RIAA Labels Want $22 Million Piracy Damages From MP3Skull

skullEarlier this year a coalition of record labels including Capitol Records, Sony Music, Warner Bros. Records and Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit against MP3Skull.

With millions of visitors per month the MP3 download site had been one of the prime sources of pirated music for a long time.

Several months have passed since the RIAA members submitted their complaint and since the owners of MP3Skull failed to respond, the labels are now asking for a default judgement.

In their motion filed last Friday at a Florida District Court, the record labels describe MP3Skull as a notorious pirate site that promotes copyright infringement on a commercial scale.

“Defendants designed, promote, support and maintain the MP3Skull website for the well-known, express and overarching purpose of reproducing, distributing, performing and otherwise exploiting unlimited copies of Plaintiffs’ sound recordings without any authorization or license.

“By providing to the public the fruits of Plaintiffs’ investment of money, labor and expertise, MP3Skull has become one of the most notorious pirate websites in the world,” the labels add (pdf).

Besides offering a comprehensive database of links to music tracks, the labels also accuse the site’s operators of actively promoting piracy through social media. Among other things, MP3Skull helped users to find pirated tracks after copyright holders removed links from the site.

Based on the blatant piracy carried out by operators and users, the labels argue that MP3Skull is liable for willful copyright infringement.

Listing 148 music tracks as evidence, the companies ask for the maximum $150,000 in statutory damages for each, bringing the total to more than $22 million.

“Under these egregious circumstances, Plaintiffs should be awarded statutory damages in the full amount of $150,000 for each of the 148 works identified in the Complaint, for a total of $22,200,000,” the motion reads.

In addition the RIAA labels request a permanent injunction to make it harder for MP3Skull from continuing to operate the site. The proposed injunction (pdf) prevents domain name registrars and registries form providing services to MP3Skull and orders the transfer of existing domains to the copyright holders.

While a default judgment would be a big hit to the site, most damage has already been done. Last year MP3Skull was listed among the 500 most-visited websites on the Internet according to Alexa, but after Google downranked the site it quickly lost its traffic.


The site subsequently hopped from domain to domain and is currently operating from the .ninja TLD with only a fraction of the number of users it had before.

Given that MP3Skull failed to appear before the court it’s likely that the District Court will approve the proposed default judgment. Whether the record labels will ever see a penny of the claimed millions is doubtful though, as the true owners of the MP3Skull site remain unknown.

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Megaupload Accuses U.S. of Unfair Tactics, Seeks Stay

After suffering ten postponements the extradition hearing of Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk was never likely to be a smooth, straightforward affair, even when it eventually got underway in the Auckland District Court.

The first few days of the hearing were spent by Crown lawyer Christine Gordon QC, who has been acting on behalf the U.S., painting a highly negative picture of the quartet. Incriminating correspondence, culled from their Skype accounts, suggested that there had been knowledge of infringement, she claimed.

After the U.S. finally wrapped up its case last Thursday, Judge Dawson was asked to decide when several applications filed by Dotcom’s team to drop the hearing would be heard. Would it be appropriate to deal with them before the accused took the stand to fight the extradition, or at another time?

In the event Judge Dawson decided that the stay applications – which cover the U.S. freeze on Dotcom’s funds and other ‘unreasonable’ behavior, plus allegations of abuse of process by Crown lawyers – should be heard first.

During this morning’s session defense attorney Grant Illingworth QC motivated the request to stay the case. Illingworth told the Court that due to the ongoing U.S.-ordered freeze on his clients’ funds (and the prospect that any funds sent to the U.S. would have the same fate), they are unable to retain experts on U.S. law.

“We say the issue is that they cannot use restrained funds to pay experts in US law, if those experts are not New Zealand citizens,” Illingworth said.

“Access to such expertise is necessary but being prevented by the US. It means not having the ability to call evidence but also the ability to get advice so counsel can present their case.”

Illingworth said the unfair tactics amounted to an abuse of process which has reduced New Zealand-based lawyers to a position of dealing with U.S. law on a “guess work” basis which could leave them open to accusations of being both negligent and incompetent.

“In any other case we would seek expert advice,” Illingworth said, but in this situation obtaining that is proving impossible. No defense means that the hearing is fundamentally unfair, he argued.

In this afternoon’s session, attention turned to claims by the United States that Bram van der Kolk uploaded a pre-release copy of the Liam Neeson movie ‘Taken’ to Megaupload and shared links with friends.

The U.S. says that nine people downloaded the thriller but lawyers for Van Der Kolk insist that whatever the case, the movie was not ‘pre-release’ since it was already available in more than two dozen countries during 2008. The movie was premiered in the United States during 2009. Pre-release movie piracy is a criminal offense under U.S. law.

The extradition hearing is now in its third week and is expected to last another three, but that could change. If the applications currently being heard are successful, the Judge could order a new case or might even stay the extradition hearing altogether.

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Source: TorrentFreak

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of The Week – 10/05/15

jurassThis week we have three newcomers in our chart.

Jurassic World is the most downloaded movie.

The data for our weekly download chart is estimated by TorrentFreak, and is for informational and educational reference only. All the movies in the list are BD/DVDrips unless stated otherwise.

RSS feed for the weekly movie download chart.

Ranking (last week) Movie IMDb Rating / Trailer
1 (…) Jurassic World 7.2 / trailer
2 (1) Tomorrowland 6.6 / trailer
3 (2) Terminator Genisys 6.8 / trailer
4 (3) San Andreas 6.2 / trailer
5 (4) Avengers: Age of Ultron 7.8 / trailer
6 (…) Southpaw 7.6 / trailer
7 (5) Minions (Webrip) 6.7 / trailer
8 (6) Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (HDRip) 7.7 / trailer
9 (9) Magic Mike XXL 5.9 / trailer
10 (…) Inside Out (HDrip) 8.5 / trailer

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Source: TorrentFreak

The Confessions of a Camming Movie Pirate

Last week TF published an interview with Philip Danks, the West Midlands man handed the toughest ever UK sentence for recording a movie in a cinema and uploading it to the Internet. After receiving 33 months for his crimes, Danks’ message was one of caution.

“Simply put, prison isn’t worth the kudos you get from being the first to leak a movie, stay away from it all and be happy with your family!” he said last week.

But despite the words of warning, what Danks did is still pretty intriguing. So-called ‘movie camming’ is not only very dangerous but also shrouded in mystery. So what made this guy do what he did?

“My original motivation was to be the first to get a copy of a film worldwide, which would certainly drag thousands of new unique visitors to my website (Bit Buddy), increasing members and site activity, as at the time there was just over 200 members which is extremely small,” Danks informs TF.

“I decided on Fast 6 due to the popularity and demand for the film as it was by far the most highly anticipated and eagerly awaited film. It was hugely popular and I knew demand would be high for that film.”

After settling on a film to ‘cam’, Danks had to pick a location. In the end he chose a Showcase cinema, located not far from his Walsall home in central England.

Showcase – Walsall


“The cinema I chose was my local cinema just 4 – 5 miles away, and I chose the first available viewing with tickets available. I only decided on the day that I would do it, so it was spur and heat of the moment thing,” he explains.


“I went into town and brought a second hand camcorder from a pawn shop for £70, however it only had a 60 minute battery life and I had to return to get a better camcorder. The second one I chose had brilliant reviews online for battery life and quality, so I chose that one for £80.”

The digital camera had no storage medium, so to capture the whole thing in decent quality Danks had to spend a little extra on 16GB SD card. However, other problems quickly raised their head and would need attention if his cover wasn’t to be immediately blown.

“I realized quite quickly that the device was extremely visible in the dark, so I covered all LED lights with insulation tape,” Danks says.

Also proving troublesome was the brightness of the camera’s LCD screen. Covering that so early on would mean that focusing on the cinema screen would be a hit-and-miss affair and at worse a complete disaster. Danks decided to take the risk on the initial focusing setup and then used a small black bag to cover the LCD.

Location and position

As anyone who has watched a ‘cam’ copy will know, the positioning of the ‘cammer’ is vital to a decent recording. Too far to the left or right of the big screen and angles can creep in. Too far forward or back raises other issues, including other movie goers causing annoying black silhouettes every time they move in front of the camera.

To avoid the latter and of course detection, Danks decided to enroll some accomplices.

“I decided that a few friends in front, to the side and to the back of me, was enough cover to keep the staff from seeing me, so I invited a few friends along, one of which was Michael Bell, my co-defendant,” Danks says.

“I got the focus right while the camcorder was in my lap, meaning I could hold it with my legs and keep it fairly steady, also providing a little more cover from staff as I looked like I just had my hands in my lap.”

For readers putting themselves in Danks’ shoes, fear of getting caught during the next two hours would probably be high on the list of emotions. However, Danks says he wasn’t really concerned about being discovered and was more interested in the end result.

“While I was actually recording my only thoughts were whether or not the quality would be good enough for a release, and if the sound would be in sync with the video. I blocked out any thoughts of getting caught and just got on with the job at hand,” he explains.

The Great Escape

Soon enough the movie was over. Danks hadn’t been caught in the act but there was still a possibility that he’d been monitored and a welcoming party was waiting for him in the cinema lobby. With that in mind, he set about mitigating the risks.

“As soon as the movie was over I concealed the camcorder down my trousers and the memory chip was hidden in a separate place – in my sock. I knew cinema staff could not perform a search without a police officer present,” he says.

But what if staff were outside ready to give him a hard time? Danks had thought about that too and already had an escape strategy in mind.

“I planned to simply run if I got caught. I know that any attempt to detain me without the authorities would be unlawful arrest and kidnap, so that was no concern,” he says.

In the event his exit from the cinema was trouble free. All that remained was to get the video off the card and onto the Internet.

Conversion and uploading

“I had an SD card reader on my laptop, so transferring the file was no issue, although encoding was. I had problems with audio synchronization and had to adjust the sound offset by around 0.8s to get it just right after conversion to AVI,” he recalls.

“Another problem I ran into was file size. Because the movie was so long the total file was around 6GB separated into 1GB chunks, so I first had to use a video joiner to combine all the chunks in the right order before I could compress and reduce the final size. In total it took over six hours to convert and upload the file for the first person apart from me to have a copy.”

The whole point of recording Fast 6 was for Danks to be able to claim first place in the race to upload the movie to the Internet and he wanted his own site, Bit Buddy, to share in the glory.

“I decided to first upload the movie to Bit Buddy, date stamps would then prove my site was the first in the world to have a real copy. I then decided the best place for it to be picked up was on 1337x.org, KickAssTorrents and ThePirateBay, because I know dump sites scrape all three on a regular basis,” he says.

“Afterwards I simply went to sleep, but by this time it was 6am and I was back up at 10am to check on things. The amount of visitors to my site caused it to crash my home servers (three of them) because I simply wasn’t prepared for the traffic.”

So far so good

Danks says that in the aftermath he felt happy with what he’d done. The movie had been recorded, he hadn’t been caught, and his site had been placed on the map. That desire to be first had paid off with the feelings he’d expected.

“The next day I felt great. I felt like I had achieved something, something no one else could do, and that was get the tightest film of the year security-wise and plaster it over the Internet. By the time I checked it lunch time it had around 50,000 seeders and was on every worthy site going, so I was very proud,” he recalls.

Game over

As detailed in our earlier article, the Federation Against Copyright Theft had been watching Danks’ activities online. That led to an oversized police response and his subsequent arrest.

“It was only five days later when I was arrested that it dawned on me and I realized how much trouble I was in. However at the time I just simply didn’t care, I had one up on the fatcats in Hollywood and that was all I was bothered about,” he recalls.

“It wasn’t until over a year later when I was actually in court that I realized I was facing a lengthy custodial sentence for what I had done, and that the Hollywood fatcats had actually beaten me at my own game.

“Going to prison is technically the ultimate punishment, and that’s what they did to me. So really I was the one who lost out long term, losing my home, my job, my car and my freedom. That’s not winning.”

Moving on

Danks is now out of prison and on license, which means he has to be home by 7pm and cannot leave again until 7am. He spends his free time programming and playing poker in an attempt to build up his funds to pre-prison levels. And, since there has been so much interest in his case, he’s also hoping to commit his experiences to film via his own documentary.

Unless someone already in the field is interested in working with him, in which case TF will be happy to forward their details.

Source: TorrentFreak, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Source: TorrentFreak