Filed under: Announcements & Events, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
Over one thousand Does were sued by AF Holdings for downloading some of their adult-oriented movies. It was suspected that, in fact, AF Holdings is a front for Prenda Law, and that the massive lawsuit is just another case of copyright trolling. As it so happens, those suspicions are becoming facts.
After filing suit, the studio had asked the court of law to force down Verizon, AT&T, Bright House, and Cox to give up the names and addresses of their subscribers; although the request was initially granted, the ISPs took a stand and appealed the decision (you can read more about it here).
After managing to earn millions out of legal settlements throughout the years, the law firm stumbled upon the same legal system it was trying to abuse. Four of the lawyers associated with the case received penalties that summed up to $80.000, as the federal judge said that Prenda Law “outmaneuvered the legal system.”
Furthermore, the judge ordered an investigation on the firm’s principals, referring them to state/federal bar disciplinary panels, and to federal prosecutors and the IRS.
The best of this case, however, is yet to be revealed. Graham Syfert, a lawyer representing defendants in lawsuits filed by the rogue law firm, had a thought – who uploaded those movies in the first place? Well, he noticed that nearly all of those who shared the files in question came from the same place – sharkmp4 – an unknown user that’s been linked to a handful of videos, all serving as a base for Prenda’s copyright lawsuits. So, who is this mysterious user? To find out, Graham asked the help of Delvan Neville – the tech-head who developed a BitTorrent monitoring device.
By inspecting the hash values associated with the files, Neville found that they all point to one person. It’s suspected that this sharkmp4 has strings, strings that belong to 6681 Forensics.
The puppeteer is none other than Peter Hansmeier, brother of Paul Hansmeier, and the one who had monitored the BitTorrent traffic and pin-pointed the infringement. How convenient, isn’t it? Oh, and just so you know, Hansmeier and John Steele are the founders of Prenda Law.
Neville is suspecting that 6681 Forensics and sharkmp4 could be one and the same person. Proofs that the law firm was uploading the movies pile up – sharkmp4 shared the movies via The Pirate Bay, and the file-sharing portal stores its users’ IP addresses. As such, Neville discovered that some of the IP addresses belonging to Steele’s Go-Daddy website are identical to those used by sharkmp4.
“It appears from all the evidence that John Steele (or someone under his control or with access to his GoDaddy account records with authorization to make changes to domain names) is the most probable candidate for the identity of Pirate Bay user Sharkmp4,” Neville said.
“It’s the equivalent of jumping in front of a car to collect a settlement,” Syfert said.
“I have a friend who just released a music record. If he’s lucky he’ll make $3,000 off it, but if this [is legal], he can put it up online, hire someone to monitor the downloads, and then suddenly his album is worth $1 million,” he continued.
Contacted by telephone, Steele denied the accusations.
“I’ve categorically denied uploading a single torrent in my life,” he said.
“Nor do I know anybody who’s ever used the shark thing.”
“If someone were to be found uploading the torrent that they owned, I don’t know what the legality of it would be,” he concluded.
The whole fiasco is clearly an eye-opener, and we can only hope that Prenda Law will get what it deserves!
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, Entertainment Industry, Legal P2P News & Issues
Back in 2009, France adopted what was regarded as the toughest anti-piracy law in the world, but now things may change thanks to the country’s new government.
At the time being, France’s anti-piracy law states that repeat offenders (after receiving two notices) are to have their internet account suspended. Such drastic measures were seen, right from the start, as unconstitutional and abrasive.
Despite claims from former president Nicolas Sarkozy that the three-strikes system was a good idea (read more here), the legislation proved to be too expensive to justify the effort.
Four years later and who (really) knows how many millions of euros spent on manpower and e-mail notices, and the agency responsible with enforcing the anti-piracy law (aka HADOPI) may go offline, permanently.
“In financial terms, 12 million euros a year and 60 officers, it’s an expensive way to send a million e-mails,” France’s Culture Minister said last year.
Fleur Pellerin – France’s minister in charge with internet policy – attended a high-technology meeting in Sweden and said that HADOPI is stifling the growth of digital economy.
“Today, it’s not possible to cut off Internet access,” she said.
“It’s something like cutting off water.”
Back in April, Pierre Lescure – former president of Canal Plus –proposed switching from disconnection to fines of 60 euros to 78 euros for repeat offenders.
Lescure’s report favored the disbandment of HADOPI, but not before transferring some of its prerogatives to the Conseil supérieur de l’ audiovisuel – France’s media regulator.
While his ideas proved to gain the support of governmental officials, other reports, including a study by Wellesley College and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, showed that disconnecting repeat infringers pushed others towards legal alternatives, including iTunes.
However, the music industry is still on a slippery slope, at least according to SNEP, a French recording company group who said that the industry’s revenues dropped by 6.7% in the first quarter of this year. The group continued to point out that France’s population prefers illegal alternatives – the number of people who visit “rogue websites” has increased by 7% in a period of 3 years (2010-2013).
SNEP’s Director General Guillaume Leblanc agreed that disconnecting people from the internet is not a solution. Instead, he said, the e-mail notification system should stand, while imposing bigger fines for repeat offenders.
“Maintaining graduated response is essential for the music industry,” Leblanc said.
“For the legal offer to keep developing, it’s important to have strong copyright protection on the Internet.”
On the other hand…
“If you cannot chop off a few heads as an example, then the chopping machine inspires less fear,” Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesman for La Quadrature du Net, said.
Those who support HADOPI think different, stating that disconnecting people from the internet was never the point of the law.
“From our standpoint this was always meant to be an educational and deterrent measure,” Frances Moore, chief executive at the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, stated.
As we all know, France’s system has been adopted by other countries, including South Korea and the US.
Brett Danaher, a professor at Wellesley College who helped with putting up together a study that examined the effectiveness of HADOPI said:
“Looking at this politically, if one of the few countries where they were able to get the political support to pass this — if they get rid of it, it could make it harder to do graduated response elsewhere.”
The entertainment industry should focus more on blocking infringing websites rather than on individuals, he and others consider.
“We have to take a holistic approach,” Ms. Moore said.
“Web site blocking and alert systems are just two tools.”
What’s next for France and how will these changes affect the entertainment industry remains to be seen.
Filed under: Announcements & Events, Digital Media, Mobile Phones, P2P technology, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
After successfully managing to take The Pirate Bay and Newzbin2 offline, UK’s government is looking forward to introduce (somewhere next year) a graduated-response system. How effective will the system be against online piracy, however, is disputed by Ofcom’s quarterly report.
Ofcom’s quarterly report, covering November 2012 – January 2013, reveals that notification letters (sent by ISPs to customers who are suspected of downloading and or uploading copyrighted content) which threaten to suspend the user’s internet access would have the desired effect on just 16% of those who are allegedly infringing copyright online. The previous report (covering August 2012 – October 2012) showed that 18% (aged 12+) got their hands on unlicensed content at least once.
Now, here’s something for the entertainment industries to consider before they go and block websites at DNS level. Internet consumers agreed upon three vital changes that would make them stop infringing copyright: 28% (down from 30% in the previous report) claim that affordable legal services would make them stop from downloading illegal content, 24% (down from 25% in the previous report) asked for a system that clearly determines which content is legal and which is not, and 22% (down from 24% in the previous report) agreed that availability is an important issue that drives people to pirate.
Furthermore, 41% of all internet users (age 12+) said that they are “not particularly confident” or “not at all confident” about what’s legal and what’s not legal (online, of course).
The survey explains that for music, films and TV programmes, consumers who chose both legal and illegal content “claimed to spend more on that particular content type over the three-month period than those who consumed either 100% legally or 100% illegally“.
Why? Well, 48% (down from 50%) said because it’s free, 39% (down from 46%) chose convenience, and 36% (down from 43%) said because it’s fast.
As for the source of pirated content, peer-to-peer takes the cake, with 35% preferring the decentralized method. Cyberlockers account for just 12%.
Will these results bring further changes to the Obligations Code? We’re about to see…
Sweden’s IIS Faces The Court Of Law; Prosecutor Accuses The Organization Of Assisting Copyright Infringement
Filed under: Announcements & Events, File-Sharing Programs, Networks & Services, Legal P2P News & Issues
The Internet Infrastructure Foundation (IIS), Sweden’s company in charge with top-level domain name registrations (.se), refused to put down two of The Pirate Bay’s domain names and is now charged by the country’s prosecution office with assisting copyright infringement.
A little bird told The Pirate Bay (earlier this year), that Swedish authorities will go after its .se domain names. As such, TPB dropped the anchor in Greenland, then in Iceland, and finally in Sint Maarten (.SX).
Although TPB no longer uses any of its .se domain names, Swedish authorities are determined to cut all of the ship’s connections with the IIS. As such, the Swedish Prosecution Authority filed a petition (at the beginning of this month) with the Stockholm District Court, asking IIS to take action against thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se. The organization refused to comply.
“The legal system has not been able to shut down the service after the previous guilty verdict against TPB,” IIS’s Chief of Communications Maria Ekelund told TorrentFreak.
“Therefore the prosecutor has opened a new case against both the domain holders and .SE. The prosecutor is accusing .SE of assisting TPB who are assisting others to commit copyright infringement.”
“In the eyes of the prosecutor, .SE’s catalogue function has become some form of accomplice to criminal activity, a perspective that is unique in Europe as far as I know,” IIS’s CEO Danny Aerts said.
“There are no previous cases of states suing a registry for abetting criminal activity or breaching copyright law,” he continued.
As far as the company is concerned, they did nothing but to provide with a service that’s meant to link URLs to a specific IP address, just as they do for Google(.se).
“.SE translates the .se domain names to name servers, a name server operator translates this into an IP address and a resolver operator (such as Telia) helps .SE respond to the most frequent queries,” Aerts explained.
“IP addresses are subsequently allotted to an Internet Service Provider (ISP) through RIPE. And IANA grants us the right to administer the top-level .se domain. Perhaps I should also remember to mention Google, which helps you find the address if you do not know the domain name.”
In other words, this complex system is keeping the internet online, and IIS is not the only one responsible for doing so.
“Where should the line be drawn for legal processes and matters of liability?” Aerts asked.
“.SE will naturally respond to the prosecutor’s perspective. We have an educational task ahead of us in explaining to the District Court what a domain name is, what .SE does and the fundamentally incorrect nature behind seizing a domain name forever,” he continued.
Unfortunately for the company, the trial will cost a whole lot of money, money that will be taken out of ISS’s educational programs.
“This will be an expensive process and, although our lawyers will find it an interesting case, these are funds that we would rather spend on our investments in schools or digital inclusion,” Aerts stated.
If the Swedish Prosecution Authority wins the case, IIS will be forced to erase any evidence that thepiratebay.se and piratebay.se ever existed as registered under .se domain names.
“Removing a domain name can be compared to taking down the signs hanging outside the shoe store. Although this would make it more difficult for customers to find the store, it would still be there and any customers who were able to find it would be able to continue buying shoes there,” the company’s CEO concluded.
A porn-producing studio called AF Holdings sued over a thousand individuals on grounds of copyright infringement. A court order forcing the defendants’ ISPs to reveal their identities is now being appealed, with chances to win an important battle against copyright trolls.
Verizon, AT&T, Bright House, and Cox are just some of the internet service providers that took the side of their subscribers, by appealing a District of Columbia court’s decision (presided by Judge Beryl Howell), which was given last year. The ruling stated that ISPs must give in the identities of the 1,058 defendants.
“The contact information that Plaintiff seeks is not necessarily a reliable indicator of the true identities of the ‘Does’ who allegedly downloaded Plaintiff’s pornography,” the ISPs argued.
The ISPs continued by saying that many of the defendants are not even living near the District of Columbia. Furthermore, Cox, AT&T, and Bright House pointed to the fact that they are not offering residential contracts in that district.
The court’s decision, the ISPs said, could set a precedent for “coercive and unjust” settlements,
Just like the US entertainment industry used to do, AF Holdings sues a large number of people in one go, expecting for internet providers to reveal their identities, and then rip the defendants’ pockets with quick settlements, hoping that they will not seek justice out of the embarrassment of such a lawsuit.
The Nevis-based (an island in the Caribbean) studio owns copyright on a handful of adult-oriented movies, and that’s about it. The internet service providers believe that, in fact, AF Holdings is a front for Prenda Law, a law firm involved in the case.
Backing up this not so far-fetched theory is a recent ruling given by Los Angeles district judge Otis Wright, who asked Prenda’s lawyers about their legal strategy; they refused to give details, saying that this would incriminate them.
“Evidence elicited in the related AF Holdings case reflects that Plaintiff’s cases are being prosecuted for the sole benefit of Prenda Law’s principals, who are the beneficial owners of Plaintiff and have created fake owners or forged signatures in court filings to hide their interests in these cases,” the appeal reads.
As a result, Judge Wright ruled that:
“Copyright laws originally designed to compensate starving artists allow starving attorneys in this electronic-media era to plunder the citizenry.”
“It is clear that the Principals’ enterprise relies on deception.”
If ISPs win the appeal, would it mean the end (or at least a good shake of the bad tree) of the copyright trolling era?
Stay tuned to find out!