Monthly Archives: July 2015

BitTorrent Inventor Granted P2P Live Streaming Patent

bram-streamHoping to revolutionize live broadcasting on the Internet, Bram Cohen started working on a new protocol for live streaming video more than half a decade ago.

At the time BitTorrent was believed to be responsible for a third of all Internet traffic. However, streaming services were quickly gaining momentum.

The problem with streaming, live streaming in particular, are high latencies. It can sometimes take up to a minute before a “live” stream reaches the audience.

Cohen solved this problem with a new BitTorrent Live protocol that has a much lower latency while sharing the bandwidth costs among users. This allows anyone to stream to an audience of millions at minimal cost.

This week Bram Cohen’s patent for the live streaming patent was awarded (pdf). According to BitTorrent’s inventor, who still works at the company, his technology can shape the future of live broadcasts.

Two years ago BitTorrent Inc. first demoed the technology in a web-based player, but this project was later discontinued. The company is now working on a new release that will come in the form of a mobile application.

“We’re working on using the technology for a new application, focusing on mobile,” Cohen tells TF.

Mobile live streaming has taken off this year with the release of Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow users to start live streams instantly and Cohen says they could make good partners for BitTorrent Live.

“Periscope and Meerkat are applications which use live, where what we have is underlying technology. We may work with them in the future,” he notes.

That said, the true strength of BitTorrent Live becomes apparent when there is a huge audience, not just a few viewers. This means that it will excel at streaming major events such as sports games and breaking news.

“The amount of utility of BitTorrent Live is based on how many people are watching something simultaneously. Big events where everybody is watching the same thing at the same time, like sports, are the best applications,” Cohen tells us.

Since BitTorrent Live shares the distribution costs among viewers, the bandwidth investment for these streams will be minimal compared to current solutions. In addition, latency will also be much lower making these broadcasts ‘more live.’

“Ironically in addition to being much better on bandwidth costs BitTorrent Live also has much lower latency, five seconds instead of 30-60 seconds, which is bordering on tape delayed instead of live,” Cohen says.

Previously BitTorrent Inc. suggested that it could help Netflix to increase its performance. Not with BitTorrent Live, but with the standard BitTorrent streaming technology which will allow Netflix to offer higher quality streams for a fraction of the current costs.

It appears that Netflix realizes the power of BitTorrent-like streaming, as the company is currently working on its own P2P streaming technology.

Eventually Cohen believes that all streaming will go over the Internet, both live and pre-recorded. It is much cheaper than the cable approach, especially with BitTorrent under the hood.

Rapid Pirate Site Blocking Mechanism Introduced By Portugal

stopstopThere can be little doubt that one of the most-favored anti-piracy mechanisms of the past several years is that of site-blocking. Rather than tackling sites head on with expensive legal action, rightsholders have domains blocked at the ISP level with the aim of diminishing ease of access and reducing direct traffic.

The strategy is mainly employed around Europe, with the UK standing out as the clear front-runner. Hundreds of domains are now blocked there by local ISPs after several High Court injunctions. Now Portugal has joined the club with a new system that not only aims to speed up the blocking process, but one that could put the UK quickly in the shade.

This week the Ministry of Culture announced the signing of a memorandum between its own General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC), the Portuguese Association of Telecommunication Operators (APRITEL), various rightsholder groups, the body responsible for administering Portugal’s .PT domain and representatives from the advertising industry.

The memorandum lays out a new mechanism for blocking so-called ‘pirate’ sites. In common with similar frameworks elsewhere, the process is initiated by a complaint from a rightsholder association. Local anti-piracy group MAPINET then collates evidence that a site is engaged in the unlawful distribution of copyright works and has failed to cease its activities.

MAPINET subsequently forwards its complaints to the Ministry of Culture where the General Inspection of Cultural Activities (IGAC) conducts an assessment and notifies local Internet service providers of the sites being targeted.

According to reports in local media, the system will target sites with more than 500 allegedly infringing links and those whose indexes contain more than 66% infringing content.

Only two complaints can be filed against pirate sites each month. However, each complaint can contain 50 websites, meaning that 100 sites could become blocked every month. Visitors to those sites will receive a notice in their browser advising them that the site has been blocked.

The memorandum is expected to come into force during the next two weeks so sites could be blocked as early as September.

Kim Dotcom & Mega Trade Barbs Over Hostile Takeover Claims

mega_logoFor the past several years, Kim Dotcom has been the most vocal supporter of Mega.co.nz, the cloud storage site he helped launch in 2013. Two and a half years later, something has gone very sour.

In a Q&A session with Slashdot this week, Dotcom told surprised readers that Mega was to be avoided.

“I’m not involved in Mega anymore. Neither in a managing nor in a shareholder capacity. The company has suffered from a hostile takeover by a Chinese investor who is wanted in China for fraud. He used a number of straw-men and businesses to accumulate more and more Mega shares,” Dotcom explained.

“Recently his shares have been seized by the [New Zealand] government. Which means the NZ government is in control.”

Intrigued, TorrentFreak spoke with Kim Dotcom to find out more about his allegations.

“Mega has experienced a hostile takeover and is no longer in the control of people who care about Internet Freedom. The New Zealand Government and Hollywood have seized a significant share of the company,” Dotcom told TorrentFreak.

“The combined shares seized by the NZ government and Hollywood were significant enough to stop our listing on the New Zealand stock exchange. On the one side Hollywood seized Mega shares of a family trust that was created for the benefit of my children and on the other side Hollywood was lobbying US Senators and credit card companies to stop payment processing for Mega.”

Dotcom says that the efforts of the NZ government and Hollywood meant that Mega couldn’t raise the capital required from the stock market to carry out its business plan. Furthermore, attacks on its abilities to process payments have now “dried up” the company’s cash flow.

“As a result Mega has been forced into bankruptcy territory and recently had to raise new capital at an insanely low valuation of NZD 10 million,” Dotcom says.

“This company was worth over 200 million before the NZ government and Hollywood launched their combined effort to destroy Mega. I have always said that this is a political case and the systematic sabotage of Mega is further proof of that.”

All of this leads Dotcom to the conclusion that Mega is no longer a safe site to use.

“As a result of this and a number of other confidential issues I don’t trust Mega anymore. I don’t think your data is safe on Mega anymore. But my non-compete clause is running out at the end of the year and I will create a Mega competitor that is completely open source and non-profit, similar to the Wikipedia model,” Dotcom says.

“I want to give everyone free, unlimited and encrypted cloud storage with the help of donations from the community to keep things going.”

Mega bites back

With shots fired, TorrentFreak spoke with Mega CEO Graham Gaylard and CCO Stephen Hall. Needless to say, they see things quite differently.

“Mega is a New Zealand company privately owned by 17 local and international investors, whose identities are publicly disclosed on the New Zealand Government’s Companies Office website,” Mega told TF.

“Like all start-up companies, Mega has had several rounds of equity investment. More than 75% of shareholders have supported recent equity issues, so there has not been any ‘hostile takeover’, contrary to Mr Dotcom’s assertion. Those shareholders who have decided not to subscribe to recent issues have been diluted accordingly. That has been their choice.”

Turning to the 6% shareholding held by the Dotcom family trust (which is controlled by Mr Dotcom’s estranged wife and is currently subject to a High Court freezing order following a 2014 application by five Hollywood film studios), Mega says there is no cause for alarm.

“That is a matter for the Dotcom family trust and does not concern Mega. The authorities responsible for maintaining the order have not opposed or interfered in any of Mega’s operations,” the company explains.

“Two other shareholdings totaling 7% are subject to a separate restraint ordered by the New Zealand High Court in August 2014. That is also a matter for that investor and does not concern Mega. Mega is not a party to either of the above court proceedings.”

Turning to Kim Dotcom’s claims that Mega is no longer in the hands of people who care about privacy, Mega told TF that isn’t the case.

“Mega continues to be managed by its executive team, supported by a Board of Directors and shareholders, who all care deeply about Internet freedom and privacy and are passionate about supporting Mega’s user-controlled encryption for cloud storage and communication services,” the company says.

Turning to Dotcom himself, the cloud storage site gave its clearest statement yet on its relationship with the German. Mega says that while Dotcom was a co-founder of their operation he was not involved in the design and implementation of Mega technology, resigned as a director in 2013 and has had no managerial role since. Additionally, Mega says that Dotcom has not received any payments or renumeration from the company.

“Mega disagrees with a number of Mr Dotcom’s public comments,” Mega adds.

Turning to the security of Mega itself, the company says that the full source for its client-side software SDK is available on Github and the source for its MEGAsync and mobile applications will be published in due course.

“Mega’s encryption code has been examined by various international experts including the Spanish National Cybersecurity Institute without any flaws being found,” the company says.

In closing, Mega issued a statement which indicates a collapse in relations with their co-founder.

“Mega views Mr Dotcom’s defamatory comments as self-serving and designed simply to [promote] his supposed new business venture,” Mega says.

“They are inconsistent with his previous desire to ensure that the shareholding in Mega remains a valuable asset for his children and reflect just how completely Mr Dotcom and Mega have now moved apart if he can make such an unwarranted and irresponsible, defamatory attack,” the company concludes.

U.S. Reports Progress in Antigua Legal “Pirate Site” Dispute

ustrA few years ago citizens of the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda were enjoying the fruits of a flourishing gambling industry. Then the U.S. stepped in and prevented them from accessing their market, causing the industry to collapse.

“What was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost 5% of our population has now shrunk to virtually nothing,” Antigua’s High Commissioner to London, Carl Roberts, said previously.

Refusing to back down, Antigua filed a dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and prevailed in 2005 with a WTO ruling that the actions of the United States violated free trade.

In 2007 the WTO went further still when it granted Antigua the preliminary right to suspend U.S. copyrights up to the value of $21 million for each year the U.S. blocks its gambling services. Intellectual property was chosen because trade in other areas was either weak or could prove a counter-productive target for Antigua.

In 2013, Antigua ran out of patience. A source close to the government informed TorrentFreak that it was considering cashing in via the launch of a ‘pirate’ website dedicated to selling U.S. movies, TV shows and music to the world without compensating rightsholders.

Just days later on January 28, 2013, the WTO effectively authorized Antigua’s plan for a ‘pirate site’ to enable it to start recouping the money owed by the United States.

The U.S. responded angrily to the plan, warning Antigua that such an action would undermine its chances for a settlement and noting that investment in the country, particularly in its high-tech industries, would suffer.

freedomBut after a few months passed, Antigua was rattling its sabers once more. Sources close to the government told TorrentFreak that it was looking for partners to assist with the launch of its download platform and would love to get involved with The Pirate Bay.

“Whichever vendor is selected in the process, be it The Pirate Bay or any other company, it would be involved in a dialogue with the Government and a partnership that will be strictly supervised to make sure that the operation is conducted in accordance with the WTO rulings,” then Antigua attorney Mark Mendel told TF.

More than a year passed with no site appearing and in June 2014 Antigua elected a brand new government with Prime Minister Gaston Browne at the helm.

In September the government said it had “formulated yet another comprehensive and realistic proposal” and had made “significant concessions” in a bid to resolve its WTO dispute with the United States.

The United States owes Antigua around $200m but word from the new government suggested it might settle for ‘just’ $100m.

Shortly after, Antigua fired its attorney Mark Mendel, with the new Prime Minister promising to take a tougher line in negotiations than his predecessor.

After a period of relative quiet, this month local media reported that Antigua’s Minister of International Trade and Foreign Affairs Charles ‘Max’ Fernandez would travel to the U.S. to begin a new round of negotiations with the United States Trade Representative.

That meeting took place on Tuesday and early signs from the USTR suggest that progress is being made.

“On 28th July, 2015, Assistant US Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere, John Melle, met with the Foreign Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, H. Charles Fernandez, and his delegation to discuss resolution of the WTO case United States – Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services,” the USTR said in an announcement.

“Both sides considered the meeting productive and useful for the exploration of various elements that could ultimately bring closure to the matter. Both governments have undertaken to continue the discussions at an early date with a view to reaching a final settlement.”

In closing, both Fernandez and Melle committed to “moving to a final conclusion as expeditiously as possible.”

Having already cut their demands by half despite clear World Trade Organization rulings, it will remain to be seen how much further Antigua will be prepared to go in order to settle with the United States once and for all. If not, a new legal ‘pirate’ site could still sail onto the horizon.

RIAA and Friends Accuse CNET of Hosting ‘Pirate’ Software

downloadcomDespite growing revenue streams from digital music, the music industry still sees online piracy as a significant threat.

This week a coalition of 16 music groups including the RIAA, the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) voiced their concern over so-called “ripping” software.

The groups are not happy with CNET’s Download.com as the software portal offers access to various YouTube downloaders and other stream ripping tools. In a letter to Les Moonves, CEO of CNET’s parent company CBS, they accuse the download portal of offering infringing software.

“[CNET’s Download.com] has made various computer, web, and mobile applications available that induce users to infringe copyrighted content by ripping the audio or the audio and video from what might be an otherwise legitimate stream,” the letter reads.

“We ask that you consider the above in light of industry best practices, your company’s reputation, the clear infringing nature of these applications, and your role in creating a safe, legitimate, and innovative Internet ecosystem,” the groups add.

Despite the strong wording, CBS doesn’t appear to be very impressed by the accusations.

In response cited by Billboard the company notes that “all of the software indexed on Download.com is legal”. According to CBS the mentioned software can be used for legal means and the company notes that this is the responsibility of the user.

downloadyou

This isn’t the first time that CNET and CBS have been called out for allegedly facilitating piracy. A few years ago a group of artists sued CBS and CNET for their role in distributing uTorrent, LimeWire and other P2P software.

The artists claimed that CNET profits heavily from distributing file-sharing software via Download.com, while demonstrating in editorial reviews how these application can be used to download copyright-infringing material.

The judge eventually ruled in favor of CBS and CNET and said that there was no indication that the companies will purposefully encourage copyright infringement in the future. A software ban would therefore needlessly silence “public discussion of P2P technologies.”

Given CBS’s response to the music group’s recent letter, the current request won’t be effective either.

TF asked RIAA, A2IM and ASCAP for additional details on the letter it sent to CBS but none of the groups replied to our inquiry before publication.