New tax records reveal that the Center for Copyright Information, the outfit overseeing the “six strikes” copyright alert system in the U.S., costs $2 million a year to run. This previously undisclosed sum is shared between the RIAA, MPAA and the five participating Internet providers. The true cost of the copyright alert system is expected to be millions more, as the copyright holders and ISPs pay separately for tracking the alleged pirates and processing the warnings.
Two years ago the MPAA and RIAA teamed up with five major Internet providers to announce their “six strikes” anti-piracy plan.
While the CCI has been very clear about its goals, information on its finances has been scarce. In the memorandum of understanding the copyright holders and ISPs agreed to split the costs of the company 50/50, but the exact figures remained unknown.
When we previously asked about total operating costs CCI declined to answer. Luckily the IRS was more helpful, so after two years we can now finally lift the financial veil.
During this time the ISPs and copyright holders paid a total of $1,377,633 in membership dues, which means that it costs around $2 million per year to keep the company afloat.
The $2 million figure makes sense since the RIAA previously mentioned in its tax filing that it spent $250,000 in CCI membership dues up until March 2012. This would cover half of the $500,000 it would owe per year.
The CCI tax filing further shows that Executive Director Jill Lesser is the only key employee, and that she earned a very modest $43,750 during the first eight months. Looking more closely, we see that Lesser indirectly earns a bit more as $193,750 was paid to her consulting firm JAL Consulting.
The filing further shows that the six-strikes outfit paid $144,093 to their PR firm Glover Park Group, $125,691 for Resource Global’s consulting services, as well as $102,928 in legal fees.
All in all there aren’t too many surprises in the tax filing, although it’s worth knowing how much the six-strikes copyright alert system costs.
It’s not known whether the $2 million in membership dues for the first year is a fixed amount, so it may fluctuate from year to year. Also, it’s worth noting that the costs above only apply to the CCI organization. The copyright holders and ISPs incur extra costs when they track down infringers and process the notices.
In other words, copyright holders and ISPs are likely to spend double or triple the previously mentioned $2 million on the entire six-strikes system.
Now that the first accounts are in we encourage the CCI to also share some data on how many people have received a copyright alert to date. But whatever that number is, for now the copyright alerts have failed to make a dent in traffic to file-sharing sites.
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Torrent search engine isoHunt today announced that it has settled its legal battle with the MPAA for $110 million. The site’s owner has decided to throw in the towel and shut down the site for now, but an application for an appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court is still pending. The MPAA described the outcome of the case as a landmark victory that will preserve jobs and protect tens of thousands of businesses.
For more than seven years isoHunt and the MPAA have been battling it out in court but today the case appears to have come to an end, at least for now.
“It’s sad to see my baby go. But I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 10.5 years of isoHunt has been a long journey by any business definition, and forever in Internet startup time,” Fung told TorrentFreak.
“I think one worry I want to address is at no time have I compromised privacy of any user on isoHunt, in terms of your IP addresses or emails,” he added.
At the time of writing isoHunt is still up and running but Fung told TorrentFreak that it will soon close its doors. It’s a landmark decision – the site has been one of the most visited torrent search engines for nearly a decade.
The MPAA is delighted with the outcome and hopes it will deter others from starting similar websites. The Hollywood group explained earlier that while two to five million dollars would be enough to bankrupt isoHunt, a higher penalty would scare off others.
“Today’s settlement is a major step forward in realizing the enormous potential of the Internet as a platform for legitimate commerce and innovation,” MPAA boss Chris Dodd, said in a comment.
“It also sends a strong message that those who build businesses around encouraging, enabling, and helping others to commit copyright infringement are themselves infringers, and will be held accountable for their illegal actions.”
The MPAA believes that the closure of isoHunt will help save thousands of jobs and protect many more businesses.
“The successful outcome of this landmark lawsuit will also will help preserve jobs and protect the tens of thousands of businesses in the creative industries, whose hard work and investments are exploited by sites like isoHunt,” Dodd added.
The full terms of the settlement agreement have not been disclosed, but there appears to be more behind it. IsoHunt will be bankrupted by the $110 million settlement, so there is no reason to throw in the towel two weeks before the trial was supposed to start, unless they received something in return.
For the MPAA this is the second big official legal victory against a torrent site. In 2009 the movie industry group won its legal battle against TorrentSpy.
While the MPAA has booked a clear victory, the case is not completely over yet. IsoHunt recently filed an application to appeal the case at the Supreme Court, which could mean that both parties are back in court again in the not too distant future
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This week we have two newcomers in our chart.
The Internship is the most downloaded movie for the second week in a row.
The data for our weekly download chart is collected 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|
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The start of the fourth season of “The Walking Dead” has resulted in a worldwide piracy craze. More than half a million people downloaded a copy of the show during the first few hours following its premiere, despite efforts to minimize the release lag to 24 hours in 125 countries. Fox had hopes that the global release would curb online piracy but thus far there is little evidence that this is the case, not even in the U.S. where AMC streams the show for free.
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The London School of Economics and Political Science has released a new policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the lobbying efforts of the entertainment industry when it comes to future copyright policy. According to the report there is ample evidence that file-sharing is helping, rather than hurting the creative industries. The scholars call on the Government to look at more objective data when deciding on future copyright enforcement policies.
Over the past years there have been ample research reports showing that file-sharing can have positive effects on the entertainment industries.
Industry lobbyists are often quick to dismiss these findings as incidents or weak research, and counter them with expensive studies they have commissioned themselves.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) jumps into the discussion this week with a media policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the reports lobbyists hand to them. Their report concludes that the entertainment industry isn’t devastated by piracy, and that sharing of culture has several benefits.
“Contrary to the industry claims, the music industry is not in terminal decline, but still holding ground and showing healthy profits. Revenues from digital sales, subscription services, streaming and live performances compensate for the decline in revenues from the sale of CDs or records,” says Bart Cammaerts, LSE Senior Lecturer and one of the report’s authors.
The report shows that the entertainment industries are actually doing quite well. The digital gaming industry is thriving, the publishing sector is stable, and the U.S. film industry is breaking record after record.
“Despite the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) claim that online piracy is devastating the movie industry, Hollywood achieved record-breaking global box office revenues of $35 billion in 2012, a 6% increase over 2011,” the report reads.
Even the music industry is doing relatively well. Revenue from concerts, publishing and digital sales has increased significantly since the early 2000s and while recorded music revenues show a decline, there is little evidence that piracy is the lead cause.
“The music industry may be stagnating, but the drastic decline in revenues warned of by the lobby associations of record labels is not in evidence,” the report concludes.
Music industry revenue
The authors further argue that file-sharing can actually benefit the creative industries in various ways.
The report mentions the success of the SoundCloud service where artists can share their work for free through Creative Commons licenses, the promotional effect of YouTube where copyrighted songs are shared to promote sales, and the fact that research shows that file-sharers actually spend more money on entertainment than those who don’t share.
“Within the creative industries there is a variety of views on the best way to benefit from online sharing practices, and how to innovate to generate revenue streams in ways that do not fit within the existing copyright enforcement regime,” the authors write.
Finally, the report shows that punitive enforcement strategies such as the three strikes law in France are not as effective as the entertainment industries claim.
The researchers hope that the U.K. Government will review the Digital Economy Act in this light, and make sure that it will take into account the interests of both the public and copyright holders.
This means expanding fair use and private copying exceptions for citizens, while targeting enforcement on businesses rather than individuals.
“We recommend a review of the DEA and related legislation that strikes a healthy balance among the interests of a range of stakeholders including those in the creative industries, Internet Service Providers and internet users.”
“When both [the creative industries and citizens] can exploit the full potential of the internet, this will maximize innovative content creation for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the authors write.
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The season finale of Breaking Bad has resulted in a record number of pirated downloads for the popular TV-series. Just 12 hours after the first copy appeared online more than 500,000 people had already downloaded the show via various torrent sites. Most downloaders come from Australia, followed by the United States and the UK, where thousands of file-sharers prefer unauthorized copies over legal alternatives.
One of the main motivations for people to download and stream TV-shows from unauthorized sources is availability.
If fans can’t get a show through legal channels they often turn to pirated alternatives.
However, the series finale of Breaking Bad shows that there are more factors at play. Despite the availability of legal options, in many countries there are those who still prefer to download a copy from unauthorized sources.
Data gathered by TorrentFreak shows that 12 hours after the first copy of the episode appeared online, more than half a million people has grabbed a copy through one of many torrent sites. Never before have so many people downloaded a Breaking Bad episode, making it a strong contender for a top spot in our most-pirated TV-shows of the year chart.
So where are all these pirates coming from, and why aren’t they going for the legal options?
Based on a sample of more than 10,000 people who shared the site via a BitTorrent client, we see that Australia is once again in the lead with 18 percent of the total. This means that a large group of Aussies prefer to torrent the episode instead of watching it on the pay TV network Foxtel.
In the U.S. and the U.K the legal availability on Netflix couldn’t prevent people from pirating the final Breaking Bad episode either. With 14.5 and 9.3 percent these countries are second and third respectively. India and Canada complete the top five with 5.7 and 5.1 percent of the total.
Looking at the list of countries below it’s clear that piracy is still rampant, even in countries where people do have the option to watch the show legally.
One of the explanations for this defiant behavior is that these downloaders simply prefer to torrent the show out of habit. As reported earlier, even among those who have a Netflix subscription, many prefer to grab a copy via torrent sites as they find it more convenient.
In other cases people may find a pay TV subscription too expensive, or they simply prefer to watch the show at their own leisure instead of following rigid TV-schedules
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In Germany several major Hollywood studios are cashing in on BitTorrent pirates, charging hundreds of euros for illegally downloaded movies and TV-shows. While the studios have the right to protect their work, the efforts are double-barreled as they regularly hit the most engaged fans who have no options to watch the content legally. 20th Century Fox’s campaign against “Homeland” downloaders is a prime example.
German Internet subscribers can be held liable for almost everything that goes on via their connections, with or without their knowledge.
As a result, copyright holders have started hundreds of thousands of lawsuits against alleged pirates, demanding settlements ranging from a few hundred to thousands of euros.
In Germany these “trolling” ventures have attracted the attention of the major Hollywood studios. 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment are actively patrolling the Internet for people who download their work without permission.
The studios use similar monitoring tools as they do in the United States, where file-sharers are approached outside of court with a slap on the wrist or a $20 fine. In Germany, however, the stakes are much higher.
For example, 20th Century Fox is sending alleged file-sharers a 726 euro ($980) bill for downloading a single episode of the TV-series Homeland. For several months the Hollywood studio has been tracking unauthorized downloads of Homeland’s second season, which has yet to air in Germany.
20th Century Fox settlements letter
While these downloads are unmistakably unauthorized, it is ironic that these lawsuits target the TV-show’s most engaged fans. These people don’t download because they refuse to pay, but because they have no legal options at their disposal.
In Germany, Homeland’s second season starts airing next week, a full year after the U.S. premiere. It is inevitable that some of the most passionate fans don’t have the patience to wait this long before they can enjoy their favorite show legally.
Still, the Hollywood studios regularly single out these unavailable releases for their legal efforts. According to Christian Solmecke, a German IT lawyer who has defended hundreds of file-sharers, these shows are regularly targeted.
“The sharing of English-speaking TV series is particularly popular in Germany as these releases are often delayed. As a result, warning letters are regularly received for such copyright infringements,” Solmecke told TorrentFreak.
Unlike in the United States, Internet subscribers have no option to protest a copyright holders’ request to hand over their personal details. Paired with the fact that German ISPs can only store IP-address information for a week, this leads to a situation where personal details of accused subscribers are handed over pretty much automatically.
For the letter TorrentFreak received, the court signed off on handing over the subscriber data within a day of the IP-address being tracked. This is a worrying development according to legal experts and privacy advocates. The low retention periods for IP-addresses are meant to protect the privacy of users, but the opposite may be true in this case.
“I find it shocking when an IP-address is processed by the court on the same day as the infringement takes place,” Solmecke tells TorrentFreak.
“After all, judges should examine each claim on a case-by-case basis. In practice, however, the process is completely automatic and despite this obligation, it is unlikely that the judges properly scrutinize each individual case.”
The Hollywood movie studios, and dozens of copyright holders with them, are more pleased with how the system works. They are literally cashing in on these BitTorrent pirates to the tune of millions of euros every year.
Previously we pointed out that many major music labels and game publishers including CD Projekt have also been involved in the German settlement scheme. After public outcry, mainly targeted at the questionable reliability of the evidence, the latter retired its legal crusade against pirates.
“We value our fans, our supporters, and our community too highly to take the chance that we might ever falsely accuse even one individual,” CD Projekt’s Marcin Iwinski said at the time.
Whether 20th Century Fox and others respect their ‘fans’ just as much is doubtful.
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TorrentFreak released Monday a list of schools with the most BitTorrent downloads for 2013. Topping the chart is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (perhaps not surprisingly, TorrentFreak writes), with 1,935 recorded “hits” of torrenting activity. Rutgers, New York University, University of Houston and Texas A&M followed, all having at least 900 downloads.
Torrents allow users to share large files online, though they might best be known for the copyrighted content people illegally distribute through them. Searching a popular torrent website can quickly yield free copies of everything from the week’s top albums to libraries of classic films.
Because everything that’s transferred via torrent is public online, it’s easy to trace where the files originate from, says the list’s author and TorrentFreak’s founder, who writes under the pseudonym Ernesto Van Der Sar.
“Traditionally there has been a lot of talk about downloading at universities and colleges, and legislation in the U.S., which tries to prevent it as much as possible,” he says. “Entertainment companies are pushing the universities to educate their students about copyright and that they shouldn’t download illegally.”
These numbers are relatively small, Van Der Sar says, because of pressure on colleges and universities to report and punish students caught spreading illegal content. Colleges often warn students the first time they’re caught, he says, but punishments can escalate up to suspension or expulsion
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Continuing a long-standing New Year’s tradition, today we present an up-to-date list of the world’s most-visited BitTorrent sites. At the start of 2013 The Pirate Bay continues to pull in the most visitors, followed by KickassTorrents and Torrentz. Household names BTJunkie and Demonoid have dropped off the list as both sites are no longer online.
Which torrent sites get the most visitors at the start of 2013?
Traditionally BitTorrent users are very loyal, which is reflected in the top 10 where most sites have had a consistent listing for more than half a decade. This year there are a few movers and shakers, as well as several newcomers.
The most notable absentees this year are BTJunkie and Demonoid. Both sites have been featured in the top 10 since 2006, but went offline in 2012. BTJunkie permanently quit early last year and Demonoid’s future is also uncertain after it disappeared during the summer.
The first newcomer in tenth place is H33t, which has been growing steadily in recent years. The second newcomer is TorrentReactor, one of the oldest torrent sites around that makes its comeback after not making the list last year.
Then there is also a group of notable sites that didn’t make the cut, but deserve a mention. YIFY-torrents.com for example, which launched late 2011 and has grown exponentially since. Also worth mentioning are the Pirate Bay proxies, including Pirateproxy.net, which in itself almost deserves a spot in the top 10.
Below is the full list of the 10 most-visited torrent sites at the start of the new year. Only public and English language sites are included. The list is based on various traffic reports and we display the Alexa and U.S. Compete rank for each. In addition, we include last year’s ranking for each of the 10 sites.
Did we miss anything? Feel free to join the discussion below.
To many people The Pirate Bay is the equivalent to BitTorrent. The site was founded in 2003 and is still expanding, despite the various legal troubles and new blockades in the UK and the Netherlands. The Pirate Bay currently has well over a billion page views a month.
Alexa Rank: 74 / Compete Rank: 398 / Last year #1
KickassTorrents was founded in 2009 and has moved up in our top 10 year after year. Responding to increasing worries over domain seizures, the site moved from its kickasstorrents.com domain to kat.ph in 2012. This year the site continued to grow, despite being blocked by Italian Internet providers.
Alexa Rank: 116 / Compete Rank: 719 / Last year #3
Torrentz has been the leading BitTorrent meta-search engine for many years. Unlike the other sites featured in the list Torrentz does not host any torrent files, it merely redirects visitors to other places on the web. The site uses several domain names with the .eu being the most popular.
Alexa Rank: 166 / Compete Rank: 882 / Last year #2
Two years ago isoHunt became the first search engine forced to implement a keyword filter provided by the MPAA. Despite this setback, isoHunt continues to be listed among the world’s top torrent sites. isoHunt is currently trying to get rid of the filter through the Appeals Court.
Alexa Rank: 213 / Compete Rank: 1,935 / Last year #4
ExtraTorrent continues to gain more traffic and has moved up again in the top 10, now being the 5th most visited torrent site. This success didn’t go unnoticed to rightsholders groups such as the RIAA and MPAA who have called out ExtraTorrent as one of the top pirate sites recently.
Alexa Rank: 279 / Compete Rank: 1,973 / Last year #6
1337x focuses more on the community aspect than some competitors. The site’s owners say they started 1337x to “fill an apparent void where it seemed there was a lack of quality conscience ad free torrent sites with public trackers.” The site moved up from spot 10 last year to 6th in 2013.
Alexa Rank: 1,031 / Compete Rank: 9,228 / Last year #10
Unlike the other sites in the top 10, TV-torrent distribution group EZTV is a niche site specializing in TV content only. It was one of the newcomers last year despite being around for more than 7 years, and is relatively popular among Australians. Because of its focus on TV-content EZTV’s traffic varies in line with the TV-seasons.
Alexa Rank: 1,128 / Compete Rank: 16,622 / Last year #8
BitSnoop is one of the largest BitTorrent indexes, claiming to index a massive 19,091,736 torrent files at the time of writing. The site’s traffic continues to grow steadily, as do the DMCA notices that it receives.
Alexa Rank: 1,159 / Compete Rank: 5,648 / Last year #9
TorrentReactor is back in the top 10 after dropping off last year. A few months ago the site was blocked by a court order in Italy, but the site nonetheless continues to gain visitors.
Alexa Rank: 1,314 / Compete Rank: 4,530 / Last year #NA
H33T has been around for many years and has built a dedicated user base, mostly in Europe and Asia. Despite the wishes of the music industry, the site isn’t yet blocked by any court orders. The site made the news a few months ago when its owner took a stand against the avalanche of copyright takedown requests.
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Interesting news coming out of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) shows that maybe BitTorrent pirates have a point when it comes to not waiting for TV shows. In an attempt to dissuade Aussie punters from torrenting the show, ABC has announced it will offer this weekend’s new Doctor Who episode on its iView service as soon as it finishes airing in the UK.
TV shows are often the most popular torrents out there, and the resurrected sci-fi series Doctor Who has an ardent following. Since it rematerialized onto our screens in 2005 it has rapidly gained a substantial and ‘hard-core’ following world-wide.
But thanks to Twitter and Facebook, as well as the more old-fashioned forums and email lists, a storyline can be ruined by ‘spoilers’ emanating from those in regions who gain access to the show first – a recurring theme of the BBC show over the last years.
“Piracy is wrong, as you are denying someone their rights and income for their intellectual property,” said ABC1 controller Brendan Dahill.
“The fact that it is happening is indicative that as broadcasters we are not meeting demand for a segment of the population. So as broadcasters we need to find convenient ways of making programs available via legal means to discourage the need for piracy,” he added.
The Dr Who show will be available on the iView ‘catch up’ service moments after the episode finishes airing in the UK, although those who prefer to watch on their TV will still have to wait until September 8th. While fans would prefer it aired sometime on the Sunday, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
This is not the first time a sonic screwdriver has been pointed at a broadcast schedule. Transatlantic Whovians got a taste of same-day showings last spring, and will do so again this year. For others however, FACT’s actions against the expat-focused site UKNova over the weekend could not have come at a worse time.
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