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harperOne of the key elements leading to ease of piracy is file-size. Since music files are relatively small, unauthorized content can be distributed and accessed using a wide array of methods, from torrents and direct storage sites through instant messaging and humble email.

If music files are small, ebooks definitely share the same kind of characteristics. As a result, ebooks are widely pirated and made available on thousands of sites and services in a wide range of convenient formats. By attacking the problem from a number of different directions, this is something publisher HarperCollins is trying to do something about.

As part of its latest drive, this week the company announced a collaboration with LibreDigital, a leading provider of distribution and fulfillment services for ebook retailers. Together they adopted a new watermarking solution from anti-piracy company Digimarc.

Called Guardian Watermarking for Publishing, the system embeds all but invisible markers into ebooks. Then, Digimarc trawls the web looking for leaked content containing the watermarks. Once found, the anti-piracy company reports the unique identifiers back to Harpercollins who can match them against their own transaction records. This enables the company to identify the source of that material from wherever it occurred in the company’s supply chain.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, HarperCollins said that tracking these pre-consumer leaks provides intelligence to prevent them happening again.

“We have had leaks in the past in the final stages of our supply chain – via isolated instances of early releases by retailers. We therefore intend to be able to track these potential leaks in the future – especially now that our digital supply chain extends to many partners in many markets,” a spokesperson said.

“[The system] empowers us to go back to the source of the problem (ie identify the source) and find solutions to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Of course, pirates are known to attack watermarks by utilizing various methods including transcoding of files. Speaking with TF, Digimarc say their system is up to the challenge.

“The embedded identifiers are designed to survive conversion and manipulation,” a spokesperson said.

Interestingly, HarperCollins are going out of their way to ensure consumers that these watermarks won’t affect their privacy.

“This solution does not facilitate tracing back to the individual purchaser, only to the sales channel through which it was purchased,” a spokesperson explained. “And Digimarc itself stores absolutely no personally identifiable information or purchase information in the implementation of the watermark.”

That’s not to say that consumer leaks aren’t part of the problem though, they are, but HarperCollins says it employs separate strategies for pre and post-consumer piracy.

“Both [types of piracy] merit being addressed and we have different solutions for each. For the supply chain we will watermark; for the end consumer the retailers are applying DRM and we are employing Digimarc to issue takedowns and ensure site compliance – to protect our authors’ content,” the company said.

Like many content companies, HarperCollins regularly sends takedown notices to many websites but those it sends to Google are the most visible. To date the company has sent more than 250,000 to the world’s leading search engine, but what effect has that had on availability?

“The aim of our participation in Google’s copyright removal program is to reduce the visibility and availability of infringing content. The desired effect is clearing illegal download links from its SERP. We believe this to be an effective way to discourage piracy,” the company told TF.

We asked HarperCollins how it would rate Google in terms of anti-piracy cooperation, but the publisher declined to comment. The company also wouldn’t be drawn on how many notices it sends to other search engines and ‘pirate’ sites.

“We do not comment on the amount of notices – but we do want to assure authors that their entire catalog is covered by our work with Digimarc,” they said.

As eBooks continue to gain traction, publishers like HarperCollins will be keen not fall into the same traps as the music industry. It could be argued that actioned properly, takedowns are the most consumer friendly option. And watermarking shouldn’t become too unpopular, as long as it doesn’t extend to identifying the public. DRM, however, is rarely appreciated by the paying public.

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

rightscorp-realFor several months Rightscorp has been sending DMCA subpoenas to smaller local ISPs in the United States.

Unlike regular subpoenas, these are not reviewed by a judge and only require a signature from the Court clerk. This practice raised questions because DMCA subpoenas are not applicable to file-sharing cases, which is something courts determined more than a decade ago.

Perhaps unaware of the legal precedent, most ISPs have complied with the requests. Until last week, when small Texas provider Grande Communications stood up in court after it was asked to reveal the account details connected to 30,000 IP-addresses/timestamp combinations.

Soon after Grande filed its objections Rightscorp decided to drop the request entirely. While ISP is pleased that its customers no longer have to be exposed, the company is not letting Rightscorp off the hook.

In an advisory to the court (pdf) the ISP notes that Rightscorp’s actions suggest that it’s merely trying to avoid having a judge look at their dubious efforts.

“The abrupt withdrawal of the Subpoena is consistent with the apparent desire of Rightscorp and its counsel to avoid judicial review of their serial misuse of the subpoena power of the federal courts,” Grande’s attorneys write.

The ISP still wants Rightscorp to pay for the costs run up thus far. In addition, Grande also believes that sanctions for misusing the federal court’s subpoena powers may be in order.

“The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California may consider ordering Rightscorp and its counsel to show cause why they should not be sanctioned for misusing the federal court’s subpoena powers,” the advisory reads.

The ISP points out that if it hadn’t challenged the subpoena, the personal details of hundreds or thousands of subscribers would have been shared based on a faulty procedure. Since similar requests are being sent to other ISPs, the matter warrants further investigation.

“It appears clear that Rightscorp and its counsel are playing a game without regard for the rules, and they are playing that game in a manner calculated to avoid judicial review. Hopefully, they will not be permitted to continue much longer,” Grande’s attorneys conclude.

Rightscorp’s withdrawal of the subpoena also contradicts earlier comments the company’s CEO Christopher Sabec made to TorrentFreak.

Sabec told us that the company believes that earlier decisions on the legitimacy of DMCA subpoenas in file-sharing cases were wrong, and will be overturned should the issue reach the Supreme Court.

Apparently, this was a veiled threat, perhaps to discourage Internet providers from starting a battle that could get very expensive. Instead, with possible sanctions pending, things may now get expensive for Rightscorp.

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

Ever since the raids of 2012, Kim Dotcom has pointed to what he sees as a contract shutdown of Megaupload. Designed by Hollywood and carried out by their partners in the Obama administration and the New Zealand Government, Dotcom claims that his fate was pre-determined and a result of corruption.

One of his claims is that despite the reservations of those in New Zealand’s intelligence departments, Dotcom was allowed to become a resident of the country. This, the entrepreneur says, was carried out to pin him down in a friendly location so that he could be dealt with by the United States.

This morning, at his Moment of Truth event, Dotcom rolled out big guns including journalist Glenn Greenwald, Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and even Edward Snowden himself to deliver his “bombshell”. The latter appeared via video links, connections which Dotcom said we’re being run through a new encrypted browser-based platform under development at Mega.

Moment

Much of the discussion centered around the alleged unlawful domestic surveillance of New Zealand citizens by their own Government, but the panel frequently weaved in elements of Dotcom’s own unique situation.

“We share the same prosecutor, so I understand what is going on there, on a very personal level,” Julian Assange said of Dotcom.

“[The United States Government] is trying to apply US law in as many countries as possible, applying their law in New Zealand to coerce and pluck out people to other states,” Assange said.

“When you are able to control their police forces you have succeeded in annexing that country. It’s a problem for me personally and it’s a problem for Kim Dotcom.”

Dotcom’s human rights lawyer Robert Amsterdam spoke at length on the perils of the Trans Pacific Partnership and criticized the New Zealand Government for its treatment of Dotcom.

“What they did [to Kim Dotcom during the 2012 raid] is so beyond the pale that the leader of that democratic government should have resigned on the spot that day,” Amsterdam said.

The event was highly polished and was well received by those in attendance, but failed to deliver on one key front. Dotcom previously said that he would present “absolutely concrete” evidence that Prime Minister John Key knew about him earlier than he had claimed. In the event, nothing remotely of that nature was presented.

However, several hours before the Moment of Truth got off the ground, New Zealand media began reporting that Dotcom would reveal an email at the event, one that would prove that Hollywood had an arrangement with Key to allow Dotcom into the country in order to extradite him to the United States.

The email in question, dated October 27, 2010, was allegedly sent by current Warner Bros CEO Kevin Tsujihara to Michael Ellis of the MPA/MPAA.

Tsujihara is one of the Warner executives the company sent to New Zealand in 2010 to deal with a dispute that was putting at risk the filming of the Hobbit movies in the country. During his visit Tsujihara met John Key and the email purports to report on one of those meetings.

“Hi Mike. We had a really good meeting with the Prime Minister. He’s a fan and we’re getting what we came for,” the leaked copy of the email reads.

“Your groundwork in New Zealand is paying off. I see strong support for our anti-piracy effort. John Key told me in private that they are granting Dotcom residency despite pushback from officials about his criminal past. His AG will do everything in his power to assist us with our case. VIP treatment and then a one-way ticket to Virginia.

“This is a game changer. The DOJ is against the Hong Kong option. No confidence in the Chinese. Great job,” the email concludes.

keymail

But while an email of this nature would have indeed warranted a “bombshell” billing, the Moment of Truth concluded without it or any other similar evidence being presented. Even before the event began, Warner Bros were on record describing the email as a fake.

“Kevin Tsujihara did not write or send the alleged email, and he never had any such conversation with Prime Minister Key,” said Paul McGuire, Warner Bros.’ senior vice president for worldwide communications.

“The alleged email is a fabrication,” he added.

The lack of the promised big reveal is fairly dramatic in itself. It’s certainly possible that Dotcom’s team lost confidence and pulled the reveal at the last minute, which would be a wise move if its authenticity was in doubt.

If the email is indeed proven to be a fake, big questions will need to be answered by the person who provided it because up until very recently Dotcom was staking his shirt on it. If it’s genuine, and proving that will be easier said than done now, we’ll definitely hear more as the weeks unfold.

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

maleThis week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Maleficent is the most downloaded movie, again.

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 (2) Maleficent 7.4 / trailer
2 (1) How To Train Your Dragon 2 8.3 / trailer
3 (7) Edge Of Tomorrow (Webrip) 8.1 / trailer
4 (…) The Giver 6.9 / trailer
5 (5) The Fault in Our Stars 8.3 / trailer
6 (3) A Million Ways To Die In The West 6.2 / trailer
7 (4) Godzilla (Webrip) 7.1 / trailer
8 (…) Plastic 5.8 / trailer
9 (6) X-Men: Days of Future Past (HDrip/TS) 8.4 / trailer
10 (8) Divergent 7.2 / trailer

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

This is a guest post written by Simon Frew, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia.

The Australian Government recently called for submissions into its plans to introduce a range of measures that are the long-standing dreams of the copyright lobby: ISP liability, website blocking for alleged pirate sites and graduated response.

The Government’s discussion paper specifically asked respondents to ignore other Government inquiries into copyright. This meant ignoring an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) into copyright in the digital economy and an IT pricing inquiry. These reviews both covered important aspects of sharing culture in the 21st century, yet they were completely ignored by the Government’s paper and respondents were instructed to ignore issues covered in them.

The ALRC review examined issues around the emerging remix culture, the ways the Australian copyright regime limits options for companies to take advantage of the digital environment and issues around fair dealing and fair use. It recommended a raft of changes to update Australian copyright law to modernize it for the digital age. Whilst the recommendations were modest, they were a step in the right direction, but this step has been ignored by the Australian Parliament.

The IT pricing inquiry held last year, looked into why Australians pay exorbitant prices for digital content, a practice that has been dubbed the Australia Tax. Entertainment and Tech companies were dragged in front of the inquiry to explain why Australians pay much more for products than residents of other countries. The review found that, compared to other countries, Australians pay up to 84% more for games, 52% more for music and 50% more for professional software than comparable countries. The result of this review was to look at ways to end geographic segmentation and to continue to turn a blind eye to people using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to circumvent the higher prices in Australia.

Between the Australia Tax and the substantially delayed release dates for TV shows and movies, Australians don’t feel too bad about accessing content by other means. According to some estimates, over 200,000 people have Netflix accounts by accessing the service through VPNs.

Pirate Party Australia (PPAU) responded to the latest review with a comprehensive paper, outlining the need to consider all of the evidence and what that evidence says about file-sharing.

To say the Government’s discussion paper was biased understates the single-mindedness of the approach being taken by the Government. A co-author of the Pirate Party submission, Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer summed it up:

The discussion paper stands out as the worst I have ever read. The Government has proposed both a graduated response scheme and website blockades without offering any evidence that either of these work. Unsurprisingly the only study the discussion paper references was commissioned by the copyright lobby and claims Australia has a high level of online copyright infringement. This calls into question the validity of the consultation process. The Government could not have arrived at these proposals if independent studies and reports had been consulted.

The entire review was aimed at protecting old media empires from the Internet. This is due in part, to the massive support given to the Liberal (Conservatives) and National Party coalition in the lead-up to the 2013 federal election which saw Murdoch owned News Ltd media, comprising most major print-news outlets in Australia, actively campaign for the in-coming Government. There is also a long history of media companies donating heavily to buy influence. Village Roadshow, one of Australia’s largest media conglomerates, has donated close to four million dollars to both major parties since 1998: in the lead up to the 2013 election alone, they donated over $300,000 to the LNP.

The sort of influence being wielded by the old media is a big part of what Pirate parties worldwide were formed to counter. The Internet gives everyone a platform that can reach millions, if the content is good enough. The money required to distribute culture is rapidly approaching zero and those who built media empires on mechanical distribution models (you know, physical copies of media, DVDs, cassettes etc) want to turn the clock back, because they are losing their power to influence society.

Much of the Pirate Party response centred on the need to allow non-commercial file-sharing and dealing with the wrong, bordering on fraudulent assumptions, the paper was based on. From the paper:

Digital communications provide challenges and opportunities. Normal interactions, such as sharing culture via the Internet, should not be threatened. Creators should seize the new opportunities provided and embrace new forms of exposure and distribution. The Pirate Party believes the law should account for the realities of this continually emerging paradigm by reducing copyright duration, promoting the remixing and reuse of existing content, and legalising all forms of non-commercial use and distribution of copyrighted materials.

The discussion paper asked, ‘What could constitute ‘reasonable steps’ for ISPs to prevent or avoid copyright infringement?’ This was of particular concern because it is aimed at legally overturning the iiNet case, which set a legal precedent that ISPs couldn’t be sued for the behavior of their users. This section was a not-so-subtle attempt to push for a graduated response (‘three strikes’) system which has been heavily criticized in a number of countries.

The agenda laid out in this discussion paper was very clear, as demonstrated by Question 6: “What matters should the Court consider when determining whether to grant an injunction to block access to a particular website?”

The Pirate Party obviously disagrees with the implication that website blocking was a foregone conclusion. Censorship is not the answer to file-sharing or any other perceived problem on the Internet. Government control of the flow of information is not consistent with an open democracy. The Pirate Party submission attacked website blocking on free speech grounds and explained how measures to block websites or implement a graduated response regime would be trivial to avoid through the use of VPNs.

On Tuesday September 9, a public forum was held into the proposed changes. The panel was stacked with industry lobbyists, no evidence was presented while the same tired arguments were trotted out to try to convince attendees that there was need to crack down on file-sharing. It wasn’t all bad though, with the host of the meeting, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, flagging a Government re-think on how to tackle piracy after the scathing responses to the review from the public.

Despite signalling a re-think, the Australian Government is still intent on implementing draconian copyright laws. Consumers may have won this round, but the fight will continue.

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

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