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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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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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Opinion

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?

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Entertainment

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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