on a pirate site, this person adds an extra 0.05 of a piece of malware per month, with the average being 0.24. So, most people encounter no malware in a typical month. This means that pirate sites are an increased a risk, but it’s not as extreme as sometimes portrayed.

There is also no evidence that malware is predominantly spread through pirate sites. Looking at the total sample, the average number of malware files found on a pirate’s machine is 1.5, compared to 1.4 for those who never visit any pirate sites at all.

While there’s certainly some risk involved, it’s doubtful that the results will deter many people. Previous research revealed that the majority of all pirates are fully aware of the malware risks, but that they continue nonetheless.

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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Founder of Fan-Made Subtitle Site Lose Copyright Infringement Appeal

For millions of people around the world, subtitles are the only way to enjoy media in languages other than that in the original production. For the deaf and hard of hearing, they are absolutely essential.

Movie and TV show companies tend to be quiet good at providing subtitles eventually but in line with other restrictive practices associated with their industry, it can often mean a long wait for the consumer, particularly in overseas territories.

For this reason, fan-made subtitles have become somewhat of a cottage industry in recent years. Where companies fail to provide subtitles quickly enough, fans step in and create them by hand. This has led to the rise of a number of subtitling platforms, including the now widely recognized Undertexter.se in Sweden.

The platform had its roots back in 2003 but first hit the headlines in 2013 when Swedish police caused an uproar by raiding the site and seizing its servers.

“The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,” site founder Eugen Archy said at the time.

Vowing to never give up in the face of pressure from the authorities, anti-piracy outfit Rättighetsalliansen (Rights Alliance), and companies including Nordisk Film, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Warner, Archy said that the battle over what began as a high school project would continue.

“No Hollywood, you played the wrong card here. We will never give up, we live in a free country and Swedish people have every right to publish their own interpretations of a movie or TV show,” he said.

It took four more years but in 2017 the Undertexter founder was prosecuted for distributing copyright-infringing subtitles while facing a potential prison sentence.

Things didn’t go well and last September the Attunda District Court found him guilty and sentenced the then 32-year-old operator to probation. In addition, he was told to pay 217,000 Swedish krona ($26,400) to be taken from advertising and donation revenues collected through the site.

Eugen Archy took the case to appeal, arguing that the Svea Hovrätt (Svea Court of Appeal) should acquit him of all the charges and dismiss or at least reduce the amount he was ordered to pay by the lower court. Needless to say, this was challenged by the prosecution.

On appeal, Archy agreed that he was the person behind Undertexter but disputed that the subtitle files uploaded to his site infringed on the plaintiffs’ copyrights, arguing they were creative works in their own right.

While to an extent that may have been the case, the Court found that the translations themselves depended on the rights connected to the original work, which were entirely held by the relevant copyright holders. While paraphrasing and parody might be allowed, pure translations are completely covered by the rights in the original and cannot be seen as new and independent works, the Court found.

The Svea Hovrätt also found that Archy acted intentionally, noting that in addition to administering the site and doing some translating work himself, it was “inconceivable” that he did not know that the subtitles made available related to copyrighted dialog found in movies.

In conclusion, the Court of Appeal upheld Archy’s copyright infringement conviction (pdf, Swedish) and sentenced him to probation, as previously determined by the Attunda District Court.

Last year, the legal status of user-created subtitles was also tested in the Netherlands. In response to local anti-piracy outfit BREIN forcing several subtitling groups into retreat, a group of fansubbers decided to fight back.

After raising their own funds, in 2016 the “Free Subtitles Foundation” (Stichting Laat Ondertitels Vrij – SLOV) took the decision to sue BREIN with the hope of obtaining a favorable legal ruling.

In 2017 it all fell apart when the Amsterdam District Court handed down its decision and sided with BREIN on each count.

The Court found that subtitles can only be created and distributed after permission has been obtained from copyright holders. Doing so outside these parameters amounts to copyright infringement.

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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