Four Persistent Online Piracy Misconceptions Busted

uploadFifteen years ago, online peer-to-peer file-sharing was a fairly straightforward process. One simply downloaded a file-sharing client such as Kazaa, searched for whatever tickled one’s fancy, and waited for the file to transfer.

While it was undoubtedly easy, slick it was not. ‘Shared folder’ type applications like Kazaa and LimeWire were slow, clumsy and a haven for fake files and junk. No wonder people got excited when BitTorrent came along a few years later.

Today, people getting into the P2P file-sharing scene experience an altogether different dynamic. In some ways it’s more difficult to get going from a standing start, but for those prepared to handle an initially steep learning curve the rewards are potentially much greater.

However, with great ‘rewards’ come great responsibilities, especially when it comes to sharing copyrighted content without permission. As a result there are many misconceptions about what is and isn’t legal and how people are ‘caught’ (and by whom) when using tools such as BitTorrent online.

I never ‘seed’ so I’m never going to get caught

For the vast majority of users, seeding is the act of sharing content they have already downloaded. So, when a movie has downloaded and clicks from 99% to 100% complete, their BitTorrent software starts sharing that entire copy with the world.

However, many users believe that if they stop their software before it starts seeding, that means they cannot be tracked by anti-piracy companies. Unfortunately for them, that is completely untrue.

Any user in a BitTorrent ‘swarm’ has the potential to be tracked, often within seconds and certainly within minutes of beginning their download. This is because unless there are special circumstances, all users are also automatically sharing the content they’re downloading with others.

Once that user’s IP address has been logged by an anti-piracy company, few give a damn whether the user is sharing 100% or 0.1% of a movie. While the time spent in a swarm increases the chances of being monitored, for anti-piracy companies participation is guilt – period.

I own the original DVD/CD so I can download a copy completely legally

So you went into the city and picked up a copy of Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation and helped to push the movie to the top of the Blu-ray charts. Then, having enjoyed it so much, you bought the soundtrack on CD from Amazon. Pat yourself on the back – you’re a paid-up member of the legitimate purchase club.

With that accolade under your belt, it must then follow that you can download backup copies from BitTorrent in case of scratches etc, right?

Err, no. Absolutely not.

Buying an original copy of a movie or CD provides the purchaser with a license to use that content in a certain fashion, usually including viewing/listening at home in front of a limited number of people. What that license definitely does not provide is permission to mass distribute that content to anyone else.

As noted above in the ‘seeding myth’ section, anyone downloading content from BitTorrent is almost always distributing (or uploading) the same content to other users in the same swarm. The act of uploading is illegal in most countries.

Put plainly, anti-piracy companies couldn’t give a damn whether uploaders own none, one, or a million copies of the content in question. Unauthorized mass distribution is illegal, period.

How can I stop my ISP from spying on me?

During the past several years many hundreds of thousands of file-sharers have received letters or emails advising them that they’ve been monitored sharing copyrighted content without permission. As detailed above, many participated in BitTorrent swarms and had their IP addresses logged.

However, since the correspondence they initially receive usually comes from their Internet service provider (Comcast in the US, or Sky in the UK, for example), people believe that their ISP has been spying on them. That is simply not true.

In all ordinary circumstances, especially involving file-sharers, ISPs have no interest in monitoring their users. Not only would this present a legal minefield for service providers, doing so would also represent a logistical nightmare.

To be clear, anti-piracy companies monitor pirates and, broadly speaking, ISPs would rather not know what their users are doing. Some like to throttle (slow down) BitTorrent users but their interest generally ends there.

I only need to use a VPN to avoid being traced

There can be little doubt that buying a decent VPN from a reputable company is one of the best things anyone can do to protect their online privacy. However, people should be aware that this is only one aspect of remaining anonymous and it does not allow them to act with impunity.

Very often it is not merely how people connect to the Internet (unprotected IP address) that causes them to breach their security, but what they say and do once they’re online. For anyone interested in reading more about how poor Internet hygiene can drive a bus and several trucks through VPN security, please refer to our earlier article detailing how the UK’s most prolific pirates were caught.

In summary, VPNs are great (some might argue ‘essential’) for maintaining privacy online and their use alone will stop casual monitors from tracking the user. However, for those taking the bigger risks, VPNs and similar technology only help when sheer carelessness is taken out of the equation.

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

Source: TorrentFreak

When Hollywood Raids Pirates, What Do They Search For?

policedownloadFollowing a three year investigation by Hollywood-backed anti-piracy group the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), in December five of the UK’s most prolific movie pirates were sentenced to more than 17 years.

The men, who were behind several interrelated movie release groups including RemixHD, 26K, UNiQUE, DTRG and HOPE/RESISTANCE, were tracked down with techniques detailed in our earlier article but when FACT and the police came knocking, what were they looking for?

TorrentFreak has obtained documents which reveal FACT’s “forensic strategy” in the case and details how the anti-piracy group sought to link the suspects with data gathered in the early stages of the operation.

A check-list shared with police underlined the need to corroborate existing intelligence and, if that was not possible, to determine whether suspects were involved in similar activities.

Find evidence of a conspiracy

As highlighted previously, FACT had long since abandoned attempting to prosecute defendants on copyright infringement grounds, largely since the maximum penalty in the UK for online offenses is ‘just’ two years. Working instead towards charges of Conspiracy to Defraud, officers were instructed to find evidence which would show that the defendants worked in concert (conspired) to defraud.

Since the case was about movies there is little surprise that evidence sought included information linking the defendants to the capturing or camming of movies or anything which indicated copyrighted video had been encoded.

The most obvious items to be searched for included the movies themselves but FACT and the police also searched for video encoding and conversion software plus anything that suggested the defendants were involved in counterfeit DVD production.

On the conspiracy side, it’s clear that securing evidence of communications was crucial. Those carrying out the raid were keen to secure not only emails, but Internet chat logs plus any other related documents such as spreadsheets.

Evidence of uploading infringing content to the Internet plus any discussion of doing so was desired. It was hoped that in part this could be achieved by finding logs from FTP software used to upload videos to servers operated by some members of the release groups.

Logs, logs, software – and more logs

While garage mechanics have their own unique tools to fix an engine or change some oil, Internet pirates’ tools largely exist in the digital domain. However, while the use of a wrench can be forgotten as soon as it’s been placed back in the box, pieces of software tend to have longer memories.

As a result, finding software on the machines of suspected pirates is a top priority since not only do these paint a picture of their owner, but they also carry detailed logs that can incriminate others.

On the machine of Sahil Rafiq police found lots of software designed to manipulate video and audio alongside ripping, encoding and torrent software. A copy of the DRM-busting software DVD Fab was also used in evidence.

At the time of the raid Rafiq’s machine was actually encoding a film but an inspection showed that the machine had been used for encoding before. Server logins, usernames and other passwords also provided useful pointers to previously monitored online behavior.

Also in apparent abundance were logs retained by chat software. The logs detailed links with groups releasing movies on the Internet and revealed discussions with Rafiq’s co-defendants alongside general comments indicating activity in the piracy business.

As is usually the case, FACT took an interest in Rafiq’s cellphone. According to evidence collated by the anti-piracy outfit, this device contained several messages from torrent sites which offered thanks for uploaded torrents.

Reece Baker’s machine had actually been wiped clean and a new operating system installed around two weeks before the raid. While that might have been a good start, when FACT arrived the machine was encoding the movie Gangster Squad which Baker had obtained from a Chinese torrent site.

The presence of the software VirtualDub was also viewed as a negative, as were logins which revealed Baker’s connection to the pirate group DEYA and a dozen uploads to ExtraTorrent.

In common with the others, Baker’s computer also carried lots of chat logs which detailed encoding and uploading of movies. Discussion surrounding the “de-dotting” of cams were seen as a negative as were incriminating comments made over Skype.

Baker’s phone was also seized – that contained a reminder for Rafiq’s birthday.

Like the others, Graeme Reid’s computer contained encoding and ripping software. It also had logins to a server used by the group and chat logs indicating that Reid was the leader of release group RemixHD and involved in another called UNiQUE.

A batch of emails showed how Reid had collaborated with others to source, encode and release movies. In total 1,725 torrent files were found plus DVD copying software.

Ben Cooper’s computer was also found to contain software for encoding and editing movies and carried chat logs confirming that he operated a server used to store films encoded by the groups.

With Scott Hemming it was a similar story. Evidence of encoding, incriminating chat logs with his co-defendants, and logins for a seedbox.


While FACT had built a pretty strong case against all of the defendants during its preliminary investigation, it’s very tempting to conclude that without the troves of information found on their computers, things would have turned out very differently indeed.

Quite how many of the 17 years sentenced could have been avoided will never be known, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the case would have faltered before ever reaching a court room.

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

Source: TorrentFreak

Five Piracy Predictions for 2016

2016At the start of the new year the TF news desk often wonders how things can become even more extreme than the year before.

Today we decided to share some of these thoughts with you.

Granted, predicting the future isn’t an easy task, but the predictions below give plenty of food for thought and discussion.

Copyright Holders Will Sue Chrome and Firefox

This is an easy one really. After pursuing legal action against hundreds of thousands of people, many website operators, software developers, and even a large U.S. Internet provider, it’s only a small step to take.

Initially the RIAA and friends considered going after BitTorrent Inc., but web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla’s FireFox pose an even greater threat. In their complaint the righsholders will blame the browsers for granting unrestricted access to millions of copyrighted works, through torrent, streaming, file-hosting and linking sites.

Popcorn Time for Recipes

Popcorn Time sells. We’ve seen Popcorn Time applications for TV and movies, for music and even for porn. Copyright holders and tracking companies also jumped on the bandwagon and used the Popcorn Time brand to sell their schemes.

The Popcorn mania reached unprecedented levels in 2015 and it won’t end in the new year. During the months to come we’ll witness the launch of various new spin-offs including a Popcorn Time for recipes, allowing users to browse an advertising-free library of some of the hottest cooking instructions.

ISPs will disconnect millions of “pirating” subscribers

This is another shoe-in. A few weeks ago Cox Communications lost its lawsuit against music rights group BMG. The Internet provider was held liable for the copyright infringements of its users because it failed to disconnect persistent pirates.

The result is that Cox now has to pay $25 million in damages. However, the lawsuit also raised alarm bells at other major Internet providers, as most large ISPs don’t disconnect repeated infringers either. In 2016 copyright holders will raise the pressure by sending out dozens of millions of infringement notices.

In response, large ISPs will have to disconnect millions of pirating customers.

Initially copyright holders will praise the actions as a clear victory, but they will have second thoughts when they realize that the disconnected subscribers are canceling their Netflix, Spotify, and other legal subscriptions in droves.

The Pirate Bay becomes Invincible

The world’s most notorious torrent site has had quite a few ups and downs over the years, but in 2016 there will be some truly remarkable developments. Initially we thought TPB could be working on a new website design after all these years, but that’s probably too far-fetched.

Instead we predict that the Pirate Bay’s low orbit server drones will finally take off, making the site even more resilient. In addition the TPB team will launch its planned application to decentralize the entire site and database among its users so it can withstand pretty much any raid.

Google Bans everything piratey

In recent years the MPAA, RIAA and others have cyber-bullied Google to extremes. The rightsholders accuse Google of facilitating piracy and believe the company hasn’t done enough to address the situation. The MPAA even went as far as enlisting Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to take Google out.

In 2016 the search giant will throw in the towel. Instead of fighting the mounting pressure it will give the MPAA and friends everything they want, without any form of oversight.

As a result, The Pirate Bay, KickassTorrents and various other pirate domains will completely disappear from the search index. The same is true for other websites rightsholders frequently send takedown notices for, such as Netflix, IMDb, The Hollywood Reporter, Rotten Tomatoes, Spotify and Pandora.

And remember, take down means stay down.

Happy 2016!


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

Source: TorrentFreak