Monthly Archives: October 2015

RIAA Wants $17 Million Damages From ‘New’ Grooveshark

groove2Earlier this year the long running lawsuit between the RIAA and Grooveshark came to an end. However, within days a new site was launched aiming to take its place.

The RIAA wasn’t happy with this development and quickly sued the reincarnation, obtaining a restraining order to prevent domain registrars and hosting companies from offering their services to the site.

Namecheap quickly suspended the original domain name. CloudFlare initially refused to cooperate, but after protests the CDN provider was ordered by the court to comply.

The new Grooveshark wasn’t giving up easily though and continued to operate for a while under several new domain names. However, in recent weeks the entire operation has gone dark.

The RIAA, undeterred, has no intention of dropping the case. This week the music group asked a New York federal court to issue a default judgment against the site’s operator.

In their motion the record labels describe the site as a copyright-infringing operation which tried to use the Grooveshark brand to gain popularity with former users.

This worked, as the site was widely covered in the press. However, with the labels controlling Grooveshark’s trademarks it only provided the RIAA with more legal ammunition.

“Defendants’ Counterfeit Service prominently featured counterfeit replicas of the Grooveshark Marks as well as identical graphical elements taken from the original Grooveshark website,” the RIAA writes in its motion (pdf) this week.

In addition, the labels also accuse the new Grooveshark of distributing numerous copyrighted tracks without permission.

“Plaintiffs have provided conclusive evidence that infringing copies of MP3 files that correspond to each of the Works-in-Suit have been streamed, reproduced, and distributed via the Counterfeit Service to computers located in New York.”

The RIAA lists 89 tracks as evidence and asks for the maximum statutory damages for each infringement. This brings the total amount to a massive $13,350,000.

In addition, the record labels are asking for $4 million for willful counterfeiting of two Grooveshark marks, and another $400,000 for cybersquatting, by registering four Grooveshark domain names in bad faith.

Finally, the RIAA has also filed a request for the court to transfer the four Grooveshark domain names so they can’t be used for any infringing actions in the future.

There is little doubt that the RIAA will win the case, especially since the operator of the new Grooveshark has not appeared in court. However, since the operator is reportedly located in Ukraine, it may be difficult to cash in on those millions.

With Popcorn Time Faltering, Stremio Eyes the Top Spot

stremio-logoMost readers will not need to be reminded of the chaos that has surrounded the Popcorn Time brand this last couple of weeks, but for those needing a short summary, here goes.

The main fork of Popcorn Time, PopcornTime.io, is now dead. Previously sanctioned by the original Popcorn Time creator, the project in its most recent form is now consigned to history. In its place sits ‘Butter‘, a new project which aims to take the legal heat off the project’s developers but is less likely to become an instant hit like its predecessor.

Making matters worse, most variants of Popcorn Time relied on the YTS torrent site for their main movie content. That site has now been down for well over a week and will not be coming back. As a result the Popcorn Time applications installed on users’ computers are less useful than they previously were.

While movie companies around the world will have hoped that disenchanted users simply switched off Popcorn Time at the first signs of trouble and signed up with Netflix, life just isn’t that simple. There’s now room at the top of the unofficial streaming market for a new challenger and a group of programmers from Europe think they have such a contender up their sleeve. It certainly looks impressive.

stremio1

Under development since 2012, Stremio is hardly a newcomer. Back then, however, it was known under a different name.

“We always knew that torrents were a huge source of video content so we decided to try building an app that can stream torrents – for fun,” Stremio co-founder Ivo informs TorrentFreak.

“A few months later, we had our first prototype called Cinematic. The app was based on libtorrent, python and nw.js. We basically had a click-and-play movie catalog streaming from torrents.”

Cinematic utilized the Peerflix engine and Ivo says he loved what developer ‘Mafintosh‘ was doing.

“We helped with Peerflix as well as integrated it into Cinematic,” he explains.

At this point in its life Cinematic remained an unpublished project. “It wasn’t as polished or legally sustainable as we’d like,” Ivo says. But then another application with Peerflix roots hit the big time.

“Born out of Peerflix, came Popcorn Time,” Ivo says. “It was very interesting for us to see what was going to happen with their product.”

With Popcorn Time grabbing the majority of the headlines, Ivo and his co-founder continued work on their own software and last year had a breakthrough.

“In 2014 we focused on creating a general-purpose app that’s a movie/series browser, which provides content from different sources. Not just torrents. We started developing an add-on system to supply the content. That’s how Stremio was born,” he reveals.

“We left the development of our torrent streaming add-on to our community. Currently we have ‘Torrent Stream’ – a third-party add-on available if Stremio users want to enable it.”

While Stremio had the ability to pull content from YTS, that site is gone for good. However, in its absence it uses sites such as Kickass, Torrentz and others. It then augments the video content with artwork and data pulled from the world’s leading movie databases.

“Stremio associates every usable video file within the torrents with an IMDB ID. The beautiful thing here is that even if YTS goes off, and never recovers, this system will continue working with other sources,” Ivo says.

“It’s based on the Multi-Pass Torrent open-source software. In comparison to Popcorn Time, I think Torrent Stream and the way it works makes Stremio more content rich and reliable streaming from torrents, if you enable it and if it is legal in your area.”

In addition to pulling video from torrents (people can also post a magnet link in the search bar), Stremio is also able to grab recorded and even live content from elsewhere.

stremio2

“Right now, Stremio’s official add-ons allow people to watch from YouTube and [live TV broadcasts from] Filmon.tv. We also have an add-on providing you with the cheapest legal source to stream a movie / TV show. You can also watch videos locally from a hard drive,” Ivo notes.

“Our plan for the future is to provide a one-stop place to organize and watch instantly all your favorite video content – movies, TV shows, video channels, TV channels.”

But in addition to merely viewing content, Stremio’s devs hope to assist users to remain both organized and mobile. The app already has a library feature to keep track of TV series and movies plus notifications and recommendations. It can also cast (work in progress) to Smart TVs and mobile devices.

Furthermore, since Stremio uses an add-on system (making it a little more like Kodi than Popcorn Time), third-party developers are free to chime in with their own ideas and tools for extra functionality. For those that way inclined, anime and adult add-ons are reportedly on the way.

“We’re also working on providing more official add-ons ourselves – in fact, we even have a TV show officially licensed for us now in the Cinema add-on,” Ivo concludes.

Stremio is still being developed (PC, Mac, Linux – partially open source) so can be a little temperamental at times. However, it illustrates perfectly where a Popcorn Time-style application can go in the future when plug-ins are utilized. Perhaps this is what ‘Butter‘ has in mind.

YIFY/ YTS Shuts Down Forever – The End of a Piracy Icon

YTSTen days ago the popular movie torrent site YTS stopped working.

The downtime raised concern among many BitTorrent users, not least because the site belongs to movie release group YIFY, which has dominated public BitTorrent sites for several years.

Today we can report that this reign has come to an end. YIFY and YTS have shutdown permanently, as predicted earlier this week.

A lot of information has been made available over the past several days and multiple sources have now confirmed that YTS and YIFY will not return. The entire operation has stopped which means that no new official YIFY movie releases will appear on any torrent site, anywhere.

TF has received additional explanatory details from trusted sources, but we have been asked not to reveal all of the information just yet. However, our sources confirm without doubt that the shutdown is permanent.

The operator of YTS/YIFY, meanwhile, remains silent.

The news marks the end of a remarkable era. YIFY first arrived on the scene in 2010 and the group has shared over 6,000 releases since.

The group’s website (YTS.to) also gained popularity in recent years. Earlier this year the operator informed TF that they had close to a million unique visitors per day, generating six million pageviews.

The YTS/YIFY shutdown doesn’t mean that piracy will end anytime soon, but it’s one of the most significant changes to the landscape in recent history. YIFY releases were consistently among the most-pirated movies, week after week.

In an interview in 2013, YIFY attributed this popularity to the presentation and consistency of its releases.

“I personally think that many people are following and downloading YIFY encodes due to the consistency we offer in our releasing. Everything from the consistent film cover art, to the information layout, and ultimately to the file-size of our encodes,” YIFY said.

“I believe this is important because people like stability and assurance with what they are downloading. By adding consistency to a reasonable file-size, we have filled a spot in the community, which seemingly has a lot of demand,” he added.

YIFY also played a crucial part as the primary movie supplier for many Popcorn Time forks. The size of the shutdown fallout will become apparent during the weeks to come.

Over the past several days many people have been misled by fake YIFY websites, Facebook accounts and impostors. These should not be trusted and are trying to profit from the confusion.

To be continued.

Should RuTracker Delete 320,000 Torrents to Pacify Record Labels?

Previously known as Torrents.ru, RUTracker.org is a very large torrent tracker and one of Russia’s most popular sites overall. It’s also facing a huge dilemma which has the potential to seriously affect the site’s functionality and perhaps its entire future.

RuTracker’s problems arise from its poor relationship with the National Federation of the Music Industry (NFMI), a group which counts Sony, Universal, Warner and EMI among its members. They insist that RuTracker repeatedly infringes their copyrights on a grand scale and as a result they want the site blocked in Russia.

To achieve this aim, earlier this month NFMI filed a lawsuit at the Moscow City Court, the first of its kind against a torrent site. If successful, RuTracker would be permanently blocked by all Russian ISPs. However, it appears that RuTracker’s operators see the chance of a negotiated way out.

Takedown

RuTracker insists that it cooperates with rightsholders who want torrents removed and says that since the start of the year around 10,000 have been deleted. It has also responded to 19 direct requests (covering 60 torrents) from telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor.

“We cooperate with right holders, precisely because the role of RuTracker is a non-profit library,” the site said in a statement this week.

According to the site (and present issues aside), things have been running pretty smoothly too. In the past three years no complaints have been filed with its ISP or domain registrar. Furthermore, no copyright holders have ever publicly complained that the site refuses to take down torrents.

Nevertheless, RuTracker says it has been handed an ultimatum.

“We have been handed a huge list containing several million artists, albums and songs with an ultimatum to remove everything that is in this list and block the appearance of any of these songs, albums or artists on RuTracker in the future. Otherwise the NFMI will insist on blocking RuTracker in the territory of the Russian Federation through the courts,” the site says.

After trawling through the lists provided by the labels, RuTracker says it has drawn a number of conclusions.

First, they contain matches for around 22,000 music albums/torrents accessible via the site. Second, “full or partial matches” for songs present on the list appear in a further 300,000 torrents.

While not all of the songs on the second batch of albums are a problem individually, as long as just one NFMI track exists in a torrent (in a compilation, for example), that whole torrent becomes an issue. The site believes that to wade through them all properly could take months or even years to complete.

Let the people decide

deleteSo, in a nutshell, RuTracker is presenting its users with a choice. Do they want the site’s operators to delete 320,000 torrents to pacify the labels, or would they prefer them to be left intact but face a nationwide ISP ban?

While the choice appears simple on first view, on closer examination it becomes more complex. Losing 320,000 torrents would obviously be a blow, but an estimated 50% of RuTracker’s users are from Russia and it’s far from clear how many would be capable of circumventing a blockade.

“Not all users from Russia will be able to bypass the ISP block so the current audience of RuTracker (about 13 million active accounts) would be quickly reduced. Also, the number of new torrents would decrease strongly and the speeds available on existing torrents would be noticeably lower,” the site explains.

And of course, even if the site does remove 320,000 torrents as asked, who’s to say the demands will stop there? The site predicts that sooner or later there will be other unresolved copyright issues which will result in RuTracker being blocked in Russia anyway.

RuTracker reportedly has around 1.6 million torrents so the chances of further complaints are indeed extremely high. Nevertheless, the site is currently running a poll among its members to decide its fate. Delete the torrents and try to stay useful to all, or refuse and have millions of members locked out?

Currently the poll has attracted almost 278,317 votes, an indication of just how big RuTracker is. Thus far nearly three-quarters are defiant. While 30% think the site should remove the torrents to avoid being blocked, 70% disagree. That large majority believes that the site should leave the torrents where they are and trust users to find a way to circumvent any blockade.

It’s a dilemma no other torrent site has ever faced. The outcome and fallout will be extremely interesting.

Google Asked to Remove One Billion “Pirate” Search Results

google-bayIn recent years copyright holders have overloaded Google with DMCA takedown notices, targeting links to pirated content.

These requests have increased dramatically over the years. In 2008, the search engine received only a few dozen takedown notices during the entire year, but today it processes two million per day on average.

This week TorrentFreak crunched the numbers in Google’s Transparency Report and found that since its publication Google has been asked to remove over 1,007,766,482 links to allegedly infringing webpages.

Indeed, that’s more than a billion reported URLs, a milestone Google crossed just a few days ago.

The number of notices continues to increase at a rapid pace as nearly half of the requests, 420 million, were submitted during the first months of 2015. The graph below illustrates this sharp rise in takedown notices.

go-billion

While some notices identify pages that are not infringing, most are correct. These are then removed by Google and no longer appear in the search results.

The successful takedown notices are also factored into the Google’s search algorithms, where frequently targeted websites are downranked.

TorrentFreak asked Google for a comment on the most recent milestone but the company chose not to respond on the record.

In a submission to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator last week Google stated that it has taken various measures to help copyright holders, including swift removals.

“We process more takedown notices, and faster, than any other search engine,” the search giant commented.

“We receive notices for a tiny fraction of everything we host and index, which nonetheless amounts to millions of copyright removal requests per week that are processed, on average, in under six hours.”

The company rejects broader actions, such as the removal of entire domain names, as this would prove counterproductive and lead to overbroad censorship.

Copyright holders, however, don’t share these concerns. Over the years groups such as the MPAA and RIAA have repeatedly argued that clearly infringing sites should be barred from Google’s index. In addition, they want Google to promote legal services.

While Google believes that the billion reported URLs are a sign that the DMCA takedown process is working properly, rightsholders see it as a signal of an unbeatable game of whack-a-mole.

As this stalemate continues, we can expect the number of reported pages to continue to rise in the future, adding millions of new URLs on a daily basis.