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Piracy

'Pirates' Tend To Be the Biggest Buyers of Legal Content, Study Shows (vice.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: According to a paywalled survey of 1,000 UK residents by anti-piracy outfit MUSO first spotted by Torrent Freak, 60 percent of those surveyed admitted that they had illegally streamed or downloaded music, film, or TV shows sometime in the past. But the study also showed that 83 percent of those questioned try to find the content they are looking for through above board services before trying anything else. And while the study found that 86 percent of survey takers subscribe to a streaming subscription service like Netflix, that total jumped to 91 percent among those that admit to piracy. The survey found that the top reason that users pirate is the content they were looking for wasn't legally available (34 percent) was too cumbersome or difficult to access (34 percent), or wasn't affordable (35 percent). "The entertainment industry tends to envisage piracy audiences as a criminal element, and writes them off as money lost -- but they are wrong to do so," MUSO executive Paul Briley said of the study's findings. "The reality is that the majority of people who have gone through the effort of finding and accessing such unlicensed content are, first and foremost, fans -- fans who are more often than not trying to get content legally if they can," Briley added.
Piracy

PC Software Piracy Decreases Worldwide, But Remains Rampant (torrentfreak.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: A new report published by The Software Alliance shows that usage of pirated PC software is decreasing worldwide. While this is a positive trend for the industry, piracy remains rampant in many countries. This includes Libya, where a massive 90 percent of all software is used without permission.
Businesses

FCC Asks Amazon and eBay To Stop Selling Fake Pay TV Boxes (techcrunch.com) 62

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig asking their companies to help remove the listings for fake pay TV boxes from their respective websites. From a report: These boxes often falsely bear the FCC logo, the letter informed, and are used to perpetuate "intellectual property theft and consumer fraud." With the rise in cord cutting, a number of consumers have found it's just as easy to use an app like Kodi on a cheap streaming media device to gain access to content â" like TV shows and movies -- that they would otherwise miss out on by dropping their pay TV subscription. As an added perk, various software add-ons enable consumers to stream movies still in the theaters, too. It's an easier way to access pirated content than visiting The Pirate Bay and downloading torrent files.
Piracy

Google's Chrome Web Store Spammed With Dodgy 'Pirate' Movie Links (torrentfreak.com) 32

Unknown third parties appear to be exploiting the Chrome Store's 'theme' section to offer visitors access to a wide range of pirate movies including "Black Panther", "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Rampage." From a report: When clicking through to the page offering Ready Player One, for example, users are presented with a theme that apparently allows them to watch the movie online in "Full HD Online 4k." Of course, the whole scheme is a dubious scam which eventually leads users to Vioos dot co, a platform that tries very hard to give the impression of being a pirate streaming portal but actually provides nothing of use. In fact, as soon as one clicks the play button on movies appearing on Vioos dot co, visitors are re-directed to another site called Zumastar which asks people to "create a free account" to "access unlimited downloads and streaming." Google services have a history of being exploited.
Piracy

Singapore ISPs Block 53 Pirate Sites Following MPAA Legal Action (torrentfreak.com) 45

53 piracy websites, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, have been blocked in Singapore following the most sweeping action taken by copyright holders in the country in more than a decade. From a report: A new wave of blocks announced this week are the country's most significant so far, with dozens of 'pirate' sites targeted following a successful application by the MPAA earlier this year. [...] "In Singapore, these sites are responsible for a major portion of copyright infringement of films and television shows," an MPAA spokesman told The Straits Times. "This action by rights ïowners is necessary to protectï the creative industry, enabling creators to create and keep their jobs, protect their works, and ensure the continued provision of high-quality content to audienceïsï."
Piracy

The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network (nytimes.com) 63

What do you do when your multibillion dollar sports network has been stolen? For the last several days, executives at Qatar's beIN Sports, which functions as the ESPN of the Middle East, have been pondering the same question. For the last several months, live coverage of beIN Sports feed is being broadcast on nearly a dozen beoutQ channels, a bootlegging operation seemingly based in Saudi Arabia, whose roots lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of countries led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From a report: The coalition countries have subjected Qatar to a punishing blockade over the past year. Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and criticized its relationship with Iran, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. They enacted an embargo, cut off diplomatic ties and set up the blockade of the energy-rich emirate, closing Qatar's access to many of the region's ports and much of its airspace. Qatar has denied the allegations and has claimed it has assisted the United States in its war on terrorism.

Now, one month before the start of the World Cup, the world's most-watched sporting event and beIN's signature property, the audacious piracy operation is positioned to illicitly deliver the tournament's 64 games to much of the Middle East. Qatar, despite abundant resources, has been powerless to stop it. Decoder boxes embossed with the beoutQ logo have for months been available across Saudi Arabia and are now for sale in other Arab-speaking countries. A one-year subscription costs $100. A Bangladeshi worker reached by phone at Sharif Electronics in Jeddah this week said his shop has been selling the boxes for three months. "Many people buy them," he said.

Businesses

US Keeps China, Puts Canada on IP Priority Watch List (reuters.com) 183

The Trump administration on Friday labeled 36 countries as inadequately protecting U.S. intellectual property rights, keeping China on a priority watch list and adding Canada over concerns about its border controls and pharmaceutical practices. From a report: The U.S. Trade Representative's annual report on global IP concerns is separate from the "Section 301" report on Chinese technology transfer practices that has led the world's two largest economies to threaten each other with tariffs. The so-called "Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Rights" calls out China for its "coercive technology transfer practices" and "trade secret theft, rampant online piracy, and counterfeit manufacturing." It was the 14th straight year that China was placed on the "Priority Watch List." U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is due to travel to China next week along with other senior Trump administration officials for talks on U.S. demands for changes in Beijing's trade and intellectual property policies.
The Internet

Russia Admits To Blocking Millions of IP Addresses (sfgate.com) 73

It turns out, the Russian government, in its quest to block Telegram, accidentally shut down several other services as well. From a report: The chief of the Russian communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of unrelated IP addresses have been frozen in a so-far futile attempt to block a popular messaging app. Telegram, the messaging app that was ordered to be blocked last week, was still available to users in Russia despite authorities' frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services. The row erupted after Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, refused to hand its encryption keys to the intelligence agencies. The Russian government insists it needs them to pre-empt extremist attacks but Telegram dismissed the request as a breach of privacy. Alexander Zharov, chief of the Federal Communications Agency, said in an interview with the Izvestia daily published Wednesday that Russia is blocking 18 networks that are used by Amazon and Google and which host sites that they believe Telegram is using to circumvent the ban.
Movies

MPAA Silently Shut Down Its Legal Movies Search Engine (techdirt.com) 63

Back in 2015, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) released its own search engine to combat the argument that people pirate films because there are too few legal alternatives. According to TorrentFreak, the search engine, WhereToWatch.com, has since been quietly shut down by the movie industry group, stating that there are plenty of other search options available today. From the report: The MPAA pulled the plug on the service a few months ago. And where the mainstream media covered its launch in detail, the shutdown received zero mentions. So why did the site fold? According to MPAA Vice President of Corporate Communications, Chris Ortman, it was no longer needed as there are many similar search engines out there. "Given the many search options commercially available today, which can be found on the MPAA website, WheretoWatch.com was discontinued at the conclusion of 2017," Ortman informs TF. "There are more than 140 lawful online platforms in the United States for accessing film and television content, and more than 460 around the world," he adds. "That is all absolutely true today, though it was also true three years ago when the site was launched," adds Techdirt. "The simple fact of the matter is that the site did little to serve any real public customer base. Yes, legal alternatives to piracy exist. Everyone knows that, just as they know that there are far too many hoops and restrictions around which to jump that have nothing to do with price. The MPAA and its client organizations have long asserted strict control over their product to the contrary of public demand. That is, and has always been, the problem. On top of all that, the MPAA showed its no better at promoting its site than it was at promoting the legal alternatives to pirating movies."
Encryption

Russia Begins Blocking Telegram Messenger (reuters.com) 59

Russia's state telecommunications regulator said on Monday it had begun blocking access to Telegram messenger after the company refused to comply with an order to give Russian state security access to its users' secret messages (encryption keys). From a report: The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement on its website that it had sent telecoms operators a notification about blocking access to Telegram inside Russia. The service, set up by a Russian entrepreneur, has more than 200 million global users and is ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app.
Piracy

Telegram is Riddled With Tens of Thousands of Piracy Channels; Apple and Google Have Ignored Requests From Creators To Take Action (theoutline.com) 49

joshtops writes: Instant messaging platform Telegram, which is used by more than 200 million users, has had an open secret since its inception: The platform has served as a haven for online pirates. The Outline reports that the platform is riddled with thousands of groups and channels, many with more than 100,000 members, whose sole purpose of existence is to share illegally copied movies, music albums, apps, and other content. The files are stored directly to Telegram's servers, allowing users to download movies, songs, and other content with one click. Channel admins told The Outline that they have not come across any resistance from Telegram despite the company, along with Apple and Google, maintaining a 'zero tolerance' stance on copyright infringement. This permissiveness on Telegram's part has led to the proliferation of a cottage industry of piracy marketplaces on the service.

[...] The Outline also discovered several groups and channels on Telegram in which stolen credentials -- i.e., the username and password for a website -- from Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, HBO, CBS, EA Sports, Lynda, Sling, WWE Network, Mega, India's Hotstar, and dozens of other services were being offered to tens of thousands of members each day. The Outline sourced nearly three-dozen free credentials from six Telegram channels, all of which worked as advertised.
The report says that content creators have reached out to Apple, requesting the iPhone-maker to intervene, but the company has largely ignored the issue.

In an unrelated development, a Moscow court cleared the way on Friday for the local government to ban Telegram, the messaging app, over its failure to give Russian security services the ability to read users' encrypted messages.
Piracy

Three Execs Get Prison Time For Pirating Oracle Firmware & Solaris OS Update (bleepingcomputer.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: Three of four TERiX executives were sentenced to prison yesterday for a scheme through which they created three fake companies to pirate Oracle firmware patches and Solaris OS updates. By doing this, the execs avoided paying a per-server fee for every Oracle product their company serviced, instead paying for one patch/update alone.

Court documents show that Oracle was aware of the scheme and eventually connected the dots between the fake companies and TERiX when one of the execs downloaded files from Oracle's servers via one of the fake company's accounts from a TERiX IP address. Oracle filed a complaint with the FBI, but also a civil suit. A judge awarded Oracle damages last year totaling $57.423 million. The judge also barred TERiX from servicing Oracle products.

Google

Google Removes 'Kodi' From Search Autocomplete In Anti-Piracy Effort (torrentfreak.com) 117

Google has banned the term "Kodi" from the autocomplete feature of its search engine because it's "closely associated with copyright infringement." This means that the popular software and related suggestions won't appear unless users type out the full term. TorrentFreak reports: It turns out that Google has recently removed the term "Kodi" from its autocomplete results. While Kodi can be abused through pirate add-ons, the media player software itself is perfectly legal, which makes it an odd decision. Users who type in "Kod" get a list of suggestions including "Kodak" and "Kodiak," but not the much more popular search term Kodi. Similarly, when typing "addons for k" Google suggests addons for Kokotime and Krypton 17.6. While the latter is a Kodi version, the name of the media player itself doesn't come up as a suggestion. Once users type the full Kodi term and add a space, plenty of suggestions suddenly appear, which is similar to other banned terms. Ironically enough, the Kokotime app is frequently used by pirates as well. Also, the names of all of the pirate Kodi addons we checked still show up fine in the autosuggest feature. Unfortunately, Google doesn't document its autocomplete removal decisions, nor does it publish the full list of banned words. However, the search engine confirms that Kodi's piracy stigma is to blame here. In a statement to TorrentFreak, a Google spokesperson said: "Since 2011, we have been filtering certain terms closely associated with copyright infringement from Google Autocomplete. This action is consistent with that long-standing strategy."
The Courts

Pirate Music Site's Owner Sentenced to Five Years in Prison (torrentfreak.com) 101

An anonymous reader shares an update on Artur Sargsyan, who owned the music-pirating site Sharebeast as well as Newjams and Albumjams. TorrentFreak reports: Thursday a U.S. District Judge sentenced the 30-year-old to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and more than $642,000 in restitution and forfeiture... The RIAA claimed that ShareBeast was the largest illegal file-sharing site operating in the United States... "Millions of users accessed songs from ShareBeast each month without one penny of compensation going to countless artists, songwriters, labels and others who created the music," RIAA Chairman & CEO Cary Sherman commented at the time...

If Sargsyan had responded to takedown notices more positively, it's possible that things may have progressed in a different direction. The RIAA sent the site more than 100 copyright-infringement emails over a three-year period but to no effect. This led the music industry group to get out its calculator and inform the Deparmtment of Justice that the total monetary loss to its member companies was "a conservative" $6.3 billion "gut-punch" to music creators who were paid nothing by the service... "His reproduction of copyrighted musical works were made available only to generate undeserved profits for himself," said U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak. "The incredible work done by our law enforcement partners and prosecutors in light of the complexity of Sargsyan's operation demonstrates that we will employ all of our resources to stop this kind of theft."

David J. LaValley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said "His sentence sends a message that no matter how complex the operation, the FBI, its federal partners and law enforcement partners around the globe will go to every length to protect the property of hard working artists and the companies that produce their art."

Today if you visit ShareBeast.com or AlbumJams.com, they display an "FBI anti-piracy warning" image notifying visitors the domain has been seized, adding "Willful copyright infringement is a federal crime that carries penalties for first time offenders of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution." The image is surrounded by a red border with the word "seized" written over and over again.
Piracy

Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests (torrentfreak.com) 73

An anonymous user writes: A broad and detailed report from piracy tracking outfit MUSO shows that visits to pirate sites went up last year. The company recorded more than 300 billion visits in 2017, which suggests that "piracy is more popular than ever." TV remained the most popular category and most pirates prefer streaming over torrents or direct downloading.
Piracy

US Navy Under Fire In Mass Software Piracy Lawsuit (torrentfreak.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: In 2011 and 2012, the U.S. Navy began using BS Contact Geo, a 3D virtual reality application developed by German company Bitmanagement. The Navy reportedly agreed to purchase licenses for use on 38 computers, but things began to escalate. While Bitmanagement was hopeful that it could sell additional licenses to the Navy, the software vendor soon discovered the U.S. Government had already installed it on 100,000 computers without extra compensation. In a Federal Claims Court complaint filed by Bitmanagement two years ago, that figure later increased to hundreds of thousands of computers. Because of the alleged infringement, Bitmanagement demanded damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. In the months that followed both parties conducted discovery and a few days ago the software company filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asking the court to rule that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement. According to the software company, it's clear that the U.S. Government crossed a line. In its defense, the U.S. Government had argued that it bought concurrent-use licenses, which permitted the software to be installed across the Navy network. However, Bitmanagement argues that it is impossible as the reseller that sold the software was only authorized to sell PC licenses. In addition, the software company points out that the word "concurrent" doesn't appear in the contracts, nor was there any mention of mass installations. The full motion brings up a wide range of other arguments as well which, according to Bitmanagement, make it clear that the U.S. Government is liable for copyright infringement.
The Internet

FCC's Ajit Pai is Surrounded By a 'Set of People With a Very Traditional Mindset', Says Sir Tim Berners-Lee (bbc.com) 114

Next Monday the web celebrates its 29th birthday. Ahead of it, Sir Tim Berners-Lee spoke with BBC on a wide-range of topics. An excerpt: In Barcelona last week at the Mobile World Congress I heard FCC boss Ajit Pai mount a robust defence of the move, pointing out that the internet had grown and thrived perfectly well in the years before 2015, when the net neutrality provision came in. "He said the same thing to me," Sir Tim tells us, revealing that he had recently been to lunch with Mr Pai. He had told the FCC boss that advances in computer processing power had made it easier for internet service providers to discriminate against certain web users for commercial or political reasons, perhaps slowing down traffic to one political party's website or making it harder for a rival company to process payments. But he failed to change Ajit Pai's mind. "He's surrounded by a set of people with a very traditional mindset, which has been driven by the PR machine of the telco industry, who believe it is their duty in Washington to oppose any regulation, whatever it is." Sir Tim, however, is refusing to concede defeat in this battle. "We stopped SOPA and PIPA," he says, referring to two US anti-piracy measures which campaigners opposed on the grounds they impinged on internet freedoms.
Piracy

Trump Promises Copyright Crackdown As DoJ Takes Aim At Streaming Pirates (torrentfreak.com) 107

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Yesterday, a panel discussion on the challenges associated with piracy from streaming media boxes took place on Capitol Hill. Hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), "Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes" (video) went ahead with some big name speakers in attendance, not least Neil Fried, Senior Vice President, Federal Advocacy and Regulatory Affairs at the MPAA. ITIF and various industry groups tweeted many interesting comments throughout the event. Kevin Madigan from Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property told the panel that torrent-based content "is becoming obsolete" in an on-demand digital environment that's switching to streaming-based piracy. "There's a criminal enterprise going on here that's stealing content and making a profit," Fried told those in attendance. "The piracy activity out there is bad, it's hurting a lot of economic activity & creators aren't being compensated for their work," he added.

And then, of course, we come to President Trump. Not usually that vocal on matters of intellectual property and piracy, yesterday -- perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not -- he suddenly delivered one of his "something is coming" tweets. "The U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft," Trump tweeted. "We cannot allow this to happen as it has for many years!" Given Trump's tendency to focus on problems overseas causing issues for companies back home, a comment by Kevin Madigan during the panel yesterday immediately comes to mind. "To combat piracy abroad, USTR needs to work with the creative industries to improve enforcement and target the source of pirated material," Madigan said.

Security

Vatican Invites Hackers To Fix Problems, Not Breach Security (apnews.com) 72

From a report: Computer hackers with a heart are descending on the Vatican to help tackle pressing problems particularly dear to Pope Francis, including how to better provide resources for migrants and encourage solidarity for the poor. The "Vatican Hackathon," an around-the-clock computer programming marathon, starts Thursday in the Vatican, with the full support of the pope, several Vatican offices and student volunteers from Harvard and MIT. Organizers stressed that no firewalls will be breached or acts of computer piracy committed.
Piracy

Flight Sim Company Embeds Malware To Steal Pirates' Passwords (torrentfreak.com) 225

TorrentFreak: Flight sim company FlightSimLabs has found itself in trouble after installing malware onto users' machines as an anti-piracy measure. Code embedded in its A320-X module contained a mechanism for detecting 'pirate' serial numbers distributed on The Pirate Bay, which then triggered a process through which the company stole usernames and passwords from users' web browsers.

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