Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hulu Tracks Pirates to Decide What to Buy

huluWhen major movie and TV companies discuss piracy they often mention the massive losses incurred as a result of unauthorized downloads and streams.

However, this unofficial market also offers a valuable pool of publicly available data on the media consumption habits of a relatively young generation.

Many believe that piracy is in part a market signal showing rightsholders what consumers want. This makes piracy statistics key business intelligence, which many large companies already actively use.

Netflix, for example, uses piracy to figure out how much they can charge in a country, as well as what content they license. They are not alone.

A few days ago we learned that Hulu does the same. Hulu’s head of content acquisitions Lisa Holme told Business Insider that piracy data is an important factor in deciding what content the company licenses.

Pirates can show what TV-shows or movies people are interested in and if they go through the ‘trouble’ of downloading something illegally, it is bound to do well on legitimate platforms as well.

According to Holme, piracy effectively tells Hulu how committed people are to a show. “They are passionate enough about it to break the law,” she says, adding that many would pay to stream content if there’s an easy way.

Piracy tracking and intelligence firm MUSO is one of the players that offers this type of data to copyright holders. While they don’t work with Hulu, the company says that it’s more common nowadays to use piracy as input.

“Piracy data analytics really are a window into the size of global piracy audiences, as well as their behavior around piracy. If you put that data together with regional focus, piracy suddenly isn’t black and white, but has multiple shades,” MUSO’s Chief Commercial Officer Christopher Elkins says.

This type of data can often reveal important geographical trends. And aside from using in for anti-piracy means, the same analytics can be used to make content acquisition decisions.

“Rights owners are starting to use piracy insights effectively to help support their digital strategy, and we’re seeing huge benefit now across the TV and live broadcast industry in particular, which has such geographic-specific rights.”

Ultimately, this should be a win-win for all parties involved. Media companies and copyright holders have a better grip on their audience, and pirates get more legal options of their liking.

“For us, it’s incredibly encouraging to see the creative ways the content industry are using data to ultimately serve a better experience for audiences,” Elkins

TorrentFreak reached out to Hulu for some additional insights about their use of piracy data, but unfortunately the company did not reply. Piracy can come in handy at times, but talking about it apparently still isn’t always convenient.

Portugal Blocks 330 Pirate Sites in Just Six Months

One of copyright holders’ most-favored anti-piracy mechanisms in place today involves site-blocking. Censoring sites at the ISP level is effective, rightsholders insist, not to mention cheaper than direct legal action against pirate sites.

In most countries where site-blocking is already in place, authorities have previously determined that the legal system must be involved. In the UK, for example, existing legislation was deemed to offer rightsholders the tools they need. Australia, on the other hand, decided to introduce legal amendments to keep things on the straight and narrow.

Portugal decided to take a different approach, one that simply involved an agreement between rightsholders, ISPs and the government. Now, if a site is considered to be illegal by these parties, it can be blocked without stepping into a courtroom.

For copyright holders it’s the Holy Grail and they’re taking full advantage of the new system. This week during a conference in the capital, Lisbon, the Portuguese Association for the Protection of Audiovisual Works revealed the extent of the program and it’s as critics feared.

Executive Director Antonio Paulo Santos reported that Portugal is now blocking a vast range of file-sharing and related sites, offering movies, TV, shows and music to streaming sports and books. In total more than 330 sites are now being blocked by local Internet service providers.

The rate of blocking is unprecedented. In October 2015 more than 50 sites were blocked by ISPs, including KickassTorrents, ExtraTorrent, Isohunt and RARBG. The following month another 40 were added, including BitSnoop, YourBitorrent, SeedPeer, Torlock and Torrentfunk.

Since then another 240 sites have been quietly added to the list. This rapid growth means that along with the United Kingdom and Italy, Portugal is already a world leader in pirate site blockades. All this has been achieved without ever going near a court room.

It is this kind of voluntary agreement that Hollywood and the major record labels are pushing for internationally, whether they’re with Internet service providers, domain registries or companies such as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard. The process in Portugal ticks all the right boxes for the entertainment companies so expect it to be championed elsewhere.

Aussie Gov Agency Endorses VPN Use to Reduce Piracy

ausWhen a government agency produces a report urging major changes to intellectual property laws, one often expects something heavily weighted in favor of rightsholders

Documents published today by the Australian Government’s Productivity Commission contain a more balanced set of recommendations, several of which are likely to provoke an adverse reaction from both local and international rightsholders.

The Intellectual Property Arrangements draft report is a 600 page epic covering everything from copyright and patent issues through to pharmaceuticals and plant breeders’ rights. Of most interest to readers will be the agency’s comments on infringement, fair use and copyright terms.

Bring on the VPNs

For years Australians have felt that when it comes to entertainment content they’re treated as second class citizens. Aussies believe that not only do they pay over the top for content, but they also have to wait longer for it to arrive.

As a result many access overseas services by using a VPN, something which is frowned upon by rightsholders and actively blocked by companies such as Netflix. Nevertheless, the Productivity Commission wants to do everything it can to open up options for consumers.

“Geoblocking results in Australians paying higher prices (often for a lesser or later service) than consumers overseas,” the report reads.

“The Australian Government should implement the recommendation made in the House of Representatives Committee report At What Cost? to make clear that it is not an infringement for consumers to circumvent geoblocking technology.”

aussie-vpn

But the Commission doesn’t stop there. In case any foreign country wants to pressure Australia into acting otherwise, the agency advises the following.

“The Australian Government should seek to avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology,” it adds.

Dealing with piracy

The Productivity Commission notes that enforcement is a key factor in the efficiency and effectiveness of the Australian IP system. It also acknowledges that copyright infringement is an ongoing issue. That being said, rightsholders probably aren’t going to like the draft’s conclusions.

“Online copyright infringement remains problematic for rights holders. Evidence suggests many people infringe copyright because of the ongoing difficulty and cost in accessing content,” the report notes.

“Evidence suggests infringement declines with better content availability and most consumers prefer paid, legal consumption. As such, an effective approach to reducing infringement is the timely release of content to Australian consumers. This requires action by rights holders and their intermediaries.”

It’s not difficult to see how these statements dovetail with the recommendation on VPN use and the pressure could eventually see Aussies getting a better deal. But for rightsholders hoping for more enforcement options in the meantime, only disappointment awaits.

“Changes to the law to encourage Internet service providers to cooperate with rights holders, as well as litigation, have only had a modest impact in reducing infringement. Further legislative change is unlikely to improve compliance with the law,” the report states.

Fair Use and Copyright Terms

In keeping with the positive response to increased consumer choice, proponents of expanded fair use provisions and diminished copyright terms also have something to celebrate.

“Australia’s copyright system has expanded over time, often with no transparent, evidence-based policy analysis demonstrating the need for, or quantum of, new rights. A new system of user rights, including the introduction of a broad, principles-based fair use exception, is needed to help address this imbalance,” the report notes.

“The Australian Government should amend the Copyright Act 1968 to replace the current fair dealing exceptions with a broad exception for fair use. The new exception should contain a clause outlining that the objective of the exception is to ensure Australia’s copyright system targets only those circumstances where infringement would undermine the ordinary exploitation of a work at the time of the infringement.”

aussie-fair-use

And on copyright terms, yet more consumer-friendly advice.

“The term of protection for most works is now more than 70 years and considerably longer than necessary to incentivize creation of most works (with a commercial life less than 5 years). The current duration of copyright imposes costs on the community and access to works is restricted, particularly for works not commercially available but still subject to copyright protection,” the draft reads.

“While hard to pinpoint an optimal copyright term, a more reasonable estimate would be closer to 15 to 25 years after creation; considerably less than 70 years after death. Perpetual copyright protection of unpublished works should also be removed.”

Consultation period

The report is currently in draft and written submissions are invited up until Friday 3 June 2016. The final report will be handed to the government in August and published shortly after.

The full 603-page report can be found here (pdf)

Canadian Movie Pirates Targeted in Reverse Class Action

When it comes to the business model of turning piracy into profit, the name Voltage Pictures is never far from the action.

The Los Angeles-based movie outfit has tested the legal waters in several jurisdictions in an effort to extract cash settlements from alleged pirates, most recently in Australia with its movie Dallas Buyers Club.

In 2012, Voltage targeted Canadian ISP Teksavvy in a long drawn out battle to identify 2000 allegedly pirating users in order to force them to settle. Now, four years later, Voltage are back again with a new strategy.

This week the company filed an application in Federal Court, requesting certification of a reverse class action against an unquantified number of BitTorrent users who alleged shared five movies including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

According to law professor Michael Geist, reverse class actions are very rare in Canada with only a few having been reported. The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case appears to be unprecedented.

voltage-class

“Class actions typically involve a representative plaintiff who represents many others who have suffered the same harms from the actions of the defendant. Reverse class actions feature a single plaintiff (Voltage) and multiple defendants (the alleged file sharers),” Geist explains.

According to the case documents (pdf) Voltage intends to build its case around a single and as-yet-unidentified customer of ISP Rogers. He or she is referred to as John Doe #1 and by the IP address allocated when the alleged offense took place.

“Through custom-designed software designed to track copyright infringements, and the online identities of those who commit such infringements (by way of IP address and time of infringement), the Voltage Parties have identified many thousand instances of their films (including the Works) being illegally offered for download from Individuals using the Internet,” the Voltage application reads.

“The proposed Representative Respondent, John Doe #1, as well as each member of the proposed Respondent Class….are persons whose names and identities are currently unknown to the Voltage Parties, but who have unlawfully, and without the Voltage Parties’ authorization or consent, infringed copyright in the Works, including by illegally uploading and distributing the Works for free, in full or in part, over the internet.”

rogers-doe

Interestingly, Voltage is open about the reasons behind this new strategy, noting that widespread piracy and the high cost of litigation means it has sought a cheaper way to target large numbers of infringers at once.

“The Voltage Parties seek to certify this Application as a class proceeding as a way to address these issues and obtain reasonable compensation for the significant damages that each proposed Class Member has caused, in a cost-effective and fair manner for both the Voltage Parties and the proposed Class Members,” the application reads.

Voltage accuses the Class Members of three “Unlawful Acts” including making movies available for download via BitTorrent, advertising by way of the BitTorrent protocol that a work is available for download by each member, and failing to take “reasonable steps” to ensure that downloaders were authorized by law to do so.

But the big question remains – could such a strategy work? Professor Geist has his doubts.

“One of the biggest concerns involves questions of representation for the defendant class. Before certification [of the reverse class action], the court will want assurance that the interests of the defendants will be fairly represented. But who will represent those interests? Who will pay for the legal counsel?” Geist asks.

“Unlike a plaintiff-led class action, where lawyers are often willing to invest in the case, there is no payoff at the end of this case and finding someone to represent the class will be a challenge when the only named representative is John Doe #1.”

But the problems don’t stop there. Geist says that in a certified reverse class action defendants actually have the option to opt out of the class.

“In other words, after going through the process of trying to meet the requirements for class proceedings, all the defendants will be permitted to simply walk away,” he explains.

If they do, however, other questions are raised, including whether those who opt-out will be allowed to keep their anonymity. If they are not, this could play right into Voltage’s hands.

Copyright cases are complex in their own right but this strategy from Voltage will set in motion a vigorous scratching of heads. Definitely one to watch.

UK Pirate Site Blocking Whack-A-Mole Continues

uk-flagFollowing a series of High Court orders handed down in recent years, six of the UK’s major ISPs are required to block access to dozens of the world’s most popular ‘pirate’ sites.

Over time the number of blocked URLs has expanded to well over 1,000, with popular torrent, streaming and direct download sites being the main targets.

While research has shown that this approach is somewhat effective, there are plenty of options through which people can circumvent the blockades, including many reverse proxies. Similarly, pirate sites can simply switch to a new domain name to evade the court orders.

To remedy the situation the High Court permits copyright holders to expand the blocklists with new domains, provided that they are alternative ways to reach already blocked websites.

This week more than 140 pirate (sub)domains were added, including several proxies and new domain names that allow access to popular pirate sites including Popcorn Time, RARBG, EZTV, Isohunt, Primewire, TubePlus and Vodly.

TorrentFreak obtained the full list from one of the ISPs which includes mostly reverse proxies. In some cases both the www and the regular URL are listed as not all Internet providers block both by default.

One of the prime targets in this new round is the proxy site unblocked.red. This site was previously operating under the unblocked.li domain name, but switched earlier this year after this was added to the blocklist.

In an attempt to bar access to these new URLs, the Motion Picture Association’s court order now lists 16 new unblocked.red subdomains.

TorrentFreak spoke to the team behind the Unblocked proxy sites, who inform us that they already moved to a new home at Unblocked.tv. This switch took just a few minutes, and the proxy operators believe that the block expansions are much more expensive.

“The cat and mouse game will keep on going on our end, since it’s just a matter of registering a new domain name. However, I believe it is more costly and involves more paperwork on their end to block sites,” the Unblocked team says.

Despite earlier blocks, Unblocked remains very popular in the UK. In that regard the restrictions are not very effective.

“Considering the popularity of Unblocked in the UK, I don’t think their strategy is an effective way to deal with piracy. Our traffic data doesn’t show any major changes after our many domain changes. The same can be seen with our Alexa score in the UK,” the team notes.

Nevertheless, copyright holder will continue with their expansions and blocklist updates.

In addition to various proxy sites, the updated list also includes the IP-address of the private torrent tracker TorrentDay, and several new domains for sites that were previously blocked, including iwannawatch.eu, movie25.ph, popcorn-time.to and torrentcd.net.

And so the whack-a-mole continues, with copyright holders adding new domains to the blocklists, and site owners hopping from domain to domain.

– 149.202.57.94
– 7torrents.one
– ads.livetv.ru
– axxomovies.unblocked.red
– axxomovies.unblockmy.site
– axxomovies.worldproxy.eu
– batmanstream.com
– dl4all.unblockme.eu
– dl4all.unblockmy.site
– eztv.torrentlist.biz
– eztv.torrentlist.org
– eztv.unblocked.red
– eztv.unblockme.al
– eztv.unblockme.eu
– eztv.unblockmy.site
– eztv.worldproxy.eu
– icefilms.unblocked.red
– icefilms.unblockme.al
– icefilms.unblockmy.link
– icefilms.unblockmy.site
– icefilms.worldproxy.eu
– img.isoplex.isohunt.to
– img.livetv.ru
– interface.time-popcorn.info
– isohunt.unblocked.red
– isohunt.unblockme.al
– isohunt.unblockmy.link
– isohunt.unblockmy.site
– isohunt.worldproxy.eu
– iwannawatch.eu
– iwannawatch.net
– iwatchonline.ph
– iwatchonline.se
– iwatchonline.unblocked.red
– iwatchonline.unblockme.al
– iwatchonline.unblockmy.site
– livetvcdn.net
– losmovies.es.prx2.unblocksit.es
– m.livetv.ru
– movie25.ph
– movie25.ph.prx.proxyunblocker.org
– movie25.ph.prx.proxywebsite.co.uk
– movie25.ph.prx.torrentunblock.com
– movie25.ph.prx2.unblocksit.es
– movie25.unblocked.red
– movie25.unblockme.al
– movie25.unblockmy.site
– movie4k.to.prx2.unblocksit.es
– movie4k.unblocked.red
– movie4k.unblockme.al
– movie4k.unblockmy.link
– movie4k.unblockmy.site
– movie4k.worldproxy.eu
– openbay.isohunt.to
– popcorn-time.to
– popcorn-time.to.prx.torrentunblock.com
– popcorn-time.to.prx2.unblocksit.es
– popcorn-time.xyz
– primewire.unblocked.red
– primewire.unblockme.al
– primewire.unblockme.in
– primewire.worldproxy.eu
– rarbg.com.torrentprox.com
– rarbg.torrentlist.org
– rarbg.unblocked.red
– rarbg.unblockme.al
– rarbg.unblockme.eu
– rarbg.unblockmy.site
– s-s.isohunt.to.prx.torrentunblock.com
– s-s.yts.ag.prx.proxyunblocker.org
– s-s.yts.ag.prx.proxywebsite.co.uk
– saint-hosting.nl
– scenesource.unblockme.al
– scenesource.unblockme.eu
– scenesource.unblockmy.link
– scenesource.unblockmy.site
– scenesource.worldproxy.eu
– seventorrents.unblocked.red
– solarmovie.hs.vc
– solarmovie.torrentlist.org
– solarmovie.unblocked.red
– solarmovie.worldproxy.eu
– torrentbutler.eu.wwwunblocker.com
– torrentbutler.unblocked.red
– torrentbutler.unblockme.al
– torrentbutler.unblockme.eu
– torrentbutler.unblockmy.link
– torrentbutler.unblockmy.site
– torrentbutler.worldproxy.eu
– torrentcd.net
– torrentcd.net.prx.proxywebsite.co.uk
– torrentcd.net.prx.torrentunblock.com
– torrentcd.net.prx2.unblocksit.es
– torrentcd.pro
– torrentz-pro.com
– torrentz-pro.net
– torrentz-pro.net.prx.proxywebsite.co.uk
– torrentz-pro.net.prx.torrentunblock.com
– torrentz-pro.net.prx2.unblocksit.es
– tubeplus.com
– tubeplus.unblocked.red
– tubeplus.unblockme.al
– tubeplus.unblockmy.site
– tubeplus.worldproxy.eu
– ua.torrentz.sx
– ua.torrentz.to
– vodly.unblockme.al
– vodly.unblockme.eu
– vodly.unblockmy.link
– vodly.unblockmy.site
– vodly.worldproxy.eu
– watchfreemovies.unblocked.red
– watchfreemovies.unblockme.al
– watchfreemovies.unblockmy.site
– watchfreemovies.worldproxy.eu
– watchseries.unblocked.red
– watchtvseries.unblocked.red
– watchtvseries.unblockme.al
– watchtvseries.unblockme.eu
– watchtvseries.unblockmy.link
– watchtvseries.unblockmy.site
– www.batmanstream.com
– www.img.livetv.ru
– www.iwannawatch.eu
– www.iwannawatch.net
– www.iwatchonline.ph
– www.iwatchonline.se
– www.movie25.ph
– www.popcorn-time.to
– www.popcorn-time.xyz
– www.saint-hosting.nl
– www.torrentcd.net
– www.torrentcd.pro
– www.torrentz-pro.com
– www.torrentz-pro.net
– www.tubeplus.com
– www3.livetv.ru
– www5.livetv.ru
– www8.livetv.ru
– ximg.livetv.ru
– yify.unblockme.eu
– yify.worldproxy.eu
– yourbittorrent.unblockme.eu
– yts.torrentlist.org