Monthly Archives: July 2016

Megaupload 2.0 to Launch With Original Megaupload User Database

megaupload-logoFollowing a few hints earlier this week, it is now fully confirmed. Kim Dotcom will be launching a brand new file-sharing site with a familiar name.

Megaupload 2.0 is pencilled in for a January 2017 launch, an event that will coincide with the 2012 closure of the original Megaupload and the massive police raid on its operators.

Having successfully avoided the clutches of a hungry United States government for half a decade, this five-year anniversary is an important one for Dotcom, and it’s becoming clear he hopes to celebrate it with another poke in the eye for the Obama administration.

Details are few at this stage, but here’s what we know. Megaupload 2.0 will have 100gb of free storage. It will allow users to sync all of their devices and there will be no data transfer limits. On-the-fly encryption will be baked-in.

But while site features are important, what the original Megaupload had going for it was millions of loyal users. They were all made homeless and scattered when the site was shut down but according to Dotcom, there will be a future grand reunion.

Intriguingly, the serial entrepreneur says that Megaupload 2.0 will get a fantastic start in life. Rather than simply relying on word-of-mouth advertising to get going, his new venture will launch with the original Megaupload user database intact.

How Dotcom managed to preserve a copy of this data isn’t clear, but he says that each user account held within will get a foot up.

“Most Megaupload accounts will be reinstated with Premium privileges on the new Megaupload,” Dotcom announced this morning.

If every one of those former Megaupload users hit the site on day one, that’s 100 million people needing attention. It’s unlikely that anywhere near that will come aboard, but just one or two percent would be a tremendous start.

But hosting files isn’t the only thing on Dotcom’s mind. His censorship-resistant MegaNet project is still in development and although it’s not going to be ready until 2018 at the earliest, Dotcom says that Megaupload 2.0 will be a crucial component of that network.

“Megaupload 2.0 will be the launch platform for MegaNet. Let’s make sure that we have critical mass first. #100MillionUsers,” he said this morning.

Dotcom clearly has much work to do and even flat-out will struggle to meet his January deadline. Still, he doesn’t intend to do it alone.

“To former Megaupload and current Mega employees. We welcome you with open arms. Mega App developers, we have a great deal for you. Ping me,” he wrote a few hours ago.

So how will former Megaupload users know if they can use their old credentials to access the new site?

“Expect an email,” Dotcom concludes.

Phishing Scam Targets Game of Thrones Pirates

scamScammers have found a way to exploit copyright infringement notices for their own profit.

Posing as a well-known anti-piracy monitoring outfit representing major movie and TV companies, they’re sending numerous takedown notices to Internet providers.

We first noticed the phishing scam last month when a Cox subscriber was targeted, but at the time it was unclear how significant it was.

Since then, we have learned that the phishing expedition is not limited to the United States. Also, the scammers are actively targeting a variety of alleged movie and TV-show pirates.

Employees at several ISPs have contacted TorrentFreak with additional information over the past several weeks. This detail shows that the scheme is much broader than previously thought.

The notices in question are not being exclusively sent to U.S. ISPs. Internet providers in the UK and Australia have also received similar notifications. While some ISPs realize that it’s a scam, others have forwarded the notices to their customers.

After our first report the imposters changed the domain name they’re using to collect the settlements. In addition, they also began targeting other content including the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

One of the phishing mails

gotphishing

In a professionally worded email, the account holder connected to an IP-address is accused of downloading a pirated copy of the popular TV show. If the recipient fails to settle the case for a few hundred dollars, the fake HBO says it might take legal action.

“You have 72 hours to access the settlement offer and settle online. If you fail to settle, the claim(s) will be referred to our attorneys for legal action. At that point the original settlement offer will no longer be an option and the amount will increase as a result of us having to involve our attorneys,” they write.

The emails are causing confusion at some ISPs as HBO and its piracy monitoring firm IP-Echelon do send takedown notices to Game of Thrones pirates. However, they have nothing to do with the threatening settlement requests.

“The notices are fake and not sent by us. It’s a phishing scam,” IP-Echelon informed TorrentFreak previously.

TorrentFreak spoke to an employee at a datacenter that was targeted by the phishing scam. The notices in question raised suspicion as not all reported IP-addresses were part of their network, but other than that they appeared to be real.

“They seemed believable at first because they were sending notices about customers who we are accustomed to seeing a high volume of torrenting complaints about,” the employee informed us.

Interestingly, this also suggests that the notices are not being sent to random addresses, and it may very well be that the scammers are scraping the IPs from real torrent swarms.

“We have a few VPN providers on our network and they get a lot of complaints from the real IP Echelon. At first I thought IP Echelon renamed their service or got bought out. I do think they are monitoring P2P networks, not just making these up out of thin air,” the datacenter employee adds.

TorrentFreak approached HBO for additional information about the issue but the company did not respond to our inquiry. Other rightsholders which are being faked, including Lionsgate and Warner Bros, are also yet to comment.

According to IP-Echelon, U.S. law enforcement is currently looking into the matter. However, tracking down the source of phishing operations is usually quite hard.

In the meantime, both ISPs and subscribers should be extra cautious.

UK ISPs Fail to Overturn Site Blocking Order

stopstopSite blocking in the UK has become a hot topic after the world’s leading entertainment companies successfully applied for injunctions against many hundreds of ‘pirate’ sites.

In response, Compagnie Financière Richemont S.A., which owns several well-known luxury brands including Cartier and Mont Blanc, decided to get in on the action.

In 2014, Richemont wrote to the UK’s leading ISPs – Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media, EE and Telefonica/O2 – with a request to block several sites offering counterfeit products. In common with earlier cases involving The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, the ISPs refused and the case went to court.

In October 2014, the High Court ruled in favor of Richemont, stating that counterfeit product sites must be blocked in the same manner as torrent and streaming portals.

Despite this being a trademark case, the judge found that he had jurisdiction to order an injunction and that the ISPs should pay for any blockades to be implemented.

In a statement, a Richemont spokesperson told TorrentFreak that the decision was a positive step. However, the matter was not over. While the ISPs seemed happy to accept the High Court’s decision in respect of ‘pirate’ site blockades, they decided to contest the luxury brand injunction.

In their appeal, the ISPs complained that they are innocent parties and that the Court had no jurisdiction to hand down a blocking order. However, even in the event that it did have jurisdiction, the ISPs said that certain thresholds required for an injunction had not been met.

Continuing, the ISPs said that the judge had failed to apply the correct principles in deciding whether or not to hand down an order, and that the orders made were disproportionate. Finally, the judge should not have ordered the ISPs to foot the bill for blocking the infringing sites.

This week the Court of Appeal handed down its long awaited decision and it’s almost completely good news for the brand owners.

Dismissing the ISPs’ appeal, the Court said that High Court did indeed have the power to issue the blocking injunctions and that all the legal thresholds for doing so had been met.

“Each of the target websites was directed to consumers in the United Kingdom and the operators of those sites were advertising and offering for sale counterfeits of the goods of one of the named claimants,” Justice Briggs wrote.

“The [High Court] judge was entitled to make an order to try to prevent this happening for the third sentence of Article 11 of the Enforcement Directive and Article 8(3) of the Information Society Directive are concerned not only with measures aimed at bringing infringements of intellectual property rights to an end but also with measures aimed at preventing them.”

Interestingly, on the issue of who would pay for the site-blocking to be carried out, the Court of Appeal had some sympathy for the ISPs

“In my judgment the cost burden attributable to the implementation of a particular blocking order should fall upon the rightsholder making the application for it,” Justice Briggs wrote.

“In circumstances where valuable intangible rights of this kind need to be protected from abuse by others, I regard it as a natural incident of a business which consists of, or includes, the exploitation of such rights, to incur cost in their protection, to the extent that it cannot be reimbursed by appropriate orders against wrongdoers.”

But that doesn’t mean that the ISPs are completely off the hook. Justice Briggs said that while the ISPs wouldn’t have to pay the costs associated with implementing a blocking order, they would still have to foot the bill for “designing and installing the software with which to do so whenever ordered.”

Richemont lawyer Simon Baggs welcomed the decision.

“The court has recognized that often the best way for online unlawful activity to be stopped is for intermediaries such as ISPs to cut the Internet lifeblood that the websites need to trade,” Baggs said.

“Site blocking is a developing area in many jurisdictions globally and this judgment should further enable the growth of this important remedy.”

The ISPs still have the possibility of taking their case to the Supreme Court but no announcement has yet been made.

FACT Rewards Cinema Workers For Stopping Piracy

The Federation Against Copyright Theft is perhaps the most well-known anti-piracy group in the UK and it regularly makes headlines for its work tackling both on-and-offline infringement.

In addition to monitoring unauthorized content that has already been uploaded to the Internet, part of FACT’s work in recent years has been to disrupt the activities of would-be pirates before online distribution is undertaken.

That has often meant acting on intelligence gathered from watermarks embedded in previously pirated (‘cammed’) content, which enables outfits like FACT to predict where future cinema recordings might take place.

In addition, FACT works with cinema operators to ensure that staff are trained to spot suspicious activity that could indicate that an unauthorized recording or ‘camming’ is underway. FACT sees these frontline workers as a valuable asset.

In recognition of their efforts, each year FACT holds a special ceremony during which it presents awards to cinema workers whose actions have prevented potential movie piracy. This year’s event, which was co-hosted with the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA), was held yesterday in London.

FACT reports that a total of 17 cinema staff received awards as part of the ‘Fight Film Theft’ program. Each received a cash prize of up to £500 and a certificate for helping to prevent piracy on a range of movies including Deadpool, The Jungle Book, and Angry Birds.

cambusters

The 17 cinema employees were involved in 17 ‘camming’ incidents that took place in a broad range of locations, including London, Leeds, Hull, Sunderland and Glasgow.

All of the incidents were reported to the police. FACT has provided no additional detail on how many of the police attendances resulted in arrests or prosecutions. Nevertheless, the anti-piracy outfit is pleased with the results.

“Illegal recording is still the source of more than 90% of all pirated films and so our Fight Film Theft program with the FDA, is essential to protecting new releases and preventing criminal activity,” says FACT Director General Kieron Sharp.

While FACT has been front and center of movie anti-piracy enforcement in the UK for many years, it faces an uncertain future. In May, the major Hollywood studios announced that after thirty years working with FACT they would soon withdraw its funding.

That leaves FACT with a 50% budget shortfall for 2017. No announcement has yet been made on how that deficit will be corrected.

UK Bill Introduces 10 Year Prison Sentence for Online Pirates

uk-flagLast year the UK Government announced a plan to increase the maximum prison sentence for online copyright infringement to ten years.

The current maximum of two years is not enough to deter infringers, lawmakers argued.

The plan followed a recommendation put forward in a study commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) a few months earlier.

This study concluded that criminal sanctions for online copyright infringement could be increased to bring them into line with related offenses, such as counterfeiting.

Before implementing the changes the Government launched a public consultation, asking for comments and advice from the public. But, even though the vast majority of the responses urged the authorities not to up the prison term, lawmakers decided otherwise.

As a result, a new draft of the Digital Economy bill published this week extends the current prison term from two to ten years. The relevant part amends the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and simply replaces the word two with ten.

The new bill was unveiled in Parliament yesterday where it passed its first reading. If adopted in its current form, it allows courts to hand out tougher sentences.

The small but impactful change (3)

digec

Copyright holders have lobbied for this update for a long time. According to them, harsher penalties are needed to deter people from committing large-scale copyright infringement, something the Government agrees with.

“The Government believes that a maximum sentence of 10 years allows the courts to apply an appropriate sentence to reflect the scale of the offending,” the Government explained previously, adding that the maximum sentence will only be applied in rare cases.

This means that casual file-sharers are not likely to end up in prison for a decade. However, organized groups that systematically offer pirated files, such as Scene or P2P release groups, are likely to be punished more harshly.

One of the motivations to up the sentence for online piracy is to bring it on par with counterfeiting. Interestingly, however, both were already equal when they were first adopted.

When the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act was first introduced both counterfeiting and piracy carried a maximum sentence of two years. Following industry calls the counterfeiting sentences were increased in 2002, and now the piracy side has followed the same path.