EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 2Through a series of new proposals, the European Commission is working hard to modernize EU copyright law.

These plans have not been without controversy. In particular, Article 13 of the proposed Copyright Directive has been widely criticized as it would pressure online services to monitor and filter uploaded content.

The article states that online services are liable for any uploaded content unless they take “effective and proportionate” action to prevent copyright infringements, as identified by copyright holders.

That also includes preventing allegedly infringing files from being reuploaded, which implies some form of hash filtering and continuous monitoring of all user uploads.

Today, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament (JURI) voted on the issue. With a 15 to 10 majority, the Article 13 proposal of Rapporteur Voss was adopted. This means that the plans move ahead in their current form, despite massive public outcry.

Over the past year, we have repeatedly covered the widespread opposition. Legal scholars, digital activists, politicians, all worried that the upload restrictions would violate the rights of regular Internet users.

In recent weeks, the wave of protests swelled. More prominent figures sounded the alarm bell, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, the Internet Archive’s Brewster Kahle, and Jimmy Wales from Wikipedia.

The campaign was picked up by the public as well. Roughly 320,000 people have signed petitions urging lawmakers to reject the plans and over the last week more than 50,000 tweets went up mentioning the #SaveYourInternet hashtag.

In addition to Article 13, there was also considerable pushback against Article 11, which is regularly referred to as the “link tax.” This proposal was accepted as well, with a 13 to 12 majority.

Now that the proposal has passed the Committee the plans will move to plenary before progressing towards the final vote on copyright reform next spring.

It also means that they are now much harder to stop or change. That has been done before, such as with ACTA, but achieving that type of momentum will be a tough challenge.

Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, who suggested alternatives to the controversial proposals, is disappointed with the outcome. However, she’s not giving up yet.

“These measures will break the internet. People will run into trouble doing everyday things like discussing the news and expressing themselves online. Locking down our freedom to participate to serve the special interests of large media companies is unacceptable,” Reda says.

“I will challenge this outcome and request a vote in the European Parliament next month. We can still overturn this result and preserve the free internet.”

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 7Soon after the turn of the century, P2P consumption of unlicensed media quickly dominated the file-sharing landscape.

The BitTorrent protocol emerged as the unchallenged kind of peer-to-peer transfers and for many years no rival could get anywhere near its level of market saturation.

Then, soon after the turn of the decade, the tide began to turn. With cheaper, faster bandwidth becoming increasingly available to a broader user base, opportunities to stream content directly from websites gathered unprecedented momentum. What began several years earlier as a relatively niche activity, soon turned into a content monster.

This critical shift in consumption habits was interesting on several fronts, not least since it made piracy accessible to relative novices via the growing Internet-enabled set-top box market.

As a result, illegal streaming is now considered one of the major threats, but various pro-copyright groups are concerned that current legislation doesn’t go far enough to tackle those involved in supply.

The problem was summed up in April 2015 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee by then-Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante.

“Currently, criminals who engage in unlawful internet streaming can only be charged with a misdemeanor, even though those who unlawfully reproduce and distribute copyrighted material can be charged with a felony,” Pallante said.

“This distinction makes no sense. As streaming becomes a dominant method of obtaining content online, unlawful streaming has no less of an adverse impact on the rights of copyright owners than unlawful distribution.”

In a new paper published by the Free State Foundation (FSF), a think tank founded in 2006 which receives regular donations from the MPAA, streaming is again described as a misdemeanor offense and one that should be taken more seriously to protect copyright holders.

In its report ‘Modernizing Criminal Copyright Law to Combat Online Piracy’, FSF notes that copyright holders face difficulties prosecuting mass-scale willful infringement via civil lawsuits. So, to give them the assistance they require, Congress should upgrade piracy via streaming to a felony offense.

“Congress should update criminal copyright law to better address growing copyright piracy taking place through online streaming sites and enabled by illicit streaming devices,” FSF writes.

“Currently, willful copyright infringement via online streaming is only a misdemeanor, whereas willful infringement via digital downloading is a felony when statutory minimums are satisfied.

“This disparate treatment of streaming and downloading has no principled basis. Consumers increasingly access copyrighted video and music through streaming.”

FSF states that punishments for misdemeanor copyright infringement (willful infringements of exclusive rights other than reproduction and distribution) include up to a year of prison and a fine of up to $100,000, or both.

Punishments for felony copyright infringement usually include up to five years in prison or a $250,000 fine, or both. Due to its scope, the latter option for serious offenses is viewed by FSF as a more significant deterrent that can better protect copyright holders.

“By making willful infringement of multiple or high value copyrighted works via online streaming a felony, Congress would empower law enforcement to better combat black market online traffickers in copyrighted content,” FSF adds.

In addition to the more severe sentencing of those who stream to the public, FSF would like to see law enforcement given more tools to catch them in the act in the first instance. In some quarters, its suggestions are likely to be viewed as extremely controversial.

“Additionally, Congress should consider providing federal law enforcement with more tools, including the authority to seek wiretaps to obtain evidence of suspected criminal copyright activities, to combat online piracy. Similar wiretap authority already exists in the case of theft of trade secrets and economic espionage,” FSF writes.

The report isn’t specific as to which players should be disrupted via such legislation, but repeated references to piracy-enabled set-top boxes, addon-enabled software, hosting services and others in the streaming ecosystem indicates a tendency towards plugging loopholes across the board in a largely untested and still-developing market.

What also seems clear is a desire to shift enforcement costs onto the state, rather than them being carried entirely by copyright holders who would otherwise have to engage in difficult and expensive civil litigation.

“Despite suffering substantial harm on account of online piracy, copyright owners are often ill-equipped and financially unable to combat such piracy through civil lawsuits,” FSF reports.

“Pirates of copyrighted content are not often amenable to service of process and to civil litigation. Unsurprisingly, many technically sophisticated online piracy operations are designed to avoid accountability to copyright holders and to the civil justice system.

“Thus, circumstances clearly exist in which the civil justice system is inadequate or unable to address or combat online piracy operations.”

While the terminology used in the FSF report can at times suggest a tightening of the law against those who stream to the public and those who consume streaming content, it eventually makes clear that such legislation should be directed “to online traffickers in copyrighted content, not individual Internet users.”

It also states that “reasonable safe harbor provisions” should exist for online service providers to receive immunity from criminal and civil liability, providing they remove or disable access to infringing content when advised by a rightsholder.

Considering the donations FSF receives from the MPAA, it’s probably safe to assume that the report’s recommendations are broadly aligned with those of the Hollywood group. In that respect, it’s interesting that the studios feel that current law exposes them in some way.

Thus far, tools to tackle administrators of pirate streaming sites in the US don’t appear to have been lacking but perhaps there is currently a little too much room for maneuver.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf)

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 12Back in April, pay TV company Foxtel filed the latest in a series of blocking applications, this time targeting more than two dozen domain names facilitating access to 15 torrent and streaming services.

To save on time and costs, Foxtel envisioned things going a little bit differently this time around. The company didn’t want to have expert witnesses present in court and asked whether live demonstrations of websites could be replaced by videos and screenshots instead.

Foxtel also said that if the ISPs expected to block the domains agree, it wouldn’t serve its evidence on them as it had done previously.

The company then asked Justice Nicholas to deal with the entire injunction application “on paper.” He declined, instead scheduling a hearing to take place today.

As hoped by Foxtel, events were indeed more streamlined. According to a ZDNet report, the hearing lasted for just an hour, with no live website demonstrations and the requested videos being allowed.

The application targeted 15 torrent site domains and ten streaming sites located overseas (a requirement for blocking under Australian law), each of which “unashamedly and flagrantly” infringes copyright.

ComputerWorld lists the torrent sites as ETTV, MagnetDL, Torrent Download (possibly TorrentDownloads.me), Torrent Room (TorrentRoom.com), and Torrents.me. A domain facilitating access to the previously-blocked Pirate Bay was also included in the application.

Also demonstrated in Court was a search bar that can be used to access content on torrent sites including 1337x and The Pirate Bay. No further details on the bar have been made available, but as a standalone item, blocking seems unlikely.

The streaming services targeted by Foxtel include HDO, HDEuropix, 123Hulu, Watch32, Sockshare, NewEpisodes, 1Movies, 5Movies, WatchFreeMovies and SeriesTop. They represent just a handful of the hundreds of similar domains offering streaming today.

Both the torrent and streaming sites stand accused of facilitating access to a range of popular TV shows including Game of Thrones, Grey’s Anatomy and Fear the Walking Dead plus movies including Jason Bourne, Pacific Rim, and Red Sparrow.

Under Section 115a of the Copyright Act, Foxtel wants the usual ISPs – Optus, Vocus, Telstra, TPG plus their subsidiaries – to render the sites inaccessible by the usual means.

None were present in Court today, and none turned up at the case management hearing on Friday either. It’s a pattern that’s likely to continue moving forward.

Due to no special systems or technology being deployed by any of the websites in question, the application is expected to run smoothly. Indeed, reports suggest that Justice Nicholas could hand down a decision as soon as 21 June.

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 17To protect copyright holders, YouTube uses an advanced piracy recognition system that flags and disables videos which are used without permission.

This system, known as Content ID, works well most of the time, but it is far from perfect.

It’s not well equipped to determine whether content deployment is protected under ‘fair use’, and in some cases it even views white noise or birds chirping as piracy.

Over the past several days, an even more worrying trend has appeared. Several popular YouTube accounts including those belonging to ‘MIT OpenCourseWare‘ and the ‘Blender Foundation,’ have suddenly had all their videos blocked.

People who try to watch one of the freely available MIT courses on YouTube get the following message, which typically appears if an uploader doesn’t have the rights to show content locally.

“This video contains content from MIT. It is not available in your country.”

The message appears in all locations that we were able to check, suggesting that it may very well apply worldwide. In any case, on social media there’s no shortage of people mentioning that they can no longer access the courses.

Blocked courseware…

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The issue hasn’t gone unnoticed by MIT’s OpenCourseWare team which is investigating the matter, without pointing fingers.

“You may have noticed that we are having some trouble with our videos! Please stand by. The elves are working around the clock to fix the issue,” they write, referring people to non-video content in the meantime.

Interestingly, the MIT case doesn’t appear to be an isolated incident. Another organization that was hit by the same mysterious blocking efforts is the Blender Foundation.

The nonprofit organization, which is leading the development of the open source 3D content-creation application Blender, has also had its videos blocked.

Ton Roosendaal, Chairman of the Blender Foundation, noticed the issue on Saturday and contacted YouTube. “This is most probably an error from their side,” Roosendaal said.

At the time of writing, the issue still hasn’t been resolved.

What the heck…

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Both organizations have verified YouTube accounts and many subscribers, which makes them high profile targets. However, two days have passed and it’s still unclear what’s going on.

The blocking message is part of YouTube’s piracy filter system, but why it was triggered is unknown. As the original publishers, both certainly have the right to publish the videos in question.

Looking even further, we were able to spot dozens of accounts which show similar “blocking” messages. They include verified ones, such as India’s Press Information Bureau, soccer club Sparta Praha, and England Rugby.

TorrentFreak reached out to YouTube to ask why the videos of these accounts have been blocked but at the time of publication, we had yet to hear back. Something appears to be awfully wrong though.

The timing of the incident is interesting, to say the least. This week there’s an important vote scheduled in the European Parliament, which will determine the course of EU copyright law.

One of the most contested changes is the so-called “upload filter,” which is detailed in Article 13 of the copyright reform proposal. According to opponents, such YouTube-like piracy filters are a threat to free speech.

These apparent “mistakes” show that there is a point to that.

Ironically, even French politicians, who were expected to vote in favor of the upload filters, may now reconsider their stance after YouTube temporarily disabled their account following three copyright strikes.

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 24In this day and age, aspiring artists have access to a wide variety of tools they can use to create a decent product.

Creating something is easy, but the real challenge is to escape obscurity and get noticed by the public.

Traditionally, this task has been fulfilled by major publishers and other media distributors, but there are also alternative routes.

The stories of YouTube sensations who turned into their own media empires come to mind. But in darker corners of the web, which are mostly associated with piracy, there are success stories too.

This week we spoke to Italian author Wallace Lee, whose unofficial Rambo-prequel “Rambo Year One” received great reviews after relying on torrents as a main distribution channel.

Lee’s story starts several years ago, when he began publishing short Rambo stories on a personal blog hosted by WordPress. It was fan-fiction in its purest form, but the author soon realized that not everyone was happy with his work.

“Two years before free-sharing my first novel, I had a blog where I used to post my Rambo prequel short tales for free. And yet, a few months later, my site was shut down because the laws in the US allow copyright owners to stop fanfiction too, and even if it’s just for free.”

It turned out that a rightsholder objected to his use of the Rambo character. While Lee doesn’t recall the sender of the notice, it meant that he could no longer publish his work as he pleased.

Caught in a copyright stranglehold, the author felt limited in his creative expression. Ironically, he saw torrents as his way out. If he published his works on The Pirate Bay, copyright holders couldn’t touch him, he thought.

It was a defiant thought, which may have worked, but luckily for him, it didn’t get that far. Instead of becoming a ‘pirate writer,’ Lee received permission from David Morrell, author of the novel “First Blood” on which the Rambo empire was built.

“Frankly, I feel very lucky things ended up this way because I did not want to be at war with the same guys who owned Rambo in the first place,” Lee tells TorrentFreak.

With permission to freely share his book, the unofficial Rambo-prequel was finally released. While Lee no longer had to turn to piracy, he was still committed to using torrent sites to get exposure and escape obscurity.

That worked to a certain degree. The book was picked up here and there, but without a major publisher, it was hard to be taken seriously by literary critics.

“The prejudice was extremely harsh and lasted for a very long time. For one whole year at least, I was just ‘the crazy guy who was writing a Rambo-prequel saga for nothing’,” Lee says.

That changed when the author started to point people toward the historical accuracy of the book, which has the Vietnam war as the backdrop, and using that as one of the main selling points.

“Everyone was astonished by the idea that a Rambo prequel aspired to be a good historical novel too, and that was when important people decided to finally give me a chance. And when they did, they were pleased.”

This eventually led to more and more positive reviews, including a reading recommendation from the Calvino literary awards in Italy.

Recognition

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Looking back, Lee doesn’t think he would have come this far without torrents. They helped, not only to keep distribution costs low, but also to make his work visible to an audience of millions.

“Torrents helped a lot, and they’re still doing so in terms of distribution. Distribution is the most important part of the success of ANY artwork: books, music, films, everything,” Lee tells us.

“Torrents solved the problem by making my work worldwide both visible and available at the same time. Without the torrents, thousands of people in the world would have never found my websites and novels on the internet.”

Now, a few years later, the book has been translated by fans into two more languages, German and Spanish. They are all available for free in Epub, Mobi, and Pdf format, and the author uploaded new torrents on several sites just last week.

Rambo Year One

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In addition to public sites such as The Pirate Bay, 1337X and Ettv, Lee also uploaded the release to the Italian private tracker TNT Village, which helped him a lot over the years.

Looking back, the whole experience has been a great success. In addition to getting recognized internationally as an Italian author, he is now in talks with several publishing companies to publish his non-Rambo novels.

Lee currently accepts donations on his site, where people can also find his other novels, for free. He never made a penny from the Rambo-prequel though, and never intended to. What he got instead was worth much more than that.

“Receiving words of appreciation from actual US veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for your Rambo-prequel novels, has no price,” Lee says.

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applanetAssisted by police in France and the Netherlands, the FBI took down the “pirate” Android stores Appbucket, Applanet, and SnappzMarket during the summer of 2012.

During the years that followed several people connected to the Android app sites were arrested and indicted, resulting in prison sentences for some.

SnappzMarket’s Scott Walton was handed a 46-month prison sentence for conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, and his colleague Joshua Taylor was sentenced to a 16-month term.

While some defendants pleaded guilty in order to get a reduced sentence, not all did. David Lee, a California man linked to Applanet, decided to fight the case instead, and not without success.

The US Government had charged Lee with aiding and abetting criminal copyright infringement (pdf). In addition, he was charged with conspiring to infringe copyrights and violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

As the case progressed, it became clear that the U.S. Government’s evidence wasn’t as strong as initially thought. Before the trial even started, the prosecution voluntarily dropped the criminal copyright infringement charge.

What remained was the conspiracy charge, but after hearing evidence and testimony from both sides of the case, the jury was unable to issue a unanimous decision. As a result, the case ended in a mistrial two years ago.

The Department of Justice did not let the case go though. Soon after the mistrial, it informed the court that it would re-try Lee. This second trial was delayed a few times but never took place.

Instead, the US Government asked the court to dismiss the indictment against the alleged pirate app store operator, without providing any context. This request was granted earlier this week, which means that Lee is relieved of all charges.

It is not clear what moved the US to dismiss the case. TorrentFreak contacted both Lee’s lawyers and the US Department of Justice for comment, but at the time of publication, we have yet to hear back.

However, with the indictment dismissed, Lee can close this chapter of his life after nearly six years.

Indictment dismissed

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 36With the online piracy wars about to enter their third decade, there’s an increasing emphasis on pressurizing influential third-parties to tackle the problem.

As a result, much blame is laid at the feet of companies like Google, who are regularly blamed for not doing more to tackle infringements carried out by individuals and entities outside of their control.

Search results are a particularly sticky subject. Google, Bing, and Yahoo, for example, wish to provide the most comprehensive indexes possible. On the flip side, entertainment industry companies insist that those indexes shouldn’t help people find pirated content. If they do, it’s argued that these companies act as piracy facilitators.

This familiar battle is now underway in Russia, where Yandex is in receipt of a strongly-worded letter which accuses the search giant of being a big part of the piracy problem.

According to local publication Vedomosti, the letter is signed by Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry, Alexei Byrdin, general director of the Internet Video Association, Sergei Selyanov, director of the Association of Film and Television Producers, and Pavel Stepanov, president of the Media Communication Union.

The entertainment giants explain that due to ‘pirate’ search results appearing in its indexes, Yandex is contributing to the growth of online piracy. They want the company to show responsibility by adopting measures to both find and remove infringing links from search and related products.

“We urge Yandex to use all available methods to detect illegal content and eliminate it both from search results and from the applications and services of Yandex,” the letter reads.

It’s suggested that Yandex should take a similar path to that taken by search companies in the UK, via the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding which declares common interests in fighting piracy.

Yandex won’t be alone, however.

A spokesman for the Media and Communications Union, which is one of the groups behind the letter, told Vedomosti that a similar letter would be sent to Google in the near future. Needless to say, Google is no stranger to these kinds of allegations, whether in Europe or the United States.

In the letter, search engines like Yandex are accused of promoting illegal resources over legal content, resulting in revenue being siphoned away from legitimate players and into the hands of criminals. The search engine is also accused of taking down material in response to demands under the DMCA, but not doing enough in Russia.

“Yandex actively cooperates with copyright holders and is working to improve the culture of legal content consumption,” the company said in a statement, adding that it actually stands to benefit from ads promoting sales of non-infringing content.

“Yandex stands for an honest Internet, in which quality legal content is available to the user and rightsholders earn from that legitimate consumption,” the company said.

Unlike in the United States under the DMCA, content isn’t as readily taken down in Russia. Yandex also opposes filtering search results, warning that the system is easily abused by rightsholders and others looking to stifle competition.

That being said, Yandex says that rightsholders are welcome to take advantage of the local site-blocking mechanism which tackles both source sites and their mirrors. With these inaccessible, ‘pirate’ search results become useless.

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 41Founded around the turn of the last century, Soulseek is a small dinosaur in the file-sharing world.

Created by former Napster programmer Nir Arbel, the application swiftly turned into a tight community of music fans, which is still active today.

Over the years Soulseek operators Nir and Roz Arbel have seen other file-sharing tools come and go, but all this time they remained dedicated to their principles. Despite its name, Soulseek had long found its purpose.

While it kept a relatively low profile, Soulseek is not immune to the “stigma” that comes with being a file-sharing tool. In 2015, PayPal cut off its ability to collect donations, claiming that sharing tools required pre-approval, even though that policy didn’t exist when it signed up.

Soulseek is not a profit-oriented platform but donations are welcomed. Without PayPal, this became a challenge, but luckily for the developers, the Electonic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was able to intervene.

February 2016 everything returned to normal when the PayPal account was restored, for a while at least. Earlier his year, PayPal apparently changed its mind and booted the application once again.

Soulseek operator Roz Arbel was told that the application violated the payment service’s acceptable use policy and that ‘pre-approval’ was required for ‘file-sharing’ tools. It was pretty much the same recycled argument from years before.

Faced with this deja-vu, Soulseek turned to EFF for help once again, but this time PayPal wouldn’t budge.

“PayPal made it clear that they’re not willing to offer Soulseek financial services any longer. The company did give the Arbels access to their funds and tax documentation, after a request from EFF,” the digital rights group writes.

EFF asked whether PayPal’s latest ban was linked to a concrete copyright complaint, but the payment processor didn’t provide any further information. It just confirmed that Soulseek was banned, apparently for good.

This stance doesn’t come as a complete surprise. PayPal is widely known for its aggressive stance towards BitTorrent sites, Usenet providers and file-hosting services after all.

While some cases may be clearer than others, EFF sees the Soulseek example as a clear illustration of financial censorship.

“What the Arbels are experiencing is a form of financial censorship that has, unfortunately, become increasingly widespread. Following the law isn’t enough—PayPal apparently expects a small message board service with a file-sharing function to do far more than the law requires.”

“PayPal explained to us that they will cut off sites that ‘allow for the transfer or download of copyrighted material.’ Taken literally, that’s a staggeringly broad claim,” EFF writes.

EFF points out that pretty much all content on the Internet is automatically copyrighted. Still, there are thousands of online services that allow people to share it. Downloading copyrighted material is also possible on Dropbox and Google Drive, for example.

In PayPal’s policy, the company suggests that merchants must have a procedure to both “monitor” the files on their service and “remove or otherwise prevent access” to copyright-infringing work. Perhaps that’s where Soulseek goes wrong, but that wouldn’t be fair according to EFF.

“If payment processors were to cut off Internet services simply because they could be used for copyright infringement, a huge swath of the web would lose the ability to accept payments,” EFF writes.

“As a matter of policy, Soulseek respects its users’ privacy by not surveilling their conversations or file exchanges. Violating users’ privacy shouldn’t be the price of entry for using a payment processor.”

It’s clear that Soulseek and PayPal have parted ways. While EFF may not be able to change that, it encourages PayPal and other Internet companies to be more transparent about when and how often they terminate accounts due to complaints from governments or copyright holders.

PayPal’s file-sharing service policy

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 47The UK has some of the toughest intellectual property legislation to be found anywhere in the world and rightsholders have plenty of options available, from civil action through to criminal referrals.

For the past several years the government has also shown a willingness to engage with the private sector in respect of online piracy. It has provided funding and resources to initiatives including the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the multi-faceted Operation Creative, a commitment that looks set to continue.

At the heart of many of these matters sits the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the government department responsible for copyrights, trademarks, patents and designs. This week the IPO published two documents, one detailing its corporate plan for 2018-2019 and the other outlining its overall strategy to 2021. Both contain statements relating to online copyright enforcement.

“IP matters. It touches everything that makes modern life, easier, safer, prosperous and more enjoyable,” the IPO Strategy 2018 report begins.

“Our work gives researchers, inventors and creators, whether as individuals or businesses, the confidence to invest their time, energy and money in doing something new and making life better.”

The IPO says its aim is to help the UK become the most creative and innovative country in the world by providing excellent IP services, a world-leading IP environment, and by making the IPO itself a great place to work. Much of the information in the reports focuses on how that progress will be made in the broader sense, including via the reduction of IP crime and infringement.

The IPO believes this can be achieved in a number of ways, including by investing in enforcement and improving access to enforcement options for rights holders. Investment in intelligence and an increased capacity for strategic leadership are foreseen, in addition to spending boosts to convince everyone that infringement is unacceptable.

“We will work towards a time where infringement is seen as socially unacceptable by all,” the IPO writes.

Periodically over the past couple of years, the government has stepped into the middle of disputes between rightsholders and Internet intermediaries, suggesting that if agreements to curb piracy aren’t reached, legislation could follow.

The IPO sees this kind of work continuing over the next couple of years with an offer to “broker greater engagement from online intermediaries in the fight against infringement and IP crime.”

The IPO Corporate Plan 2018-2019 touches on similar issues, promising to ensure that appropriate resources are available to deliver on promises made as part of the government’s enforcement strategy.

“Reducing IP crime requires a multi-faceted approach. The UK is already a world leader in the enforcement of IP. We want to build upon what we are doing to create a paradigm shift around infringement,” the IPO writes.

“Before we can make this happen we need to improve our knowledge around consumer understanding of IP crime and infringement and what works to change behavior in this space. We need to understand the strengths and challenges of our enforcement approach, continue to invest in education and intelligence, and maintain and increase our capacity to lead.”

The IPO says it will consider if there are ways to reduce the costs of enforcement for rights holders, such as reducing the time taken to bring a matter to court and reducing costs once there.

The Office also wants to consider the possibility of more administrative approaches, including “administrative blocking injunctions”, something which it hopes to understand the “pros and cons” of by March 2019. But the plans don’t stop there.

“We will work with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport [DCMS] and industry to support the proposed program of roundtable discussions outlined in the Creative Industries’ Sector Deal.

“A key aspect will be ensuring they are used effectively to assess the evidence for, and where appropriate, to agree future action to tackle the infringement of IP rights online,” the IPO notes.

In conjunction with industry, the IPO hopes to develop “voluntary measures” to target online marketplaces, social media, and digital advertising, while continuing to co-fund the Creative Content UK (CCUK) educational campaign in conjunction with DCMS.

“To begin the work towards making the infringement of IP socially unacceptable, we need a better view of consumer attitudes to IP crime and what messaging changes behavior.

“We know that behavioral change is long-term and never easy, but we want to secure general cultural change where respecting IP is seen as the right thing to do. This work will link up with the messaging on IP’s economic and career impact,” the IPO concludes.

The IPO Strategy 2018 report can be found here (pdf)
The IPO Corporate Plan 2018-2019 can be found here (pdf)

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 48 EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 49

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EU Parliament Committee Adopts Piracy ‘Upload Filter’ Proposal 52The music industry sees stream ripping as one of the largest piracy threats, worse than torrent sites or direct download portals.

The RIAA, IFPI, and BPI showed that they’re serious about the issue when they filed legal action against YouTube-MP3, the largest stream ripping site at the time.

This case eventually resulted in a settlement where the site, once good for over a million daily visitors, agreed to shut down voluntarily last year.

YouTube-MP3’s demise was a clear victory for the music groups, which swiftly identified their next targets, putting them under pressure, both in public and behind the scenes.

This week this appears to have taken its toll on several ‘stream ripping’ sites, which allowed users to download videos from YouTube and other platforms, with the option to convert files to MP3s.

The targets include Pickvideo.net, Video-download.co and Easyload.co, which all inform their users that they’ve thrown in the towel.

With several million visits per month, Pickvideo is the largest of the three. According to the site, they took the drastic measures following a cease -and-desist letter.

“We’re sorry to inform you that all downloading and conversion services have been disabled to comply with a ‘Cease & Desist’ request,” a message on Pickvideo’s homepage reads.

PickVideo

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The German-based site Video-download.co doesn’t mention a specific threat. However, it does reference the aforementioned YouTube-MP3 case, which shows that it’s worried about the legal ramifications.

“Bad news… We decided to disable all functionality for video-download forever due to the recent takedown of the bigger site youtube-mp3.org, which was based in Germany (so are we).”

Video-download.co

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The same is true for EasyLoad. In a message directed to its users, the site also cites YouTube-MP3’s legal troubles as the reason for shutting down its video downloading and conversion service.

“Due to the recent takedown of the site youtube-mp3.org we are forced to disable the functionality of our site. Sorry and thanks for your feedback and support,” EasyLoad writes.

EasyLoad

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TorrentFreak reached out to the three sites, but at the time of publishing, they are yet to respond. It seems likely that they were targeted by music industry representatives recently, but that’s not confirmed.

While the music industry groups can scrap a few targets this week, their ‘stream ripping’ problem isn’t going away. A quick search for terms such as “Youtube download Mp3” reveals dozens of working alternatives.

UK music group BPI informed TorrentFreak today that the YouTube-MP3 case is having an impact on the operations of other ripping sites, but the industry is well-aware that their battle isn’t over yet.

“These sites are making large sums of money from music without paying a penny to those that invest in and create it,” a BPI spokesperson tells TF.

“We continue to pursue our strategy to clear these illegal sites, to prevent music fans from being ripped off and to further encourage the use of legal music sites.”

It is worth noting that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously stressed that not all stream ripping sites are facilitating copyright infringement by definition.

While some people may use these sites to ‘pirate’ tracks there are also legitimate purposes, the digital rights group said. Some creators specifically allow others to download and modify their work, for example, and in other cases ripping can be seen as fair use.

“There exists a vast and growing volume of online video that is licensed for free downloading and modification, or contains audio tracks that are not subject to copyright,” the EFF stressed.

“Moreover, many audio extractions qualify as non-infringing fair uses under copyright. Providing a service that is capable of extracting audio tracks for these lawful purposes is itself lawful, even if some users infringe.”

Despite these arguments, however, the music industry is not going to stop applying pressure against the sites they see as clear infringers. And as today’s examples show, that sometimes pays off.

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