Tag Archives: File-Sharing

Enhanced Anti-Piracy Program Sends Takedowns to Google

Photo: Wikipedia

MUSO, the anti-piracy service employed by E-Reads and Curtis Agency, was dramatically enhanced by a feature that automatically sends takedown notices to Google. MUSO recentlly announced an upgrade that “for every file takedown that is sent we will be automatically sending a Google takedown for the file.”

This extra service is provided at no extra charge to content providers enrolled in MUSO. E-Reads, a leading independent e-book publisher, and literary agency Richard Curtis Associates, provide MUSO anti-piracy at no charge to their clients. The two companies offer this service to non-clients for a modest fee.

The two companies announced their anti-piracy initiative several years ago and it has resulted in thousands of takedowns. But until now there was no effective way to combat the practice of referrals by Google and other large search engines to unauthorized file-sharing sites. MUSO’s new feature will, it is hoped, reduce such referrals.

Here is the original announcement:

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Adopting advanced technology, Curtis Agency and E-Reads have teamed up to locate and take down pirated files of their authors’ books.

The system, developed by Muso TNT, protects against files uploaded by pirates to filesharing sites like rapidshare and megaupload. Files on these websites show up on Google search results and are therefore accessible to users who might otherwise purchase the files through legitimate channels.

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Spooked by Megaupload Shutdown, Filesonic Takes Itself Down

FileSonic, a filesharing website has voluntarily disabled itself, obviously scared out of the game by the Justice Department’s shutdown of MegaUpload and the arrest of its principals.  “FileSonic has disabled all file sharing functionality on its website, restricting access so that users may only download their own files,” reports Ars Technica.

Ryan Paul, reporting on the self-inflicted takedown, expressed puzzlement that Filesonic “already has strong procedures in place to combat piracy” such as digital fingerprinting to detect attempts to upload unauthorized files, and observes the takedown procedures prescribed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Paul should not be nonplussed that a so-called law-abiding website is taking itself down.  The DMCA’s procedures, watered down by powerful web carrier lobbies, has become a travesty, making it so hard for piracy victims to get satisfaction that many give up in frustration. (See Takedown Notices: Antipiracy Weapon or Exercise in Futility?)

Another leading file locker provider, RapidShare, does not seem prepared to follow FileSonic over the cliff.  “Legitimate hosting providers have nothing to fear,” they told Ars Technica, “as long as they comply with requests from rights holders and don’t turn a blind eye to piracy conducted with their service.”

Read details in FileSonic has disabled file sharing in wake of Megaupload takedown

Richard Curtis

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Another Reason to Dissolve the European Union

Eric Pfanner of the New York Times writes that “The highest court in the European Union said on Thursday that Internet service providers could not be required to monitor their customers’ online activity to filter out the illegal sharing of music and other copyrighted material.”

The decision, handed down by the European Court of Justice, rebuffed a group of composers and musicians suing an Internet Service Provider facilitating file sharing. A lower court had compelled the file sharing outfit to filter out copyrighted songs. The higher court thought the lower court’s decision would violate  “the freedom to conduct business, the right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.” Or, to put it less elegantly, the license to steal.

European Court Overturns Rule on Illegal File Sharing

Richard Curtis

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In the Name of Freedom…

Can you be so zealous in defense of freedom that you behave like the despots you deplore? This question plagues us when we consider the activities of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The EFF is a donor-funded nonprofit organization purporting to be a staunch defender of our civil liberties. Among those liberties are the rights of file-sharers to upload books.

Its website is filled with advice and offers of assistance to those receiving takedown notices from copyright owners or their designated representatives, whom EFF calls copyright trolls. This counsel is provided by a board of advisors packing heavy legal heat. They seem dedicated to making it as hard as possible for aggrieved authors to protect their property. Among the copyright trolls displayed on their “Takedown Hall of Shame” are such abusers of freedom of speech as National Public Radio, CBS News, Warner Music Group and Yahoo!

You can read on the EFF website how
* EFF has created a list of subpoena defense resources for those targeted by file sharing suits.
* EFF helped establish legal protections for privacy online, including the privacy of P2P users.
* EFF has assisted Internet users mistakenly caught in the industry’s dragnet.
* EFF has helped P2P users sued by the RIAA and MPAA find legal counsel.

A recent example of EFF’s zeal is an attack on a company designated to collect fees for unauthorized use of copyrighted material:

Dear Friend of Digital Freedom,
Here’s your chance to help EFF topple a troll! Over the past two weeks, EFF has won the dismissal of two bogus infringement lawsuits filed by notorious “copyright troll” Righthaven LLC. In the first case, a federal judge ruled that Righthaven had no standing to sue an online political forum for a five-sentence excerpt of a news story posted by a user, because EFF sleuthing revealed that Righthaven did not own the copyright. Last week, the court relied on the evidence presented in the first case and dismissed Righthaven’s lawsuit against a non-commercial blog that provides prosecutor resources for difficult to prosecute “no body” homicide cases.

These victories are sweet, but Righthaven and copyright trolls like them have filed thousands of additional lawsuits across the country, using the threat of massive damages available under copyright law to pressure defendants into quick settlements. One copyright troll is attempting to subpoena the identities of thousands of BitTorrent users and sue them collectively to minimize their own court costs, while another is targeting alleged adult film downloaders with hopes of exploiting the additional threat of embarrassment associated with porn. We need your financial support to bring an end to this awful business model.

EFF’s hard work has provided the facts and precedents needed to dismiss even more lawsuits. Please support EFF today, and help us topple a troll!

A prominent “EFF Fellow” is Cory Doctorow, a highly regarded author and outspoken advocate of free speech described on the EFF site as “A former EFF staff member and recipient of EFF’s 2007 Pioneer Award.” His name and picture are displayed on the organization’s page soliciting funds for the EFF.

Some time ago, in covering an organization that partnered with the EFF we ruminated:”We’re sure they’re well meaning and have done their homework in the letter of the law, but the spirit seems to have eluded them, and we have to wonder if they’re familiar with the definition of a liberal as someone who’s never had his pocket picked.” (see Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?)

On this 4th of July as we exercise our hard-won freedoms and the Constitutional amendments that endow us with the right to speak freely, it is not unreasonable to ask whether efforts to frustrate the legitimate claims of victims of copyright theft exemplify the very abuses that organizations such as this were created to protect us from.

Richard Curtis

For a complete archive of E-Reads articles about piracy, visit Pirate Central.

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Uncle Sam Starting to Kick Pirate Butt

File-sharers - your name here?

Open Channel on msnbc.com says the US government is finally cracking down on Internet piracy. “This week, the Department of Homeland Security announced it had seized the domain names of five websites that it says were being used to sell counterfeit goods and illegally distribute copyrighted media content,” report NBC News’s Rich Gardella and Jamie Forzato.

What does “cracking down” mean? It means arrests and seizure of websites and domain names. The sites were not only illegally distributing copyrighted content but boosting counterfeit goods as well such as clothes, shoes and DVDs.

The government may finally be responding to pressure and pleas from film, television and publishing interests. Read for instance Authors Guild President Scott Turow’s recent testimony before the US Senate.  (And see E-Reads Pirate Central crusade.)

One factor cited by the reporters that might have triggered the government’s move to proactivity is that jobs are being lost to piracy. “The Motion Picture Association of America claims illegal streaming and downloading cost American workers 375,000 jobs and $16 billion in earnings every year,” write Gardella and Forzato.

As formidable as the federal government is, it faces determined opposition in the form of Google and Facebook, who cite antipiracy measures as inhibiting free speech. What they don’t say however is that antipiracy also inhibits cash flow. One of those swept up in the dragnet, a man who streamed sports events illegally, said he’d collected $90,000 in advertising revenue. (See Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites.)

Read details of msnbc’s report in US goes on offense against digital piracy

Richard Curtis

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Brits Hit Pirates While Yanks Fiddle

We don’t know if British authors are angrier about piracy than their American counterparts but they seem to be doing more about it.  Parliament passed a law, The Digital Economy Act, that entitles the national utility serving its citizens’ computers to cut off service to illegal filesharers.

In just one week in April 2011, after receiving 831 reports of piracy, the British Publishers Association issued 2194 takedown notices, according to Nicole Kobie writing in pcpro.com. The Association has even created a website for authors to report online piracy.

Compare that to the non-existent initiatives conducted by the US government. Remind us – just what are we waiting for, exactly?

Richard Curtis

For a full archive of our articles about piracy, visit our Pirate Central Page.

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Your Law Harbors Pirates, Guild Prez Tells Senators

Scott Turow launched his legal thriller career with Presumed Innocent. But his testimony before the Senate on piracy, in his capacity of President of the Author’s Guild, could have been called J’Accuse. What he was accusing Congress of was enabling copyright piracy to destroy literary and artistic creativity in the United States.

Turow had been invited to enlighten lawmakers about the devastating effect of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1998 piece of legislation designed to punish digital thieves.  Tragically (we use this term deliberately), a provision of DMCA lets criminals off the hook, with the result that authors and other legitimate copyright owners stand by helplessly as these larcenists dance around the ruins of their labors. (See Takedown Notices: Antipiracy Weapon or Exercise in Futility?)

The DCMA, according to Wikipedia, “criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.”

Well and good. But powerful Internet service providers lobbied for an escape hatch called “Safe Harbor”, which says that if an ISP is notified by a copyright owner that that ISP is carrying infringing or allegedly infringing content and promptly removes or blocks access to that content, the ISP does not incur liability.

That’s the theory. In practice, pirates plying this safe harbor make it almost impossible to get ISPs to take down stolen files.  What is worse, the fileswappers and hijackers are being egged on by Information-Wants-To-Be-Freeists, counseled by misguided libertarians and pampered by do-gooders whose pockets have never been picked. To hear these pilferers whining about being harassed by legitimate copyright owners, you have to wonder who is the victim of whom (See Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?).

That’s the background for Guild President Turow’s devastating testimony before the Senate, which finally considered the trillion dollar piracy cesspool to be worthy of its attention.  Just a week before, he and two Guild colleagues had run a clever op-ed piece in the New York Times speculating Would the Bard Have Survived the Web? But on this occasion he was deadly grim. For a full transcript of Turow’s testimony you may click here. Here are some extracts.

“After 300 years as one of history’s greatest public policy successes,” he told the lawmakers, “copyright is coming undone. As we meet here this morning, our well-intended policy toward copyright online is undermining our virtual and physical markets for creative works. That policy is in desperate need of update. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s ‘safe harbor’ for online service providers has turned out to be an exploitable gold mine for unscrupulous online enterprises. That safe harbor allows these rogue enterprises to profit from services that encourage and conceal the trafficking in stolen books, music, and movies, while disclaiming responsibility for that illegal traffic. The DMCA safe harbor has turned copyright’s incentives inside out, encouraging massive, global investment in piracy technologies and services…

“We have, inadvertently and with the best of intentions, instituted a policy that not only tolerates, but encourages investments in technologies and services that undermine our markets for creative work. We have, oddly but unmistakably, created the ideal environment for nurturing an innovative, global, networked industry that directly profits from trafficking in stolen books, music, and movies. In a digital age, where tipping points are always close at hand, the pirate economy can subvert an industry in a heartbeat…

“One is tempted to call it a vast underground economy, but there’s nothing underground about it: it operates in plain sight, as I will describe. Money clearly suffuses the system, paying for countless servers, vast amounts of online bandwidth, and specialized services that speed and cloak the transmission of stolen creative work. Excluded from this flow of cash are the authors, musicians, songwriters and the publishers who invest in them. The only benefit to the individual author is a parody of a benefit: that the work of the author will be better known.”

Turow offered five recommendations for reversing the assault on copyright:

1. Make online file-sharing service providers liable for facilitating the trafficking in stolen books, music, and movies if they frequently host and distribute stolen creative works or provide services that regularly facilitate the secret or rapid transmission of stolen creative work.
2. Require online file-sharing service providers to register an agent for service of process for copyright infringement actions with the Copyright Office as a condition to accepting credit card payments from the U.S. or ad feeds from U.S. online advertising suppliers.
3. Remove the DMCA safe harbors for online and Internet service providers that provide routine access to online file-sharing service providers that a federal court has found guilty of Facilitating the Trafficking in Stolen Books, Music, and Movies.
4. Remove the DMCA safe harbors for online and Internet service providers that provide routine access to online file-sharing service providers that have not registered an agent for service of process for copyright infringement actions and for which the Copyright Office has received at least 50 DMCA take-down notices.
5. Ensure that new legislative action can keep pace with developing technologies.

We’ve never been ones for urging anyone to write their congressperson, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Write your congressperson.

Richard Curtis

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24% of Copyrighted Works Hijacked. Who Cares?

“Our society would not tolerate a situation where one quarter of all the traffic in and out of the bakeries, butcher shops and grocery stores involved stolen merchandise,” says Bob Pisano, Interim President of the Motion Picture Association of America. He was of course alluding to the theft of copyrighted works in all media. Worldwide, one out of every four of them is pirated. In the US it’s 17%.

I have some bad news for Mr. Pisano: from what I’ve been able to learn, our society not only tolerates it but is indifferent to it.

How do I know? In connection with E-Reads’ anti-piracy initiative (See Pirate Central) I wrote to executives of every major author and agent organization inviting them to join in an industry-wide effort to monitor piracy of books written by their author clients and constituents, enforce compliance with copyright laws and pressure file-sharers and other unauthorized users to remove the offending files from their sites.

Not a single organization offered to take me up on the proposition. Some said no, some said we’ll get back to you if we’re interested, and some didn’t answer at all.

Whether globally or domestically, about half of  hijacked music, films, books, videos, software and computer games are produced by downloaders using BitTorrent technology – the filesharing model originally created by Napster.

Pisano got his statistics from an outfit called Envisional, which CNBC.com’s Julia Boorstin tells us “monitors brand infringement and counterfeiting.” Envisional has just released a report entitled Estimating Infringing Use of the Internet by David Price, and the numbers are so scary you want to cover your eyes.

Envisional measured almost 3 million of what it calls “individual torrent swarms” on one day last December. Among the most compelling discoveries was that theft of streaming video by appropriately named “leechers” is soaring. Because about 25% of all bandwidth is now streamed video, “that means consumers ultimately bear the cost in slower Internet speeds and higher costs,” writes Boorstin in Piracy Rules the Web, Dominating 23.8% of Internet Traffic .

MPAA’s Pisano declares: “We cannot tolerate the vast explosion of digital theft on the Internet. With download speeds and server capacity increasing every day, the problem will only get worse if we don’t do something.”

His plea of Do Something was directed to the government, calling for a crackdown and legislation similar to that which was passed last spring by the Brits (See Want to Sue a Pirate? Move to England).

My own plea to do something? You can sum up the response in two words: Nobody Cares. To quote Stephen Sondheim, “I thought that you’d want what I want. Sorry, my dear.”

Maybe it’s time to send in the clowns.

Richard Curtis

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Is This Watchdog Guarding the Bad Guys?

We’re not sure if the website’s founders had a double meaning in mind when they named it “Chilling Effects“, but it sure sounds that way.

Ostensibly, Chilling Effects was created to provide evenhanded information to both content providers and content consumers about intellectual property rights. But to this observer it displays a definite libertarian, Information Wants To Be Free bias. It is filled with legal and paralegal references to assist those poor unfortunate filesharers and fences who receive takedown notices from authors and publishers whose copyrights have been infringed. Chilling Effects suggests the copyright owners are the abusers and the pirates are the victims. Not much is said about the chilling effects of theft on the creators and legitimate owners of those works.

The organization providing this guide to the perplexed is a pretty prestigious roster of eggheads. It is described as “A joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics.”  We’re sure they’re well meaning and have done their homework in the letter of the law, but the spirit seems to have eluded them, and we have to wonder if they’re familiar with the definition of a liberal as someone who’s never had his pocket picked.

So, what guidance do these sages offer? “Do you know your online rights?” the home page asks. “Have you received a letter asking you to remove information from a Web site or to stop engaging in an activity? Are you concerned about liability for information that someone else posted to your online forum? If so, this site is for you.”

“Anecdotal evidence,” the site declares, “suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to ‘chill’ legitimate activity.”

Chilling Effects is “gathering a searchable database of Cease and Desist notices sent to Internet users like you. We invite you to input Cease and Desist letters that you’ve received into our database, to document the chill. We will respond by linking the legalese in the letters to FAQs that explain the allegations in plain English.”

Spend some time on the Chilling Effects website and tell us if it sounds to you as if this outfit is providing aid and comfort to the bad guys. Or are we just being oversensitive because we’re tired of getting our pockets picked?

For a complete archive of postings about piracy-related topics visit Pirate Central on the E-Reads website.

Richard Curtis

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Uncle Sam Cracks Down on Music and Movie Piracy. But What’s with Books?

Does anybody know a politician who cares about books?  Authors and publishers could sure use a lobbyist, but it looks like the movie and music industries have more money and clout to spend closing down illegal file-sharing websites.

That’s the impression you get from reading a New York Times report about a shutdown by the Federal government of  websites that facilitate facilitating illegal filesharing of music and movies.

Oddly, the government office that seized the sites is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. The reason Immigration and Customs get involved is that some of the most flagrant sources of copyright larceny take place abroad.  “American business is under assault from counterfeiters and pirates every day, seven days a week,” an executive with the enforcement agency said.  “Criminals are stealing American ideas and products and distributing them over the Internet.”

To tell you the truth, we don’t much care if it’s the American Battle Monuments Commission, we just want someone in our government to kick book pirates in the ass. Ben Sisario of the Times tells us that “Some Among the domains seized were torrent-finder.com and those of three sites that specialized in music: onsmash.com, rapgodfathers.com and dajaz1.com. TorrentFreak, a news blog about BitTorrent — a file-sharing system that has tended to elude the authorities because it is decentralized — said that at least 70 other addresses had been seized, most belonging to sites related to counterfeit clothing, DVDs and other goods.”  But some of these sites carry e-books too, and besides, the same torrent file-sharing techniques used by music and movie pirates are used to steal book content, too.

Aside from hiding in remote locations abroad, often under the protection of foreign governments, many sites steer just clear of the law by “fencing” – that is, serving simply as links to pirate sites. Kind of like head shops that sell drug paraphernalia but not the drugs themselves.  Fileshare sites  also reconstitute themselves as quickly as they’re taken down, challenging lawmakers to whac-a-mole them, as we recently described in Freebie Booksite Taken Down by Google Reappears One Hour Later. Indeed, not long after the government shut his site down, one operator had it up at a different address.

So? How about it, Congressperson? You want my vote?  Shut down the book-torrent sites.And while you’re at it, find a way to regulate fences.

For a complete archive of E-Reads postings on piracy visit Pirate Central.

Richard Curtis

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by The New York Times.

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