Before the dawn of the mainstream Internet, underage access to pornographic content meant trying to sneak a glance over someone’s shoulder at a well-thumbed adult magazine.

Or, if you were ‘lucky’, finding a VHS cassette in a friend’s dad’s cupboard, behind the coats and shoes, in a box, inside another box, in an envelope marked “holiday video”. Such things apparently happened.

With the dawn of the Internet, things have certainly changed. With just a few clicks, one can find pornographic material, with ‘graphic’ often being the operative word. What adults choose to watch is their business, but children being able to access much of the content on today’s platforms is probably not what most parents want.

So in the absence of traditional parental controls, the UK government has stepped in to prevent youngsters from inadvertently stumbling across adult content. From July 15, the country will adopt a checking scheme that will require profit-making sites with more than a third of their content pornographic in nature to verify visitors’ ages.

It’s believed that the AgeID system, operated by major porn site owner Mindgeek, will one of the key facilitators of that. People who want to access porn sites will be required to provide scans of their driving licenses or passports, provide credit card details, or activate via SMS. Users’ details will then be verified by a third-party.

There will be other ways to obtain verification too, since some shops will be selling special cards containing a code that people can use to access sites like Pornhub and YouPorn. However, eligible sites that refuse to play by the verification rules will be blocked by local ISPs, preventing them from doing any business in the UK.

In theory, at least.

While the aims are noble, circumvention of this entire scheme (for adults and children alike) lies just a few key presses away. Subscribing to a VPN will effectively drive a coach and horses through the legislation, providing no-fuss and instant access to all age-compliant websites, and those that refuse to comply too.

The government acknowledges that this could happen, but it wants to be seen to be doing something. Indeed, as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017, the UK will become the first country in the world to proudly deploy such a system. However, thanks to many years of website blocking on the piracy front, large numbers of people will already have the tools at hand to make July 15 seem like life on the 14th.

Herein lies the problem. As website blocking increases – whether that’s via direct ISP action or the verification scheme detailed above – people have more and more reasons to learn how to evade those blocks. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s adults or even teenagers spreading the knowledge, on July 15 (if not sooner) circumvention methods will spread like wildfire.

And this can only mean bad news for those who have worked incredibly hard to have many hundreds of pirate sites blocked in the UK over the past nine years or so.

Once those VPNs get fired up to access XVideos or whatever other sites tickle people’s fancies, it will soon become apparent that every single one of those previously blocked torrent and streaming portals will become accessible again too.

Good VPNs do not discriminate and they don’t care what people are looking at. Their aim is to protect their users’ privacy and make web censorship a thing of the past. The only saving grace in respect of the verification scheme is that decent ones also cost money, so teenagers may not always have the means to pay for one.

That raises the possibility – or even likelihood – that many people will take the easy option of downloading a ‘free’ VPN from Google Play or Apple’s variant. Many of these have a questionable track history, especially when it comes to privacy, so people flocking in this direction won’t be doing themselves any favors.

All that being said, the architects of the scheme say that the potential for circumvention of the verification scheme is low. Perhaps today’s teenagers are less interested in seeing forbidden content than those that went before and will embrace the scheme with open arms. We shall see.

For most adults, however, it seems likely that handing over passports, driving licenses, and credit cards will only add to the already considerable but relatively straightforward pressure of remembering browser history wiping and incognito tabs.

In the meantime, there’s always The Pirate Bay, RARBG and all the other ‘pirate’ sites offering adult material. None of them will be included in the verification scheme but could see a small surge in traffic, if ‘porn-pass panic’ sweeps the country. And if it does, they’ll be easier to access than ever before.

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Last Sunday, the long-awaited final season of the hit series Game of Thrones aired in dozens of countries worldwide.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and thus far this week, there has been another piracy bonanza.

As usual, the torrent download figures quickly ran into the millions. However, little is known about the traffic that goes to web-based streaming portals, which have outgrown traditional file-sharing sites in recent years.

One of the main problems is that it’s impossible for outsiders to know exactly how many visitors pirate streaming services get. Traffic data for these sites are not public, which makes it difficult to put an exact figure on the number of views one particular video has.

Piracy monitoring firm MUSO hasn’t shied away from this unexplored territory though and has now released some hard numbers.

According to MUSO, the premiere episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones has been pirated more than 54 million times during the first day alone. This massive number is largely driven by streaming websites.

For comparison, HBO’s official, or legitimate, viewing numbers add up to just 17.4 million.

The data reveals that online streaming sites accounted for 76.6% of all pirate views, followed by web downloads at 12.2%. Public torrent sites were good for another 10.8% and private torrent sites close the row with 0.5%.

MUSO’s finding are partly based on data from SimilarWeb, which uses a sample of roughly 200 million ‘devices’ to estimate website traffic. Website visits are then seen as “downloads or view,” and the sample data is extrapolated into the totals. Whether people actually saw the full episode is unknown.

This web-based approach also means that certain types of pirate traffic are not taken into account. This includes data from Usenet and most of the pirate streaming boxes that have become popular in recent years.

TorrentFreak asked the company how it knows if a certain page hit actually generated a view but, at the time of writing, we have yet to hear back. 

In addition to the pirate numbers and sources, MUSO also revealed the top countries where the Game of Thrones premiere was accessed. India is in the lead here with 9.5 million pirate hits, followed by China and the US with 5.2 and 4 million respectively. 

The top ten of countries with the most Game of Thrones pirates is completed by the UK, Nigeria, Iran, Kenya, France, Canada, and Australia, as seen below. 

While it’s clear that Game of Thrones is widely popular among pirates, the data doesn’t show why that is. In some regions, it may not be available, and where it is, the price for a subscription can be too steep for some. Instead of missing out, people then choose to pirate instead.

According to Andy Chatterley, CEO of MUSO, it is important for rightsholders not to ignore these numbers, no matter what a person’s reason to pirate is.

“Regardless of rationale, the piracy figures for just the first 24 hours since the episode aired demonstrate that these audiences cannot – and should not – be ignored,” Chatterley says.

The main goal for HBO is to, eventually, convert these pirates into paying customers. They are some of the most passional consumers after all.

“[T]his data shows that consumers are still being driven to unlicensed sources to find content. It’s imperative that rights holders understand that piracy audiences are some of their most dedicated fans, which, above all else, presents a vast commercial opportunity,” MUSO’s CEO adds.

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On Monday, the EU Council of Ministers approved the Copyright Directive, which includes the controversial Article 17 (formerly 13).

The law requires platforms like YouTube and Facebook, for example, to sign licensing agreements with creators in order to use their content.

If that is not possible, the platforms will have a responsibility to ensure that infringing content uploaded by users is taken down and not re-uploaded to their services.

Much of the furious debate leading up to the initial adoption of the Copyright Directive by the EU Parliament (March 26, 348 Members of Parliament in favor, 274 against, and 36 abstentions) centered on the fear that platforms including (but not limited to) the above would have to install upload filters to comply with the take down and stay down requirements.

Proponents, on the other hand, said that the text doesn’t mention upload filters at all, and that those claiming otherwise were being alarmist in order to prevent the Directive from passing. It’s perhaps telling that no one has yet presented any workable alternative to upload filters.

In a statement issued by Germany in the wake of Monday’s vote, the government effectively admits that upload filters are not a great idea but will be required under Article 17 (formerly 13) if no one can come up with a better solution. In fact, it says their use is “likely”.

“There is indeed consensus that creators should be able to partake in the exploitation of their works by upload platforms. Article 17 of the Directive establishes an obligation to ensure the permanent ‘stay down’ of protected content which raises the likely use of algorithmic solutions (‘upload filters’) which have raised serious concerns and broad critique among the German public,” the statement reads.

Noting that that government wants to support performers, authors, and indeed all creators to use technology to create and distribute their work, it adds that the protection of that work and the right to earn revenue from it is paramount.

However, it also wishes to respect fundamental rights wherever possible, while preserving the right to use protected works “where permitted by legislation” on upload platforms.

The government says that the European Commission is “obliged to enter into a dialog with all concerned parties” to develop guidelines for the application of Article 17, but that doesn’t guarantee that “upload filters” won’t be required if all else fails.

“The government, therefore, assumes that the dialog will be borne out of the desire to ensure appropriate remuneration for creators, as far as possible prevent ‘upload filters’, safeguard freedom of speech and preserve user rights,” it writes, as per a translation by Sebastian Schwemer.

So, “ far as possible prevent ‘upload filters’” is apparently the standard for Germany, probably the single most powerful player in the EU. Given the reputation of filtering technologies to go wrong at the worst possible time, opponents of the Directive will be saying “told you so.”

On the plus side, Germany appears to have listened to some of the general concerns previously voiced by its own Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information.

It notes that the EU “should support the development of open-source technologies with open interfaces (APIs)” while finding solutions that “counter a de facto copyright register in the hands of dominating platforms via public, transparent reporting processes.”

The German statement also insists that the new rules will only be aimed at “market-dominating” platforms and will specifically exclude sites like Wikipedia, Github, blogs, forums, messenger services like WhatsApp, and cloud storage platforms. But, of course, time will tell – the Internet tends to develop at a pace faster than law and nothing offered in this statement is legally binding.

EU member states will have two years to implement the grand aspirations of the Copyright Directive into local law, and that includes those who voted against it – Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy, and Finland – who have negative views of the legislation.

“The objectives of this Directive were to enhance the good functioning of the internal market and to stimulate innovation, creativity, investment and production of new content, also in the digital environment. The signatories support these objectives,” the five countries said in a joint statement.

“However, in our view, the final text of the Directive fails to deliver adequately on the above-mentioned aims. We believe that the Directive in its current form is a step back for the Digital Single Market rather than a step forward.

“Most notably we regret that the Directive does not strike the right balance between the protection of rights holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies. It therefore risks to hinder innovation rather than promote it and to have a negative impact [on] the competitiveness of the European Digital Single Market.”

While YouTube and Facebook already have filtering systems in place, they aren’t the only players in town. It seems likely, therefore, that the next two years may yet prove as controversial as the two that preceded them. Memes are probably safe, but other content could have a bumpy ride.

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As one of the oldest torrent communities, the Demonoid tracker has gone through many ups and downs over the years.

The site has disappeared for months, more than once, but always reappeared.

Early last year things were looking quite positive for the site. Founder and operator ‘Deimos’ was committed to rebuilding the site back to the thriving community it once was, but at the end of the summer new problems emerged.

Initially, there were some technical issues and isolated downtime. However, as the weeks passed on, the site disappeared completely. All the while, Deimos was nowhere to be found.

This was particularly unusual as some staffers chatted with him nearly every day but that changed abruptly. Months went by without a word from Deimos. Meanwhile, some of Demonoid’s domains started to expire.

Roughly two months ago, TorrentFreak received an anonymous tip which came as a complete shock. The short email pointed to information that suggested Deimos had passed away following a tragic accident. 

The information we received included several pointers that we could indirectly link to Demonoid’s founder. However, despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence, we were unable to confirm 100% that it was the same person. 

We shared this information with Demonoid staffer ‘phaze1G,’ who discussed it among the team. Slowly but steadily, the realization started to sink in that all signs indeed suggested that Deimos was no longer alive. 

Although there’s no complete certainty, phaze1G decided to inform the Demonoid community about the findings this morning. This wasn’t an easy decision and took weeks of consideration and attempts to get more clarity.

“With great sadness, I want to announce that Deimos, the founder of Demonoid known as someone who was one of the earliest and influential people on the torrent scene since it’s beginning has died in an accident back on August, 2018,” phaze1G writes.

The date of the accident, which was the result of a panic attack, coincides with Deimos’ disappearance. In addition, there were further signs that suggest that Deimos was indeed the victim. 

Phaze1G and other Demonoid staffers are devastated by the sad news and have put up a commemoration page to remember Demonoid’s founder.

“Our comeback kid Demonoid will now rest after years of fighting along with his father,” the commemoration page reads. 

After the initial disappearance, there were reports that someone logged in to the site under his account. In hindsight, phaze1G believes that this may have been a friend or family member, who wiped the server, perhaps after making a backup. 

“It was someone with enough tech skills such as friends, family or Umlauf, so currently there is at least one person who holds the database of Demonoid and if it ever comes back that person will not be Deimos,” phaze1G notes. 

For now, the remaining staff have no idea where to go next. They created a temporary forum a while ago to keep the community going, but without Deimos, the spirit of the site is gone.

“Demonoid Fora was formed as a reminder of Demonoid and Deimos, but I have no idea what to do next, or what to do regarding Demonoid at all. Demonoid is and always was Deimos’ child. Umlauf was there to help when it was hard, so without those 2 giants, there is no Demonoid.

“Even if we recreate it from the ground with 99% identical look and features, it will not be it without Deimos and won’t have that feeling of home it once had,” phaze1G adds.

Deimos started the site in his early twenties. While he handed over the reins to outsiders for a few years, he took over the helm again two years ago, hoping to return the site to its former glory

In the months leading up to his disappearance, he worked on the site continuously to achieve this goal, showing the passion and commitment many staffers knew him for.

“Many things were happening behind the scene, he cared so much about users’ privacy and replied almost to everyone who private message him and asked how he was and stuff. He was really a friendly person,” phaze1G says.

“I’m glad that I had a chance to know him and I will miss him dearly, not because of Demonoid only, but because of the person, he was,” he adds.

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Yesterday the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premiered, generating a massive demand on both legal and less-authorized channels.

The first episode came out a few hours early for some people on DirectTV Now, adding to the long history of Game of Thrones leaks.

Not much later, the season premiere was also widely available on various pirate sites. The first pirate releases were not sourced from the leak, however. They came from Amazon and were put online just minutes the show officially became available online.

Traditionally, Game of Thrones has been the most pirated TV-show in history, and it soon became apparent that this may also be the case with the final season.

At the time of writing, more than 120,000 people are actively sharing one of the three most-popular torrents. And at The Pirate Bay, the five most popular releases are all Game of Thrones episodes. 

The most-shared torrent at the moment, with tens of thousands of peers, is a 3.34 GB rip from the group MEMENTO. Like every year, the total number of downloads is eventually expected to run to several million per episode.

Part of this unofficial audience prefers piracy over a paid subscription. However, the fact that pirate copies are available before the official release in many countries doesn’t help either.

TorrentFreak spoke to the operator of one of the most popular torrent sites, who prefers not to be named. However, he informed us that the Game of Thrones premiere resulted in a 20% boost in visitors this morning.

This uptick is similar to what he’s seen with Game of Thrones episodes in the past. On average, the peak goes down a bit throughout the season. Then, for the season finale, there’s a similar increase again.

In absolute numbers, there are fewer people sharing the episodes via BitTorrent than a few years ago. The absolute record dates back to 2015, when over a quarter million people were simultaneously sharing a single file. This is in part because the piracy ecosystem has evolved. 

Torrent sites used to be the main distribution platforms for pirated TV shows, but unauthorized streaming sites are much more popular today. These sites don’t make any viewing numbers public, but they should be good for millions of ‘pirate’ views as well. 

HBO and other related rightsholders are already working hard to take fresh links offline, or at least remove them from search engines, but history has shown that putting a serious dent in Game of Thrones piracy isn’t easy. 

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This week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Glass is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the articles of the recent weekly movie download charts.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie RankRank last weekMovie nameIMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1(1)Glass6.9 / trailer
2(4)Escape Room6.4 / trailer
3(2)How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World7.8 / trailer
4(…)The Upside6.5 / trailer
5(5)Aquaman7.7 / trailer
6(3)Bumblebee7.0 / trailer
7(7)Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse8.6 / trailer
8(…)Crypto5.1 / trailer
9(8)The Mule7.1 / trailer
10(back)Captain Marvel (HDTS)7.2 / trailer

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The movie industry sees online streaming piracy as a prime threat to its revenues.  Whether it’s through dedicated pirate boxes, websites, or apps.

In recent years the major Hollywood studios have mainly targeted sellers of streaming boxes, while a group of smaller filmmakers is focusing more on apps. 

Last week, the companies behind the movies “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” “London Has Fallen,” “Hunter Killer,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “Once Upon a Time in Venice,” went after the operators of various websites that promote and distribute the Showbox app.

The Showbox app, as well as many similarly named clones, are used by millions of people. The apps allow users to stream movies and TV shows via torrents and direct sources, all through a user-friendly Netflix-style interface.

In a lawsuit filed at a U.S. District Court in Hawaii, the movie companies point out that many of the films available through the app are published without permission, which they say results in massive piracy.

“Plaintiffs bring this action to stop the massive piracy of their motion pictures brought on by the software application Show Box,” the 58-page complaint begins.

“The Defendants misleadingly promote the Show Box app as a legitimate means for viewing content to the public, who eagerly install the Show Box app to watch copyright protected content, thereby leading to profit for the Defendants,” the companies add.

The movie studios list several defendants, who are all suspected of having ties to one or more Showbox-related sites. The first one is Qazi Muhammad Zarlish from Pakistan, who allegedly operates ‘’

Next up are the India-based digital marketing agency Pebblebridge and its employee Vishnudath Reddy Mangilpudi, who are linked to several domains including ‘’. Hoan Phan and Nghi Phan, who are said to be Vietnamese, stand accused of operating ‘’ and ‘’ respectively, complete the list.

The site operators are accused of copyright infringement as well as inducement and false advertising. While the sites are (or were) available worldwide, the movie companies state that they have clear ties to the US.

For example, they used American domain name registrars such as Namecheap, hosting services from U.S. based company Digital Ocean, and email services from Google and Microsoft. 

The website operators are believed to profit by offering the app to a broader public. While the software is not directly hosted by all the sites in question, all of their operators are accused of intentionally inducing visitors to engage in copyright-infringing activity. 

Some of these users may not even know that the Showbox app is ‘illegal,’ the movie companies stress. This may result in innocent people getting sued. This is something these movie makers are well aware of, as most have sued individual users in the past.

“These Defendants have placed hundreds of individuals in Hawaii if not thousands of individuals in the United States in legal peril for copyright infringement while they hide behind anonymous domain registrations, false identities and addresses, and enjoy the gains from their illicit enterprise,” the complaint reads.

The movie companies have been trying to shut some of the sites down for a while now. With help from Namecheap, for example, they gathered IP-addresses and email addressed that were linked to some of the domain names.

This leads to some interesting conclusions. One of the defendants, Hoan Phan, used the IP-address to login to the Namecheap account connected to the site The same IP-address was also used to share copies of the movies “Mechanic: Resurrection and “London Has Fallen.”

The movie companies conclude that Phan must have shared these movies. However, the IP-address in question appears to belong to a proxy or VPN service and could have been used by hundreds, if not thousands of people. 

That said, the defendants are not accused of direct copyright infringement. Instead, the movie companies argue that they knowingly and materially contributed to the copyright infringement of Showbox users, by promoting the use of the app and showing people where it can be downloaded.

With the lawsuit, they hope to shut the sites down. At the time of writing, they have already partially succeeded at that. Without any court intervention, and are no longer linking to the app.

The Showbox copy on is still up, and remains available the time of writing. The latter site has put up a large red warning notice, urging people to use legal alternatives instead, but it’s still linking to Showbox.

To stop any ongoing activity, the movie companies request an injunction preventing the site owners from contributing to any infringement of their movies. Any Showbox copies hosted on their servers should be removed as well, they suggest. 

In addition, this injunction should also require Internet search engines, hosting companies, domain name registrars, and domain name registries to stop providing access to the domain names through which the defendants distribute and promote Showbox.

Finally, there’s a request for damages as well. In theory, a court could award up to $150,000 in statutory damages for willful copyright infringement, per movie. Provided they are guilty, of course.

Most previous cases against alleged ‘pirate’ site operators have resulted in default judgments where the rightsholders are granted an injunction and a damages award. However, the recent stream-ripper case against and show that, for foreign operators, it can pay off to put up a defense. 

A copy of the complaint from Hunter Killer Productions, Inc., TBV Productions, LLC, Venice PI, LLC, Bodyguard Productions, Inc., and LHF Productions, Inc., and all associated exhibits is available here (pdf)

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Credit: Pixabay

“Stream ripping, which is the process of creating a downloadable file from content that is available to stream online, is now the most prevalent form of online music copyright infringement,” music group IFPI declared in 2017.

The statement was in response to the shutdown of once-leading YouTube-ripping site YouTube-MP3, which previously helped millions of visitors convert videos into downloadable MP3 tracks, to the detriment of artists, according to IFPI.

But despite the fall of this giant, stream-ripping is still very high on the music piracy agenda. Where torrent sites and file-sharing applications were once the primary targets for legal action, stream-ripping sites now appear to be more of a concern for record labels everywhere.

In 2018, a group of major record labels with assistance from the RIAA targeted two of the larger stream-rippers that remained online following YouTube-MP3’s demise.,, and their owner Tofig Kurbanov were sued for copyright infringement at a Virginia District Court. The case was dismissed since there was no evidence they targeted the United States. The labels quickly appealed, so the case continues. Similar platforms collapsed more quickly.

But the big elephant in the room is why the labels aren’t (to coin a well-worn piracy phrase) trying to cut off the head of the hydra? These ‘ripping’ sites aren’t the source of the content because in most cases, YouTube is.

Equally, when people access platforms like Spotify and Deezer using readily available tools and services to rip MP3s to their own hard drives, why aren’t the leaks getting plugged by those respective companies?

This week, TorrentFreak asked all three services for their opinions on stream-ripping and why the phenomenon is still a problem, not only for the record labels but also for them. After all, everyone involved loses revenue when users don’t return to a streaming service for repeat performances of musical works.

“We are deeply committed to ensuring YouTube is not a home for copyright-infringing content and have invested significantly in teams and technology to combat this issue,” a YouTube spokesperson told TF.

“YouTube’s Terms of Service prohibit the downloading or copying of videos without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective copyright licensor, and we take technical steps to prevent this behavior.”

Given the size and relatively open nature of the YouTube platform, it’s no surprise that the Google-owned company is at the center of the stream-ripping controversy. But ripping from YouTube is only part of the problem.

Premium and ad-supported services such as Spotify and Deezer are also targeted by people ripping streams directly to their machines. In these cases, third-party platforms aren’t even necessary since readily-available user-side tools to do the work.

Both companies have taken action in the past (including using technical means and via DMCA notices (1,2,3) against circumvention tools) but we were keen to hear about the problems from the companies themselves.

Unlike YouTube, which responded extremely quickly, both Spotify and Deezer failed to respond to our requests for comment, so we remain in the dark on the companies’ policies and whether or not they intend to tighten the noose moving forward.

That being said, could stream-ripping be less of a problem than it once was?

PRS for Music is a UK organization that pays royalties to its members when their content is performed, broadcast, streamed, downloaded, reproduced, played in public, or used in film and TV.

In July 2017, PRS published a report (which in part relied on data supplied by anti-piracy firm MUSO) indicating that between January 2014 and September 2016, the use of stream-ripping services increased by 141.3%.

However, more recent data supplied by MUSO to TorrentFreak suggests that the use of stream-ripping services might be on the wane. In January 2018, the company logged 743.6 million visits to stream-ripping platforms but by January 2019, that figure had decreased to 589.4 million visits.

It should be noted some popular ‘ripping’ platforms, such as the 200 million visits per month OnlineVideoConverter, have uses other than simply ripping MP3s from YouTube videos. However, given the rest of the top 10 most-visited platforms are more tightly focused, the decline does seem genuine.

Quite why this is the case isn’t clearly defined but IFPI’s recently published Global Music Report 2019 may contain a few subtle hints. The group reported that total revenues for 2018 were US$19.1 billion, a music market growth of 9.7%. And legal streaming played a huge part.

“Streaming revenue grew by 34.0% and accounted for almost half (47%) of global revenue, driven by a 32.9% increase in paid subscription streaming,” IFPI reported.

“There were 255 million users of paid streaming services at the end of 2018 accounting for 37% of total recorded music revenue. Growth in streaming more than offset a 10.1% decline in physical revenue and a 21.2% decline in download revenue.”

Whether or not former stream-ripping users are now choosing to “go legal” will remain to be seen but in the meantime, it’s clear the record labels consider the activity to be unacceptable.

In a statement, the BPI told TorrentFreak that music fans often don’t realize that by ripping music from YouTube “they are also ripping off artists” while also helping stream-ripping services to break the law.

“Stream ripping deprives artists and the creative businesses that invest in their talent of significant income, and causes real harm – not least to up and coming musicians who rely on that revenue. Sites shouldn’t be able to so easily encourage and dupe users with such casual slogans as… ‘convert videos in one click’,” the BPI commented.

“The music industry is letting music fans know that stream rippers are illegal by taking legal action and closing down the sites – like we did with YouTube-MP3. Stream rippers also circumvent the protections put in place by YouTube and we hope that, in addition to our work, YouTube itself takes further action.”

YouTube, for its part, says it is doing all it can to prevent people from ripping content from its site.

“Once notified of an infringing tool or service that violates our Terms of Service, we take action, including disabling access to the YouTube API. In addition, we work with the music industry to identify and respond to stream ripping entities,” the company told us.

So at least for now, stream-ripping remains a problem for the music industry but with greater uptake of comprehensive and reasonably-priced legal alternatives, the decline in their use could be set to continue.

Some people argue that there’s nothing better than having permanent MP3 files on their own machine, particularly when they come for free. Those files can’t be taken away, at the whim of a label or delivery platform.

But for the most part, interaction with huge local MP3 libraries (unless downloaders put in considerable labeling and organizational effort) offers a second-rate experience, crucially lacking in advanced discovery methods.

In addition to the music, of course, perhaps it is the developing curation systems of legal services that are attracting consumers to today’s legal offerings? If so, that, in turn, will lead to a natural decline in use of ripping services because, quite frankly, they aren’t known for being particularly innovative.

So that brings us to the conclusion that whether or not technical measures are put in place to prevent their operation, stream-ripping services will continue to be out-classed by their legal rivals. They may be free but at some point, an outstanding user experience will become the irresistible draw.

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With many thousands of sites now blocked in Russia following allegations of copyright infringement, piracy should – at least in theory – become harder.

Many of the most stubborn sites, such as the infamous RuTracker, are now inaccessible directly via local ISPs, meaning that users must deploy countermeasures such as proxies, VPNs (where they’re still available), and other means, in order to reach their content.

There’s little doubt that piracy is now becoming harder than it once was but pirates have a tendency to be not only persistent, but also creative – even if that means resorting to technologies that are decades old.

According to local news outlet Vedomosti, people are turning the sales of pirate eBooks into a cottage industry, while exploiting a loophole in the law to avoid criminal liability.

Many of these transactions take place on Avito, Russia’s most popular classified ads site and the second largest in the world behind Craigslist. Countless ads for pirate eBooks litter the platform, offering anything from a single book to bundles of many.

This content is offered for prices ranging from just a few cents to a couple of dollars, which is many times cheaper than official offerings. However, little of this activity can land any of the sellers in trouble. The threshold for criminal liability in Russia for what are essentially counterfeit goods is 100,000 rubles (around $1,500). Individual sales tend not to meet those thresholds.

Making matters even more slippery for anti-piracy companies is that those who place the ads for pirate eBooks do not post the content online. Instead, the senders use email to transfer the eBooks to their customers. This means their ads cannot be easily be detected by anti-piracy bots and any infringing transactions remain private.

Furthermore, since there are no links to infringing content, the listings are effectively immune from Russia’s somewhat draconian anti-piracy laws. They cannot be targeted with legal action under the regime so platforms can’t be blocked in the way that normal pirate sites can.

Instead, copyright holders are reliant on platforms like Avito to help take content down. The company does remove listings, but only when they are reported as problematic. However, there are reportedly entire communities thriving on social media platforms dedicated to these sales, so tackling the problem could be time-consuming.

If nothing else, what this shows is that in the piracy world, where’s there’s a will to pirate content, there will probably be a way. And when that way is via email or other hidden techniques, there’s very little anyone can do about it – at least for now.

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Last year, a group of prominent record labels filed a piracy lawsuit against the Russian operator of YouTube-ripping sites and

The labels hoped to shut the sites down, but this effort backfired.

In January, US District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed the case due to a lack of jurisdiction. The Virginia Court carefully reviewed how the sites operate and found no evidence that they purposefully targeted either Virginia or the United States.

The sites are not seen as highly interactive and their interaction with users could not be classified as commercial, the Court concluded. Since the site owner didn’t purposefully target Virginia, the Court ruled that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the operator.

The record labels didn’t agree with this conclusion and took the case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court. If the verdict stands, the companies believe that Internet pirates will have “carte blanche” to facilitate copyright infringement, as they would be untouchable by U.S. courts.

The labels’ appeal attracted support from other major copyright holders. Through amicus briefs,  Hollywood’s MPAA, The Association of American Publishers, and the Copyright Alliance, all argued that the verdict should be overturned.

This week, the Russian operator, Tofig Kurbanov, submitted his answering brief. Through his legal team, he informs the Court that the District Court was right to dismiss the case. He has never been to the U.S. and managed the sites entirely and exclusively from Russia.

Aside from going into detail on all the legal elements of the jurisdiction issue, the response also hits back at the massive piracy claims and “xenophobia-tinged” allegations from the record labels and other rightsholders.

“Cognizant perhaps of the complete absence of a Constitutional basis for the
assertion of personal jurisdiction over Kurbanov, Plaintiffs and their amici seek to make up for this omission with a combination of xenophobia-tinged allegations and ‘the sky is falling’ arguments,” the response reads.

The scope of the alleged infringing activity should not mean that the Court can ignore Constitutional limitations, the defense argues. According to the site operator, it should also be noted that the same rightsholders have a history of targeting new technology.

“Plaintiffs and their amici have consistently opposed virtually every technological advance from the 1970s forward including the advent of cassette tapes, compact discs, digital audio tapes, and MP3s. 

“In each instance, Plaintiffs and their amici’s cries that the sky was falling
were either misplaced or entirely made-up,” the defense adds.

The Russian site operator continues that the rightsholders’ “hysteria” is ultimately irrelevant. The appeal is about whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over the matter. According to the defense, it’s clear that it hasn’t.


The record labels placed a lot of emphasis on the site’s advertisements in their appeal brief. For example, they argued that the stream-ripping sites used geolocation-based advertisements to target specific locations, including the United States and Virginia. 

The defense counters this by stressing that all of the advertising activities were outsourced to third party companies, which make it irrelevant.

“Plaintiffs’ attempts to tie personal jurisdiction to the geolocation of ads on
the Websites is misplaced, where any such geolocation is accomplished solely by third-party advertising brokers,” the defense writes. 

The labels also argued that because the sites are generating revenue from US visitors, there is a “commercial” relationship so the Court has jurisdiction. This ‘free’ advertising model is widely used by other companies such as Facebook, ESPN, CNN, they argued. 

In its response, the defense doesn’t dispute that these other sites use advertising. However, it uses that argument to its advantage while noting that Facebook, ESPN, CNN are not automatically subject to any and all jurisdictions in the world.

While it is true that the stream-ripping sites are available in the US, that’s certainly not their most popular user base. For, more than 90% of the visitors come from other countries, and for this number is more than 94%, the defense informs the Appeals Court.

It is worth noting that the current issue is not about whether or not the stream-rippers are copyright-infringing in any way. The question that has to be answered first is whether a U.S. court has jurisdiction over the Russian operator of the sites.

Many of the arguments that both sides presented are similar to those put before the District Court earlier. The record labels and other rightsholders hope that the earlier dismissal will be overturned, while Kurbanov and other site owners prefer to keep it in place.

A copy of the full answering brief of defendant-appellee Tofig Kurbanov is available here (pdf).

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