All posts by Andy

Dutch Continue to Curb Illegal Downloading But What About Streaming?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dutch-continue-to-curb-illegal-downloading-but-what-about-streaming-180222/

After many years of downloading content with impunity, 2014 brought a culture shock to the Dutch.

Citizens were previously allowed to obtain content for their own use due to a levy on blank media that compensated rightsholders. However, the European Court of Justice found that system to be illegal and the government quickly moved to ban downloading from unauthorized sources.

In the four years that have passed since the ban, the downloading landscape has undergone change. That’s according to a study published by the Consumer Insights panel at Telecompaper which found that while 41% of respondents downloaded movies, TV shows, music and games from unauthorized sources in 2013, the figure had plunged to 27% at the end of 2016. There was a further drop to 24% by the end of 2017.

Of the people who continue to download illegally, men are overrepresented, the study found. While 27% of men obtained media for free during the last year to October 2017, only 21% of women did likewise.

While as many as 150 million people still use P2P technologies such as BitTorrent worldwide, there is a general decline in usage and this is reflected in the report.

In 2013, 18% of Dutch respondents used torrent-like systems to download, a figure that had fallen to 8% in 2016 and 6% last year. Again, male participants were overrepresented, outnumbering women by two to one. However, people appear to be visiting P2P networks less.

“The study showed that people who reported using P2P to download content, have done so on average 37 times a year [to October 2017]. In January of 2017 it was significantly higher, 61 times,” the study notes. P2P usage in November 2015 was rated at 98 instances per year.

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the oldest methods of downloading content has maintained its userbase in more recent years. Usenet, otherwise known as the newsgroups, accounted for 9% of downloaders in 2013 but after falling to around 6% of downloaders in 2016, that figure remained unchanged in 2017. Almost five times more men used newsgroups than women.

At the same time as showing a steady trend in terms of users, instances of newsgroup downloading are reportedly up in the latest count. In November 2015, people used the system an average of 98 times per year but in January 2017 that had fallen to 66 times. The latest figures find an average use of 68 times per year.

Drilling down into more obscure systems, 2% of respondents told Telecompaper that they’d used an FTP server during the past year, a method that was entirely dominated by men.

While the Dutch downloading ban in 2013 may have played some part in changing perceptions, the increased availability of legal offers cannot be ignored. Films and TV shows are now widely available on services such as Netflix and Amazon, while music is strongly represented via Spotify, Apple, Deezer and similar platforms.

Indeed, 12% of respondents said they are now downloading less illegally because it’s easier to obtain paid content, that’s versus 11% at the start of 2017 and just 3% in 2013. Interestingly, 14% of respondents this time around said their illegal downloads are down because they have more restrictions on their time.

Another interesting reason given for downloading less is that pirate content is becoming harder to find. In 2013, just 4% cited this as a cause for reduction yet in 2017, this had jumped to 8% of respondents, with blocked sites proving a stumbling block for some users.

On the other hand, 3% of respondents said that since content had become easier to find, they are now downloading more. However, that figure is down from 13% in November 2013 and 6% in January 2017.

But with legal streaming certainly making its mark in the Netherlands, the illegal streaming phenomenon isn’t directly addressed in the report. It is likely that a considerable number of citizens are now using this method to obtain their content fix in a way that’s not as easily trackable as torrent-like systems.

Furthermore, given the plans of local film distribution Dutch FilmWorks to chase and demand cash settlements from BitTorrent users, it’s likely that traffic to streaming sites will only increase in the months to come, at least for those looking to consume TV shows and movies.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

TVAddons Suffers Big Setback as Court Completely Overturns Earlier Ruling

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-suffers-big-setback-as-court-completely-overturns-earlier-ruling-180221/

On June 2, 2017 a group of Canadian telecoms giants including Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Bell Media, Videotron, Groupe TVA, Rogers Communications and Rogers Media, filed a complaint in Federal Court against Montreal resident, Adam Lackman.

Better known as the man behind Kodi addon repository TVAddons, Lackman was painted as a serial infringer in the complaint. The telecoms companies said that, without gaining permission from rightsholders, Lackman communicated copyrighted TV shows including Game of Thrones, Prison Break, The Big Bang Theory, America’s Got Talent, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and dozens more, by developing, hosting, distributing and promoting infringing Kodi add-ons.

To limit the harm allegedly caused by TVAddons, the complaint demanded interim, interlocutory, and permanent injunctions restraining Lackman from developing, promoting or distributing any of the allegedly infringing add-ons or software. On top, the plaintiffs requested punitive and exemplary damages, plus costs.

On June 9, 2017 the Federal Court handed down a time-limited interim injunction against Lackman ex parte, without Lackman being able to mount a defense. Bailiffs took control of TVAddons’ domains but the most controversial move was the granting of an Anton Piller order, a civil search warrant which granted the plaintiffs no-notice permission to enter Lackman’s premises to secure evidence before it could be tampered with.

The order was executed June 12, 2017, with Lackman’s home subjected to a lengthy search during which the Canadian was reportedly refused his right to remain silent. Non-cooperation with an Anton Piller order can amount to a contempt of court, he was told.

With the situation seemingly spinning out of Lackman’s control, unexpected support came from the Honourable B. Richard Bell during a subsequent June 29, 2017 Federal Court hearing to consider the execution of the Anton Piller order.

The Judge said that Lackman had been subjected to a search “without any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances” and took exception to the fact that the plaintiffs had ordered Lackman to spill the beans on other individuals in the Kodi addon community. He described this as a hunt for further evidence, not the task of preserving evidence it should’ve been.

Justice Bell concluded by ruling that while the prima facie case against Lackman may have appeared strong before the judge who heard the matter ex parte, the subsequent adversarial hearing undermined it, to the point that it no longer met the threshold.

As a result of these failings, Judge Bell vacated the Anton Piller order and dismissed the application for interlocutory injunction.

While this was an early victory for Lackman and TVAddons, the plaintiffs took the decision to an appeal which was heard November 29, 2017. Determined by a three-judge panel and signed by Justice Yves de Montigny, the decision was handed down Tuesday and it effectively turns the earlier ruling upside down.

The appeal had two matters to consider: whether Justice Bell made errors when he vacated the Anton Piller order, and whether he made errors when he dismissed the application for an interlocutory injunction. In short, the panel found that he did.

In a 27-page ruling, the first key issue concerns Justice Bell’s understanding of the nature of both Lackman and TVAddons.

The telecoms companies complained that the Judge got it wrong when he characterized Lackman as a software developer who came up with add-ons that permit users to access material “that is for the most part not infringing on the rights” of the telecoms companies.

The companies also challenged the Judge’s finding that the infringing add-ons offered by the site represented “just over 1%” of all the add-ons developed by Lackman.

“I agree with the [telecoms companies] that the Judge misapprehended the evidence and made palpable and overriding errors in his assessment of the strength of the appellants’ case,” Justice Yves de Montigny writes in the ruling.

“Nowhere did the appellants actually state that only a tiny proportion of the add-ons found on the respondent’s website are infringing add-ons.”

The confusion appears to have arisen from the fact that while TVAddons offered 1,500 add-ons in total, the heavily discussed ‘featured’ addon category on the site contained just 22 add-ons, 16 of which were considered to be infringing according to the original complaint. So, it was 16 add-ons out of 22 being discussed, not 16 add-ons out of a possible 1,500.

“[Justice Bell] therefore clearly misapprehended the evidence in this regard by concluding that just over 1% of the add-ons were purportedly infringing,” the appeals Judge adds.

After gaining traction with Justice Bell in the previous hearing, Lackman’s assertion that his add-ons were akin to a “mini Google” was fiercely contested by the telecoms companies. They also fell flat before the appeal hearing.

Justice de Montigny says that Justice Bell “had been swayed” when Lackman’s expert replicated the discovery of infringing content using Google but had failed to grasp the important differences between a general search engine and a dedicated Kodi add-on.

“While Google is an indiscriminate search engine that returns results based on relevance, as determined by an algorithm, infringing add-ons target predetermined infringing content in a manner that is user-friendly and reliable,” the Judge writes.

“The fact that a search result using an add-on can be replicated with Google is of little consequence. The content will always be found using Google or any other Internet search engine because they search the entire universe of all publicly available information. Using addons, however, takes one to the infringing content much more directly, effortlessly and safely.”

With this in mind, Justice de Montigny says there is a “strong prima facie case” that Lackman, by hosting and distributing infringing add-ons, made the telecoms companies’ content available to the public “at a time of their choosing”, thereby infringing paragraph 2.4(1.1) and section 27 of the Copyright Act.

On TVAddons itself, the Judge said that the platform is “clearly designed” to facilitate access to infringing material since it targets “those who want to circumvent the legal means of watching television programs and the related costs.”

Turning to Lackman, the Judge said he could not claim to have no knowledge of the infringing content delivered by the add-ons distributed on this site, since they were purposefully curated prior to distribution.

“The respondent cannot credibly assert that his participation is content neutral and that he was not negligent in failing to investigate, since at a minimum he selects and organizes the add-ons that find their way onto his website,” the Judge notes.

In a further setback, the Judge draws clear parallels with another case before the Canadian courts involving pre-loaded ‘pirate’ set-top boxes. Justice de Montigny says that TVAddons itself bears “many similarities” with those devices that are already subjected to an interlocutory injunction in Canada.

“The service offered by the respondent through the TVAddons website is no different from the service offered through the set-top boxes. The means through which access is provided to infringing content is different (one relied on hardware while the other relied on a website), but they both provided unauthorized access to copyrighted material without authorization of the copyright owners,” the Judge finds.

Continuing, the Judge makes some pointed remarks concerning the execution of the Anton Piller order. In short, he found little wrong with the way things went ahead and also contradicted some of the claims and beliefs circulated in the earlier hearing.

Citing the affidavit of an independent solicitor who monitored the order’s execution, the Judge said that the order was explained to Lackman in plain language and he was informed of his right to remain silent. He was also told that he could refuse to answer questions other than those specified in the order.

The Judge said that Lackman was allowed to have counsel present, “with whom he consulted throughout the execution of the order.” There was nothing, the Judge said, that amounted to the “interrogation” alluded to in the earlier hearing.

Justice de Montigny also criticized Justice Bell for failing to take into account that Lackman “attempted to conceal crucial evidence and lied to the independent supervising solicitor regarding the whereabouts of that evidence.”

Much was previously made of Lackman apparently being forced to hand over personal details of third-parties associated directly or indirectly with TVAddons. The Judge clarifies what happened in his ruling.

“A list of names was put to the respondent by the plaintiffs’ solicitors, but it was apparently done to expedite the questioning process. In any event, the respondent did not provide material information on the majority of the aliases put to him,” the Judge reveals.

But while not handing over evidence on third-parties will paint Lackman in a better light with concerned elements of the add-on community, the Judge was quick to bring up the Canadian’s history and criticized Justice Bell for not taking it into account when he vacated the Anton Piller order.

“[T]he respondent admitted that he was involved in piracy of satellite television signals when he was younger, and there is evidence that he was involved in the configuration and sale of ‘jailbroken’ Apple TV set-top boxes,” Justice de Montigny writes.

“When juxtaposed to the respondent’s attempt to conceal relevant evidence during the execution of the Anton Piller order, that contextual evidence adds credence to the appellants’ concern that the evidence could disappear without a comprehensive order.”

Dismissing Justice Bell’s findings as “fatally flawed”, Justice de Montigny allowed the appeal of the telecoms companies, set aside the order of June 29, 2017, declared the Anton Piller order and interim injunctions legal, and granted an interlocutory injunction to remain valid until the conclusion of the case in Federal Court. The telecoms companies were also awarded costs of CAD$50,000.

It’s worth noting that despite all the detail provided up to now, the case hasn’t yet got to the stage where the Court has tested any of the claims put forward by the telecoms companies. Everything reported to date is pre-trial and has been taken at face value.

TorrentFreak spoke with Adam Lackman but since he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to discuss the matter with his lawyers, he declined to comment further on the record. There is a statement on the TVAddons website which gives his position on the story so far.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Pirate Site Admin Sentenced to Two Years Prison & €83.6 Million Damages

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-admin-sentenced-to-two-years-prison-e83-6-million-damages-180221/

Way back in 2011, Streamiz was reported to be the second most popular pirate streaming site in France with around 250,000 visitors per day. The site didn’t host its own content but linked to movies elsewhere.

This prominent status soon attracted the attention of various entertainment companies including the National Federation of Film Distributors (FNDF) which filed a complaint against the site back in 2009.

Investigators eventually traced the presumed operator of the site to a location in the Hauts-de-Seine region of France. In October 2011 he was arrested leaving his Montrouge home in the southern Parisian suburbs. His backpack reportedly contained socks stuffed with almost 30,000 euros in cash.

The man was ordered to appear before the investigating judge but did not attend. He also failed to appear during his sentencing this Monday, which may or may not have been a good thing, depending on one’s perspective.

In his absence, the now 41-year-old was found guilty of copyright infringement offenses and handed one of the toughest sentences ever in a case of its type.

According to an AFP report, when the authorities can catch up with him the man must not only serve two years in prison but also pay a staggering 83.6 million euros in damages to Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and SACEM, the Society of Authors, Composers and Music Publishers.

Streamiz is now closed but at its peak offered around 40,000 movies to millions of users per month. In total, the site stood accused of around 500,000,000 infringements, earning its operator an estimated 150,000 euros in advertising revenue over a two year period.

“This is a clear case of commercial counterfeiting” based on a “very structured” system, David El Sayegh, Secretary General of SACEM, told AFP. His sentence “sends a very clear message: there will be no impunity for pirates,” he added.

With an arrest warrant still outstanding, the former Streamiz admin is now on the run with very few options available to him. Certainly, the 83.6 million euro fine won’t ever be paid but the prison sentence is something he might need to get behind him.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Copyright Trolls Target Up to 22,000 Norwegians for Movie Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-trolls-target-up-to-22000-norwegians-for-movie-piracy-180220/

Last January it was revealed that after things had become tricky in the US, the copyright trolls behind the action movie London Has Fallen were testing out the Norwegian market.

Reports emerged of letters being sent out to local Internet users by Danish law firm Njord Law, each demanding a cash payment of 2,700 NOK (around US$345). Failure to comply, the company claimed, could result in a court case and damages of around $12,000.

The move caused outrage locally, with consumer advice groups advising people not to pay and even major anti-piracy groups distancing themselves from the action. However, in May 2017 it appeared that progress had been made in stopping the advance of the trolls when another Njord Law case running since 2015 hit the rocks.

The law firm previously sent a request to the Oslo District Court on behalf of entertainment company Scanbox asking ISP Telenor to hand over subscribers’ details. In May 2016, Scanbox won its case and Telenor was ordered to hand over the information.

On appeal, however, the tables were turned when it was decided that evidence supplied by the law firm failed to show that sharing carried out by subscribers was substantial.

Undeterred, Njord Law took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. The company lost when a panel of judges found that the evidence presented against Telenor’s customers wasn’t good enough to prove infringement beyond a certain threshold. But Njord Law still wasn’t done.

More than six months on, the ruling from the Supreme Court only seems to have provided the company with a template. If the law firm could show that the scale of sharing exceeds the threshold set by Norway’s highest court, then disclosure could be obtained. That appears to be the case now.

In a ruling handed down by the Oslo District Court in January, it’s revealed that Njord Law and its partners handed over evidence which shows 23,375 IP addresses engaged in varying amounts of infringing behavior over an extended period. The ISP they have targeted is being kept secret by the court but is believed to be Telenor.

Using information supplied by German anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye (which is involved in numerous copyright troll cases globally), Njord Law set out to show that the conduct of the alleged pirates had been exceptional for a variety of reasons, categorizing them variously (but non-exclusively) as follows:

– IP addresses involved in BitTorrent swarm sizes greater than 10,000 peers/pirates
– IP addresses that have shared at least two of the plaintiffs’ movies
– IP addresses making available the plaintiffs’ movies on at least two individual days
– IP addresses that made available at least ten movies in total
– IP addresses that made available different movies on at least ten individual days
– IP addresses that made available movies from businesses and public institutions

While rejecting some categories, the court was satisfied that 21,804 IP addresses of the 23,375 IP addresses presented by Njord Law met or exceeded the criteria for disclosure. It’s still not clear how many of these IP addresses identify unique subscribers but many thousands are expected.

“For these users, it has been established that the gravity, extent, and harm of the infringement are so great that consideration for the rights holder’s interests in accessing information identifying the [allegedly infringing] subscribers is greater than the consideration of the subscribers’,” the court writes in its ruling.

“Users’ confidence that their private use of the Internet is protected from public access is a generally important factor, but not in this case where illegal file sharing has been proven. Nor has there been any information stating that the offenders in the case are children or anything else which implies that disclosure of information about the holder of the subscriber should be problematic.”

While the ISP (Telenor) will now have to spend time and resources disclosing its subscribers’ personal details to the law firm, it will be compensated for its efforts. The Oslo District Court has ordered Njord Law to pay costs of NOK 907,414 (US$115,822) plus NOK 125 (US$16.00) for every IP address and associated details it receives.

The decision can be appealed but when contacted by Norwegian publication Nettavisen, Telenor declined to comment on the case.

There is now the question of what Njord Law will do with the identities it obtains. It seems very likely that it will ask for a sum of money to make a potential lawsuit go away but it will still need to take an individual subscriber to court in order to extract payment, if they refuse to pay.

This raises the challenge of proving that the subscriber is the actual infringer when it could be anyone in a household. But that battle will have to wait until another day.

The full decision of the Oslo District Court can be found here (Norwegian)

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Flight Sim Company Embeds Malware to Steal Pirates’ Passwords

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/flight-sim-company-embeds-malware-to-steal-pirates-passwords-180219/

Anti-piracy systems and DRM come in all shapes and sizes, none of them particularly popular, but one deployed by flight sim company FlightSimLabs is likely to go down in history as one of the most outrageous.

It all started yesterday on Reddit when Flight Sim user ‘crankyrecursion’ reported a little extra something in his download of FlightSimLabs’ A320X module.

“Using file ‘FSLabs_A320X_P3D_v2.0.1.231.exe’ there seems to be a file called ‘test.exe’ included,” crankyrecursion wrote.

“This .exe file is from http://securityxploded.com and is touted as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, which seems to work – particularly as the installer would typically run with Administrative rights (UAC prompts) on Windows Vista and above. Can anyone shed light on why this tool is included in a supposedly trusted installer?”

The existence of a Chrome password dumping tool is certainly cause for alarm, especially if the software had been obtained from a less-than-official source, such as a torrent or similar site, given the potential for third-party pollution.

However, with the possibility of a nefarious third-party dumping something nasty in a pirate release still lurking on the horizon, things took an unexpected turn. FlightSimLabs chief Lefteris Kalamaras made a statement basically admitting that his company was behind the malware installation.

“We were made aware there is a Reddit thread started tonight regarding our latest installer and how a tool is included in it, that indiscriminately dumps Chrome passwords. That is not correct information – in fact, the Reddit thread was posted by a person who is not our customer and has somehow obtained our installer without purchasing,” Kalamaras wrote.

“[T]here are no tools used to reveal any sensitive information of any customer who has legitimately purchased our products. We all realize that you put a lot of trust in our products and this would be contrary to what we believe.

“There is a specific method used against specific serial numbers that have been identified as pirate copies and have been making the rounds on ThePirateBay, RuTracker and other such malicious sites,” he added.

In a nutshell, FlightSimLabs installed a password dumper onto ALL users’ machines, whether they were pirates or not, but then only activated the password-stealing module when it determined that specific ‘pirate’ serial numbers had been used which matched those on FlightSimLabs’ servers.

“Test.exe is part of the DRM and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally. That program is only extracted temporarily and is never under any circumstances used in legitimate copies of the product,” Kalamaras added.

That didn’t impress Luke Gorman, who published an analysis slamming the flight sim company for knowingly installing password-stealing malware on users machines, even those who purchased the title legitimately.

Password stealer in action (credit: Luke Gorman)

Making matters even worse, the FlightSimLabs chief went on to say that information being obtained from pirates’ machines in this manner is likely to be used in court or other legal processes.

“This method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals,” Kalamaras revealed.

While the use of the extracted passwords and usernames elsewhere will remain to be seen, it appears that FlightSimLabs has had a change of heart. With immediate effect, the company is pointing customers to a new installer that doesn’t include code for stealing their most sensitive data.

“I want to reiterate and reaffirm that we as a company and as flight simmers would never do anything to knowingly violate the trust that you have placed in us by not only buying our products but supporting them and FlightSimLabs,” Kalamaras said in an update.

“While the majority of our customers understand that the fight against piracy is a difficult and ongoing battle that sometimes requires drastic measures, we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part. It is for this reason we have uploaded an updated installer that does not include the DRM check file in question.”

To be continued………

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Google on Collision Course With Movie Biz Over Piracy & Safe Harbor

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-on-collision-course-with-movie-biz-over-piracy-safe-harbor-180219/

Wherever Google has a presence, rightsholders are around to accuse the search giant of not doing enough to deal with piracy.

Over the past several years, the company has been attacked by both the music and movie industries but despite overtures from Google, criticism still floods in.

In Australia, things are definitely heating up. Village Roadshow, one of the nation’s foremost movie companies, has been an extremely vocal Google critic since 2015 but now its co-chief, the outspoken Graham Burke, seems to want to take things to the next level.

As part of yet another broadside against Google, Burke has for the second time in a month accused Google of playing a large part in online digital crime.

“My view is they are complicit and they are facilitating crime,” Burke said, adding that if Google wants to sue him over his comments, they’re very welcome to do so.

It’s highly unlikely that Google will take the bait. Burke’s attempt at pushing the issue further into the spotlight will have been spotted a mile off but in any event, legal battles with Google aren’t really something that Burke wants to get involved in.

Australia is currently in the midst of a consultation process for the Copyright Amendment (Service Providers) Bill 2017 which would extend the country’s safe harbor provisions to a broader range of service providers including educational institutions, libraries, archives, key cultural institutions and organizations assisting people with disabilities.

For its part, Village Roadshow is extremely concerned that these provisions may be extended to other providers – specifically Google – who might then use expanded safe harbor to deflect more liability in respect of piracy.

“Village Roadshow….urges that there be no further amendments to safe harbor and in particular there is no advantage to Australia in extending safe harbor to Google,” Burke wrote in his company’s recent submission to the government.

“It is very unlikely given their size and power that as content owners we would ever sue them but if we don’t have that right then we stand naked. Most importantly if Google do the right thing by Australia on the question of piracy then there will be no issues. However, they are very far from this position and demonstrably are facilitating crime.”

Accusations of crime facilitation are nothing new for Google, with rightsholders in the US and Europe having accused the company of the same a number of times over the years. In response, Google always insists that it abides by relevant laws and actually goes much further in tackling piracy than legislation currently requires.

On the safe harbor front, Google begins by saying that not expanding provisions to service providers will have a seriously detrimental effect on business development in the region.

“[Excluding] online service providers falls far short of a balanced, pro-innovation environment for Australia. Further, it takes Australia out of step with other digital economies by creating regulatory uncertainty for [venture capital] investment and startup/entrepreneurial success,” Google’s submission reads.

“[T]he Draft Bill’s narrow safe harbor scheme places Australian-based startups and online service providers — including individual bloggers, websites, small startups, video-hosting services, enterprise cloud companies, auction sites, online marketplaces, hosting providers for real-estate listings, photo hosting services, search engines, review sites, and online platforms —in a disadvantaged position compared with global startups in countries that have strong safe harbor frameworks, such as the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and other EU countries.

“Under the new scheme, Australian-based startups and service providers, unlike their international counterparts, will not receive clear and consistent legal protection when they respond to complaints from rightsholders about alleged instances of online infringement by third-party users on their services,” Google notes.

Interestingly, Google then delivers what appears to be a loosely veiled threat.

One of the key anti-piracy strategies touted by the mainstream entertainment companies is collaboration between rightsholders and service providers, including the latter providing voluntary tools to police infringement online. Google says that if service providers are given a raw deal on safe harbor, the extent of future cooperation may be at risk.

“If Australian-based service providers are carved out of the new safe harbor regime post-reform, they will operate from a lower incentive to build and test new voluntary tools to combat online piracy, potentially reducing their contributions to innovation in best practices in both Australia and international markets,” the company warns.

But while Village Roadshow argue against safe harbors and warn that piracy could kill the movie industry, it is quietly optimistic that the tide is turning.

In a presentation to investors last week, the company said that reducing piracy would have “only an upside” for its business but also added that new research indicates that “piracy growth [is] getting arrested.” As a result, the company says that it will build on the notion that “74% of people see piracy as ‘wrong/theft’” and will call on Australians to do the right thing.

In the meantime, the pressure on Google will continue but lawsuits – in either direction – won’t provide an answer.

Village Roadshow’s submission can be found here, Google’s here (pdf).

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Sweden Considers Six Years in Jail For Online Pirates

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/sweden-considers-six-years-in-jail-for-online-pirates-180218/

Ever since the infamous Pirate Bay trial more than a decade ago, prosecutors in Sweden have called for a tougher approach to breaches of copyright law. In general terms, the country has been painted as soft on infringement but that could all be about to change.

After reaching the conclusion that penalties in Sweden “appear to be low” when compared to those on the international stage, the government sought advice on how such crimes can be punished, not only more severely, but also in proportion to the alleged damage caused.

In response, Minister for Justice Heléne Fritzon received a report this week. It proposes a new tier of offenses with “special” punishments to tackle large-scale copyright infringement and “serious” trademark infringement.

Presented by Council of Justice member Dag Mattsson, the report envisions new criminal designations and crime being divided into two levels of seriousness.

“A person who has been found guilty of copyright infringement or trademark infringement of a normal grade may be sentenced to fines or imprisonment up to a maximum of two years,” the government notes.

“In cases of gross crimes, a person may be convicted of gross copyright infringement or gross trademark infringement and sent to prison for at least six months and not more than six years.”

Last year the Supreme Court found that although prison sentences can be handed down in such cases, there were no legislative indications that copyright infringement should be penalized via a term of imprisonment.

For an idea of the level of change, one only need refer to The Pirate Bay case, which would undoubtedly be considered as “gross infringement” under the new proposals.

Under the new rules, defendants Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Carl Lundström would be sentenced to a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years. As things stood, with infringement being dealt with via fines or up to two years’ imprisonment, they were sentenced to prison terms of eight, ten and four months respectively.

Under the new proposals, damage to rightsholders and monetary gain by the defendant would be taken into account when assessing whether a crime is “gross” or not. This raises the question of whether someone sharing a single pre-release movie could be deemed a gross infringer even if no money was made.

Also of interest are proposals that would enable the state to confiscate all kinds of property, both physical items and more intangible assets such as domain names. This proposal is a clear nod towards the Pirate Bay case which dragged on for several years before the state was able to take over its thepiratebay.se domain.

“Today there is organized online piracy that has major consequences for the whole community,” Minister Fritzon said in a statement.

“Therefore, it is good that the punishments for these crimes have been reviewed, as the sentence will then be proportional to the seriousness of the crime.”

The legislative amendments are proposed to enter into force on July 1, 2019.

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Subtitle Heroes: Fansubbing Movie Criticized For Piracy Promotion

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/subtitle-heroes-fansubbing-movie-criticized-for-piracy-promotion-180217/

With many thousands of movies and TV shows being made available illegally online every year, a significant number will be enjoyed by speakers of languages other than that presented in the original production.

When Hollywood blockbusters appear online, small armies of individuals around the world spring into action, translating the dialog into Chinese and Czech, Dutch and Danish, French and Farsi, Russian and Romanian, plus a dozen languages in between. TV shows, particularly those produced in the US, get the same immediate treatment.

For many years, subtitling (‘fansubbing’) communities have provided an incredible service to citizens around the globe, from those seeking to experience new culture and languages to the hard of hearing and profoundly deaf. Now, following in the footsteps of movies like TPB:AFK and Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, a new movie has premiered in Italy which celebrates this extraordinary movement.

Subs Heroes from writer and director Franco Dipietro hit cinemas at the end of January. It documents the contribution fansubbing has made to Italian culture in a country that under fascism in 1934 banned the use of foreign languages in films, books, newspapers and everyday speech.

The movie centers on the large subtitle site ItalianSubs.net. Founded by a group of teenagers in 2006, it is now run by a team of men and women who maintain their identities as regular citizens during the day but transform into “superheroes of fansubbing” at night.

Needless to say, not everyone is pleased with this depiction of the people behind the now-infamous 500,000 member site.

For many years, fansubbing attracted very little heat but over time anti-piracy groups have been turning up the pressure, accusing subtitling teams of fueling piracy. This notion is shared by local anti-piracy outfit FAPAV (Federation for the Protection of Audiovisual and Multimedia Content), which has accused Dipietro’s movie of glamorizing criminal activity.

In a statement following the release of Subs Heroes, FAPAV made its position crystal clear: sites like ItalianSubs do not contribute to the development of the audiovisual market in Italy.

“It is necessary to clarify: when a protected work is subtitled and there is no right to do so, a crime is committed,” the anti-piracy group says.

“[Italiansubs] translates and makes available subtitles of audiovisual works (films and television series) in many cases not yet distributed on the Italian market. All this without having requested the consent of the rights holders. Ergo the Italiansubs community is illegal.”

Italiansubs (note ad for movie, top right)

FAPAV General Secretary Federico Bagnoli Rossi says that the impact that fansubbers have on the market is significant, causing damage not only to companies distributing the content but also to those who invest in official translations.

The fact that fansubbers often translate content that is not yet available in the region only compounds matters, Rossi says, noting that unofficial translations can also have “direct consequences” on those who have language dubbing as an occupation.

“The audiovisual market today needs to be supported and the protection and fight against illicit behaviors are as fundamental as investments and creative ideas,” Rossi notes.

“Everyone must do their part, respecting the rules and with a competitive and global cultural vision. There are no ‘superheroes’ or noble goals behind piracy, but only great damage to the audiovisual sector and all its workers.”

Also piling on the criticism is the chief of the National Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, who wrote to all of the companies involved to remind them that unauthorized subtitling is a crime. According to local reports, there seems to be an underlying tone that people should avoid becoming associated with the movie.

This did not please director Franco Dipietro who is defending his right to document the fansubbing movement, whether the industry likes it or not.

“We invite those who perhaps think differently to deepen the discussion and maybe organize an event to talk about it together. The film is made to confront and talk about a phenomenon that, whether we like it or not, exists and we can not pretend that it is not there,” Dipietro concludes.



Subs Heroes Trailer 1 from Duel: on Vimeo.



Subs Heroes Trailer 2 from Duel: on Vimeo.

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Court Orders Spanish ISPs to Block Pirate Sites For Hollywood

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/court-orders-spanish-isps-to-block-pirate-sites-for-hollywood-180216/

Determined to reduce levels of piracy globally, Hollywood has become one of the main proponents of site-blocking on the planet. To date there have been multiple lawsuits in far-flung jurisdictions, with Europe one of the primary targets.

Following complaints from Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, Spain has become one of the latest targets. According to the studios a pair of sites – HDFull.tv and Repelis.tv – infringe their copyrights on a grand scale and need to be slowed down by preventing users from accessing them.

HDFull is a platform that provides movies and TV shows in both Spanish and English. Almost 60% its traffic comes from Spain and after a huge surge in visitors last July, it’s now the 337th most popular site in the country according to Alexa. Visitors from Mexico, Argentina, United States and Chile make up the rest of its audience.

Repelis.tv is a similar streaming portal specializing in movies, mainly in Spanish. A third of the site’s visitors hail from Mexico with the remainder coming from Argentina, Columbia, Spain and Chile. In common with HDFull, Repelis has been building its visitor numbers quickly since 2017.

The studios demanding more blocks

With a ruling in hand from the European Court of Justice which determined that sites can be blocked on copyright infringement grounds, the studios asked the courts to issue an injunction against several local ISPs including Telefónica, Vodafone, Orange and Xfera. In an order handed down this week, Barcelona Commercial Court No. 6 sided with the studios and ordered the ISPs to begin blocking the sites.

“They damage the legitimate rights of those who own the films and series, which these pages illegally display and with which they profit illegally through the advertising revenues they generate,” a statement from the Spanish Federation of Cinematographic Distributors (FEDECINE) reads.

FEDECINE General director Estela Artacho said that changes in local law have helped to provide the studios with a new way to protect audiovisual content released in Spain.

“Thanks to the latest reform of the Civil Procedure Law, we have in this jurisdiction a new way to exercise different possibilities to protect our commercial film offering,” Artacho said.

“Those of us who are part of this industry work to make culture accessible and offer the best cinematographic experience in the best possible conditions, guaranteeing the continuity of the sector.”

The development was also welcomed by Stan McCoy, president of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, which represents the plaintiffs in the case.

“We have just taken a welcome step which we consider crucial to face the problem of piracy in Spain,” McCoy said.

“These actions are necessary to maintain the sustainability of the creative community both in Spain and throughout Europe. We want to ensure that consumers enjoy the entertainment offer in a safe and secure environment.”

After gaining experience from blockades and subsequent circumvention in other regions, the studios seem better prepared to tackle fallout in Spain. In addition to blocking primary domains, the ruling handed down by the court this week also obliges ISPs to block any other domain, subdomain or IP address whose purpose is to facilitate access to the blocked platforms.

News of Spain’s ‘pirate’ blocks come on the heels of fresh developments in Germany, where this week a court ordered ISP Vodafone to block KinoX, one of the country’s most popular streaming portals.

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Pirates Crack Microsoft’s UWP Protection, Five Layers of DRM Defeated

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirates-crack-microsofts-uwp-protection-five-layers-of-drm-defeated-180215/

As the image on the right shows, Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is a system that enables software developers to create applications that can run across many devices.

“The Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the app platform for Windows 10. You can develop apps for UWP with just one API set, one app package, and one store to reach all Windows 10 devices – PC, tablet, phone, Xbox, HoloLens, Surface Hub and more,” Microsoft explains.

While the benefits of such a system are immediately apparent, critics say that UWP gives Microsoft an awful lot of control, not least since UWP software must be distributed via the Windows Store with Microsoft taking a cut.

Or that was the plan, at least.

Last evening it became clear that the UWP system, previously believed to be uncrackable, had fallen to pirates. After being released on October 31, 2017, the somewhat underwhelming Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection became the first victim at the hands of popular scene group, CODEX.

“This is the first scene release of a UWP (Universal Windows Platform) game. Therefore we would like to point out that it will of course only work on Windows 10. This particular game requires Windows 10 version 1607 or newer,” the group said in its release notes.

CODEX release notes

CODEX says it’s important that the game isn’t allowed to communicate with the Internet so the group advises users to block the game’s executable in their firewall.

While that’s not a particularly unusual instruction, CODEX did reveal that various layers of protection had to be bypassed to make the game work. They’re listed by the group as MSStore, UWP, EAppX, XBLive, and Arxan, the latter being an anti-tamper system.

“It’s the equivalent of Denuvo (without the DRM License part),” cracker Voksi previously explained. “It’s still bloats the executable with useless virtual machines that only slow down your game.”

Arxan features

Arxan’s marketing comes off as extremely confident but may need amending in light of yesterday’s developments.

“Arxan uses code protection against reverse-engineering, key and data protection to secure servers and fortification of game logic to stop the bad guys from tampering. Sorry hackers, game over,” the company’s marketing reads.

What is unclear at this stage is whether Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection represents a typical UWP release or if some particular flaw allowed CODEX to take it apart. The possibility of additional releases is certainly a tantalizing one for pirates but how long they will have to wait is unknown.

Whatever the outcome, Arxan calling “game over” is perhaps a little premature under the circumstances but in this continuing arms race, they probably have another version of their anti-tamper tech up their sleeves…..

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‘Pirate’ Kodi Addon Devs & Distributors Told to Cease-and-Desist

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-addon-devs-distributors-told-to-cease-and-desist-180214/

Last November, following a year of upheaval for third-party addon creators and distributors, yet more turmoil hit the community in the form of threats from the world’s most powerful anti-piracy coalition – the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE).

Comprised of 30 companies including the studios of the MPAA, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel, Village Roadshow, and many more, ACE warned several developers to shut down – or else.

The letter: shut down – or else

Now it appears that ACE is on the warpath again, this time targeting a broader range of individuals involved in the Kodi addon scene, from developers and distributors to those involved in the production of how-to videos on YouTube.

The first report of action came from TVAddons, who noted that the lead developer at the Noobs and Nerds repository had been targeted with a cease-and-desist notice, adding that people from the site had been “visited at their homes.”

As seen in the image below, the Noobs and Nerds website is currently down. The site’s Twitter account has also been disabled.

Noobs and Nerds – gone

While TVAddons couldn’t precisely confirm the source of the threat, information gathered from individuals involved in the addon scene all point to the involvement of ACE.

In particular, a man known online as Teverz, who develops his own builds, runs a repo, and creates Kodi-themed YouTube videos, confirmed that ACE had been in touch.

An apparently unconcerned Teverz….

“I am not a dev so they really don’t scare me lmao,” he added.

Teverz claims to be from Canada and it appears that others in the country are also facing cease and desist notices. An individual known as Doggmatic, who also identifies as Canadian and has Kodi builds under his belt, says he too was targeted.

Another target in Canada

Doggmatic, who appears to be part of the Illuminati repo, says he had someone call the people who sent the cease-and-desist but like Teverz, he doesn’t seem overly concerned, at least for now.

“I have a legal representative calling them. The letters they sent aren’t legal documents. No lawyer signed them and no law firm mentioned,” Doggmatic said.

But the threats don’t stop there. Blamo, the developer of the Neptune Rising addon accessible from the Blamo repo, also claims to have been threatened.

SpinzTV, who offers unofficial Kodi builds and an associated repository, is also under the spotlight. Unlike his Canadian counterparts, he has already thrown in the towel, according to a short announcement on Twitter.

For SpinzTV it’s all over…

TorrentFreak contacted the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, asking them if they could confirm the actions and provide any additional details. At the time of publication they had no information for us but we’ll update if and when that comes in.

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Australian Government Launches Pirate Site-Blocking Review

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/australian-government-launches-pirate-site-blocking-review-180214/

Following intense pressure from entertainment industry groups, in 2014 Australia began developing legislation which would allow ‘pirate’ sites to be blocked at the ISP level.

In March 2015 the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill 2015 (pdf) was introduced to parliament and after just three months of consideration, the Australian Senate passed the legislation into law.

Soon after, copyright holders began preparing their first cases and in December 2016, the Australian Federal Court ordered dozens of local Internet service providers to block The Pirate Bay, Torrentz, TorrentHound, IsoHunt, SolarMovie, plus many proxy and mirror services.

Since then, more processes have been launched establishing site-blocking as a permanent fixture on the Aussie anti-piracy agenda. But with yet more applications for injunction looming on the horizon, how is the mechanism performing and does anything else need to be done to improve or amend it?

Those are the questions now being asked by the responsible department of the Australian Government via a consultation titled Review of Copyright Online Infringement Amendment. The review should’ve been carried out 18 months after the law’s introduction in 2015 but the department says that it delayed the consultation to let more evidence emerge.

“The Department of Communications and the Arts is seeking views from stakeholders on the questions put forward in this paper. The Department welcomes single, consolidated submissions from organizations or parties, capturing all views on the Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Act 2015 (Online Infringement Amendment),” the consultation paper begins.

The three key questions for response are as follows:

– How effective and efficient is the mechanism introduced by the Online Infringement Amendment?

– Is the application process working well for parties and are injunctions operating well, once granted?

– Are any amendments required to improve the operation of the Online Infringement Amendment?

Given the tendency for copyright holders to continuously demand more bang for their buck, it will perhaps come as a surprise that at least for now there is a level of consensus that the system is working as planned.

“Case law and survey data suggests the Online Infringement Amendment has enabled copyright owners to work with [Internet service providers] to reduce large-scale online copyright infringement. So far, it appears that copyright owners and [ISPs] find the current arrangement acceptable, clear and effective,” the paper reads.

Thus far under the legislation there have been four applications for injunctions through the Federal Court, notably against leading torrent indexes and browser-based streaming sites, which were both granted.

The other two processes, which began separately but will be heard together, at least in part, involve the recent trend of set-top box based streaming.

Village Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount are currently presenting their case to the Federal Court. Along with Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which has a separate application, the companies have been told to put together quality evidence for an April 2018 hearing.

With these applications already in the pipeline, yet more are on the horizon. The paper notes that more applications are expected to reach the Federal Court shortly, with the Department of Communications monitoring to assess whether current arrangements are refined as additional applications are filed.

Thus far, however, steady progress appears to have been made. The paper cites various precedents established as a result of the blocking process including the use of landing pages to inform Internet users why sites are blocked and who is paying.

“Either a copyright owner or [ISP] can establish a landing page. If an [ISP] wishes to avoid the cost of its own landing page, it can redirect customers to one that the copyright owner would provide. Another precedent allocates responsibility for compliance costs. Cases to date have required copyright owners to pay all or a significant proportion of compliance costs,” the paper notes.

But perhaps the issue of most importance is whether site-blocking as a whole has had any effect on the levels of copyright infringement in Australia.

The Government says that research carried out by Kantar shows that downloading “fell slightly from 2015 to 2017” with a 5-10% decrease in individuals consuming unlicensed content across movies, music and television. It’s worth noting, however, that Netflix didn’t arrive on Australian shores until May 2015, just a month before the new legislation was passed.

Research commissioned by the Department of Communications and published a year later in 2016 (pdf) found that improved availability of legal streaming alternatives was the main contributor to falling infringement rates. In a juicy twist, the report also revealed that Aussie pirates were the entertainment industries’ best customers.

“The Department is aware that other factors — such as the increasing availability of television, music and film streaming services and of subscription gaming services — may also contribute to falling levels of copyright infringement,” the paper notes.

Submissions to the consultation (pdf) are invited by 5.00 pm AEST on Friday 16 March 2018 via the government’s website.

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EFF Urges US Copyright Office To Reject Proactive ‘Piracy’ Filters

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/eff-urges-us-copyright-office-to-reject-proactive-piracy-filters-180213/

Faced with millions of individuals consuming unlicensed audiovisual content from a variety of sources, entertainment industry groups have been seeking solutions closer to the roots of the problem.

As widespread site-blocking attempts to tackle ‘pirate’ sites in the background, greater attention has turned to legal platforms that host both licensed and unlicensed content.

Under current legislation, these sites and services can do business relatively comfortably due to the so-called safe harbor provisions of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and the European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD).

Both sets of legislation ensure that Internet platforms can avoid being held liable for the actions of others provided they themselves address infringement when they are made aware of specific problems. If a video hosting site has a copy of an unlicensed movie uploaded by a user, for example, it must be removed within a reasonable timeframe upon request from the copyright holder.

However, in both the US and EU there is mounting pressure to make it more difficult for online services to achieve ‘safe harbor’ protections.

Entertainment industry groups believe that platforms use the law to turn a blind eye to infringing content uploaded by users, content that is often monetized before being taken down. With this in mind, copyright holders on both sides of the Atlantic are pressing for more proactive regimes, ones that will see Internet platforms install filtering mechanisms to spot and discard infringing content before it can reach the public.

While such a system would be welcomed by rightsholders, Internet companies are fearful of a future in which they could be held more liable for the infringements of others. They’re supported by the EFF, who yesterday presented a petition to the US Copyright Office urging caution over potential changes to the DMCA.

“As Internet users, website owners, and online entrepreneurs, we urge you to preserve and strengthen the Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbors for Internet service providers,” the EFF writes.

“The DMCA safe harbors are key to keeping the Internet open to all. They allow anyone to launch a website, app, or other service without fear of crippling liability for copyright infringement by users.”

It is clear that pressure to introduce mandatory filtering is a concern to the EFF. Filters are blunt instruments that cannot fathom the intricacies of fair use and are liable to stifle free speech and stymie innovation, they argue.

“Major media and entertainment companies and their surrogates want Congress to replace today’s DMCA with a new law that would require websites and Internet services to use automated filtering to enforce copyrights.

“Systems like these, no matter how sophisticated, cannot accurately determine the copyright status of a work, nor whether a use is licensed, a fair use, or otherwise non-infringing. Simply put, automated filters censor lawful and important speech,” the EFF warns.

While its introduction was voluntary and doesn’t affect the company’s safe harbor protections, YouTube already has its own content filtering system in place.

ContentID is able to detect the nature of some content uploaded by users and give copyright holders a chance to remove or monetize it. The company says that the majority of copyright disputes are now handled by ContentID but the system is not perfect and mistakes are regularly flagged by users and mentioned in the media.

However, ContentID was also very expensive to implement so expecting smaller companies to deploy something similar on much more limited budgets could be a burden too far, the EFF warns.

“What’s more, even deeply flawed filters are prohibitively expensive for all but the largest Internet services. Requiring all websites to implement filtering would reinforce the market power wielded by today’s large Internet services and allow them to stifle competition. We urge you to preserve effective, usable DMCA safe harbors, and encourage Congress to do the same,” the EFF notes.

The same arguments, for and against, are currently raging in Europe where the EU Commission proposed mandatory upload filtering in 2016. Since then, opposition to the proposals has been fierce, with warnings of potential human rights breaches and conflicts with existing copyright law.

Back in the US, there are additional requirements for a provider to qualify for safe harbor, including having a named designated agent tasked with receiving copyright infringement notifications. This person’s name must be listed on a platform’s website and submitted to the US Copyright Office, which maintains a centralized online directory of designated agents’ contact information.

Under new rules, agents must be re-registered with the Copyright Office every three years, despite that not being a requirement under the DMCA. The EFF is concerned that by simply failing to re-register an agent, an otherwise responsible website could lose its safe harbor protections, even if the agent’s details have remained the same.

“We’re concerned that the new requirement will particularly disadvantage small and nonprofit websites. We ask you to reconsider this rule,” the EFF concludes.

The EFF’s letter to the Copyright Office can be found here.

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Kim Dotcom Begins New Fight to Avoid Extradition to United States

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-new-fight-to-avoid-extradition-to-united-states-180212/

More than six years ago in January 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

What followed was an epic legal battle to extradite Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato, and Bram van der Kolk to the United States to face several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has battled the US government every inch of the way.

The most significant matters include the validity of the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. Despite a prolonged trip through the legal system, in 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

In 2015, the District Court later ruled that Dotcom and his associates are eligible for extradition. A subsequent appeal to the High Court failed when in February 2017 – and despite a finding that communicating copyright-protected works to the public is not a criminal offense in New Zealand – a judge also ruled in favor.

Of course, Dotcom and his associates immediately filed appeals and today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington, their hearing got underway.

Lawyer Grant Illingworth, representing Van der Kolk and Ortmann, told the Court that the case had “gone off the rails” during the initial 10-week extradition hearing in 2015, arguing that the case had merited “meaningful” consideration by a judge, something which failed to happen.

“It all went wrong. It went absolutely, totally wrong,” Mr. Illingworth said. “We were not heard.”

As expected, Illingworth underlined the belief that under New Zealand law, a person may only be extradited for an offense that could be tried in a criminal court locally. His clients’ cases do not meet that standard, the lawyer argued.

Turning back the clocks more than six years, Illingworth again raised the thorny issue of the warrants used to authorize the raids on the Megaupload defendants.

It had previously been established that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service had illegally spied on Dotcom and his associates in the lead up to their arrests. However, that fact was not disclosed to the District Court judge who authorized the raids.

“We say that there was misleading conduct at this stage because there was no reference to the fact that information had been gathered illegally by the GCSB,” he said.

But according to Justice Forrest Miller, even if this defense argument holds up the High Court had already found there was a prima facie case to answer “with bells on”.

“The difficulty that you face here ultimately is whether the judicial process that has been followed in both of the courts below was meaningful, to use the Canadian standard,” Justice Miller said.

“You’re going to have to persuade us that what Justice Gilbert [in the High Court] ended up with, even assuming your interpretation of the legislation is correct, was wrong.”

Although the US seeks to extradite Dotcom and his associates on 13 charges, including racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, the Court of Appeal previously confirmed that extradition could be granted based on just some of the charges.

The stakes couldn’t be much higher. The FBI says that the “Megaupload Conspiracy” earned the quartet $175m and if extradited to the US, they could face decades in jail.

While Dotcom was not in court today, he has been active on Twitter.

“The court process went ‘off the rails’ when the only copyright expert Judge in NZ was >removed< from my case and replaced by a non-tech Judge who asked if Mega was ‘cow storage’. He then simply copy/pasted 85% of the US submissions into his judgment," Dotcom wrote.

Dotcom also appeared to question the suitability of judges at both the High Court and Court of Appeal for the task in hand.

“Justice Miller and Justice Gilbert (he wrote that High Court judgment) were business partners at the law firm Chapman Tripp which represents the Hollywood Studios in my case. Both Judges are now at the Court of Appeal. Gilbert was promoted shortly after ruling against me,” Dotcom added.

Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over the warrant which triggered his arrest and the demise of Megaupload.

The hearing is expected to last up to two-and-a-half weeks.

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The Early Days of Mass Internet Piracy Were Awesome Yet Awful

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-early-days-of-mass-internet-piracy-were-awesome-yet-awful-180211/

While Napster certainly put the digital cats among the pigeons in 1999, the organized chaos of mass Internet file-sharing couldn’t be truly appreciated until the advent of decentralized P2P networks a year or so later.

In the blink of an eye, everyone with a “shared folder” client became both a consumer and publisher, sucking in files from strangers and sharing them with like-minded individuals all around the planet. While today’s piracy narrative is all about theft and danger, in the early 2000s the sharing community felt more like distant friends who hadn’t met, quietly trading cards together.

Satisfying to millions, those who really engaged found shared folder sharing a real adrenaline buzz, as English comedian Seann Walsh noted on Conan this week.

“Click. 20th Century Fox comes up. No pixels. No shaky cam. No silhouettes of heads at the bottom of the screen, people coming in five minutes late. None of that,” Walsh said, recalling his experience of downloading X-Men 2 (X2) from LimeWire.

“We thought: ‘We’ve done it!!’ This was incredible! We were going to have to go to the cinema. We weren’t going to have to wait for the film to come out on video. We weren’t going to have to WALK to blockbuster!”

But while the nostalgia has an air of magic about it, Walsh’s take on the piracy experience is bittersweet. While obtaining X2 without having to trudge to a video store was a revelation, there were plenty of drawbacks too.

Downloading the pirate copy took a week, which pre-BitTorrent wasn’t a completely bad result but still a considerable commitment. There were also serious problems with quality control.

“20th Century fades, X Men 2 comes up. We’ve done it! We’re not taking it for granted – we’re actually hugging. Yes! Yes! We’ve done it! This is the future! We look at the screen, Wolverine turns round…,” …..and Walsh launches into a broadside of pseudo-German babble, mimicking the unexpectedly-dubbed superhero.

After a week of downloading and getting a quality picture on launch, that is a punch in the gut, to say the least. Arguably no less than a pirate deserves, some will argue, but a fat lip nonetheless, and one many a pirate has suffered over the years. Nevertheless, as Walsh notes, it’s a pain that kids in 2018 simply cannot comprehend.

“Children today are living the childhood I dreamed of. If they want to hear a song – touch – they stream it. They’ve got it now. Bang. Instantly. They don’t know the pain of LimeWire.

“Start downloading a song, go to school, come back. HOPE that it’d finished! That download bar messing with you. Four minutes left…..nine HOURS and 28 minutes left? Thirty seconds left…..52 hours and 38 minutes left? JUST TELL ME THE TRUTH!!!!!” Walsh pleaded.

While this might sound comical now, this was the reality of people downloading from clients such as LimeWire and Kazaa. While X2 in German would’ve been torture for a non-German speaker, the misery of watching an English language copy of 28 Days Later somehow crammed into a 30Mb file is right up there too.

Mislabeled music with microscopic bitrates? That was pretty much standard.

But against the odds, these frankly second-rate experiences still managed to capture the hearts and minds of the digitally minded. People were prepared to put up with nonsense and regular disappointment in order to consume content in a way fit for the 21st century. Yet somehow the combined might of the entertainment industries couldn’t come up with anything substantially better for a number of years.

Of course, broadband availability and penetration played its part but looking back, something could have been done. Not only didn’t the Internet’s popularity come as a surprise, people’s expectations were dramatically lower than they are today too. In any event, beating the pirates should have been child’s play. After all, it was just regular people sharing files in a Windows folder.

Any fool could do it – and millions did. Surprisingly, they have proven unstoppable.

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Voksi Releases Detailed Denuvo-Cracking Video Tutorial

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/voksi-releases-detailed-denuvo-cracking-video-tutorial-180210/

Earlier this week, version 4.9 of the Denuvo anti-tamper system, which had protected Assassins Creed Origin for the past several months, was defeated by Italian cracking group CPY.

While Denuvo would probably paint four months of protection as a success, the company would certainly have preferred for things to have gone on a bit longer, not least following publisher Ubisoft’s decision to use VMProtect technology on top.

But while CPY do their thing in Italy there’s another rival whittling away at whatever the giants at Denuvo (and new owner Irdeto) can come up with. The cracker – known only as Voksi – hails from Bulgaria and this week he took the unusual step of releasing a 90-minute video (embedded below) in which he details how to defeat Denuvo’s V4 anti-tamper technology.

The video is not for the faint-hearted so those with an aversion to issues of a highly technical nature might feel the urge to look away. However, it may surprise readers to learn that not so long ago, Voksi knew absolutely nothing about coding.

“You will find this very funny and unbelievable,” Voksi says, recalling the events of 2012.

“There was one game called Sanctum and on one free [play] weekend [on Steam], I and my best friend played through it and saw how great the cooperative action was. When the free weekend was over, we wanted to keep playing, but we didn’t have any money to buy the game.

“So, I started to look for alternative ways, LAN emulators, anything! Then I decided I need to crack it. That’s how I got into reverse engineering. I started watching some shitty YouTube videos with bad quality and doing some tutorials. Then I found about Steam exploits and that’s how I got into making Steamworks fixes, allowing cracked multiplayer between players.”

Voksi says his entire cracking career began with this one indie game and his desire to play it with his best friend. Prior to that, he had absolutely no experience at all. He says he’s taken no university courses or any course at all for that matter. Everything he knows has come from material he’s found online. But the intrigue doesn’t stop there.

“I don’t even know how to code properly in high-level language like C#, C++, etc. But I understand assembly [language] perfectly fine,” he explains.

For those who code, that’s generally a little bit back to front, with low-level languages usually posing the most difficulties. But Voksi says that with assembly, everything “just clicked.”

Of course, it’s been six years since the 21-year-old was first motivated to crack a game due to lack of funds. In the more than half decade since, have his motivations changed at all? Is it the thrill of solving the puzzle or are there other factors at play?

“I just developed an urge to provide paid stuff for free for people who can’t afford it and specifically, co-op and multiplayer cracks. Of course, i’m not saying don’t support the developers if you have the money and like the game. You should do that,” he says.

“The challenge of cracking also motivates me, especially with an abomination like Denuvo. It is pure cancer for the gaming industry, it doesn’t help and it only causes issues for the paying customers.”

Those who follow Voksi online will know that as well as being known in his own right, he’s part of the REVOLT group, a collective that has Voksi’s core interests and goals as their own.

“REVOLT started as a group with one and only goal – to provide multiplayer support for cracked games. No other group was doing it until that day. It was founded by several members, from which I’m currently the only one active, still releasing cracks.

“Our great achievements are in first place, of course, cracking Denuvo V4, making us one of the four groups/people who were able to break the protection. In second place are our online fixes for several AAA games, allowing you to play on legit servers with legit players. In third place, our ordinary Steamworks fixes allowing you to play multiplayer between cracked users.”

In communities like /r/crackwatch on Reddit and those less accessible, Voksi and others doing similar work are often held up as Internet heroes, cracking games in order to give the masses access to something that might’ve been otherwise inaccessible. But how does this fame sit with him?

“Well, I don’t see myself as a hero, just another ordinary person doing what he loves. I love seeing people happy because of my work, that’s also a big motivation, but nothing more than that,” he says.

Finally, what’s up next for Voksi and what are his hopes for the rest of the year?

“In an ideal world, Denuvo would die. As for me, I don’t know, time will tell,” he concludes.

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MPA Met With Russian Site-Blocking Body to Discuss Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpa-met-with-russian-site-blocking-body-to-discuss-piracy-180209/

Given Russia’s historical reputation for having a weak approach to online piracy, the last few years stand in stark contrast to those that went before.

Overseen by telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor, Russia now has one of the toughest site-blocking regimes in the whole world. It’s possible to have entire sites blocked in a matter of days, potentially over a single piece of infringing content. For persistent offenders, permanent blocking is now a reality.

While that process requires the involvement of the courts, the subsequent blocking of mirror sites does not, with Russia blocking more than 500 since a new law was passed in October 2017.

With anti-piracy measures now a force to be reckoned with in Russia, it’s emerged that last week Stan McCoy, president of the Motion Picture Association’s EMEA division, met with telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor in Moscow.

McCoy met with Rozcomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov last Friday, in a meeting that was also attended by Ekaterina Mironova, head of the anti-piracy committee of the Media Communication Union (ISS).

According to Rozcomnadzor, issues discussed included copyright-related legislation and regulation. Also on the agenda was the strengthening of international cooperation, including between public organizations representing the interests of rightholders.

“In particular, an agreement was reached to expand contacts between the MPAA and the ISS,” Rozcomnadzor notes.

The ISS (known locally as Media-Communication Union MKC) was founded by the largest Russian media companies and telecom operators in February 2014. It differentiates itself from other organizations with the claim that its the first group of its type to represent the interests of communications companies, rights holders, broadcasters and large distributors.

During the meeting, McCoy was given an update on Russia’s implementation of the various anti-piracy laws introduced and developed since May 2015.

“Since the introduction of the anti-piracy laws, Roskomnadzor has received more than 2,800 rulings from the Moscow City Court on the adoption of preliminary provisional [blocking] measures to protect copyright on the Internet, including 1,630 for movies,” the watchdog reveals.

“In connection with the deletion of pirated content, access to the territory of Russia was restricted for 1,547 Internet resources. Based on the decisions of the Moscow City Court, 752 pirated sites are now permanently blocked, and according to the decisions of the Ministry of Communications, more than 600 ‘mirrors’ of these resources are blocked too.”

While it’s normally the position of the US to criticize Russia for not doing enough to tackle piracy, it must’ve been interesting to participate in a meeting where for once the Russians had the upper hand. Even though the MPAA previously campaigned for one, there is no site-blocking mechanism in the United States.

“The fight against piracy stimulates the growth of the legal online video market in Russia. Attendance of legal online sites is constantly growing. Users are attracted to high-quality content for an affordable fee,” Rozcomnadzor concludes.

The meeting’s participants will join up again during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum scheduled to take place May 24-26.

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Pirate ‘Kodi’ Boxes & Infringing Streams Cost eBay Sellers Dearly

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-kodi-boxes-infringing-streams-cost-ebay-sellers-dearly-180209/

Those on the look out for ready-configured pirate set-top boxes can drift around the web looking at hundreds of options or head off to the places most people know best – eBay and Facebook.

Known for its ease of use and broad range of content, eBay is often the go-to place for sellers looking to offload less than legitimate stock. Along with Facebook, it’s become one of the easiest places online to find so-called Kodi boxes.

While the Kodi software itself is entirely legal, millions of people have their boxes configured for piracy purposes and eBay and Facebook provide a buying platform for those who don’t want to do the work themselves.

Sellers generally operate with impunity but according to news from the Premier League and anti-piracy partners Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), that’s not always the case.

FACT reports that a supplier of ISDs (Illicit Streaming Devices) that came pre-loaded for viewing top-tier football without permission has agreed to pay the Premier League thousands of pounds.

Nayanesh Patel from Harrow, Middlesex, is said to have sold Kodi-type boxes on eBay and Facebook but got caught in the act. As a result he’s agreed to cough up £18,000, disable his website, remove all advertising, and cease future sales.

A second individual, who isn’t named, allegedly sold subscriptions to illegal streams of Premier League football via eBay. He too was tracked down and eventually agreed to pay £8,000 and cease all future streams sales.

“This case shows there are serious consequences for sellers of pre-loaded boxes and is a warning for anyone who thinks they might get away with this type of activity,” says Premier League Director of Legal Services, Kevin Plumb.

“The Premier League is currently engaged in a comprehensive copyright protection programme that includes targeting and taking action against sellers of pre-loaded devices, and any ISPs or hosts that facilitate the broadcast of pirated Premier League content.”

The number of individuals selling pirate set-top devices and IPTV-style subscription packages on eBay and social media has grown to epidemic proportions, so perhaps the biggest surprise is that there aren’t more cases like these. Importantly, however, these apparent settlement agreements are a step back from the criminal prosecutions we’ve seen in the past.

Previously, individuals under FACT’s spotlight have tended to be targeted by the police, with all the drawn-out misery that entails. While these cash settlements are fairly hefty, they appear to be in lieu of law enforcement involvement, not inconsiderable solicitors bills, and potential jail sentences. For a few unlucky sellers, this could prove the more attractive option.

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Man Handed Conditional Prison Sentence for Spreading Popcorn Time Information

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/man-handed-conditional-prison-sentence-spreading-popcorn-time-information-180208/

In August 2015, police in Denmark announced they had arrested a man in his thirties said to be the operator of a Popcorn Time-focused website. Popcorntime.dk was subsequently shut down and its domain placed under the control of the state prosecutor.

“The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime is presently conducting a criminal investigation that involves this domain name,” a seizure notice on the site reads.

“As part of the investigation the state prosecutor has requested a Danish District Court to transfer the rights of the domain name to the state prosecutor. The District Court has complied with the request.”

In a circumstance like this, it’s common to conclude that the site was offering copyright-infringing content or software. That wasn’t the case though, not even close.

PopcornTime.dk was an information resource, offering news on Popcorn Time-related developments, guides, plus tips on how to use the software while staying anonymous.

PopcornTime.dk as it appeared in 2015

Importantly, PopcornTime.dk hosted no software, preferring to link to other sites where the application could be downloaded instead. That didn’t prevent an aggressive prosecution though and now, two-and-half years later, the verdict’s in and it’s bound to raise more than a few eyebrows.

On Wednesday, a court in Odense, Denmark, handed the now 39-year-old man behind PopcornTime.dk a six-month conditional prison sentence for spreading information about the controversial movie streaming service.

Senior prosecutor Dorte Køhler Frandsen from SØIK (State Attorney for Special Economic and International Crime), who was behind the criminal proceedings, described the successful prosecution as a first-of-its-kind moment for the entire region.

“Never before has a person been convicted of helping to spread streaming services. The judgment is therefore an important step in combating illegal streaming on the Internet and will reverberate throughout Europe,” Frandsen said.

According to a statement from the prosecutor, the 39-year-old earned 506,003 Danish Krone ($83,363) in advertising revenue from his website in 2015. In addition to forfeiting this amount and having his domain confiscated, the man will also be required to complete 120 hours of community service.

“The verdict is a clear signal to those who spread illegal pirate services. The film industry and others lose billions in revenue each year because criminals illegally offer films for free. It’s a loss for everyone. Also the consumer,” Frandsen added.

The convicted man now has two weeks to decide whether he will take his appeal to the Østre Landsret, one of Denmark’s two High Courts.

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Jailed Streaming Site Operator Hit With Fresh $3m Damages Lawsuit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/jailed-streaming-site-operator-hit-with-fresh-3m-damages-lawsuit-180207/

After being founded more than half a decade ago, Swefilmer grew to become Sweden’s most popular movie and TV show streaming site. It was only a question of time before authorities stepped in to bring the show to an end.

In 2015, a Swedish operator of the site in his early twenties was raided by local police. A second man, Turkish and in his late twenties, was later arrested in Germany.

The pair, who hadn’t met in person, appeared before the Varberg District Court in January 2017, accused of making more than $1.5m from their activities between November 2013 and June 2015.

The prosecutor described Swefilmer as “organized crime”, painting the then 26-year-old as the main brains behind the site and the 23-year-old as playing a much smaller role. The former was said to have led a luxury lifestyle after benefiting from $1.5m in advertising revenue.

The sentences eventually handed down matched the defendants’ alleged level of participation. While the younger man received probation and community service, the Turk was sentenced to serve three years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1.59m.

Very quickly it became clear there would be an appeal, with plaintiffs represented by anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance complaining that their 10m krona ($1.25m) claim for damages over the unlawful distribution of local movie Johan Falk: Kodnamn: Lisa had been ruled out by the Court.

With the appeal hearing now just a couple of weeks away, Swedish outlet Breakit is reporting that media giant Bonnier Broadcasting has launched an action of its own against the now 27-year-old former operator of Swefilmer.

According to the publication, Bonnier’s pay-TV company C More, which distributes for Fox, MGM, Paramount, Universal, Sony and Warner, is set to demand around 24m krona ($3.01m) via anti-piracy outfit RightsAlliance.

“This is about organized crime and grossly criminal individuals who earned huge sums on our and others’ content. We want to take every opportunity to take advantage of our rights,” says Johan Gustafsson, Head of Corporate Communications at Bonnier Broadcasting.

C More reportedly filed its lawsuit at the Stockholm District Court on January 30, 2018. At its core are four local movies said to have been uploaded and made available via Swefilmer.

“C More would probably never even have granted a license to [the operator] to make or allow others to make the films available to the public in a similar way as [the operator] did, but if that had happened, the fee would not be less than 5,000,000 krona ($628,350) per film or a total of 20,000,000 krona ($2,513,400),” C More’s claim reads.

Speaking with Breakit, lawyer Ansgar Firsching said he couldn’t say much about C More’s claims against his client.

“I am very surprised that two weeks before the main hearing [C More] comes in with this requirement. If you open another front, we have two trials that are partly about the same thing,” he said.

Firsching said he couldn’t elaborate at this stage but expects his client to deny the claim for damages. C More sees things differently.

“Many people live under the illusion that sites like Swefilmer are driven by idealistic teens in their parents’ basements, which is completely wrong. This is about organized crime where our content is used to generate millions and millions in revenue,” the company notes.

The appeal in the main case is set to go ahead February 20th.

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