BitTorrent officially launches Sync 2.0 with $40 pro tier

BitTorrent officially launched Sync 2.0 Tuesday, taking the next step toward turning the P2P-based file backup and synchronization tool into a real business. Sync 2.0 comes with a pro tier that offers users more fine-grained access control for folders and other advanced features for $39.99 a year. Users can test the pro features for a month for free, or still use basic Sync functionality without the need to pay anything. BitTorrent first announced and previewed the Pro tier of Sync last November.

Pioneering file hosting service RapidShare is shutting down

Pioneering file hosting service RapidShare is shutting down by the end of next month, according to a notice posted on the service’s website that was first reported by Torrrentfreak. The notice reads, in part:

“We strongly recommend all customers to secure their data. After March 31st, 2015 all accounts will no longer be accessible and will be deleted automatically.”

RapidShare was one of the pioneers of so-called one-click file hosting, which essentially allowed users to upload and share files publicly for free. The site was widely used to share copyrighted content, and frequently faced off with rights holders in court.

RapidShare also tried to work with the content industry, striking a partnership with Warner Bros in 2009 with plans to redirect users looking for unlicensed content to a legal download store. To appease rights holders, and to escape the fate of Megaupload, RapidShare introduced a number of measures to discourage infringement, including strict limits on how often files could be shared and tools that helped rights holders to automate take-downs.

But partnerships with Hollywood and music labels never came through, and anti-piracy measures decimated RapidShare’s user base. In early 2013, the company laid off most of its staff, and it already looked like the end was near. Later that year, RapidShare tried one more time to reinvent itself as a competitor to Dropbox and other cloud storage vendors. In the end, that may have been too little, too late.

Levitation program tracked file-sharing sites, Snowden doc shows

The Canadian spy agency CSE monitors activity across over 100 free file upload sites, a newly-revealed PowerPoint document from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s cache has shown.

The document describing CSE’s Levitation program was published on Wednesday by The Intercept, reporting alongside Canadian broadcaster CBC. Although Canada has long been known to be a member of the core Anglophone “Five Eyes” spying club, this is the first Snowden revelation putting it at the forefront of one of the Eyes’ mass surveillance programs.

Using an internet cable-tap program called Atomic Banjo, CSE’s agents were at the time of the presentation’s authoring collecting HTTP metadata for 102 cyberlocker sites, including Sendspace and Rapidshare, and tracking 10-15 million “events” each day to find “about 350 interesting download events per month.” And yes, this meant filtering out loads of TV shows and such.

According to the presentation, the technique yielded a “German hostage video” (the hostage was killed, according to The Intercept) and an “AQIM [Algerian al-Qaeda] hostage strategy”.

In total, there were 2,200 file addresses that effectively acted as traps once CSE had identified them. Once the agents have an IP address for someone downloading a suspect file, they then run a query on it through GCHQ’s Mutant Broth tool to see which ad cookies have been tracking them (insecure marketing technologies provide an easy vehicle for spying efforts), what their likely Facebook ID is, and so on.

SendSpace told CBC that no-one had permission to trawl its service for data, and internet policy lawyer Tamir Israel told the broadcaster that the program was potentially very intrusive, as CSE (known until last year as CSEC) could pick whichever documents it wanted.

MPAA sues China’s Xunlei for copyright infringement

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has sued Chinese file sharing operator Xunlei for copyright infringement, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The lawsuit, which was filed in China, comes after Hollywood struck a deal with Xunlei last year that forced the service to filter infringing content. The studios contend that Xunlei never followed through on the deal, which apparently included requirements to block pirate sites, terminate repeat offenders and run any content licensing agreement by the MPAA for approval, according to Torrentfreak.

BitTorrent distributes more than 100 million legal and promotional downloads

Think all BitTorrent downloads are illegal? Think again: BitTorrent Inc. announced Monday that it has distributed more than 100 million copies of its BitTorrent content bundles ever since the introduction of the promotional format a little over a year ago. Bundles are essentially officially sanctioned torrents which tend to come with a call to action – users have to provide their email address to get access to some of the content. Some of BitTorrent’s most notable content partners included De La Soul, Moby and Tim Ferriss.