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Internet Association Blasts MPAA’s ‘Crony Politics’

2018-05-16 20:04:24

Last month, MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin used the Facebook privacy debacle to voice his concern about the current state of the Internet.

“The Internet is no longer nascent – and people around the world are growing increasingly uncomfortable with what it’s becoming,” Rivkin wrote in his letter to several Senators, linking Internet-related privacy breaches to regulation, immunities, and safe harbors.

“The moment has come for a national dialogue about restoring accountability on the internet. Whether through regulation, recalibration of safe harbors, or the exercise of greater responsibility by online platforms, something must change.”

While it’s good to see that the head of Hollywood’s main lobbying group is concerned about Facebook users, not everyone is convinced of his good intentions. Some suggest that the MPAA is hijacking the scandal to further its own, unrelated, interests.

This is exactly the position taken by the Internet Association, a US-based organization comprised of the country’s leading Internet-based businesses. The organization is comprised of many prominent members including Google, Twitter, Amazon, Reddit, Yahoo, and Facebook.

Several of these companies were the target of the MPAA’s criticism, named or not, which prompted the Internet Association to respond.

In an open letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, the group’s president and CEO, Michael Beckerman, lashes out against the MPAA and similar lobbying groups. These groups hijack the regulatory debate with anti-internet lobbying efforts, he says.

“Look no further than the gratuitous letter Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. Chairman & CEO Charles Rivkin submitted to the Energy and Commerce Committee during your recent Zuckerberg hearing,” Beckerman writes.

“The hearing had nothing to do with the Motion Picture industry, but Mr. Rivkin demonstrated shameless rent-seeking by calling for regulation on internet companies simply in an effort to protect his clients’ business interest.”

These rent-seeking efforts are part of the “crony politics” used by “pre-internet” companies to protect their old business models, the Internet Association’s CEO adds.

“This blatant display of crony politics is not unique to the big Hollywood studios, but rather emblematic of a broader anti-consumer lobbying campaign. Many other pre-internet industries —telcos, legacy tech firms, hotels, and others — are looking to defend old business models by regulating a rising competitor to the clear detriment of consumers.”

These harsh words show that the rift between Silicon Valley and Hollywood is still wide open.

It’s clear that the MPAA and other copyright industry groups are still hoping for stricter regulation to ensure that Internet companies are held accountable. Privacy is generally not their main focus though.

They mostly want companies such as Google and Facebook to prevent piracy and compensate rightsholders. Whether using the Facebook privacy scandal was a good way to bring this message to the forefront is a matter of which camp one’s in.

While the Internet Association bashes the MPAA’s efforts, they don’t discount the idea that more can be done to prevent and stop abuse.

“As technology and services evolve to better meet user needs, bad actors will find ways to take advantage. Our members are ever vigilant and work hard to stop them. The task is never done, and we pledge to work harder and do even better,” Beckerman notes.

The Internet Association’s full letter, spotted by Variety, is available here (pdf).

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Roku Displays FBI Anti-Piracy Warning to Legitimate YouTube & Netflix Users

2018-05-16 10:48:29

In 2018, dealing with copyright infringement claims is a daily issue for many content platforms. The law in many regions demands swift attention and in order to appease copyright holders, most platforms are happy to oblige.

While it’s not unusual for ‘pirate’ content and services to suddenly disappear in response to a DMCA or similar notice, the same is rarely true for entire legitimate services.

But that’s what appeared to happen on the Roku platform during the night, when YouTube, Netflix and other channels disappeared only to be replaced with an ominous anti-piracy warning.

As the embedded tweet shows, the message caused confusion among Roku users who were only using their devices to access legal content. Messages replacing Netflix and YouTube seemed to have caused the greatest number of complaints but many other services were affected.

FoxSportsGo, FandangoNow, and India-focused YuppTV and Hotstar were also blacked out. As were the yoga and transformational videos specialists over at Gaia, the horror buffs at ChillerFlix, and UK TV service BritBox.

But while users scratched their heads, with some misguidedly blaming Roku for not being diligent enough against piracy, Roku took to Twitter to reveal that rather than anti-piracy complaints against the channels in question, a technical hitch was to blame.

However, a subsequent statement to CNET suggested that while blacking out Netflix and YouTube might have been accidental, Roku appears to have been taking anti-piracy action against another channel or channels at the time, with the measures inadvertently spilling over to innocent parties.

“We use that warning when we detect content that has violated copyright,” Roku said in a statement.

“Some channels in our Channel Store displayed that message and became inaccessible after Roku implemented a targeted anti-piracy measure on the platform.”

The precise nature of the action taken by Roku is unknown but it’s clear that copyright infringement is currently a hot topic for the platform.

Roku is currently fighting legal action in Mexico which ordered its products off the shelves following complaints that its platform is used by pirates. That led to an FBI warning being shown for what was believed to be the first time against the XTV and other channels last year.

This March, Roku took action against the popular USTVNow channel following what was described as a “third party” copyright infringement complaint. Just a couple of weeks later, Roku followed up by removing the controversial cCloud channel.

With Roku currently fighting to have sales reinstated in Mexico against a backdrop of claims that up to 40% of its users are pirates, it’s unlikely that Roku is suddenly going to go soft on piracy, so more channel outages can be expected in the future.

In the meantime, the scary FBI warnings of last evening are beginning to fade away (for legitimate channels at least) after the company issued advice on how to fix the problem.

“The recent outage which affected some channels has been resolved. Go to Settings > System > System update > Check now for a software update. Some channels may require you to log in again. Thank you for your patience,” the company wrote in an update.

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