Swedish file sharing website The Pirate Bay is up and running again hours after an indictment in a Hamburg court persuaded its German ISP to pull the plug, having found a new home with its anti-copyright brethren, the Pirate Party. “We got tired of Hollywood’s cat and mouse game with The Pirate Bay and have decided to offer the site bandwidth ourselves,” Rick Falkvinge, leader of the Pirate Party, said in a statement on Tuesday. The Pirate Party is providing bandwidth for the webpage and search engine of The Pirate Bay while the tracker and torrent files previously listed on the page are located on other servers at undisclosed locations across the world. The Pirate Bay meanwhile offered a typically defiant response to continued entertainment industry efforts to curb illegal file sharing through the courts. The Pirate Bay was closed down late Monday after German internet service provider Cyberbunker decided to comply with a preliminary decision by a Hamburg court under the threat of substantial fines. The Pirate Bay returned to service at around 11am on Tuesday. The Pirate Party (Piratpartiet) was founded in 2006 and strives to reform laws regarding copyright and patents. The party claimed 7.13 percent of the vote in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections and currently holds two seats. Four men linked to The Pirate Bay – Carl Lundström, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde – were convicted by Stockholm District Court of being accessories to copyright violations in April 2009. Their appeals court hearing is due to open in September.
The British Parliament on Thursday approved plans to crack down on digital media piracy by authorizing the suspension of repeat offenders’ Internet connections. Following the House of Commons late Wednesday, the House of Lords on Thursday approved the bill after heavy lobbying from the music and movie industries, which say they suffer huge losses from unauthorized copying over the Internet. The law makes Britain the second large European country, after France, to approve a so-called graduated response system, under which online copyright violators face temporary suspensions of their Internet accounts if they ignore warning letters to stop. The anti-piracy plan is part of a broader bill aimed at stimulating the development of the digital economy in Britain. Many of the original proposals in the bill were dropped in the rush to complete the legislation before national elections set for May 6. These included a plan to impose a tax on telephone lines to finance the expansion of faster broadband connections to remote areas. Under the proposal, every telephone landline was to be subject to a levy of 50 pence, or 76 U.S. cents, a month. Also dropped was a plan to use public money to finance local television news reports on ITV, a commercial broadcaster
Editor’s Comment – I ‘was’ a lifelong Labour supporter. Now because of this stupid authoritarian bill granting almost dictatorial powers to the ‘music industries’ I shall vote against Labour at the forthcoming General Election and urge everyone to do the same. We shall see unjust case after unjust case pass through the courts of our land until the judiciary kill this idiotic and undemocratic bill
Hollywood studios lost a landmark copyright court case against an Australia internet provider on Thursday, when a court ruled iiNet could not be held responsible for unauthorised downloads of movies using its service. The suit against iiNet was filed by a group of the biggest Hollywood studios including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and Disney. The consortium had hoped to prove iiNet not only failed to take steps to stop illegal file-sharing by customers, but breached copyright itself by storing and transmitting the data through its system. Australia’s Federal Court in Sydney ruled it was impossible to hold iiNet responsible for users infringing copyright. iiNet told the court it was not required by law to act on allegations of copyright infringement, that customers were innocent until proven guilty in court, and that the case was like suing a power company for things people do with electricity. The Australian Digital Alliance, a coalition of libraries, universities, museums and galleries, said the ruling would benefit cultural institutions that make their collections available online and can be vulnerable to illegal downloads
The UK’s music industry body has distanced itself from a law firm’s letter-writing campaign demanding cash recompense from people suspected of unlawfully sharing copyrighted files.
ACS:Law has sent thousands of letters to those suspected of unlawfully downloading copyrighted material, demanding immediate payment of hundreds of pounds from each recipient and threatening legal action if they do not pay. On Friday, the BPI said in a statement that it did not condone this approach.
“We don’t favour the approach taken by ACS:Law to tackling illegal file-sharing, which is at odds with the proportionate and graduated response advocated by BPI and proposed in the Digital Economy Bill,” the statement read. “We uphold the highest standards of evidence, and our view is that legal action is best reserved for the most persistent or serious offenders — rather than widely used as a first response.”
Although the BPI used the term ‘illegal’ in relation to file-sharing, such activity is more rightly termed ‘unlawful’, as it is not a criminal offence but a civil matter.
One ACS:Law letter released by consumer organisation Which? tells a suspected unlawful file-sharer to pay £625 within five weeks, or face a court case for damages plus costs.
The law firm represents content rights holders ranging from games companies to record labels. It uses software that tracks file-sharing sites to identify the IP address of suspected unlawful file-sharers, then uses court orders to get ISPs to link those IP addresses to their customers, after which the letters are sent.
This approach stands in contrast with that proposed in the Digital Economy Bill, which wants warning letters to be sent before any technical measures are used to combat unlawful file-sharing.
A BPI spokesman said on Friday that the organisation does support the sending of letters, but “as notifications, as outlined in the Digital Britain proposals”. On Tuesday, Which? issued a statement saying it had heard from more than 150 people who believed they had been wrongly accused. “My 78-year-old father yesterday received a letter from ACS law demanding £500 for a porn file he is alleged to have downloaded,” one consumer is quoted by Which? as writing. “He doesn’t even know what file-sharing or BitTorrent is, so has certainly not done this himself or given anyone else permission to use his computer to do such a thing.”
Matt Bath, head of technology at the consumer organisation, said in the statement that “innocent consumers are being threatened with legal action for copyright infringements they not only haven’t committed, but wouldn’t know how to commit”, and voiced concerns that many people would be “frightened into paying up rather than facing the stress of a court battle”.
Most people who receive such letters are not sued, according to solicitor Michael Coyle of Lawdit, who represents hundreds of recipients. He pointed out that recipients cannot be forced to pay without a claim being formally issued by the rights holder in court. “Talking very generally, the only way people can be found liable of copyright infringement is in a court, and you have to admit it,” Coyle told ZDNet UK on Friday. “If you don’t admit it, it can only be found on the hard drive. There’s no-one to test the [IP address-identifying] software in court [and relying on] an IP address is at best a wee bit circumspect.” Coyle added that, to his knowledge, no-one has yet launched a challenge to any court-issued claim that followed ACS:Law’s letters
For Alan Ellis, last week was a good one: he was acquitted of conspiracy to commit fraud. The prosecution had argued that the 26-year-old received at least £190,000 in donations to Oink, his filesharing website. Until Oink was shut down in 2007, it had, the crown claimed, helped 200,000 users illegally to download 21m copyrighted music tracks.
For the anti-piracy lobby, the verdict has been a serious setback, not least because it suggests the law hasn’t kept up with technology that allows the copying and transfer of copyrighted material. Ellis was the first person to be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to filesharing — though others have been convicted on lesser charges — and the crown was hoping for a conviction to send a strong message to filesharers.
Record labels and film studios claim the sharing of movies and songs by computer users costs them hundreds of millions of pounds. Now, though, new technology is coming to the aid of copyright holders. One of the UK’s largest broadband providers is trialling software it says can spot unauthorised downloaders. This could lead to their disconnection from the internet.
The BPI, the trade association of the British music industry, currently employs specialist firms to eavesdrop on people who make copyrighted material available to download. The firms record their IP address, a code that can then be used to identify the alleged filesharer’s internet account.
This process is costly and time-consuming. The BPI must first go to court and present evidence of wrongdoing by an individual to force a broadband provider to hand over the details of that person’s activities on the internet. The threshold of evidence is high, making it impractical for the BPI to pursue more than a handful of cases.
Now, however, Virgin Media is trying out new technology that can automatically detect if a customer’s broadband connection is being used to download copyrighted files illegally. Virgin, which has more than 4m UK broadband customers, offers the fastest connection speeds in Britain and is consequently a popular ISP for filesharers. Hit films such as Pirates of the Caribbean can be downloaded by Virgin users in minutes.
Called deep packet inspection (DPI), the detection technology categorises all internet traffic that passes over a customer’s connection — be that email, general web surfing or online gaming. Traffic identified as filesharing is subjected to a deeper scan and is said to be checked against a database of music and, potentially, films. Detica, the firm that runs the system for Virgin Media, claims it can tell within seconds whether the specific data being downloaded are, say, family photos or the latest Lady Gaga album.
Virgin and Detica insist that DPI is — for now — being used only to measure the level of illegal filesharing, not to snoop on customers. Indeed, they say the key piece of information — the IP address — is ignored in the process. This, of course, doesn’t mean the technology could not target individuals.
When asked whether the new software was able to identify filesharers, a Virgin Media spokesman said: “It could be, but the technology hasn’t been designed for that purpose. The IP information is discarded. It allows us to understand the exact nature of unlawful traffic on our network.”
Virgin’s plans have angered privacy advocates, who claim it is only a matter of time before the company is routinely fingering its own customers. “I think it is inevitable that Virgin will eventually use DPI to identify individual illegal filesharers on its network and, at the end of the day, it probably won’t be Virgin’s decision to make,” said Alexander Hanff of Privacy International, a lobbying group.
He believes the technology will work alongside government proposals to disconnect filesharers who ignore two written warnings to stop. “Peter Mandelson has made it very clear he wants ‘three strikes’ to come into effect, and the only feasible way to do this is for the ISPs [internet service providers] to police their networks using DPI.”
A spokesman for Lord Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills denied the government had discussed using DPI to identify illegal filesharers, but left the door open for it to be used in future: “If warning letters backed by legal action do not prove as effective as we expect, then an additional obligation to introduce appropriate technical measures is worth considering,” he said
Company directors risk fines or conviction if they fail to stop staff from downloading illegal software at work, warns anti-piracy watchdog FAST Iis.
Responding to research from ScanSafe, which showed a 55% hike in workers trying to download illegal software at work, FAST urged companies to tackle issue. Those firms that turned a blind eye could face a criminal trial under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 of 1988.
“Downloading what looks like free software from P2P sites is not recommended. At the very least it’s against the law if the software should be purchased and there’s a high likelihood of malware being a free and silent add-on,” said Fast IiS chief executive John Lovelock.
All firms should make new hires and existing staff agree to an IT policy explaining that action would be taken against any employees using corporate kit illegally.
A man accused of running a sophisticated music piracy website used by more than 200,000 members was acquitted of conspiracy to defraud today. Alan Ellis, 26, was accused of making hundreds of thousands of pounds from the Oink website, which he ran alone from his own bedroom. But a jury at Teesside Crown Court unanimously cleared the software engineer of the charge. Mr Ellis, from Middlesbrough, smiled as the jury foreman returned the not guilty verdict.
During the trial, Mr Ellis had told the jury that he set up Oink in his home in an effort to brush up on his computing skills while a student at Teesside University. He told the court that he had set up the website “to further my skills. To better my skills for employability”. When police raided his terraced house in October 2007, they found almost $300,000 in his accounts.
Peter Makepeace, for the prosecution, said: “At the time this website was taken down, there were approximately 200,000 active members. “Those users had access to about 200,000 audio files. “This site had facilitated a staggering 21 million downloads of those available files.”
He added: “This is not about prosecuting some poor minnow who has taped a record one night and circulated it to their friends. “This is about large scale, professional, clever, technical ripping off.” But Mr Ellis said the money was used to pay for the rental of the computers that ran the website, and that any “surplus” was intended to eventually purchase a server.
He added that the website was developed from a free template, which included with it a “Torrent” file-sharing facility — a popular method used by some to download music illegally. The court heard that users on the site were required to make a donation to be able to invite friends to join the site.
The site did not hold music itself, but it had allowed members to find other people on the web who were prepared to share files with others, allowing people to get hold of music for free. Mr Ellis, who was born in Leeds and grew up in south Manchester, studying A levels in Cheadle, argued that there was no intention to defraud copyright holders. He had a full-time job as a software engineer and said running the site was a hobby.
The prosecution said he told police officers: “All I do is really like Google, to really provide a connection between people. None of the music is on my website.” The prosecution said that when interviewed by police, Mr Ellis refused to answer questions about money, and said it was “out of my hands” what his site’s members did. The prosecution argued that none of the cash made by way of donations was going to the music industry. “Every penny was going to Mr Ellis,” Mr Makepeace said.
“He hadn’t sung a note, he hadn’t played an instrument, he hadn’t produced anything. “The money was not going to the people it rightly belonged to, it was going to Mr Ellis.”. Mr Ellis declined to answer questions on leaving court
A man who ran an illegal “pirate” music site which allowed 21 million downloads had almost 300,000 US dollars in his accounts when police raided his home, a jury has heard. Alan Ellis founded the Oink website, which had around 200,000 members when it was shut down in 2007.
The 26-year-old, of Grange Road, Middlesbrough, denies conspiracy to defraud. Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court: “This is not about prosecuting some poor minnow who has taped a record one night and circulated it to their friends. This is about large scale, professional, clever, technical ripping off.
“From 2004 onwards, Mr Ellis with others ran a pirate music website. That was a website which had private, members-only access and it facilitated the sharing of music files over the internet.” Oink was free to join, but by invitation only, and to be able to propose a friend, users had to pay a donation of at least £5. It was set up in May 2004 and the site was hosted in Norway, but switched to Amsterdam in December that year after the music industry asked it to stop.
Further investigations led police to raid the server site close to Schipol Airport and Ellis’s Middlesbrough home simultaneously in October 2007. Mr Makepeace said: “This site had facilitated a staggering 21 million downloads of those available files. It is clear that he received by way of donations personally, almost 300,000 dollars.”
Oink did not host any music itself, it indexed the files users had available on their computers for others to download, the jury heard. When he was interviewed by police, Ellis insisted it was “out of my hands” what members did and likened Oink to a search engine, Mr Makepeace said.
Bono, frontman of rock band U2, has warned the film industry not to make the same mistakes with file-sharing that have dogged the music industry.
Writing for the New York Times, Bono claimed internet service providers were “reverse Robin Hoods” benefiting from the music industry’s lost profits. He hinted that China’s efforts prove that tracking net content is possible. The editorial drew sharp criticism, both on its economic merits and for the suggestion of net content policing.
“The immutable laws of bandwidth tell us we’re just a few years away from being able to download an entire season of ’24’ in 24 seconds,” he wrote. “A decade’s worth of music file-sharing and swiping has made clear that the people it hurts are the creators…the people this reverse Robin Hooding benefits are rich service providers, whose swollen profits perfectly mirror the lost receipts of the music business.”
In a move that drew significant criticism, Bono went on to suggest that the feasibility of tracking down file-sharers had already been proven. “We know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content,” he said.
Several commentators assailed both the logic of net monitoring and the economic arguments of the essay, pointing out that U2 topped 2009’s list of top-grossing live acts. “Bono has missed that even a totalitarian government…can’t effectively control net-content,” tweeted Cory Doctorow, a blogger and journalist noted for his study of file-sharing policy.
“If only greed and ignorance could sequester carbon, Bono could FINALLY save the planet,” he added
Illegal downloads, we are all too often told by various media giants, will be the death of decent TV and films. While I can see this is a logical conclusion if people continue to trawl bittorrent sites for their entertainment, I can’t help but think there is a better and easier solution than chasing down and fining an individual hundreds of thousands of pounds for having watched a show without paying for it.
My genius idea? Make the shows much cheaper to watch. Single half-hour episodes of a show currently cost £1.89 on iTunes; I can’t be the only person to see this as way too much for way too little.
The biggest problem illegal downloaders face is not from the litigous media companies, but rather from slow connections and bad quality files. If it cost 10p to watch a primetime show quickly, easily and instantly as soon as it’s aired on TV I have no doubt that millions would buy rather than steal. The old way of buying copies of films and TV series in a physical format is dying fast, and responding by just directly porting the cost across to the digital format simply isn’t responding to the changing media landscape.
I don’t believe the majority of people object to paying for things they view, they just need a realistic and fair price. When a show is on TV, the advertising rates for each viewer, if my Googling is correct, are less than a penny, so a 10p charge per viewer would be immensely profitable by comparison. Yes, DVD sales will suffer, but as the format is dying out at a galloping pace anyway, why should this matter in the long run?
Like the music industry, it seems that multinational media companies simply can’t get their heads around the idea that the monumental profits of the previous 20 years just aren’t possible any more. Pushing vastly overpriced content is only going to encourage more people to abandon ship and take up a life of virtual swarthy swashbuckling instead.