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Copyright Sleuths May Be Targeting Universities

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The growth of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks has enabled music and entertainment lovers to download content more easily. It has also created a windfall for copyright infringement lawsuits, with much of the activity focused on college students.

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Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, a copyright owner is entitled to issue a subpoena for an ISP to learn the identity of someone accused of copyright infringement, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

 

EFF, ISPs and other groups fought the subpoena power in 2003, but lost what it described as the first rounds of the court battle. Between August and September of 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) issued more than 1,500 subpoenas to ISPs. The battle has been ongoing.

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Suits Surge At Central Michigan

Central Michigan University (CMU) has faced a surge in copyright infringement lawsuits over illegal downloading of Internet content, reported Central Michigan Life, a campus news source.

CMU reported the number of such complaints jumped from 314 in 2014 to 1,388 in 2014, according to Roger Rehm, vice president for information technology and chief information officer. In 2015, the number continues to increase: there were 1,192 at the end of October. November numbers won’t be released until sometime in December.Cr

Movie studios and record companies hire organizations to monitor the Internet for illegal downloading. In addition, the Entertainment Software Association and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) also file infringement notices.

Rehm said these organizations target college campuses.

Some universities have refused to cooperate with the industry complaints against students.

The complaints provide an IP address to the university, which then identifies the individual who downloaded the content. The university does not identify the individual to the company, Rehm said. Instead, the university passes the complaint on to the offender.

Enforcement Firm Comes On The Scene

Rightscorp Inc., a Los Angeles, Calif.-based copyright enforcement company that represents Warner Bros. and BMG Rights Management, filed most of the complaints at CMU in 2014 and 2015, according to Mark Strandskov, the Office of Information Technology’s associate director.

In 2014, Rightscorp sent 899 complaints to CMU, accounting for about 65 of all received complaints.In 2015, Rightscorp sent 1,848 complaints.
In addition to Rightscorp., CMU received complaints from MarkMonitor and IP-Echelon.

Rightscorp offered to settle a with a student for downloading “The Lord of The Rings: Return of the King” for $30 in addition to seizing distributing or copying Warner Bros. content, according to a letter Strandskov provided.

The letter indicated the conduct “substantially exceeds $30,” but Warner Bros. is prepared to settle for his amount in the interest of stopping the copy infringement.

The university sends the offending student an email advising them that the infringement is illegal and could result in a lawsuit for monetary damages. The email advises students the university will not provide legal support should a copyright owner sue.

Should there be a second notice of infringement for the same IP address within two days of the initial complaint, the office delivers it to the student and informs the Office of Student Conduct. A second infringement notice carries a $150 fine from the university. The university may also block the student from accessing the Internet on their PC.

The fine increases to $300 if there is a third infringement notice. The university can also dismiss the student.

Students can appeal a complaint, according to Tom Idema, director of the Office of Student Conduct.

One CMU student, Nick Galanos, was fined for downloading “Blades of Glory” and “The Town.” In this case, the student received a notice in April. Galanos first lied and said his roommate used the computer to download the movies. After being told he could make his case to a hearing officer, Galanos gave the university permission to charge $100 to his account.

Record Industry Fights P2P Technology

The recording industry has taken action against P2P technology companies following a June 2005 Supreme Court ruling in MGM v., Grokster, according to the EFF.

In April of 2003, the recording industry sued four college students for developing and maintaining search engines that allowed them to download files from other students on their campus networks. The suit claimed the students ran a campus search engine for music using software like DirectConnect, FlatLan and Phynd to search campus networks and index files shared by students who were using file-sharing protocols. The complaints claimed the students also downloaded infringing music.

The students settled the cases for between $12,000 and $17,500 apiece.

In 2004, the RIAA filed more lawsuits, including a wave of suits against university students that brought the total number of suits to 7,437.

Cassi Hunt, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who said she was in debt to cover tuition, attempted to negotiate with RIAA which was proposing a $3,750 settlement. The RIAA representative suggested she drop out of school to pay the settlement, according to EFF.

Also read: Senator Al Franken wants investigation of Apple Music

RIAA Targets Students In 2007

In 2007, RIAA announced an initiative targeting college students nationwide, according to EFF. In a 2008 update on this initiative, EFF noted that RIAA sends “pre-litigation” letters every month to various universities asking that they forward the letters to unidentified students. The letters identify the IP address, threaten further legal action with damages as high as $750 per song, and offer a reduced settlement if the student pays a non-negotiable amount (around $3,00) within 20 days of receiving the letter.

If the student fails to respond, the labels file a “John Doe” suit.

RIAA targeted 2,926 college students at close to 100 universities across U.S. campuses in the first six months of this initiative, EFF said. Within a year, the RIAA sent more than 5,400 letters to 160 schools and allegedly collected millions of dollars.

University responses to the campaign have varied. The University of Maine, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Maine and the University of Kansas have refused to forward the letters, claiming they would not act as the RIAA’s “legal agent,” according to EFF.

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Acquiring Bitcoin: Making A Peer-to-Peer Trade Step-By-Step

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If you’re new to trading Bitcoin, or having Bitcoin, there is one thing you need to understand right off the bat. Imagine that Bitcoin is cash, and that you are constantly holding it in plain view, and most of the places you can spend this cash can disappear overnight. This is to say, in Bitcoin the risk of a scam is high. In peer-to-peer trading, it has, over time, lowered, but it still exists. (more…)

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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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Spanish Government Nabs eBook Uploader Who Allegedly Pirated Over 11,000 Books

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Officials at the Spanish Ministry of the Interior say they have arrested a Valencia man who is accused of having uploaded over 11,000 eBook titles – often on the same day of their official release – and causing over €400,000 in economic damage. This figure is, however, based on the number of alleged downloads that took place of the titles uploaded and assumes that each downloader would have otherwise purchased the book. Obviously, this is not the best metric to determine exactly how much money was “lost” when there is no evidence that the downloaders would have purchased the books.

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As often happens in America and elsewhere, the investigation into this individual began with a complaint from an intellectual-property rights oriented group called the Centre for Reprographic Rights (CEDRO).

According to the press release from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, the notorious uploader was the source of some 11,000 books spanning over dozens and dozens of websites, although he apparently usually only uploaded them to a single forum. CEDRO only knew the accused’s screenname when it originally filed a complaint, but over the course of more than a year, Spanish authorities managed to track him down and learn more about his operation. The press release alleges that he used “special software”to remove copyright protection from books before uploading them. This could be referring to a commonly known method of removing Adobe Digital Editions protections with plugins for the open-source eBook program Callibre.

Authorities conducted a raid on the home of a suspect after much investigation, and during their search they found evidence in his web browser that he was indeed the uploader in question. The name of the accused has yet to be released, and the lack of specific information regarding his activities makes it hard to guess as to his online identity unless one was regularly downloading his files. Popular ebook uploaders include screennames like “gooner” and “Lion_King.”

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E-book piracy is as prevalent as other forms, like television, film, and music, but it is not often that we hear about people getting arrested for it. For one thing, fewer and fewer people are reading for pleasure, and the industry has been slower than others to digitize its goods. Major providers like Amazon have made it easier for publishers to reach users of their platform, and the cost seems to be largely palatable for users. The biggest market in book piracy

pirate-keyboard

The biggest market in book piracy would seem to be in textbooks, which are incredibly expensive when compared to other works of non-fiction, and so students, already strapped for cash, are more likely to give in to the temptation when book shopping. If the choice is between $289 and free, many with little or no income will choose the free option.

Torrent sites make a healthy living from advertising. With e-books in particular, a cursory search shows that there are several sites where people are required to have a paid membership in order to download book torrents or book files directly. This makes prosecution a bit harder, since the purpose of having these setups is to give the user a moderate amount of protection. Often, in the US at least, DMCA notices are only issued when the user actually shares the files after downloading them via torrent.

The modus operandi for prosecuting agencies has been to go after the sites themselves, as they did with the founder of KickAss Torrents not long ago, and previously had done with the Pirate Bay. It seems that infamy is the bane to a good torrent site: the better at providing the torrents you are, and the bigger the community you attract, the more likely you are to eventually wind up behind bars.

As e-books have been slow to catch on, barely garnering more than 10% in even their most lucrative markets after almost two decades in existence, one can envision a future where e-books are not sold at all, but instead funded by advertising. The entire cost of production can be offset by one advertiser, and the publisher can more readily compete not only with pirates but also with other forms of entertainment.

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Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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The War On File Sharing is the New War On Drugs

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File sharing

“It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.” — Aaron Swartz

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Federal authorities recently arrested the owner of the website Kickass Torrents, Artem Vaulin. KAT, as it was commonly known, had, following the end of the Pirate Bay and subsequent jailing of its owners in Sweden, become one of the world’s most visited websites and certainly the go-to place for torrents. As the reader is probably aware, there’s no good way to limit the content of a torrent – the torrent protocol is a dumb pipe, similar to other transfer protocols, and simply transfers data. In its case, it uses the power of peer-to-peer networking. Thus the primary use of KAT was “pirated” content, or bootleg copies of music, movies, games, and other forms of intellectual property.

The war on filesharing has gone on for virtually the entirety of the web’s history. In the early days of the Internet, it was commonplace to share code and other things. The spirit of the new generation was, indeed, sharing. As bandwidth increased throughout the 1990s, people moved from using BBS systems and the Kermit protocol to using more advanced ways of sharing, including plainly out on the web. The mid-to-late 1990s is when the FBI began taking it more seriously, at the behest of various industries, including the software industry. This 1997 article from the San Francisco Examiner outlines an important part of the situation:

Accompanied by corporate representatives to identify the software, FBI agents took the computer systems off-line and confiscated the equipment and other documents.

Did the reader catch that? Corporate representatives accompanied the FBI on raids. In all of this anti-piracy business, the FBI has essentially acted as the attack dog of private industry. In the same way that commercial drug manufacturers are a massive lobby in keeping marijuana, the most commonly prosecuted substance in the ongoing “War on Drugs,” intellectual property-based industries have a vested interest in ensuring that there are steep penalties for sharing files. However, it’s not only the actual owners of the content who would like copies of 20-year-old movies to remain at premium prices, but other vendors, including the likes of Netflix and Hulu, as well.

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The War on Drugs has been going on since the Nixon administration, and during its 40 years, the rate of drugs entering the country and the rate of drug use have done everything but decline. Some states have begun to rebel, moving toward treatment policies and in the case of marijuana, even legalization. The War on Drugs has nothing to do with morality or public health and everything to do with money. Police agencies nationwide make millions from asset seizure related to drug raids. The end of the drug war would equate to a severe budget gap for some agencies. In a similar way, without the FBI to do their bidding, intellectual property owners would have to find more inventive ways to attract money.

But that’s not really the problem, either. The real problem with both the War on Drugs and the War on Digital Piracy is that they are not winnable wars. You cannot dictate human behavior from on high, and as long as there are networked computers, there will be ways of sharing files. The torrent protocol is only the latest to become popular. This generation also saw Napster, which had a fundamental flaw of being centralized. These efforts by the government are massive wastes of money in the end, at least in accomplishing their goal. This article is not meant to suggest alternative approaches, but rather to underline the parallels of the two movements.

As soon as Kickass Torrents was taken offline, people worldwide began working on clone sites. And, more to the point, KAT was not the only torrent site left standing. IsoHunt is a long-standing provider of torrent files, and Usenet remains another option for those who do not want to buy all their content from the myriad of subscription and a la carte media providers. Information wants to be free, as Stewart Brand said, and by this he did not mean freedom, but free of charge. This argument is based on the idea that the cost of delivering information (or content) has severely dropped over the years, and so too should the cost.

Information wants to be expensive, at the same time, because it is valuable. Brand pointed out that this tension will never go away. In one browser tab a user can acquire a recently released movie for free, and in another tab he can choose to pay for it on Amazon.

The War on Digital Piracy is a war of attrition. Any perceived “gains” are immediately squashed by the proliferation of alternatives. As long as there is a demand for alternative sources of content, people will provide it. Were every torrent site to be taken off the clear net, the dark web could quickly provide alternatives. After all, these sites do not actually serve any content, just links to torrent files and magnet links. The torrent protocol itself does not actually require sites to list the files, and people could continue to distribute them in other ways. No matter what the government does. No matter what the industries do.

Prosecuting people for linking to content is a dangerous constitutional precedent. It’s like saying that giving directions to a criminal is a crime. The prosecution of Artem Vaulin, Fredrik Neij, and Peter Sunde (of the Pirate Bay) is criminal. If anything, the people actually distributing pirated content should be the target of the government. But this also raises the question: should the government be expending precious resources to go to war for industries that make millions and billions of dollars per year, or shouldn’t it be dedicated those resources to more important pursuits, such as anti-terrorism investigations?

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Important: Never invest (trade with) money you can't afford to comfortably lose. Always do your own research and due diligence before placing a trade. Read our Terms & Conditions here. Trade recommendations and analysis are written by our analysts which might have different opinions. Read my 6 Golden Steps to Financial Freedom here. Best regards, Jonas Borchgrevink.

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5 stars on average, based on 1 rated postsP. H. Madore has covered the cryptocurrency beat over the course of hundreds of articles for Hacked's sister site, CryptoCoinsNews, as well as some of her competitors. He is a major contributing developer to the Woodcoin project, and has made technical contributions on a number of other cryptocurrency projects. In spare time, he recently began a more personalized, weekly newsletter at http://ico.phm.link




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