I still don’t get it. Bitcoin I mean. Best explanation came from my buddy Tom Merritt on an episode of TMS a couple weeks back, and even still, I kinda have no idea how this is the thing people claim it is. So, thought it would be time to have a little fun with it in comic form. Enjoy!
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Despite clear indications that the best way to discourage people away from pirate sources is by offering legitimate content at a fair price, this carrot is still being rejected in favor of the stick.
Companies such as Voltage Pictures favor very big sticks indeed, suing tens of thousands of file-sharers for thousands of dollars each, both in the United States and Canada.
US-based Rightscorp, on the other hand, favor a smaller stick, sending settlement demands to alleged file-sharers for relatively smaller amounts per infringement. Until recently they were confined to the United States, but all that is about to change.
In a move to expand its business model north of the border, Rightscorp has retained Susan Abramovitch, a partner at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, one of Canada’s largest lawfirms. Based in the company’s Toronto office, Abramovitch is described as a leading entertainment lawyer covering disputes in the music, film, television and videogaming industries, among others.
Rightscorp says that Canada represents a new market for its business model and an important step in the company’s international expansion plans. Implying that settlements are now accepted practice in Canada, the company references the recent Voltage Pictures case involving Teksavvy, which saw the ISP ordered to hand over the details of 2,000 alleged file-sharers.
However, while the Voltage case resulted in protracted legal argument and was ultimately subjected to court-ordered constraints, Rightscorp’s settlement demands are designed to circumvent controversial disclosure issues. Alleged infringers are reached via settlement notices attached to regular DMCA-style notices forwarded to them by their ISPs.
In the US, Charter Communications passes on Rightscorp cash demands, but Comcast does not. Will Canadian ISPs comply?
To get a broader idea of how this kind of business model might play out in Canada, TorrentFreak spoke with Canadian law professor Michael Geist.
“At the moment, there would be no legal obligation on the ISP to forward the notice to the subscriber, though that is likely to change in the coming months.”
When that notice-and-notice system does take effect, Geist says that Canadian law may specify the form notice letters must take.
“The law already identifies specific information to be included in the notice. There is no reference to settlement information or legal demands. If the Canadian government objects to [Rightscorp's] approach, it could use regulations to stop the inclusion of settlement demands in notice letters,” Geist explains.
“Even if it doesn’t, there will be a question of whether the notices are in the proper form if they include information beyond that found in the statute.”
Since local ISP Teksavvy is at the core of the Canadian Voltage Pictures case, TorrentFreak spoke with the company to gauge its reaction to the news that Rightscorp might soon come knocking. Stopping short of an official comment on the business model, the ISP essentially echoed Michael Geist’s sentiments.
“TekSavvy would be within its rights to insist, and would insist, that any notice conform with Canadian law and not over reach the stated guidelines,” the ISP told TF.
“The notice-and-notice law permits the government to set a fee for sending a notice that an ISP can charge. At the moment, it does not look like the government will establish a fee, preferring to wait to see how the system develops. Were this [business model] to come to Canada, the government might face increased pressure from ISPs to allow them to charge for their participation in the process,” Geist concludes.
TF approached Rightscorp lawyer Susan Abramovitch who did not immediately respond to our request for comment. The signs are, however, that she could be busy with this work during the months to come.
Photo: Michael Theis
Through the sites users can stream Hollywood movies directly, or via links to third-party sites such as Vidspace or Videohub. Viooz is the largest of the quartet and is listed among the 500 most visited sites in the UK.
The ruling comes after Hollywood studios filed a complaint that remained uncontested by the ISPs. Because the ISPs have given up on defending their position in court, it is now a mere formality for copyright holders to have a pirate site banned.
Represented by FACT and the Motion Picture Association, several major movie studios decided to ask for the blockades after their inquiries to the owners of the sites remained unanswered.
“FACT and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) wrote to four websites asking them to stop infringing creative content. Collectively, these sites provide access to an enormous collection of films with no permission from the copyright owners. FACT, supported by the MPA, therefore took this court action,” FACT told TF.
The court order, which has yet to be made public, is believed to be similar to the orders against Firstrow, Solarmovie and Tubeplus which were handed down last year.
In that verdict the Court clarified that even when a website uses external “hosts” for the infringing content, the linking sites could still be guilty of making content available.
“Even where the content could be accessed from the host sites, the Websites make it much easier for members of the public to find what they want. Viewed from the perspective of the user, the Websites do in a very real sense make the content available to the public,” Justice Arnold wrote.
Virgin Media confirmed that their received the court order which they will implement in the near future. “We obey court orders when addressed to the company.” spokesperson Emma Hutchinson told us.
The MPA told Recombu that the new Megashare, Viooz, Watch32 and Zmovie blockades are expected to go into effect this week. Speaking with TorrentFreak, FACT says that the aim is to steer more people towards legal options, if those are available.
“The growth of the legal online market is held back by illegitimate sites,” a FACT spokesperson told TF.
“We want an internet that works for everyone, where the creative property of artists and creators is protected along with the privacy and security of all users. The internet must be a place for investment, innovation and creativity and today’s verdict represents a step towards realizing this,” FACT concludes.
Whether the present blocks will be more than a drop in the ocean has yet to be seen. There are many other streaming portals that are still available, which means that the movie studios will probably be back in court later this year.
The full list of sites that are currently blocked in the UK is as follows:
Megashare, Viooz, Watch32, Zmovie, Solarmovie, Tubeplus, Primewire, Vodly, Watchfreemovies, Project-Free TV, Yify-Torrents, 1337x, Bitsnoop, Extratorrent, Monova, Torrentcrazy, Torrentdownloads, Torrentreactor, Torrentz, Ambp3, Beemp3, Bomb-mp3, Eemp3world, Filecrop, Filestube, Mp3juices, Mp3lemon, Mp3raid, Mp3skull, Newalbumreleases, Rapidlibrary, EZTV, FirstRowSports, Download4all, Movie2K, KickAssTorrents, Fenopy, H33T and The Pirate Bay.
AACS, the decryption licensing outfit founded by a group of movie studios and technology partners including Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft and Intel, has launched a crackdown on DRM-circumvention software.
In an effort to limit the availability of so-called DVD ripping software, AACS has sued the company behind the popular DVD ripping software DVDFab.
Under U.S. law it’s forbidden to distribute software with the primary intention of circumventing copyright protection. In its complaint, AACS accuses the “DVDFab Group” of violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention clause by selling tools that can bypass their DVD encryption.
“The DVDFab Group openly touts these illegal circumvention attributes of the DVDFab Software on the DVDFab Websites, advertising that, among other things, its software products ‘remove all Blu-ray copy protections,’ and ‘can remove … all known AACS copy protections’,” AACS writes in its complaint.
To stop the Chinese-based DVDFab from distributing its software in public, AACS moved for a preliminary injunction. After DVDFab failed to respond in court the request was granted by New York Federal Judge Vernon Broderick. TF has obtained a copy of the order.
The broad injunction is unique in its scope, ordering several domain registrars to disable all domains associated with the DVDFab group. This includes DVDFab.com, DVDFab.net, DVDidle.com, 3d-videoconverters.com, 3dBluRay-ripper.com, Blu-Ray-ripper.us, Blu-Ray-Software.us, BluRayripper.jp, BluRaysbs3d.com, BluRaysoft.jp, CopyBiuRay.us, DVDFab.jp, DVDFab9.com and DVDvideosoft.jp.
At the time of writing none of the above domains can be reached.
Besides the domain names, DVDFab’s hosting providers are also ordered to stop servicing the company, as are other online services including Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Whether AACS has asked for the closure of DVDFab’s social media accounts is unclear, as they remain active for now.
Adding to DVDFab’s troubles, Judge Broderick also ordered several banks and payment providers to freeze or stop processing the company’s funds. This includes PayPal, Amazon Payments, Visa and MasterCard.
In summary, the order grants AACS the power to completely wipe all traces of DVDFab from the Internet, and make it hard for the company to resurface elsewhere. At least, that was the plan.
The Chinese software vendor is not giving up easily, and is already making a comeback.
“Existing bookmarks for either site may not work from some locations, so temporary sites for both are being prepared and will be online shortly,” a company spokesman says, pointing users to dvdfab.jp.
Quite how long this domain and associated payment services can remain functional remains to be seen.
In any case, AACS and the movie industry will be encouraged by this broad injunction, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise if we see this strategy being repeated against other piracy-related targets in the near future.
The business is now widespread in the United States, is spreading into Canada and has been present in Europe for many years, Germany feeling the most pain. It seems fitting, then, that the government there should feel what it’s like to become a victim of an aggressive copyright holder.
Sebastian Heiser is an editor at popular news resource Taz.de. Back in 2005 he attended a panel where he took a photograph of Manfred Stolpe, a politician with the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), part of the current coalition government.
So that anyone could enjoy his work, Heiser uploaded his photo to Wikipedia with just two Creative Commons CC-BY-SA conditions – the creator must be mentioned along with the fact the image is available under a free license.
The SPD, however, didn’t feel bound by these minor restrictions, republishing Heiser’s work on netzwerkberlin.de and manfred-stolpe.de without the correct attribution.
“Usually it does not bother me when other people distribute my text or images. If it still bothers me sometimes, I write a friendly e-mail or pick up the phone,” Heiser explains.
But this case was different. Heiser saw an opportunity to turn the tables on the SPD, a party he believes is at least partly responsible for the “broken” copyright situation in Germany today. Why shouldn’t they suffer like everyone else?
Mirroring the behavior of the trolls that have flourished under German copyright law, Heiser hired himself a lawyer who formulated a suitable threatening letter with the aim of getting compensation from SPD. Heiser asked them to declare for how long they had been infringing his rights, requested payment equivalent to that of an appropriate license to use the content, and doubled them up for failing to attribute him correctly. Of course, there would be legal fees on top.
Perhaps surprisingly, without any fight Heiser received a letter back stating that copyright is important to SPD and as such they were willing to obey the law – and pay the ‘fine’.
“After some back and forth, because there were two images on the two websites, 1,800 euros was remitted to me,” Heiser says. However, according to Heiser, things have not reached a happy conclusion.
Underlining the state of today’s “great copyright”, of the 1,800 euros paid ($2,497) Heiser only pocketed 696 euros ($965) since the remaining 1,104 euros ($1,531) went into his lawyer’s bank acccount. Of course, SPD would’ve had to pay legal fees too, estimated at another 1,100 euros.
Total outlay 2,900 euros ($4,023). Amount paid to copyright holder – less than a quarter of that.
Heiser signs off with a call for SPD to fix the copyright situation, with a minimum requirement that the party understands it in future, and with artists getting paid more than lawyers.