Pirates Identify Booty by Hacking Shipping Company

When people talk about “pirates” and “hacking” together, it usually refers to those who release versions of software with the digital rights management systems removed or disabled. In this case, it was different. Revealed as part of Verizon’s 2015 Data Breach Investigation Report, Verizon’s RISK security response team were called in to assist a global shipping company who had fallen victim to network intrusions that were in turn used to assist in high-seas piracy.

The incident first came to light when the shipping company noticed an odd pattern in the attacks of pirates on their vessels. Instead of the typical approach of ransoming the crew and cargo of a target ship, the pirates instead operated hit-and-run attacks, seizing specific high-value shipping containers and making off with it alone.

The response team discovered that the shipping company had used a “homegrown” Web-based content management system to manage the content of their cargo ships. Upon analysis, it turned out that a malicious shell script had been uploaded to the server via a vulnerability in the software. The script gave the pirates backdoor access to the server, allowing them to upload and download files, including the bills of lading for the ships, as well as compromising a number of user passwords.

Mistakes made by the hackers allowed the hack to be uncovered easy by the response team, the primary one the script’s use of plain HTTP instead of making use of the server’s support for SSL encryption. This exposed every transmission of data to and from the server by the pirates when using the script. When put together, the team were able to see every command issued by the hackers, including a large number of spelling mistakes made in their commands. So while these cyber-attacks were certainly effective while paired with the physical attacks on the ships, those perpetrating the attacks were seemingly amateur. The biggest flaw in their hacks, however, was a complete disregard for operational security, using no proxies or other intermediaries, instead connecting directly from their home network. As a result, all it took to end the attack was the banning of the pirate hacker’s IP address.

Cyber-crime may be a serious threat in the world today, however, events like this have proven that attacks that combine both cyber and physical elements can be the most effective. Thankfully in this incident, the hackers proved themselves to have a level of incompetence that allowed them to be thwarted, but companies should be sure, more than ever, to defend themselves, not just in the physical world, but the online too.

UK Culture Secretary Compares Ad Blocking to Music Piracy

Ad blocking plugins have become a topic which polarized opinions and causes some friction between content creators and their readership. Websites like eTeknix rely on advertising revenue to pay staff wages, and help produce detailed content. On the other hand, we always want to make sure that the experience is user-friendly and display ads in a non-intrusive manner. This is why we don’t use adverts which take over your entire screen and become an instant annoyance. It’s a difficult balancing act though because websites are struggling to make money, and there’s various instances of major publications being closed due to financial problems. This includes CVG, Joystiq and more. Recently, Wired announced a new plan to block users with Ad blocking software and offer an ad-free website for a subscription fee.

As an internet user, I can understand why people use Adblock because many sites and services really make such an awful user-experience. If possible, it’s so important to white list those websites you want to support, because collectively it makes such a difference! The UK culture secretary, John Whittingdale recently weighed in on this very important debate during a speech at the Oxford Media Convention and said ad blocking software:

“..is depriving many websites and platforms of legitimate revenue,”

“It is having an impact across the value chain, and it presents a challenge that has to be overcome. Because, quite simply, if people don’t pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist.”

“And that’s as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse.”

“If we can avoid the intrusive ads that consumers dislike, then I believe there should be a decrease in the use of ad-blockers,”

“My natural political instinct is that self-regulation and co-operation is the key to resolving these challenges, and I know the digital sector prides itself on doing just that. But government stands ready to help in any way we can.”

Whittingdale even went onto compare ad blocking with illegal file sharing of films and music during the last decade. This is a very strong statement to make, and I believe it’s a little bit sensationalist. I personally see both sides of the arguments, and believe educating users about the importance of ads to help content creators is essential. At least Whittingdale did acknowledge that banning ad blocking software would be the incorrect approach.

Do you use ad blocking software?

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Kanye West Caught Pirating Software in Social Media Blunder

Kanye West’s buffoonery on social media is reaching comical levels and makes me wonder if it’s all just a publicity stunt. Initially, West went on an e-begging campaign pleading Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion and claimed he now has $53 million in personal debt. Here is just a brief snippet of his embarrassing remarks on Twitter:

“Mark Zuckerberg I know it’s your bday but can you please call me by 2mrw… You love hip hop, you love my art… I am your favorite artist but you watch me barely breathe and still play my album in your house … World, please tweet, FaceTime, Facebook, instagram, whatever you gotta do to get Mark to support me…(sic)”

“I know I can make the world a better place… I have done the impossible … I retook the throne of rap… I beat the fashion game…(sic)”

“Mark, I am publicly asking you for help… one of the coolest things you could ever do is to help me in my time of need.”

Of course the irony is, he’s asking for help on Facebook’s main competitor and cannot fathom why he’s being mocked by so many people. Once again, this might all be an act, and I’d usually refrain from giving Kanye West any publicity. However, the latest development is absurd, and left me completely speechless. In an amazing turn of events, Kanye West posted a picture on social media of his music tastes:

https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/704873833564659712

On closer inspection you can see he was searching for a $189 synthesiser made by Xfer Records for Mac and Windows. Next to this tab, is a search entry on the Pirate Bay to illegally download this music application without paying. This really is unbelievable considering Kanye West spearheaded the re-launch of a music streaming service called Tidal designed to give artists a fair revenue share. The entire premise revolves around letting consumers know how damaging piracy is and providing a legal alternative. From this evidence, it looks very hypocritical and exemplifies how ridiculous this man is. Honestly, I worry about the future of humanity if people like Kanye West can become successful and obtain a position of significant influence.

Image courtesy of Vibe

Kanye West’s Latest Album Already Pirated Over Half a Million Times

Kanye West recently released his new album, The Life of Pablo, exclusively on the music streaming service Tidal owned by fellow artist Jay-Z. However, amidst numerous complaints from fans that they have been unable to listen to the album they had paid for on Tidal, piracy has sprung up. The album became incredibly popular on The Pirate Bay, appearing not just once, but twice in the site’s top 10 music downloads.

Torrenting blog Torrent Freak estimate that the album has already been illegally downloaded over half a million times, with as many as 10,000 people sharing a copy of a single torrent of the album at one time. Torrents aren’t the only way that pirates illegally acquire music either, with numerous direct downloads and private hosts further inflating the numbers by and unknown amount. This level of piracy is unprecedented according to Torrent Freak, describing the piracy of The Life of Pablo as “something we haven’t seen with a music release before.”

Being such a hotly anticipated release, it could be expected that the levels of piracy would be high.It seems clear that Kanye’s choice to release the album solely on Tidal, which has been plagued with issues around the release and announcements that the album would never be for sale have clearly driven more and more fans to illegal measures to enjoy the album. Despite the efforts of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), who have issued takedown notices to Google and removed numerous torrents, as the material becomes widespread, the more easily it springs back up.

Piracy Group Suspends New Cracks to Gauge Sales Impact

There’s always a heated discussion regarding the reason why people illegally download content. Some argue it’s simply down to wanting the latest film/games/album without paying, while other figures like Gabe Newell have suggested piracy is a “service problem”. Whatever the case, it’s evidently clear that there are quite a lot of people downloading torrents, or files directly from hosting sites. Obviously, when it comes to games, pirates rely on cracking groups to circumvent various forms of DRM including Steamworks. One particular group, is based in China and goes by the name of 3DM. This is one of the most popular organizations especially when you consider the high piracy rate in China. Not so long ago, pirates eagerly awaited the group to create a crack for Just Cause 3. However, the group’s leader, ‘Bird Sister’ claimed the game was incredibly challenging to crack and suggested advanced anti-piracy technologies such as Denuvo could eliminate pirated games within the next two years.

Recently, ‘Bird Sister’ made a shocking announcement and said the piracy group will no longer provide any new cracks for at least a year:

“We just had an internal meeting. Starting at the Chinese New Year, 3DM will not crack any single-player games,”

“Cracks by overseas warez groups will still get posted on the [3DM] forum, and we will actively deal with these,”

“We’ll take a look at the situation in a year’s time to see if genuine sales have grown,”

It will be interesting to see if the lack of new cracks will have an impact on sales figures. However, this will be very difficult to judge unless the figures are taken from very successful new releases. Plus, surely it won’t have an impact if another cracking group comes out with a cracked version. Perhaps, this is just an excuse to forgo the difficult encryption from Denuvo. This is a cynical viewpoint, but there’s some merit to it.

Far Cry: Primal And Rise of the Tomb Raider to Use Denuvo

Major publishers have attempted to curb piracy on the PC platform by implementing various forms of Digital Rights Management including SecuROM, TAGES, Games For Windows Live, Rockstar Social Club and many more! In reality, all this does is negatively impact on the experience for genuine customers as cracking groups usually release a pirated version extremely quickly. The latest creation to try and reduce piracy is Denuvo which acts as an additional protection layer to compliment existing forms of DRM. Apparently, Denuvo is best described as an Anti-Tamper piece of software which “continuously encrypts and decrypts itself so that it is impossible to crack.”. 

However, this isn’t entirely true because Dragon Age Inquisition eventually got cracked despite using Denuvo protection. Clearly, the concept revolves around delaying the cracking process long enough to make pirates infuriated and encourage them to purchase the game through legitimate channels. It might surprise you but quite a few modern releases utilize Denuvo including Just Cause 3 and Metal Gear Solid V. Furthermore, according to Far Cry: Primal’s EULA, the game will also use Denuvo and specifically states:

“THE PRODUCT IS PROTECTED BY DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE (“DRM SOFTWARE”) AND DENUVO ANTI-TAMPER PROTECTION TECHNOLOGY”

“CERTAIN FILES OF THE ANTI-TAMPER TECHNOLOGY  MAY REMAIN EVEN AFTER THE PRODUCT IS UNINSTALLED FROM YOUR COMPUTER. “

The second clause is very disturbing, and surely a breach of European law. This is because it behaves like spyware, and cannot be removed. Furthermore, the way Denuvo works is only known by a minority of people and hopefully as consumers become more aware of its terrible nature, there should be a greater uproar. On another note, Codefusion’s  tech support site indicates that Rise of the Tomb Raider will also implement Denuvo. I really hope there’s a backlash against publishers opting for this piece of terrible software because it’s quite secretive and has some extremely worrying ramifications.

Portugal’s Piracy Blocklist Censors US Indie Developer

Portuguese internet server providers currently have a voluntary agreement with anti-piracy groups and began blocking hundreds of websites which allegedly host links to copyrighted content. This allows copyright holders to easily add new pirate sites to the blocklist without requiring any jurisdiction from a court. More specifically, websites should contain a minimum of 500 links to infringing material to be flagged. Of course, ISPs prefer this scheme because it doesn’t cost them any money to become involved in expensive legal proceedings on behalf of their customers. However, blocklists have a propensity to wrongfully include certain websites with legitimate content.

For example, according to TorrentFreak, US indie developer, Carbon Games has for some bizarre reason been added to the blocklist. The issue was first reported by Revolução dos Bytes, and confirmed various ISPs including NOS, MEO and Vodafone had restricted access. This is quite an embarrassing turn of events, and showcases the pitfalls of content flagging via blacklists. I’m not entirely sure how Carbon Games’ website fell prey to the algorithm as it’s only meant to apply to websites with loads of illegitimate referrals.

Thankfully, the block is easily circumvented by accessing the website using a non-www address. Additionally, users can change their DNS to something that doesn’t rely on their ISP, such Google DNS or OpenDNS. Once again, this illustrates how pointless many blocklists are, because they can be expensive to implement and take seconds to circumvent. Perhaps, a more sensible approach would be to keep the internet’s open ideology and stop profit organizations from seeking control. In almost every circumstance, anti-piracy measures appear to make the situation worse for rightholders, or legitimate customers. I can’t see this changing anytime soon though, and if anything, anti-piracy groups are becoming more aggressive and a threat to the internet’s open roots.

I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced any problems accessing legitimate websites.

Australian Netflix Users Threaten to Cancel Accounts over VPN Crackdown

Following the announcement by Netflix that it will begin cracking down on VPN ‘piracy’ to bypass geoblocked content, a number of Australian users have threatened to cancel their accounts with the video-on-demand platform, citing sub-standard native content, news.com.au reports.

Others argue that the move, in the absence of legitimate options, will only encourage illegal downloading:

https://twitter.com/SpaceCrazy/status/685873122260705280

While Netflix’s original shows – including the likes of House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Narcos – is available in all territories, independent of its geographical locks, it marks only a small fraction of the company’s content, much of which is tied to regional licensing agreements.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” David Fullagar, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, wrote in his announcement of the VPN crackdown. “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

“We are delivering Netflix to 190 countries around the world. Our diverse slate of Originals and licensed programming should provide a service members find valuable no matter where they’re watching,” a Netflix spokesman told news.com.au. “As we continue to strive towards licencing content on a global scale, along with our slate of originals which launch globally simultaneously, the use of VPNs will become redundant.”

Netflix Begins VPN Crackdown

Netflix has announced that it is beginning its first widescale crackdown on VPN ‘piracy’ to view geoblocked content in other countries. David Fullagar, Vice President of Content Delivery Architecture at Netflix, revealed the move on Thursday evening (14th January) via the Netflix blog.

Fullagar blames existing territorial licensing agreements for the move, but expresses the hope that, one day, Netflix will be able to offer the same content to all users on a global scale. Until that happens, though, it will no longer turn a blind eye to customers that bypass global content locks using VPN services.

“If all of our content were globally available, there wouldn’t be a reason for members to use proxies or “unblockers” to fool our systems into thinking they’re in a different country than they’re actually in,” Fullagar writes. “We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries, but we have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”

“Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory,” Fullagar adds. “To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.”

The move comes in the wake of Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer for Netflix, claiming at CES 2016 last week that it was “not obvious” how to block VPN usage to sidestep geoblocking.

The Pirate Bay’s “Hydra” Has Been Decapitated

This time last year, The Pirate Bay was all but dead; the Swedish datacentre that hosted the notorious torrent site had been raided by police in December 2014, leaving it offline for many weeks. Days later, shortly before Christmas, the site’s administrators teased the imminent return of The Pirate Bay.

After the site did rise from the ashes using its original domain at the end of January 2015, it implemented a strategy in May which it described as a “Hydra”: instead of a single domain supported by proxies, The Pirate Bay now had six domain names, .GS, .LA, .VG, .AM, .MN, and .GD. The six TLDs were a show of defiance against those who tried to down the infamous site’s .SE domain; cut of one head and six more sprung up its place.

Over the last few months, those six domains were slowly chipped away during the last half of 2015. Now, ThePirateBay.LA, .GD, .MN, and .VG domains have been suspended by their registrar, forcing the site’s administrators to revert back to the original .SE and .ORG TLDs.

While the above five domains remain active, ThePirateBay.LA is vulnerable after being classified as clienthold, according to TorrentFreak. The Hydra’s six heads have been decapitated. Will we get a new host of domain names to take their place?

Pirate Bay Founder Has Built the Ultimate Piracy Machine

Peter Sunde has already served prison time for his part in co-founding The Pirate Bay, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating a piracy machine that could conceivably cost him $10 million a day in copyright infringement damages. Sunde has built the “Kopimashin”, a system that copies Gnarls Barkley ‘Crazy’ 100 times per second, as an art project to show the absurdity of right’s holders claiming that piracy is robbing them of money.

The “Kopimashin”, powered by a Raspberry Pi, a LCD screen, and a few lines of Python code, creates over 8 million copies of ‘Crazy’ every day, or around $10 million in “losses” for Downtown Records and Warner Music.  These copies, though, are not stored, and are instead sent to /dev/null after their creation. The act of copying itself, however, is legally seen as an infringement.

“I want to show the absurdity on the process of putting a value to a copy. The machine is made to be very blunt and open about the fact that it’s not a danger to any industry at all,”  

“But following their rhetoric and mindset it will bankrupt them. I want to show with a physical example – that also is really beautiful in its own way – that putting a price to a copy is futile.”

Sunde added:

“The damages in the TPB case are equally ludicrous of course. The idea behind it is of course never to get that money paid, but to scare people into silence and obedience,” 

The Kopimashin will be on display at an upcoming exhibition held by ‘hacker art’ organisation Konstfack, as part of the PSK value series.

Image courtesy of International Business Times.

ISP’s in Germany Can be Ordered to Block Piracy Websites

ISP’s are the ones responsible for giving the public access to the world wide web and everything that you can find on it. The problem with the public having access to everything is that sometimes they give access to things which they shouldn’t, a game or a movie or sometimes just designs for things which haven’t even been created. Piracy online is the concept that you either host or copy something that you don’t own, have the rights to use or the permission to run. Germany has had enough though and its supreme court has said that maybe you shouldn’t be able to access that material online.

In a recent ruling, the supreme court has ruled that ISP’s can be required to block sites if they meet two conditions first. The first condition is that the person requesting the block must have explored alternative options, this can be anything from contacting the person that uploaded the material to contacting the site that hosts the material.

The second option is that the site can only be blocked if “on balance” they are deemed to have more illegal than legal content, this means that if someone uploads one bad file to your system the chance that your system will be blocked is small.

More and more countries are making moves like this, from tracking down illegal uploaders to blocking off people’s access to the materials, where do you stand on this question. Should we be given free reign of the internet and the people who are illegally uploading materials targeted or should the people who download and use the materials illegally be acceptable targets for legal action as well?

Google Receives 1500 DMCA Takedowns Per Minute

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act gives copyright holders the ability to make takedown requests for any content they deem a breach of copyright law. During the last month, Google received 5,609 takedown notices spanned across 65 million links. This translates to 1,500 demands per minute or 25 per second! According to TorrentFreak, takedown requests have doubled compared to the same time last year. The graph below outlines the huge rise of DMCA requests per week:

Back in 2011, Google only received a few hundred takedown requests each day but this figure has now grown to more than two million. On another note, Google last year changed its search algorithm to downrank websites which hosted pirated content or received copyright notices. Despite this, the MPAA and RIAA believe Google isn’t doing enough to deter piracy and remove content in a quick fashion. However, the huge amount of takedowns only makes the system appear quite flawed and impossible to manage effectively. Perhaps copyright holders should focus on the serial offenders and not simply a site hosting the odd illegal file here and there.

I can see the upward trend continuing and takedown requests per day reaching 3000, then 6000, and 12000. This seems ridiculous and surely there is a better way of protecting copyrighted material without going on a crusade through the DMCA.

YTS Closure Down to Deal Struck With Hollywood

YTS, the website that was home to the infamous YIFY torrents, closed for good last week, calling time on years of good quality, low file size HD pirated movies. YIFY, which was the primary source of content for popular pirate streaming app Popcorn Time, nor YTS revealed what had motivated its decision to cease operation, but it has now been revealed that the team responsible agreed to the closure in a deal with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in order to escape prosecution.

YTS was under legal pressure from the MPAA, as confirmed by its Chairman Christopher J. Dodd last week. “This coordinated legal action is part of a larger comprehensive approach being taken by the MPAA and its international affiliates to combat content theft,” Dodd said.

In response to legal action, the unnamed 21-year-old behind YTS – said to be a citizen of New Zealand, much like Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who could face prison for similar deeds – signed a private settlement deal with the MPAA to close down the site and cease producing YIFY torrents in order to escape jail time, according to TorrentFreak. The YTS.to domain name was later signed over to the MPAA.

Given the similarities between the legal infringements by YTS and the on-going prosecution of Kim Dotcom, the German entrepreneur is understandably aggrieved by what he calls “a double standard”.

“I think our case has chilled law enforcement and Hollywood against pursuing the criminal route in cases such as this. Quick civil settlements seem to be the new way to go,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak.

Image courtesy of CurrentlyDown.

Chromecast Alternative Teewe Will Support Torrent Streaming

Teewe is a popular streaming dongle in India and offers an alternative to Google’s Chromecast. Some critics have branded the device as a basic clone, but the company is desperately trying to add functionality which makes it a more attractive proposition. Interestingly, the streaming stick will soon support torrent streaming and it’s unlikely this will ever appear on the Chromecast due to copyright concerns. Sai Srinivas, Teewe co-founder and CEO told Tech In Asia:

“We don’t want to be seen as promoting piracy,”

“But at the same time, we want our consumers to have a choice. Let them have the choice […] I’m not judging or questioning them. Like if you buy a DVD player, and if you play a pirated DVD, it’s your fault, not the DVD player’s fault.”

This is an interesting feature and doesn’t technically infringe copyright. Although, if the streaming stick sales improve dramatically when the functionality is added, this could indicate it will be popular among pirates. Additionally, poverty in India means it’s extremely difficult to pay for expensive forms of entertainment media.

The unit also allows users to store mobile phone games and enjoy a “lag-free” gaming experience. The Teewe 2 is currently priced at $35, and it’s unknown if torrent streaming will come in a future model or via a software update.

Do you think torrent streaming should be supported?

Anti-Piracy Company Makes Social Media Blunder

There are a significant number of anti-piracy outlets whose role is to protect rightholder’s copyrighted content. However, often their activities are conducted in an overbearing manner and can impact on the internet’s freedom. London-based MUSO is responsible for piracy tracking and makes a huge number of DMCA takedowns. Despite the company’s huge cash injection of £250,000 from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board, their flagging system is extremely flawed. Only a few days ago, the company sent out a tweet which reads:

However, an investigation conducted by TorrentFreak shows the filter searches for any filename containing “The Walk”. As a result, all The Walking Dead traffic was included and makes the results completely inaccurate. This rookie mistake is staggering given the government funding and support from leading rightsholders. On another note, some of the DMCA claims by MUSO have been found to be incorrect and raises questions about their monitoring software.

While these companies exist to reduce piracy and apply pressure on internet service providers, nothing will change and it seems like a complete waste of tax payer’s money. ISPs were lobbied into blocking various torrent sites, but this can easily be circumvented via a proxy or VPN. Trying to control the internet isn’t democratic and cannot be achieved. However, companies will desperately try to deter people from engaging in illegal downloads.

Fallout 4 PC DVD Requires Steam Due to “Piracy”

The majority of retail PC games utilize Steamworks as a form of copy-protection and customers often enjoy the various benefits of the Steam client. However, there are still a number of PC gamers who prefer DRM-Free editions and like to own a physical copy. The Vice President of Marketing at Bethesda has confirmed Fallout 4’s retail copy will require Steam and doesn’t even contain all the data files:

Sadly, the reply is a little ambiguous so it’s difficult to deduce how much of the game is actually stored on the disk. Perhaps, the disk is authenticated before downloading a few verification files.

Hines also explained why the Steamworks DRM is included and simply responded with “piracy”. While piracy is more common on the PC, it’s also quite prevalent on consoles. As a result, I don’t understand his reasoning and the DRM will easily be cracked by major piracy groups. On another note, the PC’s user base is becoming more popular and Steam has clearly encouraged pirates away from illegally downloading games. As Gabe Newell once said, piracy is a “service problem”.

Personally, I don’t see Steamworks as a major issue given the benefits of cloud saves, achievements and an organized library. However, the piracy reasoning does become irksome and doesn’t paint a completely accurate picture. Piracy isn’t a problem on the current console generation but the X86 architecture could be prone to easy modifications. Although, the large size of games is a deterrent.

Do you think piracy is solely a PC problem? If not, why hasn’t Bethesda used DRM on console copies?

Australian Netflix Launch Ushers Fall in Piracy

Making content available prevents piracy. Everyone knows it, including Hollywood (though, it’d rather use the situation as an excuse for suing users and screwing video-on-demand services). It’s so simple it shouldn’t need saying. Yet it does, over and over. The latest proof is the recent launch of video-on-demand service Netflix in Australia.

Since Netflix expanded to Australia in March of this year, there has been a 29% decrease in piracy amongst adults aged 18-64, with the number of adults in the same age bracket using video-on-demand services has risen by 32%, according to a survey conducted by the IP Awareness Foundation. While correlation does not prove causation, further answers given during the study indicated that at least one-third of former pirates put the rise of video-on-demand services forward as the reason for ceasing to download illegal content.

“Piracy has always needed a range of measures to tackle the problem as we all know there is no silver bullet. This fall in piracy rates is definitely largely attributable to the combination of the government’s new legislation, plus the ongoing efforts of the creative industries to continue delivering great content at accessible prices to Australian consumers and the work being done to educate consumers about the impact of copyright theft,” Lori Flekser, Executive Director of IP Awareness, said.

Now, if only we could do something about geo-blocking…

Thank you Kotaku for providing us with this information.

WikiLeaks Reveals ISPs to Disclose Copyright Infringer Details Under TPP

WikiLeaks has been revealing details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership since the deal was agreed (but not signed) by Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, and Chile last week after years of negotiation, and the latest documents show that internet service providers in participating countries will be forced to hand over the details of any user thought to be infringing upon copyrighted materials.

The leaked document (which can be found on the WikiLeaks website), while representing a draft with the final wording yet to be agreed, purports to be the “final” version of the intellectual property chapter.

“This is the highly sort-after [sic] secret ‘final’ agreed version of the TPP chapter on intellectual property rights,” the document released by WikiLeaks reads. “There is still a finishing ‘legal scrub’ of the document meant to occur, but there are to be no more negotiations between the parties … The document is dated October 5, the same day it was announced in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, that the 12 nations had managed to reach an accord after five and half years of negotiations.”

Under the agreement, ISPs will be subject to “legal incentives” to encourage them to block copyright infringing materials and assist the copyright owners in preventing the transmission of storage of such materials. ISPs are considered liable for its users; therefore, if one of its users is found infringing copyrighted material, the ISP is considered responsible, presumably to force it into shopping its users rather than take the rap for piracy. Copyright holders can submit a list of infringing IP addresses to ISPs and expect to receive details of the offending users in return.

TPP is still being ratified by its 12 member countries prior to signing. Organisations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are still fighting against TPP, specifically the Intellectual Property Chapter.

Thank you ZDNet for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Alochonaa.

Hollywood is to Blame for the Popularity of Popcorn Time

Hollywood is in the midst of an aggressive assault against “Netflix for pirates” movie streaming app Popcorn Time and its users, but the owners of Popcorn Time insists that its VOD service isn’t the problem, Hollywood’s lack of legal rival is. In a statement to TorrentFreak, the Popcorn Time team argues that the US film industry is suffering a problem of its own making, born out of a combination of greed and ignorance of the digital market.

“People are ready to pay a fee, but a lot of them currently refuse to pay for a petty catalog with country-specific restrictions,” says the Popcorn Time team. “The price can also be a hurdle for some people: $20 a month is not the same in Uganda and the United States. But obviously, the most problematic issue is the complete lack of legal availability in some places.”

Popcorn Time takes aim specifically at Hollywood’s counter-intuitive regional deals, protected by geo-blocks, as a way in which potential consumers are being turned off. “Why would people in France wait two years to see a movie that’s already being broadcasted in the US, when they both are paying almost the same amount of money?” the team asks. “The Internet has brought people closer, and they start to notice that some things aren’t acceptable. And then they turn to alternatives, even if it means diving into illegality.”

“Maybe it is time to consider the will of the people and offer them a legal, complete and useful service, no matter where they were born, instead of trying to punish people for… well, for wanting the see the content artists and industries are offering,” Popcorn Time adds, in one final swipe. “Currently, piracy is fulfilling the demand of the people because the industry fails at the transition into the modern age. We think it’s as simple as that.”

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Dribble.

Netflix 4K Content Leaked to Torrent Sites

Netflix has been phasing in 4K content since last year, and industrious pirates have now found a way to circumvent the video streaming site’s copy protection. Netflix’s Ultra HD version of Breaking Bad’s first episode – the one file alone is nearly 18 gigabytes – has hit torrent sites this week, with more Netflix 4K rips expected in the near future.

Before the leak of the first episode of Breaking Bad from Netflix’s 4K catalogue, the High-Bandwidth Digital Copy Protection (HDCP) version 2.2 (or higher) encryption used to protect the Ultra HD content was considered uncrackable. Now this has been proven untrue, it’s only a matter of time before a torrent of 4K TV shows and movies hit your favourite pirate sites. It has not yet been revealed whether HDCP has been truly cracked, or simply bypassed.

A pirate group known as “iON” are responsible for the 2160p Breaking Bad leak, which clocks in at 17.73GB, approximately 50 times the size of its standard definition equivalent. It’s only available on private torrent trackers for the time being, but the file is expected to leak to public sites soon.

“Piracy is a global problem. We, like others content providers, are actively working on ways to protect content featured on our site,” a Netflix spokesperson told TorrentFreak.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Digital Trends.

News Corp CEO Lashes Out At Google and Others at Event

Robert Thomson, who is the News Corp CEO and right hand man to dark lord Murdoch has lashed out at Google for “piracy, zealotry and kleptocracy” Let me for a moment check Google for definitions of these words, Piracy is well-known so I won’t be checking that.

Zealotry – right wing fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political, or other ideals;  

Kleptocracy – is a term applied to a government seen as having a particularly severe and systemic problem with officials or a ruling class.

I can see where he is coming from with the term Zealotry, after all, Google is extremely uncompromising in its business model towards privacy, competition and other interests. Kleptocracy? Google has a problem paying taxes and to some extent has disobeyed the ideals of the ruling class, but in others has assisted by sharing data of consumers etc. It depends how you define the relationship between state and tech companies.

Finally piracy, again, Google is perceived to rip news corporations off by offering free news, but should consumers pay for the right to educate themselves on world events. Google has also taken steps to delete millions of links to pirated content in the last few years, I am not defending Google, but I don’t believe everything should be behind a paywall, as is News Corp’s vision.

Robot Thompson went on to say that Google and LinkedIn among others “redistribute the content created by others, they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks. I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act” Before stating “the digital age has been hostile to investment in reporters and reporting” I would argue this is a speech from a Republican dilutionist who lost his audience at “unnatural act.”

News Corp and many other avenues are facing challenges of monetizing their content effectively, the old days of buying a newspaper is fading fast and it’s up to these companies to strategize a future whereby consumers are more inclined to pay for content, instead of knocking the search engines that after all, link to their content in the first place. This also highlights what consumers actually want from their news, if you had the choice of paying for a news article which basically tells you the same as a free article, which one would you choose?

News is news, the US or some other company being hacked again is the same whether it’s paid to read or free. It will be interesting to see how you monetize news when there is a saturation of sources available.

Thank you mUmBrella for providing us with this information.

Image Courtesy of Forbes

Will Windows 10 Really Disable Pirated Software?

Over the past week, reports have circulated that the terms and conditions of Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows 10, grants it permission to disable or delete any pirated software, whether proprietary or third-party. A closer look at the end-user license agreement, though, suggests that fear could have been greatly exaggerated.

The potentially offending section of the Microsoft Services Agreement is Section 7.b., which reads as follows:

Sometimes you’ll need software updates to keep using the Services. We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices. You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services. Such updates are subject to these Terms unless other terms accompany the updates, in which case, those other terms apply. Microsoft isn’t obligated to make any updates available and we don’t guarantee that we will support the version of the system for which you licensed the software.

But, as reddit user GenuineID points out, the Microsoft Services Agreement only applies to listed Microsoft services, and not Windows 10 itself. Windows 10 has its own separate agreement, the Microsoft Software License Terms. Instead, the Microsoft Services Agreement’s Covered Services applies to Microsoft services, with Section 7.b. specifically covering the following services:

  • Xbox and Windows Games published by Microsoft
  • Xbox Live

So, Microsoft frowns upon counterfeit games on Windows and Xbox? Same as it ever was. Move along. Nothing to see.

Thank you reddit for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Windows 10 Update.

Windows 10 can Disable Pirated Games and Unauthorized Hardware

Microsoft updated the “Microsoft Services Agreement” on August 1st, 2015 which prohibits the use of pirated software or unauthorized hardware. The new policy has a revision which clearly states:

“Sometimes you’ll need software updates to keep using the Services. We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices.”

“You may also be required to update the software to continue using the Services. Such updates are subject to these Terms unless other terms accompany the updates, in which case, those other terms apply.”

“Microsoft isn’t obligated to make any updates available and we don’t guarantee that we will support the version of the system for which you licensed the software.”

This means Microsoft can disable any software in a database it deems as illegitimate. One could argue that this isn’t a problem to users opting for genuine software and only applies to pirates. However, anti-piracy measures can often be a disaster and takedown genuine pieces of software due to a malfunction. Additionally, unsupported hardware could refer to a motherboard change, or using an unofficial controller. Although, I highly doubt the latter would be true.

Whatever the case, these terms are quite disturbing and emphasizes Windows 10 is more of a service than an operating system. Honestly, I can see this causing a myriad of problems in the future. Even applying game mods or fan-patches could flag as being pirated. Microsoft already adopts a heavy-handed approach with its UAC system and this measure does little to alleviate concerns about snooping.

MPAA Seeking Programmer to Take Down Pirates

Are you a software programmer in need of a job? Do you hate people who torrent the latest instalment in the Twilight franchise (brave stance, I know)? Yes? Then the Motion Picture Association of America wants you! The MPAA is an organisation with a history of throwing its weight around to get its own way, resorting to duplicitous and Machiavellian schemes when that doesn’t work. Now, it intends to take the law into its own hands, seeking to hire a software programmer to hunt, track, and report on computer users suspected of sharing any copyrighted content that falls within the MPAA’s purview.

A job posting has revealed that the Software Programmer will work directly under the Vice President of Internet Content Protection, and responsibilities include developing tools to monitor and collect large amounts of data on pirates.

“They will develop and use automated tools for gathering large amounts of data from online websites and resources, and generate meaningful statistics to help guide and bolster enforcement actions,” reads the application.

Key Responsibilities are listed as:

  • Assist the Vice President and Internet Intelligence Managers in developing and executing a global internet strategy.
  • Designing and developing applications; tasks include programming, coding and debugging, both for proprietary and third-party systems.
  • Develop scripts for conducting automated scrapes of online information for intelligence gathering and enforcement purposes.
  • Conduct detailed forensic analysis of online content, including reviewing technical infrastructure of online platforms and sites.
  • Analyze, investigate and report on websites at the code level (PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc.).
  • Organizing the intake of vendor-supplied information into internal tracking and case management systems.
  • Monitor, investigate and report on copyright infringement occurring online via established and emerging content distribution technologies.
  • Creating, developing and/or revising business processes and applications to aid in the streamlining of Internet Intelligence activities.
  • Perform customized trainings with self-produced materials on technical topics in support of internal staff, association members and law enforcement.

If the MPAA put as much energy into making film content more easily accessible into persecuting those that download torrents, it might actually Onbecome effective at fighting piracy. Some may think Hollywood doesn’t really care.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

WordPress Dismisses 43% of Piracy Takedown Notices

Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has published the number of DMCA takedown requests received during the last few months. Between January to June, there was a total of 4,679 copyright claims submitted but only 57% were successful. Why? A large proportion of these were inaccurate and more than 10% of cases contained an abusive agenda. Interestingly, the figures below show that over 50% of requests were rejected during February and April.

 

A representative from the company said,

“We work hard to make our DMCA process as fair, transparent, and balanced as possible, so we stringently review all notices we receive to quickly process valid infringement claims and push back on those that we see as abusive,”

While WordPress do not currently publish the specifics of each request, they are considering making an example out of those who abuse the system. Sifting through thousands of DMCA submissions is an extremely time-consuming task and becoming more unbearable as each month progresses. Copyright holders are taking a proactive approach to remove illegitimate content from a variety of websites. This is extremely problematic with websites which host user-created photos, videos and other material. There’s still a legal ambiguity in regards to who the onus for illegal content is on. Additionally, the internet is an open ecosystem and fixating on removing content is a lost cause.

Thank you TorrentFreak for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of WordPress.org.

Hollywood Issuing DMCA Takedowns for Content on Their Own Computers

Are you familiar with this message?

“In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.”

It appears at the bottom of Google search results, usually when looking for pages related to an intellectual property, and comes as a result of DMCA takedowns issued by the copyright holder. Say you’re searching for The Avengers: Age of Ultron; it’s likely that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has found instances of piracy related to the movie, and submitted DMCA takedown notices to have the infringing pages removed from Google searches.

A recent DMCA takedown sent to Google, related to dino blockbuster Jurassic World, looks like any other.

Except, on closer inspection, one of the infringing URLs is listed as http://127.0.0.1 which, as I’m sure most readers will know, is the localhost address of the person sending the DMCA. That means that the DMCA takedown includes materials on the submitter’s computer.

NBC Universal made the same mistake when issuing a DMCA takedown for 47 Ronin:

While Workman Publishing also had the infringing content – in this case, the Life of Pi audiobook – on their computers:

A search through ‘Chilling Effects’, Google’s database of DMCA notices, will present a plethora of infringing 127.0.0.1 URLs. Maybe Hollywood should be held to account for its role in online piracy, too.

Thank you The Next Web for providing us with this information.