Major UK ISPs must now block 110 piracy related websites after a new High Court order. The latest blocking round was issued on behalf of the major record
labels and targets several MP3 download sites as well as a search engine for the cloud hosting service Mega.co.nz.
In a new wave the BPI, which represents the major record labels, has teamed up with music licensing outfit Phonographic Performance Limited to obtain an order targeting a series of MP3 download sites.
A few days ago several providers including Sky, BT and Virgin implemented the new changes, making it harder for their subscribers to reach these sites. The other ISPs are expected to follow suit during the days to come.
Thus far the sealed Court order hasn't been released to the public but the list of 17 sites was confirmed to TorrentFreak by one of the major ISPs, which preferred not to comment on the latest blocking round.
Because the ISPs have given up on defending their position in court, it is now a mere formality for copyright holders to have a pirate site banned. However, the blocking efforts are not without cost. Leaked information previously revealed that even an
unopposed application for a blocking order costs copyright holders around £14,000 per website . This brings the total costs of the requesting parties well over a million pounds.
The UK website blocking bonanza has started to move in a dubious direction. Several ISPs are now blocking access to websites that provide a list of Pirate Bay
proxies. The sites in question do not host or link to any infringing material themselves and are purely informational.
Following a series of High Court orders, six UK ISPs are required to block access to many of the world's largest torrent sites and streaming portals. The blocks are somewhat effective, at least in preventing subscribers from accessing the domains
directly. However, there are also plenty of workarounds.
For many sites that are blocked one or more proxy sites emerge. These proxies allow people to access the blocked sites and effectively bypass the restrictions put in place by the court.
The copyright holders are not happy with these worrounds and have asked ISPs to add the proxies to their filters, which they have done on several occasions. However, restricting access to proxies did not provide a silver bullet either as new ones
continue to appear. This week the blocking efforts were stepped up a notch and are now targeting sites that merely provide an overview of various Pirate Bay proxies.
In other words, UK ISPs now restrict access to sites for linking to Pirate Bay proxies. Among the blocked sites are piratebayproxy.co.uk , piratebayproxylist.com and ukbay.org . Both sites are currently inaccessible on Virgin Media and TalkTalk, and
other providers are expected to follow suit.
TF spoke with Dan, the operator of UKBay.org, who's baffled by the newly implemented blockade. He moved his site to a new domain to make the site accessible again, for the time being at least. Dan said:
The new blocks are unbelievable and totally unreasonable. To block a site that simply links to another site just shows the level of censorship we are allowing ISP's to get away with.
UKBay is not even a PirateBay proxy. It simply provides links to proxies. If they continue blocking sites, that link to sites, that link to sites.. there'l be nothing left.
The new additions were made as part of an existing High Court censorship order that allowed copyright holders to block The Pirate Bay, a Virgin Media spokesperson informs us.
Under the conditions of the original court order, the rightsholders have the authority to change the specific URLs or IP addresses that must be blocked by all major ISPs -- not just Virgin Media. Such changes happen on a regular basis. There is no
@extension or amendment to the original court order.
As with earlier updates, the most recent changes are being made without a public announcement, which means that we don't know precisely how many sites were added.
WordPress has scored an important victory in court against a man who abused the DMCA to censor an article of a critical journalist.
The court agreed that the takedown request was illegitimate and awarded WordPress roughly $25,000 in damages and attorneys fees.
Automattic, the company behind the popular WordPress blogging platform challenged the abuse of the takedown process and decided to take a stand in court, together with student journalist Oliver Hotham who had one of his articles on WordPress censored by
a false takedown notice .
Hotham wrote an article about Straight Pride UK which included a comment he received from the organization's press officer Nick Steiner. The latter didn't like the article Hotham wrote, and after publication Steiner sent WordPress a takedown
notice claiming that it infringed his copyrights.
WordPress and Hotham took the case to a California federal court where they asked to be compensated for the damage this abuse caused them.
Automatic argued that as an online service provider it faces overwhelming and crippling copyright liability if it fails to take down content. People such as Steiner abuse this weakness to censor critics or competitors. WordPress explained:
Steiner's fraudulent takedown notice forced WordPress to take down Hotham's post under threat of losing the protection of the DMCA safe harbor. Steiner did not do this to protect any legitimate intellectual property interest, but in an attempt to censor
Hotham's lawful expression critical of Straight Pride UK. He forced WordPress to delete perfectly lawful content from its website. As a result, WordPress has suffered damage to its reputation.
After reviewing the case United States Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero wrote a report and recommendation in favor of WordPress and Hotham, and District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton issued a default judgment this week.
The court finds the report correct, well-reasoned and thorough, and adopts it in every respect, Judge Hamilton writes.
It is Ordered and Adjudged that defendant Nick Steiner pay damages in the amount of $960.00 for Hotham's work and time, $1,860.00 for time spent by Automattic's employees, and $22,264.00 for Automattic's attorney's fees, for a total award of $25,084.00.
TorrentFreak comments that the case is mostly a symbolic win, but an important one. It should serve as a clear signal to other copyright holders that false DMCA takedown requests are not always left unpunished.
Internet users who look at copyrighted material online aren't breaking copyright by doing so, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)
has declared. This is a useful ruling that will now apply across the EU.
The declaration was part of the British Meltwater case. Meltwater is a Norway-founded media monitoring service that sent out daily digests including the headlines and the first bit of the article of the newspaper stories, together with links to the full
online articles. It did not pay for these snippets. The company found itself sued in the U.K. by the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA). The case was really about whether Meltwater could use headlines and portions of articles in a commercial service
without copyright holder's permission but a side issue arose about whether web surfers are allowed to view content without copyright permission.
The NLA claimed that when you look at online content, you're making 2 copies, one on the screen and one in your browser's cache. The agency claimed that this required the authorization of the copyright holders.
But the CJEU ruled:
Article 5 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the copies on the user's
computer screen and the copies in the internet cache of that computer's hard disk, made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website, satisfy the conditions that those copies must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in
nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process, as well as the conditions laid down in Article 5(5) of that directive, and that they may therefore be made without the authorisation of the copyright holders.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) poses massive threats to users in a dizzying number of ways. It will force other
TPP signatories to accept the United States' excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70 years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains extreme DRM
anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users , likely leading to
more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that
could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.
Here, we'd like to explore yet another set of rules in TPP that will chill users' rights. Those are the criminal enforcement provisions, which based upon the latest leak from May 2014 is still a contested and unresolved issue. It's about whether users
could be jailed or hit with debilitating fines over allegations of copyright infringement.
Dangerously Low Threshold of Criminality
The US is pushing for a dangerously broad definition of a criminal violation of copyright, where even noncommercial activities could get people convicted of a crime. The leak also shows that Canada has opposed this definition. Canada supports language in
which criminal remedies would only apply to cases where someone infringed explicitly for commercial purposes.
This distinction is crucial. Commercial infringement, where an infringer sells unauthorized copies of content for financial gain, is and should be a crime. But that's not what the US is pushing for--it's trying to get language passed in TPP that would
make a criminal out of anyone who simply shares or otherwise makes available copyrighted works on a commercial scale.
As anyone who has ever had a meme go viral knows, it is very easy to distribute content on a commercial scale online, even without it being a money-making operation. That means fans who distribute subtitles to foreign movies or anime, or archivists and
librarians who preserve and upload old books, videos, games, or music, could go to jail or face huge fines for their work. Someone who makes a remix film and puts it online could be under threat. Such a broad definition is ripe for abuse, and we've seen
such abuse happen many times before.
Fair use, and other copyright exceptions and limitations frameworks like fair dealing, have been under constant attack by rightsholder groups who try to undermine and chip away at our rights as users to do things with copyrighted content. Given this
reality, these criminal enforcement rules could go further to intimidate and discourage users from exercising their rights to use and share content for purposes such as parody, education, and access for the disabled.
Penalties That Must be Sufficiently High
The penalties themselves could be enough to intimidate and punish users in a way that is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Based upon the leak, which showed no opposition in key sections, it seems TPP negotiators have already agreed to more vague
provisions that would oblige countries to enact prison sentences and monetary fines that are sufficiently high to deter people from infringing again. Here is the text :
penalties that include sentences of imprisonment as well as monetary fines sufficiently high to provide a deterrent to future acts of infringement, consistently with the level of penalties applied for crimes of a corresponding gravity;
Already in many countries , criminal punishments for copyright grossly outweigh penalties for acts that are comparatively more harmful to others. So the question as to what crimes copyright infringement corresponds to in gravity is obscure. What's
more alarming is that countries without existing criminal penalties or whose penalties are not sufficiently high to satisfy the US government, may be forced to enact harsher rules. The US Trade Representative (USTR) could use the certification
process , at the behest of rightsholder groups, to arm-twist nations into passing more severe penalties, even after the TPP is signed and ratified. The USTR has had a long history of pressuring other nations into enacting extreme IP policies , so it
would not be out of the realm of possibility.
Property Seizure and Asset Forfeiture
The TPP's copyright provisions even require countries to enable judges to unilaterally order the seizure, destruction, or forfeiture of anything that can be traceable to infringing activity , has been used in the creation of pirated copyright
goods , or is documentary evidence relevant to the alleged offense . Under such obligations, law enforcement could become ever more empowered to seize laptops, servers, or even domain names.
Domain name seizure in the name of copyright enforcement is not new to us in the US , nor to people running websites from abroad . But these provisions open the door to the passage of ever more oppressive measures to enable governments to get an order
from a judge to seize websites and devices. The provision also says that the government can act even without a formal complaint from the copyright holder. So in places where the government chooses to use the force of copyright to censor its critics ,
this could be even more disastrous.
Criminalization of Getting Around DRM
We've continued to raise this issue, but it's always worth mentioning--the TPP exports the United States' criminal laws on digital rights management , or DRM. The TPP could lead to policies where users will be charged with crimes for circumventing, or
sharing knowledge or tools on how to circumvent DRM for financial gain as long as they have reasonable ground to know that it's illegal to do so. Chile, however, opposes this vague language because it could lead to criminal penalties for innocent
The most recent leak of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed new exceptions that would let public interest organizations--such as libraries and educational institutions--get around DRM to access copyrighted content for uses protected by fair use or
fair dealing, or content that may simply be in the public domain. But even if it's legal, it would be difficult for them to get around DRM since they may not be equipped with the knowledge to do it on their own. If someone else tries to do a public
service for them by creating these tools for legally-protected purposes, they could still be put in jail or face huge fines.
Like the various other digital copyright enforcement provisions in TPP, the criminal enforcement language loosely reflects the United States' DMCA but is abstracted enough that the US can pressure other nations to enact rules that are much worse for
users. It's therefore far from comforting when the White House claims that the TPP's copyright rules would not change US law --we're still exporting bad rules to other nations, while binding ourselves to obligations that may prevent US lawmakers
from reforming it for the better. These rules were passed in the US through cycles of corrupt policy laundering. Now, the TPP is the latest step in this trend of increasingly draconian copyright rules passing through opaque, corporate-captured processes.
These excessive criminal copyright rules are what we get when Big Content has access to powerful, secretive rule-making institutions. We get rules that would send users to prison, force them to pay debilitating fines, or have their property seized or
destroyed in the name of copyright enforcement. This is yet another reason why we need to stop the TPP--to put an end to this seemingly endless progression towards ever more chilling copyright restrictions and enforcement.
If you're in the US, please call on your representatives to oppose Fast Track for TPP and other undemocratic trade deals with harmful digital policies.
Two schoolboys who wrote a song about falling out of love with Peppa Pig have been ordered to remove it from iTunes presumably because it is a little negative about the brand.
Joshua Lima, 10, and his brother Noah, eight, wrote the song for their band called Magician's Nephew. The song titled Peppa Pig and used Peppa includes the lyrics:
In the playground of our school Peppa Pig is no longer cool.
The band were initially using artwork featuring Peppa Pig in the video for their song, but they have since replaced it with a broken heart.
The boys were shocked when they received a legal letter from bosses at Entertainment One, the company that licences the brand, ordering them to remove the song. The letter said that Peppa Pig was a valuable property and that the song
breached trademark rules.
612Brew has changed the name of its most popular beer, Rated R , after receiving a legal challenge from bullies of the Motion
Picture Association of America .
The Northeast Minneapolis craft brewer got a cease-and-desist letter from the MPAA shortly after it filed to trademark the names of its signature beers a few months ago,
MPAA spokesbully Kate Bedingfield confirmed the film studio organization sent 612Brew such a letter.
612Brew co-founder Robert Kasak said the dispute centered on the word rated , which the MPAA trademarked as a part of its film-rating brand:
[Our beer] could have been PG, PG-13 or R, Kasak said. It didn't matter. As long as it contained the word 'rated' it would still get flagged.
The brewery argued that the two businesses were in completely different industries, to no avail. Ultimately, 612Brew decided to rename the beer Unrated , which is surprisingly not trademarked. The change was effective Jan. 1.
Julia Reda, a politician for the German Pirate Party and member of the European Parliament, has released her draft report for the overhaul of EU copyright.
In her role as rapporteur, Reda says that EU copyright rules are maladapted to the increase of cross-border cultural exchange facilitated by the Internet.
Last November, Julia Reda, a politician for the German Pirate Party and member of the European Parliament, was tasked with producing a report on the implementation of the 2001 InfoSoc Directive.
The draft [pdf]
acknowledges the need for artistic works to be protected under law and calls for improvements in the positions of authors and performers in relation to other rightholders and intermediaries.
The document recommends that public sector information should be exempt from copyright protection and calls on the Commission to safeguard public domain works while recognizing rightsholders' freedom to voluntarily relinquish their rights and
dedicate their works to the public domain.
Copyright lengths are also tackled by Reda, who calls on the Commission to harmonize the term to a duration that does not exceed the current international standards set out in the Berne Convention .
On Internet hyperlinking the report requests that citizens are allowed to freely link from one resource to another and calls on the EU legislator to clarify that reference to works by means of a hyperlink is not subject to exclusive rights, as
it is does not consist in a communication to a new public.
The document also calls for new copyright exceptions to be granted for research and educational purposes to not only cover educational establishments, but any kind of educational and research activities, including non-formal education.
The final report will be put to an April vote in the Legal Affairs Committee and then to a vote before the entire Parliament during May.
Julia Reda's proposals for a new European copyright can be summarized as more of the same . She wants the European Union to make a regulation, which means directly applicable at the member state level. This regulation, she suggests, can
contain all of the current bits of copyright. This is by itself useful, especially for American technology companies that want to repeat their US successes and are confronted with a European market that is highly fragmented by its wildly disparate
Strangely unreported by mainstream media, there is a major revision of the copyright monopoly underway in the European Union. And the person
in charge, Julia Reda, is a Pirate Party representative. The tide is turning.
For years net activists and freedom-of-speech activists have been fighting against the copyright industry's corrupt initiatives. In country after country, the copyright industry was practically calling out for mail-order legislation, and receiving
it every time.
The collateral damage to liberties has been immense, and has spilled far outside the net. In the US, people are complaining that copyright monopoly law is now unintentionally preventing them to modify items they legally own, such as cars or games
consoles. They're absolutely wrong: that was the exact intention with the most recent round of revisions to copyright monopoly law to limit property rights and to lock people out of their own possessions.
As activists fought, and won! against software patent monopolies in Europe in 2005, it became clear that we couldn't fight one bad thing after another, never having the initiative, always being on the defense against onslaught from corporate
mail-order legislation. For every exhausting victory, there were nine bad laws being passed in the shadows. We had to go on the offense. We had to aspire to write the law ourselves, keeping corporate lobbyists firmly out of any corrupt influence.
On January 1, 2006, I founded the Swedish and first Pirate Party. It's now on its tenth year, and on its second term in the European Parliament. This term, that European Parliament is revising the copyright monopoly. It starts out by evaluating
what works and what doesn't with the current set of laws on the matter. And the rapporteur for that dossier, meaning the person writing the actual legislative document , is Julia Reda, representative for the Pirate Party from Germany.
Let's take that again: a Pirate Party representative is writing the European Union's official evaluation of the copyright monopoly, and listing a set of necessary changes.
Now, just because it's a pirate writing the legislative document, that doesn't mean that document is going to pass a vote in the European Parliament no matter what it contains. It needs to be negotiated to get majority support, as usual and as
appropriate in a parliamentary democracy. The first of those votes is in the Legal Affairs committee on April 16, and the vote in the European Parliament as a whole is on May 20. So pirates aren't in charge ; democracy is, as it should be.
But the initiative has shifted. It is no longer solely initiated by mail-order lobbyists for corrupt incumbents who gladly sacrifice civil liberties and the entire Internet to preserve an unjust and immoral lucrative monopoly. For the first time,
legislation on the matter is initiated by net liberty activists.
Netflix is starting to block subscribers who access its service using VPN services and other tools that bypass geolocation
restrictions. The changes, which may also affect legitimate users, have been requested by the movie studios who want full control over what people can see in their respective countries.
Due to complicated licensing agreements Netflix is only available in a few dozen countries, all of which have a different content library.
Some people bypass these content and access restrictions by using VPNs or other circumvention tools that change their geographical location. This makes it easy for people all around the world to pay for access to the U.S. version of Netflix, for
The movie studios are not happy with these deviant subscribers as it hurts their licensing agreements. Previously entertainment industry sources in Australia complained bitterly that tens of thousands of Netflix VPN-pirates were hurting
their business .
Over the past weeks Netflix has started to take action against people who use certain circumvention tools. Thus far the actions are limited in scope, so not all VPN users may experience problems just yet. However, TorGuard is one of the VPN
providers which noticed a surge in access problems by its users, starting mid-December.
Netflix is reportedly testing a variety of blocking methods. Eg querying the user's time zone through the web browser or mobile device GPS and comparing it to the timezone of their IP-address.
TorGuard told us that if Netflix continues with a strict ban policy, they will provide an easy solution to bypass the blocks. Other services, such as Unblock-us are also suggesting workarounds to their customers.