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MPAA and RIAA’s Megaupload Lawsuits Remain on Hold

When the U.S. Government shut down Megaupload in 2012, Internet traffic volumes dropped all over the world.

The destruction of one of the largest file-hosting services came as a shock to hundreds of millions of users, but particularly to the key players involved.

While the authorities had hoped to resolve the case swiftly, the opposite happened. Aside from Andrus Nomm’s plea deal years ago, there hasn’t been any progress in the criminal proceedings against Megaupload’s founder and his co-indicted associates.

After more than eight years, it is still not clear whether Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and his associates will ever stand trial in the US. They have and continue to fight this request tooth and nail in New Zealand.

While all parties await the outcome, which could take several more years, the criminal case in the United States remains pending. The same goes for the civil cases launched by the MPAA and RIAA in 2014.

This brings us to two new filings Megaupload’s legal team submitted at a Virginia federal court this week. The defunct file-sharing platform requests to keep the RIAA and MPAA cases on hold for at least six more months, noting the lack of movement in the criminal case.

“The Criminal Action is still pending, and none of the individual defendants have been extradited,” writes Megaupload attorney Craig C. Reilly, asking the court to stay the cases.

This request and the court’s swift approval to extend the delay until October doesn’t come as a surprise. The MPAA and RIAA didn’t object to it and similar requests have been granted more than a dozen times already.

The civil cases are not expected to start until after the criminal case in the U.S. has been ‘resolved.’ That can take several more years. Meanwhile, data from Megaupload’s servers remains securely stored, possibly to serve as evidence in the future.

Previously there have been attempts to make it possible for millions of former Megaupload users to retrieve their personal files. However, in recent years there hasn’t been any update on this front.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice announced eight years ago that it would work on a solution to allow rightsholders to check whether their content was shared on Megaupload or related sites. Today, this feature is still listed as being “under construction.”

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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YouTube Refuses to Process DMCA Counternotice for ‘Creepy Bugs’ Cartoon

Earlier this week we reported on a dark parody cartoon depicting a washed-out Bugs Bunny as a sex pest. The controversial video was created by Hunter Hancock, the person behind the MeatCanyon channel.

It was hit with a copyright complaint by Warner Bros. As a result, the MeatCanyon channel received a copyright strike and the cartoon was taken down.

When a video is targeted by a copyright holder with a manual complaint (i.e one not actioned as a result of ContentID matching), users can generally refer to the DMCA for guidance. This means that if they believe their content was not infringing (under fair use guidelines, for example), they can submit a DMCA counternotice to YouTube explaining why the content should not have been taken down.

This is exactly what Hancock did in response to the Warner complaint.

“This is my own creation. I animated every frame, composed the music, recorded the audio and made the backgrounds,” he told YouTube in his counternotice shared with TorrentFreak.

“This creation is under fair use,” he continued. “The characters have been stylized by myself to not reflect directly with the traditional characters. There is no branded logo to incite that this is a real video owned by Warner Brothers, but is in fact a parody video created by none other than by myself.”

As required under the law, Hancock swore that he had a “good faith belief” that the material had been removed due to a mistake and also consented to the jurisdiction of his local federal court, in case Warner chose to sue him – something it must do within two weeks to prevent the content from being restored. Should that time pass with no lawsuit, then the content would’ve been put back up and the strike removed.

In the event, however, none of those things happened. In short, YouTube declined to accept the apparently valid DMCA counternotice filed by Hancock and refused to pass it on to Warner.

“Based on the information you provided, it appears that you do not have the necessary rights to post the content on YouTube. Therefore, we regretfully cannot honor your request. It has not been forwarded to the original claimant, and we will not be able to restore your video,” YouTube’s correspondence reads.

While this response from YouTube runs counter to what most people would expect under the DMCA counter-claim process, it is not unprecedented. The EFF previously reported that agreements YouTube has with rightsholders may effectively deny access to the system.

“In many instances, even if you successfully submit a DMCA counter-notice, the video will not be reinstated. These agreements are opaque, and scope of what’s allowed under them is unknown. They may be short-term, or long-term,” the EFF previously explained.

In this case, the refusal of YouTube to allow a counter-claim represents a double-edged sword. While Hancock submitted the notice in good faith, genuinely believing he was in a good position to put his side of the argument by insisting he was protected under fair use doctrines, the reality of dealing with a lawsuit, should one be initiated, is a serious proposition and not to be underestimated.

After being denied by YouTube and further consideration, he decided that fighting probably wasn’t the best option after all.

“I am in no place to fight this in court due to financial reasons. It seems unnecessary to start a GoFund me or ask for help, because it’s between me and Warner Brothers,” he told TF.

“It also made me think YouTube wanted the video off the platform. It is a very crude video so I can’t blame them for that, but it would’ve been nice to have been given more information on why this video was unacceptable to stay up on my page. It’s very disheartening.”

While the decision by YouTube will be viewed by some as anti-consumer and a denial of due process, in this case the platform arguably did the animator a favor. Instead of expending resources he doesn’t have on a legal process that could go either way and could even prove financially ruinous, he can now concentrate on creating new content for fans.

Some battles are worth fighting but it’s definitely worth weighing the costs first.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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Anti-Piracy Campaign Against YouTube-Rippers Has Very Little Effect

Nowadays, most popular music is legally accessible on YouTube. While everyone is allowed to play it, downloading tracks without permission is strictly forbidden.

YouTube itself also prohibits downloading or ripping unless the uploader specifically allows it. However, there are third-party sites that have found ways around these restrictions.

These ‘YouTube-rippers’ have been around for many years, much to the frustration of the music industry. The RIAA, in particular, is actively cracking down on these sites.

In recent months, the music group has filed subpoenas to identify several site operators. In addition, it sends takedown requests to search engines hoping that this will make the sites harder to find.

The latter strategy is relatively new and started just a few months ago. The RIAA doesn’t use standard DMCA notices since most YouTube-rippers don’t host content. Instead, the sites are reported for violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.

Through this route, the RIAA has managed to remove thousands of URLs from Google’s search results. While that sounds effective, a closer look at the estimated traffic data, kindly shared with us by piracy tracking company MUSO, shows that the measures have surprisingly little effect.

Below is an overview of the worldwide traffic to stream-ripper sites in the music category. It runs from September 2019, before the RIAA’s mass takedown campaign started, all the way to the end of January 2020. This reveals that traffic to these sites has remained relatively stable, without any sign of declining visitor numbers.

Global traffic in the music category to stream-rippers

The lack of movement by itself doesn’t say much about search traffic, so we decided to take a detailed look at that as well. MUSO reports search traffic separately, and this shows a similar pattern. In fact, search traffic to stream-rippers briefly appeared to grow at the end of last year.

In September, search engines were sending roughly 7.5 million visitors to stream-rippers per day, and at the end of January, that figure was pretty much the same.

Global search traffic in the music category to stream-rippers

These data are not entirely unexpected as YouTube-rippers are actively fighting back against the RIAA’s anti-piracy campaign. As we highlighted earlier, several sites are switching to new URL structures, to make sure that they remain visible in search engines.

And indeed, if we search on Google for the phrase “YouTube to MP3,” we see several YouTube-rippers in the top results.

Google search for “YouTube to MP3″”

Looking at the traffic statistics of individual sites we see some movement here and there. The two most popular stream-rippers, y2mate.com and ytmp3.cc, increased their traffic, while the third in line, flvto.biz, lost some visitors.

Flvto.biz’s sister site 2conv.com, however, saw its traffic go up. Both sites are also currently involved in a legal battle with the RIAA. While they won their first round, this case is currently on appeal.

The above shows that, thus far, the RIAA’s takedown efforts have had little effect. However, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to celebrate at all. Onlinevideoconverter.com, which was the most popular stream-ripper just a year ago, is no longer a major threat.

The site saw its traffic drop from 207 million visitors in March 2019, to 15 million last month. This loss in visitors isn’t directly linked to the RIAA’s efforts, however. Instead, it’s the result of the site’s decision to disable YouTube ripping, after YouTube started to block its servers.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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Bad Boys For Life Leads Wave of Early Movie Releases Flooding Pirate Sites

As the planet struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic, businesses around the world are looking at ways to mitigate the disruption caused by voluntary and in some cases mandatory isolation.

Social distancing is now vital to the health of billions of people and as a result, visiting cinemas is no longer an option. Instead, movie companies are bringing forward digital release dates for many movies, hoping that people will rent or buy these titles, as a temporary replacement for venturing out to the big screen.

Somewhat inevitably these releases are now appearing on pirate sites, available to download or stream depending on the platform. Last Friday, The Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma were readily available for viewing and this week many new titles can be added to the list.

Despite the movie only hitting cinema screens in mid-January, the much-anticipated Bad Boys For Life is now pulling in considerable numbers on unofficial platforms. It wasn’t expected until March 31 but this morning there are various HD copies culled from a digital source doing the rounds on torrent and streaming platforms.

Switching back and forth between second and third place in this batch is superhero movie Bloodshot. Starring Vin Diesel, the title was released early on March 13 but just a handful of days later, Sony Pictures said it would appear digitally on March 24 in response to the outbreak.

Next up is the Guy Ritchie action/comedy The Gentleman. Available in 1080p WEBRip format after being captured from platforms such as Amazon, the movie was previously slated for a home release on April 7. In the event, it appeared March 24 and almost immediately found itself on unlicensed platforms.

In no particular order (our regular weekly download chart will determine that in due course), several other titles are also readily available after early digital releases.

After being released digitally last Friday, animated release Onward was quickly made available unofficially. The same thing happened to the Harrison Ford movie The Call of the Wild today, just hours after being made available on Disney Plus.

Another Disney movie, Downhill starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, also appeared this morning but doesn’t appear to be particularly popular, at least for now.

Finally, after a February theatrical release, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn was slated for a digital release on March 24 by DC. In the event, it actually appeared on pirate sites as early as March 21.

Quite how this state of play is being received at the studios is unclear. However, these are unprecedented times and since the vast majority of the public buy, rent or stream their movies legally, sales figures may yet be respectable – for the good films at least.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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‘Hellboy’ Must Explain Calculation For the $270,000 Piracy Damages Claim

Last summer, the makers of the movie “Hellboy” (HB Productions) filed a complaint against torrent site MKVCage at a Hawaii federal court.

The movie company accused the site and its operator of promoting and distributing pirated copies of the Hellboy movie while demanding an end to the activity.

The lawsuit quickly had an effect as MKVCage became unreachable. At the same time, the uploader stopped pushing torrents to other sites as well. This meant that part of the plan had succeeded, without the torrent site putting up a defense.

But HB Productions wanted more. The company argued that the site caused irreparable damage and demanded compensation from the operator, a Pakistani man named Muhammad Faizan.

Since Faizan didn’t show up in court, the movie company’s attorney Kerry Culpepper requested a default judgment totaling more than $270,000 in infringement damages.

“The certain sum of $270,902.58 […] was calculated by multiplying the number of instances of infringement in the United States logged by Plaintiff’s agent by the price for purchasing a copy of the motion picture in Hawaii,” Culpepper wrote to the court.

Despite a hefty damages award hanging over his head, Faizan remained quiet. This generally means that the court will side with the plaintiff but in this case, Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield is reluctant.

In a recently issued report and recommendations, Mansfield advises the court to deny the damages request, as the “sum” is not as “certain” as Hellboy’s attorney makes it out to be.

“The First Amended Complaint and the Motion do not indicate how Plaintiff calculated its asserted $270,902.58 damages amount. Nor does Plaintiff’s Motion include documents setting forth amounts necessary to calculate a certain damages sum,” Judge Mansfield writes.

“Without such information, the Court is unable to determine the formula Plaintiff used to calculate its alleged damages. The Court thus finds that Plaintiff fails to establish that its claim is for a ‘sum certain’ and recommends that the district court deny the Motion,” he adds.

This recommendation serves as guidance to the federal court, which has yet to rule on the matter. However, before it could do so, HB Production’s attorney already withdrew his request for a default judgment.

The movie company now plans to file a new motion in the near future where it will provide more detail on its calculations. Among other things, it will have to explain in detail how many infringements were logged, and what retail price for the movie the company chose.

By law, the maximum statutory damages are $150,000 per work. Since HB Productions asked for a substantially higher amount here, these details are crucial in order to determine whether it will be granted, or not.

A copy of Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield’s report and recommendations is available here (pdf)

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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Anti-Piracy Chief: Pirated Content is Now Harder to Find in Search Engines

In 2018, leading content companies and distributors plus Yandex, Rambler Group, Mail.Ru Group, vKontakte, and RuTube signed up to a landmark anti-piracy memorandum in Russia.

The aim of the voluntary agreement was to make pirated content harder to find in search engines. This, the organizers said, would be achieved by the creation of a centralized database of allegedly-infringing content to be regularly queried by Internet platforms so that delistings could take place.

The ultimate aim is to have the memorandum written into law but in the meantime, it’s being claimed that the system is already having the desired effect.

Formed in 2013 to protect the interests of several licensed online distribution platforms, the Internet Video Association has grown to become one of the most vocal anti-piracy groups in Russia. Its members support the memorandum and according to director general Alexei Byrdin, it is now considered to be achieving its aims.

Byrdin says a certain level of piracy comes hand-in-hand with any legal content business and achieving a complete victory over piracy can’t be achieved in Russia or anywhere else in the world. However, by removing infringing content from search engines, easy access to unlicensed content is being reduced.

“The correct measurement of the effect of the fight against piracy is a decrease or increase in the availability of pirated content. It is this indicator and approach that I consider the most correct,” Byrdin told Regnum.

“Pirated products in the Russian Federation have become less accessible. And by accessible, we mean the easy discovery of pirated content through search services. It was at this point that our anti-piracy memorandum struck home. Last year there were several high-profile premieres that managed to be practically shielded from the effects of pirate consumption, thanks to the memorandum.”

While the memorandum is indeed powerful (search engines have agreed to remove pirated content within six hours of it being reported in the centralized database), other factors have also played a part in reducing pirate consumption. Reducing piracy rates is of limited use if potential consumers have few viable options to buy licensed products but according to Byrdin, local consumers now see official platforms as an attractive proposition.

“There is a certain cumulative effect. For a very long time services have explained that they really have everything conveniently, inexpensively, with a large assortment, and users are finally believing this,” the anti-piracy chief explained.

“This is also due to the fact that in Russia the audience of smart TV users is growing year-on-year, and these consumers appreciate the convenience of such services. This really is simple and affordable home entertainment. Not much can be compared in terms of user experience.”

Like many countries around the world trying to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, Russia is also shutting down its entertainment venues, including cinemas. Byrdin will be hoping that consumers frustrated by the lack of options in search results will flock to licensed platforms for their entertainment fix. Whether this transpires will remain to be seen.

Nevertheless, those involved in the licensed distribution of entertainment content clearly see the memorandum as a great tool to achieve their aims. Writing it into law hasn’t been easy and delays caused it to time out in October 2019.

After a short extension, the signatories agreed to keep the system running until the end of January 2021, by which time it’s hoped that agreement will be reached on some of the more contentious points, including the permanent delisting of entire sites considered to be repeat offenders.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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The Pirate Bay’s Oldest Active Torrent Turns 16 Years Old Today

The Pirate Bay has weathered quite a few storms since its inception.

The notorious torrent site, which is a piracy icon today, was originally founded by Swedish anti-copyright think tank Piratbyrån during the summer of 2003.

In the years that followed, a lot has happened. The site was raided twice, had various changes in ownership, and the original co-founders were sentenced to prison. And in recent years, prolonged downtime issues, as the site currently faces, are the rule rather than the exception.

Despite all these setbacks and challenges, TPB is still here. It remains accessible on the Tor network, where the latest blockbusters, as well as some rare old torrents, remain readily available.

While torrents rely on at least one active seed to keep them alive, some files have proven to be quite resilient. In fact, quite a few torrents are older than some of the site’s younger users.

Today, The Pirate Bay’s oldest active torrent celebrates its sixteenth anniversary. The honor goes to an episode of the Swedish comedy show “High Chaparral,” which was uploaded by ‘kbdcb’ on March 25, 2004. At the time of writing, the file has one seeder according to TPB’s statistics, but various public trackers list more.

The oldest active torrent on TPB

The High Chaparral episode has been marked as the oldest active Pirate Bay torrent for a while. In the video category, it is currently followed by a copy of the 2001 documentary Revolution OS, which still has over a dozen seeders.

Looking at other categories, we see that the oldest active music torrent is an album from the Swedish pop group Gyllene Tider, titled “Samtliga hits!” The oldest game torrent is a copy of the Lord of the Rings strategy game War of the Ring, while a torrent for a really old version of ArcSoft’s photo editing software Funhouse leads the applications category.

If anything, this shows that no matter how much downtime a site like The Pirate Bay suffers, these torrents still survive.

That the High Chaparral episode is the longest surviving torrent on the site is remarkable for another reason as well. A few weeks after the torrent was uploaded, several people complained that they were stuck at 99%, which means that there was no seeder around at the time.

Years later, people started to notice that it had become the oldest torrent on The Pirate Bay, including MasterWAV, who dedicated an entry in his or her diary to this discovery.

“Dear diary, my heart burst of excitement to discover the oldest torrent in The Pirate Bay. I am happy to comment on this book and be part of the history of TPB. It’s like climbing Everest. Sincerely, thanks.”

Other commenters promised to keep seeding the file “forever,” which may be the prime reason why it’s still around today.

While sixteen years is impressive, there are even older torrents available on the Internet. “The Fanimatrix” torrent file holds the all-time record. It was created in September 2013 and, after being previously resurrected, continues to be available today with more than 100 people seeding.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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AMD Uses DMCA to Mitigate Massive GPU Source Code Leak

Graphics cards are big business and AMD is one of the leading brands with an estimated 32% share of the discrete desktop market.

In July 2019, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, AMD released its Radeon RX 5000 series powered by ‘Navi’ GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit). The source code for these devices is extremely sensitive and considered secret but perhaps not for much longer.

This week rumors began to circulate that an unnamed individual had somehow obtained the source for Navi 10, Navi 21 and Arden devices, the latter representing the rumored GPU for the yet-to-be-released Xbox Series X. Confirming whether such leaks are genuine is difficult but yesterday AMD took action which tends to support the theory.

In a DMCA notice sent to development platform Github, AMD identified the recently-created ‘xxXsoullessXxx’ repository and a project titled “AMD-navi-GPU-HARDWARE-SOURCE” as the location of its “stolen” intellectual property.

“This repository contains intellectual property owned by and stolen from AMD,” the semiconductor company wrote. “The original IP is held privately and was stolen from AMD.”

Github responded by immediately taking the repository down, as per AMD’s request. That prompted us to try and find the person behind the repo and to ask some questions about what AMD was trying to suppress. The individual informed TorrentFreak that AMD’s GPU source code was the content in question. (Responses edited for clarity)

“In November 2019, I found AMD Navi GPU hardware source codes in a hacked computer,” the person explained. “The user didn’t take any effective action against the leak of the codes.”

Questioned further on the route of extraction, we were told that a combination of factors led to the leak.

“The source code was unexpectedly achieved from an unprotected computer//server through some exploits. I later found out about the files inside it. They weren’t even protected properly or even encrypted with anything which is just sad.”

The individual, who claims to be female, told us that the package included code for Navi 10 and Navi 21 devices. She also confirmed that the source for the Xbox Series X GPU ‘Arden’ was part of the haul.

When asked whether the person had spoken to AMD about the leak, the answer was negative.

“I haven’t spoken to AMD about it because I am pretty sure that instead of accepting their mistake and moving on, they will try to sue me. So why not just leak it to everyone?” we were told.

The alleged leaker further told us that one “source code packet” had already been released. Whether that is limited to the material made available via Github remains unclear but TF was able to find links to a file-hosting site where an archive claiming to be the content was stored. Given the potentially criminal route via which the content was obtained, we did not download the package.

That AMD is concerned about the leak was underlined once again late yesterday. Having indicated in its initial complaint to Github that the source couldn’t be found anywhere else, the company later backtracked, identifying at least four other locations on Github where the project had been forked. All of those repos have been taken down.

While taking down the repositories is a logical first step for AMD, the gravity of this leak is hard to underestimate. The claimed hacker told TF that she valued the source at $100m but how that calculation was arrived at is unknown. While AMD considers its next steps, an even bigger storm may be heading the company’s way.

“If I get no buyer I will just leak everything,” the leaker concluded, adding that the files would be secured with passwords that will only be handed out to select individuals.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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‘Copyright Troll Identified the Wrong Facebook Account in Piracy Case’

Over the past three years, adult entertainment company Strike 3 Holdings has filed thousands of cases in US federal courts.

These lawsuits target people whose Internet connections were allegedly used to download and share copyright-infringing content via BitTorrent.

While many of these cases resulted in private settlements, Strike 3 has also experienced some setbacks. For example, in the ‘Cobbler’ case, the Court of Appeals previously ruled that copyright holders need “something more” than an IP-address for a viable case.

These and other rulings have motivated Strike 3 to adapt its business. As reported earlier this month, we noticed that the company had started to add information from social media services to its complaints, to ‘prove’ that the defendant is likely the infringer.

In theory, this could be a fruitful strategy but it is certainly not without flaws. This is what defense attorney Steven C. Vondran highlights in a recent BitTorrent piracy-related filing.

Vondran represents a defendant who is being sued by Strike 3 in a California federal court. This happened after the company first tried to expose this person at a Florida state court, through a controversial discovery request.

Among other things, the attorney argues that Strike 3 engages in “cut and run” tactics and that it fails to present “something more” than just an IP-address.

In making this argument, Vondran also draws attention to the social media tactic. While that wasn’t used in the case at issue, the attorney highlights it to show what can go wrong when Strike 3 tries to find “something more” than just an IP-address.

“If they can line up or match or correlate the movies being downloaded with a person’s Facebook ‘likes’ they figure this will overcome Cobbler and give them the ‘something more’ needed,” he points out.

According to the defense attorney, “this is total junk science” which he plans to make clear in a separate case he’s handling. Apparently, in that case the defendant’s interest in “Star Wars” on Facebook was brought up as relevant information.

“For example, in one case they stated that a Defendant is more likely to have downloaded their clients Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen videos because their social media likes indicate they have an interest in ‘Star Wars’,” Vondran writes.

Vondran informs the court that this is “a total joke.” Not just that, Strike 3 apparently also managed to identify the wrong account on Facebook, from someone who happens to carry a similar name.

“Making matters worse for them, the Defendant in that case will show that the Facebook account used was that of another person with a similar same,” Vondran writes.

“These are the type of callous intentional abuses that are going on and the Courts have the inherent power to quash the subpoena and dismiss the case for improper delay,” the attorney adds.

If this is indeed true, Strike 3’s attempt to present “something more” to the court has the potential to backfire. In any case, it’s worth keeping an eye on this motion to quash, as well as the upcoming filings about the wrongly identified Facebook account.

A copy of Steven C. Vondran reply to Strike 3’s opposition to the motion to quash is available here (pdf).

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.

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Nintendo Shuts Down Kickstarter Campaign For Violating Animal Crossing Copyrights

Anyone with a cool idea that could potentially develop into a great product or business can raise funding on Kickstarter.

Launched in 2009, the crowdfunding platform has helped to fund almost 180,000 projects with an impressive $4.85 billion in pledges. But while many projects go on to enjoy success, others can fail at an early stage due to basic errors.

The ‘New Adventures Passport Travel Holder’ fundraiser launched with a modest target of just £1,000. The aim was to offer an RFID-protected passport holder and luggage tags along with a matching lanyard, which doesn’t sound especially exciting in the grand scheme of things.

Nevertheless, the project quickly amassed 1,823 backers pledging more than £34,000 between them, 34 times the original target. While there may have been other factors contributing to this success, a quick view of the promotional material provides a fairly obvious clue as to why it was so popular.

For reasons best known to those behind the crowdfunding campaign, creating original artwork for the products wasn’t high on the agenda. As the image shows, all of the products are adorned with characters from the highly successful Animal Crossing video game series created by Nintendo.

History has shown us that this kind of move is a bad idea. Nintendo is known to aggressively protect its copyrights and trademarks and this case was no different. In a letter and DMCA notice to Kickstarter, a law firm acting for Nintendo explained that the project must be shut down.

“Nintendo owns copyrights in all aspects of its Animal Crossing video game franchise, including but not limited to the audio-visual work, imagery, and fictional character depictions covered by [various U.S. Copyright Registration numbers relating to Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: City Folk, New Leaf, and Wild World],” the complaint reads.

“The reported campaign displays images of Nintendo’s copyright-protected Animal Crossing characters and images in connection with the creation of products that make unauthorized use of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing characters and images, all in violation of Nintendo’s rights.”

In response, Kickstarter swiftly shut down the campaign, noting that it had been rendered unavailable due to an “intellectual property dispute”.

Considering the text used to draw attention to the UK-launched campaign, the use of Nintendo’s works appears to have been intentional.

Advertising the “New Adventures” travel holder, those behind the project described their product as a “cute animal pattern passport cover for your new adventures crossing the horizons!” Almost all words in that description relate to Animal Crossing which makes the project easy to find in search engines by gaming fans.

“All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Tue, March 31 2020,” the campaign read before being taken down. Clearly, that will not happen now.

At any one time, Nintendo is involved with multiple intellectual property disputes which are tackled using various means.

In recent months the gaming company has resorted to site-blocking measures in the UK to tackle Switch piracy, filed a complaint against Github to tackle a remake developer, obtained an injunction in the US to restrain a mod seller, filed DMCA anti-circumvention notices, and continued with a full-blown lawsuit against download portal RomUniverse.

Drom: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, torrent sites and more. We also have an annual VPN review.