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Judge: Cable Company Cox Must Kick Pirates Offline

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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act has been a matter of constant annoyance for Internet Service Providers as well as a constant source of joy for the RIAA and
MPAA, recording and film industry anti-piracy extraordinaires who had a lot to do with the bill’s passage in the first place.

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The DMCA has specific rules under which ISPs can be held responsible for the digital piracy of their clientèle, but for the most part, ISPs have never been in a position to be held liable. Until now, with the case of Cox Communications versus BMG Rights Management and Round Hill Music.

Represented by Rightscorp, a legal conglomerate with intimate ties to the entertainment industry, the plaintiffs are arguing that Cox’s policies directly contribute to piracy. This is in part because Cox has not been as compliant as other ISPs in terms of how it will comply with the law, requests from rights holders, and so on. Cox must generally see where its responsibilities begin and end – they are an ISP. Their job is to deliver Internet service. They are not police, and this is a free country. So goes the rhetoric, but it seems for once the courts are going to put Cox on the spot.

Judge Liam O’Grady, known for being tough on piracy, recently decided that Cox is not immune to prosecution under the DMCA’s “Safe Harbor” provisions, which were a concession to the communications industry during the drafting of the bill. The Copyright Office’s summary of the DMCA says of Title II, in part:

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The failure of a service provider to qualify for any of the limitations in section 512 does not necessarily make it liable for copyright infringement. The copyright owner must still demonstrate that the provider has infringed, and the provider may still avail itself of any of the defenses, such as fair use, that are available to copyright defendants generally.

In addition to limiting the liability of service providers, Title II establishes a procedure by which a copyright owner can obtain a subpoena from a federal court ordering a service provider to disclose the identity of a subscriber who is allegedly engaging in infringing activities.

The text of the bill itself is much denser, but you can read it here.

CoxNow, the second part is wherein lies a real problem for Cox, who’ve contended that they are a “conduit” service provider. Cox took real issue with Rightscorp’s methodology, in that Rightscorp uses the information disclosed under the Act and then essentially tells the end-user that they have to pay exorbitant fees in order to keep their Internet service on.

Also read: EFF Wants a Fair Use-style DMCA Provision

Cox is unwilling to suspend the service of users simply because Rightscorp says it should, and has repeatedly maintained that its internal system for handling copyright complaints complies with the DMCA and other laws. This system, of “graduated response,” is common among ISPs. In the case of this writer’s own ISP, you get four warnings before a temporary disconnect. Seven copyright infringements leads to service being suspended for six months. But Rightscorp would have it that re-establishment of service be dependent on paying their settlement fees.

Lawyers for Cox told the court:

Rightscorp and Plaintiffs tried to abuse Cox’s system. Rightscorp sells shady services to copyright holders. It shakes down ISP customers for money without regard to actual liability, and it tries to enlist ISPs in its scheme. Cox explained it would not accept Rightscorp’s wrongful notices and asked Rightscorp to fix its notices. Rightscorp refused, instead dumping thousands of notices per day on Cox. As a result, Cox blocked Rightscorp’s notices. This suit is Rightscorp’s retribution, with Plaintiffs’ complicity, for Cox’s refusal to participate in Rightscorp’s scheme.

Rightscorp lawyers representing BMG were not satisfied with this representation, and said that Cox has in fact been tacitly allowing copyright infringers to continue, even after a service suspension.

For several years, Cox had an ‘under the table’ policy of purporting to terminate repeat infringers while actually retaining them as high speed internet customers. The ‘terminations’ were in name only […] As a matter of law, allowing known, repeat, flagrant infringers to continue to use the network does not satisfy the DMCA’s requirement of an appropriate repeat infringer termination policy.

eff-logo-plain-rgbJudge O’Grady, who has overseen the US government’s case against Kim Dotcom in some instances, said the because of the BMG argument, Cox has not demonstrated that it is complying with the DMCA, and therefore cannot expect to use “safe harbor” clauses as a defense.

The EFF and Public Knowledge, consumer awareness and rights groups, were seeking to support Cox, an unlikely alliance. O’Grady said this was unnecessary, and that the EFF’s amicus brief on the matter was laughable.

As regards why the EFF should not be able to back Cox in a legal way, the Judge said:

This is not a situation where defendants lack competent representation. […] Nor have Public Knowledge and EFF persuaded the court that they have a sufficiently special interest in the outcome of this litigation to warrant consideration of their viewpoint.

In regards to the actual filings by the EFF and Public Knowledge, the judge was dismissive and somewhat offensive:

It is a combination of describing the horrors that one endures from losing the Internet for any length of time. Frankly, it sounded like my son complaining when I took his electronics away when he watched YouTube videos instead of doing homework. And it’s completely hysterical.

Cox’s case will begin December 2nd, and could result in significant damages. Cox could even be judged as responsible for the copyright infringement of its clients, a precedent that will surely concern their industry, especially with the looming menace of international legislation which creates some of the same conditions for ISPs.

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Eidoo Ethereum Wallet Takes Out Full Page Ad in WSJ to Troll J.P. Morgan

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A Swiss-based Ethereum startup has taken out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal to troll J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who only last month called cryptocurrency a “fraud.”

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Eidoo Launches Digital Wallet

Eidoo took out the ad on Wednesday, the same day it launched its digital currency wallet for users of Ethereum, the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap. The company also plans to launch a debit card allowing people to spend ether and bitcoin.

The WSJ ad, which is a clear PR stunt ahead of the company’s launch, reads: “Maybe Jamie will fire you. But, you’ll be free to trade in the crypto-world.”

J.P. executive Jamie Dimon came under fire last month after declaring bitcoin a fraud. It later came to light that the Wall Street bank is trading bitcoin for clients.

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“It’s worse than tulip bulbs. It won’t end well. Someone is going to get killed,” Dimon said at a conference hosted Barclays. “Currencies have legal support. It will blow up.”

Dimon’s criticism was ill timed, and not just because his firm was facilitating cryptocurrency transactions. Well-known figures on Wall Street and beyond are starting to embrac blockchain technology. Chief among them is Goldman Sachs, which recently announced that it i considering a bitcoin trading operation.

Morgan Stanley CEO recently said cryptocurrency is “more than just a fad,” but didn’t disclose any plans to launch a trading operation. Like other banks? Morgan Stanley is exploring the potential of blockchain applications.

Cryptocurrency Market Regains Momentum

After a volatile month of September, the cryptocurrency asset class is once again attracting strong bids. The total market cap for all digital currencies is approaching $155 billion, with bitcoin accounting for more than half the total.

Ethereum briefly traded above $310 before paring gains all the way back down to $300 where it currently sits.

Digital currency wallets like Eidoo have grown in popularity as investors look to safeguard their tokens from cyber breaches.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook Wants Augmented and Virtual Reality Tech to “Encourage” Human Contact

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So far, Apple has been the slowest of the big boys to getting an augmented or virtual reality product to market. The company’s iPhone is the single most popular smart phone on the planet and its computer products enjoy relative popularity (in early 2014, they were almost 9% of the market, a quadrupling from turn-of-the-century numbers). On a trip to Tokyo this week, CEO Tim Cook told BuzzFeed that he believes there is “no substitute for human contact. And so you want the technology to encourage that.”

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Tim Cook

Cook also said he thinks augmented reality can be “huge.” And if the numbers from the recent phenomenon of Pokémon Go are any indication, he’s absolutely right. Apple’s various platforms add up to a big opportunity, but their phones in particular could pave the way for the company making a serious play in the augmented and virtual reality space.

In many ways, modern humans are already experiencing many of the things previously only dreamed of in science fiction. One can walk down the street and have a video call with someone a thousand miles away. Perhaps the next step on this path will be the spectre of hologram calls. Back in 2013, Skype told the BBC that it was already capable of as much. Apple would certainly make waves if it were the first major platform to make this Star Wars-esque technology an everyday reality.

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Other potential exists on the hologram front. Video entertainment and gaming could reach a whole new level. The Apple TV is one of the less successful ventures the company has ever launched, but the advent of holographic television shows taking place in one’s living room might revive interest.

Apple store logo sign

Apple has made a number of acquisitions that point in the direction of holographic, augmented, and virtual reality technology. The company which created the original Microsoft Xbox Kinect sensors, PrimeSense, is now owned by Apple, along with Faceshift, who provided real-time motion capturing for Star Wars productions. The two main reasons to acquire a company are either to stop it from competing with you or to make use of its assets, and Apple presently has no major dog in the augmented reality/virtual reality fight. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that somewhere in Cupertino, someone is working on something for the future.

Cook also said that he doesn’t think virtual reality is as “broad-based” as augmented reality. The company has been in meetings with immersive technology companies such as Jaunt, a company which makes films compatible with virtual reality technology. Cook seems most interested in the communication aspect of AR and VR, saying that conversations could be made more productive.

I think that things like these are better when they’re incorporated without becoming a barrier to our talking. You want the technology to amplify it, not to be a barrier.

Perhaps Cook, like many, fears a future of people walking around with helmets, totally immune to their surroundings, and would rather find ways to boost traditional communication and technological capabilities. More of a Google Glass than an Oculus approach to the thing, as it were. In any case, it does seem that virtual reality, augmented reality, and even holographic communications are just around the bend for consumers.

It’s important to remember that just a decade ago, a smart phone in every pocket was hard to imagine, so the rise of these technologies could happen faster than anyone expects. The success of Pokémon Go was only a preview of things to come.

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KickassTorrents Domains Seized, Alleged Owner Arrested

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 The world’s largest torrent website has been seized, with its alleged founder arrested by US authorities, in what is a comprehensive blow to the domain and the wider torrenting community.

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Artem Vaulin, a 30-year-old Ukrainian national and the alleged owner of KickassTorrents, the largest torrent website in the world was arrested in Poland yesterday. The US Government is seeking his extradition.

Following his arrest, US authorities have charged Vaulin with criminal copyright infringement and have seized multiple domain names associated with the website.

The complete list of charges are:

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  • One count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement
  • One count of conspiracy to commit money laundering
  • Two counts of criminal copyright infringement

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R.Caldwell made the announcement, revealing that Vaulin had set up servers in multiple locations around the world and moved his domains several times due to several law enforcement seizures and lawsuits.

He stated:

Vaulin is charged with running today’s most illegal file-sharing website, responsible for unlawfully distributing well over $1 billion of copyrighted materials.

The criminal complaint against Vaulin alleges some intriguing numbers behind the world’s most popular torrent website.

  • The website gained over 50 million unique visitors per month.
  • It was also the 69th most frequently visited website on the internet
  • Its net worth is estimated at over $54 million.
  • Its annual advertising revenue was in the range of $12.5 million to $22.3 million.
  • The website operated in nearly 28 languages.

Furthermore, the website was already ordered to be blocked by courts in various countries including the United Kingdom, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia, the complaint alleged.

As things stand, KickassTorrents and a number of its domains, all of which can be found in its very own server-status page, are all offline and unreachable.

The arrest and the subsequent takedown is certain to leave a void in the torrent community, as KickassTorrents was even bigger in the popularity stakes than the Pirate Bay.

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