Category Archives: News (Internet news)

Kim Dotcom Extradition to Go Ahead, But Not on Copyright Grounds

Following an extradition hearing lasting 10 weeks back in 2015, a New Zealand District Court judge ruled that Kim Dotcom and his former Megaupload colleagues could be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges.

Dotcom immediately announced an appeal to the High Court, which took place over four weeks last September. Justice Murray Gilbert handed down his decision today, one that’s both thought-provoking and controversial.

At the very center of the US Government’s case against Dotcom and former colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk, is the notion that the quartet engaged in criminal copyright infringement. Indeed, it was stated on numerous occasions that their case is the biggest copyright infringement case of all time.

However, in his 363-page ruling (pdf), Justice Gilbert found that there is no equivalent copyright crime in New Zealand that would allow Dotcom and his co-defendants to be transferred to the United States under the extradition treaty.

“One of the central issues in the case is whether copyright infringement by digital online communication of copyright protected works to members of the public is a criminal offense in New Zealand under the Copyright Act,” an announcement from the Court reads.

“The High Court has held that it is not, contrary to the conclusion reached in the District Court. The appellants have therefore succeeded with one of the main planks of their case.”

While this might initially sound like the best possible news for Dotcom and his colleagues (and it may yet prove useful), that’s not the full picture. The US Government wants to extradite the quartet to face trial on a total 13 counts, which include allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering as well as money laundering and wire fraud.

So, while the copyright infringement charges have now been ruled out as grounds for extradition, the other charges remain.

In today’s ruling, the High Court found that while the District Court’s decision of December 2015 was flawed in detail, its conclusion that the extradition of Dotcom and his colleagues can go ahead still stands, “because there are available pathways for extradition” on each count.

“[T]he High Court has confirmed that Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Finn Batato (the appellants) are eligible for extradition under section 24 of the Extradition Act 1999,” the Court’s summary reads.

According to Justice Gilbert, the core of the case deals with a conspiracy to defraud – an extraditable offense – but in comments this morning, Dotcom said that even that shouldn’t be applicable.

“I’m no longer getting extradited for Copyright. We won on that. I’m now getting extradited for a law that doesn’t even apply,” he wrote.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that copyright charges can’t be fraud charges. Let’s just ignore that minor detail over here in New Zealand.”

In a statement, Dotcom’s barrister Ron Mansfield said that having won the copyright infringement argument, it is “extremely disappointing” to have a negative outcome overall, but all is not lost.

Supporting Dotcom in his assertion that the US Supreme Court has ruled that copyright infringement is not fraud, he explained that the situation in New Zealand doesn’t support it either.

“The High Court has accepted that Parliament made a clear and deliberate decision not to criminalize this type of alleged conduct by internet service providers, making them not responsible for the acts of their users,” he said.

“For the Court to then permit the same conduct to be categorized as a type of fraud in our view disrupts Parliament’s clear intent. The High Court decision means that Parliament’s intended protection for internet service providers is now illusory. That will be a concern for internet service providers and impact on everyone’s access to the internet.”

It will be of little surprise to learn that despite this ruling, the battle isn’t over yet. Mansfield confirms that this “politically charged and misunderstood case” will now head off to the Court of Appeal.

“We remain confident that this last point, which would prevent extradition in this complex and unprecedented legal case, will be resolved in Kim’s favor in a manner consistent with Parliament’s intent, international law and, importantly one might think, the United States’ own law,” he concludes.

So what next for this epic case?

In the short term, it’s expected that both sides will challenge aspects of Justice Gilbert’s ruling at the Court of Appeal. Depending on the outcome there, the case could conceivably move to the Supreme Court and from there into the hands of the Minister of Justice. All of that could take another two years – or more.

Search Engines and Rightsholders Sign Landmark Anti-Piracy Deal

Following a Digital Economy Bill committee two weeks ago, we first learned that copyright holders and search engines were close to finalizing a voluntary anti-piracy code.

Following roundtable discussions chaired by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, the parties worked hard to reach a deal that everyone could live with.

These kinds of discussions are not new. Similar talks have been ongoing for more than half a decade, but without success. However, this time the Government turned up the pressure to the maximum, threatening to force search engines into cooperation by law if consensus could not be reached.

This approach appears to have reached its goals, with the world’s first anti-piracy agreement between search engines and rightsholders being officially announced today. The deal is a partnership between Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and several organizations in the creative industry.

Under this new anti-piracy code, search engines will further optimize their algorithms and processes to demote pirated content in their search results. The aim is to make infringing content less visible and at a faster rate. At the same time, legal alternatives should be easier to find.

“This should start to trigger faster and more effective demotion – and delisting. That should also mean that legal content sources are better promoted and artists and creators better rewarded,” Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property informs TorrentFreak.

The changes should take effect by June 1st and are targeted at the UK public. This means that search results may not be impacted to the same degree elsewhere.

The parties have also agreed to cooperate more closely and share data to optimize future anti-piracy strategies. This includes efforts to make sure that pirate search terms do not show up in autocomplete suggestions.

“Autocomplete is an area where it has been agreed we need to work – and it will need cooperation to look at what terms are delivering consumers to pirate content,” Leviten clarifies.

The news was made public by several creative industry players, but it’s expected the UK Government, which played an important role in facilitating the talks, will follow with an announcement later today.

The rightsholder groups are happy that an agreement was finally reached and hope that it will help to steer search engine users toward legal alternatives.

“Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties’ willingness to try to improve that situation,” says Stan McCoy, President & Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association EMEA.

While the agreement is a milestone, it’s also clearly a compromise. The measures announced today are not substantially new.

Google, for one, has been demoting pirate sites in search results for several years already and it previously banned various pirate terms from autocomplete. Under the anti-piracy code, these measures will be intensified.

More far-reaching demands from rightsholders, such as removing pirate sites from search results entirely or a takedown-staydown policy, are not part of the deal.

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of UK music group BPI, recognizes that the new partnership isn’t going to stop piracy entirely but hopes that it will help to improve the current situation.

“There is much work still to do to achieve this. The Code will not be a silver bullet fix, but it will mean that illegal sites are demoted more quickly from search results and that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.

“We look forward to working with Google, Microsoft and our partners across the creative industries to build a safer, better online environment for creators and fans.”

TorrentFreak also reached out to Google to hear their vision on the landmark agreement, but at the time of publication, the company hadn’t replied.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 02/20/17

This week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Doctor Strange, which was released as Blu-Ray rip a few days ago, is the most downloaded movie.

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 Web-DL/Webrip/HDRip/BDrip/DVDrip unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

This week’s most downloaded movies are:
Movie Rank Rank last week Movie name IMDb Rating / Trailer
Most downloaded movies via torrents
1 (3) Doctor Strange 8.0 / trailer
2 (…) Moana 8.0 / trailer
3 (1) Arrival 8.3 / trailer
4 (2) Hacksaw Ridge 8.5 / trailer
5 (…) Assassin’s Creed (Subbed HDRip) 6.3 / trailer
6 (4) Passengers (Subbed HDrip) 7.1 / trailer
7 (…) Allied 7.1 / trailer
8 (6) La La Land (DVDscr) 8.8 / trailer
9 (10) Lion (DVDscr) 8.0 / trailer
10 (5) Jack Reacher: Never Go Back 6.3 / trailer

Brave: A Privacy Focused Browser With Built-in Torrent Streaming

After a reign of roughly a decade, basic old-fashioned BitTorrent clients have lost most of their appeal today.

While they’re still one of the quickest tools to transfer data over the Internet, the software became somewhat outdated with the rise of video streaming sites and services.

But what if you can have the best of both worlds without having to install any separate applications?

This is where the Brave web browser comes in. First launched early last year, the new browser is designed for privacy conscious people who want to browse the web securely without any unnecessary clutter.

On top of that, it also supports torrent downloads out of the box, and even instant torrent streaming. To find out more, we reached out to lead developer Brian Bondy, who co-founded the project with his colleague Brendan Eich.

“Brave is a new, open source browser designed for both speed and security. It has a built-in adblocker that’s on by default to provide an ad-free and seamless browsing experience,” Bondy tells us.

Bondy says that Brave significantly improves browsing speeds while shielding users again malicious ads. It also offers a wide range of privacy and security features such as HTTPS Everywhere, script blocking, and third-party cookie blocking.

What caught our eye, however, was the built-in support for BitTorrent transfers that came out a short while ago. Powered by the novel WebTorrent technology, Brave can download torrents, through magnet links, directly from the browser.

While torrent downloading in a browser isn’t completely new (Opera has a similar feature, for example) Brave also supports torrent streaming. This means that users can view videos instantly as they would do on a streaming site.

“WebTorrent support lets Brave users stream torrents from their favorite sites right from the browser. There’s no need to use a separate program. This makes using torrents a breeze for beginners, a group that has sometimes found the technology a challenge to work with,” Bondy says.

Brave downloading

The image above shows the basic download page where users can also click on any video file to start streaming instantly. We tested the feature on a variety of magnet links, and it works very well.

On the implementation side, Brave received support from WebTorrent founder Feross Aboukhadijeh, who continues to lend a hand. Right now it is compatible with all traditional torrent clients and support for web peers will be added later.

“WebTorrent in Brave is compatible with all torrent apps. It uses TCP connections, the oldest and most widely supported way for BitTorrent clients to connect. We’re working on adding WebRTC support so that Brave users can connect to ‘web peers’,” Bondy says.

While the downloading and streaming process works well, there is also room for improvement. The user interface is fairly limited, for example, and basic features such as canceling or pausing a torrent are not available yet.

“Currently, we treat magnet links just like any other piece of web content, like a PDF file. To cancel a download, just close the tab,” Bondy notes.

What people should keep in mind though, considering Brave’s focus on privacy, is that torrent transfers are far from anonymous. Without a VPN or other anonymizer, third party tracking outfits are bound to track the downloads or streams.

In addition to torrent streaming, the browser also comes with a Bitcoin-based micropayments system called Brave Payments. This enables users to automatically and privately pay their favorite websites, without being tracked.

Those who are interested in giving the browser a spin can head over to the official website. Brave is currently available a variety of platforms including Windows, Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS.

Pirate Site With No Traffic Attracts 49m Mainly Bogus DMCA Notices

As reported in these pages on many occasions, Google’s Transparency Report is a goldmine for anyone prepared to invest time trawling its archives.

The report is a complete record of every DMCA notice Google receives for its ‘search’ function and currently lists more than two billion URL takedowns spread over a million websites. Of course, most of those websites will remain faceless since there’s far too many to research. That said, the really big ‘offenders’ are conveniently placed at the top of the list by Google.

The most-reported sites, according to Google

As we can see, the 4shared file-hosting site is at the top of the list. That isn’t a big surprise since the site has been going for years, attracts massive traffic, and stores countless million files.

There are a number of other familiar names too, but what is the site in second place? MP3Toys.xyz has a seriously impressive 49.5m takedown requests logged against it. We’ve never even heard of it.

Checking the site out, MP3Toys is clearly a pirate platform that allows users to download and stream unlicensed MP3s from thousands of artists. There are hundreds of these kinds of sites around, probably pulling content from YouTube and other web sources.

But here’s the problem. According to Google, MP3Toys.xyz (which also uses a .tech extension) has only been appearing in its databases since Jun 30, 2016. During this short time, Google has received requests to remove 49.5 million URLs from its indexes. That’s about 1.6 million URLs for each of the 31 weeks MP3Toys has been online.

No site in history has ever achieved these numbers, it’s completely unprecedented. So MP3Toys must be huge, right? Not exactly.

According to Alexa, the site’s .xyz domain is ranked the 25 millionth most popular online, while its .tech domain is currently ranked 321,614 after being introduced in January 2017.

In loose terms, this site has no significant traffic yet will soon be the most-infringing site on the whole Internet. How can this be? Well, it’s all down to an anti-piracy company making things up and MP3Toys going along with the charade.

As seen in the image below, along with outfits such as the BPI and BREIN, anti-piracy outfit APDIF do Brasil has an unusual fascination with MP3Toys. In fact, it’s sent the vast majority of the notices received by Google.

However, while some of the notices are undoubtedly correct, it appears a huge number are absolutely bogus. Instead of scanning the site and sending an accurate takedown notice to Google, APDIF tries to guess the URLs where MP3Toys stores its content. A sample list is shown below.

The problem here is that in real terms, none of these URLs exist until they’re requested. However, APDIF’s guesses are entertained by the site, which creates a random page of music for every search. The content on these auto-generated pages cycles, but it never relates to the searches being put in. As shown below, even TorrentFreak’s Greatest Hits Volume 77 is a winner (Test it yourself here)

So in summary, APDIF makes up its own URLs, MP3Toys randomly generates a page of music that has nothing to do with the URL input, APDIF logs it as an infringement of its clients’ rights, and sends a complaint to Google.

Then, putting the icing on an already confused cake, Google ‘removes’ every URL from its search results, even though it appears they were never in them in the first place. And that’s how a site with virtually no traffic received more DMCA complaints than The Pirate Bay. Unbelievable.