The MPAA is in discussions with the major US movie studios over ways to introduce site blocking to the United States. TorrentFreak has learned that the studios will try to achieve website blockades using principles available under existing law. Avoiding
another SOPA-style backlash is high on the agenda.
Mechanisms to force ISPs to shut down subscriber access to infringing sites are becoming widespread in Europe but have not yet gained traction in the United States.
TorrentFreak has learned that during 2013 the MPAA and its major studio partners began to seriously consider their options for re-introducing the site blocking agenda to the United States. Throughout 2014 momentum has been building but with no real
option to introduce new legislation, the MPAA has been looking at leveraging existing law to further its aims. We can reveal that the MPAA has been examining four key areas.
The Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall show Gogglebox now has its own adult parody, but Channel 4 are not so happy about it at.
The TVX parody, Gobblecocks , is set in the same format as Gogglebox, with characters who are similar to those featured on the hit show, they watch adult movies together whilst sharing their reactions, and more with the audience. Characters
include a posh pair called Beth and Don who are meant to represent Dom and Steph in the hit Channel 4 version.
The Sun newspaper quotes a source at the network as saying on the matter:
Channel 4 are not happy to have Television X making a show so similar to Gogglebox. In the past, they would've sent a strong legal letter warning, but the law that came in in October effectively protects them from prosecution, so their hands are tied.
According to the laws currently in place, people are free to make minor uses of other people's copyright material for the purposes of parody, caricature or pastiche, without first asking for permission .
France has become the latest country to the block world's number one file-sharing site, The Pirate Bay, in an effort to defend copyright-protected content.
The ruling of the Grand Instance Court of Paris ordered the country's leading internet providers, including Orange, Bouygues Telecom, Free and SFR, to ensure all measures are put into place to prevent access (to the site) from French territory .
In addition to the main site address, the court banned around 20 mirror websites and 50 proxy servers that allow users to download content from the Swedish site.
Now internet service providers have 15 days to prevent access to the file-sharing site, which some 28.7% of people in France visited at least once a month last year, according to anti-piracy group Alpa.
The court ruling follows legal action by the anti-piracy group La Societe Civile des Producteurs Phonographiques (SCPP), which represents some 2,000 music labels that brought the request before the court this year.
The High Court has ordered the biggest batch yet of piracy websites to be blocked.
The latest rulings cover 53 services in total and apply to the country's six leading ISPs. It brings the tally of blocked sites providing access to copyright-infringing content to 93 since the first blocking began in 2012. The blocked sites
include: BitSoup, IP Torrents, Isohunt, Sumotorrent, Torrentdb, Torrentfunk, Torrentz, Warez BB, Rapid Moviez.
Twenty-one of the sites were a result of a court order prompted by the BPI, a music industry group.
The ISPs affected are Sky, BT, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin.
BT will only block access to websites engaged in online copyright infringement when ordered by a court to do so, said the UK's biggest broadband provider, reflecting a stance shared by the other firms.
Ernesto Van Der Sar, editor of the Torrentfreak news site said:
It deters a few people who can't access their usual sites, but most people will try to find ones that are not yet blocked or use VPNs [virtual private networks] or proxy sites to get the same content.
It's making it harder - some people will decide it's just too much trouble and give up - but the overwhelming majority will still find ways to download material illegally.
Starting next May, Russian websites guilty of more than one copyright violation will be permanently blocked. The move comes as part of a new
anti-piracy bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, ramping up what many critics see as an already draconian set of copyright protection rules. Once a website is blocked by a court decision, it cannot be unblocked, according
to the bill.
The bill extends a previous measure that was limited to video production, but amendments approved by Putin this week expand it to include all kinds of copyrighted content such as books, music and software. The only exception made is for
The amendments also oblige website owners to disclose their real names, postal addresses and e-mail addresses on the site.
An online petition against the amendments gathered more than 100,000 signatures in August, mandating a governmental review, but has so far been ignored by the relevant officials.
Several music industry organizations in the UK have launched an application for a judicial review after the government passed legislation allowing
citizens to copy their own music for personal use. The group says that in order for the system to be fair, the public must pay a new tax.
The music industry is voicing its collective displeasure at the government's decision and announcing plans to have consumers pay a new copy tax to rightsholders.
The Musicians' Union (MU), The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) and UK Music (of which the BPI is a member) say they have launched an application for a judicial review into the government's decision to introduce a
so-called private copying exception without including a kickback to rightsholders.
What the industry groups want is a tax to be applied to blank media including blank CDs, hard drives, memory sticks and other devices capable of recording. This money would then be funneled back to the music industry for distribution among
rightsholders, a mechanism already operating in other European countries.
The judicial review will see the High Court examine the introduction of the levy-less copying exception to ascertain whether the government acted legally. The music groups' aim is to have the legislation amended in the industry's favor.
The MPAA recently asked Google to remove the homepages of dozens of sites that offer links to pirated content. Google, however, refused to take down
most of the URLs, likely because the takedown notices are seen as too broad.
So far the MPAA has asked Google to remove only 19,288 links from search results. The most recent request is one worth highlighting though, as it shows a clear difference of opinion between Hollywood and Google.
Last week the MPAA sent a DMCA request listing 81 allegedly infringing pages, mostly torrent and streaming sites. Unlike most other copyright holders, the MPAA doesn't list the URLs where the pirated movies are linked from, but the site's
homepages instead. This is a deliberate strategy, one that previously worked against KickassTorrents .
However, this time around Google was less receptive. Google took no action for 60 of the 81 submitted URLs. It's unclear why Google refused to take action, but it seems likely that the company views the MPAA's request as too broad. While
the sites' homepages may indirectly link to pirated movies, for most this required more than one click from the homepage.
Porn stars and studios have called on Google to help publicise legal ways to buy adult content in an effort to combat
Prominent industry figures said they deserved the same measures as those recently introduced to publicise legitimate music and film sites. Google recently struck a deal with the music industry in the UK to show links to legal ways to buy music
more prominently than before.
A number of influential figures in the porn industry have told the BBC they want the same kind of deal. Australian porn star Angela White said:
Google is perpetuating the misconception that the adult industry is not a legitimate industry. The adult industry is run like any other professional industry; we pay taxes, create jobs and contribute to the economy.
Google told the BBC it did not want to comment on the concerns.
Comment: Censored whilst claiming to be uncensored
TorrentFreak comments that the situation with porn simply does not correlate to the music and mainstream movie industry in a way that Google's latest measure would make sense for porn:
Firstly, Google has begun placing ads at the top of search results when people search for TV shows such as Game of Thrones. Friendly links therein direct users to legal sources. That is not going to happen with porn -- Google forbids it. In
fact, AdWords doesn't even allow promotions for dating or international bride services. Good luck with Gangbangs of New York and Saturday Night Beaver.
Secondly, the porn industry is virtually impossible to navigate. While the MPAA and IFPI might have the luxury of speaking for the major studios and 90%+ of the recorded music sector, no such coordination exists in the porn industry. Reaching
consensus on what precisely should be done could prove impossible.
Then comes the issue of demoting sites. The pirate enemy cited most often by the adult industry are so-called tube sites but that raises even more complex issues, not least since some of the biggest companies in porn own several of the
largest tube sites.
Throw in the fact that many tube sites carry both licensed and unlicensed content and any demotion could hit legitimate creators' distribution strategies of using thousands of adult movie clips to drive traffic to external sites.
But whatever the complexities are, they are all completely moot. When approached by the BBC on the topic, Google declined to comment -- period. The search engine wouldn't be drawn on any aspect of the discussion, a sign that in this case
the porn industry isn't going to get what it wants.
We've reported before on how news publishers in Germany and Ireland have demanded that Google pay royalties for the reproduction of news snippets
and image thumbnails next to search results in its Google News product. In France and Belgium publishers took this claim to the courts resulting in an eventual settlement from Google, whilst in Germany, lawmakers unwisely caved in and passed
legislation in 2013 to grant the special copyright-like rights in news snippets that the publishers had demanded.
Illustrating how pointless this was, Google subsequently called the bluff of the German publishers, replacing their news snippets with simple hyperlinked headings rather than paying the royalties the publishers demanded, while the befuddled
publishers watched their traffic stats drop away. In a humiliating backdown reported this week, the publishers have since gone back cap in hand to Google begging it to reindex their content, snippets and all.
Last week, Spain passed a similar amendment to its own copyright law, but with a nasty twist--not only are news aggregators prohibited from including news snippets without payment, but this right to payment is made inalienable. This means that
aggregators are prohibited from negotiating with the publishers to waive the payment, as has occurred elsewhere in Europe. This would also seemingly frustrate the intent of any news publisher who released their work under a Creative Commons or
other open license for royalty-free use.
The same new Spanish law makes other adverse and short-sighted changes to copyright law, bowing to the lobbying pressure of large content owners.
Worst of these other measures is the criminalization of hosting a website that merely links to infringing content, exposing them to crippling fines of up to ?600,000. Liability is triggered as soon as the owner has been notified by email of the
alleged infringement and fails to respond by self-censoring the allegedly infringing content. Even non-profit websites are exposed to liability, if they run advertisements to defray site expenses. This provision runs against a recent judgment of
the European Court of Justice ruling that hyperlinks are not a reproduction of the copyright works they link to .
The law also newly targets businesses advertising on such websites, as well as those providing it with payment services, and authorizes the Spanish domain authority to cancel any ".es" domains under which they are hosted. (It is a shame
that the Spanish legislators apparently think so little of Google News, because otherwise they might have read news snippets about a pair of ill-fated 2011 bills titled SOPA and PIPA that included similar Internet censorship provisions.)
In combination, these provisions will seriously chill speech online, casting a potential cloud of liability over website operators and the intermediaries who serve them. Rather than reducing the dissemination of copyright-infringing content, its
only likely effect will be to drive Spanish websites offshore to a less hostile legal environment.
Unfortunately, it's likely too late now to do much about this ill-considered law--it is already scheduled to take effect in January 2015. This is particularly poorly timed, since the European Commission is in the midst of composing a new
Directive to modernize European copyright law, which is likely to be passed in that same year. Whilst the new Directive may (we can only hope) include liberalized copyright limitations and exceptions, Spain's amendments to its copyright law go in
precisely the opposite direction.
There is no doubt that technological change has hit newspaper publishers as well as other copyright owners. But a backward-looking law that penalizes innovators and threatens free speech on the Internet is not the solution.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has handed down a landmark verdict. The Court ruled that embedding copyrighted videos is not
copyright infringement, even if the source video was uploaded without permission.
The case in question was referred to EU's Court of Justice by a German court. It deals with a dispute between the water filtering company BestWater International and two men who work as independent commercial agents for a competitor. Bestwater
accused the men of embedding one of their promotional videos, which was available on YouTube without the company's permission. The video was embedded on the personal website of the two through a frame, as is usual with YouTube videos.
While EU law is clear on most piracy issues, the copyright directive says very little about embedding copyrighted works. The Court of Justice, however, now argues that embedding is not copyright infringement.
The Court argues that embedding a file or video is not a breach of creator's copyrights under European law, as long as it's not altered or communicated to a new public. In the current case, the video was already available on YouTube so embedding
it is not seen as a new communication. T he Court's verdict reads:
The embedding in a website of a protected work which is publicly accessible on another website by means of a link using the framing technology ... does not by itself constitute communication to the public within the meaning of [the EU Copyright
directive] to the extent that the relevant work is neither communicated to a new public nor by using a specific technical means different from that used for the original communication.
The Court based its verdict on an earlier decision in the Svensson case , where it found that hyperlinking to a previously published work is not copyright infringement. Together, both cases will have a major impact on future copyright cases in the
EU. For Internet users it means that they are protected from liability if they embed copyrighted videos or images from other websites, for example.
Google's previously announced anti-piracy measures have now kicked in and as a result popular pirate sites are noticing a massive drop in
While Google already began changing the ranking of sites based on DMCA complaints in 2012, it announced more far-reaching demotion measures last week. According to Google the new alghorithm changes would visibly lower the search rankings of
the most notorious pirate sites, and they were right.
TorrentFreak has spoken with various torrent site owners who confirm that traffic from Google has been severely impacted by the recent algorithm changes. Earlier this week all search traffic dropped in half, the Isohunt.to team told us.
To get an idea of how the search results have changed we monitored a few search phrases that were likely to be affected. The before and after comparisons, which are only three days apart, show that popular pirate sites have indeed
A search for Breaking Bad torrent previously featured Kickass.to, Torrentz.eu and Isohunt.com on top, but these have all disappeared. Interestingly, in some cases their place has been taken by other less popular torrent sites.
The traffic data and search comparisons clearly show that Google's latest downranking changes can have a severe impact on popular pirate sites. Ironically, the changes will also drive a lot of traffic to smaller unauthorized sources for the
time being, but these will also be demoted as their takedown notice count increases.
In a landmark ruling, the High Court has ordered several of the UK's leading ISPs to block websites dealing in counterfeit products. The decision
follows legal action by Richemont, the owner of several luxury brands including Cartier and Montblanc.
Following successful action by the world's leading entertainment companies to have sites blocked at the ISP level on grounds of copyright infringement, it was perhaps inevitable that other companies with similar issues, such as trademark
infringement would tread the same path.
Compagnie Financiere Richemont S.A. owns several well-known luxury brands including Cartier and Mont Blanc and for some time has tried to force sites selling counterfeit products to close down. Faced with poor results, in 2014 the company wrote to
the UK's leading ISPs, Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media, EE and Telefonica/O2, complaining that third party sites were infringing on Richemont trademarks.
Concerned that Richemont hadn't done enough to close the sites down on its own and that blocking could affect legitimate trade, the ISPs resisted and the matter found itself before the High Court.
The court decision means that the ISPs named in the legal action must now restrict access to websites selling physical counterfeits in the same way they already restrict file-sharing sites.
A Richemont spokesperson told TorrentFreak that the ruling represents a positive step in the fight to protect brands and customers from the sale of counterfeit goods online. T he company said:
We are pleased by this judgment and welcome the Court's recognition that there is a public interest in preventing trade mark infringement, particularly where counterfeit goods are involved. The Courts had already granted orders requiring ISPs to
block sites for infringement of copyright in relation to pirated content. This decision is a logical extension of that principle to trade marks.
TorrentFreak reports that the decision is likely to be appealed.