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MPAA Claims Victory, YIFY Operator Reaches Settlement

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In a final nail to the coffin of a piracy icon, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – backed by every major Hollywood Studio has declared a comprehensive victory in shutting down torrent release group YIFY and its website YTS.

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A joint operation between the MPAA and the group’s ‘international associates’ has resulted in the shutting down of prolific and popular movie pirate YIFY. The MPAA has also reached a private settlement with the operator of YIFY, a New Zealand Citizen who allegedly ran the entire operation from a house in Auckland.

The unknown New Zealander settled out of court with the MPAA, according to local representatives of the studio-backed copyright infringement group who spoke to local publication NZ Herald.

Matthew Cheetham, managing director of New Zealand Screen Association and a local representative of the MPAA said:

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[YTS] existed for the sole purpose of distributing motion pictures on a massive scale online while providing illicit profits to the operator of the website.

He revealed the MPAA had begun looking into the possibility of a global operation running out of New Zealand, a country not particularly known for housing any pirate uploaders in the past, with Eastern Europe normally recognized as the global epicenter of film piracy.

“We were very surprised it was being run out of house in Mt Wellington,” he added.

Although YIFY torrents are still available on multiple public torrent websites, the YTS domain experienced downtime through most of October, which unbeknownst to many at the time, was the beginning of the end for the popular torrent uploader. Since then, more recent reports have confirmed that YIFY is indeed dead.

A Settlement in Exchange for Information?

The details of the settlement are unclear but TorrentFreak sources have revealed that the private, out-of-court agreement is likely to involve a pact of information sharing between YTS and the MPAA.

Whilst the claim is still speculative without any real indication or proof of such an agreement, it is entirely possible that the MPAA decided to settle out of court in lieu of valuable information that has already been or could be revealed by YTS in the future.

It’s purely guesswork but information, if shared, is likely to include:

  • Information about other release groups. For example, information of scene groups (groups who release original copies of a Blu-ray or DVD).
  • Account information of users who registered on the YTS domain, which would be a betrayal to its users.

Meanwhile, the MPAA also took credit for the recent wipeout of popular movie streaming website Popcorn Time, a service that was incidentally using YTS as a library resource for streaming movies.

In a press release [PDF] simply titled ‘Major Piracy Sites Shut Down,’ Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the MPAA said:

Popcorn Time and YTS are illegal platforms that exist for one clear reason: to distribute stolen copies of the latest motion pictures and television shows without  compensating the people who worked so hard to make them.

He declared:

This coordinated legal action is part of a larger comprehensive approach being taken by the MPAA and its international affiliates to combat content theft.

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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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