Legislation passed last year in Russia saw the creation of a centralized database of permanently blocked sites.

Search companies are required to connect their systems to this database (known locally as FGIS) so that such banned sites can be preemptively removed from search results. However, while most companies are acting as required, Google has thus far failed to connect to the resource.

As a result, Google was recently found to be in breach of federal law. The company was given a warning and told to connect within three days and begin filtering, but the tech giant failed to do so. It now faces an administrative fine of between 500,000 and 700,000 rubles (US$7,611 to US$10,656). On Monday, telecoms regulator Roscomnadzor confirmed it had officially opened a case against the US search giant.

While negotiations are still underway for Google to comply moving forward, it’s now clear that small fines don’t act as a deterrent to companies with huge revenue streams. It’s something the Russian government now wishes to address.

As part of reforms under consideration to tackle these types of violations, tech companies could face fines up to 1% of local revenue. In Google’s case, that’s around 450.2 million rubles (US$6.7m).

Roscomnadzor says that Google, Facebook, Telegram and other tech giants remain in breach of various local laws, including failure to hand over encryption keys to the government and neglecting to hold personal data of citizens locally in Russia.

A Reuters source told the news outlet that members of the presidential administration have already sent the proposals to representatives of several Russian and foreign Internet companies to receive feedback on the amendments.

The proposals, seen by Reuters but not published, indicate amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses of Russia, which will see fines of 1% of annual revenue for repeated infringements of local law, with a minimum fine of 1.5 million rubles (US$22,400) if the company makes no money locally.

While the draft proposals appear to target large companies such as Google, Facebook and local search giant Yandex, services that provide access to blocked sites (such as VPNs and proxy services) will also be covered the legislation.

Messenger services like Telegram are also a target and even Netflix, if the company collects personal data of Russian citizens and stores it outside the country.

Additionally, companies that repeatedly breach the regulations could be subject to web-blocking themselves, something that Yandex was threatened with earlier this year in a response to a copyright complaint from several TV companies.

A source from an unnamed ‘foreign’ Internet company told Reuters that working out the precise levels of fines could be difficult for the Russian government.

“Yes, for foreign companies [the levels of fines under consideration] are already a substantial amount, but it is not clear how they will be calculated and charged,” the source said.

“Many foreign companies do not have a legal entity in Russia, while others have only a representative office that performs only marketing functions, and therefore its revenue is minimal. How much a company really earns in Russia, only the company knows.”

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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As the site-blocking movement progresses around the globe, more and more countries are being added to the list.

Entertainment companies see the practice as crucial to preventing the flow of pirated content but critics claim the process is overly-aggressive and can lead to collateral damage. Following a ruling in India yesterday, opponents of blocking will have yet more ammunition.

Following an application by Lyca Productions Private Limited, the producer of the sci-fi movie ‘2.0’, the Madras High Court handed down a super-aggressive blocking order yesterday that puts most – if not all – similar injunctions in the shade.

In order to protect the movie – which is due for release today – Justice M Sundar ordered 37 local Internet service providers to block a staggering 12,564 websites on the basis that they are likely to offer illegal copies of the movie.

While the order has not yet been published on the website of the Court, local media reports indicate that 2,000 of those websites are operated by notorious Tamil movie website TamilRockers.

Given that so many ‘sites’ are connected to one platform, the order may actually cover more than 12,000 domains instead of individuals sites, but in advance of the order itself being published, that’s hard to clarify.

Nevertheless, what we’re looking at here is a preemptive blocking order of a truly huge scale against sites that have not yet made the movie available and may never do so.

In the meantime, however, a valuable lesson about site-blocking is already upon us. Within hours of the blocks being handed down, a copy of ‘2.0’ appeared online and is now available via various torrent and streaming sites labeled as a “1080p PreDVDRip”. Forums reviewed by TF suggest users aren’t having a problem obtaining it.

With a reported budget of US$76 million, ‘2.0’ is the most expensive Indian film. The sci-fi flick is attracting huge interest and at one stage it was reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger had been approached to play a leading role in the flagship production.

“We had thought of casting Arnold. We had talked and allotted dates also. But somehow things did not work out as the contracts of Hollywood and India are contradictory,” director S. Shankar told local media.

More controversy hit the movie Tuesday when the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) filed a complaint against the movie with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. COAI claims that ‘2.0’ shows mobile phone use in a bad light, suggesting that the devices are detrimental to health.

The depiction is “defamatory to COAI and its members, endangers public order, presents anti-scientific attitudes, constitutes offenses including under various sections of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and is in violation of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952,” the complaint reads.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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The LibreELEC 9.0 Alpha cycle has continued and releases for Amlogic and Slice hardware have been added additionally to the test cycle. We officially support now Khadas VIM (AML S905X) and the LePotato (AML S905X) too. Since the 8.90.005 release we support a wide range of Rockchip devices. There are no plans to release LibreELEC 9.0 images for NXP/iMX6 hardware as support was removed from Kodi some months ago. Support will be reinstated in a future LibreELEC, we wrote an dedicated article about the future of LibreELEC.

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

** ROCKCHIP **

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

TEST NOTES

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

** CAUTION **

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

Updates since v8.90.007 ALPHA:

– updated to Kodi 18 RC1
– Kernel updated to 4.19.4 for Generic, RPi and Slice
– a lot more updates and fixes, have a look at the full changelog

LibreELEC 9.0 Alpha 008 (Kodi 18 RC 1)

To update an existing installation from within the Kodi GUI select manual update in the LibreELEC settings add-on and then check for updates; select the LibreELEC 9.0 channel and then the 8.90.008 release. To create new install media please use our simple USB/SD Creator App. The following .img.gz files can also be used to create install media or update the old fashioned way:

RPi 2/3 LibreELEC-RPi2.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

RPi 0/1 LibreELEC-RPi.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

Generic LibreELEC-Generic.x86_64-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

Odroid_C2 LibreELEC-Odroid_C2.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

KVIM LibreELEC-KVIM.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

LePotato LibreELEC-LePotato.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Core LibreELEC-WeTek_Core.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Hub LibreELEC-WeTek_Hub.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Play LibreELEC-WeTek_Play.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)

WeTek_Play_2 LibreELEC-WeTek_Play_2.arm-8.90.008.img.gz (info)


Rockchip

due a major bug no release for 008



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At the start of this decade, US lawmakers drafted several controversial bills to make it easier for copyright holders to enforce their rights online.

These proposals, including SOPA and PIPA, were met with fierce resistance from the public as well as major technology companies. They feared that the plans, which included pirate site-blocking measures, went too far.

The public protests columnated in a massive Internet blackout. This had the desired effect, as the bills were eventually shelved early 2012.

In the many years that followed, the “site blocking” issue was avoided like the plague. The aversion was mostly limited to the US, as website blocking became more and more common abroad, where it’s one of the entertainment industries’ preferred anti-piracy tools.

Emboldened by these foreign successes, it appears that rightsholders in the US are now confident enough to bring the subject up again, albeit very gently.

Most recently the site-blocking option was mentioned in a joint letter from the RIAA and the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA), which contained recommendations to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Vishal Amin.

The IPEC requested input from the public on the new version of its Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement. According to the music industry groups, website blocking should be reconsidered an anti-piracy tool.

“There are several changes that should be made legislatively to help legal authorities and third parties better protect intellectual property rights,” the music groups write.

“These include fixing the DMCA, making it a felony to knowingly engage in unauthorized streaming of copyrighted works, and investigating the positive impact that website blocking of foreign sites has in other jurisdictions and whether U.S. law should be revised accordingly.”

The RIAA and NMPA choose their words carefully, realizing that it’s a sensitive issue. In a single sentence, however, they hint at bringing back SOPA-like blocking powers, including criminalizing online streaming.

A lot has changed in recent years though. The music groups point out that site-blocking has proven to be an effective enforcement tool abroad which has helped to decrease piracy and boost legal consumption.

According to the music industry groups, there is a pressing need for additional tools to stop pirate sites which increasingly use foreign domain names and bulletproof hosting. Blocking could be the right answer.

As such, now could be a good time to put the issue on the political agenda again.

“As website blocking has had a positive impact in other countries without significant unintended consequences, the U.S. should reconsider adding this to its anti-piracy tool box,” the RIAA and NMPA write.

From the RIAA/NMPA submission

The RIAA and NMPA are not the only ones to hint at these measures. The Copyright Alliance, which describes itself as the “unified voice of the copyright community,” also references site-blocking. Again, very subtly.

The group notes that IPEC may want to “observe how other countries are enforcing copyright laws, and whether those enforcement efforts are effective.”

There’s only one suggestion that’s specifically mentioned in this regard, and that’s site-blocking. The Copyright Alliance points out that this has been rather effective abroad and that the US could learn from these efforts.

“In addition to learning what remedies are effective, much can be learned from other countries in ensuring such remedies are proportionate and do not result in overblocking or other unwanted consequences,” they write.

The submissions suggest that after seven years copyright holders are gearing up to call for US blocking proposals again.

While these will undoubtedly be met with protests, a full comeback is inevitable. In recent years US rightsholders have lobbied and litigated for site blocking measures in dozens of countries, while the issue was left untouched on their home soil.

This is now starting to change, very slowly.

Here are the above -referenced copies of the RIAA/NMPA (pdf) and Copyright Alliance (pdf) submissions to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, which both cover a wide range of topics.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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Huawei: Smartphone with micro notch in December

Huawei could anticipate Samsung in releasing the first smartphone in the world with micro notch, positioned on the upper corner of the display. The Chinese giant is reported being ready to present it’s own Display Infinity similar to the Samsung Infinity-O display. The news came directly from Huawei through a teaser published on their Weibo official social account.

 

 

This teaser represents an image accompanied just by the number “12” which clearly states that the release should be this December. The image doesn’t leave a lot to imagination. We can clearly note that other than the body of a smartphone with the universe in the background, there is a small circle point where a ray of light passes through. This should be the micro notch in the same corner as Samsung’s design. Of course it’s impossible to know which of the two companies came up with this concept first.

infinity-o display

Infinity display by Samsung

Samsung in fact should have been the first to launch this kind of technology on a smartphone with the name Galaxy A8S. Rumors have it that the release is also this December. The exact same month that Huawei is now launching their new model. It is more than obvious that the first to ever release such a technology in the smartphone world is only some days away from the second. This is a war that has been already out for some time among the two brands. Trying to dominate the market with exclusive innovations and as a matter of fact, the first act was that of the number of cameras that each company used on their latest smartphones. Both have now gone up to 4 cameras on the back of their smartphones.

Earlier this month, the Korean company unveiled different types of display to achieve more screen to body ratio on smartphones. All these displays come under Samsung’s Infinity branding. And they are named based on their looks such as Infinity U, Infinity V, Infinity O, Infinity Flex, and New Infinity. Fresh reports from Korea report that Samsung has already begun mass production of Infinity O displays. But now it seems that it will not be the only one to release this kind of technology before the year ends. Of course the real question is who can do it better. Both companies have a great reputation when it comes in innovations.

As the battle continues on for who can deliver the world’s first phone with an in-screen camera cutout to global customers, we will let you know more in the upcoming articles.


Section 115a of Australia’s Copyright Act allows copyright holders to apply for injunctions to force ISPs to prevent subscribers from accessing ‘pirate’ sites.

The legislation has been used on many occasions since its introduction in 2015 but copyright holders say the law needs to be tightened to prevent circumvention. Those concerns spawned the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2018, which contains proposals to close the loopholes.

One of the key aims is to restrict access to proxy and mirror sites that appear after an injunction has been granted. However, the amendments lay out the ability to do that without court intervention, something that’s making activists and academics nervous.

Another is to expand grounds for an injunction. Currently “online locations” outside Australia with a “primary purpose of infringing” are targets for blocking. The amendments would see sites that have “the primary effect” of infringing or facilitating infringement also being sucked in, opening the door for blocking general purpose file-hosting sites.

Finally, search engines are seen as useful indexes for people looking for information to access sites that have already been blocked. The amendments forsee platforms like Google purging their search results of references to blocked sites.

Yesterday, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee published the results of its inquiry. Those hoping for an additional dissenting voice will be disappointed.

“The committee is of the view that the amendments proposed by the bill are likely to improve the operation of the injunctive scheme in section 115A of the Copyright Act, and represent a measured and proportionate response to concerns identified by stakeholders in relation to the operation of that scheme,” the report reads.

“In this respect, the committee also notes that the majority of submissions received by the committee supported the bill and recommended that it be passed unamended.”

Quantifying its decision, the Committee acknowledges concerns that “adaptive injunctions” (which allow for post-injunction proxy and mirror sites to be blocked) will be left up to copyright holders and ISPs to decide, so without intervention from the Court they could be open to abuse. However, it believes that enough safeguards are in place to ensure that does not happen.

“[T]he committee is of the view that the measures are appropriately circumscribed. In particular, the committee notes the evidence that the Court would maintain ultimate oversight over these injunctions, as well as the evidence that there must a sufficient nexus between the online location covered by the original injunction and the location to which the order is expanded,” the report reads.

Tackling the complex “primary effect” amendment, the Committee notes that it has its critics and could, in theory, encompass legitimate platforms. However, it says that there are “adequate safeguards” already present in Section 115A of the Copyright Act so “this would not occur in practice.”

Finally, on forcing search engines to purge their results of previously-blocked sites, the Committee again acknowledges objections from those who feel such measures are unnecessary. Again, however, the report dismisses the concerns, noting that search engines may play a role in both infringement and enforcement of copyright so the measures are “appropriate.”

It also notes that a voluntary arrangement between copyright holders and search engine providers may yet be reached, so if all else fails the proposed amendment will provide an “important backstop” in the event such agreements prove ineffective.

Summing up, the Committee offers the suggestion that the new amendments should be subject to a review two years after being put in place, a period that should allow enough time to assess whether any components need to be “clarified, rationalised or improved”

“The committee considers that, on balance, the benefits of the bill outweigh any potential negative impacts that could arise from the proposed amendments. The committee therefore recommends that the bill should be passed,” the report concludes.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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Stream-ripping tools and services have been around for many years and are currently most closely associated with obtaining tracks from YouTube, Spotify, and Deezer.

However, before these undoubtedly more efficient tools came along, users with an aversion to peer-to-peer networks often used software to ‘record’ songs from streaming Internet radio stations.

While more cumbersome than straightforward downloading, there are virtually no risks attached to doing so, with many considering this ‘private copying’ and therefore completely legal.

Somewhere in the middle sit services like MusicMonster.fm, a Germany-based service that claims to make stream-ripping easy, by scanning Internet radio streams for the user, ripping out songs, and then making these available to the end user for download.

“First, you should put together a wish list – just click the button ‘I want!’ next to your favorite songs,” MusicMonster’s site reads.

“If one of these songs is played in one of the web radios monitored by MusicMonster.FM, the song will be recorded automatically and digitally and will be recorded on [the site’s storage space].”

From here (or from Dropbox if the option is selected), songs can be downloaded to the user’s computer in MP3 format. This, the site suggests, isn’t a problem because users have already paid for the right when the stations paid their licensing fees.

“The ability to save music (eg: analog recording) is a paid right. The customer has already paid for it,” MusicMonster advises.

“If you have not noticed this in recent years, then the music industry has received payments without providing anything in return. Now this consideration will be used by you. The MP3 music file you have recorded and created is not a copy of the original piece of music, but an independent legal object.”

Perhaps needless to say, record labels aren’t impressed with this type of product and MusicMonster.fm eventually came to the attention of Sony Music’s lawyers.

In September 2017, the Munich Regional Court delivered a first instance judgment that MusicMonster itself is the creator of the copies, not the user, so in this case the act of stream-ripping represents a violation of the label’s reproduction rights.

Following an appeal by the service, on November 22, 2018 the Higher Regional Court of Munich agreed that the operators of the site could not rely on the private copying exception, declaring the MusicMonster platform both unlicensed and unlawful.

The Federal Music Industry Association (Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI)) welcomed the ruling.

“This is a very important decision that contributes further clarification,” says BVMI Managing Director Dr. Florian Drücke, who describes MusicMonster as a service trying to generate profit using the private copying exception.

“The industry will continue to be consistent against such brazen business models that unfairly interfere with the legal digital market, mislead consumers, and disregard the rights of artists and their partners.”

René Houareau, Legal & Politics Director at BVMI, adds that courts are increasingly able to identify illegal and opportunistic business models from those that are officially licensed and return revenue to the entertainment industries.

BVMI adds that stream-ripping is a big problem for the music industry worldwide but acknowledges that in some instances in Germany, the use of stream-ripped music sits in a legal gray area.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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When the relatively new cryptocurrency TRON acquired BitTorrent a few months ago, there was ample speculation on the future of the company.

As the main developer of both uTorrent and BitTorrent Mainline, future decisions will impact a userbase of roughly 100 million people.

After a brief period of silence, TRON’s founder Justin Sun assured the public that BitTorrent was not going anywhere. Instead, he proposed a new project that aims to make it even better.

The idea behind Project Atlas, as it’s named, is to add ‘currency’ to the BitTorrent protocol through a series of extensions. This makes it possible to financially reward seeders, or to speed up torrents by paying for faster access.

While many TRON investors praised the idea, with some claiming that it will revolutionize the Internet, BitTorrent users tend to be more skeptical of this type of change.

At TorrentFreak, we had some questions as well, and luckily TRON’s Justin Sun was willing to fill in some blanks.

We already knew that the Project Atlas would be open for other clients to use and would be backwards compatible. This means that it can handle all existing torrents and talk to clients which choose not to implement it.

TRON’s founder confirmed this, adding that uTorrent and BitTorrent users won’t be forced to use it.

“There will be a setting to allow turning the feature on and off,” Sun told TorrentFreak.

“It will work with all existing torrents. The clients which do not have this optional protocol extension will function as before, similarly to a Project-Atlas-compatible client with the setting turned off.”

BitTorrent already uses a “tit-for-tat” scheme which rewards people for sharing and vice versa. TRON’s founder sees the new financial incentives as a logical extension of that.

“We see the Project Atlas system as an extension of this design decision — one that can persist across time and across swarms, and one where bandwidth contribution is rewarded whether you are actively downloading or seeding,” Sun tells us.

The goal

Another question that was on people’s minds is how it will all work, privacy-wise. Are users’ downloads tracked in a database? Can these be tracked back to individuals?

According to TRON, this is not the case. The protocol extension will be compatible with any and all torrents, but the rewards cannot be linked to specific files. The torrent client merely rewards people for how much they share.

“We know that privacy is very important to people, especially in the digital age, so we are designing the system with privacy in mind and an ability to opt-out of this new feature,” Sun says.

“The incentive system itself is not related to individual torrents. It tracks only that a certain number of tokens were transferred from one peer to another, and the details of this token transfer will not be publicly visible.”

It’s also important to note that Project Atlas will first be rolled out in desktop clients. This means that the new uTorrent Web and the similar BitTorrent Web, which came out this week, are in the queue for now.

Before the TRON acquisition, BitTorrent founder Bram Cohen suggested that these web clients could eventually replace the company’s desktop versions. However, Sun stresses that there is absolutely no plan to phase out the desktop products.

We also asked Sun about his thoughts on the frequent associations that are made between BitTorrent and piracy. Previously the RIAA sent a letter to BitTorrent Inc, asking it to add a hash filter to block pirated content, for example. Sun, however, chose not to comment on whether this is an option or not.

While BitTorrent already functions very well, TRON hopes to make it even faster with its protocol extensions. Ideally, the rewards should also ensure that files are seeded for a longer period, which increases the overall availability.

This is also Sun’s long-term goal.

“We would like to see more users, more seeds, and a protocol that represents an even faster technology. With Project Atlas, we plan to make torrenting in general faster and easier for novices and experts alike,” Sun says.

For now, it’s a priority to get the first version of Project Atlas out to the public. While no hard date is mentioned, this is planned for the next few months.

“We expect the first features of Project Atlas will be available around early 2019,” Sun concludes.

Whether Project Atlas will be well received by the community and if it will indeed bring about the changes TRON and BitTorrent envision, will become more clear then.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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During September 2014, TorrentFreak became aware of a case that had appeared before the Chancery Division of the High Court.

TCYK LLP v British Sky Broadcasting Ltd featured a company behind the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep and ISP Sky. The former claimed that some of Sky’s Internet subscribers had infringed TCYK’s rights and should be pursued for damages.

That TCYK were testing the waters in the UK wasn’t a surprise. In the United States, TCYK LLC previously filed dozens of copyright infringement lawsuits against Internet subscribers in several states including Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Florida and Minnesota, demanding cash settlements.

TCYK prevailed in its case against Sky, and the ISP warned its customers that some of their details would be handed over based on alleged infringements carried out in 2013.

“A company called TCYK LLC, which owns the rights to several copyrighted films, has claimed that a number of Sky Broadband customers engaged in unlawful file-sharing of some of its films,” Sky told those affected.

“In support of this claim, TCYK LLC says it has gathered evidence of individual broadband accounts (identified online by unique numbers called IP addresses) from which it claims the file sharing took place,” Sky told those affected.

In 2015, TorrentFreak became aware of letters sent to Sky customers with TCYK, in conjunction with London-based firm Hatton and Berkeley, demanding a few hundred pounds to make supposed copyright infringement cases go away. It is unknown how many people paid up but at least one hopeless case was settled by a defendant.

As is often the case, many letter recipients decided to ignore the settlement demands in 2015, perhaps believing it was some kind of scam, perhaps believing the cases would go away. For more than three years, that’s exactly what happened.

However, during the past couple of weeks, TCYK and partners Hatton and Berkeley took a second bite of the cherry, writing again to non-responsive letter recipients in the hope they’ll now pay up.

Letters reviewed by TorrentFreak were sent by Catherine Hyde who is a Consultant Solicitor at Birmingham-based law firm My Business Counsel. The letter says that Hyde is acting on behalf of H&B Administration LLP and TCYK LLC. Hyde is also listed as “Legal Counsel” for Hatton and Berkeley.

“I have recently taken over the conduct of the above matter from and on behalf of my clients with regard to the copyright protection of their interest in the Work,” Hyde begins.

“Following my file review, I note that the last correspondence that was sent to you was in 2015 when my client notified you that there has been an instance of copyright infringement of the Work via your Sky Broadband router. Your response was never received.”

Hyde states that her client “does not wish to pursue this matter through the courts” and prefers to deal with the matter amicably, if possible.

Offering up contact details, the solicitor then asks letter recipients to get in touch, to either admit to the offense of downloading the work and/or making it available to others, or to deny the offense and provide an explanation.

Those who want to admit to the offense (which allegedly took place more than five years ago) are invited to sign an undertaking to secure their Internet connection and/or prevent other people in the house from “illegally downloading in the future.”

Unless the person signing is prepared to monitor every user in the household at all times and/or ban them from the Internet completely, that, of course, is an impossible request.

But what Hyde is really looking for on behalf of her clients is a cash settlement, and this is where things begin to get interesting. While demands three years ago tended to hover around the several hundred pounds mark, TCYK and Hatton and Berkeley now have a new idea up their collective sleeves.

Demanding amounts that invariably exceed £1,500, the letters take the price of the DVD at launch and use the size of the torrent swarm at the alleged time of infringement as a multiplier.

“The expert in this instance has ascertained that the swarm size you were involved in is [redacted]. The loss in this regard is therefore [£ redacted] (swarm size x £9.99 (sale price at first release (less taxes)),” the letter reads.

So, if a swarm size was 100 at the time of the alleged infringement, the settlement amount is 100 x £9.99 = £999. A swarm size of 200 would be double that.

This type of damages calculation is the first we’ve seen and upon initial view, seems a potentially reasonable way of putting a figure on precise losses, as UK law requires. However, it is potentially flawed, given the way BitTorrent works.

When people join a swarm (say of 100 users, or ‘peers’ as they’re known), they will connect to other users who are all sharing the same movie. The damages claim indicates that since there are 100 peers, then the defendant must have connected to each of them, in order to share the full movie with them all. Proving this, however, is extremely difficult.

When a torrent client connects to a swarm, it will obtain the IP addresses of potentially connectable peers, but it is extremely rare for the client to connect to them all. Some clients will reject the connection request and it’s likely that of the 100, only a dozen or two will actually connect. It is also possible that only a handful will connect.

Perhaps more importantly, an outsider monitoring the swarm cannot see how many or which other clients any particular client is connected to and/or whether they actually shared any content with them. The theoretical position changes for an initial seeder of content (given their importance to the entire swarm), but that’s not being claimed here.

Connections between peers are direct and outsiders cannot intervene. The only thing a monitoring company can potentially prove is that an IP address was in a swarm at a particular time and/or connected to THEIR torrent client, which is what tends to happen at the evidence-gathering stage.

While this is generally enough to prove on the balance of probabilities (the threshold in a UK civil case) that some infringement has taken place, the difficult-to-prove calculation presented in the letters suggests that the alleged infringer connected to 100 to 200 peers and sent each one a full copy of the work, valued at £9.99. The chances of this happening are slim to none since all peers connect to each other and take whichever missing pieces they need.

The letter goes on to suggest extreme action for those who deny the claims as set out.

“In the event you deny the infringement, my client reserves the right to seek an Order that you provide up all equipment (including PCs, laptops, and mobile phones) with previous or current access to the IP address for forensic analysis. Alternatively, you can arrange your own forensic analysis at your own expense,” Hyde adds.

A recent case in the United States saw a judge pour cold water on this type of aggressive discovery, noting that all computers, phones, and tablets belonging to the owner of the home and anyone who used its Internet connection would need to be examined to find someone who could be sued.

While “reserving the right” and actually seeking an order are two entirely different things, it will be interesting to see if a judge in the UK would be willing to sign off on such a request after five years have passed.

Depriving everyone in a household of every Internet-enabled device used in the last half-decade is a staggeringly big ask, particularly when the claim has been dormant for so long. The letter claims the issue is “urgent and serious”, however.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, Hatton and Berkeley founder Robert Croucher confirmed that the involvement of H&B Administration LLP is to provide an “insured and administrative wrapper”.

This mechanism, which helps to the limit the plaintiff’s exposure in the event of an adverse court ruling following a fight with an alleged infringer, was detailed in our earlier article.

“I can say that these type of proceedings are to be wrapped with an insurance policy hereon providing a level of risk mitigation to rights holders seeking reparation for damages sought at trial,” Croucher said.

To see how this particular ‘wrapper’ was formed, one only needs to query Companies House in the UK.

H & B Administration LLP (the wrapper) is a partnership involving Robert Croucher, partner Brigitta Kudor, plus TCYK LLC, which is the US company involved in similar copyright cases.

In accounts dated December 31, 2017, H & B Administration LLP was declared as having £558 in the bank. Given the idea is to limit the liability of the partnership to the money invested in the LLP by the partners, £558 (perhaps conveniently) doesn’t stretch very far in the event of a legal disaster for the partnership.

Received a similar letter? Contact TorrentFreak in complete confidence.

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Under US law, hosting companies are seen as neutral intermediaries, but according to the MPAA, these companies should take more responsibility for their role in the piracy ecosystem.

In a letter sent to the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Vishal Amin last week, Hollywood’s MPAA requests the Government’s assistance in this matter.

The IPEC requested input from the public on the new version of its Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement to which the MPAA replied with a broad range of suggestions.

The group notes that while there has been a lot of progress on the legal supply side, piracy remains a problem. This is in part due to a lack of involvement from third-party Internet services, who could do more to combat piracy.

“Compounding matters is the lack of accountability of some major online platforms for their failure to prevent content theft and other illicit conduct over their services,” the MPAA’s Senior Vice President Neil Fried writes.

In its submission, the MPAA highlights that there are some voluntary agreements in place, with payment services and advertisers for example, but that’s not enough. Other platforms and intermediaries should follow suit, they argue.

This includes hosting providers, which have the ability to shut pirate sites down. However, according to the MPAA, many refuse to do so, voluntarily at least.

“Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is disconcerting that many refuse to take action when notified that their hosting services are being used in clear violation of their own terms of service prohibiting intellectual property infringement and in blatant violation of the law,” the MPAA notes.

This should change, and the Hollywood group has some concrete examples of how these companies can improve.

Besides processing takedown notices and terminating repeat infringers, as they are required to do by law, the MPAA also wants hosting companies to use automated piracy filters on their servers.

“Hosting providers should filter using automated content recognition technology; forward DMCA notices to users, terminate repeat infringers after receipt of a reasonable number of notices, and prevent re-registration by terminated users,” the MPAA suggests.

In addition, hosting providers should not challenge suspension court orders, when copyright holders go up against pirate sites. Going a step further, hosts should keep an eye on high traffic volumes which may be infringing, and ban referral traffic from pirate sites outright.

The MPAA wants these companies to “implement download bandwidth or frequency limitations to prevent high volume traffic for particular files” to “remove files expeditiously” and “block referral traffic from known piracy sites.”

Some of the MPAA’s recommendations

Some of these suggestions go pretty far. The referral ban, for example, means that hosting providers would have to make sure that Pirate Bay visitors are blocked from entering one of the sites they host through a direct link, even if that site itself is perfectly legal.

The referral ban may be aimed at stopping pirate linking sites from using legitimate storage services for infringing content, but that would result in collateral damage as well.

Hosting companies are not the only web-services that can ‘improve’ their anti-piracy policies, of course. The MPAA also wants reverse proxy servers, such as Cloudflare, to terminate infringing sites, or at least identify their true location.

Regular ISPs don’t have to block pirate sites, at least not voluntarily. However, the MPAA notes that this changes when they are subject to a court order in the applicable jurisdiction.

The Hollywood group hopes that IPEC will continue its efforts to encourage these companies to implement “voluntary” measures. It anticipates that some will argue that this violates free expression, but MPAA notes that it does the opposite.

“[C]urbing illegal activity promotes free expression by creating a safer environment where individuals feel comfortable to communicate and engage in commerce, and to create and lawfully access content.”

The push for voluntary agreements with Internet services is just the tip of the iceberg though.

The MPAA further asks IPEC to make sure that that access to WHOIS data should be made public again, to ensure that trade agreements include proper copyright protections, and to encourage other Government departments including the Department of Justice to beef up their anti-piracy efforts.

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MPAA’s full submission to the US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.





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