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copyright-brandedWhen we share knowledge and culture in order to manufacture our own copies of it, this happens in private communications – it happens as part of the ones and zeroes that arrive at and are transmitted from our computers.

However, some part of these transmissions may be in violation of the copyright monopoly. The only way to find if any are is to listen to them and break the postal secret; to open all the digital letters and violate the privacy of correspondence.

There is no way to enforce the copyright monopoly without reading all the private communications in transit – mass eavesdropping and mass surveillance. There is no magic way to just wiretap the violations and ignore the rest; the act of finding which communications may violate the copyright monopoly requires that you sort all correspondence into legal and illegal. The act of sorting requires observation; you cannot determine if something is legal or illegal without looking at it. At that point, the postal secret and the privacy of correspondence have been broken.

(Some proponents of the copyright monopoly would argue that the act of sharing knowledge and culture wouldn’t classify as private correspondence. This is irrelevant, as in any case, it is intermixed with private correspondence that must still be unpacked and looked at in the sorting process.)

So we’re at a crossroads where we as a society must determine which is more important – the right to communicate in private at all, or the obsolete distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry. These two are completely mutually exclusive and cannot coexist. This is, and has been, the problem since the cassette tape.

The copyright industry understands this perfectly, which is why they have been working hard, long, and tenaciously to eliminate the concept of private correspondence online and introduce ubiquitous mass surveillance. A few examples:

In Ireland, the copyright industry (in the shape of the big four record labels) sued the country’s largest ISP, Eircom, for the right to install wiretapping and censorship equipment in the deepest of their core Internet switches: they demanded the ability to detect and prevent communications they didn’t like. Yes, you read that right: a private industry full-out demanded the right to examine all (and prevent any) private correspondence in the entire country.

In Sweden, the copyright industry did a two-pronged approach to get their own access to ISP access logs through a ridiculous over-implementation of the IPRED directive, along with working feverently to get mandatory ISP logging in the shape of Data Retention passed (the mass surveillance mechanism that was just now declared in violation of basic human rights by the highest EU court). The copyright industry (in the shape of IFPI) even demanded independent, extrajudicial access to the mass surveillance data from the Data Retention mechanisms. Yes, you read that right: a private industry demanded independent and unfiltered access to surveillance records of practically every footstep and every correspondence you make in your everyday life.

The copyright industry is very much a part of the mass surveillance industry. Mass surveillance is the only way they can maintain their crumbling monopoly on manufacturing copies.

At the end of the day, these two mechanisms must be weighed against one another: do we prefer the ability to communicate in private at all, or do we prefer the distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry? As is today, they can’t coexist, and this has always been and still remains the key point of contention.

One of the reasons that we’ve gotten to this point is that these two mechanisms are usually handled by different departments. The copyright monopoly tends to be under the Department of Commerce, whereas the fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and privacy of correspondence falls under the Department of Justice in most countries. This means that there has never been anybody with the responsibility of weighing them against each other, and coming to the obvious conclusion that the right to private correspondence far outweighs the distribution and manufacturing monopoly of an entertainment industry.

We need to keep kicking politicians out of office until they realize this enormous blind spot of theirs.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

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

google-bayIn an effort to make it difficult for the public to find pirated content, copyright holders send millions of takedown notices to Google every week.

One of the top domains listed in these notices is thepiratebay.se. Since the notorious torrent site doesn’t accept takedown requests itself, copyright holders have to turn to Google to do something about the appearance of their work on the infamous torrent site.

This week the number of thepiratebay.se URLs submitted to Google reached the two million mark. Nearly all of these links have been removed and can no longer be accessed through search results.

The chart below shows the number of links that have been submitted per week. There is a sharp decline towards the end of 2013 when The Pirate Bay used another domain name. The requests increased again in December when the torrent site switched back.

Google-removed-tpb

In total, the two million URLs were submitted in 93,070 separate takedown notices, averaging more than 20 links per takedown request. A staggering number, but one that pales in comparison to other sites.

Looking at the list of domains that received the most URLs removal requests, The Pirate Bay ends up in 29th place. The top spot goes to filestube.com with more than 11 million URLs, followed by dilandau.eu, rapidgator.net, zippyshare.com and 4shared.com.Torrentz.eu, the first torrent site in the list, comes in 8th with 4.4 million URLs.

The million dollar question is of course whether all these takedown requests have had a significant impact on the availability of pirated content.

According to Google, the two million URLs represent between one and five percent of all links that are indexed, so it’s safe to say that there’s still plenty of Pirate Bay content available via Google. Similarly, removing the search results doesn’t hinder people from going to the notorious torrent site directly.

The Pirate Bay itself isn’t particularly concerned about this development. The site’s traffic has increased steadily over the past few years, and so has the number of files being uploaded to the site.

In common with the many ISP blockades of The Pirate Bay, it’s safe to conclude that people can find plenty of alternative routes to end up where they want to be…

blocktpb1

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

popcorncensorThe Popcorn Time phenomenon hardly needs an introduction but it’s safe to say this application really shook things up after its launch in March.

In a nutshell, Popcorn Time delivered no new content whatsoever. What it did present was existing movies in an incredibly simple and elegant way, making it an extremely attractive proposition to file-sharing veterans and newcomers alike. But very quickly the honeymoon period was over. In mid-March the original developers said they would cease their operations.

“Popcorn Time is shutting down today. Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allies. But because we need to move on with our lives,” they announced.

“Our experiment has put us at the doors of endless debates about piracy and copyright, legal threats and the shady machinery that makes us feel in danger for doing what we love. And that’s not a battle we want a place in.”

It has proven impossible to get definitive proof as to who was behind the legal threats, since no one wants to talk either on or off the record. However, if one adds two and two (while calling on history) all fingers point to the owners of the content Popcorn Time exploits – Hollywood.

Popcorn

Since it was open source, Popcorn Time had the strength to recover and it didn’t take long for numerous alternative forks of the popular software began to appear. The first main contender was created by a developer from YTS/YIFY, although it later transpired that it would be a lone project rather than one backed by the site.

It continued for a while with several supporting contributors, including some who had worked on the original project. Then, after releasing a new version of the client in late March, things got strange. Suddenly the app was deleted from its Github repository and a previously very enthusiastic developer went completely silent. From being super-chatty, not a single email or instant message was returned.

Something had definitely changed. People don’t flip like that in a matter of a few hours unless there has been some kind of event. Information subsequently received by TF that everything was absolutely fine and normal simply did not match reality.

In the weeks that followed, TorrentFreak chatted with other developers, each working on their own version of the software. The main developer behind Popcorn-Time.tv told us that he’d created his site after the one detailed above had disappeared.

“A few days ago..[..]..the other developer went missing, the main repository and its website were shutdown as well,” he explained.

Then, just a few days after setting up to replace a mysteriously discontinued fork of Popcorn Time, this new developer also had a dramatic change of heart. Suddenly his version of Popcorn Time also disappeared from Github. He followed the first guy and dropped off the radar.

Gitgone

Efforts at contact failed. Emails from TorrentFreak went unanswered. Then, a day ago, there was a surprise reappearance in a discussion thread on Reddit.

“All you need to know is that I’m still alive and moved on to others projects,” he wrote. “I can’t really tell you anything more than that and I won’t contribute anymore to popcorn-time.”

Somewhere in the middle of all this we were contacted by another developer of yet another fork of Popcorn Time. Just like the others, he approached us with much enthusiasm. Then, just a couple of days later, he too had gone, with rapid email exchanges being replaced by complete silence.

We have no definite proof as to what has caused all of these developers to close down their work and refuse to talk, but the circumstances are suspicious to say the least. What they all had in common was their talent, enthusiasm, eloquence and a willingness to push their projects forward. They were all happy to talk too, then all of a sudden no one wanted to say anything.

Why everything should change almost overnight may never be officially revealed, but if it walks like a duck….

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

boxedEvery day dozens of millions of people share files using BitTorrent, willingly exposing their IP-addresses to the rest of the world.

For those who value their privacy this is a problem, so many sign up with a VPN provider or torrent proxy service. This is fine, but some people then forget to check whether their setup is actually working.

While it’s easy enough to test your web IP-address through one of the many IP-checking services, checking the IP-address that’s broadcasted via your torrent client is more complex.

There are a few services that offer a “torrent IP check” tool, but for the truly paranoid there’s now an Open Source solution as well.

The developer, who goes by the nickname “cbdev”, found most of the existing tools to be somewhat “fishy,” so he coded one for himself and those who want to run their own torrent IP checkers.

“I’d rather have something I can control entirely,” cbdev tells TF.

“So, I wrote a tool people can install on their own servers, with the added bonus of it using magnet links, so ‘Tracking torrent’ files are required,” he adds.

The ipMagnet tool allows BitTorrent users to download a magnet link which they can then load into their BitTorrent client. When the magnet link connects to the tracker, the user’s IP-address will be displayed on the site, alongside a time-stamp and the torrent client version.

ip-magnet

Alternatively, users can check out the tracker tab in their torrent clients, where the IP-address will be displayed as well.

For users who are connected to a VPN, the IP-address should be the same as the one they see in their web browser, and different from the IP-address that’s displayed when the VPN is disconnected.

Proxy users, on the other hand, should see a different IP-address than their browser displays, since torrent proxies only work through the torrent client.

torrent-ip

People are free to use the ipMagnet tool demo here, but are encouraged to run a copy on their own server. The whole project is less than 500 lines of code, so those with basic knowledge of PHP, JavaScript and HTML can verify that it’s not doing anything nefarious.

If you’re setting up a copy of your own, feel free to promote it in the comments below. Those who want more tips can read up on how to make a VPN more secure, and which VPN providers and torrent proxies really take anonymity seriously.

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

ustrEvery year the United States Trade Representative calls out countries, companies and services that step over the line when it comes to copyright enforcement. Year after year the same core players appear and China is one of the countries regularly subjected to criticism.

Chinese companies such as Baidu have been fixtures in the USTR’s reporting for many years, but changes to its operations in 2011 meant that it was able to stay off the list, although at home it is still the subject of various legal clashes. Now, just two months after the USTR published its 2013 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets, another Chinese company is hoping to please both local and US interests by ditching its pirate reputation.

In its last publication, sandwiched between KickassTorrents and MP3Skull, the USTR called out a site called Kuaibo. The company behind that site is the Shenzhen QVOD Technology Co. It’s the creator of QVOD, a technology originally designed to enable small and medium sized business to distribute their content online using BitTorrent, P2P, and streaming technology.

With an estimated userbase of 25 million (100 million on its mobile app) the company’s player software is undoubtedly popular. However, many of its users are now using QVOD to share unauthorized content via what appears to be a Popcorn Time-style P2P streaming feature.

QVOD

“QVOD has become a leading facilitator of wide-scale distribution of copyright-infringing content and of other content considered illicit in China,” the USTR wrote, referring to pirate movies/music and pornography.

However, in an announcement this week, Shenzhen QVOD Technology Co reported that it had taken steps to stop the unlawful distribution of both copyright-infringing and adult content via its software. All illegal content will be blocked and the company will move to a commercial and fully-licensed footing.

“From now on, the previous ‘fast play mode’ [of QVOD’s Nora Player) will come to an end,” a company spokesman said. “Nora is willing to work with counterparts to jointly promote the development of the genuine video industry.”

The motivation for “going legal” appears to be financial. Analysts quoted in Chinese media say that its become increasingly difficult for QVOD to get advertisers who are happy for their brands to appear alongside infringing content. Since the company is pledging to spend more than $16m on licenses it needs money quickly, but whether its millions of pirates are ready to spend is far from clear.

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

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