Monthly Archives: February 2016

Microsoft Sues Pirating Comcast Subscriber

microsoft-pirateTraditionally, Microsoft isn’t known for going after people who use pirated copies of Windows, but every now and then the company draws a line in the sand.

Late last week Microsoft filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against a person, or persons, who activated pirated copies of Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server and Office 10 from a Comcast Internet connection.

The software company has a specialized cyberforensics department which analyzes activation logs to detect activation patterns and characteristics which make it likely that certain IP-addresses are engaged in unauthorized copying.

“Cyberforensics allows Microsoft to analyze billions of activations of Microsoft software and identify activation patterns and characteristics that make it more likely than not that the IP address associated with the activations is an address through which pirated software is being activated,” the company writes in its complaint.

Generally speaking, one person who activates a pirated copy of Windows has little to worry about. Microsoft will log those IP-addresses but has shown little interest in going after casual pirates.

However, in this case the company noticed that a lot of suspicious activity was coming from a single Comcast connection.

“Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified several thousand product key activations originating from IP address 173.11.224.197, which is presently assigned to Comcast Cable Communications,” Microsoft writes.

“On information and belief, each of these activations and attempted activations constitutes the unauthorized copying of Microsoft software, in violation of Microsoft’s software licenses and its intellectual property rights.”

According to the complaint the suspicious keys were likely stolen from Microsoft’s supply chain and used more often than permitted by the company.

In order to pinpoint the culprit, Microsoft has asked the court for a subpoena to identify the Comcast subscriber in question. It then hopes to recoup some of its claimed losses by requesting both actual and statutory damages.

From the descriptions used in the complaint it seems likely that the target is a company, rather than an individual user. Microsoft previously filed similar cases where the defendants turned out to be computer-related businesses.

The full compliant is available here.

AnyDVD Admins & Developers Mull Comeback

Following pressure from AACS LA, the decryption licensing outfit founded by companies including Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft and Intel, last week copy-protection circumvention company SlySoft shutdown.

Unusually, the precise reasons for the closure remain uncertain. The only comment made by the company suggests that “regulatory requirements” had caused it to close down. There has been no triumphant announcement from the MPAA either.

That is unusual. One of SlySoft’s flagship products was AnyDVD, a Blu-ray ripping tool that was recently described by the studios as “a source for widespread, large-scale and commercial copyright infringement.” With that product now not on sale, one might think there would be at least some cause for celebration. However, something seems amiss.

For example, while SlySoft as a company says it has shut down, its forums are still operating from a subdomain of SlySoft.com. Interestingly they have just been renamed to RedFox, a nod to the creature depicted in SlySoft’s logo, and the discussion there is certainly providing food for thought and cause for optimism.

Firstly, according to people closely associated with SlySoft, even some key personnel weren’t informed of any potential problems with the company. Only adding to the intrigue is the claim that although SlySoft was shutdown in Antigua, none of the team were based there.

“We all were shocked when [the] message came on Monday to shut down [the] SlySoft website. Staff [still have] no complete information about what really happened and what’s going on in Antigua, as nobody of the SlySoft team is physically based in Antigua. We don’t even know each other,” says an admin identifying himself as ‘Ivan’.

Being scattered in different jurisdictions certainly has its plus points though and Ivan suggests that following lengthy discussion, big things could be on the horizon.

“We (developers and admins) had a few chat conferences this week and we came to the conclusion that if we have the backup of the community, we might consider to continue the development on our own,” he says.

While that is good news for AnyDVD fans, also of interest is that former employees of SlySoft still have access to key Slysoft infrastructure.

James, a now ex-SlySoft developer who says he is “probably the only person on this planet who can actually create an AnyDVD HD release build” says that ex-employees have “control over the assets (sources, servers)”.

But while that’s well and good, he seems less clear over whether those people are free to use them. Furthermore, there are questions over who legally owns AnyDVD if SlySoft itself is out of business.

“If AnyDVD was property of SlySoft, Inc and SlySoft no longer exists, who owns AnyDVD?” he asks.

So at this point questions are being asked based on two theories, or more, depending on how many one is prepared to entertain in this informational vacuum.

Firstly, if SlySoft shut down of its own accord, the company could potentially take legal action against any person resurrecting their products. However, it appears that SlySoft hasn’t parted company with its employees as smoothly as they might have liked, so loyalties don’t appear to be high on the agenda.

“SlySoft, Inc. owes us quite a lot of money, so morally I don’t have too much of a problem,” James says.

While SlySoft may or may not sue, if the shutdown was part of a settlement negotiated with AACS LA and/or the MPAA, it’s feasible those entities might have control of the rights to products including AnyDVD, or at least an agreement that controls their distribution and development.

However, according to key AnyDVD developer James, the latter scenario has not played out.

“I am quite sure, there is no settlement with AACS. The situation would be completely different,” he says.

So what for the future? At this point it’s clearly early days but it does appear that key people with the ability to resurrect products such as AnyDVD are seriously considering their options.

“I mostly worked on AnyDVD, this is my ‘baby’. I can push this forward,” James says.

“I certainly can’t do this on my own. e.g., I can’t maintain the server side, my skills are elsewhere. The other guys (network gurus, other devs, support people, forum mods) need to agree. I have some homework to do now. I’m certain that most of the ex-SlySoft people will agree to move forward.”

This turn of events is not entirely unexpected but there is a long road ahead littered with dozens of obstacles for anyone considering a “RedFox” revival. Nevertheless, with the possibility of release delays on the horizon, thousands will be cheering them on and that will be a hell of a boost.

Update: At the time up this update SlySoft.com is back online (even if only temporarily) although at the moment any attempt to download software is met with an error.

Sci-Hub Helps Science ‘Pirates’ to Download 100,000s of Papers Per Day

scilogo“Information wants to be free” is a commonly used phrase in copyright debates. While it may not apply universally, in the academic world it’s certainly relevant.

Information and knowledge are the cornerstones of science. Yet, a lot of top research is locked up behind expensive paywalls.

As with most digital content, however, there are specialized sites that offer free and unauthorized access. In the academic world Sci-Hub has become an icon for this pirate version of “Open Access.”

Early last year one of the largest academic publishers, Elsevier, filed a complaint at a New York District Court accusing the sites’ operators of systematic copyright infringement.

However, instead of stopping the site the case raised its profile, putting it at the center of a debate about paywalled research. As a classic demonstration of the Streisand effect the site’s userbase grew while many academics publicly showed their support.

According to Sci-Hub’s founder Alexandra Elbakyan tens of thousands of people now use the site to download papers. On an average day last week 69,532 users downloaded 217,276 different papers, all without paying a penny.

India, China, Iran, the United States and Russia are the top download locations according to data shared with TorrentFreak. In most of these countries academics have limited access to research papers due to high costs or other restrictions, with the U.S. being an unusual exception.

Sci-Hub

sci-hublarge

Perhaps even more important than the massive number of users is the lively debate around Sci-Hub and copyright’s role in academic publishing.

Sci-Hub’s efforts are backed by many prominent scholars, who argue that tax-funded research should be accessible to everyone. Others counter that the site doesn’t necessarily help the Open Access movement forward.

Elbakyan defends her position and believes that what she does is helping millions of less privileged researchers to do their work properly by providing free access to research results.

Meanwhile, with the debate heating up Elsevier may regret having filed their lawsuit in the first place. It’s clear that whatever verdict the U.S. court announces in the future Sci-Hub is not going to shut down anytime soon.

A preliminary injunction already prohibits Elbakyan from operating the site (without any effect), and the site has shown that it can easily switch to new domain names when needed.

And with the mainstream media now showing interest in the case, Sci-Hub is expected to grow its presence during the months to come.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 02/29/16

deadpoolThis week we have two newcomers in our chart.

Deadpool 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) Deadpool (HDTS) 8.6 / trailer
2 (7) Kung Fu Panda 3 (Webrip) 8.0 / trailer
3 (3) Victor Frankenstein 6.1 / trailer
4 (6) The Big Short (Web-DL) 8.1 / trailer
5 (2) Creed 8.0 / trailer
6 (5) Spectre 7.9 / trailer
7 (4) Ride Along 2 5.8 / trailer
8 (…) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny 6.5 / trailer
9 (9) The Revenant (DVDscr) 8.2 / trailer
10 (…) In The Heart of The Sea 7.0 / trailer

FBI Busts Movie Industry Insider for DVD Screener Leaks

fbiantiLate last December millions of pirates cheered behind their computers as the “screener season” finally got underway.

High quality copies of some of the hottest Hollywood productions appeared online, with some titles even beating their official theatrical release.

The high-profile leaks were put on the radar of the FBI and this week the Justice Department announced that they caught one of the sources, a 31-year old entertainment industry worker.

Kyle Moriarty from Lancaster admitted to copying screeners of The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie, while working on a movie studio lot. Both copies were uploaded to the private BitTorrent tracker Pass The Popcorn (PTP) and found their way to many public sites in the following days.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Moriarty has signed a plea agreement which was submitted to a District Court last Friday.

“…defendant obtained copies of the copyright-protected films The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie. Each of the films was a “screener,” a disc containing an advance screening copy of a film, which defendant took without authorization while at work,” the agreement reads.

Moriarty copied the films onto a USB drive and took them home. After encoding the releases he uploaded The Revenant screener and The Peanuts Movie to the PTP tracker, with the username “clutchit.”

The Justice Department reports that both movies were downloaded millions of times following their early release, causing significant damage to the copyright holders.

“Over one million people have downloaded from peer-to-peer networks the version of The Revenant that defendant uploaded to the Internet. Fox has suffered losses of at least $1.12 million,” the press release states.

Leaked Revenant screener

therevenant

The plea agreement doesn’t identify Moriarty’s employer but according to The Smoking Gun he worked as a production coordinator for the “Dr. Phil” show, which shoots close to the Paramount studio.

It remains unclear how the FBI identified Moriarty us the uploader, but according to the plea agreement he uploaded the movies from his home address.

The Lancaster man doesn’t appear to be connected to the release group Hive-CM8, which uploaded the bulk of the leaked screeners last December. Hive-CM8 leaked over a dozen screeners but The Revenant and The Peanuts Movie were not among their releases.

In a statement released to the public, U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker applauds the enforcement efforts, stating that the leaks endangered the local entertainment industries.

“As the Academy Awards ceremony this weekend highlights, the entertainment industry is the economic cornerstone of the Central District of California. Therefore, my office is committed to protecting its intellectual property,” Decker notes.

“The defendant’s conduct harmed the very industry that was providing his livelihood as well as the livelihood of others in Southern California,” she adds.

Moriarty is scheduled to be arraigned next month and faces a maximum prison sentence of three years.