Torrent trackers freak out over perceived Windows 10 anti-piracy measures

Convinced that a piracy crackdown is coming, one torrent tracking site has banned all users of Windows 10, and several other sites have considered doing the same. Unfortunately, these sites are also jumping to conclusions without much in the way of evidence.

As noted on Reddit, the private torrent tracker iTS has been banning Windows 10 users since last week, citing reports that Microsoft is scanning Windows 10 PCs for pirated games and unauthorized hardware peripherals. Many of those reports were overblown, however, as the End User License Agreement in question only applies to Microsoft services. In other words, playing a pirated game over Xbox Live in Windows 10 might get you banned from Xbox Live, just as it does on Xbox consoles.

iTS also claimed that Microsoft is submitting “the contents of your local disks” to the servers of MarkMonitor, a firm that provides many services including anti-piracy. Again, this seems like an overstatement. As TorrentFreak points out, Microsoft has long worked with MarkMonitor to offer phishing protection in Microsoft services (and it’s not as if concerns about fraud and malware on torrent sites are completely unfounded).

Nonetheless, iTS’s extreme stand against Windows 10 seems to be inspiring some other trackers. According to TorrentFreak, tracker operators BB and FSC are also considering a ban on Windows 10. “What’s particularly nasty is that apparently it sends the results of local(!!) searches to a well known anti piracy company directly so as soon as you have one known p2p or scene release on your local disk … BAM!,” BB staff wrote to its users.

The concern appears to be that that these trackers could be exposed by Microsoft’s monitoring of its own Internet services. But again, there’s no sign that this is actually happening, so all we have are a few sites taking an abundance of caution in lieu of hard evidence.

Why this matters: While the reaction from private torrent trackers is extreme, that doesn’t mean Microsoft is blameless. By not clearly explaining certain aspects of Windows 10 (such as the way taskbar searches phone home even with Bing disabled ), and enabling features like Wi-Fi Sense and peer-to-peer updates by default, the company has seeded some distrust in its latest operating system. Thus, even the slightest perceived issues, such as anti-piracy measures in Xbox Live, become the cause for more paranoia.

via Torrent trackers freak out over perceived Windows 10 anti-piracy measures | PCWorld.

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Malwarebytes offers amnesty to pirates amid licensing overhaul

Malwarebytes is extending an olive branch to software pirates as it tries to banish bogus licenses from its system.

The company’s Amnesty program flags potentially pirated versions of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Premium, and offers a legitimate year’s subscription (normally $25) in exchange. Legitimate users who’ve been mistakenly flagged as pirates can also ask for a longer subscription—or even a lifetime license—to match their original purchase.

As Malwarebytes CEO Marcin Kleczynski explained in the company’s forums, many years ago the company made the mistake of using an insecure licensing key algorithm. This made it easy for pirates to generate their own keys, and for unscrupulous vendors to sell false licenses. As Malwarebytes’ user base has grown, this has led to bogus keys overlapping with legitimate ones.

Malwarebytes is now switching to a more secure licensing system, but in the process must deal with all those duplicate keys. The Amnesty program is designed to let legitimate users (and users who thought they were legitimate) request fresh licenses while attempting to convert some pirates in the process. Malwarebytes says the old keys will stop working “after a period of time.”

Some users in Malwarebytes’ forums have pointed out that it’s entirely possible for pirates to claim that they purchased legitimate copies and to request full lifetime licenses, as the Amnesty system doesn’t currently check for proof. However, Klecyznski suggested that the company may start checking some of these claims manually.

Why this matters: Unlike Microsoft’s halfhearted appeal to Windows pirates, this isn’t merely a marketing ploy. Instead, it’s an attempt to erase a longstanding licensing problem and crack down on piracy, all while minimizing the collateral damage. While some users may not appreciate seeing pirates get a free ride, it’s better than locking out users who have every intention of paying.

via Malwarebytes offers amnesty to pirates amid licensing overhaul | PCWorld.

Pirate site The Pirate Bay goes down, then sails for Costa Rica

The original home of The Pirate Bay, probably the Web’s highest-profile site for copyrighted movies, music, and software, is no longer online.

However, at least a placeholder is alive on a Costa Rican domain—though not much more than that.

TorrentFreak first noted the outage. The site’s reporters said that they had received a statement from Paul Pintér, Sweden’s police national coordinator for IP enforcement, claiming that there had been a raid on a server room owned by The Pirate Bay at a site in Stockholm.

According to earlier reporting from the site, however, The Pirate Bay had moved to a cloud-based infrastucture that used 21 “virtual servers” controlled by a load balancer. The idea, according to The Pirate Bay, was that the distributed architecture would make it “raid-proof,” as the site could simply be moved from domain to domain. Whether that’s the case or not, time will tell.

The Pirate Bay’s Twitter feed has gone dark since Dec. 3. Related sites, such Suprbay.org, are also offline, as are Bayimg.com and Pastebay.net. The mobile version of The Pirate Bay, themobilebay.org, also timed out when PCWorld tried to access it.

Want to learn more about the history of The Pirate Bay? Check out the timeline that TechHive constructed last year.

Why this matters: The Pirate Bay has served both as a rallying point both for those who are too cheap to pay for electronic media as well as more civic-minded folk who used the site as a form or protest against increasingly draconian copyright laws.The Pirate Bay has always touted itself as the “most resilient” pirate site on the Web; we’ll find out exactly how resilient over the course of the next few days, it seems.

via Pirate site The Pirate Bay goes down, then sails for Costa Rica | PCWorld.

Can former “pirates” fix a broken movie market?

For a country of 16 million people with a GDP under $100 billion, Ecuador spends a lot of time in the US crosshairs for inadequate IP protection. The country has been cited in the US government\’s Special 301 IP report every year for the past decade, alongside perennials like Russia and China.

Pharmaceutical access has been the sharpest point of conflict with the US, most recently due to Ecuador’s strong stance on compulsory licensing of medicines. But Ecuador’s pirate disc markets also appear regularly in USTR and industry reports. As the copyright industry group IIPA put it in its 2013 Special 301 submission, “The level of piracy in Ecuador worsened in 2012, and pirate music products are being massively sold in shopping malls without any control from police or local authorities.” The story hasn’t changed much since 2003, when the IIPA described “dramatic decreases in IPR enforcement.”

No one expects Ecuador to wage war on the pirate CD or DVD trade. As long as multinationals set prices for CDs, DVDs, and software at US and European levels, legal markets will be small and pirate markets large. In a country where the informal sector contributes over a third of GDP, street enforcement will be costly and unpopular.

But the US does expect the Ecuadorean government to buy into the premises of the US IP agenda by treating weak legal markets as an enforcement problem rather than a pricing problem—that is, Ecuador’s problem, not Hollywood’s. This produces a kabuki aspect to enforcement efforts in Ecuador (and in many middle- and low-income countries, according to this American Assembly piracy report), marked by high-profile but ineffective police campaigns, harsh but rarely applied penalties, and widespread, low-level graft as police and vendors negotiate the terms of day-to-day business.

The question for Ecuador and for many other poor countries, then, is how to break the relationship between poverty, piracy, and high prices. And on this front, Ecuadoreans have gotten creative. Since 2010, Ecuador has experimented with licensing models for DVDs that incorporate, rather than reject, the informal sector. Street vendors, local rightsholders, and the government have begun to work together to address the problems of affordable, legal access to media.

Full Story: Can former “pirates” fix a broken movie market? | Ars Technica.

The most pirated movies are the hardest to buy online

Hollywood likes to paint movie pirates as freeloaders without morals, but maybe those so-called dastardly downloaders are simply under-served.

A new website called PiracyData.org tracks the most pirated movies of the week, as reported by TorrentFreak, and taps into Can I Stream It? to show whether file sharers could have bought or rented the movie online instead.

As PiracyData\’s chart below shows, four out of the 10 most pirated movies cannot be purchased legally online. Out of the remaining six movies, three are available for full-priced purchase, but not for rent. None of the top 10 movies can be watched through subscription streaming services such as Netflix.

On its face, it looks like a missed opportunity for the movie industry. Viewers may feel pushed toward piracy when they can\’t purchase or at least rent the movies they want to watch.

But it\’s also worth noting the release timing of these movies. Every single movie on the list came out this year, but is no longer showing in major theaters. With the exception of three films, most of these movies are now in an awkward stage where you can buy them on DVD, but cannot rent them online.

DVD sales are plummeting. People are growing accustomed to pressing a button and streaming a movie instantly. The idea of withholding new movies from digital rental just to juice DVD sales looks increasingly antiquated as people move beyond the optical disc. For disposable films that people only want to watch once, a mandatory $15 or $20 purchase is undesirable as well.

Of course, there are exceptions. People do have rental options for The Lone Ranger, After Earth and This is the End, yet they remain popular to download on BitTorrent. Unscrupulous freeloaders do exist, and are not going away. But when the only legal options are DVD or mandatory purchase, it\’s no surprise that potential paying customers will turn to piracy instead.

via The most pirated movies are the hardest to buy online | TechHive.