Monthly Archives: November 2015

MPAA ‘Softens’ Movie Theater Anti-Piracy Policy, Drops Bounty

recillegalThe MPAA sees illegally recorded movies as one of the biggest piracy threats and goes to extremes to stop it.

During pre-release screenings and premieres, for example, employees are often equipped with night-vision goggles and other spy tech to closely monitor movie goers.

In some cases members of the public have been instructed to hand over all recording-capable devices including phones and Google glasses.

Through these measures the MPAA hopes to prevent pirates from camcording movies or recording audio in theaters. The underlying policy is drafted in cooperation with the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), and a few days ago the most recent version was released.

At first sight not much has changed. The MPAA still recommends theater owners to keep an eye on suspect movie goers while prohibiting the use of any recording devices including phones.

“Preventative measures should include asking patrons to silence and put away their phones and requiring they turn off and stow all other devices capable of recording, including wearable technology capable of recording.

“If individuals fail or refuse to put any recording device away, managers—per your theater’s policy — can ask them to leave,” the recommendation reads.

There are several subtle changed throughout the document though, especially regarding the involvement of police. Previously, theater employees were encouraged to detain suspect visitors and hand them over to the authorities.

This is explicitly stated in the following snippet taken from the 2014 version of the best practices.

“Theater managers should immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they have clear indications that prohibited activity is taking place—the proper authorities will determine what laws may have been violated and what enforcement action should be taken.”

In the new document, however, it’s no longer a requirement to call the police. Instead, this is now optional.

“Theater managers have the option to immediately alert law enforcement authorities whenever they have clear indications that prohibited activity is taking place or managers can the stop the activity without law enforcement assistance.”

Similar changes were made throughout the document. Even reporting incidents to the MPAA no longer appears to be mandatory, which it still was according to last year’s text.

“After your theater manager has contacted the police, your theater manager should immediately call the MPAA 24/7 Anti-Camcording Hot Line to report the incident.”

The language above has now been changed to a less urgent option of simply reporting incidents, should a theater manager deem it appropriate.

“Your theater manager can also call the MPAA 24/7 Anti-Camcording Hot Line to report the incident.”

Aside from the softer tone there’s another significant change to the best practices. The $500 “reward” movie theater employees could get for catching pirates is no longer mentioned.

The old Take Action Award mention

takeactionreward

In fact, the entire “take action award” program appears to have been discontinued. The NATO page where it was listed now returns a 404 error and the details on FightFilmTheft have been removed as well.

This stands in stark contrast to the UK where the rewards for a similar program were doubled just a few weeks ago, with officials describing it as a great success.

The question that remains unanswered is why the MPAA and NATO have implemented these changes. Could it be that there were too many false positives being reported to the police, or is there an image problem perhaps?

In recent years several questionable police referrals resulted in a media backlash. A 19-year-old girl was arrested for recording a 20 second clip from the movie “Transformers,” which she wanted to show to her brother, for example.

And just last year the FBI dragged a man from a movie theater in Columbus, Ohio, after theater staff presumed his wearing of Google Glass was a sign that he was engaged in camcorder piracy.

Meanwhile, reports of real pirates being apprehended in a similar fashion have been notable by their absence.

Best Practices to Prevent Film Theft

Swedish Pirate Bay Blocking Decision Will Go to Appeal

In a growing number of countries around Europe, courts have been overwhelmingly willing to order Internet service providers to block pirate sites. In Sweden, spiritual home of The Pirate Bay, copyright holders hoped to achieve the same.

However, a case brought in 2014 by Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry against local ISP Bredbandsbolaget (Broadband Company) crashed and burned on Friday.

After a month of deliberations a unanimous Stockholm District Court found that Swedish legislation meets the requirements of the EU Infosoc directive. The actions of Bredbandsbolaget do not constitute its participation in infringements carried out by some of its ‘pirating’ subscribers, the Court found.

Considering the momentum around Europe towards blocking the decision in Sweden came as a surprise, not least to the copyright holders behind the case. Per Strömbäck of FTVS, the umbrella group behind the action, believes that illegal sites came out the winners on Friday.

“The ruling is a serious failing for the Swedish judicial system that is already falling behind. Swedish film and music creators deserve better,” Strömbäck says.

However, the movie, TV and record companies behind the action have no intention of giving up and as predicted will take their case to appeal.

“The Court has examined the legislation whose precise purpose is to give rights owners the opportunity to have Internet service providers stop illegal services from reaching Swedish internet users,” says Henrik Bengtsson, legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the case.

“Similar legislation already exists in the rest of Scandinavia as well as in much of Europe. We will appeal.”

The efforts to hold Bredbandsbolaget as accomplices to its subscribers’ ‘crimes’ means that the legal action against the ISP was the first of its kind in the country.

If it had succeeded, other ISPs in Sweden would have been subjected to similar conditions and demands to block other sites would’ve quickly followed. However, as the position stands today Bredbandsbolaget feels its stance as a mere conduit of information has been vindicated.

“We see it as positive that the district court did not consider that Internet operators are accomplices in crimes committed over the Internet. This is important for freedom of expression and the Swedish model of a free and open Internet,” says Anna Byström, Chief Legal Officer at Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor.

“We believe that the Court of Appeal will rule in our favor, and hope that this will put an end to this matter that could otherwise lead to ISPs needing to block more sites in the future.”

The plaintiffs will file their case with the Svea Court of Appeal before December 18, 2015.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 11/30/15

mazeThis week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.

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 (1) Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials 6.8 / trailer
2 (2) Ant-Man 7.7 / trailer
3 (3) Another World (Web-DL) 5.3 / trailer
4 (8) Criminal Activities (Web-DL) 5.8 / trailer
5 (7) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 7.5 / trailer
6 (4) Ronaldo 6.7 / trailer
7 (10) The 33 (Web-DL) 7.0 / trailer
8 (…) Hotel Transylvania 2 (Webrip) 7.0 / trailer
9 (9) Inside Out 8.4 / trailer
10 (…) Talvar 8.6 / trailer

Copyright Industry Still Doesn’t Understand This Fight Isn’t About Money, But Liberty

copyright-brandedIn 2010, I got a prize from the Swedish IT Industry as “IT person of the year”, the year after I had led the Swedish and first Pirate Party into the European Parliament.

Their motivation for the prize was that I had finally, and through hard work, brought important IT issues to front row and center of the political establishment.

What we said then are the same things we say now. The Internet is the most important piece of infrastructure we have. More important than telco, than cable TV, than roads, than power, than… well, with the possible exception of tap water and sanitation infrastructure, I’ll allow the jury to confer a bit more on that one.

We were saying, and are saying, that it’s insane, asinine, repulsive and revolting to allow a cartoon industry (the copyright industry – mostly led by Disney in this regard) to regulate the infrastructure of infrastructures. To allow a cartoon industry to dismantle anonymity, the right to private correspondence and many more fundamental liberties just because they were worried about their profits.

There was some success in pushing back the worst. We didn’t get to go on the offense, but we did safeguard the most important of liberty.

Then, something very odd and unexpected happened. Spotify came on stage, praised The Pirate Bay for raising the bar for consumer expectations of what good service means, and swept the floor with consumption patterns of music. As did Pandora in the US. Pirates tend to be early adopters and Pandora was no exception: I am paying subscriber #110 there out of today’s tens of millions. As was always noted, the fight for liberty was never a fight about money.

More people shifted toward streaming video as well with Netflix and similar services, again showing it was never about the money, but always about freedom.

After that, something even more unexpected happened. Pirates started fighting with the copyright industry, against the internet service providers, in the halls of policymaking. More specifically, pirates were siding with Microsoft against lots of old telco dinosaurs. Even more specifically, people were fighting for Net Neutrality – something that Microsoft was also fighting for, as the owner of Skype – against the mobile divisions of telco dinosaurs, who wanted to lock out competitors from their imaginary walled garden.

Of course, this is only unexpected if you thought it was about money in the first place. If you knew that it was always about liberty, about defending the infrastructure of infrastructures, about protecting the right to innovate and the freedom of speech, this comes as a no-brainer.

We care for permissionless innovation, we care for private correspondence, we care for sharing and the legacy of knowledge and culture. We do not care in the slightest for obsolete and outdated pre-internet distribution monopolies, nor do we care for pipes that want to be privileged, and we become outright hostile when the industries that benefit from old monopolies (not stakeholders, but beneficiaries!) assert a right to dismantle the liberties that our ancestors fought, bled, and died to give to us today.

“How will the authors get paid?” is an utterly uninteresting question in a market economy. The answer is equally utterly simple: “by making a sale”. There is no other way, and there should not be any other way. A much more relevant question today is “how do we protect the infrastructure of liberty against corporate encroachment and imaginary privileges of pre-internet monopolies”.

Oh, and the Swedish IT Industry Association also gives a prize to the IT Company of the year, not just the IT person of the year. The company to get that prize in the same year as me? Spotify.

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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Cox Can’t Describe Rightscorp As “Extortionists” and “Trolls” During Trial

trollsignNext week marks the start of a crucial trial that may define how U.S. Internet providers deal with pirating subscribers in the future.

Internet provider Cox Communications is facing a lawsuit from BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music, who accuse the company of failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who frequently pirate content.

This week the court ruled on several requests and concerns about the upcoming trial. Several of these motions relate to Rightscorp, the company which sends out infringement notices with settlement demands for the rightsholders.

In previous filings Cox described Rightscorp as a copyright-trolling outfit that uses extortion and blackmail-like practices to pressure alleged pirates into settling. This language concerned the music companies, who asked the court to exclude it from trial.

This week Judge O’Grady agreed, ordering that Cox is prohibited from introducing irrelevant information about Rightscorp (pdf).

Among other things, the proposed order specifies that the Internet provider can’t reference Rightscorp’s business practices after 2011, including evidence from phone scripts or call recordings.

Rightscorp’s precarious financial position is also off-limits, as well as any allegations that the company violates debt collection or private investigation laws.

Finally, the aforementioned extortion and troll references are banned during trial as well.

“Defendants are prohibited from using derogatory terms such as ‘troll,’ ‘blackmailer,’ and ‘extortionist’ in reference to Rightscorp or Plaintiffs and are prohibited from using terms like ‘extortion’ or ‘blackmail’ to describe the companies’ communications or business practices,’ the order reads.

In addition to this order, Cox faced another setback.

The ISP previously asked the court to prevent the copyright holders from using any material claiming that BitTorrent equals piracy. According to Cox, BitTorrent has plenty of legitimate uses, but the motion was denied by Judge O’Grady.

On the upside, the court agreed with Cox that Rightscorp destroyed crucial evidence by deleting older versions of its piracy tracking code.

While this is not enough to dismiss the entire case, sanctions are appropriate and Cox is allowed to reference the destroyed evidence during its opening statement (pdf).

These new developments, as well as the earlier order declaring that Cox is not entitled to DMCA safe-harbor protections, show how much is at stake for both sides. The trial is expected to start in a few days and will be closely followed by other copyright holders and Internet providers.