The year of Internet censorship wouldn’t be complete without the SOPA soap, the row between Megaupload and Universal, three-strikes plans and the countless other censorship attempts and anti-piracy actions that were carried out in the second half of the year. Luckily, there were also a few positive things to report on.
Looking back at the past 12 months it’s fair to conclude that 2011 was the year that the entertainment industries focused on piracy-fueled Internet censorship. Domain seizures, DNS blockades, raids and arrests dominated the news, and the threat of the SOPA and PIPA bills in the US left millions of Internet users worried. Let’s see how events unfolded.
One of the most often-heard retorts to the domain blocking provisions of SOPA, is that where there’s a will to circumvent them, there will be a way. Although most people know that VPNs and proxies can prove useful, there is also a new generation of solutions such as those provided by MafiaaFire and Newzbin2. But history shows us that for every trusted solution, dozens more will pop up, each aiming to scam and defraud unsuspecting Internet users.
As 2011 comes to an end, we follow up our most pirated movies and TV-shows charts by taking a look at the most pirated games of the year. Crysis 2 comes out on top in the PC games category in 2011. On Xbox 360 Gears of War 3 receives the same honor, while Super Mario Galaxy 2 scoops the title of most pirated Wii game for the second year in a row.
In response to increasing legal actions and surveillance of Internet traffic, more and more file-sharers are choosing to hide their identities online. New data gathered through telephone interviews with thousands of adults reveals that in the US 15 percent of all file-sharers take measures to hide their IP-address. Some VPN and proxy providers have doubled their customer base in 2011, and this upward trend is bound to continue in the coming year.
BitTorrent is a great way to share large files with friends, family or even complete strangers, but it’s not always as convenient as it should be. Even though BitTorrent is more than a decade old there’s no site where users can simply dump torrents and get a fancy URL in return, so they can share with others. Until now that is, because the newly launched Tors.in just filled that gap.
In their 18-page response filing at the US District Court for Northern Californian earlier this month, not once did Universal Music say why they forced YouTube to remove Megaupload’s Mega Song. Since that’s what the dispute between the two companies is all about, that was a pretty strange event. In a new filing, Megaupload makes it clear that it isn’t going to be brushed aside. The cyberlocker wants answers, and it will dig deep to get them.
In a sweeping attempt at stopping piracy of their latest movie, a studio has obtained a court order forcing India’s ISPs to block some of the world’s largest file-sharing sites. A company spokesman gave a SOPA-style reason for their actions, claiming that site blocking is the only way they can stop foreign sites from engaging in “rampant online piracy.” Megaupload says the ban presents a great opportunity for them to test their anti-blocking technologies.
Each and every day hundreds of millions of people scour their favorite BitTorrent search engines for content to download. But what are all these people looking for? Today we present the BitTorrent Zeitgeist 2011, a list of the 50 most searched for phrases and keywords on one of the most used public BitTorrent indexes during the past year.
In recent weeks we discovered BitTorrent pirates at the RIAA, Sony, Fox, Universal and even law-abiding organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security. By now it should be clear that people are using BitTorrent pretty much everywhere, and not only for lawful downloads. Today we can add the U.S. House of Representatives to that list, the place where lawmakers are drafting the much discussed “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA).
The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent, ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ tops the chart this week, followed by ‘The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption’. ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ completes the top three.
In the debate about the American “Stop Online Piracy Act”, some have hailed the decade-old American DMCA as a law that was somehow beneficial for the development of new services on the net. This is not only a complete misconception, but a very dangerous one at that. The DMCA was basically a wet dream come true for the copyright industry, and the “safe harbor” provisions have gradually shifted the environment to suppress free speech and expression in favor of the suppressing industries: the copyright industries.
As negativity surrounding online piracy grows to epic proportions in the United States, Sonny John Moore is playing the intelligent game. Moore, better known to his fans as Skrillex, has a total of six 2011 Grammy nominations under his belt but he’s still not towing the corporate line on file-sharing. As he drops his brand new album, Skrillex tells fans that don’t have the money to go ahead and pirate it instead.
In an attempt to reduce widespread piracy in the Netherlands, the government there recently introduced a plan that would make downloading movies and music unlawful. However, this proposal was binned yesterday by a motion from the Dutch parliament due to concerns it would restrict the free flow of information, invade the privacy of citizens and invite copyright trolls. Instead, they encourage the entertainment industry to focus their attention on providing authorized alternatives.
The makers of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are cracking down on BitTorrent pirates in Germany, requesting hundreds of euros from each alleged offender. As is always the case with these schemes, settlement demands are sometimes addressed to people who didn’t download the game at all. In a recent interview with PC Gamer The Witcher devs interestingly enough say that their evidence is foolproof, but this claim is 100% bogus.
As 2011 comes to an end, we follow up our most pirated TV-shows chart by taking a look at the most pirated movies of the year. Fast Five comes out on top, and aside from other usual suspects such as box office hits Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Hangover, the list also includes a few surprising entries and some notable absentees.
Domain registrar and hosting company GoDaddy has dropped its support for the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The change in position follows the protests of thousands of customers who threatened to transfer their domains to competitors. In a statement released today the company now says it “will support it when and if the Internet community supports it.”
After a legal process lasting more than 7 years, the creator of Japan’s most popular P2P file-sharing application has finally been cleared by the country’s Supreme Court. After his initial arrest in 2004 on copyright infringement grounds, the former university researcher has been on a roller coaster ride of convictions, fines, and appeals. Now, barring a dispute on rare technical grounds, his ordeal is over.
The record-breaking lawsuit, filed by the makers of The Hurt Locker against 24,583 alleged BitTorrent users, has come to an end. Although this appears to be good news for the defendants, the lawyers representing the movie studio are continuing with their cash demands. During recent months the lawyers engaged in dubious behavior, asking people to settle with them after they were dismissed from the lawsuit, and targeting people who were never included to begin with.
Despite not owning a computer or even a router, a retired woman has been ordered by a court to pay compensation to a movie company. The woman had been pursued by a rightsholder who claimed she had illegally shared a violent movie about hooligans on the Internet, but the fact that she didn’t even have an email address proved of little interest to the court. Guilty until proven innocent is the formula in Germany.
The US Government has classified some of the largest websites on the Internet as examples of sites which sustain global piracy. The list released by the United States Trade Representative draws exclusively on input from rightsholders. It includes popular torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, file-hosting service Megaupload and Russia’s leading social network VKontakte.
A few days ago we reported that no less than 6 IP-addresses registered to the RIAA had been busted for downloading copyrighted material. Quite a shocker to everyone – including the music industry group apparently – as they are now using a defense previously attempted by many alleged file-sharers. It wasn’t members of RIAA staff who downloaded these files, the RIAA insists, it was a mysterious third party vendor who unknowingly smeared the group’s good name.
The IFPI has told Google it must try harder with its copyright enforcement activities. In its patronizing teacher/student style “Report Card”, the music industry group says the search giant profits from digital piracy, puts up barriers to make life difficult for rightsholders, engages in destructive rhetoric and raises alarmist, self-serving criticism to any legislative proposal designed to thwart infringement.
Since the recording industry is one of the key supporters of the pending SOPA legislation in the United States, it seems fitting that its opponents should use the medium of song to make their counter argument. Following previous musical escapades in support of file-sharing, Internet and gaming culture, today UK activist artist Dan Bull sharpens his lyrical bayonet and plunges it deep into SOPA’s heart.
Some of the world’s biggest record labels have failed in their attempt to sue a file-sharing developer for copyright infringements carried out by users of his software. During a 2009 trial, Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner had demanded 13 million euros in compensation from Pablo Soto, the creator of the Blubster, Piolet and Manolito P2P sharing applications. A court has now ruled that Soto’s technology is “completely neutral”.
Last week the House Judiciary Committee discussed the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA). After an abrupt end of the markup session on Friday, a new hearing date was set for this week. Meanwhile, opposition to the controversial bill is increasing and yesterday the General Manager of the largest online community Reddit said that the bill would “almost certainly mean the end” of the popular site.
Following an investigation into the legality of a 3 strikes-style anti-filesharing mechanism operated by Irish ISP Eircom, the country’s Data Protection Commissioner has now ordered the practice to be brought to a halt on privacy grounds. But this setback for rightsholders was immediately countered by government promises to swiftly publish an order enabling rightsholders to have file-sharing sites blocked by ISPs.
The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent, ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. ‘Moneyball’ completes the top three.
Last week file-sharing site Megaupload found itself at the center of a huge controversy. After some of the world’s leading artists endorsed its service, Universal Music forced the song offline and was met with widespread accusations of censorship. Today TorrentFreak hands its Sunday guest slot to Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, who tells us the row with Universal started much earlier than we thought….
If there’s one organization known for its crusade against online piracy, it’s the RIAA. Nevertheless, even in the RIAA’s headquarters several people use BitTorrent to download pirated music, movies, TV-shows and software. And they are in good company. The Department of Homeland Security – known for seizing pirate domain names – also harbors hundreds of BitTorrent pirates.
An investigator who worked for the anti-piracy outfit behind Finland’s Pirate Bay ISP blockage and two file-sharing cases where defendants collected huge fines, has been speaking of his lack of training at the organization. The man also says that he was so uncomfortable with the heavy modification of file-sharing related witness statements he created for the police, in the end he refused to sign them.
With 2011 nearing its end, today we begin our annual look at the most-pirated entertainment titles across various categories, starting with TV-shows. Dexter comes out on top this year, followed by HBO’s debut series Game of Thrones. Although the years of exponential growth in download numbers have passed, episodes of the top TV-shows are still shared among millions of people.
A week ago today, Megaupload’s now-famous Mega Song was on its way to becoming a viral hit, only to be cut down from YouTube by a Universal Music takedown demand. Following the filing of a Megaupload lawsuit the song is back online, but Universal are standing firm. You can’t touch us on DMCA grounds, the label says in a new filing, adding it can take down any material, even if it doesn’t infringe their rights.
John Wiley and Sons, one of the world’s largest book publishers, is continuing its efforts to crack down on BitTorrent piracy. The company filed a new mass-lawsuit this month, targeting dozens of John Does who allegedly shared Wiley titles online. Talking to TorrentFreak, the publisher states that it’s not their intention to litigate against individuals, but to settle and educate instead.
French President Nicholas Sarkozy is a man who has championed some of the most aggressive anti-piracy legislation in Europe. But today it’s revealed that the occupants of his very own office and home are responsible for a nice selection of pirate downloads using BitTorrent. Three strikes? Those with access to the Presidential Palace’s IP addresses have already doubled that quota.
In a filing today in federal court, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom stated that all artists involved in the now-infamous Megaupload video signed Appearance Consent and Release Agreements. Furthermore, Dotcom revealed that Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am had assured him during a telephone call that contrary to suggestions in the press, he had not authorized the submission of DMCA takedown notices of Mega Song.
A few days ago the independent film “The Inner Room” ended up on BitTorrent. Where some filmmakers would see such an event as a threat, for producer Mark Diestler it’s quite the opposite. For months he had waited for pirates to pick the movie up, and now it’s out he’s seeing the film gain additional exposure. For the first time his movie has jumped into the top 250 as listed by IMDb’s movie meter.
Two long-standing file-sharing cases have just been concluded and both defendants have been hit with extraordinarily harsh punishments. A 36-year-old received a 4 month jail sentence and a fine equivalent to $433,000, and a 22-year-old received a fine of $291,600. Meanwhile, the anti-piracy group behind the action is sending “pay-up-or-else” letters to Internet subscribers, and not always getting it right.
With increasing lobbying efforts from the entertainment industry against BitTorrent sites and users, we wondered whether these companies hold themselves to the same standards they demand of others. After some initial skimming we’ve discovered BitTorrent pirates at nearly every major entertainment industry company in the US, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Fox Entertainment and NBC Universal. Busted.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wants to blank out all pages of the online encyclopedia to oppose the pending SOPA anti-piracy bill in the US. Wales, who has asked the Wikipedia community for input on the idea, fears the bill could seriously hurt the Internet and thinks that blanking out Wikipedia will send a strong message to lawmakers.
File-hosting service Megaupload has told TorrentFreak that it will sue Universal for wrongfully taking down its content from YouTube. Universal took action Friday to remove a Megaupload-produced pop video which featured leading artists singing the cyberlocker service’s praises. The move has also prompted the company to enter the SOPA debate, with a call for like-minded people to join forces and fight for an Internet without censorship.
The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent, ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Cowboys and Aliens’. ‘Warrior’ completes the top three.
One of my first large keynotes, in 2007, was called Copyright Regime vs. Civil Liberties. In the 15-minute original keynote at OSCON, I outlined all the civil liberties that were at risk because of enforcement of the copyright monopoly, and that the copyright industry brutally understood these liberties needed to be killed to preserve their business. What was fringe paranoia five years ago is now becoming the law of the land.
A man described as the main administrator of movie streaming portal Kino.to has been sentenced to 3 years in jail for criminal copyright infringement. The 27-year-old is said to have made around 230,000 euros profit from the site, which was shut down earlier this year as part of the biggest anti-piracy operation ever to take place on European soil.
Most people know that BitTorrent is far from anonymous, but seeing all your recent downloads listed on a public website is still quite a revelation. This is exactly what Youhavedownloaded.com does. The developers of the site want to make people aware of the public nature of BitTorrent, and are currently working on a more anonymous version of the leading file-sharing technology.
Earlier today, Megaupload released a pop video featuring mainstream artists who endorse the cyberlocker service. News of the controversial Mega Song even trended on Twitter, but has now been removed from YouTube on copyright grounds by Universal Music. Kim Dotcom says that Megaupload owns everything in the video, and that the label has engaged in dirty tricks in an attempt to sabotage their successful viral campaign.
MegaUpload is currently being portrayed by the MPAA and RIAA as one of the world’s leading rogue sites. But top music stars including P Diddy, Will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Kanye West disagree and are giving the site their full support in a brand new song. TorrentFreak caught up with the elusive founder of MegaUpload, Kim Dotcom, who shrugged off “this rogue nonsense” and told us he wants content owners to get paid.
The free version of uTorrent just came out with a new stable release that adds a media player and support for external devices such as smart phones and game consoles. On the same day, BitTorrent Inc. also made their paid client uTorrent Plus available to the public. For $24.95 uTorrent Plus gives users extra features such as file-conversion and a built-in virus scanner.
Just over a year ago, Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized dozens of domain names as part of Operation in Our Sites. The lawyer for one of them, music blog Dajaz1, has been furiously trying to find out about the site’s case and now, after a year of smoke, mirrors and stonewalling, the Feds have done the previously unthinkable – they’ve given the domain back.
A German law firm has started an auction to sell the unpaid settlements of 70,000 alleged file-sharers to the highest bidder. The ‘debt’ belongs to people who thus far failed to settle with a copyright holder, and would be worth 90 million euros if recouped entirely. This controversial move opens up room for a new group of outfits to join the “pay-up-or-else” scheme – the aggressive debt collectors.
Since its release in May this year, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings has sold over a million copies worldwide. Unfortunately, though, the game has also been plagued by piracy. But for the makers this isn’t much of a problem since they are making money on both sides, by getting paid by regular customers and demanding hefty cash settlements from those who (they claim) dared to pirate the game.
Police in three European countries have carried out an operation to disrupt two scene release groups said to be responsible for pre-releasing thousands of movies onto the Internet. The action, which focused on datacenters and home addresses across Germany, Switzerland and Hungary, targeted the leaders and equipment of CRUCiAL and iNSPiRED.
While most of the major entertainment industry companies wage war against BitTorrent sites, the Songwriters Association of Canada prefers to embrace file-sharing. Speaking with TorrentFreak, vice president Jean-Robert Bisaillon says that the Internet has revived the music business. Sharing music is part of people’s nature and the songwriters want to legalize file-sharing, while compensating the artists whose works are shared.
An advertising network has been found not guilty of copyright infringement for serving ads to a site offering links to unauthorized copies of ebooks. The case, brought by Elsevier and ‘For Dummies’ publisher Wiley & Sons, sought to find the Chitika ad network liable for contributory infringement, even though it produced no evidence of direct infringement, or that the network had knowledge of the e-book site’s allegedly infringing behavior.
After a court ordered two of the largest Belgian Internet service providers to prevent their users accessing The Pirate Bay, the local anti-piracy outfit is now urging other ISPs to do the same. Internet providers who refuse to give in to this request within 10 days will be taken to court, a threatening letter explains. The blackmailing tactic seems to have worked, as one of the smaller ISPs has already disabled access to The Pirate Bay.
Security vendor Kaspersky has announced it will withdraw its membership of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) over the group’s support of SOPA. The Russian company, which is famous for its anti-virus products, says the pending legislation will hurt both innovation and consumers. In protest, Kaspersky will end its association with the BSA on January 1st 2012.
The top 10 most downloaded movies on BitTorrent, ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ tops the chart this week, followed by ‘Conan the Barbarian’. ‘In Time’ completes the top three.
Homeland Security’s ICE unit has started the ninth phase of Operation In Our Sites. Following on from last week’s action targeting online shops selling counterfeit goods, US authorities have just seized the domain names of 11 Korean movie download portals. For the first time since the seizures began the banner has been updated to include Korean language.
After a process lasting more than three years, a man from Sweden has finally been prosecuted for his role in the operations of Student Bay, a site dedicated to the sharing of textbooks. Despite prosecution attempts to link a Pirate Bay founder to the site, the 23-year-old is the only person in the spotlight. An apology requested by The Pirate Bay for wrongful accusations appears to have gone unfulfilled.
Make no mistake, anti-piracy organizations have a thin line to tread. On the one hand they have to show their efforts yield results, and on the other that the piracy situation is so bad that they are needed more than ever. From two different mouths the RIAA has been doing that just this week but it’s hard to accept that either approach yields results without being counter-productive.
One in three people in Switzerland download unauthorized music, movies and games from the Internet and since last year the government has been wondering what to do about it. This week their response was published and it was crystal clear. Not only will downloading for personal use stay completely legal, but the copyright holders won’t suffer because of it, since people eventually spend the money saved on entertainment products.
Anti-piracy group BREIN is caught up in a huge copyright scandal in the Netherlands. A musician who composed a track for use at a local film festival later found it being used without permission in an anti-piracy campaign. He is now claiming at least a million euros for the unauthorized distribution of his work on DVDs. To make matters even worse, a board member of a royalty collection agency offered to help the composer to recoup the money, but only if he received 33% of the loot.
A trio of organizations representing the movie, cinema and TV industries have gone to court in France in an attempt to force Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the country’s ISPs to block several streaming sites. The groups, which represent hundreds of video-related companies such as Paramount and Sony, want streaming sites blocked to Internet subscribers and delisted from search engines.
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