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  1. Last week
  2. Copyright holders and the US Government want ICANN to make domain WHOIS data more accessible again. They say that this information is required to track down online pirates as well as other bad actors. If progress isn't made soon, US Congress may have to step up and pass legislation to reach the desired effect, they warn. It’s been nearly a year since the EU’s new privacy regulation, the GDPR, was implemented. The GDPR requires many online services and tools to tighten their privacy policies. This also affects domain registrars. Faced with this new regulation, the domain registrar oversight body ICANN implemented a temporary specification. This led to restrictions in access to personal data of site owners that would previously have been available through the WHOIS system. The change was welcomed by privacy advocates and many domain registrants, but anti-piracy groups are not happy. Industry groups such as the MPAA use WHOIS information to investigate and go after pirate sites. The Hollywood group has been rather adamant about its need to access WHOIS data. It previously warned the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration that a more open system will increase privacy, rather than the other way around. Since then, little has changed. However, the MPAA remains determined. In a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week, it asks the US Government agency to help out. Ideally, it wants a system where authorized organizations get easy access. “The MPAA requests that the FTC continue urging [ICANN] to expeditiously adopt and implement an access and accreditation model restoring the availability of WHOIS information to protect consumers and legitimate commerce, including to combat copyright infringement. “The MPAA also asks the FTC to help ensure domain name providers diligently review and grant requests for such access until the model is implemented,” the anti-piracy group adds. The movie industry group points out that, since the founding of the commercial Internet, WHOIS information has been the starting point to combat online crime, including identity theft, theft of intellectual property, fraud, cyber attacks, illicit sale of opioids, and human trafficking. The temporary solution ICANN has in place now is not a good alternative, the MPAA argues, as it unnecessarily restricts access. The MPAA is not the only industry group complaining about WHOIS restrictions. The Copyright Alliance, Creative Future, and the Independent Film and Television Alliance also sent a letter to the FTC highlighting the same issue. In addition, the US Government itself has chimed in as well. Last week David J. Redl, NTIA‘s Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, sent a letter to ICANN Chair Cherine Chalaby. In the letter, Redl urges ICANN to take “swift” action. “The WHOIS information is a critical tool that helps to keep people accountable for what they do and put online. Law enforcement uses WHOIS to shut down criminal enterprises and malicious websites,” Redl writes. Redl notes that he was pleased to see that, with help various stakeholders, some progress had been made. However, ICANN should continue to move forward, especially since the temporary specification expires next month. “Now its time to deliberately and swiftly create a system that allows for third parties with legitimate interests, like law enforcement, IP rights holders, and cybersecurity experts to access non-public data critical to fulfilling their missions,” Redl notes. The letter also comes with a sting. If ICANN fails to adopt a new policy, or at least get closer to it, US lawmakers may have to step in. “Without clear and meaningful progress, alternative solutions such as calls for domestic legislation will only intensify and be considered,” Redl writes. This option appears to be the subject of discussion behind closed doors, as the MPAA also brought it up in its letter to the FTC. “In the event ICANN and domain name providers fail to do so, the U.S. Congress is well within its prerogatives to pass legislation preserving access to WHOIS information to protect its citizens and promote legitimate commerce,” the MPAA writes. “Because of the importance of continued access to WHOIS information to the FTC and others, the MPAA asks the FTC and other agencies to support legislative efforts if such circumstances come to pass.” It’s clear that the pressure is on.
  3. The Federal Communications Commission has issued an Enforcement Advisory that has the potential to affect large numbers of pirates in the United States. The FCC reports an increase in the marketing of streaming-capable set-top devices that do not comply with US law. Those who contravene relevant legislation face fines that can exceed $147,000 per violation. With streaming now becoming the preferred method of obtaining video content for huge numbers of Internet users, sales of capable hardware are on the rise. Devices like Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, Google’s Chromecast, Roku’s Streaming Stick, Apple TV, and the Nvidia Shield are now the tools of choice for millions of users. But while the above are completely legal to market and own, that isn’t always the case for alternatives from less well-known suppliers. In most countries, people are able to buy streaming-capable (often Android-based and/or WiFi-enabled) devices over the Internet that don’t comply with local laws, and not just because they’re supplied ready-configured for piracy. In Europe, for example, electronic devices must comply with strict safety, health, and environmental requirements (such as limits on external radio interference), before being able to display the ‘CE’ mark as required by law. For those produced or sold in the United States, electronic devices can obtain certification and show the FCC logo (above right) providing that, among other things, the interference they cause is under the limits approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). According to the FCC, however, many devices being marketed, sold and used in the country do not meet the standards. In an Enforcement Advisory published this week, the FCC states that engaging in any of the above activites in respect of non-compliant devices is illegal and subject to punishment. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) has observed an increase in the marketing of Video TV Set-Top Boxes, designed to stream Internet-based content, that do not comply with FCC equipment marketing requirements,” the advisory reads. “Anyone marketing or operating noncompliant devices should stop immediately. Violators may be subject to substantial monetary penalties that could total more than $147,000 per violation.” In this case, the term ‘marketing’ is rather broad and defined by the FCC as importing, distributing, advertising or offering non-compliant devices for sale or lease. The $147,000 figure certainly looks scary too, but that’s only likely to apply to serious offenders (see: 47 U.S.C. § 503(b)(2)(D), 47 CFR §§ 1.80(b)(7), 47 CFR §§ 1.80(b)(9) ) While even non-compliant devices can be used for otherwise legal purposes (streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime, for example), the advisory comes at a time when large numbers of companies are selling devices configured for piracy purposes (or targeted at piracy-focused buyers), which is likely responsible for a decent slice of the observed increase in marketing. So-called “fully loaded boxes” grant access to large volumes of copyrighted content in breach of copyright law and have attracted the negative attention of global anti-piracy coalition the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). However, simply using non-compliant devices in the United States is also illegal, meaning that many thousands – potentially millions – of people who obtained their streaming devices from non-certified sources in the Far East or even the United States, for example, are breaking the law. While sellers of illegal devices could indeed become targets for the FCC at any time, it seems unlikely that individuals will be affected as resources are limited are there are much bigger fish to fry According to the FCC, its Enforcement Advisories are “designed to educate businesses about and alert consumers to what’s required by FCC rules, the purpose of those rules and why they’re important to consumers, as well as the consequences of failures to comply.” With that advice out of the way, users can find out whether their set-top boxes are legal (in terms of hardware at least) by referring to page 2 of the FCC’s Enforcement Advisory: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-265A1.pdf[/CODE]
  4. The EU Council of Ministers has approved the Copyright Directive, which includes the controversial Article 17 (formerly 13). The legislation was voted through by a majority of EU ministers just a few minutes ago, despite opposition from Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Finland, and Sweden. Back in 2016, the European Commission announced plans to modernize EU copyright law, a move that initially received very little mainstream attention. By 2018, there was intensive lobbying both in favor and against two extremely controversial elements of the Copyright Directive. Article 11 (later renamed to Article 15) was decried by opponents as a “tax” on links to Internet-based news, contrary to the claims of publishers who felt that such a mechanism is necessary to prevent online platforms from monetizing their reporting. Article 13 (renamed to Article 17 in the final text) was framed by supporters as a much-needed tool to ensure copyright holders are fairly remunerated for content published on platforms like YouTube without their permission. Opponents feared this would inevitably lead to upload filters and censorship. On March 26, a proposal to allow amendments to the text of the directive was voted down, with 317 in favor and 312 against. The EU Parliament then moved to vote on the entire text of the Copyright Directive without amendments. The Copyright Directive was adopted, with 348 Members of Parliament in favor, 274 against, and 36 abstentions. That, however, wasn’t the end of the road as the legislation still needed to be approved by the Council of Ministers (the EU’s main legislative body) before formal adoption. That vote took place a few moments ago during the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. As highlighted by Julia Reda MEP earlier this morning, a majority of 55% of Member States, representing 65% of the population, was required to adopt the legislation. That was easily achieved with 71.26% in favor, so the Copyright Directive will now pass into law. But in the final picture that just wasn’t enough, with both Germany and the UK voting in favor, the Copyright Directive is now adopted. EU member states will now have two years to implement the law, which requires platforms like YouTube to sign licensing agreements with creators in order to use their content. If that is not possible, they will have to ensure that infringing content uploaded by users is taken down and not re-uploaded to their services. “The entertainment lobby will not stop here, over the next two years, they will push for national implementations that ignore users’ fundamental rights,” comments Julia Reda. “It will be more important than ever for civil society to keep up the pressure in the Member States!”
  5. Several independent movie studios, including the makers of "The Hitman's Bodyguard" and "London Has Fallen," have filed a lawsuit against websites that distribute and promote the popular movie streaming application Showbox. In their complaint, they brand the Android application as a pirate tool that's used to mislead the public. The movie industry sees online streaming piracy as a prime threat to its revenues. Whether it’s through dedicated pirate boxes, websites, or apps. In recent years the major Hollywood studios have mainly targeted sellers of streaming boxes, while a group of smaller filmmakers is focusing more on apps. Last week, the companies behind the movies “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” “London Has Fallen,” “Hunter Killer,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “Once Upon a Time in Venice,” went after the operators of various websites that promote and distribute the Showbox app. The Showbox app, as well as many similarly named clones, are used by millions of people. The apps allow users to stream movies and TV shows via torrents and direct sources, all through a user-friendly Netflix-style interface. In a lawsuit filed at a U.S. District Court in Hawaii, the movie companies point out that many of the films available through the app are published without permission, which they say results in massive piracy. “Plaintiffs bring this action to stop the massive piracy of their motion pictures brought on by the software application Show Box,” the 58-page complaint begins. “The Defendants misleadingly promote the Show Box app as a legitimate means for viewing content to the public, who eagerly install the Show Box app to watch copyright protected content, thereby leading to profit for the Defendants,” the companies add. The movie studios list several defendants, who are all suspected of having ties to one or more Showbox-related sites. The first one is Qazi Muhammad Zarlish from Pakistan, who allegedly operates ‘latestshowboxapp,com.’ Next up are the India-based digital marketing agency Pebblebridge and its employee Vishnudath Reddy Mangilpudi, who are linked to several domains including ‘showbox.fun’. Hoan Phan and Nghi Phan, who are said to be Vietnamese, stand accused of operating ‘showboxofficial,com’ and ‘apkmirrordownload,com’ respectively, complete the list. The site operators are accused of copyright infringement as well as inducement and false advertising. While the sites are (or were) available worldwide, the movie companies state that they have clear ties to the US. For example, they used American domain name registrars such as Namecheap, hosting services from U.S. based company Digital Ocean, and email services from Google and Microsoft. The website operators are believed to profit by offering the app to a broader public. While the software is not directly hosted by all the sites in question, all of their operators are accused of intentionally inducing visitors to engage in copyright-infringing activity. Some of these users may not even know that the Showbox app is ‘illegal,’ the movie companies stress. This may result in innocent people getting sued. This is something these movie makers are well aware of, as most have sued individual users in the past. “These Defendants have placed hundreds of individuals in Hawaii if not thousands of individuals in the United States in legal peril for copyright infringement while they hide behind anonymous domain registrations, false identities and addresses, and enjoy the gains from their illicit enterprise,” the complaint reads. The movie companies have been trying to shut some of the sites down for a while now. With help from Namecheap, for example, they gathered IP-addresses and email addressed that were linked to some of the domain names. This leads to some interesting conclusions. One of the defendants, Hoan Phan, used the IP-address to login to the Namecheap account connected to the site showboxofficial,com. The same IP-address was also used to share copies of the movies “Mechanic: Resurrection and “London Has Fallen.” The movie companies conclude that Phan must have shared these movies. However, the IP-address in question appears to belong to a proxy or VPN service and could have been used by hundreds, if not thousands of people. That said, the defendants are not accused of direct copyright infringement. Instead, the movie companies argue that they knowingly and materially contributed to the copyright infringement of Showbox users, by promoting the use of the app and showing people where it can be downloaded. With the lawsuit, they hope to shut the sites down. At the time of writing, they have already partially succeeded at that. Without any court intervention, Latestshowboxapp,com and Showboxofficial,com are no longer linking to the app. The Showbox copy on apkmirrordownload,com is still up, and Showbox.fun remains available the time of writing. The latter site has put up a large red warning notice, urging people to use legal alternatives instead, but it’s still linking to Showbox. To stop any ongoing activity, the movie companies request an injunction preventing the site owners from contributing to any infringement of their movies. Any Showbox copies hosted on their servers should be removed as well, they suggest. In addition, this injunction should also require Internet search engines, hosting companies, domain name registrars, and domain name registries to stop providing access to the domain names through which the defendants distribute and promote Showbox. Finally, there’s a request for damages as well. In theory, a court could award up to $150,000 in statutory damages for willful copyright infringement, per movie. Provided they are guilty, of course. Most previous cases against alleged ‘pirate’ site operators have resulted in default judgments where the rightsholders are granted an injunction and a damages award. However, the recent stream-ripper case against FLVTO.biz and 2conv,com show that, for foreign operators, it can pay off to put up a defense.
  6. Earlier
  7. At a time when every high-profile data breach sheds more light on how web activity is monitored, Firefox is launching anti-tracking tools to protect against fingerprinting and crypto-mining. Mozilla is again teaming up with Disconnect -- a software company that provides no-tracking software and whose ad tracker blocklist Firefox already utlizes for its tracking protections -- on the new tools. Both of the blocking methods are available to Firefox Nightly 68 and Beta 67 testers. Mozilla plans to enable them by default in a future release. For the uninitiated, illicit crypto-mining sees bad actors harnessing your machine to covertly mine cryptocurrency -- a process that cranks up CPU activity and drains power. This is generally achieved through scripts running behind-the-scenes on websites. The latest Firefox update blocks the cryptocurrency scripts contained in Disconnect's list. The same goes for fingerprinting: a data-driven identifier based on on your browser settings information (think screen resolution, operating system, location, and language settings) that is made available to websites for optimization purposes. This data can then be used to identify you and trace your activity across the web "even if you clear your cookies," according to Mozilla. For now, testers can enable the anti-tracking methods via "preferences" in the Firefox main menu. They'll also be turned on by default in Firefox Nightly in the coming weeks.
  8. It's a well-known fact that large swathes of the US remain without broadband connectivity -- indeed, some $22 billion has been poured into closing this gap over the past five years. However, exactly how many Americans are going without is up for debate. As a new blog post by Microsoft explains, "official" data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can't be trusted. According to the FCC, some 25 million people don't have access to broadband. In leveraging data from its various online services, however, Microsoft says that some 163 million people "do not use the internet at broadband speeds." Evidently, not having access to broadband and not using the internet at broadband speeds are not the same thing, but such huge discrepancies in the numbers -- because you'd expect those with broadband to at least use it occasionally -- prompted Microsoft to dig a little deeper. FCC broadband data vs Microsoft broadband data The company cites Washington as a case study. "FCC data indicates that 100 percent of Ferry County residents have access to broadband. When we spoke to local officials, they indicated that very few residents in this rural county had access and those that did were using broadband in business. Our data bears this out, showing that only two percent of Ferry County is using broadband." A raft of other places, rural and urban, produce similar data. So what's going on? According to Microsoft's chief analytics officer, John Kahan, this mismatch "across nearly all counties in all 50 states indicates there is a problem with the accuracy of the access data reported by the FCC." As Microsoft explains, this data is not independently checked by the FCC, but merely reported to the FCC by internet providers, which the FCC simply declares. Providers report their coverage via Form 477, where genuine mistakes (such as a few extra 0s) can happen and, and where large providers exaggerate their coverage so they don't have to fork out the cost of filing in blank spaces. This isn't a new problem, and even FCC officials have expressed concern with the way the data is obtained. Microsoft has suggested to Members of Congress ways for the system to be tweaked, making it harder for ISPs to both make "errors" and falsehoods on their coverage reports. It's this ongoing pressure that will hopefully lead to a more accurate way of identifying true broadband coverage, which will make sure it eventually finds its way to those who still need it.
  9. No technology raises ethical concerns (and outright fear) quite like artificial intelligence. And it's not just individual citizens who are worried. Facebook, Google and Stanford University have invested in AI ethics research centers. Late last year, Canada and France teamed up to create an international panel to discuss AI's "responsible adoption." Today, the European Commission released its own guidelines calling for "trustworthy AI." According to the EU, AI should adhere to the basic ethical principles of respect for human autonomy, prevention of harm, fairness and accountability. The guidelines include seven requirements -- listed below -- and call particular attention to protecting vulnerable groups, like children and people with disabilities. They also state that citizens should have full control over their data. The European Commission recommends using an assessment list when developing or deploying AI, but the guidelines aren't meant to be -- or interfere with -- policy or regulation. Instead, they offer a loose framework. This summer, the Commission will work with stakeholders to identify areas where additional guidance might be necessary and figure out how to best implement and verify its recommendations. In early 2020, the expert group will incorporate feedback from the pilot phase. As we develop the potential to build things like autonomous weapons and fake news-generating algorithms, it's likely more governments will take a stand on the ethical concerns AI brings to the table. Human agency and oversight: AI systems should enable equitable societies by supporting human agency and fundamental rights, and not decrease, limit or misguide human autonomy. A summary of the EU's guidelines are below: Robustness and safety: Trustworthy AI requires algorithms to be secure, reliable and robust enough to deal with errors or inconsistencies during all life cycle phases of AI systems. Privacy and data governance: Citizens should have full control over their own data, while data concerning them will not be used to harm or discriminate against them. Transparency: The traceability of AI systems should be ensured. Diversity, non-discrimination and fairness: AI systems should consider the whole range of human abilities, skills and requirements, and ensure accessibility. Societal and environmental well-being: AI systems should be used to enhance positive social change and enhance sustainability and ecological responsibility. Accountability: Mechanisms should be put in place to ensure responsibility and accountability for AI systems and their outcomes.
  10. The robot delivery business is small, but it's growing. The delivery robot field is still tiny, but there are signs that it's growing. Starship Technologies has announced that its autonomous courier bots have completed 50,000 commercial deliveries worldwide since its first service launched in the UK in 2018. It also boasted that the robots have traveled more than 200,000 miles. It's not exactly a gigantic number compared to conventional delivery companies. FedEx was shipping over 15 million packages per day as of February, while Domino's Pizza sends more than 2 million pizzas per day. Starship is a rounding error by comparison, although it's also serving a far smaller number of locations that only recently included college and university campuses in the US. The figure is notable all the same. It shows that there is a market for delivery robots, however modest, and that it's not just an experiment. We'd add that many companies are just starting robotic deliveries -- you're likely to see a surge in these figures across the industry.
  11. They might make sense for longer trips and taxis, though. Dave Brenner/University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability You might want to forget about fantasies of taking your own flying car to work, at least for now. The University of Michigan and Ford have published a study indicating that electric flying cars wouldn't be as environmentally sustainable as cars for commutes less than 22 miles. While the vehicles themselves would be clean, the high amounts of electricity needed to run those vehicles would have to come from power plants -- and many of those plants currently emit greenhouse gases. The researchers came to their conclusions through a physics-based model that reflects the "general trends" of the industry. It considers factors like weight, battery energy and the lift-to-drag ratio. This doesn't mean you'll never leave the ground. The economy tips in your favor beyond the 22-mile mark, since flying cars gain efficiency the longer they can cruise at speed (in the study, 150MPH). The value is particularly strong for fully-loaded vehicles making long trips. A 62-mile trip with four occupants would use 52 percent lower emissions than combustion engine ground cars, and six percent lower than ground-based electric models. Significant obstacles like heavy traffic or rivers could also make flying cars more eco-friendly. Thankfully, the industry is already leaning in that direction. Companies like Airbus and Bell are working on flying taxis that would frequently take multiple passengers, fly in packed urban areas, or both. The main obstacles now are more likely to be social factors such as affordability, noise and public acceptance (including regulations). Flying cars could still become a practical reality -- they just won't be ubiquitous like you see in the movies.
  12. Austin and San Francisco are two of the cities getting real 5G. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images American carriers are still engaged in their endless game of 5G oneupmanship. AT&T has expanded its fledgling mobile 5G network to "parts" of seven more cities, including Austin, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. The move puts AT&T's real 5G in a total of 19 cities, making Verizon's (Engadget's parent company) two-city rollout seem modest by comparison. With that said, the usual caveats apply. To begin with, current 5G coverage tends to be spotty, usually due to high frequencies that limit coverage and affect signals indoors. There's also the not-so-small matter of device support. Right now, you're relegated to a Netgear 5G hotspot. Smartphones like the Galaxy S10 5G won't start arriving until later in the spring. This is an important step toward mainstream adoption of 5G, but it won't come close to normalcy until you don't have to be picky about where and how you use the technology.
  13. The DETOUR Act would require transparency, but only from big companies. If American legislators have their way, tech companies will have to face more than negative publicity if they collect your data in a less-than-sincere fashion. Senators Mark Warner and Deb Fischer have introduced a bill, the DETOUR Act (Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction), that would bar internet firms with over 100 million monthly active users from tricking you into handing over personal data. Companies wouldn't be allowed to develop interfaces with the "substantial effect" of preventing you from making an informed decision. They also wouldn't be allowed to divide users into groups for experiments without consent, and couldn't develop compulsive experiences targeted at kids under 13 years old (such as auto-playing videos). The legislation would also require disclosure of experiments to users and the public at least once every 90 days, and would mandate independent review boards for any behavioral or psychological research. The Federal Trade Commission would handle any violations alongside an external registered agency. As Senators Fischer and Warner describe DETOUR, this is about thwarting the "dark patterns" that internet companies sometimes use to goad you into providing data, such as nosy default settings or making it arbitrarily difficult to choose the privacy-conscious route. The providers wind up with an "unfair advantage" over users and rivals as a result, according to the senators. The politicians don't try to hide their motivations -- this is a direct response to the all too frequent data scandals at Facebook, Google, Twitter and other heavyweights. It would ideally boost transparency by ensuring that you know what's involved when you agree to send your information. As The Verge noted, however, it could also discourage the many low-key tests internet companies love. They might have to either ask permission from each user or limit themselves to internal experiments.
  14. Anti-piracy company DMCAForce is trying to unite copyright holders with torrent and streaming sites. Instead of asking for content to be removed, it's experimenting with an advertising revenue share model. Today, the company's CEO Mark Bauman explains why it prefers this approach. A few weeks ago, it was reported that anti-piracy company DMCAForce offered a rather unique partnership to torrent and streaming sites. Where many companies in the advertising industry do their best to avoid sites that are linked to piracy, the San Diego-based company takes the opposite approach. The company promised the sites a revenue-sharing opportunity. Instead of removing a link or file, they can remain up, if the site owner agrees to share part of its advertising space. “DMCAForce recently launched a new way for File Sharing sites to work with content creators. Where you as the file sharing site can distribute their content for free, but in exchange provide the advertising space around the product,” the email read. It’s a rather intriguing proposal which we were eager to hear more about. DMCAForce had clearly seen our article, as the company used it in its communication to prospective clients, which prompted us to reach out. Mark Bauman, the CEO of DMCAForce explained that the company sought a solution to keep both copyright holders and website operators happy. “We chose this approach as corporations, large to small, constantly pay DMCAForce and our other companies like DigiRegs, for services to remove content all day every day,” Bauman said. “It’s a loss on the content creators books to pay us, but a necessary job that needs to be done. To further that, it’s a loss on the books of the place it’s taken from, as it is technically ad space for users who are looking for their product.” When copyright holders have to pay to remove content and site owners lose appealing content and advertising space, nobody wins. This provided an opportunity for Bauman, who also has a strong footprint in the advertising business. Combining classic anti-piracy tools with advertising expertise, was a logical next step. “Since I’m also the owner of an Ad Platform; TrafficHaus, which provides advertising and revenue to sites, including torrent sites, I decided it’s time to bridge that gap,” Bauman told us. So, instead of removing content through takedown notices, the company now offers to show ads around it, with the websites and rightsholders sharing the revenue. It’s a noteworthy move in a time where more and more advertisers are taking measures to avoid sites with a pirate stigma. The advertising and entertainment industry has been rather active on this front, with help from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and Europol, among others. Bauman says that his advertising company prefers not to ban or block any sites. It doesn’t want to reward piracy either but sees cooperation between site operators and copyright holders as a win-win. “We don’t want to reward torrent sites for stealing, and we don’t want to deter their sites from operating,” Bauman said. This works well, Bauman said. With the adult-oriented site Spankbang,com they were able to bring in $15,000 a month, which is nothing to sneeze at. And with that kind of extra income, copyright holders are happy too. “Rightsholders liked it, they got a fair rate because we were able to drive solid revenues for their content that they invested in and worked so hard to create,” Bauman said. With the revenue share model, copyright holders retain full control. If they don’t believe that they are generating enough revenue, they can still remove the content. Also, they can choose to exclude certain works, such as new releases. This filtering can even be done automatically, through a fingerprinting API, which recognizes infringing content. This can then be removed, replaced, or monetized with ads. This technology can also come in handy when Article 13 (now 17) is implemented, Bauman adds. The initial tests were conducted with adult-themed content, but DMCAForce is expanding its reach. While Bauman prefers not to name any clients, some music industry companies have shown an interest in the model. The ultimate goal is to make sure that the system works for everyone involved. Bauman believes that cooperation is key as pirates will always find a way to upload and share content somewhere. That’s not going to change anytime soon. So instead of fighting it, bringing both sides together may prove to be more fruitful. “Users are going to steal and share and need somewhere to upload content. They’re just going to do it and there’s no way to stop it. So our stance is to protect content, but leverage it as well,” he said.
  15. Under pressure from Reddit's administrators over copyright issues, the site's largest forum dedicated to piracy discussion has opted for "The Nuclear Option". After voting by its contributors, all posts older than six months are now being deleted. That's almost 10 years of data, the vast majority of it completely legal. The negative effects are already being felt. With around a quarter of a billion monthly users, Reddit is one of the most important sites on the Internet. The site plays host to millions of live discussions on countless topics ranging from the mundane to obviously controversial. Recently we’ve reported on the troubles being faced by /r/piracy, Reddit’s most popular sub-Reddit focused on piracy discussion. In an article published mid-March 2019, it was reported how the moderators of the forum were making best efforts to keep content on the right side of the law and within Reddit’s rules. Just a handful of days later, however, the moderators received notice from Reddit that they were receiving too many copyright complaints from rightsholders. For a sub-Reddit that has strict rules forbidding anyone posting links to infringing content, the notification came as a disappointment. While some complaints were legitimate (some people simply won’t abide by the rules and some posts do get missed), many were not. This placed the forum’s moderators between a rock and a hard place. According to some of the copyright notices filed with Reddit, simply posting an alleged pirate site homepage URL warranted a complaint, even when that URL didn’t link to any infringing content. We’ve seen the same kind of issues before, when copyright holders have made attempts to have site homepages delisted from Google, despite their content never appearing there. Further complicating the process is that the moderators of /r/piracy have no ability to respond to potentially false allegations. If a user makes a post that results in a copyright notice, only that user (or Reddit’s admins) are in a position to dispute the claim with the notice sender, so that rarely happens. Even if it does, nothing is made public. Meanwhile, the notices keep building up, despite best efforts and whether they’re valid or not. Even people simply posting names of releases are being flagged for copyright infringement, something that isn’t illegal in any form. As a result, those posts too are now being removed, as quickly as the mods can reach them. “I have begun unofficially removing release posts and it’s quite sad considering that a rather large bulk of our users look forward to them every day, I know I did,” moderator ‘dysgraphical‘ stated. “We have had days when releases were the highlight of the day filled with hundreds of comments of excited people discussing the film. This has all been scrubbed now. We recently had an April Fool’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ release post hit r/all and while the community was happy to meme on being fooled, a few users were concerned that copyright holders might act on it and have it removed.” It’s nothing less than self-censorship in response to sloppy and/or fraudulent claims, but these are testing times. But the really big issue here relates to the huge archive of posts already present on /r/piracy – some ten years’ worth of discussions. Is there anything in there that could warrant a surprise complaint? Apparently so, since rightsholders have been digging up issues from the past and complaining to Reddit. This left the moderators of /r/piracy with a huge dilemma. Uncertain of what lay in the archives and only being in a strong position to be absolutely certain of the state of play more recently, they asked the community for input on the ‘Nuclear Option‘ – deleting every post older than six months old, just to be sure. After the votes were counted, those in favor of deleting the archives outnumbered those asking for preservation by ten to one. All that was left was to find a way to begin deleting history, around 9.5 years of posts. A script was created and put into motion and the purge began. “Given the speed, this might take weeks,” says moderator ‘dbzer0’, a nine-year veteran of the sub-Reddit. It’s unclear when this sweeping process with be fully completed, but it’s hoped that it can keep the community alive. Not all of the moderators were in favor of the mass deletion since that, of course, deletes the community’s history too. “The Scrubbing [as the deletion process is now called] is just a poorly, rushed attempt to elongate the community’s lifespan on Reddit,” dysgraphical says. “We have already seen this performed in other subreddits in which mod teams have bent over backwards to please the administration by implementing their own set of stringent rules. These communities no longer exist.” But the vote was cast and the final decision appears to have been a democratic one rooted in self-preservation. It does raise interesting points, however. The recently highlighted situation shows that sub-Reddits devoted to controversial topics – especially those related to piracy – are at risk of being targeted. When they are, the copyright notice and counter-notice process is somewhat undermined. While users can be banned for repeat infringements, it’s trivial to open a new account. And when the notices start to pile up on Reddit – legitimately or not – whole communities can be banned, despite working above and beyond the requirements of the law. “The issue at hand is not that r/Piracy distributes copyrighted content, but rather that the discussion of digital piracy is no longer protected; it never was,” dysgraphical adds. “As copyright holders continue pushing the envelope, by claiming that the mention of streaming sites infringe their IP, Reddit will continue complying and effectively ban r/Piracy. Copyright holders on Reddit no longer need to dig deep to find infringing content, they can pick any thread or comment at random that loosely relates to their IP, and file a DMCA takedown notice.” To give a school analogy, it appears that if a few kids misbehave, get misinterpreted, or targeted incompetently, the whole class gets kept behind after school – before being permanently expelled. It’s effectively mass punishment based on the acts of a few – or the whims of bots. Finally, subscriptions to /r/piracy have always been on the increase and are now edging towards 370,000 subscribers but the ongoing purge is having a clear effect on traffic to the sub-Reddit, when the two unusual peaks (including the April 1 surge) are discounted. Whether the popular forum can fight back from this decline will remain to be seen but it’s clear that deleting most of its history is already causing pain. The big question is whether Reddit’s admins are taking note of this huge olive branch or whether they’ll still choose to chop down the whole tree regardless.
  16. T-Mobile says it has received a request to block 22 domains linked to alleged pirate sites. While the ISP has already implemented the bans in Austria where the case originates, it has also written to regulators to have the restrictions checked for compatibility with net neutrality regulations. After close to ten years of legal debate over the thorny issue of pirate site blocking, Austria is now one of many countries in the EU that restricts access to such sites. The legal path was one of the more difficult ones to date and it took until November 2017 for the Supreme Court of Justice to definitively rule that The Pirate Bay and other “structurally-infringing” sites can indeed be blocked, if rights holders have exhausted all other options. The Court based its decision on the now-familiar BREIN v Filmspeler and BREIN v Ziggo and XS4All cases that received European Court of Justice rulings in 2017. In January 2018, T-Mobile was asked to block several new sites, including thepiratebay,org, thepiratebay.red, piratebayblocked,com, and pirateproxy.cam. However, the ISP feared the blocking had the potential to violate net neutrality rules since the domains aren’t specifically listed in a court order and are only considered ‘clone’ sites. As a result, the ISP reported itself to the Austrian Regulatory Authority for Broadcasting and Telecommunications (RTR) for a potential net neutrality breach. Several other ISPs including A1, Drei, Kabelplus, Liwest, and UPC later followed suit. In December 2018, T-Mobile was asked to block more domains – kinox,sg, movie4k,org, movie4k.am, movie4k,pe. The company highlighted no unusual issues, noting that the domains “correspond to those which have already been blocked on the basis of a court decision.” The company now reports that following a request in March, it has also taken action to block a further 22 domains which are claimed to be involved in copyright infringement. These include several Kinox, Movie4K and Movie2K-related domains, plus burning-series,net, serienstream.be, streamkiste. tv, serienjunkies,org, and cinemas.to. The list also includes the popular sites bs.to and s.to, platforms that were recently blocked by Vodafone in Germany without a specific court order, under fear of repercussions from music rights group GEMA. While it doesn’t want to breach a separate and unrelated court order in Austria, T-Mobile still has concerns over potential net neutrality breaches after blocking the domains listed in the latest batch. “The listed sites, in terms of their content as well as their design and functionality, are largely the same as those that had to be blocked due to judicial decisions,” it notes. “At the same time, we have sent a letter to the regulatory authority to have these restrictions checked for compatibility with the TSM Regulation (net neutrality).” In January 2019, telecoms regulator Telecom Control Commission said it will get involved when an ISP block is requested, triggering a supervisory process and a full review by the agency. Informal blocking of domains following a simple request from rights holders was therefore ruled out. Moving forward, however, ISPs in Austria are still calling for an “independent judicial body” to confirm the legality of any blocking requests in advance to ensure that a minimum of time and resources are expended on the process. The list of domains blocked by T-Mobile in the latest batch are: – bs.to – burning-series,net – s.to – serienstream.be – streamkiste. tv – serienjunkies,org – cinemas.to – kinox,si – kinox.io – kinox.sx – kinox,sh – kinox.gratis – kinox.mobi – kinox.cloud – kinox.lol – kinox.wtf – kinox.fun – kinox.fyi – movie4k,sg – movie4k.lol – movie2k,nu – movie4k,sh
  17. Four individuals connected to three once-popular pirate sites have gone on trial in Spain. The quartet is made up of the founder of the sites and three investors. One of the sites was previously labeled a "notorious market" by the US Government. Jail sentences are being sought by the prosecution with entertainment groups demanding more than half a billion dollars in damages. While there are potentially hundreds of pirate sites scattered around Europe, the operators of relatively few of them ever see the inside of a court room. The same cannot be said of four men previously connected to the once hugely popular but now-defunct pirate sites SeriesYonkis, PeliculasYonkis and VideosYonkis (Series, Film, and Video Junkies). The men went on trial yesterday in Murcia, Spain, and the stakes are extremely high. Potential prison sentences are on the table along with damages claims of more than half a billion dollars. It’s clear, this is no straightforward case. Defendant Alberto García Sola is said to be the owner of a company called Poulsen SL, which apparently owned the sites. SeriesYonkis and PeliculasYonkis were sold to another company, Burn Media, in April 2011 for 610,000 euros. Defendant Alexis Hoepfner is the owner of Burn Media, which brought the sites but then allegedly sold them on again in 2014. In the interim period, however, Hoepfner struck an extraordinary deal with Spanish Netflix competitor Filmin, with his company obtaining a 23% stake in Filmin, on the condition that pirate links were replaced with others pointing to legal content. Publico reports that defendants Jordi Tamargo and David Martínez were Hoepfner’s partners, who allegedly pocketed 175,000 euros each for their involvement in the deal to buy the Yonkis sites. The case is based on evidence gathered by local film industry group EGEDA and FAP, the Spanish Anti-Piracy Federation, which represented the rights of MPAA members including Paramount, Sony, Universal, Walt Disney, and Warner Bros. EGEDA, by Publico’s calculations, is demanding compensation totaling 546 million euros – around 199 million from Sola, 318 million from Hoepfner, and 14.3 million each from Tamargo and Martínez. FAP is demanding around 9.5 million euros in total from all four men. While a Prosecutor’s Office report is believed to cap the damages at 170 million euros maximum, jail sentences of up to four years each are being demanded by the entertainment groups. Prosecutors are believed to be aiming for less, perhaps two years. SeriesYonkis, PeliculasYonkis and VideosYonkis don’t operate as ‘pirate’ portals anymore and haven’t done for years. Back in 2014, the sites agreed to stop linking to pirate content following an agreement with FAP. Just weeks before reaching that deal, SeriesYonkis was labeled a “notorious market” by the US Government. A year later, the label was removed by the USTR for its good behavior but that doesn’t appear to have helped the four defendants now on trial in Spain.
  18. It's pretty rare to see any straight-eight-powered cars on the road today. This one makes a terrific sound. There are dozens of fantastic-sounding V-8s out there. But if you're into more obscure engines, this supercharged Packard straight-eight should do the trick. The engine is an 327 cubic-inch eight-cylinder set up in an inline fashion, taken out of a 1948 Packard. It has four carburetors and a supercharger pushing five pounds of boost. Powering a 1930 Ford Model A body up the Colorado Hot Rod Hillclimb event in 2016, it sounds sort of like a V-8, but different enough to stand out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FofFWRcphQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BJHsoVRVMs
  19. AT&T and Verizon had big 5G-related announcements this week: AT&T published speed test results that seemingly validated its “5G E” LTE network as the fastest around, and Verizon launched its 5G network in parts of Chicago and Minneapolis. But both of these announcements underscore just how much of a mess 5G is right now. AT&T’s results appear to be skewed in the company’s favor, and Verizon’s rollout seems slapdash, with poor coverage even in the areas that Verizon promised. These are just the latest headaches for 5G, which has been marred by delayed rollouts, limited hardware tests, conflicting standards, political wrangling, and more. With telecom companies rushing to be first, odds are the mess of 5G will only get worse as the rollouts continue. If people’s first experiences with 5G are this shoddy, why should they trust — and pay extra — for the networks when they do actually arrive for real? Verizon’s 5G network is blazing fast, but it barely exists Take AT&T. The company seemingly scored a win this week by announcing that recent Ookla speed tests had found its 5G E network (which, again, is LTE, not 5G) to be the fastest in the US, buoying the company’s message that the 5G E brand would help cement AT&T’s reputation ahead of its actual 5G launch later this year. But those results aren’t as clear-cut as AT&T would have you believe: Ookla says that the spike in results for AT&T is due to an increase in speed tests from iPhone users after the release of iOS 12.2, specifically on the iPhone XR, XS Max, XS, X, 8, and 8 Plus, which are the same models that now display 5G E logos following that update. This is not a good look for 5G. AT&T’S NETWORK LOOKS FASTER BECAUSE MORE IPHONE USERS — CONFUSED BY THE NEW LOGO — RAN TESTS Ookla believes that the recent AT&T speed increase is simply a result of iPhone users seeing the new 5G E logo and retesting their devices to satisfy their curiosity, thus skewing AT&T’s average speed results with an influx of tests from newer devices. In other words, AT&T’s network looks faster since it had more high-speed devices running speed tests to factor into its average than competitors. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy: by making iPhone users question their network, AT&T was able to juice its average speeds by adding an influx of new data to its sample that its competitors didn’t have, thus making the lie that 5G E is somehow better than LTE an apparent mathematical reality. Now, those speeds aren’t entirely misleading: Ookla says that, on the whole, speeds on 5G E devices really were faster than AT&T’s average speed — which makes sense since these are the devices that are designed to take advantage of the LTE-Advanced innovations that AT&T is using here. Some users did get better results, though. But these latest tests don’t prove that AT&T’s speeds are faster on average, and other results — like OpenSignal’s recent study from before iOS 12.2 was released — shows that AT&T’s 5G E is actually slower than T-Mobile and Verizon. Verge readers on Twitter have also shared similarly poor results; it’s certainly not representative of all users, but it’s definitely not the kind of first impression AT&T wants attached to its 5G brand, either. Things don’t necessarily improve when you get to actual 5G, either, as Verizon showed us this week during its real 5G launch. In his tests out in Chicago, my colleague Chris Welch learned that actual 5G will offer dramatically better speeds at rates between 400 and 600 Mbps for downloads. (Those are the kinds of numbers that AT&T’s 5G E network can only dream of.) But the network itself is extremely spotty. When Verizon says that only “select areas” will have 5G, it’s not kidding: service was reportedly inconsistent. Even where Verizon did offer 5G, it often appeared and vanished from one block to the next. That’s a problem. Verizon may have technically launched its network first, but if it can’t offer widespread or consistent service, then it’s just that: a technical achievement without real practical application. Verizon’s rush to be first seems to be coming at the expense of a reliable 5G network, something that early adopters (who, remember, are paying $10 per month extra) will have to deal with while Verizon gets more substantial coverage. Adding to the confusion: Verizon says that the 5G status icon will only pop up when you’re actively using 5G. That means you could be standing in a 5G spot and not even know it unless you’re actively using your phone. It’s the opposite of AT&T’s issue. Verizon seems content to hide the fact that you have actual 5G until you actually test the speed for yourself. I can’t figure out why Verizon would do this, unless the goal is to keep the actual size of its 5G networks as vague as possible. That actually seems plausible, given the inconsistencies that Chris noted in his tests. 5G HYPE IS OUTPACING THE TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENTS OF THE NETWORKS All of this adds up to one of the biggest issues with 5G: the hype is outpacing the technical developments of the networks. That may not seem so bad, given that cellular companies love to promote their products and services, regardless of how they relate to actual real-world results. But the stakes are higher with the launch of 5G, and if AT&T and Verizon (as well as T-Mobile and Sprint, which seem to have made the right call in delaying their launches to iron out details) can’t actually make good on things, they’re going to end up with disappointed customers once they find out that the reality doesn’t quite meet the promises they were given.
  20. After being wrongfully accused of pirating eight 'adult' movies, a woman from Illinois is now seeking justice. In a relatively rare order the court allowed her request for a declaration of non-infringement. This is crucial, as it opens the door to request an award for costs and fees, to be paid by the copyright holder. Every year, thousands of people are sued in the United States for allegedly sharing pirated video, mostly through BitTorrent. These efforts, often characterized as “copyright trolling,” share a familiar pattern. After the film companies acquire a subpoena to obtain the personal details of an alleged pirate, they contact this person with a settlement request. The cases are not intended to go to trial, however. Instead, the copyright holders often drop their complaint like a hot potato when the accused person lawyers up to fight back. To an outsider, this may sound positive. If the complaint is dropped the legal threat is gone. However, hiring a lawyer is not cheap and without a case, the accused Internet subscriber has to pay the bills out of his or her own pocket. This scenario has played out many times in the past but a woman from Illinois now has a chance to make the rightsholder pay her bills. The case in question was filed by Malibu Media, a company best known for its ‘X-Art’ adult films. Malibu accused Najia Khan of pirating eight of these films using her IP-address as evidence. However, the woman fiercely denied the allegations. With help from attorney Erin Russell, Khan fought back. She denied the claims and submitted two counterclaims. First, she accused Malibu Media of ‘abuse of process’ for suing her without proper evidence. In addition, Khan also requested a Declaratory Judgment of non-infringement. In the past, such requests haven’t been very successful, but in Khan’s case, the trend was bucked. In an order issued last week, US District Court Judge Harry Leinenweber dismissed the counterclaim for abuse of process. However, he ruled that the counterclaim for a Declaratory Judgment can proceed. The Judge sided with the defense and ruled that the accused woman can pursue a final judgment. This gives Khan a chance to argue her case, clear her name, and ask for an award of costs and fees. “There is tremendous pressure for a defendant to settle, even if the case is meritless. Khan’s counterclaim will offer protection should she choose to challenge Malibu Media’s case on the merits instead of submitting to settlement. As she points out, it also affords an opportunity for her to clear her name,” the Judge wrote. Khan’s attorney Erin Russell who sees this as a big win,Says if the entire case was simply dismissed, which is what usually happens, her client could only request sanctions, which would be much harder to do. “Every time I file counterclaims I end up arguing to the judge that this is Malibu’s way of having its cake and eating it, too,” Russell says. “They want to drag these defendants in on an IP address, then root around, force the person to defend themselves, and then when it starts to look like the defendant is innocent, they want to run off and not pay the defendant their fees.” While most judges have dismissed such counterclaims, Judge Leinenweber deviated from this common pattern by allowing Khan to prove her innocence. Although she still has to succeed at that, her attorney is confident that she will. If that’s the case, Malibu will have to pay her legal bills. This is obviously bad news for Malibu, and it certainly isn’t the only recent setback for the adult entertainment company. Over at the US District Court of New York, a similar piracy case was thrown out before it got properly underway because Malibu filed the original complaint before the copyright registrations of the videos were approved. This is not allowed, as the US Supreme Court recently clarified. Making matters worse, the court ‘slapped‘ Malibu’s attorney on the wrist for confusing the court by listing the application dates as registration dates. This is “troubling,” Judge Jesse Furman noted, adding that it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Malibu’s use of the term was “deliberately misleading.” In Khan’s case, all efforts will now go into proving that she is indeed innocent. This will obviously increase the legal bills, but if Malibu has to pick those up eventually, that’s not her problem.
  21. Popular file-hosting site RapidVideo says it will change its business model because it can no longer finance itself via advertising. According to its operator, 'freeloading' users of Kodi add-ons and similar tools are gobbling up around half of the site's bandwidth, without generating any revenue. According to statistics provided by the MPAA late 2017, around 70% of 38 million Kodi users were using the platform to pirate content. Newer figures haven’t yet been provided but at the time, around 26 million were said to be using the platform with ‘pirate’ add-ons installed. Many of these will be accessing movies and TV shows, without permission. For Kodi add-on users to access content, it has to be stored somewhere online. That is usually one of the dozens of online storage providers available today, which are often called cyberlockers or simply file-hosting sites. While the appearance of links to content in Kodi add-ons seems to suggest a level of cooperation between the platforms, file-hosting platforms are generally unhappy with their links appearing in this manner. As reported back in 2016, cyberlockers often generate revenue via advertising. However, many third-party Kodi add-ons prevent these from appearing in front of the viewer, which means that the hosting sites themselves aren’t able to generate revenue from them. One of the affected sites is RapidVideo, a popular file-hosting site that officially markets itself as a “CDN Video Hosting Service”. The platform has been suffering the effects of ‘freeloading’ Kodi add-on users and other related market challenges for some time. Now the problem appears to have come to a head. In a posting to webmaster forum WJunction, RapidVideo revealed that it will be changing its business model. “We can’t finance ourselves from internet ads any longer,” the company wrote. Over the past three years, RapidVideo says it has suffered from abuse of its service, much of it at the hands of Kodi add-ons and similar tools that are able to bypass the displaying of ads. In fact, these appear to be sucking up around half of the company’s bandwidth. “We have around 650 Gbit/s of bandwidth in use, while 320 Gbit/s is for KODI, download tools, etc and for that we don’t get paid by the ads,” the site said. Other problems exist too, including advertising scams and the unauthorized hotlinking of files, but RapidVideo feels it can bring things under control by taking several measures, including implementing a $5 per month subscription. “With help of Premium accounts, it will efficiently stop all these scams and we can run ad-free like uploaded,net, uptobox,com and others,” the company added. The company says it is also bringing its pay-per-view rewards program to an end, meaning that people hoping to earn commissions when people view their uploaded content will no longer get paid. While users of the service won’t be delighted by the news, it does address a complaint raised by Hollywood last year. In 2018, the MPAA, together with several other trade groups, submitted its annual list of ‘notorious markets’ to the US Trade Representative (USTR). Among them was RapidVideo, which among other things was called out over its affiliate program. “The site incentivizes users to upload content with an affiliate program. The site pays from $7.50 to $60 USD per 10,000 views depending on the country in which the viewer is located,” the MPAA wrote. The MPAA had other criticisms too but RapidVideo later fought back, claiming that it processes takedown requests, has a designated DMCA agent, a repeat infringer policy, and even has a filter system to ensure that removed files are not re-uploaded. — Update: Allex from Rapidvideo reached out with some additional background information. He says that the decision to stop the pay-per-view program was made in conjunction with another popular site, which will do the same later. Rapidvideo further explains that Kodi add-ons are using the direct video URL from the HTML5 video player, bypassing the ads. This is one of the main contributors to the decrease in ad revenues. “We are a service that we started with one popup per view, but as our service grew more the bandwidth load increased, but it was not growing at the same rate as the ad networks revenues.”
  22. Several Canadian media companies including Bell, Rogers, and Videotron have scored a victory against Infinity TV, a local seller of 'fully loaded' set top boxes. The Federal Court in Canada has issued a consent judgment, in which the box vendor agreed to pay a CAD$5 million settlement. The increasing popularity of specialized “pirate boxes” has become one of the main anti-piracy priorities in recent years. These devices often ship with the popular Kodi media player installed. While Kodi itself is a neutral platform, the devices can turn into a powerful pirate tool when they’re “fully-loaded” with third-party add-ons During the spring of 2016, a group of prominent Canadian rightsholders decided to take action to stop the sale of these devices. Bell Canada, Rogers Communications, Videotron and others, took several retailers of such “fully-loaded” set-top boxes to court. It didn’t take long before the Federal Court in Canada issued an interlocutory injunction against several companies, prohibiting them from selling “fully-loaded” boxes with pirate addons. A subsequent attempt by several vendors to have this ban lifted failed. In its initial order, the court allowed the rightsholders to add similar vendors to the lawsuit, an opportunity they gladly seized. The list of defendants has since grown to more than 125, including ITVbox,net, MTLFreeTV, WaveTVBox, SOLO IPTV, and Infinity TV. A few days ago, the Ontario-based company Infinity TV agreed to settle the case with the rightsholders. The company admits its wrongdoing in a consent judgment signed by Federal Court Judge Denis Gascon. Infinity TV operated from infinitytv,ca, which no longer lists any products. It previously sold a pre-loaded streaming box called the “ITV Unit” through which it offered access to “over 300,000+ MOVIES – 20,000+ TV SHOWS – LIVE SPORTS” for a one-time price. Infinity TV According to the consent judgment, the vendor “induced and authorized users of Pre-loaded Set-top boxes to infringe the Plaintiffs’ right to reproduce the Plaintiffs Programs,” which is in violation of the Copyright Act. The order also states that Infinity TV sold and distributed equipment that was used to receive “encrypted subscription programming” after it was decoded, which is contrary to Canada’s Radiocommunication Act. What stands out the most in the mutually agreed judgment is a ‘settlement’ fee of CAD$5 million, which Infinity TV must now pay to the copyright holders to cover various damages and costs. CAD$5 million… This is the first consent judgment in the case according to the Wire Report, which picked up the story late last week. There may have been other monetary settlements in the past, but these are not public. In addition to the CAD$5 million Infinity TV now owes, the consent order also includes a permanent injunction. This prohibits the company from selling any infringing fully-loaded set-top boxes, infringing IPTV subscriptions, including its “ITV Unit.” Just a few months ago, Infinity TV’s website promised that something would be “coming soon,” but this message has since disappeared.
  23. It's been a bad week for Facebook users. First, the social media company was caught asking some of its new users to share passwords for their registered email accounts and now...the bad week gets worse with a new privacy breach. More than half a billion records of millions of Facebook users have been found exposed on unprotected Amazon cloud servers. The exposed datasets do not directly come from Facebook; instead, they were collected and unsecurely stored online by third-party Facebook app developers. Researchers at the cybersecurity firm UpGuard today revealed that they discovered two datasets—one from a Mexican media company called Cultura Colectiva and another from a Facebook-integrated app called "At the pool"—both left publicly accessible on the Internet. facebook app database More than 146 GB of data collected by Cultura Colectiva contains over 540 million Facebook user records, including comments, likes, reactions, account names, Facebook user IDs, and more. The second dataset belonging to "At the Pool" app contains information about users' friends, likes, groups, and checked-in locations, as well as "names, plaintext passwords and email addresses for 22,000 people." Though UpGuard believes the plaintext passwords found in the database were for the At the Pool app, and not for users' Facebook accounts, given the fact that people frequently re-use the same passwords for multiple apps, many of the leaked passwords could be used to access Facebook accounts. "As Facebook faces scrutiny over its data stewardship practices, they have made efforts to reduce third-party access. But as these exposures show, the data genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Data about Facebook users have been spread far beyond the bounds of what Facebook can control today," experts at UpGuard said. Both datasets were stored in unsecured Amazon S3 buckets, which have now been secured and taken offline after Upguard, Facebook and media contacted Amazon. This is not the first time third-party companies have collected or misused Facebook data and sometimes leaked it to the public. The most famous incident is the Cambridge Analytica scandal wherein the political data firm improperly gathered and misused data on 87 million users through a seemingly innocuous quiz app, for which the social media giant is facing £500,000 EU fine. Though Facebook has since then tightened up its privacy controls ensuring apps use their access appropriately, the social media company is still facing intense pressure and criticism for not doing enough to offer better privacy and security to its 2.3 billion users.
  24. The British government is preparing to publish its plans to clamp down on social networks that distribute and promote harmful content. According to a leaked document, the proposed measures include enabling regulators to hold company executives personally liable in cases entailing negligence. The government is expected to release a white paper detailing the plans on Monday; however, London’s Guardian newspaper acquired the paper in a leak ahead of publication. It described the recommendations as being broad, aimed not only at social networks, but search engines such as Google, online messaging services, and file hosting websites. The paper reported that the plans are aimed at addressing heightened concern over the distribution of terrorist and child-abuse content, as well as posts and video encouraging self-harm and suicide. New Australian Law Threatens Prison for Tech Execs Who Allow Violent Content on Their Platforms One of the principal motivators in the quest for a regulatory solution is the tearful story of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old who took her own life in 2017. The girl’s father, Ian, blamed, in part, Instagram after family members discovered disturbing messages on her profile relating to suicide. Likewise, the terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month—in which 50 people were killed and 50 more were injured—have influenced the debate over content moderation. The terrorist, a white supremacist with links to the extreme right, broadcast the shooting over Facebook Live. Facebook removed around 1.5 million videos of the attack in the first 24 hours, the company said. The Guardian reports the plan calls for the government to “legislate for a new statutory duty of care, to be policed by an independent regulator and likely to be funded through a levy on media companies.” Enforcement will be overseen, at least initially, by the UK’s Office of Communications, its principal telecommunications authority. Other proposals, Guardian reported, include enhancing government powers to direct regulators to address terrorist activity and the sexual exploitation of children online; yearly “transparency reports” by social networks relating to the prevalence of harmful content on their platforms; and increased cooperation with law enforcement in areas such as “incitement of violence and sale of illegal weapons.” In a statement to the Guardian, a government spokesperson said: “We will shortly publish a white paper which will set out the responsibilities of online platforms, how these responsibilities should be met and what would happen if they are not. We have heard calls for an internet regulator and to place a statutory ‘duty of care’ on platforms, and have seriously considered all options.” The UK’s plan comes on the heels of a new Australian law that would make technology company executives and other individuals fail to “expeditiously” remove “abhorrent violent content” from their platforms subject to potential fines and imprisonment. The failure of social networks to moderate extremist propaganda, as well as content glorifying self-harm, racism and violence, has been a recent focus of U.S. lawmakers as well, and has prompted calls to reexamine the broad liability protections enjoyed by website operators. Under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, website owners cannot be held liable under most circumstances for user-generated content. Many experts believe, however, that companies such as YouTube and Facebook have put at risk this safe harbor by failing to crackdown on harmful content on their own—and by acting dismissive toward the criticism of what many perceive as failed or inadequate moderation policies. Earlier this year, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon and the chief architect of the Section 230 liability shield, called on top websites to address the concerns before it’s too late. He told Politico his message was for companies to use the “sword”; else, he said, “there are going to be people out there who try to take away the shield.”
  25. Damaging attacks have become a fact of life for national infrastructure operators A growing number of cyber-attacks on key installations have successfully put systems out of action over the past two years, a study has revealed. A survey of security professionals in six countries, including the UK, by the Ponemon Institute found 90% had been hit by at least one successful attack.Staff in the utilities, energy, health and transport sectors were questioned. Experts said the results are a wake-up call for an industry that often under-reports attacks and the damage done.Staff tasked with keeping critical infrastructure systems running often kept details secret for security reasons, they said. The report also concludes that a lack of resources and intelligence about "relentless and continuous" cyber-attacks are the industry's biggest concern. Daily attacks The Ponemon Institute, which specialises in cyber-security and privacy issues, used an anonymous poll to quiz more than 700 security professionals in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Mexico and Japan who work to protect critical infrastructure. Of those responding, nine out of 10 said the organisation they worked for had been damaged by a successful cyber-attack in the last two years. Many reported being hit by between three and six such incidents. Respondents said around half of the successful attacks had resulted in downtime of critical systems. This was because essential systems were knocked out as part of the attack or operators had to turn off systems to repair the damage done. "These are multiple, successful attacks on the physical world using cyber-technologies," Eitan Goldstein, from security firm Tenable, which commissioned the report, told the BBC. "That is a really big change and that's why the risk isn't just theoretical any more. "We believe the reason behind it is increased connectivity to industrial control systems. "Today we want to be able to do analytics and predictive maintenance in our power plants, but the proliferation of smart devices and sensors and IoT is really increasing our cyber-exposure to attack. "In many cases, organisations don't even know what is connected to the internet and what can be accessed by hackers." 'Troubling picture' Prof Alan Woodward, of the University of Surrey's Cyber Security Centre, questioned the unexpectedly high response rate in the survey but added: "Even if the results are perhaps slightly higher than might otherwise be the case, because the group is self-selecting, this data as a whole still paints a troubling picture. "Most information in the public domain tends to be anecdotal, or driven by specific incidents. This is one of the few reports I've seen that has the number of respondents to make it potentially statistically meaningful. "Not only are elements of critical infrastructure being attacked, they are being 'successfully' attacked: these attacks are having a tangible impact, sometimes on multiple occasions." How to protect key infrastructure Assume attacks will be made. Prepare with the right people, processes and technology, or risk long-term damage Realise the attacks will not stop. Many organisations are now successfully attacked several times a year Guard against human failings. An attack may succeed because just one employee clicks on a phishing email Share intelligence with similar organisations. National cyber-defence organisations often run online forums where experiences can be shared "The data also reveals worrying themes, such as a lack of skilled staff or appropriate incident response plans to mitigate the attacks." He added: "In many ways it doesn't matter what the motive of the attackers is. It could be criminals looking to extort money with a scattergun-type attack in which the infrastructure provider happens to get caught, or state actors seeking to disrupt services. The results on society are the same. "When you think what critical infrastructure is, it's something that we simply must invest in protecting."
  26. On a reporting trip to Arizona to learn about the business of Tasers, Matt Stroud volunteered to have the technology tested on himself. “I didn’t know what to expect, and the short description is that it feels like being electrocuted over your entire body,” Stroud says. “You’re completely unable to move.” Stroud had two people on either side of him, and if it weren’t for them, he would have fallen to the ground. “That gave me a real appreciation for how one company’s product could be unleashed on society through police departments, and it got me thinking about what other products were available,” he says. The result of his investigations is Thin Blue Lie: The Failure of High-Tech Policing (Metropolitan Books), a book about the promises and hype behind Tasers, body cameras, and more. The Verge spoke to Stroud about how Tasers became so ubiquitous, why body cameras weren’t so revolutionary after all, and the policing technologies that are next. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. Tasers play a big role in Thin Blue Lie. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the Taser and how they came to be so widely used? We can all empathize with the fact that when you have major police interactions that become international news stories — like Ferguson or Eric Garner — it touches people who are completely removed from such circumstances. Jack Cover was in exactly that kind of circumstance when the Watts riots of 1965 occurred over police brutality. He had nothing to do with Watts, but just like everybody else at the time, he heard about it, and he got to thinking what sorts of innovations might help police better do their jobs. A couple of years later, in 1967, there was a major report that came out of the Johnson administration that addressed many police issues, and a specific section of the report talked about non-lethal weapons. The writers concluded that it’d be great if there was some kind of non-lethal weapon that police could have access to. It seemed like Jack wanted to solve that problem, so he started tinkering in his garage. His solution was basically to put an electric fence into a gun and fire it. He came up with a prototype that was shaped like a flashlight, and you could basically electrocute somebody. He worked for the better part of 10 years on this. But it wasn’t successful at first, right? So how did it become so ubiquitous? In January 1979, there was another one of those major police interactions that became a big story, which was the death of an African American woman in her 30s named Eula Love in Los Angeles. A bill collector came to her front door, and within a very short period of time, bullets were fired, and Eula Love was killed. It became a major story, and the city of Los Angeles still had the legacy of Watts hanging over the city, and city administrators realized that something needed to be done. “I QUESTION WHETHER THE TECHNOLOGY HAS SERVED THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE IT WAS INITIALLY DESIGNED TO SERVE.” They wanted to know: were there any kind of non-lethal solutions the officers might have used in the interaction with Love? People within the LAPD were assigned to do some research, and one of the first weapons they came across was the Taser. That was one of the first times Jack Cover landed a big deal, though Tasers didn’t become something used by basically all police departments until probably the early 2000s. What is the attitude toward Tasers now in police departments? I think police love Tasers. They see them as another weapon they can use on their duty belt. Most of the police officers I’ve spoken with see it as something that can be used for compliance. What I think remains a concern with people who study Tasers and have spoken out against them is that the training is still pretty vague. For years, the company pushed back against the idea that Tasers could kill and that they are lethal, even though by the early 2000s, there were dozens of people who had been killed in circumstances that were closely connected to being shocked with a Taser. There’s very little to ensure that the police officers who are instructing other police officers are explicit about the lethality, though the number of deaths is now over 1,000. A lot of the concerns have been downplayed, and I think that officers generally tend to like the option of a Taser but don’t think about the fact that the weapon really can kill. Moving away from Tasers, another high-tech policing tool you write about is the CompStat system, which was pioneered in New York City and given a lot of credit for lowering crime rates. How did CompStat work, and was it hyped? CompStat was a comprehensive program that was rolled out by two police leaders in the NYPD, Jack Maple and Bill Bratton. CompStat is basically an abbreviation for “computer statistics,” the very simple idea that police would gather current crime data and then map it using a computer so that they had a better idea of where crimes were happening so they could more effectively deploy police on the street. Part of what made CompStat so successful — and Bill Bratton himself told me this — is that it’s comprehensive. The statistics were part of it, but the entire rollout was just as important, if not more important, than the stats. He emphasized that the stats were just one part of the program, and another part was bringing commanders together to talk about their specific precincts and how they were using data to counteract crime and what other factors they had to consider when thinking about how to reduce crime in the area. So my skepticism is more about how CompStat evolved after it was deployed with the NYPD. It seems to have some value there, but as more police departments saw its effects and wanted access to it, they started to market CompStat as not a comprehensive tool but just the technology itself. And I question whether just the technology itself could possibly have the same effect. One of the most interesting parts of your book was the section about body cameras and how there was a lot of excitement there, but they ran into issues with access laws. What happened? There were many conversations happening both in policing and in the public about the utility of body cameras and how they could be used. They could show what happened in interactions like the one with Eula Love and Michael Brown. There seemed to be a consensus that if body cameras were going to be deployed, police departments and prosecutors and communities would all have to have access to footage that was produced. But as more and more body cameras started to be rolled out on the streets of various cities across the country, prosecutors and police departments and legislators started to realize that they didn’t want every piece of body camera footage released. Over the years, as body cameras have become more popular, there have been many laws passed restricting access to body camera footage. Police departments and prosecutors have fought really hard in some very significant cases to ensure that body camera footage is not released, so I question whether the technology has served the ultimate purpose it was initially designed to serve. I was a believer of body cameras at the very beginning. I still believe the concept is a good idea, but when you take away transparency, that turns them into a policing tool and not much else. Is there an emerging policing technology that we should all be aware of? Or that maybe you researched but didn’t have time to include? One of the technologies I am constantly fascinated by, but did not have time to get as deeply into as I wanted, is facial recognition technology. It has not developed as quickly as one might have expected, but as it gets rolled out to more and more federal agencies and police departments, it’s going to play a huge role. It’s going to give police the ability to make arrests on a much broader scale.
  27. Andreas Gal, the former CTO of Mozilla and a current employee of Apple, is filing a complaint against US customs agents who allegedly tried to intimidate him into handing over his phone and laptop passcodes. Gal and the American Civil Liberties Union are asking the Department of Homeland Security for an investigation of an incident last year, which Gal recounted in a blog post titled “No one should have to travel in fear.” It’s part of a protracted fight over warrantless searches at the US border, a practice that’s become especially fraught after the Trump administration implemented more aggressive and invasive policies. According to the ACLU’s complaint, Customs and Border Protection agents in San Francisco International Airport stopped and interrogated Gal — a Hungarian-born US citizen — as he returned from a business trip in Sweden. The agents allegedly demanded that he hand over the passcodes to his Apple-issued phone and computer. When Gal asked to speak to an attorney, they allegedly threatened him with criminal prosecution for resisting a federal officer, “interrogated him about every aspect of his travel and his possessions,” and revoked his expedited Global Entry status for “refusal to comply with a search.” In his blog post, Gal explains that he wanted to be sure unlocking the devices wouldn’t violate an Apple non-disclosure agreement. “Because I was uncertain about my legal responsibilities to my employer, I asked the agents if I could speak to my employer or an attorney before unlocking my devices. This request seemed to aggravate the customs officers,” he writes. The ACLU complaint adds that “critically, Dr. Gal never refused to provide the passcodes to access the electronic devices in his possession.” Gal and the ACLU speculate that the search was motivated by suspicion over Gal’s previous privacy advocacy and his political opinions, stating that the agents asked detailed questions about his work with the privacy-conscious Mozilla — which Gal left back in 2015 to help found Silk Labs, an AI startup that was later acquired by Apple. The Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the complaint or its allegations. The ACLU already helped file a suit against CBP in 2017, alleging that it violated the constitutional rights of several people whose devices were searched at the border — including NASA engineer Sidd Bikkannavar, who was detained and pressured to unlock a device issued by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. That case is still ongoing. Here, it wants the Department of Homeland Security to specifically investigate whether the border patrol agency’s treatment of Gal was constitutional, and more broadly, “a comprehensive review of CBP’s policies to determine if they are consistent with the agency’s obligations under the US Constitution and laws.” Agents can generally search people at the border without a warrant or reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. But a series of lawsuits have challenged whether electronic devices contain so much personal information that they should require a higher standard. CBP has updated its guidelines in recent years to partially address privacy concerns, requiring reasonable suspicion to copy or analyze data from a device — although that hasn’t quelled the controversy over these searches.
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