FairPlay Canada, a coalition of copyright holders and major players in the telco industry, wants to institute a national pirate site blocking scheme.

The group submitted its plan to the Canadian telecoms regulator CRTC earlier this year, which subsequently asked the public for input.

This consultation triggered a wave of responses. Those opposed to the blocklist idea highlight the risk of over-blocking, net neutrality threats, and the lack of judicial oversight, among other things.

Yesterday, the Fairplay Coalition responded to these comments in a new filing. Providing additional evidence, the group countered the opposition head-on, accusing some commenters of spreading false and inaccurate information.

The coalition also responded to the common argument that there is no need for a separate blocking scheme. Copyright holders can already request injunctive relief from the courts, demanding that ISPs block pirate sites, as is common in many other countries.

In its reply, Fairplay counters that this may not be as straightforward as some claim. Section 36 of the Telecommunications Act suggests that, in addition to a court order, Commission approval is needed to block a site. This is complex and makes it uncertain if courts will be willing to grant these blockades.

“It is possible a court would be dissuaded from making an order against ISPs to disable to access to a piracy site given section 36 and the Commission’s view of its impact,” Fairplay’s response reads.

In other words, the coalition suggests that with proper judicial oversight under current law, there may not be any blockades. It’s not clear how that helps their argument, as that might be the exact point of the critics, but there is more.

In addition to the uncertainty of getting a blocking order through the courts, Fairplay argues that this route will also be very expensive. To make this point, the coalition hired the law firm Hayes eLaw to calculate the potential costs and time required to complete the process.

According to this analysis, it may take more than two years before a blocking order is final, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses for just one site. This is too slow and too expensive, the coalition concludes.

“[T]he process involves first completing litigation against each egregious piracy site, and could take up to 765 days and cost up to $338,000 to address a single site,” Fairplay writes.

“While copyright enforcement actions are a crucial and powerful tool in many cases, it is not reasonable to suggest that rightsholders should spend this much time and resources to address every case in which their content is being stolen.”

Finally, Fairplay notes that those commenters who suggest the judicial route are apparently not against site blocking, but only against how these blockades are administered.

Arguments against the court option

As is often the case with consultations, both sides of the argument will present issues in a light that suits them best.

However, Fairplay goes even further and suggests that many consultation responses are based on misleading information, which is the result of online activists.

Among other things, these responses suggest that the plan would allow ISPs to unilaterally decide to block websites. However, Fairplay counters that ISPs can only block sites if they’re ordered to do so by the Commission, not on their own accord.

“The fact that the Commission received such interventions is not surprising, as every indication is that they were driven by online campaigns that made exactly this false claim,” they write.

“Indeed, the petitions or form letters submitted by CIPPIC/OpenMedia, SumOfUs, and LeadNow all explicitly contain this particular point of misinformation.”

In addition to the misinformation, Fairplay also notes that some interventions are false, while thousands of petitions are mere duplicates.

“There are a number of obviously false interventions and the identity, veracity, and location of the others can generally not be confirmed. In the case of the petitions, there are more than 14,000 identified duplicate entries, and an unknowable number of other false entries.”

Fairplay doesn’t ask the CRTC to ignore these submissions. It just points out that they cannot be relied upon, as they are not representative or based on faulty assumptions about the actual proposal.

Instead, the coalition comes up with a survey of its own. Fairplay hired Nanos Research to ask random Canadians whether their country should have less, the same, or more protection than countries that currently block piracy sites, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and France.

According to the results, 77% of Canadians believed Canada should have the same or more protection than those countries, suggesting that Canadians are not anti-site-blocking at all. That said, the above mentioned foreign blockades are court sanctioned.

The entire response from Fairplay Canada is available here (pdf). It totals more than 60 pages and further addresses the economic impact of piracy, the effectiveness of the plan, how blocking is consistent with net neutrality and freedom of speech, as well as a wide range of other topics.

While the extra context will be useful to the CRTC, it’s unlikely to sway the opposition.

Around the same time as the coalition submitted its response, a new controversy emerged. Documents published by the Forum for Research and Policy in Communications suggest that Bell discussed the site blocking plan privately with the CRTC before it was made public. While it’s apparent that site blocking was on the agenda, Bell told Mobile Syrup that there’s “nothing procedurally unusual” in this case.

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In April 2017, the first episode of the brand new season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was uploaded to The Pirate Bay, months ahead of its official release date.

The leak was the work of a hacking entity calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO). One of its members had contacted TorrentFreak months earlier claiming that the content was in its hands but until the public upload, nothing could be confirmed.

TDO told us it had obtained the episodes after hacking the systems of Hollywood-based Larson Studios, an ADR (additional dialogue recorded) studio, back in 2016. TDO had attempted to blackmail the company into paying a bitcoin ransom but when it wasn’t forthcoming, TDO pressed the nuclear button.

Netflix responded by issuing a wave of takedown notices but soon TDO moved onto a new target. In June 2017, TDO followed up on an earlier threat to leak content owned by ABC.

But while TDO was perhaps best known for its video-leaking exploits, the group’s core ‘business’ was hacking what many perceived to be softer targets. TDO ruthlessly slurped confidential data from weakly protected computer systems at medical facilities, private practices, and businesses large and small.

In each case, the group demanded ransoms in exchange for silence and leaked sensitive data to the public if none were paid. With dozens of known targets, TDO found itself at the center of an international investigation, led by the FBI. That now appears to have borne some fruit, with the arrest of an individual in Serbia.

Serbian police say that members of its Ministry of Internal Affairs, Criminal Police Directorate (UCC), in coordination with the Special Prosecution for High-Tech Crime, have taken action against a suspected member of TheDarkOverlord group.

Police say they tracked down a Belgrade resident, who was arrested and taken into custody. Identified only by the initials “S.S”, police say the individual was born in 1980 but have released no further personal details. A search of his apartment and other locations led to the seizure of items of digital equipment.

“According to the order of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for High-Tech Crime, criminal charges will be brought against him because of the suspicion that he committed the criminal offense of unauthorized access to a protected computer, computer networks and electronic processing, and the criminal offense of extortion,” a police statement reads.

In earlier correspondence with TF, the TDO member always gave the impression of working as part of a team but we only had a single contact point which appeared to be the same person. However, Serbian authorities say the larger investigation is aimed at uncovering “a large number of people” who operate under the banner of “TheDarkOverlord”.

Since June 2016, the group is said to have targeted at least 50 victims while demanding bitcoin ransoms to avoid disclosure of their content. Serbian authorities say that on the basis of available data, TDO received payments of more than $275,000.

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Last month, MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin used the Facebook privacy debacle to voice his concern about the current state of the Internet.

“The Internet is no longer nascent – and people around the world are growing increasingly uncomfortable with what it’s becoming,” Rivkin wrote in his letter to several Senators, linking Internet-related privacy breaches to regulation, immunities, and safe harbors.

“The moment has come for a national dialogue about restoring accountability on the internet. Whether through regulation, recalibration of safe harbors, or the exercise of greater responsibility by online platforms, something must change.”

While it’s good to see that the head of Hollywood’s main lobbying group is concerned about Facebook users, not everyone is convinced of his good intentions. Some suggest that the MPAA is hijacking the scandal to further its own, unrelated, interests.

This is exactly the position taken by the Internet Association, a US-based organization comprised of the country’s leading Internet-based businesses. The organization is comprised of many prominent members including Google, Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, Yahoo, and Facebook.

Several of these companies were the target of the MPAA’s criticism, named or not, which prompted the Internet Association to respond.

In an open letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, the group’s president and CEO, Michael Beckerman, lashes out against the MPAA and similar lobbying groups. These groups hijack the regulatory debate with anti-internet lobbying efforts, he says.

“Look no further than the gratuitous letter Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. Chairman & CEO Charles Rivkin submitted to the Energy and Commerce Committee during your recent Zuckerberg hearing,” Beckerman writes.

“The hearing had nothing to do with the Motion Picture industry, but Mr. Rivkin demonstrated shameless rent-seeking by calling for regulation on internet companies simply in an effort to protect his clients’ business interest.”

These rent-seeking efforts are part of the “crony politics” used by “pre-internet” companies to protect their old business models, the Internet Association’s CEO adds.

“This blatant display of crony politics is not unique to the big Hollywood studios, but rather emblematic of a broader anti-consumer lobbying campaign. Many other pre-internet industries —telcos, legacy tech firms, hotels, and others — are looking to defend old business models by regulating a rising competitor to the clear detriment of consumers.”

These harsh words show that the rift between Silicon Valley and Hollywood is still wide open.

It’s clear that the MPAA and other copyright industry groups are still hoping for stricter regulation to ensure that Internet companies are held accountable. Privacy is generally not their main focus though.

They mostly want companies such as Google and Facebook to prevent piracy and compensate rightsholders. Whether using the Facebook privacy scandal was a good way to bring this message to the forefront is a matter of which camp one’s in.

While the Internet Association bashes the MPAA’s efforts, they don’t discount the idea that more can be done to prevent and stop abuse.

“As technology and services evolve to better meet user needs, bad actors will find ways to take advantage. Our members are ever vigilant and work hard to stop them. The task is never done, and we pledge to work harder and do even better,” Beckerman notes.

The Internet Association’s full letter, spotted by Variety, is available here (pdf).

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In 2018, dealing with copyright infringement claims is a daily issue for many content platforms. The law in many regions demands swift attention and in order to appease copyright holders, most platforms are happy to oblige.

While it’s not unusual for ‘pirate’ content and services to suddenly disappear in response to a DMCA or similar notice, the same is rarely true for entire legitimate services.

But that’s what appeared to happen on the Roku platform during the night, when YouTube, Netflix and other channels disappeared only to be replaced with an ominous anti-piracy warning.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

As the embedded tweet shows, the message caused confusion among Roku users who were only using their devices to access legal content. Messages replacing Netflix and YouTube seemed to have caused the greatest number of complaints but many other services were affected.

FoxSportsGo, FandangoNow, and India-focused YuppTV and Hotstar were also blacked out. As were the yoga and transformational videos specialists over at Gaia, the horror buffs at ChillerFlix, and UK TV service BritBox.

But while users scratched their heads, with some misguidedly blaming Roku for not being diligent enough against piracy, Roku took to Twitter to reveal that rather than anti-piracy complaints against the channels in question, a technical hitch was to blame.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

However, a subsequent statement to CNET suggested that while blacking out Netflix and YouTube might have been accidental, Roku appears to have been taking anti-piracy action against another channel or channels at the time, with the measures inadvertently spilling over to innocent parties.

“We use that warning when we detect content that has violated copyright,” Roku said in a statement.

“Some channels in our Channel Store displayed that message and became inaccessible after Roku implemented a targeted anti-piracy measure on the platform.”

The precise nature of the action taken by Roku is unknown but it’s clear that copyright infringement is currently a hot topic for the platform.

Roku is currently fighting legal action in Mexico which ordered its products off the shelves following complaints that its platform is used by pirates. That led to an FBI warning being shown for what was believed to be the first time against the XTV and other channels last year.

This March, Roku took action against the popular USTVNow channel following what was described as a “third party” copyright infringement complaint. Just a couple of weeks later, Roku followed up by removing the controversial cCloud channel.

With Roku currently fighting to have sales reinstated in Mexico against a backdrop of claims that up to 40% of its users are pirates, it’s unlikely that Roku is suddenly going to go soft on piracy, so more channel outages can be expected in the future.

In the meantime, the scary FBI warnings of last evening are beginning to fade away (for legitimate channels at least) after the company issued advice on how to fix the problem.

“The recent outage which affected some channels has been resolved. Go to Settings > System > System update > Check now for a software update. Some channels may require you to log in again. Thank you for your patience,” the company wrote in an update.

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When Metallica sued the revolutionary file-sharing platform Napster in 2000, the band was both criticized and praised.

Music industry insiders and several other musicians backed the move, but the public wasn’t happy to see their new sharing tool being destroyed.

What followed was a heated legal battle from which Metallica emerged as the clear winner, but not without scars. The defense painted the band as greedy rock stars and Luddites who had no clue about technology, as drummer Lars Ulrich later recalled.

Today, nearly two decades later, the world has moved on. Napster is long dead and gone, but online piracy is still very much alive. Perhaps even more so than in the early 2000s.

In an interview with Swedish TV show Nyhetsmorgon picked up by Rolling Stone, Metallica’s lead guitarist Kirk Hammett now says that going after Napster was the right thing to do. While the lawsuit also brought in negative elements, the Napster threat was real.

“The whole Napster thing definitely didn’t do us any favors whatsoever,” Hammett says. “But you know what? We’re still in the right on that. We’re still right about Napster. No matter who’s out there saying, ‘Metallica was wrong’.

“All you have to do is look at the state of the music industry, and that kind of explains the whole situation right there,” Hammett adds.

Metallica’s guitarists appear to suggest that the music industry is still collapsing due to the burden of piracy. Interestingly, however, the music industry’s own figures are rather uplifting.

In 2017, the recorded music market grew by 8.1% worldwide. This was the third growth year in a row, and the highest growth rate since the music industry body IFPI started tracking these numbers in 1997.

This doesn’t mean that piracy has no effect at all, of course. Still, there is still plenty of room to grow, despite this disappearance of the highly profitable CD format. Times have changed, but people are still willing to pay for music.

It’s worth noting that a lot of growth is coming from streaming services, which are good for more than half of all recorded music revenues in the US today. This also happens to be the platform that Metallica has ignored for years.

It took until the release of the 2016 album “Hardwired… to Self-Destruct” until the band embraced streaming more broadly.

Metallica now wants to make sure that their work is accessible legally, even though the outlet is not ideal in their view. This, ironically, means that their work is available on Napster again, as it’s a legal streaming service now.

“We want to be accessible, and you need to have a mixture that you’re accessible on all the modern fronts,” Hammett says in the interview. And indeed, that’s a wise strategy if you want to prevent people from pirating.

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Earlier this year several of the largest telcos in Canada teamed up with copyright holders to present their plan to tackle online piracy.

United in the Fairplay Canada coalition, Bell, Rogers, and others urged telecoms regulator CRTC to institute a national website blocking program.

The blocklist should be maintained by a yet to be established non-profit organization called the “Independent Piracy Review Agency” (IPRA) and both IPRA and the CRTC would be overseen by the Federal Court of Appeal, the organizations propose.

Thus far the response to the plan has been mixed. Several large media companies are in favor of blockades, arguing that it’s one of the few options to stop piracy. However, others fear that it will lead to overblocking and other problems.

Last week, the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics joined the opposition. In a detailed report on the protection of net neutrality in Canada, it signaled the blocking proposal as a serious concern.

The House of Commons committee, which advises Parliament on a variety of matters, notes that the Fairplay coalition hasn’t sufficiently explained why the current process doesn’t work, nor has it supplied sufficient evidence to justify the new measures.

“[T]he Committee is of the view that the proposal could impede the application of net neutrality in Canada, and that in their testimony, the ISPs did not present sufficient explanation as to why the existing process is inadequate or sufficient justification to support to application,” the report reads.

At the same time, the lack of judicial oversight is seen as a problem.

“The Committee also remains skeptical about the absence of judicial oversight in the Fair Play proposal and is of the view that maintaining such oversight is critical,” it adds.

What is clear, however, is that the proposal could impede the application of net neutrality in Canada. As such, the House of Commons committee recommends that the Government asks the CRTC to reconsider its decision, if it decides in favor of the blocking plan.

“That, in the event that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission supports FairPlay Canada’s application, the federal government consider using the authority provided under section 12 of the Telecommunications Act to ask the CRTC to reconsider its decision,” the recommendation reads.

Recommendation

The net neutrality angle has been brought up by several parties in the past, ranging from legal experts, through copyright holders, to the public at large. While many see it as a threat, those in favor of website blocking say it’s a non-issue.

Even Internet providers themselves are divided on the topic. Where Shaw sees no net neutrality concerns, TekSavvy has argued the opposite.

The House of Commons committee report clearly sides with the opponents and with backing from all political parties, it sends a strong message. This is music to the ears of law professor Micheal Geist, one of the most vocal critics of the Fairplay proposal.

“With all parties joining in a recommendation against the site blocking plan, the report represents a strong signal that the FairPlay coalition plan led by Bell does not have political support given that it raises freedom of expression, due process, and net neutrality concerns,” Geist notes.

A copy of the report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics is available here (pdf).

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Back in March, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government was considering measures to prohibit access to pirate sites.

While protecting all content is the overall aim, it became clear that the government was determined to protect Japan’s successful manga and anime industries.

It didn’t take long for a reaction. On Friday April 13, the government introduced emergency website blocking measures, seeking cooperation from the country’s ISPs.

NTT Communications Corp., NTT Docomo Inc. and NTT Plala Inc., quickly announced they would block three leading pirate sites – Mangamura, AniTube! and MioMio which have a huge following in Japan. However, after taking the country by storm during the past two years, Mangamura had already called it quits.

On April 17, in the wake of the government announcement, Mangamura disappeared. It’s unclear whether its vanishing act was directly connected to recent developments but a program on national public broadcasting organization NHK, which claimed to have traced the site’s administrators back to the United States, Ukraine, and other regions, can’t have helped.

Further details released this morning reveal the intense pressure Mangamura was under. With 100 million visits a month it was bound to attract attention and according to Mainichi, several publishing giants ran out of patience last year and reported the platform to the authorities.

Kodansha, Japan’s largest publisher, and three other companies filed criminal complaints with Fukuoka Prefectural Police, Oita Prefectural Police, and other law enforcement departments, claiming the site violated their rights.

“The complaints, which were lodged against an unknown suspect or suspects, were filed on behalf of manga artists who are copyright holders to the pirated works, including Hajime Isayama and Eiichiro Oda, known for their wildly popular ‘Shingeki no Kyojin’ (‘Attack on Titan,’ published by Kodansha) and ‘One Piece’ (Shueisha Inc.), respectively,” the publication reports.

Mangamura launch in January 2016 and became a huge hit in Japan. Anti-piracy group Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA), which counts publishing giant Kodansha among its members, reports that between September 2017 and February 2018, the site was accessed 620 million times.

Based on a “one visit, one manga title read” formula, CODA estimates that the site caused damages to the manga industry of 319.2 billion yen – around US$2.91 billion.

As a result, police are now stepping up their efforts to identify Mangamura’s operators. Whether that will prove fruitful will remain to be seen but in the meantime, Japan’s site-blocking efforts continue to cause controversy.

As reported last month, lawyer and NTT customer Yuichi Nakazawa launched legal action against NTT, demanding that the corporation immediately end its site-blocking operations.

“NTT’s decision was made arbitrarily on the site without any legal basis. No matter how legitimate the objective of copyright infringement is, it is very dangerous,” Nakazawa told TorrentFreak.

“I felt that ‘freedom,’ which is an important value of the Internet, was threatened. Actually, when the interruption of communications had begun, the company thought it would be impossible to reverse the situation, so I filed a lawsuit at this stage.”

Japan’s Constitution and its Telecommunications Business Act both have “no censorship” clauses, meaning that site-blocking has the potential to be ruled illegal. It’s also illegal in Japan to invade the privacy of Internet users’ communications, which some observers have argued is necessary if users are to be prevented from accessing pirate sites.

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It’s not a secret that, in sheer numbers, America is the country that harbors most online pirates.

Perhaps no surprise, since it has a large and well-connected population, but it’s important to note considering what we’re about to write today.

Over the past decade, online piracy has presented itself as a massive problem for the US and its entertainment industries. It’s a global issue that’s hard to contain, but Hollywood and the major record labels are doing what they can.

Two of the key strategies they’ve employed in recent years are website blocking and domain seizures. US companies have traveled to courts all over the world to have ISP blockades put in place, with quite a bit of success.

At the same time, US rightsholders also push foreign domain registrars and registries to suspend or seize domains. The US Government is even jumping in, applying pressure against pirate domains as well.

Previously, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica threatened to have the country’s domain name registry shut down, unless it suspended ThePirateBay.cr. This hasn’t happened, yet, but it was a clear signal.

What’s odd, though, is that ThePirateBay.cr is a relatively meaningless proxy site. The real Pirate Bay operates from an .org domain name, which happens to be managed by the US-based Public Interest Registry (PIR).

So, if the US authorities threaten to shut down Costa Rica’s domain registry over a proxy, why is the US-based PIR registry still in action? After all, it’s the registry that ‘manages’ the domain name of the largest pirate site on the entire web, and has done for nearly 15 years.

Also of note is that the entertainment industries previously launched an overseas lawsuit to seize The Pirate Bay’s .se and .is domains, but never attempted to do the same with the US-based .org domain.

There are more of these strange observations. Let’s move back to website blocking, for example.

In a detailed overview, the Motion Picture Association recently reported that ISP blocking measures, which are in place in more than two dozen countries, help to reduce piracy significantly. This is further backed up by industry-supported reports and independent academic research.

In an ideal world, the US entertainment industries would like ISPs in every country to block pirate sites. While this is all fine and understandable from the perspective of these companies, there’s also an elephant in the room.

Over the past decade, US companies have worked hard to spread their blocking message around the world, while they yet have to attempt the same on their home turf. And this happens to be the country with the most pirates of all, which could make a massive impact.

Sure, it was a major success when a court in Iceland ordered local ISPs to block The Pirate Bay. But with roughly 130,000 Internet subscriptions in the entire country, that’s peanuts compared to the US.

So why is the US, the largest “pirate nation,” ignored?

From what we’ve heard, the entertainment industries are not pushing for ISP blockades in US courts because they fear a SOPA-like backlash. This likely applies to domain suspensions as well, which aren’t all that hard to accomplish in the US.

Instead, the major entertainment companies are focusing their efforts elsewhere.

While these entertainment companies are well within their rights to lobby for these measures, there’s an elephant in the room that is hard to ignore. Personally, I can’t help but cringe every time Hollywood pushes the blocking agenda to a new country or demands domain seizures abroad.

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Founded by BitTorrent inventor Bram Cohen, BitTorrent Inc. is best known for its torrent client uTorrent, from which it made millions over the years.

Unlike most file-sharing startups the company was well funded from the start. Venture capital firm Accel was one of the early investors, in a fund that also included Facebook and Dropbox.

However, over the past decade, BitTorrent Inc. didn’t transform into a multi-billion dollar business. The company tried various new products, services, and business models, but none surpassed the early success it had with uTorrent.

In recent years things got even worse. The company was nearly destroyed due to questionable management practices, according to Cohen. However, it appears that the waters have calmed down now under new leadership.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, the company vowed to refocus its efforts on what has proven to work, uTorrent. A new browser-based version of the popular client was released recently, and that appears to be one of the main focuses going forward.

There is something fresh though – BitTorrent Inc. has a new name. While it hasn’t been published anywhere, the company formerly known as BitTorrent Inc. is now Rainberry Inc.

“Rainberry Inc is the official name of the company; it was changed right around the start of 2017,” Rainberry’s Chief Product Officer Jordy Berson informs TorrentFreak. He stresses that it’s purely a corporate decision and that none of the existing product brands will change.

“The best way to probably think of it is that it’s not unlike how Alphabet Inc is the official name of the company most people know as Google,” Berson adds.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to change their name, but it remains a bit of a mystery what the motivation was here. There must be a good reason why Rainberry is preferred over BitTorrent, especially since the latter is a brand that millions of people know.

While BitTorrent Rainberry Inc. doesn’t owe the public a full explanation, it’s notable how the name change was kept under the radar.

Rainberry has no corporate website and is not mentioned on the official BitTorrent.com or uTorrent.com websites, for example. In addition, all Rainberry employees still list BitTorrent Inc. as their employer while Rainberry doesn’t appear to even exist on Linkedin.

The Rainberry name is pretty unique as well. A quick Google search only brings up a few mentions. This includes a job listing for “Rainberry Inc f/k/a BitTorrent Inc” but also a company named “Rainberry Acquisition” that was formed two months ago, coincidentally in San Francisco as well…

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Last month, Russian authorities demonstrated that when an entity breaks local Internet rules, no stone will be left unturned to make them pay, whatever the cost.

The disaster waiting to happen began when encrypted messaging service Telegram refused to hand over its encryption keys to the state. In response, the Federal Security Service filed a lawsuit, which it won, compelling it Telegram do so. With no response, Roscomnadzor obtained a court order to have Telegram blocked.

In a massive response, Russian ISPs – at Roscomnadzor’s behest – began mass-blocking IP addresses on a massive scale. Millions of IP addresses belong to Amazon, Google and other innocent parties were rendered inaccessible in Russia, causing chaos online.

Even VPN providers were targeted for facilitating access to Telegram but while the service strained under the pressure, it never went down and continues to function today.

In the wake of the operation there has been some attempt at a cleanup job, with Roscomnadzor announcing this week that it had unblocked millions of IP addresses belonging to Google.

“As part of a package of the measures to enforce the court’s decision on Telegram, Roskomnadzor has removed six Google subnets (more than 3.7 million IP-addresses) from the blocklist,” the telecoms watchdog said in a statement.

“In this case, the IP addresses of Telegram, which are part of these subnets, are fully installed and blocked. Subnets are unblocked in order to ensure the correct operation of third-party Internet resources.”

But while Roscomnadzor attempts to calm the seas, those angered by Russia’s carpet-bombing of the Internet were determined to make their voices heard. Hackers attacked the website of the Federal Agency for International Cooperation this week, defacing it with scathing criticism combined with NSFW suggestions and imagery.

“Greetings, Roskomnadzor,” the message began.

“Your recent destructive actions towards the Russian internet sector have led us to believe that you are nothing but a bunch of incompetent mindless worms. You shall not be able to continue this pointless vandalism any further.”

Signing off with advice to consider the defacement as a “final warning”, the hackers disappeared into the night after leaving a simple signature.

“Yours, Anonymous,” they wrote.

But the hackers weren’t done yet. In a NSFW cartoon strip that probably explains itself, ‘Anonymous’ suggested that Roscomnadzor should perhaps consider blocking itself, with the implement depicted in the final frame.

“Anus, block yourself Roscomnadzor”

But while Russia’s attack on Telegram raises eyebrows worldwide, the actions of those in authority continue to baffle.

Last week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s press secretary, Natalia Timakova, publicly advised a colleague to circumvent the Telegram blockade using a VPN, effectively undermining the massive efforts of the authorities. This week the head of Roscomnadzor only added to the confusion.

Effectively quashing rumors that he’d resigned due to the Telegram fiasco, Alexander Zharov had a conversation with the editor-in-chief of radio station ‘Says Moscow’.

During the liason, which took place during the Victory Parade in Red Square, Zharov was asked how he could be contacted. When Telegram was presented as a potential method, Zharov confirmed that he could be reached via the platform.

Finally, in a move that’s hoped could bring an end to the attack on the platform and others like it, Telegram filed an appeal this week challenging a decision by the Supreme Court of Russia which allows the Federal Security Service to demand access to encryption keys.

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