Tech Giants Defend Domain Registrars Against Piracy Claims

Tech Giants Defend Domain Registrars Against Piracy Claims

Posted: 17 Oct 2015 09:18 AM PDT

Earlier this month several copyright holder groups submitted their overviews of “notorious markets” to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

The U.S. Government uses this input to provide an overview of threats to various copyright industries. The list usually includes well-known piracy sites such as The Pirate Bay, but last year it also mentioned Canadian domain name registrar Tucows.

This year the MPAA and RIAA kept up the pressure with their latest submissions. Both groups again identified domain name registrars as possible piracy facilitators.

The inclusion of domain name registrars is a dangerous development according to the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which counts Google, Facebook and Microsoft among its members.

The CCIA submitted a rebuttal to the USTR this week in which they outline their concerns.

“CCIA is deeply concerned with comments requesting that domain registrars be branded as ‘notorious markets’ and included on USTR’s list of notorious markets,” the group writes. “Domain registrars are not notorious markets.”

The tech companies explain that third party service providers enjoy broad immunity from copyright infringement claims, as defined by U.S. law.

USTR’s decision to include domain registrars was based in misleading input from copyright holder groups, CCIA notes. Copyright holders argue that ICANN’s RAA agreement requires registrars to take specific action against alleged abuse, but the tech companies refute that.

“Although some rightsholders have argued that ICANN should deputize registrars as copyright enforcement agents, USTR should not be giving credence, either directly or implicitly, to these misinterpretations of the RAA and the proper role of registrars,” they write.

The MPAA and RIAA went beyond domain registrars in their latest filings and also argued that other service providers should play a more active role in countering online piracy. This includes CCIA member Cloudflare, who has many “notorious” sites among their customers.

CCIA also opposes this request and warns against measures that would involve third-party companies in regulating and policing the Internet, drawing a comparison to the defeated SOPA and PIPA bills.

“Rightsholders have a wide variety of tools to reduce intellectual property infringement. USTR should not allow intellectual property enforcement efforts to interfere with fundamental Internet infrastructure, or undermine the intermediary liability limitations that the U.S. Internet economy is built on.

“Domain registrars, and other third party online intermediaries, do not belong on USTR’s notorious markets list,” CCIA concludes.

The rebuttal and other submissions will form the basis of the U.S. Government’s Special 301 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, which is expected to come out later this year.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Money and Lawsuit Rumors Break Up Popcorn Time Team

Money and Lawsuit Rumors Break Up Popcorn Time Team

Posted: 19 Oct 2015 03:26 AM PDT

With millions of users Popcorntime.io is arguably the most-used Popcorn Time fork around.

The application is the top result when searching for Popcorn Time online, and two months ago the original developers gave it their blessing.

Behind the scenes, however, there have been serious disagreements over how the project should be managed. This weekend internal disputes reached a new high causing several key players to leave the team.

TF heard opinions from developers on both sides, who have a different take on how things unfolded, but the recent trouble began when rumors of a Hollywood lawsuit surfaced.

While there is no concrete evidence, several developers feared that Popcorn Time’s connection to the VPN.ht service posed a substantial risk.

VPN.ht was founded by Popcorn Time developers ‘Wally’ and ‘phnz’ who integrated it into Popcorn Time. This added a significant revenue stream, which legally speaking, could make the software a bigger target.

Responding to this threat a small group of developers, including ‘KsaRedFx,’ suggested cutting all ties with the VPN and starting over.

“There was rumor of a lawsuit coming down the chain to Popcorn Time, specifically because of money made off of VPN.ht and its ties to us. It made us vulnerable. Some of the team opted to speak in private about either closing the project or cutting away from VPN.ht,” KsaRedFx tells TF.

The idea was to release a new Popcorn Time fork without any links to the commercial VPN. Starting over would also allow these developers to gain more power, as they had no control over the domain name and keys of the current project.

The plan was discussed among a small group of developers, but it didn’t take long before it leaked. When Wally and others learned about the planned fork they saw it as am aggressive takeover instead.

“KsaRedFx tried to take over the project without prior agreement. When he was not able to, he just wiped the mirrors,” Wally tells TF.

“All this started from an assumption that a lawsuit is near against phnz, but at the same time they wanted to release a fork and have the Popcorntime.io website announce that.”

As a result of the disagreement KsaRedFx’s access to Popcorn Time’s Slack and GitHub accounts was disabled. The same happened to developers who sided with him, while others left voluntarily. This means the team will now continue without a handful of its main contributors.

At the same time phnz, one of the VPN.ht founders, stepped out as well. He publicly announced his departure early yesterday.

It appears that power, control and money play a central role in the breakup. KsaRedFx and other developers were not happy with the commercial angle the VPN introduced to the project but they say their critique wasn’t heard.

“I’ve always been quite verbose internally about my distaste for it. However they did not care,” KsaRedFx says, noting that he was never paid a penny for his work on Popcorn Time.

Wally disagrees and says that several developers received money indirectly, by working for the VPN. According to him, KsaRedFx was paid too.

Other than compensating developers for work on the VPN, some of the revenue was donated to Popcorn Time so it could be used to pay the server bills.

“Our goal was never to make money,” Wally says, adding that Popcorn Time remains free and that the VPN was launched to provide a service to those users who are interested in more privacy.

Sammuel86, who left as well, also cites the commercialization and possible legal implications as the main reason to walk out. However, there have been other disagreements in the past.

“Deep rifts had already been formed by this point in regards to how the servers were being handled and the metaphorical choke-hold a few of the members had on the project,” he says.

So where will PopcornTime.io go from here?

The remaining team plans to continue developing the application, even though some core developers have stepped away. This means that on the surface not much will change for its users.

The new fork which the disgruntled developers planned to release has been canceled however. Instead, the departing developers will move on to other projects, ending their Popcorn Time involvement.

We haven’t been able to find any concrete leads on the rumored Hollywood lawsuit, so only time will tell if something’s brewing in the background.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 10/19/15

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 10/19/15

Posted: 18 Oct 2015 11:11 PM PDT

This week we have just one newcomer in our chart.

Dope is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
torrentfreak.com
1 (7) Dope 7.5 / trailer
2 (1) Southpaw 7.6 / trailer
3 (4) Pixels 5.6 / trailer
4 (8) Knock Knock 5.5 / trailer
5 (2) Jurassic World 7.2 / trailer
6 (6) Tomorrowland 6.6 / trailer
7 (3) Terminator Genisys 6.8 / trailer
8 (…) Momentum (HDrip) 5.6 / trailer
9 (5) Paper Towns 6.6 / trailer
10 (9) San Andreas 6.2 / trailer

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Starting a few hours ago Chrome and Firefox users are unable to access KickassTorrents (KAT) directly.

Starting a few hours ago Chrome and Firefox users are unable to access KickassTorrents (KAT) directly.

Instead of a page filled with the latest torrents, visitors now see an ominous red warning banner when they visit Kat.cr.

“The site ahead contains harmful programs,” Google Chrome informs its users.

“Attackers on kat.cr might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience (for example, by changing your homepage or showing extra ads on sites you visit),” the warning adds.

Mozilla’s Firefox browser displays a similar message

The warning messages are triggered by Google’s “Unwanted Software” scanner which flags websites that pose a potential danger to visitors. Chrome and Firefox both use the service to prevent users from running into malicious software.

The policy applies to all websites but torrent sites are common targets of ‘unwanted software’ distributors, according to Google.

The company further stresses that the warnings will automatically disappear when the flagged sites no longer violate Google’s policy.

Kat.cr’s Safe Browsing diagnostics page
This is not the first time that the red warning banner has shown up at Kat.cr. The same happened a few months ago and at the time several other large torrent sites were also affected.

Coincidentally, KAT’s operators just issued a warning to avoid malicious copycat sites, which only adds to the confusion. This warning is unrelated to the alert triggered by Google.

Previously, the Chrome and Firefox warnings did indeed disappear after the affected websites disabled certain advertisements, so it’s likely that the current issue will also be resolved in due time.

Impatient or adventurous users who want to bypass the warning can do so by clicking the details link, or disable their browser’s malware warnings altogether, at their own risk.

Update: The KAT team informs us that the bad advertiser has been removed, so the warning should disappear after Google reviews it.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Anti-Piracy Activities Get VPNs Banned at Torrent Sites

For the privacy-conscious Internet user, VPNs and similar services are now considered must-have tools. In addition to providing much needed security, VPNs also allow users to side-step geo-blocking technology, a useful ability for today’s global web-trotter.

While VPNs are often associated with file-sharing activity, it may be of interest to learn that they are also used by groups looking to crack down on the practice. Just like file-sharers it appears that anti-piracy groups prefer to work undetected, as events during the past few days have shown.

Earlier this week while doing our usual sweep of the world’s leading torrent sites, it became evident that at least two popular portals were refusing to load. Finding no complaints that the sites were down, we were able to access them via publicly accessible proxies and as a result thought no more of it.

A day later, however, comments began to surface on Twitter that some VPN users were having problems accessing certain torrent sites. Sure enough, after we disabled our VPN the affected sites sprang into action. Shortly after, reader emails to TF revealed that other users were experiencing similar problems.

Eager to learn more, TF opened up a dialog with one of the affected sites and in return for granting complete anonymity, its operator agreed to tell us what had been happening.

“The IP range you mentioned was used for massive DMCA crawling and thus it’s been blocked,” the admin told us.

Intrigued, we asked the operator more questions. How do DMCA crawlers manifest themselves? Are they easy to spot and deal with?

“If you see 15,000 requests from the same IP address after integrity checks on the IP’s browsers for the day, you can safely assume its a [DMCA] bot,” the admin said.

From the above we now know that anti-piracy bots use commercial VPN services, but do they also access the sites by other means?

“They mostly use rented dedicated servers. But sometimes I’ve even caught them using Hola VPN,” our source adds. Interestingly, it appears that the anti-piracy activities were directed through the IP addresses of Hola users without them knowing.

Once spotted the IP addresses used by the aggressive bots are banned. The site admin wouldn’t tell TF how his system works. However, he did disclose that sizable computing resources are deployed to deal with the issue and that the intelligence gathered proves extremely useful.

Of course, just because an IP address is banned at a torrent site it doesn’t necessarily follow that a similar anti-DMCA system is being deployed. IP addresses are often excluded after being linked to users uploading spam, fakes and malware. Additionally, users can share IP addresses, particularly in the case of VPNs. Nevertheless, the banning of DMCA notice-senders is a documented phenomenon.

Earlier this month Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today revealed his frustrations when attempting to get so-called “revenge porn” removed from various sites.

“Once you file your copyright or other notice of abuse, the host, rather than remove the material at question, simply blocks you, the submitter, from accessing the site,” Bailey explains.

“This is most commonly done by blocking your IP address. This means, when you come back to check and see if the site’s content is down, it appears that the content, and maybe the entire site, is offline. However, in reality, the rest of the world can view the content, it’s just you that can’t see it,” he notes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bailey advises a simple way of regaining access to a site using these methods.

“I keep subscriptions with multiple VPN providers that give access to over a hundred potential IP addresses that I can use to get around such tactics,” he reveals.

The good news for both file-sharers and anti-piracy groups alike is that IP address blocks like these don’t last forever. The site we spoke with said that blocks on the VPN range we inquired about had already been removed. Still, the cat and mouse game is likely to continue.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

 

Thousands of “Spies” Are Watching Trackerless Torrents

Thousands of “Spies” Are Watching Trackerless Torrents

Posted: 04 Oct 2015 01:38 AM PDT

The beauty of BitTorrent is that thousands of people can share a single file simultaneously to speed up downloading. In order for this to work, trackers announce the IP-addresses of all file-sharers in public.

The downside of this approach is that anyone can see who’s sharing a particular file. It’s not even required for monitoring outfits to actively participate.

This ‘vulnerability’ is used by dozens of tracking companies around the world, some of which send file-sharers warning letters, or worse. However, the “spies” are not just getting info from trackers, they also use BitTorrent’s DHT.

Through DHT, BitTorrent users share IP-addresses with other peers. Thus far, little was known about the volume of monitoring through DHT, but research from Peersm’s Aymeric Vitte shows that it’s rampant.

Through various experiments Vitte consistently ran into hundreds of thousands of IP-addresses that show clear signs of spying behavior.

The spies are not hard to find and many monitor pretty much all torrents hashes they can find. Blocking them is not straightforward though, as they frequently rotate IP-addresses and pollute swarms.

“The spies are organized to monitor automatically whatever exists in the BitTorrent network, they are easy to find but difficult to follow since they might change their IP addresses and are polluting the DHT with existing peers not related to monitoring activities,” Vitte writes.

The research further found that not all spies are actively monitoring BitTorrent transfers. Vitte makes a distinction between level 1 and level 2 spies, for example.

The first group is the largest and spreads IP-addresses of random peers and the more dangerous level 2 spies, which are used to connect file-sharers to the latter group. They respond automatically, and even return peers for torrents that don’t exist.

The level 2 spies are the data collectors, some if which use quickly changing IP-addresses. They pretend to offer a certain file and wait for BitTorrent users to connect to them.

The image below shows how rapidly the spies were discovered in one of the experiments and how quickly they rotate IP-addresses.

Interestingly, only very few of the level 2 spies actually accept data from an alleged pirate, meaning that most can’t proof without a doubt that pirates really shared something (e.g. they could just be checking a torrent without downloading).

According to Vitte, this could be used by accused pirates as a defense.

“That’s why people who receive settlement demands while using only DHT should challenge this, and ask precisely what proves that they downloaded a file,” he says.

After months of research and several experiments Vitte found that there are roughly 3,000 dangerous spies. These include known anti-piracy outfits such as Trident Media Guard, but also unnamed spies that use rotating third party IPs so they are harder to track.

Since many monitoring outfits constantly change their IP-addresses, static blocklists are useless. At TF we are no fans of blocklists in general, but Vitte believes that the dynamic blocklist he has developed provides decent protection, with near instant updates.

This (paid) blocklist is part of the Open Source Torrent-Live client which has several built in optimizations to prevent people from monitoring downloads. People can also use it to built and maintain a custom blocklist.

In his research paper Vitte further proposes several changes to the BitTorrent protocol which aim to make it harder to spy on users. He hopes other developers will pick this up to protect users from excessive monitoring.

Another option to stop the monitoring is to use an anonymous VPN service or proxy, which hides ones actual IP-address.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 09/14/15

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 09/14/15

Posted: 14 Sep 2015 12:28 AM PDT

This week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
torrentfreak.com
1 (4) Avengers: Age of Ultron 7.8 / trailer
2 (1) Minions (HDRip) 6.7 / trailer
3 (9) Entourage 7.0 / trailer
4 (…) Fantastic Four (Subbed HDrip) 4.0 / trailer
5 (2) Mad Max: Fury Road 8.4 / trailer
6 (3) Self/less 6.5 / trailer
7 (6) Straight Outta Compton (Subbed HDRip) 8.3 / trailer
8 (7) Southpaw (HDrip) 7.8 / trailer
9 (…) Poltergeist 5.0 / trailer
10 (5) San Andreas (Web-DL) 6.4 / trailer

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.