A coalition of copyright owners and Internet Service Providers including Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will begin issuing notices to illegal downloaders this week as part of the newly launched Copyright Alert System (CAS), it was announced Monday. The initiative, introduced last year by the Center For Copyright Information, will target consumers suspected of pirating or sharing copyrighted movies, TV shows, and music. Content owners will work with ISPs to send a series of six escalating warnings to users suspected of copyright violation. After receiving two “educational” Copyright Alerts, alleged violators will be sent two additional alerts requiring a response, followed by two final Alerts accompanied by a reduction of Internet speed and/or forced redirection to a landing page requiring further action. “We hope this cooperative, multi-stakeholder approach will serve as a model for addressing important issues facing all who participate in the digital entertainment ecosystem”, CCI Director Jill Lesser said today in a statement.
A British student who faced extradition to the U.S. and a possible prison term over a web site he created for sharing TV shows and movies has struck a deal, BBC reports. Richard O’Dwyer, of Sheffield in northern England, was arrested initially in 2010 when U.S. authorities charged that O’Dwyer’s TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and TV shows. The site also allegedly collected $230,000 in advertising before it was seized and shut down. Home Secretary Theresa May approved O’Dwyer’s extradition after a court ruling in January 2012. Following a campaign by his mother Julia that was joined in June by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, O’Dwyer will pay compensation under a “deferred prosecution” and avoid extradition. As part of the agreement O’Dwyer is expected to travel voluntarily to the U.S. to appear in court to finalize the deal before Christmas.
It’s not shutting them down as many in Hollywood would like but if a site is repeatedly posting pirated material then Google announced today that they’re going to flag it. “Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices received for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results,” Amit Singhal, the company’s SVP, Engineering wrote this morning on Google’s blog. Singhal added that “we’re receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in all of 2009 — more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone.” Earlier this year at the AllThingsD conference WME’s Ari Emanuel emphasized that he wanted Google to start helping Hollywood out with piracy and “start filtering when people are stealing our product internationally.” The Motion Picture Association of America has long advocated Google and other search engines addressing the issue of piracy and copyrighted material and the accessibility of such material in search results. Today the MPAA’s Michael O’Leary had this to say about the new move by Google:
“We are optimistic that Google’s actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw
A New Zealand judge has ruled that search warrants used to seize evidence in the Megaupload case were illegally broad and vague. Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom still faces a battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. but the search warrant ruling likely weakened the case, legal experts told Reuters today. The invalidated warrants included those that permitted the search of Dotcom’s home and the seizure of computer hard drives. The court also ruled the FBI’s copying of evidence and sending it to the U.S. was unlawful. The case is the FBI’s highest profile action against global copyright theft. Regarding the extradition of Dotcom, an authority on New Zealand law said there may still be enough evidence to convince a court to allow extradition. Dotcom was one of four men arrested during a dramatic January raid on his estate outside Auckland. Prosecutors allege Dotcom is the ringleader of a global piracy ring that has illegally copied and distribed music, movies and other copyrighted content. Dotcom’s lawyers say Megaupload only provided online storage.
WASHINGTON — A founder of NinjaVideo.net, a website that provided millions of users with the ability to illegally download high-quality copies of copyright-protected movies and television programs, was sentenced today to 14 months in prison. The sentence is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center).
Matthew David Howard Smith, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., was sentenced today in Alexandria, Va., by U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga also ordered Smith to serve two years of supervised release following his prison term, to pay $172,387 and to forfeit to the United States five financial accounts and various computer equipment involved in the crimes. Smith pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2011, to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement.
A 23-year-old British student faces possible extradition to the United States for trial on charges of copyright infringement for hosting a website that pointed visitors to illegal download sites. Richard O’Dwyer’s website TV Shack listed links to other websites where users could access movies and TV shows but did not host any content himself. O’Dwyer, a college student, said he undertook TV Shack as a project to improve his skills and job marketability. O’Dwyer sold $230,000 worth of advertising, which he says was necessary because of the massive server fees. “When you’ve got a website with over 300,000 people a month visiting, there’s a need for infrastructure to support that.” O’Dwyer’s attorney said the young man had done nothing more than Google or Yahoo search engines. Ben Cooper, an extradition lawyer, described O’Dwyer as a “guinea pig” because no British citizen has ever been extradited to the United States for a copyright offense. Nonetheless, a London judge upheld the extradition request and sent it to Britain’s Home Secretary for a final decision. O’Dwyer plans to appeal.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales blogs that he is considering a blackout of pages on the popular site to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act. Wales has asked users and editors of Wikipedia to weigh in with their opinions before he makes a decision. The entertainment industry wants the government to take stronger action against “digital theft” and has lobbied heavily in favor of SOPA, while Internet companies, the Consumer Electronics Association and others have argued that the measure is goes too far and is too vague. They fear that SOPA and to a lesser extent its companion Senate measure Protect IP Act would grant U.S. law enforcement sweeping powers to shut down websites and online services accused of facilitating piracy — or even sites media companies simply don’t like — potentially without due process. Google chairman Eric Schmidt says it amounts to a license for corporate censorship. Wales came up with the idea for his protest because “the Italian Wikipedia community made a decision to blank all of Italian Wikipedia for a short period in order to protest a law which would infringe on their editorial independence. The Italian Parliament backed down immediately,” he wrote on his personal User Talk page. Wales considers SOPA a much worse law. He believes that blanking out the site might be the best way to get Washington’s attention.
The last remaining co-founder of NinjaVideo.net pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in Virginia. The site facilitated illegal downloads of movies and TV shows and took in $505,000 in revenue from ads and donations from users. Justin A. Dedemko, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga in the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko’s fellow co-founders Matthew David Howard Smith and Hana Amal Beshara pleaded guilty separately to conspiracy and criminal copyright infringement in September. Dedemko was responsible for locating infringing content on the Internet and uploading it to servers used by the NinjaVideo.net website, some of which were located in the Eastern District of Virginia. Dedemko subsequently focused on marketing and advertising, which resulted in the $505,000 in income. Dedemko admitted he personally received $58,004 and agreed to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for February 24, 2012. He faces a maximum of five years.
The Hangover Part II is beginning to seem like a litigation magnet. The latest lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles according to Entertainment Weekly. It alleges that filmmakers mimicked a script that aspiring scribe Michael Alan Rubin based on his own marital misadventures in Asia. Plaintiff Rubin claims The Hangover II “is copied from the treatment … and also from the real life incident of the Plaintiff, because the protagonist … travels from the United States to an Asian country to marry his Asian girlfriend.” How did they get his script, you might wonder? Rubin claims his ex-wife gave the filmmakers his story, and furthermore accuses them of defaming him with descriptions of Ed Helms’ character’s drug-fueled antics including sex with a transsexual prostitute. Rubin is representing himself. Back when The Hangover became a hit in summer 2009, you may recall, Deadline revealed that the original movie was loosely based on the Las Vegas escapades of producer Tripp Vinson. Meanwhile, a previous lawsuit filed by the tattoo artist who designed the ink adorning Mike Tyson was settled, and another filed by a stunt man injured during the making of the film is pending.
People who illegally download copyrighted movies, TV shows, and music will soon receive a series emailed warnings — and may temporarily see Internet speeds reduced or have their Web surfing blocked — a coalition of content producers and distributors announced this morning. The measures come from a new organization called the Center for Copyright Information that’s backed by trade groups including the MPAA, RIAA, and IFTA, as well as major broadband providers such as Comcast and Verizon. The coalition says it wants to develop a set of common best practices to treat illegal downloads much the same way financial institutions deal with credit card fraud. The participants say that they are working within existing laws and won’t terminate Internet subscriber accounts or provide user names to copyright holders. They just want to be sure that people know when they’re violating someone’s copyright. “Data suggest that, once informed about the alleged content theft and its possible consequences, most Internet subscribers will quickly take steps to ensure that the theft doesn’t happen again,” the group says in a release. The Center says that content theft accounts for $16 billion in lost earnings each year as well as $3 billion in lost federal state and local tax revenue.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) announced the launch Wednesday of “Operation In Our Sites,” a new initiative aimed at Internet counterfeiting and piracy. In the first action carried out as part of the initiative, authorities seized nine domain names of Web sites that were offering first-run movies, often within hours of their theatrical release. Seven of those sites were targeted for seizure by the SDNY.