Tag Archives: Piracy

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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Google to Tilt Algorithms Against Pirates

Last spring Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt dealt authors and publishers a staggering blow by declaring his absolute opposition to any effort to curtail Google’s right to link to piracy websites like Pirate Bay. He said it in such unequivocal terms that we concluded it was time for legitimate copyright owners to throw in their cards. “Any author cherishing a shred of hope for the protection of his or her rights is spitting in the wind,” we lamented. (See Game Over: Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites)

But Amy Chozick of the New York Times says the wind at Google has shifted. Yielding to pressure from motion picture, recording and other media interest groups who are being robbed blind by pirates, Google softened its opposition to altering the algorithms that point indiscriminately to illegal file-sharing websites. “Google said that beginning next week its algorithms would take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices Web sites have received,” reports Chozick. “Web sites with multiple, valid complaints about copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results.”

To give you a sense of “multiple, valid complaints”, Chozick writes that Google “received copyright removal requests for over 4.3 million Web addresses in the last 30 days, according to the company’s transparency report. That is more than it received in all of 2009.”

Google’s reversal stands in vivid contrast to the populist uprising that culminated in a Wikipedia blackout last January when media giants lobbied Congress to pass an antipiracy bill. Google and Facebook led the charge, congress chickened out, and the proposed legislation collapsed. (See Don’t Worry, Pirates, Google Has Your Back)

“Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators,” said a recording industry executive.

Details in Under Copyright Pressure, Google to Alter Search Results

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Google Decides Legit Copyright Owners May Have a Point

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Communing with the Almighty on Your Keyboard

Most of us would agree that there is something mystical in linking to a vast ocean of humanity when we visit the Web. You could not be blamed for feeling cosmically inspired to think that you and untold millions are simultaneously sharing common experiences and emotions. But – to make a bona fide religion out of that sense of wonder, that’s a giant step for mankind.

At least for anyone but the Swedes. But John Tagliabue of the New York Times reports the founding there of “a church whose central dogma is that file sharing is sacred.”

The would-be religion is brought to you by the same country that produced a pirate political party that got a respectable 7% of the vote in European Parliamentary elections.  “It claims more than 8,000 faithful who have signed up on the church’s Web site,” writes Tagliabue. “It has applied for the right to perform marriages and to receive subsidies awarded to religious organizations by the state, and it has bid, thus far unsuccessfully, to buy a church building, even though most church activities are conducted online.”

The religion, which calls itself Kopimism (“Copy-ism”), even claims it is the victim of an inquisition in the form of escalating prosecution of illegal file-sharing. It isn’t clear where the religion provides for confession, but it would be interesting to hear what adherents confide to their confessors.

There has not yet risen a counterreformation in the form of a religion devoted to respect for copyright.  It’s just not as sexy-sounding as Kopimism.  But if one were to be founded it might have as a core tenet a commandment along the lines of Thou Shalt Not Steal.

Wait a minute! I think there already is a religion like that…

Details in In Sweden, Taking File Sharing to Heart. And to Church.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published on Digital Book World as Salvation Just One Download Away.

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It Can’t Happen Here, But It Can Happen There: Brits Get Tough on Filesharers

The Brits don’t even play baseball but they know more about three strikes than we Yanks do. In fact, in the international pastime of Whac-a-Filesharer their style of hardball makes Americans look like minor league wiffle ballers.

Over the last few years we’ve commented on the moral outrage expressed by our English cousins over illegal filesharing and their willingness to take legislative action to stop it (See Britannia Rules – and a Pirate is Blocaded).

Their latest proactive measure, reported on Gigaom.com, is a proposed Three Strikes law that goes like this: “Anyone receiving three letters in a 12-month period would then have their personal data, downloading and filesharing history handed over to the copyright owners to help them prepare a legal case.” it is expected to be acted into law to commence in March 2014.

Predictably, Internet heavies protested, but a court ruling cleared the way for the legislation to go ahead.

Could that happen in the United States?  Sure –  as easily as Microsoft can teleport its headquarters to Proxima Centauri.

Details in UK says three strikes is coming, but not until 2014 by Bobbie Johnson.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published in Digital Books World as Brits Know More about Three Stikes Than We Do.

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Court Ruling Has Pirates Squirming in Safe Harbor

A chill wind has ruffled the waters of the safe harbor in which pirates flourish under protection of federal law. A court ruling has challenged their right to take refuge there in cases of flagrant flouting of the spirit of the law.

As things stand, if you sell somebody else’s copyrighted book on your website you are protected by the so-called safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The offended author is required to file a takedown notice and provide evidence of his or her ownership of the copyright. Then you have a reasonable period of time to take the files down without penalty or liability. There is – or at least until yesterday there was – no distinction between inadvertent use of the work and flagrant expropriation.

But a ruling by a US Court of Appeals did draw that distinction in a suit brought by Viacom against YouTube for running Daily Show videos without permission: “A reasonable jury could conclude that YouTube had knowledge or awareness” that YouTube was infringing, said the ruling.

If the Court’s interpretation holds up, it could remove the shield protecting hardcore pirates. Yes, it could also expose casual infringers ignorant of the law, but it’s not likely that a reasonable jury would find them guilty by the standard created by the yesterday’s Court ruling. Said plaintiff Viacom: The court delivered a definitive, common-sense message — intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law.”

Details in Appeals Court Revives Viacom Suit Against YouTube by Brian Stelter in the New York Times.

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

Richard Curtis
Note to readers: Digital Book World has invited me to post my blogs initially on its website before releasing them on E-Reads, and this content is re-published with DBW’s permission. Click here to view the original posting.

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Spanish Piracy So Widespread, Author Gives Up Writing

Where is Errol Flynn when we need him?

We long for a hero of his stature to deal with the pirates of the Spanish Main.  According to an author so abused by them that she has quit writing altogether, “We [Spain] come after China and Russia in the total number of illegal downloads but, obviously, there are a lot more of them so we win on a per capita measure.”

“Given that I have today discovered that more illegal copies of my book have been downloaded than I have sold,” declared Lucía Etxebarria in The Guardian, “I am announcing officially that I will not publish another book for a long time.”

She accuses her country’s politicians of being afraid to act.  In that regard her nation is far from isolated.  Few politicians in any country know or care about piracy, some benefit from it, and some are fully proactive in state-sponsored copyright theft.

Details in Spanish novelist Lucía Etxebarria quits writing in piracy protest

Richard Curtis

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

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Seeds of Piracy Bloom in Your Child’s Weak Conscience, But Whose Fault Is That?

At Rhode Island College, a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.

Oops! Let’s take that again:

“At Rhode Island College,” reports Trip Gabriel in the New York Times, “a freshman copied and pasted from a Web site’s frequently asked questions page about homelessness — and did not think he needed to credit a source in his assignment because the page did not include author information.”

The second iteration of the above paragraphs represents another author’s words, properly attributed and indicated by quotation marks. The first version dropped the attribution and quotation marks. In my haste to prepare this post I might well have dropped them inadvertently. It happens all the time when well-meaning and essentially honest authors confuse their research notes with their own original texts.

But the deliberate lifting of other people’s texts without credit or quotation marks is a spreading plague, and the worst of it is that its young perpetrators have so completely lost their moral compasses that many haven’t a clue that there is anything wrong with it. As a result we are spawning a generation of cheaters.

Gabriel cites a survey by a research institute that found that “about 40 percent of 14,000 undergraduates admitted to copying a few sentences in written assignments.”

“Perhaps more significant,” the reporter ads, “the number who believed that copying from the Web constitutes ‘serious cheating’ is declining — to 29 percent on average in recent surveys from 34 percent earlier in the decade.”

Finally, Gabriel cites anthropologist Susan D. Blum, who attributes weakened undergraduates’ consciences to uncertainty about their own personas, reinforced by social networking in the Digital Age. “If you are not so worried about presenting yourself as absolutely unique, then it’s O.K. if you say other people’s words, it’s O.K. if you say things you don’t believe, it’s O.K. if you write papers you couldn’t care less about because they accomplish the task, which is turning something in and getting a grade. And it’s O.K. if you put words out there without getting any credit.”

All this may be completely true but it doesn’t account for the root causes of young people’s diminished sense of right and wrong.  Here we have to look to their parents.  What is happening in the home that the simplest of moral distinctions is all but extinguished?

Details in Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age

Richard Curtis

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Bloggers Beware: Angry Newspapers Are Out to get You

Like the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down, we like to illustrate our postings with photos to liven up the blocks of text.  But there won’t be one accompanying today’s offering.  After reading Enforcing Copyrights Online, for a Profit by Dan Frosch in the New York Times, we’re too scared to.

Frosch reports that a company called Righthaven “finds newspaper material that has been republished on the Web — usually an article, excerpts or a photograph — and obtains the copyrights. Then, the company sues.”

Righthaven has filed several hundred lawsuits for work posted without authorization by newspapers in Colorado and Nevada, and the damages claimed are scary large: if willful infringement can be demonstrated, the award can be as much as $150,000.

Many of the cases, Frosch tells us, have been settled out of court for undisclosed sums. A couple that were publicly reported were settled for less than $5,000.”In two instances,” he writes, “judges have ruled against Righthaven in pretrial motions.”

We’ve come out pretty strongly against willful piracy. But when it comes to inadvertent misappropriation, when it is not certain for instance that a picture is in the public domain and when the user takes the picture down promptly when asked to do so, we think justice should be tempered with mercy.

On the other hand, Sara Glines, an executive for the outfit that owns The Denver Post, has a point when she reminds us that “We have invested heavily in creating quality content in our markets. To allow others who have not shared in that investment to reap the benefit ultimately hurts our ability to continue to fund that investment at the same level.”

If we can summon up our courage again, tomorrow’s blog will be accompanied by a photograph.

For a complete archive of articles about piracy on the E-Reads website, 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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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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When Pornsters Attack File Swappers, Watch Out

In the war on piracy you would think that porn filmmakers would be unlikely champions of righteousness.  In fact there may be no more stalwart enemies of pirates than outfits with names like DogFart, Lords of Porn, Pink Visual  and Naughty Bank. “The film and music businesses couldn’t stop file-sharing, but the porn industry has a plan to drive piracy into the shadows in 15 months or less,” writes Nate Anderson of Ars Technica, and when you follow the pornsters’ reasoning you’ll see why.

The first thing you need to know is that the porn film industry is even more vulnerable to copyright theft than the so-called legitimate movie business. “Porn,” explains Anderson, “is highly dependent on individual sales to home users” and “doesn’t have the theatrical revenue stream.”

Second, many pornographers are not afraid to sue individual filesharers and downloaders – the poor schnooks that one day get slapped with a subpoena and included in court papers as “John Doe”.  In this respect porn makers are like their cousins in mainstream film business, which recently named some 14,000 independent film pirates in a notable lawsuit (see This Academy Award Envelope Had a Subpoena in It).

But the real kicker is that those who get sued for filesharing porn films are likelier to wave the surrender flag sooner than others. “Pornographers,” writes Anderson, “might be in a better position to coax people into settling quickly for a few thousand dollars. As Pink Visual president Allison Vivas told Agence France Presse in September, ‘It seems like it will be quite embarrassing for whichever user ends up in a lawsuit about using a popular “she-male” title. When it comes to private sexual fantasies and fetishes, going public is probably not worth the risk that these torrent and peer-to-peer users are taking.'”

Antipiracy makes strange bedfellows, but if the pornster logic is correct, we may see a lot of redfaced – and redhanded – downloaders rushing to settle and seeking softer targets – such as the e-book industry.

Read Porn pros hope to squelch online piracy by 2012

Interested in piracy?  Visit our complete Pirate Central archives here.

Richard Curtis

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